Session 3: Archaeology and much pulling of ropes

This session saw the group return to the Underworld and read more of the intact writing on the walls. I used a little mini-game that I learned from the game session notes of another blog [CITATION NEEDED] which was to have the player record numbers 1-20 and every two hours of research gave a d20 roll. If she rolled a number for the first time, she circled it. If she got a second hit on the same number, I’d give information on a topic.

Because I was winging it, I didn’t have anything prepared except my own general ideas about the civilization. After getting ten circles and hitting five of those I said she had exhausted the research she could do in this dungeon. She did get some good information though. I’ll actually prepare something for the next game. Since she was the only one with Read Languages, the others had to sit around on watch.

Over the course of two days in the dungeon they were attacked by Skeleton Spearmen coming out of the water, Giant Fire Beetles (no they don’t spit fire, that’s just what they’re called), and a Gray Ooze. The ooze in particular was rough, as it deals 2d6 damage when most monsters do 1d6 – and they are all still first level with just 1d6 HP. The first attack by the ooze hit and dealt 9 damage. Luckily his Constitution was decent so he survived unconscious, and they killed it quickly before it could continue eating him. Also lucky was that nobody lost their weapons attacking it, as it dissolves metal.

I described the Gray Ooze as a huge pile of stone-colored mashed potatoes and gravel, leaving a clean trail on the floor and not making any sound. That and the acidic touch for 9 damage was pretty scary for them. Especially the archaeologist character who had rolled just 1 HP for level 1.

They wandered into an unexplored cave that had a ledge path along one wall and a chasm dropping off sharply to the left. As they crept along the wall one of them blundered into an invisible filament dangling down and was hauled up into the darkness. They threw a lit torch upward and it landed on a second ledge well above them, where some kind of giant cave insect was pulling the hapless PC to his doom. The victim let down a rope which they all climbed, and the combined weight was enough to drag the insect off its perch. They fell some distance, hitting the pathway ledge. The insect bounced past them and fell down the chasm, dragging the stuck PC along with it! They cut the invisible filament with a flaming sword one PC had inherited (as a part of character generation) and the insect fell chittering and wailing into the abyss.

Then they decided to go back to the water monster’s pool and try to kill it. One PC climbed upstairs to the cellars of the ruins and found a bucket, came down, and got within 10′ of the pool to try to chuck the bucket in. He did get a bucket of water and emptied it on the floor, the water monster came out angry, and he foolishly tried it again. The monster managed to hit him and drag him in.

A second tug-of-war party broke out. This time they managed to get someone to dive down to loot while everyone else distracted the monster at the surface. Everyone was missing their attacks though. One PC grabbed the water monster and managed to headbutt it twice. Then a lucky Magic Missile dissolved it. They descended immediately to loot, using the bucket and rope to load treasure to be hauled up when full. When the water monster re-formed two rounds later it grabbed the rope and tried to haul everyone in!

With four people pulling on the creaking, straining rope they had a chance. Their combined weight allowed them to do opposed rolls against the monster and they began to drag it out of its lair. One final “natural 20” and they heaved it far enough to dissolve it, making the water crash all over the floor and into the pool. They escaped with all of the big pieces of treasure, and half the scattered coins!

When they caught their breath and tried to go back for the rest they found that the water monster had reformed again. They want the rest of those coins but they aren’t willing to brave it again so soon.

Then they ascended and finally cleared out the rest of the cellar. The spiders they thought were in the other room were dead and dried up. They searched and discovered a rusted chest sticking out of a previously hidden compartment of a buckled wall.

And that’s where we ended it.

I’m still rolling all my dice out in the open. I told them in the beginning that I wouldn’t fudge things to let them live if the dice weren’t going their way or they made some bad decisions. I roll monster HP to the side (the table we used had a box on each end built in, so I used that). And that’s only because I don’t want them to know how many levels or HP the monster has. They’re smart cookies, they’d figure it out quickly.

And I do roll monster HP. They get the same XP for a monster whether it’s a weak and sickly 1 HP or a burly 6 HP. So far I’ve been rolling the first time the monster is hit, but I should really roll at the start of the fight so I can describe the monsters as bigger or smaller.

I never used to roll monster HP. I just used the maximum possible roll. My thinking went that an encounter with a 12 HP Vampire was just silly and wouldn’t be worth the time spent on Initiative. And that the PCs always seem to have great HP because of Constitution bonuses and such. But in the spirit of the referee portraying a plausible world rather than a manipulated one, I roll monster HP just like players roll character HP.

The BF/GF duo arrived this session. He introduced her, we gave our names around the table. I don’t expect anyone to actually remember all that, I certainly wouldn’t. Name cards might be nice, but everyone else needed to remember only one or two new names because they mostly knew each other already.

She brought a book and read, didn’t seem much interested in the game, got up and wandered around the Game Matrix looking at things. She didn’t want to play because she already DMs a 4th edition game and said it would get confusing switching between playing and DMing. I can understand that. I didn’t go out of my way to integrate her into the game, since she obviously didn’t want to actually play. Or observe, even. Sort of strange. I wonder if she’ll be back.

EDIT: The blog I got the mini-game from was Shamus Young’s. Check the righthand column for “D&D Campaign”. He used the mini-game for a character magically researching a strange orb he found. Each “hit” the DM gave the player a card with some power or information about the orb. I wouldn’t recommend the mini-game for simple things like identifying a simple magic item, but for identifying an artifact or for something ongoing like my archaeology it feels pretty cool.

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