The way I play lower levels (under 3rd) is that I don't like killing you off in combat with a shitty roll. I'll drop you to 0 and the group has to get you back up. 3rd level up and more, gloves are off and a bad combat will kill you. Also, if you made dumb assed decisions, I will let you die regardless of level.
Restmonth the 8th. The party looked around the chamber after getting heals passed around and decided to go investigate the south door. It was closed up tight and the group listened, eventually hearing some groaning on the other side. We knocked and offered to come in, but there was only sobs and cries from the other side. They feared we were cultists and didn’t want to risk talking.
We opened it up and it was at one point a pantry. But now besides some food stuffs, were three figures – 2 humans badly hurt and a gnome so beat up and tortured, he was missing half his left arm. Pestle glanced back at Lubush the dead ogre, noting the mostly gnawed upon gnome hand it had been nibbling on.
The humans were eventually calmed down and were a husband and wife team from Nyr Dyv; Ned and Margorie Siksalli. The gnome was a fellow merchant and facilitator named Beena Shaskill, or Banana for short. After getting some healing on them (minors) and more importantly calming Margorie down they were happy to be rescued and was surprised that the group hadn’t been sent here to look for them. They had been coming to Hommlet from Nyr Dyn on a standard trade outing when gnolls attacked them, killed off some of their people, and captured the three of them.
They had been here almost a week and reported being terrified of an almost beautiful to look upon man named Lareth who seemed to talk to them and convince them to answer his questions even if they didn’t want to. He had a number of cultists with him and they followed him around singing and chanting, fawning over the charismatic Lareth with fervent longing. When Banana wouldn’t answer their questions, they had Lubush hack off the gnome's arm and eat it in front of him.
They really expected us to leave now and head back to Hommlet but the party didn’t want to head back now – and risk letting Rannos Davi or Terjon know that we had been making headway in the Moathouse. This upset Margorie and we had to calm her down. They did say that the cultists and Lareth would come into the ogre chamber from the east, often preceded by the chanting and music. Secret door? We couldn’t find one for now so the thought was that Pestle would study detect secret doors and maybe Albert would study Mount. We could then send the three of them back on the horse?
Eventually a modified version of that plan came to be where we actually gave them our horse with instructions to head for the Inn of the Welcome Wench and stable it there with Ales until they return. And when we wanted to leave, we would load up the wagon we still had here and have Albert summon up a Mount spell at that time for us. Elmo eventually unlimbered our steed for them and we wished them well for now.
Returning to the Ogre room, Pestle cast a Detect Secret Door spell and sure enough – there it was. South east corner, east wall. It took some doing but we did discover the right stones to press at the top and the door opened up to…a 10’ square chamber with a set of stairs going UP on the north wall. Really? We drew up and went up the steps where they ended at a blank wall. We suspected it was another secret door…and given where we were, it seemed to open up in the Black Chamber where we fought off Ortti Goldenthan and his brigands.
Ok, ok. Good…But this was not going to get us to Lareth. We must be missing something. Returning to the 10’ chamber, Pestle made an off hand joke about a secret door past a secret door but it resonated with the group. And a concentrated effort later had us discover that yes, the eastern side of this room DID have another secret door there! And it opened the same way which made things easier for us to navigate it.
A long set of stairs went down into the dark from here. Elmo made sure we had a fresh torch at the ready and we drew up into marching order, making our way down into the gloom. The place was used, no real dust, entire middle section of each stair was clear of grit. Distant echoes trailed back to us, muted and indistinct. We did eventually get to the base of the stairs and the passage opened up to some sort of dungeon beyond, numerous twists, turns, and corners. “Everyone be ready,” came the advice and the group decided to head east (left) as the few echoes we did hear came from that direction.
So we headed off and not even 10 spaces later, Elmo stopped the group as we were looking carefully about, and the ranger revealed a door on the north wall, hidden. Ophelia opened it up and it was an “L” shaped chamber with a big winch in the center of it, chains running up the wall and to the west. We debated on what to do, noting it was oiled and in good repair, and opted to turn it for now and see what it did, as opposed to being trapped down here at a later date.
So we turned it and in the hall, up the stairs we had come down, two sets of bars were lowering from the ceiling. Nice. Now if someone was hoping to trap us down here, we knew where the mechanism was to lift and bypass that problem. We reversed the winch, lifting the bars, and then locked it back in place. We left the winch room and commenced following Elmo eastward through the gloom. The passage turned back and forth a bunch, but the sound of voices was getting clearer. Goblinoid. Couldn’t make out much, but at least 3 – deeper sounding. Hobgoblins?
Eventually the passage came to a room with 3 doors on the east side of the chamber and some alcoves, and a passage on the north wall lead off where the goblin voices were. Alright. This was a good spot. We wanted to have them come to us, everyone would have spell and bow ready. We knew that Aredhel was going to Fireburst a torch, that would set off the festivities.
We could tell that they wanted to walk patrol and were coming closer. So we all took positions along the western end of the room and watched them get closer.
And we realized our dismay…they weren’t hobgoblins. They were bugbears. Larger again than their hobgoblin kin, 8’ tall and 400+ lbs, covered in fur and sporting long morning stars and spiked clubs. And there were 6 of them.
“Light them up!”
Aredhel burst the torch alongside, making 1 shy away but scoring a deep burn on two others. Then crossbow bolts and arrows flew along with other spells as the bugbears took the first withering wave with no chance to return. They ran at us and Elmo drew the ire of one of them as they closed REAL fast. Pestle ran across the room to an alcove and we shot, spelled, and slashed again, even Winter joining the combat. One of them was staggered from the spider’s venom and then fell over, spasming and choking on his own bile. A bugbear still running closer cried out, “HUSBAND!” in her own language and ran up to cradle the dying…dead bugbear. Through her tears she centered her gaze on the party, Rowan and Winter specifically, body shaking with grief and fury.
“KILL THEM!!” she hollered out.
Albert called out for some help and a summoned monster had “Jimmy” the kobold pop into view. Pestle wanted to throw another torch to set up another fireburst but no good places were immediately available. Distance weapons fell aside as the floor became a melee zone with howls and screams and curses filled the air. Rowan was horrified as the bugbears put their effort against his giant spider, crushing Winter, killing him. There were some distant dings and Rowan, Pestle, and Albert seemed to have renewed power and strength running through them, spells and knives flying.
Another 2 bugbears fell before the wife of the first fallen smashed her morning star against the druid, slaying the follower of Frey (down to 0!). The battle drew tighter and then Ophelia went down next, the Cleric hit and bleeding bad. The last 2 bugbears were in line with Elmo, and then there was just one. The ranger took a brutal series of blows but the remaining party members focused their attacks and the last bugbear went down at long last. Healing potions were administered and Ophelia heard a distant ding as well. We looked around stunned at the brutality of the bugbears and decided to wait a bit here before moving on anywhere else. It was 3:00 PM at this point in time.