Friday, April 15, 2011

Killing Players Left and Right

And speaking of "mortality"...

Thursday night was, of course, the weekly session down at the Baranof and, as I mentioned earlier, I've been "feeling kinda' D&D" and NOT cyberpunky/Shadowrunny. And anyway, most of the PCs got eaten by ant spirits in last week's session (yes, we were playing a converted Queen Euphoria...the game still needs work, I'm afraid).

Eight players showed up: Randy, Josh, Greg, Matt, Luke, Heron, AB, and Steve-O. I polled the group to see if they were up for D&D and what kind of game they wanted. All were down with the B/X D&D. Most asked for low level play. Randy wanted to be a little more "badass" (or rather, as he clarified, "I want a character that won't die in the first five minutes"). Luke asked that we use a rule set that was still in print and available, likeLabyrinth Lord. Steve-O thought it would be cool if they could play characters that were " dragons or a giant spider or something."

So we played D&D. Here's the run-down:

  • B/X would be the rule set, but it was agreed the clerical spell chart would be the one from LL (since it is one of the main differences at the early levels, and there was some griping about clerics not receiving a spell at 1st level). While I would not normally compromise in this regard, I was willing to go with it as a matter of expedience (I WANT people to be able to download/purchase Labyrinth Lord).
  • Equipment would be from B/X proper, however, and I had taken the time to print up copies of the equipment list to pass around. I should note that there were three copies of the B/X rules at the table BESIDES my set. This went smoothly.
  • Other than cleric spells, this was going to be what I like to call Straight B/X (more or less) house rules, all usual weapon restrictions, variable weapon damage as per the Basic set, B/X encumbrance. No one was going to say I was going way off the reservation here!
  • To give PCs a "leg up" on survival, I took a page from Pat Armstrong (of Ode to Black Dougal) and let everyone start with 2500 XP...enough that all classes (except the elf) were at least 2nd level, and thieves were 3rd.
Now, I did have SOME ideas for play-testing...I do have a new book I'm working on, after all. But none of that was "pushed" on the players (as I've done in the past). For the most part, all were satisfied with playing the game "out of the box" to start.

We played B2: The Keep on the Borderlands. Of course.

[cue paragraph about how many times I've run B2 over the years, cue paragraph about how many player characters have died in it, and now we rejoin our blog post]

Yes, B2...that death trap that has claimed more PCs over the last two years (and racked up more TPKs) than the three or four times I've run S1: Tomb of Horrors. Shocking, huh? But they were all feeling lucky...maybe even a bit cocky.

"The problem with the adventure is that you refuse to scale it to the number of players in the party," said Luke. This is true, in part due to my own laziness...but, hey, I'm the damn DM! I've already got to run the game! The players have to be responsible for stepping up their own game, too, right?

Well, anyway, Luke was very pleased to see the party was going to be of the proper size for the adventure, or as Gary wrote:
This module has been designed to allow six to nine player characters of first level to play out many adventures...
The emphasis is Gary's not mine, but it didn't trouble me that the PCs were mostly above 1st level; maybe they would try to take out something besides the goblins.

So they rolled up their random hats, got to the Keep, made the acquaintance of the Corporal of the Watch, had a rather slurred conversation with the drunken Captain of the Watch, hired three mercs (Clem, Chip, and LeRoi...I had come up with their names before the session started), and headed off to the Caves of Chaos.

And made a bee-line to the goblin caves. (*sigh*)

Eight PCs and three NPCs are a lot to wrangle, but again the institution of The Caller rule helped immensely. Stanley the thief (wearing a dusty pink ninja hood) climbed up first and got a rope down to the others. Three turns or so later (30 minutes of game time) the majority of the near-dozen adventurers were crammed into the cross-roads of what I like to call "goblin highway;" amazingly no wandering goblin patrol had yet to encounter them (apparently it was lunch time for the guards). Still Borf the dwarf (played by Randy) was getting antsy to "get the adventure started and decided to set-off down the left hand passage ("I have infravision!") figuring the others would follow as soon as they got their lantern situation sorted out. He encountered a goblin guard post and was killed shortly before the others could arrive.

Chip also went down with a spear through the chest as the party ran up to the goblin post, but Jaque the elf (the only 1st level character, played by Steve-O) felled the creatures with a timely sleep spell. The party celebrated even as they looted the goblins and the dwarf (Chip had fallen on his own lantern, managing to set fire to his corpse, break his sword, and ruin his armor all in one fell stroke).

Seeing that the only exit was a stairway leading up ("and we don't want to tackle the 'big dog men' in the upper caves yet"), the party retraced their path and took the right hand passage from the entrance.

And encountered another guard room. Stanley, walking point, quickly retreated behind the fighters while Clem went down with a spear through the chest. Two of the goblins seemed to be calling for help through a cave exit as Jacque and Maribou (fighter; open-faced helmet, plain) waded into battle.

Before things could turn too hairy Luke's magic-user, the Violet Seer ("because purple is gay") laid down another sleep spell, knocking out the remaining goblins as well as the elf and fighter. The party's celebration was cut shot as a huge ogre ("Ruben") pushed his way into the guard room.

Despite the failure of VS's charm person spell, the party took 'ol Rube out without a single casualty and the party was feeling pretty confident as they woke up their sleeping companions.

While searching the guard room the goblin patrol finally showed up, but an arrow killed one and the goblins failed their morale check, fleeing. The party moved into the ogre's den to search and loot.

[at this point, Luke left for the evening...however, as his magic-user was tapped-out spell-wise, I'm not sure what he would have contributed to the events that followed]

Within the ogre den was a large sack...filled with more sacks, each jingling delightfully. There was also a large leather bag filled with gold that had been used to bribe the ogre. Some more searching turned up some magic arrows, a scroll of clerical spells, and a potion. The potion was given to Steve-O.

"How do I know what it does?"

You can drink it. "Okay, I drink it." Do you want to just sip it? "No, I drink the whole thing." Are you sure? "Yeah."

So Jacque turns invisible.

"Hey guys! Look, I'm invisible!"

Yes, we can see that. You should go scout after that goblin patrol while you're invisible. "Okay!"

While the other party members divvied up the loot, the invisible elf checks out the corridor down which the goblins fled. And finds the goblin common room, where the remains of the patrol are manning up with the other goblin men-folk while the goblin women and children gather watching (possibly chewing on a human limb or two).

Jacque decides to fire an arrow at one of the goblins. His Dexterity score is 5, and even with a bonus for being invisible he misses. I have him roll to see if he hits another goblin (the room is crowded); he misses. I have him roll to hit one of the goblin children (really crowded); still misses.

His attack cancels the spell of invisibility. Jacque turns and runs with goblins in hot pursuit.

"Guys! Goblins! Goblins!"

He's hit by two spears and killed.

The rest of the party sets up in the ogre den, with Neckbeard the dwarf and Maribou flanking the entrance, and Stanley and Fletch (a new class...archer...wearing a reversible hood, seafoam green) set up with their bows. Pope the cleric (adorned hat, brush top) and LeRoi (now played by Randy) are each standing behind the dwarf and fighter, ready to support 'em.

The first two goblins come in. Everyone misses except the archer, and the thief becomes locked in melee. Another two goblins come in, this time missed by everyone, and the archer is locked in combat while Maribou is born backwards, two-handed sword flailing ineffectually. Two more goblins come one is on Neckbeard, two are on Maribou, a third trying to get into the scrum. LeRoi steps up and kills one! And then he's killed in turn (sorry, Randy).

The archer drops his bow and attacks with his blade. He gets killed. Pope decides to run in and hammer the goblin on Stanley and kills it...then another goblin comes through the door and kills the cleric (he only had 1 hit point, having been wounded earlier and was "saving that last cure light wound spells"). Neckbeard is dancing around with his goblin while three (four) are harrying the big fighter. Stanley jumps in and backstabs one with a dagger, slaying it; Neckbeard finishes his goblin and rushes to help. It's too late...Maribou goes down, pierced by a goblin spear.

More goblins are massing outside the entrance to the ogre den; Stanley and Neckbeard decide to flee. There is an exit from the ogre den in the side of the cliff. The drop is 25' to the ground. After some "negotiated discussion" we decide there is enough of a "slope" that they can slide/tumble down to the ground without actually jumping to their deaths, but they'll need to make a Dexterity check to keep from taking (very minimal...1D8) damage.

Both fail their Dex checks; neither one dies from the fall.

Having escaped a near TPK, the players check what loot they managed to pick up. Reviewing their carrying capacity, I ruled each of them had managed to load two of the ogre's small sacks as well as the leather bag full of gold. Choosing sacks randomly it was discovered they'd picked up:

- a sack of silver pieces
- a sack of copper pieces
- a sack with a large, hard cheese
- a sack with a keg of brandy

It was assumed they'd drink the brandy on their journey back to the Keep.
: )


  1. Rad. Normally I'm not a huge fan of play reports but I always love ones from B2 because the module is so familiar.

  2. What was the elf thinking? That's all I want to know.... :)

  3. Sounds like a fun time was had by all. It's a pleasure to meet you via the A-Z Challenge.

  4. it should be noted that, certain suicidal players aside, it was harder than hell to hear anything that night, what with drunken off-key karaoke going at full volume. for instance, I misunderstood the description of the goblins in the room the suicidal elf uncovered as being filled with females and young, so setting up a crossfire for them made much more sense. ...Except for the part about how low level characters can't actually hit the broad side of a barn. I keep forgetting about that when planning these sorts of things.

  5. @ Jeffrey: Thanks for reading!

    @ IG: If I was going to say there was a lesson to be learned, it would be something along the lines of "quitting while you're ahead." But Neckbeard did survive right? And you made SOME money, if not a whole lot...
    ; )

  6. Yes, Neckbeard survived. Had I fully understood exactly WHAT was coming after us, I certainly would have avoided that fight. The downside of gaming in a Bukowski bar, I guess.

  7. @ IG: We COULD try the Crosswalk next week, I suppose...
    ; )

  8. I can see a perverse attraction to trying to play B2 with you as Ref. It would be hard to restrain the curiosity, "Could I actually make it through? And, if not, in what stupid way will I die this time?" :)

  9. @ Matthew: You guys make me sound like a total bastard! What weird blackmail (or black magic) am I working to keep my players showing up at the table?!

  10. Copper AND silver? Time to celebrate with bread & small beer at the tavern!

    1. Haha! "Small beer" is what you give kids to drink in Germany.

    2. well as in Finland. :)

      I used to like the stuff as a youngster, nowadays not so much...