I don't often post after-action reports of my gaming sessions, but I thought it might make a nice change from my regular fare here at Greyhawk Grognard. For the first time in a month, my gaming group got together to continue their exploration of the Halls of the Purple Priest in the bottom of the Rift Canyon. They went in search of gold stolen under mysterious circumstances from the families of failed coup plotters in exile from nearby Tenh (long story there with which I won't bore you, but suffice to say that some of our game sessions emphasize dungeon crawling and/or combat, and some emphasize role-playing and intrigue, and sometimes it's a mix of the two). I might mention this campaign has been going on a regular basis since January 2007.
They've been puttering around in this place for several game sessions, being very cautious (perhaps overly so) around the various traps (including a gravity-inverting pit) and nasties (including a bright red mold whose properties they still don't know), and seemingly incapable of remembering to bring the map each session, which means they have very little idea of how each of the parts they've explored fits in with the rest. Our games as of late have been not so productive game-wise; we've been spending more time cracking jokes and chatting than actually gaming. Which is fine, since we're friends and the socializing is as big a part of the reason we still game as anything else, but I decided this week I'd try to keep things a bit more focused, and the result was a much more productive (and I think enjoyable) game.
They managed to do enough exploration to finally fit together some parts of the map, connecting an area reached via one entrance to the Halls with another entrance. An encounter with a grey ooze didn't go so well for the fighter (a newer player to the game, and thus his character is still playing catch-up level-wise), who ended up losing the metallic parts of his scale mail, and the dwarf discovered the folly of going anywhere in this dungeon without the aid of a 10' pole, to the tune of a 20' spiked pit smack dab in front of a door. Which turned out to be a false door. *chortle*
The party then managed to discover a teleporter room (one-way), which brought them in proximity to what turned into the main encounter of the evening. A large group of pale-skinned and white-haired dwarven-looking chaps, complete with odd hook-like pole-arms and crossbows. The dwarf attempted to parley with his pasty cousins and was rewarded with a hail of poisoned crossbow bolts. There was a brief melee during which time the PCs discovered that those odd pole-arms were quite useful in pulling them off their feet and squandering a round in the process of getting back up.
While half of the pale dwarves shot their crossbows through the door while the PCs returned fire with a wand of magic missiles and an ill-conceived charge to melee range by the ranger (which led to a three-on-one thumping of said ranger). Eventually the PCs realized that they were only facing half the numbers they saw at first; the rest had run around and were flanking the PCs. A couple of hold person spells were enough to stem the tide, and although one of the pale foemen managed to escape, the PCs did the rest of them in.
The PCs, licking their wounds, entered the place which had held the fish-pale dwarves, and seem to have discovered the missing gold (the coins having been minted in the Tenha town of Redspan, so it's not a bad assumption), as well as a curious map showing the city of Riftcrag, the dungeon they entered, and some other locale which remains unknown (but which is connected to the Halls by a line on the map). And a stone throne of unknown properties and purpose. They are badly battered, and are completely ignorant of where they are; one of the players opined that the teleporter room could just as easily have brought them hundreds of miles away (perhaps even to that second locale on the map) as to just another portion of the dungeon they were in. An intriguing notion, that.
They are now left with not only the puzzle of finding an escape route, but also of logistics; how to move ten thousand pounds worth of gold coins? And, of course, there is the question of who sat on that throne (no obvious leader-types were encountered) and just where that one dwarf skeedaddled to.
On the whole, I really enjoyed this session, played at the always-hospitable Dark Tower Games in Denville, NJ. There was a game of 4E going on in the back of the store, but we got more than a few "first edition? WOW! That's really cool!" remarks when folks looked closely at our Players Handbooks. I suspect my own impression comes from the fact that I made a point of trying to keep the group focused on the dungeon, rather than on the chatter. I must discipline myself to such a policy going forward; I've got far too many ideas to throw at the players for them to spend so much real-time in a relatively minor dungeon adventure.
Plus the players have really seemed to get in the groove of an old-school dungeon crawl; they've been trying to outthink me, which is a perfect attitude (if futile ;-) ). Even the stuff that didn't work at the time (looking for secret doors at the bottom of a pit, for example, or trying to fool a suspected guardian/custodian into revealing itself) were excellent ideas, and I hope they don't abandon the practice just because a few ideas didn't work in those specific instances.
Good stuff all around, and next time it looks like we'll have a genuine marathon session like in my college days. Can't wait, and hopefully I'll think to take pictures.
Happy Thanksgiving - Some wonderful truths about the holiday.