Play Report: Keep on the Borderlands

We have jumped into trying Rick Stump’s unfinished AD&D Clone (a step beyond Far Realms) with Keep on the Borderlands with a few changes to the backstory. I’ve played just a few sessions and the players are all completely new to AD&D, but we’ve read a lot and despite our inexperience, this was incredible!

  • Hary (JaH): Level 1 Halfling Scout
  • Armogain (RiH): Level 1/1 Elf Fighter/Mage
  • Bunrum (ByW): Level 1 Dwarf Fighter
  • Eden (BiW): Level 1 Human Cleric

At Hary’s recommendation (he is suspicious of people getting curious about where they are getting treasure) they pass by the keep and make their way to the builders’ caves market on their map. Their plan is to find the merchant they have heard is imprisoned there and in that way establish their credibility to keep off any prying eyes when they start bringing in more treasure.

Arriving at the ravine full of caves, they see several cave openings and with Hary seeing tracks of all kinds all over the place, they pick a cave at random. Bunrum leads the way and examines the way to the first intersection for pits with his dwarven stone sense (yes, ByW specifically asked to use it entering their first cavern). He finds a pit trap at the T-intersection and Hary (after tying himself to a piton wedged in a crack) attempts to disarm it. When he fails and accidentally activates it, the others pull him back. The noise, however, attracts kobolds, who run to the pit side. The kobold thrown spears find no targets, but Hary, Armogain, and Bunrum return fire, dropping two. One of them runs back to bring a plank and Bunrum leaps the pit only to be struck down by the remaining kobold (luckily at exactly 0). More arrows drop both remaining kobolds and Hary leaps the pit as well, throwing the plank across it so Armogain can cross and tend to Bunrum.

They see giant rats swarming on the other side of the pit and hear reinforcements arriving. With Bunrum back up, they flee, pulling the plank with them. While the others run out into the ravine, Hary lingers and attempts to hide in the shadows to see how many there are. He sees they are in league with the rats and at least half a dozen of them and runs to catch the others as they hide among the trees at the mouth of the ravine. Soon, the kobolds give up the hunt.

They don’t see any pressing reason to continue into the kobold caves and so proceed to a different cave. With Bunrum again leading, they proceed through an intersection and a band of 6 goblins runs smack into them. The goblins are surprised for a segment and it costs them dearly. With Bunrum able to withstand their blows, the party quickly wipes out all but one of the goblins, which Hary asks where his merchant friend is in his most threatening goblin. The goblin yelps that the hobgoblins have him above and cowers on the floor as four more goblins arrive. These they quickly wipe out with very successful attacks.

Succeeding on a Hear Noise check, Hary hears goblins behind the reinforcements negotiating a deal and loud steps approaching. He warns the others and they again flee the caves, leaving the helpful goblin alive. They scramble up the bank of the ravine as an ogre emerges from the cave chasing them. With some verbal jabs and a couple of well-placed arrows (and a few ineffectual ones), they see it back down into a copse of trees and continue their flight up the hill toward the entrance most conceivably “above” the goblin caves. They make their way to a copse of trees above it and catch their breath for several minutes.

Believing the goblin’s claims that the hobgoblins have the merchant and believing that this is the entrance to their caves, they enter. They soon find a door inviting them to come in for dinner and decide to set an ambush. Hary, Armogain, and Eden climb back up the hill and hide in the copse of trees and Bunrum goes to knock on the door. He waits by the cave entrance and when they open taunts and moons the hobgoblins before fleeing up the hill. The ambush fails to surprise them, but Bunrum almost makes it back to them before the three hobgoblins not firing crossbows catch him. He turns and swings, dropping one, but is struck down in return. Arrows drop another of those up close while two of the crossbow hobgoblins close for melee and the third runs back into the complex. Eden meanwhile manages to get a cure light wounds on Bunrum. He gets to his feet and strikes the remaining hobgoblin in melee down before the other two close, rolling high and dropping Bunrum and Eden both!

Armogain, desperate to get their healer back up, runs out to tend to Eden while Hary drops one of the hobgoblins. With Eden casting cure light wounds on Bunrum again (she has 17 wisdom and many bonus spells), Armogain draws his sword and shield and interposes himself between them and hobgoblin. They jockey for position, the hobgoblin smart enough to want to stop the spell, but Armogain manages to stay in his path and he strikes at Armogain instead, he strikes back but both of them are ineffectual in their blows. Rising with the healing magic, Bunrum strikes down the remaining hobgoblin and they take cover again, waiting a few minutes for more to emerge. When they don’t, they withdraw again from the ravine (Bunrum is exhausted from some nasty blows and Eden is getting low on spells).

They return to the keep without the prize they sought in the caves. Hary hunts along the way and they preserve their rations, instead eating the rabbits he gets. At the keep, they quietly take a room at the inn where Armogain uses his clean cantrip to give them all good baths over the next day and Hary brings in some more game to keep them fed. On the third day, they are prepared to set out again to try and rescue the merchant, who they can only hope has been preserved another day.

I’ve been excited about what glory AD&D might bring to the table ever since playing in Rick’s dungeon crawl, and a little before. This did not disappoint. I hadn’t expected the same euphoria I got from Rick’s game (he’s 40 years experienced in running this system and we were highly motivated players) but I got it anyway! Even with me still learning the tables and the players completely new to the rules and largely unread, I left the table on a high like I rarely experience from Mind Weave or 5e. Wow did they make 1e right!

Oh, yeah, if you want, some explanation of my changes to module have been posted to the Patreon.

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14 Responses to Play Report: Keep on the Borderlands

  1. It might be informative for any 5e only players for you to lay out, using one of your groups characters, how a 1e character is created (roll method) and how their stats impact combat and magic and such.

    I know reading 5e stuff confuses me a bit with all the various inherent spell-like abilities versus 1e’s comparatively simple magic system.

  2. On that note, how would you compare the pacing of the player’s initial foray, with the constant advances and retreats against various foes, with what seem (to me in my ignorance) the more structured “enter proper CR fight, win it, move on to next” style that 5e seems (again to me) designed to generate?

    • jameseck says:

      It felt very good, the fights were natural and made sense, we got through them quickly and players felt like their decisions mattered. Also fun that despite getting many kills they got very little XP because they missed loot by running before checking pockets and not getting deep enough to get the good stuff. The feeling is that this was an information gathering pass (when in 5e it would feel like either a failure or XP grinding). Having loot be XP is so good for automatically giving XP for accomplishments.

      • I liked the thought to pull the plank back across the pit, and the use of the innate find pits Dwarven skill was savvy gameplay, as well as the hold so the heal can get accomplished. Are you using the player rating XP modifier from C&C?

      • jameseck says:

        I must have missed something. I thought that was only for the time needed to level up.

      • I only read it once, it probably is. I was thinking more taking note of those sorts of things.

      • jameseck says:

        Or do you mean the bonuses for clever play? I probably won’t give anything like that without mission accomplished, but they do get good ratings for level up when it comes to that.

  3. That’s it, the clever play. And I agree it being an end of mission thing. The leveling up process will be an interesting read.

  4. Pingback: Play Report: Keep on the Borderlands, Session 2 | Mind Weave Role-Playing Platform

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