Saturday, September 18, 2010

Back to the Caves of Chaos (Part I)

No more goblins.

This I had decided even before I got down to Baranof's Thursday night for my 4th session of B/X D&D and beer. Had decided even before I got home from work that day, in fact.

Why? 'Cause I'm sick of 'em.

For those who've never played B2: Keep on the Borderlands, or for those who haven't played/owned it in a number of years, please allow me to (briefly) explain: the Caves of Chaos (the "dungeon" of B2) is actually a number of small cave complexes set into a box canyon. You enter the canyon and can see cave openings dotting the cliff walls at various levels on all sides.

Various humanoid tribes, as well as a few non-tribal beasties, lair within these caves...all the usual ones found in your average low level adventure. You know the ones I'm talking about: orcs, kobolds, hobgoblins, bugbears, etc. As is usual in any Chaotic hierarchy, shit rolls downhill...consequently, the weaker monsters make their homes in the caves lower down on the cliff face.

So the cave mouth lowest down and closest to the mouth of the canyon is the home for some of the weakest creatures: goblins.

What this means, of course, is that any party of 1st level characters invading the caves inevitably starts their expedition with the goblin warren. After running B2 a half dozen times over the last year or so, I've done nothing but fight players with goblins...over and over again.

I'm sick of it and I'm not doing it anymore.

Despite the goblins holding their own against Thundarr and Caindong, I was not about to run the same damn thing yet again, so I decided to change it up a bit.

I'd actually made this determination PRIOR to meeting our 3rd player, Luke. Luke, having long been a Dungeon Master (for every edition of D&D!) was already "well familiar" with B2. How familiar, I can only guess...but the thing is straight-forward enough with a rather limited "bag of tricks" so I'm not too worried about his knowledge of "spoilers." I mean, yeah, of course there are's an introductory adventure for 1st level characters.

So Joachim, Lando, and Hensvik found themselves at the Caves of Chaos just as the sun was setting. Searching around the canyon floor, they found the remains of a recent campsite, along with the remains of some group's last meal...apparently roast buzzard. Hensvik really didn't want to spend the night on the canyon floor, fearing the nocturnal inhabitants of the caves would come out looking for a tasty snack. However, Joachim was unable to find handholds in the fading light (Steve failed his Dexterity check by a lot, and I decided I didn't want anyone falling to their death so early in the session...ahh, DM fiat), so they were left with little choice in the matter. They pulled back into the woods and refused to build a fire, instead setting three watches with the infravision-equipped demihumans (recall, they also had an NPC elf along with them).

The night passed uneventfully and the next day they were able to tackle the cliffs by the full light of day.

"There's an old dwarvish proverb," announched Hensvik, "Always go left. Let's explore the first cave on our left, the lowest down."

Well, what do ya' know...once again the party was decided to tackle the Same Damn Goblin Caves.

Climbing to the cave mouth 25' up, Joachim lowered the party's only 50' rope to help the others out. "I'm the only one that bothered to buy a rope?!" Lando looked incredulously at his compatriots.

"I forgot," said Hensvik.

"I'm broke," said Joachim.

Hensvik thought they should keep the rope tied off to the cave entrance in case they needed to make a fast escape (rather than jumping 25' to their deaths). Lando was against leaving the party's only rope tied back at the cave entrance. Joachim suggested just pounding some iron spikes into the all and keeping the rope looped and knotted such that they could quickly slip it around the spikes and rappel down the cliff face if necessary. Everyone agreed this was a good idea and Joachim borrowed Hensvik's spikes and started pounding them into the cave wall.


The ringing of hammer on spike echoed ominously back from the cave tunnels. Everyone looked at each other in horror...but nothing appeared to shred them.

Hensvik put a candle on his helmet and led the way, followed by two mercs with torches, Joachim and Lando, then the 3rd merc and Lara the elf. "Always go left," intoned the dwarf as they set out down the left-hand path.

And almost immediately came a goblin guard room. Filled with slaughtered goblins.


The party attempted to loot the bodies, but there wasn't much that was salvageable. A cruelly serrated goblin knife and one useable spear. Neither Lando nor Hensvik wanted any truck with goblin weapons, but Joachim thought the weapons might be handy and picked them up.

The next chamber they came to was a "common room" that had once been the main residence of the goblin folks. Now it was a charnel house, filled with dead goblins...many of them females and young. The party half-heartedly picked through the bodies finding nothing of value. They were all starting to get a bit uneasy at this point.

The only exit was through a wooden door that had been hacked apart and broken down from the other side...someone or something had invaded the goblin caves, wiping out the creatures and taking anything of any worth. The party decided to push forward.

Up a flight of stairs carved out of the stone, then another, then a long, long corridor. A split in the tunnel forced the party to follow their own proverb ("always go left") and around the corner they could see an eerie red glow. The party readied weapons and continued forward.

[surprise rolls; everyone failed]

A torture chamber! Gruesome in every detail...bloody instruments, hot irons, struggling victims in chains...the whole nine.

And two enormous surprised to see the party as the party was to see them.


  1. That's kind of funny to me as for the dungeon I'm working on, "Goblin" is the only standard humanoid going into the stocking tables :)

  2. Weird. Whenever I ran the Caves, it went like this: Enter kobold cave, trigger pit trap, fall in, die fighting kobolds and giant rats.

    1. Yea that's how Gary wrote it. He even gave strong hints in the read-alowd text for the first time the party approaches the ravine.

  3. I like doing this kind of thing with well known dungeons. What would it look like after another bunch of critters came through or a few adventuring parties. Changes the whole dynamic of the dungeon.

  4. Well, the goblin caves are the left, kobold caves to the right. Hell, I've actually had people go to the back of the ravine and hit the Shrine of Chaotic Evil first! o.o

  5. Only 50' of rope. you would have been well within your rights to kill them right then. I'm sure it's in one of the rulebooks. Maybe the errata for the B/X companion.

    Besides every Dwarf knows you start at the top and work your way downhill; which makes going left actually mean go right.

  6. Yeah, the group I DM'd entered the koblold cave first as well--as with druncheon, it was spring pit trap. But then it was yank spikes out of pit trap bottom, use them as pitons to climb back out, then hurl them at the nearest kobolds. The trap hatch wedged open with a weapon. The rats didn't even managed to get anybody sick.

  7. Gad, please disregard my several typos.