Monday, October 7, 2019

Tales from the Borderlands – Episode 5 – The Bitter Taste of Defeat

This week in the Old School Essentials campaign..... 

               If everything went well for the characters in episode 4, everything went wrong in episode 5. This whole time we have been playing the rolls for random encounters have gone favorably for the players, but not this game. They were relentlessly pounded by the random encounter die, and got little in return for it. We kept a large portion of the party from the previous weeks. We still have the Dwarf, the Cleric, and the Magic-User, but to that we added another Dwarf and another Cleric. To distinguish the Clerics I will refer to the older Cleric as Cleric-tough, and the newer as Cleric-weak. The reason is the newer Cleric-weak, rolled pretty bad and only had 2 HP and couldn’t afford platemail. Everyone at the table kept telling him to buy a grave early in the game, because it is coming. The new Dwarf was a beast and had great stats including a 1 AC and 10 HP, people at the table all pointed and said, “New Tank!”

                The characters headed off to the Caves of Chaos without a guide and without any henchmen. I keep trying to drill into their heads the importance of these things, but they want more money. Apparently the 30 silver a day for torchbearers is too heavy a cost for these adventurers. They do make it to the caves without incident, and immediately head into cave D where they met goblins before. They decide to go towards room 17 where they had the first ever encounter of the campaign and continue on. They discover a set of stairs, and quickly get scared and decide to go back. This whole time I am rolling random encounters. Backtracking and heading into room 19 they start to hear unusual noises. They hear goblins yelling, and general chaos. The Dwarf decides to “sneak” into the room, I advised that the stealth skills of a Dwarf in platemail might not be the best, but he goes ahead anyways. He sees a group of goblins, attacking the air, and shadows flicking around the room. I rolled a random encounter at the same time they were entering the room to I combined the encounters. Everyone in the room saw the Dwarf with his friends close behind and all the PCs heard was, “New friends!” and the beating of wings. They got flashes of images of small humanoids with insect wings moving towards them. I rolled randomly to see how many of the Pixies would stay and which would go to the PCs, all seven of them went to the PCs.  

Truly a worthy foe!

                The PCs almost break ranks immediately, they try yelling to the goblins that they will help with the Pixies. The reaction roll was crap, and the goblins begin to hurl javelins into the party at the same time as the Pixies are stabbing them. The new “tank” Dwarf laughs at the goblins and then gets hit for 6 points of damage and stops laughing. The pixies continue to try and stab the party, almost gutting the Magic-User. The Pixies keep yelling about how much “shiny-ies” the party has and trying to take their gold purses. Eventually they begin to fall back, but the Pixies give chase and are much faster than the party. The Magic-User gets the good idea to throw lots of money on the ground, and after 50 GPs of loss, they manage to stagger away. So much for that endeavor.

                They decide to brave the stairs and begin to backtrack yet again. When they get back to room 17 they run into one of the greatest threats to PCs in the Monsters Manual. It is a random encounter that I always fear to get or to give to PCs, Giant Bees. The 5e players have no idea why my players from previous games are so upset, they do not know about the poison mechanic. The Magic-User decides that now is the time, and casts Sleep. He managed to drop all 9 of the bees and the party walks away unharmed, but it could have been much worse. They then proceed to go up the flights of stairs and find themselves at a hallway with a locked door.


                The plan started out well, they knocked on the door and pretended to be goblins. The new “tank” Dwarf and Cleric-tough up by the door, the rest of the party hiding down the stairs. The Dwarf knew goblin and was confusing enough to get the Hobgoblins on the other side curious, until he blew it. They told him they were going to open the door and to step back, he then in COMMON told his party to get ready. Hearing this, the hobgoblins knew something was amiss. I described how it took a few seconds then the door came quickly open. One hobgoblin was opening the door and hiding behind it, the others had crossbows ready and fired. Once the shots went through the hobgoblin shut the door and locked it. The bolts went out, and the “tank” Dwarf was struck again he was down to 1 HP. The Cleric-tough stood by the door, as the “Tank” Dwarf crawled away. Sure enough, the door flung open and three more shots came out, this time the “tank” Dwarf dropped. He made his death savings throw, but was out. The Cleric-tough stuck his foot in the door, and ran in as the rest of the party followed.

One of my favorite monsters.

                The Magic-User gave the ‘tank” Dwarf a potion, and he got back 1 hp, but was up. There was a good pitched battle in the room, but the part managed to take out all of the Hobgoblins gaining a whopping 16 GP in the process. They looked down the next corridor and saw only a cavernous, long hallway and decided to head back to the keep, actually poorer then when they started. As they went home I had them roll to see if they got lost, and they did, because guides are there for a reason. This spawned an encounter with Fire Beetles that was not that spectacular due to Sleep. The Magic-User has rolled a minimum of 8 HD of monsters each time he casts it. Someday his luck will run out, but it was not that day.

An old friend with a new face.
               This is where we ended and we are actually taking a 1 week break from the game. I have been running D&D for nearly 2 years straight on a weekly basis. I wanted a “palate cleansing” and decided to run a one shot of WEG Star Wars. I love that game, and have not played it since it was in print. It was one of the defining games of my childhood along with D&D and Robotech. I wanted to do something more cinematic and much less dungeon grind. I will most likely be doing a write-up of Tales from the Outer Rim next week, and then back into the Caves of Chaos from there.

P.S. I almost forgot about this. I told my players that they could set up a will with the bank, and if they brought in new characters, they could have them be a relative. This was a fun little thing, that isn’t too realistic. One of my clever players knows how powerful Sleep is, and is working on copying his spellbook over so that he can will it to his next character. I know B/X does not technically allow this, but I like Magic-Users learning from found materials. They are learning certain lessons, and this is a creative use of the rules.

Missed the other Episodes? Look here to catch up.

I went ahead and created a Facebook group for the blog, if you are interested the link is here.


  1. Won't pay 30 silver for a guide? Throws down 50 gold to distract the Pixies? (Does the math)....

    Oh my.... LOL! Will they ever learn? Great AAR!

  2. To be fair, the guide costs a little bit more. The torchbearers are 30 silver a day. They get lost both of the last two adventures, you'd think they'd learn. I don't know what they are saving their money for though.

  3. Eventually, the PCs should get a reputation as widow makers within the keep in terms of hireling survival. Perhaps remedied by surviving crew getting handsome bonuses and bragging at the tavern!

  4. I am adjusting the reaction roll for the reputation as time goes on. They need an NPC to come back rich to smooth things out.