Hard Core Adventurers- KOTS 20.06 The Cathedral of Shadows


KOTS Part 14b: The story so far...

On the fifth day of the fourth month of the year 2012 the adventurers try to make sense of the clues they have found so far- what has happened here, in the Keep on the Shadowfell.

“Okay- starter for ten, Sir Keegan, what do we know?” Tonka begins.
“He commanded the forces in the keep.” Jimmy states.
“When?” Tonka asks.
“Century-and-a-half ago, at least, maybe 200 years…” Gokan answers.
“What else?” Tonka asks.
“Something went wrong, or bad here…” Jimmy replies.
“And?” Tonka asks again.
“He killed his wife and kids…” Jimmys starts.
“… and was tracked down and killed by his Lieutenant…” Gokan adds.
“… Kalarel.” Jimmy finishes.

“That’s right- the sage told us that back in Winterhaven, however that’s not what the skeleton said, he said he was Sir Keegan and it didn’t go down that way. He said that Kalarel’s the bad guy, the lieutenant had somehow gone bad, he was a traitor- he was very specific about that.” Tonka stops to think.

“What does it all mean? Who killed his family? What went on here? Any thoughts?”
“The skeleton could be lying- it’s undead, the enemy of life.” Jimmy states, Gokan nods.
“No.” Ramm states, simply.
“Ramm?” Tonka asks.

“The skeleton is Sir Keegan- a soldier, a commander; I’m certain.” Ramm nods his head.
“How? Why?” Tonka asks.

Again Ramm takes his time.

“He fought fair.” Ramm finally comes up with.
“Is that it?” Jimmy asks, incredulous.
“No, it’s a feeling- he came across like he was a leader- used to having people follow his orders…” Ramm trails off.

The adventurers get to thinking.

Eventually Tonka looks up.

At Sigur.

“He was telling the truth- the skeleton, Sir Keegan.” Sigur simply states.
“How do you know that?” Jimmy asks.
Gokan nods.

“Because he’s undead.” Sigur states and shrugs, as if the answer is obvious.

The other four adventurers stare at Sigur.

“Nope, I don’t get it.” Jimmy looks exasperated.
“Explain, please.” Tonka states.

“Undead, well the thinking undead, they’re what gets left behind- the anger, the hatred, unfinished business, revenge- whatever. The undead are a product of the fears and hatreds of those that died violent deaths- mostly with something left undone.” Sigur shrugs- easy.

“You’re saying…” Tonka starts.
“Sir Keegan wants his revenge, on his lieutenant- Kalarel, the traitor who let the darkness in…” Sigur adds, “… and killed his family- that’s why he spoke to us, that’s why he was confused by our presence. He thought we were the bad guys.” Sigur grins.

“It sounds right.” Ramm adds.
“It does.” Tonka states- Jimmy and Gokan nod.

“So, Sir Keegan’s wife and kids were killed by Kalarel and his men, who have been turned somehow; he fights back and ends up trapped down here with the men that stayed loyal to him. A couple of centuries later we come along and he thinks we’re with the bad guys.” Tonka surmises, to more nods.

“Which leads us to our next question- who or what lies below?” Tonka asks.

“Kalarel.” Jimmy states.
“Perhaps.” Tonka nods, “he could still be around- somehow, after all this time.”

“Do you think so- he’d be ancient.” Gokan’s not so sure.

Sigur clears his throat, “he’d be about my age”, the dwarf adds- and then grins.

The adventurers think about things some more.

“What else is below?” Tonka finally asks.
“More goblins.” Jimmy states, to more nods.
“Likely.” Tonka adds.
“Anything else?” The dragonborn goes on.

“Undead?” Jimmy volunteers.
Again more nods.

“They call this place the Keep on the Shadowfell…” Sigur states.
“Best guess, this place is linked to the Shadowfell.” The dwarf adds.

“How?” Jimmy asks.
“A portal.” Sigur simply states.
“Oh.” Jimmy’s out of his depth.

“How do we…” Jimmy starts, then stops and takes a moment to rephrase his question, “what does a portal do?”
“I have read about portals- never seen one, they’re gates, some are one-way, others two-way, some require a code, or a ritual to activate. You enter the portal and… well, I don’t quite know what happens but the next thing you know you’re somewhere else, the Shadowfell- maybe.” Tonka answers.
“That’s about it.” Sigur confirms.

“So, to recap- we wade through more goblins- probably, and undead- perhaps; we find a portal to the Shadowfell, perhaps; we go through it, and…” Tonka runs out of steam.
“Where do the cultists come in to it?” Jimmy asks.
“Good question.” Tonka replies.
“They could be through the portal.” Gokan offers.

“He said something about memories.” Gokan states, “Sir Keegan did.” The minotaur finishes his speech.
“What memories?” Jimmy asks.

The adventurers look suitably stumped, except for Tonka, the dragonborn grins.

“I think I can help with that.” Tonka states.

Tonka scrabbles in his backpack for a bit, eventually comes out with the remains of the pages he found in one of the wererat’s nests.

He places the papers down- some effort has been made to arrange some of them- fit them back together like some strange jigsaw.

“They’re from a diary, written by a woman called Magda.” Tonka states.
“Magda?” Jimmy and Sigur ask.
“She was Sir Keegan’s wife- there’s nothing in them of any interest, as far as I can make out,” Tonka adds, and then continues, “but I don’t think that’s what this is about.”

The dragonborn continues at pace, excited, “Magda and Sir Keegan had three children- a son Stephan, in his mid-teens I think; and two daughters- Rasa, I’m not sure of her age but she was the middle child; and Leesa- who I think was very young, perhaps no more than five or six.”

The chamber remains silent for a good while, while this new information is assimilated.

“I think when Sir Keegan said about memories- he meant mementos, the diary is a memento of Magda; and we’ve found a few other odd things during our travels.” Tonka states.

There’s a flurry of activity- Jimmy searches through his pack.

The halfling’s face suddenly registers surprise, and comprehension. He draws from his pack a carefully wrapped and cushioned, ornate mirror- found at the burial site in possession of Agrid the Gnome and his cohorts.

“This could have belonged to one of the girls.” Jimmy’s finishes.
“Exactly.” Tonka nods, and fetches out a necklace from inside his armour.

“And this.” The warlord states.
“I forgot about that…” Jimmy wonders.
“It’s been made for a child- and it’s ancient, like the mirror.” Sigur nods sagely.
“You did it.” Jimmy grins and grabs Tonka’s arm- gives it a squeeze.
“I think you’re right.” Sigur adds.

To silence.


I explained previously that I often get the players to review the action during levelling up or extended rests, obviously we also do a little recap at the start of each session.

The above information came out during my questioning- I mix it up, I don’t always pointedly ask questions and demand answers, about 60-70% of the time I just get the PCs to state where they’re at and what they’re about. The Keep on the Shadowfell, or at least my version, has a modicum of plot- I guess I just wanted to make sure all of the players were on the same page, and indeed discover what page they were on.

I do this for a myriad reasons, the most obvious being I know what lies ahead and how the plot plays out- therefore I can hint if need be, or else… well, whatever is needed. Secondly it’s mad how sometimes one player has cracked it; or else, two players will have half the answer each- get the guys every now and then to state the obvious and sometimes enlightenment comes their way. This was the case with this session- as it turns out Stu, who plays Tonka, had already figured that the mirror, the necklace, and the notes were all part of something, he just didn’t know what until Sir Keegan mentioned ‘memories’, then he put it together- after I told him what the papers were.

Lastly I get the players to recap in depth because sometimes their ideas are much better than my original idea regarding the plot and what comes next. I can’t count the number of times one of these recap sessions has led to changes in the plot-line. In truth some of my more complex, and fiendish plots, have come courtesy of the players themselves. I obviously change them about a bit to suit my purpose, and to hide the fact that it was someone else’s idea- I don’t want the guys to figure this out. The other good thing about having a plot that can stand a little tinkering is the players down the line get that feeling of satisfaction (and/or despair) when something plays out more or less as they thought it would a dozen sessions or so previous. The despair comes in sometimes because the players at the time rejected the suggestion.

In short, for plots- see your players.


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KOTS Part 14c: Back to the action.

Thirty minutes later the adventurers are back in business, led by Gokan and Jimmy they head back out of the tomb, through the catacombs, and back in to the maze of chambers with the strange glowing glyphs on the floor.

Only they’re not glowing any more.

The glyphs, that is.

“Odd.” Tonka states and stares down at the same glyph that stumped him and Sigur, not so very long ago.

Sigur goes to step forward- Ramm and Tonka grab the dwarf.
“It’s safe.” Sigur states, winks, and then shrugs himself free of their grip- the dwarf invoker strides across to the other side of the clearly now defunct glyph.
“Told you.” Sigur adds and grins.

“How?” Tonka asks.
“Sir Keegan, he wants us to get on with things, perhaps.” Sigur replies.
“That’s good.” Jimmy grins.

The adventurers snake their away around the various intersections and passages which constitute the maze-like chamber, they even manage to get lost briefly- before finding their way back to the exact spot they started their tour.

Sigur looks a little frustrated, but does his best to hide it- the dwarf strides forward and leads the group to another empty chamber, one they’ve not been to before, there are a set of steps leading down in to darkness.

Hang on!

Actually there’s the glimmer of light below.

“This is it.” Tonka states.
“Jimmy, Gokan- if you would.” Tonka finishes.

The sneaky pair share a grin and then move off down the stairs, both hidden in the shadows, or at least they think they are.

Moments later, with Jimmy at the very bottom of the stairs, and Gokan only half-way down the pair discover that they’re not as sneaky as they thought. Ahead a large open chamber, with very little in it, except for four hefty looking hobgoblins, the closest pair are watching the stairs, and seconds later screaming and pointing at the spot in which Jimmy hides.

The chamber springs to life, a door to the west is slammed open- more hobgoblins spill out shouting, there are also passages to the north and east.

Jimmy looks frantic, the halfling screams back up the stairs, “NOW!”

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KOTS Part 15: The Hobgoblin Guards.

[sblock=Party Line Up]

The Hard Core Adventurers Level 3


[sblock=Picture- The Hobgoblins attack]


Jimmy screams again, “NOW!”
And stepping down the stairs comes Sigur, “Bloody hell- keep your hair on!” The dwarf states as three ghostly white radiant hands fly out, and in to the guard chamber ahead. Jimmy grins at Sigur and spins out his vicious dagger.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Grunt]

Hobgoblin Grunt
Minion Level 3


Closing fast are a whole bunch of hobgoblins, Jimmy spots at least four grunts and a soldier.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Soldier]

Hobgoblin Soldier
Soldier Level 3


Two of Sigur’s radiant appendages grasp and throttle the life out of a pair of the oncoming grunts- the last slaps, and radiant burns, an approaching hobgoblin soldier; at the same moment Jimmy’s dagger buries itself in the same goblinoid’s gut. The soldier staggers forward clutching at the spot and wincing terribly- Jimmy’s dagger reappears in his hand.

Tonka appears at Sigur’s side, longsword in hand and at the ready.

“Here we go again.” The dragonborn states, with a grin.

A hobgoblin grunt screams some devilish noise and rushes at Sigur; Tonka reacts and rushes forward to cut the creature off- the pair exchange blows, longsword versus longsword- the grunt gets the better of Tonka, the warlord is cut. The hobgoblin soldier arrives on the scene- Tonka slashes desperately to keep both attackers at bay.

“A little…” Tonka starts, his cry curtailed as Ramm arrives and smashes his battleaxe in to the hobgoblin soldier, the creature is almost down- it’s bleeding profusely and almost broken.

[sblock=Picture- Hard Core hold the line]


Yet another hobgoblin arrives at speed to join the fracas, a hobgoblin sentry- clad in chainmail and armed with a spear and shield; it stabs at Ramm, but the minotaur deflects the blow.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Sentry]

Hobgoblin Sentry
Minion Soldier Level 5


And yet another grunt gets in close- to Jimmy, the halfling goes to scream but then suddenly stops as a large shield bearing the platinum dragon’s emblem appears before the him, and deflects all but the jarring force of the hobgoblin’s blow.

Jimmy gives Tonka a thumbs up sign, the dragonborn is alas too busy to acknowledge the rogue.

Moving in to the chamber at the rear is yet another hobgoblin, an archer- clad in leathers, it makes ready to fire, picking out a favourable target.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Archer]

Hobgoblin Archer
Artillery Level 5


But before it can fire Gokan arrives- in style, the half-orc scampers down the stairs and then rushes headlong in to the fray, he dodges the soldier’s half-hearted swish of its flail and skewers the fellow; the hobgoblin flops down dead. Gokan’s hand axe arcs out and thunks in to the hobgoblin sentry’s face- it follows the soldier down, the half-orc wrenches his off-hand axe free, whirls and decapitates a grunt. He grins and then staggers as the archer burrows an arrow in to, and almost through, his chest.

The last grunt, not yet in the action, screams and charges in to the mix- Gokan is stabbed again, the half-orc grunts horribly and grimaces.

[sblock=Picture- Gokan is Hard Core]


The hobgoblin archer however has its eye in, it quickly reloads, and then lets another arrow fly.


Gokan sinks to one knee- the half-orc is pale, he gulps and hisses, sucking in air through gritted teeth.

Sigur stays back but unleashes another trio of radiant hands- the last two grunts are throttled and burnt, sent to their graves. The archer is too quick alas, the hobgoblin dodges the ghostly limb -which quickly fades to nothing.

[sblock=Picture- Hobgoblin Archer]


Tonka quickly moves forward, the dragonborn rests a hand on Gokan’s shoulder, mutters a short but silent prayer and then lifts his longsword and shield as one. “For Sir Keegan!” he yells, and then charges in to the hobgoblin archer- slashing the creature at his second attempt.

Behind him Gokan stands, his wounds- and hurt, almost forgotten.

Ramm lumbers past Gokan; head down, the minotaur charges after Tonka, the archer is too quick alas, but is caught by Ramm’s shield- a flailing roundhouse.


The archer’s face impacts with the shield, the creature briefly takes to the air, lands five feet away on its backside and unimpressed.

Gokan screams, and races forward- “Revenge!” The half-orc screams and charges at the prone archer- the first blow opens a foot long cavity in the hobgoblin’s chest- the creature gawps at the bloody wreck of its body. But not for long.

Gokan’s second blow ends the hobgoblin.


Gokan’s initial Charge attack did 29 points of damage, scary.


[sblock=Picture- Gokan in action (again)]


Stepping in to the chamber, very late to the party, comes a robed hobgoblin clutching a mighty looking stave.

“Oh.” The hobgoblin states, and then slightly louder, having taken in the enormity of the task ahead of it- “OH! SH…”

The warcaster’s staff flares and thrums with power, an only-just visible wall of force rushes out and smashes in to the hobgoblin archer’s killers.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Warcaster]

Hobgoblin Warcaster
Elite Controller Level 3


Tonka and Ramm are knocked aside- Gokan is flattened, the half-orc is left sprawled on the floor and gasping for air- badly winded.


Gokan is bloodied.


The hobgoblin isn’t finished however, it makes a guttural noise and points again with its staff, straight at Ramm; the minotaur suddenly lurches hard right and slams in to the nearest wall- with incredible force. The minotaur staggers, for a second forlorn, Ramm seems to claw at the wall to stay upright, he shakes his head, once, twice… three times, and then bellows.

[sblock=Picture- The Warcaster]



Ramm is bloodied, hit by the Warcaster’s Force Lure for 20 points of damage.


Jimmy scurries forward, dodges and ducks and gets beyond the hobgoblin warcaster, the halfling rogue stabs once, twice in quick succession- the hobgoblin screams and half-turns.

Mid-turn the goblinoid is suddenly bathed in silver leaves, each seemingly manufactured from some very shiny metal- the leaves adhere to the warcaster where they touch, and then proceed to burn and consume themselves in a radiant flame.

The hobgoblin screams and hops from foot to foot, trying to duck and dodge the scalding metal, in the background Tonka screams-

“Ramm, up and at’em soldier!”

Tonka’s inspiring words cause the minotaur to forget his wounds. Ramm lumbers forward and slashes hard, the hobgoblin dodges the blow but is left cornered, and ideally placed for Gokan to get in to the action.

The half-orc dodges in and slashes furiously, his axes whirl and slice; the warcaster is cut twice, the first opens up a huge wound on the goblinoid’s arm, the second slashes its right knee. It staggers, stumbles, and slowly- in stages, falls.


The Warcaster is bloodied.


The warcaster grimaces.

“Damn YOU!” It screams, and is back on its feet surprisingly quickly, avoiding attacks as it rises.

The warcaster ducks and dodges, strikes out with its staff, no more than a prod in Ramm’s general direction.


Lightning bursts from the warcaster’s staff, engulfs Ramm, the minotaur lets out a strangled, pain-fuelled, roar, and then staggers back covered in scorched marks and burnt and smoking flesh.


Ramm is back to bloodied, almost dead- the Warcaster’s Shock Staff attack does 20 points of Lightning damage, and leaves the Minotaur Dazed.


[sblock=Picture- The Warcaster is a tough S.O.B.]


“You pathetic fools- you cannot match my power!”

The warcaster rasps.

“D’ya think.” Jimmy whispers, the halfling dives forward, tumbles beneath the warcaster’s flapping swat and stabs the hobgoblin in the gut.

“Shut up you ugly bugger!” Sigur shouts over, the hobgoblin turns to see, straight in to an upper-right cut, delivered by a glowing radiant hand.

The warcaster staggers back, drops its staff and clutches at its radiant burnt face.

Tonka, alas cannot get in to the fight, the hobgoblin is already surrounded by his companions, the dragonborn drops his longsword and grabs a javelin from his back.


The javelin soars and sails, and…


…finds its home in, and through, the hobgoblin’s chest.

[sblock=Picture- Warcaster takedown]


The last enemy crashes to the floor- dead.

[sblock=Encounter #15 Synopsis, PC XP & DM’s thoughts]

Encounter #15 The Hobgoblin Guards, starring-

Hobgoblin Grunt (Minion 3) x5
Hobgoblin Sentry (Minion Soldier 5) x1
Hobgoblin Soldier (Soldier 3) x1
Hobgoblin Archer (Artillery 5) x1
Hobgoblin Warcaster (Elite Controller 3) x1

890 XP Level 4 Encounter.


178 XP each for a total of 2536 XP in total (PCs Level 3).

DM Thoughts-

Level three for the PCs is a real step-up in power, foolishly I gave the hobgoblin warriors a chance to get in to the action before the archer and the warcaster, I figured I’d try and keep the PCs at bay- that didn’t work, what with five of the six soldier types being minions.

I got a few decent attacks in with the warcaster, who inflicted a big chunk of damage very quickly, but by the time he got in to the action… it was too little, too late.

The guys however have a new found, and healthy, respect for hobgoblins, particularly ones with staffs- they’ve already issued orders that warcasters need to be taken down first where, and when, possible. They don’t like them one bit.


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KOTS Part 15a: Are you experienced.

There’s a moment’s silence after the warcaster falls, and then the guys are back to being busy.

“Ramm- to the right, what’s there? And keep an eye out.” Tonka nods and the minotaur is away, “Gokan door on the left- I suspect it’s a barracks, check it out.” The half-orc nods and sneaks forward. “Jimmy- straight on, check out the passage, quietly as you can.” The halfling salutes, grins and scampers off.

Which just leaves Tonka standing with Sigur, the dwarf stares long and hard at the dragonborn warlord, Tonka tries to ignore the ‘look’ for as long as he can, which isn’t long.
“What?” The dragonborn finally asks.
Sigur shrugs, and then mutters and mumbles- “What about me?”
Tonka does a double-take, and then thinks quickly.

“Sigur.” Sigur nods. “Half-way up the stairs, make sure nothing sneaks up on us from behind.”
Sigur grins, or at least he smirks- very quickly, and then scurries back up the stairs.

Leaving a slightly bewildered Tonka on his own, the dragonborn shakes his head and looks slightly confused by the situation.

The scouts do their thing and then return to the centre, to Tonka- to report back. Ramm and Sigur back up a little ways, so they can listen in on the new information, although there’s little of interest to relay. Gokan describes the barracks chamber- dirty and squalid, and empty; while Jimmy reports back that the northern corridor ends in a room containing a rusty cell, also empty. The discoveries are met with shrugs, and nods.

Tonka is therefore about to bring the meeting to a close when Jimmy pipes up.
“We’re getting better, don’t you think?” The diminutive rogue asks.
Gokan nods, Ramm and Sigur remain close-lipped, Jimmy wonders, aloud.
“Don’t you think? I mean, more… experienced.” Jimmy finishes.
“Yes. I guess.” Tonka nods.

At which point two things happen, simultaneously.

Ramm shouts “Incoming!” and a mass of hobgoblins rush in to the chamber, intent on slaying our heroes.

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KOTS Part 16: The Hobgoblin’s Revenge.

[sblock=Party Line Up]

The Hard Core Adventurers Level 3



The war cries come from the chamber beyond, a gaggle of hobgoblins spill in to the chamber- screaming and hollering; the first four grunts in leather armour and with longswords drawn, they charge in to the adventurers.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Grunt]

Hobgoblin Grunt
Minion Level 3


The first pair smash in to Ramm, the closest target, the minotaur is cut but manages to roll with the blow.

“For the platinum dragon!” Tonka screams and vengeful longsword in hand charges in to the grunts, cuts one down but is knocked back, uninjured, by another.

Gokan reacts, hollers and shouts, the half-orc charges in to the mix and cuts another grunt down, yet another grunt slices at Gokan- a shield bearing the image of the platinum dragon momentarily appears and almost nullifies the blow.

Jimmy’s vicious dagger flies out and the third grunt drops to the floor clutching its gut, destined to bleed out.

Three of the four hobgoblins are down, at which point the veterans arrive.

The first on the scene is clad in scale armour and wielding a wicked looking longspear, the hobgoblin grimaces and lances out its great weapon and cuts Ramm in the side, the minotaur bellows its anger.

[sblock=Picture- The Hobgoblins attack]


The hobgoblin deathwatcher grins as and curses- “Fight me, big ugly!” it hisses at Ramm.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Deathwatcher]

Hobgoblin Deathwatcher
Soldier Level 3


A second veteran hobgoblin soldier rushes in to the chamber, this fellow is clad in chainmail, a heavy shield in one hand and a hefty looking flail in the other.

“Des…” is about as far as it gets.

Ramm launches himself in-between the two new arrivals, en route he cuts down the last grunt, then smashes his battleaxe in to the newly arrived hobgoblin battle guard, cutting off its warcry.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Battle Guard]

Hobgoblin Battle Guard
Soldier Level 3


Ramm has to immediately dodge hard left as the deathwatcher’s pike jabs out, a miss- by inches. Alas the minotaur’s momentum leaves him off-guard for a moment, the battle guard smashes its flail in to Ramm, who staggers- almost falls.


The Hobgoblin Battle Guard delivers a critical hit for 15 points of damage, Ramm is bloodied.


“Take this one down! Revenge! For BLOOD!”

The third veteran, the leader of the pack rushes in and hacks at Ramm, the fighter brings his shield around just in time. The new arrival is a masked hobgoblin bladebearer, armed with twin scimitars and clad in an incredibly well-made suit of hide armour.

“FOR BLOOD!” It screams again.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Bladebearer]

Hobgoblin Bladebearer
Elite Skirmisher Level 5


At which point the last of the hobgoblin veteran warriors charges in, attempting to get past Ramm and to Tonka, the minotaur has other ideas, he lashes out and cuts the hobgoblin soldier- stopping it in its tracks.

[sblock=Hobgoblin Soldier]

Hobgoblin Soldier
Soldier Level 3


[sblock=Picture- Hard Core hold the line]


Ahead is a scrum of hacking and slashing combatants, Sigur stays well back- looks hard left- then hard right, trying to separate friend from foe.

“Ah! Let Moradin sort them out…”

Suddenly the ruck is swathed in sparkling silver leaves- paper thin leaves that shimmer and blink as they fall like gentle rain, at which point the hobgoblins start screaming- in particular the battle guard who seems to be suffering tremendously. The hobgoblin screeches and hollers till its throat is raw, it is also burnt and blistered, left smouldering by the power’s radiant fire.

“Encore maestro…” Sigur whispers to himself and grins- then claps his hands.

At the same time a thunderclap explodes above the fracas, the shockwave seems to be incredibly selective- the hobgoblin soldier is pushed away and left staggering, unable to clear its head. The chief, the bladebearer is likewise affected, the blast however lays it low and leaves it sprawling on the floor. The already burnt and much abused battle guard is not so lucky… the hobgoblin is flung across the chamber by the shock wave, it flails wildly out of control and straight down the well in the centre of the chamber.

“Aaaaaaaarrrggghhhh…” It screams.

“Hey Jimmy!” Sigur shouts, “I feel more experienced.” The dwarf proffers a thumbs up sign and grins.

[sblock=Picture- Well visit]


Tonka is quickly to Ramm’s side, muttering prayers and inspiring words, “May the strength of Bahamut preserve you- fight on great warrior!” The warlord declares, Ramm feels a surge of energy and roars.

Tonka grins and breathes out, a ragged fan of lightning scorches the nearest hobgoblin, the soldier- there are however only three of the fiends left standing, not including the battle guard in the well -shedding armour furiously while treading water.

Gokan rushes past the dragonborn and smashes his battleaxe in to the hobgoblin soldier, the second hit is a monster, decapitating the creature and sending its heading flying.


And straight down the well.


Gokan hits the Hobgoblin Soldier with a Howling Strike critical hit for 23 points of damage- it’s dead Jim.


Jimmy creeps over to the bladebearer, still sprawled on the floor, the halfling rogue seems to spirit in to the action- he strikes, stabbing down hard and puncturing the hobgoblin’s left chest, and then like a ghost- is gone. The bladebearer spews blood and looks frantically left and right- trying to spot his assailant.

Moments later the pike wielding deathwatch hobgoblin clutches at its side, spies Jimmy close in- too close for it to wield its great weapon effectively, it bleeds too.

[sblock=Picture- The Hobgoblin Clear Out]


Ramm sees his opportunity and races forward and smashes his shield straight in to the face of the deathwatch hobgoblin, which is otherwise engaged with keeping Jimmy at bay; the goblinoid thumps hard in to the cold stone floor- just as the bladebearer finally manages to regain its feet.

The minotaur is not done however, at his feet the deathwatch attempts to rise.


The minotaur warrior has other ideas, it kicks the creature as hard as he can in its midriff, all the air goes out of the hobgoblin as it is launched the five or so feet necessary to…


And in to the well.

There’s a strangled cry from below, the last words- actually sounds, of the hobgoblin battle guard who looks up at the last moment and suffers a broken neck as 200lbs of armour clad hobgoblin smashes down in to it.

The battle guard sinks beneath the water, gone forever.

Ramm grins, snorts and shuffles over to the bladebearer.


His shield reverberates furiously, having just made heavy contact with the side of the bladebearer’s skull.


Ramm’s Shove & Slap Daily proves to be a winner.


“Have you… I mean…” The bladebearer starts and then trails off- the creature staggers left and right, attempts to clutch its head in an effort to stay still just for a second.

“I like mushrooms.” It adds.

The chief lashes out with its scimitars, and doesn’t come close.

[sblock=Picture- Guess where you’re going?]


Gokan knows no mercy, the half-orc screams and charges in to the staggering, dazed bladebearer- the creature is cut once, twice… three times in quick succession, left a bloody heap deposited back on the stone floor.

The forlorn hobgoblin tries again to gain its feet…

“Aaaarrgghh!” It screams, Jimmy dodges back again, still not spotted by the now almost spent goblinoid warrior.

Suddenly over the top of the well the deathwatch hobgoblin appears; braced across the span of the construction it has used all of its strength and power to climb to the top of the water source.

Ramm steps up to the bladebearer, swishes his axe once- a practice swing and then smashes it in to the chief’s gut, with immense force.

The bladebearer is cut deep, sent spinning back and…


Joined by-


The hobgoblin bladebearer smashes in to the deathwatch, the latter plummets in to the water again- the bladebearer teeters on the brink for a second, still dazed and disorientated it paws the air- once, twice and then states-

“Good hit…”

Nods its head, and then tumbles backwards over the lip and in to the well.


Locating the deathwatch hobgoblin at the bottom.

The pair however are both still alive- they thrash around for a moment or two- as faces above gather to stare down, and then- stupidly, they both try to climb up and out of the well.

Clearly the pair are not thinking straight.

“They’re not thinking straight.” Tonka states and shakes his head, “clearly…” he adds and shakes his head some more.

“Here- let me.” Sigur wrestles his way past Ramm to the well and then leans over the edge, he gurns and pulls faces- while muttering unintelligible dark threats.

Suddenly, and seemingly for no reason, the deathwatch hobgoblin squirms and clutches at its head- at which point gravity gets involved, the thing plummets back in to the well- writhes and thrashes there, mostly face down, and in short order dies.

“Well?” Tonka asks.

The bladebearer hobgoblin looks up, it’s nearly half-way back to the top of the well.

“Pax.” It shouts, and pleads with its eyes.

“What lies ahead?” Tonka shouts down, the hobgoblin bladebearer shivers and shakes- the cold of the water and muscle strain as it attempts to maintain its balance and hold, braced against the walls half way up the well.

It doesn’t think long, or hard.

“A portal. A door of some kind- to the Shadowfell, I think.” It splutters.
“Now, let me up?”

Tonka looks at Sigur, Sigur shakes his head.

“No.” Tonka plainly states, and then adds, “Is the portal guarded?”

“Nooooo! Now let me up, please…” The bladebearer chief begs.

Tonka looks at Sigur, Sigur shakes his head again.

“No.” Tonka states and stares down at the bladebearer, the hobgoblin meets the dragonborn’s gaze.
“You might as well fall back in to the water…” Tonka adds, and then to himself “you’re not getting out until you tell us what we need to know- got it?

Tonka looks at Sigur, Sigur nods his approval.


The bladebearer falls back down in to the water, surfaces and then shouts back up-

“Right, ask.”

Fifteen minutes later the bladebearer with hands tied is being prodded along the corridors of the dungeon; the guys are looking for somewhere convenient to stash the nasty looking hobgoblin, actually semi-naked hobgoblin, Gokan has taken the creature’s fine looking armour.

The guys have also acquired some new and interesting information.

The portal lies within the chambers ahead, it is unguarded- there are no more troops within the complex, although there are guards beyond, through the portal- in the Shadowfell. The bladebearer has never entered the portal so he doesn’t know what lies beyond, however he has seen undead creatures pass through from the other side. He also witnessed his master Kalarel’s passage through the portal. It’s therefore likely, the guys think, that there are several groups of enemies in the Shadowfell- waiting for them.

The last piece of information, the final snippet is the fact that the portal is closed, the bladebearer explains that only Kalarel knows how to open the portal, and he’s already within it.

Victory, tinged with worry, is the over-riding emotion for the adventurers, another battle has been won, but the war is clearly not yet over.

[sblock=Encounter #16 Synopsis, PC XP & DM’s thoughts]

Encounter #16 The Hobgoblin’s Revenge, starring-

Hobgoblin Grunt (Minion 3) x4
Hobgoblin Soldier (Soldier 3) x1
Hobgoblin Battle Guard (Soldier 3) x1
Hobgoblin Deathwatcher (Soldier 3) x1
Hobgoblin Bladebearer (Elite Skirmisher 3) x1

1002 XP Level 5 Encounter.


200 XP each for a total of 2736 XP in total (PCs Level 3).

DM Thoughts-

Level three for the PCs is proving to be incredibly powerful, particularly when the dice fall in the PCs favour- that encounter was a massacre from start to finish. And what a let-down the Bladebearer proved to be, although in truth the poor guy got swamped and smashes on his backside more or less all of the time. I allowed the guy to attack twice per round with his scimitars more or less from the start, all to no avail, and when one of the hobgoblins ended up down the well… The players were giggling like fools towards the end.

Also noticeable is the new concord (of sorts) which exists between Sigur and Tonka, the two were the most vocal characters previously- although Sigur could run silent for quite a while at times. They’ve now decided to start talking to each other, less talking ‘at’ each other.

This is also the start of the major(-ish) change to the scenario, my variation which is much more to do with the keep and the events that took place here during Sir Keegan’s time as commander, which I thought would add somewhat to the plot.


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KOTS Part 16a: Wanderings.

“What’s this place, then?” Gokan prods the bladebearer, the half-orc admires his newly acquired hide armour.

[sblock=Gokan’s new armour]

Gokan in his +1 Veteran Hide Armour.​


“Barracks.” The hobgoblin states and is prodded around the small complex of chambers, there’s nothing much to find here- and no guards, just like the bladebearer said.

In silence, still wary, the adventurers pass through, and on- searching as they go, a few coins here a few more there, but no major finds.

The adventurers press on, in to another abandoned set of chambers, which include the bladebearer chief’s meeting rooms and bedchamber, these too are searched- but again little of any interest is found.

“It’s a big place.” Jimmy states, Sigur grunts by way of acknowledgement.

And on they go, to a crossroads eventually, and from there in to a dirty and nasty looking set of chambers- a dungeon with cells, the place is abandoned.

The bladebearer is alas of no use here, when asked the hobgoblin just shrugs- he doesn’t know what lies this way, he’s never been here.

Carefully, cautiously, the adventurers make their way through the chambers, there’s a store room- within which are the remains of ancient foodstuffs mostly turned to dust and decay by the passing of the ages.


“What’s this?” Jimmy grabs up a wooden sword, a child’s toy- it’s just the right size for the halfling, the rogue grins and makes a few practice swipes.
“Put it dow…” Tonka states, serious, the dragonborn is cut off.
“No, don’t- I mean…” Sigur barks and then immediately softens his voice, wanting to explain.
“I mean, it’s a child’s toy- the plaything of a young lad whose father is…” Sigur adds, before he too is cut off.
“Is a warrior.” Ramm finishes, even the minotaur has worked it out.
“Oh my word!” Tonka grins.

Jimmy looks at the wooden sword, it does appear to suitably ancient, the Halfling grins some more.

The hobgoblin is eventually deposited in one of the cells- hands and legs tied tightly, the cell door locked.

“We’ll be back.” Tonka states and leads the guys off, last to exit the chamber is Sigur. The dwarf invoker stops, stares at the hobgoblin bladebearer.
“Maybe we’ll be back… Maybe.” Sigur states, and grins.
“Don’t do anything foolish.” Sigur shouts back as he strides off after his compatriots.

The adventurers file back to the crossroads chamber, and then on- yet another derelict and abandoned chamber, a massive statue of a platemail clad warrior holding a sword in its hand, the statue must be over twenty feet tall.

The guys stop to admire the construction.

“Nice.” Jimmy states. Sigur catches up with the group.
“I’ve seen better.” Sigur states and strides on.

The adventurers head through a set of double doors and in to yet another abandoned chamber- particularly dirty and decrepit; although there’s a well-trodden path through the filth. Gokan and Jimmy mooch forward a little- the pair creep ahead following the path.

To yet another set of double doors, which are eventually flung open to reveal…

“Oh!” Jimmy states.
“Hmmm!” Gokan adds.
“What’s…” Tonka states and then spies what lies beyond the doors.
“Moradin’s hairy backside!” Sigur concurs.
Ramm grunts in acknowledgement.

Beyond the door is blackness, nothing…

Actually not quite nothing, the passage seems to continue beyond the door for ten or so feet, although the corridor is a ruin- with flagstones missing here and there, the stone panels of the wall likewise holed or else broken, the roof is similarly punctured in places.

Through the gaps is darkness, at the end of the passage, the same- darkness.


Gingerly Jimmy takes a half step forward on to the flagged floor of the passage, the stone shifts slightly as it takes his weight; it seems to sink a little.

Jimmy looks back, slightly panicked.

“I don’t like it.” The halfling states. Gokan is quickly to his brother, the half-orc lashes a sturdy rope around Jimmy’s waist, he ties it tight and passes back the other end- Ramm grabs hold.

Gokan grunts and nods ahead. Jimmy shrugs, and then heads on in.

The stones shift at every step, the rogue makes his way to the nearest black puncture in the passage- a missing flagstone, the halfling shuffles to a stop and gazes down- in to the hole in the passage.

Eventually Sigur clears his throat, the mesmerised Jimmy turns to look back at his companions.

“What’s down there?” Tonka asks.
Jimmy shrugs.
“Jimmy?” Tonka adds.
“Nothing.” Jimmy shouts, “it’s just black…” he adds.

Soon after Jimmy moves on, to the very end of the passage- the entire construction seems to be suspended in… well, nothing- blackness.

There’s nothing ahead- no floor, no ceiling, no wall, no… Nothing.

“It’s…” Jimmy starts.

Nothing happens for a while, Jimmy continues to stare in to the inky black- he drifts off a little, it’s like… it’s like… a dream.

Suddenly Jimmy can hear shouts and screams, the clash of metal on metal- fighting, a flash of silver- ahead. He looks around; he’s in a passage, wall hangings and pennants- lots of them.

Jimmy draws his sword…

The wooden sword.

And then rushes forward in to the blackness.

“JIMM…” Gokan screams.

But it’s too late.

Jimmy’s gone.

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This is very well-written. Keep up the good work!

Thanks for that, very much appreciated.

Here's the next bit...

KOTS Part 17: Into the Shadow.

[sblock=Party Line Up]

The Hard Core Adventurers Level 3


Jimmy slides to a stop, ahead of him a gaggle of soldiers- each bearing the markings of the ancient empire of Nerath, the halfling sees this but for some reason does not consider it odd. The soldiers have blood on their arms and armour, their faces creased and reddened by anger, beyond anger- fury, rage.

Jimmy looks down at the wooden sword in his hand, and then up at blades of the furious killers approaching- he turns tale and runs.

Behind him the raging swordsmen, his father’s men…

Jimmy almost comes to a halt.

The sound of his pursuers getting closer brings him back to… reality?

He shakes his head, a raging soldier rushes around the corner behind him, and he’s off again.

He speeds up, flashes past an intersection of passages, thumps hard in to a heavy-set reinforced wooden door, he fumbles with the handle and then dashes in to the chamber beyond- his father’s office… he turns the large ornate key in the lock- a satisfying click.

Jimmy stops again, what’s happening to him, he looks up- at his father, Sir Keegan.

The thickset commander of the keep looks down at him, smiles- kindly, and then suddenly hears the screams of the warriors beyond the door.

The door suddenly shakes and shudders, as if massive force is being applied.

“What is it?” Sir Keegan is on his feet, his chair falling backwards as he rises, the knight draws his sword in the same motion.

“What is it Stephan? Who’s out there?” Sir Keegan is desperate, his eyes plead for an answer.


A section of the door smashes, the blade of an axe appears for a second and then is wrenched back.


The axe comes again.

Jimmy stands statue. He drops the wooden sword.

“The window, quickly!”

Sir Keegan is quickly over to Jimmy, hoisting the halfling in to the air, and to a leaded window high on one wall- the only possible exit, save the door through which he entered.

“Quickly!” Sir Keegan shoves him higher.

Jimmy fumbles with the catch on the window, gets it open and begins to hoist himself up and out. The halfling stops, looks back, at his father… Jimmy shakes his head furiously, trying to clear the… Sir Keegan is talking.

“Raise the alarm, find Kalarel- tell him we’re under attack, tell him to come to me here… Find your mother, your sisters- make sure they’re safe.”

Jimmy finds himself nodding, and then with one final shove he’s up and out of the window.

In to the great courtyard, which now closely resembles hell- fire silhouettes the vista, the north tower is a furious torch thrusting up in to the heavens, shrouded at its apex by roiling black smoke. Grey-black lumps litter the floor at the base of the tower, they’re… Jimmy squints- burnt dead bodies.

There are lots of bodies, the courtyard it seems has played host to a great battle- soldiers, like those that chased Jimmy, their broken bloody bodies scattered about- circled by glistening slicks of blood, discarded weapons, and here and there severed limbs.

Jimmy heaves.

His senses spin and reel.

So much blood and destruction.

He staggers, suddenly he feels as light as a feather.

He takes a knee- breathes hard.

Thirty seconds pass.

Jimmy looks up just in time to see the door on the bottom of the burning northern tower open.


Well, what’s going on here?

The deal is I decided, having played KOTS many times, to change things up a little- the entire series of WOTC adventures are lacking somewhat in narrative, they don’t connect that well- particularly the H series. For this reason I decided to add in a narrative section in this first adventure, an early indication of a bigger picture, as yet unseen.

In this encounter the PCs were individually transported by magic back in time to the fall of the Keep on the Shadowfell, when Kalarel turned to the dark side and attacked Sir Keegan and his family. Each of the players is transported in to the bodies on one of Sir Keegan’s family. In the above section Jimmy becomes Stephan, Sir Keegan’s son.

In game each of the players was co-opted in to the story, made to play (role-play) the part allotted to them, I allowed them to make a variety checks- happily they quickly cottoned on to what was going on, I didn’t tell them- they had to work it out. Other than that I pretty much allowed the players to do anything they wanted, although in truth events in these segments were tailored to not so much railroad the PCs but to guide them to where I needed them to be.

So, in this section Jimmy quickly realised he was playing the part of the young lad- he had to make a series of skill checks to avoid the raging soldiers, to open the lock to get in to his father’s room, and then to escape through the high window. A skill challenge, only the PCs were not aware of it at the time.

It worked, I’m happy to report, some of them really got in to it, and we had fun- wait and see. The players also felt, I hope, a little better connected to the scenario. I like making an effort to bleed the narrative in and get the players involved with the story. As written H1 seems to trade on the threat of some unseen, and not much discussed, portal to the shadowfell opening up and the undead come rushing out… Only it’s pretty much unsaid, certainly not used as a threat to fire up the PCs in to playing the hero.

This version is smaller, a less dire threat, it does however offer the players the chance to right an ancient wrong, which I think works well- particularly with a bit of role-play from the DM- the guys liked Sir Keegan, he fought fair, and told them a few secrets when he was defeated. The death of the commander’s family was likewise emphasised in this version because it’s evil, and bad, and… well, it’s everyday (in the PCs world)- it’s good versus evil, with a foreshadowing of the dark side’s intentions- the bigger picture.

As stated earlier, it also provided us with a few humorous moments, now read on…


Back in the dirty chamber, in the dungeons below the Keep on the Shadowfell the four remaining adventurers exchange worried looks. Gokan is already moving forward, gingerly tip-toeing in to the passage, trying somehow to prevent his full weight coming to bear on the shifting flagstones beneath his feet.

“WHAT?” Gokan looks back, he sounds panicked.
“Where did he…” The half-orc starts up then turns back to look at his companions again.

Tonka and Ramm move forward at a rush, Sigur however…

“SIGUR!” Gokan yells.

The dwarf is, however, otherwise engaged.

Tonka stops short and turns to look.

“SIGUR!” He adds his voice to Gokan’s call.

The dwarf holds the flat of his hand before his face- stares intently at his palm, he puckers his lips and makes faces, every now and then he grins and mouths unheard words…

Sigur stares at his face in the mirror.

The dwarf’s brow furrows- what the…

He looks down; he seems to be wearing a dress… and a pair of exquisite lacquered gold sandals.

And yet he seems to be unconcerned at this turn of events.

He looks again at the mirror he holds before his face.


He has long brown hair, a clear complexion and for the first time in his life could be accurately described as beautiful. The face in the mirror belongs to a girl no more than fourteen years old, she looks like a princess.

Sigur grins.

Then furrows his brows… what the…

The dwarf princess puckers his lips again- admires himself some more.


Sigur takes the part of Rasa, the middle child and daughter of Sir Keegan, Steve who plays the surly dwarf was subject to much abuse, and laughter.

“What do you mean I’m a girl?”

I’m happy to report that he took it like a man.


Suddenly the door in to the room opens, which causes Sigur to look up and over- how did he get here - he’s in a high-ceilinged bedchamber illuminated by candlelight, with three beds.

Coming through the door is a weasely looking human, grinning lasciviously and clutching an open flask- he stinks of alcohol.

“Oh Rasa…” The man coos, and chuckles.
“Hn!” Sigur sounds confused- he looks around the bedchamber, then realises the man, Chalwin, is looking at him.

He’s Rasa- Sigur recognises the name from somewhere.

“There’s nowhere to run.” The man states as he creeps forward, drawing a dagger en route.
“Princess!” Chalwin hisses and closes in on the dwarf.

“What do you want?” Sigur snaps, his voice is… soft, mellifluous, girlish.
“You know what I want!” Chalwin snarls.
“Take it off.” Chalwin reaches forward with his dagger outstretched and…


He cuts one of the straps on Sigur’s beautiful dress.

Chalwin grins as the garment slips a little exposing more flesh.

“Oh.” Sigur states, comprehending at last, “You want... Noogies!”

The dwarf princess smiles, bats her eye-lashes and then kicks Chalwin, the castellan, in the balls as hard as he can.

Chalwin folds, and thumps to the floor clutching at the spot, Sigur does… nothing. Nothing except stare down at his gold lacquered sandals- they are beautiful, he continues to admire them.

Chalwin grabs out, clutches at Sigur’s leg, he looks up at the dwarf.

“You’ll pay for that…” Chalwin hisses, “… Princess!”

Sigur grins, grabs the broached flask from Chalwin’s hands and upends the liquid all over the creeping castellan; he drops the container and snatches up a candle from the table to his side, he applies the flame to the spirit-soaked Chalwin.


The face and upper body of the castellan explode in flame.

Chalwin staggers backwards, flailing wildly, he grabs hold of the drapes that curtain the nearest bed, he clutches and paws at them trying to hold himself up- the fire spreads.

Black smoke rises and begins to fill the chamber.

Sigur lurches backwards as Chalwin launches himself forward- towards him, the castellan thumps hard in to a dressing table, another candle spills and thumps in to an open trunk full of clothes.

The fire spreads.

Less than a minute later Sigur stands in the only corner of the chamber not swathed in flames- half-hidden by swirls of black smoke.

“Help me!” Sigur screams, and clutches the ornate mirror to his heaving bosom.


Again I allowed the player to decide what skill checks they would like to use, I just described the action- there was no way that Sigur was going to allow the weasely Chalwin to take advantage of him, or rather her.

I obviously needed to make sure the fire was set, in truth I did this by putting the fuel and the flame within reach, the angry dwarf did the rest.


Back in the dungeon beneath the Keep on the Shadowfell Tonka scurries after Sigur, the dwarf seems to be engaged in some strange dance- ducking and dodging, and once kicking out when the dragonborn gets too close.

“Sigur!” Tonka shouts, behind him Gokan still peers in to the darkness, looking for his brother. Ramm meanwhile stands statue, taking everything in but unable to comprehend the events- the minotaur has no idea what’s happening here.

“SIGUR!” Tonka screams again and dodges forward, and then suddenly stops- a noise, a strange alien noise…

Tonka turns to see Gokan sat cross-legged on the floor of the passage, the massive half-orc is giggling to himself, concentrating intently on something in his hands.

“What the hell?” Tonka screeches, exasperated.

Gokan giggles again, admires the necklace in his hands… he has small hands, incredibly small hands.

The beautifully made gold chain catches the light and sparkles and glistens.

Gokan grins.

“Shiny!” The half-orc lullabies in a sing-song voice.


Gokan is playing the part of Leesa, Sir Keegan’s four year old daughter- the half-orc had no problems with his new role.


Gokan grasps the necklace in hand and gets to his feet- he scampers forward down the flagged corridor, to the stairs- the stairs are steep, and yet one-by-one, he manages to make his way down two flights of the spiral staircase.


Athletic and Acrobatics checks needed to get down the stairs of the tower, this after Gokan explained in detail how he was going to climb, wriggle and shuffle his way down the steps.


Out in to another corridor, only…

Gokan pulls up short- there’s something wrong with the picture, he seems to be much closer to the ground than he usually is, what’s the word for it… shorter?

“Ground!” Gokan states, grins, and then reaches down to pat the cold stone of the tower floor.

“Ohh!” Gokan straightens and toddles forward, the half-orc is suddenly a little disconcerted, he’s not used to toddling, he usually moves with grace and style. He makes his way to a door.

“Bedroom!” He states, and grins.

Then jumps, once, twice, three times and manages at last to grab at the handle- the door slowly swings open, after a little shove, black smoke pours out- followed by a wall of heat.

The door continues to swing open to reveal a burning wreck of a bedroom, the nearest bed- the smallest is ablaze, as is the next, beyond the third bed is a beautiful girl…

“Rasa!” Gokan states.

The half-orc grabs up the mat before the door and then toddles forward, dodging as he goes, through the burning wreckage of the room.

The young woman is screaming and crying.

“Don’t cry!” Gokan states and passes over the rug the wide-eyed Rasa.
“Wear it!” Gokan states, and then grabs and holds tight on to the young woman’s hand- the half-orc feels the connection, the warmth- Rasa feels like family.

Gokan leads Rasa back through the fiery inferno, having to dodge a swathe of falling flaming cloth en route, and moments later having to leap over a burning timber.

The pair makes their way back out of the chamber.

Back in the dungeons beneath the keep on the Shadowfell, Tonka attempts again to arrest the progress of Sigur and Gokan- the pair are holding hands and skipping and dodging- who knows what, as they leap and race around the dirty dungeon chamber.

“What’s going on?!” Tonka screams, as the pair finally come to a stop

And then again- “What’s going on?”

The dragonborn warlord stands in a corridor, before him an open door and a bedchamber swathed in flame.

“Ma ma!” Tonka looks down, before him are two young girls- fleeing the fiery chamber; the first of the pair is perhaps only four years old, the second in her early teens- crying and clutching an ornate looking mirror to her chest.

The younger of the two grabs hold of Tonka’s legs and crushes the dragonborn’s lower limbs.

“Aaaarghh! Get…”

At which point Tonka notices he has breasts, and is wearing ladies clothes- in fact…


Tonka attempts to stagger backwards, prevented by the young girl’s grip of iron; to make matters worse the second girl grabs hold of him, he means… her, Tonka is getting awfully confused.

Who is he?

Where is he?

And finally, at the top of his lungs.



Tonka is of course Magda, mother of Sir Keegan’s children.


Back in the dungeon beneath the Keep on the Shadowfell Ramm stands statue, about ten or so yards away from him Tonka flails and wrestles as Sigur grips tight to the dragonborn’s legs and Gokan attempts to clamp his hands around the warlord’s chest.

Sigur keeps shouting “Ma ma!”

Gokan keeps trying to rest his head on the dragonborn’s chest.

“Tch!” Ramm finally comments and shakes his head.

Back in the corridor Tonka continues to struggle, although his efforts are subsiding, the two young girls it seems have got the better of him with their grapple checks.


This entire section went wrong(-ish) very quickly- for all of the players at the start of each of these sections I made each of them make a very easy (DC10) Insight check to figure out the basics of what was going on, the three previous PCs had no problems with this check- Tonka failed on his first three checks.

It also didn’t help that he was being grappled by Sigur and Gokan, the latter being built for grappling with high Athletics and Acrobatics skills, Sigur on the other hand manages to roll a ‘20’ twice in a row.

The warlord cannot escape the clutches of his kids… or rather her kids.


“Oh!” Tonka suddenly states.

Followed by “Oh!” again for good measure.
“Ma ma!” Leesa coos.
“Mother.” Rasa snivels.

At which point something in the flame-filled bedchamber explodes, perhaps the ornate perfume bottles on Rasa’s dressing table.

Tonka, or rather Magda, dodges hard right as a gout of flame bursts from the chamber and ignites a collection of silk banners draped on the wall opposite.

The banners crisp and curl, engulfed in fire.

Tonka wobbles and struggles to keep his feet- he’s having to clasp and carry the two young girls as he goes, every step is a titanic effort.

“We must escape, little ones!” Tonka states, and then furrows his brow.

Tonka heads for the stairs, desperate to save the young ones, tottering as he goes- carrying his heavy load. Then down the stairs, the strain etched on his face.

Eventually, after an incredible feat of endurance, the dragonborn warlord makes his way with his charges to the exit door, grabs it open and strides out.


Tonka has to make Strength checks, Athletics checks and finally an Endurance check- all part of his individual element of the ongoing Skill Challenge.


In to the courtyard, the scene of death and destruction.

Over the opposite side of which young Stephan stands.

Back in the dungeon beneath the Keep on the Shadowfell Ramm stands statue still- before the great minotaur are arrayed all of his companions… Jimmy seems to have just reappeared.

Ramm grunts.

Back in the courtyard of the Keep, centuries previous, the four members of Sir Keegan’s family- Magda, Stephan, Rasa and Leesa huddle and look about at the horror.

At least for a short while.

A sudden disturbance over the far side of the area makes them collectively look up and over; striding towards the quartet comes a knight of the Keep- clad in jet black armour, Sir Kalarel.

He closes fast.

Unsheathes his sword.

And charges.


“The Lord of Death claims you…”

The four, paralysed by fear, cower- await their deaths.

At the last moment, as Kalarel’s blade lashes down- set to decapitate Magda, a longsword- swathed in a golden light - lances out from behind the Keegan family and deflects the blow.

Sir Keegan strides forward, his sword swings out and sends the dark knight flying back- battle is joined.

Ramm looks down at Kalarel staggering backwards, trying to keep his feet, the minotaur snorts as he also realises that he is no longer a minotaur- he’s a man, a soldier, a commander- he’s Sir Keegan.

He bellows and charges.

Smashes in to Kalarel again.

This time he sends the dark knight sprawling.

“You… You fool!” Kalarel screams as he gets back to his feet.

“You cannot hope to defeat me! You cannot hope to live!” Kalarel attacks, his blade sings, Ramm this time is forced to give ground, the minotaur suddenly finds himself off-balance. Kalarel grabs at his arm, the merest touch leaves the limb numb and almost impossible to use. Ramm grimaces and gives ground quickly.


Ramm takes the part of Sir Keegan- the minotaur to the rescue.

This section, like all of the others, was played out as a Skill Challenge- with a variety of skills used to simulate the melee. The player, Lee, was allowed to choose which skills to use and how they were applied, providing he could make the case for their application.


Ramm blocks the next blow, and the next, successfully dodges back, avoids another of Kalarel’s flailing touch attacks.

The minotaur even manages to land a blow of his own, although not with enough force to halt Kalarel’s advance.

Very quickly the minotaur and his family have been backed up to a pair of double doors- the portals lead down in to the catacombs beneath the Keep- to the armouries, and store rooms, and well-chambers… and the crypts.

The fight goes on…

And on…

The fracas advances in stages- Ramm holds his ground for a brief moment before being knocked back again- forced to give ground, the rolling melee descends in to the depths of the catacombs.

Sir Keegan’s family scream and shout, cry and cower- constantly having to skitter back and give ground as the dark knight advances.

Ramm puts his body on the line, having to take blows again and again aimed at his family, all the while having to back up; faced by Kalarel’s, seemingly supernatural, onslaught.

All the way down to the lowest depths of the catacombs.

To the sealed chamber.

The doors of which, sensing the fighters’ approach, magically swing open.

The portal chamber.

The reason the Keep was built- to guard the passage to the land of darkness and shadow.

The fighters roar and bellow, shout and curse, the echo of their blades clashing rings around the final empty chamber.

Empty save for the two wooden doors situated over the far side of the chamber, innocuous looking portals, which also swing open as the combatants approach.

“In to the SHADOW!” Kalarel hisses and screams.

Ramm looks back, over his shoulder, he knows where he is- he knows all about the portal behind him; his command here a sham- it was all for this, to keep the darkness contained, to keep the portal closed.

And the empire safe.

He did this.

He brought his family here.

He didn’t tell them about the risk.

He trusted Kalarel, his lieutenant.

It was all his choice.

His fault.

The dark knight, breathing hard, grins- shifts his gaze to encompass Sir Keegan’s family.

“They will become my servants in the shadow.” Kalarel states.

Ramm roars, and suddenly twists and turns aside.

Kalarel’s sword lances out, enters the minotaur’s lower back.

Runs him through.

Ends him.


The commander’s momentum is enough, Ramm lashes out with his vengeful holy longsword- Aecris, the blade pierces the veil of shadow, the light of Bahamut explodes and… everything ends.

The breech is terrifying, a tear in reality sucking all life in to the black.

Sir Keegan’s family are swallowed by the shadow.

The knight commander falls.

[sblock=Encounter #17 Synopsis, PC XP & DM’s thoughts]

Encounter #17 The Portal to the Shadowfell, starring-

Skill Challenge- Open the Portal to the Shadowfell (Level 2 Complexity 4)

500 XP Level 1 Encounter.


100 XP each for a total of 2836 XP in total (PCs Level 3).

DM Thoughts-

A little bit of creativity sometimes goes a long way; the players still talk about some of the things that went on in this encounter to this day. It just worked, that’s not to say there weren’t moments when things could have gone awry but for the most part the players took it in their stride and played their parts.

In conversation around the table afterwards it likewise became clear that they had understood the events we played out, and their implications, the adventurers at times somehow saw themselves as being agents of change, avenging Sir Keegan; which was just perfect.

This was one of the best Skill Challenges I have ever run, the format is one I’ve used many times since.


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KOTS Part 17a: The Dark Tide.

“Well, that was…” Tonka starts up but is silenced as the shimmering curtain of the portal is slashed and cut wide open.

A mob of skeletons, armed and armoured as the guardians of the keep centuries before, come clattering out of the portal.

In the same instant comes a scream.


Rushing at the adventurers, from the rear- within the catacombs, come two great wolves- both beasts bloody and scarred- gravehounds, zombie dogs.

Gokan screams his defiance.

He alas is the only one of the adventurers ready for the fight, the others gawp, flat-footed- caught completely unaware.


Gokan is the only PC who is not surprised.


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KOTS Part 18: Guardians of the Portal.

[sblock=Party Line Up]

The Hard Core Adventurers Level 3


The first two decrepit skeletons smash in to Sigur, who is the closest to the portal, one of them lands a blow and cuts the dwarf who grimaces in pain.

[sblock=Skeleton Decrepit]

Skeleton Decrepit
Minion Skirmisher Level 1


At the same moment the first of the zombie gravehounds leaps high in to the back of Ramm, the minotaur is flattened by the beast, smashed in to the cold stone floor of the chamber. The undead hound bites and claws at the fighter, opening up several great wounds on Ramm’s back.

Gokan reacts, the only one of the adventurers that can; he charges screaming at the gravehound, smashes the beast back and away with his axe- cutting and slashing, the snarling zombie hound retreats, clear of the fallen Ramm.

[sblock=Zombie Gravehound]

Zombie Gravehound
Brute Level 3


A second zombie dog dashes out to join its companion and menace the half-orc, but Gokan is up to the job, he keeps both hounds at bay.

[sblock=Picture- Undead ambush!]


At which point the remainder of the skeleton horde from the portal, a tide of undead, smash in to the assorted adventurers.

Sigur and Tonka are quickly surrounded, the dwarf is slashed and cut- three more times. The invoker is left flailing, staggering, bloodied and battered- and still surprised, unable to make words or do anything but moan in pain. Tonka is better able to defend himself with his longsword and shield, although one blade gets through the dragonborn’s defences and slashes at his side.

The adventurers are on the back foot, the undead have caught them off their guard.

[sblock=Picture- Sigur gets swamped]


Stepping from shadows, behind the adventurers, comes a well-dressed female elf, “Ninaran”- Gokan whispers the woman’s name- the ranger from Fallcrest.

“Ninaran, help us!” Gokan shouts, smiling, glad to see Ninaran’s arrival.
“Oh I’ll help you. I’ll help you to your death…” The elf grins at Gokan, and then continues- “You filthy half-orc scum!”

Gokan screams, the elf is suddenly gone from his vision- she’s disappeared, at the same time his mind reels and lurches- he feels nauseous, almost unable to stand.

[sblock=Elf Archer- Ninaran]

Elf Archer- Ninaran
Elite Artillery Level 6


“Where is she?” Gokan stutters.


Gokan is hit by Ninaran’s Eyebite power for 25 points of psychic damage, Ninaran is also invisible to the half-orc. Gokan is bloodied in an instant.


[sblock=Picture- The Traitor revealed]


“Damn undead!” Sigur cries as he’s struck again, the dwarf is unable to extricate himself from the decrepit skeletons which surround him; behind him Ramm finally gets to his feet, the minotaur is still being menaced by one of the gravehounds.

Gokan dodges between the two undead hounds and flashes his axes around in a great arc, his first whirling frenzy leaves the already wounded beast on its side, bloodied and badly wounded.

“Aaaaaarrrgghh!” Gokan screams as his rage erupts, he whirls and slashes, and slashes and whirls- his axes bite deep, the prone beast is almost decapitated, and yet still it attempts one last time to snap and bite at the half-orc, Gokan is too quick however. The second gravehound is left staggering- a new great rent in its already scarred flesh.

Meanwhile, in the thick of the action, Sigur and Tonka defend stoutly, keeping the myriad skeletons at bay for a while longer- the dwarf has a gleam in his eye.

[sblock=Picture- Gokan versus the hounds]


Sigur raises his magical rod and shouts out incoherent phrases, a radiant light engulfs a section of the fracas- two of the decrepit skeletons instantly explode sending shattered bone flying in all directions. The remaining gravehound is caught in the blast- the radiant energy burns the flesh from its bones, leaves the undead beast ravaged, barely able to keep its feet.

Sigur growls, turns towards the undead hound and points with his hand.

“FLAME ON!” The dwarf growls as the bracers on his arms ignite and burn- as does the already battered gravehound; the creature yelps and tears again at Gokan, ripping a massive chunk of flesh from the half-orc’s leg. Gokan lurches and staggers- then falls, the wound is numb- necrosis already setting in.


Gokan is reduced to 7 hit points only, with five ongoing Necrotic damage- and also knocked Prone- this from the Gravehound’s Death Jaws attack triggered when it is reduced to 0 hit points or less.


Moments later the singed undead hound flops to the floor, unmoving, although it continues to smoulder and burn.

[sblock=Picture- Sigur in action]


Sigur has not finished however, the dwarf invokes- arms raised high in the air again, this time a glowing radiant cloud settles over the remaining skeletons, the fog obscures vision for the blink of an eye, when it lifts five of the seven remaining decrepit skeletons are gone. There’s no trace of the minion undead, not even a sliver of bone.

Sigur grins and folds his arms across his chest, admires the view, and his power- he gets his second wind.

[sblock=Picture- Sigur the destroyer]


Ninaran sees her troops destroyed, the elf ranger screams her defiance, and then screams again- this time in pain; Jimmy suddenly dodges out from behind the elf, grinning, and with blood on his blade.

The elven traitor is clearly unimpressed, she dodges back and away, her bow seems to appear in her hands- such is the speed of her movement, she fires- and pins Jimmy, her arrow piercing the halfling’s flesh between the shoulder and the throat. An inch to the right and Jimmy would be really struggling.

As it is Jimmy staggers backwards, grabbing for the wall of the chamber, leaving bloody hand prints on the stone- he gawps as blood spurts from the wound, describing a three foot arc before him. The halfling blinks and tries desperately hard to swallow. It hurts- a lot.


Even with Jimmy’s Second Chance- that was Ninaran’s Daily Hunter’s Bear Trap hitting for 21 points of damage. The halfling is also Slowed and taking ongoing 5 damage- not good.


Ninaran grins as she sights the halfling again.

“Say goodbye to your brother!” She shouts in an almost pleasant sing-song voice at Gokan, and then giggles, coquettishly.

She fires.

Her second arrow hits the spot, an inch to the right of her first arrow.

Jimmy stops struggling, collapses, with no effort to break his fall.

The arrow protrudes from the centre of the halfling’s throat.

Blood fountains.

Jimmy’s dying, and by the look of things, quickly.

[sblock=Picture- Jimmy’s down]



Jimmy’s hit again, after an Action Point from Ninaran, and her Shadow Wasp attack which hits for another 26 points of damage- that’s 47 damage to the little feller this turn, its fortunate he was on full hit points- 42, I think.

Jimmy almost never experiences negative hit points, he’s never usually close enough to the action, the players are stunned- particularly because I rolled three ten sided dice for damage for both attacks.

Apparently this makes me a very bad man.


Ramm bellows, unstoppable, the minotaur fighter puts his head down and charges- smashes in to Ninaran and slams the elf hard in to the wall behind. The elven archer spills her bow and thumps in to the floor as the lowing Ramm takes a step back to admire his work.

Tonka moves quickly towards Jimmy, shrugging off a decrepit skeleton’s attack, he’s almost to the halfling when…

“No!” Sigur screams, and then points, “Gokan!” the dwarf adds.
Tonka stares hard for a moment at Sigur, the invoker’s face is set- the dwarf nods once.

Tonka nods back, almost imperceptibly. Moments later many of the half-orc’s wounds instantly heal over as the dragonborn warlord chants and offers inspirational words.

“Take her down- DESTROY THE TRAITOR!” Tonka screams.
“KILL THE ELF BITCH!” Sigur adds with a growl.

Tonka follows his own advice; the warlord moves forward at a rush and cuts and slashes Ninaran, although only a minor wound.

“Get up Gokan!” Sigur screams at the half-orc.

[sblock=Picture- Kill the elf traitor]


The two remaining skeletons left standing slash hard at Sigur, the dwarf still has not extricated himself from the fracas; a longsword cuts a furrow above the dwarf’s right eye, the wound is not deep but it bleeds profusely.

Sigur looks deeply upset, and more than a little worse for wear.


Sigur is down to 7 hit points.


The dwarf invoker mutters and curses, his mace turns to stone in his hand, he spins like some great demented top- and smashes the skulls of both of his bony enemies. The skeletons are no more- just Ninaran to finish off.

“Destroy the ELF!” Sigur screams, and then scurries over to slap a meaty hand on the spurting hole in Jimmy’s throat.


Jimmy gets down to -10 hit points before Sigur’s ministrations curtail the halfling’s decline.


Gokan obeys Sigur, or at least tries to, the half-orc is quickly to his feet, and quicker still he’s charging at the elf traitor- Ninaran is trying to pick herself up when he hits.

“Aaaaarrrgghhh!” The elf ranger screams as Gokan’s magical battleaxe bites deep, his blade cuts through Ninaran’s left forearm, severing the limb completely. The half-orc’s hand axe bites too, it slams in to the elf’s opposite shoulder, at this point a lesser mortal would have died or else been reduced to begging for surrender.

[sblock=Picture- Destroy the elf]


Not Ninaran; the elf somehow uses Gokan’s impetus, as he tries to lever free his hand axe, to spring back to her feet and in to the action.

Ninaran’s longsword is somehow now in hand, although she’s being faced down by Tonka, Ramm and Gokan- the elf lashes out, her blade flashes, and Ramm is skewered, but not before a glowing shield dedicated to the platinum dragon suddenly appears and deflects a little of the blow.

The minotaur retaliates immediately.


Smashing his shield in to the elf’s face, Ninaran crumples and hits the deck again; surely she can’t take much more of this abuse, particularly as Tonka is quickly in to the action, the dragonborn stabs hard and opens another wound on the squirming elf.

She gasps, bites off curses and, against the odds, rises.

“You’ll have to do better than that.” Ninaran spits and slashes hard, keeping all three of the adventurers at bay.

[sblock=Picture-Ninaran is being worn down]


“Take her alive!” Sigur and Tonka scream in unison, and then take a moment to stare at each other.

Alas the words of wisdom come too late, the hissing, spitting, snarling Gokan unleashes a thundering smash, both axes brought down- at much speed, in to the elf’s skull. Ninaran fails to defend the attack, the result is…

Devastating, and messy.

The elf traitor is dead- beyond dead, much of the elf’s skull is shattered.


Gokan manages to score a critical hit with his Thundering Strike, which hits for 32 points of damage.


The fight is over- victory is won.

[sblock=Encounter #18 Synopsis, PC XP & DM’s thoughts]

Encounter #18 Guardians of the Portal, starring-

Skeleton Decrepit (Minion Skirmisher 1) x9
Zombie Gravehound (Brute 3) x2
Elf Ranger- Ninaran (Elite Artillery 6) x1

1025 XP Level 5 Encounter.


205 XP each for a total of 3041 XP in total (PCs Level 3).

DM Thoughts-

I managed to catch the guys on the back foot with this one, the combat was short- the PCs got in to their stride very quickly but for a while, things were pretty frantic around the table. The wave of decrepit skeletons were unfortunate not to take Sigur down, the dwarf was down to something like 7 hit points- I figured afterwards I should have had all of the undead come through the portal, and then attack from the rear with just Ninaran in the next round- when the PCs were already locked in combat.

As it was…

Not bad though, a little bit more to the story and the guys are wary again, having felt much more secure in the past few encounters.


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