12 Jan

Return to Hilltop Session 1 (BFRPG)

As one of our long term players who moved out of town a while back would say, “Hooray!” Hooray, indeed. We started our BFRPG campaign this past session. Hooray! As mentioned in the last post, we are returning to the site of one of our best campaigns ever, Hilltop. Hilltop is a slightly re-imagined Hommlet from T1 The Village of Hommlet by Gary Gygax and published way back in 1979. It is a classic and for very good reasons. Our version is still in the south of Verbobonc, it still has a Moathouse a short distance away, and it might still even have some sort of evil temple nearby. It certainly still has the lots of plot hooks from having something of a living and breathing settlement as the foundation.

This campaign is some 50 years after our prior Company H Campaign. Craig, Dave, and Muse weren’t playing back then but Rachel and RJ were. Todd, who is moving back to Tallahassee and will be re-joining us soon, played the campaign’s eponymous Harvey. There are a lot of little easter eggs in the current Hilltop for those that played in the prior campaign (e.g., the inn is now called the Bugbear’s Beds & Brews since Harvey was reincarnated as a bugbear during the campaign). Hooray for Todd soon joining us again. If you hadn’t guessed yet, Todd is the one who Hoorays all the time. 😉

Muse was missing and so we had Craig (playing Drayton Thunderbeard), Dave (playing Karl Thunderbeard), Rachel (playing Molly Malone), and RJ (playing Griff Malone). Drayton and Karl are clansmen while Molly and Griff are brother and sister…I’m not sure who is the elder sibling of the two. Obviously, there are potential spoilers for T1 The Village of Hommlet below the break. This recap is from Rachel and my comments, as usual, are in [and italics].

My brother Griff and I (Molly) came to Hilltop in hopes of finding out what happened to our older brother Seamus. He is a merchant who left Verbobonc two weeks ago, headed in the direction of Hilltop, and is late returning home. Griff and I had heard that some merchants had gone missing from the roads near here, so we hoped that we might find some clues or leads to pursue. As we made our way to the Bugbear’s Beds and Brews (the inn in town), we found ourselves right behind a couple of dwarves who had also just arrived in Hilltop. After we had all ordered some locally brewed ales (Halcyon’s Light and Kael’s Dark), we sat at a table together. Drayton Thunderbeard and his brother Karl had come from the Kron Hills, seeking a safe place to settle as their home had been overrun by orcs. The brothers are potters. As we enjoyed our beers, Griff and Drayton played several hands of cards with a man named Cahill who has been in Hilltop for a few weeks. Griff did well in some of the early hands but then lost some to Cahill. During the card games, we learned from Cahill that something or someone is leaving half-eaten dead bodies near here and that there may be slavers holed up in the nearby Moathouse.

The next morning, Griff, the Thunderbeard brothers, and I headed to Katerine Ashby’s manor. She was able to see us when we arrived and seemed a little disappointed that the dwarves do not have masonry skills and were not here to help build the new castle (this seems to be a priority at the moment). Katerine has very striking eyes—they are a flaming red and like nothing I have seen before! Griff and I told her we had come looking for our brother Seamus, and asked a bit about the rumors we had heard of merchants going missing. Katerine says that the half-eaten bodies found have been unidentifiable and must have been attacked by wild animals of some kind. Katerine said that the rumors about slavers at the Moat House are just that—her guards had checked out the Moathouse a couple weeks ago and found no one there.

[Lady Ashby did also indicate that she would be most interested in hearing about any explorations that the group did, especially if they discovered that slavers were, in fact, back in the Moathouse.

Her eyes as well as the ale names, Halcyon’s Light and Kael’s Dark, are both easter eggs. Halcyon and Kael, due to some unfortunate decisions by Kael, led to the pair being partially possessed by the soul of some angelic/demonic thing. Halcyon got flame and light stuff while Kael got shadow and darkness. The cardshark Cahill is also a play on Kael…seemed appropriate since Kael got in trouble almost immediately in the prior campaign for, if I recall correctly, cheating at cards.

Oh, Katerine Ashby is Halcyon Ashby’s granddaughter. Harvey, Lord of Hilltop during the campaign, was mortally wounded when he fought and killed the leader of the Red Hand of Doom. Halcyon became the ruler and her granddaughter was named after her close friend and ally, Katerine et Seluca (Bridgett’s character way back in the day).]

After thanking Katerine for her time and asking a guard to point us in the direction of the Moathouse, we headed off to check it out ourselves. The trail had one set of tracks (which looked like human tracks) that appeared to have been made in the past couple of days and head in both directions. We did not run into anyone else along the trail. It was very marshy around the Moathouse, so we crossed some slats across the moat area to reach the wall around the Moathouse. As Griff and I began crossing the slats, several large frogs came up from the moat and one swallowed me in one large gulp! Fortunately Griff, Karl, and Drayton took out several of the frogs including the one who swallowed me and were able to pull me out. There were two more large frogs a little ways away but they sank back into the water after seeing our group take care of the other frogs.

[In Basic Fantasy RPG , giant frogs grab you and swallow you just like, well, a fly on a natural 20 on an attack. Gulp! The two frogs that swam off did so as part of BFRPG’s “morale” mechanic. Monsters don’t always just stick around and fight until the last man, er, amphibian falls. They may run away. More cowardly creatures are more likely to run away when their numbers have been thinned while brave or loyal ones will stand and fight. The last two frogs figured that the party wasn’t a meal worth dying for after seeing their fellow frogs fall. Meat and potatoes to old school gamers but might not be as obvious to those that haven’t played older versions of the world’s most popular rpg.]

There was a broken cart blocking the entrance in the Moathouse wall but we were able to move around it. The courtyard had some rubble in it as well as a tower in the corner. A couple of folks checked out the tower and were startled by a big wolf spider, but it stayed in there when we moved away from the tower entrance.

In the Moathouse, there was a large entry room with several openings and one closed door off of it. The first opening to the right had a hallway. We tried two doors along the hallway—both the doors as well as the tower door were tough to open as they had been swollen shut over time. Both doors opened to small rooms with debris in them. There was a large room at the end of the hallway will a large pile of rubble in one corner [part of the outer wall that had collapsed]. A large snake emerged from the rubble and attacked—-Karl and Griff were both knocked out but Drayton and I kept fighting it until we took it out. Once its body fell, we saw a [small] tunnel through the rubble. I took a torch and crawled into the tunnel to see where it went. It only went 6-7 feet to a relatively small snake nest with molted snakeskin, bones, and something shiny. I checked on the shiny item and it was a dagger with a reddish stone (turned out to be a spinel) shaped like a fist as the pommel. I showed it to Drayton and put it in my pack to take back with us.

[So what’s up with all these giant creatures?]

Not knowing how long it would take Karl and Griff to regain consciousness, Drayton and I carried them back to Hilltop and to our rooms at the inn. As we came out of the wall around the Moathouse, two large frogs popped up in the moat and came closer as we crossed the slats, but they did not come after us [nope still not hungry enough to risk going after a meal that fights back]. We asked the innkeeper about where we might be able to obtain some healing from our friends and he told us how to get to Ossic’s Fane, the temple to St. Cuthbert. Drayton and I met an acolyte named Canyff, who brought Tanant, the priest, out to talk to us. We could not afford a donation large enough to get healing potions, but I still made a donation before we headed back to the inn.

[In our prior campaign, the priest at the temple, Terjon, was something of a stickler and, quoting the original T1, “is not particularly friendly and his sternness is a cause of some speculation.” Tanant largely follows in Terjon’s footsteps…not quite as bad but still not particularly friendly and rather stern and mainly interested in dealing only with fellow worshippers of St. Cuthbert…I wonder why that is.]

Griff and Karl regained consciousness the next morning. After breakfast at the inn, we headed to the general store to see if we could sell the dagger. Although the proprietor noted that there were a few nicks in the spinel stone in the dagger, we were able to trade it for two healing potions, so he must have thought it was worth something. The proprietor asked where it was from and I reported that it was in a snake’s lair, but not where the lair was. The man asked, but Griff nudged me and gave me a look before I could answer, so I said we would tell him for a third healing potion. The guy was not that interested, so we left the general store with the two healing potions.

[A little context here. BFRPG doesn’t have any magical item price lists so I’m using those from the AD&D DM’s Guide. Let’s just say that prices back then weren’t the vending machine versions of more recent editions. Potions of Healing in the AD&D DM’s Guide have a sale value of 400gp. That’s the base price that a player character could expect to get for selling the potion…it is reasonably to expect that buying such an item might be at a slightly higher price. So either that nicked up spinel pommeled dagger was worth a LOT or maybe something else is going on? Hmm…

That’s one of the beauties of a module like Hommlet…it isn’t about encounter after encounter, it is more open (dare I say sandboxy) with NPCs with different motivations, agendas, and the like that give great plot hooks (along with the Moathouse and all those other rumors floating around out there) that end up growing into a campaign. That’s how Company H worked and I’m looking forward to seeing how the this one shapes up.]

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