Monday, April 24, 2017

AD&D Session 2: White Plume Mountain (Part II)

Sunday was Session 2 of our brief side foray into AD&D with White Plume Mountain.

As before, we had a mix of people totally new to 1st edition AD&D, veterans who'd played a long time ago (not always with the rules as written, but then again neither did I), and people who'd played other editions.

Unlike the first session, we had closer to a full complement today, adding in two players who'd had to miss last time due to work and prior commitments, respectively. Those who'd lost PCs in the first session used their extra sets of rolls to make new ones - which lead to, say, an INT 12 DEX 15 CON 17 wizard because he'd never need to learn high level spells or roll for spells known anyway. Amusingly one player rolled better across the board on HP, % for ST, equipment, etc. than his first guy.

Session 1 can be found here.

Feel free to litter the comments with spoilers - the players are free to read the adventure and we discussed the rooms they'd missed since I don't expect to use those tricks elsewhere.

Andie Angus - N Dwarf Fighter 7
Gerwulf Reinhardt - CN Human Fighter 7
Kamora, Lama of the Lioness - LG Human Cleric 7
Rockford - LN Dwarf Fighter 6 / Thief 6
Moon Goldenshower - CN Elf Magic-User 7
Samuel Payne - LN Human Cleric 7
Sir Chad Biggly - LG Paladin 6

We started up at the three-way intersection where the bedraggled sphinx waits; the new PCs came down and joined the old ones. Samuel fortuitously was carrying a scroll with Heal and Cure Critical Wounds, which was just the thing to bring Kamora back to adventuring capability and nearly full HP and Rockford back to full HP.

The PCs debated going straight and right. They decided that clearly Keraptis wanted you to be tempted to go straight, so they went right. This would prove to be a fateful decision.

They moved along, prodding ahead with a 10' pole. Rockford was very specific last time - he would prod the water and pull the pole out, then prod, then pull, etc. This helped them find a large patch of underwater green slime. They knew fire could kill it, but no one knew they could Cure Disease to wipe it out. So they used a Potion of Flying (sipped, this time, to be sure it would work) to send someone to find the far end, then hammer in spikes and string rope for hand-over-hand crossing. They did that. Right after the slime, though, they hit the first of the wandering monsters - an ogre. It died quickly, but not before whacking Andie (I think) for a lot of damage.

After that, they found a door. The door was stuck initially and took Knock to open it (everyone rolled very badly). Beyond was a room with five golems who posed a riddle. Kamora's player solved it in about three seconds. Like, almost as fast as I could hit the button on my stopwatch for the 60 second timer. They earned a flesh golem companion.

They climbed out of the water and found a turnstile, showing the reach of the evil MTA. They decided this must be the way in, and there would be another way out, so they just walked through the gate.

They quickly found the famous geysers-and-discs jumping puzzle. It was about as lethal as the jumping puzzles in any game. This actually took a long time, and was getting so dangerous

They timed it so after both geysers went, they had a clear idea of how long they had to travel. They gave a Potion of Fire Resistance to Rockford, gave him a coil of rope, and sent him jumping. The plan was, jump, wind the rope, jump, etc. until they'd fixed the chains at least in place and could hand-over-hand from disk to disk between geyser blasts.

This did not work. Since Rockford was jumping to unsecured slick disks carrying a bunch of weight, I made him roll against his DEX to pull this off. About half the time, he didn't manage this. He'd climb back up the rope to the previous disk, and kept taking damage from boiling water from the geysers. He drank a healing potion but it wasn't enough. He got nearly to the end before he got caught a few times with high-damage blasts of hot water from failing rolls to either advance to the end or back off sufficiently to take less damage (hard, given the progression of damage and range of the steam). Finally, he was down to 6 HP and took 7 from a geyser. He tumbled to the boiling mud, trailing rope, and died.

They decided this wasn't working, so they selected their next most agile delver and sent him across, after drinking a Potion of Climbing and casting Resist Fire on him (which works differently than the potion, of course). First they used a couple of Potions of Diminution to shrink many of them down, stick them in a backpack to protect them and had Andie carry them. He eventually made it, although he took a lot of damage on the way. Once on the far side he nailed a spike near the far door and ran the line around it. On the near side, the PCs put Gerhardt on their golem's shoulders and hammered a line in there. They used the line to zipline to the other side. They all made it until the last two. Moon grabbed the line and made a DEX check to see if anything went wrong with his ziplining - basically, checking for disaster. He missed it completely (a 20 versus a 15). He was simply ziplining down on his belt, not secured in any way. He went right into the mud. He had Resist Fire on him, but even so, damage from the fall plus two rounds of being in the mud was enough to kill him. He sank, along with a map he'd been making and some of their potions and scrolls. His only helpful spell was Web, but it takes two segments to cast and much less than two segments to fall 70 feet.

Next, the golem - the golem couldn't manage (too heavy, couldn't reach the zipline), so they ordered him to try and jump disk to disk. They wouldn't come back this way, they reasoned, so who cares if he falls in? He fell in right away and was destroyed.

They managed to get past a metal door at the far end with needle-sized holes in it after carefully ensuring it wasn't trapped. They detected evil but no soul. Inside was Ctenmiir, a vampire, in a room of permanent darkness. Well, for a moment - Samual used Dispel Magic to clear that. They fought the vampire but drove him off with turning. He turned gaseous and fled for the required 3d4 rounds. In the meantime, they moved his coffin (and then chopped it up) and found a nice with Whelm and some potions and money. They took the hammer, giving it to Samuel (Andie Angus was the wrong alignment). They put down garlic to keep Ctenmiir away, but he came back while they searched the room for the secret door that had to be there - how could it be a dead end?

Ctenmiir came back and attacked again, having regenerated back to full HP. This time, he managed to charm Samuel and get him to attack his friends. The PCs damaged him - but fatefully Gerwulf sliced him with Blackrazor, eager to get those sweet levels from soul-sucking him. Instead, his was sucked into Ctrenmiir, buffing him up and costing Gerwulf 13 HP (he rolled max HP for the missing level). But in short order Kamora turned him.

The PCs then piled onto Samuel (using the proto-Dungeon Grappling rules from The Manor #8). They used Remove Curse to get rid of the charm (I ruled that seemed like it should work - Andie Angus's player claimed it should not.) They started saying they should destroy him, but Kamora argued a) the mission isn't to destroy him and b) there was no way to find his backup coffins. (This actually went on for a bit until I said, out of game, guys, he has off-map coffins, if you really want to smash the floor and eventually find him you can, but that's not part of the adventure and won't be easy.)

Returning was not as tough as coming across. They simply sent someone climbing up the rope (Gerwulf, I think) with the help of a potion and moved the zipline angle. They went back, one by one, and somehow made it without too-too much damage.

They made it back to the turnstile and as they puzzled out what to do, Ctenmiir attacked them from behind. This time they reduced him to 0 HP and got rid of him for the duration, but not before he bit Samuel and drained him from level 7 to level 5.

The PCs eventually bent the turnstile with a good Bend Bars/Lift Gates roll from Gerwulf and found their way back, but not before running into two wandering gargoyles. They hurt the PCs a bit before they died, but that let Gerwulf get his level back and get a pool of temporary HP. At this point, he was swinging at +5 to hit and +8 damage, which is major in AD&D, so he was hitting most of the time and killing most things in one or two shots.

They encountered a wight at this point, but it was wounded by Sir Chad Biggly and driven away by Kamora.

They tried the center passageway next, and ran into two bugbears. They died in moments. After that, they found an alcove with a pit. They explored this with Kamora's Necklace of Adaptation and found a value. They opened it by sending down all of their beefy guys holding their breath and the water began to drain.

Next they found a flooded room. As they worked their way around the edge, two Kelpies emerged. The Kelpies randomly tried to charm Kamora and Gerwulf. This succeed on Kamora (who just missed the save) and failed on Gerwulf (who, the Kelpies clearly failed to realize, was carrying Blackrazor and was immune). Kamora jumped right into the water, intent on joining her seaweedy companions!

(I'd forgotten, totally, that Kamora was a female human since her player is male. So I guess these Kelpies weren't helpless against females. Not going to undo results just to match monster descriptions.)

Luckily Kamora could breathe water, thanks to her Necklace of Adaptation. But charms last a long time - what to do? They tied a rope to Sir Chad, who dove in after Kamora. He swam down, grabbed her (again, using the proto-Dungeon Grappling rules) and held on. Kamora couldn't escape and with multiple ST 18/something fighters they dragged her out easily. They sat on her while Gerhardt borrowed her necklace and swam down and chopped up the Kelpies and looted their lair. They found magical chainmail superior to Samuel's non-magical banded armor so he put that on.

After that they found a valve-like metal door and a wooden door. They detected evil and souls - both to the East. So, clearly, the metal door was a trap and the wooden door led to Wave. So they forced the door. Finding a swirly-patterned oil-slicked rotating tube 30' long confirmed this - each weapon was behind a funhouse obstacle. Andie Angus argued they should ignite the oil, but he was convinced the oil would help him slide down the tube with a rope. So, he backed up, ran, and jumped in. As he slid, a flaming arrow came from ahead and landed in the tube. FWOOOOSH.

They managed to drag back a burned but living Andie Angus. They charged up the tunnel, taking arrow fire (ineffective, in the event) and reached a loophole and a door. They forced the door and rushed into combat with a mailed fighter and a wizard. Samuel started in on Hold Person, Gerwulf used Haste from Blackrazor, and the others waited - except for Andie Angus, who charged. The wizard, Snarla, got off a Web on the tightly-clustered party and caught everyone except Andie Angus. He slew Burket, the fighter, in a couple of rounds despite Burket getting Haste and Snarla putting four Magic Missiles into him. He sliced her - and she transformed into a werewolf and bit him! He killed her the following round before she could act again.

They looted the group, found Snarla's bedchambers and no other exit. A chest had some gems, which they took, but no Wave.

So they went back and forced open, and spiked open, a series of metal doors and found a dome-roofed tunnel of some weird material.

Gerwulf shoved Blackrazor right through it. A jet of boiling hot water hit him. Oops. So this was the bubble? They decided not to stab it anymore and that it was good that Moon Goldenshower had died before he could kill them casting spells.

They found the bubble, and a gigantic crab! It attacked. The PCs attacked back, except for Angus, who decided to run around it to get the chest beyond so he could use Wave. The crab was having none of that, and backed off to keep him in front of him and attacked Andie exclusively. The fight was only like three rounds, but that as time enough for Andie to get sliced up. He tried to Parry (per the PHB) but the crab rolled a 20 and hit him anyway and sliced him in half. He died instantly, at -12 HP, and never found out the magic plate he'd donned was Armor of Vulnerability and fell apart with him. Heh. (I didn't even mention it at the time, now that I recall.)

The PCs finished off the crab. They carefully checked the chest for traps, set up their shields to stop firing darts from shooting out to puncture the bubble and kill them all, and opened it up. They found Wave and some magical treasure. Sadly, only Andie had been the right alignment to use it.

They headed out. At the exit, though, Keraptis put up a Wall of Force and told them to surrender to Nix and Nox, twin efreeti. They refused and attacked (and were annoyed that Protection from Evil didn't work because efreeti are Neutral). They managed to cut down both efreeti in only a couple of rounds, taking only a single hit in return! (I rolled very badly for them). Keraptis sent in Box and Cox. They did much better, getting off a Wall of Fire and fighting Invisibly. The PCs used Bless before melee and again rolled well, and concentrated on one as much as they could. In the end, Box and Cox went down, too. Keraptis said, "I'll just have to steal those weapons back again . . . " and left it at that.

The surviving PCs left White Plume Mountain.

Our final roster:

Kamora, Lama of the Lioness - Human Cleric 7
Gerwulf Reinhardt - Human Fighter 7
Samuel Payne - Human Cleric 5 (Restoration can fix him back to C7)
Sir Chad Biggly - Human Paladin 6

Faolan McDermot - Human Druid 8 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Urf Nightsoil - Elf Magic-User 7 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Wolfgang Reinhardt - Human Fighter 7 (killed by Cone of Cold)
Rockford - Dwarf Fighter 6 / Thief 6 (killed by geysers, fell into boiling mud)
Moon Goldenshower - Elf Magic-User 7 (fell into boiling mud)
Andie Angus - Dwarf Fighter 7 (cut in half by just about the biggest crab you've ever seen.)


Overall, I'm very proud of how my group played this. The players who became casualties right away stuck it out as spectators without complaining. They did pretty well given a lack of experience with AD&D - especially recent experience, sometimes any - and getting thrown into a dungeon full of dangerous fights, tricks, traps, and nasty set-piece fights. Some of the inexperience showed - Moon repeated Urf's spell loadout, which meant 100% damage-causing spells and no utility spells. We'd just had a pre-game discussion where I'd argued that Fly is the best 3rd-level M-U spell and two of my players argued it's Fireball. Fly would have been more useful - this might the contempt of familiarity, since those same two players Levitate all over the place constantly in GURPS DF.

The players occasionally screwed themselves up thinking, "if it's one-way, there must be a way out" - that's a feature of modern video games and Jacquays maps, not a basic feature of reality. Or of funhouse dungeons. Nevermind they'd find that the foe at the end of the path didn't need a second way out to get past the crazy obstacles. Basically, instead of dealing with what was in front of them, they used what was in front of them to postulate other things that must be there. In a normal dungeon, that might work. In a trapped series of linear channels meant to try and kill you for the amusement of the designer, no. Sometimes a funhouse is just a funhouse.

They also occasionally caused themselves trouble by equating "souls" with "guardians of the weapons" and "evil" as "guardians of the weapons." In other words, "no souls, no evil means it's a dead-end trap." I assumed Blackrazor's "detect souls" ability only detected the things it was meant to slay and devour - humans and human-like souls. So, it wasn't Detect Life, and was useless against kelpies, crabs, etc.

But like I said, overall, they played very well. Had they been playing AD&D for a while they'd certainly have done better and learned from less-lethal errors in the past about spell selection, combat tactics (they did vastly better this time against much harder foes), and erring on the side of "it's a trap!" Also, one player had played in WPM before, but as he said, only after bad stuff happened did he remember. "Oh, right, Nix and Nox." "Oh yeah, the oil is flammable." Etc.

We had the fun of inconsistencies in AD&D - like how a Potion of Fire Resistance and the spell Resist Fire don't work alike, how specific Haste is about what it does, how annoying Protection from Evil is, etc. Speaking of the last one, it says evil foes are -2 to attack you and you get +2 to saving throws caused by those attacks. The players hoped that meant +2 to all saving throws, always. I disagreed. In a campaign, I'm not sure how I'd do it - if it's always, is that where Paladins get their +2 to all saving throws, or is this in addition? I'd say in addition, otherwise it works against animals, traps, landslides, etc.

I probably should have made the checks friendlier to crossing the disks, but honestly, it's written as just short of lethal if you try jumping one to the other. I don't think I was unfair, but it felt harsh. I went and looked up after how it was written for the later S1-4 Realms of Horror, and it's like my solution in some ways but harsher in others. I'd purposely not looked it up so I'd run it by feel not later re-writes. The lack of prepping to not fall from the zipline cost them their wizard, though. I'm not sure why they didn't tie him to the line so he couldn't fall. Sadly, if they'd saved their Potion of Flying (or a Fly spell) it would have been trivial to bypass this obstacle, but no one wanted to risk a failed climbing roll to get past the green slime. So it goes.

If anyone has their own stories of how they got past the disk puzzle, my players really want to know. And we'd love to send Lawrence Schick a thank you card for two awesome sessions. Or at least a thank-you email. As well to Erol Otus, Diesel, Jeff Dee, and Jim Roslof for the illustrations that really made the adventure pop.


  1. Hmm. You are playing ad&d? Protection from evil should totally work on efreet. They are Lawful evil in the monster manual, but also pfe is effective against all monsters from other planes, like elementals

    1. It does mention efreet specifically and I didn't notice, I was too busy scanning for the wording on saving throws. It didn't make a difference in the end, and none of my players noticed either.

      My monster manual (4th edition printing, 1979) says efreeti are Neutral (tend towards Lawful Evil). To me, that means Neutral, not Lawful Evil.

  2. Kelpies swing both ways, clearly.

  3. "Neutral, but leans toward..." doesn't mean neutral.
    It doesn't matter, we slaughtered them anyway.

    1. That logic means "Neutral (but tend towards Lawful Evil)" means "Lawful Evil." Since, say, an Efreeti Bottle is not an evil magical item, dealing with Efreeti is not an inherently evil act, that seems iffy logic at best. A lean towards something is not being that something, otherwise why even note it?

  4. This was a lot of fun, and I'd be game with one-shot characters (or even using our survivors) if you want to play other games. Like the one with the spaceship (oops, spoilers) that I never got to play, etc.

    1. See today's post. I'd run Barrier Peaks but I'd run it with GURPS. I'm 100% convinced it would be better that way, by far.


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