Well, it's been a while since I've written...and that's not right. So, in lieu, I've decided to write a bit of a recap (and background) of the Labyrinth Lord game that I'm running for my daughters.
Background: Each of the girls rolled up stats using the 3d6 method but I allowed them to swap one stat for another. I know, I know, softy. But hey, they're my girls! My eldest wanted to really play an elf, and she rolled like you wouldn't believe. She had an 18 and nothing lower than a 10. I mean c'mon... Pretty amazing.
My youngest rolled high as well, just not quite as high as my eldest. She wanted to play an elf as well but when she heard about the cleric she wanted to play an elf cleric. Hmmmm OK, so how to navigate this? Turns out she just wants to "look" like an elf. She actually sort of looks like an elf in real life (small and thin w/ spritely features).
So what do you do for a wee little one who wants to "look" like an elf? Well, you make her the first 1/2 elf of course!
Safara: Elf level 1
Ember: 1/2 elf cleric of Freya level 1
I opted for a sandbox-type campaign and drew up my own map while borrowing freely from other sources. The "land" doesn't yet have a name but the campaign itself is called the Eastern Verge. Many of the names of areas, rivers, streams, hills, etc. come from other sources. Ben Robbins Western Marches was a great inspiration and I've culled items from Scott over atWilderlands OD&D as well as some wonderful ideas from James over at Grognardia. As you can imagine, it's a potpourri of inspiration.
The small border town that the characters have started out in is named Botkinburg, borrowed freely from Troll Lord's Castles and Crusades setting, which sits nestled comfortably on the western back of the Hreusen river, which itself constitutes the far eastern border of the "Kingdom". Like Ben's setting, all is wild and untrammeled beyond the town. Not many have ventured far into the wilds and no one in their right mind goes looking for trouble.
Generally, the land is in a temperate to tropic climatological zone with foliage and weather much like southern Florida. (minus the hurricanes) There are forested lands hills to the east that rise gently to a broken ridge, that juts out of the ground by up to as much as 100' in certain spots. Along this flows the Hruesen which bends around in a large arc. On top of this ridge lies a different zone, consisting of sparse trees, intense heat and flat expansive lands, much like a massive mesa.
To the north lies a large ancient forest, wherein reside all types of unknown creatures. (duh) And to the south lies swamps and eventually a fetid jungle, wherein lies a forgotten city and the entrance to the "mega dungeon". (I'm using the old JG Caverns of Thracia as my mega.)
Within one day's ride (and closer) lie many different types of features and encounters. I'm using the old JG Judges Ready Ref Sheets and Kellri's excellent Encounters pdf to flesh things out a bit, but beyond the random encounters and events are many set encounters. For instance, the "troll bridge" or more commonly known as the "toll bridge" (most have never actually visited the place) which of course has a resident troll acting as bridge guardian. But this troll is different; He's actually quite old, reasonable, and civilized.
There a very strong contingent of fey living amongst the wilds and therefore many places that are sacred to them as well. Toadstool rings, groves and hidden pools lie in abundance, but not in obvious places.
I've tried to set it up so that it promotes a sense of exploration and adventure. I've seeded it with ancient, dead cultures, mysterious races, malign guardians, forgotten cities and all sorts of oddities...hopefully each of them leads our intrepid adventurers onward, deeper into the wilderness.
Safara and Ember start at the Bent Hook, broke and looking for money. They've both heard that there is much adventure and of course loot to be found to the east, which in turn led them on their far trek here, to Botkinburg.
After hiring a total of 6 henchmen and attracting a few followers; a wayward knight named SirPellinor and his companion, the mage Halister the Grey (I know, I know, hugely creative.), they set forth into the wilderness, heading south along the river Hruesen.
A few hours south of the town of Botkinburg the group comes upon the "Toll Bridge", which in point of fact appears more as ruins surrounding a very old stone bridge spanning a particularly narrow and deep point in the Hruesen. Deciding that this would be a good place to break for lunch, the group breaks out food and spreads out amongst the trees, but soon the strange "snap", "snap" of sticks breaking amongst the ruins distracts the group.
Safara and Ember approach the tumbled ruins of what appeared at one time to be a tower, from opposing directions. They come upon a giant crab dismembering the carcass of a deer amidst the giant stones. It detects them and comes scrambling up quickly, claws swinging wide, searching for fresh food. The henchmen scramble quickly away from the oversize horror as Sir Pellinor and Halister run to join their comrades.
The battle was a tight thing as the giant crab is quite a fearsome opponent. Initially the heroes have a very difficult time piercing the thick chitinous shell and the mighty claws present an even more deadly obstacle. It's a tight thing initially, but after a magic missile from Safara and a critical strike with her staff, the beast is brought to the ground.
Both Safara and Ember decided that since they were so close to the bridge in the first place that they'd check it out... And soon they figured out that it wasn't "Toll" bridge, but Troll bridge, as a grey-skinned beast emerged from beneath and declared that a toll for crossing was due. This was either 1 goat per traveler, or something similar.
Ember came up with crab meat as an offering and bartered the crossing of the entire party out of the giant crustacean. Not that the group necessarily wanted to cross but hey...the opportunity presented itself and viola! cross the bridge the party went.
Once upon the opposite side they decide to investigate the other tower that guards this side of the ancient bridge. In a more intact state, this tower in fact has an occupant; a giant spider has spun her web and claimed this as her hunting grounds. But Safara is not a fool as she sees cobweb blowing in the breeze through the open archway, she strikes flame to a torch and tosses it through the opening, quickly catching webs alight and forcing the hideous occupant out through the smoking top.
The hairy beast quickly scuttles down the wall and drops directly on Ember, who screams, arms waving as she desperately attempts to dislodge the unwelcome guest. Safara draws her dagger and strikes the arachnid a telling blow as it tries to sink it's mandibles into Ember's shoulder...to no avail. Ember then quickly grabs a leg tossing the spider against the wall where she then brings her staff to bear squishing the nasty beast with one blow.
After the brief fight, Safar finds an ancient skeleton lying amidst the leaves and detritus in the bottom of the now scorched tower and next to it lies a mouldering and rotted leather pack wherein the find a small sack of silver and copper coins of unknown mint. They take these and continue their journey.
The group hiked for a little ways into the forested hills, trending generally northwards, destination unknown. As evening approaches the group searches for a spot to make camp. A rocky knoll presents a tenable location and the party members break out their gear and food after brushing down the horses.
During their evening meal, just as the sun is setting, a gruff voice calls out from the woods. "Ho the camp...Would you mind company for the sake of safety?" A grizzled man dressed in greens and brown leathers emerges from the edge of the woods at the foot of the hill, arms spread wide. He claims that he's one of the Duke's huntsmen and that the party has actually camped for the eve on the huntsman's traditional spot.
Safara and Ember confer, and agree that it would be fine if the huntsman joined. Turns out though that there's more than just one huntsman, as a group of six more emerge from the woods carrying their recent prey between them. There is no danger though, as the Duke's men seem, if not a bit rough around the edges, an honest group.
The head huntsman is questioned later that evening regarding the bridge troll and the immediate area. He tells the two that the troll is benign as long as the toll is paid..The immediate area though is far from benign. Safara and Ember ask if there are any areas close by that might yield some type of treasure, for that is what they are by profession; adventurers.
Scratching his head, the grizzled old huntsman says that this wood, the Tangle Downs, is plenty dangerous, but that the huntsmen steer clear of anything that's obviously not going to produce any game. One of those places is an old abandoned monastery to the north of here, not more than a half-day journey. It sits atop a stony knoll, surrounded by burnt and stunted trees. Just a series of tumbled stone blocks outlining the old abbey, there are rumors of things that roam at night, guarding unknown treasures from bygone days.
Perfect! This is the opportunity that the group is looking for, and with the coming of the sun they set off...