Sunday, December 15, 2019

AD&D Session 6: A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity - Part II: Ladies First

Today was part II of II of our AD&D session playing out A1 Slave Pits of the Undercity.

SPOILER ALERT! This will absolutely spoil most of the adventure for you.

For ease of following this later, I've noted the initials of the players who ran the characters. We had five players running nine guys so everyone but one had two.

Elwita, Dwarf F6 (J.M.)
"Ogre", Human F5 (J.M.)
Freda, Human R4 (O.L.)
Karraway, Human C6 (A.J.)
Blodgett, Halfing T5 (M.D.)
Dread Delgath, Human MU5 (V.L.)
Phanstern, Human I5 (V.L.)
Eljayess, Half-Ef C3/F3 (M.D.)
Kayen Telva, Elf F4/MU4 (O.L.)

We started with the PCs opening the trap door in the temple of the first part of A1. The gods of the temple healed everyone completely and restored them to vim and vigor, removing the enforced downtime for survivors of 0 to negative HP.

The group climbed down and oriented themselves, quickly using their Ranger to determine the most traveled path was West. They came to a chamber covered end-to-end with rotting garbage. Suspecting the floor wasn't safe, they had Kayen Telva give Elwita his magic spear so she could prod the floor. She quickly determined the floor dropped away sharply to the left and less so in front, and not at all to the right in a narrow path. So they moved into the room around the ledge.

They were attacked from the deeper part of the garbage pit (as it turned out to be) by five white grubs between 18" and 3' long. They didn't know it but they were aspis grubs. "Ogre" and Elwita were nauseated by the stink of rotting garbage (failed save vs. poison) and semi-helpless for 4 rounds. Freda and Kayen Telva were close enough to fight and did so. They managed to eventually cut down all five grubs, especially once the lead fighters both recovered. But the grubs cost them a lot of HP - over 20 each from "Ogre" and Elwita, and some from both of the other two fighters. Due to the room layout, no one else managed to fight.

From there, they advanced into the sewers. They found a trapped sliding ledge thanks to tapping and prodding ahead with a spear. They banged in an iron spike - noisily - and sent Blodgett across to bang in another. He did so and they crossed safely. The noise had carried, though.

They found a Y-split ahead and checked both directions, opting for right. They found an upturned tun under a splatter of water, and knocked it over. (I'd forgotten entirely to mention the sound of the "drumming" from this upturned tun, which serves as an alarm of sorts. So I just made it a red herring. Oops, but the spiking was alarm enough so it didn't matter.)

They spent some time searching for secret doors and finding none. So they headed back and then the other part of the Y-split.

They found three tunnels full of sewage running toward them. So they picked the middle one and marched single file into it.The two female PCs were one and two, and moved into side by side when possible. "Ladies first!" They'd stay in the lead the rest of the way.

They eventually reached the end - and found six orcs ranked up on stairs just outside of the flow of sewage from pipes above, backed by two ogres with rocks!

A fight ensued. The orcs and ogres all launched missiles at Freda in the lead but missed her. They moved into melee. The front ranked fighters - Elwita and Freda - melee'd orcs. The back rankers shot arrows, and Phanstern tried Paralyzation on the ogres. Naturally, they blew the initiative roll and he was clipped with a light crossbow bolt and his spell was spoiled.

The ogres and crossbow orcs shot at missile using PCs in the back ranks, who shot at the ogres. The front two fighters just hacked away. "Ogre" stood ready to step in, but they later swapped in for his bow. The wizards fell back and crouched low.

The PCs ground away at the foes, steadily killed orcs and killing both ogres - and one who stepped up to replace a fallen ogre - with missile fire. Blodgett and Eljayess, though, took significant hits in the exchange. Blodgett alone lost 20 of 25 HP. They used up almost all of their ammunition doing so, save for a few arrows of "Ogre"s. The PCs never stepped up the stairs, though, content to fight with a -1 for being ankle-deep to knee-deep in sewage flow. They eventually killed off 18 orcs.

They moved into the room and looted the ogres and orcs. Eljayess grabbed a light crossbow and bolts - despite lack of proficiency - because of a lack of arrows.

Next the PCs found their way blocked by fallen rubble, but there was a halfling-sized gap to move through under a big block of masonry stuck over a fallen beam. The beam was into a crevice in the floor smashed through by the fallen beam. The beam was stuck against a small ledge by the masonry, the masonry kept from falling by the beam. The PCs were kept from advancing by the beam. Loose, they found five flat 6" thick stones and two 5' beams.

So what to do?

They sent Blodgett past to scout, silent with his Boots of Elvenkind. He found two orcs behind a 3' barricade, and three ledges on the opposite side of a channel of sewage with 2' barricades. He snuck up and heard orcs on guard saying they'd attack when they saw "them" approaching. So he sneaked back when they lost immediate attention to their front and warned the party.

Meanwhile they party tried to puzzle out the barricade. After lots of engineering questions and repeatedly drawing and re-drawing the obstacle to visualize how to get past it, they did on what seemed to be the obvious solution - prop the big chunk of masonry up with beams (they cut them down to two 3' beams since there wasn't 5' of space under the rock), then slide the beam out (it fell into the crevice below nosily), then crawl under the masonry.

That worked, but naturally the orcs were on alert. They dealt with that with Wall of Fog to make it impossible for anyone to see. They felt their way along the wall in the fog, ignoring wildly inaccurate crossbow fire from panicked orcs, and reached the barricade. Freda had a blinded melee, killing one orc, before the spell ended. The PCs got shot at with crossbows from orcs on the far side, behind the low barricades, and attacked the orcs on their side.

Phanstern threw his silver dagger ineffectively at the orcs on the far side, as Blodgett fired a sling bullet and missed as well. Dread pulled out his Wand of Fire and burned 2 of the remaining 3 charges with a Wall of Fire across the orc crossbowmen. They all charred and died, as did their witch doctor just after he got off a Prayer spell. They killed the other orcs without any trouble. They looted them and found 15' planks, so they put one across and checked the burned orcs. They found three pots. Blodgett opened one and smelled nasty sewer smell. They brought them over and Elwita checked the other two, wearing Blodgett's Ring of Protection +1. She was nauseated despite that. They brought them along as weapons.

Next, they forced a door open and found an empty room littered with dirt, bits of armor and weapons, and other debris. The room didn't smell, but the air that came out of it was eye-burning.

Karraway, who had warned Phanstern not to throw away his silver dagger, joked this was the smell of lycanthropy. This quickly became "lycantropic musk" and then led to this communally written haiku:

Lycanthropic musk.
My character is a wolf.
Failed my saving throw.

They checked the ceiling, but nothing. So they went in to check the far door, as a group.

One round later, their lanterns set off the explosive gas in the room. BOOOOOOM. "Ogre" saved and took 8 damage but had 7 HP left, and dropped. Blodgett failed and died, taking 16 damage. Most of the others were severely wounded, with only Karraway about single-digit HP. They grimly continued.

They tended to "Ogre" and left him and Blodgett back where they'd killed the orcs. They forced the other door and moved ahead.

They found a 50 x 50' room with a "floor" consisting of 10' deep slave pits, two pillars, and a corridor on the far side. Careful examination showed the pits could be closed with currently-open lids, and a vision slit on the far side.

Worried about being peppered with missile fire on the walk across, they considered putting Levitation on Freda. Realizing that her walking on her hands across the ceiling wasn't faster or better, they sent her across, covering her with missile weapons ready.

As she came to the middle, two ant-like bug men stepped out from behind the pillars. Each had two shields and two swords. Aspis drones, they learned. The aspis drones attacked Freda from both directions. For some reason, she didn't back up, she just stood at an intersection and fought them both. One fought her shield side, the other from behind. She managed to wound one right away, and it cut her right back and bled out most of her HP but she kept her footing.

The other PCs fired away, confident her -2 AC would spare her missile fire that fate sent her way (we'd kept the A3 rules intact). (Actually, it should have been much higher AC - back shots don't use DX nor shields, so it should have been AC 5, +3 for magic armor, for AC 2.) Murphy's Law meant that most of the missiles went for her, but they largely missed. The rest almost all went the way of a single aspis.

Freda was hit and knocked down into the pit, unconscious from the fall. The aspis retreated behind the pillars.

"We'll just shoot them, they don't have missile weapons," said Karraway. That was a round before an Aspis pulled out three darts from their holders on the back of a shield, threw three at Long Range, and clipped Kayen Telva for 3 HP of damage. She had 2 left, and collapsed, dying.


The PCs rushed the aspis. They fought a nasty, close-in melee. A Command to "die!" worked on one, causing it to fall and be injured. Dread tried Burning Hands with the last charge of his wand, but it did a mere 6 damage, halved to 3 by the aspis drone's resistance to fire attacks. It shrugged it off and continued to attack. But in short order they took down Elwita, Karraway, and the others, each being trapped (but uselessly - most were at below 0 HP) in the pits. They charged the wizards who charged back and quickly killed them both.

TPK, with the PCs all dead (Blodgett) or dying (the rest save Karraway) or captured (Karraway.) The Slave Lords were victorious.


AD&D is still a learning process for the group. One of my regular players once said that in AD&D, HP are a resource you need to expend sometimes to get things done. I think that's true of later modules and AD&D 2nd edition much more than for AD&D. In AD&D, HP are very hard to get back and healing is at a premium at best and all too often unavailable. You really have to avoid losing HP. How? I have a whole post about that coming.

But suffice it to say that too often this sessions the players just tried to grind out fights, trusting to superior AC and HP to win the day. It did, until they'd lost so many HP that they just didn't have enough in the well when they went to it. A lot of it I still chalk up to inexperience with AD&D. In GURPS, you can grind out fights, because you have DR and defenses and healing magic is much more plentiful. In AD&D, you just reduce your chances of surviving the dungeon for every hit you take. You can't grind, you really need to find a way to improve the odds of your fight as quickly as you can.

Oddly, the PCs used up all of their arrows but Freda never once fired any of her Arrows +2. Nor did she pass them on once they decided she was solely a melee fighter. Actually against the orcs and ogres I suspect she'd have been better shooting, since she could leverage her +4 damage for her level twice per round with arrows.

Once it was over we discussed the final fight. The PCs had some spells in reserve for that - two Hold Person spells, for one - and Light and Chant, but that was about it. The horrible losses in HP put paid to running that, though.

In retrospect restoring them fully to pre-game conditions would have helped significantly. But I don't regret my decision - had they been a little more paranoid about that clearly-trapped room with the gas, and poked about a bit more to test it, they'd have hit the aspis fight with a lot more HP. Oh well. That's what that room is for, much like that initial garbage room - it sorts out the groups less experienced in navigating hazards with AD&D-specific abilities and limitations.

Very fun session, though. Sometime next year we'll try A2.

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