Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 4

Introduction

In session 3 of my solo Keep on the Borderlands adventure, Tangrir the Fencer and Rothwood, his untested man-at-arms, arrived at a ruined fortress in a desolate hill country. This session will begin as they enter the fortress and descend in search of a necromancer that is working in the area. Although we know via Mythic that the necromancer has already left, I doubt that such an inviting dungeon would remain uninhabited for long.

The Party

Tangrir the Fencer (Fighter 1, 41/2025xp): 11-16-9-14-10-6. 6/8 hp. 16 ac (chain+dex). Melee: rapier (+0 dmg, +2 hit). Ranged: bow (+0 dmg, +2 hit). 19 gp 1 sp 11 cp. Inventory (8/10): rapier, bow and quiver (19), bedroll, waterskin, ration (6), 10′ pole, flint, torches (8)

Rothwood (NM 0): 5/5 hp. 12 ac (leather). Melee: club/dagger (+0 dmg, +0 hit), ML 6, MV 40′

Mythic Stuff

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

NPCs: corrupt priest, castellan, necromancer, captain of the watch (elf), monster raiding parties, rival adventuring party, friendly army officer

Threads: missing merchant, clear the Caves of Chaos, losing control of the countryside, find necromancer’s base, monsters in the Keep

Rumors: Massive dog men live in the higher reaches of the caves (Truth: 4+?)

The game begins after the jump…

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

The Game Begins

New Scene. Into the Dungeon.

Setup: Explore the ruins and find signs of the necromancer
Chaos: Out of control (d8) — 4, alteration
Alteration: Move away from thread (find necromancer’s base) — negligence/success

“I think we’ve found our necromancer,” Tangrir says, stepping into the courtyard ahead of Rothwood, “or just missed him, anyway.”

“Think we’ll still get paid?”

Tangrir doesn’t miss Rothwood’s use of ‘we’.

There are undeniable signs of activity within, although it’s clear that any coordinated force moved on already. Ruts from wagon wheels have cut hard lines through the overgrown grasses, and broken crates and other signs of camp waste lie scattered across the yard.

Tangrir follows the tracks to the back of the ruin, but they disappear on the hard-packed ground outside and the trail is lost [this is the negative alternation–will find no clue to the necromancer’s destination in this scene]. “At least we know we’re on the right track,” Tangrir says, walking back into the ruin. “We’ll start with the tower and see where it goes.”

Is the tower the entrance to the dungeon (v. likely)? Yes.

They enter through the tower’s door and find themselves in a small chamber. Gloomy light filters in through the cobwebbed windows high above. A staircase in the middle of the room descends into darkness.

Tangrir hands Rothwood the 10′ pole while he lights a torch and draws his rapier.

Dungeon Size: Small
Dimensions: 3d10 x 3d10 max, 190’x230′

Room 1. Entrance.

The stairs emerge into a [positively/heavy] chamber thick with the sensation of time and evil–strong enough that even the two warriors can detect it. Doors lead off in the four cardinal directions, but the pair head west.

The door swings inward to reveal an unlit passage that extends forward into the darkness. Rothwood walks a pace ahead of Tangrir, tapping with his pole while the fighter holds the torch aloft. They pause occasionally, listening for…something…in the darkness.

Do they hear anything (unlikely)? No.

But all is silent, and the passage soon opens into a broad avenue that turns north. The new corridor is nearly 20′ wide, and it is littered with [shirt, stained] ruined clothing and other signs of daily life, interrupted.

Room 2. Clean Chamber.

Contents: Trap (chute trap to floor below), no treasure

The wide corridor ends in an open arch, beyond which stands a [cautiously/harsh] 20’x20′ chamber that appears to have been scoured down to the stones. Another opening leads out to the east.

WIS check to notice the unusual cleanness: Rothwood passes

“This isn’t right,” the man-at-arms says, moving slowly into the room and probing with his staff. “Who would’ve taken the time to clean this room in particular?” A moment later, the staff hits a trick stone and a large section of the floor falls away, crashing loudly to the floor somewhere deep below.

Wandering Monster check: 4 vs 1, no.

The pair tense, weapons at the ready, but after a few moments it seems clear that nothing heard–or that nothing is coming.

10 minutes have passed in the dungeon.

They carefully search the room, but find nothing [no roll needed since there’s no treasure].

20 minutes have passed in the dungeon.

They head through the eastern corridor, which constricts back down to barely 10′ wide, following it for 60′ before it opens into another chamber.

3. Berserker Camp.

Contents: 2 Berserkers. HD 1+1 (3, 5 hp), AC 12, Melee: Axe (d6 dmg, +2 to hit), MV 40′, ML 12, Treasure: 14 sp, 7 sp.

Are the Berserkers sitting in the dark (v. unlikely)? Yes, and… they’re setting an ambush (that’s a VERY bad roll) after hearing the trap in room 2 go off.

Tangrir and Rothwood creep toward the end of the corridor, where it opens into a small chamber. The smell of smoke hangs in the air, thicker here than it was earlier.

WIS check to wonder about the smoke: Rothwood passes. They’ll be ambushed on a 1-2 in 6 instead of a 1-3.

Rothwood sniffs the air. “Curious…” he says.

“What’s curious?” Tangrir asks.

“That smoke–it’s fresh. Someone’s been here. Recently.” He lowers the pole and draws his club.

They move cautiously forward into the chamber ahead.

Ambush check: 6 vs 2-, fail.

With a roar, a pair of berserkers leap out of the darkness on either side of the corridor, screaming and swinging cruel-edged axes. They are naked except for where blood-caked furs cover their shoulders, forearms, and shins. The man is thick-chested and bald; the woman’s breasts are covered in swirled scarification. Both look completely mad.

Berserkers win initiative.

Rothwood’s focus proves invaluable. Both men are already on alert, and the leap backwards just as their attackers come forward. Tangrir falls into his fencer’s stance without a thought; his attacker’s axe cracks sharply against the wall. Rothwood’s not so quick, but he gets his club up in time to stop the woman’s blow–though he feels the shock of the strike running down his arms [Tangrir’s attacker gets a natural 1; Rothwood takes 1 hp, leaving him with 4].

The two adventurers then step forward. Tangrir’s blade bites into the berserker’s side while Rothwood’s club smashes the side of the man’s head as he flinches backward [hits for 2 and 4 hp vs 3 hp total]. He falls immediately.

I then proceeded to roll four 1s in a row for my party and 4 hits in a row for the berserker, resulting in a TPK for my group. This is unsatisfying, so I’m going to give Tangrir an ever-decreasing number of lives with which to come back to life until he is able to find a hireling who survives long enough to serve as a replacement PC.

The death of her partner sends the woman into a rage. She drops her axe and throws herself at the two men, tearing at them with tooth and nail. She bites out Rothwood’s throat first, then tackles Tangrir and slams his head against the stone–once, twice, and again, until the flicker of his own torch fades.

Does he survive (v. likely, since this is his first death)? Yes, and… some of his things did too.

Tangrir awakens in the dark [with 1 hp and no coins]. For a while, all he knows is pain. Slowly the world comes back to him. He feels around–he is, indeed, still alive. Even more surprisingly, his pack is beside him. He fumbles through it, finds a torch and the flint, lights it in the dark.

He almost wishes he hadn’t. Rothwood is dead beside him, body mangled and twisted. His own hands and clothes are sticky with blood–he suspects he looks as dead as his companion. There is no sign of the woman who attacked them. When he has a chance to take stock of his situation, he is relieved to see that all she took was his coin purse.

He rises on shaking legs and heads back toward the entrance. He climbs the stairs and steps out into the day. He doesn’t look back as he limps into the hills. He’ll sleep when he gets as far from the castle as his broken body will take him.

Wrapping Up

Dang. I had prerolled a few rooms of the dungeon with the intention of earnestly playing through it even though I knew what was coming. Optimistically I had hoped that my party would have been able to take the two berserkers, but that hope got a lot smaller when that 1-in-6 chance of them hiding in the dark came to pass. Thems the breaks, I guess.

Well, I think Tangrir (and I) have learned a lesson. He’ll not be going out again without a few more retainers, or maybe he’ll even see if he can sign on as a man-at-arms for an existing party. He’s got a few days’ walk back to the Keep to think about where to go from here.

Treasure and Exp

Berserker, 21 xp

The Party

Tangrir the Fencer (Fighter 1, 62/2025xp): 11-16-9-14-10-6. 1/8 hp. 16 ac (chain+dex). Melee: rapier (+0 dmg, +2 hit). Ranged: bow (+0 dmg, +2 hit). 0 gp. Inventory (8/10): rapier, bow and quiver (19), bedroll, waterskin, ration (6), 10′ pole, flint, torches (6)

Rothwood (NM 0): 0/5 hp. 12 ac (leather). Melee: club/dagger (+0 dmg, +0 hit), ML 6, MV 40′

Mythic Stuff

Chaos: Out of Control (d8)

NPCs: corrupt priest, castellan, necromancer, captain of the watch (elf), monster raiding parties, rival adventuring party, friendly army officer

Threads: missing merchant, clear the Caves of Chaos, losing control of the countryside, find necromancer’s base, monsters in the Keep

Rumors: Massive dog men live in the higher reaches of the caves (Truth: 4+?)

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