Saturday, April 11, 2015

Southern Reaches: Session 11 - Castle of the Mad Archmage 8 - Ogres, Giants, and Illegal Barricades

Last night we played another session of the Swords & Wizardry B-Team, GMed by Erik Tenkar, in the Castle of the Mad Archmage.

We had three players last night - me, Douglas Cole, and Tim Shorts. We hadn't managed to get a session in since January, which was with the same trio.

Naturally Doug posted a summary so fast the virtual dice weren't even done bouncing from the last roll. It's excellent - go read it.

Swords and Wizardry - You can't roll a ballista up a 5% slope

Erik Tenkar discussed it as well, about how he turned it up to 11.


Minister the Morale-Breaker, Half-elf 5/4 Cleric/Magic-User (Tim Shorts)
Mirado Giant Slayer, Human 6 Fighter (me)
Rul "Woodknocker" Scararm, Human 6 Fighter (Douglas Cole)

We bought potions in Town and headed back to level 3, after a long discussion to pinpoint what the heck level we left off on.

We headed to some partly-explored tunnels near where we'd fought the giant and killed off the Grateful Undead. We ended up starting next to some stairs down we'd found.

We opened one door - the second we'd tried for the day. The first defeated us, despite the three of us all having ST 17. The door we managed to open had some non-hostile seeming zombies in it. Mirado said, "Hail, rotting denizens of the underworld!" but they didn't respond. What the heck, yo, Gary sent us. We closed the door, which is Mirado's SOP for anything that isn't made of, or carrying, money.

We found a secret door, which as far as we could tell, led nowhere except a short tunnel. We assumed there was a secret door on the other end, but the dice assured us that there wasn't.

The next door was a bit further on. In it we found a wild-haired Beethoven-looking bust stood in the room, and offered us a word puzzle. It was trivial enough so Mirado answered it, and we received a brass key. I made off-topic "in C Minor" jokes, here. They didn't fly. Tough crowd.

We moved on, kicked down doors and finding little, until we stumbled across a stunjelly. We cut it apart in a few rounds, but not before it paralyzed poor Rul. We dragged him back and used him as a clothes rack in the Beethoven room until we was unparalyzed.

Next, we blundered into some orcs led by an ogre, who weren't surprised by us because they opened the door while we stood around wondering why "5" is the only number we get when we need a 1-4 on a d6. We won initiative and pretty much butchered them. In about two rounds we'd killed the ogre, killed six orcs, put three to Sleep, and convinced the other three to surrender.

We dragged the lot into their room, and looted them. Mirado attempted to convince the orcs to follow us. It worked, sort of, but when Mirado woke the sleeping lot they weren't convinced that Mirado was the chief. "A" chief, they said. Nope. Off with his head. Next? Same thing. Off with his head.

For some reason, the other orcs didn't think Mirado was being very leader-like and fled. One revealed a secret door, leading to the place we'd assumed there was one.

We continued on and followed one screaming orc to some stairs down. But then, a hill giant, two ogres, and a bunch of orcs burst out of a room ahead of us.

Minister fireballed them, wounding the three big guys and toasting the three or five lead orcs (I can't remember now). Mirado put a throwing axe into the hill giant. Then it was melee time.

Melee went badly, but not terribly. Mirado relentlessly refused to a) be hit and b) be hit, which helped a lot. It was close, though, to a TPK. First, Minister went down after horribly wounding an ogre with his morningstar and then his Magic Missile spell. The hill giant went down, but then so did Rul, and Mirado only won the fight with a small amount of HP left (about 16) and a simultaneous strike with the ogre.

The orcs never did enter the fray, cowed by our mighty magic, probably. Mirado kept threatening them with death if they approached. He fed a potion to Minister, who then fed one to Rul. Mirado almost went to take them on, but decided in the end not to. He's convinced to his soul that they had more loot in that room. As it was, Mirado took the giant's head and some gems and a belt worn on his arm like an armband. Turned out later to be a HP-boosting Belt of Fortitude.

We retreated to the surface to recover.

The (real world) night was young, so we went back in.

The orcs had barricaded off the ways to their area. We made jokes about leaving a note telling them the barricade was illegal and needed to be removed. We then tore another one apart. We found seven giant centipedes in the mess. That was actually worrying, since a failed save would kill one of us. We still managed to kill them off, with only a bite to Minister, who was able to shrug it off.

The orcs had set up a gigantic siege engine to shoot at us. They missed (a 17, against Mirado's AC 18), and ran. We torched it with flaming oil and hacked the rope off of it, too, for good measure. The orcs tossed a spear at us, too, as we moved in to where they'd been with the giant - empty. Okay, more searching - empty orc barracks, empty rooms, and not much of anything.

We eventually found a room with three statues. Rul and Minister went in to search, the door shut on them, and one statue turned out to be a mimic. They pretty much beat the heck out of it, and Mirado was unable to get back in (truth is, I had a 1-in-6 chance to open the door, and each check was a 1-in-6 chance of wandering monsters. So, no.) Rul and Minister did fine, and opened the door after all of that.

We found only a couple more places - some dead ends, a room with a lurker above that we dealt lots of damage to before it grabbed Rul and started to smoosh him. We finished it off, though.

We kicked open one final door, and the walls were adorned with olde tyme theater masks, which began to speak to us. Mirado handled this in the traditional fashion - he closed the door. Erik shared the puzzle with us, since we'd abandoned it. We headed home.


All in all, fun session. Almost getting killed in the ogre-and-giant brawl was excellent stuff. Lots of fun. What I game for, besides the fun of hanging out with people I liked a lot.

I really wanted to attack the orcs, but with both of the others down, it seemed like a bad idea. But it felt like it was a good time to crack their morale and rout them and get more treasure. Mirado did take the giant's head, so I should uprgrade my "head-flail" perhaps, don't you think?

I had a good claim on the Belt of Fortitude, but I need +6 HP a heck of a lot less than Minister needs +5. Any doubt on that score was settled when Doug chimed in too saying Minister needed it. So over his objections that a front-line fighter should get it, Minister was given the belt. Good thing - that might make the difference between life and death for our life-saving cleric/magic-user. This only serves the make the every-man-for-himself magic item jealousy of some of the old-time game stories sound weird. We're team players to a fault.

The spell progressions for clerics in S&W are just weird - level 5, you have level 1 and 2 spells. Level 6, you get 1,2, 3 and 4th. Level 7? You get up to 5th. 6th level spells wait for level 11.

Single saving throws, ascending AC, and match-or-exceed AC using Attack Bonuses = a really simple system. The "roll low for doors, high for most other things" drives me nuts. I still like the door solution I suggested.

As always, we goofed on the Castle of the Mad Archmage, but we keep coming back to it. There is fun there, even if part of it is us making 5% slope jokes and filling "covered with two feet of dung" and adding ". . . in clown suits and carrying ukeleles" to the end of monster descriptions. Maybe partly because of.


  1. The humor of the 5% slopes disappears almost instantly when the players can't see the GM's map. :-) Then it becomes something of a mapping hell, which is intentional.

    1. I'm still 100% convinced a 5% slope is extremely obvious in real life. It's not a shallow slope.

      And mapping hell only occurs, in my experience, when you want your map to be a copy of the GM's map, not merely a functional way to prevent being lost.


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