We had a reduced party for the second session of Zenopus, with only two players showing up. I let them pick up a few mooks from just off the ship to help pick up the slack. I was surprised that they opted to go straight back into the dungeon rather than ask around for the “boss” whom the goblins told them about. They seemed to think that the goblins might be more inclined to show them to the boss themselves if the party showed back up where they were told they didn’t belong.
The party initially opted to check out a different direction, going north. First rule of dungeon fighting: don’t knock on doors and don’t wait for things to answer your knock. Because you’ve just lost any element of surprise and whatever is coming through the door is probably not going to be friendly. The party was crammed into a hallway while two ghouls burst through the door they’d been knocking on.
The party order was Dwarf/mook, mook/mook, and elf in back. While the front rows sissy slapped each other (no one was rolling particularly well last night), the elf took a shot with his bow. The mooks in the middle didn’t have a chance to duck or move out of the way, so the elf, who rolled a 2, plugged one of them in the back of the head, killing him straight out. By the end of the scuffle, two hirelings and both ghouls were dead. The hirelings were all heartless ruffians and pirates; the one who lived kicked the corpses of his companions and took from their pockets “what they owed him”.
The party followed the path south until it eventually led to where they had fought the rats and met the goblins. An unfortunate wandering monster roll meant that the same goblins who’d told them to get the hell out the previous night were hanging around and waiting to be relieved. High charisma modifiers meant that the goblins weren’t going to try to kill the party outright, but they did tell them to get the hell out. The party decided to try to bribe the goblins with the platinum pieces that they had found in the coffins where the ghouls were; the goblins are nothing, if not greedy, so after a quick huddle, they negotiated up to 15 platinum pieces: we’ll introduce you to the boss tonight after sundown and we won’t tell him that you’ve been down here. The goblins were convinced to take 5 platinum right away and 10 later at night.
You can never trust players to not knock things off the rails, even if they’re knocking things back onto the first rails they’d knocked themselves off of in the first place… While the goblins were trying to figure out how to divide 5 by 4, the party decides that they could take the goblins. Right as they decided to attack, seven more goblins show up to relieve their companions. And yeah, I rolled it. The goblins swarmed the party. The elf opted not to run and leave the dwarf (with his slower movement) behind. After the first round, the pirate mook ran. Even though the goblins were rolling low, when you’re rolling for 8 or 9 of them, some of them are eventually going to hit. And when they did, they rolled high damage.
Luckily, my players were happy to roll up new characters and try again, showing up in town looking for their friends that they’d heard had gone to Portown in search of treasure and adventure. The barmaid told them their friends had gone off the other day with some pirates and were never seen again. The priest of Triton mentioned that he’d healed a dying elf, but that had been a few days ago. No, he didn’t have any Acolytes to spare on a fool’s adventure. Yeah, there were a couple of wizards who had a damnfool rivalry that might have something to do with tunnels under the cliffs. Hey, check with Lord Alba.
The new party, two fighters, opted to call on the rather Bronte-esque Lord Alba, who cursed the loose lips of servants and asked that discretion would be appreciated, telling them of his missing daughter (Lemunda), whose return would be greatly appreciated and rewarded. He mentioned that she liked to visit the sea cliffs and watch the sunsets, when she wasn’t cavorting down at the wharfs.
Out on the cliffs, they could see a ship anchored about a mile out. The party had a random encounter with some picnicking teenages, who were there to watch the sunset and watch the smugglers who sometimes row into the sea cliffs. How can you get there? We don’t know. By boats, we guess… At that point, we had to wrap because the library was closing and we were being hurried out. It’s remarkable how much can happen in a session with a simple system. Two combat encounters, half a dozen RP encounters, a TPK and a new party getting rolled up all happened in just an hour and a half!
I’m a little disappointed that the party didn’t try to meet with the Thaumaturge; I’d cooked up a thing where he was going to get the party to rescue Lemunda for him, charm her, and convince Lord Alba to marry her off to him. It still might come up, so who knows? Players now know that there’s a missing girl somewhere down there and they’ll be on the lookout for her.
It’s interesting, because I was a little bit worried that Tower of Zenopus wouldn’t have enough content for my group. If I’d run it strictly as a bug-hunt, that might be the case, but by sticking it in a slightly fleshed out town and giving the scant denizens of the dungeon a lot of motivations and rivalries, I think I could get about twice as much, if not more, play out of it than I’ll actually have time to run.