The day dawned bright and dry. It was 23rd August and once they had
crossed the river, loaded down with expedition gear and enthusiasm
aplenty, their journey through the forest seemed to be without incident,
until our heroes came across some cobwebs that looked considerably
thicker than the ones they had seen bedecked with dew outside the Moat
House that morning.
Benbo, determined to make himself
useful, decided to climb the nearest tree and take a look around. He
managed to make it to one of the higher branches, whereupon he attracted
the attention of a huge spider which swung down out to try and grab
him; it failed but knocked him off the branch. The hobbit amazingly
managed to land on his feet, avoiding some nasty fall damage. Alagon
swung into action with his hand axes, hurling them at the arachnid. One
hit and the other went sailing off into the undergrowth. As the party
were milling around, trying to decide how to deal with the arboreal
webslinger, another one emerged from the undergrowth and tried to attack
Alagon. It was soon finished off as the party brought its strength to
bear and whilst Alagon fired a warning shot from his bow to persuade the
first one to vacate the scene, other members of the party were busily
dismembering the dead spider to raid its venom sacs.
warm-up exercises over and done with, the party rode on and around
midday or so, heard some noises from the trees; something was moving
about just out of view. Alurax spurred his warhorse Warnado into action
and rode through the trees to find out what it was. Elysia and Ferros
sighed, rolled their eyes and set off in pursuit, a minute or so behind
had encountered two rutting stags, for whom the appearance of a
potential rival proved an interesting distraction. One charged, antlers
down and butted the unlucky warhorse who reared and retreated. Before
Alurax could dismount to take further precipitate action, Elysia and
Ferros arrived; Ferros used his Speak with Animals spell ability to
assure the stags that no harm was intended and to extricate Alurax from
the situation. With the matter closed, the stags got back to locking
antlers and the party went on its way.
shaded into evening, a different kind of noise was heard off into the
forest, more distant but more numerous as if a large group of creatures
was traversing the woods. Nobody seemed particularly intent on
investigating this, and the party made camp, hoping to settle down for
the night. However, the strange noises were again heard later on and
this time Elysia sent Relic off to try and find out what was going on
and whether it was a threat to the party. The little pseudo-dragon
returned shortly with the information she required; it turned out that
it was a large number of wild cattle being herded by goblins. The party,
on hearing the G-word, were all for arming up and riding off to give
battle but wiser heads prevailed and the noise of the cattle eventually
faded away into the night.
Nobody actually thought to
wonder why goblins might be herding cattle in the forest (there is a
good reason but I’m not giving it away just yet), and the next day, the
party emerged from the woods into the rough badlands, over which they
had travelled on their way to and from the elven lands. Not far off,
they saw the recognisable shape of the rocky outcrop where they had
defeated the ogres many weeks ago. However, rising from the top of the
outcrop was a thin ribbon of smoke. Intrigued as to what lay up there,
Alurax scrambled up the slopes, followed by Benbo who failed to
negotiate the rocky incline and fell back down to the bottom, battered
and bruised. He nevertheless tried again and, accompanied by Alagon,
joined Alurax, who was in discussion with a group of individuals in
armour, with weapons and adventuring equipment.
hardly surprising, given the energy with which the party had been
opening up the wilderness, that determined individuals would soon be
following in their wake, and here was one such party who were suitably
impressed that they had met the famous Team Adventure. However, Alagon’s
entreaties for this new party to join the established team were met
with reluctance not only from the neophytes but also from his own
colleagues, who did not like the idea of sharing their glory and
treasure with yet more members. In the end, our heroes rode on, but not
before Ferros had given some words of wisdom to the cleric of the other
About the middle of the day, the party was
riding down a long and narrow valley when Ferros realised that something
was moving behind them. He turned to see two giant lizards lumbering
alarm went up and the party swung into action with Alurax, Benbo and
Alagon pitching in to take on the scaly monsters. As they dispatched
one, two more appeared, coming from the other direction. An ambush by
four giant lizards might have proved too much for the inexperienced
party they had met earlier but the doughty veterans managed to slay all
four before cutting open the lizards’ stomachs to see if there was
anything interesting inside – a lesson they had learned at the Moat
House on their first expedition there.
The party were
starting to get accustomed to the wilderness again; towards evening,
they spotted on the horizon the ruins of what looked like an old castle.
They soon realised, as they rode towards it, that it was the ruined
watch-tower where they had fought the trolls; this was revealed by the
scatter of burned bones across the ground and the scorched patches where
the fires had been lit and blazed fiercely.
and Benbo ventured into the ruins, keen to see if the owlbear that had
been kept there by the trolls was still guarding the three doors that
they had never explored. They crept very cautiously down the steps to
the room where it had been last seen and found that its body lay against
one wall; behind it was some sort of cocoon, white and papery, that had
grown up between the body and the brickwork. Both of them edged closer
to the cocoon before hearing a sinister droning noise coming from it.
Out flew several giant wasps which headed straight for our heroes.
only to toss an oil bomb at the striped marauders, Alurax and Benbo ran
for the stairs, but the stalwart hobbit was stung by two of the wasps
as he tried to escape. His robust constitution meant that he managed to
overcome the sinister paralysing effects of the stings’ venom and the
terrified pair reached the top of the stairs, slamming the door and
barring it. They raced back through the ruins to the rest of the party
who were just deciding where to sleep that night and in panicked voices,
explained that they needed to leave immediately.
hearing the words ‘giant wasps’, the rest of the party agreed with them
and they headed off into the night. After a good while, they managed to
calm down and decided to set about pitching camp. Before they could do
so, they were surrounded by a group of horse archers who had appeared
out of the night. Diplomacy prevailed over combat, which Benbo had been
about to start, and it was established that the newcomers were nomadic
tribesmen who were on the move through the badlands. The party wisely
distanced itself from them and settled down for the night.
next day’s travel was distinguished by encounters with several groups
of wild animals. A pack of eight lions shadowed the party for some time,
but kept their distance. At noon, or thereabouts, the party’s horses
started to show signs of distraction and became friskier and less
controllable as the party rode on. Soon, the source of the distraction
became apparent; a herd of wild horses, several of them mares.
Yes, we can help you but we want a share of the XP
Keeping a tight rein on their own mounts, the party pressed on and eventually left the wild horses behind.
the sun started to dip towards the west, the mournful sound of wolf
howls met the party’s ears. Alurax also noticed a familiarity about the
terrain; three rocky hillocks close to each other recalled to mind the
Battle of Three Peaks and this was confirmed when they started to see
orc bones, gnawed and chewed by the lupine scavengers. Not wishing to
loiter in an area where they might be attacked, the party put some miles
between them and the battlefield, setting up camp and allocating first
watch to Alurax and Benbo.
Not long afterwards, there
was the sound of something moving in the night sky above them. They
quickly wakened the party and, despite some members expressing the wish
to shoot first and ask questions later, it was soon revealed that the
campsite was in for a visit from four giant owls. Elysia, using Ferros
as interpreter, established cordial relations with the owls who were
able to advise that a gang of ogres were camped in a nearby ravine and
would probably pose a serious problem for the party the next day unless
the party took the initiative.
the owls for their information (and refusing to allow Benbo to ride one of them), the party set about planning what to
do. Elysia sent Relic off on a reconnaissance mission and he soon
returned with enough information to allow them to lay their plans.
ogres had set up a camp at the bend of a dry ravine, with three sentry
posts of two ogres each, a good distance from each other, overlooking
the campsite. It was established that four ogres were at the camp fire,
three a little further off and it was likely that two were in a small
cave that opened onto the ravine. Elysia decide to make use of the Ring
of Mammal Control that she had salvaged from Galadeus’ body (well, hand
actually – all that was left of him) to get the herd of wild horses to
the mouth of the ravine and then start them stampeding down it. That
having been done, she quickly moved to the area of the campsite, where
she cast a Fly spell on herself and moved up silently into the night
Alurax and Gullhar crept forward towards the sentries and settled down
to wait. Meanwhile, Benbo had been lashing oil bombs together, six at a
time, with a length of rope attached to each cluster. Ferros took up
position with his bow.
Elysia flew in and cast a
Stinking Cloud on each sentry pair, then pulled out. The three fighters
then moved in to kill whichever ogres were not incapacitated; Alurax and
Gullhar managed their ogres quickly but Alagon seemed to be having more
difficulty. However, he finally managed to kill his opponent. All three
of them rushed into the clouds to kill the choking ogres and took a few
moments to recover themselves.
Meanwhile, Benbo had
launched his first oil bomb cluster which landed in the campfire. A huge
explosion incinerated the four ogres who were standing around it. As
the horses hurtled down the ravine, the three outlying ogres took to
their heels but were too slow to avoid being run down and trampled. A
second blast bomb fell short of the two ogres in the cave but the splash
damage still badly injured them and Ferros shot one dead. The other,
overwhelmed by what had happened to his comrades, surrendered and was
taken prisoner by the party, who had descended from the heights. A quick
investigation of the cave revealed that it held coin, gems, jewellery,
potions and an axe that glowed with a magical light.
good night’s work by the party with some skilled use of their resources
and abilities, plus the exploitation of the element of surprise (and
perhaps a few pointers from outside sources) meant that each member of
the party came away feeling very pleased with themselves. Whether this
would continue as they made their way further into the wilderness, we
shall see in the next session.
Well, Team Adventure is about to set out on a long wilderness jaunt in pursuit of the renowned, much-desired and possibly entirely fictional Holy Sword. I know where it is and to get there, they’re going to have to cross a lot of hexes.
They’ve done this before, of course; long-term followers of this blog will recall their journey to the wood elves and their descent into the resprayed Lichway. One thing that marked the journey there and back again (see what I did there?) was a large number of random wilderness encounters that I diced up as they entered each hex. Even I didn’t know what was coming, how many of them there would be and the outcome of the encounter.
Now, however, I’m faced with a bit of a decision. Should I pre-roll the encounters so that the wait for me to consult the charts, roll the dice, do the calculations, determine the numbers and – inevitably – work out how much treasure said monsters are carrying, if at all is short-circuited? They’d still meet the monsters, but I’d know in advance what was coming and be able to keep the game flowing.
Or should I stick with the old method, wherein I’ve as much idea as the party what’s lurking round the next tree or bluff?
There are arguments for and against each method.
Pre-rolling, as I’ve already said, speeds things up no end. The party can start counting the loot (assuming they win) almost as soon as the last monster has fled or hit the ground. I can also, if the monsters are intelligent, plan ambush or battle strategies, rather than just hurl them against the party in a head-on charge. I can prepare lairs if the party want to try and track the monsters back to their hidey hole. I can even work out a linking plot to make the encounter that little bit more interesting than ‘monster of the day’.
Of course, there is a problem with pre-rolling; I’m only human and these are kids I’m gaming with. Hell, I’d be as bad if it were adults. Although the DM is supposed to be a neutral facilitator of environment interaction, a party that’s been badly mauled by trolls is going to be in serious trouble if the dice decree a dragon flies over their heads. If I’ve pre-rolled the encounter but the party don’t know I have, I’m at liberty to fudge the results. To a sandbox extremist like myself, that’s something I don’t like to do deliberately but it may be that I find myself doing it unconsciously.
The only defence from accusations, either from oneself or the players, that one is somehow fudging (and it is worth recalling that fudging for one person can sometimes mean fudging against another) is to adhere rigidly to the will of the dice. I refer the reader back to one of the most insightful comments I’ve ever heard about sandbox, from the Great Sage Beedo “The dice are there to protect the DM from himself”. Some of the most interesting and exciting situations in the Team Adventure campaign so far have arisen out of random encounters, which – when combined with the decisions that players have made based on those encounters – have generated entire plot strands. Had I intervened, even slightly, in the randomness of the roll or the decisions that the players made afterwards, things would have been different – no less enjoyable, perhaps but with a sneaking suspicion that the fate of the players was not entirely in their own hands.
Of course, even offering the players as wide a choice of options as possible still implies a certain amount of interference from the DM because he’s the one who chose and allocated those options in the first place.
It all comes down in the end to how much I, as a DM can trust myself to respect the oracular power of the dice, yet at the same time have access to the knowledge the dice might choose to impart ahead of time. Just as life is the story we tell ourselves to make sense of the random events that happen to us, the true meaning of the events that random dice rolls set in motion becomes apparent long after the dice have stopped rolling across the table.
Benbo, 3rd level Fighter/4th level Thief - he who dares.
Galzor, 4th level cleric - mysteriously disappeared along with the Third and his coffin.
Zanurax, 3rd level thief (recovering from being partly eaten by a lion and has now gone to join Merlin)
Olaf, 4th level dwarven fighter, now returning to his clan halls
Merlin, 3rd level thief (called away on the business of the Thieves' Guild)
Adthar, 4th level fighter - currently both an Ettin and a statue
Elador, nth level magic-user - called away on special assignments but will act as mentor and adviser to the team
Galadeus, 2nd level ranger - drowned and then eaten by a shark.....aaaaaand he's BACK! aaaaaaaaand he's dead again.
What I'm DMing for 6 new junior players
Old School Links to Wisdom
Give your d12...
...some Old School love
Call of Cthulhu - visit our wiki
That's what Old School means to me
"These rules are flexible and open to interpretation - designed not to cover all conceivable situations, but to allow good Referees and Players the freedom to create and play games of their own design."
from the Lulu download page for The White Box S&W from BHP
"This game is unlike chess in that the rules are not cut and dried. In many places, they are guidelines and suggested methods only. This is part of the attraction of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons"
Over halfway to 90, I started playing AD&D when the Police were a cool band and Punk was wild. I am a father to a ten-year-old Junior Grognard and have now managed to establish a five-strong gaming group made up of him and four of his friends, ages ranging from 10 to 11. Solidly Old-School.
High fives and natural 20s to you all!