|Chris (left) & Doug (right) tally up the dead
It seems like, for the last year or so, the gaming community has been shoving Keep into my face and making me remember all of the awesome from years past. Whether it was the Chaos Scar semi-Adventure Path from WotC (which really wasn't much of an adventure path), the D&D Encounters season a little while back (I have no idea when the season actually happened, but I recently read through it for the first time) or the absolute schlock of a DnDNext playtest, WotC seems fascinated these days with Keep. I'm not going to say that it was WotC's fascination with Keep that pushed it to the forefront of my mind, but it was a module that I always loved and only ever ran once, way back in the mists of time, I own several copies of and reread on semi-regular basis, so it doesn't really take much to push this one back onto my radar. A few months ago, in fact, I was thinking about trying out Searchers of the Unknown with Keep on the Borderlands, but that was not to be. When looking for something fun to do as a "fallback game," Keep came to mind right away, I ran upstairs and grabbed a copy.
I aimed the newly-minted level 0s at the kobold cave, but since there are no standard humanoid races in Kickassistan, I needed to reskin those kobolds. No longer would they be traditional reptile dog men, but something different. I grabbed the table of goblin mutations from Secret Santicore 2011 and had Doug roll a d30; the result was that these guys were wartier than normal. Warty... reptile dog men. Warty reptiles. Gila monsters? Gila men? Yes indeed, gila men. Chris decided that they were called "Higgaboogas" (although later we retconned this into being their tribe name) and thus our kobolds were reskinned enough to be usable. Officially, these gila men are one of the many breeds of lesser humanoid races that populate the world if not one of the beastman races.
Finally ready to assault the dungeon, our level 0s rushed valiantly in ... and landed squarely in the pit trap at the first intersection. Well, one character did. The rest jumped across the pit and found the room filled with giant rats. Strange thing about giant rats in DCC, they're actually tougher than kobolds are. Strange thing about level 0s in DCC, they're actually pretty squishy. In the end, out of the seven characters that faced down the rats, two survived to run the hell away and find some more pals to come back into the dungeon with. After about a half hour of actual game time (if that), we had killed off six PCs, including the ones that either player thought were the ones that were most likely to survive.
|Not at all like this
Checking the game clock -- or the real clock -- we saw we still had plenty of gaming time, so the guys decided to give it one more go. By this time, the one PC who had survived from the first group of
After some more exploring and *gasp!* clever usage of a small handheld mirror, the party came to the door of the Higgabooga king and his Higgabooga brides (all five of them!). Given a modicum of time to prepare, the party took their new gila man pal (named, due to some uncreative naming on the part of the players "Eh-er," like the sound a windshield wiper makes)* and oiled him up with a flask of flaming oil. "Go give your king a hug," they told him, and when he got close enough, they threw a lantern at him. Hilarity -- and dead Higgaboogas -- ensued. Facing off against the king and his brides, the PCs met with more casualties but took the king down, which routed the remaining brides (the PCs couldn't allow that and mowed them down as they ran). Now faced with the prospect of looting the throne room of the Higgabooga king, the heroes found themselves in possession of crazy valuable treasures that they would soon translate to more coin than they knew what to do with.
|Final death toll: 21 level 0 corpses
In the end, only three PCs survived. Two were Chris's (the aforementioned elf and an alchemist that became a cleric after the session) and one was Doug's (a fortune teller-turned-warrior), and I decided to let the surviving heroes have the opportunity to celebrate their victory. Using the sort of carousing rules that you often see in lots of OSR games, I let the guys roll 1d6 and multiply the result by 50gp to determine how much the carousing back at the eponymous Keep on the Borderlands would cost per PC taking advantage of it; the PCs would then get a number of xp equal to the die roll. Doug rolled a 5, which was more than enough to push the fortune teller and alchemist over into first level territory.
So, now we have an alternate game when folks decide to ditch DCC night. Since each segment of the Caves of Chaos could be taken as a mini-adventure, it's really well laid out for a 3 hour-or-so game. This alternate game is also pretty great for introducing new players and PCs to the Game of Taps, DCC and the Kickassistan aesthetic. All that remains is for me to give the module the full treatment and completely convert it to Kickassistan-grade awesomeness. Here's the stuff that I think needs to change:
- The humanoid and goblinoid races need to become something else. There are no orcs, goblins or hobgoblins in Kickassistan and they won't be in this version of the module either.
- The Keep itself needs some work, although I don't figure that it'll fit into more than some flavor text here or there.
- The clerics of Chaos. Hmm. Not enough tentacles for my tastes.
- TOO MUCH MAGIC! Most of the stuff like magic armor is going to have to be not just toned down but completely removed. I mean seriously, it seems like every other node of this dungeon includes a suit of plate +1 and if there's that much loot just laying around, what's the point in giving the PCs all of the treasure that there is in the place? I'll have to strip out a lot of the magic items to make any of the treasure meaningful at all. I don't plan on there being any magic armor at all and only a very few magic weapons, but maybe some potions and scrolls.