Saturday, January 28, 2012

… and Sometimes They Go Really Well!

Last night I enjoyed myself greatly running a session of my Skype campaign; it was the kind of game that makes this kind worth playing.

We started slowly, and two hours late (we ended up playing two hours later than planned as well). The party consisted of:

Gunt Vor, Dwarf Warrior (Level 3, I think)
Velmont Pirok, Dwarf Warrior (Level 1, I think)
Sorvana, Magic-User (Level 3)
Firgon, Warrior (Level 1)
Shavasta, Scoundrel (Level 3, I think)

The party went back to an area of the dungeon with irregularly cut, cyclopean stonework where they had discovered two ray guns on a previous expedition. They found their way into a large throne room with rows of statues down both sides and a yellow skeleton on the throne, pointing to the floor in front of it (thank you, Dungeon Alphabet).

Examining the floor, the players found a loose stone and were able to lift it out of the floor with a crowbar and some effort. The stone had been covering a lever, which the players promptly pulled. Blue lights came on near the tops of all the walls… and the 18 statues in the room animated and attacked the party!

This is a combat that I had been concerned about the party encountering when I first laid it out, but I had decided that, first of all, the players had to activate the encounter themselves and that I would stand by the Old School dogma of allowing "unbalanced" encounters that the party should run away from, as heavy-handed as it felt. I did decide that the batteries for these statues wer low so that they would attack every other round, but it turns out that I needn't have worried.

First off, both Gunt and Velmont took advantage of the "Unstoppable" house rule we use, which is fairly common in the OSR. It states that if a Warrior/Fighter kills an enemy in melee then that warrior gets an extra attack that round. Gunt and Velmont both dropped multiple statues in a few rounds.

Secondly, though, I hadn't taken into consideration the unpredictable effects of using Arduin's Class-based Special Ability charts during character generation. Velmont's player had rolled a 77 or 78, the result of which reads: "Roll d6 - Add this number as a bonus with any one weapon type." Velmont's player had proceeded to roll a 6 on his d6 roll and added it to any time he uses axes. This bonus (to both to-hit and damage rolls, I ruled), along with the Unstoppable class ability, meant that most of the statues fell to Velmont's axes.

One of the most fun things I've learned from another member of the OSR is to ask "please describe the [thing your character just killed]'s horrible death." (I learned this from Tavis Allison at SoCal Minicon.) Velmont's player actually started declining to answer the question with more than one word; I asked him if he was sure he didn't want to describe Velmont rocking out in combat, but, once again, I needn't have worried about him losing his spotlight. After it had been established that there were only a few statues left, Velmont started singing "We will Rock You" as he smashed the last of the statues to bits. As the last statue crumbled at his feet, Velmont assumed this stance and belted out "We Are the Champions."

Subtract a meter, add two axes and a beard and you've got what happened last night.
Exploring this throne room, now that the statues were vanquished, they found that the large cyclopean stones that made up the walls all had court scenes depicted in reliefs. Looking at them carefully, they found six figures that stood out from the rest; three figures held coils of rope while the other three bent over and held lanterns to the rope.

There is a secret door here, and the way to open it is to bring a light source near the depictions of rope three times. It's a difficult secret door, and they weren't able to figure it out, but they ended up finding another way to the treasures behind this door, though they haven't taken it yet.

Pulling back the tapestry behind the throne, the party found a much less concealed secret door, made of some kind of silvery metal, without locks or hinges, but which they couldn't open. I allowed Gunt to use his laser-gun to cut out a section of the door; reaching through it, he found a wheel on the other side fo the door, which he turned. After turning it enough, the door opened and they found what looked to be a long-abandoned, dusty bedroom. Looking around and investigating the desk and rotting bed, they still failed to find the treasure hidden in a hole in the wall behind the desk.

The room they were in has three other doors, all with wheels to unseal them. Taking one, they found themselves in an abandoned alchemist's lab. The cyclopean stones in the walls, floor and ceiling were constantly changing shape and size and shifting among each other. They found a workbench covered in broken glassware (Sorvanna was disappointed, as I'd just discussed the usefulness of libraries and laboratories for Magic-Users with her at the beginning of the session) and a cabinet. Investigating the contents of the cabinet, they found three spheres of glass that seem to contain some kind of smoke (when a sphere is broken, it will release the "Outfire Fog," which puts out all fires it comes in contact with) and a bag with powdered roots necessary for the Carcosan ritual "Chaining the Formless Aspect."  If the party encounters a sorcerer, the sorcerer will likely want the contents of the bag.

Moving on, the party discovered an old prison, with many of the inmates' skeletons left in their cells. The skeletons were mostly human, but some had longer, thinner, more fragile bones, bones they didn't recognize and skulls not built with jawbones (mind-flayer skeletons- yeah, the guys who ran this prison were that tough).

Connected to the prison was a chamber with a lever on the wall and a red square outlined in the middle of the room with a large pile of powdery dust in the middle. This was a summary execution chamber. Shevasta's player decided to have her experiment by having Sorvana command her Unseen Servant to pull the lever while Shevasta stood in the circle. Failing her save, Shevasta disintegrated into dust. The party, saddened by this turn of events, decided to leave the dungeon. As they headed towards the exit, however, they met a Spawn of Shub-Niggurath, an three-eyed, toothy worm-like thing that they were able to kill after a less one-sided battle than the fight with the statues had been.

This spawn had 6 HD which means that the party qualified for a roll on the Puppet-Master Machination Tables to see whether a dragon has noticed the party or not. They only had a 10% chance to be noticed, but they "made" their throw, being noticed by a dragon which I'll now have to generate. This dragon, I found out after rolling further on the tables, has decided to get rid of the party by sending some of its minions to rub them out. We'll see what happens; the minions will have 4 HD, so if the party kills them it will increase their chance to be noticed by other dragons as well!

All in all a great session. The loss of Shevasta was severely tempered by the fact that, well, no one, including her player, really liked her (for good reason). Her replacement character, to my glee, will be the first character in my campaign to be a member of the Order of the Green Hand, as I mentioned in my last post. Along with figuring out what will be ambushing the party next session, I need to figure out which spells the Order has. It's going to be interesting to see Magic Users of very different backgrounds interact; Flynn's new character will have access to many, many spells, as a perk of being a member of the Order, while Sorvana, the other Magic User, as the apprentice to an independent master, has access to comparitively few spells; this is complicated by the fact that members of the Order are not allowed to share their magical knowledge without express permission, and such permission is rarely granted.

All in all a very fun session, especially because I'm beginning to see how the party's actions are going to influence how the world treats them from here on out.


  1. Those puppet master tables look fun. I may try them but substitue non-dragon BBEGs.

  2. Cool! Do you know what kind of puppet-masters you'll use?

  3. Not sure yet. I think I may make the decision based on where the PCs are noticed. Barrow-imprisoned liches is one option. They may well try to turn PCs into their servants in order to escape.