Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Nostalgia, Cave Demons and Sorcery!


I ran an AD&D game on Google+ recently. Part of running older games is recapturing the wonder and excitement I experienced as a kid, nostalgia I guess. I had pondered creating a sandbox setting for the game I’m running and figured that I should draw on the things that inspired me when I was growing up. The major influences were Fighting Fantasy and Lone Wolf books, games of Talisman, Warhammer 3e and countless readings of D&D Red Box. Visually Gary Chalk and John Blanche were huge influences on me. While I am reminiscing, Callum an old DM and friend, joined the game calling in from NSW. Excellent!
Gary Chalk illustrated my childhood.
Callum had rolled up Chuck the dwarven cleric/fighter and zealot of Dunethoin. Dunethoin is the god of secrets and mysteries. Brendan brought Milgos and his henchwoman Betty. After a substantial Google+ hic-up killed about an hour of game time we got underway and achieved the following:

·       Chuck met Milgos in one of Khare’s many taverns and immediately made all present aware of his zealous unwavering faith. Milgos was not impressed by the dwarf's fanaticism. He had recently taken up the title of 'Milgos the Glum' as he brooded on the loss of his dark elf form.
·       Chuck was looking to explore the location of some cyclopean ruins that were held by a band of Slaang worshipping marauders. Slaang is the chaotic god of malice.
·       Upon arriving at the caves they were questioned by a man concealed in the undergrowth who insisted he was a hermit and that the group had to leave as there were “definitely no cyclopean ruins here to explore, thank you very much.” After a drawn out conversation Chuck became suspicious and peered into the cave. While the ‘hermit’ had stalled for time a band of marauders had gathered at the caves entrance. Combat was swift thanks to a hold person spell and some terrible rolls.
·       Efforts to push the ‘held’ marauders off a cliff face were interrupted by the main marauder group led by a Witch of Slaang. Once they were dispatched a marauder was spared and brow beaten into forsaking his god Slaang and instead worshipping Dunethoin.
·       Chuck’s new ‘ally’ spilled the beans on the caves layout and features mentioning some tunnels that were too small for the bulky marauders to explore. These tunnels would be ignored.
·       The witch’s body turned to mist and began to float away but was frozen solid by Milgos’ magic. The frozen chunks were then scooped into a bag of holding.
·       A cave demon was found and dispatched. Milgos’ displacer cloak gave him the confidence to enter melee.
·       A giant stone head was discovered in the cave demons lair. It was said to allow direct communication with the god Slaang who would grant a wish to any who bested him in a contest of wits. Milgos was torn but would have no truck with dark gods despite his desire to return to his drow form. Chuck got out his chisel and defaced the head ruining it.
·       Further exploration found a survivor of a prior expedition, Mad Mord, who gave them some extra information on the cyclopean ruins which the players didn’t really pick up on. Probably because at this point we were rushing things.
Sorcery! The feared Cave Demon turns out to be a manticore. 
The adventure I ran was a homebrew influenced by the Sorcery! series of books, specifically the Shamutanti Hills, with an eye to fine tune it into a one page dungeon entry. No adventure survives contact with the players and despite my fatigue on the night I picked up on a few things that didn’t really work:

·       The adventure needed more detail as the caves were overshadowed by combat. Callum thought they were moving through a dungeon when they were moving through natural caves. This could also be because the fighting started well before any exploration.
·       More build up was required. There was a big fight at the entrance and then some rushed and muddled exploring.
·       Some other sort of opponent beyond the marauders and the cave demon was required. Is there room in the caves for another faction if I space things out?
·       The puzzle, which led to the portal concealing a cool encounter and substantial treasure, was either too well hidden or simply not picked up on by the players. The primary goal seemed to be clear the dungeon of monsters first and if there's any play time left explore.
·       I got the impression the players weren’t impressed with re-skinned humanoids preferring to battle the classic creatures. The players searched in vain for the spell book of a witch after she was killed. They became disheartened and queried how she could cast spells. It’s hardly my job as a DM to explain that she was a re-skinned ogre-mage.
·       The marauders were re-skinned minotaur’s with a random mutation. Thanks to the random mutation roll one of the marauders could psionically cast sleep. I think this met with raised eyebrows that he cast a spell without a spell book and do it while wearing armour. This is probably a bit of the old 3e fairness/monsters built like players mindset creeping in. 

I’ll keep working on this adventure and the Sorcery! setting as I think both have potential. It was great gaming with both Brendan and Callum. It has been far too many years. Nostalgia is a good thing.

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