Sunday, September 19, 2010

Back to the Caves of Chaos (Part III)

[continued from here]

In addition to feasting the PCs like heroes (which they were), and giving the party the promised sack of gold, the merchant's wife presented the adventurers with an additional gift...a magical dagger of exquisite manufacture, able to wound even enchanted creatures.

[yes, it was only a +1 dagger, but that didn't mean the players didn't want it...after all, if all weapons do D6 damage, that's going to be a tasty weapon.

By the way, early on in the session, Steve-o asked if he received some sort of bonus due to his equipment being made out of "the finest elvish steel." Besides breaking us all up, it became a bit of a running joke. "Is the goblin knife any good?" "Well, it's not forged from elvish steel..." Despite elvish steel not actually COUNTING for anything, it became a bit of a mark of PRESTIGE for those who owned it. And in a way, I think this made Steve even happy about having the least equipment of any other player...sure he had only chain mail, sword & dagger...but it was all made of ELVISH STEEL]

The party was unanimous in allowing Lando to take possession of the knife, since he was already using knife and buckler as his armament of choice (and, perhaps, because they were afraid Jaochim would simply throw it away if given to him). The merchant was willing to purchase the silver armband for a fair price, and the party split the profit three-ways. After that, the party was ready to go shopping.

At the blacksmith: "I have a really, um, large you have any armor that would fit someone that's like 7'6"? That chain tunic...can you 'let it out' a bit? My friend is really big..."

At the trader: "What's the biggest shield you've got? 15 gold pieces?! What's smaller? Okay...I'll take the door with the arm strap."

The trader was the real gouger of the bunch. The party was determined to purchase arms and equipment for the new men-at-arms, Gene and Bud. G&B had promised their services for a year, free-of-charge, if only the party would supply them with gear. But the Keep's trader, being "the only game in town," so-to-speak was determined to milk as much of the party's newfound wealth as possible with 50%+ price hikes.

It felt like I was running the playbook according to Hackmaster's advice to Dungeon Masters.
; )

They did get Gene and Bud outfitted, and while they weren't able to find any armor that would fit the gnoll...oh, yeah, I forgot to mention the gnoll's name was Witherdrool...they did pick up a large shield for the creature. Witherdrool was most pleased.

"Thank you, master," the monster hissed when he was presented with the shield.

Back to the Caves of Chaos...and once again back into the goblin caves. This time the party decided to break their own rule: "We're going to go RIGHT this time." The party decided that heading left and going back to the hobgoblin caves was unacceptable...the hobs were "too tough," and had put up too hard a fight. They figured the right-hand passage (where Thundarr and Caindong had met their doom) might prove to have easier critters worth fighting.


Although the party went right, they took the first left-hand passage that presented itself. A turn and a turn brought them to a familiar dead end...old blood stains spattered the walls and knotty piece of wood - a two-handed war club - lay discarded against the wall. The party was undeterred, however, and retraced their path back to the main passage.

The next chamber was a nest of goblins...half-a-dozen guardsmen were caught off guard as the adventurers charged in weapons swinging. Two goblins fell immediately before the adventurers' blades, although Reed went down beneath a thrust spear, and the goblins broke and ran. Two fled through the opposite exit, and Joachim wasted no time in sending Witherdrool after them. "Go get 'em!"

"Yes, master..."

The final two goblins turned to what appeared to be a stone wall ("A secret door!" shouted the players) and started pounding on it, yelling "Invaders! Invaders!" The adventurers stepped forward and cut them down from behind, Joachim and Lando dealing the death blows.

"Well, that was easy..."

A grinding noise announced the opening of the "secret door" (really a boulder that had been pushed across an opening of the cave). The adventurers braced for anything, but otherwise took no action as they waited in anticipation of what was about to push through the newly-opened cave mouth.

An f'ing ogre.

Joachim, bloodied sword in hand was directly in front of the creature. "Can I try to talk to it?" Do you know ogre? "No." Checking Reaction, I rolled a 3...the ogre was in no mood to talk. "F*** it...we attack."

Only the witch-hunter was able to find the ogre with his enchanted dagger. With a roar the ogre lashed out, pulverizing rib and organ and knocking him across the chamber in a heap. I handed over Gene and Bud to AB for control (oh, forgot to mention earlier: Lara the elf abandoned the party after they had failed to give her a share of the treasure from their last expedition. "Well it's not like she did anything anyway...").

The elf cut into the behemoth with his fine elvish steel...and the ogre bought down his club, crushing the life from the elf. AB handed Steve-O the use of "Bud."

I know I haven't mentioned Hensvik in awhile but the dwarf was involved the entire time...he just completely failed to hit anything at all. About the 3rd round of combat, though, he was able to land a telling blow on the ogre...and draw the ire of the monster...WHAM!

Hensvik was not felled by the blow...but the creature's follow-up back-hand in the next round claimed his life.

Meanwhile Gene and Bud were laying into the creature desperately...Gene was the next one to fall, mangled and bloody. Alone, out-gunned, but not un-manned, Bud managed to deliver one more stab to the ogre for 1 point of damage...enough to drop the monster, finally.

Does it count as a TPK, if there's still an NPC man-at-arms left?

***EDIT: Just realized that this IS my post #666. I suppose it's fitting that it details the "Beast" that got the party's "Number!"***


  1. Man, your PCs are dying like flies. I advise the use of tactics(tm) and perhaps you can yourself can play an PC who can act as the party's advisor/failsafe/troublemaker. While there are many stories of badly played GM-played PCs a well played one can add great flavor and longevity to the game. You can always kill him off (or he can do something that get's him killed in his sleep by the PCs) if you feel too attached. He can even be a long time nemesis and oooo...I'm having an evil-gasm..must stop now.

  2. Loving your recounts JB, they are quite interesting to read (which cannot be said of many recounts). The death toll is certainly quite high, but the players seem to be having a great time and keep coming back. I do not think I have ever played where 0hp = dead but rather some variant of death's door from ADnD, so it is interesting to see the result of a less forgiving RAW B/X rules.

  3. Your body-count is putting Pat to shame.

    So. The Further Adventures of Witherdrool?

    A crazed Gnoll with fond memories of how nice Elves are.

  4. Chello!

    Well, even when you play to -HP, only having a NPC alive in the middle of a goblin warren...not good odds for the party surviving. Really, the Caves of Chaos are tough for a full party of 5-6 with NPCs, especially when the DM is on his game.

  5. About 15 years ago I ran Caves of Chaos for 5 or 6 of my friends. Each of them ran two PCs, and it was still a slaughter. Then they learned about the benefits of men-at-arms, so the PC attrition rate declined somewhat, though the men-at-arms death rate was so high I ruled no one would sign on with them anymore. That was a fun game.

  6. Playing Hensvik, I had a good time but I'm pretty sure I didn't roll over an 11 the entire night. The dice gods weren't with me.

  7. @ Fumers: Luke? Hi! Thanks for reading...don't remember mentioning the blog the other night, but welcome! Hope you don't find my re-counts (or my opinions) too negative/discouraging!
    ; )

    And your dice SEEMED to roll fine, earlier in the evening (at least, I didn't have an inkling of what was to come)...I'm sure that with the G.S. dice, it's just a matter of time until you get on a "hot streak."

    @ Anthony & Ed: It has proven dangerous so far, but I've had a lot of players do just fine. Maybe I'm not "taking it easy" on the players, maybe MY dice have just been streaky about bleeding 'em, but this has been a lot more wanton player death than I've seen in a while.

    @ Grat Sax: : )

    @ Harv: Thanks, man. In the old days, I always played with the DMG "death at -10" rule (that was present even before Death's Door appeared in the Unearthed Arcana)...but now I'm playing a zero-sum kind of game. I AM giving the PCs max hit points at level 1 (ooo...I'm sooo lenient...)

    @ Icarus: In the past, I've found I've had an annoying tendency to upstage PCs with my personal NPCs (yes...I was one of THOSE kind of guys), so recently I've been trying to keep my own personalities completely out of the game.

    Plus, I LIKE the players to figure things out...they generally collaborate pretty well, I think. Though perhaps not in "the heat of the moment."
    ; )

  8. Why did they buy chain for Witherdrool? Isn't his natural AC already equivalent to chain?

    D&D NPC stats confuse the heck out of me. Sometimes they're monsters, sometimes they're not. I don't get it:

    "When encountered in a group of 20 or
    more, one [elf] will be present, whose level will be determined by rolling 1d6+1"

    what does that mean? How do you apply levels to a monster stat block? Or do you work him up as if he were a player character?

    I don't think I'll ever understand D&D. :(

  9. @ Kelvin:


    A) Any non-PC is technically a "monster."

    B) RE: Elves specifically (or halflings or dwarves) while these are a particular species of monster, they are also a potential "adventuring class." The leader type present in groups of 20+ would be one of those exceptional individuals that learn from experience and progress upwards.

    C) Most monsters are non-adventuring classes; however that doesn't mean there aren't the occasional exceptional individual. Usually this is represented by a change in hit dice (+1 or +2 upwards for an exceptionally large individual), but it could include better damage (perhaps from greater strength or a better weapon) or special armor class. Often, DMs will need to make judgments regarding these things. In my game, the PCs never actually purchased the chain mail (they had it on "special order" from the blacksmith), but they got the gnoll a shield. Since Witherdrool was never actually IN combat (he just got directed to pursue retreating goblins) it never came up, but based on the gnoll illustrations I've seen (specifically in the 1st ed. AD&D MM), I'd probably rule the gnoll's "standard AC5" is a result of ring mail + hide + shield...and since Witherdrool was naked except for an extra large cloak (which they purchased) and a shield, I probably would have given him an overall AC of 6 or 7. With the chain? Probably a 4.

    : )

  10. Okay, so in the case of the elf above, if he was third level, does that mean he gets statted up as if he were a third level elf player-character? Or do you just make him a 3HD elf? Or does it not matter?

    I suppose part of my confusion is seeing stat blocks in old adventures, and you'd get NPCs (from adventuring races/classes) with full write-ups, ability scores and everything, but the average orc or whatever would be statted up as a monster.

    I still have trouble with that.