Speak with the Troll Pacifist
When you arrive, head uphill to the northwest, then turn northeast, following the path until you encounter a well-groomed troll (well-groomed for a troll, in any case) named Jason. To summarize this strange encounter, Jason claims to be a representative of the cleverly-named kingdom of Trobold. Trobold is led by two kings, the troll king, Hargulka, and the kobold king, Tartuk. This alliance was forged by Tartuk bestowal of fire immunity (which Jason incorrectly conflates with immortality) to the trolls. While he claims that Trobold’s goal is peaceful relations with the borba (civilized humanoids - yourself included), Tartuk’s earlier antics at the Skunk River ford and the rampaging trolls in the area tell a different story. To emphasize this point, Jason will warn you about exploring any further, as apparently the process of civilizing the rest of the trolls isn’t quite complete yet.
Surprisingly there aren’t many pitfalls in this conversation. If you pick the dialogue option "All right, what do you want from me?" you’ll unlock the dialogue options "Tell me more about Trolbold" and [Lawful] "All right, take me to your kings and we’ll see if trolls can hold a civil conversation. I’m the king/queen of the lands your Trobold stands on, and as such, your kings and I have much to discuss.", which will bypass the rest of this area entirely. There’s quite a bit of enemies worth killing and some loot worth picking up, however, so you might not want to make use of this [Lawful] dialogue choice, even if you can.
On the other hand, if you picked the dialogue option "Tell me more about Trolbold" and follow it up with "So trolls aren’t eating people anymore?" and continue pestering Jason about the troll’s diet you’ll eventually get a [Chaotic Neutral] dialogue option. This, finally, will frustrate Jason to the edge of rage, and only a [Diplomacy 20] check will avert violence. Other than this [Chaotic Neutral] option and a blatantly offensive [Lawful Evil] option, there’s a good chance Jason will leave you alone even if you persist in your desire to explore Trobold despite Jason’s misgivings.
Make what decisions you will with Jason, if you kill him you’ll be able to score a suit of Hide +3 from him, which… well, it’s debatable whether it really competes with the Breastplate +2 you found earlier, but it’s certainly better than any Chainmail +1 you have still in use.
Jubilost Discovers the Dwarven Ruin
If you brought Jubilost along with you, you’ll pester you shortly after entering the area, recording the location of the ruins on his map before sternly informing you that he can’t give your barony a good review. You can influence his writing by picking the [Chaotic Good] (moderate review), [Neutral] (positive review) or [Lawful Evil] (negative review) responses, but it’s mostly just flavor, so feel free to act as your protagonist would. Either way, Jubilost will choose to stick around until he’s done writing up his article (possibly a dangerous decision, given the article’s contents!) and in the meantime he’ll continue traveling with you. Win.
|Reward: For finding the Dwarven Ruins with Jubilost|
Clear the Western Reaches
Continue north after parting ways with Jason (or its corpse), then turn west, following the trail that runs along the outside of the fort. You’ll shortly run across a group of hostile kobolds blocking your way, which shouldn’t provide any challenge to your party, but it’s not a good sign for Trobold/Borba relations. Kill them and continue west, stopping only long enough to dispatch a second group of kobolds before the path turns north.
Continue north around the western edge of the castle until you find representatives of the other species that occupies Trobold, a Troll and a pair of Trollhounds. Cut them down, then note a gate to the east. Before you enter the keep, let’s clear out all the enemies outside. Continue northwest until the path splits. The northern fork will lead uphill, where you can a crumbling section of wall which you can scale with a successful [Athletics 20] check. This possibility will be considered further when it comes time to actually enter the castle.
Instead make your way down the western fork to encounter three Ferocious Wolves and a Kobold Sentinel, enemies that are woefully under-powered by now. While not much of a challenge, the kobold will drop an Old Dwarven Chest Key, so be sure to grab that, then search a nearby log [Perception 7] to score a Token of the Dryad.
Scale the Wall
Now turn your attention to the castle. Either way you enter you should witness a scene where the kobolds you encountered at the "Kobold Camp" area find - and are accepted into - Trobold. How nice for them. The rest of the trolls and kobolds here won’t be as accepting of you, and Jason’s warning of their hostility towards "borba" seems under-stated, if anything. Not really looking like peaceful relations with Trobold are going to be be possible if "peaceful coexistence" on their part takes the form of "attack on site".
If you climbed the walls, start out by heading towards some nearby stairs, where you’ll find a trap [Perception 22] that you’ll need to disarm [Trickery 22]. If you go down these stairs you’ll find yourself fighting the strongest enemies in the courtyard, starting out with two Trolls and two Trollhounds. After these are defeated, two more Trollhounds and a Greater Trollhound will show up. All of these foes can be bottle-necked quite well on or near the stairs, which will give you a great advantage, and really it’s the only tactic you should need but… but some spell buffs won’t hurt.
You do need to be wary of the Greater Trollhound, however, as its howl (which it’ll invariably use when it approaches in melee) can paralyze all characters within a radius if they fail at a [Will 16] check. Other than that, it’s got a respectable pool of HP, a high Attack bonus, and the ability to trip characters more or less at will. Because the Greater Trollhound has the ability to chew through any two warriors, the Will Saves you make at the beginning of the fight will likely determine how things play out. Should two or more of your warriors be paralyzed for any length of time, things could turn very badly. Feats like "Shake It Off" can make a huge difference here, as can the spell "Remove Paralysis", if you have it ready. Failing that, bottle-necking the enemies and hopefully keeping the Greater Trollhound behind a lesser Trollhound might give your warriors time to recover.
The rewards are well worth the effort, however, as the Greater Trollhound can be looted for an Amulet of Natural Armor +3. The barrels and crates nearby will yield a Dwarven Helm Shard and some baubles, a Rope and Camping Supplies and Rations.
After killing and looting the first group of monsters, continue downstairs and make your way northeast across the ruins near a gate to the interior, ultimately making your way up some more stairs to the keep’s opposite battlements. Turn southeast and slaughter two Kobold Archers and another Troll (this one is fond of throwing boulders), which should be the last of the monsters in this area.
The demise of your foes allows you to loot the battlements in peace. Atop the tower near the boulder-throwing troll (the eastern-most part of the castle) you’ll find a crate and a chest, the latter of which is locked [Trickery 20]. Get inside to grab a Scroll of Fireball and some coins. On the southern-most tower you’ll find a trap [Perception 22] [Trickery 22], behind which lies a chest, which you can open with the Old Dwarven Key you found earlier. Inside you’ll find the Heart of Valor, a Dwarven Helmet Shard and 623 GP. The Heart of Valor is a Mithral Breastplate +2 that gives its wearer a +4 morale bonus on saves versus fear effects, making it a wonder suit of armor for a Cleric or Jaethal. Granted, Clerics tend to have high Will Saves, but they can also remove fear from your other party members, making it imperative to keep them from being hindered by mind-affecting effects.
The last bit of loot in the courtyard is near the gate, where you’ll find a chest [Perception 20] lying near the rubble just north of the gate. Unlock it [Trickery 20] then loot it to score a Scroll of Haste and some coins.
Breach the Gate
Things play out a little differently if you just go through the gate. Make your way through the gate and venture northeast through the courtyard. When you near the wall opposite the gate, the rock-happy Troll atop the battlement will shout at you, alerting reinforcements, before throwing a boulder that falls just short. Because of the troll’s alarm, a host of Kobolds will come from the keep and attacks, joined by the odd Troll. Like the enemies atop the wall, they can be bottle-necked fairly easily, just retreat back through the gate and slay them there. Be wary, however, as many of the kobolds (and at least one of the trolls) will use ranged attacks. After this, things will play out more or less the same, with two Trollhounds and two Trolls guarding the entrance to the interior, who are reinforced by two more Trollhounds and a Greater Trollhound. The loot is the same, either way, although you do get a bit more experience by going through the front gate due to the extra kobolds.
However you go about doing it, the way to the interior of the dwarven ruins should now be clear. Before you head inside, however, consider calling for Ekundayo and/or Jubilost, as both have quests that can be resolved in this area. Jubilost’s quest, Renowned Explorer, is as simple as bringing him to the Dwarven Ruins area, whereas the object of Ekundayo’s vengeance, the rock troll Kargadd, can be found inside the dwarven ruins. You can secure vengeance for Ekundayo without him (don’t worry, he’ll get over it), but if you want to see things play out in a more personally satisfying manner… well, it’s your call.