So this game, I came in not too excited to play through another one of my one page dungeons. After playing 18 sessions with little to no prep, I just was not enjoying running games where (a) I knew every single thing that would be relevant to the session and (b) having to put up with the players playing completely “wrong” either one way or the other– by either following the overcautious algorithm searching for the path of least danger or else COMPLETELY DOMINATING my little original scenarios with little or no challenge. Of course, the players don’t mind the latter especially if the loot is good. There is some satisfaction in the campaign progressing even if an individual scenario is not the greatest.
Anyway, this session the players very quickly selected my “farmers in town looking for help to rescue their daughters from goblins” hook. They latched on this one so hard I could not review the many loose threads that the campaign has managed to produce. On the other hand, this hook has been on the table for many weeks. The daughters that could be rescued are likely either dead or else pregnant with goblin babies by now. Time combined with genuine player autonomy has a way of corroding the usual adventure premises. One more reason why a megadungeon is the natural outgrowth of how Gygax conceived of the game. Nothing else sticks! Real campaigns chew up anything approaching story type elements and just spit them out. A monster dungeon that exists for no real reason is the only thing that truly derives from the rules!
(Side note: Fagor wanted to look for henchmen, which I had largely handwaved as being largely automatic. The DMG has specific rules covering this, though. I read out the options for how he could pursue this and then rolled a percentage chance adjusted by his local noteriety. He spent like 219 gold to FAIL to find a henchman. Wah!)
(Side note 2: Due to time dilation effects, Fluid the Druid was working out a deal to get some Strength 18/00 potions from Zanzel Malecthones. Chaz was out training Druggo Hairycock to be a second level thief. This combination of events led to a session with no thief and no heavy hitting spellcaster!)
So the players start asking about this weeks old adventure hook. But now we’ve worked through using the Gygaxian wilderness travel rules with multiple wandering monster checks per day and the chance for getting lost to boot. The players are really concerned about going on another journey that lasts 14+ days which ends up putting their new characters out of play or maybe even forking the campaign. People are so alarmed by real AD&D timekeeping and its consquences that this is seen as practically as bad as a total party kill. I love the timekeeping stuff, though. So I place the farmer’s village southwest on the other side of the Mountains of Madness. It’s a five day journey, so this group of chracters will miss the next week’s session if they manage to go there and back again in a single session.
The players take a bunch of rations and head out. I roll for wandering monsters at the civilized and plains frequencies/chances. On the evening of their first day’s travels I get 200 goblins with 20 wolves. Why this encounter on the very day we decide to take the goblin themed adventure hook? And what does it mean?
The players do a little reconnaissance. I figure this is early morning for the goblins and make up a table to determine their reaction at this time. The alarm is not sounded and the players are not run down by goblins riding the 20 wolves. The party marches on into the dark giving the goblins wide berth and set camp a reasonable distance away. There does not seem to be any pursuit.
The next day in the sparsely populated hills, the players encounter four Ogres. The players got surprise and then opted to just let them pass. They then decided to follow their tracks back to where they came from– hopefully to a lair with lot of treasure. They come to a keep and I make up another random table to determine if it was a lair or if the Ogres were just passing through here. [DM note: 1-9 Lair, 10-11 Just passing through, 12 Dungeon!] It’s a lair. But it is also time to check for wandering monsters again, which just so happen to occur. So four manticores are flying out of the ruined keep directly at the players!
I roll the encounter distance and the players declare they are running to the keep to take cover right under the manticores. We look at the movement rates compared to the distance and I (probably incorrectly) rule that the manticores get 1/4th of their normal ranged attacks. (Probably should have been all or nothing.) A couple of characters get hit for negligible damage and the players are inside.
The manticores decide not to rush the players due to the confined environent. They are waiting outside to rain manticore spikes down on them should they try to leave. Besides, the Ogres should be back soon anyway, so either way, hilariaty should ensue on way or the other!
The players explore the ruined bailey they are in and discover a huge penny jar, a large cauldron, and a size forty-seven shoe. They also find what would be a mousehole to the keep’s inhabitants but which to the players is a large passageway. [DM note: 1-9 small exit down, 10-11 large passage down, 12 nothing! Also, 1-9 no secret door, 10-11 secret passage, 12 secret passage to manticore “nest”!] They players opt to explore and I roll up a single room on the random dungeon generator. I get monster + treasure, level 2 monster, ten centipeeds, 1000 silver, and 100 platinum. The players get initiative and handily defeat these low level monsters. When they realize that these “snakepede” looking creatures are likely poisonous, they concoct a plan.
They head back to the cauldron and brew up the poisonous bits of the centipedes and then dip all their arrows into it. [DM note: the Ogres arrive while the PC’s are cooking on a natural 12 on d12– didn’t happen!] There are lotsa rules on this in the DMG about who can and who can’t use poison, but it’s after 9pm so I tell the players that I stop consulting the rules when it is this late. They send three people up the tower to snipe at the manticores while the rest of the players make a barricade in order to force any charging manticores to enter the keep one at a time.
The players hit with three ranged attacks and one manticore fails a save versus poison. The overconfident manticores charge inside. A tremendous brawl ensues with the manticores taking heavy damage. Their claw/claw/bite routine should be pretty good against first level characters, but I keep rolling ones for damage when they do hit.
The dust settles and somehow the players have taken no casualties and made off with a fairly decent treasure haul. They debate whether to continue on to the farmer’s village, but if they go back to town a few of them can level. Yet another session concludes with the players all back in town.
I really liked this session because it was pure AD&D, entirely derived from the random tables in the DMG– ie, wilderness encounter checks and random wilderness encounters modified by time of day,surprise, and encounter distance. The random dungeon generation sequence which is rote after making many one page dungeon was there to do what it was meant to do: allow play to continue with barely a pause when the players went outside of my prep and the game called for a new dungeon to be created on the fly. The best of our early sessions were way more fun than my recent one page dungeon exercises because high risk / high reward situations are intrinsically more exciting. Also, we got back to more of the freewheeling, wahoo! improvisation that we hadn’t really seen as much of since way back in “Schewerpunk of the Pig Men.”
It is very gratifying to see the actual game system support and enhance the style of play that I think the group collectively prefers even while being faithful to the implied milieu of many of the game rules. The longer the game goes on, the more important it is that I have a consistent, well thought out, and fair way to adjudicate the bread and butter situations of the game. AD&D really seems shine in that regard. The more of the obscure rules your incorporate, the less work it is to manage the game world for whatever greedy and craven band of yahoos it is that decide to show up on a Thursday night!Cast o’ Characters:
Treasure and Experience:
5000 cp, 3 pieces of jewelry worth 800 gp each, 1000 sp, and 100 pp. Total gold value is 2975 gp; divided 9.5 ways this is 330.5 gold each with 165 each for the henchmen. 4 manticores, 10 centipedes, and 4 ogres (which were killed later when they came back and ate the manticore meat) total up to 3658 xp. Adding in the gold it is 6633. Divided 9.5 ways, this comes out to 698 for player characters and 349 for henchmen.
Cast o’ Characters:
Sauterelle — Human Novice (Session 22 and 23) 1517 + 698 = 2215 XP and 1376 + 330.5 = 1706.5 gold. [Can’t level this time because monks don’t get prime requisite bonuses!]
Roofus — Human Acolyte (Session 22 and 23) Frozen at level 1 until he levels! 1376 + 330.5 = 1706.5 gold. (looks like buff george carlin)
Malbert the Veteran (9 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 8, 20, 21, and 23] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 0 + 239 + 400 + 698 = FROZEN AT LEVEL 1 UNTIL HE LEVELS. Potion of Strength 18/00. +330.5 gold from session 23.
Brother Parvus the Wayward — Human Acoylte (Delves 19[F], 22[F], and 23.) FROZEN AT LEVEL 1 UNTIL HE LEVELS! 1439 + 330.5 = 1769.5 gold. [Can’t level this time because he would need 3500 gold to level right now. Simpings and nudy magazines come at a high price!]
Fagor the Half-Orc Swordsman— Level three fighter. [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, 5, 6, 6b, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 23] — 4000 + 1816 + 106 + 239 + 698 = 6859 XP. His horns have grown incredibly large. Looks frightening and diabolical. Cloven hooves His name means “astonishing hero” in orcish. Member of the Order of the Knights of Trollopulous. (330.5 gold in session 23.)
Logan — [Delve 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 20, and 23] Plate mail and shortswords. 333 + 70 + 76 + 875 + 31 + 80 + 165 = 1630 gold and 362 + 35 + 95 + 264 + 908 + 53 + 119 + 349 = FROZEN AT LEVEL 1 UNTIL THEY LEVEL!
Nasty and Dernhelm — [Delve 12, 14, 15, 19, 20, and 23] Just a codpiece and a spear. 333 + 70 + 76 + 875 + 31 + 80 + 165 = 1630 gold and 362 + 95 + 264 + 908 + 53 + 119 + 349 = FROZEN AT LEVEL 1 UNTIL THEY LEVEL! (Trained for dedicated grappling)
Peero the Sweeper — [Delve 19 only] 53 + 119 + 349 = 521 XP and 31 + 80 + 165 = 276 gold. [Note 15 strength and seven hit points!] Has antique monocle from 5th aeon.
Bob Dobs — Human Veteran/Acolyte (Session 22 and 23) XP at 758 + 349 = 1107 for each of Fighter and Cleric classes. 1376 + 330.5 = 1706.5 gold.
Tree Fingers the Ranger (Session 23 only) 698 XP and 330.5 gold.