Archive for December, 2013

Monastery of St Cuthbert

Monastery of St Cuthbert

This mini-adventure continues a series called Ancient Encounters, culled from ancient notebooks of campaigns past. The idea came after writing about re-using an old adventure, and I realized these great encounters deserve a little more attention. Hopefully others can be inspired by this series to make their own adventures, or to use elements of these admittedly “brief,” “vague,” and “improvisational encounters as building blocks for great games.

The Monastery of St Cuthbert History

The monastery is located in the forests surrounding a sparsely populated countryside. The monks are part of an order devoted to protecting the good folk in their domain by patrolling and watching over the inhabitants of the forest. Being monks of St. Cuthbert, the monks are not averse to using shows of strength and bouts of violence to ensure that lawful goodness prevails.

The walls are built of strong logs, the grounds are well tended and well defended at all times by at least half the monks. The daily tasks of the monks focuses on growing crops and keeping farm animals. The monks use the fruits of these labors to support themselves and to help those in need. Acquiring wealth is forbidden to the monks, but they keep a small stash buried in the woods outside the monastery for emergencies.

This edifice made its appearance in an adventure called “The forgotten King” (not to be confused with the published adventure of the same name. I just liked the name.) It was the opening adventure of a campaign I call “The undead wars” that saw a battle for the material realm between Orcus and Demogorgon, with the heroes (and the world) caught in the crossfire. In the adventure, the good people of King’s Gate were invaded by an undead army while the characters were staying at the inn. They have to escape, then find the clues to bring back the legendary “Forgotten King” who saved the people millenia before, and would return to do it again when most needed.

The Monastery of St Cuthbert was in a forest that the characters needed to explore for clues to the wherabouts of the king. Having stormed an orc hideout, they needed to find a place to rest, and came upon the sanctuary. It so happened that due to cancellations, only a couple players were able to make the next session, and so the monks had a special mission for those characters in attendance.

A gypsy woman was hiding with a half-elven child in the undead-occupied village of Kings Gate. The elven mage and human druid agreed to go on a rescue mission with an elf monk as guide. They entered the village and had to fight two ogres before arriving at the tent. They miraculously slew the ogres but in the process the elf wizard was knocked unconscious and fell into a cart of fish (which saved the characters life.) The woman was gone but they found the child, just as a patrol of skeletons began marching along the street. The elf monk escaped with the child while the druid held off the skeletons in a suicidal sacrifice.

He slew many of the skeletons before being cut down and left to bleed to death in the street. Thus began the most intense survival I have ever witnessed in a game. In 3e, the rules for below zero involve rolling dice and seeing if you lose another hitpoint or stabilize,once per hour. The druid was mortally wounded, and all night long he rolled to see if he slipped closer to death, which he did until he was at -9 hp. -10 hp was death. At that point he somehow stabilized, and dawn was breaking, so I ruled his dog came back, licked his face until he was conscious enough to pull himself up, fish the wizard out of the cart, and limp home to the monastery. Their reward for a successful mission was a hand woven head band that allowed +1 spell memorization per day.

There is an error in the map. If you look closely you will notice that there is no way to use the staircase to go between floors.

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House Rules

House Rules

OK this idea just occurred to me, so it is a rough draft, but it attempts a new approach to healing that bridges the conflicts between ‘realism’ vs. ‘gamism’ and between magic vs. natural healing.

Between battles, parties with magical healing capable classes (i.e. clerics) can heal their party to full HP during a short rest, using their magic healing. Without magical healing, no hit points are regained while adventuring. Only magic or time and rest can heal injuries. During a battle, all normal healing spells and magic applies.

The great thing about this re-setting of hit points during an encounter is that HP no longer become a resource to be spent and saved, but return to their natural place as an indicator of the amount of punishment an individual
(or swarm) can take and/or has taken.

There are plenty of other resources to be managed and honestly, getting people to rest between encounters has never been a problem, just the opposite is usually true. Therefore, with a cleric, druid, paladin, or whatever, hand-wave the fiddly in-between encounter healing and they just do it. Now encounters can be based on a full strength party rather than an estimate of how ‘spent’ they will be when engaging.

Other mechanics could be added to limit the amount of times a cleric can do this in-between magic. Like a low level cleric may only be able to do it one person per level per hour or something similar. Possibly druids or bards even might be limited to curing fewer times, or less than 100 percent. Or maybe every time a healer uses the skill, they lose a point of strength (they take on the pain like an alien chick in an old episode of Start Trek) until they are forced to rest. These types of rules however ruin the basic premise that the party starts every battle at full hp, and when a character is not at full hp they are in fact injured, and a night’s rest will not cause gaping wounds to heal.

This is all just theoretical at this point.

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Orc Hillside Encampment

Orc Hillside Encampment

This mini-adventure kicks off a new series called Ancient Encounters, culled from my ancient notebooks of campaigns past. The idea came after writing about re-using an old adventure, and I realized these great encounters deserve a little more attention. Hopefully others can be inspired by this series to make their own adventures, or to use elements of these admittedly “brief” encounters as building blocks for great games.

Orc Hillside Encampment History

Around 2008 I decided to get the band back together after a hiatus of… well, since the late 80’s. Our first adventure was called Zagyg the Fogroggen King, and this little dungeon was one of the encounters possible in the outdoor forest exploration adventure.

The dungeon is the plundered tomb of one of the forgotten king’s lieutenants, the Dwarf lord Konnag. Clues to the adventure are hidden, but the characters must defeat the orcs who have made the tomb their forward raiding camp.

In the stony cliffside of a hill deep in the dark forests surrounding King’s Gate, two rock-arched entrances lead into the tomb of the Dwarf Lord Konnag and his companions. One is high up the steep hillside, and a narrow pathway leads up to it. The other arch is at the base of the cliff. Two Orcs stood at guard outside each cave entracne as the characters approached. They were spotted and charged forward in a desparate head-on clash that almost wiped the party out before they had even begun.

The druid and hisdog charged up the hill and engaged the upper orcs, while the fighter and the rest fought the two orcs at the lower doorway, and then even more as they had to contend with the orcs that came pouring out of their barracks. The battle was desparate to the point where the elven wizard had torush up the hill to try and save the fighter by making a long sword attack. It succeeded and the tide of battle was turned.

At this point the adventurers were low on resources and injured, but the pushed on, checking outthe upper chamber first. It lead to a bone filled room. The gnome illusionis was riding the druid’s war-dog, and nearly tumbled head first into the concealed pit. They picked the lock into the next hamber and searched the sundered tombs of the dwarven paladins. In one skull they find a ring rattling around in the skull of a dward and the cleric puts it on. It is cursed and he has a chance of going berzerk in battle ever after.

They opt out of opening the double doors, and go check out the now emptied barracks inside the lower door. The room is full of shabby mats of fur, straw, and cloth. At one end it a stout wooden chest, and it is trapped. The thief pops the trap and is pricked by a needle. A wave of nausea passes through her, but she shakes it off.

The adventurers realize they cannot go on without any healing or magic left, so they retreat to a nearby monestery (see next ancient encounter entry) and come back refreshed the next morning. The orcs have set up a barricade around the entrance to their lair, and the party must use subterfuge to try an gain surprise. They defeat the orcs a second time, and re-enter the barracks. They pick the lock on the same chest a second time, avoiding the trap, and finding it empty. Six of the orcs carry Short swords +1 plundered from Konnag’s companions.

They move into the hall ,but must first disable a crossbow trap set up to fire at anyone who attempts to open the inner door. Once in the hallway, tiny poisonous lizards drop from the ceiling onto them, and they bust through the next chamber to fight the orc priest and his acolytes. The shaman is cut down before he ever gets an action, and the last acolyte escapes up the ladder, and is chased through the store room and towards the shaman’s chamber. The party sets up a flaming oil trap of their own in the store room, and soon defeat the remaining orcs as they counter-attack.

The final chamber in the adventure is the unplundered tomb of Konnag. The door is trapped with electricity. The orcs have not managed to break in. Once the players get through (using create water, mage hand, and something else I forget) they enter the room with Konnag’s corpse. Above his sarcophagus his phantom rises and says something about gotta fight ya for breakin in and corruptin the tomb. Beside him are two large urns, full of holy water, and they are the only thing that can damage the phantom, so hilarity ensues as they all pass around the one cup they have, to dip and splash it in the phantom until he is ‘purified’

Their prize is one of the artifacts of the forgotten king, Flamering +2 Flaming Bastard Sword.

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High Noon on Ant Hill

High Noon on Ant Hill

One of the first adventures I wrote for 4th edition, while still testing out the game, and before taking the plunge with a new campaign, was the “delve” High Noon on Ant Hill. It is a 3-5 encounter mini adventure with a very straight-forward premise. Enter the ant hill of the giant ants and kill the queen. It was played twice, once with a group of middle schoolers, who only made it through the first encounter, and once with the permanent members of the game group, who were slaughtered during the final encounter. It was a great little adventure, known and reviled for its difficulty, and I decided to dust it off for our Thanksgiving game bash. It was a ton of fun.

The adventure was updated to 5th edition rules on the fly, and other changes were made to help the game “flow” and also because I wanted to build the whole dungeon before-hand using my collection of Dwarven forge game tiles. The delve was incorporated into the dungeon the party has been exploring, and for simplicity sake, there was no resting and no turning back while we played. I let the players know that if they made it through the whole adventure, they would gain a level at the end. This seemed to keep them moving forward without too much complaining. Sadly no photo was taken of the delve during play, but it consisted of four encounter areas.

The first encounter is the hill. Originally, it was a large conical hill with a dead tree at its top. The tree was hollow and acted as a doorway into the anthill. In this rendition, I mixed it up. They entered a large chamber. The ants had dug up a twenty foot trench and used the dirt to create a hill against the back wall of the chamber. They stood the trunk of dead tree at the top of the pile, and the hollow led through a passageway to the door in the back wall of the room. Hidden in the branches of the dead tree were a pair of giant flying ant drones. They were tough.

The ants had a high armor class and high hit points, and they had a fly by attack that let them make an attack in the middle of a move without provoking an attack. This worked until the party forced them to attack at the limit of their 8 squares, so they ended their round next to a party member. When the ants became bloodied, they could shatter their crystalline wings in a burst attack of crystal shards.

The ants were killed, and in the process the wizard’s ferret familiar was reduced to one hit point. Rather than having a wounded ferret on his hands, the wizard snapped its spine so it would reform fully healed in thirty minutes. The little ferret let out an agonizing squeal as it perished at its owners hands. The squeal echoed down the hallways and nearly a mile away, a giant lizard heard the sound of breakfast being served. Before exiting the chamber through the bole of the tree, they found a dead elf concealed by his cloak of elvenkind. The rogue snapped it up.

They came to a hallway, and heard a scratching sound ahead. They were not surprised by the carrion crawler ambush, and everyone was waiting for it when it sprang out of the wall. But they were not expecting the giant lizard coming at them from the direction they just came. The lizard attacked the wizard and while the rest of the prty fought the carrion crawler, the wizard fought the lizard. He scared the lizard so bad with his imitation of a female lizard in mating season, that the monster leaped up into the wizards arms, yet still tried to swallow his head. The paladin finally slew the carrion crawler and turned to stab the lizard. The wizard wept at the lizard’s passing, having become very close to it in such a short emotion filled encounter. From the lair of the carrion crawler, they found a pair of potions. One was a potion of invisibility, the other was unknown.

The third encounter area was a long chamber with the center dug up for farming. Various fungi were being tended by ten giant worker ants, and guarded by 2 warrior ants. Additionally, one new worker ant appeared from the far door each round until the characters moved into the final room. This battle was quick and decisive, as the worker ants only had one hit point apiece (yay minions!) In the fungi field they found an abandoned battle axe +1, which was made of weightless iron, and had a quirk that it was the only magic weapon carryable at ta time. The paladin took up the axe, but traded it with the fightress at the end of the adventure.

The party entered the final chamber where they had to fight the queen ant and her pair of drone cows, each of which was covered in corrosive slime and could pump out a worker ant or make a pincer attack. Meanwhile the queen flitted about making pincer attacks. The wizard was struck by a critical hit and knocked unconscious. The fightress attacked a cow and her weapons were corroded by the acidic slime. She went down the next round, and it was up to the kinder assassin and the dragonborn paladin to bring it to a conclusion, which they did. Beside the magical component they were looking for, they were rewarded with 500 gold pieces, a magic suit of banded +1 and a wand of magic missiles with 10 charges.

And they made it to third level. Good game.

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