Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rift City session 14 report - perils of the free-range party

A few relative regulars couldn't make this session but the 6 players who could constituted a party of:

Bonjella the Elf,
Galan the Elf,
Gene the Fighter,
Gibbet the Thief,
Karensa the Elf,
and, making a welcome return, Marl the Halfling.

The Rift is a megadungeon. Levels 1 and 2 constitute - at the moment - 472 rooms. As I've just worked out that 200 of those are on Level 1, the other 272 are on Level 2. Levels 3-10 exist mostly as ideas, but there are some things that exist in a more concrete form. The party has some evidence that suggests there's an Ogre colony on Level 3 or 4, as well as having  picked up rumours of a 'horned giant' somewhere around Level 3 and a Vampire perhaps around Level 6 or thereabouts. The PCs don't actually know which if any of these things are 'real'; I do, but I'm not about to confirm or deny what's real here.

The Rift also a sandbox. Not a hexcrawl for sure, but a bit like a dungeoncrawl built like a hexcrawl. There are multiple ways into the caves in the Rift. The caves themselves are sort of geographically organised - different areas have rooms of different types  (some are actual dressed-stone rooms, some are either natural caverns or chambers hewn* from the living rock) or may have different monsters (some areas are infested with Kobolds, others with giant spiders, for example) and so on. These different areas are connected together through multiple paths horizontally and vertically, as well as many of them having access to the outside. I've also detailed some areas away from the Rift in case the party goes exploring elsewhere. So there's a whole bunch of 'nodes' to go for.

Sketch-map of the edge of the Rift, about 2 miles west of Rift City

Not sure how easy it is to make out the detail, but the fat line is basically a road that zig-zags down the side of the canyon from Rift City off to the east; the thin line that crosses the eastern portion of the road is the edge of the Rift itself; two thin lines branch off the comparatively well-built (and -travelled) road, representing paths or trails through the rocky scrubland; one is marked 'path down' (I don't think I'm giving anything away here to say that there are more caves down there), and another starts with a question mark and ends with a cave; also marked are the bulge of the rocky outcrop, the 5 caves the PCs explored originally and, past the outcrop, the limit of their exploration at the cave with the question-mark near it. The area that the PCs are exploring is effectively the top of the canyon which is itself cut into a relatively-flat plateau-area... that then stands in huge mountain massif that I know as 'the Mountains of Abomination' but possibly other people call 'Rockhome'. Something like this...

An even more schematic diagram looking vaguely from west to east
Over the period of the campaign, the party has been exploring the caves on the left of the trail. These are on the uphill side of the road, they're conceptually the Level 1 caves. There are 5 entrances near the point where the trail passes into the Rift proper. The PCs spent, I think, around 10 sessions in this area (sessions 2-11, though probably four or five of those sessions were actually taken up with exploring the area under the rocky outcrop, a complex of rooms that connects the caves accessible from entrances 1-5 with those accessible from entrance 6). In that time, they've explored maybe 50 rooms (some they've visited more than once). Then, round a rocky outcrop, there's another cave entrance. The PCs have been there twice (sessions 12 and 13). The question-mark in the first diagram was the limit of the PCs exploration after 13 sessions. From these 6 cave-entrances, 161 Level 1 rooms are directly accessible.

So... what do you do when the party ignores the 161 rooms you have laid out for them, and heads for the 39 rooms you've only just sketched in? For Session 14, the PCs decided to go on past the areas they'd been before. What I don't know is, if they know they have probably only explored about 1/3 of the rooms in that area. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Pushing on past that cave they came to the fork in the trail where a rough path lead off to the left, up and away from the main road. Essentially, from somewhere round there, the road began tending downwards, and the cave entrances would potentially be on Level 2.

The cave they eventually came to was well away from the main paths and the party's hope I think was that these would have not been cleaned out by other adventurers quite so much. So, anyway, how did they fare?

The first room they came to was apparently shut with a locked wooden door. The PCs listened at the door, and having heard it was definitely occupied they decided to knock on it and see if the inhabitants would open up.

When a Kobold gingerly opened the door a crack, the PCs shot it in the face with arrows. Bonjella and Karensa flung the door open and Marl leapt in brandishing his short-sword. The Kobolds weren't surprised but they were somewhat overwhelmed by the PCs' onslaught, which wounded several more. However, that party failed to capitalise on their position and two of the PCs took injuries as the Kobolds fought back. Another round of combat however reduced the Kobolds from an initial 6 to 1, who turned tail and fled to another door but died with Galen's dagger in its back. The PCs stripped the bodies but only found coppers. They then searched the room that had a shallow pool and a 15' statue of a naked humanoid female with lobster head and claws. This is of course a reference to Blibdoolpoolp the Sea Mother, AD&D goddess of the Kuo-Toans. This room-complex was created using the WotC dungeon generator found here, that includes all sorts of creatures I don't have rules for (like Kua-Toans). She's in my copy of Deities & Demigods from about 1981 and I have always referred to her as 'Biddlyboop' as it's much easier to say than 'blib-dool-poolp'. Why she has a shrine up a mountain in a landlocked country is not necessarily easy to fathom. Fathom. It was a joke. Anyway, moving on...

The PCs searched the room but were unable to find anything significant, and some of the doors were locked. They tried using a Kobold as a battering-ram but were unable to break down one of the doors, so they continued in the direction the Kobold had been fleeing. The door it had been heading towards led to a room with a fountain and some depressions in the floor which may have served as baths. In the corner was a well and some rope, but no bucket. Fearful that something might come up, they quickly moved on.

The party came out into a wide corridor that had several branches. Taking the rightmost, they came upon several doors at the end. The first they tried was locked, so again a dead Kobold was used as a battering-ram. Gibbet was unhappy with the room, fearing a trap, so the Kobold was thrown into the room to test things out. Now, in the description it says 'anyone stepping into the room is teleported...' and it's definitely arguable that a dead Kobold, even if granted 'personhood' while alive (ie the room would have teleported a live Kobold) might not be a person when dead, so the room might not teleport a dead Kobold (or other person). But that's not what I ruled.

"The Kobold flies into the room... and disappears."

"Oh, is it a sphere of annihilation or a gelatinous cube, or something else nasty?"

So after a bit of discussion, the PCs decided to test the floor with a 10-foot pole. Now, I don't really know how this teleporter works. There are other teleporters that I know about (let's say, in other dungeons, the PCs don't know them, they live in Canada and I met them one summer etc etc) that work for example when the PCs are inside the room and the door closes. But with this one, it works while the door is open. Things can be both in and out (which isn't so likely with a closed door). And, having said that a dead Kobold set it off, I couldn't see any reason why a dead tree (ie a wooden pole) would not set it off. So, when Gibbet said that he'd stand outside and poke the floor with a 10-foot pole, the only thing that made sense was that the spell effect took hold of everything inside the room boundaries, which included the door frame, at the point that something touched the floor. So, the end of Gibbet's pole fell off.

Next, he started sliding the pole towards the door. This has the effect of a very small bit of the pole being in the room while the magical effect is working, which I think would produce an effect a bit like grinding away the end of the pole, so again a little bit came off the end.

So, having done all of this and then deciding it must be a teleportation rather than a destruction effect, Gibbet jumped into the room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

Gibbet found himself in a room very like the one he left (the same size at least) - but the door was locked. In the room with him were a dead Kobold, and some sawdust. Listening at the door he heard voices on the other side. They sounded like the party. It turned out (after the party battered the door down for him, they're better at smashing than he is at picking door-locks) that the teleporter had taken him (and the dead Kobold; and the pile of sawdust shaved from the 10'-pole) a whole 8'5" away. There were a few other things in the room, including a kind of strange drum. Gibbett decided that he may as well take it.

The world's most pointless teleport trap (the diagram has a scale and north-arrow so is a proper map)
I asked the rest of the party to step back in - and Galan then said he stepped into the teleporter room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

I'm not going to reveal why the teleporter doesn't take everything to the same place. It might be random. It might be a sequence. It might depend on age or race or sex or armour type or be influenced by any number of features. But for whatever reason, Galan was definitely transported quite a long way away.

The room Galan found himself in - he didn't know where it was - was larger than the one he had stepped into. It appeared that it was being used as place to cure animal skins. However there didn't seem to be anything of use or interest to adventurers, and nor were there any ways out except the door he'd come in by, so he exited, at which point he found himself in a corridor he didn't recognise.

Trying some other doors, one was locked but the room behind definitely seemed to have occupants. Another contained what appeared to be a smashed-up wine cellar. No other exit was visible to Galan so he turned round. Heading in the opposite direction, the corridor ended with another door, this time opening into a mouldy old library or study - with two doors this time. This room however was occupied. Some scorpions the size of cats headed towards him, but he made it to the other exit (it was unlocked) and he got out without injury. This door too opened into a corridor. Reasoning that the rest of the party was standing in a corridor, and finding a way through without going into rooms was preferable, Galan kept going.

Sure enough, round a few corners he came back to the wide corridor with several branches. Taking the right-most, he approached that party from the rear. All the while I had been rolling for wandering monsters but nothing showed up. After a quick conflab with the rest of the party it was decided to head for the library and wine-cellar - by the conventional route.

So first off (still no wandering monsters) the party headed for the library. It didn't take long to dispatch the scorpions, whereupon, channelling the spirit of Polly (who was the player's previous character), Bonjella cut off their stingers to take to Gisuintha back in town. Deciding that they'd also have a look for any interesting tomes on the way out, the party headed on to the corridor that Galan had found himself in earlier.

They couldn't open the locked door but they did make it into the wine-cellar. There they found that most of the bottles had been wrecked but there was one amphora and a barrel that were still sealed and had their contents intact. Scooping these up, the party headed back for the exit.

Stopping only at the library to pick up some of the less-mouldy scroll and books, and to make a find of 100gp stashed behind a cache of scrolls, the party made their way out. At last, I rolled for a wandering monster. Consulting the list, it turned out to be a party of three Elves coming into the caves. There was no reason to assume that the Elves were going to be hostile (and the reaction dice said that there was no immediate hostility), so conversation ensued and information was exchanged. Marl, knowing that a silver-haired Elf had been asking questions around town, tried to find out if these Elves were involved; and Gibbet lifted a purse from one which contained a couple of dozen silver pieces, but otherwise both sides went about their business unmolested.

And that was it - home to sell the bits and pieces they'd picked up (a lantern, a mirror, the wine) and divide up the gold and then off to bed for another hard day's adventuring tomorrow...




*My spellcheck doesn't like 'hewn', I wonder why? As far as I'm aware it's the normal past participle. Maybe it's one of those British/American English things.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

A map for my players...

Currently, with a mostly-1st Level party (only Gibbet the Thief has reached 2nd Level) the party is exploring some Level 1 caverns. I used the donjon dungeon generator for this area. It's an AD&D generator but fine for my purposes - I just have to change the odd monster details here and there. I use donjon's generators a lot - there are dozens on the site - and heartily recommend them to one and all.

So here is part of the map of the area - I've called this cave-system 'the Caverns of Ulfang the Black'. The players probably can't even remember who 'Ulfang the Black' is, but never mind. Perhaps they'll be reminded at some point.

Heavily redacted are the tunnels the players haven't gone down yet - just marked with arrows.


Friday, 17 August 2018

Happy Birthday to the Wandering Monster Table - Rift City Session 13 report

We reached something of a milestone on Sunday 12th August - our 13th monthly session and therefore our first birthday as a open table campaign (technically, our first session was Sunday 13th August 2017, but I can't help how calendars work - we were back round to the second Sunday in August, that's the important bit).

Apart from me, we've had at least 15 players and something like 20 PCs (RIP Fighter Bob, Fish Eye Len the Thief, Sven the Dwarf and Polly Pepperoni the Magic-User) as well as a few NPCs (RIP Vortigern the Cleric and Keith the Orcish lantern-bearer) going down to the caves to kick monster-butt.

At the thirteenth session, the party consisted of:

Berg the Dwarf
Cnut the Fighter
Galen the Elf
Gene the Fighter
Gwynthor the Cleric
Karenza the Elf
Shazam the Elf

As a result of the proclamation from the Mayor about 'diverse Undead' and the necessity to burn corpses, the PCs decided to load up with flasks of oil before their expedition. No problem, oil is a fairly common commodity in Rift City. So they ended up with about a dozen flasks between them.

They decided that they would continue to explore the caves in the same area where they were at the last session. Ningal 'the Mad Witch' (as the PCs keep calling her) had given them a rough map with some locations marked on, including a ring of standing stones. As these are underground it's unlikely that they are for astronomical observation, but perhaps they are really ancient and the mountain grew over them..? Anyway the PCs were intrigued and decided to check out the location.

First however, they had to deal with infestations of spiders. The wandering monster table for this area included several listings for swarms of small spiders, as well as the notions on the map claiming that different areas were the home of 'spyders' (Ningal's spelling is not necessarily standard). Rolling on the wandering monster table for the party's first encounter, I came up with a spider swarm. They discussed briefly whether small spiders were really all that bad, and then, having decided that they could still be poisonous even if small, with a combination of missile-fire and burning oil, the PCs wiped out the spiders. After this, the party headed vaguely south again through the caverns.

Shortly after this, I rolled for another wandering monster. OK, let's see what it is this time... oh, a spider swarm. This time the spiders were following down a (fairly) narrow tunnel. Shazam poured a flask of oil on the floor and Cnut lit it with a torch. That stopped the second spider-swarm fairly well.

Shortly after this, heading vaguely south through the caverns, the PCs came to a wide cave inhabited by Giant Rats - four of them. The PCs made pretty short work of them to be honest, there are seven of them at the moment and I think everyone has plate mail (Gibbet the Thief wasn't here, he's about the only one that doesn't wear plate). They didn't search the room however...

Pushing on, the PCs came to the cave where the standing stones are. Big black slabs deliberately set into the floor, and of a kind of stone unlike the stone of the caves. But not, apparently, set up to any purpose that the PCs could find. Should the stones have a purpose? It's difficult to know what to say really (especially as my players are now reading the blog). Sometimes, things that look significant will be just window-dressing. Sometimes, things that don't seem to have significance will be important but you missed a clue or don't yet have another piece of the puzzle that helps to understand why they're important. Should eight huge monoliths (yes, we did decide it was an 'octolith') in a cave have a significance, and if so, what? Answers in the comments, or if you don't want my PCs to see, to redorc01 at yahoo.co.uk please...

While there, they became aware of a faint glowing in the east. Not the dawn, some Fire-Beetles. So, the PCs hid in the stone circle and shot the beetles to death. Of course they harvested as many glands as they could, ready to sell them to Gisuintha the Mage.

Then it was off to see if the Undead marked on Ningal's map had any treasure. It turned out that there were a several caves of Undead, one of Ghouls, and two of Zombies. I found some more clerical errors in my file here, repeated room descriptions including a repetition of the standing stones. Oops. Must get better at spotting those sorts of things. And despite having 'Zombies' marked on the map for the second Zombie room, there was nothing in the room description. Never mind, it's easy enough to generate a stat-bloc of monsters using the Labyrinth Lord monster generator here. The Ghouls and Zombies were down two different tunnels next to each other; the Ghouls (with another cave beyond them) in one tunnel and the Zombies in the other.

So anyway, three rooms, containing three Ghouls, eight Zombies and 11 more Zombies - the party fought them, Gwynthor tried to turn them (he succeeded in turning some of the second group of Zombies), and the party managed to avoid Ghoul Paralysis while taking a couple of minor injuries from the Zombies. These are for the most part fairly big caves, so the party is usually able to utilise missile fire fairly effectively - especially on slow-moving opponents. In the end even 11 Zombies didn't cause them much problem.

So, they collected the treasure from the Ghouls - including a really useful magic item I think, a Bag of Holding - and those Zombies that had loot, and Galen and Shazam searched the room beyond the Ghouls but didn't find anything. They also saw that in one of the Zombie rooms, a shaft went down into darkness. The party dropped a torch down there, then threw some oil after at - I decided that it was effectively a 'to hit' roll and not disappointing, Berg - I think - rolled a natural 20. So, the oil flask hit the torch and exploded in fire. Unfortunately, the PCs couldn't really see much of the room down there, as they were still looking down a narrow shaft. They decided not to venture down.

By this point is was getting fairly close to the end of the session. Discussing what should come next and whether they should go and murder Ningal, I decided to remind them that they hadn't searched the room where they killed the Giant Rats. I occasionally allow them a check against Intelligence for things like that. So the PCs remembered and decided that it may be a good idea.

Heading back they ran into a Shrieker, but they managed to Sleep it enough so that didn't summon anything else. Then they chopped it into bits. It didn't seem right, Sleeping a giant mushroom, but I couldn't find anything in the rules to prevent it. They also came face to face with yet more spiders - so the again party used fire against them. They are very easy to drive off.

After that they ducked down the side-passage to where the Giant Rats' cave was, and there was the loot they'd left. The Rats had been nesting in a rather nice shield. There was also a gem there. The party picked up the loot and stuffed everything into the Bag of Holding.

The PCs finally got back the entrance, where they noticed a Green Slime, but managed to avoid it (as they only move 3' per turn). And that was pretty much it - they were out the caves and heading for the city, ready for an evening's drinking and generally mollocking about Rift City, organising whatever needs organising - presumably, including selling the Fire Beetle glands to Gisuintha the Mage.

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

'Minimum' D&D

There's a discussion in the B/X Facebook group about introducing young kids, in this case aged 5-7, to D&D.

I've been finessing the idea of a stripped-down character sheet - I started here:



... where anything in blue is just book-keeping by the DM and not necessary for the PC to know. Why should a player be bothered about a save against Death Ray if they never encounter a Death Ray? What does it matter?

Eventually, especially due to discussions with someone else on the thread, I started adding pictures, and arrived at this (where the 7hp in 'Health', and the 43 on the bag of gold, are pencilled in):




So I guess the question is, is this really D&D? Is the minimum information presented on this 'character sheet' enough to play something that's recognisable as D&D?

Thursday, 26 July 2018

By Order of the Mayor

It is the evening after the PCs return from the caves, and several of them are wandering around town trying to fulfil various tasks (getting a shield, trying to get hold of healing potions and such like). While doing so, they see a group of people affixing the following printed poster to various walls around town (which must logically have a fairly literate population, or they wouldn't bother... I presume that there will also be some sort of town crier-type announcement too, possibly in Common, Dwarvish and any other languages that might seem appropriate).

Oh, and it appears from the name that the Mayor might be a Halfling. I realised I hadn't named him (or her) and then I did and hey presto, Jasper Grubbily, a thoroughly respectable member of the Halfling business community, is now the Mayor...

The Eve of St. Sha-Un is taken from the Labyrinth Lord calendar of the Church of Law and Order in the city of Dolmvay, which I'm patterning the Church of Issek on (as detailed in a post from a couple of years ago here). It's the 20th of Fish-month, more or less our 12th March.

The deliberate use of 'f' instead of 's' is basically a joke. In Early Modern English (and German until they stopped using Black Letter in about 1920 I believe) the letter s was often written ʃ - which looks rather more like an f to a modern English-speaker. Cue lots of hilarious jokes about people reading old documents and getting stuck (or maybe 'ftuck') when reaching the word 'suck'... as in 'where ʃucks the bee, there ʃuck I...'.

So, I thought I'd ʃtick it into my ʃilly poʃter too.

But as the text is written (or maybe carved?) in three hands, not all of them show, or even ʃhew, this trait... either that or I got tired and forgot to make it all consistent. Jasper, at least, knows how to do an 's'!

Monday, 16 July 2018

A few more Fortunate Isles...

I was doing this ages ago (here and here). But I haven't really kept up with it, partly because there doesn't seem much chance that the PCs will be travelling to the coast, boarding a boat and heading for the 1,000 Fortunate Isles in the south-west of the 'Lands and Environs of the D&D Wilderness', which is the default world of the campaign, at any time in the near future; partly, because I thought it would be cool to build the Thousand Islands collaboratively, but no-one seemed to want to join in and submit any entries.

In my setting, divorced from the later 'Gazeteers' and suchlike which I never owned, The Kingdom of Ierendi (where the Fortunate Isles are located) is an Arthurian, pseudo-Celtic-Twilight sort of place, where doomed Knights, sorceresses and witches, fay-folk and such like inhabit a mist-shrouded land- and sea-scape of a destroyed Elven kingdom. That's the kind of feel I want for this - Excalibur meets The Odyssey.

A while ago I was on a 'weird landscape' tip that didn't really go anywhere. I was I think starting to fall under a Carcosa-y spell and generating hallucinatory terrain seemed like an interesting thing to do.

What I've realised is that some of the one can inform the other. If I'm already generating weird and hallucinatory seascapes, then combining my attempts to generate hallucinatory landscapes may make sense. So, to that end, I decided to combine the notes for one into the other and make these islands.

So, here are seven more islands in case my PCs do indeed go to the seaside this year.

Island 009 - the Isle of Rippling Hills - small island
This island is small and circular, about 3 miles in diameter. It is composed of concentric rings of earth. The undulating ground looks like waves on the sea. Ridges resemble breakers. Perhaps over a million years the waves will break. At the centre of the island a spire reaches up two miles to an impossible bulb of earth, like a droplet suspended in time. Powerful magic must be present here.

Island 010 - the Isle of the Red Plains - medium island
Here, the coast is rocky and there are many cliffs. Only small boats can approach and parties must climb up to the cliff-tops. Predatory birds and other flying creatures live on the cliffs. The flat ground at the tops is like red marble, with veins that change colour as you observe them. Sleeping here restores spells and promotes healing twice as fast as usual.

Island 011 - Isle of the Red Trees - small island
The red earth sprouts fleshy trees that produce red sap and inviting fruit. Three of the fruit should be enough food for a day. This fruit is mildly addictive - anyone trying it needs to save v spells or continue to consume it (save once per day to try to break the addiction and have the will to flee the island). Anyone killed here will produce a new tree in 3 months.

Island 012 - Isle of Mists - large island
The rocky ground is streaked grey and yellow. A dull green fog hangs over everything – visibility 50 yards. A castle, hidden in the hills at the centre of the island, reputedly houses a fearsome guardian but also a portal to another world.

Island 013 - the Isle of the Towers - large island
Towers of black glass dot the landscape. Some of these towers contain ancient magical items. Monster encounters are more common near the towers. Though the sun is shining, the sky is black and stars can be seen.

Island 014 - Isle of the Spectral City - large island
It is difficult to be sure of the size of this island - it seems when one circumnavigates it to be around 10 miles long and 6 miles wide. However, when journeying across the island, it seems much bigger, taking at least 3 days to cross at the narrowest point, and at least 5 days from end to end. There is a mirage of colossal city on a mountain in the distance. The city is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, to access, but reputedly contains ancient wonders.

Island 015 - Black Rock Isle - medium island
This island of black rocks has little to recommend it except for clear water springs that can replenish the ship's stores. Storms of black lightning are common – every hour from the PCs' ship approaching within 1 mile of the island, roll a d6: on a 1 or 2, a storm blows up that lasts lasts d6 hours, save v death ray every hour or take d6d6 damage. If the PCs return to their ship they will need to stand a mile off from the island to escape these effects.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Rift City Session 12

Has it really been a year? Not only have we managed to keep running a genuinely open session on the second Sunday of the month for the last year (except one Sunday when I was busy and the guys said they'd rather wait a week for me to DM than have someone else run a 1-shot 😍 - or maybe no-one else was prepared to do it!) at the same venue (except one month when the Comedy Festival was on and we de-camped to Galen + Berg's house), I've actually managed to blog about it after every session too (even if some of my reports have sometimes been a bit sketchy). No way are those last reports of the other two campaigns (Naked Gaming and The Tower of Zelligar AKA New Old Campaign) ever going to see the light of day. This is the one I've put the commitment into - because in theory at least, it's the only one any of the people who read this blog might turn up at (I'm looking at you JensD!).

So, Session 12...

Slightly reduced party this week - no Berg, no Gene, no Gwynthor... so the roster looked like this:

Bonjella the 1st Level Elf (this was the new character that Polly's player brought to the table this month, and like most other PCs she's in plate - unlike other PCs she's also completely skint, couldn't even afford breakfast);
Cnut the 1st Level Fighter;
Galen the 1st Level Elf;
Gibbet the 2nd Level Thief;
Karenza the 1st Level Elf;
Shazam the 1st Level Elf.

Very strong on Elves this party. Bonjella (apparently it's pronounced something like 'Bon-haya') and Shazam, AKA 'Bonj and Shaz' went up front, the humans in the middle, and Galen and Karenza at the rear.

Making it to the cave entrance that the party went to before, there was some discussion about where next. To the left, the caves that the PCs have been to before. To the right, a path down to another entrance that would likely get them to Cave Level 2. Ahead, a rocky outcrop blocked sight what was further down the path.

This has been causing me a few problems. While I have something like 200 rooms on the First (and part of the Second) Level fully detailed (they just require upkeep to make sure the Orcs that the party killed yesterday are removed and something new may or may not take their place, instead of the PCs turning up to find an identical bunch of Orcs to the ones they killed 'yesterday'...) the next 400 or so rooms are not so well sketched-out (they may say '9 Orcs' with no other details or they may just say 'MONSTER'). I haven't created the whole megadungeon, just the bits that I thought it most likely that the PCs will visit. Deciding to go off-piste means I have more creation to do. So I spent a couple of days working on new rooms, new maps, new connections, new wandering monster tables... just in case the party turned right instead of left, went into Cave Number 6 or 8 instead of 7.

The multiplication of possibilities means I can't accurately predict what I have to work on, so I pretty much have to work on everything in a reasonable radius. This is one of the problems of a non-railroad, non-quantum structure. Would the players know if I'd just done one second-(sub-)level and dropped that in? No, but if they find the treasure-map then they'd know I cheated. So now the four closest parts of Level 2 are done. Would they know if they went into Cave No. 8 but got the content from Cave No. 6? Probably not, but the passageways and staircases would line up with things that weren't there, and not with the things on Level 2...

Anyway, they decided to go past the area they've been exploring the last few sessions and push on down the path to Cave No. 6. This is ironic as it's the one part that I'd done months ago, so the extra work was unnecessary for Sunday's session anyway - kinda. It helps me get my head around what's where though, and I found a few bits that needed tidying up.

So Cave No. 6... this was a section originally generated using Donjon's Random Dungeon Generator here. What I do with these is generate the dungeon, but use this only as a skeleton (as it were); I change monsters and rooms as seems most sensible, knowing what I know about the rest of the dungeon, and delete room descriptions that are obvious enough for the players to remember they've had it before ('this room is hot' or 'a mist covers the floor' is OK to be repeated I feel; 'a set of demonic war masks hangs on the north wall', not so much).

So, anyway, Cave No. 6... who lives in a cave like this?

This Donjon generation was where the name 'Temple of the Wraith Princess' came from. It's a great name - it became the name of the area immediately to the east of here, and indeed inspired the necromantic cult that hangs out in that vicinity. Bits of stuff pertaining to necromancy gravitated that way and viola, I had a theme for that area.

There's still some undead in this area, but the name has gone. Now, these are the Caverns of Ulfang the Black (not in any official way, just because I needed to call them something). Ulfang has been mentioned a couple of times in the city as a Kobold warlord on the rise, who lives in this area. The PCs did run into some Kobolds - but more of that later.

The PCs explored a bit and found some skeletons hanging on a wall (there was a big discussion as to whether they were 'skeletons', as in bits of dead people, or 'Skeletons', nasty bony adversaries that surely should have realised that they had already died). But they were the first sort and didn't do anything more sinister than hang manacled to a wall (thereby demonstrating that they weren't completely skeletal, they must have had some connecting bits too... as some of us are archaeologists, there was a danger of this degenerating into a discussion of disarticulation of human remains). There were plenty of tracks in the dust, of small humanoid feet, animal prints, and parts where it looked like something or things had been swept over the floor.

Venturing further into the caves, the PCs disturbed a rats' nest. The party went for the rats, and mostly missed them (except for a single spectacular rat death). The rats then swarmed at Bonj, but the quick action of Gibbet with a torch scared them away again.

After the rats fled, the party searched the room. Among the bones littering the floor, they found 600 silver pieces, a lump of crystal that turned out to be worth 30gp, and a broken metal box, which sadly turned out to be pretty worthless.

Very shortly after this however, they became aware of a noise behind them - Orcish voices! Quickly hiding, the party staged a highly-efficient ambush and slaughtered some wandering Orcs who sadly had little by way of loot. Some swords went into backpacks and that was that (the Orcs came from a source that specifies that they were 'scavenging for food and treasure', rather than say 'patrolling', which to my mind says they were not so much a military unit as a working party - I decided that they had probably come hunting the rats for the pot back in the Orcish kitchens, wherever they are).

The party didn't seem terribly impressed with the loot so far. Thinking that perhaps more riches were to be had further on, they pushed further into the caves, ignoring multiple side-passages. After a short time, they came upon an area where the caves were lit with torches and someone actually seemed to be living there, with a tapestry hanging from the wall, attached by iron spikes. Going a little further, they triggered what turned out to be the main encounter of the day.

For reasons I don't intend to divulge at the moment, I placed a low-level Magic User in the caves. I generated a MU character using an online NPC generator (again from Donjon I think) and copied her stats over. She's Chaotic, wears blue robes (this is what had been sweeping the floor), and has a CHA of 17. I thought she'd be a bit of a change of pace from the usual - in this part of the dungeon, that's mostly humanoids, some undead and lots of crawly things. Maybe someone with a bit of magic would be a different challenge for the PCs.

Things turned a way I didn't expect. The first unexpected thing was how completely the PCs got the jump on her. The dice completely went their way - all the dice. She was surprised, they weren't; that led to my second surprise.

Instead of attacking, one of the two female PC Elves (can't actually remember if it was Bonjella or Karenza, the former I think) said 'hello, are you a prisoner'?

OK, I thought, reaction dice it is then... oh, 12 (I did say all the dice went their way), 'Enthusiastic Friendship' - didn't expect that...

Shazam: 'I hit her with Charm Person.'

OK, roll for Save... missed it (do I need to belabour the point about the dice going their way at this point?)

Ningal the Chaotic MU: 'Helloooo! Lovely to see you all! What can I do for you? Come in, come in, I'd say sit down, but I don't really have any chairs, I'm not used to visitors really, I say you're very handsome aren't you...?'

In the end she told them a bit about the caves, how she'd found some interesting things in the tombs to the east (she showed them a kind of stretchable rope that the Ancients had left, and a kind of powder that fizzed and flashed when flame was brought near it), drew them a rough sketch-map of the caves (luckily I had one of those on standby for an as-yet-unrevealed purpose), and generally acted as a lovely but slightly absent-minded host. She ended up giving them the fizzing powder when they left.

Ningal's dungeon sketch-map - her cave is in the top left between/beyond 'rats' and 'spyders'
This then led to one of the weirdest bits of the evening. In a brief out-of-character moment, I said to the PCs that they'd been very lucky that the encounter hadn't gone differently, if she'd been hostile and got to use her Sleep spell on them it would have been very different.

'Not really,' says one of the players, 'Elves are immune to Sleep.'

Silence. Like actual hear-a-pindrop silence.

'What?' says I.

'Elves are immune to Sleep,' says first player. 'Elves don't need to sleep, so they're immune to it,' says another player.

'OK,' says I, flipping through my battered copy of Moldvay, having never heard any such thing. 'Shadows are immune to Sleep and Charm, says so in the monster description... Skeletons are immune to Sleep and Charm, says so in the monster description, let's check the monster description for Elves... nothing about spell immunities there... let's check abilities of Elf PCs... immune to the touch of Ghouls... nothing about Sleep there. Right, I don't know where you've got this from but Elves are not immune to Sleep.' Apparently (because the player who originally said it looked on his phone) in AD&D Elves had something like an 80% immunity to Sleep. Not to my knowledge in any game I ever played though, and certainly not this one. But this seems to have come as something of a surprise to some of my players. Who knew? Not me for sure.

So in the end they said goodbye to Ningal the Crazy Magic Lady, promised to give her professional greetings to Gisuintha back at the city, and went on their way with their flashpowder. They encountered some Kobolds when they did, but the firepower of the party, both physical and magical, is pretty heavy, so the Kobolds didn't really stand a chance. A Sleep spell from the party put them down to have their throats cut, but again these chaps weren't carrying much - the biggest treasure was a handful of coins. I used the table from '20 Things to Loot from a Dead Kobold' here from Raging Swan Press. As there were six PCs and six Kobolds I used the 'treasures' (I use the term loosely) numbered 1-6. Bonjella, who has no money for food or equipment, was happy with the dead rat I think.

And that was it - three short fights, a little bit of treasure, and an actual role-playing social encounter that has - unless they do something to jeopardise it - made them a new ally in the caves. All in all, a very curious session indeed, that raises a lot of interesting questions. Primarily - will the PCs want to capitalise on their good relationship with Ningal to get as much info/leverage out of her as possible? If so, how will they do it? I'm interested in how this plays out for sure!