Session number ten was quite interesting, the players for Smjor and Jezabel Skyped their way into the game and it worked well enough that we’ll keep doing it. Plus Greyleaf’s player didn’t have a last minute commitment and made it so it was a large group and one that had a quite interesting encounter as they drew closer to the Caves of Chaos!
I have to say that despite the complications, having players Skype in wasn’t that bad and we’ve made the decision to continue with the experiment. There was a bit of trouble at time swith the Skyping players hearing everyone, but everyone in the room could hear them when they took thier turn to speak.
But this was the session where the rubber starts to hit the road.
The party continued to travel up the road for another couple of days without incident – until late one night (right before dawn actually) when the forces of the Caverns struck! Unfortunately it did not go for them as planned, at all…
First, there was that damn dwarf. That would be the psionic dwarf with Precognition. One of the more annoying and somewhat useless psionic abilities in 1E. But it does make a great “Danger Sense” ability – which is pretty much how I seem to use it. So Gryphon the dwarf gets a very, very bad feeling and quietly warns a couple of the members of the party – who in turn start to warn a couple of other members. And that is pretty much where it all went wrong for the goblins.
Instead of getting the drop on a party with just a couple of people on watch, about a solid third of the party was up and ready for action in some way. So when the Black Goblins (think Bugbears) come running in they aren’t whacking on sleeping bodies for the most part – they have a Warrior-Monk, a mostly armoured cleric, a fully-up-and-aware elven battledancer, the rogue, a psionic dwarven fighter/thief, and a ranger and half-awake half-elven sorcerer/thief up.
Now, you need to understand just how crazy this is. There are *lots* of goblins, about ten or so Black Goblins, twenty Goblins, another twenty or so Redcaps (hobgoblins) and the way back in the back about ten Ash Goblins (think Gnolls) with thier leader. The Goblins and Redcaps all have shortbows, and they start with volly fire on to the camp – just raining arrows down on to the area (they don’t care about the Black Goblins, they’re tough and they’re expendable as far as the Goblins are all concerned). This really doesn’t do near the damage that they would have liked. They roll for crap against the party, and actually manage to kill one of the Black Goblins and seriously injure another couple. They do manage to drop Greyleaf the half-elf Sorcerer/Rogue, but he’s psionic with Cell Adjustment and just starts healing himself – he’s pretty much out of the fight, but he’s going to survive.
Then, much to the goblins eternal dismay, Vesna the mage finally gets up and into gear and she pulls out her brand new shiny wand that they pulled out of the Ogre lair. She’s not quite sure what it does, but finally says the word that she has deciphered from the engraving, and realizes that she has three choices (it’s a Wand of Frost). Vesna picks Ice Storm and pummels the crap out of a huge number of the Goblins, while at the same time Gryphon has run out into the wood Invisibly (another psionic power) and is taking out anything that look like a leader with his crossbow – and Mika has discovered that if nothing else, her new shiny magic dagger is a Wounding dagger (like the sword) it works great against Black Goblins!
Now, the Goblins (that are left) are starting to freak a bit. There are naked rangers who have woken up and are launching arrows back at them, mages are dropping big, damaging AOE spells, the cleric won’t go down, there is a rampaging Barabarian with a Greataxe, the elf just summoned up a some sort of ghostly elven warriors that are killing the last of the regular goblins, and the someone (Ketzl the Gnomish Illusionist/Thief) is slowly Color Spraying Redcaps.
The only good thing that happens for the Goblins is that when Vesna drops her second Ice Storm she drops it (randomly) on the side that one of the new Rangers had run into to engage with the Goblins via melee and because he wanted to avoid the area previously hit by the Ice Storm. Other characters all ran into it, assuming that the mage was not likely to drop another spell on the same area. Scratch one Ranger – though this was actually good for the party because if she’d dropped it on the other side then she would have probably killed Gryphon and Ketzlwho were sneaking around.
The combat and the session ended with the party managing to slay the majority of the Ash Goblins save the leader and perhaps one other. There was a small melee, where the Smjor the Barbarian really did fantastic fighting the Ash Goblins, and Illya the Warrior-Monk found out that Ash Goblin leaders (think Barghest) are way, way tougher than any other type of goblin. He was dropped, and then the leader disappeared in a puff of smoke and ash – but surviced given the close presence of the cleric.
All in all, the party was battered pretty well, I don’t think anyone survived without any damage. One character was killed (the new Ranger, Artan), and without magic/psionics probably both the Cleric, Frater Nikolai, the Warrior-Monk, Brother Illya, and half-elf Sorcerer/Thief, Greyleaf, would have died as well. But despite that battering, they pretty much wiped out the Goblins in relatively short order. At this rate they’ll have cleared out most of the Caves before they even get there – though they are only about a half-days journey out at their best guess.
I tend to look at this session as a good example of why I liked playing with larger groups, AD&D 1E characters are pretty resiliant, and pretty tough against monsters “in thier range”. Unlike a group of 3-4 characters, a group of 10-12 actually makes sense. First, the party is actually a warband not an “adventuring party” – I’m not even sure how you are supposed to cover all you bases ina group with four-ish characters. I understand the logic of that I suppose – Fighter, Thief, Cleric, Mage, and there are your four characters. But really? It’s not even a good tactical unit.
Let’s look at this group again:
Frater Nikolai – Human LG Cleric(Fighter), L3(L1), 22HP
Brother Illya – Human LG Warrior-Monk(Psionicist), L3(L1), 27HP – Psychic
Mika – Female Human CN Thief, L4, 27HP
Vesna – Human NG Mage, L3, 14HP (+ Crow Familiar)
Ketzl Silvermoraine – Gnome CN Illusionist/Thief, L2/L2 9HP
Smjorr – Human LN Barbarian, L2, HP28
Jezabel – Female Half-Elf NG Ranger/Druid, L2/L2, HP22 (+Two Hawk Animal Friends)
Arvid – Half-Elf NG Ranger, L2, HP24
Taloth Darkbane – Human NG Archer-Ranger, L2, 30HP
(Dead) Artan – Human NG Ranger, L1, 20HP
Greyleaf – Half-Elf CN Sorcerer/Thief, L1/L1, 7HP – Psychic
(NPC) Gryphon – Dwarven CN Fighter/Thief, L3/L4, 32HP – Psychic
(NPC) Astrin – Female Grey Elf LN Duelist/Diabolist/Bounty-Hunter, L2/L4/L3, 30HP – Minor Psychic
This is a seriously butt-kicking group of adventurers! That is some serious firepower just on a physical level that the party can dish out, though they might be a tad bit underpowered on the magical front. I’d actually argue that they are – at least until Greyleaf or Ketzl gets another level or two or gets a decent magic item. This group actually has a chance of taking out someplace like the Caves of Chaos, whereas the “standard ideal party size” is just going to get wiped out, probably though multiple TPK’s.
I think that’s part of why I get a bit confused about the OSR and it’s love of some these old modules. They aren’t balanced in any sort of way, unless the idea is that the DM is an idiot and all of the monsters are also – and even B2 tries to point out ways that the monsters will react organically to the party instead of just sitting statically in one place and waiting for them.
That’s it for now, TTFN!