As promised, here is Junior Grognard's first foray into the world of AD&D without the soft corners. The rules have slightly changed for Team Adventure. In the campaign proper, they will get experience points and the chance to advance but once a character dies, unless they have access to raise dead or resurrection, that character stays dead.
Just so you know.
I started by going through the character sheets and explaining a bit of backstory for JG, who hadn't got round to thinking about it yet. This grounded the characters in Elesalia and gave some hint as to the possible pasts that might come back to haunt them. It also avoided the old ‘you are gathered together in an inn, when a mysterious stranger approaches you…’
They arrived at the frontier town of Antiar's Landing, which is just across the river Elfwater from the start of the wilds, and were let in by the gate guards, who gave them the once-over and not much else. JG misunderstood me when I said that they needed somewhere to stay - I guess that in our day, the first thing that you did when you arrived somewhere was hit the local tavern but despite my hints, he decided that he was going to find some wood and build himself somewhere.
The local timber yard was not particularly keen on people just walking off with half a hundredweight of wood, so Team Adventure went about a mile or so outside town and cut down two trees which they dragged all the way back to town. A bit of hacking with swords and axes, much to the mirth of the gate guards and voila, a bivouac to make Ray Mears jealous.
Well, that night (it had been a long time making this thing) there was a heavy thunderstorm (I rolled on Chgowiz’s weather chart) and they all got rather damp. However, during the night they did hear something moving about in the dark, and it wasn't the thunder.
Because of their bivouac escapade, the next morning, the party was in the right place at the right time as a panicked horseman rode up to the gate guards and started talking to them, then pointing up the road and looking very scared. The sergeant came up to the party and said
"You want to earn yourselves some money, get your weapons and come with us. Something big's come across the river, we reckon and we're going to sort it out"
The party needed no further bidding and off they tramped up the track that led west from Antiar's Landing.
I should note at this point that the guard party consisted of Sergeant Subaras and three men, Volse, Qual and Prebor. No-one ever remembers these guys. Subaras was 3rd level, the others were 1st.
They came to more or less the point at which they had chopped down the trees the day before. Only now there was a swathe of trampled undergrowth, snapped branches and big footprints headed off into the woods (the rain had made the ground very muddy). After what can only be described as dithering whilst I waited for JG to make a plan, Sergeant Subaras took over and divided the party into three; himself and Volse in the centre, with Qual on the left and Prebor on the right. They were hoping that the centre would encounter their prey and the right and left would come in on the flanks. JG divided the party into three groups of two, each group with one of the guard prongs.
However, the prey decided to have a bit of fun with this plan and so guardsman Qual was leading his two Team Adventure members (Hruthnor and Elise) through the undergrowth when something very big and very fierce came bursting into sight and smashed him to absolute pieces with a mighty swing of a big club. Our doughty party members took one look at this and ran like ***** for the safety of the central group, with the enemy in hot pursuit.
Subaras and Volse deployed arms and Volse, who was armed with a bow, opened fire. Other members of the party braced for impact.
What was this fearsome opponent? Well, I'd rolled for a wandering monster for the hex that day and as (bad) luck would have it, an ettin came up. Two heads, ten hit dice, one bad attitude.
The central group, which included Alurax and Lannius weighed in - the right flank (Akurath and Zhastar) would take a round or two to arrive. The ettin was not waiting around for the odds to get worse and splattered guardsman Volse to pulp with two heavy blows from his clubs. Attacks from the party rained down on him and he took some damage but not quickly enough. I diced for the unfortunate individual who got the full brunt of the ettin's attack and the bad luck fell to Hruthnor - a bang and a crash and the stalwart axeman departed for the dwarven afterlife in a hurry.
JG was not particularly happy about that, and even less so the next round when, despite having whittled the ettin down a good few hit points more, and having got at least a couple of twenties (how do kids do that?) the fickle finger of fate fell to Lannius.
Right, I thought, he's got AC2 which means that the ettin needs an 8 or better to hit him.
Both d20s came up 8.
Lannius took 23 damage - at this point, JG needed a Daddy Grognard hug; things were getting tearful. Undeterred (well sort of) an oil flask was recovered and with the use of Affect Normal Fires (a lesson he’d remembered from the Training Dungeon lesson) the ettin was set ablaze - a bad die roll or two meant that the damage didn't finish him off but, stupid as he was, the two-headed one decided to leg it at that point.
Subaras and Prebor attempted to shoot him as he fled, but it fell to Alurax to let fly with the bow and skewer the ettin between the shoulder blades. Four damage was inflicted, but the ettin only had two left and fell into the bushes, a dead 'un.
JG, I think used the words 'epic take-down', which I think was justified. A first level party (with help) kills an ettin.
Sergeant Subaras sent Prebor back to town to commandeer a cart for the ettin's body and another for the four dead heroes. The town was quite agog at what had come trundling in and after a trip to the local dwarven and elven shrines to see if anything could be done for their fallen comrades, Team Adventure were taken to see Yugaz, the town's baronial representative, who congratulated them and doled out 50gp to each survivor. In addition, I calculated the XP for helping in the ettin's demise, divided the total by half to take the guards' efforts into account and then divided the remainder up amongst the four survivors. Result - 322xp per party member living.
They are now staying the week at the Soaring Falcon, which is one of the two adventurer taverns in town. Also, after a visit to the elven shrine, Alurax is now a follower of Sessilis, the elven god of archery, hunting and wilderness survival.
Akurath, who took Hruthnor's body to the dwarven shrine met Arazak, the 1st level dwarf cleric who explained about Hrazhkag, his predecessor, who went across the river and vanished into the wilds. If news could be found of this individual, then perhaps something might be done for Hruthnor...
(I had rolled up on a d6 the level of the clerics in town, and had got a 1 for the dwarven cleric. I then had to come up with a good reason why the dwarven shrines would be staffed by such a lowly character)
And Alurax has now earned himself a surname...Ettinslayer.
They also have enough money to start looking at upgrading their armour and equipment and have earned the interest and mild respect of the townsfolk and of their fellow adventurers.
Next week, I may well dangle the Spider Farm from Dragonsfoot in front of them to see if they bite.
After the session, JG had a go on the Dragonsfoot character generator and after a few tries that were decidedly average, rolled up two new characters to step into the gaps in Team Adventure left by Hruthnor and Lannius. They are
Zhudar, an elven MU/Thief
HP 3, base AC8, starting gold 25.
I'd have made this one a female, but JG's attitude is probably No Girls Allowed so a male it is.
Argid, half-orc fighter (interesting choice)
HP 2, base AC 10 , starting gold 80
Remember the names - they'll either be covering themselves in glory or appearing on next week's obituary sheet.
At least the party have got a thief with them, so that’s all their class bases covered.
Why, Professor; this Sandbox of yours actually works!
The first session of the campaign and what a result – from a couple of interesting choices by the party and a wandering monster roll, the setting has started to unfold. We have several new NPCs who will have an impact on the party and their doings and the hints of some possible future adventures.
Before I started this week’s session, I had no idea what was going to happen. So much could have gone differently and for me, that is the key feature of Old School sandbox style play. This style of game gives all the choices back to the players in a way that adventure paths don’t.
Many years ago, I remember first encountering the Narnia stories of C S Lewis. In one of them, Aslan the lion revives creatures that have been turned to stone by breathing on them. Wherever he breathes, the stone turns to living flesh. That, in a way, is what happens with a sandbox campaign – wherever the players touch the setting, it starts to come alive.