Olde Skoole

Con on the Cob 2013 - Caves of Chaos and Tomb of Horrors
"It wasn't the Chaos Caves we grew up with"

Characters (pregens) in the first group.

  • GuiverMac (a Savage in Detroit)
  • Merula (by Other Mike)
  • Marcus ("Tim Shorts ":http://gothridgemanor.blogspot.com/2013/10/con-report-day-one.html#comment-form)
  • Fox (a youngster)
  • Grim Axe (brother to the youngster)
  • Magnus (Joe Dominguez)

The setup was is that the PCs have cleared out most of the Caves of Chaos. They are gunning for a man named Sirius Tarn, a war criminal from the Greyhawk Wars. Each of the PCs was personally impacted by the war crimes committed. They volunteered to bring him in, but all fully buy into the mission to bring him back alive.

The reason to bring him vs. kill him is the fear that some evil power would capture his foul soul to extend his evil ways on Oerth.

Sirius Tarn, originally a cleric of Iuz during the war but eventually turned Tharizdun. The reason I chose Big T is that the descriptions in the Temple section of the Caves of Chaos is very close to trappings used in the Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun.

So I ran this across two games at a Con. The first game the group has to capture Sirius Tarn. They have (offscreen) waded through the Caves of Chaos to get to the Evil Temple section. The fun complication in all this is about half the part really would just prefer to kill Tarn vs. capture him.

A subtle event occurred in this game that had a profound impact on the second game – one of the rooms they explored was the Crypt. The loot in the crypt contained a Helm of Opposite Alignment. Now, I am running this using Savage Worlds and there is no alignment system (it uses Hindrances to help define the moral outlook). So I ruled the helm just changed their view on something very important to them at the moment. In this case, the PC went from letting him live to wanting to kill him.

The session ends in a mad rush with the PCs that are dedicated to capturing Tarn succeeding.

Now to the Tomb of Horrors. I had about 8 or 9 pregens and 6 players. The 6 PCs selected was pretty heavily in the mission as given – get Tarn to the DemiLich and somehow get him Devoured. Only 2 of the 6 were on the rather just kill side of the equation.

It was a 4 hour slot so there was no way to get them all the way through the Tomb. They did the opening area and fought the Gargoyle before I had to accelerate it. I jumped them to the Chapel area. This is where things got “interesting”. The players open up some of the pews until they hit the one with the gas. One guy goes “quick, through the arch!” So EVERYONE goes through the gender & alignment switching Arch!

The implications of that are rather interesting from Sirius Tarn’s perspective. I had modeled the stats on Lareth the Beautiful from another Con game (just changed the spell trappings). So Sirius went from a handsome and persuasive villain to a rather beautiful woman. While I did not think that much of it at the time, I did change is attitude from “I got to kill myself before we get to the end” to “I got to survive”.

From a D&D perspective, there is a very interesting implication — perhaps a divination was misunderstood – you were supposed to throw him in the arch to swap his alignment, not have his soul devoured. Also, I looked at D&D 3.5 and making some of these helms of alignment change are certainly cheaper than building prison, even if you need to up the save DC. The implication really f’s up the Paladin’s “detect evil and kill it” approach to life – they should be seeking out helms of alignment change to save evil creatures, not Holy Avenger Swords. Anyway, back to our story.

Our group now mostly just wants to kill Tarn. They throw her up on the altar and try to sacrifice her. Things go all wrong and the altar blows up. Through the magic of Soak rolls in Savage Worlds, Tarn (and the group) survives this. The few that are still “on mission” convince the rest of the group that this is a sign they should continue on.

We fast forward to the end. They opened up the area (I had it transport them into a bigger area where it was not exactly obvious where Acererak was hanging out). Now comes the interesting part. Acererak senses the group is there for an interesting reason so parlay opens. Now Savage Worlds has an interesting Social Conflict system one can opt to use and I factored that in to see if the group could sway Acererak one way or the other (so this was to help mediate between the group). The dice did some fun things – basically, when the player said something kind dumb (from A’s POV) the dice crit/failed them (like calling on another god, or implying the A is not powerful as the gods, etc). “Pff – soul sucked!” This happened 3 times for the side trying to “kill” Tarn. But the wonderful thing is that Tarn blew the PCs out of the water and basically offered to be Acereraks high priest and further his plans (the dice loved Tarn).

So we close to black and the group only knows they lost. They do not really know what final accord that Tarn and Acererak struck.

The Endless Delve
We came in spastic, like tameless horses

MacColl looked in the beer stein as if it could give him answers.

“What. Happened?” persisted Milo, the bar fly sitting next to MacColl. He’d promised to tell the tale of his latest adventure if it would mean that Milo would leave and MacColl could get back to his wooing of Brunhilde, the buxom tavern wench.

“I swear, if I could remember, I’d spin you such a tale… I mean, I remember walking into the Tower of War. I was joining my stalwart comrades who had preceded me by the barest of hours. Even walking through the first door is a challenge!”

“Duh, you just walk on the side and slip down the second stairwell,” muttered Milo.

“Anyway, I stepped where I’d stepped a hundred times before but in a whisket, I was…”

“A what?”

“A whisket.”

Milo began to look around for an escape route.

“As I was saying, I was transported body and soul to the very depths of that foul dungeon and back on to the trail of Il Generale! The most feared plotter to threaten our fair city. My comrades and I pushed forward past the giant statue in the pit and encountered a dark chamber with… with, um…”

MacColl looked up into the air as if the smoke-stained plaster had the answer. He did not notice the Milo was gone.

“Ogres. Yep, must have been ogres for sure. We fought them and I unleashed the great power of my lightning to destroy a dozen at least. I’m sure there was a goodly amount of treasure… I think there was a statue hidden behind a statue that came to life but died soon thereafter… yes, a statue to Boccob… or holding a book of Boccob… we were trying to get down deeper, heading down a hidden stairwell.”

MacColl took a deep drink of his mug and turned to Milo. Seeing the bar stool empty he turned back to Brunhilde only to find her gone and replaced by Gunther, the one-eyed eunuch. MacColl frowned.

“Eh, I don’t remember what happened after that anyway. Beer me, my good man!”

If at First You Don't Succeed

PC’s: Lunk, Tanner, and Vec
Extra’s: identified themselves only as Lorsan A, B, and C

A lot of folks will try and tell you different, but Vec clearly remembers his granpappy telling him “If at first you don’t succeed, then get someone else to do it for you. Especially if it’s anything remotely dangerous. Or tedious. Heck, just get someone else to do it for you the first time, you’ll be way ahead of the curve.” Along this line of thought, Tanner and Vec were relieved when Lunk joined up with them for their next foray into the Tower of War. Covering up for their prior rout, Tanner and Vec insisted that this trip would be easy now that the difficult task of reconnaissance had been completed.

Recent recruiting efforts by the caravan raiders must not have gone well. Our group of heroes fought only the re-animated corpses of orcs and ogres already known to them en route to the ruined Temple of Nerull.

Fight or Flight


PC’s: Tanner and Vec
Extra’s: Bob and Tom

A 5-orb bribe from Tanner to the extortionist dwarves gleaned useful information: Making the sign of the letter ‘I’ across your chest would cause the animated skeletons at the tower entrance to allow you to pass unharmed. Vec wasn’t sure if Tanner had shown him a capital ‘I’ as in ‘Iuz’ or a lowercase ‘l’ as in ‘leprechaun’ and naturally didn’t ask for clarification. Following closely behind Tanner, he rapidly made hand gestures for both letters and the group passed by the skeletons without incident.

With their steadfast allies Bob and Tom leading the way, Tanner and Vec would have little to fear inside the Tower of War. Sighting an orc scout, the group gave chase and closed with the scout in the ruined temple of Nerull. A burst from Vec’s flamethrowing contraption incinerated the fleeing orc as well as some of the rope netting confining a tentacled aberration within the ruined temple’s central crevasse.

Scouting Ahead

PC’s: Tanner and Vec
Extra’s: Bob and Tom

With the rest of their party laid low by a mysterious malady (possibly linked to the consumption of local water and complicated by goblin hygienic practices), Tanner and Vec choose to scout ahead.

Before leaving, they searched the body of the recently assassinated orc. A quick search of the orc’s belongings revealed a set of elaborate armor, as well as a normal mace and a set of prison cell keys. Removal of the orc’s armor was complicated by the disturbing manner in which his chestplate had extended tendrils of itself deep into his body. “This could only be the Black Armor of Molag, forged in the lands of Iuz” opined Tanner with conviction. “Ah, yes,” agreed Vec, nodding sagely to hide the fact that he had no idea what Tanner was talking about. After briefly debating whether to fit the sleeping Lunk with this new armor, Tanner and Vec decided instead to pack up the evil chestplate for later analysis.

Once More Into the... Pit

PCs: MacColl, Lunk, Tanner, Vec, Zamfir the Paladin
Extras: None

After spending some cloyingly sweet time resting in Whoville where we avoided a variety of questions such as “why is there a dead body in your house?”, “Can we have some of your gold when you go away again?”, and “Why, dear gods why am I sentenced to this hellish prison?”, Lunk fairly beat Frank in ‘rassling’, permitting us to leave Whoville and return to the cells we’d found early in our delve. MacColl was rested from his arcane exertions and eager though apparently hung-over from something he’d been nipping out of Frank’s liquor cabinet considering his performance going forward.

Nerull's Temple
Them's big goblins!

PCs: MacColl, Lunk, Tanner, Vec
Extras: One (Lorsan)

Cleaning up the Kitchen and Mess Hall

PCs: MacColl, Tanner, Vec

Extras: 3 stalwart allies: LeeLee, Lorsan, and Dominic.

The pit at the entrance is still there and the dwarves are ready for a fumbling show. We ask for their aid and they explain that there are planks available. Vec constructs a bridge. He uses a mechanical gizmo on his arm to force open the heavy doors.

How the Grinch Stole Festivus
Pocket Dimensions is Crazy Places

Grinch w festivus

PCs: MacColl, Tanner, Vec

Extras: 2

MacColl sat down and laid the torch on the stone next to him. They’d been exploring the mazelike passages of the Tower of War for hours and had come across nothing but already looted rooms and the decayed bodies of their former guardians. The dwarves didn’t sit outside the dungeon for their health and had obviously enabled other adventurers in before them.

A Triumphant Entry
Ups and Downs at the Tower of War (excerpted from Vec's journal)

PCs: Liam MacMichael, Lunk, MacColl, Ricben, Tanner, Vec

Extras: 0

While not a stranger to bizarre notions, Vec prided himself on his memory and could generally remember the circumstances under which an idea took hold. However, the current notion plaguing his thoughts, that he was incapable of learning from his experiences until they had been recorded in a journal, felt imposed on him by some outside agent. While some might have taken this for an indication of divine meddling in the affairs of mortals, Vec suspected the usual cuplrits: falling under the influence of a mind control cap, being drugged with an elixir of amnesia, or temporarily playing host to a hitchhiking psychic parasite. Having reduced the notion to one that fit with his world view, Vec visibly relaxed and returned to work on his journal.