Saturday, 17 March 2018

Rift City session 8

Another new player joined us for this adventure with a Fighter called Gene, and Shazam the Elf's player made it back too. Long-time PC Gwynthor the Cleric, and our occasional Dwarf PC Berg, missed this one however, so the party looked like this:

Cnut (Fighter)
Daisy (Halfling)
Frost (Fighter)
Galen (Elf)
Gene (Fighter)
Gibbet (Thief)
Karenza (Elf)
Polly (Magic User)
Shazam (Elf), with his attendant Charmed Kobold Norbert (I think)

I've been a bit busy with real-world stuff (and my posts about questing are a kind of procrastination) so I'm not going to deny I wasn't massively well-prepared for this one. I'd grabbed some monster-stats from online lists to plug into gaps caused by previous attacks in this area, but hadn't double-checked the blocks of text. But more of that in a moment...

I have a relatively simple procedure for re-stocking the dungeon. I roll a d6 for each day that passes between the party trashing an occupied room, and their return. If a '1' comes up I'll re-stock from the Wandering Monster Table to represent some monster moving in, then place another monster from my master-list on the Wandering Monster Table. I'm currently re-thinking this system. This area of the dungeon is patrolled and occupied by relatively-well-organised forces - primarily, the Orcs and Death-cultists I was talking about in the last report. They should probably be better at re-occupying cleared areas than 'random' monsters would be - it's likely that if the PCs clear an Orc guard-post, a few days later those Orcs will have been replaced with more Orcs, or some Cultists, or some Undead, rather than Killer Bees or Lizard Men or Pixies.

Anyway - rooms are re-occupied. It needs to make sense in terms of the organisation of the dungeon not just randomly. I think I shall prioritise the 'organised' inhabitants for re-occupation rather than the opportunistic squatters. But I should also take care to read the entries not just copy them over.

Things started reasonably enough. The party set off for the caves, and almost immediately bumped into another NPC party. This is the third party I think that the PCs have found so far, and I would say a sign that dungeon-delving is the closest thing in Rift City to an organised sport. Negotiating a division of the caves so that the two parties weren't chasing each other's tails, the NPC party went east, the PCs went west.

So, having already cleared these areas but nothing yet having moved in, the first few rooms in this area were empty but for the detritus of previous fights. The PCs quickly became aware however that there were some Orcs up ahead. Deciding that a sudden and overwhelming show of force was in order, the PCs took them down brutally, quickly and without mercy.

And then I did a foolish thing. As intimated, I'd just copied-and-pasted some stats from elsewhere to plug a gap. That's not the problem, the problem was reading the information I'd copied without mentally filtering it.

"We search the bodies," the PCs said.

"You, errm, notice that all the Orcs have backpacks on, with sacks inside that make suspicious clinking sounds," said I, desperately wondering why 4 wandering Orcs were carrying 3,000GP and jewellery worth another 900GP.

Now that in itself isn't a problem. It's a bribe from the Cultists to keep the Orcs on their side, destined to be the Orc-soldiers' pay-chest. It's loot from lower in the caverns that the Orcs have collected together and are using it to buy equipment from the Cultists. It's the result of wiping out another adventuring party and taking their stuff, which must have included treasures from lower levels. It's the profits of overground banditry waged by the Orcs in recent weeks. It doesn't really matter. Any and all of these are plausible suggestions in line with what the Orcs are doing.

The problem is more in terms of risk-v-reward, and how the sudden acquisition of wealth makes the party do weird things. Immediately they realised they'd hit the jackpot, they decided to go home. This was still early in the day, only their second encounter, and 4 Orcs had produced more loot than the party had gained in the previous 7 sessions combined. As far as they were concerned, carrying that amount of treasure for the rest of the day would be ludicrous. And really, I agree with them.

What I should have done is knocked a zero off the loot. If they'd found 390GP in coins and jewellery, I'm sure they'd have been very pleased. But they'd have kept going. As it was, there was a 5-hour section of the day when they trekked back to town, sold the jewellery (the 'Faberge Egg') as they referred to it), bought more jewellery (because it's more portable than coins), and then went back to the caves with 3900GPs' worth of necklaces, jewelled daggers and gold cutlery sets. And Shazam went to the Elven Sanctuary and gave the mystics there 400GP to keep up the good work. They were very happy and slipped him a Healing Potion in return.

Now, I'm not particularly bothered about screwing the PCs out of cash here. If they want to play D&D as a trading game that's fine, we'll do that. At the moment, if they want to turn cash into gold because it's easier to carry I don't see I need to tax them as I do it. So they sold everything for its value and bought things for their value.

To their credit once the PCs were back they carried on as before. Checking rooms, bashing down doors, trying to find gold, information, the glands of magical animals...

They ran into some prisoners of the Orcs, who told them their captors were close-by with large amounts of cash. On being re-assured that the Orcs were dead and the entrance was close, the slaves took the opportunity to run for it. The party took the rope that had held the chain-gang together though.

In the tunnels the party also found a snake. Not a massive one but it didn't matter, they killed it with a sling-stone and cut off its head in case Gisuintha the Wizard wanted any parts of it. On the way, they also bumped into some Gnolls! Big buggers they are but there are currently 9 PCs and their Kobold-friend so the Gnolls didn't last long. Only 40SP of treasure but so what? They'd already had the big haul...

After that it was back to raiding for the PCs. One room was full of spiders (not giant-sized, and quickly dealt with via a Sleep spell), as well as the remains of a battle between Orcs and Ogres. It looked like the Ogres might have come up a well-like shaft in the centre of the room, which seemed to go a long way down according to one of the Elves who checked it with infravision (it goes to what will be an Ogre lair on Level 3). A quick search of the bodies revealed that they'd been stripped of useful weapons and equipment already.

The party exited that room and took a door across the corridor. Here they found a large and strange room, containing a large cage with the corpse of a Hobgoblin in it. It looked like the cage might have originally swung from the ceiling but it had fallen at some point either before or after the Hobgoblin had died, it was difficult to tell. Another corpse, with no head, was also present. There was a door from this room to the east, but when Daisy the Halfling found a secret door in the south wall, the party headed for that instead.

Here was another large hall-like room, this one with carved pillars that resembled trees with spreading branches, holding up the ceiling. Four Orcs occupied this room, and again they proved very little challenge to the party. Once the first one was dead the others surrendered. Shazam the Elf, using his Charm Person spell, decided he was sick of Norbert the Kobold and used Charm on one of the Orcs (who Shazam is now calling 'Barry' I believe... still, at least he actually speaks Orc so can communicate with this friend/servant/pet).

Charm is a bit of a weird one. Saving throw once per month as long as you don't treat the Charmee too egregiously, but no other notification of how and why it wears off. I know this lot, if I let them get away with it, they'll just charm one of everything they encounter every day and build an army of a months' worth of Charmed monsters. So I ruled that only one Charm can be operation at a time, which seems right. Having Charmed Barry the Orc, Shazam realised that Norbert the Kobold was freed from the spell, and the little dog-like monster fled... to some dank cavern no doubt, possibly one close by. Now Shazam has an Orc for a companion, which might not be too popular a move in Rift City. The Orcs had an unidentifiable potion and some 'shiny stuff'. The party took it all after Barry helpfully showed Shazam where it was.

More wandering monsters appeared - a Dwarf, shortly followed by some other Dwarves. They were all part of a party that had got split up. By this time the party was wanting to leave. Leaving the Dwarves to find each other (or not) the PCs started heading for the exit.

So it was off back to the city (we've joked that the Wilderness can't kill them until they reach Level 4) to flog their loot and get the Orcs' potion identified and to see if Gisuintha wanted a snake-head. She took the one in exchange for identifying the other. I might make them wait a session or two to get that back, I haven't decided yet how easy it is to identify...

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Questing in Elfgames IV - Adventuring in the Ship of Theseus (very long post)

This is a step away from determining backgrounds. Still about procedures for epic questing and more closely gaming the tales we read, though.

I've mentioned the Ship of Theseus before. I first heard of it as 'the Grandfather's Axe Problem' and in the UK now is often known as 'Trigger's Broom'.

The idea is simple. You replace all the timbers and rigging of a ship. When is it not the same ship? When you replace the handle and head of an axe, does it stop being the same axe? When Trigger has replaced the handle and bristles of his broom several times, is it the same broom?

A similar thing can happen to bands. Napalm Death, Christian Death and Dr Feelgood, for example, somewhat famously continued even though there were no original members left. A party is like that sometimes. Members come and go, either because of player drop-outs or PC death (even without going into TPKs). After a while a party may have little or no resemblance to the original membership.

So, in this instance, is it the same party? And, yes or no, is it possible for an ever-changing constellation of characters to have a 'quest'?

As a thought-experiment going back to the Lord of the Rings...

Session 1 - The Shire (Hobbiton to Crickhollow):

Three players - Alan (Frodo), Barbara (Sam) and Charles (Pippin) decide they want to run 'Ring-Quest': the DM tells Frodo's player that his uncle gave him a magic ring before disappearing into the Wild, and Frodo is going to find out what happened to him. If the Hobbits had (for example) lost Pippin to a Tiger Beetle attack in Woody End (I once rolled up encounters for the Fellowship as per the Mentzer wilderness rules and this happened on the first night, as described in the reply to this post in 3d6, Traps & Thieves), they could then have been joined by Gildor (Charles thought he'd play an Elf next session).

(This part has been edited to make it more true as well as functional.)

Session 2 - The Old Forest (Crickhollow to Tom's House):

Frodo, Sam and Gildor are joined by Deirdre playing Merry, but Merry is killed in the Old Forest. The rest of the party makes it safely to Tom's House, and Deirdre rolls up a Magic User, Goldberry, who will join the next leg of the journey.

Session 3 - The Barrow Downs (Tom's House to Bree):

The party departs from Tom's House. They get involved in a dungeon-delve, but Barbara's character Sam is killed by the Barrow-wights. Barbara rolls up a Ranger for her next character (maybe in Basic D&D terms this is a Cleric, but Barbara says she really thinks he should have a sword. The DM agrees, as long as it's broken and can't be fixed until Rivendell) as the party continues on to Bree.

Session 4 - Midgewater (Bree to Weathertop):

By the time they are leaving Bree the party is Frodo (still Alan's first PC and still the Ringbearer), Strider (Barbara's second PC), Gildor (Charles's second PC) and Goldberry (Deirdre's second PC). The quest continues on to Weathertop, where there is a big fight with the Nazgul and Frodo is injured (Strider the Cleric can only use a torch as a weapon).

Session 5 - the Trollshaws (Weathertop to Rivendell):

Another player, Erik, joins them for this session, with Glorfindel as his PC (an Elf scouting from Rivendell), and the quest continues to head in that direction. Again there is a confrontation with the Nazgul but the party makes it to Rivendell. At Rivendell after 5 sessions, Frodo's player Alan decides to jack it in. Frodo, it is decided, will stay in Rivendell healing from his wound. The DM tells Alan that Frodo's uncle is there, and the two Hobbits, in game terms at least, retire to study Elvish poetry. By now there are no Hobbits in the party. The PCs have completely changed from the group that left Hobbiton and entered the Old Forest. Strider (replaced Sam as Barbara's PC), Gildor (replaced Pippin as Charles's PC) and Goldberry (replaced Merry as Deirdre's PC), with Glorfindel (Erik's PC) however, still constitute a party. Alan agrees Frodo will hand over the Ring to Goldberry.

Session 6 - Moria (Rivendell to Lorien):

This session starts with a Ring-Quest party forming with Goldberry, Gildor, Strider, Glorfindel, Gloin (played by Faith), Gimli (played by Gary) and Boromir (played by Helen). Oh and an NPC Gandalf. Faith and Gary aren't really sure they're going to be able to stick around, but they've come along for a session anyway. Now apart from the fact that only Strider and Boromir have names that don't begin with 'G', that seems like a viable party, though maybe Gloin at 235 (40 years older than Thorin at the time of The Hobbit) is a bit old to be going adventuring. The party leaves Rivendell and travels towards Moria. Fights with the Watcher in the Water, a bit of riddling to find the secret door, and some fights in the tunnels with Orcs lead to a confrontation on the bridge where Glorfindel (Erik's PC) falls fighting the Balrog. The two Dwarven players decide they won't be coming back and drop out of the campaign. They decide that their characters are going to continue to fight in Moria against the Orc Hordes, trying to re-take it for the House of Durin; the rest of the party 'knows' they're still alive (in game terms) somewhere in Khazad Dum. Erik really wants to keep playing even though Glorfindel is dead, and likes Elves, so when the party rests up in Lorien, Haldir joins the party. However, Gildor's player Charles (who played Pippin originally) also drops out of the campaign and Gildor 'stays in Lorien', mourning the death of his friend Glorfindel.

Session 7 - Anduin I (Lorien to Amon Hen):

By this point eight players have been involved. Two of the three players from the first session have dropped out (Alan and Charles AKA Frodo and Pippin/Gildor). But the quest continues. Deirdre is keeping the quest alive with her character Goldberry acting as the Ringbearer. The party heads south - with Goldberry, Strider, Haldir and Boromir (with NPC Gandalf of course). The party reaches Amon Hen, where they are ambushed by Orcs. Goldberry is killed. The rest of the party send her body over the Falls of Rauros in an Elven boat. Before she dies she gives the Ring to Strider. He, Boromir and Haldir vow to continue.

Session 8 - Anduin II (Amon Hen to Cair Andros):

About to depart from Amon Hen, the PCs meet a Rohirric commander, Eomer (the PC of Iain, a new player), who is in the area on patrol. He joins the party. They journey downriver towards a Gondorian garrison near Cair Andros: on the way, they raid an Orcish stronghold in a cave-system near a Gondorian fort. Here, Strider is killed fighting a giant horned troll, but he impresses on Eomer the importance of the quest, and he takes the Ring. There's a whole bunch of caves here, enough for several sessions adventuring from this Gondorian keep on the borderlands if the party wishes, but having scouted the caves the party continues south.

Session 9 - Ithilien (Cair Andros to Osgiliath):

At Cair Andros, the party is joined by a new PC. Charles has decided that he wants to give the campaign another go so he rolls up a new character - a Thief, who he decides is a Gondorian soldier called Beregond. The DM decides that Beregond's commanding officer has sent him with the party as a guide to the next garrison, at Osgiliath. The PCs make their way to the ruined city and fight Orcs and Nazgul on the way.

Session 10 - Morgul Vale (Osgiliath to Minas Morgul):

At Osgiliath, two more PCs join the quest. These are Ioreth, a Cleric run by Deirdre, who re-joins the campaign, and Eowyn, a fighter, run by Jeanette, a new player. Ioreth is a healer attached to the Osgiliath garrison. The DM rules that a force from Rohan has arrived to bolster the Gondorian forces, which has included Eowyn disguised as a man. They join Eomer, Boromir, Haldir and Beregond in an journey to the fortress of Minas Morgul, where a Gondorian army is encamped in Morgul Vale. On the way they are ambushed by Southrons coming to break the siege, and nearly caught by the Witch-King's magic - but Eowyn eventually kills the Witch-King with a little help from Haldir. However, both Haldir and Eomer are killed; with his dying breath Eomer gives the Ring to Boromir.

Session 11 - Cirith Ungol (environs of Minas Morgul):

Not yet tiring of the shenanigans in Morgul Vale, the party decides at the next session to go on a little side-quest up into the hills. Erik, now that Haldir is dead, rolls up another Elf (he really likes Elves) called Imrahil. The DM says that there really aren't any Elves in the Gondorian army, but Eriks says "can he be a sort of Half-Elf... using the rules for an Elf?" Oh, all right says the DM. However Charles (the only original player, who had actually dropped out of the campaign for a bit) can't make this session. The DM rules that Beregond is busy with his military duties - in game terms, he is spending the day reporting to the commanders of the Gondorian army about the Mordorian forces to the north and the state of the defences. Nevertheless, Boromir, Eowyn, Iorweth and Imrahil go off into the hills above the Morgul Vale. There they meet a giant spider and some Orcs, and have some fun dungeon-bashing, before coming back to camp.

Session 12 - Gorgoroth (Minas Morgul to Orodruin):

Charles unfortunately can't make this session either (so Beregond is still busy doing stuff for the army, probably scouting). Boromir the Ringbearer, Eowyn, Ioreth and Imrahil head off across Gorgoroth to take the Ring to Mt Doom. They have some trouble with Orc patrols and have to evade Nazgul but eventually they get there. Boromir makes a speech remembering all the brave souls who have helped them and casts the Ring into the fire. Then the PCs are racing a volcano to get the hell out of there! Frankly at this point even if the PCs do snuff it they've already saved the world so they can congratulate themselves on a heroic sacrifice well-done. Haldir and Eowyn both fail their Save v Dragon Breath to avoid the fumes. Boromir and Ioreth decide they'll carry their unconscious brethren so the DM makes them take another Save - they both make it and the DM rules that they narrowly get their companions out of the danger zone. There's little point in role-playing the journey back so the DM concludes that at last, weary and dehydrated, they stagger into a Gondorian patrol who are amazed that they had not perished. Returning to a jubilant camp, they are told that a heroes' welcome awaits them in Minas Tirith.


12 sessions. 10 players. 17 PCs (and Gandalf as an NPC). In that time the party fulfilled the point of 'Ring-Quest' and had a bunch of exciting adventures. None of the original PCs, or even players, finish the campaign. In a few places, the DM had interpret the actions of players that had an effect on characters (such as Beregond being absent). It's not quite as polished as Lord of the Rings but it's not bad I don't think. It's closer to 'heroic fantasy' than most D&D games I've played.

I've been trying to find a format for a travelling 'quest'-style game where the party is always changing. Even typing this out has made me realise something. Back in the old days when most of the 'scenarios' I read came from White Dwarf, there was a clich├ęd opening that was 'travelling all day you at last come to a village at sunset. As you make your way to the inn...'. Sometimes it was just 'Finding yourself in an inn...'. I used to wonder why. I've realised that 'the inn' in which the party finds itself is (spiritually) 'The Prancing Pony'. The things happening in the scenario weren't the 'quest': they were incidents along the way. They were the Barrow-wights' tombs. They were the diversions to Cirith Ungol. The 'quest' was the reason the party was always travelling. The way to get an episodic 'quest' with a changing party is to end each session (as the Rift City campaign ends) back at safety, at the next Inn, at the Keep, at the army camp, at the Homely House. There the PCs can rest and personnel can be swapped.

Every session needs to be like this - and the PCs either return to where they started to try again tomorrow, or go to the next point down the line. Bag End - Crickhollow - Tom's House - Bree - Weathertop Camp - Rivendell - Lorien - Amon Hen - Cair Andros - Osgiliath - Minas Morgul - Minas Morgul again: then Orodruin for a big climax. That's a fair campaign and allows plenty of opportunity for replacement PCs or new players to integrate themselves into the action.

The rules seem simple. If a PC is left behind, they're left behind, and they need a reason to do so, which means the DM needs to tell a story why. If the player comes back later, they need a new PC. If the quest has some McGuffin, the Guardian of the McGuffin must be appointed and successors designated as needed. Beyond that it just (just!) requires some flexibility by the DM. Parties can stay in one place (more adventures around Minas Morgul) or move on (in the example above the PCs barely glimpsed the Caves of Chaos before heading to Osgiliath). But whichever way, there must always be the possibility of integrating new PCs at the beginning of every session.

'Points of Light' + Nodes = 'Nodes of Light'. Cool. That might work.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Questing in Elfgames III - character backgrounds

Some of this is re-capping and re-casting conversations I've had in several places over the last few weeks. If you've seen some of this before, please bear with me (especially you Jens!), it's all part of the process of trying to understand what's going on in my head. I've been particularly considering how to connect the epic with the pretty mundane stuff that most PCs do which is effectively being pest-controllers for the local nobility/communities. My thinking on this has lead to character backgrounds and how they can relate to the game-world.

Many variants of D&D use tables to determine backgrounds. Well, no such thing in B/X or BECMI obviously but I do remember having discussions with Jens over at the Disorientated Ranger when he was starting to get Lost Songs of the Nibelungs going about using 3d6 to suggest background.

In the discussion with Jens, I insisted to him that all heroes should be orphans brought up by Dwarves. I was exaggerating but the point I was trying to make is I think valid and deserves looking at. Jens was keen to have PCs rooted in the world and I think he's completely right. PCs need links into the world - it's their world after all, they should have features in their personal history that link them to the wider history. They should know where they were when they heard King Kenneth had been assassinated (or their parents should know), they should remember the War of the Two Towers, they should have a view of the Bretexian rebellion against Eutopia. They have family backgrounds and have had personal lives that exist inside a rich social tapestry. The PCs inhabit a social space, and there should be a way of generating some kind of information about where they are in society, maybe even a social position statistic.

I've been thinking about taking 3d6 rolls apart - this post some time ago talked about having three sets of stats to cover early childhood, later childhood and adolescence. In B/X I think there's a roll that can do something to say not just what events shaped your early life (as in the suggestions about using stat rolls to suggest events that may have affected you) but also your place in society too: the roll players make to determine starting gold. Taking the same idea that the first d6 represents 'inheritance' and the next d6 is what you get from your upbringing and the last d6 is how you've been living immediately before the beginning of your career as an adventurer, you roll your 3d6 and get 1,4,1 which means an early life of poverty, a later childhood of around-average wealth and teenage (or Elven, Dwarven and Hobbitish equivalents thereof) years of poverty again. Perhaps you were from a poor family but your parents worked hard and became successful (farmers, craftspeople, traders or whatever) but you rejected them and fled from home to become a wandering vagabond (or maybe they were killed when the Beastlord invaded causing you to flee, whatever the cause you ended up washing pots or working as farmhand somewhere, if that third roll of '1' is any guide).

It may make sense to conceptually at least split these all into 7-year blocks. Under Roman law in my understanding, children up to 7 were regarded as 'infans', which I believe means something like 'without speech'. They had no real rights and were not seen as 'people' - just the property of their parents (which is why infant burials are common inside Roman towns, even though the law forbade burials inside the city limits). So 7 years might reasonably mark the point where a child acquires legal status. In both the 'Gold' example above, and the stats examples from the post about character creation, the first lot of numbers can be seen as what happens up to 7. This broadly equates I think to an idea of 'inheritance' - what you get as your start in life (for stats it could be genetic and/or based on your 'early years'; for social position, it's where you are in the pecking order when you're born).

The second block would then represent what we might conventionally regard as 'childhood' - when a person is legally recognised as a person rather than a thing, but isn't yet really self-sufficient. This would be from 8-14 in this scheme.

At 14 children in the middle ages were often apprenticed out - again traditionally for 7 years, leading to finishing apprenticeship at 21. The alternative of course is going into the church and getting an education. The first degree also generally finished around 21 (as it still does in many places). So 'around 21' (or its equivalent for other races... I'm sure I can stop adding that qualifier now) could be the effective starting-point of a Level 1 character. In this case the last roll reflects what you've been doing more-or-less by choice - in the earlier post I thought for example higher STR might be because the PC has been doing lots of exercise or training, high INT would mean they'd been studying or whatever. Here, a high roll would indicate that the character was doing something lucrative/prestigious. This might mean serving in the household of a lord or having a part in some heroic deed that was rewarded or something of that nature.

So, this conceptually at least produces a character aged 21 for a Human. I've generally used a semi-random system for generating ages, something like 16+d6, if it's ever been important. It seems like the right ball-park - somewhere around 18-21 seems like the right kind of age for D&D adventurers... because going to University is like descending into a labyrinth of homicidal monsters, or something?

Anyway, in basic terms the 7 3d6 rolls that players make to determine their characters can be read in this sort of way to produce background. It can at least give you an idea of emotional, physical, financial and intellectual 'ups and downs'. Jens suggests getting the party to create characters as a group and connecting them together based on their rolls, using repeated numbers as points of contact. This is a great idea, but not one I think I can port over into my current campaign structure, as it has a large 'drop-out' rate. We've had something like 11 players and around 16 PCs so far; some of the players have only played 1 or 2 out of 7 sessions, and there have been several fatalities. In theory it's an open table so anyone can at any time join the group: this means the idea of rolling characters together at the beginning is a non-starter. I'd love to try it out with a small stable group for a more focused campaign, however.

So - what's the point of all this? I need another way to connect PCs together and to their world in a post-hoc way. The PCs are already given, and I need to be able to find ways that the PCs can have a connection the the world that will generate quests and missions and 'plot'.

Returning to Lord of the Rings for a moment, the members of the Fellowship are predominantly 'important' people in their societies. Aragorn is the heir of the Isildur and foster-son to Elrond, himself the heir of Turgon and Gil-Galad, son-in-law of Galadriel; Legolas is the son of Thranduil, King of Mirkwood; Gimli is a kinsman to Dain Ironfoot, the King under the Mountain, and Balin, Lord of Moria; Boromir is the eldest son of the Steward of Gondor. Even among the Hobbits, Merry and Pippin are the sons of the Master of Buckland and the Thain respectively, and Frodo is the heir of Bilbo, a rich and famous Hobbit who is well-connected both inside and outside the Shire. Only Sam is a relative nobody, though he is the nephew of Andy Roper, who is at least somewhat famous in Hobbit-circles.

Taking other fantasy stories we can see that there is a plethora of lost heirs, unknown youngsters with the potential to become powerful wizards, and others whose background has destined them to an extraordinary life. Frodo has extraordinary adventures because he inherits the Ring; Harry Potter (to move across genres a little) has extraordinary adventures because he inherits secret magical powers; Luke Skywalker likewise inherits secret magical powers, and meets Merlin who gives him Excali... no wait, meets Gandalf who gives him Nars... no, wait, I'm sure I know this... anyway there's Elof and Pug and Garion and Taran and Aldric and Ged and any number of others who have something - some gift or talent or secret or family tie or friendship - that throws them into adventure. Colin and Susan have a family heirloom that attracts the attention of a witch. Even Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy have adventures because their uncle has a magic wardrobe (though I'm not sure he's actually their uncle).

Links to the wider world are a way of providing plots. The PC has a brother - what is the brother up to? Kidnapped by a wizard? Leading a rebel army? Sitting at home dreaming of going to wizard-school? Fishing with the Lizard People of Storm Island? Joining the Thieves' Guild or the City Watch? Running for Mayor? Quietly tending the herb-garden of a monastery?

Who taught the PC Magic User to cast a 'Sleep' spell? How did the Cleric come to receive the blessing of the Lord of the Forest? Who trained the Fighter in the use of the longsword? Was it their mother or grandfather or an aunt or a wandering monk or a local hoodlum that taught the PC their skills? Were they inspired to adventure by tales of a heroic ancestor or watching their brother executed for a crime he didn't commit or seeing their village destroyed by the ravages of the Beastlord's armies?

Those option and possibilities took as long to write as to think of. Any could get the PC involved in something. All of the party members should have these sorts of links back to the world around them. Ties of family and background to events and people that have bearing on the world, and the things happening in it.

But how to implement this, in a campaign that is already in progress? That's the question I suppose, and I don't yet have an answer.

More to come, I think. I've been talking with Jens today, and he very kindly sent me Lost Songs of the Nibelungs in so far as it exists at the moment. I have some reading and thinking to do on the systems he's using there. I have also been thinking about how to have an 'epic quest' when the party itself is such a flexible beast - in the 7 sessions of my current Rift City campaign, for example, I'm the only constant. All of the players have missed at least 1 session, and even some of the players that have been to around 5 or 6 sessions have lost PCs. But perhaps there's a way. I shall think on that too.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

And now a break for some commercial messages... (not really)

... though it is an advertisement of sorts.

I don't usually do this but I thought I would for this. So, an unpaid and unsolicited testimonial.

I posted a few weeks ago to say that it was my birthday in January. One of the things I received, from my brother, sister-in-law and nephew, was the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (the hardback rulebook) from Autarch Press.

A very fine book it is, and I expect that parts of it might see their way into my campaign at some point in the near future. After the current campaign is finished I may even run the next using ACKS.

Anyway, I noticed that it says on the back 'buy the hardback get the pdf for free', or words to that effect. That's not so unusual, the same is true of the Carcosa book from Lamentations of the Flame Princess that I was also given for my birthday.

However, because ACKS was bought by my sister-in-law, I needed to either get her to sort out the download or find which email address was linked to her account and yadda yadda. She's a bit busy so I thought it was easier to do it myself. Anyway, I emailed Autarch, and Alex from Autarch said yes, no problem, I could have the pdf. He seems like a cool guy, the email exchange we had at least shows he has a sense of humour. And I was told that I'd shortly get the download information.

Unfortunately something went wrong - I don't know what but I didn't receive the information for some reason. It possibly wasn't even Autarch's fault. But for whatever reason, I didn't get the download code. After some more weeks had passed, I contacted Autarch again to say that I hadn't had it, and could they re-send. Alex immediately emailed to apologise and said he'd be straight on it, and as a goodwill gift because I'd had to wait, said he'd give me access to the download of the Players' Companion book too. Sure enough in not-very-much-time, I had the codes and downloaded the main rulebook, the Players' Companion and something called Domains at War too.

Things go wrong. It happens, life is rarely perfect for long. What separates good service from bad service is how companies deal with things going wrong. Autarch could have made it much more difficult to access the downloads. They could have taken the view that the missing codes were not their fault and blamed DTRPG or Yahoo or anyone else. On the contrary, they took the view from the beginning that it was their business to sort this out and I think went above and beyond to make something right that might not even have been their fault.

So thanks Autarch (and Alex particularly)! I've already mentioned what I think are their excellent production values, and I can now say that I think they have excellent customer-service values too. They didn't have to be so awfully nice, even in terms of getting me the pdf they could have made that business much more complicated. They not only went beyond the minimum necessary, they went beyond it by a long way in my opinion, so hurrah to them. It's certainly left me with very warm and fuzzy feelings towards Autarch.

That's all, a return to the normal service of scratching my head and grumpily wondering what the hell I'm doing will resume shortly.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Questing in Elfgames II - LotR as D&D AKA 'Ring-Quest'

Following on from the last posts about the (lack of) epic scope in D&D, I'm looking at the relationship between D&D and the literature that is supposed to have spawned it. Out of everything, I'm most familiar with the work of Tolkien so that's where I'm going for the majority of my examples.

So I'll look particularly at LotR, from the perspective D&D. What happens in 'adventure' terms is Gandalf tells Frodo that Bilbo's Ring is the One Ring and that it must be destroyed. That's just a bit of backstory as a plot-hook. The meat of the matter is that Frodo is to meet Gandalf at Bree. After some preparation and prevarication, Frodo, Sam and Pippin travel towards Buckland. They meet a Black Rider, Gildor and his Elves, and Farmer Maggot. Then they meet Merry and Fatty. After that, Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin head into the Old Forest, to have adventures with Old Man Willow, Tom and Goldberry, Barrow-Wights (afterwards, they get proper armament during some tomb-looting) and on to Bree to meet Gandalf.

So apart from the 'proto-Fellowship' of Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pippin (and the missing Gandalf), we already have  potential PCs in Gildor Inglorion and some other Elves; Farmer Maggot and Grip, Fang and Wolf; Fatty Bolger; Tom Bombadil and Goldberry, who could all potentially have joined the 'party' (for what is the Fellowship if not a D&D party?).

But Gandalf isn't at Bree. They meet Strider who offers to take them to Rivendell. Meanwhile, more Black Rider action. They set off across country. In a beautiful touch (in my opinion) they find the cave of Bilbo's trolls (the relationship between The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings is more than I can go into here, but it provides a nice backstory at least). More encounters with Ringwraiths ensue. Then the party meets Glorfindel and the race to the ford is on.

So - the Hobbits' original quest is small: take the Ring to Bree. Even then Fatty doesn't come; and Schrodinger's Fellowships of Farmer Maggot and his dogs, Gildor, Tom and Golberry must remain entirely speculative. The next stage of the quest - really a new quest - is 'take the Ring to Rivendell'. During this phase the party is again joined by an Elf-lord, in this case Glorfindel (or Legolas or Arwen if you want to bring in the filmic versions, and why not, they're all potential narratives? In D&D terms, three DMs running this adventure had different PCs in the party here: the fact that JRR Gygax has Glorfindel maybe doesn't make a lot of difference. Maybe it does because the original story is listed in 'Appendix N'; I don't know, but it's a demonstration that the same story can be told differently).

Then at Rivendell something else happens. The Ring, it is decided, must go to Mordor. But the heroes - 4 Level 1 Halflings, a Level 6(?) Ranger-Paladin (Cleric in Basic D&D terms I think) and a highish-level Magic User - are joined by a Dwarf, an Elf and a (Human) Fighter. But, that means Legolas, Gimli and Boromir must subsume their own quests to the 'Ring-Quest'. For Boromir that's OK - his quest was to go to Rivendell to understand the prophetic dreams he and Faramir were having. They were linked with the Ring anyway - and the 'Ring-Quest' is leading him back home. For Legolas and Gimli, the links are more tangential, and the quest would end up taking them far from home. Yes, the mysterious Dark Messenger that had arrived at Erebor was sent by Sauron. Yes, Gollum's escape was orchestrated by Sauron's agents. It's all linked. But the 'Ring-Quest' was not Gimli's, Legolas's or even Boromir's to begin with.

Looking at Legolas for an example... in D&D terms, there is a party of Elves whose task is to hunt for and then guard an enemy spy - they're helped by a higher-level NPC ranger and NPC wizard (because to a PC everyone else is an NPC... Legolas doesn't know they're PCs in a different adventure). They have a fight with Orcs, the prisoner escapes, so they must hunt him, but also go and tell the other Elf-Lords that the prisoner has escaped... once at the stronghold of the 'other' Elf-Lord they have the possibility of a side-quest to find some lost travellers (Bakshi the DM's use of Legolas in place of Glorfindel trying to find the Hobbits here). Then there's a big meeting and a new quest is proposed - the 'Ring-Quest'. The Legolas PC volunteers for this quest.

Is there a way to simulate this in Elfgames? Along with the Wandering Monsters and Random Treasure, is there a way to generate these 'big-scale' evolving plots, in any meaningful way that preserves player agency? It should go without saying that PCs are puppets only of their players, not of 'fate' (ie the DM), and should only have control taken from them in relatively-trivial short-lived situations (eg being under a magical compulsion such as a spell, or a cursed Ring of course).

It should also go without saying that actions should have consequences. Frodo taking the Ring to Mount Doom saved the West. Likewise, Schrodinger's Frodo not taking the Ring to Mount Doom allowed the Nazgul to seize it and return it Sauron. Alternatively, Gildor took it to Tom and they took it to Rivendell, where the Council of Elrond proceeded very differently. PCs should be allowed to refuse quests, or 'do them differently', as Gildor, Fatty, Tom, Goldberry, Barliman, Glorfindel, Erastor, Elladan, Elrohir and Elrond himself (for example) all demonstrate.

There is something like the standard D&D character-path in LotR, to be fair, but it's way in the background and almost totally unexplored. Aragorn's previous career as Thorongil, effectively a wandering soldier in the south; Boromir's earlier service in the army of Gondor; Aragorn, Elladan and Elrohir as Imladrian exterminators, going and breaking up Orc-infestations in the Trollshaws and Misty Mountains: all of these somewhat resemble the way D&D is played, but these are only the background to the story, not the story itself.

What this might imply is that, when they get to higher levels, PCs might be involved in something like the Ring-Quest. Levels 1-5 of D&D are 'the bit before the book happens', or something like that. But it might also imply that in terms of the Lord of the Rings, the PCs are Sir Not Appearing in the Film, and it's the 'other' characters that get the story - rather than one of the PCs, it's the NPC in the inn that the PCs didn't hire as a guide that turns out to be the lost heir of the Ancient Kingdom... the rival NPC party going the other way in the caves is the one that has the world-spanning adventure and confronts the Dark Lord after levelling up 7 times, etc.

Either way, D&D is not simulating fantasy literature. The stories we read are not the stories we are generating for the PCs. The party is not a group of heroes: the party isn't 'The Fellowship of the Ring', it's the 'Fellowship of the Freelance Pest-Controllers', which of course you've never heard of, because no-one wrote about them (except Ghostbusters obviously... but even then the Ghostbusters get to save New York, which is like getting to save Minas Tirith as a first adventure... which First Level party gets to do that?). It's either 'to early' in the career of the hero/heroes, in which case the PCs don't get to do epic stuff until half-way through the 'Expert' set and all the early stuff is just a bit of background, or the PCs, and/or the things they are doing, are not important enough to feature in the fantasy literature at all.

So is level the problem? Is it that fantasy literature is actually about 9th Level characters? I don't think it is. The Hobbits (all of them), the characters in the Many Coloured Land or the Fionavar Tapestry or Daggerspell or Magician or the Forge in the Forest or The Belgariad are 1st Level, surely? Some have particular skills or talents but mostly they are just starting out. They have help and guidance from people who know more about the world (Gandalf, Loren, Belgarath or whoever) but the 'heroes' are just beginners mostly.

Is it then that there aren't enough 'mentors' or 'patrons' around? Is the stricture not to go adventuring with mixed-level parties a part of the problem? Could it be that we need more 9th Level wizards telling the PCs legends and the history of magic artifacts and warning them about Dark Lords and digging out lost heirs... or even being lost heirs? Or can the PCs do that themselves without a Gandalf or a Loren Silvercloak or a Belgarath, a Dain Ironfoot or Thranduil or Elrond, without some lord to send them on a mission or magical mentor to help guide them? Maybe, as many characters in literature have this, PCs need a patron to give them quests (this is what the guy who gives you missions in Traveler is called... "Responding to a job advert, you meet at a sleazy spacers' bar near the Starport - a thin balding man approaches and introduces himself as Alan Eborp before offering you a ...").

Let's assume there are 100 quests started every year. If only one is legendary (ie written about) every 50 years (for example) then there must be 4,999 quests in that time that aren't important enough. But the one that is written about should be the PCs' quest. The story that the PCs are involved in should (surely?) be the most important one around.

Or is this all completely wrong? Ignoring 'Appendix N' and all the rest, the claims that D&D is a game where the DM and players write a fantasy novel, is D&D (or anything like it) really that game?

OK - a caveat: in D&D there must be the possibility (should be an even chance at a guess but explaining why I think that would probably take another post) that the quest will get to the Dead Marshes/edge of Fangorn, and the Nazgul on the Fell Beast finds Frodo and Sam/Grishnakh kills Merry and Pippin. It should be possible for the PCs to fail. But it should be possible for them to fail at massive and heroic things, rather than failing at tiny and insignificant things.

If Tolkien had written a short story about how some young men (or young Hobbits, I don't mind) had been spooked by sinister horsemen and run away to the woods and never come back, that would be fine. If the story had been that, it would have assumed a Lovecraftian significance I think (what's in the woods? Who are the mysterious black riders?). That's OK, you can start to build a game on that. But the 'heroes' would be the investigators who go and find out what's really going on... and then perhaps have to fight off the Nazgul and become Ringbearers themselves... so 'Ring-Quest' continues, with different protagonists.

I don't know. Pratchett says that stories want to be told. Why then are fantasy games such a resistant medium to telling them?

Jens has turned me on to the 'Random Narrative Generator'. This is a good thing - it beats just checking the 'Big List of RPG Plots' and hoping for the best. Not that there is anything wrong with the Big List of RPG Plots. But Jens has integrated a list of story-themes into a set of tables that can be directly plugged into the setting - with a bit of thinking about how they integrate into the 'story', such as it might be. They will be my new way to generate plot across different scales and I'll give the players the opportunity to join in with them. I shall try this out and maybe it can start to push me towards answering some of these questions.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Questing in Elfgames, and the games we aren't playing

I have to admit to a little dissatisfaction at the moment.

Not with my players or the campaign - things are going about as well as they can, people keep coming back, the players are getting really involved in things that are going on (hunting for beetle-glands for local wizards, rescuing Gnome-slaves of the nefarious Orcs, searching for ancient weapons mentioned by shady 'legitimate businessmen', and whatnot).

Nor is it really the ruleset. For me Moldvay Basic is the single best introduction to D&D. Things will be added once the PCs get past 3rd Level for sure, but for the moment almost everything is handled through that slim red book. It's a simple, flexible system, and I think it does what it does really well.

But it doesn't do what it doesn't do.

It's great for dungeon-bashing. That is what the party is up to. In the setting that the PCs are in, there is a cave-complex about two miles from a largish but very recent town - a kind of gold-rush sort of place, built on adventurers exploring the caves. There's scope for the party to get involved in 'the town game' if they want, with factions, feuds, guilds, politics, weirdness and shenanigans should the PCs want to scratch the surface. If they don't, that's also fine, they can play using only the surface and concentrate on the nearby caves (a sort of megadungeon). In other words, the 'town game' can entirely be used to generate rumours and hooks for more dungeoneering (where is the stolen loot from the merchant caravan? Somewhere in the caves! What's this about a kidnapped noblewoman? She's somewhere in the caves! etc).

And that's all great. That's totally in line with how the campaign is supposed to run. I set it up like this to be an open table where players can drop in and drop out, and that dictates the structure. Every 'morning', the PCs troop out of Rift City and go to the Rift where the monsters are. They explore, fight, loot, puzzle and ponder, fight some more, hopefully find more loot and don't die too often, then come home of an evening after a hard day at the Orc-face and take their boots off in front of the fire. If they can be bothered, in the 'evening' (ie, between sessions) they message me to say 'Noggin the Dwarf goes to an inn where adventurers gather and tries to find out if anyone knows about Ulfang the Kobold Lord', or 'Crimp the Thief talks to Madame Nightshade about the poison he found', or 'Jorgar the Fighter goes to the weapon-dealers' shops and tries to sell the armour we looted' or whatever). That generates further involvement in what's going on - more rumours, more gold, more contacts. It's all working pretty well, I think. But if they want to, they could completely ignore the caves and just get involved in what's around town. It's pretty robust and gives a lot of choices to the players. That's obviously all good.

What I'm dissatisfied with I think is D&D. But, honestly, I don't know anything better. It remains the game I've played longest, and most, and am most familiar with, and my players are probably most familiar with (though a couple of them haven't played Basic before, and some started with Mentzer not Moldvay, so... I dunno, maybe it's just me that's most familiar with Moldvay).

What I want - and this is why 'games we aren't playing' - is not a game where players are pest-controllers who 'go to work' in the dungeon, but a game with something of the epic scope of the fantasy literature that supposedly inspired the game. Conan didn't start by clearing all the ruins/dungeons/temples in a 5-mile radius of some town; the Fellowship didn't set up camp outside of Moria and raid it every day, returning back to camp at night. Perhaps the closest match to the way D&D is generally played is the Lankhmar series, where Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser often travel out of Lankhmar to kick monster-butt (though I'm totally prepared to accept that D&D is nothing to do with fantasy literature and much more to do with a 'heroic' tactical-simulation wargame as this post on Unbalanced and Pointless argues - this is very much related to my point that D&D is perhaps not the game I want right now. It's also perhaps related to noisms asking 'what's the blogosphere for right now?' in this post).

What I want is a game where PCs have 'quests'. PCs (who cannot then just be selfish) involved in epic world-spanning plots. How to marry this to player agency? I don't know. How to marry it (even more importantly) to busy lives and uncertain schedules, well I don't know that either. But I want something that puts 'dungeoneering' in the context of a bigger story. Thorin's Company went into the Goblin-tunnels sure (though not by choice). But they didn't even know they were there. They were journeying from one side of the mountains to the other. The Goblin-tunnels were not 'the point' - taking back Erebor for Durin's Folk was the point, travelling through the Goblin-tunnels was an incident on the way.

Same with the Fellowship - the journey through Moria (and Sam and Frodo in Shelob's Lair, and the Grey Company at the Paths of the Dead) were the result of trying to do something else. Jill and Eustace and Puddleglum in Bism; Taran and co in the passages under Spiral Castle or the mines in the Eagle Mountains; Dolgan and his companions in Magician; were going through the caves and tunnels of the underworld because they were trying to go somewhere else to do something more important. They all had quests that compelled them to go to dark and dangerous (and wondrous) places, rather than those places being the reason for their quest. The 'dungeons' were a means to an end (travelling for the sake of the greater quest) rather than the object of the quest itself.

So what would this 'quest' game look like? I'm not really sure. Of course that means I'm not sure I can't do it with D&D. But it would be D&D with a particular set of assumptions in place. First, that play is directed to a particular goal, which would progressively change. Second that players would generally stick to that goal (PCs might come and go but 'the Quest' must continue). I don't even know yet what other assumptions I need but they're sufficiently different to how D&D is usually played that they'd require a lot of thinking about before even commencing.

Maybe the PCs need to take a message in person to the King of the Elves or deliver a young noble to a distant castle to be married or transport three dragon-eggs to a Princess of the Horse-People. I don't know. But there must, surely, be a way to generate over-arching narratives to make play more than just violent shopping at the local cave-mall.

More will come (that's a prophecy)...

Monday, 19 February 2018

Rift City session 7

The party was joined by two new members for this session - one the result of Sven's player needing a new PC (Daisy, a Halfling) and another as a result of a new player joining us for this session (Karensa, an Elf). So that meant the party this time around was Daisy (Halfling), Karensa (Elf), Berg (Dwarf), Gwynthor (Cleric), Galen (Elf), Gibbet (Thief), Polly (Magic User), Frost (Fighter) and Cnut (Fighter).

First thing was trying to get back to the general area where the party was before. Their map, because these caves aren't in straight lines and 90° angles, is 'a bit wonky'. Corridors don't necessarily join up when they should. But it was OK, they got there.

The first encounter they had was with some Kobolds. There have been several groups of Kobolds in this area before now. This is because this area of the cave-system is the base of two groups, the Orc-Kobold alliance, and the Death Cult with its undead minions. These two factions are in alliance, though neither really trusts the other. They are united however against another dungeon faction that the PCs haven't really encountered yet, the Goblin-Drow axis. Of course there are no Drow/Dark Elves in B/X or BECMI, but that doesn't really matter. These Drow are Chaotic Elves who live underground and like spiders. They have corrupted the local Goblin leaders to their spider-cult, and formed an alliance with them against the Orcs.

The Goblins that the PCs have met so far refused to accept the new Elvo-Arachnoid order and were driven out. They have in fact been exiles eking out a marginal existence in the spaces between the other factions. The Orcs don't really care however if the Goblins worship Maglubiyet or Lolth, they regard both groups as enemies. The Death Cult (the Cult of the Wraith Princess, centred around necromancy and ancestor-worship) is also opposed to the cult of Lolth.

So what it boils down to is two main groupings: Orcs-Kobolds-Acolytes-Undead against Goblins/Hobgoblins-Elves-Spiders. If the PCs venture further south they will probably run into the Goblins. If they go further west, they'll run into Cultists and Undead, then more Kobolds and Orcs.

Going down a level inside the caves will lead (from the Goblin caves) to more Goblins and some Bugbears, and also some weirdness that I've barely started to comprehend at the moment... a re-skinned evil Treant that is controlling some of the Goblins via its drugged fruit. From the Orc caves going deeper is liable to lead to more undead but also some Ogres.

However, there are other ways in - the cave-system is built into the side of a valley and has maybe 30 entrances, with those nearer the bottom of the valley being the more dangerous. The PCs have so far entered about 5 of these entrances, all on the 'left' (uphill) side of the road. There are more caverns to explore on the left, but there are also caverns below the road to the right. Further on, the road loops back at a lower level, providing access to the lower-level caves where it's rumoured a Minotaur (possibly, in this campaign world, a 'Minrotaur', as it may be named after the legendary Minros, once the king of the Minrothad Islands) and a Dragon dwell, among other powerful monsters.

But at the moment, the caverns the PCs are exploring are Level One caves on the left (South, up-hill) side of the road. So, Orcs, Kobolds, Skeletons and Acolytes are going to be what they run into up there. and indeed this is pretty much the roll-call of monsters that they encountered.

First, the Kobolds: skirmishers moved back by the Orcish chief into the previously-cleared caves. They didn't wait to be massacred and when the party dropped a few, the rest ran off after a very failed morale check. The party pursued - but the Kobolds were tricksy, leading them to a guard-room of Acolytes. The Kobolds vanished - somewhere - while the PCs fought the Acolytes. It wasn't ever going to be a fair fight - there were only 5 of the cultists (in plate and shield to be sure) but there were 9 in the party, also for the most part in plate and shield. And the Acolytes had no missile weapons or magic. So the party managed to see them off pretty quickly. They then stripped the bodies and piled up the armour hoping to take it home to sell.

In a nearby room - Skeletons! This is part of the complex patrolled by the Death Cult after all. Necromancy isn't just a fun family pastime for these guys, its their sacred duty. Until all the cultists are driven off the undead will just keep coming round here. This is something like the 5th encounter with undead the PCs have had in 7 sessions, and like all the other groups of Skeletons, the party made short work of these too. Skeletons are much less likely to fail morale checks of course, but that just means they are stupider than Kobolds. They haven't got any brains you see.

After smashing the Skellies it was back to the job at hand. The Kobolds however had fled, so the party made the quite sensible decision I think to go a different way - away from the part where everyone was warned they were coming. So, they crept down a corridor they'd not explored before - a properly-constructed straight corridor this one, running due west. After about 80' or so, there was a turning to the right and just past that a door to the left. They checked out the door to the left first - Orcs! Several of them! I can't actually remember off hand how many, 5 I think, but enough to cause a temporary headache anyway. Particularly to Berg, who got herself killed. Luckily the party dispatched the Orcs and tried first aid which meant Berg's condition was upgraded from 'dead' to 'very poorly'. Daisy was also injured in the affray. She and Berg stayed in the room with the dead Orcs while the rest of the party went round the corned to check out the other passage.

There was another door there - Skeletons! In a room with some stone coffins and a few more dead bodies (luckily not more undead). The PCs smashed these Skellies too, and looted the room (including a stash of silver hidden under a flagstone), then went back to Berg and Daisy.

Finding out that Berg was at least conscious they made the decision to leave while they were all still alive. Pausing only to pick up the armour, they were attacked by Fire Beetles (not part of the factions in the dungeon amazingly, just some wandering wildlife)!

Fire Beetles have been on the party's hit-list since hearing a rumour that a MU was paying cash for 'interesting monster parts'. So they harvested as many fire-glands as they could and took them home too. Polly the Magic User was particularly pleased as she's been trying to find some monster parts for weeks to trade with Gisuintha the Magic User. As a professional courtesy, I suppose.

Just time to divide the loot back at the city and tally up the XP, and the session was over... who knows what will happen next time?