Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Session LXXXVIII: Two Ettins Too Many

Our ongoing Swords and Wizardry sandbox campaign...

Current Player Characters:
Torvin Fulvousmith (Dwarf)
Thenus (Ranger)
Wang Du (Monk)
Centari (Elf)
Wolfheir (Viking)
Arg (Half-orc)
Sir Gwain (Paladin) 
Su (Cleric) 
Gorp (Kobold Wizard)
Tadashi (samurai)
NPC's
McDagger (thief)
Biggs (fighter)
Emerson (bard)

After briefly resting in the chamber with the slain lions, Arg recovered some of the feline "trophies" and the party continued their exploration of the maze in search of the wizard Hitatha's prisoner.

They entered a passageway which lead to a large magically lit cavern covered in sand, it's walls painted to look like a sky and tropical beach. There was even a pool of water at the far end with a row boat on shore.  Immediately wary of this scene the party was cautious. Arg and Sir Gwain walked deeper into the room and Arg tossed a lion's head into the water. Midway into the room two Giant Exoskeleton Crabs rose from the sand and attacked the brave explorers. After a brief battle, the party defeated the magical crabs but found nothing of value in the room.

Leaving that chamber they entered some caves and came across two Ettins!  It was a fierce battle and the party was badly beaten, with even the invincible Arg being knocked unconscious.  Towards the very end of the skirmish, Torvin Fulvousmith, the brave dwarf, fell.   With the Ettins finally defeated, Su attempted to bring the dwarf back from the dead but failed. After looting his belongings, the party buried the dwarf in the beach room and rested for the day.

Because of their delay, Wolfheir and the bard Emerson entered the maze in search of their companions which they run into in a hallway.

Through a previously discovered secret door, the party traveled deeper to the center of the maze and came across a wall of water near a shelf on which were pills and a sign that said "eat me".  The brave Sir Gwain swallowed a pill. Immediately, gills sprouted from his neck and it becomes difficult for him to breath air.  He lunged into the wall of water and was quickly attacked by three Giant Electric Eels.  Arg swallowed a pill and dove in to aid the knight.  With the Eels defeated, the two discovered a chest inside of which were two crystal eyes.

It was discovered that the waterway shortly lead to another dry junction and the rest of the party walked through the water to the other side. 

Heading south they found the passage blocked by an open room filled with water. In the corners were two statues of fish with copper chains hanging from their mouth which copper keys were attached.  In the pool were a number of large fish.  Not taking any chances, Arg speared all the fish and McDagger swam to each of the statues and obtained the keys. 

With the keys in hand, they backtracked to the dead-end hallway carved with a human skull with empty eye-sockets.  Inserting the crystal eyes into the skull they opened a secret door.  Through some long passageways they eventually came to a locked door. McDagger unlocked the door and the party entered into Hitatha's former chamber.  Here, they recovered some potions and the wizard's spellbook and piles of gold, silver and gems inside a locked chest which McDagger was able to open.

Leaving the room, the party eventually found a deep circular chamber with a green portal, similar to the entrance of the maze. Though they had not yet found their goal, they had found the way back out!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Session LXXXVII: Seriously, There Are No Minotaurs In The Maze

At long last, continuing our ongoing Swords and Wizardry sandbox campaign...

Current Player Characters:
Torvin Fulvousmith (Dwarf)
Thenus (Ranger)
Wang Du (Monk)
Centari (Elf)
Wolfheir (Viking)
Arg (Half-orc)
Sir Gwain (Paladin) 
Su (Cleric) 
Gorp (Kobold Wizard)
NPC's
McDagger 
Biggs


T'was last autumn when the party hunkered down in the village of Larm for the winter to prepare for the assault on Agathareon the ancient Red Dragon. Agathareon was defeated decades ago by Baron Blackmoore and bowed to his victor to not menace the lands of Eri'an again. But with the murder of Baron Blackmoor by the Little White King (Skwanky, but it was actually Televon dressed as a member of the Black Church - session 59), Agathareon considered the bond broken and began to covet the lands of Eri'an once again. A call went out to find other heroes to expand the ranks with Thenus and Torvin traveling to the east in search of other brave souls (having some wild adventures averting a dwarven army's invasion of a mad duke's village). Then on the night of the mid-winter's Black Sabbath, the Thunderock, home to Agathareon, erupted in fire. The red glow in the Grey mountains was seen even as far south as Larm.

With spring now here and all the heroes gathered together, the journey to Thunderock and Agathareon begins...

Spirits are high as the party left Larm into the wilderness but the first night on the road brought more to the group as four young men wanted to join the party and become famous for helping slay the dragon so as to impress the young ladies back home. Against the better judgement of the party, Chet, Frank, Joe, and Nanzy were brought into the fold, with Torvin giving them some training in fighting.

The third day they came across a Bard named Emerson.  He wanted to follow the exploits of the party's battle with the ancient dragon.

On the fifth day they came across an old blind man outside a hut. When they told him where they were headed, this man, Hithata, offered them a powerful magic item if they could bring back the heart of his rival, Koshan.  Koshan, it seemed, was imprisoned in a maze owned by Hithata during their battles but before he was locked away, he had stolen Hithata's eyes.  Seeking revenge, he wants the party to go into the maze and kill Koshan.

"There's not a Minotaur in this maze, is there?" asks Thenus.
"No, there is not a Minotaur in this maze," answers blind Hithata.

After Hithata had given the party direction and the keys into the maze, they set off of this 'brief' side-quest.

Finding the cave entrance, the party descended down until they came to a locked gate which one of keys opened.  Inside they found a room with two magical portals, one green and one red.  Not trusting the portals and becoming inpatient, Arg picks up Chet and tosses him into the green portal.  He immediately disappears. Testing the red portal proved to be shocking, one by one the party stepped into the green portal.  On the other side, they find that Chet was now dead, a victim of trying to return through the portal the had come from, which now was red also.  

Leaving Chet's body, the party continued deeper into the maze and came across a room with a wall of mist.  Thenus fires an arrow into the mist but it just disappears into the grey fog. Thovin the dwarf marches through the mist with everyone in tow so as not to get lost.  Once on the other side, however, Thovin is attacked by three Minotaur.  The rest of the party come to his aid and, after a brutal battle, finally defeat the monsters.  Thenus becomes quite angry over the fact that Hithata lied to her.

Onward, the come across a magical fountain, the water from which cures their wounds.  They also find a dead-end hallway with a relief carving of a skull with deep set holes for the eye sockets.

Going through a nearby door, the party is magically transported to another part of the maze.

More lost now then ever, they plod through more hallways, triggering a trap that fires a volley of arrows at the wandering group. As they explore, Centari comes across a secret door which leads them back to hallways they had previously explored.  So, they decide to take some other passages and this is when they find a barred chamber with lions on the other side.  However, once the bars are approached, those bars raise up and bars behind the party fall trapping them with the hungry lions.

The quick thinking Centari entangles the ferocious felines in a web spell leaving them simple prey for the party to dispatch....

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Sidequest: The Curse of Xanathon Part 2...

...the actual session summaries

Current Player Characters:
Torvin Fulvousmith (Dwarf)
Thenus (Ranger)
Somebody (Samurai)
McDagger (Thief)
Gorp (Kobold Magic User) 
NPC
Kimbra (Cleric)
Steve (Cleric)
Torvin and Thenus left the main party seeking 'heroes' to aid in their battle against the ancient red dragon Agatheron.  They soon arrived in the town of Rhooma.  However, they found that the town was in despair as the Duke had been handing out bizarre proclamations.  
Heading to the tavern of the Spuming Nooga they discover that the Duke had outlawed ale and wine. While there, the city guards passed by with another proclamation making dwarves illegal. The bartender, who happens to be a dwarf, grumbled to the party about the Duke and about the strange happenings around the barracks.  

So, going to check out the barracks, the party was stopped by a group guards.  Not willing to comply with the guards and with McDagger failing to gain favor with them, a fight breaks out that results in the death of the guards. The party, now wanted by the guards, hid in the slums of Rhooma.

At nightfall, they attempted to break into the barracks finding only limited resistance.  Once inside they found clues that some former pirate captain by the name of Draco had taken charge over control of the guards and is the only one that currently communicates with the Duke and Xanathon, a priest of the chaotic god Cretia.  To put an end to the troublesome guards, Gorp tossed a fireball into the sleeping area of the barracks and kills scores of the guards in a hellish infernal.  With the ensuing chaos, the party escaped and hid out in the slums once again.

The next morning, it is learned that most of the guards killed were innocent towns folk with families.  In disgust, Kimbra leaves the party but the party teams up with Steve, a bit rigid man of faith.  The guards are searching the city, sector by sector, for the perpetrators of the murders.

The party hides out in the temple district as the guards have orders to not go to that area.  There, they break into the temple of Cretia and came face to face with Xanathon, however he is invincible - and nude.  The party gets their asses kicked and Xanathon proved to be immune to all forms of attack (as per the module).  The only escape route was through a giant window which they party dove through with a cinematic crash (as per the module).

Receiving the next clue to defeat Xanathon (from the module) leads them to a Cretian shrine hidden in the mountains.  Here the party had lots of trouble with zealots of Cretia who nearly killed the entire party.  If it wasn't for Torvin the dwarf, fighting on, the party would have faced certain doom!

Having more trouble with a transporting hallway and disguised pits, the party eventually found the caves beneath the temple.  There, they almost fell to a trio of carrion crawlers, but once again were saved by Torvin the dwarf.

Deeper delving produces the crypt and the mummy guarding Xanathon's heart - the Achilles' heel to his invulnerability.

Rushing back to Rhooma to avoid the invading dwarven army, the party confronted Xanathon once again, but he proved crafty. Using his godly magic, the party had to fight poison snakes including a giant one while battling the evil priest.  After a heavy toll, Xanathon was finally made mortal and killed.

It was next on to the castle to free the Duke from the clutches of Xanathon's henchmen Draco and captain of the guard. Another fierce battle ensued which brought the death of McDagger and Gorp, but the evil henchmen were eventually defeated and the Duke freed of the spell and the war with the dwarves averted and dead party members brought back to life and thus ended the The Curse of Xanathon.

This module actually took about 5 sessions to play and that was somewhat even condensed. You can read about the thoughts on the module as written here.

From here we move back to our main campaign storyline....

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Sidequest: The Curse of Xanathon Part 1

As I previously mentioned, I was finally able to become a player in a Swords & Wizardry campaign adventure.  These sessions were run by Brian, one of the players in our gaming group that has been going strong since 2009!

Brian ran classic TSR adventure: X-3 Curse of Xanathon!

Like I said, I had a great time playing my thief, McDagger and we all had a lot of laughs with this adventure, as any good group of sessions should have, but the Curse of Xanathon, as an adventure module, has it's 'issues'.

This adventure was written in 1982, around the time adventure modules evolved from a sandbox environment into more of a story-based adventure. Being X-3, you can see the evolution of that through the X series of modules.

X-1, The Isle of Dread (by David Cook and Tom Moldvay) is a crazy open sandbox in a pulp fantasy lost island in the middle of the sea.  It's open ended and the players can determine their own fate by their choices.  There is no real 'plot' or linear story. Just an anything goes fantasy.  It's a classic in it's own right.

X-2, Castle Amber (by Tom Moldvay) was another open ended "fun-house" adventure with a loose plot of the D'Amberville family. It's essentially a classic mega-dungeon crawl.  This one is slightly more rail-roady in that the PCs would be 'trapped' in the castle until they figure out the way to escape.

The Curse of Xanathon (by Douglas Niles) breaks with that free-form openness and railroads the party into 5 plot-points (scenarios) that need to be hit to move the story along. It involves a curse upon the duke of the town of Rhoona and a cult worshiping a chaotic god and an 'invincible' priest and an powerful pirate working in tandem with the priest to control the Duke.  Oh, and a time limit of an invading dwarven army that the Mad Duke pissed off, all this to support the underlying concept of a civil war in the town to weaken it and allow for an invasion from the steeps.  This all sounds like the making of a great fantasy story - and it is, but as an open adventure, it doesn't work very well.

The general problem with 'story' based adventures such as this is always having the critical need for players
to hit the plot-points to move the adventure along. You can't kill the wrong NPC, or stray from the path, or  just blow-up the Duke's castle and be done with it, or what if you don't find the exact key to defeat the evil priest? or just saying, this town is fucked, lets rob the castle and get out of here.  To reveal the 'story' as the author intended, you need to do everything in the way the author needs to you to do it. And for a group that is use to open ended adventures where the stories evolve themselves this was quite rail-roady.  I mean, why should a group of traveling rogues care about this town or this Mad Duke? I guess outlawing ale would do the trick, right?

All that said, we had a good laugh at some of the forced plot points.  Many of the encounters were quite enjoyable and I really loved the dungeon/shrine. This would be a challenging module to run for even veteran DMs but Brian rolled with this adventure with his usual dry humor and twisted charm which leveled this module up from an attempted mysterious drama to a romp that involved fire-balling the barracks.

I guess you can't keep a good party down.

A brief word about the author, Douglas Niles. He was part of the early second group of TSR employees after the initial explosion of the game. He came on board in '82 as a game designer. He ended up writing Top Secret (one of my favorite non-D&D games) and the first three Forgotten Realms novels.  He also wrote the B-5 Horror on the Hill adventure, a less rail-roady adventure which I worked into our campaign way back and was pretty fun. He has some chops but Curse of Xanathon just didn't cut it.  It's obvious he had a story concept in mind that he translated into an adventure module which doesn't quite work as a stand-alone.  I suppose that if you used the town of Rhooma as a starting point for an entire campaign with level 1 characters and then you could slowly build up the story and plot points so that when the characters were powerful enough they could tackle the 'story adventure' organically with the stakes being higher, that probably could work.

More on the actual session recaps coming next.

Another, more thorough, dive into this module over at RetroReview

Friday, May 19, 2017

Adventures in Playing

Yes, your Warlock has been gone for quite a while and it may have seemed that the campaign was on indefinite hold, but lo', it was only an illusion!  We actually continued with Swords & Wizardry but with me, your wonderful warlock, as a player and the DMing duties having been passed on to our long time player Brian.

I needed a break from running sessions and Brian wanted to give DMing a try.  The timing was right for a switch.

When I first got involved in D&D waaaay back in the Holmes Blue Book days, I was the oldest of our group of friends. Being all of 10 years old, 'learning the game' and running things kind of fell to me.  Believe it or not, I rarely was ever a player in a D&D game.  I probably only played a PC no more than three times, only two of which I can truly remember. As we all got a bit older and others could take the reins, we had moved on to other games like Boot Hill, Top Secret, Champions, Traveller, and other board games.  All of that was great fun, but I really never got to experience some good old fantasy role playing.

Even these days, I had played in a very fun play by post game run through the OD&D boards almost 10 years ago now.  That was great as it was classic D&D and my dwarf had some good times. However, it was still a play by post and not a face to face table game.

When I was looking to find a face to face group, I ended up in a D&D 3.5 game.  I really enjoyed being a player but the 'on the track' railroading of the adventure was a real drag, not to mention the two hours + long combat sessions. I longed for the free-form, anything goes old-school style game that I grew up with and wanted to experience as a player.

Getting our current game group together is now history. It is here that I was able to run our classic style campaign.  And with a group of great friends this group has become, we were able to branch off into other RPGs including Savage Worlds, ICONS, White Star (Star Wars), Robotech, all of which I was able to be a player in.  All of that was great but I still never quite had that swords and sorcery fantasy player experience.... until now, when Brian ran his side campaign.

This side campaign, we agreed, was to take place within the current S&W campaign world that we were playing in. Some of the players used their current characters while others created new ones.  All of this was to help build PC to take on the final quest of the main campaign.

Finally being a player was great.  Brain ran a really fun adventure module (which needed a few tweaks, but he did right by those).  I ran a thief named McDagger.  He got himself into plenty of trouble - not at all times by choice!  Brian ran a pretty brutal campaign with a couple near TPKs which were saved by usually one lucky character.  The dungeon adventure had lots of tricks and traps and creatures that caused us all a lot of laughs and headaches. It was a blast to finally be a player in an extended campaign and I can't wait to jump in that side of things again.  I really wished I had summarized those sessions as well, but real life made that harder to do than usual.  I'll do my best to cover a brief summary in the next post or two just to keep the campaign complete.

For now, though, we have moved back to the main campaign this past Monday.  I'll get the session summary for that posted in the next week.

So, for now, thanks Brain and...

GAME ON!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Session LXXXVI: The Road Ends In Larm

Continuing our ongoing Swords and Wizardry sandbox campaign...

Current Player Characters:
Torvin Fulvousmith (Dwarf)
Thenus (Ranger)
Wang Du (Monk)
Centari (Elf)
Wolfheir (Viking)
Arg (Half-orc)
Sir Gwain (Paladin) 
Su (Cleric)
*NOTE that this post contains SPOILERS for the Village of Larm adventure, the Labyrinth Lord module from Soapbox games so precede at your own peril! 
 In pursuit of the wights, the party found themselves in a room with a locked door and a riddle: "Only the will of the gods will help you now".

Not being able to answer the riddle in the hopes of opening the door, the party leaves the temple basements and heads back to Brother Erkmar who is ecstatic to tears when he hears of the success that the party has had in putting to rest the souls of his religious companions.  He is so thrilled that he once again dons his holy armor and accompanies the party back to the temple.  

They made their way back to the basement and the locked door where Brother Erkmar tells Su to cast a spell to his god which is the sacrifice to unlock the door, which Su does.

The door unlocks and beyond they are attacked by a gargoyle which the party easily beats back.

Opening the final door the the crypt they are once again engulfed by black smoke.  Once the smoke clears they see a sarcophagus around which stand four deadly creatures - a SoulSpinner, a Spectral Scavanger, a Spectre, and the renegade wraith.  A fierce battle ensues as the SoulSpinner entangles Su in a web and the Scavanger uses lightening and giant bony hands to erupt from the ground grabbing Arg and Wolf.  Things were looking grim for the party but eventually Wang, Centari and Torvin and Sir Gwain defeat the cursed souls.

With the monsters dispatched, the sarcophagus is opened to reveal the entombed body of the first Abbot, Brother Thorleif.  Brother Erkmar sheds tears of joy as his temple has been cleared of the curse of the evil book.  The party is victorious once again!  The town is grateful and tales are told all though winter of their heroic adventures.

The party settles down for the winter sending out messengers to the east looking for additional brave souls to help them face the vengeful ancient dragon Agatheron... but that is another tale soon to be told...

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