Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Companions

I now have three companions... err well, it is kinda like four books, but who's counting anyway...

I'm really busy lately, lots of work, lots of travel, wedding plans, honeymoon plans, pretty much every day since Jan 1st has been a sprint... as a result of my insanity this will be a very brief post...

My last several blog posts have described how much fun I had playing through the X2 Castle Amber adventure. As a side effect I've really fallen in love with the B/X version of our favorite game. I'm working on continuing a Skype game using B/X rules and making it a "short" campaign.

Reading over what has been published for "basic DnD" over the years I got really interested in the "companion" editions that have been published and what they could do to augment the game. I started by purchasing the B/X companion by JB over at BX Blackrazor. Then I purchased the Companion Expansion by the Barrataria guys. Finally, I decided to purchase the Frank Mentzer Companion books off Amazon. I don't think there are any other companion editions out there now... he, he, he...

I've been reading them and I like different things about each. I'm planing to discuss this more soon... in a series of posts describing how I can combine them to create the perfect melody of companion goodness!!!! Stay tuned - it will in fact be as awesome as these three guys down here:

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Castle Amber Recap - Part 3

Our second day of playing the Castle Amber adventure took place on Dec 31st of 2010. I allowed the PC's to make up a few extra characters to join the party, here is a summary of the additions:

Randy Gnarlypath (now deceased) 4th level Neutral Halfling, favored his shortsword in combat, built short but stout and fiesty with his 16 STR, 13DEX, and 14 CON!

Barden Oakfist, 5th Lawful Cleric of Halav, Barden carried the trusty Sword and Hammer of Halav into combat.

Thorn, 4th level Neutral fighter, big and mean, Thorn picked up an enchanted Black Mace +2 and used it with his 18 STR to beat down his enemies in the dungeons under Castle Amber.

Most of the PC's leveled up to 4-5th level by the time they passed through the silver gate into Amber. During this part of our adventure, the PC's passed into the Chapel of the Chateau and ran into the magical statues, tried to work out horrible "misunderstanding" between Charles Amber and his sister Madeline Amber (who Charles had buried alive!!!). Harkindurn the party dwarf was inflicted with malaria from the statues, but this was later reversed by the powerful chaotic demon worshipping cleric Simon D'Amberville in a successful attempt to allay the party's fears against him.

The party was unable to relieve the tension between Charles and his sister. Charles went invisible and slipped away warning Simon of the party's nearness. Madeline, took off through the keep with her trusty war-shield and sword searching for revenge against her brother. The party, unsure of what to do searched around finding a chest full of treasure and some secret doors finally leading to Simon D'Amberville.

Simon first got the party to trust him with some sugar tongued words, the gift of a ring of protection +1, and a remove curse spell. However, he memorized some other spells to deal with the party when they decided to spend the night in his sanctum. He cast a silence spell on a rock and tossed it into the midst of the party as they slept. He then cast several curses on various party members, quested several of them to find the tomb of St.Stephen, cast finger of death - killing the party Halfling Randy, used hold person on two of them who had been the "watch", and then was about to start slitting throats when I finally rolled a random roll for one of them to wake up. Simon decided to err on caution and slipped away quickly through another secret door, while the party woke up to find one of them dead, most of them either cursed or held, and a silence spell in effect. It took them a while and dispel magic, but they were able to remove most of the effects except for the curses and the quest spells. The party then decided to use the trap door to the dungeon (which Simon had explained to them while he was getting on their good side).

During their explorations of the dungeon they first found the alchemy room, where they were "gassed" by some strange purple lotus powder that caused them to have trippy LSD type dreams that became real if they failed their saving throws!!! This actually didn't kill anyone, but the party dwarf almost ended up with wings (which we all laughed about at the table, just imagining a surly dwarf in chain mail with a massive axe and sporting cute whittle pixie wings ;) Also, the party mage gained a level in an instant by failing his saving throw - wow, Tom Moldvay put some serious character altering effects in this adventure.

In the dungeons the party battle hell hounds, stayed the heck away from a hypnotic small child standing in the middle of a pentagram and begging the party to release her (she was a death demon using an illusionary form), the party mage gained 2 points of wisdom passing over the letter square area to nab another key.

The party also fell afoul of the brain collector in area 48b. This was probably the most challenging of all the things they fought, wherein it forces three of the company to roll against the table of death and dismemberment - hitting less than zero HP.

They first took a look at this tentacled monstrosity perched upon crab legs having almost humanlike hands at the bottom, and watched it ingest the brain of a recent victim. The brain slid smoothly under the rubber carapace of the slimy yellow dome that vaguely resembled a head up and then the fish like swiveling eyes of the beast turned toward our heroes! The party slammed the door shut and let the party clerics cast preparative spells to "buff" up our heroes. However, this also allowed the creature to go invisible, and cast a phantasmal force version of itself. The party burst back into the room and did like 60 damage to the illusionary creature, wasting a lightning bolt, all their magic missile spells, lots of arrows, for a couple of bogus combat rounds, which allowed the brain collector to cast haste on itself and then charge the party!!!

They then had a desperate battle where the party fighter ended up with a broken arm, and two others ended up unconscious. However, they were finally victorious and went back up to the unicorn and the maiden where they spent the night. They returned to the dungeon in the morning, battled an amber golem and then unlocked the silver gate to transport them into Averoigne. We stopped the adventure at this point.

Everybody had a good time, and since 1-2 of my players were heading back to Italy on a plane in a couple of days, we decided to try and make plans to finish up the adventure someday on Skype. Everybody had an excellent time, this was everybody at the gaming tables first time playing an edition of DnD pre-2nd edition, except for me. Most of these guys only play 3rd edition, and they were really surprised at how much fun they had. One of them told me he had expected to become really bored with the game considering he wouldn't have a tool-kit of feats to fall back on. However, he remarked at the end of our game that combat really went quick and not having feats gave him the ability to think outside of the box and just try "crazy" maneuvers. I just used on the spot random die rolls to adjudicate things that aren't covered within the rules.

Anyway, this is a really great adventure, and a massive one which is almost like a mini-campaign. We spent about 6-8 hours playing and the PC's have accomplished almost 1/2 of the adventure so far. Hopefully, we will organize a skype game and finish this one up because I have a lot more in store for them if we do (insert evil GM chuckle here)...

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Castle Amber Recap - Part2

Day 1 Encounters:

In the first 3 hours of real time the players were able to make it through the West Wing and 1/2 way through the center Indoor Forest area.

One particular interesting encounter in the West wing was the Aranea room.

The PC's were still preoccupied by a encounter with a huge green slime that was guarding a treasure. They had not figured out a way to destroy this massive slime (and never would) so they decided to try out the doors nearby.

They opened the door to the next room down from the slimes and found it completely filled with spider webs. In the back of the room they could see a glittering array of spider eyes looking at them longingly. They slammed the door shut and moved on.

Or so they thought - the aranea used a phansmal force to make them think they had shut the door when instead they had just shut an illusionary door. Two of the aranea then proceeded to follow them and charm Higgins (I rolled him as the victim randomly). Once Higgins was charmed he tried to set the mage of the party on fire with his torch. The party started to try to dealing with Higgins and then a big spider falls down top of the party cleric. The other two spiders are hiding in the original room bidding their time.

The party begins to fight the 1st spider when the second spider casts magic missile on the party. Two PC's are hit and then they see the spider pop its head back inside the door (looking like it is "phasing" through the door. They decide that these spiders must be partially ethereal so they run over to the illusionary door (still believing that it is real) and try to open it. Meanwhile the spider just pops its head out of the illusion and bites the dwarf who is trying to open the door. Luckily the dwarf has amazing poison saves or they would have had a dead dwarf.

The third spider turns invisible and slinks away from the fight, not liking where it is going. The PC's kill the first spider that dropped down on them and then begin to fire lots of arrows upon the second spider. They figure out that the door is illusionary and they jump through it. Finally, they beat down Higgins with subdual damage and then finish off the second spider. They collect their treasure and then head back to safer territory to rest and recoup spells (the mage used lots of his spells up finishing off the spiders).

Unfortunately, the third spider follows them. It comes upon Higgins and the dwarf while they are on watch and bites Higgins. He fails his saving throw and dies a few rounds later. Meanwhile, the spider casts ventriloquism and begins to taunt the party and attack them from their flanks. Eventually, they get everybody awake and finish off the spider. Higgins was the first victim that the Castle Amber adventure claimed. I think if I had been rolling random encounters this adventure would take at least double the time and would have claimed many more lives in the process.

Other encounters that stick out in my mind were the ghostly dinner (where none of the PC's ate anything except for the dwarf who ate and drank EVERYTHING!). He lucked out on saving throws and ended up gaining 2 extra permanent HP, lost a point of INT, gained a point of WIS, and gained the power of ESP 1/week for life.

Another encounter that was quite a bit of fun was the amoeba in the center of the fountain in the Indoor Forest. The PC's see this treasure and know that there will be something stopping them from getting it, but they decide to send the thief in to get the chest. He takes his shoes off, cuffs his pants up, and starts to walk across the surface of the amoeba after pushing around with a 10 foot pole.

The amoeba engulfs the thief inside of itself and begins digesting him (causing 2d6 damage each round). One of the clerics decides to grab the 10 foot pole and try "fishing" the thief out of the slimy amoeba. I decide that it could work and we use a couple of random rolls to determine success. It ends up taking 2 rounds but the cleric fishes out the thief. Meanwhile the amoeba eats the dwarf - so the cleric wipes some sweat off his brow and begins fishing for dwarf. Using random rolls kept the action fast and furious.

This is one of the strengths of B/X DnD, you can get combat over fast, so you can get to more combat (and that is a line from the Risus roleplaying system but it totally applies here). We had nine PC's 5 of them spell casters, and several that had magic, and I was able to run combats of 12 turns with 10+ opponents in less than 20-30 minutes.

Anyway, getting back on topic, the amoeba had 15HD and took a lightning bolt, 2 magic missiles and the combined hacking of ~3 other characters before finally they hacked off enough slime that the creature died a wriggling death.

After fighting the amoeba they explored the chapel and then proceeded down into the dungeon where they unlocked the silver gate and moved into Averoigne!!! But that is another story, for another day, in Part 3!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Castle Amber Recap - Part 1

On our first day of this adventure we had three players and roughly 5 hours to play. In 1.5 hours the characters each made two characters whose levels had to add up to 8 ( 2x4th level or 1-3rd and 1-5th etc...). We also rolled to see if they had any magical items entering into the adventure. The party ended up with two scrolls and a few potions.

Here are the gallant PC's:

Gyric Greymane (5th Level, Neutral Mage, wears grey robes, likes to cast lightning bolt and levitation)

Lokidus (3rd Level, Neutral Elf, fights with daggers, was invisible for most of the adventure)

Dakon Darkblade (3rd Level Lawful Cleric of the Church of Karamiekos "in good standing", had a crappy constitution score and only 12 hit points, made up for it by wearing plate mail :)

Neil Mankenzie (4th level Neutral Thief, had a sweet constitution score of 17 and 19 HP!!! we rolled up that he once fought Dwelifane to a draw in the city of Specularum, they became friends after that)

Dwelifane Nonendyl (4th level Lawful elf, this character rolled really good stats having a 13 strength, 14 Con, and 18! dex. In battle he favored the two handed sword and the long bow)

Harkidurm Battlerock (4th level Neutral Dwarf, typical Dwarf 5 int, 7 wis, 4 chr, but... 16 str and con!, he rolled really good HP having 37 HP at 4th level he had some stats change up by the adventure and also gained the innate ability to use ESP, although with his low INT and WIS he is not sure how to use this, also he gained a permanent +4 bonues to poison saves giving him a save of 2...)


"Higgin's" 1st Level Lawful Caravan Guard (Fighter)

I added Higgin's because I thought it would be nice for the PC's to have a torch-bearer - I named him Higgin's as an homage to Roll For Initiative. He met his fate at the hands of spell casting spiders.

The Adventure!

The PC's found themselves on horseback riding as hard as they could to escape a dragon that befell their party at the foothills of the Cruth Mountains as they braved a passage through the mountains leaving the Grand Dutchy of Karameikos and heading toward Glantri.

They ran from this dragon for hours until they were sure it was no longer chasing them. After some greetings and roleplaying the group made camp on a hill in the night. They awoke to find themselves in Castle Amber.

On our first day they explored the West Wing engaging in a boxing match with a magen and having tea with an insane Ogre that thought it was an elderly woman. They killed two wraiths with a lightning bolt and found over 10,000 gp of treasure in around 3.5 4 hours of play. There were a couple of really cool encounters I'm going to elaborate on in future posts. For the next adventure I told them that they could reach make one more character since I was worried about having a TPK in a single encounter.

Overall - everybody playing was happy with the B/X system. None of these guys have ever played anything before 2nd edition AD&D, and have played a bulk of their gaming in 3rd edition. They really liked the loose and quick method of play and one of them wanted to borrow the books and read up about basic DnD. He remarked, "wow, this version of the game is great for getting together, making characters, and starting the action all in the same day! I had walked into this figuring most of the day would be character creation and we ended up with over three hours of game play!.