Now that the players are exploring previously-presented areas of the Castle of the Mad Archmage, I can resume my campaign journals! (Although elements from the surface ruins and The Storage Rooms will be redacted.) We are, at this point, pretty well converted over to Adventures Dark and Deep, so fully in playtest mode.
Present last time were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Abo Thistlestrike, human mage; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. They made their way to the third level of the dungeon after making a deal with some of the denizens of Level 1, and found themselves almost immediately in the lair of a number of hobgoblins, separated by a metal gate. However, rather than bending the bars and storming into the place, they called out, in a friendly tone, to the humanoids, and (fortunate that one of them spoke goblin) successfully parleyed with them, turning a potentially nasty encounter into a potential ally. They were polite to the hobgoblins and non-threatening, who were in turn at least puzzled by the uncharacteristic behavior of the newcomers. In the end, the hobgoblins (of the "Flesh Render" tribe) accorded the party safe passage through their domains.
The party ended up exploring some of the passages beyond the hobgoblin lair (encountering a few hobgoblin sentries, and using the hobgoblin leader's name as a password), and found a chamber with a pair of large toads with a reddish hue. The paladin and cavalier rushed into the room, only to be fried by a pair of fireballs exhaled by the toads. The mage snuck in while the warriors engaged in combat, entered a room beyond the toads, and scooped up a few coins from the large pile he found within. The toads' breath weapons were too much for the party, though, who retreated to the city for rest and recuperation.
Once fully recovered, they followed their previous path back to the toads, this time also gifting the hobgoblins with a goat purchased just for that purpose to secure their friendship (which most definitely helped do so). They made it back to the toads, but this time entered slowly and quietly so as not to startle the creatures, going into the further chamber and loading up with silver and gold coins. Taking 15 sacks of coins through the hobgoblin lair was a tricky proposition, for even their new-found friends might be tempted by such wealth. So they struck upon an excellent gambit; they gave the hobgoblins a portion of the loot, and a promise that more would be forthcoming (this is a similar arrangement to one they had made with some of the inhabitants of level 1). With both food and wealth not only promised but actually received from the party, the hobgoblins were turned from neutral to friendly at a stroke. An excellent example of turning a potential disaster into an ongoing opportunity.
Last night we gamed once more, and present this time were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Abo Thistlestrike, human mage; Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Sir Faust Ensign, human Cavalier. The elf used his mountebank abilities and disguised himself as a human, just in case the hobgoblins were provoked by one of his race (elves and hobgoblins having a long history of animosity).
Once more the route through the territory of the Flesh Renders was made, with another offering of an animal and friendly conversation, with the party attempting to get some information as to what might be beyond the hobgoblins' area. They did point out that a rival tribe of humanoids, the Bloody Axe orcs, were located to the southwest, and the hobgoblins would be very grateful if the party took some of them out. So the party made for the southwest, generally.
The first chamber they encountered was a trap, although they didn't know it at first. As soon as they opened the door, a loud voice said "MAKE A HOLE!", causing all of the party to duck and take cover, but nothing seemed to be coming at them. The paladin and cavalier entered the room, causing the door to immediately shut behind them. Within the chamber was nothing but a table, on which there was a saw. After only a minute or two of debate, they sawed the table in half and then put the halves together, making a "whole", which they then put up against the door, enabling them to step through. Honestly, I thought that would be a lot tougher.
They then engaged in some more exploration, eventually stumbling on a trio of skeletal figures with tattered robes. The creatures were dispatched, but not before the cavalier suffered a wound that seemed to be poisoned or diseased or something. As the creatures were guarding two large chests of treasure, the party decided to return to the surface with their loot, again paying the hobgoblins a tithe. By this time, the hobgoblins know a good thing when they see it, and are happy enough to get free food and loot for nothing more than not attacking a well-armed and capable party of adventurers.
Back at the Cock and Bottle, the paladin used his powers to cure disease on the cavalier. Sure enough, the wound's heat and reddening dissipated forthwith. They all returned to the dungeons the next day.
This time, exploring the corridors further in the same direction, they came upon a trio of ghouls in an open room, who charged at them. The cleric turned the creatures, who fled back into more passages, and the party turned their attention to a large chest of gold in the chamber whence the ghouls had come, making great pains to set guards at the two passages, but not at the door in the room. Alas, once the effects of the clerical turning wore off, that is exactly where the ghouls stormed back into the place, taking some of the party by surprise.
In the ensuing battle, the cavalier was paralyzed, and the mystic was reduced to negative hit points (which she countered thanks to her pain management skills) but the ghouls were finally dispatched. The chest contained a thousand gold pieces and an oddly-shaped piece of wood, approximately 2' on a side, straight on one side and with very irregular indentations on the other sides. This they kept for further examination, and they scooped up the gold and returned to the city as we ended the session, making sure to give their hobgoblin allies a tenth-share for their continued good will.