Keep on the Borderlands Session #9: Betrayal, Victory, and a Harrowing Escape!

Our last game session was pretty intense. If you’ve been following along, you may recall that previously our stalwart heroes stumbled upon a back entrance to the evil temple complex within the Caves of Chaos. Therein they came upon a torture chamber and, after they subdued the torturer, he somehow managed to convince them that he wasn’t really an evil axe-wielding torturer at all, and that the evil priests in this place must have charmed him or something. To prove his worth, he agreed to lead them to the main temple complex, and a showdown with the evil cleric in charge of things, whom the party just so happened to be hunting down anyway. Along the way our heroes got into a scuffle with some acolytes, which created enough noise to alert others within the complex that something was amiss.

That’s pretty much where we began our last session. The party was bandaging the minor wounds they had received from the acolytes when they heard the tolling of a gong somewhere deeper in the caves. Hamlin, the not-at-all-murderous former torturer, told them the sound was coming from the main chamber, and that it meant Jovan was aware that intruders were about. With Hamlin in the lead, the party charged toward what could have been certain doom. They arrived in the main chamber to see Jovan seated on a throne atop a raised dais, with four acolytes seated below him. Ten skeletons lined the wall to their left and ten zombies lined the wall to their right. It looked pretty bad.

Jovan stood, called the party infidels, and vowed to sacrifice them in the name of the “New Masters.” He then ordered his undead minions to attack. An arrow whizzed anti-climatically past Jovan’s head as both he and Tim the Conjurer began the incantations of a spell. The heroes managed to win the most important initiative roll of their adventuring careers and amazingly Hamlin, the murderous-after-all fighter, managed to miss Tim the Conjurer with what should have been a savage melee attack.

Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!
Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

All of this allowed Tim to finish casting his sleep spell before Jovan could cast his hold person spell. So Jovan and his acolytes decided to take a little nap. Brother Jaeric stepped forward boldly, and the majority of the skeletons began to cower before St. Cuthbert’s might. Elsewhere, Kelmore the hireling got surrounded by a pack of zombies while everyone else started swinging madly at zombies, skeletons, and bloodthirsty torturers. Apparently Hamlin was given the job of torturer because of his inability to hit anything that wasn’t lashed to a table or chained to a wall, because he managed to land exactly zero blows in three rounds of toe-to-toe combat with a wizard before being taken down by various other party members.

Although the main bad guy was sawing logs in his expensive chair and the torturer in the party’s midst failed to inflict any damage, things were far from a cake walk from this point forward. The party was locked in a battle of attrition with the relentless zombies, slowly being pressed back towards the entrance to the chamber. To make matters worse, a couple of zombies grievously wounded Brother Jaeric, causing his concentration to falter long enough to allow the skeletons to rejoin the fray. Viiridi the ranger went down in a heap, and a few rounds later Tollman the thief took a zombie down with him as he too fell. Garwin was stalwart, felling a slew of zombies and skeletons before he too was overwhelmed. When the last skeleton fell only Kelmore, who everyone had written off as a goner by round two of the combat, Tim the Conjurer, and Brother Jaeric remained standing. Jaeric managed to get Tollman and Garwin back on their feet while Kelmore set about binding and gagging Jovan and his minions.

The party then decided to shove the pews from the temple into the entrance and cover them with lamp oil, because they thought that blocking the only exit they were aware of and spending the night in the evil temple would be a great idea. What could go wrong? Well, eight wandering zombies could eventually come shambling down the hallway, for starters. So our heroes torched the pews, executed the acolytes (reasoning that five prisoners was four too many with one party member unconscious and the rest of them limping along), and decided to check the other passage leading from this room in the hopes they could find another exit before the fire burned out and the zombies ate them for dinner. In the evil priest’s antechamber our heroes were surprised by three plate mailed zombies, who lurched mindlessly to the attack when the party entered. Brother Jaeric turned them aside with the holy word of St. Cuthbert as the party crashed into Jovan’s private chambers. They set about ransacking the room and, as luck would have it, they did find a secret door! With this lucky break the party made it to safety, being able to easily sneak down the hallway behind the pack of zombies who were still waiting to eat them when the pew fire burned out.

Wow. That fight could have easily been this group’s last. Even after getting lucky enough to win initiative and to have Tim not be cut down by Hamlin, they still almost lost. I’m glad things turned out like they did though. I’m glad everyone didn’t die, but I’m also glad that everyone realized they could have died. I think as a group everyone learned that they may not be able to kill whatever is around the next corner because they assume it will be a level appropriate encounter, and that I won’t just murder them all. In short: I’m glad they didn’t die but I’m also glad they know that I can and will kill them if that’s the way things go.

This has went rather long, so next week I will briefly wrap up how things went when the party arrived back at the keep, as well as recap what will be the first session in the next leg of the campaign. Thanks for reading!

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5 thoughts on “Keep on the Borderlands Session #9: Betrayal, Victory, and a Harrowing Escape!

    1. Thanks for reading, I appreciate it! I hope you check out the notes from our previous Keep on the Borderlands sessions and stay tuned for The Temple of Elemental Evil, which we plan to tackle next.

      1. We started out playing 3.5 and it was my intention to eventually test drive the E6 house rules, but a couple of sessions ago we actually switched to Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea, which is a retro-clone that plays like a hybrid of Basic and 1st Edition Advanced.

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