To recap, I rolled up four characters and gave each 16,000 XP to create a party. I ended up with a Fighter, an Elf, a Thief, and a Magic-User of around levels 4-5.
I then dove headlong into the scenario… you can catch up on Part One if you haven’t already seen it.
“Look, we got attacked by those Hobgoblins who were looking for Goldmoon’s staff,” says Tolim, “so I suggest we stay off the roads.”
The others nod slowly, grim-faced and determined.
“If we want to travel to Xak Tsaroth – where the staff probably came from, given what Riverwind said – then we should head southeast through the Darkenwood.”
“But,” says Rastor, “all know that the Darkenwood is dangerous and that there’s a reason why the roads run around the mountains that surround us: it’s going to be a hard climb down and we’re not equipped for that.”
“Let’s take a vote,” suggests Elthan, “Who wants to use the road and head east?”
I’m going to assume Riverwind and Goldmoon want to stay off-road.
“Ok, so that’s a split vote – three to three,” sighs Elthan.
“Look, we can protect you,” says Garik, “and if we move quickly, we can probably avoid the towns. Camp out at night.”
Riverwind nods and looks to Goldmoon, who nods also.
“Alright then,” says Tolim, “Let’s try and get back to Solace and then use the road east.”
Rolls for random encounter – scores 10 on 1d10, no encounter.
Heading back down from the pass, the adventurers reach the road as night falls. They decide to set up a camp, but to not light a fire in case gives away their position. Goldmoon uses the staff to heal Tolim and Elthan (two more charges).
Rolls for random encounters in the night – two 1d10 rolls, scoring 4 and 5, no encounters.
In the morning, the party begins to head back towards Solace:
The Solace Stream sparkles beneath an ancient stone bridge. Water tumbles out of the forest, over the rocks, and toward the Southpass that lies between the south Sentinel Peaks. West of the bridge, the road splits in two, branching to the south and the west. Both roads wind among the great Vallenwoods, whose boughs form a brilliant autumn canopy over the roadway.
Having travelled 3 miles, we check for encounters – 1d10, scores 10, no encounter. Staying on the road means we don’t need to roll for getting lost.
Skirting around the south of the town, the party turns east and follows the road back up past where they were ambushed yesterday evening:
The huge Vallenwood trees tower above soft forest paths. Sunlight dapples the floor of the woods, and sparrows and squirrels quarrel overhead. The musty smell of fallen leaves rises through the fragrance of late wildflowers.
Random encounter rolls 6, no problems so far.
Following this road should put the party at Que-Kiri by the end of the day. They march along the road, with Goldmoon and Riverwind in the middle and the other four around them – Elthan ahead, Tolim at the rear, Garik and Rastor walking just to either side of the couple.
Random encounter rolls 6, no encounter.
Heading up into the hills east of Solace, the road skirts north of a ridge of mountains before turning south to Que-Kiri. The adventurers decide to avoid the community there and head north-east across the plains, so they leave the road early and make camp on the plains – again, making no fire despite the cold.
Random encounter rolls 4, no encounter. Night encounter rolls are 3 and 5, no encounters. All quiet, it seems. That night we complete Event 3 – the reading of The Canticle of the Dragon.
The Next Morning…
“Isn’t anyone finding it weird,” asks Garik over a cold breakfast, “that we’ve not run in to anyone on the road?”
“Let’s count it as a blessing and keep moving,” replies Elthan.
The party moves off north-east for about 3 miles and then turns east, aiming to cross the ancient roadways and head straight for ancient Xak Tsaroth:
The grasslands soon turn to burned stubble underfoot. For miles, the once grassy plains are charred. The ashy taste of scorched earth laces the air. Large, heavy creatures have trampled the ground everywhere.
“What has happened here?”
“I don’t know, Tolim,” replies Garik, “but it looks horrifying.”
Riverwind kneels and picks up some of the burnt stubble. He traces the outline of the footprints, his face grim.
There is an 80% chance that Riverwind has seen this before – rolls 67, success!
“I have seen these claw prints before,” the plainsman begins, “They belong to the Dragonmen – hideous, monstrous creatures perhaps 7 feet tall and vicious fighters.”
“Sounds lovely,” says Garik.
“Maybe we should be watchful and keep moving,” suggests Tolim.
Roll for getting lost scores 4 on 1d6, no problems. Roll four random encounter rolls – 8, 4, 1, 1. Oh, crap. First encounter: Distance is 17 yards, encounter is 5 Bozak Draconians who will retreat at 50% casualties. The party is surprised.
Suddenly, from all around the party, the ground erupts as large dragon-like humanoid creatures leap to their feet. The first Bozak casts Sleep at Goldmoon, who keels over. The second Draconian targets Riverwind with Sleep, and he goes down. The third shouts something to the others and casts Magic Missile at Tolim, striking him unerringly (4 hp of damage). The fourth Bozak casts Sleep at Garik, and the last casts Sleep at Rastor. That leaves just Tolim standing – holy crap!
Round Two begins with initiative – it’s tied! All move simultaneously.
The Draconians move to close with Tolim, surrounding him. Tolim strikes at one, hits (6 hp of damage) and wounds it. The Draconians all strike at Tolim, two hits are made (12 hp total damage). Tolim collapses, dead.
Well, that was over quick. I suppose a good Games Master would have the adventurers captured and taken somewhere… but there is no guidance on this in the module and I really find it hard to justify doing so, given their location.
I forgot how brutal and sudden death can be in B/X Dungeons & Dragons. These days, as players, most of us would expect a way out… but I did decide to run a four character party (instead of the recommended 6-8 adventurers) and I pushed the party off the road, taking a risk. That risk failed. Game over, I guess.
I suppose I ought to roll up some new heroes…