Stuffed Crocodile

Mazes, Martians, Mead

[DSA] Session I: Black Boar Inn

So, we played. And it worked rather well, I guess. We had one completely green player (my girlfriend) and two which had more experience with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay. Just as DSA is THE standard for roleplaying in Germany, so is WFRP in Poland, to the extent that some people will claim that D&D is not a roleplaying game because it’s not WFRP. But both of them did  well even with this oh so unfamiliar game. That it was even more basic than OD&D might have helped a bit with that.

And we had fun. The party consisted of a Valkyrie from the north (a Thorwalian), a rather antisocial mage with a fetish for petrifying people, and a small-time crook with aspirations to become a full-blown scoundrel. They all met in a wayside inn just a few miles from the town of Gratenfels, and quickly got imprisoned and sentenced to death for  espionage and backtalking with evil intent, by the paranoid madman running the Duchy.

This actually was the worst part of my performance: the adventure module has an awful case of railroading in this point, which is especially grating as my players actually could have found much more interesting ways of freeing themselves from that situation. I tried to avoid most of it, but in any case the characters need to be railroaded  because there is no other way to get to the dungeon. In hindsight I think I should have had them start in the inn’s cellar, waiting for execution, and discover the secret exit to the duke’s secret silver mine by chance alone.

The rest went a lot better: we skipped the part where the characters had to find their way through the darkness and find the torches by feel and touch alone (which technically is an awesome part of this adventure), as we had a mage in the group and he knew a light spell.

Problem-solving was done accroding to the plan in the module though, but I soon came across another problem: the players all in all did not really like the idea of dungeons in itself. Which might not be such a bad thing in a larger campaign, but the adventure was supposed to be mostly about finding your way through a secret silver mine and discovering all the weird stuff in it.

To make things short: they found the way outside and left much earlier than I would have anticipated, not even touching the more juicy parts of the conterfeit operation, but getting the basic gist of the other plot point: the Duke is mad (hard not to notice that) and he’s not heeding the warnings of his dwarven slaves to not actually dig here, because there are warning signs plastered all over the place. Instead he believes the dwarves want to weasel out of digging here because there might be a dwarven treasure down there somewhere (dwarven runes = lots of treasure, obviously). Which he needs because he built city walls so fucking huge that he won’t be able to pay off the debt in a hundred years.

We managed to all in all get into one single fight: Two orc guards were surprised gambling and quickly slaughtered (as quickly as you can with the DSA-combat system, in other words: both orcs and adventurers hit a lot of air). Of course only afterwards they thought about maybe questioning one of them so he could lead them out of there. Which they did when they found the next one, who was easily convinced by them that they were the Duke’s inspectors. He also lead them to the dwarves. they tried to instigate a rebellion under the dwarves, but 1. most of them were completely broken after months of hard labour, and 2. even if they weren’t the could not leave because there was something lurking in the walls, and they had to stall the discovery of whatever it was, because, well, if the highest authorities of the dwarves and the humans leave warning signs all over the place and nobody wants to remember what this place actually IS, it might be pretty bad (spoiler: yes, it is).

In between they managed to talk their way out of a bad situation with some bugbears (or Höhlenschrate, as they are called in the system) and managed to get a hint for a shortcut out of the system. This one they actually found, bypassing most of the later dungeon and some of the more nasty monsters. The way they found was rather inventive but ended in the Thorwalian warrior getting bitten by angry bats and then bumbling down a rocky hillside. All in all she got the most damage in the adventure and she wasn’t even fighting that much.

So the characters now have a hook for the next session: get a message from the imprisoned dwarves to the mountainking and tell her what is happening in that mine (yes, her, I’m going for the untranslatable-term-in-dwarvish here). Now I will have to think about where to take the story after they get to the dwarven king.

Things I need to remember if I ever play this module again:

Don’t railroad the beginning that much. The hamminess of the Duke and the roleplay with the people in the inn might be nice, but there is no way that a group of young hotshots will just let themselves be thrown into the cellar. This actually was solved in the module itself, the problem was that the “solution” was three pages of text to be read to the players, with no actual playing allowed in between.

All in all: not too bad as a dungeon adventure, once one gets past the introduction, with a bit of logic even the different inhabitants of the dungeon can provide some nice interactions and memorable moments.


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