On The Arena of Xagyg!

So for our Wednesday gaming night, we've been playing a couple of different games. Nothing actually role-playing oriented for a while due to me being a bit burnt out. We have plans to start up DCC RPG when the beta information is released, but for now we've just been trying different things, like dominion.

We had considered playing something like descent, ravenloft, or the various other "Boardgame Dungeon Crawls", when it occurred to me that since I already have pathfinder (which is a very boardlike game system, with a great variety of rules already laid out for how to adjudicate any given situation) that I probably didn't need to spend 70 bux to have an evening where we spent boardgaming a dungeon crawl. My inspiration for this was the original boardgame Dungeon.

From the Play document:
Arena of Xagyg
An evershifting battlefield, lost to the knowledge of all thinking beings. Amorphous memories give no insight to victims who sit in cells for weeks, kept alive by unseen masters. They sleep one night, like all the uncounted undistinguished others, and when they wake they find themselves in the Arena of Xagyg with the knowledge called unbidden to their minds that to escape they must gather treasure and survive, for the exit gates will only open when enough is accumulated. Perhaps this time, The exit will lead to freedom. . .
Here is an example of the Arena I printed off at a 1 square to 1 inch scale:

Each player picked an entrance rune (one of the green sigils) and began to explore. The dungeon was sectioned off into different difficulties. The area down the stairs to the right was set as the most difficult, the area in the center was of medium difficulty, and the area around the top and left hand side was set as the easiest difficulty. The battlemat was ever so slightly larger than the table we were playing on.

<- And here is an example of the treasure cards we used. I should point out that I have no rights to those pictures, and if posting them publicly is a problem, the copyright holders should feel free to contact me and I will take them down.
These were not the only types of treasure we had, we also had magic items, goods, and "treasures". I used my own treasure document to come up with many of the item types. Click to enlarge for great humor and justice.
The game started off with two of the players entering together in the center section, one in the bottom right near the difficult section, and one in the top right between the middle difficulty and the hard difficulty. I had selected several monsters for the characters to fight. Each one was on their own team, able to kill the other PC's and collect their treasure if they wished. All of the monsters in the play document (in fact, the entirety of the play document itself) is composed of open content under the OGL. 

We started at third level. The fighter broke open the door to the hard difficulty area and was immediately attacked by 2 demonically possessed gnolls. I originally had given them DR 10/Cold Iron (as per the template) but realizing that this meant he would die without a chance, I changed it to DR 5/Cold Iron. The whole game was a beta, for what I hope will be a more standard ruleset. Clearly the fighters build had some issues (His selection of feats was fairly generic and few were taken that applied to this particular dungeon situation, He lacked a golf club bag to overcome DR). Regardless these gnolls murdered him. The fight went a little something like this.
  •  Fighter Breaks down door.
  • Gnolls rush the fighter and attack through the door (giving him a +4 cover bonus)
  • They discover this doesn't work, and bullrush him against the wall
  • He backs into the corner to avoid having them sneak attack him
  • They trip him, until he is murdered to death.
There were other factors, since they were Babau possessed, they began to ruin his warhammer with their acidic gel, so he ended up having to attack them with javelins. He certainly gets credit for remembering to bring a second (set) of weapons. He came very close to defeating them, leaving them with 2 and 4 hit points respectively. However, I was rolling their attacks at the same time. One round I rolled 2 1's on the dice (1/400 chance) the round following, I rolled 2 20's on the dice - one of which was confirmed for a critical. There's a 1 in 160,000 chance of that happening, so we can't be too hard on him. The two hits finally did him in. It was a fairly close fight that could have gone either way.

The half-orc paladin player had a better time of it. She went right into the easy section, killing one of the void zombies without problems, then heading towards the middle section. She managed to kill all four stirges that attacked her, but not without her constitution of 12, dropping to 4. She moved further in fighting one of the demonically possessed gnolls. This fight lasted 2 rounds (and almost not that long considering she rolled low for damage) because of the awesome paladin smite ability in pathfinder. Then she opened up the treasure rich central chamber, where she discovered a ton of treasure guarded by a rust monster and a cockroach swarm. Realizing she had no way of dealing any sort of area damage, she fled the dungeon. When she reached the last room, she was blocked in by two rust monsters, and the swarm. She threw her sword, and during her turn was reduced to -1 hit point. I though I had won, until I remembered that she was a half-orc paladin, and she managed on her last turn at negative hit points to make it to the exit rune. Victory by the skin of teeth for the paladin. Treasure total? 535 gold.

The two thieves, er, I mean rogues teamed up and stuck only to the easy area. They were not having any difficult with the single centipedes, or single or paired stirges they ran into. Even if they missed detecting a trap, their reflex saves and evasion prevented all the damage. And their high perception DC's made locating secret doors and such trivial. One of the players had to leave a bit early, so he was pulled out. The remaining thief player decided to make a run at the cleared out room the paladin had pulled all the monsters from and accumulated a fair amount of treasure. However, being the only player left in the game, made him quite a target for the other monsters. His selection of the fleet feat proved wise, being able to outrun the flying cockroach swarm. Right as he was about to exit, a magma dragon popped in on the exit rune. He took the attack of opportunity to dodge around it, and escaped. In hindsight I should have tripped him with that attack and perhaps he would not have one. He finally escaped, with a gold total of 510 gold.

It was a pretty great experience, with only a couple of issues. The first is of course, system mastery. I gave them appropriate wealth by level, but they were rushed with character creation (no one prepared any character ahead of time) so there were many situations they were unprepared to deal with (few players brought alchemists fire, no one prepped for damage resistance, etc.) You can't prepare for every situation, but having appropriate gear could have alleviated several problems.

It is extremely difficult to calculate appropriate CR's for encounters against single PC's. Also, certain monsters (such as the rust monster) are just flat out designed to hose certain characters (such as tin can fighters). I do think it's important to be very careful which monsters are selected for such a venture.

The other conundrum I find myself faced with is tonight we had only 3rd level players. How to balance it so that higher level PC's can play on the same field with lower level PC's? i.e. it should be easier for a 4th level PC to collect more treasure, so how do you measure his haul against the haul of a lower level PC? I would really appreciate anyone who can provide any suggestions. Originally I was going to go with the dungeon theme of "make them acquire more gold" which is fine, but hard to balance. I would like to stay away from such tasks as division, ratios and percentages. Any suggestions?

I think next time (for speed) I'll make some changes. Making it take a turn to do perception checks took too long, I think in the future, such checks will be passive. I'll have to avoid monsters that have special abilities that hose certain classes of characters and such. I also think in the future, instead of printing off a specific battlemat, I would do better to print off geomorphs, allowing me to create a variable dungeon of any size.

1 comment:

  1. Lethality-wise, sounds more like DungeonQuest than Dungeon! ;)

    ReplyDelete

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