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[1E AD&D] Kicking it Old School


Ikari Warrior
Validated User
First up, I should point out that my history with maintaining actual play threads is poor. I've tried this twice before, and my enthusiasm petered out. Just so you know.

Having said that, I've retracted my decision not to attempt this again for a few reasons:

1. My players are keeping some pretty extensive notes for this game, giving me plenty to work with.

2. I'm not going to be making any attempt to turn this into a story-hour, which has been my undoing in the past. Turning session notes into a novella is more effort than it's worth to me, which was my previous issue.

So, the objective of this Actual Play, then, is to chronicle the events of the game, without turning them into fabulous prose, and to examine the evolution of a group that has turned to a particular flavour of old school without any real previous experience with the genre.

What flavour of Old School am I talking about? See the link in my sig for a detailed discussion. Essentially, though, the following are the salient points:

Player skill trumps character skill: obstacles are identified and negotiated through careful play, not making skill checks. Elves maintain their ability to detect secret doors, but detecting a door doesn't necessarily indicate how to open it. Thieves can use find/remove traps, but generally only for things where player description of character actions can't reasonably achieve the same aim. As a corrollary, smart play should generally be rewarded. In ingenious plan to avoid a dangerous trap will at least result in a good chance of success, but an ingenious plan to avoid a lethal trap (assuming there's a good reason to bother in the first place) should always result in automatic success.

XP for Gold, Bugger All for Combat: Our valiant adventurers are primarily interested in obtaining wealth and transporting it to a secure location where it can be spent. Combat is something you sometimes do to achieve that goal, but most of the time, its not a goal in-and-of-itself. Combat drains resources and threatens life.

The World Is What It Is: The environment isn't balanced to the PCs. Some locations and adventure sites are safer than others, and it's up to the PCs to work out what they can handle, what they can't, and avoid getting in over their heads. However, see "smart play should generally be rewarded", above.

So, with that out of the way, let me introduce our PCs:

Conan, Human Fighter
Redpath, Half-Elven Ranger/Cleric
Glamchow, Gnomish Illusionist/Thief
Allynra, Human Cleric of Ollidammara
Zoar, Human Monk
Zed, Elven Fighter/Magic User
Gryl, Dwarven Thief/Fighter
Ciaran, Human Magic User
Trish, Mule
Porter, Glamchow's Human Porter

Conan's player is completely new to roleplaying. The guys playing Redpath and Allynra have some experience with older editions of D&D, but haven't played in this particular style before. Nor have I DMed this kind of game, although I have done a lot of gritty and dangerous.

The gameworld is a bastardised Greyhawk, reasonably true to the post GH-Wars period, but altered wherever I see fit with no special concern for tradition. Having no special attachment to Greyhawk, I have no issue with the GH-Wars period, or messing with any part of the setting to suit my own purposes.

The starting locale is my own version of the Kron Hills. I will be using ToEE (highly modified, with only Hommlet itself remaining almost completely true to the published module), the Melford module series from Dragonsfoot, Cult of the Reptile God, Dwellers of the Forbidden City, my own megadungeon, and various other bits and pieces, both original and published.

As far as rules go, I'm using a few limited bits and pieces from Unearthed Arcana -- selected spells and magic items, and a watered down version of weapon specialisation. Overall, I'm staying trying to stay fairly close to by-the-book rules. I have slightly relaxed level limits (half experience after reaching level caps), and modified death and dying rules inspired by 4E's death save. Magic items will be fairly rare, and not easily identified in many cases. I am using a high living rule that uses up excess cash in the same way as the official training-to-level rules, without actually requiring weeks of training.


Ikari Warrior
Validated User
First Session


The group began at the Donsford Inn, about half way from the city of Verbobonc to their destination of Hommlet. In an effort to help repair the problems wrought by his predecessor's decision to cease military patrols in the Kron Hills, and unable to gather support from the nobles to resume patrols himself, the Viscount of Verbobonc naively called for any and all adventurers of honour and valour to head for the Kron Hills in order to combat banditry and humanoid incursion in his name.

As a result, bandits have been replaced by bands of men demanding support for their campaigns against banditry, in the viscount's name, of course.

In discussion with the innkeeper (a one-armed man and veteran of the Greyhawk Wars), they discover that orcs, goblins and ogres have been making trouble along the trade-route through the Ironwood to the north-west, and that orcs had been spotted in the Viriwood south of Melford. Additonally, a group of 90 armed men passed through some months ago -- one of the "upstanding" groups heading into the Kron Hills on the back of the Viscount's proclamation.

It occurred later to the group that there were several questions they missed but in hind sight should have asked:
* Did they have a name / uniform
* Did they give any specifics of their plans?
* Can we get a description of some of their leaders?
* How well equipped were they?
* Was there anything unusual about them? More demi humans than normal? Pale skin, etc?

Asking about the chance of finding work in Hommlet, the innkeeper suggested they might like to talk to the Canon Terjon of the church of St Cuthbert, and Jaroo the druid.

Resuming their journey, the group encountered a gnomish patrol (about 30 gnomes), that fairly clearly wasn't impressed with armed groups meandering around towards the Kron Hills. A slightly tense situation was kept under control, with none of the PCs mouthing off, and Glamchow able to confirm he was in fact born and raised in the Greenway. The remainder of the journey was relatively uneventful -- just cold and dreary.

In Hommlet, they spoke first to the priest Calmert at the local church of St Cuthbert, who indiated that he may have some work for them if they return tomorrow. They then sought out the druid Jaroo, who indicated that he has been sensing an "influence" on Orlane, over a week's travel to the north, and would be interested in someone looking around and reporting back. He also mentions that a caravan was recently attacked while passing through the Ironwood. Orlane is a long way away, and they're not too keen on undertaking such a journey, so the next day they return to the temple.

There, Calmert talks about a fortification, known as the moat house, that was built back when the dreaded Temple of Elemental Evil was at it's most powerful. From the moat house, the Temple exerted its infuence over Hommlet and the surrounding area. Few villagers like to recall those dark times. Following the seige and destruction of the Temple's main forces, the moat house was mostly destroyed ,but there are unconfirmed reportsthat a group of bandits or gnolls or something else has taken up residence there. Terjon would like someone to reconnoiter the area and see who/what is there. If it turns out to be a den of evil and we can slaughter them to a man then all the better. He offers a 50gp stipend for useful information. Accepting the offer, the group prepared to set out on the 15 mile trek to the mout house.

Gremag, proprietor of the general store, on hearing their objective, offered to hire two men-at-arms to us for the trip. There was considerable debate about the merits of spending money on men-at-arms, at a cost of 2gp/day each, with the group so low on resources. Eventually, it was agreed to suffer the expense.

To the Moat House

Heading off, the overgrown path, together with Redpath's desire to spend a day hunting resulted in slow progress (although the group did net some venison for their efforts)

The moat house was situated amidst a stinking fen, with a raised embankment running from the trail to the open gate. There was evidence of fairly significant traffic between the moat house and the Gnarley nearby to the east. Leaving the party mule, the porter and one man-at-arms back on the trail, the group watied until twilight and then crossed the embankment to the moat house.

The sudden appearance of giant frogs as the group crossed the fen resulted in the first combat of the campaign. Strung out along the path, there was no real opportunity to protect the squishies, and Ciaran the Magic User was dropped to negative hp with a single attack. The frog that was subsequently trying to eat him was slain while he was only half-swallowed, and he was stabilised and sent back to the mule (I am enforcing the "characters reduced to negative hp need days of rest before engaging in strenuous activity rule. However, players in that situation are still allowed to participate in group discussions and decision making, and in this instance he alsotook over the men-at-arms to help keep him involved).

With the frogs put down, Zoar used his monky fleetness to do a quick scout around the perimeter of the moat house, before the group moved into the courtyard. With a body of 11 armed men approaching, the 8-or-so bandits currently occupying the area had pulled back into a rear room and barricaded themselves in.

Going in alone to carefully investigating the main hall of the keep, Glamchow spotted a slight patch of heat near the back corner of the hall with his infravision (the bandit's hidey-hole, where they had had a fire going earlier in the day). He also spotted some slightly cooler air currents near another corner.

Meanwhile, the rest of the group checked out the door to a tower in the outer wall. After much discussion, debate, caution, and a discovery that the door would not open with gentle pressure, Conan decided it was time to kick the door down and barge in. A giant wolf spider landing on his shoulder was his reward. Attempts to grab it and throw it to the ground failed, and Zoar charged in to try and smash it with his fists. He landed a blow, but the spiders response was simply to sink its fangs into Conan's hand before jumping away and scuttling for a dark corner. Failing his poison save, Conan rapidly started to twitch and then collapsed, his hand turning black. Zoar dragged him out of the tower by his foot, and it became apparent that the blackness of necrotic flesh was creeping at a frightening pace up his arm. When a tourniquet failed to stem the poison's spread, a debate was held about the merits of amputation, but before agreement could be reached black fingers of poison were seen running up the warrior's neck. And, so we have a our first casualty of the campaign.

The group then made short work of the spider with slings and crossbows, before deciding to relocate the mule, porter and crippled magic user to the tower.

There was a great deal of dilly-dallying outside the door where Glamchow had spotted heat. Eventually, the decision was made to try and open it -- for the group to then discover it was barred. After several futile attempts to batter it down with boots and shoulders, the group gave up and decided to head elsewhere. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the group, the bandits within had already packed up and left, via a gap in the crumbling outer wall.

Further exploration of the main keep revealed a stairway down to a lower level; however a hoard of rats emerged from the area, and furious fight ensued. A few minor injuries were sustained, and the group decided to withdraw to the tower for the night after using a few cure lights. Their rest was disturbed by a few more rats, but they were dealt with easily.

Returning to the stairs the next day, they explored a few chambers below, discovering two locked rooms (picked effortlessly by the Gryl) that contained an array of weapons, armour, rations, cloaks and a few barrels of brandy.

Continued exploration brought the group into a fight with two zombies. Both clerics failed their attempts to turn, and as the weaker members of the group attempted to avoid melee, more zombies emerged from side chambers to leave the group surrounded, and the weaker members fighting their own private melee. Allynra prevented a nearly certain slaughter when she successfully turned the zombies that were engaging the heavily injured Gryl and the petrified, cowardly Glamchow. Then, as those zombies fell away, Glamchow decided the safest course of action was to flee the scene by running past the turned zombies and trying to get to the stairs.

The weaker of the two men-at-arms went down, but was stabilised, and then Zed, who had made it most of the way through the fight unscathed, was dropped with a single attack. He too was stabilised as the last of the zombies were finished off. The turned zombies, who had been unable to grab Glamchow as he passed by, pursued him to the stairs, then returned towards the main group, who were able to finish them off.

Grabbing some barrels of brandy, as many rations as they could carry and a few cloaks, the group decided to call it a day and head back to town.

Everyone except Allynra went back to see Calmert, and informed of their exploits. He arranges for a funeral/burial service for Conan. Zoar suspects this is where we may be charged with further duties relating the moathouse and the Forest.

The group also meets Conan II in the Inn, who agrees to join them.

* * * * *

The session seemed to go over pretty well, and they're enjoying the risk and the scrabbling for petty cash just to get by. I'm not sure if they can survive a return trip to the moathouse or not -- they've still got a slightly gung-ho attitude, although I was impressed with their ability to balance risk/reward as far as deciding when to press on and when to fall back. With the cloaks as evidence of ToEE activity in the moathouse, Calmert is going to warn them off a return trip straight away, and hopefully I can steer them towards my mega-dungeon, which will be a little easier on them initially, and also includes more of the puzzles, tricks and traps I want to insert into the game.

I actually hadn't expected them to head for the moat house, or even know of it's existance, at this point, but they refused to take any hints I dropped about Dosmir seriously, showing far more interest in seeking out missions on behalf of patrons. I didn't feel it appropriate for anyone to task them to head down to Dosmir, hence allowing them the options of taking the moat house or Orlane jobs.
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Ikari Warrior
Validated User
Second Session

Note: First session was actually two weeks ago at the time of posting. Second session was this Saturday jsut past, so this brings things up to date.

Things have really started to come together. This session involved some big educational moments for the players, and -- in one of the best signs for the future of the campaign -- at the end of the night, quite a few players were somewhat shocked about how late it had become without anyone noticing.

How Not to Deal With an Ogre

Aftter chatting to a few people in Hommlet, the group ultimately decided to forget the moat house for a while and head south to check out Dosmir Abbey, where my megadungeon is situated. Glamchow also had a lengthy chat with Rufus (a local, retired, Lvl 6 Fighter, for those who don't know Hommlet), seeking some advice on successful adventuring, and, from amongst a range of advice, gleaned one piece of information that would have a dramatic impact on their further adventures: flaming oil is possibly the starting adventurer's most powerful asset. They dutifully stocked up, and did not regret the decision.

In the end, their first trip to the Abbey was a dismal failure. While exploring the upper works, they discovered that one of the outer towers was still in good condition, with a barred door. As they fiddled with the door trying to get it open, a voice boomed out from up above, "Who does dat? Who is dere?" Most of the guys back away, but did not respond at all to further challenges. When a rock came flying from an upper window, to strike the Gryl, Repath and Conan II decided to start trying to bust the door down, while most of the group started to prepare fore a hasty retreat (they had heard some questionable rumours about ogres in the vicinity, and guessed that this was the source of those rumours)

Soon thereafter, as the the Conan II and Redpath continued to pound on the door, it was opened and they found themselves toe-to-toe with an angry ogre. Several members of the group quickly suggested that an attempt should be made to parley. Redpath decided decisive aggression was required, and took a pitiful swing at the ogre. Conan II loyally stood by Redpath's side, and the two of them, plus the ranger's deerhound, went down fighting while the rest of the group beat a hasty retreat and fled back to Hommlet. The ogre was unscathed.

In the aftermath, I kindly pointed out that there was no reason whatsoever that the encounter had to turn violent, but that it was mismanaged from the start by all involved. With just a guess as to the nature of the voice calling out to them -- and a guess that presumed it was something pretty damn dangerous -- the group had decided, first, not to respond verbally to the ogre's challenge in any way and second, to escalate the situation with aggressive behaviour at his front door. I felt no remorse as two characters went down, and the group did learn a thing or two -- both regarding interaction with unknown forces, and also with respect to maintaining a unity of purpose within the group.

Let's Try That Again

Back in town, George the fighter replaced Conan II the fighter, and Redpath's player was busy picking through the equipment list to fit out his new Cleric/Thief. The latter player was likely to spend an hour or more buying equipment, so the group moved on while he did his stuff. They decided to return to Dosmir, intending to avoid the ogre and try and find a way down into the catecombs.

On their return, Zoar carefully scouted the ogre's tower area, checking for signs of his missing companions. A bloody trail clearly indicated they had been dragged into the tower, and there was no obvious sign of the ogre. Hunting kind-of-cautiously through the ruins, Ciaran suddenly realised that the group had brought Redpath's riding horse with them, and pointed out that, A: it couldn't come down into the dungeon with them and B: it would be taken by the ogre by the time they returned from below.

Soon thereafter, a voice called out from some distance away: "Who goes dere? What you want? Show yourselfs!" After a moments hesitation, Ciaran siezed the initiative, realising that he had to respond to the ogre this time, and that he had already devised a purpose built resolution to the current issue.

"We have brought you a horse!" he called out.

The group soon moved around to meet the ogre in the main courtyard and hand over their steed. Meanwhile, distant, muffled cries could be heard from within the tower. The horse transaction went smoothly, and the the magic user then made some polite enquiries about the cries coming from the tower and the possibility that his companions were therein. Redpath had been reduced to exactly 0-hp, which I treat as unconscious, not dying, and since the ogre had a dog and a human fighter to tide him over, in a fit of generosity I had decided that Redpath had been kept alive until needed. After indicating that he would swap Redpath the half-elf for a full-blooded elf (Zed), he eventually agreed to release the Redpath for 40pp. Not having nearly that much cash, the group ponied up most of what they owned, with an agreement that they would make up the difference within two days.

The beaten and bloodied Redpath was subsequently dragged out of the tower by his hair and returned, basically naked, to his companions. The decision was made to press on into the dungeon -- if for no other reason then the group was now about as close to completely and utterly destitute as they had been all campaign, and they needed some loot.

The first level of my megadungeon is a slightly expanded version of the DMG sample dungeon. Together with two mules (carting them around is eventually going to cause a problem, but for now they really do need the carrying capacity), a porter, a naked cleric/ranger, they descended to the first level.

The cobwebs hanging thick in the centre of the room immediately brought back visions of Conan I's death in the moat house, and the group carefully scanned the webs for signs of lethal spiders waiting to slaughter unsuspecting meals. A bullseye lantern was trained carefully into the webs, catching sight of a large, bulbous shape. Light was casting into the area, and volleyed missile fire made short work of the spider.

Ciaran was about to investigate some split sacks of rotting grain and flour, when Gryl interjected, suggesting he prod them a bit first with his ten foot pole. I was immensley proud. For those who aren't aware, there is a 25% chance listed in the DMG that those sacks contain yellow mould. I erred at this point, however, rolling for the chance and determining that no mould existed. I really should have ruled by fiat that the mould was there, and had it errupt while Gryl prodded away from a safe distance, reinforcing this intelligent play. I did congratulate him on smart play for his actions, but seeing a save-or-die effect being nullified would have had a more significant impact, and been more rewarding for the group, I'm sure.

After a bit of wandering and a random encounter with a couple of zombies that were dispatched efficiently, the group proceeded to identify and activate a secret door (not the one in the DMG). First, they used an iron spike to feel around in the hole, identifiying what seemed to be a horitontal metal bar or protrusion. An iron tent peg was then used to hook around the bar and pull it. Interestingly, they showed no hesitation about pulling a random lever with unknown effect, their main concern was to avoid sticking their hands in a hole in a gargoyle's (the inanimate kind) mouth to do so.

After some futher exploration, they stumbled into a goblin lair, and dispatched them pretty easily thanks to Glamchow's effective use of colour spray. "And, I'm done for the day," he commented.

Not much further along, they came across a larger group of goblins, and the flaming oil started to come out. The first flask thrown failed to burst, but Zed found a legitimate use for his magic-missile, using it to shatter the otherwise nicely placed flask. Meanwhile, Gryl went down, and was dragged out of the front line, but his wounds were not tended. As goblins burned, two hobgoblins entered the fray, and were quickly dispatched by more oil.

Untended, Gryl failed his mortal injury save (house rule), but it turned out that there was some confusion about how exactly my rules worked. I had been happy to have the character die as an object lesson (he could have been saved easily), but relented when everyone claimed to have misunderstood how my death and dying rules worked. They won't get any favours next time something similar happens, however. In any case, it's a situation that reinforced the dangers the group faces.

After the hobgobs went down in shrieking infernos, the remaining goblins surrendered and providing some potentially useful but slightly cryptic intelligence about dangrous areas within the dungeon. They also led the group to their treasure trove.

Aware, based on the visible sleeping arrangments, that there were probably still two hogboblins around somewhere, the group fell into debate about whether to press on or withdraw. Meanwhile, Glamchow ambushed and killed a (not-giant, -dangerous or -hostile) badger that stumbled onto the group.

It was eventually decided to pack up and go, but the group ran into a returning goblin patrol on the way out. The encounter occured in the first goblin lair, so the corpses arrayed around the area assisted with negotiations when the group decided they didn't really want another fight at this point. They ended up handing over about 150sp to keep the peace (having just acquired several thousands of sp, not a huge issue).

Carefully arraying their coins so that the hoard of copper was obvious, but the limited amounts of gold were well hidden, the group vacated the dungeon and were happy to avoid an ogre encounter. Returning to Hommlet, they divided the plunder, were not terribly happy with their haul, but were generally conent with the success of the expedition.

Sweet (and Profitable) Revenge

A decision was reached to go back and kick the ogre's arse. In the meanwhile, Glamchow bought a bottle of exorbitantly expensive wine for Rufus, to thank him for his advice. Flaming oil had won the day, and almost certainly prevented casualties.

The ogre ambush plan was fairly simple. A sack of copper coin would be placed in the abbey courtyard, well away from the ogre's tower, but close to the far wall. Most of the group would conceal themselves on the wall, ready to ambush with missile weapons and oil. Ciaran (who had realised that for general expeditions shield was going to prove much more useful than burning hands) found a reasonable use for his burning hands spell, and would use it to mass ignite a number of torches for throwing onto oil. Zoar, who was confident he could outpace the ogre, would knock on the door and lure him over to his payment, at which point the ambush would be sprung. Finally, Zed, sans armour and most of his gear, would spider climb up the tower, and hurl down oil to prevent the ogre from retreating back into the tower. After some haggling, they also managed to hire two mercenaries to supplement their firepower, although there was some consternation regarding how much it was costing them, with their supplies of ready cash still being quite low.

The ambush was sprung pretty much perfectly, although there were nervous moments as I asked for a variety of rolls from different characters for reasons I did not explain. The group ended up gaining three surprise segments, which enabled one crossbow shot from most of those involved, some (inacurate) oil tossing, and two longbow shots from the cleric/ranger. By the time the ogre was able to act, he was down to 7hp, and was fleeing. By the time he was out of the gate, he was down to two hp. Zoar pursued, occasionally taking ineffective shots with his sling. The ogre turned to try and deal with the monk, but he simply darted away, and the ogre resumed his frustrated flight. As he neared the group's encampment, where the porter and two mules waited, the monk being crying warnings. The porter fled and cowered in nearby rushes, while the ogre stopped to take his anger out on one of the mules (Gryl's beloved equine companion Trish). Trish went down, but a final, successful attack from the monk ended the ogre.

Investigation of the ogre's tower netted much of the lost character's gear, as well as the group's first real treasure haul. I made my second error of the night here, allowing a 6,000gp item of jewellery randomly rolled to form part of the hoard. It wasn't a critical error, as split 8-ways the total XP for the night only ended up being about 1,200, but the 3,000gp in coin would have been enough to keep everyone more than happy, I'm sure.

Allynra levelled as a result. I'm using high living rules rather than btb training, which basically means that characters need to waste money instead of paying training costs. Allynra (who follows Olidammara) put 1,000gp towards a massive party at the Welcome Wench, and I, in turn, pointed out that it should be clear at this point why prices in Hommlet are often inflated.

For completeness, I should mention that the trip back involved an encounter with some wild boars, which Glamchow blinded with colour spray, and the group high-tailed it away. A few were eager to kill at least one of the boars for feasting on, but wisdom prevailed.

And that was that. Session closed with everyone happy and a lot richer than when they started. A couple of characters are interested in heading back to Verbobonc to pick up some plate and mail, and I think the group overall is interested in using their current wealth to hire more men-at-arms and take a trip back to the moat house.

* * * * *

All told, as I mentioned in my opening, much was learned from mistakes, and there was also quite a bit of smart play between the stupid errors. There was too much lengthy debate at times while haning around in the dungeon, but it hasn't caused them problems ... yet.

It was especially good to see the magic users and illusionist finding uses for their spells and things to occupy themselves when not casting (the single-class magic user, Ciaran, is now an oil thrower).
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Eatin' the eyes first
Validated User
Subscribed! I can't wait to see more! I'm a huge fan of ToEE, so I look forward to more!

Chris Gardiner

Treasure Type Q
Validated User
This is fascinating! Great stuff!

Couple of questions:

How do the players who've lost characters take it, especially the one who's new to roleplaying? Are they discouraged at all, or has it served to up the stakes?

And once the spellcasters have chucked their spells what are they doing to contribute to combat (aside from the oil-throwing thing)?

I think it was good you left the 6000gp jewellery in - if the world doesn't care if the players are going up against monsters tougher than is sensible it shouldn't worry when they stumble over crazy ph4t l3wt, either! :)

I remember that swinginess of treasure to be a really exciting part of play - copper, copper, silver, copper, ALL THE GOLD IN THE WORLD! The party would have periods of absolute poverty and then wild spending splurges when they got a big haul - really reinforced the risk/reward vibe.


Ikari Warrior
Validated User
vultureboy[/quote said:
Subscribed! I can't wait to see more! I'm a huge fan of ToEE, so I look forward to more!
Welcome aboard.

This is fascinating! Great stuff!
Cheers. :cool:

How do the players who've lost characters take it, especially the one who's new to roleplaying? Are they discouraged at all, or has it served to up the stakes?
The new guy is the one playing the fighter(s) -- Conan, Conan II and George, and he took it all without a flinch -- he hasn't learned to become attached to PCs yet, and has a pretty open mind about the whole experience. Everyone else seems pretty cool with it. Given how divergent this game is from pretty much anything else I've ever run, I spent the last nine months or so, starting from when I made the firm decision to run the game, slowly building up a shared understanding of the game's intended style with my players. Part of that was making it clear that there would be PC deaths, and potentially quite few early on, and that part of developing a high level character would be losing some characters while forming an understanding of how the world functions and what a player needs to do to succeed.

Fortunately, that effort seems to have paid off, and everyone seems on board. They're certainly analysing their mistakes and learning from everything that happens -- good and bad -- rather than feeling helpless or unfairly persecuted.

And once the spellcasters have chucked their spells what are they doing to contribute to combat (aside from the oil-throwing thing)?
Not much, to be honest. The gnome spends most of his time in combat carefully (and occasionally rashly) manoeuvring to avoid melee, while the magic user looks for opportunities to play with oil. The people least involved directly at any time also tend to control the men-at-arms. But, combat is so quick, it's not really an issue. Last session there was an outdoor wandering monster encounter with 25 giant rats. With 35 combatants in total, it was something like 10 minutes between the first iniatiative check and the last attack roll.

I think it was good you left the 6000gp jewellery in - if the world doesn't care if the players are going up against monsters tougher than is sensible it shouldn't worry when they stumble over crazy ph4t l3wt, either! :)

I remember that swinginess of treasure to be a really exciting part of play - copper, copper, silver, copper, ALL THE GOLD IN THE WORLD! The party would have periods of absolute poverty and then wild spending splurges when they got a big haul - really reinforced the risk/reward vibe.
As mentioned, I don't think it was a serious error, and you make a good point. It will be interesting to see how much of that cash has dwindled away by the time they get their next big haul. Nearly a quarter of it is gone already, thanks to the cleric's high living and the monk's vow of poverty, and the ranger/cleric has plans to dump quite a bit of his as well in order to meet his requirements to only maintain portable wealth. Add in mounts for the entire group, a decent number of men-at-arms and plate-and-mail for most of the fighters and clerics, and I think we'll have a much better equipped but not excessively rich group.
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Ikari Warrior
Validated User
Redpath's player was feeling unwell and did not make it to this session; the rest of the group was present.

After some discussion of options, the group reached a consensus that a return trip to the Dosmir Abbey catecombs was in order. A couple of the guys were still keen on a return to the Moathouse, but it was generally agreed that goblins and kobolds were a safer bet than minions of the Temple of Elemental Evil.

With that out of the way, a considerable period was spent re-equipping and spending some cash. Further negotiation with the the seven cavalrymen staying at the Welcome Wench and seeking employment resulted in a one-month contract for the mercenaries -- 100gp/month base payment, a 10gp bonus for each man for each dungeon expedition (20gp for Torvus, the group's leader) and about 600gp was spent equipping them -- the vast bulk of that money going towards armour.

As part of the previous hiring arrangment, the two mercenaries that had accompanied them on the ogre hunt had taken possession of the equipment they had been provided, and there was a bit of grumbling from a few players that those two mercenaries had already sold that gear, but the process was mostly smooth. The mercs initially requested a single treasure share to be split amongst themselves, but the group had already decided unanimously against diluting their shares, and were quick to accept a flat per-expedition fee.

Some questions were then raised amongst the players as to whether any type of offensive action would accrue the 10gp expedition fee, but they didn't actually look for clarification on the matter from the mercs themselves.

Meanwhile, Zed and George both placed orders for plate and mail at the general store, accepting a 100% markup, a clear proviso that a perfect fit could not be guaranteed, and a delivery time of "up to a month".

The next issue of the night was securing the remainder of the group's loot. There was some paranoia as I asked how they were storing their stuff, and made some not-so-subtle remarks about their extravagent spending and well-known, highly successful ogre-hunt. Glamchow hired out a room at the Welcome Wench for a month, and both he and Gryl both bought chests and padlocks, with the intent of keeping their belongings there. Gryl though, still worried, ended up heading to the temple of St Cuthbert to see if they would be willing to hold his coin on his behalf. Calmert agreed, in return for a 10% tithe, and both Gryl and George followed suit with their wealth.

100% markups on 400gp armour, 10% banking fees, equipment costs for mercenaries, consumables for a group now numbering 15 + 2 mules ... separating PCs from their wealth really doesn't seem to be a complicated task. :)

To Dosmir Once More

The journey back to the Abbey was marked by a sudden cold snap, followed by a couple days of steady rain, but was otherwise uneventful. Their first taks on arriving was to carefully check to make sure the ogre's tower hadn't beeen reinhabited, before clearing out the remainder of it's filthy possessions and several hours moving rubble inside to form some internal barricades. Satisfied that they had a secure location to fall back to if necessary, a marching order was arranged and the group descended into the dungeon about an hour before sunset. However, unbeknownst to them, a small party of kobolds had emerged while they laboured on their defensive works, observed them briefly and then returned to warn their clan of the possible approach of adventurers.

The group showed an unexpected degree of caution as they retraced the steps of their previous forray, spending a considerable time checking the gargoyle-face secret door for traps and worried that new traps or ambushes had been placed along their path. Finally arriving back at the goblin lairs, the place had clearly been vacated.

At some point, a decision was made by Glamchow, as party mapper and/or Ciaran as party leader in Redpath's absence, that the purpose of this expedition would be to identify what was behind as many doors as possible, and to fill in as much of the map as possible, without moving too deep into the dungeon -- essentially attempting to fill out solid sections of the map rather then wandering too far away from known areas.

One of two doors to the north of the main goblin/hobgoblin lair was checked,revealing a junk-filled room. 400sp, some pan-pipes, a barbed whip and a horn where found in a trunk there, before the group back tracked to the first goblin hall and tried another door. This opened onto a room that had clearly been used as a latrine. It was determined that no fresh stools were present, and they decided to move through to the far door.

Knocking down a rickety bookshelf on the far side of the door as the moved into the next chamber, they broke a clay jug that had been filled with bark (they had discovered some bark-filled barrels on their previous trip, and began to wonder about strange goblin fetishes. Half-a-dozen large carniovore teeth lying on the floor nearby left them a little concerned.

Taking the passage beyond this room, they stopped to check a door along the way, and burst into a torture chamber were six goblins were torturing kobolds. The goblins were dispatched with little effort, the last one surrendering. The captured goblin was used to open a large cask, which contained another 400sp and a large iron medallion embossed with an unusual symbol. The goblin failed to provide much useful information, beyond the fact that the rest of his group had withdrawn "downstairs", and was slain.

A conscious kobold was then removed from a rack, and Glamchow attempted to get him to eat one of the sweatmeats that had been found in a leather satchel in the room. He refused, but when asked about traps and dangerous areas referred to the "bloody" corridor. Several members of the party recalled goblins mentioning a corridor with a red glow last session.

He also mentioned "monster men" who lived south of kobold home. Big, twisted. Not gnoll. Not ogre. Not men. Like man with claw and giant eyes -- mostly two eyes. As big as George (about 5'10"). They use clubs and swords and claw and teeth. No armour, just tough. Some hairy, some have horns.

Attempts were made to determine where exactly these things were with respect to the group's current location, but little clarity was reached. A discussion regarding stairs up and down caused confusion.

Ciaran showed off the teeth found earlier, and the kobold indicated they were from a "yip yip broow" -- smallish animals that the kobolds keep as pets, which drink blood and eat goblin flesh.

Ciaran shows it the teeth - it says "Yip yip broow." Smallish animals that kobolds keep as pets. They drink blood and eat goblin meat."

Finally, responding to questions of wealth and treasure, the kobold indicated that his people were basically broke. Satisfied there was nothing else to learn, and without Redpath present to urge compassion, the kobold was put out of it's misery.

Exploring further, a corridor with a faint red glow at the far end was discovered. At the same time, a group of kobolds or goblins was spotted some distance behind the group. Zoar loosed a sling shot, and the creatures darted away out of sight.

Guillotine, aka Gryl's Lucky Escape and a Lot of Time Wasting

It was decided that the red glowing corridor sounded far too dangerous to explore at present, and the group pressed on. Advancing down a short side-passage that appeared to open into a chamber beyond, Gryl suddenly felt a flagstone give way beneath a step, and (with a successful save) flung himself backwards as a huge metal blade slammed from the ceiling to the floor, neatly removing the tip of his boot as resounding clang echoed down the halls.

Very cautiously, Zoar began to prod the area with his pole, setting the trap off again. As the group considered their options, two bugbears, attracted by the noise, got the drop on the group and charged up the corridor. A hectic fight followed, during which Torvus the mercenary leader, whom the players had mocked for his 3hp, eviscerated one bugbear with a hit for 12 damage, and the group -- somewhat to everyone's surprise -- prevailed with only minor injury.

A consdirable period of time was then spent investigating the guillotine trap. Another side passage, just a short way further down the hall, was checked to see if it might offer safe passage -- the ancient, half-goblin corpse lying there made that appear very unlikely. Zoar went through several spears attempting to identify and mark danger spots, a bugbear was thrown into one of the corridors and turned into sushi, and a rack was carted from the torture chamber, pushed down one of the trapped halls, and split apart. A large number of wandering monster checks as the group procrastinated resulted in no encounters.

The group eventually scanned as much of the chamber beyond as they could, using the bullseye lantern, and spotted what appared to be a statue in the centre of the far wall.

Glamchow could not be convinced to creep down the trapped corridor while attemping to avoid the flagstones Zoar had marked, so eventually Zoar decided to jump the area (about 4' deep), and made it safely into the room beyond. He then spent half an hour carefully checking the floor for traps. Identifying some glinting from the eyes of the statue, he studiously avoided gazing at it's face, petrified that he might be petrified. Eventually, he crawled carefully beneath the statue to clean and read a plaque affixed there. It read "I, Voryis". The statue emitted a sinsister chuckle. Taking out one of the cloaks stolen from the Moathouse, he placed it over the statues head as it chuckled some more.

A general consensus was reached that the statues eye's were probably very valuable. Zoar was unwilling to make any attempt to remove them (or even examine them, beyond feeling them through the cloak), and no one else would even enter the room.

Eventually, the group elected to continue exploring further, and short way along found what they presumed was the bugbear lair, down a side hall laid out much the same as the Voryis statue chamber. No guillotine traps were detected. The bugbears kept some well-maintined, human-sized plate and mail as their prized possession, and George was more than happy to take possession, changing out of his mail hauberk while the group waited. Ciaran explored a shelf on which a variety of rancid meats, gnawed bones and severl grisly trophies, prodding at things with his dagger, but though I asked several times if anybody else was doing anything while George changed armour, no one bothered to look through the piles of brush and dry grass that made up the bugbear's beds -- the bugbear's main treasure stash went unfound.

Continuing further south, the group emerged back near the goblin lair, in the room with the demoniac mosaic and bright light shining from a domed ceiling. The room was not entered (the group, having seen the mosaic twice now, has yet to approach it). Glamchow became concerned that his map was 20' out, and a debate was held as the merits of repacing some corridors to correct the error. Eventually, it was decided to do so, and the error was reduced but not entirely eliminated. Glamchow's player seemed to consider this a potentially serious problem, no one else seemed terribly concerned.

Glowing Orbs, Riddles and Yet More Timewasting. Also, Don't Open That Door

Another side room was checked, and the group found a font containing clear water. No one made even the most off-hand suggestion that maybe someone should take a sip, or seemed mildly interested in it. A decision was made to go investigate the red glow.

A few goblin corpses were retrieved from the torture chamber and hurlded down the dusty side corridor. A careful advance was then made towards the source of the glow. Six doors, alternately left and right, and marked with greek letters (Talpha, beta, delta, pi, psi and omega) were spaced down the corridor, which led to a chamber containing a red-glowing orb on a pedestal. Glamchow, in an uncharacteristic display of boldness, decided to skirt the edges of the room and investigate a plaque on the far wall.

The plaque was enscribed with common:

How I wish I could
Elucidate, oh sphere!
Count, for worth appears.

[The puzzle is based on an almost identical one from Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage. In his version, Joseph uses what I believe is a pre-existing riddle; the riddle I used is original but provides the same answer. In any event, Joseph deserves credit for the overall setup being used here. The Castle of the Mad Archmage work-in-progress can be found at Joseph's blog: http://greyhawkgrognard.blogspot.com/ ]

The group then spent an extended period converting greek letters to numbers by various means, calling out answers, grasping the orb and callign out answers and generally wasting time. I rolled several random encounters, coming up with kobolds almsot every time. Since I knew the kobolds wouldn't actually come down this corridor, they loitered nearby but did not seek to engage the party, nor were they detected.

Eventually, Ciaran decided to try opening the doors in alphabetical order. Dropping most of his gear and bracing himself against the wall, he thrust the alpha door open -- to reveal a swirling void attempting to suck him to his doom. Although he did not have any sort of strength bonus, I decided to allow him a +1 bonus to his save for his cautious, braced position. Nevertheless, Zoar watched as the magic user was sucked away to oblivion, the door slamming shut behind him.

With incredible eloquence, the group record-keeper notes, "We decide to leave the doors alone."

How Not to Parley

With Ciaran's demise, it is decided that enough time has been wasting, and the group heads north to more unexplored regions. A yipping and hissing is heard behind a door, and the group decides to try a door opposite, heading down a long corridor to a chamber containing a wrought iron chandelier, and a dead kobold near a blackened iron kettle. A few coins are scattered around the floor, and there is a faint sulphrous odour in the room. There is some talk about lowering the chandelier, but eventually the group simply collects the coins and prepares to return the way they came.

Just before they set off, a dozen kobolds with two creatures looking like squat, powerful dogs, enter the corridor. There is no line of retreat, and the "yip yip raars" the kobolds have with them look dangerous. Glamchow calls out, "Parley! Parley!" and the group agrees he has chosen a wise course of action.

Glamchow explains that the party is there to kill goblins, and the kobolds indicate that they will allow the group to continue to do so, for a fee. Glamchow (it turns out later) believes that kobolds are nothing but cowardly and worthless, and basically tells them to bugger off. "If you want our treasure, you'll have to come and get it". The "yip yip raars" are released and charge down the corridor. They turn out to be giant weasels. A couple crossbow bolts are released into them as the approach, and then they crash into the front line, made up at this point mostsly of men-at-arms, who at least have their spears set. Several of the party's attacks hit home, but a man-at-arms goes down immediately. Another goes down, and the weasels are tearing into them. Glamchow presses forward to colour spray them, but one saves and the other, while blinded, is happy to continue to savage the first man at arms. After the first weasel is finally dropped, five kobolds loose javelins at the group, and Glamchow is dropped. The second weasel is taken down, and the men-at-arms pass a couple of morale checks. Gryl and Zed are dragging the fallen to safety and binding wounds, while the rest of the group has little option but to charge the kobolds. Another wave of javelins is thrown as the the group rushes to close, and Zoar stays up only thanks to successfully deflecting the first javelin that comes his way.

Once the kobolds are engaged in melee, the tide turns swiftly, but these kobolds turn out to be a stalwart lot, and none flee as the party wades through them. The last, howevever, begins a fighting retreat, out of the passage to the far door, opening it and crying for reinforcements as he is cut down. The lead memmbers of the party see a long hall -- and possibly some orcs -- through hte doorway. The group them spends an inordinate amount of time arranging to evacuate the dungeon. Forntunately, unbeknownst to them, their enemies are preparing to defend their lair, not to launch another attack. The party eventually organises it's withdrawal, tossing flaming oil behind them to to cover the retreat.

Turning a corner near the exit, the group stumbles into two more kobolds, and decide to await the kobolds' action instead of taking the offensive. These kobolds, heavily outnumbered, sprint away, and the party makes good their exit, barricading themselves in the tower to wait out the night. By some good fortune, Glamchow and the two wounded men-at-arms are incapacitated, but not dead.

The next day, the group began the return journey to Hommlet, where the loot was divided and each man ended 11gp richer (before expenses). Calmert is less than impressed when Gryl turns up at the temple to go through his loot, take some out and put some more in, explaining that the temple of St Cuthbert is not a casual treasure storage facility. He removes his chest, and Ostler, proprietor of the Welcome Wench, agrees to store it for him, although he makes it clear that -- while he will not act dishonestly -- he does not take responsibility in the event of theft or accident.

Meanwhile, when asked about his feelings on the expedition, Torvus indicates he is mostly pleased, but concerned with the way his men formed the bulk of the front line during the final fight. Several of the PCs get their backs up at this, and relations with the mercenaries take a bit of a turn for the worse. Things are later smoothed out a little when the PCs actually listen to Torvus and determine he's not having a huge bitch and moan, simply endeavouring to ensure that his men won't be expected to take the brunt of the risk on a regular basis, but relations quickly sour again when the mercenaries don't want to pay their medical expenses out of their own pocket (a paltry 10gp the group can easily afford, I might add) and George continues to grumble under his breath about their attitudes.


All up, it was kind of a strange session. A lot of things were bypassed, not really explored or outright ignored, while a lot of time was wasted getting nowhere with the red-glow riddle, carting torture equipment about the dungeon to play with the guillotine and the like. Treasure, secret locations and clues were ignored thanks to a seemingly random and arbitrary exploration process. Ten minutes were spent checking for traps on a secret door previously bypassed safely, while several new rooms were given little more than a cursory glance.

The kobold encounter was an utter failure, risking life and limb to no useful purpose whatsoever, and all but eliminating any chance that the group can form an alliance, or at least uneasy peace, with the kobolds.

That encounter also seems to have left the group a little gunshy, and one player voiced the opinion that maybe they should wait until more characters are level 2 before returning to the Abbey. The counterpoint, immediately raised, was that getting to level 2 will probaly require going back to the Abbey.

It will be interesting to see what they decide next session, and whether their exploration and investigation skills improve.

Oh, another strange decision was that, back in town, Alyndra showed Burne a sketch of the red-glow corridor doors with their symbols, looking for any insight. She did not, however, mention what the sketch actually represented (so, Burne just saw two rows of random letters), or the associated riddle. I'm not sure what the player was trying to achieve there.

On a final note, Zed inherited Ciaran's spell book. I wonder if the thought of sharing spells will now occur to the group. Earlier in the session, Ciaran was talking to Burne about learning magic missile from him. Burne doesn't happen to know magic missile -- but Zed does. It never crossed anyone's mind that maybe Ciaran could learn it from Zed.
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Ikari Warrior
Validated User
Some interesting email discussion going on the moment. Here are a couple of the more illuminating emails.

Glamchow said:
So we had a pretty low yield adventure last session and we lost a magic user.

Do we still think dungeoneering is the most profitable course of action open to us?
I tend to feel that it is, particularly if we research the red hall puzzle enough to feel we've got a good chance at opening it, and also if anyone is game enough to gaze upon that statue (maybe a mirror?)

I spoke to Geoff about it and my feeling is that we're probably capable of finishing off the kobolds if we use flaming oil and don't have to push down a long corridor under javelin fire.
Our main motivations for taking them out being:
1 - They probably hate us (more) now and live right next to our exit. Further dungeon expeditions are likely to meet with ambushes if we ignore them.
2 - Taking them out offensively will likely be easier than dealing with them when they chose to ambush us (getting a colour spray and some flaming oil into a room full of them would to a ton of damage)
3 - If there's really orcs in there running a number of kobolds, then there's probably a moderate amount of coinage and equipment to be looted.

Lastly I again apologize for my miscalculation on the kobolds. To give you an overview of my thought process, I figured that kobolds were pathetic fighters, and that each of us was worth 3 maybe 4 of them in a fight (we certainly carved them up pretty effectively once the 4 fighters got close to them) and I figured the weasels at the size of dogs were likely to be single hit dice, relatively weak combatants, more powerful than goblins, but certainly less powerful than say, zombies.

With that assessment I figured we had them massively outclassed, and thought we could intimidate them out of fighting us and possibly into paying us some sort of tribute to leave them alone. If I'd known there was no chance in hell of them letting us out of there without a fight or some money, then I definitely would have chosen to give them some silver (maybe up to a few hundred silver) and then explored the rest of the dungeon and killed the kobolds later.
Alynra said:
Dungeoneering is risky, but unless we invest in the time required to go somewhere else completely I say we keep plugging away at the moathouse or the abbey - not too fussed either way myself.

We only need one more moderately sized haul to get our fighter up to level 2 which could help a lot, and not much more than that for the monk to gain a level. It's a damn shame that the Mage lost so much of his XP* otherwise he'd be close to level 2 as well.

I'd suggest that we invest in a few large pouches and fill them with silver to use as bribes.

No risk no reward is pretty much the catchphrase for AD&D, but the only death we suffered was due to a risky act by the mage (noting that Gryl had a 65% chance of copping a guillotine in the head and getting mashed). Combat sapped resources, but it was us not being sufficiently careful that lost us a character - although admittedly I don't think any of us could have predicted Ciaran's demise.

More flaming oil and better preparation are required - I think we may have been lulled into a false sense of security by the presence of the mercs. Certainly I didn't feel that we were on guard enough during that session - not enough people paying close attention to what was going on (I know I certainly missed bits while attempting to chronicle).

As Phil noted in the preamble notes, repeated entries into a dungeon are not really a good option - because it stirs up the occupants. That said, I don't see too many options for Dosmir Abbey - it's apparent that this is a very deep dungeon and we're pretty low on HP.**

Perhaps the moathouse is worth another look.
*Replacement characters begin with 25% of the previous character's xp.
**Although I'm trying not to influence the group's decisions, I did point out in response to this that I think they've been doing a good job pressing on a far as possible on each expedition, and that the "enter, nova, withdraw, rest, return" mentality is what I was trying to avoid with the notes Allynra's player is references.
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