Telengard 2, session 3

The party was short the bard again, and decided to finish clearing the block they’d begun before.

One player decided to stop laying Romulus the Rogue and start a cleric instead, mainly because he just didn’t like playing the thief after all.

They decided to deal with the ruined chapel first, where they’d been warned there were several undead dogs.  In fact they found only one, and the cleric’s effort to turn it failed.  This was one of those odd moments, because the roll on the dice was clearly enough to turn a higher HD creature, but the ‘monster’ wasn’t actually undead.  I could have just said “you fail” but then the party would draw the perfectly reasonable conclusion that this was 7+ HD undead monster…  a case where nonstandard monsters show their advantages and disadvantages.  A human skeleton also emerged from the chapel (which was heaped with bones inside) and a skull flung itself somehow at the elf.  A demon voice also warned the party to ‘get out’ etc. The party defeated all these skeletal opponents and the wary assassin noticed something move near the old altar, and further examination revealed a tiny door.  The door led to a passage that exited out the back of the ruins, and the paladin caught a glimpse of something small fleeing.  Further examination revealed a loose stone in the floor, which concealed an old grave, inside which was a small pot of gold.  The barbarian systematically smashed the piles of bones into powder, recognizing that something was animating the bones.  The party then began to spread out, exploring a few more houses, and the short version is that they found some berserkers, some bandits, and some empty buildings.  The bandits put up a bit of a fight, and knocked out the assassin.  While the cleric used ritual casting to heal up the assassin, I rolled for wandering monsters and got a flail snail.  Most of the hung back to shoot at it, but the barbarian stood in its path, not sure if it was hostile.  It was.

The barbarian was reduced to zero HP by the flails, but the party managed to rescue him by slaying the flail snail.  It was only when I went to look up the creature’s treasure type that I realized it had a -8 AC in the Fiend Folio (if attacked on the body) and a lower AC on the antenna.  I just used the antenna AC and did not ask the party to pick a target, although I guess it would have been a lot tougher if I had played it ‘by the book.’

The party turned over most of the houses to the mayor, but decided to keep a three-story stone tower for themselves as a base of operations.  Back in town the guild told them about a rescue mission involving a merchant’s daughter and some goblins holed up beneath the old Delian embassy, which happened to be very close to the area the party had just cleared.

The party spent some time casing the entrance to the goblin lair, and finally entered.  They could not prevent the goblin sentries from raising the alarm, and a rolling combat began that consumed most of the rest of the session.  The assassin hanged back and checked out a door near the entrance (the party tries not to leave any doors unopened behind them, which is usually a good idea), and found some goblins sleeping in a barracks, too drunk to hear the alarm.  He set to work cutting throats while the rest of the party pressed on, and found a large altar room with four doorways draped in curtains, and a handful of goblins preparing to answer the alarm.  One ran off to an alcove while the rest fought the paladin and barbarian.  The elf chased after the lone goblin and discovered that he was unchaining an ogre!  The party lost what turned out to be a pivotal initiative roll, and the ogre was freed before the elf could intervene.  At this point things began to look really grim.  The ogre smashed the elf, rolling nearly maximum damage on two successive rounds, and the elf, despite the huge HP boost he had from his toad familiar, was killed.  The party made a fighting retreat, slaying the ogre and several more goblins by using a hallway as a choke-point, but they were too badly injured to try to recover the elf’s body, and fled.  They limped back to the temple to heal up and we ended the session with the party resolving to return to the goblin lair ‘tomorrow’ … but as the midnight deadline for the ransom has not yet passed, perhaps they’ll try another foray the same night.

Some observations from the DM’s side of the screen this time:

  1. Almost no ‘skill rolls’ were made for the entire session.  We are suing a simplified version of C&C, and there are skill bonuses, but I almost always just assume that having the skill will allow a character to do whatever the skill is for, and this has both sped things up and made the game a bit more immersive.
  2. I still suck at giving clues and arbitrating hiding.  A paladin is watching a melee — should he be able to notice a leprechaun sneaking around the perimeter? This is probably a situation where I could let rolls decide.
  3. Critical hits rules do almost nothing but screw over the players (for one thing, monsters roll a lot more to-hits, due to multiple attacks, masses of small foes, etc.).   But players seem to prefer to have them in the game.
  4. I did about 20 minutes of preparation this time (the previous two sessions I was totally winging it) and it made a lot of difference.  I need get back in the habit of having some things prepared.
Published in: on February 14, 2012 at 9:09 am  Comments (8)  
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  1. That is the problem with any sort of critical hit system: if it applies to anyone who hits in combat, it will end up hurting the players more simply because there are more monsters (and thus more of a chance to score a critical) then there are players.

    One solution to this is to restrict critical hits so that only the player characters can score them. This has the advantage that players still get the fun of criticals, but aren’t overwhelmed by the number of monsters getting them.

    Of course, some people prefer a more equitable rule and believe that what is good for the goose is good for the gander. There is a solution that fits this philosophy as well: two different kinds of monster opponents.

    Just as Savage Worlds divides characters into Extras (mooks, etc) and Wild Cards, the DM using this option would have to divide monstrous opponents into the faceless masses that don’t have the ability to score criticals against the PCs and the more important villians who can. The PCs are, of course, members of this more important sort and thus can score criticals against all of their opponents.

    • Yeah, one thought I had was to restrict criticals to Fighters (any time), thieves & assassin when backstabbing or ambushing, Rangers with bows, Paladins fighting evil or chaotic monsters, Clerics fighting supernatural creatures, and so on… players only, and only in certain situations, the one exception being fighters who can socre a critical any time because hey, fighters should rock.

      I like the idea of letting certain important/boss monsters get criticals but not the masses of orcs, skeletons, etc.

  2. Instead of using double damage for bad guy crit hits try using dramatic effects like throwing them or disarming.

    • That’s a good suggestion too!

      Last campaign I suggested making criticals just do max damage (which is still almost always less than double; e.g. d6 doubled averages 7, but maxed is only 6), but at least one vocal player rejected that idea too. 😦

  3. I like the idea of classify Monsters (grunts and specials) and only allowing specials to get criticals. But here is another thought only let PC get criticals but make 1’s fumbles as well. Make a 20 mean an extra attack and 1 mean free attack on the fumbler. That way PC not monsters get to control how many fumbles and crits there are. Crits can still be decisive.

    • That may be the simplest solution. I always though “automatically hit on a 20” was already pretty good… a second attack roll on a 20, and “whatever the DM feels like screwing you over with” on a 1. I liked the system you had where on a 1 you dropped your weapon (or fell down) — I hate the idea of hitting yourself, or breaking your weapon, 5% of the time! I can see hitting the wrong target or running out of ammo with a missile though.

      • I think just letting the target get a free hack on you is better. It means you let your guard down, which is not as silly as droping your weapon 5% of the time! Fighter types with their high ac would be better off then others too.
        The problem as I see it is that people like the varied critical thing as it is now since it makes weapons feel different even if we made them all very much the same.

  4. Lots of good ideas here. I usually do roll for monsters, but I don’t always follow the rolled numbers. I try to view the scene that is going on in my mind like I was watching a movie. If I roll a “miss” for the monster then go with the miss. If I roll a “hit” then I might dish out damage or I might just have a PC get pinned to the ground, or knocked down. If I roll a critical for the monster then I usually make something dramatic happen like tossing a PC across the room or something else you might see in a monster movie that seems scary to the PCs but doesn’t do a huge amount of damage. For PCs, I have Critical Hits that do double damage on an unmodified roll of 19. I also use Perfect Hits that do triple damage on a natural roll of 20. But remember, we’re talking AD&D here so the fighter has maybe 7 HP at first level so even doing 1 HP is bad news.

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