We got a new recruit! The Other Game Shop doesn’t have as big a crowd as The Game Shop, and most of the guys here are into CCGs, but one fine fellow’s scheduled opponent didn’t show up, so he joined us for a little dungeon spelunkin’.
The usual two showed up as well, and this time, they had, “A Plan”. A plan. Ha! They make me laugh.
They bought twenty pounds of meat – devil monster boars eat meat, right? – and a bunch of poison. Then they headed into the northern entrance of The Dungeon and hucked the meat into the boar pit (see map) as they raced for the Tomb. They didn’t get far before running into a squad of lizardmen returning from the Hot Springs. For those new to this campaign, that means the lizardmen are +1 to hit and +1 AC from the refreshing bath they just took.
The goblins were alerted to the presence of the party by the loud squeals of the boarsas they feasted on the rain of poisoned meat and came up to check out the ruckus. The King sent out a lone squad to investigate. (They didn’t check on what the boars were eating – I gave that a 50/50 chance – so all the boars in the pit died of poison. Easy XP, baby.) The goblin patrol noticed the party tangling with the lizardmen, but being lukewarm allies with the lizards, the goblins decided to hang back and watch the fight (again a 50/50 chance which came up aces for the PCs).
After dispatching the lizardmen, the party continued into the dungeon, straight to the (unbeknownst to them) False Tomb. They spotted the big doors, the swinging bridge, and the ten skeleton swordsmen. The Cleric did what clerics do, and they thought that left an easy three skeletons to deal with. Only once the arrows started to fall did they realize that there were ten totes not-turned skeleton archers on the opposite side of the gorge.
Whoops. The wizard who lives in the dungeon and set them on this path (Nerkish the Spergish) didn’t mention that part. Two party members died, one screaming as he plunged to his death in the gorge, they pulled back and decided a little exploration was in order instead.
They found one of the hot springs (unoccupied) and then ran into a full goblin warparty consisting of the King, twelve gobbos, and six boars. They thought it was going to be a TPK, but the poison finally kicked in and the three boars died on the first round of combat. Confused that their heavy artillery had gone down, the goblin’s morale plummeted. They managed to make the already depleted party pay, but once they hit the six goblins dead mark (half the group) they bolted for the safety of their locked lair, the King screaming for them to get back in the fight the whole way.
The party exited stage north.
The survivors levelled up, the rest rolled up replacement characters, and this time brought along as many henchlings as they could for an all-out assault on the Goblin Cave – they descended the long stairs to the left and instead of gerblins found a gray oooze. They were not ready for that. They ran out, leaving three party members behind and put a big red “Don’t Go Here” on their map.
They know there’s a lot of gold coinage down in the puddle with that ooze, but they want to come back with a lot of oil and burn it out later. The important thing from their perspective is that they now know where the goblins live (behind the locked door to the right of the north entrance). But that will have to wait until next week.
Let’s step back and look at this from a DM’s perspective for a minute, shall we?
After three sessions we’ve had almost a dozen battles. The players have mapped out probably half the dungeon, but none of the real critter lairs. They’ve dealt with one big bad guy (Bruud), encountered and run from another (the ooze and owlbears), encountered and kind of work for or been duped by another (Nerkish). They have killed nearly half the goblins, their shaman, and all of their boars.
After three sessions they have two PCs at second level, they have multiple plans for raids on The Other Dungeon. They have brought out just enough loot to keep wanting to back down. They are THIS close to connecting the two lobes of their maps. They know where some fat loot is and have a plan to kill the ooze guarding it. They are thinking about raiding the Weird Wizard Nerkish’s headquarters to get back at him for not telling them about the skeletons. They even think they can end the threat of wandering snakes if they blunder into the lizardmens’ cave. Options galore!
Of the five major factions, they’ve completely dealt with one, allied with another, declared war against a third, and briefly encountered the other two. When the dungeon was prepped I had no idea what those relationships were. I just knew who was where and sketched out some basic reasons for the factions to be moving around. (The goblins walk the dogs. The lizards hit the showers. The wizard checks the tomb.) After the dice came into play we learned the lizards and goblins avoid each other, but have no love lost. We learned Nerkish is cunning and untrustworthy. Poor old Bruud had no time to find out his role before he died.
Twelve hours of fun so far, with no end in sight. Even if their luck holds, you can see how this little dungeon can last for at least another twenty hours of fun and might even have as many as forty more in it. All for about 90 minutes of prep time and ten minutes of prep between sessions.
That’s the glory of Moldvay, my friends. That’s the glory of paring the game down to a game first, and a story second.