Fridays with Carin: Session 2

Our Friday group completed our second session of playing Cairn and we had an opportunity to finally get into some dungeon delving and some combat.

Observations and Changes to the Morgransfort Module

  • Since Morgansfort was designed for the Basic Fantasy RPG, I had to make a few changes on the fly to the gold and treasure settings. In general I reduced the amount of gold found by a factor of ten and also completely disregarded silver and copper pieces. So for example, if the module stated that the characters found 126 GP, I reduced that down to 12. I quickly observed in just the first few rooms of the dungeon that the amount of gold being dished out was a lot and I wanted a part of this campaign to reflect that gold and treasure really do matter a lot. 
  • Word of note regarding scale in the map. The dungeon map on page 31 of the module does not make it clear that the grid is a 10' scale, so the first few rooms I ran assuming 5' squares. This would've changed the encounter with the first floor trap in the west hallway, so something to keep in mind. 
  • A fascinating observation was pointed out to me from my play group while dealing with combat when it was our party vs.1 enemy, which was outlined in a couple of instances in the dungeon in smaller rooms thus far. Since Cairn's "Multiple Attacker's rule has all of the PC's roll and just the single highest dice being taken, my PC's observed they were able to "game" the system a bit if they had at least one PC fail the initiative, since they would be able to act/attack separately after the enemy, giving the PC's essentially "two opportunities to hit" in a single round instead of just one if they all succeeded or failed. Not a huge deal, but just an interesting observation that they immediately latched onto. Perhaps this isn't the intent of the combat system. 
  • Overall combat though went really smoothly and fast and I really liked how it didn't grind the rest of the game to a halt as D&D 5e does. We encountered combat, accomplished it for a few minutes and then were immediately able to move on. Most of the combat in this session was done via theatre of the mind, which is not my group's favorite way to play, but it worked out well for these quick encounters in various dungeon rooms. 
  • I also really enjoy the formatting of the monster stat blocks in the Morgransfort module. The stat blocks are very tightly organized with the monsters in place and with small check boxes to track their HP. Converting on the fly was painless and tracking the combat encounters with the initiative system was also extremely fast and effortless. Screenshot example below.

  • My players had some fun playing with character names a bit. Since the surname table in the handbook is so small we had a few duplicate names. Wenlan Candlewick, whom I outlined in the previous post, shares a surname with our PC Ysln Candlewick. We are playing out the situation where Wenlan is eyeing Ysln, thinking he knows her from somewhere, but he is not quite sure from where. 
    • We also had a hireling roll up with the name of Canhoreal, which is the same as one of the players. That turned into Can2, and then finally resulted in the party calling the hireling Twocan.
    • Finally, and this is my favorite, the young acolyte who joined the group at the end of Session 1 was given a name by the group. Cybil kept calling him "Cannon Fodder", which someone put into an english to french translator on Google which resulted in his name becoming Chair à Canon.
  • For the module I am trying to run the exploration in 10 minute dungeon movements and I have assigned each of my players different roles to track such as overland travel, dungeon cartographer, dungeon turn tracker, banker/quartermaster, etc. It is working out OK so far and my players are getting used to having to track this information themselves, but it is really nice to get off my plate. I think it is something I'll try to incorporate into other RPG systems. I've adapted a few of the sheets from OSE and made some of my own to handout to my players, so I'll try and share those in another blogpost. 

Morgansfort - Level 1

Room 1

The players entered here, a bit paranoid since they are not quite sure how brutal or aggressive I was going to be with this play system and traps. We had our first round of searching and marked off a ten minute round in the dungeon. The players did roll their first random encounter here and had three Kobolds approach from the southern hallway. I rolled up initiative to have it ready, but the players were able to convince the Kobolds that they were here to kill Goblins, which have a feud with the Kobolds in the dungeon. The Kobolds, not being to bright, but also hating the Goblins agreed to leave the adventuring party alone, but I did note to the players that their presence was likely to be reported to the Kobold higher ups. 

Three hallways exited from this main room heading east, south and west. Our group chose to explore west and they heard some growling animal from that direction. 

West Hallway

Exploring the west hallway Cybil was able to successfully identify a pit trap in the "T" intersection of the hallway and triggered it with her ten foot pole. She showed a surprising amount of concern for the young acolyte Chair, considering she was the one who said she did not want to be responsible for him, nor care for his safety. Some other members of the party encouraged Chair to go and find out what the growling sound from the hallway was. 

Room 2

Room 2 was the source of the growling sound. The party chose not to enter this room, but were able to observe with their torch light the glowing yellow eyes of a wolf den. Moving on they chose to explore Room 3 which was directly to the north at the intersection. 

Room 3

Room three held several large mud piles against the back wall and ceiling. The party discovered that these were Stirge nests, and we had our first combat encounter in this room with five Stirges. The combat for the most part worked out quite well. It was a great introduction that did some damage to the characters, and I allowed the PC's to have a surprise round due to their cautious nature in approaching this room. The module specifically stated that the PC's could have a "surprise condition" if the party approached cautiously. Our PC's were able to clear out the entire nest in two combat rounds due to good rolls and the surprise round. In retrospect, I perhaps should have used the "enhanced" attacked rules in the book, instead of the surprise round, but I'll have to consider that for future situations. 

This room had a surprising amount of loot for so early in the dungeon. It had six pieces of treasure ranging from 60 - 150 gp each. I cut the treasure back significantly and as I noted at the beginning of this post, divided it by ten. I handed out a jade statute for 13 gp and then also handed out four pieces of jewelry ranging from 5-12 gp each and allowed the characters to stack those items in their inventory. 

Room 4 & 5

Our players continued down the west hallway and came across a door on the southern wall which contained rooms 4 & 5. These really are one room, but had two different areas, so the module laid this out nicely once I was able to see on the map what they were trying to do.

Room 4 was a cellblock that had six prison cells. The characters explored each of these cells with various outcomes, so I'll just quickly summarize them below. 

  • Cybil found a pile of four gold coins that were covered in a yellow, dusty mold. She did handle the coins with her bare hands so she is now poisoned, taking 1d4 damage for the next six rounds of dungeon exploration. 
  • Arjune explored a cell with no items in it. 
  • Ysln found a cell with a pile of bones in it. The bones moved, revealing a Giant Crab Spider, which the party successfully dispatched, but did take some decent damage from. This was the encounter where my PC's identified they could game the action economy by having the group that succeeded initiative go first, then have the crab attack and then have the members who failed initiative attack. In the end it did not appear to be a major issue, but the Giant Crab Spider's, attacks did inflict poison on Ylsn which I applied as a "Deprived" condition on her. Our engineering party though did find two Potions of Healing, a Potion of Poison and a Potion of Delusion (disguised as a Potion of Speed). Ysln asked if she could take the potion of healing and I allowed her to to relieve herself of the Deprived condition and also restore 2d4 HP, but not restore the lost Strength. I'm not quite sure if that is how the intent of Cairn is supposed to run, but it seems to work fine as the party is unable to restore their ability stats until they can rest in a safe refuge such as a town.  I am leaving the Potion of Delusion undiscovered at this point as well, since we do have an herbalist and an alchemist in the party, but neither has handled the potion, so we will see how that plays out in future situations. 
  • Canhoreal's room had a locked cell door, but he had lock picks in his items and was able to unlock the door. I originally asked for a Dex save here to see if the lock pick broke, but chose to retcon that situation since there was no pressure in the attempt. The possession of the lock picks just allowed him to pick the lock. He found in his cell a magic ring, which I noted immediately to him was magic, since it did not appear to have any degradation or age from sitting in the poor conditions. Unsure how to handle the identification of magic items I decided to allow him to identify it during the next time the party took a 10-minute dungeon rest, which he identified as a +1 Ring of Protection. I am not quite sure how to handle an item like this from an inventory perspective, but I am inclined to not have it take up any inventory. I guess magic rings and jewelry can be incredibly powerful and valuable in that context. 
  •  Beatrice found no items in her cell. 

The continuation of this room into Room 5 was a Torture room. The party heard rustling here and overturned the torture rack that they heard the sound coming from. A Spitting Cobra lurched out at Beatrice with an attack, but did not roll an attack high enough to beat her armor and she took no damage. The snake slithered away through a crack in the wall. 

Room 8

The party then continued down the western hallway observing a set of stairs leading downwards to the west and a hallway continuing to the north. About halfway down the north hallway they found a 1' hole in the western wall and were able to observe a clear hallway on the other side. They chose to spend 10 minutes hammering at the hole, and with a success of the random encounter roll were able to widen the hole to 2' without incident or provocation. They climbed through and found the hallway continued west and north. The chose the north path that took them to the backside of a stone secret door. After much deliberation they chose to open the secret door, which swung on a center pivot.

Once the door was opened torch light flooded into the hallway and the party found themselves a brightly lit room with five Orcs who very quickly turned around in surprise. 

And that is where we ended Session 2.