They explored the passage, and found a spike they’d used missing. The Paladin caught sight of a ghost and ran after it. When she confronted it in the mess hall, it “returned” the spike — denting her shield and embedding it in the wall.
Once the party figured out the first “circuit” or “loop” in the dungeon, they decided they wanted to account for each of the rooms within that area, which meant the audience chamber was next. Now that was my favorite encounter.
Inside, the party encountered the ghost whose “horrifying visage” struck fear (read: the frightened condition) in three of the PCs, and caused two of them to prematurely age twenty years. Not too bad for the gnome. . .
But our human Fighter is now in his forties.
Following the ghost incident, the party began exploring the western portion of the dungeon. They followed a passage into an administrative area, with a bunch of desks and moldy papers. There was a dead end full of mildew-y paper.
They backtracked to an earlier door to find a guardroom, where our Fighter with the compulsive gambling problem scored a couple of handmade dice.
Back in the office area, the party followed a passage that branched between a barracks and a door with a mysterious thumping sound. When the Paladin threw open the door — no thumping sound. It was a fancy bedroom.
The party scored some gold and platinum that had been stashed under the bed and in the desk, respectively, then headed back to investigate the barracks.
While searching the room, the party was ambushed by a gang of ghasts, which outnumbered the party two-to-one. The ghasts got a surprise round.
The Ranger was nearly clawed to death, which was a bad way to start. . .
Despite the initial advantage, most of the ghasts missed with their attacks, and none of the party was easily paralyzed. The Cleric’s turn undead wasn’t as effective as he probably would have liked, but it did thin the herd a bit.
The Fighter got to exercise his new thunderwave spell as an Eldritch Knight (path opened up at 3rd level), which took out two bunk beds and one entire ghast.
The Druid shifted into a dinosaur and promptly got tangled up in one of the beds. He managed to throw it off and forcibly dismantle it while shredding another ghast. Once she overcame her shock, the Ranger mopped up handily.
There’s more to do in Fort Sungard, but the group was feeling pretty confident by the end of the fight with the ghasts. Hopefully not too confident.
This week the party deliberated (briefly) on whether to try and go over the wall and through thirty skeletal archers, or look for a secret passage somewhere on the mountaintop. Luckily, the secret door responded to Good creatures.
The basic idea was to send the henchmen in to secure the surface of the fort — the party’s reasoning being, that if the henchmen couldn’t handle thirty skeletons themselves, they weren’t worth keeping. I know, right?
So the party went through the secret passage — about three hundred feet or so — and was confronted with a pair of identical stone levers set into the wall.
While the party deliberated, Darnek pulled both levers.
I gave him inspiration for playing to his compulsive gambler’s flaw.
A door opened in the stone and the party piled into the fort’s cistern. Water covered the floor, columns supporting the ceiling, the whole shebang. The group was apprehensive about the room, not knowing what to expect.
Akordia decided to inspect the walls, see what she could see. Turned out the room was bigger than they expected — there were ghouls literally lined up along each wall — the approaching paladin sent them into a frenzy.
Things went about as well as you could expect for a party of five against two dozen ghouls. Actually, I’ll let you do the math their and see what you come up with on your own before I give you the answer. Got it? Okay.
First things first, our two new characters (Fighter, Paladin) were only 2nd level. Our veteran characters (Cleric, Druid, Ranger) were 7th level. The Cleric tried initially, and failed to turn the roomful of ghouls. It looked really bad.
The Paladin nearly got munched. Hit by multiple ghoul attacks and paralyzed. The Druid, who had shifted into a polar bear, was a very big target and got mobbed by at least eight ghouls. He was paralyzed and forced to de-shift.
Despite failing to turn the mob, the Cleric did pretty well for himself.
Our Fighter is a polearm master, and actually managed to do keep the ghouls out of reach right up until the point the Druid de-popped and the ghouls swarmed past him. Then he was paralyzed and nearly munched.
The Ranger rained arrows down on the ghouls. I think on each of the Rangers’ turns, she bagged 2-3 ghouls minimum. Nice having favored enemy (undead).
Both the Paladin and Fighter has near-death experiences. They were reduced to 0 hit points at least once each, and it was only the Cleric’s uber healing that kept them on their feet. Well, that and the paralysis.
The party rallied in the third round when the Cleric successfully turned the remaining ghouls. Mind you, the group had killed at least eight of the mob by that point. Most of them were notches in the Ranger’s bow.
Characters recovered, and the Ranger took down at least five more before the stragglers fled the room. Out of the original twenty-four, the Ranger killed about thirteen, the rest of the party bagged seven, and four fled the room.
It was a close fight. Without both the Cleric and Ranger in top-form, it probably would have gone a lot worse. Like, “hey, the whole party is ghoul-chow” worse.
The party took a break and grudgingly decided not to pursue the fleeing ghouls. Not knowing anything about the dungeon, they might have charged right into a “stormtrooper ambush.” That would have been bad.
After that, the party was more methodical in their exploration of the dungeon.
“Right first” I think was the rule. A passage brought them to a door, where the Paladin heard a rustling noise. Investigating the passage beyond, they found another door but no source of the rustling.
Continuing on, they found a pantry full of rotten food. Fun.
Beyond that, they found a mess hall. It was messy. Probably some blood stains on the tables. In the passage beyond, they found a kitchen. When the Paladin inspected the oven vent, he was attacked by the oven door.
Spooky and comical. But ultimately harmless.
The party found a door that connected back to the passage out of the cistern. They had to go around at least once before they figured it out. Admittedly, I had forgotten to mention the location of one of seven doors in a large room, which contributed to the mix-up. I’m still getting used to describing rooms. It’s hard!
Earlier this month, I worked out XP tables for classes.
I was waiting to share them until I’d worked out how treasure was going to work, and for that I wanted to finish analyzing the 5e treasure system, which I mostly did over the weekend. Treasure is . . . kind of a big deal.
(Click to zoom in.)
I’ll admit, a big part of the reason XP caps out at 120,000 is because I’ve never liked the idea of “millions of gold pieces” (or in this case, silver pieces).
I also appreciate “easier math.”
So, one thing you might not necessarily get just by looking at this table, is how rapidly a priest or rogue can advance compared to a fighter or wizard. But then, that’s why I included both the “total” and the “needed” XP per level.
Priests and rogues need 1,000 sp or less to advance per level the first three levels. Fighters need 1,000 to go from 1st to 2nd. Wizards need 1,200 for the same. It might not seem like a lot at first. . .
But here’s how it goes:
Players can expect to find 1,600-2,400 silver per hoard on the first few floors of the dungeon. Split say, five ways . . . that’s 400 silver per PC. Priests and rogues will advance from 1st-2nd level from the treasure found on the first floor.
Fighters and wizards will have to struggle a bit. And that’s assuming that everyone has an equal share. But magic items tend to favor fighters (and wizards, to a lesser extent), so maybe it isn’t so unbalanced after all?
Nine thousand silver will put a wizard at 6th level, a fighter at 7th level, or a priest/rogue at 8th level. Fifty thousand puts a wizard at 13th level, a fighter at 15th level, and a priest/rogue at 17th level. They’re close, but not the same.
So, combining individual tables with some of the innovations from 5e, like making it, not only possible for groups of wildly differently-leveled characters, but successful and entertaining . . . should make things interesting, I think?
TL;DR For light armor to be viable, it must impact stealth.
For stealth to be viable, you must get XP from GP.
For XP from GP to be viable, base it on dungeon level, not monster level.
In “Clones and Rules, Inside and Out,” from the blog Semper Initiativus Unum (which will appear on my Friday list), Wayne R. describes some differences between Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.
His points about treasure being based on Dungeon level versus Monster level make a lot of sense to me, for the purpose of exploration.
I think he’s right.
When treasure is based on a monster’s level, players have every reason to go after tougher monsters. If the treasure is based on the dungeon’s level, the players will instead want to delve deeper to get at the better treasure.
Furthermore, when it’s a given that players will need to fight monsters, either to get treasure or gain experience, they’ll want the best armor they can afford.
Back in September, Peter Dell’Orto wrote about how it’s difficult to get players to ditch their heaviest armor (“Armor, Travel Speed, and Players”). And he’s right. Why would the players want lighter armor? They’re going to fight.
The two points are related.
If the players’ stealth is penalized by heavier armor, they’ll only care if stealth is a viable option for gaining treasure and experience. It isn’t about surprising monsters, it’s about circumventing encounters.
Because if you ever get in a fight, the advantage of wearing little or no armor is lost completely. Because the advantage is not being penalized for stealth.
And that’s the critical divide.
If you get the majority of your treasure and experience from killing monsters, you have “solved” combat. You always want the best armor, the best weapons. Because combat is inevitable. There’s no reason to avoid it.
If instead you get experience based on the dungeon’s level, then you want to make it down a few floors as quickly as possible. You want to avoid traps and monsters so you can grab the best possible loot you can find.
That’s the excuse for having “way too tough” monsters for an area (to reward clever players for avoiding them), and also to ensure that combat is never “solvable.” There will always be something beyond you.
You can still load up on the best armor possible, and just . . . slog your way through fights. But it’s a losing battle.