Monday, November 1, 2010

"No, Blackrazor!!! Not my legs, too...!"

[continued from here]

For those interested, here's how I designed the encounter with Quentin Nogg.

The original Quesnef is an ogre-mage with the following stats: HD 5+1, HPs 35, AC 1 due to ring of protection +3, THAC0 14, Average damage 6.5 (from 1D12). Quesnef also wore a ring of mirror images (5 charges) which, like the ring +3, has no equivalent in B/X.

Quentin's stats look like this: 7th level Halfling, HPs 35 (after reduction from wielding Blackrazor), AC 1 (chainmail +2, ring of protection +1, Dex 13), THAC0 14 (7th level halfling with Strength 13), Average damage 4.5 (from 1D6+1). He wore a ring of spell storage containing the mirror image spell, but otherwise he had none of the magical abilities of the original Quesnef...not that he needed anything more than Blackrazor.

In prepping for the evening's session, I made sure to draw up some notes, specifically because I wanted the encounter to go smoothly. A fight against Blackrazor should be a memorable experience, and I didn't want it to be bogged down with too much confusion on the DM's part.

In considering possible ways the characters could circumvent a Total Party Kill (something I considered a distinct possibility having seen a PC carve his way through the G-series of modules near-single-handedly using Blackrazor), I figured their best possibility would be to use Hold Person (and even a halfling would be challenged with that -2 save penalty).

However, if THAT failed, the main thing would be for the PCs to NOT PANIC and continue to fight in a coordinated effort. If they tried to run, chances were good Quentin would be able to take them from behind or drive them into the danger of the frictionless room. And that WOULD be a massacre.

So, picking up where we left off...

Alster's final hold spell failed to paralyze the halfling. "Who has the rod of cancellation?" Someone asked. "Um...that was me," said Randy referring to his decapitated character. Brian decided he was going to start going through the elf's belongings, looking for the item. Gustav hurtled the halfling, trying to hack at Quentin's sword arm.

Sly: "Can I use my backstab ability?"

Since the halfling HAD turned his back on the front rank party members to attack the cleric and dwarf, the answer was, "of course."

Sly leaped upon Quentin's back, stabbing relentlessly with his dagger and doing mucho damage. Meanwhile, Borgnine's axe connected with one of the illusionary Quentins, dissipating it. Based on the logistics of the situation, it would take Farnsworth till next round to get into the brawl.

In the next round, Quentin threw the thief to the ground and hacked twice, severing both his legs and taking his soul. Because of his "psychic connection" with Sweet Tito, I allowed Vince to make a saving throw of his own based on the broach of shielding. Unfortunately, he failed and his strength fed Quentin's own.

[me, being soft again. Vince and Randy are first-time players, and while death and level drain are something I feel no compunctions about hitting them with, the permanent death that comes from being killed by Blackrazor can feel a bit least if players are attached to their characters. All-in-all, I'm glad that I gave him a save, and I'm glad he failed it (he had a chance, it didn't happen, that's the game). Randy, on the other hand, was already dealing with a severely weakened character, being unable to fight or whatnot...killing him with Blackrazor was a little too much like shooting fish in a barrel, and it would have felt like too much of a "freebie" if his max hit points and level had been added to Quentin with so little effort]

Now as I mentioned, I figured that hold person would be the party's best shot at taking down Quentin and now that Luke had used up his two shots, I figured the party would resort to fight or flight. Not quite yet...creative players will find creative ways of circumventing challenges. Alster decided to cast quest on the halfling, another spell I've often seen over-looked (I myself have a tendency to over-look it) due to it generally being the purview of NPC clerics tasking PC characters with missions of some nature.

Basically, though, quest is a fairly badass mind control spell. It IS 5th level after all. I suppose under a strict interpretation of the spell, Quentin could have refused the quest (in this case, "deliver Blackrazor over to us") and simply suffered the effects of a curse...but in the end, it didn't matter as the halfling made his saving throw handily with a roll of a 20.

Still, the party had yet to back down from the raging onslaught of the halfling...though now the NPC had the equivalent level of a 19th level fighter (however, I did NOT give him the multiple attacks of a 19th level fighter...up to this point, I had avoided using the B/X Companion rules in our play of "B/X White Plume Mountain" and I figured that giving the halfling an additional attack every round would have REALLY screwed the players). Gustav, Farnsworth, and Bornine all hammered on the halfling...Gustav still attempting to separate Quentin's arm from his shoulder. Meanwhile, Brian Leftfoot had managed to retrieve the rod of cancellation within Sweet's backpack and was trying to figure out how to get into the scrum of melee.

In the final round, Quentin again achieved initiative and hammered a bit of his own at Farnsworth who, with an 18 strength, had managed to inflict the most damage in the previous round. Alster, not yet ready to give up, hit the halfling with a remove curse spell. Since Blackrazor isn't really a cursed weapon in the strict sense of the term (it is an intelligent weapon whose Will score had exceeded that of its wielder and thus was controlling his actions), I ruled this had no effect. In hindsight, this interpretation seems a bit iffy to me...the spell description reads only:

This spell will remove the effects of a curse put on a character or free a character from a cursed magical item...

...and I think freeing Quentin from the thrall of Blackrazor would have been "okay," as well as rewarding Luke for creative thinking (bad DM!). On the other hand, remove curse has a range of 0' and I didn't require him to jump into the melee or make an attack roll (the general procedure for a range 0 spell), so it's a bit of a wash...

Farnsworth did some damage, but Gustav did even more, firmly bringing his sword down on the halfling's right arm, nearly severing the bicep (and reducing Quentin to 1 hit point). This set-up Borgnine to come in hard with his battle axe and take the fiend's legs off at the knees with a single sweep of his magically honed blade (a roll on my Random Death Table indicated the same result that had befallen Sly in an instance of "instant karma"). As the halfling tumbled forward, blood pumping from the stumps of his legs, his right arm came loose from the body, still gripping Blackrazor in a gauntleted hand.

Everyone took a moment to exhale and look at the wreckage in the corridor. Then:

Farnsworth: I'm going to grab Blackrazor from the halfling's hand before someone else can claim it.

Alster: I'm going to prevent him from doing so.

DM: Roll initiative folks.

Alster won, threw his shield over the arm/blade, and then stood on the shield.

DM (to Farnsworth): Are you willing to attack the cleric for Blackrazor?

[to be continued...]
; )


  1. So Blackrazor has out-of-game effects?


    Give it to me or face my wrath!!

    Y'know. If I ever get out that way...

  2. Could you post your "Random Death Table?" Sounds interesting...

  3. Oh my! Who says the older editions are boring?

  4. my sole contribution to this fight was to roll for initiative. ;)

    I liked Luke's use of Quest, too. It was a creative attempt in a situation where he'd blown through all the obvious options. I groaned when all three of his spells were resisted, but at least brute force finally won.

  5. @TIG, I know how you feel. That was me in the first session. (Borgnine wasn't murdered and irrevocably soul-sucked as a result, tho; JB has admitted he went soft on us in that session.)

    @JB, that's an interesting adjustment to the encounter. I do think it helped make the players wary of the sword to see a neutral NPC-type obviously possessed by the bloodthirsty sword.

    I've been meaning to ask, but all this talk of Blackrazor reminds me: who drew the sword-and-banner artwork for the, uh... banner of this blog? I like it!

  6. And the moral of this story?

    Never trust a halfling with an evil, sentient blade or you might lose your legs.

  7. Man I love reading these session reports.

  8. (Just found the banner artist via the BXBR archives. Nice work, Roland!)

  9. @ Dan: Check out
    ...for all the pertinent info on the random death chart.

    @ Josh: Yep, he did a fantastic job (when I started this blog thing, I just had the Willingham illustration as my banner).

    @ Todd: I'm glad you like 'em...they're fun for me to write!
    : )