Telengard 2, session 9: the Adventurer’s Guild

I attended a professional conference yesterday which had, for reasons I can barely fathom, an hour and half break for lunch.  Lunch was a buffet type soup/salad/sandwich thing, on site, so there really was no good reason for such a long break apart from the fact these events tend to run 9-4:15 and there was an optional tour during lunch — a tour limited to like 20 out of 300+ attendees…

Anyway after spending 10 minutes eating and 20 minutes networking with other power players in the library industry :), there was little left for me to do but wander around campus a bit (it was at a local university) where I checked in on my old master’s thesis at the library (it was checked out! nice!), stopped by the post office to send some minis I am trading to another blogger, and finally sitting down with a notebook to make sure I have three areas prepped for the D&D game tonight.  (My preparation was slightly distracted by some middle aged doofus apparently trying to pick up, and/or convert to fundamentalist Christianity, a young Asian exchange student.  I did my best to shut out his word salad, all the more absurd because the student was feigning, or maybe actually had, an inability to understand every other word, and made him spell them out.  I caught something about how he was telling her not to listen to her parents about something and another line of argument about ‘finding God’ being more important than school. He eventually ended their conversation by asking ‘what she was doing for the rest of the day’ … either the lamest pick-up attempt ever or just a creepy missionary/stalker who won’t take no for an answer…)

Anyway after clearing the cathedral and the plaza, I figured the party would be turning their attention to the three other large buildings on the plaza: the adventurer’s guild, the bazaar, and the old city hall.

In the event, they chose to explore the Adventurer’s Guild, and completely cleared it.  The only really rough patch from a DMing perspective was that I had not really thought through the building’s elevation relative to the street level, and the street level relative to the water table of the area, since I was focused on populating it with monsters, traps, and treasures.  This was a big issue because I’d made the ground floor* flooded as a change of pace from the ‘generic ruined building’ setting for the locale**.  As an afterthought I added a few steps out front, mainly to make the building more impressive, but this, compounded with my failure to clarify that stepping through the door was big step down into the 2-3 foot deep water, created havoc with “immersion” and “realism” for the engineers in the group.  It turns out that dealing with details about architecture is not something I find all that fun or interesting as a DM, especially when the rest of the party is clamoring about initiative and to hit rolls and saving throws.  So, because I overlooked a fairly basic point of ‘realistic’ design, the whole session could have been derailed. Good grief. Just when I think DMing is fun and not all that hard, I run into reminders like this of why my last campaign was all dungeons, all the time.  The same encounter underground would have made sufficient sense.  As an above ground ruin, it really had a glaring inconsistency, and apparently I can depend my players to fixate on such things. I suppose I’ve been just as guilty of that kind of griping as a player, and maybe as a DM I have forgotten how important details are to players — not just for immersion in the game but for their character’s very survival.  In this case it made absolutely no difference in terms of the immediate threats posed by the monsters in the flooded chamber — the paladin, dwarf, and a hireling rushed in and were entangled in living grass.  It only made a difference in terms of whether they’d need to spend time figuring out how to fix a sump pump, or could just knock a hole in the foundation wall below the water level.  At the time it felt more like the players just wanted to poke holes in the campaign and it made me defensive, partly because I didn’t want to stop the game to sort out a proper elevation of the building, and partly because I was pretty happy with everything else about the location, and here I am, literally having to defend its foundation!

Anyway once we hand-waved the structural problems, the encounter was pretty tense and appropriately challenging, I thought.  One hireling was drown, but the party was not too beaten-up to delve further.  But I’ve already gotten ahead of things — the party began by hiring some men-at-arms, and then sending the rogue and assassin ahead to scout out the building, looking for alternate entrances, peering in the windows, etc.  The assassin decided to enter through a second-story window, and found a workshop filled with mechanical devices, half-assembled locks and clocks, and other odds and ends; in each corner was a ‘suit or armor’ — actually robots which animated and grabbed him.  He couldn’t break free, and screamed for help.  The rogue heard his call and the party, not knowing where inside the building the assassin might be, burst in through the front door. They found a large chamber filled with water, which turned out to be 2 to 3 feet deep.  Tall grass grew in it a quarter of the water, near the door, and a spiral staircase, shrouded in spider webs, was on the far side of the the pool to the right; a smaller room was partitioned on the right.  As soon as the party entered, they were caught in the animated grass (except for the barbarian, who managed to leap clear of the patches of grass).  Seven large spiders dropped from the ceiling onto the water’s surface, and began spitting a sticky goo at the party. The grass began pulling those tangled in it down.  Blaze the torchbearer was drown by the grass, but the rest of the party fought through the encounter fairly quickly.  The paladin was dragged underwater but managed to free himself, and burst through the surface of the water just as the last spiders were being slain.  Meanwhile, the robots threw the assassin from the second story window, much to everyone’s relief as party imagined they’d coup de grace him once he was held helpless.  In fact the robots did not know the assassin had a ring of feather fall, and were only programmed to expel intruders, or fight back if attacked.  The assassin then raced around to the entrance, and joined the party in the flooded room, denying he’d ever needed or even yelled.

I mostly used Varlets and Vermin to populate the whole Adventurer’s Guild, and the flooded chamber had several large patches of “Green hair”; the spiders were “Spitting Striders”.  I totally forgot that there were also some “Torporous Lampreys” in the water, so I just had the party notice them hanging off themselves once they got out of the water, with no effects other than comedic.

On the second floor the party explored a trophy room, which had a ‘Hoard snake’ from V&V, and a green dragon head which came to life when the party entered the room.  The assassin tried to parlay with it but his companions charged and the party came perilously close to losing a member or two, as the 4d6 I rolled for the breath weapon dealt 22 points of damage!  But soon the head was killed, and after the chlorine settled, and the paladin slew the snake, the party found the dead hoard snake had shattered into a nice haul of gold and a magic sword. They also found a statue of a sleeping wizard, with a plaque identifying him as ‘Golightly’ (another minor PC in the first campaign).  He held a clue, informing the party that once all the effigies of the old heroes were reassembled at the Adventurer’s Guild, the rule of Chaos would be broken.  The party made for the statue of Sparky the elf they saw a couple of sessions back, and it was missing!

They also cleared the workshop, which the assassin — still clinging to his story that he never went inside and got into trouble — boldly led the party into. (He has been teased relentlessly for getting into all kinds of trouble while ‘scouting’.)  To their credit everyone played along, blithely walking into an ambush.  Still the robots were eventually defeated, although two men-at-arms were knocked out and a great deal of damage was taken by the rest of the party.

The other rooms of the Guild were an empty training/arena room, and a small library enchanted to from a moving maze of bookshelves with a floor, walls, and ceiling that constantly change colors and patterns.  A few party members were lost for a while, but all eventually emerged, and they found an old wizard who had also been lost there for an unknown time — possibly hundreds of years, living on rats, bookworms, and who knows what.  The party initially tried to enslave him, but then showed the barest shred of humanity and merely hired him as staff mage, to cast spells for them as needed.

All in all a fun session, and assuming the party keeps working on the plaza, or follows the statue thread, I am pretty well set as far as prep goes for a couple more sessions…although I better go back and make sure the other buildings are geologically sound…

*

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*I’m not saying any of my players are pedantic, but one of them constantly ‘corrects’ me if I call the ground level of a building the ‘first floor.’ Another one corrected a different player’s use of “in like Flint,” causing a third to find a citation for the origins of “In like Flynn” and the corruption of the phrase to “in like Flint” following the release of the film of the same name, starring one of Hollywood’s most badass vegetarians, James Coburn.  The number and variety of college degrees at the table is pretty intimidating when I think about it…no wonder encounter design is such a mine field!

**I missed ‘write like Gary Gygax day‘ earlier this month but I do always find myself throwing in Gygaxisms like ‘locale’ and ‘milieu’ when write about D&D.

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Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm  Comments (3)  
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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. The phrase was indeed meant to be in like Flint after a 1967 movie.

    Also you do realize that richard is always going to behave such. But having 2 geotechincal engineers must be difficult. BTW I was trying to defend you when I said maybe the soil below the grass is thick.

    In fact when my dwarf tried to lift it, I was thinking that their was a soil floor with some soil on it, thus I would be lifting sod.

    • Oh, I’m not mad at anyone.

      Actually Richard’s question about whether there was water on the floor of second floor (er, first floor? ground floor plus one?) really cracked me up.

      The only thing funnier was your rolling odds on whether the scouts would make it back to report anything. As much as you guys bust on each other, I don’t really take it too personally when you bust on me. (Actually writing out the situation just kind of made me hot again because I missed the chance fix the problem early on … I was too proud to retrofit the description to what it had to be to make sense. I think the sump pump made perfect sense though — maybe Richard was assuming the pipe did not go to the foundation, which is not what I said. I just said you see a pipe along the wall that goes down to the water and out the wall, and a contraption next to it…)

      Anyway it wasn’t that trying to pull up the green hair was a terrible idea. I should have said: you can pull out a handfull of strands at a time but it it so thick that other strands keep winding around to replace them.

  2. Personally, I have zero patience for that kind of nitpicking now. My standard response is: “Yes, that’s odd. Perhaps you should investigate if you are interested in why thing X is behaving in this strange way.”

    I don’t even think one needs to resort to the justification of magic, as there are plenty of things that deny explanation even in our demythologized mundane world. There is no reason that PCs should be able to explain everything according to principles.


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