Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Sunless Citadel #4: Goblin Boss Battle

Our heroes for The Sunless Citadel include:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 2 (urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 2 (hermit)
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 2 (wild magic; sage)
  • Sir Dain (NPC), male hill dwarf paladin 2 (knight)
  • Erky Timbers (NPC), gnome acolyte rescued by the party

(Warning: Spoilers for The Sunless Citadel follow.) 

Last time, the heroes used the key they received from the kobolds to pass through the dragon door, and discovered the long-closed tomb of a cursed priest of the dragon cult who originally built the citadel. They cleared that section of the dungeon, and still had enough resources to explore elsewhere without a long rest.

Now that the party included Erky, who could turn undead, they had the means to pass through a magical, trapped door they had found along the way to the goblins' territory. To do so, they needed to pass through the kobolds' chambers again. When they reached Meepo's room, they found the dragon keeper busy refurbishing Calcryx's room with the help of other members of his tribe. The kobolds were repairing the broken cage, and Meepo had somehow acquired some piecemeal protective gear (gauntlets, boots, a thick apron, etc.). The dragon was nowhere in sight, but one of the doors out of this room was barricaded. Meepo greeted the adventurers warmly, and inquired about their business. The PCs explained that they were returning to the tunnels to the north, which pleased the kobolds because it meant more trouble for the hated goblins.

The party traveled to the locked door and Erky was able to open it with his channeling power. Inside were five upright sarcophagi and an obsidian altar. Upon the altar were a lit candle, a crystal whistle, and a crystal flask. Recalling the trap on the door that Dain had found the hard way, the heroes entered the room slowly and carefully, while Erky stayed by the door to make sure it didn't close behind them.

When Dain neared the altar, he could see that the whistle was etched with the name "Night Caller" in Dwarvish runes. Xuri recalled tales of the duergar making such items, which were used to animate the dead. Dain sensed the unholiness of the thing, and smashed it with his warhammer. When he did this, five skeletons emerged from the sarcophagi and attacked. Thanks to Xuri's breath weapon, Raven Flare's sneak attack, and Dain's divine smite, the undead were quickly dispatched, though most of the heroes took wounds. 

The candle proved to be enchanted with continual light, which Erky was glad to carry, being an acolyte of the sun god Pelor. The flask contained a potion of fire resistance. Raven found a secret door in the altar that contained a coffer with a half-dozen peridots carved into dragons; these were promptly divided among the party, with the dragonborn claiming the extra against her share of other treasure. [I foresee these being the party's most cherished treasure from this adventure, despite being worth only 10 gp each.]

The party then explored a corridor to the north that they had passed by before. This hallway had six doors that were all ajar, leading to small cells. The group's lights attracted the attention of three giant rats, which the adventurers slew with little effort. The rats' nests held a scattering of coins and a few tiny gems. 

At the end of the hall was a larger room with a dry fountain featuring a sculpted dragon waterspout. There were also two pit traps here, spiked open, in front of the two exits from the room. Xuri made the mistake of reading aloud the Draconic inscription on the edge of the fountains's basin, which triggered a poison gas trap; she bore the brunt of the spray, and was quite ill for several minutes. 

The big mama rat (on 2x3 plate) falls into the hole.
The party waited until she had recovered before Kalitni climbed along the wall over a pit to open the door leading out of the room. In the room beyond, she spotted four giants rats, who were ready to pounce. One of them was enormous--the size of a human. The ranger and rogue shot the big rat, who climbed out and bit Kalitni. [The ranger easily saved against the disease the rat carried.] The other rats spread out around the pit's edges. Kalitni stabbed the big rat, who fell dead into the 20-foot-deep pit. The other rats were soon killed and thrown into the pit after it.

The rats' room was a thoroughly filthy, disgusting mess. The party found four chewed corpses: a kobold, two goblins, and a human. A gold ring with the name "Karakas" identified the human as one of the missing adventurers the heroes sought. They removed the kobold and human bodies from the room, and retreated to the sarcophagus room for a long rest. First, however, they returned the kobold's body to its tribe, and decided to leave Karakas's in the magically locked room until they were able to carry him back to town. 

After resting, the party once more entered the goblins' territory. The goblins had not yet replaced the alarm bell or first stone barricade, or manned that room. However, the second watch post had replacement guards, and the short folk had stacked stones and barrels to improvise a new barrier. Raven Flare used her stealth and speed to lead a rush on the wall. Two goblins fell before they could react, and the third fled. Raven chased it while Dain took another path to cut it off, but Xuri's cantrip brought it down before it reached him.

The party regrouped in the long columned hallway that led further into the goblins' lair. The rogue heard the noises of a large group beyond the door at the end of this hall, and Dain scouted a side passage that seemed to lead to another entrance to that noisy space. That passage also led to a door in a section of curved wall, which the party guessed was part of a tower. This seemed promising of something important.

First, the adventurers checked the other door out of the hall. This led to another goblin guard room, but the party caught them by surprise and finished them off quickly. Beyond that room were more corridors, where the party detected a covered pit trap. Dain's stonecunning told him that this hall was very near the kobolds' chambers, so they guessed that this pit served as a defense from both directions. The heroes felt no desire to meet with the kobolds again right now, so returned to the tower door. [There was a suggestion that after the party deals with the goblins, they let Calcryx loose to finish off the kobolds, since it hastes them as much as it does the heroes.]

Kalitni listened at the door, and could hear voices speaking Goblin. The voices were pitched lower than goblins, which told her that there must be hobgoblins in that room. (Goblins are her favored enemy, so she knows quite a bit about goblinoids.) Erky blessed the paladin, ranger, and rogue, then Dain kicked in the door. 

The large, domed room held a deep shaft in its center, surrounded by a low wall that was covered with pale, sickly-looking vines growing up from below, where a dim violet light emanated. To one side of the room was a hobgoblin dressed in splint armor, seated on a makeshift stone throne, feet propped on an iron chest. Standing near him were three more hobgoblins, and a female goblin dressed in a robe stained with noxious colors. A dead sapling stood in a pot near the throne as well. The leader and goblin were surprised by the party's sudden entry, but the hobgoblins reacted quickly. 

Dain charged the goblinoids, and Raven soon followed, engaging the two closest hobgoblins. Kalitni, Xuri, and Erky moved to take shots at the leader from across the shaft; Kalitni badly wounded her target but the spellcasters missed. The third hobgoblin went the other way around the shaft to menace Xuri, while the goblin--a shaman--cast bane on the paladin and ranger. 

Dain suffered a serious wound from the hobgoblins' skilled teamwork, but then downed one of them. He pressed on closer to the leader, but then the sapling revealed itself to be a disguised creature and (feebly) scratched at him. Raven tried to shove the other hobgoblin into the shaft, but her first couple of attempts failed.

Kalitni's arrows and hunter's mark downed the leader before he could land a hit on anyone. At this point, the goblin shaman closed with Xuri and knocked her out with an inflict wounds spell. Erky was at the sorcerer's side in an instant, and healed her. Xuri, enraged now, blasted the goblin and the nearest hobgoblin with thunderwave, pushing them both away from her--and the goblin was flung straight down the shaft! Kalitni shot the battered hobgoblin dead. 

Raven Flare finally succeeded in shoving her foe, who tumbled over the wall and down the shaft. Dain smashed the plant monster (a twig blight) and its pot. With the battle over, the heroes turned to the business of tending their wounds and searching the room.

Two views of the final boss fight: hobgoblins (Uruk-Hai minifigures), hobgoblin chief (Uruk with samurai gear), goblin shaman, and twig blight.

The leader wore splint armor and a gold ring, both decorated with the Hucrele family crest; these items belonged to one of the missing adventurers the party sought. Erky had already informed his rescuers that the Hucrele siblings and Sir Braford had been sent to Belak, who dwelt below. Raven Flare easily defeated the trap and lock on the chest, and found a stash of gold and gems. 

While the others were busy, Xuri remained near the second door in this room, which almost certainly led to the same space with the sounds of activity to the south. Despite the deafening boom her last spell had produced, no goblins entered this room to investigate. Eventually, she heard hushed whispers beyond the door, and alerted the others. The party lined up at the southern door, and Dain opened it.

This very large room had once been a cathedral, but was now the messy home of around three dozen goblins. Most of them huddled near an exit on the far side of the room, but four warriors stood next to the door the dwarf had just opened. Raven Flare used her thaumaturgy cantrip to cause a tremor, and flourished the bloody head of the hobgoblin chief, impaled upon his own sword, as Dain bellowed, "Flee before the mighty warriors who have defeated your leader. Behold the evidence if our destruction of your people, and flee!" This caused the majority of the goblins to stampede for the exit, crushing one another in their haste. The four warriors were shaking as they backed away, but they kept themselves between the heroes and their own people, and were the last to leave. The party let the goblins flee, then Raven dropped the head. (Some of the PCs realized that the only way for the goblins to escape was to go through the kobolds--but felt a supreme lack of concern about either side.)

[Raven's stunt was blatant stealing of a tactic I had told the kids about from when Erika and I had played Lost Mine of Phandelver. My tiefling warlock had done this with the bugbear's head in the Cragmaw Hideout, but had done the "Flee or die!" speech herself, with a cantrip-enhanced booming voice. Still, it was effective, so I gave Dain advantage on the Intimidate check, which gave him a result of 23 with a natural 20!]

Xuri cleaned up the Hucrele armor while the others searched the goblin common room. Among the refuse, they found some toolkits, a small statue of an elf god, and a Medium chain shirt. After checking an adjoining room (now empty of any goblins), they decided to take a long rest before going below to deal with the druid Belak. 


The party has now completely explored the first level of The Sunless Citadel apart from a few rooms in the kobolds' territory. After tallying the sizable XP award for this session, and dividing by 5 because Erky is with them, they ended up 63 XP short of they needed for 3rd level. It makes much more sense to have them level up now rather than trying to do it in the middle of exploring the lower level, so I went ahead and gave them that extra 63 XP they needed. Reaching 3rd level means that all the heroes have now achieved the start of their subclasses.  

We have decided that Erky will continue as a full member of the party, so I have converted him to a standard cleric going forward. He was a 1st-level spellcaster as an acolyte, so I simply calculated how many XP the other PCs have received since rescuing him and awarded him that. He ended up a couple hundred short of 3rd level, so will be a 2nd-level cleric next session.

The updated party now consists of:
  • Raven Flare, female tiefling rogue 3 (assassin; urchin)
  • Kalitni, female human ranger 3 (beast master; hermit)
  • Xuri, female blue dragonborn sorcerer 3 (wild magic; sage)
  • Sir Dain (player-run NPC), male hill dwarf paladin 2 (oath of devotion; knight)
  • Erky Timbers (GM-run NPC), male forest gnome cleric 2 (life domain; acolyte)
We still need to work out when and how Kalitni's animal companion (she has chosen a wolf) will be introduced. I'll probably invent a brief role-playing encounter for it before they descend the shaft to the next level.

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