Monday 20 September 2021

Session 2: A Grapple in the Dark


The local map so far

Welcome to session 2.

This session was played on 16/Sep/2021 and the PCs adventured for 1 day.

Session Report

Two players available for session two; Clyde Foot the Dubiously Strong (Half-Elf Fighter) and Dorf, just Dorf (Human fighter)

Between sessions the players had spent their down time on information gathering and many other tasks;

The village of Briar, named for Briar Mansion, a ruin that marks the north eastern extent of the village and the location of the dungeon explored in the first session, is a staging point for merchants who pass through on the way up the road in the direction of Caster Oren, a fort to the northwest. The village boundaries are two watch towers, one in the south and one in the northwest, and fields that stretch away to the east towards Lake Vostorn.

Dorf started his nights drinking at the local tavern, and had been offered a bouncer job by the owner. This not only payed well (1gp per night, with a 2gp bonus if he busted up a fight) it also was a great place to pick up, umm, rumours. Yes, rumours, and there were lots;

  • Briar Mansion is a ruin the village was named after. Supposedly an eccentric wizard lived there many years ago and created a labyrinth beneath his mansion which was destroyed when the Great Kingdom first conquered the region.
  • A veteran soldier shared his observation that front line troops being rotated into the city are not being replaced but are returning to the main land. He has no idea why.
  • A traveller claimed that the mountain range directly north of the Castleport is home to an Ancient Dragon.
  • There have been a number of disappearances in the village of late. In fact, three more people disappeared this week after drinking at the pub! Dorf found a single boot belonging to one of them.
  • Dorf specifically asked about the existence of a Vorpal Sword, which no one had heard of, but several patrons mentioned a potion maker in the Old Quarter of lower Castleport who makes strength potions; his name was Myzarn and his shop is Alchemy to Go.

Clyde Foot had offered his physical prowess in service to the local Church of Saint Istra (minor god of healing); run by a crotchety old human priest called Father Thomias. The priest had Clyde do all sorts of menial tasks about the place; but, after a few days, he met a young woman cleric. Sister Arlia was a timid but capable girl who spent her days helping to heal people who had come to the infirmary for help. 

Thus, stage one of Clyde's cunning plan to recruit a cleric to accompany them on adventures was a success. It turned out that Arlia's sister, Arlina, had disappeared over a month ago. Clyde's tale of helping Farmer Giles' find his missing loved ones prompted her to pluck up the courage to offer to accompany him the next time he went to the dungeon. By this time Father Thomias was also beginning to warm to Clyde, and he told him about the existence of ancient caves hidden at the bottom of the cliffs to the east of Castleport. Clyde added this location to his map.

Even with all of the above to go on, I still figured the players would pick up with the dungeon; but, rather than immediately head there, they were interested in trying to acquire potions from the store Dorf had found out about during down time; Alchemy to Go. And so it was back to the bustling city.

Again, a single bored sergeant greeted them with “Name and Business in Castleport?” and they hurriedly gave their names and business of "shopping" and were let through.

They navigated the busy streets of the East Quarter of the low city, retracing the steps Farmer Giles had shown them, and they reached the Old Quarter without incident; but, now, how to find the shop they were looking for? Clyde stopped a random stranger who gave them (accurate, as it turned out) directions.

They found the shop and its proprietor, Myzarn, on Eye of Newt St. What followed was a readjustment of expectations as there was nothing on offer they could afford. A series of rebuffed bargaining attempts were successful enough that the old wizard offered them an alchemy-seconds minor healing potion that "Definitely would heal some hitpoints." for a modest 46gp (by chance the exact amount Dorf admitted to having). 

So, having returned to Briar after spending half a day on this side trip; but feeling as though it was worth the time, they refreshed themselves with some of Farmer Giles' best milk and began to rustle up their supporters.

Once again, when they arrived, Clyde was not impressed by the look of the four farmers. Again, would they be more of a hindrance than a help? Dorf forestalled another pummelling session with the reminder that the four had been very useful previously when they had been jumped by skeletons, at least as additional targets for the enemy, which Clyde had to agree with.

So down the stairwell they went, same marching order as before, with the addition of Arlia sheepishly following right behind Clyde Foot. Everything seemed to be the same as when they had last visited the place, the large entrance chamber filled with stone pillars and lit by a magic fire in the mouth of a giant toad statue. Dorf did discover a single boot, tucked under the last stair in the stairwell. It seemed to match to one he had found from the missing tavern patron!

After a brief discussion, they decided to retrace their steps from last time, once again avoiding the north and east exists from the Toad statue room. They carefully skirted around the trapped flag stone that would drop the portcullis and were were soon back before the room that had held the six skeletons they had previously defeated. Immediately, they saw that the skeletons were back, at least two were visible as John peered around the corner.

In the hope of achieving surprise, which failed, they all charged into the room to find three skeletons that sprang to attack them. The skeletons were armed with short swords and shields, and three other sets of short swords and shields were set on the ground in the niches, presumably to be used when more skeletons were available. The battle was ugly but ended quickly and without the party taking any damage.

Realising that the skeletons must have been created since their last visit, and that they were using the same weapons of the skeletons the party had previously defeated, this time they gathered up the weapons and shields and distributed them between the farmers.

Soon they were at the solid door that marked the extent of their previous delve. It was locked and once again they carefully examined it. It was wood reinforced with iron, much of it rusty, particularly the hinges, and it was locked. Clyde listened through the key hole, thought he heard voices on the other side, and decided a frontal assault was call for. Just as he was getting a run up, the Cleric NPC Arlia asked timidly; "If there are more skeletons in there, do you want me to try to turn undead on them?" and there was much smacking of foreheads amongst the PCs over them not thinking of this earlier.

Clyde resumed his run up and, in a moment, his muscular half-elf body had bashed the door down right off its hinges, and it lay like a bridge over the trapped floor they had unknowingly avoided!

The party piled in behind Clyde and they found themselves facing a pair of goblins, four more skeletons, and an evil looking young woman. She had long, braided hair, wore an otherworldly green-glowing amulet that was matched by her eyes, and was holding a whip. She had apparently been in conversation with the goblins. "Get them!" She yelled, and prepared for battle. The PCs were up for obliging her; but then, Arlia, in reply, gasped, "Arlina!"  

I don't recommend googling 'Evil Female Cleric with Whip'

Yes it was Arlia's missing sister! The PCs plans to kill everything in sight were quickly shelved.

Now I had all sorts of fun things planned here, this combat could go anywhere. She had spells, she had options, she had a whip I ruled could be used to land touch spells. Oh hoh! I was ready for a tense battle.

"I charge and grapple her!" Clyde's player declared.

No way. Does this guy think he's Macho Mandalf or something?

Anyway, the party lost initiative; but, as we all know, for grappling;

So Clyde should go first. But, how does this rule interact with the others who are doing regular combat?

I ruled that the two goblins Clyde had to get past also had weapons ready, and Arlina had her whip ready; so all three could attack first before the grapple attack could resolve. All three missed! So, with a whip crack resounding in his ears, Clyde grappled and rolled well. His bear hug immediately stunned the target and she went limp. The follow up attack left her unconscious.

Now the rest of the round of combat could be resolved. Arlia turned the skeletons (with the exact number required to do so) and by the end of the round there was but one goblin still standing. He immediately, and enthusiastically, surrendered. He then spilled everything he knew, which was quite a bit;

  • He was involved in a kidnapping squad financed by a "Tall man who wore a dark hood."
  • The dark mistress (Arlina) could use the horrible altar in this room to transform people into undead skeletons, which she had done to some of the kidnap victims; but others were taken away somewhere.
  • The dungeon contained more goblins, a huge stair case going down into the darkness, talking statues, and giant ants, lots of giant ants.

The room held several chests, which the PCs demanded the goblin open. Not the brightest fellow, he happily obliged, and fell down dead from a poison dart trap. They opened the other chests from a distance using their spears.

By now Arlina was starting to recover from the sleeper hold, and the amulet, which had gone dark, flared with a green light. Arlia was certain the amulet had to come off to free her sister from its evil influence; but, as they tried to take it off, Arlina reacted badly and again lost consciousness.

Resolving to deal with this back in the village, they gathered up the loot and the PCs eyes lingered on some ugly; but, expensive looking, tapestries on the eastern wall of the room. Behind the middle one they found a secret door, and past there found a prison cell. Inside was Farmer Giles' wife and daughter, along with some unfortunate adventurers. There was much rejoicing.

Time to leave; but, not so fast, I had rolled a random encounter (finally)! The roll indicated a squad of goblins supported by a shaman. I abduced* that they had been approaching the Dark Mistress TM and worked out what had just happened by listening from the next room, which they could easily do thanks to the door being knocked down off its hinges by Clyde. They then pulled back to the skeleton room and waited in ambush. And the party were certainly poorly disposed to deal with it. Dorf was out front, followed by Clyde half carrying Arlina with help from Arlia, then Farmer Giles' wife and daughter, then the four fighter type prisoners wearily dragging one of the heavy tapestries, then, in pairs carrying a tapestry each, Hewy, Dewy, Loui, and John. 

Somehow failing to achieve surprise against the wary Dorf, the goblins did win initiative. They completed a round of attacks and then the shaman cast darkness. It was pitch black, not even Clyde's infravision helped. The wounded Dorf swung his two handed sword blindly in the direction of the spell caster and rolled a hit! Given the situation I gave him a random chance of hitting any of the three goblins, including the shaman, that were in the area. He hit a goblin warrior with enough damage to easily kill it. Now, AD&D 1e doesn't have a cleaving rule like, say, ACKS, but I ruled that in this situation there was a chance for a similar thing to happen. Dorf hit again and this time it was the shaman who also lost his head. And just like that the lights were back on, Dorf bellowed at the remaining goblin warriors to surrender and they failed their morale check by enough to do so.

At end of the session everyone had made it back to the village with the loot and the goblin prisoners were handed to the authorities. As always when the rolls go the way of the PCs it seemed all too easy, but soon enough the rolls will go the way of the monsters and then we'll see what happens...

* it's a word, look it up in this context here


Treasure and Experience Total 1734 XP

Monsters 7 Skeletons, 7 Goblins, 1 Goblin Shaman, 1 Human Cleric

Treasure (This week the party was interested in the skeleton’s weapons and shields, one of high quality)

2*Potions, 3 Gems, Silver Ceremonial Dagger, Silk Cleric Vestments, 3 Tapestries, Golden Candelabrum



Session PCs

Clyde Foot (10% XP Bonus) Half Elven Fighter Level 1 477 XP Gained. Total 521

Dorf (10% XP Bonus) Human Fighter Level 1 XP 495 Gained. Total 539

Supporting Characters

Arlia Human (10% XP Bonus)  Cleric level 1  105 XP Gained. Total 105

Hewy Fighter level 0 95 XP Gained. Total 115

Dewy Fighter level 0 95 XP Gained. Total 95

Lewy Fighter level 0 95 XP Gained. Total 95

John Fighter level 0 95 XP Gained. Total 115

Campaign Grave Yard

Empty (so far...)



  1. Aspiring DM here, how did you determine things such as the lady being Arlia's sister, the man in the dark hood, and the purpose of the altar? Random tables? Personal decision? Just curious and trying to get a look under the hood so to say for when I run my own games.

    1. This dungeon is actually the beginner's dungeon included in Swords and Wizardry. I had used it before, the last time I DM'd after a long hiatus, and it leaves such things as the identity of the priestess and the workings of the altar unexplained. Both times I made a similar decision to make her a kidnapped villager, but this time I put some more thought into the kidnapper's background and motivations. If I did it again, I would probably make the man in the dark hood a patron player.


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