Sunday, December 1, 2013

DCC Peasants in the Purple Worm Graveyard

Last week's game put three players' 0-level peasants in Planet Thirteen's Purple Worm Graveyard.

I tried to make character generation a collective experience. Each player rolled 3d6 in order for the player to their left's characters. After all 12 characters had their stats, each player found their lucky roll, and we went through the various modifiers and bonuses together.

The players certainly embraced the idea that some of their starting characters were going to die, joking that a particular character was doomed or marked for death whenever they rolled low for an ability score or for hit points.

By coincidence nearly every character ended up with a low Agility and a high Personality score. It was totally plausible that this crowd could have talked the rest of the village into gambling their tax on a cricket match, and then blown the game when it counted. The players all really wanted to roll to determine the results of the game, but I hadn't figured out how to decide it at that point, so I simply ruled that they lost.

In retrospect, DCC provides a pretty good method for determining this kind of thing. Since unskilled characters roll 1d10 for skill checks, while skilled characters roll 1d20, I decided to roll for each cricket player. 1s are worth no points, and 10s and 20s explode into a second dice.

Using that method, I got a final score of Villagers 68 to Royals 107.

If the villagers had somehow earned a higher score, I suppose it would have meant that the duke and his men cheated. I've decided that the duke is a jerk, so that'd be totally in keeping with his character. We'll see if the players eventually decide to retaliate against him once they're stronger.

Knowing that these players prefer travel through every dungeon counter-clockwise might eventually make for an important design consideration. In this case it meant that they avoided the two most dangerous traps in the dungeon. They also missed finding the failed landsknecht adventurers' abandoned campsite, the Moroccan sorcerer's feast, and the source of those glowing glands in the Moroccan sorcerer's secret study. On the other hand, never encountering the fire beetles meant that they had no idea where the bio-luminescent glands came from. When the players expressed fear that the light source might attack them just as the puddle had, I knew that we really had achieved the "anything can happen" paranoia that DCC is trying to recreate.

The players were incredibly lucky in their wandering monster checks, only encountering one enemy that way. They also got lucky finding the secret door in the statue room on their first try.

I appreciate that the Purple Worm Graveyard instructs the DM to only check for wandering monsters when the players take a long time doing something or make a lot of noise. (Or more regularly in a couple of rooms.) I'm still not fully comfortable tracking turns. I think I had the candles go out after an hour each, but I was also reluctant to strand the characters in the dark when they hadn't really had any opportunity to buy additional light sources.

One thing I tried that I thought worked really well was to not let the players joke or think aloud without their characters acting out whatever they said. So when Hector's player said that he attacked Twinkle for waking him up, I immediately had him make an attack roll. And when Auhsoj's player joked about betraying the Worm God, I rolled a wandering monster check right away (which would have brought a purple worm if it'd come up as a 1.)

I was surprised that Hector's player kind of forgot to ask for a useful vision and instead only wanted permission to take the worm ivory. I was expecting to show him where one of the remaining treasures was. I also tried to communicate that the Worm God just really didn't care if they took the ivory, meaning that they wouldn't be punished, but also that it wasn't going to prevent a purple worm from showing up in the graveyard if they rolled poorly.

Poor Bovice is currently as good as dead, but his player has more free time than some of the others, so we might run some solo adventures later. If he wants Bovice back, I think a quest involving finding the Tomb of the Iron God and then venturing to Tempus Gelidium should be enough to turn him a return trip. If he wants Bovice to stay in the desert, then I'll probably make the distant city Krshal, the city of towers, and let him venture into the Ruins of the Undercity beneath it.

Overall, the adventure was a success. I awarded each character 10 XP and asked the players what they'd like their survivors to become. I decided that the 0-level adventures weren't really meant for exact XP counts or for giving different awards to different players, although I plan to get a bit more exact for the 1st level characters next time. I also plan to allow carousing for XP, but since I forgot my carousing results table last time, we'll have to wait to see what happens at the fête.

Converting the dungeon to DCC rules was pretty easy. The monsters took the longest, but that was mostly because I'm still not fully comfortable with the DCC monster stat block. I switched the "Dungeon Moves" to regular skill checks with DC 6 to get the middle result and DC 9 to get the good result. For most characters that works out to roughly the same probability that the Moves have, although characters with some reason to be skilled had a much easier roll. (Not that using a d20 actually helped Bobby Ray.)

I'm hoping that the Worm God will become a recurring deity/patron for the 1st level characters. I like the idea of an unhuman deity that hates the undead for entirely different reasons than living people do. If so, I'll have to come up with some Invoke Patron and Patron Taint results. I think I can base the spellburn table on the "Worm Madness" table from the adventure at least.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Play Report - 11/22/2013

Bovice the Halfling Money-Lender
Jerry the Elven Forester
Twinkle the Halfling Glove-Maker 
Ausoj the Baker 

Harry the Beekeeper 
Snow Queen the Jewler 
Bobby Ray the Wizard's Apprentice 
Calvin the Elven Sage 

Jeff the Butcher 
Hector "the Well-Endowed" the Con Artist 
Shura the Ditch Digger 
Tragodia the Ostler 

Every year, the village pays a tax in harvested grain to the local duke. This year the rains have been poor, and the village cannot afford to pay its customary tax without risking starvation or being unable to save seed to replant in the spring. Our 12 intrepid heroes challenged the duke and his royal court to a cricket match. If the village won, they'd pay no tax for 3 years, but if the duke won, the village would owe triple tax. Somehow the inexperienced and clumsy villagers were unable to defeat the duke at a game he and his coterie had been playing since childhood, and the village was (seemingly) doomed. 

The villagers were furious, the mayor was desperate, and the 12 young friends were chagrined, but fortunately, the village wise-man had an idea, and a scrap of an old map that claimed to show the location of a semi-mythical location where enormous ancient worms go to die. 

As the only two characters with any real money to spend, Bovice purchased a battle axe, gifting his short sword to Twinkle, and Snow Queen bought some leather armor. 

After an uneventful trip through the mountains, the party encountered a semi-circular tunnel mouth 5' high. The floor of the entrance was strewn with rough stone and debris which formed a ramp down to a floor 5 feet further below. Ausoj immediately ran into the tunnel and avoid fumbling his way to an early grave as he gamboled down the loose rocks of the entrance ramp. The rest of the party remained outside for a moment, where they discovered an inscription reading "moft hollee and facred palace ov thee godd worm." This was provisionally interpreted as a kind of "beware of dog" sign, as well as an indication that they were in the right place. 

After entering the tunnel and lighting one of only two candles in their possession, the party followed the perfectly circular, 10' high smooth-walled tunnel until they came to a T-intersection. They decided to take the path to the left and soon came to a true crossroads, where they again turned left. This path led to another T-intersection where they could see that the left-hand path led into a small room with some kind of furniture, while the right-hand path led into a much larger and more open chamber. 

Entering the small chamber to the left, the party saw a room full of broken bunk-beds with torn, rotten straw mattresses. The floor was covered with puddles of standing water and piles of garbage and debris, and the far wall was painted with some kind of fresco. The party moved to the wall to examine the fresco and saw images of skinny, emaciated humans serving platters of food to fat, bloated worms and weird worm-like humanoids. Twinkle panicked and ran to the entrance of the room. While the party examined captions reading "hapynef if fervif too thee king ov wormf" and "labour bringf joiye and falvafhun," Twinkle watched in horror as one of the puddles of dirty gray water reared up and prepared to attack the rest of the party from behind, taking them completely by surprise. Twinkle managed to stab the weird beast so that it began leaking vital fluids, and the monster failed in its initial attack. Tragodia scored a critical hit, causing the monster to lose its surface cohesion and splash to the floor once more. Following combat, Bovice tossed the room and found a dagger of exceptional quality under one of the overturned mattresses. The dagger was of impeccable workmanship, its handle wrapped with alternating strips of pale and dark leather, and its pommel topped with an ivory carving of a bee. Bovice graciously turned the party's resident bee-fancier, Harry. Jeff damaged the frescoes with is crowbar, rendering them illegible, and miraculously avoided either upsetting the Worm God or attracting the attention of any wandering monsters with the noise. 

Leaving the dormitory, the party passed through the intersection and into a much larger section of tunnel with high vaulted ceilings held aloft by rows of columns along the walls. The tunnel the party entered from was at a right angle to this larger tunnel. To their left the party saw a two statues standing before a wall finished with fine Moroccan mosaic tiles, and to the right they saw the large tunnel end abruptly in a cave-in. Approaching the statues, the party found two figures standing against the wall, facing each other with 5 feet of empty space between them. One statue was an old, rusted and pitted iron statue depicting a stooped elderly man in a robe. The other was a clean, nearly gleaming bronze statue of a knight on horseback. The knight and horse were both armored in scaled robes, and the knight wore a towering peaked helm. One of the horse's front legs was missing. Jeff began prying tiles from the space between the statues, and amazingly located a secret door hidden between them. Just then, the party's first candle went out. 

As the door opened, the party saw a room dimly lit by a bronze fire pit filled with weird, palely-glowing fleshy sacs and a starry sky seen through a window. Most of the party remained in the larger chamber, fearing that the glowing hunks of meat would rise to attack them in the same manner that the dirty floor water had done, but Bovice and Twinkle entered to inspect the chamber. They found a room with a floor covered in an enormous Persian rug, its walls and ceiling draped with fabric, low divans surrounding the fire pit, and a bookshelf along the wall. Twinkle and Bovice were immediately drawn to the bookshelf, and finding the books filled with incomprehensible scribbles, called on Bobby Ray to use his experience as a wizard's apprentice to inspect them. Bobby Ray thought they were a wizard's lab notes, and that another wizard studying them would be able to benefit. Bovice was unhealthily fascinated by the window. He peered through and saw a night sky overlooking an enormous expanse of sand, the onion domes and minarets of a distant city just visible along the horizon. He opened the window but found that neither wind nor sand nor heat entered the chamber. He found that he could enter the window, first sticking his arm and head through before climbing all the way into the desert night. Unfortunately, after entering the desert, Bovice could no longer see the window, nor could he pass back into the upholstered chamber. Ausoj entered the chamber, but was unable to save his friend, and Twinkle, Ausoj, and Bobby Ray watched in dismay as their friend began wandering toward the distant skyline. Ausoj mourned only a moment before proceeding to search the room, finding a blue Moroccan glass vial with a metal stopper. He opened it to find a medicinal smell. He conferred with Jerry, who had been trained by elven foresters, and thought that the fluid in the vial might be able ot help someone who was ill. He then tossed the vial into his empty chest, but fortunately the valuable substance did not end up sloshing around in a slurry of liquid and broken glass. On closer inspection, the characters found that the objects in the fire pit were more like fluid-filled bladders than pieces of meat, and Jerry tossed one into his chest, causing it to burst and coating the interior with a weakly-glowing residue. After carefully loading his chest with the remaining sacs, the reamining party members exited the secret chamber and the large hall, passed though the crossroads and entered the path that was now to their left. 

Shura entered first, climbing up a ramp of loose stone and rubble into a low-ceilinged burial chamber. As he began climbing the ramp, he heard a German man's voice warning him to "Stay away!" and "Keep away from here!" Inside the dim room, he found the obviously dead body of a mercenary dressed in colorful landsknecht's garb with a polearm lying by his side. Closer inspection revealed that something had recently been eating the body. Shura was surprised by four gray-skinned women with thick worm-like tails where their legs should have been. He greeted them in a friendly manner, and received a favorable reaction. The creatures greeted him with rasping voices, revealing that instead of human mouths, they had weird circular orifices covered in tiny hair-like hooks. Jeff the butcher entered and offered the lamprey women his side of beef, which they happily accepted, allowing him to search the room in peace while Shura made off with the deceased landsknecht's polearm. Jeff found 16 gold pieces, a bright azure-colored gem, and a mysterious scroll. After questioning the lamprey women, Jeff was also able to get directions to the worm ivory cache. Bobby Ray inspected the scroll and thought that it might contain a spell to locate lost objects, but he was reluctant to use it, especially after Jeff had just received directions. 

The party returned to the crossroad, and following the directions of the lamprey women, turned left again and entered a hall covered in painted graffiti and carved with strange unreadable glyphs, just as their candle went out. Fortunately, the glow of the fluid sacs in Jerry's chest combined with a glint of daylight from the far end of the hall provided enough light to see by. The graffiti seemed to bragging about "mad skillz," "phat loot," and other adventuring accomplishments in several modern languages. Twinkle and Ausoj elected to scout ahead at the end of the hall, while the rest of the rest of the party remained to look at the glyphs. Twinkle and Ausoj found a truly enormous chamber whose floor was littered with pebbles, the bones of humans and animals, and the slightly purplish teeth, ribs, and vertebrae that seemed to belong to the same titanic worms whose wale-sized corpses lay decomposing about the chamber. The whole scene was lit by a shaft of light from an overhead chimney, and a golden altar gleamed in the distance. Feeling both relieved and spooked the two friends rushed to rejoin the rest of the party in the glyph covered hall. 

The party thought it would take at least an hour to try to study the language of the glyphs. Perceiving that the task might entail some risk if it were failed, only Hector, Harry, and Bobby Ray attempted it. Hector learned to read the glyphs, which told the tragic epic tale of a giant worm who wed a fair maiden before he was slain by a cruel knight that kidnapped his bride. Hector felt his mind expanding and made mental contact with the Worm God. He perceived that he could receive a helpful vision and that the Worm God would attempt to bargain with him. Wanting to bargain first, Hector asked what the Worm God wanted, and saw a small village to the south of his own, situated in a swamp, with a nearby hill covered in burial mounds. Beneath the hill a catacomb maze swarmed with undead and glinted with treasure, treasure that Hector could take if he were to dispatch the skeletons and corpses that wandered its halls. The Worm God wanted the dead to rest in peace and to be eaten by worms, and it hated the unnatural undead. Hector asked if he agreed to kill the undead if he would be allowed to take the worm ivory, and he perceived that the Worm God was apathetic about the dead worms' bones. Satisfied, Hector's vision ended. Harry the beekeeper also managed to learn the worm-sign script, and because it reminded him of the language of dancing bees, he was able to gain this knowledge without entering a potentially dangerous trance. Bobby Ray wasn't so lucky. He was unable to learn the alien glyphs, and was tormented instead by vivid hallucinations of masses of worms eating him alive. The lengthy time spent studying the walls also finally attracted the party's first wandering monsters, 3 stumbling corpses wearing half-skull masks over their faces and wearing black robes with human bones sewn on to them in skeletal designs. 

In the uncoordinated combat that followed, three party members managed to wound all three zombies before they could retaliate, but none were felled. Hector, Harry, and Bobby Ray were unavailable to fight due to their studies and hallucinations. The zombies struck back against the three that had injured them, missing twice, but a critical hit killed Jeff and caused him to rise immediately as a fourth zombie. In the next round, Twinkle attempted dual-wielding his short sword and dagger before discovering that he wasn't agile enough to accomplish much with such an attack. Fortunately, Ausoj felled one zombie with a club, Jerry swept another off its feet with his staff, and Shura clove the final monter's head in twain with his shovel, and none rose again. Snow Queen spared only a moment to mourn Jeff before re-slaying his risen corpse. 

After combat, Twinkle tried to wake Hector, who thanked the lad for his troubles by killing him with his dagger. Ausoj tried to calm the situation while looting Twinkle's body, and Hector steadied his nerves by helping himself to Jeff's gear. 

The party entered the grave cavern and began collecting the valuable worm ivory. Only the characters who already had sacks or chests chose to carry any ivory, and only Jerry elected to carry a double load, with Tragodia, Harry, and Snow Queen each carrying only one batch. Their scavanging failed to alert any nearby worms, as did one party member's shouting, and another's speculating aloud that they could double-cross the Worm God after they left the cavern. Ausoj climbed the gleaming bronze alter while the others gathered ivory, and found a large gong and a small bell. He felt that prayers said upon the alter might have a chance to reach the Worm God, but he was more worried by the potential danger posed by the gong than he was excited by the possibility of additional mental contact with the god. He backed carefully away from the gong and rejoined his fellows, who also declined to pray at the altar. 

Taking their heaps of treasure, the party left the dungeon and were unmolested by any further dangers. They elected not to explore the other path of the initial T-intersection and instead returned to their home village. They mayor felt convinced that the worm ivory would be enough to placate the duke, and the towns people rejoiced throwing a fête in honor of the returning heroes. The 9 survivors felt emboldened by their expedition, and began contemplating their possible futures as professional adventurers. 

exceptional dagger with ivory bee pommel 
wizard's notebooks 
unknown potion in blue Moroccan glass vial 
16 gp 
a fine azure gem worth 40 gp 
an unknown wizard's scroll believed to contain a spell to find lost objects 
500 gp worth of purple worm ivory 

1 Gray Ooze 
3 Zombies in skeleton costumes 
1 Zombie Jeff 
1 Twinkle 

Bovice - transported to a desert half a world away by a magical window 
Jeff - slain by a zombie 
Twinkle - impaled by Hector 
side of beef - consumed by Lamprey Nagas