So, we pretty much formally started the new AD&D game, what I’m tentatively calling the “Barrow’s Edge” campaign. We’d made characters last game session, had the one missing player swing by to make characters in-between sessions, another player decided to make a second character the day before, and the party managed to get itself together, plus three NPCs, and start making their way north through the Barrows to Seraph Keep. The party, as it stands right now, is as follows:
Frater Nikolai: LG Human Cleric 3rd (DC: Fighter 1st)(KR)
Illya: LG Human Warrior-Monk 2nd (DC: Psionicist 1st)(KR)
Mikus: CN Human Thief 3rd (KT)
Vesna: NG Human Mage 1st (KT) + Raven Familiar: Bran
Tier: NG Grey Elf Fighter/Mage 2nd/2nd (MR)
Arvid: NG Half-Elf Ranger 1st (CB)
Ketzl: CN Gnome Illusionist/Thief (KB)
Roland: LG Human Cavalier-Paladin 0-Level (MS)
Astrin: LN? Grey Elf Fighter?/Mage?/Thief? 2nd/2nd/2nd (NPC)
Gryphon: CN? Dwarven Fighter/Thief 2nd/3rd Psychic (NPC)
Kyril: TN? Human Mage 2nd Psychic (DC: Witch 1st) (NPC) + Pseudo-Dragon Familiar: Belit
As a further note, the two elves are also psychic at the minimum levels that all elves are, but have no extra capabilities, and yes, all of the jokes about “Vesna, daughter of Vecna” have already been made…
So that is a pretty large crew, it’s an adventuring company not just an adventuring “band” – they are a large group and are hopefully going to bale to handle much of what the world puts out. It’s a little low on healing, but there are plenty of folks with non-magical Healing skills that the cleric should be able to save his magical healing for the people who really need it. The NPC Healer that used to be a member of the party disappeared, and at some point they may go in search of him, but for the moment he’s out of the picture.
Now, I’m trying to run as close to straight AD&D as I can. So, Seraph Keep is described as being about a week’s journey north through the Barrow’s – a site of very, very old barrows and tombs that isn’t unpopulated and dangerous, but not exactly the depths of the wilderness either. I used to have encounter tables for my game world that I rolled on every fours hours of travel, mostly populated with normal and innocuous creatures – based on the Monster Manual II charts. It was those Rare and Very Rare encounters that everyone feared because that is where the nasty stuff occurred unless some bandits decided that an adventuring party was a good mark (almost never happened…). But I don’t have any of those for this area of my game world (I still have all the old ones), and I want to give “straight AD&D” a chance.
So, I decided that I’ll roll one time during the day and one time at night, using the Fiend Folio tables, and decide if the creature rolled makes any sense. If it does, then I’ll pretty much run with the actual numbers encountered/percentage in lair as given in the appropriate monster book. So, lo and behold, the first encounter was with bears, brown bears!
Three of them in fact.
In AD&D bears are about the nastiest piece of the natural landscape you can run into. Those three bears tied up the entire complement of warriors in the party (plus support from the mages) for a solid five melee rounds or so, they dropped two characters into negatives (one twice) such that only magical healing saved them and damaged other characters pretty badly. This is, in some ways, not the really bad part of the tale – that would be where we ended up the session.
One of my house rules is that I let rangers and monks feed themselves on the road, the ranger and the monk were also on point. So I had the players roll a random direction and distance that they were at from the nominal “point” as they wandered about gathering food and otherwise looking out for trouble for the group. Random roll showed that it was the ranger who had met up with a bear as he wandered off into the brush. After being asked what she wanted to do, the player stated that upon seeing the bear that was a short distance away, the Ranger decided to stand up and throw his dead rabbit he’d just shot at the bears feet and run away.
Standing up and throwing things at bears is not generally going to distract them – it’s more likely to be taken as a threat or an attack. So the bear in turn charged and moved into combat range. As the rest of the party ran in, the other bears arrived and it turned into a rather interesting melee. Mikus the thief was the bravest, charging in immediately – and almost being eviscerated by a bear in the process. Arvid the ranger almost died but Frater Nikolai managed to bring him back from the brink though managed to drain most of his healing in the first place.
After the melee, the party decided that most everyone would travel another 30 minutes or so down the road, the thieves would stick around and crack open a bear carcass in order to figure out how to backstab them and catch up later. The ranger’s player was put out to discover that no, he was not going to skin a bear or three and take their hides in. First how was he going to string up a none-foot tall bear and second he didn’t a couple of fifty pound bags of salt to pack the skins in for a couple of days to start the tanning process. So after those couple of discussions, the party moved on to resting for the night, figuring out watches, and I rolled for a potential random encounter for the night.
Monster Manual says they come in groups of 2-20, I rolled 15. Their only hope is going to be being able to break the morale of the ogres or scare them off somehow…
But it really points out why low-level character like dungeons more in “pure AD&D” because the numbers are manageable and the creatures have a very artificial ecology to them. The wilderness sucks and it is very dangerous out there. I’m probably going to have to put together one of my old style tables because I’m just rolling my eyes at some of the things that pop up and the numbers involved – “You come around the bend in the road and there are 200 goblins in front of you. Roll for surprise”.
Craziness that makes no sense, so we all tweaked it one way or another to make some semblance of sense.
Looking at the party, they might be able to pull it off – not so much via a blood-and-bones slaughterfest, but by forcing a couple of morale checks and convincing the ogres that they need to leave this group alone. If they can do that, they can then go on the offensive and track them back to their lair rather than being sniped and hunted in return. They have enough magic and such that if they can pull off a couple rounds of alpha-strikes (maybe getting the leader) the rest of the ogres are likely to beat feet.
But otherwise I’m guessing we’ll have a TPK barely a day out of town…