So, this past Saturday, continuing from last week, I decided to bring out the big guns - one of the awesomest dungeons of old school D&D. Yes, The Temple of Elemental Evil! A little history first...
The first time I played this, I really can't remember much - just bits and pieces. I was probably in 6th or 7th grade and my favorite non-paper and pencil RPG was The Bard's Tale. It was just the DM (who was more experienced with D&D than I was) and me over the course of a couple weekends (days and nights). I was playing at least six PCs and my magic-user had some kind of demon familiar like a Quasit. All the characters were high level and though there were dangers faced, I don't recall any TPK moments or even getting close to that.
The second time was about 15 years ago. For some strange reason, the DM decided to soup everything up, beefing the encounters and generally making all the monsters nigh unkillable. In exchange, he gave our characters a plethora of "resurrection moss" (patent is most definitely not pending). This moss allowed our characters to pretty much get right back up after being slaughtered over and over again.
As I explained to Daniel before Saturday's session started, if your PC only died once per session in that game, you were doing something right. After the 4th session or so in The Temple of Elemental Evil, all the players had had enough. Eventually, we just started attacking each other because then at least we had a fighting chance of surviving the combat! After the inter-party brawl, we all had a long talk. The upshot: our DM got all butt-hurt because we wanted him to adopt a different style of running ToEE and the entire gaming group broke up. What I remember most about that trip to the Temple was the archaic and grim descriptions at its start. Reminded me of H.P. Lovecraft meets The House of Seven Gables or something equally 19th century in language.
I had never run ToEE myself and I knew that would have to change. Especially since +Frank Mentzer signed my copy about this time last year at the first Game Hole Con in Madison, WI.
As I worked on getting the new player up to speed with his character, I asked each of last session's players (except for Ben, who was out enjoying one of the few really nice days in this accursed state) to come up with the following...
- a motivation - basically, what's their reason for adventuring.
- an allegiance - who or what do they care about or owe, specifically.
- one unique thing about their character - something special about their PC that is theirs alone.
- and a henchman, follower, apprentice, or some other traveling companion.
X'fritl wanted revenge on the witchlings who abandoned her to the monks. She also wanted to find out about the magical event that caused her parents' disappearance. She planned on a physically impressive bodyguard to protect her. But X'fritl also wanted a magical bow that was not readily available in the town. So, she made a bargain with the bowmaker, agreeing to take his son along so he could "learn the ropes".
Sir Basil had been a knight for 5 years, a member of the Order of the Red Tower. They recruit and promote knights based on skill rather than noble birth or money like most orders. The Order of the Red Tower fights unnatural magicks, demons, and otherworldly creatures.
Sir Basil has had his squire for only a short time. His name is Milo. Milo served a knight that was killed in the line of duty and then Milo stole his dead master's coin purse before running away. Sir Basil didn't want a squire because of the burden, the responsibility - he really didn't want Milo because of his dishonorable conduct. However, Sir Basil was impressed with Milo's ability to elude capture for so long.
Verdilo is a cavern gnome with pale skin. He's extremely handsome with a wild, unkempt black beard. His motivation is pleasure... wine, women, and song. He used to be a circus performer and his "henchman" is his baby's momma (Olive) along with her sister (Charlotte). On the verge of ridiculous, but then that's Verdilo and his player, Harold, for you.
The new player decided to play an elf eldritch-archer. Probably not the best class considering the party was about to embark on the world's oldest mega-dungeon. I told him to let me know if he wanted to swap the eldritch-archer for any one of the dozens of character classes in Fantastic Heroes & Witchery.
As Daniel's knight of the Red Tower was so strongly drawn, I used Sir Basil and his backstory as the adventuring hook. He received a letter telling him about the possibility of evil growing anew within the Temple. Also, the Order of the Red Tower sent one of their own, Lord Gregory, to guide the party.
As for the first session of ToEE, the boxed text did most of the work for me. The leprous grey exterior, the croaking of unwholesome toads, vegetation looking either withered and lifeless or unnaturally bloated and grotesque, leering demonic faces, bas reliefs depicting vile acts... I just can't get enough of it. Straight out of Lovecraft!
Anyways, they freed some human prisoners and fought off a bunch of undead. Not much else happened besides wading through debris - debris that tells an awesome story all on its own! I'm biding my time before cranking things up to 11. This coming Saturday should be very interesting. Haahahhaaahaaahaaa! I'm going to throw a few surprises their way. Rather than waiting until a couple hours before, I'll dig deep early, allowing stray, mutant thoughts to coagulate and seep into my fevered subconscious.
When I suggested running an abridged version (just the hits) of ToEE, Daniel made it clear that I should do the whole thing. No shortcuts! So, there you have it. More session reports of ToEE for weeks to come.
p.s. A week from this Saturday, Nov. 8th, I'll be back at the Game Hole Con running The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence. On sale now, actually. It'll be my first time running it since the book was published. Can't wait!