Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Dungeon Crawl Classics

Game Date: 6/11/2011
DM: Rusty
Party: Cliff, Jesse, Matt, & Nick (3 characters each)

The Game:
Instead of jumping right into our normal campaign, we agreed to devote part of our session to Dungeon Crawl Classics.  This is an old-school style RPG, currently in open beta.  DCC uses rules similar to D&D 3.5, but a lot of the rules are an intentional throwback to the earliest days of D&D.  Instead of planning a character, you start out as a level 0 nobody, and everything about you is rolled randomly.  Which stats you excel at will help you decide what class to choose later, when you reach level 1.

This is a bare-bones system, and that's considered a feature, not a bug.  It only takes a few minutes to generate your character, and combat is also very quick.  There are no feats and no skills.  For skill challenges, you just roll using the appropriate ability modifier, with a possible bonus if you can justify it as relating to your occupation. 

You start with very few hit points, and the game is quite deadly.  The idea is that you roll up and run multiple characters simultaneously, and the ones that survive a few levels are the ones that actually become heroes.  Currently the system only goes up to level 5, but it's still early in the game's development.

The Session:
We played a module called "Legends Are Made, Not Born."  We started out in the small town of Dundraville, which was living under the thumb of a local Ogre.  The townsfolk had previously been tolerating the Ogre's small demands, which was usually just supplies or ale.  But recently the Ogre started demanding bigger things, like gold and captives.  After the Ogre kidnapped a few of Dundraville's citizens, the town held a meeting to discuss the problem.  Our characters were the last ones to arrive at the meeting, and found that we'd been elected to go negotiate with the Ogre.  So the moral is, always be punctual.

Along the way, we met a Hobgoblin sheep herder, who worked for the Ogre.  He seemed somewhat ambivalent about our mission; he seemed to enjoy his work, but recognized the Ogre wasn't always such a nice guy.  His life's dream was to be a mushroom farmer.

We watched the Ogre's den until nightfall, when the Ogre rolled a large stone in front of the entrance.  We pushed the stone aside and began exploring the lair.  The rest of the adventure took place...

We soon encountered the Ogre's pet wolf, who we killed, concerned that the sounds of battle would alert the Ogre.  We needn't have worried.  When we found the Ogre, he was fast asleep at the dinner table.  We tried to quietly steal his club so he would be unarmed when we fought him.  We managed to get the club, but we made enough noise to wake him.

On my turn, one of my characters (Paul), poured some oil onto the Ogre.  Another of my characters (Mary) hit the Ogre with a torch, causing him to catch fire for some ongoing damage.  While Mary had the lowest strength score in the group (5), she actually proved to be a bit of a bad ass several times during the session.  After a few more rounds, the Ogre went down.

We kept exploring the lair, and found some secret doors and other cave passages.  We fought a few fire beetles, and were later attacked by some centipedes while looting an old corpse.  In one room we saw a dire skunk, but we backed off before it got agitated.

In another cave passage, we found some rooms that appeared to be part of a Wizard's lair.  We were attacked by a magic broom, which we deactivated and kept.  In the Wizard's personal chambers, we fought some animated books.  We opened one treasure chest to find that the loot was being guarded by a viper.  Who uses a viper to guard their valuables, really?

Down another corridor, we opened a portcullis and found a couple of missing townsfolk.  There was also a Dwarf building more cages.  When we ordered him to stop, he charged at one of Jesse's characters.  Jesse managed to hit the Dwarf first, rolling a crit which killed the Dwarf in one hit.

Down another hallway we set off an alarm in the form of a Shrieker (screaming mushroom).  While Jesse's solder (Sven) stabbed at the mushroom, one of Cliff's characters tried a ranged attack.  In this edition, firing into melee gives you a chance of hitting your ally, which he did.  Sven, probably the most powerful character in our group, went down from friendly fire.

In the next room, we fought the evil Wizard who owned the place.  One of my characters (Peter) rolled a fumble, and as a result, killed another of my characters (Paul). 

But after a few rounds we did kill the Wizard, with 7 characters left from the original 12.  We gathered up our loot and headed back to town, where we all leveled up.  Mary has decided to become a Cleric, and Peter will become a Wizard.

Surviving characters: Chappy, Gizmo (Cliff); Achmend, Slappy (Nick); Mac (Jesse); Peter, Mary (Matt).  That's actually more than survivors than I was expecting, since we started with such low hit points.  But of course we greatly outnumbered our enemies.  Even the really hard monsters could only kill one of us per round, while we were making 7-12 attack rolls per round.  And two of our five deaths came at the hands of our own teammates.

I don't hate it, and I would definitely play it again. However, it would not be my first choice for a long-term campaign. This system is designed to appeal to nostalgia. I wasn't playing D&D during the early years (though I would have liked to), so the sentimental angle is lost on me. Nevertheless, I did find the concept entertaining. I think it's neat how character creation is like part of the game itself, with everything being so random. It's fun starting out at level 0, with an occupation instead of a class. It reminds me of the computer game Dungeon Siege, where you start out as a farmer and develop your combat specialty as you play. I'd love to take that concept, simplify it even further, and turn it into a board game like Wrath of Ashardalon. I'd increase the XP rate if I did so, so that you'd go from 0 to retirement every time you play - first player to hit level 5 wins. But I think that goes to show that I don't take this game very seriously.

I also like how the combat doesn't take very long, though I would still prefer to use miniatures. I don't care if the combat is simple enough not to need them. I don't even care if the minis are placed on an actual combat grid. I just like having something to represent where the characters are standing. I have trouble following combat in my head, and minis help me remember details like how many enemies are still alive, how far away they are, and so on.

The game is highly unbalanced, but again, that's considered a feature. Early editions of D&D weren't exactly fair, either. Some classes were easier than others. Since you don't get to pick your stats in DCC, you might not get much of a choice when choosing your class. Again, I wouldn't mind seeing that in a board game, many of which revolve around pure chance (there's not much real strategy in "Sorry!"). But for an RPG, generally I like to know my role before I sit down. D&D is practically a different game for the different classes (especially in pre-4e editions). Some people might not enjoy playing certain classes, and it's unfair to expect them to show up every week to play something they hate, just because they rolled badly during character creation.

One of my more anal nitpicks is the use of so many uncommon dice. The luck chart has 30 items, the equipment chart has 24, and the fumble chart has 16. So if you don't have a d30, d24, or d16, you have to do clever things with your other dice. I actually collect strange dice, and even I don't have a d16 (yet). What, they couldn't think of 4 more types of fumbles to round out a 20-entry fumble chart? When I was DMing, I made up a 100-point fumble chart for my group, and I'm not even a professional game designer. Personally, I think if you truly can't think of four more simple ways of dropping a sword, then you're an uncreative hack who's in the wrong business. Little blemishes like that make me look down on the rest of the entire game, because I know if they fail there, then I'm going to run into bigger problems down the road.

But overall, I think this is shaping up to be a pretty decent game... just not necessarily one that's right for me.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

ToEE: Lots of Running

Game Date: 6/11/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Calla Noble (Matt): Human Knight
Ember (Leigha): Tiefling Wizard
Joanna Winters (Jesse): Human Archer Ranger
Jerry (Nick): Human Cleric

The Session:
We started the day by playing Dungeon Crawl Classics for a couple of hours.  This RPG is a work-in-progress that currently has open playtests.  I will blog it separately when I have more time.  One player left after the DCC game, leaving us with a smaller-than-usual party and a late start for the regular game, so we didn't uncover too many rooms this session.

Last session, Joanna came into possession of a cursed stone which kept her slowed.  The rest of us have since been wondering why she moves so slowly.  Joanna wasn't very forthcoming in explaining her problem.  That's part of the curse: wanting to keep the stone, not wanting others to see it, and thinking everything is perfectly normal.  Joanna didn't even notice she was slowed.  But with a high insight check, Jerry understood the problem and sought help.

We took her to the Druid in Hommlet, who did a fancy ritual for us.  He told us the magic was too powerful for his skills, and suggested we take her to Mother Screng.  Once in Nulb, Screng had a much easier time lifting the curse, and Joanna is now free.  He headed on to the Temple.

When we reached the Temple, we saw more of those annoying birds on the wall.  We considered fighting, but decided to run instead.  We fled through the tall grass, toward the one door we knew to be unlocked.  A few birds swooped down and did a small amount of damage, but we made it without any actual fighting.  Calla was the first to open the door, triggering an explosive trap.  Ouch!

Inside the Temple, we saw a couple of Ghouls on the top floor.  They didn't see us yet, so we hid behind some columns and attacked.  We did really well against the first two, but four more came charging down the hall to join the battle.  Still, it wasn't that bad a fight; nothing we haven't handled before.  We didn't even bother to use minis.

Towards the end of the encounter, one of the Ghouls started calling for reinforcements.  Once they were all dead, we heard more noises that might have been approaching backup, so we fled once again down the stairs to Level 1.  We took refuge in the Southwest armory, for a short rest.  Then we headed North.  About halfway up the length of the level, we encountered a Gelatinous Cube.  It was difficult to fight, since most of us couldn't even see it.  Joanna got sucked in, but managed to fight her way out.  We finally got far enough away from it that it couldn't keep up with us, and we fled yet again.  With all the fleeing this session, it's a good thing Kossack wasn't here.  He's trying to impress his sentient armor, which punishes him if he flees too often.

We took a different route through the hallways, making our way towards the spiral staircase in the Northwest.  We headed down the stairs, and set foot on Level 2 for the first time.

From the stairs (A), we took the Southwest hallway and found a rectangular room (B).  There was a statue of an evil Minotaur king standing in a dry fountain.  We noticed a secret door to the East, and heard some murmuring from the other side.  We burst through the door and attacked the guards on the other side.  We fought several guards and bandits (C).  One fled into room D, so we finished off the rest of the room before following him.  After the battle, we opened the door (D), and saw another door on the opposite side.  We would have opened the other door and kept following, but we were running out of session time.  Experience has taught us that these bandit rooms just keep going on and on with more doors full of more bandits, and we didn't want to start that just yet.

 As we finished up, we were deciding whether we're going to take a short rest in room B, or just keep following the bandit when the next session starts.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So, playing the PnP version of the The Temple of Elemental Evil put me in the mood for other media.  I've started reading the novel, and I've reinstalled the old PC game.  It's not that I'm going nuts over the story or anything, it's just that I figure I'm going to read/play them eventually, so now it's the perfect time.  When we're playing the PnP module, it helps me see everything more vividly after playing the PC game.  It also helps me remember the names of the NPCs when I've learned more about them in the book.

I was a little concerned about the possibility of spoilers, and the temptation of metagaming.  But I've always been very good about not acting on out-of-character knowledge.  Besides, at the rate I'm going, I doubt I'll pass our PnP game in either format.  I only get to read for about an hour each week, and I'm taking my time in the computer game as well.

By the way, is it just me, or does Burne look like Nathan Fillion?

Playing the PC game, which is based on D&D 3.5, one thing that's struck me is how much I appreciate 4e.  I've played this game before (though I didn't get very far the first time), and I also put many hours into NeverWinter Nights (which is also based on 3rd edition).  I liked them a lot at the time.  Heck, I still enjoy them now.  But it amazes me how much crap gamers put up with before Fourth Edition.

I've got a wizard in my party, and I can't stand how few spells she can cast per day.  I'm sorry, if you can only cast a few magic missiles a day, you're not really a wizard.  You're just a weak crossbow enthusiast who dabbles a little in magic.  Heck, I didn't even understand it at the time, and I do remember ranting about this well before 4e came out.  If so many pre-4e wizards end up carrying a crossbow, which does 1d6 damage, why not just give them an unlimited-use "magic bolt" spell which does the same damage?  Just work it out so the math is the same (maybe even make it a full-round action to make up for the reloading), and let them have the flavor.  It's much more exciting, and the game loses nothing.

So, I'm adjacent to three enemies, I switch targets, and... I provoke an OA?  What's that about?  I'm required to attack the same enemy each round, even if others are adjacent to me?  Were the designers of 3e actively trying to discourage combat strategy? It's like that annoying rule in checkers that says you have to jump someone if you can.  I despise rules like that, because it encourages people to think less.  When you limit the number of things someone can do on their turn, it's like you're designing a game that plays itself.  If you're really so keen on not making decisions during battle, then stop playing games and watch a movie instead.  It's obviously what you were really in the mood for.

I might be wrong on some of this - I don't remember all of 3e's rules that well, and I might be misinterpreting what I'm seeing in the game.  But it seems like there's an insane number of things that provoke OAs.  Standing up from prone, reloading crossbows, drinking a healing potion, sometimes even just running straight up to an enemy to attack them.  And of course the normal stuff that still provokes in 4e - moving away from an enemy, using a ranged attack or spell next to an enemy, etc.  Even some spells that are designed for close range seem to provoke attacks - specifically Burning Hands, which is a blast attack so it ought to be safe.  Oddly, switching out weapons does not provoke (but it does use up your movement).

And movement gets used up pretty quickly.  There never seems to be enough time in a round.  I don't feel like pulling out the 3e books again to confirm it, but instead of standard/move/minor, it seems more like standard/move (with minors taking up movement time).  Personally, I think I ought to be able to move, reload my crossbow, and fire it in one turn.  I don't care if it's unrealistic; it's heroic.

I've found that some undead can't be damaged unless you have at least a +1 magic weapon, and those magic weapons are pretty rare (at least early on).  So what happens if my level 1 party gets surrounded by undead?  Well, we pretty much have to flee.  Or keep taking our lumps until the one party member who can actually damage them has had enough turns to kill them all.  Yay, that's so exciting.  *yawn*

And healing.  NeverWinter Nights did a smart thing by realizing it was a video game, and letting you heal by resting for about 10 seconds.  But the ToEE game goes a bit more by-the-book.  You can still heal by resting at the Inn, but it often takes a week or more to get you back to full hit points.  This would make sense if hit points represented actual injuries, but - and I hate to repeat myself here - hit points should represent stamina more than damage.  While movie characters often shrug off shots to the shoulder, in real life any significant injury tends to end the battle.  If that first hit doesn't kill you, it at least makes it easier to land the rest of the hits.

Instead, I usually envision you blocking the first few hits, which uses up your stamina.  When you get bloodied, that's the first hit that actually broke the skin.  When you hit 0, that's the hit you were too tired to block, the one that lays you flat.  Again, 4e has spoiled me here, but I have a hard time respecting any system where hit points are supposed to represent lacerations and broken bones.  Unless there's a plot reason to give me a broken leg, I'd like to be able to fight again after a few minutes rest.

Maybe part of that spoilage is that I always expect to start each battle with max hit points.  To me, it's common sense:  max hp means "ready for action".  I suppose in the old days being down a few points is the 4e equivalent of being down a few surges - you keep exploring until they're almost gone.

No matter what you do, some people are going to complain that it isn't realistic.  I'm not a huge fan of realism, as reality has little use in a game where people throw fireballs at bugbears.  Like most people with double standards, I only use the phrase "it's more realistic" when it helps me win the argument.  A lot of the time, people complaining about realism have no idea what realism actually means.  The fact is, everyone has a different reality threshold. Some people want to describe every meal their character eats, but skip things like bathing or using the chamber pot.  Some gamers like to count their arrows, and even roleplay collecting arrows after each battle and fixing them up.  Hey, if that's what you find fun, more power to you.  But other players consider that a waste of time that could have been spent killing things. 

In our current campaign, when the time came to start making a map of our environment, everyone around the table suddenly shouted, "Not it!"  When you have a game element that is so universally avoided, this should be a clue - to players and game designers alike - that something about this game isn't fun.

Note, I'm not saying this to complain about my role as mapper. While there have been some communication issues over the length of some hallways, overall I don't mind drawing the maps. And I definitely think I'm the logical choice, since I tend to repost our progress on the blog.  But it can be frustrating and time consuming.  My ideas for improving our mapping system:

1. Have the DM do it. I don't like giving the DM extra work, but he's got the map right there. If we used some semi-transparent graph paper for our map, the DM could just grab it and trace the next room real quick whenever we look around the corner. It might make it easier for him as well, because he wouldn't have to spend as much time telling us the boring directional details of the hallway, when he would rather be describing the aesthetics of the masonry and architecture.  He would spend less time saying "no, turn it the other way" when we're laying down tiles, too.

2. Just give us the damn map. Maybe early on, our party could find a parchment map of the Temple. The map wouldn't contain any actual info, just the layout of the hallways and rooms, with some letters or numbers here and there. Then we could just tell him, "We're going down hallway H, and peeking into room J." Then he could tell us what we see. Obviously hidden doors and secret rooms wouldn't be on the map.  As we clear out the rooms, we'd put X's or other notes in the rooms we've visited.  I understand this can be a little spoilerific, since it shows us the size of the Temple.  But most of us already have a pretty good idea of the Temple's size.

Some purists might consider mapping to be part of the challenge, but if it's a challenge nobody wants, why is it in the game?  I look at it this way:  my character would be much better at map-making than I am.  For one thing, they're actually there, seeing it with their own eyes, while I'm just having the room described to me.  Also, my character does this kind of thing for a living.  In real life, I'd get lost in downtown Nashville (a city where I've spent most of my life) with a map and a GPS.  So having a simpler, more accurate way of generating our map would actually be more in-character.

Okay, once again I may have wandered away from my point, if I ever had one to begin with. (Point? What's that? Must be something they do on other blogs.)  Oh, yeah, games should be fun.

One problem I have with serious, hardcore roleplayers is this concept of, "It's not supposed to be fun, it's a game!" Okay, nobody actually uses those exact words, but I have run into a lot of gamers who seem to follow the philosophy. For example, I used to play on a NeverWinter Nights server called "The Silver Marches". It was a fun module, with a lot of interesting areas to explore, and it had a large player base consisting of many exceptional roleplayers. The problem was that the owner was a bit anal about realism and Forgotten Realms lore, resulting in a lot of strict roleplay/gameplay rules. I won't go into detail, but these rules made the server a lot more realistic and a lot less fun. If they'd spent a bit of time studying the concept of Acceptable Breaks from Reality, they might have kept more players.

I don't spend $100 on a game and all its expansion packs if I'm not going to have fun. Nor do I give up my Saturdays to drive across town to play D&D if I'm not going having a good time. The #1 rule for all game designers (whether video game or PnP RPG) should be the Rule of Fun. For every element of gameplay, from character creation to boss fights, the designers should test it out and ask themselves, "Am I having fun?" Okay, so some people have different ideas of what's fun, but they should at least try to weed out the stuff that they know everybody hates. For example, it's been universally understood for years that everybody hates escort missions in video games, so I'm absolutely floored when I still see them in new games. I can't tell you how many time I'll get past a certain point in a video game, save my game, and think, "I'm so glad I'll never have to do that level again." Games are for fun; you should never have thoughts like that about any level.

While writing this blog, checked the "Rule of Fun" link above, I was very pleased to find that D&D 4e was listed as an example. To quote, for those who don't follow links (or those who are afraid of being sucked into the TVTropes vortex):

The goal in overhauling the rules for the 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons was to strip out the tedious elements and focus on the fun simplifying character builds and fight mechanic while retaining options and even expanding tactical opportunities. The debate comes from stripping out mechanics that supported non combat/adventure situations and limiting certain character build decisions. Roleplayers argue that this either removes support for anything aside from combat or frees them from the constraints of things like mechanics based parley.

Basically, if you're a gamist, 4th edition is probably a move in the right direction, if you're a simulationist, you're less likely to be happy.
So apparently I'm not the only one who feels this way.

Confession time:  This actually started out as two separate blogs.  One was going to be about playing the computer game, the other was going to be about mapping the Temple.  I think the "fun" thing tied them together pretty well, but it occurs to me that I don't really know how to end the thing.  So I was thinking, maybe - What the hell is that behind you!  *hides*

Sunday, June 5, 2011

ToEE: Raging Bull

Game Date: 6/4/2011
DM: Rusty

The Party:
Artimus (Rick): Revenant Hexblade
Calla Noble (Matt): Human Knight
Ember (Leigha): Tiefling Wizard
Joanna Winters (Jesse): Human Archer Ranger
Jerry (Nick): Human Cleric
Kossack (Cliff): Minotaur Fighter

1 square = 10 feet (click to see larger)

The Session:
When we left off, we had just found a major haul of treasure while digging through the Earth Temple pyramid.  Among other fine items, we found the Invulnerable Coat of Arnd, which we gave to Kossack.  This is a very nice piece of armor with a lot of great abilities.  However, the armor has a will of its own, and it wants to belong to a hero.  In order to keep the armor happy, Kossack must be a valiant warrior.  So now we're seeing him take a lot of risks in order to be a hero.

Our party (mostly Jesse) was determined to finish this floor of the Temple tonight.  We started by checking out a room to the North (A), where Joanna triggered a tilting floor trap.  It flung her into a pit full of rats swarms.  Artimus and Kossack pulled her back out with a rope, and Ember stepped up to the front.  Swarms are her specialty.  She killed the entire room on her turn, with a Burning Hands, Action Point, and Fire Sphere.

We then explored another NW hallway (B), which ended in a spiral staircase going down.  We now know of three sets of stairs leading down to level 2, so we'll have a tough decision to make in the future.

Next we explored an East hallway (C).  We found some pretty messy rooms at point D (one of which had a rather ominous eye on the ceiling), then went on to E, where we found a magically sealed door.  Artimus and Ember both rolled poorly on their Arcana rolls, so we couldn't undo the magical trap.  We knew it was risky, but Kossack volunteered to take the damage and bash the door down.  The door let out an arcane blast that hit most of us, critting on two of its rolls.  Artimus and Ember were both paralyzed.  Ember made a saving throw, but Artie ended up turning into a statue made of ice.

Joanna used thievery to open the door, and we found a crypt full of sarcophagi (F).  Grave robbers that we are, we found some amulets to sell later, and a magic cloak.  Joanna played with the door until she was sure nobody was going to lock us in, and we took an extended rest.  During the rest, Artimus turned back to normal.  Kossack, Joanna, and Ember contracted mummy rot, but luckily Jerry had a lotion for that.

Next we went down a diagonal and found a round starlit room (G), like a planetarium.  In the next room (H), had an evil altar.  Jerry sensed some sort of power, so he started asking the room questions.  "Who is M?"  Answer: "Shun secret artifacts."  We wondered what artifacts it might be referring to, and all eyes turned to Kossack and his new armor.  (Though in retrospect, it also might have been referring to a cursed stone we found later.)  Jerry asked again, "Who is M?" and got the answer, "Oppose the Mystic Being."  Finally Jerry asked, "Are you evil?" and heard, "Possibly."

Through a secret door to the South, we found an Octagonal room full of stirges (I).  There were 2 large stirges, and about 14 small ones.  We debated for a while about whether to fight them or just go around.  But Jerry, or wonderful cleric, wanted the XP.  Joanna started off by using one of her powers that hits multiple targets.  One of her rolls fumbled.  Her fumble card had her hitting Kossack instead, and critting.  Matt: "Did you add your extra die for magic weapon?"  Cliff: "Shut up!"  The attack did a ton of damage, probably the highest single-hit damage Joanna's done in her career so far, and it dropped Kossack.  Which is not good for keeping his armor happy.  (It's even funnier because we use those crit cards, so we don't max our damage when we crit.  But Jesse still rolled the max damage on all his weapon dice.)

After a few turns four ghouls came running up the opposite hallway to join the battle.  Ember took out several stirges with her burning hands, but caught Joanna in the blast, dropping her (karma, thou art a harsh mistress).  There were a lot of crits and fumbles in this battle. 

After the battle, we connected a few points on the map, found an empty library (J), and went back to the Earth Temple to check out the doors we hadn't opened.  The big door was sealed by a powerful magic, and gave us a sense of foreboding.  We decided to come back to that sometime in the future.  We opened one of the small doors (K) and found a small room full of stones.  Artimus picked up a magic rock, and suddenly decided he had to keep it.  We asked to see it, and he said "No!  Mine!" and stuck it in his pocket.  Joanna picked his pocket, and now she won't surrender the stone either.  This cursed lodestone gives Joanna a penalty to her movement speed.

On the back of the door to that room, there was a note written to "Romag", reminding him to pay fealty to the Water Temple.  Or maybe just reminding him to pay his water bill, I don't remember.  We then tried the other small door (L), and found some cloaks.

We walked around a bit more to fill out the map, and finally went to point M to try the one door we hadn't yet tried.  We opened the door, and saw four guards.  We made short work of them, but the rooms behind it had sixteen more bandits, some hiding behind a shield barrier (N).  As the battle wore on, more doors opened, and more enemies joined: a Lieutenant (berserker), a female Commander, Romag, and Hartch.

Joanna managed to shoot some of the enemies through the arrow slots on the shield, Ember did a lot of damage with her blasts, and Kossack fought as bravely as he could to impress his clothing.  When there were just a few left, Hartch, Romag, and two bandits started to flee towards a curtain at the back of the room (O).

Meanwhile, Artimus was down to 1 hit point, flanking the Commander with Calla.  He sustained a Daily power he'd used earlier, damaging the Commander.  Artimus knew this was a risk, because this Commander had a tendency to attack whoever was making her the most angry despite Calla's defender aura.  On the Commander's turn, she critted Artie, which would have killed him due to massive damage.  But not so fast!  Calla's OA is an interrupt, and luckily it was just enough to finish off the Commander before her crit actually connected with Artimus.

We all started to follow the fleeing enemies.  Kossack managed to catch up with Hartch and kill him.  The bandits made it through the curtain and we haven't seen them since.  They probably fled down to level 2, to warn them of our party.  This could complicate things.  Meanwhile, Romag made for the Earth Temple, where he climbed to the top of the pyramid, weeping.  He prepared to kill himself, and we ended the session.

Level one is officially mapped out.  Now we have to decide which of the three sets of stairs to take down to level 2.  We also might consider heading back to Hommlet to do a bit of buying/selling, so we're as fresh as possible for level 2. We plan to work out the rest of the details by e-mail.