Sunday, March 16, 2014

Underdark Campaign Kick-Off (Campaign Log #1)

Over the last few weeks, I've been trying to assemble a group of players from scratch, since everyone in my old group seems to have moved on to other hobbies and/or life responsibilities. This past Thursday, those efforts finally paid off, and a new campaign launched with its first session.

Cast:
  • Thomus, Human Rogue (John)
  • Kjell, Dhampir Inquisitor (Andrew)
The characters responded to the call of Thurbal, captain of the guard in Shadowdale, for a dinner at the Tower of Ashaba. Thurbal mentioned stampeding livestock and strange happenings below the Twisted Tower that were keeping his own men busy, and asked the group to help the tiny village of Thistle a few miles upstream. A plague had befallen the tiny village, and a goblin who claimed to have started the plague was demanding tribute. The adventurers were tasked with putting an end to the goblin's demands.

GM's Note: If you didn't notice, I'm starting the group out with a heavily modified version of Within the Circle, by Sam Brown. If it sounds intriguing to you, the adventure can be found in Dungeon #130.

The group set out immediately, surveying the land where the tribute payments had been delivered before meeting the town's wealthiest resident, Jern. This man, acting as the town's unofficial leader, went on to reveal that he needed help trying to make sure his shady past didn't catch up with him (and the townsfolk he has grown to care about). Once the business with the goblins was complete, he wanted the party to go further into the woods to investigate a warehouse he was hired to burn down a few months prior. He succeeded only in burning the entryway, and didn't complete the job, so he now fears that his previous employers will track him down and make him pay for the botched assignment. He believes that if the party can figure out who he was targeting, he might be able to discern who hired him to attack them.

The players, with almost a full day until the meeting to deliver the tribute to the goblin, decided to start by setting up the battlefield in their favor. They knew where the goblins would meet the townsfolk, and convinced Jern to allow some of the townsfolk to head to the location of the meeting ahead of time and cut down some trees for them. Cutting the trees opened some lanes of fire for Kjell's crossbow and also gave the characters some cover to hide in while the goblins approached.

GM's Note: We used spare pencils to represent fallen trees on the map, which worked out well even if they were probably a little too long. After the session ended, I got the impression that the players were surprised I "allowed" them to pursue that course of action. Do DMs really stifle that kind of creativity? I like it when my players think outside of the box.

The goblin leader, Belig, noticed the felled trees and sent in his bodyguards ahead to check out the area. This prevented the party from surprising him from hiding and slaying him early in the fight, but they still managed to get a crucial surprise assault on the goblin bodyguards. The fight ended with a savage critical strike from Thomus, knocking the goblin leader unconscious and sending the remaining bodyguard running for his life. Unfortunately for him, Thomus was able to run him down, knock him out, and tie him up.

GM's Note: I really need to read through the Pathfinder rules more carefully. There were quite a few little things that came up that had to be looked up on the spot. In particular, I recall asking if a player had ranks in the Use Rope skill, which doesn't exist in Pathfinder.

Two unconscious goblins were taken prisoner, and each was interrogated. By the end of the session, the party discovered:
  • The warehouse Jern asked them to investigate is apparently where the goblin lair is.
  • There are somewhere between two and several hundred goblins in said lair.
  • Belig is a boss, but not the big boss of the goblins.
  • Belig was indeed responsible for the plague, but not by magic as the townsfolk suspected. He poured goblin excrement into the river upstream of the village, which temporarily contaminated their water supply.
  • The goblins have only claimed the above-ground parts of the warehouse. There is also a basement level that they have not fully explored.
In the next session, the party intends to investigate the warehouse, hopefully with the help of reinforcements in the form of new player characters.

Speaking of new player characters, we still need a few new people, so if you're in the Hickory area and want to play, click here for more info.
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