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Otakar

Adventures of the Pride Staves - Chapter 1 Castle Caldwell

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We meet our heroes early new year’s morning at the gates of Threshold, a prominent town in the Grand Dutchy of Koromikos, located the world of Mystra. Kenshi, the great weapon fighter: his loyal friend, Anna-Oop, the burley dwarf; the mysterious druid, Isla; and the young, enigmatic, Valen, the burglar; barely become acquainted before their services are solicited by a wealthy merchant. The merchant, Clifton Caldwell, greets the adventurers at the gate and implores them to rid his newly acquired castle of foul monsters and bandits.

Caldwell offers the group 100 gold pieces (GP) each for the completed job. Each member checks their purse noting that 100 GP would bring a substantial increase. Isla, sensing Caldwell’s desperation shrewdly negotiations for 50 GP more each. Caldwell readily agrees and offers the group half the money up front.

With the deal settled, the party decides to use their advance to better prepare for the adventure. Feeling the heavy packs on their backs the first purchase they decide to make is a mule. They procure a fine animal at the stables and split the 8 GP price four ways. Isla takes some time to speak with the mule and dubs him “Drew”. He’d always called himself “Carrot Muncher” prior to Isla’s christening but he decides he doesn’t want to disappoint Isla and keeps the name. Drew promises to stick by the party and hull their burdens as long as they make protecting him their priority.

Kenshi, being the natural leader, wisely suggests buying healing potions. The party, not familiar with Threshold visits a local tavern to try to find out where potions are sold. While at the tavern the group reluctantly allows the fourteen-year-old Valen to partake in the libation. They learn that the wizards’ guild is likely the best place to find potions. While making their way to the guild Isla subdues Valen, who’s obviously topped his limit at drinks, to keep him from drawing attention to the group.

At the Guild they meet the curator, Stinson Inkpot. He has potions on hand for 50 gold each. Each member uses their advance to obtain one potion. The unconscious Valen’s companions take the liberty of going into his purse to make sure he has a potion as well.

Fully outfitted the party makes for the castle. Caldwell takes them on a three-hour trek to the castle. All seems peaceful as the group arrives in the early afternoon. Caldwell lets them know that he was able to enter the castle but ran when he saw a few goblins who’d obviously set-up housekeeping in Caldwell’s real estate.

The Pride Staves boldly walk up to the castle doors and enter. Their first forays into the multitude of rooms are somewhat tense as they are unsure whom should actually do what. Isla takes the lead and enters the first room on the left. Fortunately, the room is empty except for broken furniture and upturned benches and tables. Through careful searching the party finds a large sack under one of the tables that contains 500 Silver Pieces (SP) and three gems. One gem is worth 300 GP while the others are 50 GP each.

While preparing to enter the room across the way the Staves notice a group of goblins turning the corner from the hall. The goblins don’t rush to attack and seem to be hesitant in the encounter with the armed adventurers, but when Kenshi says “attack” the goblins rush to secure the advantage. They attack and run without damaging the party who turn their attention back to the door.

Opening the door, they find four more goblins who obviously heard the commotion outside and are ready for them. This first battle is quickly won by the party who go int to secure a treasure mound on the floor but shortly are called out by their mule, Drew, with frantic braying. The previous group of goblins set an ambush for the party. One of the goblins is particularly tenacious with his sharp axe and gets between Kenshi’s armored bands twice. Kenshi misses several times leading his companions to question his abilities however he redeems himself with a final cleaving blow to the goblin who harried him earlier.

The party commence to clearing the castle encountering bandits, wolves, kobolds, stirges, fire beetles and a poison snake. When the group encounters the two hungry wolves one of them tears-into a surprised Isla. Valen rushes to defend her sinking his broadsword deftly into the side of the offending wolf. Thinking fast, Kenshi shouts to Isla to use her druidic charms on the uninjured wolf. Isla succeeds and turns the wolf docile. Anna-Oop finishes the wolf with a war-pick to the spine and although they find no treasure, they do find a helpful ally in the charmed wolf who offers to help the group if he’s well fed. He introduces himself as “Soft Paw”. The party, except for Drew, the mule, are all pleased to have Soft Paw as a friend instead of an enemy.

One of the more notable encounters is when the party comes upon an armored priestess of Chaos worshiping at an altar. When the party refuses to worship with her, she decides that she would rather depart then argue religion with the group. Isla advocates to allow the priestess to leave, unmolested, but Kenshi’s sense of law prevails and he moves to give the priestess an unscheduled introduction to her chaotic lord. Isla expects that the noble Kenshi’s motivations have less to do with righteous fury and more to do with the fine suit of plate mail worn by the priestess. The priestess’s plate mail portents to be their undoing as the party cannot seem to find an opening. Additionally, Kenshi is quickly taken out of the fight with a command word by the priestess freezing him in place. Valen finds an opening with his broadsword striking a telling blow but pays dearly with a mace to the head as she lays him out cold. Isla’s balls of flame disperse harmlessly against the priestess’s armor and it’s only the burly Anna Oop who brings his hafted war-pick to bear against an opening over the priestess’s gorget finishing her evil existence. With the priestess vanquished Kenshi is released unharmed to don his newly found armor, leaving his companions to revive the fallen Valen.

It seems that fate finds its way to everyone in Castle Caldwell. Most of the rooms the party explores are empty and as Isla readies herself to open a door anticipating another vacant space, the valiant Kenshi has her move aside to open the door like the gentleman he was taught to be. As he turns the knob the door bursts forth into fur and fangs and takes Kenshi to the ground. His new armor is put to the test and found wanting as teeth and claws find openings and tear into his soft flesh. Reacting quickly, Isla sics the wolf, Soft Paw, onto the beast. The wolf’s fangs find the creature’s jugular terminating its onslaught and saving Kenshi.

Kenshi finds fate again, with interest, in an encounter with the stirges, large birdlike blood-suckers, that cling to their victims. One of the stirges attaches itself to the back of Kenshi’s neck. Anna-Oop advances, confident that he can help his friend. Unfortunately, his war-pick misses the stirge and embeds itself deep into Kenshi’s shoulder. The stirge draws Kenshi’s blood robbing Kenshi of his will do fight and his dignity. Fortunately, Isla’s fire is on target and reduces the stirge to ash allowing the friends to revive the fallen warrior.

Anna-Oop takes center stage when the party enters what appeared to be a kitchen. Aside from old kitchen implements the party notes a large chest with leather straps over to the side of the kitchen. Valen inspects it for traps and notes that it is likely trapped but he cannot disarm it. He’s certain that the trap has to do with lifting the lid. The consensus among the party is to leave it but Anna-Oop will have none of it and boldly strides forward to open it as everyone else leaves the room. The chest is indeed trapped, and a poison gas cloud exudes from the chest. With his dwarven resilience Anna-Oop shrugs off the poison with mild discomfort. The chest is empty however the chest itself is excellent quality and likely valuable to the right buyer.

One door appears un-openable and impenetrable to the party’s efforts to pass. The group sets the room aside for later and finds more answers when they meet a helpful statue that answers their questions. Regrettably the adventurers only get three questions a day from the statue and must wait an additional day to get their answers regarding the unpassable door.

Regarding the door the statue states, “Much danger, strange magic, and great treasure lies behind the door, but it cannot be opened by any means such as you possess.” Further questioning of the statue leads the party to believe that they must find a powerful wizard to open the portal. A trip back to Threshold and payment of the two newly found 50-GP gems hires a wizard to open the door.

Once the door is opened the wizard and the party enter an empty room with a trapdoor in the center of the floor. Just touching the trapdoor opens it but the party looks in surprise as the wizard shudders and the mule and wolf run in fear. The wizard says that an evil is down in that dungeon and no promise of wealth will entice him to enter. The Pride Staffs look to each other questioning their resolve to continue the quest. Will they dare enter The Dungeons of Terror?

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