My players finally wrapped on the B/X Deathcrypt game I was running. We ended up with only 3 players on Friday, but since we needed to bring the game to a close for various reasons, I let them brute force the ending a bit with some extra hirelings.
The Deathcrypt was always meant to be run as a mini-campaign, just something to be run for a few weeks to a few months until our regular DM moves out of town at the end of the summer and the group most likely breaks up for good. Still, it ended up much higher casualty rate than any other games I’ve run.
I think one of the major reasons why PC death was so high in this game was the drop-in nature, as many of our players have had things going on during the summer and weren’t able to make every session. A few really bad plays combined with a few players taking their character sheets with them ended up sucking a lot of XP and treasure out of the adventure. While I wasn’t running a Monty Hall dungeon by any stretch, the players should’ve gotten plenty of XP and been well equipped. Except the following stuff happened:
- One character managed to be the sole survivor of a particularly brutal session and walked away with an entire wing of the dungeon’s XP all for himself. And then he died in the next session because he didn’t wait for his 7K XP to get banked and converted to levels.
- The player who took the +1/+3 vs undead sword only showed up for 2 of the 5 or 6 sessions this game ran for.
- The player who had the magic user who could read magic and had a ton of scrolls and a +1 ring of protection DID make it back for the final session, but he’d taken his character with him and subsequently lost the binder in the intervening weeks.
- The players with fighters who’d gotten the top-notch gear (a set of +1 plate and a +3 spear) last session were absent from this.
- A few fragile, high value objects were smashed instead looted.
We ended up with more lost characters and equipment than just about any game we’ve run. Partly, I think, because we did not strictly enforce the “leave your character sheet at X’s house” policy that we normally employed. Also, the lady who generally quarter-masters for the group has been busy over the summer and only made 2 or 3 sessions of this game, so party loot was much more prone to getting lost.
There were three ways party could reach the final dungeon boss. A counter-clockwise spiral that took them past some pretty gnarly stuff and straight to the throne room, a secret shortcut through the well that would bypass some of the gnarliest stuff, and a clockwise spiral that put them at the back-door of the boss’s chamber.
They’d actually reached the back door in the previous session but decided to call it for the night there and go back to town instead of finishing the dungeon. Armed to the teeth and with almost all of the players there, it probably would’ve been a cakewalk.
Instead, two characters enter the chamber with the necromancer, while the other characters hung back on the far side of a room with a swirling bone trap for a couple rounds before following. The player had his characters in the room try to stall for time, feigning obeisance and bowing—it proved something of a mistake to genuflect while asking how they might serve an undead necromancer; one of them got a sword through the back and the other ran after a round or two of ineffective combat.
The characters who’d hung back initially ran back the way they’d came while the fighter ran the other way, hoping that at least some of the party would get away. The fighter did get to see some interesting stuff on his way out:
- Ran through the room with some skeleton guards and a Thoul
- Ran through a room with gem encrusted living statues that got a swipe at him
- Hit a dead end with ghouls hanging out on a very nice funerary barge
- Smashed a glowing orb of ESP that a bunch of zombies were connected to
Between having plenty of armor, undead being fairly slow, and finding the well-path, he actually managed to make it to the well and climb out to meet his friends who’d gone back the other way. Fortunately, he did not choose the path that would’ve had him running down the corridors of shrieking and grasping bones.
The party came back to the dungeon armed to the teeth with holy water, and though the necromancer had martialed some of his nearby forces to make a stand, only the Thoul was able to do any real damage to the party. The tanks tanked successfully (AC 2 and 1 are VERY hard for 1HD monsters to hit—something to think about), the necromancer got blinded with a light spell, and got a ton of holy water dumped on him.
Holy water may be kind of OP if you used it the way I allowed. I figure that throwing the vial of holy water across the room at a monster and hoping it hits is dumb, so I kind of assumed that what you do is unstop the vial and shake it on the monsters like they do in the exorcist movies. Yeah, you have to be in melee range with the undead, but it’s not hard to get something wet when you’re trying to shake water on it from 5 feet away. So, my least-lich went down like the wicked witch of the west with a bucket of water thrown on her.
Anyway, the players averted the regional crisis. The least-lich was part of one of many cells left by Endymion the Ultralich to make preparations for his eventual return. With a small undead army at his disposal, this minor lieutenant could’ve flooded the valley with undead and started a blight upon the land. Think of it like an ambitious air-drop operation—each cell has various objectives it needs to achieve, possibly covering for other, less successful cells, for the operation to succeed. This information is lined out in one of the items in the least-lich’s possession; had this been planned as an ongoing campaign, rather than a summer time killer, that would’ve been the springboard into a region adventure with wildernesses, lost towers, the hunts for ruins and powerful macguffins, etc.
Fun was had. Highest level character at the end was a level 3 Thief. If we’d tallied XP for the final session, the thief would’ve been level 4, at least one fighter would’ve been 2. [Other fighters who weren’t there last night but had been the previous session could’ve hit level 2 easily if they had been there].
Later this week, I’ll post the final level of the dungeon as it was run.