Swing Of The Pendulum


Gamegrene readers, this is a portion and a shortened/condensed version of Pandora�s Journal. The journey starts at the second entry of Stone Tooth and for those who have gone through the Forge of Fury by Richard Baker, may recognize some of the story line. The reason it starts at the second entry is because this is when I decided to create the journal, and events of the first time we entered Khundrukar had long since escaped my memory. Now, even if you have not gone through this adventure, don�t worry. The journal is merely a prop for the article below and a perspective of an adventure from start to finish for your reading pleasure.

Gamegrene readers, this is a portion and a shortened/condensed version of Pandora�s Journal. The journey starts at the second entry of Stone Tooth and for those who have gone through the Forge of Fury by Richard Baker, may recognize some of the story line. The reason it starts at the second entry is because this is when I decided to create the journal, and events of the first time we entered Khundrukar had long since escaped my memory. Now, even if you have not gone through this adventure, don�t worry. The journal is merely a prop for the article below and a perspective of an adventure from start to finish for your reading pleasure.

Pandora�s Journal

Journal Entry One - 2nd Entry Of Khundrukar - The Glitterhamme
We rode from Blasingdale to Stone Tooth today; a three-day's ride to stay behind the Orc raiding party, and partly to do with all the equipment we brought this time. Looking back we were ill-prepared, a mistake I plan never to make again. We rested and waited in Blasingdale until the Orcs came to raid. This gave us the edge we needed for safe passage back to the Tooth. Quenching their primal urges to raid and pillage, they were unobservant of the fact they had been followed home. Damn good luck we had with the weather. The wind stayed its course and we traveled in their wake, down wind all the way. It gave us safe passage from other predators as well. The wooded area nearby gave us cover for our horses, one less thing to worry about.

Journal Entry Two - Going In
After a much needed night's rest we broke camp. Feeling somewhat refreshed and armed to the teeth we made our way up the winding stairs to the opening of the cave. I recall our first visit like it was yesterday. There were four Orcs standing watch. They have excellent hearing, even above their own grunting and snarls. This time we were lucky, only two. Terrence used his classic but silent approach to scout the enemy and relay information by hand gesture. Sneaking our way to the top, we mounted our attack at full speed, resulting in two Orcs over the side of the cliff. Nothing else seemed to have changed much. The opening is just how we remembered. We took much damage coming this way before, not to mention we had to burn down the massive door to get in. Tension is high, as well as our emotions. Our dear and most beloved Father Cromwell never stepped foot out of this place. We're in.

Journal Entry Three - The Accursed Bridge
We used the sphere of invisibility to make our way in, and it proved to be most effective. All traces except for the gouges in the stone from grappling hooks are all that remain from our first visit. Alas, the bridge that was Father Cromwell�s undoing. I reiterate, another clue of last adventure, Father Cromwell�s cape laid on the rock below. In our silence of remembrance, we crossed it. From memory, we made our way through the myriad of tunnels to the secret door, found during our first encounter. This secret room had a staircase running down and it led us to what appeared to be a catacomb-like level. It has streams of water, passages that lead off in different directions, and cells for humanoids and celestial creatures alike. The black bear we killed down here must had been found and eaten, as well as the storage of wheat, flour and other dry goods. Continued raids on nearby towns must have exhausted them of the normal supplies. With nothing in storage they will go again and soon.

Journal Entry Four - A Ceiling That Moves
After some time, we came to an opening unexplored before and had to make a jump onto a ledge about 5 feet across. It may have been harder, but the other side was set a little lower which gave us a fighting chance. The concensus of the group was to take a left into what seemed like a hollowed out portion. A small cave within a cave. It was very dark but since we were trying not to draw too much attention to ourselves, we thought one rod would have to do.

The light was enough to see various remains of unfortunate visitors who never made it out alive. Broken skeletons, torn clothing and spilled money carpeted the ground in front of us. The thoughts on the faces of our group were loud, though nobody said a thing. "How many there are" was my own thought and I think I speak for the group when I say it should have been the caption. There was an eerie, sinking feeling in the air. You know the one you get right before something bad happens? At first it would seem they were caught unaware and killed by a roving party. However, Orcs love treasure of any kind, and the fact that the ground was littered with coins made us realize shortly, they had met their fate another way. Man I hate being right all the time. The ceiling suddenly became the floor and the floor the ceiling. There we were, Baylor and myself hanging upside down with all manner of items falling out from every pocket, loop and quiver. �Gricks� they were, on the cave ceilings with tentacles like octopi. They had swooped down upon us, silently and with such speed and accuracy, I thought for sure we were goners. Obviously I lived to tell the tale, but I assure you it was no easy task.

Journal Entry Five - Making Allies
To speed up the rest of the events of this particular journey, we came across an Orc shaman and a few of her crones. We made off with a few potions and magical items to will be listed later. We found a heavy door we managed to unhinge to get inside a corridor leading into a greater hall. Within this great hall several archers greeted us with pointed arrows. Duergar�s (gray dwarf) what was left of Durgeddin�s band of warriors? There were more of them than we had ever thought possible. Though we came to find Durgeddin and/or any of his kin, we found ourselves unwanted and unwelcome. After much questioning and bargaining, they allowed us safe passage for a price. They gave us a guide to help us find our way to the Wormling we came to conquer.

Journal Entry Six - The Wormling
A baby dragon by definition. Unlike a baby though, this very cunning and stealthy creature was the size of a horse and what it lacked in size it made up for in its ability to appear and disappear. Being my first and hopefully the last encounter, I had no idea that dragons despised and liked to single out wizards. Needless to say I took many hits and suffered great burns to my face and shoulders. If it were not for the help of Baylor who shielded me, I would have died for certain. We took out the wormling and for kicks as much as for the reward, Amber cut off the wormlings head. Morbid enough she kept one of its teeth for herself. The lake bottom as it so happened was littered with treasure. Among coins and jewels we found a war axe with Durgeddin�s seal. With the use of potions to breath underwater, Terrence made several trips and banked the treasure. Being the little thief he is, we had Tordek (our newest member and replacement cleric) search him thoroughly in private afterwards. With the help of tensors floating disk and a bag of holding, we were able to haul away a good portion of the treasure to give back to the dwarves.

Journal Entry Seven - The Banquet
The dwarves were surprised to see us again, but as we came bearing gifts we proved our worth and for the first time showed as much respect for us they could for such a proud race. Nimira, the daughter of Durgeddin the Black was particularly grateful for the return of the war axe. They set a meager banquet, but to break bread together was a new beginning for all of us. During the feast, we told Nimira of how we came to meet a cousin of Durgeddin. Having not heard from Durgeddin for quite some time, he hired the group to come and find what information we could in regards to him. We were given a map and told to go by way of Blasingdale where we could get supplies. As dumb luck would have it, we soon found out the town was giving out rewards for killing Orcs (twenty-five gold pieces for each dead Orc) and a significant reward for the wormling that had been terrorizing them. Tordek found it impossible, not to mention that Baron Althon was giving rewards for any blades found with Durgeddin�s seal which did not seem to go over well with new found friends, but they appreciated that shared piece of knowledge. Afterwards, Nimira gave a full account of the last days and the fall of Durgeddin and his men.

Journal Entry Eight - Sad Tidings
On the wings of my familiar we sent word to the cousin regarding the hostile take over of Khundrukar, the death of the Durgeddin and an account of the duergar that remained. We left the Khundrukar with a heavy heart and his loss will be ours to take with us.

A Gamegrene reader had suggested to me I write about the emotions of gaming life and how much of it is brought to the gaming table. And since I can I am going to tie it up with how it stems from a topic I recently read about: the DM�s ability to cheat and not cheat (I wanted to give credit to the writer who shared their sentiments on the topic of DM cheating but could not remember the source, somewhere Gamegrene).

Anyway, to Starhawk and all you other readers I have cried at the table only once, I came close three other times but didn�t want to give the DM the satisfaction. I have threatened to eat my young sitting across the table from me for making moronic decisions for the group as a whole and on several occasions, stopped game to give high fives and dance on the chairs.

We left Stone Tooth because we ran out of food, drinkable water and light sources. This was just the nature of the game and not any fault of the DM. However, upon exiting the mountain the first time, we lost a member of our crew, �Father Cromwell�. Now Father Cromwell was as fat as fat gets (due to a clerics tendency to eat and drink) and my son could not make an appropriate saving throw. Still not the DM�s fault. . . or is it? Our DM does use a shield and to top it off, he rolls when we roll. He sometimes uses his roll and sometimes whatever we roll we use. He never tells us what he rolls, we never know what set of dice he is using and therefore can never tell if our roll was not good enough or if his was. We don�t even have anyway of know when he makes up his mind which dice he�s going to use. For all we know he chooses after the rolls are made. During this same adventure, Pandora almost bought the farm as the wormling repeatedly attacked her. None of her spells seem to have any affect and was wondering if the system of rolling had anything to do with that. She was the only one taking hits as well, DM preference? Maybe. We had seven players in this particular adventure. Now what do you think? She fought the good fight until she became unconscious, then Baylor stepped in as a human shield.

Now before you guys get all worked up, I have to tell you there is some reasoning and method to the DM�s madness. Our son has a nasty habit of counting hit points and doesn�t take into account a natural 20 doesn�t guarantee a kill. He forgets one creature, although the same as another may have more hit points in general. Maybe they are wearing armour that gives them a bonus. Spell protection and feats that allow you to dodge or have great fortitude are always a plus for the enemy and of course although the DM is suppose to be impartial, he says the monsters have a right to life as we do and will pick us off like flies if given the chance. Do I agree with his philosophy? Absolutely. I just don�t always agree with his methods. I have a tendency to get hot over the amount of latitude and liberties the DM takes to mold and shape a campaign. It shouldn�t matter in what direction it goes, as long as everybody is with you. And having a good time of course.

Although we find ourselves at the mercy of the DM sometimes, there is the rare moment when they make it fun for you when with 24 characters you can kill 199 Orc. You stumble across an item you know you�re not worthy of but the DM gives it to you anyway, just to see what happens the moment you stop respecting the power of the item. The DM sent my wizard off to school for a year, snatched her back for two more adventures then slowed her down by making her pregnant. Sooooo not funny, but boy he sure got a kick out of it. I couldn�t be mad for long though. The DM has to have his or her fun too or it�s not fun for anyone. The DM killed off 4 characters including my beloved Pandora in the �Heart of the Nightfang Spire�, which I mentioned in the last article. Of course that was the adventure that time and not the DM. Luckily, at fifteenth level (if you adventure) your opportunity to liberate funds from others or places you travel to be astounding and for a price, your friends in high places can resurrect you. Little thief Terrence met his match in Bethany who made off with his �Deck of many things� after his three-year pilgrimage to find it. One day, the DM decided because my ranger spent a better part of a year building up a keep we acquired, he suddenly developed Alzheimer�s against the ranger way and turned him into a fighter. Ever lost anything important in a battle? Ever lost it due of another group member? On account of a critical hit from a flaming sword I lost a Bacoob�s Blessed book. !@#$ just caught on fire from being too close to the action. If you have a wizard at high levels and need a book like that, then you will know just how costly that was for me. The pisser of it all was I was running both of those characters. It wasn�t anyone else�s fault but my own. I have a love-hate relationship with this game. I get discouraged sometimes and choices (be it my own or those made by others) good or ill can seriously tip the scale or take it to a whole other level. But I can�t stop playing. Who out there is as sick as I am?

Dear Pandora,

It is difficult to comment on whether or not your DM is taking liberties, because we only have one side of the story, and and because some of his actions seem quite reasonable but others appear to be capricious. Sometimes he/she appears to be too lenient, sometimes too arbitrary or harsh, and sometimes spot on.

In general, I would advise you to keep playing, because its great to share an interest with your kids, and also because DM's don't grow on trees. Even a less than perfect DM is better than no gaming.

Lastly, let me mention a few items from your long account that particularly struck me:

(1) The campaign appears quite detailed, with different creatures interacting logically, so good marks for the DM.

(2) You took out the orcs too easily the second time. Their guard system had already failed once. They are cunning enough to improve it. If I were the DM I would have arranged a surprise for you at this point.

(3) DM's often roll secretly. This gives them the freedom to change a roll if they deem it unwarranted. This is ok if the DM uses it very sparingly. If he/she does it habitually then it is bad DMing.The only way you can judge this is by observing the results of the battle and seeing if it is unreasonable. This requires a good knowledge of game rules and monster strengths and common sense.

(4) 'The monsters have as much right to life as your characters'. Absolutely, but I would phrase it differently. I would say that the monsters should act in the best possible way to further their self interests, consistent with their intelligence and alignments. A good example is the Wormling you described. The DM was correct to go after just one character, the mage, because that was consistent with its intelligence, alignment, and preferences. In fact I believe that the DM may have been too lenient in allowing another character to shield the mage; after all, its not too easy to hold off something the size of a horse. Depends on the situation.

(5) Short of rape, which you didn't mention, no-one can MAKE a character pregnant. They must have done something to get pregnant. Take a little responsibility for the characters actions. Good DMs react to a players actions in a reasonable way. The consequences of a sexual encounter are possible pregnancy, emotional entanglements and possible medical problems.

I think I approve of your DM overall.


PS. Good article

It's awesome that you play with your kids. I got my start with D&D at the tender age of 7, rumbling through the early B-series modules with my Dad. It's a good tool to get kids interested in reading, using their imaginations, and doing basic math. Not to mention sometimes teaching them about right and wrong...

nice to see I'm not the only story teller in the group!

sequel coming around!

Kindly yours,

This is in answer to the post regarding PANDORA'S article. I am the DM in the scenerio and would like to clear up my style of running the game in case the casual reader ends up with the wrong idea. First, let me comment on what Mo has said.
Since we play D&D with the young adults in the house, it can be difficult when my son rolls a 2 while trying to disable a trap because he immediately assumes that his roll failed. He will then proceed to (this is before I started rolling at the same time) ask to roll again and again, thus slowing the game down to a crawl. Plus, I do not believe that a thief trying to disable a trap would know whether or not a trap was succesfully deactivated unless he/she turns the knob and opens the door. This has led to several unbelievably funny and wonderful sessions of play.
As to the rest let me go down the list.
1. I have spent many hours detailing the campaign world in which they play. I find it absolutely necessary for the world to become real. I've found that the players treat the world as real and they have sometimes more fun campaigning than adventuring, so thanks for the kudos Mo.
2. There is a flaw in that the orcs did not reinforce. But the fact of the matter is that this was only the second adventure that the party had done and the orcs from stonetooth would have slaughtered them. The reason it wasn't a large flaw is because there was other stuff going on in the realm of the orcs that demanded their attention just as much. And with the easy defeat of the adventurers they were perhaps a little over-confident.
3. I do not roll habitually, but I definitely do it a lot. I have in mind ALWAYS whos dice I will use before the roll. If I didn't, that would be bad DMing.
4. I agree with what you said Mo regarding the wyrm. Even younglings are very smart and this one was viscous as well. My plan was to straif the party to drive them away. The wyrm wasn't in one place long enough to worry too much about dying. The plan was once the wyrm had taken a certain amount of damage that I would have him fly off to torment the characters in a later adventure. The best laid plans of mice and men I suppose... As the wyrm made a final pass, all four adventurers scored a hit two of them critical. It was enough to end the life of this particular beast. I believe completely that you should not fudge the numbers to ensure your plan succeed. And so the wyrm died. As for the fighter shielding the wizard, since he was only using his acid breath while straifing, I allowed this.
5. AH, the pregnancy of Pandora... That is a tale for the ages. Maybe I'll get Pandora to tell what really happened during that time...

All in all, I very much appreciate all the comments made in response to Pandora's article and would love to have more comments. I have promised Gamegrene an article myself, so I'd best be getting started.