How Hobgoblins almost wiped my party

A good portion of the campaign I’m running involves an epic war.  The PC’s are heroes transported from another world in an attempt by the gods to balance the scales.  Right now the enemy holds all the advantages and the pressure is on the PC’s to make a difference.

Hobgoblins make up the majority of the forces they’re encountering, and the first patrols they faced, they slaughtered with ease.  It made me rethink how the Hobgoblins worked, and also I decided to make special units that were more challenging for the players to face.   I’ve been trying to impart the feeling of war through a series of tricks.  Obviously I don’t want the PC’s rushing headlong into legions.  They’d simply get slaughtered.  That doesn’t help tension or let us move forward with the game.  Instead, I’ve tried foreshadowing by having them run across villages and hamlets that are hastily abandoned.  I have them run into advance parties of scouts as random encounters.  (Have to rethink some of the goals of those given this column) In short, in some ways I have to think of each session as kind of a LARP con game.  What is the pacing?  What is the theme/mood we’re trying to achieve?

Last game, the pc’s were given the option of attempting to clear a keep of enemy forces, in order to move the defenders of a walled village into a superior fortified position.  This was in part a Mcguffin designed to get the players away from the village so I could destroy the village and not have to come up with some reason for them to be spared.  Instead I wanted them to witness the devastation first hand, after the fact.

Originally I had thought the players would simply scout out the fortress, and realize it was too much for them to handle.  However the Hobgoblin patrols they faced earlier had given them a false sense of security.  Even with the special ability that Hobgoblins get, the party was able to happily trounce the patrols with little effort.  They focused on the loot and glory to be had.

The keep contained 12 patrols, or a talon of troops with command elements of hobgoblins.  Each patrol represents 10 Hobgoblins with a centurion. (Equivalent to a sgt) these basic patrols are hobgoblins straight out of the book.  In addition to the basic troops, there were two veteran squads. These were represented by the hobgoblins armor being decorated with small trophies and the like, led by a proven centurion. These veterans aren’t usually deployed in front line units, instead they’re used as the principes of hobgoblin formations.

As a note, the hobgoblin legions are organized in a similar manner to Roman legions.  Each legion consists of roughly ten thousand hobgoblins. Typically the legions are subdivided into several smaller sections.  Talons being the smallest sub-formation consisting of 10-12 patrols with command elements.

The PC’s quickly engaged the fort, believing they could distract the guards while they sneaked a small party into the keep to unlock the front gates. It’d have been a good plan had they done so during bad weather, or at night.  Unfortunately they opted to do so in the middle of the day.

The attack initially worked, with the PC’s able to engage the walls from cover.  The druid quickly embraced the concept of cover, after getting shot several times with arrows. As combat continued, even the heavily armored half orc warrior was forced to withdraw to the treeline.   Meanwhile the hobgoblins weren’t taking this well.  A veteran squad was immediately dispatched to deal with the interlopers, while the keep went into lockdown.  They also released a troll to go smash the party up.

Inside the rogue and the priest of Thor fared well.  They were able to sneak into an air vent they found in the forest and were able to get through relatively quickly.  (There was some uncomfortable moments while the party tried to figure out how to get through the solidly built grate)  They were able to successfully sneak into a dining room where a bunch of the hobgoblin legionnaires were eating a meal.  The cleric was able to successfully fight many of them off, and allowed the rogue to sneak through.  The rogue was awarded for his ingenuity by finding some early invasion plans , as well as stole some of the treasure.

As time wore on, it became increasingly clear to the infiltration team that they weren’t going to be able to make it to the drawbridge in the time allotted.  Outside the walls, the PC’s faced a double threat.  The firsts encounter was the patrol. The players completely underestimated this group, and it quickly turned into a desperate struggle for survival as they fought the hobgoblins.  Part of this was some of the players (our spellcasters primarily) made some assumptions about spells that turned out to be incorrect.  Which meant they weren’t operating as best as they could.  Second, they allowed the hobgoblins to dictate the fight.  It nearly proved to be a disaster.

After the party barely  defeated the hobgoblins, they ran into the troll.  The troll was quickly dispatched as that was something they were familiar with, and quickly used fire to neutralize it’s healing potential.  At the end of the encounter, they assessed the situation and to their dismay, saw reinforcements pulling into the docks.   When they retreated back through the river, they saw the village smoldering, and with a large swath burned to ashes straight through the middle of it.

That’s really where the campaign begins in my mind.  This is the point where the Pc’s really have control over their own destinies.   I had a short dream sequence where the Mistress of Ravens set them free of the skein of fate, bidding them to find their own paths.

From here, we’ll see how things go.


2 thoughts on “How Hobgoblins almost wiped my party

  1. It was a pretty close call. The Druid was out of real healing spells, and he was really their only available healer. So they were left with goodberries. The fighter, who normally is pretty impervious to damage, was almost dead as well, with less than a 1/4 of his hit points left. All in all, the players were a bit humbled by the experience to say the least.


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