Friday, 18 September 2015

[Actual Play] Cruth Lowlands Campaign: Session 1

As an effort to get out of my own head when it comes to RPGs (haven't run or played anything in weeks; focusing too much on a follow-up to Yoon-Suin to the extent that it is robbing the process of any joy) I have started a no-pressure game of Rules Cyclopedia D&D via Google hangouts and roll 20. After years of essentially creating entirely my own stuff, from settings to bestiaries to dungeons, the philosophy of the Cruth Lowlands campaign is: use plenty of pre-existing materials, don't worry about things making sense particularly, and run things straight from the book as much as possible. In other words, it's a game of paradigmatic D&D. It's set in the Known World, in the West of the Grand Duchy of Karameikos - the region around Riverfork Keep. I have populated the map (see below) with plenty of locations (approximately 25), of which most are hidden, although I may also introduce some classic modules into the mix.

I am going to post Actual Plays of the campaign on the blog. For the first session, I was joined by three players;

  • Jason, playing Mixahâm Straji, a 1st level magic user
  • Patrice, playing Marm Jo'a, a 1st level cleric
  • Luke, playing Andy, a 1st level fighter

The PCs started off in The Bull Rushes, an inn in Riverfork owned by a bullywug called Yokomosok. Yokomosok noticed they seemed like "adventurers", and they got into a conversation in which Yokomosok told them he sometimes directed "adventurers" towards various locations where they might find fame, glory, wealth, and so on. One such place was the Worm's Mouth, a network of tunnels a day to the East. Another was the Achelos Fort, a holdfast which used to be garrisoned by a knight and men-at-arms from Riverfork, but which had in recent decades been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. There were said to be tunnels underneath. The Worm's Mouth was quite well known, but the tunnels under Achelos Fort were largely secret. 

The PCs struck a deal with Yokomosok that they would give him "interesting items" recovered from these locations if he agreed not to tell any other adventurers about Achelos Fort, and decided they would try to keep it secret and possibly even establish it as a base camp. They then set about attracting hirelings, and employed a grand total of five: Eusebius (fat and greedy, net), Menelaus (says "yes" all the time, hand axe), Christina (big nose, spear), Loulia (pet rat, hand axe) and Procopius (goitre, whip). In the meantime, Marm Jo'a went to the Temple of the Elements, a cult of Zeus in Riverfork, to chat to the monks. He met one named Milos, who told him that if he came back in a few days there may be employment opportunities.

The gang then set of for Achelos Fort the next morning. On arrival, they discovered an empty shell of a tower, with the River Achelos running along nearby at the bottom of a ravine. They noticed that there were caves at the bottom of the ravine on the opposite side, and decided to rappel down the cliff side and cross the river to investigate. Leaving Procopius and Menelaus to watch over the tower in case anybody came out to cut the rope while they were rappelling, they abseiled down to the cliff bottom and discovered there were also caves on their side of the ravine. They investigated these and discovered that one held the concealed remains of a boat and jetty, while another contained a sack buried in sand, containing a gold pendant and 100 gold pieces.

They noticed that the caves on the opposite bank of the river extended inwards some distance, and decided to investigate. This meant crossing a ford in the river. However, when about to cross they saw an eel lurking in the water, and sent Eusebius with his net to catch it (concluding that he must be a fisherman since he had a net). Eusebius approached the water but after casting his net went into a kind of paralytic spasm and fell down on the sand. After he recovered they concluded the eel must be electric; it also emerged that actually Eusebius wasn't a fisherman - he just had a net.

Andy had brought two chickens along with him, and they set up a cunning decoy for the eel using one of the birds, tempting it away from the ford and then killing it with ranged weapons. The chicken, however, seemed to decide that its future with the group was likely to be short, and made a run for it.

The group entered one of the caves on the opposite bank, using the remaining chicken to walk in front of them and set off any possible traps. Here, they discovered a trip-wire and bell system and disabled it, and pressed on. Eventually the passage they were on hooked back on itself and they stumbled across another trip wire, this time setting off the bell it was attached to. Immediately they heard a commotion up ahead and discovered a killer frog, which was attached to the cave wall by a chain. It did serious damage to poor Eusebius, but was finished off with missile weapons.

While this was going on Andy luckily heard a noise from behind them, and they realised that whoever inhabited the caves was alerted to their presence. They cunningly (again) used the chicken as a distraction, placing it around a curve in the tunnel with a lit torch next to it, and then hiding in the darkness nearby. Four brigand-ish men appeared and started examining the chicken; everybody charged out of the darkness to attack. One of the brigands was killed and the others fled; Marm Jo'a followed them outside and killed another, but the others entered the river and swam off. While this was going on, Mixahâm was busy dissecting the killer frog and removing its internal organs for alchemical purposes.

After regrouping, the party realised that the brigands had come from a secret door - an artificial wall they had walked past previously and which was now revealed. Investigating behind it they discovered some tiled rooms carved into the rock. They also - again - were lucky enough to overhear somebody whispering around a corner, and after a brief discussion of tactics charged around it to discover 7 brigands waiting for them in  room at a bottom of a staircase with spears and slings. But the brigands proved woefully inept in combat [6 attacks were made on Andy in the surprise round, without causing I think a single hp of damage] and three were rapidly killed; the rest surrendered.

After a brief torture scene the leader of the bandits revealed the location of his loot, under a trap door in a nearby room. Marm and Andy then hit on the idea of giving the other three captured bandits the opportunity to join them as hirelings. They agreed, and then revealed that their now ex-leader was laying a trap for Andy and that the trap door did contain loot, but also poisonous centipedes. You can imagine what happened next - the leader was fed to the centipedes, the centipedes were then killed, and the party recovered 2,000 gp and a small sack containing 14 semi-precious gems.

It was now the end of the day and they decided to stay in the caves and go back to Riverfort the next day after doing some more scouting. There was another tunnel a hundred yards or so down the river bank and they wanted to take a look inside. Despite being warned by the superstitious bandits about the place, they ventured in, discovering a large chamber with one clearly artificial wall and a thick iron door. Concluding that "This is where we die", they beat a hasty retreat and went back to Riverfork.

An impressive haul of 2,100 gp was bolstered after they took their other ill-gotten gains to a dwarf called Squinter and a halfling called Sauce; it turned out the gold pendant they had found initially was worth 1,000 gp, and the semi-precious stones were worth 3,000 gp in total. 6,100 gp split three ways was more than enough for Marm Jo'a and Andy to level-up, although they did have to pay 25% in tax to the tax collectors of Sir Iannis, the castellan of Riverfork. Mixahâm also kept back four of the semi-precious stones to use to pay any magic-user he might find who would tell him what to do with the killer frog innards he had taken.

Thus ended the session. It was a lot of fun gaming with three nice fellas. They were a pretty wily crew and thought their way through or around everything they came across, so 6,100 gp was a fair reward, but they were also very lucky with their dice rolls at times - with attack rolls and surprise rolls in particular, but also with crucial morale checks on the part of the bandits. I was amused that after having dealt with the bandits so easily, a mere iron door was enough to make them conclude that "This is where we die." I also learned a lot about the value of chickens. 

Tune in next week for the next installment of.....The Cruth Lowlands Campaign.


  1. That's really classic campaign! Caves, bandits, loot. :)

  2. I might have chuckled a little.

  3. Thanks for posting this - I enjoyed the read and its always interesting to see how other people play out an adventure, particularly if they think things through. And who knew chickens were an adventurers best friend!? I learn something new every day...

  4. Sean Robert Meaney18 September 2015 at 06:18

    This sounds like fun. Email me at and specify some thought on dungeons you want maps for (network map: room numbers with connection lines) and i'll mail back. Two evil dms are better than one.

  5. Where did you get your Mystara setting info? "Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure"?

    1. Made it up, mostly. I'm just using the information and maps contained in the RC itself and the BECMI boxed sets.

    2. Gotcha, so if I understand, you're taking a map, something like this:

      and zooming-in and populating it with your own stuff. Very cool--I like that methodology for getting a sandbox going.

  6. Thanks. I've been putting off reading these, but am now excited to read the others. Feeding the treacherous bandit captain to the centipedes was classically gruesome.