Last Time, in the Dungeon (Dungeon Crawl Classics Recap, Feb 7th, 2013)

I had canceled my Dungeon Crawl Classics game that was scheduled just before Winter War, so we had nearly as big a gap between DCC games as I had between my Star Wars games due to my illness. Thankfully it wasn’t too hard to get back into the swing of things.

Warning, Some Spoilers for the DCC Adventure People of the Pit:

The group was investigating cult activity near a rift, a rift with a giant tentacled monster, for the Inquisitor that killed their village.  Gold and a writ from the Inquisition declaring them free from the taint of vile sorcery and Chaos is the prize.

DCC 68 The People of the Pit at RPG Now

Going into this session, we have had a few unlucky players that went through more than a full set of 0 level characters, and other players that had managed to hold on to two or even three characters.  The last session, we lost a few due to some bad luck and mercurial magic.

The party decided to camp outside of a room they hadn’t explored yet, which meant that the bad guys, including a toan  (a mutated half-elemental eyeless toad thing), burst in on them while resting.  One of them went running out of the room, and managed to trigger another encounter with another toan from the other direction.

This would have been horrible, if not for the fact that the toans, big bad creepy otherworldly monsters that they were, apparently have an ability not on their stat blocks.  They roll lots of 1s.  I mean so many 1s that it has to be some kind of metagame manifestation of their unnatural existence.

Now, our player that created a new 0 level character, after having run through all of his original 0 level characters and then some, rolled up an amazing character for 3d6 in order.  That is why we knew he would die.  More on that later.

The group finds some cultists, encounters some teleporters, figures out how to use them, finds some talismans for some other teleporters, and manages to more or less skip a whole level of the dungeon  (unlike some other adventures I’ve run, the nice thing about The People of the Pit is that it pretty much assumes that some parties will just skip whole sections, so while it may be nice to explore areas, it may not happen, and the story and PC slaughter go on).

Oh, and as a happy side effect of a few of the character’s careers before adventuring, one of the party members managed to skin the featureless face off of one of the cultists, sew it to the hood his robes, and make a disguise that kept a tentacle from attacking him while it instead slammed into his fellow adventurers.  The glee with which this disguise was created was both amusing and disturbing.

The party splits up again, with half of them fighting some more cultists  (and figuring out the whole color coded robes as it relates to ability to summoning tentacles from the thing in the pit to fight for them), and one of them finding a tentacle elevator and riding it all the way down to the final encounter area.

“Tentacle Elevator” produces fewer disturbing results on Google than “Octomass” does.  Not by much, though.

To my surprise, he doesn’t charge straight to the cultists near the great pit where the main mass of the otherworldly earth elemental tentacle things is, but darts into a few tents, and finds some villagers that explain that the cultists have been sneaking into their villages, stealing people, finding some that willingly join, and shoving octomasses into the guts of others to “replace” them with regrown former members of the cult.

Eventually the rest of the party survives the cultists upstairs, and rides their own tentacle down to the final area of the adventure.  They meet up with their brave fellow that ventured ahead of them, and proceed to charge the villainous cult leader.

So, everyone is 1st level, except one player’s character, we have six players, and still have multiple players that have multiple characters.  The 0 level cultists throwing rocks take out the 0 level character and do serious damage to several other party members.  Meanwhile the toans continue to have their head in another plane of existence, but avoid any more 1s.

One of the players uses his mercurial magic side effect to scare off the mass of 0 level cultists, and one of the elves comes up with a plan and asks if he can hold off on his attack until just after the other player’s character engages the Blue Sorcerer, the leader of the cult.  I felt a little bad because the hood/face disguise didn’t really help the party in this fight, since one of the people with the disguised party member charged the cultists.

The other player takes out the Blue Sorcerer, which would normally precipitate something bad for the cultists with him, as the creature is bound to him and is upset with his death, pulling all of his cultists into the pit and . . . well, the other player’s action went off as soon as the Blue Sorcerer was attacked.

He cast the mother of all sleep spells by doing 20 points of Spellburn, and named the condition of waking up his companions pecking them with his beak  (he grew a beak, if you missed the recap from a few sessions back . . . it’s DCC . . . magic is weird and dangerous . . . sometimes elves grow beaks).

Unfortunately, the death of the Blue Sorcerer and the rage of the earth elemental creature as it retreats into the earth and pulls its tentacles from the cult’s underground complex triggers a 10 minute long sequences of falling rocks that do 1d6 points of damage per round to anyone not actively climbing out of the pit.

The elf that cast the spell hightails it out, after doing some quick math showing him that pecking anyone would essentially kill him.  The other elf also heads out.  Amazingly, even Spellburned the elf makes it out of the pit.  So, for 10 minutes the rest of the party is beaten to death with a collapsing dungeon complex.

In an uncanny parallel between gaming and real life, I am pummeled with ten minutes of verbal barrage about selecting two adventures in a row where the dungeon complex falls apart after the BBEG is destroyed.  Thankfully the verbal barrage didn’t do 1d6 per round, or I have a lot more hit points than I realized.

Overall the group still had a good time.  This, despite the fact that there were only two survivors–the elves that didn’t fall asleep when the cavern started to collapse.  I think that the players that had most fatalities were actually the ones ready have their character allotment trimmed down.

So What Did I Screw Up . . . er, What Did I Learn?

While the group did seem to enjoy themselves, having another major adventure end with caverns collapsing, even if it was in the adventure as written, did seem to be a bit much.  I should have modified the ending a bit to avoid the obvious comparison, or waited to spring this adventure on them after I had a non-collapsing end to an adventure.

I also should have done a better job of explaining patrons and how the players select and use them.  I’ve had a couple times where players wanted to call on a patron that was undefined, because I didn’t clarify not to take a patron that wasn’t better fleshed out, and wanted a ruling on the fly about what they got from their patron.

So I clarified that I’d rather they take patrons for whom the patron bond is more clearly fleshed out, because I didn’t want to either give them a get out of jail free card from the spell because I was being too nice, or a handshake and a pat on the back right before they were being decapitated because I was being too stingy.

This was totally on me, as I should have spelled this out sooner.  Thankfully, I also pointed out that they are free to take the patrons from Angels, Daemons, and Beings Between, as it has proven to be a really nice third party sourcebook.

Finally, the survivors are both arcane spellcasters–elves–and I didn’t have a potential source for new spells ready to go.  I should have done a better job of having something ready to go, as I assumed that eventually they would level up and should have the chance to learn new spells, but I pinned a bit too much on the Whispering Workbook magic item that I gave them, which got lost in the landslide.

This game doesn’t need nearly the level of planning and prep that Pathfinder does, but after the convention and being sick, I did let too much fall between the cracks from the Judges side of the screen.  Hopefully it didn’t bother the players too much.

Oddly, not having answers ready for the players seems to be a bigger wet blanket to the overall fun of the campaign than killing them.  Death is fun, nebulous answers is no fun.  Got it.

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