Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Negotiating in bad faith

‘I don’t know who killed the troll child but I killed your Jarl.’ – Ugh practises diplomacy.
The temple guards bowed respectfully and opened the door of the shrine. Jana strode into the hall and up to the altar. There she paused in quiet reflection till the Patriarch approached.

‘You looked troubled.’ The Patriarch noted. ‘I take it the latest venture ended poorly. Was there more misbehavior on your companion’s part? I trust there was no further cannibalism?’

‘No, Ugh has reigned himself in. Instead I suspect Milgos slew a child, by accident for the dark elf has no malice in him. Still I find the act unsettling and it only serves to stiffen the resolve of our enemies. Nothing shocks me anymore Patriarch. From the way Milgos and Ugh talk about building towers and keeps it seems the end is nigh.’

‘Clearly you are troubled Jana. Best share your burden. I will listen.’

‘The last venture saw us clash again with the mountain trolls. We felt we had them routed but they returned to their lair in numbers. I, like the others grow weary of battling them. In the tunnels on the way in we had to deal with a small band of dark elf scouts. These dark elves are not like Milgos. They dress in lizard skins and their eyes have no pupils. They lasted barely ten seconds as Milgos tore into them with fire and ice magic. Clearly he harbors a great hatred for dark elves of all kinds. Interestingly they had a trained basilisk with them. Its head was hooded like a falcons and it was kept lashed to a handler’s pole. During the magical barrage the hood was torn asunder and for the briefest moment Milgos met it’s baleful gaze. He shook it off and the creature perished in a barrage of magic missiles.’

‘The trolls had repaired the great double doors which led into their domain. We knocked respectfully and Milgos attempted a subterfuge. Osric and Ugh chatting away in common spoiled his efforts. Osric’s half-elven accent was a particular give away. Credit where it is due however for Milgos would not stop trying to trick his way in. Alas brains would not suffice and so brawn would have to do. Ugh kicked the door in and a melee broke out with the guards. During the skirmish Milgos crept ahead discovering the troll hall, where previously he had disrupted a clan feast, was once again occupied by a score of mountain trolls. A trollish hag was organizing them for war and they marched to meet us in the hall where the door guards were continuing to mount a desperate defence. Acting swiftly Milgos blocked their approach with a wall of ice before alerting us that company was coming.'

The Patriarch interrupted. ‘Ah Milgos, once again acting impetuously and imperiling the group. Was it not his fireball into a crowded feast hall that slew the Jarl’s child and in so doing started this wretched vendetta?’

‘So it would seem Patriarch. Though Milgos' carelessness has not killed anyone but himself as yet. His quick thinking with the wall of ice bought us time to dispatch the mountain troll guards. The last fell before the pair of savage war shrews Osric had brought along. We headed north towards the kitchens, hoping to bypass the bulk of the trolls only to run into the troll hag and some guards. She asked to parley and for a while things looked to be going amicably.
Where is your leader?’ the troll hag asked. Milgos answered from the anonymity afforded by his invisibility.
Show yourself. How can we negotiate in good faith when you will not show yourself.’ The hag continued. Milgos was unmoved and so Ugh took up negotiations claiming to be the leader of the group. Ugh speaking for the party should have been warning enough that things would turn sour but alas this appears to be a lesson we have to learn the hard way.
The one question I have for you is this…’ Began the troll hag.
We ask the questions.’ Ugh interrupted.
Just this single question answered and we shall end our grievances. Who was it that turned the Jarl’s son to ash? Who slew the Jarl?’
‘That’s two questions but I shall answer you. I don’t know who killed the child but I claim credit for slaying your king.’
‘At the news the troll jarl’s wife, who had been invisible up to this point, shrieked bloody vengeance and invoked an ancient trollish curse. Ugh transformed before my eyes. His hands and feet became hooves, horns sprouted from his forehead, his body shrunk and he grew a great beard. He had become a goat!’

Ugh transformed - possibly gaining a charisma point or two
‘Even with our frontline fighter goatified we were able to put the mountain trolls to the sword. The trollish hag was last to fall detonating a great blast of fire that felled Milgos momentarily and charred the war shrews. At the cessation of hostilities I set about dispelling the enchantment on Ugh. It was not long before he was back to his normal self. I must admit I had half a mind to leave him in goat form but Milgos and Osric wouldn’t have allowed that. The loot was particularly scarce as it was apparent that we had cleaned them out on the last foray. There are still some trolls skulking about down there though they will mostly be maids. If they are smart they will leave and trouble us no more. I pray we do not fight them again for I have had enough of slaying mountain trolls.'

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Caverns of Ekim the Lawful

Last Saturday we got some face to face gaming in; rolling dice, pushing mini’s and making juvenile jokes at the npcs expense. It was a whole lot of fun. I haven’t run a face to face game since the play test for Rot Tower so was feeling rusty and a little nervous; which is stupid because I was gaming with guys I’ve been friends with for almost a decade. Mike was back in town and we managed to get a game going with another friend Adam. I’m an old school DM at heart and, as I’d volunteered to run a game, we agreed on AD&D.

Once game day was confirmed I had two evenings to write something. With the internet and my D&D obsession I was spoilt for resources. In the end I used a few really good ones to put the game together. I took B1 ‘In Search of the Unknown’ and used it as a shell. The original map of the dungeon is not great and so I replaced it with a redesign found at the Dragonsfoot forum. I wrote it out in a DMing friendly format as –C talks about here so that the adventure would fit on two pages. I then took some interesting elements and random table results to spice up the dungeon from the Yavin award winning and free Secret Santicore, and the excellent Dungeon Alphabet. Finally I gave the rival humanoid tribes in the dungeon an extra spark by using the 'Random Orc Generator' in Knockspell 6 and Monster Business. Alternative magic items were supplied by a post from Beyond the Black Gate.

The revised B1 map from Dragonsfoot
Character generation went smoothly though Adam and Mike were unfamiliar with the AD&D books. 4d6 drop 1 down the line. Adam rolled incredibly well and almost qualified for a Paladin. In the end he settled on a Dwarf Fighter/Cleric with amazing saves thanks to a constitution score of 19. The dice were crueller to Mike who ended up with no characteristic bonuses. Mike decided to play a Dwarven fighter. As there were only two players they started at second level with an impressive AC provided by plate mail and shields. They also had 7 pre-generated hirelings to order around thanks to Meatshields!

As we started the game I asked the character’s names. Mike was Bill. I rolled my eyes and rather foolishly suggested Adam call his dwarf Ted. Adam agreed and so Bill and Ted went off on their excellent adventure. I can't seem to run a serious adventure to save myself and so this set the tone for the afternoon. I'm not so worried as the lighter the tone the more fun I have. While the hirelings had names no one took the time to find out what they were. We all knew they weren’t going to last long.

Among the highlights of the session were:
  • A showdown in the entrance hall where the band was surrounded by goblins. The goblins were routed but all attempts at parley and surrender were met with dwarven axe and hammer. Racial hatreds die hard.
  • Dungeon chicken. I let players choose 6 things from the equipment list. Mike picked a chicken which he used to check for traps by flinging it at suspicious objects and tunnels. Dungeon chicken may have saved them from a fireball trap by unmasking the illusion that hid it. Amazingly dungeon chicken survived and was joined by a second, more intelligent chicken (see gnomes below).
  • The group got involved in a loot off, racing to secure as much loot as they could while a rival gnomish adventuring group attempted the same. The gnomes greed got the better of them and they turned on the party only to be soundly defeated. A surviving gnome braved the transformation pool hoping to transform into something powerful to seek his revenge. The dice determined that he would become a chicken and so Ted ended up doubling the number of chickens he owned by the end of the adventure. Profit.
  •  The gnomes were playing with the decapitated heads of their goblinoid foes when the adventurers met them. This rapidly degenerated into a ‘head’ jokes and related innuendo at the gnomes expense. Good fun.
  • Hireling's were ordered not to call Bill and Ted 'milord' else the monsters realise the dwarves were important and target them.
  • Hirelings encouraged to carry bright torches into dangerous situations, despite the dwarves not needing light to see. They were further encouraged to serve as distractions by being gifted 'bedazzled' cloaks and 'shiny' armour to wear.
  • The party rescued a blink dog who was trapped in a jar by the owner of the dungeon Ekim the Lawful. On a sidenote Ekim seemed misnamed, as his lair was full of nasty evil things. Thanks to me only having one dog 'voice', the blink dog was dubbed Scooby.
  • The party had found some contact poison which they exploited used to good effect against an ogre. Acting simultaneously, Bill struck the ogre with a vial of poison hurled from his sling. The brute failed it’s save and died but just prior to its projectile vomiting death it plunged the legendary ‘bleeding spear’ into Bill. The dwarf came close to dying but made a mad dash to a pool of healing which he collapsed in at -3 HP. 
That was great fun. We played for close to 4 hours and by the end I was spent. It reminded me how much I miss face to face gaming. The old groups have broken up with people moving, falling out or having family commitments. I’ve gamed with perhaps a dozen people over the years and it would be great to put a group together again. For now I make do with the weekly Google+ game.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Against the Mountain Trolls

'We couldn't rescue one of you. The trolls squeezed him till his eyes popped.' - Milgos consoles the slaves
The Mountain Troll King's golden throne

Betty hefted her mug of mead and knocked it back in record time much to the admiration of the tavern patrons. She was never short of an audience, ever since her ventures with Milgos and Ugh had gained the attention of the common folk. She no longer had to buy her own drinks, though on this occasion she supplied the beverages herself. The bands latest expedition had left her in the possession of a vast supply of mead courtesy of the Mountain Trolls. She was becoming accustomed to the taste. The patrons gathered around expecting a story of heroics but she wasn’t in the mood. She’d been brooding for months now, ever since the fallout with Beatrice, her twin sister and temporary adventuring companion. Dirk the apprentice, who at this stage of the night was already roaring drunk called out “Give us a story Betty. Tell us about how you killed the King of the Mountain Trolls and plundered his horde!”
She’d give them a story.

“All I ever hear about is how we are these big heroes. We have this reputation now for saving folk. I can’t walk down the street without someone begging me to ‘rescue my daughter from the Chimera’s Grotto’ or ‘save my child from the Keep on the Borderlands.’ Most people don’t like the answer I give, but I give it to them straight. I tell them we aren’t heroes and we aren’t a charity. Unless you’re paying us we aren’t going to save your cousin, brother or whoever. The truth is the last lot of folk we rescued, all those cooks, washerwomen and filthy gnomes, we rescued by accident. In the end we used them as labor, getting them to carry the heaviest loot for us so we could take it easy on the way back to the city. Ugh and Milgos both sat in the Mountain Troll’s throne while the freed slaves carried them down the mountain. One last bout of slavery before we left them in the city square with nothing but the clothes on their backs. We took everything we could from those Mountain trolls, their jewelry, the Jarl’s throne, rugs from their floors even the crib from the nursery.”

“You could at least make it sound heroic you know. I much prefer the bard’s tales to your bitter ranting.” Complained Kirk the disappointed apprentice just before an empty mead mug smashed his ugly face. Betty continued her tale as the unconscious fool fell to the ground. “He’s right you know. The story could use a bit more heroism and a little less reality.” She said with a wicked gleam in her eye “Here is the pretty version you can tell your kids before you tuck them in at night.”

“We had earlier slain the Jarl and put the trolls to flight. We knew it was only going to be temporary as the trolls would regroup under the leadership of either the Jarl’s ruthless wife or the foul troll crone who had befuddled Ugh’s mighty intellect with her trollish wiles. This is the reason Milgos hounded the trolls retreat blasting them all the while with his wand of ice and frost.”

Anther patron deigned to interrupt though not as rudely as the last “I heard Milgos was out of magic. He had a wand that shot pink energy missiles but it was ashed by a dragon.”
The Jarl's son prior to the fireball
“You heard right but in the time we spent burning the bodies of the first troll onslaught Milgos had rummaged through our bag of holding. In it he found the wand of frost we had torn from the cold dead hands of none other than Enlandrin the notorious bastard and evil mage. And so Milgos blasted the hated Mountain Trolls with great storms of ice from Enlandrin’s wand, leaving many trolls rent asunder by great jagged hail stones the size of your head!” The crowd gasped in terror. 
“Well may you gasp for I too was shocked. Ugh and I picked our way through the carnage trailing the mad Dark Elf in human guise. Ugh probably wasn’t concerned by the horrific scenes as he had personally committed far worse. Do you recall the story of him eating fried goblin?”
The crowd nodded and one called out “It weren’t true Betty. That’s just lies.”
“Of course it’s true.” Betty cried incredulously “I saw it myself. He’s done some terrible things but cannibalism is likely the worst. I already told you we aren’t heroes and what we do isn’t pretty. Do you want to know the real reason the Mountain Trolls were so mad at us? It’s because we killed the Jarl’s son. Milgos fried the infant with magic. He burnt a few of the trolls as well but seemed to do a tremendous job incinerating the Jarl’s son. This had the predictable effect of inciting the trolls to hurl themselves at us seeking murderous retribution. While Milgos had them on the run with icy blasts from his wand some of the Mountain Trolls were too stupid to know they were beat and fought us in the halls. They didn’t last long. Ugh and I cut them down. Then it was off to free the slaves and take everything of value that wasn’t nailed down. And here we are. The heroes return triumphant to the city. Let the bards spin their tales of heroism; at least you lot got the true story. Now leave me be. I have some drinking to do.”