This session, I had to get a new recruit up to speed. Couldn’t help but notice that a summation of the campaign events that mean so much to me just come across as noise. But I have to sketch out the game space enough that people can make decisions even when they don’t want to know the details.
New guy wants to play an elf fighter/magic-user. He has no idea how spell selection works in AD&D and as he rolls up his starting spells he innocently asks if he starts with Read Magic. I jump in immediately with “OBVIOUSLY you start with Read Magic. Seriously what kind of adventure game is going to start you with spells but not give you Read Magic. Inconceivable!” Not sure if he got the joke.
Anyways, I briefly attempt to explain to the guys that there are some people who are really good at D&D and that most are not. I have seen a wide range of play ability and this group is… average. With that as a preamble I tell them that due to their recent successes (and also due to the DM getting the death dial rule wrong), other parties of adventurers have started forming, following their group’s example. One party went into the sewers and got completely wrecked. It’s possible that some were taken hostage. They were all saving up gold so they can level. Guy at the tavern says that they will gladly fork it over if they are rescued. And there may even be a spell book with three swoleceror spells in it if the magic user didn’t make it. Could be great!
Now, I hasten to interject that I am not trying to steer the players one way or the other. They are free to do anything, go anywhere. But I am certainly not trying to convince them to take on the sort of risk that could get them all killed. The players did not debate this at all. The paladin used is detect evil on this thief to confirm that this wasn’t some kind of ruse.
I’d told the players that there were ten men-at-arms willing to go in on this one due to the party’s reputation and the lure of large amounts of gold. We consulted the rules on this and determined that they would cost 1 gp a month. Compared to the cost of plate armor and training fees, this was of course nothing. Life is cheap in AD&D! (If I was Alexander Macris, I could tell you how many of these guys would be available in the fair city of Trollopulous. But I am not!)
The party decides that entering at a different location is a good idea. They go up the northeast of their entrance and head into the sewers. Before they go in, they notice a sinister figure that fades in into the city when they catch him observing them. Down in the sewers, they hear maniacal laughter to the east. The players ignore all this and head west.
After a couple hours of slogging in the much, they hear fluting sounds. The players immediately thing “At the Mountains of Madness”, but before they could decide what to do, these green balls with suction cup tubes pointing in every direction land right in the middle of their men-at-arms. They are easily beat down but one man-at-arms takes some damage. The cleric heals him and the players decide to turn back.
Somehow they end up going north. At this point I have no idea where they are trying to go or what they are trying to do. Then these howling wild men crash into them, hooting and hollering in a most unsettling way. The men-at-arms are shaken and fall back a bit. The cleric uses Command on one of them to cause one of them to charge. He is cut down by the bestial, howling wild men.
At this point the men-at-arms completely break. The players finish off the wild men and are disappointed that they don’t have any treasure. They make a halfhearted effort to look for a lair, but then turn back. During the fighting the party’s stalwart cleric happened to take enough damage that he dropped to exactly zero hit points. The paladin healed up to one hit point and the players evacuated him out of the dungeon and back to the city.
Upon returning to the tavern, they players are shocked to find the nine surviving men-at-arms ingratiating themselves to various wanton wenches with tales of their daring exploits in the sewers below Trollopulous. The players are furious and rebuke them in front of everyone, brandishing their blood and muck-covered boots with pride as they instruct everyone in the extents of their audacity.
Three hours of game time has elapsed by this point and I suggest that the players can take another stab at this if they wish. Combing back from the dungeon empty handed galls them, so they readily assent.
The cleric’s player rolls up his replacement– a half-elf Fighter/Magic-User/Thief, half-brother to Keebler Khan. (Their mom is very prolific.) The cleric had very much walked the line throughout the campaign, frequently admonishing the other players to be brave, pursue good, and turn away from trollops in order to pursue higher things. Switching him over to a half-elf changed the tenor of the session 180 degrees. In a lispy voice, no innuendo was off the table as this one player took and held the notorious rpg-spotlight for the rest of the night.
Back in the sewers with a lisping charisma-18 half-elf leading the nine men-at-arms into the depths. The players come across a door. Ten attempts later it is open and they find an oil-scorched room with a sinkhole in it. The half-elf is down it in a moment and discovers a cave complex below. He was all set to explore it and/or bring everyone else down with him, but then the ranger recalled to everyone that they were on a mission. Later!
An hour of trudging though the sewage brings the players to a new location. The elf and the half-elf go forward to spy things out. They see heat signatures and go for surprise. I think they get two segments of surprise, dropping one pug-man with darts and arrows. The elfs high tail it back to the main body. The half-elf dives under the legs of five men-at-arms, looking up the skirts of their leather armor as he dives to the middle ranks, because of course he does. He yells words of encouragement to them as the front line meets with the guards. With a paladin in front and a second rank of spearmen backing him up, the pug-men are decimated in the exchange after taking a couple of flaming oil canisters to the face.
Two surviving dog men flee inside of a cave. The party pursues and then three men-at-arms fall into a pit. They can see three different passages from there. The party takes out the two fleeing pug-men with ranged weapons and the half-elf scouts out the room the pug-men were going to. He blunders in the aftermath of an epic pug-man pow wow and loses 5 segments to surprise, nearly getting killed in the process.
The rest of the party then goes into the room and the party takes on about 14 pug-men as the come back from an incredible stupor. It’s total chaos. Pretty soon, men-at-arms are dropping like flies. The tides of battle turn against the pcs, in part due to ill-timed losses on initiative. In a last ditched effort, the players target everything they have on the leader in the hopes of causing the monsters to fail a morale check. The elf wades in with his shield spell on and takes him down, but dies in the process along with the half-elf and eight men-at-arms. But the pug-men flee the room and head down the left unexplored passage.
The players don’t even search for treasure but haul every human body out of the room in order to give them a Christian burial. They make it back to the sewers when they hear drumming sounds. The players refuse to ditch the bodies of the dead, but with 30+ vials of flaming on them, create a sufficient blaze to cover their escape, narrowly making it out of the dungeons alive.
Only two men-at-arms were still alive at the end. The paladin’s henchman Sullivan had dropped to zero hit-points and was recovered.
So much treasure on the line here and not one gold piece came out of the dungeon this time! Many discussions about just why it is that players couldn’t pull this off. Could you have managed it in their place? Write your fool-proof plan in the comments!
Characters in this game:
Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, and 6b] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 = 2134
Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6a, and 6b] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 = 2012
Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, and 6b] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 + 80 = 2012
Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, and 6a] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 + 8 => [Frozen at 1500 until he levels!]
Gilbert and Sullivan: [Delves 2, 4, 6a, and 6b] (122 + 54 + 8 + 80) / 2 = 132
Two men-at-arms: [Delves 6a and 6b] (8 + 80) / 2 = 44
Note: These XP totals do not include any bonuses due to high prime requisites.
Experience and treasure:
No treasure! Delve 6a nets 139 XP divided 16 ways for 8 xp each. Delve 6b nets 566 XP divided 7 ways for 80 XP each.
Day 1: The Hole in the Sky
Day 2: The Thing in the Sewer
Day 7: The Big Score part I
Day 8: The Big Score part II
(Day 9-14 — player characters all carousing¹; Keebler Khan fully recovered) <—- I day of real world time = one day of game time!)
Day 15: The Drums of the Dog People
(Day 16-21: More carousing, fasting, panhandling.)
Day 22-25: Altar of the Beast-women
(Day 26-31: Resting)
Day 32-33: The Pugs of Slaughter
Dorkorus — Half-elf fighter/magic-user/thief — Half brother to Keebler Khan, talked with a lisp! Killed by a pug-man in the Trolopulous mega-dungeon.
Dairage — Elf fighter/magic-user — Killed with his shield spell one, valiantly taking down the leader of the pug-men so that the party could have a chance to escape certain death!