Thursdays in Thracia – Part 5

This is Part 5 of my Thursdays in Thracia B/X Dungeons & Dragons Campaign, an actual play of Jennell Jaquays’ The Caverns of Thracia. For more context, start from Part 0.

The Lost City of Thracia, Judges Guild 1979

What Happened

Continuing from Part 4,  after the party returned to town after a mostly successful first expedition.

The party that left town for the second foray into the lost city was largely different from the original party. Yam Stevens, a Magic-User, was among them, as well as Toba the cleric. Beyond that it was largely a new collection of adventurers, including a thief named Jek. Five heroes and their hirelings all told.

Upon arriving at the crumbling city, the party decided to investigate the large stone platform (A, above) which had been home to several gnolls on their first foray, including Slam, who should still have been under the effects of a Charm Person spell. The good news was that there were no gnolls to be seen this time, the bad news was that their friend* Slam was also not around.

*anyone who casts Charm Person on you is not your friend.

Set into the center of the platform, a wide stone stairway descended straight down into the soft earth. The party decided to investigate the area on the surface more before they went in. Jek, the thief, volunteered to sneak around the side of the black stone structure (B) that held the underground entrance the party had used on their first foray.

Moving as quietly as possible, Jek saw that the tribesmen had set up a wooden barricade around the entryway, manned with three armored soldiers. During their sneaking, Jek stepped on a rotten log. Luckily, the tribesmen failed to notice the sound among the other noises of the thriving jungle.

The party abandoned that entrance, and explored the ruins to the north, where they found a large stone tablet, carved in an angular, runic alphabet. Yam correctly identified the language as Dwarvish, but because Skubble was not with the party, no one was able to translate it. Yam decided it would be worthwhile to transcribe the runes onto some paper, which took some time.

As the party stood idling, curious predators lay in wait. Two massive spiders, monstrous creatures of the jungle, sprung from the undergrowth! The party was able to dispatch them with relative ease, but Yam suffered a rather nasty bite. Only by the grace of the gods was he spared the effects of the thick, clear venom that oozed from the spider’s fangs.

Gathering themselves, the party returned to the large stone platform, and descended once more into the darkness.

Playing B/X

I only had three players this session, and one of them was new, so the party makeup was substantially different. The session was also a bit shorter than usual, so this post and next week’s might reflect that.

For the first time, I found myself having to really adjudicate Thief abilities in B/X. Thief abilities in old school D&D are a Whole Thing. Honestly, I just wrote out several paragraphs about them, realized I wasn’t halfway done, and that I am going to have to do a entirely separate post just about Thieves, their history in early D&D, and why they are a pain. For now just know that Jek failed a “Move Silently” roll, and so I gave the guards a 2-in-6 chance to hear the resulting noise, which they did not.

Other than that, things were pretty straightforward here. The module indicates that there is a 60% chance of Gnolls appearing on that platform, and because there were no Gnolls, there was no Slam. I figure he is generally with other Gnolls.

The ruins up north indicate a 30% chance of a random encounter, rolled from  the table for level 2 of the dungeon. My initial roll, indicated no encounter, but because they decided to stick around and transcribe a tablet that they couldn’t read, I rolled a second time. Hence, spiders. They force a saving throw against paralysis with every bite, which could have gotten nasty really fast.

More on this session next week!

If you want to follow along at home, you can get both The Caverns of Thracia and B/X Essentials at DriveThru RPG.

4 Replies to “Thursdays in Thracia – Part 5”

  1. I have been running an ongoing campaign using White Box and I really like how you are doing these posts. One part actually play, then one part a sneak behind the curtain at the functions of a DM. I have really enjoyed both, the actual play is great, I tend to find these over-long and boring, but yours are just right. Straight to the gist of the session with just enough notes on what happened.

    Then the look behind the DMs curtain is just perfect, explaining troubles you encountered/how you overcame them, difficulties with an older module, rules or judgments you made on the fly and why you determined things the way you did. Unequivocally useful and enlightening.

    1. Thanks Matthew! How are yo liking White Box? Are you playing FMAG with the D6 thief? I like how straightforward Whitebox seems to be, but have not played it.

    2. Agreed.

      I can’t wait to see more discussion of Thief abilities. I tend to go with the “make thief abilities super-awesome” mentality: when a non-thief sneaks around, they can be quiet, but when a thief sneaks around, they are dead silent! I’m interested to see how others make that actually work in the rules.

      1. Mike Mornard, posting as Old Geezer before he was banned, posted a couple of times (or more) over at RPG.net that Gygax never properly explained how thief abilities worked which is why they seem nearly useless as written. And he posted this as someone who played with Gary, Dave Arneson, and even Phil Barker.

        Basically, and I hope I’m quoting him correctly, these abilities were supposed to represent impossible feats – as you mention, a thief moving silently is completely silent. Similarly, hiding in shadows means the thief is, somehow, hiding in a shadow, not in an area of darkness or total concealment where even a 3-year-old could hide.

        Thieves completely suck before level 10 or so (crappy saving throws – yep, they’re the worst at dodging things, crappy hit points, crappy skills that almost never work, crappy combat skills, etc…) so maybe just making things work by narrative and only rolling dice in moments of extreme stress and difficulty is the way to go.

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