Friday, April 23, 2021

ACKS Session 16: The Dice Abide

Foreword

pondering how brosr is objectively correct
True D&D is a rollercoaster ride of unprecedented player success one session to apparent catastrophic failure the next. Last session my players used party composition and careful wilderness and dungeon crawling to come out ahead with an easy score where every single attending PC leveled. I started to wonder if I had become too soft. Am I a bad DM? Too easy?

NO!

Allowing and encouraging true player agency means that some days the players will put all the pieces together and/or get lucky and some days the opposite will happen. This week, the opposite happened.

Session Report

This week the players had hooks on hooks on hooks to choose from. I finally got around to figuring out what happened to Marn (PC Mage Level 2) after he was captured by hags who handed him over to Ferigno the green dragon for reasons. Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 2) was also handed over to Ferigno but the dragon ransomed him over to the Legate of Turos Tem about a week ago. Mandonio reported that the dragon kept Marn so as to force Marn to communicate with his (Marn's) supernatural patron (demon). Perhaps Marn's patron would help him out of this jam? Who knows!

I delivered to the other players, in the chat, what they learned about what happened to poor ol Marn:

"One of the PCs who is staying at the Travelers Inn on 04/20/21 is awakened at 3 AM in his room by the sound of Marn's voice moaning in pain and confusion. Looking about the room he sees Marn's face jutting out of the doorknob at the nightstand next to the bed. Marn can't appear to hear what the PC says but communicates a message of 280 characters which the player will tweet or put in the chat channel at his leisure. Upon delivering the message the face juts back into the wood and disappears. Looking inside the drawer the PC finds Marn's hand but it is tattooed with words in the common tongue written backwards. Holding the hand up to a mirror it states 'I've got good news. The Mage you like is going to come back in style!' The hand appears to have been tattooed with a map of a small portion of tunnels under Cyfaraun (spelled Cyfarawn). The tunnels lead under the Old District with an X marked 'the stench of riches! Re-attach the hand down and to the right.'"

Marn decided to make a new tw1tter account for the occasion of conveying his doorknob message. We're inventing new ways of engaging with the campaign here at the #brosr


Well, the players LOVED this hook. One stating it brought tears to his eyes. Yllmeeton (PC Shaman Level 3) even contacted his deity with Commune to learn more about it, finding out that Marn was alive and could maybe be saved. The players wanted to pack up all the treasure they have been unable to sell and go to Cyfaraun, a pretty big town they could likely sell it, and then look into the Marn hook ASAP. Problem was, it's a week or longer away, even on the fantastic Auran roads. Time compression becomes a concern. 

The players spent an hour discussing how they wanted to deal with this. I informed them the roads make a big circuit around the Borderlands and they could take a clockwise or counter-clockwise route. The clockwise route taking them past a small town, Siadanos, where they could attempt to sell some stuff as well. The Counter-clockwise route taking them past many border forts with more hooks on top of hooks. Realizing they wanted to use their B Team for those other hooks (mostly) they decided on the clockwise route. It was new land they had yet to explore.

Map of the borderlands with
sophisticated fog of war technology

Their plan was to travel for less than a week and take on a hook they found along the way, hopefully finishing up in Siadanos as a new home base before next session and leaving them able to play these PCs against next session, taking on the second leg of the journey to Cyfaraun at that time. Brilliant!

Real life session minutes fell away. Players tossed more questions at me about the Turos Tem economy, the price of rations, how fast their mule cart could go.... on and on. The glory of ACKS and its spreadsheet heavy gameplay was in its glory. I mean that unironically. 

Finally, however, they had a handful of mercs, their mule cart, their light repeating ballistae, their henchmen, and their hunting dog Pansy all gathered up to leave Turos Tem. Some of the heavy trade goods were left in the Merchant Guild warehouses in Turos Tem and they departed the village on the morning of of 04/21/21 en route to the small town of Siadanos. 

As they traveled along the river on the road for the first few hours of the trek BriarWhisper (Elven Ranger Level 3) caught sight of some Giant Carnivorous Flies coming towards the party from a stagnant pool near the river. The party saw nothing to gain from dealing with these ugly things and Evaded the encounter successfully. There were no other encounters for the rest of the day nor the next.

On the evening of the second day, at the end of evening watches just before sunrise of the third day of travel, Daria (PC BladeDancer Level 4) caught sight on some weird eyed undead watching the party from the tree line some 30 yards off the road. She carefully woke up all the party's combatants and various missiles were launched at the threatening figures. Two were killed before the undead slowly retreated back into the wood. Were they spies? Failed a morale check? Strange!

The party waited until sunrise and went into the wood to retrieve their missiles, BriarWhisper sadly lost two of the three magic arrows he shot into the forest. Yllmeeton lost his axe. Very sad. 

The creatures appeared to be normal zombies, as far as Daria could tell. Though she's no expert on undead. The wood itself had tall trees and less underbrush than the Viaspen. There was an eerie calm to it, BriarWhisper noting the lack of scurrying varmints and twittering birds. The party hit the road again, going west.

Some hours later I rolled a random encounter "Cleric". That's it. That's all I had. I faced the fear I always had of these classed NPC on the random encounter charts. I often design bespoke random encounter charts to take these guys off since I worry I won't be able to quickly come up with a reason a single Cleric or lone Fighter is hanging out in the wilderness when it hits on my random encounter chart. But ACKS, preparation, and humor saved the day.

I used the ACKS Player's Companion to roll up the Template for the Cleric, giving me a general idea of what kind of cleric he was. I got "mendicant" which is a sort of wandering village healer with a pet dog. Well, to me, this sounded like The Dude if he was a Cleric, of course. So I leaned into it. 

He waved at the party and approached to chat. "What news of the road, man?" he lazily drawled out. The party told him about the zombies they saw. "Oh yah man, I was on my way to take a look at that. People think there's a powerful head honcho zombie out there or something. I don't know man, it kind of creeps me out but we can't just let zombies run amok, right?" On it went.

entry 7 on my random
encounter table. how about yours, man?

What was he talking about? Well, the dungeon I had already placed on my regional map sometime back, had a Big Bad. Well, ACKS proper placed it and I skimmed it real quick about a year ago. It seemed fun. I made a mental note back then about it and the interesting villain. 

I had already decided the zombies that hit on the random nighttime encounter came from there. So ofc The Dude was looking into it. This is how the oracular power of the dice can work easy (and fun) prep to deliver something unique. Modular materials are helpful in this case. Not as the main crux of a campaign but as useful pieces to fit into the puzzle of what interests the DM and the players. 

Yllmeeton used Sense Power to gauge The Dude as being about 5th level and the party decided if they were going to hit the point of interest in question, now would be the best time. Free level 5 cleric as backup if you act now! Off they went into the forest, leaving their mercs and mule cart on the road and hoping for the best.

Yllmeeton was able to use his Owl familiar to spot a weird clearing in the woods some 5 to 10 miles deep and use the owl to guide them there. The owl wasn't particularly thrilled about it, pointing out how flying monsters might swoop and kill him at any moment "like almost happened last time with the Chimera. When is your god going to give you the power to fly so you can do the scouting?"

Lusaun Forest. Less viney, #biggertrees

The eeriness of a quiet animal free wood continued as they traveled. They eventually came to the clearing and there was a titanic statue that had fallen decades (centuries?) ago overgrown with vines and leaves. The oak trees surrounding it were strangely dead wood with gray sprouting leaves.

The party investigated the marble base the statue had once stood upon and found stairs going down under all the vines and brush. Lighting a torch, they delved inside.

The place was clearly an old Zaharan crypt, the strange old human race that buried their dead rather than burning them like properly civilized (Lawful) folk. The ceilings were low and the rooms were cramped. The party looked around finding a run down dining room and a kitchen with a recently decapitated and gnawed on head in the brick oven. Delicious! 

BriarWhisper tracked footprints to a room with an unholy altar and muddy prints going into the back wall; clearly a secret door but how to open it? The Dude cast Bless on the unholy altar stating it would weaken undead in the place for an hour or so. The party wanted to push it over and, in the attempt, pushed a weird rune on the altar which triggered a secret door on the back wall. 

Stairs led down into darkness and a floor covered with 2 feet of water. The party used a grappling hook to fish in the water to avoid pit traps and found none. Their hope the knee deep water would only be along the first hallway came to naught, the entire level was flooded. They came to a large circular room with a column in the center and exits at every cardinal direction. Hearing zombies down two of the hallways they moved quickly to trap one throng in the hall, down it, and move on to the other; so as not to face both at once.

The battle against the western hallway went swimmingly, zombies easily downed and turned. Running across the large room to the eastern hallway they engaged the next group, which unfortunately had ghouls! Daria jumped into the fray and downed one after Overbearing a zombie to get to a ghoul. BriarWhisper shot some zombies  down. Gaius sliced some heads off with his magic sword. But Yllmeeton got in the fray and didn't fair nearly as well. A ghoul scratched at his legs ripping up his tendons and felling him. The shaman was bleeding out unconscious face down in the water. Daria was worried he was going to drown but the party didn't have time to deal with that.

Because suddenly the Head Zombie jumped wailing out of the water right behind BriarWhisper and ripped his elf eyes out. He fell on his back in the water and floated strangely completely on top (elves are weird).

undead + flooded level = fun!

The Dude was able to Turn the ghouls and the party could focus on fighting the crazy undead lady who was chewing on BriarWhispers eyes laughing. She appeared to be a priestess of Dirgion but with gray bark skin, teeth like daggers, and moving supernaturally quickly. It was a long battle of back and forth with her but eventually Gaius decapitated her. The clerics moved quickly to heal BriarWhisper and Yllmeeton but their injuries were very serious. Both would need a month of bed rest before they could adventure or do much of anything again. Even worse was what The Dude had to say: "hey man.. uh.. your elf friend isn't waking up man. His eyes are all messed up but he's like in a coma or something. I think it's that chick, man. She put the juju on him or something."

The surviving party members were concerned but not so much so to not explore the remaining room quickly for treasure. They found a couple open sarcophagi whose runes were recently painted. Inside were a bunch of antlers worth a bit of gold back in town (treasure!). The group was bagging them up when they heard Yllmeeton yelling from the previous room were he was convalescing near the last battle. "Guys! She's getting up the lady is getting up!"

The zombie priestess was putting her body back together including screwing her head back on. She laughed at Yllmeeton and said she'd eat him last, starting by opening up his stomach. Gauis, Daria, and The Dude ran back and started their second battle with her. She got a couple of good bites and claws on Daria and The Dude but her razor sharp fingers couldn't get past Gaius' armor or superb legionnaire sword and board training. He eventually lopped her head off again. 

The zombie priestess's spinal column was attacked to her head and it began to spin like a propeller to send her head zooming across the flooded dungeon like a motorboat, laughing gleefully and insulting the PC's hygiene and paternity. Gaius took chase. It took a turn to catch the head while I checked for random encounters. No dice.

Daria said "lets get the hell out of here". They carried BriarWhisper and supported a limping Yllmeeton. Once outside the party burned the zombie's head wherein she laughed and wailed madly about how she'd haunt the dreams of the PC's children and pets. After all her flesh and hair burned away, she finally shut up. Gauis bagged the skull as a trophy. They escaped the forest some hours later returning to their wagon and mercenaries who, thankfully, hadn't faced any random encounters.

The injured PCs were placed on the mule cart and the whole litter traveled down the road towards Siadanos for a few hours before sundown. Daria and the Dude had horrible nightmares about the zombie lady disemboweling them in slow motion and were unable to sleep. The Dude theorized that getting scratched and bit by her cursed them somehow with these terrible dreams. Nothing else eventful happened that night during camp nor on the next day of travel and the party arrived in Siadanos.

BriarWhisper was taken to the Temple of Ammonar by the Dude who promised to do everything he could to cure the condition BriarWhisper's condition was in. Yllmeeton would need a month of rest and his henchlady Marina got him set up with a room and some food and a nurse now and then. 

Most of these same PCs walked into Turos Tem victors, weighed down by spoils last week. This week they limped into Siadanos with two nearly dead compatriots and a handful of antlers to show for it. You never know what can happen in real D&D!

Prologue 

I considered not writing all this out since this particular blog entry has ran very long indeed. I wonder if anyone will actually read to this point. If you do read this far you gain 1 Dubs Point to be redeemed on Tw1tter for a followback for yourself or your fren with the coupon code "dudesrock1776". (Limit to the first five!) 

However, so much happened the day AFTER the session was played, during downtime, that I believe it to be a major part of Session 16 itself. Worth documenting. A campaign with hooks falling from the rafters suddenly had even more. All thanks to the oracular power of dice.

The Dude took BriarWhisper's body to the Temple of Ammonar, the most politically powerful sect of the Empyerean faith (state religion). He met with Prelate Antoninus alongside Daria. The old balding and judgmental prelate was unimpressed with the Dude, always considering the clerics of the Naurivus medicant order to be dirty hippies. But after about 30 minutes the Dude was able to convince the Prelate of his story of the powerful zombie lady and their needing to help BriarWhisper. The Prelate agreed to palaver with his Vicar's and see what they could learn about the elf's condition. It took them about two days.

Siadanos
In the meantime Daria and the Dude were losing sleep and succumbing to creeping insanity from their nightmares, losing 1 Intelligence point a day. Both were relieved when the Prelate showed up two days later: "Friends, It seems you and your group came upon a Soul Eater. Prelate Soprano recalls such boogie stories from his youth. It's quite fascinating, indeed. The crypt you delved must be a sinkhole of evil or somesuch thingm and the Soul Eater was a high level priestess of Dirgion. I'm sad to say to say the only way to truly kill her and send her to the hells is to drive a blessed silver spike through her head. Alas, if we had her head!" Gaius went to his backpack with a grin, holding up the skull which had slowly been re-growing skin and hair. The group takes it to the Temple for destruction.

The head/skull of the Soul Eater screamed and mocked all present at the ritual that should would haunt them and their e-frens until the Awakening. She shut up when the Prelate drove the stake.

Some time later BriarWhisper woke from his coma, yet was still blind from the Soul Eater ripping them out hungrily. BriarWhisper's player informed me that his alignment would be shifting to Lawful due to the Dude and the Temple helping him in his time of need. He requested the Dude catechize him at his bedside, as time allowed, while he recovered enough to travel and walk again. He'd be bed ridden for a month. The Dude enjoyed white russions sitting bedside, hanging on tales BriarWhisper told of the animals and natural scenery of the Viaspen Forest where the elf was from. 

One clear afternoon the elf mentioned the "White Lady of the Forest", a rumor/hook from back at the start of the campaign. I rolled a Theology check for The Dude and, as it turns out, he knew the tale as a myth. "Who man, that's in the Viaspen? It's a metaphor, man. It's not a lady it's a Unicorn aligned with the goddess Ianna and she protects a healing pool. That's it mean, we can get your blindness healed there!"

So, with a couple dice rolls a new adventure and hook was unlocked. The players are already planning how they might find the Pool whose location they don't know exactly. The Pool will also heal the Intelligence The Dude and Daria lost during their tortured two days of nightmare filled nights.

directors cut
The Dude's first concern, however, is cleansing the sinkhole of evil back at the crypt of the Soul Eater. He wants the party to come along but I'll be checking each week if he takes on the challenge alone or finds another party. He will help them find the Pool but only after he's cleansed the sinkhole.

Remember when the party was hyped about getting to Cyfaraun? Remember Marn? Me neither. But it's still out there! And it's still lit.

Stories and interesting events fall like rain on a beachside afternoon in real d&d. Refreshing and cool, steaming the hot asphalt with adventure. You don't have to force it with long backstories and hundreds page adventures. You just have to be open to letting the dice fall where they may and the players go where they may.

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 312 XP Gained. Total: 5,271. Mortally wounded and unable to adventure until 05/26/21. Permanently blinded unless he finds advanced magical healing (like a unicorn pool!)

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 298 XP gained. Total: 7,427

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Fighter. 328 XP gained. Total: 4,717

Yllmeeton (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Shaman. 328 XP gained. Total: 4,691. Mortally wounded and unable to adventure until bed resting until 05/23/21. His legs are permanently all messed up and he requires crutches unless he finds advanced magical healing. The Unicorn pool won't cut it since he's Neutral and the pool only works on Lawful folk. 

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Alexa this is so sad play "steal my sunshine" by Len


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

ACKS Session 15: Review of "The Sinister Stone of Sakkara" and a Session Report

-Session played on 04/12/21 taking two in game days-

Foreword

Players love it when a plan comes together. Real D&D is an interesting exploration of what rules and gameplay decisions truly matter. The major decision the players made this week that truly made the difference was having one player bring his Elven Ranger (BriarWhisper) instead of his Fighter (Mandonio). I'll explore in the session report why the group composition made so many moments swing in the Players' favor this session. 

pic unrelated. im reading it
lately and like the cover

Let's just say this is an interesting result of using Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping. Most players have two or more PCs to choose from. This means players are more likely to treat their PC like a game piece ala chess, and less an extension of themselves ala fake DND (WOTC era, Critical R0le, etc). 

When I was a Player (Chaz the Elf Thief) this session of AD&D 1st edition shows where we were beginning to treat our PCs as chess pieces. We had a small epiphany, of sorts, when we realized three (3) clerics showed up to game. Myself and the halfling thief player realized we could exploit are cleric/thief heavy group composition to attack a hook our DM (in his foolishness) felt we could never handle at our level: a high level crypt! Having detachment from ones' PC allows the Player(s) to more objectively explore what hooks will be profitable and attack those before the World in Motion may eliminate those hooks.

My players had a similar concept when, in the first 30 minutes of time on the mic, they discussed how wilderness travel random encounters were really giving them trouble. Bringing the Elven Ranger PC could help them evade those! The PC ended up turning the tables in more than just that way. Read on!

Session Report

Party composition was such a major part of this session I will list it right here for immediate consideration

-BriarWhisper (Level 2 Elven Ranger)

-Gaius was back! (Level 2 Fighter Legionnaire template, magic shield and magic sword)

-Daria (Level 3 BladeDancer): she brought two henchmen. Bard the Bowman and One Light Infantry.

-Longinus (Level 1 Assassin): brand new PC for a player who has 3 others but who are all either captured or based out of different Keeps/Towns and thus unavailable for a group based out of Turos Tem.

The party decided to keep it simple this week. As per usual when they can't agree on one of the more esoteric hooks to tackle they do a run at the Blister of Doom. This is the nickname they've given the buried temple dungeon in ACKS introductory adventurer "The Sinister Stone of Sakkara". (TSSOS)

Buy today! (unless you're a PC)

Since this is a shorter session report I'm going to do a mini review of the module here. All the ACKS modules play much better than they read, in my experience. They read very dry. But they are a solid foundation of well considered locales that make sense and have more interesting, but less gonzo, elements than most OSR adventures which seem to traffic in the "wizbang omgomg so random" set piece battles, monsters, and the like. I like gonzo elements fine but believe OSR modules lean too hard on them as a way to disguise their lack of gametheory chops. 

That is not to say TSSOS has no gonzo elements, it most certainly does. Yet what it does REALLY well is presenting a dungeon you believe is alive with history and is being used by its denizens both current and long gone. The Keep in the module, Turos Tem, is also outstanding. It is similar to the titular "Keep on the Borderlands" but with clear understanding that True DND is a wargame/domain play game. "The Unbroken Line" of defensible keeps along the river in TSSOS regional setting positively screams to be the be used in a long play wargame. The writers choosing to have the bulk of the Legion emptied from the Keeps along the Line in a foreign campaign far from the region also makes the Keeps just weak enough where PCs get to throw their weight around and affect the setting and game world in a way that is necessary for good DND fantasy play. 

I don't use adventures for plot and only partially for NPCs. What I want my modular materials to be is a location I can throw my ridiculous random event rolls, random encounter rolls, and PCs at and see what happens. 'The Sinister Stone of Sakkara" answers this need perfectly. 5 stars for TSSOS.

Back to the session report.

The party set off from Turos Tem into the Viaspen Forest towards the "Blister of Doom" as they had done many times before. There would be no stop at Inthorn's Camp this time since their actions had long ago led to the Brigand Warlord being eradicated by the Legate's Legion. 

It appeared the forest denizens were changing since the military action some weeks ago. BriarWhisper caught some Hill Giant shepherds eyeing up the party through the trees. The Giants had the jump on the party and would have likely attacked the PCs had BriarWhisper not been there. Once the brutes realized they didn't have a full sweep of a Surprise attack they decided to shoo away the elf instead. BriarWhisper complied. Being an elf I ruled that he realized hill giants only run in such numbers and keep flocks if they have a lair nearby. The party didn't find the lair but are pretty certain of the general location it is on the map and could find it in the future if they like. 

The party rested a night in the forest and was not accosted by any random encounters. Upon arriving at the blister of doom they used their standard operating procedures of sending a sneaky PC to check the entrance; nothing. They then used their map and decided to delve towards the westernmost part of the dungeon first before moving on to the Ziggaraut where they believe a youthful dragon demesnes. The only random encounters along their delve was a flock of stirges whom the PCs eradicated with ease.

At the first new door they came to BriarWhisper heard a large brutish humanoid coughing and clearing its throat similarly to the DM on the mic (I have allergies and it's spring). The party opened the door (not jammed, lucky!) and saw half gnawed up animal carcasses on the floor of a chamber and a hallway beyond. They were certain that, whatever the brute was, he was around the corner.

The party set up a very good ambush plan where the assassin would hang around the corner for a back stab, Gaius the fighter would be set to receive a charge with his spear, Daria would stand back to charge AT the beast after Gauis got a hit on it, and BriarWhisper would sneak up to try and taunt the brute into their murderhole. 

It worked. 

BriarWhisper snuck down and saw that the brute they heard was long jawed ogre reclining on some old ratty furs and picking at his feet. The elf let loose a backstab shot with his longbow and did a massive amount of damage before the ogre saw he was there. As per ACKS I had to make a Morale Check to see if the ogre would fight on since he took half or more of his total XP. He decided to keep fighting. They I personally decided to roll and see if he was dumb enough to take chase when BriarWhisper ran off down the hallway. Or did he smell a rat? He must have had covid, he smelled nothing.

Chasing the elf down the hall he ran right into Gaiu's spear and impaled himself on it. Double damage as per ACKS rules and he died on the fighter's spear. And amazing takedown of what should have been a formidable opponent. This Elven Ranger is really coming through, right? He wasn't done. 

i googled "ogre"

The party searched the ogre's nasty dungeon lair and found a bag of some coins. Nothing amazing but nothing to sneeze at. Then the players looked over their map and though maybe a secret door could be on the north wall. Mapping wins again!

Normally the chance of finding a secret door isn't too high in ACKS. Must needs roll 18+ on a d20. But the Elven Ranger's combination of class abilities and Proficiencies meant he only needed to roll a 6+. Incredible. It hit, of course, and the party found an ancient treasure room with a big brass chess in the center and a weapon rack of magic weapons on the wall. Also ten jars of unholy oil which was worth a pretty penny.

 BriarWhisper went skyclad as to try on the seemingly magic chain mail armor they could. Whilst he was in the buck some more stirges (random encounter) swooped down on the party. The martial experts easily swatted the little buggers from the air, killing them all.

The party spent about 20 minutes of game time thinking about how to get the chest open and avoid the traps they were certain it had. In Session 3 they had multiple PCs die to a poison gas trap on a chest very similar to this one in this same dungeon so suffice it to say, they were spooked. They pulled this one out of the room with a rope, holding their breath when they tied it up. The Gaius was tasked with opening it. The party had an assassin but no thief so we were doing this the 0e way with descriptions of actions an observe/response. 

Poison needles stuck out all around the chest when Gaius attempted to open it. One pricked him but his made his Save Vs Poison and thus didn't die on the spot. Also the chest was locked. Again, no thief (assassins exist to kill not to delve!) so no way to pick the lock. The weapon rack had a very nice, likely magical axe, so the party decided to let Gaius chop away at the top of the chest.

The brass would have blunted a normal axe but this magic one was slicing through it like butter. Sadly it also sliced up and destroyed a scroll that was sitting on top of all the coins in the chest. Tis the danger of opening chests in such a brutish fashion, kids!

The chest was chock full of treasure. Thousands of gold and silver, hundreds of platinum. A magic scroll, some potions. This was the monty haul! The players lost all interest in further delving and only wanted to escape back to Turos Tem with their loot intact. Two of the PCs took hold of the chest on either side and the party began to scramble out of the dungeon. Two jackalmen got the jump on them in their way out but, despite having a surprise round of actions, were unable to connect with a hit on any of the PCs. The fighters and assassin killed the ridiculous beastmen where they stood. Back to fleeing the dungeon!

With escape from the dungeon achieved the PCs began their trek back through the wilderness to Turos Tem. A massive heard of 100 mustang came upon the party and nearly trampled them but, once again, the Elven Ranger saved the party's bacon. He calmed them and the party evaded an encounter. And that was that. Back to Turos Tem to cash out.

We ended early enough where I did the math and upkeep for treasure and XP gained and ALL PCS LEVELED this session. What a triumph! I need to up my game. The players have certainly upped theirs.


Surviving PCs present

BriarWhisper (5% xp bonus) Level 2 Elven Ranger: 1,94 XP gained. Total: 4,958. [LEVEL UP TO 3!]

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 3 BladeDancer: 1,240 xp gained. Total: 7,129 [LEVEL UP TO 4!]

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 2 Fighter. 2,036 xp gained. Total: 4,389 [LEVEL UP TO 3!]

Longinus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Assassin. 2,036 XP gained. Total: 2,036. [LEVEL UP TO 2!]

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Alexa this is so sad play "heart of glass" by blondie

Friday, April 2, 2021

ACKS Session 14: Attack of the Grrlbosses

Foreword

Is prep a waste of time? I haven't ran my game for three weeks and spent some of that time preparing for the players to go off to a new dungeon. I thought about making a bespoke dungeon but instead chose a one pager I had lying around and will re-purpose its monsters and mise en scene as needed. This is because there's not a huge chance the players will go there any time soon. Why spend an hour or two drawing it up?


I also drew up the treasure map the players found last session, using my kids' crayons. The players never asked about it.

I also ran a two week mass combat military campaign with my dad which echoed into the region and the players hooks and options. Worldbuilding through wargaming! But this didn't come into play much this session either.

So what did? One (1) random encounter. That encompassed the entire session. 

I did pre-roll this. So it seems the prep I did that truly mattered was mine pre-rolling random encounters in case the PCs decide to set off in a random direction for miles on end. 

It's not that prep is a waste of time it's just that you can never really guess what prep is going to save you time in session or give you what you need when your players are left to their own devices.

Session Report

Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 2) was back! He was off on campaign with Legate Valerian for weeks and the player was forced to play backup PCs during this time. Everyone was excited to have a front-line fighter with heavy armor back in the mix. Because Gaius (PC Fighter Level 2) hasn't been playing lately, it's been a very long time since the players have had big AC up front.

Yllmeeton (PC Shaman Level 2) only required 1 xp to level, since he gained enough for TWO levels in his last session but making two levels in one session is against ACKS governing rules. So the players decided to use the party based out of Turos Tem and get Yllmeeton his 1 xp and grab Level 3. The players also have a "Team B" based currently out of Turos Spen who have some pretty interesting unique hooks of their own. Perhaps we'll return to them next time. Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping wins again!

The players decided to set off for the Blister of Doom; the introductory dungeon they haven't delved in many sessions. Just grab Yllmeeton 1 XP and get out. What could go wrong!

Well...

The party traveled into the Viaspen Forest towards the dungeon, coming upon some trained war-dogs apparently lost from the Auran army that made campaign in the forest recently. Yllmeeton had his new henchmen Vincente (Normal Man Level 0) try and calm the animals. He's an old men who has a way with animals. He used to be a hostler before he got kicked in the head by a goat. He's also a congregant of Yllmeeton's cult. The four war dogs liked Vincente and joined on as followers of the party. Random encounters can sometimes be a resource addition!

The party traveled the wood until nightfall and needed to make camp. They chose to camp in the ruins of Inthorn's brigand camp. It was now fully burned to charred wood and ash thanks to the PCs and Legate Valerian's army. 

During the rainy night (I use my local weather to inform the game weather) four hippy ladies with flowers in their hair padded out of the treeline, barefoot, into the clearing in front of the camp ruin. Giggity?

Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 2) greeted them with a resting-bitch-face. All the players were certain something wasn't right here. Why were these women traveling around the forest in the middle of the night?

There was a bit of banter where the women claimed they were trollops who would come to hang out with the brigands. "oh no what happened to the, poor dears!" Daria wasn't buying it. Two of the flower children skipped off into the trees and disappeared, leaving two others gabbing.

 Yllmeeton used his Sense Power ability to grok the ladies were quite magical; each being about as powerful as Dairin the Wizard who the PCs were quite terrified of indeed. Four of them?! Yllmeeton approached to clearing to speak and the head hippy dropped her beautiful illusion exposing her true ugliness. Long rotting fingernails. Stringy hair falling out in clumps. Pale pasty skin with shocks of purple veins. Historically bulbous cankles! It's Hillary!


The other hippy actually looked Rosie. 

Daria was done with this and dropped her hand to signal her artillerist to fire the party's repeating ballistae. The battle was on!

Bard the Bowman (NPC Henchman to Daria Level 0) missed with an arrow. The repeating ballistae was off target!

Vincente released the hounds. Mandonio charged across Inthorn's killing field and missed with a spear attack on Hillary. Yllmeeton prayed for divine power from the Seeker and commanded Rosie to flee. She did so, wobbling off into the tree line and not seen again this battle.

Hillary then ripped the head off a war dog and bathed in it's spinal fluid claiming it would be great for her skin. Beat another dog against a tree, killing it. 

Marn (PC Mage Level 2) the necromancer coursed with fel arcane power and summoned four Jutlandish beserkers behind Hillary ordering them. The bearded maniacs only care was berserkergang and destroying Hillary as if they were claymore wielding alt-right poasters. 


The melee scrum with Hillary continued with the PCs getting some shots here and there and the engorged witch eviscerating dogs and beserkers with her long daggerlike nails. The hits kept coming but she kept standing, like Hillary Rodham in the 90s!

Suddenly, 30 feet in the sky above the missile wielding contingent of the party, Kamala appeared and cackled (despite nothing apparently humorous going on) which magically terrified Yllmeeton, Vincente, and the hunting dog. All of them ran off screaming into the wood, leaving their compatriots to their fate.

As the scrum with Hillary continued Kamala threw another spell stating something about "come with me to help flatten the curve". Mandonio and Marn became enchanted and followed Kamala off to the north part of the ruins of Inthorn's camp; leaving Daria, her henchmen, and the last beserker to try and fell the nigh unkillable Hillary! 

As Mandonio and Marn followed Kamala into the woodline some 100 yards away from the battle, Oprah appeared and used magic to erect massive thorny vines to bar the other PCs from following the hags and their PC prisoners. Rosie was there too. She apparently only fled from the Seeker for a moment then regrouped with her ugly sisters.

Eventually Daria killed Hillary who screamed about the Russians. The Bladedancer then took off in search of Yllmeeton and the others who were magically afeared, calming them down to regroup.

From this point on the player for Mandonio was cutting and pasting funny memes into the channel about his being dead meat. Marn's player, having so many dead PCs already, was more resigned to his fate. Both players listened politely as Yllmeeton and Daria debated whether it was worth trying to chase the hags down to try and save the PCs.

Vincente pointed out that his hunting dog could likely get them on the trail and the remaining party decided to give it a shot. It took a few hours of double timing it but Carparts the bloodhound followed the trail north and deeper into the Viaspen. Yllmeeton and Daria eventually caught up with their charge at a babbling brook so loud the hags didn't hear them nearby. The hags were arguing about whether Ferigno the green dragon would be happy to take the PCs as a gift. The party never heard them state why they'd be interested in bribing Ferigno. Perhaps next time we'll learn.

But Yllmeeton and Daria's players discussed and decided there's no way they would be able to take on 3 hags, Mandonio and Marn and survive. They had no plan! They had no courage! They went home to Turos Tem and cashed out their XP.

Good luck, friends! I hope the dragon doesn't eat you.

Afterword

One random encounter is all it takes for a few hours of entertaining D&D. Most DMs would be best served to use very little, if any modular materials. Why would you read a 200 page "adventure module" when you could be reading Robert E Howard, Vance or Burroughs? You'll be better served being able to crib ideas from Appendix N and apply those ideas to "Random Encounter roll... 4 hags... Neutral reaction..." with extra inspiration from previous events in your campaign world ("hey there's that dragon from 8 sessions ago maybe they're working for him?"). Modular material can often be the OPPOSITE of inspiration. You become so involved in being true to the module you fail to lean on your own creativity.

"Adventures", of course, shouldn't be used at all. If your published material is advising any sort of plot progression or NPCs with plot-armor: DO NOT USE IT.

So what of Mandonio and Marn's fate? It's possible the dragon my ransom them back to the party or the Legate of Turos Tem (in Mandonio's case). It's possible the dragon holds them prisoner long enough that the party rescues them. It's also possible the dragon may eat them with a bit of salt and pepper. Check back here later and find out!

Surviving PCs present

Daria (0% bonus) Level 2 Bladedancer. Received 1,240 XP. Current Total: 5,278 XP 

Yllmeeton (10% bonus) Level 2 Shaman. Receieved 1,364 XP. Currently Total: 4,363 XP [LEVEL UP TO 3!]

Surviving Henchmen

Marina (Level 1 Fighter hench to Yllmeeton): Recieved 620 XP. Total: ???

Vincente (Level 0 hench to Yllmeeton): Received 620 XP. Total: 620???

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Alexa this is so sad play "go your own way" by fleetwood mac


Dubzaron Session 64: Return to the New Badlands (and Operation Muscle Thunder)

Session Played on 07/06/22 and ending on 07/16/22. Actions available again on 07/18/22. Session Report The party was able to secure many tro...