Wednesday, August 17, 2022

The Banshee's Tower play and thoughts

Another Sunday, and another brewery session.

I had two returning "customers" and three first timers - All of the newcomers were familiar via 5e, so explaining the pared-down world of B/X was fairly straightforward. 

The three chose from the pre-gens: a hill dwarf named Braddock, a tea-aficionado halfling, and a not-too-bright but well-meaning fighter named Bonk. Frederick the "antiquities collector" returned. The fifth player chose a librarian elf after test-driving a heretic cleric in the last session.

The party met in Neuförde, as we've done the last few sessions. I had re-stocked the prior session's adventure, in case they were interested in returning. With a tepid response, I offered the alternative to investigate an abandoned fort rumored to have been owned by the Matuli family, whose signet ring was recovered from the goblins. This new investigation was acceptable and the party trooped into the foothills to find the tower.

Oh yeah, the locals call it The Banshee's Tower for some reason. It's probably nothing.


Spoilers, of course:

As the party approached, they were sniped at by a trigger-happy bandit. Frederick spotted a movement in the gate tower and snapped off an arrow. Even with a -4 penalty, his aim was true, and the bandit went down. The party cautiously approached, and found the doomed bandit. Knowing that the bandit had blown his signal whistle, the party started to clear the remaining rooms in the fort's exterior area. 

Bonk found his calling as door-opener. Although even with a 3-in-6 chance, he consistently rolled 4s... Sore shoulder and bruised ego, he gave it his all. Small treasures were found and the halfling came eye-to-eye with a lurking viper. She shot it, in good halfling fashion, and Braddock stepped up and critted the thing with his axe, in good dwarven fashion. Bonk hung it on the door as a warning for other intruders.

The 'banshee' wailed, and the PCs argued over what it could be.

Bonk took two strikes at the tower door, and the PCs entered. They debated venturing up to investigate the screams, but in the meantime Bonk saw another door. Bash!

And plowed straight into four fleeing bandits. The shaken bandits recounted their run-in with the odd zombies, and left the party to investigate, promising to live lives on the straight and narrow.

Our heroes descended the ladder into the cellar below. 

Confronted by three doors, they listened at all and heard nothing. A brief discussion and forward to the north. Bonk!

The door was unlocked, and slammed open, Bonk stumbling through.

The party found one of the doomed bandits ("Jerry") with a stove-in skull and covered in mysterious filaments. The halfling, a connoisseur of found forest fungi, identified them to be some sort of mycelium. Prudently, the thief doused the body in oil and set it afire.

The socially-awkward elf commented that Jerry must have been a "fun guy," and that sufficed as a epitaph for the lost bandit.

Advancing farther, the party observed more mycelium on the chamber walls. Listening at a door, the halfling sensed a gas-hazard, and warned back the torch and lantern. The elf cast light as a safety measure, and the door was opened (cautiously) without incident, other than some slightly flaring torches. 

Breathing a sigh of relief, the party picked their way down a corridor of doors, determined to be cells of some sort. Hearing some shuffling beyond the farthest door, the party made ready, as Bonk did his thing.  

The party came face-to-face with the boss fungal zombie, and battle was joined. 

Something like this 

The zombie got in some good strikes before the elf recalled the fleeing bandits' comment on light stunning the creature. He directed his still-effective light spell toward the thing, causing it to back up and miss a hit or two. It responded by lashing out a paralyzing tendril against the dwarf, putting him out of commission. A few more tense rounds, and the party prevailed, with the halfling critting, in good halfling fashion. 

I made a couple of saving throw rolls, and determined that the bandit leader ("Magnus") was only paralyzed, and had not yet been infected by zombie spores. The party members helped him to his feet, and he thanked them, before making good his escape.

Shrugging off this slight, the party retreated from the chambers, pausing to investigate the two doors near the entry passage. Braddock decided to boot open a door for a change, and took a crossbow trap bolt for his efforts. The DM rolled a random treasure as a consolation prize.

The party checked the opposite door and found it unlocked. They recovered a case of wine, and sensing something moving in the cistern pool, retreated, recalling their battle with the ooze during the prior session. 

The scene closed with the party camping out in the tower's first floor, barbequing snake and drinking wine. 


OK, my notes on this one.

The party overall worked well together, and everyone got a moment or two to shine. Last session, the cleric had been under-utilized (part of the player's reason to try a different class this time). Between door-opening and various crits, I think everyone got their moments tonight. The party did consistently roll high on door listening checks, although there was little to make much noise within the complex.

That said, I found my stocking of the caverns to be sparse, with a few too many empty rooms along the path that the party explored. I'll remedy this with a wandering monster check for future runnings. 

Also - I was a bit stingy on treasure. I statted the original writing using Swords & Wizardry, and the treasure guidance is less lucrative than B/X. With the gold-for-xp model, the party needed a bit more coin for their efforts. They did bypass at least one treasure (and other designers have mentioned that missing treasure or other boons is all part of the game). But they didn't get enough cash reward for what they did find and fight. I partially alleviated this on the fly with a few quick Donjon random treasure rolls.

Also, I told myself that I'd bring the second zombie into the battle, and totally forgot. I should have given myself a countdown die as a reminder.

Hazard-wise, expansion of the fungal filaments throughout the caverns/dungeon and adding a risk (spores, etc.) if the filaments are disturbed will add some tension and potential resource drain. Regardless, it is a useful threat-telegraph.

As far as writing, this adventure is a few years old, so I found awkward language and opaque description. I'll clean it up and punch up the important elements in the respective rooms/areas.

Revision-wise, the to-do list includes modifying monsters, environmental risks, and treasure/rewards to an OSE format. For usability, monster stats will be highlighted or pulled into the text, rather than links. 

And now the big problem (?). 

Success... I'm pleasantly surprised by the interest in my little pick-up game, and that I have the potential to get a semi regular crew. Which means I probably need to convert this into a West Marches style game/campaign. I don't have much experience running an ongoing campaign, and am curious on how to best build something that can support both some ongoing campaign and drop in-drop out style of play. Of course, as we've ad-libbed our way through individual sessions, I've begun to accumulate a small list of events, NPCs, names, and items that may be useful in the future...

After all, Frederick was curious about the land deed he'd found in the goblin trash...

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