Last weekend, my group and I played the fourth session of the Dwimmermount campaign. Unfortunately, I have no photos this week, since there wasn't anything to show off that I haven't already shown off in previously installments. I hope to have some new things to show for the fifth session, because at least some of my Otherworld miniatures should finally be painted and I fully intend to use them. Owing to scheduling conflicts, there will be no session this weekend, which is the first time we'll have missed a week since the campaign's start. I'll be very curious to see if the break has any deleterious effects on play, since it's my growing belief that one of the salient features of old school play is that it not episodic in nature. Consequently, regular play that picks up (more or less) precisely where the last session left off is key. To date, it's worked very well, so I'm hoping that we can continue the same way despite the weekend off.
Session 4 was significant for a number of reasons. First, by the end, all the characters present (Brother Candor, Dordagdonar, and Pike) had reached level 2. I'm pretty happy with the pace of advancement overall, as it's ensured that the exploration of Level 1 of the dungeon remains challenging -- and dangerous -- which brings me to the second significant event: the near-death of Brother Candor. This wasn't the first time that a PC nearly died (that happened in the very first session), but it was the first time that one of the more cautious PCs nearly did so. The party ran afoul of a chamber containing a number of Ranine and he bore the brunt of their assault, thanks to some lucky rolls on my part. In the end, he didn't die and, as his hit points inched slowly downwards, I have to confess that I considered fudging my dice rolls to keep him alive. I'm rather fond of the character, who's amusingly portrayed and I like the irony of a cleric devoted to the goddess of Chance being the primary most moral force among the PCs. But I made a commitment early on to roll my dice in the open and to stand by the results regardless, so Lady Luck favored Brother Candor in the end that night.
One of the great things about a properly designed megadungeon is that it's big. After four sessions of rather extensive exploration, using a map that helped them intuit the likely locations of secret doors, hidden passages, and other such obstacles, they still haven't explored its entirety. Partly, this is by choice. Early on they encountered some rather nasty kobolds who seem to live in some natural warrens that honeycomb the first level. The PCs have diligently avoided going anywhere they suspect more kobolds might be found, since their early encounter with them nearly resulted in a total party kill. Likewise, they've come across at least one room whose set-up is seemingly treacherous enough that they're unwilling to enter it, for fear of activating some trap that could spell their doom. So, they've been traveling around certain areas and still have plenty of explore. Megadungeons need to have lots of options and alternatives so that the players never feel forced to go somewhere they don't want to go. Giving the players a wide capacity for risk management is vital in my opinion, given that so many of the dangers they face will be utterly outside their control. They must at least be able to choose when they're willing to proceed and under what circumstances or else the whole things risks collapsing into something resembling the fable "killer dungeon" of old.
I also had a couple of combat-related insights. I noticed that, if you keep combat bonuses to a minimum, having a good armor class (5 and below) is really useful. Having a bunch of orcs kitted out in chainmail and carrying shields makes the encounter a lot tougher than if they had less impressive armor; I was rather pleased to note this. The other thing I found was that, if you don't want to check combat charts in play, you can just roll a D20, add the attacker's base hit bonus (or Hit Dice in the case of monsters), the target's AC, and any modifiers. If the result is 20 or higher, you've scored a hit that deals damage. The nice thing about it is that it gives a mechanical rationale to "lower is better" when it comes to Armor Class -- not that I needed one but hey :)
All in all, another good session and one that provided me with plenty of food for thought as I work my way through the hidden implications of old school megadungeon play.