Saturday, 4 December 2010

Karameikos Journal: Session I

I'm one of those supremely lucky geeks who have fellow gamers living across the backyard. Those self-same gamers happen to be pretty good friends, so every now and then we find ourselves playing a completely unscheduled "pick-up" game on the fly. On first attempt at an OPSRIC game a few weeks ago ended in a TPK, so we tried again with the same characters in a different setting with some reinforcements to round out the party.

The party, informally calling themselves "The Shorn" grew up together in the town of Threshold in the Grand Duchy of Karameikos. Like all those who grow up in this land, they have recently undergone the ritual of "Shearing", where their cloaks are raggedly cut with shears in the hands of their closest family members. The "sheared" are formally cast-out from their homes and families, to make their own way in the world for a few years until such time as they have proven themselves worthy adult members of the family. It's a right of passage that has been practiced for hundreds of years and now, in the case of the P.C's. it's their turn to set out into the wider word, much as their parents did before them.

The characters:

Bogdin: Dwarf male Fighter/Cleric 1/1 Bogdin has shocked his tradition-minded dwarven family by embracing the worship of human Gods. It is his parent's hope that in his travels he will embrace the worship of other (i.e dwarven) Gods.

Elra: 1/2 Elf Female Fighter/Magic User 1/1. As ugly as she is intelligent, Elra is no-one's idea of the stereotypical elven beauty, her body twisted and deformed by an unfortunate mixture of the bloodlines.

Klara: Human Female Assassin 1. Klara has some disturbing skills that have alarmed her colleagues. She excuses her "exotic" knowledge of certain matters by explaining that she has always listened raptly to the tales of the one-armed old men in the taverns of Threshold.

Tungdil: Dwarf male Fighter/Thief 1/1. Tungdil and his brother Bogdin belong to the only dwarf family in Threshold. Unlike his more scholarly brother, Tungdil has embraced family tradition and trained as a locksmith.

Urich: Human male Fighter 1. As the saying goes: "As big as an ox with brains not much better." Urich looks to his smarter, shorter fraternal twin (Vaslav) to make all the big decisions. A double-specialist in the longsword, he's a good man to have beside you in a scrap.

Vaslav: Human male Cleric (Church of Traladra) 1. Vaslav is a young man of handsome looks, considerable common sense and little patience. He has open ambitions to one day become a Patriach of the faith and founder of it's first Fighting Order.

Session One: 1st & 2nd Thaumont, 1000AC.

Having arranged to be Shorn by their parents within a few days of one another, the (now) homeless and jobless PC's rendezvous in the tap-room of Threshold's Grey Minstrel Inn. There they meet and exchange rumours, having decided upon a life of mercenary adventure and discuss the likely possibilities for adventure. Though they learn that Baron Hendrick is once again raiding his neighbours, that a foreign merchant wishes to find a "rock" in the wilderness, the Patriarch has need of men to track down a rogue cleric and that an elf traveller has need of messengers to travel north, they settle on a job much closer to home. Thus, in the early evening, they make their way to the home of a local social-climbing merchant by the name of Caldwell, who apparently has need of "eviction specialists".

Within the opulent surroundings of his fine home, they learn that Caldwell recently completed the purchase of an old, abandoned manor house and it's surrounding lands just five miles west of town. Yet, upon travelling to make his claim on the house, he was abused and chased off by a beautiful woman who threatened to "brain" him with her mace should she return. He offers them 100 gold each if they will rid his new home of this (and any other) intruder, half up front, half in advance. The Shorn seem to consider this a fair price, and accept the offer without haggling. They also accept the merchants offer of a bed for the night and some hurry through the streets to make a few last minute purchases from craftsmen before their workshops close for the night.

They leave with the dawn, passing through the Town gate to the well wishes of the Sergeant on duty. He drinks a toast to each of the newly Shorn in turn, wishing them good luck on their travels. The journey takes only two and half hours, and, shortly, they find themselves outside the Manor described by Caldwell the night before. To all intents and purposes, it resembles a single story roofed Keep, with no crenelations. Even the short towers (a mere 15ft tall) are roofed and lacking in ramparts. The place has far too many skylights (actually little more than open roof-hatches) and narrow windows to be truly defensible. This is a home, not a fortification. One that might keep out a roving band of brigands perhaps, but which would fall quickly to a determined assault by even a small company of determined soldiers.

Brazenly, they advance upon the south-facing entry doors and give them a tug. To their surprise and pleasure, the doors open at once, unlocked and unbarred, granting admittance. The first room their try turns out to be a dining room, recently used by a band of messy eaters. They close the door before investigating the room opposite, interrupting an argument between four goblins sorting through two piles of coins on the floor. The ensuing combat is swift and brutal. Urich takes two nasty wounds, being healed by his brother almost as quickly as he is injured and slaying three of the goblins while Vaslav claims the fourth. Meanwhile, Klara and Elra stand guard at a nearby intersection. It is well they did for no sooner has the last goblin fallen than three men exit three rooms by the intersection. Another scuffle ensues, though the three humans are quickly slain, an elated Elra quickly claiming one fallen mans chainmail.

While Klara and Bogdin keep watch, and Vaslav ensures no-one pockets their hard-earned cash, all six of the party;s backpacks are quickly filled with about 2000 silver pieces. Feeling quite pleased with themselves, the group retires back to Threshold, but not before dragging all the corpses into the dining chamber. They have spent perhaps half an hour in total at the adventure site.

The rather surprised looking gate Sergeant welcomes them back with an exclamation about not having expected their return so soon. They proceed quickly to the house of Fiddlegulph, the gnomish money-changer, where they learn a valuable lesson concerning effort vs reward. By the time the group sets aside a third of their gains for the group fund, pays a 10% holding fee, another 10% fee to exchange silver coins for gold and a third 10% for the evaluation of a gem stone they discovered, each party member emerges with a grand total of 27 gold pieces (and a mere 27xp). The six Shorn mutter and grumble about how this was hardly worth the trip back before quickly set off for the manor once again.

They arrive at about 2 in the afternoon, and are actually surprised to discover that the doors will not budge when they attempt to open them once again. Peering into the dining room through a narrow arrow-slit, they are dismayed to find the bodies they left within have vanished. Oh no. Perhaps they shouldn't have left those bodies lying in the dining room? After all, lunchtime was nearly two hours ago! Unperturbed, Bogdin tries knocking on the door and has a small fusillade of arrows aimed at him from the "tower" windows for his trouble.

Beating a hasty retreat, with only minor wounds, the party retires a few hundred yards south to the remnants of Caldwell manor's village. There in a drafty, roofless, wattle-and-daub hut they settle down to rest until nightfall and recover their spells. While Bogdin rests, his brother keeps himself busy (much to the other's bemusement) by hacking apart another hut and using the wattle to barricade the door to their hut. Despite all his hard work, it's a rather flimsy and pathetic looking barricade that impresses no-one, least of all his brother.

That night, as dusk falls, they return to the south door, arriving just in time to meet a force of 13 goblins -and a pair of "sniffer" wolves- exit the Manor. In the resulting combat, Bogdin is nearly killed by a wolf while Vaslav takes some minor wounds from the second. In the meantime, seven goblin archers pelt the party with missiles (careless of hitting their own wolves) with the remaining six form a defensive line in front of the archers. After several rounds the party finally manages to finish off the wolves and advances on the goblins. A perfectly timed Sleep spell from Elra sends five goblins to the land of nod just as they rest of the party enters charge range. A few moments later, four goblins are murdered in their sleep and the remainder charge home against the heroes. The ensuing fight is bloody but brief. None of the characters (thanks to some inspired teamwork) come close to expiring, though a few more minor wounds are suffered. The last four goblins turn to flee but are cut down before they can reach the safety of the Manor. The heroes run into the Manor before anyone inside can think to close the doors and catch a breather. Although disappointed by the lack of treasure on the corpses of their foes, they console themselves with the knowledge that any treasure these goblins once possessed likely lies unguarded in rooms throughout the manor.

They begin to explore once again. They finally examine the three bedrooms the humans emerged from, only to find that one has another exit leading into a courtyard (they do not take the time to search these rooms, however). The courtyard seems to have once served as a sort of arboretum or garden, but it is now overgrown with weeds. It reeks of wolf shit and urine. Seven freshly dug graves fill the centre of the garden. The Shorn correctly surmise that this is where the bodies of their first victims wound up. The four doors leading away from the courtyard transpire to lead to other bedrooms. After being clunked on the head by a shit-filled bucket left perched upon one door lintel by a goblin prankster, Tungdil finally realises that he should be examining all these doors for traps before opening them. The party find several treasure stashes in these rooms, all hidden by their (apparently) goblin occupants prior to leaving the Manor to pursue the heroes.

In the final room of the session, they come across two small beings, resembling mangy terriers that walk upright, hunched over a cooking fire toasting bed and heating soup for about twenty man -sized beings. A third sits on it's haunches by a chopping board, where it is busily carving a wheel of cheese into portions. The Shorn stand gaping at the three for a moment (perhaps thinking the Manor empty and theirs for the plundering) while the three kobolds seem equally surprised. As soon as they can react, the three creatures toss their spears to the floor and emit panicked sounding yelps. Unwisely, Tungdil assumes that that the creatures do not understand Thytian (Common) and advises the others that it would be best to kill these kobolds lest they slit the group's throats in their sleep. The three creatures immediately make a break for it out the opposite door and, while the party bicker about whether or not it would be wise to pursue, the trio quickly make their escape. The Shorn are consoled somewhat when Klara (poking about with the ten foot pole) quickly realises that one of the unused pots is heavier than it should be. She is delighted to find out that the pot has been filled with gold and silver coins and a pair of gold rings. No prizes for guessing who ransacked the rooms of the three dead humans then.


The players have clearly forgotten a few lessons they learned the hard way while playing the "Secret of Lion Castle" a few weeks ago. Hardly surprising considering this was only their second experience of a D&D dungeon bash (let alone an Old School style one). Hence the shit-bucket trapwhich was (by my standards) an uncharacteristically generous reminder of what they should be doing. Sure enough, out came the ten foot pole and within moments the players were their old paranoids, cautious selves again.

My one complaint about the module as written is the lack of monsters for comparatively huge monetary rewards. The four goblins in the second room had a horde more appropriate for an entire tribe let alone the only four goblins (not including the six wandering monster goblins) actaully appearing in the whole dungeon (before I added more). I cut down the size of the horde considerably. Even so, the party wasted a great deal of time and effort carting all these low denomination coins back to civilisation, just to see their cut eroded down to nearly nothing by the money-lending equivilent of "bank charges". They are now determined only to grab gold coins in future -and to buy a few large sacks to complement their backpack coin-capacity. I've told them that a blanket rule like this is unwise as an occasional sack of silver coinage has it's uses, but I'm not about to come right out and tell them what those uses are yet. Heck, there are links to two perfectly good 1st ed Campaign Journals on this very blog. Links I've already suggested they look at and read very closely.

Despite the lack of treasure acquired in this first session, the players seem very happy with their efforts so far. The have (rightly) assumed that the death of 13 goblins and two wolves constitutes a large dent in the monster population, and that they will have a much easier time acquiring treasure from the now relatively unguarded manor. The encounter with the kobolds seemed to shake them out of their complacency regarding the presence of more monsters however, which can only be a good thing for their survival chances. As can be seen by their failure to search for traps or even listen at doors, they were getting a little too cocky. I wonder if any of them have even realised that the mace-armed human female described by Caldwell has yet to make an appearance?

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