Saturday, July 24, 2010

Sleeping at Sessions

I consider a player falling asleep during a rpg'ing session to be one of the classic events / tropes of our hobby, a sign that your campaign is running well.  As has been discussed by far wiser souls than me, old-school rpg'ing in particular involves a great deal of "slogging" through dungeon levels, searching through rooms that turn out to be empty, spending time looking for secret doors and traps, sneaking around, resting, praying for spells, and (at the metagame level) brainstorming tactical plans and hatching strategic schemes.  So it is NOT all action-oriented, hack-and-slash, nor necessarily fast-paced.  But this, of course, is part of the fun, since it is often during the exploration phases of an adventure that the more subtle nuances of the campaign setting and the characters' responses to it really come to the fore (see, for example, the stuff about the "Followers of Korath" from my previous session report).  In short, I think story points and character development happen more so in the "downtime" between epic battles, rather than during them.

Yet I understand the thirst for ACTION and the lust for battle in the game.  Hell, every time I play D&D (as a player), I always portray violent, sociopathic, bloodthirsty fighters.  I LOVE combat.  But one of my goals in picking up Labyrinth Lord last year and starting this campaign has been to (pardon the pun) delve back into a more old-school style of play -- perhaps even more old-school than the way I played Holmes / AD&D in the early 1980s.   My most common play experience back then was usually single-module based, including an occasional linked set of "campaign modules" such as G1-2-3, D1-2-3, and Q1.  Players would keep our same characters across many modules, thereby qualifying this as a "campaign" of sorts, but I rarely if ever played in a coherent campaign world with returning NPCs and villains, nor did I ever set foot in a megadungeon.

So with this current Labyrinth Lord campaign, I wanted megadungeon-crawl style play, with lots of mundane slogging and shifting of loads of treasure and worrying about mules and tracking elapsed turns and rolling for wandering monsters etc.  With the help of Michael Curtis' brilliant Stonehell megadungeon, I am accomplishing just that.  What this means, however, is that there are plenty of stretches of time during sessions when, from a neophyte player's point of view, or a bloodthirsty fighter's player's point of view, not much is happening.  And thus things can get boring for that player.

The reason I bring this up is that we had a player fall asleep for about an hour of last Tuesday night's session.  Part of the explanation for this is that this particular player is (in "real" life) moving this coming weekend, so she was up incredibly late the night before (and very early the morning of) our session packing her stuff, moving boxes around, negotiating with a moving truck company, etc.  In short, she was exhausted when she arrived for our 8pm Tuesday session.  Beyond this, however, she is playing Hazel, the group's fighter, and as Innominus' player's comments of 4/12 and 4/14 reveal, Hazel really likes killing and fighting and can get a bit antsy when no combat is taking place.  So during the long middle stretch of last session, when the party was mostly rooting around and searching for loot in an abandoned chapel, Hazel's player was (not only tired but) bored.  So she checked out and slept for awhile, then roused in time for the lizardfolk battles at the end of the session.

And this is how it should be.  For as long as I can remember, having some player or another fall asleep during a late-night RPG'ing session is just part of the territory, something that inevitably happens every few sessions or so.  Life happens, some people miss some sleep or drink too much beer or simply have very little to do during certain portions of the campaign and check out for awhile to get the rest they need.  For some reason, this phenomenon has never bothered me -- I just let 'em sleep unless some crucial event involving their character occurs.  It worked well for us the other night and it gave me a warmly nostalgic feeling for all those gaming sessions of yore when the odd player or two caught some winks as game play in general slogged forward.

Arandish Campaign 2010 - Session 14

DAMN, what fun it is to have the Labyrinth Lord group all back in the same (geographical) state and gathered round the gaming table once again!  After a two-month hiatus, the Innominus (Clr-3) - Hazel (Ftr-2) - Uncle Junkal (Bard-2) party is back in action, furthering their exploration of the second level of a huge underground complex they know only as the "Stony Hell."

It was remarkably easy to get started again.  Last session (on 4/14/10) the party ended up sealing themselves into a room with several dank pools in it.  This past Tuesday's session began with the three PCs -- accompanied by hirelings Gorgo (Dwarf-2), Steak-Breath (Ftr.-1), and Locklear (Ftr.-1), plus Harry the Halfling (Half.-2), an NPC they rescued from a giant spider last session -- venturing out of the pool room, heading east back through the spider's lair, and making their way generally south and east through Level Two of the "Stony Hell."

In a southbound corridor the party came across a door, locked from the outside, that they wanted to open.  Harry the Halfling (a roguish fellow with a knack for traps and locks) inspected the lock, and, deeming it safe, unlocked and opened the door.  Beyond the door was a dark, silent void.  Innominus tied himself to one end of a rope and, with Uncle Junkal's charmed rock troll holding the other end, he entered the "void" space.  This turned out to be a smallish room with nothing of interest within -- a kind of sensory deprivation chamber where no light nor sound could penetrate.  Innominus exited the room, closed the door, and the party ventured further south.

The next square chamber they came to offered many enticing prospects -- a closed door, a rubble pile -- yet the group opted to move swiftly through this area, exiting to the southeast and then proceeding due east down a long corridor. On the north side of this eastbound corridor were two doors.  The first one was rather rotten and grimy, and was barred from the inside.  Harry the Halfling listened at this door and heard muffled voices, but couldn't make out words or even what language the speakers were using.  The party opted to move on to the second northern door.

This door was rather more well-kept than the previous one, and had a religious symbol etched on it.  Uncle Junkal the Bard was able to recognize the symbol as that of the Followers of Korath, an ancient pre-Noffellian sect of humans believed to have lived on the Komar Peninsula in the long-distant days before Noffel was settled.  But what would a Followers of Korath symbol be doing here, in southwestern Minoch, all the way across the Bay of Noffel from the presumed home of the long-dead sect? 

The well-maintained door with the Followers of Korath insignia on it was unlocked, so the party opened it and entered what was obviously a shrine or chapel of some kind, complete with an altar set against the eastern wall.  Steak-Breath and Locklear stood guard near the door while the rest of the party split up and began searching different areas of the room.  After two turns of searching, Harry the Halfling found a secret door in the west wall that opened onto a passage blocked by rubble, and Uncle Junkal and Innominus working together found a secret compartment at the base of the altar, but also noticed (thanks to their combined successes in the second round of searching) that the compartment was locked with a poison-trapped lock.  They asked Harry for assistance in inspecting the poison lock, and meanwhile Uncle Junkal went on to search the east wall near the altar for more secret doors.  He found one a turn later, and discovered a small treasure chest with approximately 100gp worth of mixed coinage.

Meanwhile, Harry blew three turns trying unsuccessfully to disarm the poison lock on the secret compartment at the base of the altar.  The party instructed Uncle Junkal's rock troll to start digging out the rubble-filled passage in the west wall, and Hazel and Uncle Junkal continued searching other areas of the chapel. Shortly (after only one more turn of searching as I recall) Uncle Junkal found a bundle of valuables stuffed under a fallen stone pew: an intact robe of a Korath Priest, a key with a Korath symbol etched into it, and a scroll containing the Cleric spells Snake Charm and Neutralize Poison.  Quite a find!

The party tried Uncle Junkal's newly found key on the lock at the base of the altar, and voila! it opened harmlessly.  Inside they found a small but heavy iron strongbox with no apparent hinges, cracks, or opening mechanisms of any kind.  They took it with them but haven't been able to open it yet.

The rock troll finished digging through to the next room west: the room with the muttering voices the group heard behind the first door.  Gathered in this room were five of the disoriented, gollum-like creatures the party had previously seen (4/14/10) in areas northwest of here.  The PCs messed with these gollums for a bit but ultimately let them flee.

Finished with the Korath Chapel and the gollum hideout, the party headed east to a three way intersection, then veered south and east again.  They saw some rooms I don't feel like describing, but eventually came to a roughly-hewn passage leading into some sinister caves, and, hungry for battle, entered.  They were promptly assaulted by five charging lizardfolk with tridents.  Gorgo was gored and Hazel was fairly seriously wounded, but the party prevailed, even without the help of the rock troll (who could not fight in the low-ceilinged passage).  They crept onward to a large cave chamber with a 20' diameter, 15' high dried mud mound in the center.  Sinister wisps of steam rose out of a dark opening at the base of the mound. 

Innominus proposed that the group light up some oil flasks and firebomb the hell out of the mound.  Meeting no serious objections, the plan was enacted, and Innominus, Hazel, and Uncle Junkal all lobbed flaming oil flasks at the mound entrance.  One flask flew wide of the mark, but the other three went in, and soon there were screams and sizzling noises as the living creatures within were quickly incinerated.  After the flames died down, Hazel moved forward to inspect the singed corpses, but no sooner did she reach the mound entrance than she inhaled some deadly gases and became instantly nauseous. 

Hazel's nausea kept her out of most of the final battle of the session, which began once five more lizardfolk -- including a big leader with an ornate longsword -- came running in from the south to investigate the fire in the mound chamber.  The party fought these lizardfolk bravely, though in the fray, the hireling Steak-Breath was killed.  Having dispatched these foes, the group (minus Steak-Breath) prepared to hole up for a rest period in the mound chamber.  Hazel recovered from her temporary illness and revealed that the fried corpses inside the mound appeared to be those of six more lizardfolk.  The PCs have now made some enemies in this region of the Stony Hell!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Belated Session Reports from Innominus' Player

Since I rather abruptly dropped the ball on providing session reports for the previous two Arandish Labyrinth Lord Campaign 2010 sessions -- which took place back in April before one of our players left town for two months -- I now offer brief updates provided by that same player under the heading of "A Fragmentary Recollection of the Last Couple of Sessions."  Thanks to Innominus' player for these recaps!

[any editorial additions of my own will be placed in brackets, like this]


I think Carter had this recapped on his blog, but this would be the episode wherein we killed some yetis and Uncle Junkal charmed the rock troll.  [There appear to be fierce territorial disputes taking place between yetis and rock trolls in the vicinity of the Minochian town of Fortinbras.]  Somewhere we picked up a dwarf NPC called Gorgo; I think we picked up 1 or 2 other NPCs, because later my notes indicated we gave a crossbow to “SB” (see 4/14/10 entry) [that would be Steak-Breath, a human fighter hireling]. Hazel and Innominus gathered some info in Fortinbras (correct?) and as we got near to Greystone Mountain we clotheslined a near-dead guy with a map [see below], who’s dying words were “Fucking hobgoblins, man!” Then we got up the entrance of the ["Stony Hell"] dungeon, and after checking out a pool with a weird ball in it we decided to camp out in a cave above the pool, which was hot and steamy, and we managed to notice some goblins going from the magic copse to the ruined entrance to the canyon. I think somebody shot at us, or maybe that was the next night.

[Here's that map:]

Loot: From the 3 yeti pelts at 40gp each, UJ, H and I have 34gp, 2sp, 8cp; Gorgo’s ½ share is 17 gp, 1sp, and 4cp. The dead guy had 15gp and 37sp; once we confirm how many are in the party we can split up this little batch of crap.


Much of this session was spent searching around the canyon (Stonehell Ground Level map, attached) with Hazel growing increasingly impatient about not finding anything to kill or any loot worth talking about. We scoped out a ruined building, a magic copse with evidence of a hanging, a bear cave, a dark entrance that could not be illuminated, and then a non-magic copse that showed another passage in. The magic copse had an arcane scroll and a nautical treasure map (“Borogast’s Treasure”). We went into the entrance in the non-magic copse on the north side of the canyon and found a more or less crappy little ruined guard’s garrison (Map 1, attached) that was empty except for a rabid raccoon that put up a hell of a fight, if I recall correctly. We searched the whole thing and eventually found a throne room with graffiti and through a secret door we found a stone table with a hollow leg, which had 50 sp in a tube, a vial of liquid, and a brass ring with rainbow hues. The vial is a potion of extra healing, which heals 3d6+3 damage once or 1d6 three times. My notes say the brass ring is magic, but I don’t recall if we ascertained what it does; Hazel kept it. (I also have a note about “30gp Chamber Pot Gold”, but I’m not sure where that came from.) Even with that, the party felt we were just dinking around the edges of something bigger, so we decided to go through the main entrance to the dungeon.

The main entrance leads to a large room with a spiral staircase descending down 100’ to the first dungeon level (Map 2-1, attached). The party worked through a ruined kitchen, feast hall and a burned out room on the NE side of the staircase room, basically turning up nothing of interest. Moving out of the NW passage we passed two ogre-mouth arches and then to a 4-way passage with a sign pointing W towards “The Dragon’s Den”. To the east was a room of filth, and to the west the passage gave way to rough-hewn caverns, where we met with a group of kobolds hauling buckets of bat guano. We followed a passage south past a 60’ whistling well (we may have lowered someone down on a rope to check this out, and then hauled them back up?), past a chamber covered in green phosphorescent moss and then down to a ruined crypt, the doors of which had the name “Molzak” on them (I don’t recall if UJ did some legend lore business on this thing?). Here we had a crappy couple of battles with rats and zombies in two of eight small tombs in the entry way to a larger room with an altar (?) that Innominus determined was magical. Some searching in a desperate attempt to find something non-crappy revealed a secret side chamber where priestly vestments and a coffer were found. We couldn’t open the coffer, so we stuck it in the bag of holding and made our way back out (we fought the zombies on the way out, hoping to find some loot on the way out).

I believe we then retraced our steps all the way back out to the cliff face to rest for the night.

Loot: An arcane scroll (can’t read it); “Borogast’s Treasure” map; 50sp in a tube; 30gp from a chamber pot; potion of extra healing (3d6 or 1d6 x 3); magic brass rainbow ring (Hazel); coffer that we can’t open and therefore can’t get any XP for the loot inside!


This was an extra special session because we all felt, and especially Hazel felt, that we still hadn’t killed enough or got enough good loot out of this dungeon before the hiatus. So with unprecedentedly large balls in hand, we headed back into the dungeon with the main goal of by-passing random crap and going deeper immediately, down to the second level via the whistling well. Luckily we didn’t encounter anything on the way in, and we all jumped down the well onto a tarp strung up underneath it, perhaps to catch loot being thrown down the well(?). This led us to a diamond-shaped room with passages leading west and east out of it (Map 3-1, attached). We went west and came into a room with ~8 languid gollum-like humanoids lying around, semi-conscious. We decided to pass through the room without getting them all roused, and the clearest path took us out of the room via a NW passage. Along the walls was childish writing and scribbling. A ways along we ran into spear traps on either side of the passage (don’t remember if we triggered them and they missed or someone detected and disarmed them?). Eventually we reached a room with frescoes of sunny fields, which Innominus took to be a children’s play room, perhaps the scribbling in the passage was related to this? Further along past this room there was a hobby horse at a T-intersection, which Uncle Junkal decided he wanted to ride on ... there’s nothing in my notes about whether we got attacked here or if I just remember that Hazel and Innominus thought we were just asking to get attacked while Uncle Junkal was being a dufus. Or maybe the hobby horse collapsed under his weight? Anyone?

Just past that we entered a room full of 8 baths, one of which began to boil on contact (I think someone tested it with a staff). In this one we found a boiled up elf and hauled him out (did we feed him to the rock troll or something? He’s probably hungry.), and he had 700sp and a wand, which we can’t use since none of us are magic-users or elves .... We pressed on into what had been a big dining hall but was now covered in spider webs and looked like a giant black widow spider’s lair. It scuddered up into the webs and we spent a good bit burning oil trying to burn it out, with partial success. After burning up all kinds of webs and crap it eventually fled out of the room, where somebody finally nailed it at another T-intersection (Uncle Junkal with his Double Darts of Doom?). Back in the lair we searched around and found all of 47cp, which was universally denounced as bogus and not worth the encumbrance. Lame loot.

Out to the T-intersection we were ambushed (or surprised at least) by a trio of hobgoblins, one of which nailed somebody with a crossbow before we entered a pitched battle the details of which I can’t recall. My notes say Innominus unleashed the Sling of Madness (d30) and dealt one of them 9HP of damage, and it was subsequently beheaded by Hazel. After they were all crushed by our awesomeness, we searched them for loot and useful stuff. Collectively they had: 60gp; a voucher, perhaps an IOU, that said “Hort’s Snakes”; 2 battle axes; 1 crossbow, and 3 suits of chainmail. My notes say of the armor and weapons “Given to 2 NPCs – SB has crossbow”. I seem to remember that Gorgo refused to use hobgoblin gear (and also didn’t really need it), which leads me to suspect we had two other NPCs from Fortinbras. Anyone remember the details there? Hazel, Uncle Junkal and Innominus each took their uniform insignias, which looked like a skull and crossbones with a hobgoblin skull.

With a nice bit of killing under our belts, we then searched a ruined room with a shattered door and presumably killed a giant (or maybe just large) beetle ... I don’t have details on that. In the room we found a dagger which we kept (don’t know if it’s magic or anything), and a scrap of paper with 4 unknown words in the language of an unknown race, not a “learned language”. Retracing our steps past the dead spider we pushed on to another webby room in which we found a nearly dead halfling and pulled him out. We searched the room and found a secret door with a passage sloping down to a stairway leading further down into the unknown. This is as far as we went that day. We fell back into the bath room to sleep and recover from wounds, so that’s where we’d start off from next session.

I don’t remember the fate of the halfling, whether he just died or did Innominus cast cure light wounds on him before going to sleep? I have noted that he had 20gp, 47sp, a short sword and a partial thieves’ toolkit, but I can’t remember if we had disarmed him before we took him back to the bath room. Was there some distrust since he was presumably a thief?

Also, I have a little list at the bottom of my notes indicating that we kept the dagger from the beetle room, the wand from the boiled elf, didn’t take the spider lair loot (47cp), and then there’s “Mirror” with an ‘X’ next to it, meaning we didn’t take it. Does anyone remember what mirror this might be? Not the one UJ has from the Death Frost Doom cabin, is it?

Loot: 60 gp; 700 sp; a wand; an IOU; a dagger; chainmail, a battle axe, and a crossbow for 2 (?) retainers; and the halfling’s stuff if he’s dead.

A final cartographic note:

As Innominus studied the dead man’s map of Greystone Mountain and compared it to our maps so far, it seems likely that it depicts a portion of the first level that we didn’t explore. Innominus suggests that the room labeled “Start” on the dead man’s map is the room accessed by the spiral staircase, and the passage leading out to the SE (as far as we explored it) bears similarities, with a first side passage off to the east and then a dog-leg turn to the west. If this is correct then anytime we want to kill some orcs or go to the kobold market we know where to find it. Food for thought.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why I've Been AWOL and New Blog Name

Things have been incredibly busy and chaotic for the past couple of months, due largely to the fact that I have quite unexpectedly landed an out-of-state job that begins in late August.  So I have been madly scrambling to organize my affairs and pack my worldly possessions in preparation for a move from the West to the  East Coast in just a few short weeks.  I am very excited about the new job, but less excited about leaving Eugene, Oregon, a city I love very much.

In addition to these work-related developments, my Arandish Labyrinth Lord Campaign 2010, which was cruising along beautifully as of May, went on a two-month hiatus when a key player left town for his yearly fieldwork expedition during June and July.  I am happy to announce that that player (who plays Innominus the Cleric in the campaign) is back in town and we are preparing to resume that campaign NEXT MONDAY!!!   Huzzah!!!!!

So expect to see more blogging here once that adventure resumes.  As I have previously confessed, I am a very lazy blogger unless I have a specific practical goal to strive for: in this case, documenting the ongoing exploits of this party as they explore The Lands of Ara.

And speaking of The Lands of Ara (sorry for that hamfisted segue), you will note that I have officially changed the name of my blog to The Lands of Ara.  Despite my unfortunate tendency toward egomania, I have decided that naming the blog after myself (its former name was "Carter's Cartopia") is not only unbecoming but uninformative: it doesn't tell you much about what's going on here.  Since it is my ambition to share the Lands of Ara campaign setting with the OSR blogosphere, and since I plan to eventually produce a Lands of Ara Adventure Sourcebook, it seemed right to foreground the "Lands of Ara" name and concept in the blog's title.  I hope you will forgive the switch.

Enjoy, and many apologies for the prolonged absence without notification!