Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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ACKS Dwimmermount Session 5, Sortie 13: “Back in Black”

So the players were back in Muntberg after another of one of those embarrassingly fruitless delves. I wasn’t sure what they were going to do. Roll up scads of henchmen? Hire all of the men-at-arms? Well neither one. Raph outfitted her new gnoll companion with a cloak and some plate male. (He’s basically a second level fighter with to +1 damage.) After the narrow escape from the weird slimey monster thing, Raph decided to spend 1000 g.p. and a week replacing her illegal Read Magic spell (it doesn’t exist in ACKS!) with Spider Climb. Midway through that, I role played an encounter between her and Dorian the cleric in the tavern. As far as ad libbed scenes in hack and slash games go, this one was quite a shock. On one level, it was a transparent means of introducing the fact that someone in Adamas is capable of casting Restore Life and Limb and that dead characters can make a comeback even if it might take a bit of time to fully recuperate. But maybe something about the wider world came into focus just then as well….

I brewed up some coffee, ladled out some cream, and broke out my quintessential gaming dip while the players hashed out their plans. With a gnoll henchman replacing the war dog from the last sortie and with Dorian replacing the hapless assassin character, the party’s strength was roughly back up to what it had been before. It’d have a bit more punch with Yigg-tsu and Jaina Yolo along, but hey… you can’t have everything. The players seemed to be pretty happy with their roster and headed back to the dungeon without much of a fuss. There was some more confusion about which staircase was the one where they wanted to go. They went down the east staircase and argued for a while when it wasn’t what they were expecting. They asked Grok the gnoll to take them to his leader, but he said he’d never been to this place before. The players decided to try the other staircase and managed to get over there without running into any trouble. I then took a look at the map and scanned over some of the dungeon keys to figure out which way he’d take the party from this point. There was actually a pretty direct route, so they were off. We argued about the mapping again but we finally got there in the end.

So the party is lined up in their marching order heading to this really dangerous room and I checked for surprise. The players didn’t have it, so I rolled initiative for each of what was in the room– five gnolls and a mage. Now… the players were sort of bottle necked in the passage. (Yes, the initial set up in these things is largely a function of dungeon master fiat.) The gnoll by the door quite reasonably had an initiative of six. The enemy mage had a five. The gnoll by the door rushed up and bashed on one of the lead fighters. Somebody with a really high initiative raced in the room and declared he was going to pole-arm the mage. I walked that back, counted the squares, and checked up the character’s encumbrance rating and declared that it wasn’t happening.

So this mage was in position to throw a Sleep spell and no one had any means of stopping it. I looked up the rules for the ACKS Sleep spell to make sure I got it right: only the characters this guy could actually see would be affected! Maybe three or four player characters went down. But they were all fighters and clerics. (This was not what I was expecting.) Raph was up next… and actually had a better view what with all of those characters being out of the way now! She targeted her sleep spell entirely on the mage– she didn’t was to risk the gnolls eating about the brunt of the effect and leaving the mage standing in the event of a low roll on the 2d8. This kocked out the mage for the moment. A suicidal Oleant raced into the room and tossed an Azoth bomb at the gnoll most likely to wake up the sleeping mage. He was then targeted by crossbows which (miraculously) missed him.

Oleant then tried to wake up a sleeping fighter with a sloppy wet kiss. (It didn’t work, much to his chagrin.) Eldred moved into position to take the bulk of the remaining heat. (His hit points and armor were good enough he thought he could easily manage the risk.) The gnolls passed their two morale checks and fought on. Wandering monster checks came up nil. The players manage to mop up the remaining monsters without really breaking a sweat. In looking up the rules for how to handle simultaneous actions on identical initiative results, I discovered that identical monster types all get to use the same initiative die. This was a big deal for me– something that could massively speed up fights, reduce the amount of bookkeeping I had to do, and generally get a bit more of a swingy sort of action that I had been missing ever since switching to ACKS from B/X. The biggest problem I had with the game had its solution right there in the book!

Now… we discussed this whole action a bit. We looked up the rules for sleep spell from AD&D and debated whether or not the enemy mage made the best move. There wasn’t much he could have done better with that sleep spell given how everyone was positioned, but he did have a magic item on him that might have been a better choice. I think we concluded that things could have gotten ugly for the player characters… but this guy was somewhat careless and probably even panicked a little. Hey, that’s dungeons for you.

The players examined the pool and Grok confirmed that this was where he was “born.” They examined the machinery and realized it could take hours to figure out how it worked. The players concluded that this was were a bunch of monsters were coming from and decided to shut down production by taking some vials of liquid from it. (Different colors of liquid evidently produced different monster types.) Someone joked about coming back, figuring out the machine, creating a gnoll army, and then taking over Muntberg.

Now… maybe one of the more controversial rulings I’ve made in this campaign was that this enemy mage had his spell book on him. The room description indicated no treasure except for the guy’s wand. I’ve never seen a D&D mage that didn’t have a spell book on his person. Maybe there’s a treasure room somewhere else that has it, but this just made the most sense to me. While discussing this, Oleant’s player sheepishly asked if he should retroactively purchase a spell book for his character. (!!) I was like, dude! That’s like running a cleric that doesn’t have a holy symbol!

Anyway, the players picked up and headed straight for the markets of Adamas. They sold Raph’s broach of unbelief for 200 gold. They sold the cursed goblin dagger for 250 gold. They sold the spell book for 10,000 gold and the magic wand for 3,000. They thought about selling more but I reminded them that they could only go up one level after any single sortie. When I tallied up all of the numbers, Dorian actual did have enough XP to level twice. So I dialed him back 3,477 XP to 2,999. (Guess who’s going to level up after the next sortie?)

Rolls for new hit points were mediocre. Raph might have gotten a four, but Oleant got 2, Eldred got 3, and Angus also got 3. (There was some cursing after that last roll!) Raph spend two weeks learning to cast Web. Oleant learned Magic Missile– probably as a means of taking out enemy mages. Chloe and Grok did not level due to their meager half shares of experience, but at 1,120 experience Chloe is actually just a few hundred XP from second level.

It’s a pretty intense string of questions and rulings that I get after a big score like this, but the players really consolidated their gains here. I think they were frustrated with how difficult it was to get past the first level in the early stages of the campaign. That stage would have been cut a few sorties shorter had we understood the implications of selling magic items under the ACKS rules. (I think you get nothing under B/X– at least… that’s how I played it before.) However it seems that once you get past that initial hump, someone’s going to be liable to level up just about every session. But not everyone. I don’t think it’s guaranteed that the players will necessarily get to fourth level next session… and there’s no telling how many characters will die in the process. Players are starting to look at other things that they can do with gold besides bank it for XP. I think a scroll of Restore Life and Limb is still outside of their budget.

Anyway… I think the balance between rewards and difficulties feel about right. Things are enough of a challenge that players feel like they’ve earned something. But the game is not so stingy that they feel too terrible much frustration. At the same time, the party cannot stay optimized for all things at all times and the players have to figure out how to work around any perceived shortcomings. They generally figure out how to adapt and cope, though. You see a similar thing happening with the spell repertoire rules. Raph’s players found them hard to understand, but Oleant’s player pointed out that they force you to choose a particular style and then mostly stick to it. You can alter those choices, but it takes time and money to do so. (I tried to explain that it was like musicians knowing a particular set of songs that it takes time to change… but, hey… at some point these things just work how they work.)

Note: the party had 31 wineskins filled with Azoth this time, but several bombs were used during play. I’ll trust the players to figure out how to keep up with this!

(M3) Raph — attended all sorties
XP: 177 + 43 + 53 + 175 + 442 + 403 + 15 + 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 + 27 + 2240 = 5378 * 1.1 = 5915 [Need 4085!]
Gold: 290
Banked: 5000 XP for next character (mostly spent on weird recreational drugs)
Notable Equipment: “Book of Fighting”, Termaxian Lanyard, An NPC spellbook with the formula Spider Climb
Special Abilities: Can cast Resist Cold once a day!

(B1) Chloe — Joined Raph as a henchman for sortie 12.
XP: 13 + 1120 = 1143 [Need 357!]
Gold: 35 + 25 = 60
Disability: Max load reduced by six stone due to bum knee!

(Gnoll-2) Grok — Joined Raph as a henchman during sortie 13.
XP: 1120 [Need 880!]
Special Equipment: Plate Mail, Cloak

(C2) Dorian — started on the third sortie, died during the seventh sortie, returned for the 13th
XP: 53 + 175 + 442 + 402 + 2240 = 3312 * 1.05 = 3477 – 478 = 2999 [Need 1!]
Gold: 2720

(M2) Oleant — Joined as of sortie number seven.
XP: 15 + 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 + 27 + 2240 = 4085 x 1.05 = 4289 [Need 711!]
Gold: 1063
Banked: 3000 XP banked from making a special custom plaque.
Notable Equipment: Potion of Healing for returning Dorian’s body to the church.

(C3) Eldred — Joined as of sortie number eight.
XP: 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 + 27 + 2240 = 4070 x 1.1 = 4477 [Need 1523!]
Gold: 3357 [None spent during the past two sessions!]
Notable Equipment: War Hammer +1 (Dwarven make, adamantine), Thulian chain mail (better AC, lighter weight)

(F3) Angus — Joined as of sortie number eight.
Starting XP: 500 (from the book o’ fighting!)
Earned XP: 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 + 27 + 2240 = 4070 x 1.1 = 4477 + 500 = 4977 [Need 3023!]
Gold: 233
Banked: 4000 XP banked via riotous revelry with prostitutes in Adamas

(S2) Yigg-Tsu — Joined as of sortie number six. Absent for sorties 12 and 13! (!!)
XP: 403 + 15 + 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 = 2221 x 1.1 = 2443
Gold: 833.1
Banked: 1500 XP for next character (500 gold spent on a special pow-wow funeral for Bernard the snake.)
Note 1: Dropped from 6 hit points to 3 hit points permanently due to the weird pillars of Truthiness.
Note 2: Yigg now has his totem animal again!
Notable Equipment: Sparkly Pink Potion of Levitation

(F2) Jaina Yolo — Joined as of sortie number eight. Absent for sorties 12 and 13! (!!)
Starting XP: 950 (500 * .9 from Abimelech drunkenly attempting to donate cattle to the church of Tyche, and 500 from reading the book of fighting)
Earned XP: 192 + 668 + 874 + 69 = 1803 x 1.1 = 1983 + 950= 2933
Gold: 407.8
Banked: 500 banked from attempting to make nice with the priestesses of Caint. 1000 XP banked from attempting to find out more about how to get to and from the setting where the Isle of Dread is. Total banked XP is 1500!

Rest in peace:
(C) Virgil: Killed by a training automaton on level 1 of Dwimmermount during the second sortie. (Returned to the church in Muntberg for a proper Typhonian burial)
(F) Shard: Killed by a silver skeleton on level 2 of Dwimmermount during the fourth sortie.
(C) Dorian: Killed by touching the six pillars of Truthiness on level 2 of Dwimmermount during the seventh sortie. (Returned to the church in Muntburg for a proper Typhonian burial.) [Update: He’s not dead, yet! Brought back from the dead by the top cleric in Adamas, yo!]
(F) Brock: Killed by hobgoblins on level 2 of Dwimmermount during the seventh sortie. (Left in the dungeon!)
(F) Abimelek: Killed by hobgoblins on level 2 of Dwimmermount during the seventh sortie (Left in the Dungeon!)
(F) Bogdar the Tolerant: Killed by a hobgoblin on level 1 of Dwimmermount during the ninth sortie. (Not sure what happened to the body.)
(P) Jisme the Priestess: Consumed by a Green Slime on level 1 of Dwimmermount during the party’s tenth sortie. This was her first and only foray into the dungeon. She died wallowing in a pool of Azoth while attempting to cast Purify Food & Drink. Her death consumed a total of 950 XP that had previously been banked for her.
(T3) The Artful Dodger: poisoned by a Crab Spider on level 1 of Dwimmermount during the eleventh sortie. The guy lived through an epic total of ten sorties. His body was burned to prevent it from being defiled. He will be dearly missed.
(A1) Ferfherfderf: killed by acidic disintegration from the touch of a blob slime weird monsteron level 2 of Dwimmermount during the twelfth sortie.
Elsa the War Dog: killed by acidic disintegration from the touch of a blob slime weird monsteron level 2 of Dwimmermount during the twelfth sortie.

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7 responses to “ACKS Dwimmermount Session 5, Sortie 13: “Back in Black”

  1. Aurumvorax May 5, 2015 at 8:57 am

    (second paragraph) I’m sure it wasn’t the southeast staircase–although that’s the one we needed to go to–another example of how the upside-down maps in Dwimmermount mess with everybody, including the DM.  I have another example but it’s from my personal experience so I’ll bring it up next time we play!  spoiler alert Gnoll territory is down the southeast staircase, obviously adjacent to the up staircase also in the southeastern quadrant of dungeon level 1–although we found that you’re more likely to encounter orcs when you first delve the second level.

    Those were not small vials of liquid, by the way.  I left 2 of them in Muntberg rather than schlep them all the way to Adamas.  I was surprised we stayed up so late playing and talking after the game; it was a surprisingly epic night after you said you were all jagged out.  I’m a bit reedy and some of the things I said didn’t get written down.  Given the top-down nature of WordPress, it will get harder and harder to find the previous session report as time goes on, so I like to insert a link when I leave a comment.

    • Aurumvorax May 9, 2015 at 7:21 pm

      I just spent way too long drafting this map of the second level–I forgot about losing that argument (“They went down the east staircase and argued for a while when it wasn’t what they were expecting”), that I changed the notes on my smaller working maps, and this is the mess that results when you switch the east and west sides.  The poor hobgoblins, who RULE that level, are literally sidelined on the map!

      • jeffro May 9, 2015 at 7:26 pm

        Nice looking map!

      • Aurumvorax May 9, 2015 at 7:32 pm

        Are you being sarcastic?…  I’ve packed up a brown marker so if I have time I can make something vaguely resembling the actual Dwimmermount map, with better-looking gnolls.…  I thought orcs were pink but I just checked the (AD&D) Monster Manual and it turns out that it’s just their snouts and the tip of their ears!

  2. Pingback: The First Draft of My Appendix N Book | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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  4. pre wedding April 20, 2016 at 3:29 am

    Thanks for finally talking about >ACKS Dwimmermount Session 5, Sortie 13: Back in Black |
    Jeffro’s Space Gaming Blog <Liked it!

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