Dead before the first room: a phalanx delving in the Castle of the Mad Archmage

After months of begging I manage to talk my cousin Andrea (he plays Charming Bowser in my campaign) into running a game for us. At last he failed a saving throw against Family Pressure and ran Castle of the Mad Archmage using our odd houseruled B/X.

YAY! I wanted to play that as a player. 🙂

Since just me and Riccardo showed up we went to UESM and rolled four B/Xish characters each. For me a cleric, a dwarf, a halfling and an elven mage; Riccardo rolled an elf, a fighter, a dwarven cleric and an halfling thief.

The GM decided that there’s no such things as a first level (the second leve is accessible straight from the outside), so we met a room filled with webs. Barry, my halfling, went downstairs, and sets fire to the thing, retreating immediately, followed by a huge spider, that immediately kills Dolum, my dwarf (a follower with 2hp) because I rolled a 9 and he needed an 11 to save. Darn.

Well, Dolum’s Brother joined the party to avenge his sibling. Thanks DM! 😉 And somehow he managed to lose just him during the whole night. 🙂

We then wiped out the Black Lance (a group of brigands), half a den of troglodytes, a hydra, a bunch of ravenous giant rats and were almost wiped out because a shrieker alerted a band of hobgoblins, attracting a gelatinous cube at the same time (darn random encounters).

It’s also been the only fight where we didn’t use our proven phalanx formation: first line with two haflings and an elf wielding spears and a second line (elf F/MU and a dwarf F) wielding halberds, two fully armoured clerics and my mage in the back. It’s quite powerful as there’s a spear wall at the front, enabling 5 characters to roll to hit (and those halberds hit for a whopping 1d10 hp) yet quite flexible as, spending a round, the halberdiers can move their pointy sticks the other way should someone attack the party from behind.

The last time I played B/X (as opposed to run B/X) was during ’95-’96, using Talorian (MU23), the only other BX character I rolled (well, we actually used Red Box), so last night has been a very different experience: after years I found that D&D is both still fresh (even as a player) and terribly entertaining and challenging. The freedom in exploring a dungeon, in terms of tactics, risk, method, direction, logistics, attitude towards monsters and other encounters is probably what I really dig in fantasy adventure gaming. I hope my players have as much fun as I do, as my campaign world is what I like to write, but try really hard to run it so that my players can have fun.

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2 thoughts on “Dead before the first room: a phalanx delving in the Castle of the Mad Archmage

  1. Yeah, it´s terribly fun 🙂
    Also all the quotations (it has a distinct ´hawkian feeling) and jokes (skeletons in the closet anyone?) are very, very nice.
    Also, the hydra in the second level was very nasty… and with no treasure. oh well… 😦

    I´m really looking forward to finish it, but we´re still level 1, and growing slowly (but surely)!

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