I'll spare you the suspense: my brother's character was killed.
By owl bears.
How awesome is that?
It went down like this:
Asked AB what marching order he wanted to assign to his party. He replied (after only slight deliberation): Halfling, then Dwarf, then Cleric, then Meaty (the fighter), then the Magic-User last.
Really? You're really going to let everyone march in front of you? When your character is a 7th level fighter with an AC of 1 and, like, 30+ hit points?
'Yeah. How do you think my character got to 7th level?'
I can see why the Dwarf with the 3 charisma is your best friend. C'mon...you're going to let your ex-fiancee walk point before you do?
'Ok, fine, Meaty will walk IN FRONT of the cleric...jeez!'
And so off they went.
There are quite a few doors in B1...stuck, wooden doors that need to be kicked open. AB liked to go through doors...they would break down most every door they encountered. Generally, he would have Grouch (the dwarf) do the honors. Unfortunately, I was rolling extremely poorly for door opening rolls and despite his 16 strength, ol' Grouch ended up bruising his shoulder more than half the time. After every failed roll, Meaty would shoulder his way to the front of the line and blast the door down with his 18 strength...grumbling the whole time.
The first inhabitants the party encountered was in the stronghold's kitchen: a trio of kobolds were busy cooking up something for the lords of the Fortress Q.
[yes, Rogahn and Zelligar were both healthy and present in the stronghold. Remember that all False rumors were True and vice versa. Rumor #18(F): Zelligar and Rogahn have actually returned to their stronghold and woe be to any unwelcome visitors!]
Do you want to attack the little dog men?
'Um, well, no...let's try diplomacy first. Does anyone speak kobold?'
[I have to say, I was shocked with this approach from my WoW-addled sibling...is it standard practice in 4th edition games to talk to the encounters rather than attack? I guess my brother is a throwback as well]
Hmm...it appears the only character that speaks kobold is your best friend, Grouch the dwarf.
'Grouch will talk to them!'
I roll reaction modifying for Grouch's Charisma of 3 and the kobolds attack, only to die quickly and messily. My brother and I laugh over our beers at Grouch's attempt at "tactful greeting."
A few long corridors, a couple storerooms, and a bit of being lost in the twisting turns of Castle Q and the party finds itself in Zelligar's indoor garden chamber. Unfortunately, I'm mean and there are several shriekers present who start to give off a keening wail as the party's harsh torchlight lights the darkened room.
Shriekers are 3HD apiece (!!) and it takes several rounds for the characters to kill them. Dicing for wandering monsters, I find a lumbering owl bear ambling down the corridor to investigate the noise. The characters nut up and gang bang the thing dropping it in a single round, though Meaty takes a blow from a forepaw (a taste of what was to come). As usual, I was rolling 6s for initiative, even though I couldn't open a door with the same six-sider.
The next encounter took place in the "visitor's lounge" where my notes read "evil centaur." The evil centaur was checking out the life-size marble statue of a beautiful nude woman. Deciding to try negotiating again, the party this time put forth "Lady Troy" (the cleric) to do their talking. At first, the horse-man was well-disposed to the pretty lady in the chain coif as they tried to bluff their way into some useful info. However, he was eventually tipped off by their drawn and bloodied weapons and when Meaty opened his mouth to lie his ass off, the Reaction dice came up snake-eyes and the centaur attacked.
And died. Quickly.
Per the module, the statue is "obviously of great value" but is nearly impossible to move due to its great weight. AB decided Meaty would throw his bag of holding over the thing and knock it over (possibly using the party's 10' pole as a suitable lever). I'd had a couple by this time and decided this was a fine plan, though the statue took up most of the room in his bag (which can hold half a ton!).
More wandering, including finding and perusing Zelligar's bedroom (Big Z wasn't there...I had him located in his workshop/lab) didn't net them any more treasure...I can't recall why they didn't loot the wizard's bedroom; I believe they even left the books that looked valuable if un-decipherable.
I should note that my Virgo brother was mapping the whole time...drawing on a spread-open napkin with a pencil. Despite a lack of graph paper and my conspicuously dubious measurements ("the corridor extends 50 or 80 feet and then turns left...") he actually did a pretty good job of mapping. Later he remarked:
"Keeping a good map...or even a half-assed map...is a real time-saver. That part in the southeast where we were lost was mainly due to beer, but otherwise I had a good idea where to go and how to get out with just a few scratch marks."
[I am paraphrasing]
Eventually their lack of a thief (or their general disregard for safety) got the better of them and they blundered into a false door/pit trap that dropped most of the party 40' into a deep pool of cold water. Faced with dis-encumbering themselves or risk drowning, AB decided that Meaty would dump the statue and Grouch would strip off his plate mail, while the Lady Troy would try to tread water in her armor. Fortunately, all of the party members were able to make their swimming checks and the magic-user (who had NOT fallen in the drink) was able to help them out with a length of rope. 'I'll come back for the statue,' vowed Meaty. Such was not to be.
Finding the stronghold's armory was not nearly as big a coup as they'd expected...most of the gear was broken, old, or otherwise useless. However, they could smell treasure nearby and they anxiously pressed on. Kicking in the door at the opposite end of the armory they found themselves in the stronghold barracks facing several "guards:" three owl bears!
While the magic-user's lightning bolt spell left one monster in smoking ruins, AB may have overestimated his chances against the remaining two beasts as Meaty and Crouch waded into melee, Lady Troy providing healing and Carey doing his usual 'floating.'
[by the way, a 6th level halfling with a 12 strength and a +3 dagger does just fine in combat when you're using the All-Weapons-Do-D6-Damage rule]
Grouch, no longer wearing plate mail, was quickly scooped up in a bear hug and took massive amounts of damage. Meaty, still wearing his +3 chain, was also hit with every single attack of the owl bear (including the automatic hug attack). Unlike the dwarf, Meaty did not have 42 hit points. Despite the cleric focusing all her healing power on the fighter, the second round saw him take enough damage from the beast's hug to bring him to -2 hit points.
Quickly I rolled on my 50 Ways to Die table: "a massive blow crushes your spine killing you instantly." The owl bear had broken Meaty's meaty back!
As we had finished our pitcher at this point and it was 10pm (we' been playing close to two hours), I decided to call the session rather than finish out the fight with the NPCs. As it was, the fight was shaping up to be at least a half-TPK (Grouch was well on his way to joining his best buddy in the Happy Hunting Grounds)...and since Lady Troy was NOT carrying a raise dead spell (I guess she was level 6 after all), I figured it was time to head home to wife and beagles.
"It was the damn claw-claw-bite that did me in," analyzed my brother, something I've discussed on this blog before myself. Beware the big creature with the multiple attacks, for they are truly the most dangerous game!
I have to say that I really had fun gaming with my brother, and just being able to walk into Gary's the next day and tell Tim, "yeah, my brother got taken apart by owl bears"...man, is that just a fun phrase to say! Makes me smile just thinking about it (owl bears are definitely on my Top Ten List of favorite D&D monsters).
Anyhoo, AB is thinking of playing again, and perhaps I'll skip the Thursday ECGF game in favor of beers and B/X at Baranof's from now on...Lord knows, it was one of the best times gaming I've had in awhile (face-to-face play, adult company, booze...what more could you want?). If we do, we might pick up where we left off and we might not...ABles has been saying he's interested in play-testing the B/X Companion, so perhaps we'll take my half-finished adventure module for a spin. It might be just the push I need to get the damn thing ready for publishing!