He’s probably not, but he feels like he is.
As he descends the hill upon which the temple rests, he steps into an unfamiliar landscape. I think it is likely that this is rocky lowland punctuated by moors and broken hills. I envision small, dark edifices surrounding him on all horizons, and occasional pits of acid or black liquid or something. That’s likely; I roll 5. Hm. Okay… it’s not that. Is this more volcanic in nature? 3. Okay. Is there any vegetation at all? 5. No. Well, that de-escalated quickly. He’s crossed into a bleak hellish landscape of lava pits and worse. I was thinking at some point he might cross over into some other-planar dark land, but he’s already pretty much there.
I roll 1d6 to see how often I have to check for encounters here: 2. So every 2 hours we’ll say there’s a 2 in 6 chance of a random encounter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be with a monster, but it will be with a challenge of some kind. The first question is always if it’s a creature of some kind, and then I solve from there.
Despite being a paladin, this is a little bit of a stealth mission; I am not looking to sound a horn and call forth the full armies of Parth Goldu to face me. Abel’s going to need to be as clever as he is trying to be brave. His goal is to sneak into the city; it’s like a bigger temple is all! He’s already done that once.
That said, is there something that looks at least interesting or worth exploring in the immediate area? That’s possible from here. 6. Not at all. So, he’ll start walking. Is there a clear pathway of some kind? 2. Yes. There’s something like a road that moves through the landscape, descending into broken, rocky land below. Off we go.
In the first two hours, I roll 1. I have an encounter of some kind within the first hour. Is it creatures of some kind? 3. Yes. Is it more goblins? 1. For sure. I’m getting a little bolder and more capable, so I will say that there are 2d6 of these; I think I can handle that many. I roll 7. What do they seem to be doing? Are they marching towards me? 6. No. Are they encamped? No. Are they fighting something? 6. No. Are they on the run? (the goblins I fight seem to always be on the run). 1. YES THEY ARE. Is it from a mythical creature? 1. Yes. Is it a dragon? (please be a dragon) 1. YES IT IS. Moving to intercept goblins and maybe make friends with a dragon. Or maybe die trying.
11 on the Focus check to intercept the goblins without being noticed (they are kind of distracted by the dragon that is chasing them). Is it a dragon that is linked to light in some way? 2. Yes. Such good news. Current theory: This dragon dwells at the far edges of the lands of Parth Goldu, eating small groups of goblins or any creatures it feels like it can eat easily enough. The naga must HATE this thing, since they’d see it as a traitor to their kind. I already like him and we haven’t met yet.
Some goblins come upon me. I get a free action, so I just go ahead and try to kill one. 6 on the attack, so that’s a no. I did not make a good first impression on the dragon. It’s behind them. I have to assume it is playing with them like a cat; it could easily wipe them all out in one round. I don’t think my character knows much about dragons, but I will decide its age real quick; 1d6, with higher being older. 2. This is a young adult dragon, so maybe 100 years old or so. It is likely to stop and see what I do for a few rounds. 4. It debates this for a moment, and then sets down nearby and watches.
Round 1. I lose initiative; all of the goblins attack me. I think only 4 can attack me at a time, so we’ll go with that. I get a natural 12 on my first defense, so get advantage on my attack, and then 12, 10, and 12 on the remaining three; on my attack, I get 10, so kill one.
Round 2. I defend with 10, another natural 12, another natural 12, and 14. I think it is reasonable that I’d get a second attack this round; double 12s seems like it should give me something. I attack twice with advantage, getting 10 and 13, killing 2 goblins.
Round 3. I defend with 13, 14, 12, and 10. On the attack, I get 8, which is barely enough to hit, killing a goblin. Three remain.
Round 4. I defend with 9, 14, and a natural 12; I attack with 11 and kill one.
Round 5. I defend with 12 and 15. I kill one with 10.
Round 6. I defend with 15, and kill the last with 13.
Abel steps back and nods at the dragon. I’m going to wait a second and see what he does. I think it is likely that the dragon eats the goblins while keeping an eye on Abel. 1. Yep. Exactly what happens. Abel cleans his weapon while he waits. The dragon eats slowly.
Abel will speak as the dragon gets to the final goblin (and before it has a chance to leave). He would know enough to be very flattering to dragons, and respectful, and deferential, and all of that good stuff. He carries what is clearly a holy item of the Seventh Goddess, and this is a dragon of light in some meaningful way (not sure what to call it yet - maybe Morning Dragon or Dragon of Morning… that second one better fits with the rhythm I already have with the dragon in the core rules). Any chance Abel knows this or has heard legends of dragons of morning? CR 8 Focus check. Gets a 9. “Noble dragon of morning, I greet you from the Bright Temple of the Seventh Goddess…” He bows here.
Reaction time. I think he’d get advantage on this check, because he carries the shield, and because he just killed a bunch of goblins… I will interpret the results; anything of 8 or better is a decent result. 7 or lower is pretty bad. 12. Awesome! Does this dragon speak? You can take the boy out of BX, but you cannot take the BX out of the boy. This would have a better than 50% chance of speaking, so we’ll say it’s likely; I roll and get 5. Nope. This is one hissy and grunty dragon.
It makes sense that the dragon would want to go somewhere they could chat, and I think it is very likely that the dragon has a scroll of tongues in its lair (roll and get 3, so yes). It gestures that it will allow Abel to ride it, and they fly back to its lair, a high cave in the hills that border these volcanic lands. Can they see the city from here? Very unlikely, but I’ll see… 6. No way. The air here is thick with sulfur, and visibility is limited to no more than 4 miles, even up here. All he can see is a hazy mist and the rocky slope leading up to the cave. This seems safe enough.
A potion would be better than a scroll (no chance of failure), so we’ll say that’s likely. 6. Nope. Totally a scroll. Abel tries to read it (ugh. Going to need a 9 or better on the dice to make sense of this) and he gets a natural 12! Woot. Able is able (see what I did there) to speak to the dragon for 1 turn.
Was the dragon sent a vision of Abel last night? 1. Sure was.
I like this idea that the goddess sends visions to her faithful. It’s a nifty mechanic that has helped move the story along. I like that.
Abel reveals his plans - go to the city and kill the leaders of Parth Goldu. The dragon has to offer some help. I don’t think the dragon wants to get close to the city (otherwise, he’d already be there), and instead likes being the last line of defense to catch things as they are passing through. He cannot stop big armies or larger forces, but the small foot patrols and rabble he’s more than happy to take care of. He’s got to have some better plan than marching 40 miles across open land to a city full of goblins. Abel is going to get eaten at some point. I’d think that things like wyverns would be pretty common in this area. 3 on the die. The dragon says as much. No chance Abel gets within 10 miles on foot.
Is there an underground way in? I’m ending up with common motifs here (he did sneak into the temple through an underground tunnel), but this one would be a natural cave network he could traverse. I think that’s likely (this volcanic land would have created lots of underground passageways). I roll and get 4. That’s my play. I get the dungeon I wanted (kind of) as a huge underdark highway.
I imagine that whatever lives down there is not friendly towards the goblins. That’s likely. 2. Yes. Okay, so there are two societies here; the forces of Parth Goldu on the surface, and another society beneath. How well structured is this under society? I’ll go 1 is pretty savage and wild, 6 is highly structured. 2. Pretty loose. Is it a form of demihuman like elves or dwarves? Possible. 2. Okay. Is it dwarves of some kind? 5. No. Elves again? 4. No. gnome-like creatures? 2. Yes. Hmmm. Are they attuned to flame? 6 Heck. No. Darkness? 6 Heck no again. Are they actually friendly? 4. No. Generally neutral towards humans? 6. No way. Are they sort of an albino sub-species of savage gnome that battles among rival clans of the same species for supremacy of the underworld? That’s a 1. Okay then, they’re gnomish versions of the Morlocks.
They have raiding parties and I assume train lizards (4 - no) or maybe spiders? (5 - no) or beetles? (4 - no) or… um… I do a little googling, and it turns out that there are native species to volcanic caves, including a grasshopper. Is that it? Giant grasshoppers? 2. Yup. So is this a tribal species of albino gnomes that rides giant grasshoppers while battling spiders and forms of ettercap in their massive tunnel system? I’m not even going to roll on that - it’s too cool.
That’s what I’m getting into… Option one for encounters is always going to be spiders or ettercaps, option two is going to always be gnomes on grasshoppers, and option three will be something else random that might dwell in underground tunnels… I like this already.
Does the dragon give him anything else to help on his journey? It’s possible… while dragons love their treasures, this dragon did get a vision about a dude that he (she? I roll - it’s a she) should be helping. It’s possible that a potion or two is offered. Nah. This dragon is good with sharing intel. It offers to take Abel to the entrance to the caverns, but he will have to find his way from there; the primary cave leads towards the city, but that’s all the dragon really knows. There are lots of side caves that he probably wants to ignore.
Abel decides to take his bag of coins and dump the whole thing at the dragon’s feet. Yeah, it’s only 57 coins, but the symbolism of offering his last coin to this dragon is probably going to be effective. He does so, and attempts a Focus check one more time. 6. The dragon accepts the offering, and uses its tail to push the coins into its already-significant hoard.
He gets 3 hero points for getting this far, and +1 for making an offering between deeds. There is a 3 in 6 chance he gets +1 since the offering was so substantial, and I roll 5. Nope. The dragon is not going to brag about this to anyone; it’s their little secret (sadly enough).
With the updated hero points, we have:
Abel the Notable Human Paladin (Renown 1) Hero Points 21
Attack +3 | Defend +4 | Focus +1 | Resolve 5
0 coins; potion of haste; potion of invisibility; scroll of fireball
Relic: Shield of the Final Templar (+1 Defense and +1 Focus)
On a Defend result of 13+ in combat, Abel can choose to either recover 1 Resolve point or receive advantage on his next Attack.
Abel easily cuts through large numbers of goblins with minimal risk. This does not bother me; he should be able to do that. He's defensive-minded, so if he was getting smacked around by goblins I'd have some class design issues. We’ll see how he fares against more challenging foes soon enough. He’s done with critters for a while, I’d suspect. Lots of big spiders and ettercaps in those tunnels, in addition to grasshopper-mounted albino gnomes with javelins. There will be stuff to do.
Again, I am surprised at what happened. I had no idea that’s where I’d be going. I fully expected this to be a LotR style ‘crossing of Mordor’ kind of thing. It’s gone quite differently, but in the best way.
I remember seeing this image at some point when I was thirteen and thinking ' that is a monster I will never bother with'. Yet here we are... and with Jim Holloway art, to boot. LOVE me some Jim Holloway art.
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