Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 2: Lights Out– A Space Shoggoth Mystery!!

Okay, this one was a doozy.

I have no experience running AD&D with solidly mid-level parties and this game featured some of the meanest player characters Trollopulous has yet produced. To make matters worse, the scenario incorporated events that spun out of the mind-meltingly weird events, referenced locations on the campaign map that I have never personally played in, and incorporated various game elements that I have not been privy to at all as the sort of low-effort barely engaged half-asleep player that I have been for the past few months.

This should be an absolutely impossible situation from a Dungeon Mastering standpoint, but the truth is that this sort of thing works like basically everything else in rpgs: you engage in a sort of verbal give-and-take with the players until everyone had agreed to what is happening and then you try to take what’ve been given to you and turn it into a scenario where the AD&D rules are relevant to sorting it out. This whole thing is not much different from the time last year when Brian had to improvise a Twin Peaks themed session with nothing else to go on except a couple of funny tweets from Bdubs. On the other hand, it is supposed to be a titanic and cataclysmic session that could pay off YEARS of campaigning among my friends. So maybe this was different after all.

No matter!

The pre-game planning suggestion from down under provided an opening gambit:

Here’s an idea; to save time and risk getting to the next Train station, instead of Mirroring to Wisdom Glenn and walking (which could be trouble), Machodor just so happens to have nearby on station the floating Cloud Castle where the Broldor Elves live. (They have been monitoring the situation in the 5 cities area and Wisdom Glen specifically) The cloud can be moved to the location of the Train station ( I’m not sure how fast it can go but I’m sure it could have reached there by now). The party can mirror to the Cloud Castle and then from there down to the Station entry.

While we waited to play, Daddy Warpig explained to me how Dungeon Masters are supposed to describe situations. I recapitulated stale Jeffro rants about how skills systems in rpgs have no game design value. The seconds dragged on as I waited for the mastermind behind Machador to arrive and help me sort all this out.

Finally, we are playing! The players end up in this central hub of the underground rail network which resides under a tremendous modern art sculpture that looks like a different geometric shape depending on which angle you look at it from. The players leap over the turnstiles to enter vast atrium area with a variety of ethnic goblinoid restaurants, but they are escorted out by a dozen cube-shaped beings for violating the underground’s protocols. They have to make nice with the Toll Troll Mildred whom they were rude to earlier and in order to reenter the subway, give up their drow-made elven cloaks and elven boots. Back on the subway, they follow a baffling path through many stops to arrive at the end of the line– this path being somehow burned into the mind of Shinki who previously communed with a computer network in some session after I had collapsed from exhaustion.

The next big obstacle was an elevator guarded by more of these cube-shaped individuals. This stumped the party for a while, because they could not demonstrate that they had red-level clearance. It turned out that the party did in fact have a black-level access card on them which nobody could think of what it was for until now. With black access levels trumping red, Dorrinal’s character speaking in Lawful Neutral, and Daddy Warpig displaying the black card, the gigantic party entered the elevator under a loophole in the protocals that gave black card members an unlimited number of “pets”.

The elevator from here went down to level -47 from here and up to level 273. The players selected the top floor, which was a good thing because the hirelings would not have ventured below level -3. Here on this uppermost level, the players encountered “The Archon” who controlled the thermostat for the Trollopulous ecology. They were also introduced to a ship’s locker there loaded with enough “plate mail” and blasters to outfit the entire group. (But not the demihumans.)

The players are shown through the observation bubble’s view finders that two blobulous creatures were on the outer deck, up to something that was preventing the Archon and his people from restoring sunlight to Trollopulous and Machodor. It’s these two weird amoeba-looking things on the deck outside in “the void” that are up to no good! Archon says that his people can’t go out there, but maybe the party can.

Well, now the party argues that every single person in the party should be going out equipped with “plate mail” and a blaster. The blasters do 1d8 points of damage and require a save versus death magic. I am imagining the whole party standing back and lasering my monsters, ruining my climatic encounter completely. So, I make all the henchmen and hirelings make a morale check to go out. Also, I insist that there are no suits of “plate mail” for the short demi-humans. Things seem a little more reasonable after this, maybe.

The players go outside via the airlock and fighting commences. Almaricky (F/M/T 5/5/6) hangs back to cast a haste spell on herself, her F/M/C henchman, her Ranger henchman, and Nestor. (Nestor was a new first level fighter with five hireling heavy foot that wouldn’t go out even after they were gotten drunk.) Shinji the Wu-Jen (level 5) was casting hypnotic pattern. Everybody else was charging– Ford the third level fighter, Karsh the sixth level fighter, Karsh’s cleric henchman, and Primus the second level fighter with his ten hireling warriors and their sergeant.

During the first round, Ford took at 15-point hit and Primus took a 21-point hit. Two of Primus’s hirelings got eviscerated. Shinji’s spell fizzled for unknown reasons.

During the second round, Shinji started to cast one spell but then had to cancel it because it was out of range or inappropriate. The hasted characters moved around the meleed warriors so they could do their thing separately. Four more of Primus’s hirelings bought it and the rest ran away. The meleeing PC’s did very mediocre amounts of damage due to the impossible armor class of the monsters.

Then the invisible Almaricky did her custom spell-buffed back stab. Her attack was doing x5 damage, totaling 65 points. At this point her player had the audacity to declare that both attacks of her dual-wielding attack counted as a “backstab” action, but I countered with the claim that these monsters did not have a flank. Without the +4 bonus to hit, the rather dubious second backstab was counted as a miss.

One of the monsters died a few attacks later. The second one randomly flailed around, getting a second hit on the hapless Ford who totally didn’t deserve it. The second monster died midway through the third combat round after a heated exchange on the Phantasmal Forces spell. The players questioned my declaration that the monsters could ignore it. We then worked out that I was doing the magic resistance slghtly wrong– it should have been 60% not the 90% I ran with. When I corrected this and rolled the save, the players informed me that there is no automatic save for Phantasmal Forces. (Note that this was not the case when I ran the only Illusionist in Trollopulous for several months, but now that I am DMing this new interpretation is suddenly “discovered.) I insisted the darn things got a saving throw anyway which I think it actually missed. How much damage, then? Infinite? We ended up agreeing on 1d6 per level of the caster, but whatever. The gnome fighter/illusionist was also casting Phantasmal Forces through the observation window, so the players just piled on with everything they could think of.

None of this conveys how tense and dreadful the combat was. When Shinji made an illusion of a solar flare coming down to burn the monsters, the players nearly needed to make a saving throw that they suddenly didn’t get to use. (??) But, no. If there had been three of these things, the players would have gotten wasted. For the entire opening round, it really looked like all was lost and the players were going to lose or run away. (The blasters did not dominate the battle and in fact only ever missed or else hit one of the hirelings in a back from when somebody fired into melee.)

Aside from the backstabbing and the sudden loss of clarity on illusion spells, I’d have to say the one thing I would change out of all this is how the monsters fight. I was selecting random targets in order to appear impartial. But really, this practice is a holdover from the bad old days when players faced insurmountable odds as first level characters. It would be way more reasonable for these creatures to focus what few attacks they have on the characters that are doing the most damage to them. Of course, a large amoeboid creature overbearing Almricky the moment she was revealed would have been awesome. Maybe next time!

Now the players checked out what the monsters were doing at this terminal thing. Inside was some ports. Something was plugged in– this weird black thing with the face of an orc sticking his tongue out, a chaos symbol with eight arrows, a claw extending a middle finger, and finally, a set of Ogre Nutz hanging on the back. Daddy Warpig said Shinji was taking it out. I said, “Okay, you have Deez Nutz in your hand.” (This is a Bdubs joke which I thought was hilarious. Hey, I am STILL laughing!)

The Archon informed the players that he could now, thanks to their efforts, end the blood rain and turn the sun back on at the Machodor/Trollopulous level. Before leaving, the players went out to explore this weird thing they saw nearby. Turns out it is a Type S Scout with the characters from our last Traveller campaign.

The player characters talk to the other campaign’s player characters, and it is discovered that many ships of Amazon women are in the vicinity. At this point, the last bit of gas is sucked out of the sun, and this tremendous structure of arcologies blinks into hyperspace. Sir Percival Jones informs them that they are now stuck on the ship for a week while the jump is completed.

Okay, I ruled that only the people that went outside got XP for this one: Almaricky (with F/MU/C and R), Shinji, Karshe (with C), Nestor, and Primus. (Four of Primus’s hirelings survive along with their sergeant, but they get no XP. So the XP shares are split 6.5 ways.

Total Monster XP is 18,460. XP Shares come out to 2,840 for players and 1,420 for henchmen.

But wait! Is there an adjustment factor?

If the monsters have 20 Hit Dice with, I dunno, 2 special abilities each… then they come out to a total value of 44. Average hit dice here is 22.

Summing the levels– and counting the multi-classed characters as their best level in this case– the players total levels is around 43 or so. The average level here is right around 2. The average hit dice of the monsters is MORE than ten times the average level of the party.

Does this mean that the players get DOUBLE this already tremendous XP award?!

YES IT DOES!! The players did not have forty members in their group, so they were not so numerous as to be an exception to the exceptional case.

Total Monster XP is 36,920. XP Shares come out to 5,680 for players and 2,840 for henchmen.

One response to “Trollopulous Adjusted Session 2: Lights Out– A Space Shoggoth Mystery!!

  1. Pingback: BattleTech’s Blaine Pardoe on Geek Gab! | Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

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