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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The Dusty Tome of D&D Stories: Chapter One

A is for... ADVENTURE
I ran Dungeon Crawl Classics last night. Details are here. The new elf shot a blaster rifle at a Tyrannosaurus Rex. The rifle malfunctioned and exploded.

Walk with me through the roiling mists of time, adventurer! Your eyelid is twitching with your heartbeat. It is not high blood pressure, bold one! Why, we've traveled to the late 80's/early 90's! You have a mullet and/or poodle hair! Maybe you are wearing tight jeans with buttons instead of a zipper fly? We can roll for that.

The Slug with the Golden Brain

I'd barely read the adventure. I didn't know what the hell I was doing. It was my first time running a game. I was 13. The characters came upon a most bizarre room:

Cover may have nothing to do with contents
"35. Giant Slug

When the characters open the door, they will see a landscape as if they opened a door to another world. A sky above them will be gloomy and filled with rain clouds. Lightning can be seen flashing among the thunderheads.

A four inch layer of mud covers the floor, cutting movement in half. Across the room, against the west wall, is a sturdy wooden shelter containing a metal table.

Tied to the table is a fantsie
(a bird-man) who is being cruelly tortured by three durges (leprous lizard men). The durges aren't even asking questions, they're just enjoying the fantsie's screams.

Spread along the foot of the table are various implements of torture. Hanging from a hook is a giant slug, who is likewise being tortured with liberal doses of salt.

The slug (whose name is unpronounceable in common) is very intelligent and, if freed, will tell the party that one of the armor pieces is held in room 27
(the adventure is supposed to be about recovering pieces of armor for a wizard named Morlean).

The slug's magical brain is exposed and is clearly made of gold, his solid gold brain is worth 1,000 gp. If taken from the slug (which kills him) it allows the owner to speak to animals twice per day."

When I read/skimmed this adventure prior to the session, I figured the heroes would just loot the brain. Nope. They saved the slug. They healed him. They named him "Blech". They argued over who got to use him as a mount.

Then, as the players excitedly discussed the uses of their new companion, they asked me if the golden brain made him super-smart. That sounded fun, and I could also use that as a tool. Yes, I told them, Blech was super-smart.

So obviously, that meant that Blech could tell them where all the treasure was in this dungeon! The characters would walk up to a door, ask him what was beyond it. He'd tell them "Two orcs, no treasure". They'd move on.

I knew Blech would cause problems in the campaign, but they were so excited about him that I decided to let it play out and see what happened.

Our heroes made a mockery of the dungeon (or rather, I did) and were traveling through a pass. Tall cliff walls were on both sides that rose up many feet. A dozen bandits with bows perched way up on the cliff opened fire down on our heroes. There was absolutely nowhere to hide. Almost none of the heroes could fire back - they had no ranged weapons or spells that could reach that far!

It was brutal. The heroes barely survived.

When the dust had settled and wounds had been bandaged, the party cleric turned angrily (angry in real life) toward the slug. He yelled "Why didn't you tell us?!"

I was shocked. Before Blech could even respond, the cleric raised his mace. It was like slow motion. The other players yelled "Nooooo!" as the cleric brought his mace down on poor Blech. He killed the slug in a single blow.

I learned so much about D&D that day.

The Sewer of Ultimate Death

I ran some more adventures, throwing out magic items like candy and skipping all the "boring" rooms (the ones with long descriptions). One player felt the call. He wanted to run a session.

He ran Curse of Xanathon, an "adventure module for character levels 5-7". I got the feeling he wanted to challenge the players. Somehow we ended up in the sewers, where there was a tidal wave (?) coming at us. Riding it was one hydra and two dragon turtles, who proceeded to beat the bejeezus out of us.

We quit a few rounds into the battle.

Looking through the adventure now, I see no hydras, tidal waves, or dragon turtles.

I took the reigns of the campaign once more.

Doctor Death

This was 72% of all D&D characters in 1991
Somehow, one character (it was the early 90's, so of course the character was a drow wielding two swords) ended up having to fight 3 consecutive battles in an arena. The third guy was tough. He was a doctor, in a long white coat. He did not prescribe ointment. He did not hand out lollipops. He threw syringes! And if you were hit by a syringe, you made a saving throw or you died!

The National Medical Association had issued him stern warnings on multiple occasions, but he would not budge on the syringe-throwing issue. That's why they called him DOCTOR DEATH.

Well, the drow died from multiple lethal injections. The Cleric who killed Blech made a desperate plea to his god, Forseti (norse god of something or other). Lightning came down from the heavens and struck his body, bringing him back to life!

The players let out a cheer! Doctor Death somehow didn't notice the lightning bolt and was still posing for the crowd. The drow stood up and skewered the doctor.

I Was In Love With A Drawing

I smooshed a couple of Lankhmar adventures together. I just had to use this NPC - Tanya Valinor. I would stare at that picture to the left into the wee hours of the night, sweat dripping from my brow.

The idea was that she'd hire the heroes, and then at the end once the heroes had completed her task, she'd reveal that she was actually.. gasp! A vampire!

The carriage pulled up to our heroes at night on a misty street. I described her pale skin, black cape, and bat tattoo. Suddenly, my flavor text was interrupted.

"She's a vampire!", a player shouted.

Oh no! How did they figure it out? My beloved Tanya Valinor was in trouble! I tried to backpedal, but a hand mirror was produced immediately.

"Is there a reflection?!", my feverish players demanded.

What could I say? My poor paper girlfriend was doomed. "No reflection", I admitted.

But then, upon gazing at her image.. our heroes could not bring themselves to kill her. They helped her, anyway. She joined the party. And yes, she was cured of vampirism via magic potion! She lives on in my campaign to this very day.

Hand me your button-fly jeans, intrepid one. Tarry back to your time of iphones and beliebers. Say nothing of what you have learned here.

1 comment:

C.D. Gallant-King said...

Too much great stuff to comment on. How are you going to go for a whole month burning through so much wonderful content so fast? :-P

I had a similar infatuation with a character from an illustration - it was the blond priestess in white from the 2nd Edition Tome of Magic. I think it was page 116.

I want a super intelligent brain slug! That was very kind of the PCs to deal with that for you.

I had a similar experience in an arena like setting in a Star Wars game where the player's character was crushed I death by a wall of R1 droids. I can happily say I wasn't the GM for that one.