Sunday, December 22, 2013
A dungeon with an elevator
Yesterday I ran another B/X game, and the players decided to check out some rumors outside of the Caves of Chaos. That was fine, as I have laid out some additional modules in an expanded woodland area (via a very rough sketch of a map that I drew). The adventure seed the PCs wound up following was the stories of mysterious lightning leading up to the Tower of the Stargazer.
This was a very interesting transition from Keep on the Borderlands, simply because the modules couldn't have been more different in execution. No huge sprawling caves here, it's a very compact area. Rather than every corner hiding a lurking creature, there was danger of death at every step, but in a largely abandoned area.
As Tower of the Stargazer runs, it feels like James Raggi read The Tomb of Horrors and considers it less of a one-off death trap and more of an artist's manifesto. His module is more focused on tricks and traps and puzzles, than on monsters and demons. Even exploration is blown wide open for this module by having the elevator system - which allowed the PCs to see, and get, the treasure in the lowest level.
The one PC who died did so because he insisted on looking in each mirror in Dungeon Level 1 and managed to fail every saving throw. (They did trigger the snake trap at the door but made their saving throws.) The surviving PCs figured out the switches in Dungeon Level 2 and got the treasure without a scratch, which gave each of them a level up. The wizard himself was a hilarious encounter for the already-wary PCs, who thought long and hard about trying to kill him but thought better of it.
Part of why I enjoyed this was that it made a total death trap that still felt appropriate as an adventure for low-level PCs (in this case, a level 3 now ex-thief, a level 2 dwarf and level 1 fighter and cleric). It also let me set the tone that not everything I'll be running is classic TSR in style, but felt like it worked well into the existing campaign. It's also a short module, but in a good way - whereas B2 gives you a ton of bang for your buck, Stargazer finishes smoothly without a dozen or more sessions.
It's also worth a shout-out to J.D. Neal, whose town from JN1 The Chaotic Caves I've nicked as a settlement not far from the Keep on the Borderlands. It's a good alternative to just sticking with the Keep.
In future sessions we'll have modules even further afield. But I do have to say, mixing Gygax and Raggi in a campaign isn't as hard as you'd think, and at least for Tower of the Stargazer it works to good effect.