Last Sunday and today, Glenn and I continued our Labyrinth Lord game. At the end of the prior session, the party had managed to clear out the dungeons under Clifton Caldwell's newly-acquired castle. At the end of the delve, they had lost three members of the party. They managed to get one of them raised by a patriarch in the city, but had to settle with pauper's funerals for the other two.
Brugor needed a while to recuperate, so the rest of the party re-equipped. They decided not to add any new members to their party, so they are running without a magic-user for now. At the beginning of this adventure, the party consisted of Brugor (third-level halfling thief), Martin (second-level human cleric), Greld (first-level dwarf fighter), Jack (first-level human fighter), "Lucky" Harald (second-level halfling thief), and Pardant (second-level human cleric).
Hunting for rumors, they heard the following in the common room of the Mug and Barrel:
1. Caravans heading north are always in search of guards. The north is largely unsettled and ripe for exploration.
2. Rumors of an ancient evil temple half a day's ride, despoiled and empty for years. Now there are signs of activity there.
3. Beachcombers have been very appreciative of your work clearing out the crabmen. They have been watching the caves since to make sure nothing else moves in. Nothing has moved in, but they have seen some small humanoids exit the cave occasionally and move north up the beach.
4. There are more rumors of barbarian and humanoid raids to the north. The border fort that was cut off has been overrun. There is a reward for anyone who can establish contact with survivors from the fort and escort them back to Threshold.
5. Everyone talks about riches hidden in the tunnels of the old fort on the Fist. It's easy enough to find your way in, but is it worth it?
6. A prominent merchant's daughter was taken while riding in the country. A peasant boy saw the commotion and reported that the kidnappers took her along a northeast forest path a few hours walk north of the Fist.
7. The Governor is willing to pay for exploration of the northeastern portion of the old dwarven kingdom. He is offering land and titles for those willing to resettle the area.
They figured that the missing merchant's daughter was probably the most time-sensitive and probably within their current abilities. So they hunted down the merchant and got more information. He reported that his daughter was taken while riding several miles north of the fist. The peasant boy that saw the abduction was willing to show any potential rescuers where the humanoids took her, but he wasn't willing to go near it. The merchant offered 500 gp per party member to rescue the girl, provided she was returned unharmed. He also insisted that they return as quickly as possible, since the girl was scheduled to marry a prominent government official. With the gleam of offered gold in their eyes, the party set off.
This adventure is the third part (of five) in B9 Castle Caldwell and Beyond. If you don't want spoilers for that adventure, here's your jumping off point. If you want to skip ahead to see more of how I'm running the game, head down past the recap.
They easily found the peasant and located the entrance to the humanoids' lair. It looked like a packed earth tunnel in the side of a large hill. The party scouted the area and turned up some tracks, but were not able to identify the humanoids based on them. So they sent one of the thieves ahead to scout the entrance.
Peering down the tunnel, he saw a single humanoid, about the size of a gnome or small dwarf, leaning back in a chair. The poor goblin was asleep on his watch, and the halfling quickly dispatched him. As he killed the goblin, though, a lizard man turned a corner and saw him. The remainder of the party heard the scuffle and ran forward to take down the lizard man. The party searched the bodies for anything of value and turned up a few coins.
They turned down the side passage where the lizard man emerged and found a small guard room, Searching the room turned up a scroll. The party tucked it away, figuring they could check it out once they were safe.
Moving farther down the entrance tunnel, they found a huge room with several exits. The room was obviously used as a training ground. There were hay targets for archery practice and some wooden dummies for close weapon training. They saw a young woman bound and gagged on a chair, with a menacing owlbear guarding her. The party immediately charged forward, only to find that both girl and monster were illusions. As the illusions faded, they heard a sinister laugh coming from the east.
The party followed the laugh and entered a passage to the east. They found a goblin cheiftain wielding a magic sword and guarded by a couple of goblin bodyguards. The party tore through the goblins, taking a bit of damage along the way. They searched the room and found several gems, a locked chest full of silver, and a few other items of value. They found a cache of gold and silver that the chieftain had hidden in his room. In the search, they also found a secret door.
Not wanting to leave a potential attack route open behind them, they checked out the passage behind the secret door. It was a packed earth tunnel that connected the chieftain's room with the guardroom by the entrance. The walls and ceiling were streaked with color, so they sent Greld to investigate. They figured his dwarven abilities might be able to tell them a little about the construction of the tunnel.
As Greld entered the tunnel, green slime dribbled from the ceiling onto him. He retreated out of the passage, bringing the slime with him. The party tried to scrape the slime off with clothes from the goblin's wardrobe, to no avail. The slime simply started dissolving the clothes. After a couple rounds, Greld stripped off his armor to try to get away from the slime. Unfortunately, some of the slime came into contact with his skin. Not making progress any other way, the rest of the party members tried dousing Greld with oil and setting him alight!
The fire began to burn the slime, but it was also burning the unfortunate dwarf. Greld screamed in pain. The slime burned and crackled, falling away in messy ashen chunks. Just as the last of the slime crisped and sloughed, poor Greld collapsed and died.
[This particular encounter required a little thinking on my part. When Greld started stripping his armor, I figured that the slime was still dissolving his equipment and hadn't reached his skin yet. If he could drop his gear and armor without touching the slime, he could get away from it. I gave it a 50/50 chance to go either way - low it would hit his skin and start dissolving Greld, high and he would be safe. I had Glenn roll the die. He rolled low, and the slime started eating the dwarf.
Once the slime was in contact with skin, the dwarf only had a few rounds before he would be consumed. I rolled a 3 on the d4 to see how many rounds. The party started burning the slime during the second round, but managed to score a good roll with the damage die. Even with half the damage going to the dwarf, they had a good chance of the oil burning away the rest of the slime in the final round. The dwarf, meanwhile, was down to his last round. I decided to have the party roll an initiative roll. If Glenn rolled high, the dwarf would be incapacitated but live with some horrible scars. If he lost the initiative roll, the dwarf would be killed by the last bit of slime and fire. Glenn's dice didn't favor him, and Greld died.]
At this point, we ended the session.
Picking up where we left off, the party continued north, finding and killing five goblins in a barracks room. These goblins managed to nick a few more hit points from the party, and they were all being a little more cautious and worried.
They investigated a short passage that turned slightly northwest. At the end they found a door with a false handle that contained a poisoned needle trap. Luckily, Harald saw the trap and located the rope that actually opened the door. They looked inside and found a soarsey furnished bedroom, but no occupants. Glenn made a note that this might make a good bolt hole if the party needed to lay up for the night.
Next they explored the west side of the complex. They easily dispatched a pair of goblins in the mess hall and kitchen. Searching these areas still turned up no sign of the girl.
Continuing south, they found a barracks with a few lizard men. These monsters managed to score several hits on the characters, whittling away at their remaining hit points. By the end of the combat, over half the party was below 50% of their maximum hit points, and they had used all of their healing magic.
Not wanting to take more chances, the party decided to leave the rest of the southeast corner of the lair alone and hole up in the bedroom.
So far this outing has cost the characters a lot of hit points, a couple of potions, and one party member. They've managed to score quite a bit of treasure, though, if they can get it back to town.
Again, I'm having a lot of fun running this module and the game. It's been pretty low stress, and low prep so far. I need to do some more development and description of Moradin's Fist and Threshold, but Glenn has been forgiving of me for not having them heavily developed yet. In the meantime, I keep notes of things I describe in-game, and hopefully I can expand the detail later.
For the adventures, I link each of the rumors to either a published adventure or something I can develop in a short amount of time. If it's something I'm developing, I write it up like I did the crabmen caves - sketch out a map or maps that I need, make notes of the encounters right on the map, and use that to run.
For the published adventures, I get either a pdf or a photocopy of the one I am preparing. I read through it and highlight the pertinent information in each area or encounter. When the party gets to a particular bit, I read it to refresh my memory and then take a minute to describe it as well as possible. I make notes of what the party disturbs, takes, or otherwise changes right on the entry in the module.
I also make a roster of the monsters, traps, and obstacles, including all of the statistical information, any special abilities or tactics, and the experience value if defeated or overcome. When the party defeats something, I highlight the experience gained.
For the map, I try to prepare a map in Gimp. I'll take a screen capture or scan the map and drop it into Gimp. I then take out the room numbers and notes. I create two additional layers on top of the map - one for secret doors or information, the other for the cover. The secret doors layer will have masks that hide the notation for the secret items with texture or lines like the rest of the map. The cover will have a solid black fill. As the party explores and finds things, I can easily delete things from the secret or cover layers to gradually expose the map. I share the Gimp window with Glenn, and we can easily keep track of how the map is developing.
Until recently, I also kept my rulebook handy. My LL rulebook is a spiral-bound printout that includes the original LL rulebook, Original Edition Characters, and the Advanced Edition Compendium. With the release of Advanced Labyrinth Lord, I now use the pdf of that on the computer. I can easily use the bookmarks in the pdf to switch to things as I need them. By default, I keep it on the attack tables.
Finally, I keep an adventure record of the party as well. At first, this was an index card with each character's race, class, level, hit points, and armor class. I also kept a running list of any items or treasure the party picked up. Now I use a page from the AD&D Adventure Log to track the party. Soon I plan to develop my own sheet so that I can have exactly the information I need.
In all, I typically only have a few sheets of paper and a book or two handy when I'm running the game. I have the map with notes, the monster roster, and the party roster. I normally have a printed copy of the adventure in a small binder. On the computer I have the electronic players map and the rulebook. Using this setup and a handful of dice, I've found I can run about as efficiently as I ever have.
Of course, all of this is for simple adventures. As things grow and get detailed in the game, I will have to develop something to keep track of everything - locations, NPCs, town and city maps, overland maps, etc. But all of that is down the line. I'm sure I'll have it all sorted soon enough.