Drunk Billy... will be missed.
It was a bad night for henchmen, but a great night for the party. And wow, they just couldn't lose a reaction roll. Monsters just love my players.
First, a little bit about my encounter design philosophy - when I put an encounter or trap together, I don't worry at all about how the players will defeat it. I have no idea what they'll do. Last night is a great example of that. When faced with murderous crystal statues, they bartered dead henchmen for services. It was chancy, especially with the +4 reaction modifiers the automatons have, but the dice favored them, and they handily defeated the trap. I had no idea how they'd get that. I didn't think they'd figure the riddle bit out, it wasn't an obvious riddle with an obvious answer, but I left the encounter in just to see what they'd do.
The first key thing to remember is that there are more of them than there are of you. Whatever you put together, they're probably going to be able to figure a way around it. The second key thing to remember, is when you are faced with something the rules don't cover, if the players are being clever, let them get away with stuff. Make a roll if it's appropriate, but let the players know your estimation of the odds so they can make informed decisions, and then see what happens. Arbitrary failure will cheese people off, when they think they're coming up with good ideas.
I had figured the session would start with the party trying to get out of the dungeon, as we had a mismatch between characters in the dungeon and players who showed up. The party ended up exploring most of the gatehouse area before finding the way out, and I was getting nervous they'd find the way down to the first level and start hunting around for exits to the surface there. Fortunately that didn't happen. I didn't have any of the first level keyed, and while I'm able to improvise, for dungeon areas I really prefer to have things keyed advance. For town and wilderness, I almost never key anything and just wing it, but dungeons, I like to have stuff plotted out.
I was pleased when one of the players, upon leaving the dungeon, said "Hey, we didn't explore it all, we can keep going back in for more treasure." Yes, yes, you'll be going back in for the length of the campaign most likely... as I've stated before, my players have no idea this is a megadungeon campaign. I want to see if they find the dungeon compelling enough to keep revisiting on their own. I imagine there will be occasional forays to other places, to shake things up a bit, but the dungeon will probably be a theme.
Another parting comment was that they have the impression they'll have to go to the big city to hire some more henchmen. They're right, the small farming community of Chelmsfordshire is pretty much fresh out of willing louts, and getting quite full of angry widows and mothers. The recent sales of loot are likely to attract unwanted interest as well.
So I've got a few tasks to do over the next 2 weeks:
a. Key the dungeon
b. Come up with some 1st level henchmen. In particular, they may end up with an agent of the Church of Starry Wisdom, which has their own reasons for wanting to head down into the deep. It'll all be driven by random tables though, so if the dice continue to favor the party, they'll only have the loyalist and stupidest henchmen in town. I'm hoping for "sinister" though.
c. Come up with some wizard encounters. Eventually they're going to run into a wilderness wandering monster, and some of those are going to be megalomaniacal wizards. Plus, it'll be interesting to start name-dropping the wizards of the surrounding city-states, and rogue wizards of note, once the party reaches the city of Denethix
d. Make more monsters. After 30 years, I'm tired of the same-old, same-old monsters. I'm liking the morlocks in the Labyrinth Lord rules, there will be a nest of them, and I'll probably load up with a bit more dungeon vermin. I need to come up with some interesting low-level critters that like to hoard treasure though.
This is all fairly achievable. It only took 2 nights to key the 30-room dungeon, so it's about 6 nights of work to key the first level, if I work at the same pace. The rest of the tasks to finish are all simple enough. Nothing tonight though, I'm feeling a bit under the weather, and I want to read the Lamentation of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy RPG rules and see what the fuss is about.