How do you know that you’ve created one hell of a set piece as a DM? Well, I guess you might not know it if you’re not actually there, but if after the session, players are in the parking lot or driveway discussing at length different ways to tackle the problem, something has been done right. Well, my DCC group has taken it the next step further, and three days later folks are sharing statblocks and discussing options in an email chain.
Our group has been sent by the main library in the city to go retrieve a couple books from one of the branch locations on the other side of the river. The only problem is that the other side of the river is Kowloon Walled City meets The Old Quarter from Thief: The Dark Project or Carcer City from Manhunt. Okay, that’s not the only problem. Once we stopped dithering about in the sandbox (closely placed 6-8 story buildings connected by sky bridges that are full of rats, giant hornets and really creepy scary decay-horror) and made a straight-shot to the library, we encountered the puzzle that we’re still struggling with.
See, the main library is guarded by these stone golems on the first floor. I’m sure they didn’t bother us there because we were somehow under the protection of the librarians, but on the far side of the river in no man’s land, the protective golem seems set on keeping everyone out of the main foyer. Everyone except me, that is. My street urchin thief stole a library card from some patron shortly before we were given our quest (to some of the exasperation of our DM, perhaps). See, my creepy homeless girl had it in mind that it would be easier to check books out of the library with someone else’s library card and sell them to a rich person than it would be to go on some adventure into an accursed part of the city. Unfortunately, looking like a ragged and dirty Emily the Strange or Sunako from Wallflower, she wasn’t really able to convince the librarian that she was the wealthy aristocrat cardholder’s niece.
On the plus side, the librarian didn’t confiscate the card. So when the golem starts coming off its pedestal towards anyone coming through the wooden security gate, my character holds up the copper card she stole and is all “Library card!” Amazingly it works, but only for me and for one character touching her. The problem is, being DCC, there are 12 PCs, and my character sure as hell isn’t going to let anyone else “borrow” her card.
At one point I figured that I could tie up the golem and it would fall all over itself and ignore me when anyone else came across the threshold, but while my thief hid, 10 of the other characters derped around until it managed to get the ropes off its legs while another character rifled through some offices. At least it didn’t seem to hold a grudge?
It’s hard to tell how much of this was planned and how much of it just turned out the way it is by coincidence. For all we know, this was just some crazy murder piece that was supposed to kill us one by one and we just threw a monkey wrench in it by having that library card in the first place. The library is 8 stories and there’s no way that my thief and one other character are going to be able to find 3 books in this place by ourselves (and I don’t know that the other 4 players who’d have to stay behind would be thrilled with the idea). Now, we’re debating strategy, best courses of action, looking at various Stone Golem stat blocks (doesn’t matter if it’s 3e or AD&D, it can one-hit any of us and has something like 70% accuracy) and trying to figure out how the heck we’re going to tackle this with more ‘down-time’ discussion and strategizing going on than in any other game I’ve ever been in.
Now, one point I’d like to bring up on a separate matter. Though our DM is letting new players have 3 level 0s to start with even though we’re no longer in the funnel, anyone with a level 1 character is going to just have that level 1 character, with any other survivors being ‘reserves’. Those of us who made it out of our first session with level 1s got a few extra level 0s in our second session, mostly because we didn’t have enough folks to have a party balanced for how deadly this guy’s city is. I ended up with someone who would have made a pretty decent spellsword (elf, but we’re not using non-human races). Even though I could’ve played him, I still went with my thief, even though she’s net -2 on her stats. I’ve grown partial to her because despite having all sorts of disadvantages, SHE was the only one who made it out of the meat grinder. I feel like she earned being my main for this game. Character death in this game has been in the double digits; I’d like to see her, with all of her 7s and 9s, be the one “hero” to make it through this adventure. Or at least to level 2. If anything, I think she’s a testament to why rolling for gender and alignment, especially in a game like DCC, is a neat idea.