Lesson Learned? Wrath of the Minotaur – Session 4

Following the pointed lesson with the kobold archers in the last session, we kicked off this session in the middle of combat. The door to the room had been closed, giving the party time to reconsider their options.

Sian favoured running in and engaging the archers with Elanna, whilst using Thaddeus to provide some fire support, with actual fire from flaming oil.

Ouro, however, suggested a somewhat sneakier option: that the party noisily withdraw back to the previous room, as if they were running away, and then hide, so as to try and lure the kobolds out and maybe even trick them into splitting up by trying to encircle them.

Ouro’s plan seemed to be based on tactical knowledge he assumed the kobolds would follow, based on the limited knowledge that they had of the dungeon. Ouro didn’t know that the passage to the west, which they assumed led to the first chamber, was actually blocked off by a cave in – the party hadn’t bothered to check that route before heading south and encountering the gelatinous cube.

Sian once again deferred to Ouro’s somewhat flawed judgement, and so the party fled back to the previous room, put out their light. Elanna took the option to use her potion of healing to restore some of her health, as she felt that she needed it if the plan was to end up failing.

The kobolds fired at the door once again. this time eleven arrows hit the closed door. But then there was some yipping (kobold language that nobody in the party understands), as the kobolds debated among themselves about what to do next. They weren’t going to split up, as Ouro anticipated, as there was nowhere else for them to go – they knew the corridor to the first chamber was blocked by a cave in. But neither did they want to give up their tactical advantage just yet. So, they argued among themselves before sending one of their remaining number to go open the door and check things out.

Alas, several members of their party totally botched their stealth rolls, meaning that the kobold sent to look out the door had spotted them. Unfortunately for the kobolds, by hiding behind the door, the party had almost total cover and thus the kobolds couldn’t get a line of sight to attack them with ranged attacks without entering the corridor and approaching the room.

Thus, this is what the kobolds did, as they all rushed down the corridor to get a better shot at the party. Once they were confined in the tight space of the corridor, Thaddeus took the opportunity to step out from his hiding place and hurl a flask of flaming oil right into the middle of the kobolds. Two were killed outright by the flames, and another two took damage, although they managed not to be set alight. Most importantly though, the fire filled the centre of the corridor, dividing the kobolds in two.

Those at the rear fled back into the room, and readied their bows for any incoming onslaught, unable to fire through the flames, and unwilling to risk death charging through it. For now, they were out of the combat until the fire died out.

Those at the front had little choice but to move forwards and try to fight their way through the party in front of them. Two held the front line, dropping their shortbows for shortswords, whilst the two behind the readied their ranged weapons, willing to fire through their comrades, if neccessary. All four were slaughtered in a few rounds, with Elanna easily cleaving the kobolds up with copious overkill from her greatsword.

The party used the time whilst the fire in the corridor burnt itself out, to loot the bodies of the kobolds they had slain previously in the narrow tunnel, hoping to recover some form of healing, Alas, all they found was some gold coins, and a dead scorpion.

When the flames had died down, the party returned to the room where they first encountered the kobolds. They had three more of the creatures to face off against. Two held their shortbows ready to fire, whilst the third watched the doorway for the party’s approach.

This time, there was no hesitation, as Elanna moved down the corridor and attacked the kobold with a fury that saw him slain with a certain sense of grace and brutality. With the numbers now in their favour, Thordar took the opportunity to charge down the corridor and attack one of the kobold archers, dispatching the creature just as swiftly, with the kobold’s arrows missing the oncoming dwarf. It was all but over the following round, when Elanna moved up and finished the final kobold.

Exhausted, the party recovered and looted the bodies looking for more healing. Unfortunately, there was no healing to be found, as all these kobolds seemed to hold what amounted to 100 gold pieces, and a metal ring on a chain that one kobold at the back wore around his neck. The crude scribbling inside of it added to the sense of mystery it possessed, so the party pocketed it with the rest of their loot.

The party wanted to rest, but this room didin’t seem like a suitably safe place to do so, and their curiousity was peaked. Thordar checked the room, and the doors, and opened the west door first. Ouro had wondered why his plan to split the party hadn’t worked as he had hoped, but upon finding that the corridor was caved in, was satisifed that the kobolds had nowhere else to go. Time for another door, and this time they chose north, sensing a certain amount of symmetry to this tomb.

The way north led to another corridor ending in a wooden door, with the only difference to previous non-collapsed corridors is that someone or something had scrawled a red cross on the door in dried blood.

Wary, the party opened the door and found the room contained four treasure chests. Three were unopened, but the fourth was opened and a big scorch mark surrounded the chest. Thordar examined the chest and noted that whilst it seemed empty, a sliding panel in the lid concealed a small ring. Thordar pocketed it, and moved on to the other chests.

All three of the remaining chests were closed with latches, but unlocked. Somewhat curious, Thordar looked for traps, but Thaddeus stopped the dwarf as he was about to lift the latch, pointing out that their was some sort of sticky residue underneath them all. Thaddeus realised this could be a sort of flammable material, like that of alchemists fire, which could combust explosively when the latch was opened.

Warily, the party stepped back. If the scorch marks on the floor surrounding the open chest was anything to go by, the party would be caught in the blast if any such explosives went off whilst they were next to the chest, but they would be safely out of reach if they were further away. With that Thordar reached for his trusty trap-finding stick, preparing to try and flip the latches from afar.

Unfortunately, the dwarf wasn’t suited to such work, and Elanna took the stick and proceeded to deftly flip each latch open. In quick succession, the material under each of the latches combusted and exploded into a flaming ball before dissipating just as quickly, leaving the contents of each chest intact. Thordar examined all the chests thoroughly, and found that each chest contained 200 gold coins, but were otherwise empty.

With only one door into the room, the party realised that this was an ideal place to rest and recover. Michifer and Thaddeus refreshed their spells, and the party recovered a little health, ready for further adventures on the morrow…

A Pointed Lesson: Wrath of the Minotaur – Session 3

Sometimes it can be hard to be a good GM. To be torn between providing a challenge, being fair with the rules, and not punishing the players for doing dumb things. Last session was one of those sessions.

In the previous session, Thaddeus experimented with pyrotechnics by using flaming oil on a gelatinous cube. It was fairly successful, if by successful, you meant creating a bonfire at the end of a narrow tunnel leading into the darkness, and needing to wait for it to burn out before you continue.

Unknown to the party, at the other end of said tunnel, there are four kobolds. Kobolds can see in the dark, so it’s unlikely that they would miss the massive signal flare the party decided to use to forewarn anyone they were coming. As such, given that they know someone is coming, and that they have a tactical advantage, the kobolds surround the tunnel entrance.

This is only a slight deviation from the encounter script, as it is essentially the same as giving the kobolds a surprise turn. After all, their first action was to rush up to the tunnel and try and block the party from entering the room. So we now have a narrow tunnel blocked by kobolds.

The party enter the tunnel blithely unaware of what awaits them. The tunnel is narrow, what with it being a narrow tunnel and all, so the party need to go in single file, with anyone taller than a dwarf having to crawl. So naturally, Thordar leads the way bravely as the only hero in the party not crawling.

Thordar is a fighter. Fighters are stubborn. Thordar is a dwarf. Dwarves are stubborn (and Scottish).  Thordar leads the party. Thordar encounters the kobolds at the end of the tunnel. Thordar decides to stand and fight. Thordar misses repeatedly whilst blocking the tunnel exit.

It took several turns of this before the party decided to retreat back down the tunnel. Thordar was hesitant to retreat, but eventually relented and slowly withdrew step by step, whilst attacking and missing the kobolds that entered into the tunnel after him.

Finally, the party turned the tables on the kobolds, as the kobolds reached the end of the tunnel, where the rest of the party could join in with the fight. It should have been a slaughter, but it wasn’t. One of the kobolds managed to flee back up the tunnel and escape the room, in order to go and warn the kobolds in a nearby room of the party’s approach.

The party duly approached and found themselves facing off against thirteen kobolds, all but one armed with shortbows aimed at the door they entered by, thanks to the escaping kobold. Thordar decides to close the door, and whilst the party deliberate, they hear the thunk thunk thunk of twelve arrows hitting the far side of the door, followed by the sound of bows being readied once again.

Thordar decides that they need cover to enter the room, and promptly goes to the other end of the corridor to try and dismantle the door and turn it into a makeshift tower shield. Okay, I say, but it’ll take a few rounds. Elanna asks why they don’t just rush in, after all, they can reach the kobolds in one turn. Ultimately, she opts to do nothing, not even hold the door closed.

What’s a GM to do in this situation? The party is vulnerable, and a lack of communication and coordination in combat is a weakness that really should be exploited, especially by cunning kobolds.

So, the thirteenth kobold goes and opens the door. The other kobolds are already aiming at the door, so as soon as it opens, twelve arrows fire. Elanna is standing by the door, but I take pity on her, and rule that half the arrows are fired at her, whilst the remaining six are split between Thordar, Michifer, and Thaddeus. A few hits are scored and damage is dealt.

With a rumble of irritation, Thordar abandons his plan and returns to the doorway, where he and Elanna fight and defeat the kobold that now blocks their way.

But behind him, another twelve arrows are readied and released by what is essentially a firing squad. The doorway and the hallway behind it are a killing zone, and I rule that this time, all twelve arrows are split between Elanna and Thordar.

Thordar goes down, dying, and Elanna isn’t much better. Player dismay sets in, and they are ready to give up. Ouro is ready to let Thordar die and have the rest of the party flee the Tomb of Alaxus. Sian is despairing at why they didn’t just rush the kobolds in the first place. Before player bickering and despondency fully takes over, I urge the players to close the door and regroup. Elanna has a potion of healing to get Thordar back on his feet, but is only on two hit points herself.

That’s where I called the session. It’s unusual to stop in the middle of combat, but I think that the players needed to gather their thoughts and think about what they can do. They have resources. Encounters like this challenge the players because they aren’t just simple melee combats. The party can’t always just get away with standing and swinging. Sometimes they need a plan, and to stick to it.

But most of all, the players need to communicate. I know Ouro assumed the Sian would have Elanna hold the door shut whilst Thordar spent however long dismantling the other door. But he didn’t communicate this to Sian, and it never occurred to Sian that Elanna should hold the door shut. It’s easy to see where the issues with communication are, and hopefully, my players will learn from this and play a little bit better.

It’s easy to blame such things on Roll20, and it can be hard to get to grips with a new party every few sessions, where the players get to play multiple characters each. But the key to every encounter, every session, and every adventure is communication. Perhaps after this weeks pointed lesson, they will take this onboard going forward.

The Legend of the Flaming Jello – Wrath of the Minotaur Session 2

Second session of the Wrath of the Minotaur, and the party are ready to finally enter the Tomb of Alaxus. Torches prepared and weapons in hand, they brave the deadly corridor of the wooden door, ready for adventure. Check the corridor – nothing special. Check the door – nothing special. I am sensing a pattern emerging…

With the corridor clear, it’s on to the next room. This is an antechamber, with a blue granite monument on a plinth marking the entrance to the tomb. Michifer decides the monument is evil, so attempts to destroy it with his mace, but barely scores enough damage to scratch it. So they check the various markings and make a decision where to go next – through the north door.

Yet another deadly corridor of the wooden door. Still, check the door and, nothing special. So they open the door, and see a room full of bones. Naturally, the characters enter, and up pops a Minotaur Skeleton. It’s a bit of a beastie, and it takes a few rounds to defeat, largely thanks to poor rolls by the fighters and Michifer the Cleric. It seems Roll20 might have a dry sense of irony, as the bad rolls seem to come after the characters try their hand at mightily epic one-liners before their swings. If there’s such thing as a look of bemusement on an expressionless, non-vocal, barely sentient, magically animated, bestial humanoid skeleton, I am pretty sure the creature would be giving it a go.

Finally, the skeleton collapses back into the bone pile, so the party decides to root around in the bones, because there might be treasure. So, guess what, as the party are busy looking, yet another Minotaur Skeleton arises, this time behind them, and the same routine begins. One-liners equal misses, and determined silence means solid blows. Not just any silence, mind you. Oh not, it has to be deliberate, according to Roll20…

Once the second skeleton drops, the party suspect that rooting through the bones for anything other than their thrown weaponry might be a bad idea, and opt to leave, closing not only the door to the room, but the door leading to the antechamber as well, once they make their way back through the deadly corridor of the wooden door.

Time to head south, and guess what? Another deadly corridor of the wooden door. I duly read out the descriptive text once again, and the party checks the door – nothing special. Is this getting routine? I certainly hope so, as we skip on to the next room…

Another room, like the last, full of bones. However, there’s a strange shimmering by the east wall. So this time, Thordar the Dwarf Fighter, who’s apparently VERY Scottish (yer bastad!) according to Ouro, steps forward to look at the shimmer, only to be attacked by a Gelatinous Cube, amongst the deadliest of desserts. Luckily, the attack misses the Dwarf, and combat begins properly.

Thaddeus has a bright idea – he’s going to light a flask of oil and throw it at the strange creature facing them. With that, suddenly the Gelatinous Cube is covered in oil and on fire. Of course, being a barely sentient Ooze, the creature doesn’t react to the flames, and is that little bit more deadly, but is slowly melting through the combat with a sickly sweet oily smell. Thordar takes a flaming slap to the face, but manages to resist the Gelatinous Cube’s paralysis, but is not so lucky with the burns to his skin, and his pride. Singed beard syndrome sets in, but not before Thaddeus finishes of the creature with a magic missile, causing it to melt into a pile of flaming goop on the floor.

Behind the creature’s flaming remains, a narrow passage heading east is revealed. Of course, between the highly combustable slime and the flask of oil, the fire is going to burn for a while. Do the party decide to put it out? Of course not – that would be too smart for them! Instead, they decide the best thing to do is show of their agility by trying to recover what treasure they can from the puddle of flames.

Thordar goes first, because Dwarves are known for their agility, and he promptly falls over face first into the flaming slime. Luckily, what remains of his facial hair doesn’t catch fire, but he still takes a point of fire damage, and an indescribable amount of dignity loss.

Elanna decides to give it a go. After all, she’s highly agile, even if she’s only a fighter, that’s got to put her in a good position for such a stunt, right? Wrong! Roll20 brings a natural one, to demonstrate that prideth does indeed cometh before a fall, as Elanna trips over a slimy Thordar, goes arse over tit, as the saying goes, and also faceplants herself in the flaming goop. Worse, she fails to prevent her hair catching fire. That’s going to leave a mark, if only on what remains of her dignity.

I have to take pity of the party as we are all in stitches at this dignity TPK – we haven’t laughed this much since Dent got green slimed back in Zanzer’s Dungeon. So, as Elanna puts her flaming hair out, I let Thordar finally recover the treasure, and then the party retreats back to the antechamber to rest up ready for next session. What did they get? In the end, it was 20 gold coins, a jewelled dagger, and a vial that they suspect is a potion of healing. Shame it’s not a potion of restore dignity…

Meanwhile, let’s hope that these shenanigans haven’t alerted any denizens in the dungeon. There’s rumours of kobolds nearby, and they would most definitely have seen the flaming jello in the dark… (Hint: It totally did, so looks like the party might be in for a few rough encounters in the near future!)

Ouro for Ouro’s Sake

Normally, I would discuss what is going on in the game, maybe what I am planning to come up next, but I wanted to take a break from all that for this week, as I really wanted to give a shout out to one of my players and long-time friends.

Ouro (short for Ouroboros I), as been a good friend to me for many years online, and we have played many games together. We first met back in 2000, when we both took an active part in the development of the Unofficial Legend of Zelda Roleplaying Game. A friendship quickly grew from our shared passions and crazy projects in all things geeky. This was why Ouro was my go to when I started up DVOID Systems. This short-lived professional venture helped us expand our creative juices, but demonstrated that we really weren’t cut out for business.

Nevertheless, my long-time online friendship with Ouro would be fairly constant in my life, and it was no surprise that I would talk about him with the other important people in my life, who weren’t online. This inevitably included my partner, Sian, whom I have not only been with for five years, but have also known for twenty years as well. It’s strange to think of how many of my friends know Ouro, but only as Ouro…

This game came about because I really wanted to run a game, and after various failed attempts at games online in the past, for various reasons, only Ouro and Sian were reliable and willing enough to take part. A game with two players can cause issues, some of which I have discussed over these posts, but with their help and willingness, we have been playing for over a year now (despite interruptions), and they have taken on several roles through several adventures.

A key feature to these games, and the recaps we have afterwards, is Ouro himself. Ouro likes to draw, and has a number of artistic projects on the go on places like DeviantArt. Over time, and with some slight encouragement from myself, he has established his own comic-book style in his work. He draws for fun, and this is seen in his artwork.

During this campaign, Ouro has taken to drawing aspects of our game, as he is inspired. Sometimes it might be a funny scene, others it might be a new take on a player character or monster. No matter what, it seems like even the roughest of Ouro’s sketches gets murmurs of appreciation from Sian and myself, as it adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the whole gaming experience.

It’s because of this, that I would like to give a shout out to Ouro and his artwork here. I have a folder of his art, and often use it on this blog, especially during session recaps. You can find more of his work here at DeviantArt.

In the meantime, thank you Ouro for your fun, support, and artwork, and I hope that 2020 will bring you even more happiness and friendship. May we game together for many further years to come!

We’re Off on an Minotaur Hunt – Wrath of the Minotaur Session 1

Following a brief hiatus to resolve some technical issues (new headsets, yeay!) with our game, the intrepid explorers of the Ruined Tower finally returned the the Patriarch to see if the books they brought back contained any important information.

The Patrician welcomed them in with enthusiasm, as his study was covered in all sorts of papers, maps, and other books and scrolls. The Patriarch seemed to have had a busy few days, but was extremely excited to announce that he had made a major breakthrough with his research into the history of the Vale.

The Patriarch gave the group a brief history of the Vale, detailing the role of Alaxus, the fabled Minotaur Mage that once ruled the region. He was called the Minotaur Mage, not because he was a Minotaur himself, but rather he used his magics to enslave Minotaurs as his servitors and enforcers. The Minotaur Mage used a bull’s head for his symbol, and this was the symbol that was found on the Ruined Tower, one of the Minotaur Mage’s many towers that once helped him control this region.

The Patriarch quickly revealed why he called for the heroes once again. It turns out that thanks to their exploration of the Ruined Tower and recovery of valuable books and scrolls, the Patriarch had finally discovered the location of Alaxus’ Tomb, hidden in the east of the Vale. It was rumoured to be the final resting of the famous mage, with his followers having spirited him away after a conclusive battle with a long forgotten hero that ended the Minotaur Mage’s reign over the Vale. Thus, the party’s goal was simple, they were to find and explore the Tomb, and report back with anything they find.

The New Guys

The Patriarch stated that he couldn’t spare any of the guards in town, but that a new bunch of adventures that he had been mentoring had just finished their training, and might be able to help them with your task. With that, Patriarch brought in and introduced Michifer, Sunblayze, Thordar, and Peregrine.

Michifer was a Cleric of the Church of the Holy Defender. A new initiate, he had been trained under the Patriarch directly as part of his studies. Peregrine was a Paladin of the Church of the Holy Defender, a new recruit to the military order of the church, who had also been trained under the Patriarch with regards to his holy duties. Sunblayze, an Elf maiden, was a Spellsword who had recently finished her apprenticeship with the Patriarch. Finally, there was Thordar – a Dwarf who had been apprenticing under the town guard of Haven.

The Patriarch suggested that the group pool their resources and prepare for an expedition to the Tomb of Alaxus. However, as a precaution, he suggested that a contingent of the party remained behind to help protect Haven should anything arise. The dangers of the Vale seemed to be increasing in recent days, and whilst the guard could protect the town, they would be unsuitable for protecting the rest of the region.

With this, the group departed the Patriarch’s study  with the new recruits, and prepared for their expedition. Between them, it was decided that Elanna and Thaddeus would explore the tomb with Michifer and Thordar, whilst Darkblade, Niles, Sunblayze, and Peregrine would remain behind to protect Haven and the Vale. The neccessary supplies were bought, including a mule to carry any treasure recovered from the Tomb.

When the adventurers were ready, including having named their Mule, which Thordar decided to call “Berliner” for some reason, the party of Elanna, Thaddeus, Michifer, and Thordar set off with their map to the location of the Tomb of Alaxus. The journey took three uneventful days following a stream up into the mountains to the east of the Vale.

Finding the Tomb of Alaxus

They arrived on the supposed site of the Tomb early in the morning, and entered a clearing besides a large cave in the mountainside. The cave served as a local camping site for travelling shepherds in the Vale, who would often travel with their flocks across the mountains to richer meadows for grazing in the north of the valley.

The party came across one such shepherd that morning, who had just broken up camp in the cave, and was about to release his goats from a makeshift pen formed from an improvised barricade of branches and bushes placed in the back of the cave. Wary at first, the shepherd pointed a loaded crossbow at the party, inquiring as to what they were doing there. The party quickly defused the situation, revealing that they were looking for Alaxus’ Tomb.

The shepherd introduced himself as Macques (pronounced “Max”), and stated that he wasn’t interested in such nonsense, as he was focused on protecting his herd from the Kobolds seen in the region. However, having been satisfied that the party had no intention of robbing him, Macques asked the party to assist him in taking down the barricade, and after they did so, the shepherd left with his flock.

Alone in the cave, the party explored the area. Although the cave seemed empty, Thordar quickly spotted a depression in the back wall, which was revealed to be the symbol of a bull’s head once the moss was cleared up. Two bluer pieces of granite made up the eyes, and when they were pressed, the entire slab moved upwards… about three inches. There was a dark passageway beyond, and with a concerted effort, the party forced the door the rest of the way to gain access to what was presumably the Tomb of Alaxus.

The party decided to make final preparations, including replacing the makeshift barricade across the back of the cavern behind them, so as to hide the new entrance from casual discovery, and to serve as a form of protection for Berliner. The passageway went forwards about thirty feet, up to wooden door ahead of them. Thaddeus lit a torch, having learnt from the Ruined Tower, as the party braved themselves to press ahead… next session.

Note: The shopping expedition actually took most of the session, but I have skipped it for the recap, since I am not sure how fun it would be to read. It was enjoyable, as my players considered what they might need for an expedition into the Tomb of Alaxus. I explained that preparing for an expedition like this was an often overlooked part of the game, and that many of the more “old school” adventures would feature the players preparing to explore such sites in this way.