The Keep on Yeoldelands – Session 12

This session was a bit of a blur for me, and the players were very patient with my miscommunications, ramblings and generally less-than-ideal coherency. Needless to say, I’ll try and be more discerning about my health before running a game. Or just not do so a day after a Covid jab…

My ‘note-taking’ for this expedition was absolutely dire – thank goodness the players have been keeping on top of it!

Click here for the other sessions.

Expedition 16

02 Sep 2021

  • Amos (Cleric 1)
  • Dalgarn (Dwarf 1)
  • Gregory (Fighter 1)
  • Rarder Brete (Fighter 3)
  • Rozza (Magic User 1)
  • Later joined – briefly – by Staniel (Fighter 1)

The party approached Baron Grellus and attempted to elicit some form of advantageous deal by pressing upon him the growing danger in Redwood Castle, that an army of cat-headed beasts were assembling. Rarder was the only adventurer the baron recognised, but he was impressed by their tale and offered a trio of scouts to investigate the surface while the party delved beneath, and a larger riverboat to temporarily accommodate the numbers.

After waiting a few days for injured allies to recover, the party made their way to the castle and followed the same route down the tower as the previous expedition, observing some signs of activity above ground with trepidation – the castle occupants were not sitting idle.

After descending the spiral steps, the party heard the sound of fighting up ahead and they dashed forward – Rozza’s torchlight showed a lone dwarf hacking maniacally at a small group of walking corpses and skeletons. When the party joined in and cut down the undead, the dwarf ignored all attempts to converse and merely charged forwards screaming, ‘REVENGE!’

The adventurers followed and found themselves a larger group of walking dead. Once again they charged in, but this fight proved a sterner challenge. Both Gregory and the unknown dwarf were struck down, and Hats took a grievous, near-fatal injury. The two clerics were able to call upon their deities to repel several of the creatures but more emerged from several passages around the cavern, and a skeleton and one of the fleshier corpses started chanting with ‘breath’ whistling through ruined and absent organs. Arcane lights danced around their limbs and eye sockets.

Artzua dashed forward to engage one and tackled it to the ground, dissipating the magical energies, but the other completed its spell and Rarder and Rozza, holding one flank dropped into a slumber. Rozza’s torch clattered to the ground but thankfully didn’t go out.

Dalgarn, who’d only been able to fend off blows up to this point, dashed across to fill the void and slap Rarder awake. The weary fighter soaked up most of the blows while the dwarf and Amos, wielding Conciencia in Gregory’s stead, slew the caster before it could do any more damage.

Eventually the undead lay fully dead at the adventurers’ feet. Cautiously the party pressed on with Staniel – one of the scouts who had come down to see if all was well – ignoring an elaborated forged door in favour of one they recognised as having bust open from the other side. A familiar nausea washed over Amos and Artzua. Suspiciously, Dalgarn prodded the wall – the halberd passed through the illusion. Stepping through, the dwarf was filled with a great sense of unnatural ill. So the party noted its location and backed the hell away.

Finding their way around back to the room with the statue, the group pondered how best to relocate this marble winged woman outside. Amos tentatively put this to the statue herself, and to everyone’s surprise she responded. She was a symbol of the treaty between elves and humans – and a weapon – against the hordes of demonic monsters many, many years ago. She was merely awaiting the signal from her elven creators and refused to go peacefully with the party (especially that thief Rarder who she recognised as having stolen her helmet) unless they produced evidence that the Tower of the Constructors, located several days to the northeast, had fallen and the elven peoples passed away.

Not much better off financially, but in a greatly more informed state, the party retreated back to the surface, though they found themselves beset by two large mammals of great speed and ferocity. Staniel gave his life that the rest of the party might retreat and blockade a door behind them. Filled with bloodlust, the creatures scrambled against the obstacle until a soaking of flaming oil gave them cause to stop. Not even checking to see if the beasts had gone, the party fled all the way back to Redwood.

GM Notes

  • Originally the sleep spell had affected all the active PCs in the fight, and we took a break for drinks, loo and to roll up a new party of characters. It was then pointed out that with Rarder being level 3 he may have been over the threshold for total HD affected. Another player had also not been explicit at deliberately staying out of sight of the caster, assuming the map was more concrete an example of layout than I myself had intended to project. I suspect these issues would both have arisen even if I had been operating at 100%. It’s always worth being flexible and willing to retcon.
  • The player who lost Gregory and Staniel has now twice lost a pair of characters in a session, and is now on their 8th character. The first few characters were fairly reckless but the last few have been far more cautious and sensible, yet still they’ve been on the receiving end of a lot of damage getting through high ACs. Still a very good sport about it!
  • Not everyone who plays these old-school versions of D&D ascribe to the idea that the GM should be a fan of the player characters, and the mainstream perception of these games is one of players at the mercy of bullying GMs. I would argue, however, that these retro rulesets with their procedural basis allow the GM to be much more of a fan of the party because it’s the procedures which provide challenge. Much of the decision-making is taken out of their hands – you have the most recognised procedure in combat, but you also have turns ticking by, and random encounters, to keep both players and GM on their toes. Throughout this session I was willing the party on to success, and bemoaned the outcome of dice rolls with them. Admittedly, the sort of fandom it allows is less the glory-supporting of Manchester United of old, and more like following the travails of the England cricket team.

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