Okay, so to prep for these things I can either make up a one page dungeon, build out the wilderness map some more, or study up on rules. But I can never do all three! I ran the best games I have ever run during the first ten sessions of this campaign and I am completely out of ideas. I could stop the game in order to focus on building everything out just so, but what I’ve done instead with this one is just keep playing and see what happens anyway. A few of the players REALLY want to do this even if I think the games I run are terrible so I just keep going, idea-free and with terrible prep. After all, the party can run a really bizarre Chainmail unit if we can just get Fagor to go up to level five.
So yeah, this is totally random and kind of stupid. But this is the tradeoff of focuing on rules research for the time being.
Anyway, this campaign has countless loose threads and abandoned dungeons at this point. The much maligned training rules are to thank for giving this ambling incoherent mass a modicum of direction. See, Fagor was just about ready go up to fourth level. All he lacked was the funds to pay for training costs of 4500 gold which he managed to scrounge up by selling of magic items (potion of heroism, potion of animal control, etc) acquired last session and also begging from the other player characters.
So the players all have totally different motivations and goals. It’s hard to get a strong idea that gets everyone excited. But when I let drop that legendary swordmaster and four armed skeleton was rumored to be in the Valley of the Bones far to the northwest, this immediately got unanimous buy-in from everyone present.
The players set off skirting around the swamps to the west of Trollopulous. A couple of days out they encounter a large group of nomads. There I decided were the Welsh gypsies responsible for conveyong rumors and fortunes to the party. The camp was modeled on the one in From Russia with Love. I described them as all covering their faces and also as being very welcoming, however to enter the camp the party would be required to cover their faces as well. The players had no interest in complying with this request and opted to move on.
While the players discussed their plans I would fill out additional hexes on the campaign map sheet. For each day of travel I would dutifully check to see if they’d gotten lost. After being very disappointed with the total lack of exploration years ago when I ran Isle of Dread, I have since decided that those checks are really important. In a well stocked wilderness, it means that many more of your planned encounters get used. In my game, it is the difference between the players achieving their objectives or else having a totally different adventure than what anyone planned. With this game, getting lost added a new threat factor: that of the players running out of food. This lead to many debates about whether or not to turn back.
On day eight in the hills I had drawn, the party came accross a coupld of giant porcupines. The impulsive player running the second level monk named Sauterelle wanted to go up and touch them. This lead to a reaction roll, a roll for initiative, and I think a volley of eight spines going his way. Sauterelle’s player immediately began rolling up a new character. I think somebody’s weird character suggested that he eat the body so that the players’ range would be increased.
On day ten the players encountered a group of winged horses. The good character cleric “Rubiest” offered one of them a treat. Not knowing what to do I checked reaction. With a 97% on the dice, I felt it was reasonable for the player to gain a new companion. It turned out that this character was the same one that was most worried about running out of food. He would be tempted to split off from the rest of the party many times to head back to Trollopulous but the fear of nighttime wandering monster checks with no one on watch ended up being more scary than the chance of starvation.
On day twelve the players are nearing the Valley of Bones. Somehow they have failed to get lost this entire session! Amazing. Another encounter came up, though. Wow, what a weird one. Sixty people that all look like Venger Satanis! Super scary. The entire party wants to give these guys wide berth except for Crubash, the brand new half-orc fighter/assassin with an incredible 18/67 strength.
Crubash goes up and talks smack to these people. It’s completely insane. Their leader orders Crubash to be dispatched. I prepared for the game’s most impulsive player to roll up yet another character, but then… Crubash challenged the leader to a duel to the death! Somehow this was mutually agreed upon to be an unarmed battle.
The leader who looked EXACTLY like Venger Satanis flew down from his mount as if on kung fu movie wires. I went to the pummeling section of the AD&D unarmed combat rules. Venger Satanis lands a relatively pathetic punch and knocks himself off balance in the process. The incredibly strong Crubash countered with a solid punch followed by a crushing blow, stunning his opponent. The next round he followed up with another crushing blow, completely murdering the hapless leader.
At this point, I really didn’t know what was happening. Crubash seized the day, insisting he was now leader of the band. The group praised him for his unmatched dastardly deeds. His first deed as chief was to demand that four men from the group accompany him on a, um… a brief scouting mission or something. The group heads out as I begin wondering what to do with a group of fifty npc’s suddenly under a first level pc’s control. But the group rendevous’s with the other pc’s when Crubash announces an assassination attempt. One of the scouts is killed, the rest get initiative and kill Crubash in return. The rest are mopped up by the pc’s, who now have enough horses for everyone– and also evade the large group of npc’s!
The players continue on a little ways further when the four-armed swordmaster appears. Fagor stars speaking in dub. It’s amazing, a gag we’ve waited months to deploy. He pays the 4500 gold and checks for his new hit die amount. After much fanfare, the die came up the same as it did last time: a one!
This player character group was then 19 days in the future at the close of the session. Plenty of time to reconvene, but still… this was the first time the players ended a session without returning to “town”.
And I do have to say, the wandering monster encounters for the default AD&D wilderness are WAY more elaborate than they seem to be give credit for.
Cast o’ Characters:
Harry S. Plinket the Prestidigitator, Fagor the HERO (!!), Rubiest the Adept, and maybe somebody else.
The Dead Pile:
Sauterelle — Human Initiate (Session 22, 23, 24) 2250 XP and 1376 + 330.5 + 807 = 2513.5 – 1500 for training = 1013.5 gold. Killed by eight giant porcupine quills a few days journey from the Valley of the Bones.
Crubash — Half-Orc Assassin. Killed after taking over a band of evil pilgrims.