Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Citadel of the Severed Hand in play

Dwarf Crawl - hacking their way home.
It's been a while since I ran anything. Getting a regular group together feels like a lot of work, particularly prepping adventures, and there are plenty of others willing to take up DM duties. I content myself with running one shots every now and then. Last Saturday I threw together a last minute game based on the dwarf crawl idea I have kicking around in my head. My one page dungeon for 2013 was the first planned adventure for dwarf crawl so I ran that. We had four players which is a nice number and a good turn out for a last minute game.

We used Rient's character creation as a party game. Everyone rolled poorly so we had a bunch of battlers on our hands. Couple that with some terrible rolls on the random starting gear chart and the whole venture took on the fatalistic feel of a Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay adventure. Which suits me fine.

A band of dwarf and gnome outcasts, Mo, Norin, Franklin, Ironhead and their dysfunctional henchmen set out to recover the lost Citadel of Barak Kiel. This would be the first step in attempting to resettle and reclaim their homeland. The Citadel had been over-run by orcs of the Severed hand tribe. These orcs were about to be subjected to a brutal home invasion.

While heading to the citadel they ran afoul of a half orc ambush. The brutes were led by a rotund fellow called Big Grin and a charm person spell later meant that Mo the gnomish magician had five new meat shields... fodder... um... allies. Ironhead didn't even pause to acknowledge the presence of the half orcs as they sprung their ambush; instead he marched single minded towards the Citadel. Once there he skirted the walls and climbed the side of the gate house. Having put all his skill points into back stab, Ironhead was an assassin extraordinaire. Unfortunately he missed his attack roll, followed by losing the initiative. He was promptly knocked out by a two headed orc.

The commotion at the gate house roused his companions who rushed the fortifications with their half-orc allies and their log ram. Big Grin took an arrow to the neck before the gate gave way and a swarm of dwarves rushed in. Norin let fly with a sleep spell ending the battle. A peryton, pet of the orcs, flew over to investigate the commotion. Ironhead's suicidal henchman and Franklin's penitent henchmen (dysfunctions courtesy of 'The Hell is Wrong with this Guy' table) took it upon themselves to battle the peryton. They died gloriously, impaled on the beasts wickedly sharp antlers. The rest of the party sheltered within the gatehouse, too scared to leave lest the peryton rend them as well.

The slumbering gate house guards were dispatched methodically. Some of the orcs had been drunk on spirits made from fermented milk. Empty bottles were looted and enough booze salvaged to create a molotov cocktail.

Ambush formation.
A challenge echoed up from the stairs that led from the gatehouse deeper into the citadel. Norin channeled some Han Solo with 'everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here now ...' Before Mo intervened. The gnome instructed his half orc 'friend' to explain that the commotion had been due to one of their friends going ape, flinging poop at the peryton. His foolish actions so provoked the creature that he had been attacked and killed. Hence all the noise. Mo and friends then riled up the orcs at the bottom of the stairs to such a point that they came storming up ready to crack heads. The party set an ambush and trounced the orcs. Unfortunately one of the brutes fled, calling for allies and sealing the group off by bringing a portcullis crashing down.

Much to Ironhead's consternation Mo the flexible gnome magician was able to slip through the gaps in the portcullis bars (dex check). Ironhead made a mental note to gnome proof the gate once the dwarfs were back in charge of the citadel. Mo raised the portcullis and the dwarfs and half orcs tumbled in to the citadel proper. From there they clashed with orc reinforcements among the narrow corridors.

During the fight the orc leader attempted a parley. Fearing a ruse the group pelted him with bottles and hacked him and his men down. Once again several orcs escaped, this time to warn their queen. Here the party split and things got odd. Franklin went berserk and began gutting and skinning the freshly slain orcs Predator style. Once he had removed a skull and spine he turned all Hannibal Lector and began eating faces. It was clear that Franklin was a priest of a heretical cannibal god. Somewhat disgusted Ironhead and Mo did their best to ignore their companion and set about searching the orc's mess hall. Norin had his blood up though and raced in the direction the orcs had fled, and so the party was split.

Mo the flexible gnome magician
Norin followed the tunnels along which the orcs had fled until he reached an audience chamber filled with luminous myconids, cowering orcs and a demonic goat horned queen. The queen seemed friendly and tried to work her charms on the dwarf but to no avail. She invited Norin to bring his friends to her so they could talk. Norin beat a hasty retreat. Rejoining his companions the group planned their assault. Given their battered condition they felt it prudent to rest first, wisely replenishing their spells. During the night some orcs came to fetch them as the queen grew impatient, they were ruthlessly slain for daring to interrupt the adventurers sleep.

The final battle was anticlimactic. The queen began her charm offensive. Ironhead and Franklin were compelled to turn on their half orc allies. The half orcs were felled brutally as the dwarfs had consumed 'Rage shrooms' prior to entering combat. Cheers to Franklin for reminding me of the extra damage he was dealing to his allies! The Myconids were put to sleep and the queen narrowly avoided falling to the dreaded 'cast light in the eyes' tactic. Mo hurled his Molotov cocktail dousing the demon queen in flammable booze. He resisted her charms before setting her alight with a hurled torch. Burning and in a panic, despite seemingly having the upper hand thanks to her charmed thralls, the demon queen blinked to safety leaving the band feeling somewhat deflated. We left things there.

What did I learn? 
  • Even though character generation as party game is quick it's better to let people play the class they want. These characters felt disposable. 
  • I will modify the random equipment chart so its more forgiving.
  • 'The Hell is Wrong with this Guy?' is an excellent table that gives henchmen and hirelings a meaty hook. Speaking of hooks, Mo's henchman Igor had a hook hand while Norin's wing man was hideous.
  • 3 and a half hours is about the max I can run a game for these days. The group as whole ran out of steam towards the end and I felt the game suffered.
  • Teleporting villains are lame. While it gives you a recurring villain, letting them die a horrid death is better. Let the players have their hard earned victory.
  • Fighting in corridors sucks. We need more spears and pole arms so the second rank can get involved.
  • Dungeon tiles hindered rather than helped. Having the scene and positions physically represented prevented me from abstracting the corridor battle. Abstracting the fight would have allowed more players to participate and would have sped things up. The tiles also take up too much table space and are a hassle to carry to the venue.

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