The journey into the tomb at the heart of tier 4 was a bloody mess. We’d have to go back to the DCC funnel for a session where we lost more characters. Impressively enough, my players wanted to soldier on and keep trying!
With some dithering about early on, trying the “haunted” path one more time (only YOLO Swaggins made his saving throw against fear), the party eventually hunkered down to take the nautilus path into the center of the tombs. The party managed to find and not spring any of the traps in the hall, and, with an abundance of caution, they reached the false tomb. Though their quest givers had specifically warned of the false tomb following the council of war, the party inspected it with an abundance of caution, piling up rocks and debris on top of one coffin before examining the other.
Now first, let me say that I don’t think that pyramid should be taken in a linear fashion, as there’s almost no way to deal with one of the tomb haunts by the level at which the players would normally arrive at it – they should almost certainly continue exploring down to the 5th floor for a bit, finding some of the necessary magical weapons, before returning to the king and queen’s tombs. But the players were relatively insistent.
Unfortunately for the party, they chose the southern tomb (the king’s) first and got their shit utterly wrecked by the Banshee. While not quite as fierce as its AD&D counterpart, its immunity to all but magical weapons and unavoidable AOE attack made it much more formidable than the party could deal with. They went at it much longer than I thought they would and much longer than they should have. Three rounds and four bodies later, the party realized they were way out of their depth and finally ran – even though they blamed not rolling a hit earlier so they would’ve known right off that their silver weapons were useless, if it were me, the second I knew I was up against something that did AOE damage for which there was no roll to hit nor to save against, I would’ve been out.
The only characters who escaped were YOLO and a Cleric who’d also reached level 2 last session. They lost a cleric, a thief, a prodigal apprentice and an elf. The elf was a real tragedy, because she very well could’ve levelled up this session if she’d lived.
The survivors ran like hell back to the friendly areas on the 2nd and 3rd tiers. We finally reached the point where most of the original pool of characters are dead, and new characters are now rolled up from the Cynidiceans.
“After discussing the matter, the factions have agreed that an expeditionary force be sent with you to ensure that the relics are retrieved.”
“Awesome, how many guys are they sending with us?”
“The new characters you rolled up; you are the expeditionary force.”
The first order of business was retrieving as much of their party’s loot from the tomb as possible. Out of generosity, I’ve been giving a lot of the nastier tomb-guardians the Scooby-Doo treatment – if, after it menaces, you run the hell away and leave it alone, it won’t hunt you down and murder you. If you peeked around the door, the Banshee would give you frowny eyes. Luckily, YOLO Swaggins had good dex and a lot of HP, so he was able to survive long enough to lasso and drag out a couple of the bodies, though the thief who’d tried to backstab the Banshee was out of reach.
Y’know, more’s the pity that the party didn’t roll up any MU characters or that their elf died, since their best chance against the Banshee would’ve been to buy up a ton of scrolls of magic missile from the Magi of Usamigaras and spammed those.
The new party went for the Queen’s chamber and, just as scripted, the Queen pops out of her coffin and attacks. YOLO took point on opening the coffin as he had the most HP. He also had the most to lose when the Queen hit him. There’s nothing quite like the response from your players when they’re up against something that causes level drain and you play it straight. I do need to make note that I owe him about 400 XP, because instead of knocking him down to the half-way point between level 1 and 2, I took off the full 2000XP for level 2. The party was fortunate that the Queen rolled for crap and that YOLO had decent AC, she only got one hit in before being hacked to pieces. Still, level drain is always sobering. The crown and the reward that the Sisterhood gave the party was enough XP to knock everyone new up to level 2 straight away, YOLO got his hit die back (and lucky for him, rolled a 6 again, so he’s still the party’s tank!) and the cleric now gets 2 cure light wounds!)
So, a few things:
-Doing individual initiative has actually sped things up, and there has been no complaining or arguing about who is doing what when.
-The Lost City does not make a lot of sense from a dungeon design standpoint; this isn’t going to be a problem except for when you have players who care about sensible dungeon design and will call you on it when it becomes relevant. A lot of random encounters aren’t going to make sense, so you may need to wing it if the results you roll just don’t work for the room you’re players are in.
-It’s probably just because it’s the Tomb level, but things have gone from really Role-Play-ey to Hack-and-Slashy – this hasn’t been a bad thing, as it’s meant that the last couple of sessions have required almost no prep. We’re very likely not going to go beyond some of the 5th Tier stuff, so I think I’m good on prep work. I’ve got a tear-off I can hand whichever player gets possessed by Demetrius, I’ve already mentioned the rumor of a high priest of Zargon visiting the pyramid, and all I have to do now is let my players find and kill him.
-Even when players should know better (i.e. the first character dies before anyone can get a hit), they will attempt to persevere when they should run. That Banshee was ye-close to a TPK.