Monday, December 12, 2016

Oh, THAT Magic Pool!

After their adventures in Renneton, Wolfgang and Gerrilynn rejoined Vulpio, the elves, and the caves below the moathouse.  Among the oddities retrieved from the mold caves, was a peculiar chime which, when struck caused previous locked doors or hidden doors to reveal themselves and open.  It proved to be equally effective on portcullises.
Opening the portcullis gave Wolfgang, Gerrilynn, and Vulpio access to several new strange rooms.  They rescued Johnny, who the prisoner of a fearsome-looking ogre.  They encountered and destroyed a dozen zombies.  And they found a trapdoor leading up to the moathouse garrisoned by Burne’s men.  This encounter could have been a disaster if Gerrilynn had not responded quickly to gently but firmly transfix the soldiers.  The party disappeared back down the trapdoor and prayed that the experience would serve to further discourage dungeon exploration by the Burne and the people of Hommelet.

Reviewing her map, Gerrilynn determined that they should return to the crypt that they had discovered earlier.  It was an expansive place, with rows and rows of vaults, many of them smashed open.  And there were ghouls.  After destroying the ghouls, Wolfbang noticed a trail of gold that led into a small hole in the wall, so small that it could be accessed only be crawling.  Smelling a rat, Wolfbang remembered what his friends had told him about their beautiful home deeper in the dungeon.  And so they crawled into the hole. . .
Gerrilynn could not make a map, but after crawling in circles for what felt like hours, the party came to a nearly vertical tunnel, slanting both up and down.  Based on everything they had heard, down seemed the right way to go.  The tunnel was long and seemed to get even narrower.  Torches were too dangerous, but Wolfgang still carried his magical light stone.  After another hour of crawling, they heard sounds—squeaking sounds.  And suddenly there were rats everywhere—scratching, nipping, squealing, but clearly running from something else.  The party let them pass by and waited for what was coming next—a greasy, stinking badger.  Wolfgang stunned it with a flash of light and then said a few words to soothe and distract it.  The badger told Wolfgang of the fantastic meal that he had just missed, but after persistent but gentle questioning answered that yes the tunnel widened further ahead and yes he would lead the way and yes he would like a treat that was even better than rats once Wolfgang had a chance to get it out of his sack.

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At last the human emerged from the twisting rodent warren into a large natural cavern.  A little exploration suggested that they had discovered an entire network of caverns, but they were most intrigued by the well-finished corridor that led about fifty feet to a twelve-sided room with a dodecahedronal-domed ceiling.  There were letters on the ceiling- elvish, but backwards.  And in the middle of the room there was a stone pedestal, over eight-feet high so that no one could see the top of it.  But they found a way up and found a large basin.  When water filled the basin, the water reflected the letters on the ceiling.  (Wolfgang thought that maybehe’d been there before.)  This was the magic pool that the elves (and Burne) were looking for.
Although logic suggested that there was a human-sized passage between these caverns and the dungeons of the moathouse, the leaders of the party felt they would prefer to go back the way they came and crawl through the dark, twisting rodent-infested tunnels.

That’s what they did.  The elves were grateful and entertained them for weeks or months.  When Wolfbang and Gerrilyn returned to the surface world, they found that the leaves had turned.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Review: Wheel of Evil by Faster Monkey

I know this module is over 6 years old and that the old-schoolrenaissance has been superseded by 5e or pokemon go or running for president but that just means Wheel of Evil is now a classic and that you should buy it and run it today.  Here’s why:
The “everyman quest” element.  I love adventure hooks that might realistically appeal to the kind of people I imagine low- to mid-level adventurers to be, not legendary heroes and not murder hoboes, but generally well-meaning rogues who never figured out how to make it normal society.  As prosaic as it sounds, saving the cheese equals saving the village.  And while there’s no extensive backstory or elaborate plot, the hook was extensive enough to affect the player’s choices throughout the adventure— Is doing this what we were hired to do?

The details.  There are many elements that add color and interest and can also make the players’ success much more likely.  Little pots of kobold urine sound like the most useless thing in the world.
Well-developed monsters.  For some time, I’ve been replacing humanoids with human “bad guys.”  But these kobolds are too other-worldly.  And I normally find molds and slimes and oozes kind of an undistinguishable mush.  But here, it’s more like a parfait.

It’s short.  This is so important to me.  I don’t get to play D&D every day lunch and recess (and that’s good, overall) so anything that can’t be played over a couple sessions will be half-forgotten by the players making it impossible for them to put the pieces together.  In general my campaign is more like an episodic TV show in which the most notable feature is the characters rather than plot, but this had the feeling of a good self-contained movie.
Things to think about before running this adventure:

Per the text, boiled urine has special properties.  This struck me as something so impossible to figure out by characters whose players didn’t already have this knowledge (assuming that this is borrowed from real-world chemistry), that I allowed unboiled urine the same effects.  I’m happy with this decision, but it made things easier for the PCs.
Most of the encounters are much easier than the final encounter with the BBEG.  I worried about this before I ran it, but this is a classic structure for a good reason—all the important characters live until the end and so even for those that die it feels dramatic and thrilling.  (He died so we could have cheese.)  The upshot of this is that the suggestion that this adventure is for 4-5 players levels 3-5 is about right.  The early encounters might feel easy, and the final one may kill multiple party members. 

The play report is here.