Tuesday, February 22, 2011

the one with balgron (kots, session 5)

As he skidded around the corner, Harold was astonished to see Korlon, Sulader, and Tar attacking each other. Not knowing what was up with his companions, but suspecting foul play, the minotaur charged the nearest goblin warrior. After cutting down the shrieking little creature, Harold saw that his three comrades seemed to have come to their senses and were attacking a large hobgoblin a bit farther down the corridor. When their attacks missed the hobgoblin, though, the bellowing creature retreated through a doorway and out of sight. Pushing past his friends, the minotaur rushed after the hobgoblin (who he assumed was the infamous Balgron the Bellower).

Entering a small chamber, Harold saw Balgron across the room, the hobgoblin’s hand reaching out to pull back a length of tapestry. The minotaur whooped with delight, shouted “Goring Charge!”, and lowered his head.

The next thing Balgron knew, he was flat on his back, looking up into the hostile faces of a dwarf, a minotaur, and a tiefling. Popping to his feet, the wily hobgoblin chieftain used some kind of dastardly dominate-type spell or something on his foes. Balgron’s attack forced Tar and Tosdar to gang up on Harold.

Harold, soooo not amused at that turn of events, used a Spinning Sweep attack to knock down Balgron once again. In fact, not only did the enraged minotaur’s strike knock the hobgoblin down, it knocked him OUT.

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Mr. Bellower.

* * * * *
One player was absent for our fifth session of Keep on the Shadowfell, so our party of intrepid adventurers had to make do without Caliban (deva avenger). That left six of us to head down the mountain from Sunderpeak Temple and return to the ancient keep…
  • Greth (githzerai hunter/seeker hybrid)

  • Harold (minotaur great weapon fighter)

  • Korlon (half-elf warlock)

  • Sulader (goliath paladin of the Raven Queen)

  • Tarionsus (tiefling warlord)

  • Tosdar Strudil (dwarf battle cleric)
Before we departed Sunderpeak, some old geezer told us about the last commander of Shadowfell Keep, a paladin of Bahamut named Sir Keegan. For reasons unknown, Sir Keegan went postal one day and murdered quite a few members of the keep’s garrison. Although many brave soldiers died, they eventually managed to drive the mad knight into the passages beneath the keep. Sir Keegan’s body was never found.

After that ominous bit of foreshadowing, we got some more good news when a small patrol from Sunderpeak accompanied us back down to the battered temple of Erathis. Upon completing a brief CSI-ish investigation of the site, the Sunderpeakers informed us that certain pieces of evidence (acid damage, claw marks) led them to think that a brash, young black dragon named Blightborn may have participated in the attack on the temple. Well, great.

After parting ways with the patrol, we continued our journey back to the keep. Late in the day, we reached our former campsite and found numerous goblin tracks all over the place. We decided to spend the night at a new site a short distance away. As we sat around the roaring campfire that night, toasting marshmellows and making s’mores, Splug told us that his goblin tribe, the Toestompers, worked in the dungeons below the keep for an unpleasant hobgoblin named Balgron the Bellower. Splug said that Balgron and his Bloodreavers had been hired to protect the dungeons, but they were also involved in slavery. Splug had seen the Bloodreavers bring human captives to the keep and then take them off somewhere to the east.

After an uneventful night, we got up the next morning and trekked over to the entrance to the keep… and found that a makeshift barricade had been erected across the top of the stairway that led down into the dungeons. The barrier, sloppily constructed of random boards and whatnot, had a small goblin-size hole at ground level. Peering through the hole, another barricade at the bottom of the stairway could be seen.

After battering our way through the barricades (which were a lot sturdier than they looked!), there was a frustrating bottleneck at the bottom of the narrow stairway when two guard drakes rushed up and attacked Harold and Sulader. With the drakes preventing the party from coming down the stairs and into the dungeon, a couple of goblins also appeared and peppered the goliath and minotaur with crossbow bolts and a harpoon or two.

By the time the troublesome pair of drakes were finally cleared away from the bottom of the stairs and the party had some room to maneuver, Harold was bloodied, harpooned, and ticked off. As the goblin picador across the room snickered and started to reel in his large victim (obviously hoping to drag the minotaur into the rat swarm pit trap of session #3 fame), Harold reached down, grasped the line, and—with a mighty pull—yanked the reel right out of the picador’s grasp. While the disappointed picador beat a hasty retreat, Harold grimaced and managed to pull the harpoon out of his leg. Tosdar, moving down into the dungeon, stopped to heal the badly wounded minotaur.

We hunted down the goblin snipers and the picador, dispatching them with ease, until only one enemy remained. He bolted through a door to the east and down a dark stairway. Splug shouted, “Treasure down there!” and made as if to follow the retreating sniper, but we restrained him. We closed the door and secured it with a harpoon and some line.

After a short rest, we cautiously made our way toward the torture chamber where we had rescued Splug. As we passed the door to the foul-smelling larder, Splug wanted to go in and eat, so we nodded our heads and off he went. At the northern end of the hallway, we stopped outside the closed door to the torture chamber. Greth slowly opened the door a bit and peeked inside the room. He saw a strange blue light moving around back toward the cellblock. None of us particularly wanted to investigate what that was all about, so Greth shut the door and we turned our attention to the iron double doors standing to the east.

Oh so quietly easing the doors open, we saw a long hall heading east to a room that was illuminated by flickering torchlight (see the map below). We couldn’t see around the far corner into the room, but midway down the hall a sleeping guard drake lay curled up. We spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out what to do about that snoozing drake. We finally decided that Greth, being the sneakiest member of the party, would try to trap the drake. So we got a crate and some nasty, rotten meat out of the larder (where Splug was busy gorging himself on some yucky chicken). Greth took the crate, put the meat in it, snuck down the hallway, and then swiftly tipped the box over the drake. Voila! One neutralized guard drake.

Greth still couldn’t see very much of the room at the end of the hall, but he could hear two goblins talking. It sounded like they were playing cards. The githzerai motioned for us to come up to him. Unfortunately, while we were traipsing down the hallway, we failed a group stealth check and one of the goblins came around the corner and spotted us. Greth, acting quickly, let fly with Twin Strike and bloodied the surprised goblin warrior. Tar charged down the hall, but his hasty attack missed the wounded creature. The other goblin— after watching his comrade get thwacked but good by two arrows and then seeing a tiefling come charging into view— started banging a small bronze bell that sat atop a table amidst some scattered cards.

At that point, something told us that— despite our nifty move to neutralize the guard drake— we had just lost the element of surprise.

After a swift but deadly (for the goblins) round of combat against the warriors in the guard room, we took stock of the situation. To the east, two thick tapestries covered the walls. Ripping down the tapestry at the northern end of the wall, Tar could see a short passage and hear lots of noise coming from behind a door set in the left side of the hallway. Korlon, Harold, Sulader, and Tar moved down the passage until they stood opposite the door. Tar knocked on the door. We heard goblins on the other side of the door start squealing in alarm and shouting, “You go out!” “No, you go first!” “Ouch, stop pushing me!” After a few moments of this, one of the goblins— much to our surprise— actually cracked open the door. Whereupon Sulader killt him dead.

Meanwhile, back in the guard room, Greth and Tosdar had decided to investigate what was behind the other tapestry. Pushing aside the greazy tapestry, Tosdar saw a short passage with a set of double doors at the far end. Just then, a door set in the south side of the hallway opened and a goblin peered out. Looking up and down the hallway, it spotted Tosdar and shouted, “There’s a stinking dwarf out here! Get him!”

So, boys and girls, I’m sure you see what had happened. Yep, that’s right. We… had… split… the… party.

Korlon heard the commotion in the southern hallway, so— trusting that Harold, Sulader, and Tar could clear out the storage area— he decided to follow the corridor all the way around and help Greth and Tosdar. But as Korlon made his way down the hallway, the double doors to the east burst open and a bellowing hobgoblin with a big black bow charged the startled half-elf.

As Balgron appeared on the scene, Tosdar took out one of the two goblins in the hallway outside the barracks room, then the dwarf used an action point to attack the other warrior with Split the Sky (You invoke ancient words of wrath as you attack with your weapon. The thundering power of your melee strike causes your foe to stumble backward and fall.). Split the Sky! Since his arsenal also includes Wrathful Thunder, Tosdar definitely wins the prize for powers with the coolest names.

Just down the hall, Balgron used some kind of dastardly dominate-type spell or something on Korlon, Sulader, and Tar, causing them to attack each other. Thus came to pass the scene you found at the top of the post, dear reader.

With Balgron finally down for the count, Tar lost no time in plundering the fallen hobgoblin’s chamber. Checking the secret door, Tosdar saw that it led downward into darkness. Greth and Sulader went back out to the larder to fetch Splug, but all they found was a trail of chicken bones leading down the hallway toward the door where Splug had said there was treasure.

When Balgron regained consciousness, he begged for mercy. In exchange for some information, we said that we’d let him go— but if we ever saw his ugly mug again, we’d leak a story to the press about how he was a dirty, yellow-bellied coward who had fled the dungeon during the fight. When we asked him about the secret door, he said it went down to a room where he’d set the goblins to digging for a fictitious treasure in their spare time to keep them from causing mischief in other areas of the dungeon. He also revealed the pass phrase to gain admittance to the level below the “Bad! Dead!” door.

Having cleared out the first level of the dungeon, but being pretty beat up and in need of an extended rest, we debated whether to hole up in a secure room or head back outside and camp again. I think that at some point in our exploration we might have to bite the bullet and rest in the dungeon, but we decided that this time we’d go ahead and camp outside again. (I think perhaps a vision of another cozy campfire and more s’mores was dancing in everyone’s head.)
So at the end of the session, we left the dungeon in order to take an extended rest above ground. We took Balgron with us and, honoring our agreement with him, set the hobgoblin chieftain free.

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