Thursdays in Thracia – Part 9

This is Part 9 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.

Continuing from Part 8,  after the party took shelter from a pursuing statue in a room full of gnolls (7, above).

What Happened

After the statue was safely on its way, the party and the group of gnolls shared an awkward moment, standing there staring at each other. When it was clear that the gnoll leader was arguing with his underlings about whether or not the party or their pets were food, the party decided it was time to get going. In a final gesture of cross-species friendship, the gnoll warned them about a spear trap in the hallway(6, above), and led them past it so they could return to town and rest up.

Once in the hallway, they noticed a section of wall that looked different, an odd texture compared to the rest of the wall. Apparently, something had been plastered over. They decided to spend some time chipping away at the plaster.

As Jek the stabber (thief) slowly revealed something long hidden, the corridor filled with the sound of padded feet. From around the corner, 6 gnolls, come to replace their brethren down the hall. To the delight of Yam Stephens (magic-user), they were led by the Gnoll he had affectionately named Slam, who was still under the effects of a charm spell from the very first expedition.

Yam and Slam embraced while once again the other gnolls looked on, confused and hungry. After a brief catch-up Slam gave Yam a symbol of their friendship, which could hopefully be shown to other gnolls in the future.

Meanwhile, Jek had uncovered a large stone door, engraved all over with text in the ancient Thracian language. Some of the party members could understand a modicum of modern Thracian, and could pick up a few important concepts. Words like “DEATH” and “PORTAL” and “ETERNITY” and “CHERISH.” Naturally, they wanted to explore further beyond, but decided to return to town first. They returned to the surface and trekked back without further incident.

Playing B/X

I discussed reaction rolls and the limits thereof a little bit in Part 8. The party scored really highly against the gnolls in the guard room last session, so I gave them a lot, but also figured that these are ultimately monsters, and even if they’ve gotten social traction with the leader of a group, the rest of them are going to be generally disgusted by humans. Essentially, uneasy momentary truces are possible, but becoming outright allies with monsters probably isn’t possible. Any interaction with a monster is in danger of breaking down fast. I required another reaction roll to get the leader to disarm the trap for them, but they nailed that one, too.

Of course, Slam is still under the effects of Charm, so he treats Yam like a close friend, much to the confusion of his comrades. I only recently realized I was handwaving town so much that I hadn’t accounted for the slow healing times in B/X. Technically everyone only gets back 1HP per full night of rest. It’s likely that if I actually had been tracking that then Slam would have shaken it off by now, but hard to say. I’ve been ticking off two days every time the party leaves and comes back, and the spell allows its target to save only once per week. At this level anyone who has taken more than 2HP of damage has probably ended up dead anyway.

Of course, when that spell wears off the gnolls are gonna be pissed. Probably to the point of automatic violence instead of a reaction roll at all.

There was also this cool secret door! I’ve decided my philosophy for secret doors is that I am going to make their presence relatively obvious from description. Hence the plastered over walls, or the intricate patterns from previous sessions. The players can then choose to search, or chip away at the plaster expending time and risking additional encounters. The time vs. encounter roll trade-off is a major component of B/X, and I think the choice to take that risk is a lot more interesting than the PC’s just never seeing an awesome part of the dungeon because they didn’t happen to search a completely random part of one of many long hallways.

If you want to follow along at home, you can get both The Caverns of Thracia and B/X Essentials at DriveThru RPG. If you want to know when I post something new, put your email address in the sidebar.

5 Replies to “Thursdays in Thracia – Part 9”

  1. Your players seem to have made efforts to win over the gnoll in a real, long-term way. Are their memories so short and their instincts so violent? I’d be confused, as a player, if the removal of the charm spell removed every aspect of the relationship so automatically.

    1. Interesting perspective! I see what you mean.

      I’ve always assumed that when a charm spell ends, the target realizes that they’ve been magically manipulated, which is something I’d view as a massive transgression / assault. Even if Slam would now have second thoughts about fighting the PC’s, I don’t think the gnolls as a group would ever put up with groups of outsiders coming in and magicking their way in for plunder. Let’s also not forget that immediately after the charm spell, Slam watched the PC’s kill several of his people.

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