The Alexandrian

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Caverns of Thracia - Paul JaquaysThe PCs spent the night in the jungle, eating acrid centipede meat and narrowly avoiding some curious stirges. Shortly before dawn, Cruhst the Cleric heard a large party of some sort moving about in the clearing near the ruins. He crept closer, but it was a moonless night and he couldn’t make out more than vaguely humanoid shadows moving about.

The next morning, Nichol groggily regained consciousness and the party decided to return to the ruins.

When they reached the tree-breach in the building, Veera and Warrain pulled themselves up and peeked inside. They weren’t pleased by what they saw: Eight hyena-faced humanoids, a minotaur, and a dog-faced humanoid (which they termed an “anubis”) were lounging around the stairs, clearly keeping some sort of guard.

Warrain threw a sleep spell at them. The eight hyena-faced humanoids dropped like rocks, but the minotaur and the anubis were still on their feet. Warrain cursed. He and Veera both dropped to the ground and ran back towards the other.

From behind them, they could hear the minotaur shouting in Ancient Thracian (which, happily, Warrain could understand): “TREACHERY! KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL!”

Warrain and Veera quickly explained the situation to the others and Warrain suggested that they run for it. But, instead, they stood there and debated.

The minotaur came running out of the building, loping up the side of the slanting tree and leaping down into the meadow. The injured Nichol and Warrain hung back, but Cruhst, Ghaleon, and Veera charged the minotaur.

The minotaur lowered his head, speared Cruhst through the chest, and threw him to one side like a ragdoll. The motion carried him between Ghaleon and Veera, who both swung wild and missed. The minotaur whirled toward them. Nichol took the opportunity to come up from behind and stab him.

Unfortunately, Cruhst’s death was only the beginning. Although they inflicted some remarkably grievous wounds on the minotaur, Ghaleon was knocked unconscious and then Warrain failed a saving throw against a sleep spell hurled by the anubis magic-user (who had climbed out onto the tree himself). Veera and Nichol didn’t last much longer.

Total Party Kill.

ANALYSIS OF A TPK

The dice did not like this group.

First you had the truly abominable rolling for hit points. In a group with a total of 5D + 3 hit points, they ended up with only 12 hit points. (The average result is 20.5 hit points.)

Then there was the random encounter: There was a 60% chance that there would be a random encounter in that particular building. The encounter was rolled on the Gnoll Patrol table. I rolled a 6 on 1d6, generating the worst possible result: 8 gnolls + a special.

So I rolled on the Specials table… and got a 6 on 1d6, generating a result of “reroll twice on this table”. I then rolled the two hardest opponents on the table.

Clerics in OD&D, it turns out, don’t have any spells at 1st level. Which means there’s no magical healing. You would think this would be significant, but since everyone pretty much died the first time they were hit, it wouldn’t have made much difference.

Tactically, they knew the minotaur was bad news. The shouldn’t have tried to engage it in the first place. Having engaged it, they should have followed Warrain’s advice to run or tried to lay some sort of ambush (instead of standing out in the open and talking about it).

The entire foray (exploring the building, going down and fighting the lizardmen, coming back up, and fighting the minotaur-led gnolls) took about 20-30 minutes of playing time.

A few of my players were ready to toss in the towel at this point, but the rest of us talked them into rolling up a new set of characters and trying it again.

Continued…

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One Response to “OD&D in the Caverns of Thracia – Part 3: Death in the Ruins”

  1. Mike Lee says:

    Wow, this is an unbelievably helpful interpretation of the rules. I think your solution regarding the impact of constitution scores on characters at zero hit points is superb. It also conforms very nicely with 5e, so not all later editions differ with your reading. This is a wonderful website. I will be running an OD&D campaign starting this coming Friday and using Caverns of Thracia, so you can’t imagine how much I value this.

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