The blogosphere had a back and forth on "empty rooms" in a dungeon and whether it adds or detracts from the game. I want to rebut and say there is no such thing as an empty room. There is always something in there: old furnishings, discarded whatever, even just a difference in the air pressure or what might be on the floor or walls. Not every room is an encounter, not every room is a fight/puzzle/trip/trap/treasure.
When designing Candlewick Keep, I made sure that there were rooms that would be empty. It's not a zoo, its a place. I also hid a few caches of goodies about and gave thought as to what might be left behind by the former inhabitants (and unfound by the newer ones). In typical DM/PC relations, my group has already stumbled on 2 of them and claimed them on the 2nd day of being in the place so maybe they weren't as "hidden" as I suspected, but as for the 1st part of the statement, there are plenty of empty rooms in the Keep as broadly defined by the blogosphere, but in realty, not empty at all.
The other thought/rumination is that this was a different adventure/crawl than most of my group had been used to as of late. It's not a buzz-saw adventure (where you run forward, get chewed up, relax heal, run forward and combat the next section, ad nauseum), and if you try it, you will get steamrolled. There would have to be some sort of "siding" with one of the factions in the keep, and the group chose the goblins. It wasn't planned, could have been the lizardmen.
I look forward to seeing how this plays out as the meetings go on.
Write up follows:
There was a divided conversation on whether we should go to the Chapel next or the Ferrier. The group was discussing the matter when Sanford (the fox) began making yipping noises and getting agitated. Flimflam used his powers to talk to the fox and learned that it heard something coming, smelled like bad blood, and was closing in. It indicated up and the group looked.
About half a dozen flying creatures about the size of a beagle with bat like wings and long narrow beaklike faces were diving at the party from the Southwest tower. Marcus whirled and immediately hit the door to the ferriers with his should, bursting it off the hinges with a crunching thump. “Inside, now!” he ordered, the hirelings and some of the group hastening to make their way in. Ben, Fergus, Tempi and Fist’al stayed outside, weapons at the ready as the flying beasts hit the group.
Ben was able to impale one of the flying creatures on his spear while a second one plunged its beak through a joint in his armor. One his Fergus up in the shoulder, another was stopped by his shield. Another actually managed to strike Fist’al. And each one that hit the party wrapped their eight legs and feet around whatever part of their victims that they could and proceeded to “suck” – drinking their blood with gleeful abandon.
Tempi swung his greatsword at the one closest to Fergus, not actually drinking from the paladin, cleaving it in two with a clashing blow. He then dropped his sword and wrapped his arms around the one with its beak IN Fergus’ shoulder and chest. In his fervor and excitement, the burly half-orc squeezed the stirge hard, actually causing a fountain of blood and stomach contents to flow into the paladin and then rain about the battlefield. It was vomitous to say the least.
Marcus tore off some of the bins in the smithy and taking a large hunk of iron ore, shattered one of the few windows open and then took up position there with his bow at the ready. Meanwhile Link and Urthar were drawing pairs of torches from the supply bins at the elven fighter’s order s and lighting them in order to try and burn the stirges off.
Fist’al had gotten close enough to grab a torch and beat one of the flying beasts from his chest where he stomped it to death. Ben was next in line. Fergus was trying to get the stirge off of him, feeling ill from the mix of blood and guts pouring into his open wound. He grabbed a belt knife and tried to stab at the stirge but Tempi was whipping the three of them around in his efforts to dislodge the beast that the paladin inadvertently stabbed himself. Snarling in fury, the half-orc redoubled his grip on the stirge and tore it free, the monster squirming about.
Marcus called out that 2 more were coming, these two diving out of the sky and aiming for Tempi. He drew aim and fired, dropping one of them from the sky, but his 2nd shot failed. The last stirge was dive bombing Tempi who at the last moment whirled around, using the stirge he was holding as a shield! Impact! The flying monster impaled the held one and the two of them hit the ground with a crunch. At this point it was just mopping up the last of the flying creatures and the battle was done. There was a mess everywhere and we no longer felt safe in the open. Keeping a ready eye on the SW tower, we did note other stirges up there but they were not inspired to attack the group at this time.
While bandages were being passed about, the group looked around the smith’s and decided to take the couple hundred pounds of iron ore and tin that was still here, walking it to the cart in the stables to pass the time. Eventually we closed the stables doors and crossed the courtyard to the chapel and adjoining priest’s domicile. Both appeared to have suffered some damage in the past but were in fairly decent condition. Ever mindful of the stirges on the SW tower the party decided to check out the priest’s house first.
20’x10’, effectively one large room with a small eating area and private shrine to Zeus, there had been conflict in here some time ago. There was a passage from the north west corner of the room to what we guessed would be the Chapel itself. While Fergus was fixing up the shrine Flimflam and Fist’al were checking out the bed and wall. While the rest of the group was watching and paying attention to the distant stirges.
We did find written on the wall by the bed, in blood, the words, “Sisspak is free Bewa”. Who is Sisspak? Did not know and hoped we didn’t need to find out any time soon.
The door did lead to the Chapel and the group entered with care. The Chapel to Zeus was sizeable, maybe 50’ deep and twenty across, pew seating for 80, a confessional, altar, even the remains of a holy water font. What was odd though was the feathers. There were a variety of plucked feathers scattered about the room, with most of them being located by the front door nave. As far as the front door was concerned, there was a bracing bar that could be slid in place, making this building a secure point should the party need it.
There was nothing else to be found and the party broke for lunch before making their way to the main door of the keep at sometime after 12.
The door was well traveled and used and we entered with exaggerated care. There was a foyer, a great hall running down the center and into the gloom of the keep. Two sets of stairs spiraled up from both ends of the foyer to the 2nd floor. On the right side was a battered doorway and on the left was a corridor that was choked with piles and piles of furnishings filling the entire opening. Looking at the map we had, we decided that we wanted to go to the 2nd floor to the den.
As we approached the left stairs though, we did hear voices on the other side of the barrier and coupled with the stink of sweat socks and ripe bananas, we suspected that goblins were nearby.
We got into a conversation with them behind the barrier. They were curious about us, had been here for years, and wondered if we were going to be an aid to the Two-horn tribe (lizard men we eventually deduced). When we told them about statues and Zeus and going upstairs, we were then told that Sisspak was up there and it was NOT a good idea, and maybe the Trader Tindorag could help, and finally their own leader, Funtarig of the Duuk Garthik tribe had a statue they could look at and we should talk with him. This was mostly facilitated by Flimflam telling the goblins that he was the Doglord and expected a modicum of respect when the greenskins were talking to him.
The barrier was moved aside (it was actually build on a cart, allowing the goblins to roll it back far enough to get it. They were VERY concerned during the moving and hastened us in without any waste of time. We were led past many apartments and former offices that the goblins had repurposed for their own uses. There were also lizard man skin shields, some scale mail, and many spears that were made with lizard man claws and teeth. We learned the goblins captured by the enemy were often gutted and their intestines made into ropes, twines, and bow strings.
After passing many goblins (who were not bothered by us, and we discovered very much outnumbered us) we made it to Funtarig, the leader of the goblins. He was huge and muscular (for a greenskin) and had a 6 count of half naked goblin women at his side as personal guards. There was a broken lizardman figure hanging from the ceiling in a cage, fingers snipped off and teeth broken out. We treated with Funtarig fairly and honestly, learning that he did have a statue in the garden we could look at (right size, wrong material) where were expressly told NOT to touch to oak tree (a bad 20’ specimen in very poor condition). They were growing lots of cucumbers and other vegetables here, and there was a mass of leather and rope on the left side of the open air garden that we were told was a goblin balloon, floating in here some 8 years ago.
Which brought us to the question of why there were so many different diverse groups here and there was something called the Crimson Sanctuary in place that made sure they could not leave. This was in line with was Kahr Konig had told us that the mage and spymaster were doing before they had left Candlewick. We left, thanking Funtarig and agreeing to be back at some point after we visited the Trader (Tindorag) and to steer clear of Sisspak. There was an ogre on the 2nd floor as well, named Kronik, but he was no friend of the Sisspak OR of the goblins.
We made our way back to the Grand Foyer where the goblins let us out and sealed up their bolt hole again. We did note that the other side of the hall seemed more menacing now that we knew what was in there (Two Horn tribe, lizard men, and the leader named Korlok, the Devil’s Fang) and made our way north down the great hall. We assumed the Trader would be in the Throne Room and made our way there; passing the Reeve, Castellan, Spymaster, and Mage’s offices respectively, as well as another larger hall that went to the kitchens and dining room.
At the Throne room we knocked and then entered, finding only garbage (in abundance!) and many rates, some of them the size of large cats! It was when one of them dared to take a nip of Fergus that we shut the door and rethought our direction. The Trader should be down here (maybe the kitchen?) but we opted to look over the offices first.
The mage’s office was somewhat wrecked. There were also two goblins and one lizard man body here, dead for a while, with their heads seemingly sunken in. scattered books abounded. A top shelf had a few knickknacks on it. We were going to leave but Flimflam decided to detect magic, and we found a wizard mark on the wall. Marcus looked it over with care and opted to try and open it, suspecting that it needed to be traced perfectly. He took his time and did so, and the back wall opened up! We found the wizard’s private sanctum with 8 spell scrolls, 2 empty spell books, about a dozen magical theory tomes, a half dozen potions, a wizard’s hat, and a plethora of inks and scrolls. We took everything and felt really good about it. As for the wizard’s hat, Marcus took it and learned that it improved his reading ability as well as gave him the ability to read other languages he did not know (not magical ones).
From there we went to the Spymaster’s office and it was a bit different. There were 6 dead bodies in here (again gobs and lizardmen – as well as 1 rattlesnake!) and the desk was pristine and clean. Yeah, didn’t want to chance it. Fist’al said he could do it. Examined the room and suspected poison gas (eventually corroborated by vent holes in the ceiling). Would have to go to the desk, chair was permanently mounted to the floor, some sort of roller lock on the front.
He took the new potion we found that would raise his Fortitude save and entered. As he closed on the desk, he noted the lizardman had a note in his grasp, he took it, could not read it, tossed it to the door. Marcus was able to make out some of the words, identifying the numbers “452” on the page, but couldn’t decipher the rest of the note.
Fist’al looked over the rest of the bodies and one of the goblins had a note that read, “No one” and “starts with a 6”.
He went to the roller lock and looked – 5 digits long, numbered 1-6. In order to open the 4 drawers, he would have to operate the lock. In order to operate the lock, would have to sit in the chair to release the pressure plate holding the locks in place. He sat. The chair sunk slightly and he felt a prick at the base of his thigh but the roller locks moved. Fist’al thought and spun the dials to read “63452” and then pulled the lever…
And the desk unlocked. We found a Vortex Cloak (absorbs direct spells if worn), a ring of poison resistance, a ring of enhanced healing, and many vials of anti-poison (needs to be administered within 4 rounds of being poisoned). We took the items and were feeling really good. It was almost quarter to 3 and we were discussing where to head next.