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?

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*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.

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Published in: on January 20, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (19)  
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Bogeys — finish my table

One of the really odd but somehow cool things Fantasy Wargaming had in the character generation process was ‘bogeys’ — a chart of characteristics that helped individualize characters with personality traits, advantages, and quirks.  The table was constructed so that when you roll a percentile, a 01-32 was nothing, and all the remaining odd numbers were bad traits/stigmas/disadvantages, and all the even numbers were beneficial/advantageous traits.

The problem with the original bogey table in my opinion was that there were an inordinate number of sexual traits — you might roll bisexual, homosexual, fetishes, etc.  I guess I’d just rather leave sex out of the game, or at least not encourage a player to make their character’s sexual preferences a defining trait for roleplaying.  So I mostly took them out.  There are also bogeys like heretic/atheist/Jewish/Muslim … which I can understand being a major thing in a medieval game but for fantasy, I’d rather avoid that kind of stuff too.

So my bogey table made a lot of changes, and I took GURPS’ advantages and disadvantages for more inspiration, and came up with this chart.

I think in hindsight, there are way too many “choice” results, and I should either use two d30 tables, or revert 1-32 to “Nothing”s.  Or add 30 more results.  That seems like the kind of thing that would make a good crowdsource/Gygaxian democracy project.  So hey — if you can think of some more traits that would fall in line with these, drop ’em in the comments. Generally speaking, if there is any kind of mechanical effect, they should be a plus or minus one to certain rolls, nothing too major. I just copied the table from my document, which used two columns, so all the odd are first and then the evens.  I’ll fix it in the final version if I can get some more entries.  you’ll notice hald-elf and half-orc are bogeys, as I am using race-as-class and assume that half-humans just use human classes.

01-32: even, player’s choice; odd, DM’s choice

33. Ugliness, -1 Cha

35. One eye/one hand/no nose etc.

37. Poor sight. Can’t read or -1 to hit with missiles

39. Hard of hearing

41. Stammer

43. Limp, base move 25′ (15′ if dwarf)

45. Asthma/Allergy, -1 Con

47. Belligerent

49. Gullible, -1 Int

51. Insomnia

53. Hypochondria

55. Alcoholism/Addiction

57. Gluttony

59. Compulsive gambler, can’t refuse a bet

61. Spendthrift

63. Miserly

65. Depression

67. Paranoia

69. Distrustful

71. Kleptomania

73. Absent-minded, -1 Wis

75. Phobia (pick one)

77. Half-orc, -1 Cha

79. Hunchback, -1 Str

81. Superstition (pick one)

83. Sense of duty

85. Vow

87. Overconfidence

89. Fanatic

91. Cowardice

93. Overweight

95. Color blind

97. Albinism

99. Dwarfism/Giantism

 

34. Beautiful. +1 Cha

36. Presence of mind, +1 save vs. fear

38. Critical thinker, +1 Int

40. Gift of sleep, can sleep anywhere, +1 Con

42. Iron stomach, +1 save vs. poison

44. High pain threshold, +1 hp/HD

46. High alcohol tolerance

48. Keen eyesight, +1 to hit with missiles

50. Keen hearing

52. Keen smell

54. Animal empathy

56. Green thumb

58. Born swimmer (x 1.5 rate)

60. Born climber (x 1.5 rate)

62. Sense of location

64. Empathy

66. Good luck (reroll any die once/session)

68. Gift of tongues, +2 starting languages

70. Half-elf, +1 Cha

72. Hot blooded, -1/die damage from cold

74. Ambidextrous

76. Common sense (one Mulligan/session)

78. Artistic talent (choose 2 arts)

80. Double-jointed

82. Tremendous lung capacity

84. Honest face (people believe you)

86. Mechanical genius

88. Graceful, +1 Dex

90. Strong willed, +1 to Will saves

92. Alert, +1 Wis

94. Barrel chested, +1 Str

96. Lightning reflexes, +1 to Reflexes saves

98. Inconspicuous, +2 to stealth checks

00. Visions (1 in 6 chance of prophetic dreams)

 

 

Published in: on January 13, 2012 at 9:00 am  Comments (5)  
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Telengard 2.0

Last night we played a FATE-based game (A Fistful of FATE, I believe it was called; I missed part of the beginning as I had some parenting to do).  It was pretty good, once we got accustomed to it.  The pre-generated characters were interesting, but I chose very poorly: an assassin whose attack was really only usable on living foes (all the foes were undead) and who had next to nothing for equipment (a short sword, bracers, & a backpack with pen, paper, and chalk).  So, there were several situations where I really didn’t have a lot to contribute to the adventure.  I think we all had fun though. 

Right before that, I had the group ‘roll up’ their PCs for Telengard 2.0, which will run on a simplified C&C, basically eliminating “primes” and changing the saving throws to the three ones in 3e, which will be based not on attributes but level.   Also demihumans are classes.  So really a B/X-C&C hybrid.  They chose a Bard, Ranger, Cleric, Rogue, Fighter, and I think a Dwarf (Tom was going back and forth on that or a Wizard).   I had them use the “Iron Heroes” stat arrays rather than rolling, and max HP at level one, since there are some crybabies players who like to start out more heroic.  Then they got to roll on the Bogey chart, lifted from Fantasy Wargaming but minus a lot of the sexual fetishes and with a number of GURPS advantages and disadvantages added. I’ll post that later. Some “Bogeys” had mechanical effects, and some are just for role-playing.  I think I put in too many “DM’s choice” and “Player’s choice” results…either should have had them pick, or made no choices. Oh well.   I gave a three sentence or so explanation of the setting (I was kind of scattered) but said I’d send out some more background by email.

Since I wrote up this long-ass email anyway, I might as well put it on the blog too for reference.  I sent this to the players to give them some frame reference of what the ‘known adventure areas’ are in the setting.  There are some in-jokes, mainly garbling the old PC’s names, because it’s funny, and to maybe add an unwritten goal of achieving lasting fame…the last group just kept having their just glory denied them.

email follows … I edited out some types etc.

Most of you played in the first  Telengard campaign, but Chad and Aaron did not, so for their benefit here’s a very brief outline, before moving on to the situation as the new campaign begins (everyone else can skip the next paragraph if you want):

 There was a small, bustling city called Skara Brae at the foot of a mountain range, the nearest and tallest mountain being called Mt. Telengard. Mt. Telengard was the site of numerous ancient mining operations. The culture is similar to the Vikings, but with later medieval technology and a medieval-style church — The Norse Catholic Church (Imagine Odin = the Father, Thor = the Son, & Yggdrasil the World Tree = the Holy Spirit, with the other Norse gods as saints, and giants, trolls, etc. as devils). Several hundred years ago, humans arrived and established Skara Brae, and about that time the dwarves disappeared, possibly due to some sort of conflict between the humans and dwarves. Some time later the mining operations were reopened, and at the time the last campaign began, a mine intersected with a some ancient underground passages — in fact an underworld filled with monsters and magic, a dungeon which was also called Telengard. A band of adventurers (the party) explored part of Telengard, and some of the other old mines and tombs dug into Mt. Telengard. They explored two and a half levels of Telengard, two other mine complexes on the mountain (the Ancient Copper Mine and the Haunted Mine), part of the Ancient Crypts, and also a cavern lair that erupted from the face of Mt. Telengard overnight. There was also a vast open pit mine on the side of the mountain, and the party explored part of that. They had a few adventures in the city and surrounding countryside as well, slaying ogres that preyed on a halfling village, clearing a tavern’s basement of a rat-cult, exploring a sunken pond, looting the Alabaster Tower that appears only during certain phases of the moon, entering and destroying a vast demon (no, really), excavating some dwarven ruins beneath the city, and finally getting involved in defending the city from an invasion of pirates and humanoids. The last adventure involved saving a gnomish community from a family of fire giants. Along the way a number of PCs and hirelings died, some being raised, and one being reincarnated as a hobgoblin, who became an NPC. I ran out of steam and put the game campaign “on hiatus” with a lot of loose threads.

So, picking up the campaign, I decided to move forward about 500 years. Skara Brae has fallen to invaders (the Vulking Empire* to the west), but these invaders eventually left when the Vulking Empire collapsed. All that remains of the Vulkings is their religion: the region has adopted the Lords of Light as their gods. The Lords of Light are a pantheon of a dozen or score of deities, each of whom assumes various names, so that Thor and Baldur from the Norse Church are accepted as Lords of Light, smoothing over the transition. Skara Brae has fallen into ruin and was mostly abandoned, as a Vulking city was built on the site of the old Porttown to the south. Puddington, the halfling village, survived the years of chaos by fortifying their village and establishing a disciplined militia under the reforms of “Quincy”. Gnomestead, the gnomish village, has dwindled to a few huts in the woods. The old heroes of Skara Brae are all but forgotten. They are said to have disappeared on a flying ship, pursuing a vampire called Swindle or Swingo. All that remains of their legacy are some statues in Skara Brae’s ruined plaza. The locals still hope that “The battle leader Stonefoot, and his companions Maxim, Little Cam, Orroz, Quincy, Charmin, and their captain, Mr. Growley” will return some day in Skara Barae’s hour of need.

A number of towers have appeared on the landscape — some overnight — dark and ominous but silent and impenetrable. The legendary Alabaster Tower, absent for hundred of years, has reappeared on the shore, stained green and draped with seaweed. Skara Brae has a few diehard holdouts living in it, but much of the old city has been overrun with goblins, morlocks, serpentfolk, and other undesirables, and is walled off. The once proud Adventurer’s Guild was bought out long ago by the Hireling’s Guild, which in turn was dissolved when the dungeon-looting industry fell into recession. The old dungeons of Telengard have not been entered for many years, and most people believe they are empty, trap-laden tombs.

As if the appearance of the towers were not portentous enough, lately a series of comets or shooting stars were observed over Mt. Telengard, and the sages say this can mean nothing good. But lo! A band of promising young scalawags has gathered at the Goodly Mead Inn, and perhaps they will turn the tides of chaos and ruin?

[then I closed with an oft-cited passage from Perdido Street Station:]

“There were three of them. They were immediately and absolutely recognizable as adventurers; rogues who wandered the Ragamoll and the Cymek and Fellid and probably the whole of Bas-Lag. They were hardy and dangerous, lawless, stripped of allegiance or morality, living off their wits, stealing and killing, hiring themselves out to whoever and whatever came. They were inspired by dubious virtues. A few performed useful services: research, cartography, and the like. Most were nothing but tomb raiders. They were scum who died violent deaths, hanging on to a certain cachet among the impressionable through their undeniable bravery and their occasionally impressive exploits.”–China Mieville, Perdido Street Station

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*The Vulkings were on the map in the last campaign, but never came into play.  Completely ripped off from The well of the unicorn.

Published in: on January 12, 2012 at 2:20 pm  Comments (1)  
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The pit

The Telengard campaign I started last year is kaput, dead, over.  I may run it again some time but I’d want to hit the reset button.  I learned a lot DMing it but made a lot of mistakes, not all of them reversible, and have lost a lot of the enthusiasm I had for it.  I might still try to cobble it together into a setting booklet, because the next time I DM my own world it probably be in Telengard, but for now I’m focusing on painting minis and the shared C&C campaign with 5 DMs.

So this, The Pit, was my brilliant One Page Medadungeon — thirteen levels of dungeon, which an enterprising or daring party could access at almost any level, given enough rope. 🙂  I posted stuff about it earlier  (also here and here) but wanted to keep the DM tools for it a secret.  Not much need to now.  The guys I game with will have forgotten this post by the time I ever DM Telengard again anyway.

I drew the pit last April (really just an at-a-glance guide more than an actual map), and made up a general encounter table which would give me a sense of what sorts of monsters could appear on a given level, and whenever the party actually entered a cave on a given level, I used whatever was at hand — a Pocketful of Peril, an OPD, or just winging it.  The caves are partly indicated by the little black archways on some levels.  The ‘minotaur’ level was going to have the devious trap/encounter of minotaurs charging out of the caves, which could potentially knock PCs over the edge to be smashed below.

Click to embiggen!

The drawing is pretty crude, I admit, and it doesn’t help that I drew some of it in Sharpie without bothering with so much as a pencil draft.  If I were going to do another one like this, I would probably steal some of Telecanter’s silouettes or maybe scour eBay for some of those old AD&D rub-on transfers. 🙂  I colored the tihng with some crayons and markers that were handy.  I drew it on some funky graph paper that has slantwise rules as well as a grid, which helped me keep the ‘road’ somewhat consistent.

The “tables” for it are in this document: the open pit summary. I guess I should mention that my calculations assume that the party is travelling at a B/X rate — 120′ per turn in ‘exploration’ mode.  Not a bad idea, especially on the trap-laden upper leavels, but those random encounters are biatch.  You roll a die based on the ‘segemnt’ or level the party is on and choose a monster from the segment for the roll.  So a random encounter on ‘segment 6’ of the pit (the minotaur/beastmen segment) uses a d8.  A roll of 8 would mean use a monster form segment 8 (a manticore). 

The ‘typical’ monsters should give you a sense of what sort of nasty will be on the level.  Of course you could make up a longer list; in my mind they are just references for the ‘family’ of monsters that could be there.   So the ‘chaos warriors’ segment might include various mutants, evil fighters, and some evil high priests, as well as minor chaos monsters like monsterous hounds, imps, and so on.

Published in: on October 12, 2011 at 5:00 pm  Comments (4)  
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Telengard, the season finale (session 32)

As I told my gaming group Telengard is not dead, just sleeping.  My brother wants to run some AD&D for a couple of months (he has a baby on the way and that will give the campaign a deadline!), and I could use a break from DMing,  and I look forward to playing for a while.

So for the final session this “season,” the party was approached by a gnome from the nearby gnomish village (Gnomestead).  I think this may be the first time an adventure in Telengard followed such a stereotypical “hook” as a request for aid, although there have been a few other “missions.”

One of the first Telengard adventures involved exploring an “abandoned” mine that was being worked by gnomes and dwarves enslaved by a fungal disease, and one of the rescued dwarves would become the leader of a rival adventuring party; the gnomes were all rescued and posted an invitation to party on a bulletin board which they never quite followed up on.  But the invitation had turned into a plea for help and the party obligingly went to check out Gnomestead.

I was hoping to make the session challenging and rewarding, and I’m afraid the challenge was not really as great as I thought it would be.  The general set-up was that the gnome mayor has been sending gnomes in the village away to disappear every new moon.  The mayor and his “bully boys” have scared most of the gnomes into silence, but try to maintain appearances of normalcy, and gladly throw a feast for the party, as they’d been promising to do for a few months.  So the party had to figure out what was really going on, and stop whatever evil was gripping Gnomestead.

I tried to incorporate some Norse tropes (tale-telling, contests, and similar feast-hall activities, including the setting of the first part in a “great hall”) so that Gnomestead would feel like a tiny Viking kingdom, but with pointy felt caps instead of horned helmets and woodcrafts instead of feat of arms.  The funniest moment for me was when the players were discussion how a Richard’s halfling would feel in the Gnome village. (Tom: “You’d still be the tiniest guy there” Me: “No, gnomes are no taller than a halfling, just fatter, you’re not shorter, just thinner than everyone.” Richard: “So it’s like being in America then?” Richard is from England.)  The party played along with the festivities but then got to serious investigation, finally beating up all the bully-boys and breaking into the mayor’s room in the hall.

I’ve been on vacation for a week and I can’t really remember all the details of the session, but basically it turned out the mayor had been bespelled by a fire giant, who carved a rune into his chest and controlled him like a puppet.  The gnome victims were worked to death and then eaten by the giant’s hell hounds.  The party decided to impersonate a group of “victims” and defeated, in succession, three hell hounds and two fire giants.  Grumble’s dwarven thrower made the fights very short, and I had abysmal luck rolling for them, so the fire giants never landed a blow.

The party walked off with a reasonably large haul and the adoration and debt of Gnomestead.  Calloo! Callay!

So I see this as the end of “Season 1” of the campaign.  While I have many dungeon crawls available for the future, I’m hoping that the next “season” or two will involve some hex-crawling (or island-hopping, or air ship travels…) and after that, strongholds, mass battles, and “endgames”.  The party is mostly level 5-7 right now, so I have some time.

I still aspire to take the Labyrinth Lord RTF version and use it as a skeleton to develop a document that will contain all my modifications, rulings, and so on, so that I will have single booklet for reference, but since I never seem to find time to work on that.  Maybe this hiatus will enable that. Watch this space.

Published in: on July 30, 2011 at 9:11 pm  Comments (1)  
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Telengard session 31: Some loose ends

So last week was the ‘penultimate session’ for this ‘season’ of Telengard — that is, the campaign will go on hiatus for a while after the next session.  So there is a little self-imposed pressure to end things on a note where there is both some feeling of accomplishment worthy of the party while also not tying up too many loose ends (I don’t want this to feel ike a series finale, but a season finale … although I actually despise the whole RPGs-following-story-arcs-like-TV-shows meme).

A player we lost last year, right before I took up the DMing reins, came back this time and rolled up a cleric.  This was helpful as we let go the two newest players last week for various reasons.  This then makes the fourth acolyte that the Bishop sent to accompany the party!  Only one has been killed in the line of duty, but this may strike the observer as a bit over-eager on the Church’s part, except that the party has performed several services to the Church.

So this time the party completed the main ‘quest’ related to the dwarven crypts.  After fighting a  pair of  greater grues and trio of fairly tough dwarf mummies, they found and re-buried the bones of the four ghosts in the cathedral, and then performed the rites necessary to bury the traitorous dwarf in the crypts. (I’ll post about grues more later.  The dwarf mummies were just B/X mummies by the book, with a few more HD, which play significantly different that the AD&D mummies they’ve fought before.)  So, mission accomplished! 

But then Grumble noted that the incomplete map he’d gotten from the dwarves also noted many other rooms, including a ‘treasury.’  So after mucking around in some other chambers, the party decided to try one last room, especially since the map called it a treasury!  Grumble noticed an obvious deadfall trap over the door that he couldn’t disarm but which he could bypass by not opening the door.  So he cut an opening in the door, which was a pretty good solution to the problem.

Inside there was a huge pile of gold, a throne, and six fine stone statues.  After cautiously examining the room, the party entered, and Grumble sat upon the throne.  At the same time, Garmin could not resist grabbing a magical dagger he saw on the treasure pile (a few sessions back he learned about the magical qualities of certain evil wizard parts, and he ate a gland that allows him to detect magic for a limited time).

All hell broke loose, as the six statues sprang to life and attacked, and the treasure pile turned out to be resting atop a black pudding.  The party beat a retreat, hoping to use the doorway as a bottleneck for tactical advantage.  But…the gargoyles knew about the trap too and at their first opportunity sprang it on the party!  No-one was killed by it but the party found themselves cut off from the treasure!

The dwarf was determined and began chipping away at the block of stone, sending Garmin, Quinly, and the new cleric back to town to rest and recover as the block would take a *long* time chip away, while the three fighter-types (Grumble, Matrim, & Mac) stayed in the dungeon. 

Cue mustache twirling. Swinlow, the thief-cum-hobgoblin nemesis of the party, had set up a small ambush on the perilous mountain trail, and Garmin’s judicious use of a sleep spell knocked out most of the ambushers.  This was actually a diversion to give Swinlow a chance to sneak up and pick pockets, but he could not resist backstabbing the magic-user, who was using the Ring of Animal Control to have the pack-ape toss the sleeping hobgoblins off the mountainside.  This knocked Garmin to zero HP (but a lucky death & dismemberment roll saved his life), and Quinly managed to push Swinlow off the ledge, in a weird meta-game situation where Richard’s current PC confronted his former PC…

The party tracked Swinlow’s trail, but he’d already boarded the stolen airship and was fleeing.  I don’t bend the rules to let villains get away (altohugh I’d have been tempted in this case, because Swinlow has a lot of much dirtier tricks up his sleeve!) and in this case, the time spent using Mac’s Survival skill to track Swinlow cost the party a lot of time.  I may been to get a little more concrete about how often rolls are needed and how much time they take, though, because in principle it should be possible to track someone who only has a few minutes lead and my current rule that all skill rolls (except Hear noise and in certain cases Search) take 10 minutes may be a bit much.

Here we stopped playing so Tom could get us started on our AD&D characters for his game.  More on that later.

Published in: on July 19, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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The future of Telengard

For a number of reasons I am going to put my Telengard B/X campaign on hold for a while (at least a couple of months) after the next two sessions.

In the interim the gaming group will continue with other DMs in other campaigns — our plan is to take turns of up to 8 sessions, possibly including some one-shot games and modules.

Looking back on the campaign so far:

1) This is one of the longest games I’ve actually played in, and probably the longest D&D game — 30 sessions so far.  I did manage to get a fighter/assassin to level 8/8 in AD&D WAY back in the day but apart from that, the only other games that I can think of that I played in as long or longer were a Star Wars game in college and a couple of GURPS games (pirates, and an awesome Norman/Viking/Arthurian game)

2) It’s definitely the most fun I’ve had running something. My GMing experience is very scant but I did run a few GURPS games in college that lasted about 12-15 sessions each, and a one-shot Fantasy Wargaming game in high school, and that’s about it.

3) I can still see a lot of life in the campaign.  I have about half a dozen dungeons fully prepped, if I can count a few OPDs made by others.  I also have a vision of leaving the dungeon-crawling behind once all the PCs are close to the same level (5th-8th say) and doing some hex-crawling (“Telengard: Beyond Vinland” would be my provisional name for that — explore some of the weird new world!) and even domain management/mass battles after that, if there is interest.  Hrolf Kraki’s saga being a big influence there.

I can also see starting a new campaign in the same setting, taking place either before or after the current campaign, or in a different locale in the same world.

Anyway I’m looking forward to a break from DMing and getting to be a player again for a while.

Published in: on July 13, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (2)  
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Panic in the crypts: Telengard session 30

After cancelling last week, this time the campaign was pretty much back on track.  We were only missing Matt (Matrim), so the party was: Grumble the dwarf, Big Mac the fighter/paladin, Quinly the halfling, Garmin the magic-user, Thorin the cleric, and Durin the dwarf.
Grumble finally emerged from the dwarven city beneath Skara Brae, without reinforcements but with a mission to re-inter the silver skull “coffin” they’d found several sessions back in the dwarven ruins…and a partial map of the dwarven crypts they needed to go to.  Quinly  was back from Puddington, where he’d begun setting up an organized militia and spent a great deal of time partying it up as the village’s savior.  He told the party of his exploits with Matrim — the two had snuck down to Porttown and with some planning and luck managed to blow up one of the pirate ships in port, and cripple another, which had a big impact on the siege a couple of sessions back.
In the crypts, the party encountered a goat-man sentry who managed to blow his warning horn before being cut down, but being on a mission the party did not bother to investigate the goat-men and pressed deeper into the crypt.  Some goat-men caught up with the party were fairly quickly dispatched, and the party pressed on, to find an underground dwarven cathedral, inhabited by several ghosts.  Most of the party panicked and fled at the sight of the ghosts (save or panic and age 10 years per the Monster Manual!) but Grumble and Garmin held firm and asked for passage to carry out their mission.  The ghosts told them that they would only be allowed through if the party re-interred their bones as well, which had been disturbed in the catacombs.
This created that situation DMs and PCs alike dread: the party was split.  The fleeing PCs made it almost to the entrance of the dungeon, where more goat-men and a pair of satyrs were waiting.  It seems they had established a secret hideout in the crypt through a secret door the party overlooked.  The satyrs used their abilities to charm Mac and Quinly; Thorin fled from the goat-men.  Under the satyr’s charm, the PCs began to follow them into their lair, but Durin managed to talk sense into Quinly.  General chaos ensued and Mac ended up deep inside the lair while the rest of the party regrouped (Durin had been put to sleep, and Quinly had been panicked by the satyr’s pan-pipes.*
While the party frantically searched for Mac, he was led into a chamber and set upon by six goat-men.  When he cut down a pair of them, they realized their numbers might still permit them to overwhelm him, and using the grappling rules offered up earlier, they managed to grapple and then pin him, nad removing his helmet, bashed in his skull (reduced to zero hp; a roll on the Death & Dismemberment table yielded a broken bone).  Just then the party burst into the room, and in a furious melee killed off the goat-men and satyrs.  Huzzah!  Mac was saved with magical healing and the party pressed on. 
In the catacombs they found some ghouls and a ghast, and ultimately an undead troll.  Fun fact: Ghasts can ignore Protection from evil unless it is fortified by a circle of iron filings.  WTF? But that’s in the Monster Manual too and who am I to question the wisdom of Gygax.  The troll tore off Durin’s lower leg, so the party headed back to town.  Between a late start and a lot of discussion, we barely ended the session by 11 pm.

I think this was the first time the party was really split up in a way that threatened to kill some or all of them off — it was very wise of Grumble to try talking to the ghosts, and the whole thing created some good tension.  I sometimes worry that the threat of death and oom is not always that present and this time two PCs rolled on the D&D chart.  Also Drogo the linkboy was slain (by goat-men, I think).  The party kind of forgot about him, so they may find another undead creature lurking in the crypts next time.  I was a little sad to see Drogo go, too, because an offhand comment some time back had set some ideas in motion about his true nature.

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*Did you know the word “panic” comes from the Greek “pan” for the god Pan — a satyr himself and maker of the first pan-pipes?  Did you care? No? OK then.

Published in: on July 7, 2011 at 2:00 pm  Comments (1)  
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Telengard session 29: toad and troll

This week the party was just three players, as Tom & Richard both had to miss on account of work, and the newest players, Mike and Vincent, were sick.  Shockingly yet another potential player has responded to my flier (I didn’t even realize it is still up anywhere!) and I’ll try to meet him next week.

So the party was Matrim the fireguard, Mac the paladin, and Garmin the magic-user.  Examining the papers Garmin took from the wizard on the second level of the pit, they learned that he was trying to copy a machine called the “Universal Combiner” which had been created by the ancient wizard Cyclopeatron. The notes suggested he’d met with some success but hoped to find the original in “Cyclopeatron’s realm.”  The party considered taking the portal they’s discovered last time into Cyclopeatron’s realm, but decided against it since they were short-handed.  They also discussed destroying the machine they found on level two but decided not to bother with that either.  Instead they decided to return to the pit and go deeper down.

They reached the third “level” and were attacked by dragonmen while Matrim was searching for secret doors.  The dragon men hurled some javelins, and then attempted to grab the PCs and carry them off.  One managed to grab the magic user and carried him up 50′.  Already injured by arrows earlier in the fight, this dragonman was slain — leaving Garmin to plunge to his death had he not used a “Web” spell to attach himself to the sheer cliff face. ( There is a drop of about 70 feet between each of the higher levels of the pit — see the table here.)

As they continued deeper, the party found a cave which smelled terrible, and inside they fought toad-men.  We came close to a “TPK” when a pair of toad-clerics cast Hold Person, immobilizing the fighters, and Silence 15′ Raduis, silencing the magic-user.  Astonishingly, Garmin used his staff and managed to kill both toad-clerics in hand-to-hand combat, although he was reduced to 1 hp.  With the gruelling duration of these spells — 9 and 12 turns, respectively — it meant Garmin had to wait out nine wandering monster checks before his companions recovered.  Somehow he lucked out.

The party went back to town and after healing up, found a pair of workmen erecting a stature in honor of Stonefoot, the party’s rival and nemesis, who apparently slew a score of orcs and a frost giant in the siege last time.  They were recognized as “helping out” too, but they were suitably chagrined at being outshone again.  Matrim claimed credit for destroying two pirate ships Porttown, a feat that not yet been reported in Skara Brae.

The party managed one more delve into the pit, and fought more toad-men and troll.  The troll forced Matrim to roll on the death & dismemberment table, and he lucked out with a broken leg.  This was enough to convince the party to return to town yet again. 

The dungeon this time was partly on-the-fly (I had something else planned if the new guys had made it, and I had two back-up plans ready, but as usual the players threw me a curve ball), but mostly derived from a “pocketful of peril” map  [not the one linked to, and if you are one of my players don’t look at these, I may use elements of them!]  These are basically One Half Page Dungeons — short and sweet and handy as hell.

The remained of the session was spent talking about gaming, which was pretty fun.  Marc will be attending Origins this weekend, the lucky duck.  Matt admitted he’s dreamed about playing D&D, which John joked was “a bad sign” but I am terribly flattered that he looks forward to playing that much.

Published in: on June 24, 2011 at 6:00 am  Leave a Comment  
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Telengard session 28: The Seige of Skara Brae: the siege!

The acolytes

This session would be a new player’s first, so I was not sure that a variant minigame would be the way to go, but to hell with it.  In the end the new guy (another Mike) brought his son too, 19 year old Vincent.  I was a little put off by the thought of such a young player until I remembered that Matt is 20 or 21 too.  I felt kind of bad throwing a new RPG at the Mike & Vincent (I think I gave Mike the incorrect impression that I was using straight Labyrinth Lord rules but in hindsight I’ve house ruled a lot of stuff) AND throwing a wargame at the whole group, but things went pretty well.

At the last minute I decided to try out a new house rule on ranged attacks too.  In standard LL and B/X, short range is +1 to hit and long range is -1.  I think that’s pretty bogus so instead at short range you use a d20, at medium range you use a d16, and at long range a d12, to-hit.  The flaw in my design is that there is only one d16 at the table.  Doh.

Matt feared that the battering ram would smash through the gate, so he stationed himself down on the ground behind the gate.

The archers

Each player got a squad of four soldiers.

The militia with the boiling oil

The boiling oil was popular, except that the first use was a miss and the d12 to determine the direction misfire was a 6 — so Thorin, Mike’s cleric, almost fricasseed Matrim, who was directly below and behind the gate. Oops.

The assault. The attackers have been depleted but are still a threat.

The pirates try to create a diversion with a flank escalade

As it became clear that there was little risk of the besiegers taking the walls or breaking through the gate, Mac decided to hop on a ladder and ride it down to the ground before the gates in the most cinematic moment on the siege.

toward the end of the battle, Mac brings the fight to the enemy

By then, the battle was a mopping up operation.  I probably made the besiegers a little too weak.  Worst of all, I forgot to throw in the gargoyle reinforcements.  The last half hour or so was a bit of a grind.

After the siege was lifted, the party celebrated in town, both new PCs leveled up, and in the carousing Vincent’s dwarf Durin got a new tattoo.  It looks kind of cool but is actually a really humiliating name in Gnollish.  Not that he can read Gnollish.

The party then had time to explore the pit a little more, and they discovered a wizard’s workshop on the “Morlock level,” with a portal to the Realm of Cyclopeatron.  Mike’s cleric stepped onto the portal and ended up in a large chamber with a rust monster.  Matt and John did not seem to remember where that is, so I’m not saying. 🙂

Lessons of the siege: The defenders probably could have taken on twice as many foes, or several more powerful ones.  At the last minute before the game I toned down the besieging force, giving the bugbears only 2 hits each; this compounded with the fact that I totally forgot that some of the orcs had bows, and that there was a squad of gargoyles who would be reinforcements, probably made the whole thing a little too easy.  Things ground to a very slow pace at the end, so I should have also handwaved the last few orcs and pirates … instead I stuck to the B/X rules as written that after making two morale tests, monsters fight to the death.  Next time I’ll be a little more flexible.

 

Published in: on June 17, 2011 at 6:00 am  Comments (3)  
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