Saturday, June 25, 2011

Greyhawk Session 19

AKA, "the last session of the Greyhawk campaign", or alternatively, "the TPK session".

This session wraps up the Greyhawk campaign, by design. Present were Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Mongo, half-orc fighter and devotee of Pholtus; Liberus Faxen, human savant; Theric, human paladin of Pholtus (and his henchman Salvomar, the human fighter); and Ardo, human cleric of Pelor.

Inasmuch as this was the last session, the players decided to head to the bottom of the spiral staircase and explore the surroundings. First, however, the mountebank took up a collection among the party to commission a replacement for the missing statue of Zagyg on the grounds of the castle. That devotion taken care of, the party entered the dungeons and made their way to the third level.

In short order the half-orc managed to fall into a pit, taking minor damage, and the resulting commotion summoned the attention of a trio of carnivorous apes on the far side of the pit. With the apes preventing an easy crossing, the party turned around, only to find themselves beset by a half-dozen huge scorpions. The party managed to finally lay the creatures low, but not before their venom had claimed the lives of both the half-orc and the fighter henchman! Their heavy-hitters out of play, the party returned to the city to see to their proper burial, and then returned to the dungeons for what would end up being the last time.

Almost immediately, the party stumbled into a deadly trap. Discovering a passage that lead to a steeply inclined corridor, the party set off a falling portcullis, trapping them in the passage. Cautiously they moved up the ramp, which as it turned out what precisely the wrong thing to do. An enormous juggernaut in the form of a stylized rhinoceros squashed all of them to jelly. The mountebank was the only one not instantly killed; he was brought to zero hit points, and expired gasping ten minutes later.

It is as this point that the traditional GM's victory song must be played:

(In fairness, there was a way out of the trap; rather than continuing on, had they managed to lift or bend the portcullis immediately, they could have escaped their rhinociferous doom.)

All in all, a TPK in this session made the most sense from a stylistic point of view, because this was to be the final Greyhawk game, with the next session starting an entirely new campaign in a homebrew setting of my own design-- Erseta. While folks spent the rest of the evening rolling up and polishing their characters for the new campaign, I spread out the maps of the top three levels of CotMA, showing them where they had explored, and what they had not, and showing off some of the neater aspects of the lower levels as well (including the maps of the labyrinth level, which made their collective brains hurt). For the record, my players are now free to read through the free pdf version of the dungeon.

I am very pleased with the way the campaign went, largely driven by a great group of players who instantly gelled with one another. I'm hoping that the new campaign setting will open things up a little more, as I am free to go beyond the (admittedly sketchy in my use) boundaries of the Greyhawk setting and explore some of the themes I find most compelling. There will be a tentpole-- the dwarven city of Glitterdark-- but it will not be quite as central a locale for adventure as the Castle of the Mad Archmage was in the Greyhawk campaign, and will have a different role in the mythology of the setting. There will be quite a bit more going on, and perhaps even a lot more travel and political intrigue.

But the basic concept will remain the same; the individual characters will come and go as part of a common pool, so that the exact composition of the party will vary from session to session. I don't quite have a stable of 30 or 40 players like the DM of the Rythlondar campaign had back in 1975, but thusfar the system is working well, and I'm happy with the feel of it. I'm very much looking forward to kicking off the Erseta campaign in two weeks time, and will of course report the goings-on here.