The party was extremely cautious– almost painfully so. First, they waited until after dark to send the thieves out to case the place. One of the clerics insisted that they go one at a time in order to minimize the chances of mishap. The first thief came back and reported that the steading had a watchtower and a main entrance in the front… and some kind of compound area in the back that was full of dire wolves. He’d aced three different thief rolls in a roll and I marveled at the capabilities of the high level B/X thief– they really are on par with the most exaggerated cinematic depictions of ninja.
The party had almost no interest in the watchtower for some reason. They sent another thief back to get more intel. He hid in shadows, moved silently, and scaled the wall without breaking a sweat. He peered into the courtyard full of dire wolves, but it was just so dark he couldn’t see all that much. The party really wanted some sort of back door to be there. I warned him that if he got any closer, the direction of the wind might cause one of the more alert dire wolves to catch his scent.
At this point, the thief was overwhelmed with suggestions from the rest of the table. People warned him of what could go wrong. They gave advice. They heckled him. They gave him commands. One player in particular gave him a really hard time teasing him. I tried to indicate that I was only going to pay attention to the thief that was on site, but the players all kept at it. I yelled at the thief player over the rest of the party and instructed him to ignore everyone else. The heckling continued. I don’t think I ever quite scolded the players directly (“Good grief, y’all– quit having fun!!”), but something that should have taken less than two minutes ended up taking fifteen! Although everyone was laughing and joking, I could sense a steadily rising sense of frustration underlying the banter.
I think the thief came back and reported that he overheard some giants discussing the big party that was going on right then– some kind of strange beverage was involved that would knock down even a hill giant after a couple of good quaffs. The other thief decided to check out the watchtower, but game time continued to roll forward. He hid in shadows, moved silently, and scaled the wall with no problem. He saw… a hill giant slumped over on a stool. There was a jug of some kind next to him and a great big gong or something.
This thief went back to the party in order to discuss this new tidbit. They all argued about what to do for a while. The thief’s player asked what Nick Fury thought about all of this more than once, I think, but I kept saying that Nick Fury wasn’t there. I can’t remember everything that everyone suggested, but the magic user “Mittens”¹ finally started asking about maybe using Magic Jar to take over that hill giant in the watchtower. Mittens placed her soul into a mirror and left her body back at the safehouse. She gave the mirror to the other magic user and agreed on a phrase to use so the party wouldn’t kill her by accident when she took over a monster’s body.
The party gambled that no one at the steading would see them coming… they got in range of the tower… and I rolled the saving throw versus spells openly. The number was less than twelve, so Mittens successfully took over the hill giant in the watch tower. She walked the hill giant’s body down stairs to the entry way. There was an ornate set of double doors to the north, a more plain set of double doors to the east, a side passage to the northwest, a side passage to the northeast, and two hill giants passed out on the floor.
Mittens confidently strode up to the ornate double doors and opened them. Inside, she saw the biggest party she’d ever seen. Feasting, fighting– all kinds of giants, really, and many of them passed out. She would have observed longer, but a rough hand grabbed her face and shoved it back out into the entryway. “Oy, Bert!” said a voice. “You can’t come to the party till ye finish yer shift! Now git!” And the door slammed shut.
Mittens then confidently went to the other set of double doors, opened them up, realized she’d forgotten the code phrase… and then decided that hand motions should work as well as a code phrase. She waved the party in and made an okay sign. Then… realizing that she still had work to do, she then promptly waved the party back off. She when back up to the watchtower and carefully brought the gong down stairs and attempted to use it to block off the ornate double doors. (??) While she was doing this, one of the hill giants started at the noise: “Eh, Bert…! What are you doing…?”
Mittens tried to fast talk her way out of this, but soon got a punch in the face by an angry hill giant. She then dodged past him and opened up the plain double doors again while the hill giant got ready to bang the gong with whatever was handy. Fortunately Mittens was in ESP communication with one of the clerics so at least one party member had their wits about them and was ready. As soon as the doors were opened, a silence spell was cast on the hill giant. He banged away on the gong and no sound was made.²
One of the thieves swept in and slit the still-sleeping hill giant’s throat. The magic-user with the skeleton army wanted to go last so that everyone could get in before he blocked the doorway, but one of the clerics insisted on going last anyway… and then was stuck outside while the action heated up. The rest of the party attacked the panicking hill giant and the fighter finally cut his head off with a powerful swing of his +3 sword.
Even with every possible thing going wrong, the party had made it inside the steading without raising the alarm. Now that they had more choices to face, they then needed a solid half an hour to discuss all their options and decide what to do. The pace of the game was just crawling along, though. I think I pointed out that they were proceeding at a rate of one room per hour. During a break, I tried to think what I could do to help the players to pull it together a bit. I pointed out that just exactly how they approach the situation will have drastic effects on how everything in the module would play out– so I was giving them a lot of room to figure out just how they wanted to do things. While I wanted everyone to be able to participate and give input and have a chance to do their thing… I did mention that maybe electing a caller would go a long way towards reducing the chaos.
It was finally decided that the bulk of the party would hide in the watch tower after they cleaned up the mess in the main entrance area. (They’d peeked down each of the two side doors, but did nothing to investigate.) Their strategy for the moment was to… wait. An hour of game time passed… and then at 2AM sharp, central Giant time… three hill giant guards came through the ornate double doors from where the big celebration was happening. They encountered the hill giant that was supposed to be up in the watchtower.
“Aye, Bert. What ‘re ye doing down ‘ere? And where’s Bob and Bill, eh?”
“Bert” attempted to banter with these giants, but they were very suspicious. Soon Mittens motivated the possessed hill giant up the stairs with the three guards hot on her heels. As soon as the three giants rounded the last corner, they all got blasted with a lightening bolt. One of the giants fell immediately and another fell under the combined missile fire of the party. The third one turned and fled, but “Mittens” (in the hill giant’s body) leaped down the stairs and fell on him, executing a pitch perfect pile driver maneuver. The giants in the throne room were too distracted by their own wrestling, banging on the tables, cheering, and all of their various guzzling and quaffing actions so that they were still unaware of the players’ activities.
The party waited until 3AM hoping to ambush another set of guards in the same manner, but none of them came. Now they started getting antsy. They started worrying about missing their chance to take advantage of the hill giants’ revelry. They planned and schemed some more… and they were finally ready to roll the big dice and do what they could to wreak as much havoc as possible.
The possessed Hill Giant opened the door and casually sauntered into the big party– his shift was over now, after all. Meanwhile, one of the thieves had quaffed a potion of invisibility and quietly trailed him into the commotion. He carried with him the mirror that contained hill giant’s soul. Giants were everywhere, drinking, throwing up, punching each other…. The thief crept over to as quiet of a corner as he could… about one hundred feet from where the king of the hill giants sat.
Mittens maneuvered the hill giant’s body over to the edge of the fire pit and raised his arms to get everyone’s attention. Shouting as loudly as she could, the possessed hill giant roared: “O king of the giants, in honor of the great fortune you have brought upon our tribe– yea, for the honor and the glory that your victories brought us– I offer to you myself… as a living sacrifice!” Then… controlling the hill giant’s body, she made it dive into the fire pit!
It became almost totally quiet as the stench of burning giant permeated the room. Mittens’ soul returned to the mirror. She then attempted to possess the king of the hill giants. I rolled the save in front of everyone and the players cheered when he failed. Mittens now controlled the king! Speaking through his body, she called everyone in the room to gather round. Closer, closer, he beckoned them. His wife and his pet bear were right with him… and stone giants were on his right and a cloud giant was on his left. Ogres and orcs hung to the back, while hill giants were all around the main fire pit.
“All of you: though our battles have been great, and though the distilled spirits have been flowing like water here tonight… I just gotta say… the passing of our dear hill giant brother Bert here…. It really means something, you know? Ahem– you guys over there… step a little closer please; thanks. Yeah. I am truly moved, y’all. So with that… I just gotta say…. Rock on with your bad selfs! Har har har!”
At that moment, two perfectly placed fireballs exploded so that those closest to the king would get caught in an overlapping explosion. One of the clerics cast the insect swarm spell on the players’ side of the fire pit. (This added to the confusion and kept the hill giants from realizing where exactly the players were.) The other cleric cast sticks to snakes and sent them into the cloud of insects– he rolled eleven total snakes… and they turned out to be poisonous! Giants burned and died. Mittens had the hill giant chief start pummeling the nearest stone giant. A few hill giants stumbled out of the cloud of insects and blundered directly into the party. The thief holding Mittens’ mirror back-stabbed one of them and immediately ceased to be invisible. Everyone else lined up to start dealing melee and missile damage.
The chaos only continued to increase. The poisonous snakes bit scads of giants and at least a dozen of them failed their saving throws and perished on the spot. The king was killed by one of the stone giants, and Mittens possessed one of the giants on the players’s side of the fire pit. Somehow through all of this, a few of the monsters on the other side of the insect swarm kept their wits. They backed away from the turmoil, tried to collect as many hill giants from the swarm as they could… and after they stomped on the poisonous snakes, they then formed up with the ogres to make an impromptu battle line. (The orcs, who’d immediately panicked, had fled through the western doors of the throne room as soon as the explosions started.)
In the end, players had about five giants to deal with on their side of the insect swarm after having dropped a couple of them. It was nearly midnight real-world time at this point, so we paused to game at this point.
¹ Mittens was a reincarnated cat that now practiced magic-using for a living.
² This is the exact moment that one of the players came back from a longish trip to the bathroom and asked, “what’s going on?” Given that it would take 1000 words to answer that question, I laughed at her and moved on to the next player’s turn! (I did get her back up to speed during a break, though. I know, I know… I’m such a softie.)