A first session of a B/X game (or rather Old School Essentials, which is for all intents and purposes the same thing, but has some extra options in its “advanced” version; 1e recalculated to B/X-level).
The dirty half-dozen
Six characters: Stanley Blackbook and Magical Michael, a magic user and an illusionist; Waldengeist, the druid convert; Reynard the thief, Eostre the clever fighter, and myself, the chaotic cleric Reinaldo, priest of Clobrek, the god of natural 1s and critical failure. Overall, the party has a strong chaotic bend, which changes methods and ideas a good deal. For carrying purposes, we also have a mule, “Dr. Elum”.
The group heard that in the area of Errinsford there is a wild dangerous beast that terrorizes the land and has killed many hunters and other folk, lots of victims, and the village is looking for heroes to slay the monster.
No shining knights
However, right from the bat this group was less inclined to go out and engage the monster in a heroic cavalry charge; rather we were discussing how to let some other party soften it up, only to swoop in and grab the reward.
We also heard that there were promising ruins there with treasure; and houses with all owners slain; and there was a missing caravan of supplies somewhere. All interesting opportunities, if one could avoid the monster and the witches, of whom rumors also told. Sounded like some easy pickings without pesky combat.
Yet, first we had to move there, so we did. On the way two black bears came out of the underbrush and stormed at us, but we ran away and dropped some rations to avoid them. “We have no beef with bears,” declared Reinaldo.
Circling around the bears, we moved onwards and reached the village of Errinsford when the sun was about to set.
A lone lamp was hanging a ways away from the wall, to shed light on approaching people. We walked right through the light, having nothing to hide (yet).
“Halt!” called someone “Who goes there, such a short time before curfew!”
“Great, so we are right on time!” answered Eostre, and we all yelled something similar, until Reynard mentioned that we were here to slay the beast of Errinsford.
“Well, in that case, come in,” said the caller, ruffling some feathers a bit. What was ‘in that case’ supposed to mean? So if we were a couple of school children, we would be left outside to die?
Going in, Reinaldo and Eostre broached just that question, and the hapless little zero-level guard called for “uncle Ned”, the constable, to explain. Said constable, Ned “Beefy” Ward, looked at us like at something the cat’s dragged in, told us we were lucky to be even considered to allow entrance, and sent us to the Inn. He also ordered us to report to the Reeve first thing in the morning, and if we didn’t he’d “find” us.
Reinaldo felt an itch to cave in the man’s head right then and there, but he went the way of derision instead, on account of being fresh in town, and there would be time for a reckoning later. Reynard calmed the situation by calling the constable “Sir” a couple of times and signalling respect due a royal. We had found our diplomat.
The Bearded Axe
We went to the Bearded Axe, the only Inn in town, where a halfling named Bentley managed the place together with a wife and three daughters. He spoke very friendly, but then wanted 5 gold pieces per nose per night!!!!
That led to furious haggling, until Eostre managed to connect well with the Innkeep’s wife and reminded her that our slaying the monster was worth more than turning out our pockets, and through the wife’s goodwill the greedy gangster softened up and became sensible: He offered free stay, plus 100 gold for us if we were able to help him with a smuggling racket.
Some of us wanted to haggle the 100 gp higher, but cooler heads prevailed and we accepted…. only to find out that gratis stay included only the bare minimum of service. Well…. one more for Reinaldo’s reckoning list.
On the plus side, the halfling provided us with a good map of the area and told us a lot of useful detail about the local people. He also offered to put word out for some farmboys to help us in the manner of hirelings or even retainers.
- Riffin the hunter was the sole survivor of a monster encounter, all his friends died and he lost an arm.
- Gwendolyn the apothecary was a smart, learned city woman rather new in town, and friendly with
- Vivian, the “woman in the wood”, often called “Witch”, who was the go-to-medic before Gwendolyn came.
- The Barrow was an old grave site for the mighty hero Errin who had slain the old beast 120 years ago with a magic sword, and got knighted for it, and had the town named after him.
- The priest Willam had sent his apprentice to retrieve the sword in order to fight the new beast, but apprentice gone.
- The dwarfs from the mine had long sent nothing to the town.
- The goatmen were bandits who had taken over “the old temple”.
- The caravan with his smuggled goods would come down the street from the west.
- There was also a blacksmith named Fred.
Stanley pretended to have a relative who had died near here, and asked for directions to the cemetary and a spade (totally inconspicuous) — which he explained for gardening. That was when we learned that Errinsford did not only have a curfew to keep night-time travellers outside so they could be eaten by the monster; it also had an inside curfew to keep all the citizens in the houses.
More feathers ruffled, although Reynard explained that he liked the idea and called it smart tactics to give the populace a false sense of security. Well, most others felt that it was a scandal. And there was some speculation about the nature of the beast … werewolf? A villager? The constable, stalking the town at night, within the walls he guards himself?
The next morning, we started with a good, healthy breakfast, until the constable stomped in, red in the face, and asked what the hell we thought we were doing?
“Eating breakfast”, we all answered in unison, and Reinaldo invited the man to sit, and even offered him something to drink … which surprised the man, who had somehow picked up on Reinaldo’s earlier acidic temper. The unexpected courtesy actually softened him up and he opened up a bit and let some humanity shine through. Eostre used the opportunity to ply him for information and learned quickly that he was under a lot of pressure from the Reeve, the actual monster here. Mr. Curfew. He wanted the town to become a pulsating urban metropolis, a bright beacon of civilization out here in the wild.
After breakfast we went to the Reeve, who let us wait for a while and then welcomed us in his office, where he ate breakfast behind a huge table, but had no seats for us. Transparent buffoon tactics, which we parried with Eostre just sitting down on his table, and Reinaldo walking over to look out of the window, ignoring Mr. High-and-mighty.
So he had to acknowledge us to keep the initiative, and he offered us 1000 gold to slay the beast… however, he also let shine through that he thought that everyone within his town and outside was a liar and a rascal and nobody kept their words, so his offer of 1000 gold had to be taken with a grain of salt.
- The monster was most likely a hoax and did not exist. 1000 for its death or proof of hoax.
- The only surviving hunter who had lost an arm in the encounter was a sad loser and drunkard, not to be trusted, and likely himself the murderer of the other hunters.
- The town guard a bunch of idiots and losers.
- The constable a dumb redneck – the Reeve offered us to take him with us because he felt he would not miss him here in town.
- The woman in the woods an evil witch.
- The caravan people cheats and thieves who would rather steal their own stuff than deliver it.
- The bandits called “goatmen” likely also a hoax, invented by the caravaners… but bringing in the missing caravan would be worth 300 gold by itself.
- The apothecary Gwendolyn a useless girl.
- Something negative about the local priest.
- They all, caravan, dwarfs, Gwendolyn, the Witch, the Goatmen, and the priest, and maybe even Riffin, in a big conspiracy to steal from him, the benevolent ruler.
- A lot of negative about the dead hero Errin; the Reeve felt that the village should rather be named after him, because his own forefathers had practically founded it, and Errin had just invented some blown-up nonsense about beastslaying.
Etc etc, hard to follow all this. The man made Reinaldo want to throw open the gates so the beast could come in and get the Reeve. Initially, Reinaldo had been doubtful about the hero Errin and also the village priest, who was most likely lawful, but the seething hate of the Reeve endeared them to his stoney heart.
First of all, the group went to the hunter, sole survivor of a band of five, despite the misgivings of the Reeve. They knocked on the door and the man tried to shoo them away. “Who are you? Go away!” However, when Reynard told him we wanted to kill the beast, he laughed out loud: “Kill it you reckon’?!”
And came out. Wild red hair, nervously flickering eyes, and one relatively fresh arm stump, he stood there and declared that we were going to die, all of us.
Eostre asked just the right set of questions to get a load of excellent information:
The beast was massive. It had slain one man with one sweep of the claws, and taken Riffin himself out with a backswing that had taken off his arm. It was 12 feet long and looked like a cross between a bear and a lizard, with thick, arrow-proof hide, venomous saliva, poisonous claws, and noxious fumes from his misty breath, that made burns and blisters on the skins of men.
Smell of sulphur & vinegar – that will be a good bit of info to ask the apothecary about.
Reynard gave Riffin the map so he could mark where he had met and survived the beast — west of the mine, in the outskirts of the mountains.
Hilarious highlight: Eostre asked him: “How did you survive that loss of the arm? And don’t give me some crap about being a hard dude hunter who survives anything… who saved your life?”
“Well, I’m a hunter….”
Hahaha! Anyhow, he said apart from being tough he had a healing salve from Gwendolyn, that helped him to stagger back home, where the priest cast healing spells to get him back on his feet.
Finally Reinaldo fucked it up: When Riffin clamored that he was now useless and destroyed, a nothing, never ever amounting to anything again, the cleric asked Riffin to come out of his shell, not to fight anything, just to tackle his psychological issues and find meaning again by leading us around the area and helping us find the ways. Well, that backfired, and the man slammed the door and the talk was over.
Eostre agreed that losing an arm was nothing compared to losing spirit … and revealed a wooden leg under the wide set of trousers, testament to a gruesome past, overcome.
And here we ended session one. To be continued in session two.
Find here a podcast that starts with a recap of that very same session and goes on to discuss other interesting topics, especially a discussion of adversarial play, its definition, and its fallout.
Picture: Neven Krcmarek on Unsplash