Chapter 4 – Over Hill and Under Hill
“Damn, JR, are we ever going to get to a fight?” Terrence asked. “We’ve been walking for like, days. We’re almost over the mountains for crying out loud.”
“You aren’t almost over the mountains,” the GM replied irritably. “And now it’s raining.”
“Oh, that’s great.”
“Maybe you should quit messing with JR,” Fred said to Terrence in a low voice.
“The rain has turned into a thunderstorm. Your ponies are getting scared.”
“Well, what does Gandalf say?” Terrence asked snidely. He was still clearly annoyed.
“Gandalf is trying to get you over the mountains in one piece,” the GM snapped. He rolled the dice behind his screen. He kind of shook his head. “The storm gets worse. Do you want to stop and find shelter?”
“Hell, no, we keep going. I want to fight something,” Terrence snapped.
“Okay, you asked for it.” The GM rolled his dice again. His eyes widened and he picked up one of his many notebooks.
“This isn’t good,” Mike Nyugen said.
“Why?” Martin asked.
The GM rolled his dice again and checked his book.
“He was rolling for a random monster. He must have rolled something pretty unique or he wouldn’t have to roll again and look up the result.”
“Okay, so you’re picking your way along the slippery rocks and a boulder bounces on the rocky ledge above the back of the lines and tumbles down the mountain.”
“Holy crap!” Eric said. “Who’s in the back?”
“Bombur is,” Mike Patterson answered. “Because he’s fat.”
“Well, he takes two points of damage from debris.”
“Keep going,” Terrence ordered. “And watch out for landslides or whatever.”
“Okay, and in a few minutes another boulder goes sailing past you, vertically.”
“Wait, vertically?” Steve repeated. “Like, it didn’t fall?”
“Boulders usually fall horizontally,” the GM replied.
“So, like, someone threw it?” Dave asked hesitantly.
“Martin, have Bilbo make a perception check,” Nyugen said.
“We’ll look too,” Fred said, and he and George tossed their dice.
Martin dropped his and they reported their scores.
“Okay, well, you stare in to the dark, rainy night and you think you see some giant, humanoid shapes moving around,” the GM said.
“Rock giants?” Mike Baker blurted. “We’re in the middle of a bunch of rock giants playing catch in the rain?”
“Seems so,” the GM replied calmly.
“Well, hell,” Seth said. “Terrence, we’ve got to find shelter. We’re going to get killed out here.”
“Oh, fine, I guess,” he replied sullenly. “Martin, have Bilbo scout ahead and find a cave or something.”
“Are you crazy?” Martin snapped. “There are rock giants out there! Playing baseball or something! Bilbo isn’t going anywhere. He’s scared out of his mind.”
“Great. Well, never send a halfling to a dwarf’s job,” he sighed. “Kili, Fili, you two go find a cave for us.”
Fred and George looked at each other. “Alright,” they said doubtfully, and in unison. They briefly retreated to a corner with the GM and then came back. “Okay, we found a cave,” Fred said.
“No way, dude,” Eric said, “You guys were gone for like, five minutes.”
“Do you want to stay out here with the stone giants?” George asked sharply.
“Okay, let’s go,” Terrence said.
The party followed Kili and Fili to a medium-sized cave that was dry and more importantly, out of the way of the rock giants.
“Gandalf says, ‘Caves in these wild areas are seldom unoccupied. Are you sure about this?’”
Fred and George rolled their eyes. “Fine, fine, we’ll take another look around now that we’ve got the light.” They rolled their dice.
The GM took note of their scores.
“Bilbo has a bad feeling about this,” Martin said.
“Then how about you make a perception check?” Terrence said.
“Okay,” he agreed.
“Make a will save first,” the GM instructed.
Martin rolled his die. “That’s, um, not so good.”
“No. You’re at a minus four for your perception roll.”
“Damn it.” He rolled again. “So, um, lucky 13?”
“You don’t find anything, but you’re still pretty rattled from getting up the mountain.”
“Well, it’s dry in here, so let’s make camp and get some sleep and hope those rock giants go away,” Terrence said.
“Do you want to set a watch?” the GM asked.
“Nah. The rock giants can’t get in here and we checked the whole cave. There’s nothing to hide behind. We’ll be fine.”
“Um, okay, well, you set up camp. And go to sleep. Without a watch.”
Martin looked at Nyugen. “Um, should we set up a watch?”
“Nah. If we’re going to get jumped, it doesn’t matter if we have a watch. If we’re not going to get jumped, we shouldn’t be tired. See?”
“Okay,” Martin said doubtfully. “Well, Bilbo does what the dwarves do, I guess.”
“So everyone goes to sleep,” the GM said. “Martin, make a listen check.”
Martin rolled his die. “Hey, that’s a 21!”
“Okay, you don’t sleep very well. You keep dreaming about a crack in the floor and you wake up and see the ponies being dragged into a secret passage in the back of the cave. What do you do?”
“Can I see what’s dragging the ponies?”
“No, but Gandalf warned you about goblins in the mountains.”
“Yes!” Patterson said.
The GM glared at him.
“We’re finally getting to a fight.”
The GM shook his head. “Martin, what does Bilbo do?”
“I, um, yell as loud as I can, ‘Wake up!’”
“Alright, all the dwarves wake up. Bilbo’s warning negates the goblins’ surprise round, so everyone roll for initiative.”
“About time,” Seth said. The other players seemed to agree with this sentiment.
“I’m not sure about being ambushed,” Juan said. “I think we should have set a watch.”
“Dude, there’s like fourteen of us, and a high-level wizard,” Fred said.
“Yeah,” Amal said. “I’m pretty sure the odds are in our favor. There isn’t that much room for enemies to get in here. I mean, unless that secret passage is way bigger than it seems to be right now.”
“Funny you should say that,” the GM said. “The back of the cave is a door and goblins start pouring through it.”
Martin was the only one who didn’t like this turn of events. The other players were clearly pleased by the prospect of combat. The combat was long and chaotic. There was a lot of cursing, the GM felt the strain of trying to keep track of fourteen players and twice that number of goblins. But in the end, the dwarves were outnumbered, and the goblins captured them.
“What about Gandalf?” Martin asked.
“He throws down a minimized fireball and disappears before the goblins can grab him. Eight of them are dead on the floor. But there’s still too many and you’re overwhelmed. Your weapons are taken and you’re all chained together and marched down into the dark goblin passages.”
“This sucks,” Terrence said. The others agreed.
“I tried to warn you,” the GM replied with a shrug. “You completely lose your way and the goblins start whipping you…”
“We are so going to kill these guys,” Patterson snapped.
“You’re taken down, down, down and finally to a dimly lit, large area. There are goblins rifling through your packs and planning to make dinner with your ponies. You’re taken to a crude wooden throne. Sitting on the throne is a very large but muscular goblin with a crude sort of wooden crown on his head. He looks at you and says, ‘Well, well, well, dwarves on our front porch. What are you doing here?’”
“‘Trying to get out of the rain,’” Terrence answered.
“‘Obviously. But why are you here in our mountains?’ the Goblin King asks.”
“‘Trying to get over the mountains to, uh, visit relatives.’”
“Okay, you need to roll a bluff check,” the GM instructed.
“Um, 12? Goblins are stupid, right?”
“Okay, goblins are stupid, but not that stupid. Another goblin approaches the king and shows him Thorin’s sword. The king howls with rage. ‘You bring an elven goblin-killer into my realm! You’re here to slaughter us all!’”
“Ah, crap, we’re dead,” Terrence sighed.
“Suddenly all the lights go out. You see a blue flash cut the Goblin King’s head off and you hear Gandalf yelling, ‘Follow me!’ and feel someone tugging on your chains.”
“Well, hell, we run for it,” Terrence said.
“Okay, in the confusion you get to a passage and Gandalf easily cuts you free with his sword. He also gives Thorin back his sword.”
“Great! Let’s get out of here!”
“So, how are you going to do that?” the GM asked.
No one had a good answer.
“Does, um, Gandalf, know the way out?” Terrence finally asked.
The GM sighed. “Fine. ‘Keep up; the goblins are sure to be following us.’”
“Wait,” Martin said. “Halflings can’t run as fast as dwarves.”
“Oh, fine, Dori will carry him for a little while,” Nyugen said.
“But someone else better carry him when I get tired. He pushes me into the heavy burden category.”
The players grumbled but passed off Bilbo. Patterson’s Bombur was carrying him and complaining loudly when the goblins caught up to them again.
“Roll for initiative, everyone,” the GM said a bit too cheerfully.
The players’ movements were hampered but in the narrow passages they had an advantage over the goblins and chased them off again.
“We are getting some good XP tonight,” Seth said.
“If we live through this,” Martin retorted.
“You’re not even fighting anything,” Dave countered.
“Well, he’s right, though,” Juan said. “I’m getting kind of low on hit points and we still haven’t figured a way out of this maze.”
“Stay calm everyone,” Terrence snapped. “JR said he wasn’t looking for any TPKs, right?”
“Hey, the rock giants were a random encounter,” the GM replied. “Anyway, Gandalf’s leading with his wand. Who’s at the back of the line?”
“Whoever’s stuck carrying our thief.”
The GM sort of shook his head. “Okay then. You keep going down the twisty passages.”
The players were more interested in discussing their experience points than worried about getting out of the caves.
The GM rolled his die. “Okay, who’s in the back?”
The players briefly discussed this. “Dori, with Bilbo,” Nyugen answered. “I hope you’re grateful.”
“Yeah, thanks,” Martin said.
“Make a perception check, both of you.”
Martin and Nyugen rolled their dice, and the result wasn’t good.
“Okay, Dori, a goblin grabs your legs. Make a dexterity check.”
“Um, this is really not going to go well,” Nguyen said. “Dwarves aren’t known for being good at dex checks.” He rolled his die. “Ooo, yeah, that’s um, that’s a three.”
“I’m going to die,” Martin said, and put his head in his hands.
“Hey, can we attack the goblins yet?” Amal asked.
“No, they have the surprise round. Okay, Dori drops Bilbo. Alright, so the goblins have snuck up on you and they attack…” The first round passed and everyone rolled for initiative for the next round.
“You skipped me,” Martin said. “I should go before Steve in the initiative order.”
“I’m going to have to deal with what happened to Bilbo later.”
“Oh, man, I’m dead.”
“Probably,” Dave agreed.
After several combat rounds, the party beat the goblins back and finally found an exit.
“Is everyone here?” Terrence asked.
“Everyone except Bilbo,” the GM answered. “We’ll end here and you let me know what you want to do. Martin, I’ll talk with you later and we’ll play out what happens to Bilbo.”
“Okay. I’m not dead?”
“No, not yet anyway.”
“Okay, well, that’s something,” he said, looking far from reassured.
“Come on, come on, give us the XPs,” Seth said.
The GM sighed and distributed the experience points.