Monday, December 7, 2009

The Age of Conan OD&D -- Session 2

The party began its exploration of the City of Kings. Much more combat today--they had run-ins with a pack of great black wolves, anthropomorphic crocodile-things, and pygmies, and witnessed fishmen swimming in the canal and odd, carnivorous, climbing, ape-things. The Hyperborean was taken down by a lance from a Nightgaunt.

They encountered a young man named Zar'Wik, who is apparently the son of the old man they found on the sea. The boy is treacherous, however, and after kidnapping a young stowaway the crew found, set up two ambushes for the party. The party have now resolved to shoot him in the leg to sell him on the slave market next time they see him.

They went on to discover a number of bodies that are less than a year old, all of whom seem to be the remnants of a shipwrecked crew that Zar'Wik killed or set up to die, and they learned a bit more about the island from a journal found on one of the dead bodies. In addition, they found a number of weapons stamped with a symbol that they assume is the "Cleansing Sign" of which the old man spoke. The Stygian sensed power within the weapons, so everyone took one. The Aesir, a former blacksmith, took the stamps with the cleansing sign upon them, in case he should find the need or means to forge more in the future, though all agree that likely the artifacts are for historical curiosity and value more than practical.

The group currently makes their way towards a large complex in the north of the city, which they assume is (or was, thousands of years ago) a palace. The Stygian believes that it is there where he will find the historical information he seeks, if it is to be found anywhere.

Combat was fast, furious, and fun after a brief misunderstanding involving the reconciliation of D&D AC ratings with Chainmail armor types. I had fun playing with natural 12's and 2's, improvising the results of these. A couple characters took heads off of bodies and pinned enemies to walls and doors with arrows. The Troop Type system was used once, when the party set up an ambush for a group of crocodile-things that were coming at them as they camped out on a tower--instead of going through the rigamarole of doing shot-by-shot combat, I counted the total people firing, then had the group's primary archer roll a single D6, which I compared to the Missile Fire chart on Page 11 of Chainmail. The result of this single die roll indicated that three of the six croc-things were killed charging the tower. I then narrated what happened.

As the remaining croc-things scaled the wall and cleared the top of the tower, the Stygian revealed himself as a sorcerer, pulling from his pouch a fistful of dust which he blew into the air. The dust formed into strange, otherwordly tendrils that surrounded the croc-things, and the remaining three fell over, snoring on the ground. The group easily then performed coup-de-graces on the sleeping monsters.

The Chainmail magic system works well. At low levels it's going to be easy for the sorcerer to fail corruption checks. At higher levels (assuming he makes it through the low levels without racking up corruption penalties) not so much. I'm undecided whether this is a good or bad thing.

The Bard's healing abilities are working out well, particularly since I keep elements in place so that the healing doesn't appear magical. The Hyperborean, for example, is ostensibly cured to maximum hit points, but in game is still unconscious with a sucking chest wound that will take time to heal before he can move about again.

I am, however, now of the opinion that this was a poor module to begin with (and indeed, a very poor Hyborian Age model by any stretch) as the island is a veritable zoo of supernatural creatures, which honestly should be quite rare in a Hyborian Age game. One of the players likened it to Monte Cook's Return to the Temple of Elemental Evil, in which Cook sought to place every monster in the Monster Manual somewhere in the module.

A couple players voiced distaste for the fact that ability scores have very little effect whatsoever on the game itself, wondering why bother have a 3-18 scale if it doesn't actually have any real meaning beyond XP bonuses. I pointed out that we are using Greyhawk's rules so they get bonuses for strength and con, and that I've expanded dex bonuses for missile fire, as well as the languages for intelligence, but they still seemed skeptical. But then, these are players who are used to "Stat + Skill" systems, so it'll take some getting used to.

All-in-all, I'm looking forward to session three.

Oh! I nearly forgot! Here's the quote of the week.

DM: "Looking through the keyhole, you see three stunted gray creatures resembling a nightmarish cross between apes and men, their long arms capped with sharp claws and their mouths full of slavering fangs."

Aesir Skald: "What do you see?"

Hyperborean Assassin: "Picts. The room is clearly full of Picts."

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