I can’t prove it, but empirical evidence gathered last night suggests elves in this campaign are jackasses.
Two returning players last night, two new players, and I think none of them had ever played together before.
“Dungeon crawls are serious business” is a pretty common belief, and these two turned that on its head.
We got off to a bit of a slow start, I think in part because I was still in serious mode. Exploring, trying to describe what is around them so they can make sound decisions about what to do, what to examine in greater detail, what to…
I decided to shortcut things a bit. The next few levels are much like the two they’d just searched, they quickly passed through each. They found find that the deeper they got, the more of the monkey-sized multi-limbed automatons (they were making their way down the Clockwork Tower and the section they were in had multiple levels simply so the people who had worked here before could access the parts for maintenance) they saw climbing amongst the machinery in the four columns “doing stuff”.
I made this area a stark, just-for-maintenance area that was relatively sterile. In retrospect I could have made each level have a different purpose, all driven by clockwork, with couplings hooking up to the drive shaft running up the clockwork tower. Instead of metal catwalks around and between the drive columns I could have had levels full of mechanical wonders with obvious, or inobvious because nothing was working, purpose.
Note for next time. I think this wasn’t bad and it did make sense for what I pictured it doing, but this area could have been so much more than it was.
Gabriel had to leave about this time, one of the hazards of having players in time zones east of my own and playing during the week, which meant he missed the big scene for this session.
The PCs have made their way into the Clockwork Hell. They found the four drive columns decoupled from the primary drive column that would normally turn all four. The primary drive column was turning. Going down the stairs from here they found themselves in a huge smog-filled room housing a massive steam engine providing the mechanical force turning the primary drive column.
This is where I gained evidence that elves are jackasses.
Jackass Observation One
The party had brought along the goblins hired in the last session to act as scouts. And, it seems, as bait. Rather than climbing down from the catwalk above the steam engine and risk violent response from the automatons feeding coal into it below, they decided to lower one of the goblins on a rope to see if the automatons reacted. Goblins aren’t very big to begin with, starving goblins (though times have improved recently for these ones) are smaller yet, so this seems a reasonable enough proposition.
“We’re going to teabag the robots!”
“You mean lower the goblin into the room and pull him up?”
No reaction to a dangling goblin. Or one walking cautiously and warily among them. Or even tagging them and running.
Swinging from automaton to automaton and getting in their way, however, made him a nuisance, especially when he started rubbing his buttocks and crotch on their ‘faces’.
I held a leather dice bag up to my forehead. “You weren’t kidding about teabagging, were you. Next time are you going to bring a Sharpie marker?”
“Oh my god! Draw French moustaches!”
Apparently in Scotland they’re… kinder than people are over here when they apply permanent marker to peoples’ faces.
They dropped tools to try to corral this annoyance, at which point the party pulled him out of potential danger.
The party has been naming goblins as they go (saving me the effort, thanks guys!), and thanks to his antics among the automatons this is evidently now “T-Bag, the swinging hipster goblin“. Jason insists he’s going to get him some bling next time they’re back in town.
Jackass Observation Two
The players were in a pretty good mood after this and reckoned it was safe enough to climb down. They made sure they had a clear run out if they needed, and started exploring the four huge sets of double doors along the south wall. Each door was roughly ten feet square, and the pair they looked through allowed about an inch all around to look through into a large brightly- and cleanly-lit room on the other side. Further investigation discovered the doors were easily opened, and inside the room was sixteen eight-foot metal figures in alcoves around the edge of the room. Entering the room caused two of the figures to step forward and challenge, asking for a token confirming the party’s claim to be maintenance workers sent by the boss to polish the thingammies and tighten the whatsits.
Not having a token, the party claimed to have left it in their other pants and retreated to the engine room. A bit more experimentation found that the metal figures were liable to stay in their bright room… but a clever bit of rope work was enough to pull one over and drag it out of the room.
Now, like a dog that chases a car, the party was left with the sudden realization they didn’t know quite what to do with it. However, jackasses can usually come up with something.
Quickly oiling up the face-down robot the party and the helpful goblins decided to take it on a 200-foot slip and slide through the engine room to the spiral staircase leading down in the northeast corner. There was a moment of concern when they got hung up on some material on the floor, but fast application of color spray seemed to stun the figure long enough to knock it down and make it the rest of the way to the stairs.
One really good roll later, the figure was on its way down the stairs… with an elf surfing down the stairs on top of it, including a rather impressive flip maneuver on the way down as the figure tumbled. The abrupt stop at the bottom finished breaking the automaton an revealed a brass amulet riveted to the inside of the hollow man-shaped figure.
In three sessions I think I have accurately predicted roughly where the party was going to start. I don’t think I have yet come close to really guessing where they would end up, and certainly not how, or what they would do on the way. I had certain expectations of what would happen, based largely on my experience with some of the players I’ve had so far, and I reckon I’m batting maybe 0.100 on them.
I’m okay with this.
It pleases me that the players — seven so far, three different sessions, three different groups sent down — have surprised me at almost every turn. In my previous experiences as a DM I was able to predict well what the players would do and prepare accordingly. These guys come up with ideas that are at huge odds with what I expected and bring such huge amounts of energy and enthusiasm that they’re pulling me through the session. I would be doing them a disservice by not working with that, so I’m revising my reality as we go to fit their reality because it’s way more fun.
There was a time when I would have insisted on more rolls, more looking up details, more doing it by the book. From my notes before the game, Mal, the elf that “surfed down the stairs on the robot”, should have been stuck at the bottom, alone with a dented and unhappy automaton that was going to express its displeasure all over him. By the book, he would have stood a chance of making it back up the stairs alive.
Sometimes, the book doesn’t do it. They deserved the success they had last session, rules and prepared notes be damned, and never mind the ‘dungeon crawls are serious business’ expectations I had. Something had to give, and I’m pleased it was me.