Of Zombie Apocalypses, Befriending Giants, and other matters…

It’s been a while since I posted, there’s a lot to catch up on, three sessions, I think.

Okay, last semester, Louiee’s player turned up again, happily. To get away from major urban areas where he could cause trouble, the party decided to check out a city in the south which has been overrun with UNDEAD!!!! (thoroughly defeating the PCs on the previous trip in). After some reasonably minor altercations with undead patrols, and Jeff Rients’ Trumpeter of Doom, the PCs fought their way through to the castle in the city centre, where they found out that this localised undead apocalypse had been brought about by a long-dead sorceress by the name of Saliria, trying to flee this plane from an unspecified DOOOOM, and had no real interest in the party besides the fact that they were ‘killing’ her ‘children’. The party dwarf sympathised with her, much to everyone else’s chagrin, and in the ensuing fracas, the entire party got hit by a sleep spell. They awoke in time to see the last of the undead walking into the portal. That was a bit of a let-down for the players, except that the wizard finally got her hands on her crystal ball again.

Then the party returned to the city of Barros, to hand Louiee, Priest-slayer and Evil-Goddess-worshipper, over to Lord Sayle for a bounty. At the moment of execution, Louiee called in a limited wish he had been given by the Blue Lady of Dismay as a levelling-up perk, and teleported away (after first dimension dooring three feet away and yelling “Suck it!” to Lord Sayle). Sadly, he miscalculated, and teleported himself into a temple. With his hands tied. And the mark of a Level 1 heretic branded onto his forehead. He is currently incarcerated, waiting for his player to turn up again.

After the holiday break, the barbarian wizard, the cleric and the thief made their way back into the dungeons below the Archmage  Zaedis’ tower. Here they ran afoul of an intimidating magicky dude, who told them to stay out of mischief and set a spy on them. After avoiding one big lizard that wanted to be left alone, they ran into another big lizard that wanted to be left alone – with typical PC luck, they end up picking the one that can vomit mini-versions of itself right into combat. This fight, I think, could easily have gone either way, until the magicky dude told them off for killing Zaedis’ creatures. At this point, the players got a bit fed up with this dungeon. They pottered around on the surface for a while (finding a Narnia-like place, an ominous black spiky throne–surprisingly, one player sat in it and I had to scramble to find out what it did again–and a nutty imp who powered an orrery that gave the PCs a vital clue to the campaign story), and then left.

Now, at this point, when the players decided to leave, there was some bad feeling in the air–not all directed at me, though it should have been. That was definitely something of a learning experience for me. I put too many custom-made and over-powered monsters in that dungeon, and topped it all off with a frighteningly, powerful NPC who basically told the PCs to shove it. It interfered with the ultimate goal of any D&D party – to explore the underworld, kill stuff and steal other, shinier, stuff – and resulted in driving the players out of the area they had previously been perfectly willing to explore. If I had my time again, I would do this very differently. And, to any of my players who are reading this, I’m sorry about that.

But, moving on. After giving the tower dungeon up for lost, the PCs decided to head into giant country. North they went, in search of conquest and loot (and XP. don’t forget the XP). After getting into town and dealing with ongoing rumours of bad stuff happening in the north, they followed the old dwarven road leading out of town and then struck off into the wilderness. Now, at this point, I think things got a little bit funny.

I finally got my hands on a real copy of the 1eDMG, and so I was using the wilderness encounter tables in the appendixes. I rolled a pack of wolves – all good. The wizard fries most of the wolves, and the others pick off the rest. Then – and this is where the train starts to derail a bit – the dwarf decides to use his Flaming Sword to have a barbecue. Right in the middle of the wilderness, not too far from the giants’ hill. I rolled the giants up exactly as described in my new copy of the  Monster Manual (well, 2nd-hand, but new to me), with wives and kids and ogre servants. I decided that the ogres, on patrol, would come and investigate. The dwarf immediately offers the ogres some toasted wolf.

This is one of those odd situations where the PCs don’t do what the DM expects, which is to kill everything that moves. Bemused, the ogres accept the meat, and go to get the giants, who will want some as well. The dwarf happily obliges, and gets the party invited to come back to the hill, where an even bigger barbecue is going on. The dwarf plays with the kids a bit, and then the other party members start yelling at him.

The dwarf likes these giants, and doesn’t want to just kill them for XP and loot. The other party members are a little fed up with his wishy-washy behaviour, reminding him that the giants are Chaotic Evil. I’m sitting behind my screen, worried that I’m now going to have to come up with a new giant encounter from scratch, having just prepared this one to avoid that problem. The dwarf reckons that they’ll stay the night, and go look for more evil giants in the morning. But finally, the conversation comes up to the rocks that the giants throw, and the dwarf is horrified to learn that these giants throw rocks at the local dwarves because they go “squish”. And also that these giants are quite happy to throw rocks at a group of guests that are just leaving.

A ferocious combat finally ensues, with the thief using the d30 rule in a one-shot backstab again (that’s one thing I love about that rule: it allows awesomeness to reign and high-fives all around). Once that’s over, the party spend the next five days hauling the loot – including 5 barrels of dwarven ale – back to town, and preparing for the journey to Barros. The journey back is hampered by snow – I was planning to fetch out the weather rules from 3.5e, but I forgot about it until after the PCs had got back. A little carousing ensued, and then it was time to pack up.

I ultimately decided that, despite Gygax putting it into the MM, it’s really quite cruel to have the PCs fight helpless women and children as well as combat-ready males. That scene was a bit sickening, and I don’t think I’ll be doing that for any group of monsters that the PCs are supposed to be wholeheartedly slaughtering.

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