This weekend was our annual Birthday Game, a weekend of gaming that serves as Ari’s (my wife0 birthday party and my birthday present to her. We start Friday evening and play five sessions of three to four hours, which means we normally finish around bout lunch-time on Sunday. When we started we experimented with players and numbers, but a few years ago settled on a group consisting of Ian (my son), Cristian and Swampy (A couple of friends I have known for years), Greg and Leighton (friends we met at a TT group local a few years ago). Ages range from 20s to 60s, but we all get on really well together – and they are all experienced players with an eye for some low level teasing and a bit of fun. The party consists of:-
- Fern – a half-elven Ranger with connections (Ari)
- Cal – a dwarf Rogue with aggressive tendencies (Ian)
- Seamus – a mithral clad Paladin (Cris)
- Marvello – an aristocratic Mystic Theurge (Swampy)
- Mulog – an eccentric Druid with an unhealthy interest in frogs (Greg)
- Stonewall – a half-orc Barbarian-Oracle (Leighton)
The weekend always starts in the same way – bowl of home-made stew, character updating and a fairly straightforward game session that lets everyone get into their characters. Then probably a bottle of port, or two as we reminisce before bed. Saturday starts with plates of bacon sandwiches, and three playing sessions separated by breaks for lunch and dinner – from the local take-away. Oh, and more port to round the evening out… Sunday is more bacon sandwiches, before the last session (the climax of the adventure) and finishes at about lunchtime so everyone can get home at a sensible time.
The campaign is based around a series of old AD&D 1e adventures that have been stitched together to make a short campaign. This year’s scenario was called The Ghost Tower of Inverness, which was originally used as a tournament dungeon back in 1979. TSR added a few extra encounters when the released it as a module and I added a few more to help bring it up-to-date and make sure everyone was kept on their toes. The concept is fairly straightforward, as you would expect from a tournament dungeon, with four dungeon tunnels for the party to explore. In each they need to find part of a key. Once they have all four parts, they can enter the Ghost Tower and fight their way to the artefact that they were sent to recover. All very straightforward – except that it was a powerful wizard’s tower and the whole place is defended by magical traps and summonses.
The leg they chose to explore first included an Aurumvorax trapped in an advanced Sepia Snake Sigil, a manticore and an old-fashioned rolling-ball illusion. None of which really caused them any problems 🙂
The second leg had a room that summoned random monsters, a room with animating statues of Bugbears and a corridor protected by Swarm of Fangs spells. The random monsters were fairly easy, and they worked out the trigger for the bugbear statues quickly – however, the Fangs caught them unawares, and they only survived but running away and closing a door behind them *Evil DM Grin*
The third leg proved the most interesting with a variety of interesting encounters. There was bead curtain they needed to force their way through – that promptly summoned a group of monsters everytime they passed through and a series of rooms (going nowhere) whose doors all slammed and, locked as soon as the party were spread out, it became a race against time as the party tried to unlock or force all of the doord before their air ran out. It also contained a variant of the Chess Board trap, where they take damage if the step on the wrong square, but the squares were coloured differently and they never quite wored it out. The last one was an Invisible Stalker that attacked the party in a corridor and they lost their mage before they managed to defeat it. Fortunately they had a Raise Dead scroll, but they had a mage with reduced abilities for the rest of the module.
The fourth leg started with a crystal ball that summoned monsters – and they had to slay four of them before the door would open. There were a couple of Ice Toads and a Minotaur before they got the Siege Owlbear, which gave them a bit more of a problem. That was followed by an Umber Hulk that caused confusion amongst the party, and left them fighting each other, even after the monster had been defeated. The last encounter on this leg was a (somewhat tweaked) Cutlass Spider with many attacks per round but minimal defences. After along discussion they chose to fight it out, sword to sword – which was amusing for me *Evil DN Grin* as the Ranger , much to her surprise, got seriously hurt. Still, they finished up winning a couple of magical weapons from the combat.
Then it was on to the upper levels. The first four were based on the elements. An Air room, filled with mist, a Wyvern and a handful of flying dinosaurs! Only able to see10′ and under attack, the party soon split up but used signal whistles to bring themselves back together again. Then they fought their way up a spiral staircase (iron with open sides) to ….
The earth level full of trees and thick undergrowth where, apart from the Druid, they were forced to follow the paths. After dealing with some over-muscled monkeys, they found a medusa. While they killed her rather quickly, their rogue was petrified – and they didn’t have a Stone to Flesh spell between them. However, Stonewall (the Barbarian-Oracle) call on his ancestors (who normally plague him terribly) and they provided a recipe that might work. All of their Keoghtom’s Ointment, mixed up with medusa blood, medusa snake venom, and ash – to be smeared all over the petrified dwarf, as each party member cast a (carefully selected) spell. The mixture worked, although the Rogue had a -5 penalty to dex, from calcified joints. As a DM, it seemed a fair price – reduced spell casting ability for each character and all of their Keoghtom’s Ointment in exchange for an impaired rogue.
Next was a fire level, that had a path leading across a lake of flames – with a Fire Giant standing at the other end lobbing boulders. Most of the party were distracted by some Fire Flies (think Fire Bat type creatures – but I have some model flies of the right size) while the rogue and paladin went to deal with the Fire Giant. However, they discovered the Reverse Gravity trap that was actually the entrance to the next level instead. Buy this time the barbarian was trying to climb around the walls to get to the Fire Giant and no-one was quite sure what to do with the reverse gravity area. So the paladin went to face the Giant down, but was reduced to negative HP in a couple of rounds – something that we, in this house, call an ‘Oh shit’ moment. Cue the druid, wild shaped into an Air Elemental, going to rescue both the paladin and the barbarian – then shepherding everyone to the reverse gravity area – which was the route to the next level.
The Water level was under a Reverse Gravity spell, so the water was on the ‘ceiling’ and the door to the next level was somewhere under the water. The problem was the massive prehistoric fish, who swam in this small sea. Amusingly, the rogue managed to keep it at bay by throwing coconuts (there was a classic desert island in the middle of this sea). He even managed a confirmed crit by rolling two 20s in a row 🙂 However, the fish managed to get hold of the barbarian and swallowed him whole. This led to an encounter with the paladin riding the druid’s animal companion (a large frog) as it swam into battle – he was supported by air-elemental druid and the barbarian cutting himself out. TBH, the frog riding paladin probably didn’t conform to the rules – but it was fun, and they would have got the fish anyway 😛
The last level was nasty – the artefact in the centre of the room, protected by a force field – and randomly shining a Death Ray around the room. I did say it was originally a 1st Ed tournament dungeon, didn’t I? There was a Will save against the death ray, and the poor, hard done by, rogue managed to fail his. The party saw his ecotoplasmic spirit dragged into the gem and were left with a white-bleached corpse and its white-bleached equipment – the crystal had sucked the life and magic out of everything!
However, they grabbed the crystal, which signalled the end of the module, and they managed to get home safely. Their patron paid for the rogue’s spirit to be released from the crystal, as well as the Restoration spells needed to fetch everyone back to normal (ready for next year’s adventure). However, he didn’t replace the items lost by the dwarf, but the party all donated their share of the loot to replace it, although they kept the reward their patron gave them. Their feeling was that it would be a good thing to have an effective rogue for next year’s adventure – and I suspect they are right!
For now, they have all retired to their homes. Mulog is back in his swamp, trying to breed an Octo-Frog – so that all members of the family can have a leg at dinner. Marvello is developing the school in his town to teach Knowledge skills (particularly Magic and Religion) because the current generation of peasants are boring and can’t hold a decent conversation. Seamus is building a sword school in his village and a shrine to Iomedae in his keep. Cal is still working on his underground home, and has opened his palisaded keep up to hunters and trappers in an attempt to increase the size of his settlement. He is still looking for a way to turn it into a smuggling route, but he hasn’t yet found anything in the mountains that is worth smuggling. Stonewall is trying to develop his defences further, as he is worried about giants invading, while Fern is still thinking of ways she can develop her wilderness holdings.
Am I looking forward to next year? You bet I am. Are the players? Well they asked if I would run two a year, so I guess so 🙂 Either way, roll on ‘Dark Clouds Gather’ – the next module in the campaign