D&D Known World, Session #4: The Endless Tunnels play tricks

by mshrm

The kids’ D&D adventures continue, this time with a couple of guests. As of last session, Styx had become a 4th-level thief, while Shadow is still a 3rd-level magic-user. This time, they were joined by a couple of guest players, bringing in some new PCs: Arnt Knott and his identical twin brother, Nautical, both 2nd-level fighters, and Kohncrete Sinderbloke, a 2nd-level dwarf. The party was rounded out by the surviving henchmen and hirelings: Bob the Goblin, who failed his save and therefore continued on, still charmed; Anya the 2nd-level cleric, now receiving spells; and Timi, 1st-level halfling.

This session, the kids experienced several classic D&D moments for the first time. Sadly, one of those classic moments was a squabble within the party over magical treasure, explaining why the session came to a somewhat-abrupt end. On a happier note, after looking at some of the illustrations in the Cyclopedia, they finally realized that “halfling” means “hobbit”. Much to their relief: it turns out they had been worrying that Timi’s hairy feet were a sign of something sinister. 🙂

As for our guests… They were adults with D&D experience, but only going back so far as 2nd Edition. They seemed a little appalled at some of the differences: “3d6 in a row” was one thing, but “Dwarf is a class” needed some explaining. They were good sports about the weirdness, though, even when… well, it’ll come up in the story. The guest PCs come in partway through the story.

What happened:

After the great haul last time, the whole party was eager to return to the  The Endless Tunnels of Enlandin (copyright © 2003 by Stefan Poag). After consideration of the 3-day travel time to the dungeon, most of the party decided to pack extra rations. Shadow decided he would save the money and live off the land, hunting for food. That didn’t turn out so well, as he was only able to find food on one day of the trip. Rather than let him starve, Timi shared some of her fresh rations with him, after extracting a promise of repayment upon their return to civilization.

Aside from food, the party ran into no difficulties on the way to the ruins, and they easily located the excavated entrance. Leaving their horses tied up on the surface, they walked down the stairs, taking a moment to mock the magically-talking statue at the bottom. Following their notes from before, they retraced their steps until they came to the place where they had destroyed a gelatinous cube with fire. They took the unexplored turn, heading in the direction that the cube had approached from.

After several twists and turns…

(GM Rant:  The kids started heckling after about the third left/right-turn. Next dungeon map I draw, it’s going to be nothing but straight corridors, T-intersections, and 4-way crossroads. Much more than that, it’s either monotonous or hard to clearly describe.)

… they came to a door. Styx listened, hearing nothing. Finding no traps and no keyhole to peek through, he opened the door a crack and took a look. When neither disaster nor monster struck, he opened it the rest of the way, revealing a room stacked with boxes and barrels against the far wall. With visions of loot dancing before their eyes, the whole party rushed in to open containers. Untended, the door closed behind them.

Crate after crate turned out to be empty. They trashed the entire room, finding nothing. Shadow even poked around in the kindling, hoping to find a pointed stick that could be used as an improvised spear, but found nothing suitable. Dejected, they opened the door.

The hall outside was clearly not familiar. They checked their map: no, this hallway didn’t match the way they came in. “Oh, no problem, guys,” Shadow said, “Let’s all go back inside and close the door.”

Good plan, but it didn’t work. They remained off the new hallway.

Nothing for it but further exploration. After more twisty turns, they came to another door. Styx did his thing, decided the door was safe, and cracked it for a peek. Inside, he saw an ugly stone statue with horns and wings, striking a pose on a pedestal. With no obvious opposition, he threw open the door and stepped inside, intent on being the first one to get a grab at any potential loot.

Suddenly, the gargoyle sprang to life, leaping across the room to attack Styx, who was caught flat-footed and surprised! It tore him up before anybody else could even get inside the door. Anya stepped up and used her new spell (cure light wounds, of course) on Styx, keeping him on his feet long enough to withstand another series of bloodying blows.

Shadow used his new favorite spell, entangle, to send Styx’s brand-new rope slithering after the gargoyle, aiming to choke it in the rope’s coils. The gargoyle was momentarily confused by this, but ended up gnashing its fangs, ripping the rope to bits.

Finally, Bob the Goblin was able to get within reach of the monster. The gargoyle killed the tiny goblin, tearing him limb-from-limb, but thanks to simultaneous initiative, Bob was able to land a telling blow with his sword before his death!

This was enough to jog Shadow’s memories of Obscure Monsters 101: gargoyles can only be harmed by magical weapons! He stepped into melee range and scooped up Bob’s sword, which he knew to be enchanted. He took a wild swing at the gargoyle, which showed him how much of a swordsman he’s not.

The next round, the good guys won initiative. Shadow handed the sword off to Styx, who injured the monster. The magic-user finished it off with a magic missile.  (Leaving him with only a detect magic spell memorized, it should be noted.)

With one dead and others wounded, the party decided to barricade themselves in the gargoyle’s room. Shadow used the magic sword to break the gargoyle into rubble, which they used to fashion a cairn for Bob on the gargoyle’s pedestal. He pocketed the gargoyle’s stone heart, for later alchemical uses. They also discovered a secret door, but didn’t open it, yet.

Shortly, there came a knocking at the door they had used to enter. It turned out to be Arnt and Kohncrete, lost adventurers seeking the safety of numbers. They had come down into the Tunnels with a larger party, only to fall victim to the same teleport trap and then run into a strong party of ghouls. Arnt and Kohn had gotten separated from their comrades in the rout. The party agreed, that was some tough luck, and of course they could use a couple of strong right arms. Come on in, the more the merrier!

Reasoning that one commonly finds treasure behind secret doors, they decided to explore in that direction. After only a couple of turns down a short hall, they came to a door. Styx did the thieves’ door-opening ritual, then opened it onto someone’s bedroom. A recent someone, too: the candles were still burning.

There was a rush to be the first to open the chest that sat at the end of the bed, which Arnt won. With a smirk at the others, he threw open the lid. “Ow,” he said, looking at the fresh pinprick on his hand, and then he did fail his saving throw versus poison and he did die.

(GM Note: That caused quite the sensation. It was Arnt’s first and only die roll, failing that save. Now everybody knows about save-or-die poison. It’s a harsh dungeon out there. Get a helmet.)

(And some boots.)

Just as everyone was coming to terms with Arnt’s sudden demise, his identical twin brother, Nautical Knott, approached the party from behind and introduced himself. He had also been a member of the other adventuring party. When he heard the sad news about his brother, he showed a stoic side, announcing that Arnt had always been an idiot and it was bound to have killed him sooner or later. He asked to join the party, to which they agreed.

Then they turned to looting the chest. Robes, blankets, a new ivory comb for Kohn’s beard, and a sack of gold coins! They also puzzled over a chamber pot before deciding it wasn’t worthwhile loot.

The room had another exit on the far side, a door in an alcove with a rug laid before it. Logically, that was the next place to go. Styx approached the door… only to fall through the rug, which turned out to actually be camouflage for a hinged trapdoor over a spiked pit! The thief was injured, but not so badly as one might expect, since he avoided the spikes. Now that he knew to look, Kohn found a concealed lever to control the trap.

Nautical lowered a rope. He and Kohn started enthusiastically, and loudly, pulling Styx out of the pit:  “Heave!” “HO!” “Heave!” “HO!”

This ruckus attracted attention. Styx heard the sound of angry voices approaching from the far side of the door, just as they finished pulling him up. He waved to the others for silence, but it was too late. There was a rattle as those outside tried the door and found it locked. Then, they started shouting and banging on the door.

The party identified the language of the shouts as the tongue of the orcs. Too bad nobody spoke that language. Kohn reset the trap while the others hastily organized an ambush. They gathered fuel and chopped kindling from the edge of the other door, setting a smoky fire between the locked door and the pit. While the others lurked back inside the room, Styx unlocked the door and beat a hasty retreat back along the edge of the pit.

The door burst open and a crowd of orcs burst in, walking right into the cloud of smoke. The party shouted a challenge. Styx flung a sling stone at them, while Shadow just threw a rock by hand. The orcs charged.

Of course, they were charging directly on to the pit trap. In their rush, all but one fell. Of those that fell, only one survived. After a quick reversal of morale, they surrendered. The uninjured one just turned and slipped back out the door, while the one in the pit dropped his weapon, fell to his knees, and raised his hands.

The party took the survivor prisoner, discovering that he spoke some Common. They settled down to interrogate him about the dungeon. There was some discussion of setting up camp for the night, so everyone could recuperate and the spell casters could memorize spells.

At that point, a disagreement broke out about the rightful bearer of the magic (but still unidentified) sword that Bob used to carry, and we decided to call a halt for the evening.