Posted by : David Guyll July 08, 2009

Got back to running Songs of Erui after about a 3ish-week hiatus while we got some new players added to the mix, giving us a nice, stable party of five to play with (technically six since I have to NPC Grynn for about ten minutes into the next session, hee).

I wanted to do something a bit different with my dungeon layout, and ultimately decided not to draw a map at all. Instead, I jotted down a list of monsters, role, and level, and left it at that. Each monster that the party encountered was an original creation of mine that had no stat block at all: they just did things that I felt were appropriate for them, and had hit points roughly where I wanted them to be, and that was it.
This was a dungeon that, aside from my shorthand Notepad notes that amounted to a vague monster listing, was entirely winged from start to finish. I added details and changed existing ones as I thought of them, with only a vague notion of what was going to happen.

Encounter one had two dire bear skeletons (level 2 elite brute) and two skeletal bear warriors (level 2 skirmisher). Initially I wanted them to be riding the bears, but I ended up changing it so that the bear skeletons would come out of illusionary walls that were carved to look like entrances to caves, and the warriors would just teleport in through a hidden door. I made the room fairly large to account for two Large creatures and give the warriors some room for mobility, though there were a lot of roots that were difficult terrain/provided cover against melee attacks.

Encounter two had a minor tree god (level 4 solo controller) that was tasked to guard this area of the crypt, and had a bunch of gravestones and corpses stuck inside. It was Huge-sized, so I made the room even bigger than the last and added a bunch of roots that would deal automatic damage at the start of its turn to anyone that was too close, since I figured that the ent could animate them to attack people. This aura effect (created on the fly) would also act as difficult terrain, and he had threatening reach to boot.
I didnt give him full solo hit points, since they can take awhile to beat down, and in the end I think that the fight ended about when it should have.

The third and final encounter involved two mummy wardens (level 3 elite soldiers) that could also summon bear spirits (level 3 minion brutes) as a minor action to harass everyone. On the downside, they kept getting killed too quickly to make a major impact, but I didnt have an established "cap" on the number so that was good for the party. They could also deal a lot of damage with a big slide effect, and had the warden's marking mechanic. Unfortunately (for me) they died too quickly to use their bloodied ability that gave them a bear spirit aspect. Sigh...

The players really got a kick out of this session. I think it went well, considering that I had only a rough idea of what I maybe kinda-sorta wanted to happen. I didnt have time to consider a lot of interesting or more dynamic "role mechanics", so the brutes did lots of damage with a push, the controller had lots of area-effect attacks and a controlling aura, and the soldiers were a bitch to hit and could mark. I decided to let them summon spiritual allies because initially I think I was going for some kind of leader-type shaman warrior concept, but changed it at the last second.

One thing I did like about this method was that I wasnt "married" to specific events ahead of time. I think it made me more open to let bizarre and unexpected things to occur, since I didnt have anything remotel close to a solid plan in the first place. For example, during encounter three, I was able to have a "creature" yank Maev's sunrod off of her necklace, plunging the room into darkness. I was also unexpectantly able to leave it on a cliffhanger: they'll get to see who/what Grynn's been running from since before the campaign started.

Not something I would recommend all the time, but an interesting mental exercise nonetheless.

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