Phew! Well, yesterday afternoon I ran my first con game ever -- OD&D running B2. I'll go into some more details later but I just wanted to let you all know that it turned out really well. Better than I had hoped, even.
I think I got lucky as the group of six players was excellent and they made it a real joy to DM.
Well, it took a bit longer to recover than I anticipated but what will follow over a few posts is my tale of trepidation, excitement and amusement ...
Not only was this my first time at a Con but was also the first GenCon in Australia. "What better way to celebrate than to be a volunteer DM?", I thought.
It took me only a moment to decide what game I wanted to run -- late last year, just as my interest in OD&D really started to fire, I took my friends into B2 Keep on the Borderlands. It was a lot of fun and I thought the free-form nature of OD&D would be perfect for a Con game. Additionally, with D&D 4e being the darling of the Con I thought that at least someone should represent classic gaming, Save or Dies and all.
Anyway, after navigating the tortuous online registration (I'm sure this will be much improved next year), I was locked in. My session blurb stated simply that I'd be running the classic module using the Original rules from around 1974. I honestly had no idea if I'd get any players as there was a screaming amount of would-be Con-goers keen to play 4e. Would I pique the interest of any grognards? Would the young' uns join out of curiousity or morbid fascination?
D-Day. My friend and I arrived at Gencon Oz in the morning with me toting my bag full of old D&D goodness. My game was running that afternoon so I had some time to kill. After the initial buzz at being at Gencon wore off I entertained myself by taking photos of the cosplayers and scouring the vendors stalls for any bargains. After gatecrashing an excellent seminar with Robin D. Laws my moment had suddenly arrived.
Nervous? Me? Maybe just a little.
I actually went to my designated private gaming room about 15 minutes early, as per Con recommendations. And, as expected, the Shadowrun game prior to mine was running over. So I loitered outside the door and watched the RPGA 4e games until another gent arrived. I asked if he was here for the OD&D game. He said yes and I introduced myself. I had my first player and, if he was any indication, I was off to a good start.
By the time the Shadowrunners had packed up and left, 4 of the 5 registered players (I'd designated a max of 6 players for the game) had arrived. One player (likely the truest grognard of the group) had proudly brought his own copy of the OD&D white box set. I was suitably impressed and told him so. The other gents were a little younger in years but didn't lack for enthusiasm. Most of those gathered had cut their teeth on BECMI D&D and were keen to relive some of those glory days. As I would later find out, one chap was also a collector and has some D&D items that I could only ever dream of owning.
As we settled in the 5th and, I presumed, final player arrived. He apologised for being a bit late and immediately stated his excitement about playing. He was warmly welcomed and took his place as he started reminiscing about the red box set.
It looks like I was lucky indeed as all 5 lads at the table seemed very cool and, while not all had played OD&D, they all had a real keenness that was a pleasure to behold. I felt my tension ease ...
With all assembled I started to close the door, but then a voice cried out and a distinctly female arm was thrust through the door jamb.
"Don't close the door on me!" my unexpected 6th player said as she slipped into the room and sat at a nearby chair. She was surprisingly young and immediately picked up some dice that I'd laid out on the table, held one up and proclaimed, "Someone may have to give me a hand to use these things!"
What's that, you say? A girl at an OD&D Con game? Yes, gentle readers, true indeed. How would this surprising change in demographics affect the newly-bonded group? And when the hell is the actual OD&D game going to start? All in good time (or possibly the next post)!
And suddenly a dark shape came lumbering out of the inky blackness of the cave mouth! Taller than a man, it was, and twice as wide! Your first thought is, "Ogre!" The silhouettes of its thick, clawed arms seem to stretch out as the thing wails a strangely high-pitched cry of "Bree-yark!"
There's nothing like jumping into the action. I really only had a few plans for my Con game and the first was to get to the mayhem as quickly as possible.
To achieve this I'd rolled up a whole mess of pre-gen chars (2 of each class including thief). My players were happy to jump in feet first (though I think one guy was keen to make a paladin but he was content to play an elf -- very, very well, I might add). No-one seemed to blink when we were joined by our only female player so without further adieu I let everyone pick their characters. With these selected, names chosen and equipment examined (the players broke out in nostalgic grins when the thief discovered he was carrying a 10' pole) the adventure began.
I quickly summarised the B2 intro, told how they gathered at the Travellers Inn, were promptly hired by the Captain for their obvious skill and then set out on horses to the Caves of Chaos. There was a merchant's daughter to free, after all.
I quickly informed them that the journey to the Caves of Chaos was uneventful (though the jovial cleric and his two silent acolytes that were also traveling with the party began to grate instantly). They arrived at the caves just on dusk and I threw it back over to the party.
I think they had all of two minutes before I set my insane goblins pushing the war wagon containing the fake ogre upon them!
(Did I mention that my second planned item was that I had to mix it up a bit, guessing that at least a few players would have been through B2 before?)
Next post: our valiant heroes have their first combat!
For having only just met (in real life) the player's fought like a well-oiled machine. Mostly ...
But just before we leap into the fray, here's the line up so you've got an idea of party composition -- Shamus the magic-user (and party leader, played by my first arrival), Ys the elf (and cartographer, played by the grognard), Cecil the thief (played by our lady friend), the dwarves Karma Barrenwarden (played by the D&D collector) and Flint (the player was somewhat fatigued from an all-night Arkham Horror session) and finally Cubisia the cleric (devoted holy man, played by a young chap who was just really pleasant).
All characters started out at level 3 with a few minor magic items and either a magical weapon or armour (+1 only).
With the party was the NPC cleric and his two acolytes (as per the information in B2). I named the cleric Felonius, after a friend's OD&D cleric.
Now, back into the fray!
Cubisia, Ys and Cecil immediately established themselves as the party's artillery (a trend which continued for most of the session) as they launched a barrage of sling stones and arrows at the ogre-shaped thing trundling out of the shadows towards them. Shamus blew his first magic missile on the thing and he groaned as it came into view ... a large mannequin of sacks, straw and thick branches perched precariously on top of a wooden wagon powered by at least a dozen nasty yellow-skinned, goblins!
Shamus, unperturbed, immediately cast sleep on the goblins on one side of the wagon. His roll was superb and all of the nasty critters he targeted crashed to the ground in slumber. The wagon immediately lurched to one side and furrowed the ground. It started to turn steeply as the goblins on the other side of the wagon stupidly continued to push with all their might.
Upset by the sudden movement the ogre dummy vaulted into the air, somersaulted and exploded on the ground in a shower of sticks and straw.
Ys and the dwarves went into action at the sight of these hated foes. Still on his pony, Flint rode out in a wide arc, hoping to catch some goblins between his charge and the side of the wagon. Karma hefted his axe, let out a blood-curdling war-cry and charged forward under his own steam. Ys' aim was deadly and the first goblins started to stain the ground red.
Cubisia continued to sing the blessings of his god as his sling stones flew true, striking goblins smack-bang in their foreheads.
Cecil shot lots of arrows into the air and then decided his twin short-swords would be a better idea.
Soon the battle was joined. Goblins crashed into party members using swords, teeth and fists (and occasionally pausing to cackle insanely or sit on the ground and sulk when they got hurt). Karma was death on (short) legs, his axe hewing left and right. Ys and Shamus went for their melee weapons but were in a spot of bother given the sheer numbers. Cubisia kept his distance and provided covering fire. Cecil's blades flashed with amazing skill. Things were looking dangerous but not insurmountable.
And then Flint's pony went down as it was hamstrung but the little brutes. All saw the dwarf, warhammer in hand, fall under his screaming mount and then get piled-on by a horde of gobbos!
"My brother!" screamed Karma as the red mist settled behind his eyes ...
Oh, drama! Stay tuned ... more OD&D Gencon goodness awaits (and I promise I'll try and move things along a bit quicker ... didn't intend for this to devolve into a blow-by-blow recap! )
Karma charged headlong into the horde swarming over the fallen Flint. Dwarven battles cries echoed around the ravine and the goblins, despite their superior numbers, quaked in fear. Karma cut one of the evil humanoids in half with a savage fury.
Flint, unperturbed by being crushed by his pony, fought better on his back than he'd done on his mount. His warhammer snapped bone and crushed skulls and, rallied by Karma's cry, he clawed his way back to his feet, scattering goblins and howling in victory!
Cecil's blades made short work of his foe. Shamus the magic-user was exhausted, however, and blood oozed from a long cut in his thigh. Cubisia lent ranged support for the two dwarves. Ys danced with his goblin, neither able to strike true.
Flint, bleeding now from many wounds, drove his warhammer into another goblin skull as Shamus finally shattered the jaw of his goblin with his quarterstaff and Ys drove his longsword through his foe. Suddenly the remaining goblins shrieked and fled, their moral broken.
They made a mad rush for the cave entrance (one of many in the ravine). One fell to Ys' arrows and the last straggler had escape snatched from him when Karma hurled his mighty axe and it caught the little creature in the back with such force it carried it far into the darkness of the cave.
Exhausted, the companions took a moment to catch their breath. Flint quaffed a much-needed healing potion and Cecil, in true thief fashion, immediately began pilfering the corpses.
"Well, that was close!" smiled Felonius, the NPC cleric, as he emerged from his hiding place flanked by his two silent acolytes.
Everyone turned to look at the cleric as he grinned inanely. Shamus, having assumed the role of party leader, scowled and said, "We're going in after the goblins. Congratulations for volunteering to lead us in."
The cleric's smile fell as Karma muttered. "Oh, good. I need to get my axe back."
Will our NPC cleric meet the fate of all NPC clerics? Stay tuned and find out!
Felonius, after being "encouraged" to scout ahead into the goblin cave, didn't take long to stumble across a goblin patrol. The cleric came thundering around the corner, heavy plate armour clanking, as arrows whistled past his head.
The others were carefully making their way down the entrance corridor with Cecil taking point. Karma had paused for a second to retrieve his axe from the goblin's back when they all heard the NPC cleric give a cry of alarm from the southern path of the intersection that the entrance corridor was leading to.
Everyone heard the now familiar words "Bree-yark!" shouted by the goblins come echoing down the corridor.
With Felonious pushing his way to the back of the party to rejoin his acolytes (much to Shamus' and Cubisia's contempt) the others pressed on. Shamus' continual light rock shone in the darkness as Cecil took a peek around the corner of the intersection.
"I think the goblins have retreated." he said.
The party gathered at the intersection and took their bearings. The way west seemed to lead to a dead-end and they explored just a little north and south. The southern corridor turned south-west and it seemed to stretch on for some time. However, the northern corridor lead to an empty sleeping quarters not far away.
They were debating on which path to take -- it seemed that they should pursue the goblins and see if they knew anything about this missing caravan -- when suddenly they felt, more than heard, the thudding of slow, heavy footsteps!
They scanned about desperately, not sure where the sound was coming from. And then Cecil noticed a huge figure blocking the entrance by which they had entered! It had the same shape as the ogre-dummy upon the goblin's war-wagon except this silhouette was moving in a far more convincing way.
"Ogre!" he hissed quietly, for the dim beast seemed not to have noticed them someways down the corridor.
It only took a few moments for the party to move. While most of the party retreated to the abandoned sleeping quarters to the north (with Shamus' dimming the light from his rock with his hands) the dwarves moved just up the corridor so as to still be within charging distance. Cecil, bravely staying in the intersection, skillfully scrambled up the walls and, with shortswords ready, wedged himself near the ceiling.
"Dum-de-do-de-dum!" sung the ogre to itself as it lumbered up the intersection. The beast was so tall that the top of its head almost reached Cecil's vantage point. The thief could see that the ogre was not only huge, scarred and wielding a massive club but it also seemed to have two heavy sacks slung over its shoulder.
"Well, time to give the signal." the thief thought himself as he dropped from the ceiling, whipping his blades around to plunge them deep into the ogre ...
The plucky thief performed his "death from above" on the gormless ogre with aplomb. His swords flashed in the darkness and one bit deep. The ogre bellowed in pain and one of the sacks he was carrying hit the ground with the sound of jangling coins.
To Cecil's surprise the other sack let out a muffled cry of, "Help!"
The ogre swung about wildly, still roaring in agony. Cecil hung on for dear life, trying to use the buried blade as a foothold. He slipped ... but managed to catch hold of the collar of the beast's filthy jerkin. With a cry of triumph he repeatedly plunged the second blade into the ogre's head and neck. Blood was everywhere. The ogre tensed, hunkered down for a split-second and then slammed himself backwards -- crushing the thief up against the stone wall of the corridor with a sickening crunch. Cecil, seeing stars, kept hanging on with a death-grip.
The dwarves charged at the ogre with simultaneous war-cries. Sling-stones and arrows from Cubisia and Ys whistled over their heads, finding their mark on the hulking brute. Karma took the lead and raised his axe high but, on the downswing, he tripped over the dropped sack and went crashing to the hard floor, skidding to the feet of the ogre. Flint had better luck and managed to close the distance but his hammer glanced off of the ogre's warty hide.
Meanwhile, back in the abandoned sleeping quarters, party leader Shamus the magic-user was casting a suspicious glance at Felonius the NPC cleric, and his silent acolytes. Shifting behind the three, Shamus feigned keeping watch down a second exit as he listened to Felonius utter a few words in a dark tongue. Abyssal! Fortunately Shamus had learnt this language in his long hours of study so his suspicions were confirmed when he heard Felonius say, "We shall strike them down when they are all pre-occupied with the ogre."
Shamus smiled to himself as he recalled the words to his charm person spell. A minute later Felonius was advancing on the ogre, flanked by his now-bewildered acolytes, and preparing to protect his good friend, Shamus.
Hands slick with ogre-blood the thief was struggling to strike a solid blow on the creature as it bellowed and staggered about the corridor. Suddenly the ogre reached a huge paw up behind its head and grabbed the thief, effortlessly plucking him from its back.
Cubisia, Ys, Shamus and the dwarves looked on in horror as the ogre dashed Cecil against the solid rock wall. The thief slid to the ground, head lolling to one side, blood trickling from his mouth.
Flint shouted in defiance and swung his warhammer in a crushing arc that slammed into the ogre's knee. The ogre retaliated and brought his huge club down in a thunderous blow. It would have felled man or elf but the dwarf, battle-trained against larger foes, turned the blow. Still, pain lanced through his shoulder as his shield was shaken.
Karma hefted himself off the ground and got a view between the ogre's bandy legs of the corridor beyond. Karma's infravision picked out the heat images of goblin-sized shapes moving up the corridor.
"We have more company!" he shouted.
Ys hammered two more elven arrows home into the ogre's shoulders as Felonius and company ran past. Cubisia stared after them then glanced behind him to see Shamus striding from the room, smiling smugly.
The ogre staggered and feebly plucked at the arrows buried in its body. It dropped to one knee as Karma and Flint brought their weapons to bare ... and the ogre hit the ground with a tremendous thud and died.
"Help!" cried the sack again.
Suddenly Felonius cried to his dark god for protection for his loyal friend Shamus as he and his followers leapt over the fallen ogre, dodged past the surprised dwarves and careened into a wave of oncoming goblins.
With the goblins distracted by the charmed cleric and friends, Cubisia ran to Cecil's aid. Cubisia was elated to find the thief still breathing and, after a gentle prayer, Cecil was back on his feet and rummaging through the sack of coins.
Ys the elf wasn't to be distracted from his foes. He let an arrow hiss into one goblin and then, with Shamus quickly whispering in his ear about the incident in the room, he loosed another shaft into one of the acolytes. The young man screamed and dropped, the missile buried deep between his shoulder blades.
Cubisia shot the elf an angry look.
"What are you doing?"
"They are also the enemy," said Ys without emotion.
"Oi!" interrupted one of the dwarfs, shouting over the din of the battle down the corridor. He pointed to the other, rather vocal, sack as it quivered on the ground.
[Thanks for the bump. Greyharp. Been a little busy. ]
Felonius the cleric, traitor, NPC and victim of Shamus' charm spell, charged into battle. One of his acolytes had already fallen to an arrow in the back but the other ran beside his master, not quite sure what in the name of Chaos was going on. The first goblins fell under their assault, crushed by mace and shield, but then a second and third wave of crashed into the pair. Soon only Felonious stood amongst the carnage but it was too late to retreat to his close friend, Shamus.
Then with a cry to his dark god Felonius, bloody and broken, caved in the last goblin's head even as the yellow runt drove its rusty sword into the cleric's gut.
Felonius died protecting Shamus and Shamus smiled.
Cubisia had extracted the hapless girl from the dirty sack the the ogre had been carrying. Cecil, meanwhile, had extracted the gold from the other sack.
The girl was visibly shaken and was lost in fits of weeping. Soothing words from Cubisia and Cecil managed to calm her a little -- enough to find out that she was indeed the merchant's missing daughter but her father, the merchant, was still the captive of the monsters in this cave. The party managed to kit the daughter up in some soiled leather armour (much to the girl's disgust) and Cecil handed her a dagger to defend herself.
The dwarves looked at the daughter (who was now staring in amazement at Ys the elf) and Flint turned to Karma.
"Do you think we should tell her she's holding that dagger wrong way?"
The party discussed briefly how they should continue. The merchant's daughter continued to be mesmerised by the fey beauty of Ys and the elf made every effort to stay out of her line of sight. Finally Shamus made the decision to follow the corridor south-west from whence the goblins came.
They travelled a short distance, continual light rock and torch lighting the way, when they found themselves at some stone steps rising up into darkness. Cubisia started towards the first step when Cecil raised his hand.
"Let me look first. It is my job after all."
He studied the steps intently and lightly tapped the edge of those within reach of his 10' pole. The seconds trickled by ...
"Well?" asked someone impatiently.
Cecil turned and stood with a smug look on his face.
"Well ... our friend Cubisia would be dead by now. There's a nasty trap on that first step ... poison dart, I think. Maybe worse. And there's lots more steps after that one."
A second round of brief discussion and the party found themselves travelling back the way they came. Once again Shamus entered the abandoned sleeping quarters where he had ensorcelled Felonius. Almost immediately Ys the elf paused and gazed at the corner wall.
"The rock wall in the corner here is irregular. Something lies beyond."
The dwarves cracked their knuckles and went into action, prodding and tapping the corner. Soon Karma found the latch to unlock the secret door. Ys and Cecil heard nothing through the stone wall and Flint was keen to smash through it with his portable ram. Shamus figured there'd be no point in wasting effort so he pressed the latch and the door rotated easily with a faint grinding sound.
Entering carefully it didn't take long for the party to work out that they were now in the cave of the very-deceased ogre. The cave stank and bones and waste were piled in the corners. A huge skinned bear hide made a crude bed.
As one, the party began looking for treasure. Once again Ys' keen elven senses found something -- carefully hidden under the bone-pile. Loot! Coins, gems, a potion and some finely crafted arrows. The treasure was distributed (with Ys keeping the arrows from himself, noting the elfish craftsmanship) as Shamus and Cubisia discussed whether the cave could make a good place to rest and heal a little.
Cecil did a quick scout of the irregularly shaped cave and it turned out the party could have a fire in one section without proclaiming their presence to the outside world. The secret door was expertly jammed shut by the dwarves, guards were posted and the weary party slept with one eye open.
During the night the sound of distanct construction could be heard somewhere in the caves ...
In the morning everyone enjoyed a surprisingly good breakfast thanks to a small fire and some extra rations.
Ys, Shamus and Cubisia completed their study and prayers respectively. Swords were sharpened, dents knocked out of armour, straps straightened. The merchant girl looked a little better but was still terrified.
The party went back through the secret door and retraced their steps a little until they could choose whether to go back to the trapped stairs or take an as yet unexplored corridor. That's when Cecil noticed the grisley marker on the ground. One of the acolyte's arms, crudely severed, was pointing towards the unexplored corridor.
"So, do you think they want us to go this way or ..."
Suddenly an almighty boom shook the complex! The party looked around in shock but the dwarves once again showed their dungeoneering skills.
"That sounded like a corridor collapsing, possibly the one that lead to the stairs."
"That would explain the excavation going on last night."
"I wonder if they meant that for us?"
"Well," said Shamus, prodding the bloody arm with his staff and pointing towards the unexplored corridor, "let's go and ask them."
The party, with the merchant's daughter in tow, ventured deeper into the caves of Chaos. It wasn't long before Shamus' continual light rock revealed another bloody limb lying cocked on the ground, thick finger pointing down another corridor.
"I think this one was Felonius'" said Cubisai with a tinge of nausea.
Cecil turned to the group. "Let me check ahead," he said as he unslung his backpack.
The thief took his handy 10' pole, his silver mirror and some twine and bound the two items together. Using the pole he poked the mirror around the corner and carefully studied what he saw in the reflection.
"Well?" asked one of the dwarfs in an impatient whisper.
Cecil looked a little pale. "There's a large room beyond. There a lot of goblins ... BIG goblins in there. Looks like a chieftain and maybe a shaman or cleric. I think they've got the merchant prisoner."
"Probably hobgoblins. Doesn't sound so bad," scoffed Flint.
"No ... except I think they're expect ---"
"PATHETIC WORMS!" boomed a gutteral voice from the room beyond. "YOU HAVE DISTURBED MY REALM AND YOUR PUNISHMENT SHALL BE DEATH!"
Thinking on his feet Shamus called back. "Perhaps we could come to an arrangement?"
"THERE SHALL BE NO ARRANGEMENT! UNLESS ..."
"Unless?" answered Shamus, stalling for time. He gestured to Ys and Cubisia and the three spell-casters huddled together. Ys quickly whispered something and Cubisia nodded in agreement. Shamus grinned and muttered something back in return.
"... UNLESS ... YES! GIVE US THE HUMAN GIRL AND WE SHALL SPARE YOUR LIVES!"
"No deal!", yelled back Shamus. Ys and Cubisia were contentrating now -- summoning their own mystical energies and keeping them at the ready. The dwarves hefted hammer and axe and battle-lust gleamed in their eyes. The merchants daughter had slumped against a wall and looked catatonic.
No-one had noticed that Cecil had disappeared.
"NO DEAL?" laughed the cheiftain. "THEN COME AND LET ME LAY YOUR DOOM UPON YOU!"
A great din filled the caves as hobgoblins clashed sword on shield and our stalwart champions let out their own battlecries and leapt as one around the corner ...
The battle was fell and ruin was wrought upon both sides.
With the party now in line of sight of their dread foes the true terror of what they faced was laid bare. In the far room, red with torchlight, stood the hobgoblin chieftain -- over 7' tall, lithe and muscled. Heavy mail hung from him and he bore a shield of black metal and a cruel scimitar, snaggled and wicked.
Beside him was a shaman of Chaos, fetches and trinkets adorning him, a wolf hide draped over his shoulders. An unholy aura shimmered about him as he held a long knife to the throat of a very fat and very terrified merchant.
At the fore were the chieftain's personal hobgoblin guards. Flanking them were snivelling goblin archers.
The chieftain roared a challenge that shook the walls ...
... and was promptly caught in the wave of arcane and divine energy as the spells from Ys, Shamus and Cubisia struck as one, the intertwined magic hissing and spitting like a living thing.
The goblins dropped to the ground, snoring peacefully. The shaman's ugly face froze in a rictus of surprise as he was magically held. The chieftain's battlecry was snuffed as a sphere of silence engulfed him and his retinue.
And then the dwarves attacked. Their shouts were eerily silenced as they drew closer to their prey.
Demoralised, the hobgoblin guards hesitated and took a step back. Behind them their chieftain screamed soundlessly at them to advance, his face red with fury and frustration.
Suddenly the air behind the chieftain shimmered and, lo!, Cecil the thief materialised out of nothing and thrust his twin swords with all his might at the exposed back of the hobgoblin. The thief's glory was turned to despair, however, as the chieftain's heavy mail turned both blades. Feeling the blows strike his armour, the chieftain faced the thief and smiled a wide, toothy smile as he raised his blade.
Arrows and sling-stones slammed into his back! The pain was terrible but the chieftain shrugged it off and, with an arcing slash almost gutted the thief. Cecil staggered, desperately trying to ward off the next attack with his shortswords. He then saw the two dwarves rush into the room and instinctively tried to shout a warning despite the silence spell -- for, while invisibley sneaking in behind the chieftain, only Cecil had seen the female hobgoblins, all wielding spears, hidden and lying in wait at the southern end of the room. The female consorts of the chieftain charged the dwarves as the hobgoblin guards rallied and pincered them.
Flint and Karma were never so happy. Axe and hammer hewed flesh and bone, armour and weapon. It was a beautifully quiet display of poetic carnage.
Cubisia, Ys and Shamus slowly advanced as they continued to launch arrow, stone and magic missiles at the hobgoblins and their leader. Their attack was withering -- another hobgoblin dropped and the chieftain's helm was knocked askew as a magic missile slammed into his head.
But still he hacked at Cecil. The thief just managed to parry a mighty blow but was knocked to the ground. Blood seeped from his belly in black rivulets. His vision dimmed.
Karma and Flint were an unstoppable force. Though they had suffered their own terrible wounds still they slew the hobgoblins with wanton battle-lust.
Sorry to keep you all in suspense. No rest for the wicked!
Karma the dwarf saw the world spin as he fell to the stone floor with a mighty crash. His heavy axe spun from his grasp and he scrabbled desperately amongst the gore and hobgoblin intestines. The ugly faces of the chief's guard -- male or female, it was difficult to tell -- leered down at him with bloodlust. They raised their weapons ...
... and like a shot from a trebuchet, Flint, dwarven brother, barreled into the nearest humanoid, crushing its spleen with his warhammer. The sound would have been sickening if not for the silence spell still in effect.
Cecil looked at all the blood on the floor ... it seemed to burn red in the torchlight. He was sure most of it was his and he was also sure that was a bad thing. He saw the great hobgoblin chieftain raise his scimitar for the killing blow. Everything was moving in slow motion, or so it seemed, and the thief in desperation did what he was good at -- escaping.
But his muscles were leaden and he was so weak ... so weak. He crawled and rolled and closed his eyes against the pain and the inevitable deathblow.
... and nothing happened. He risked opening one eye and saw, to his amazement, the chieftain staring away from him and at the opposite a wall, a look of anger, shock and frustration twisting his already vile features.
Cecil painfully lifted his head to look back at his friends fighting for their lives down the corridor. He wasn't sure but, through the haze of agony, either Ys the elf or Shamus the magic-user threw him a wink as their fingers drew sigils of power in the air.
The hobgoblin chief's single distraction cost him his life. Guard down, he fell victim to a second spell that rooted him to the spot. Moments later he was pin-cushioned with arrows and a final magic missile blew a neat hole through his thick skull.
Leaderless, the hobgoblin guards fell into panic and disarray. The party, rallying at the taste of victory, set to with melee weapons. The results were not pretty.
A few moments later, panting for breath and covered in filth, Karma the dwarf declared, "Bloody hells! Look at this thing!"
All had gathered into the main room where the hobgoblin chieftain had set his last stand. They seemed to be out of the radius of the silence spell, which helped.
Cubisia looked up from tending to the mortally wounded Cecil. Only the god of Law could save the plucky thief now. The cleric's eyes moved to the far wall where the dwarf was standing. It looked like ... an altar?
Shamus and Ys, in the meantime, had plucked the stunned merchant from the paralysed clutches of the hobgoblin shaman. Somehow during this process of extraction it also appeared that the held shaman's throat had somehow been sliced from ear to ear. The elf and the human avoiding each other's gazes guiltily.
Flint was whistling silently to himself as he gathered treasure into a big sack.
Cubisia took a cautious step towards the altar. It was, of course, black and seemed to throb with a purplish, bruise-coloured light. He felt ill just looking at it.
"Don't touch it, Karma."
"I wasn't intending t--"
Suddenly there was a terrible sound like a scream combined with ripping flesh. The very stones of the altar tore apart and black tentacles, slime and sucker covered, burst forth. They reached the ceiling and then quickly swept about, looking for prey. The suckers opened and closed grotesquely -- desperately.
And, while the rest of the party stared up in horror, Cubisia smiled. His moment had come.
"Run! Run, my friends!" he cried as he reached deep into his backpack and withdrew a hellishly-bound tome. He flicked the pages open and the tentacles seemed to withdraw in pain and, from somewhere deep below the earth, something bellowed.
Long had the cleric of Law carried this forbidden book. Long had it plagued his thoughts. Tempted him. And now, release!
As his friends beat a hasty retreat Cubisia let his eyes fall upon the first words of the foul incantations. His tongue, of its own accord, began forming the sub-human sounds needed to recite the black speech. As each syllable pealed the tentacles became more violent, thrashing stone and hewing rock. Cubisia's voice reached a crescendo and then there was a terrible screech and Cubisia was running, running. The tome was left behind as the altar imploded and the ceiling started to collapse and there was Flint in front of him pumping his dwarven legs as fast as he could.
And, after what seemed like an eternity, they were outside, sucking in sweet air and laughing and counting gold and receiving untold thanks from the fat merchant and his weeping daughter. Law had triumphed and the party were, more or less, intact.
And the Caves of Chaos had been defeated ... for now.
Well, that took a lot longer than expected! Thanks for your patience, those who have followed this little, evolving storyhour about my first Gencon experience.
Thanks also to all of you who have contributed to this board, as I found some true inspiration here as I prepped for this game. Finally, a special thankyou to philotomy -- his musings on OD&D were a driving force for the direction that I took with not only this Con game but also with the other OD&D games I've run before and after.
For those interested, here is a (somewhat blurry) snapshot of my most excellent Gencon group -- though we were all strangers when we started I'd like to think that we all gained a special bond when the Caves of Chaos (well, small parts of it, at least) were vanquished.