Summer in Finland is unstable at best. This tends to lead into a gambling event with the mother nature with your holidays. Usually it rains or at least is unnaturally cold when you have a few days of to visit a cabin. Not this time! It was as hot as it gets here and what did we do with this kind of a marvel on our hands? Covered away from direct sunlight, dug up our bags of d6s and try out the demo adventure for Dungeon World (download the adventure from the downloads section).
A little over a week ago we went to the same cabin with mostly the same guys and had fun with John Harper’s and Paul Riddle’s The Regiment. As I did not want repeat the same thing but still wanted the easiness of Apocalypse World engine I decided to introduce the players to the Dungeon World. The Slave-Pits of Drazhu by Jason Morningstar was a new find for me but it did not take long to read it through and get the things going.
I might as well give a spoiler warning here. I’m discussing this convention scenario so some secret will be spilled.
We had a player that hadn’t played with AWengine before so we began the game with a quick explanation of the game system. As it is not hard to grasp and can be learnt quite nicely while playing it did not take long. I explained the starting premises for the adventure and this immediately sparked some conversation about the characters.
Listening what the players were talking I was able to quickly judge that two of the players would get the special Slave playbook that comes along with this adventure. Third player chose that Paladin and that last playbook given out was the Wizard.
The adventure comes with a different set of bonds to set the relationships between the characters. While discussing about the backstories of the characters it quickly became apparent that Oom the Slave was driven by hate. The Wizard (who had formerly worked for Drazhu and was now trying to save him from himself) was influenced by this hate and one of the orc guardians of the Pits searched religious counceling from him before he was cast into the dungeons as well. The another slave? He had taken a pick from Oom and was quite ok with the whole being a slave thing.
Starting the Game
Once all characters had been made and each player was familiar with the setting and the goal of this adventure (REVENGE!) we started out with a major earthquake. I might have rocked the table to enforce the feeling of a quake. Just a bit. It’s not like someones drinks got spilled, right?
I asked the players the amount of slaves that were killed by the quake. 400 was a nice number and it quickly became a running joke as one extra character got killed and the players were able to shout out “401!”
As always the beginning was a bit slow. Goblin task master was killed, some looting happened and the players got the hang of their characters.
During the character generation HATE was a major theme and it kept of growing during the game play. Everything that happened just enforced it and the characters were hellbent to get to Drazhu.
Our “heroes” took the road that lead them through the orc warrens. Oom was stroke down by an ambush and once he promised the angel of death that he would get Drazhu he was back on his feet. Luckily the orc paladin new some healing magic as it was quite handy on more than one occasion.
Storming the orc whip master’s room the characters were nearly killed (again) but managed to get their first real loot. Up until now they had been working with minor trinkets (the game comes with printable equipment cards that serve the narrative nicely). They got a horrible venom and some elven swords (which proved out to be completely useless for them as none of the characters were good with DEX).
At this time I noticed a decline in the players interest in keeping the game on for a longer period and skipped a part of the adventure. There is actually a suggestion of what to skip to keep the game under a set time limit and I found this extremely helpful.
I did not let the players to overcome the last obstacle without a roll though. The narrow bridge over the bottomless chasm was a way to guide their rage. They could not just storm over it. They defied the danger and walked slowly across the bridge. Or at least two of them did. A roll was missed and as one player jokingly remarked that the bridge should collapse it naturally did just that.
Two of the characters were stuck on the wrong side of the chasm.
We have had some major death scenes in our games during the past few years. But this was quite likely one of the most epic ones given that we had been playing for only little over an hour. The two characters tried to jump over the bridge while those already on the other side helped them.
And of course the wizard fell into the chasm.
As songs for the dead go this was the most cheesy one. Celine Dions “My Heart Will Go On” played on the background as we competed to narrate the death of the wizard. It was pure gold with the hate for Drazhu climaxing.
The Final Battle
After the fall of their companion the characters continued their journey and came into the crossroads that allowed them to escape the dungeon or confront their tormentor. “Death is easier than being a slave in Drazhu’s Pit” was the proverb that we used to explain the starting situation.
The slave who had been most ok with being the slave was the only one who wanted to escape. Hatred was driving the other two. Ultimately they all entered the lich’s den.
Now I would like to say that this was an epic fight that lead into a memorable defeat of the Lich Lord. It most certainly almost was! But luckily it did not end in that manner. The heroes were fuelling all of their anger to defeat Drazhu but the Paladin had to visit the Gates of Death during the fight. The orc goddess of death instructed the Paladin to let go of his hate.
At the meantime Oom was locked into a deadly mortal kombat with his nemesis/slaver and got a few lucky strikes on him. It would have actually ended in his victory had he managed to strike one last blow through. But he didn’t.
As Oom witnessed the horrible might of Lich Lord Drazhu he saw that all his attempts were futile. Drazhu explained his grand scheme to lure “heroes” to bleed on the sigils of his chamber to fuel his Ultimate Spell. Oom’s hatred and anger had lead into the death of his fellow slave and now he understood that there would be no escape.
So Oom grovelled.
Drazhu was good enough (for an Evil Overlord) to allow his slaves to get back to their former positions. Naturally they would have to start from scratch and miss about 400 slaves but time meant nothing for Drazhu.
The Slave-Pits of Drazhu is without a doubt best written adventure I have run. I do not have a lot of experiences with them but this just rocked. It might have to do with the AWengine that is excellent for this kind of light hearted fun or it might be because of the excellent slave playbooks (use them!). Or it just might be because in this adventure the stakes were high.
…and so were the players.