Over the weekend, I ran a short, nostalgia-laden D&D Basic edition adventure for some friends of mine. This was the second time I ran the adventure, and both times, the outcome was similar.
We started by handing out Players Handbooks and character sheets so everyone could make their characters. Although I had planned to just give everyone a stat array so they could shift numbers around, everyone wanted to roll dice instead. In fact, my house rule of “roll 4d6, drop the lowest die, and arrange to suit” was not wanted by about half the players, who wanted to roll 3d6 and put them in order. I gave everyone max hit points at 1st level instead of requiring them to roll. I think if they’d known that before picking their character classes, we might have had a mage in the party. As it was, we had two elves, one halfling, one dwarf, and one fighter.
To save time, I had created equipment lists which included some gold for everyone except the elves (who had equipment, but only 1 gp each– elves are apparently unthrifty beings). So they went shopping in the PHB.
After the shopping, I opened with “you meet in an inn!” And they sit around awkwardly saying things like “Oh, my– you look like adventurers! Mind if I sit with you!” And so forth.
After they do the introductions and decide they really need to go find some Adventure, I introduce the plot– the halfling has heard of a dungeon not to far away, along the Western Road, with vast amounts of treasure and only a single guardian. Surely this is no problem for hardy adventurers like themselves!
They’re ready to set out, but I tell them it’s about midnight. They go to sleep at the inn.
SPOILER WARNING! THE REST OF THIS POST HAS SPOILERS FROM THE ONE PAGE DUNGEON CODEX!
They awaken in a 40′ by 20′ room. The walls glow and eerie blue, and there’s a golden force field “door” to the north. I hand over a piece of graph paper to the mapper and tell her she should start the map in the middle of the page.
At this point, we are in the dungeon. I’ve chosen the “Namcap” adventure from the One Page Dungeons at Drive Thru RPG. It is, in essence, a maze. There are four orbs that they must find and place into indentations in the starting room. These orbs are in the corners of the maze. Every five feet there is a gold coin hanging in the air. Somewhere in the dungeon a gelatinous cube stealthily creeps down the corridors. The gelatinous beast is now round and filled with gold coins so that it appears to have a yellow tint to it. When it attacks, it makes a strange battle cry– “WAKA!”
Every 10 rounds or so, a treasure appears in the maze, sits around for a couple of rounds, then starts moving towards one of the wraparound tunnels, making a deep “thunk thunk thunk” noise as it goes. They missed the first one of these, but managed to score the +1 short sword (with cherry emblems carved into the hilt) and the strawberry-flavored potion of invisibility.
The players figured out where they were almost immediately after stepping out of the starting room. After defeating the gelatinous pac-man, it respawns (of course), so they ended up fighting it twice. The first time was a chance encounter in the maze, where the heroes fought valiantly, Grug the Dwarf finally bringing it down with a fiery torch of fire!
Gameplay: We’re all very accustomed to playing 4th edition, with its emphasis on tactics and positioning. I disappointed my playtesters by breaking out a map when we had an encounter: “I just want to have it all in my head!” So on Saturday, when we came to an encounter (usually somewhere in a maze intersection), I took out my little white board and drew the map, but without grid squares. The players put their minis on the board, and I put the monster on the map in front of them (I used an oversized d6 I have in my dice bag– I later found a yellow ball I could have used that would have been perfect, but oh well– D&D is about imagining stuff).
The second battle was immediately after stepping out of the force field room (after bringing the third orb back to the room). Two of the heroes (Vilhem the fighter and Hawkmoon the elf) were petrified by the yellow beast, but their allies pulled them back into the force field room to safety. The remaining heroes slew the pac-man, who had already eaten the fourth orb! It fell to the ground when the creature was destroyed, and they quickly grabbed it, already hearing the strange music they’ve come to identify with the pac-man respawning. Returning to the force field room, they gathered their petrified friends, put the orb into the wall, and poof! They found themselves standing on the Western Road, their pockets full of the coins they had snagged during their interlude in the Maze of Namcap!
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