Only the foolhardy would risk an encounter with the unknown perils that lurk in the murky depths of Darkwood Forest. Yet there is no alternative, for your quest is a desperate race against time to find the missing pieces of the legendary Hammer of Stonebridge — fashioned by Dwarfs to protect the villagers of Stonebridge against their ancient doom.
As I write, I’m trying to get the stink of this new Muse album out of the room, I’ve got the windows open, but it just won’t go. I’ll have to put some Hawkwind on to get this first entry to Forest of Doom off to a good start. We’ve had good (ish) dice rolls this time too, Skill 10/Stamina 19/Luck 9.
We begin our journey as a wandering adventurer, a swordsman looking for something to go on a quest for, and as luck would have it, in the middle of the night our would-be adventurer is woken by a dwarf crashing through the trees. The little guy had been punctured by two poisoned cross-bow bolts and in his last breaths managed to convey the bare bones of his story as well as his name, Bigleg. His town of Stonebridge was having problems with trolls, but without ‘the hammer’, Gillibran, the Lord of Stonebridge, could not unite the people to fight back. Bigleg had been on his way to find the hammer in Darkwood Forest, but had been ambushed by ‘little people’, which coming from a dwarf indicates that these were very little people. Still, he gave me a map and some gold and sent me to Yaztromos Tower on the southern edge of the forest. Oh, and then he died.
A half a days walk later and I found my way to the tower, sat at the very edge of Darkwood Forest and enticing me in with a big brass bell to ring.
Yaztromo himself answered the door, and only revealed his identity once he knew I was going to buy some of his stuff. I was expecting a master wizard, I got a salesman. Despite this though, I turned down the option to attack the guy – seriously Ian, I know better than that by now. Exciting times followed as I got to do what we all like to do in RPGs: spend gold. A bag of 30gp had been given to me by Bigleg and with it, Yaztromo had a list of items for me to peruse.
I tried to resist and lingering memories I had of items I had used in the past, and indeed, in my intro I remembered having the fire capsules… although I remembered them as acorns for some reason. Regardless, I spent every penny I had on Potion of Plant Control, Potion of Anti-Poison, Potion of Insect Control, Holy Water (we know they love their vampires), Ring of Light, Nose Filters, Rope of Climbing, Net of Entanglement, Headband of Concentration, Glove of Missile Dexterity, Garlic Buds (just to be doubly sure) and the Rod of Water Finding. Ol’ Yaz then discussed my adventure with me a little and shed some light on the areas neglected by Bigleg before he so selfishly went and died. It seemed the fabled hammer of Stonebridge had been the target of an envious dwarf king in another village and an attempt was made to steal it. The eagle he sent to steal the hammer was initially successful, but was then ripped apart by Death Hawks flying over Darkwood Forest and the hammer was lost. Supposedly, two goblins found the hammer and unable to decide who would take the treasure, the head and handle were separated so that each could take a prize. Great, that’s two things to find then. I bid Yaz farewell and descended the spiral staircase and headed out into the forest.
Heading in a westerly direction, it wasn’t long before I had my first encounter. A yelling voice caught my attention and following the noise, I discovered a robed man caught up in a rabbit snare beneath a tree. Despite his sneaky looking eyes, I decided to help free him and together we pulled apart the snare, freeing his leg. He explained that he had been searching for his lost brother in the forest before falling foul of the trap. We shook hands and he went on his way. Soon after, I decided that maybe my initial instinct was correct and on checking my belongings I had of course got some stuff missing as the utter cad had been a thief! I was told to either lose any remaining gold I had or two of the items I’d bought from Yaz. Having no cash, I ditched the Garlic Buds and the Rod of Water Finding. Utterly miffed, I continued north.
On my way forward, I spotted a goblin sat holding what looked like the handle for our hammer. I approached the little guy and tried to speak to him, but what I was actually talking to was the Shape Changer, the green spiney thing on the cover of the book! He suddenly took on his real form and I found myself in combat. A tough one he was too, with stats of 10/10 leaving me munching on a few packs of provisions when the battle was won. Slightly disappointed in how unspectacular the incident was though, not even a picture or a reward to accompany the fight! I did however discover some interesting looking mushrooms growing nearby and of course felt that the correct course of action would be to eat them. I guess it could have worked out ok, but these things were ‘Mix-up Mushrooms’ and I had to switch my Skill and Luck scores. As I’d used a bit of Luck to kill the Shape Changer, I was now down to a Skill of 8. Brilliant.
Going a bit east and then a bit north, I was knocked to the ground by Treeman! Yes, Treeman! The forest was alive and trying to kill me too, but nature was once again tamed by man as I kicked that trees arse. Not an easy task mind as he had stats of 8/8 and I had to beat him twice so as to destroy his main two branches. Provisions were required and again, no reward was obtained for such a tough fight. I must draw attention to the artwork for Treeman though as let’s be honest, it’s bloody awful.
The trees began to thin out and become less violent after here and soon I found myself surveying an area of plains grassland. The hills marked on the easterly section of the map maybe? I will leave that for next time in Part Two…