Monday, December 20, 2010

Bearding Dragons in their Lair (Part I)

[sorry for the late follow-up to Part 1. Christmas shopping and going to Seahawk games...ho-boy, don't get me started on the latter...not to mention holiday get-togethers and such have conspired to slow down the blogging]

Picking up where we left off, a heavily armed party of 1st level adventurers managed to make their way fairly easily to the dragon's lair. By "fairly easily" I mean "without getting lost or ambushed." Let me give you a quick peak behind my DM screen:

I understand that wandering monsters are part of the game, but in general I use them only in extreme moderation, not as a regular matter of course. I see random critters as the fantasy game's picadors: spurring the adventurers on, blooding them a little, and working them up in a froth and frenzy. However, if the players are already "lathered up" and making quick movement towards their, "objective"...then why slow down the pacing of the game by throwing random battles (sans treasure!) at them.

That last parenthetical is especially significant. B/X D&D rewards "smart" play...that whole "challenge the player" thing, right? The better adventurer is the one that minimizes risk and maximizes reward (as we'll see in a bit...), thus the rewarding of "points" (XP) for treasure acquisition...and generally, far more points than simple monster battles.

So where's the "challenge" in throwing random monsters (withOUT treasure) at PCs?

There isn't one...wandering monsters serve a purpose (they penalize players for dilly-dallying as well as somewhat modeling random threats in highly populated areas). But since the players weren't dilly-dallying...and I didn't consider the wilderness around a dragon's lair to be "highly populous"...I saw no reason to bother with wandering monsters.

[and as far as the "getting lost" thing...hey, I won't worry about the Expert set rules till the characters are 4th level or so!]

So it was the players found themselves outside an icy cave mouth in the frosty hills after two-three days of following the river north. Sitting in a small circle, three furry creatures squatted on their haunches...large, furry creatures, actually. Like stretch ewoks.

[quaggoth are 7' tall teddy bears that use either large, two-handed weapons, or attack with multiple claw attacks. As everyone knows multiple attacks are far deadlier than single attacks, I decided all the quaggoth were armed. As 1+2 hit dice monsters, they are on par with standard martial hobgoblins...not the little guys in my Goblin Wars campaign...but not quite as nasty as gnolls]

The party decided to attack.

I don't recall if there was an attempt to negotiate or not (I don't think so)...I recall a lot of missile weapons going off and then Frezil the dwarf and the Matt's fighter (f that....I'm looking up his name on his character sheet..."Kendlis??" What the hell kind of name is that? No wonder I can't remember it...) were engaged in hand-to-hand...all of which boiled down to a lot of missed rolls. The quaggoth, on the other hand, had the hot dice rolling for them. Fortunately, the "double hit point" rule kept the PCs in the game.

Appelscar cast Charm Person on one of the wookies and low-and-behold it failed its saving throw. The look on Luke's face was priceless...I mean, he looked stunned (I'm not sure I've ever seen someone actually look "stunned" before, but Luke did). After all, it was like the first time he'd seen one of his spells work in the game (you'll have to recall the prior White Plume Mountain adventures in which monsters made save after save against the might of his 7th level cleric...). But this time, the spell worked, and Appelscar was in complete control of a new, furry bodyguard.

"I want to name him Warwick." Okay, said I. I didn't bother explaining that I associate the Warwick with a downtown Seattle hotel/bar my father used to drink at back in his days as a union president.

Although Warwick didn't grok any of the languages Appelscar could speak, it understood enough to know its new buddy was in trouble and helped batter its fellow quaggoths senseless. The two clerics (veteran-brothers of the sam militant order) helped provide healing for the fighters and everyone made it through okay.

I think. I may be confusing it with the next encounter:

As they pushed further into the cave complex (for the dragon's lair had been made within an ancient, existing cavern of cold stone), they encountered a second group of quaggoth who were also unfriendly towards the intruders. I believe it was in this second battle that the dwarf, Frez, met his end, taking a two-handed axe blow to the trachea (a lucky shot that somehow managed to leave most of his armor unscathed. Dave took over playing Warwick...a particularly fun aspect of these old school "rules light" games...and the party managed to wipe out this second trio of giant teddy bears.

Deciding that it'd be best to recover a bit before actually tackling Snowfang (he WAS a dragon after all, and they were just a small group of 1st level adventurers), the players retreated from the caves, back to the river and decided to "make camp" for the night.

[I'll conclude this tomorrow]

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