Cha'alt Game: Campaign Diary #2: The Interview and the People of the Pit

 A lot has happened since my last post!  I'm going to try to get things caught up rather quick-like.

We've been using a lot of downtime activities to give the PCs opportunities to do things that they would otherwise be unable to in a session without holding the other players hostage.  Here's an idea of what things have been going on in the Gonzo desert wasteland.

All of the PCs were interviewed by a prestigious local journalist.  They were given a list of questions that she'd ask and they had the chance to think of the best answers that their characters would give.  Due to the serious waves that the party has made with the ruling class, the journalist's editor seized her notes (her manuscript ended up being skewed in favor of the PCs, which is now a quest item that has been hinted at) and released an overly negative article, taking things they said in the worst context and using it against them.  Admittedly, Breeder-san made it pretty easy.

Here's the article as it was printed, with the miscellaneous stuff removed.

It was printed while the team was away on a mission.  One of the players was going to be out for the evening, and I took the opportunity to run DCC #68: People of the Pit



People of the Pit took two and a half sessions to resolve.  I chose it specifically because it was very easy to fit into a desert wasteland, and it gave the players a chance to experience an official DCC module with the system we were running.  I gained a significant respect for Joseph Goodman's adventure writing prowess when I was running it.  People of the Pit featured plenty of serious hazards that could easily result in PC deaths, tons of opportunities for low level combat, a rather expansive underground complex with multiple interwoven paths, and an attention to dungeon ecology while still embracing gonzo elements (like alien rock creatures that act like vacuums) that I really appreciated.  

Since we were short a player and the adventure was designed for a group of 6-8, I allowed the players to bring their level1 sidekicks that survived the original funnel (The Temple of Kra'adumek).  The party showed exemplary dungeoneering skills: the Fool used his torch to burn away cobwebs that were hiding tripwire traps, shrines were closely inspected revealing where altars could be moved, revealing secret passages, the gigantic tentacles were treated carefully, allowing them to climb down immediately through half of the dungeon.  Barrel loads of cultists were slain, their chest cavities bursting with murderous red blob parasites upon expiration.  Zeveran used Second Sight to see what would happen if he drank some of the potions he found.  Using this method, he was able to determine that one of the potions would allow him to control the tentacles throughout the dungeon.  At this point, our fourth player was back, and he decided to use his shiny new Dwarf sidekick to chug the potion.

The group captured a cultist and freed a group of slaves.  They found out that the man's son who they were sent to retrieve from the cult is actually meant to be a "virgin sacrifice" to the Pit Beast, and in kind, they decided to high-tail it to the bottom of the pit.  The Dwarf used his newfound power to force the tentacle they climbed down previously to take them to the bottom post-haste.  The tentacles were used to swipe some tents around, revealing a mass of cultists on the far end by the cliff, with a very good looking man being hauled toward the pit.  

At this point, there was a serious ticking clock.  By the time the party was in range of the cultists, they only had 3 rounds to secure the hostage before he was sacrificed to the Pit Beast.  Some blows were exchanged in the first round, leading to the quick killing of one of the PCs.  There was a rather puzzling move by Breeder-san being "Yeah, one of my magic missiles is going to hit the guy we're here to rescue."  It was enough to knock him out, easily, so the death counter for him started.

Zeveran used Turn Unholy to smite and turn the disgusting abominations of the Pit, rolling high enough to basically make the whole "sacrifice timer" a non-issue.  Gravedigger used Word of Command on the Cult Leader (a VERY powerful NPC that was going to pose a serious challenge) to get him to jump.  Wouldn't you know it, the Cult Leader rolled an absolutely garbage will save (I think it was a fumble) and jumped into the tentacles of his abominable god.  The Pit Beast unknowingly devoured the lead cultist, severing the Pit Beast's link to the material plane.  It writhed in agony as it was being pulled back into its accursed realm, smashing the walls of the underground cavern, causing wanton structural degradation and making the whole place collapse in on itself.

The group rolled over the sacrificial virgin's body to see if he was still alive.  For those unaware, in DCC, you can roll a luck check to see if someone survived a potentially fatal blow. I rolled his luck stat and then his luck check, both publicly.  He passed.  They grabbed the boy and bolted for safety, narrowly avoiding some falling debris.  I let the players know that their characters saw very clearly that a new passage had opened up that seemed to go deeper into the complex, but they gave a collective "fuck no."  The Clerics dumped some healing into the wounded members of the group and they all set off into the desert.

All in all, I'd say one of the recurring themes I'm getting from playing Dungeon Crawl Classics is that the players are often put in incredibly dangerous situations where, by all accounts, they SHOULD be screwed.  But between burning Luck, spellburning, getting occasionally very lucky rolls, and cleverly using features of the game (Turning Unholy in this case, Second Sight, Word of Command, etc) they have been able to handle the highly improbable with relative ease.  And yet, when things go wrong, PCs die quickly.

It's a brutal world that the system fosters, and I love it.  "Balanced encounters" are a complete fallacy with DCC.  You're never embroiled in prolonged battles because eventually, someone rolls really high and tips the scale in the favor of one side or the other.

People of the Pit was an adventure that at first glance, didn't really wow me at all.  This is probably due to the fact that I was on a binge of works that were largely style over substance when I picked up my copy.  The truth of the matter is that once I really sat down with the work and put some players through it, I realized that this thing is 100% substance.  The proof is in the pudding.  The players had an exhilarating dungeon delve that was sufficiently deadly, bizarre, and well constructed.  I highly recommend it.  On a second run with different players, I expect it would go entirely differently.  My first run through, the players completely skipped a particularly agonizing mini-maze, a chance to see what the cultists were REALLY up to, a chance to deliver a death blow on the cult, etc.  I'm definitely going to run this at least one more time for a road crew game.

COMING UP ON THE NEXT CAMPAIGN DIARY (I split it, it's too much to go over in one entry), the group treks home, the Food Taster is devoured by ghouls, the Thirst Cult challenges Zeveran to a rap battle, the Fool bewitches the Queen, and more. 

Comments

  1. Sounds like a great campaign... would love to see more Cha'alt!

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