Take That, Slavers

This afternoon I got to run the first round of the slaver’s modules (part 1 of module A1) for some co-workers.  I’ve signed myself up to run some of these modules at TotalCon, and wanted some practice, especially as I’ve done a little translating to make this mesh with my own particular brand of B/X style D&D.  Mostly it was just the characters that needed tweaks, especially in the spell list department.  Anyway, here are some quick thoughts on running this module:

The Good

  • Got 8 of 9 players to show up, which was better attendance than when I played this same module myself at last GenCon.
  • Most of the character translation just worked.  I really didn’t miss some of the odd AD&D spells that had to be translated away (eg. Command).
  • Especially pleased with Phanstern who is an AD&D illusionist by the module.  Changed into “Phanstern the Illusionist”, a human magic-user.  Simple use of an epithet in the name and a well picked spell list (mirror image, phantasmal force, invisibility, etc.) really gave the character the right vibe without needing a special class.
  • Got to do some very fun interpretation of bad guy actions when the party hit a big group of them, fought a bit, retreated for an extended period of time, then launched a second assault.  Actually they did more damage than they realized in the initial fight and the baddies were happy to have the time to recuperate and try to lay new ambushes for the party.  All in all I did not feel like the bad guys did anything silly or game-ish in either fight.
  • Party made excellent use of illusion spell in second assault, basically of themselves charging in to draw out ambushers before real charge.  Well done players.
  • There seemed to be a fair bit of interest in running further parts, which I’d love to do.

The Bad

  • Not sure how the party took it, but the linear nature of the map made me a little sad.  Especially in above mentioned withdrawal after a fight, the party wanted to try to find another way around, but of course there was none.
  • Kind of sad that Spider Climb is not part of B/X.
  • Initial fight with lots of ghouls who both got in surprise round and then won initiative may have left the party feeling a bit gun-shy in later combats.  It was a great first fight though, with everyone on the edge of their seats as half the party quickly became paralyzed.
  • Scoring system is whack.  Starts out looking reasonable with simple 9×9 chart with # survivors along one axis and number of rooms encountered on the other.  Then proceeds to list bonus points for each of the 10 rooms — wait, what, 10?  Max points by chart is 405, bonus points can accrue up to 99 more points.  Other four rounds have no such bonus point scheme, but allow for up to 3 discretionary GM points per room, which is still only 27 bonus points.  A2 I see is even worse in having far more rooms than 9, only A3 seems to stick to 9 room limit.
  • Curious inclusion of Raise Dead scroll in equipment list.  Even in AD&D Raise Dead left recipient weak and useless for at least one day.  As there’s no place to rest in this adventure, is the point simply to game the system and recover some lost points due to player death?
  • First room mentions light coming from within, but then rest of module does not mention light sources.  I went with most of it being lit by torches, but the players then started asking astute questions as to who was replenishing the torches (which burn out in just 1 hour) given how slowly they were making their way through the dungeon.  Think in future I should probably ditch the torches and give the players a few more of their own light sources to use throughout the adventure.

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7 Comments

  1. “Simple use of an epithet in the name and a well picked spell list (mirror image, phantasmal force, invisibility, etc.) really gave the character the right vibe without needing a special class.”

    A thousand times yes to this!

    And I’m postulating that the “raise dead” issue was just a pure rules oversight by the module-writer.

  2. And I’m postulating that the “raise dead” issue was just a pure rules oversight by the module-writer.

    Do you think that it was intended to actually bring a player back mid-game, or just a complete goof, like by randomly generating magic items? Probably no way to tell. I’m tempted to try and replace it with something more useful, but am having trouble deciding what. Maybe just some extra cure lights.

  3. Yeah, I would think that was an expected mid-game replacement (esp. in a tournament game). Could also possibly switch to resurrection or reincarnation or whatever might work immediately in your game.

  4. The linearity was way more apparent when looking at the map afterwards than it was during play, but it was still a little frustrating not to have ways to circle around for clever flanking strategies.

    I was also kind of frustrated by the 5′ corridors. Having to deal with character stacking and choke points is a cool tactical challenge, but it felt like we were constrained by the hallways for almost the entire adventure.

    Even so, it was a really fun game. I was amused by the seat-shuffling we did to change our initiative order. More games should allow real-world positioning to have in-game effects. I didn’t think the ghoul-fight was particularly awful. It was fun to have a chaotic, risky fight at the very beginning. That threat of party-wipe makes victory sweeter.

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