Monday, 14 February 2011

KoTB Campaign Report Part 1: In search of chain mail armor

Well the week since my first DM session in 17 years has flown by. Sadly, nothing to do with gaming. So let's get to it. What happened. This will also serve as the players and my record of events.

Character Creation
5 novice players was an awful lot to undertake. As I said in my last post my character creation sheets helped. I went with 3d6 reroll 1 (no trading or exchanging ability scores, you got what you got) and we had ability scores ranging from 6 (charisma) to two 16 (Int and Wisdom).

I used B/X Blackrazor's 100 reasons characters might adventure together and this is what we got:
Kate a Templar Cleric (Str13,Wis13,Con8,Cha13) is Cousin to Marvin the Magic User (Int14,Con14)
Kate met Bob the Fighter (Str13,Wis16,Cha6) in a Temple Shrine praying.
That's because Bob had just got out of prison. In prison he had met Ziplok the elf (Int16,Wis15). He already knew Marvin the magic-user (mutual acquaintance) who had introduced Ziplok to the surprisingly witty and entertaining dwarf Lando Smallrisian (Str15,Con14,Cha14). Lando and Marvin were hired muscle for a crime lord. It was through this acquaintanceship that Ziplok had ended up in prison.

The relationships didn't feature again but it did immediately inform the party that they were one step ahead of the law and crime lords, and none doubted why they had headed into the borderlands to seek their fortune. They knew that up in the mountainous borderlands old dwarven mines and homes could be found, filled with treasure. Treasure hungry rogues seemed to fit, with Kate along the road owing to her relationship to her cousin Marvin and a desire to support the 'apparent' repentance of ugly Bob.

DM note: Despite the difficulties of starting novice players B/X rules and my preparation paid off. Spell descriptions were printed on small pieces of paper which the players could keep their chosen spell next to them. 

Arrival at the Keep
As they approached the keep they saw a strange procession entering the keep ahead of them. A ragged march of around 40 soldiers and 10 walking cavalry soldiers, bringing many dead upon their horses. Dwarves were with the procession.

The Keep gate was closed upon their arrival and the party had to give reason to the guard to allow their entry. The players struggled, understandably, with their first role-play moment.
They entered after a few strange responses and were met by the Corporal of the Watch, Corporal Sten. He took an immediate shine to Kate. He explained to her (and the others) that the procession they had witnessed was the victorious Castellan leading his men back after a sortie with the hill giants. The Castellan had won but at heavy cost. With winter drawing closer it was expected that the Keep would be closed off within a month and then the giants often attacked in force. It was hoped this pre-emptive strike would be enough. He then welcomed them to the Keep and then warned them that the penalty for thievery and murder was execution. On that cheery note Corporal Sten introduced the party to 12 year old Jimmy the Stable-boy who bargained with them to show them the keep. The party gave him 2 coppers for the day, which he was pleased with. He took them straight to the Tavern. The party felt that any missions would be found in a tavern. They did debate whether they should look for supplies first in case their mission started immediately but decided they needed to know the mission first.

DM note: the KotB module has way too many soldiers and doesn't seem to have an active purpose since the Castellan let's monsters make homes right on his doorstep unmolested. I am not the first to think this, am I? Inspired by Gaz 1, Karameikos and the Keep's location in the Altan Tepes Mountains which says 'Frost Giants' I decided to give the Castellan and Keep a real job. Fighting giants - and it also depleted the stock of men at the keep, gave them a one month time limit and set up the Keep for a return trip one day - a B/X G1,2,3 perhaps. Orc, goblins on your doorstep - who cares when the high walls of the keep are designed to fight off giants. Giants who drove out the dwarves but perhaps can't reach into the smaller treasure filled dwarf homes?

The Tavern
Jimmy waited outside (why I wonder now?) In the Tavern they met Barkeep Malek. Spending their wealth (silver based economy, mistakenly I gave the conversion as 100cp=10sp=1gp; starting silver 1d6+charisma bonus *10), which was not much, they bought Malek some 3sp Honey Mead, his favourite. Blatant bribery but he took a fondness to the dwarf Lando. Malek introduced the party to Frak the dwarf. He had lost a companion to goblins but didn't know the way back as he was surprised when they were attacked. He offered his services but the party declined to hire him. He told them that there was a guild house of dwarves in the keep but they wouldn't let you enter, even if a dwarf, unless you knew the name of your grandfather's grandfather. They met Thena Captain of the Watch and admired her plate mail. The party only had leather and even the soldiers looked good in chain. Finally Malek directed them to Relag, the Jewel Merchant's guard. The Jewel Merchant, Brade, was looking to hire some adventurers to search for dwarf gold for him and he knew the way to where it could be found. The party suggested that if Relag could bring his master back to the Tavern they would pay for a meal for him. Brade came quickly and eagerly to them but when he saw the poor offerings the party could afford he lavished the best on them. He told them he wanted dwarf gold. He offered to tell them where it could be found and send Relag and his war dog to assist them and protect his interests. The party could keep all the rest of the treasure they found. He just wanted dwarf gold. After bargaining he offered them 1 gold each (10sp) and to pay for 1 weeks rations and 1 weeks accommodation in the inn. The party agreed and said they would set off the next day, which pleased him. The party was still rock poor and disappointed when they learnt that chain mail costs 150sp, way outside their price range. Lando bought Malek the innkeep more honey mead and after much singing (not role-played) and bonding Lando asked if Malek knew where the dead soldier's were taken that they had seen entering the keep, particularly where their chain mail was taken. Malek told Lando he was out of his mind that the armour was either in the Inner Keep or with the armorer and it would be death to attempt it.
With this warning the players asked Jimmy, who suggested they talk to the new priest who had moved in next to the Jewel Merchant a few days ago. He seemed to have money and armor. His two acolytes were very pretty he informed the party.
So they went to meet Bacchus, who was outside his accommodation drinking (not surprisingly) and smoking. He seemed in jovial spirits.  He had two chain mail armored acolytes with him, both were female and attractive. The party explained their predicament and laughingly he agreed. He told one of his acolytes, Themyscira, to take Kate the Templar Cleric indoors and swap her chain for Kate's leather. He said he gave it as a loan, one cleric to another. And he wanted it back, whether the owner was alive or not. The party gained their first chain mail armor.
The male party members were upset that they couldn't see the two women exchange armor but Kate learnt that Themyscira couldn't talk, and not from having her tongue cut out as she had assumed. Bacchus told Kate that both his acolytes had taken vows of silence.
The party rested for the night at the Inn, whose owner Raul was an identical twin of Malek but he hated his guts. Before they said good night to Jimmy he offered to come with them as a torch bearer. He was 12 so the party refused.

DM note: the lack of starting money sure made the party hungry for more and very aware of their leather armor compared to all the better armored people around them. I was very pleased with this development until the party started contemplating an attack on the keep. Cyclopeatron's downloadable fillable henchman card PDF using meatshields programme to generate names and ideas worked very well for me as DM. I would never have thought I would allow Bacchus the priest to go with the armor swap idea. It seemed the right idea at the time, and the night was moving on and we still hadn't got to a dungeon!  

Provisioning and setting off
The next morning the party was still keen to prepare, though there were some calls to just get on with it. They went to the Provisioner with Jimmy's renewed help for another day. She was a young woman called Siana, also know as the young widow, she had a 2 year old on her hip. She had pre-prepared adventuring packs she was very proud of (as was the DM - adapted from BFRPG See here.). Basic Pack - backpack, torches, sacks, etc; Essentials pack with grappling hook, Be Prepared pack (10' pole no one could see the point) and a Ready for Anyone Pack (silver dagger). The skint party bought one basic pack to share - yep that's all, but demanded they get a reduction for rations as the Jewel Merchant had supplied them with one week of rations already.
As they left they immediately met a 16 year old boy called Deris who said he wanted to be their torch bearer so he could impress a lady. He offered to arrive with a lantern and oil. Asking no questions and wanting to get to the dungeon they said yes.
They met Deris outside the gates with Relag and his war dog. Deris was awkwardly wearing chain mail armor, and carrying a lantern, shield and spear. Lando the charismatic dwarf suggested that Deris would be more comfortable and safer in leather. Amazingly Deris agreed (double 6 reaction roll!) and since he was only 16 Lando the dwarf could fit the armor. Deris got leather. Two party members with chain mail.
The party set off....

DM note: Delta suggested when I last posted that I was ambitious to start novice players in the Keep. Too much choice, so little direction. I agree entirely now. It felt like a computer game. Talk to this person, get this, go there. This is no disrespect to my players, I was thinking the same as them and designed it that way. One player later asked me, "Could we have got more out of the townspeople?" And here is the true genius of role playing - I don't know. I would never have designed it that the priest would give the party some armor - but it felt right at the time so I did. Deris swapping his armor - that's random chance for you - only in a RPG.
But on reflection I wish I started them just outside the dungeon door, as Delta wisely suggested. They were hankering for the dungeon and we only had 60 minutes of playing time left. Next post I'll relate what happened.

The well known image above I found from google images as I write and sources from
This is a blog I didn't know existed. The blogger seems to have an obsession with KotB. And there ain't nothing wrong with that.

Can I just welcome as followers (I'm a bit lost where I am up to with this but feel it is only right to do so, especially as a minnow blog): Delta (I'm honoured), Shane Mangus (different site I enjoy dipping into it),  Paul Gorman (D&D blog pending it seems), A Paladin in Citadel (I'm honoured), Rahrahrah (and Rah) and my latest Tommy. Thank you all.



  1. Nice session report thus far. LOVE the PC names! I can't wait to hear what happens when they enter the Caves.

  2. Nice report. I just started playing Keep for the first time, so I'll probably have to avoid your future play reports. In my session, I had a look around the keep, hired men-at-arms, and finished-off a half dozen goblins in a fairly chatty 2 hour session.

    (And my blog isn't pending—it's here!)

  3. Thanks Paul
    Quickly,quietly,carefully now added to my blog list.