Friday, 22 January 2010
Previously on this adventure, our brave heroes - and their hobbit - were in room 16, having just slaughtered the ogre and his kobold hordes. They had a quick hunt-around but I completely forgot about the oubliette (where the ogre had been storing his prisoners for later devouring), so I decided to put it in where the hatch is on the passage to room 18, down which no-one had gone yet.
The party eventually headed down towards the water feature, a huge area of flooded dungeon. Regular readers will remember that the party had discovered that one of the missing stone tokens had the symbol of water on it. The discovery of such a large area of water at once set the alarm bells ringing.
Lannius was standing on the edge, tapping the bottom with a ten foot pole, and by chance happened to be standing directly over the grille. Had they approached it from the other end, finding it would not have been quite so simple. It was not an easy job for JG to work out exactly what it was that was being tapped; clink of metal, nothing at all, clink of metal, nothing at all. I even ended up sketching a diagram of the clink and non-clink sectors so that it soon became apparent that there was a pattern. What that pattern was, however…
The conclusion was eventually reached that the only way to work out what was down there was to send someone down. As Akurath had the highest constitution (and I went through the definitions of all the attributes until JG decided that CON was the best for the job) he was stripped of his armour and a length of rope tied around his waist (JG's idea, no prompting). Down he went into the murk and soon found the grille but was unable to lift it on his own. JG - again with no prompting - sussed that two characters were needed but first the lock had to be picked. A quick scan of the character sheets and it was revealed that Garazor had the highest chance. So down went the half-orc and JG rolled 11 on the percentile dice. The lock popped open and Alurax joined the dwarf under the water. As they lifted the grille and dragged out the necklace with the stone token, Alurax failed a CON roll and was dragged, choking and spluttering to the surface.
As they dried off and donned their armour again, Hruthnor, who had been on sentry duty, reported that he had heard a strange whispering and shuffling from the other end of room 16. The party headed off to investigate. They found a slithering trail of smeared blood and no ogre body. JG concluded (wrongly) that the surviving kobolds (all four of them!) had claimed the body of their leader. The party followed the trail and found it leading up the passageway towards 23 and 24. The door to 23 was locked, but Lannius made his roll this time and they pushed the door open to reveal a room full of zombies and an evil cleric busy reanimating the ogre.
With cries of "Brains! Brains!" the zombies lurched towards the door (all 16 of them) led by their newly-raised ogre friend. The party sensibly beat a hasty retreat, probably a good job when the stats of the zombie ogre are considered (MM2 if anyone’s interested). I thought we were looking at some dwarf on zombie action but apparently not. They were so spooked by this that the party legged it to the shaftway back up to the 1st level. For some unknown reason, JG wanted to head back to the slime room - from later discussion, it transpired that he thought the gems that had fallen into the slime would still be there, at the bottom of the pool. Anyway, he indicated his chosen route on the map of 1st level that I had helped them make and they set off down the long corridor that runs 'south' from 14.
Unfortunately, a roll on the very depleted wandering monster table resulted in the 8 ghouls coming in the opposite direction. They met at the crossroads by the wind tunnel. JG put Elise and Zhastar at the front, because they had blunt weapons. He didn't instruct them to try and turn.
It is a sad tale and briefly told. Elise went down, rent to pieces. Zhastar cast Protection from Evil on himself. Garazor (failing his turn effort, which JG eventually agreed to do) and Lannius were reduced to minus, Hruthnor was paralysed as was Akurath. The ghouls swept on; JG was overwhelmed by the tragedy that was unfolding, horrified by his party's inability to stop the ghouls. Realising in the end that he was looking at a TPK unless he did something, Alia and Alurax fled the scene. Zhastar was keeping the ghouls nearest him at bay with the Protection from Evil, but that only had a limited duration. As he was now surrounded and pinned against the wall by the ghouls, moving was no option as the ravening beasts would have moved with him, just outside his circle. The ghouls just waited....
Finally, his spell ran out and a horrible sound echoed in the ears of Alurax and Alia as they fled.
JG, not quite as blasé as he might have appeared in previous weeks, was in tears at this point. He picked himself up and, at a bit of a loss (as one often is after something like that) Alia and Alurax headed for one of the rooms that he had missed on his first session - the spider room (room 1 on level 1). He holed up there until the rest of the party reappeared, and then the two strongest lifted the grille.
Out came the spiders, one for each member of the party. Spider THAC0s are notoriously bad but nevertheless, some hits were bound to make it past the team’s defences and even with +2 on their saves, the party were whittled down - Alurax, Elise, Akurath, Hruthnor and Lannius all dying of poison bites. Alia and Zhastar, despite making some cracking to hits and damage rolls, were reduced to 0hp, and only Garazor was left standing. He performed manfully and despatched the final three spiders single-handed.
Again back up to full strength and with a couple of nice gems (the spider treasure) in their pouches, the party set off again, back down to level 2, where JG decided to check out some of the unexplored passageways on the map. He knew that there was one more token to find but had no idea where it was. The party found themselves going down the passageway to room 19, the water trap. Alurax and Lannius went in on their own. I diced to see if they set off the trap but no joy. Well, not for me, anyway. They found the holes and spotted the grille hung from the ceiling. Being half-elven and elven respectively, I tipped them the wink about some areas of floor looking a bit iffy (the equivalent of secret door location, for which they did get the roll) and JG warned the rest of the party not to come in. There was nothing else in there apart from the trap, and after a brief scout around, the party left again. They decided to rest up in room 22, an empty store room put there by a kindly dungeon designer in ages past.
Anyone counting will have worked out that the total death toll was eleven. A very high casualty rate, proving that ghouls are best attacked in a planned assault and spiders’ poison bites are not to be underestimated.
The wandering monster table is now getting very depleted, with a lot of the location-keyed monsters by now being dealt with. I am of the opinion that the Training Dungeon needs more wandering monsters, even if they are not tied to a particular location, because otherwise the players could get bored of wandering round empty corridors for hours on end. That is something that will be remedied in the second edition, plus more insights from the play-testing of Old 4 Eyes and his merry band.
Whilst on the subject of play-testing, if there is anyone out there who would like to run the Training Dungeon for their Junior Grognards, do please let me know and we'll see what we can arrange.