Session 2: They venture into the Underworld

The interesting stuff first.

They checked out the tunnel beneath the collapsed cellar and found a small series of finished stone rooms. They didn’t finish exploring, though the unexplored side passage pinged with live spiders when someone cast a Locate Flora and Fauna spell. They got side-tracked by an ornately carved room with a vaulted ceiling and a 10′ pit leading into the depths. Old skeletal corpses in battle gear littered the floor. All the stone inscriptions were smashed. Using Detect Magic they could see a magical fog waft up from the pit as if it were breathing. A torch thrown in showed a 100-foot drop. Of course they tied a rope off on one of the stone carvings and rappelled down … 50′. Luckily they brought a second rope.

The PC at the end of the rope tied it off and continued down. His knot was bad, and he fell some 20′ to the bottom. A bad roll on the falling damage meant he hit the ground like a sack of wet potato skins and wasn’t moving. They tried to help him out, but he was the one with the healing spells. D’oh!

The shapechanger turned into a bird, flew down, realized he was still alive but she couldn’t help him. She also didn’t have an animal form that could climb the shaft, nor fly carrying the rope. And nobody had a third coil. So she explored further alone (!) to try to find something that could heal him or bring the rope up. She was startled by bats, found the noxious, greasy nest of some horrible monster, and sensibly returned to wait it out.

After some conversation, one PC topside decided to run back to town alone (!) through 15 miles of forested hills in the middle of the night to buy more rope. He arrived, but the gate guard wouldn’t let him in as it was 1 in the morning in monster-infested wilderness. They haggled, he threw coins up for the guard to go buy him some rope, and the guard returned and tossed it down. He got a couple gold for his trouble, which was nice.

Then the PC ran back through the woods, disturbing a nest of Giant Ticks, and managed to get back a total of six hours later. (Elves have a special ability to move overland as fast as if riding a horse, and he did a Forced March).

Later they encountered the monsters from the nest – giant maggots! Disgusting! I described them as too-large though. I used four dice in a row, should have been only 2, but oh well. In that area they found more carvings – and writing that wasn’t smashed! Someone used the Read Languages ability to puzzle out some very interesting info about the civilization that built these places.

And much later they encountered a murky pool in a hallway. When they got too close, a watery snake rose out of it and struck. It tried to drag them underwater, and succeeded in a couple cases. A wild tug-of-war broke out, but the creature was able to pull in three at once at one point. The ones that were pulled 60′ to the bottom saw some treasure down there in the dim glow of the slime on the walls. So of course after they had killed the monster and it re-formed one of them swam down again alone (!) to try to get some loot. They fled without killing the monster for good.

They’re in a deciduous forest in Summer, and there’s a stream nearby. For food their shapechanger goes out hunting. She’s bringing back mostly moles and hedgehogs right now. Gotta love random tables! It doesn’t help much that she’s going out hunting alone (!) and doesn’t have a bow. She hunts as a wolf.

A little behind-the-scenes info.

I didn’t tell them what the names of the monsters were. The “Giant Spiders” were actually just basketball-sized Hairy Spiders in my notes. The six-foot “Giant Centipedes” were actually Pine Needle Centipedes for their camouflage carapace. The “Giant Maggot Monsters” were Carrion Crawlers. The “Water Snake Monster” was a Water Weird.

I didn’t map for them, except in one specific case where there was a weird-shaped cavern. I tell them “You descend into a cave roughly 20′ x 20′. There are natural tunnel exits north and east. Each tunnel is only 5′ around.” The same goes for the overland map – they tell me which direction they want to go and I tell them the next hex’s terrain type. Since I’m not using specialized mapping terminology, I can describe to the mapper at the same time as the rest of the group.

I don’t tell them what treasure they get – I describe it for them. Gems have a color and a size. Coins are “clean and silvery” or “corroded green” or whatever. If someone had Appraisal I would skip that step, but that’s the price they pay for investing in that extra point of weapon skill instead of Appraisal.

This game feels very equipment-oriented. I keep track of time, and tell them when their torches burn out. Equipment tends to get used up, lost, destroyed, and I like to see that kind of operating cost in the adventuring group. They throw lit torches into rooms and down into pits to light the way. They’re constantly finding innovative uses for rope. I like to see what they do with the tools they’re given to overcome their environment. Nobody bought a 10′ pole yet but I’m sure someone will find out they need one and pick it up on the next trip to town.

It’s interesting that so far they’ve passed up every treasure cache. They didn’t finish exploring the upper cellars, they didn’t investigate the horrible maggot nest (with good reason I guess), and they were chased out of the pool area by the Water Weird (again, good move). But the Water Weird also stopped them from exploring a snake pit farther back, which had a little loot. I’m going to stand by my guns here, and if they don’t look in the right places they’re not going to find anything.

So far they’ve evaded a lot of monsters, but they also killed quite a few. I’m surprised we didn’t see more casualties from the Carrion Crawlers as they’re 3 HD and the PCs are only first level. And a couple times people almost ran out of breath in the murky pool. And if the guy who fell had dropped an extra 20′ or had failed more of his unconscious recovery rolls, he could easily have just splattered down there.

This session we had a new player – one who had never played a tabletop RPG before. He had played video games like this before, though, so it wasn’t entirely new material. Mainly, as I told him, the differences are that you can try to do whatever you want, but you have to do your own math. He seemed to enjoy himself a lot, and said he’d be back next weekend.

We also might pick up a sixth player, the girlfriend of a current one. It sounds like she plays D&D so we won’t have the “bored girlfriend observer just making sure her dude isn’t at the strip club” thing going on.

Normally I’d have misgivings at our current player mix. You usually don’t want to see people join in pairs because when one flakes out, the other has a good chance to. They both want to go to the same wedding, or deliver a baby, that sort of thing. You can’t really fault them for it. We have a married couple, the aforementioned BF/GF, a friend of the married couple, and a neighbor of the married couple. Everyone seems pretty cool, but there’s the possibility of cancelling the game if there’s a big church function or something. Ideally you want separate players. But honestly, I’m lucky to have picked up a full group like this and it’s nothing I can complain about.

Finally, figurines. I have a dry-erase mega-mat that rolls up into a shipping tube. The first session I used dice for everyone, which got confusing, but it worked. This time someone brought a box of prepainted plastic minis, which was pretty cool. I still used dice for the monsters, because it’s just easier that way. My problem is, even if I had a bunch of metal figurines, I wouldn’t be able to bring them. Weight and the volume of the packing material are main concerns. I could buy a bunch of plastic figures. And I found a set of printable paper stand-ups like you’d use for a board game. I’d just need to make bases for them, and I could bring them all in an envelope. Since it combines cheap and easy to carry, I think that’s what I’ll do.

I just really don’t like how the D&D plastic minis look like ub3r k3wl superheroes. Someone needs to produce a line of these plastic minis that actually look like adventurers – backpacks, lanterns and torches, more weapon variety, some normal clothes. I’d buy that for a dollar.

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