Sunday, November 8, 2009

Our First Foray into the New Labyrinth Lord Campaign

So tonight, despite having only three players, we decided to just go ahead and start playing Labyrinth Lord, already! We had already rolled up characters for most of our players, and the three in attendance only had to put names to their counterparts- and we ended up with Parasalthus the elf (a recurring character across multiple editions and universes), Yrinjar (or something) of the North, a fighter, and Violet the halfling. We had little time and everyone was itching to slog through a dungeon, so with a quick introduction to the shabby, frontier two-bit town that will serve as the base for adventures into the daunting dungeons under Andressadiff, a series of ruins from time immorial, long rumored to contain the lost fortunes of a wealthy civilization's kings.

Leading our intrepid party to the fabled hill were two NPCs, Keva the cleric and his companion Lewis the magic-user. Keva, seeing people in town obviously geared up to search for fortune, offered to lead them to an entrance on the southern side of the hill under Andressadiff in exchange for their help seeking out a rumored holy site located somewhere in the foul dungeon's rooms. There was a more well-known entrance on the west, but the cave thus leading into the dungeons is also part of a large goblin camp, best avoided for now as far as everyone was concerned.

Almost immediately upon entering the dungeon, the party found a large ceramic pig with a slot slightly bigger than a gold coin in its back. Poking around at it, the halfling decided it was a "piggy bank," which- since neither the elf nor the Northman had ever heard of such a thing- is apparently a halfling custom, although usually on a much smaller scale, having to do with something called "rainy-day money." The halfling suggested someone smash it to find the money inside and, hearing the word money, the Northman abliged with the hilt of the sword. Hundreds of coppers fell out, which the group piled into the elf's sack by the handfuls.

It wasn't long before the party, making their way through the dungeon without mapping (the only player who really maps didn't feel like it- ha!, we'll run with it), ran into two men in the same white robes, with the same holy symbol, as Keva, the NPC cleric. After some talking in a secret language of gestures and grunts between Keva and the two similarly clad men, the two were introduced as monks of Avanda, god of Justice. It seems the monks- from a sect unrelated to Keva's own form of worship of the same deity- had also heard of the holy place in the dungeon and had sequestered one corner of the dungeon to be their base of operations as they, too, sought out the site- while also defending, as best they could, their little dead-end corner of the dungeon from a clan of orcs.

Following the two monks, the party came across six orcs impaled crotch-to-mouth on spikes thrust into the floor of a large room. The monks explained that the distasteful display actually seemed to help keep the orcs at bay. The party kept politely silent. The two monks led the party to the common room of the monks' area, where a dozen monks or so milled about, praying, eating, and studying. They were introduced to the leader of the group, Brian, who informed the group of his monks' goal and offered them safe shelter and meager food any time if they would help deal with the "orc problem," and further intimated that if the problem were permanently solved, he might dip into his church's coffers for a reward. He showed the party some exits from the monks' area, labeling some as off-limits to all but the monks themselves. One exit led to what Brian described as a "cursed treasure" that had claimed the lives of two of his less devout brethren who broke their vows of poverty and tried to take the treasure. Brian said the group was free to enter this room at their own peril, although both Keva and Lewis declared they would stay behind if the party chose to so venture. Another door was locked from the monks' side, with Brian explaining a strange growling noise heard some time before.

Wary of curses and interested in growling noises, the party ventured into the rooms beyond the monks' abode, discovering little beyond a strange wall of animated- but silent- tiny, carved stone faces that silently screamed in agony. Well, all but one, which disguised an arrow trap. The fighter almost took an arrow to the eye as he poked around the hole in one face's mouth, but dodged just in time to watch the arrow loose, strike a door, and then, after a moment, transform into water and fall into a puddle. Hearing a sound they took to be the trap reloading behind the wall, they moved on to discover what they deemed to be the source of the growling sound- a goblin struck dead, seemingly by the magic arrow trap. Having reached a dead end, the party returned to the monks, took a short rest and snack, and headed towards the direction in which the monks had said the orcs dwell.

It wasn't long before some of the rumored orcs made an appearance. Heading through doors with abandon, the party stopped short at a doorway that, when thrown open, revealed six orcs with crossbows behind a crude picket of lashed-together posts, defending the doors behind them and lying in ambush of the party. Although all six orcs loosed their bolts at the fighter who threw open the door, not a single bolt hit- two coming close, but being swat out of the air by the fighter's polearm.

Advancing to the fence, the party slew four of the orcs. The remaining two dropped their crossbows, pulled out swords, and swiftly retreated out a door behind them. The party gave suit and quickly put an end to the orcs before they could regroup with any reinforcements.

Exploring further, the party came across a door behind which were the sounds of slimy and suction, horrible slapping noises and loathsome squishing noises. Intrigued, the party used its patented "open the door with a grappling hook and rope from a safe distance" (which has been used on most doors found so far, since they've all been doors that open in two directions) to find a large, domed room dominated by a circular pit with horrible black tentacles reaching out of it. At least eight of the slimy things flailed about in the darkness, and the party quickly slammed the door shut. The Northman carved an "X" into the door so that, even without a map, they'd keep wary of the room beyond. They also discovered stairs leading up and discovered thereby a new entrance to the dungeon, on the east side of the hill.

Backtracking and trying to get to the corner of the level that they believed the orcs to be in, the room came upon a corridor interrupted by large curving pipes jutting out of a wall and going into the floor, bolted at either end. The pipes were covered in frost and a low humming noise echoed from the side of the wall from which the pipes descended. The party made a cursory inspection of the pipes but kept the orcs foremost in mind, and moved onward. Coming upon the orc's armory of crude weaponry and catching three orcs unawares and putting them down quickly, the party moved on to find a group of orcs playing dice. Again dealing with the orcs deflty, the group made off with the sizable number of coppers stacked next to the orcs' bone dice (which the elf also took).

Having found the first signs of the orcs' lair, the party ventured ever deeper, navigating around dead ends. Another group of orcs fell to the party's might before they came upon a door that led again into the room with the tentacled horror. The Northman again marked the door with his bastard sword, and as the party turned to retrace their steps, they realized they had drawn a sizable horde of giant rats to their presence. Thinking to meet the critters head on, the party charged at them. While orcs had repeatedly fallen to the deft attacks of the party, the rats proved a more valid threat as the Northman received a vicious bite to the shin. While some of the rats fell, so did the halfling- as a giant rat tackled her and, in one bite, drew the halfling's lifeblood. Realizing that there were two rats for every remaining party member, the party decided to retreat behind the nearest door- the door into the room of the tentacle horror. "I'd rather die by a terrible monster than by some filthy rat," the Northman declared, and Parasalthus, Keva the cleric, and Lewis the magic-user agreed. Securing the door against the rats, the party turned to face their doom- only to realize the tentacles were moving harmlessly through their bodies.

Relieved to discover the tentacles were but an illusion all along, the party opened a door in the room to find themselves entering a cell of a jail from a back entrance. They discovered that they were in but one of six cells in the room, all of which opened to the center of the room- while the cell they were in only opened from the back, and had no entrance into the jail proper. Odd construction indeed, but they lucked out- the cell held a battered old chest. Before they could open it they spited a large group of orcs, apparently watching over the jail, who noticed the intruders and headed out one of the doors in the main jail room. The party figured that the orcs were trying to move behind them through a corridor yet unknown to them, so they quickly scooped the coins in the chest into the elf's growing sack, and without even a word to the six halflings they saw locked in cells across the room (not that the party had a direct means of accessing them anyway), made their way back to the stairs that led to the east side of the ruins. Exiting the ruins as the sun set beyond the horizon, the party quickly fled south to Keep Town, where they counted their haul and remembered the courageous death of Violet the halfling, gnawed to death by a rat under Andressadiff.

This little, mostly impromptu session was great fun. I'm definitely still a green DM/Labyrinth Lord, and I have much to learn. While I love the map I've made for this dungeon for all its weirdly shapped corridors and rooms, it's turning out to be almost as painful as it is fun for me. Describing all of these rooms and angles to the players is hard, and I tend to default into boring, horrible descriptions of feet (which I don't want to do if the party isn't taking time to measure lengths) with little flavor. The players didn't even bother mapping this session, though, which seemed certain doom to me- although they made it, after all. It did save me some of the description detail that the mapper needs to draw what his character would reasonably notice.

All in all everyone had fun. My players are definitely more used to newer D&D editions, though, and have a very defeatist attitude about the lives of their characters. The halfling player was expecting to die all along, having rolled 2 hp. She wisely stayed back and used her great skill with missiles when possible, but in the end the party couldn't keep the giant rats back from the tiny, pig-tailed snack. Still, the fighter player also more or less expected to die but his lowish armor class and my monsters' bad luck left him mostly unharmed through the short session. The elf saw plenty of front-line fighting with only minimal injury throughout the session as well; his armor class is top-notch, being 1.

I think as we stick with this campaign and get the bigger picture in all of our heads things will smooth out. I'm already mostly not needing to consult the rulebook at the table- I made a crude Labyrinth Lord screen this weekend that holds all the charts I really need, and I've been making index cards of all the monsters and factions I put into the dungeon as I go along, so I have an index of all the stats I need right there in front of me. I need to be more aware of which room numbers I need to have ready as the party is moving forward, to minimize the leafing I have to do- this dungeon is huge, and the first floor alone is a good number of sheets to flip through. I tried to number the rooms as best I could to fit what I thought the party flow would be, but it was not perfect (accounting for multiple entrances into the labyrinth).

It was quick, it was dirty, but it was fun. The party has allies in the monks of Avanda who are living in the dungeons of Andressadiff, but enemies in the orcs who "share" a half of the dungeon with the religious order. Both groups have bodies (or parts of bodies) of the other impaled at the entrances to their respective territories, and so it seems the party has become embroiled in a turf war- for which they quickly chose a side. (Stinkin' orcs!) The party seemed more interested in loot and orc-killin' then they did with exploration, which is totally fine by me, as the motivations of the party are entirely up to the players. The dungeon is there, doing its thing, and the characters can and will do what they will inside of it.

I can't wait to report our next session! Whew!

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