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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One Good Monster is All You Need

I don't post much about actual game-play experiences, primarily because my regular IRL game is only twice a month.  As a grown up with big boy responsibilities, time is limited and so is my RPG playing unfortunately.  I certainly remember weekends as a kid where we entered the basement on Friday night and crawled out Sunday afternoon to return to our homes, weary from battle and sated on pizza, Pringles and coke for another week.

This past Sunday I had a good game.  Two new players arrived at the table, and I thought the intro's went smoothly and we got right down to the nitty gritty of dungeon-delving.  The pregame setup is shown above, a small but uncomfortable space.  Just as my time for play is limited, my time for prep is a similar situation, so I don't write much down but I do spend alot of my drive-time thinking about the direction I'd like to take the game.

This week I knew I wanted to make quick work of introductions and get the party crawling together, knowing full well that regardless of any role-playing at the top, it's the danger that pulls everyone together as a team.

The game started above, in the large town of Aver, currently under siege from below as a unknown quantity of Ratmen ( me some Skaven) have started to ascend through the opening the party had been using for weeks to plunder the keep buried below the town.  The original party remaining consists of Slim, the elven thief, Rhodyn, the young human Fighter (with cavalier overtones), Dharmir the Fighter (with Barberous overtones), and finally Solus the elven wizard.  Overhearing that the ratmen had begun an assault the newcomers in the tavern...Riverthorn the Cleric of the god of Darkness and Fitzgerald the fighter of little skill and much fear decided that their help might be needed.

Town guards blocked the progress of the ratmen, but a more permanent solution was required.  Dharmir decided the best way to clear the hole and get back down to the keep was fire...but then, fire is usually the answer to most in-game problems...amiright?  A cask of oil was thrown into the chute and broken, then set ablaze.  The wretched aroma of burning fur and the dying screams of terror put the party in a great mood to go down and finish the job!

Without a play-by-play of the crawl (which would be pretty boring), I want to talk about the singular creature I chose to kill..ehem...I mean challenge the party.  Before most gaming sessions I spend some time with my nose in a few creature compendiums (and the actual creature compendium) in the hopes that I will find a worthy opponent for the party.  Many DM's throw so many monsters at the party it's like a combat buffet.  I'm not a fan of this style.  While there's a time and place for quantity, it's quality I'm after.  I want the players to talk about the battle after it finishes with a frightened and exhilarated look in their eyes...combat against monsters should be (IMHO) memorable.  After all, if someone (or someoneS) didn't die during the combat, they probably came close!

This time I drew from my absolute favorite tome, the Fiend Folio..the original...not some silly later incarnation or alternate book of 'fiends'...

...and the creature I chose was one I don't think I had ever played...the XILL!!!

A wicked, intelligent, and deadly opponent, the Xill is hunting not the party, but a single member for use as a host to carry its eggs and feed its young.  LE in alignemnt, the Xill is an Ethereal creature who visits the Prime plane in order to make more Xill...and why not?  Don't judge the Xill.  It needs love too.

It has a unique method, popping into the PM plane from its ethereal state grabbing a character from behind and subduing it and then quickly popping back off to the ethereal plane to lay its eggs inside the now unconscious victim.  Much like the spider wasp, it needs a moist, warm place to lay its eggs and its young need instant nourishment upon hatching.  Ain't nature grand!?

The Xill materialized and grabbed on to Riverthorn, the cleric caught by surprise!  The party had only a few rounds to act as the Xill began it's subdual assault.  Spells had little or no affect, as the Xill has extraordinary Magic Resistance.  Focused on its prey, it did not attempt to defend itself as the fighters tried to surround and strike the foul thing. It came down to the wire as the Xill knocked Riverthorn into submission and began to fade back to its lair, and if it managed to do so, there would be no following it. It was a combination of Rhodyn's sword strike and Slim's arrow that managed to pierce the AC of the Xill and render it harmless.

More happened that day, but it was the battle with the Xill that was the highlight as far as I'm concerned.  Sure...I could have thrown a hundred ratmen, a few dozen mushroom men, and some other bad guys at the party...but it only takes one monster with wicked intent (or one crazed monster with animal intelligence, or one mother monster protecting it's get the idea) to really set off the game session as something memorable.

I know, the mega-dungeon is making a comeback.  That's fine.  I get it.  There's nothing like 4-6 hours of crawling from one deadly encounter to the next, facing death at every turn and reaping the rich rewards of treasure hoards and monster parts (holy crap, my guys love to butcher a monster...this is a post all by itself), but for my money a well thought out combat with an unusual opponent in a setting that makes sense is far more entertaining.  After the 5th or 12th or 23rd battle in a mega-dungeon, do you even remember what the hell you were fighting?  How are you even carrying all of that copper?

It was a fun session.  I hope everyone had a good time (and I think they did), and planning for the next session has begun.  Next time there will be monsters too...but as usual, there will be one special creature...after all, the alchemist is hungry for parts and ingredients, and if there's one thing this party is good at, it's the harvest after the fall.


  1. "All you need is Xill... Xill is all you need."

    Good stuff! The butcher picture made me laugh. There was a butcher shop near my folks' called "The Butcher's Block" in Westmont, when I was a kid. I loved going in there -- so much so that I plan on using it in-game at some point in a big city.

    Anyway, the monotony of the megadungeon never caught on with my players when I was younger, but I always loved it as a player.

    I look forward to your butcher section. I agree -- a "what can the parts of the Monster Manuals' monsters be used for?" article could fill blogs for days.

    I'm off to to purchase "Adventure Most Fowl" now. I need a 0-1 level adventure for my wife's solo campaign. :D

    Happy gaming,

    1. Hey Mike! Yeah...the 'Butcher' article should be a good one. We laugh alot about it at the table...but one player started doing it and now it's become a thing!

      Enjoy AMF and let me know how it plays out! Things you liked, didn't like...etc. Always looking to learn and grow.