This is a game report from the 1000 Isles campaign written and run by Sean Goodison. Disclaimer: Yes, I re-purpose a lot of info from pre-written modules. But isn’t the art of DMing about weaving those moments together into something bigger? This story still belongs to me and my players. I hope you enjoy it.
In the heart of a typical summer on Morden Isle the town of Shale is alive with trade. Situated halfway around the islands large, circular bay this is the home to many hunters, trappers, fishermen and merchants. While not the largest town, boasting less than a thousand residents, there is a constant flow of travellers moving through the port usually on their way to other larger destinations.
Today, merchants from nearby Harport roam the streets looking for furs, fish and wine. Local fishermen have taken to the harbour looking for today’s catch while the rest of the townsfolk go about their business ashore.
Each of our adventurers is also going about their own business. In a training yard behind the local barracks a Dwarf Cleric named Fargrim puts the local guards through their paces. Downtown at a tavern known as ‘The Duck, Duck, Goose’ a Half-elf Bard called Chad Riffburner delights the patrons with his music. Standing out in the crowded marketplace is a Half-dwarf Barbarian attempting to sell a crystal doorknob that he has mistaken for a gigantic diamond, his name is Granite. Flitting between the stalls and keeping a low profile is Valere, a Tiefling Rogue on the lookout for her contact. On the outskirts of town an Elf Duid named Atticus O’Sullivan approaches the walled estate of a local druis named Old Len. Inside the estate Old Len entertains his young nephew Tomi Strongfoot, a halfling fighter.
Atticus is just about to knock on Old Len’s door when he notices a band of goblins making their way into town. Having been away from society for so long he doesn’t react instantly, choosing to watch events unfold. Soon more goblins appear behind the first and it is apparent that they are here to raid. The cries of startled villagers prompts Atticus to action and he unslings his longbow, moving into the brush to stalk and thin out the attackers.
When goblins start crawling over the walls of Old Len’s estate the aged druid tasks Tomi with racing into town and raising the garrison. He ensures his nephew that he can hold his own here. Tomi races into town and quickly finds Fargrim and his trainees. The xenophobic dwarf is reluctant to believe the halfling at first but soon the sounds of combat reach the yard and the two of them lead the guardsmen out into the fray.
Deep in their cups, the patrons of ‘The Duck, Duck, Goose’ don’t immediately notice when a goblin kicks in the front door. What does get their attention however is the sudden stop to the music followed by Chad dashing across tabletops to skewer the intuder with his rapier. Inspired to action by the bard’s words the drunkards take up arms against those goblins foolish enough to enter the establishment.
As the raiders make their way to the dock-side markets they run headlong into a battle-hungry barbarian. Annoyed at his inability to find a buyer for his diamond Granite takes his greataxe and charges the goblins, laughing and taunting as they try to fight back.
Trying to keep out of danger Valere retreats towards the docks and comes across a merchant who is loading his small boat with valuables. A frightened family stands before him pleading to be let onboard themselves. Valere steps in and tells the family that everyone has to take care of themselves. The family turns on her with venomous words but soon enough the merchant pushes out onto the water and they are forced to go elsewhere.
Back in the center of town Fargrim and Tomi find themselves pitted against a small group of orcs who had joined the raid. Catching them as they exit the town’s church Fargrim organises his men around the door to create a deadly bottleneck. Every greenskin that tries to flee is swiftly cut down.
Soon the raid is over and the remaining goblins flee into the woods. An opportunistic Valere decides that there might be some valuables lying unattended in the market and tries to do a bit of looting. But before she can find anything she is discovered by Haytham Throm, the town’s defacto mayor and her contact in Shale. Having completed a robbery job for the Bounders back in Harport she was to deliver the prize, a silver urn filled with a hero’s ashes, to Haytham.
He quickly realises what Valere is doing and admonishes her for not keeping a low profile before taking her back to his office. With the urn delivered he hands over some money and tells Valere that he has another job lined up. He has recieved word from a number of vilagers that certain individuals performed amazing acts of heroism during the raid and that these heros might be useful. With loot and hostages taken by the goblins a team will need to be formed to retrieve them and the town guard cannot spare the men. Haytham tells Valere that her next assignment is to accompany this group on their mission and to act as his eyes and ears, he needs to know if these people can be trusted.
Moving through the town Haytham tracks down each of the heros and offers them the rescue job. Everyone is willing to help for a price although Granite is simply happy to kill more goblins and the coin saavy Chad gets half his payment up front. And so the party is formed. On the short walk to the edge of town Haytham also confides in the group that the towns church was ransacked and their relic stolen. This relic is responsible for powering the local healer’s divine magic and without it, many of those wounded in the attack will take weeks, or even months, to recover. If the heros are able, Haytham asks that they find and return the relic.
The sun is setting over the treetops to the west and casting long, foreboding shadows towards the town as the heros approach Morden Forest. The direction of the raiders’ retreat is well known but once they push their way into the underbrush and the forest closes in around them the trail becomes harder to follow.
At home in the wilderness, Atticus takes point and easily picks up the trail. He leads the party deeper into the forest and even manages to point out the human footprints among the goblins. After about a mile’s journey he tells the party the orc’s trail has turned off to the south but that the goblins have carried on westward with the hostages. They all agree that saving the villagers is of the utmost importance and carry on west as well.
A strange sound pierces the twilight a little while later and venturing slightly off their path the heros come across a deer with its leg stuck in a trap. As they discuss whether to free it or eat it Valere arrives from her rear-watch position and strongly suggests they free it. Atticus inspects the wound and surmises that if released the deer will in fact heal. Fargrim pries the trap open with a crowbar from his pack and the deer tumbles away from them. Stopping at the edge of the clearing it turns its head to look back. “Thanks you, mortals,” it says in Sylvan. Valere is the only one who speaks the language of the Fey and tells the others that they have likely just freed a fey spirit of the forest.
Eventually the sounds of goblins shouting can be heard ahead and when firelight becomes visible, flickering through the trees, the party stops to plan. Granite is in favour of charging in and taking them by surprise and Atticus reveals to the party that he can command the vines and roots of the earth to hold some of their enemy in place. The heroes are so busy planning their attack that they are almost ambushed by a goblin patrol.
Leaping out of the bushes in dark, mud-camoflaged leather and with black skulls painted on their faces comes a quartet of goblins. The two in front engage Granite and Fargrim while the others move out of the brush. Granite’s greataxe splits one goblin in half while an arrow streaks by from Atticus bow and lodges itself in the eye of one of the rear goblins. Fargrim holds ground against his assailant and when Chad moves up next to him they finish the greenskin off with warhammer and rapier. Tomi dashes past the others to take out the final goblin. A volley of bolts flies out from the flank and one strikes Granite. Valare skips around a shrub to find two goblins reloading crossbows, their faces covered in the same black skull paint. She quickly slices up one of them and turns to see Granite leaping blindly over the top of the shrub and landing his greataxe in the other goblin’s head.
With the scuffle over the party turns their attention to the sounds from the goblin camp, it seems that no alarm has been raised. Fargrim heals Granite’s crossbow wounds while Valare volunteers to scout ahead. As a stealth expert (and with a natural 20) she uses the cover of darkness and manages to get right up to the treeline. The goblin camp has been set in a clear field about 80ft wide and 30ft deep. Strangely enough the goblins have made two separate camps, one surrounded by the black-skull goblins and the other surrounded by goblins wearing armour made from turtle shells. Valare counts twenty goblins in total, evenly split. On the other side of the clearing, between the two campsites, is a number of wooden stakes planted in the ground. The Shale villagers are tied up here.
Valare returns and reports to the party. They decide upon a divide and conquer approach with some magical trickery thrown in. The rogue skirts back around the campsite to where the hostages are being held and waits for the signal.
Chad, magically disguised as an orc, bursts from the forest and into the clearing. He doesn’t speak a word of goblin and instead points behind him, screams, and then falls to the ground. An illusory pool of blood spreads from him. The turtle-shell goblins leap up and quickly form a group of seven to go investigate, three others stay behind but move to the treeline and stand watch, peering out into the forest. With both camps distracted Valere begins to move between the stakes, cutting the villagers bonds and pointing them back to the edge of the woods where they are to wait.
On the other side of the field the rest of the party watches as two black-skull goblins leave their camp and make for the fallen “orc”. As they get near however Chad’s illusion fades and he leaps to his feet. With his flying-V lute in hand he lets out an extremely loud and powerful chord that slams the two goblins to the ground. Even the turtle-shell’s at the forest edge are caught in the blast and only one manages to keep his feet. With battle joined Granite finally gets his chance to charge and as he does so Tomi and Fargrim follow him. From a tree branch above Atticus weaves his druidic magic causing roots to burst from the ground around the black-skull campfire. A few goblins manage to kick free of the grasping roots but most of them are caught in place. One goblins is slow in rising and a vine wraps around his neck, pulling him and pinning him to the ground.
Chad joins the fight around the campfire as the team cuts through the entangled greenskins. Granite’s laugh echoes about the camp as he swings his greataxe and Tomi moves between enemies, cutting down those goblins who are still trying to free themselves. Chad spots the prone goblin who has just freed himself and kicks him square in the ribs before he can rise flinging him into the campfire. Fargrim invokes the name of Moradin, one of the old gods, and swings his warhammer with incredible speed. Unfortunately his opponent dodges many of his blows and when Fargrim puts too much weight behind one attack his miss sends him stumbling into the fire. Pushing off the charred goblin beneath him he manages to avoid taking much damage from the heat. Outside the circle of firelight the lone turtle-shell begins his charge across the open field but when he reaches about halfway Valare leaps from her hiding spot and intercepts him. Approaching from behind she hamstrings him with one blade, sending him to the ground, and then viciously lops of his head with the second.
With the black-skulls thinned out the group of turtle-shells returns from the forest. An arrow from Atticus finds its way into one of them and Granite and Tomi race across the field to battle. Chad and Fargrim finish off the last black-skulls as behind them Granite trips on the decapitated goblin head of Valere’s victim and Tomi can’t stop himself from crashing into his back. It’s all the chance the advancing goblins need and Tomi ends up taking a brutal charge from them. Granite stands over his new companions unconcious body and cleaves one goblin in retaliation. Valare makes use of her throwing daggers to support the barbarian who is soon joined by Chad and Fargrim, but not before he suffers a number of shallow cuts from the goblin swords.
With the Bard, Cleric and Barbarian standing together the few remaining goblins lose their nerve and turn to flee. Most are cut down before they can escape and Valare retrieves a throwing dagger from a corpse in order to make another goblin fall. In the end only one goblin reaches the tree line and Atticus breathes deeply before letting one final arrow fly. Though darkness and foliage block his sight the arrow strikes true and a goblinoid cry is heard.
The party regroups with the villagers by the firepit that doesn’t smell like burnt goblin and Fargrim tends to Tomi’s wound. After a short breather however they decide that it would be best to head straight back to Shale instead of waiting til dawn. Any manner of beast could stumble upon the campsite during the night and with a dozen villagers to protect things could get messy.
The trek back takes a lot longer in the dark and with villagers in tow. It is almost dawn when the party breaks from the trees and Shale appears before them. The villagers thank the heros emphatically but they are all from the outskirts of the town and as such don’t have much they can reward them with apart from their gratitude. Haytham is found easily enough and he looks as if he hasn’t slept either. Dark bags hang under his eyes and his usually tidy appearance has frayed somewhat.
With the villagers returned Haytham makes his payments. However the heros are forced to report that the relic was nowhere to be found and that they suspected the hostages were taken as a distraction for any search party. They tell Haytham that it is likely to have been carried off by the orcs who turned south and he nods his understanding. A worried smile spreads across his face and he claps his hands together. He tells the heroes to get some rest and that if they are willing he foresees much more work for them.
The fact is, there is already a situation brewing in Shale. But our heroes will discover that in a day or two.