So last Saturday was my first actual, honest-to-goodness session of 4th Edition with what I hope will become my regular group. Unfortunately, a brain-fart on the part of one of my players meant he turned up at exactly the right time but on the wrong day (doh!) so we were down to two players and myself, your wholesome DM. Reluctant to call it a bust, we ploughed straight into Keep on the Shadowfell. I'll be treating this as a standalone adventure before dropping the players into the larger campaign, so don't expect too much background. That'll all come later.
Elumai - Eladrin Wizard 1
Berend - Dwarven Fighter 1
Alarik - Dwarven Rogue 1
Krakd - Dragonborn Cleric 1 (DMPC)
The King's Road, west of Winterhaven. Four souls, brought together by common need, watching the shadows play in the trees as they walk, hoping that their short journey will be free of incident. Fate, it seems, has other plans.
Berend's acute senses warn them of the impending ambush as a cadre of small reptilian humanoids detaches itself from the rocks on either side of the road and rushes to the attack. Kobolds! Alarik immediately slips into the bushes and out of sight as Berend presses forward to protect his companions, taking a flesh wound from a hail of javelins as he unleashes his throwing hammers upon the enemy. Elumai moves up the road behind him, searching for signs of movement, and spots a group of kobolds emerging from cover a few tens of feet away. Clearly having no time for games, she unleashes her most ferocious spell in their midst, an explosive cloud of frigid air from which there is no escape.
Alarik tries to maneuver into position but the shifty dragon-kin are almost impossible to pin down. Meanwhile Berend finally charges into the kobolds' midst, shrugging off attacks and dealing heavy damage with great, cleaving sweeps of his battle-axe. Marking his targets and rooting the combat on the road, Alarik moves up in his wake and starts to strike effectively at the enemy. From there, it's only a matter of time before the party is victorious, with barely a healing prayer from Krakd.
Their first entanglement successfully dealt with, the group wastes no time looting the bodies (dwarves and adventurers being what they are) and, taking a few moments to cut the tails from the creatures as a trophy, they push on towards town. Finally Winterhaven comes into view.
Settled atop a small hill and surrounded by farmsteads, Winterhaven is obviously equipped to defend itself. The town is surrounded by a stone wall and protected by a hefty gate. Patrols along the pallisade indicate an active guard, but the strangers have little trouble gaining entrance. A few minutes spent getting their bearings leads them to the dwarven smith - Thair Coalstriker - who is more than happy to exchange the looted armaments for some of his stockpiled silver, but it's to the inn -- Wrafton's -- that they eventually make their way.
Drinks and food inevitably follow, but Berend has no time for subtleties. Climbing onto their table, he slams the haft of his axe onto the wood and solicits for work right then and there. Many curious looks ensue, but a robed genetleman -- Valthrun the Prescient, as he later introduces himself -- beckons him over and indicates that Lord Padraig, the patron of Winterhaven, might have work dealing with the kobold infestation of the King's Road. Something has happened this year, he confides... something has got the redskins organised and more dangerous than ever.
Meanwhile, Alarik's attention has been grabbed by a wiry, leather-skinned old farmer standing at the bar. Noticing his blatant derision at whatever Valthrun has to say, the rogue sidles up to the old-timer and offers him another drink... much to the chagrin of inn-keeper Salvana, who tells the man -- Eilian -- that he should be at home tending his fields, not frittering his meagre funds away getting drunk at her bar. Uncomfortable at this, Alarik removes Eilian to their table before pressing him further on Valthrun, but it turns out the old man is just frustrated the the self-appointed master of the Winterhaven tower seems as impotent as everyone else at solving the problems of the road and of the poor crops this season. His hatred of the sage is obvious though, and Alarik cuts the conversation short as Eilian's drunken temper threatens to get them all into trouble.
The party settles in for a few hours to await the arrival of Lord Padraig, by all accounts a regular at Wrafton's. Sure enough he arrives with two guards in tow and, ordering an extravagant meal while the adventurers look on, he negotiates a 1 SP bounty with them per kobold tail returned. His 'man', captain of the guard Rond Kelfem, will see to it, and he declares them all potential saviours of the town of Winterhaven if only they can hunt down the source of the kobold infestation and rid him of that most vexing problem.
Rond is all too happy to pay the bounty on the 8 kobold tails already collected. He has tried -- and failed -- to persuade Padraig to raise a militia to hunt them down, but the Lord of Winterhaven has always insisted that the town's defenses must not be compromised, so with something akin to hope, he provides the adventures with directions to a likely haunt of the beasts: a set of caves half a league to the east of town...