Continuing from Part 5, after the party descended into the largest entrance to the caverns, a wide stone stairway .
The party reached the bottom of the stairs, which opened up into a large room beyond (1). The floor of the room was covered in a layer of sticky white guano, which made them wary after their previous run-in with large bats.
They hurled a lit torch into the room, to see how the bats would react, and a flurry of small bats fluttered around the orange glow, a far cry from the massive, vicious creatures that had killed one of their retainers during the previous expedition.
They marched into the room, which was painted with ancient murals of the Thracian civilization. The room opened up into a narrow hallway to the east, and a wider hallway to the north, lined with columns. They went north.
At the end of the hallway was a pile of rubble that was clearly once a great statue, now smashed to bits, and a door each, east and west. After poking around in the rubble a bit and not finding much, they opened the door to the west. The room was full of giant centipedes, maybe twenty or so, crawling all over each other amongst more rubble. A chitinous, slithering mass at the edge of the torchlight. (4)
They closed the door.
Behind door number two was a party of four lizard-men, just wrapping up a centipede hunting trip. Several centipedes lay splayed out on the floor, the meat of one scooped out and eaten already. One of the lizard men sat on the floor in the back with a wounded arm being tended to by another. Their leader stepped forward, hissing something in the reptilian tongue.
“I see you’re having some centipede trouble too!” said Yam Stevens, magic user, in as friendly a voice as is possible in the language of the Chaotic alignment.
The leader responded angrily, telling the filthy humans to leave this place, as he and his warriors readied weapons to hold their ground.
Yam muttered some arcane words, and the lizards all fell asleep so the party could slit their throats.
In the second half of this short session, the party got to exploring a different area of the caverns, one not full of death cultists.
The most interesting point was when Yam tried to communicate with the lizard-men, because it was the first time the party encountered monsters and didn’t attack them straightaway, which let me use the reaction roll, something I’d been looking forward to.
In B/X, unless a monster’s actions towards the party are obvious, the DM can make a reaction roll on 2d6 modified by a PCs charisma to see how they respond to the presence of the PCs. There is a spectrum of possible results depending on the roll. Interestingly, monsters only attack outright on a roll of 2.
While these lizard-men definitely don’t love humans, they weren’t specifically out for blood, and the PC’s are obviously not part of the death cult, who are the lizard’s real enemies. I figured Yam could justifiably try to reason with them.
The roll didn’t go great, but it also wasn’t snake eyes. The lizard-men responded angrily, holding their ground, but weren’t about to get into an unnecessary bloodbath if they didn’t have to.
Then Yam busted out that old favorite, the Sleep spell. and the party murdered all of them.
Reaction rolls are cool, because they give the DM a tool to determine how a monster reacts, without just making a decision. Along with things like random encounters, these mechanics make B/X a system where the DM can be almost as surprised as the players when events take an unpredictable turn.
The reaction roll also hints at a world and a game in which the monsters aren’t suicidally violent, rushing into the PC’s swords, destined to be farmed for XP. They have other stuff going on. They like being alive, and they aren’t worth that much XP in the first place.
Of course it won’t stop your players from murdering them the moment they get in the way either.