Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cinder session #4

Another satisfying night of dungeon shenanigans! I had six players total last night, a new record for this particular campaign set-up. Previous players Carl, Joe, Squirrel and Wheels were joined by newcomers Tom and Jim. The latter said they had played in my big D&D con game not this last Winter War, but the year before. Honestly I did not remember them. They were totally cool about that. As I said last night, some days by evening I can hardly recall what I had for lunch. I was impressed that the new guys showed up with some characters made. Jim even had his own copy of the Labyrinth Lord rulebook.

The party ended up consisting of two fighters (Grognard Whiplash and Fergus Landry), two magic-users (Wheelz and Reginald Featherweight), a cleric (Deric Holyborn) and a dwarf (Fonkin Wurp). I thought that was a very reasonable mix of character types. It was just big enough that the two wizardly types could concentrate on mapping and holding the lantern, with only the occasional intervention to cast sleep or slay a fake dragon with a thrown dart. Speaking of sleep, under most editions of D&D it only affects human/demihuman/humanoid types. We discovered last night that in LL it affects “creatures”. That was a major difference when the party opened the door on the room full of giant rats. And here I was looking forward to infecting a few of them with the rat pox. Oh, well.

Good ol’ sleep ended up coming in handy in several encounters last night. In the first session against Stonehell most of the fights had been with the undead. Last night the party faced a wide array of sleep-able foes: kobolds, orcs, rats, psychokillers. I think the party was out of MU spells by the time they fought the psychos, but Deric managed to use hold person on two of them. “Psychokillers” is my term for stock berserkers, by the way. When encountered in dungeons I tend to describe them as axe-wielding maniacs from slasher flicks, rather than as Vikings. “You open the door and waiting for you on the other side are two Jason Voorhees and three Leatherfaces. They attack.” The psychos achieved surprise and won initiative on the following round, so I had them pour into the corridor among the party. Two even got swings in at the magic-users, but I rolled really crappily so no mage slaughter. Jim used the Big Purple d30 Rule to overpower Fergus’s counterattack on one of the psychos, totaling exploding the dude and splashing the party and the corridor in buckets of blood. Jim was pissed that the slasher guy had eviscerated his pet kobold.

Earlier in the night the party had beat up on a bunch of kobold civilians working trap reset duty. Before all the slept kobolds could be slaughtered Fonkin the Dwarf decided to spare two of them to serve him as trap detectors. He used his rope as a double leash and in fact the little buggers stumbled into a pit that might have otherwise zapped the party. During the period of their enslavement I kept looking for an opening for the little buggers to get away. When some orcs showed up on a wandering monsters roll I had the kobolds plead, in orcish, for help. Fonkin took offense at this and decided to off the wee gits. After the first one was decapitated the second one fell to his knees and begged for his life. Fonkin was not moved, but his buddy Fergus said he’d take the kobold off his hands. “Do you speak kobold?” I ask Fergus. “No, but I speak sword.” was the reply.

Fergus also made some unsettling comments about the kobold also serving as an emergency back-up food source. This was sort of a theme for the dude, as he also took some choice cuts from the giant lizard the party killed. But the creepiest episode was the aftermath of the psycho fight. The berserkers were also cannibals and in their lair the party found somebody’s torso was roasting on a spit. Fergus had to try a bite, “just to see what it’s like”. Someone at the table worried that Fergus might turn ghoul on them, but I actually rolled a 1 in 20 chance that he would be inspired to become a psycho killer cannibal berserker. No luck. If you weren’t at the table my report might lead you to the conclusion that Jim, the guy playing Fergus, was some sort of freak-o-tron. Just to be crystal clear: Jim struck me as a well-balanced dude who happened to be playing a fighter with some cannibalistic tendencies. He didn’t try to turn every encounter into an episode about cannibalism the way I’ve seen actually obsessed players do with their fetish of choice. Those kinds of players tend to bleed the energy out of a game, but Jim was highly entertaining and adding to the overall mojo.

And Tom was a great addition to the group as well. His dwarf took the initiative in a couple key situations, including volunteering to be lowered by rope into a mysterious shaft leading deeper into the dungeon. That didn’t turn out exactly as planned, as a monster attacked the party while they were reeling the little dude back up. Grognard ended up attacking the foe with an improvised dwarf-flail. He missed, hurting Fonkin instead of the baddie. I wonder if next session they’ll bring enough rope to actually descend all the way to the chamber at the bottom of the shaft. They ended up maybe 20 feet short of the goal last night. So far, that’s the only access they’ve found to anything below level 1.

After finishing off the psychos Carl suggested returning to the surface. We were about 10 minutes from the session’s scheduled end, so that seemed like a good time to wrap things up. Getting back to the stair ups turned out to be a terrible pain in the ass, as the party opted to backtrack through several dungeon doors rather than pass through the Really Scary Archways™. I’m a total bastard about dungeon doors. I don’t care that it doesn’t make sense that kobolds can easily open and close them but PCs have to roll well to accomplish the same task. And then when the kobolds are pressed into the service of good, suddenly they lose this precious ability! Here’s the deal, people: the dungeon isn’t simply a backdrop for the adventure, it’s one of the main characters in the story. The dungeon itself actively hates your guts!

Anyway, Grognard eventually flipped out over all these damn doors and decided to use his Big Purple d30 roll to overpower one of the open attempts. He rolled a seventeen, so he didn’t just rip the door off the hinges, the frickin’ hinges came off too! I adjusted my map to note the ex-door on the floor. When they finally made it out, the treasure and loot XP were divvied up. Reginald Featherweight made third level, while Deric pushes towards fourth. Grognard might have made third level, but he blew his carousing roll, getting the result that nets you no XPs and earning him a reputation as a drunken lout. I swear, that dude may have to switch home bases soon. Eventually the local authorities are not going to put up with all the trouble he keeps getting into whenever he gets back to town with a sack of gold to squander. Jim’s cannibal-killing cannibal also failed to carouse safely and wound up catching a venereal disease. So he got some bonus XP, but now every time his PC takes a leak it burns. That carousing mishap chart has turned out to be the best thing since sliced critical hits.