Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

1st Edition Tunnels & Trolls: Ozzy and the Rabid Baboon People

Pictures Have Stories: the Summoner - Oakheart by Liz Danforth

I realized recently that it has been a lifelong dream of mine to run the justifiable infamous first edition of the Tunnels & Trolls game. So, I did it. In order to sidestep the issues of scheduling and coordinating with people, I went with a simple “play by Twitter DM” approach. Compared to, say, postal play from the early eighties, this ticks along at a fairly brisk pace. I think we completed a quick delve in about four days without having to block out four hours of time away from family, etc.. The Tunnels & Trolls combat system turns out to be well suited to this particular medium!

I had each player roll up four human characters and told them to take Ken’s suggestion of selecting warrior if strength was higher than intelligence or luck, a rogue if luck was higher than strength or intelligence, and a wizard if intelligence was higher than strength or luck. If more than one attribute is tied for the highest, you may select the one you like to be treated as such. Finally… I made one offer that no one took me up on: if you get a wizard that does not have the ability to cast spells, then you may select one of the somewhat overpowered non-human kindreds.

I suggested players take their favorite character of the bunch… with maybe their least favorite serving as sort of a henchman or torchbearer. Picking out equipment was the most time-consuming aspect of this. In any case, we very quickly sallied forth into our brief game that would hopefully demonstrate the key aspects of the system.

They players began the game at the tunnel entrance with no preamble whatsoever. They encountered a troll both, and after some discussion elected to pay the entry fee of 5 gold per adventurer– probably due to a couple of ragged shacks that appeared to have arrow slits on them. For their trouble, the players did get some hints from the toll. He said there was a goblin infestation on the second level what would be the most level-appropriate challenge for them. He also said to steer clear of the cathedral area, which would be certain death.

Travelling through the tunnels, we soon had our first demonstration of a T&T Saving Roll. The leading warrior of the group, Ozzy, slipped on some slippery rocks and ended up taking a bit of a tumble. He failed his saving roll and ended up taking some damage. On the other hand, he also got some experience points for his trouble. Hopefully this time bad things happening would only make him stronger?

The players then arrived at Ogrehead Rock, found the nearly hidden passageway to the second level, and wondered if there might be something magical about the big stone head. Some feral humanoid creatures showed up that ended up running away into the darkness. The players decided to explore in the direction that they went rather than going down a level. (They suspected the troll of lying to them.)

In order to convey the idea of T&T combat, I had a 50 M.R. swarm of bats show up. The players wiped them out in two rounds without taking any damage. For the second round I had them go berserk in order to demonstrate that as well. Finally, I handed out 50 experience points to each character because that is how Tunnels & Trolls works. So far so good!

Now they were really deep into a gigantic, almost unending room. They found some rotting adventurer bodies that were covered with grey mold. One player burned them up with a torch and collected some gold, silver, and an unusually looking stone from them.

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At this point 13 of the feral humanoids showed up, ready to pounce on everyone. The monsters charged in while the players seemed to assume that melee weapons ought to do the trick against them. The first round, the players took a lot of damage! Divided ten ways it was not terribly much. But with Ozzy in an already hurting state, the damage was just enough to take him out of the game. Very sad!

Round two was not too different. One wizard did elect to cast Oh Go Away, so the players only had to face twelve of these feral humanoids, but it was not enough to turn the tide. Three more player characters bit the dust this round– the ones that had low constitution scores. Survival of the fittest, Tunnels & Troll style!

At this point the players decided to bail. I ruled here that they needed to make a level one saving roll for each character. If they fail, then a swarm of feral humanoids managed to drag them down into a throbbing mass of claws and teeth. In making these rolls, lots of doubles came up so the players finally got lucky. All except for the wizard that rolled a measly four.

‘The players then ran out of the dungeon as fast as they could and went back to town. Half the party was killed, but the survivors each walked away 323 experience points and 23 gold. They also recovered an IOUN stone that can add plus two strength to any wizard!

Second level is totally within reach!


Surviving player characters:

Oliver Plunkett — Warrior, Human, 15-11-12-12-11 -5, 23 gold, 3 adds, Battle Axe (4), Steel Cap (1), 323 e.p.

Laurence Plaquette — Rogue, Human, 8-11-11-10-14-9, 28 gold, 1 / 3 adds, Sword (2), Leather + Steel Cap (3), 323 e.p.

Zebulon — Rogue, Human, 8-10-14-13-15-9. 23 gold, no adds, Dagger (1), Leather (2), 323 e.p.

Boris the Brave — Warrior, Human, 11-10-10-15-8-12, 44 gold, -1 subtracts, Dagger (1), 323 e.p.

Tony — Rogue, Human, 10-11-13-12-7-13, 23 gold, -1 / -3 subtracts, Dagger (1), 323 e.p.

*** IOUN stone that adds +2 ST to a wizard


The graveyard:

Ozzy — Level 1 Human Warrior — Killed by the charge of 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022

Primaris — Level 1 Human Rogue — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022

Savus — Level 1 Human Warrior — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022

Jiri — Level 1 Human Wizard — Killed in battle with 13 feral humanoids on 1/17/2022

Perrin Quickwit — Level 1 Human Wizard — Swarmed by 13 feral humanoids while attempting to flee on 1/17/2022

Patron Play and High Level Characters

A reader writes in:

Hey Jeffro, so I’ve been devouring your posts after I was pointed to your “Fifty years of fantasy gaming …”. Even made me re-watch Secrets of Blackmoor. Awesome stuff!

I’ve run OD&D with multiple groups before and my current Traveller5-Campaign has two groups going as of now. And both run 1:1 time, for sure!

However I’ve not had “patron style” play in my campaigns, yet. So that’s why I’m asking:

Do “patron players” actually get to play fully statted high level characters in your games? Like, say a level 12 Cleric leading some 300 dervishes? I know the MM and DMG give all the details on how to stat out high level characters and their entourages. Or do you do those high level characters more on an abstract level without any D&D stats (à la Braunstein)? Would you mind sharing stats / character info for one of your high level charachters?

Another question: do you think AD&D (which you seem to prefer) as a rules set is more suited to this kind of play than OD&D (which I do prefer)? If so, why?

Cheers, Wanderer Bill

Hey, Bill!

The Moon Pool

Yeah, that level 12 cleric with an army of 300 dervishes was actually in the Trollopulous campaign. He destroyed a significant goblin force with no losses, used divination to get clues about what the other patrons were doing, used another spell to have an invisible angel bring the goblin king to him and then put a geas on him to go wipe out the mushroom people.

As you can see from the original Monster Manual, groups like this can get fairly complex if you just do what Gygax said to do. Wilderness Encounters taken straight from the core tables are liable to have clerics and magic-users and entire chainmail units. Add in an allied monster unit and you now have an opportunity to master psionics rules as well– but in a strategic game rather than a dungeon crawl!

It is a lot to take in at once. Way more complex than anything I would need in a typical adventuring type session. Like, I’d actually need a dedicated player to sort all this out because I have too much time sunk in managing the game. This is true even of the people running single high level characters like this one:

Sorceress — 22nd Level Magic-User STR 11, INT 17, WIS 14, DEX 16, CON 10, CHA 15 THAC0 13 AC 10 HP 40 Level 22
M-U Spell Book:
1: Read Magic, Detect Magic, Erase, Enlarge, Unsen Servant, Magic Missile
2: Continual Light, Darkness 15ft Radius, Detect Invisibility, Forget, Mirror Image, Wizard Lock
3: Dispel Magic, Slow, Suggestion, Tongues, Clairaudience, Clairvoyance
4: Charm Monster, Confusion, Dimension Door, Explosive Runes, Fire Trap, Massmorph
5: Leomund’s Secret Chest, Stone Shape, Teleport, Feeblemind, Contact Other Plane, Wall of Force
6: Globe of Invulnerability, Guards and Wards, Geas, Invisible Stalker, Legend Lore, Move Earth
7: Bigby’s Grasping Hand, Drawmij’s Instant Summons, Limited Wish, Mass Invisibility, Monster Summoning V, Simulacrum
8: Clone, Mass Charm, Mindblank, Serten’s Spell Immunity, Symbol
9: Imprisonment, Temporal Stasis, Time Stop
** 7 pathetic frog-men attendants.
(Your army was destroyed, and your treasure taken in January.)

Can you imagine trying to come up with an “adventure” for a character like that? I know I have always struggled to imagine how to handle high-level play. It turns out that if you let go of this concept of adventuring parties and retool your concept of the game to include large quantities of “down time” where you can do anything you can imagine, everything just falls into place!

The place where all the stats really matter is in instances where you have patron versus patron combat, either at the character scale or the Chainmail scale. These contests are very typically unfair, so take your time in setting the scene and getting player buy-in on what is really going on. They will often agree to several innocuous things that (due to information they don’t have) will flat out doom them to a silly and embarrassing death. They will take it better if it is clear that they walked right into it on their own.

As far as Braunstein-like play goes… I am convinced that it will happen spontaneously even though you have everything statted out in cold, hard D&D terms. Due to the fog of war, players are hesitant to take a swing at someone when they have no idea how it will go or when potential losses can make them vulnerable to everyone else after the battle. People will naturally want to just play their role and negotiate and get a feel for what is happening and if that ends up being fun people will forget about the bloodbath that is liable to happen when any two patrons are near each other. In fact, 1:1 time, a large number of patrons, and an “always on” style of play is functionally identical to a LARP in key ways. This can be frightening if you aren’t expecting it. But the players end up entertaining each other without the referee having to be there to baby each and every development along. (Of course, the referee will end up not knowing what is actually going on in some cases…! Don’t worry, though… if this happens, it’s how you know your Braunstein was a success!!!)

It is really amazing stuff, but you don’t have to go whole hog. A smaller number of patrons is less likely to rage out of control. The resulting playstyle of this keeps traditional adventuring actions as the focus with Patrons spicing up the normally much more static campaign backdrop. Rather than a bizarre wargame campaign that generates off-the-wall scenarios that you need to play out, this type of game is going to be much more comprehensible to most players. (But face it, people would go nuts to be able to play an entire army and go out and make castles and such.)

Finally, as to OD&D vs. AD&D, I really see them as being pretty much the same thing. The original supplements give you so much that is emblematic of AD&D. I prefer AD&D because its extensive elaborations spell out WHY the game was set up the way it was. However, I end up referencing OD&D anyway to find out how things are supposed to work because its brevity makes it so much easier to locate things!

Good luck with your game, man. And let us hear about how it goes, too!

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded Sessions 4 and 5

Akira Kurosawa
Ray gun designed by Brian Elliott.

The previous session featured the party on an extended float trip down the river to Trollopulous. Using 1 to 1 time this river journey was not yet complete by the time Session 4 began. So, the players rolled up new characters and had the pick of the map as a starting place. It so happens that one player had chosen to play a dwarf and that there was a dwarven village in the mountains a couple hexes to the southwest of the Adventurers Aid Society Octagon. The players were curious to see how things had turned out at the Octagon, which a couple sessions ago was the site of a mass battle between invading interdimensional giant beetles, the Shoggoth Ambassador Hastoth and his snake men assistants, and the golden mercenaries of the Three Regiments, so they chose to start at the dwarven village. The new first level PC are:

  • Steiner Goldnose dwarf fighter
  • Ricki female elven fighter/magic-user/thief
  • Ambergris – human druid
  • Ovardub — monk

So, the new PCs, wet behind their ears set out to see what the beams of light in the night sky to the northeast are all about. The journey through the mountains is uneventful. Coming out of the mountains the party stops to look down at the grassy plain in which the Octagon resides. What they find is that the whole area is, well, changed in a shocking manner. Where once there sat a modest caravanserai now is the site of a massive construction project. Lines of giant beetles trundle about bearing large basalt blocks in their mandibles. Already the site around the Octagon is adorned with multiple growing towers and sprawling hexagonal lower building structures. 

Making their way down to the endless activity they cautiously enter the newly growing city of beetles. One of the beetles stops its activity and contacts them telepathically, “Greetings worthless vessels. You are welcome here but please try not to interfere in the construction. It is imperative that our domiciles be constructed quickly. Even now, more of our race prepare to flee our enemies and temporarily inhabit this unusual abode.” Thus begins a short question and answer period with the giant insect in which they learn.

  • The Yithians have inhabited the giant beetles as more suited to the current environmental situation.
  • They are distressed to learn that their ancestral enemies, the primordial ones and their shoggoth servants already have made a foothold in this coordinate of spacetime.
  • Because of this they plan to flee as soon as possible. Their tenure here will be transitory and temporary – perhaps lasting as little as ten thousand years or so. 
  • They are not hostile if not interfered with. 
  • The party is welcome to scrounge around the remains of the Ambassadors of the Five Cities camps (destroyed in the past battle)
  • The AAS is still open but currently the proprietors are desperate for clientele.

Scouring the site of the Ambassadorial camps the party finds several sets of golden plate armor, a number of ray guns abandoned by the defeated snake men as well as a substantial box of jewelry. Rolling on the jewelry tables (DMG p. 26) identifies a good dozen pieces of rather high valued items. The players are surprised at their easy find getting ready to leave the area. Nonetheless they buy one of the higher priced pieces for several thousand gold pieces. Tucking the piece in their pack the former rulers of the AAS say, “So long suckers, don’t take any wooden nickels” and head out of town. This leaves the players realizing that they now have to lug the pile of gold back to the dwarf village. Which, grumbling they do with no rolled encounters for the journey.

And that was session 4. Short but sweet in that the new PCs gained sufficient treasure to level with zero risk to themselves. Sometimes it’s like that. 

Session 5 (9/16/21) begins with the same players deciding what to do next. They have options now. They can go back to the “A Team” in the outskirts of Trollopulous and the invading army. Or, they can stick with the “B Team” back at the dwarven village. They choose the B Team. During the down time the village has been busy reworking the golden plate armor to fit dwarves and building boats to explore downriver. In addition, the dwarfs have been keeping an eye on a settlement of Ogres they had discovered. But, the thing that really got attention is the dwarf guard scout who came running in shouting “Giants! Giants!”

It is giants. Six fire giants ambling through the mountains. However, the brutes pass the dwarf village obliviously. The party decides to follow them. And, follow them they do for several days at least until the fire giants come to Hobgobiton.  There, like the Hill Giants before them, the Fire Giants extort a good lunchtime snack from the Hobgobs and keep heading south. The PCs decide to give it up and backtrack the giants path back north – perhaps the giants have a hidden lair that can be looted while they are away. They make their way back north through the mountains only to lose the trail as it heads north into the desert wastes of the Tharks. Frustrated, they return to the dwarfs.

Next, they decide to check out the group of dwarfs that has been staking out the ogre den. On the way they are surprised by a large group of extremely friendly Picts. The party distrusts their intentions and flees. Otherwise they get to the stakeout unscathed. 

Looking at the Ogre lair, it is domestic. The dwarfs inform them that a couple ogres head out each day hunting and the woman and children ogres mostly stay inside until the hunting party comes home with dinner. They decide to try to capture the ogres with a pit trap. The dwarfs quickly dig a deep and wide hole and disguise it with boughs and dirt. They set up a campsite nearby and the monk poses as a camper cooking his meal over a smoldering fire. Meanwhile the party and the dwarves lay in wait. The smell of cooking draws the ogres to the camp. But, they are wary, the brutes can smell the dwarves. “Fee Fi Fo Fum, I smell the blood of dwarven scum!” The trolls stop short of the pit and demand the monk tell them where the dwarves are. 

It takes some taunting, but the ogres eventually charge the monk and are captured in the pit. The dwarfs come out of hiding and surround the pit. One defiant ogre tries to climb out and gets filled with arrows which convinces the other to beg for his life. The remaining ogre relays to them that their tunnel leads further into the mountain and warns that they don’t want to go down there. There are darks elves, spiders, and goo down there. He also describes to them two other possible entrances into the realm of the dark elves. Then the dwarfs summarily execute the talkative ogre, and the party returns to the dwarven village to contemplate their next moves. 

The Lands of Trollopulous

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded Session 3 – Down the Lazy River

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The session starts with the current party after fleeing the Octogon of the Adventurers Aid Society:

  • Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
  • Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
  • Tancred – 1st level Paladin
  • Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
  • Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric
  • Fagor the Half-Orc Hero – 4th level Fighter

The party sits in the Valley of Trobellor waiting for the Master Warrior to return. After a week the only thing sighted is a herd of elephants heading east. Giving up on Trolbellor, the party decides to head back to Trollopulous. They march east to the river to build a raft to float down to the city rather than march the whole way. It is 330 miles away after all. Realizing they have meager tools, an axe, swords, and rope, they decide on building a simple raft from bundled reeds cut from the riverbank. It’s far from dry but it floats and the weather is warm and the water is not too cool. Thus begins, something of a lazy jaunt worthy of Huck Finn. They have several encounters along the way.

  • 9/18 – while camped out on the riverbank at midnight they are awakened by the sounds of marching and singing. The song Fagor recognizes as the famous Orc romantic song “Where There’s a whip, there’s a way!” They deduce a large body of orcs are marching nearby – around 200! Soon there is the sound of hooves. Outrider scouts from the orc column have spotted them. Hurriedly they push their raft into the river. The orc riders gallop along the riverbank pacing them. Fagor grabs Druggo and pretends to hold him hostage. He shouts into the night in orcish, “You can’t have him, he’s mine! Rare and plump he is and will make tender stew!” I roll a reaction roll for the orcs. The orcs are totally taken in. They assume the party are friendly orcs and gallop on their way.
  • 9/20 – the raft is lazily drifting near the bank where a stand of large trees overhang the water. A giant boa constrictor falls out of the tree upon Druggo. Unfortunately for the snake the attack rolls a 3, it’s a miss! Nonetheless, the raft is swamped with some party members falling overboard. But, in the end Tancred and Fagor do battle with the scaly monster. Ultimately, Fagor dispatches the beast with a swing of his two-handed sword. The sodden members pull themselves aboard and the journey continues. 
  • 9/22 – they spot a large scruffy man walking along the shore. On his should he carries a hobo stick with a bundle tied to one end. Paddling in cautiously, they see he is large hunched and dressed in ragged furs and dirt. He walks barefooted and waves now and again at flies buzzing in his hairy scrunched face. Reaction roll is double zeros.  He’s super friendly. He waves to them and says, “Howdeedo! I’m Big Pete. Care for some lunch?” They realize Big pete is friendly and they come ashore for a picnic lunch. Big Pete carefully opens his bindle to show a large and dirty pile of fresh truffles. “Just smell that! Have you ever smelt anything better?” The party questions Big Pete how he came across the fungus? “Oh, I smelled them out. Takes some practice but, I reckon, anyone can do it if they try.” They ask, don’t people normally use pigs or dogs to sniff out truffles? “Well, they sure do. The lazy ones do at least but, you should try it. Nothing better than sniffing out a nice fresh truffle.” They eat their lunch in the pleasant sunshine. Most of the party declines the truffles to a clearly disdainful, “suit yerself” from Big Pete but, two try them. While lunching they warn Big Pete about the previously encountered orcs. Big Pete avers that he doesn’t cotton to orcs. He finds their pig snouts a fundamental insult to good honest pigs everywhere, “It should be you see a pig snout; you see a good honest hard-working friend. But, those orcs give pigs a bad name! It’s not right!” After lunch they part ways. Big Pete heading west towards the nearby forest stating he can smell the truffles from here. The two party members that tried his truffles spend a day hallucinating, then another day puking. Afterwards both of their wisdom attributes have raised by one. 
See the source image
  • 9/23 – the river narrows to a faster running stream. It’s not a rapid but the riverbanks are close and the bordering dense forest. With a hail of snorts an horde of pugmen emerge from the jungle near the raft. They launch spears, wounding several party members. One member cleverly chucks a spear back. Reaction Roll. As one the pugman horde’s heads turn to follow the hurled stick. They go off yipping after it to fetch it. Using the distraction wisely the party paddles towards the middle of the river out of throwing range. 
  • 9/25 – a flock of ostriches runs along the river bank with them. Otherwise it’s uneventful.
  • 9/26 – After ten days the raft sits idly in the river to the east of Trollopulous. It’s obvious something is amiss. Black smoke rises from the city wall in the distance. Dust from horses and marching troops rises into the air. The city has come under siege by a strange army. Druggo makes a makeshift gilly suit for himself with marsh grass and scouts ahead to find the warriors wear strange brightly colored angular armor, carry two swords, long handled glaives, and wear flags on masts off the back of their armor. The sigils on the flags are both ornate and geometric like nothing he’s seen before. However, upon relaying his story to the party Fagor’s two sumo henchmen exiles from the east tell the party it sounds like people from their homeland the island nation Yamagata.

There is discussion of what to do. Sneak into Trollopulous? Head downriver to the bay and try to steal a ship? The life of piracy seems attractive. Some PCs need training. Go greet the army and seek training from them? It all seems uncertain. In the end, they decide to put off the decision. It was getting late and the session ended there. 

The Lands of Trollopulous

But, what of Trollopulous? What has been its fate? There are rumors of a plague. Now an invading army. Things seem rough for the bucolic burgh of Trollops. What has been going on? This is the story how Fluid gained the experience for fifth level and ended up a sadder, wiser man.

In mid July a wide variety of maladies broke out among the pimps of the High Panderers Society. The symptoms are all over the map: coughs, runny noses, sore throats, sagging skin with sores, stinging urination, black diarrhea, fevers. At first it was seen by the commoners and the members of the High Church as just reward for the tawdry powerful men of Trollopulous. Soon though, the common men and trollops began to come down with it. Per the DMG the cost of a Cure Disease spell is 1,000 gp. Few of the commoners had such a sum but, the rich did, they were cured by the priestly class. This left the commoners to cough and crap themselves in their hovels. And it spread. A couple weeks later the first people began to die, victims of a malady that became known as The Quakes – victims swelled up with unreleased intestinal gases until they ruptured and died. Then the clerics of the city knew things were serious. The fees for Cure Disease  spells were dropped and the priests of both the High Church and the street of the gods could be heard praying for divine intervention both night and day. The priests worked hard with nary a break between praying and laying on hands, falling into delirious stupors only to rise to do it again. 

By the next week, victims of a malady called Vinegar Piss started to fall – their urine burned both through their organs of elimination but eventually their bladders wore away and they died of sepsis. By that time the powers that be, already bunkered in their mansions and towers, ordered lockdowns to slow the spread. Soldiers boarded whole families into their homes while clerics wielding maces patrolled the streets to strike down any breaking quarantine. Still people died. The sickly sweet smell of rotting corpses boarded into buildings pervaded the lanes and alleyways. 

Six weeks in, another group of the ill began to die – those afflicted with the skin condition known as Droopsy. Victims of Droopsy had their skin loosen and sag to drag upon the ground. Eventually, the weakened skin ruptured all together leaving just a skinless corpse.  The terror started to rein. The still living afflicted rose up and began assaulting the priests who, pray though they might, could cure a few but never fast enough for the spreading miasmas of disease. This only accelerated the spread as clerics were killed or in hiding. Really, the acceleration was hardly noticed as most people were already afflicted with something, multiple conditions even. Nearly everyone had a cough, a sag, a fever, bloated guts. In fact, nearly everyone had been suffering with black diarrhea for weeks – called the Bloody Flux. They started catapulting bodies over the walls of the Undead Quarter to remove the contagion from the realm of the living. 

And, by mid-September the first Bloody Flux victim died, followed rapidly by another, then more. And, more. It was obvious that everyone was doomed. The Bloody Flux was endemic. They’d ignored curing it due to the urgency of the other quicker killing afflictions. But their complacency let the Bloody Flux spread everywhere. Death stalked the streets. 

Then the invading army arrived and the dead started walking out of the Undead Quarter.

And this is how Fluid the Druid, happy-go-lucky nature lover, waged his war on the pimps of the High Panders society. He arrived from the far north after training for fourth level. Met his new trollops rescued from their servitude. The charming (and Charmed) lasses regaled him with the stories of their previously harsh existence. Fluid, who had always dreamed of returning Trollopulous to Nature, visited town. He spent a week charming trollops and pimps, shaking their hands and leaving them with one disease after another. He retreated to his tree house to watch. Every so often he’d scout into town to see how things proceeded. Three weeks in he was shocked. Then horrified. Then guilt ridden. Occasionally, he’d find families dead on the prairie trying to flee the doomed city. He’d strip them of their money and valuables. They no longer needed it.  He left his tree house and his Trollops again to travel north to seek advice and contrition from the Druids of greater rank. He now hauls water, chops wood, and crochets endless pants and vests for the High Druids of the Great Arcadian Arbor Society while holed up in hiding in the Massive Forest Extraordinary Reserve. The Great AAS MFERs prefer more harmonic methods and will see that his fifth level is truly earned. What’s become of the assassins of Trollopulous. No one knows but priestly divinations no doubt have informed the elites of who the culprit was. 

If it seems fanciful that a fourth level Druid in AD&D can kill a city then let me suggest you peruse the disease rules found in the early part of the DMG, pages 13 (lucky 13) and 14. It all came about with the question, if the Cure Disease spell can be reversed to Cause Disease then what disease is it? Well, the spell description doesn’t say – it just describes an afflicted character weakening. After some discussion it was decided the table on page 14 should be rolled on to find out. If there is a rule then we should use it, right? So…a fourth level Druid can cast three cause disease spells per day. I rolled savings throws and then for those failed (all but one) I rolled for the disease details. In one weeks time Fluid inflicted four terminal illnesses on the High Panderers of Trollopulous and sixteen non-fatal illnesses. 

Then came questions of how they spread. There is a rule for determining if someone catches a disease they have been exposed to. Unfortunately for Trollopulous it is next to a marsh and is a hot and moist climate. Then came questions, all debatable, of how many exposures of people per day could be had. I made what I thought were reasonable assumptions. No matter how I sliced it eventually nearly everyone in the city was eventually afflicted with something terminal. But, what about Clerics? Cure Disease spells? Can’t Cure Disease stop disease?  Yes, individually. I even used the City random encounter table to estimate how many clerics of sufficient level to cast Cure Disease might be available. I estimate 125 clerics of sufficient level for a total of about 350 Cure Disease spells cast per day. Surely that would be enough to nip it in the bud? Well, yes, if the diseases were caught early. But, the DMG gives the price for cure. It seemed obvious there would be a period where the diseases weren’t considered fatal, especially with so many nonfatal afflictions spread at the same time. Then another period where the usual practice of charges for cures was carried out. And, then it was too late. The linear function of available Cure Disease spells could not catch up with the geometric function of spreading disease. 

So, lockdowns and quarantines needed to be imposed. That also was too little, too late. Only the most extreme measures slowed the spread. No matter how much I reasonably lowered an individual’s exposure within weeks everyone was afflicted with something. Of course, it’s all a game. No doubt, the DMG rules aren’t scientifically accurate depictions of disease, nor is my approach to any degree “accurate”. But the exercise did give one pause as to the difficulty of modeling the spread of disease – even fictional fantasy diseases like Droopsy, Vinegar Piss, and The Quakes. It was humbling that I could not find a way to save Trollopulous unless the city clerics were both more powerful, less corrupt, and on the ball. But, Trollopulous is not a place with on-the-ball institutions. Fluid’s guilt lies heavy upon him. It is also good to learn the power of magic in AD&D. Clerics and Druids can be weapons of mass destruction. No wonder the Paladins really love to smite those evil priests.

Guest Post: Trollopulous Reloaded Session 2 – Interdimensional Mind Control Bugs

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Time Marches on. Last session we left off with the party still camped at the Adventurers Aid Society Octagon. Pius the First was recently cured of a mysterious (possibly vampiric) wasting sickness by a lovely Acadia, handmaiden of the ambassador Emlyn of Wisdom Glen. Last report I said this was the Paladin Tacred but I’d misremembered which character had been struck with the sickness. Suspiciously, Emlyn had seemed put out by Pius’s miracle cure. Meanwhile, Druggo had been spying on the Palanquin of Hastoth the ambassador of Yauhiklendusz and discovering sinister goings on. The session starts with the current party:

  • Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
  • Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
  • Tancred – 1st level Paladin
  • Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
  • Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric

There are some obvious things going on in the Octagon:

  1. The servitors of Hastoth are constructing some sort of device outside the opening of the rental dungeon. This is the one the party last session discovered giant glowing beetles, a sinkhole, a mystical gate to another place (and perhaps time), even more gargantuan beetles with the ability to cause earthquakes, odd tentacled cone beings, and the land scattered with gems.
  2. The retinue of Emlyn is all ahoo due to the mysterious death (perhaps murder) of Acadia the handmaiden who had cured Pius of his illness. 

After some discussion the party decides to try to investigate the death of Acadia. Pius goes to Emlyn’s tent to speak with her while Druggo sneaks around the back. Emlyn is warm and welcoming and expresses distress about Acadia’s fate. What could have happened? Pius asks to go examine the body and sure enough the body has the hallmarks of vampiric draining. Druggo uses the opportunity to slip under the edge of the tent and ends up in a fancy chamber with a large camp cot, silks, furs, urns, and a large chest. He opens the chest to find clothes, toiletries, and the like, plus two vials. Palming the vials, Druggo makes a quick exit and avoids notice. Only afterward he realizes the chamber smelt strongly of vinegar. The vinegar smell triggers one party member’s distant memory — Pius the First turns pale at the recollection. Could it be? What?

The party is somewhat taken aback that a vampire may be about, what with them being mostly first level characters and so backs off on the investigation. Next they go to observe the servants of Hastoth at the dungeon entrance. There are a good dozen servants all building a large chrome tripod with a parabolic dish on top. At the focus of the dish is a large crystal illuminated by pulsing light from within. At their approach the servants at first warn them away and block their entrance into the tunnel. Upon questioning the servants say they are performing a task for their master Hastoth and that the PCs wouldn’t understand what even if they told them. The party then decides to press the issue of entering the complex. Intimidated the servants relent and let them in with a warning that they best be quick and they can’t be held responsible if anything unfortunate happens. 

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In they go. Down the empty hall to discover the previously found sinkhole is now teeming with glow beetles plus several more of the large earthquake beetles are there. As is the glowing portal. Once again Druggo is lowered by a rope into the pit. The glowing beetles make way for him as he approaches the gate. Then he is through and back in the square surrounded by cyclopean buildings. Except this time the square is occupied by marshalled ranks of earthquake beetles all standing dead still as if lifeless. At the far reaches of the square Druggo sees many more of the weird cone shaped creatures he’d seen on his previous visit. Keeping one eye on the cones, he scoops up the random rocks scattered about the square. He stuffs his pockets and then gives a casual friendly wave at the cone beings while preparing to exit via the gate. A voice enters Druggo’s head, “Be not afraid.”

This stops Druggo in his tracks. Through telepathic communication Druggo learns that the cone beings and their city is under attack by the servants of the Primordial Ones. They are losing and preparing to flee. He learns that the cone beings cannot survive in his world and thus they have prepared vessels for their minds in the form of the giant beetles. He’s reassured that his own mind is not sufficient for the task. 

At right about this time a strange beam of light illuminates the tunnel, the sinkhole, and the gate rendering everything transparent. The rune-edged border of the gate states to ripple with disharmonic forces. The cones warn Druggo “We must go!” The cones sag in place and one by one the beetles spring to life and charge the gate. Soon the beetles are flowing through the gate in large numbers. The party members in the hallway are taken aback when everything becomes transparent. Plus the beetles in the sinkhole begin their thumbing rumbles shaking the room. After losing their savings throws several PCs lose their balance and start crawling gingerly by feel back up the hallway. Only then to be swarmed over by the horde of beetles with Druggo riding the lead beetle with an antenna in each hand. 

The servants of Hastoth as surprised by the ferocity of the beetles charging out of the portal. Several of the robed servants are bowled over outright but then the rest pull out rayguns and start blasting chunks out of the beetles. The party joins in with thrown weapons and flaming oil. A key victory occurs when the parabolic machine is doused in oil and with spits and sparks ceases functioning. Soon the immediate servants are defeated and the beetles keep pouring out of the hole. But, then Hastoth arrives in his palanquin carried by wooly mammoths along with the rest of his servants. And, with the Golden Armored warriors of the Three Regiments. The Golden Warriors march forward pikes lowered. The beetles crash into and are skewered on the long spears. But then number come into play and the stout warriors start to be pushed back. 

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Meanwhile the party members have picked up fallen rayguns and begin blasting away at Hastoths palanquin. Eventually they score a decent hit (and the steel palanquin fails a non-magical item saving throw) which blows a decent hole into the palanquin. This doesn’t have the effect they’d hoped for because out of the hole flows a liquid black yet transparent ever-changing mass of horror. Which rolls right over the lead beetles. With this assistance the golden armored warriors regain ground and begin pushing back the insectoid ranks. 

Back at the Octagon camp the Handmaidens of Wisdom Glen and the Knights of Saint Therese are beating a hasty retreat in the face of this unexpected battle. The party thinks better of things too and heads out away from the conflict. After gaining some distance, they decide to head to the Valley of Trolbellor. They arrive in the valley on a rainy overcast day to find it empty. Trolbellor is gone. The giant skeletal warrior’s throne of stones sits empty with a mass of muddy disturbed earth in front of it. The party decides the rest a bit and waits to see if the master warrior returns. After several days, there is still no sign of Trolbellor. The only signs of life are the mysterious lights in the sky in the direction of the Octagon, the valley’s native herds of sheep and cattle, and a herd of elephants passes through heading east. All is quiet. 

But, what else is happening in the world? I can’t say. Or, rather I won’t because the PCs don’t know. There are things afoot. 

  • The Hobgoblins continue their depredations to the south. 
  •  What has happened to the AAS and the Octogon?
  • In the foothills and woods some travelers have said they have spotted some small forts topped with a tower in the shape of Macho Mandalf’s hat. But, then the brief glimpse is lost in the shadows and mist. 
  • Bandits seems to be springing up all over the far reaches of Trollopulous. 
  • The dwarfs in the mountains report spotting a giant skeletal figure moving among the rocks. 
  • Word is that Trollopulous is sending emissaries out of the city looking for assistance. 

The Lands of Trollopulous

The party each gain 66 XP for combat and 1,000 XP for the captured rayguns.