Part 3, I posted about how the characters confused their nickname for their opponent with his actual name. "Bloodless Jack" was a character nickname for a deadly pair of brothers, Marcus and Alex. Marcus was the warrior while Alex was the assassin. When cornered, the warrior answered with bluster and the characters killed him off.
Of course this enraged his brother Alexander, the actual assassin. Alex retreated to his brother's mountain top Keep and sent wave upon wave of assassins to kill the player characters.
That obvious didn't work, anything less than Bloodless Jack himself was not going to be strong enough to take the whole party. Eventually, the hunt was turned on it's head and the players located Alexander's mountain top abode. Then they did something weird.
They could have stormed the fortress themselves, or raise an army to do so, but they did neither. They hired a sage to give them instructions to recharge the Staff of Wizardry. I messed up that plan with a rather obvious counter. The Staff needed to be recharged under the full moon within a mountaintop keep. You know, Alexander's Keep.
The players had exactly 8 charges in the Staff. They went to Plan B. They hired a horde of dwarves and hobbits to scout the land around the keep. They were smart about it, one assassin, one ranger and one hobbit per dwarven party to handle any natural or unnatural threat. They had several dozen parties. It was easy work, because they weren't being asked to fight, only scout and run.
I wasn't going to let the players assassinate Bloodless Jack, so a couple of the parties were captured and killed.
But raiding and sneaking wasn't their game. The dwarves found a weak point on the side of the mountain, a cliff face that couldn't be hit by weapons fire from the Keep. They used a Dig spell to remove the soil from the area. The dwarves dug an entrance 10 feet deep into the rock and near this opening the party and their minions assembled.
From their base, they attempted to storm the walls while the dwarves dug in another 20 feet. Then the plan changed. The characters retreated to their hidey hole and the wizard went to work. He used the remaining charges of Passwall to carve a hole deep into the mountain. The dwarves shored this cave open with their stonecraft and everyone else jammed all manner of debris in the unnatural cave. Within the hour, they had dozens of barrels of water, oil, bits of trees, rocks, mud, and dirt lining the Passwall cave.
When the mage concluded that enough junk blocked up the passageway, he released the outer Passwall spell inwards, sealing everything in place like a cork. From there, it was simply a matter of running away from the Keep, but being mindful not to run straight down the mountain.
As each Passwall spell expired, all kinds of flammable or incompressible material was crushed inwards. The pressure was incredible. The mountain cracked and the Keep came off it's foundations. The whole thing plunged to the base of the mountain. Bloodless Jack suffered a Disney-like death, but the players were thorough. They made sure they found a body.
It was a fascinating exercise in the physics of magic. One that I will never allow to be repeated. This was too much work to get rid of one bloody, +1 Staff.
Friday, December 20, 2019
Thursday, December 19, 2019
Since this is the fourth post, let me tell why I can't tell you about Bloodless Jack's end. I need to set up the scenario as it played out, so I need to back up a bit.
This post is about a different type of mistake leading to player high-jinx. My campaigns have always been a blend of Basic, Expert and Advanced D&D. One quirk from the Moldvay-Cook expert set is the Staff of Wizardry. One of the functions of this item is the spell Passwall, which doesn't appear in either the Basic or Expert set. As far as I know, this spell is only in Advanced D&D. We used that book right along side the Moldvay-Cook set, so everything was fine.
So... anyway, I let one of players have this Staff of Wizardry. The character in question was about 5 or 6th level, so he had access to powers that I never anticipated. I saw "+1 staff" and thought it would be fine.
Once I realized my mistake, I decided to take it from the player in epic fashion. I would simply present him with so many opportunities to use it, he would run out of charges. He would keep the +1 weapon, but loose all of the crazy powers in an incredible display of force. He'd get a great story and I would "unwind" a stupid DM mistake.
No, no, it is never that simple.
As the characters hunted Marcus and Alexander, I needed to crank up the power level of the minions. The characters were now battling mounted knights with lances. I expected with the powers of the Staff of Wizardry, they'd get cooked and the charges would be burned up.
Oh, and did they get cooked. The mage got cornered by some knights. It sort of looked like this:
He let the knights get within 10 feet of him. I figured he'd do something cool to fry them or die trying, either one of which would solve my problem.
You know, it didn't play out like that. He decided to offensively cast passwall to create an opening in the ground right in front of the charging Knights. The hole would be at a 45 degree angle down, it would start in front of the mage and go backwards under him like a ramp.
He drew me a picture, which was probably better than this:
Exactly what could I say to this scenario? Horse one plunged down the ramp and slammed into a wall of dirt at top speed. Horse two plunged into a hole and into horse one at top speed. Horse three plus the fact that each rider was wearing plate with a lance set before them was worse than a train wreck.
But the player wasn't done. As soon as the last horse plunged down the hole he wanted to close it. Violently.
The other characters stopped him. Their plan was to close the hole slowly, so they could rescue the horses. Sure they would need healing, but they were fine mounts.
My ruling on that was "Yes, you can close the hole slowly. But those horses are going to hate you, forever even if you heal them. You can buy your own horses in the next town. Deal?"
It was deal. But the seeds were planted.
We debated on how passwall was a great offensive spell, but also debated its various functions. Yes, the hole can be orientated any way you wish, including straight down. No, you can't cast passwall into the air above you to enter other dimensions. Nor does it cause movement against gravity.
But what about the closing of the hole? How does that happen? The PHB is not really specific, so we came up with some guidelines.
You could close the hole in a controlled fashion, where the bottom closed first, gently pushing anything in the hole out. The hole can be closed violently, where the entire length of the tunnel collapses in trash compactor style. Anyone inside can escape so long as they are able to move. They take minor (1d6) damage from being scraped and battered geting out. Option three, the hole closes from the open side in, anyone in the hole must make a save vs. death to escape before total obliteration occurs. Failure results in horrific screams from the very earth with a ketchup laser effect.
The last option was one of the better mistakes I've ever made.
Next post, I can tell you how Marcus and his brother, Alex, a.k.a Bloodless Jack were finished.