[Actual Play] B2 Keep on the Borderlands Pt. XXVI; In search of the Archpriest

And after a week of respite had passed our heroes once again set out for the Caverns of Chaos, in search of the Archpriest. Isidoro the Knave could be stirred from his drunken debauchery, and contributed his considerable experience and storehouse of enchanted objects to the endaevour. He was joined by Cork the Cleric, Nortein the Huntsman, Snorri the Dwarf and a local brave, Beorn. With them also were the Corporal of the guard and the last of the 3 legionaires, loyal as ever.

By noon they had reached the caves of chaos, and wasting little time, ventured into the Shrine, prepared for conflict. They ventured south, and reaching the blocked passageway, first explored the great hall to the east. A cruelly shapen throne on a dais, set with blood-red rubies awaited them. A dozen skeletons clad in rags of mail, with battered shields, stood in silent vigil. Cork called upon the power of the Lords of Law, but the skeletons remained unmoved. Our heroes moved forward, Isidoro checking the dais for any panels or traps, and proceeded to pry out the Gems. Instantly the living dead sprang into action.

Calling upon the power of the Lords of Law once more, 8 of the twelve were driven back shrieking, confronted with the blasphemous nature of their existence, the power of their unholy amulets no match for Corks devotion. Swords and spears smote them, and the Champions suffered only minor injuries in return. Applying the staff of healing, they pried the gemstones from the throne and ventured on.

Nortein had displayed rare foresight, and brought with him tackles, blocks, ropes and iron spikes, and with them clearing the passageway went smoothly and rapidly. They ventured down, into the caverns of the Unknown, searching for some trace of the missing archpriest.

Down into the earth the winding passage went, and soon emerged into a broad cavern, to be confronted with a shrieking tide of newtlike beings, pouring from among the stalactites, to try their teeth against mailed flesh and edge of steel. Retreating into the entrance, our heroes hammered away at the wretched creatures until flasks of oil could be produced, which were lobbed over the shoulders of the first rank, and drenched many of them in oil. They retreated once their advantage was no longer overwhelming.

Southward our heroes went, and only though caution managed to avoid blundering into a fine web spun across the entrance. When they tried to burn it, a furious Giant Tarantula emerged from the caverns, and scolded them in the human speech and told them bizarre riddles as charged. Its fangs and terrible arcane poisons could find no purchase on the mailed front rank, and spear thrusts, flail-blows and strikes with the axe Grimmtein felled the wicked beast. Its dying utterances were cryptic, and they marvelled at the strange thing they had killed. In its web, they found the corpse of a halfling, and cutting it loose, caused it to fall to earth, shattering the delicate potion bottles underneath. On its person they found a ring of plain gold, and a cunningly wrought dagger of elven manufacture, a vicious thing. They moved further south.

In caverns deeper in, they encountered a great Stag Beetle, but once again its great snapping jaws proved no match for brawn and honest steel. The beast was dispatched, and in its nest they found, among severed arm bones and mounds of beetle dung, a curious gauntlet of delicate alloys which they kept, and a single old boot, whose buckle Snorri, driven by a strange Dwarven fancy, took with him.

They ventured into a passage west, and found a branching corridor, emerging at two points in a great, vaulted cavern. Patches of giant mushrooms that emitted an awful shrieking noise when exposed to light or motion caused them to flee and explore a second passage, which permitted egress into the Vaulting cavern from the western side. Finding the entrance blocked by Shriekers also, they decided to chance it, and rushed forward, bearing lantern, and against a backdrop of hideous shrieks, investigated the great gaping pit in the centre of the Cavern. Nortein dropped a torch into it. When the champions saw a strange fleshy orb ascend from the shaft, they were slow to respond.

The Old Egg, a terrifying monster created in now forgotten wars, awoke desultorily from its century-spanning slumber, and with all the fury of a cranky septagenarian, unleashed its killing eye rays on Cork, who spent too long wondering at its alien form. He was ensnared, turned into a pig and with a telekinetic ray, pulled into the pit to splatter to his death. With him went the staff of healing, whose loss would be felt keenly. Around its 11 eyed horror orbited a glowing gemstone the size of a melon.

The rest of the Champions wasted little time, and fled from the cave, running until they could go no more. They wasted little time mourning their comrade, and instead ventured into a passageway in the north, leading west, and explored yet one more cavern. When from the darkness, two demons of stone swooped down, to prey on them, their doom seemed immanent. Beorn had by this time put on the ring, which he believed to be a ring of wishes. Lacking an enchanted weapon, and reluctant to use his Ring, he fell back as the three stood against the demons of stone. It was by luck, courage and quick thinking that the three persevered. Nortein grabbed his elven dagger, Isidoro his spear of enchanted black iron, and Snorri wielded the Axe Grimmtein, and with it the Gauntlets of Ogre Power. Although they were perched mighty closely to death, they broke the creatures in the caverns, and left them shattered on the uneven stone. Warily they retreated then.

In town, their wealth and success soon made them forget the loss of their friend. The elven ambassador identified their objects for them against a modest fee, and the gauntlet, which turned out to be a gauntlet of dexterity made for a gentleman thief in the Golden Age of the Empire, was given unto Isidoro. The knife Spinesheath, given unto the halflings after their aid at the battle of the Blackriver (where they snuck behind the orcish lines, and devoured their food stores), was born by Nortein. The ring was a different matter. While once a ring of wishes, time had dulled its enchantment, to the point that all it could do was delude its owner that it still bore the power it once held. A cursed ring then for Beorn.

For a week they reposed in the Keep, binding their wounds and resting, and attracted the attention of the sorcerer Aruman the Pale, a sinister Northman drawn to them by the promises of expecting Nuromans tome. He studied it well, and gained much power from it, and was more then willing to join our heroes on a second venture.

The same band made for the keep once more, exploring only the Shrine of Evil Chaos, to ascertain whether or not the Archpriest had returned in the meantime, to rebuild his evil fane. They found in the abandoned quarters no sign of the worshippers of Chaos, and indeed, when they searched his chambers, they took the bloodstone eyes from the evil demoniac statue above his bed, and helped themselves to his golden flagon and cups that, in their haste, they had neglected. Once they stepped into the temple proper, the malignant enchantment once again bathed the place in unholy red light, and transfixed by the promise of prying dozens of precious stones from the seat of evil, did not take the neccessary precautions. They also did not note the slain orcs lying dismembered amid the altar. From the northern and the southern door marched the living dead, skeletons and walking corpses, the unliving guardians of the fane.

They did not stand their ground, overcome by greed, but instead they fled the Shrine of Chaos then, with the serried ranks of the living dead hot on their heels. They made it back the keep by evening, and with hearty laughter, congratulated themselves on their success.

The Champions

[Q] Cork the Cleric (Clr 2, hp 11)
[S] Beorn the Northron (Ftr 1, hp 8)
[P] Snorri (Dwr 2, hp)
[N] Nortein (Ftr 2, 10 hp)
[Q] Aruman the Pale (Mu 1, 4 hp)

The Tally
12 Skeletons
2 Gargoyles
1 Carnivorous Beetle
1 Giant Tarantula (riddling)
28 Purple Skinks

The Price
[A] Otso (MU 1, 3 hp) – Slain by Treachery
[B] Hardroc Sansaxe (Dwr 1, 4 hp) – Died on his feet against the Goblin Foe
[C] Buddy (Ftr 1, 6 hp) – Died in the rearguard against Kobold treachery
[D] Valen (Thf 1, 2 hp) – Felled by Kobold arrow in the Battle of the Warrens
[C] Brother Buddy (Clr 1, 3 hp) – Felled by a bandit’s spearthrust
[E] Quinton RumbleBreeches (Hal 1, 6 hp) – Felled by a bandit’s arrow
[B] Sazar Thistleborne (Thf 1, 4 hp) – Ripped apart by a Mountain Lion in the Perilous forest
[C] Brother Buddy Jr. (Clr 1, 4 hp) – Drained of life by monstrous Stirges
[F] Hardy the Dwarf (Dwr 1, 6 hp) – Clubbed to death by Ogre
[B] Zed Fauxgivvin (Hal 1, 4 hp) – Fell to a hobgoblin sword, but he did not go alone
[G] Colemeier Stonesaw (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Fell to hobgoblin sowrds
[E] Father Kane (Clr 1, 6 hp) – Fell to Hobgoblin swords
[H] Ludwig Andros (MU 1, 4 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[I] Derek de Chitsville (Ftr 1, 8 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[J] Vinnie Jones (Ftr 1, 10 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[K] Johhny Longfingers (Thf 1, 4 hp) – Charmed and eaten by Harpies
[L] Vitus the Southron (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Eaten by Harpies
[I] Father Theodore (Clr 1, 6 hp) – Struck down by skeletons
[J] Box the Fighter (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Struck down by Valgard, breaker-of-horses-and-men
[A] Diggory Class (MU 1, 4 hp) – Slain by Poisoned treasure
[M] Pajeje (Ftr 1, 9 hp) – Slain by poisoned treasure
[B] Chinning Poofter (Mu 2, hp 6) – Rent asunder by furious Griffon
[N] Grog (Ftr 1, 10 hp) – Drowned in armor in the bay of the Flooded Temple
[Retainer] Father Bell the Octogenarian (Clr 2, hp 12) – Devoured by the Basilisk
[M] Father Paisisco the Blessed (Clr 2, 6 hp) – Turned to stone by the Basilisk’s Gaze
[P] Roger (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Rent asunder by the Chimera
[P] Bali (Dwr 1, 8 hp) – Incinerated by the Chimera
[R] Brandt (Dwr 1, 9 hp) – Ripped apart by Troll
[S] Lucifur the Cleric (Clr 1, hp 5) – Devoured by Werewolves
[Q] Cork the Cleric (Clr 2, hp 11) – Polymorphed and Stunned, then pushed to his death by a Beholder’s Rays

24 thoughts on “[Actual Play] B2 Keep on the Borderlands Pt. XXVI; In search of the Archpriest

  1. Cork and the Blessed staff lost in one fell swoop? A bad loss for the intrepid adventurers…though a 4th level thief and a 2nd level dwarf are valuable assets to have, going forward!
    ; )


  2. Great stuff. Big wins (mostly) for the party this time around.

    Question for you on this bit:

    “For a week they reposed in the Keep, binding their wounds and resting, and attracted the attention of the sorcerer Aruman the Pale, a sinister Northman drawn to them by the promises of expecting Nuromans tome. He studied it well, and gained much power from it, and was more then willing to join our heroes on a second venture.”

    Presumably this fresh M-U is learning some new spells via Nuronan’s spellbook. Is this a LL rule in action? B/X is a little vague on the matter but doesn’t explicitly give characters anything for using captured spellbooks.


    1. You are correct, this is a specific property of the Tome of Nuromen, a unique item from the Necropolis that the PCs liberated at around session 12 and then promptly forgot about for several sessions.

      I recommend implementing ADnD’s 100 gp/spell level cost for learning new spells.


      1. Ah thanks. Yeah learning spells is a good place to drain a bit of PC wealth. The AD&D guidance, as ever, is the first place to look to fill out the little holes in B/X


  3. How the players keep going for 6+ months in an ultra-low level campaign where they get rekt most of the time is a grand mystery/



    I like to think I know my westerns, man’s genre, but there are always fresh discoveries to be made. John Ford’s The Wagon Master 1950 is superb but little mentioned, I love it. Watch it if you are a man.

    Gettysburg – directed by Ron Maxwell 1993 is like four in a row of the best episodes of Sharpe, with a bigger budget. I am not from the new world and so the the civil war does not have on me the visceral effect of WW2, but if I was american the civil war would haunt me and I would likely wear the regalia of my ancestors. My understanding of WW2 is now so sophisticated that my cultural insignia would have to include NSDAP symbols given that the idiot US and moron USSR conspired to crush Europe, and I love Europe and wish shitty elsewheres would stay away.


    1. The movie recommendations are welcome but we are going to have to come up with some sort of right-wing diet for you because this is a family friendly blog for enthusiastic OSR gamers of all kinds. That means restricting any disparaging remarks to one or two enthnicities at most, a limit of three roman salutes per month and any revisionism relating to historical atrocities is to remain within 10.000 of the official narrative. I’m watching you!


    1. Every Anthony Mann movie is good – the westerns, the noirs, his Korean War movie (Men in War), and even his medieval epic (El Cid).


      1. I’ve only read El Cid, and found the english translation to be underwhelming. About low to mid-tier for an epic. My knowledge of the movie canon requires considerable expansion I see. John Wu, Waterloo, Cross of Iron, Stalker, the movies of Fritz Lang, the great noir films and now this.

        Has anyone seen The Thief of Bagdad and will anyone disagree it is the greatest fantasy film of the 20th century?


      2. The silent version directed by Raoul Walsh, starring Douglas Fairbanks? Absolutely a masterpiece, one of the great adventure movies, and on my “Appendix N” movie list alongside various Harryhausens, The Man Who Would Be King, The Saragossa Manuscript, various Kurosawas, and a few others I’m forgetting at the moment. There was a later technicolor version directed by Michael Powell (et al) which I’ll assume is not the one you’re referring to because it’s not nearly as good, despite the pretty colors.


      3. El Cid (1961) is good: my favourite part is Count Ordonez’s death scene. One slightly bizarre piece of casting: Andrew Cruickshank would have been more plausible as the King’s champion eater of pork pies rather than the King’s Champion, as he wasn’t in the best possible shape.
        Which version of the Thief of Baghdad did you have in mind?


      4. I was not even aware of the 20s version. I have only seen the 40s version and I thought it was fantastic in its poetic dialogue, sets and special effects. Jafar, the genie, the clockwork assassin, the ride across the heavens with the toy horse, the temple with the Troglodytes and the giant spider…all fantastic stuff.


      5. I’ve owned the Fairbanks (silent) version of Thief for some decade or so years now…one of the films I brought up my (then toddler) son on, translating the placards into Spanish for him (his first language). Having viewed it thus dozens of times, I agree: tis a masterpiece. And one I’ve never tired of.

        Still haven’t seen ANY version of El Cid, however.


    1. I have wedded laziness to a misguided ideal for authenticity. The third level of the caverns of the Little Keep on the Borderlands for Hackmaster 4e (AD&D with the serial numbers filled off) was the most accurate decision.


  5. Oh certes, Men in War 1957 Anthony Mann is little known masterpiece.

    I think it is exemplary of what could have been, modest films tailored to an audience and made with intelligence regardless of funds. By intelligence I mean for any specific target audience the director assumes knowledge or sensibility. There should be fifty Men in War’s in different scenarios. It is a shame we don’t have twenty three-hour youTube interviews with Mann on why he was so awesome. And that goes for fifty directors I could name. It seems to me that the knowledge of the people I care about has disappeared before my eyes just *before* the technology has arrived to perpetuate their craftsmanship. Instead we are twiddling our thumbs with infinite storage of muck-of-morons.

    The approach I would use for Jack Vance’s Cugel escapades or even the magnificent Gene Wolfe’s Book of the New Sun is first of all — fuck the CGI. Hire theatre actors only, ugly characterful, paint the backdrop like Jack Cardiff did in Black Narcissus, or George Gibson in The Wizard of Oz. Have confidence in the Words of the Authors.


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