The players had a lot of success last night. They took to heart lessons about running away to fight another day, not pressing their luck, and using the "sleep" spell.
Actually, at this point, they've got 3 elves with "sleep" memorized. I put together a quickie table for determining which henchmen were available for hire, and it kept coming up elves. I was letting the players pick their spells, and it was all sleep, all the time. It makes sense, really - if you only had one spell, which would YOU choose? Sleep, of course.
This strategy will work well for them in the short term. Two things they need to worry about:
a. Henchmen roll morale after each adventure, and on a failure, they quit. So I'm not worried about those extra elves sticking around til the end of time. And if they do quit, there's a good chance they go off to form a rival adventuring party.
b. This works for the first level, where I've pretty much capped the toughest monsters at 4 HD (yeah, I sic 4 HD monsters on 1st level players. I'm a sadist). On the second level, there'll be some baddies that don't go down quite so easy. Also, there's a few spots where those 4 HD baddies have a bunch of 1 HD goons running about the place, so the sleep spells are much less likely to take them out.
I forgot to mention in the recap that Rollo the Third picked up one of the pistols from the Exterminators, and succumbed to its mind-control powers. He was filled with the urge to "Exterminate the Brutals!", but a sleep spell put him out, and he was fine once he dropped the gun. I did so enjoy dropping Zardoz on my players. I described the red-diapered goons, and was immediately asked "Wait, do they have thigh-high boots?" "Why yes, they do!" I can't wait for the wandering monster table to introduce the flying head. For those who hadn't seen the movie, there was a helpful illustration of Sean Connery in all his diapered glory on my DM screen.
The party has pretty much cleaned out the gatehouse at this point. Over the last several sessions, I kept rolling the dice to see where monsters were shifting about in the dungeon, and they always indicated that they were in the EXACT SAME SPOT. It's annoying, I'm trying to use this as a lesson to the players that things move around in the dungeons and they aren't static, but the dice land where they land. Now that it's pretty much cleaned out, except for the automatons in good repair, and a pair of savage warrior robots seeking better parts preying on them, it's probably time for some outsiders to start poking around in there. Maybe the screechmen will be crawling up from the first level - I don't want to reveal them too soon though, they will be much more fun when they are encountered in the pitch black. I could have a tribe of goblins find the place, too. But again, I don't want to have players spend every session re-clearing the gatehouse level, that would be dull beyond belief.
The cleric, Gutboy Barrellhouse (yeah with two L's), is nearly to second level. The first PC to gain a level will be a milestone. According to Moldvay, it's supposed to take 4 sessions to gain a level, which is about right for this character (his player hasn't been around for every session). The other players have had their characters die repeatedly, but with the loot they got this past session, they're definitely on their way.