Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 1

Inspired by Damn Elf Press, I’ve decided to start a solo Labyrinth Lord game based on the classic Keep on the Borderlands adventure. This will be a relatively hard core game that’s going to rely on good rolling and clever play. At first I’ll be using straight-d6 damage and rolling 3d6-in-order stats, but I’ll be allowing my PCs to start with max HP at first level.

Tangrir the Fencer (Fighter 1, 0/2025xp): 11-16-9-14-10-6. 8/8 hp. 16 ac (chain+dex). Melee: rapier (+0 dmg, +2 hit). Ranged: bow (+0 dmg, +2 hit). 6 gp. Inventory (5/10): rapier, bow and quiver (20), bedroll, waterskin, rations (7)

My character is Tangrir, a swordsman from a distant land who has come to the Borderlands in search of fortune. He is marked by his lithe strength, sharp mind, whip-fast rapier play, and the hideous scar that mars his face.

I’ll be seeding my adventure with the following Mythic NPCs and Threads, based on my knowledge of the module. Note that this is different from ordinary Mythic behavior in that many of these NPCs and Threads may be unknown by my character, and their presence will only be seen through random actions during events.

NPCs: corrupt priest, castellan, necromancer, captain of the watch

Threads: missing merchant, clear the Caves of Chaos

Reminder: You can find links to every one of my solo session game reports on my Campaign Logs page.

Gameplay

Scene 1. Into the Borderlands.

Setup: Approaching the Keep.
Chaos: Under control (d12)

Tangrir has journeyed out of the west and arrived, finally, in the distant Borderlands region. He rounds the final bend and the trail finally emerges from the twilight beneath the trees. The Keep rises on a low plateau before him.

Can he reach the Keep before nightfall? 4+: no, and… it’s locked

With what little daylight remains, Tangrir watches as a handful of wagons and merchants leave the Keep and its great portcullis closes behind them. He sighs and looks around for a promising place to sleep.

Any promising buildings within site? 4+: yes, and… it’s an inn

Smoke rises from the chimney of a roadhouse not too far distant from where he stands. He makes his way toward it and enters the [politely/smelly] incense-filled common room.

Is the inn crowded? 5+: no, and… adjourn/peace

Even the innkeeper’s place behind the bar is empty. Tangrir steps up and shouts for attention. The innkeeper steps out a moment later. He’s surprised to see the fencer.

“Oh. It’s…I hadn’t expected anyone tonight, what with the roads being what they are and the Keep’s attention focused eastward.”

“Can I stay?” Tangrir asks.

Can he? 2+: no, and… (!!!) it’s an attack
Is the innkeeper responsible? 5+: no, and… he’ll help in the fight

Suddenly, a sharp cry rises from the yard outside. “It’s happening!” the innkeeper shouts as he grabs up a staff from behind the counter. He runs out into the yard, and Tangrir follows. They see [abnormally/loyal] a group of the shambling dead moving through the broken gate. The stabled horses are screeching wildly at the sight of the dead.

Is the innkeeper surprised? 3+: yes, but… only that they’re at his inn

“By the Triad!” the man curses. “The dead, here? They weren’t supposed to have made it this far.”

+NPCs: monster raiding parties
+Thread: losing control of the countryside
Does he fight? 3+: yes, and… he’s skilled
A cleric? 5+: no, but… a classed fighter

Innkeeper: F3, 14/14 hp, 11 ac (dex), staff (+1 dmg, +2 hit)
3 Skeletons: HD1 (5, 8, 2 hp), 12 ac, claws (d6), MV 20′

He hefts his staff and charges into the horde, laying about with abandon. Tangrir considers his rapier, then looks about for a club or stick. [Finds anything? 3+: yes] He grabs a heavy branch from a pile of kindling and charges after the innkeeper, cracking one of the dead across the arm [hit, 1 dmg].

But the dead surround them and rake at them with terrible claws. They find no purchase on Tangrir’s chain, but a pair of the beasts rend the innkeeper painfully [2 hits, 6 dmg, 8/14 hp].

The pair of fighters turn the tables quickly, though, and Tangrir’s club crashes down on the head of the first skeleton, destroying it [5 dmg, 0 hp, +13 exp], while the innkeeper’s staff sweeps the arm from the largest of the monsters [4 dmg, 4 hp].

Roaring through the pain as the skeletons claw at his clothing [1 dmg, 7 hp], the innkeeper lunges forward and smashes his staff through the ribcage of the smaller beast, and Tangrir dances around him to batter the remaining skeleton to pieces [both hit for enough to kill, +13 exp each].

Panting, the pair of fighters look around as they catch their breath.

Are they alone? 3+: yes, and… all is quiet

Note: after this point I have switched to using Alea Iactanda Est‘s Morning Coffee Solo Variant of Mythic. I realized that my previous system very heavily weights toward ___, and… answers.

Do they find anything on the skeletons (v. unlikely)? no

Tangrir kicks through the old bones, but nothing strikes him as obvious or out of place, other than their very presence.

[hostile – surrender – campaign]
“For the love of the gods–I don’t know why I bother with this any longer,” the innkeeper says. He waves a hand at the surrounding courtyard. “It wasn’t even my dream! And now that my wife’s gone… I don’t know. I’d sell if I could find anyone mad enough to want to buy the place.”

Tangrir doesn’t speak–he doesn’t think the man is looking for advice, and certainly not advice from a stranger. After a moment, the two begin to wordlessly clear the yard.

Does anything interrupt them (50/50)? yes, mistrust/good

As they clean, the sound of horses and men under heavy load comes up the road. A squad of soldiers enters the courtyard, and it isn’t long before the innkeeper is berating them for being too little, too late. “If this man hadn’t been here, my inn would be ruins–and I’d be dead, more than like!”

[mysterious – rumor – friends]
The mounted officer looks chagrined, but he says, “You weren’t the only one needing help this night. We have been out dealing with matters of great import to the Keep.”

Do they want to stay (likely)? yes

“We’re here for lodging, since the gate has closed already. We’ll be moving on in the morning. I assume you have room for us?” This last while looking around at the vacant courtyard.

Will the innkeeper put them up (unknown–v. unlikely)? No, and it must be very unlikely because he has a problem with the Keep.

The innkeeper frowns. “I’ve neither food for you nor fodder for your beasts, what with the Keep’s rate–you lot’ve been the only ones staying these last weeks, and that for free! You can sleep in the yard, but you’ll eat what you’ve brought!”

Do they accept this (50/50)? yes, and… they pay as well

The officer takes a moment to collect himself, but he eventually nods. “You’ve our thanks for the shelter, at least, and we’ll be paying our way, as well.” He counts out a handful of silver and offers them to the innkeeper, then drops them on the ground when they’re unaccepted.

Does anything else occur that night (unlikely)? yes, ambiguous event — release/allies

The parties retire for the evening, and the innkeeper even allows Tangrir to sleep in one of the private rooms.

The night passes quietly, and Tangrir rises early in hopes of traveling the rest of the way to the Keep with the soldiers, but when he emerges into the cold morning, he’s surprised to see that their entire party has vanished.

He pays the innkeeper a silver piece for the night’s lodging and breakfast, and then heads out for the Keep.

Chaos changes to average (d10).

Scene 2. Approaching the Keep.

Setup: Tangrir reaches the Keep and enters
Chaos: Average (d10) — no modification

Is the road quiet as he approaches (likely)? yes

Tangrir sees no sign of the patrol party or other travelers as he approaches the Keep. The road winds through a gentle hill-country that provides good visibility of the road ahead and the lands all around.

Is the gate open when he arrives (v. likely)? yes, and… the guards are waving people through

The sentries on watch stop Tangrir only for a second, delivering a cursory admonishment not to cause trouble, and then wave him inside. It seems clear that the Keep’s attention lies somewhere other than lone travelers.

What is the atmosphere like inside? lightly/fresh

The interior of the Keep is far from the warcamp atmosphere Tangrir was expecting, however. It seems as though every one of the residents is out in parade, cheering and drinking. He asks around and soon learns that an adventuring party had only just returned from the east, where they had slain a great evil and recovered a fabulous treasure.

+NPC: rival adventuring party

“And you’re feasting, then?” Tangrir asks.

“Aye,” his neighbor says, “on the orders of the Castellan. A great blow was struck against Chaos, and that’s reason enough to lift a glass!”

Can Tangrir find a place to stay (likely)? No.
Because the inn is full (likely)? No, exhaust/ability (his poor charisma)

He wanders through the crowds for nearly an hour before finding the public house in a square far from the main gates, but he’s put out almost immediately–the rooms they’ve got are full up, or so the proprietor says. Tangrir notices that the man spent more than a moment staring at his scar.

With lodging not forthcoming, Tangrir decides to seek work, instead.

Does he hear any rumors (v. likely)? Yes, oppress/art.
Is it a criminal enterprise (50/50)? Yes.

It isn’t long before he finds himself in a quiet corner of the Keep, far from the celebrating crowds. As he relieves himself in an out-of-the-way alley, he hears [d4+1] a group of five men planning a robbery. Not wanting to get involved, he keeps quiet until they pass.

Finally, frustrated with his lack of success, Tangrir returns to the main gate to seek out a member of the Keep’s militia and ask about the region.

[hostile – combat – relics]
The [m/f] watchman on duty snarls at the interruption, already half-drunk from liquors snuck from the festival. “Another treasure-hunter, eh?” He waves his hand at the crowd inside. “Wealth, women, the castellan’s favor–no wonder you lazy vagrants find your way here. Never know a day’s true duty or discipline! Here for the Caves of Chaos? They’ll be the death of you, more like than not!”

Tangrir sees that the watchman will be a poor source of information, but has a lead, at least. He returns to the public house and asks around for intelligence about the Caves.

INT check to find info about the Caves of Chaos: 2 vs 14-, success
What does he learn? Transform/Nature

He learns that the Caves of Chaos are a recent development, a filthy hive of monsters and madness rolling west from the distant and unknown horizon. The Keep stands between civilization and the pressing Chaos, but times have been hard since the beasts dug into the hills.

Are they easy to find (50/50)? No, and… it’s a well-kept secret

It seems as though adventurers who have found and returned alive from the Caves are few and far between, but those parties which do return often do so with fabulous wealth–and brutal casualties.

Are any parties hiring men-at-arms (v. unlikely)? No.

Tangrir is unable to find any parties of adventurers looking to hire him on, so he decides that he’d best spend his time exploring the region by himself. His meager supply of gold isn’t enough to afford him time to wait for a party to come, so his only chance is to seek his own fortune.

The world ahead of us.

No changes to Chaos.

Scene 3. Into the Wild.

Setup: Tangrir leaves the Keep and heads east into the Wild.
Chaos: Average (d10) — no modification

I’ll be using the d30 Sandbox Companion to check for settlements and special features in each hex, and I’ll have an encounter on a 1-in-6 for each hex I enter. Each hex is ~8 miles, and I will be able to travel 3 hexes per day without any extra particular searching. This initial ranging is to see if I can populate a few settlements or other unexpected finds without a lead on where to search for the Caves particularly.

Day 1. Tangrir heads southeast into the forest, finally turning northward a little before evening to rest in the low hill-country beyond the treeline. No encounters. [-1 ration.]

Day 2. He heads further east, traveling down into a soft grassland. Half of the day passes before he spies a [softly/messy] turf-roofed longhouse [with d30/2=6 residents] in the distance [hex 08.06].

Can he stay hidden (likely)? yes, but… he doesn’t see anyone
+Event: NPC Negative (captain of the watch) – disrupt/jealousy (something the Keep wants is here)

Tangrir takes cover in the long grasses, but he sees no activity in the area. He draws closer and notices a wagon within the low earthen wall that surrounds the house.

Are the wagoners alive and present (50/50)? No.
Are there goods in the back (unlikely)? Yes, but… they’re damaged.

Even at a distance, Tangrir can see that the wagon and its crew was ill-treated. Arrow shafts are sunk into the side panels in several places, and one wheel stands at an odd angle. Scorch marks mar the sides, and a dark stain is just barely visible on the driver’s box. There is no evidence of the team, and Tangrir sees no place where the pack animals could be hidden, either.

He draws his bow, nocks and arrow, and creeps closer.

Does anything happen (50/50)? No.

The small yard is quiet. He steps up to the wagon and looks in the back.

Are there luxuries inside (50/50)? No, and… it’s spoiled necessities
+Event: NPC Action (necromancer) – decrease/benefits (he sabotaged the Keep’s food supply)

The Necromancer and Captain of the Watch NPCs are ways I’m adapting a module for solo play. I’ve added several of the important NPCs from module B2 to the Mythic lists, and I am going to use them to create background actions and give the solo play a bit more of a guided-adventure feel. It’s an experiment.

He nearly chokes on the smell of the rotten grain filling the wagon. Somehow, the rot smells more like diseased flesh than decomposing plant matter. He doesn’t dare dig through the spoilage, glancing only long enough to see the Keep’s insignia on the side.

+Thread: Missing Keep grain wagon

He puts away his bow and draws his rapier before approaching the longhouse.

Does anyone come out (v. unlikely)? No.

The door is a simple skin hanging from a rod, which he shoves aside with the tip of his blade. “Hello?” he calls out. “I’m a traveler; I come in peace–is anyone here?”

What is the interior like? energetically/lean

Inside are [d6] three emaciated corpses, bound to the house’s pillars with ropes but struggling wildly against their bonds.

Do any get loose (unknown – 50/50)? Yes, d3=3 of them.

The ropes binding the three corpses are sturdy, but poorly tied. The frantic thrashing of the dead works the knots loose, and soon all three of the zombies are shambling toward Tangrir.

Can he flee (v. likely)? Yes.

He turns and sees that the yard behind is still clear. Not liking the odds of his rapier against three of the animated dead, he turns and dashes back toward the hills.

He runs until the farm is out of sight behind him, and then he walks as quickly as he can until night is nearly settled around him. He climbs a tree and makes an uncomfortable camp up in the branches. He doubts the dead can follow him this far, but he’ll take no chances.

Any evening encounters (v. unlikely)? No.

The night passes fitfully but without event [-1 ration], and when dawn comes it is more than welcome.

Chaos remains unchanged–no progress made toward any major quest.

Wrap Up

Tangrir the Fencer (Fighter 1, 26/2025xp): 11-16-9-14-10-6. 8/8 hp. 16 ac (chain+dex). Melee: rapier (+0 dmg, +2 hit). Ranged: bow (+0 dmg, +2 hit). 5 gp 9 sp. Inventory (5/10): rapier, bow and quiver (20), bedroll, waterskin, ration (5)

Chaos: Average (d10)

NPCs: corrupt priest, castellan, necromancer, captain of the watch, monster raiding parties, rival adventuring party

Threads: missing merchant, clear the Caves of Chaos, losing control of the countryside, missing Keep grain wagon

6 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 1

    1. Thanks! I’m hoping to get a post up about his first actual delve this weekend. Notes-wise I’m a couple of rooms in, but I’ll need some time to finish the expedition and get a post written.

    1. Thanks for reading! Your series of posts was one of my big inspirations to getting back into solo gaming after taking like a year off.

      Every time I read a good solo series I always try to learn SOMETHING about how to do it well, and I come back excited to try something new.

      1. Thanks! It was a worthwhile exercise. Writing it all down in order for blog postings was a chore at times, but the characters really started to come to life for me. I still have a little more exploration of the caves of chaos to go!
        One thing I wanted to tell you…here is a link to a blog aggregator by Alex Schroeder. You should put your blog on it to share with more folks!
        https://campaignwiki.org/wiki/Planet/Please_join!

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