For the last few months in David B’s Low Fantasy Gaming (Steve Grodzicki’s OSR game) campaign, set in Cerilia, we’ve been making our way through the lost dwarven outpost of Khundrukar.
Lost to the orogs and an unknown horror in the lake below the outpost about a century ago, Khundrakar has been largely off-limits to the dwarves. Small forces sent to retake the outpost have all been lost to the last dwarf, and the dwarves have been unwilling to send larger forces for fear of provoking the Chimera, a powerful awnshegh based near the outpost.
Enter our band of intrepid heroe… no, we’re not heroes. Murderhob… no, not quite murderhobos. Adventurers. We’ll go to dangerous places because… um. Let me get back to you on that.
It took several attempts to clear the place out.
- First venture was through the ventilation shaft the orogs used for cooking. A little smoky and sooty, but the extra smudges helped us blend into the shadows. We were doing okay sneaking around until the three of us — Rymer was outside the complex ‘guarding our retreat’ (Craig couldn’t make it that night) — stumbled into an orog barracks and decided to just go for it. We killed seven of the eight, but I couldn’t quite get the eighth one before he raised an alarm… kicking open the door to where the boss, an ogre, was holding court. One stinking cloud and a lot of frantic running later, we were outside.
- … and they followed us to a town to the south (we’d rescued a couple of prisoners and decided to take them home). We managed to slaughter and hide the bodies of the orog vanguard and rearguard before running back to the north.
- This time we tried the front door, guessing (correctly) that they’d taken steps to protect their back passage and that whatever orogs remaining would be only a token force. We managed to kill all but two, who retreated deeper into the complex well-wounded. We set up camp on the ‘other side’ of the rope bridge, preparing to cut it and drop all occupants into the chasm below. It didn’t work, they figured out what we were doing… we cut the bridge anyway, then took cover and traded arrow fire until we killed the ogre, his dire wolves, and half the orogs he had with him. The rest fled, and the two survivors from the earlier fight came out and surrendered.
- “Here’s the deal. You cross us, we kill you. You play straight with us, you can walk, and we’ll even set you up in style.” “That’s… that’s better than any offer we ever got from the ogre. Deal.”
- We finished exploring the top level, dipped a little into the Glitterhame below and wiped out the troglodytes (remember the troglodytes? We’ve got _lots_ of troglodytes… nice to know these ones are just as susceptible to sleep spells as the others). We were going to go back for supplies and hopefully come back with reinforcements, and those reinforcements would be dwarves and not too friendly to orogs. These ones played it straight, so we gave them their choice of weapons and other recovered gear, and a few pounds of silver, and sent them on their way.
- We got as far as the forge and found it occupied by deep dwarves. This was going political so we returned to the Promontory to let them know what we found. And to get supplies. And hopefully some dwarven support, even if only to occupy the upper levels so we had somewhere safe to retreat to. We filled our bag of holding with as much food as we could, hired a couple of dwarven mercenaries — quite competent, but one of them got used up fighting a giant lizard we found while showing them around the Glitterhame.
- The deep dwarves, it turns out, were not only entirely okay to kill, but actually a legal obligation. We managed to do a pretty thorough job of that, but almost got wiped out when we were swarmed by a huge mob of skeletons. I was out of that fight, having failed yet another Dark & Dangerous check and could no longer breathe (the perfect complement to no longer having a pulse, due to a previous failed Dark & Dangerous check). Still, it appeared my brushes with death gave me a certain insight and I discovered I can now speak with dead.
- Then last night, down to the lake below Khundrakar, where we encountered Nightscale, a black dragon. We lucked out several times: a critical hit as it was preparing to breath acid on us caused it to spew into the lake, a lightning bolt I cast as it fell into the water (I couldn’t see the dragon, but it didn’t have time to get out of the impromptu lightning ball in the water) did substandard damage but it did do damage, a couple of sneak attacks from our rogues (one of whom get pulled underwater but managed to escape, taking only 5 points of damage from a 3d10 bite attack!). The dragon fled with, David told us afterward, only five hit points remaining. Had one of the rogues actually rolled even average damage on his sneak attack (rolled 11 points on 2d6+2d8, mean is 16) or I rolled average damage on my lightning bolt (I rolled 13, average is 17.5… which I’m rounding up in my head to 18) we would have had it. If it had even popped its head up where I could see it one more time my magic missile spell’s minimum damage would have done it.
All it all it was an exciting conclusion to a months-long story arc. The setting for the encounter put us almost entirely on the reactive side: we couldn’t really plan for what the dragon would do, we had to wait for it to act and hope to get our licks in first. I had an aegis from harm spell that would have protected me (and those close enough to me) from its acid breath, but the number and severity of its physical attacks were nothing to laugh at. Two lanterns and a light spell, trying to watch for a black dragon in a dark cave full of dark water…
It might’ve been nice to have actually killed the dragon rather than just drive it off, but I’ll never complain about smart play from the monsters. We’re now heroes to the dwarves, and I’m pretty sure we’ll get another opportunity to meet Nightscale.