Posts Tagged With: module

A Pair of Different Banquet… (Module X2 – Castle Amber)

I realized that there was the chance that the party would return to the banquet, especially if there were new characters around. So I decided to make up a couple of new banquets so that they could be sure what might occur if they ate the food – though with a couple of identical items.

1st Course:

—Seafood Bisque: Save vs. Spells: If failed; the character gains permanent Water Breathing. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Amber Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

2nd Course:

—Watercress Salad: Save vs. Spells: If fail, the character will needs only a tenth the normal nourishment. If succeed there is no effect.

3rd Course:

—Wild Rice and Cranberries: There is no effect.

—Roast Duck: Save vs Spells: If fail, the character floats on water and cannot sink. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Fingerling Carrots: Save vs. Polymorph, if failed males are transformed into women, if female gain +1d4 Comeliness (and a much more sevelt figure with a larger bust). If succeed then there is no effect.

—Dark Red Wine: This wine causes magical drunkeness for 2-12 turns. Save vs. Poison, if succeed there is no further effect. If failed, the character is -2/-10% to all actions due to a permenant hangover.

4th Course:

—Rasberry-Chocolate Torte: Save vs. Polymorph, if the save is failed, the character triples in weight bursting out of the seams of the clothes and armour (damage as lycanthropic transformation). If the save is made nothing happens.

—Brandy: Duplicates the effects from the module.


1st Course:

—Gazpacho : Save vs. Poison: If fail; gains the ability to remain conscious at negative Hit Points. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Amber Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

2nd Course:

—Cucumber and Dill Salad: This course has no effect, though it is delicious.

3rd Course:

—Garlic Bread: Save vs. Spells, if failed the character will always be treated as they are brandishing garlic, the if the save is made there is no effect.

—Roast Boar: Save vs. Spells, if failed the character’s Charisma is halved, if the save is made there is no effect.

—Brocoli: Save vs. Spells, if failed then the character may use X-Ray Vision once per week,  if the save is made then there is no effect.

—Red Wine: Duplicates the effects from the module.

4th Course:

—Vanilla Ice Cream with Cherries Jubilee: Save vs. Spells: If fail, the character is affected by a permanent Endure Heat/Cold spell. If succeed then there is no effect.

—Brandy: Duplicates the effects from the module.

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Modules I’d like to run…

So, at this point I have run the party through two “introductory modules” – Scourge of the Howling Horde and then Keep on the Borderlands and I pretty much set up a clear lead in to Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde. But I’ve been looking at the rest of the stuff sitting on my shelf and deciding what I’d like to run as well – understanding that there is usually some extra adventure in and around linking the modules up in a reasonable manner.

No brainers:

  • The Slaver Modules (A1-A4, though A4 is never a certainty)
  • Ravenloft (I6, and possibly the sequel, House of Gryphon Hill, I10)
  • Castle Amber (X2)
  • In Search of the Unknown (B1)
  • Castle of the Silver Princess (B3)
  • The Giant Modules – though tweaked for my world (G1-G3)
  • The Secret of Bone Hill (L1) and Assassins Knot (L2)
  • Tomb of Horrors (S1) and Return to the Tomb of Horrors (the Boxed set)
  • White Plume Mountain (S2)
  • Lost Caverns of Tsojancth (S4)
  • Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun (WG4)
  • The Ruins of Undermountain(Both I & II)
  • The Ruins of Myth Drannor
  • The Ghost Tower of Inverness (C2)

If I can figure out how to:

  • The Desert of Desolation series (I3-15)
  • Isle of Dread (X1)
  • Hidden Shrine of Tomoachan (C1)
  • The Witchblade Trilogy (by Privateer Press)
  • Death’s Reach (E1 for 4E)
  • Keep on the Shadowfell (H1 for 4E)
  • Hellgate Keep
  • The Wyrmskull Throne

I also have a pile of Kenzer and Company modules that look like they’d be fun, and I keep eyeballing the Pathfinder modules as well because they look like they could be mined for a great fun also. I kind of make a habit of picking modules for the cheap if I find them at used bookstores or the like – rarely do I not findsomethinguseful in them… Similarly I have a handful of the “official” 3E and 3.5E monules that clearly look like they’d be a gas to play – even if they are balanced a bit funky at times.

Now, I might be able to pull a couple of these off via members of the group having to split off and “solo adventure” (which may in fact mean that the group actually gets to create new characters to go and help the “solo” adventurer in their quest) – Frater Gregor is a rather excellent example of this given that he’s a disgraced paladin at the moment. He’s certainly going to need to go and do something to regain his status – and something like B3 would be perfect. Similarly, the rogues and the mages might decide that plundering the Tomb of Horrors would be worth the effort while the Society of Light folks decide that this is not even worth discussing.

That is actually the major problem that is developing for the party, the group has two real power groups that have significantly different goals in life – the very good Society of Light folks and the rather mercenary Rogues. Everybody still gets along, but there has been the odd bit of tension here and there – and Frater Nikolai is certainly very, very focused on “doing good”. He’s also a noble, so the whole idea of “making money” is a bit beneath him in many ways, he doesn’t begrudge the others that desire (it’s only natural of course) but his concerns aren’t quite so tawdry…



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A maze of twisty passages, all alike… – Session #13 (Part Two)

So, the group gathered itself together and then headed off down the road. They were intending on finishing off the exploration of the Caves of Chaos – and already had some worrisome news. The castellan of the keep had informed the group that he had sent out two groups to investigate the Caves – one immediately after the group had returned and another only about a week prior. The first group had confirmed the party’s story, made sure the bodies of the goblins were burned adequately, and then returned to the Keep. The second group had been sent off to check up on the rea and hasn’t returned yet, but it was still within the normal range of time for the trip there and back.

For the party it was about a four-day journey on foot to the Caves, and they arrived with a minimum of fuss. The group was a bit surprised at the lack of encounters, and I pointed out that the sheer number of goblins (who had only been gone for a month at this point) had pretty much run off anything else “monster-ish” from the area. Plus, the party had three rangers (I have a house rule that says rangers can support one person per level just through incidental hunting and harvesting over the course of the day), plus a barbarian and a monk (who can both support themselves, though not any additional characters, according to the same house rule) so there wasn’t any need for them to be hunting for bigger game to feed the party. It’s that hunting for game that ends up being a huge source of random encounters.

Plus, it’s a group of thirteen characters with a three horses and three pack-ponies. This is a warband not a handful of adventurers just kind of sneaking around hoping not to run into anything. First, this group can’t really sneak very well (members can, but not the group as a whole) and second, there really isn’t any non-intelligent natural creature that is going to bother a group this large – and most intelligent creatures aren’t going to either. The group is just too darn large for anything short of a drake or a dragon to want to mess with it.

So, in any case, the party makes it to the small narrow valley that houses the Caves of Chaos in its cliffs. The burned heap of decapitated goblins is still there, undisturbed as far as they can tell, and a quick bit of scouting by the rangers shows no evidence of any further goblin or bandit activity in the valley. There is also no sign of the soldiers from the Keep. After quickly walking through the cave that they had already cleared to confirm that it was still uninhabited, the group decided to split into three groups and do a preliminary search of the area.

Group One was Frater Nikolai, Brother Illya, Gregor, Vesna, Gwion, Grayleaf, and Smjor. This group was basically stayed in the center area to respond any threats or calls for help from either of the two other groups. Somewhat bored, they quickly started playing cards and basically spent their time waiting for the other two groups to get done. While they can’t keep a visual on the other groups the entire time, they do have a close sense of where they are in the valley and what areas they are investigating.

Group Three was the rangers, Jezebel, Taloth, and Arvid. They were making a point of investigating the various copses of trees in the area looking for more cave entrances. They knew from the last visit that there were a bunch of cave entrances, and that there was at least one hidden in some woods, so they decided to make sure (as best they could) that there weren’t any more. Of course, starting on the south side of the valley, they almost immediately discovered another one – with ogre tracks at least a month old going into and out of the entrance (Section E). Leaving it be until the whole party could be gathered, they quickly moved onto the other areas and kept the search going on.

Group Three were the rogues, Mika, Ketzl, and Gryphon (sans Greyleaf since his player was MIA). The job was to check out the entrances of each cave entrance, no more than twenty feet or so in, and just make sure that there weren’t any traps or other surprises. The nice part about this group is that each of th characters can make themselves invisible in some way – Mika has a Ring of Invisibility, Ketzl has the Invisibility spell, and Gryphon has his psychic Invisibility Minor Devotion. Plus, Mika has a dagger that detects large mechanical traps in a 10′ radius, so they are hoping that this will do most of the work for themselves. Staring on the north side of the valley they discover traps in two out of the first three entrances investigated, a pit trap in the first cave entrance (Section A) and a dropping tarred net trap in the third (Section H). The second cave (Section C) entrance had a weird invitational sign written in Dark Tongue (the goblin language), and while the group didn’t investigate any further, the presence of that was worrisome as far as they were concerned.

But that really wasn’t as worrisome as the fourth cave entrance. This area would soon spawn the most memorable line of the afternoon to come from my mouth, and the folks who are following along at home reading the module can probably guess in part why. This section was much more of an immediate warren of smaller passages (Section I), and the group decided that while they would go any further than their “twenty foot” limit they would investigate each little passage as much as they could. Then, upon hearing some squeaking and whistling coming from a small adjoining passage, Ketzl decided that it was worth investigating – and immediately started getting dive-bombed by something that he can’t quite see what they are.

As an aside, stirges are really nasty opponents for low-level parties. I’ve decimated mid- and high-level groups with stirges, and I had forgotten just how quickly they can do the job. The only saving grace is that everyone is invisible…

So Ketzl gets nailed by four stirges, and he wisely decides that it is time to run out of the room back to the party. This is where the memorable line comes in. “So, you hear Ketzl yelling about ‘blood-sucking demon bats’ and then run out of the room – away from you.”

KB: “Wha- what?”

Me: “Yeah, you are really confused as to the directions. You think you were running back towards Mika and Gryphon, but ran the other direction instead. There’s a misdirection spell going.”

KB: “Errr… Don’t I get a saving throw?”

Me: “Nope.”

KB: “But I’m an illusionist! I should get something. That doesn’t make sense.”

Me: “This is a module!”

Which immediately had KB (who’s been playing since the days of OD&D and the little books) and the rest of the group immediately cracking up in laughter.

We wrapped up the game for the afternoon shortly afterwords. Mika ran in after Ketzl and was also dive-bombed by stirges, Gryphon ran down the other direction. A couple of rounds later, and handful of dead stirges and some luck, and the group of three rogues have all ended up in the same area but well aware that something is seriously screwed with this section of caves. We’ll probably pick up next session with Gryphon attempting teleport them out of the caves – but I’m actually thinking that the misdirection is going to work on that attempt as well. I’m not sure where he’ll teleport to, but I’m pretty sure it won’t be to where he’s expecting to.

So, no easy out for those players…



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So, there were a bunch of goblins and some bandits… – Session #13 (Part One)

So we did some emailing back and forth between yesterday’s session and the previous one and the party decided that yes they really needed to go back to the keep before exploring the caves in order to tell the garrison there what they had discovered (and done) – and incidentally end up taking a break for both “T&T” (training and treasure division) and “R&R” (rest and relaxation). So while the party did a quick and dirty recon of the area, and burned the hell out of all of the goblin bodies. They didn’t explore anything else and simply went back to Seraph Keep – and certainly with their heads held high!

The training was the important piece – everyone went up a level (in every class that they had chance to advance in) and the thieves all went up two levels in Thief. I had to do some real “cogitating” on that, as the standard rules say (IIRC) that characters can only go up one level at a time and I’ve seen all sort of ways to handle that – and none of them really appealed to me as I looked at my conceptual options (most seemed too darn fiddly). The only time this is ever really an issue is at low levels, after about level three or four it is hardly ever an issue (save for thieves, with a massive amount of XP, and then only in the 4th-to-5th level range).

But this also required that the thieves all take advantage of Gryphon’s newly discovered ability to teleport using his psionics (as did Astrin). So they all bugged out to “the big city” and spent the month drinking, wenching, and joining the local thieves guild – though Ketzl the gnomish illusionist/thief (and noble) ended up paying out the nose for the “gentleman’s thief” exemption – meaning that while he’s not a member of the guild, he won’t get in trouble with the guild for doing any thieving as long as it’s not cutting into their bread-and-butter.

The rangers all made it to third level, and Jezebel made it to 3rd level as a druid – so she certainly had to go get initiated into the “1st Circle” while they all needed to get formally inducted into their lodges. They were dragged up into the mountains to a hidden valley to do their training, and even met some of the VIPs of the Old Faith and the Circle (sort of a Harper-esque organization). The other bonus was that Smjor was able to get access to a druid to scry out a the geas he needs for advancing to the next level. It was “Never enter a cairn on Imbolc” – so no grave-robbing for the holidays.

And finally, the SOL folks (along with Vesna) stayed at Seraph Keep and did some basic training and took advantage of the gratitude of the castellan who gave them free room-and-board because of what they had all done. Nobody has significant level gains, but Frater Nikolai had done so well that he was inducted into the Order Luminous, an obscure order of the SOL that was founded during the Wars of Binding and is located in the local mountain ranges (and stolen from the 3.5E module Shattered Gates of Slaughtergarde – do we have a hint of what is coming soon?). Gregor the paladin was also informed that as soon as he made it to 3rd level he would also be welcome to apply for membership (and was encouraged to do so). Brother Illya bounced up two level in Psionicist, from 1st to 3rd, and rolled about as lucky as you can imagine (ended up with Cell Adjustment…) and in conversation with the guy he’s been training with has started to get a sense of what the “Serene Guardians” philosophy is and has the sense that if he keeps doing it he might be able to figure out how to apply it.

As the party gathered together at the end of the month to decide what to do next it was pretty much a forgone conclusion that they would be returning to the Caves to do a more thorough exploration – and then perhaps make a stab at tracking down the bandits wherever they might be. There was one, somewhat significant change – while Gryphon was continuing to travel with the party, Astrin had remained back in town to do whatever mysterious things that she did when away from the party. On the other hand, a young bard by the name of Gwion had asked “the Rangers” if it was ok for him to tag along so that he could “immortalize them in song and legend” – the idea of having their own press corp like the USMC was quickly agreed to by the rest of the party.

So the party is as follows:

Frater Nikolai – LG – Human Male – Cleric(Fighter) – 4(1) – Still the de facto leader pretty much.
Brother Illya – LG – High Man Male – Warrior-Monk/Psionicist – 3/3 (Psychic) – I am INVINCIBLE!
Brother Gregor – LG – Human Male – Paladin(Thief) – 2(1) – Just let me survive another level…
Mika – CN – Human Female – Thief – 6 – I have an Ring of Invisibility! I have a Ring of Invisibility!
Ketzl Silvermoraine – CN – Gnome Male – Illusionist/Thief – 3/4 – Gentleman Rogue, and now he has Invisibility!
Greyleaf – CN – Half-Elf Male – Sorcerer/Thief – 2/3 (Psychic) – Keeping his head down.
Jezebel – NG – Half-Elf Male – Ranger/Druid – 3/3 – Hey, these rangers aren’t that bad…
Taloth Darkbane – CG – Human Male – Archer-Ranger – 3 – Thrilled with his new broadsword!
Arvid – NG – Half-Elf Male – Ranger – 3 – Quite happy with his new doublemail.
Smjor – LN – Human Male – Barbarian – 3 – Thrilled with his bunny and his gauntlet!
Vesna – TN – Human Female – Mage – 4 – She want’s those bandit mage’s spellbooks!
(NPC) Gryphon – CN – Dwarf Male – Fighter/Thief – 4/5 (Psychic) – It’ all about *chest-thump* Brotherhood…
(NPC) Gwion – NG – Human Male – Bard – 1 – Wide-eyed and excited!

And from there, they bought a couple of ponies and started off down the road, back to the Caves of Chaos…



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Battle at the Caves of Chaos – Session #12

Yeah, it’s taken me a week or so to get my head around the last session. Everyone showed up except for TW, who couldn’t make it much to his disappointment, and it didn’t go at all the way that they were expecting.

We started with Ketzl and Greyleaf, because KB hadn’t made it last week, and we picked up with those two characters coming up to the Caves of Chaos, finding much to their surprise a whole bunch of bandits and goblins essentially milling about in the valley, obviously focused on one of the cave mouths.

When I say “a whole bunch” I mean in the neighborhood of about 60 or so bandits and close to a hundred assorted goblins (from 1-1HD types all the way up to 3+1 HD Black Goblins and 2+2HD Ash Goblins and a bunch of shaman) Plus the bandits have some guy in plate & chain directing them around and a guy in robes following him around.

Numbers-wise, this isn’t anything that the module wouldn’t have thrown at the party – just not all in one fell swoop. Plus, for those of you who have the module, you should be well-aware that there are some things in the module that simply make no sense given what else is in the module – they simply shouldn’t exist give the levels of the bad guys.

So, this is what happens when the good guys wipe out everything that the bad guys throw at them. The bad guys don’t fool around any more – they set out a sacrificial goat (aka a tortured traitor on a stick…) and see if anyone bites.

So all the while that the party was in killing more bandits inside one of the caves (who were pretty much expecting them but simply outclassed in that ratio) they were all pouring out of the rest of the caves or riding in quickly from nearby. The party just didn’t pick the cave the bandits had expected them to, not that it mattered that much I suppose.

Now, while the Ketzl and Greyleaf all-but-crap-their-pants and quickly decide to start sneaking around the ridge to do something (KB actually had an excellent use of his Phantasmal Force picked out that I never would have thought of) Jezabel’s pet hawks and Vesna’s raven familiar were sitting outside the cave mouth keeping watch. There were a couple of more character just inside the cave mouth, but far enough back that they wouldn’t hear anything (though I did have them roll).

The goblin sharpshooters sneak up and… Roll like crap.

One of the hawks gets winged a bit but they both fly off. The raven actually gets hit and rolls crap damage too. Too injured to fly, but alive, the raven is now scrambling into the cave where it is immediately out of sight.

…And the party is warned.

Outside the bandits and goblins kick it into high gear, they are all getting into positions, and Ketzl and Greyleaf try their best to pick things as far as moving goes up but not get caught. Inside, the party immediately takes up defensive positions at the natural (and quite effective) chokepoints just inside the and waits for the inevitable onslaught.

And waits.

And waits.

And waits.

After after 30-45 minutes the party realizes that they aren’t getting charged. Now this has them worried, it certainly as Ketzl worried because these bandits are way, way too cool and they are taking their own sweet time.

Vesna decides to go peer outside (Gregor the new Paladin following behind because he’s supposed to protect her) and see if she can see anything to nuke with the Wand of Frost. She belly crawls up to the cave entrance and… the goblins patiently waiting for someone to show themselves catch sight of her and one even manages to nail her with an arrow. Crummy damage, and she makes her save vs. poison so she’s fine.

Just crawling her behind back away from the edge as fast as she can – with Frater Nikolai frowning at Gregor because this didn’t exactly meet his definition of “taking care of”. There is a quick debate about what the hell to do, because the party certainly isn’t thrilled with the information that Vesna was able to glean from her quick glance.

Astrin reveals that she can get out of the cave safely and probably in and amongst them (using a Wraithform spell), while Gryphon has an idea…

So, here is where game narrative and game mechanics meet. Gryphon the dwarf had just recently picked up the psionic Teleport science, but I for the life could figure out how he would have figured this out. But the pressure of almost certain death seems like a decent motivator to try something new..?

“So, there’s a chance I might be able to do something. I think I can take one or two people with me and it will either work, or… just imagine a warm summer mist of gore… Like every little piece of you exploding or something. It shouldn’t hurt. Anyone want to try it with me? If it works, I don’t know how many times I’ll be able to do it.”

That was a bit of a debate, and eventually both Mika (the other sneaky type) and Vesna (the mage with the Wand of Frost) – coincidently both played by the same player, KT – decide to go with Gryphon because that leaves a good combat reserve inside and sneaky types outside plus the “artillery support” out where it could see what to do.

And it worked.

Better than they would have expected. And after getting their bearings, they see the bandits and the goblins in the rear-areas are not exactly “primed” – and doing the T-Port was way, way easier (e.g. cheaper in psionic strength) than he expected. He makes an immediate change in the game plan in Chaotic Neutral fashion- and grabs Mika with a quick explanation and the two T-Port down right behind the mage and backstab him.

And immediately T-port away again with his body.

Repeat ASAP on the bandit leader in chain and plate – the dual backstab attack doesn’t immediately take him out but they beat him on initiative and drop him in what is essentially moments.

Rinse and repeat.

The bandits are thrown into utter disarray – they aren’t exactly sure what happened but both of their leaders are gone and the was screaming and blood on the ground. And some people saw enough to know things are bad – the bandits are blowing their morale check even as we speak. Plus, Astrin starts working her mojo and summons up some of her “ghostly elvish warriors” and starts reaping her way through the goblins archers hiding in the trees.

Gryphon has enough for one more round trip, so they do the same with the big ash goblin shaman who seems to be directing things over on that side. This isn’t nearly as seamless as the first two, but sure enough, they manage to drop him as well and get away with the body…

The goblins are holding morale, but things are starting to fray badly when it comes to leadership. The ash goblins ruin into the trees to take care of the “demon elves” in there while the majority of the other goblins are running out. They start to retreat and head back to the caves while the bandits are riding off into the mountains. But at this point Kezl has seen what is going on and had started a simple but incredibly effective little illusion over at one of the other cave mouths of two paladins of the society of light in full plate armour jeering and cat-calling at the goblins – and that sends the black goblins off to champing at the bit to attack – but also has the goblins (and the few bandits who see the illusion) freaking out.

And then Vesna starts dropping a Ice Storms on the goblins.

If that wasn’t enough – the party has heard the commotion outside (this has only been about 4-5 rounds or so) and decide to take advantage of the chaos. The rangers stay with the high ground and start sniping the shaman or anything else that looks like it is rallying goblins – while Smjor and Illya charge down the hill to engage in melee…

The goblins rout, they run in circles while getting Ice Stormed, and the archers pretty much drop anything that moves and looks interesting, and Smjor goes toe-to-toe with an ogre and survives (barely) while Illya does his regular dance of tying up targets better than he does actually doing damage. They get wiped out pretty much to the man, while the bandits all manage to flee successfully (with the party’s horses and extra equipment as they find out later) – save for the two big leader types.

Now, while I could say that it was all Gryphon and Mika, with the extra help with Vesna, I have to say that the thing that most pushed things over the edge and disrupted the bad guys the most it would be Ketzl and his two first level spells (Phantasmal Force and Audible Glammer). Things went from confusing and obviously bad to “OMGWTFBBQ! There’s an Society of Light warband here along with Rangers of the Old Faith! Cheese it! It’s the cops! We have been discovered! Run away!”

Would it have worked without so much already existing disruption? Probably not. But he was aiming for a distraction in the hopes of drawing some goblins away from the main party and instead ended up crushing the morale of pretty much all the bad guys. And that keep things confused enough on the ground that the goblins were pinned in the low ground that ended up being a killing zone…

And here I thought that I was going to get to talk the party into surrendering and then have them sold into slavery from which they would have to escape.


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A Giant Among Elves… (4 Sessions so far)

And yes, Tier is – a seven foot tall, five inch (or so) tall Grey Elf.

There is a story behind that actually. Way back in Session #6 there was an Obelisk, and it ended up sending three characters off. Tier ended up in the Shadowlands, what somebody inventing the Shadowfell must have plundered from my brain while I slept – except mine is far, far cooler. In that session he gained a point of Constitution, but also four inches (taking him to a solid 6’6″) in the process.

In any case, Tier ended up captured by slavers, and after being run through his paces at the local ludus and earning the sobriquet “Cries for Blood” he was purchased by the master sh’dai swordsman known as Darkness at Noon, the Dueling Hawk of the mysterious lilim called Gyrmawlkyn, the Lord of Hali, Master of Carcosa, and Bearer of the Dread Sword of the Hyades. Taken back to Carcosa, he trained for a short period of time with both Darkness at Noon and the albino mage called Ice and after ten successive (and obviously successful) bouts was granted an audience with the odd creature who owned him.

Tier had been informed previously that the Lord of Hali had a habit of training gladiators and then sending them to the great Arena at Khazan where they would have the opportunity to fight for their freedom. His reasons for this are unknown, but it seems to play into his political machinations in the Halls of the Ebon Council and his rivalry with the dread Leo’trahh, Grand Maestra of Death, and Demi-Empress of Khazan and it’s environs. Upon his audience, Tier was granted the choice to stay in the service of the Lord of Hali or the opportunity to travel to the blood-stained city of Khazan and fight there for his freedom. Tier chose to travel to Khazan, and was told that in the event that he won his freedom he was welcome to return as he wished to take service or merely to guest for a time. Taking both his leave and a selection of advice from Darkness at Noon, Tier then traveled to Khazan and entered the Arena.

Now, understand that I have essentially a direct AD&D analog to the T&T module, rolling the same tables and having the same events and odd possibilities for non-combat resolution of various of the rolled encounters. It also gives the ability to purchase enchantments and spells for his weapons at a high cost – as well as needing to pay for healing. This certainly proved incredibly valuable for Tier, because his first two encounters were possibly the two worst in the game. All he has to do is win three battles and he’s free – and at that point gets the chance to sign up for seven more in order to try to win an audience with Leo’trahh.

The first battle was with the with a shoggoth. Yes, a Shoggoth. In T&T, this is a crazy gawd-awful creature – in AD&D it’s darn near as bad (I happen to have the good edition of Deities and Demigods) and when I combine some of the elements from Call of Cthulhu it’s certainly one of the nastiest things you can run into. But the module give the player a small chance to win the fight without even having to engage in combat, a successful Intelligence check and Luck check grant the player not only the knowledge that shoggoth’s enjoy piccolo music but the presence of a piccolo on hand! So there is one shoggoth dancing ponderously on the sands of the arena to the great amusement of the crowd – and Tier winds his first fight.

Needless to say, the odds were far against Tier this fight and he got a roll on the “Special Magical Weapon” table instead of getting a monetary award. It is worth saying that Arena of Khazan was kind of notorious for having some incredibly overpowered magical weapons as potential rewards off of this table – and when I say overpowered I mean that these would likely be considered very unbalanced artifacts in many settings. T&T was far more four-color than most games though, and I’ve always liked them. Heck, I recognize a couple of them from SD’s world – so I know how some people managed get ahold of them!

In any case, Tier was granted a “Great Kris” for his valor and luck – it is a +3 Elven Shortsword that grants the wielder immunity to 1st- through 3rd-level spells. Powerful, but not massively so compared to some of the things I could have rolled up…

So then we are on to round number two, and what does my son roll up?

A Balrog.

It’s kind of a toss-up if a shoggoth or a balrog is worse in T&T, but imagine a cross between a Type VI and a Fire Giant and you pretty much have it in a nutshell. Now, in the module, the Balrog is so sure of itself that it just stands there and lets the character strike first – actually challenges them to. Tier is no idiot, he takes his chance and runs up to the damn thing and lashes out with sword and dagger (being a two-weapon fighter). This thing has 90HP, and through a combination of pre-bought spells boosting his weapons and two fantastic rolls (I swear, his dice are blessed at times) he nails the thing for 66HP of damage – and then in the following round beat the things initiative and do the 24HP of damage needed to drop it.

If I had false teeth I would have dropped them in my lap, he’s a 4/4 Fighter/Mage with 32 HP and he just killed a roughly 20HD creature.

The crowd goes wild, and off he trots up to claim his reward – which is another roll on the Special Magic Item table. This is where I really had to sort of adapt something, so the “Bottle of Warrior Juice” (which doubles the characters Strength and Constitution in T&T) became the “Elixir of Ares” and there a 50/50 chance that it will give the player 1-3 levels in a Fighter class or grant them a +1 to Strength, Dexterity, and Constitution. Tier, of course, rolls the attribute bonus and given his already existing stats now has a Strength of 19, a Dexterity of 18, and a Constitution of 19.

But… I rule that this also increases his height by 1d12 inches – and he rolls a 11.

So now we have a 7’5″ tall elf.

I wish I could say that his third fight was as exciting. There was a beautiful elvish mage of some sort in a silver robe with a silvery-grey staff, after spurning the opportunity to either spare her or throw himself at her mercy – she let loose three salvos of five Magic Missiles apiece and Tier was done for (somebody forgot about his Great Kris)…

Luckily he had reserved some cash for this event and he was saved from being monster-chow, but having lost that fight, he still had to win one more before he was free.

It was a kobold.


So, with his hard-won equipment and prizes, plus a paltry 100sp tossed to him for winning his “fight” with the kobold, Tier has been released into freedom in the great city of Khazan, on the borders of the Shadowlands and Great Realm of the Dead. He’s not exactly sure how to get home, or what would happen to him when he managed to get there, but he has his freedom and a rather high level of notoriety!

We’ll see what he does next – this was kind of perfect set of crazy events for a 14-year old. Hopefully he can maintain his run of luck!


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The Caves of Chaos (Section B) – Session #11

So, the last session saw some interesting progress. Everyone was able to show up except for KB (who was doing computer tear-down for a local con) and TW (who had his kids this weekend), so the group decided to leave Ketzl and Greyleaf back at the camp to burn bodies and otherwise try to make sure that they weren’t going to rise from the dead like the bandits that they had killed.

At this point I did channel TW (perfectly according to my spouse) who proceeded to “lay on hands” to all of the wounded females in the party using his psionic Cell Adjustment.

“Please, I don’t mean to be forward, but if I might, well, lay my hands upon you, I would be able to help with those grevious… wounds of yours. Please, lay down, this can be quite overwhelming and I don’t want you to feel faint and fall. Now, we must breath as one, we must be as one – well not quite like that, at least not here in front everyone, I do understand the desire to show gratitude but this isn’t really the time or place – Errr… where was I? Yes, we have to synchronize out heartbeats as well as our breathing. Pardon me, but I need to listen to heartbeat, I’ll just lay my head there on your chest. I’m sorry, could you just unlace your tunic a bit, I can’t really hear….”

You have to understand, TW once spent fifteen minutes describing how his Traveller noble put on his gloves with such comic detail he had the entire group practically crying we were laughing so hard. I channeled him to great effect, though I suspect not nearly as well as he could have done himself if had been inspired.

After that, the group moved out and quickly ran into MS’s new character – he rolled well enough to generate not only another Paladin, but when he came up with social class he rolled Middle Lower Class – meaning that he could take Thief as a dual-class. So he did, the character, Gregor, still needs a bit of fleshing out, but is quite interesting so far and has been put on mage-guarding duty. I’m not sure how Vesna feels about this, but he’s quite happy to help out Frater Nikolai however seems to make sense.

The group moved in close to the Caves of Chaos, and then decided to send the stealthy types on ahead. So Mika, Brother Illya, Gryphon, and Astrin (with Vesna’s raven familiar, Bran) were sent off to see what they discover about the caves and then report back. The raven had already reported some bodies on stakes at the valley entrance so the group wasn’t exactly sure what they would discover.

To their horror it was the bodies of the bandits they had set loose – with the one who had spoken to them still alive, impaled on a pike – but with his hands, feet, eyelids, tongue, nose, and ears cut off and healed (and gelded too for what it was worth) so that he was suffering but living there on the end of stick. One crossbow bolt from Gryphon later and the poor bandit was out of his misery – though Brother Illya suffered a little twinge of LG unease at not asking him if he wanted to be put out of his misery first…

The rest of the party moved up, and as they surveyed the valley they could see the various cave mouths open, with trails running up to them. Taking the horses away for safety they decided to enter the uppermost cave on the right side of the valley first (Section B for those of you who are following along at home). Sending Gryphon in first (Mr. Psionic Invisibility) while the rest of the party waiting to hear a ruckus, they soon went charging in as the alarm was raised by guards noticing the body of the watcher that Gryphon had slain – he was pretty much taking care of the first guard-room all himself as the party rushed in.

Quickly, the party began cutting through the bandits, who stopped them somewhat at the entrance to “Feast Hall” but the party really was overwhelming for a bunch of bandits. The leader, with a dagger to the throat of a woman, walked out and demanded that the party stop and negotiate and as Brother Illya spoke to him Astrin pulled out her Darter and Assassinated him from around the corner. As Jezabel moved to comfort the screaming, blood-covered woman she was shocked to have the woman backstab her with a poison dagger (luckily the save was made). To her dismay, Astrin put a Darter round in the lady as well – Jezebel was quite put out by this, wanting to kill the woman herself.

Searching out the Feast Hall and the Barracks revealed no more bandits, so the party moved up the sloping corridor to the north and checked out the store-room and then bandit leaders room – unfortunately discovering that the door was trapped. Mika the Thief was hit by three poisoned darts – and again made all of her saves as well. Arvid the Ranger strode confidently into the room to find out that the tapestry was Glyphed, and made his save luckily only taking 5 points of damage – while Mika discovered that his dagger, in addition to being a Wounding weapon , evidently also Detects Secret Doors and Traps, so the Secret Door was discovered!

And that is where we left it. A couple of party members are a bit wounded, but not very badly, they’ve pretty much cleaned out this area and have a Secret Door to investigate as well as the rest of the cave entrances. A little bit of magic and a fair amount of cash has been discovered, but the party has also decided after the backstabbing “hostage” (or at least Smjorr has decided) that everything in this place is hostile and deserves to be slain. I’ve already had to start to compensate for the previous action as I figure out what the responses of the inhabitants of the Caves are – and the party is likely in for quite a surprise at some point here soon.

Probably next game session as the evil cult’s response swings into motion…



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On the road to Caves of Chaos (Part 2) – Session #10

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!


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Finally! On the road to the Caves of Chaos! – Session #9

So this was a fun session and pretty much the opposite of the last session. We had the players for the Barbarian Smjor and the half-elven Ranger/Druid Jezabel in town for the game. The player of the half-elven Sorcerer/Thief Greyleaf had to bow out at the last-minute, but that still means that we had myself plus eight players so it was a good-sized game. This is also about the size that I really enjoy and think works well even though I can enjoy smaller groups like last week’s as well.

We picked up shortly in time after the last game session, and the entire group gathered themselves up and set out on the road north to the Caves of Chaos – and it provided for me what I always tend to do with modules. In general, unless the module is something like the Tomb of Horrors, I always treat it like a living, breathing entity. So, in B2, with the Caves of Chaos, I have to wonder what all of the groups of monsters are doing when they aren’t sitting on their butts in their lairs? I had replaced the kobolds with human bandits, so I figured that at least some of them were out banditing! So the player character group was wandering up the road where the bandits (roughly twenty of them) were set up waiting for victims.

Let us be clear, a group of 12 adventures that looked loaded for bear, was not on their target list. They were planning on quietly keeping their heads down and letting the party past – but when you have a warrior-monk, a barbarian, four rangers, and a couple of friendly hawks and a raven familiar doing aerial recon it’s hard to hide.

One of the rangers (Taloth, one of the new ones) thought he saw a bandit twitch, and let fly with his own arrows, and within moments there was a less than withering crossfire from the bandits that barely bothered the party. One Sleep spell from Vesna the mage, plus the melee fighters cutting a swath through the bandits, and it was almost over before it was started. Half the bandits were dead, and the other half were sleeping – with one awake and surrendered survivor.

All of whom have the same tattoo or sigil on clothing of a three-eyed skull on them – as well as a remarkably uniform set of equipment and dress.

Not exactly standard bandits obviously.

There was a short bit of interrogation, where Smjor the Barbarian promised to not only not kill him, but let him free, if the bandit told him where he came from, the bandit spilled the beans about coming from the Caves of Chaos, explains about the multiple caves with other groups (mentioning goblins and more bandits) but says that they don’t exactly hang out together. Explains which cave was their lair – and is then let free (with hands still bound).

And then the discussion turns to just killing the other bandits (by all of the CN types) – which brings the Lawful Good Frater Nikolai roaring in and the group decides to just turn them loose naked to (hopefully) run back to town or something. The dead bandits are piled up and left behind while the party moves a bit further up the road to camp for the night.

And everything was fine that night until late, late at night when the reanimated, zombies created from the bodies of the dead bandits attacked. Nobody was lost, but the party was seriously freaked out by the mindless, slow-moving undead – particularly when they had no clue how they had been created. It didn’t help that Astrin (the NPC elf) has the ability to turn undead, but in the process is speaking in a hair-raising, blood-chilling unknown language that actually seems to scare the zombies…

And that was pretty much where we called it.


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Arriving at Seraph Keep… – Session #8

Please bear with me, I’m kind of behind on keeping up the campaign log. I’ve been busy at work with a couple of projects so I’ve had much less free time than normal.

So this was about a month ago, and it was automatically odd because about half the group had to miss it due to various commitments and because in the last game session two player characters and an NPC disappeared off via a magical mishap. So a large part of this was getting two new characters into the group to replace Tier and Roland. Unfortunately the only players that were able to make it were former players of Tier and Roland, plus the player of Ketzl the Gnome (which also made it an “stag afternoon” since it was only men who had made it). So, I made the ruling that the party had traveled all the way up north to Seraph Keep and that people were training and otherwise advancing as they were able. Both Frater Nikolai (Cleric) and Brother Illya (Warrior-Monk) made it to 3rd level, as did Vesna (Mage) – Mikus (Rogue) made it to 4th level! – so there was plenty of training time needed.

But in the same vein, this left Ketzl (Gnome IL/THF) with not much to do and the same with Gryphon (NPC Dwarven FTR/THF) – so they were hanging around in the tavern when the two rangers walked in…

The new characters are Artan (Roland’s player) and Taloth (Tier’s player), Taloth is actually 2nd level because it’s a previously exisiting character with a certain amount of play under his belt. But they are both rangers, and after some drinks and some cards, they are broughting into the party and the group decides to see if they can scout the road to the Caves of Chaos out a little bit.

In truth, nothing much happened this gaming session, but Ketzl’s player and I ended up talking a lot of “gaming theory” with other two players (who are our most inexperienced and struggle a bit at times), we also talked about role-playing and did a lot of role-playing – and we all had a lot of fun.

Which is the whole point of gaming!


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