Massive Dungeon Delve
Last night saw a chance for some new players to try the game I have been working on and was a pretty good success. Rather than bore you with ramblings on mechanics I will dive right into the narrative. I apologize for the lack of pictures and poor quality. I grabbed my camera and didn’t adjust the light settings before taking pictures. Also, I was distracted as the game played much faster than normal.
After celebrating their last incursion both Hayden and Marius Burrowell were quite drunk and in no fit state to again risk the dangers of a subterranean expedition. Finding two worthy adventurers, Brother Roberto and Joliee travelled to nearby ruins in the company of Tara the Silent and Alain, Cavalier.
Walking into the depths, Alain stumbled across an arrow trap that made loud ringing noises as the wooden shafts shattered on his mail. however, that same noise acted as a warning gong to alert the nearby mummies to his presence. In the blink of an eye, Tara dove down the steps and felled one of the undead horrors before it could even shamble a step forward. Likewise Brother Roberto and Joliee also slew undead horrors, leaving Alain to calmly stride forward and hack down the last undead abomination.
The noise of that melee did also bring the attention of two large swarms of spiders and a hungry grick slithering down the corridor. The crossbow of Tara twanged the funeral dirge of the lead spiders while Brother Roberto and Alain combined prayers and steel to dispatch the second swarm. With nothing but a nonchalant whistle, Alain skewered the grick with his long lance.
In the game I decided that spears and polearms should work differently than other melee weapons. So they are actually a ranged weapon and use a different attribute (Cunning) than melee attacks (Might). Alain is a Mighty hero (on par with Hayden) so his lance attacks are not as effective but do have a longer reach.
Alain took the lead once again with his confident swagger, only to stumble into a deep pit. His stalwart nature meant he was unharmed, but he did need to shift his position around for a few minutes before he could un-wedge his armour from the narrow hole to climb out. While the rest of the party scrambled through the piles of treasure and argued over loot, Joliee noticed the torch sconce was slightly tilted.
No matter how hard she pushed on it, she couldn’t shift it. Shifting her concentration to the astral realms she saw enchanted script flowing around the empty torch bracket. Invoking infernal mystical knowledge she moved the torch upright with sorcerous power. Rumbling below them and in the distance, a mechanism settled into place.
Joliee managed to solve a Trick which (again randomized) was part of a puzzle. This comes into play later on as the complex puzzle unravels.
Again taking the lead into the depths, Alain walked towards a promising pile of treasure when unholy gurgling and hissing drew his attention into the inky blackness.
Hissing, growling, and gurgling in a cacophony of unintelligible sound a Faceless Horror slithered through the corridor towards him protecting a Darkspawn cultist hissing with delight. Sprinting forward Tara rounded the high stack of crates to fire into the Darkspawn cultist almost hidden behind the heaving amorphous mass of mind-bending horror that barred the path. Whether it was her speed or the bulk of the creature that fouled her shot, the bolt flew harmlessly into the wall and shattered.
Brother Roberto was so far behind the fearless knight that he was forced to run to catch-up. He was helpless to do anything and instead watched in horror as the Faceless Horror terrified Tara causing the sharpshooter to die from fear. The Darkspawn Cultist hissed with delight as Tara’s noble form was wracked by aberrant spasms and her body reshaped into a horrid miniature version of the Darkspawn Cultist.
Alain gritted his teeth and steeled his resolve as he stepped over his fallen comrade to stab at the Faceless Horror. Whether guided by noble spirit or countless battles, his sword was true and slew the abomination with a single thrust.
Despite being a higher level creature with very good stats and numerous dangerous skills, Alain managed a critical hit that was triple the defense roll of the Faceless Horror and managed to kill it outright with a single attack.
As she rounded the corner, Joliee reacted in horror at seeing the violated corpse of her companion and seared the minion with sorcerous light. As the smoke cleared, Tara’s body has returned to her former appearance, although still inert and lifeless.
The flying spells and miracles created eerie images of light and shadow while the healing energy of Brother Roberto and the deathly spells of both the Darkspawn Cultist and Joliee arced through the dark corridors. As Tara opened her eyes, her agonizing headache faded with the increased glow from Brother Roberto’s hands. Looking around she saw the three dead monsters and Alain calmly cleaning his sword blade as he faced the darkness ahead.
As the game is intended to be quick and fast there are no complex healing versus revive spells or items. So a healer is very essential and more than a bit over-powered. Granted, the Darkspawn Cultist making minions or the Skeleton Sorcerer raising the dead as skeletons give a equally powerful edge to the monsters.
After pausing to regroup, Alain sensed tremors beneath his feet and stared in disbelief at an animate brain. Walking on absurd legs, the Thought Eater marched in front of the nearly impervious Spikeshell Warrior lumbering down the corridor.
With her allies blocking her path, Tara dove past the stoic knight to have a clear shot at the Spikeshell Warrior.
Unable to bring his sword to bear, Alain tried stabbing the beast with his lance, instead striking Tara in the back. Although she was not wounded, the scuffle left her off balance and she was horrified as her mind was wracked by the psychic probing of the Thought Eater as it’s mind stretched out for Joliee.
A very simple mechanic gives attacks a chance to hit friends or foes in the way. In a previous delve goblins massacred their allies with arrows falling short. This delve, Alain hit Tara instead of his target (but failed to wound) and the Thought Eater hit Tara (wounding her) instead of Joliee.
The Thought Eater reached out with it’s mind again and Joliee screamed in pain as the psychic assault brought her to her knees. As her eyes cleared she realized the alien mind had left her with pain but also had learned sorcerous knowledge from her: the beast could now cast Blast.
Before she could shout a warning, the Ant Lion smashed through the floor behind her and stabbed deep into her torso with razor sharp chitin limbs.
The Ant Lion is obviously too big for the corridor. Something I have built into the game is the ability for big creatures to squeeze into the narrow confines of a dungeon. If a creature in in a space too small for it, it drops to level one for defense. This made the giant beast vulnerable to attacks.
Whirling around to face the new threat, Tara launched a bolt from her crossbow into the smooth spot of chitin below the furiously chomping mandibles. More than a little surprised, Tara realized the drunken foppish gnome in the tavern was telling the truth when he said he slew one of those with a single shot. She reloaded her crossbow as she spun, burying her second bolt deep into the shell of the Spikeshell Warrior.
Her celebration was short-lived as the Thought Eater drew forth sorcerous energy and blasted the knight with eldritch energy. While the spell crackled harmlessly around the warrior, Tara was again knocked out. Again, the knight gritted his teeth and instead cleaved into the unnatural creation with sinews of steel, killing it outright.
Raising his eyebrows at the turn of events, Brother Roberto began the healing of his injured companions. He was really starting to regret this trip without Hayden to lead the way. She may have left the floor slick with her blood, but at least it was only her blood most of the time.
Resuming their grim advance into the darkness, an intersection beckoned ahead. Brother Roberto held back the knight and raised his lantern as he advanced revealing a Pharaoh and a swarm of scarabs in the room ahead.
Counting discretion as the best course of action, the party rallied behind Alain as Jolie can a wall of fire to block one of the side corridors. As Tara took careful aim, her bolt skipped along the floor and wall scattering the swarm of beetles with the ricochets of her shot.
As Alain braced himself for the charge of the undead king, Jolie sparked the tinder dry bandages with her Dart spell returning the restless spirit to the hell from whence he spawned.
Rounding the corner, Brother Roberto’s light revealed the corridor to be choked with clambering and cavorting goblins while the room beyond housed a Skeleton Sorcerer, Mummy warrior, and another swarm of scarabs.
Having been too bold in his advance, the rest of the party was stuck running to catch up except for Alain who was close enough to stem the rushing tide of goblins.
His intervention was short-lived as goblin arrows flew towards the priest and sent him to have a brief chat with the powers above. The only consolation was the high pitched squeak of a goblin as the flurry of arrows dispatched one of the goblins. Foul necromancy made short that celebration as the goblin torn off the cooling flesh to arise as a more powerful skeleton.
As missiles flew and spells were chanted, Joliee risked life and limb to revive the fallen priest. Her heroic act was short-lived as arrows again struck down the priest. Alain knew that he needed to secure the sorcerer before he could use his healing potion to revive Brother Roberto.
In an amazing feat of skill Alain carved his way through the goblins and skeletons that rose around him. Finally his path was clear to the liche. Sprinting the gap with his lance held low, he barely grazed the skeleton’s armour with spear tip.
But never before was such a graze so powerful. The sparks from the grating steel on steel ignited the dusty robes of the spell-caster and the razor sharp edge nicked the strange gem around its neck. With a quiet crack the unholy lighted dimmed from the liche’s eyes and the bones collapsed dead.
Ok, even by my Lovecraft inspired vocabulary, that was verbose. However, it was pretty epic. Alain was no match for the Skeleton Sorcerer if it cast a spell on him. Remember he isn’t as good with his lance? Well he scored a triple critical hit and outright killed the powerful spell-caster.
Following some minor skirmishes, Brother Roberto lifted a tapestry to reveal a devious mechanism.
By this time the party had found a Hidden Treasure that required 3 Tricks with Links to be activated. Joliee had activated one, and Alain had activated one. So the best thought was to find the next trick, get the treasure and call the game.
Instead, the next trick revealed a deadly blade that hurt Alain. A treasure did reveal a rope and so the party traipsed off to climb the balcony in the web room…hopefully to find another trick.
By this point we had actually used all the dungeon tiles I have assembled (which means all the cards too). The monsters had been cycled through too. So going on meant shuffling everything again and carrying on.
That decision would prove to be a fatal one. The room atop the balcony was home to a Darkspawn Cultist, Ant Lion and Spikeshell Warrior. The chokepoint of the narrow entrance left each party member following Alain to have no choice but move into the room. From there the Spikeshell Warrior and Darkspawn Cultist finished them off. The Ant Lion appeared to kill Joliee leaving Alain alone to face the monsters.
Oh, by the way the next room (which was revealed) held mummies and scarabs.
Sorry, no heroics. A total party kill.
Now here is the good part, the brand new players (who have never played a board game like this before) were ecstatic. They wanted to play again (just not that night since it was late).
There were a few points that came out, mostly on changing the player cards…something I was planning to do anyways. And when I said what I planned to do with them, it was exactly what the female player was looking for.
There was one issue with the night though. After the party died, my wife wouldn’t stop commenting on how Hayden could have survived that. Hayden could have killed them all. And a few other Hayden comments. Despite how good the archer she played was, she really wanted Hayden. Lesson learned: let the wife play the angry berserker in the game and not in the house.
Hopefully this was inspiring for you. If nothing else, I might be asking some folks for help in trying out these rules once I get the more clearly written and the products a bit better. Hopefully this inspires you to want to give it a try. Don’t worry, the Hirst Arts dungeon is optional.