Sunday, March 14, 2010

L3: Deep Dwarven Delve (part 1)

Last night I ran an impromptu session of Deep Dwarven Delve for four players. The party, rolled up just an hour beforehand, consisted of two halfling thieves, a gnome assassin, a dwarven fighter, and an elven cleric. All of the characters were evil, and one of the thieves ended up being treated as a semi-NPC (his player had to leave before the session began).

The PCs arrived in Restenford and Lake Farmin after catching wind of the recent string of humanoid raids against the towns. After a brief internal debate over whether to help the distressed towns or simply continue the raiding themselves, they decided to offer their aid, but not before negotiating the per-head bounty on dead humanoids up to 110 gp each, and the reward for the towns' missing gold chalice up to 300 gp.

They soon were off to the humanoids' hidden lair, having been provided directions by one of the towns' rangers, who had tracked the invaders there following the last raid, three days prior. In the end, the PCs barely scratched the surface of the place, killing only a half-dozen orc guards before an alarm gong was sounded and a veritable horde swarmed from the delve's entrance. The dwarf fighter (Pug) was surrounded and slaughtered, and the others turned tail and fled, failing to procure even a single orc's head for their efforts.

The session ran great, and on only about 40 minutes of prep time for me. Like last time, there were a couple of tense moments where a single initiative roll tilted the outcome of the entire evening. For example, as the PCs began to make short work of the few orcs guarding the cave entrance, one guard bolted back inside to sound the alarm gong. The next round, the orcs won initiative, and the gong was sounded seconds before Ping (one of the thieves) rolled a natural 20 and crushed the orc's skull with a sling bullet from outside the cave, some 100 feet away. Had the gong not been rung, the party would almost certainly have been able to sneak inside the delve; as it was, they didn't even manage to set foot inside the cave entrance.

We also had a tragic cinematic scene play out in the ensuing rounds, after a score more orcs flooded from the cave and surrounded Pug, the only PC that wasn't in hiding. He fought the beasts off as best he could (with the help of the thieves and assassin firing from range), but was dropped from 34 hit points to zero in a matter of minutes. In a valiant attempt to try to save his friend, the elven cleric waded through the orc ranks (having first cast sanctuary on himself), then cast cure light wounds on Pug. Every last remaining orc failed its save to be able to attack Godric (the cleric), but even as Pug was restored to a comatose state with positive hit points, the orcs in their battle frenzy continued to impale the dwarf's body with their halberds, killing him outright. That's when the rest of the PCs fled down the hillside and took cover in the trees below until they could escape back to the safety of the towns.

Thus, the party returned empty-handed, having found no treasure and garnering only 200 XP for orcs slain, netting the surviving PCs 50 XP each. AD&D is interesting in that, despite these scarce winnings, the group could easily return, find themselves much more successful on a second run, and net many times more experience along with a mountain of gold in reward money. There's definitely a fine line between success and failure in AD&D, and crossing that line often means all the difference in the world.

As a closing thought, L3 is looking like a great module so far. We might easily play three or more additional game sessions in the delve before the adventure is finally completed, and if the characters currently in Hommlet manage to finish up their dealings soon, maybe they'll arrive in Restenford and Lake Farmin in time to win their share of the spoils here as well.

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