For all my players: the game is ON this Thursday, as usual.
Much as I'd prefer to continue waxing about Star Wars or space opera or some other non-D&D subject, I'm feeling like I own my readers a bit of an update on what's been going down at the Baranof of late.
We'll see how much I can get typed up in the next 20 minutes.
To be brief: I wrote up a simple adventure to go with my rather complex campaign setting in the hopes of kicking off "something good." The first session went pretty well, and certainly easy on the party...they found their objective site-based adventure location after a minimum of wandering around, and got through a couple encounters without a single casualty (plus they made a hefty haul of troll loot). The second session, however, ended in disaster with seven of eight PCs killed (one player losing two characters over the course of the evening).
Matthew ("Cod Sandwich") re-joined us for the 2nd evening (he was the one who died twice...not the greatest Welcome Back, I'm afraid) so we had seven total players, but even if we'd had more, I'm not sure the PCs would have come out any better. I'm starting to think that Edwards's analysis of D&D (the "extreme crunch" of play at low-levels) is right on the money...survival really seems like a crap shoot at 1st level, unless all you do is lob soft balls at the players or fudge dice rolls (both things I'm loathe to do).
And yet, I was going with the standard "adventure set-up" of the Moldvay rules. Including empty rooms (which, by the way, are difficult to make interesting or exciting). I'll outline the encounters that did the PCs in:
- approaching the cave entrance (several days after their initial foray...they spent time between sessions healing up their fighter who took a bunch of damage), they were surprised to be on the receiving end of goblin arrows...apparently, leaving a dead wolf pack in their den is a tip to goblins that someone's been poking around their base of operations. Charging the cave like a Nazi pillbox (and wishing they had grenades) Matt's dwarf took an arrow in the head and went down. Fortunately, he'd brought his younger brother along. Yelling something about "unleashing the dragons" the PCs were able to bluff the gobbos into blowing their morale roll and retreating.
- wandering around the caves, they stumbled into an unstable tunnel (one of only a couple traps in the dungeon). Although they weren't taking any 10' pole like precautions, I gave all the dwarves and sharp-eyed elves (four of 'em) a 2 in 6 chance to spot "bad news." Then I gave everyone else (except the thief in the very back rank) the same chance. Every single roll was blown by the party. I then gave them all a chance to save versus paralysis to see if they could avoid being crushed by falling rock as the tunnel collapsed. The cave-in only did 1D8 damage (or half with the save) and all the PCs had maximum hit points for 1st level, but both elves still ended up getting crushed to death, and three others were battered and bruised (only the dwarf and thief in the back rank escaped unscathed...the magic-user was down to 1 hit point).
- the party decided it was time to cut their losses and retreat. On the way out, someone (probably Matt) asked if I thought the goblins would come back. "Good question." I rolled for wandering monsters and the dice came up a "1" so a patrol of (random roll) five goblins attacked them at a crossroads as they tried to thread their way out of the labyrinth. As the elves had been the only characters with sleep spells, the PCs were forced to fight. Kvarkel the mage did attempt his charm person spell, but the goblin saved with a 20, and the party was butchered in fairly rapid fashion. Only one wounded warrior (Vince's dwarf prince, Gordon) survived. He grabbed two backpacks from his fallen comrades and hustled his ass out before more goblins could arrive. Only one of the backpacks had treasure in it unfortunately (the other one belonged to Matt, who hadn't been with the party in the prior session and was flat broke).
When we left off last Thursday, I was strongly considering doing up a new, EVEN EASIER, adventure. But I'm pretty lazy...maybe we'll just run it again. There is, after all still treasure in them hills.
Unlike my White Plume Mountain one-off, I'm not so interested in killing all the PCs. Here's the thing: even without that, killing 1st level characters is too damn easy. The players were saying, they would have had a better chance of survival if I'd allowed them to buy plate mail (they still had AC 4 or better except for the MU and thief), but it really wouldn't have helped with the way my dice were rolling that night. Ugh.
Well, we'll see what happens this week. We ARE playing, after all.