We began our first session of the Gränsomrad Dale Campaign hosted by Fallout Comics with character creation…3d6 in order (although I did allow the players to swap one score with another if they so desired). It took a little longer than I had expected but all but one of the players had never played Basis Fantasy RPG and most either had no experience with pre-d20 versions of D&D or haven’t played them in quite some time. Once the characters were created and everyone had read their rumors (see the Intro post for more on these), we jumped right in with each of the PCs separately arriving in the village of Bronby and being directed to a nearby inn (I know…rather trite, isn’t it?).
My DM comments, as usual, are in [brackets and italics]. There are potential spoilers for The Haunted Keep from the Moldvay Basic D&D set, The Haunted Keep from Dragonsfoot, and N1 Against the Cult of the Reptile God below the break.
The first to arrive, I believe, was the dwarf Thorbird. He found the dirty, dilapidated establishment to be nearly abandoned. Only a single individual was in the common room, slumped over the bar on the non-customer side. This individual–dubbed the Old Drunk Guy–was rather drunk, not very responsive, and utterly unconcerned about his “customers,” indicating that they could help themselves. As each of the other characters arrived, they quickly adjusted to this odd inn and soon got to talking. Each had a similar experience upon their arrival…no one in the village seemed to have any interested in interacting with them, avoiding eye contact and moving away if approached. They then got around to sharing the various rumors that had brought each of them here, finding that some had heard the same rumors but others knew things that the others had never heard about.
[This actually turned out to be one of my favorite starts to a campaign. The flow of the conversation with players jumping in to share tidbits or ask questions was great! Given that I, of course, know a little bit more about each of the rumors, the interplay between the rumors as expressed by the players was simply pure gold and not really all that trite…no mysterious individual in the dark corner waiting to give a quest. 😉 ]
Over a dinner cooked by Gabor [in exchange for a free room for the night arranged during one of O.D.G.’s more lucid moments] and with a warning to not drink the water, the group discussed banding together and what they might do. While Thorbird wanted to head to the Caves of Chaos somewhere many leagues to the northeast, others suggested investigating what was rumored to be a haunted keep on the outskirts of Bronby, the abandoned keep of the founding family of Bronby, the Rustads. [As one player, Jen, mentioned, the lower level stuff is usually closer to town.]
Slipping outside, the adventurers could spy the ruined keep on a hill overlooking the village. No villagers could be seen in the streets and most buildings were shuttered and dark. [Hmmm…early to bed, early to rise, or is something else going on here.] As they looked towards the keep, a faint light was spotted floating in front of it before quickly disappearing. That was enough to convince the group to gather their gear, down another ale (at least in Thorbird’s case), and head up towards the keep. As they approached closer, a moaning sound could be heard from the direction of the keep. Ghost lights? Ghostly moaning? Might it actually be haunted?
Reaching the keep, it became clear that the noise was coming from one of the two ruined towers of the keep. Listening at the door of this tower, the moaning sounded more like the groans of someone in pain. Opening the door, the group found a short and debris-littered corridor, ending in another door. Thorbird moved cautiously forward, focusing on the door in front of him. Unfortunately, he didn’t notice that the debris hid a pit…until he fell in! Fortunately, it was a relatively shallow pit. Narrow ledges on either side provided a relatively easy, if slow, path around the pit. The next door lead to a corridor leading, perpendicularly, in two directions.
One direction, to the group’s right, ended in a door. The other direction also had a door but also had the corridor turn deeper into the keep. The painful groaning could be heard coming from this direction. Opening the door, the group was confronted by four armored humanoids, hobgoblins! Chained to the wall beyond the hobgoblins were two humans dressed in tattered clothing. A brazier with glowing coals was nearby and the hobgoblin closest to the captives was holding a red-hot poker…so much for ghostly moaning.
It was a tough fight as the cramped quarters only allowed one of the adventurers to engage the hobgoblins at a time. Although Edda, the lead warrior, was mortally wounded by the hobgoblins (and saved by the divine magic of Gabor) [we are using 0-level spells with Cure Minor Wounds], the adventurers prevailed. Freeing the two humans, they learned that the pair, Adil and Hadi, had been two of the four guards from the southern lands. They had been escorting a woman, Lamya, and her handmaiden. They had been attacked by an overwhelming number of bandits–a few miles north of Bronby–while heading to the town of Dalstag about a days travel to the north. This pair was sold by the bandits to the hobgoblins but they had no idea what might have happened to Lamya or the others.
The group also found a few bags of coins (quick glance showing mostly silver pieces) in the room as well.
Given that Adil and Hadi were in no real shape to fend for themselves or “adventuring” with the group given their torturous treatment by the hobgoblins and the fact that Edda was on death’s door, the adventurers decided that retreat was a better choice than pressing on. With the pair of southern guards in tow, the group made it back to the inn. O.D.G. wasn’t slumped on the bar anymore (he was found collapsed behind it). The group took rooms, despite their rather disgusting state, and got their new friends settled in as well.
[All in all, I thought it was a nice start to a new campaign. I don’t mind just a single combat given all the fun interactions and everyone really embracing the rumors and their possibility for adventure!]