Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Return to the Caves of Chaos, Year 3

Kle'Nx Copperbottom
No Star Wars this week. Instead, I ran a special one-shot D&D adventure for my friends during a retreat in a beautiful wilderness lodge called the Dalles Ranch. The Dalles Ranch is a fantastic place for weddings, events, retreats, or just hanging out with 23 of your friends over a very long weekend.

Anyway, I continued a sort of accidental tradition. Three years ago, I ran Keep on the Borderlands using the D&D Next playtest rules. Last year, they returned to the Keep on the Borderlands using the recently released 5th edition D&D rules. In an amusing twist, they explored the exact same cave (D and E) of the Caves of Chaos.

This year, I brought Keep on the Borderlands with me along with the good old Basic D&D rules (specifically the rulebook released with the 1991 boxed set).

So we got together after dinner and made some characters!

The Party
(The group decided to name their characters after things visible around us in the room)
  • Kle'Nx Copperbottom - Hafling, Lawful (STR 11, INT 8, WIS 11, DEX 12, CON 11, CHA 16,  HP 1, Leather Armor AC 7, Short Bow, short sword, large sack, tinder box, lantern, flask of oil, water skin, rope, 12 iron spikes, 2 quivers of arrows), played by Erica
  • Melanie Muir - Cleric, Lawful (STR 13, INT 8, WIS 17, DEX 6, CON 10, CHA 14, HP 7, plate mail and shield AC 3, mace, holy symbol, holy water), played by Beth
  • Cork Winghorn - Fighter, Lawful (STR 17, INT 10, WIS 10, DEX 14, CON 14, CHA 7, HP 5, plate mail and shield AC 2, sword, 6 torches, 2 waterskins, backpack, lantern/oil/tinder), played by Sandra
  • Whent  - Cleric, Neutral (STR 7, INT 7, WIS 16, DEX 9, CON 8, CHA 7, HP 4, plate mail and shield AC 2, mace, sling, holy symbol, holy water), played by Chris
  • Ser Fresca - Fighter, Lawful (STR 12, INT 10, WIS 11, DEX 7, CON 12, CHA 14, HP 8, plate mail and shield AC 3, sword, crossbow, quiver of arrows), played by Nate
  • Camille Rockbutt - Dwarf, Chaotic (STR 13, INT 12, WIS 15, DEX 11, CON 11, CHA 10, HP 4, plate mail and shield AC 3, battleaxe), played by Anne-Marie
  • D'oour Chan'd'Lahr - Elf, Chaotic (STR 12, INT 9, WIS 11, DEX 10,CON 13, CHA 10, HP 5, chainmail AC 5, Sword, Short Bow, Quiver with 40 arrows, rope, 6 torches, dagger, backpack, waterskin, Magic Missile spell), played by Nievita
It should also be noted that this is the first time Erica had ever played any kind of RPG. This was her initiation.
Melanie Muir
The Keep on the Borderlands
The party meets at the Keep on the Borderlands, the last outpost of the realm of men and Law. To the east lay the vast untamed stretches of wilderness, home to the various forces of Chaos. They have come to seek their fortune and to rid the eastern trade road of troublesome humanoid bandits and vile heathen cults. In the tavern they hear stories and rumors of what await them beyond the walls of the keep. 

DM Note: I had each player roll for a single rumor on the rumor table.

They are each summoned by the local priest of Law. The priest blessed them saying, "It's dangerous to go alone. You better take one of these."and gave them each a potion to drink in the event of catastrophe. 

DM Note: Since clerics have no healing at first level, I gave each of them a healing potion that cures 1d6 HP and can be administered to a deceased character so long as it is imbibed no later than 1 round after falling).

They bought some gear and headed east for adventure, riches, and glory! 

The notorious Caves of Chaos lay about a mile east of the keep, just to the north of the old eastern trade road. The rocky cleft in the hill was visible from the road. The party advanced cautiously, encountering no resistance. The canyon loomed before them. Caves dotted its slopes. The closest cave to the left lay buried under a rock-slide. 

DM Note: That's the goblin cave. They cleared that last year, and the year before. We weren't going back into that cave, thankyouverymuch.

Kle'Nx scouted ahead, checking each clump of trees for hidden caves. 

DM Note: I drew a VERY quick sketch of the canyon, indicating visible caves, clumps of trees, etc. Of course it looked like a penis covered in venereal scabs and surrounded by flies. Cue snickering as a group of seven 30+ year old adults regressed to middle school. :-) 

Kle'Nx Copperbottom
The halfling scout did find a cave hidden by trees in the far end of the canyon. The signalled for the rest of the party to approach.

The mouth of the cave was covered in bones and a nasty smell emanated from the cavern. They lit lanterns and entered.

Cave G - The Shunned Cavern
The cave passage was covered in a carpet of bones, leaves, trash, and furs. They travelled left, ignoring passages that branched to the right, until they came into a chamber containing a sleeping beast and the half-eaten remains of its most recent victim - a gnoll. The creature appeared to be some kind of bear with the head and beak of a massive owl. They had entered the cave of a dreaded owlbear! Their entry roused the creature. It stood up and bellowed a threatening "HOOOT!". It was digesting its food, was not hungry, was in no mood for a fight, and simply wished for them to leave.

The party drew weapons and attacked.  Cork, Ser Fresca, Melanie, and Camille charged forward, stabbing and chopping the owlbear. D'Oor and Kle'Nx stayed back and peppered the beast with arrows. Whent remained behind and prepared to support in any way he could. 

The owlbear attacked Cork. The mighty fighter fell before the slashing claws of the great beast! Luckily Melanie was nearby to administer a healing potion. Camille fell next before the owlbear was finally defeated by Melanie and Whent and missile fire. Camille was likewise quickly revived via healing potion.

Ser Fresca failed to land a blow against the beast, however, and was beginning to doubt his combat abilities.
Cork Winghorn
Searching the rubble revealed a few loose coins and a bone tube containing a scroll. Written on the scroll was the spell known as protection from undead

As the party prepared to leave the chamber, they found their way blocked by a mass of grey ooze slithering its way down the passage. They allowed the grey ooze to enter the chamber but kept their distance, circling around the chamber wall until they reached the passage, at which point they escaped safely.

The party explored the side passages, finding them nothing but dead ends, before finding a large chamber with a shallow pool. A few blind fish swam in the clear water. Something shiny gleamed in the middle of the wide pool. Ser Fresca stepped forward and prodded the water with his mace. Suddenly, two amorphous masses moved through the water towards the party. 

The masses emerged from the water, revealing two more grey oozes like the one encountered previous. One attacked Ser Fresca, its acidic ooze destroying his armor and burning his skin! His counter-attacks kept missing and Ser Fresca was beginning to wonder aloud if his sword was, in fact, a figment of his imagination!

The other ooze attacked the rest of the party but missed. The party fought back, destroying both oozes. Ser Fresca, at the insistence of his companions, jumped into the water and washed off the acid.
Ser Fresca
He emerged from the pool naked but carrying a jewel-encrusted goblet. Camille appraised the goblet at over 1000 gold pieces. "Huzzah!" someone said, "We're thousand-aires!"

The party decided to return to the keep and rest and sell their newly aquired treasure. 

DM Note- At this point, I gave them a night's rest, 1300 gold from the goblet, and let them advanced to level 2. Yeah, they only had 150-something experience points, but there was no way they'd last without some healing magic! 

Level Up!



  • Kle'Nx Copperbottom - (7 HP!)
  • Melanie Muir - (11 HP)
  • Cork Winghorn - (8 HP)
  • Whent  - (8 HP)
  • Ser Fresca - (13 HP)
  • Camille Rockbutt - (10 HP)
  • D'Or Chandelier (9 HP, Learned Sleep spell)

  • Cave F - Hobgoblin Lair
    The party sold the goblet and purchased new equipment. Camille bought a polearm and Ser Fresca got some new armor. Melanie bade her companions good fortune, explaining that she was going to stay behind at the keep. Once they were fully re-equipped, the rest of the party, minus Melanie Muir, ventured once more to the Caves of Chaos.

    Having explored all the caves closest to the ground, they decided to climb up the side of the cliff a bit and try one of the higher caves. Kle'Nx chose a cave and approached. The entrance to this cave was protected by a stout door. Skulls lined the entrance and hung from the door. A sign affixed to the door read, "Come in - we'd like to have you for dinner!"

    "Move aside!" said Cork as the mighty warrior stepped forward and kicked down the door with her heavy boots.

    The party came immediately to a four-way intersection and took the left passage. A moment later a group of six hobgolins came running up from behind them.

    Hobgoblin Guards
    Kle'Nx, standing near the rear, turned and held out her hands, "Wait! Wait! Wait right there!"

    The hobgoblins stopped in their tracks. They paused and looked at each other, confused.

    Kle'Nx continued, "We're here for the feast."

    The rest of the party made ready but made no sudden moves.

    The hobgoblin guards, still confused, replied in goblin with some kind of question.

    Kle'Nx, undeterred, mimed the act of eating with her hands, "You know, feast? Eating? Nom nom nom?" She then shrugged and said, "Where?"

    The hobgoblins nodded in comprehension and begin giving instructions in goblin, indicating that the party was to follow them.

    DM Note- Hooray for Reaction Tables and High Charisma! Erica rolled 'Confused but wary, roll again next turn', twice in a row then finally scored a 'gain their trust, roll again next turn with +4' and then gained their friendship.

    The hobgoblins led the party back to to their post down the right passage from the four-way intersection. There they detailed a single hobgoblin to lead the party to.. the.. feast, I guess?

    D'Oor Chandelier notched an arrow but Kle'Nx cautioned her to stay her hand, "Not yet. Let him take us to the feast!"

    The hobgoblin led them up a flight of stairs and down a corridor to a banquet hall. There were tables set with pewter place settings and a boar was being roasted over a spit. Several children scurried about as four male hobgoblins and five female hobgoblins were setting the tables, preparing for an impending feast. The other hobgoblins stopped what they were doing when the party entered. A few of the males stepped forward to ask the hobgoblin guide what was going on. They began conversing in their language. The males stepped closer, challenging the party.

    DM Note - New set of hobgoblins, new reaction table roll.

    Kle'Nx once again spoke for the party, "Yes. We're here for the feast. But we, umm, we need to freshen up first. Where do you go potty? You know, paw-tay?" She began dancing like she had to urinate very badly. The halfling waved her arms at the others and the rest of the party did the same.

    The hobgoblins nodded in understanding and the guide was about to lead them to a latrine when someone shouted, "Now!" and D'Or cast a sleep spell!
    D'oour Chan'd'Lahr
    The five female hobgoblins and one of the males fell to the floor unconscious. All of the children and one of the males immediately fled down the corridor back to the guard post while the other males drew their weapons and attacked! The party made short work of the humanoids however and the room was quickly pacified.

    After the battle, Whent, the grumpy old curmudgeon, saw to Ser Fresca's wounds with a prayer of healing, "Gumble mumble.. Cummear!" After Ser Fresca thanked Whent, who replied, "FEH!"
    Whent, "FEH!"
    Ser Fresca quickly bound the sleeping females and Camille crushed the skull of the sleeping male. The party then fled down the corridor, taking a different corridor than the one leading to the guard room. D'Or shouted, "This way! It has to go somewhere! Who would dig a dead end tunnel?"

    The tunnel was a dead end and six hobgoblin guards ran up behind them, trapping them in the corridor. D'Or shouted, "Dammit!" D'Or and Camille quickly checked for secret doors but found none. D'Or cried out in frustration, "Who would build this? WHO??"

    The guards split into two groups, the three crossbowmen stayed back at the intersection and fired while three swordsmen advanced and entered into melee with Ser Fresca and Cork while Camille wielded her pole-axe from the second rank and Kle'Nx and D'Or fired their bows from the back. A vicious battle ensued but the guards were ultimately defeated with no casualties for the party.

    The party quickly retraced their steps to the four-way intersection, then advanced cautiously towards the now empty guard post. They continued on past the guard post to a door at the end of a corridor.
    Camille Rockbutt
    The door was unlocked. Cork and Ser Fresca cautiously led the way into the darkened room, holding their lantern aloft. They entered into an armory. Racks of weapons and armor lined the walls. Suddenly, the door was slammed shut and two hobgoblins who were hiding behind the door jumped out in surprise!

    The two hobgoblins attacked D'Or. The party quickly recovered and fought back, quickly slaying one hobgoblin before killing the other as he tried to run away.

    The party took stock of the room, quickly cataloging the weapons and armor, taking what they wanted. D'Or and Kle'Nx shared the fourteen silver-tipped arrows they found in a special box.

    By this time, the party was exhausted from battle and uncertain what to do next. They decided to call it a day and head back to the Keep.

    DM Note - It was after 11pm and people were fading, so we called it a night.

    The End (for now...)

    What a great time! Lots of jokes, exciting combats, fast-thinking role-play - and from the newbie no less! I can't wait to see what the party does next year. This time, I'm keeping the characters so we can use the same group and watch them level up and progress. Hopefully I can get D'Or's stats to keep her preserved.

    Other Comments
    I haven't run Basic D&D since the early eighties, so it was an interesting adjustment from the more modern Fifth Edition.

    For one, character creation was SUPER quick and easy. Loved that. Everyone had characters in like ten minutes, and everyone's characters fit on a post-it note or a small piece of scrap paper.

    I regret using descending Armor Class. I was waffling back and forth all weekend about whether I wanted to make things easier for me and use ascending Armor Class or if I wanted to keep things authentic and used descending. In the end I decided to go with authenticity. What a mistake. Even though I know several shortcuts for determining the to-hit number in my head (subtract AC from 19, monsters get HD + 2 as to-hit bonus), I still kept having to check against the tables like an idiot. I could have just made everything simpler by converting to ascending in the first place.

    Plate Mail was really inexpensive in Basic D&D. Only 60 gold pieces? Huh. I was surprised elves could wear all armor.

    As for combat, other than the annoyance of descending AC mentioned above, every fight was fast and free-form. There were no penalties or complications for firing missiles into melee. I really liked that missile fire went first in the turn order, followed by magic use, then melee. Attacks of Opportunity were in the rules all the way back in the beginning.

    Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves, and the minimalist nature of the basic rules helped.

    Until next year!