Nicodemus, Champion Mouser

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Nicodemus sat beside the fire purposely ignoring the magician. A warm bank of coals heated the modest upstairs room of the Traveler’s Inn. Corwin watched with amusement as the black cat cleaned his fur. He has no need to do that, I’ve not seen a smudge of dirt on him nor even a whisker out of place, thought the magician. Yet all the while the familiar was grooming himself, it kept one inky paw on a small field mouse.

The mouse lay still in its captor’s grasp. Corwin bent down gingerly and took the creature in both hands. “There, there, my little fellow, we’ll not be seeing that mean old cat any longer.” Nicodemus took offense at the words and launched himself upon the bed, where he proceeded to claw the magician’s cloak.

Corwin was too busy to notice. He carefully held the mouse in one hand and uncorked the small vial with his teeth. Setting the vial carefully on the nightstand, he produced a small glass rod from his robes. Touching the rod to the bottle, he then placed a small drop on the mouse’s nose. The creature hesistated but Corwin managed to coax a bit into its mouth. Setting the rod down, he watched and waited.

A few seconds passed and the magician was relieved the mouse did not die. Not poison…

Holding the mouse closer to the lamp, Corwin saw it fade quickly from sight and then back again. That’s it…

The magician stoppered the bottle and placed it in the dresser. He set the mouse in a stone crock, donated by the innkeeper. The mouse did circles for a bit as Corwin observed him still. Grabbing a generous slice of cheese and some bread sopped in ale, he placed them in the crock. “Eat well, little friend. You’ve done me a great service. Nicodemus prefers smoked fish.”

The black cat perked up his ears at that and leapt off the bed to follow the magician into the common room.

Game notes–Corwin the magician lacks any type of identifying spell. He needs to write the spell KNOW in his spellbook, but hasn’t come acrossed it yet. This is a Pits & Perils spell for identifying magical items. Until then, he would rather not test an unknown potion on himself. It also helps to have a familiar that is a first class mouser.

More to come….

Day 43 ~ Giant Stag Beetles

Most of the morning was spent in ale-fueled dreaming. Arden and Company would not be traveling to the Caves of Chaos this day. Thane was not impaired by the large amounts of ale. He was feeling rather good now that the financial matters were put behind them. Thane was like many dwarves, tight-fisted with coin. He was certainly no fool though. Meklin, Handsome, and even that young one, Catamont, had saved his bacon before. Paying them a fair share of the loot would go a long way towards keeping them all alive. You can’t spend it when you’re dead…his father would tell him. Thane believed that. He wasn’t about to throw money away, but being a miser would leave him lonely or dead.

Thane sat at the table dipping crusty slices of bread in the yolk of his eggs. I ‘ll have to admit it, this is better fare than my own mother made, he thought. Thane’s mother worked the family oven like she did the smelting oven…all sparks, sweat, and curse words. Needless to say, her bread smelled like pig iron.

After a late lunch, the Company assembled. Arden wanted to stretch his legs and the Company took an afternoon stroll out of the Keep. Martin was wanting to check on the progress of the new church in Coot’s Mill.

As the Company wound down along the narrow path from the Keep, Martin spied a couple large lumbering shapes moving out of the woods. They were a far distance yet but slowly rambling toward some farm huts. A couple farmers fled from the dark shapes. The Company moved cautiously towards the huts.

On approach, they saw two large beetles. They were the size of draft horses and had wicked mandibles that could cleave a man in two.

The Company spread out and unslung their weapons. Arden tipped his spear at the targets and they fired.

Egg Barkley and Martin both slung stones at the beetles. The rawhide cords whipped in circles about them and the stones whistled as they launched. Egg’s stone flew wide, but Martin’s cracked hard off the smaller beetle.

Meklin and Catamont drew back their longbows and released. Both arrows glanced off the hard carapace of the beetles. It did get their attention, however. Both beetles began waving their mandibles in the air towards the Company.

Thane cranked back his crossbow and took careful aim. Thunk! The iron tipped bolt hit the larger beetle and disappeared into its carapace. A gout of black blood splashed on the ground.

Goat Bentley brushed his greasy, gray beard and pulled his longbow back to its full draw. With a puff of air out the side of his toothless mouth, he let the arrow go. It found its home, dead center into the giant beetle’s head. “Lookit that, Master Dwarf! I got him!” Goat was still proud of his kill shot on the great ogre in the goblin caves.

Handsome fires his longbow, but curses when the arrow flies short. Arden stands ready to throw his spear and then engage a beetle with his greatsword. If the others kill both of the beetles with missiles, he would be just as happy.

Corwin stood a few paces behind the rest. He fumbled with his spell components and rehearsed the incantation in his head. The beetles were out of range for his magic just yet, but his time would come.

Disturb from their foraging at the farmer’s hut, the beetles shook angrily and looked towards the Company. Despite their poor vision, they could see a line of dark shapes in the field. With surprising speed, they moved.

Arden ordered all the men to fall back when he saw the beetles cover half the distance in a moment. The men did not hesitate. All fell back and prepared to fire again.

Egg fumbled in loading his sling. The burly cook tripped over his own feet and landed on his face in the field. [I rolled snake eyes on his attack…a critical miss. Consulting the criticial chart, result=trip and fall.]

The beetles charge seemed to unnerve the Company. The others fail to hit their mark. Goat fumbles and falls too. The beetles lumber on, anticipating an easy meal.

Corwin speaks an unintelligible phrase and points his finger. A bolt of fire streaks away and hits the larger beetle with a glancing fire ball. [Arden rolled a 1 for damage and gets +1 for being 3rd level]

Arden casts his spear and strikes the larger beetle for more damage. The others seem to rally…Meklin, Handsome, and Goat all hit with their bows.

Martin moves backward in an attempt to lure the other beetle away.

The larger beetle scrambles towards Arden and scrapes him twice with his mandles [I’m basing these beetles from the Giant Stag Beetles in the Monster Manual, converting to Pits and Perils was simple. I made them Level 7, large creatues, with 3 attacks. They are fairly potent.] Arden feels the chain mail give way and wonders if his ribs are broken. [He took 4 points of damage.]

The smaller beetle rambles over Meklin, slashing and biting. [Meklin takes 4 points of damage.]

Corwin casts another fire bolt at the smaller beetle this time. It catches the beetle squarely and causes severe wounds. [Corwin rolled a 6 and adds 1 for 7 points of damage!]

Thane and Catamont rush to help Arden. The giant beetle is surrounded. Thane and Arden both hit the beetle. [I rolled morale for the beetles, they only have a few hit points each.] The smaller beetle turns to flee. The fire magic is too painful to endure. The larger beetle is too stupid to realize it is near death and attacks Catamont.

Catamont takes a full hit. The beetle slashes and bites the young squire. Catamont falls to the ground unconscious…and bleeding out.

Goat and Handsome rush to pull the lad backwards to safety as Thane and Arden press their attack. Thane misses with his magic handaxe, but Arden stabs deep into the beetles mouth, killing it!

The smaller beetle falls to a hail of missile fire. Martin rushes to Catamont to cast a healing spell. Arden’s bruised ribs will have to wait.

Additional Game Notes ~ The idea for this scenario came from using Rory’s Story Cubes. I wanted to run something short this evening…a short trip into Coot’s Mill. I didn’t really have time to foray into the Caves of Chaos, so I grabbed a Story Cube and gave it a throw. A symbol of a beetle came up. Terrific, I thought. How can I work this into the adventure. Maybe the Company has bed bugs?! I threw another die for inspiration and a castle tower was the result. Okay, I decided it was a monster encounter in or near the castle. I used the FU die mechanic and asked the question, “Does this occur inside the Keep?” Result=3, No, but… So I ruled that several giant beetles were near the Keep, coming from the forest to nose around the farmer’s grain bins. I used the Monster Manual to find som beetle stats. The giant stag beetle listed there is a powerful monster. I scaled the numbers back because it was so close to the Keep. Two giant stag beetles lumbering towards the Keep made for a lot of fun.

More to come…

A New Deal ~ Day 42 Continued

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Arden and Company sat around the long wooden table in a private dining room in the Traveler’s Inn. The innkeeper, Joseph, was mopping his brow and trying to clear the trenchers from the table. A well-picked turkey carcass lay in surrender in the middle. Goat Bently wiped grease on his long gray beard and then reached for the bird, finding a last morsel of dark meat.

“If that man could sniff out gold coin as well, we’d all be feasting in the Keep Fortress on a permanent basis!”, laughed Handsome Brune.

The Company was in rare form tonight. The cares of the past seemed but a trifle. Corwin sat back in his chair, a mulled wine in one hand and his long clay pipe in the other. No books or scrolls were in sight for once.

“Arden, you summoned us for a feast, but I think that revelry is only part of tonight’s meeting, true?” the wizard asked.

“Well, as you know, I’ve been to see the castellan…Thane was present as well. His lordship wants to help us secure the Caves of Chaos. This would, unfortunately, come at a cost. He wants a share of the treasure.”

Arden stopped a moment to gauge their reaction. Uncertainty colored many faces, a flash of anger in others. He drained his cup and continued, “I thought that if the castellan were to get a share, then we will need to discuss wages all around.” This perked up the ears of the men. They grew quiet in anticipation. 

Thane interrupted, “Of course his share will be bigger…”

Arden looked irritated at the dwarf, “It will be the same as the principals of the Company. It’s something that may be need doing. He has an advantage. We’re in his Keep. He will send archers to provide support for our foray and we shall give him a share of any valuables we find.”

“Not enchanted items, I hope?” asked Corwin. The wizard didn’t care to be sharing the magic that they found with Florian, the keep’s advisor and wizard.

“No, the catellan will get a share of the treasure–coins, gems, art objects. We’ll keep anything that you deem useful, Corwin.”

Egg Barkley cleared his throat, “I guess if’n his lordship is sending troops with you, then you won’t be needin’ as many of us dirty sods?”

Arden chuckled, “Actually, I was thinking of giving you boys a raise. It’s up to you. If you want to sign on and join the Company, then you won’t get 2 silvers a day from us. You’ll have to fight for it and dig it out of the Caves for yourself. The Company is going to need some henchmen. That’s a little bit different than a hireling. You lot have been hirelings, taking orders and getting your pay…and then spending it on booze and cheap entertainment. That’s fine, you can continue to do that and we will cut you in with an eighth of a share. That’s more than two silver coins a day, if we are lucky.”

“Others of you are front line fighters. You’ve kept the Company in one piece when things looked grim. I say to you, let us improve your lot. The Company has to grow. If you sign on as henchmen, you’ll be expected to do your share and more. You’ll have to learn to master a weapon and be ready to fight for your companions no matter what the odds. With this comes a greater reward. A half share for each man that signs on as henchman. Be warned though. You’ve seen days when all we brought back from the Caves was our fallen brothers. I know that more treasure lies down those filthy holes. But it won’t be found unless we can band together to get this done. If you become henchmen, you stand on your own. No one buys your room and board, you share in the Company’s fortune for good or ill. What say you?”

Goat was the first to stand up. Greasy beard and well past his prime, “Aye, son! I’ll hench for ya! Tell me who to shoot and give me some room to do it.”

Arden wrinkled his nose a bit at hearing this. “Perhaps a bath first and then some archery practice.”

They drank well into the evening, discussing plans for taking the Caves of Chaos. The newly made henchmen talked excitedly of what they would buy with all the treasure they hauled back.

Day 42, The Castellan’s Deal

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“But why do we have to give the Castellan any coin at all? He wasn’t there with us, now was he?” grumbled the dwarf.

“You know, as well as I do, that he loaned us twelve of his archers and a corporal of the watch! And he will certainly catch wind of what we pulled out of that hole. It’s better to offer up a small purse of silver than have him take it all, right?” Arden replied.

“Maybe, but his archers didn’t do anything! They just stood outside that goblin hole and waited for us to come back!”

“That’s what they were supposed to do, Thane. If we had come out of there loaded down with loot, we would’ve been in a much worse position when reinforcements began to chase us.”

“Harummphhh! I know I’m a dwarf and all, and my father would hit me for saying this, but I’d prefer to have our wizard friend just wave his hands around and scare them all away.”

“Corwin can’t be expected to save us everytime, now can he?” Arden grinned.

“I guess not, but maybe he could snap his fingers and “Poof!” a pile of gold and jewels would appear right in front of us?”

Arden laughed at Thane. They walked along the cobblestone street, climbing the low rise up to the inner gatehouse. The pair were met at the gate by a pair of guards wearing chainmail and standing with polearms. Arden paused as the Sergeant of the Guard was summoned.

The sergeant came out of the gatehouse and said in a gruff voice, “Don’t tell me you’ve come back for more soldiers? You’ve only been back a couple days.”

“Not yet, sergeant. We’ve come to see the castellan. I have sent a message earlier requesting a meeting.”

“Very well, then. Guard! Let them pass!” and the guards stepped away from the entrance to give Arden and Thane the right of way.

Guardsmen were on the practice field within the inner bailey. Men were in mock combat with wooden swords and shields. Arden watched for a moment and then continued to the Keep Fortress.

Sir Kent, Lord Castellan of the Keep, sat before the two in his office. Arden made no prententions about their relationship for no chairs were given and the two stood in front of the castellan. Even still, Sir Kent was cordial to them both. He looked at his desk where Arden had placed a small cloth purse of coins.

“Arden, you know that we had no such arrangement. My men were to accompany you and your company and assist you with longbow. Payment was not a consideration.”

“I know, my lord. Consider it a token of my company’s appreciation. We had great fortune in the Caves of Chaos and felt that your lordship and his men ought to benefit as well. I placed two silver pieces for each of the dozen archers and double that for the corporal. Also, I wanted to give the merchant’s reward of 100 silvers to you, sir. My company wishes to continue exploring the caves and may require your assistance in the future.”

Sir Kent smiled. “Of course, you have my support. You are doing good work for the crown. Please, don’t let us hinder you in any way. Of course the fact that I send my troops along with you will be viewed favorably by the duke and maybe will even reach the ear of the king. Better yet, I propose this arrangement. You shall have a contigent of archers to travel with you to the caves. I shall cover their expenses, food, board, and mounts. You in turn will offer the Keep a small portion of what you collect…let’s say perhaps a full share? How many of you take shares in your company now?” The castellan was figuring this in his head, but Arden beat him to it, “Seven, sir.”

Thane looked at Arden and made ready to correct him, but thought better of it.

“Very well, then. I shall be the eighth member of your company…but my men will go in my stead of course.”

The agreement was set forth and discussed with Arden explaining that he would return tomorrow after discussion with the company.

As Thane and Arden were leaving the fortress, Thane softly said, “There’s four of us that get shares, you know that, right?”

Arden replied, “When I heard the castellan’s proposal, I decided that Meklin, Handsome, and Catamont needed a promotion. We’ll give them a half share each.”

“Okay, that get’s us to five and one-half shares. Where’s the other shares going?”

“I don’t know yet,” smiled Arden. “Maybe Goat will get a share, but only if he starts shooting better and takes a bath. Maybe we’ll need to hire a couple more men…good fighters that will earn a share. Regardless, I’d rather spend it on our own men instead of giving it to the castellan.

They walked along, Arden content with the transaction, and Thane busy calculating in this head.

Victory and Freedom!

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Day 40

The return to the Keep is a joyous one, especially for the freed prisoners. All cares are set aside as Egg welcomes them back to camp with a warm fire and some hot tea. Rations are broken out and the half-starved prisoners eat. Martin cautions Egg not to overdo it. They have been on short rations for who knows how long in the hobgoblin’s lair. Supping too well now may worsen their conditions. A simple broth is made of wild leeks and tubers with some bread to sop it up. 

The fat merchant, Alton Haldrin, is soon revived and chatters on happily about their rescuers and the great good fortune that has come their way. The hobgoblins were intent on feasting on the fat merchant before too long. His wife, Erdene, is not as boisterous. Her tears of gratitude speak volumes. The company breaks camp and moves westward to the Keep. They travel for a couple hours to arrive at Overlook Hill (it’s what I’ll call it until inspiration hits me). Arden thinks it best to make camp a little distance from the Caves. A heavily armed watch is set and several fair sized fires are lit. Strength in numbers may help to discourage any encounters.

Morning comes early and all is well. The company breaks camp and returns to the Keep in the morning. The corporal of the guard returns to the inner bailey of the keep to report to the captain. Arden stops at the outer bailey to speak with the bailiff. [Rolled to see if the bailiff is present. Result=no] Arden learns the bailiff is at the Keep Fortress meeting with Lord Kent, the castellan.

Arden and Company see the merchant, his wife, and the two men-at-arms to the guild house. The guild master is happy to hear of their rescue. Arden and Company make their way to the Traveler’s Inn to store their gear and freshen up. Arden places the treasure (the gold and silver tapestry) into the iron bound locked box they recovered on a past foray to the Caves of Chaos.

Calculating XP, I figure about 221xp per PC. Martin advances to 4th level.

Arden and Company are invited once again to the Keep Fortress. Sir Kent has a feast for the Company and those they freed. Even the archers that accompanied them are invited to the great hall. The merchant and his wife look much improved after a hot bath and some new clothes. Other important persons are there as well–Florian the advisor, the curate, the bailiff, and more. The Company is honored for the rescue and all are eager to hear the tale told by Arden. His charisma and charm make for rapt listeners.

At the end of the evening, the merchant gives Arden a sack of 100 silver coins as a way of gratitude. Erdene, his wife, places a finely crafted blade in Arden’s hands. “It is said to be enchanted by the very elves themselves. May it guard you in your perils, good sir.” Arden will keep it at his side as a secondary weapon. [It is a +1 magic dagger.]

In a private moment with the merchant and his guardsmen, Arden and Martin ask them about the orcs tale of humans moving to the west end of the Caves. [Do they know anything about this? FU dice=5, yes, they were interrogated by the hobgoblins and asked if they belonged to the “profane worshippers” in the western caves. That is all they know…except the hobgoblins seemed nervous about mentioning the western caves. Arden informs the Castellan about this but learns nothing new.

Day 41

Corwin and Arden approach the jeweler to sell the silver and gold tapestry. The jeweler has seen valuable treasures from the Company on past occasions and eagerly watches as Arden unrolls the tapestry. It is a depiction of a rearing stallion and Corwin believes it is from a king lost in the ages of time. Corwin begins to haggle with the jeweler. Roll=8, I rule that Corwin makes his merchant roll and gets a good price. Arden uses his charisma to get more…roll=4, His atttempt to improve the deal with his charm fails. d6 roll=1, I rule that Corwin gets 10% more for the tapestry. The jeweler counts out 9 gold crowns and 90 silvers and takes his new possession.

Arden owes the men-at-arms 2 silver pieces per day. It has been 5 days since last pay. He gives each man (Catamont, Meklin, Handsome, Goat, and Egg) 10sp with admonishment to save some of it instead of buying cheap wine and good times at the tavern. He is seriously considering signing a few of them on as henchmen (I reason that they would no longer be hired, but would earn 1/2 xp, progress as fighters, and get a 1/2 share of treasure). Meklin, Handsome, and Catamont have all proved invaluable in combat. He will discuss it with the other PCs. The rest of the treasure is divided up among the Company. [Including the 250sp reward from the bandit camp, they have earned 1,293sp. Arden, Thane, Martin, and Corwin each get approximately 323sp.]

More to come…

Day 39, Back to the Caves!

Arden and Company once again turn their attention to the lure of the Caves of Chaos. Their last foray to the Caves had ended in tragedy. The bandits that attacked them have now been broken. Arden had to wonder what might have changed in the Caves since that time. He knew that hobgoblins were working with the goblins. Perhaps the goblin forces were dwindling, but nothing could be certain about the Caves, not without a spy on the inside. Arden laughed at the thought of disguising Thane as a goblin. He would pummel me at the mention of it.

It was good to have Corwin back with the Company. His magic would save their necks if things went south. Lord Kent kept his word and sent a small contingent of archers, twelve, and the corporal of the guard. A volley of arrows may help to soften up any foes.

The weather was about as expected for a fall day. The air was crisp and the skies overcast. The Company made an early departure from the Keep. Farmers and woodsmen were the only travelers on the road as the sun began to peek over the horizon. The day was uneventful and the road dry. The company stopped for a short rest at the large mound overlooking the river. Bread, cheese, and some apples made a welcome repast. If the archers were anxious about the trip, it showed little. Most of the men had experience patrolling the roads and running off bandits. Not many had encountered goblins. Goblins tended to travel by night, stealing from farmsteads or unwary travelers.

A few more hours and the company arrived at the trailhead leading to the Caves. They led the horses into the woods on the east side of the Old Trade Road. Egg Barkley stood watch over the horses. If any sizeable force approached, Egg couldn’t do much more than flee. He primarily kept the horses fed and quartered.

Corwin sends his familiar, Nicodemus, to scout ahead. The cat spies a lone hobgoblin sentry on the hill watching. The cat slips back to the group to inform them. Thane tries to sneak up to the hobgoblin. He alerts the guard and the guard fires an arrow but misses. The hobgoblin rushes away from Thane heading into the one of the caves on the hillside.

The company moves quickly in pursuit. Arden orders the archers to take a position outside as the company moves into the dark.

Nicodemus scouts the dark passageway and quietly pads into a guard room filled with goblins and hobgoblins. The sentry is there and they are gearing up for battle. One of the goblins spies Nicodemus. Several javelins are thrown as the cat races back to his master.

Arden and Thane lead the group with Thane moving slightly ahead. He tries to draw their fire and several goblins launch arrows and javelins at him. Thane hunkers down behind his trusty shield and the missiles can’t find their target. (Thane has taken the combat maneuver called Cover). The goblins round the corner in pursuit of what they think is a lone dwarf and find Arden with his greatsword ready. Four goblins with two hobgoblin overseers rush at them. Arden and Thane hold the line with Martin ready to relieve someone. As the fight continues, a squad of goblins with a hobgoblin leader attacks from behind. Catamont and Goat fire arrows and then aid Mecklin and Handsome. Corwin stands ready with a spell. The company takes some hits, but only Meklin is hurt badly. Martin tends to him with a healing herb which restores a little health. Two goblins flee into the common room and all the others have been slain.

The company moves into the common room to find six goblin males and women and children. The goblins attack, but three are cut down quickly. The rest retreat father into the caves. Two large hobgoblins rush out of the chieftains quarters (originally the goblin chief’s quarters, but he has been killed as the hobgoblins have taken over his tribe). This is a hard fought battle, but Arden and Company slay them with no major damage sustained.

The company searches the chieftain’s room. (I rolled the FU die to see if the hobgoblins had noticed the secret drawer in a stool. Result=no!) Martin and Corwin roll 11 and 12 when searching the room. They find a tapestry with silver and gold thread! (900 sp in value!) The only other room in this section of the caves is where the goblins fled. Only a couple males and the remnants of their tribe are hiding here waiting to fight for their lives. Arden and Company attempt to parley with them. Thane knows just a smattering of goblin and can roughly determine that the hobgoblins have made them slaves. (The goblins do indeed hate the hobgoblins but are too fearful to tell Thane that a secret door in this room connects their lair to the hobgoblins.) The Company does not want the blood of goblin women and children on their hands, so they leave them alone and explore the other branch of the goblin lair.

The company moves into the east branch of the goblin lair. They find an abandoned guard room and past that another room with two goblins and a hobgoblin that rush at Arden and Thane! Arden quickly cuts one goblin down with his greatsword. Thane strikes the second with a critical blow, killing him. The hobgoblin thinks better of attacking them and tries to flee. Catamont and Goat release arrows and both find their mark, killing the hobgoblin! Six silver coins are found on their person.

The next room they enter is a torture chamber. Two large hobgoblins are here. One with a cruel whip. The hobgoblin whips Arden, causing no damage but sending him to the floor for two rounds. The other hobgoblin moves to attack Thane, striking his armor. Martin tries to advance, but the whip lashes out again striking the cleric and sending him to the ground. Thane kills one hobgoblin and Arden finally makes it to his feet to dispatch the other.

The room is filled with a crude assortment of torture devices. Chained to the wall are six prisoners. One is a fat merchant who is half starved and his wife. Both were slated for tonight’s feast. They are relieved to be rescued…so much so that the merchant promises a reward when they return to the Keep. Accompanying the merchant are two men-at-arms. They vow to serve Arden and Company for one year for their freedom. The last two prisoners are more of a problem. One is a captured orc and the other a crazed looking gnoll.

Arden frees the orc and throws him a sword. The fighter’s hatred of orcs is intense, yet he will not murder the orc. The orc throws the sword down and states that he owes Arden his life and cannot fight him. Arden is talked out of fighting the orc by Martin, the cleric. Thane, being a dwarf, has no love for any orc and suggests he needs to be dispatched. The orc vows to fight for the party.

The gnoll on the other hand is a different story. He is released and immediately goes wild, attacking Arden with his fists. Arden takes some damage (the gnoll scored several good shots on him) but with the help of his companions, manages to put down the crazed gnoll.

Arden presses the orc for knowledge of the hobgoblins or other parts of the Caves. The orc is limited in vocabulary, but tells of other tribes in the Caves. He also tells them that he has seen some humans moving towards the west end of the Caves. He will not go there–it is bad magic. Arden tells the orc to leave the Caves. If they meet again, he will kill him.

The company decides it is better to return the captives to the Keep and not linger. They can return another day. The archers on post outside the cave entrance are relieved to see all the company return alive. They find their way back to Egg and the horses. The trip back to the Keep is finally one of light hearts and revelry. The merchant introduces himself and his wife–Alton and Erdene Haldrin. They know the Guild Master and will provide a handsome reward to the Company. The men-at-arms are Haynek Gralt and Ike Higgins. Both are overjoyed to be free. Arden has to think about their offer of servitude. He would rather bring competent men along than untested ones.

More to come….

Day 38 Continued ~ Return from the Bandit Camp

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Returning from the bandit’s camp, the company is glad to be all in one piece. Arden’s men-at-arms took quite a beating, but none were killed. Four bandits can’t say the same. In fact, they can’t say anything at all as they are trussed up on several horses making their last ride.

Two of the company’s horses have been recaptured and although several bandits fled, Arden hopes this will quiet the bandit activity down for at least a little while.

The company rides into the Keep. The guards no longer challenge them as they approach. They are becoming well known among the citizens of the Keep. The guards shout “Huzzah!” As Arden and Company bring the wanted men into the Keep.

The Bailiff is there to meet them [FU die rolled, 6 result…”yes, and…”] and also the Guild Master. He is overjoyed to hear that the bandits have been crushed and wishes to invite the Company to dinner at his apartment this evening.

The Bailiff takes custody of the bandits and all the horses are properly stabled. Arden and Company settle into the tavern to relax and have several ales.

That evening, the Guild Master and his wife host Arden, Thane, and Martin to a fine table. The food is excellent and several bottles of good wine are opened.

“Have you been to the capital city?” the Guild Master asks of his guests.

“Careen was too far to the south for me to see it yet, although I’d do hope to one day to go,” Arden replies.

Thane shakes his head, “I’ve not been, but I would like to see the great armorers of your capital.”

Martin nods his head, “I’ve been there only for a brief time. I received my holy orders from the Cathedral of St. Swithin in Careen. I stayed but a week. I suppose it was my upbringing in the countryside that made me feel trapped in the city. Too many people, too much stonework, too little greenery.”

“Yes, I can understand, but many creature comforts are found in the capital, unlike the Keep here. My dear wife longs for the shops and the culture that Careen offers.”

The Guild Master’s wife smiles pleasantly, but her expression confirms it.

“Soon, dear. Now that these brave men have rid the countryside of the bandits, we can travel with ease again. I plan on returning to Careen before the snow falls.”

He offers his guests more wine and the rest of the evening is spent in pleasant conversation of adventures and sights yet to see.

The Guild Master tells Arden and Company that men with their skills would be very useful to the trading houses of Careen. The trade routes to north have fallen into danger. It is unsafe for merchants to take the Old Trade Road to the north into the mountains of the Five Kings or northeast into Falmead. The route is no safe. Great riches lay in store for any braves adventurers who can make inroads into these areas.

The Guild Master also gives the men a reward for killing the bandits. He hands Arden a linen sack, heavy with silver. [There are 250 silver pieces inside.]

Arden tells the Guild Master that the Company will consider working to help the merchant guild. One task they will continue is the exploration of the Caves of Chaos.

But for now, the Company turns back towards the Inn to rest for the evening.

Arden wonders to himself, I haven’t heard from Corwin all day, hopefully his studies are nearing their end.

More to come….

Day 38 Beyond the River

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Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Thane paused a moment from his work at the forge. Arden was approaching and Thane could see the young warrior was wearing his chain and greatsword strapped to his back. Thane knew every link of that armor, almost as much as his own. He had repaired the slashed rings of steel, and loose rivets. A dwarf could tell many things about the character of a man by the condition of his armor. Arden had borne the brunt of many a goblin shortsword and one particularly nasty ogre. His chain was neither ostentatious nor ceremonial. Simple but good armor, oiled and well cared…something even a dwarf would be proud to wear.

“Thane, Martin and I are heading beyond the river, did you decide to stay at the forge?”

The dwarf grinned, his beard tucked under the leather apron, “Not hardly, young’un. Just putting the finish to this hook.” He held the grappling hook up in the air for Arden to inspect. Wrought iron, still glowing duly as it cooled. Arden couldn’t help to admire the blacksmith’s work.

With a hiss, Thane quenched the hook into a water barrel. He quickly hung up his apron and grabbed his handaxe and gear and marched off towards the gate. “Well, you comin’ or not?”

Arden laughed, “lead on, master dwarf…”


Beyond the river….

Arden, Thane, Martin, along with Catamont, Handsome, and Meklin, ride south of the Keep. They move past Coop’s Mill. Catamont keeps his eyes on the road ahead and Arden can sense that he is not wanting to see that miserable wretch of a mother.

The horses move easily along the trail to the mill. Martin moves along in front of the party. His hunter skills are put to good use as he gets off his horse to examine the ground along the banks.

Encounter? Result=no

Does Martin spy any horse tracks moving across the river? Result=9, yes! [I rolled a 7 and gave him +2 to the roll for his wisdom and hunter secondary skill]. Martin spies several horse tracks moving through a marshy area near the river.

Martin spurs his horse into the river. The current is not too swift here, but as Thane has told him, the river runs fast in the north where it comes down the Five Kings.

The river is shallow enough to ford safely here. Martin reaches the other side and signals the rest of the group to come ahead. On the other side a forested hill greets them. Large trees canopy the hill and obscure what lies beyond.

Do the tracks continue? [Rolled a FU die here…result=6! Yes, and Martin can clearly make out fresh hoofprints…at least four horses.]

The tracks lead up into the hills.

Does Martin lead the group into the hills following this path? [Result=2, No. They consider the possibility that if bandits are in the area a watchman has been set.]

The party decides to skirt the hills and approach the hills from another direction. Martin in the lead, they follow the contour of the hills. The river is to their left and the hills to their right. The group discovers several sand bars in the river but they are bare. Eventually they come to a smaller feeder branch. The hills switchback to the southwest and the branch hugs it.

Martin looks for more tracks along the back side of the hills…Result 9=yes, one set of prints move up into the forested hills.

The party dismounts and tie off the horses in the woods. Arden strings his bow and the others get missile weapons ready. Martin leads the group up the hill, keeping to cover and watching for sign of any sentry.

Do the bandits have a lookout on this side of the hill? Result=yes.

It is up to Martin to spot the lookout. Martin is a hunter and is wise, but the lookout is stationary and in the woods. Result=3! Martin leads the group onward into the hills as a bandit lookout watches them. The bandit sneaks back to his camp to alert the others.

Are the bandits all present at the camp? Result=3, No, but most are…I rule that the leader and 6 others are encamped, resting during the day.

The bandits are camped on a ridge in the forest. Their horses are hobbled a short way down the ridge.

Arden and Company make their way up the hill, moving back and forth, climbing steadily.

Martin smells the faint odor of wood smoke wafting down from the ridge. As the company approaches the campsite, the bandits launch an attack.

The bandits have surprise and fire arrows at the party…

Arden takes an arrow by the bandit leader! It hits him in an exposed part of his armor [critical…takes 4 damage!] Meklin, Martin, and Handsome all take arrows but their armor protects them.

The enemy is firing at 60′ distance.

The company retreats to cover of the trees and return fire…

[The bandits are all using the cover of trees, so all attacks against them will be at -2]

The company fires at the bandits, but they are too protected in the trees.

The bandits return fire [-2 for PCs under cover, but +1 for attacking from a higher vantage]

One of the bandits loses grip on his weapon (critical fail, will be at -1 damage next attack). Another bandit gets a lucky shot on Thane. The dwarf curses him and charges up the hill! The others draw their weapons and bravely follow!

Bandits will get two rounds of fire as the PCs move up the hill to engage them.

Meklin takes a hit! Handsome also catches an arrow!

The company falls on the bandits, blades flashing and vengeance in their hearts.

Arden cuts their leader with his greatsword, wounding him. Catamont supports Arden’s attack and slashes the leader with his handaxe.

Martin swings his flail and Meklin slashes with his halberd…a bandit falls dead at their feet! [Teaming up is a great idea!]

One bandit dead…the leader is injured.

The bandits strike with clubs, daggers, and sword.

Handsome takes a vicious dagger strike! He has fallen! Martin takes a nasty stab to the body…[Critical, +1 damage…total of 2 damage]

[Note–I’m using the alternative armor rules. This means since Handsome is wearing chain, he is unconscious for 3 rounds with death following. I hope one of the party can bind his wounds before then!]

Arden and Catamont attack the leader…Arden cuts him for 2 points. The bandit leader is gravely wounded.

Thane spends 2 luck points adjusting his attack roll to 9, injuring a bandit.

Martin misses but Meklin hits another bandit.

The bandit leader stabs Arden with his sword. Thane takes another dagger blow!  The other bandits miss.

Arden and Catamont both get fierce cuts on the the bandit leader! He falls down in a spray of blood…

Thane spends another Luck point and hits a bandit. Thane has injured one bandit but is outnumbered at the moment.

Meklin slashes another bandit injuring him.

Their leader has fallen…I roll 2d6 to gauge their morale…9! They will fight at least another round.

Two bandits attack Thane…both miss!

Three bandits attack Martin and Meklin….one lands an extremely vicious blow on Meklin! Meklin falls unconscious…wearing chain so he has three rounds.

Arden and Catamont rush to aid Thane and the dying Handsome.

Arden and Thane miss the bandits, but Catamont works to staunch Handsomes wounds. [I rolled a 7 for Catamont and figure this will suffice]

Martin is fighting three bandits alone…and misses!

Martin’s chainmail stands up against the bandits…they all miss!

The other bandits also miss.

Arden spends one Luck point to hit the injured bandit…the man staggers back bleeding profusely.

Martin spends one Luck to get a result of 12! One of the bandits he is fighting takes a heavy flail to the head, crushing his skull!

Four bandits remain some with injuries…morale 9…they fight!

Arden and Martin both take hits.

Arden spends two more Luck to hit the injured bandit…the bandit dies.

Martin spends one Luck to hit a bandit for 2 points…injured but not dead.

One bandit stabs Thane…the dwarf howls with a curse.

Arden rushes to Martin’s defense and Catamont moves in to bind Meklin’s wounds.

Catamont binds Meklin’s wounds, Arden and Martin both hit their opponents.

The three bandits (two are wounded) turn to flee.

Thane strikes one with his handaxe but does not kill him. Arden also cuts at a bandit but not killing him.

The wounded bandits race down the ridge to mount their horses. The company pursue the bandits through the woods but the bandits are lightly armored and outpace them. Thane makes a desperate throw with his axe…miss! The axe is enchanted and returns to the dwarf’s hand. [This was one of the hard won items from the goblin lair.]

Seven horses are hobbled down below.

Question…are the bandits able to take more than one each? Yes…I rule that the three men take five horses. Somewhere out in the woods might be other bandits on watch…but the company claim the other two horses.

Martin prays over the wounded Meklin and Handsome, healing them both. The men-at-arms nod gratefully at the healing powers of the cleric.

Searching the bandits, the company finds a total of 3 gold pieces and 11 silver pieces. On a stump in the camp lies a cask of good wine. The company gather all the bandit weapons and sling the bodies of the four dead bandits over the horses. They move north to the Keep, taking their time and keeping watch.

When Arden returns to the Keep, he will show the Bailiff the dead bandits. Perhaps this will make travel a bit safer in the area….at least for a little while.

Encounters on the way back to the Keep….result=no, thankfully.

Notes…Well Arden didn’t wait for Corwin to finish his studies. The battle was hard fought and almost cost two of his men their lives. It’s just the risk that they all take. When the magician rejoins the company they will be formidable.

 

Day 37~End of the Day

Arden and Egg ride out to the river to find Martin and Handsome.

Question–Do they meet up with them? No, but they do meet the owner of the water powered saw mill just south of the village of Coot’s Mill.

The mill owner, Odell Bunton, is a red faced and portly middle aged gent. He has three sons that work the mill and a wife and daughter that mend clothes and sew garments for the woodsmen.

Arden is introduced by Egg and the miller is very happy to see one of the men he’d been hearing about. Not only is Arden gaining a reputation for return several times from the Caves of Chaos, he is also named as the hero who saved the woodsman during the elven standoff.

The men chat amicably for a short while. Arden inquires about Martin. He’d heard he was in the river area looking for healing poultices. Odell mentions he has seen the cleric and another man earlier in the day.

Arden and Egg ride through the river area, but Martin and Handsome are nowhere to be seen. They decide to return to the Keep in the hope of meeting them later.

After Martin’s encounter with the elves, he and Handsome make their way back to Coot’s Mill to check on the workers and then back to the Keep.

Later that evening all of the Company are accounted for. The Tavern is aglow with a warm fire and a hot meal of boiled pig’s feet with sweet potatoes and walnuts, brown bread, hard cheese, and mead. A lute player sings some drinking songs and a few ballads. The patrons are in a good mood this evening. Arden and Company enjoy their dinner and the ale. Notably absent is Corwin. He is still working through Florian’s spell book up within the walls of the inner keep.

Martin and Handsome give an account of their meeting with the elves. Arden has heard of Geist Wald. He tells the others that it is somewhere to the north, up near the Five Kings mountain range.

Arden tells the party about their time in the village, leaving out the meeting with Catamont’s mother. He makes a point to tell the others about the laborer seeing men on horses late one night…the horses were wet…fording the river perhaps?

Maybe in the morning the Company will take a ride beyond the river.

More to come…

Day 37 Continued…Martin in the Woods

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Photo by Joshua Harris on Unsplash

 

This is a continuation of my solo game called Perils on the Borderlands. My goal is to run the Keep on the Borderlands module using the Pits & Perils rules. Playing solo has been a welcome addition to complement my other gaming pursuits. Many of you can probably sympathize when I say that it’s difficult to get a face to face table top game going at regular interval. Real Life rears its ugly head and says, Nope.

I’ve been fortunate to be part of a Roll20 gaming group with three other fellows my age. We’ve named our group the Fatbeards…we are old school…playing everything from Odnd to Whitebox to Pits and Perils plus some new games with old school feel…Tiny Dungeons 2e is one we’ve recently begun. But my point is that not all of us have the time or ability to play face to face or online and solo games may scratch that itch. My advice would be to give it a try. Check out some of the great blogs out there that have tons of advice…Sophia Brandt’s die heart is a prime example. Also the Google community has Lone Wolf Roleplaying and the folks there are very supportive. Ok, I gotta get back to my game…I’ve been on Day 37 way too long!

Day 37 Continued

Time–mid afternoon

Arden and Egg have just walked out of the ale tent in Coot’s Mill. Arden has left a man lying battered and unconscious in the dirt. The man jumped Arden, thinking that with five other friends, he’d been backed up. Unfortunately, none of the other men were ready to cross swords with Arden. Egg Barkley (Arden’s man-at-arms) was standing by, club in hand, as a persuader.

Arden rubs his knuckles, “That bloke had a hard head. I’m lucky I didn’t break my fist on his jaw. By the way, Egg, that ale maid in there…she no doubt has little regard for her son or me for that matter. She is playing at something.”

Egg shakes his head, ” ‘Tis a sad thing when a mum don’t give a fig for her young one. I’d known about her since I began working in Coot’s Mill. She was always haranguing that boy…no wonder he up and left. I wouldn’t put nothing past her, she’s in league with Eos knows who, but nobody good, I’m sure.”

They collect their mounts and walk them to the site of the church. A couple men are digging around the foundation, setting stone, and leveling the area. It is marked off with stakes and a big pile of timbers lie nearby.

They pause when Arden and Egg come into view.

“Hullo, Wendrig, ” Egg shouts.

The man wipes his face and shouts back, “Egg! If you was any kind of friend, you’d come over and help!”

Egg just grins, “You got Bertie over there. He’s younger than me and stronger!”

Wendrig mutters, “Strong…but not too much on thinking…I gotta keep an eye on the lad or this church is gonna be leaning.”

Egg laughs and introduces Arden to the men. They doff their hats, “We’ve heard of you, sir. You and your group done took the fight right to them devils up the Old Trade Road!”

Arden nods and smiles, “They gave about as good as they got. We lost a man and are now resting up a bit. Did either of you see Martin today?”

Bertie stammers, “I..I…saw him earlier t..t…today, my lord. He was going t..t..to look fer some plants in the woods near the river. He took that homely feller with him.”

Arden knew he meant Handsome Brune. Well at least he’s got someone to watch his back. Wandering around even near the Keep could be a risky thing to do, he thought.

Arden asks the men about the bandits in the area…[Question–have they seen any strangers coming into town that weren’t part of the merchant guards? If so, when? I roll a FU die…result= 6! Yes, and Bertie has additional information! Question–does he know a location? result=4, Yes, but nothing specific. I roll a Rory Story Cube and image is a man standing at a crossroads…]

Bertie says, “I seen three riders coming along the road one evening late…I was on my way to gig some frogs near the mill. I hid when I saw them. It was dark, but in the moonlight, I could tell that their horses were wet…maybe they was hunting frogs too?”

Arden thanks the men and gives each of them a silver piece. Looking at Wendrig, he says, “You better hang on to that kid, he’s a lot brighter than you think…”

They bid the workers a good day and ride off towards the mill to look for Martin.

(Near the Mill)

Martin has spent a couple hours looking for healing herbs. [roll=9, I rule that Martin has found one bunch of St. John’s Wort, a healing plant. He will use this to make healing tea or a poultice.]

Does Martin and Handsome encounter anyone or anything near the river? I make an encounter check and yes, something is out there…using the Pits & Perils wilderness encounter…I roll a 12…elves!

Three elves appear in the forest near Martin and Brune, they make themselves known by singing softly. The elves slip out of the trees and greet Martin and Brune. [I use the Moldvay Basic Dnd reaction rules and give Martin a +1 modifier for their last encounter with elves at the logging camp. Result=11 +1 = 12! The elves are part of the group that had dealings with Martin and the Company.

Reaction Roll
2d6
2=very bad
3-5=bad
6-8=neutral
9-11=good
12=very good

The elves approach Martin and Brune in peace, “Greetings, young ones. That plant, you call St. John’s Wort…we call it athelas.”

The wood elf fishes in his belt pouch and retrieves a leaf wrapped bundle, “and this is alheno…it is a remedy against poison…take it friend.”

Martin takes the bundle and watches as the elves gather to sit among the trees. They are all dressed in shades of green and brown but each has some otherworldly feature. White hair, piercing violet eyes, or lyrical voices. Martin can understand the stories men tell of being lost in the forest and being lured away by musical voices.

“I thank you, my friends…but I have nothing to give you in return except a blessing,” Martin replies.

“We travel to the north. Our brothers and sisters are calling in the Geist Wald. Your blessing is appreciated, young cleric. Eos is revered by the elves along with the Green Man.”

Martin says a short prayer of blessing for safe travel. “What is the Geist Wald? Do you have kin in trouble there?”

The elves gather their belongings and slip through the woods, laughing, “Nothing that you may help with friend…safe travels to you!”