Sunday, 23 December 2012

B2 - Quick play Caves of Chaos

The Keep on the Borderlands holds fond memories for many
Keep on the Borderlands is held as a prime example of how to set-up a sandbox and run an action packed game. Some label it a meat grinder, it can be. I wanted to run a pick-up game while the regular DM was overseas. I selected Keep on the Borderlands and started things where the action is, the Caves of Chaos. It worked great.

Pacing in a game is critical, particularly for a pick-up game. We game from 6 to 9 on Wednesday nights. That's three hours to cram as much D&D in as possible. I wanted to include character generation. Normally character generation slows everything to a crawl, particularly if you don't have enough books on hand. Things get worse when you start buying equipment and look to hire men at arms. So I used Jeff Reints character generation as a party game. Jeff makes judicious use of index cards and I had bought a stack on my lunch break. They proved handy. Each character managed to fit on a single card! 

Owlbear wins
Inspired by this blog entry at Hill Cantons blog I produced a random starting equipment chart to speed things along. The random weapons were modified to account for Weapon v Armour Class. This is something I have never used before as it adds a layer of complexity to the game and slows combat down. Stuart from Strange Magic inspired me to incorporate the bonus/penally different weapons had against various armour directly into the hit roll. His post about it is here. The group ended up as a band of elves accompanied by a Paladin. Their adventuring highlights include:

  • Adam naming his hireling Rob in the hope that I would not kill him. As it transpired Rob was the first to die. His next hireling was called Bob <sigh>.
  • Negotiations with Gnolls saw them directed to a bears den.
  • The Paladin called out a challenge from the entrance to the bears lair asking it to fight them in fair combat. The band then set about preparing an ambush.
  • The bear turned out to be an Owlbear. The party fell one by one to the creatures claws and hug. As each character died they took on the role of a plucky hireling. Adam's elven cleric/mage was the last man standing and was unlucky not to land a killing blow with his hammer. Instead the elf was decapitated by a swipe from the beast as he desperately attempted a sleep spell.

Everyone is Half-Orc
I was a little crestfallen about the TPK but the group took it in their stride. In fact it had been a lot of fun for all. The advantage with Jeff's party game creation method is that no one was that attached to a character. Lightning fast character generation produces some odd results you wouldn't have come up with on your own. 10 minutes after the TPK a new group was ready to face the Caves of Chaos. In the secret allocation of Race and Class everyone had selected Half-Orc fighters. Some had a dash of Assassin and one did a reasonable impersonation of a Cleric. Highlights for the second group include:
  • Shane has a d30. It was used to generate the first letter of the PC's. We ended up with Half-Orcs called Zerbo and Xerxes.
  • Tracking their first batch of 'good' characters hoping to kill them and take their stuff. Everyone knows parties are at their most vulnerable on their way out of a dungeon and these Half-Orcs were a cunning lot.
  • A battered Owlbear was put to the sword. The bodies of their first party were looted and the equipment redistributed. This is the first time I have seen a group loot their 'own' bodies. Bizarre.
  • One of the Gnolls who'd mislead the group was found half eaten in the Owlbear's lair. He had headed into the caves to see how the party had fared before falling to the raging monster.
  • Grey Oozes were smacked off ceilings. They proceeded to corrode halberds and armour before being dispatched.
  • After conquering the Owlbear lair the group headed to their next randomly selected cave. It just so happened to contain the biggest bad in the place. The Minotaur gave them a run for their money.
  • Noting the bovine smell at the cave entrance, Chris determined that whoever lived within the cave owned cattle which in turn meant that they would be rich. Thus the group should enter and take everything. His rational explanation for the bull manure smell was perfect in its naivety.
  • Shooting into combat is a bad idea. A luckless hireling disrupted the Half-Orc cleric's command spell at a crucial juncture. To make up for it the hireling discarded his crossbow and waded into close combat. He was impaled on the minotaurs horns the following round. 
  • The hero's overcame the Minotaur and found a substantial amount of treasure. In all likelihood enough to level despite their multi-classing.
Minotaur - the true source of the bovine smell
Thanks to Adam, Chris and Shane for an excellent game that I had a blast running. In 2.5 hours we went through character generation twice and completed some tough parts of the Caves of Chaos. That's a lot of game for a short period of time. The perfect amount of time for a drop in and have a go game.

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