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[Elfs] It's about the aspis queen

Started by Ron Edwards, April 21, 2004, 01:07:42 AM

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Ron Edwards


I never did follow up on our completion of the Elfs game based on the A1 AD&D module "Slave Pits of the Under-City." Since that game had a big impact on the final text of the print version of Elfs, I'll do a quick time-travel for it.

[Elfs] Slavers beware! documents the events of our previous play; suffice to say that our elfs are slogging about in a sewer, having prompted a religious schism among orcs and half-orcs in the upper level.

Since I was playing (or rather butchering, or rather essentializing, heh) an actual historical module, let me tell you what it offers to work with:

1. The overall conceit is that our heroes are infiltrating (read: raiding) a slave-trading concern which has a major port-town enclave in a ruined temple. Why it has to be so secret and so heavily-guarded isn't clear; the port town is supposed to be favorable toward the slavers. But whatever.

All of the A1-A4 modules present tourney scenarios which are extremely linear and tactical, but in beefed-up form which putatively turn them into more of a Sim experience, as well as provide many more NPCs and generally fill in all the black space in the tourney maps. But the whole "kill or run, spell or sword" set of choices remains relatively unchanged, especially in the first module.

2. In the upper levels, you have a bunch of orc and half-orc guards and flunkies, a ruined garden temple area full of monsters and undead (kind of a ruined-temple-leftover thing), a rather odd trap for anti-slaver spies, and a route to the slave pits through an in-use temple. Below are the slave pits, run by ant-creatures (aspis); a weird combat set-piece involving trap-lids over slave cages, which flip up and down through a bunch of levers in a control room; the ant-creatures' tunnel-home including several bloated queens; an orc shaman and his crew, who aren't upstairs for some unspecified reason; and a final-showdown room in which an unnamed thief is apparently running the whole show. He's a "slave lord," although he doesn't rate a name.

As detailed in the previous thread, the elfs made a hash of everything they encountered on the floor level and ended up down below. What happened? Elfs-wise, pure chaos. They posed as slavers, one of them had raunchy sex with a bunch of slaves, they interfered with the noble heroes who were (you see) actually playing the original module, and they ended up making life very difficult for the thief slaver guy ... who I decided was in cahoots with the aspis specifically, by controlling the queen through pheromone potions ... um, which means that he wears these little springy antennae on his "leather helm," and the aspis-queen wears this little paper crown ... cue all the players saying "Ewww!" simultaneously ...

The wonderfully Good and Beautiful Aerobicized Heroine had a lot to say about that too, when she showed up and wanted to know why Feeth (the thief guy) had split out on her. It all ended up in a big fight and the elfs had to scamper out with blood-crazed weasels on their heels, and they didn't manage to get the accumulated treasure. One of them did end up with thigh-high boots, though, which was enough for her.

Stuff I learned: never improvise when using an old-school module, because the Stuff You Need is always there, for Elfs play. By its very existence, a module implies D&D player-characters bulling their way into everything. It implies power-relationships among its NPCs that almost have to be stressed to the breaking point. It's absolutely full of traps and set-pieces that, subjected to several elfs with wickedly-grinning players, are guaranteed to blow up in their owners' faces. Ever get that sense of, "Of course it works that way!" when running an NPC or considering the logistics of a situation? As if the "real" prep had been waiting for you to notice it? That's what it's like running Elfs in an old-school module all the time. The document literally helps you; it begs to be played Elfs-ily.


P.S. Didn't I write a whole two chapters in the latest Sorcerer supplement about having sex with bugs? Yeah, I did. And here it shows up again in Elfs ... hope I got that out of my system for a while ...