Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Hugging Goblins for Fun and Profit -or- How I Spent My Spring Break

This looks like a good place for a dungeon crawl, right?
Whilst escaping The Winter That Would Not Die in sunny Santa Clara, I had the opportunity to run a game (ok, half a game) of Labyrinth Lord for my wife, our friends Brian and Elizabeth, and their eight-year-old son, Nicholas.  One of the more brilliant ideas that I came up with was to base the NPCs and even the castle-to-be-stormed on Brian and Elizabeth's family and house.  Thus, the characters were asked to rescue Lord Brimor and Lady Elsbeth, and their children Sir Arturus, Sir Nikola, and Princess Eve.  Any resemblance to actual persons was not coincidental... and also unremarked-upon.  So, I'm not sure if no one got the connection or they just didn't find it amusing.  It's hard being an unappreciated genius sometimes.

Anyway, on with our story:

All I want is a hug, I promise!
Traveling through the forest one sunny spring day, the cleric Demosthenes (Brian), the elf Nerdanel (Cori), dwarf Eiko (Elizabeth), and thief Hrothgar (Nicholas) are surprised by a strangely-acting bear.

 The beast rushes out of the undergrowth and stands on its hind legs, blocking the path.  And yet it does not attack.  A moment's glance reveals that the bear has been wounded: a black and twisted goblin arrow protrudes from its side and several gashes drip blood.  The party and the bear stare at each other for a minute, then the bear waves a front paw as if to say "follow me!"  As the bear turns to run away, the cleric steps forward and casts a healing spell on it to show the PCs' good intentions.  The bear is visibly relieved and proceeds into the woods.

After a short walk, the path descends into a shallow river valley.  At the bottom of the ravine is a young woman in rich garb, also wounded and lying face-down and motionless on the riverbank.  The cleric uses his second healing spell and manages to bring her back around.  Once conscious, she explains that she is a noble from Ravensport and was visiting friends in a nearby castle when it was attacked by a dragon-riding sorceress and her cadre of goblins.  She and her husband tried to escape and find help, but she was severely wounded and he was turned into a bear.  She begs the PCs for help.  All of the party is in for the adventure except for Hrothgar, who proceeds to negotiate a handsome reward of 7,000gp plus any treasure found in the castle during the rescue.  Begrudgingly, the noblewoman agrees.

The noblewoman (Korin) has no skills to offer, so she remains hidden in the forest.  As a bear, however, her husband is more than a match for some goblins and thus agrees to accompany the party.  They sneak through the woods until they reach the clearing wherein Brimor and Elsabeth's castle rests.  There is a narrow bridge leading over the moat; a dozen goblins guard the front doors.

Rather than risk a full-on assault, Nerdanel and Eiko hatch a plan to start a smoky fire in the woods, perhaps drawing some of the goblins into the trees where they can be silently taken out.  Kindling is gathered and a flame sparked.  The party waits in breathless silence for the sound of goblin footsteps.
Instead, they hear the beating of massive wings.

You say WHY-VERN, and I say WI-VERN...
A 20' long winged shape swoops overhead, circling above the blaze.  Gasps of "It's a dragon!" and "Oh crap" echo from the characters' hiding places.  Demosthenes goads them into action, though:  "We're all at full strength. If we must face a dragon, this is the best chance we'll get."  Seeing his logic, the others jump from their hiding places and shout at the beast.  It roars and crashes through the forest canopy to devour them.

The melee is brief.  Though the party takes a few hits, injuries are minor.  Eiko, meanwhile, proves herself to be extremely deadly at close range.  Most of the PCs get a shot or two in at the wyvern (which is really what the "dragon" turns out to be), but Eiko lays into the beast with repeated critical hits from her (dwarf-sized) bastard sword.  In short order, the great, poison-tailed lizard is dead.  Eiko decides to take on the surname/title of Wyvernwacker.

Eiko (Elizabeth) also rubs it in and trash-talks Hrothgar (Nicholas, Elizabeth's 8 year-old son).  A few minutes of giggling and player-on-player wrestling occurs at the game table.  That doesn't happen much in my grown-up games... too bad, really.

The wyvern wasted, it's on to the castle itself!  The bad guys have blocked the bridge--the only way
My wife's solution to most problems in D&D.
across the moat--with a makeshift barricade of pilfered furniture, etc., so again playing it smart, Nerdanel tosses her fireball spell at the dozen goblins guarding the front door while the rest of the party works to clear the barrier.  Eleven of the twelve goblins wind up as charcoal stains on the front porch.  The last one, still on fire, squeaks and runs inside.

Crossing the bridge, the PCs also find that there are several statues on the front porch--all of men-at-arms in varying poses of fear and fight.  It doesn't take them long to figure out that these are actually the castle guards who've been turned to stone.  But by whom?  Or what?  Gulp.

At Hrothgar's suggestion, the castle doors are kicked in and the characters storm inside.  (Gotta love the YOLO style of young gamers.)  More goblins wait in the main hall, along with their pet troll.  More fighty-fighty.  Eiko again takes out the big bad with her Bastard Sword of Kill Everything.  She now names herself Eiko Trollcleaver-Wyvernwacker.  She's quite the modern dwarf woman, with that whole hyphenated-name thing and all.

There are many doors in the entry hall and the first one leads to a library room (location akin to Brian and Elizabeth's actual library... get it?  Anybody?  Sigh).  Anyway, there are no baddies here, but the north wall is completely filled with overstuffed bookshelves (many of which have been tossed on the floor as if someone were searching for something) and the south wall is full of... glass aquariums full of snakes?!  On a table in the middle of the room are dozens of obsidian rings with magical carvings on their surfaces.  Fitting the pieces together yet?  Yep, I borrowed +Zak Smith 's "Snakes Are Books" idea (link is SFW but site is sometimes NSFW).  Eventually, the characters figure it out too, with the help of Demosthenes' "Speak with Animals" spell and a talkative boa constrictor.  From their time in the library, Hrothgar learns how to garden from a garter snake and how to swim better from a blacksnake, Demosthenes becomes an expert in poisons from an asp, and Eiko learns the fine art of asphyxiation from said boa.  (Essentially, little snakes who can't hurt you give you knowledge; big snakes or particularly poisonous ones may give you knowledge but may also give you one of their abilities).

After letting it teach Eiko how to hug things to death, Demosthenes also charms the snake, adding yet another animal (remember that bear?  Yep, he's still here.) to the party.  Menagerie, ho!

Ok, but you're not gonna like it...
Next stop:  the Throne Room.  Hrothgar sneaks up to the doors and peeks inside.  Several more goblins and their three giant rats (mounts/guard animals?) are hanging out here.  Sneaky party that they are, the PCs send the snake inside to flush them all out.  The plan works.  Goblins and rats come racing out of the darkened chamber and are immediately set upon by our heroes.  A goblin and a rat are both hugged
into oblivion; the rest are slain in a more traditional way.  Searching the throne room, the PCs find a small chest beneath one of the thrones.  Hrothgar is sickened when the chest's poisoned-need trap accidentally goes off (bad disarm roll) but manages to pull through with only a temporary CON loss.  Since the lock proves unpickable, they hand the chest off to Eiko who uses her newly-found hugging powers to crush it open.  Inside is a small silver message tube containing a piece of parchment that reads...

Well, crap.  That scrap of paper seems to have either stayed in California or gotten lost on the flight home.  In any case, it's a word problem / riddle that nobody seemed to be able to translate.  At that point, we all set aside our dice and headed to Pizza My Heart for dinner.  And that's where we left off.

The pizza was awesome, by the way.

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