Another session brought us some returning players and one new player. Once again, Mighty Titans Hobbies and Games in Randolph, NJ provided us with exemplary space, and Meetup.com filled the bill when it came to getting the players coordinated as to who was showing up when.
This session, we had Ehrandar Dawngreeter, the elf mountebank (YES! he’s playtesting the mountebank character class for me for Adventures Dark and Deep™, doing a bit of a hand-wave to transmogrify from thief to mountebank), Theric the paladin of Pholtus, Nalania the cleric of Rudd, Abo Thistlestrike the human magic-user, Jh (sporting a jaunty second letter in his name, finally) the dwarf fighter, Sorfindel the something/something (who, for reasons known only to himself, has chosen to make himself known only as a “scout”), and Mongo the half-orc fighter. And let us not forget their hireling Salvomar, the fighter obtained through the good offices of the Temple of Pholtus.
Off the intrepid adventurers went from the Cock and Bottle, but not before they were met by the stalwart captain Vordalon of the city watch. Turns out he is investigating a murder, and wants to know what business the party had with a certain jeweler in the Tradesmen’s Quarter. They inform him of their sale of the gold frog, and a truncated version of how they obtained it, and in return the good captain of the watch made sure they weren’t going to skip town. They assured him their only venture outside of the city walls would be to the ruins of the castle but a league distant, and he took them at their word (the presence of the paladin was a definite plus in that regard).
The next day, the party left to expand on their exploration of the ruins which they had merely begun in the last session, and who was there to witness their departure through the city gates than captain Vordalon. Without further adieu, they made their way to the ruins.
The party had a rough map of the upper ruins (and for those of you following at home, this is completely new material that has never been published), and pressed on to the outer bailey, investigating the stables where the mysterious knocking was heard the day before. They determined the source of the knocking, but not the cause, and, satisfied that it was innocuous, turned their attentions to the great cylinder of the central keep.
The walls of the keep had been breached in several places over the years, and entrance proved easy enough. The walls soared some 80′ into the air, but the whole was open to the sky, and the floor was littered with the rubble of the upper floors and roof. Investigating the great central cylinder, they found that the door opened with enough brute force, and found a large spiral staircase descending into the depths. The party decided to check out the rest of the surface before descending into the dungeons, however.
The inner courtyard proved to be immaculately tended, with the grass trimmed and green; a far cry from the outer sward. They noticed a marble block that had, presumably, at one point held a bronze statue, but it proved to be nothing more than it appeared. A quick investigation of one of the outbuildings of the outer bailey uncovered a pack of wild dogs, but the combination of a lack of aggressiveness and the tossing forth of rations proved efficacious.
The main hall of the castle was investigated, via a door that led through the kitchens (and another staircase to the dungeons below was discovered– presumably to the store rooms). The place was hundreds of feet long, open to the sky, and there were the ruins of tables made of wooden beams that were seemingly unbroken, spanning the length of the hall. The paladin, hireling, and dwarf made their way to the raised gallery, and the paladin ended up being enchanted by the siren song of a pair of harpies. He was fully charmed, and a brief scuffle ensued between him and the dwarf, but once one harpy was slain, the mountebank attempted to befuddle the paladin into inaction (he was attacking the rest of the party at the behest of the harpy), and succeeded well enough to earn the paladin another saving throw, which ended up being successful! The remaining harpy retreated into the sky, and the party recovered a chest full of silver, which the half-orc easily carted to a place of safety.
The party found a postern gate that led to a trail leading into the dry moat, but most interestingly found themselves beset by a group of bandits when they attempted to enter one of the larger outbuildings. Each group attempted to out-maneuver the other, flanking, re-flanking, and out-flanking, but eventually the party got some bandit prisoners, and the remaining bandits holed up in the northeast tower of the castle. Alas, in their haste, the party neglected to bind their prisoners, and they were seen scampering off across the inner bailey to freedom. The party, having found not a small bit of treasure, decided to call it a day, and returned to the city of Greyhawk.
There, they found that it was common knowledge (among the city guard, anyway), that the bandits, under the leadership of one Malvern, would take to falling upon adventurers as they left the ruins, figuring that they would be much the worse for wear as they were leaving. The city guard pretty much left them alone, as they confined their activities to the ruins, which are something of a no-man’s land, law-wise. The party sold the gems they found, converted the silver into easier-to-handle gold, and retired to the Cock and Bottle. They also confirmed that the jeweler to whom they sold the golden frog was, indeed, dead.
This was more of an exploration/combat session, as opposed to last time, which was more role-playing. I like mixing up the types of sessions like that; it makes for a campaign that players who favor all types of games can appreciate. It is a sandbox, but there’s stuff going on around the players with which they can choose to interact, and there are consequences for doing so and not doing so, and that, I think, is the point of a proper sandbox.