Friday, June 18, 2021

ACKS Session 22: Mandonio's Noble Death

 Session played on 06/16/21 with PCs adventuring until 06/21/21. Resting for one day as per ACKS rules the PCs are able to play in sessions and make downtime requests on 06/23/21 and after.


One of my players tw33ted, after this session, that the session "validat[ed] dub's insistence on random player [companion] templates". Thank you! It's great being right all the time.

He is speaking of the ACKS Player's Companion. A very useful splatbook for Adventurer Conqueror King System which has, among other things, something called Class Templates. 

You use the template charts by rolling 3d6 and you gain the Proficiencies and equipment listed for the row in question. For Arcane Casters, like the Mage, this also determines your Level 1 Spell(s). 

It also speeds up the character generation process for ACKS. The only sensible objection the OSR ever had to ACKS was that Proficiencies cause a slowdown in character generation and lead to Players attempting to min-max, power-game, munchkin etc. There's many terms for it and the OSR is correct that min-maxing (AT LEVEL ONE) is not how old school D&D is supposed to work. Templates eliminate this. ACKS players are once again forced to deal with the results they roll for their Level One PC and then min-max or give him life in the campaign itself; not with backstory or "builds". Great!

Here's an example of the Mage Templates:

I also love templates because they deliver on the promise 5e made for professions and backgrounds but are much cooler and more interesting. I personally NEVER have a PC concept in mind before I start rolling my ability scores, when I play D&D as a PC. I enjoy letting the dice decide for me or inform my PC with Oracular Power. So if I rolled a Mage I'd be thinking "he's like Merlin I guess..." but then if I roll the "Soothsayer" Template, well that's a whole different sort of lad innit? No longer am I thinking of a kindly wise old man helping out Arthur to gain his kingdom, I'm imagining some sort of weirdo that speaks to spiritual principalities and powers about his next course of action. Sounds like a strange cat to me. Sounds like a GREAT PC CONCEPT.

Could I have invented that PC concept myself? Sure. Would I? Probably not. I'd probably just grab the Sleep spell and tell the other players "a Merlin kind of guy shows up to adventure with you". Once they all woke up from their boredom of my description we'd set about on our adventure.

One player once criticized Templates from a moral standpoint insomuch as many of the templates in ACKS (and its assumed setting the Auran Empire) imply some really freaky stuff. Notice ye old Eunuch Sorcerer on the above template. That's a yikes from me pal! And what about the Courtesan Assassin type in the Assassin's template? Toxic masculinity much? 

The Necromancer template above also basically forces the player to play a bad guy. Sad!

As a Catholic Gentlemen (the best IRL template) I understand my Player's moral objection to SOME of the templates. My answer was and is that most of the templates (the Necromancer one of the few exceptions) can be twisted with rationalization to eliminate the morally objectionable aspect of the template. The man-whore assassin doesn't HAVE to be an actual whore. Maybe his Seduction Proficiency just implies he's a ladies man but only uses his comeliness for good. And with my house rule of being able to roll 5 PCs if you discard PC1 to try PC2, the chances of you rolling a morally objectionable template to your personal ethic is extremely low.

As far as the nuskool type of complaint that "I WANT MY CHOICE OF SPELLS AND PROFICIENCES AND GEAR"... i don't care. It's my campaign. Go play in one of the thousands of others where you can munchkin out your level 1 PC before play even begins. Hell, write a 10 page backstory. Just do it away from me. 

So, how does this relate to the initial comment about how this session "justified" my insistence on templates? There's a reason I highlighted the Soothsayer above. A brand new Soothsayer Mage came into the session and made a big difference in a very unexpected way. Read on! 

Session Report

The players surprised me (as per usual) by  having a session goal of returning to the level 1 introductory dungeon they have ignore for like 10 sessions now. What gives? No idea.

They departed Turos Spen traveling clockwise on the Auran Borderlands road circuit. Their goal was to get close to Turos Tem then turn north into the forest towards the "Blister of Doom" (also known to normal ACKS players as the Buried Temple). The few days of travel passed without incident, most random encounters thinking better of attacking the PCs and their many mercenaries and henchmen. 

The party did, however, get a random encounter with two giant rattle snakes who were mostly neutral about them. Incredibly enough Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 4) approached the snakes and successfully cast Charm Animal on one. I was shocked there were no crass jokes about her being a snake charmer. Gundro (PC Gnomish Tricker Level 1) got the other snake to tag along with the party by regular diplomacy and being able to Speak with Animals as a class power. The next day Daria Charmed the other snake. 

Two 4 HD creatures in the Party's wilderness travel crew? What a boon! 

Eventually the PC's had completed their travel and were at the Blister of Doom. There was some discussion about whether the snakes would go into the dungeon. By ACKS rules only "henchmen" go into dungeons and only PCs with Animal Friendship can make animals into henchmen. Daria doesn't have that. We re-read the Charm rules and saw the victim of charm would "not do something they'd normally not do" so I ruled this included going into a dungeon without being a henchman.

With this ruling made... we delved!

The party stayed along the western path side of the old Zaharan Temple dungeon, stopping in a hidden room to allow Proteus (PC Mage Level 1) do his Soothsaying thing. This Proficiency allows the Level 1 Mage the ability to cast the Level 5 spell (!!!) Contact Other Plane once per week. Great stuff.

It's a very wild spell that allows the Mage to take a big risk of going insane for weeks on end based on how many questions he wishes to ask some Outer Planar entity. Check this:

Proteus opted to ask 9 questions which means he had a 35% chance to GO INSANE for NINE WEEKS. With Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping this is a real risk, I'd say. The PC would become unusable by the player for over two months of real time. Awesome.

But it also means the entity would be more powerful and more likely to tell the truth. Also awesome.

let's dance
I decided to roll the chance for insanity in roll20 so everyone could see what happened. I rolled a 39! Proteus was on the brink of insanity as he peered through the astral plane and past black lodge curtains to communicate with a spiritual patron...Phillip Jeffries!

This is after he transformed into a teapot transformer... thing. He communicated yes and no answers to Proteus's various questions by spewing steam that formed into "YES" or "NO" or "UNSURE".

The players debated for a while about what questions they should asked so I went to grab a beer and give them some time to argue. Then I handed it over to Proteus's player. Got back and we roleplayed the scene out (storygaming!). I don't recall everything they asked but they surprised me once again with a bunch of questions about the age of the dragon they believed to be in the next room. Was the dragon asleep? Was it in its lair or off somewhere else? etc etc. This information (assuming any of it was true) was used by the players to gauge their risk/reward for engaging with the dragon.

It took about two turns for Proteus to do all this so I ran a random encounter check. Nothing (damn). 

After all this they opened a secret door they suspected would be a shortcut to the dragon. They were right and caught 6 dumb kobolds off guard and slaughtered them. Leaving that room the came to a large open chamber they had mapped out before. Twas a massive one with a giant obelisk pyramid thing in the center. They knew from a past session the dragon's lair was in there. So they climbed the pyramid to check at the chthonic altar and stone temple at the top.

The altar was clearly used hundreds of years back for human sacrifice. Daria sent her henchmen Kareem (NPC Henchmen Explorer Level 1) to check out the temple behind the altar. He reported it had snake bas reliefs everywhere and some spiral stairs going down. 

They began their foolproof plan of having Marn (PC Mage Level 2) cast Summon Beserkers and send the four angry neopagans down the stairs to see and attack the dragon if it was down there. Off they ran hollering "witness me!" They never came back. Dragon breath seeped up the stairs as the beast apparently breathed a weird disease ridden steam at them and killed them instantly. No PCs were downstairs to see what exactly happened.

So Marn cast the spell again and sent a second wave of beserkers. The PCs followed this one behind. Upon descending to the bottom of the stairs they found a freaky purple and black dragon in a large treasure room inside the pyramid. It apparently had the Mirror Image spell on and had destroyed all but one of the total of eight beserkers. 

this is fine

The PCs charged with Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 3) leading the way. The fight became a scrum with PCs doing their best to eliminate the Mirror Images so they could attack the dragon proper and get some damage on it. The beast breathed fire twice more hitting multiple PCs in the process. Most made their saving throw vs blast but the thing was putting out heavy damage. Mandonio got hit twice with dragon breath and his face burst out in leprosy from the diseased steam and he fell to the ground certainly dead. Proteus and Kareem fell in the same manner before Gaius got a killing blow on the monster with his magical sword, spelling the dragon's vile tarlike blood into the room and across the gleaming treasure.

During the battle Marn ran into the chamber and used his herbal healing ability to stabilize Proteus. His valorous bravery changed his spiritual alignment from Chaotic to Neutral. 

After the battle, then, Daria was able to get Proteus back to his feet but he would need to be healed within a day and need a week of bed rest. It seemed, also, that his left hand was nearly melted off by the leprous steam. No longer useable for much save scratching his chin in thought. 

Kareem and Mandonio were sadly unable to be healed up. Mando's entire face and body was melted into a black charred husk. Daria took his shield and his hand to be presented for a ritual burial pyre back in Turos Tem by the Empyrean Temple. 

She then cast Bless on the altar at the top of the pyramid and the party smashed the vile thing, cleansing the sinkhole of evil surrounding it and gaining all Lawful PCs 100 XP.

The party escaped with the dragon's substantial treasure and, as they held their breath with anxiety, I rolled a handful of random encounter checks which came up "NO". Damn. They got home to Turos Tem and cashed out.

Mandonio will be missed but with such an excellent player and the power of Class Templates, I'm sure he'll have a new beloved PC in the campaign very soon.

Surviving PCs Present

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 1,584 XP gained. Total: 11,302

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Fighter. 1,736 XP gained. Total: 8,561 [LEVELED TO 4]

Gundro Aleslosh (0% XP bonus) Level 1 Gnomish Trickster. 1,584 XP Gained. Total: 1,620

Marn (10% bonus) Level 2 Mage: 1,743 XP Gained. Total: 5,005 [LEVELED TO 3]

Surviving Hechmen Present

Gwen (Daria)

Paulus (Mando... so he's reconsidering his employment)


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.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Alexa this is so sad play "party rock anthem" by LMFAO

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