Night of the Skull

Last year, it seemed like I couldn’t get a game together to save my life.

The stigma of my old group weighed heavily on me and I was cautious at best to get into a new game. Still, I pressed on, finally making headway with my best friend, my girlfriend, her best friend, and my roommate. Then, little by little, new players heard about the game and wanted to join. Before I knew it, I was running two campaigns, a third was being planned, and the Time of D&D was upon us. That’s when I realized the answer to that age-old question, “Can there be too much of a good thing?”

Late in the week, three new people wanted to join. Only two were interested in playing—Paul and Ryan. Erin, the third, just wanted to observe and see if it was something she could get into. When game night came, we had eight people crowded around the new gaming table. I was worried; new players always worry me. If you know anything about my gaming style, you know I’m always concerned about how new player personalities will affect the game. Once gaming Nirvana is achieved, it’s due mostly in part to the combination of personality types that comprise the group. When a new element is added, who knows what will happen? Will we have a powergamer? A grandstander? A rules lawyer? Fortune seemed to smile down on our group, for Paul and Ryan were anything but. Not only did they mesh well with our already existing group, but they roleplayed excellent characters.

The game was twenty levels of awesome. The party met up with Paul and Ryan’s new characters: a wizard and an artificer. The group was their normal crazy selves, drifting in and out of character like a real life Nodwick comic strip. Since a few of the characters were a hair’s breadth away from fourth level, we breezed through a couple of battles to get them the necessary experience for some well-needed leveling. The group, now composed of 3rd- and 4th-level characters, was ready for something big. Were two ghasts and two cursed spirits enough? Don’t even ask what the encounter level was because I have no idea; probably too much for the assorted characters to handle. Thankfully, Lia’s dwarf Eberk saved the day and pulled the PCs’ collective asses out of the fire by using her turn undead ability. The cowering creatures were then summarily destroyed by a few beads from Aramil’s necklace of fireballs.

Once the smoke cleared, it was time to grant the party a significant award. As some of you may know, I have precious little time to work on D&D these days, thanks to an amazing girlfriend to dote over, starring in the upcoming PCC musical Urinetown, and filming several movies in the spare time of my spare time. Because of all of this, Endless Dungeon is completely improvised, from the monster encounters, to the room contents, to the treasure. Be it rolled from a table or made up on the spot, nary a plan enters my head before it’s in play. For the most part, this gives us some interesting situations; tonight was no different.

Above an incredibly trapped evil altar was a secret compartment. Knowing in my head that I wanted it to be a crystal skull mask, and knowing that the adventure has focused on dragons and orcs working together for some unknown purpose, I decided it should be a dragon skull mask. Flipping through the magic item chapter in the Dungeon Master’s Guide, I found exactly what I wanted. But for a predominantly 4th-level party, it was too powerful. Rather than nerf it, I decided it wouldn’t reveal its powers all at once. After touching it, Will’s character Lidda failed her saving throw—and that’s when it whispered to her, Put me on! So what did she do? Is there any question?

Of course the group doubted the dubious nature of a crystal skull mask in the shape of a dragon, so they asked her to take it off. And of course she didn’t. Roll for initiative… After several failed or broken grapple attempts made by the party on our rogue who was now trying to escape, Eberk finally made some headway by grabbing the wiry halfling. During the grapple, Paul’s wizard cast color spray at the two of them, knowing it could affect Eberk, but hoping it would incapacitate Lidda. Unfortunately, plans didn’t go the way he wanted them to: Eberk was blinded, allowing Lidda to drink her invisibility potion. She then promptly walked up the wall thanks to her slippers of spider climbing and waited for the party to make their move.

As the characters circled the room, blocking any and all exits, Brad’s bard character decided now would be the best time to use a Quall’s feather token, causing a 60-foot tree to instantly spring forth from the ground below Lidda. Making her Reflex saving throw, Lidda grabbed a branch and road the tree up and out of the dungeon. However, just before leaving, she took the time to drop the Orb of Fear she’d been keeping in her possession. The small, magical glass sphere dropped slowly, glowing with an unholy red light as everyone within its range of effect ran for their lives. Keeping with tradition, Eberk was the only character to pass his saving throw.

What happens next? We’ll find out on Thursday! In the meantime, check out pictures from the session.