Hiring an Anti-Paladin

When they were out looking for henchmen, I rolled on my henchman table, and up came Margaret the Flame.  They'd already met & rejected her, so I rolled instead on a list of classes from Dragon magazine.  The class of the new potential henchman is... Anti-Paladin!  Hahahahahahahaha.  Snidely Whiplash, dastardly fiend and coward extraordinaire, is now working for Mongo.

Mongo's player likes interesting things to happen, so he's hired Snidely despite the incredibly obvious evil tendencies.  You know, the moustache-twirling, the evil laugh, the references to past misdeeds followed by obvious lies and obfuscations...

I expect eventually they'll turn on Snidely, since he's already using the other henchmen as shields to protect himself and refusing to contribute in any meaningful way to the player's plans.  They asked to borrow his dead gnome corpse to see if there were spikes at the bottom of the ball pit, and he flat out refused, because, you know, it's his gnome corpse.  He's bad at sharing.  And he's got plans that involve gnome corpses.  "You can't have this!  I need it!"  First opportune moment, he'll be betraying the players, taking all the loot, and abandoning them in the dungeon.

Now, in a world where the gods are satellites orbiting the earth, and all clerics and paladins are to obey all their edicts, what does it even mean to be an anti-paladin?  They can't serve evil deities - paladins are already required to do that.  The only role left for the anti-paladin is that of being against all the gods.  They've somehow worked out how to steal their cleric-like powers, and are sworn to destroy the gods.  I suppose there's no particular reason they have to be evil, too, but there you go.  Some professions just attract the nutjobs.

Other notable events:

a. They failed to hire the Dingleberry the Surly Clown as a henchman.  That's the way the reaction rolls go sometimes.  He did drop hints about Miami, but when you're in the middle of an underground circus, little stuff like that is drowned out in the sea of gonzo weirdness.

b. The party is now well-schooled in trap detection. Poles are regularly brought out to prod strange things, and if there's no promise of gold, they will usually try to avoid rooms with fiddly bits.  Good old-school rules to live by.

c. The "sleep" spell is proving a lot less useful. It's a spell that scales really well as the players go up in level - as they become more proficient at combat and their survivability increases, sleep becomes correspondingly less powerful, and they are required to improve tactics to survive.

d. The guys came up with a plan to get the golden tongue, and executed it nearly perfectly.  I'm quite happy about that - they are paying attention and thinking ahead about threats in the dungeon.  I want that behavior to continue, so I'll be seeding parts of the dungeon with bits of information about other parts of the dungeon, so they can continue to make informed choices.  Except when the information is deliberately misleading, of course.


Session recap, 1/26/2012

Netal the Elf (2), his henchman Brad the Fighter (1), and his pit bulls Timmy and Jimmy
Mongo the Fighter (2) and his henchmen, Black Harris the Cleric (1) and Snidely Whiplash the Fighter(?) (1)
George P. Burdell the Cleric (1) and his henchman, Slick Eddie the Thief (1)

Back at his apartment building, Mongo ran into the deceased George P. Burdell's roommate, who was coincidentally also named George P. Burdell.  Mongo informed the new George of the horrible dungeon-y death of his roomie, and invited George to join the party in his stead.  George readily agreed, and set out to find a henchman.

George headed to the coffee shop next door, and began asking the mohawk-haired proprietress a series of pointed questions.

George: "So, who do you pay to prevent things like flaming oil from being dumped on your shop?"
Mohawk lady: "Not sure I follow you, man"
George: "I'm looking for someone, you know, who likes to take things when he wants them"
Mohawk lady: "Oh, right, like yeah, stick it to the man! Five fingered discount, man!"
George: "Do you know anyone like that?"
Mohawk lady: "Yeah, man, I totally do!  My friend Slick Eddie, man! He'll be here in an hour, man"

George waited, and eventually the Mohawk Lady pointed out a young man to him.

George: "Excuse me, do you think you might be interested in making some money?"
Eddie: "Oh yeah, I like money, what's the score?"
George: "Maybe liberating some goods from certain places underground"
Eddie: "Totally, yeah, I'm totally into anarchy!  Let's do it!"

George escorted Eddie to a nearby armorer, and equipped the lad for subterranean adventure.

After George left, Mongo headed down to the Inn of the Repaired Wheel, on the Street of Worthy Servitude.  He spotted three rough-and-tumble characters: a shirtless, hulking barbarian, a dour man with a holy symbol hunched over his beer, and a big fellow twirling his moustache while chuckling to himself.  Mongo approaced the barbarian first.

Yord the Shirtless Man: "Ha!  A little man!  I'm Yord, from the Worthless North!"
Mongo: "Want to make some money, Yord?"
Korg: "Ha! Ha!  How'd you guess? I'm looking to get rich, and quick!"
Mongo: "How quick? You want work for Mongo?"
Korg (roaring with laughter): "Me? Work for YOU? A soft southerner? I don't think so, little man!"

Dejected, Mongo headed to the holy man.

Black Harris: "I'm sick of all these people, constantly asking me to pray for them.  Pray, pray, pray, that's all they talk about."
Mongo: "Hmm, you want come to dungeon with me and get gold and booze?"
Black Harris: "Would I? In a heartbeat! I can't believe my mother made me go to seminary. I'm so sick of people.  The poor people are the worst, always 'lay hands on my pus-oozing wound' or 'heal my revolting sores'."
Mongo: "You lay hands on torch?"
Black Harris: "Torch? That doesn't sound sanitary"
Mongo: "Lantern?"
Black Harris (sighing): "Fine, let's go."

All through these conversations, the moustache-twirler had been eyeing Mongo.  Mongo sighed, and walked up to the dastardly gentleman.

Snidely Whiplash (chuckling evilly): "So, I see you're hiring a few men.  Allow me to introduce myself, I'm Snidely Whiplash.  I happen to be looking for a bit of... employment"
Mongo: "Well, what you do last job?"
Snidely: "Well, I sacked that temp... I mean, I was a caravan guard. Yeah, that's it."
Mongo: "Where you from?"
Snidely: "Oh. A village. Somewhere else. Run by a wizard, so I escaped and came here. To guard caravans."
Mongo: "Huh. How you feel about torches?"
Snidely: "Torture? I love torture!"
Mongo: "No, torches!"
Snidely: "Oh. Those are good too. Sure, everyone likes light."

Mongo agreed to take Snidely on, with some visible reservations as Snidely began laughing madly to himself, but the two of them and Black Harris headed to the market regardless, and soon the two new employees were fully equipped for a dungeon expedition.

Netal had heard a rumor that the dog-plague had ended, just as mysteriously as it had started, and headed to the Bazaar Incomparable to find a new dog or two.

Shopkeeper: "Hey! I remember you! Want to buy a grunkie?"
Netal: "No, I'm looking for dogs"
Shopkeeper: "Sure, I've got just the thing.  How about a pair of pit bulls?"
Netal: "Yes! That's what I want! What are their names?"
Shopkeeper: "Oh, I don't know, they killed their previous owner so I never found out"

Netal paid for the slavering hell-beasts, and decided to name them Timmy and Jimmy. He then rounded up Brad (who had worked for the prior George P. Burdell) and headed off to find his comrades.

The trio met up after their various purchases and hires, and set out for Chelmsfordshire. They arrived just in time to Slezgar arriving from the direction of Mt. Rendon, with a large crew of men pulling a pair of wagons laden with expensive-looking furniture.

Mongo: "Slezgar!  What you got there?"
Slezgar: "Oh, we found this secret room. Kind of a conference room, full of all this expensive furniture and stuff! Money for the taking!"
Mongo: "Yeah. That nice. Bye."

Annoyed by Slezgar's continued success, the party headed into the wilderness and back to the dungeon.

The party headed down through the deserted halls of the first level, to the second level entrance - a room with eight corridors heading off in all directions.  They consulted their map for a while, and decided that their best bet was to try to get the golden T-Rex tongue they had left behind on a previous (disastrous) expedition.

The party headed towards the circus, passing the room with the large tapestry and old lectern.  They stopped briefly while George fooled with the lectern and discovered there was something underneath.  Mongo tipped the lectern over with his 20' collapsible pole, revealing a rusty lockbox.  The lockbox opened easily, its lock having long since rusted into nothing, and found a roll of 100 seafoam-green tickets, each reading "ADMIT ONE."

They walked further in, and came to a room with an excitable painted man, who started leaping up and down shouting "Ticket! Ticket! Ticket!"  George handed him 9 tickets, and the clown ran off through an archway to the main circus area.  The party stood around for a while, and eventually the clown came back, still shouting "Ticket! Ticket! Ticket!"  The party collectively shrugged, and headed into the circus.

The carnival barker stepped off his dais and quickly approached the party. "You guys left early the last time! Do you know how much work it is to set this thing up?"  Mongo replied, "Sorry!  We get lost!  We come back for show!"  "Well, just to make sure you get lost - you! come here! You watch these guys and make sure they don't leave!"

The barker had called over another painted man to follow them around as they walked around.  Informed that they had an hour before the show started, they headed around to some of the tents to see what the attractions were.

In the first tent they looked at, a Whack-a-Gnome game had been set up.  Netal paid 5 gp, and was handed a wooden mallet. Sneering garden gnomes with bloodstained faces and glowing red eyes began sticking their heads up through the holes, and Netal whacked one with the mallet. The gnome became enraged, and leaped at Netal, sinking its fangs into his shoulder.  Netal and Mongo beat the thing to death, and the painted man informed them that "You win little man! Excited! Yummy!"

Mongo handed the thing to Snidely. "You want this?" "Why yes. Yes (evil laugh), yes I do. This will do... perfectly!"

In the next tent, a painted man was sitting back with his feet on a table, smoking a cigar.

Surly Clown: "Now, what do you clowns want?"
George: "Hi there. What can you tell us about this place?"
Surly Clown: "Look. I like three things: booze, broads, and bashing heads. Unless you got some of that, scram."
George: "I have booze"
Surly Clown: "Give it over!"
George: "It's communal wine..."
Surly Clown: "I don't care what brand it is, give it to me!"
George: "You'll need these wafers too..."
Surly Clown: "Keep the wafers and give me the booze already!"

George offered his wineskin to the surly clown, who grabbed it away and gulped it down as quickly as possible.

Mongo: "So, you like bashing heads? You want to bash these guys?"
Surly Clown: "What's in it for me?"
Mongo: "You got booze. No women here..."
Surly Clown: "That's too bad. I like human women. Sick of these painted women, you know what I mean. I want babes like down at Miami."
Mongo: "Miami?"
Surly Clown: "Yeah, the clown women, not exactly South Beach material, you know?"
Mongo: "No..."
Surly Clown: "Whatever. No women, then forget about it"
Netal (presenting Timmy the Pit Bull, who is apparently a female): "How about this?  Pretty hot huh?"
Surly Clown: "What? No. What's wrong with you? Get out of here"
Netal: "You sure?"
Surly Clown: "Look, I don't do dames with four legs. Scram!"

The party gave up on trying to get the surly clown to join their expedition, and headed past the animal pits and a corridor with a sign reading "Log Flume", to get to the last unexplored tent.  It contained a dunking tank, with a clown sitting above the tank, and another demanding 100 gp for a throw.

George: "That's too much. What's in the tank?"
Clown: "Water"
George (sniffing the acrid water): "Just water?"
Clown: "Burny water!"
George: "Can I take some?"
Clown: "No! You PAY, you THROW BALL! No take water!"

At this point, the party became sick of wandering the attractions, and decided to head back to the golden-tongued T. Rex skull they had left behind during a previous expedition. They and their painted-man-watcher headed into the freak show, making their way past the exhibits til they were outside a room that had previously held a bunch of painted men watching video monitors.

Mongo walked around their painted man guard until he was forced to turn away from the door to talk to Mongo. While Mongo asked a few inane questions, Brad the henchman quietly opened the door and peaked in. "Guys, there are a bunch of clowns staring at me" he whispered.

Netal immediately cast his sleep spell, putting three of the clowns to sleep. Slick Eddie knifed their painted man escort in the back, while Brad and the pit bulls charged into the room to attack the remaining clowns. The fight was short and one-sided.  Netal butchered the corpses, searching for gold in their stomachs, while George checked their belongings for valuables, finding a key.

From there, they headed to the T-Rex skull room.  Slick Eddie examined the skull, and found that it had a hinge and a powerful spring under tension, connected to the back of the skull.  Mongo pulled out his 20' pole and poked the golden tongue with it - the jaws slammed shut, damaging the pole so that it could no longer fully retract.  The party then pried the skull open, and George pulled the tongue out.  It was surprisingly light for a 5' long piece of gold - it turned out to be a much thinner layer of gold over a balsa-wood frame.  The tongue was stomped and crumpled small enough to fit into a backpack, and the party continued on.

To the south, they came to a room empty of everything except some bloodstains and scraps of painted-man leather motley on the floor. A sign over the door to the south read "Invisible Treasures."  The party carefully searched this room, and then opened the door to the Invisible Treasure room.  True to its word, the room beyond was empty of visible treasure, containing nothing but dust and rat droppings.  Mongo swept through the air with his pole while the rest of the party searched, but if there was any invisible treasure, it was not found.

They then headed southwest, ignoring a side door as they traveled, and came to a room with a 10' wide ball pit. Mongo swished his pole through the pit, and found that the pole passed right through the balls without disturbing them.  It was also clanking on things on the bottom of the pit.  They quickly came to the conclusion that the balls were a hologram hiding a spiked pit.

The party returned to the door in the corridor, and Slick Eddie listened at it - he heard some horrible chewing noises.  The party arranged themselves carefully around the ball pit, with the dogs taking point, while Brad went ahead to open the door and lure the chewing monsters out.  Brad flung the door open and ran back to the party, while two ravenous corpses chased after him.

The dogs fled as fast as they could as the corpses approached, leaving Netal on the west side and Brad on the east side to face the horrible monsters.  Brad, not having many hit points left, tried to run past and leave the stronger Snidely to face the monsters, but Snidely grabbed Brad by the shoulders and shoved him towards the shambling corpse.

The priests presented their holy symbols, but their weak faiths did not impress the living dead.  The corpses swiped at Netal and Brad.  The fight was over quickly, though - after being bitten and clawed, Netal became enraged, and grabbed one of the ghouls by its throat and flung it into the ballpit with a sickening crunch.  Brad swung his mace like a baseball bat, and knocked the other into the pit.  There was no sound from below - the creatures had been permanently laid to rest.

And there the session ended.  Next session on Thursday February 9th.


Necromantic Midget

Behold, the stats for the Necromantic Midget.  I don't like the way the text flows, so I'll rewrite it at some point, but this is essentially what they are. Replacing to-hit rolls with constant saving throws means they will be damaging players quite a bit.

Necromantic Midget
No. Enc: 1d6 (3d6)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 90' (30')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: Dagger or voodoo-stab
Damage: 1d4
Save: MU2
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XVII
XP: 38

The origin of these vile necromancers is lost to time, but they are able to create new necromantic midgets from the compressed remains of larger humanoids. They appear as well-proportioned tiny humans, and wear no clothing but their black robes, as befits their necromantic passions.

The necromantic midgets are far tougher than their small size would appear to indicate, due to their unnaturally compressed flesh and the arcane blue fluid that circulates in their veins.

A typical necromantic midget will be armed with a dagger, and carry a small rag doll.  They will attack by focusing their necromantic energies on a living victim and stabbing the doll with their dagger, causing the victim 1d4 points of damage unless he makes a successful save vs. spell. The voodoo-stab has a range of 60’.


Excellent Elven Edventurers Take the Prize; and Poll Closed Today!

Poll closed! 61% of you want an ASE2-3 sooner, and 38% wanted level 4 as well. 1% of you found a third option, apparently.  So levels 2 and 3 it is! I'll be sending off level 2 to Brian in the next couple of days so he can start illustrating, while I finish up level 3.  There'll be some extras in this module too, in addition to the dungeon levels, so still plenty of value. It makes sense from an art budget as well, things would be really sparse in a three-level book.

The last session went pretty well. The players were playing pretty smart, up until the end where George's player got kind of bored and ran in without the rest of the party.

And let us all have a moment of silence for the morlocks. Yeah, no endless looting of the first level, guys. Move along, the low risk treasure is gone. I rolled some dice to see if the Morlocks or the Excellent Elven Edventurers would win in a confrontation, and was secretly thrilled that the EEE won the roll. Now the players have a rival in the dungeon, and they're fairly disgruntled about it. This should prompt the guys to do a bit more planning while looting the dungeon - the stuff they leave behind is going to be hauled out and flaunted by a hated NPC adventuring team.


Session recap, 1/12/2012

Netal the Elf (2)
Mongo the Fighter (2)
Gutboy the Cleric (3) and his henchman, Trezgar the Elf (1)
George P. Burdell the Magic-User (1) and his henchman, Brad the Fighter (1)

Netal, Mongo, and Gutboy gathered at the apartment, almost completely broke, except for the money they had stolen from the Ropers' apartment.  Their heretofore-unmentioned neighbor, George P. Burdell, wandered over to say "Hi" and without any discussion was welcomed as their bosom companion.

George wandered off to the quad at the Academy of Elevated Thought to find a traveling companion.  He spotted a calvinball game in progress, and hung around until the match ended.

George: Dear sir, that was quite a game. Do you know the rules to calvinball?
Brad: Uhh... I kicked the ball and it went into the net!
George: Very good.  How are your studies going along?
Brad: Oh yeah, the Academy lets me stay when I kick the ball into the net!  I'm really good!
George: Sounds like you could use a bit of tutoring. I'd like to help you
Brad: That's great!  How much will that cost? I've got beer! You like beer?
George: I was thinking you could help me out in exchange. What's your name?
Brad: I'm Brad! I kicked the ball into the net!

So, George had found himself both a henchman and lackwit student to tutor.

In the meantime, Gutboy traveled back to Leafy Green's Salad Bar and found a pair of dowdy elves.

Gutboy: Say, are either of you looking for a life of riches and adventure?
Trezgar: Why yes, I was thinking of joining Slezgar's Excellent Elven Edventurers. They're quite the capable crew!
Gutboy: Slezgar? Why, he used to be my henchman! I taught him everything he knows!
Trezgar: Well, sign me up!

Henchman acquired, the party spent its few remaining resources on equipping the pair of new hires, bought a few extra shotgun shells for Netal's stolen weapon, and headed to Chelmsfordshire.  Gutboy eyed the bucolic farms they passed, wondering how much loot he could get through a life of brigandry, but eventually decided that dungeon delving would be more practical.

Once in Chelmsfordshire, they saw that a second booth had been erected next to Fitzy's Dungeoneering Supplies.  Gutboy peered in, and saw a familiar face - his former henchman, Slezgar!  Apparently the adventuring life agreed with him - he was wearing a silver circlet with a single emerald upon his head.  The same circlet they had last seen on the morlock chieftain's head, in fact.

Gutboy: Slezgar! What are you doing here?
Slezgar: We'll be auditioning henchman in another hour. You can come back then.
Gutboy: Slezgar, it's me Gutboy, your former boss!
Slezgar: Oh, right. Well, how have you been? (grabbing a raw hamhock and taking a bloody bite out of it)
Gutboy: What are you doing ?!?
Slezgar: (surprised) Oh... that! Right!  Ummm... that's an elven tradition.  It's an elf thing. Perfectly normal.
Netal: No it's not.
Slezgar: Maybe not in your tribe.  It's a tribal thing.  Never mind!  Why are you here? Decided to become torchbearers?
Gutboy: We were thinking maybe we could team up
Slezgar: Ha!  Don't think so.  This is an elf-only crew.  Except for the henchmen. Elves are where it's at!  Hey you (pointing at Trezgar) you want to join up?  Ditch these guys, they suck!
Mongo (grabbing Slezgar by the throat): What are you doing in our dungeon?
Slezgar (pulling his hand away): Now now, if you're not going to hold our torches, I think you should move along.  Bye, good luck, bye, see you later...

The party considered violence, but the large numbers of Unyielding Fist soldiers walking through the town dissuaded them.  They spent the night on the floor of the local tavern, and made their way to the dungeon the next morning.

Once inside, they made a beeline towards the Morlock lair.  The morlocks had all been slaughtered, and the place was fairly well looted.  Only the following was found:

a. Three creep morlock-hides hanging on pegs.  The hides were twitching and wiggling. Attempts to burn them with torches had little effect beyond scorching the hides.
b. A stoppered clay bottle hidden under some ratty furs, that Slezgar's crew must have missed
c. A storeroom full of water barrels, metal bars, and 200' of sinew-rope

The party took the clay bottle, left the rest, and headed down to the second level.  Once there, they proceeded southwest from the room with eight exits, and made their way back to the hexagonal-shaped chamber with an unexplored door.  Passing through it, they found themselves in an octagonal chamber, with a strange device on the north wall, and a sign on the south wall reading "Please visit us in our new office! Just moments from the Plastic Tombs!"

The device consisted of a leather chair, with stainless steel straps at the ankle, arm, and neck positions. Above it, protruding from the wall, was an armature covered with drills, saws, and pincers.  Next to this was a stainless steel locked cabinet, with a dial on the side. The dial had an "Off" position, and positions numbered one through ten.

They had Brad pry the cabinet open, and George stood to the side and opened the doors with a 10' pole, while Brad looked inside. He whitened in fear, and quickly looked away.  "Hey guys! I read about these in Mythology 101! There's a head covered with snake hair, in a jar! And a bunch of other heads!"

The party quickly realized that this must be a medusa's head.  They gave Brad a sack, and he pushed the jar in without looking at it.  Fluids splashed through the porous bag, but the head was safely bagged.  They then took an inventory of the other heads - a few empty jars, a few human heads, and several monster heads were present.  There was also a sliding hatch in the top of the cabinet - opening it only revealed a view of the ceiling.

Mongo turned the dial to "1", and a light above the dial turned red.  Trying the other numbers, he found the same behavior.  He turned the dial to "Off", plopped a few heads onto the chair, and turned it to "1" again. The armature moved to neck-level (if there had been a person strapped in the chair), began sawing away at nothing, reached pincers into the cabinet, came back with nothing, and sawed and drilled a bit more.  The party decided that this must be some sort of decapitation machine of the Painted Men, and vowed to destroy those evil clowns.

They moved on to the next room to the west.  This chamber had four savage-looking dog statues mounted on pedastals, facing each other, in the center of the room. Their mouths slowly dripped a black liquid onto the ground, and wires from inside their mouths suspended a glass sphere between them.  The sphere contained something small and metallic flitting about, but the party was too nervous to approach.

Mongo extended his retractible pole, and pressed down on the wires and sphere from 20' away. The hounds spat out flame in a good-sized fireball, but the sphere remained unharmed.  He tried this trick a few more times, and decided to smash the sphere with the pole.  There was another fireball as the wires were disturbed, and the small metallic flying thing, released from the sphere, began heading towards Mongo.  As it got closer, Mongo saw that it was a mechanical hummingbird.  He reached out with his hand, trying to grab it - it was incredibly easy, as the hummingbird flew directly into his hand.  And then tried jamming its proboscis into his palm, but it hit a bit of metal on his gauntlet, and the fluid it was trying to inject dribbled down his arm with no effect.  The thing, its payload of poison exhausted, continued to stab fruitlessly at Mongo, until he smashed it with a loud CLAP.

The next room after this had four humanoid figures standing in its corners, each draped in nets of silver coins tied together with wire. Mongo approached the figures, and tried looking between the coins to see what was underneath - he had a vague impression of some sort of metal skeleton or automaton beneath.  When he tried parting the coins with his dagger, all four came to life, and began attacking.  There was a brief fight, wherein Gutboy paralyzed three with his hold person spell, and Netal blasted the fourth with his double-barreled shotgun, and once the machines were dispatched the party found that they were in possession of 20,000 silver coins.

Encumbered with treasure, the party decided to press on further.  They had a choice of directions from this room, and first went south down a long corridor, finding a room with a checkerboard pattern of red and black squares on the floor. Each square had an inch-wide hole in the middle of it.

Mongo pressed down on a red square with his pole, and nothing happened. He then pressed down on a black square, and nothing happened.  Then a different red square, nothing, and another black, and nothing.  He then had Netal press down on a square simultaneously - they found that sometimes one of the squares would shoot up a jet of flame, and sometimes not. They couldn't make any sense of it.  Mongo started going along pressing in order, red, black, red, black, red, black, then the next row, red, black, red, black, etc, but none of them fired.  With no confidence in how the trap mechanism was triggered, they decided to abandon this room and backtrack to the coin-automaton room, and try a different direction from there.

The other door from the coin-automaton room was made of stainless steel. When they peered in, they saw a long room with another stainless steel door on the opposite side.  There were six levers, in the "up" position, against the south wall, and a niche on the north wall with a sign in it.  The lettering on the sign was incredibly small, and there was no way anyone could read it without walking right up to it.

George decided to be bold, and walked into the room.  The rest of the party stood outside, watching from the other side of the door.  When George reached the alcove, the stainless steel doors suddenly swung shut and locked, leaving George trapped inside, while the rest of the party waited outside.

George heard a noise behind, and turned to see the levers going down, one at a time, seemingly at random.  After the last lever had gone down, he walked over, and started pushing the levers up in the reverse order.  The first two levers he remembered, and they pushed up with no ill effect.  He misremembered the third lever, and the floor sprung open in two spots, releasing ten skeletons into the room.

The rest of the party listened to the screams for a while, and when they ended they decided it was time to head home.  They encountered a half-dozen survivors of the morlock colony on the way back, who shouted "Mongos betray us! Mongos kill morlocks! Die all mongos!"  A simple sleep spell was all it took to end that threat, and the morlocks were no more.  Gutboy was briefly dismayed to see that their supposedly good friend Bilibub was among the slain, but he got over it.

Back to Denethix they went, to divvy up the spoils, mourn their lost comrade, and plot revenge on Slezgar for having the temerity to take the treasure they had ignored for so long.

Gains: 20,000 sp, clay bottle, medusa's head
Kills: 4 coin automatons, 6 morlocks
Losses: George


Hinge-Headed of the Basalt Ziggurat

The fourth level holds the Basalt Ziggurat, home of the Hinge-Headed and their armies of Neanderthal slaves. That's a ways off, but an ambassador may be found on the second level, on a diplomatic mission to the necromantic midgets. I look forward to the players grabbing its mind-crystal, thinking it to be valuable treasure, and then having it shout out "Over here! Save me, fellow dungeon citizens!" at inopportune moments.

No. Enc: 1d4 (6d10)
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120’ (40’)
Armor Class: 4
Hit Dice: 4
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d10
Save: T4
Morale: 8
Hoard Class: XVIII
XP: 190

The hinge-headed appear to be incredibly strong human men, with cylindrical bronze helmets entirely covering their heads. These cylinders have no openings whatsoever, and are attached to bronze collars bolted to the necks of the men. The cylinders are hinged in the back, and may be pried open to reveal the contents – a glowing crystal, clutched in a hand protruding from the neck (where a head would normally be).

These crystals are the intelligences controlling the hinge-headed bodies. They may be of any color imaginable, and are uncomfortably warm to the touch. The crystals are able to hear, speak, and perceive their surroundings within 30’.

The crystal will typically survive the death of its hinge-headed body. If one of these crystals is captured and its fellows become aware of it, they will go to great lengths to free their comrade. Ransoms of up to 1,000 gp may be paid per captured crystal, but the kidnappers will also earn the undying enmity of the hinge-headed.

The hinge-headed have developed the ability to dominate the weaker minds of Neanderthals, and use these creatures as their slaves. Any Neanderthal within 30’ of a hinge-headed must successfully save vs. spell every round or become dominated. The cavemen constantly resist their crystal masters, however, and upon a failed morale check they will briefly regain their will and run for freedom.

A hinge-headed typically wears a sleeveless robe over a bronze chain mail vest, and carries a two-handed sword strapped to its back.


Golden Pendulum

Another trap of the "you're going to trigger this purposely to get the loot" variety.  Treasure-hungry adventurers should figure out a way to get this down.  It's not very dangerous, unless the players do something insane - and they usually do. As I've mentioned in other posts, I like this style of trap - make it obvious, but make the bait compelling.

114. Golden Pendulum
In the center of this room is a 3’ square wooden platform, six inches high, supported by a series of dowels. The wood is incredibly old and fragile, and it will break easily if disturbed. Carved into the top of the platform are the words “Warning: Pressure plate beneath. Do not disturb.”

There is indeed a pressure plate beneath the platform, easily spotted now that players know to look for it. Moving the platform will cause it to start snapping – players will need to take care to prevent it from triggering the trap.

Any pressure on the plate will cause a blade at the end of a long bronze chain to swing down from the ceiling, causing 3d6 points of damage (save vs. petrification for half damage) to anyone standing in its path (running from southeast to northwest through the center of the room). The blade has a second chain connected to it, running from the southeast end of the slot, that will immediately start pulling the chain and blade back into the slot after the trap has swung once.

The blade is cast from solid gold, and is worth 400 gp. Close inspection will reveal the blade’s edge is a thin length of razor-sharp carbide steel embedded into the gold body.

The slot that the chain and pendulum rest in (and just a tiny glint of gold) can be seen should players think to examine the ceiling, 10’ above.


Skyrim Gets Surreal

I've been playing Skyrim on the PlayStation 3, and things are getting weird.

a. I'm walking down the road, and a Redguard woman is standing around in her underwear, in the snow, getting harassed by a pair of Alik'R.  I don't know if she's doing a Victoria's Secret shoot or what, but I chase after the Alik'R and give one a good whack upside the head - down he goes.  His buddy runs screaming away from me, savagely slashing at every chicken that gets in his way.

b. On my way to find the head of these Alik'R, I see a giant and a couple of mammoths in the distance. One of the mammoths shoots up into the sky like a rocket.  I steer clear, flying mammoths seem risky.

Now I'm deep in the Alik'R lair, and am offered the choice of fighting off a boatload of Alik'R thugs, or helping to off some damsel in distress.  My inclination is to see if I can polish off the thugs, but when all your leveling is due to "sneak" you really aren't very handy with swords or armor.


How many levels for next ASE?

I have a poll question for all of you.

Here's my dilemma:  I wanted to produce a supplement covering levels 2, 3, and 4.  That way, people can really start playing without having to worry too much about their players reaching un-published levels.  It also lets me kick off the third supplement with the 5th level's subterranean city of Under-Miami, which is a nice starting point from an aesthetic standpoint.

But, at the rate my own players are progressing, they won't be reaching level 4 for several months.  So it will push the release date out into the summer, because I'm not going to publish something that isn't playtested to some degree (not that it is possible for me to playtest every single encounter in a megadungeon).

The alternative is just levels 2 and 3, which would get released in late February or early March, depending on how quickly my players move along.

I don't know the right answer, so I'm leaving it to a customer poll:  do you want to see fewer levels sooner, or more levels later?