Well, session one, despite the somewhat adjusted turnout, went down nicely. Having manned the Guild stall at UOW Clubs and Societies days over the last several weeks, I noticed a lot of interest in roleplaying on campus, most particularly an interest in oldschool games. Apparently Community has done us all some favours, and a stack of bright-eyed 1st-years were chuffed and leafing through the 1st Edition books on the table with some glee. Mick and I were pleased and surprised at so many women being interested and signing on with the Guild. Our club is certainly more popular than it has been in years, at any rate.
As it always goes though, people sign up for a bunch of things and then maybe only follow up on one or two once the semester gets rolling. Despite having filled my Monday night game once more to capacity, and hence having chosen to run a new game for those who had signed up but had yet failed to show, the tidal wave of eager new gamers has not appeared thus far for the new game. As it turns out, I'm kind of grateful, in hindsight.
The new group includes two players from my Monday night group, who either want more DmDave magic (!) or are just interested in trying Mentzer/Rules Cyclopedia and Castle Greyhawk; one enthusiastic first time roleplayer, Anastasia, and a surprise last minute player, Graham, who is Guild Secretary and more ordinarily a boardgamer. Four players. It has been a while since I ran for four. I actually think, for group dynamics and still managing to have every one get a chance to roleplay, four PCs is the perfect number somehow. Although once they see the inside of Castle Greyhawk they may actually be wanting to take on some henchmen... :)
Hugenin: A cleric of St.Cuthbert, stern, humourless, and plate-clad- played by Pete.
Kenta: A wily thief and confidence-trickster, in black leather (of course)- played by Graham.
Lynx: A green-robed, animal-training Magic-User from the Gnarley Forest- played by Anastasia.
Vlam son of Drurm: A dwarf, orphaned at birth, Free-City local- played by Mick.
The characters had crossed paths quite a bit recently, whether sharing drinks and listening to Miklos Dare's boasts at the Black Dragon, or running into one another at the noticeboard in the Low Market, looking for work. Judging one another to be similarly inclined, in that all were seeking adventure, and most notably fostering a curiosity about the riches no doubt to be found mouldering beneath the infamous ruins of Castle Greyhawk, the group determined to form together as a band, for mutual advantage. Fighter (dwarf), Cleric, Magic-User, Thief. The necessities.
Several postings involving work around the old Castle took their notice, but being particularly interested in the identity of one of the employers, they chose a job on that basis. The group went to the Silver Dragon Inn, the fanciest in the Foreign Quarter, to meet with Listrimmus Wainright, who turned out, just as they had hoped, to be connected to Lord Wainright and hence rather RICH. The Lord's wayward son, pursuing an academic career at the Grey Academy, wanted the group to retreive some rubbings of adventurer's graffiti from the Old Gatehouse, to support a somewhat romantic sounding thesis he was preparing on Adventurer's Epitaphs or somesuch. At any rate, he seemed prepared to pay more later for any other rubbings they could find, so the group agreed to his terms. They wanted to explore the ruins anyway, after all, and an opportunity might later arise (according to the thief, Kenta, though out of earshot of the cleric) to relieve the rather silly Listrimmus of some more of his money.
Having got all of their gear together, the group met an hour or two later at the Wharf Gate, where they were asked their business. Hugenin, responding that they went seeking adventure at Castle Greyhawk, was asked to "Fill in the register, sir, then all sign with their mark." Noting that this was a register of adventurer's bound for the Castle, Hugenin looked wide-eyed over the lists going back over the years- so many bands of adventurers, some of whom had returned, some several members down, some not at all. Taking note of the column "Name of Band", the stern Cleric of St Cuthbert thought a moment then wrote Four Against Darkness. The others rolled their eyes upon signing, to say the least...
Following a brief encounter with Rhennee urchins in Shack Town, the group marched double file into the rough, wierdly high-topped hills, and soon were scorching in the summer heat. The way got rougher as they went- in places what had once been a good cobbled road gave way to subsidence and disappeared altogether- in general the road was shattered, eroded, and mostly a hindrance beyond showing the way. The thickets of bramble and blackberry, and the twisted shapes of the starved trees, soon took on a menacing appearance.
After a couple of hours, with the Free City gone behind the steep, weird hills, a prospect opened before the group as they scrambled out of a ravine. To the north they could see the ruins of the old Castle, and all of the lands surrounding it, at least to the south. The hill upon which the Castle stood was surrounded by gulleys and rough ravines- a marsh could be seen to the west, and a struggling weed-choked creek ran to the south of the ediface. The road skirted the southern hills and headed around towards the great bridge on the Castle's eastern side- a longer approach, but one which at least avoided climbing in and out of those briar patches.
As they headed east, they made note of a small ruined building ahead, by a hilltop thicket of trees. As they paused to catch their breath and survey the scene, a tiny, bell-like voice rang-out: "Ah! Adventurers! Do you seek your destinies amongst the dark ways beneath the Mad Wizard's castle? A shame. Would you trade for profit whilst time is still a commodity you are in possession of?"
Turning, the group made note of a pair of tiny green-skinned folk mounted upon large dragonflys, armed splendidly with long sharp lances and clad in nut-breastplates and gauzy clothes. One was female, and seemed largely to defer to her companion, a male. Never having encountered Twk-Folk before, the group looked upon them in astonishment, then the dwarf asked politely what it was they had to trade. The little fellow said that what his people did not know about the castle surrounds was not worth knowing, and that such knowledge would, most likely, save the group's lives before very long. The female examined closely the cloth of the adventurer's garments, but seemed disappointed. Once it became clear that the group possessed neither salt nor Green-Gill spores, the Twk-Folk sadly departed, though they told the group to keep an eye out for odd mushrooms in the tunnels, in case they might, by extreme good fortune, return this way again...
Heading north, they climbed the last ridge and approached the huge, impossibly thin and long-spanned bridge that crossed the ravine to the Old Gatehouse of Castle Greyhawk. As they went, they made note of the ill-famed cave openings known as the Mouths of Madness in the east face of the tor upon which Zagyg's Castle stood. In the fading light, they could make out the eery shape of bleached bones on the gully floor below.
The Castle itself seemed extensive and complex to say the least. The walls, though ornately carved and apparently once strong, were shattered in a number of places. Several large towers, the greatest of which was on the Castle's southern side, were in evidence, as were a number of broken squareish keeps or blockhouses. Many of the roof-tops seemed to be either in poor repair or were entirely collapsed, and the entire edifice was weed grown, dank, and mossy.
Above the cave-mouths, and on the southern side of the Castle, a set of stone stairs descended from a ruined ediface onto an overgrown garden terrace. From there, another stair descended to the east into the grounds of what appeared to be a well-tended (and surprisingly full) cemetary, the wrought-iron gates of which gave onto a trail that led down the ridge above the Mouths of Madness. Kenta, surveying the scene, determined that he could easily climb up to the Castle at a number of points along that ridge, but that the only sure route for the others (other than the bridge), went right by some of the caves and straight to the cemetary. That locale looked eery and unwelcoming, to say the least...
Hence, it was determined, despite the protesations of the dwarf Vlam son of Drurm, to cross the easily defended bridge. This last was rendered still more worrisome by virtue of its current state. Like many places in the walls of the Castle, the bridge was broken- near the centre of its impossible span of several hundred yards. The gap had been repaired, in a make-shift fashion, by means of a fifty metre long rope-bridge. All the same, the party approached, figuring that their immediate goal was the Old Gatehouse anyway.
On their side of the broad ravine, the party came upon the entirely ruined Outer Gatehouse, shattered almost down to its foundations. This gave directly onto their side of the bridge, which was marked with a pair of damaged pedestals, one of which still bore a large relief carving of a staring eye. This seemed to unnerve the group, who were looking upon everything with more and more trepidation.
From the far side of the ravine, carried at certain moments by the breeze, raucous cries and jeers could be heard from the Old Gatehouse, and a puff of smoke and the flickering of firelight could be seen at one of the ornate arrowslits in the gathering twilight. Vlam managed to make out certain phrases, and unslung his axes in grim recognition: "Goblins! Of course, it is bloody Goblins!" he said.
At this point, as it was getting on, the group called it a night, but seem keen for next Thursday night... :)