Sunday, September 27, 2020

AD&D Session 8: A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, Part 2

Today we played our 8th session of AD&D, where we run through old modules as-written just because it's fun. We use AD&D as much as possible as-written, except where the rules are nonsensical (Weapoon Speed, say) or impeded play (Initiative). But generally we revel in them. It's a nice vacation from GURPS.

Today we played the rest of the first part of A2 Secret of the Slavers Stockade, as part of a planned series of sessions that will eventually take us through the aerie (A3), and dungeons (A4) of the Slave Lords.

We had a slightly different mix of players, as four people who played last time couldn't make it, and one that couldn't last time, could. So we had lots of two-PC players.

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


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

We picked up where we left off last time - the PCs in a room, having hacking down a door that leads to hobgoblin barracks.

The PCs decided the way to go was back - retreat past the pit, move to the other door they'd spotted, and find a way down or South (into the complex) that way. They used Kayen Telva's scroll of Hold Portal to lock the "bear door" closed, crossed the pit by climbing down one side and out the other, and ran to the door to the West. It was dusty near it. They forced the door but it took several rounds. Meanwhile, hobgoblins had finally forced the east door open once the Hold Portal ended and advanced to the pit. One had a sling, the others swords.

Phanstern asked Kayen hold to say, "Jump in the pit and lay down!" in Hobgoblinese (Hobgoblinian?) and then ran to within 30' of them. The slinger hit him for 2 HP with a sling bullet. Phanstern won initiative managed to get his spell off the next round, casting Hypnotism. Unfortunately, despite needing a 17 to save, four of the six targets saved! Two jumped into the pit and layed down. The others climbed down. The leader launched a sling bullet at Phanstern, hit him, and did 3 HP of damage . . putting him to 0 and down.

The other PCs managed to force the door open. Beyond it they saw a cobwebbed and dusty room, heard low moans, rattling bones, and saw a ghostly form fluttering. They rushed it, with Dread grabbing the door to close it. Eljayess cast Light (which I let last way too long, actually.)

The "ghost" turned out to be a curtain, the moan a breeze through a crack in a fireplace wall, and the bones a wooden wind chime. They closed the door and spiked it shut.

They explored the area and found nothing but another door. They spent a fair amount of time checking rooms in a clearly burned-out area of the keep, found a hanged hobgoblin, saw eerie messages, had poltergeist-like weirdness happen, looked fruitlessly for secret doors, and eventually realized it was a dead end. So they unspiked the door and went back the other way. As they went, Karraway pulled on torch sconces to activate secret doors (or whatever) but it did little. The hobgoblins had taken the torches, and Phanstern was gone, too.

The pit was reset, so they crossed it carefully and forced the door. The room was cleared, with everything piled to the side near the north door they'd hacked down. They sent two over to check the piled "desk," casks, etc. and the rest started on the south door. As they did, seven hobgoblins burst into the room - six plus a sergeant. They charged the PCs. In a brisk fight, the PCs killed them all - but took some wounds in the process. They decided to head north to clear out the hobgoblins and find the way into the complex, hoping for stairs down ("stairs down" was a theme by now.) They heard lots of them coming - dozens, maybe.

So they backed off to the south door. Dread Delgath used Wall of Fire from his Wand of Fire, using 2 of its 4 charges, to block the hobgoblins off.

They forced the south door open, and again, the mummies appeared. They opined they weren't mummies, but Karraway got ready to turn them anyway. They advanced slowly. They spotted a metal mirror on the west wall, and were sure it was a secret door. They were only willing to spend one round looking, a few of them looked around for loose flagstones, triggers, wall buttons, pulled on torch sconces, etc. A round wasn't much and they couldn't find a trigger. They headed towards the impatiently moaning and gesturing mummies. Eventually they got most of the way down the hallway and saw it had a mirror at the end on an angle - the mummies rushed around the bend and attacked. As they did, the secret door they'd suspected opened up and out came six hobgoblins and a leader with a sling - the same ones as before, actually, from two previous encounters. The PCs didn't have anyone keeping watch on the rear so risked surprise on a 1-3, but I rolled a 6. They ended up in a double-ended fight as the hobgoblins charged. They had an option to fight two-across or three-across, and they chose three. Dread cast Slow and Karraway tried to Turn Undead.

The back rank was Freda, Eljayess, and Kayen Telva (with 5 HP left). The front faced the mummies with Elwita, "Ogre," and Karraway. They slogged out a fight. Freda killed a hobgoblin right away and then couldn't hit for the rest of the fight. Kayen Telva took 4 HP of damage and stayed in melee until eventually he took another hit and dropped at -2 or -3 HP. One of the mummies got killed right away, and then Dread's Slow went off. They hacked down the slowed "mummies" in a round or two. After Kayen went down Karraway turned and cast Hold Person on the hobgoblins in the back, holding the leader and two others. They meleed the one still standing for maybe 4-5 rounds as the door behind them was being hacked down. They finally put him down, just as Karraway finished beating the held hobgoblins to death (it's slower than Gold Box video games make it seem, by strict AD&D rules). They sent Freda to check the secret door, but he didn't see much as the door was hacked down. They ran. They forced their way into the next room, but hobgoblins pursued them. Karraway spiked the door shut with two spikes as the hobgoblins who took the secret door burst in from the north. They fought them and took them all out, but again, lost some HP doing so. They forced a door to the north into a carpeted hallway lined with curtains. Freda tried to slash one down but almost broke his sword on the wall. So they spiked the door shut behind them, and ran up the corridor, seeking to put as much space between them and the hobgoblins. They found a door and forced it open, easily, and found it was a looted storeroom. They headed along. The curtains and carpet ended suddenly. They advanced.

And Elwita and Ogre fell into a pit. It was 10' deep and 7' across. They took a lot of damage - the pit was 1-6 for being 10' deep, plus 3-6 rusty spikes for 1-6 each. Elwita took 26 HP, "Ogre" 9 HP. Freda jumped the pit hoping to help them across, but hit a black-painted wire 4' off the ground and fell back into the pit and took ~25 HP. Elwita and Freda were both out. Blodgett and Kayen were in the pit, bleeding to death. They managed to get "Ogre" out, grab some gear from the fallen, and run as they heard hobgoblins coming.

From there they kept forcing doors, and eventually found their goal - stairs down! They found them in a damp room with tuns of water with spigots. They spiked the door shut and went down the stairs . . . and found their way to the fort's well. No exits.

They unspiked the door and continued on.

The next room they penetrated had stadium seating on the four walls, filled with slack-jawed and staring humans neck-shackled to the wall, surrounded by flittering shadows. A hobgoblin stood slack-jawed at the far end. They moved in to kill the hobgoblin and get across the room, but felt anxious as they did. As they reached the far end, they barely heard a sound, just at the bottom edge of their hearing. It unnerved them a bit but they made their saves. In a moment, a cloak from the far wall detached itself and flew at them, moaning - a cloaker! (They'd fought one in my GURPS game.)

It tried to moan them into nausea, and failed. They chopped at it, and Elwita, Karraway, and "Ogre" all hit it. It tried to Hold "Ogre" and succeeded. It enveloped "Ogre" and started to tail-smash Elwita. They just couldn't hit it, and eventually it knocked out Elwita with its tail. Dread burned it with Burning Hands twice, which hurt it badly and finished off unconscious and held "Ogre," putting him below -10 HP. Eljayess drank his Potion of Speed, passed his System Shock roll for aging a year from magic (a 30 against a 97% chance) and finally hit it with his spear and finished it off.

Then there were three. Eljayess speared the hobgoblin in the eye, Dread took his cloak (it was a Cloak of Protection +2 it turns out), and they headed in further. They spent a little time trying to force a door before deciding to just check the hallway to the end.

At the end, they found a door and immediately forced it. (As in, "We force the door [roll, roll] and I made it.") So they just ran to the door and bashed it in . . . and found themselves entering a kitchen/feast hall, with a raging fire, a barricade of casks and barrels and a big wine cask in the middile, facing this guy, and his minions:

Icar, the 7' tall black man in black plate with no eye holes in his helmet, wielding the Two-Handed Sword +1 "Death's Master." (And the main reason I wanted to run A2, part 1.)

We checked but no surprise.

Eljayess still had 3 rounds left of his Potion of Speed, so he launched a Javelin of Piercing at Icar and hit for 8 damage.

Initiative was tied.

Some hairy humans threw axes - all at Karraway - and one hit, just as he finished a Command spell on Icar to "Surrender!" - he made his save with ease, rolling a 17.

Dread threw a flask of oil into the fire. It splashed on Icar, who ignored the burning oil on himself.

Karraway's second javelin (Haste) hit Icar and did 11 more damage. 19 so far!

Next round, hobgoblins popped up and threw axes, Icar kicked out the supports of a big wine cask and sent it tumbling at the party, and the humans ducked and hid.

Dread's second oil flask missed badly and hit no one. Eljayess ran in, sword out, and took cover. The rolling wine barrel took out Karraway, knocking him out (he was down ~2 HP) and ending the Spiritual Hammer spell he was trying to cast, and Dread was hurt and stunned for 1 round. The hobgoblins threw axes at Eljayess but missed (medium range and low AC, as he upgraded gear as PCs went down.)

The next round Icar moved up and attacked Eljayess, and wounded him, and then got his second attack (# of AT 3/2) and finished him off just as Eljayess was trying Command to "Surrender."

Not that Command would have ended the fight - surrender, yes, but it's 1 round duration.

Out of options, Dread Delgath attacked Icar with his dagger, rolled a 17, and missed. Icar cut him down.

And thus ended the attempt to defeat the slavers.


Well, that was fun. I'm glad they got to the final battle. I assumed Icar was confident in his fort, and not willing to stop his party just because of attackers . . . he'd deal with them personally if they made it that far. An upside of evil is you can sacrifice your minions without a care, and a downside is you can't trust them to do the hard work and need to put in a hand personally. I'm sad they didn't get there with enough juice in the tank to compete in it, or even win it. It wasn't looking good at the start of the session and it wasn't really possible after the second pit trap. Even hits on every strike and failures on every enemy save in the last fight wouldn't have won it for them.

Speaking of which, that second pit trap was obscenely lethal. Detecting it would have been possible with some caution, but once you fall in it . . . 1d6 damage plus 1d4+2 x 1d6 damage. So a range of 4-42 damage. Average 3.5+(4.5*3.5)=19.25 points. That's more than average damage for falling in a 50' pit or getting hit by a fire giant (5-30, av. 17.5). Plus, the more spikes you land on, the more damage you take? Very old school, but wouldn't the more spike you hit potentially mean more distribution of landing force and thus less depth of penetration? And AC doesn't matter, so landing on it in plate armor and landing on it with nothing . . . same. It just seems a bit much. In a campaign game, I'd nerf that trap a lot.

The whole mission was really on the edge of failure after that first bloody fight in the courtyard. Once the PCs lost Blodgett, they lost a lot of ability to deal with locks and traps. They also really wanted to avoid the straight-up-the-middle approach the tournament module demanded, and spent a lot of time trying to get around the "obvious" mummy trap. Hacking up the door to the north meant that I had to deploy monsters not included in the tournament - lots and lots of hobgoblins. They cost the PCs ammunition, spells, charges off the wand, and HPs they couldn't get back. I couldn't let them off like the tournament demands because they legitimately made efforts to get to the guard barracks and spent extra time messing around, noisily and violently.

The "mummies" didn't fool them - no one thought they were mummies - but it did result in an excess of caution that harmed them greatly. Net/net, that set piece encounter worked. They dithered in front of it, and when they eventually went for it they were down on HP, characters, and spells. They ended up losing a PC in the fight, wasted time Turning, used up 2 precious charges on the wand (on the other hobgoblins, thank to their first attempt to avoid the mummies), used up their only 3rd level M-U spell, and a Hold Person spell. So maybe they didn't buy them as mummies, but they ended up paying more than it was worth to defeat three disguised hobgoblins. They rightly suspected a trap, and worried it was a pit, but never really chose any of the options early enough - attack, search for a secret door, or use magic such as a Fireball to just clear the area.

Hold Person - save vs. spells, or paralyze? I went with Spells.

Karraway has a scroll of Raise Dead. That's utterly useless in a tournament setting for AD&D. I'd thought it must be because this was written pre-AD&D, but no, it's a 1980 tournament. So what gives? Assumption you wouldn't run the spell by the book, just a feel good item, a way to question the dead if you bring them back? They used it on "Ogre." So he's a slave, now. Heh.

Oddly, they ended the game with a lot of spells left. No obvious offensive ones, but ones like Spider Climb, ESP, Invisibility, (Although Kayen died with Sleep, though, and Charm Person), a Potion of Clairaudience, Suggestion . . . I think they just didn't know how to use them. Maybe next time I'll divvy up the characters a week out so people have time to read the spells and think about how to try and use them.

Next time we play, I'm going to do a post-session inventory. People weren't sure how many spikes they had, how many arrows, who had what item from Blodgett, etc. I made us type out remaining HP in Roll20 but I think it's worth going for the whole deal.

Also next time we play, we're using Weapon Speed. Maybe Weapon vs. Armor Type, too, just see how it actually plays out.

But again, this was a lot of fun. I love GURPS, but I am having a total blast running AD&D. It demands a very different approach in some ways, yet rewards a lot of the same sensible actions. You just have different resources for the job.

Next AD&D will likely be A2, the subterranean levels, with the same PCs. IIRC they upgrade, gear anyway, for A3. We'll start afresh like we did with this one. I'm hoping to play it soon, while AD&D is still in people's heads.


  1. I was going to mention, when I read your last summary, that I thought the door they hacked down led to a part of the module that isn't in the tournament (the door to area 18, right?). I think the doors that aren't shaded aren't actually supposed to exist in the tournament module, to avoid the party from getting off track in exactly this way.

    Its more obvious in A1 where there are separate Tournament Maps that completely omit the extraneous doors. My copy of A2 says it includes Tournament Maps, but it looks like they were ommitted in favour of just using the shading.

    1. My copy has just the shading, as well. The thing is, some of those locked doors - like the one to 18 - are listed on the description of the rooms. Other places really "look" like they should have doors, so the PCs spent time trying to find secret doors. They just couldn't stay on the linear tournament path even when I made it clear from the start that, say, barred and locked doors were really channeling you to the tournament end.

      Plus, A2 is one of those rare tournament adventures with multiple paths - area 2 has extra bits, area 4 is extraneous but accessible, areas 19-20, area 15 - it's not just a straight line. Add in the need in A1 to make some movement up and down levels to get through parts and A2 can seem like you will need to find a secret door to get through.

      By the end, general morale loss and fatigue from getting mauled factored into a lot of "go through all of the doors and check, we may as well" thinking. I'm not sure I could have deleted enough to keep them 100% on track without just saying, "No, there are no secret doors to find."

  2. You may be doing initiative/combat order differently than I remember, but I think you handled Icar's double attacks incorrectly taking away Karraway's chance to complete his spell. My memory is that when you have 3/2 attacks the first is on your initiative and the second comes at the end of the round after all other actions are complete. This would have at least given Karraway a tiny chance (depending on what command he gave).

    Were the mummies actually mummies? I didn't think so. For one, you didn't say anything about the sheer terror their appearance caused and nobody was paralyzed by looking at them (in D&D the mere sight of a mummy may paralyze anyone seeing it until it passes out of sight). They are also very tough, taking half damage from everything but fire, so three of them would take a long time to kill for characters of this level, especially while being stung by hobgoblins from behind.

    The spiked pit traps of the old modules were clearly unfair and unrealistic. I hated the mechanic they used (roll a random die to determine how many random dice of damage you take). Like you pointed out, those spikes would distribute the pressure and be less effective, and they ignore protection from armor and magic. I know of some modules that made each spike roll at attack as a 1st level fighter to hit, but that's also pretty weird since the spikes aren't sentient or mobile. Another problem is that if you got impaled by spikes you shouldn't be taking damage from hitting the bottom of the pit since the spikes stopped your fall so adding spike damage to pit damage is questionable. But generally I lean towards Fast! Furious! Fun! as my guideline for gaming and rolling a bunch of dice with such randomness in damage is neither fast nor fun. Just do some simple damage and get on with the game! For me pits with spikes do twice the damage of an equivalent pit without spikes (one the damage is impaling from the spikes, the other it is bludgeoning from the impact with the floor).

    1. We're doing multiple attacks based on, but lightly modified from, DMG p. 62-63. We found it unintuitive that if you have multiple attack routines you often ignore initiative rolls, unless your opponent also has multiple attack routines. People loosing 2 arrows with a bow shooting first, then shooting again on their initiative, felt better and made people pay attention to segments instead of just turning their attention off from initiative sometimes and then having to turn it back on to it others. Next time we play we'll use Weapon Speed, and probably do it as-written as see how it all comes together.

      Karraway may have gotten off his spell under the rules-as-written, but I'm not sure it matters. Command has a duration of 1 round, so even "Surrender!" wasn't going to do much except cause Icar to give up for a round, and then kill him the next round. It's a fairly weak spell, honestly, if you run it as written.

      The mummies - no one checked or even asked about them. They were sure they weren't, and that was correct, which is why they were disposed of so quickly . . . but at a large cost in resources.

      I agree on pits - raising the damage for a more-lethal pit is the way to go, rather than giving it a multiplicative effect. That pit was more lethal than anything else in the dungeon, all because of that odd choice of roll + roll x roll.

  3. A2 Section A ended in a TPK but you start each module or even each tournament adventure (2 per module). Do you have plans to play the second half of A2 immediately after the first half, maybe after a Felltower session, or not for several months?

    1. We're planning on A2, part II after some Felltower and/or Gamma Terra.


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