Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dreaming D&D

I had an unusual dream last night, sort of a “Willie Wonka and Dungeons and Dragons”. I received an invitation (my “golden ticket”) to a special pre-GenCon D&D game hosted at the home of Roy Thomas. I got my wires crossed on this part as, obviously, Roy Thomas is a figure in the comic book field, not the RPG field. And yet, I suppose I invented him because the D&D field never had a Roy Thomas – a no. 2 man under Gary Gygax who took over running his company for him, but kept it going in the same direction (like the character Jo Jo in Knights of the Dinner Table).

“Roy Thomas” had a huge estate not far from where GenCon was being run. The front yard was full of cars of gamers who showed up early for the con, though where all those gamers went after that, I have no idea. Only four people had been chosen to play in his game. “Roy” was an eccentric; he had a 300 ft. long swimming pool in his huge backyard, but he had pet messes all over his kitchen floor covered in dried stains of some cleaner that had never been wiped up.

Two of the other players, both white, dark-haired 20-somethings, had a previous financial arrangement with “Roy” -- for a fee, they would be allowed to consult his gaming collection after the game. The youngest player was a teenage boy with a bright shock of blond hair. I played a dwarf and did my best Gimli imitation.

It is, perhaps, not surprising that “Roy”'s DMing skills were not as good as mine in my dream. Every player started with one rumor whispered to them at the start of the game. I don't remember what mine was, but it seemed unimportant. The rumors were unimportant at best and detrimental to the game at worst – the youngest player's rumor was that my dwarf was a criminal of some kind. We were given nothing to do at the start of the game except hang around and roleplay with each other, which could have gone better had the youngest player not have blurted out his rumor in front of my dwarf. To add to the roleplaying experience and help everyone else get into the game, I grabbed the boy and pretended to rough him up as our characters, but “Roy” and his co-DM (a friend, I suppose, who just happened to be hanging around for the game) were terribly upset about this, breaking up the “fight” and chastising me for acting instead of just stating my intentions.

The game did not progress beyond this set-up period and I wonder if it ever would. “Roy” seemed to have no sense of establishing a pace for his game. He was more interested in throwing out trivia about the early days of D&D, like how the stirge monster was named after a player whose last name was Stirge (or perhaps Sturges?). I wandered away from the table to look for his gaming collection and found, what books were sitting out at least, it was no larger than my own.

I woke up not long after that, initially disappointed that the revelation about the word 'stirge' was only part of a dream. The dream did seem to have an intriguing lesson to it, though. I came to that game, in the dream, excited that I was going to get to game with a famous gamer and found he was not as good, or at least no better, a gamer than I was. My dream was inspired by reading a lot of Knights of the Dinner Table from 2008 (and a Hard 8 storyline) lately and learning that the druid class was originally written, not by Gary Gygax or Brian Blume, but by Dave Sustarre. It was about wanting to know the secrets of the game and wanting to feel like I was in the same league as the big creators of the game.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Garham to Greyhawk Campaign: Session Eight, the Final Session

Session Eight – August 14, 2010
Flex, human shield bearer
Clair, hobbit shield bearer
Sein, human shield bearer/rogue
Sanji, human medium

The hunt for the Wight of the Hiddendale had not gone well; Clair had been energy drained. Gregor, their ranger guide, had used a magic flask of smoke to confuse the wight and allow everyone to escape. The Crazy Adventurers retreated to the Village of Hawfair to rest. Specifically, they stayed there for three days, waiting to see if the energy drain was temporary and if Clair would get better; she did not. It was during this time that Sein and Sanji came back to the company.

A messenger working for the Serpenthelm family found them in Hawfair. It turned out that Kevlamin Serpenthelm had family in Greyhawk. Down on their luck, they were looking for help from Kevlamin's company to finance a proper funeral for him. Flex, though he had started out hating Kevlamin, championed the cause of going on a quest to raise Kevlamin and convinced the rest of the company to agree unanimously. They weighed their options and decided to approach the Temple of Zilchus back in the City of Greyhawk. The High Acquisitioners of Zilchus said they could resurrect Kevlamin, but would demand 5,000 gp to do it.

Their best bet of raising the funds was the same quest they had planned to pursue while hunting the Wight of the Hiddendale – to find the Ruined Tower of Elzid. Actually, it turned out to be absurdly easy to find Elzid's tower, as a territorial war was going on between goblin and orc parties and adventuring companies from Greyhawk over the tower at the heart of the Hiddendale. The four remaining members of The Crazy Adventurers actually spent a week exploring the Hiddendale and the Great Hillwood trying to find another a safer route around the fighting parties to the tower, until they encountered by chance a gold dragon that chased everyone else off.

((Spoilers for “A Wizard's Fate” From Dungeon magazine #37))

By now there was almost nothing left of the tower, but a short investigation revealed that a stairwell to a basement level was safe inside the rubble. As they started down the hallway at the bottom of the staircase, they activated a trap that caused a block of stone to slide across the hallway and block off their retreat. Undeterred, they continued down the hallway to a room with a demonic-looking statue in it. As Flex started searching the room, the statue seemed to come to life and attack them. Everyone ganged up on the statue and did enough harm to it to dispel the illusion ; the statue had actually never moved at all.

Trying one of the doors from that room, the company found a corridor with more doors. The door at the end of the corridor was locked, so they concentrated on that. Sein tried to pick the lock and failed. Flex and Sein hacked at the door for awhile with their axes, but were interrupted when a voice whispered to Flex to hand over his magical cloak of protection. Magically compelled, Flex complied and the cloak began floating down the hallway away from them. They were able to catch up to the cloak and snatch it back, though.

Clair had grown impatient waiting for the door to be chopped down and coated it in lamp oil instead. After lighting the door aflame and backing off for a bit, Sein felt something brush by his leg. People started trying to hit his invisible attacker, but found nothing. Since it was not seen heading into the smoke, they could only assume it had run away from them back towards the blocked dungeon entrance.

When the smoke cleared, the company found the interior of the room had been burned away. They thought they were responsible at first, but investigation showed that the fire was weeks old and had destroyed a library. Nothing was found that survived the fire, except for some graphitti scratched into the back wall. This made Flex sure that there was a secret door in the back wall. His 30 minute search of the back wall was weakening the morale of the company until he really did find a secret door and opened it.

The secret door led to a room filled with spider webs and rubble. The four set about searching the room and were shortly attacked by four large spiders, one for each of them. No one had trouble dispatching their spiders except for Sanji, who succumbed to the poison of its bite and was immediately weak from fever. Undeterred, the other three went about searching the rubble, hoping the spiders had guarded something useful. Sanji, in his delirium, said he saw a door in the corner of the room and, sure enough, there was another secret door there.

Behind this secret door was a closet with only a wooden chest in it. Sanji was too weak to leave the middle of the room, so only the other three went into the closet to open the chest – just as Sein set off the fire trap spell on the chest. Flex and Sein were killed outright, while Clair was knocked unconscious. As the flames died down, the invisible imp that had been following them all along came in, watched Sanji die, and then killed Clair in her sleep.

And so, with the passing of Clair, the last original member of the campaign, the Garham to Greyhawk Campaign came to an end with a TPK. As a last footnote, the player of new character Jack Stafford showed up late right after the TPK, but could not have arrived to save anyone because the company had done nothing about the trap blocking the dungeon entrance.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Graduated Flavor Text II: Burial Options in a D&D Campaign

1. Ditch the body – 0 cost, 0 attendance, no prep, no ceremony.
2. Improvised pyre – 0 cost, 0 attendance, 30-min.-prep time, 2-min. ceremony.
3. Shallow, unmarked grave – 0 cost, 0 attendance, 1 hour-prep time, 10-min. ceremony.
4. Church-recognized pyre funeral – 5 gp, 1d3 attending + acolyte, 2 hour wake, 15-min. ceremony.
5. Grave and marker in a village graveyard – 12 gp, 1d4 attending + acolyte, 4 hour wake, 15-min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton.
6. Grave and tombstone in a small town graveyard – 25 gp, 1d8 attending + adept, 8 hour wake, 20-min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton or zombie
7. Grave and tombstone with statuette in a big town graveyard – 90 gp, 4d4 attending + priest, 1 day wake, public procession, 25-min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton, zombie, ghoul or shadow, includes reception with snack food.
8. Tomb burial in a small city graveyard – 130 gp, 6d4 attending + curate, 2 day wake, public procession, 30 min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton, to wight, includes reception with food, drink, and light entertainment.
9. Exclusive tomb burial in a major city – 260 gp, 5d6 attending + prefect, 3 day wake, public parade, 35 min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton, to wraith, includes 1-hour reception with food, drink, and entertainment.
10. Private mausoleum in a major city – 400 gp, 7d6 attending + bishop, 4 day wake, public parade, 40 min. ceremony, corpse protected from being animated as a skeleton, to mummy, includes 2-hour reception party.