Friday was another bloody session in the Pyramid (I’m sensing a pattern here). I feel bad that the same player keeps losing characters, especially since at least two of the last 3 times haven’t really been entirely his fault; wrong place, wrong time, brutal rolls.
The players were determined to avenge the deaths of the 3/4s of the party who’d been killed by the Banshee, so they stocked up on scrolls, including Silence and Magic Missile. This fight would’ve likely been impossible if I didn’t allow for clerics to use scrolls, because Silence is not an arcane spell(!), but I always liked the idea of clerics carrying around liturgical papers that they could cast from.
The party hit a wandering monster encounter right as they were reaching the false tomb on the way to the king’s chamber. They found a dozen hobgoblins wallowing in the counterfeit treasure. The party got a high enough reaction roll that hobgoblins, while wary, weren’t planning on attacking so long as the party let them haul off the treasure. If the party wanted to visit ‘the shouty man’, they could be their guest.
The party cast silence on one of their number who then ran in and began the attack on the banshee. Unable to use its scream attack, the banshee was completely impotent to stop the party from having their way with the tomb, and the fight was a push-over. Just to piss it off, they forced it to watch helplessly as the party members who weren’t carrying magical weapons pried open the coffin it was guarding.
The party waited out the hobgoblins, who had cleaned out the fake treasure, and returned for their rewards from the factions. Usamigaras promised big rewards and eventually delivered on a large ream of 1st level spells in exchange for the two crowns which they will use to establish a puppet royal family. Gorm declared YOLO Swaggins to be their champion to bear the raiment of the king (+1 Plate and +2 Sword) against the forces of Zargon and granted him access to their treasury; all things considered, I’m surprised he didn’t take the opportunity to clear them out.
On the way back down, the party ran into a bunch of crazy Cynidiceans wearing devil masks (the low-level cleric encounter) and made pretty short work of them. Continuing on, the party went down the trap door, to the cleric Demetrius’ room, and on to the kitchenette where the two rock pythons were chowing down on a lady in a rabbit mask. The rock pythons were a tough fight, since they get to do a bite and an automatic constriction attack. The party’s main cleric would’ve died if they hadn’t killed the first snake before its second initiative. The second snake managed to kill one of the party’s thieves – someone with a high AC should never be the first to melee a high hit die monster. Since I agreed to use Death and Dismemberment for characters above 1st level who could be immediately cure-lighted and carried out (hence why I didn’t use it for the nearly half-dozen characters abandoned to the banshee), the thief only suffered a shattered leg – halved max movement and no dex bonus forever.
So, the last few sessions have gone from very low loot/low XP to incredibly high loot/high XP. The last two or three sessions have all had 4 digit XP on a per-player basis, so just about everyone is level 3. I think the Halfling would be level 4 if he hadn’t been level drained by the wight. I think the group has decided that hunting down and killing Darius, the Priest of Zargon with ties to the gambling den on level 5 will be the end-point for the game, though a few people have thought “why don’t we go down the city and temple of Zargon to just kill them there?” Because this content is behind a DLC paywall.
I’m going to give Darius a wall-to-wall flying carpet or something, because B4 doesn’t have a rational end-game for anyone except for Cynidiceans who fill in for dead party members. There’s a lot of fun stuff in B4, but too many things that don’t work from a sensible dungeon-design standpoint. You either have to expect your players to accept at face value what Moldvay says about secret passages through the pyramid that only the inhabitants know about and the players can never have access to (a hard pill to swallow) or you have some very highly trafficked areas in ridiculous locations. Lots of the random encounters are difficult to rationalize or justify quickly in answering the questions of “why are they here” and “how did they get here.” All people passing through from the city to the upper pyramid must have passed through the trapdoor in room 27 where the shrews are and the secret door past Demetrius’ quarters where there are two freaking rock pythons. Why do the Cynidiceans wander up to the pyramid anyway? There are just too many questions about B4 that can only be answered with “just because”.
I’d like to note something about how melee combat works – many games I’ve played with different DMs handle melee situations where a monster will roll a die and randomly attack the nearest character. The rules, however, imply that once two individuals are in melee, they are locked in melee and will continue to be so until one is dead or spends one defensive round breaking off melee, at which point the other combatant either pursues and presses the attack (if initiative allows) or is engaged by or chooses to engage with another target. Now, why is this important? Because low AC characters can lock down big monsters while high AC characters can get some shots in. If you go by having the monster randomly choose which nearby player it lashes out at, it unfairly puts thieves and magic users at risk (against ACs of 5-9, 5HD+ monsters can very easily score one hit kills) and discourages their active participation in battle, contributing to the whole ‘useless thief’/’useless mage’ trope. However if you play by how the melee rules are written, a character with decent HP and an AC of 2 or lower (Plate + shield + Dex) can force the monster to continue to attack him, forcing misses and soaking damage while the thieves and magic users are safe to make their own attacks without being afraid of being one-shotted. There are, of course, exceptions to this; big monsters or creatures with flight should have reasonable options in who they choose to attack, but there shouldn’t ever be a situation where a lizard man just stops fighting the fighting man and turns around 180 degrees to attack the thief who just tried to get a backstab.