Dungeons & Delvers: A Very Tolkien-esque Playtest One-Shot

  • Angus (1st-level dwarf fighter)
  • Cassidy (1st-level human cleric)
  • Gitta (1st-level kobold rogue)

Cassidy and Gitta met up with Angus at Fry's Watch, a halfling village a week's trek from an ancient, ruined dwarven fortress. Angus was looking for adventurers interested in liberating the treasure of his ancestors from the dragon that claimed it centuries ago, and they were the only two foolish enough to turn up.

They spoke for a bit—in a house that Gitta claimed was owned by her cousin—on how they'd divvy up the treasure, and after Gitta managed to "acquire" a sufficient amount of "rations" to see them there and back (assuming they all came back), they struck out.

After four uneventful days they arrived at the rotting expanse of a once verdant forest. They searched for a road that would ideally lead them directly to the fortress, but time had taken its toll and they were forced to navigate the looming, tangled wood as best they could.

Several hours passed when they came across the crumbling shell of a tower. It was overgrown with dead trees, and inside they found numerous skeletons threaded by black roots. Angus, presuming that they would suddenly awaken and attack, carefully walked towards one, hammer and shield at the ready.

When he reached for one his hand was snagged by a nearly invisible strand of webbing. He pulled against it in a vain effort to free himself, but whatever was on the other end started dragging him up through a hole in the ceiling. In the darkness he saw numerous glimmering eyes, and fangs dripping with venom. He braced his feet against the edges of the hole and pushed, managing to finally break free of the web strand.

The giant spider descended upon him, pinning his arms as it attempted to sink its fangs into his throat. Cassidy held out her holy symbol; a torrent of water struck the spider, keeping it at bay long enough for her to rush forward and skewer it with her spear, while Gitta cautiously struck when the opportunity presented itself. This took the spider by surprise, and Angus was able to kill it with a solid blow to the face.

Gitta climbed up to the second floor and found numerous cocooned, desiccated remains. There weren't any more spiders or survivors. Angus hauled himself up and tore them open, discovering a golden crown, along with jewel encrusted armor and rings: he wasn't the only dwarf to try and slay the dragon, though he resolved to be the first. As promised he divvied them up as evenly as possible and they continued on.

They hadn't traveled far from the tower when they heard the loud flapping of great wings, followed by a shadow blotting out the sun. The dragon. It flew past their location twice, but when it came back a third time unleashed a gout of fire before landing nearby. As expected it was massive. Its body was covered in dark red scales, its long tail effortlessly smashed trees aside, and its teeth and claws looked like they could easily rend through steel and bone.

Gitta managed to hide, but Angus stood his ground and bellowed a challenge before charging. His hammer didn't seem to do much, but when the dragon snapped at him he dashed underneath it. It hadn't anticipated this particular "fighting strategy" from a dwarf, and as it awkwardly tried to crush him with its claws Gitta threw a grappling hook. It caught one of the dragon's wings, and she tied her end of the rope to a nearby tree.

Though this proved to be only a momentary impediment, it was enough for Angus to leap on the dragon's back and start crippling one of its wings with his hammer. It furiously snatched up Angus in its jaws, and tried fleeing into the forest so as to finish him off without further distraction. Fortunately for Angus, Gitta managed to hang onto the rope still attached to its wing, and Cassidy was able to grab a hold of its tail.

It tried crashing into trees to knock them loose, but Cassidy was able to hang on, climb the length of the dragon's tail, and drive her spear between the base of its tail and one of its legs. This surprised it, causing its grip on Angus to slacken just enough for him to escape, and as it attempted to limp away he was able bash in its skull with his hammer.

Behind the Scenes
We got a chance to play with someone new from Google+ (you can listen to the video here, nothing to really see though), but he had to crash so I decided to wrap things up with a bang, and by bang I mean dragon. To be fair it was a "young" dragon, but it still managed to almost kill the dwarf fighter and injure the rest. Here's the dragon's stat block in its entirety:

The general consensus is that the game is, and I'm paraphrasing here, a shitload of fun. The only minor quibble are the skills. Not how they work with the Dice Pool system (there're no problems there), but just the list of skills, which I cribbed from 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons as a kind of "alpha" list.

Honestly, given that, if I added up the nights I spent writing this in between everything else, it only took about a week, I'm pretty damned pleased with the results. I was even able to easily handle Matthew's off the cuff actions (snagging the dragon's wing with the grappling hook, and then slicing it up) with ease. The only thing we really need to stress test are Wounds (and, well, maybe address the skills).

Right now each character starts with 2-5 Wounds: wizards get 2, fighters get 4, and if you're a dwarf you can spend your talent to gain another. You don't gain Wounds as you level, unless you spend your race or class has +Wound talents (like the dwarf, fighter, and presumably others like barbarians or paladins), so what I need to figure out is if they're enough to get through a small dungeon with.

Between the fight with the giant spider and young dragon, there were a grand total of eight Wounds inflicted. Fortunately Melissa's character could negate a Wound now and then (there's no easy source of magical healing in this game), so she was able to use her magic to soak two of them. Had she lacked this ability, then during the fight with the dragon Angus would have probably died (or been knocked out), but they still would have won, which against a dragon is fine by me.

So, we're going to try a more "traditional" dungeon crawl to see how far the party can go before having to stop. I want them to be able to clear a decent portion without magical healing being mandatory; if they need more I'm considering a "reserve" Wounds system, similar to 4th Edition's healing surges, where when you're out of a fight you can spend Wounds from a reserve to heal yourself up to your maximum.

The one thing we did change (aside from the name, which was kind of code-named A Really Simple Dungeon Crawl) is the name of the Willpower stat. It's now called Grace (kudos to Matthew for coming up with the new name), which gives the game a kind of combination social/magic stat for clerics (and bards and sorcerers when I add them to the game).

I'm cool with this, because it now means there are actually skills tied to it (Willpower had none).

A Pirate's Class For You!
Just under a week left to pick up The Pirate (which is a Best Silver Seller, so you know it's good) on the cheap(er)!

The Pirate now boasts our new character sheet layout (which you can also see on The Cultist): let us know what you think, so we can continue making it better!

Mind you this is in addition to the "classic" sheet, so if you don't like the new one you can always stick with that one (though we'd like to know what you don't like about it).

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