Cast of Characters:
Mordecai, a Cleric-5: Adam
Forlorn, an Elf-4: Bo
Mister Moore, Magic User-4: Mike
Soap the Wizard, Magic User-3: Nogal
Barzai, a Cleric-4: Ben
Shy, a Fighter-3: JR
Arden, an Elf-1: Z
Phat Kobra, a Dwarf-3
Zeke, a Fighter-3
Starkweather, a Thief-4
Grumble the Smug, Halfling-3
Serge, a Fighter-3
Unnamed OSR Module
Feast or famine! - A month before my Africa trip, we were down to 3 adult players. Then we promoted a few of the kiddos that were ready to hang with the adult game, bringing us up to 5. Now two previous players were able to return, bringing us up to 7, and a third guy (who played 1E with us from before our 4E experiment a few years ago) is set to rejoin too. 8 regulars, wahoo.
At the end of last game session, we discussed our go forward edition plan - I'm going to be providing opportunities for the group to engage in an AD&D module-heavy game here on out in Gothic Greyhawk, starting with Ravenloft just around the corner (their long term goal has been to get to the village of Barovia, after all, and return a magic sword). Now that they're done with their time at Stonegate, the Dwarf Hold, they've set their sights on heading to the remote mountain valley called The Valley of Mists, home to the sleepy village of Barovia.
With that in mind, we've made an edition adjustment for Gothic Greyhawk - our go-to edition is now Labyrinth Lord with the Advanced Edition Companion. I'm still a big fan of the LOTFP rules set, but if I'm running a gauntlet of AD&D modules, the higher powered LL/AEC options will mean less retrofitting, especially with the insane AC's as AD&D 1E scales upwards. Barring a TPK, which I do try to inflict every week, this campaign will become a tour-de-Greyhawk - Lost Caverns, Against the Giants, Descent in the Depths, the full monty. None of them have played those, so it's been a long-standing request.
I'm also finding that between blogging, working on the Black City, (adopting a new kid!), and game night, I don't have time to run two games each week; Nogal and Z, the two kid's game regulars, are already in the adult game, and the other kiddos had intermittent attendance and interest. So in-between adventures, they're bringing their characters over from the old game and there are some character swaps happening. (As Nogal was jubilant to declare, "Soap is in the HOUSE". Soap the Wizard had quite a reputation in the kid's game...)
On to the game. Experience was doled out. Mordekai had enough to become a level 5 cleric, but his adherence to anything resembling piety is fairly low, and he learned that he'd need to start acting like a holy man before gaining level 5 spells. Zeke would continue to suffer the curse of the ring of weakness (he's been at 3 strength for a while), Mordekai took a vow of poverty, and is now striving to do good. (Mind you, it was just last week he turned over an artifact of elf-killing over to the evil witch).
The group spent enough time with the Dwarves to heal, buy a couple of mules, clean up their camping equipment, and load the mules with a few weeks of iron and standard rations, water, and feed. Everyone had heavy winter clothing for the mountain trek (it's Sunsebb on the Greyhawk calendar) and the median temperature in the mountains is in the mid-30's Fahrenheit.
After a few days of slow trudging along mountain trails and following the river valley upward, a morning came when they were attacked by a trio of hunting wyverns swooping out of the misty morning air. Mister Moore identified the threat immediately - the wyverns would be attacking the mules - and the group tried to form a defense as the wyverns swooped in. One debatable tactic I allowed was for the magic users to cast their webs, but hold their action (since they won initiative) to actually release the spell when the wyverns were within range. I let them do it in-game, but will probably develop a formal ruling on holding spells for next time (I realize other editions have explicit rules about when spells actually take effect after casting).
So one of the wyverns got caught in a web and tumbled nearby, it's wings stuck in a gooey mess of webs, while they other two landed and started stabbing their tails at the panicked mules. It was a good fight, lots of tactics and movement (we use minis for fights like this), with some guys trying to lead the mules out of harm's way, the fighters trying to interpose, casters sending off magic missiles, etc. Grumble and Shy both took tail stings during the fight and made their saves, always a dramatic moment when there's save or die poison. And one of the mules needed serious healing. Exciting and challenging, but they won.
They decided not to scout the surrounding cliffs to see if the wyverns had a lair. Hmmm.
That evening, they found the road that led into the valley and realized they were close to Barovia. However, the trail intersected the road at a spot where there was also a worn cobblestone lane leading into a side valley where they could see the distant lights of a walled mansion in the gloom. Not knowing how far was Barovia, they decided to inquire at the mansion if they could spend the evening.
The mansion was a two-story affair, walled, with a large iron gate. They could see candles lit in the upper windows, and a pleasant fountain in the courtyard (which was cleared of snow). Starkweather snuck through the gate, invisibly, but they quickly lost track of him and he stopped responding to voice calls. "Here we go again!" They all followed through the gate, onto the grounds.
Once inside, the trick was apparent - the mansion was a crumbling ruin, hanging shutters clanging against the walls of the mansion in the slight breeze. The courtyard was choked with snow and rubble, the fountain clogged with ice and muck. The gate snapped shut behind them (and wouldn't open). Was that a slight chuckle they heard from the depths of the house?
"We're low on magic, and it's dark - let's search those outbuildings, find a place to bed down. We'll tackle this place in the morning." Mister Moore took charge, guiding the group to explore some nearby sheds. One was a small black smithy, the other a stables, and they chose to clear the stables and make camp there. Watches were set, and they settled in to sleep.
Most of the group was awakened by the baying of hounds in the night, and when said hounds began digging at the door of the stables, they decided to set an ambush. Starkweather peeked through a crack, saw when the hounds snuffled and snorted little bouts of smoke and brimstone puffed out of their nostrils, and Moore declared, "Hellhounds".
Starkweather flipped the bar off the stable door (invisibly) and let the Hellhounds rush in to a waiting wall of shields and steel. Unfortunately, he learned the hard way that Hellhounds detect invisible, and he was quickly fried to a nice crisp (1 hit point left in the first round).
That convinced Mister Moore to bring out The Equalizer - his wand of paralysis - to blast the Hellhounds at close range. It was his second-to-last charge - I'll be glad when that thing's gone! Mike's an excellent player, but they're a solid group all around. Without the wand, my dreams of a TPK will nudge closer. Muhaha. Three of the four Hellhounds succumbed to paralysis (along with the crispy Starkweather) and the fighters waded into the last one and hacked it apart.
We stopped there for the night, after first aid.
Can anyone guess which (OSR) module the group has stumbled into next?
Whew - that catches me up on some recent game reports before the rapture, next game night is tomorrow. I expect all of my players to show up.