Monday, November 27, 2023

Bonus session (#7.5)

Although the players from the main group were all busy with Thanksgiving festivities, I had visitors from out of town who wanted to play, so we had a game on Saturday.

Cast of Characters:

Thorgrim (Dwarf Cleric 4)

Rebecca (Elf Fighter 4)

Baron (war dog, who Thorgrim can speak with due to a Knack)

These two had done some exploration in the Perlammo Salt Mines (at Thanksgiving last year), but having heard rumors that another group of adventurers had pretty thoroughly cleaned that area out decided to look for other adventuring opportunities. At the Grand Casino of Boreon they met Greenthistle, a renegade half-elf from the Whither Woods, who offered to serve as a guide in that area and lead them to the elves' best treasures. They also picked up a rumor of an enchanter in town named Nestor who had disappeared into the woods some months back, after possibly having gone insane. So, defying the prohibition on non-elves entering that forest they took off in that direction, planning to tell any elves they ran across that they were looking for their missing friend Nestor (and figuring that, with Rebecca herself being an elf, albeit a meadow-dwelling high elf from the north, that should be sufficient to avoid them being summarily slain). 

After a few days crawling through the woods they had various minor encounters, including an unfriendly hermetic pig farmer who they suspect was likely Nestor the insane ex-enchanter, and picked up vague rumors that the elves in the western part of the forest had gone wild and strange. However, when they encountered the elf village of Willowtarn, the inhabitants were surprisingly non-hostile, and in exchange for Thorgrim healing an injured elf-maid with a broken leg offered them food and hospitality, including a strange herbal tea that they call the soma. The party became increasingly suspicious as they noticed a distinct lack of the otherwise-ubiquitous mundane wildlife (squirrels, birds, etc) around the village, as well as a lack of any elf-children or spellcasters, and that many of the village's dwellings and trees showed signs of old but unrepaired scorching and battle damage. Greenthistle the guide was particularly unnerved and insisted these elves were not acting normally at all, and discreetly refused to sample any of their food or soma (the other two did sample both, but were unaffected, perhaps due to Thorgrim's naturally strong dwarfish constitution and the magical periapt Rebecca had acquired on a previous adventure). They were shown to a hut to spend to the night, that upon examination appeared to have been the home of a druid but was dusty and neglected and hadn't been inhabited for some time. Realizing that some elves were standing giard outside their hut Thorgrim cast a discreet Know Alignment and upon scanning the guards confirmed his suspicion that they were, in fact, chaotic evil, so they decided to sneak out of the village rather than waiting for morning, and managed to do so successfully.

When morning came they spotted a group of elves on a path headed west out of the village and followed them to a blighted area where all of the trees and other plants were infected with various molds and fungi, and eventually to a massive (200' tall) oak tree in the center of the blighted patch, with a 10' diameter shaft at its base which the elves descended into. Greenthistle declined to follow the party into the hole, so they made arrangements for him to travel back to a meeting place a couple miles away and wait for their return.  

Inside the hole they found a series of narrow winding tunnels dug into the muddy earth but, unable to determine which way the elves had gone, went wandering and encountered various unpleasant fungal monsters, most notably a patch of black moss that drained 24 hours of Thorgrim's memory, leaving him very confused about where he was and why. Rebecca informed him the moss had done it and that he needed to destroy it before she too was affected in the same way. Thorgrim's only current memory was that Rebecca had told him to destroy the moss patch, so they did so, but were then at a loss for where they were or what to do, until Thorgrim found a map drawn in his own hand showing a path from the elf village and a set of tunnels. A quick consultation with Baron the dog confirmed that they were missing a day of memory but had followed the elves here from the village and that the elves were enemies. Alas, nobody knew or remembered what had become of Greenthistle the guide (because Baron the dog doesn't understand people language to know what Thorgrim and Rebecca had discussed with him). 

Some further exploration brought them into contact with a group of elf guards who they captured and interrogated, learning that they are followers of Ianthe the dryad who dwells beneath this great oak and supplies them with the soma. Asking how long she had been doing so, the elves were unable to answer, and their best guess was "umm, forever?" Venturing into the next chamber they encountered a group of fungus-men who were too strong and numerous to fight so they fled back to the surface with their elf-prisoners in tow. Taking those prisoners back to the oak of the dryad Eulalia (whom they had previously encountered in their earlier wanderings) she was vexed to hear that her sister was causing trouble (but also unsurprised, since she hadn't heard from her in a long time) but, unable to do anything about it herself, directed them instead to the nearby elf-village of Glenbrook.

After Rebecca explained to the inhabitants of that village what they had encountered and handed over their prisoners, the chief druid Moonmist examined them, as well as the supply of food and soma the party had recovered from their camp, and confirmed that the food was tainted and the elves were under a malign influence of unknown origin, and that something strange is definitely afoot since dryads aren't normally familiar with herbalism and certainly not anything based around mold or fungi. A contingent of elves from Glenbrook village joined with the party as they returned to the caves beneath Ianthe's oak where the group did battle with and defeated the first batch of 16 fungus men, but used up so many of their resources in that battle and, hearing another group approaching from deeper within the tunnels, expeditiously retreated back to their village, bringing the session to an end.

Although these two explored a lot of ground and did a lot of fighting (and had a lot of fun and wanted to keep going but it had gotten too late), they recovered negligible treasure and almost everything they fought in the dryad-cave is capable of respawning, so it's likely their activity will have negligible visible impact on the area if and when the other party makes their way here. The one definite consequence is that Greenthistle the guide, after waiting most of the day at the appointed meeting spot, fled back to civilization with a new rumor to spread to anyone who will listen at the Casino - about the village of evil elves deep in the Whither Woods, the fungal-blighted giant oak tree with a cave-entrance at its base, and the group of adventurers who descended into that cave and never returned! Will that story be sufficiently intriguing to draw the attention of our other adventuring party away from the Perlammo Salt Mines? Unlikely, since they seem very single-minded and meticulous in their focus on that location, but we'll find out one way or the other this coming Sunday...

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Lucky session #7

Another action-heavy session as the party continued the Gopine Holocaust. 

Regular cast:

Kronk - Gnome Cleric 3 (Boreon)

Grain Tobblefoot - Gnome Thief 3

Thron Hammersmash - Half-orc Fighter 3

Tares - Elf Cleric 3 (Boreon)

Eldin - Human Magic-user 2

Thorn - Half-elf Ranger 2

While most of the group was training they acquired some more rumors about various outdoor locations and feel like they’re getting a pretty full picture of all the plot threads active in the area but chose once again to return to the Perlammo Salt Mines where they had unfinished business with the gopines dwelling on level 2. On their way in they discovered that the rope ladder they’ve been using to enter and exit the dungeon had been sabotaged, but used their own ropes to repair the damage before anyone fell. 

Venturing down into gopine territory things got violent quickly, with a running battle across several rooms and the group briefly cornered between two squads. A sleep spell evened the odds a bit, but the robust gopine boss, armored in elfin mail and dual-wielding a dagger and a magic rapier, did a lot of damage before he fell, causing the party to use up all their healing magic. 

Having fought their way to an open escape route with a door spiked shut behind them they retreated back to level one to regroup, but the last of the gopines - the lieutenants - gave chase and caught our heroes by surprise. Another sleep spell failed to decimate them and things were getting ugly - Kronk the cleric unconscious and everyone else reduced to single digit hit points. Eldin the magic-user was forced to use his potion of fire breath, but even so it was dicey until Lumph the ogre, friend of the party and hated foe of the gopines, heard the sounds of battle and joined the fray. 

Grain Tobblefoot received enough XP to hit 4th level. Thron kept the gopine boss’ magic rapier and Thorn the ranger claimed his armor (which fit him but was too big for the gnomes). With some time remaining at the end of the session Eldin the magic-user decided to exploit his 16 charisma by hiring some henchmen. He got responses from two prospects: a fighter and another magic-user. As we left off he was debating whether to offer employment to one or both. 

We’ll see what happens in the next session on December 3rd. 

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Next session (#6)

 The party was short-handed again today (as Elden the magic-user wasn’t able to make it), but with almost everybody at 2nd level (and Kronk the cleric at 3rd) they were feeling confident enough to carry on, and had a dramatic but successful expedition:

Cast of characters;

Kronk - Gnome Cleric 3 (Boreon)

Grain Tobblefoot - Gnome Thief 2

Thron Hammersmash - Half-orc Fighter 2

Tares - Elf Cleric 2 (Boreon)

Thorn - Half-elf Ranger 1

As they were preparing their next incursion into the Salt Mine dungeons they learned that strangers have been making inquiries about them in Creektown and that they need to keep a low profile and possibly relocate to someplace safer. Arriving in the dungeon they learned that people have also inquired about them with Lumph the ogre and apparently bribed him with brown lotus powder.

With that ominous warning the group decided to avoid the area where the lotus smugglers are known to congregate and instead headed down the back stairs they had discovered to the area where they had previously fought the sun-spiders. Exploring around that area they met another wandering sun-spider and finally encountered the fox-people (who were generally hostile). Deciding to avoid their area they instead explored the northern part of the level, where they had a close call with some shadows, an even closer call with some poisonous spiders (and learned about the unforgiving nature of poison in 1E, but also that holy water has an alternate use - and a reminder about the value of joss factors), and decided some scorpions weren’t worth the risk, but also found and looted a secret alchemical laboratory. 

However, as their explorations took them further south they accidentally triggered an alarm alerting the fox-people, including an illusionist who caused a lot of havoc before they were able to defeat him (but at the cost of Grain the thief again being knocked below 0 hp). Fleeing back to their secret hideaway to regroup, they realized that in order to get back to the surface they had to either explore new areas in hopes of finding another exit, cross back through the realm of the sun-spiders, or back through the realm of the fox-people. A well-deployed silence spell from Kronk the cleric allowed them to successfully sneak past the latter and make it out. 

Back at home they used a detect magic spell on several jewels and other loot they had recovered hoping for magic items, but not finding any, decided to sell it all off through a fence they met in town, and learned another lesson about the high GP/XP value of jewelry (to the tune of 1600 XP apiece). This was enough to bring Thorn up to 2nd level, Thron and Tares to 3rd, and Grain (who had pocketed another 1000 GP necklace) not only to 3rd but with enough leftover that she would have hit 4th if only the rules allowed it.

With most of the party now at 3rd level and the party MU expected to return we’ll see what they decide to do in the next session on November 19th. 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Playtest Session #5

Action-packed session today, which was nice after two kind of flat ones in a row. Back at full strength, the group ventured back into the Perlammo Salt Mines first to get done well-deserved revenge upon the best of stink bugs who had almost wiped them out the week before, and then to take on the encampment of goblins who were the only significant encounter area remaining on the first level. 

Cast of characters:

Kronk - Gnome Cleric 2 (Boreon)

Grain Tobblefoot -Gnome Thief 2

Thron Hammersmash - Half-orc Fighter 1

Tares - Elf Cleric 1 (Boreon)

Elden - Human Magic-user 1

Thorn - Half-elf Ranger 1

The two players who’d missed last session were forced to roll on the Character Catch-up table in Midkemia Press’s Cities to determine what befell them during their downtime, and it was nothing good: both were mugged and lost their cash on hand, Thorn was also scammed and lost 1/3 of his banked money and Elden learned that his father had died but was too broke to travel to attend his funeral. So, facing desperate financial straits, they decided to rejoin their adventuring companions. 

Scouting around the goblin hideout they managed to keep the goblins’ wolves quiet, used a sleep spell to eliminate the first set of guards, made quick work of another set, barricaded the door through which reinforcements were approaching, got into a bloody but ultimately successful brawl against the goblin bosses, and ended up finishing off the last of them in a two-front battle. 28 goblins in all were sent screaming to the Nine Hells. 

Looting the boss’s chamber they recovered some minor treasures and a mysterious and very heavy wizard-locked iron chest. They also found four cowering non-combatant goblin cooks who they interrogated and then dispatched, which inspired two of the party to change their alignment to Chaotic Neutral.  

Thorn the ranger convinced his companions to fire the captive wolves and led them out of the dungeon and then, heavily laden with treasure, they made their way back to town. 

Alas, the combat XP and bulky but not-especially-valuable treasure wasn’t enough to bring them up to 2nd level (with Elden the magic-user painfully coming up 18 XP short). However, they had recovered a letter from the goblin boss that they were unable to decipher (though they did determine in was in the Chaotic Evil alignment language) and decided it was worth paying Geromini, their NPC magic-user friend in town, to cast Comprehend Languages on it. Once translated, the letter gave them the password to open the chest, which was filled with 50 gold ingots, intended as a bribe from the Goblin King of the Palm March to the chieftain of the Blue Goblins of Melonath Falls, and the value of this haul turned a break-even expedition into a major victory, worth enough XP to level up not just Elden but also Thron, Tares, and Kronk (to 3rd). Only Thorn the ranger still fell a bit shy.

Next session is on November 5th. Having effectively cleaned out the first level of the mines we’ll see where they decide to go next - whether to the lower levels of the mine or one of the several other areas nearby they’ve gathered rumors about. 

Edit: Fun addendum - while we were playing one of the players got a text from her sister who was attending GsmeHoleCon (in Madison, WI) that she was at that same moment playing in a game run by Luke Gygax (5E, I assume, but still pretty neat). Alas, their story didn’t have the same happy ending ours did: their party got TPKd. 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Another session report

The group was down two players this session compared to last one so they decided to proceed cautiously. To start with they paid a visit to the Grand Casino of Boreon hoping to gather some intel about the mysterious fox-people who they’ve heard about but not yet actually encountered. Coming up mostly empty and failing to win big at the slots (and realizing they’re not nearly well enough equipped to knock the place over) they returned to Salt Mine dungeon and once again bribed their way past the ogre guarding the back entrance. 

They’ve now got a nearly-complete map of the top level and were feeling pretty confident after dispatching some ghouls and giant rats but disaster almost struck when they decided to attack a nest of giant stink bugs: half the party (the thief and of the clerics) was rendered unconscious and the gnome cleric had to leave his pack and maul behind in order to drag his comatose companion to safety. Venturing back to retrieve the lost pack only a well-placed Sanctuary spell saved the remaining two from disaster and probable TPK. When you're low level and outnumbered AC4 and a 1d6 bite adds up quickly.

A few sacks of silver pieces was a visibly disappointing haul but was just enough to allow the thief to hit 2nd level. She also pocketed a nice-looking coral necklace that a jeweler in town offered her a cool thousand GP for but she decided not to sell, suspecting it might be magical. 

Next session (set for 10/22) they’re hoping to be back to full strength, which is good because their options are narrowing - taking on the goblins or armed men they avoided this time around, venturing back down to one of the lower levels (which they’re still very afraid of), or leaving this dungeon altogether to follow up on one of the rumors they picked up at the casino - such as the mysterious goings on in the village of Veirona a day’s travel upriver, near the famous Melonath Falls. 

[Fun OOC note: when they were in the casino hearing about Veirona with its lumber mill and seedy reputation and the nearby Melonath Falls, one of the players said "I'm starting to get a kind of Twin Peaks-y vibe about this area" which I appreciated because it's 100% intentional but she's the first person who's ever noticed (or at least who mentioned it out loud to me)]

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Playtest session #3

Playtest session #3 was held today, very eventful and fun but not too rewarding. All four of the players from the previous session returned (including the guy who thought he wasn’t going to be able to make it) and they were joined by two new players - another cleric and a half-elf ranger. 

Venturing back to the Perlammo Salt Mines after a week in town they found the main entrance barricaded and guarded, and surmised that somebody must not have liked what they did to the watchers they encountered in their last expedition. At first they wanted to fight their way through but upon seeing that the guards were in mail and armed with crossbows had second thoughts and decided instead to seek out the back entrance they had heard rumors of. Locating that shaft they climbed down the rope ladder they found there and encountered the ogre dwelling at the bottom who demanded a toll to pass but after some negotiation agreed to collect on their way out. They explored about 10 more rooms and even ventured down a set of stairs to a lower level but quickly lost heart and fled back up after encountering some giant sun spiders and then catching sight of the even bigger mother-spider. 

Although they did a lot of exploring and filled in many of the gaps on their map, they found little by way of treasure and realized they were in a bind since to get back home they had to face either the ogre (who they didn’t feel they had enough to pay as toll) or the guards. Settling on the former they decided to offer him some platinum pieces they had found with a contingency plan to drop a sleep spell on him and hope for the best if that didn’t work. Luckily for them it did and he allowed them to pass back out, but for all their efforts (including going an hour past the scheduled quitting time) they didn’t have much to show for it treasure-wise. 

Once again, nobody died but there were a couple of close calls with the 15 hp ranger at one point reduced to a single point. A paltry 400 XP apiece (50% from combat vs an assortment of unpleasant bugs) was enough to bring the gnome cleric to 2nd level but left the thief 100 XP short (don’t say the +10% bonus for high stats doesn’t make a difference because it would’ve here!).

Next game is scheduled for October 8th. I get the impression they want to stay on the first level longer (those 3d4 damage rolls from the sun-spider bites were quite traumatizing) but may not have much choice since they’re running out of areas to explore there, unless they change their mind about trying to murder and rob the ogre…

Monday, August 28, 2023

Playtest Session Recaps

Keeping it short and sweet:

Session #1 (8/13/23): Two brave novice adventurers - a half-elf magic-user/cleric of the Far Wanderer and a gnome fighter/cleric of Boreon - came to the town of Warnell seeking fame and fortune. Following up on some rumors they headed for the abandoned Perlammo Salt Mines and explored about a dozen rooms in which they encountered some goblin squatters, located a central lift-shaft and evidence that somebody is both maintaining and using the lift, discovered a couple of secret doors and a lost treasure room, and found a map showing the entire mine in cross-section. Both survived, but the half-elf got very lucky and only barely avoided the effects of a cursed scroll.

The half-elf's player isn't able to make the next session, so it will be up to the gnome and his new group of companions (i.e. the players who weren't at this session) to pick up where they left off: will they attempt to roust out (or befriend) the goblins? Will they venture down to one of the deeper levels shown on their map - the dormitory, the chapel, the deep mine, the experimental mine, or the caves? Or will they just spend a few hours wandering around and not accomplish much of anything at all?

Session #2 (8/27/23): Since his half-elf companion was called away on important business, the gnome rounded up some new adventuring companions - a human magic-user, a gnome thief, and a half-orc fighter - and the party of four set off back to the mines to continue exploring. They managed to explore 10 rooms on the main level in which they fought some creepy monsters including a rope-like kampfult and some winged vipers, found a set of stairs and an open shaft leading down, learned about a lotus blossom processing operation in the lower mine (and killed their lookouts), and recovered some good treasure, including a few non-cursed magic items (a magic dagger, a potion of gaseous form, and a scroll of 3 MU spells). Once again nobody died, but there were some close calls - the magic-user spent most of the session with one hp, and the cleric burned a couple joss factors to ensure he didn’t die from snake-venom (though he actually rolled well enough that he didn’t need them). Nobody has hit 2nd level yet, but the two gnomes are both getting pretty close and another expedition as successful as this one would likely put one or both of them over the top.

Session #3 is set for 9/24, with 3 of the above 4 returning and possibly some new players joining them (a couple of yesterday's players said they are planning to invite some of their friends, and a couple other people who weren't able to make either of these dates are still interested). While they're likely to continue exploring the "abandoned" mines, maybe they will also be tempted - now that they're all flush with cash - to pay a visit to the Grand Casino of Boreon north of town in an attempt to parlay their winnings (or blow them completely). And now that word of their discoveries is getting out, they may soon find that they're not the only party of adventurers interested in the site. Only time will tell...

If anyone reading this is in the Los Angeles area [edit to clarify: these games are being run in-person at a local game store, not online - sorry for not making that more clear and getting a couple folks' hopes up to join] and wants in on session #3 let me know - there's still at least theoretically room for a couple more players (since it's TBD whether or how many of the potential new players will actually materialize), and the entire party is still 1st level so there are no issues with adding more members. There is still a LOT of adventure left to explore, so as long as people remain interested and available this could go on for a while, but we'll see. [FWIW 4 of the 5 players so far had some prior experience with AD&D but none of them are hardcore fans like me and none of them had played it anytime recently; the other player is an AD&D n00b whose only previous D&D experience has been with 5E. All of them have had a lot of fun so far - or at least that's what they're saying to my face.]