And so, sometime before Christmas, we came to the end of Mopsy, Cramer, and Ho Lee’s adventures. We left them with Naggamenteh the Torturer mutilated lifeless body at their feet. Heading deeper into Mampang, the party encountered the obligatory independent trader.
I swear, there are more independent shops in the citadels of Titan’s Tyrant-Wizards than there are on the average British High Street. Ooh, there’s topical for you.
Nylock offered a variety of odds and ends for sale, and the Party quite reasonably assumed that at least some of these would prove useful in ways that are impossible to anticipate. [This is one of the legacies of the gamebooks – designed to be replayed, the reader accumulating knowledge on each attempt – that works against meaningful player choice in a tabletop RPG] Ho Lee bartered for some spell components, and Cramer bought the two candles, one apparently ordinary, the other a BLOOD CANDLE. According to Nylock, that is.
The party then, perhaps a little gullibly, followed the signs for the ‘Inner Sanctum’. They passed through a room that magically deadened all sounds and dimmed all light, before arriving at a, well, bedroom. The bed, table and other furniture was covered in a thick layer of dust. The party ignored the warning signs and headed straight for the wooden chest that they spotted.
A heavy portcullis dropped down, and ALL the party are trapped inside the room. The release lever was in a different room. By the book, this was the end of the line for Mopsy, Cramer, and Ho Lee. Aww.
Consider the ‘Responsibilitiesfor Failure’ and the ‘Consequences of Failure’. In this case, while the mistake was the Players, but the consequences of their failure was game ending (one of my complaints with linear adventure paths), not something to be experienced as part of play - if we had played this as a mission within the context of a sandbox we could all have had fun rolling up new characters and playing out the Archmage’s conquest of the Old World. So I fudged it…
In the style of Indiana Jones, SNAKES began to pour through the crumbling mortar between the stone of the far wall. The Party defeated the snakes, not without cost, and began to explore the hollow behind the wall – a Snake Nest. This involved some suitably paranoid, tentative exploration, ropes tied round waists and all. If only they had been that careful when entering the room…
Some impromptu demolition later and the Party had engineered a deathtrap-cum-shortcut straight to the third set of Throben Doors. What was it that Naggamanteh told them about the doors? That the danger was not as it seemed, but it would burn those who believed it was? Or something like that. D, playing Ho Lee, correctly inferred that whatever they saw when they opened these doors would be an illusion, and that they had to betray no sign of doubt in their conviction of the illusion’s unreality. Bravo! Pity not everyone in the party was listening to the wizard.
Ho Lee threw open the third set of Throben Doors. The room beyond was filled with a raging inferno, a door visible on the other side. At this point, the book advises, “You should at this point ask each player in turn what they are doing. If the player says they will run or walk through, they will be safe. If a player asks a question back, says ummm, err etc or otherwise prevaricates, that Hero will be burned by the flames.”
Referee: Ho Lee?
Ho Lee (D): I walk through the flames to the door.
Cramer (A): I follow Ho Lee.
Mopsy (C): Ummm. Errr. I try to protect myself with my shield?
Referee: Errr, okay…
“Hesitating Heroes will take 1D6 STAMINA damage immediately, and another 4D6 STAMINA to reach the far side of the room.” 5D6 STAMINA damage? Oh my. Oh, hang on, there is more, “In addition, the Hero will be ignited.” Hahahaha!
Mopsy suffered 2D6 STAMINA damage. His wavering disbelief was strengthened as he watched Ho Lee and Cramer walk unharmed to the door on the far side of the room. See, this is why I prefer sandbox-ey games to adventure paths – let the PCs suffer the consequence of their actions in a context in which those consequences can be enjoyed by the Players, even as the PCs are burned to a crisp.
With one slightly charred knight, the Party opened the door to the next room. There was no light. The room was not just dark – the light from the inferno did not penetrate the room at all. Cramer lit one of the candles that he had bought from Nylock. The room was illuminated, and the party saw that the room was filled with sharp blades, spinning saws, scything pendulums and razor-sharp wire. I think that it is safe to say:
Thing is, the ‘blood candle’ is a trap too, being named for its thirst for blood. As Cramer - Cramer the Fortunate, a thief with LUCK 13 - attempted to cross the room the candle flickered. The room went momentarily black at a crucial moment. Ouch! To say the least. The Party was more than slightly bloodied before they tried lighting the other candle, and found a steadier source of light. Still the blades taxed the Party’s STAMINA, before they reached the next door.
“We open the door.”
And I was thinking, “Don’t you want to listen at the door first, or come up with a plan of action, or…” But they threw open the door. And were faced with a room full of GUARDS – fifteen of them in fact. Five per PC. Spears were levelled inches from the Party. The Sergeant ordered them to put their hands on their heads and surrender.
“What?! Haven’t you seen how dangerous it is to be outnumbered? You are all wounded.”
“Okay. As you reach for your sword you are immediately jabbed with a spear.”
The book says that Heroes who do not surrender will be immediately wounded by three spears. I had them wounded by one. A little pointer. I don’t like ‘plots’ that *require* the PCs are captured, but Players should also realise when their PCs are outmatched, and not bank on the Referee saving them… oh, hang on, that is exactly what I am going to do!
Again, the Sergeant calls for the Party to surrender.
Well, the fight then. Ho Lee summoned a MANTICORE (many sessions ago, I let D spend a lot of Experience Points on creating a new Sorcery spell – let’s call it COR) that immediately began laying waste to the Guardroom. Cramer was driven, bloodied and unconscious, to the ground and the Party, dragging Cramer, retreated back into the Chamber of Night. That being the magically dark room filled with sharp objects. Ho Lee poured a POTION OF STAMINA down Cramer’s throat while Mopsy held the door shut. They had only a few moments to think of a plan.
They realised that they were still wearing the uniforms of the Mampang Guards. But embryonic plans to argue that this was all just a terrible misunderstanding never really developed. After all, a Manticore was still tearing Guards to pieces just beyond the door that they were desperately holding shut. C started to describe a plan that seemed to involve Mopsy taking all his clothes off, but that was quickly vetoed. The Guards were about to burst through the door. There was no way back, over the blades of the Chamber of Night.