Anyway it was fun. Right off the bat they realized that they might be biting off more than they could chew if they simply charged up the stairs into the ruined tower. They were certainty happy to see Ann the rogue and they immediately sent her into grave danger sneaking up the stairs to see what was up there. She saw this was the courtyard area at night and there were some hobgoblin guards standing about and another gang of hobs betting on a hob with a knife vs. wild boar fight. Henril (a fighter) was all for rushing the hobgoblins but the others were a tad concerned, especially Ann who had fresh memories of her last brush with two to one odds. After some discussions it was decided that Colin and Ann would scatter the steel shot from their slings on a couple key stairs and they would cause a disturbance and then wait at the bottom. It was the old battle of Thermopylae ploy. While a discussion broke out over who would go up and cause the disturbance, Henril decided to run up the stairs and toss a hobgoblin head out into the courtyard. Things got quiet and then hobgoblins began rushing down the stairs - where many fell on the steel shot and/or were kneecapped by Colin and Henril at the bottom of the stairs. There were three waves of hobgoblins as first the nearby guards, then the gamblers, and finally the remaining guards came running down the stairs. By the end all the steel shot was scattered and the guards were climbing over the bodies of their comrades. By the time things quieted down the gang had managed to kill 15 hobgoblins and although they were pretty beat up, Henril and Colin ran up the stairs to finish off any remaining foes. Suddenly they were gripped by an unreasoning terror. Colin managed to shrug it off but Henril started running for his life back down the stairs and down into the passages below the tower. The party broke and ran - following Henril down into the caves.
|I'd demolish some of these hobs about now...|
And there was much rejoicing. They searched the tower and found lots of loot - table wear, linens, food and weapons - much of it obviously bandit plunder from around the Milham area. The keep appeared to have been in the process of the latest in the line of many renovations by the wizard Criel when it was captured by hobgoblins. There was evidence of a fight and many of the rooms had been destroyed and sacked. They found the mage's secret study and a couple of scrolls and some funky candles. They ate the wild boar and dined on the finest tidbits in the pile and rested for the whole day. The next day, worried that more hobgoblin raiding parties would be returning, they hitched up the six horses and three wagons in the courtyard, and loaded up as much of the loot as they could carry. By their calculations they were just south of the town of Foxhollow and so they followed a rough wagon trail north (the other lead off to the south east). They had a run in with some big spiders and another woodcutter (who Henril scared off with the worst ever attempt to act as an inconspicuous traveller and not a bandit). They finally made it to Foxhollow and found an inn for the night.
Now the whole time this was happening, Thedric was acting very strange. He had started to let his beard grow out and he was suspicious of everyone and constantly muttering about 'interlopers'. He also would not remove the strange helmet and when it was removed by force, he stared having convulsions. By the time they arrived at Foxhollow he was in a bad way. There was some debate over the best way to deal with this, ranging from finding a poor peasant and paying them to put on the helm, to having the village Clerics attempt to find a cure. In the end goodness won out over evilness (mostly) and Tom, who was from Foxhollow, went to see his brother Tim* who just happened to be a cleric and who was active in the local church. Tim managed to arrange a discounted rate for Thedric to get his helmet removed (more on this another time) and although the price was dear, the head cleric managed to remove the spirit from the helmet and remove it safely. Therdic awoke - with no memory of the events since he had put on the helmet. Then it was all experience points and laughter with half the group leveling up to 3 and the others much of the way there as well. Tom decided to take his share of the treasure and retire for a while, allowing his brother Tim to seek his fortune with his associates - much to the consternation of the head cleric of Foxhollow.
I'm finding I'm pretty happy with the way I'm doing experience (10*HD type * HD value so a hobgoblin shaman that is 3 d6 would be worth 60*3 or 180) and the advancement pace seems to be pretty good. Being only up to level 3, and with no really weird monsters having been defeated it's still hard to tell however.
The one page dungeon I used for the bottom of the keep/tower was Under Oak Hill by G. Neuner. It was a perfect fit, especially since I didn't have anything prepared for this 'lets go find the wizard tower' adventure hook. The random encounters I rolled up (hobgoblins and bears) worked perfectly with the module and I really liked the theme of an old old tower that had been rebuild by various factions in the last thousand years, finally being renovated by a wizard and then taken over by hobgoblin bandits. I whipped up a top floor for it with a couple additional rooms for second session, but the OPD saved my bacon.
*Having three fighters and no other magic support aside from the Enchanter had been weighing on the group and they had previously expressed a desire to swap out some of the characters to re-balance things. I had no problem with this and was as delighted to find out that Tom had a brother as everyone else.