D&D Diary – The Forge of Fury – Session 1

Tales From the Yawning Portal. Part 2

We delve a dungeon deep, filled with orcs, troglodytes, duergar and worse. We also unknowingly unlock the end game quest. And kill a character.

Forge Fury 5e Foundry thumb
Ooh, that Forge looks absolutely furious! The dwarves look a little bored though.

The Saviors of Phandalin, The Defenders of Trollgate, The Seamaidens’ Champions, The Zookeeper of Dragon Tower, The Proprietors of Trollskull Tavern. Our heroes have built up quite a reputation in their adventures through the Lost Mine of Phandelver and Waterdeep: Dragon Heist. But sometimes we want to take a break from the niceties, the politics, and more importantly, all the RULES of life in the big city. Sometimes, we just want to crawl around a dungeon, killing whatever we want with impunity.

That’s where Tales From the Yawning Portal comes in. A collection of some of the best (or at least infamous) adventures from D&D History. We previously journeyed to The Sunless Citadel, a re-skinned 3rd Edition module that had a turf war between kobolds and goblins, a bratty white dragon, a laboratory filled with monsters and a deranged druid who could enslave people due to the mystical properties of an evil plant called the Gulthias Tree. I also added in an arboreal vampire and the remnants of a forgotten dragon cult.

TFTYP Cover title
 According to the rogues’ gallery behind Durnan, the villain of this adventure is the giant with the blue eye named Tordek, except that he doesn’t appear anywhere in the book, nor is there any giant.

The next adventure in the series was originally a sequel to Sunless called the Forge of Fury, although to be blunt, the links that join these two adventures are virtually non-existent. Your heroes explore a lost Dwarven stronghold that has been overrun by orcs, troglodytes, and worse. There is also a clan of Underdark dwarves called the Duergar who have tried to restart the magical Forge in the lowest level of the dungeon. And there’s a black dragon lurking about and he’s a real nasty bastard.

My players are more powerful than the adventure’s recommended level, so I’ll be upping the challenge rating on most of the bad guys. But the biggest challenge will come when my player realize that these monsters fight tactically. These monsters will make full use of any advantages they have; fighting behind cover, flanking, perimeter defenses, calling for reinforcements, etc. Just getting into this dungeon is going to be a nightmare. I can’t wait to see how my players overcome these challenges.

Forge Fury 3e Cover full
The Original 3rd edition cover. This encounter looks awesome! And yet never occurs during the adventure. But I’ll rearrange things so it can, and make leaving the dungeon a nightmare too.

Speaking of players, the group consists of Andrew’s human fighter Regizar, James’ elven wizard Riandon, and Jack’s dragonborn thief Eragon. The fourth player, Owen’s dwarven cleric Geraldine is not here today. We played it off that Geraldine got drunk (again) in town and that she will somehow catch up with us later. But she definitely will show up because, Spoiler Alert! During the course of this adventure, one character goes insane, one turns ghoulish, one turns pacifist, and one doesn’t make it out alive. I’m also going to add in some details that will tie this adventure with The Lost Mine of Phandelver and some foreshadowing to my far distant future end game that I’m sure my surviving players will forget all about when it is finally revealed. Okay enough blather, onto adventure.

When last we left our heroes, they had foiled a plot by some rogue drow, uncovered the secret of a powerful ally, and saved the Seamaidens’ Faire (a travelling carnival) from disastrous ruin. They also managed to sink a huge ship in the process, but, you know, ship happens. Later, back at the tavern our heroes run, their ghostly bartender, Lif, finally replaced the dining room table that was broken during a bar fight. This new table has been exquisitely carved with a detailed map of the Sword Coast, the region we hold our adventures in.

Realms Table Map wood
Not that my players ever notice these things, but I also threw in the locations of future dungeons such as the Lost Shrine of Tamoachan and White Plume Mountain.

Incredibly, among the carvings of this table there are some notes written directly to the players. The notes refer to something called The Ageless One but a key passage has been scratched out. When they asked Lif about it, he vaguely recalled that the table was delivered over 140 years ago during the Time of Troubles. In fact, it was delivered shortly before his death. Who delivered it? When was it carved? How did Lif die? He can’t quite remember. Also on the map are a number of locations that don’t match the “official” map of the Sword Coast. These refer to other Yawning Portal adventures that we will we play through in the future.  Past, Present and Future hints and clues? Yes, this will all lead into my endgame adventure also called The Ageless One; full details soon. But for now, one label of note, renames the nearby town of Amphail to Blasingdell.

Blasingdell is the “official” listed town of the adventure, but that town doesn’t exist in the Forgotten Realms. Sort of. First, the official setting of 3rd Edition (the land this adventure was originally written for) is the land of Greyhawk, not the Forgotten Realms. Here they placed Blasingdell somewhere in the Drachensgrab Hills, but I can find no map to verify it. For the Forgotten Realms, the book suggests putting the village northwest of Mirabar, far to the north near the Spine of the World. But I don’t want my players to make a 3-month trek to the frozen north and back. So, I moved it way south. There are still mountains there, it’ll be fine. I’ll just pretend that Amphail (an easy two day’s journey from Waterdeep) was once called Blasingdell hundreds of years ago, but everyone’s forgotten about it. More importantly, my players have seen the name Blasingdell once before.

LMP Handout10 Dwarven Map book
One of my better map concepts, and one of my lesser finished products.

Way back in Lost Mine of Phandelver, Session 14, the players found an ancient map of bound metal plates that formed the cover of a book. This map depicts a series of standing stones that lead to the ancient dwarven stronghold of Khundrukar. But they had no idea where the starting point was. Until now. Anyone up for a slight road trip? And yes, I planted the breadcrumbs for this adventure almost two years ago. I’m a DM who can play the real long con if I have to. And I thought we would play more often than once a month.

For this map, I couldn’t use a standard topographical map with a big, giant “X” on it, because my players would have run straight to that dungeon. By using a pictograph map with an unknown starting point, I was able to keep the adventure hidden until the players earn the knowledge of that location. Maybe they show the map to a dwarven scholar, or a mapmaker, or Volo, or in my case, get presented with a mysterious table that somehow predicts the future. Either way, adding this second layer to the discovery makes the map seem more real, and subsequently make the world seem more real.

LMP Handout10 Dwarven Map common
The only reason I did all this nonsense is to delay the start of the adventure, but I never thought it would be over a year before we got back to it.

After a pleasant and uneventful ride through the countryside, our heroes arrive at the quaint village of Amphail, aka Blasingdell. Here, I read the straight-from-the-book description of the town, major buildings, main NPCs, and such, and I wait for the players to tell me what they want to do. I just want them to ask someone, anyone about the standing stones. Literally the entire town knows the location of the first stone. They don’t do this. Instead, they wander aimlessly around town, poking in stores, admiring statues. I don’t know; maybe they expected the stone to magically appear around the next corner.

Finally, exasperated, I had the owner of the general store talk to the players and completely unbidden say, “You look like adventurous folk. There’s a rumor of a lost dwarven kingdom nearby with a magical forge at its heart. If you were to uncover any weapons from this forge. I would gladly pay you twice their value.” There, now they have that plot hook too.

As if a switch turned on in the player’s heads, they said, “Hey! We’re looking for that thing! Do you know of any ancient rocks or boulders nearby?” Finally.

“You must mean the Picnic Stone,” the convenient shopkeeper says.

“The Picnic Stone?”

“Oh, yeah. It’s this huge standing stone planted by Druids or something hundreds of years ago. It’s in the big field outside of town where we hold all our festivals and picnics and stuff.” Our heroes couldn’t run out of that store fast enough.

Forge Fury map 5e ext DM
A very lovely map of the immediate area that doesn’t add anything to the adventure.

Lo and behold, in the middle of the big field outside of town there is a giant Standing Stone with several families enjoying a lovely lunch outside on this warm summer day. The stone perfectly matches the depiction on the map and it even has a carved hole right through the center. Looking through the hole, the players can see the rolling foothills of the Sword Mountains to the north and it looks just like the carving on the book and presumably leads to the next marker (which they cannot see from this distance).

Carefully tracking their way with a few Easy skill checks, they come upon the next Standing Stone. It also has a hole that faces further up into the mountains. Looking through, they can see the rock formation “The Watchers” as referred to and silhouetted on the map. Journeying on with a few Medium skill checks, and ignoring the fact that no one brought anything to go climbing with, they head up into the mountains. Unsurprisingly, they come upon another Stone that points them toward a lonely craggy peak that juts out like a gnarly black tooth against the twilight sky. This is Stone Tooth; the secret entrance to Khundrukar.

Forge Fury 3e bw Stone Tooth
I much prefer this “primitive” sketch from the orignal print that evokes the uniqueness of the location. Even if the well maintained path to the entrance defeats the whole “lost dungeon” vibe.

As the party approached, I tried to entice them with some other areas of exploration, some with alternative entrances to the dungeon; the odd jumble of rocks with a wisp of smoke rising up to the south, the small lake slightly down slope to the east, even a lovely overlook from which to view the main entrance without being seen. Forget all that, its full steam ahead to the obviously guarded entrance. No stealth, no prep, no plan, just kick in the front door. Except things didn’t go as the players expected, which is odd because what should you expect with no plan and no prep?

So, our carefree adventurers are skipping into the kill-zone when they come upon two supposed-to-be-easy-to-kill-quietly orc guards. They get the drop on one of them, killing him instantly and chopping off his head. I should mention that I foolishly gave they players a “side mission” from the town guard who will pay a 10-gold bounty for every orc killed. The players took it upon themselves to “prove” their kills by cutting off all their heads. This was suggested by Jack, the least blood-thirsty of the group. This mission is about to get pretty gruesome, pretty quick. Unfortunately, they fail to immediately kill the other guard who cries out, “Invaders! Seal the gate.” That orc turns to run away toward the main door, when he is stabbed in the back and killed. And decapitated of course; that’s 20 gold so far. Then all hell broke loose.

Munchkin Door
Not the first time they’ve used this strategy, and probably not the last.

Suddenly, guttural voices cry out from above, faint horns can be heard coming from inside the mountain, and the players are pelted with dozens of arrows coming from all directions. Everyone takes numerous hits. This is when the players realize that they are standing in a small gulley with sheer cliff faces on both sides leading to the entrance around a blind corner. The defending orcs have full cover while they rain death upon the players. Our heroes will have to run through this gauntlet and pray that the front door is still open or retreat. But as we know, when dealing with teenagers, retreat is never an option.

Smartly, Regizar and Eragon each grab a dead orc, hold it over their heads as a shield and sprint down the Valley of Death. The plan was going great until they hit a flight of steps going down. They both fail their Athletics checks and heroes and headless orcs go tumbling down the stairs allowing me to fire a few more arrows to soften them up. Meanwhile, James casts Spider Climb and uses it to scramble up the cliff side toward the archers. This had the added benefit of giving him a little cover and I was only able to hit him with one arrow.

Forge Fury map 5e Mountain Door DM
Map 1 – The Mountain Door – DM map. BTW, the adventure gives an excellent breakdown of the orcs’ defenses (and how long it takes to mobilize them) and I highly recommend using them. Your players will hate you for it.

Still the players are taking way more damage than they expected and they haven’t even made it to the front door, which is quickly closing. They aren’t going to make it. Regizar, who was also holding onto one of the decapitated orcs’ head (that’s 10 gold, he wasn’t about to leave it lying around) tries to throw it so that it would get stuck in between the closing doors, keeping them open. Regizar failed and the head sailed through the narrowing doorway and into the black void beyond just before the doors closed with a definitive “Clang” while arrows still peppered the party. Using their meat-shields as a battering ram, the two tried to smash through the doors before they could be barred shut. Eragon just bounced of the metal frame while Regizar…

Meanwhile Riandon has climbed up to a point parallel with the orc’s arrow slits. I had no idea what his plan was. I thought he might just start throwing Magic Missiles into the room. Instead, he asked, “Can I see through the slits into the room with the archers?” Sure, I reply. “Then I cast Misty Step into the room, just to the left of all of them.” Damn, this kid is getting smarter and smarter.

Forge Fury map 3e Mountain Door PC
Map 1 – The Mountain Door – PC Map. As good as the modern maps are, I prefer the simpler 3rd edition versions. Check out my Resources Page where I’ll put DM and PC versions of both editions.  

Okay, one of them has made it inside the walls, what’s next? To reflect their higher level, I had doubled the number of archers to 8 although two of them were currently closing the front door. Not that it mattered, because James launched a Fireball, incinerating the entire room and burning every last orc to a crisp. That’s 6 more deep-fried orc skulls, and 60 more in gold. Important DM Tip – Dungeon design is way harder once the players can cast 3rd level spell.

Mean-meanwhile, where was I? Ah yes, Regizar had just run headlong into the heavy metal front doors trying to smash into the room before they could be sealed. He rolls a huge success. The doors burst open before the two orcs on the inside could bar them shut. Sadly, for one of those orcs, he is thrown backwards by force. That orc stumbles ten feet then he tumbles over the edge of an enormous chasm that encompasses the entire area and cuts this once grand entryway into two narrow ledges. The orc’s screams go on forever until they simply fade away in the distance, yet still no one heard it hit the bottom.

Forge Fury 5e Rope Bridge thumb
The infamous rope bridge of death. I wonder if every campaign has someone putting an axe to this thing?

Unfortunately for Regizar, he also could not stop his momentum and he scraped and skidded, scrambling to avoid sliding over the side to join the doomed orc at the bottom of a bottomless pit. Eragon runs into the room just in time to see his companion plummet over the edge of the cliff to his death just as a burst of fire explodes out of a door to the north, three orcs enter from a door to the south, and spears start landing at his feet, thrown by other orcs on the far side of the chasm. Then the whole world “glitched” and everything was the same, the fall, the explosion, the orcs, and the spears. Except now Regizar was clinging to a frayed rope that was dangling off the rope bridge that ran the span of the chasm and connected the two ledges.

What just happened? Was the bridge always there? Am I seeing things? Does Andrew have plot armor? The answers are Something, Yes, Yes, and Sort of. This isn’t the first time something weird has occurred ever since Regizar began wearing those magical goggles called The Zeitbrille and it won’t be the last. Soon I’ll have to do a full post detailing this part of the adventure, but for now you can read the first episode of the saga in The Ageless One – Part 1.

Zeitbrille
I’ve gotten a lot of mileage of this one prop. Even the puzzle in the back makes a reappearance here. I hope my players remembered to pack all the pieces.

By the way, I love to have these types of events happen to my players. I’m always looking for moments of mortal peril beyond just combat, missed traps, and a single failed save. And I love to scare the players but not arbitrarily kill them. So, I give them plenty of opportunities to save themselves from calamity. I gave Regizar a DC10 save to stop his slide. He failed and I used this as a perfect time to engage the bizarre Zeitbrille ability that always seems to miraculously save his life time and time again as part of the developing and more sinister storyline. But if it had been any other player or if the Zeitbrille did not exist, then I would further allow a DC 12 to grab onto the ledge, then a DC 15 to grab onto the rope bridge. Any player could have tried to catch him or help him and roll with advantage. Failing all that, I would still allow someone to do the classic cinematic trope of grabbing the character at the last second, both hands clutching on to other. That’s 4 separate saves to avoid disaster and have an epic heroic moment. And if everything fails, at least it would be a dramatic and well-deserved death.

Drow Gunslinger
Those damn drow gun slingers are so cool and I hate them.

Back to the present, Eragon is being swarmed by orcs which is driving his player Jack nuts because he is terrified of his character’s low hit points. Regizar is useless because he’s trying to climb an unanchored rope and not die, and Riandon is MIA at his orc barbeque. In desperation, Eragon quick draws the pistol that he (and the entire party in fact) were rewarded with back in the Waterdeep campaign. I hate these guns and regret allowing them in the game. And it doesn’t matter how many restrictions, detrimental effects, and discussions I have about responsible gun ownership I put on them, 3 out of 4 these teenagers believe that every problem can be solved with gun. We are doomed as a society.

But of course, just to spite me, these guns probably saved Eragon’s life. One orc takes a shot at point-blank range and is killed instantly. The orc crumples up and falls over the edge into the abyss. Regizar yells up from his dangling rope, “Don’t shoot them into the hole, we need their heads!” All the orcs stepped back a step, having never seen such a weapon, giving the besieged dragonborn a much needed break. (A subtle and story-driven way to give your player a free round of attack, and not kill him.) But once they realized that Eragon had to reload, they attacked with renewed ferocity. (You can’t give them too much of a break.)

The brief respite allowed Riandon to enter the fray from the now torched archers’ station. He rolls max damage with his beefed-up Ray of Frost (his go-to cantrip) and kills another orc. Fortunately, this one didn’t fall into the pit. Andrew is struggling to climb back up on to the rope bridge, but the orcs on the other side have stopped throwing spears and are now furiously chopping at the ropes on their end which will send the bridge (and Andrew) plummeting back into the chasm. Again.

Forge Fury 3e bw Bridge
I can’t understand why this orc just stands there while the stupid heroes walk across the bridge. Mine were actively trying to hack this bridge apart. From the 3rd Edition printing.

Just as Regizar scrambles back onto the rope bridge, about 10 feet from the ledge, the orcs snap the last strand of rope. Here we go again! I cannot stress how important these moments are, and to milk them for all they’re worth. Combat dangers are a dime a dozen and tend to blur into one. But averting death (and even sometimes not averting death) from an incredible calamity is way more memorable. This is why the gaping demon trap in Tomb of Horrors is so famous. The trap may be mean and sneaky, but everyone remembers it.

TOH guide
Just about everything in this module is iconic. Cruel, stupid, and deadly; but iconic.

And don’t worry about solving their problem. Just present the situation and prepare to be astounded by the creative and sometimes impractical solutions. He might simply try to jump the distance to the ledge. He might try to wrap himself up in the ropes of the bridge and “go for a ride” like the end of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He might try to take his sword and jam it into the cliff face. He might have a Backpack Parachute that he got ages ago in Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, Session 14 but has completely forgotten about until now. (He does) Whatever plan he comes up with give it a chance to succeed. And again, don’t just let one failure lead to instant death. If he fails to land on the ledge, give him a chance to cling to the edge by his fingertips. Let him try to grab the bridge as he falls. Go for the last second grab by another player. But whether he lives or dies, make it memorable.

In this case, Andrew rolled spectacularly. So much so, that after he jumped the gap and somersaulted to land on his feet, I gave him a bonus attack on an orc, whereupon he drove his sword up to the hilt into its chest, killing it instantly. 10 more gold! After the session, James told me he was prepared to cast Featherfall to Regizar if needed. (Another great solution) This would have been quite interesting. In the book, the chasm leads to nowhere except a quick death, but I rearranged the dungeon so that there would be access to the final level should the characters choose to go there. More importantly the occupant of that level now has access to this level if I really felt like messing with my players.

Forge Fury map 3e cross section
Instead of having the dungeon go in a line, I stacked them on top of each other. So now the pit in the 1st level drops down to The Black Lake.

With all three players together again, they made short work of the few orcs on their side of the chasm. The even fired a few pistol shots at the other side, killing one of the orcs. They stopped shooting when said orc also fell over the edge into the pit. That brought the total to 4 lost orcs (and their heads). That’s 40 gold, man! Bear in mind, that these guys have a combined treasure of almost ten thousand in gold, but they need that 40, dammit.

They seriously debated going into the hole after them, but they got sick of the orcs throwing sticks at them (plus more and more of them were arriving each minute). After flipping the orcs the middle finger (they asked for permission first, they are just kids), they retreated into one of the side passages to come up with a plan to get to the other side. However, they did take the time to chop off all the orcs’ heads (in full view of the entire tribe, I might add) and stuff them into Jack’s Portable Hole. Yes, I gave them a portable hole at the end of Waterdeep Session 18. But it was well-earned and they will put it to really good use, as we’ll see.

Portable Hole full
The Portable Hole. One of the coolest magic items you can give your players and the one most likely to break your campaign.

While they waited for inspiration to strike, they explored the northern passageways. When they came to the dead end, they immediately began checking for secret doors. They really are getting better at this and they found the secret door easily. Now let’s say your players aren’t dedicated dungeon delvers and you want them to find the secret door but no one is looking for it. Have everyone roll a perception check; no DC, just the highest roll wins. Pull that player aside, or write them a note saying that they can hear low, muffled voices or a faint breeze or light coming from the wall. They’ll tell the party, and now everyone’s looking for a secret door. You can even give that first player advantage. They will find it, thanks to you, but they will think they did it on their own.

Beware, this level of DM-assisted storytelling is not for everyone and is not for every occasion. For some DMs, it is a cardinal sin to “railroad” the players into a particular storyline or discovery, and that is a perfectly valid point of view. I always prefer to allow the players to succeed or fail based solely upon their decisions and their dice. But the fact remains that sometimes the players are just stumped and it is better to throw them a bone than to abandon the whole dungeon.

DandD Park
Speaking of secret doors, if you’re ever near Carbondale, Illinois visit the Dungeons and Dragons Park filled with wizards and dragons and even a castle with several secret doors. Awesome!

But my boys pressed on. They opened the door onto a dusty (code for unused and undiscovered) flight of stairs that led to nowhere. But they weren’t fooled and found the second secret door that led into the orc stronghold proper. This secret backdoor leads into a barracks for about a dozen orcs. But they are not here right now, they are all mobilizing to the main entrance along with the rest of the tribe.

All except for one. A huge orc sits with his back to the players. This is Old Yarrick, from the vanilla adventure. But the name is the only thing the book and my adventure have in common. Similar to what I did with The Sunless Citadel and goblin and kobold society, I wanted to do the same for this tribe of orcs. The printed adventure has 18 orcs , plus 1 Orog (Yarrick), 1 shaman, and 1 ogre “chief”. To account for my group’s higher level, I placed over 35 orcs here, including several of the more powerful orcs presented in Volo’s Guide to Monsters, an excellent book for breathing new life into many of D&D’s classic enemies.

5e Volos Monsters
A seriously underrated book by the Realm’s most overrated NPC.

My intent was to have each room be a showcase for each of the different orc subclasses. For instance, Room 11 is just an Orc Quarters with 4 orcs in it. But in my game, this room is the domain of The Red Fang of Shargaas, the assassins and executioners of the tribe. The room is dark and bloody with a torture rack and loads of creepy and disturbing implements of pain and death. There are still 4 orcs in the room, but now one of them is the aforementioned Red Fang with his unique look and extra abilities. As we shall see, this whole plan falls apart almost immediately, and they never even looked inside Room 11.

But for now, I naively think it’s going to work. They are about to have a private encounter with Old Yarrick, who is now an Orc War Chief. A recently dethroned orc war chief, and he is anxious to get tribe back, if only he could find some fools to help him kill the new boss and those loyal to him. Yes, this is the same sub-plot I used in The Sunless Citadel. But the players ignored it then, so I get to try and reuse it here. The key word here is “try”.

Orog
See, this Orog/War Chief kinda looks elderly, which my players mistakenly took to mean feeble. Wrong!

As my group sneaks up on the lonely orc, they see that he is clearly old and past his prime with wispy white hair and a hunch in his shoulders. Old Yarrick is muttering to himself, “Steal my tribe from me! I’m gonna kill that so-called Great Ulfe. I just gotta get me a few more to join my side. But who?” I’d hoped that maybe the group would be curious to learn more, but alas, there was no way they were gonna pass up a sneak attack, so they all back-stabbed the crap out of this guy.

They were a little taken aback when the old orc didn’t die immediately. “So, you though you would stab Old Yarrick in the back! Well, this old orc about to kick your ass!” Unfortunately for Old Yarrick, the best ability of the Orc War Chief requires other orcs to be near him. Without his backup, Old Yarrick was able to do a lot of damage, but soon enough the party permanently retired him to the great beyond. And this time, they didn’t alert the whole dungeon to their presence. Yet.

Forge Fury 3e bw Ulfe
The Great Ulfe’s wife sure is a handsome lass.

They deftly avoided the statue trap in the hallway, but then they got stuck in a protracted combat with the ogre and the wolves in the Chief’s Room. Except this ogre wasn’t the Great Ulfe; it was his wife. And she is even meaner (and uglier) than the chief! Between her screams and the wolves barking, the group was afraid (correctly) that the whole tribe was running back this way. As soon as the ogre and her mutts lay dead, the party ran out of the room (without even looting it; a first, though they did chop off her head) and back through the secret door. And not a moment too soon.

They heard the thunder of heavy feet running into the room, followed by a deep, booming voice barking orders to search this room. I gave the orcs the same chance to find the secret door, but they all failed. Then the players heard another orc say, “I’m sorry Ulfe, she’s dead.”

“What!” the booming voice bellowed. “What about my pups?”

“They’re dead too,” the orc sheepishly replied.

Forge Fury 5e Ulfe
Never come between an orge and his puppies. Or in his case, dire wolves.

All the players heard next was a crash of furniture, followed by a choking sound, the snapping of bones, and the last gurgle of the hapless orc messenger. The booming voice continued, “Find me those invaders and bring them to me alive. I’m gonna tear them limb from limb and rend the flesh from their bones. And triple the guard in this room.” My players cowered in their little secret stairway, praying that these orcs didn’t find them. This was a new and uncomfortable experience for them and I loved it. These guys (mostly Andrew) never hide from any monsters, but they were all near death, and they were scared. They think they’re scared now, just wait until next week.

But for now I took mercy on them. They barricaded themselves inside this little hiding spot and I gave them a short rest to heal a little bit. I bet they regret leaving their drunk cleric behind now. After a very uncomfortable hour lying on cold, jagged steps (and nearly that long in real-time discussion), the players come up with a new plan to infiltrate the orc stronghold.

Chuy Figurine2
Chuy, the very popular and versatile Figurine of Wondrous Power.

They sneak back out to the front of the complex, where the archers were burnt alive and the rest lost their heads. Peeking into the room with the chasm bridge, they see that the bridge is still down and there are four orcs guarding the area on the far side, all eyes focused on the chasm and the main door. Riandon takes out his Figurine of Wondrous Power and calls forth Chuy, his flying leopard. He then cast Invisibilty on it. Eragon takes out his Portable Hole and both Riandon and Regizar climb in. I allow that there is ten minutes worth of air inside. There are also ten orc heads rolling around inside, and the two heroes are constantly pelted by putrefying skulls as they are jostled around. Eragon drinks his only Potion of Invisibility, hops on the back of the invisible Chuy, flies over the chasm, and lands on the far side, behind the orc guards. It took a lot of magic that your players probably won’t have access to, but it was a pretty creative idea.

But they’re not done. They wanted to bring a bunch of rocks with them to drop on the orcs’ heads. I vetoed that idea since they would have to attached the Hole to the ceiling and I ruled that gravity would cause the players to fall out of the hole as well. Instead, they put the hole on the wall, and Riandon and Regizar sneak out. The four orcs are standing near the chasm’s edge. One well-placed Thunderstike later, 3 of the orcs are blasted into the chasm to join their dead buddies at the bottom. Regizar was on hand to quickly kill the one who made his save. It wasted 30 gold in bounty money, but it was worth it.

Forge Fury 3e cover clean full
Since we’re back at the rope bridge, here’s another rendition of it.

Now Thunderstrike has one tiny, detrimental side effect. When cast, a thunderous “Boom!” echoes throughout the cavern. The whole tribe has been alerted to their location. Again! But they were counting on that. Our heroes jump back into the Portable Hole just as the still invisible Eragon folds the Hole back up and waits in the shadows for the gang of orcs to run by and they can slip into the stronghold.

But what they didn’t count on was just as they slipped into the Hole and the orcs came running in, who should show up but the hungover dwarven cleric, Geraldine, on the far side of the chasm, calling out, “Hey guys, I made it. What did I miss?” Oh, I forgot to mention that Regizar left a little present for the chieftain Ulfe when he arrived; the decapitated head of his dead wife in the dirt. Furious and just as clueless, the Great Ulfe hollered, “Kill that filthy dwarf!”

Next week, can the party rescue the hapless dwarf before he is turned into a pin cushion by the dozens of orc spears and two members suffocate surrounded by severed heads?

To further help your campaign, I created a Forge of Fury Resource Page that includes everything I used to run this adventure all in one place. Session Diaries, Maps, Handouts, Stat Sheets, Everything. I hope this helps. Enjoy!

As always, an orc’s head in a hole is worth more than an orc’s head in a pit, and Game On!

Run away! – Andrew’s Regizar. I’ve waited over three years to hear him say this at the table.

7 thoughts on “D&D Diary – The Forge of Fury – Session 1

  1. Great post Rich! You’re play reports as a player are very VERY good , but those as a DM are even better!

    A few more comments if I may :

    -Players are used to be spoonfed the Plot nowadays. I blame video games.

    -The layout is very well done on the forge of fury. I did not ran it but I’ve plundered it abundantly (I LOVE trogs)

    -The player with the character dangling from a rope and still complaining about losing 10gp from a falling orc… I see this kind of behavior all time as a DM and I find it hilarious ha ha!

    -Of course your players should have prep, recon and all that. But hey, in the end, they put themselves in such an ugly spot they had to get very creative and that’s great!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, David. You are one of my very first supporters, and I always love hearing your input. I agree. While I like writing the blob for the Witchlight as a player, I much prefer writing as a DM. I can curate the narrative better, I have better advice, I can drop foreshadowing, and I can better explain what has happened and explore what might have been since I am an omnipotent god! Half the time in Witchlight, I have no idea what is going on live at the table and I’m in the room!
      Andrew complaining about the lost gold was actually my favorite moment of the session. It was completely on brand for both the player and his character and I love how he ignored the fact that not 5 minutes earlier he threw one head into the gorge and pushed another one in himself.
      And if you think they got themselves into an ugly spot this week, just wait til you read the next session.

      Liked by 1 person

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