Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Adventures in oD&D, Part 2: Escape from the Tomb of Theronna Onyxarm

Back on August 27, I ran a game of oD&D.  Go ahead and read that first, as it will tell you where we've been before.

On November 5, I ran the same module again, this time for a different group.  This group is about half new roleplayers — I'm the only person who's ever DMed for them, and they've only played in my Crux of Eternity game for 4e.  One other has been roleplaying with me for over ten years, and another used to play AD&D back in the day.

I made the changes I mentioned last time; I added tactical movement and used the turn structure a little more.

As before, there were eight pregenerated characters.  The four players (one of our usual players was absent, which is why we played this in the first place) crafted the other twelve, for a total of twenty characters (five per player).

Weird things started to happen — a lot of old school habits came out.  Rather than skill checks, people started relying on descriptions and asking for details of rooms.  Tests became commonplace.  The group encountered a green slime and dropped a silver piece into it.  They also dipped a found ring in it.

Likewise, the group started with five live chickens and a goat.  Those chickens became valuable — PCs would throw them at enemies as distractions, and each new room was first entered by opening the door a crack and throwing a chicken inside.  All five chickens are dead, but each chicken who died saved a PC's life.

The goat is still alive.

Another vagary of life in the old school: Paul is at the front of every door with 1 hit point and he's still alive.  Meanwhile, we have people with six hit points who are among the dead.

Overall, it was incredibly fun.  We're not finished yet; the players have no idea how close they are to escaping the dungeon, but I think we might be able to finish with no more than two sessions, although I suspect just one would be sufficient as character creation and the initial panicked stumblings ate some time.

Anyway, enough of the thoughts.  An adventure synopsis after the jump.

There were two throwaway lines in my D&D 4e game.  One was a remark about college students in D&D being similar to modern college students.  The second was the idea that Sorgforge is built over all sorts of old ruins.
Thus, my D&D tribute to B-horror movies was born.
Twenty college students from Morgrave University decide to sneak into the goblin slums to party; they are Alek Baul Dwin the male goblin, Ander Heinsoo the male halfling, Babycakes the male half-orc (and his goat Duddits), Bree Leomund the female human, Davril Tarmikos the male human, John Smith the male human, Krisdove Soulaxe the female dwarf, Krisiries Loyalar the female human, Lorac Arien the male half-elf, Otiven Pegason the male human, Paul O'Trieadies the male human, Penelope the female elf, Quionna Loreweaver the female elf, Sally Proudfoot the female halfling, Shahorn Wyvernjack the male human, Tulip the female half-orc, Varis Battlestrike the male dwarf, Wandadove Huntinghawk the female half-elf, William the male human, and Zantiln Stoneheart the male dwarf.
A tremor and a landslide later, the basement floor falls out from under them and they're in a dungeon, floating in a hot spring.  The chamber is at least fifty feet high, although nobody's a surveyor, so they don't have precise numbers.  A large statue of a dwarf looms over them, emerging from the wall; carved from the living rock itself, plunging a sword into the springs like one of the big, Gothic statues from Tim Burton's Gotham City.
They arrange themselves and swipe the two everburning torches from the walls.
Then they explore.  There's only one way out, so they start in that direction.  They enter the next room.
Twenty college students and one statue...should be easy, right?

This room is octagonal and bears bas-reliefs and frescoes praising Theronna Onyxarm.  There is a statue of a female dwarf in the middle of the room, presumably of the same person.  The statue bears a warhammer that is separate and is highly ornamented, likely magical.

A student makes a grab for it.

Before everyone manages to flee, two students have their skulls crushed by the animated statue.  All told, the students find rooms in each direction, and each is similar to the first — a room with a vaulted ceiling and a large, looming statue of a dwarf.  The room on the left depicts a dwarf with bellows, and a fissure in the ground blows hot wind from a deep crevasse.  The room on the right depicts a dwarf over a forge; the inside of the forge bubbles with lava.  The room straight ahead features a dwarf laboring over an anvil, and a path continues beyond, leading to stairs headed upward.

Three of the students try to flee and tangle with some animated suits of armor.

Okay. Plan B.

They manage to escape, and run forward into the hallway despite the fact that they lack torches.  The other fifteen students run up the stairs and hit a trapped doorway; eight students get hit with a confuse spell.  Interparty fighting starts.

PC on PC violence!

Some students die, but the fighting dies down.  The group decides to go in the same direction as the students who fled.  They cross the room, mostly avoiding the animate suits of armor — the group swipes some treasure (coins, magic arrows, and a ring), and use a chicken as a distraction (the chicken, by the way, manages to dodge the animate armor).

The trio who fled stagger through the dark.  One dies by stumbling into green slime, leaving only two.

The rest of the group follows.  They test the green slime a couple of times before somebody burns it with an actual torch.  It burns and they move on.

The bigger group meets with the two survivors.  The groups combine and continue.

A decision point: the group picks the second turn rather than the first.  They find a room.  The peek inside and throw a chicken inside.  The chicken is devoured by a swarm of kruthiks.  The group decides to go a different way.

After retracing their steps, they find another room with bas-reliefs and suits of armor.  They loop around, flip some switches to open a portcullis or two, and find their way back to the room with the suits of armor.  As there is no other option, they decide to race through it.


The group manages to run into a narrow hallway — only to be met by several large, segmented, chitinous, tentacled things.  The creatures are struck with baseballs and beer bottles as the party beats a hasty retreat to the last door they have not yet entered.

The group makes its way through the corridors until meeting one last door.  They peek open and throw in a chicken...only to have it devoured by dwarven zombies.

Zombies make players angry!

The characters decide on a course of action.  After deciding against sending the goat in as a distraction, or setting the goat on fire so that the zombies burn themselves as they try to eat it, they finally decide to set the bottle of Jepwine (a mage-brewed whiskey) on fire like a Molotov cocktail, and hopefully burn some zombies.

Sadly, the several minutes they spent at the door planning gives the zombies time to position themselves at the door in anticipation.  This delay also lets shadows from elsewhere in the dungeon approach from behind, cutting off retreat.

We're boned.

Despite overwhelming odds, the Molotov cocktail plan works.  Three zombies die, two are on fire, and three more are left — but enough of a path is clear for people to start fleeing.  Meanwhile, the shadows kill one person, and the last surviving chicken sees the shadows and immediately goes into a stress response (as I indicated, "It has seen Chicken Hell, and it is not coming back from there").  This allows the shadows to kill it as well, as a spectral chicken rises from its remains.  As people flee, the shadows close off the avenues of escape in the hallway, leaving those in the hallway trapped.  Bree Leomund gets one of the most awesome deaths, as she realizes the shadows are incorporeal and takes the risk to charge through one — her life-drained corpse falls through the other side, and a shadow rises from her remains.  In the mad dash to escape, all but one of the remaining zombies are killed.

The magic arrows see some use as people realize they can injure and kill shadows, but mostly everyone runs.  Krisiries Loyalar doubles back to collect the objects in the room, and finds that only the chicken shadow and a single dwarf zombie remain.  She manages to slay the shadow with an arrow, and she kills the zombie with her hammer.  She gathers the objects of the dead students, and finds another sack in the room, containing coin and a sword dedicated to the god Kord.  Also, the eight zombies all wear chainmail and hold bucklers, so the group manages to grab some armor.

Of the twenty students, only nine remain: Alek Baul Dwin, Babycakes (and his goat, Duddits), Davril Tarmikos, Krisiries Loyalar, Lorac Arien, Otiven Pegason, Paul O'Trieadies, Quionna Loreweaver, and Sally Proudfoot.  All chickens are dead.  However, the group is pretty much all armed with daggers, hammers, and one magic sword.  All but one of the group now wears chainmail (Alek is the odd man out), though Sally is having trouble fitting hers.  They also have a magic ring (they know it is magic because the acid didn't even tarnish it, let alone destroy it), although they do not know its function.

Hopefully, we shall complete this adventure anon.


  1. Chickens - why have I never thought of this. It may not fit so well into Cthulhu (which I'm playing on Saturday), but I may just do it because why not.
    The whole adventure sounds epic.

  2. I thought the chicken bit was similarly inspired — I was familiar with parties keeping packs of dogs for the same reason, but chickens are cheap and plentiful.

    It would be pretty eccentric for a Cthulhu character to wander around with a flock of chickens, but then again, it would make sense. The other investigators would thank you when it saves their lives.

    Also, thank you muchly on the complement. I hope to post my notes when the game is complete, although I don't know how long that will be — I suspect the tomb will be revisited once the PCs escape.

  3. We play in 1890 London and much of the action takes place in the East End, I think it would be fairly easy to just buy a chicken from a street vendor when we feel the need for one.
    Or we get ourselves a street urchin. Everyone else does it - I just learned that for a time (but not in 1890) it was perfectly legal to snatch up a child from the street if you were in need of one to work for you. Although that is rather more an option for a Vampire group with Sabbath characters. It's hard enough to hold on to sanity without resorting to human sacrifice.

  4. I had completely forgotten about the picture in which I flipped the bird. Yes, zombies do make players angry.

    Thank you for including that, my finger looks creepy long, and that humors me.

  5. Additionally, to provide a comment that isn't totally asinine, I went back and read your recap of the first run of the oD&D dungeon crawl. I can now see and appreciate the changes you made. Even though I wasn't present at that gathering, I can imagine it quite well, and can definitely say - as I'm sure you are aware - that it benefited greatly from the knowledge you gained. +250 DM XP?

  6. what about orc frat boys? We may never know what became of Gro-grag Malog-Gro-Agronak-Gro-Malong

  7. I actually looked it up, and according to his character sheet, it's "Gro-Grag-go-Maggag Malog-grag-Bag."


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