Monday, March 21, 2011

Dungeons of the Cairn Hills: Session 2

Well, dear readers, in the pouring, bucketing, world flattening rain which is drowning Wollongong this week, we just met up for session two at the uni- nine crazy gamers actually braved the extraordinary weather this evening to play AD&D. Doesn't seem real... I am very pleased.

Two new players tonight- George, who is a veteran 1st edition DM and mad fan, and Jimmy, who I think is one of George's former players. What with Ben not appearing this week, our nominal eight player cap was still reached. Now this is officially the biggest group I have run, though George said he has run FIFTEEN!?! Eight is definately my limit. Who would have thought Wollongong had all of these lurking 1st edition afficianados? I believe this is the ONLY D&D group in the Guild now. Any doubts about whether we are in the thick of an OSR are squashed flat, as far as I can tell.

The party: Yulnari, male L1 Paladin (played by George. Yulnari is now the party Paladin, though there may occasionally be two when Ben returns to the game.)
                Myrna, female human L1 Cleric of Myhriss, devoutly seeking wealth for construction of a chapel in the Free City ( played by Michael)
                Arrmand, male L1 Ranger, local man and trail wanderer of the Cairn Hills (played by Adam)
                Bronzetoad, male Olman L1 Fighter, a fat, bizarrely clad tribesman from the far south (played by Pete, who, preferring a fighter after all, was allowed to fernangle his initial rolls. Turns out Bronzetoad, who had never been seen to cast any spell anyway, was fit as well as fat, & had some armour in his luggage. He would need to buy some weapons, though...)          
                Tzunir, male Baklunish L1 Illusionist, a fellow impressively moustached, a traveller from Ekbir (played by Lachlan)
                Ledivis, male human L1 Fighter, a warrior of an honourable fighting order, from unknown distant lands (played by Mick)
                Faralin, male Elven L1 Thief, urchin of the Free City, newly stuff-less (played by Lewis)
                Cashmir, male human Magic User L1, played by Jimmy.

We left off with Faralin, the unfortunate elven thief, coming around- bruised, his hands tied behind his back and stripped to his breeches, on the muddy bank of a stream near Elmshire. He stumbled into the caravaneers' campsite around dawn, as the teamsters were kitting up to leave, and made up some cock and bull tale of being mugged by "a really big gang of halfling youngsters". Myrna, the fiesty cleric of Myhriss, the thrice-kissed goddess, was outraged at this rough handling of one of her boon companions, and, despite the protestations of the weasely Faralin, dragged him off first to the Civic Hall, then to the guardhouse, to make a complaint. To the enquiries of the guards Faralin spun a web of lies that changed by the moment "It was dark, I...I couldn't see their faces..." and so on.. The bemused guard suggested that, if Faralin would wait at the guardhouse, perhaps some local rascals and troublemakers could be mustered for a line up. Just then Faralin thought to say- "Oh no- we can't possibly stay for that! Our caravan's about to leave..." The guard shrugged and waved them off. Myrna seemed pleased to have at least performed her civic duty.

Upon their return, they found another human, a bearded, scrawny fellow in musty robes, conversing with the caravan master. He declared that he was a down-on-his-luck prestidigitator, known as Cashmir, looking to join an adventuring band. The party sized him up, then, at the behest of Yulnari (who, apparently, was the party Paladin all along...  ;) and Myrna, welcomed him aboard. The caravan set off southwards, towards Diamond Lake.

A couple of dull, overcast days passed on the trail, with one night encamped and expecting the worst from prowling denizens. Apparently the caravan looked well guarded, as nothing untoward befell the group. In the late afternoon of the second day out of Elmshire, they rattled, sore-footed, into Diamond Lake, finding the place as grubby and sordid as Arrmand, a Cairn Hills local, had warned them it would be.

As an aside, and regarding my earlier post about Diamond Lake, I finished my remod of the town, but will not be posting it here. It seems in poor taste to critique it, mangle it to suit my game, then post the result. Really, I have no issue with Erik Mona's work- I obviously like it enough to use it in altered form. That post was intended as more of a critique of the Adventure Path as a general gaming trend than as a criticism of Age of Worms.  Basically, Diamond Lake's still not a nice place, but I toned it down a bit. Anyways- enough self-justifications...

They found dusty streets, mine tailings, a polluted lake, too many inns & taverns, a largely male population of iron-miners and a nest of earnest, wrangling mine-bosses. Having camped one last night with their caravaneer chums, the group explored the town a bit on the next morning, after the morose bands of unwashed tunnel-grubbers had trudged off to the mineface. Faralin, who had become a charity-case in the group (a party fund was set up to replace his gear, part of which he had already spent to buy a pair of overlarge spare boots from a caravan guard. He stuffed them with grass to wear them) bought a shortsword, leather armour and a sling, but could not afford theive's tools. Bronzetoad purchased a two-handed sword (lucky they even had one) & a morning-star at an inflated price. In the meantime, the party got the lay of the land. The ranger, Arrmand, scouted the northern routes out of town, and felt sure this was the way that Granbarzhi had come from, according to the crude map. The others asked around, hearing rumours that:

* Few ever went into the hills to the north, as there was little good to be had in being run down by packs of ravenous wolves...
* Small bands of apparently intelligent but sinister dark-robed humanoids were seen from time to time on distant hillsides to the north, but nothing was known about who they were...

Eager to get underground, the doughty band set off into the thicket-bristled Cairn Hills about noon. Several times, if not for the specialist knowledge of the ranger, Arrmand, the group would have fallen foul of dead-end gulches, blackberry tangles and time wasting wrong-turns amongst the weirdly steep, round-topped hills. After several hours, the ranger found some old tracks of sandalled feet on the muddy bank of a creek, and, although they faded again, he followed them far enough to crest a rise from whence, half a mile to the north, a crumbling tower-ruin could be seen.

The group approached the edifice warily, looking for smoke-signs or any movement. Having arrived at the southern foot of the hill, it was decided to send Arrmand ahead to scout-out the approaches. Taking his time to search for any trails up to the old tower, or the tracks of any beasts or men, the ranger found signs of small mammals by a thicket- a kind of low game trail under the tangles. Upon investigation, he found a hidden cave entrance beyond the bushes.

Having reported his find to the party, it was decided he should scout the ruined tower too. He made his way up the hill, verifying that the cave-mouth was quite big as he climbed above it. Upon approaching the old tower, he found that the rather rough-and-ready quality of the masonry was to blame for the poor state of the structure. It was, in some places, little more than a pile of rubble. It was perhaps several centuries old, and now vine-grown and bare to the weather. Inside the ruin, he found that the lawn had intruded to cover the floor, except on the northern side, where something of a trail led to some once-covered stairs, leading down into the darkness of the catacombs.

After discussion, the party determined to enter via the cave entrance, on the grounds that it was less likely to be intelligently defended (good logic). Bronzetoad, Arrmand and Yulnari hacked a path through the brambles, though Ledivis refused to sully his 'sacred' blade with non-combat usages. Upon gaining access to the cavemouth, the group stood for a good five minutes whispering at the entrance, trying to formulate a plan. Eventually it was decided to send the theif Faralin in alone, to scout with his infravision.

The natural limestone tunnel led to a rough floored chamber scattered with detritus. From there, the elf spotted several huge rats, skulking somewhat timidly up a passage to the northeast. Upon his report, Yulnari and Arrmand entered, and, having had Myrna dazzle the beasts with her bullseye lantern, fired some arrows, killing the creatures. Much scurrying and sqeaking was heard, but no more rats came out.

Advancing, the group passed on to where the rat corpses lay, puzzled by the junction they found there. Which way to go? Tzunir, poking at some bony detritus with his 10' pole (yay!), disturbed some silver coins in an old goblin skull. As the magic-user and illusionist picked through the coins, and the bulk of the group discussed options at the junction, several wildly bounding furry shapes approached from one junction! Several giant weasels hard charged the group, perhaps trying to run around or atop the intruders to make an escape. Quickly, Bronzetoad and Ledivis moved to protect the vulnerable Myrna.

A melee ensued. Soon a large pack of rats, scurrying from the north junction, wildly joined the fray. The fighting prowess of the group soon told upon the unlucky beasts, however. All three of the weasels were dispatched, and half of the desperate rats were killed in short order (most of these were taken out by the amazing dart-throwing skills of Tzunir the Illusionist! Talk about the high dex requirement paying off!). Only Arrmand was injured- bitten by filthy rat fangs. The rest of the rats fled into their crawlspace nest-chamber, then away into rat tunnels too small for the adventurers to enter. Having discovered (and put to an end) the Weasel-Rat War, the party explored, finding mainly rat corpses, but also a large cache (thousands) of copper coins in broken urns to the north. Deciding to collect these on their way out, the group assessed their options.

Having followed a pair of cavern-tunnels northwest to an area of finished stone, they instead determined to descend a set of natural stone steps that they had found down the southeast junction. A dry, earthy breeze wafted up from the depths. They filed down, torches guttering as they went. Having wound their way down for some distance, they arrived at another natural chamber, this one with a sandy floor. Here they found more dead rats, and were disturbed by the dreadful carnage inflicted on the corpses by whatever had slain them. Wearily, they kicked the corpses to one side, and squatted down to rest for a while.

No sooner had they done so than another, more determined group of huge rats scurried in, sniffing and squeaking. With neither group surprised by this chance encounter, a new melee began, Early in the fight, Bronzetoad poured the contents of an oil flask across the chamber entrance, then lit it with a torch, Several rats having been killed in melee, and now another aflame, the unfortunate rodents fled en-masse. This time, the party rested undisturbed.

When the flames had died down, the group continued, two-abreast, to the northwest, coming to another junction. This time they went north, and entered another sandy floored chamber. Suddenly leaping upon Ledivis from one side, a horrid, pallid faced, bloody-fanged man-thing launched a slashing, biting assault upon the unlucky fighter. As the thing's claws struck, he felt his sinews stiffen, but shook off the chilling effect. The party encircled the horror, but soon the claws struck again, paralysing poor Ledivis after all. Several swords swung wide, and then the spellcasters saved the day- first Cashmir set the horror's dessicated robes alight with a Burning Hands spell, then Myrna blinded it with a holy Light spell upon its eyes. Faralin and Arrmand quickly struck the undead monstrosity down.

As the group awaited the return of sensation to the flesh of Ledivis, they excavated several partly buried urns, gathering several thousand silver coins into their large sacks. They also found a huge key on a golden chain, some jewelled silver bracelets, and a fancy signet ring...

Upon Ledivis' recovery, the group made their way back upstairs, collected the thousands of copper coins they had found there, and hauling sacks and coin-filled amphorae, made their slow way back to Diamond Lake. And so we'll leave the hardy adventurers there for now, wandering into the desolate mining town right upon dusk, laden with cairn-treasures. What will the locals make of this?

Any idea yet, any of you reading folk, just which adventure from the OSR I've renamed Lonesome Hill Dungeon?When my group have finished there, I will, of course, disclose all, giving full credit to its clever author, along with my assessment of the dungeon, and that of my players. Cheerio for now...


  1. I don't recognise it so far, but once again a really entertaining read. The fact that your old school group seems to be the only D&D group in the Guild is very interesting.

  2. It looks as though it might end up splitting into two 1st edition groups, as there are several DMs and a bunch of interested players. Yeah, I'm both surprised and pleased by all of the interest.

  3. The rats reminds me of the L1 - The secret of Bone Hill. I'm not a native english speaker but I really apreciate reading your blog, thank you.

  4. Hey, thanks for the nice comments, PJ, glad you're enjoying it! I'll have to look in on Secret of Bone Hill again- its been a while since I read it...

  5. Great session report! I normally get glassy-eyed reading posts with a lot of text, but this was written in an entertaining fashion!

  6. Thanks DocStout! The plan is I will be doing a write up every week, for the long haul. I'm a fan of session write-ups myself, so I actually quite enjoy doing them...