We’re playing The Haunted Keep mini-dungeon from 1981 Moldvay-era Basic D&D using 4e D&D. We’ve got three characters (plus a backup Wizard), and they’re about to enter…….
The entrance corridor into the Haunted Keep is 15′ long, 5′ wide and contains a pit trap. DMG87. Easy. Passive Perception checks all fail, no one’s watching out for traps and Hairy Bob (Thuggish Fighter and thief wannabe) fails the Reflex save. We’re off to a great start. Down he goes, taking 6 damage for the sudden landing. I briefly consider adding a pressure plate to the bottom of the pit which triggers a pendulum blade to scythe out of the wall at waist height a round later….. but that would be too cruel. Save that one for later.
He climbs out, massaging his (hairy) ego and the others leap across the pit easily to face the inner doors to the Keep.
“They’re blown apart, as if some great force from within wanted to get out very, very suddenly. Pieces of wood are even embedded in the stonework to either side.”
“What level are we again?”
By this point it’s worth mentioning that this is 4e D&D, but we’re playing without miniatures or battlemat. This is pure in-your-head gaming from start to finish, and y’know what – it’s working. Partly that’s because we’re experienced gamers doing what comes naturally, but mainly it’s because we’re playing D&D like D&D. Smaller locations and cramped conditions make for less tactical wiggle room, so less need for absolute positioning. Lesson learned: if you want to play D&D without a battlemat, play it small.
Heading through the door and the players have a choice of left or right. They head left, briefly explore the (empty) Room 1 then enter Room 2 which contains a Crab Spider attached to a tapestry. I replace that with a mated pair of Deathjump Spiders reduced to Level 2 (MM246, -2 attack, AC & defences, -16HP, bite 2d6+2, 4 poison, 125XP each). These shouldn’t tax the players too much but one lands on Hairy Bob’s hairy head, and he runs outta the door screaming. Wimp.
“Getitoff! Getitoff! Getitoff!”
“Stay still! How am I supposed to hit it if you keep flailing around like that?”
“There. Got it. Bob? Bob? BOB?”
Thanks to the pit trap, spider bite and two rounds of poison damage (not to mention being hit by Parson Jeffries’ mace), Bob is down to just 2 Hit Points, and the party decide to take a short rest before moving on.
I do what all good GMs do in such a situation, and roll for a random encounter…………
Next time: Goblings!
Here’s Hairy Bob. His name is Bob, and he’s Hairy. After his spider infestation though it’s likely he’ll be changing his name to Bald Bob real soon. As a Fighter he’s armed to the teeth with a Scimitar, Shield, Daggers and Crossbow. As a Thief wannabe he’s pretty good at stabbing you in the back with any of them. Except maybe the shield.
Hairy Bob, Unaligned Human Fighter/Rogue-1
Str 12, Con 13, Dex 13, Int 9, Wis 8, Cha 6
HP 28 bloodied 14 surges 7×10/day
AC 15 (Hide & light shield), Fort 14, Ref 13, Will 10
Daggers (x2)+5 vs AC, 1d4+1, usable off-hand, range 5/10
Scimitar +4 vs AC, 1d8+1, High crit
Crossbow +3 vs AC, 1d8+1, range 15/30, Load minor
Cleave/w +4 vs AC, Sure Strike/w +6 vs AC, Tide of Iron/w +4 vs AC
Sneak Attack/e +2d8, Steel Serpent Strike/e +4 vs AC
Comeback Strike/d +4 vs AC
Athletics +5, Endurance +5, Intimidate +3, Streetwise +3, Thievery +5
Sneak of Shadows, Backstabber
Combat Challenge, Combat Superiority, One-handed style