Three more notches in the DM screen: Telengard session 16

Do I get to add a notch to my DM screen for PCs that die and are Rasied, or only for the ones that stay dead? I think I get a notch even if they are Raised.

Wednesday I attended a professional conference and in my experience there is often a bit of “down time” between break-out sessions, so I brought along the map and key to the dungeon I though my players would most likely explore, in order to improve it a bit. My first draft was rather linear, so I wanted to add a passage or two to make the layout interconnected at a few points, and I also wanted to see how difficult the encounters were, because I made it up back when the PCs were mostly first level and I was not sure how challenging it would be. One player has complained (half-seriously, I think) that I as DM never reduce the number or power of monsters when fewer PCs are present. This is largely true. But I have been up front from the beginning that I don’t like “encounter levels” or scaling the challenges to PC level anyway. They make players complacent. Also, they are unrealistic (he said, while rolling up placing a family of trolls a stone’s throw from a gang of ghouls and ghasts in an abandoned mine…). Although I am a believer in dungeon “levels” providing a rough gauge of danger, humanoid tribes don’t “scale.” If there were 50 orcs in this cave they will be there no matter whether the PCs are first or fifth level.

But this time there were just four players not counting me. And so I found myself lowering the numbers on a few encounters. Not that it saved anyone.

The session started with an interlude at town, as they often do. Because we usually push the ending time anyway (“10 PM already? We’ll just go another half hour…”), carousing rolls, magic item identification, and leveling up often happen at the start of the session. So the party bought some gear and tried to pawn a wand no-one could use (with the magic user out since February and the elf working second shift now). Then back at the players’ house, a few NPCs complicated matters. Matrim’s mistress from his carousing mishap showed up to give him a prosthetic foot she’d carved, much to his chagrin. Now that he knows she is married to the berserker in the rival party, she has become quite a liability.  Snidely, the rival party’s thief, was spotted spying on the party from across the street. A frantic chase through the streets ended with him getting away, so now Stonefoot (the dwarf one of the PCs had tortured back near the start of the game) and his party probably know where the PCs live. And Matrim’s indiscretion with the berserker’s wife may come out.

The party then decided to go after the troll said to be in Haunted Mine, since they could use troll blood to get Matrim’s severed foot regrown. In the mines the party found a journal describing an expedition to seek some “lost tombs” that are somehow connected to the mine, and how they explorers used a “Pool of Purity” to protect them from the undead. They found a chamber infested with Piercers, an old-school monster you can never use too often. They will be a little leery of stalactites from now on. I played it by drawing circles on the battle mat to represent both pierces and stalactites, and the players were a little frightened when they realized I’d been moving some circles but they been paying attention to which. Piercers should be hard to track and force the players to watch carefully. Because only one PC had entered the cavern, they party had a fairly easy time of defeating them though.

Next the party ran into the ghouls and ghasts. Things went pretty well until Swinlow the thief decided to be a hero and pursue a turned ghast, which allowed the second ghast to paralyze him. The front line fighters, a dwarf and a man with one foot, could not get to him in time to save him. So, Swinlow was killed again. After defeating the ghasts, and searching for treasure, and finding a throne to play with, the party went back to the town to Raise the thief. I’d been drinking a few beers by this point and my rulings may have suffered — I allowed, then retracted, the throne to affect the dead PC (the sickos placed the thief’s dead body on it to see what would happen!).

With Sinlow raised, the party went back to the mines. There they encountered a lone Grue, which they thought might be a troll until the dwarf got a closer look at it. From there they found one of the secret passages I’d put in to “Jaquay” the place up a bit, and it lead to a chamber whee the floor was covered in yellow mold. The dwarf did not notice it and led the party into the room. (The mold was kind of telegraphed by some clues near ‘the only way in’ before I added the secret back door. Oops.) Using the AD&D Yellow mold stats, suddenly it was “save or die” around and two PCs dropped dead, choking on mold spores.

This created some consternation. Does this count as a “straw death” — a non-combat death, and thus non-Raise-able? My gut reaction was yes; yellow mold is more of trap/hazard than a monster. Matrim’s player dutifully began rolling up a new PC, and I offered the option to play a scout, half-ogre, or half-human out of the Companion Expansion, as I liked those options and have been thinking about adding more class options. (He went with another fighter.) But, then I began to reconsider. After all, it was a creature out of the Monster Manual, so maybe it counts as a death in in battle. (I was loathe to slay both of newer player’s PCs, especially after Ross’ cleric had just been killed permanently a few sessions ago). What clinched it was that I also remembered, tool late, that both PCs really should have been entitled to a “Death & dismemberment” roll, as I allowed this whenever a Save-or-die effect kills a PC. That would have given them a good chance of surviving long enough to get cured. And finally, I noticed the MM gives a 24 hour window for the Cure Disease/Resurrection after failing the save, so I caved and let them be Raise-able, so long as a Cure Disease was also cast. This seriously depleted the party’s funds and forced them to go back to town empty-handed so I think it was an OK resolution. This would also be an example of why I will go back to coffee rather than beer when DMing. I don’t think I’d have forgotten about the Death/dismemberment roll if I’d been stone sober!

While the party was back in town, Tom decided to take a hit for the team and rolled up a Magic-user to be a new henchman for the party, as with only a cleric’s spells and no PC capable of using M-U items, he was concerned the party was at a disadvantage. The M-U will earn 1/2 XP when accompanied by Grumble but full XP when adventuring as Tom’s sole PC. Maybe more players will decide to develop a “stable” of adventurers — that would be pretty interesting.

Back in the mines, the party found a secret door that had been plastered over for centuries. A tomb was within, and a puzzling inscription seemed to warn them to duck and offer “the drink of the gods” (mead? wine? holy water? what?!?) to the “guardian” of the forgotten king’s tomb. The chest-level burn marks on the back of the door and the far end of the hallway seemed to confirm that they should keep low, so the party crawled down the hall. They found a number of small chambers with sarcophagi and canopic jars in them, one them was already looted but the others were intact. They used the auger to look in without opening the doors, and chose a tomb to plunder, awakening a lesser mummy. Although the party destroyed it, it managed to infect Zorro the cleric with Tomb Rot and so the session ended with one more return to town for a Cure Disease spell. The Bishop is getting quite rich.

The party is convinced Stonefoot wants to kill Swinlow, Grumble, and Big Mac, and possibly the new guys as well. Gologoth the berserk will certainly have it in for Matrim when he hears the news about his wife. There could be some conflict with the rival NPC party brewing.  🙂

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Published in: on March 26, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’d been drinking a few beers by this point and my rulings may have suffered and yet another aspect of randomness in old school D&D is revealed, haha. But that’s how I get my abiltiy: Create Funny Song!

    Did you ever reveal your conception of the Grue on you blog?

  2. I am looking for that line saying “Grumble saved the entire party”, again…oh wait this time I think you could say I killed the entire party.


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