Saturday, November 18, 2017

Barrowmaze play report - of Swords and Near Death Experiences

Barrowmaze I map, updated to Barrowmaze Complete
Today we started our Barrowmaze campaign, using the Adventurer, Conqueror, King System (ACKS). It was a blast! The system was very easy to get used to for my players, and as usual it was a breeze to run as a Judge (AKA Dungeon Master).

We spent an hour and a half generating characters. This was a pleasant experience. Many interesting options, yet little bureaucracy involved (unlike D&;D 3.xE). I had them roll 3d6 six times and arrange to taste, and this yielded varied results - both have one ability score above 16, but two below 8. Boulderson is clumsy and not very charismatic; Rufus is a bit foolhardy. I gavew them full level 1 HP. They used their starting gold to equip themselves well and hired a henchman - a Dwarf named Angus who is an apprentice Dwarven Fury, but still fights as a level 0 NPC for most purposes (Rufus' henchman).

Our Intrepid Heroes:
Boulderson - Level 1 Dwarven Craft Priest - played by Eliran
Rufus - Level 1 Dwarven Delver - played by Itai
+ Angus - Level 0 Dwarf - Rufus' henchman

Appropriate drinks!
We Venture Forth!
The two dwarves and their henchman came to Helix - a "boomtown" next to the famous Barrowmaze dungeon - to seek their fame and fortune. Boulderson is here to cleanse defiled tombs; Rufus is in for the gold. As dwarves, they came to the obvious place - The Axe and the Anvil, serving both as Helix's smithy and a Dwarven mead hall. The place was packed with dwarves, drunken and boasting about their deeds - past or future - in Barrowmaze.

Helix, as mentioned above, is a boomtown. Thus it has an unbalanced economy centered on Barrowmaze delving. All sorts of ne'er-do-well types come to plunder Barrowmaze and use Helix as a base camp. Those who survive sometimes bring back great treasures. On its own, Helix is a Village of 172 families and a Class-VI Market - a backwater agricultural community. However, the influx of dungeon loot has skewed its economy. Persons from far-away, wealthier places to the East take interest in such loot. They use HHR Huffnpuff as an agent, acquiring valuable pieces of art and gems for them for a commission. Even Mazzahs the Magnificent serves as an agent of sorts for remote patrons; he purchases magical items from adventurers which he sells to middlemen for a commission - which helps fund his expensive magical research. Thus, adventurers can sell quite expensive loot in Helix itself, but purchasing expensive supplies usually requires a trip to Ironguard Motte, as most gold does not remain in Helix, except for the trading commissions. On the other hand, local businesses cater to adventurers - creating far more "drinking holes" in Helix than in the typical village.

Yours Truly - the Judge
Soon our heroes, bolstered by all sorts of drunken tales, marched off to Barrowmaze. Luckily, they encountered no opposition on the way there. After this uneventful journey they contemplated entering the central mound (12), but changed their minds and set out to explore smaller mounds.

They began with a looted tomb (3) from which it seemed that previous grave robbers fled in a hurry, leaving behind a small golden ring.

A sealed tomb (4) yielded a closed, undisturbed sarcophagus. Boulderson was not very keen on the idea of disturbing the dead, but the greedy Rufus managed to convince him to look away. The dwarves found a wooden casket inside, shaped like a beautiful woman; it held the remains of said woman, along with four flasks of perfume.

Emboldened by the previous easy pickings, they broke into a larger sealed mound (16). The tomb held a central sarcophagus and a magnificent jeweled broadsword upon it. It also had the skeletons of six long-dead warriors standing in alcoves around its walls. Rufus and Angus rushed to the sarcophagus, coveting the sword. They grabbed it. The skeletons animated and attacked. Boulderson tried to turn them and failed. A long melee ensued, with both sides missing many of their blows. However, the Craft Priest, Boulderson, was not so lucky. Two lucky strikes by a skeleton felled him. At 0 HP, he was mortally wounded. Rufus, who is proficient in Healing, bandaged him the next round. He was lucky to stay alive, albeit with a lame leg (penalty to AC and halved movement rate). Rufus and Angus then proceeded to defeat the skeletons, sustaining very serious injuries but surviving.

Itai (right) and Eliran (left) ready for adventure!
Rufus - with his keen Dwarven eye and Delver skill - then found the hidden door leading down into the dungeon (room 81). He tried to sneak but failed; the noise animated several Fossilized Skeletons in the room below, and he ran back to the mound, sealed the secret door helped Angus carry the wounded Boulderson, and ran as fast as he could away from the mound.

Back in Helix, the dwarves negotiated with HHR Huffnpuff, the sly halfling banker. The decided to postpone the sale of the ring and perfumes until after they get Boulderson healed, though they did reach a sort of agreement for its sale. Then they sold the magical jeweled broadsword to Mazzahs the Magnificent for the unimaginable sum of 500pp, which they though was a huge sum of money - not knowing that its value is 1,000pp.

Loaded with platinum, they made their way to Ironguard Motte, where Father Fergus - a level 9 Cleric in my version of Barrowmaze - cast Restore Life and Limb on Boulderson. Again, the lucky Craft Priest paid only a small price for his near-death experience - only recurring nightmares (a sleepless night on a roll of 1 on 1d6).

XP was wonderful and Angus reached level 1 - as a Dwarven Fury! The two other dwarves are about one-third of their way to level 2.

All in all - wonderful fun! Eliran remarked: "This game brought me 20 years back!"


Oh, and the local Dragon was out and about as well!

Our local (wild) Painted Dragon - Stellagama stellio stellio


  1. Not sure why people don't do this, but we use the Hackmaster 4th edition rule for hit points at first level:every PC gets a 20 HP "kicker." So you roll normally, add constitution bonus, plus 20 HP. Really helps cut down the first adventure deaths. And over time you don't really notice the extra HP. By the mid levels things aren't much different from standard except that at least you made it to the mid levels! We also use criticals and exploding (penetration) dice so things remain fairly lethal. But it's awesome when a PC takes down a big bad with a single hit due to criticals/exploding dice. And more heroic when they die from the same thing, for what it's worth.


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