Caves of Chaos Pt. 2

After spending the night at the Keep, our stalwart band of bloodthirsty treasure hunters ventured forth for another expedition to the caves.  Along the way they picked up their charmed ogre, Bruce, and headed for the cave entrance furthest to the right (one of the Orc tribes).  Upon entering the cave they’re greeted by a wall of rotting, severed heads.  The cleric thinks he spots movement on the wall out of the corner of his eye, but fails to notice that one of the heads is different now.  After a few minutes of bumbling about trying to decide which way to go, they hear the sound of rushing orc jackboots coming from their left and their right.

The party wisely backs out to form a shield wall at the entrance to the cave, with the cleric and one of the men-at-arms they rescued last week (Max) at the front, with the elf and his charmed hobgoblin servant-girl in the second rank wielding spears.  Almost as soon as they’re organized, the party is set upon by nine orcs.  The party got the upper hand and quickly dispatched them with a sleep spell.  Nine slit throats and looted purses later, the party proceeds south, deeper into the orc cave.  They pass through a large common room, with passages leading further south, and two heading west (one of them sloping up).

They opt for the sloping passage and quickly come upon a T intersection, with a locked door to their right and another passage heading south on their left.  Deciding doors=loot, the thief attempts to pick it and fails (of course, being only level 1) so they unleash their back-up door opener, Bruce.  The massive ogre bashes down the door with a couple of deft hits (very loud hits) and the now vacant doorway reveals some sort of store-room filled with various dry goods.  Just as the party initiates loot manuever Delta-6, they hear a commotion behind them.

Turning around they see a large number of orcs spilling around the T intersection, heading their way.  Thinking quickly, the elf throws a flask of oil down on the ground in front of the savage orcs.  But before anyone can toss a torch on it, the orcs back off around the corner, down the sloping passage.  Filled with righteous fury and divine wrath, the cleric gives chase, jumping over the puddle of oil and charging around the corner…only to discover the orcs are waiting for him on the sloping passage.  Backed up by the ever faithful Max, they form a new skirmish line, followed up by the reluctant elf and hobgoblin, again employing spears from the second rank.

However, the orcs, too, employ spears from the second rank.  The cleric is quickly knocked down to 0 hit points (down, but not dead) and Max gets an orc spear through his chest as a reward for his faithful service (though not before killing an orc or two).  Front line down, the orc horde presses its advantage.

The elf quickly realizes that while battles of attrition work well for Asian land wars, and perhaps the Eastern front, they don’t work well for adventurers trapped in a lair with monsters between them and the exit.  She casts a sleep spell, rolling well enough to drop the lot of them.  They quickly bind the clerics wounds but before they can do the usual slit-throats-loot-corpses routine, they hear yet more orcs approaching from behind.  Deciding they’ve had enough glory for one day, they grab Max’s corpse and beat feet for the Keep.

On the way out of the ravine they stop to bury Max in their rapidly expanding graveyard.  Unfortunately, no one elected to keep watch (even after I expressly asked them if anyone was keeping watch).  Before they could finish poor Max’s internment, vengeful goblins emerge from their cave and pelt the party with javelins.  Almost everyone is hit, even the poor magic-user who’s usually in the back and rarely in danger.  The charmed hobgoblin goes down with a javelin in the face, followed by their other rescued man-at-arms (whom I named Bron).  Morale shattered, the party flees to the Keep to lick their wounds.

One nice thing about low-level characters, if they manage to survive a wound they can usually heal pretty quick.  By the next day the party is healed up and ready for more punishment.  They do manage to recruit a rather charming, if not particularly bright, dwarf (a new player who showed up later that night).

Picking up Bruce again, they decide that not clearing the goblin lair was a tactical error, so that’s where they head.  And then promptly turn left, heading up to the hobgoblin area instead.  The barred door had been repaired (somewhat) but once again Bruce Doorbane made quick work of it.  And then the slaughter began in earnest.  The party cut a swath of bloody destruction through the hobgoblin lair until they reached the chieftain’s lair, whereat mighty battle was fought…until the party doused the chieftain with oil and set him on fire, making quick work of him.  Oh well.

Seeing their boss go down in flames (literally), the rest of the hobgoblins fled.  The party gave short chase, but weighed down with platemail they couldn’t keep up with retreating hobgobs.  Executing loot manuever Gamma-3, they shifted through the chieftain’s sooty remains, finding a gem-studded belt, discovered a locker in the chieftain’s quarters with a hidden bottom containing a fair amount of coins as well as a mysterious bottle, and cleaned out the hobgoblin’s armory.  It was getting late, so we called it a night.

I introduced a new house rule allowing mages and elves to write scrolls, adapted from the Holmes edition:  1) the spell has to be in their spell book; 2) it costs 1,000 GP per spell level; and 3) requires 1 week per spell level (the Holmes version is 2,000 GP  and 1 week per spell level…but with only a 20% chance of success!).

Some observations:  the party is quickly falling into the exhaust spells/return-to-Keep routine (aka the 15-minute adventuring day), a behavior I’d hoped the bind wounds houserule would discourage.  It’s hard to blame them though, given how fragile their characters are.  Also, for some reason the magic-user hardly ever uses the ogre for fighting.  Bruce has mostly been tail-end Charlie in the marching order, brought up front only when there’s a door to be smashed.  And no PC deaths this session, despite a couple of rookie errors (though they did loose most of their retainers).  To be fair, though, the players are doing a lot of things right, like employing retainers, using spears from the second rank, throwing oil and, above all else, running when they get in over their heads.

One final mention, the thief and the cleric made it to 2nd level.  This is rather fast advancement for B/X, but I’m using the 100 XP per HD of monster defeated, which really accelerates their advancement at lower levels.  One more session and the magic-user should be 2nd level, as well.  The elf, though, is going to take a while to level up.

As far as I know, we’re on again for next week, so we’ll see how things progress.  Cheers.

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