After the TPK in the Caves of Mykonos, and a time playing other games over the summer (including playing Tower of the Stargazer, which I hope to write about later, with a different group of players) we re-booted the D&Dish campaign with a pretty simple, straightforward adventure. Kalten fitzKalten, a fat, rich young man who claims to be the heir to the seemingly extinct Kalten family, hired the party to clear the old Kalten Keep of its occupiers. Kalten's Keep is Castle Caldwell, from B9, with a few of the rooms moved around and a rationale given for the range of occupiers; the band of GOBLINS had been running the place as a 'hotel' for travellers who have some reason to stay off the roads and away from towns such as Gateways. Gateways is 'my' Threshold - I've enjoyed offering the players the chance to send their characters shopping in Gateways. The party of eight PCs (two per player - intended to mitigate against the chances of a TPK driven solely by a couple of poor rolls and to allow the players at least the hope of levelling - a key part of the D&D experience. Plus, have you seen how many PCs are expected by older modules?) took two sessions to clear the Keep. We don't play that long; the time between getting the kids in bed and tiredness overwhelming us isn't that long.
The first session, they took rooms in the 'hotel'; their Goblin hosts unsuccessfully trying to confiscate the party's weapons. After being shown to their rooms - which contained debris that once was a bed, at most, they began to investigate the Keep. Sensibly - and surprisingly, this was the same group of players who managed to get surrounded by Goblins for their last TPK - they didn't launch into any combat. The BANDITS told them to get lost, in less polite terms. The KOBOLDS yipped and yapped at them. Calisteri the CLERIC, dedicated to the Screaming Saint (a cult dedicated to the intolerance of all other Men-Kinds - she could only stomach staying in such a contaminated place as just to south of the Keep there was a centuries' old shrine to Humanity Undivided), invited the all Human party to take devotional prayers with her. Of course, sooner or later the party were going to run into their hosts, and, given that some of the PCs could barely walk they were carrying so many weapons, this was bound to lead to tension, and sure enough it boiled over into conflict. The party quickly cut down the GOBLINS, split, as they were, into two groups of four. Hearing (and in some cases seeing) this carnage, the rest of the intelligent inhabitants of the Keep barricaded their doors and made plans to leave - their accomodation had been invaded by a gang of murder-hobos!
All except Calisteri, who offered to help heal their wounds, as they were clearly here to do Holy work. As it was, the bandits, the Kobolds, and the MERCHANTS, all got out of the Keep with their treasure. The animals that infested the Keep, including STIRGES, FIRE BEETLES, a GIANT SHREW, a SPITTING COBRA, and WOLVES took a bit more effort to deal with. The party rested (in the rooms that had been occupied by the merchants, which contained beds!) lugged their first haul of coins back to Gateways, leaving it guarded by Juan, the Cleric, who had been blinded - which was not as unsafe as it sounds. He had a loaded crossbow - there's no class-based weapon restrictions (so far) in this game) and the party were stopping at the Headman's Axe, a particularly secure inn, the landlord of which is Goryn, an OGRE (humanoids are not exactly accepted in My-stara, but attitudes are a little more varied than simply, 'exterminate the brutes') who was the state executioner for the previous Duke. Buying a mule, in the (sadly misplaced) expectation of more treasure than they could carry, the party returned to the Keep and engaged in a battle with the Fire Beetles, in which (I hope) they learned the value of a good Armour Class. Most of their opponents had been AC7 (13 in the ascending system that I favour). The chitinous exoskeletons of the beetles, however, gave them AC2 (18), and as the battle dragged one, 3 PCs fell. Using Chris Kutulik's Death and Dismemberment table, with a -1 modifier for each HP below 0, we saw a broken leg, two fingers ripped off, and a very nasty facial/head wound. All that for 30xp. These injuries will need up to twelve weeks of recuperation, so we'll be seeing a couple of new characters join the campaign in the meantime.
So, back to Threshold, er... Gateways, for the party. The game this Tuesday (which might well have involved beginning to play a modified version of Rahasia - the party found an Elf babbling away about 'the Rahib' in the Isle of Lost Dreams, a Black Lotus den) was cancelled as most of the players couldn't make it (except my wife, who struggles to pull out of a game played at our dining table). One could, and he asked if we could play a mini-adventure, and, despite my misgivings about the dynamics of just two players (and a DM), I rolled up a short one-session adventure; a merchant's boy has gone missing while fishing just downriver from Gateways. The locals seem to think that he has been taken by Jenny Greenteeth...
I like to offer my players more options than, 'here is the adventure', but at short notice, what else can you do? Here is my prep:
Oh, to be able to map like Nicholson...
Only, that last player (excepting my wife) then cancelled, so we'll be playing tonight. Do not enlarge the photo, Dave, you cheat! The rest is in my head. Not many locations, but as I said, we aren't able to play for all that long these days. I think that is why I'm keen to build resource management - a key part of D&D - into the space around the adventures, by making sure that healing takes time, living costs are deducted, spell research takes time and money, etc. Of course, there's nothing wrong with running multi-session adventures, in which managing resources during an adventure figures more heavily, but absent players can quickly choke the momentum from a campaign when everyone is waiting to pick up from where the party left off last time. With injuries like the ones suffered exploring Kalten's Keep, whether we like it or not we'll end up with a broad 'cast list', presenting the option of running parallel adventures with a different set of characters.