Oh no! The end is nigh.
Character Sheet for AD&D
Oh no! The end is nigh.
In our play through of Keep On the Borderlands, I've had to name the leaders of the Kobolds, the Goblins and both Orcish leaders.
Vis is the western orc leader and Ostro is the eastern leader, just like the Goths. Vis has lost his cave system to the party.
Ostro thought Vis would get himself killed defending his caves, but decided to use diplomacy. At first glance, Vis failed but Ostro can't turn out Vis's tribe, he'll need the manpower to stop the party. Ostro had the smaller of the two colonies so his position was initially weaker but the characters cleared the Cave B rather quickly so everyone is sweating and swearing.
If the characters had hit them and left the cave system, Vis would still be in control and Ostro could think of making a move on him. But the dastardly humans know where Ostro's den is and could take him out. Oddly, they don't know where the exterior cave mouth is, so they have not tried a direct attack. The party also lacks the manpower to defend their position in cave B while hitting the cave mouth anyway. They discovered that when they took the cave and most of the orcs simply fled to Ostro's cave C.
Vis and Ostro are unwilling compatriots. They are currently acting as co-leaders who work as a pair, but what is really happening is each is hoping the other gets an arrow in the eye.
The orcs are getting smarter and wiser when it comes to tactics. The orcs woefully lack missile weapons and the party showed them what a sling is. They are now trying to make their own slings, which is far easier to make than a bow or crossbow. This has put the wounded warriors in the position formerly held by women and the women in the role of warriors.
The other thing the tricksy party did was set up triplines. But instead of using rope, they gathered up rocks from around the caves and made 6-12 inch high steps in random places. Because the orcs see by infrared, they can't see a difference between the cave floor and the low rock piles. Rocks from the same environment have the same temperature.
My daughter thought this one up from reading Les Misérables. The barricades in Paris were made in this fashion by ripping up the cobblestone streets to make a low step then placing all kinds of crap on top of it. If you managed to punch a hole in the barricade, you ended up stumbling into the muck that was under the cobbles. While revolutionaries rained gunfire and pots of boiling water down on you.
They also put up a wicker door over the cave entrance which creates the problem where the orcs can see through it but not well enough to tell how many people are in there. Or more importantly, if the dogs are there. The party has taken to howling, which creeps out the orcs.
The next trap they came up with was to place candles in the dark with cloaks and ropes hanging in front of them. It looks like movement, so the orcs rushed in to attack. The party hit them from behind, space that were kept dark. With missile fire. It's not very deadly, but the orcs fight their way out of a brighter area to a darker area while under fire. Usually, if they can flee, they do flee.
The orcs are now lighting everything up in their caves because it's easier to deal with than sudden shifts in lighting. They are copying the wicker like door screens and steps to foil attackers.
The net trap that caught Solvo was spread down the hall from room 13 at about knee level. It makes movement really difficult. They added rocks and garbage below the net to make noise and cause twisted ankles. The orcs haven't countered this as they don't have enough oil to set it on fire. But that is their plan.It's interesting that the kiddos are using history against me, I'm a social studies and history major. Should Vis and/or Ostro survive, they will be the trickiest villains ever. The siege of cave B is really changing the Caves in unexpected ways.
This map is very useful for something I put together in 2 minutes.
Our heroes are completely under siege. The combined orc tribes have been hitting them non-stop since they took the B caves from them.
Let's look at it from the orcish side. They have 27 male orcish warriors plus the two leaders. Some of the women have taken up arms to defend their home. I figured about half of them are available, which gives the orcs a total of 40 warriors and two leaders.
Unfortunately, weight of numbers is not helping them "win", it's helping them not lose.
Initially, they caught the party in a pincer move by attacking both entrances. The secret door is no longer a secret. The two times this was attempted, the party was caught in room 16 and were able to foil attack with tricks and traps near the secret door.
From that point forward, the party left a deadfall trap in room 13, which made the orcs abandon it. The party used this area to launch a surprise attack on room 12. The orcs managed to dislodge them by attacking the mouth of the C cave. As a result, room 13 is now a no man's land, heavily trapped with oil, pits and spikes.
The orcs have also tried to lure the dogs out to kill them but failed.
There have been a total of 10 attacks on the cave's mouth all of which have failed. The orcs have lost 12 warriors in all of the combined attacks. They keep losing with bad morale rolls more than actual deaths. The party is shooting them in the back, from hidden positions. They are saving those +1 arrows for the orcish leaders. Thankfully they are out of magic arrows.
The goblins and kobolds are proven themselves to be useless to either side. The goblins utterly fail to be be helpful to the party, only attacking when the orcs rout. The kobolds are equally opportunistic, attacking the goblins once they walk by.
The party owns the battlefield and can escape almost at anytime. They did make one miscalculation. The cleric whipped out a sling and now the orcs are busying themselves copying it. Missile fire has been the deciding factor in combat. The orc leaders have been bearing the brunt of the these attacks.
As expected, the party has leveled up to third level, with the exception of Aleric who is stuck at first level due to his 3 classes. They have also discovered the importance of healing characters.
This is an unusually campaign as the heroes are bent on using tactics over killing. This one session covered about 13 days. They are frustrating their opponents. However, they are slowly becoming aware of the fact that they may end up fighting 3 successive battles with the orcs, the goblins and maybe even the kobolds, all in one day. They know they can't win that war, so they are thinking of fleeing the Caves of Chaos entirely.
We will see next week.
The party almost bit off more than they could chew, but got really lucky.
Back in my campaign on the Peninsula of Plenty, I had a coven of witches. These characters were straight up magic users that operated with a pack like mentality and a specific political goal. In order to give them enough power to stand toe to toe with the party physically, they needed to be overpowered. They are 3rd, 5th and 7th level.
Since the party was 3rd level or less, the witches operated with some serious societal restrictions. The Coven of Ash adhered to "The Old Ways", which was unrestricted authoritarian rule. Most of the Empire is not on board with this, including the Emperor.
Their visible presence invokes terror, so they move at night or invisibly. Most of the tactics involve terrorizing people with non-attacks so as to maintain their invisibility. Say, simply surrounding a target, pinching or poking a victim is enough to scare the target into doing what they want. The Coven of Ash are not your typical witches because they're totally unbalanced. They are supporting an authoritarian regime which doesn't even exist anymore. They are basically the Sheriff of Nottingham with magic.
It worked well enough, but now that I got my hands on Timothy S. Brannan's Witch themed books, I can see how witches can be better than mere magic users with quirks. I just have three of the books in the series: The Basic Witch: The Pumpkin Spice Witch Tradition, Daughters of Darkness: The Mara Witch for Basic Era Games and Cult of Diana: The Amazon Witch for Basic Era Games.
To be super honest, I was attracted to the series by the cover art of Cult of Diana and The Mara Witch but I find the one "joke" book, The Pumpkin Spice Witch to be my favorite. It's all the same author, so I don't know if it's the tone or the generic nature of the Basic Witch which appeals to me.
I've also made the mistake of printing all three books and storing them in one binder. I find myself flipping from one to the other. I play this weirdo mashup of B/X and AD&D, so I don't really notice minor differences in purpose, which I am sure is there.
Anyway, I am getting ready to roll up a couple of witches and introduce them into my B2 campaign. The players hopped right past the hermit and a good witch seems to a suitable, player friendly substitute.
The characters came out of session four in good order, but I am regretting a few things. So far the characters have a grand total of 2659 experience between combat, good tactics and treasure.
In my campaigns, I generally only have silver and gold pieces. B2 assumes that all five coin types will be used which makes experience tabulation a nightmare. Annoying.
Second, I gave the characters several hundred points of experience for good ideas and role play. The standout events were Solvo playing dead in the ogre's lair, the removal of the ogre's body to a fake campsite, the cleric praying for the ogre and the whole party using the secret door to ambush the orcs.
In most of these cases, a single player or character came up with the idea and should have reaped the reward. The way I handle this under play conditions is to put a number on an index card and hand it to player. These points can be added to their experience immediately, unmodified by attribute bonuses OR if they wait to the end of the session, they can add in their experience modifier. This didn't happen because we've been playing outside with just the DM's Guide and Player's Handbook as a reference.
I ran the kids through one session of Keep on the Borderlands. For fun, I let them use AD&D characters. They have a Cleric, a Thief (halfing), a Paladin, a Ranger, a Fighter-Magic User-Cleric (half elven) and a Magic User (elven). Each character is 2nd level, except the F-MU-C who is 1st level.
They were less than impressed with the Keep itself and as soon as they got directions to the Caves of Chaos they set off. They also learned some gossip about the area, but disregarded much of it. They picked out a campsite to the east of the Caves and explored for the first day. They spent a lot of time checking the area to the west of the Cave complex, but finally mapped out the four cave entrances on the lowest level. Areas D, E, G and A, in that order. Since they didn't try to enter any of these areas, nothing happened. The thief tried to listen at each cave mouth, but heard nothing. Of course, everyone else tried to listen but didn't get that close.
Out of an abundance of laziness, once they completed the circuit of the area, they went back to Cave Entrance A. All six of them entered the cave behind the thief who was prodding around for traps. He spotted the pit just as the 8 kobolds outside spot the characters.
Everyone but the thief made a mad dash for the eastern mouth of the ravine, but pulled up short under the large tree. The kobolds don't have missile weapons, so they pursued on foot. At the tree, the MU wanted to get a spell ready while everyone except the Cleric got out missile weapons. In the meantime, the thief sprinted for the entrance to cave E.
One volley of arrows sent the kobolds back to their cave. The party wanted to regroup and rethink their plan but this was disrupted by a horrible scream and thud from Cave E. The ogre clobbered the thief, who had one hit point left and played dead. The ogre saw the rest of the party and charged. Several flights of arrows and a magic missile routed him back to his cave.
The characters loosed 4 flights of arrows in two rounds as per AD&D rules, most missed but doubling up missile attacks makes AD&D missiles more deadly than D&D. Out of a hail of 12 arrows, only 5 hit along with the magic missile but they knocked the ogre's hp to just 4. Strangely, the cleric didn't pull out a missile weapon for second time and stood off to one side with her mace.
In those 2 round of activity, the thief picked himself up and hid just inside the entrance to the cave. Shockingly, he backstabbed the ogre for a one shot kill.
Now here is where things went sideways. They moved into Cave E to camp for the night. The cleric threw out the idea of waiting until dark to move the ogre's body to their campsite to the east. They lit a nice fire for him and lay him out like a sleeping adventurer. The cleric prayed for the ogre out of respect for a fallen foe.
Back at the cave, the characters mounted 3 watches. They are not simply guarding, they were watching for someone or something to investigate the body and the fire.
That's a really nice plan and we ended on this high note. The next session will be a rare series of nighttime encounters.
Experience awards were meager because the players don't know they are sitting on a pile treasure. They think the bag is a lumpy bed. They knocked 2 kobolds down to 0 hit, but their friends dragged them inside. I'm gonna count those as kills along with ogre.
I have to give credit where credit is due. The cleric's idea to dispose of the body plus use it as a lure for other monsters was great. That is worth at least 200 experience. The thief's idea to to play dead to set up a backstab was turning lemons into lemonade.
On paper that is 533 experience points. I'll add another 77 to make it an even 600 divided by 6.
Since they made Cave E their base camp they will be pleasantly surprised when they investigate further. I will award another round of experience the moment they discover the treasure.
If you don't already have this module, check it out on DriveThruRPG.
|B2 The Keep on the Borderlands|