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Saturday, July 18, 2009

[Playtest Campaign] Sneers Hold the Rope Bridge!

The stalwart and fairly adaptable (if foolish and decidedly non-tactical) PCs have been exploring and mapping (read as: I have been mapping) Christopher B.'s Underlord of Cold Mountain location, which I have utilised as the Undercity of Qerzyk.

In previous sessions, the Aelbaan that tore the head off of the Xarj Scout once freed from the Stasis Field, took off down a corridor to another Lift Shaft and almost escaped. Delver, the WI Vrun noble (i.e., the thin-blooded Aelbaan) zapped him with a 3d lightning bolt, and the psychic of the party entered the Aelbaan's mind.
Inside, telepathic beings with a vast range (one was in a nearby star system) were wagering as to the KO'd being's chances of making it out of the complex. Wojo, the psychic, made the understandable error of directly contacting one of them, and was quickly possessed after a fumbled Control [Spells] Test. The distant woman began to Tele-relocate, metabolising the psychic's body as her gateway, transforming him into her body. A party member knocked the psychic unconscious, which resulted in a broken link and a rapidly deforming body (gooey-like). Long story short: They bag the Aelbaan, and escort the terribly deformed and wailing compatriot out of the complex, which opened up into an interior marketplace.

Fast forward to the psychic now residing in the body of a comatose mutant (with transparent skin), and the party, and a small army of support personnel (mainly construction workers, small unit repair techs, and troopers) who are working their way through the complex.

The previous week, they fought heat-sink organic-metal reptiloids with d8 Armour and the ability to sap heat to power their metabolisms and healing. The party vanquished the beasts and found curious architectural features in the prison cells of the middle left portion of the map.
Last night, they explored the guard post directly south of the cells, and found the secret door to the 20' bridge over the roaring, icy waters 120' below, which leads to the room designated on the map as the Temple Guard Barracks. The bridge was treacherous, and soon, the party had to devise an alternate rope-scuttle method of traversing.
Whereupon, they quickly ran afoul of a flame-thrower team of Green Sneers. As only a couple of PCs had crossed, they were the ones to detect the Sneers advancing, and two of the three smartly decided to fall back across the bridge before the alchemical Blackfire weapon was used against them. Tybalt, being Tybalt, remained and took fire damage before dropping a series of Darkness pebbles, and then Levitating and holding onto the rock face against the 24 knot headwind whipped-up by the roaring waters below.

The flame-thrower was almost able to reach across, but the spray was blown away by the strong winds and merely kept the party at bay as the ropes of the bridge began to burn and snap (mostly their rigged crossing ropes) as the Sneers' reinforcements arrived from the barracks. Now, Blue Sneers, a full head taller than the greens, arrived and were clearly their NCOs. One fired a 'bazooka' type launcher, the round of which exploded for 4d6, nearly killing the already battered characters on the other side.
Back and forth difficult missile-weapon combat transpired as Tybalt manoeuvred over the entrance and stealthily crawled along the ceiling of the stairs and eventually cast an 'empowered' Sleep spell, catching 2d6 creatures, including the 4FD Blue who fired the tube. Being Tybalt, he grabbed the weapon, and after I asked how he was aiming the device, fired it down the stairs (only 20' distant), nearly killing himself in the process of trying to keep the reinforcing Sneers at bay.

Meanwhile, the trolls from a Troll room (15) came to investigate and ambushed Delver who had dragged-out two unconscious and dying support personnel. Fortunately for him, the Troll missed with one claw and the bite, and only did 1 point to his Dodge Pool on the ambush round, and missed with all three attacks on the second, surprise round. Delver then struck back and damaged the troll's left arm. Other retreating characters (PC and NPC) began to engage the troll, who took off back into his chamber.
Darius crossed over, by hand, and began to grope around in the 20' radius Darkness spell for Tybalt. Ashta followed, but, despite her massive 19 Power [Strength], failed her roll, and plunged the 120' to unconsciousness below the icy river. My drowning rules are pretty cinematic (it takes 5, 6-second rounds to take 1d4-1d4 Critical Damage), and so she was rapidly washed downstream to (Barracks 29).

Tybalt, now at 3 or so DP, hands Darius the Long Range Flight (Overland Flight) potion, and they begin to search for Ashta. --[Mela Mela, has died from the 'bazooka' round damage, but Wojo's new mutations save her at the cost of burning out his Total Healing (scratched-off his sheet).]-- Ashta's Ancient Ancestral genetic memory plays out as the Superstructure Technician enters a ship's superstructure and begins to greet old friends as the steady thrum of the FTL drives pulse through the lengthening ship's hull. She hears a foreign name being called. Someone punches her in the jaw, and she awakens. Ashta comes to as a green, scaly 'gill-man' slaps her to consciousness, and deposits her upon the teardrop-shaped, black river stone beach, as Tybalt and Darius fly about, piercing the darkness with their mediocre 20' radius Light spell. She is flown out first, and then Tybalt, and the party meets up with more of their Grogs, now equipped with flaming longswords as they battle back another troll.

Wojo tried to leave a peace-offering, having been opposed to the bridge-exploration from the beginning. The construction workers, who have a green Sneer on their force, tried to relate the 'Draw' result, but it was only partially understood by the proud and defiant Blue overseers.

We held it more or less there, and I drove Wojo and Ashta/Mela's players back. I asked them if they felt comfortable with me removing the kid gloves, and simply killing their characters outright next time, and received a hesitant, 'yes.'


  1. That's quite an interesting take on Cold Mountain! The Lord of the Pit would approve. :D

  2. Timeshadows,

    While skimming your posts on the blog was entertaining, I found myself wondering how in the world I could follow your blog....
    I didn't see a link that would allow me to do so, so I thought I would post a comment and maybe entice you into reaidng some of my blogs that I have posted about my general feelings and ideas on gaming.
    That and I have no way of stalking you unless I can find you on a regular basis!
    It is incredibly refreshing to find old school gamers like some of the ones I have known since I was an embryo.
    One opinion on this particular blog I would have is on the outright killing of player characters. I have no problem with this. As both a player and a DM, I have seen mass slaughter on a scale that would make Darfor look like an Ice Cream Social.
    OK. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but you get the point.
    I look forward to blogging with you!
    (I was kidding about the stalking bit.)

    Happy Gaming!


  3. Brett,

    Thanks. The top bar on the blog contains the following:

    * Search Blog
    * Flag Blog
    * Follow Blog

    You want to click in the Follow Blog, and then follow the pointy-clicky directions to subscribe. :D

    Thanks for the ringing inclusion with the Old Guard. I appreciate it. :)

    On killing PCs: Two of the players are 3.5+ era gamers, unaccustomed to Dead-is-Dead, and I wanted to slowly progress to the point where they understood that it could/would happen if/when they just made poor decisions/rolls. I began by having beloved NPCs buy the farm, and then had several near-death improbable saves, and then upped the ante like the last session which cost another PC an important ability. When my SO said that she thought that Mela should have simply died, I asked her and Wojo's player if they were okay with nixing them in the future. Wojo's player didn't answer. lol. Ashta/Mela's said, 'um, okay.' ;)

    I'm reading over your Spirit of Gygax, and will subscribe.

    Best, and thanks for commenting.
    (see you around these here parts, pard.)

  4. I thought Jude Law was in Cold Mountain...have you somehow included his equivalent in Qerzyk? Maybe Wojo, I guess.

    Reading your stuff in the morning after a night of debauched wining and jazz does crazy things to my brain. Keep up the good fight!

  5. JB,

    Didn't see Cold Mountain, so I think I'm missing a reference, there. 0.o

    I'm glad to help craze your brain.
    --Thanks, will endeavour to do so. :D

    Fight On!

  6. You run some seriously violent campaigns. I don't think my players get in that many fights in a session (although they might like to).

    But then I'm using 3.0, so I guess that's to be expected. :D

  7. Yahzi,

    Thanks for commenting. :D

    My players are used to long-running combats from the 3.x+ games, and forget how deadly my combat rules can be until they are in combat.
    Subsequently, they look for, and find with astonishing regularity, combats that push them to the edge and beyond.

    I think there will soon be an absolute and lasting fatality among the party, simply because Tybalt's player pushes the envelope the most.

    Wish them restraint and increased tactical sense. :D

    Best to you and your group,

  8. Timeshadow,

    Forgive my technical ignorance. I'm just not much of a computer guy. Despite the fact that my best friend has pretty much every single 1st edition AD&D product ever published loaded up on my hard drive, I still like the feel of real tomes. Perhaps that's why I enjoy Call of Cthulhu so much. (I was going to abbreviate that but then decided against it..wise choice I think.)

    Glad you're following my blog! Welcome aboard!

    Ah! Tactical sense! I have always wondered why more cops don't play RPGs. Most of us do the "if/then" scenarios. (I prefer "when/then" and run scenarios with my crew constantly.)

    But I think you can practice good tactical sense with pretty much any RPG...except maybe Toon and Paranoia....the first game your PC can't die and the second, your PC is SUPPOSED to die in some spectacular and suitably hilarious fashion.

    But whether it's an old fashioned dungeon crawl, exploring a bombed out city in a post-apocalyptic future or defending a star port against interstellar pirates, you can learn and practice good tactical sense. This is vital in our chosen field.

    I don't know if you have read any of Col. Grossman's works, but I think he would agree.

    My Old School friends and I were collectively griping about how it's so hard for a PC to die in the latest version of D&D. I blame it on Playstation. I love my PS3 don't get me wrong, but you never really die in a video game, the game is never truly over and in many instances, when you croke, you start at the point where you died or close to it.

    These kids today want the same thing in their RPGs. We all went through the "my character is a 50th level Fighter/Magic-User/Assassin/Monk with 550 hit points and a -11 armor class and rides around in an adamantite warship being rowed by all the gods whose asses he whooped.

    But then we grew up. Gaming maturity if you will.

    (We were pretty young and thought it was great at the time but those campaigns are WAY long gone and of course, didn't last a year.)

    I grew as a gamer and started to really appreciate character death. I try my best to keep it from happening with good tactical sense in every game I play but no matter how I might pie the corner or how many times I use my weighted string to check for trip wires, something bad will inevitably happen and the PCs gotta deal with it. Sometimes they don't deal so well and they die, but that's how legends are made.

    Once again, thanks for following my blog and for being a part of something I thought was long dead. (It's the one thing I do like about the internet, it shows that this type of gaming STILL exists. The only negative thing I see is geography because I'd like to play with all these folks I've met!)

    I'd give you the secret handshake if you were here but since you're not let me just say, stay safe and watch your six!

    Brett (aka Anti-Human)

  9. That's what makes an adventurer - they take risks that no sane person would take.

    Then, as DMs trying to create narrative interest, we fudge things a bit so their risks succeed more often. And before you know it, they're spoiled and expecting they can beat anything.

    Two sessions ago I got them to retreat from a combat, though, so I'm pretty happy. :D

  10. Dungeonmaster,

    You do likewise! :D

    I agree entirely with the video game-mentality assessment. It affects them outside of gaming, too. > sigh <



    Yeah, I know.
    --I should have remembered my own advice:
    * Be strict in the beginning, and as things settle in, it's alright to ease up a bit.
    --Now, they've invested a lot of time in their characters and all that jazz.
    ---We'll see. The rest of this 'dungeon' only gets tougher. Heh. :D