Friday, 27 September 2013

An Introduction... To Death!

Characters & Players

Royce: (f) Lawful Fighter 1 (Played by Rae)
Freija Shieldcracker: (f) Lawful Dwarf 1 (Played by Laura)
Arias: (f) Neutral Elf 1 (Played by Sarah)
Katerina Petrov: (f) Lawful Cleric 1 (Played by Laura)
Willow: (f) Neutral Magic-User 1 with chaotic tendencies (Played by Rae)
Thalia: (f) Neutral Thief 1 (Played by Rae)
Silus: (m) Neutral Thief 1 (Played by Sarah)


While some of us have played various different versions of D&D to different extents (I have to mention that Rae actually has played through a full campaign about a year or so ago of 4e, so we weren't all as completely out of practice as I'd originally thought), this is our first session playing with each other as a group. Sarah, Rae and I live together in a house in Toronto (with two other roommates that pretty much keep a separate social circle). Laura is my girlfriend who lives in Oshawa and comes to stay with us on weekends. When I do write-ups for the individual characters I'll have each of them write a little blurb about themselves but they're all really awesome people!

As I've already mentioned, we're planning on playing our way through each edition of D&D but decided to start with Basic rather than OD&D. I actually just joined a group playing OD&D on G+ doing a megadungeon and I had my first session with them tonight. I just felt that the rules for OD&D were just a bit too confused for me at the time to DM a game of it with one completely new RPer and two fairly experienced RPers, but none of whom had actually played Original.

Also, we decided to skip Holmes' version as I didn't have it at the time. It's also different enough from the other versions that it really ought to be addressed on it's own. Perhaps we'll run through a few levels of character development in Holmes' before we move on to AD&D 1e. So we're starting using Moldvay's rules and will gradually migrate to Mentzer's rules.


Basic D&D's default setting is Mystara, and all the published modules are set there, so I've read through the first Gazetteer about Mystara's Grand Duchy of Karameikos (where all the Basic-Level modules occur). I haven't had time yet to prime the players on much of the idiosyncrasies of Karameikos, but have given them enough to get a couple of specifics relating to their characters (or at least some of them) that I may need to know (such as which church the cleric belongs to, which thieve's guilds the thieves belong to, etc.).

As old school D&D is pretty hardcore, abilities are rolled by 3d6 IN ORDER! so you don't get to pick and choose your strengths and weaknesses. Also, first level hit dice are actually rolled, so you could end up with only a single hit point until you either die (highly likely) or get to second level (yeah right!). However, I allowed (at least for starting characters) rerolls of 1-2 on first level hit dice. This gives our party of 7 the following hit points: 5, 5, 5, 5, 4 (Willow), 3 (Thalia), 5.

To begin our campaign, I'll be using the combination module B1-9: In Search of Adventure, which combines the first 9 modules published for Basic into 3 separate paths to the culmination in the capital which brings the characters from Basic to Expert levels, at which time we'll begin to switch to the Expert Set (Moldvay first, gradually moving to Mentzer).

Because the last campaign some of us were in began very slowly (for inexperienced players anyway), I opted to pick the easiest of the 3 available beginning adventures and just give it to them. After they complete it, we'll work on character backgrounds, how they all met each other (in a tavern?) and we'll role-play out their choices of future adventures based on following rumours or tracking down information for what they want to do next (except the next mission is pretty much decided for them as well, but that won't be apparent til the end of the first session), and I'm deciding that since we haven't looked at character background yet, I'll have the group start in the Autumn BEFORE the big millennial celebration so that they can enjoy it when it comes.

Player Map of Caldwell Castle after Session 01

Session One

The characters began the session in the town of Threshold, in a tavern (which I will retroactively decide was The Mischievous Pixie, the inn and tavern frequented by adventurers and one-armed or one-eyed men). They were all enjoying some drinks and listening for rumours of adventure when in through the front doors came a somewhat paunchy, brightly dressed merchant who, after a few words with the barkeep (a sturdy dwarf with a large scar on his left cheek), announced to the tavern that his name was Clifton Caldwell and that he was in need of some "eviction specialists."

Clifton explained that he had recently purchased an old castle just a few miles outside of town, but that when he went to see his new property he barely got into the main hallway when he was viciously attacked by goblins and only barely made it out with his life! He was here looking for some brave adventurers to go through the castle and clean it out of unwanted "guests" so that he could move into his new home.

Our seven would-be heroes quickly volunteered their services and negotiations began. Clifton offered 100 gp each to clear out the castle. Silus and Thalia both felt that he was holding back and pointed out that he was "nearly killed" and so the castle must be quite dangerous and therefore worth more "danger pay." Clifton countered with an offer of 150 gp each, but only half was to be paid up front, with the remainder to be paid upon completion. The party accepted these terms and after a bit of shopping for dungeoneering supplies, they set off for the castle.

Ready, Steady, Goblins!

The party lined up on the sloped ramp leading up to the front doors, checked their equipment one last time, and Royce pulled the large double doors open. They were unlocked and swung open easily. Inside, they saw a wide entryway with a door on either side and another door across a hallway T-section in front of them. Then paranoia set in (thanks to a little preparation from Hero Quest and some not-so-subtle hints throughout the past month about how dangerous and trap-riddled old school D&D is). So the entire party waited outside on the ramp while they sent in the two thieves (in leather armour and one of whom has the least amount of hit points) alone to move silently to the doors and listen to what may be on the other sides. Silus, at the door to the right, can hear what sounds like an argument between several creatures on the other side of his door, but couldn't make out the language. Thalia, at the door to the left, hears nothing.

While they were listening at the doors, they were come upon by a group of goblins patrolling the hallway. The four goblins screamed at them (Roohoo! Roohoo!) and the two in the back shot at them with their shortbows, while the other two charged at them with their daggers! Thalia easily dodged their clumsy attacks, but Silus wasn't so lucky. He took an arrow in the shoulder and had all he could handle keeping the dagger-wielding goblin at bay.

As soon as the others saw this from outside the doors, they all rushed in (except for Willow who, with no armour, stayed outside in relative safety) and Silus hastily retreated outside to help with a thrown dagger or two. With the dwarf Freija and fighter Royce both wielding two-handed weapons, mistress of slings Katerina (13 DEX) and Thalia's mighty blows (16 STR) with her longsword and a well-aimed arrow from Arias, the four goblins were quickly dispatched. The final goblin had no sooner hit the floor than Thalia began rummaging through their rags and pouches for the few electrum coins they carried with them, as well as distributing the goblins' daggers among the party.

However, due to the commotion in the entryway, the voices in the room to the right became hushed and Freija could only just barely tell that they were goblin voices. The party arranged itself to either side of the door as Arias and Freija were both sure that the goblins inside would be poised with shortbows aimed at the doorway. Again, Royce was the one to open the door, but rather than an arrow to the face, she found four more goblins forming a shaky guard in front of two very large piles of silver and copper coins (presumably the subject of the earlier argument) armed only with shortswords and no ranged weapons to be seen.

Mortality Defined

This fight, the party expected to go as easily as the first. Unfortunately, things took a bad turn when Royce was killed with a lucky strike that somehow managed to go under her arm and through a weak spot in her heavy plate mail. The party was shocked and furious at losing one of their strongest members to such a pitiful creature as this, but tray as they might, they couldn't land any good blows other than a single decent wound to the goblin who murdered Royce.

The fight then went from bad to worse when another goblin made a critical hit through Freija's defences, bringing her from completely untouched to completely dead in about 10 seconds flat.

Two deaths notwithstanding, the party was eventually able to slay the goblins.

Tails Between Their Legs

Demoralised and desperate to beat a hasty return to town to find the Patriarch to raise their two fighters from the dead, the party gathered up the coins, not forgetting to check the bodies of the murderous goblins for a few extra electrum pieces, Katarina knelt down by the bodies of their fallen comrades and uttered a prayer for their souls, while the rest of the party brought the loot out to Clifton's wagon, who was surprised to see them back outside so soon, it having been less than an hour since they had arrived. The elf Arias informed Clifton of the two deaths while the others went back in to carry out the bodies.

The party returned to Threshold in poor spirits, hoping the Patriarch or his niece would be easy to find...


Some of the details in this report may be slightly off, as we were all tired after playing D&D from after midnight til about 6 AM and I didn't write down any notes of their progress. I also waited til now to post this, even though it's been almost two weeks since the session. Last week we played "Heroine Quest" and the party of heroines were sent in to kill the orc warlord Roohoolag (for reasons that will not be explained here, goblins and orcs in our fantasy worlds all say "Roohoo!" as a war cry and important goblins and orcs are all named Roohoo).

I gave the group this adventure first as it was the shortest and closest to town, while the other two beginning adventures are kind of points of no return, so character deaths would be permanent and possibly lead to total a party kill. They don't have enough money yet to pay for both raises from the dead yet, so they will be given the option by the Patriarch (who's looking for adventurers to find a rogue cleric and bring back a stolen holy relic) to either pay for one up front and the other upon their next return from the castle, or else to have both for free (and possibly a further perk that I'll hold close to my chest for now), but be sent to find the chaotic cleric and recover the stolen relic (if they survive...). However, the party will have to decide on the spot which of the two options they will take, without knowing how much treasure is available to be found in the castle. If they don't have enough gold to pay for the other raise dead or for other healing that may be required before the castle's cleared out, they'll have to go on the quest anyway, having already spent the rest of their money on healing they could get for free...

We'll see what wins out over the party: revenge, honour, common sense, faith, fear, greed, paranoia... or something else?

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