While the rest of the class got started on several other activities, session four saw the surviving six members of the first expedition to Bawal Bayan entering the crater to begin exploring the ruins of the city. The party was composed of three elves, a pair of dwarves, and a lone knight.
Before we began, we went around the table and I asked each student to say one thing that they had learned from our first three sessions of Dagger.
"Don't split up."
"I picked up a spear."
"And don't be first in line."
"Yeah, don't be in the front or you'll get killed!"
"But I was in the front on the bridge and I didn't get killed."
"Why do you think your dwarf lived through the bridge ambush when so many other explorers didn't?"
"Cause I just ran across and started killing those goblin-things and didn't fall."
"Okay, but what about your armor class? It's a 17, right? [Dagger introduces both ascending and descending AC] So on a 20-sided die, what's the percentage chance of getting hit?" It took them a while to work out the percentage.
"Yeah, so you should be in the front!"
From this discussion a very basic sense of dungeon crawl tactics began to emerge -- my students were starting to Learn the Dungeon. Soon we had a marching order settled and we were on our way out of the Black Canyon and into the crater itself.
"I like this better [than playing with the whole class]. You can just describe what you want to do."
"Yeah, it goes a lot faster."
"You have more choices."
Soon they arrived at The Wall, a palisade-topped heap of stones and masonry that constituted the final barrier between the explorers and the floor of the crater. An elf spied some Mongrelmen as they skulked behind the wall. In a classic display of middle school diplomacy, the party began showering them with arrows and a magic missile as the dwarves and knight drew weapons and dashed to the foot of the barrier to begin scrambling up.
Despite their fearsome appearance, the mongrelmen fled at once.
"They're running from us."
"Yeah, they're scared of us."
I was curious to see if any of the six players might ponder whether these strange creatures were actually hostile or not, but for them strange = dangerous (which is usually true, so who can blame them?).
Having the panoramic map spread out in front of them with various encounter areas already named made the leap from console gaming to tabletop much easier I think. In old titles like Monkey Island as well as newer ones, having chunks of the game world pre-named in ways that establish theme or give hints about the contents are an effective shorthand way to trigger choice and immersion.
It also reminds me of the old side-view map from Holmes Basic D&D. How evocative was THAT when you were eleven? Stone Mountain for the Win!
The Fallen Colossus
As the explorers set off for the remains of the giant statue I had only the vaguest notion of what they might find and nothing scripted or written down. I figured that the giant bronze feet would be green with age and hollow. One foot would be filled with rain water (perhaps with some treasure hidden in the silt at the bottom). The other wouldn't be, meaning that it must have a drain hole somewhere that would give clever students a hint that there was a secret cavity beneath the fallen statue.
"How are we going to get up in there?"
"It's metal. I bet it's like, really hot. You are going to get burned."
"I'm not climbing up there. I bet it's a trap."
"Yeah, let's go somewhere else."
And so, just as quickly, the Colossus was abandoned.
"Let's head over to the caves instead."
"It will be hot in there."
"No, it will be cooler."
Next up ... The Caves