Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 11

This session begins as Father Israel Clement and Zephaniah Poole, armorer and experienced campaigner, limp home from a disastrous but profitable delve into a lair of Chaos magic. Considerably wealthier but now nearly alone, the pair must consider their options before moving forward.

Scene. Return to the Keep.

Setup: Return to the Keep to report, resupply, and plan
Chaos: 5 v 2-, no chaos

Israel and Zephaniah limp out of the woods and into the shadow of the Keep. Neither thought they would ever be so grateful to see the small, monster-threatened fortress. They climb the winding trail and approach the gatehouse.

Do they find the Corporal inside? +4: No +Event
Event: NPC Action – arrive/news

They enter to see a crowd clustered around a rider on a lathered horse.

What is he discussing? Propose/Competition

“People of the Borderlands! The Queen, God save her, has heard your plight and recognizes the great sacrifice that you have made for her empire. As such, she has proposed a competition–a way for men of might to show their honor and strength.

“The company that can rout the forces of Chaos from their foothold in the hills will be granted a reward of 5,000 gold pieces, and they will earn Her eternal favor.”

Is the news received favorably? +0: Yes

The war-weary citizens of the Keep applaud, though Zephaniah and a few of the other men-at-arms in the crowd curse under their breath. Five thousand gold pieces is enough treasure to bring adventuring parties from across the Known World.

“It’s about to get crowded,” Zephaniah whispers to the Cleric, “but at least we won’t have any trouble finding help.”

+Thread: Queen’s call to clear the Caves (5000 gp reward)

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

The two adventurers head off in search of the Corporal to report out.

Can they find him? +4: No, and… he’s not in the Keep
Why not? recruit/riches

After more than an hour of asking at the bailiff’s tower and the inner gatehouse, the party finally manages to gain an audience with the Captain of the Guard [no longer an elf since I realize that he is specifically called out in the adventure module].

“Ah, the…Bleeding Wheel, yes?”

“We were,” Israel says, “but our captain and the rest of the Banner were lost.” They quickly fill him in on their adventure.

“You have my deepest sympathy,” the captain says, “and my deepest gratitude for what you’ve done for the realm of man.” Both mercenaries believe him. The captain is a clearly a man who has sent others to their death, but never easily.

The captain clears his throat and draws a piece of parchment from his pocket. “The corporal has been sent west, to help train recruits for the front. The Queen has seen fit to support us, but the wars in the west ill-prepare men for clearing maniacs and monsters out of dark tunnels.”

Zephaniah snorts.

“Indeed,” the captain says. “But some learn before they pay the final price, and others aren’t so fortunate. For you both… five hundred crowns, yes?” He hands over the parchment. It’s a writ for 500 gold pieces. “The banker will honor the writ.”

“That isn’t all, though,” Israel says. “We found something while we were down there.” He nods and Zephaniah passes over the map they found.

Is the captain interested? +6: Yes

The captain examines the map for only a few moments before he looks up. “My God… this map might really make a difference.” He calls in a pair of aides and hands them the map. “I’ll have my scouts look into this. We have to see if this is true, but if the information in here is accurate–well, let’s just say that we’ll owe you a much greater debt than a few hundred gold coins. We’ll send someone to find you when we know more.”

-Thread: investigate lightning storm

Scene. Prepare for Adventure.

Setup: Equip and raise a party to explore the Caves of Chaos
Chaos: 13 vs 2-, no chaos

Flush with coin and eager to return to the wilderness, the two men head into the Keep and seek out armor and equipment.

Can they find anyone selling plate armor? +4: Yes
Is it the trader? +0: No
Is the trader still closed? -2: No

They head to the trader’s shop and are pleased to see it open again, though the man is unable to provide them the plate armor they’re looking for. When he sees the spell ingredients, though, he is more than eager to deal.

“I know a buyer to the west who would be happy to have these, though she’s a skinflint of an old witch and would dicker me to death. I can offer [40%+d6x10=80%] 480 crowns for the lot, but no better.”

They take it, and he buys the filigree-covered box for [40+d6x10=] 60 gold pieces, as well.

-Thread: trader closed

At his recommendation they head out and go to the armorsmith’s forge.

Can he sell or make them two suits of plate armor? +4: Yes

The man and his apprentices are at work in the forge, but they look up when Israel and Zephaniah come in.

“We’re looking for something sturdier,” Zephaniah says.

“We can fit you plate, sure enough,” the smith says, “but it won’t be cheap. One thousand crowns, for the each of you. And [d6=] it’ll take two days to do the work for fitting.”

The cost is steep, but neither man wants to head back to the caves in just their chain again. They agree to the price and hand over five hundred crowns as a deposit. For the next two days they will be stuck in the Keep, serving at the smith’s beck and call while he and his apprentices customize their armor.

Can Zephaniah help, since he’s a smith? +2: No

“I know my way around a forge,” Zephaniah offers. “Maintained my lord’s plate back home, before I signed up with the Banner.”

The smith shakes his head. “Got all the help I need with my apprentices, and it wouldn’t be kindly to take work from their hands. But I’ll let you know if I’m ever in need of your hammer.”

Can they find anyone to identify the magic item they found? +0: No

The pair leave the smith and head out in search of a scholar or magic-user to identify the trinket they recovered from the sorceress, but they’re unable to find anyone to take on the job today. After the disappointing search, they return to the inn.

Has any progress been made on the tavern? +2: Yes +Event

Event: PC Negative — Antagonize/Tension

The common square is bustling with activity. Although the tavern is still a burnt shell, tables have been set up just outside the building and the barkeep is serving warm liquors.

Are any men-at-arms here? +0: No

Zephaniah asks around about men to hire for an adventure while Israel gets them a room, but soon enough he attracts the ire of a large, dark-haired man in leather.

The two exchange words, and it soon becomes clear that every adventuring company in the borderlands is eager to fight for its claim of the queen’s 5,000 gold piece prize.

+NPC: Rival NPC parties

Meanwhile, Israel secures the men a night of room and board at the inn for a gold piece each [-2 gp]. The next day, Israel returns to the chapel to pray and attempt to learn of the region from the local priest.

CHA check: 10 v 10-, success

Word of Israel’s contributions to the Keep have trickled down to the priest, and he is eager to speak with Israel about God and answer his questions about the region and its inhabitants.

+NPC: local priest

+Rumor: There is more than one tribe of orcs in the cave (truth: 4+?)

While Israel prays, Zephaniah drinks and carouses with the men and women at the tavern, looking for anyone willing to travel east toward the Caves.

Is anyone available today? +0: Yes, d6-1=3 men-at-arms
Are there any classed heroes? -8: No

He finds two men and a woman willing to head east with them, although Zephaniah is unable to determine whether of them have any particular talents beside bravery, madness, or avarice. That said, it’s enough, and he hands them each a gold piece [-3 gp] with a promise of a gold piece stipend per day, board, and a quarter-share of any recovered treasure.

Abel: NM (3 hp), AC 14 (chain), Atk Silver Spear (d6+1, +0), MV 30′, ML 8

Bart: NM (2 hp), AC 14 (chain), Atk: Silver Spear (d6+1, +0), MV 30′, ML 8

Constance: NM (4 hp) , AC 14 (chain), Atk: Silver Spear (d6+1, +0), MV 30′, ML 8

Israel and Zephaniah spend another gold piece for room and board [-2 gp] and then head to the smith to pick up their plate armor.

Is it ready? +6: Yes

The smith and his apprentice fit, tighten, and adjust the shining new plate as the cleric and fighting man equip themselves. Before long it fits as tight as a glove, and both men are able to fight and move with only a little more difficulty than in their chain, which they sell back to the smith for 50 crowns each [+100 gp].

They remove the plate and head to the bank to sell the gemstones they recovered from the sorceress. They get [90%] 640 crowns for the pieces, which is more than enough for what they need.

They take the coins to the smith and take possession of their new armor [-1000 gp], leaving them just 358 gold pieces.

They take them to the bank and deposit what extra they have, receiving two writs of deposit worth 150 gp each.

Can they find anyone to identify their trinket? +0: Yes

Before they leave, they ask the bank manager if he could help them identify a trinket they found in the ruins.

“Let me see it,” the man says. He turns it over in his hand, frowning. “Maaaybe… James!” The bank’s aged clerk steps over to the manager. “Take a look at this. Can you figure out what it is?”

The old clerk tutters a bit as he examines the thing, then he takes out a jeweler’s loupe and turns it over again. Finally, he nods and looks up. “I can figure this out,” he says, “but it won’t be quick.”

“How long?” Zephaniah asks. “We are heading out today.”

“Oh! So soon. No, a week, at least. And it will cost you–one hundred crowns.”

The warrior frowns, but there’s little he can do. “We’re leaving today, regardless. Keep it. We’ll be back for it, with your money.”

The old clerk smiles and drops the trinket into a pocket of his long robes before writing out another writ of deposit.

Scene. At the Caves of Chaos.

Setup: Arrive at the Caves of Chaos
Chaos: 11 vs 3-, no chaos

The party follows a game trail to the entrance of a dark, high-walled valley. The two days’ journey is uneventful [-10 rations, -6 gp], and the five adventurers arrive ready to bring war to the forces of Chaos.

They take several minutes to survey the mouth of the valley before they enter.

Do they see any sentries or monsters? +0: Yes, aggressively/juvenile

A group of [d6=] 3 young men keep watch from a copse of trees just within the valley entrance. As the party watches, it becomes clear that they’re more interested in bickering with each other than standing any kind of sentry duty.

3 Sentries: NM (3, 1, 3 hp), AC 13 (leather + shield), Atk: spear (d6, +0), MV 40′, ML 8.

Can the party see a way to sneak around? +4: No

Unfortunately, even a half-assed watch appears good enough for the narrow path. The steep cliff-sides allow no passage to any except the most adept climbers–and certainly not to men in chain and plate.

“Should we just… you know?” Abel the man-at-arms proposes, jabbing his spear for emphasis.

Zephaniah frowns. “We’ll get there. But charging in spear-first isn’t going to be our first play.”

“What is, then?”

“We wait.” He settles down into the underbrush and begins a long watch. The others fall back a few dozen yards as the afternoon fades to night.

Do the sentries change shift? +2: Yes, but… event
Event: Move away from a thread (stop threat of chaos) — break/masses

As evening falls, drums begin to sound. Soon, it becomes clear that a force is amassing in the valley. They watch as a host forms, lighting camp fires and assembling for mobilization.

Does the force move out that night? -6: No, and… another one arrives

They keep watch throughout the night. Groups of men and monsters arrive until morning [-5 rations, -2 feed, -3 gp], when the host has swelled to nearly twice its original size. Israel leads the men in a quiet prayer for the people back at the Keep.

“Should we try to beat the force home?” Bart asks.

“Little help if we did,” Zephaniah says. “The Keep has scouts out this far, so they’ll know of the host soon enough, and our own blades would mean little in the fight itself.”

Eventually, the great army moves out and into the woods. The party falls back another few hundred yards until the day is nearly gone, putting as much forest between them and the army’s outriders as possible.

Are they discovered? -7: Yes

By what? cheerfully/harsh

Despite their best precautions, a crashing sound in the distant woods soon draws close, and a leering half-man on a snarling dog leap into the clearing.

Goblin Rider: HD1-1, AC 12 (leather), Atk: spear (d6, +0), MV 30′, ML 8

Gobling wardog: HD2, AC 11 (dex), Atk: bite (d6, +2), MV 60′, ML 9

Surprise check: party is surprised, goblin not

Round 1.

Does the goblin scout run away? ML 6 vs 8, no

The twisted little man slaps the butt of his spear against the dog’s side and charges toward the party, spear leading. Poor [d5=] Abel is caught dead-to-rights as the pair charge down at him, and the goblin’s spear punches through his throat just above the neck of his chainmail [hit, 4 damage].

Round 2. Initiative tied.

Does the goblin try to run away? 5 vs 8-, no

Cackling at his victory, the goblin tries to wheel his dog so the pair of them can lay into the party with spear and teeth, while Israel and Zephaniah storm forward to put themselves between the goblin and their less-armored companions.

The goblin’s spear finds a chink in Israel’s armor and nearly kills him [4 dmg, 2 hp left], but Zephaniah takes advantage of the little monster’s awkward stab to behead him with a vicious upward slash of his sword [6 dmg, dead].

The others fall into the dog with their spears, but the beast shakes off the deep wounds [7 dmg, 4 hp left].

Round 3.

The dog’s teeth scrape against Zephaniah’s armor as Israel brings his mace down on its head [4 dmg, dead]. It collapses in a heap.

Panting, the others circle up as Israel calls upon his God to heal him [full hp]. Worried that the outrider’s disappearance will call others to them, the party drapes Abel across the back of their donkeys and head deeper into the woods. They camp for a night [-4 rations, -2 gp].

Random encounter? No

In the morning they return to the valley where the caves lie.

Is the guard gone? +4: Yes

The valley before them is quiet, and even careful observation shows no movement within. They lash the donkeys a few hundred yards from the treeline and sneak toward the valley.

Are there any visible trails leading to caves? +0: No

The valley within is covered with the filth and trampled earth of an impromptu bivouac. It would be impossible to track any of the beasts to a particular cave.

Can they see caves up above? +4: No

Moving slowly, they begin to climb the mountainside where it appears least steep, looking for an entrance.

Search check: 6,3,6,6 — all fail

They spend an hour scouring the sides of the cliffs, but if there is a cave here they can’t find it. They take a short break and move on.

Random encounter? 1 v 1, yes (of course) — gratefully/important

Suddenly, they hear a shout. Looking up, they see a [m/f] woman in stained rags running out from between two innocuous boulders [3d6x10=] 150 yards away. She sees the party and dashes toward them, unmindful of the noise she’s making.

Does anything come after her? +5: Yes, and… from another cave too
What are the monsters? Partially/Cold (the undead)

2 Zombies: HD1+1 (7,3 hp), AC 10 (none), Atk: punch or bite (d6, +1), MV 25′, ML 12. SA Infectious: 2-in-6 chance an attack is a bite. If it hits, save v poison or die in d6-1 days.

It soon becomes clear what she’s running from. A shambling man stumbles out of the cave after her. He trips on the uneven stone and tumbles down a dozen, two dozen feet before coming to rest on a narrow ledge, but he clambers back to his feet and moves directly toward the woman before tumbling again.

“Zombies,” Israel observes. He says a short prayer of warding and grabs for his holy symbol where it hangs around his neck. Zephaniah doesn’t wait to pray–he looses an arrow at the thing that punches powerfully through its chest [5 dmg, 2 hp left].

The party moves toward the woman to intercept her before the dead man finishes his tumbling climb down the hill, but just as they are about to reach her, another lurches out from a crack in the stone right beside them.

Round 1. Party wins initiative.

The party wastes little time laying into the monsters around them. Constance reacts to the appearance of the second zombie with a yelp, but her reflexes are good–her silver spear penetrates its skull and drops it immediately [5 dmg, dead].

Can the others reach the first zombie this round? +0: Yes, but… only Bart

Zephaniah launches another arrow at the first zombie, and this one flies perfectly true [6 dmg, dead]. The arrow pierces its eye and it collapses.

How many arrows can he recover? d3-1: 1

They quickly reassemble. “Quiet, woman!” Constance calls to the fleeing woman. “We’re here to help.”

Does the woman approach them? +6: No, and… ruin/magic (some dark sorcery has ruined her)

The woman turns toward them with a look of horror in her eye, but before they can go to her she begins to…change.

Does she become a monster? +0: No

As they watch, her flesh starts to boil and slough away, until all that’s left is a skeleton and the echo of her wailing cry…and then even that fades to dust.

The party looks around, but all is still again. Whatever let her free knew what would happen. They approach the spot where she died, but all are careful to keep a handful of paces between themselves and the burnt patch of stone where the woman had stood.

Can they see anything interesting? +4: Yes

Although all that remains of the woman is ash, a glitter in the pile of dust catches their eye.

Is it a ring? +4: No, but… it’s jewelry +Event
Event: Move toward a thread (Queen’s Call) — Work Hard/Magic

A single earring, made of polished platinum and set with a small green stone, lies in the midst of the ashes. Careful not to touch it with his hand, Zephaniah scoops it up into his coin pouch.

+Thread: mysterious earring

They turn to enter the tunnels from which the zombies emerged. Before Constance has a chance to light her lantern, though, a [m/w] man’s voice shouts to them from the other side of the valley. They turn–a sorcerer is standing in the middle of the clearing.

Reaction roll: 7, neutral

“Identify yourselves if you want to live!” he demands.

Is he alone? -4: No

The men-at-arms at his side ready their weapons, although no one charges. Israel takes one step toward them.

“I am Israel Clement, and I serve the God Most High. We are here to bring judgment on those who do evil and work wickedness. Do you serve the King, or His enemy?”

CHA check: 7 vs 10-, pass

“Thanks be to God,” one of the men-at-arms in the magic-user’s employ says. “We’ve been fighting for the last day and a half. It’s good to see a man of God.”

The magic-user shushes his companion, but seems to share his sentiment. “It’s true we’ve had an…eventful…journey. Perhaps our common purpose could be served by working together?”

Israel and Zephaniah glance at each other, then Israel nods. “We would be happy to have you along,” he says.

Wrap Up.

Well, a relatively successful adventure and one that leaves my party strengthened (I’ll roll up the new magic-user PC next session) and in a position to spend some time in the caves. Since Israel is only 300 xp away from leveling up, I’m hoping that next session sees a pretty considerable boost to the party’s power!

I will update the information on the companion page and campaign logs.

Treasure

Coin carrying capacity: 480

Carried: 49

Found:

None yet

Monsters killed:

  • Goblin, 1 HD = 10 xp
  • Goblin Wardog, 2 HD = 20 xp
  • 2 Zombies, 1+1 HD* = 26 xp

Each PC gets 20 xp and the two men-at-arms get 9, although I won’t track it. If they survive the adventure, they’ll get a class level instead.

Mythic Stuff

Threads: Stop the threat of Chaos in the region, Queen’s call to clear the Caves (5000 gp reward), map of region, mysterious earring

NPCs: captured overseer, Corporal of the Watch, Castellan, rival NPC parties, local priest

Rumors: there is more than one tribe of orcs in the cave (truth: 4+?), massive dog men live in the higher reaches of the caves (Truth: 4+?)

The Party

MARCHING ORDERMARCHING ORDER
Zephaniah (sword)Israel (mace)
Constance (spear, lantern) Bart (spear)

Zephaniah Poole: F1 (1242 xp), 6/6 hp, 13-14-8-9-11-9. Atk: Sword (d6+1, +1), Silver Spear (d6+1, +1), Shortbow (d6, +1, 14 arrows). AC 18 (plate, shield, dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (2), flint, Mercy’s spell book, writ of deposit (150 gp, trinket), mysterious earring. 23 gp. Armorer.

Israel Clemont: C1 (1242 xp), 6/6 hp, 15-8-11-11-15-10. Atk: Mace (d6+1, +1). AC 16 (plate, shield, -dex). Backpack: bedroll, rations (3), waterskin, torches (2), flint, evil spell book, writ of deposit (150 gp). Spells: Cure Light Wounds***. 24 gp. Brewer.

Bart: NM (2 hp), AC 14 (chain), Atk: Silver Spear (d6+1, +0), MV 30′, ML 8. Inventory: rations (3), waterskin, torch (2)

Constance: NM (4 hp) , AC 14 (chain), Atk: Silver Spear (d6+1, +0), MV 30′, ML 8. Inventory: rations (3), waterskin, torch (2)

Donkey 1: Feed (8), waterskin, rations (12), waterskin, lantern (7)

Donkey 2: Feed (8), waterskin, rations (14), chainmail, silver spear

Dead Abel: NM (0 hp), AC 10 (), Atk: none. MV 30′, ML 8. Inventory:

2 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Solo – 11

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