Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Tomb of the Serpent King Play Report Session 1 & 2

The Best Dog
So two weeks ago I had a chance to run two small sessions of Tomb of the Serpent King with my wife, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law. We were not able to get particularly deep into the adventure due to timing and baby needs, but we've gotten ourselves a pretty fair start.

Session 1:
Human Barbarian- BiL
Elf Ranger- SiL
Really Good Dog- Wife

So as a prelude, I will note that our trio of players have about 4 sessions or so of Pathfinder experience and nothing else. Their RPG backgrounds primarily come in the form of JRPGs and Dark Souls and thus GLOG and TotSK really work here as tutorials. Michael Bacon 's Index card sized character sheets were an instant hit after having only dealt with the ten tons of math that a Pathfinder character sheet is. I offered them to either have a small starting adventure in a starter town or just skipping right to the dungeon. They decided on the latter, feeling that they could both learn more and be less prone to getting lost in the concepts by going directly to a dungeon crawl.

We used Arnold's Lifepath generator to get the Elf Ranger and the Really Good Dog, the first an accomplished and weirdly muscular weaver and the latter a disgraced temple dog. BiL was less interested in something so convoluted and just rolled 3d6 for stats right down the line.

Having some meta knowledge about how dungeons worked, the Ranger and Dog spent a lot of time on the first floor trying to sniff out traps and secrets, seeking any minute detail to use to their advantage. When they encountered their first coffin, the Dog used her sniffer to detect something wrong with the hollow statues they found within, but the barbarian just heard "hollow statue" and decided to slam it with their hammer. Luckily a good CON roll kept the rage-prone foreigner from succumbing to the acrid gas within.

You'd think they'd proceed with more caution. Tomb 2 was met with another hammer blow and a less enthusiastic CON roll. Tomb 3 had more of the same. Tomb 4, the Really Good Dog decided to save the Barbarian from the pain and jumped into the coffin and broke the statue with its weight. Having survived this though, now bedazzed with a few golden amulets, the trio decided it was a good time for lunch. Crossing off a ration, a dead opossum, and some carrot sticks from their inventories and coming back to nearly full strength, the trio decided to take on the stone door at the end of the hall.

The barbarian investigated the door and took notice that the pegs that it rested on were pressed down by the weight and no single one of them could lift it on their own. Instead of teaming up to try and lift it, the party came up with a lever idea. The Really Good Dog dug a hole in the pounded earth floor and piled up dirt and stone to act as a fulcrum, while the Ranger tore the lid off of one of the coffins. Using the lid as a lever, the Barbarian gave it a good pull, successfully lifting the door themselves and successfully taking a massive hammer to the face. Really Good Dog avoided the trap entirely by diving into the hole it dug. The Ranger's animal companion stood valiantly before them and was turned into jelly, but provided enough padding to leave the Ranger at 1 HP.

This left us needing a new character for the BiL and teaching us all a lesson in how lethal a dungeon can be. So, instead of choosing a race and a class, BiL opted to just randomize everything and ended up with a Boarling Paladin of the Voice who had been left in the room beyond the trap after a hazing by their own order. They brought the mute Paladin back to their camp outside to try to get details out of him to little avail. In the mean time, the Ranger went out to the swamp and  Steve Irwin'ed an alligator into being their replacement animal companion. Thus they rested, ready to take on the room beyond the stone door the next day.

In the large chamber beyond the door, the trio was faced with 3 coffins and immediately were on the defensive. They've gotten to this point and there was no combat yet, obviously there was something going on here. And they were, of course, right. As soon as they touched upon the coffins, three Snakeman skeletons burst forth to combat them. It took a few rounds for them to get used to Attack+(10-Defense) but they soon got the hang of it. Through some coordinated efforts and a really excited dog, the skeletons were defeated with no lasting damage done to the party. About at this point my daughter decided that it was time to stop playing with Megablocks and we concluded our session.

The Terrible Snake God!


Session 2:

Boarling Paladin- BiL "Man-Bear-Pig"
Elf Ranger- SiL
Really Good Dog- Wife

So before Session 2, the group decided that it was fantastic that it only took 3 minutes to roll up a new character instead of an hour to generate one and the idea of completely random characters appealed to them greatly. Thus the even before, I randomized 20 characters and put a number of 1-20 on them. This way when a character dies, we just need to roll a d20 and pull out an index card. 

In this session, our heroes encounter a massive statue of a hideous six armed Snake-Man-God. The Really Good Dog quickly discovers the water damage hinting at a trap door below. Instead of attempting to brute force move the statue, the party decides that there must be some sort of puzzle. There was not some sort of puzzle but there was now. I declared that they should give a closer look at things and find clues. Returning to the previous room, they realized the walls had tapestries depicting the Snake-Man Empire's conquests. At the center of it all was a depiction of this same six armed god, only instead of merely baring its claws, it's hands were occupied holding weapons or treasure or directing its troops. Returning to the statue, the party pulled on one of the arms that had been pointing in the tapestry, and the statue moved aside with no need for physical effort.

Sticking a torch into the dog's mouth and weaving together a harness for him, they lowered the dog down the trap door below the statue to investigate. After noticing the statues below, some meta worries above golems came to mind and the party proceeded downward with caution. It may have been some fault on my part, but I described the middle of the long hall they now faced as having the middle worn smooth. I meant for this to seem like it had often been slithered across by the Snakemen, but the party took it as a sign of some Indiana Jones style rolling ball trap and were exceptionally cautious. They eventually noticed an out of place statue, but they pushed it back into place instead of noticing the trap door behind it.

Figuring that the long hall posed to threats, the party proceeded down to the large tomb space beyond, first lighting a number of sconces around the room to provide more light. After investigating the various doors, the dog noticed the water at the center of the room and did what any good dog would do and writhed in it. The mummy claws took this chance to strike. A nearly deadly battle took place that saw the dog brought to 0 HP, and though the Death and Dismemberment table only gave the pup an Interesting Scar, only the very last stabilization check saved the pup from death from Fatal Wounds. One of the claws took hold of the Paladin in an attempt to strangle them, but he unleashed the voice of god upon them, yelling "UNHAND!" The boom echoed through the dungeon and Fus Ro Da'd the claw off of the holy knight. After cleaning the mess up, the party strapped their dog to the Ranger and returned to the surface for rest.

We will have to see next time how they handle the tomb's true inhabitants.

Now in Color

Thoughts:

So a major thing I noticed during play is the different personality types I'm getting in gameplay. 

SiL is a long time JRPG completionist type, who obsessively looks into every nook and crany for every possible thing that can be collected, unlocked, achieved etc. etc. While to an extent, I feel this is a good OSR instinct, I feel like she is still coming at it more from the perspective of searching for the Wonder Chef in a "Tales of" game rather than collecting booty in a dank dungeon. 

BiL is fairly big into Dark Souls and looks at tabletop RPGs as like a slower paced Dark Souls. He is looking for a smash and grab, pulverizing statues and looking for brute force answers. I do feel that playing as the Paladin has encouraged him to think more creatively than just playing his standard two handed axe barbarian type and I look forward to see how that develops.

My wife loves Mass Effect and other modern western RPGs and has played a few sessions of tabletop before. She is also an English teacher and regularly writes creatively. She, of the three, got the most "in character" with the Really Good Dog, trying to act within the limits of an adventurous Lassie-like mind. I think that while the OSR encourages treating characters almost as throw away lives, given the high fatality rate, getting into character helps create some fun scenarios that might not otherwise occur.

All three players were happy to have character sheets that could fit on an index card and characters that could be generated in less than five minutes. SiL does miss the large PF sheets, mostly because she enjoyed it from that sort of completionist aspect. However giving her the task of journalling the adventure has greatly contributed to her enjoyment and I believe using the Last Gasp Grimoire style inventory sheets will fill that void further.

BiL really enjoyed the idea of random characters and as such, I have generated a random character for as many GLOG classes as I could find. I have assigned each a number so when a character dies, they merely need to roll to see which random character they get, thereby increasing the speed of play even further.

I hope further exploration will continue to see the development of these three players as they delve deeper into the OSR and into the Tomb of the Serpent Kings.