Monday, March 30, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Recap

Hey there. Yep, it's time again for yet another update of the ongoing saga of the all-girl adventuring crew. ;-)

The PCs / Players:
Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2 (my wife)
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2 (youngest daughter)
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2 (eldest daughter)

If you remember, we stopped last time w/ our hearty adventurers patching up wounds and constructing a stretcher for Belinda, their woman at arms, after a particularly vicious jumping-spider attack. Poor Belinda is paralyzed and can't move a muscle, so the decision to exit and get her some help is reached. Out they go.

On the way out they come around a corner and are face to face with a horde of rats. They're squealing and swarming over what appears to be some type of small deer that has unfortunately wandered down the stairs. The women watch for about a second before Isabella pulls out a flask of oil, lights it, and tosses it on the carpet of moving teeth... It ignites and scatters the horde, burning rats are sent skreeling and running everywhere.

Cautiously they move up the stairs, it's night out and they're aware that with the dark comes the "*big nasties".

*DM NOTE: My daughter's exact line.

Nothing is encountered and the party takes refuge amongst the broken-down walls of an outbuilding. After about an hour and a half, the poison finally runs its course through Belinda's veins. She's up and about. Sore...but alive, and happy for it.

Food is running out and torches are now in short supply, so a joint decision is made to high tail it back to Botkinburg. But first they must retrieve the stone chest containing the electrum pieces as well as the corpse of their fallen henchman.

After a light breakfast, (they're now conserving rations in anticipation of trouble on the way back to Botkinburg) the party descends back into the catacombs beneath the Ruined Abbey. Traversing the halls they come to the room wherein they had the jumping-spider encounter. And as Isabella steps around the corner, 3 black arrows come winging out of the darkness. The shafts shatter upon the stone right next to the warrior woman's head, causing her to flinch back and take cover around the corner.

Safira and the Krieger brothers come to the fore with bows drawn...Soon the sound of whirring arrows fills the air as both sides partake in a cat and mouse game of archery. The goblins are appallingly poor marksmen and they eventually fall to the superior skills of the adventurers. 2 of the 3 goblins go down with arrows protruding from various vital points. The remaining goblin throws down his bow, and screams that he's giving up.

After tying him up and questioning him, the party finds out that indeed Melchert had found the location of the key but couldn't find access to it. Once the party had slain the last work detail, he sent his remaining goblins to wait in ambush, just in case they came back.

The goblin also knows where the black door is and that Melchert guards himself with undead! This frightens the party considerably and they all agree that they must retreat from this dank dungeon and hastily make their way to Botkinburg for resupply.

Instead of heading to the toll (troll) bridge they cut straight across the wilderness in the hopes that they can cross the Hruesen river with the magic flute they possess. Nothing untoward occurs on their journey and the party eventually reaches the shores where they utilize the flute to make their way across.

By nightfall they're in the town of Botkinburg, and after a warm meal, and a little cleaning up, they relax and talk shop. A few days in town allows ample time to restock and to ask around regarding the bone scroll tube and its contents: A map. Upon the map is a written one single sentence with an arrow pointing to an area of the Black Tooth Ridge. The line reads: "Redoubt of the Horned One".

Turns out that most villagers know of the "Horned One". He's the bogeyman and was also a ruler of this area long long ago. No one knows if he's partially divine or if he's just some type of uber powerful creature but the rumor is that he was never slain. Only driven back and forced into hiding.

The party rolls up the map and places it back into the tube. Now stocked up, the next task is to hire some more folks to come along on an adventure. Unfortunately they've nearly run the little town out of available henchmen...and the fact that most of them come back dead won't help negotiations. But that's for next time.

Stay tuned...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Make mine insivible please.

Well, interesting things afoot at the Circle-K these days boys and girls. Within the last month, I've had two 4E sessions that I actually enjoyed more than agonized over. And here's why: We stayed away from the RAW (rules as written) and just gamed. Yes that's right, the "rules" were transparent, or invisible if you will.

The first session was w/ a group of guys that I infrequently game with, many that I've known since I was 12 (and that's a long long time). We've gone through all the versions since AD@D together and are now playing 4E. We don't meet all that often, maybe once-a-month, if we're lucky. And we're not much into continuity, story, plot, character development, etc. We just don't meet often enough to care.

Escape was the major premise of the scenario and the DM wasn't interested in utilizing 4E's skill challenge mechanic. Traps and obstacles were encountered the entire way and the navigation of each was laid at the player's feet. There was only one combat the entire session, and that happened at the very end. The memorable part was the escape though. We rolled dice only a few times and rarely relied upon PC skills or feats. It was refreshing to say the least.

Well, last night was a replay of the experience, and again, it was refreshing. Granted, I'm a big fan of puzzles and scenarios that make the player think. Falling back on using the mechanics to escape fate is a cop-out in my opinion. I love it when a group of people put their heads together to figure something out and the DM never once rolls dice. Don't get me wrong, I like combat as much as the next guy. But a game that's completely focussed on combat eventually dulls the excitement of the encounter due to repetition.

Anyway, last night's scenario (only 4 of 6 players could make it) had the players enter a town at the end of an adventure. Once there, the PCs were immediately identified as "adventurers" and as such, were invited to take part in a competition put on by the local "Adventurer's Guild".

Consisting of 10 separate challenges, the competition was scored on a points basis, with the highest scoring team taking the pot. (which was a load of gold and access to some of the Guild's maps and resources) So we started the thing and to be honest, it turned out to be a gas. I loved it. I realize that you can't run a campaign simply on puzzles and cerebral challenges, but they sure help as contrast to those nitty-gritty combat sequences.

Our DM has said that he's going to attempt to subsume the rules in order to focus more on the adventure itself. This is a superb idea and in truth, is one that I've secretly wished for all along. I'll be interested to see how the rest of the game proceeds. I might be a bit skeptical to start out with, due to my 7 month tenure with the game, but I'm hopeful. I'd like nothing more than to really get into a game that's running 4E under the hood.

I'll keep you up to date w/ the progress. Stay tuned...

Monday, March 23, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Recap

Hello gentle readers...sit back, relax, and let me take you to the days of yesteryear. Well, ok maybe not yesteryear. More like two days ago. Anyway with out further adieu.

The PCs / Players:
Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2 (my wife)
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2 (youngest daughter)
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2 (eldest daughter)

We start off with our party of adventurers deep in the bowels of the Ruined Monastery, standing at a three way intersection. Their mission, to find the black key and then, the black door. Once through, they must retrieve the Red Book of Knowledge as well as St. Gyxag's Sword of Truth. These are then to be returned to the old monk in Botkinburg for a reward.

The faint sound of metal striking stone can be heard off to the left..reverberating through the stone halls. A staccato "crack" punctuates the sound every now and again. Ember, who is currently leading the group, confers with Isabella and they decide that they'll go towards the noise first.

A few minutes of traversing the dark corridors finds the group peeking around a corner at a drowsing yellow skinned humanoid. Dressed in thick leathers, he leans casually on a pike, his head dipping now and again as he drowses. Safira takes careful aim with her shortbow and dispatches the foe with nary a sound.

Around the next corner they spy a group of the yellow skinned blighters picking away at what appears to be a blank stone wall. They're being spurred on by a red cap...the evil fey wields a long wicked whip and cracks it over their heads on occasion and yelps that they should be digging faster.

Again, it's Safira who quietly dispatches the foe, this time with a well placed sleep spell. The rest of the party hastily moves in and makes sure they never again rise up to plague the lawful world again. Fura nearly makes the mistake of getting up and personal when doing in the Red Cap. The girls warn him off just in time, explaining that the creatures explode in a ball of flame when they die. He nods, eyes wide, moves back and kills the creature. No damage is incurred.

*DM NOTE: I forgot to instigate my new coup de grĂ¢ce rule...Maximum damage and if that doesn't kill the creature then a save versus death magic must be made. Not sure if that rule's going to do the trick though. How about at higher levels? Why couldn't you just as easily slay a completely helpless 20th level fighter as you could a 1st level fighter? I need to think about this a bit more.

Looting the bodies produces a parchment, it seems that Melchert has found the Black Door and now knows the location of the Black Key as well. About 200 copper pieces are found as well...seems that Melchert is running low on funds and is now resorting to lowly coppers to pay his help. A little searching in the area of the goblin's pick work reveals a secret door which is only detectable by Ember. She even attempts to place Safira's hand over the thin cracks...and yet Safira feels nothing.

They eventually find the means of egress and it turns out that only Ember and Belinda are able to pass the door's threshold. Not happy about this situation the two carefully make their way into the inky darkness with a candle lamp lighting their way. After a few turns of the hallway they can see that it opens into a room and that a large square dark shape occupies the room and a darker yet shadow seems to loom beyond that.

Ember and Belinda both scurry out and inform the rest of the party of what they've found. Isabella asks why they didn't go in further...Ember answers that she's SCARED!

*DM NOTE: Ember is played by my 8 y/o daughter..she's the youngest and this seriously scared her. It took her probably 20 minutes in real time to screw up her courage to the level that would allow her to enter that shadowed room.

They are goaded by the rest of the party and finally decide that they should indeed find out what lies in the darkness of the room. Back down the tunnels they go and move into the room far enough to see that it's a large wooden desk w/ a skeleton sitting in a chair, skull bowed forward over it's chest. The hands are clasped at something near it's neck. What is not clear with the amount of light brought to bear, so the girls move closer.

Amongst the rotting robes lies a leather strap, and whatever depends from the terminus is what is clenched so tightly in the skeletal hands. Belinda pries them apart as Ember stands ready, holy symbol in hand. It turns out to be the black key. They rush out letting the other know that they've found the key.

After a brief celebration the two re-enter the room and rifle through the desk and the wardrobe found in the corner. A bone scroll tube and small key are discovered in the desk drawer as well as a small stone, iron-bound chest in the wardrobe. Again they bring forth their treasures to show the rest of the group.

*DM NOTE: I've been incredibly stingy of late, so to compensate I have added a bit of loot the this room...where previously there was none.

Ember checks the chest closely and finds a small catch inside of the keyhole. As she's about to insert the key Fura speaks up and suggests that it could possibly be trapped. He offers to open the chest instead. Sure enough, needles spring forth from the front of the lock as Fura carefully turns the key while it's attached to the end of a 10' pole.

*DM NOTE: A couple of things are working against me here in terms of every day DM'ing. The girls have a bit of emotional investment in their characters and they have a distinct lack of knowledge. So teaching them the "hard" way isn't really an option. So, how do you do it? Well you let a more experienced NPC take the lead every once in awhile.

Just as the lid clicks open a shadow detaches itself from the hall with a leap, and knocks one of the henchmen lookouts to the ground. A massive jumping spider has snared a meal! And of course it's not alone. The fight is on.

Unfortunately Belinda takes a shot as well and is within 1 hp of dying but is also poisoned (paralytic in this case). Ember heals her back up during the fight but can not fight the poison's course. Eventually, after losing one henchman and a paralyzed Belinda, the group destroys the three arachnids.

And again, that's where we ended it.

*DM NOTE: I know I've mentioned this before, but when you're playing with kids you have to take it easy and not rush them. My youngest was very very tentative with the literally took her forever to make up her mind. But once she did, she was quite proud of herself. It's an awesome feeling. We didn't really get much done in the span of nearly 2 hours. But again, it takes a little time for them in some of these newer situations.

All the same, it's so much fun. They're enjoying every little detail and don't want to stop by the end of each session. So for all of you parent gamers out there...don't hesitate, get the kids playing. It's seriously fun.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Differences in versions

Well this is going to be an odd post. It was inspired by a post over at Grognardia where James was talking about his Dwimmermount Session. He was mentioning how quickly combat between nearly 30 different individuals progressed and one of the comments to that post stated that, while 4E has a fairly streamlined combat system, they would be hard pressed to pull off a combat that included 30 different combatants in 30 minutes.

I have some experience with 4E, I've been playing it for about 7 months now in a 3x / month campaign. The DM is incredibly knowledgeable in the game, in fact you could say that it's sort of his religion. He takes it very seriously, keeps up with all of the current click-clack, and knows the rules inside out.

It occurred to me that one of the new features talked about extensively at 4E's release was that the combat was very streamlined and therefore it could run very quickly. So, I got to thinking, could our DM run the same combat that James described in his post as quickly and smoothly under 4E as James had under Swords and Wizardry?

My conclusion: No way in hell. I don't have any empirical data with which to back this statement up. But I do have experience. And I have participated in combats in 4E, with far fewer combatants that have run much much longer. I began to think about why that may be, why does 4E, with it's new and improved melee system run slower than OD&D's system? After all, isn't newer better? Wasn't the intent to get back to D&D's roots?

I'm sure many of you are saying to yourselves, this guy's a hater. He's just one of those head-in-the-sand grognards that is stubborn and tries, with every blog post, to discredit 4E. Let me state for the record that I actually liked 4E when it first came out. I honestly wanted to keep liking it and to continue using the rules. I mean after all, my group wanted to use it, and the DM was VERY impressed and spoke volumes about the improvements to the game.

At the same time, I was trying out all sorts of the retro-clone rules. I ran a short campaign of Castles and Crusades, I played a game of microlite20, a few one shots of Sword and Wizardry and am still running my home campaign on Labyrinth Lord. So I could do some "on the ground" compare and contrast tests.

Back to the combat and why it's slower in 4E than its predecessor versions. I've included a few illustrations to help make my point. Now I'm not claiming to be a deep thinker when it comes to things like this. But, I certainly know what I've experienced, and that experience logically draws me to the following point.

Older editions allowed that the source of the "effect" (or result) came from the DM. And how did it do this? Well, the rules were very broad in scope and weren't at all focussed on the minutia, but rather on allowing for interpretation.

The PC (player character) took a broad action that was roughly described in the rules (e.g. attack) and further defined what they were doing as it was taking place (e.g. "I duck under the edge of the table for a bit of cover and thrust out with my sword towards the orc's midsection...").

The DM in turn would take this situation and dictate the effect. It was pretty straight forward and therefore "fast".

Now we move on to the 4E example. In the 4E rules it gives each of the players a selection of abilities that they can attempt at any given time during a confrontation. Now of course you could ignore any of these abilities and just plain ol swing that sword and make a basic melee attack. But you would be missing out on all of the nifty effects that each of these powers produces.

Teamwork and the inter-relationships of the powers themselves plays a VERY big part of 4E combat, and therefore it is incumbent upon the players to be very tactically minded, know their powers intimately, and know their party member's power effects as well. You must keep a close eye on spacing, distances, terrain, time, opposing conditions (action points, surges, bloodied, etc.), your condition (HPs, bloodied, etc.), resources (action points, surges, potions, etc.) among a few other things.

Let me explain the illustration. (I don't suppose I really NEED to explain the illustration given for the older version do I?)

  1. Represents the tight interaction between the PC's powers. What I do will affect much of what other PCs will do. EXAMPLE: Let's say you're a fighter and will be utilizing a simple at-will power called 'Tide of Iron': "1[W] + Strength modifier damage, and you push the target 1 square if it is your size, smaller than you, or one size category larger. You can shift into the space that the target occupied." Now all of these things have an affect upon the battle field and your compatriot's actions. So now there are rules that do not depend upon the DM interdiction. They do require pretty detailed knowledge of the rules though.

  2. Represents the interaction between the opponent's (monster, NPC, etc.) powers, condition, etc. and the player's actions (power effects). These are tightly woven and balanced. The outcome between these powers' effects is what determines the DM's options, and therefore his / her reaction to what's going on.

  3. Represents the DM's response to the situation. Which in turn affects how the players again respond. It's all very well balanced and constructed to work smoothly within the given parameters.

Does this look and sound a little more involved than the above example? I think it is, and therefore it's the reason that combats don't run as quickly under the 4E rules as they do under older (pre-2E at least.) rule sets.

This is obviously a simplified example. There are facets of each that are not illustrated or explained fully. But overall, it is no fallacy to say that there are MANY more rules surrounding player options in a 4E combat.

When I was young I played a lot of Napoleonic war games with a group of older gentlemen. As I stood above the table the other night, looking down on the tableau unfolding in front of me, running through the options in my head, and all of the previously listed elements of battle, I had a deja-vue moment. I felt just like I did as a kid standing above the war game table. I was playing a war game. Or something that's very similar in makeup once you enter into combat.

Now of course OD&D was derived from a war game's rule set. But I don't ever recall feeling like I was playing a war game when I either played in or ran combats under those earlier rule's systems.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Everyone's Idea of Fun

I just thought of something, and rather than post it on someone else's blog and start a hate-war, I opted instead to post here and get my idea out in the open this way.

The thought that occurred to me as I posted a reply on Back in '81 was that yes, there's room for all of us to have a choice when it comes to our chosen game systems. Some of us like 4E while others like the LBB version of OD&D...and then there's everything in between. Now I'm not trying to be a doormat here, and you'll see the reason that I sort of lament the fact that there are so many "versions" out there.

IF TSR would have stayed on track and continued the tradition of both a "hobbyist" game as well as a "tourney" game then there would only ever be two flavors of the game. Those of us who adore the "hobbyist" type game could play our OD&D (or whatever) and those who like the crunchier rules-laden edition of AD&D could have fun with that version. No one's hurt. Everyone's clear on the division.

Now the problem, as I see it, comes when you take a game and make so many updates and iterations (improvements?) to it that it's no longer even remotely backwards compatible, you've inherently split the player base. This is a seriously unfortunate side effect. And it's one that I'm feeling right now.

I'm looking for a few people who might have the same "sensibilities" that I do when it comes to the "type" of game that I like to play in / run. Something that's not quite so structured w/ By-The-Book rules, that's a little more open to house ruling. But since there are so many different types of Dungeons and Dragons out there today, and they DO play quite differently, it's pretty darned tough to find a like-minded group of individuals willing to sit down at a table to play some of the "older" games.

The school of thought that I'm an adherent of goes something like this: I'd rather build something I prefer from a clean, bare bones foundation, than to grab something off the shelves that includes hundreds of pages of rules I know I won't need or want, try and strip it down, end up w/ a foundation that's shaped all wrong, and try to hack together something I'm looking for.

And this isn't saying that I sit around all night tinkering with rules. Far from it, these "house rules" that I'm referring to happen on the fly, right there in-game. And I'm pretty sure that because the original rules are fairly brief and easy to conceive, I'm not going to be worried about contradicting something on down the road that will be pointed out to me from a player who's had the inclination and time to read through the 400+ pages of rules.

Plus, you know what? I've got crap on my shelf from 30+ years ago that's screaming for the new generation to experience. Great stuff that hasn't lost its magic. And I'll guarantee you that it would take me ages to convert it to 4E should I have that energy, AND it'd likely break that "balance" tenet that seems to be so popular in the rules these days.

So yeah, I've always been a fan of "Play what you like"...but it makes me a little sad when I ask a bunch of people if they'd like to play Dungeons and Dragons and they all clamor for 4E. No interest whatsoever in the more basic game. Maybe I'm just not "selling" it right. I'll try for a different tact and keep you up to date.

Either way, keep playing. Gary would have liked it that way.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

EGG and Levels

Well, as most of you are quite likely aware, this is the first anniversary of Gary Gygax's passing. So tip your hat, lift a pint, or roll some dice in remembrance. Either way, let's all just have a bit of fun for The DM.

Now, on to "levels". I was having a discussion with a pal of mine the other night and he was saying that he's not particularly enamored of the mechanic of level advancement. For some reason that just didn't sit right with me, but I couldn't put words to my discomfort at the time.

He explained that he wasn't keen on a character advancing to such a level as to negate the danger of a single knife thrust between the ribs. Or that one should NEVER come across any kind of a dragon and feel confident enough to actually take it head on. I don't actually know what I might call this, but I'd tend towards the term "realism" I suppose.

I was thinking about this and a few things come to mind. Has anyone heard of Bob Munden? He's a fast-draw gun specialist that holds 18 world records. His speed and accuracy with a handgun are not to be believed...until you see it. Well, he didn't attain that type of mastery through osmosis. No, he practiced and practiced. Getting better with time and a lot of patience.

The things he can do with a gun seem almost magical...he's THAT good. I can imagine that the things that a 8th level fighter might be able to do would seem like that to a 1st level fighter...he's THAT good. But there's another facet of leveling that I think my friend is uneasy with and that's hit points.

Combat and therefore character level are abstracted in Dungeons and Dragons. This has always been the way that it's worked. It's part of the "game". And personally I like that there's a built in mechanic for change in the game. But I can see my buddy's point as well. How can ANYONE ever walk straight up to a dragon, expect to go toe to toe, and not wake up sitting in the company of their god? Or fall 70 feet, stand up and walk away?

Sure, I've always been a little uncomfortable with that aspect of the game. Especially the falling bit. But to be truthful, it's a game after all, it's about surviving, growing and succeeding at whatever it is that you've put your sights on.

Going back to the gunfighter example, most, if not all, of the gunfighters throughout history were slain by a shot in the back. Could you do that to an 8th level fighter and expect the same results? No, probably not. At least not with one strike. And I'll agree, that's a bit unbalanced. If you're going to be scrapping and scraping for your life then that fear always has to be there.

I like levels actually. But that's me. And I do see where my friend takes exception to that specific mechanic. While I love a gritty game as much as the next person, I also like the evolution of a character, that they can eventually take on a dragon...maybe not toe to toe, but that eventually they can certainly expect a 50/50 shot of getting out of the scrap alive.

And that brings up another point. One of the built in mechanics of the game that keeps the wheels moving is the relationship between adventuring, finding treasure, and advancement. Sure it's gamist, but that's alright.

Consider for a moment that fighter that we've been talking about, he's out there stomping around day after day with his pals, hoping that some day he'll have enough stashed away to purchase that land from the Baron and start his keep. BUT, he needs to be 9th level and have enough money to do so. See the connection? Take that away and I'm not sure you've got the same game.

I can think of a few things that might work towards making that more "life like".

  1. Hit Points increase very slowly and in small increments. e.g. 1st level 1d6 w/ +1 / level thereafter. High Constitution might give you a point more at each level.

  2. Anyone that gets a knife from behind has a chance of dying. Maybe a save versus death after the HPs are applied.

  3. A mechanic that allows for the fighter with a lot of experience to have the chance to dodge fate. His survivability quotient has risen to such levels that it's hard to kill the guy. He's got eyes in the back of his head, or has the presence of mind to reach out during his 70 foot fall and grab that stray root. Something maybe that's tied to level? Fate points maybe...

  4. A different concept for armor. It can now absorb hit points as well as protect you. For instance, leather armor will still provide an AC of 7, but it will also provide for a total of 2 hp / strike of protection. (up to 30 hp maybe) Plate mail would be much more advanced and also MUCH more expensive. You wouldn't likely find someone under level 6 wearing a suit of this stuff. But it's THAT much better. And also costs THAT much more to fix. Now this isn't a new concept, and the thing I don't like about it is that it totally increases bookwork, for someone, and that in turn draws combat out unnecessarily.

Well, I'll have to do a bit more thinking on this. But to be completely truthful, I like the way characters advance in Dungeons and Dragons. I think it's up to the DM to keep that level of challenge commensurate with the advancement of the party. A good DM will keep you on the edge of your seats at all times. I don't see an issue with goblins being a non-threat as things advance. Unless of course it's a goblin blade in the dark from behind. ;-)

Late Edit: Another concern of mine is that a game that uses rules that make death a very sudden event (more life-like) conditions players for certain play styles. I realize that this is what my friend was looking for (ahem, he actually said this and I forgot to mention it). It also adds an enormous amount of risk if you have only a few players. You have a hair-thin safety margin when playing w/ only a couple of characters and you lose 1/2 of them in one round due to poor rolls.

I can totally understand the attraction of having a character act in a cautious, non-super heroic manner when confronted with a dangerous situation. That's cool. But, that threat of an immediate / sudden demise also forces characters into more desperate options. You're taking away half of their arsenal when you introduce that type of mechanic. They now act like mice in nearly every situation...and while this might create a sense of realism and grit, it also detracts from the fantasy portion of the game.

Again, more thought needs to be put into this.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Labyrinth Lord Recap

Hello all you eager readers! (Ha...I've always wanted to say that.)

So here we are yet again, time for another thrilling recap of my familial LL game. This time we got just a bit more time to play, roughly two hours, which was nice. I'm eager for the day that we get just a tad more than two hours. It'll come, it's just a matter of time. "chuckle"

The PCs / Players:
Isabella - Female Human Fighter level 2 (my wife)
Ember - Female 1/2 elven Cleric level 2 (youngest daughter)
Safira - Female Ice Elf level 2 (eldest daughter)

We left off right in the middle of the action, which I'm loathe to do. But when two of your players are grade school children and the third is your wife (their mother), then you take what you can get and call it good.

And I just don't have the heart to institute that cruel table that Jeff Rients came up with. I can't imagine what my eldest daughter would do if I rolled a d6 at the end of a session and announced that her character had died. No, that just wouldn't do. My apologies to all you hard core DMs out there.

Four orcs lay dead at the feet of the group while the rest of them are "waking" up and getting camp broken down not more than 30 yards away. A quick plan was made: Safira will again peek out through a crack in the wall and cast her sleep spell, trying to take down the greatest number of orcs in one fell swoop.

This happens without a hitch and Isabella leaps over the wall to confront the one orc that was not taken by the spell. They meet in the middle and the amazon's sword cleaves the porcine fellow in twain. Just...That...Quick. Ember and the rest of the party creeps around and dispatches the rest of the sleeping creatures.

All but one that is. An odd orc was spotted by Safira as she cast her spell, this one, dressed in tattered purple robes, was smaller and seemed to be giving the orders. Turns out he's some type of shaman. This is the first spell caster that they've faced and they take particular interest in him.

Isabella asks if they think he might impart information. Maybe. So they tie him up and gag him. Also of note, they find two beaten and bedraggled children tied to a post on the edge of the camp. It appears that the two are from Botkinburg. One Sari and her brother Samuel, are farm children from along the Hruesen river on the outskirts of town.

Their homestead was attacked at night and their parents tried to fight the invaders off, which ended in blood. The children were tied up, and according to the shaman, were being taken to a place called the "Bleak Theatre", to be sold as slaves. (This information is plied from the shaman via a charm spell.)

Fura has never heard of the orcs crossing the river, but the family (Riversen) is familiar. This is bad news indeed. The shaman imparts that the tribe of the Bloody Eye is going to become wealthy by slowly draining the town of their "stock"...and they'll also eat well in the year to come. Bad news seems an understatement.

Well it's agreed by the group that one of the porters (Tom) will take the children back to the town. They're given extra food and directions and they set off in the morning. Isabella sees no use for the shaman and asks the group if they should free him or slay him. He's much to dangerous and chaotic a threat to let he dies.

* DM NOTE: Now I'm not horribly comfortable w/ these types of situations...BUT, my eldest has read more books than I can count and she's no stranger to that type of brutality. Still, what does one do? Leave him tied up to perish of hunger and thirst? Set him free to terrorize some more? They did a just's after all a fairly black and white world that I'm running. I'm not interested in a "shades of grey" exercise in morality and I take pains in restating over and over that it IS fantasy.

Their mission, the recovery of the holy items, or at least their whereabouts, is their top priority and with that, they descend into the inky depths of the Ruined Monastery.

At the bottom of the stairs they find two redcap corpses, feathered with bolts, with an orc just a bit further on. It appears that the orcs got into a bit of a scuffle and came out on top.

With Safira, utilizing her elven vision, leading the party, they look at the map recovered from the goblin miners and decide to explore a few areas not on their map. One of the Krieger brothers carries a small shuttered candle lamp, just enough light to see the wall and keep the group together, with out ruining the elf's vision just up ahead.

The mildewy and damp hallways have not changed in the past week...and the dark is still as oppressive. The first door that they come to turns out to reveal a work room of sorts. It looks as if it's been avoided for the most part by the goblins and the red caps. Rotted wooden benches and shelves, festooned with rusting wood working and gardening tools lie on the floors and sag sadly along the walls. They exit the only other door in the room onto a hallway.

This they take to the right and then an immediate turn to the left to find another door. Herein lies an old store room...or larder. Isabella walks in and is immediately attacked from above by two massive spiders. Neither strike proves true and the arachnids are quickly dispatched. They rummage and closely check this room for secret doors but find nothing of value or interest.

*DM NOTE: My eldest, while an excellent adventurer (she constantly uses the 10' pole out ahead of her and is always describing what she's doing and how she's doing it) is very much the most tentative of the three. She HATES the fact that she might perish. Every single door and encounter causes her a great amount of consternation and stress. I'm not sure what to do about this. I'm happy that my wife is playing...she's much more direct and straight forward. I just hope my eldest loosens up a bit. She IS a hero after all, it's just tough convincing her of that.

So anyway, that's where we ended it. We had to take off and go celebrate my father-in-law's birthday.

Tune in for more next week.