Saturday, 16 February 2013

Oil shortage hits Keep on Borderlands

How could anyone hate Gelatinous Cubes?

Preparing to run a game can be a chore. Writing your own scenario takes time but in return the session will be easy to run with little need to look things up. Running a written adventure smoothly can be tricky depending on how the adventure is presented. Format is the key and here I find Paizo adventure paths too dense to run at the drop of a hat while a one-page dungeon format like Stonehell’s is perfect. Friday nights game was at short notice so I had to fall back on something pre-written. I printed an easy prep one-page dungeon winner, but when the game started Pete and Optimus Prime were eager to get back to B2 Keep on the Borderlands. The prior session had clearly left an impression. I know this classic adventure well so there was no drama running the monster bashing sandbox / petting zoo. Here’s what happened:
When searching a medusa most folk don't look for contraband amongst her hair.
  • Last time I blogged about B2 I mentioned that I’d make hirelings a finite resource. This session I did and there was much grumbling and attempts to recruit stable boys. The fragility of level 1 made the players feel like they needed fodder. I think their current level and accompanying buffer of HP make disposable meat shields unnecessary. I also figured the guards and barkeep had warned folk against adventuring with the pair as all who did had not returned. In the end a jolly cleric, Darius Train (inventing names on the spot is fun!) signed up for a tour of duty.
  • Optimus Prime never fails to apply logic to things. He mounted a convincing argument to recruit/bribe some guards into joining the group for their foray into the Caves of Chaos. I was tempted to have a charisma check determine the results but his arguments were convincing and he role-played it well enough that I ran with it. He did this last session convincing an Orc Warlord to lend him some warriors. Even when I reluctant to give them things the party eventually find a compelling way to convince me.
  • Pete’s Halfling found a young stable boy to bully. Leif the halfling has a bad case of small man syndrome. The group is no longer welcome in the inn as a result.
  • The keep was fleshed out. I hate starting adventures in town but given that the group spent a lot of time at the keep looking for hirelings and oil it made sense to give them the lay out. There was some discussion about looting the keep but this was dismissed as the defences looked too great.
  • Oil was still very much desired by the players. I didn’t give them any as the few supply caravans that had reached the keep were not carrying supplies of oil. They got by with the flasks they had from last session using them to kill the majority of foes they faced in the caves. Medusa – doused in oil and burnt alive. Gelatinous cube – burnt by fire. Wight  - set alight while emerging from its sarcophagus.
  • Optimus made the call ‘I bet it’s a Medusa’ while rescuing a ‘maiden’ whose upper half he could not see. He was right, promptly failed his save and turned to stone. It was for a limited time only as the medusa had a vial that would reverse the stoning effect. We had to puzzle out the hiding place for this vial, as the medusa had been a prisoner of a Chaotic Cult. In the end we figured she had hidden it amongst the nest of snakes that served as her hair.
  • The hero’s finally cleared the Temple of Chaos section of the caves. They killed a medusa, torturer, wight and gelatinous cube before breaking in to the neighboring Gnoll’s caverns.
  • The players weren’t keen on the Gelatinous Cube considering it a lame monster. I see it as iconic but agree it is a bit crap to fight. It’s AC is horrible, it tends to have few HP, dies quickly and it’s slow. It's not terribly useful though it did eat an ‘off duty’ man at arms.
  • A secret door led to the Gnoll Chieftain’s room. Optimus' Half Orc assassin snuck in, with newly found elven boots, and struck. Once again the assassination check was failed. With the element of surprise the group all but slew the chieftain who promptly surrendered. Once again Optimus Prime surprised me by taking the Gnoll Chief's son as a hostage / front line fighter to ensure against Gnoll treachery. Brilliant stuff that reminded me of the taking of sons as hostages in medieval Europe. 
The great thing about running a site based adventure with no 'script' or planned course of events is that you never know how a session will work out. Its the surprises along the way that make role-playing great fun.

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