Goodness

We’ve continued to play Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, first version, at Spelens Hus, for another whole adventure in three more sessions. It has included a big shift in focus due to adding two players, Yaroslav and Milo. [see the previous post You had one job!]

Milo had been present in our initial preparatory session but as of session 3 had not yet joined play, and Yaroslav was ready for session 3, and here’s the weird thing: completely independently of one another, each made up a neutral good half-orc fighter-cleric.

This presented me with the need to make up one of the minor temples on the Street of the Gods, which led to some map image searching, and (you can see this coming) one of the many visualizations of a similar street in the famous story “Lean Times in Lankhmar.” Briefly, not only do I now have a temple for a little good god, I know it has two stalwart defenders, and I know it’s surrounded by a bunch of other quirky not-very-notable temples in a bad part of town. I was also pleased to find a Dyson Logos map which corresponded well to one of the temples when reversed horizontally.

Briefly, since the Dyson map is a ruined building, I decided it was an old Neutral Evil temple that was destroyed a while ago in some awful and probably deserved event, and that the little temple of a little good god is newly established in what used to be its shed.

My preparation was yet again over-stuffed with monsters and therefore prompting a messy backstory for a ruined temple of evil with all sorts of leftover horror in it.

The preparation files include pre-rolled day and night results for city encounters, to be used in order, which I did, as you’ll see in the video. I wondered what I’d do if the results brought up any level-specific results, because I still haven’t decided what to do about NPC levels, but they didn’t, so I can go on wondering.

It’s probably because I was presented with two more characters and felt a need to seize handsful of foes. I also yielded to temptation and cracked open the Fiend Folio, for its tendency toward trippiness and gore. My best decision was to include the sprites as temple guardians. If you want to question my judgment about throwing in the baboons on top of a necrophidius, coffer corpses, and sprites, I won’t argue; my only real justification would be to gesture vaguely and say, “… but, but … baboons!”

They seemed to make an impression on Erik though:

We now have the beginnings of a decent NPC list.

  • Kalvar Kah, the priest or official or whatever he is of the Church of Dissolution; Alexian Dusk’s handler or spymaster; sometimes contracts via the Thieves Guild and therefore knows Hazel
  • Mograr Shusk, the inquisitor at the Church of Ordination; Marden Krown’s boss or mentor
  • Milla Millaria, active in the political party called The Golden Void, connected in some way with the Church of Ordination; also a were-rat
  • Philbus, a shady collector or trader of valuable goods deceased
  • The sea hag in the drowned ruins, who apparently likes electrum
  • Shesvar Vrekedzi, of high standing in the Thieves Guild; now handles contracts for Hazel
  • Olver, a priest or prophet of “the little good god”; the mentor or spiritual leader for Horc and Robert
  • Some mouthy laborers, two of whom have been impressed by the little good god
  • The dryad and her tree in the yard of the little good god
  • A few evil-infused baboons who left the brawl in the courtyard, unlike most of them, who are deceased
    • One of them survived fighting three of the characters and probably does not remember them fondly
  • A smuggler crew; several are deceased but the others are present in the city
  • An extremely unfortunate drunken sot deceased
  • Carnation, the brazen strumpet

The edited version of session 3 is a bit jumpy because play was interspersed with getting Horc created enough for play, and because we attempted a bit more naturalistic play to set the circumstances of activity at the little temple or anywhere else play might lead. The resulting brief-ish amount of play-time across individual characters also led to Hazel not doing much yet. Also, I’m not happy to have edited out some of the real-life aspects of play like protracted cross-text page-flipping for various things, e.g., exactly what happened to Horc when the necrophidius attacked him. It seems wrong for the video to imply that play was silky-smooth and I just knew all those little rules.

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2 responses to “Goodness”

  1. SESSION 4

    This time, we finally have all the players together and hence, if you like, “the group” is now in play. I had been turning around the content, feeling it was a little thin, and brainstormed some more.

    Preparation notes

    The situation turned out to need not very much of this for play, e.g., there’s no connection with Milla, because the main backstory concern turned out to be the local temples right there at that spot. To recap slightly, we have two Evil little temples in this courtyard, one of which is fenced off (apparently by everyone else) and the other, the one which mainly concerns us, is all burnt-out and busted-up. Thinking about what we’d established, and thinking about coffer corpses, change alignment, and atonement, I decided (“realized” is what it felt like) that it’s all a match made in Good heaven, in that Olver, in his good litte start-up temple in the shed is trying to save the soul of one of the coffer corpses. I named the good one Lohan and the bad one, who’d changed her alignment, Vitkarias. Coffer corpses are low in hit dice but they are hard to turn (as wraiths), which implies to me that they can have personalities.

    This also let me invent the sufficient if weak notion that the evil baboons have been attracted to all this nasty evilness from their dwelling in the shadowy fenced-in temple across the yard … and that’s good too, because now I knew they had priorities, so several who were not engaged in melee departed after Robert joined the fight, as they had other things to do.

    The two big churches, or people in them, have ascertained that powerful and horrid forces are gathering there, and although neither representative mentioned it explicitly, it’s super Chaotic Evil and that means the Chaotic church is not at all happy about something that’s Chaotic that is not under its influence. Their spins are a little different; Kalvar Kah wants information without causing trouble, in case the new influence can be brought into the Church, and Mograr Shusk wants the whole thing somehow to be shut down, preferably through lethal assassination. And of course, Shesvar Vrekedzi, super-Neutral thieves’ guild person, wants to loot the place of the larvae being born there.

    I also submit the session to the Shame List of Terrible GMing, regarding Hazel’s involvement. The whole dryad thing is great, full of potential. I already knew I wanted to do that, and then something bad happened: I looked at the map for the temples and there stood a tree right in it, and there is no other tree anywhere. How could that not be the dryad’s tree? This introduced redundancy because Hazel was already contracted to acquire the larvae and didn’t need some other complication; I’d thought of the dryad interactions as a different thing entirely. But the logic of “look, you have a dryad, and here, you fool, sits a cool tree,” was too enticing for me to resist … and then I invented a reason to go, Hazel’s mother.

    invoking a hitherto-unmentioned family member as a “go here, do a thing” hook is the top item on the long list of cheap, cheesy GM moves to put the character somewhere and doing something the GM wants. I could have let play go at its own pace and its own way, with Hazel and dryad and the tree, even allowing for it to be this tree, with whatever nighttime urban encounter was next on the list. I justified it to myself of course, e.g., the dryad needed Hazel specifically to get back to her tree, but that is no excuse.

    This bullshit is well-contrasted to the straightforward way I brought in Robert, Milo’s character, which is that Olver and/or some divine agency poofed him into the little temple in a fashion that we can call “on schedule” for the ritual of atonement. You can call this contrived and coincidental and convenient all you want, but it is within my purview of authorities in this game, especially given the group orientation of most of the rules, and the exigencies of player preparation and attendance. Whereas inventing sudden instructions for a player masquerading as their character’s mom is definitely not.

  2. SESSION 5

    Here it is, featuring striking in-play outcomes, much like the events in the first adventure, in which the immediate situation was absurdly uncertain and dangerous, then shook out into something remarkably sensible. Have I mentioned that the monsters’ attack matrix is really, really mean? Even at equal levels, the attacker is notably favored compared to characters’ matrices.

    On top of that, coffer corpses are nasty, especially that business about resisting turning as wraiths, which is just awful. Over-powering is pretty common in the Fiend Folio, frankly. Insult is added to injury by the experience point totals listed in there, which by the DM Guide rules should be providing a lot more for most of the creatures. I recalculated the fair total for a coffer corpse to be 81 + 2/hp. What I even mean by “fair” is worth some Musing.

    Let my own errors accounting accumulate … there was no need to roll damage for the Arrow of Slaying, as it was tuned to chaotic creatures and therefore was an instant kill (which the damaged turned out to do anyway, fortunately). I’ll talk about why it wasn’t destroyed once shot in an upcoming Musing. I acknowledge that Hazel’s trap might have been handled more technically, but as it happens I forgot that there are rules for trap-setting. I also should have considered a saving throw for the box with the larva in it, or an indication that it might be forthcoming so Hazel and the hirelings could decide what to do about it.

    However, as for getting the grate open before all that, it seemed to me that it had no chance against a lever placed by a reasonably intelligent and extremely dexterous character, so did not grant it a saving throw. The same logic applied to the coffer corpse formerly known as Lohan, as I figured that three determined clerics, one with Strength 17, could deliver it a few meters away into a prepared ritual space, without need for resolution.

    Remember the groanworthy hook in session 4? First because it’s lame and cliched, second because it’s a hook at all? This time, I thought to myself during the intervening week, hey, what if Lohan is Hazel’s mom? That will totally tie the room together! This time, fortunately, I groaned out loud, took the notion out back, and unceremoniously shot it.

    Magic items conundrum: Arrow of Slaying, Cloak of Protection, Ring of Free Action; treated as conditional gifts as tentative equivalent for finding them and fighting for them (which is effectively “to keep” them). Robert and Horc each got something too but they don’t know about it yet. This topic raises a whole host of fundamental design difficulties, so that’s a Musing topic too.

    The result for experience points exposes the tight relationship between the two Musings topics I’ve already mentioned and the topic of leveling up both numerically and fictionally, which necessarily requires another Musing as synthesis. The quantitative result, at this point, is that Hazel is now a 3rd level thief, with a substantial chunk already in place toward 4th, Alexian Dusk is now a 3rd level assassin, and Marden Krown is now 3rd level in both cleric and assassin.

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