Wednesday, August 3, 2022

"Notebook Failure Dungeon" play and notes

Well, wow. I ran my second open table Meetup OSE brewery game Sunday night. This time, I had a full table signed up. Crap. Better have an option or two for a larger group. 

My coworker Chris (as Frederick the Thief) was to attend, so I had one known quantity, but others were new. Fun fact, Chris had played in a epic multi-year campaigns in his youth. Where the final characters were the grandchildren of the original characters, and were tapping out at epic levels. So he's got a bit of experience... 

Everyone else was a ??? I had gotten a note from one player that it was their first time, other than listening to some podcasts. I assured him that was sufficient experience.

Turns out, of the five new players at the table, four had NEVER played an RPG. One had played a little 5e and a Star Wars RPG. 

OK. Let's do this.

Flip the pregens out, give the sales pitch on the character classes and some how-to's. Hand out dice (I had bags of gimme dice just in case, and I gave them all out). Run through the overall basics of RPG - describe situation, actions, roll dice if things are questionable. And you're a team. 

Like last session, I warmed up the table with some questions on backgrounds and character relationships. Elf seeking estranged father, disillusioned cleric, thief a disinherited noble, an oceangoing dwarf, and a fighter who left the farm in search of a mythical chicken. The usual.

A quick shuffling through the scenario pile and we're hunting goblins in the "Notebook Failure Dungeon."

I gave them the usual "goblins raiding farms" pitch, and that the abandoned dwarven temple may have something to do with it, and we were off.

Spoilers, of course.

The party entered the complex, and were confronted by the earthquake-caused chasm at the entryway. A bit of back and forth and a rope was secured across to traverse. When one PC asked about climbing in and out of the cavern, I (encounter roll) mentioned that they heard something in the dark below, and this:

Carrion Crawler by Rob Torno

...was visible at the edge of their torchlight. The PC chose to shimmy across the rope. 

Once inside, the thieves picked their way into the complex, and the party tossed the first room. Because most players were new to gameplay and some of the class characteristics, I did lead or coach a bit regarding skills and languages (more on that later). But with a hint the elf found the secret door, and a bit of fiddling opened it to come face to face with the goblin guards waiting within... 

A good fight ensued, with the goblins getting in a few licks, and the players defeating them after a few tough rounds. The fighter asked about throwing oil and I suggested saving that trick, as the goblins looked about done for. I found that I hadn't set any individual monster treasure, so the donjon pickpocket loot generator was employed for a random selection of loot. Heh, someone ended up with a property deed (no ruined tower, tho).

There was discussion on which of two pathways the characters could explore, and the party chose southwest (into the abandoned worship hall). Knowing that the room was stocked with a few baddies, I suggested a listen, first. And mentioned that the elf and dwarf had knowledge of the orc and goblin languages. Sure enough the PCs heard the humanoids and I gave them a number of "several."

This is where it got good. 

Elf: "Can I take my mirror and peek around the corner?" Go for it. I described flickering torchlight illuminating the room and casting shadows into alcoves and (roll) five visible figures. A mix of goblin and orc language.

Elf: "It was an old temple right? Maybe they're going to make it to their god. Who's their god?"

Cleric rolls a 2 on a WIS ability check. Yeah, you've definitely read about Gruumsh.

Fighter: "What if I hold up my lantern, cast shadows, and the elf says he's the god?" Go for it.

Elf: "I'll stand on the dwarf's shoulders." Ok, you're a nine-foot-tall elf/orc god now.

(Thieves in the meantime go do sneaky thief shit)

Elf: "I am Gruumsh! You have displeased me!" (Roll 11 on reaction). Ok, the orc with the headdress goes into a prayer position and waved to their companions to do the same.

Some back and forth with increasingly bad reaction rolls, and the orcs figure out they're being had.

The thieves sniper and stab the hell out of the orc shaman. 

Chaos. The goblins split, the orcs fight, and with the last orc standing, the dwarf attempts to lasso him with a grappling hook to capture. Misses badly, but the next hit takes the orc to 1 hp, and the PCs dogpile him. 

Questioning ensues, and I let slip that there's another dwarf held prisoner in the complex. The orc is secured and leads to the dwarf's cell. The PCs sense a trap and talk through the door until convinced she's alone and not a mimic. Kotrin Mountainspire is freed and states that she was seeking a holy weapon, which she senses is close. 

In a nearby room, the party find the ooze covering some object, and now the fighter gets to throw his flaming oil. The party wisely stayed back and shot and burned the thing as it began to approach. It was the fighter's turn to lasso something, and he attempted to extract the mystery object from within the the ooze (rolled a 19). "Hey, I grew up farming and ropin' animals." Ok, you start to pull it out, but the rope is now on fire. And dissolving. More fire and attacks, and even with damage reduction, the ooze became crisped. 

Kotrin Mountainspire retrieves her holy warhammer, and there is much rejoicing. 

At this point we were coming up on our time limit (last call), and the party retreated out the way they came. Somewhere around the entrance chasm, they "lost" the orc prisoner when the cleric had his back turned. 

With the large group, and a slow start with character selection, as well as a good amount of "what if" and "how do I do this" questions, we didn't exactly clear the dungeon, with only about six rooms explored. But as described above, there was some excellent and quite unexpected exploration and role-play. I mean, not every elf can pull off a convincing Gruumsh impersonation.

So yeah, I was pumped by the session. The DM's brain is always outnumbered by the players' brains, and one just rolls with it. There are a few bits I could have improved on, but that's always a consideration. Notes for next time. 

I'm also happy that I got feedback that it was a positive first game experience for folks. That's a great feeling, and of course, that they enjoyed the selected game style. I hope I'm a decent ambassador...

In the meantime, if the PCs decide to return to the temple to finish cleaning house, it's time to do a little re-stocking....


  1. I love the "Pretend you are their god" ploy. Classic! Sounds like a great game!

    1. It was indeed. That was a completely spontaneous plan, and had to be enacted... I make heavy use of 2d6 and the high rolls definitely lead to amusing results in cases like this. But the players really embraced the lo-fi gaming style and just tried stuff, which was a joy.