Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Running a Con Game (part 2) Actual Play

This post will heavily spoil The Tomb of Rakoss. Also, if you have a copy of the adventure handy to reference (free to download here) it might be handy. Italics notes are comments on the adventure.

I started the adventure by giving the players a very brief background, saying that Rakoss was a necromancer general who’d displeased his emperor. The Emperor, a powerful diabolist trapped Rakoss in his own workshop by destroying the castle above it, and warding it with powerful demonic magic. The players recently found a book written in demonic about the tomb that also contained recent notes in common describing finding the tomb, and the bitter cold within.

I skipped the “random” encounter with the ogres, since it didn’t seem to serve any particular use. The PCs would wipe the floor with them, even surprised, and heal up so that it wouldn’t have any impact on things to come.

The players found the cavernous entrance, explored the pit trap, taking a long bone to poke and prod things. There was a lot of “boning” from that point on.

Once through the door, the second player in the marching order triggered the pit trap, hitting one of the spikes. He’s quickly recovered and healed, and the next door is breached leading into the hallway of Rakoss’ tomb. immediately they see both the hellknight statue and the frozen body.

The adventure describes the body as a skeleton with a broken sword, but with temperatures well below freezing, it wasn’t likely that it had decomposed too much.

The statue was boned, then knocked over. Then climbed over to check door to room #4. Finding it unlocked, they carefully opened it up. There was some joking about the noise of knocking over the statue, and that anyone around heard it. The room turned out to be empty anyway. There wasn’t too much interest in the giant brass bowl, but the tapestry was turned into makeshift bindings to try to keep the statues (should they inevitably animate) from moving too much.

Next they checked room #5 across the hall, killed 2 of the skeletons, and drove the rest back before closing the door. The elf took one of the skeleton’s masterwork swords.

I decided that I wasn’t going to do the 4 step penalty on turning the undead since that would basically mean that not a single undead would be turnable.

The next room they explored was the kitchen, #6. The 4 giant ants weren’t too interested in the party, but they attempted to spray the ants with lamp oil and light it up with the thief’s flaming trident (gotta love randomly generated characters) anyway. With a poor roll, only one ant got any significant coverage, and then the thief missed. Nevertheless the ants were upset, and a general melee ensued which just about finished up the 2 clerics’ healing magic.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, they decided to make camp. One of the clerics wanted to go out through the chimney, figuring that if the ants could get in, he could get out. Half the party liked the idea, the other half just wanted to use the door, but decided to wait to see how the cleric fared. The cleric got about 20’ up the chimney when he encountered a hole in the chimney wall, and a giant ant looking back at him. They all ran out the front door at that, managing to avoid the pit traps.

With only 3 real rooms explored (not counting the hallways or the entrance cave), I opted to roll for random encounters… Nothing in the evening. Nothing at night. An encounter in the morning! Without a chart to go by, I opted for bandits, and started pulling minis out and setting them off to the side.

The brave adventurers opted not to engage in a battle where they were outnumbered at least 2:1 and instead charged back into the tomb. One of the clerics animated the body in the hallway as a zombie. They next found the wargaming room (#8) with the table all set up with a game already in progress. The secret door was spotted right away, but the players opted to investigate the next room first.

Look at all those bandits!

The pantry (#10) proved to be of little interest, as all the food was freeze dried. I didn’t mention that the room was supposed to be warmer than the rest of the dungeon since the front door was RIGHT THERE. Also, because when I was drawing the map, I’d neglected to leave space for the secret passage next to the dead guy in the hall, I had the secret entrance to #7 come from the back of the pantry. They didn’t find it though, so the statue remained on the floor of the hallway.

Finally they came to the crypt (#9) with the 4 coffins… and a flesh golem! They ran from the lumbering beast, and made their stand in #8 the war room. In spite of it's various immunities, the d30's first appearance on the table definitely turned the tide of this battle before it even began, though it did squash the zombie in the first round of combat.

Returning to the crypt, the party prepared to face a quintet of undead, and instead discovered treasure in the rosewood coffins. Opting to leave the treasure behind given it's weight (aside from the magic) they decided to check out the room at the end of the hall.

As with the crypt, I ignored the locked door. Unless there's a time press, such as being chased by something, locks and stuck doors slow things down. It's different in a megadungeon where exploration is half the fun, but this is a small one shot dungeon.

Room #12 was obviously a demonic temple, and in their exploration they triggered the summoning of 3 demons at the same time they discovered the secret door. The PCs were spread around the room, 3 by the secret door, one in the middle, and one at the far end. The demons appeared in the middle of the room. The thief who had been holding the tiger skin rung tried to hide under it, and was squashed for his trouble. Everyone else made for the secret door.

Since the caverns aren't cursed like the rest of the dungeon, I decided that the demons would be restricted to the tomb, but they snarled and tried reaching through. I also opted to skip the darkmantles at this point, wanting to get to the manticore. I also reskinned the manticore as a dragon with porcupine spines all along its back, which it rattled menacingly from the dark. This was in part to give them something to talk to, and also because I had a dragon mini. Just for fun, I let the players roll to see if it was 1) a talking dragon and 2) if it was a spell casting dragon. Lucky for them the rolls were yes and no. Actually it was going to talk anyway, but I liked making them roll...

I also replaced the dead body in area #14 with a replacement character. The player who'd been playing the thief chose a halfling in plate armor, so I had him appear at the back of #14, having fallen through a natural chimney while trying to escape the bandits from earlier.

Everyone but one cleric was turned invisible thanks to the elf's magic while they explored the caves (#13-16). After joining up with the halfling, they turned into the dragon's cave. Though evil, it wasn't too interested in taking on an unknown number of invisible foes, so it bargained. Bring the gold bars from the tomb, and it'll let them go. The cleric countered and asked for help with the demons. The deal was struck, and the cleric and dragon went back to the temple. Using its spikes, it slayed the demons in short order. The dragon then shoved the cleric toward the treasure while it guarded the door, trapping the rest of the party in the caves.

Once the gold bars were brought into the dragon's cave (the only treasure they'd seen thus far in his cave) the dragon nestled down in front of the door. The party cried foul, and the dragon said that he told them they could go, and pointed to the cave opening in the ceiling. After some grumbling the elf levitated everyone out. They camped near the chimney, managing to avoid the bandits. Using both invisibility and silence, they returned to the cavern the next day, and surprised the dragon with a fireball to the face.

Again the d30 made a big difference, as did the party's preparations, and in 3 rounds the dragon was dead. They then located the dragon's treasure behind another secret door, now with the gold bars.

The decision to fight the dragon and continue exploring was influenced in large part because this was a con game, and they didn't have much invested in their characters. It also helped that there wasn't too much time left in the morning session. There was some discussion about their "mission" and I reminded them that there wasn't a mission, per se. They were just a bunch of tomb robbing murder-hobos. I don't think they'd ever heard that phrase before based on the grins.

Returning to the tomb, they then decided to check out the secret room #11. The rod captured the attention of the elf. When the screaming faces began to appear, he thought to put it in his bag of holding. I told him that he didn't really feel that was a good choice. Then I gave him the extra 10hp and +1 to armor class. The other players were suddenly even more nervous. While this was going on, one of the players decided to check out the next doorway, leading to room #7.

I decided that opening room 7 from either side would wake the stone golem. Tough luck that, since room 7 also contains the 2 mummies, which I reskinned as dried out bodies in death priest robes that cried an oily black fluid.

Once again, the d30 and the pair of clerics kept this from turning into a 2-pronged TPK. Our time ended just as they finished the battle.

I talked with a couple of the players after the game, since they were curious about the rod, and where the game would theoretically go from here. My answer was that the rod was the phylactery of Rakoss, who'd been released when the other party came to explore the tomb, and that from here Rakoss would begin to hunt them down to get it back.

When I asked them what they thought of the game, they said it was fun, but that it definitely felt like an intro adventure. Nothing all that special. After running it, I have to say I agree. I think that without the d30 it would have been much harder for the PCs, and could have ended up as a TPK with a few poor rolls. I did have fun running it, but it could have been better.

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