I've mentioned before that I write the adventures usually some time in advance and let the characters do what they want @ game time - trying to keep the game as written without getting petulant and upping the danger, or dropping it - depending on how the group is doing.
But here, I had written it that the group would be led to the goblin cave, chance their way in, and the gobbos would be fighting a retreating conflict since the group could not escape back the way they came - and eventually some sort of straight up fight with the gobbo BBG Shank.
Instead, the group circumvented this and went after the smaller cave to the west, not knowing that they were noted and tracked by goblin scouts. The group then assaulted a smaller cave for all good reasons.
Problem was I did not have the other cave planned out - I knew there were gobbos there, a small amount and what they were doing - but the cave? Exact inside? Nothing. So it was off the cuff for me, including using some of my new Dwarven Forge cave stuff. And it went well.
Now they have a different situation and the longer it goes on, the more the gobbos in the area are going to mass up and take this group out! Or so they think.
Write up follows
On the morning of Earthmonth the 18th, the party spent some time going through the piles of stores we had in the Hall of Heroes and loaded up where needed. Then after grabbing some food and getting our waterskins in place, it was 7:30 when we met with Scarene Windacre and set off towards the last goblin sighted enclave, a place referred to as Berrycleft Hill.
Scarene was a wood elf, a bit over 5’, tanned skin, brown hair, lithe and yet solid. She had a number of goblin fetishes about her person and was armed with a functional short sword and a similar bow. During the walk, there was some attempt at conversation but Scarene took her job as ranger seriously and often would remind the party to quiet down when we got too noisy.
After about 3 hours hard walk through the mid fall grasses (some almost 4’ tall – and leaving a large noticeable path behind us), we came up the area in question. She led us to the east a bit and then had us climb a hill to see the location in detail. Some 300’ away, 2 hills (the land here was a layer of good soil over limestone, with numerous crags and hills ranging up to 150’ in total height) from where we were, was a crack in the lee side of the hill’s top and a 9’ tall wooden goblin marking up top. 3 skulls dangling from the crossbeam and the black and red lightning design let us know that this was a Duuk Tsarithian group and had maybe 45 goblins within at least.
Scarene let us know that she had done her job and wished us well, backing down the hill and heading back the way we came. Not entirely trusting her, Curufin made it his business to watch her go and after some time was assured she had left as expected.
As for the direct approach the cave – no one wanted to risk it. So Flimflam used his ability to transform into an animal (this time a raven) and took Hugin with him to scout the area. They took their time and then returned where he spent a little time telling the party what they had learned. In the nearest 7 surrounding hills, there were areas near the top where the soil had been peeled away and a barricade/berm of limestone was visible. Each of these “cleared” areas FACED the goblin warren on Berrycleft Hill, and for all their surrounding ones, only the hill we were on did not have this feature. Curious.
Also, from the air, our trip through the badlands was very obvious with 10 people tramping the grasses flat and terminating at this hill. It would take a moron to fail to track us here. As for tracks other than ours – Flimflam saw three – one going west about a quarter mile or so to another hill with a goblin fetishes, one going to the north east and the direction of the Endless Forest, and the last one meandering south a bit before getting lost on its way towards Shakun.
This led us to another discussion – and we did not want to go in there. As Avidius said, you never go into a goblin lair if you don’t have to. So this made us rethink our situation, Scarene’s trustworthiness, and other options – eventually settling on going to the other hill to the west to gobbos had visited and it’s much smaller fetish totems.
We ate lunch as we walked, travelling far out of the way to avoid our own trail and Flimflam had cast pass without a trace on a five count of us – making the signs of our passage that much less. Eventually we came to the hill that Flimflam had seen from the air and we crouched low in the grass, watching the site. A thin line of smoke, like cooking smoke, came from the cavern entrance – otherwise it was quiet. Very quiet. Like no animals anywhere quiet.
Avidius and Curufin volunteered to investigate. They crept up through the grass, the slope of the hill hitting 45 degrees in some places. The entrance was maybe 4’ tall, and 5’ wide, and the smell coming from there was foul and pungent. Knowing what they did, they suspected their might be a 2nd entrance (or exit) and looked about, coming upon a section of the ground where similar smoke was coming up though the dirt. They could hear banging below and goblin voices. And some prying at the earth let them believe that the grasses might be able to be lifted from below and offer escape.
Coming back to the party, the group had the thought to prevent the “escape” from the back door first. So Flim went with them and they came back the grassy area where Flimflam called upon Demeter and caused all the plants in the area to grow – effectively thickening the grasses and reknitting all the roots – making any “easy” escape from this area that much harder.
Then they went back to the party and the decision was that Avidius and Curufin would go up first, have the group follow at a distance (50’?) and then wait for their signal while they went in to the cave and checked it out. Agreeing, the plan went off as expected with the two thieves getting to the cave entrance and heading in with care. It was 30 degree slope down, 5’ tall, 5’ wide. There were a scattering of stones maybe 10’ past the entrance that we circumvented with Curufin’s bedroll. At the bottom of the slope the corridor opened to a rough cave with five goblins within.
|Avidius & Curufin scouting the first chamber|
One was near a back corridor, looking further into the complex. One was near a pool hacked into the floor and surrounded with burning logs and rushes, stirring it with a long pole, one was near a section of wall where water was collecting from a trickle in the ceiling, and two others were around the pool, occasionally tossing what seemed to be rotting potatoes into the grey glop cooking (and smoking) in the pool.
The greenskins were thin and happy, content with their chores and chitchatting. They talked about taking a break and getting paid in two days. They did not appear to be warrior types but there were still 5 of them – and Avidius and Curufin wanted to back away for now and get the rest of the party involved. Curufin his halfway back up the sloping entrance while Avidius went to the party and waved them up quietly. Informing them of what they had learned, the group went through plans real fast and settled on Marcus hitting the goblins with a sleep spell. The two of them crawled quietly up to the entrance, made their way to Curufin, and then Marcus did his best to cast quietly before tossing a handful of rose petals ahead and finishing his spell.
|Filthy goblins rendering vinegar for Goblinwater|
Five muffled thuds followed and they peered in.
Five goblins sleeping.
The call went out (quietly) to the rest of the group who came up and with swift motions, tied up the goblins and carried them OUT of the cave to the grasses. Erd positioned himself near the passage further into the cave, Marcus supported Erd across the room with his bow, a quick look at the barrels showed potatoes and corn meal (vinegar? Was Flimflam’s guess), Avidius and Curufin went down the 40’ hall to the next open area and looked, while the rest of us were outside on the top of the hill with our captured goblins.
The next chamber was irregularly shaped and was lit by a fire under a cauldron – a larger goblin was on top of it, directing a small smattering of other goblins on what to do, how to load it, what to add, stoke the fire, etc… There was a goblin on the other side of the wall, some sort of guard type, another one was near the fire – armed and armored. In the dull glow and gleam, we could see another passage beyond this one but it was low and in order to get there, would require some crawling to achieve.
More discussions followed and it was once more decided to use Marcus’ sleep spell. There were more goblins here so we had to be ready to attack and attack fast if it didn’t cover everyone. The words were said and then WHAM – another pile of sleeping goblins. In fact, the one over the cauldron fell into the mess. Avidius had his swiftsword out and stabbed the closest goblin guard here while sling stones chased the other goblin who had escaped the radius of the sleep spell, knocking him out and down. The group plied knife and sword to the sleeping goblins, keeping only the armed and armored one alive, binding him tight. Beyond the cramped passage which was some sort of the timber reinforced section, we could hear more goblin voices taunting us to come in. We instead let the support fall and the area over there caved in, blocking off the last goblins there.
A few of the party members followed Avidius back outside to where the other exit was that Flim had hit with the plant growth spell, swords and spears out and ready to hit the goblins who were trying to chop their way free. The rest of the party brought the tied up goblins back into the main room (the five that had been there and the armored one) while they were going through the items found in the alcove. And according to Flimflam, most of it was material used to make goblinwater – only a few small changes.
When the exit was finally hacked open, the party dispatched one of the goblins and threatened the other who kept saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” We tied him up and there was some checking below – but in doing so, Erd felt himself grow tired and the goblin down there seemed to heal and get up again. Goblinwater. We took the bound up one with us (gagged) and headed back to the cave where we talked about what we had all learned and what was to happen next for questioning.
The party got into a moralistic discussion when it came time for possible torture (setting one of the goblin’s feet on fire) and then there was some conversation with the goblin that had been stirring the glop in the first room. His job was to stir. Another’s job was to add vegetable material. Another was to add water when needed. They were to make some PART of the goblin water and then it was taken to the next room where others knew THEIR part – but no one seemed to know the entire thing – except for the leader – who had fallen into the cauldron from the sleep spell and boiled/drowned to death.
We then talked to the warrior goblin who said he was here because he had pissed off his warleader – a tough brute named Shank. Shank was in the other cave and he had been sent here as a demotion. We also learned some of the back story. The goblins were wrapping up what they needed to here before the snows fell, one of their shamans had gotten portent that they had to leave the area before the rise of the full moon (end of month) because Hades wanted it to be so. But there was also something about the group – and if possible, lead them to the area and trap/kill them.
Scarene was a half-goblin/half elf, and there were 4 or so others in the area – scouting for the party and was to make it possible for them to come to the other hill and enticed to attack. There are supposedly invisible goblins in the area watching and would have set the grasses on fire at the base of the hill, forcing the party up where the goblins up there (with Shank) would have cut the group down.
Because we didn’t go there and came here, we were most likely followed and the goblins were probably outside THIS cave and ready for us to show ourselves. The longer we stayed here, the more it would impossible for us to escape.
We looked at each other and had a sinking feeling in our guts that it has been almost 3 hours – the goblins were very ready and aware of us – and it was going to go poorly for the party very soon.