My first session of Tower of Zenopus went quite well Wednesday. The players I had were enthusiastic and seemed to have a good time. Drawing a map of Portown, even if it wasn’t a great map, was very helpful for improvising a few things here and there, getting a general idea of what was going on around the Tower and give players an idea of what they could do and where they could go. There was less interaction with the stuff I had setup than I anticipated, but that was not necessarily a bad thing. There’s something nice about a party that says “Alright, there’s a dungeon, let’s go check it out!” No long elaborate getting to know yous, describing characters’ regalia and backstories, just an “Oh, hey, we’ve only got enough money to stay at the inn for a few more nights, we’d better score some treasure fast!”
I’m having a lot of fun with reaction rolls, something I haven’t had a chance to use much in Alfheim, given that undead tend to have a uniformly negative reaction to PCs. I’m using them everywhere I can, whether it’s with townsfolk (see below) or intelligent monsters my players come across(see further below). I’m trying to make sure that all stats have some value, including Charisma and Intelligence, which tend to be dump stats in a lot of games. For Charisma, I’m doing it with reaction rolls. Intelligence is a little harder, since it really ONLY governs MU/E XP and languages known, so I want to make languages a bit more useful. Too often I’ve been in games where a character knows a boatload of languages and none of them end up being particularly useful. “Why did I bother learning Crabman?” So I’m using INT for the capacity to pick up on new languages. It may not come into play as often as reaction rolls, but I want to do SOMETHING with it.
In my map of Portown, the neighborhood around the ruins are kind of slummy and plagued by robberies (of a copper wiring variety); this was the obvious spot to ask around about the tower, though no one really wants to talk to outsiders who want to go muckin’ about trespassing where the Tower used to be. A crotchety old lady told party about how when she was a wee girl ol’ Zennypus’ Tower was knocked down but since troublemakers and adventurers had been poking around giving folks no peace.
The party went in and got ambushed by the obvious skeleton ambush. The elf was nearly killed; even though I’m using AD&D’s negative HP rule, chances are anyone getting KOed anywhere but within one room of the dungeon entrance is going to die for realsies. In this case, though, the Chapel of Triton is close enough to the dungeon entrance than he was able to be dropped in front of a cleric before he hit -10. As the mage ran out with the elf over his shoulders, the old lady pointed and laughed.
With the second foray, the party continued following the old left-hand rule, landing them in the garbage filled rat room. “Look out for rats!” (Garbage filled rooms almost always means rats; my players are genre-savvy.) And rats there were indeed. The rats were easily dispatched and the coins and dagger found. The party was going to head down the tunnel which would’ve put them right by where the Thaumaturge and his pet pirate are hanging out when a random encounter came up. I mentioned the problem earlier about wandering monsters in this dungeon; rather than rolling on the wandering table, I decided to just go with a goblin patrol. I don’t think it’s mentioned in the text why the goblins are in the dungeon, but I feel it’s safe to assume that they’re probably in the employ of the Thaumaturge. It explains why he suffers their presence and why they have so much money.
The players got incredibly lucky on their reaction roll; the goblins were drunk and, while mildly apprehensive, not really looking for a fight. The goblins, though exasperated by the heroes persistence, insisted that they weren’t supposed to be there and needed to leave. No, they can’t take the heroes to the boss, because the heroes aren’t supposed to be there and the boss will be mad. You want to talk to the boss, you gotta talk to him upstairs. Where? In the tower. There’s no Tower. Stupid elf, no, the other tower. Why can’t you take us there now? Because we’re supposed to keep you out of here, duh, but we’re almost off duty, so leave, okay? The party was slightly outnumbered and didn’t feel like risking death when the goblins didn’t seem interested in the fight, so they gave up and decided to look into this “boss” the next day.
Now, here is where things get interesting: the players claim that they’d be interested in working for the “boss”. I don’t know if that’s just what they were BSing the goblins or if they’re serious. They plan on offering the silver dagger as a gift. I’ve already set up a rival wizard of the Thaumaturge with his own tower across the way. The idea was that this would be the “good” wizard that magic user characters could hang out with and keep their books in his tower; his ‘quest arc’ would be the rivalry with the Thaumaturge. Of course, as I mentioned, the players opted to go straight for the dungeon without checking out everything in town. This means I might end up needing to make a micro-dungeon out of the “good” wizard’s tower if they actually end up getting an audience with the Thaumaturge. Naturally he’ll ask them do away with his rival.
On a side note, I’ve noticed that my writing has gone to crap lately. I feel like I’ve had way more typos all over the place, half-finished jumbled thoughts and weird traces of edits or rewrites that weren’t properly cleaned up. Or maybe the thought I was writing changed mid-sentence as I typed. Sleep issues have had me going somewhat brain-dead and my posts have been suffering for it. I probably update 5 or 6 times trying to fix things I catch AFTER I post something. And that’s after all of the fixes before I copy what I’ve typed up over into the post box. Blargh! I may try to slow things down here for a bit. The last two or three months, I’ve been writing here like a maniac, and I’m not entirely sure why. I love Veemonro, but when he posts a dozen videos in a day, I end up skipping lots of them. I’m sure that people who enjoy this blog feel the same way, so I will try to rein it in a bit. Hopefully my writing will be less sloppy for it.
Lastly, I just had to remark on this somewhere or I think I’d go crazy, but my mind is absolutely blown by the adoration I’ve seen for Rat Queens from some of the same people who are upset about words on the internet. I mean, do they not know? That nobody is talking about how and why Rat Queens’ Hugo nomination might be “problematic” is genuinely shocking, especially given how much energy is devoted to painting Correia, Hoyt, and Torgerson as monsters. I really do feel bad for the writer of Rat Queens, because you can’t say it’s his fault that his artist tossed his wife (who on her blog alleges a history of abuse) down some stairs, choked her, and punched her in the face, but in a world where people are being told that they should’ve turned down their nominations because of things nominators have written, said or have said to have written or said, or even just the slate process, it is astounding that this has not only not been made into an issue but it has not even been talked about. Rat Queens seems heavily favored and has garnered tons of accolades from feminist and LGBT media outlets; the momentum it had meant that even its co-creator being fired for spousal abuse was not enough to keep it from getting a Hugo nomination and a GLAAD Media Award. It will be interesting to see if there’s any fallout from the cognizant dissonance if Worldcon ends up giving a trophy to Roc Upchurch.