Monday, May 30, 2011

Play Testing the Undercity

First things first; Memorial Day is about remembering the veterans of our nation's history, especially the wounded and departed. I do give thanks and respect to our military men and women of all eras . Salutations.

I have been working many long hours at a very repetitive and boring job and my gaming life has been almost nil for a few months. This was preceded by a year of almost weekly and twice a week games, so I greatly missed the gaming table.  I did play in two games and DM'ed one during that time, but it wasn't what I really need, so I have been gaming every day this weekend.

I was fortunate enough to get to run a Tekumel game using the Garidisiyal Rules Set I bought over  a year ago and have never gotten to use. In spite of what I have heard from some, I am a big fan of these rules, although I would probably have liked them less if I didn't already own a good deal of earlier source material, notably the Swords and Glory Source Book, the original EPT rules, and the Man of Gold and Flamesong novels. I found the ease of the system very refreshing and I loved being able to hand the players the pre-made Character Templates (with accompanying illustrations) and saying "Here, pick a character".

We had an all adult crew in attendance so we actually ran Change (Chaos) characters, members of a Sarku worshipping Clan no less, along with a female Pygmy Folk merchant and an Ahoggya warrior who proved quite disgusting….Anyway, since the Concordat between the Temples is in effect only outside of the Underworld, a certain lass of the Domed Tomb Clan named Mikusa was apprehended  in the Underworld by the priestesses of D'lamelish and Hrihayal for use in certain rituals.

 The Domed Tomb dispatched our heroes to rescue her from an underground temple and deal out some retribution. It got rather bawdy at certain junctures as this was preceded by an intelligence gathering jaunt to the Gardens of delight on the Temple grounds in Jakalla--needless to say, the introduction of the Green Lady and her cult were a hit with our male players but the female Pygmy Folk character also found it quite entertaining and the risqué rejoinders  abounded.

 We actually managed to wrap up the adventure, after some backstabbing and Sarku  Temple political murders among the Player Characters. We don't usually run Chaos characters in our games  and we often have younger teens at our games but didn't that night so we all let our hair down a bit. If you are unacquainted with D'lamelish, she and her rites are very evocative of Astoreth or the Babylonian Inanna.

What I most enjoyed though was getting to play test the "Undercity of Kravekos" Maze I have uploaded here at the blog.

It was slow going getting into the dungeon due to some PC  nosing about in Kravekos before entering the Dungeon. Here is a short breakdown of the game.

We met at 9:30 pm last night and played until 2:00 am this morning. We used the Holmes Basic Edition rules with some tweaks that made it run somewhat like 1st Edition Advanced D&D…namely, I permitted multi-classing(even humans), human class mixed with demi-human race/class, and some AD&D magical items.

Our party consisted of four human men and a halfling female. Matt played a Fighter- Thief named Drakon who has aspirations to the bardic college if he can find the council of Druids and gain admission. My son Levi played a Fighter Magic User named Eastwood, while Laura, Matt's wife, was Chinka Quickfoot, a Halfling Thief.  Juan played a Lawful Evil cleric named  Cardinal Synn. It was mostly a candle light session, until the candles began to die--those are always fun! All were at second level.

The party entered Kravekos and spied the domed gate that is the entrance to the dungeon, but not knowing what it was, decided to find an Inn, except for the cleric, who wished to seek out a wizard or sorceress to identify some magical and possibly magical items he obtained during previous adventures. He found a wise woman named Baba Yaga and paid handsomely to have several items identified, leaving them with her. At the Inn, the Innkeeper related to the party the legend of the Undercity and how to gain enterance.

Chinka tried to socialize with some Hobbit Tobacco traders  in Kravekos who were there to unload a shipment of Long Bottom leaf and they were friendly enough till she started talking excitedly about exploring the Undercity and trying to persuade them to go along. Once they deduced she was an adventuring Halfling, will, they became a bit cool, thinking her queer and a bit odd since every Hobbit knows that adventures are nasty, troublesome affairs that can make one late for dinner…Drakon did cheer the Inn with a bit of his lute playing though! The party bought a night's lodging.

Next morning, the cleric got his items back,  discovering that most were not enchanted, but being informed he was the proud owner of a ring of plant control. The party then sought audience with the King of Kravekos, a wizened but sad and bitter old man still bleak after 20 years when his only son died after emerging wounded form the ruins  and because he had no son to carry on his lineage. However, he did give the players the key to the Domed Gate. He wished them well, though he doubted their success, and warned them that after 7 days the gate would be locked again as they would be considered dead. he spoke of the Talking Sword of Lothia, a magic sword  lost in the Undercity. The court cleric, a Bishop of the Church of Illuvion, gave the party two healing potions and a scroll with a Cure Disease spell.

They left the castle, finding a crowd of well wishers and admirers in the streets since they were the first to enter the ruin since it's sealing two decades ago. The gate closed behind them at the Dome and they entered an elevator cage--a very long oiled chain lowered them into the bowels of the earth. The cleric took two trained dogs with him…

Down in the first cavern, they emerged to cool, wet air and an empty chamber. Lighting a torch, they walked down a long tunnel which opened onto a stone quay by an underground river. There stood a Charon  (See the 1st Edition AD&D Fiend Folio) by his black gondola, keeping his ancient watch. They addressed him and h spoke to them all teleptahically, saying his price for passage was either answer his riddle after two tries or surrender a magical item whose power he would transfer to his magic gondola, which warded off all harm to any occupant as long as they stayed in the boat. They of course attempted to best him at his game of riddles but could not guess! There ensued some displeasure amongst the players as they felt the riddle's answer illogical and claimed they would have never guessed. I will ask the riddle at the end of this post to see if you, dear reader, could have passed the Boatman! I assured them all the answer was logical, of course. The poor cleric was the only one with magical items! He was given a  choice of giving up his ring of plant control, his +1 (against good creatures) Mace, or his +1 shield. He gave up the mace very grudgingly and the Charon touched it to his gondola. A blue mist enveloped the boat for a moment as the black mace dissolved. however, Charon informed them that as their guide on the river, he would permit them to ask one question about the Maze. They waited to ask it later…

They entered the boat (the dogs were terrified of the Boatman) and began to traverse the river. They passed a cave that had a giant skeleton of some serpentine beast and the remains of a human and a dwarf. Eastwood disembarked to poke around, and saw a bright red jewel! The party surmised it to be a very obvious trap and left the gem, voyaging on. Alas, the gem was not a trap but a valuable ruby simply there for the taking…sigh! As a DM, I place things like this around the dungeon, figuring I will make you earn them soon enough!

The gondola entered a huge well lit cavern whose sides were pockmarked with little caves that had wooden ladders going up to them, and a beach on either side. Lizard Women were out cooking who knows what in old shields and helmets of past adventurers  when they ran hissing with their little ones at the sight of the party. Out strode the warriors, hissing and taunting, but true to Charon's word, the riders in his ferry could not be harmed. But then the Lizard man chieftain, Suul emerged from a cave. He was a glorious specimen of his race, standing nearly eight and half feet tall with a huge two handed falchion. His muscled arms were encircled with precious gold circlets and jewels and he wore and incredibly valuable looking necklace with a red gem. He challenged the party to get out and fight, which they declined not out of fear but because this was not their quest. So Suul asked anyone to disembark and face him in single combat, promising safe passage in return for their victory (Charon's ferry was one way only…). That, and a chest of silver and elctrum, which was brought out and thrown on the sand, open, by two Lizard Men. There were eight male warriors in all.

Eastwood the Fighter Magic User could not resist this duel. Drawing his sword, he leapt from the boat to shore and faced down Suul. Initiative went first to Suul, who swung and hit with a  roll of 11 on the 20 sided dice. Eastwood struck also, rolling 8 points of damage after his strength adjustment of +2. Suul being a 20 Hit point Chieftain, he had 12 points left. Next round, Suul won the initiative roll again but could not strike, so it was Eastwood's turn. He rolled a 20! Double Damage. He rolled 4 points of damage, added 2 for his strength, and doubled it! A killing blow in only the second round of combat, something I had not foreseen…Suul fell dead. I had factored in a 25% chance the Lizard man tribe would attack anyway, breaking the deal, but even though I didn't announce this, the party was prepared to join Eastwood and join in glorious battle on the subterranean sands. My secret roll yielded a 28, however, so the monsters were disheartened by Suul's easy defeat, and dove into the waters, disappearing. Eastwood claimed his prizes, including the great falchion and the chieftain's jewlery.

The party moved on and came into a cave with a waterfall from another hidden spring . High above them was also a cliff--here they saw an old set of stone stairs climbing the wall to the cliff. They bid farewell to Charon, but Eastwood remembered they got one question. They decided to ask what dangers lay ahead--a nice generic question they hoped would net much infromation but Charon gave a very literal answer an informed that just ahead, "The biting, poisonous children of a Queen await you." He then departed.

Our heroes climbed the stair and followed a passage that led into the first engineered stoneworks they had encountered in the Maze--a vast ,long hall filled with crumbling statues. The statues looked like humans but with more elfish features than is normal--they were the Jennerak, that ancient and mysterious people who were once the masters of the world before the Time of Man. A single jennerak inscription was found.  The Fighter magic User had Jennerak as a language and read these words "The Kingdom of the Jennerak, Of Which There Shall Be No End." After a chuckle at the irony of these words, they faced their next dilemma--how to get past a great fissure in the earth that rent to the hall in two. Here, our candles burning low, we decided to call it a session since Matt had a paper to write.

In only seven hours, we will meet again, to hopefully finish the Maze! We all had great fun.

I will post again when we complete our playing of the Undercity…

Oh, the riddle. If you have read the Dungeon Key to the Undercity then you know the answer, but if not, give it a shot, and tell me if you think it was a fair riddle. I usually include at least one riddle as a part of every dungeon and most of the time they get them, so I felt it was about time they got a hard one! I think the answer was the most perfect available, but the other players protested that it was not a fitting answer at all.

Here is the riddle:
"Though it be cold I wear no clothes
The frost and snow I never fear
I value neither shoes nor hose
And yet I wander far and near.
My diet is forever good,
I drink no cider, port, nor sack-
What Providence doth send for food
I neither buy, nor sell, nor lack.
What am I?"

Answer in the comments if you'd like!


Well? I'm waiting......

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