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.

Published in: on March 22, 2012 at 12:30 pm  Comments (3)  
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Return to the Alabaster Tower: The Verdigris Tower (Telengard 2, session 8)

My players were not thrilled with the “Alabaster Tower” when I sprang it on them in the previous campaign — partly it was probably my pixel-bitching with the tricks and puzzles (I hadn’t DMed much before); partly it was the lack of fighting, and lack of treasure; partly it was the Robber Bats who stole the dwarf’s prized magical dagger.  The three players, all fairly experienced, ranged from ‘it was ok’ to ‘I hated it’.  Oh well.

I still like the basic design, and as it is a ‘hopping’ tower that appears and disappears seemingly at random, I had the idea that it might spend some time on the ocean floor, and reappear on land, flooded and strewn with seaweed.  I also have been meaning to use the ‘maggot farmers‘ for some time, and the idea of tower, filled with foul water and decaying sea life, kind of fit with the maggot farmer idea, and so now, when the Verdigris Tower (the alabaster having been stained sea-green) appeared, it carried the maggot farmer infection.  I had it appear near an apiary between Skara Brae and Puddington.  The PCs heard a rumor about the beekeepers being unusually aggressive and scaring off a merchant. Will they investigate before the plague of flies spreads, and eradicate the source before the tower hops away again?

I didn’t have much else prepared, and since I’d just restocked the tower, I came about as close to railroading the party as I felt comfortable doing — the mayor of Skara Brae, anxious about the lack of mead and an upcoming delegation from Delos he was to host, asked the party to look into what was holding things up at the apiary, with the offer of a large cash reward for any mead they could bring back and for dealing with whatever the problem might be.

We also had a guest player, one of Matt’s friends who had played a bit of 3.5 and Pathfinder, so I felt a little pressure to put on a good show for ‘old school gaming,’ but once we began playing I mostly let things run their course.

Anyway the apiary consisted of a farmhouse, barn, four large bee hives, and, a short distance away, a white tower, stained sea-green and strewn with dried sea weed. The party rode up to the farmhouse and began investigating, immediately attracting the attention of a group of beekeepers, who of course were all maggot farmers.  Most of the party immediately hid in the farmhouse, while the paladin and barbarian charged. The farmers were all slain, although a couple of PCs, and one of their horses, were infected with the flies.  The party then found a bull, also infected with the maggot farmer disease, but they won initiative and killed it before it could charge (which would have caused its head to explode in a large swarm of infectious flies).  Because the party cleared the cathedral last time, the clerics cast Cure Disease for them for free.  Good thing, too — the paladin used his weekly ‘Cure Disease’ power on his horse before checking how the party was doing.

I took the maggot farmers down a notch in power, because as written, a lot depends on the players figuring out that they need to burn them or destroy the heads from a distance, but called shots are not really part of the normal repertoire for D&D combat, and just telling them ‘the bodies have AC11, the heads have AC13’ or whatever would have ruined the fun of figuring it out, so instead I had them destroyed by HP damage but left in the 50-50 chance of their heads breaking when they fell.  The swarms of flies, and unknown effects of infection, kept things scary enough without having them be immune to damage on their bodies.

Taking advantage of the seaweed and barnacles encrusting the tower, the party sent the thief and assassin to climb to the top of the tower, and send down ropes, which got the party into the top floor of the re-keyed tower.  They fought their way down, bypassing the more puzzley rooms and wiping out the occupants (maggot farmers, giant flies, a volt, a demon, and a fly-headed evil cleric), and then instead attempting to loot the thing, the party decided to burn it down, piling firewood and lumber from the farmhouse inside the first floor and setting the whole thing ablaze.  What with the water tank on the second floor, and the damp rock, I figured a big enough blaze would crack the the tower’s lower levels and cause it to implode.  Mission accomplished!

The players did not remember the specifics of the tricks and puzzles very well, but the dwarf player figured he’d remember enough of the legends from his forefathers to know that the last time a dwarf explored the tower, he found it lacking in treasure, so the somehow enough of the party was convinced there would be no treasure in it. Happily there were ample rewards for bringing back the mead that was salvageable and for solving the mystery, so the party had had enough loot to carouse if they wanted to.

The guest player failed his will rolls and was beaten and robbed while partying.  After the fact I was a little concerned that my lack of attention to the new guy might have put him off but he seemed interested in joining the game in the fall if space permits, so I guess he had a good enough time. 90% of the fun of D&D, for me, is hanging out with fun people and luckily my players are all pretty funny or interesting, so I think at this point the group sells the game more than anything about my DMing.

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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Telengard 2, session 7

The last session was a lot of fun.  The players finished exploring last week’s dungeon (missing a few things I hoped they’d find, and some treasure, but that’s OK) and then girded themselves to take on the Cathedral of Odin.

In the dungeon, they encountered a little bit of weirdness (an inscrutable machine and a room filled with steel ticks) and some fights (a wandering ogre who provided a running commentary of self-affirmations, and a minotaur and his goat-man minions, whose lair was so befouled with dung that party did not even bother searching for treasure).  They skipped giving a detailed examination to a room they’d rushed through last time (pursuing the cultists who’d kidnapped the scouts), and there were a few treasures they didn’t recognize or find last time, but in terms of monster extermination, the dungeon was done.  They even rescued some townsfolk who were held prisoner there.

The rogue had heard a rumor that the Cathedral was held by a fire giant, but the party decided that this might not be true, and sent the rogue and assassin to scout ahead.

They had to climb up to the roof to get a look inside, as the windows and stained glass were all bricked over, but the bell tower was unfortified.  Sneaking down the tower with the Mask of the Fox, Dell saw a number of oddities, but no fire giant.  The pews were filled with chanting cultists and townsfolk.  Dell managed to make his save and avoid joining them in the endless chant.  He also saw a giant flying eyeball, roosting with five cyclopskin in the choir loft, a large bank of fog in the center of the cathedral’s gallery, and small swarm of flying skulls zipping about the front of the church.  When he reported back on all this, the party began to formulate a cunning plan which could not fail. Nah.  Actually they came up with an unbelievably half-baked plan which involved sending the assassin to kill the eyeball, and while the paladin, dwarf, and barbarian charged in the front doors on warhorses (and a warpony for the dwarf).

On the one hand I was kind of awestruck by the sheer audacity of the whole plan.  On the other I deeply sympathized with one of the players who was shaking his head, almost wincing, at how foolhardy the plan sounded…not least because the party had no idea what was up at the altar and in the fog bank, if anything.  The assassin’s plan was basically to assassinate the eyeball and then fight FIVE CYCLOPSKIN.  Basically alone (the rogue would provide cover with his crossbow).

But the party took the precaution of stuffing their ears with wool, to muffle the chanting.  The Ladyhawke-style use of warhorses indoors was cool as hell, and I decided not to make their horses slip-slide all over the place, as they probably should on smooth marble floors.

The whole encounter was huge rolling melee that consumed a good hour or so.  There were several roars of laughter, bad decisions that didn’t quite get anyone killed, strategic uses of the d30 and shield-splintering rule that saved one PC’s bacon, and the paladin, who spent most of the dungeon cowering providing archery support, got all Lancelot on the monsters, making the most of his lance and warhorse.  So it was a lot of fun.

JOESKY tax

The mask of the fox (magic item)

A small fox-skin mask which covers the eyes and nose and is tied by a bit of leather, it turns the wearer into a fox — they their keep original Int and HP but other stats are changed:
AC15, Move 18″, 1 bite for d2 damage, Heightened senses like a thief to 90′.*  A fox has the following skills**: Hide and move silently +12, listen and track +10, climb and jump +6.
All your gear changes too, but you cannot remove the mask yourself; someone else must take it off.***

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*In my games, rogues and assassins can ‘see’ up to 40′ in the dark, provided they are moving silently and no non-stealthy types are within 120′, because they rely on their other hearing, smell, etc. to sense movement.  This rule was basically adopted to make thieves effective at scouting in dungeons.

**Skill rolls are generally d20 target 18, possibly higher targets for extreme situations.

***The alternate limitations I’d toyed with but rejected were: you may forget you are human and become, effectively, an actual fox (like a Polymorph Other spell); the mask is obvious even in fox form and you are obviously not a normal fox, if seen; you also have a fox’s HP (ouch!); can only be removed after 4, 8, or 12 hours of wear.

Published in: on March 8, 2012 at 12:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Telengard 2, session 6

At the end of last session, some carousing led to Mazrin, the half-orc assassin, being turned into a swine, and Grundle the dwarf had a quest (Geas) imposed on him by the gods!  Indeed Mazrin had had a quest imposed the previous session, and I’d totally forgot about it.  Doh.  So anyway the quests were both the same thing: take care of the monster-breeding hole in the old town plaza.  Not exactly subtle but it got them to the dungeon I’d prepared or the prior session.  They had also heard earlier that a green comet had crashed into that part of town a few weeks prior.
They found that a crater, which emitted a green fog, was right in the middle of the old town center.  Carefully scouting it out, Dell (the rogue) and Mazrin saw a pair of green, crustacean-like humanoids emerge. The rest of the party joined in, firing missiles and then charging. The creatures fired lasers from their eyes and struck wildly with their claws but the party took them out without a scratch.
The party then descended into the pit, discovering a weird eel-like larvae growing in the bottom of the crater; there was also a hole leading into the underworld.  In the underworld, the party panicked when they saw a crown and sword floating along in a chamber.  The paladin tried turning undead, and the dwarf cowered in the back, decrying his lack of a magical weapon.  The barbarian tossed a torch at, which bounced off something a few feet in front of the ghost!  But the bard’s arrow struck home, and floated along at chest level in the ghost.  By now the party was growing more confident, and the barbarian charged the thing — only to stopped short and paralyzed.  He’d run into a Gelatinous Cube! (Muhuwahaha!)
Eventually the party defeated it, and did  a little exploring while the barbarian recovered from the paralysis.  Deeper in the dungeon they fought an ogre, and slew it handily; a group of chaos warriors gave them more trouble.  They also discovered an old statue of an elf, labelled “Sparky”.
From there the rouge and assassin scouted ahead and stumbled into a pair of cultists, one of whom cast Sleep, putting them both down.  By the time the rest of the party decided to check on the scouts, they were tied up and being carried off.  The cultists covered their retreat with a Web spell, and a furious and frantic chase ensued, the party a bit behind, the cultists bearing off the two helpless scouts. They lead the party past a chamber with two pools and a statue, and up to an ‘orgy room’ (at this point some of the players — not the scouts’ players — were hoping to find the cultists and scouts in a ‘Pulp Fiction situation’ … nice).  The finally caught up with the cultists in a chamber piled with bones, which assembled themselves into a horde of skeletons.
Somehow the party smashed through the skeletons and cultists, and the scouts were saved.  Then they noticed a ladder leading further down, the opening issuing more green fog…surely getting near the goal of the quest!
Down the ladder they found a large chamber with a cauldron that was spewing out fog and a new monster every round!  Six beastmen of various types were waiting for them.  The combat was tough but the party was victorious.  They decided to take their leave then, as they were wounded and resources depleted.  Aside from gold and valuables, the party made off with a +1 shield, a ring of feather falling, and the Mask of the Fox — literally a mask that turns you into a fox.  Dell the rogue got it, and used it back in town to gather rumors.  As the rest of the party was shopping, carousing, etc., he slunk off to gather rumors.  This is what he heard and saw:
  • Some unemployed henchmen are picketing the Adventurers’ Guild in protest of ‘callous and inhuman treatment at the hands of adventurers’.
  • Two merchants discuss the green comets over turtle soup at the well-regarded cafe, “Ye Turtles All the Way Down.” One says he heard that there were three that landed, one in the plaza, one outside town, and one crashed into Mt. Telengard.  The other says the last green comet was sighted hundreds of years ago.  Neither believes the other.
  • You overhear a very bawdy, very funny ballad about an underhung Hobgoblin named “Swinglow.”
  • “The sewers are overrun with stinking kobolds. Thousands of them.”
  • Two sinister looking men at The Five Alewives’ Stead, a dumpy bar, discuss moving some statues “out of the hole,” and that they need to do it “or else Master Argos will be angry.”
  • The workers rebuilding a ruined chapel that was recently “cleared” by the adventurers refuse to continue, saying they’ve seen walking skeletons who demand a pot of gold.
  • A guard tells his wife he fears he’ll be out of work soon, once the Mayor hires “those monsters”.
  • “You can buy many magical things at the Goblin Market, at a very good price.”
  • A merchant says he can’t get any honey from the apiary outside Puddington anymore, and the beekeepers drove him away angrily — in fact he was afraid of them.
  • “The cathedral of Odin? It’s an evil, dangerous place. A fire giant holds court there now.”

The dungeon map was posted a while back byDyson, and I’ll post my key if/when the party finishes exploring it.

The rumor thing actually came up after the session.  Dell’s player asked if his character could sneak around in the foxmask gathering rumors, and it gave me a great opportunity to dump hooks on the party. Win-win.

Published in: on March 2, 2012 at 9:36 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Telengard 2, session 5

As the last few sessions involved a fair amount of seat-of-my pants improv, I decided to plan a short dungeon more in the style, such as it is, of the dungeons of the first Telengard campaign.  In the end, I didn’t need to use it, as the party decided to clear some more houses.  I threw together a few random to stock houses and provide wandering monsters of the streets of Skara Brae, which worked out pretty well. The party worked together and did not suffer any casualties.  The were suitably frightened by a patrol of cyclopskin and eyebats, which they hid from, and they used clever plans to draw some ghouls out of another house and wipe them out in detail.  At the end of the session they set up an ambush, using a barrel of green slime they found in a Gremlin lair, which wiped out the cyclopskin very efficiently.  (I forgot just how fast that stuff kills you — d4 rounds!)  The dungeon will likely get used next time, since two characters have been given quests due to carousing mishaps.

We also had a new player, who Tom, Richard, and I met through my sister.  He’s another returning gamer who hasn’t played in years and he enjoyed the chaotic session enough to want to come back, which is cool.  A couple of regulars weren’t there, which probably made it less overwhelming for him than it could have been.  As it is, he fits in just fine, personality-wise.  The group is now up to seven players, which is a good number considering we all have work and/or family obligations that mean we usually are missing a player or two on any given night.  If everyone makes it, I’ll have my hands full, and I think that big parties must be the reason a ‘caller’ was used so much in the old days.  I might resort to that if we need to. Especially if Marc comes back to the group in the next month or so.  I haven’t heard from him in a while though.

The other gaming-related development has been some reorganization and renovation in the basement, which has opened up some space.  Tom and my dad came over on Saturday to “help” me fix a soffit that’s been drooping and has been propped up by a “lally pole” for the last several years.  It was kind of embarrassing to realize that the thing could be fixed in a few hours — even with an extra trip to the hardware store — and I’d let it junk up up the basement for so long.  Now my wife’s crafting area is well away from the gaming table, and we’ve cleared out a lot of the clutter.   We’ve been slowly trying to make one place for each kind of thing in the house, to cut down on the disorganization, searching for things, and make cleaning easier.  The first step was repurposing the ‘guest room’ to make a play room for our daughter, then moving most of the the books to the ‘office,’ and similar stuff.

I also rigged up a way to attach a 4 x 6 sheet of plywood to the table, which creates a t-shaped table that will have extra seating room and easier access for everyone to the center of the table where the minis get set up.  We’ll see how that works out next time.  I also found a spot to hand an old printer’s drawer on the wall for extra miniatures display space, and hung some posters and swords on the walls, so it should feel more like a finished gaming area rather than a cluttered store-room.

Published in: on February 27, 2012 at 9:32 am  Comments (1)  
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Telengard 2, session 4: Hall of the Goblin Lord

Last week the party began exploring this One Page Dungeon, and this time they completed it.  In fact, the entire session was taken up with re-entering the hall (the goblins had hired some orcs to help guard the hall — they could only get five on such short notice, and frankly they were no substitute for the ogre!), rescuing the girl, and discovering and clearing the cultists.

The elf who died last time was not replaced, as that player had some parenting duties and couldn’t make the game, and the cleric player was also absent, but Chad was back with his bard so this time the party was just four characters and decided to hire some ‘meat shields’.  They hired and equipped five men-at-arms with leather and spears, and used them as support troops rather than callously throw them into the meatgrinder of melee by themselves.  With the spearmen fighting from the back rank, the party did very well, and managed to defeat all their foes, although in the final assault on the cultists, the paladin and two man-at-arms were downed and one man-at-arms was killed (actually he just bled out while the party discussed their next move).

The OPD had a good mix of exploration and combat, and while there was a lot of treasure, the challenge was very high for 1st level PCs too.

Published in: on February 16, 2012 at 10:03 am  Comments (3)  
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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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The not ready for primetime Labyrinth Lord, or, Telengard session 1

Last night, more or less on a whim, I decided to go ahead and run the first session of my Labyrinth Lord game.* We were going to be short one C&C player and Tom, the DM for that game, has been exceptionally busy at work, so he was hoping to put that game on hiatus until we have full attendance. Last time we played Capes, which was a fun little game, but I’ve been itching to start, even though there is TON of stuff I’d have liked to prepare first (for example, a level or two of the local megadungeon, a key to the city map, some NPCs, some handouts, etc. — all I have done so far really is the house rules).

Still, Tom found time to create a custom character sheet (all on one side of a page, yay!) and everyone was OK with a “quicky” intro to the game, so off we went.

I had everyone make 2 PCs, and start at 1st level, despite my earlier inclination to start higher and with henchmen. Thinking it over I just didn’t think it would be a good idea to introduce a new game with higher level characters. Tom made a Dwarf and a Halfling, Richard made a Thief and Fighter, and John made an Elf and a Fighter.  So, the party looked pretty formidable despite Richard’s abysmal starting gold rolls (something like 40 and 60 GP… Leather armor for his fighter and no tools for his thief!).

I had several OPDs printed out and thought I could use one of them, but ended up going with The Ogre Chief’s Grasp,** which was just right for a short session after character generation. Had I been better prepared, I’d have made extra copies of the equipment lists, as that proved to be the main bottleneck in creating the party. Otherwise it was quite a zip. I love older editions of D&D for that reason.

I should note that the module as written included five ogres (four cronies and the chief) and I thought that seemed to be too much for 1st level characters.  Instead I replaced with two of the crony ogres with d6 half-orcs (Orcs with slightly better armor in LL terms). The party managed to kill everything without losing any PCs, although most were pretty beat up. The “Shields will be splintered” rule certainly saved Richard’s fighter’s bacon!

All three players are experienced (Tom mainly as DM, Richard as a casual but long-time player, and John as both a DM & player)*** so I wasn’t too surprised that they used caution and ingenuity. One moment of hilarity was near the start, when the Halfling was sent sent down by a rope through a trap door in the roof of the fort. When an ogre burst into the room that the Halfing had been lowered into, the Dwarf leaped off the roof to bring the Halfling out quickly…which smashed him against the ceiling, then pulled him through the trap door opening and finally pinned him between the crenelations of the battlement on the roof. The Halfling was hurting from that, and both characters were run by my brother, who I guess should be credited with getting the Halfling out FAST but also debited for doing something pretty dumb for a professional engineer. :)****

Anyway the module instructed the GM to roll the hoard class (XX) for EACH ogre present, which came an immense sum (valued over 6000 GP all told, and as luck would have it, including a ring of invisibility, which is an awesome score for a first level party). I think that might be excessive but I’ll check the LL rules tonight.

Fabulously well to do, the party equipped everyone (except the thief) with plate mail, which means I can definitely not worry about pulling punches, this party should have no problems with a level 1 dungeon! Unless they ever need to flee something big and fast, or swim…

Anyway this adventure was basically a “trial” put to them by the Adventurer’s Guild to see if they were ready to try entering Telengard itself. I think they are.

For my part, I’ll try to have a level or two stocked and also get my handouts together for next session.

*I could have put it off indefinitely. Like having a child or starting a business, if you wait until the time is “right” to start a campaign you’ll just never do it.

**I ended up winging quite a bit for this, though. I’d worried so much about which “quicky adventure” I was going to use that I never gave much thought to how to introduce the mission. Although I did not even think to name the “mayor” and “sheriff” of the halfling village, I did try to make them distinct characters and either could appear again later. The module only gave one way in to the “fortress” — the front doors — and I couldn’t imagine it would be unlocked, so I added an access hatch on the roof. Tom tried digging a hole in the roof to get in, which I thought was an interesting idea, while the other two began clearing a pile of rubble that looked promising (I figured there’d have been some way for defenders to get on the roof, but that the small wooden tower over the hatch had collapsed from disrepair). It seems to me that winging things will be important as I get more comfortable with the role of GM.

***Before the game I was pretty intimidated by the fact that both Tom & John are experienced GMs, but I think they both appreciate not having to be the GM enough that they were not too critical of the game.

****See his comment below. Apparently taking friction into account makes his move a lot more sensible. I was just looking it at as heavy dwarf yanking light halfling with the force of gravity, but friction could seriously reduce the force. I’m not 100% convinced there would be much friction for the entirety of the dwarf’s fall, but it looks like there should have been no falling damage for the halfling.

Published in: on October 7, 2010 at 10:00 am  Comments (8)  
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