This time around for the Castle of the Mad Archmage AD&D 1E game at Dexcon 12, I made sure to plaster the place with posters (an example of which is in the upper-left of this very post, as a matter of fact). It turned out to be a really good promotional device, as we had two more people show up than I had character sheets! One fellow made up a new character on the spot, and another bowed out and moved to another game in the same room, but I was very pleased with the enthusiastic turnout. Naturally, the account below is very truncated, and there was a lot of good RP that took place, and puzzle-solving and tactics-planning that I just cannot convey.
The party (ranged around 4th level, but there were a few multi-classes in there, so it wasn’t uniform) started on the 3rd level of the dungeon, coming in through the dry cistern entrance. They were immediately jumped on by a pair of ghouls, which they dispatched with a minimum of fuss and continued their explorations.
They made their way into a dead-end hallway that the module stated was the receiving area for a one-way teleporter, but on a whim I turned it into a two-way teleporter just to shake things up. Very quickly they figured out that they had teleported, and from then on in were careful to keep track of their rear to notice any more sudden changes in their environment.
Next up was a random encounter with a floating pearlescent bubble. Most of the party was very cautious about the thing, but the fighter/magic-user decided that boldness was the word of the day and used a 10′ pole to probe the thing. 13 points of damage later, he found that it contained a gem which clattered to the ground after it exploded in his face.
Continuing down the corridor, the party next encountered what they very cleverly figured out was just a watch-post for some orcs. They dispatched them with little trouble, but I could tell that some antennae were raised at that point. Where there is a guard-post of orcs, more orcs are somewhere about, being guarded.
They were very good in figuring out that an octagonal space in the middle of some corridors was likely to contain a secret room, and dutifully found the secret door thereto. Unfortunately, the ranger managed to take a spiked ball square in the face for a whole lot of damage; fortunately, he was the party’s tank, and could take the abuse. Much silver was to be found within; far beyond the party’s ability to carry out easily. They decided to reset the trap and note the location for later retrieval.
Next up was an encounter with more orcs, guarding a stairway up (remember, they started on the third level). One of the orcs dashed from the room as soon as they entered, a sleep spell took out three more, and some hack-n-slash did for the rest. One of the sleeping orcs was awakened and interrogated, and it was eventually learned that the sergeant had hied out to warn the rest of the tribe.
While the interrogation was taking place, the cleric of the party decided to investigate the stairs, and while he was careful not to go all the way to the top, his light did so, and when another member of the party called up the stairs to him, more orcs from the second level were alerted and came a-running. The party used some fire to slow them down and beat a hasty retreat back into the corridors where they could better defend themselves. Unfortunately, the sounds of more orcs coming from the corridors were heard, and they decided to hie tail and retreat while they could, dropping some flaming oil to slow the pursuit.
They then ran into some previously-unexplored portions of the dungeons, and their map was a bit munged, so they missed some connections that some of the corridors were making. They ended up eluding the pursuing orcs briefly, but stumbled on an outpost of duergar, who were none too pleased to be disturbed. Flight from the druegar brought them back to the orcs, unintentionally. With quick thinking, however, and a fair grasp of the local topography, they managed to get the orcs and druegar to fight each other rather than them, and they ran into the uncharted depths away from the melee, dropping more fire to discourage pursuit and encourage the gray dwarves and orcs to engage one another.
They didn’t know it, but they were running in the general direction of the exit. They ran at full speed past a stunjelly that took a pot-shot and missed, and took a chance on a door that ended up leading to a whole lot of nothing. They were thrilled, though, at having eluded the orcs through clever thinking and at least surviving.
At this point, alas, our four-hour session was coming to an end. They were at least one six-way-intersection away from the entrance they had used, but I’m sure they would have found it if they had had another half hour or so.
The whole session was a blast. The players really seemed to enjoy themselves, and I got a lot of terrific feedback (one of the players was shocked to learn his DM was the Greyhawk Grognard, as he apparently reads this blog, and will hopefully be sending me a picture he took of the gaming session!). If they had half as much fun playing as I had running it, it was a huge success.
I will definitely be running at least one, and maybe two, sessions of CotMA next time around. And I will definitely be making more posters.