Friday, May 31, 2024

Summer Games - B/X at Work

May is wrapping up, and with it the frenetic energy of a graduation, multiple field trips, class parties, and championship soccer games.  What it heralds, though, is a few months without any evening responsibilities beyond normal chores.

Which means that I get to play this summer!

So I'll be running some work colleagues and their spouses through a B/X megadungeon.  

It's a new ruleset for them and a new/old location for me, as it starts in the city of Skara Brae. It is a simple premise - the good citizens of Skara Brae awoke one morning to find a stairwell descending into darkness right in the middle of the main market square.

In the three months since its appearance, many people have tried their luck exploring the place.  Of the ones that returned, sometimes they are fabulously wealthy, other times they are just happy to be alive.

The government of Skara Brae soon garrisoned the market around the stairs, charging a small fee to enter, and a cut of the treasure to those that exit.  In addition, the garrison is charged with ensuring nothing monstrous leaves the dungeon.

If only they knew...

Regardless, I enjoy running and playing in a megadungeon because it allows for exploration, faction play, puzzles (of all sorts), and the occasional fight.  Most importantly, it provides a means for lots of laughter.

As some of the players have been enjoying Delicious in Dungeon, they are familiar with the concept.


To help set the tone, I made sure that a small pile of blank Death Certificates was visible to all players during PC creation (an idea I lifted from a company commander I once knew in the Army, who would keep a copy of AR 190-55 Procedures for Military Executions visible on his desk whenever he had to call in a soldier for disciplinary reasons.  He never executed anyone, but terrified lots of people).

Free from Stormlord Publishing, found at the link above

We used Dyson Logos' free BX character sheets and soon had a likely band of adventurers ready to go.

Let me introduce our heroes:

Dave the Fighter
Roro the Halfling
Dack the Thief 
Varda the Elf 
Brother Frank the Cleric (acolyte of Avrae, goddess of chance)

I prefer to run games with the PCs already knowing some of the others.  In this case, the thief and fighter owed money to the cleric's faith, the halfling had been fired from her job with the elf and knew the fighter from work, and the elf had been helping the thief steal money from her job, which is what got the elf fired.  My players - please correct me if I am wrong on any counts!

Normally, I have players roll on a rumor table, but mine (the linked one is for a different place) wasn't ready, so I just provided a few to get them started:

Lots of gold and magic has been brought up from below.
Not everyone returns from the dungeon.
Ebenezer Hardbottle will pay for maps of the dungeon.
There are whispers of additional entrances to the dungeon.
The dungeon runs deep and all sorts of strange creatures exist there.
Not all of the creatures want to (immediately) fight the surface-worlders (because I use reaction rolls).

Relationships established around a common theme of being in debt and needing money fast, our team found themselves at the top of the stairs talking to a Sergeant of the Guard, as his bored troops looked on.  There they learned that the government of Skara Brae charges a small fee to enter the dungeon - a paltry silver piece per person.  Each person paid and then registered their name and profession (unemployed) with Halaster, the day shift wage mage assigned to this duty.

Having paid and registered, the intrepid heroes make a quick marching order and head down the stairs, finding themselves in a large chamber featuring six doors (three in each wall), a large round pool, and a statue near the pool.  

Two doors immediately caught their interest - one that was spiked shut and had fresh-ish bloodstains on the floor in front of it and one on the opposite wall that had a large hole chewed through the bottom of it.

Roro and Dack moved to check out the door with the hole while the other three moved to check the pool.  Roro noted that she couldn't see the pool anyhow, due to the height of low wall around it.  

Limited light showed a dark room through the hole in the door, but not the full size of the room.  That being the case, Roro boldly stepped through, only to find herself face to face with a GIANT FREAKING SNAKE staring at her from across the room from a hole in another door.  Lifting her handaxe, she boldly charged it, slamming her axe down into its head!  The head collapsed, revealing it was just a shed snakeskin, and it was blocking further progress - all she could tell was that there was a corridor beyond the snake door.  Not about to try that alone, she headed back out to tell her companions.

Meanwhile, Dave and Varda first tested the water (cold and clear and not too deep) by dropping a sling stone into it.  That having no effect, they moved on to the statue and discovered that its outstretched hands might move and maybe trigger something.  Varda placed a sword in its hands and they were rewarded with the sound of stone grinding and water draining quickly as the bottom of the pool turned into a spiral staircase heading deep into darkness.  As the rush of water receded, laughter could be heard rising up from the depths, laughter that turned into sobbing.

Varda reclaimed her sword, and the stairs folded back up and, inexplicably, the pool began to refill.

Throughout all of this exploration, the DM using the Hazard System from Necropraxis failed to roll up any wandering encounters, just torches expiring.  So tragic.  

Our explorers were faced with a dilemma: what to do next.  So many options (six doors, stairs down, and they didn't even look behind the stairs that entered the room!) and so little time!  At first, they used a spear to reopen the stairs down, but as they couldn't see the bottom, they decided one of the normal-looking doors would be the better choice.  Not wanting to leave the stairs open behind them, Varda went to take her spear, but before doing so, spoke down the stairs "do not despair - we'll come back for you!"  All within earshot were shocked when her voice echoed back up the stairs, saying, "I'll be waiting for you!"

With that, the stairs ground shut and the nearest door cautiously approached.  

Dack stepped forward to check the door for traps, and finding none, pulled it open.  When asked where everyone was standing, players got real specific about not being in line of sight - I wonder why?

They found a corridor and cautiously moved down it, and at the midpoint, Dave noticed two things: a closed door at the far end of the corridor and his torch flame was guttering, as if a breeze was blowing.  Calling attention to this, the party quickly discerned a secret door to the north, but could not determine how to open it, so headed to the far door.

Listening closely, they heard nothing, so Dave forced it open.  The party paused as they saw a pair of pig-headed humanoids seated at a table playing chess.  Discussion taught the PCs several things: the humanoids were Orcs, that Varda could speak Orc, that the Orcs were annoyed but just wanted the intruders to leave so they could finish their game in peace, and that Orcs and call elves knife-ears.  Despite harsh words, the party left in a huff, with Varda slamming the door behind her - and no wandering monster showing up on the DM's encounter roll.

Retreating back to the secret door, the team were in a quandary until Varda the Elf asked the PCs to extinguish their torches so she could use her infravision.  This let her determine a likely method to open it, so they did.  As the wall pulled toward them, a cold blast of air hit them - like see-their-breath cold.

As they adjusted to the cold, they could see a body crumpled to the ground in the hidden corridor.  Dave checked for obvious traps, and finding none, approached the body.  Once there, he could tell it was frozen solid and quite dead.

He headed back to the somewhat warmer main passage and Dack offered to lasso the corpse so they could drag it to safety, where it could thaw and be looted.  One coiled rope and improvised grappling hook later, they had a frozen corpse with them in the hall.  Dack pulled him to the side to better determine how to loot it (DM note - pouring oil on it and setting it alight was suggested, but not attempted).

While Dack examined the corpse, Varda and Roro moved up to the point where the body had lain, and there discovered Elvish runes for cold and death upon the floor, blocking forward passage.  They could also see a large face carved into the stone of the far wall, with its cheeks puffed and mouth open as if it were blowing something.

A hasty plan was put forward and attempted - Varda would throw Roro across the runes to the flagstones beyond.  The attempt was badly fumbled, with Roro instead landing directly on the runes, the warmth of her body activating them.  A blast of cold roared down the passage, blasting over Roro and chilling Varda to the bone (she saved and so only took 4 damage; Roro took none as it past over her).  Realizing that they could army crawl over the runes, the PCs soon crossed over and found themselves at another door.

Brother Frank was volunteered to force the door, and after several tries (and two sore shoulders) was successful, tumbling into a small room holding two chests against the far wall.

Chests which Dave immediately attacked with his bow.  It not responding gave the Dave the courage to approach it, and after some fiddling about and dice rolls, open it, to reveal the warm reflection of coins in the torchlight!

Excited at the real loot, Dave was ready to do the same to the second chest, but as he moved it from the wall, he noted an acrid smell coming from it.  Dack came forward and determined that there was a trap on the chest, most likely triggered by opening it.  The group suspected gas of some sort (DM note - they weren't wrong), so began discussing how to safely open it.

Two plans were put forward - the first to open it in the pool, gambling that the gas couldn't disperse in the water and the second to gift it to the chess-playing Orcs and let them die to it.

The group slowly brought the chests into the hall and knocked on the Orc-door.  The orcs answered, and after a heated exchange with Varda, they took the chest and closed the door.  

At this point, the party decided to head to the surface with the chest of coins.

Our heroes had gotten the chest into the main room when finally the dice rolled an encounter - and on that note we closed for the evening on a dice-based cliffhanger.  Tune in next week to find out what has responded to the noise and how the PCs react!


After about an hour getting settled, explaining rules, and creating our first PCs, the rest of the session took two hours.  Our current plan is to meet weekly for two hours (some of us have a bit of a drive) for the rest of the summer, and maybe beyond.

Which means weekly session logs for those that enjoy them!

My in-session time-keeping needs work, and I need to remember to incorporate smells better in my descriptions, instead of only doing so when asked.

For my players - if I forgot or misreported something, please tell me!

1 comment:

Dave (Anthony) said...

Excellent summary. I look forward to our next session.