After a few days recovering, the PCs were ready to try again. Lucian had left the keep to spend time in the nearby woods (the player couldn’t make that session) but a couple of new adventurers made it to the keep. Alfric Kinslayer, a dwarven warrior with a tattooed face (the brand of a kinslayer…another nice touch made up on the spot by his player) and ‘Long’ Tom, another Bladedancer in service to Sethi, entered the keep looking for others like themselves willing to risk the dangers of the wilderness. The two groups quickly found each other and, being apparently trusting sorts, decided to join forces.
The players picked up a few rumors and other bits and bobs, but nothing that interesting. After the surprisingly charismatic dwarf spent some time hunting for hirelings (netting him the brothers Thorsigar and Thorwold), and Long Tom hired a man named Lysander, the group was off.
They again explored the goblin tunnels, hoping to find the treasure and the chief that Lucian’s interrogation had revealed. What they found, to their consternation, was that the goblin tunnels had apparently emptied out. Even the goblin bodies were gone (though the ogre’s corpse remained). They picked through rooms that had obviously been inhabited, trying to find out what had happened. After finding a store-room and dealing with a wandering group of orcs (that they again surprised), they located a secret door and began to explore the tunnels beyond.
After a short walk, they found a group of hobgoblins (which, of course, they surprised). Much butchery happened leaving them again with a single triaged monster, and a single non-human doing all the talking. Because the hobgoblin’s words were like growls, the dwarf convinced the others that it was cursing them rather than answer his questions while he applied more, er, forceful techniques to find out the layout of the caverns. It’s interesting that in both cases of monster interrogation, the non-humans have kept their more delicate human allies ‘out of the loop’ (though Lucian merely spared them the goblin’s begging and whimpering, he didn’t actually do anything other than intimidate his). They did learn that the various tribes didn’t seem to like each other very much.
Unfortunately for the players, they made a lot of noise which alerted a group of guards further down the tunnel. When the players made their way towards the tunnel, finally the dice reminded them what it is like to be surprised. Alfric took a crossbow bolt to the chest that nearly dropped him (1 hit point). Luckily for him, the party had a cure light scroll they’d found in the ogre’s cave which Kanen quickly used to bring him back up.
They rushed the stairs and killed the hobgoblins, but then more of them started pouring out of two doors into the entry chamber. The party realized that maybe they should retreat as they couldn’t tell how many monsters were coming their way. So they quickly threw some burning oil down and fled the caves.
This session started later than I’d like so not a whole much got done. The party came back with only a handful of gold to show for their trouble, which was a bit demoralizing. However, it was nice to see them exercising wisdom and retreating. Later editions teach us that all fights are balanced and this certainly wouldn’t have been balanced.
Another funny thing about this evening is that there were three ways into the hobgoblin’s caves. The two main doors the hobgoblins had spiked shut or barred, because they knew invaders were out there. But because the goblins had never discovered it, the hobgoblins didn’t think it would be discovered so they left it as is. Much to their regret…
It’s another nice thing about this module that it’s a ‘living environment’ which is to say the monsters react to these constant invasions of their homes. I like thinking about their responses to these murder engines storming their lairs. So it gets a bit more interesting for me than a static environment would be. It also keeps the players on their toes and feels less like a video game.
I like that.