Here’s the e-mail I sent the players before the next session, in which we began WOTC’s “Barrow of the Forgotten King” module. Note the skipping of all fiddly role-playing bits at the beginning and the acceleration to actual killing; this is a function of a 9 p.m. start time and midnight-ish stop time. Clock management is, like football, key to our gatherings.
The original e-mail included scene-setting scans from the module:
Hail the conquering goblin killers!
Your reputation as courageous fix-it men travels almost as fast as you—some towns have already heard of your exploits before you arrive, welcoming you with free lodgings and ale. And while their praise is plentiful, work is not. No one has heard boo from a goblin or other malicious nasty, not even an unruly drunk in the cathouse or a pesky gopher in the radish patch. Nothing. Evil seems well in check around these remote foothills. The only business for a band of adventurers is an occasional barn-raising, horse shoeing, or pie delivery.
Money is thin and getting thinner.
You cross paths with a traveling maypole repairman who tells you about the next town down the road. Kingsholm is rather famous in the region for its major tourist draw: the local mausoleum. It’s one of the few remaining relics of a long-forgotten kingdom that once ruled the rolling hills from this seemingly humble spot. Even the name of this old kingdom is lost to time—all that remains is the statue of a nameless king on a hill overlooking town, and, of course, the gorgeous mausoleum. So proud are the villagers of this monument that they take meticulous care of their cemetery, and to this day, prominent villagers are still buried deep in the vaults of the old building in highly formal funerals.
When you finally reach this little burg, you notice the streets are quiet. Soon, though, you see many people gathered around a central town hall building. There’s a palpable buzz in the air, and the citizens seem upset about something. As you approach, you are recognized by a member of the town guard and hailed: “Aha! A miracle! Help has arrived—these are the Slaughterous Slayers of Goblintown. You’ve heard Dingus the Bard sing that addictive little ditty about them, right? They’ll set things right!”
What’s going on (as you are told by Stouty Beefbeard, a husky dwarf who manages the Coronet & Cabbage Inn) is that a prominent local family went to the mausoleum yesterday to prepare their recently deceased patriarch for internment. When they didn’t return for the wake last night, a division of the town guard went to check on them. Those guards didn’t return last night—nor did the second set of guards who were dispatched this morning. No one is going near the cemetery for fear of their lives. The leader of town council is away on business, and no one left in town knows how to deal with a crisis like this…so a lot of expectant eyes turn your way.
“Can you go up and find out what’s happened to them all?” asks Beefbeard. “There’s three kegs of my finest mead and, let’s see…seventy-seven, seventy-eight… Seventy-nine gold pieces in it for you!”
Allow me to play God for a moment and say: You accept. And now the last member of the town guard leads you to the gate of the pristine cemetery, points toward the mausoleum, and refuses to join you any further.
You walk boldly toward the mausoleum, weapons drawn, ready for anything. As you round an artful topiary (lovingly crafted into the shape of a lute-playing angel—it really is an amazing likeness as far as topiaries go, not that any of you have had much experience appreciating precisely trimmed shrubs, but on the whole it strikes you that the gardener really captured the essence of a divine, albeit leafy, seraph) you see a bloody body sprawled on the ground. By the shreds of its uniform you can tell it was a town guardsman. Two wolves are gnawing upon it, and they look up at you with bloodlust in their eyes.
Roll for initiative.
Really. Roll for initiative and e-mail me the result. Come ready to start an encounter!