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KNOCK! Vol 2: The Rot King's Sanctum Session 1

For KNOCK! Vol 2 I do have a much larger utilitarian review similar to my first one covering how to use all the bric-a-brac to spice up the Tonisborg dungeon. However, I've not had the energy lately to write that up, in part because I'd like to run at least the first two levels of Tonisborg with some "ZED" -made characters to get a feel for the dungeon itself.

I *did* have the energy to grab a buddy this week for a 1-on-1 BX dungeon crawl through Emiel Boven's very good The Rot King's Sanctum found on page 219 (and here on itch). So, meet our level 1 randomly generated characters (supplemented with a starting equipment table I made for an old campaign- hence the titles) :
  • Grim the Dwarf Barbarian STR 16, CON 08
  • Snorri the Halfing Tomb Robber DEX 11, STR 05
  • Ambrose the Cleric Preacher WIS 16, INT 03
  • Desdemona the MU Fortune Teller INT 13, DEX 06
While HP rolls were high, the equipment rolls were rather poor so few characters started with an AC of more than 12. But never the less, the "heroes" pressed on and found themselves in the sewers of Cliff's End because...

DM NOTE: Really nice to have a little table of hooks to the adventure going. Especially since hooks can provide objectives other than "kill everything". My player rolled a "2" on the hooks table.

...they were in possession of a map describing the lost tomb of one of the nine Tempest archmages buried under Cliff's End. Also on the map was a riddle: Only a key of copper lend you a hand in opening this tomb.

PCs at the start discussing the Cult of Nithis <(;)>

#1 ENTRANCE HALL: Grim steps up to listen at the door. Upon hearing nothing, he carefully pushes it in. The PCs investigated the first set of statues finding them somewhat hollow and having a small pipe protruding from their mouth. However, greed overcame caution, a pressure plate was triggered and it was only the demi-humans who were left standing. The next turns were eaten up by dragging the human MU and cleric to safety and avoiding a cult party.

DM NOTE: Snorri has an attribute bonus of -3. But those lower save throws are literal lifesavers.

The party returns to the ENTRANCE HALL, but this time it was Snorri the Halfing who crept in quietly and ran right into a cultist of Nithis (DM NOTE: both rolled surprise). A short fight ensued where the PCs got the upper hand quickly dispatched 3 of 4 cultists and fourth ran to raise the alarm. The PCs stayed to grab the emerald eyes from the statues. Grim the dwarf then was swarmed by rot flies. Requiring Ambrose to light some torches to burn them away (with a couple of precious HP lost).

DM NOTE: I really tried to use morale in this adventure to determine not only likely hood of the cultists running a way, but also their willingness to engage the PCs in ambushes. If they failed they were more likely to just track the PCs in pairs.

#CROSSROADS A: The PCs made their way through the north door to a crossroads in the hallway: north, a door but after listening nothing behind it; east, a door; west, a hallway that extends beyond their torchlight.

DM NOTE: I secretly rolled the cultist morale here for room #4. They passed, so I had them organize a ranged counter attack from the north and east.

Daggers fly from the north and east! Grim and the MU Desdemona take the brunt with thankfully little HP lost. Magic Missle takes out a cultist to the east as does Grim's two-handed sword to the north. Cultist break and withdraw but not without a warning from large black-furred shapes in room #4.

#PROCEED WEST TO CROSSROADS B: PCs have to choose again: north in the sound of rushing water; south-west where the air is damp and fetid; east toward another door; west down an open hallway where a door is inset. Still interested in the treasure map, Snorri pushes everyone north.

PCs push north to find an acrid green river- two guards argue orthodoxy

#8 CENTRAL HALL: Snorri performs recon moving in the shadows to try and creep by the first hanging bridge. He hangs close to the end, spotting a copper ring underneath the putrid river. The guards argue about Nithis orthodoxy and if followers of Kcyra should be converted then killed or killed outright. Meanwhile, Grim, Ambrose, and Desdemona have to contend with two shovel-wielding skeletons, covered in a velvety yellow mold, shambling into the edge of their torchlight. Ambrose has to hold it together as these desecrated bodies animated by the vile Nithis shamble by and into a door in the CENTRAL HALL.

DM NOTE: Rolled an encounter, but also a "friendly" result on the reaction table, so I decided to see what would happen if the skeletons were just walking by. A potential threat (or not) just to press the player. The skeletons are loaded with yellow mold so just hitting them can be bad news.

#7 CELLS: Not liking the skeletons creeping up behind the party withdraws from the CENTRAL HALL back south and then west. Grim kicks the door in surprising the cultist, Ambrose moved to attack! Desdemona launched another Magic Missle* but it was miscast, causing her to drop asleep. Not good as 2 cultists appeared from the south and east bent on capturing Desdemona for sacrifice. Snorri attacked the cultist trying to abscond with her, but his poor strength made little impact. Grim engaged two other cultists, slicing one in half (10 dmg against 4 hp) but fell to the wicked dagger of the other. In a stunning display of combat prowess, the remaining two PCs won initiative twice and killed two more cultists, causing the last one to run. Desdemona awakened at the shrill pleading the gnome merchant Melvin to hurry up and free him for a sizeable reward in addition to a secret way out! ~FIN, SESSION 1~

DM NOTE: I was using a house rule that MU can "risky" cast after they have used up their slots by making a Save vs. Spell modified by their INT bonus. If you fail, roll a 1d20 on a miscast table.

Grim's last stand. Desdemona is saved!

FINAL DM NOTES: I really like this adventure so far! A theme people immediately get: plague cult, rats, crows, mold, sewers. Great opening room with things to poke and prod, but a big risk and some reward. Small dungeon but a lot of good intersections that make it feel big because choice is always presented to the player.

But there are also a lot of great little extras. A hidden tomb that has nothing to do with the cult. The plague god here is a sibling of a healing god-- debate about who screwed over who. Reference to the city above Cliff's End. And three good hooks: missing person, secret treasure, or because god said so. A small scattered references to other things that a DM could build a campaign from.

All of the above required prep ~30 min before play. I didn't prep anything specific other than a hastely drawn small treasure map and make up a clue in case that hook was rolled. Otherwise I just made myself familar with the general layout. I would have liked to have prepared an Overloaded Encounter Die table for it and included some dungeon weather. And maybe trim the random encounter table a bit. Ten entries seems a lot for a 15 room dungeon. But maybe alterate to a progressive table is the alarm is raised.

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