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To Dungeons Deep And Caverns Old

April 24th, 2010

It should be a surprise to no one that I was one of the founding members of the Hobart High School Dungeons & Dragons Club*. Each Saturday morning, about twenty of us took over the basement of the Hobart Public Library for a half day of imaginary violence.

Here, courtesy the HHS yearbook, is the sole photo I have of me In flagrante dungeon…

Note that I was both wearing a Star Wars T-shirt and using an Empire Strikes Back school folder as a Dungeon Master’s screen. Yeah, I was stylin’.

What’s truly scary is that I’ve just realized that all these years later I can still immediately identify the D&D adventure being played by the two virgins in the background: the infamous “Queen of the Demonweb Pits.”

All this is my way of pointing out that I am indeed an old-schooler when it comes to dungeoneering. And now, nearly three decades later, I’m running a twice-monthly exercise in Old Tyme D&D I’m calling “The Tower of Mad Mungus.”

In my last update, I noted that some of the less likely members of the D&D bestiary were blamed on experimentation by a mad wizard. I decided that it was high time someone met him.

So it is that our party of adventurers have found themselves in the chambers far below Mungus’ tilted tower. Having defeated a fierce owlbear, they pressed on into a series of caverns.

Their first challenge was a cave overgrown with mushrooms. Large mushrooms. Mushrooms that smelled like warm, freshly-baked bread. When disturbed, they blasted a cloud of spores into the surrounding area. Unfortunately–or perhaps fortunately–the heroes never learned what effect those spores may have had, as they managed to safely bypass them**.

In a maze of twisty little passages, all alike, they found that certain sections of the floor glittered with bluish crystal. Those peering into this “mirror crystal” found that they could see portions of the tunnels otherwise out of sight…and that a monster was looking back at them! In a manner understood by no one including myself, the clawed insect/lizard was able to fire its poisoned spines at them from its lair elsewhere in the caves.

Hunting the sniper, they were beset by a bunch of young kruthiks and their pissed-off parents.

And now, a word from the Dungeon Master:

“Despite my stated intention to provide an old-school D&D experience, kruthiks are from a much later period in the game’s evolution. I included them for two reasons:

1) The game itself seems uncertain what they are. The 4th edition Monster Manual keeps referring to them as “reptilian,” even though they both look and behave much more like insects. They have a “hive lord,” for Pelor’s sake. So they seemed to fit the theme of creatures produced by madness.

2) I have an awful lot of kruthik miniatures.”

Having hacked their way through the skittering, spiky menace, the party next found themselves in a large grotto divided by an underground river and dotted with stalagmites and stalactites. Rob, my fellow old-schooler, heard the magic word “stalactites” and immediately began searching the ceiling for piercers.

“As I’ve previously noted, the piercer is one of the silliest 1st edition monsters. A mollusk which closely resembles a stalactite, the piercer lurks on cave ceilings, waiting to drop on its prey. If it misses, it has no recourse other than to crawl sloooooooowly away and try again…much, much later.

In other words, it’s a monster which is precisely as dangerous as a piece of loose stone.

When 3rd edition D&D came along, it was replaced by the darkmantle, a squiddy thing that flaps down from above and tries to wrap itself around its victim’s head.”

No piercers presented themselves, but sure enough a flock of darkmantles dropped down. Many heads were engulfed. Our intrepid wizard was forced to fire rays of frost at his own noggin in hope of knocking loose a tenacious, tentacled terror.

And that’s when the piercers began to fall.

The first one missed, but Rob’s warlord was speared right in the sternum and lay gasping at the brink of death. Oddly, I believe Rob was actually happy about being laid low by a piercer.

It was looking bad for a few moments, but the good guys eventually won the day. Then, something completely unexpected happened…

Another piercer plummeted to the floor. And excused itself.

The creature explained that it had once been a knight polymorphed into its current form by Mad Mungus himself. Sir Pearce† spent the next fifty years waiting in the cave for a party of dungeoneers that could help him to break this terrible curse.

Rob has kindly provided his iPad sketch of Sir Pearce.

And that’s where we left things. Five defiant adventurers and one stouthearted, conical mollusk against the forces of evil! To be continued…

*aka The Grand Order of High Schoolers Who Were in No Way Likely to Get Laid.

**Or did they?***

***Yes, they did.

I’m so sorry.

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