In addition to feasting the PCs like heroes (which they were), and giving the party the promised sack of gold, the merchant's wife presented the adventurers with an additional gift...a magical dagger of exquisite manufacture, able to wound even enchanted creatures.
[yes, it was only a +1 dagger, but that didn't mean the players didn't want it...after all, if all weapons do D6 damage, that's going to be a tasty weapon.
By the way, early on in the session, Steve-o asked if he received some sort of bonus due to his equipment being made out of "the finest elvish steel." Besides breaking us all up, it became a bit of a running joke. "Is the goblin knife any good?" "Well, it's not forged from elvish steel..." Despite elvish steel not actually COUNTING for anything, it became a bit of a mark of PRESTIGE for those who owned it. And in a way, I think this made Steve even happy about having the least equipment of any other player...sure he had only chain mail, sword & dagger...but it was all made of ELVISH STEEL]
The party was unanimous in allowing Lando to take possession of the knife, since he was already using knife and buckler as his armament of choice (and, perhaps, because they were afraid Jaochim would simply throw it away if given to him). The merchant was willing to purchase the silver armband for a fair price, and the party split the profit three-ways. After that, the party was ready to go shopping.
At the blacksmith: "I have a really, um, large friend...do you have any armor that would fit someone that's like 7'6"? That chain tunic...can you 'let it out' a bit? My friend is really big..."
At the trader: "What's the biggest shield you've got? 15 gold pieces?! What's smaller? Okay...I'll take the door with the arm strap."
The trader was the real gouger of the bunch. The party was determined to purchase arms and equipment for the new men-at-arms, Gene and Bud. G&B had promised their services for a year, free-of-charge, if only the party would supply them with gear. But the Keep's trader, being "the only game in town," so-to-speak was determined to milk as much of the party's newfound wealth as possible with 50%+ price hikes.
It felt like I was running the playbook according to Hackmaster's advice to Dungeon Masters.
They did get Gene and Bud outfitted, and while they weren't able to find any armor that would fit the gnoll...oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the gnoll's name was Witherdrool...they did pick up a large shield for the creature. Witherdrool was most pleased.
"Thank you, master," the monster hissed when he was presented with the shield.
Back to the Caves of Chaos...and once again back into the goblin caves. This time the party decided to break their own rule: "We're going to go RIGHT this time." The party decided that heading left and going back to the hobgoblin caves was unacceptable...the hobs were "too tough," and had put up too hard a fight. They figured the right-hand passage (where Thundarr and Caindong had met their doom) might prove to have easier critters worth fighting.
Although the party went right, they took the first left-hand passage that presented itself. A turn and a turn brought them to a familiar dead end...old blood stains spattered the walls and knotty piece of wood - a two-handed war club - lay discarded against the wall. The party was undeterred, however, and retraced their path back to the main passage.
The next chamber was a nest of goblins...half-a-dozen guardsmen were caught off guard as the adventurers charged in weapons swinging. Two goblins fell immediately before the adventurers' blades, although Reed went down beneath a thrust spear, and the goblins broke and ran. Two fled through the opposite exit, and Joachim wasted no time in sending Witherdrool after them. "Go get 'em!"
The final two goblins turned to what appeared to be a stone wall ("A secret door!" shouted the players) and started pounding on it, yelling "Invaders! Invaders!" The adventurers stepped forward and cut them down from behind, Joachim and Lando dealing the death blows.
"Well, that was easy..."
A grinding noise announced the opening of the "secret door" (really a boulder that had been pushed across an opening of the cave). The adventurers braced for anything, but otherwise took no action as they waited in anticipation of what was about to push through the newly-opened cave mouth.
An f'ing ogre.
Joachim, bloodied sword in hand was directly in front of the creature. "Can I try to talk to it?" Do you know ogre? "No." Checking Reaction, I rolled a 3...the ogre was in no mood to talk. "F*** it...we attack."
Only the witch-hunter was able to find the ogre with his enchanted dagger. With a roar the ogre lashed out, pulverizing rib and organ and knocking him across the chamber in a heap. I handed over Gene and Bud to AB for control (oh, forgot to mention earlier: Lara the elf abandoned the party after they had failed to give her a share of the treasure from their last expedition. "Well it's not like she did anything anyway...").
The elf cut into the behemoth with his fine elvish steel...and the ogre bought down his club, crushing the life from the elf. AB handed Steve-O the use of "Bud."
I know I haven't mentioned Hensvik in awhile but the dwarf was involved the entire time...he just completely failed to hit anything at all. About the 3rd round of combat, though, he was able to land a telling blow on the ogre...and draw the ire of the monster...WHAM!
Hensvik was not felled by the blow...but the creature's follow-up back-hand in the next round claimed his life.
Meanwhile Gene and Bud were laying into the creature desperately...Gene was the next one to fall, mangled and bloody. Alone, out-gunned, but not un-manned, Bud managed to deliver one more stab to the ogre for 1 point of damage...enough to drop the monster, finally.
Does it count as a TPK, if there's still an NPC man-at-arms left?
***EDIT: Just realized that this IS my post #666. I suppose it's fitting that it details the "Beast" that got the party's "Number!"***