Saturday, March 29, 2014

S&W in the Southern Reaches: Session 4 - Castle of the Mad Archmage 1

Last night the S&W B-Team made its debut visit to Joseph Bloch's Castle of the Mad Archmage. Erik Tenkar polled us to find out which megadungeon we wanted to raid, and we pretty universally chose that one. Turns out a lot of us have run other big dungeons but hadn't read this one.

And one thing before I begin - all published adventures in PDF form need a number-free "players" map the GM can import into a VTT and reveal piecemeal to the players.

Minister, Half-Elf Cleric/Magic-User (lvl 1) (Tim Shorts)
Mirado the Bloody, Human Fighter (lvl 3) (me)
     Redshirt #1 (lvl 0), human hireling (ring armor, spear, dagger, 5 HP)
     Redshirt #2 (lvl 0), human hireling (ring armor, spear, dagger, 5 HP)
     Torch Boy, 14-year old human (1 HP)
Rul Scararm, Human Fighter (lvl 2) (Douglas Cole)

We started out at the gates of the Castle of the Mad Archmage. Rul had wisely purchased some healing potions, and Mirado hired some hirelings.

The stairs down were guarded by two guardsman, who questioned us, sold us a license (12 gp for a year's adventuring) under the auspices of his lordship (name unknown to me), and took down our name - "Ogre Heads!" was what Rul shouted out and it stuck. Mirado spoke up and got considered the leader.

Mirado also gave them a couple gold to get some extra information out of them, mostly about a party of marauders* - a six-man mixed group (3 humans, halfling, elf, dwarf), also some dwarves and some elves that have been down there a while.

We took the spiral staircase down to level 1. We could have continued to level 2, and we briefly considered it. Mirado suggested we check around the staircase area on level 1, then head down if we didn't find anything. Later reflection that we had a fragile 1st-level guy with us kept us on the first level.

We started a "always go left" routine which mostly worked out, changing it up mainly to explore doors and take a brief look up side passages. We didn't get more than a hundred feet in when a half-dozen giant rats rushed us. They gnawed on the torch boy and dropped him to 0 HP, and hurt one of the redshirts before we cut them down. So we had to bandage up the boy and take him right back up to the surface. Mirado dropped him off and said to the guards, "He'll rest up here." They asked if he needed healing. Rul said yes, but Mirado vociferously said "NO!" - no way, that's a money grab, not an offer of free help. He'd be fine with rest.

We headed back down and continued to explore. The dungeon was a bit oddly layed out - lots of angled passages, trapped floors, tightly packed rooms, etc. We stumbled across a spear trap that winged one of the hirelings before we found a door at the end of a passage. We forced it open, and there was a rhino facing us!

Hah. No. Mirado didn't believe that for a second. He Disbelieved, make a great roll, and scoffed - "It's an illusion!" Sorry, rhino on level 1, no.

An exhaustive search of the room revealed a secret door, which we opened to find a two-way passage. We turned to the right and headed down, eventually finding a dung-filled room that we refused to search for 2000 cp in. Right after that, we heard marching feet and set up for a fight. Minister recognized the sound of the dwarven language, and we parlayed with the dwarves. There were 7 of them, and the lead dwarf (I forgot his name, it's written down at home) and we spoke in Common. They warned us of kobolds and told us they'd pay 5 gp an ear for kobolds and 100 gp for a chief's head - we'd know the chieftains by their beads. They also warned us about zvarts.

We couldn't get them to team up with us, so we decided to search in a different direction than the one they'd come from - which they said had kobolds in it. Mirado wasn't interested in fighting kobolds, so we headed back the way we came (and they did, too, ducking in the secret door to the rhino room.) We found a door and forced it open, and found 3 zombies.

Two had big sweaters on that read "STATE" and one had a beaver coat and a ukelele. So we attacked. It took a couple turns of fighting (and a 1 on a turning roll by Minister, He Whom The Dice Doth Despise - he'd roll a lot of 1s) we took them down. The ukelele was smashed but the beaver coat was recoverable, so we took it, bundling up a hireling in it. (It was his idea).

After that, working our way back to some passed-up side passages we found:

- a room with five rose bushes in it lit by continual light. Behind adventurers, we had Rul shoot them. Good thing, because under one we found a treasure map. If it's real, it's a quick hike and 3000 gp. If it's fake, it's an easy "yo man, I'll sell you my lottery ticket" sales job.

- a room with giant bluebottle flies in it. Minister flailed around in combat again, sadly (seriously, the dice roller hated him) but we managed to take them out with minimal difficulty. We found a silver dagger in some dried fly scat.

and then we started to search around close to the entrance again, trying to avoid the angled corridors for fear of more traps.

Another room had some 3 fire beetles in it (we killed them easily, and took their glow glands), We also found a gold ring with a ruby worth 75 gp.

After that, we found yet another room, this time with three battleaxe-wielding skeletons. Mirado opened the door too widely, allowing one to cut Rul. Rul retaliated by killing all three in a sweep of his Sword +1, +3 vs. Undead.

We tried the door and it was stuck, so Mirado tried to force it. Once it opened, we found ourselves facing two mail-armored men backed by a man in robes. They attacked, and Mirado ate a pair of Magic Missiles before we could strike back. We did, injuring one of the fighter-types but not the other. Lucky for us Minister chose at this point to reveal his other talent by throwing a Sleep spell, knocking the whole group of them out.

So we moved into the room, and quickly tied them up and gagged the wizard. After looting them - getting a nice dagger off the wizard, and finding a chest with 200 gp (stowed in Mirado's backpack) - Mirado woke up the injured fighter and questioned him. He turned out to be hired help, one of four originally. He rattled off his story about running from dwarves, kobolds, big beetles, maybe other things.Once it was clear he was just a hired hand, Mirado offered him (and his buddy) a job working for him. They'd get 10% of the take from their old boss, but Mirado offered only a bonus. Hey, it was worth asking - them for the 10%, Mirado for their services. But Mirado said then he'd just escort them to the surface. The guy did cough up something like "Why don't you take the boss's spellbooks?" and told us where he'd hidden them. So Minister found them under a stone, and took that. Plus, that dagger we found turned out to be +1, +2 vs. humanoids, so Minister kept that as well. Bootstrapping at its finest, baby.

Then Mirado cut off the wizard's head (no sense questioning him, because even tied up he could try Charm Person, so forget that). I finally remembered to ask Erik what it's like when Woundlicker wicks away a HP and gives it to me. Blood basically flows into the blade and Mirado feels warm. Nice. I said "Mirado always heard those tales of fighters with evil swords, and he never thought it would happen to him." Tim: "He's living the dream." Damn right!

So we escorted the prisoners to the surface, gave them back their weapons, and bid them good day. Then we tried a couple more rooms. One turned out to be to a maze of doors, which closed automatically and needed forcing. Bleh. Some other time.

A little more searching turned up a room with 10 giant rats (quickly slain), and a gold bracelet in their refuse.

After that it was getting late, so we just went up to the surface and called it a day. Rul has the treasure list and needs to parcel it out, and we owe 5% of that to the lordship(s) of Sanctuary.

At the end, Mirado handed out 5 gp bonuses to each of the two redshirts for their help, since they were pretty useful and didn't die. I forgot to mention it but he's also giving the torchboy some extra money, too - 1 gp - with instructions to go buy some milk and drink it. That boy needs HP. He can come back when he's a bit beefed up.

* Marauders - Mirado's term for other adventurers. We are adventurers, they are marauders. We bravely salvage treasure from the evil hordes, they plunder hapless underdwellers of their wealth.


"Headhunters" would have been a better name for us. And I guess being 3rd level and on my fourth adventure makes me senior and thus the nominal leader. Mirado would like that.

Notes: I didn't name the hirelings, but I just didn't feel like I had any good names handy. Next time I will.

I also treat my hirelings less like meatshields and more like valuable commodities. I held them out of battle when I could, because I figured we might come to a time when having them jump in or watch our back might be critical. I didn't want them dying uselessly.

I got to decide on one of my two bonus languages. Mirado now speaks Common and Orcish, and has one more slot to fill. I'm not sure what would be valuable.

The college zombies were kind of funny, but did kind of pull us out of the moment. We did end up talking WG7 vs. EX1 & EX2, and why one sucked and the others were cool. And it turns out Tim Shorts also converted those to GURPS once, too.

Mirado spared the prisoners (and paid out that bonus) with an eye to his future - a good rep for honesty and mercy can't help but get his name out there as a good boss. That should make it easier to find some hired help in the future, and ensure their loyalty.

Overall, this was by far the least productive session for Mirado in terms of magic items and loot and probably experience. But we've gotten a feel for the dungeon a little bit, and we can dare more when we're a bit larger of a group. Better to explore a bit and come home safe than to push too far and die trying to max out the loot. Plus it helps Erik, too, because he can just keep using the same dungeon and change it up a bit to reflect adventuring.

I'll update Mirado's sheet when I get a final tally on gold and xp.

I may have forgotten details, but chances are Doug and Tim haven't. Check their posts:
S&W B-Team Strikes Back: Castle of the Mad Archmage
Discovering the Amount of Poo You're Willing to Dig Through

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