Saturday, March 6, 2010

Drunken one-off crawl pt. II: the revenge

So I promised either a session report or falling asleep in the comments section of last post; I delivered on the latter promise. Here's the former.

Our stalwart troupe of hastily-named adventuring-type folk entered the Catacombs of the Necromancer via the timber lift ensconced in the ever-so-aptly named Stinky Hole tavern. The lift brings one to "The Training Grounds" (AKA Level 0, AKA The Rat Warrens), an area where (according to the talk around town) a small, inexperienced group of adventurers may hone their craft without exposure to the more-terrifying terrors of the deep. (Basically, yeah, it's a rat-whomping newbie level straight out of CircleMUD - a little tribute to a huge time-waster of my youth.) One of the standard rumors concerning the Catacombs details the way to "Level 1" and the dungeon proper (first right, first left, first right) but Angus said to hell with that. (IIRC, the last Basic game anyone in our circle played was my boy Matt's, wherein they lost 30 PCs in a night, so maybe his caution is justified.)

The party (consisting of, I believe, a fighter, a dwarf, an elf, two clerics and a halfling) entered the narrow passages of The Warrens. (5' wide, here, which makes having a spear- or polearm-armed back rank fighter almost necessary, lest combat devolve into the dreaded Conga Line of Death.) They first happened on an octagonal-shaped room containing a low table and several exits. Upon entering the room, it was found to also contain a nasty recurring green slime infestation; the party was surprised, and the fighter was drip'd 'pon, but the deadly goo only struck his helmet and pauldron (flubbed the attack roll), and - quickly discarding these - the room was marked off "no entrar" with chalk and the party moved on.

(A note here about green slime, and its inclusion in the "slow-pitch" area of my dungeon. Often considered one of the deadliest low-level monsters in D&D, and unfortunately (due to hazy guidelines on how to use the stuff) a rarely-used one by many DMs. IMC, one must be surprised by the slime to be struck (assuming it's clinging to the ceiling and not filling some drinking goblet or slime-spraying death trap), and an attack roll is made to see if it hit the PC, their armor (or gear), or simply the floor. Slime striking the armor gives PCs a round or two to react, and they get a "this shit's sizzling away" cue to work off of. In other words, you have to be relatively unlucky to get "slimed" in my game unless someone's worked it into a trap. Still, it's a potential PC-melter, why include it in the "safe zone"? 'Cause new players need to get the message right of the bat that there's no "safe," just "safer," and sometimes the first PC death is the band-aid-ripping that signals to newbies that their survival depends on their wits as well as luck. Putting the slime encounter one room from the door gets this out of the way (and while any replacement PCs needed are a shout away).

From the now-shunned slime living room, and while avoiding the described route to Level 1, the only remaining way lead to a small, circular room containing an ancient stone well. Lying in wait here was a 5'-long gecko - the party sprang into action and monster-pinata'd the fuck out of this before it could take anybody's arm off. The gecko was skinned for a cloak (bright blue with orange spots is apparently in this year), and the well was investigated.

Now, this is another potential "gotcha" that could be considered unusual for a newbie level. Iron rungs lead to the bottom of the well, where there is a sandy bottom (sometimes containing a small treasure) with a fast-flowing stream running across it; the stream's channel is just tall enough for a dwarf to walk and fight, but cramped for a human. Upstream, the channel leads to other areas of the level via additional wells (introducing the idea of hidden ways and non-explicit level connections). Downstream, there is an iron grate (now broken), the floor slopes down, and the sandy bottom is replaced by algae-slimed bare rock. If you proceed downstream, you are given several warnings and chances to turn back - failing to do so results in a Dex check, and - failing that - shooting down a dark waterslide to a wholly unsavory (and un-newbie-friendly) cavern level ("The Grotto") wherein death awaits with big, nasty teeth. (The teeth are on giant shrews, if you're curious. Nasty - these are described in Basic as pretty much R.O.U.S.'s, and they're rough customers. Y'know, for a fucking shrew.) This, beyond providing an area for slightly leveled-up and trouble-seeking PCs to explore, teaches the lesson that, yes, I really will give you enough rope to hang yourself with, and that ignoring "flavor text" warnings is somewhat inadvisable. So far I'd yet to see someone actually make it down there (usually the description deters players), and this was no exception. Next time, dear ones, next time. (More on that later - someone eventually fell for it! LOL)

So the watery channel was forded upstream - past an open-ceilinged gallery to another well (this with iron rungs as well). The halfling poked his head up and spotted there skeletons as they in turn spotted (and nearly spitted) him. Quick combat later, the skellies were so much bone meal; onwards and upwards the party proceeded.

Well, that's all my phone browser will hold, so looks like there'll be a part III. Next time I discuss alternative mapping methods, random cave generation, and the dinner bell.