Earlier today, I ran yet another one-hour session of Cha'alt using my own O5R hack / houserules Crimson Dragon Slayer.
More and more I enjoy the quick start, fast paced action and reliance on old school techniques like actually describing what you're character is doing, rather than rolling a die to determine ordinary things, such as exploring a room or talking your way past a guard.
Let me introduce the PCs...
- Ta Daar; half-orc fighter, chaos, goofball.
- Axel; half-orc fighter, chaos, tall and intimidating.
- Flint Deadlock; human, thief, neutral, he didn't really have a backstory or noteworthy detail, but this was a one-shot, so no big deal.
- Nanof Stylen; elf, sorcerer, chaos, obsessed with the dead.
- Q'ira; sky-elf, sorceress, chaos, sold into slavery but then killed her evil master.
Incidentally, Q'ira was the only returning character. She started the session at level 2 (the rest at 1st level) because of her previous exploits - hey, she survived The Black Pyramid once... that's a feat few can call their own.
Due to her past, I had Q'ira working under the warlord Ka'an Dar. The rest of the PCs were slaves. Q'ira was to lead the other adventurers into The Black Pyramid in order to find valuables and split them with Ka'an Dar.
As the party approached the nigrescent shard rising from the sand like a beacon of dread, they realized another party was already waiting. The Very Powerful Wizard, a rival of Ka'an Dar, had 4 mercenaries with him. The VPW had a similar plan - send in the mercs to retrieve artifacts and relics.
There was some inter-party talk of attacking the warlord and VPW, but they soon thought better of it. I squashed their metagaming out-of-character chatter by saying that they can do anything that's physically possible - no railroad!
I've been noticing that new players are hesitant to act or make the first move. This is understandable for a variety of reasons. No one knows each other (for the most part), and also noobs don't want to do something stupid. Similarly, veterans don't want to die right away.
Since this was a one-hour game, I let the mercs make the first move in order to speed things along.
After entering and exploring the first room of The Black Pyramid, the PCs followed one of the mercs into an adjacent room.
Having run this introduction to the pyramid countless times, I decided ahead of time to assign rooms randomly. That way I can actually see what deeper rooms are like when explored by those outside my home group.
The PCs entered a large facility full of technicians working on computers, 3 gigantic vats full of bright-green stuff, and a yellow robed priest looking on, watchfully.
The mercs pulled out automatic weapons, but the PCs wanted to get in a surprise attack, which I allowed. After all, they are the protagonists.
They killed one outright. Q'ira wanted to cast a fireball spell. Which allowed for another opportunity to use this handy little table. Perfect for theater of the mind scenarios such as this.
She rolled a 5 and the sky-elf's opponents burned to a crisp... moments before the yellow robed priest called a tentacled abomination from the depths of Hell!
The players kept asking what the mercs were doing, aside from ignoring the PCs... so, I eventually slipped in something juicy. One of them muttered "B-team rejects" under his breath. Well, that was enough to get the PCs into a murderhobo kind of mood. They immediately turned on the mercs, using clever tactics to get the upper hand.
But then one merc ran up ahead and surprised Axel. Luckily, he took minor damage before rolling a critical hit - skewering the mercenary.
One of the mercs had stayed behind in the first room, so Flint Deadlock went back to sneak attack the poor bastard. After a poor roll (even with advantage), the merc fired and wounded the thief. A second attack by Flint landed and he rolled max damage, killing his heavily armed foe.
So, a 100% survival rate has maybe happened once in all the times I've run Cha'alt. Kudos to this group for their skill and luck!
Here are some comments discovered after I exited the chat (but still recorded by Roll20). I fought hard against my natural inclination to edit punctuation and the like...
"I want to play more of this"
"That was amazing"
"I have never felt that epic playing D&D"
"Thanks Venger Satanis"
"I might buy Cha'alt and run it / very simple system to DM"
It was gratifying to read such praise. If you're available, join me sometime!
If you're interested in grabbing the PDF of Cha'alt for yourself, it's currently on sale due to DriveThru's Thanksgiving sale. But if you really want to Cha'alt like a fucking boss, you'll pick up the fancy hardcover and get the PDF for free!