Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Adventures in The Cavern Endless Told by Middle Schoolers

In my Adventure Games Class, after a few false starts, I ran a group of students who had never really experienced tabletop role-playing before through four sessions exploring Sheberoth, my Peter Mullen artwork-inspired mega-dungeon, pulp, underworld.
 
 
 
Given that this is not an extracurricular activity, but an actual class in the school day it was important to focus on student growth and skills.  In this case I had four of my players collaborate via Google docs to write an account of their adventures to help them work on written composition.  As you can imagine, the writing came fast and easy compared to having them struggle with a more traditional writing prompt!

Here's what they wrote:
Who came on our expedition:
Three Bhatvian Rogues (Alyona, Yuri, and Jasim), a Markland Fighter in plate mail named Isabell, and a Craggie Ranger.  Later on a Walvian Wizard joined up with us.


What we did:
 
We climbed down the long underground staircase below the Ziggurat. The ranger almost died by falling because he didn’t remember that he was carrying a rope the whole time!  We came to the Great Library at the bottom of the stairs and even though we were traveling to the Daughter of Yig, we decided to try and explore the Great Library to find some magic scrolls and stuff that we could use or sell.



Yuri found a secret door leading into the library, but it wouldn’t open all the way.  We broke the bottom hinge, twisted it, and the rogues slid under the door and pulled down on it while the other guys pulled from the outside until the other hinge finally broke and the door fell down.  There was a magical glowing symbol above the door that flashed red but we just kept going.  


We went to the right from the entrance and found a room with a dried out pool in it.  There was a curtain and a spider-thing was hiding behind the curtain.  Alyona decided to set the curtain on fire with some oil and a torch, then ran through the curtain and attacked the spider with his sword, killing it.

We went back to the entrance and went straight this time.  Alyona found a big statue.  It said “Only initiates of the Jade Panther may pass,” but we didn’t know what that meant so we attacked it.  It delivered a mighty blow to Jasim and killed him with one punch from its humungous fist, but then we ran out of the room.  We came back a little while later and showed it a jade beetle that we had found earlier and then it took a step to the right and let us through.  The ranger took Jasim’s body and turned back at that point.


Behind the statue was a door and another hallway.  We found a set of shelves that had a weird hinge on them leading to a secret room.  Yuri opened it up and a dart shot out and nearly hit us.  Another room had a strange door with a set of tiles but we just took some scrolls from the shelves there and left that room.  A wizard from our basecamp joined up with us and we went down a set of stairs to the basement.

There was a huge green, glowing EGG thing on a stand and a bunch of arches.  Alyona and Isabell pushed the egg off the stand and broke it.  The shattered egg turned into a pile of green dust and we saw a ruby mixed in.  The dust formed into a Jade Panther with tentacles growing out of its sides.  Isabell snatched the ruby and almost died when the panther clawed him. Yuri saw that the cat was missing one of its eyes and so he went up to it and put the ruby in its empty eye socket and it gave him a Dexterity boost.
 

Through an arch, we found a ladder that led down into another room.  The only thing in the room was a glowing silver door.  When we touched it, we disappeared and it teleported us into a different underground room containing an altar.  Behind the altar and dias there was a door but when we went through this winged shadow-demon thing attacked us.  The wizard kept trying to shoot it with his Ray of Frost but kept missing!  It hit Alyona and permanently drained a point of Strength (he cried).  There were also these three big clay jars there.  One had bones in it, but the others were sealed shut.  Alyona broke one of the jars and ANOTHER shadow came out!  The wizard finally blew the shadows back with his Thunder Wave.  Isabell grabbed a weird blue cube that fell out of one of the broken jars and we ran down a ramp to a lower level.


 
We found an adventurer chained up to a wall, but we left him there (a pair of lizard-things had chained him up).  They sprayed us with their nasty gill-goo and it made us really sick before we killed them and found their nest.  They had some eggs in this pool of water and Alyona smashed them. Yuri stuck his face in the water to wash the gill slime out of his eyes so he had lizard egg goo on his face!

After fighting a snake demon and discovering a copper throne we found this underground river and a secret passage.  Something big was coming up the stream toward our light so we ducked down the passage where we met more lizard things and Alyona and Isabell stayed behind and fought seven of them while the wizard cowarded out.  Yuri stayed at the door and got grabbed by the tongue of a giant lizard frog.  It swallowed him and he went unconscious, but the wizard jumped on it and cut its throat open with his dagger before Yuri got digested.

We found a ledge on the edge of the underground river and jumped over to it, but Isabell kept leaving Yuri to die!  We rested up and then started to explore the big cave behind the ledge looking for a way out from under the Great Library.  We met this giant sphinx-thing with a cobra head, lion legs, and woman body!  It told us this riddle that we had to solve: “True Silver, God of Wolves, Night Dancer, Changing Mother.  Who am I?”  The wizard said it was the “Jade Panther”, but the sphinx roared and knocked him out.  Alyona said “werewolf”, but that wasn’t the right answer so he got blasted with a roar too.  
 
We left the sphinx behind and tried to cross the river and go back upstream, but we kept falling in and getting carried downstream by the current.  Isabell had to cut her armor off so she wouldn’t drown so now her armor class is terrible.  Isabell pushed the wizard into the river so that he could go first and see if it was safe, then we all jumped in.


 
The river carried us over a waterfall and we washed down into the Sunless Sea.  From there we climbed back up to the Great Library and back up the long stairs to the Ziggurat and our basecamp.
 
[JP: To make the waterfall ride dangerous but not utterly lethal I had each player roll a d6 minus his Dexterity modifier -- this is how many attacks his character would suffer as a result of his tumble.  Each successful attack would hit for d6 damage and any hit on an unconscious character would count as a failed death check.  The players got absurdly lucky and only one character took significant injury.  Since we were at the end of our fourth session and it was our last class before Christmas break, I ruled that the four survivors were able to make it back to camp safely.]