Bare Bones Dungeoneering

So, after an almost four month hiatus, the group finally got back together, this time on a Thursday, and the brave party ventured into the horrors of the user-generated portion of Zanzer’s Dungeon. I can’t tell you how glad I am that I had this all pre-designed for this session.

The group seems to have established a favoured party – Pike, Dent, Fara, and Nuggin. So with a fighter, two rogues, and a mage, you would have thought that they were prepared for all the magical traps that lay ahead of them. But naturally, this is NOT how things actually went down…

The party’s lack of perception first showed up when they failed to identify the aromatic spices in the pantry. Why aromatic spices? Wouldn’t YOU want something to smell other than humanoids and slaves in a sweaty mine? Luckily, the monsters made so much noise from the mess room, that they weren’t surprising anybody, so a quick fight with the Hobgoblins in Room 27 ensued.

The party found the small gap leading to the antechamber in Room 25, yet Dent blundered in and triggered the magic glyph that summoned the Skeletons guarding Room 26. Dent, being Dent, backed out and tried to lure them into an ambush back in the hallway. Shame that the Skeletons couldn’t go past the glyph out into the Hallway (Room 24) and be slaughtered so easily.

With that, Dent decided to board over the gap and avoid the Skeletons for now, and the party proceeded along to the double doors at the end of the Hallway, where they found themselves facing a familiar intersection – they had gone full circle around the dungeon!

The party then proceeded to scout out the Cellblock in Room 23, but after a mere cursory glance, they decided it wasn’t worth their time to investigate further, and returned to the boarded up gap. They pulled down the boards, and saw that the Skeletons had disappeared.

Dent inched down the small passage, and triggered the summoning glyph once again, bringing back the undefeated Skeletons once again. Dent was planning to lure them out again, but the party had bigger problems – a raging Bugbear chose this moment to wander around the corner beyond the double doors, and the party were in combat on two fronts!

Or were they? The party finally figured out that the Skeletons couldn’t pass the glyph, so Dent started chucking rocks at them. Meanwhile, Fura was faced with the wrath of a Bugbear that engaged and took her out of the fight in the first round with a sickening crunch of it’s brutal club-like weapon. This spurred Pike to move up and engage the beast, whilst Nuggin, who was without spells as usual, forced a healing potion down Fura’s throat, bring her back to a single hit point. Fura backed away, not wanting to leave herself open to another attack. Pike proved her worth as a tank, as nearly impervious in her platemail, she used her halberd to cleave the Bugbear in two with a few mighty blows.

With the main threat down, the party then went back to the puzzle with the Skeletons. Yet the solution availed itself in Pike, as she waded in amongst them to shatter some bones. Dent and Fura offered ranged support, although Fura seemed to be more inclined to shoot Dent in the back of his head, presumably because of her near-death experience.

Having cleared out the antechamber in Room 25, the party proceeded to encounter a strange sight in Room 26 – an elf maiden was casually reading by candlelight in a spartan guest bedroom, unconcerned about being trapped in a dungeon. It took a few moments before Nuggin realised that she had been charmed by Zanzer Tem. But true to form, Nuggin decided that she didn’t want to be rescued, so the party bid her farewell, and returned to their companions resting in their makeshift campsite in Zanzer’s kitchen.

With that, we left the session with the party preparing for what might well be the final assault on Zanzer Tem himself…

Hi Ho, Hi Ho, It’s Off To Kill Some Ogres We Go!

There’s something good about getting back into the saddle, and after a significant break from gaming, we finally got back into it last week. The party regrouped after the set backs they experienced with the Green Slime in the previous session, but not without a serious phobia of the colour green. This was evidenced when the party briefly considered exploring the room with the green crystal, before deciding that it was the trigger for some form of magical death laser, and closing the door once again.

Instead, the party headed back to explore the doors they passed on the way to the conveyor rooms. Within, they found two more ogres, this time overseeing four prisoners that were shackled and forced to mine iron from the walls. Pike took the lead, whilst Dent opted to sneak around behind the two ogres and fire arrows from behind.

This strategy worked well, but not without it’s own hazards, as Pike was nearly taken out by one of the ogres after leaving herself open from slaughtering the others. Nuggin was quick to act, however, and rapidly assisted the fallen fighter by pouring a healing potion down her throat and bringing Pike back from the brink of death.

After killing the ogres, the party regrouped, and then decided to try and follow the missing dwarves. Returning to the conveyor room, they headed through the door they presumed the dwarves fled through, to discover a short passage that led into a tight tunnel. Following through, the tunnel emerged into another short passage. As they exited the tunnel, however, the party came across a patrol of goblins coming towards them.

The party were quick to act, taking the fight to them, and scaring them off quickly. Dent took one out with an arrow, and Nuggin put three more to sleep. Shaken by the display of power, the remaining two goblins decided to cut their losses, and fleeing back the way they came. The party quickly mopped up the sleeping goblins, and then steeled themselves to follow the fleeing goblins into the unknown.

Meanwhile… – Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon Session 6

After a brief disruption, we resumed playing Escape From Zazner’s Dungeon last week, as the party explores beyond Zanzer’s Kitchen trying to find the way out. The planning for this session can be found here, but be warned that there are significant spoilers within, as unfortunately, that’s not how the session went.

Upon their return, Sian and Ouro were concerned about what happened to the rock python from the previous session, and whether or not the rest of the stable of PCs would encounter it should they return to the active party. There was also a hint of greed in their voice as they talked about picking up the missing four bags of gold that they had missed out on.

Having determined that only 12 hours had gone past since escaping their cells and splitting the party, which saw Hector return to camp and send Nuggin out for adventure, both players decided that they wanted to bring the rest of the party up to Room 14 (the room with the trapped door).

I decided to run this as a meanwhile session, speeding through the encounters, so the focus was on generating the abilities and selecting classes and equipment for the three remaining PCs in the stable – Barab, Fura, and Jala.

Ouro created Barab to be a bit of a tank, making him into a fighter with 18 Constitution, thus giving him a whopping 10 hp to start with (remember, we saw all characters start with a basic value of 6 hp plus Constitution modifier), who was kitted out with chainmail, a greatsword, and a longbow.

In addition, Ouro created Jala to become a mage, which meant that she could only use a dagger. He opted to give her 18 Dexterity and 15 Charisma, leaving her with an Intelligence of 13. As such, she’s not necessarily a good mage, but with a +4 bonus to AC and a high Charisma, she might make a good enchantress in the future.

Sian opted to play Hector, leaving her with the task of generating Fura the scullery maid. She decided that Fura would become a rogue, so with leather armour, shortsword, and shortbow later, she was ready and waiting, her keen 18 Wisdom giving her a +4 bonus to will saves and surprise checks, backed up with a 15 Dexterity. However, with a Strength of 8, it’s clear that Fura won’t be going toe-to-toe very often.

This party then hastily traveled to the room with the snake and the gold, helping each other across the pit left exposed from previously. There were no other encounters for them, as the first party had pretty much disposed of everything beforehand.

It was here that the party grabbed the last four bags of gold remaining. They noticed that the trapdoor (from which the snake had previously come from, but the new party didn’t know this) was closed, so they quickly moved passed it without disturbing the shaken inhabitant cowering and hissing within.

There was some dismay when Ouro and Sian realised that this was the only possible encounter for this new party, and that they had spent half the session creating characters that they weren’t going to use. This may have gone into Sian’s decision to continue adventuring with Fura rather than Carok, so after some minor book keeping – literally, as Nuggin gave Jala some of the training spellbooks he hadn’t used yet – Fura prepared herself with Pike, Dent, and Nuggin to continue forth.

Fura and Dent opened the door from Zanzer’s Kitchen, into the long corridor, and were somewhat perplexed to find a mysterious pouch in the middle of the hallway. After some deliberations Fura eventually picked it up for herself.

Dent opened the door to Room 20, and upon seeing the glowing crystal sphere, promptly shut it again and encouraged the party not to go that way. Instead, Dent led the way down the corridor, explored some of the junction, before heading left (anti-clockwise) through the doors.

Upon opening the door from Room 29, I pulled out my random encounter for the session, to stop them from going any further. Just as the door opened, a single gnoll turned the corner and challenged them.

Nuggin reacted quickly, casting his sleep spell, forgetting that the entire party was also in range. However, luck was with the players as the entire party made their Will saving throws to resist the spell, but the unfortunate gnoll didn’t. After collapsing in a heap, Dent and Fura slaughtered the creature.

We ended the session at that point following that bit of gratuitous murder. Although the session was basically wasted on seemingly pointless character generation, followed by skipping virtually all of the planned encounters for the session, everyone still had fun, and my tactic with using a wandering monster to stall the players from further exploration seemed to work.

It may seem like my planning for the previous session was wasted, but those encounters are still there, and still waiting to be explored should the party decide to return and explore the rest of the complex. However, for now, it seems the party are intent on continuing anti-clockwise, in their continued attempts to Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon…

Time For Dinner – Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon, Session 5

Finally got back to gaming after a few delays, and the party got off to a flying start. The planning for the session was covered here (and here). Picking up from where we left off, the group quickly recapped, and then went over what items they wanted from the storeroom we ended the session in. Pike took the platemail armour, Carok took the shield, and Dent picked up the thieves’ tools. The party pocketed the rations and the rope, and took a torch each.

Nugging was wary of the big bags of gold left on the floor, resting on the trapdoor, but the thought of leaving all that gold was too much for the party. So Nuggin thought of a plan – Dent would tie the rope around all the bags of gold, and then the party would leave the room, and use the rope to pull the bags in after them, so whatever trap was sure to go off wouldn’t affect them.

The plan went well, in a manner of speaking. Dent tied the rope around the bags, and then pulled the rope. Six of the bags remained attached to the rope as it left the room, but the other four came loose, spilling coins in a trail to the door. Dent was pretty pleased with himself, until he spotted why the bags were piled where they were – they covered a trapdoor in the floor, out from which slithered a massive rock python.

Dent hastily closed the door, and thinking that they were safe, went to examining the bags of gold, but their safety was short lived, as the rock python broke down the door and entered the room, hungry for another meal – none of the party figured out that the rock python had already eaten the lone wolf encountered in the previous session. The fight itself wasn’t long-lived though, as a few sturdy strikes from the party sent the snake packing, as it ran away back into it’s hidey hole in the storeroom.

The party pressed on, and soon come to the guard barracks, where they encountered a lacked door. In excitement, Dent rushed to pick the lock, but failed to notice the poisoned needle in the lock, and promptly fell asleep. The party had little choice but to wait for him to come round. When he did, Dent returned to picking the lock, and soon the door was opened, leading into a short dark corridor.

Dent lit a torch, and rushed into the corridor for a look. There were four doors, and Dent opened the first without hesitation. It led to a store closet, and Dent entered with his usual impetuousness. Unfortunately for Dent, the door closed behind him, and Dent found himself trapped in the room, as there was no way of opening the door from inside the room. Luckily for Dent, Pike followed into the dark corridor, and the only light came from under the door that Dent had entered. Pike opened the door and let the poor Dent out of what could have been his final tomb otherwise.

The party then opened a second door, this time chosen by Pike. Inside, they met Gorgo, who claimed to be Zanzer’s manservant. Moved by his plight, and only a little bit by the solid gold ball on a silver chain that was around Gorgo’s foot, they released the blind man from his shackles. Pike pocketed the ball and chain after releasing Gorgo, much to Axel’s obvious disappointment who was greedily eyeing up the riches.

Dent returned to the corridor and opened a third door, discovering four zombies in a dirty kitchen. He quickly rushed to close the door, leaving the creatures standing there, who didn’t appear to have noticed him.

Carok opened the final door in the short corridor, where they discovered Dimitri, a minotaur sitting at a small dining table. Dimitri invited the party to sit with him for dinner, which Carok, Pike, and Dent did. It was only when they did so that Dimitri revealed that they were to be the first course. Dimitri bellowed for the kitchen staff – the four zombies – to come and serve him, as he reared up and attacked with a mighty below.

The party found themselves attacked on two fronts – although Dimitri was cornered, the four zombies shuffled towards them from a door that joined to the kitchen. As Carok blocked the way, and prevented the door from opening, the Zombies proceeded to batter down the door first, giving the party time to take down Dimitri. The minotaur was a tough and fearsome opponent, but fell after the sustained attacks by Pike, Carok, and Dent. Unfortunately, this wasn’t quick enough for the party to prepare a proper defence against the zombies, and Carok fell under their initial attacks. Nuggin’s quick thinking, as he bodily dragged the fallen Carok out from the melee and fed him a healing potion meant that he was up and fighting once again, and the tide soon turned against the zombies.

As the fighting raged on, Axel backed up into Gorgo’s room and barricaded the door, refusing to join the fight whilst claiming that he was protecting the blind man. The session ended shortly after the fight, and a quick bout of looting, as the party found four more healing potions, and a bag of rubies. The party found the way to progress further in the dungeon, certain that they must be nearing their goal by now. But they have to decide what they are going to do with their fellow adventurers currently resting back in the armoury under the protection of Hector, as well as what they intend to do with Axel and Gorgo. However, Axel seems satisfied for now, after claiming TWO of the bags of gold as his share, with the second bag covering the PC’s debt towards him…

What the Vale?

Due to personal reasons, we have had to postpone the past few sessions of our game, so we haven’t dealt with anything that was planned in Going Off The Rails. So instead, I used the time to do some further planning on the campaign setting.

I started thinking beyond Zanzer’s Dungeon. The core foundation of the campaign, for now, is The Vale. This campaign area was used in a series of products aimed at getting new players into Dungeons and Dragons when TSR celebrated the silver anniversary of the game. TSR created a series of Fast Play products aimed at teaching the game and building up interest. The first of these products was a preview in Dragon magazine, where they explored the Ruined Tower, a small dungeon adventure that serves as an intro to both of the full adventure products – Wrath of the Minotaur and Eye of the Wyvern.

Further investigation, including looking at archived sources on the Trove website, and I discovered two more sources set in The Vale. The first of these was another Fast Play preview release called Crypt of the Smoke Dragon, which is sort of set into the Vale, but doesn’t feature the pre-generated characters from the other Fast Play games. The second of these was a full starter set that was released also as part of the silver anniversary, and featured three adventures in the Vale. The first two were set in the town of Haven, whilst the third is exploring a Dragon’s Lair in the Vale. A map of the Town of Haven, along with a write up for it, was also included.

Using these sources, I plotted a campaign outline as follows:

  1. Escape From Zanzer’s Dungeon
  2. Crypt of the Smoke Dragon
  3. The Ruined Tower
  4. Under Town
  5. The Black Isle
  6. Wrath of the Minotaur
  7. Eye of the Wyvern
  8. The Dragon’s Lair

It’s a simple linear campaign outline, that is based more on when the pregenerated characters are introduced to the player. They will have the Patriarch as their patron, who will serve to direct their adventures around the Vale. The pregenerated characters will serve to bulk out their Stable – a pool of characters the players can choose from as their characters for an adventure.

From these adventures, I was able to create a map of the Vale for the PCs to explore. Although this campaign isn’t designed as a hex crawl, I still used a hex grid, and came up with the following:

I didn’t include any labels on the map, but I did include several features and trails to them. Although the main road stops at Haven in the south, I created paths that followed the routes of the two outdoor adventures (Eye of the Wyvern and The Dragon’s Lair). This was particularly important for Eye of the Wyvern, where the PCs get to travel to a place that serves as a second settlement in the Vale, because this would presumable be a fairly common route for travellers in the vale.

I placed Zanzer’s Dungeon in the mountains to the west, near the river. This allows a quick escape from the dungeon to the town of Haven when they leave the dungeon. I also placed Stonefast, the empty secondary dungeon in the Easy to Master (Black Box) Dungeons and Dragons game. Although I haven’t included Stonefast in the campaign, I figure that the trapdoor in Zanzer’s Dungeon will intrigue the players enough to get them to explore it at some time, even though it remains unstocked for now.

By including Stonefast on the campaign map, I noticed that I created a rough east-west cross route which the PCs might also want to explore, and could be expanded as needed in the future.

Looking to the future, I was thinking that the campaign might shift to Thunder Rift, which was the site for the majority of the revised Dungeons and Dragons campaign, which was heralded by the Easy to Master (Black Box) Dungeons and Dragons game. It may go from there to exploring the Known World and the Hollow World, also called Mystera, which was first explored in the basic D&D game upon which the Easy to Master (Black Box) Dungeons and Dragons game is based. This allows access to the BECMI series of adventures.

However, this is all far in the future, as I still plan to include adventures from the 3rd Edition beginners boxed set in the Vale, before we even consider moving on. I haven’t placed any of these yet, though, because it might take some time to complete the adventures already planned.

As well as the map of the Vale, I also created a number of maps for the dungeons that are to be explored. Here are some previews of them to whet some appetites.