B4: The Lost City – Part 4

Last Friday’s delve into the Lost City proved to be a session almost as bloody as the first, but it was also, by far, the most lucrative session we’ve had.

There’s been some actual interest in facing down Zargon, who I’ve acknowledged is an actual thing with stats in the dungeon, but I’ve also pointed out that it’s beyond the scope what we’re planning on playing.  Still, if the current “arc” doesn’t end in a TPK, I might let them see just how poorly they fare against the godling by allowing the Priests of Zargon to take them by an express tunnel to the bottom of the pyramid.  The party missed the one chance I afforded them, but they’ll have others, I’m sure.

The party returned to the 4th tier to continue looking for the round-robin path to the King and Queen’s tombs that don’t require the whole party making saves vs. fear.  The Rats nest could have been an ugly affair, but the players triumphed and found a major cache worth over 2000 XP.  They crossed the hall, springing the rolling boulder trap; per the suggestion of the module, I was generous in letting the party dive into the room they’d just opened.  One player decided to stay on the other side of the hall and wait for the party to make the full circuit around the block.  This proved to be a fatal mistake: while the other party members went along the northern loop that would have circled back around, a large party of Zealots for Zargon were coming the opposite way.  The Dwarf kept quiet and watched them pass.  The rest of the party decided to ambush the zealots with some flasks of oil and whatnot, and managed to do pretty well against them.  Killed 8 of them and sent the cleric leading them running.  Of course, I figured that the Cleric knew his way around the pyramid, and send 4 of the zealots to run around the loop and try to flank the party.  And they ran smack-dab into the lone dwarf who’d been hanging out in the hallway.

So, while the party made pretty short work of the band of zealots they were fighting, the dwarf wearing full plate could not outrun the unarmored zealots who managed to hack him to pieces.  Never split the party!

The rest of the party went back to the safety of the upper tiers to rest before going back down and floating disking the dead out of the pyramid to bury.  On the way back into the bowels of the pyramid, they ran into some Madarua cultists who, I decided, bore a silver sword to give to the member who’d joined them as reward for having killed a bunch of Zargon’s followers; they’d need it.

Unfortunately, instead of following the outside track, the party went straight for the room where the shadows were hanging out.  At first, they wisely decided to back off, but then came up with this strange plan where they would try to lasso some random jars or something and pull them out of the room.  The shadows weren’t going to abide by this nonsense and prepared to lay the hurt down.  I let the party escape, deciding that the shadows were more interested in guarding the room than hunting, so after killing one character, I let the others flee without pursuit.

Part of me is glad that they abandoned the idea to send a single character in with one of the jars linked to the Jester’s Tomb to shove as many handfuls of treasure through the jar as he could before the Shadows ate him, but another part of me kinda wanted to see just how bad it would go down.

Several characters only needed a few more XP to reach level 2, so I gave them a hint about the treasure that the Carrion Crawler guarded.  That thing went down without even a fight!  Easiest 3000 XP the party made!

I don’t know if they’re going to take another shot at the shadows; there are 5 shadows and silver weapons only do half damage (the player with the magic sword wasn’t there that night).  Even if they show up armed to the teeth with silver weapons, it will be one of the toughest fights they’ll have – maybe even tougher than the king and queen.

So, a couple things…

I decided to abandon initiative by side.  It just wasn’t working.  You would think that it would simplify things, with each player going around the table in turn and doing their thing, but it never turned out that way; it would turn into arguing about who was doing what, who should move where, and ‘I didn’t actually do that, everyone just said that I should do that, but I haven’t done my thing yet’.  It was much worse with simultaneous combat, because where do people move and when?  No one is going to want to move until the monsters have moved, and if monsters are supposed to be moving at the same time… ugh!  So, I’ve gone back to individual initiative, and doing the countdown.  And as much as I hate the countdown, things are going much more smoothly.  I AM however, breaking up monster initiative where I can (I’ll put 2 or 3 monsters on the same initiative; I wasn’t going to track all 13 zealots initiatives individually), and it makes the fights a bit more dynamic, I think.

I felt bad that both PC deaths happened to the same player, but while the shadows were bad luck (one shadow attacked each party member who hadn’t run, and one hit did a MU in), the Dwarf was all on him.  Again, never split the party and don’t go off on your own!

Sources of wood in the Lost City are a bit incredulous. Since someone brought up how implausible it is that there should be stuff made out of wood (mushroom wood, no less!), I think I may introduce a scarcity issue to compensate for the shield rules I’m using.  There were at least three character deaths averted last session by shield-breaks, but hey, even if shields grew on trees, there aren’t enough trees down here to keep up with how quickly the party is going through them.  I’ll probably limit shield buying to one shield per session per member of the cult.

Level 2 is not all it’s cracked up to be for some classes.  A couple players were shocked that neither attacks nor saves go up until 4th level.  But hey, the clerics can cast cure light now, so that’s a game changer!  Sometimes, though, that extra hit die is what makes all the difference.  The tankiest member of the party is now a halberd-wielding, plate mail wearing 13HP Halfling named YOLO Swaggins.

One player was rather frustrated that denizens of the pyramid knew about traps, didn’t set them off and seemed to have decent knowledge of the dungeon’s layout.  Now, this is one I’ve actually had to think about.  Any time I roll a wandering monster, especially if it’s a group of intelligent monsters or Cynidiceans, I have to figure out which way they’re coming from, which way they’re going, what would’ve happened to them and why they were going the way they were going.  Most of the Cynidiceans on the upper levels know about the traps and also probably are the ones who will reset them.  I’ve also reminded my players that the Priests of Zargon run the city and are regularly bringing sacrifices to Zargon so know their way around the pyramid pretty well.

The players seem interested in at least finishing the top half of the Pyramid.  I’ll have to figure out some sort of reason for them to go down to level 5, as finding the regalia of the King and Queen complete the main task that they’ve been asked to complete.  I ought to stick something that will let them get home somewhere down there.  The biggest issue with the module, I think, is that it never really addresses the crux of situation – the players are lost in the desert.  There’s plenty of adventure in the pyramid and city below, but at some point, people are going to remember “hey, weren’t we from somewhere and on our way to a place before we got distracted by the dungeon in the middle of nowhere?”

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