The Keep on Yeoldelands – Session 5

Click here for the other sessions.

This was a fairly eventful session so I wanted to do it justice, but probably ought to reign in the length again in future. There are more pictures to break it up, at least.

Expeditions 5 & 6

15 July 2021

  • Emmett Vannes (Thief 1)
  • Luxia (Fighter 1)
  • Rarder Bretes (Fighter 1)

The main pre-adventuring admin for the party was hiring a retainer, Ostader, to hold a torch and fight alongside them in the caves if needs be, and two archers and a footman to guard the cave exit. The group set off for the valley, the now-experienced Rarder leading them there without a hitch.

Seeing a pile of charred once-hairy bodies outside the familiar cave entrance, the party instructed their three mercenaries to stand watch outside while the three of them and their retainer sauntered in. Their passage was impeded by an upturned table leaning against the narrow funnel. Pushing it sent several pots, pans and rusty helmets crashing to the ground. Hearing alarmed chatter and movement coming from where they’d seen the fire and pit last time, they took the other route to where they had previously left a door unopened at the top of a set of steps.

Confident that by this point a fair portion of the little hairy blighters had been killed, Luxia kicked down the door with her scimitars raised. In the gloom, the party could just make out a row of spears glinting in the torchlight, and a flurry of arrows sailed towards the adventurers from behind the spears. Emmett tried shooting into the dark but with no success.

The party retreated, splashing the steps with flaming oil to slow any pursuers down. Emmett hung back to shoot at the forerunners now visible in the flickering light – still hairy, but taller, better groomed and more disciplined than the party’s previous foes – but could only wound one before taking an arrow to the chest and expiring.

Conscious that their fallen ally carried both their map and a lot of gold, Luxia dashed back to grab what she could from the body while the Rarder stood between them and the enemy. His plate mail and shield couldn’t stop several arrows from piercing him though, and he staggered after Luxia towards the entrance.

Ostador was there ahead of them, but he stood agape at the sight below of the great walking mass of wobbly flesh tucking into the mauled corpse of one of their hired archers. The footman and other archer were nowhere to be seen. The creature spotted the party as they emerged.

The route back to the trees was a quick dash away, but the pincushioned Rarder would struggle to outrun even as lumbering a pursuer as this. With a cry and with the sun gleaming off her pair of scimitars, Luxia took a running leap off the ledge and onto the beast below, bouncing off and leaving a gash in its side. Ostador boldly jumped down after her and tried to grab the great jingly bag hanging from the creature’s makeshift belt. Alas, it was too tightly wedged in.

The creature swatted him aside to lie in a crumbled heap of broken bones at the bottom of the valley wall. Luxia decided to try and press the attack but couldn’t get past the beast’s guard, and it flattened her with one downward swing of its club.

Meanwhile, Rarder had limped to the safety of the trees and watched this all play out. He slowly headed back for the keep, finding his way even without the map. It was midnight by the time he stumbled in, bearing only tattered plate mail, several arrows and a heavy heart.

It took him two weeks to recover from his injuries and repair or replace his equipment. He recounted his tale to the tavern patrons and tried to rally a sizeable force to take on his companions’ killer, but could only entice an inexperienced fighter, Tom Penn, and a rather cocksure elf, Calamatix. They threw around several, increasingly ambitious plans around but decided a bit of exploring would probably stand them in better stead.

They set out to scout out the wilderness, heading west and over the next few days finding a confluence of two rivers with a ruined fortification standing between the two paths of water. Followed the river south the trio came upon the settlement of Redwood. There they rested and recovered, learning from the tavernkeeper that the ruins were of Redwood Castle, though locals knew them as Bone Keep. The party made note of this for future reference.

GM Notes

  • I’m trying to avoid doing so, but goshdarnit is it easy let slip in gameplay the ‘standard’ D&D name for these goblins, ogres and the like!
  • It’s early days, but I quite like the players having have a rough, hand-drawn one that gets updated as they go while I have a hex map to work from to determine lengths of journeys and turns passing. Stops exploration from becoming too board gamey.
  • Again I felt the death / injury house rules worked well here. The odds are still pretty poor for low-level characters (less than 50% unless you’re a dwarf or halfling) but give a possible lifeline to the fortunate few. Emmett, Ostador and Luxia fell to the first arrow or ogre swing coming their way, but Rarder passed his test to give the table the macabre pleasure of seeing him stumble haggardly back to the keep.
  • Even with the extra chances at 0 HP, though, the character memorial stands at six dead adventurers after five sessions, in contrast to Barrowmaze’s 21 dead PCs after 78 sessions. I think several factors are at play here.
    1) Off-White Cube does seem to be more forgiving than OSE, even with to-hit and to-damage rolled into one with exploding damage dice. OSE combat is far more swingy – surviving one round is no indicator of surviving the next. An enemy rolling high on a d20 is often a death sentence, but otherwise can do nothing to the character. There were just a lot of high rolls this session.
    2) This group of players haven’t been bring along much in the way of hire help, never exceeding four dungeon delvers, be they character or retainer. Older modules and adventures generally expected a decent-sized party potentially reaching double figures. Perhaps I need to emphasise this point a bit more – the lower number of characters works for sneaky reconnaissance, but is less suited for kicking down the door all fantasy weapons blazing. Which leads to…
    3) The group wasn’t jam packed with overly cautious players this session! I think jumping onto the back of an ogre nibbling on a dismembered body was only likely to end one way, though admittedly it a vital distraction to help the slowed Rarder reach the safety of the trees. The fight against ten disciplined opponents might have been doable in a more tactically-helpful It’ll be interesting to see if the caution-confidence-catastrophe cycle comes into play here.
    Still, they seem to be taking it in good heart and are rolling up replacement characters nice and quickly.

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