Sunday, April 2, 2017

AD&D Session 1: White Plume Mountain (Part I)

So a while back, my players and I had this idea that we might consider giving White Plume Mountain a spin. Not with GURPS, which would change the challenge in significant ways, but with AD&D. So we pulled out the three hardback books and made characters like it was 1979.

One special request - NO SPOILERS IN THE COMMENTS PLEASE! I'll moderate them all because of this. My players have mostly played nothing of WPM except what they did today, and we're going to do a Part 2 and try to finish the delve. I don't want them to have to avoid the blog for weeks, skip the summary, or anything of that sort in order to avoid learning what's possibly ahead. I also don't want to change the adventure.

Faolan McDermot - Human Druid 8
Kamora, Lama of the Lioness - Human Cleric 7
Rockford - Dwarf Fighter 6 / Thief 6
Urf Nightsoil - Elf Magic-User 7
Wolfgang Reinhardt - Human Fighter 7

The PCs started outside of White Plume Mountain, clutching their copy of a bragging poem by someone claiming to be Keraptis, a wizard from some 1,300 years ago. They were weeking Blackrazor, Whelm, and Wave for their owners, variously described as important and wealthy collectors (and in Blackrazor's case, probably protectors keeping it from being used.) Their horses and campaign gear was stashed in Dead Gnoll's Eye Socket along with their henchmen and hirelings, and they headed into the Wizard's Mouth and cleared the muck over a trap door. They pried that open and climbed down a corroded metal ladder to a water-covered, muck-covered tunnel steaming and wheezing with vapor from the geyser-cored mountain.

The party was very careful, probing ahead with a 10' pole held by Rockford, flanked by Kamora and Wolfgang, backed by McDermot and Urf Nightsoil. They traveled slowly thanks to a foot of water (with algae floating in it) over the floor. Also, the water slowed them to 4" move thanks to a heavily-laden cleric.

They reached a wall of force ahead of a three-way intersection and a gynosphinx squatting the water. She told them she could take the wall down and let them pass if they guessed her riddle. She recited it, and they answered - Kamora got the answer out first, but at least two other PCs were only a split-second behind in calling it out. The gynosphinx took down the wall, and let them pass. Urf tried flirting with her, but to no avail.

They decided to head left, figuring they could grab Blackrazor first, since they had a fighter who could use it to help them recover Wave and Whelm.

They probed along and found a submerged pit. They dealt with that by hammering in a spike in the wall, stringing rope to it, and sending the druid swimming across with the rope tied to him (he had a Necklace of Adaptation so he wasn't worried about sucking in some water.)

They reached a corridor lined with copper plates. Investigation and Detect Magic didn't tell them anything, and some careful probing found no trap triggers. They quickly found it was heating up metal! They decided to just make a run for it down the end. Those without metal armor got scorched and took some damage - those wearing plate mail took a lot of damage. Kamora paused to put Fire Resistance on herself, which cut the damage down a lot in the long run. They slogged to the end, Kamora trailing. Urf's Bracers of AC 6 burned him badly, and Wolfgang's plate mail hurt him. They reached the end, and a secret door opened and eight ghouls spilled out to attack them in a confused point-blank melee.

This almost become a TPK right here. Three PCs got paralyzed as Wolfgang kept missing easy to hit rolls, PCs got slashed and bitten, and Urf tossed off two Magic Missile spells but split them up. Kamora rumbled up badly injured and tried to turn undead, but Keraptis's magic forestalled that and he was forced to melee. In the end McDermot transformed into a bear to maul the ghouls, Urf went down to 1 HP (he was at 6 and took 5 on multiple hits!) and fled the fight to hurl darts at the ghouls. He nailed every hit with the darts, MrDermot clawed and bit the ghouls. All eight went down, leaving both McDermot and Urf at 1 HP and everyone else paralyzed! (No turning? Unfair. Fun, though)

I ruled ghoul paralysis lasts 1d turns and rolled a 3. The PCs quaffed potions and sweated out three wandering monster rolls before the others could move freely again. They healed up more, using up all of their healing spells(!) and most of their healing.

(The players just started laughing about how they'd gone one whole room and been defeated. Then they moved on.)

They climbed some stairs out of the water, and found a door. Everyone failed their door opening rolls, so they resorted to a Knock spell off of a scroll.

Next up, they found a room with two pits full of razor-sharp yet rusty blades flanking and edged with frictionless floors, walls, and ceilings. They eventually lit up a bullseye lantern to see the far wall, and shot some arrows down to confirm what they saw. The arrows went through - illusionary wall? "That's non-standard for a frictionless pit room," said Rockford.

They tried a Potion of Flying but it would not work in the room (again, unfair but fun). So they eventually sent McDermot across the room in bald eagle form to check the far side, then ferry over a rope, spike, and hammer. He shifted back into human form and hammered in a spike and tied off the rope. They climbed hand-over-hand using the frictionless wall to slide along the wall.

After that, they moved further into the dungeon and found a T, and turned left. They made it to a door. Kamora cast Augury and asked what would going beyond that door mean. "Great risk, but that which you seek is beyond it." So in they went.

They found an inverted ziggurat with alternating levels of dry and wet, with giant crayfish, giant scorpions, sea lions (merlions), and clipped-wing manticores.

They backed off and send in McDermot to talk to the manticores. After all, they are intelligent and McDermot speaks manticore (great choice by someone who had never even seen the cover of WPM before the game.) He negotiated a peaceful safe passage by the manticores and their aid to get revenge against their evil master that clipped their wings. Unfortunately, this was a lie - the manticores were charmed and just lying like crazy (they're lawful, but they're charmed and pledged to their evil master and just tried to convince food to come to them.)

They found this out when they decided to get down to the bottom by having Wolfgang drink a Potion of Growth and stepping down the dry levels with Invisibility to Animals on while the PCs clustered the monsters near them by standing on the edge of the top level. He carried McDermot down, but as soon as he put him down the manticores attacked. McDermot got mauled and Wolfgang nailed with some spikes. Wolfgang managed to pull McDermot out of the level but they took spikes and lots of damage. Rockford shot one twice with his light crossbow, taking some spikes in return (they shot really well, given the range penalties). McDermot, though, was taken to negative HP by spikes and dropped. With everyone clear, Urf tossed a fireball down into the put for 29 damage. (Wolfgang and Urf wanted to start with that approach, by the way). That badly wounded the manticores - the big one failed to save but had plenty of HP, the other two saved and managed to hang on to life. The glass for the merlion level mostly melted and shattered, pouring water down. A Magic Missile spell told for one of the manticores and wounded another, and bow fire from Wolfgang and crossbow fire from Rockford finished the other.

The PCs brought Kamora down and she cast Dispel Magic on a force wall in front of the door. The water forced it open and it began to rapidly go down. Wolfgang ferried the others down and they spent some time shooting the merlions, killing two and blocked the others from flopping over to kill them.

They moved down the corridor exposed by the opened door and found another door. They listened and heard nothing, so they opened it up.

Inside was a sumptuously appointed room with a doughty halfling warrior inside. They spoke with him. His name was Quesnef, and he'd lost a bet with "the master of this place" and had to guard "his treasure" for 1,001 years. He'd been there for centuries, and he was really bored. He told them they could put the druid on a nice divan to rest (since he had been below 0 HP, and was incapacitated despite stabilizing bandaging), and chatted with them. They asked about Blackrazor. "I can't talk about that." "Can you tell us if it's here?" "I really can't talk about it." "Can you tell me where it's sheath is?" "Clever," said Quesnef. "I'm a wizard, too," said Urf.

So he said, "It's under that divan." They went to look, Urf grabbing a scroll case and Wolfgang eyeing a jeweled scabbard with a bastard sword in it. Rockford decided to take advantage of everyone looking that way to fade into the shadows with his Cloak and Boots of Elvenkind. As they went for the items, Quesnef said, "I can't let you leave with that. Sorry about this." He suddenly split into four mirror images.

Urf dropped the scroll and yanked out his Wand of Negation. Rockford hid more. Wolfgang grabbed Blackrazor. Quesnef tried Charm Person on Wolfgang, who resisted and grabbed the blade. Urf shot at Quesnef's left hand, thinking his walking stick cast the spell - he got his ring and cancelled its effects. Kamora cast Prayer.

Quesnef responded with a Cone of Cold that hit McDermot, Urf, and Wolfgang and did 29 damage. Even with saves, that killed McDermot and Urf outright, taking both to -10 HP (or less, even). Wolfgang would live with a save, but missed it and died, also below -10 HP.

Rockford backstabbed Quesnef and did solid damage (14, I think) and Kamora hit him with his mace. Quesnef cast Darkness and swiped Kamora with a claw a moment later. Claw? Oh no, claws, big, darkness, cold ray . . . ogre magi? Yep. In the darkness, despite all of the penalties, Kamora nailed Quesnef twice with a Staff of Striking and Rockford cut him with his sword a few times. That was it - they managed to kill him.

They gathered up the loot - money, jewelry, a healing potion (which Kamora insisted Rockford drink), and Blackrazor. Oh, and some magical plate mail. They took the lot, stripped the gear off their friends and stuffed their bodies into a Bag of Holding, and thought about what to do as they searched for a secret door out - no, they had to go back the way they came.

(At this point, it was getting late. I asked if we should wrap this up, or if people wanted to play a second session with reinforcements. They voted the latter. So I said, if you get to the sphinx and the intersection, we'll pause there and pick up in another session.)

They used Urf's Potion of Polymorph (Self) to turn Kamora into a Roc and fly out of the ziggurat, and then waited out the duration. Then they went back to the frictionless room and ferried the gear across. No wandering monsters turned up.

In the heated hallway they tried to drag their armor but it burned through their cloak. So they resorted to kicking, pushing, and otherwise prodding their gear back. Again, no wandering monsters.

They walked confidently to the sunken pit, never mentioning it. I announced they'd fallen in, but Rockford's player said, "We didn't see the rope? We were looking for that rope along the wall." Ah, yeah, fair enough, they had left it there to get back and as a specific clue.

They went past the pit hand-over-hand, hanging on and dragging themselves along the wall. They just limped back to the intersection where the sphinx sat . . . and I finally rolled a 1 on the d12 for wandering monsters. A pair of bugbears came around the corner. We rolled a 1 for the PCs to be surprised - 1 segment of surprise. The bugbears rushed them. Rockford's Reaction Adjustment negated the surprise segment on him, but Kamora took a hit from a spiked club. They melee'd the bugbears. Kamora managed to badly wound one and Rockford wound his, then Kamora took a couple of hits and dropped at 0 HP. Rockford dueled the last two, killing one quickly and then slowly fighting the other before finally landing a pair of minimum-damage rolls - but that was still enough to kill it.

We'll pick up there next time, with Kamora in bad shape and Rockford wounded but steady . . . and with a load of henchmen who'd been waiting upstairs coming down to help finish the job.


We originally had three additional players set to play today. Then within 24 hours, our host had to drop out because he was needed at work. That took out a 7th level dwarf fighter with 18/something high Str. We shifted to another player's house, but that was too far away for another player, who had an event he was running. That took out a 6th level human paladin. Finally, because things came up, we lost a drop-in from an occasional player of ours and lost an elven 5/5/6 F/M-U/T.

With all of that happening 24 hours out, it was too late to really adjust by giving out more levels. I tossed in some extra magic items (a few more potions, and another magic weapon.) Still, it meant the PCs were really on the bottom edge of the power curve for this adventure. I'll post the details of character generation, magic items, etc. as we go.

I didn't use a GM screen today. Well, I did, I lay one down flat and used it for the charts. I concealed monster HP but otherwise rolled things in front of everyone. It was a lot of fun doing that, although had I had a screen keeping things organized would have been easier.

47 turns in the dungeon, and one wandering monster roll on the very last one I made. Heh.

We really enjoyed this. It was fun - we laughed at, and with, all of the odd quirks of AD&D. Tables for everything, often with different sub-systems for things on them. Roll high to hit, low for thief skills and hearing. A 1 on a surprise roll is better than a 2 but a 3+ is what you really want. Spells for one class might work exactly like those of another but with radically different casting time, duration, range - or have the same of those but different effects. Crossbows being slower and radically weaker than any given bow. Whatever. We just went with it.

Generally the players played with good skill. They made some newbie mistakes - such as spreading out Magic Missiles too much, for example, and not ganging up in melee when they could. But they adapted immediately to AD&D play and made lots of good decisions and played with care. Bad luck hurt a few times, and the errors they made were compounded by the fact that WPM is stacked against them. All in all, though, a lot of fun.

I'll post up character stats (and how we did chargen), player impressions, and other notes over the next few days.


  1. Replies
    1. It was a lot of fun. Some misplaced negotiation, some greed overcoming sense in the last room, but all in all really amusing.

    2. Lesson: just because one speaks manticore does not mean that manticores are your friend, or even willing to work with you. Evil = evil. New motto: we don't negotiate with terrorists OR manticores.

    3. You guys, oddly, might have been better off if you couldn't speak with them. Then you'd have just gone with Team Fireball's plan.

      Plus it's not really a talky dungeon. There are things to talk to, but generally, they're puzzles not friends.

    4. Also worth noting - nothing in "Lawful Evil" says "honest and honors all agreements." Devils are LE and noted for that, but it's not necessary an assumed feature of Lawful Evil as a whole. A whole "Good is weak and foolish and the weak serve the strong" kind of thing is in there, though.

    5. Yeah, I thought of that afterwards, that we just would have nuked the manticores had the Druid not spoken manticore. Such is life (of a paper man).

    6. Yep. Sometimes you get yourself killed because you've got this tool here you want to use in these circumstances, and wouldn't have died if you'd lacked the tool and went with something else. That's how Total Party Teleport happened!

  2. I like how you handled Quesnef, gonna borrow that.

    1. Excellent! I'm glad my approach inspired you.

  3. Having read the (revised) original, after going through S2, and attempting to kill the "fake" Keraptis, upon salvaging all 3 relics, I've realised how much of jerk my ex-DM, was. His assertion was that all would be killed without a fight by some made up "magical flames", even after we savagely killed 4 Effrit. Prior to last encounter we may have lost at most, 1 pc. We did manage to rest, and recover spells (despite wandering monster rolls). The revised module makes clear you don't confront Keraptis. But my DM was nob. DM fiat killed our PC's. We responded by never inviting said ex-DM to games ever again.


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