In which the funnel comes to a close.
Gareth looks to the rest of the group for confirmation, then takes a step and kicks the double doors open. Sure, he’s a little guy, but I allow him the dramatic entrance instead of asking for a STR check.
They peer into a hazy, nearly octagonal room, the ground floor of the last of the citadel’s towers. In the center is a blazing firepit, full of debris and shards of timber, black smoke billowing up into the rafters. Something moves on the far side of the pit — something big. The ground shakes as a huge hoof stamps the flagstones. Out of the haze it comes from the far side of the room, 10 feet tall and full of fury, shaking its massive horns side to side, wielding an iron greatsword with one hand. A badly damaged scale hauberk hangs off of its muscle-bond torso, and Gareth can make out the broken end of a blade imbedded in the creature’s chest. Its body below that point is covered in thick, dried blood.
The bull-man reaches into the fire with its free hand and pulls out a flaming timber, then opens its mouth and lets out a mighty bellow that sends a shudder through the party.
Initiative is rolled: Esma, Minotaur, Oswald, Perry, Gareth, Thelma, Finmunni, Daisy, Sigbert, Durwin, Wilfred.
Esma, in the front rank, charges boldly into the room to within 10′ of the creature, spins Pierce’s fishing net over her head, and tosses it. The minotaur has AC 16 and she rolls a 17, landing the net across its head and horns, obscuring its vision. Entangled!
Enraged, the creature takes a step toward Esma and swings its greatsword at her head. The greatsword is
I know the DCC RPG rules say that enemies don’t have to play by the same rules as the PCs, but at my table if the dice can screw over the players, they should have the potential to screw over their enemies as well. Plus, I love unexpected turns of events. So yes, the minotaur fumbles.
Even though the scale mail it’s wearing is damaged, I rule that it still restricts movement, so it has to roll 1D12 (for moderate armor) on the fumble table. I roll a 7: “You drop your weapon. You must retrieve it or draw a new one on your next action.”
Esma ducks under the heavy iron blade and it clangs mightily into the stone wall behind her, with such force that it is jarred out of the bull-man’s hand. It bounces back onto the floor and slides to the far side of the fire pit. A whoop goes up. He’s entangled and he just lost his weapon!
Perry runs in, around the firepit to the creature’s rear flank, takes a stab with his spear, and misses. Oswald, Thelma, and Gareth rush into the fray, weapons swinging, but between the haze and the minotaur’s tough hide, all three miss. Finmunni finally scores the first hit for the team, cracking the creature in the knee with her hammer for 5 hp (1D4+1), eliciting another enraged roar. Durwen follows up with another miss. It’s such a mob in there now that there’s no room for the other four PCs to get close.
Top of the order, Esma takes two flasks of acid (obtained earlier in this adventure from the wizard’s lab) off her belt and throws them both at the same time. I use the two-weapon fighting rules to figure that out: her AGI is 12, so her main hand attack will be at -1D, and her off hand attack will be at -2D. She rolls a D16 and a D14 against AC 16 — no surprise, the flasks bounce off the minotaur and smash onto the stone floor, adding sulfuric fumes to the mix. Hopefully, Esma has just learned something useful about two-weapon attacks.
The minotaur, a mountain of fury now staggering from the blow to its kneecap, puts its head down and tries to gore Finmunni. It’s still at -1D for having the fishing net around his head, and Finmunni’s AC is 16 (10 + 2 for AGI + 3 for hide armor +1 for thornling buckler), but it does get a +8 to hit with its horns, so it has about a 50% of scoring a hit for 2D4+4 points of damage.
I roll a 5. The minotaur snorts in outrage. I’m pretty sure it’s directed at me.
Wilfred strides into the fray with his greatsword and slashes the minotaur across the torso for 8 hp, ripping through its ragged scale mail. The beast is completely surrounded by six other PCs, but they all miss their attack rolls.
Esma spends her action readying her spear, and the minotaur spends its action ripping the fishing net angrily from its head.
In a whirl of glancing blows, smoke, acid fumes, and confusion, no one manages to land a solid hit except Sigbert, who swings the thornling witch doctor’s morning star and rolls a 20, then 1D4 for a 4 on the crit table, to smash the same knee already bloodied by Finmunni, for 1D6+1D4+1 for STR = 9 hp of damage. The minotaur only has 6 hp left, out of a total of 28! And the crit result indicates that it will suffer -2 to its next attack roll, plus -10′ to its movement rate.
But those things won’t even come into play, because at the top of the next round, Esma raises her spear with both hands and plunges the tip deep into the monster’s lower back, piercing through into its vitals, for 7 points of damage.
The bull lord lets out a last, disbelieving GRARRGHL before toppling over into the firepit in a burst of embers that sends sparks flying and the PCs stepping back to a safe distance.
Esma says, “Ha!”
Everyone looks around at each other, and Oswald says, “Hey, isn’t this what we came here to do? Did we do it? We did it! Yeah!”
They defeated the module’s final enemy without taking a single point of damage.
W T F
I actually don’t have any problem the way it went in the end. It makes sense that the flipside of the funnel is that, if the players can manage to bring 10 PCs to the final battle, they stand a good chance of overwhelming a single foe by sheer numbers. It helped that, in entering the dungeon via the underground stream, steering clear of the thornling warrens, and avoiding any areas that looked too dangerous, the PCs actually only explored about 40% of the total module. As a result they missed a heck of lot of loot, but they also faced far fewer threats than they would have faced if they had taken a more direct approach.
At the end of the session last week, we left things with the minotaur dead and his quarters ransacked (for a whopping 311sp, 25gp, and 6 bloodstones @ 30gp), but the PCs are still at the top of the spire. This week I may just skip over the descent and let them get back to Hovick, so they can experience the thrill of reaching level 1, or we may play out their descent back through the spire.
But in any case, I did read the great closing paragraphs that Harley wrote for the module aloud to my players (edited slightly to suit them):
The citadel stands in silence, the corpse of the Bull Lord is at your feet. You and your companions began this adventure as frightened commoners: swineherds, woodsmen, and fisherfolk. How long ago and far away your old lives seem. Now your weapons are bloodied, your eyes have stared into the heart of evil, and your scarred bodies bear testament to the ordeals you have overcome.
Now you stand as champions.
Looking down from atop the high citadel, the land stretches out before you, wild and mysterious. Dark valleys, rolling dales, and high mountains: a world of adventure. A raw fire burns in your belly, a hunger for danger, triumph and rewards, hard won. Grinning, you shoulder your sacks of treasure, tighten your grip on your weapons, and step into a new life.
Isn’t that awesome? What a great way to kick off an adventuring career. I wonder who’s going to die next.
Thanks for reading!