The Keep on Yeoldelands – Session 1

Click here for the other sessions.

It seems the start of our Evils of Illmire campaign had the misfortune to coincide with a number of player life changes and hobby slumps. Alas, it’s not really suited to the open table form of gameplay which kept the Barrowmaze campaign going through a few similar lulls for nearly 80 sessions, so I’ve packed the book away on the shelf for the time being.

Reverting back to an open table format which doesn’t suffer unduly from having a different cast of characters from session to session, I plumped for the wisely-praised Keep on the Borderlands which would hopefully entice a new generation of players and require little work to run with OSE.

I’ll use a future post to go into more detail on what sort of prep I actually did for the campaign, but now that we’ve had a few sessions I wanted to get some summaries and thoughts down while they’re relatively fresh.

Expedition 1

10 Jun 2021

  • Kaiden of the DISAVOWED (Cleric 1)
  • Tarek Krel (Fighter 1)
  • Timur Tell (Magic User 1)
  • Utlaf the Stout (Dwarf 1)

The first session of the campaign was a bit of a slow start, players getting used to each other’s voices and mannerisms and characters stepping gingerly into the keep. Everyone seemed to be broke, so Timur promised a 15gp fee to a guide from whatever spoils they might come across, they set off for a valley from which an increasing number of raiders on nearby communities were allegedly emerging, if the keep bailiff were to be believed. That seemed as good a source as any to earn the 30gp bounty on “hairy left hands”.

The guide led them through the Darkwoods without interruption to their destination and, having selected a ground-level cave entrance, the party slunk in warily. Then backed out again at the stench and sight of a great hairy lump. After trapping the entrance, they snuck back in. At the lack of obvious signs of life, Utlaf gingerly prodded the form and found it to be a bearskin flung over a great pile of leaves, the squashed centre suggesting it to be some kind of bed.

The party spied a draped cloth hung clumsily over a possible gap in the cave wall on the far side of the cave, but took far greater interest in the appearance around the corner of the cave’s usual inhabitant: a great walking mass of obesity, a 10′ biped composed of flesh and body odour. The adventurers froze and the creature stared at them, uncomprehending of them when they tried their assorted known languages. Then it belched and gestured vaguely towards the cave entrance dismissively. They quickly departed.

They returned to the keep no richer, but fortunately Utlaf pulled out a hitherto unmentioned money pouch to pay the guide. They’d be praying for a more lucrative haul next time round.

GM Notes

  • I committed a very basic error by presenting the party with the home base and very little in the way of immediate hooks. There were hooks and rumours available, but they had to go looking for them which, combined with the general uncertainty of playing with new group, meant that quite a bit of the session was taken up by ‘getting ready to adventure’ rather than ‘going on an adventure’. Roleplay-heavy gaming time is not necessarily a bad thing, but it was more pre-planned character description than emergent storytelling, and it made for a slow start to the campaign.
  • There is a lot of upfront information on the keep for the GM! That this all comes before you get to the Caves of Chaos I found somewhat daunting. I summed it up and labelled the map across a double page spread, but I suspect its prominence was at least a factor in starting the session and campaign there rather than where the action and excitement actually are.

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