Our second foray in Keep on the Borderlands with Rick Stump’s unfinished AD&D Clone (a step beyond Far Realms) came sooner than expected when BiW wasn’t feeling up to DMing Stormking’s Thunder this week. The same band of fledgling adventurers, recovered from their first journey into the Caves of Chaos (the “Builder’s Caves”), make their way back there to pay the hobgoblins another visit and hopefully rescue the merchant the goblins told them was imprisoned by them.
- 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
With Armogain using a mute cantrip to allow them to break down the locked door, they enter the hobgoblin caverns and take the first right just inside the door. Soon they stumble upon the guard room and a fight ensues. With Hary and Armogain loosing arrows into the room (dropping anyone hobgoblin to put its hand to a crossbow), Bunrum and Eden hold the line keeping them in the room. Soon, reinforcements arrive to flank the archers and while Hary withdraws back the way they came, Armogain retreats into the corridor to back Bunrum and Eden. A mighty blow brings Eden down! Fortunately, Armogain is there to make a Healing attempt, but he fails, only doing enough to stabilize the cleric.
With only a three of the eight hobgoblins remaining, they quickly finish the skirmish and quickly consider where to take Eden to recover, whether into the woods or in the guard room. Hary creeps down the hall to see where the other two came from and finds an armory with a door. They decide that is a good place to hole up and move Eden there where Bunrum dons plate mail and Armogain, between ministrations, soon discovers a secret door (elf sense, am I right?). Through the secret door they find only a short, dead-end corridor and though they are confident there is a secret door within, Armogain fails to find it in two passes over the suspected wall.
While Hary and Armogain fuss about trapping the door with their flask of oil, the secret door opens again and five hobgoblins try to rush into the room! While Bunrum and Armogain engage to keep them from entering the room very far, Hary hurls the flask (unlit) into the hall. Armogain’s spark cantrip lights the spilled oil while Bunrum and Hary do damage, but a fierce blow drops Armogain before they can finish the invaders. Hary stabilizes him on death’s door and they move him over next to Eden, close the secret door, and start to get desperate.
Moving their companions at this point would be all but impossible, so Hary prepares an ambush and they wait in readiness until more hobgoblins come through the secret door. The ambush get successful surprise and they quickly drop the two vanguard hobogoblins, but the chief follows them in and Bunrum engages to keep Hary shooting. It soon becomes clear that Hary’s short bow is hardly up to the task of piercing the chief’s plate mail as shaft after shaft punches into the target without many drawing blood. Bunrum’s mighty great sword does land some damaging blows, but the chief is resilient. Wounded, the chief begins to withdraw into the secret passage and the adventurers reposition to stay engaged. The chief finally manages to land a blow on the dwarf (AC -1 from plate mail and -4 AC against hobgoblins) and drops him to 0 with minimum damage.
Seeing his front line gone, Hary takes a final shot before fleeing the room. It flies true! piercing the chief who staggers and falls beside Bunrum. (With a -5 armor adjustment for shortbows against plate and shield cancelling out his +5 from halfling and high dexterity, Hary’s rogue hit table gave him hits only on 19 or 20 and he did exactly the 2 damage needed to finish the job.) With the chief down, Hary can no longer bring himself to flee. He moves Bunrum over by the others and prepares another ambush. Hours creep by and eventually Eden comes to in the dark (aided by Armogain’s ministrations). Hary tells her to check and be sure the others are still alive, and they are. He then helps her into some of the plate armor in the armory and lays her back by the others to rest and tend them while he continues to lay in wait.
The hours stretch on and on and eventually three large female hobgoblins come through the secret door. Hary strikes, again surprising and dropping two of them. He is about to run and leave the others to their fate when the hobgoblin flees as well. He doesn’t dare to follow. He continues to watch, stock still, through the night and into the morning until Bunrum and Armogain also stir and Eden is recovered enough to cast after her experience on death’s door. She heals everyone with some of her copious spells and orisons of healing and the party’s confidence is renewed, despite Armogain’s lingering exhaustion.
Now knowing for sure where the secret door is, they go in to finish the job, but find the guard rooms, throne room, and store room abandoned. Armogain finds a secret door into another storeroom, but when they fight four goblins outside it, they figure the merchant isn’t this way and that the hobgoblin female and anyone else in this section have escaped somehow. They double back through the armory to their point of ingress and head left, winding down a passage, past a branch, and coming to a door. Listening at the door, Hary easily hears hobgoblins, both male and female, arguing about whether, now the chief is dead, to venture back into their tunnels to see who remains and possibly carry on the feast eating the humans.
They kick in the door and see perhaps ten warriors inside as well as women and young hobgoblins. Neither side fancies their odds in the fight as a wounded female calls out that they’re the one who killed the chief. The adventurers offer to spare them in exchange for the merchant and his affects and they indicate that he can be found in the passage they passed. Leaving the other three in the stand off at the door, Hary creeps back to check this claim and finds the prisoners guarded by two large hobgoblins.
He steps out and addresses them and with a good reaction, the chief’s belt, and low morale, convinces the two torturers to turn the four human prisoners over to him in exchange for their lives. With the merchant, his wife, and his guards in tow, Hary retrieves the others and they withdraw from the place, returning to the keep to receive their reward from the guild for returning the merchant!
With credibility in the keep established, they now consider what their next move should be.
After finishing this brutal session, I could hardly sleep as I tried to shake the feeling I had done something wrong to end up with 75% of the party down but one member still feeling the need to stick around and them eventually coming out alive. Of course, if they had withdrawn with Eden, the merchant and his entourage would have been eaten. In hindsight, they made the absolute right choices. Bonus XP for sure this session.
Fortunately, they tell me they had a blast even with their characters down, so my worries were unfounded. We are loving this system so far!
Oh, yeah, if you want, some explanation of my changes to module have been posted to the Patreon.