So, we got the D&D game on.
1st of High Summer, 974 AC.
Party: Sibelius Accio (Fighter) and his squire Montrose Giordano (Halfling) [played by S]. Abraham and Mohammed (two clumsy Clerics. And, yes, I know, I know...) [played by C]. Bosch (Fighter) and Catrina (Thief) [played by A]. All these characters were rolled up in about 15 minutes, with the help of the Hill Cantons Random Starting Equipment Charts. The adventure was the one rolled up using the help of the Advanced Fighting Fantasy 2e dungeon generation system, and the Mentzer Basic Set tables.
The party entered the village of Ubberhouses on the edge of the White Wolds. The villagers were quick to petition the party to solve their problem – to find out what had happed to their local hermit and herbalist, Mykonos. Earlier in the week, some men from the village had been taking Mykonos several bags of dung, as per their arrangement. As they neared the hermit’s caves they were met with a flurry of evil looking black fletched arrows, driving them off. Mykonos supplies the village with healing ointments, salves, and potions; which are now a pressing need with several injured men. To make matters more urgent, the son of Abbalus, the village headman, is deathly ill with Red Tongue Fever. The three youths that the village provide to Mykonos as servants are also missing.
Abbalus offered to pay the party 50GP each to investigate the hermit’s caves, recover their young people and bring back some healing. The party accept, but only after Abraham and Mohammed offer to do the job for 40GP. They were quickly overruled by Catrina.
Mykonos’ caves are about four hours' quick walk into the White Wolds, a country of rolling limestone hills, isolated woods, good for goat and sheep herding and little else. Several days away are the White Warrens, a gash in the landscape that exposes a multitude of entrances to the limestone caves beneath the Wolds. The Warrens are filled with humanoid tribes, and, deeper, it is rumoured, much worse, but the Bordertown Keep holds those creatures of Chaos away from civilisation.
The party make the journey with Lok, a tough looking shepherd who knows the hills well, as their guide, and Ponto and Ordo, two teenagers who serve as porters for the party. By late morning the party spots the smoke rising from Mykonos’ underground chimney. Leaving Lok and the two boys in the shelter of an old wall, a remant of a long since disappeared farm, the party investigated the entrance to the hermit’s cave.
The cave is entered by climbing steps down into a sinkhole, where a fast running stream disappears into the system of underground rivers. The steps, slippery but not terribly unsafe, wind round the walls of a cave as the waterfall fills the cave with mist and spray. The party descended carefully, and found themselves in a large cave with two other exits, one with flickering light, the other with a constant, brighter light. Catrina sniffed the ait; an acrid smell just detectable amid the spray. As the party mulled over their options, they heard chattering in a cruel language coming from above. A raiding party has returned.
Bugger. That, I had decided, was to be a 1 in 12 chance each turn. I had decided to use to keep a fair number of the GOBLINS that I had rolled up outside the lair for the majority of the time, each raiding party led some of the toughest of the GOBLIN KING’s 2HD bodyguards.
The party looked up, and saw short, wiry humanoid shapes at the lip of the sinkhole. Five GOBLINS, the leader a vicious looking brute a head taller than the rest, began to climb down the stairs. The two at the rear carried a dead sheep. The party retreated into the mouth of the tunnel with the constant light, and found that about 20ft down the tunnel the tunnel was block by two large braziers, producing pungent, acrid fumes. They took cover and prepared their missile weapons. Once the GOBLINS were past the waterfall and in clear sight, the party fired. The GOBLINS dropped their sheep, which crashed down onto the wet mossy cave floor, and returned fire.
The party rolled terribly. They killed one GOBLIN in short order, but after that, if they rolled a hit, they rolled 1s for damage. Sibelius was taken down to -2 HP, and, rolling on the Hill Cantons Death and Dismemberment Chart (with a -2 modifier), rolled a fatal injury. He did better than the next three PCs reduced to 0 HP or below, who all rolled simple, straightforward death.
With a groan, Sibelius dropped to floor, two arrows in his stomach, and started to bleed to death. Mohammed invoked a miracle, casting CURE LIGHT WOUNDS, and got him back on his feet.
In this instance, I ruled that magical healing would get a character back on their feet. I probably wouldn’t want to establish this as a precedent, as if a simple level one spell can totally undo a fatal wound, it could fix everything on the Death and Dismemberment table but death. Anyway, Sibelius was back on his feet with a -1/+1 penalty to all actions. I’d make that penalty larger too, but in the end it didn’t matter. Neither did the -2 CHA reduction from the shock of staring death in the face. Sibelius wouldn’t make it out of the caves.
The characters dropped another GOBLIN, before Montrose and Bosch fell to the black fletched arrows. Suddenly Lok became a PC [played by S]. A fighter, armed with a sling, a short sword, a shield, some leather armour, he was prompted into unlikely bravery as he watched the raiding party block off the party’s escape route (and, though he didn’t know it, by the death of two PCs). He crept to the edge of the sinkhole and prepared to use his sling.
In the course of the fight, Sibelius’ crossbow jammed (natural 1 – luckily he could pick up Montrose’s short bow), Lok lost his sling (another 1), and Mohammed dropped his stones all over the floor (yet another 1).
The party retreated further into the tunnel as they heard angry noises approaching rapidly from the other tunnel. Catrina and Abraham kicked over the braziers and went into the chamber beyond, finding a putrid pile of trash; rotting meat and vegetable peelings, old bones and rags. The far side was blocked by metal bars, beyond which there was kitchen in which two GOBLINS worked to gut a sheep. A second tunnel was blocked by two more braziers, while a third was dark. Catrina and Abraham investigated these tunnels, noticing the slimy 3’ wide holes in the walls, while Sibelius and Mohammed held off a new batch of spear wielding GOBLINS.
Roared on by the leader of the raiding party, the fresh GOBLINS charged down the tunnel. Mohammed, though, smashed the skull of one of them with a sling stone as they charged, and their morale faltered. As they backed up snarling, Mohammed managed to shatter the jaw of another, leaving him burbling painfully until he died. Abraham and Catrina found that the dark tunnel was blocked by odd bits of wood at the far end, and that the other brazier-obstructed tunnel led to a T-junction that, if they turned left, brought them back into the waterfall entrance cave.
Lok was engaged in furious combat on the steps, but even with the advantage of higher ground things we going badly. Catrina and Abraham charged over to help, but even though they finished off two GOBLINS, they were too late. Finally, the raiding party leader had managed to urge the cowering GOBLINS back into the tunnel, and Sibelius fell a second and final time, run through with a spear. Catrina and Abraham charged back across the cave, Catrina stabbing her rapier through the eye of the big GOBLIN who had led the raiding party. The three of them eventually finished off the last of the GOBLINS, surrounding them in the tunnel.
Unfortunately, while this was happening, a 3’ wide, 6’ long worm-like thing with a beaked mouth surrounded by 2’ tentacles was slithering out of the holes in the room piled with refuse.
I had decided that a CARRION CRAWLER would emerge on a 1 in 6 each round the characters, or anyone else, disturbed the refuse pile. Against form, they were lucky that it didn't investigate the commotion until the last round of the fight.
The party took one look at the CARRION CRAWLER and beat a hasty retreat. Though Abraham appeared to be suggesting that they flee deeper into the caves, shouts and yells from the unexplored tunnels put an end to such talk.
SIMPLE SESSION SUMMARY: 90 minutes played (a very short session, but a natural endpoint). 11 GOBLINS DEFEATED (one of which was a 2HD boss), 3(+1) PC DEATHS, NO TREASURE, 70 XP (split three ways).
Back in Ubberhouses, the surviving members of the party rested and healed. The mood among the villagers turned black, though Mohammed and Abraham used their divine favour to offer healing to the villagers.
As you might have guessed, we’re using the Labyrinth Lord Cleric class, as the party could do with the spells.
Just as the party was fully healed and rested, a shepherd brought news that a Magic User and his two companions was heading for the village. Gandalf (yes, and...?) [played by A], accompanied by Mangloo (a Dwarf) and Hopkirk (a Fighter) [both played by S], joined the party, ready to revisit the CAVES OF MYKONOS.
Lessons? The players need to roll better! Their luck was spectacularly bad; pretty much everything went against them, but I was determined not to fudge the dice. The same principle went for the adventure – once I had decided how it worked, and surrendered some decisions to the dice by design, I stuck with it. Once I’d rolled a 1 on the d12 for the return of a raiding party I knew things would be tough for them. Nonetheless, with the benefit of position – the goblins exposed on the steps – the party should have made short work of their opponents. The goblins should have died with one hit (on average), but 3 HP monsters were taking three hits to kill! Meanwhile, 9 HP PCs were taking two hits before they rolled on the Death and Dismemberment table. Tough luck Sibelius. And S, who lost 3 PCs.
Of course, there was some fudging by omission- it has been ages since I've played D&D. Even that didn't go in the players favour though. I didn’t ask them to track ammunition for their bows and slings, and I’d guess they were pretty close to being down to their last arrows. Any advantage that they might have had was negated by the fact that I didn't track the goblins' arrows either - I thought the party would have defeated them before that would be an issue, and, far more importantly, I missed a couple of Morale checks. The goblins should have been more cowardly. And when they did fail their check, it might have been better if they had fled properly, deeper into the caves, rather than simply cowering while their leader exhorted them to charge again. Having the goblins flee after one or two deaths (if that is what the the dice decreed) would have been a good lesson about D&D and the importance of fleeing to fight another day.
Finally, there wasn’t much room for roleplay, character development, or exploration – but the session was very short and it turned into once big, attritional battle. There's a fair bit more to the Caves of Mykonos, and most of it is more interesting than the entrance. The last word: PC fatality is not unfun - if nothing else, everyone now knows to cherish the character/s who survive and achieve something, because dungeon crawling is dangerous.
Next game: the 6th of High Summer, 974 AC (next Wednesday).