Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Shorn

Here are the painted miniatures of the Shorn, as the party stood just prior to the events of Session 5 (before the deaths of Vaslav and Uric).

From left to right: Elra, Klara, Uric, Boindil, Tungdil, The Mule, Vaslav, Hans.

Here's a slightly less arty shot, one which hopefully shows the details a little bit better.

Many thanks to my dearly beloved for the photos.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Shorn Cloaks and Tattered Shields

Inspired by the need to actually name a campaign before being able to set up a wikki on Obsidian Portal, I've finally come up with a name for my Karameikos campaign. My post count will be down for a while as I set about getting the wikki up to a decent standard.

Here's the link for those who are interested:


Monday, 27 December 2010

Treasure vs Monsters: The XP Debate

Those of you who have been keeping up to date with my actual play, Karameikos posts will be aware that last session (played as part of our Christmas festivities) resulted in a near TPK. This brings me to focus on a certain quandary I've been mulling over for weeks. We've now had three out of five sessions where, because the characters looted no treasure, they have earned little or no Xp. Given the many lessons learned last session (listed below) it seems unfair that the characters haven't learned anything from the experience (even if the players have). So let's take a look first of all at the lessons they learned, then I'll go over the reasons I chose to run an "only treasure counts for XP game". Then I'll have have a think about what I'm going to do about it (if anything).

Firstly, here's what the players learned from last session:

  • Never trust a new party member (or members) until they've earned it.
  • Blowing most of your funds on hirelings is never a bad move.
  • When ambushed, don't try to fight your opponents when they have the advantage. Focus your maximum effort on breaking out in one direction, then come back for revenge later.
  • When bluffing for your life, don't show your hand. ESPECIALLY not once negotiations are over and have been resolved in your favour.

Here's what the characters learned:
  • 0 Xp.
Now I've mentioned before why I like the variant rules that characters only acquire experience points for treasure acquired. For the sake of consistency, but to avoid repetition, I'll go over them again briefly.
  • Encourages exploratory play and roleplaying rather than fighting to overcome non-essential obstacles, even in Dungeons.
  • Players try to avoid, rather than actively seek out, wandering monster encounters - quickening the pace of play. Mostly because they don't spend an hour checking every room for secret doors.
  • The slower pace of level gain keeps the players at optimum dungeon exploring levels (1-9) for longer and invokes a real sense of achievement with each level up.
  • At the rate we're sitting down for sessions (near enough every time all the members of both households are able and available -more often than you would think) we could conceivably reach name level within a matter of months.
However, that being said my earlier choice has so far had a lot to be desired. In the last session, the party learned a great many lessons about trust and tactics. In the previous session, the adventurers left the environs of their home to travel on a long journey for the very first time. In the other (near) Xp-free session, the party negotiated their first quest (and earned 50gp each up front -the only Xp gained in the session), began their first quest and had their first ever combat.

Now surely, all these experiences themselves justify an Xp award of sorts. Xp does stand for experience after all. Some of the were story experiences, some were combat experiences. Now, when it comes to OSR games I tend not to give out story Xp awards. After all, a sandbox campaign is not about me, as the DM, railroading the party down a specific plot line. But I'm contemplating issuing small Xp awards for good ideas and "first-time" events, such as the first time they fight a battle aboard ship, venture to another plane of existence, encounter a new type of monster (in broad terms: Demon, Undead or Ooze for example, as opposed to every time they meet a new type of humanoid). I'm not wild on this idea, as such awards could pile up really quickly. So if I do begin issuing them, it'll be at the rate of about 10 Xp per character level. Or something equally minor. Yes, I am a total experience point scrooge. Why? Because I like high level characters (NPC or otherwise) to feel special.

Secondly, there is the issue of Xp awards for defeating monsters. Now, I like this idea in principle. Of course you're going to learn something from every fight (hell, I do in real life). My concern is simply that, over the course of a single session, so many monsters bite the dust that I've seen characters go from 1st to second level in under three sessions. That's waaaay to fast for my liking -especially considering how often we, as a group, are able to meet. Five sessions in less than a month, remember? And we still might be able to squeeze in a sixth before new year.

In some OSR games, the Xp award for defeating a monster consists of a flat rate (usually relatively low) followed by a modifier of +1 Xp per hit point. This just seems way to high for me. Sure, the monster Xp ends up split between all the PC's and their henchmen, but combined with treasure Xp, the rate of advancement still feels too high.

So, what are my options:
  • Keep things as they are, an option I would remain dissatisfied with.
  • Add the occasional (small) story Xp award to the existing system -something I feel I should certainly do, as it's a system I've used in just about every non OSR game I've ever DM'd.
  • Give the PC's full experience for monsters and treasure. Something I definitely don't want to do.
I'm reluctant to even trial the third option. Once you've given players a bone like this it's extremely hard to take it away without annoying the hell out of the players. I'm tempted to initiate a rule where the characters receive the base Xp award for a monster kill (with no extra Xp based on hit points) but that feels like too large a first step.

So, here's what I'm going to do. For the next few sessions, I'm going to issue the characters with 1/2 Xp for treasure acquired and 1/2 the base, unmodified Xp award for creatures they kill. I hate to alter the focus of the game this way. While I certainly don't expect the players to actively seek out wandering monster encounters, I'm concerned that they are likely to become somewhat more blaise about time wasting.

If anyone has any thoughts or suggestions for a better idea than this I'd love to hear them. It's a common problem, and one I'm sure I solved easily enough in previous Old School games a good ten-fifteen years ago. If only I could remember exactly what it was I did then, I'd be a much happier bunny than I am now.

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Karameikos Journal Session V: The Xmas Day Massacre (Or: "By the Way Mr Bandit, Your Companions are Only Sleeping")

Typically, I finished painting specific miniatures to represent the entire party on the morning of Christmas Eve. Then, on Christmas Day (after tiding up from dinner and playing guitar hero) we damn near have our first TPK. Ah well. The Dice Gods must have their due.

21st-25th Thaumont.

With Elra still abed recovering from injuries sustained on the road, the party spent the majority of the next day holed up in the Orc's Head, a Tavern within the walls of Castellan Keep's Outer Bailey. They found themselves sharing the tavern with two other groups - a band of four armed men, clearly not members of the garrison, with the mercenary look about them and a party of three Priests. The Priests were marked out as belonging to the faith of young Bogdin by their robes, and so, in time, Bogdin decided to head across to share a few words with his Brothers from the Church of Karameikos.

He soon learned that the trio were a battle-scarred, shaven-headed Bishop and his aides, a diplomatic embassy from the High Patriarch to the Emir of Ylaurum. Between the winter snows and the roads being unsafe due to a mixture of problems with Frost Giants and humanoid raids, they had been stranded at the Keep for the last six months. Unable to go on and unwilling tio simply go back and abandon their mission. Why not go by sea? Because, the Bishop confessed, a trifle reluctantly, he suffered from terrible sea-sickness, and in any case his mission was not urgent.

The young dwarf soon made his way across to the mercenaries, where he was invited to join in their dice game, which he did, and promptly lost a great deal of small change from his wallet. Again, he learned that these mercenaries had been waiting a great deal of time at the Keep. Having served all across Karameikos for the last year as caravan guards and brigand hunters, they were accompanying the Jeweller the party heard about from the Gate Corporal on his way home to the Emirate. They hoped this would be their last stint -they'd lost many companions over the last year, and fancied chipping in to buy themselves a tavern back in Ostland. Ogden thanked them for their hospitality and set off to the bar to buy a round of drinks.

There, he quizzed the barman, a one-armed old veteran, about the "goblins" in the mountains. The veteran laughed and told the young dwarf that there were more than goblins in the lands about. He seemed to take great pleasure in regaling the dwarf with his own extensive knowledge of the local humanoids tribes - 2 of orcs, 1 of kobolds, 1 of goblins, 1 of bugbears, 1 of gnolls and a bunch of particularly nasty and well organised hobgoblins. He further went on to explain that if Bogdin was looking for trouble, he'd find plenty of it up by the Caves of Chaos - a combined series of Holy Caves and various patches of neutral ground where the tribes met for trade, intrigue and religious observances. But, as the veteran pointed out, "You'll need a lot more men than what you have here to tackle them caves."

The dwarf thanked the tavern keeper for his time, wandered back to the mercenaries at their table, and made enquiries as to their rates of employment. He learned that each would expect a retainer of 60gp each and a flat payment of 40 silver peices each, per day of employment. When the young dwarf balked, the four men laughed at how wet behind the ears he was. One, their leader, explained that the 60 gold was a one off "hiring fee" to pay for any wear and tear sustained by the gears (and to buy replacement weapons, if required) over the course of their service. It also acted as a kind of "death benefits" to be taken home to the man's family by his colleagues in the event of his death.

[This is a House Rule of mine. I've never understood why mercenaries in D&D wander from place to place without gear, relying in each employer to buy their equipment for them. It doesn't make sense. For one thing, a mercenary has enemies. it's not safe to travel unarmed. For another, how else does a mercenary advertise his trade and worth if not by the quality and style of his weapons?]

Bodgin thanked the man, made no further commitments at the time, and went back to the others to explain what he'd learned. This news concerning the caves of chaos had the party in something of a tither. Hans was all for packing up and going home. Vaslav was outraged -they hadn't come all this way, abandoned their first paying employer and risked death at the hands of wolves just to turn back now. He firmly stated that the others could leave if they liked -he and Uric would be staying. And besides, there were other capable looking warriors in the tavern who had been stranded for months and would no doubt be desperate for a crack at the same humanoids who had boxed them in. further discussion ruled out hiring the four mercenaries (though the party had plenty of cash in the form of party funds, they decided it was too expensive) and approached the clerics instead.

Upon learning their destination, the Bishop seemed most interested in accompanying the room, and agreed to meet them on the morrow outside the Inn. Satisfied with their day's negotiations and rumour-mongering, The Shorn turned in for an early night.

The next morning the expanded party (no ten strong) set out for the Caves, content to allow the Bishop (who claimed to know the way) take the lead. Pausing only for a brief religious ceremony conducted by the Bishop (and for party to drop off the party funds in the form of a promissory note with the Jeweller and leave their mule in the capable hands of the Stablemaster) they departed in high spirits. The first days travel northward was uneventful, though the three clerics kept to themselves. If Bogdin thought it strange that they were heading north when the tavern keeper indicated the Caves lay to the North East he gave no sign.

That night, the Bishops two companions volunteered to take second watch. A little too trusting of their new companions, none of the Shorn elected to share that watch with them. A few failed Detect Noise and Listen checks from the slumbering party later, and a shifty looking young cleric promptly snuck out of camp for an hour or so during his watch. Likewise, no one heard him sneaking back later. If any of the PC's noted this youths rather haggard expressions the next morning (and they did) no one thought to make anything of it.

The next morning say the group again heading north. Though as the day wore on, the Bishop began to fall further and further towards the rear of the party (he blamed old age and advancing wounds) causing the two acolytes with him to fall back and offer their support. At this, Klara finally began to grow a little suspicious, and made sure to keep the three clerics between her and the rest of the party, where she could keep an eye on them. Alas, it would prove to be too little to late. The party blithely followed the Bishops directions into a narrow gully, rather than simply going round as a more experience (and cautious) party would have done. Therefore, they were in a very bad spot indeed when the arrows began to fly.

12 brigands, five armed with bows, five with spears and the two leaders with double-handed war-axes, appeared at the other end of the gully. Even as the did so, the Bishop began his prayers. Beside him the two acolyte turned, leering to Klara. "can't let you near the Caves little missy" the shifty one hissed, before the two drew their weapons and attacked.

Tungdil, scouting in the lead with his crossbow ready, fell immediately, peppered with arrows then charged by the two leaders. The one bright spot in all this being that one of the axe-men drew back his arms for a strike a little too vigorously and saw if flying from his hands. Uric, Vaslav and Bogdin hurled themselves forward into the fray, Vaslav saving the dwarf fighter-thief's life with a well timed cure spell, while Elra let loose with her sleep spell. Alas, warned the night before that one of the party might be a mage, they had spread themselves thin and so only four spearmen succumbed to the spell. Meanwhile, Hans could not prevent the Bishop from completing his spell but Klara, demonstrating admirable agility, managed to keep his two subordinates busy and herself unwounded for the greater part of the fight.

Right from the start, things looked bad for the party. Bogdins morale (both the players and the characters) was shot down in flames by his brother Tungdil's fall, the resultant player (and character) apathy severely affecting his normally quite creative thinking. When Vaslav went down at the beginning of round two, even some of the other players began to think it was all over, yet in terms of foes downed the party were as yet more than holding their own. Yet the dice gods were cruel, Uric quickly followed his brother into the dust, but not before taking a few of the foemen with him. That left Elra and Bogdin at the north end of the gully, facing five brigands (with four more asleep at their feet).

Meanwhile, just behind them, Hans dropped the Bishop to 0hp with a well armed thrust between the plates of the mans armour. Unwilling to risk the Bishop climbing once more to his feet thanks to a spell from his two clerical companions, he then spent a round finishing the Bishop off.

Meanwhile, the still unwounded Elra did a fine job of holding off her foes. But as she dropped another opponent to the ground, she saw too, that Bogdin had also fallen, and lay across the prostrate form of her brother. She now faced five foes alone. The men glared at her, putting up their arms. "Surrender bitch. You've lost."

Behind her, unseen by his isolated compaion, Hans closed with one of the two clerics facing Klara. When the man turned to face this new threat, the assassin seized her chance, plunging her dagger deep into the mans neck and triggering a new morale check for the enemy just as the very moment they needed it most. The brigands failed their morale check, but, as the northern group had such a clear advantage, I ruled that rather than fleeing, they would be up for negotiation. Meanwhile, the last cleric turned to flee, took a 1hp wound from Klara and the process and, due to the failed check, threw up his arms in surrender.

During the resultant stand-off, unknown to the players, I timed the negotiations. Uric and Vaslav both bled out at around the time the prisoners were exchanged. As the six brigands still standing (including the wounded cleric) began moving off, leaving the party in possession of the field, the outlook for the remaining Shorn seemed to brighten. They had possession of the field, and resultant high yield of loot (though they didn't know it yet) - the Bishop alone had +1 plate, a +1 shield, and +1 mace and pair of clerical scrolls. If they'd just kept their mouth shut till the foe was out of sight, things would have been rosy. There was still a chance the sleeping brigands would stay that way for a while yet. Alas, as Klara glanced nervously at the stirring men at her feet, Elra caught her eye. Exhausted, tired, and far too naive for her own good (and with a player who'd maybe had just a tad too much of that mulled wine) called out cheerfully to the retreating Brigands.

"Ho there! These four are only sleeping by the way."

The Brigands turned to regard the battered trio, the lead one with a fierce grin upon his face. "Oh are they?" he remarked. Then he and his men proceeded to fill the air (or rather Elra) with a volley of arrows, all aimed at Elra. Not one failed to hit. The half-elf fell to the ground, critically injured, even as the brigands charged back across the field, the four ensorcelled members of their band blinking back sleep as they did so. Howling in frustration (the players I mean, not just the characters) Hans and Klara did all they could.

They grabbed Elra and ran.

Three days later, back at the Keep, the familiar face of the Brigand leader walked into the Orc's Head, holding a white handkerchief which her flourished slyly before taking a long, fake blow-out into the fabric. With Elra abed (again) recovering from her severe injuries, Hans and Klara were alone in the taproom. Respecting the "flag", they agreed to talk. The Brigand chief explained that two of their companions had survived the battle. (Tungdil had been stabilised by Vaslav's cure spell and I had Bogdin make a system shock to see if her survived the shoddy "medical care" he received at the hands of his captors). The Brigands proposed to ransom them back for three hundred gold pieces. Hans quite rightly pointed out that they had no proof that either was alive, so the Brigand happily led them outside to a spot in the courtyard where they could just make a party of men (and two semi-naked dwarfs) on the slope a nearby mountain. After haggling out the terms it was agreed that the ransom would be lodged with the Keep's Bailiff in the presence of the bandit negotiator. After that, the signal would be given for the rest of the band to approach. Once the dwarfs (with their clothes returned to avoid raising the suspicions of the garrison) entered the Gate House, the brigand would cash the promissory note the party had given him and ride off like hell itself was chasing him.

However, the Brigand warned. At the first sign of trouble (or too much interest from the Guards) the Brigand would give a different signal, and the dwarfs would die. Satisfied (if not entirely happy) Hans and Klara agreed to the deal and, after a brief consultation with the wounded Elra, who also agreed, the prisoner swap went ahead. All without a hitch. And apparently all under the collective noses of the Castle garrison.

And so we left it there, with two bedraggled, haggard looking dwarfs gazing sheepishly at their rescuers. No kit, no weapons, no gear, no money. It's hard being an adventurer.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

The Miniature a Day Challenge (and Merry X-Mas)

Merry X-Mas one all. Now, on to something gaming related.

I know that many of you out there share my perennial problem: motivating yourself to paint your mini's. Now, even thought I love painting, I'm quite often too tired, too bored or else too busy to paint more than a few dozen a year. Well, no longer.

Up to know, my motivation has come from the "Paint 'em as you need 'em ,"school of thought. In otherwords, if I know I need twelve orcs for an adventure and have just ten painted, I'll go paint two more. Likewise, my wargaming armies only ever seem to earn a lick of paint whenever I have a tournament to go to.

But this coming year, starting on my return from Holiday on the 24/01/2011, I am going to paint a Miniature a day! That's right. 351 Miniatures by the end of 2011 -and you can follow my progress on this blog. Now don't think for one second this means I'll actually paint a miniature every single day. Some days I'll paint four or five (or work on four or five), others day I'll paint nothing at all. But over the course of the year, it'll work out at an average of at least one a day.

Which means that, assuming I keep this rate of painting up indefinitely and don't go buying any more figs in the meantime, I should have cleared out my unpainted boxes by about 2020. Ah well, I can hope can't I.

January 24th. You heard it here.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Miniatures on the Cheap

I may sound like a broken record at times, but there's a lot to be said for stretching your miniatures budget as far as possible. Myself, before being a mini I ask myself "how much bang am I getting for my buck?" Or, in other words, how much use can I get out of this one little miniature?

There are miniature manufacturers out there than produce amazing figures, but you're paying for that quality. Moreover, the really great manufacturers (or at least, those who produce excellent quality items AND happen to be a large company) tend to produce miniatures dedicated to a specific game world or game system. Privateer Press is probably the best two example. The company makes magnificent figures, but unless you regularly play a Steampunk game (in the case of Privateer Press) you're not going to get much use out of most of them for anything but playing Warmachine or Hordes. Games Workshop's Warhammer and Warhammer 40K miniatures have the same problem, but not to the same extent. In fact, it's the much-maligned (By British RP gamers at least) Games Workshop that I want to discuss today.

Here's a fact: I refuse to buy miniatures I can only every use for one gaming purpose. Hence, I no longer collect such things as GW Space Marines, Elder or Warhammer Empire figures. Each range is either too iconic, or else to themed to use in any other game system. Warhammer Empire figures for example, are humans. You would think then that they would provide a lot of replay value but, in fact, Empire miniatures have certain thematic elements (such as their style of dress) that makes them all but unsuitable for use in anything outside of a very narrow range of games.

However, this doesn't mean I've written off Games Workshop entirely. Many of it's ranges have much to offer the Gamer on a budget. Off the top of my head, I can think of several dozen boxed sets of GW plastic miniatures which I either own and use regularly as roleplaying miniatures or have on my "wish-list".

Here's a sample listing:

Warhammer Saurus Warriors and Skink Regiment(Plastic Box sets): Used as Troglydytes and Lizardmen respectively in all the fantasy RPG's I play. I used science fiction weapons from by bits box to kit-bash some "reptile" aliens for sci-fi RPGs as well.
Warhammer Skaven (Plastic Box): For were-rats (my favorite lycanthrope), rat-men and (again with a few sci-fi weapons) my home-brew sci-fi Ratmen (technically weasel-men, but the models are close enough).
Warhammer Skeletons (Plastic Box): A box each of the Tomb King's and Vampire Counts varieties gives me more skeletons than I'll ever need (even in the Caves of Chaos). I use the remaining parts (and whole skeletons) to create scenery elements and basing features. Alas, the warhammer zombies are too-period specific for my tastes.
Warhammer Wood Elfs and Dwarfs (Plastic Box): Nice enough but a "off" in proportions. Go for the Lord of the Rings plastic boxed sets instead.
Warhammer Brettonians (Plastic Box): The mounted figures are nice, but how often would you use them, really? On the other hand, the infantry box set provides a nice batch of generic medieval footmen and/or archers to represent typical human guards. The figures themselves aren't as nice as other GW plastics and the poses are rather static. However, your still making a considerable saving compared to buying a like number of metal miniatures.
Warhammer Norse (Plastic Box): Good for generic unarmoured savage barbarians (though the muscle tissue is a little too cartoonish). Give a few of them modern guns from your bit box and you've got the beginnings of a Post Apocalypse road-warrior gang as well.
Lord of the Rings Plastic Box Sets: I can't recommend these enough. 24 excellent plastic miniatures (no assembly required) at a dirt-cheap price. I use the Moria goblins as goblins, Mordor Orcs as Hobgoblins, Uruk-Hai as orcs. The Gondorans work as elite guards, the Rohirrim make excellent medium troops and the Rangers work well for light infantry, militia and townsfolk. Easterlings see lots of use as "evil" elites in my games while the Haradrim see use as dervishes, nomads and the like. Finally, the elves and dwarfs are used for exactly what you would think while the Corsair miniatures make for excellent brigands, pirates, slavers and common thugs. If you want to expand your gaming collection quickly and cheaply, I can't recommend Lord of the Ring's figures enough.

Finally, some GW plastic boxed sets to avoid:

Any of the Warhammer Orc and Goblin plastic miniature ranges: Far far too muscular. These are cartoonish parodies of just about any other orc concept you will ever come across. Which is a pity, because back in the eighties and early nineties, GW produced some of the greatest orc and goblin metals (and plastics) around.
Any of the Warhammer Chaos boxes other than the Norse: Unless, that is, your looking for suitably Elric-esque foes.
Any of the Warhammer Empire range box sets: Very nice miniatures, but unless you play a lot of WFRP or intend to buy an Empire Army for Warhammer, I can't see you getting much use out them.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Charisma: It's Not (All) About Beauty.

Charisma. Everyone's favorite dump stat. For years I've despaired at lazy players who simply shrug off a low charisma with the explanation that the character is simply ugly. I can't even begin to explain how thrilled I am therefore, when I come across someone who finally gets it. Charisma isn't about how you look, it's about how others perceive your looks.

Of course, charisma is about personality as well, but we're talking more about the "looks" component here (and doesn't how someone looks reflect their personality?). It's rare enough to come across an experienced gamer who understands the concept of charisma, so imagine how chuffed I was when I realised that one of my brand new gamers understood it right off the bat. Charisma is about perception. Other peoples perception that is. Or, to belabour the point a bit, the charisma score measures others people's perception of the character.

One of my players, that is, Elra's player, just sent me a page of background for her character. All good stuff, after four sessions she's clearly starting to think that Elra might "make it" after all. Despite not yet having reached the heady heights of second level in either of her classes. It was a fine page of background, more imaginative and original than I had expected for what amounts to the players third ever RPG character. But what really caught my eye was these passages:

"Elra looked at herself in the mirror and sighed. She was very tall, and when clothed it looked like she was very fat, but instead it was muscle from years of training. She had mousy brown hair and quite a big nose but lovely elvish green eyes. She appeared quite boyish and when she walked it wasn't graceful like Klara. She strutted like a man!

However, Elra was raised like a boy and so beauty [I assume the player is referring to such things as make-up and fashion] was one thing she was never taught about. In fact, if Elra was dressed up in lovely gowns with make-up she would be quite lovely."

Yes! She gets it. I admit the original concept of the character as having inherited all the worst characteristics of man and elf to make her look "wrong" somehow was my idea. An off-the-cuff comment I was unhappy about afterwords, since it seemed to set a bad example regarding what charisma represented. But the player clearly understands anyway. Elra doesn't have low charisma because she's not pretty (quite the opposite in fact). She has low charisma because she walks, talks, dresses and acts like a man in a society where woman are expected to be prim and effeminate. Elra probably belches in public, scratches when she needs to and maybe doesn't wash as often as she should. But underneath all that dirt, she's gorgeous. Other people just don't understand her. They think she's weird and THATS why they don't like her. Hell, given how geeky and "weird" gamers are thought to be, you'd think more of us would be able to grasp this concept. How often have you witnessed someones attitude towards you change when they've found out you're a gamer? That is, when their perception of you changed?

Well done Aimee. Your DM is very chuffed.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Karameikos Journal Session IV

Session 4: 13th-20th Thaumont

Gathering once again at the Inn, The Shorn reviewed their options for further adventure. With no idea how long it would take for Caldwell to track down his spellcaster and lacking the patience to wait five days for the findings of the Sage, they elected to travel east to Fort Castellan. They had little trouble tracking down the source of the rumours regarding humanoid raids on trade caravans given that he presently had rooms at the Inn. Stefan, it transpired, was a horse trader who had been stranded in the town during the long winter after delivering new stock to the Patriarch and his household (suggesting the news from the East was months old, though no one in the party seemed to pick up on this at the time).

Stefan agreed to act as a guide, quickly gathering his belongings and arranging to meet the party outside after breakfast. As the party gathered, it occured to them that they had best let Caldwell know where they were going. After first having no luck finding him or any of his senior retainers at the merchants townhouse (where wagon loads of his goods were being carted out and wagon loads belonging to the new tenants were being carted in) they elected to speak with him at his new Manor. This was no hardship, for the manor was on the road to the west -a road they must take, for no roads lead east from Threshold, and they must first travel south to Kelvin to find passage on a river boat to the Fort.

Tungdil elected to play the part of errand boy, though he found the Manor's new master not at home. Instead he left word with the Merchant's Steward. It was an encounter that did not go well. Firstly, Tungdil found the man busily directing workmen unloading furniture from carts. Then the news that they were simply riding (more accurately, walking) off eastwards on what would be at least a two-week round trip had him all but accusing them of abandoning their contract (which, frankly, they were). Tungdil's attempt to tip the man with a gold piece only made matters worse, the steward (correctly) assuming the offered tip was little more than a heavy handed attempt at a bribe -with his subordinate workers present no less! The Steward all but chased the young dwarf from his master's lands, promising that the party had not heard the end of this.

Tungdil relayed this news to his companions, who did not seem overly concerned by the reminder that they were breaking their contract with the merchant (nor did they note how much this evidently displeased Stefan, who was himself a merchant only just entered into a contract with them). Nor, for that matter, did any of them recall that they owed a certain sage 400gp for the work he was doing while they intended to be travelling. Stefan could not help but think that the group should be more mindful of their reputation, but the horse-trader turned guide held his peace.

The party passed through Han's home village, the settlement of Verge, at around midday where (in accordance with tradition) the newly-shorn youngster was ignored by his family - all except a certain younger lass who looked at him askew as he passed and muttered that he wasn't taking care of himself properly. Just after dusk, they passed near the eaves of the Radlebb forest, on their road to the village of Rifllian. They arrived just as the human-owned bussiness' were closing down for the night (or else handing over to their elven staff). Weary human residents bid the travellers good night while they trudged home for dinner, even as the settlement's elves and half-elves geared up for a busy night. They managed to meet the inn-keep of the Tree-Bough Inn just as he was leaving, yet even so he graciously persuaded them that sleeping on the common room floor would be ill-advised given that his elven customers would be coming in from the fields soon and elves need no sleep. Sure enough, even in the rooms above the party could make out the sounds of revelry from below, but the many layers of fresh leaves cast about the floor of the rooms drowned out the greater part of the noise.

The next morning, the fourteenth, they set out eastwards for Kelvin. They arrived at mid-day, just as Stefen had led them to expect, passing a merchant caravan heading north along the way. It came as no surprise that any boats leaving the docks that day had already taken their leave of the city this late in the day. On Stefan's recommendation The Shorn decided to shop, finding themselves impressed with the town and it's markets, easily twice the size of Threshold and more. Vaslav and Urich left the others to visit the town's famous shrines and temples. As they departed, Elra offered to pick up any supplies the two needed. Uric thought long and hard for a moment before declaring he wanted a puppy. This set off a gentle argument between the brothers when they left on their errands, the one insisting he was responsible enough to look after a puppy on his own, the other bitterly complaining that he would end up being the one to look after it, train it, feed it etc. "Any anyway," Vaslav added, sealing the argument, "It's not as though we can take a puppy down a dungeon can we?"

Though impressed by the city's markets and the variety of specialist craftsmen available (armourers, helm-makers, gauntlet makers, sword smiths, weapon smiths and so forth) they rest of the group bought only essential supplies. Tungdil and Boindil tried to save the group a little cash, first by visiting a shady looking inn called the "Diamond Spider" populated solely by "dancing girls" and men with numerous facial scars and then by trying to hire out space in a stables. Eventually, one of the stable-men stopped laughing long enough to explain to the pair of "dwarf bumpkins" how things worked in the "cities" of Karemeikos. The guilds regulated prices and determined who offered which services. Anyone who tried to take business away from another guild (say, the Hostelers and Tavern Keepers guild, for example) could look forward to having their business burned down by a mob of angry apprentices. Chagrined, the dwarfs took their leave and admitted it looked like they would be staying in the "Merchant's Weigh Inn" after all.

[Personally, I thought this was a cracking name for an Inn catering to Merchants and travellers, but nobody else seemed to get the joke].

The next day (the 15th) Stefan found them a place on a riverboat heading north east up the river, known variously as the Volaga or the Highreach, depending on whether the speaker was Traladaran or Thyatian. Though they journey required frequent stops for the boat to be unloaded and carried past various rapids, the "Spirit of Halav" made good time. On the evening of the first night, they camped not far from the confluence of the Volaga and the Castellan rivers. The campsite was a good spot for a future inn, Vaslav noted, given how many ships had stopped their for the evening. A party atmosphere persisted for several hours while the various crews drank and swapped tall tales but eventually the tired oarsmen bedded down for the night. The Shorn, as paying passengers, were not required to stand a watch that night but were woken by the baying of wolves. In a desperate defence of the party mule, both Elra and Tungdil went down, savaged by wolves. Yet while Tungdil was merely knocked senseless by a collision with a rock while falling, Elra was badly torn up. Over the course of the river journey, the spells of Vaslav and Boindil ensured that all the groups wounds were quickly healed. Yet the fatigue of her near death left Elra feeling weak and sickly for the remainder of the journey. Even the sight of Fort Castellan's mighty walls, rising up from the hills above the river, on the morning of the 20th did little to cheer her.

An hour before dusk, Stefan presented the group to the Corporal of the Guard who, upon asking their business, confirmed that the garrison had been concentrating on their campaign against the local giants and had not had men to spare patrolling the mountain roads last year. He seemed surprised that the party were expecting to meet merchants who would pay for the humanoids to be "cleaned out" (as, for that matter, was Stefen, who'd made no mention of any such thing while talking to the party a week before). The Corporal did allow that a Jeweller and his wife had been trapped in the Fort by the snows last winter and MIGHT be interested in paying to have the route cleared (or else pay for an escort across the mountains) but could make no promises. He did add that the party should feel free to scout for trouble and could keep any loot lifted from dead foes, but reminded them to list all their goods with the Bailiff and his clerk each time they entered or left the Fort. He went on to explain that any goods other than those in their possession upon leaving the Fort would be taxed on their return.

The Bailiff and his scribe thereafter made a careful record of their goods and possessions (a procedure which lasted well past nightfall) before providing directions to both the Guild House (rooms set aside for any Guilded Merchants passing through) and to the Orc's Head Inn and Tavern, where caravan guards and drovers normally took lodging. They left Stefan at the door to the Inn (as a Guilded Merchant, Stefan was himself entitled to free lodging at the Guild House) and bedded down for the night.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Kareimekos Published Modules

I've been going through my modules, trying to remember which ones were set in Kareimekos and which were not. Fortunately, with the help of B1-9 I've already have nine modules more or less adapted to my needs. B1-9 doesn't use everything in these modules (and frankly, it's a little vague about where exactly in the Duchy some of the adventure sites are located) but it's enough to make sure that converting them entirely should be rather easy.

Fortunately, the Grand Duchy of Karameikos Gazetteer is itself quite useful, as it sites several other modules set in the region as reference sources used when creating the source book, including B-10, which seemingly has lots of information on the Duchy's demi-humans.

Finally, B11 (Queens Harvest) and B12 (King's Festival) are also set in Karemeikos, so I can troll through these for additional sandbox sites to add to the map and use the scenarios contained within as well.

To the best of my knowledge however, very few modules were set in Karameikos at later levels. I think the Duchy was expressly designed as a Basic level D&D location. I've managed to remember that X-12, Skarda's Mirror, was also set there but I can't think of many others off the top of my head. I'm fairly certain that Dragon Magazine included a few adventures set specifically in the Grand Duchy as well, but can't think what they are.

If anyone out there can think of a few more, I'd appreciated it if you could shout them out. I'm perfectly capable of making up new locations and modules myself -but given how suddenly this campaign has come about, I need as many pre-made locations and modules as possible to get me started.

I've already decided to plunder some of the early Dungeon magazine modules -including a certain infamous vampires tower with the entrance in the roof from a VERY early issue of the magazine.

Finally, every sandbox needs a mega-dungeon. Right now I'm contemplating the idea o having two. I really like Stone Hell Dungeon -that will be the great ruin I referred to in my previous post, in the hidden valley. However, I also like Castle of the Mad Archwizard. So much so, in fact, that I'm thinking "Castle Caldwell" might have more than one cellar level after all.

If anyone out there has any knowledge of other published modules set in Karameikos, please let me know. Likewise, if you can think of any D&D or 1st/early 2nd ed AD&D modules from Dungeon magazine that I might find especially useful (not just ones specifically set in Karameikos) I'd be very grateful.

Present List of Modules:

B series modules: In Search of the Unknown, Keep on the Borderlands, Palace of the Silver Princess, Horror on the Hill, The Veiled Society, Rahasia, Castle Caldwell and Beyond, Nights Dark Terrors, King's Festival, Queen's Harvest.

DDA-3 The Eye of Traldar, DDA-4 Dymark Dread

X-12 Skarda's Mirror.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


Well, despite the fact that it's ever so slightly crept up on me out of the blue, the current OSRIC campaign seems to be going really well. Even before the end of the first session I had a feeling the players wouldn't be satisfied by a simple one-off "pick-up" game. In many ways, the spontaneous birth of this completely unexpected campaign makes it all the more thrilling for me as a DM. Given how easy it is to arrange a compatible gaming time-table when the occupants of just two-households are involved, it looks like I wont need to wait till march to get a regular game going after all.

On the other hand? Well, I have absolutely nothing prepared. I'm basically having to make up the sandbox as we go along. Real "seat-of-the-pants" stuff, especially for a compulsive (near anal) planner like me. Luckily, I've been using the Castle Caldwell chapters from the excellent B1-B9 "In Search of Adventure" module compendium. So I already have a very nice little min-campaign using the Karameikos setting to start me off in. The module compelition suffers from having been "thrown together" from various modules long after they were first written. But hey, isn't that how most sandbox campaigns turn out? A number of pre-published adventure modules crammed, poked, probed and kneaded until they fit into a game setting? The "module" plenty of plot hooks as you can see. While it's adventures are laid out in a "flow-chart" progression leading from one to the next, it hasn't been difficult to adapt it into the beginnings of a proper "sand-box" campaign . Although I'm not very familiar with the Mystara setting, I have all the Gazetteers and Hollow World supplements. Far from being a problem, this makes the experience for me all the better. Not only am I getting to run a campaign, I'm getting to "explore" a new setting, in much the same way as the players are. There are just as much surprises in store for me as there are for them.

So far I've been able to stave off being over-whelmed by player enthusiasm by providing my players with the Grand Duchy of Karameikos supplement. Hopefully that'll buy me some time to do some more prep work before the next game. My major concern is that, given our current rate of play, the head start afforded me by the B1-9 supplement might not be enough to keep me ahead of the players. Limited prep time might result in my running some modules or home-brew scenarios before I've had a chance to properly prepare them or integrate them into the setting.

As a consequence of this, I'm going to have to put the development of my Harn and Hyborian Age sand-boxes on hold for the time being. For the foreseeable future, most of my efforts will be directed to building upon the strong foundations provided by B1-9 to create a proper, working sandbox setting. Most of what I get up to will be posted here, of course, but it does mean a very sudden, near-total shift in direction for the blog thus far. I will certainly finish off the Necromancer series of articles, but I expect they will be the last non-Karemiekos posts for a very long while. At least until I can establish a more comfortable buffer zone of preparedness for the current campaign. I realise that three game sessions in less than a week is rather a lot - frankly, I'm not convinced the players will be able to (or want to) maintain such a pace, no matter how much they're enjoying the game - but with the weather the way it is just now it's not as though we have many alternative sources of recreation right now.

Which means lots of hard work, hard-gaming and fun times ahead.

Which is, frankly, serendipitously, awesome.

Karameikos Journal Session III

Session Three: 11-12th Theumont.

Everyone but myself had work cancelled yesterday, but since I was on early shift and finished up in the early afternoon, we got together for another game (if you don't live across the road from you gaming buddies, I suggest you move. It's the next best thing to living in a gamer commune. I haven't gamed so much in a single week since I left university.

A week after their return from Caldwell Manor, The Shorn were summoned to a meeting with a rather irate Caldwell, unhappy that his money hadn't purchased him better (i.e: faster) results. The party attempted to explain some of the difficulties they had encountered but the merchant clearly wasn't interested in their excuses. He wanted results now.

And so, pausing only long enough for Vaslav to hire a pair of thuggish northmen, and equip with them leather armour and stout clubs, they departed for the manor once more. Leaving the mule and it's two hired guardians in the ruins of the village, they approached the Manor house with some caution -all too aware that the current occupants had been afforded a full week to obtain reinforcements and bolster the defences. Tungdil approached the entrance stealthily and alone, to find that the doors (with the hinges shattered by Ulic during the retreat from their last excursion) had been crudely repaired and a barricade erected behind. Indeed, the doors had been left just barely ajar, with room enough for but one person to squeeze through the narrow gap at a time. Tungdil drew his longsword and climbed carefully over the barrier, pausing atop the barricade to let his eyes adjust from normal vision to infravision, listening all the while. Sure enough, he heard the snoring of a guard propped up in a sitting position behind one of the doors, whom he quickly dispatched. On the corpse, Tungdil found a strange amulet on a platinum chain, with a dagger-clenching fist carved from jet. It had the look of a religious symbol of some kind, but none that any in the party could identify.

Joined by the others, the group quickly made for the Statue, who repeated it's previous greeting as Klara, Boindil, Tungdil and Hans entered, studiously ignoring everyone else. Through some less open ended questions than previously, they learned that there were three "evil" beings still on the first floor of the keep who wished the party ill. The party made the obvious deduction that this meant the Manor had additional floors they were unaware off. Further questioning obtained the knowledge that the party could not access the cellar by "Any means they now possess."

Moving quickly, the party began scouring the rooms of the eastern hall, insuring that none had been reoccupied since their last expedition. They found the rooms largely unchanged, save that one room had been piled high with corpses and that most furniture had long since been removed (and presumably added to the barricade). Wisely, they checked all the doors as they advanced up the corner towards the single room they had not explored in the hallway last time. Alas, they did not think to check the corridors for traps. Hans, in the lead with Tungdil, had the misfortune to trigger a trip wire, and received a crossbow bolt to the cheek for his troubles. The others paused to dress the wound, but though messy, it was not injurious enough to warrant magical healing, and so the group pressed on.

Outside the door to the last room in the corridor, Tungdil and Klara both searched for traps, disarming a poison needle trap above the lock with some judicious application of candle wax. Alas, they did not detect the trap behind the door when they opened it however. Tungdil was very nearly hit by a second crossbow trap, though luckily the bolt impacted harmlessly into the door.

Inside, they found a desecrated chapel to the Patron Gods of Karameikos and disturbed the prayers of a huge, disturbingly handsome plate armoured man. Rising immediately, the man began chanting in a foul language that offended the ears of the party, a piercing, unnatural sound that caused them physical pain and the plate-armoured mans mouth and nose to bleed even as he pronounced the words of this foul language. The strangers chant was interrupted by the charge of Han's, who drove his short sword deep between the armoured plates protecting the mans upper legs. This seemed to affect the strangers concentration, for he broke of his chant even as Vaslav began one of his own, calling down a Blessing on the party. Urich and Boindil likewise charged the armoured figure, but could not penetrate the thick plates of his armour. Casually, the figure pronounced a curse on Hans, causing his joints to lock and his movement to cease. His companion held, Uric attacked with greater fury and Vaslav moved up to take Hans place in the melee. With the figure hemmed in against the alter, there was little the others could do as first Uric, then Boindil fell to blows from the strangers brutal looking morning star (2 natural 20's on after the other -and each reducing the target to exactly 0 hp). While Vaslav desperately began casting a cure spell, the stranger turned to address Hans with a coup d'grace. Fortunately, Elra picked this moment to case her Sleep spell, dropping Vaslav mid-prayer and sending both the paralysed Hans and the Stranger into a deep slumber. At that Tungdil charged the slumbering figure and, enraged by his brothers harsh treatment at the strangers hands, proceeded to splatter the man's brains across the floor. No-one seemed particularly bothered by his fate -despite the loss of a potential prisoner.

Vaslav was roused first. The young cleric used his last prayer of the day to heal and awaken Boindil, who then proceeded to heal and awaken Uric. Fortunately both the party clerics recognised that Hans was under the effects of a Hold Person spell. Uric put some spikes through the door and they party holed up in the chapel for an hour or so until Hans recovered. In the meantime, the room was thoroughly searched (uncovering two blue vials hidden under the alter) and a small wooden lock box containing a writing kit and a letter in a strange language. The plate armour was duly appropriated and promised to Hans (although it would take several days at least for a smith for re-work the suit to fit the much smaller fighter). They also found another amulet similar to that worn by the sentry around the Strangers neck.

The party proceeded to explore the remainder of the level, checking all rooms from before. In the few rooms they had not yet explored Tungdil very nearly succumbed to poison twice -once from an acidic gas and once from a spider-bite. On each occasion the threats concerned had been found behind a door marked with a red smear of paint. Eventually they approached the room Uric had sealed the two cowering kobolds in, only to find the door slightly ajar. Tungdil sneaked into the room without bothering to check for traps and -for the second time- ended up with a bucket-full of kobold shit smeared all over him. A parting gift from the kobolds. The party found no sign of the other two "evil creatures that wished them ill", and surmised that the statue had probably been referring to the two kobolds who had (apparently) fled.

In time, they found (at the entrance to the very last room) a door with no lock, no handle, and no visible means of opening. The party (or rather Boindil) broke two of their three axes (yes, they had learned they value of axes) and a halberd trying to batter it open before the stubborn dwarf finally got the message (much to the exasperation of his companions). Then the dwarf tried throwing one of the vials at the door, smashing the vial and otherwise having no effect on the door. Finally satisfied that the statue had been telling the truth about their ability to open the door, they retired for the evening in a securely locked room. They next morning they interrogated the statue as to the nature of the magic door (learning it was wizard-locked) and, leaving a guard at the Keep, returned to Threshold and the house of Caldwell.

The merchant was relieved to find that the ground floor at least had been cleared, and took news of the magical door rather well, though he refused to pay over the balance of their fee until after the door had been opened and whatever lay beyond explored and cleared. He did however, express his intention to move in regardless. He dispatched a band of hired men to take over the guard of the Manor.

That accomplished, the party split up, some to sell their latest treasures, others to visit Artax, the local sage. At the sages home they were greeted by a bespectacled halfing, wearing fingerless gloves that proudly displayed his ink-stained hands. The halfing was offended by their (correct) assumption that he was merely a servant or scribe and accused the party of racism. ("What, a halfling can't be a sage? You heightist bastard."). Only the intervention of the sage himself gained the delegation an audience. They hired him for up to five days at a 100gp a pay, for the purposes of identifying the holy symbol and deciphering the writing on the later. Almost immediately the Sage identified the holy symbol as belonging to a dreadful Alphatian Immortal and the writing as a particularly obscure form of ancient Alphatian. He could, however, tell them more at this time but promised to obtain the answers they sought as soon as humanly possible. The sage promised to have the halfing, Apple Merryweather ("The weathers lousy, I hate Apple's and I'm sure as shite not merry!") come and fetch them at their Inn when he knew more.

Quite satisfied with their efforts, the party took care of a little shopping before returning to the Inn for an early night.

At the end of the session, I recounted the rumours they had heard recently:

  • Caldwell the merchant has purchased Antilles Manor and it's surrounding estates. He's looking for a band willing to risk a little blood shed to clear the place of certain "undesirables". Likely, he fancies himself a candidate for a noble title some day. I gather he's found some youngsters to so his dirty work, but hasn't been too pleased by their progress.
  • The infamous renegade cleric, Elwyn the Apostate, is believed to have a lair to the East of Town. The Patriarch can't spare enough men to scour the land and is looking to hire mercenaries for the task.
  • Sindar, an elf merchant, needs a package delivered to his home in Selenica. Something about a wedding....
  • The Black Eagle Baron is up to his old tricks again. Goblins are raiding the lands around the town on Lensh. He denies his involvement of course? What will it take before the Grand Duke realises his cousin is a snake?
  • Some merchant is looking to hire guards to help him find some sort of rock. Sounds like a waste of time to me.
  • It seems that foreign noble killed down in Specularum wasn't killed by the Iron Ring slavers after all. The Duke's men are blaming it on the Veiled Society instead.
  • Gnomes are smuggling gems down the river in hollow logs
  • Two days ago, some foreign warrior staggered into town, delirious and dying. he claimed to have found the legendary lost stronghold of the adventurers Rogahn and Zellicor, the "Caverns of Questueqon". Thing is, that stronghold was built next the ruins of some evil place up in the Lost Valley of Hutaaqua. The folk who find that stronghold could be on to the mother lode. Now, I dont normally listen to rumours see, but I heard the dead guy had some sort of map on 'im. Too good to pass up like.
  • You're talking nonsense. Everyone knows Rogahn is alive and well and working for the Black Baron. If them caverns exist anywhere, its out east. I'm telling yah.
  • Fort Castellan has been having problems with Giant attacks again. Merchants from Darokin and Ylaruam are complaining that no-one is patrolling the roads. Goblins and worse are playing havoc with the trade routes while the garrison are preoccupied with the giants.
Notes: The players seemed quite keen on investigating the caverns lead, but don't really feel their up to what sounds (to them) to be a difficult challenge. Instead, they decided to wait for Artax to send them word. They'll decide what to do after that. Sensible.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Karameikos Journal: Session II

This session we were joined by my better looking, better dressed better half. She surprised all of us ( I think) by deciding to play a male character and surprised me when (for once) she chose not to play a spellcaster and made him a fighter - even after rolling a 16 for Int. Anyway, we rejoin our characters in the kitchen of Castle Caldwell.

Castle Caldwell and the town of Threshold. 2nd-1Oth Thaumont. 1000AC.

After gathering up the hard-earned cash left behind by the fleeing kobold cooks, The Shorn proceeded north into a corridor mirroring the east-west hallway by the en trace. In this corridor however, there was no double doors - simply two more normal wooden doors for a total of seven in the hallway (including the one leading to the kitchen). Almost immediately they heard the rattling of metal bars and the shouts of a young man. A dirty, wan-looking human face peeked out from the barred hatch of his cell door, calling out to the Shorn to save him. The party took a good look at him, careful not to allow an infiltrator into their mists, and only after a long (and loud) discussion did they release the man. The prisoner turned out to be an eighteen year old Thyatian from the nearby village of Verge. Recently Shorn just like his erstwhile rescuers, Hans had been travelling to the "big city" (Threshold) when he was waylaid and robbed by a brigandous band of goblins.

While the conversation continued, Vaslav and Uric kept a wary eye out for trouble, but not even they were expected to hear an angry fist thudding against a nearby door and a furious voice call out for them to "Keep the bloody noise down." First Bogdin, then Elra and then (finally) the more charismatic Klara tried to persuade the occupants to open up. However, the "men" behind the door (who described themselves as "paying guests") quickly realised that they were speaking, not to the castle "staff", but the interlopers who had killed some of the residents earlier that day. The rooms occupants promised to stay in their room, but warned that any fool trying to gain entry would get a crossbow in the face. They then proceeded to put a bolt through the door at close range, just to prove their point (and the sheer power of their weapon). There was some talk of using the torture rack in Han's old room as a battering ram, but that plan fell apart when it was realised that the table was wider than the door and that the party wsa somewhat lacking in the axe department (I know! And with two dwarves in the group as well). Vaslav persuaded the others to agree, and stood guard while his brother hammered a few iron spikes into the door-post "just in case."

They then proceeded west, to investigate a side corridor leading to one of the faux "tower" rooms. Inside they discovered the remnants of many make-shift beds, which clearly had not been used in some time. Bogdin entered, and, while he had the sense to probe the walls, ceiling and rafters with his ten foot pole, he did not think to probe the floor until after he stood on something which took a disliking to him. A foot long centipede reared up from under a blanket, chomping down on the dwarf's leg. The dwarf felt the creatures poison flood through his bloodstream, but a combination of his dwarven constitution and the good health granted to clerics by the Immortals allowed him to fight off this deadly infusion. before the dwarf could even act, his new companion Hans (armed with a sword borrowed from Ulric and wearing Elra's old studded leather armour) leapt forward and split the thing right down the middle with a well-aimed blow. Bogdin was most grateful for this swift action and, learning his lesson, set about lifting up other furs and blankets with his pole. It was while so doing that they found the reason the room had been so recently abandoned - a dead kobold. Pausing only to rob it's belt pouch, the party closed the door behind them and returned eastward.

Bogdin was in the process of wondering why the door he was searching for traps had been smeared with a streak of red paint when an almighty noise from behind caught his (and everyone else's) attention. With the now-sealed door of the "paying guests" rattling in it's hinges The Shorn hurried back down the corridor. Alas, seven armed and armoured young demi-humans in a hurry make a great deal of noise, and the banging quickly stopped. It was while the seven young adventurers waited patiently (and quietly) outside the door that they were disturbed by the return of the kobold cooks - and this time they had brought some friends.

The first the party new of their arrivals was the three arrows that variously whizzed by Uric's ear or else lodging in the chain links of his armour. They reacted quickly, Hans again reacting most swiftly, and so Hans, Bogdin and Tungdil charged down the corridor (the two human fighters in the lead) while Vaslav and the girls stood watch at the door of the "paying guests". Sure enough, upon hearing the sounds of combat, the door once again began to shake in it's frame, convincing all present that "they must have a bloody great battering ram in there with them". Hans had taken note of the smell of manure wafting from the room in question and had his own suspicions, but said nothing. Although Urich took a nasty wound, he and Hans soon had three of the six kobolds down. Just as they were about to slay another, the door erupted from its frame behind them, crashing against the opposite wall, while three man-sized, angry, orange-skinned beings charged out from behind their "battering ram", the hind end (and hooves) or a heavily laden mule.

Klara, hidden behind the door, took this opportunity to demonstrate her skills as an assassin by slaying the first hobgoblin (wielding an impressive looking halberd) as it barrelled out the door. Elra was all set to engage another when an eager Vaslav, perhaps looking to shine in front of the girls (or else chivalrously -and chauvinistically- protect them from harm) nudged her to one side and blocked the door way himself.

Slightly to the east, Hans slew another kobold, finally convincing the remaining two to turn and run back into the tower room from which they came. Hans and Uric raced off in pursuit, Hans reaching the tower room first. What he saw there melted his heart and stayed his hand. Of the kobolds there was no sign - save for two quivering blankets huddled in the corner, with the tip of a trembling tail the only clue as to why these blankets were behaving so oddly. Hans couldn't face slaying the pitiful creatures himself and could only hope that Uric had a harder heart than he. But when Uric came up, he too, spotted the pitifully quivering blankets and allowed himself a sympathetic *sigh*. Likewise feeling sorry for the pathetic, cowering creatures before him he produced his hammer and nail-bag once again and, withholding comment, preceded to seal the terrified little creatures in their room.

Meanwhile, the two dwarves were becoming frustrated with their lack of reach. To the east, Urich and Hans had routed six kobolds without allowing the brothers room to swing a single blow. To the west, Vaslav was blocking the only way into the "guests" room trading blow for blow. So, they did something stupid. They opened another door. Almost immediately Bogdin took a nasty blow to the head from a flail-wielding skeleton. He quickly recovered and produced his holy symbol but, trembling in his haste, managed to drop it. Hans returned at this point (Uric was still hammering) and, seeing the dwarf empty handed and gape-mouthed before yet another foe, shoved the dwarf aside without so much as a by your leave and stabbed at the skeleton in question. Too late, he realised that a short sword might not be the best weapon for fighting skeletons, and resolutely wished he'd taken the time to fashion a club instead.

Luckily, the skeleton managed to fluff its next blow entirely, the flail flying from its hands to land at the human fighters feet. While Vaslav continued to trade blows with the remaining two hobgoblins and Bogdin reached down to collect his fallen Holy Symbol, Hans grabbed for the flail. He got a skeletal fist to the back of his head for the trouble, but he quickly snatched up the flail and shattered the skeleton with a single aimed blow. The two behind that first one did not seem impressed.

Vaslav finally felled another hobgoblin and stepped into the guest-room at about the same time that Bogdin finally succeeded in a Turn attempt. When the two skeletons turned to flee, Hans smashed one down. The second hobgoblin died thereafter, followed moments later by the final skeleton. Uric, Hans and Vaslav stood guard while the rest of the party caught their breath, cast some curative spells and looted the bodies. Quite content with their haul (and all too aware of the late hour and that their casters were all out of spells) they withdrew without incident (with the mule) to the ruined village just outside the Manor. There they rested, counted their loot and cleaned their weapons.

3rd Thaumont:
Rather than risk taking the mule back into the Dungeon, the still somewhat injured Uric volunteered to remain behind and guard the camp (and the loot). Therefore, six of The Shorn returned to the Dungeon the next morning. Rather than continue their exploration of the Northern Corridor (which still had two rooms unexplored) they proceeded to the Eastern north-south corridor. Some good door clearance drills saw the party evade a nasty blow from loose stones but the most notable early event of their explorations was the discovery in an old store room of a strange statue. This statue, in the shape of a shepperd, made no reaction at all when the doughty Hans stepped into the room, but upon the entrance of Klara it's head swivelled round to address her in a gravelly voice.

"Greetings young madam. How may I assist you?"

Klara immediately responded with an expletive statement of surprise, to which the stature replied:

"I am sorry. For assistance you must state your request in the form of a question."

Klara then asked three questions one after the other and receiving a simple "yes" answer each time: "Are there any evil beings in this castle; Are there any evil creatures in this wing of the castle, Can you tell us where they are?"

When she finally (on the fourth question) asked something specific that required more than a yes or no answer, the statue replied:

"I am sorry. You have had your three questions for today. I can answer no more questions. Please return tomorrow."

While Klara has a hissy fit, they rest of the party tried. The stature ignored most of the others, only acknowledging the presence of the two dwarves with a simple greeting. When they themselves asked the statue a question, they got the "Please return tomorrow" response themselves. Now Bogdin, not being the brightest spark in the party, got rather upset since he hadn't actually asked any questions at all and immediately set about bashing the statue with his flail, knocking an ear off. Vaslav very sensibly pointed out that three questions had been asked, just not by the dwarf, and that destroying a valuable asset they could use again tomorrow was, frankly, unwise. Bogdin, still enraged, failed to listen. And then Vaslav started the "guilt trip".

How horrified would Bogdin's parents be, Vaslav reasoned, were they to find that one of their son's first acts upon entering the wider world after his Shearing, was to vandalise a beautiful, unique and magical work-of-art. Why, might they not be so upset by this one, ill-considered act that he might never be welcomed back into the family. Bogdin, grumbling, decided the statue had been punished enough at that point and wondered out back into the hall. Meanwhile, Vaslav aimed a wink at Hans and Klara, his fellow humans, who simply smiled and shook their heads in bemusement.

Disaster struck at the last door but one in the corridor. This door also had a read paint smear to mar its wood and when Hans opened the door he saw three humming-bird like creatures with a mosquito like proboscis swoop towards him. Acting swiftly, he shut the door, being rewarded by a "splat" noise when the closest of the three stirges smashed itself against the door. A brief discussion ensued regarding whether it would be most prudent to spike the door closed when Elra sensibly pointed out that they had been hired to "evict" the monsters. Not lock them in. So once again the door was opened. Almost immediately, Has was impaled in the neck by one of the swooping creatures, only to be harmed further by Klara's efforts to dislodge the beast with her sword. Loosing a great deal of blood to the ravenous little beastie, the young fighter keeled over, unconscious. Vaslav, in his haste to bash the stirge sucking their companion dry, neglected his own defences and soon succumbed in turn to the surviving beast. After many fumbled attempts, Klara and Tungdil each splatted one of the blood-sucking beasties in quick succession and immediately set about stableising their friends.

All too aware that it would take their companions many days to recover from their wounds, the party fled the dungeon without further incident, collected Uric, the mule and their loot from the campsite; and returned to Threshold. There Bogdin had a quick bout with filth fever following his dunking in the shit-bucket but quickly fought it off. While Vaslav and Hans spent a week recovering, the others were gracious enough to do their shopping for them. Having learned from their experiences in the Dungeon, they set about buying some vital supplies (such as an axe) and obtaining some better armour and weapons for Hans. Speaking of this young worthy, his first act on getting back on his feet was to thank the dwarves for looking after him by presenting each with a waterskin full of fine ale. He thereafter thanked the lassies by presenting each with a bouquet of flowers. The charmer.