The Defense of Marnockham

Copyright Nicholas HM Caldwell © 2004

Edited by Nicholas HM Caldwell for The Guild Companion

"The goblins are shrieking shadows in the night, shooting stones at the defenders and occasionally engaging in melee at the weakpoints"


The Defense of Marnockham is designed as a short scenario to introduce new players to HARP. For convention use, it is recommended that pregenerated characters of 1st or 2nd level are used.


The Defense of Marnockham requires that the gamemaster has access to HARP. No other books are required.


This scenario is set in a quasi-medieval setting, reminiscent of England, but with real magic and monsters. To adapt to another world, simply alter the names to suit. The time of year is winter with the first snowfalls having already fallen. Marnockham is an isolated hamlet, one of several small settlements on the fringes of the fief of Earl Aldric near to the Shriven Hills. The peasantry of Marnockham survive by raising sheep and goats.

Adventure Overview

The PCs are tasked to protect Marnockham, a small hamlet with a population of 100 (50 adults, 40 children, and 10 elderly or infirm adults.) They will hopefully arrive in time to turn the tide of a goblin attack upon the hamlet. If their defense is successful, the adventurers should pursue the goblins back to their lair, defeating the hobgoblin shaman leader and his minions. The death or rout of the hobgoblins will end the threat to the hamlet.

The Tale

Marnockham has enjoyed many years of happy obscurity away from the turmoil of the kingdom's recent civil war. Goblins have always lived in the neighboring hills, but until recently, their depredations have been limited to occasional poaching of livestock. In the last couple of months, livestock raiding has increased substantially with attacks being made against shepherds and goatherds. Father Eoadric, the itinerant priest responsible for the religious care of Marnockham and several other hamlets, was beset by goblins and only survived thanks to his fast horse. Eoadric's appeal to the earl has prompted the sending of the adventurers.

Unbeknownst to the villagers, the leadership of the local goblin tribe has been taken over by a hobgoblin shaman and his allies. Urged on by the dark powers that he serves, the shaman is responsible for the recent aggression. The goblins dislike the hobgoblins, but are not able to recover control.

Joining the Story

The player-characters should be feudal retainers of the local earl, duty bound to their lord's service. Their mission is clear in terms of investigating and eliminating the threat to Marnockham. Spending midwinter in a backwater settlement is unlikely to excite the adventurers, so a swift resolution and return to the Earl's castle will be in everyone's best interests. The scenario should begin in the early afternoon with the party still some miles from the village.

The Adventure

Event #1 Dogs' Dinner

The PCs may make a Perception (Hard -20) to spot (or perhaps hear) some wolves. If the PCs can make a Stalk maneuver (Hard -20), they can sneak up on the wolves and surprise them, interrupting their attempt to feed on a human corpse.

If the wolves are killed or driven off, the adventurers can investigate further. A Routine Healing maneuver will show that the remains are human; a Medium Healing or a Hard Perception will reveal that the corpse is recently dead and has a mixture of stab wounds and bites. A further Perception maneuver (Hard) will be needed to determine that the victim was probably a travelling peddler - anything of value has already been looted. They won't be able to find any tracks belonging to the goblins without a very thorough search (Very Hard Tracking)

If the party are to reach Marnockham before nightfall, they must make a Hard Riding maneuver. If they spend too much time at the scene of the killing, it will be a Very Hard (-40) maneuver.

Event #2 Under Attack!

If the would-be protectors arrive at Marnockham before nightfall, they will have the chance to interact with the defenders. The key persons in the village are the blacksmith Megan ui Dwyer and the curate Father Eoadric. The community will be glad of the adventurers' coming - they believe that goblins were prowling around the edge of the hamlet on the previous night. Megan will quickly fill them in concerning the background (see 1st half of The Tale), while Eoadric can reveal that the body in the woods was likely to be the peddler Tam ui Hanlon. The villagers believe that an attack is very likely tonight. The adventurers should take charge, organizing the able-bodied into an impromptu militia and placing makeshift barricades of bales of hay and the like around the periphery. Eoadric will be keen to have children and elderly to take shelter in the main part of the local chapel (the goblins might attempt to break through the priest's quarters rather than through the main door). If necessary, Megan and Eoadric can prompt the PCs. The attack will happen some two hours after dusk.

If the protectors arrive after dusk, then Megan and Eoadric will already have the barricades in place with torches lit to provide some measure of illumination. The goblins are shrieking shadows in the night, shooting stones at the defenders and occasionally engaging in melee at the weakpoints. Unaided, the peasants will eventually lose as the shaman will deploy his magic to remove the leaders while the other raiders force a breach.

(Click here for the Village Map).

(Note to GM: Eoadric will be hard pressed giving emergency first aid to the wounded and Megan will be busy trying to keep the villagers from falling back from the barricades. In terms of the combat, the peasantry should be treated as mostly irrelevant, trading blows with the goblins, but to no useful effect. It's up to the PCs to provide the edge.)

The raid involves the hobgoblin shaman, two of his hobgoblin warriors, and some twenty goblins. The shaman hangs back, protected by a couple of goblin bodyguards, concentrating on aiding the battle through magic. He will specifically target leaders such as Megan, Eoadric and any PC who appears to be competent. The hobgoblin thugs are leading the goblin fighters in the battle, seeking to rout the villagers and fire their barricades. Eventually they want to burn Marnockham to the ground.

If the PCs can kill ten goblins or the two hobgoblins and five goblins, the shaman will call off the assault and conduct a hasty retreat back to their lair.

Event #3 Drawing Breath

Assuming the attack is beaten off, the PCs should regroup and see to the state of the villagers. Eoadric can supply some healing magic if the PCs have none of their own. If the adventurers have taken any goblin prisoners, some interrogation will yield a summary of recent events in goblin society and the dislike of the goblins for their hobgoblin masters - more vigorous questioning will reveal the location of the lair.

PCs who seek to pursue the goblins immediately should be warned of the goblins' excellent nightvision. The villagers will be in no fit state to support such efforts, but can give directions to the general location of the goblin tribe's lair.

Event #4 Let Us Hunt Hobgoblin!

Against advice, the party may decide to hunt the fleeing goblins (almost) immediately. If so, they must make two Tracking (Medium) and two Riding (Hard) maneuvers to follow the trail at a respectable pace. If they succeed at a Hard Tracking maneuver, they can glean approximate numbers and types of the survivors. It will take the party a third of the night to reach the lair.

A rash group might wish to go beyond merely close pursuit and seek a rematch with the goblins in the woods and foothills. This will require Hard Tracking and Very Hard Riding maneuvers - the goblins will become aware of such tactics in adequate time to mount a suitable ambush unless the party are capable of magical subterfuge to conceal their approach.

If the PCs wait until morning, then they may only need Light Tracking and Medium Riding maneuvers (as no new snow fell overnight and the day is clear if cold). It will still take about three hours to reach the lair.

Sensible adventurers will secure their horses some distance from the lair and move in on foot with maximum stealth (use lowest Stalk result for opposed Perception roll of the goblin sentries (who will be hampered by the daylight (-50)).

Event #5 In The Goblin Lair

If the characters can sneak their way past the sentries, then they have a chance of making their way deeper into the caverns unnoticed. If they have inside knowledge of the cavern, they should press on directly for the deep caves of the hobgoblin overlords. If not, they'll have to scout their way ahead.

If the characters fail to elude the watchfulness of the sentries or make a commotion in their explorations or are unable to stifle any outcry from disturbed goblins, then the alarm will be raised and a number of the goblins will take to the smaller passageways which honeycomb the cave complex. From these tunnels' openings (Hard Perception to locate), the goblins can and will ambush their unwelcome guests with slings and darts. The tunnels are really too cramped for human travel (any armored knight who attempts to squeeze into one of these will be quickly trapped).

The stoutest resistance will center around the hobgoblins and the shaman. If they are killed, the other goblins will retreat into the tunnels as quickly as possible, hoping the adventurers will go away.

  1. Main Entrance: 2 goblins lurk inside the entrance. If attacked, they will try to raise the alarm by screaming, and will make a fighting withdrawal down the tunnel towards cave 2.
  2. Main Cave: this large cave is used for mustering, feasting, and occasional tribal religious practices. A small tunnel leads to 7a.
  3. Store Cave: the goblins store food, weapons, and other supplies here. There are even some live chickens in a small pen. There is a small tunnel to 7b
  4. Hobgoblin Caves: two hobgoblins live in each of these caves. Squalid, slimy and dingy, there's nothing useful to be found here.
  5. Shaman's Cave: the hobgoblin shaman makes his abode here - there are several desecrated religious items and humanoid skulls in cavern wall niches.
  6. Treasure Cave: the shaman has sequestered the goblins' loot (acquired over some decades) piling it into a heap. This loot includes broken pots, crockery, once fine clothing (one previous owner), tent pegs, pitons, an empty herbal bandoleer, a lantern (all belonging to a dead adventurer), some silver (about 50 silver pieces), a handful of gold (7 gold pieces), and a hammer (this is a Hammer of Hiding [+10 warhammer with a secret cavity containing a fire opal worth 30 gp])
  7. Goblin Caves: the conquered goblins have been forced into these cramped caves (half a dozen to each cave), so conditions are even more appalling than normal. 7a links to 2, 7b to 3, 7c to 6 (Very Hard Perception), 7c to 7d, 7d to 7e. Both 7c and 7e have escape tunnels leading down deeper into the hills (Very Hard Perception)

(Click on the Goblin Lair Map.)

Event #6 Aftermath

Once the hobgoblins are downed (and undoubtedly a number of goblins also slain), the battle is essentially over. Adventurers may loot the caverns (the surviving goblins won't interfere). Some PCs may want to eliminate all the goblins. If they attempt to carry this out, the goblins should take advantage of the smaller tunnels to thwart such plans. In extremis, the goblins can flee through the passages to safety, leaving the avengers to root around for hours in empty caverns. Other PCs may seek a ceasefire with the goblins - if the retainers have been selective in their slaughter, diplomacy is possible. In return for their lives, their lair, and their freedom, the goblins will agree to commit no acts of violence against the villagers.

The successful heroes can return without incident to Marnockham. While the inhabitants will be glad to hear of their victory and will celebrate with a (modest) feast, the PCs should make best possible speed back to Earl Aldric's castle where their exploits should earn them places of honor in the Midwinter Banquet.


Defeating the wolves and routing the goblin attack at Marnockham should both be considered Minor Party Goals. Ending the goblin threat permanently (whether by slaying the hobgoblins followed by negotiation or by wholesale slaughter) should be considered a Major Party Goal.

Game Statistics

Name Lvl Size BMR Init DB Sh Hits Attacks
2 Wolves 3 M 16 8 70 n 110 70 M-Puncture
30 Goblins 1 M 12 4 40 y 15 35 S-Slash / 35 S-Krush (sling)
4 Hobgoblin Thugs 2 M 12 8 80 y 40 55 M-Slash (Long sword)
55 L-Puncture (spear)
55 S-Krush (sling)

Hobgoblin Shaman

4 M 12 8 80 y 40 45 M-Slash (Long sword)
35 L-Puncture (spear)
35 S-Krush (sling)
40 T-Cold (elemental ice bolt)

The goblins are armed with short swords, target shields, and slings. The hobgoblins have long swords, spears, slings, and are trained in the use of soft leather armor and target shield.

The Goblins have the following skills:
Ambush 30 (6 ranks), Climbing 20, Foraging/Survival 30, Perception 30, Stalk & Hiding 30, Tracking 20, Faerie S7/W0, Human Commonspeech S5/W0

The Hobgoblin Thugs have the following skills:
Ambush 45 (9 ranks), Climbing 30, Foraging/Survival 30, Perception 45, Stalk & Hiding 45, Tracking 45, Faerie S7/W0, Human Commonspeech S5/W0

The Hobgoblin Shaman has the following skills:
Ambush 20 (4 ranks), Arcane Lore 30, Climbing 20, Foraging/Survival 20, Perception 40, Power Point Development 70 (15 ranks), Runes 30, Stalk & Hiding 45, Tracking 20 and a counterspell bonus of 20. Faerie S7/W5, Human Commonspeech S5/W3.
and knows the following spells (4 ranks in each)
Augment Grace, Detect Magic, Dispel Magic, Enhance Stamina, Heighten Speed, Intensify Brawn, Minor Healing
plus 8 ranks in each of:
Darkness, Harm, Major Healing, Elemental Bolt (Ice)

Megan ui Dwyer (3rd-level Fighter and Marnockham Blacksmith)
St90(+10) Co90(+10) Ag90(+10) Qu90(+8) SD56(+2) Re56(+3) In56(+2) Pr 56(+3)
Stamina +5 Will +5 Magic +5
Hits:72 Init:+15 (-5 for shield) DB: 16 + 20 (SLA) + 25 (shield)=61 BMR:12'
Talents: Shield Training, Lightning Reflexes, Neutral Odor
Weapon Skills: Longsword 70 (M-Slash) Longbow 70 (M-Puncture)
Key Skills: Animal Handling 10, Crafts 63, Endurance 10 ranks, Healing 10, Lore 31, Maneuvering in Armor 70, Navigation 10, Perception 29, Riding 37, Stalking & Hiding 17, Swimming 30, Tracking 14
Human Commonspeech S8/W5 Human Churchlanguage S5/W3

Father Eoadric (3rd-level Cleric)
St50(+0) Co50(+0) Ag50(+0) Qu50(+0) SD90(+10) Re90(+10) In90(+10) Pr 90(+10)
Stamina +5 Will +5 Magic +5
Hits:46 PPs: 68 Init:+10 (-5 if using shield) DB:0 +20 (SLA) +10 (shield) BMR:10'
Talents: None
Weapon Skills: Longsword 10 (M-Slash) Longbow 10 (M-Puncture)
Key Skills: Animal Handling 25, Attunement 40, Endurance 6 ranks, First Aid 30, Healing 45, Herbcraft 45, Lore 35, Maneuvering in Armor 5, Perception 45, Power Point Development 8 ranks, Riding 30, Runes 30, Stalking & Hiding 15, Surgery 25, Swimming 10
Human Commonspeech S8/W8 Human Churchlanguage S8/W8 Faerie S5/W5
Spells (ranks)
Detect Magic 4, Dispel Magic 4, Major Healing 4, Minor Healing 3, Neutralize Poison 3, Turn Undead 7

Villagers (1st-level no profession)
All stats in zero bonus range
Stamina/Will/Magic: +5
Hits: 30 Init: +0 (-5 if using Shields) DB: 0 +20 (SLA) +10 (shield) BMR: 10'
Weapon Skills: Longsword 20 (M-Slash) Longbow 20 (M-Puncture)