Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 10

The Banner of the Bleeding Wheel ended last session at the mouth of a yawning pit, attempting to find the source of a mysterious lightning storm that has blasted a swampland into oblivion. The journey there had been uneventful until a mud monster ambushed them and slew Richard the fighting man and Modesty the scout.

Scene. Into the Dark.

Chaos: Level 3, no roll

The party peers down at the torch flickering 40′ below.

Is there anything within 10′ that they can tie a rope to? -4: No.

“How are we going to get down there?” Balthasar asks. “Looks deep.”

“Rope,” Hannibal says. “String it around the stone there, and we’ll daisy-chain half of the second.”

“Better be a good knot,” Balthasar replies. “We’re heavy.”

“I grew up in a ship’s rigging,” Hannibal says. He cuts one of their lengths of rope in half and joins it with the other using a good knot. He loops them around the donkeys’ harnesses before tossing the end down into the dark.

-Inventory: 2 lengths of 50′ rope
+Inventory: 25′ rope

“Should we leave something up here, just… you know… in case?” Miles asks, peering down into the hole.

Israel nods. “I’d rather my gold be returned to the poor than lost in the dark.”

They each chip in 40 gold pieces and bury them in an inconspicuous place beside one of the standing stones.

+Thread: 240 gp buried beneath the stones

When the coins are buried, Balthasar moves to the rope. “Me first,” he demands, grabbing the rope and dropping into the pit.

“Godspeed, my son,” Israel says. He shoulders his pack and prepares to drop onto the rope next.

It takes a few moments for Balthasar to reach the ground, but they soon see the torch pick up and wave the okay. Israel grabs the rope and rappels down.

One by one they descend until they find themselves in the darkness.

Tools Link: I’m using Kabuki Kaiser’s Mad Monks of Kwantoom, his awesome sequel to Ruins of the Undercity, to generate this dungeon.

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

1. Entrance Hall

Mercy lights her lantern and holds it aloft as the rest draw their weapons. The extra light reveals the room around them. [cautiously/warm] The still air is vaguely damp, humid. The pounding sound is stronger here, although still barely audible.

Is there anywhere to hold a torch? +4: No.

A pair of double doors stands before them, and a corridor stretches to the east and west. They snuff their torch to save what they can and then head west, following a short corridor to a dead end. Suspicious, they take a few minutes to search, but it turns up nothing [no secret to find].

10 minutes.

They return to the entrance chamber and move to the double doors. Miles and Israel examine the door, but find no traps [failed checks].

20 minutes.

Taking a deep breath, Miles nudges the door open.

2. Armory.

Size: 30′ circle
Special: d6=4 silver spears worth 30 gp each
Contents: Monster only, peacefully/tranquil — a toxic spore

The door swings open to reveal a round room filled with weapon racks have eaten by dry rot. Most of the racks are ruined, but a few pieces of metal reflect their lantern light.

Is the spore easily visible? +0: Yes.

Small mushrooms and a fuzzy grey mold spread across the room. Even Balthasar flinches back from the obviously toxic growth.

“I’m not stepping in there,” Miles says, “but those spears–silver? Gotta be worth something.”

Mercy INT check: 14 vs 15-, success

“We can try burning it,” Mercy offers, “but I’d not breath the smoke. Those are Dead Man’s Caps. Very poisonous, even if smoked.”

The party decides to chance it, so they relight their burned torch and chuck it into the room, slamming the door closed behind them. They agree to come back later–much later.

They head east, into a pillared chamber with doors to the north and east. Miles moves to the northern door and checks it for traps, finding nothing [check failed].

30 minutes.

3. Abandoned Room.

Size: 20’x20′
Contents: Empty

The room beyond is small and apparently empty. Chairs stand beside an old table, and a few crates are stacked in one corner. The party takes a few minutes to rifle through the room, but they find nothing [nothing to find].

40 minutes.

They leave the room to examine the eastern door. Miles pokes around for a few minutes before declaring it clear of traps [failed check]. The others stand back as he nudges it open–and the floor beneath him falls away!

Save v. paralysis: fail, d6 = 2 damage

Miles twists as he plunges into the shallow pit. He rolls as he lands, preventing the worst of the damage and suffering just a minor twist of his ankle.

Did the door actually open? +0: No

Balthasar lets down his rope and hauls Miles back up to the top of the pit. Side-stepping, the pit, the party pushes open the door.

4. Kitchen Chamber.

Size: 40’x30′
Feature: Large fire pit
Contents: Monster only — bravely/natural (naked berserkers)

The room beyond is dominated by a massive fire pit. [d6=] Four naked dwarves, bodies covered with horrific ritual scarification, are turning a spit over the flame. They turn as the party pushes the door open.

Are they hostile? +8: Yes

“Who’s this?!” the closest of them shouts. They look like the kind of dwarves who always shout.

4 Dwarven Maniacs: HD 1 (7,7,7,7), AC 10 (none), Atk: great cleaver (d6+1, +1), MV 40′, ML 12, SA: Always starts with max HP.

Round 1. Dwarves win initiative.

The leading dwarfess draws up an axe from a bench nearby and the others follow suit behind her.

Are they close enough to still attack this round? +0: Yes, but at -2 for drawing weapons this round

Coming forward, they leap at doorframe into the entrance chamber.

Is the door wide enough for two? -4: Yes

Hannibal and Israel struggle to get their shields up in time, but they are able to parry all but the wildest blow from the lead dwarf, which bites heavily into the cleric’s side [4 dmg, 2 hp left].

The party backpedals frantically, trying to get the pit trap between them and the dwarves, rather than at their backs. Hannibal and Israel keep their shields up [+4 AC/+2 AC, no attack], trying frantically to keep the dwarves boxed into the door frame.

Zephaniah and Balthasar stab frantically around their companions, skewering the leading dwarves. One of them goes down [7 dmg, dead], though the other shrugs off a throat wound that would have slain a normal man [5 dmg, 2 hp left].

Miles tries to draw his bow while Mercy looks on helplessly.

Round 2.

The dwarves don’t seem to care about piling into the narrow doorway–they charge into the gap and slam into the company’s shields, risking vicious hits as they swing for ankles and elbows [+2 to hit, -4 to AC]. Their rage is for naught, however–the party’s discipline prevents the maniacs from finding any purchase [defensive fighting AC bonus prevented any hits].

Hannibal tries to stick the nearest dwarf while hiding behind his shield [-4 to-hit, +2 to AC], but misses badly. Israel keeps his shield up [+2 AC, no attack] as he steps aside to let Zephaniah take his place.

Zephaniah and Balthasar stab forward with their spears, taking out a second dwarf and badly wounding a third [4 dmg, 3 hp left]. Miles takes aim at the wounded dwarf from across the pit and looses and arrow that pierces its skull, dropping it [4 dmg, dead].

Round 3.

The remaining dwarf flies into a rage [+2 to hit, -4 AC] as it is driven mad by the sight of spilled blood. He charges through the narrow doorway into the party, where he’s stopped short by the shield wall and skewered on Balthasar’s spear [7 dmg, dead]. He drops immediately.

Israel calls upon God to heal his wounds, and he feels his body knitting itself back together [4 hp, max hp].

The party steps over the fallen dwarves and moves into the kitchen.

They take a few minutes to search the room and fallen dwarves, [no search check because I know there’s nothing] but they find nothing. The naked berserkers lack even coin purses.

50 minutes.

Frustrated and tired, the party sets up a careful watch down the two southern corridors that extend out from the kitchen and take a few minutes to rest.

1 hour.

After catching their breath, the Banner heads down the west-most exit.

5. Pantry

Size: 10’x20′
Contents: Treasure only (250 gp in a 100 gp box, not protected)
Feature: Wooden Pillars

The short corridor opens into a small pantry lined by wooden shelves. Spoiled food and moldy sacks of grain line the shelves, but against the far wall the party sees a box of exquisitely engraved wood covered by silver filigree.

They move cautiously into the room, searching for traps and other dangers, but find nothing.

1 hour, 10 minutes.

Miles examines the box carefully, checking for traps or signs of tampering. It looks untouched. Using the tip of a dagger, he carefully releases the latch–and reveals a box full of gold. They close the box without disturbing the coins and hand it to Israel to carry.

1 hour, 20 minutes.

Confident that they had found anything worth searching for, the party returns to the kitchen and heads down the eastern corridor.

Wandering Monster!

They aren’t more than 20′ beyond the kitchen when the party hears footsteps coming toward them.

Monster Description: Abnormally/Reassuring

Are these friendly heroes? -2: No, [d6=] 6 chaos priests with Charm Person

6 Chaos Priests: C1, AC 14 (chain), Atk: Mace (d6, +0), MV 30′, ML 9, Spell: Charm Person.

Our party is backlit from the kitchen, but they are coming through the dark. Do we surprise them? 2 vs 2-, yes!

The party sees a swinging lantern and smells the toxic incense of a foul censer before it hears the clink of chainmail and the crunch of boots on stone. They duck to the side of the kitchen and wait for the party to approach.

Round 1. Surprise Round.

Six foul clerics of Chaos march into the chamber.

[scheming – compromise – last scene]
The leader–dressed in a tabard of red and gold over his mail–is in the middle of berating one of his underlings, discussing some brutal form of self-flagellation that the man must perform.

Mercy whispers a dark word and [2d6+2=8] the party of armed and armored priests sit down quickly. Israel stands sentry beside the corridor while the party drags the others back toward the pantry. They haven’t the tools to bind them all, so they slay the five underlings and leave the leader alive.

They bind him and wake him up. “What’s going on here?” Hannibal demands of the man. “Why are you calling the lightning?”

Does he say anything? +5: Yes

[mysterious – secrets – antagonist]
“Wouldn’t the Keep and its keeper like to know? We’ll spell its doom, and the fall of your weak-willed people after that!”

Mercy takes her turn, stepping forward and crouching next to the dark cleric. “It was my spell that took your priests from you. Tell me–how are you calling the lightning? It’s no ordinary magic.”

Will he answer? +0: No

The man gives a great shudder before his eyes explode with flame. The party leaps back, but the man is ash before they feel more than a singe. They’ll need to learn more on their own.

They rise and gather their courage, exhausted and out of magic, and return to the kitchen, where they group up with their cleric and head south again.

The tunnel runs 40′ before ending. A flimsy door is set into the eastern wall, but a branch of the tunnel heads 20′ west before ending in a dead end. The party spends a few minutes examining the stretch of corridor, but to no end.

1 hour, 30 minutes.

Returning to the door, Miles checks for traps, but finds nothing [not trapped].

1 hour, 40 minutes.

6. Ruined Temple.

Size: 30’x40′
Feature: Wooden Pillars, Ancient Statue
Contents: Empty

They push into a large room. Two lines of pillars run from a southern door up to a wide brazier filled with a dancing flame. Behind the brazier stands a strange, twisted statue. The flicker of shadows dance across it and it seems to transform from man to beast and back. It makes the party’s heads hurt.

They examine it and the brazier carefully, but find nothing of note [nothing to find].

1 hour, 50 minutes.

The party rests for a few minutes while examining and listening to the southern door [success].

2 hours.

7. Monster Den.

Size: 10′ wall octagon
Contents: Monster only — fully/large, an ogre?
Features: Rotting wood

Grumblings and shuffling are audible through the southern door, so the party take care to prepare themselves before they open it. Mercy prepares a bottle of burning oil while the others ready shields and spears.

Miles kicks the door open and falls back immediately. The stench inside the room is nearly overpowering. A massive, loinclothed man crouches on a bed of rotting wood, eating the flesh from a good-sized bone.

Giantling: HD3 (11 hp), AC 12 (thick hide), Atk: club (d6+3, +3), MV 40′, ML 8.

Surprise check: 1 vs 2-, he’s surprised

The giantling looks up in shock as the party kicks open the door–shock which turns to pain as the party charges forward and smashes their blades into him.

Round 1. Surprise Round.

Hannibal’s initial charge bowls the 10′ man over and buries his sword to its hilt in his gut [6 dmg, 5 hp left]. The others waste no time. Balthasar and Zephaniah are behind him immediately, stabbing with their spears [10 dmg, dead].

Soon enough, the giantling is dead. The party takes a few minutes to search through his room, but find nothing. They move to the pair of doors that head west.

2 hours, 10 minutes.

Does the machinery sound louder through either door? +4: No.

All are convinced that the chest-pounding thrumming must have something to do with their mission, but none can determine which door will lead them closer to it. Choosing at random, they head out through the door pointing due west.

Miles checks the door for traps [check succeeds] but finds nothing.

2 hours, 20 minutes.

8. Map Room

Size: 30’x40′
Contents: Treasury only — spell ingredients worth 100, 200, and 300 gp, trapped
Description: Furnished, ambush/a path — a map room for planning

The door opens onto a large room dominated by a table holding a map of the region. They quickly see the location of the standing stones and caves of chaos on the map. [Are there other locations marked too? +2: Yes] A few other marks on the map indicate that Chaos has spread further in the region than the Castellan indicated–the party rolls up the map to bring it back with them.

+Thread: map of region

Against the far wall stand a row of shelves, crowded with small jars and pouches.

Save vs Magic to identify ingredients: all fail except Miles

Stuffed near the back of one shelf, in three small bags, Miles finds a collection of exotic and cruel-smelling powders.

Save v. poison: fail, d6+1 = 4 damage, dead

Just as he tries to pocket them, one of the bags falls open. The powder dusts his face, and he soon feels something go drastically wrong. He manages to gasp, draw the party’s attention, but before they can reach them he is shuddering on the ground, seizing.

Israel rushes to him, but his best ministrations are unable to revive the scout. Mercy comes alongside and quickly recognizes the faint odor of the toxin that killed him. Searching carefully, she gathers up three pouches of the rare ingredients and transfers them into jars from the shelf for transport.

They mournfully strip him of essentials and drag his body to rest in a corner of the room before heading toward the western door.

2 hours, 30 minutes.

With Miles gone, the soldiers are left to their own intuition and experience, but they take a few minutes to listen at the door [failed] and examine it for traps [not trapped, so no check] before nudging it open, weapons at the ready.

2 hours, 40 minutes.

9. Summoning Quarters.

Size: 20’x20′
Contents: Monster and treasure (magic item and four gems)
Feature: furnished

What is the purpose of the room? attract/failure — demon summoning

The door swings open to reveal a small room. A ring of glyphs are engraved against the northern wall, and a podium stands opposite it.

Is the portal open now? -4: yes, but… only just

As they push open the door, a spindly woman in long robes screams out a word in some language none of them understand. At that very moment, a thunderous reverberation echoes through the complex, starting from the ceiling and echoing down until it joins in with the background beat of the distant machines.

Sorceress: M2 (10 hp), AC 10, Atk: dagger (d6-1, +0), MV 40′, ML 9. Spells: Read Magic, Magic Missile*

Energy courses across the stones from a pair of great brass pylons that flank the glyphs. It fills the wall and coalesces into a brilliant white fire.

Does anything come out this round? -2: No

Check for surprise: Neither

Round 1. Sorceress wins.

The woman at the podium turns at the sudden interruption, enraged. Her rage turns to shock when she sees the party.

Does she run? +0: No

She wastes little time. She points a finger at [d5=] Mercy, hate for the other sorceress visible even from across the room, and chants the words of the Magic Missile.

Mercy has no time even to cry out. A bolt of pure hate pierces her heart [5 dmg, dead] and she collapses.

Seeing their fallen companion, the others rage. They charge into the room swinging, but only Zephaniah’s spear manages to catch the shifty sorceress [5 dmg, 5 hp left], who seems to jitter in their sight [all roll painfully poorly].

Round 2.

Does anything come out of the portal? +0: Yes, something delightfully/mighty

Suddenly the sorceress begins to laugh, and the party realizes that she isn’t looking at them. Something is moving behind them. They turn in time to see a man, almost irresistibly attractive even to the four soldiers, emerging naked from the fire.

Summoned Beast: HD2 (10/10 hp), AC 10, Atk: 2 claws (d6, +2), MV 50′, ML 11, SA Allure: A victim attacked by the beast must save vs CHA or be unable to attack next round.

Does the beast help the sorceress? +8: Yes

“Kill them!” the sorceress cries, pointing at the party. The man-beast turns to obey, though whether that’s because it heeds her words or because they’re closest isn’t clear.

She leads the attack by lunging toward Hannibal with her dagger, sinking it deep into his back as he defends himself against the demon [5 dmg, 1 left].

The monster aids her, swiping at Hannibal and striking him painfully with a claw [dead]. He falls with a scream as the remaining few of the Banner of the Bleeding Wheel roar.

They fall on the sorceress and demon, stabbing and swiping with wild abandon. The woman falls first, broken by the cleric’s mace [6 dmg, dead]. Balthasar and Zephaniah corner the demon against the wall with their shields, although he turns their spears aside [2 dmg, 8 hp left].

Round 3.

The demon lunges over Balthasar’s shield, clawing a hole through his chain and nearly disemboweling the sturdy warrior [5 dmg, 1 hp left], who cries out and falls away [misses save, can’t attack].

Israel and Zephaniah come to their companion’s defense, trying to corner the beast before it can finish him off [2 dmg, 6 hp left]

Round 4.

Their attack draws its ire, and a casual backhand sends Israel crashing against the podium [5 dmg, 1 hp left], though the cleric stands up, filled with holy anger against the abomination [makes WIS save]. His mace speaks for God as it pounds the monster across the head [4 dmg, 2 hp left].

Round 5.

The monster reels back and tears Balthasar’s head from his shoulders as the man attempts to pin it to a wall [6 dmg, dead]. Zephaniah cries out [misses], but Israel will have no more of this. He rushes the monster, mace leading, and beats it into the ground [6 dmg, dead].

Aftermath

And then they are two. The room quiets and the wall of fire fades as the thrumming beneath them slows. The shattered cleric and soldier look around at their friends, slain by the whim of fate.

“Should… should we go?” Zephaniah asks.

The cleric hesitates, nods. “I don’t think there’s anything else here for us.”

The grab up Mercy’s lantern and oil and pour a flask against the western door, then prep the rest for throwing. They take a few minutes to strip the essential from their companions, then pour a flask of oil across them.

Israel casts a torch across them, saying, “I consign you to smoke and God. We’ll not leave you here, my friends.”

They search the sorceress, too, though they build her no pyre. Even the cleric can’t help but hope that her soul is pulled back for the lasting torment of necromantic undeath. He scratches holy symbols into the stone where the summoning circle was, praying that the sanctification will defeat the magic, and he sets fire to the podium after recovering the spell book the sorceress read from [contains Magic Missile, Read Magic, and Open Portal].

They find on her a necklace set with stones worth 500, 100, and 100 gold pieces. On her finger is an unimpressive ring, with a stone worth 10 gold. But most curiously of all is a small satchel, with a hand-sized medallion within. Neither are sure what it does, but both agree that it must be valuable. They toss it into the pack with the other things they have found, and then both move quickly toward the exit.

Is the rope still where they left it? +8: Yes

Before they climb up, they use the 10′ pole to nudge open the door to the northern chamber, standing well back and covering their faces with dampened cloth in case any spores remain.

Have the monster/toxic mushrooms been killed? +4: Yes

The fungus within appears to have burnt to a grey ash. Moving slowly and taking care not to kick up too much soot, they retrieve the four silver-tipped spears and lash them to the sides of their packs before they climb out of the pit.

3 hours.

Scene. Above Ground.

Chaos: 18 vs 2-, no chaos

They emerge into the sun after three hours that felt like three lifetimes. They wordlessly set to digging up the gold the party buried earlier and untying the donkeys, then they lead them southward and away from the blasted swamp.

-Thread: 240 gp buried beneath the stones

Wrap Up

A relatively victorious quest, from the perspective of recovering treasure, although the casualty rate was high and the dungeon was not officially put out of commission. That said, without the sorceress and her book I doubt that they will be able to summon anything any time soon.

The party recovered 1,780 gold pieces worth of treasure and slew 390 exp worth of enemies, for a total of 1,085 xp per surviving adventurer (1,139 with prime attribute bonus).

Although neither of my characters have leveled up, they have learned a lot and come back with enough gold to equip themselves in plate armor and outfit a band of men-at-arms in chain. Revenge will call them soon to the Caves of Chaos, where they will bring the fight to the enemy.

Info will be updated on the Companion Page.

Treasure and Experience

Coin Capacity: 280 coins
Carried Currently: 230 gp

Found:

  • 250 gp
  • 100 gp box
  • Magic Item
  • 500, 100, 100, 10 gp gems
  • 600 gp spell components
  • 120 gp worth of silvered spears

Killed:

  • Mucklurker, 4HD* = 135 xp
  • Giantling, 3HD = 50 xp
  • Summon Beast, 2HD** = 38 xp
  • Sorceress, 2HD* = 29 xp
  • 4 Dwarven Maniacs, 1HD* = 60 xp
  • 6 Chaos Priests, C1 = 78 xp

Mythic Stuff

Threads: Stop the threat of Chaos in the region, investigate lightning storm over swamp (500 gp reward), trader closed, map of region

NPCs: captured overseer, Corporal of the Watch, Castellan, missing Trader

The Party

MARCHING ORDERMARCHING ORDER
Zephaniah (sword)Israel (mace)

Israel Clemont: C1 (1222 xp), 1/6 hp, 15-8-11-11-15-10. Atk: Mace (d6+1, +1). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), filigree box, Mercy’s spell book, evil spell book, gems (710 gp). Spells: None. 114 gp. Brewer.

Zephaniah Poole: F1 (1222 xp), 6/6 hp, 13-14-8-9-11-9. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Silver Spear (d6+1, +1), Shortbow (d6, +1, 15 arrows). AC 16 (chain, shield, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), rations (3), waterskin (2), lantern (7), spell components. 116 gp. Armorer.

Donkey 1: Feed (12), 155 gp, chainmail, chainmail, waterskin, rations (27), 2 silver spears

Donkey 2: Feed (12), 198 gp, chainmail, waterskin, waterskin, waterskin, rations (27), silver spear

DEAD Balthasar Hill: F1 (83 xp), 0/6 hp, 15-10-7-5-12-11. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1), Shortbow (d6, +0, 14 arrows). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), 25′ rope, waterskin, torches (8), flint, thieves’ tools. Bridlemaker. Simple and boisterous.

DEAD Hannibal Emmitt: F1 (80 xp), 0/8 hp, 12-8-13-11-8-16. Atk: Sword (d6, +0). AC 14 (chain, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (7), flint, map of region. Leader, crippled sailor. Matter-of-fact.

DEAD Mercy Rouse: MU1 (83 xp), 0/5 hp, 8-16-11-15-8-10. Atk: Dagger (d6-2, -1). AC 12 (dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (8), spell book, flint, lantern (8). Spells: Sleep, Feather Fall, Read Magic, Invisibility. Wise woman. Innocent and curious.

DEAD Miles Sinkler: S1 (83 xp), 0/6 hp, 7-14-9-14-13-14. Atk: Axe (d6-1, -1). AC 13 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, torches (8), 10′ pole. Tinker 3, Search 2, Architecture 2. Roofer. Conniving.

DEAD Modesty Boyd: S1 (83 xp), 0/4 hp, 5-15-5-12-9-10. Atk: Axe (d6-2, -2), Shortbow (d6-2, +1). AC 13 (leather, dex). Backpack: bedroll, torches (8), 10′ pole. Search 3, Bushcraft 2, Sneak 2. Bookbinder. Taciturn.

DEAD Richard Lanius: F1 (83 xp), -2/6 hp, 13-12-7-8-13-6. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Spear (d6+1, +1). AC 15 (chain, shield). Backpack: bedroll, torches (8). Farmer. Conscientious.

3 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 10

  1. Quite a climax! It was a costly victory, but their next expedition certainly won’t want for equipment. And, from a player’s perspective, it’s always nicer to lose half the party in a memorable encounter, rather than just rolling poorly against some bandits.

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