They’re Coming to the Barrow

I was planning to run the conclusion of the Tower of the Stargazer; Only one of the members from last session was present. There were four other players that wished to join (a group of high school students that play D&D 5E together). So I reached into my bag of tricks pulled out:

  • Random 1st level characters for them
  • Barrowmaze‘s random barrow generator

“Barrowmaze Complete” by Greg Gillespie

Early in the session, two of the players needed to leave. I was looking forward to playing with them but commended them for stopping early on a school night. I hope they are able to join me on Saturday’s DCC funnel.

The Cast

  • Argyle the tax collector, Willy the undertaker, Marcus the mercenary, Andy, Charles
  • Jeffrey, Alexander III, Jack the herbalist, Sophia, Alex the woodcutter
  • Knotty the rope maker, Hendar the radish farmer, Keith, Knead the baker, Knoll the elven sage

Session Open

The characters are from the village of Oakwood Mire, north of the Barrow Ward and east of Hirot. Hearing news of people finding riches in Bitterweed Barrow, they set out to make their fortune.

The village of Bitterweed Barrow has experienced a rash of young fools going off on adventures. Some 80 villagers of the 200 or so, have gone off to adventure. And less two dozen have survived. The villagers are straining under the loss of labor and villagers.

The adventurers from Oakwood Mire arrive to a town uncertain of its future. The owner of the Bloody Bullfrog Tavern, Solomon Gruth III, has begun expanding his tavern to include a flophouse. It looks as though he anticipates an influx of travelers.

Constable Dunk is ever vigilant about vagrants, and threatens the adventurers that he’ll kick them out if they don’t leave by sundown. Some time is spent navigating the village:

Alexander III and Jeffrey seek the wizard; He is not taking visitors. And grows agitated at their insistency. They notice he is having tea with a frog-headed man.

This is an unusual DCC opening for me. I wanted to narrate a bit about the changes in Bitterweed Barrow. This worked, but I should’ve dove straight into the dungeon crawling part. With so many characters, the adventurers were scattering all throughout the barrow.

They settle down and spend the night in a barn. In the morning, a frog-headed man comes to the barn and introduces himself as Varooth Moss. He draws a hasty map and asks them to retrieve a viridian pearl. All other grave goods are theirs to keep.

Frog-headed humanoid with wand and wizard robes

Varooth Moss by Jon Marr

To the Barrow

They ask around for a sledge hammer, and find that a laborer named Zeff is the owner of the one sledge hammer in Bitterweed Barrow. They try to strike a deal, promising wealth upon their return, but he’d rather have the 5gp today than 2gp today and have to get 20gp from a corpse.

They secure rations and some padded armor; I grin as I realize they will have one solid light source (waiting on my Veins of the Earth physical copy so I can better explore lighting).

The 15 would be adventurers strike out to a barrow 2 miles west of Nebin Pendlebrook’s home. Set amongst a small copse of trees, they spend a half-hour with the sledge and iron spike to gain entrance. Stale air greets them as they see stairs leading into the dark. They light a lantern and begin their descent. One character pulls out their chalk and starts marking their path on the wall.

Into the Barrow

D&D map of four geometric rooms

Map of the Barrow of the Writ of Orcus

First Room

The first room is triangular in shape. The floors are dry. In the room they see 5 woven baskets. Knotty approaches the first basket. After a bit of gentle poking and prodding, flips the lid revealing weevils and rotten grain. Another character does the same to the second basket. Again weevils and rotten grain.

A third approaches and slides their sword into the basket. He meets resistance but feels a shift and pushes a bit further. He flips the lid revealing a basket of skulls. He grabs one.

The fourth approaches and jams their scissors into the basket. He meets hard resistance and snaps his scissors. Opening the basket reveals 1000 cp. They begin filling a large bag.

The fifth approaches, flipping the lid, revealing more rotten grain.

I am a bit surprised that they didn’t flip the baskets over and look for loot.

They decide to explore the heavy wooden door on their left. A bit of cautious inspection and they pull the door open.

Second Room

The room is 10 feet wide and runs 50 feet to a pedestal. On the pedestal they see the faint reflection of an orange gem. They notice that light appears dampened in this room. On both sides of the room are small burial alcoves, each about a foot wide and a foot tall. A quick estimate and they think there are about 450 of these.

With senses tingling, they discuss a plan. The lantern will remain back and someone will enter. Knotty goes in and proceeds with caution. Almost immediately a dark shadow darts out and strikes Knotty. I call for initiative and the shadow wins. It strikes Knotty again. Knotty gives up and flees back out of the room.

The shadow does not appear to follow. They decide to try their luck in the next room (the door to the north).

Third Room

They open the door and there is a similar room; Instead of a pedestal, there is an altar with a large vellum scroll resting on it. There is no dampening of light in this room.

Again, another plan. Two will enter the room. Willy crawling along the ground looking for traps on the ground, the other a few feet back with a lantern attached to the end of a ten-foot poll. About halfway into the room, Willy sits up and snaps a wire set at about mid-thigh. A burst of gas erupts. They both save versus the poison gas.

They flee the room and wait 5 minutes, and throw the hen in. It flaps through the room, lands, turns around and walks back. With the hen-reinforced “all clear”, they return to the room.

Willy approaches the altar and sees ruins on the base. They are dwarven ruins but the language is not dwarven. He makes out the following: For/of great/power Orcus. He is keen on the scroll and the bone scroll case behind it, and looks around for any traps. He then grabs a few coins and does the old switch-a-roo; He has the scroll and a 8 coins are now on the altar.

As they are leaving the room, Hendar decides to look in one of these burial alcoves. He catches the faintest glint of gold in the mouth of a skull. Reaching in, the skeleton bits his hand, killing him from fright and shock. It proceeds to chomp on his arm.

The survivors make haste to leave the room.

Willy begins studying the Holy Writ of Orcus; And is trying to transcribe parts of a spell that may be used to inflict harm.

Fourth Room

Again, they approach the door with caution, and after inspection pull open the door. A hallway runs 10 feet and opens into a rectangular room running 20 feet deep and 30 feet wide.

On the floor are six raised stone slabs, each with an identical skeletal arrangement. Alexandar III and Jeffrey (the lantern bearer if memory serves) first enter and inspect one of the slabs. There is a tension at the table. They know something will happen.

Each of the skeletal remains have 2 coins and a dark gem inside the arrangement. Willy Charles, Knotty, and Knoll all enter to better inspect and perhaps loot. Greed gets the best of them, and someone reaches for the gem. An unholy voice howls “Do not defile!”, the door slams shut, and the skeletons begin to animate.

I call for initiative, and the skeletons go first. The bones shuffle and assemble into human for, the ruby gem pulses inside their rib cage; Instead of eyes, two gold coins ooze blood and vengeance. They attack.

The skeleton misses Knotty, but slays Knoll, Jeffrey, Alexander III. They pass over Willy (the one who has been studying the Holy Writ of Orcus). Another tense moment when the lantern bearer falls – Would the lantern fall and shatter plunging everyone into darkness? I call for a luck check, and in death Jeffrey is successful; The lantern clatters safe to the floor.

Hearing screams everyone bolts into action. They bring the sledge hammer down on the skeleton (Nat 14 and a critical; A luck check spares the ruby). Others take stabs but their blades are less effective. With scissors in hand, Knotty runs to the door and bangs on it. The others, springing to action, burst the door open, knocking Knotty back and rattling her head for 1 HP of damage.

Sustaining heavy losses, they dispatch the skeletons. There are 7 survivors (though one of them fled above ground). The six in the carnage loot and split treasure.

Splitting the Party

Some chose to re-enter the room with the shadow and orange gem. Others decided to begin burying the bodies of the dead.

They hatch a plan. They throw the Hendar’s orphan hen into the room. The shadow strikes (and drains the hen dead). They throw holy water followed by a pound of flower, and the shadow takes form. They then attempt to burn the shadow, throwing a burning suit wrapped log. It misses the shadow but the flour explodes.

They launch into their fallback plan. Alex makes a mad dash for the orange gem. The shadow strikes once as he runs in and grabs the gem. On Alex’s retreat, the shadow strikes again delivering a critical hit – “PC disarmed. Weapon lands 1d12+5’ away.” The gem rolls away. Alex chases it down as the shadow continues to strike and drain his strength. Alex dashes across the room, crossing the threshold into the entry room. The shadow gives up pursuit. They gather around and notice gem is in fact a green pearl.

Conclusion

I know I did something right when I hear something to the effect of “I think I’m in love with DCC!” It looks as though a few of these characters may continue adventuring.

Survivors

Somehow Knotty survived (Str 6, Agi 9, Sta 8, Int 10, Per 4, Luc 3, 2 HP) and made it to level 1. We agreed she would retire.

The other survivors include:

  • Keith, Alex, Jack, Sophia who all reached 10 XP
  • Argyle and Marcus reached 8 XP

In Memorandum

  • To Hendar who reached for treasure and lost a hand and life to an animated voracious skull
  • To Willy who clung to the sacred writ of Orcus while a ruby skeleton shredded his throat
  • To Andy, Charles, Jeffrey, Alexander III, Knoll, and Knead who fought bravely yet died to the ruby skeletons

Rulings

A player wanted to use their sledgehammer as a weapon. I ruled that it did 1d12 damage (though I think it should be 2d6), but imposed a -2d to the attack. There were 2 hits with the weapon and one miss. Not bad! (The players needed more bludgeoning weapon).

When you are a lantern bearer and die, make a Luck check to not break the lantern. If you succeed it lands safely lit. Otherwise it breaks, the oil burns bright and fast for one round and then goes out.

Action Items

I continue to come back to Bitterweed Barrow. I believe it is time to write up a brief document / worksheet that can help me better run scenes in Bitterweed Barrow as well as record names and places I mention.

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Tower of the Stargazer [Session 5]

The Cast for this Session

There were six players and 15 or so characters.

People gathered around a table, listening to a Judge describe the in game situation.

Good Luck With That…

Leveled Characters

  • Ungo the Beggar (1st-level thief)
  • Ahmal the Witness of Cthulhu (1st-level cleric)
  • Obexa the Agent (1st-level dwarf)
  • Spike the Acolyte of Ramat (1st-level cleric)
  • Ralph Quickfingers – an inquisitive halfling haberdasher (1st-level halfling)
  • Quinlynn the Unlucky – an elf sworn to the King of Elfland (1st-level elf)
  • Badger’s Bane – human trapper (1st-level Thief)

The Villagers

Albert, Bartholemew, Calvin, Dave, Krem, Ilvora, Stemp, Chance, Yeasty,Lord Scuttlebutt

Those crossed out did not survive the adventure.

The Session

A Bit of Background

This group of characters is an amalgam of three 0-level character funnels:

As well as survivors of the Harley Stroh’s “Doom of the Savage Kings

I’ve treated each of those as having taken place in the village of Bitterweed Barrow. Buried in this sleepy little corner of the world is evidence of past civilizations.

A hex grid with five filled hexes mapping a small region.

The Known World as of Session 4

Back to Bitterweed Barrow

Having left Hirot after defeating the Hound of Hirot and framing Iraco, the characters returned to Bitterweed Barrow. I advanced the time a month (to reflect that we’ve been playing for over a month

During this downtime:

  • Ralph fashioned an ostentatious hide armor made from the silver wolf skin pelt he found
  • Other villagers had explored another barrow (Joan ran Portal Under the Stars in my absence)
  • People were equipping themselves with hide or leather armor and shields
  • Everyone was restless for more adventure
  • Nine more villagers wanted to take up the life of adventuring. I wonder how many more villagers will hear the siren song of adventuring?
  • Joseph, the drunken farmer, spoke again about a two-headed goat birth and green eyes (See second session for more details)
  • Quinlynn’s player, Erich, asks if he has any recollection of a previous time of two-headed goat births.
    • I made a quick ruling for Elven Lore based on something mentioned in Spellburn #46. I will be formalizing this.
    • XXX recalls at that time helping a wizard who was building a tower north of Bitterweed Barrow; He wanted precisely cut reeds from the fens.
  • Ahmal the Witness of Cthulhu hands over two radiant sacred Ramati scrolls to Spike the Acolyte of Ramat (See side-trek session for more details)
    • I asked for a Luck check for Ahmal; She passed. On a failure Cthulhu would’ve taken notice and disapproved.
    • I’m working towards paying greater attention to character alignments and decisions.
  • Recollection of the Tale of the Barrow Wives

    Deep and ancient magic infuses the funerary rituals of mighty warriors and great leaders. One of these rituals involves the self-sacrifice of a lover of the deceased. The lover is ritually killed and buried in the loamy foundation of their beloved’s barrow; To sooth and serve their deceased lover for the eons.

After a bit, they embarked, choosing to seek the tower of the wizard.

Roadside Reconciliation

For my session prep, I wrote up some procedures for the hex crawling near Bitterweed Barrow. The first hex, they rolled a 1 for their chance at an encounter.

The adventurers see a road-side shrine, like the one that Ungo looted earlier. Ralph urges Ungo to make things right and return those coins. Ungo agreed, and unlike last time, threw caution to the wind and placed the coins in the bowl without careful inspection. The bowl tilted and a crossbow bolt shot from the brush, sinking deep in Ungo’s thigh.

A roar of “Attack!” and a dozen camouflaged bandits burst up, throwing javelins. I should’ve made some rolls for the elves. Several javelins stick, three of the villagers drop dead. The adventurers rally and make a counter attack. Ungo and Ahmal attempting to flank, other villagers charging the bandits, slings bullets launching.

The first tide-turning event is Quinlynn casting Sleep (with the mercurial magic effect of healing 1d6 HP of everyone within 30′). He’s 3 points shy of getting the spell off, and Ralph offers up 2 points of Luck (one will be permanent). Ephemeral swan wings embrace the bandit hero and gentle drop him off to sleep.

The remaining bandits check morale, and press on! Ralph charges into the fray, picking off one of the bandits. The bandits respond and fell a few more villagers and Badger’s Bane.

Spike steps over Badger’s Bane and casts Holy Sanctuary (a cautious move given that Badger’s Bane is of an opposing alignment). Obexa charges a cluster of bandits with a mighty deed of “I want to cleave into the other”. He hits his deed and the attack and splatters two of the bandits.

Ahmal rushes over to save Badger’s Bane; A bandit harries Ahmal, but ultimately Ahmal heals Badger’s Bane. Ungo guts one of the bandits. The bandits check morale, and feel. They call for a retreat.

The adventurers, battered and bruise, pound their shields and drive off the bandits. As the bandits flee, Quinlynn casts another sleep spell, catching two more bandits (and healing the adventurers).

The adventures spend some time looting the corpses (upgrading to studded leather and scimitars), tying up the survivors, and preparing a funeral pyre for the four slain villagers and dead bandits.

One player’s characters all died, so I reached into the envelope of 0-level characters and pulled out Dave the Woodcutter. He had heard the commotion and came to investigate; He decided to join the adventurers.

As the brigand leader stirs awake, still bound, Spike approaches him. “You have done bad things. I want you to repent in the name of Ramat.” I call for a DC 15 Personality check, and he aces it. The brigand leader is a convert of Ramat. He goes to convert his fleeing crew.

A Strange Roadside Encounter

As they enter the next hex, I ask for a d6. Again a 1.

As they press forth, they come to the King’s Way and see a lone traveller. They hail him. And he responds in a stilted manner.

The adventurers immediately think “Zombie” and I clarify. No its more jerky motion. “Like a marrionette?” asked Erich. “Yes that!”

I have some fun pantomiming a very herky jerky man. And talking with a not entirely in control voice. I’m aiming for Vincent D’onofrio in “Men in Black”

Spike attempts to turn unholy to no effect. The adventurers choose to let this “man” continue his trip towards Hirot. And they continue towards the wizards tower.

Approaching Tower of the Stargazer

From here on out are spoilers for James Raggi IV’s “Tower of the Stargazer“.

A forboding tower being struck by lightning. A lone person contemplates ascending the stairs to the tower.

“Tower of the Stargazer” written by James Raggi IV. Cover art by Peter Mullin.

As they approach the tower towards the evening. They note the lightning striking it and the immediate surroundings, even the the sky is clear.

Ralph and Ungo decide to approach the stairs and doors to the tower. They move cautiously, noting a body just west of the tower. At the door they spend some time investigating the knocker, the door frame, the floor, and the door itself. As Ungo is about to pull the serpentine handles, Ralph suggests they knock on the knocker. A loud “Bong” reverberates and the door opens to a meticulously kept waiting room with two doors.

First Floor

The rest of the party ascends the stairs and enters the waiting room. Yeasty lights her torch. In this room, one of the characters curious about illusions jabs a knife into a table. It appears to be real.

They open one door in the waiting room to discover a moldering closet with outdated clothes. They take the other door. It opens to a dining room with fine china, bottles of wine, a statue of a King and Medusa from a popular myth.

There was a wicked King who loved a Medusa. And she loved him. Together they grew powerful. And in this power they grew to resent each other. The King one day betrayed the Medusa and had her killed. In her dying breath she cursed his lineage, and on the 18th birthday each of his children, serpents kill each of them.

They spend a bit of time exploring. Ralph checks out the four wine bottles. They are of an old vintage. Spike continues to advise that they leave them here and can get them as they leave. Ralph, deaf to Spike’s suggestions, pops open a bottle and smells the sweet fragrance of a fine wine. He corks it and puts it back.

Second Floor

They head up the stairs to a servants quarter. They see a table, oven, corridor to other chambers, and stairs going up, with a notable oozing splotch of blood. They explore the servants quarters and find a journal written by Argyle Timmons. It details the day to day activities of the tower. The last entry, some 59 years ago ends with Argyle saying that he is going to flee Sir Uravulon Calcidius. Sir Calcidius, the wizard, has turned murderous and spiteful. They also find a key.

This jogs a bit of Ilvora’s memory; Argyle was a villager that took over helping Sir Calcidius when the tasks became rather onerous:

  • fetch the placenta for a girl birth from a mother that was a first-born
  • gather a rams horn fill with the blood of the ram after you have bludgeoned it to death by the horn

Third Floor

They gather themselves and approach the stairs and the door at the top. They note that blood continues to ooze from the key hole. They try the key and hear a “cling” as they push another key out of the other side of the keyhole. A quick use of parchment and they scrape up the key.

A white bearded wizard trapped in a circle of salt.

“Sir Uravulon Calcidius” by Dean Clayton

They open the door and see a white bearded wizard standing inside of a circle of salt. At this point, the players have a clear idea the Sir Calcidius is not a nice guy. But he starts out friendly and willing to pay them to free him. As they goad him, his anger rises, the veins on his forehead throb and he turns red as he proclaims “Free me now or I will scatter your souls across the cosmos.”

The adventurers proceed to goad him and prod him, exploring his quarters (and taking the 5,000 gp Star Crystal). He responds with equal parts anger, nihilism, and contrition. On a stand they find a book titled “Communications and Signaling the Beyond”. It goes on and on about the existence of other planets and their possible fauna and flora. And means of communication, though perhaps through other planes. A blathering of pseudoscience, if science were a defined concept in this world.

The adventurers checkout the door and find what appears to be an elevator shaft. Ralph, Ungo, and Quinlynn offer to explore (none of them need Yeasty’s torchlight).

Going Up

There are two doors on the 4th level. One towards the center of the tower, the other towards the edge. They choose the center. It opens into a study room with tables. On the table is a book “Surviving the Interorbular Ether”, it is a dense read. There are two doors. They open one, and hear a woosh and are greeted with the scent of stale air. It is a library. There are countless books on three major subjects:

  • Glass
  • Light
  • Metalworks

There is another door leading what would appear to be to the room that was accessible from the elevator shaft. They open that door. It is a chilly room with a wooden box. They open the box and feel a blast of cold air. Inside are 12 vials. Ralph inspects one. It looks like blood. As he holds it, the blood ripples a bit. He checks the other vials. All of them are blood. Not overly curious, he puts them back and they leave the room, heading back to the study.

Take a Chance

They take the other door and enter a room with a table and two chairs, one facing them, the other ready for someone to sit in. To their left, a door with crackling energy barring its entrance. A ghost appears and said “Beat me at a game of chess and I will give you access. Lose and your soul is mine.”

The adventure gave some guidance; But with time running short, I offered a deal. You’ll roll a d20 to determine the results of the chess game. My initial terms were on a 1 to 15 you lose your soul. On a 16 to 20 you win and get 15 XP. I didn’t mention if burning luck would be an option. Chance opted to play. He rolled a 3 (and didn’t have enough luck to make up the difference). He disintegrated and reappeared as the ghost.

This time I offered 10 XP for 50/50 odds. Ralph thought about it, and sat at the table. And rolled natural 1. Poof. Quick thinking Quinlynn Invoked the King of Elfland. A quick errand from his shadow to Elfland (for the spellburn), and Quinlynn stepped back to offer Ralph guidance on the midgame and helped coach him. I gave Ralph a re-roll and increased his success range from 11+ to 6+. He rolled a 12. Chance’s ghost and the chessboard disappear and the force field to the other door blinks out of existence.

Having run out of time, we stopped there. I awarded 9 XP to the survivors.

Concluding the Doom of the Savage Kings [Session #4]

This Thursday was the conclusion of “DCC #66.5 Doom of the Savage Kings” by Harley Stroh.

Dungeon Crawl Classics - Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

My instincts told me this session could be a bit challenging; I would be starting the session after the now open-ended conclusion of chaotic scheme of distraction, misdirection, arson, and ultimately triumph. We had ended on a high note, and we would need to work together to draw the characters together.

The situation was:

  • Ungo the Thief and Obexo the Dwarf were captive of Iraco.
  • Arrick was with the Jarl.
  • Someone burned two buildings.
  • Someone attempted to burn the palisade.
  • The adventurers had slain the Hound of Hirot (Quinlynn, Ralph, Odin, Eustice, Snips and other villagers)
  • Unbeknownst to Iraco, the adventurers reclaimed the Wolf-Spear.

I spent a bit of time during the week thinking on this charged situation, and came up with some potential directions. At the start of the session the players would roll a d6 three times. Each number that came up would be one piece of information that the Jarl and villagers would piece together.

Details proved in the body of the blog post

A mind map and random table for session 4

d6 The NPCs learn the following
1 Jarl Henrick learns of Nori talking with Arrick at the house
2 Jarl Herick learns from Merric of Arrick and others coming over the wall (except Quinnlyn as he had charmed Merric)
3 Iraco has a chance of finding a trace of Ralph being in his house (Ralph will need to make a Luck check)
4 The armorer Armond comes to the Jarl saying he believes the adventurers robbed him
5 Sylle Ru has consulted the portents and places the fires occurrence on Quinlyn
6 Roll 2d4 – 1) Oleen the Imp, 2) Catkins, 3) Wee Tocs, or 4) Wolf will approach the Jarl or Iraco with information about who they saw earlier that night (namely Arrick causing mayhem at the house).

With a charged situation, and many players, I also knew I wanted to plan out some relationship graph (who would betray whom) as well as write up instincts motivating each major player.

Instincts and Relationship Graph

Starting the Session

The players rolled 2, 2, 6:

  • Jarl Herick learns from Merric of Arrick and others coming over the wall (except Quinnlyn as he had charmed Merric).
  • Oleen the Imp and Wee Tocs would approach the Jarl or whomever with information about seeing Arrick and other villagers (Oleen and Wee Tocs did not see Ralph).

The players didn’t know what the results were, but it helped frame the situation. Poor Arrick, all signs pointed to him.

At the standing stones, the adventurers debated on what to do next:

  • Return the soul net to the King of Elfland.
  • Have the villagers deliver the body of the hound.
  • Approach the gates.

There was a bit of deliberation and they settle on returning to Hirot. A quick reconnoiter reveals the guards on the wall to be half their earlier count. They carry the hound to the gates of Hirot, and announce their victory.

The nightwatch opens the gates. In the town square the whole town gathers in a semi-circle behind:

  • Jarl Henrick
  • Sylle Ru
  • Iraco

Behind them are the Thegns, Nothan the Elder, and Iraco’s hunters. They have bound Arrick, Ungo, and Obexo. The gist of the conversation is:

  • The Jarl agrees that the hound may be dead; They will find out tomorrow evening.
  • The Jarl requests a payment of 3 cattle for the mischief caused by the adventurers.
  • Iraco requests a trial by combat of Arrick; The Jarl approves.
  • Odin accepts the trial.
  • The Jarl sets the time for mid-morning the next day.
  • All the while Sylle Ru is whispering in the Jarl’s ear.
  • There is a tentative peace and fragile optimism.

The crowd disperses. The adventurers settle in the Wolf Spear Inn and have a night of drinking. Odin insists on drinking through the night but Quinlynn instead drops his healing sleep and Odin gets a nice nights sleep. That evening, everyone dreams of old and ancient things; The world is turning, the ancient is awakening.

Trial by Combat

Morning, crows have gathered to witness. Ralph gives his ill-fitting leather armor to Odin (bumping Odin from AC 8 to AC 10); After all Ralph had burned down the house that held Odin’s chain mail and shield.

  • Iraco and Odin square off.
  • Iraco wins initiative and strikes quick (for 10 points of damage); Odin is at 1 HP.
  • Odin swings back, going for a disarm, but misses.
  • Pivoting and with a quick down thrust, Iraco drives his sword through the collar bone of Odin.
  • Odin collapses.
  • The murder of crows begins cawing and brazenly approaching the body.

As this was a trial by combat and to the death, there was no recovering the body. Odin was dead. Iraco claimed the wolf-spear.

At this point Thomas and Amy arrive; I help walk him through advancing Snips to 1st level. No longer a barber, Snips has learned of magic through Eustace and Quinlynn.

Meeting the King of Elfland

They travel to an ancient grove and find a cleric waiting – we introduce Ah-mal from theRuins of Ramat adventure.

  • Ah-mal is a cleric of Cthulhu.
  • Ah-mal sees the adventurers could use healing and joins their cause.
  • After a few failed healing checks (and creeping disapproval) the Quinlynn invokes the King of Elfland.
  • The focal tree shudders and the King arrives.
  • He exudes ancient and primal power.
  • Quinlynn delivers the soul net; The King has been waiting for this for a long time.
  • Thomas and I have a good role-playing scene:
    • He is role-playing Snips hesitancy at his newly discovered powers
    • I’m standing, he’s sitting, and as the King of Elfland, I hang over him, speaking with arrogance and goading.
  • Quinlyn binds Snips and Ralph to the King of Elfland, picking up a couple of +2 bonus for his next invoke patron.
  • Ralph converts from Lawful to Neutral alignment.
  • God have mercy, there are now two spell-casters in my group that with the King of Elfland as their patron.

Iraco Requires Wergild

Iraco learns that Arrick was likely responsible for burning his house (and the neighboring house). The Jarl, frustrated at his villager, orders Arrick to pay a fine of 6 cattle (120 GP). Failure to pay by the next evening would result in being the Jarl’s thrall.

Ralph offers and pays the fine on behalf of Arrick. He produces 5 green emeralds (at 20 gp each) and 20 gold coins. The Jarl accepts payment and heads to the manor, where he will collect his portion and pay the rest to Iraco.

Step One of Framing of Iraco

Ralph hatches a plan to frame Iraco.

  • Arrick and Ungo catch up with the Jarl.
  • Arrick throws himself on the Jarl, extolling his benevolence and issuing soothing platitudes. I call for a Personality test (DC 10). Arrick comes up 4 short, but burns luck to ensure the distraction works.
  • Ungo succeeds in a now easy Pick Pocket to get 4 of the emeralds from the Jarls coin pouch.

Meeting the Armorer

Armond the Armorer approaches the adventurers demanding the remainder of payment for the armor or the return of the armor; The armor that Ralph had likely burned when he set fire to Iraco’s house.

  • The adventurers are cash poor.
  • After some conversation, Armond reveals that he loathes Iraco. If the curse is lifted and the heroes were to drive out Iraco, he’d forgive any debt.
  • Ralph decides to see if the armor is destroyed (it was in the house he burned). A successful Luck check and some scrounging and they find the armor undamaged.

Step Two of Framing Iraco

  • The day passes to evening and the community gathers for services from Brother Meacom.
  • Brother Meacom delivers a pontificating and bloviating sermon extolling the victory of Justicia.
    • An about face considering his previous doom and gloom at an unwinnable situation.
  • Ungo disguises as an altar boy, accepting offerings, intent on planting the 4 emeralds in Iraco’s purse.
    • Iraco pretended to donate to Justicia by tapping the bottom of the offering plate to make it sound as though he donated coins.
  • As the service concludes Iraco exits, while much of the congregation remains; Discussing if the adventures lifted the curse.
  • Arrick approaches the Jarl telling him that Iraco was in the Three Rats Flophouse bragging about nicking some emeralds; The persuasion all holds together.
  • Jarl Henrick strides out the door and confronts Iraco. Demanding to see his coin purse.
  • Iraco produces the purse, opens it to reveal 4 emeralds. In shock, he drops the purse, and attempts to flee.
  • Initiative – Iraco loses the initiative. The Jarl grapples him (natural 20).
  • Iraco is taken into custody.

The Road Goes Ever Ever On

Back at the tavern, as evening settles, the adventurers are drinking and planning to leave Hirot. Bull offers to provision them for a few days travel. As evening drifts past midnight, the adventurers pull out the deed and Bull identifies it as a Three Rats (Flophouse). Ralph, without hesitation, rolls it up and says he’s going to deliver it to the Jarl.

As Ralph walks up to the great hall; The villagers, all staying awake, realize the hound is dead. The village breaks into song and celebration. The adventurers have vanquished the Hound of Hirot.

The door to the great hall is open. Ralph approaches the Jarl, and offers the deed as a small token of contrition and in homage to the Jarl. (Ralph notes that Sylle Ru is not present in the great hall)

Morning arrives, and the Heroes of Hirot head down the dusty road.

Exploring Ruins of Ramat for Game Day

On Saturday, four players and I delved into the “Ruins of Ramat” by John Adams.

Each player started with four 0-level villagers, ready to rescue a little girl’s dog.

Each player established their mini-marching order. Then I wrote down each character’s slot in the marching order and their luck scores.

16 named characters with luck scores, and a tally of monster hit points on the bottom

Mini-marching order and character luck scores

Keeping in mind that we had 2.5 hours to play, I kept my foot on the throttle, moving them through rooms.

Spoilers ahead

Two villagers ill equiped face off against a charging skeleton

Ruins of Ramat Cover Page (art by Doug Kovacs)

Cautious approach to a hole in Rose Hill

  • The villagers assess that the hole dropped 10 feet to a mossy and slippery stairs that descends another 20 feet.
  • Footing is slippery. Some slide into a chamber and the waiting ambush of a spider.
  • The spider bites, poisons, and kills a villager, and the villagers in turn slay the spider.

There are three directions to take.

  • One path leads them through a large room into another bat and guano filled room.
  • Hundreds of bats scatter around, in the confusion, as everyone is swatting away bats from their face, Oxy brains Ank for the second death.
  • Two large bats attack but the villagers dispatch them without further harm.

They reach a dead end, double back to take another passage.

  • From here they explore a series of long-disused monastic cells. One cell radiating holiness is still preserved.
  • They continue to a room with murals of warriors of light. Here they encounter 5 skeletons.
  • A blood bath ensues as the villagers opt to charge into the room.
  • One player watches as the skeletons fell her remaining three characters; Another player hands her one of their characters to continue onward.
  • Two other players each lose a character.
  • The survivors dispatch the skeletons. The survivors distribute the skeleton’s weapons.

They find an armory that includes lots of ceremonial weapons and an untarnished bronze shield

  • A villager picks up the shield. The shield curses the villager bestowing a -1d to all attacks.

Onward into a ruined library

  • With a bit of exploration they find a secret door into a preserved library
  • There are a few scrolls, books, and maps preserved; One of the maps looks familiar to the player (not the character); It points to a spot in the mountains
  • They also find two iridescent purple vials
  • A character uncorks the vials, smells lavender and sunshine. He drinks half a draught. And permanently gains 2 HP. He downs the rest, gaining 2 more. His other character follows suite, gaining 2 HP.
  • Onward to the next room; a bed chamber with 6 bronze figurines.
  • The elves notice a secret passageway and proceed into a hidden hallway.

They find another secret door, opening it to reveal two more skeletons and a robed skeleton.

  • They roll initiative and start the fight
  • One character charges in, stepping on a brittle flagstone, and falls into a shallow pit, breaking his neck.
  • The robed skeleton launches a baleful purple beam at one of the characters, he succeeds in his will save, taking half damage and surviving at 1 HP.
  • In retaliation, a villagers throws a spear at the robed skeleton, shattering its skull and ending its menacing existence.
  • The villagers dispatch the remaining skeletons.
  • In this room they find gold armor, a white gold ring, bronze amulet, and a bronze convex disk set in the wall.
  • The villagers divy up the treasure.

A bit of exploration and experimentation and POOF! a bright light and they are in a new room

  • This new room has a bronze convex disk, two treasure chests, and a glowing spear (similar to the spear they have been seeing in the artwork)
  • The villagers test the chests and open them. One is full of gold pieces. The other an ivory cylander with an incomprehensible scroll inside.

The guild beggar grabs the spear and she sees a vision of herself, standing on the battlefield, humans, demons, and skeletons lie dead around her. In her right hand, the spear; Her left hand a bloody stump. A large demon approaches and says “Let us not fight. Together we can be so much more.” I ask the player what she does. She throws down the spear. And the vision fades. The spear drops from her hand.

Another character grabs the spear, and sees a similar vision. I ask what he does. He throws the spear into the maw of the demon. He feels a warmth and realizes his life has changed. He understands the scrolls he’s read. He asks to see the ivory scroll and knows that it can lift the curse. (I awarded the neutral character 1d3 points of luck for sticking with her alignment).

At this point, we are running close to the end. I guide them to the next room, and I ask if they want me to narrate the final fight the demon. The players think about it, and we agree to play it out. In two quick rounds of furious combat, the rubbery tentacled demon of darkness slays two more characters but is in turn killed by the Spear of Ramat.

We close the session, with each surviving character at 11 XP. I also say that in future sessions people can use these characters. I also awarded each character one point of Luck for defeating a demon and bringing a bit of knowledge of Ramat into the world.

Mini character sheets of the 10 dead characters

The character sheets of the dead

Dungeon Crawl Classics – A Deal is Made [Session #3]

The plan was to meet on Thursday for our third session. We would perhaps conclude “DCC #66.5 Doom of the Savage Kings” by Harley Stroh. The majority of spoilers start later on (and I’ll give you warning)

This week there were scheduling conflicts and illness. At the start of the session we had the Judge (me) and a player (Erich).

In the last session, Erich’s elf Quinlyn died. I also realized that I had not given him the opportunity to bond with a patron (they had a week), nor did he have an extra spell for his high intelligence. With everyone new to the game, I wanted to correct this.

We did a bit of retroactive play. Erich bonded with the King of Elfland, sacrificing an emerald for a +1, taking minor corruption for a +2, and spell burning for 2. Quinlyn gained infravision as his minor corruption. He also chose Woodland Stride as his spell.

A bearded wizard with crown and otherworldly eyes

“The King of Elfland” by Diesel Laforce. From Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG

From there, we played through his death. As Quinlyn’s body expired, the King of Elfland whisked him away to convalesce in Elfland (for a week), but at cost. Prior the session, I whipped up the following table of demands for the King of Elfland.

d10 What does the King of Elfland require of you
1 The hound must die, but you must capture its soul. He gives you a net made of individual blonde elf hair. As you slay the hound, cast the net over it. Then bring the net to the wooded grove.
2 He has seen the strands of your fate. He wants you to bond 1d3+1 to him by the next full moon.
3 The Devil’s Tithe is soon due. For the cost of restoring you, I need two human souls in payment.
4 There is a wife of a devil in this village. Bring her, alive, to the wooded grove.
5 Nearby, an emerald enchanter is leeching power from Elfland. You must stop him.
6 There is a wizard not of your world. He is still weakened from his recent captivity. He is traveling and exploring nearby. His patron is the foul Bobugbubilz. Dispatch the wizard.
7 The drinking horn was a gift to a long dead friend. I wish it returned to me, so I may honor his memory.
8 The standing stones near Hirot have bound the surrounding lands to Chaos. You must unbind them.
9,10 Roll 1d8 twice on the chart.

He rolled a 1; With soul net in hand, the King whisked Quinlyn back. No other players arrived, so we took a brief intermission and played Boggle with another game night attendee.

After 45 minutes of fun, and a serious drubbing, two other players arrived. Thomas from the prior week; who’s surviving character “Snips” was also captured.

They each rolled up 4 new 0th level characters for them, and we got started.

Spoilers ahead…

Dungeon Crawl Classics - Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

In the previous session, Iraco the Hunts Master and his goons captured the adventurers. In the confusion and dim light, they missed Ralph.

Seeing Iraco and the hunters heading out, the 8 characters waited and followed a bit later. They heard the calls of Lloré (“The sun sets. Come out.” a long pause “You promised! The sun sets, it’s time to free Morgan.”). They waited. They hear the Iraco’s ambush sprung (“Bind them and take the to Hirot.”) They wait several minutes and head to the mound.

There they see Quinlyn, the elf, tending to Ralph. Quinlyn attempts to heal Ralph through by casting Sleep. He fumbles, and demon claws grow from his fingers. Spellburning, Quinlyn regains and casts sleep; healing Ralph for 5 hit points. The villagers, tired of Iraco and the Jarls inaction want to help the heroes. They plan to sneak into Hirot to free their friends and get their gear.

At the palisade, Arrick strikes up a conversation with Naven (a night watchman).

  • Naven lowers a rope and the villagers climb up
  • At the top, Naven grouses about Iraco, and noting the elf, he’s about to say something
  • Quinlyn casts Charm Person, and Naven buddies right up
  • Naven informs the adventurers where Iraco is as well as where the captives are being held
  • They hatch a quick plan
    • On Quinlyn’s signal, Naven will create a diversion – yelling something about an elf and halfling over the wall.
    • They’ll free the captives and then get the weapons

Ralph, the halfling, sneaks through the dim streets of Hirot; The adventurers back several stone throws.

  • Ralph sees the building, two guards at one door, another door barricaded with one guard on watch.
  • He sneaks to the side window, peers in and sees his companions, beaten and bruised. Two guards are inside drowsing.
  • Ralph scampers back

Naven creates the distraction on the wall, the two guards in the house come out. They go to the wall. The other guard heads out in the opposite direction.

  • Arrick approaches and strikes up a conversation with Nori.
  • Quinlyn arrives and casts Charm Person; Nori and Quinlyn are best buddies!
  • Quinlyn casts Sleep on Nori (with the primary goal of healing the captives). Nori saves and Quinlyn heals the captives.
    • Iraco must’ve poisoned the thief and dwarf as they do not awake (I don’t have their character sheets so I leave them there, in a drugged state)
  • The distraction draws to a close with the guards returning

The adventurers beat a hasty retreat and work their way towards Iraco’s

  • As they approach the the south gates, they see light from the great hall on motte. In the doorway stands the Jarl, his Thegns, and Sylle Ru.
  • A quick decision, Ralph and the villagers will remain inside the palisade. Quinlyn, Eustic, Odin, Lloré, and “Snips” will head out to the standing stones.
  • But, they’d need a distraction.
  • Ralph scampers up a ladder, throws some oil onto the burning brazier, splashing it on the palisade! How about a little fire.
  • The Jarl and crew working their way from the motte into the bailey, let out a cry of fire!

We divvy up character sheets and split the action (so everyone has at least one character)

First, Ralph and the villagers:

  • They sneak to Iraco’s house, stumbling upon some men playing dice
  • As Ralph draws close, Iraco steps out of the door. Ralph dives into the shadows, avoiding detection from Iraco
  • Iraco, with scabbard, bow, and arrows heads to the village square
  • Arrick approaches Iraco and convincingly gives a partial truth; They captives have escaped and are fleeing
  • Iraco insists that Arrick talk to the Jarl
  • Ralph sneaks in, grabs the wolf spear, the deed, map, jewels, and longsword of the dwarf
  • Ralph then knocks over the small oil lamp and the house begins to smolderWe cut to the standing stones:
  • Morgan was on the altar straining against her bonds
  • Lloré and Morgan reunite and share a passionate kiss and embrace
  • They retreat to the tree line to observe

Back to the village:

  • Arrick heads to the Jarl and convinces him as well
  • As Iraco’s thatched roof ignites the other villagers and Ralph beat a retreat over the palisade

They unite at the tree line and set an ambush for the hound

  • There is hope that the wolf spear is in fact the real one
  • The butcher puts their side of beef on the altar hoping to buy a bit of time in their ambush

The hound, in its malignant evil approaches the altar, arrogant

  • The adventures ambush the hound.
    • Eustace fires a magic missile.
    • Quinlyn burns the hound with flaming hands (with Ralph burning another point of luck).
    • Three villagers charge, one of them hitting, as Odin follows to deliver the killing blow with the wolf spear.
    • Odin, declares a Might Deed to Trip the Hound of Hirot.
    • The roll…3 on the d3 and 20 on the d20. Odin pinned the hound, breaking it’s leg, as he delivered the killing blow.
  • Quinlyn takes the soul net and casts it over the hound. The blonde hair turns crimson as it works its magic.

We draw to a close, parts of Hirot burning.

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Going Beyond the Funnel

I ran my first non-funnel adventure for Dungeon Crawl Classics. I wrote up some adviceAt the beginning of this session, I didn’t spend much time setting expectations; We instead focused on leveling up characters.I should have drawn more attention to Mighty Deed of Arms.

(Our next session is March 16 at 6pm [Session Report])

Four people, with dice, pencils, and paper, gathered around a table ready to play Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Gathering around the table.

Preamble

Before the adventure I made two random encounter tables. One for Bitterweed Barrow and one for traveling outside of Bitterweed Barrow. I used the tables as a chance to think through what possible events were happening; I’ll try to remember to post these at a future date.

We had:

  • A 1st level halfling
  • Two 1st level dwarfs
  • A 1st level elf
  • A 1st level wizard
  • A 1st level thief

A group without a cleric; I was curious.

Bitterweed Barrow

A week had passed since the villagers delved into Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry. There were funerals, a search for a new constable, and bickering over the estate of Nebin Pendlebrook.

The adventurers each made a pact to not speak of the wealth encountered. Over the week, they found themselves spending more and more time in the local tavern; Talking of their adventures.

One late afternoon, gathered around a table at the pub, the drunken goat farmer told a tale of the birth of a two-headed goat. Before it expired, the goat said: “Beware, beware the Eyes of Green.”

A little speculation…were the emeralds the green eyes? What else could it be? Regardless, the characters wanted to leave Bitterweed Barrow. They would head to Hirot to see about the deed to the building, and perhaps find out more about the map.

En route to Hirot, they encountered what appeared to be a small roadside shrine. Five straight branches forming a five-sided pyramid. Inside a clay bowl with 5 silver pieces. The dwarf couldn’t help himself…he pilfered the shrine.

Spoiler Warning: If you want to play Doom of the Savage Kings please stop reading.

Dungeon Crawl Classics - Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Doom of Savage Kings by Harley Storh

Arriving at Hirot

They drew close to Hirot late afternoon. Seeing a macabre standing stones, used for some ritual sacrifice. As they were inspecting, a mob of peasants andeight mounted warriors drove forward a bound woman. She was the sacrifice to appease the hound.

They learned of the lottery, in which every three days the village randomly choose who to sacrifice to the Hound of Hirot.

Not wanting to interfere too much in a volatile situation, the adventurers opted to head into Hirot. Passing through the gates of the wooden palisade, they saw the locked lottery box in the town square, the large manor house atop the hill, a temple to Justicia, and an inn with a wolf spear sign.

Seek a place for the night, they went to the Inn of Wolf Spear. They found Broegan “Bull” Haverson behind the bar, weeping. The patrons in the common room were sipping their drinks making an effort to ignore him.

Bull’s daughter, Morgan, had lost the lottery; She was tonight’s sacrifice. A bit of back and forth banter, and the adventurers learned from Bull that:

  • Villagers had killed the hound two or three times before (Nothan the Elder of the nightwatch); but the next day it came back. Each time its reprisals were bloody massacres.
  • To forever kill the hound, they would need to bind it then deliver the killing blow. Otherwise, it would come back the next night.

Lloré, the village bard, came in and informed everyone that the villagers had tied Morgan to the altar. Now the waiting for the howls. The adventurers talked with Lloré and learned:

  • An ancient warlord possessed a magical spear that could slay the hound and a magical shield that could turn away the beast’s attacks. Bards call him Ulfheonar and say his tomb lies to the north.

The adventurers were keen on helping Morgan, but wanted first to get the spear and shield. Lloré made a deal, they had 3 hours until sunset. He would take them to the tomb (a 30 minute trek), but at sunset they would make for the stone altar and free Morgan. They agreed, but first spent 30 of those minutes securing some armor (They reached an agreement and borrowed the armor).

At this point, a fourth player stumbled into our gaming lair. I asked if he wanted to join, and he said sure. So I grabbed a sheet of 4 premade characters, and said these were the villagers interested in helping the adventurers end the plague of the Hound of Hirot.

To the Tomb of the Ulfheonar

They arrived to find a sealed entrance. After a bit of exploring (another 10 minutes) they found an alternate entrance and began their tomb exploration. There was now 110 minutes until sunset. Lloré stayed outside and would call when the sun was setting.

They entered the snake shaped tomb through a collapsed section of the mound. The first room had a pile of rubble from the collapse. They lit torches and proceeded further into the tomb, proceeding out the room and down the hall.

At the T, the halfling and dwarf looked both left and right. To their right they saw a long hallway, extending into a large room. At the other end of the room they saw a large door. To the left (and towards the sealed entrance) they saw a hallway leading into a room that had a bowl shaped floor.

They chose right, towards the impressive door, and entered into the room.

The following read aloud text set a terrifying tone:

The floor is covered by what appears to be thousands of thin, translucent strips of vellum. To your horror, you realize the crackling dried strips are the discarded skins of an untold number of serpents!

The original builders had set door as part of the construction. The door was un-openable. As they left the room, the elves both noticed a small passageway above the doorway. The halfling was quick to volunteer to explore. As did the two elves. They crawled along the 2 foot by 2 foot carved tunnel. It turned right, ran for 40 feet then turned right again.

Halfway along their exploration, the elves again noticed something. Poking and prodding, as they found a passageway leading up, they also heard the growl of a creature.

Combat! A tight and nasty combat ensued with the desiccated corpse of a human. The elf’s mithral armor staving off the worst of the blows. And as the final spear thrust from the halfing dropped the corpse, a horrendous snake burst forth and began a second wave of combat. In the end, the ghoul snake slew the elf before the dwarf slew it (the halfling burned 4 additional luck points to move the dwarf’s miss to a hit and thus deliver the final blow).

The combat went six or so rounds, in part because of poor rolling (with 3 player characters and a 4th joining in the end). The tight confines worked against the adventurers. The elf had lost his burning hands, so continued to spell burn in attempts to slay his attacker.

A bit of exploration and there were two rooms:

  • A 15 by 15 room with a 25 foot pillar. Up 20 feet was a spear and shield.
  • Another room had a skeleton, with a spear on his lap, a drinking horn, and a silver wolf pelt.

The thief secured the spear and drinking horn, while the halfling haberdasher rolled up wolf pelt. The thief learned that the drinking horn had healing properties, and passed the horn to the halfling to heal up his vicious wounds.

In the other room, the adventurers gathered to determine what to do. The wizard opted to cast spider climb to ascend the column. Bedlam ensued as the roof began to collapse, injuring several, and burying the spear and shield in pile of rubble. Despondent and battered, they left to search the rest of the tomb.

The Ambush and Capture

As they were wrapping up their exploration, Lloré yelled into the tomb “The sun sets. Come out.” They paused to decide if they would ignore their promise and continue delving. “You promised! The sun sets, it’s time to free Morgan.” The party heeded his call, and climbed out of the tomb. And into an ambush…

Half a dozen archers, sent by the Jarl, were waiting. A quick battle ensued, and the ambuscade downed 5 or so of the adventurers (killing 2 of the remaining 3 0-level characters). There was a call for surrender, and the still conscious characters surrendered. The archers treated the wounds of the fallen and I drew the session to an end.

Observation

I sensed that this session left a bitter taste in people’s mouth. In part, I believe, because magic was somewhat erratic and combat was brutal. But I stand by this game; The system and adventures are challenging and require player skill. I hope, as players continue, that their skill grows and they learn from their less experienced decisions.

I’m enjoying running from a written adventure, providing a charged situation for the players to engage. I love the maps, the flavor text, and the random rumor table.

House Rules

The party doesn’t have a cleric. I allowed for DC 10 Luck check to bind wounds and stabilize (within the 1st round). I also won’t be applying the Stamina penalty for bleeding out.

Play Through of Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry

Last night I ran a 0-level DCC character funnel at Better World Books in Goshen. We played through Purple Sorcerer‘s Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry.

TL;DR: Compact, dangerous, and exciting adventure (minimal spoilers ahead). DCC continues to amaze and inspire.

Silohuette of rotund halfling holding a shovel

Cover art for Purple Sorcerer Game’s “Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry”

To make sure everything was clear I read the following:

We will be playing a Dungeon Crawl Classics character funnel. Each of you will have 4 fragile characters to start. The goal is to make it through the dungeon with at least one of them alive. In campaign play, the survivor(s) would be your character(s) in further adventures. It won’t be easy, and you should think of your characters as pawns. Don’t risk them all at once.

There were 5 players at the table. Each player rolled up 4 characters

  • Four of the five players each had an elven sage
  • There was a goat, a pony, a herding dog, a duck, and a hen
  • A handful of spears and swords ensured some nice combat power
  • One unlucky player had 8s or lower for his characters’ luck (Ouch!)
Six people around a circular table with dice and character sheets

The character funnel in progress

Procedures

I took the advice of other DCC judges; Instead of using a combat grid, I went with theater of the mind.

Each player arranged their characters in a mini-marching order. They formed a plus sign: the lead character, two in the middle, and one in the rear.

In combat, if an attack came from the front, I attacked the front character who had the lowest luck. Likewise for rear attacks. The adventure module provided further guidance to beat on the unlucky.

As characters died, they were piled in front of the Judge’s screen; The above photo was taken before we started into the pantry.

Highlights

  • The duck, hen, and their owners were the first casualties; The sickening feeding frenzy set the dangerous tone.
  • The four elven sages each tried to read a magic scroll, and failed.
    • One of the elven sages rolled a 1…so I had him roll and he got major corruption. Alas he died before his head turned into a goat.
    • The lowly potato farmer took a chance and rolled a natural 20. His eyes glowed with power and he gained some minor wizarding power.
  • Creatures in the dark surprised a lone explorer (failed Luck check). With a quick strike, the creatures murdered and dragged the dwarf into the darkness; the rope fell to the ground with a thump.
  • A clever use of rope, crowbar, and a burned luck point helped retrieve a bit of treasure and circumvent what they thought to be a trap.
  • An oh so glorious critical hit by the squire for 14 points of damage; Hooyah!
  • Clever teamwork created a hasty firebomb from an oil soaked suit. They lit the suit and flung with a shovel. That earned a luck point.
  • A halfling reunited with his great grandfather that had disappeared a century ago…alas the reunion was rather short.
  • Some of the characters fled to an unexplored room; I’d call that a bad idea (but it worked out).

Player Interaction not Skills

At one point one of the players asked “Can I make a spellcraft check?” This was a great moment, as I responded “What are you wanting to know?” He said “Well I want to know if there’s magic. But I guess the glowing runes…” The player had enough information and we moved on.

What I liked about this moment was that it unlearned a bit of the skill proficiency mindset of later D&D editions. Players and characters both engage with the system. Through a dialogue the player and Judge can establish what the character knows or the Judge can call for a check.

Observations

The whole session was 6:30pm to 10pm. In that time we made characters and had 10 “scenes” – 6 combat encounters and 4 puzzle/role-playing encounters.

  • People were rightly cautious; we weren’t five minutes in when 2 characters died.
  • One of the rooms had too many possibilities; 3 doors, a column of water, and 2 fountains. I felt this room was going to grind on in indecision.
  • Combats were fast and furious; I don’t believe anything went more than two rounds.
  • By necessity, characters become rather morbid and mercenary
    • “Slide us your possessions and we’ll help” as an emaciated hand passes a rag doll and a candle
  • Characters were stewarding their luck; they knew I was targeting the unlucky. Yet they spent a luck point or two to get what they wanted.
  • If you want characters to die; give them multiple opponents. Even 0-level chumps can end a single big-bad monster.
  • Purple Sorcerer Game’s modules contains great advice and flavor/read-aloud text. In some cases the prose for a given encounter was rather lengthy and hard to scan.
  • With minimal characters features (eg. skills, feats, etc.) the players engaged the fiction of the story

At points in the adventure that called for a Luck check. If you failed your Luck check you then needed to make a saving throw. For experienced players, that’s not a big deal, but this confused the group. We muddled through it. It also felt a little like double jeopardy. In the future, I recommend skipping the Luck check and call for each player to make the saving throw for their character with the lowest Luck score.