Monday, March 6, 2023

The Black Labyrinth of Lord Greywulf - the party gets randomized

Okey dokey - Sunday again, folks, and we had a few repeat offenders, and a couple of new folks at the table.

  • Jax, barbarian
  • Fulvus, halfling
  • Rondel, elf
  • Mareth, another elf
and introducing:

  • Skuli Bodvarsson, cleric
  • Slick, thief (of course)
Skuli rocking his randomly-generated hairdo and 15 CHA

The party convened in Neuforde, with a wandering band of performers arriving in town to entertain and fleece the locals. I did this mostly to practice a bit of improv and to wait and see where the evening was going to go... 

Slick won a few gold in a game of chance, Rondel narrowly lost a knife-throwing contest, and Mareth and Skuli had their fortunes read by "Madame Grebe." Mareth also paid some good coin for "protective incense." Jax and Goober thought the whole affair was sketchy and gave the carnies a wide berth.

Slick also partook in a bit of five-finger discount work and garnered a few gold coins and "written directions to the Black Labyrinth of Lord Greywulf" (thank you, Donjon).

Well, I guess that's where we're going tonight...

<Pause for behind-the-curtains moment>

... And this is part of the reason that my DM folio is filled with random maps and adventures to crib on the fly...

Tonight's scenario was brought to you by Logen Nein, who cropped up on my Reddit feed last year as he posted some hand drawn maps. I recently posted an interpretation of one of his notecard maps (more in the works). 

Anyway, Logen has created a number of maps as well as supplements to other RPGs on his page, and I'd pulled a few system-neutral one-page dungeons that he created to use as reserve maps. The maps are visually evocative, with enough 'texture' and details to be able to quickly fake up a description as the players enter the next room or area. All of the maps also have looping passageways to allow multiple pathways and alternatives for both the party and foes. Always a good design point. 

Each map includes brief room descriptions, including three-word sensory descriptions for the ambience. These prompts help greatly in keeping the five-senses descriptions going for the players as they explore. Encounters are described generically (ex. swarm, undead brute, hunters) as is treasure (essentially small, medium, large). Each map also includes one or two 2d6 generator tables for encounters and other random occurrences within the space. 

I'd previously prepped "The Hidden Ruins" as a reserve scenario and taken the opportunity to substitute the generic descriptors with some specifics, and made a few other minor edits for ease of use. In this case, the adventure's tortuosity made an excellent stand-in for the "Black Labyrinth of Lord Greywulf."

I highly recommend downloading these small adventure spaces to have on hand for a one-shot session or just-in-case map. 

<Back to Play>

The party reached the cave entrance without incident. Cautiously entering, they found animal tracks and passages to the left and front. Wanting to press forward, Slick did check the side passage to avoid flanking surprises. He did spy webs, and the party did the responsible thing of setting them on fire (they did flush a giant spider that attacked once and then fled). Continuing south, Fulvus almost got dripped on by a green slime (Fire, again). The elves found a secret door, and were surprised as three goblins tumbled out as they were opening it. (The second two encounters were wandering rolls.)

Skuli spoke to them (reaction roll 12) and learned they were fleeing from a giant skeleton that had killed a companion. With a second strong reaction roll, of course they'd lead a party to avenge their mate.

Finding a large pyramid-crypt in a chamber, the party roused several skeletons. Mareth lit his incense (we never determined if it really worked or not). Skuli, in good stead with his deity, pushed the skeletons back, and the party looted the crypt and blocked its access. 

Entering another set of corridors, the party found the skeleton described by the goblins (The adventure called it 'powerful beast' but since we're doing undead stuff, it's a skeletal grizzly bear - there is also an "undying brute" on the wandering encounters list). The skeleton was defeated with minor party injuries, and the goblins were nowhere to be found...

Clearing the area, the party decided to explore the rest of the complex. From the mapping, they could tell that there were several other passages to explore, some likely connected. Finding a burrowed-out section, I dropped in a taste of the Fiend Folio, in the form of a Coffer Corpse. After being suitably annoyed by the reviving thing, the PCs with magic weapons finally got it to stay dead, and then set it on fire, because they are PCs. (I really need to stock a bunch of coffer corpses for sheer aggravation factor).

The party also uncovered multiple traps during their explorations, a couple by setting them off. Suitably punctured and smoldering, they soldiered on. Jax was bitten by a centipede (wandering roll), but has a stellar poison save, in part due to some beneficial random magical fallout from the Howler session.

Again, a couple of the PCs were brought low in hit points during play, but a heal spell and potion buffed the injured sufficiently that they wouldn't be killed by an angry squirrel... A few more random encounters and loot rolls, and the party emerged into the light. Even with a party of six, everyone got in at least one good blow, some excellent reaction rolls, a couple of crits, and numerous found hidden things.

People again seemed to enjoy the session and play style, with folks looking forward to future sessions. Always a pleasant surprise and affirmation that I must be doing something right. 

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