The Goblin Gully: an OD&D game report
Written from memory in French and translated to English,
please pardon any poor grammar !
This was a team of 5 players, with the very brief inclusion of a sixth player. The party included 4 experienced players and two beginners.
No one had ever played OD&D, even if AD&D was known to some. But those are very different games. This would matter over the course of the game.
Players rolled Basic D&D characters (Labyrinth Lord) with a slightly more generous method: 4d6 minus the lower result, rolled 6 times; then freely allocated to the 6 attributes.
Without consultation, the team featured: two dwarves, two elves (raised by humans and called changelings, as culturally pure elves are rare and feared as creatures of the forest… but i’ll keep calling them elves here for simplicity) and one Hobbit. Yes, except for humans, race does equal class.
The generous endowment from the Labyrinth Lord rules was kept (3d8 x 10 gp) and nearly all players started with a fine sum of gold. After reminding to all that they should think “hiking” and that i would not accept to “invent” during the game equipment that was not brought with them, the players make good calls: aside from common equipment, they manage to buy a war dog, and mules and ponies.
Follows a rudimentary introduction to the region and to their modest villager background. I insist on the relative poverty of this region, and expose a social element, with gameplay incidences:
in such a poor country, the villagers accept with difficulty that children of the country should want to leave for uncertain and dangerous adventures. Until they become local heroes (third level of experience,) the “Treasure XP” gained by the players will only equal how much they give back to the community (church, village council or donations to villagers.) It is important because in OD&D, nearly all XP is Treasure XP. Monster (kills) XP is actually very low.
I should at that moment present a few rumors, depending on each player’s previous occupation (they were artisans’ apprentices and field workers) but this is a first game, i only offer them two rumors:
– one tells of the eventual burial site of pious knights of ancient ages
– the other speaks of a goblin gully, and of a lost magical axe
Deciding that that “pious knights” does not necessarily imply great treasures, they decide to seek the goblin infested gully, and the magical axe. Small side note: there is no magical axe, this is a totally unfounded part of the rumor.
A first night in the neighboring Hobbit village put them on the correct track, and soon they depart for a two days ride. Little danger is to be found on the road, except an encounter with an Ogre (the survivors will know this after having returned and described the creature to an ancient of the village) who hunts its dinner in a grassy valley. The monster reaction roll is good, the Ogre is indifferent to the players, and some of them decide to approach the creature and try to communicate.
I decide that for each player action toward the Ogre, it will have both a reaction and a moral check: Indeed, it is primarily interested in catching its dinner, not to confront a band of spiky adventurers. The moral check will indicate his confidence in regard to the group’s actions and adds either a bonus or a malus to any new reaction checks.
After several unsuccessful attempts to communicate in Giant, Orc, Hobgoblin (and other such tongues in which they knew crude rudiments) the players decide to continue their way and let the creature to its (future) meal.
(note: a bit late but still good call, the ogre would probably have torn the group to little tiny bits)
They finally reach the foot of a hill that’s surmounted by a large tree – known by some in the group as the mark of the goblin infested ravine. There and then followed a lively strategic debate, some 40 yards below the entrance (laying at the heart of the tree) of the Goblin Gully. Intrigued by this strange procession, two goblin “guards” try their luck and shoot at the company. One of the arrows plants itself in one elf's leg, putting him almost at once out of combat, and the group returns to its senses: to discuss strategy right below the entrance of a dungeon, even a small one, is not the brightest idea.
The hobbit goes in hiding, the dwarves take their marks behind a large stone before charging, elves withdraw, one to heal and the other to prepare and fire an arrow.
After a dwarven charge in good tradition and some well shot arrows from the hobbit and the unhurt elf, the two goblin guards are killed.
Arrives a large creature armed with a hatchet, emerging from behind the tree: this is the sixth player (just arrived at the game, just rolled a character) who explored the back of the ravine. A human warrior, he towers over all other members of the group, and is welcomed by all.
The first major obstacle in the cave is a room where stand 4 goblins, room at the end of which there is a high-relief demon head, whose mouth serves as a gateway to the rest of the cellar, and that is currently occupied by two Goblin archers. After a missed detection roll by the Hobbit, the goblins are on their guard. A short discussion of tactics arise on the player’s side, but without a moment’s thought the (newly arrived) warrior charges the goblins. The dwarves follow posthaste, and the unhurt Elf moves back and prepares to shoot an arrow.
Soon, the battle shows how D&D characters are anything but level 1 born-heroes: the human warrior receives a stab in the neck that just misses the carotid artery, almost killing him. The dwarves in turn slaughter one Goblin.
Considering the dangerousness of the situation, the Elf decides to cast a sleep spell, and is particularly good at it. Early in the second round of combat, Goblins all fall to a magic sleep. Players butcher the three Goblin survivors in the room, and tie up the two Goblin archers of the Demon mouthed passage.
Follows a strange interrogation session, in which the players manage to almost convince a goblin they will grant him the power to fly if he tells them what to expect later in this cave. He tells them that six other goblins live in a hut a little further, down a staircase. The two goblin archers are then thrown into the deep ravine, more or less convinced of their new ability to fly. Sounds of bones shatering, fatal fall. General hilarity amongst the adventurers.
Having crossed the ravine on one ugly but strong rope bridge, the players enter an empty room in the middle of which is a stone spiral staircase, leading down to the barracks announced by the (now victims of a fatal fall) Goblin archers.
Soon, the players engage in the staircase. Dwarfs ahead, followed by an Elf, the Hobbit and his war dog, and last the seriously wounded laggards.
What is missing in this record? if you’re thinking: "easy, what about searching for traps and/or secret passages, especially by both the elves and the dwarves?" then I tip my hat to you.
No sooner have the adventurers engaged themselves in the stairs (noisily enough to rouse the goblins of the barracks of the lower floor) that a hatch opens in the ceiling of the room they are leaving, and tumble 5 Goblins, amongst whom the leader this little band (the only one to have max HP, and he also has +1 to hit and damage.)
The situation is perilous: stuck in the stairs, the players face, on one side, the 6 aroused Goblins who come up the stairs. At the rear, the wounded are being assaulted by five Goblins amongst whom the chieftain.
Very quickly, the wounded are pierced by the Goblin blades, and fall dead (it was a quick passage at the gaming table for the human warrior!) While the dwarfs commit six Goblins who come up the stairs to meet them. Amid the fray, the surviving elf and hobbit turn around to face the unexpected assailants. The Hobbit unleashes his attack dog.
While the attack dog manages, alone, to slay the goblin leader (at last, some luck) the dwarves gradually get rid of the goblins below, until the last of the Goblins misses his moral check and flees back. Players use a combat round to exchange position, under the blows of the last two remaining Goblins of the upper floor. The dog is still going after the corpse of the chieftain.
But luck does not always smiles to the adventurers: one of the dwarves dies, pierced by a short Goblin sword. Finally, the three surviving players (a dwarf, a hobbit, an elf) and their dog manage to get rid of the last committed Goblins (high in spirit, these Goblins!)
They pursue the fugitive in the barracks of the lower floor. This piece has only one other way out: a huge closed door framed by large hinges. They interrogate the Goblin, who tells them about “the scary creature in the well”. They leave this survivors to escape and then decide not to push the door (wise decision.) They too go back on their steps and climb into the top room from which the goblin ambush took place. There they find a heartwarming treasure: 5000 copper coins and 2000 coins of electrum, a scroll of blessing and an unknown potion, vial of which is marked with a flame.
Having had enough losses for such a short exploration, the players finally decide to return to civilization. They load the deads on the mules and leave with a bittersweet feeling.
note: they have the instinct that there is still more to explore here beside the “scary door”, and decide that they will come back sometime in the future.
By a very random chance at encounter checks, they meet on the way back on the same creature (the Ogre) they had crossed previously. And even later, watching a far more frightening creature (a Phase Tiger) which fortunately did not decide to pursue the trotting troupe.
And this is how, gone 5, arrived 6, only 3 players eventually returned to their village alive. But with enough wealth to surprise and satisfy the community of their home settlement.
Each of them finished richer by about 60 gp (counting the selling of the equipment of their fallen comrades) and 450 XP. Nothing fancy, but a great adventure and a reminder that heroism is not a given, and that it's not for no good reason that the villagers prefer an honest and quiet life to adventures in the unknown.