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Adventure #1 WOTC DCC54 Forges of the Mountain King (Level 1)
Session #4.15

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The last session was a cracker, at least from my perspective, the guys were convinced that it was going to be a short affair, certain that once the seal was removed they would be heading down into the forge- they figured on maybe one or two more encounters. It didn’t work out that way.

The Doomgrinder, followed by the great leap and the Spider attack put the fear of god into them; and of course they loved it- who wouldn’t, a bunch of seven stout Dwarves scooting down a corridor ahead of an automated set of whirling blades, and then the leap, and the Spiders… Happy to report we were in an action movie.

The two traps that followed- the Portal and the Eye of Flame were badly done by me, or else the Portal was just far too easy- my guys, even when they’re playing for fun, tend to write things down; and they’re not dumb so the Portal trap was easily overcome. The Eye of Flame Trap- as I said my guys aren’t dumb, they know a trap when they see one, and unless they can see an immediate advantage, then where possible they simply avoid.

The Dwarf Underking encounter, although fairly brief, was a corker- the idea obviously just fits well with the scenario; it’s exactly as it should be; and quite a haul of magic items.

The Skeleton Water Snake again proved to be excellent, around the table the players were really getting a sweat on, and then the wanderings that followed- at this point the guys were about done, the session was getting on- we were running out of time and they still hadn’t found the forge.

But when they did find the forge it was all worthwhile- Azan-Zog and his Cinder Clouds really scared the life out of them, at one point all seven of the guys were bloodied, with half of them on less than 10 hit points, and five of them blind. The guys were laughing but it was of the nervous variety.

Much of the action with the forge and the guys making their new magic items had to be side-lined to e-mail exchanges, Skype and the use of an on-line dice roller. Still we got there in the end, and the guys absolutely loved it.

And so to the scenario itself- as with the previous Goodman Games scenario- we (or rather, I) love their stuff. As I stated last time I particularly like DMing these early offerings, seemingly rushed out at the start of 4e with only a limited understanding of the edition and how it works/plays. This scenario, like DCC53 (Sellswords of Punjar) offers a number of interesting encounters, mostly lightweight (although some less so), that are parked so close to each other that they’re just bound to overlap- if the DM so desires.

And I know I said all of the above before in this section of my write up for DCC53, but it bears repeating- these early scenarios, in places, make it next to impossible not to have multi-encounter pile-ups. These pile-up encounters are great because they do one of two things, either weed out the weak (I’m a mean DM), or else they scare the players half-to-death, and on successful completion make them believe they’re “top of the world, ma.” Either way they get a reaction- be it swearing and cursing, or else swearing and cursing in a slightly friendlier tone.

The original TPK (or whatever you want to call it- two PCs dead, three captured) just lit a fire beneath the players- particularly as the encounter (a Level 10 affair), was almost impossible to escape. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t go into the scenario thinking this is what I would do, I generally don’t have such complex thoughts.

That said, I wish I had taken a little more time with this scenario, particularly at the end when there were seven Dwarfs (cue Snow White jokes) in play, and I hadn’t made the encounters any harder, I think this was just for the last session.

Some of the old skool Goodman Games malarkey- like the Water Trap, or the Portal Trap, or the earwig in the ear set-up; well… some of it worked, some of it didn’t- or at least I didn’t get it to work. This scenario needs a good read before you play it, with a few changes here and there to ensure the traps and set-pieces work. That said there’s just bags of stuff in here to admire, once again the titanic encounters were a rush- the PCs charging into the next lot of bad guys to avoid being caught in the Water Trap. The guys fighting their way through wave after wave of bad guys in the Defiled Temple and the Doomgrinder Trap combined with the Deathjump Spiders in the Ruined Bridges chamber- all groovy.

The scope and the scale of the scenario make it easy to do epic, or else Heroic Epic (or some such), the players really get it that they’re fighting for their lives at times.

I wrote the following in my review of DCC53-

‘I also like the fact that in-game the players had no idea that there was a second level to explore, it wasn’t until the pit trap opened in the Beggar King’s throne room that they had any inclination that there was more.’

Well, same again- the guys didn’t know there was a second level, or else they thought they’d found the second level of the dungeon when they removed the seal, the finale again came as a un/pleasant surprise.

I’ll end with the same again-

I think in some ways this scenario is a blast from the past, or at least my past- it’s not big, bad or overly clever, it has a lot of simple encounters that combine well together, and it has heart- clearly written by a guy who likes to see heroes tested.

One caveat, check over a few of the encounters and make sure the traps work. Oh and I’ll just say that playing it with Dwarves was just a really smart idea- not a massive leap of the imagination but it worked in-game oh so well.

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The Seven Dwarves (D&D 4e) goonalan