Saturday, May 16, 2009

White apes, gnolls, and the beckoning stairs...

This is the players' map so far for Under Xylarthen's Tower, Level One. With no immediately obvious other routes, at the end of the session it was decided that next time, they'd be heading downwards...but I'm getting ahead of myself. One cool thing about this map is that they've numbered all the rooms and, in a key (outside the picture), identified them by what they felt it was important to remember about each one. Awesome.

We had the largest party since the first session: Eight characters, two hirelings, and two charmed berserkers. Steve was a brand-new player, and R.M. brought along not only his son Max again, but his daugher Ruby. Steve made a Fighting Man named Mardias, Max brought an elf named Redwood, who functioned this Adventure as a Fighting Man, and Ruby brought a Magic User named Rose Petal. R.M. brought a Cleric named Kohenim (that's an in-joke for all you fellow Jews reading this...) The usual suspects rounded things off, with Will playing Melvin, Larry playing Nimfitz Niraxis (now 2nd level!), Trevor playing Narpet, and Sean playing Gorlim.

We also tried out my newly-minted Judge's Guidelines. I'll post my thoughts about this seperately, but the short version is: Meh. I couldn't keep track of the plusses and minuses people were getting, and it actually seemed to slow down combat, with one notable exception: When someone (I'm forgetting who at the moment) killed a white ape with a single arrow shot! I think I'll keep using the general  conflict resolution section, but otherwise we're going back to normal next time. In some ways I think I just needed to get it out of my system...

Some Highlights:

  • Upon entering the dungeon, the party decided to check out the previously discovered secret ladder-shaft. However, upon listening at the southern hallway that leads to what I now think of as "The Room of Variable Death", Rose Petal heard some strange noises. Deciding to investigate, as they got closer, they all started to hear a banging, clanking and scraping of metal on stone, as well as an eerie screeching. Melvin busted down the door, uncovering a terrible white ape chained to a post newly-sunk into the middle of the room. As it rushed him, someone, I'm pretty sure it was Nimfitz's hireling Veri, shot it with an arrow. The first test of the new combat rules proved devastating for the blanched simian: It died instantly with a arrow sunk deep in its eyeball.
  • Nifitz volunteered to climb down the ladder-shaft. Taking a torch, he descended into the dark. And kept descending. And kept descending. About the point where the flickering lights of the party were just a pinprick above him, he started hearing noises reminiscent of those made by the previously slain white ape, and the air in the shaft became foul. He finally saw the bottom of the ladder, which came out the open ceiling of a room. Suddenly a clawed hand attached to a shaggy, white-furred arm grabbed the ladder and shook it, while a hideous shrieking echoed up the shaft. It was obvious that there was more than one creature below. Nimfitz, decidedly unsuicidal, headed back up. The party, after some discussion, decided to leave well enough alone for the moment, reasoning that the long descent implied an entrance into significantly deeper levels...
  • Returning to the room where they had previouly battled three orcish wights, they carefully checked out the door that the trio had apparently been guarding. It opened onto a stairway leading down into unusually cold darkness. This they left alone for now in favor of filling in the gaps on their map.
  • While filling in these gaps, they found a smallish room containing nothing but a bronze statue of a heroically proportioned, nude man with a face of demonic aspect. It was pointing straight at the door, but missing the pointing hand. Many smart adventuring tricks were tried, but to no avail---the statue didn't move, come to life, or kill anyone. Not yet, anyway.
  • Approaching a mapped room, they listened at its closed door and heard arguing. Busting in, they surprised an exploratory band of six gnolls. Combat ensued and dragged on for awhile, with neither side gaining much of an upper hand. Finally, Rose Petal stepped into the room, surveyed the stamping, yelling melee, and promptly put all the remaining combatants to sleep. Final fatalities included Reni, one of Nimfitz's hirelings, as well as both Shieldbiter brothers. The gnollish loot included a carefully wrapped sword which, when Melvin unsheathed it, glimmered in the dim light and seemed to fit nicely into his Lawfully-aligned hand...
We also used miniatures for the first time. I had a bunch, bought the last time we played, still unpainted, and Will brought his painted version of the same set. I had forgotten how  aesthetically pleasing it is to use painted miniatures. I need to get to work on my own! They were, of course, helpful for clarifying the one combat we had.

Overall, this session felt a bit like the calm before the storm of heading down to lower levels. I'm excited to see which descent they choose. It also reminded me that running a game with eight people is a lot more challenging than playing with just three or four...

2 comments:

  1. "The first test of the new combat rules proved devastating for the blanched simian..."
    Poor guy. First someone boils him, then dumps him in an ice bath, and then he gets trussed and skewered.

    Sounds like a fun session. Looking forward to Level Two!

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  2. Yeah, I mean is it any wonder that these apes are always pissed off?

    :)

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