Jeffro's Space Gaming Blog

Microgames, Monster Games, and Role Playing Games

Thoughts on Running an AD&D Campaign

So I am six sessions into an AD&D campaign with no modules, no resources beyond the core rules and the monster books. Normally this is a crisis point in a campaign. If I am running something that isn’t D&D, I am generally burned out from the effort required to keep things going. AD&D is not like that! It has many qualities that bring energy into the system. An AD&D campaign that gets over the initial hump has a momentum of its own. It is far less effort to keep it going than it is to go do practically anything else. The act of allowing the AD&D rules to set the baseline structure combined with a willingness to allow play to go where it must opens up a deep well of inspiration.

For those not following the campaign play by play, here are a list of differences between AD&D and B/X:

  • Magic is way more interesting. Tons of off the wall spells get used. Having to find magic the AD&D way creates one of the best incentives to adventure ever made. Success here– finding even two or three new first level spells– can fundamentally change the nature of the game and the balance of power between the first level classes. Exciting!
  • With three big books of monsters instead of a “pure” edited down list of archetypes, the players run into something they’ve never seen before almost every session. Everyone knows the original monster manual monsters by heart and they can recognize the B/X monsters especially with minimal description. AD&D monsters are all over the place, and because they were created before anything was really systematized, they have big broad-brush features that eat standard dungeon operating procedures for breakfast. Weird is good!
  • The “down and critically injured at exactly zero hit points” rule takes out some of B/X’s arbitrary death, gives one more thing for players to consider doing when in the heat of battle, and presents a real problem when the players have to figure out a way to evacuate someone from the dungeon when monsters threaten to overwhelm the slow moving party. Also, having a particular character being out of play for a week of game time allows a player to continue attempting to level their main PC while giving them the chance to sample something completely different.
  • The crazy rich range of player characters can completely change the tenor of the party in an instant. A group with an assassin will play completely differently from one with a paladin. The presence of a ranger or a half elven fighter/magic-user/thief can have wild effects on the behavior of the party as a whole. The nature of the game seems to change faster than the players can master it, keeping things surprising, weird, and fresh where B/X might turn into a grind.
  • Specifically, unbalanced classes that warp and stress common assumptions about the rules do something unique to the game. ACKS, for instance, has many variant classes. The assassin and the priestess classes there were sampled, found to be uncompelling, and then passed over. AD&D eschews balance, even coherence in favor of over the top archetypes. This is not a problem to be solved but rather a phenomenon to be leveraged– it makes everything more dynamic, less static. If attribute methods can limit the frequency of the weird stuff sufficiently (and one-in-nine chance of a paladin seems just about right) then this is a potent spice for exciting gameplay.
  • The easy access to healing at first level is balanced by the mind-blowing amount of gold required to pay training costs. Making it to second level– anyone making it to second level– is something that can take two or even three times as long. Anyone that makes it there will be out of play for a couple weeks of game time for training, again opening things up to allow for the player to try out a completely new character type.
  • The “one real world day corresponds to one game day” rule is the one thing that ties all of this together. I am strongly tempted to run more than one session a week when a time-dependent opportunity emerges in play. Players haven’t suggested this, but I suspect that two competing groups with some overlap between players would be insane. (One would probably cohere around the paladin, the good group… the other would be the circus freaks.) What I have seen at the table is that there is an extra incentive to do “just one more delve” when the players come back with no treasure. They see an opportunity, they fear it won’t be there next week, they know a little more than they did before, they think they can just go get it, they’ve underestimated how much real time it will take to do this because time just flies while you’re playing this game– and so they go back into the dungeon when other groups are tempted to call it a night. Gaming gold, y’all!

In summary, AD&D is objectively better than every other incarnation of the D&D game system.

No one understood what in the heck OD&D was, what it ought to be, what it could be. (Ken St. Andre and Steve Jackson had entirely reasonable responses to early D&D– ie, actually go design a game that people can understand.) Meanwhile, Gary Gygax had certainly discovered something that could keep people coming back to his house nightly for years on end.

Holmes and Moldvay only saw parts of this. What they saw and what they expressed about the game was certainly good. But Gygax knew something that they didn’t. And proven gaming wisdom that can allow you to recreate the wonder and excitement of his home campaign is baked into the AD&D rules.

All you have to do is let it work for you!

Just quit trying to fix it. The stuff you think is obviously broken all solves gaming problems you don’t even know you have.

AD&D Session 6: The Pugs of Slaughter

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.

Time:

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

The graveyard:

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!

The AD&D Death Dial

After four sessions in a row with no player character deaths, something just did not seem right. And I am not talking about the players’ mysterious capability to roll high whenever I ask for a save versus poison and I can’t watch them roll, either!

In a real D&D game, you are typically going to have one or two character deaths every couple sessions. Zero deaths after four sessions is pretty nuts. That sure makes it seem like that AD&D is completely pathetic when compared to Moldvay Basic! What’s going on here?

Well, turns out that if you thought that AD&D was a game where ALL the player characters could drop down to -10 hit points and stay in the game, you’ve got it all wrong:

Notice that the “drop to -10” rule only applies to characters that were dropped to zero hit points exactly. That -10 rule is really more of a clock that can run out if the combat the players are in starts to drag out. Note that Gygax gives Dungeon Masters latitude to allow this special case to be extended to include hits that drop characters down to the -1 to -3 range.

So if you want to dial back the meat-grinder you get in the early levels of D&D, crank this setting up to -3. If you’d like a game where player characters die at rates comparable to those in #BasicLevel games, then leave it at zero!

AD&D Session 5: Altar of the Beast-women

In the intervening week since last session I revisited my sewer dungeon and touched it up a bit. This mostly consisted of deciding what treasure was well and the status and posture of what was guarding it. The players were quite alarmed by the dog men’s incremental improvement in coordination and tactics.last time and suggested the possibility of coming in through a different entrance in order to be less predictable, so nailing down what the sewers were like in every direction seemed like a sound use of prep time.

Game night arrives and (per Gygax’s direction) we no have a full week of game time to catch up on. This is a truly stellar rule as the monster’s have a chance to lick their wounds, injured players have time to recuperate, and players have have a chance to attend to all the stuff they don’t do when they’re own adventures. If you don’t play the “one real day = one game day” rule, then the focus of play becomes entirely and ONLY about the adventure. Flip that one switch and the campaign gains a chance to breath, everything has a chance to grow organically.

The party’s cleric that serves the hilarious proto-god Issek is, for example, spending his off time begging on The Street of the Gods. (He put a few coppers in the tin in order to make people think people are giving.) The paladin meanwhile spent the entire week praying and fasting. (When asked which the holy symbol of his faith was he immediately replied that it was a cross. Good man!) Everyone else was presumably chasing trollops.

Word on the street is that your mom is a changeling.

The ranger was a special case, though. I had a rumor I’d been sitting on for weeks because no one would talk to my NPC ranger in the tavern. (If you knew what sort of humiliations they’ve endured at the hands of new school DM’s that have stripped them utterly of any kind of agency, you would grasp how this sort of thing can happen.) Then last week, the PC ranger was wanting to buy a horse. Inspiration: why not let the player be that guy that finds out stuff? PROBLEMS SOLVED! Even better, the fact that the players literally have the reigns of the campaign shifted even further into their control. That’s how you win are rpgs right there, y’all!

One other thing we clarified here was that Keebler Khan’s mom is not part of anything like some sort of broader elf culture. There’s just not that much in the way of any kind of demi-humans in the realm. Occasionally a human child is replaced by what people believe to be changelings. Many of these freakish children end up abandoned, consumed by the streets of Trollopulous. Pretty sad! Not a whole lot of perks for the odd demi-human freak in this world.

Anyways, I start the game with the ranger’s player’s scouting run. He suspects the dog men are coming and going to the city from some other entrance. I tell him he sees the sewage pass out of the city into a swamp to the west, but that it’s covered with metal bars. The players want to know about other entrances into the sewers besides that and I say that there are other manhole covers to the west, the south and the northeast– kind of randomly, really. Almost as if the city were randomly built on top of something else.

I ask the ranger what else he sees on his scouting, hoping he would improvise some random details I could incorporate into the game. No such luck! Turns out nobody knows anything about the world outside the sewers. I tell them there are jungles to the north, which surprises them. There are wild men to the south, a sea to the southeast, and mountains to the southwest.

I tell them the ranger came across some tracks heading south. Maybe 20, 30, 40 (?) creatures… big…. Some of the players want to follow them. Others say that they are afraid to go back and tangle with the dog men. Why would they tangle with something bigger and more numerous? The players debate a while and finally decide they want go find where the tracks came from.

This is of course in a place where I have spent next to no time prepping. I surreptitiously roll on a random table in the back of the Fiend Folio while the players start planning their excursion and shopping for mules, pith helmets, etc. They travel a day to the jungle’s edge and we stop to double check that this is even according the rules. It all comes down to how much it’s rained in the past week. Like how many hours even.

Anyway, I rule that with the ranger’s help they can follow this trail. They make it to these cyclopean ruins at about five o’clock in the evening on the second game day of the session. They’re at a big outer wall. There’s places where it’s fallen in. Up above they can see a temple in amid the huge ruined pile. The paladin suggests tying the mules to the wall so that they can go up and investigate.

As the party nears the temple, they hear the sound of drumming. Inside there is a naked woman on the alter. She is surrounded by ape-men. One of them is about to sacrifice her. The party attacks with ranged weapons and takes out the guy with the knife. The ranger rushes in Errol Flynn style but there is an earthquake the rest of the party is blocked off from him.

The other players decide to disbelieve the illusion. Three of them walk through the rubble and inside the temple. Inside, everything has changed. There are two beast-women inside, each with the body of a lion and the torso, arms, and head of a woman. There is a fight and gradually the players elect to retreat back through the illusory rubble.

Moments later it dissipates and they see everything’s changed again. They hear screams for help from a passage beyond the alter, but can’t tell whether it is from the left way or the right. One of the clerics immediately declares that he is pushing the alter, because there is always a secret passage underneath them. It budges and there is a staircase down. Keebler Kahn leads the way with his predator-vision. There is one beast-woman down there with the ranger! The party rolls in and the paladin finishes her off with an epic blow while the ranger protests.

The players collect 5000 electrum from the scene, camp in the vicinity, and then head back to Trolopulous for a well earned rest.

I was thinking that one of the clerics would have enough experience to level after this game, but double checking the rules this long heralded event is going to have to be postponed. The cleric’s experience point total is frozen until he can come up with enough gold– 1875 piece– to pay for his training!

He doesn’t even have a third of the necessary funds.

This game is unreal!

Keebler Khan was knocked down to -2 hit points again. With two clerics and a paladin in the party, there was little chance of this being life-threatening. With the exception of the initial total party kill, there have been no player character deaths even with  several saves versus poison having to be made. While AD&D is absolutely punishing with its training requirements for leveling, the negative hit point rule combined with the large amount of healing spells make the player characters practically indestructible when compared to their B/X counterparts.

Still, the ranger very nearly didn’t make it out of this one!

Characters in this game:

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 2046

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 1924

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4, and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 = 1924

Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a, 3b, 4 and 5] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 + 766 => [Frozen at 1500 until he levels!]

Keebler Khan the Veteran/Prestidigitator (5 hits, Charm Person, Spider Climb, Write, Read Magic) [Delve 3a and 5] XP: 753 + 766 = 1519

Gregg the Acolyte (10 hits) [Delves 4 and 5] XP: 54 + 766 = 820

Note: These XP totals do not include any bonuses due to high prime requisites.

Experience and treasure:

2096 XP for killing monsters plus 5000 electrum gives a total of 4596 XP divided six ways for 766 each!

Time:

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

 

 

AD&D Session 4: The Drums of the Dog People

The past week saw me feverishly working up one page dungeons for the game, agonizing over them, and then wishing I had dozens of them on hand. I am convinced that seriously preparing an actual mega-dungeon will substantially impact to quality of the game. On the other hand, I conjecture that a certain amount of actual play will also prove invaluable to that creation process. We’ll see how it goes until then.

Every session has been crazy different so far. Total party kill the first session. Something very close to a total party kill the second session. Maybe an overly generous treasure haul during the third. Some of it was very inspired gaming. Good times! Good enough that my campaign seems to live in its own shadow.

So what shook out of the game this time?

The game opens up with the ranger asking about how much a horse cost. I’d put him off last time and then never looked it up! I put him off again and then digressed into an explanation of Gygaxian timekeeping. Everyone knows Gygax told us plainly that “YOU CAN NOT HAVE A MEANINGFUL CAMPAIGN IF STRICT TIME RECORDS ARE NOT KEPT.” Long time B/X DM’s like myself failed to grasp that he elaborated on this principle so far as to insist that a game day passes for each real day that elapses between sessions. If you want to know why people were so keen on playing D&D back in the day several nights a week, this is the rule that helped make it happen!

There are more digressions and I keep trying to bring the subject back around to all the great rumors and adventure hooks I’ve got prepped back at the cavern. Time and again I am derailed from this with some question of esoterica related to how I run the came or what exactly a particular player character’s abilities. Or how XP is divided up. Or just what each character’s take was last time and why.

Finally I get to the part that I’m so excited about. I describe who is in the tavern and who isn’t. I can’t wait to see what sort of character interactions emerge from this just like in the bad old days of session one and two which I now fondly recall. I establish the scene in about thirty seconds, but it seems like an eternity. The players then ask if they can get ten men-at-arms to come with them. We then consult the rule books because we remember something somewhere about the paladin not being able to have henchmen or something and before we can figure that out, I just say that Gilbert and Sullivan are really jealous about the big treasure haul they got last time and so now they want to come back. The paladin offered them 80 gp each and the deal was done.

The players were completely uninterested in the tavern and the wider world. Why would they be? The already know where the dungeon is. They want to go back and get more treasure. I am super excited about my box text and I try to read it several times, but there is more planning to deal with. Finally I get to say it, it’s totally my favorite part, but it’s obvious a simple “okay you’re at the dungeon” would have sufficed.

The players go in and splash through the sewers. But they don’t have the mapper with them from the first few sessions. (Maubert has met a trollop who wants to move to the country and use his money to start a business selling high end organic herbal beauty products.) They have no idea where anything was or where they had been before or where they actually wanted to go or anything. This one detail somehow got lost in all the planning.

The party went through one intersection in the sewers and then another. They argue about which way they might have gone before and end up deciding to keep going north past the second intersection. They then go a fairly long ways, expecting maybe a third intersection. But it is a long time coming, which is rather confusing. Then they hear the sound of a drum and they are not quite sure which direction it is in.

They elect to keep going. They come to some webs, which they burn up. They come to some more which has the shrunken body of strumpet webbed up into the ceiling. They take her down and search her finding ten copper pieces. They hear some more drum sounds which seem to be further away now. Still they elect to keep going.

(At this point I was very tempted to relocate one of the one page dungeon levels I had worked up and placed elsewhere somewhere in this vicinity. I thought about this for a moment and then decided that whatever was about to happen was going to make way more sense and be more fun than my arbitrarily warping reality in order to route around an unforced error on the part of the players.)

They finally come to another intersection and I call for a surprise roll. The ranger rolls a one and I pause the game to check the rules for that which are relatively elaborate. Attempting to process them in the heat of the game, I rule that the players are surprised. The ranger questions the ruling and I insist I have it right even though I know it’s not what we expected. A few rounds of combat ensue and the ranger and the paladin both have to make saving throws against poison again. They both make them and the spiders are defeated.

Now the players are 100% sure they have gone the wrong way. They really don’t want to continue into the unknown while their way of escape is blocked by monsters. They form up into their marching order and make their way back.

Coming to the intersection they see dog men in every direction. The ranger wants to shoot his bow from the second or third rank and I rule that the ceiling is too low. The party holds their position and prepares for melee, but the dog men just throw spears at them. The ranger asks if the ceiling is too low for that and I say no it isn’t.

The party then picks up the spears and falls back a little, and then equips their second rank with the spears. There’s some melee and some healing. Two dog men fall and the last ends up running around the corner. The players want their free attacks and I end up ruling that they don’t get them because the dog men don’t get them when the party falls back a little. The party then moves back up to the intersection with the aim of blocking the let and right passages with flaming oil before clearing out the other monsters blocking their way out. Turn after turn, the oil is tossed. We look up the actual rules for flaming oil and are shocked at how detailed they are. Just like with the poison rules for the assassins, this stuff is way better then the sort of thing I have improvised for my B/X games.

When the fifth dog man drops, I check for morale and they fail badly. They scatter in three directions. The party pauses to loot the bodies and then heads for the exist.

Really tense game. Everyone was sure a player character was going to die or that maybe there would be another total party kill. But somehow they all made it. The reward this time was… to make it out alive. Which didn’t seem all that bad in the end. One player suggested maybe trying a different manhole next time as they had gotten very predictable. This never occurred to me, so I go back to my mega-dungeon prep with this very obvious idea ready to work into my conception of the game.

With this close shave with death for next to no treasure and the warning that the dog men have finally observed the players utilize flaming oil tactics and then lived to tell about it, I can only imagine the players are that much more interested in investigating alternative entrances into the sewers.

I do have to say, if this was a B/X game the body count would have been much higher. The players have mass quantities of healing  far beyond what low level B/X parties are ever going to see. Further, the players can be brought back from up to -10 hit points. Stuff that looks like certain death from a Basic D&D perspective is just not near as big of a deal here! This more than makes up for the lack of an automatic sleep spell for the magic-users.

Characters in this game:

Arthur the Gallant (7 hits) [Delves 2, 3a, and 3b] XP: 122 + 753 + 351 + 54 = 1280

Hans Franzen the Swoleceror (2 hits, Burning hands, Jump, Message, Read Magic) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 = 1158

Torin the Runner (7 hits) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 = 1158

Aulis Martel the Acolyte (8 hits) [Delves 3a and 3b] XP: 753 + 351 + 54 = 1158

Brother Pain the Acolyte [Delve 3b only] XP: 351 + 54 = 405

Gregg the Acolyte (10 hits) [Delve 4 only] XP: 54

Henchmen Gilbert and Sullivan, the men-at-arms [Delve 2 only] XP: 61 each

Note: These XP totals do not include any bonuses due to high prime requisites.

Experience and treasure:

This delve the players the players gained 392 XP for killing monsters in addition to 10 copper pieces, 26 electrum, and 31 gold for a total of 436 XP this time. Divided eight ways, that comes out to 54 XP each.

Note: 17 total dog men have been killed so far in this campaign!

Time:

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

¹Note to party: Keebler Khan’s mother is OFF LIMITS when it comes to finding trollops!