Donnerstag, 20. November 2014

Spieleabend 20: Der Zombie und der Blender


(von KT)

Es war ein spannender Abend!

Zunächst haben wir gestern über eine Stunde überlegt wie wir uns Ausrüsten können.

Ekim konnte 7 Alchemistische Feuer und 4 Säuren für je 50 Dukaten anbieten, sowie einen Stärkungsspruch für 200 Dukaten, der für eine Stunde Save+2 und AC+2 bietet.
Für eine 10% Verbesserung der Werte für einen Kämpfer im Vorfeld waren uns die 200 Dukaten zu schade.
Dafür haben wir uns mit 2 Phiolen alchemistisches Feuer, 10 Flaschen Öl und 2 Phiolen Säuren eingedeckt.

Septum hat die Runentafeln angeschaut und drei entschlüsselt:
1 Schutzzauber : 1 turn Save+1 und AC+1,
1 Fluch (Details habe ich aufgeschrieben)und
Tatatataaaa! 1 Silentium für 120 Minuten.

Den Handschuh konnte weder Septum noch die Hexe entschlüsseln.

Klaus erfährt von seinem Speer, das er den Zombie Wahrscheinlich besiegen kann, wenn der Speer das herz durchstößt.

Trotz des Silentium haben wir uns auf Vorschlag von Klaus für die Rein-Drauf-Raus-Taktik geeinigt und Grabaktionen hintenangestellt.

Weitere Mundane vorbereitungen war
-        Bauholz, um die Türen so zu blockieren, das sie nur Spaltweise aufgemacht werden können.
-        Viele Fackeln um unseren Rückweg auszuleuchten
-        Einen kräftigen Schluck Branntwein, um den Mut zu heben (Brachte uns allen Will +1)
-        Hilfan hat Ringar angerufen, und ihn um Kraft wieder den Angstzauber zu bitten. (Brachte zusätzlich Will +1)
-        Die Halblingfrau stylt ihre Frisur neu, um durch Ihre perfekte Erscheinung zusätzliche Selbstsicherheit zu gewinnen. (Brachte zusätzlich Will +1)
-        Gegen die Käfer räuchern einige Gefährten ihre Kleidung
-        Die Gefährten machten klebefallen auf Ihre Kleidung (halbierte die Attacke der Käfer) (erhöhte Patzerrisiken)
-        Bengo vernäht Kaputze, Jacke & Handschuhe (halbierte die Attacke der Käfer zusätzlich)
-        Waffen werden mit schnüren am Handgelenk gesichert. (erhöhte Patzerrisiken)

Los ging es…
Wir schlichen bis zur Kreuzung vor dem Raum mit dem Sarg und Bengo konnte den Zombie nicht sehen.
Als Bengo  einen Lichtball nach Norden rollte, kam der Zombie aus dem Raum von Süden.
Der Zombie gewinnt die Ini und attackiert Bengo.
Bengo zieht sich einen Schritt zurück und entsichert sein alchemistisches Feuer

Alle außer Hilfan und Meanhir bestehen Ihren Will-save! Hilfan verliert auf der Flucht sein Alchemistisches Feuer und eine Ölflasche.
Klaus misslingt eine Herzstichattacke und die Halblingfrau trifft den Zombie mit Ihrer fackeln nicht.
Septum versucht den Zombie mit seinem Amulett zu beherrschen. Scheitert leider knapp an der Willpower des Monsters! Geht leider nur einmal täglich.
Der Zombie schlägt zweimal neben Bengo.

Klaus gelingt es im zweiten Anlauf, dem Zombie den Speer durch das Herz zu rammen.
Bengo trifft mit Alchemistsichen Feuer und mach 6 TP Schaden, die Wirkung zeigen.
Die Halblingfrau und Septum greifen nach den fallen gelassenen Alchemistisches Feuer und Ölflasche von Hilfan und geben Ihre Flammen hinzu. Hübsches Feuer!
Der Zombie attackiert Bengo, macht 8 Punkte schaden, aber die Käfer können so gerade nicht bei Bengo eindringen und Bengo hatte auch beim zweiten Special Effekt Glück!
In der nächsten Runde verbrannte der Zombie.

Hilfan hatte auf der Flucht Schwein, da eines der beiden Kutten-Sklette , die Ihm den Weg versperrten, Patze, hinfiel und ihm die Flucht ermöglichte.
(Wir mussten Menahir mit einer Kneip-Kur vom Todesfluch befreien.)

Im Dorf wird gefeiert und Septum gelingt spektakulär eine Analyse des Speers:

Der Bindet seinen Träger an sich, gaukelt diesem Unbesiegbarkeit vor, ist aber eigentlich eine extra schlechte Waffe (-1), in der ein kleiner Dämon sitzt, der Entzugserscheinungen generiert, wenn man den Speer nicht führt. (W16 statt w20 ohne Krit-Chance)
Der Fluch kann gebrochen werden, wenn der Träger 12 Gegner im Kampf getötet hat.

Mittwoch, 29. Oktober 2014

Spieleabend 19: Nur noch ein paar Türen...

(von CD)

Der Tag begann eher unspektakulär. Ein Haufen Nahrungsmittel wurde im Dungeon an verabredeter Stelle versteckt, um die Beziehung zu den Tiermenschen zu festigen. Dann wurde der Saal mit der 8m großen Statue des Todes (Skelett, Kutte, Schwert) erforscht. Die Statue reagierte diesmal nicht auf die Helden, das leuchtende Schwert davor entpuppte sich als Illusion und außer ein bisschen Kleingeld gab es nur das befriedigende Gefühl, endlich einen Abschnitt des Dungeons erforscht zu haben.
Da der Tag schon weit fortgeschritten war, beschloss man sich dem in der Erinnerung etwas weniger gefährlichem Abschnitt der ersten Dungeon-Erkundungsausflüge zu widmen.
Eine Schar Riesenkäfer wurde problemlos besiegt. Hinter einer Geheimtür entdecken die Helden einen mächtiges Artefakt, einen Panzerhandschuh mit Flächenzauber gegen Untote (einmal pro Tag). Dieser war mit einer extrem tödlichen Falle gesichert, die mal wieder einen Zombie das "Leben" kostete. Den Rest des Tages müssen die Helden ohne Minensucher-Zombie agieren, ein Verfahren, dass ihnen inzwischen unvertraut und zutiefst zuwider ist. Es wird sogar diskutiert, abzubrechen. Nur noch ein paar Türen...
In einer Grabkammer lauert ein unsichtbarer Gegner der Bengo gleichzeitig alle Waffen entreißt. Der Streuner Hilfan setzt den Panzerhandschuh erfolgreich ein.
Dem Sarkophag der nächsten Grabkammer entsteigt ein gewaltiger, aufgeblähter Zombie durch dessen Leib sich unz ählige Käfer wühlen. Der Anblick lässt die Hälfte der Gruppe in Panik fliehen. Der Halbling Gwen verliert dabei das vielleicht mächtigste Artefakt der Gruppe (Zwillingsdolche +2). Die ersten Attacken gegen den Zombie zeigen trotz magischer und Silberwaffen keine Wirkung. Seine ersten Attacken misslingen. Dem Krieger Klaus gelingt ein Krit mit seinem nagelneuen magischem Speer +3 mit angesagtem "mighty deed", dem Zombie die Goldkette vom Hals zu schneiden. Der Hieb verursacht keinen Schaden, nur die Kette rutscht zu Boden. Dem Krieger Tully gelingt ebenfalls ein "mighty deed", der den Zombie zwar zu Boden stürzen lässt, aber ebenfalls nicht verwundet. Die Helden beschließen einen taktischen Rückzug, der Streuner Bengo schnappt sich noch die Goldkette. Der Zombie verfolgt die Helden nur ein paar Schritte.
Die in Panik geflüchteten Helden haben gewaltiges Glück, bleiben zusammen, rennen zum Ausgang statt in unerforschte Gänge, behalten ihr Licht, passieren fast unverletzt eine Gruppe Skelette und kommen draußen wieder zur Besinnung.
Der Rest der Gruppe muss sich den Skeletten stellen, wobei Krieger Klaus feststellen muss, dass sein magischer Speer ob des taktischen Rückzugs eingeschnappt ist und ihn nicht schützt.
Die  Begegnung mit dem Riesenzombie ist glimpflich ausgegangen. Dieser hat sehr schlecht gewürfelt, während bei den Helden viele wichtigen Würfe gut ausgegangen sind. Die magischen Dolche dürfen sie nicht zurücklassen, aber womit kann der Zombie verletzt werden? Und wie kann man verhindern, dass wieder die Hälfte der Gruppe flieht und diesmal im Dunkeln in irgendwelche unerforschten Gänge fliehen?

Sonntag, 26. Oktober 2014

Spieleabend 18: Der Überlebende, der Halbling und der Ritter

(von KT)

Der Abend begann mit einer warmen Dusche des Meisters:  Eine Regelreform bescherte den Helde einen Bonus auf etliche Eigenschaften.
Da bei unseren letzten Ausflügen das Tödlichkeits-Beute-Verhältnis immer schlechter wurde und die Gegend einen immer verruchteren Eindruck erweckte, haben wir die Würfel entscheiden lassen, wo wir weiter suchen wollen und kehren zu einem Raum von der Session 7 zurück!
Auf dem Weg dorthin treten wir in Kontakt mit einem der „Überlebenden“  (superstes?) die ausschließlich im Barrowmaze zu wohnen scheinen. Dank eines  sprachgewandten Jägers können wir uns mit ihnen unterhalten und wir erfahren viel beunruhigendes und überraschendes über das Barrowmaze,  und einen Führer, der schon die verschiedensten Räume erforscht hatte.
Im weiteren Verlauf machen wir reiche Beute, in denen wir die bisher mit Abstand mächtigsten Artefakte finden, denen wir bisher begegnet sind: Die Dolche  eines Halblings und den Speer eines Ritters finden. Der Speer hat einen ausgeprägten, dünkelhaften Willen!
Nachdem wir in den beiden letzen Abenden mit Ottokar, Secunda und Tam schwere Kampfkraftverluste hinnehmen mussten, haben wir an diesem Abend durch die Regelreform, zwei Stufenanstiege, sowie die gefunden Waffen einen kräftigen Zuwachs an Kampfkraft erfahren.

Mittwoch, 1. Oktober 2014

Spieleabend 17: Nur Ehre für wahre Helden!

(von KT)

Dieses mal hat es mit Tam Na Vulin einen zähen Zwerg (21 Hit Points?) mit mächtigen Artefaken (einem magischen Kettenhemd, das einmalig Schaden abwendet, und einem magischen Streitkolben) erwischt. Tam war gerade erst in die dritte Stufe aufgestiegen. Er war der erste drittstufge Charakter des Spielers, der schon eine Vielzahl aktiver, aufrechter, mutiger, einfach heldenhafter Helden verloren hat.

Wie beim Tode Ottokars haben wir gegen intelligent agierende, gut geführte Gegner gekämpt: Eine Gruppe Zombies, die von einem intelligenten Untoten geführt wurden, der eine mörderische Attacke austeilte und auch seine Zombies anleitete, sich zuerst auf einen Gegner zu konzentrieren.

Zuerst erschien diese Wahl uns in die Hende zu spielen: Tam ist unser zähester Brocken dank des Kettenhemdes mit hoher AC. Doch als er magisch mit seinem Kettenhemd die Wucht eines Schlages auffing, fiel zu unserem Unglück die 1/8 Chance zu seinen Ungunsten aus: Das Kettenhemd reduzierte den Schaden drastisch, doch löste es sich danach in Rauch auf, wonach er quasi in der Unterwäsche dem Ansturm der Untoten schutzlos ausgeliefert war. Auch ein Positionstausch verbot sich aufgrund der verfügbaren magischen Waffen.

Der Einsatz eines großen Heiltrankes (3W6) kamn auch nicht zustande, da er diesen erst hätte annehmen und dann trinken müssen und somit auf seine Attacke hätte verzichten müssen und dann zwei bis drei Attacken kassiert hätte, bevor er wieder selber dran gewesen wäre.

Mit einem wahren Helden verbindet man den Heroismus. Heroismus und DCC sind eine tödliche Mischung (für die Spielercharaktere).

Anmerkungen:
* Das Spielsystem "belohnt" vorsichtiges, zurückhaltendes Taktieren und "bestraft" heroischen Heldenmut mit aller darwinistischer Härte! Ein Ausgleich durch "göttliches Eingreifen" oder "Schicksalhafte Gunst" für edelmütiges oder heroisches Verhalten gibt es nicht.
* Kluge, taktisch gut und koordiniert kämpfende Gegner sind auch für hochstufige Gruppen brandgefährlich.
* Zum Trinken von Heiltränken benötigt man Zeit, die man in kritischen Momenten selten hat.
* Magische Rüstungen lösen sich nach Einsatz von Sonderfunktionen viel zu häufig auf und lassen einen Helden nackt im Regen stehen.

Donnerstag, 4. September 2014

Spieleabend 15: Nachruf auf eine Veteranin

(von KT)

Hier ein kurzer Abriss des letzten Abends:
Unser Plan: Rein Drauf Raus, Variante 3.2 (Zangensturmangriff unterstützt von zwei Scharfschützen)
Aber: Haifischgesicht hatte seine Hütte verzaubert:
Die Helden dachten: Klarer Fall von Illusion.
Die Illusion war jedoch sehr substantiell und so konnten die Türen nicht mit Rammböcken aufgebrochen werden.
Das heranschleichen an die Fenster hatte ansonsten gut geklappt und der Koch wurde fast lautlos aus dem Gefecht genommen.
Durch den missglückten Sturmangriff und der Zögerlichkeit der Rougues in der Küche, dem Hexer ohne zahlenmäßige Übermacht gegenüber treten zu wollen hatte Haifischgesicht genügend Zeit, sich defensiv auf dem Speicher zu positionieren und eine fünffache Illusion seiner selbst zu schaffen.
Zwar konnte die Helden quasi im vorbei gehen die Bodyguards ausschalten, doch verloren sie wichtige Zeit, sich um den Hexer zu kümmern.
Zwar fielen zwei Illusionen energischen Fernkampfattacken zum Opfer, doch bereitete der Hexer einen durch Blutmagie drastisch potenzierten Farbzauber vor,  der alle im Haus mit 2W6 Schaden niederstreckte.
Ottokar Freja wurde von Blitzen aus den Händen aller drei verbliebenen Hexer getroffen und sank tödlich g etroffen zu Boden..
Alle anderen Helden wurden mehr oder weniger stark verletzt und vielen in eine halbstündige Ohnmacht die der Hexer glücklicherweise nicht zum Meuchelmord nutzten konnte, da er neben den Helden auch das halbe Dorf mit einem tödlichen Farbblitzgewitter überzog, dem 16  Abenteurer und Dörfler, die sich zu dieser Stunde noch unter freiem Himmel befanden (sowie alles Getier von einer Schafherde bis zum kleinsten Vogel) zum Opfer fielen. Aus Angst vor der Verfolgung durch die aufgebrachten Bewohner, suchte der Hexer schnell das Weite!

Mit Ottokar Freja starb eines der beiden verbliebenen Gründungsmitglieder von Schreibers Schwarzer Schar.
Ottokar verblüffte uns immer wieder mit ihren überraschenden arkanen Fähigkeiten, ob im kKmpf oder bei der Bewertung der Beute, sowie Ihrer nahezu übersinnliche Fähigkeit mit all und jeder Kreatur und Nichtkreatur freund zu werden.
Dank Ihrer inneren Stärke vermochte sie unberührt einem machtvollen Dämon gegenüber zu sitzen und Ihn nichts als ihre Verachtung spüren zu lassen.
Sie liebte die Natur, die Menschen, das Leben und insbesondere und die Kinder, und so ist es bezeichnend, dass sie Ihr Leben ließ um alle Kinder vor dem teuflischen Kinderfresser zu bewahren.
Ringar möge Ihr einen Platz in der Wilden Jagd zuweisen!

Ausklang:
Nach der Heldenfeuerbestattung stiegen die Freunde in Barrowmaze hinab und brachten gerade so viel Gold ans Tageslicht, das es Tam na Vulin gelang, die Schulden seines Bruders Tam Duh bei seinem Vater zu begleichen.
Im Dorf gesellt sich ein Halbling zu den Freunden.

Mittwoch, 27. August 2014

Spieleabend 14: Fette Beute!

Die Abenteurer besiegen die Skorpione, aber eines der ältesten Gruppenmitglieder stirbt: Gromit, ein fast zahnloser, aber sehr zäher Kampfhund wird durch einen Giftstachel getötet. Immerhin gelingt es dem Streuner, aus den Skorpionkadavern sechs Portionen Gift zu extrahieren. Die Gruppe schafft die reiche Beute nach Hirot und zwei Abenteurer steigen in die 4. Stufe auf.

Bei der Identifizierung der  magischen Gegenstände durch die Hexe taucht ein Dämon auf, der ihr den Zauber detect magic rauben möchte. Die Abenteurer können ihn jedoch durch konzertiertes Vorgehen in die Flucht schlagen.

Ein paar Tage später hat die Hexe eine Vision, die einen vermummten Neuankömmling im Dorf als verfluchten Hexer entlarvt, welcher ein Haifischmaul hat und Menschenfleisch essen muss. Die Abenteurer bereiten sich darauf vor, den Hexer, seine Leibwächter und seinen Kannibalenkoch anzugreifen...

Anmerkungen
  • Die Kämpfe gegen die Skorpione und den Dämon waren ebenso hart sie spannend.
  • Es gehörte viel Mumm dazu, den Dämon anzugreifen!
  • Die Magieregeln von DCC prägten die zweite Hälfte des Abends mit ihren unvorhersehbaren Ereignissen.

Spieleabend 13: Die Schatzkammer des Set-Kults

Auf dem Weg zum Barrowmaze begegnen die Abenteurer einer neuen Art Zombies. Nach einer harten Schlacht ziehen sie sich direkt wieder ins Dorf zurück.
Im nächsten Anlauf erreichen die Abenteurer das Lager des Set-Kults. Sie nutzen ihre per Amulett kontrollierten Zombies, um Fallen zu entschärfen und die Schatzkammer zu öffnen. Ein seltsames, metallverschlingendes Wesen stürmt heraus und verwandelt u.a. das Schwert des Trostes +1 in ein verrostetes Schwert des Trostes +0. Die Abenteurer locken die Kreatur in einen Nebenraum und sperren sie ein. Der Weg zur Beute - u.a. eine 80 kg schwere Schale aus Gold - ist frei!

Kurz vor dem Dorf werden sie im Nebel von zwei Riesenskorpionen angegriffen...

Anmerkungen des Spielleiters
  • Auf diese beiden Zufallsbegegnungen warte ich schon lange. Bisher gab es vor allem haufenweise Begegnungen mit anderen Grabräubern.

Sonntag, 13. Juli 2014

Interlude 1: The Imperishable Sorceress

Summary

A party of new adventurers, having found only death and plundered burial niches in the Barrowmaze, sets out for the mountain stronghold of an infamous witch. The characters avoid some barbarians, kill a giant insectoid with magic missile, and penetrate the fortress. Inside, they spend most of their time hacking to bits the witch's corpse and her vat-grown replacement body. They are attacked by some tentacles and find plenty of gems and an intelligent sword. The decide to leave after a few more rooms -- and then half the party dies in a gas explosion in the dungeon's kitchen. The survivors make it back to Hirot.

Observations
  • I ran the Free RPG Day 2013 module "The Imperishable Sorceress" by Goodman Games for fresh characters not embroiled in the main campaign. It's a great little adventure, oozing atmosphere and sporting another fantastic illustrated map by Doug Kovacs.
  • The gas explosion in the dungeon kitchen sucked:
    • There were no clues to its presence. By contrast, a secret chamber was trapped, too -- but that's something one might expect.
    • It had a large blast radius (20') and I decided it affected the entire party. That was a bad call, as we had played with lax positioning all night. I should have had everyone make a Luck check to see if he or she was in the area of effect.
    • It was very deadly, which is okay, but at [2d6, save for half], it left PCs with few hit points no chance at all (i.e. even a successful save could not save a guy with low hp).
  • I overlooked the traps problematic features when reading the module (which was poor prep on my part) and decided against modifying it once it was triggered (which was true to my credo of not pulling any punches).
  • The warlock's player used spellburn all the time and it was fun seeing the power of magic in action ... and waiting for things to go catastrophically wrong. That never happened, but it was tense. 
In a nutshell
A fun session that ended on a frustrating note. Sorry, guys!

Donnerstag, 3. Juli 2014

Evaluation of Sessions 1-12: A New Hope

The Good
  • Combat is quick, brutal and very tense.
  • Magic is powerful, dangerous and unpredictable.
  • Dungeon crawling does not kill roleplaying. Creative players find opportunities everywhere.
  • There were plenty of heroic acts, all the more meaningful because the risk of death is real.
  • The DM has no idea what's going to happen and is as excited as the players.
  • Due to the PCs' interactions, the village next to the dungeon is taking shape at a rapid pace, spawning opportunities for adventure and roleplaying.
The Bad
  • The Barrowmaze lacks the kind of sword & sorcercy atmosphere and sense of wonder I desire.
  • I dropped the ball regarding faith and religion. I failed to set the mood with the village priest and except for one player's initiative, these elements are largely absent from the game... 
The Ugly
  • Resource management, random encounters and using miniatures on a grid can be tedious at times.
  • Dying - especially dying over and over again - can be frustrating and strain player creativity and compassion. (The players are handling these challenges well, though.)
In a nutshell
The campaign is just like I hoped it would be! All sorts of challenges remain but I'm looking forward to every session. A big thank you to my players -- you're making it happen!

Session 12: Early Retreat

Summary

The characters carefully examine a room with mysterious holes in the floor. They are disturbed by giant beetles and unknown cultists and return to the village early. The characters sell some loot and some of them later examine the enchanted forest nearby, moving into it for a few yards.

Observations
  • The session was quite slow and few things happened: The characters spent a lot of time searching for traps, fighting minor random encounters, selling loot and debating whether to explore the enchanted forest or not.
  • A potential problem rears its head: The players are responsible for pacing and risk management and cannot rely on the DM to provide either.
  • That said, I should have asked them to either examine the forest together - or not at all. There are too many random factors for me to foresee how long various endeavours might take, so solo quests are not really an option. 
  • Grognardia has a nice article on the The Rhythm of the Old School that has a more positive view on some of these issues.
In a nutshell
A session that was too slow for my tastes.

Montag, 23. Juni 2014

Session 11: The Power of Magic

Summary
The characters begin to plunder the area where they were ambushed the other week and retreat with some gold. Back in the village, the dwarf attempts to teach other tomb raiders but is foulmouthed by unlucky adventurers. He sets things straight with a duel to the death. Later, the party's witch casts detect magic with critical success. She sees and identifies everything magic in the entire village. Among other things, she finds out that all the children are under a spell. When the witch casts detect magic again some time later, she fumbles and transforms a tavern wench into some kind of earth elemental. Fortutnately, the dwarf is able to repair some damage done to her before the effect wears off after a few days.

Observations
  • After 10 sessions with almost no magical incidents, the unpredictable DCC rules struck twice! The fallout occupied most of the session.
  • Switching gears wasn't easy -- I started rolling for various NPCs' magic items, for instance, but detailing an entire village's worth of adventurers on the fly was too much.
  • DCC's curveball means there's a lot of work to be done (such as detailing the magic merchant's treasures) but I think it's a great opportunity.
  • The players used the unusual opportunities to portray their characters in various ways (CD's fatherly dwarf, HM's opportunistic rogue etc.).
  • CD risked a valuable character in a deadly duel. His character was brand new, true, but also sported above average rolls. The Luck stat provided some measure of safety I assume, but it can't protect against critical hits so it took real courage to enter the duel.
In a nutshell
An unsual but fascinating session.

Donnerstag, 12. Juni 2014

Session 10: Ambushed!

Summary
The witch uses charm on a captured cultist and the party learns something about the Necromancers of Set and the Acolytes of Orcus. The captive also provides a partial map before being dispatched by the party afraid of the spell wearing off. The party then moves into a sector held by the followers of Set and are ambushed on the way out. The enemy's main ploy (skeletons attacking under cover of darkness) fails but it's a brutal fight nonetheless. A veteran fighter (level 3) goes down to a series of lucky attacks and the party's dwarf dies, too.

Observations
  • Prep was a lot more work than usual because I had to decide what the captives knew exactly. I copied a part of the map and edited out traps and room numbers -- always aware of the fact that none of that information might be needed (if, for instance, the party failed to take anyone alive). 
  • The characters act as a true team: HM burned Luck several times to save a comrade and CD and CW continued to willingly hold the frontline.
  • KT jumped through a secret door sliding close to pursue an enemy. He immediately became afraid of his own courage and regretted his act, at least until things had turned out well. I love it how such acts are at once really dangerous and really heroic!
  • KT was contrite about the death of CW's fighter because he had planned much of the party's tactics in the ambush.
  • I wonder if this would have been a total party kill if not for the party's unusual extra light source (a glowing rune). I had forgotten about that item and was unsure if it actually cancelled darkness. I gave the item a 1-in-6 chance of doing just that and rolled it without any consideration for the possible ramifications. Just like I want to handle things!
  • The party has reached a deeper, more dangerous part of the Barrowmaze. I described a change in architecture but I'm not sure the players realized the significance.
In a nutshell
An informative session with a terrific fight and brutal losses.

Donnerstag, 5. Juni 2014

Session 9: The Thing in the Pit & Masked Strangers


Summary
The party uses the newly discovered entrance and scouts the area. The characters find a deep pit trap and are attacked by a huge insectoid creature living in it. One of the party's rogues kills it with a poisonous arrow. Next, a party of masked strangers accompanied by two zombies appears. The mysterious strangers talk about their plans to attack the Acolytes of Orcus - and who the hell is that?? - deeper in the Barrowmaze. The two parties decide to join forces. Even though the characters are betrayed and attacked almost immediately they manage to dispatch the strangers easily.

Observations
  • I had rolled up the thing in the pit several evenings ago and had been expecting a massacre ever since. However, the party never ventured down that particular corridor until this session. KT's gut instinct (and good memory perhaps - NPCs had described a man being dragged off into that corridor) and HM's poisonous arrow saved everyone's ass. KT has since pointed out that he was merely roleplaying: He wanted to portray his character's superstitiousness and chose a random corridor to fuss over (rather than holding up the game by doing this all the time). =) =) =)
  • I like how the deadliness cuts both ways: Monsters have to save or die, too (or can be ripped apart by a lucky crit).
  • I gave the players some glimpses about things going on behind-the-screen: I noted that the insectoid creature had been a dangerous monster but that I had rolled no treasure for it whatsoever. Sorry guys!
  • I resisted the impulse to comment on the strangers' tactics despite my players' curiosity. The players judged the strangers' tactics ineffective and were wondering what was up with that. 
  • The party has begun to employ scouting tactics. To my surprise, HM seemed not at all concerned when his rogue sneaked up on two giant scorpions by himself. He was bent on how to kill them rather than afraid for his life.
In a nutshell
A tense session, especially from my perspective.

Mittwoch, 21. Mai 2014

Session 8: A New Entrance


The party moves into the mountains to cure the cursed dwarf. His trials - being made feverish and then jumping into a cool mountain lake - yield additionally, albeit quickly degrading saving throws. He lives. On their way to the Barrowmaze the party encounters and secretly follows others  tomb raiders who are doing excavation work on another mound. Back underground, the party discovers a staircase leading to the surface -- another entrance to the Barrowmaze! A fight with skeletons turns ugly when one the party's fighter fumbles on the first round, killing the dwarf. Critical hits by the skeletons take another life. Armed with two new magic weapons the party leaves via the newly discovered entrance, narrowly evading another group that apparently uses it on a regular basis. They cut a deal with the village witch to help with identifying one of the new weapons.

Observations
  • CD and KT cook up a new maneuver between sessions - enter the flaming tennis ball (lint and tinder, really) to light up long passages and prevent monsters from advancing to just beyond the party's torchlight.
  • There have been very few fumbles and critical hits until this evening. DCC's tables can be very dangerous indeed. 
  • There is an interesting debate on whether to sell magic items for XP (to level up) or to keep them in the party. (XP is only awarded for wasting hard-won gold on boozing and wenching etc.)
An intense session with tons of interesting encounters and discoveries!

Mittwoch, 14. Mai 2014

Session 7: A Tragic Death


The party moves its supply depot deeper into the dungeon. The witch charms the deluded ghost encountered in the last session who then reveals the creatures and treasures in the immediate surroundings. A fight with a mysterious skeleton puts the fear into the players' hearts but their characters prevail. Ladden with magic items they return to the surface. With the exit less than 100 feet away, the party is attacked by robed skeletons. Bhain the Dwarf, carrying enough gold to level up, dies and Thorin the Dwarf is cursed and - pending another save next week - may very well die, too. The party vanquishes the skeletons and chops off Bhain's arms to retrieve his magical chainshirt (as Dwarves turn to stone upon death).

Observations
  • CD suggests a contract among the adventurers to deal with various money issues (e.g. buying healing potions together, handling the property of dead characters etc.). I never saw much point in founding 'adventuring companies' before but now - given the high death rates - this makes perfect sense! Another revelation regarding old school social dynamics.
  • The party gathers information about certain monsters rumored to prowl the dungeon and buys silver weapons and ammunition. Knowledge = Power.
  • In DCC, it's possible to charm un-dead (with a penalty). I like that because they have unusual points of view and information.
  • When a mysterious skeleton reduces GB's character from 10 to 1 hp with one hit, he almost panics and wants his character to flee the scene. Massive pressure from the other players - "Our guys are as just as dead as yours if that skeleton hits any of them" - and even death threats convince him to stay and fight from the second rank. He's in a bad mood after that.
  • CD saves the witch's life by preventing her from entering a tomb with a green slime. After the fight with the skeleton everyone but CD seemed to have forgotten about the party's suspicions regarding that tomb. It's one of several close calls, not all of which the players involved are aware of.
  • The death of CD's dwarf continues his streak of bad luck. He is a cautious yet proactive player but the dice have been against him for many sessions now. Here's hoping his luck will change!
In a nutshell
A succesful delve that ended on a grim note.

Donnerstag, 8. Mai 2014

Session 6: Traps & Treasure


During downtime, one PC tames a wolf and another arranges a marriage for the village crone. Also, the party is invited by Hirot's ruler for a chat. Back in the Barrowmaze, the party discovers a heavily trapped cul-de-sac with a mysterious key in a silver casket. Careful maneuvering neutralizes all threats. Later, they find the richly decorated remains of a beastman recently sacrificed on a dark altar...

Observations
  • CD notes that wandering monsters rarely carry any treasure.
  • KT styles his rogue as a ranger (with skills like Survial, Stealth and Beast Mastery and a tame wolf).
  • A random encounter indicates a graffiti and leads to a lot of soul searching for the DM. More about this when I find the time to sort my thoughts.
A nice session. The players expertly navigated the cul-de-sac situation.

Freitag, 2. Mai 2014

Session 5: Victory!


The party encounters another group of tomb raiders in the Barrowmaze. They manage to steal their clueless rivals' gold but then help them against a skeleton attack. The party's two new dwarf characters sniff out some gems and the party returns to the surface, fighting a series of small battles (with giant rats, mysterious skeletons and a lone skeleton, respectively). For the first time, they return from their adventures without casualties. Three PCs reach level 2.

Observations
  • KT had studied the combat rules and led the way setting up flanking positions, using Luck and reminding other players of their characters' special powers. 
  • When KT began to describe his new character at the beginning of the session, cries of "One line of background only!" erupted. KT, known for writing pages and pages of backstory, continued unperturbed -- he is used to friendly ribbing in this matter.
  • Players got more cocky with 1st level characters, particularly ones with poor stats.
  • The way back to the exit was again a tense affair but also took up quite a bit of time. I wonder if we should double the movement rate in known and mapped territory...
  • The players were very pleased with their success (and rightly so, I might add).
  • I keep 'revealing' rules from D&D 3.5e that are second nature to me but which I never bothered explaining. This is a bit irritating to the players but I'm not sure if a huge infodump at the beginning would have been better. Ask me about charging enemies, for instance, and you shall be rewarded!
In a nutshell
A very satisfying session - the characters' success nicely counterbalances the bloodbaths behind (and most likely ahead of) them!

Mittwoch, 9. April 2014

Session 4: Level-up!

Summary
The party scares off a rival band of tomb robbers and later vanquishes its most dangerous foe so far: a giant rattlesnake. Two PCs fall to its poisonous bite and one more perishes as the party is surprised by stirges while looting the snake's rich hoard of gems. Ladden with treasure and snakeskin, the party makes its way back to Hirot. The longest-serving PC attains level 2 and three others are within 100 XP of level 2 as well. Also, the first dwarf character joins the party.

Observations
  • KT can't get over D&D's (Labyrinth Lord's, really) often ridiculous prices. I guess we'll switch to Adventurer, Conquerer, King System. I hope ACKS will appease him (and lay the groundwork for the domain game).
  • Several players tried to handwave logistics ("My new guy, who you meet in the dungeon, brought a ladder.", "We're establishing a depot in this room. Can we just say we've moved all the stuff on my shopping list down here?"). I grant them some leeway (i.e. the ladder) but I'm mostly insisting on proper procedure. High Encumbrance = Low Speed = Many Encounters = High Risk!
  • Speaking of which: Logistics and encumbrance are more work than I anticipated: We're using the brilliant encumbrance system of Lamentations of the Flame Princess but there are so many characters and especially recently deceased characters that inventories need to be redistributed frequently.
  • GB measures the dungeon doors to commission custom contraptions to block them. Adapt or die.
  • New PCs are introduced during the big fight. As a result, we didn't even bother with physical descriptions - the newcomers (four level 0 guys and a dwarf) are faceless cannon fodder at this point. We might want to slow down here a bit.
  • The rattlesnake's poison is lethal, but not immediately so. HM suggests brutally treating a victim right away, amputating if necessary. I improvise a harsh procedure, but the victim dies anyway. I'm not 100% happy with the specifics of my procedure but I do not want to stifle player creativity or slow down the game too much. HM's approach sounds reasonable so there should be a chance it works.
  • HM's rogue harvests the rattlesnake's poison. I use a different procedure than last time.  Gotta have more continuity.
  • It's exciting - and a little daunting - how fast the rulings pile up (harvesting poison, emergency amputations etc.). Once the players are more familiar with the rules - they are mostly new to D&D and its retroclones -, I plan to get their input on the specifics.
  • DMing is more strenuous than I'm used to. I'm looking up all sorts of tables and using proper procedure to be impartial. This takes time more time than just handwaving things or making gut decisions all the time. 
  • On the flip side, prep time is way down. I need about 15 min to prep a session (mostly restocking the dungeon).
  • I'm afraid I do have a sadistic streak (What a surprise, given the blog's name, eh?). During the big fight, I revelled in describing all the gore and even cracked some rather cruel jokes at the beleaguered players' expense (<points at battlemat> "So that's where you're moving to die?" etc.). I feel a bit ashamed of myself (Sorry, GB! I'm glad your fighter made level 2!). I hope my bloodthirst is balanced out by utter impartiality.
  • KT points out that CD has lost eight (six?) characters so far. Wow. CD is taking it well and has remained one of the most proactive players throughout.
  • HM remarks that he found the session "very satisfying" - and adds "... but that's probably because my guy survived."
  • Rolling for random encounters on the way back was very tense.
In a nutshell (and from this DM's point of view, I might add)
An immensly satsifying session with lots of suspense, near-death, death and hard-earned victory. I love this shit!

Montag, 31. März 2014

Session 3: Dungeon Delving 101

Summary
The party finds out that the dungeon has been repopulated. They carry on, using a (phenomenally tough) wardog named Gromit and charmed monsters to take the point. A major fight with giant beetles leaves two PCs dead and another (plus Gromit) unconscious. Things almost turn into a Total Party Kill (TPK). After some dealings in town, the party eagerly returns for a third foray. The players are getting the hang of dungeon delving and spot and neutralize a deadly spider, look in the right spot for a secret door, and leverage the movement rules to fight zombies without risk. W00t!

Observations
  • Everyone forgot about DCC's Luck mechanic. The two dead PCs might be alive if we hadn't.
  • There was a lot of heroism. CW has her (tough but injured) character attack with only 1 hp left and she dies. CD sends his character to the front line in order to match CW's courage. His character dies, too.
  • CW names her second PC "Secunda" and seems resigned to quickly lose her and all future characters. The new PC has poor-to-average stats, too, which visibly impacts her motivation.
  • I announce compensation for poor stats (50 gp or XP per total negative modifier or 100 - that is the question now...).
  • Reacting to player input, I introduce a new rule to make armor offer protection against poison needles and the like (i.e. in situations where no attack roll is involved).
  • I allowed the Charm spell to include low-key telepathy to enable communication with charmed vermin. This was a mistake. I was being soft on the player. Also, the spell is powerful enough as it is. I will rule that this is (a) limited to vermin and (b) specific to this character only. Fortunately, this perfectly fits on account of the mercurial magic roll for this spell.
  • I changed one (harmless) monster power on the fly: A ghost caused unconsciousness rather than fear. I don't like fear effects, as they are humiliating and take away agency. On second thought, however, the fear effect could and should have been described as magical, lessening the humiliating aspect. Also, this was a mistake as I violated my principles. I should not change the powers of monsters (at least not like this, i.e. on the fly and for dubious reasons).
  • Random rolls were really tough this time around: The dungeon was restocked with plenty of very dangerous monsters and the beetles' random reaction was "hostile". I fear that the dungeon seems insurmountable and video-gamey as a result.
  • The Barrowmaze has monsters popping up all over the place (due to the restocking rules) or waiting in isolated areas without exits, rhyme or reason. I do have an explanation for this but I'm afraid none is visible to the players at the moment. I'm afraid that the dungeon must seem very artificial and video-gamey as a result (and Philotomy's "Mythic Underworld" aesthetic is an acquired taste).
  • The zombie ploy should not have worked quite like this. I forgot about the maneuver "partial charge". Fortunately, the zombies rarely had the room for that so in this case the outcome was unaffected by my oversight. I will inform the players and/or change zombie tactics to "overrun the enemy regardless of opportunity attacks".
In a nutshell
An enjoyable session with lots of mistakes behind the scenes. I need to get my act together.

Session 2: First Blood

Summary
The party manages to close the door with the rats still behind it. They explore several rooms and run into traps and zombies. 4 out of 10 PCs die and are replaced on the spot (i.e. another tomb raider rounds the corner to help out with the still unfinished battle). Perseverance and a hunch lead to the biggest treasure yet.

Observations
  • The characters of two absentee players died. Both were particularly cherished (having survived a funnel adventure in spectacular fashion and sporting a natural 18, respectively). The deaths were brutal but okay, but it sucks that the players were not present.
  • The players were disappointed with the treasure. The payout was 70 gp per character so level 2 (at 1000 XP) seems a looong way off. As I have read this complaint about Barrowmaze before, I will double all treasure values in the main complex.
  • I dropped my plan to use vague prices (for mundane goods) after only one session and gave the exact listed prices instead.
  • I had all random encounters materialize near the PCs, i.e. I rolled, got zombies, and had nearby corpses rise as said zombies. This was a mistake as it circumvents the rules for encounter distance (to be established randomly).
  • After the game, the players talked about establishing depots of oil etc., bringing a ladder and developing safety measures (e.g. securing characters with rope). They are rising to the challenge.
  • Via e-mail, the players further talked about establishing procedures for splitting the loot, unrealistic rules, and handling the PCs of players going to sleep during the session (one player's a kid, another a very busy working mom).
In a nutshell
Sitting back, just playing the world and not knowing how things would turn out was great fun.

Session 1: To the Barrowmaze!

Summary
The newly created party meets up to plunder the recently discovered Barrowmaze. Play begins on the road. The characters travel from Zerthstone to Ottergild, buy some equipment and continue to Hirot. After checking in at the local inn, visiting Hirot's only temple and Ekim's Extraordinary Emporium, they start their first expedition into the Barrowmaze. After a couple of empty rooms, they open a door to encounter a swarm of huge rats. The session ends with a cliffhanger.

Observations
  • Character creation took two hours (twice as long as I estimated). I hope that the players will eventually learn to roll up a new character in five minutes.
  • Keeping track of encumbrance and rolling for (wilderness) encounters felt a bit tedious, but I think it is important to establish these key procedures.
  • The players scoffed at D&D's economy, specifically the gold standard and certain prices. I am considering switching the economy to Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS).
In a nutshell
A slow start but hopefully laying the groundwork.

Samstag, 29. März 2014

Campaign Diary: DCC in the Wilderlands (Pre-game Notes)

I've finally started a Wilderlands campaign using my heavily house-ruled version of Dungeon Crawl Classics (DCC). My goals are to provide challenge-based sandbox play in the mold of Ben Robbins' West Marches campaign and especially Eero Tuovinen's D&D campaigns (a huge topic you'll have to google by yourself if you are interested). To get the hang of the rules in practice, I've settled on the acclaimed Barrowmaze as a starting point. I plan on opening up the Wilderlands world as the game progresses.

DCC, especially in my version, offers fast character creation (to make a lethal game viable), fast play (to get lots of stuff done), high lethality (to make choices and die rolls matter) and its trademark unpredictability (to protect against lingering habits to railroad and to generate an Appendix N-feel).

The Wilderlands offers just the right ratio of inspiring detail and white space on outstanding maps. I'm using the excellent if somewhat verbose Necromancer edition. Of course, I've heavily modified the setting, too.

I plan to provide the first couple of session reports soon and to then switch to a more regular schedule.