We play Sunday nights. Tonight was our fourth session, so I'm going to play catch-up this week.
The PC's have traveled far across the ocean to a strange and dangerous new land. Upon leaving the boat, they check in with the quartermaster and then head to the center of town to check a public notice board. They recruit some men in the center of town by saying, "Whoever wants some money should follow us!" Then they pick hirelings like so, "You, you and uh, you" and then they immediately march out of town with their new hirelings without getting anyone's name. This is delicious considering the number of evil people they just hired.
Once into the wilderness, they run into several large herds of malevolent buffalo like creatures, which they avoid, and they get a lay of the land. They head for a large petrified tree to the south.. I give the players no map, and make them navigate by telling me where they are going, and telling them what they see around them. I have extensive random monster encounter tables for each different type of terrain, as well as a keyed map for the various features. I have a very dense map filled with features - though each feature is an adventure of a different type. Some are no more then way-point markers, others are dungeons many, many levels deep.
When they reach the tree, I describe a hole underneath the roots as running about 15 feet or so long, two to two and a half feet wide and goes down deeper than they can see. Somehow there is a miscommunication where the 15 feet of length of the hole is considered to be it's depth, and the width of the hole is considered to be it's diameter. After the session there was extensive discussion about this issue. One of my players mentioned that he would have described the width of the hole as how tall the hole was. I pointed out that I would never use the adjective tall to talk about a hole in the ground.
The end results of this discussion were twofold. I brought a small whiteboard to the game to quickly sketch out anything that's complicated to describe, and I encouraged my players to ask questions until they had a clear mental image of what was being described.
Clearly there was a dungeon under the tree.
Instead of investigating "whatever rodents lived down in that hole", they saw a wrecked ship off the shore and decided to go check that out. Heading in that direction, they find a ship of unknown make and design lying mostly exposed on the beach. They investigate and discover a strange unturnable zombie with a taste for brains. After some difficulty killing the zombie, they continue to investigate the ship. In the hold they see movement, so they drop a torch down into the hold. When the zombies predictably rush the ladder they begin by firing missile weapons and casting grease on the ladder.
I know they've seen zombie movies before, so I can understand why they were so surprised by what happened next.
The zombies, having no success climbing the ladder, decide to change tactics, and begin tearing apart the wood holding the ship together. So while they think they have them trapped, in several rounds, zombies begin to pour out of the ship. Their poor tactical situation exposed, things go from bad to worse.
This is the worst type of combat encounter it is possible to have to introduce someone to Hackmaster with, because fighting against zombies is just like a normal fight in Dungeons and Dragons flavors 3.x or 4.x. Things fight until they are dead (or GM fiat just 'decides' that they leave) and they are immune to pain.
Normally in Hackmaster when any combatant is dropped to half hit points, they have to make a saving throw versus death or suffer 'threshold of pain' causing them to drop out of the fight. More importantly, all monsters have a morale ranking and situations that call for checks, indicating exactly when the monsters flee. Undead have neither of these things. This is one reason why combats are usually very quick in Hackmaster. (On a night the players spend three real hours in town, they can have four or five major fights, and explore a major section in the dungeon in the remaining three hours, more on this later.)
Regardless, some poor rolling, and the zombies insistence on grappling and then making called shots for the head, result in the death of only one hireling, before the players can regroup and flee. There were several close calls. The players returned to town and we ended for the night.