The gleaming ruby eyes above the door of of Castle Redvald shined brightly in the morning sun, here, The adventurers; A "Chimney-Sweep", a Barbarian sailor, a brawny haberdasher-ess, and an escaped slave chanted their deepest desires;
"Glory and honor for my god Crom!"
"Adventure and loot"
With these utterances, the great doors grinded open, and they stared into the deep void that now replaced the great door. Two by two, the brave folk ventured into the depths of the castle.
"I don't like the look of this." Melusin stated.
Like prophetic speech surely, the bodies resisted, rising from their slumber, lurching forward with lethargic swings. Thom swiped the head right off of one of the dead, while Wilgric swiped at the advancing dead one, taking an arm. Lest over-swung his weapon, and it slipped from his grip. Melusin slashed with her blade, stepping between Lest and his opponent, allowing a hasty retreat. Wilgric passed his dagger to Lest,
"Don't lose this one" he rasped.
Then the group slipped back to the main hall. Tribal masked humanoids of small stature were in the once-empty hall, approaching the crypt. With a well set and sprung ambush, Melusin and Lest loosed ranged weapons at the tribals, forcing them to retreat, and Wigric decapitated what they learned to be Insect-men, who communicated with mandible clicks. Another lurched from the side and greviously injured Wigric with a well placed spear-thrust. In a rage, he wrestled the insectoid and dragged him back into the crypt, with shouts of protest and spears-slung from the nine insects left. Now, the dead men previously encountered, though slow, had caught up to the few. Clawing and snapping their teeth, the Insect man was fed to them like a meat grinder. As they feasted, the insect screamed, with no remorse, the party moved on, trying to shake the insect-tribe for good. They got their wish, with a caveat. After a snake through winding, identical passages, nothing but a grinning, painted-green skull mocked the party, sending Wigric into a rage, pounding at the walls with his 10' pole and then his fists. During this fit of rage, the party wrenched open a portcullis and found a secret door that looped back into the main room. Moving a bit closer to the statues next to the far grand door, the party inspected them, but kept a distance, and skirted the wall to the East wing, yet untouched. They proceeded to the far room, straight down the hall, which was an unsturdy, empty room, with weak wooden supports, and saw a long passageway that had partially collapsed. Shortly, they returned to the first room, passed over in the hallway. A small desecrated shrine and graffiti depicting a hammer striking an anvil with lightning dominated the small room, with offerings scattered across the floor. Prodding around with a staff, Thom uncovered a 30' pit, and Melusin fashioned a noose, then snagged an adventurer's backpack. Inside were some personal effects, including a silver pendant and some gold pieces from the previous owner, who had become the pile of bones next to said pack. A long conversation on the intricate differences between a "hallway"and "corridoor" were discussed at length between the party. Pressed on for more gold & glory, the party came to another, larger desecrated shrine, with an empty sarcophagus and more passageways onward. The pathways opened to a large open room, with a glowing weapon splattered with blood on the far wall. The party entered from the south, and Wigric took it upon himself to sieze the weapon, a gift from Crom. Gears grinded, walls shifted, the far wall now protruded with spikes and begun to close in on Wigric. He quickly darted back to his companions, narrowly escaping the spikes, and the party left the dungeon.
After some horrible "bartering" back in town, the party decided to re-enter the dungeon after some much needed rest & relaxation.
"So, this god of yours, Crom, What is the benefit of his worship?" Thom asked Wigric.
"No benefit, but he gave man courage, and me strength to bring glory on him."
"That doesn't sound like a benefit." he shot back.
"Not a benefit for a cowardly man like you."
The trip back continued in silence.
They were once again, face to face with the grinning, ruby eyed skull of Casle Redvald, which leered its same look as the first time they had entered. This time, they would try to pry the ruby eyes out for their own. With the combined 100' of rope, Melusin and Wigric were able to loop one end around the large skull face. Thom, the chimney sweep, climbed as his profession had him learn, and greedily grasped at the ruby eyes, once he was leveled with the skull. He didn't react in time when his hand passed through the illusory ruby and was caught in the jaw of an albino snake. He felt the poison course through his veins, he writhed for what felt like minutes before he smashed the thing against the skull, before slipping back down the rope.
"Snakes, Snakes!" he wailed. "The rubies were an illusion!"
The disappointed party proceeded back into the maw of the castle. This time, Thom would test the strange prophecy we'd heard back in town before our first trip;
"Dont trust the Statues" Now, the main hall was littered with bodyparts of insectoids, and the body of what looked like early-man lay dead, clutching a dagger in the center of the floor. They looted the bodies and found 15 platinum among them. Thom took up an insect arm and eye in each hand and flung them within 20' of the giant head statues. Pinkish eyes lit up brightly and beams of light pierced the room, incinerating the fleshy insect bits to dust. The party would take their chances with the crypt. The Insects must have been partially successful, for six of the undead littered the floor. They made quick tracks deeper into the crypt. The wimpering sounds of a lost man echoed along the walls from the wrenched-open portcullis, so the party went around. They sneakily approached an elderly fellow clutching a warhammer, with a tabbard depicting the hammer-and-lightning symbol they'd seen prior. After some negotiation, the party agreed to help him find his way back to his camp, deeper within the dungeon.[end session I]
What Went Well
• Party Dynamics - despite the language barrier (I'm fusing my french group with my anglophone group), I really felt like everyone contributed to the game in one way or another, with enough banter to add colour to the game without doing so much as to lose useful game time. With four players, there was no need for a caller as consensus stayed relatively clear during the session.
• Combat - surprisingly, a party of four 1st level characters went into a dungeon and nobody died. Player skill is responsible for this, as I didn't really try to make the first level particularly forgiving in its dangers and traps. As always, OD&D is almost invisible, and lends itself to rulings moreso than more complete games.
• Traps & Tricks - I was quite happy with how the party and our group handled trap-finding (through description alone). I think everyone felt it was fair whenever something bad happened to the party, and a lot of dangerous stuff was avoided through cautiousness and good thinking.
What Needs Improvement
• In Maze Rats or Into the Odd, I usually make dungeons more dense in content, with a lesser focus on mapping as a challenge. Here, using a multi-level, 100+ rooms per level dungeon means navigational indications and descriptions are much more important to the players. And I'm still having a hard time conveying map information in a clear, efficient way - despite a lot of goodwill on the players' part, it appeared that the easiest solution in the end was to regularly use paint to assist my verbal descriptions which were often confusing. Three options come to mind:
A) Learn to use shared maps programs like roll20 or the likes, and use technology to compensate for the lack of a proper table where I could be doodling details more easily to facilitate mapping.
B) Adjust the Dungeon's design to fit online play - that would mean creating a more content-dense environnement with less negative space (empty rooms) and a simpler layout, essentially getting rid of the mapping challenge in favor of a more flavorful and choice-heavy environnement, although it would mean losing some old-school aspects that I know can work in the right conditions. The question remains, can these conditions be met with online play?
C) Keep It That Way - Dungeons are confusing, maze-like places. There are multiple approaches to mapping, maybe encouraging a node-based mapping process on the players' part, focusing on abstraction, may help. Perhaps there are threads or blog posts about communicating map information that I should be reading. Or perhaps a certain adaptation time is necessary and more play with the same people will lead to a better understanding of this kind of info. Time will tell.
One More Thing
Castle Redvald is an open table, dungeon-focused campaign.
Everyone plays as a human adventurer, with no magic or demi human abilities available to save the players from their own foolishness. The tone is relatively light-hearted although the setting's reality is one of harsh and grim sword & sorcery. Character death is likely, and everyone starts as a 1st level nobody. The rules are my domain, and to play you only need to know how to roll and read a d20 and a d6. I try to run games at least every other week, and might up the pace if more people get involved.
If you would like to explore Castle Redvald, hit me up on WeMe (Tanaël G./Wizard Lizard), Google+ (Wizard Lizard) or Discord (Wizard Lizard #0408).
Melsine/Lu drew her own play report too