Friday, April 9, 2010

B2 Caves of Chaos Twelve Hour Marathon Part 2

B2 Caves of Chaos Twelve Hour Marathon Recap Part 1, other B2 Caves of Chaos Posts.

[I'm forgetting order of things and some details. I'm sure I'll get things wrong.  This player report is probably more accurate.  These recaps are more after-action analysis of my DMing, rules, scenario, props used than campaign dairy.]

In Attendance:

  • Piss Pants the fighter, cousin of shit pants
  • Mundy Meatshield, a fighter.
  • Alex, token dwarve.
  • Starhawk! an elf, what else?
  • Blod thief of good spirit and bad luck, Soon replaced with Magnus a priestess of Marcuniess(sp?) Goddess of Metal and Healing.
  • Onedias the most marvelous magic-user, aka NPC caster.
  • Two wardogs "Gwar II" and "Sir Bitesalot", which were deadly but short lived.  Basically 100gp bazookas.
  • Various men-at-arms who's names and exploits will not be remembered

Good Plan Lets Do It Again

Again party heads to Caves of Chaos.  Again DM rolls a 1 on d6 indicating wilderness encounter.  This time I roll [one roll looked up on two encounter tables] vampire (inhabited) and orcs (mtns).  I go with orcs, cause fuck this marathon is called B2 The Caves of Chaos I don't want to spend 12 hours slaying the party with a vampire.  Looking up orcs on my very freaking handy LL monster cards (Thanks Jonathan Chappell!) which I put into my DM binder instead of cutting up into cards (crappy photo at right). I see that #Encountered is 2d4, I roll 6.  Then I roll Reaction (2d6) got neutral response.  Figuring these orcs came from the "Blue Line", one of two tribes in the Caves of Chaos, and were out here on the road looking for a caravan to raid not a 8-12 member strong band of good guys.  Knowing they'll likely be spotted they send out the red heart on white flag universal "Let us parley" sign.

The party sends up two orc speakers. Pisspants and Starhawk an elf.  Who the orc "negociator" points at and says "Is that suppose to be an insult." Quickly thinking Pisspants looks angrily at elf and says "Stand back 10 feet." "Ah," orc says, "It is your slave, very nice.  We eat ours."  Short negotiations later, both parties agree to let the pass peaceably along with suggestion by Warich, the orc raiders leader, to seek out the "Blue Lines" chieftain, Muback if the party was sincere in their offer to aid the orcs in destroying their enemies. [Not even at the Caves and party is already trying to get the monsters fighting themselves.  BTW if they do this I award XP for monsters killed. Even if characters did not do the actual killing.  To my mind, getting "them" and "them" to fight each other doing your work for you is at least as deserving of reward/XP as risking your own neck.]

The party wanders around Kobolds "Hedge Maze" for awhile mostly remembering to use 10' pole and avoiding the many pit traps.  They find the entrance and a small fight erupts.  But the group shows zero interest in screwing with Kobolds.  Choosing higher risk and more rewards and less flippin pit traps.  And also bringing a tear of joy to the DM's eye for picking up on that "old school" characteristic so quickly.  More wandering and the emerge into the caves proper. I read them Gygax's "boxed" text;
The thick, twisted tree trunks, unnaturally misshapen limbs, writhing roots, clutching and grasping thorns and briars all seem to warn and ward you off, but you have hacked your way through regardless.  Now you have stepped out into a ravine like area.  The dark, streaked rock walls rise rather steeply to either side to a height of about 100' or so.  Clumps of trees grow here and there.  At varying heights on all sides of the ravine, you can see the black mouths of cave like openings.  The sunlight is dim, the air dank, there is an oppressive feeling here.  A flock of ravens rise croaking from the ground, the beat of their wings and their cries magnified by the terrain to sound loud and horrible.

You know that you have certainly discovered the Caves of Chaos.

Party makes straight for what they've been told is the "Blue Lines" cave.  Some failed negotiation, crossbow bolt to the chest of Hylas Amazonian men-at-arms, and a wandering monster roll (again!) later group decides, after much deliberation, to "take out" the Owlbear.  [Since negotiations were taking some time and party was hanging out of caves I rolled d6 a '1' indicating some activity related to one of the denizens of the CoC's. I rolled another die and counted cave entrances clockwise landing on the Great Horned Owlbear's cave.  And that is how we got to what happened next.]

Party makes a fairly reasonable plan to kill the Owlbear with dogs and ranged weapons.  Being the single most feared creature I figured it was "smart" enough to have not fallen for standard tactics like that. Rather than become a pin-cushion it used forest and other covering terrain to approach as close as possible to it's dinner.  Emerging from the tree-line 1 round worth of charging away.  Onedias yells, "Wait! Hold fire for one round." and casts charm.  I felt bad having NPC take the "lead" pull out the ace.  But, that is what he'd do and I added him specifically to the party so they would have that ace.  Well one failed save and DM misinterpertation(lack of bothering to look up spell actually) later party has a third "dog".  Just this one has 5hd and 3 attacks.  Onedias yells his second line of the evening, "Now, now my friends we visit our friends the orcs!"

Best marching order for entering orc cave;
charmed Owlbear in front.
Everyone else anywhere that is out of it's way.

Orcs amazingly succeded the several moral checks I subjected them to as the party and Bear Owl slaughtered them.  Owlbear was killing about 1.5 per round but orcs using corridors to their advantage were able to get 4 attacks per round on it.  It got down to 1 orc (who yet again made is moral check, a 3 I think) and owlbear with 3 hitpoints.  That guy was gonna be a famous orc hero. It's porcine bust carved in marble or cast in bronze, sitting on the mantles of upper caste orcs from the Grimlok Sea to the Mushy Marshes.  Instead bear owl rolled it's to hit first and started munching on tasty orc.  That is when Magnus Priest of healing and metal (not good kind of metal) decided she had better finish owlbear off rather than risk charm breaking.  Since target was unawares and distracted I let her roll damage (automatic hit). She luckily rolled more than 3.  Would have been great time to roll on Death and Dismemberment table for owlbear.  But, alas, I had already decided that was not for monsters.

Some playing hide and seek with a Otyugh (which I couldn't find in LL, not there? called something else?) and several forays to city to sell orc loot and owlbear eggs/loot and leveling. They decide to take on the baddest, scariest cave there is.
"You find a hidden set of steps carved into the steep ravine.  Starting about 100 yards from the large cave entrance to either side of the path are skulls resting on tall polls.  As you get closer you can tell this is no cave but an entrance lined and faced with large granite blocks. Into which skulls and necromantic features have been carved. On the whole it appears very tomb or crypt like.  Standing before the entrance you smell the stench of death's decay.  Emanating from the black hole is an oppressive malevolence, weighing you down and testing your resolve."
After that description and near universal men-at-arms moral check failures party decides to try the next cave over.  Minotaur yeah! Onedias (under player control this time) charms the Minotauress and if you read the Hackmaster B2 version of the minotaur lair you you know what a mistake that was.  Much handwaving of details later party rescues Onedias and slays the Minotaur.  After some DM prodding they even locate the secret stash of major loot; Staff of Curing, +2 platemail, potions, and lots of gold.

Some Observations
That I didn't work in elsewhere or need repeating.
  • Labyrinth Lord is fun!  I can see some peeps wanting more detailed, nailed down system for a long campaign (not me). But, for a pickup D&D game.  Nothing beats it.
  • Example of ruling not rule. Alex dives into pool in attempt to remove Grey Oooze, but ooze acid eats him to 0 hitpoints.  Alex rolls "knocked out" on Death and Dismemberment table.  So, I rule that getting into water did dislodge ooze, but unfortunately Alex is now face down in the water. Mundy wades through pool and hoists Alex onto his shoulders. Sadly (or comically depending on your sense of humor) another ooze had been moving that way and decides to drop.  So, I rule that 1-5 it drops on Alex (who is on Mundy's shoulders) and on a 6 it will drop on Mundy.  It falls on Alex and for pure comedic value (the players didn't see the funny in it though) I further rule that Mundy is unawares and wades back across the pool to safety. Cheering that he has saved Alex, setting him down only to see a Grey ooze where Alex's torso use to be.
  • Example of winging it. Magnus finds secret tunnel, leading to secret door, leading to bottom of 30' pit trap.  No one but he wants to open it. Rest of party go way back down the tunnel. I knew it wasn't trapped. But I didn't know what was down there beyond the traditional "skeleton of past adventurer".  Since player had shown initiative and taken risk I thought they deserved chance at reward.  Ask them to roll d4-1 and that was how many magic items they found.  Magnus rolled 4.  More really lucky random rolls later; A mace +1 +3 vs undead, scroll of protection from undead, boots of springing and leaping.
  • Example of winging it/rulings not rule: Frandor's keep has got to have black market.  For one shot I didn't figure out NPCs, what was available, etc. Instead when player looks for something I ask them for a d6-X roll, where X larger number for rarer items and that is how many they find. Most common item is potions, d6-2. Then roll randomly on potion table. If they ask for something specific, there's a 1 in 6 or 1 in 12 or 1 in (you get idea) chance that it is available.  Reaction isn't a factor in market, they want to sell, you want to buy, it's business. But buying from the church requires a Reaction roll and if it turns out poorly they will not sell to you (nor the rest of the party if they know you are associates)
  • I made the players booze and wench it up when ever they returned to Keep loaded with treasure. Every character rolls d6x10 (or larger die if they choose).  The sum of all dice rolls / number of characters is how much gold each must spend. One side benefit is this provides a +1 when rolling for hirelings.
  • A men-at-arms pulled her unconscious master from certain death by Grey Ooze.  I gave a 1 in 6 chance that such bravery elevated her to 1st level and henchman status.  She failed that roll and both her and master got dissolved by ooze shortly there after.
  • Here is a picture of a 3x5 card of things I always forget and want to be reminded of.  I never remember to look at card and still always forget these things.
  • I'm ok with the hands body (means use my hands and whole body when doing NPCs, monsters, etc) and enthusiasm. But can never have enough of that.
  • Mid-encounter description means part way through battle, take a pause and redescribe the scene.  Updated with blood and drama and tension.  "Blood glistens from Mubak's axe as he raises it to deal Mundy a final death blow."
  • 30 sec visualization pause, means before describing scene. Take 30sec to build up scene in my mind using all 5 senses before opening my mouth.  I'm way to frantic during play to ever do this, but I do it before play and sometimes remember it. Such as describing entrance to Temple of Chaos.
  • Slow, slow pacing description. Means I need to quit being such a frantic spaz, allow some slow parts, allow players to digest and plan. Remember to describe fully instead of rushing to next thing.

Next B2 post will be on the maps I made.


  1. I'm one of those people who would lean towards a more detailed system for a long campaign, at least from a player's point of view, though I haven't looked through the Advanced Companion yet. I completely agree, though, that for a one-shot or pick-up game, Labyrinth Lord rocks.

    I think another example of "Ruling not Rule" was the reaction of the Minotauress to being charmed. The text of the spell just says that the charmed creature regards the caster as a friend or trusted ally, and is treated as having a friendly attitude. But taking poor Onedias back to her lair to ravage him goes beyond being friends, even "friends with benefits".

    To me that's an example of how to keep the mechanical function of a spell from functioning mechanically. If magic is strange and mysterious and not wholly understood, then there are bound to be unforeseen interactions when other forces come into play, such a powerful yearning for companionship of the opposite sex.

    Of course, as the mage, it sucks to be the victim of that confluence of forces, but that's what you get for screwing around with magic. ;-)

  2. A couple observations:

    -The otyugh is not a B/X/LL monster. I am guessing you found it in the HackMaster B2 (HM being a re-creation of AD&D and the otyugh being straight from the Monster Manual). I know there's no otyugh in MY B2.

    - Your Alex-Mundy-Ooze anecdote: this is exactly the kind of way I used to DM D&D. Love it. It is also the kind of thing that would irritate my players to no end at the time, but would keep them talking about (and enjoying in retrospect) for years to come. It's okay to be a little hard now and again (jeez, the owl bear "pet" makes up for it!).

    - Did you find the Death & Dismemberment table really helped? I've never used this ("0" is dead, friends)...did it add to your game? Was it useful? Did it encourage the players to be more courageous?

    Thanks for sharing. B2 is a blast to play AND read about.
    : )

  3. @Flip But taking poor Onedias back to her lair to ravage him goes beyond being friends, even

    You wouldn't know this but the Hackmaster version of Minotaur (which I used) was female and specifically had that attitude and rules for chance of "charming" minotauress without a spell. She was hot to trot so to speak. That boudoir description with chains, etc was straight from module, not my creation.

    But there was no specific rule (that I remember) about what happens if charmed. I considered what charm does, and what module said minotaur's "goals" and reaction to non-ugly male PC's were. Then made a ruling. But, I think this is a little closer to what DM's do in every RPG compared to what is usually meant by the "ruling not rule" phrase. But, ya know one man's pie is another man's circumference.

    Death and Dismemberment table is great. I think it ads a lot of flavor and fun (one final die roll to save your character!). I'm totally sold on the idea of hitpoints being "don't get hit points" that is luck/fatigue/bruising/etc. And the first actual real wound happens when you reach 0 hitpoints. D&D table is like a wound table in that respect.

    It leads to scenes like the dwarf falling unconscious into the pool (Mundy proly would not have tried to save him if he were dead) and to the fighter's "2nd wind" (rolling boxcars regaining hitpoints) and coming back from "death" to defeat the Orc Chieftan.

    I love Death and Dismemberment.

    Did you see this, esp the comments by Odessy who plays "under" table and Trollsmyth who created and DM's with table.

  4. There were two PC deaths, and I think using the table prevented roughly 4-5 more. I think I took more chances, as far as staying longer in a fight. Mundy went down once or twice against the Minotauress before the party prevailed.

    Whether it "helps" or not depends, really, on whether you want a less lethal game. If you do, then it's a fun way to reduce mortality without sacrificing the sense of danger. A nice bonus, though, is it addresses the conundrum of having a fighter swinging his sword with full strength at 1 HP, but being stone dead at 0 HP. I think the table makes things at once more realistic, and also more flavorful.

  5. @norm

    Here's the text of the spell:

    "This spell makes a humanoid creature regard the caster as its
    trusted friend and ally (treat the target's attitude as friendly)."

    A rules lawyer would probably say that strict adherence to this description would cause the spell to override and replace the disposition of the target with respect to the caster. Meaning it didn't matter how horny the Minotauress was (no pun intended), she wouldn't see the mage as a boy-toy, she would see him as "a trusted friend and ally". And her attitude would have been "friendly", not "molest-y".

    It's a fine line, true, and I may just have a different notion of "ruling not rule" than others.

  6. Amazing post! I love the notes to self on the inside of your screen. I should do that, too.

  7. An awesome read, your B2 posts are very fun to pour over.

    LL+Advanced Edition Companion does expand the game and ease in a comfortable amount of detail.
    Juggling LL/AEC, Barbarians of Lemuria (with a custom fantasy setting) and Pathfinder leaves one not only frazzled, but appreciative of these simpler systems. My head spins sometimes handling Pathfinder. BoL is even simpler, but there seems to be more immersion into the story that keeps the players running with it.

  8. Great write-up--and nice pimping--of one of my old time fav adventures. A shame I missed it.

    I particularly thought your sharing of your "stage notes" was interesting. It made me realize that with all the GM hints, strategies, and tips floating around that there is very little out there on the actual showmanship or stagecraft of presenting a game verbally. It would make for an interesting blog post in its own right to explore, no?


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