Friday, December 31, 2010

Keep on the Borderlands Session 1

I'm sorry I didn't post this sooner.  This session actually occurred on Monday but due to several distractions I forgot to post a session recap.  Sadly, we didn't play on Wednesday as originally planned, but we should have more fun in the keep this evening.

For this session I stole two rules from the Rules Cyclopedia.  One was the alternate death mechanics presented in the back, and the other was the way that neutral Clerics can eventually become Druids.  Obviously the second change wouldn't affect any party going to the Caves of Chaos much, but my wife decided to play a neutral Cleric anyway.  The PC Paladin that had delved into Nightwick Abbey returned and was grandfathered in.  Future Paladin's will have to be Lawful Fighters of name level and above.

The party arrived at the famous Keep and exchanged information (read: rumor table results).  However, two members were rather tight lipped about what they knew.  They had both been told that they should be wary of betrayal, and were not quite comfortable with their compatriots yet.  The Keep was largely welcoming, despite the fact that the party was overwhelmingly Neutral.  The Magic-User assured the guards that they were there to kill "icky monsters" within the caves.  This seemed satisfactory to all who heard it.

After getting a few supplies, and suffering through the constant repetition of the only British accent I was able to conjure up that night, the party set off to the Caves.  One of their hirelings had just returned from a failed foray that had been repelled by an Ogre working with a tribe of Goblins.  Still, he was willing to lead the party there and join them in their endeavors if they payed him enough.  I wanted to get them to whatever location they wished to explore fairly quickly and this NPC seemed to do the trick.

Once there, they entered the Kobold cave.  Before they had entered a full 10', they already heard footsteps heading down the corridor to their right.  Shortly after, the front rank of the party fell into a large pit.  A large number of Kobolds soon appeared in what could best be described as a phalanx formation.  The party engaged in some heavy fighting, losing their Magic-User in the process.  One of there number was captured, but they were able to ransom him back before returning to the keep with their tails between their legs.

Back at the keep the party met two thieves (one was a replacement for the Magic-User, and the other player had arrived late).  After a bit of negotiating in the tavern they set out once again.  This time they were considerably luckier.  They attempted to enter the Ogre cave, which only woke up the rather ornery beast.  They were greeted by something that more or less looked like this:

They attempted to negotiate with the lummox, but eventually talks broke down.  The party won initiative and killed the creature before it had time to swat at any body.  They search the lair and found a considerable amount of treasure within.  Bolstered by their success, they decided to take on another rank smelling cave a bit further west down the ravine.  This was the Shunned Cavern, and the Fighter was absolutely delighted by the sheer number of bones within.  He went about cracking them open to find treasure, as is his custom.  He did in fact find a few electrum pieces.  He also attracted an Owlbear.  Though the beast managed to get a few good shots in on the Paladin, it too was slain before being able to inflict any real damage on the party.

Crushing even more bones attracted an army of rats which quickly swarmed over party and ended one of the thieves.  Now significantly lower on supplies, the party beat feet back towards the keep.  The thief was quickly replaced by a Frogling who was apparently a traveling gourmand.  The Paladin was a bit irritated to find that the local Curate was quite uninterested in lending him any aid but was able to secure a bed for himself within the church.

Their final foray took them to the Goblin caves.  They were attacked by two organized forces of Goblins, but somehow managed to repel both with some effort.  The Paladin took to killing his surrendering opponents.  Since Goblins are born and bred for devil worship, I'm not sure whether or not this count's as an alignment infraction.  If he were Lawful Good I would say it does but since I only use the Lawful v. Chaotic scale I wasn't sure about what I should do.  Next they found a large chamber with a bottle necked entrance that they were certain contained Goblins.  Some negotiation took place, and the Paladin made a lone suicidal rush for the creatures, but was quite unwilling to engage once he discovered most were females and children.

This, combined with the perceived slight by the Curate, led the Paladin to renounce his ways and become a fighter.  Normally I probably would have handled this differently, but since i was eager to switch as much as possible over to the RC I let it go.

The last leg of this foray took them to the Hobgoblin's common room.  Tough fighting here led to the third character death of the Night (the other thief) and the party's general unwillingness to deal with non-combatants has soured them a bit.  The players themselves had quite a bit of fun, it is their characters who are a bit worried about returning for future forays.

All in all a good session.  I am a bit disappointed with the Caves of Chaos, but I do like the keep itself and the accompanying map.  The expeditions to the Caves did wind up being guerrilla attacks on humanoid encampments, but they were at least entertaining.  I would have liked to have a bit more exploration.  The "women and children" issue continues to bother me and my players, but hopefully we shall come up with some way to mitigate it before tonight's session.

I'm beginning to think that I've made the Church a bit draconian.  I'm perfectly fine with Neutral characters (and usually play one myself) but out of the three parties that have been created for the Dark Country only a handful of characters have been of Lawful Alignment.  I'm not sure if this is merely player preference or if I have unwittingly made the Church a bit too dickish.  I don't want them to be the "right answer," but they aren't supposed to be the bad guys of the setting either.


  1. How interesting! I haven't been a huge player of D&D over the years, but even so I don't think I've ever encountered a paladin who deliberately renounced their paladinhood.

    That means you've managed to get an interesting gameplay experience out of the women-and-children issue; I would say that's a more useful outcome than finding an answer, since people have been arguing about said issue since Borderlands first came out.

  2. I don't know that I'd soften up the Church just yet. It doesn't sound like the kind of setting where being Lawful is supposed to be easy, at least not for the sort of folks who have the impulse to disregard traditional authority that leads them to become armed freebooters.

  3. Evan,

    The last paragraph of your post is a great example of Old School creativity at work. You haven't painted yourself into a corner, but rather opened up a lot of possibilities:

    * If the characters' objective is to 'declaw' the threat of humanoids, then the females and young probably should be ignored.
    * If the Church's objective is to 'wipe out' the humanoid threat, then they have given characters a 'pass' to slaughter them.

    In either case, the players are still presented a challenge of 'what to do' that could open up possibilities:

    * Is the Church 'tightening its grip' on these areas and becoming more resolute? Do villagers whisper concern about the 'one true way' growing too powerful?
    * Will the characters' actions cause a bit of 'reflection' within the Church ranks, as they have lost a Paladin?
    * Does the issue of non-combatants strike the characters and Church leaders as being important enough to cause a division or schism in the Church? Are there extreme elements within the Church leadership that are afraid of this and perhaps don't wish the characters' adventures to be public knowledge?

    I think what you have is a great example of a DM 'stumbling' onto great adventure and interaction material.

    Sorry for the long comment. Have a great New Year!

  4. I ran B2 in college with a group of completely new players, and they quickly found themselves grappling with the "women and children" issue. The party was majority Neutral, 1 Chaotic thief (who really didn't care one way or the other), and 1 Lawful 'ranger', who decided that the best approach was compassion (basically what Evan describes as 'declawing').

    The humanoid women and children were made to swear oaths to do no harm and released. To keep things realistic, most obviously reneged on their promise, but to reward the players for actually handling the situation true-to-character, a couple of the humanoids grew up true to their word, and (in 1 instance) actually helping the PCs out in a later adventure.

    Kudos for presenting this aspect of B2. Happy New Year!

  5. Even if the church is 'dickish';
    it is the best the midieval world has to offer -
    community, art, literature, healing, law and orderly succession of monarchy.

    for the record I am not a catholic; however

    “Sometimes what is second best is actually best, because what is best is impossible.”
    Cardinal Neumann