Thursdays in Thracia - Part 8
This is Part 8 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.
[caption id=“attachment_426” align=“aligncenter” width=“525”] Map From The Caverns of Thracia[/caption]
Continuing from Part 7, after the party was partially dissolved by a gelatinous cube.
The party fled from the gelatinous cube through the secret door in room 5, above, then made two left turns into a very long hallway (8).
About halfway down the hallway, three massive rats, surprisingly intelligent for rodents, confronted them. The rats blocked their path, not attacking outright but squeaking angrily as they approached. Alveric the Thief once again brought out the magical eyes of the paralyzing statue, and froze two of the rats where they stood. The third ran away through the shadows. The eyes were still effective, yet their shine seemed to diminish a little.
The party continued down the hall. At the end they came to a long, long stairway, descending down well beyond where their torchlight ended. They also noticed a pattern on the wall similar to the one where they had found a secret door.
Investigating the pattern, Alveric the Thief and Skubble the Dwarf discovered another switch and slid the door open. Thankfully, there were no gelatinous cubes present, but there was a massive room lined with columns (27a).
First, the party checked out an alcove on the north side of the room, the floor of which was full of nickel-sized holes, each one quite deep and lined with charred metal. There was a large circle in the center of the alcove with no holes, only smooth floor. The decision was made that they should all jump onto the central circle at the same time. Most of them made it, but thankfully nothing happened. They landed on the floor, the sound of their boots on the stone echoing out into the room.
They decided to move southward into the room, purposely hugging the eastern wall and not passing between any of the columns for fear of triggering whatever those pipes were.
As they moved through the room, a smell of decay grew stronger and stronger, until they reached the center of the room, which was split by a massive chasm. In the darkness across the chasm, on the inaccessible side of the room, were what looked like hundreds of human corpses stacked in piles in varying states of decay. The smell was almost overwhelming. Skubble inched towards the edge of the chasm to investigate, but felt the floor beneath him about to give way as he got closer. He retreated back to the group.
The group left the room the way they came, and began to descend the long stairway to go deeper underground. About halfway down the stairs, they heard a loud pop noise, and felt a rush of wind. Alveric immediately recognized the phenomenon as the one that preceded the appearance of a massive living statue that killed Shale the Fighter in their first expedition into the caverns. Terrified, the party fled in the opposite direction, all the way back down the hallway, to a wooden door (7, above). They burst through the door without hesitation, and stood face to face with six angry gnolls!
Unfortunately Slam, the gnoll they had charmed in the first expedition, was not present. Thinking fast, party members who spoke the language of Chaos warned the gnolls about the statue, and admitted to being the ones who had slaughtered many of the gnolls’ enemies, the death cultists in the other area of the dungeon.
Fortunately, the gnolls were impressed, and allowed the party to take shelter in their room as the statue passed by.
Eventually, there was another pop noise, and a rush of air, and the thunderous footsteps of the statue ceased.
After escaping the cube, the remainder of the session was largely about exploring more of the map and investigating some of its features. When the party avoided triggering the mechanism involving all those holes in the large room, I was simultaneously proud of their ingenuity, and a little disappointed that I didn’t get to describe the resulting effect, which is really fun and surprising. Maybe next time.
As the module is written, any PC who gets close to the chasm is in danger of falling in unless they can roll under their dexterity score. At low level, the fall is certain death. I described the floor as being cracked and crumbling as it got closer to the hole, and told Skubble’s player that he could feel floor under him sink ever so slightly when he approached. He got the hint and kept his distance. In old-school games it is important for the DM to make these kinds of details readily apparent, especially for such potentially dangerous moments. It’s the kind of thing that the player may not think of right away, but to the character the danger would be readily apparent.
I’ve decided to let Alveric keep using his paralysis eyes, but obviously they are losing some power. I’m rolling a D4 with every use from now on. The eyes affect as many targets as the D4 roll, but on a roll of one they will fizzle out, having spent their last bit of power.
We also had some more fun with reaction rolls. I’ve decided to be pretty liberal with them, because I think the possibility of nuanced interactions with monsters really opens up the module as an interesting sandbox as opposed to just a series of corridors and monsters. The rats were a low roll, but not snake eyes, so they stood their ground and refused to let the players pass. The gnolls were obviously a high roll, to which I added a bonus for the players having slaughtered so many cultists and owned up to it.
Of course, there is a limit to how friendly a group of gnolls will be to a group of puny, smelly surface dwellers, but we’ll see just where that limit lies next time.
Lastly, after four sessions of play, the players have found the stairs to the second level of the dungeon! In The Caverns of Thracia Under the heading Notes for The Judge, Jaquays gives DMs a few helpful pieces of advice for running the module. One of them reads, “Due to the size of this adventure, it is doubtful that it can be played in one sitting.” Yeah, no kidding.
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