Monday, August 4, 2014
The Balance Blade - Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG
Tonight, we finished up the final battle from The Sea Queen Escapes, did some downtime in Gnatdamp (the town from Gygax Magazine #1), and then went through a level 2 adventure known as The Balance Blade.
The final battle with the Sea Queen was... too hard. The party had 8 PCs. The cleric went down right away from a gigantic magic missile.
In DCC RPG, you roll on a chart when you cast your spell. The higher you roll, the better the effect. So the Sea Queen cast magic missile, rolled high, and thus launched a massive pulse beam of a missile right at the cleric doing 4d12+5 damage! Most characters have about 20 hit points. He was down and dying (he ended up being stabilized).
The players came up with a clever plan, forcing a potion down her throat, causing her and her handmaidens to flee.
The heroes took their white and gold boat home and rested for three months, regaining spellburned stat points, healing wounds, and doing miscellaneous magic things.
One wizard summoned a familiar - a python that wouldn't stop talking telepathically.
The Balance Blade is a short module contained in "The 13th Skull" adventure booklet. It is written by Joseph Goodman, who has written some of my favorite DCC adventures.
When preparing it, I realized that this thing has some issues:
1. It has a save-or-die trap. I thought about it and figured that a character hit by it could burn luck to avoid dying (you can permanently lower your luck score to give yourself a bonus to a roll. So if the PC fails by 5, they can erase 5 points - permanently - from their luck and succeed).
2. The climax of this adventure pits the group's wizard against the party. The wizard picks up the Balance Blade and is forced to do battle with his or her allies. And when it's over, if the wizard isn't dead, the patron sucks the wizard into a vortex that they don't survive.
The adventure says that this scenario is better for a "one-shot". Nuts to that. I rolled up my sleeves and came up with some adjustments. The most popular NPC in this campaign is a wizard's familiar - the miniature woman of extraordinary beauty. I decided that she would be the one to turn against the party (under magical compulsion by the sinister wizard Sezrekan, her master's patron).
I'd have her fight them, and then if they subdued her, Sezrekan would open the vortex and I'd give the PCs a chance to stop her from falling in. If she did fall in, then the next session could be about going on a quest to save her from Sezrekan's clutches!
The Obelisk: There was this crystal monolith with 5 sigils on it. The heroes had no way of knowing that the sigils would disappear as they completed each of the different rooms. It was more of an area to get them to poke and prod. They did do their fair share of poking and prodding.
The Chaos Changeling: They fought a crocodile with stork legs. Each round, its' body changed. I rolled on a chart. By the time they killed it, it had a bear body and a scorpion tail. Awesome monster! Very DCC.
The Gates: There were three gates that needed to be passed through. They had iron bars set close together, close enough that even a halfling could not squeeze through. This was another "poke and prod" scenario. The bars were seemingly impervious to harm. My group was stumped and backtracked, but with a little hinting via the miniature woman of extraordinary beauty, they came back to the gates and eventually realized that each gate's bars could be bent only by a PC of a certain alignment.
In the beginning of this adventure, the DM is warned that the party would need PCs of each of the three different alignments. This group does, so it wasn't an issue.
Trapped Glyphs: There's pair of trapped glyphs under floor dirt in two hallways between the gates. One sends you a million years into the past (for good!) and the other.. kills you. DC 13 FORT save. This was the one I was worried about.
Two PCs stepped on the glyph of annihilation. They both rolled extremely low on their saving throws. The cleric burned Luck to live. But the other guy, a warrior, didn't have enough luck! He was short by one point! He died.
Lawful PCs would see a beautiful lady.
Neutral PCs would see a beautiful lady and her 10 ear old son.
Chaotic PCs would see a succubus and her hideous spider-child.
She said she was trapped here, and could only be freed by the kiss of a "true man". A hero boldly stepped forward to free the nice young lady. She kissed him, and began draining the life out of him (she permanently drew d3 Personality from him per round).
A fight broke out. She used the darkness spell, which is crazy-effective in this game. When you are blind, you have -8 to hit! And because most PCs are human, nobody has infravision!
Worse, even though they were blind, the PCs still would try to fire into melee. The heroes were kicking each others' asses accidentally over and over.
Eventually, they defeated her. Her darkness went away, and her cool effect kicked in: She became oily liquid, which swirled down a non-existent drain, and formed a gaping bottomless pit.
Was the pit really bottomless? Our heroes weren't sure. I swear to you, one PC came incredibly close to jumping in to find out. He probably read my face and thought the better of it. Are you really going to jump into a pit to test if it is bottomless? Crazy.
This would be the one spot in the adventure where we almost had a let-down. The heroes were expecting it to come to life! That would, indeed, be awesome. But it doesn't. It's just a flavor thing. I could have had it come to life and attack, but how the heck would the heroes survive?
When preparing the adventure, I decided to leave the mummy as-is, figuring that the final battle would erase any memories of the mummy.
The Balance Blade: There's a door in the base of the throne that leads to a room - the blade is balanced on the tip of a stone triangle. My heroes were worried about the mummy... so they sent in three "throwaway" characters to get the blade!
The hallway was long. This means that the traitor familiar would have plenty of time to hack in the split party before help could arrive.
I proceeded to roll really, really bad. In the end, she and the blade fell into the vortex.
The wizard who owned her was furious, and is hell-bent on getting her back. That means next week our heroes are going to go up against one of their patrons! I am already plotting it, using material from the DCC book entry on Sezrekan as well as the Sezrekan stuff from the adventure "Tower of the Black Pearl".
Overall, it was a good session. The Balance Blade is a nice short adventure, but you definitely need to know your players before running it. You'll almost certainly need to modify it to suit your style. But hey, you're a DM. Customizing it to fit your game isn't too difficult at all.