Monday, April 29, 2024

Our Heroes Investigate Gonzo’s Stronghold Part 2

More searching led you to a room filled with enchanted pools, and the quarters of an associate of the three adventurers. You dissolved a fair amount of equipment in a pool with a gold ring in the bottom before deciding not to dive in. Among his effects this letter was found.

The quarters you have provided for me here are adequate and thank you for the large chemical lab area. 
On the jobs for which you’ve hired me:
a) As you can tell by the lighter I’ve given you, the permanent shrinking spell has been mostly successful. However, I’d advise against carrying it on your person, as magical creatures tend to get back a bit of their size and a lot of their power over time.
b) I’ve checked the structure and it would be feasible to create a flooded amphitheater. I just hope your new three pronged toy lives up to its reputation.
c)You never cease to amaze me. With all the riches you could have brought back from the prehistoric Isle of Dread, you manage to return with that “treasure guardian.” He is adjusting to his new home, and the local flora you brought back, coupled with my preservation spells should insure the safety of your treasure room for a very long time. I only hope your idea of distracting the beast with shiny things will allow you to reach it.
Yours Sorcerously,
“Mean” Eugene Green
Unparalleled Wizard
PS I have managed to make a completely indestructible gold ring. Its yours if you can get it, heh heh heh.
[Yes, I know it should be “ensure” I was young and foolish.
This encounter took FOREVER. The pool was super strong acid. The ring truly was indestructible, but non magical and not worth a heck of a lot. The party did not accept the later ideas for quite a long time, and there was an extended experimentation phase of sticking various objects in the acid, mixing liquid from the other pools with that pool and all sorts of arguments that nearly led to an adventurer or two being hurled into the acid. Most of the other pools had random but cool effects, many beneficial. None of those were discovered. Players are SO easily distracted by shiny objects.
 “Mean” Eugene Green was a name I made up for my friend Todd’s character that somehow (*cough*cheating*cough*) made it to 36th level with only the Basic Set. I have no idea what the character’s actual name was. The Wizard created his own spells including a "Shrink" one which, like previous references, will make more sense later. The reference to “The Isle of Dread” is from the module X1 of that name which came with the Dungeons and Dragons Blue Box Expert Set. It was meant to introduce wilderness adventuring, and set up a “Lost World” environment. This will, yet again, make more sense later.
Oh yeah, and the character name came from all of us being idiots in grammar school. When the substitute teacher was asking what names or nicknames people preferred or usually went by (in those pre-computer days) out of nowhere, Todd (Greene) said, “Eugene!” leading to an eruption of laughter, and several guys yelling “MEAN EUGENE GREEN!” at him, a name which stuck for the rest of the year.]
Continuing to ransack and loot living quarters led you to the discovery of some other bedrooms.  You were beaten to looting Gonzo’s suite by a group of Gnolls, who took offense to your stealing the stuff they already stole. Once you changed their minds, and several other organs, you discovered this section of Gonzo’s diary.
[As stated, Gonzo adventured in module B2, which had a large Gnoll population in one of the Caves of Chaos. Hey, the explanations can’t all be scintillating.]
“There have been reports that the Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth have been found, the treasures to be discovered there are only equaled by the dangers within. They were discovered by associates of the Winged Elf on a Broom of flying investigating the giant shining meteor that crashed in the Barrier Peaks. They reported seeing many bizarre creatures they could not identify at the crash site. I would have liked to get more information from them but apparently they followed a demon through a portal and exploded…mores the pity. I shall have to mount an expedition through the mysterious hidden valley in order to find either of these sites now.”
[With everyone buying modules in the D&D heyday, the “S” (for special) series of modules got used a great deal. At some point I played all of them with various groups. S1 Tomb of Horrors has already been mentioned as Gonzo’s last journey and will come up again in the next room. The Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth, S4, wasn’t all that special to be honest. It had a lot of “new” monsters, spells and items that ended up in the Monster Manual II and other “new” hardcovers by the time someone ran the adventure for us. Now that I think about it, exploring that module wasn’t Gonzo, it was characters we made up for that specific high-level adventure. That was a “great moment in leadership” for me. The Dungeon Master’s brother had snuck a peek at the module and was trying to lead everyone directly to big treasure stashes, dodging encounters. I managed to convince everyone to follow me, in a much less safe for our characters, but more fun for the afternoon, direction. I’m sure no one cares.
Back to the annotations of this adventure. S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks was a module built around a crashed space ship filled with robots. A lot of “Monty Haul” gamers at the time were walking around with the grenades and laser pistols from that. The better Dungeon Masters kept the “sometimes they just blow up in your face” table from that booklet handy for just such an occasion. S2 wasn’t mentioned here but will be important later.
I think the Hidden Valley was a call out to Module I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City one of my favorites to run. It was going to be one of this group’s later journeys… but then I had a better idea.
It is equally possible the Hidden Valley was part of S3 and I originally meant to put two specific references in this Journal Entry, changed my mind and never corrected the “either of these sites now” at the end.
The reference to the associates of the Winged Elf (who used a broom of flying) exploding… is still far too painful to think about again.]
Deciding to carry on your vandalism elsewhere, you stumbled into the abandoned chapel, and the very angry spirit of Acererack, blaming Gonzo for defiling his tomb. His warnings turned quickly to attacks when the Elves insisted on referring to him as “Asscrack.” You chased it and its skeleton associates off by remaining inside Murcielaga’s aura of “No Touchie.”  
[Acererack is the demi-lich behind the formidable module S1 The Tomb of Horrors where Gonzo was last seen.
I based this on the assumption my first character survived and (somehow) defeated the immensely powerful, genius level undead creature introduced in that module. The continuation was based on the notion that a being of that immense arcane and evil strength would not be obliterated but reduced. 
Therefore, I threw a Wraith with a dozen Skeleton minions against the players. It should have been tough but not insurmountable odds. Problem number one was having teenagers hearing my inevitable mispronunciation of “Acererack” and leaning into it, taunting the foul spirit with replies like,
“OK, Asscrack. Whatever you say, Asscrack.”
Problem two was I forgot that Paladins radiate a “Protection from Evil” aura around themselves that would repulse that level of undead. (In my defense for constantly forgetting Paladin things, I had never used one, nor gamed with anyone who did. We were a Chaotic Good bunch… much like most of this party.) My sister, likely still rightfully HIGHLY pissed off from the “Saaaaaallllyyyyyy” incident, did not forget. She continued reminding the gang to stay near her. She also continued waving her arms in my face and singing, “NOOOOOOOOOO- Touchie!” over and over again. The party was able to batter what should have been much tougher foes from a distance.]
Then in the trophy room, amidst carcasses of creatures you’ve never seen or heard of, you were attacked by a teeny weenie Dragon, which kicked the butts of half of the group, while the other half went to hide in the hallway (no one’s finest moment there). This is also where you rescued Snow Red from her imprisonment in a barrel.
[The carcasses were based on, of course, Gonzo’s adventures. This included a city bus sized Centipede shell (instead of the Dragon skin stated in the module) to document the first time I ever played this wonderful game.
One of “Mean Eugene Green’s” self-designed spells was “Shrink” as stated in his letter. He would talk about how he would shrink down dragons and give them to his friend’s characters to be used depending on the color as lighters (red), tasers (blue), gas dispensers (green), and so forth. I started with this idea, and the notion in the note from him indicating beings that powerful would regain some bulk and power to throw a Cocker Spaniel sized, but ancient, Red Dragon at the party. The idea was that it had a high number of hit dice (levels) making it intelligent, resourceful and competent- both as played and based on the die rolls needed in battle. However, it had a tiny number of hit points and vastly reduced damage, giving the players a shot against it. Karax (for that was his name) could speak, cast spells and fight like a demon, (or like an experienced and wise dragon, which is likely worse) but had less hit points than many of the characters. It is true that half of the players (who shall remain anonymous to hide their shame) did have their characters run and hide in the hallway, locking the others in the room with the fire breathing, flight capable opponent. The reluctantly remaining warriors yelled and screamed at their friends (and me) quite a bit. However, those left behind did defeat the creature. The reason the Dwarfish fighter, Snow Red, was locked in a barrel was that one player’s younger sister asked to join part way through the exploration. While everyone else continued to roll poorly, she was the exception. She was only six or seven- a wide eyed, curly haired, sweet little kid who spent most of her time doodling on the back of her character sheet. Then she’d pick up the dice and unleash disastrous amounts of damage on whatever they were facing.]
Following the mass of name calling and cleaning off of burned clothing, you found the room of Calibos. After losing an intense combat against a night-table (brilliant…just brilliant). You found an unusual lock picking tool. Which sadly did not fit the star shaped keyhole that you found in the door in the next room.
[Calibos, was Doug's Thief Gonzo adventured with back in the day. (The day clearly being around 1982 given Doug using the Clash of the Titans reference.) The night-table may be my favorite of my in-game inventions. I felt a “historically” famous Thief should have a truly impressive trap guarding his stuff. When running a game, I always make trap detection a combination of die rolls and role-playing. This is why I also made them describe where they were standing and how they were accessing the night-table to increase the fun. (Ahem… for me.) I injured four players with one decorative furnishing. The Gnome Thief started in front of the small dresser, tried to pick the lock, and the drawer shot out and hit him in the face. The Halfling “Acrobat” then stood next to it reached around to unlock it, and the side slammed down. For a human, it would have smashed their legs or feet. Johny Bigfeet received another head trauma. The next person (with no trap removal skills) stood on the other side and did get smacked in the legs. The final attempt was when delver number four (the last two names are forgotten in the seas of time and laughter) tried sitting on top of it - and was summarily catapulted into the ceiling. The lockpick was then revealed under the now sprung open lid. A healing potion was also within, because I was not completely heartless. If they had just opened it up without fiddling with the lock, the trap would not have been set and it would have opened normally. In hindsight, I should have made all those same things happen, then have it turn out to be a Mimic.]

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