Sunday, November 18, 2012

Return to the Crypt of the Lizard King, part 1

So, now I get a chance to do something I've never done before. Well, I guess it's actually two things I've never done before.

First, I get to run an adventure I've already run, but with a completely different group (Hence the whole "Return to the Crypt of the Lizard King" thing in the title up there. Also, I get to game with may daughter at the same time as I'm gaming with my longterm, adult players (guys in the 30-40 yr. old range).

Any guesses who in the party was the most bloodthirsty? Yeah... my kid. I'm not sure what that says about me as a parent. Hehe. Daddy? Can I go out and... KILL TONIGHT? (<--See? Bloody letters.)

We started out a little later than I thought we might, as John worked pretty late the night before and wasn't up until about 30 minutes before game time. He arrived about half an hour late, and then we got started.

It was clear from the start that our dynamic at the table was a bit different than it has been before. One factor certainly was the kid. She's hell bent on doing SOMETHING! ANYTHING! Sometimes she wants to do it when it's not her turn, and sometimes she wants to do it when it has no bearing on anything else that's going on around her. Ahhhhhhh... to be 11 again. Occasionally, it was disruptive, but not too badly, and it provided many, many opportunities for kid-targeted humor. John's a sarcastic old bastard, and was more than willing to "be himself." Good times. It also didn't help that the kid kept feeding us straight line after straight line, forcing us to suppress our inner Beavises and Buttheads, at least for the day.

In any event, John found that he was able to harness The Girl's bloodthirstiness for some really excellent gameplay. "Sure, kid, you can be in the first rank with your 0-level mooks. Go right ahead." Oddly, The Girl managed to get through the game unscathed, because holy crap can she roll the dice! Lots of high numbers for her, and considerably less for the others.

Jason, another of my longtime players, kept the following gameplay log, which shows a remarkably similar arc to the first time I ran the adventure. This time, though, I noticed a subtle difference. The tension, the fear of losing one's characters, was palpable at the table. Mortality was our constant companion. I'm not saying that the group didn't want to mix it up with the baddies, but there was definitely a sense that IT COULD END BADLY, and a concomitant deliberateness in how the players (except for The Girl, of course) approached things.

Here's Jason's take on things, with some additional material (by me) in orange.

Shipwrecked on the way to Ur'Hadad.  The ship “Sea Pig” was carrying the party to Ur-Hadad to sell the PCs as slaves.

As dawn breaks, on the shore at the wrecked ship.  The first mate orders the party to all gather up.  It is assumed that they are still going to try and put them back into servitude.

The first mate is stabbed by Lucy's character, he also deals 4 points of damage to “Samantha”. 

This was possibly the most hilarious part of the whole "little girl playing D&D with grumpy old men" thing we had going on today. The Girl's characters are named as, well, what a little girl who watches too much Nickelodeon and Disney might name them: Samantha, Hope, Crystal, and Skylar (the only boy in her group). There was much mirth, and some talk of "a bunch of strippers and that one gay guy" (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you).

After the stabbing, the cabin boy ran toward the village of Redflood. The First Mate, seeing that the freed slaves planned on remaining free (and taking a shiv in the back from The Girl), also fled that way.

The first mate identifies slaver in Ur-Hadad that the PCs were being taken to as Amal.

I totally pulled that name out of my ass when Jason's Jester character was interrogating the First Mate of the Sea Pig, after catching up with him on the way to the village. So, for future reference, there is a slaver named Amal in Ur-Hadad.

First mate runs towards the village.  John stops Lucy from chasing him. 

She was gonna kill him, and actually made a fairly impressive and impassioned speech about how there was no way she was gonna become a slave again, after having escaped. John's lawful character wanted to rein in the bloodshed a bit. It also provided him with a chance to provide an avuncular explanation of what happens to unconstrained chaotic characters who just kill, and kill, and kill without concern for the various ramifications and consequences of their actions. "Lucy," he asked, "are you familiar with the term "friendly fire," by chance?" Cooler heads prevailed.

Sunken city to the east of Ur-Hadad called Tarantis.

Again, I was trying to work both my conception and Adam's of the relationship between Ur-Hadad and the Sunken City into the narrative flavor.

Search of the wreck of the ship.  Find one small cask (gallon) of brandy.  Taken for potential barter.

When I rolled, the outcomes indicated pretty much nothing survived the wreck. My explanation was strong currents and tides (*shrug*). The dice told a tale, and I made sense of it as best I could. My players were somewhat disappointed that their characters' livestock died in passage, but what can you do? They were enslaved. Their favorite cow and chicken didn't fully embrace "the bondsman lifestyle."

Headed to Redflood (fishing village) just down the coast.

There was some talk of going overland, straight to Ur-Hadad, prior to this. That would have run the adventure off the rails a bit, I think. I probably would simply have gone with Perils of the Sunken City if it had gone that way. It didn't end up happening, though. Instead, they approached Redflood, going past the tannery and the smokehouse. They saw:

Group of villagers talking animatedly watching some guy talking over everyone else.
Healer and missing daughter (possibly taken by bandits).  Townsfolk overly concerned about the rescue of the healer.  Took many years to replace the last one that went missing.
A hunter possibly saw the bandits (about 10 miles out).  The bandits were mounted (horseback).

Having gleaned the very obvious plot hook from this exchange (Yeah, Jason literally said, "Oh, look! A plot hook!" or some such shit. My players are not oblivious, you know.) they began to negotiate the price of rescue. Instead of trying to budge Ariz, the town elder, on his price for the heads of the bandits and the return of the healer/her daughter, Jason's character instead tried to get them to give up some supplies and equipment. This left me with a little bit of a quandary. How to get through this without over-supplying them? 

Well, to me it seemed logical that even a large fishing village like this one probably didn't have a whole lot of war-fighting capability, and that some resources and skillsets used for making weapons and armor might be scarce. So, the blacksmith had time to make them some crude spears, and the tanner was able to patch together a bit of crude leather armor, but in limited quantities.

Equipment gained:
4 spears, 3 sets of leather armor, food (salted fish) – 1 weeks rations, water, mule (pack animal)
                    distributed among the party – 2 spears John, 2 Jason, & 1 armor each all

Also, the party got to witness the First Mate and Cabin Boy get into a fight. The First Mate, it appeared, was trying to make the best of a bad situation. He attempted to take the Cabin Boy captive, and had hopes of selling him in Ur-Hadad. The Cabin Boy took violent exception to this plan, and straight shanked him LIKE A BOSS. I'm sort of surprised the party didn't try to recruit a boy of such mettle. Lucy could have named him Corbin Bleu or something, maybe.

No additional goods were found on the beach from the wreck the day before.

The party heads east to an old wolf's den (where the bandits are estimated to be holed up).

On the path to the den, the party finds some winged monkeys in the trees.  The party throws stones at the monkeys who then attack.  

This was unintentionally hilarious, to me. I had thought that they would simply ignore the monkeys, who would, in turn, ignore them. But they threw rocks. 

A brief aside: When I was in the Marine Corps, back in the day, I had occasion to visit the Naval Station at Subic Bay, Philippines. We were warned not to mess with the monkeys at all. They, apparently, are vicious when bothered, strong, and incredibly accurate with thrown objects (of whatever sort). They are to be feared, especially in large groups. There were 13 Monkey Bats here. The PCs managed to wing one, and John's animal trainer tried to "save" it, but to no avail. Yeah, who's the little girl now, John?

Jason has two characters hit in the ensuing round [1d3 bite attack] and those two go down (first casualties = Radish Farmer and Astrologer).  The party retreats to the river nearby and out of the monkeys' territory.  After some time, Jason's characters sneak back in and pilfer the dead bodies once the monkeys disperse.

At dusk, Jason's halfling and another of John's character move across into the hills and investigate an opening and find the bandit's camp.  Sounds of two people from inside playing dice.  Retreat to retrieve the rest of the party and inform about what was found.

This was a really interesting part of the adventure, for me. The players were beginning to see exactly how deadly things could be, and were proceeding very cautiously. They made excellent tactical plans. Like the first time I ran this, they managed to draw the bandits out of the cave to investigate some sounds. Like before, they proceeded to kill them without alerting the other guards, inside the cave. Well done, all around.

The party moved up to the entrance of the cave that was found previously.  A plan is devised to draw the bandits from the cave by using someone as bait.  The entrance is mostly blocked by brush (though that at the entrance is broken as if something large had been moved through previously).

Tricks the bandits out of the cave and they attack.  Surprise attack deals damage but doesn't drop them.  Subsequent attacks drop the [wounded] one.   The second one drops in short order.

Moving into cave (and taking the heads from the two that were killed), the party finds two recently turned earthen mounds inside.  There are three horses and a mule inside.

Bandit guarding the passageway down the other side has his throat slit while he was sleeping by one of Lucy's characters.

Yes, sweetie, you can go out and kill tonight. This was actually pretty awesome, her attempt to be stealthy and to kill him silently resulted in a natural 20 roll. With such a critical success, she was able to kill him without raising any kind of ruckus. Well done, Lucy!

Further chamber had three other bandits to fight (one leveled w/ chain mail armor) [This was the bandit leader].  Firebomb did not hit (John missed, wide right).  Fight ensued with 2 of Lucy's swordmaidens leading the charge.  [Again at John's urging. He is nothing if not practical in the employment of my bloodthirsty offspring. Again, she kills the hell out of some bandits.] Spearmen were able to attack from the back row.  In the room (after dispatching the three) the party finds one wounded bandit, and the healer is chained to the wall.

They dispatched the wounded bandit, who, to be fair, was not going to recover from his wounds, anyway. So, after they looted the place and found out from the healer that her daughter was missing, we called it good for the day. This was a suitable stopping point. Next time, they find out what's behind the crudely constructed barricade of stones and brush blocking that other tunnel, with leads off to the east.

41 silver found
8 bandit heads gathered

Quest to find the daughter … will resume on the next game (the side passageway).

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