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

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