I’ve been with my current RPG group for 10 years this year. In that time we’ve tried Ravenloft, Deadlands and will soon be starting a brief Mutants and Masterminds campaign. We keep returning to Dungeons and Dragons though, and we are working our way through the Keep on the Shadowfell module (which we’re using in the Forgotten Realms setting). it has a nice mix of town (really village) role-playing and a good old-fashioned dungeon-crawl. The nice thing about this game is that we are running it with 2 DMs, which makes running sessions a breeze. We also have a nice, natural division of labour. I enjoy running the tactical combat sequences, my co-DM (Tony O’Brien) is very good at description and story improvisation.
Our last session was on Friday night (June 20) and we picked up in the middle of a melee. So now to a brief outline of the campaign thus far is herein penned for your amusement:
Warning – spoilers ahead!
The adventuring party, Mila (human cleric of Chauntea, run by Jason Littlefield), Darganesh (human fighter, run by Michael Brockhouse), Rajesh (eladrin wizard, run by Mark Burgoyne), Finnan (halfling rogue, run by Jason Diprose) and Ankasha (Teifling sorcerer, run by Ben Head) have been called to the village of Winterhaven by Winterhaven’s resident cleric (Lenora, a human priest of Chauntea) to deal with an unusually well-organised group of kobold raiders. She believes that there is something more sinister behind it. The party discover that a cult of Shar is operating in the area.
It is rumoured that near Winterhaven lies the remains of the shadow wyrm Shadraxil, slain by Sir Jerold Keegan, a knight of Cormyr. The adventurers discover that, in reality Shadraxil’s power was so great that he was instead banished to the Plane of Shadow and sealed there behind a magical portal. The cultists seek to release Shadraxil and unleash a reign of terror across The Realms.
What the party does not yet know (and are not likely to be reading this…) is that Keegan was driven mad by the dragon, and he slaughtered his family, along with the castle garrison. He remains in the castle: a skeleton seeking release from undead torment. The ruins of his castle has been occupied by the cult, who have lured goblins into occupying the upper levels (with false tales of treasure) while they perform the rituals necessary to release Shadraxil from his imprisonment.
In the previous session, our heroes had travelled from Winterhaven into the foothills of the Thunder Peaks and found the ruins of the keep. It had been deliberately abandoned by Cormyr so that the tragedy that befell Sir Keegan should not be repeated. Over the centuries the keep has fallen in on itself, but enough of the outer walls remain that it is still an impressive spectacle. It was obvious to the party that the keep was in use because of the path hewn through the rubble into the centre of the ruin where the once stood the centre-most tower. They approached with much caution but, as it transpired, with little silence.
Descending down a stairwell, the adventurers came into a large open room with 4 floor-to-ceiling stone pillars. A passageway led away from the room directly opposite the entrance. Down that passage stood two goblins, crossbows readied. Without belabouring the details, the party moved into the room, Darganesh falling into a pit trap filled with rats. What the party didn’t count on was that goblins from adjoining areas would join the fray.
At its height the combat involved 20+ goblins, 2 guardian drakes and a hobgoblin torturer (wielding red-hot iron pokers as weapons). by the end of the session, Ankasha and Mila were unconscious and dying, while the remainder had barricaded themselves behind a door that led down a flight of stairs. Beating on the door were 10 of the goblins, one of the drakes and the torturer. And that was where the session ended.
One of the things that pleased me with that session was that it generated quite a deal of player chatter after the session, which to me is a sign that thet enjoyed it. So Tony and I were looking forward to finishing the encounter off, but wondered whether it would last long and, more to the point whether any of the party would survive. While we knew that the torturer was low on hit points and that half of the remaining goblins were single hit point minions, we also knew that the party’s hit point levels were down.
We were interested to see how they would approach things, so we gave then a run-down of the previous session to get their heads into the current session, and gave them a few minutes to discuss options. Tony and I were right: it was a short session. Spiking the doors shut, Darganesh, Rajesh and Finnan stepped back from the door, splashing oil on the steps near the door’s entrance. As the door burst asunder, a couple of the goblins fell and, while more got into melee the oil was then set alight. The torturer, the drake and most of the goblins were killed, a couple of singed survivors fled from the castle and Ankasha and Mila were revived. Making their way back to town to recover, the party now readies itself to head back to Shadowfell Keep.
Which is where the next session will pick up from………