Well I don’t think I have ever run AD&D before unless you count that one disastrous attempt to run “Roarwater Caves” from Dungeon Magazine issue #15 a long, long time ago. Times have changed! With many years spent studying the ancient texts and an all star crew of players on hand, now was a great time to seize hold of gaming dreams from another time.
My first encounter with AD&D or any kind of role playing game at all was with a strange kid at a YMCA summer camp that was willing to run a couple of elementary school students. It was a weird and very brief experience. The guy let us use someone’s continuing characters that were carefully recorded on this parchment-like paper. The kid that was playing with me wanted to crawl into the mouth of the green devil face, which would famously annihilate anything that was placed inside it. The dungeon master was mortified as his elaborate character sheet became invalid for continuing play.
But that’s D&D for you.
I open up with the players in the tavern. A farmer is complaining loudly that he is sure that the dragon has woken up early from his hibernation– much of his cattle have disappeared in the night. A ranger speaks very seriously about increased activity among the wild men to the south. Many of the signal fires can be seen as they communicate over great distances. Finally… there is Zanzel Melancthones drinking himself to a stupor at the bar.
The players ask who Melancthones is and I say the local high level magic-user. They ask me to describe him and I say he’s the sort of guy that’s liable to have to have 1d6 scrolls on him. The assassin walks straight up to him and buys him a drink. Alas, he gets a 01 on his reaction roll. Melancthones erupts from his chair, shoves the assassin to the floor, and beings pummeling the poor adventurer with his fists.
The rest of the party restrains the old wizard as he laments bitterly that no one believes him. With the other party actively distracting him, the assassin attempts to pick pocket him. The chances were slim due to the assassin not getting his thief skills until level three, but the roll was a 20 on percentile dice and I declared that he managed to pilfer two scrolls off the old guy! The casting of a read magic spell would later determine that the scrolls contained lightning bolt and protection from magic. Kind of a nutso haul right out of the gate, but okay!
The wizard takes them to his tower and shows the party this amazing device he created– it’s a long tube with glass on each end. He claims it can allow you to see far away places as if they were nearby. A player magic-user then takes the device and sure enough views the northern jungles, the western hills, and the southern sea as if they were just across the street. But then in this other direction which he can only describe as “yonder”… well, the player magic-user can’t seem to find it. But the second player magic-user can. There it is… the hole in the sky!
The players are hired to go check it out. 50 gold pieces now and 500 when they come back with news of the place. Also they manage to borrow a patented Melancthones’s Magic Farseeing Tube and gratefully accept his offer to pay for their horse rental. They set off into the yonder. After a days ride they encounter a pack of some kind of howling dogs. They confront them, kill one, injure another and send them packing. As they travel on they hear in the distance the dim sound of horns which are off key, followed by screams.
The players reach the ends of the earth. The see that there really is a hole in the sky. The edge of the world slopes upward gradually. A magic-user strikes it to no effect and then laments not having any iron spikes to hammer into it. The party takes stock and realizes they only have half as much rope to reach the hole. The assassin runs back to the farmsteads and takes another 50′ of rope from a barn. Meanwhile the rest of the characters throw rocks into the hole. They hear the strange horns coming from the hole and hear screams there, so they throw a rock with light cast on it up into the hole. Even with Melancthones’s Magic Farseeing Tube they cannot see what is happening inside.
The party is stumped about how to reach the hole in the sky until he recalls that he can cast Spider Climb. He takes out a vial with three live spiders inside and eats one of them. Then he consults the players handbook and calculates that he will only make it half way up! The thief elects to climb the celestial dome up to the hole in the sky and makes it up there, then calls down, “you ate a spider for nothing!” The 80′ x 100′ room he is in is filled with dried old vines covering everything. He ties the rope to them and the party makes it inside.
They note that the floor, walls, and ceiling are perfectly flat, perhaps made from some sort of metal. There is a lever next to the hole in the sky which the assassin impulsively pulls. The hole snaps shut as flat metal plates spiral into place. The rope is unfortunately cut in the process. The players are left with about an eight foot length.
With a bulls-eye lantern to light the way, the party elects to explore one of four strange passages leading from the room. These passages are neither man-made looking nor like natural caves. The angles of everything are in all directions, not quite crystalline. After a while the party experiences a moment of vertigo, wondering if there is something non-Euclidean about the shapes of the passageways.
The passage begins to slope downward and then gradually begins to widen. The party comes to a stream formed from a foul, oily liquid oozing out of cracks in the walls. The assassin attempts to set it on fire with his flint and steel, but nothing happens. When the party jumps over the stream, they hear the blaring sound of the out of tune trumpets… and then screams. In the pulse of a sort of strobe light they see humanoid forms coming towards them.
The players discuss various options including something involving flaming oil, but then decide to hold their position and wait for these things to arrive. I rule that weapon length determines who goes first. The players manage to take out two of the seven humanoid things. When killed, they disappear in a puff of greasy vapor. The monsters manage to drop a magic-user and knock the thief down to one hit point. Looks like trouble! The players discuss their options, maybe fleeing or even just jumping back across the stream. The cleric offers to cover everyone’s escape, but then the thief points out that he is the only hope to save the mage. The mage who has run a very faithful AD&D campaign points out that the rules for retreats are not favorable. The players may as well stand and fight!
In the next round, the players lose initiative and the monsters take down everyone but the cleric. The cleric had previously told everyone not to worry, he has a back up deity. In this dire moment before his final act of the game, he holds aloft a very beautiful hard back book about everybody’s favorite game. The cleric says he appeals to the creator of this tome for divine assistance. I regretfully inform him that it has no effect. He rolls his attack and it comes out to a natural 1. He then falls in the mass of screaming, howling creatures that claw and bite him to pieces. His last conscious thought being to wonder if such things are capable of consuming his very soul.
Rest in peace:
- James King, Human Cleric, 5 hit points, level 1, 0 XP.
- Azirian, Human Magic-User, 6 hit points, level 1, 0 XP.
- Zordak, Human Assassin, 6 hit points, level 1, 0 XP.
- Verrod, Human Thief, 6 hit points, level 1, 0 XP.
- Tundar Neverflim, 3 hit points, level 1, 0 XP.
Killed by screaming, humanoid monsters in the hole in the sky.