Monday 22 November 2021

Playing the Classics: M5 Talons of Night

So Im getting and playing later BECMI D&D adventures and most recent and the last year I have been tweaking my homebrew for high level play more. My campaign maxes out everyone at 20th, you can change your class or even species in play but being 20th level makes you at risk of divine attention and unwanted apotheosis so some try to cheat this by changing class and finding other weird influences or divine relations. Its been a much needed test for my homebrew rules/

I finally got all four players for the first time after completing another old module and players 19th lv. This game started as cave era game on tundra but the players have made their mark on world, recovered lost ancient technology and are the most advanced people in the north.

Boron the warrior and his wife Radon the cleric have been living in Red Ape valley ziggurat developing the first deity centred religion in the north for aeons. The building is a regular stop for the party flying castle and friendly griffons roost there too.

Lanos the giant has a nearby cave where he lives with his dogs when he is not flying the castle about and hopes to go to giant land and try to recover his long lost civilised giant kin from thousands of years ago. All the giants people are familiar with were not around in his day. Has a pet helion from the plane of law now as a current assistant and various giant and magically altered gigantic pony size talking dogs. He has also young Roc ally from a family of controlled ones the party freed.

Sourberry is now on conversing terms with the pine elf queen on the players continent. He got word all the followers they sent to help her in faerie land and is currently lost in time. He is now accepted as a clan leader of his twilight elves who are shifty but chaotic good. They have used their castle to map the mountain valleys, Lanos with his maul of the titans has been making roadways. Linked up many weird non human beings in the northern mountains and eliminated several hostile unpopular tribes like the hyena folk and the snake and spider cults. The nearby blue dragon has been accepting cash bribes to make reforms and behave and as north folk use no currency yet they don't mind giving the dragon a million gp. Sourberry did recently seduce a red dragon and she's sitting on eggs in her volcano. Lanos has been tempted to kill dragons but they have been non-threatening and making some progress thanks to greed.

Orco the wizard has one school in the castle and another with his friends in the elk tribe. As far as he knows he is the greatest wizard of the age but has helped kill a few liches. He has been increasingly allied to fire elementals and has been visiting the plane and built a stronghold there. Has met various fire element lords including the prince of evil fire elementals.

So the party have two people who can cast wishes and they have hothouse all their lower attributes up to acceptable risk free amounts. My wish system has a recommended safe wish list and if you wish too hard the entity gets a save to add additional problems or conditions and other jerkery nobody wants.

With my weird alignment system of having alignment scores that increase as you make oaths and take gifts the party have been mostly increasing their good scores and leaving their law and chaos inclinations in the dust. Im pretty sure most didn't intend to be good but it has been good for cooperation and resisting urge to exterminate people not quite worshipping the right gods. Boron and Lanos both raised good far above their law scores and so resisted purging.

The party together had a big dive into their treasure vault and divided up some more loot and handed items to their many minions.

So current adventure started when the party were placing a finger of a death demigod in a magically trapped chest in a stasis bubble with an invisible basilisk in the bottom of their septic tank their friendly neo otyugh lived in. The sky goddess appeared to thank them for averting this evil for an age then told them how the evil night spider was working on restoring the age of night and freeing herself to act on the mortal plane. So the party got their finest minions and a hundred orc archers and monster friends.

So the module is typical of that era is for 20-25th level and I have been using them as I have rarely had play this hight - got to 14th level 5 years ago and in 80s as kids who played at least a whole day a week we got players to 18th which were our fists BX characters adapted to Ad&d and played many classic modules. One feature of more to mid 80sadventure is instead of sandbox games they are dragonlance like railroads for a novice DM to play through even if they don't read it thoroughly. As I'm slapping some of the lore of this adventure for Mystara Im applying these places to the unexplored south and they worked fine. Dishing out various clues was good s they worked given my alt geography and players made links I had not which was good. Im hoping to try and write some more mid 80s style episodic adventures with lots of small locations and plotting. The adventure besides lots of poems has a boardgame which I worried about as I stupidly didn't test it and the player who played the villain got quite tense over their mistakes and losing and the element worked better than I thought even though I worried it was complex. As the adventure is part of a series some of those elements didn't work. The adventure assumes boat and land travel and my party currently tease people who still walk on the ground and don't just fly and airwalk or teleport about. One player saw me skip pages in adventure and commented something like his players were not only ones to run off the rails. Adventures for this high level that assume people walk is mildly amusing. I had to change a few things on the fly.

So on the way they battled a flying iron trireme full of undead they blasted into oblivion sent by the evil forces to stop them. Lanos has a skill with the castle and could have tried rmming or boarding but the lead heroes flew invisibly to the enemy and used a bunch of spells to burn all the undead. The surprised lich admiral was destroyed and his wraith and spectre minions lasted an extra few rounds and poor orco lost a level. As younger player had never had this before but other shrugged it off. Cleric will fix that back home no worries.

Later they arrived at an Egyptian style culture in between several empires and they hung back, polymorphed themselves into local humans and wandered the city. Used wishes to learn local speech and had a look around. Turned away from the library. Came back pretending to be colonials from one of the empires and mingles with other foreigners for peace conference and went to a big feast for foreign delegates. Tried some diplomacy and one of the visiting impressed 20th lv wizards eyed off Lanos as suspicious. Met other very high-level people and made friends with a colony delegate who explained all the conference factions. Saw the local Queen they were suspicious of, and presented her and Pharoah with a chest of gold. Used their noble visitor identities to get into the library, used clairvoyance and teleport to get into the forbidden section then spent the night teleporting books in and out to be copied by orcos apprentices and originals returned. Found more poems and history and went back to the sky castle and flew up the river to the temple of dawn. A spectacular location and airdropped down to explore the complex.

Met the vampire pharoh and played the spider game which as the player placed pieces the other party members vanished into spacial mazes. The cleric tried word of recall to the castle temple and it failed. s Orco lost against the master gamer players in the maze were sent to various tests and uncovered ,ore clues. Its designed so if you don't get them here there are are other sources. Players used previous clues to succeed and took the whole thing well accepting this was god level magic. When returned from their dimensional tests the cleric teleported back to her temple, her spell effect delayed not neutralised. She quickly ran back to the others.

The vamp got away and it was implied he was naughtily using the gods power to play games instead of killing the party. The party had to face a rightwing a horrible BECMI monster that killed Sourberry (he got better). On a plus he was now caught up with the frontline fighters for deaths and being killed by death spell was better than that time a beholder petrified then disintegrated him. This monster besides 20HD, resistances, death powers and more also can just leave the plane at will and has been spying on the party and causing problems with minions and the gang are very keen to stop this horror and rush the adventure even faster. Possible they will work out certain spells cn make this harder for the beast. Did get a cool pyramid capstone with interesting powers and flew the castle to the humanless mountain plateau and met the furries of the forest who explained more history and secrets for finding the nightspider.

So about halfway. Players enjoyed it and put up with the railroad and personal magic perils in pocket dimensions. Hopefully, we can get all four again to conclude the campaign. Im expecting the game to wind up but I have considered the option of using a version of BECMI immortals rules. Also, have an adventure for the followers lost in faerieland on quest for the elfqueen.

Hoping over xmas we get some long day games and to start something new - either post apoc or my dnd so I can playetest stuff. Getting a hankering for some SF possibly BRP/ringworld based. Id like to write my epic sf setting once more.

This is of course a Jaquay adventure and Im impressed it ran so well despite my changes on the fly for my setting and the players flying everywhere. Also, I ran it on two and a half skim reads which I did all the time as a kid when we ran modules the same week we bought them. As a DM you can input some flare and change elements of this and still run it. I didn't feel I was quite ready for it but it worked and playing it made more sense. The parts came together and the players pointed out stuff from handouts I didn't quite get and the elements all came together anyway. Quite a bit of roleplay opportunity and was amusing to having polymorphed stone age superheroes pretending to be posh bronze age nobles. They also have seen these empires use money and fancy farming methods they will take back home.

So I will get come more companion and masters modules. Like monty haul mixed with Russian roulette. I've had lots of players deaths running these and death is mostly an inconvenience when your sidekick is a 14th Lv cleric and resurrection is easy. Some of the traps and monsters have been fun. I like the early use in d&d of templates you slap on other monsters like the one to create 8x size regular monsters for kaiju like chaos. Bring back those 1st level dungeon things as house size horrors and they are fun again. Some of the traps and puzzles ate interesting and if a teen can solve them a more grizzled older player who hates puzzles should cope. Talons of Night is pretty amazingly flexible and interesting vs say other tsr stuff like Dragonlance.

I guess seeing how video games scale power is also a good lesson. Unique bigger weirder legendary monsters not just some sample of a species you turn into sushi.

The adventure assumes you have domains and have certain national allegiances but the extra factions and my player's magical disguise strategy got them right to the meat. I added the diplomats feast in pharoahs palace as an extra scene to set up all the national stakes. I had gods in the beginning nudging players for peace or humans will be backwards for thousands of years to get them invested early and added the extra-cosmic horror threats of night spider returning the age of darkness the players have found fragments of the whole campaign. I'm gonna get some more of these gonzo old beauties I missed in the 80s.

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