Sunday, December 8, 2013

The Purple Worm Graveyard : Another Social Game for Strangers

Saturday, at Giga-Bites Cafe in Roswell, I ran my second old school one-shot featuring B/X. 

Like last time, I decided to run a published adventure, rather than one of my own. This time, the players would venture into The Purple Worm Graveyard, a short module for low level PCs (1st - 4th) from Planet Thirteen. At just $6.00 for the print and PDF, you can't go wrong and the cover is too cool to not buy the print copy! 

photo from Planet Thirteen site:
I had four players, three of which played in my last game (making the word "strangers" somewhat questionable) and one new, who had only played 4th ed. You can imagine his shock when he rolled up a character in under 30 minutes.

The party consisted of 1 elf, 1 cleric and 2 thieves. Not exactly the makeup of a party with "long term survival" oozing from them. In the first encounter, I almost had a TPK on my hands.

On their initial foray, they made their way down a hall to a chamber without a door. The elf moved to the front to use his infravision to check things out.

Despite hearing something singing Barry White, interspersed with gnawing and chewing (yes, i sang some of Barry White's  I Can't Get Enough of Your Love Babe and made flesh munching sounds), they decided to go SWAT team on the room's inhabitants. First a torch was thrown into the room for light, which by luck (i.e. the dice) didn't go out, and in their favor, they achieved surprise. This was followed by a hail of missiles after which melee was joined and rather vicious, as much for the PCs as the monsters.

The party survived due to a failed morale roll for the monsters, but then, as they searched the room and then discussed going to town to hire some retainers, i rolled the d6 for wandering monsters and up came a '1'. Fortunately, it was just a lone grub and bug infested zombie and the party made short work of it - a magic missile finally blowing it to pieces, scattering bone, dust and bug bits everywhere.

The added "muscle" (a gardener and a poet) wasn't much help, but, by a wonderfully creative solution, the party survived an encounter with a 15HD, 72 HP, purple worm with only 1 PC death (Sadly, the guy who has only played 4th ed. Well, we warned him that the game is deadly) and managed to make out with as much loot as they could carry.

I'm not going to tell you HOW the party did it, but it was pretty rad, required rolling the dice, and didn't succeed on the first attempt.

On the whole, I felt more relaxed this time, but I was lacking some energy - between having a cold that I'm just recovering from and not getting much sleep thanks to my 2 year old, I was worried i couldn't bring my A game. A Monster Energy Drink helped a bit with that.

I remembered to buy 2 waters right up front and I did better keeping track of initiative, although that's probably due to the general lack of combat (3 total, I think).

For the PC that died, the player rolled the damage die for the purple worm, so at least it put the chance of survival on his luck with the dice and not mine. That got a positive reaction and I think I'll try to work that in more often.

Everything was rolled in the open - if it wasn't, it was accidental on my part. I don't think this detracted from the suspense or the excitement. Instead, everyone watched the die roll and felt relief, or groaned, at the result.

My new GM screen worked well, but I still have trouble reading the To Hit table for monsters. When I start my campaign in 2014, I'll be sure have an easily readable copy on an index card with the values i'll need to look at most often on it - i.e. if i know the monsters don't have more than 3 HD, then i only need those lines of the table on the card.

Although I originally was thinking about some kind of actual sandbox world, or a mega-dungeon campaign, I'm now thinking an episodic campaign, in which I can work in various modules each session, might be fun. 

As for the module itself, it's short (13 rooms and change). It could all end rather early depending on which way the party chooses to go at any given intersection. However, my only real issue was the lack of dimensions for the rooms and halls, but that was solved by tracing the map onto graph paper.


  1. Replies
    1. Hi Fitz-Badger,

      It was a good time full of all of the zaniness and humor that infects just about every game i end up playing.


  2. I agree, sounds fun. Honestly I have no problem with characters dying. To me, playing to 30+ level and becoming a god sounds a little boring. I've been listening to some 4e podcasts and all it sounds like they did was add modifiers and hit points to everything. It doesn't seem like it makes it any more fun.

    1. Hi Sean,

      It was a lot of fun. I think I only cringed a little when his PC died because lot's of advice I read about new players is to avoid killing their character. I don't buy it, but I also knew doing so was against the advice I had seen. It doesn't seem to have tainted his opinion though.

      Pure conjecture on my part, what makes it fun for some people might be that they get to do all of the "cool things" right away, rather than having to wait until they reach 7th or 9th or higher.

      Someone in a blog post somewhere worked out the level equivalents of a 1st lvl 4ed character in earlier editions. Unfortunately, I don't recall which blog it was.


  3. Great read, I've been skimming many of your posts, pretty good stuff. It been a very long time since I last played a RPG, brings back some great memories.