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Tag Archives: The Increasing Misnamed Dungeons and Dragons Campaign

Part One

Well, almost everyone it turns out. The party soon ran afoul of a group of slavers. I can’t say I’m proud of this “fight”,  but mercifully it was fairly quick. The slavers were like 7 levels above, and overpowered the party pretty handily. I did tell the players early on the “bandits” were dealing subdual damage. They were then captured, stripped of their metal gear and stuck in caged wagons then hauled off to Cromlin to be put in the Arenas. They had after all done a fair number on the attackers even though they were way out classed. And by class, I mean level.

Now in Athas, metal is super rare, even coins are generally made of ceramic. So of course the slavers were beside themselves with greed at acquiring an entire suit of (either scale or plate) mail armor made of metal. That’s a small fortune in Dark Sun terms. Originally my plan had been to have 3-5 sessions with the PCs as slave fighters. This would have made sessions super simple, and I thought my players would be okay with it, since they did rather enjoy fighting… but fighting divorced from any real story (the Gladiator Boss says “Fight” isn’t a story, and you and I both know it) apparently didn’t sit well with them. So I compressed the hell out of the Skill Challenge that they needed to do to escape.

Part One

So in the last fight I did a couple of things I’ve since found can be good to do… though really they were combined in this instance. One is including an alternative finish to a fight. The second is alternative ways to affect the battle … in this case the puzzle accomplished both … though of course, I didn’t leave any other options beside flight or failing. They certainly couldn’t kill all of the monsters, because they spawned indefinitely. 

Regardless, they won, got some magic items, including a magic map which was mostly just to make MY life easier. It didn’t show them everything about the world, far from it, but it did show everywhere they’d been, and other entities (like the Djinni) could update the map as well. If they’d investigated, it also would show them everywhere they’d been on a dungeon … again this was as much a conceit to keep things simple and not get bogged down in mapping. Important because while I love it, in general it’s the exception not the rule, … most folks could care less, and even if one or two of my players was excited to commit the adventurous locations to graph paper, the extra time it’d take would end up boring the rest of the party.

Part One

So they use ropes to get down and are finally in Dark Sun proper, so the only thing to do is hit ‘em with some scary desert creatures. I think it was a bunch of Baazrags, but it could have been some Jhakar. Either way they did a number on the mage, and then switched to the real threat, the BugBear … which was affectionately termed BugBear Whack-A-Mole because he got knocked out and then stood back up several times during the fight.

Then they wandered in the desert for a bit, using the port-key coin to determine the next likely appearance of the portal home. They headed west, where they found a practically dried up oasis, and one of their first puzzle fights. This one actually gave them a  bit of difficulty… basically it was a simple strimko puzzle (think super simple Sudoku) but each of the four “lines” controlled a spawning bed, from which swarms of creatures would pour every round. I don’t remember if I re-skinned Kanks for this or if they were Baazrag Swarms, but regardless they weren’t really much of a threat except they were being generated faster than the party could take them out. As the party solved the puzzle, the spawning beds closed up and the influx of enemies abated.

They rapidly solved the entire puzzle … theoretically, but practically they only had pieces to solve two of the lines and had to start searching the battlefield for more pieces and get them to the alter instead of fighting. Eventually they found all the pieces (and a few extras), solved the puzzle and met their first Djinn.

Part One

So yeah, I’ll admit, I’m not above using various tricks to provide the illusion of agency to the players when it wouldn’t be otherwise possible to give them actual real choices. In this case, hindsight I realize I didn’t really give them a choice… See they found two possible ways out of the buried castle of Astidax, and happened to choose the one that had a ridiculously difficult monster at the end. In this case, it was a Zombie Cactus or some such. Something that maybe, theoretically, if the party scored a couple crits they might be able to defeat. On the bright side, the thing was slow as balls, so when they realized just how nasty it was, they wisely fled back into the dungeon to check out the other route. The entire top of the butte was also covered in a minorly annoying in small quantities, but fairly deadly for Level 3 characters, terrain, specifically thorn-trees… sure it was only like 1hp damage per 5’, but it was, like … miles to the edge or something. They couldn’t really tell. So yeah, kind of a shit choice to offer, and I feel a little  bad in hindsight, but whatever, they escaped with no really serious injuries (okay, I think someone got bloodied w/ one hit, but they all LIVED, and bloodied is basically nothing in 4th.)

The other exit lead them to a small outcropping only a hundred feet or so off the the ground which also gave them a nice view of the area around in about a 100 degree arc.

Part One

So this is a good point to mention a couple of things here. First off, Gamma World is fucking fantastic. Fourth Edition GW is superb. You’ve probably seen the Penny Arcade Comic about GW, and if anything it understands just how amazing GW is. It condenses 4th Edition down to the important bits and trashes anything else that’s not important. Then it takes it and puts it in a post-apocalyptic setting where basically anything goes. 

That said there are two complaints about the system that are I initially thought were pretty legit, but I have come to the conclusion are basically bullshit.

First is the cards. Yep, they made a Collectible Card Subgame that you can use for gamma world. You can buy booster packs, and they are hella expensive. There’s a simple solution. Don’t do it. The deck that came with the game is all you need. Really it’s plenty. If you can pick up some boosters on the cheap, maybe … but it’s not so big a deal to only have a DM deck to draw from. And the DM deck comes with the game.

Second is Ammo. Here’s the way ammo works. You keep track of every bullet, erg of laser-shot, and arrow. No wait, that’s dumb and stupid. You have ammo for each of your guns. Every fight you have 2 options: Don’t fire your gun more than once or fire it as many times as you frakking feel like. If you only fire your gun once, you’re conserving ammo and don’t run out. If you fire it two or twenty times during a fight you’re not conserving ammo, and at the end of the fight you run out of ammo. Now in general every 2-3 encounters the party will find Ammo. And ammo is totally abstracted. So if Bob’s pulse rifle, and Claire’s slug-thrower are both out, they can hash out who gets the ammo however they like, but then that player is resupplied. Maybe Claire gives Bob some ancient tech to get the ammo, and then it was bullets all along.

Part One

Hit points corrected, gear distributed everyone was set. They entered the laboratory where the Necromancer Aline was controlling the undead via the Artificer of Dreams.

The party had acquired a device that allowed the user to mimic any sound. DJ, one of the players, had a devious idea. Using the device, he imitated Meera, Aline’s long dead lover, and the indirect cause of the whole tragedy. Now it’s been a couple of years, so I doubt I’ll do his speech justice, but the gist of it was “Aline, what you did was wrong, I don’t want this unlife. If you still love me you’ll undo the horror you’ve wrought and let nature take it’s course.”

Okay, I was thinking, that’s probably worth a surprise round at least. So I told DJ to give me a Bluff check. He rolled a crit, so I did the only thing appropriate: I trashed the final boss fight and the party just instantly won. Aline realized her error, released control and stepped out of the machine, allowing several thousands of years of time to finally catch up (the Artificer of Dreams had been sustaining her as well). So yeah, final battle completely subverted by a bit of player ingenuity and a damn lucky roll. Who am I to not give it to them though.

Part One

This is part three of the recap of The Increasingly Misnamed D&D Campaign. 

I’ll probably put some kind of table of contents here eventually.

So the Artificer of Dreams is a dais with “coffins” on it. The coffins are magic, nigh indestructible, and only openable from the inside. One is occupied. The party enters coffins and are submerged into the dreamworld from which Aline’s necromantic powers extended into Athas. 

This ends up being kind of like The Matrix, they made new characters in Gamma World, and I heavily modified the pre-built adventure to be appropriate to a world taken over by Aline. 

Having never played 4th edition Gamma World were were only a little surprised at the ridiculous lethality of the game… so to keep things fun, I just had everyone make a new character after every encounter (if they had died). Queue the end of the penultimate encounter and one of my newer players (who’s only played a couple of D&D sessions before) is dead. While everyone else tries to figure out the best way to distribute gear in preparation for the final fight, I help Alec build a new character. During this I discover something exciting, EVERYONE had been doing hit points wrong. They had all, independently, been adding their Constitution modifier, not their constitution score. No wonder everyone had been dying so often. We fixed everyone’s HP and then moved on to the final battle, the confrontation with the necromancer Aline.

Part One

So the party traveled through a portal to Dark Sun, one that took much longer and was a more difficult crossing than normal. They arrived in a cold dark corridor with only two routes to go. A little investigation (and temporarily barred door) lead them to find one dead end, then back track out. They encountered a few native creatures that had made their way into the dungeon, but mostly a bunch of skeletons and ghosts that were haunting the dungeon.

They also learned that it wasn’t a dungeon at all, but the castle Astridax, that had been buried in it’s entirety millennia earlier to keep a great evil from spreading across the land. I don’t think they figured everything out, but I’m not sure what they missed, so for simplicity’s sake I’m going to reveal everything… it’s not like it matters at this point. I give you, a short history of the Kingdom of Astridax.

Astridax was also the name of the Castle and the race that inhabited the region, back when Dark Sun was still fertile. The Astridax were a race of blue, parthenogenic humanoids. Aline was a great sorcerer who dipped into necromancy (via an Artifact called the Artificer of Dreams) when her lover Meera was killed and unable to be resurrected. Aline went insane and began to kill and raise the rest of the populace. Sileara, Meera’s sister and also a great magician realized the horror this would eventually cause and since she was not able to defeat Aline, she instead buried the entire castle hundreds of feet underground where the evil could not spread.

The party fought their way through the dungeon facing horrors such as skeletons that kept reanimating, ghosts, and native creatures that had gotten trapped inside the dungeon with little to eat. Eventually they pieced together enough of the puzzle and found the Artificer of Dreams, but not before fighting Meera’s Revenant. This was a rather fun “boss fight” as Meera was not entirely pleased with having been raised. She started the fight by apologizing and made saves every turn to keep from attacking the party… there was of course plenty of other stuff to keep the party busy. Eventually they destroyed everything else but the power of the Artifact would keep bringing Meera back, so their only option was to enter the machine and kill Aline from within it.

A little over two years ago 4th Edition D&D was still pretty fresh, and the Dark Sun campaign setting was coming out, something I had dabbled in far less than I’d have liked back in High School. I grabbed a couple of friends, and my roommate at the time was also running a game, so we could both take turns running and playing, and do a nice arc here or there and then have plenty of time to prep. This was great.

When the campaign started it was going to be a mix of Sigil and Dark Sun, and maybe other settings. Sigil the Hub, and the party could go to various settings and have adventures, returning to Sigil eventually to start new arcs. The players basically knew at this point that they were going to end up getting stranded on Athas, they just didn’t know the full extent of the stranding. See, portals throughout the multiverse had been weakening, or failing outright. And of course the chosen first destination, Athas isn’t exactly known for being well connected.

The initial party was contracted to retrieve a coin which happened to be a port-key. The key had been stolen by some Skulks. Skulks are a race that that have an ancient enmity with Tieflings, and had bamboozled the Tiefling that had hired the party in particular by having one masquerade as the merchant’s estranged brother. The party eventually tracked the Skulks down, forced their way into the Skulk hideout and went through the portal to Athas, where the Skulks had been planning on perpetrating nefarious deeds.

On the other side they found themselves at the base of a dungeon, with the portkey, one last Skulk and no way home.

So, I am about ready to put the kibbutz on my increasingly misnamed D&D game due to the ridiculously uncommonness of actual sessions being able to occur. I’ve now accepted two players whose play style might not entirely jive with my own. Assuming they even show up.

In case the campaign does end up ending I think I’m going to take a break from my normal stream of consciousness posts, and do campaign summery. This will also allow me to get a bit of a buffer built up so I don’t end up missing 2-3 days when life gets really busy and I can’t stick to my schedule of trying to post every day.