Actual Moments in Tabletop Roleplaying - The Terraced Menagerie

Actual Moments in Tabletop Roleplaying - The Terraced Menagerie

Spoiler Alert!: This blog post features a scene from "White Doom Mountain," a Hackmaster parody of the classic AD&D adventure "White Plume Mountain."  Read on and you'll learn how one party dealt with one of the key challenges in the adventure.  If you're planning on playing it yourself, be warned that spoilers follow.

Game: A homebrew of Dungeon Crawl Classics rules.

Featured Players: Judge (aka Game Master), Cedric the Sorcerer, Corwin the Cleric

Judge: You are looking out and down into an enormous chamber defined by terraced steps that ring the entire area and descend toward a central enclosure.

A few feet south of the door, water laps at the edge of the stone floor. Looking to the side, you can see that the ring of the terrace that lies beyond is a ten-foot-deep ring of water held in by a nearly transparent wall. Another of these watery steps in the terrace is somewhat lower than the first; at the level in between these aquariums, the terrace steps are dry, but the area is still enclosed by a glassy wall like the others.

Here's a picture:

Cedric:  That's crazy!  It's like an inverted Mayan pyramid.

Corwin: Are the animals actually in it, too?

Judge: You can't see everything as clearly as in the picture.  The water isn't crystal clear in either of the water levels.  On the second level down, which is sandy and dry like a desert, you can see several enormous scorpions--

Cedric: Actual scorpions?  Or do they just look like scorpions?

Judge: They look exactly like scorpions, but way way bigger.  Through the glass of the first level, the one that's right in front of you, you can see things moving in the water, walking along the bottom.  And they look like giant crayfish.

Corwin: The walls of each terrace level are glass?  Like actual glass?  Can we tell?

Judge: You can't tell for sure without actually touching it.  It's about ten feet away from the edge of the water.  From where you're standing it looks like glass.

Cedric: And what are those things down on the lower water level?

Judge: Let's do an intelligence skill check to see if you recognize them.  Roll a d20.

Cedric: With my modifier, I got a 13.

Judge: You don't recognize them.  They look kind of like sea lions, but way scarier.  You can recognize the creatures at the very bottom level, though.  They're manticores.

Corwin: Uh oh!  Do they see us?

Judge: Yes, they seem aware of your presence.  There are three of them, two males and a female.  They're looking up at you, and they look agitated.

Cedric: Are they going to fly up here?

Judge: Roll a perception check.

Cedric: Seventeen.

Judge: You can see that their wings have been clipped.

Corwin: Clipped?  Like cut off?

Judge: Yeah.  Cut short, down to stumps.  They don't look like they can fly.  But they're looking up at you, and they've still got their barbed tails.  You can also see the floor is sandy, like on the second tier with the scorpions.  There's a bunch of bones down there, and a door.

Cedric: A door?

Judge: A door.

Corwin: Are there any other doors in here?

Judge: Not that you can see.  From what you can see, that door down on the manticore level is the only way out.

Corwin: We've got to get through that door.


Corwin: I'm going to cast shatter, to try to break the glass wall on the first level.

Judge: How are you going to reach the wall?  Are you getting in the water?

Corwin: Hell no!  I've got my ten foot pole.  I want to hit the wall with the pole while I cast the spell.  To like, conduct the force of the spell through the staff.  Can shatter work like that?

Judge: I like the idea, so I'll allow it.  I'm going to make it more difficult, though.  You'll need to roll 18 or better for it to work.

Corwin: Eighteen with my modifiers, right?  Level and intelligence?

Judge: Yes, but remember that if you roll low you risk displeasing your god.

Corwin: That's alright.  I'm going to try it.

Judge: Show me where you want to impact the wall.

Corwin: Can I see where the giant crayfish are?  I want to make sure I'm not near one of them.  Is this part clear?  I want to try to cast the spell so it'll hit the glass wall right here at the corner.

Cedric: I'm going to cover him while he does it.  Try to drive off any crayfish if it comes close.

Judge: Go ahead and cast your spell.

Corwin: I rolled a 17.  That's 21 modified.

Judge: Success!  It works.

Corwin: So I swing the pole down and right when it hits the corner I cast shatter.

Judge: Bother the glass panel and your pole itself shatter.  The glass is broken out for five feet on either side of the corner, and as soon as it breaks the water starts gushing through and falling into the second tier down. [Rolls dice]  Two of the crayfish get pulled through with all the force of the water's motion, so they're dragged down there onto the desert level, which is filling up with water.

Cedric: I wonder if scorpions can swim.

Corwin: I wonder which will win in a fight, a giant scorpion or a giant crayfish.


Judge: The female manticore is very agitated now.  It's going to shoot it's barbs at you again.

Cedric: I'm tired of that damned manticore.  I'm going to cast magic missile.  But I'm going to do a spell burn of eight!

Judge: Eight?

Cedric: Eight!  I'm going to burn five points of strength, and three of stamina, to add eight to the roll.

Judge: What will that leave you with?

Cedric: Six stamina, and three strength.

Corwin: Are you serious?

Cedric: I'm serious!  I'm doing it!

Judge: Alright then.  Roll a d20 to see if it works, and roll a d10 for how it manifests, plus a d8 to see what kind of corruption it produces.

Cedric: Yes!  I rolled a 15!  Add my modifier, and my 8 points of spell burn, and that gives me a total of 26.

Judge: What about the manifestation and corruption rolls?

Cedric: One on manifestation, five on corruption.

Judge: Okay, here's how it happens.  The magic missile manifests as a single giant meteor--

Cedric: Yes!

Judge: When it happens, your eyes go all white, like chalk.  Your irises and pupils just disappear.

Cedric: Can I still see?

Judge: You can still see, but you look pretty freaky.

Cedric: That's fine. Doesn't matter.

Judge: And you're totally spent.  You're strength is just gone, like you can barely stand up, let alone walk.

Corwin: I'll have to carry you through the door.

Judge: Back to the meteor.  Roll 4d12 and add your level.

Cedric: Yes!  Eight, eight, nine, and eleven.  That's 39 with my level.

Judge: So a massive meteor hits the manticore, and the manticore just explodes.  Chunks of bloody flesh fly out in all directions.  Some of it lands in the sea lion tank, and the sea lion things are so excited they're doing flips like it's a show at sea world.

Cedric: Yes!

Corwin: Now we just need to get through that door.


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