Keep on the Borderlands Session #1, in which our intrepid heroes make it to the keep, and not much else.

I’ve been able to cobble together a group of players who have never played any pencil and paper RPGs, but have expressed an interest in learning. So I decided to let them cut their teeth on that timeless dungeon crawl, The Keep on the Borderlands. After some digging, I found some 3.5 conversion notes for classic modules and grabbed the notes for Keep on the Borderlands. After a few additional notes and alterations, I was ready to go.

For the first session, there were only three players, but we (hopefully) have a fourth player that will join us for future sessions. I will also play an NPC adventurer. (Side Note: In this situation it is my preference to play a fighter. A pretty straight forward guy who can hang out in the background and steal as little of the spotlight as possible from the PC’s. However, in the interest of letting the players play what they wanted to play I will be taking on the role of the party cleric. This may actually be a good thing with a new group of players, having a wise voice of reason in the group who can potentially help them avoid some major pitfalls, but I still don’t really like it.) I will go ahead and introduce the characters in the order that they were rolled up:

Player #1 – Tollman Butters, Halfling Thief

Butters, as he is known, is a failed innkeeper. He had a crossroads inn and, through egregious mismanagement, the enterprise went belly up (possibly due in part to Butters lacking any skill points in any profession or craft related to innkeeping or bookkeeping). Broke and possibly hiding out from creditors, Butters decided to hit the road and head for the Keep on the Borderlands to lay low and perhaps find some profitable enterprise. He is quick, acrobatic, and stealthy, and has a penchant for throwing daggers.

Player #2 – Garwin Longbeard, Dwarven Fighter

Garwin is a hearty stone mason from the Dwarven Clans of the Lortmill Mountains, who dwell not far from the infamous borderland keep. Though he could have stayed at home and made a quiet, comfortable living for himself plying his trade, Garwin had a taste for adventure. He decided to hang up his trowel, pick up his trusty Dwarven waraxe, and see what work he could find as an explorer and a mercenary. He is stout, proud, and eager to test his mettle against goblins, orcs, and the many other ancient foes of his people.

Player #3 – Enmetius, Human Barbarian

Also from the Lortmil Mountains, Enmetius is a proud barbarian from the Mountain Lion Tribe, whose curiosity about the world at large led him to leave his village of Hearth Home. Enmetius has some strong convictions about civilized folk, and views their comparatively posh lifestyle with contempt. Perhaps he has journeyed from his mountain home to test these convictions, and prove that the barbarian way of life is superior to that of the lowlands.

Player # 4 – Tim, Human Sorceror

Player # 4 is “Sir Not Appearing in this Session.” So I rolled up a human sorcerer and  named him Tim the Conjurer. Tim is 19 and has a high opinion of himself and his abilities. He is young, brash, and largely ignorant of what the world at large has in store for him. Tim may be passed off to player #4 once their is a player #4, or he can roll up a new character if he likes. Regardless, the tentative fourth player has expressed an interest in playing an arcane spell caster which is good news for this relatively small band of adventurers.

NPC – Brother Jaeric of the Cudgel – Human Priest

Brother Jaeric is older than your typical adventurer, being in his mid-thirties with a few grey hairs starting to creep in. Jaeric came to the clergy somewhat late in life, and has spent his time within the church of St. Cuthbert as an acolyte in a small temple on the outskirts of Verbobonc. Jaeric has recently grown restless with his life, and an increasing desire to practice the preachings of St. Cuthbert has welled up within him. Perhaps these are the stirrings of a midlife crisis, but Jaeric feels that if he doesn’t do something now he will lose his chance to make a real difference in the world. After much prayer and medidation, Jaeric packed up his meager belongings and left his small parish to walk the world, spreading the teachings of St. Cuthbert in deed as well as word.

Synopsis

We quickly decided that the barbarian and the dwarf ran in to one another on their way down out of the mountains and agreed to travel together since they happened to share a destination. Jaeric met Tim not long after setting out from Verbobonc and they likewise fell in together, sharing several other companions on the road until they reached the last crossroads, where the winding road that led to the keep split away from the more well traveled routes. It was at this crossroads that these two travelers met Butters who, not wanting to venture in to the unknown by himself, had spent the last few days camping near this crossroads waiting for some hearty mercenaries he could tag along with to pass by. But, since none showed up, he decided to travel with the priest and the sorcerer instead. These travelers met  up with Garwin and Enmetius about a day from the keep and thus was our adventuring band formed.

Upon gaining admittance to the keep, Enmetius, who revealed at the gate that he had a delivery for the blacksmith (a nice touch that the player came up with on his own) went to complete his task, while Jaeric sought out the temple and the rest of the party made their way to the tavern. While wondering and inquiring about what to do next, the party heard rumors about the nearby Caves of Chaos, and how locales feared that this den of evil had recently become active again, as reports of goblinoids and bandits in the outlying region had become increasingly more frequent in recent months. A helpful priest who is temporarily residing in the keep overheard them talking, and gave them some helpful advice about the caves and a general idea of where they could be found. The group decided to head out for these caves at once.

Our intrepid adventurers left the keep at first light and made their way along the road in the direction of these so-called Caves of Chaos. Perhaps it was the excitement of impending adventure that had them distracted, or perhaps they were too busy chatting amongst themselves to take notice of their surroundings, but about two hours from the keep our bold adventurers ran afoul of a bandit ambush. The first sign that the group may be in trouble came in the form of two arrows sticking out of poor Tim’s chest, which nearly dropped him right there in his tracks. This alarming development was followed by a bellowing charge from some spear wielding bandits who were hell bent on taking out the barbarian and the dwarf as quickly as possible. While some solid blows were landed, it proved to be less than enough to take down the stalwart heroes.

In the fight that followed Garwin Longbeard proved his worth by felling three of the bandits single-handedly, while the struggling Enmetius was eventually able to bring down the remaining spear man with his not-so-great-in-this-particular-encounter sword. Meanwhile, Tim had managed to rush at one of the bowmen and incapacitate him with a color spray while Butters couldn’t quite hit the other archer with his slingshot. That archer eventually fled the field, getting away cleanly while the last of the unfortunate spear men were being dealt with . Jaeric, for his part, kept the warriors in the fight by blessing them with the healing power of St. Cuthbert.

After the fight, our bruised heroes began gathering the meager belongings of their bandit assailants, and made plans to return to the keep to heal, refit, and possibly have a discussion about how they could function more efficiently together as a fighting force. One thing of note that the party did discover was that one of these bandits wore a simple chain necklace with some sort of talisman or sigil upon it. The symbol was a black triangle with a yellow border, with a flaming yellow eye etched into the center of the triangle. Neither Tim nor Jaeric recognized this symbol, but the party decided to keep the necklace for further investigation.

Overall Impressions

While I was disappointed that circumstances beyond our control cut our first session rather short and we were missing a player, I was otherwise quite pleased with how things went. I particularly like the amount of thought that players #1 and #3 put into their character’s back stories, and how player #3 ad-libbed a few interesting storytelling elements. A great time was had by all and everyone seems to be looking forward to our next session. I think for a first game of dungeons and dragons everyone did remarkably well.

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7 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Session #1, in which our intrepid heroes make it to the keep, and not much else.

  1. “This may actually be a good thing with a new group of players, having a wise voice of reason in the group who can potentially help them avoid some major pitfalls, but I still don’t really like it.”
    You are right not to like it! Do not rob your players of rookie mistakes! Losing PCs in the meatgrinder that is low-level play is what will make them better players!
    Run the cleric as a gung-ho zealot who laways wants to press on despite depleted resources etc. and he might be an object lesson.

    1. While I haven’t been a gung-ho zealot who wants to press his luck, I did come down against the “wise voice of reason” as well. Brother Jaeric is more of an equivocating sort of guy who sees the value in either course of action the party is faced with. The type of guy who may say something like: “Some say discretion is the better part of valor, but do they not also say that fortune favors the brave?”

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