The Haven Campaign – Session #4

I’m going to attempt to make the story summary a bit shorter this post so that I can concentrate on the mechanics of play. Fortunately the group went into dungeon crawl mode a bit this session so the story summary shouldn’t be terribly complex.

We started with the group waking up after a long rest in the cave where they killed the Mountain Drake. They packed up some drake jerky and decided to explore the mountains along the east side of the vale. Their logic was that was the last place they had been able to track the woman in the dark cloak and the orcs. The party is pretty convinced that the orcs are responsible for the disappearance of Herah and that finding them will lead to finding her.

After few hours of exploration they found the remains of what used to be an ancient road or path. The stones of the road were broken in many places and overgrown but were recognizable. The road led up and around the mountain they were currently on. The path took them through a creepy copse of trees and to a man-made entrance into the side of a cliff, flanked by two fallen obelisks. The entrance and obelisks had many ancient glyphs and symbols etched into them but had been defaced by evil looking signs of Orcus smeared in blood and ash.

The group cautiously moved in and promptly found a secret door in the passage not too far from the entrance. Before figuring out how to open it, they were attacked by 8 skeletons armed with mismatched weapons and dripping with what looked like blood. They dispatched the skeletons and opened the secret door. It led to a passage that curved gently to the right and sloped down. There was a pit trap just inside the door but Gunar figured out how to disarm it and the group went down the passage.

The passage eventually led to a small room with a dark pool of water and a locked iron door. No one could unlock it but Lucky and Gunar managed to force it open. It led to more passages. Working on the theory that solving a maze means always picking the same direction when confronted with choices, the group went right and continued to go right any time the path split or came to an intersection. After some time of exploring a mixture of worked and natural passages and caverns, they found an iron-bound, wooden door.

Inside the new room were six sarcophagi from which climbed 6 armored skeletons that attacked. Gunar managed to turn 4 of them before an armored wight appeared from the next room. There was a brief but tense fight where Lucky lost a level of experience and Quinton turned and fled from a fear effect. In the end, the party prevailed and found quite a bit of treasure in the dark shrine to Orcus in the next room.

And that is where the party stopped for the night.

Observations on the system

We tried a couple of new things out this session.

The first and biggest change was how we handled initiative. I moved away from individual initiative and went with phased initiative where each round the party rolled against the opposition to see which side acted first in each phase. The phases of each round were Spell Casting Declarations, Roll Initiative, Movement and Missile Fire, Melee and Spell Completion, Additional Actions, and End of Round.

I thought the new initiative system went very well. It certainly cut down on the bookkeeping required before actually getting into combat. No need to roll inits and then determine order. Just cycle through the phases every turn with one quick roll to determine which side acts first. I haven’t gotten feedback from the players yet so I don’t know if they feel the same way. They are welcome to comment below if they want.

I changed how Thief Abilities work as well. I kept the 5 Abilities as Skills that only the Thief class could learn. At first level the Thief gets to skill slots. The first slot gives a +5 to any rolls with that Ability, just like any other Non-Weapon Skill. Additional slots give a +3. Each level where the Thief gets an additional Non-Weapon Skill slot, they also get a new Thief Ability slot. This keeps the Abilities more in line with normal Skills and makes bookkeeping a bit easier than before.

The party ran into a wight, which had a level draining attack. I didn’t like the level draining effect. It wasn’t much fun, really. Lucky’s player didn’t seem to get any enjoyment out of it. Even bad things happening ought to be fun, in my opinion. I think I’m going to instead have the wight drain Constitution or Strength or something like that instead. Next time the party runs into a monster like that, I’ll try it out and see if it works out better. I want the drains to be scary (scary is fun) but I don’t want them to seem like arbitrarily taking away player achievements.

I’m going to work on collating all the changes and new stuff to the system and put it out there in the wild again. I’ve got the beginnings of a beastiary, some magic items and more spell descriptions. Also there are the changes to the rules that I’ve enacted. All in all, the actual play seems to be going well and the system, while not complete, does run smoothly enough. As always, comments and questions are welcome.

4 Replies to “The Haven Campaign – Session #4”

  1. Yeah. I’ve just never been a fan of draining levels. It is unfun to me. Not only that, while it always sucks, it sucks less at higher levels when you have more levels to drain. Ability score damage actually sucks more as your character goes up levels. You might have a boatload of hit points at level X but your Strength score is still the same. That shadow can kill you in the same number of hits as it could when you were 1st level.

    So, with ability damage you get the danger factor even at high levels without the feeling that the GM arbitrarily horked your character.

      1. I currently have it working like this. Each day of rest allows them to recover 1 point of ability damage. They can also use healing magics. I’m sure I’ll have some creatures that are stronger that might do a more permanent drain but I haven’t yet.

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