Our group met for the second time this past Wednesday to complete Tim of Gothridge Manor's Knowledge Illuminates. We were joined by two new players who were unable to make it to the previous session.
I would characterize what follows as an actual play report, with notes and comments about the module Knowledge Illuminates interspersed throughout. Thus, it's not a thorough review of the module, but more of a "this is what happened to us when we played it". As I show below, I changed a few things from the module as written, either consciously beforehand or in the midst of actual play. Since we actually started the module the previous session, this is really two sessions worth of gaming. Given that each session lasts three hours max, however, I really think the module could be worked through in one session without much difficulty.
After using the Three Sentence Method to get things rolling with the players, I plopped them down on the Redden Rot Road mentioned in the module and had them immediately attacked by bandits. I reduced the number of bandits from the published eight to six, given the four person party for our first session. The elf immediately charmed one of the bandits (Gunter!) and the party dispatched the others without much difficulty. The Drover Stream ran red with the blood of thieves!
Since it looked like Gunter would be charmed for a week, the party made quick use of him as a "tour guide" through the rest of the mini-sandbox wilderness portion of the adventure. Gunter happily split the bandit treasure with his new friends, told them of a "glowing lake" he saw in the Lascon Thickets, and happily led the party to the ruins of a large statue. Though the module lists the statue as Malichia, I decided it would be an early incarnation of Xena, the Warrior Princess, whom the party's cleric follows.
Yes, I know it's a bit silly. No, I don't really care. We're all having fun.
Speaking of fun, we all really enjoyed the mini-sandbox wilderness portion of the module. The encounters are varied and interesting, if occasionally pretty tough. There are plenty of places to add elements to connect it to a larger world. Every encounter can easily be done within a single game session.
The party visited the Hangman Tree, finding it creepy but not doing much there. They had much more interest in the giant's skeleton atop a nearby hill. They spent considerable time poking about the giant bones, looking for treasure and possible uses for the giant skeleton, until they were attacked by the ankheg. I dropped the ankheg's spit attack, as the beast almost killed two of the party members in the first round without an attack that does 5d6 damage. The defeated it, however, and moved on to the "viz pond" -- the glowing pond mentioned by the charmed Gunter.
Here, they noticed the viz rocks at the bottom of the pond and successfully collected a few, even though they weren't sure what the rocks did. They then inspected the strange obelisk on the pond's shore, inadvertently opening the way to the dungeon by speaking the words engraved on the stone.
They then explored Tergal's Workshop, stumbling and bumbling about, with bits of hilarity and combat. There's a cool hallway with paintings hanging on the walls, one of which is magic mouthed. That's the only piece of art the characters took. After growing tired of it shouting its warnings, they rolled it up and stuffed it in a sack. It still shouts, but is very muffled.
The adventure introduces a new creature called tvorns, two of which still inhabit the dungeon. These are nice, extraplanar beasties that gave the party just the right amount of trouble before being dispatched. They then found a magic bow and arrows (being fought over by the Tvorns). Unsure of what the weapons did, they "tested it out" in one of the dungeon rooms. The fighter doing the testing rolled a "1" and so the arrow landed right at his feet. Unbeknown to him, the arrow was an arrow of fireballs (a magic item detailed in the adventure) and, thus, the fighter blew himself up. He made his save and was then brought to 1 hit point. The party then wisely fled the dungeon to camp and heal. This was also where our first session ended.
The next session featured two new players (who just stumbled into the camp in a very hand-wave sort of adventure set up). They all ventured back into the dungeon. The second foray saw the party being appropriately creeped out by some well-crafted dungeon elements. First, they were suitably worried by a room full of corpses, two of which were still clutching a chained and locked chest. The party immediately set about trying to find the key. Heh. Further exploration revealed magic darkness and some pits, which Gunter, the charmed bandit, promptly fell into. I also ruled the viz stones' glow could penetrate the darkness, albeit to a limited range. The party successfully navigated the pits with some rope.
Second, they had a nasty but fun fight with two ghouls, one of which surprised the group from a murder hole in the cieling. The ghoul room featured the other ghoul chained to the wall, only to be freed by the ill-effects of a natural "1" roll during combat. I think I've really been influenced by some of the more free-form and narrative games with things like the above -- make bad luck "pay off" by complicating the situation in some way. It's way more fun that just ignoring the roll or having the PC's miss an attack.
Then half the party died.