No one here gets out alive

(Well except the dwarf, usually. In fact he’s usually the sole survivor.)

There have been several total party kills (TPKs) and near-TPKs (one or two survivors) in Telengard 2.0.  In fact the first session was a TPK if I recall correctly. <This post has been languishing in my “drafts” folder for long enough — we’ve been through like three other campaigns since then, and I haven’t been DMing much. Still, because I still grin when I read it, I’m going to go ahead with the post. Fair? No. Funny? I thought so:>

Based on the Telengard experiences, I think the following tips & tricks might be useful if you ever find yourself in a game I am running.

1) Consider fleeing when outnumbered by ghouls or ghasts.  Consider fleeing when encountering even one ghoul, if you are first level.

2) Wander into a room with a gaggle of imps who immediately turn invisible? Those are poisonous stingers, son.  Seriously, at least consider fleeing.

3) If the party’s resources are nearly depleted, it is a good time to consider exiting the dungeon, even if you think there might be some treasure nearby.

4) “Let’s just try one more room before heading back” and “Let’s just clear this level before heading back.” Those are lyrics to the Death March of a Doomed Party.

5) Trying to backstab or assassinate a major monster/villain/boss is only a good idea if you have an escape plan for if the roll fails. Jumping out the window of an 80′ tower is not an escape plan. Even if you have a ring of feather falling, if you also know the monster and/or its minions can fly.

6) Did I mention that 25% of PC deaths are preventable?  Some of the most effective measures you can take are: not being an unarmored front-line fighter; not touching the Yellow Mold; not bashing in a door with a sign that says “Caution, demi-lich at work.”

All of the above tips would have saved someone’s life at some point in Telengard.

**************

As a player, I admit I am a hypocrite about fleeing, many times. But I do consider it an option.

Advertisements
Published in: on January 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags:

The terrible tax on gnomes

Yesterday someone came here looking for “the terrible tax on gnomes”.  I know because it was among the search terms that brought a referral.  Obviously I  must pay my Google Penance.

The gnomes of Telengard are a displaced people.  Legend has it that long before they founded Gnomestead (in the north-east of the land called Telengard, after the terrible mountain) they lived underground, perhaps in the very caverns beneath Mt. Telengard.  But this was many, many centuries past, and now they live above ground in halls and huts within the wooden palisades of Gnomestead.

Though the gnomes of Gnomestead have come to peaceful terms with the dwarves and humans who have displaced them, they remain standoffish and rarely visit the human settlements (Skara Brae, Clovis, and Porttown) and the dwarven undercity beneath Skara Brae.  Instead they trade mostly with the peasants who still live outside of town walls, in the woods near Gnomestead, as well as with traders from the far-off Vulking kingdom.  The gnomes, once masters of metalwork, trade mostly in wood and leather items, as well their famous Gnomeade ( a mead said to have invigorating — possibly magical — properties).

However even these trade relations have not made the gnomes completely safe, and the proud little people bear a terrible burden silently.  In fact the gnomes pay an annual tribute to The Lord of the Forest — a tribute of living souls.  When the gnomes can, they offer captured humanoids, but more often the bulk of their tribute is in gnomes — criminals, outcasts, and even innocents.  What becomes of the souls given over to the Lord of the Forest none can say.  The gnomes will not speak of this shameful practice, for the only greater shame than their thralldom would be to ask for assistance from the dwarves and humans who have stolen their underground empire and rightful gold.  This shame is partly compounded by the fact that gnomes have already been saved by a band of human and dwarvish heroes at least twice in the past — long ago from a fire giant, and more recently from a witch who enslaved their astral bodies to work a mine in the Dreamlands.  So now, they suffer in silence, paying a terrible tax that impoverishes their manpower (gnomepower?) and keeps the whole of Gnomestead under the shadow of the Lord of the Forest.

Published in: on January 31, 2014 at 4:00 pm  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

The 2013 One Page Dungeon Contest is here

…and you are almost out of time to make a submission.   <update> OK times up but now you can see all the submissions! Check it out HERE.

Last night I couldn’t sleep and spent a few hours revising, redrawing, and scanning a dungeon I made for my first D&D campaign (Telengard).  It was level 2a — a sublevel accessible from level 2 of  the Telengard mini-megadungeon, although it was also accessible from an outdoor feature (“The Salt Fens”).  It is now posted my “downloads page” (see the sidebar on the right) and you can also just click here for the pdf: The-Misty-Pond

The main change I made to the dungeon was removing a trick/puzzle that would take too much space on an OPD to explain.  In th OPD it is just a trapped chest, but in my campaign there was a “room” with a sign that said:

One casket holds a treasure. The other two are empty or hold evil spirits. All the inscriptions on the caskets are either true or false. The riting on this sign is all true.  You have one minute to open a casket, or all will open.

There are three caskets: one brass, one tin, and one copper.  They each have an inscription.

Brass: The treasure is in here.

Tin: The treasure is in the copper casket.

Copper: At least two inscriptions are false.

I handed a player two index cards — one with the inscription on the signs, one with the three caskets drawn and labeled on it, and started a one minute timer.   (In my campaign he opened a casket with treasure inside and kept th other two caskets in his pack for many sessions, just in case he found a use for them.)  The evil spirits were wraiths.  You will no doubt figure this puzzle out, as the player did.  He also snarfed the two unopened caskets, “just in case” he might need them later.  I can think of a lot of uses for a box that might have a wraith in it.  Sadly that PC did not ever get a chance to use the caskets.  The PC ‘went bad’ and became a villain for a while but I can’t remember if the villain ever got to use the caskets either.

Anyway the OPD version of this dungeon has some treasure, some monsters, and some tricks or traps, but the main thing that I liked about it is that the “dungeon” is totally open, strictly speaking; however line of sight and movement are blocked by the fact that the “wall” areas are waters infested with monsters and covered with mists that reduce visibility to 10′.   Falling into the water is very dangerous, but a capable swimmer might bypass some dangerous “rooms”.  I also like that it is a fairly surreal location, with giant lily pads, a flail snail (which I was using LONG before the OSR got that flail snail meme, dammit!), and its own logic.

You still have time to create your own submission.  I used Google Drive to upload a scan of the crude drawing and the “Drawing” editor to add a key, text, etc.  It looks kind of crude but is usable!  You could scan your own small map and add the key etc. in a few hours if you want to enter the contest.

Published in: on April 24, 2013 at 11:34 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: ,

That campaign blowed up real good!

Farm Report

There’s nothing like Death Frost Doom to stir things up when your campaign is beginning to peter out a bit.  Minor spoilers follow, so if you’ve never read or played DFD, you might want to stop reading now.

I’ve had DFD sitting around in the mountains since my first Telengard campaign (although I only actually got a copy of the module later; I’d heard of the basic idea and thought it would be a great fit, and would have improvised something like it if anyone had checked it out then).

I think level is not too important for this adventure, since it mostly exploration. The party was really near the upper limit — it’s supposed to be for PCs level 1-6, and most of them are level 6 now.  Still, the finale could be a TPK for almost any level of PCs, considering the confined space and overwhelming numbers of foes.  Being of highish levels made it possible for the party to fight one foe that a lower level party would have almost certainly had to bargain with, and defeat some other foes a low-level party might have been killed by, but since combat is not the focus of the module, it really didn’t matter too much.

Our party took on the module in two sessions — the first extremely carefully, as only the bard, assassin, and magic-user were present for the session, and the second a bit more recklessly, as the assassin and magic-user were joined by the paladin and dwarf, as well as four low-level meat shields.  Two meat shields died (one suicide, one energy drained) but otherwise the party was mostly unscathed.  The assassin gained a point of strength but lost a point of intelligence, and Funko the gremlin also lost one point of intelligence.

They had only opened one big crypt door by the time “hell vomits its filth” was triggered, so most of the undead were not immediately able to swarm the party. The one turn “lead time” meant they were able to find Cyrus’ tomb just before the undead actually began awakening.   Opening his tomb, they quickly found the coffin and surmised that there was a vampire about, so the dwarf immediately began destroying the coffin and scattering the earth.  This caused Cyrus to appear and attempt to parlay, but the party immediately attacked and being some serious ass-kickers, defeated him in matter of two rounds.

It took a bit of discussion before the party realized that there was no way to simply fight their way out, and they came up with a reasonably good escape plan, barricading a door and going out a ‘chimney’ to the surface.  My lax ritual casting rules let them escape with all their gear intact, but under stricter rules they would have been forced to leave a lot of stuff behind.  As it was the magic user could cast ‘fly’ enough times to give the party a safe exit from the dungeon.  I suppose if I’d been a jerkier DM I would have had ghouls come for them via the chimney while the casting was being done, but that would pretty much be a TPK by fiat, so I overrode the module’s suggestion there.  Instead, the party flew down to Zeke’s camp and rode their horses off the mountain.

t-o-d-trap

With a village (Clovis), a town (Puddington), and a small city (Skara Brae) all within a day’s forced march, the party was scrambling to give warning and figure out how to deal with the army of the dead now on the move.  Hilarity ensued, and the party even split up, but I’d already determined that they had a fair amount of time before the main body of zombies and skeletons were really on the move, and the ghoul horde was too disorganized to give immediate chase, so probably the undead will not make a ‘bee line’ for anything and instead need to fan out until they find victims.  Or a leader.  I understand the party let a mummy-priest get away a few sessions back. 🙂

DSC03537

Time to start figuring out potential troop strengths for the local settlements and how to handle large-scale battles.  One thing that might be fun could be a “cut scene” where a hopelessly outnumbered force fights the vanguard of the undead army, both to create some foreboding and to introduce mass combat rules.

I’ve heard of DFD  ‘ending’ campaigns but I think it Telengard it might be a bridge to the ‘end-game’ of fortress-building, army-raising, etc.  DFD would also be a fun campaign-starter at low levels or even first level, come to think of it.

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 6:00 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , ,

Some more new monsters

Haven’t been posting any session recaps lately but will try to get some player’s session summaries up soon — the bard player in particular has been doing a bang-up job writing up cool stuff.  Anyway for the benefit of DMs, here’s the roster of monsters the party fought last time in a castle in the dreamlands (lots of bugbears too but they were normal bugbears):

Tentacled wings — a humanoid monstrosity, arms replaced by giant  bat wings and head replaced by a bouquet of tentacles.  I must have gotten the idea from Lovecraft but nothing springs to mind as the immediate source — they are not Old Ones or Night Gaunts, perhaps my confused conflation of the two.  Anyway they fly, and attack with their tentacles which, if they hit, latch on and do d8 per round.  4 HD, AC 15.

Composite rats — Massive rats about the size of a small cow, with enormous maws that do 2d6 damage on a bite, and spread disease (Fort save 1 week after being bitten; fail = random disease).  HD 4, AC 14.  Each time they are hit, they split — first into two rats the size of mastiffs, and then into four cat-sized giant rats.  These smaller forms retain 4HD for attack purposes and 2d6 damage!  If hit in the smaller giant rat form, the next division turns them into a swarm of regular mice, no attacks, they just scurry away.  Don’t bother tracking HP — each hit just divides them, so basically you need to make 11 successful attacks to get rid of one! Or use area-effect spells.  The massive bite damage really stung them too.  I like these because they are in reality getting tougher as the fight progresses rather than weaker (more attacks).  One player had the idea to stop them splitting by trying to wrestle and snap the neck of a mastiff sized rat and I would have allowed that to work if he’d been able to hit the thing with his grapple attack.

The Matryoshka doll boss — I guess this could be any series of monsters, but the idea is the first ‘layer’ looks like it is just a leader of lesser humanoids, but kill it, and the thing sheds a skin to reveal a much tougher monster.  In this case we had Bugbear chief/Mind flayer with cursed sword of wounding/Type II Demon.  The cursed sword gives bearer a -2 to all saves, which made the whole encounter more survivable for 5th-6th level PCs.  When the demon started gating in more demons, things got hairy. 🙂

There are those who might think I just made up these monsters to have an excuse to use some monster figures I haven’t used lately or recently finished painting.  They would be right.  Maybe pics to follow.  And better names for them.

Published in: on February 14, 2013 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

The hodag

hodag-rhmMy daughter was really excited after watching an episode of Scooby Doo recently, and said she’d found a monster I should use in D&D.  She drew this, and yes, it must appear in Telengard soon.

What are its stats?

Published in: on January 3, 2013 at 10:16 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , ,

Gremlins

Well, snotlings technically but I’m not running Warhammer.

41 snotlings and one werewolf

So that’s what I painted this weekend.  I had started them all some time ago, and had the base coats on them.  This weekend was just all the detailing (clothes, eyes, teeth, weapons, mushrooms, etc.).  I also decided to make  all the double snotlings use two different colors, so I had more to do on them.  They are about 15mm tall, though many stoop, and mostly based on pennies.  A few are on plastic 1″ bases.

For my Telengard campaigns, I added ‘gremlins’ to the monster list.  Basically ripped off the Ultima games, except that I also decided that they will be ‘color coded’ so that, say, Green gremlins steal food, water, and potions; Red gremlins steal torches and flint and oil; Yellow gremlins steal random equipment from your inventory; Blue gremlins steal anything magical.  The Blue gremlins appear innocuous though. They happy songs sing quietly, speak a babyish dialect of Common with a weird shibboleth that stands in for almost anything, and imitate the adventurers, and ask for food or water.  Let them get too close, or catch you sleeping, and they will grab anything not nailed down.  They all also enjoy netting and clubbing unconscious any demihumans they find.    They tend to fear humans.

I love the Citadel snotling minis.  I think these are among the first designs for snotlings that were available in the USA, or at least the first I saw at a time when I was pretty into Citadel minis and frequently going to hobby shops like the King’s Crown in eastern Kansas (about 1985 or 1986). This one looks like he’s right out of Labyrinth:

The green gremlins:

Fairly militant — spears and a bow among them, as well as a net and whatever that mushroom does.

The Yellow:

Couple of dudes throwing puff balls (in Warhammer, snotlings use mushrooms and puff balls for poison).  I’d have them make an area cloud, while in it you have to hold your breath or make saves.  The clouds of spores disperse on a roll of 1 on a d6 (roll every round).  Fail one save you’re stunned from coughing.  Fail two you pass out (like sleep, but affecting any level). Fail three and you begin to die from fungal infection (1 hp per turn until cured or dead).  Humanoids slain by spores become shroommen.

Red:

Lots of spores and nets.

Blue:

These are some of my favorites.  The slingshot.  The archer on his back to stretch a short bow with arms and legs. Two mini-fanatics, looking like tiny goblin fanatics.  The witchdoctor, the sneak, the complacent mushroom farmer in suspenders.

Gremlins of different sorts can cooperate.

The ‘chickenfighters’ were both poorly cast and missing the bottom guy’s right foot and calf.  I had to make new ones.

But there is some animosity among clans.

The left foot of one wrestler is missing from both of these models.  Need to replace them some time, but sculpting feet for 15mm figures sounds pretty awful.  Maybe I can dig up a donor among my 1/72 plastic ancients.

Bonus mini, a werewolf.  The MegaMinis recast of a German figure (Metal Magic?).  Looks somewhere between Nosferatu and the werewolves from a film from the 1980s.

These guys are on a 20mm base.  Note the crudely reconstructed right foot.  And the snot dripping onto the bottom guy’s head.

Published in: on September 10, 2012 at 6:08 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Telengard session 18

The next session saw the party mostly reassembled (only the cleric was absent) and they decided to press on into the ruins of the dwarven city, this time taking on the garrison again. The party defeated a series of rooms full of orcs (but no pie), a few ogres, and a finally a roomful of uruks which were unexpectedly challenging for a bunch of 5th level characters.  Indeed the assassin was so badly wounded that he abandoned his companions to return to town for healing.  But the party pressed on.  The last door of the garrison led to a stairway leading down, and so the party began exploring.

This session saw the party split for the first time in quite a while (actually I can’t remember any splits before except for scouting details) and this added a little tension to a delve that was on the easy side for the party.  Below the garrison the party found what turned out to be an old bath-house complex (yet another OPD), and the party found and killed a ghost.  The planning and debates about facing the ghost took a lot of time, and the actual encounter was over in moments — the paladin and assassin fled in terror, the dwarf stood his ground, and the wizard used his d30 to boost a magic missile … and rolled a 30, laying the ghost to rest for good! (Dell’s player had to bow out just before this as he had a personal thing to attend to.)

The players once again made some good write-ups.  The dwarf player summarized the session, and the wizard player recaps several sessions in am ore general manner.  Here they are:

1. Grundel’s

“Filthy orcs,” Grumbled Grundel as the orc axe slammed into his armor.  Pathetic was the resistance of the humanoids so far.  But now they fought as if they knew the end was near.  The very thought of humanoids taking up residence in the dwarven halls had caused Grumble to forgo his normal caution, barely giving Dell time to listen at the doors before charging in.  For their part Turbedish and Del were keeping pace with him.  Well at least until they find the others.  Now Dell laid under the table, perhaps breathing, perhaps not.   The torch light in the adjacent room went out, more correctly fled.  “The Henchman and Assassin are racing each other to the surface,” Grumble thought “at least the mage was showing his worth.”  He had hoped one of them might pull the rogue out of harm’s way.   Previous deaths had sapped what little courage remained in the Assassin’s blood.  Who was he to judge?  Who knew what the assassin saw waiting for him in the afterlife?
Blows continued to rain down from the orc bodyguard.  A few found the mark on Grumble, the Paladin seemed to be faring much better.  Then Turbedish cast a spell that turned the direction of the battle. The paladin was suddenly 10 feet tall with the strength of a giant. 
 
Soon the battle was over, and Dell yet breathed.  No sign of the Assassin or the henchmen.  Talk was of turning back and regrouping.  Grumble laughed and said “I am fine; let’s kill more orcs — who needs the assassin anyway?”  Sound judgment gave way the dwarf’s stubbornness yet again.     
 
Deeper in the dwarven halls the adventurers found a ghost; now Grumble was racing to the surface.  Beasts of flesh and blood were one thing, to defeat the undead you need magic.  The wizard had only a few cantrips remaining.   They had to regroup so Grumble paid no heed to the paladin’s mocking. 
 
Back in the tavern the Assassin emerged from the shadows.  Dell, more than half dead, sipping some stout told the group he might sit this one out, as the strong drink and blood escaped through a hole in his cheek.  The remaining four came up with a plan.  The best they could come up with was to confront the Ghost with newly memorized spells and have the paladin and the dwarf attack the creature.   Now the confrontation…
 
The paladin and the assassin raced blindly to the surface as the wizard’s magic missiles dispensed the ghost without a single swing of a weapon.  “We have a wizard!” Grumble later exclaimed to the assembled group. Then,  “Who won the race?”
2. Turbedish’s letter home
Dear Father,
My apologies for the long delay since my last. Adjusting to the Northern “climate” was something that took me by surprise. Hopefully, the illnesses associated with such travel are now behind me. The filth these people seem content to live in shall never cease to amaze me. As you suggested, I have made it to Skara Brae, though I find it in disrepair greater than you knew. In spite of most of the old city being overrun with many types of foul creature, the human inhabitants had not relinquished it to the forces of the Night. Some months before I arrived, a few groups of would be heroes took it upon themselves to begin reclaiming the city. I cannot fathom the method of their success, given the bouts of insanity to which they seem to be subject. Patience does not seem a virtue in their eyes. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself…I have taken up the “hero” business. The “Mayor” of this ruin has a seemingly endless supply of gold, which he uses to reward “adventurers” for reclaiming buildings from the creatures of the Night. One such group (purported to be the most successful as luck would have it) was in need of a Wizard as I arrived. Joining them seemed the most efficacious method of inserting myself in the community, if not with subtlety. I began to question my decision almost immediately. They constantly bicker and squabble over the smallest of things. I hesitate to call any of them the leader of the group. However, a “Du-arph” by the name of Grundle seems to be a driving force in their success (if only through his avarice). I had, at first, mistaken him for a particularly large and stout peck, but apparently these Du-arphs are of different stock. This Grundle alternates between ruthless efficiency and profound cowardice, at times running (slowly) into a horde of uruks or fleeing (also slowly) from a mere ghost. He carries enough metal and gear with him to supply a platoon, there are times I marvel that the floor doesn’t give way beneath his feet. Nonetheless, he possesses a sort of cunning and paranoia which suits his career choice well.

We are accompanied by two servants of the Lords of Light and two other rather queer persons. They are all possessed by a certain disregard for their own safety. Recently, while assaulting an uruk infestation, I witnessed two of them leaping through a horrid defense of whirling blades that the brutes had established, only to be cut off by flaming oil. Luckily, we rescued them before anything tragic occurred. In dangerous circumstance, it is the group’s habit to send Dell and Mazrim (the aforementioned queer persons) ahead on “scouting” missions. In spite of taking on this dangerous task with little armor or defense beyond their wits and nerve, they are relentlessly teased for their ineffectiveness. Still, given the scant help these missions yield, I question the wisdom of the practice. The one named Mazrim concerns me. While his actions seem innocent, he bares a striking similarity to that son of cousin Hajima’s (the one that people whisper about.) I cannot say much about the two devout. One seems to be mad in the manner of that barber from Nisr Street. He mutters the blackest suggestions under his breath and then proclaims virtuous action with a loud voice. Still, the Lords appear to favor him, so who am I to judge?

Here’s an odd bit of news. Apparently, beneath the human city which is almost overrun by Nightkin, there is also a Du-arphic city in the same state. These Du-arphs dwell beneath the rock in stone warrens they cut. Our most recent escapades have involved traipsing about in the wretched darkness that the Du-arphs call home, picking off the endless supply of creatures which inhabit it. The whole thing seems rather odd. Grundle seems singularly effective in combat against most of these brutes, yet they somehow had nearly exterminated an entire city of his kind. I expect this task to soon be over, and we can return to the task of cleansing Skara Brae. I have begun to wonder from what source all these villains, both above and below ground, have been supplied. Certainly their population would demand a steady stream of victuals, as well as arms. I will investigate further, perhaps this task can be made easier by starving the horrid things out.

Tell Mother not to worry. My companions are singularly suited to this violent task and quite capable of getting along with little help from me save organization and notetaking. I’ve only been in one risky scrape, and survived quite nicely. No progress yet on that other issue.

Live long and prosper,
Turbedish 

 
 
Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 8:00 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Telengard 2.0 session 2

(I know a lot of people hate reading session reports.  Feel free to skip this, although I did include a couple of newish monsters and some general DMing musings so it’s not all a waste of time…)

The second session had a bit of a slow start, with the party checking out the new ‘Adventurer’s Guild’ that was setting up shop.  There was kind of a long and frustrating negotiation, as the players wanted to know what the AG would do for them in terms of rewards.

 I had decided ahead of time that AG would charge a 5% tax of all loot, but offer training, discounts on Identify and magical healing, and other support.  One mechanical benefit would also be that the party could earn XP bonuses for successfully completing ‘missions’ (I decided to drop the old gold = XP, and instead give arbitrary XP for successfully completing the player’s stated goals, whatever they might be; accepting a mission is one way to state a goal.)  The party was only really interested in how they would profit financially from the arrangement, and when the AG suggested they begin reclaiming houses in the city from the monsters, the party balked.

 The big problem was communication.  As DM, I thought I should not mention game mechanics in the negotiations, and only dropped hints about ‘we’ll help you become heroes’ and ‘training’.  I suppose it would have been better to say: If you take missions from us, you’ll earn more XP, because in hindsight, the game is all about exploring and heroism because those are the rewarded behaviors*.  I was all caught up in not ‘breaking the fourth wall’ and not talking meta-gamey mechanics and in hindsight that was the wrong time to do so.  But the party was also focused, laser-like, on cash rewards for helping the city and guild, so I had few opportunities for the guild steward to actually explain the “benefits.”

 In the end they found that the mayor’s office was offering cash rewards, and decided to try their luck reclaiming buildings, but along the the way they began plotting to take the buildings for themselves and set up their own fiefdom, when they realized the reward was “only” 50-100 GP per house or shop.

 Eventually things got rolling, and the party began home invasions, er, exploring and fighting monsters.  They tended to sweep through the buildings, heavy fighters kicking the doors while the rogue and assassin did a little recon.  The first foray was a little disorganized, and the assassin found himself facing four goblins who responded to the alarm raised by goblins in another part of the house.  The party had some wounds but no deaths by the time they defeated the nine goblins and one hobgoblin.  Delving further they encountered bat-like creatures with a single eye in place of  a head.  The eye-bats did not attack directly but use a ‘critical gaze’ which unnerves and distracts their victims (Will save or -1 to all rolls while under the gaze).  These proved to be fairly fragile, and the elf took two out with his bow, although one got away.   The party also encountered a band of green gremlins, tiny fey goblins who steal whatever they can grab. (If they hit an AC 7, the victim makes a Reflex save or loses one random item.  Because we use the LotFP list-based encumbrance, the PCs all have convenient lists of their inventory!)  The elf put most of  them down with a Sleep spell, and under questioning the survivors agreed to hand over their loot in exchange for their lives.  Said loot was stashed in a ruined chapel, which had been making ominous ‘rustling’ noises, and the gremlins confirmed that it housed undead hounds, which do not attack the gremlins.  The gremlin handed over his loot (several rolls on the “Mundane items table” plus one valuable bracelet) and the gremlins were off.

 The elf retired to one of the houses that had been secured, accompanied by the barbarian, who looted the house while the elf tried to re-memorize spells.  however the barbarian kept interrupting the elf and no spells were relearned. Meanwhile the rest of the party, despite their wounds, tried one more building, discovering a small library or sage’s tower that held five goatmen.  The party worked pretty well again as a team, using brute force and stealth make the most of the assassin’s and rogue’s abilities, and the paladin’s brawn.  The bard was nearly killed, but again they all pulled through and the party was ready to consolidate their gains.

The party hired some mooks to clean up the emptied houses, and then began to move some of the barricades so the cleared houses would be within ‘city limits’.  At this time the mayor showed up, having heard about the cleaning crews.  After some harsh words, the party realized the mayor was leaving, not just in a huff, but to get the Fireguard, and they relented, agreeing to hand over the houses for the reward rather than trying to hold them themselves.  (They discussed the pros & cons of deposing the mayor, using reward cash for equipment upgrades, and so on, which was fun to listen to).

Then the party returned to town, and learned from the priest in town that AG members get free healing, which prodded them to finally join, although the party claimed a moral victory, negotiating their tax down to just 4%.  As an aside, the paladin felt terribly aggrieved that the temple did not just give out free healing to his party, and unconvinced by the argument that from the priests’ point of view, he was asking for a MIRACLE, and these things are not free.  In fact the temple would heal paladins and clerics for free, guild members or not, but I’ve always felt that one of the pitfalls of having a ‘good’ church in a setting is that rogues and scoundrels will expect to take advantage of them for free healing etc.  The ‘miracle’ argument does not seem to convince my players…

Anyway I didn’t anticipate the party wanting to clear the ruins for their own use, especially at first level.  The campaign could have taken a very different, and possibly dark, turn if they decided to oppose the city so early on.  Whether they decide to depose the mayor, or topple the AG, or whatever is of course entirely up to them and I think the best part of a ‘sandbox’ approach to a campaign, as a DM, is that you get surprised so much.

.

.

.

*Ironically, during table talk a few session back, three players loudly trashed economics as a legitimate field of study because they claimed it fails to explain or predict and assumes humans are rational.  However the view that RPGs reward desired behavior seems like textbook economics to me, and they all implicitly accept this without question

Published in: on February 2, 2012 at 1:00 pm  Comments (5)  
Tags: , ,

Beginning the new campaign with TPK

So the party is sitting around in a tavern, doing not much.  The dwarf trades his lantern for another beer.  They ask if any rewards are being offered for anything. And a woman bursts into the tavern, carrying a bundle. “My baby, they’ve stolen my baby.” she wails. “Don’t let them turn my baby into a goblin!  Please rescue my baby!”  Her bundle turns out to be a crudely-constructed dummy, apparently left by the goblins.

The party leaps into action, ascertaining that the kidnapping took place last night, and that the goblins likely headed back to the old town’s main plaza.

Skara Brae has seen much better times. The northern third of the small city is still patrolled by the Fireguard and, at least during daylight hours, relatively safe. A dozen streets are barricaded against the rest of of the ruined city, which is inhabited by goblins, bandits, and worse.  The old central plaza, once the hub of the city, is now controlled by goblins. So the locals told the party the goblins would likely have taken the babe to the central plaza.  The party immediately set off for the nearest barricade, with plan, “Kill the goblins, rescue the baby.”  They were fairly sure the goblins were actually going to eat it.

I guess this is where things went a little off track. I imagined the party would have questions about the “turning it into a goblin” part, and the implication that at least some goblins were once human.  In my mind I had begun to develop an idea that goblins in Telengard would be something more out of fairy tales and old fantasy literature, rather than the Monster Manual (small orcs/generic bad guys).  Goblins had not appeared at all in the first Telengard campaign, so they were a blank slate. I thought.

In the ‘bad’ part of town, beyond the barricade, the party found an old tavern that showed some signs of life.  The rogue and ranger climbed up to the second floor and entered a window, while the rest of the party waited at the street level, watching the house.  Upstairs, the rogue and ranger found a ghoul, and quickly dispatched it.  I think the fact that I was using a different figure for the ghoul than I usually do threw them off a little and might even have made them more ready to stay and fight it.  But hey, first level, first adventure, I don’t have to tell the players things their PCs just wouldn’t know.  So I used this mini and describedit as ‘pale, with ape-like arms, jagged teeth, and yellow, glowing eyes.’

While the ranger was giving a “thumbs up” to the party from the window, the rogue went to check out another door and out popped another ghoul. The fighting went a lot worse for the party from here on out. The ghoul paralyzed the ranger, and the rest of the party at street level — a cleric, fighter, and dwarf — were surprised by half a dozen goblins who burst out from the building across the street.  The cleric went down almost immediately, and the fighter was reduced to one hit point, as I rolled 19 after 19 on my d20. Things were looking grim.

In fact they never let up.  The dwarf managed to slay the goblins by backing into a narrow alley, but meanwhile the fighter was downed, and upstairs the rogue was paralyzed too. The dwarf managed to staunch the bleeding of the cleric and fighter, and even rushed to rescue the rogue (the ranger had died already), when he too was paralyzed, and things went dark.

TPKs are never* fun, and this is the first time I DMed one.  The party might have done some things differently (not split up, for one thing; asked a few questions about the goblins, for another, as they’d have found out that parlaying and even trading is an option).  The fighter player realized he’d forgotten to add his damage and to-hit bonuses throughout the fight, but honestly with the abysmal rolls on the party’s part, it might not have made much difference.  Really it was the dice more than anything that caused the TPK in my estimation, and while that sucks, I don’t see fudging a whole encounter’s worth of dice  rolls as an option.   If I start that, why bother rolling?  The fact was, the goblins got great to-hit rolls, great morale rolls, and a high damage rolls (several 5’s and 6’s).  Even with max hit points, the PCs were screwed.

But that’s part of the game.  And really if there’s going to be a TPK, the first session is probably the time for it.  The players learn how deadly the game is, and losing newly minted characters is a lot easier than losing mid-level characters you’ve been playing for months.

Anyway the party was reasonably cool with starting new characters.  (I had even planned how defeat by the goblins would lead to the party being captured rather than dead, but defeat by ghouls can only mean one thing…so, TPK)

They agreed to all use something as different as possible from their usual types, which made me wonder if they were expecting another TPK.  I’d feel bad that they made the PCs they wanted to play and now have to play something else…but it was their choice what to make for the second outing. So now the party consists of a Rogue, Assassin, Paladin, Elf, and Barbarian. (Chad who missed this week is playing a bard, which I guess makes him the sole survivor.)

In a brief postscript, the party slew six more goblins, the remaining ghoul (I did not have the heart to throw ghouls of the rogue, ranger, and dwarf at them), and a goblin shaman who was in the middle of transforming two children into goblins. Unfortunately the two children were mistaken for goblins in the melee and slain as well.  It was a dark basement, and they were dressed and made up as goblins, so it was an honest mistake.  And hey, now the Paladin has a side quest to seek redemption for the killings.  He hasn’t lost his powers, but being a paladin, he feels compelled to seek some sort of atonement.

Feedback wanted:

GMs: Ever TPK a party in the first session?  Did it torpedo the whole campaign or did they bounce back like my players did?

Players: Would a first-session TPK put you off a DM, a campaign, a rule set?

.

.

.

*Well, sometimes they can be a little fun.  Once things reach the ”point of no return,’ TPKs can be kind of hilarious.  And once in a while, even at the ‘point of no return,’ luck can still turn things around.  In the last campaign, the magic-user defeated two or three troglodytes in melee, while the fighter and paladin were ‘held’ by the trog shaman’s spells.  That was completely unexpected, hilarious, and the stuff of legends.

Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (19)  
Tags: ,
This Stuff is REALLY Cool

Young scholars enthusiastic to tell you about COOL RESEARCH STUFF

Fail Squad Games

Tabletop games and adventures for gamers by gamers

Cigar Box Battle

An online resource blog for gamers and geeks focused on wargames miniatures and board games and role playing games

terribleminds: chuck wendig

Chuck Wendig: Freelance Penmonkey

Save Vs. Dragon

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

POWER WORD KILL

Old School Roleplaying and related musings

Hobgoblin Orange

My return to the world of miniature figure painting and RPGs

booksandopinions.com

The Book Reviews You Can Trust!

Dawn of the Lead

Miniature wargaming and the occasional zombie

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

hosercanadian

Miniature Motivation

Take On Rules

Jeremy Friesen - a poor soul consumed by gaming.

Age of Dusk

Roleplaying, reviews and associated paraphernalia.

Roll to Disbelieve

"We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different."--Kurt Vonnegut

A Book of Creatures

A Complete Guide to Entities of Myth, Legend, and Folklore

Making the Past

Diary of an apprentice swordsmith

Ancient & Medieval Wargaming

Using De Bellis Antiquitatis, with the odd diversion...

Riffing Religion

Prophets should be mocked. I'm doing my part.

Cirsova

An encyclopedia of the Cirsovan empire, thoughts on Gaming, Music and more.

2 Warps to Neptune

Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek

Inside the Shadowbox

Rolling the dice. Writing the words. Pushing the buttons. Eating the bacon. Smiling and waving.

Dagger and Brush, Daggerandbrush, dagger brush

Miniature painting, wargaming terrain tutorials, reviews, interviews and painting guides

Fractalbat

A lair for gaming, sci-fi, comics, and other geekish pursuits.

tenfootpole.org

I bought this stuff and read it so you don't have to.

Role Play Craft

Crafting ideas, options, and modules for your role playing campaign.

The Rambling Roleplayer

A collection of advice, essays, and rambling rants about tabletop gaming and other geekiness. Often updated Monday-ishly.

Sheppard's Crook

The occasional blog of a closet would -be wargamer and modeller

10 Bad Habits

Probably not the Justin Howe you were looking for

The Weekly Sift

making sense of the news one week at a time

inthecitiesdotcom

Just another WordPress.com site

Lost in Time

"What happened to Claw Carver?"

chieflyill

gaming, graphics, and genrefication

Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

Metropollywog

Role-Playing Games, Medieval History, Assorted Legends and Myths, and My Stupid Life.

%d bloggers like this: