Thursday, November 27, 2014

AD&D 2E - Council of Wyrms - Not the Draca

Out of the Hoard

The last time I ran Council of Wyrms it was 1999 and I was at a gaming convention at Lehigh University (EPIC).  The last time I ran AD&D 2nd Edition was in the summer of 2000 just before D&D 3rd Edition came out.  So this particular game of Council of Wyrms is both my return to the Io's Blood Islands as well as my return to THAC0.  

Making characters with the kids, the nostalgia was rushing in pretty quick!  It's Thanksgiving Weekend and I'm in Smyrna, Delaware hanging out with my parents (who live here), wife, and kids.  Running 2nd Edition AD&D was a last minute idea, as I had originally intended to just run The Strange this Saturday for a few members of my family.  But in the last minutes before packing up my stuff, I realized that we had a free night Thanksgiving Eve and I wanted to do something special. 

So I got up early in the morning and started making characters for the family.  My parents were easy.  They were both at work, so I made them identical Crystal Dragon twins.  I made one character and then just duplicated it… yeah, I was cheating, but it saved me some precious time.  Evie wanted to play a purple dragon (Amethyst), and Cooper a red, while Carrie wanted to have a dragon capable of breathing ice, casting spells, and being at home in the cold.

Yes… she wanted to play the draconic version of Elsa from Frozen.  

Carrie scored an 18 in Intelligence!

My wife Jen came up with a Brass Dragon that she thought could be named Knuckles.  Knuckles the Bad Brass Dragon.  Sometimes I'm not sure that she and I are much better than the kids with our terribly childish senses of humor.  

I was pretty surprised at how long it took me to make the six characters.  I started around 11am, and by 1:30pm I was still plugging away.  Part of this was because I hadn't made an AD&D 2E character in years, and the other is that dragons are far more complicated than humans or demi-humans.  When making a dragon-PC in Council of Wyrms, the end result, just a hatchling, can have between four to nine hit-dice.  Since Saving Throws, THAC0, and some casting abilities are based off of the HD and not the XP level (for Dragons that's one to twelve, based on the age categories), I should've figured that I'd be sitting on the laptop for quite a while.  

Cooper rolling up Chica the Red Dragon

Although I rolled for my parents, I let my wife and kids roll their own characters.  I was easy-going on the die rolls, giving them 4d6 drop the lowest, but I made them take the stats in the order that they were rolled.  It still ended up working out very well.  My daughter Carrie rolled an 18 for intelligence, which caused her to shout out with excitement since she wanted to play a Dragon Mage.  Evie had stats perfect for a Dragon-Priest, and after a little coaxing she chose the scaly cleric.  

Ultimately we came up with a good crew:
  • Bima, Crystal Dragon, played by Nini (my mom)
  • Chica, Red Dragon, played by Cooper (my 4 year old son)
  • Frostburn, Silver Dragon-Mage, played by Carrie (my 10 year old daughter)
  • Violet, Amethyst Dragon-Priest, played by Evie (my 8 year old daughter)
  • Bromi, Crystal Dragon, played by Pop Pop (my dad)
  • Knuckles the Bad, Brass Dragon, played by Jen (my wife)

Character generation in 2E takes some serious time!

Adventure Summary

Six cute little dragonlings broke through their shells, ready to embrace the world.  For months, stewards and custodians of the Council Aerie cared for the eggs, with hundreds of demi-human hours spent on each and every leathery orb speaking, singing, and chanting lessons and lore.  But the time of hatching was special, as the baby dragons would finally meet their draca - their mothers.  But when Frostburn, Violet, Chica, Knuckles the Bad, and the twins Bima and Bromi erupted from their shells, the only voices they heard were deep, guttural and unusual.  Chica, having been trained in many languages by his own dwarf egg-custodian Fredericko, instantly recognized the language as Ogre.  

The warm, yet dry chamber that held the six newly hatched dragonlings was eighty feet across, lit by enchanted sconces, and had three passages leading out.  On the far side of the room several dead gnomes lay on the ground.  There were still some unhatched eggs in the room, but right in the center a pair of brutish ogres were loading eggs into massive wagon.  

Knuckles wasn't about to wait around and get carted off by some wannabe-giants.  The brass dragon with an attitude tried to put himself back in his shell, punching his feet through the other side so that he could approach the ogres masquerading as an unhatched egg.  Unfortunately, Knuckles wasn't that sharp, and when he got close to the ogres, he was instantly grabbed.  The ogre lifted Knuckles into the air and started to shout and laugh in Ogrish.  

Knuckles turned to Chica, "Hey Red, what are they saying?"

Chica just glared at his associated but kept his mouth shut.  

"Chica!  What are they saying!  Don't you speak Ogre?"

"Not today," replied Chica.  The red dragon was playing with pieces of his shell, and just looked down, ignoring the brass dragon's plea.  

[DM's Note:  Don't allow your 4 year old son, who is only at the table to be part of the group, to play the only dragon capable of communicating with an adversary.]

One ogre was preparing a large sack and some wire while the other continued to jostle Knuckles around.  The pair of bestial brutes didn't seem to know that even a baby dragon was a very dangerous foe.  Knuckles the Bad Brass Dragon breathed in deep and then let out a massive belch of sleep gas, knocking both ogres out instantly.  Frostburn, Violet, and Bima darted out from behind their shells and started scouting the room.  There was a hallway to the west that seemed to smell of dragon kind, and Knuckles and Bima started arguing over whether or not they should just flee and find help when Violet heard a voice call out in pain.

Her name was Sviliffa, and the little gnome custodian reached out her hand towards the dragons.  Bima was the first to approach, but when the gnome tried to pet the face of the hatchling the crystal dragon backed away.  The dying gnome explained that she was one of their caretakers, but that the ogres had broken into the chamber and were taking the eggs.  Sviliffa begged the dragonlings to stay and protect the eggs from the remaining ogres.  There were secret passages connecting the each egg chamber that the dragonlings could use to their advantage.  When the gnome passed out, Violet realized that she could call upon the dragon-god Chronepsis for divine healing.  The amethyst dragon placed her hand upon the torso of the gnome and instantly the little custodian's wounds were healed.

Now it was time to take on some ogres!

Frostburn the Dragon-Mage took the lead and scouted the easternmost chamber.  It was seventy five feet wide by one-hundred and fifty feet long, full of unhatched dragon eggs.  On the far end was sloppily dug hole, most likely the way that the ogres broke into the chamber.  There was another cart, and three ogres working to fill the wagon with eggs of all kinds.  Frostburn wasn't about to let anymore eggs get taken, but she knew that the dragons needed information.  The ogres were close enough that the silver dragon could use her paralyzing gas to put them down.  Frostburn let out a burst of her breath weapon, however it only worked on two of the ogres.  But the third was no match for six, trained-in-the-egg, combat ready dragonlings.  Before Biff the Ogre could swing his club he found himself encircled by five snapping little baby dragons.  After taking several claws and bites, Biff started looking towards the exit, and made a few steps before Knuckles appeared right in his face.  Biff was groaning, and Knuckles, using his skill at singing, was humming along, mockingly mimicking the ogre's moans of terror.  With one claw, the Bad Brass Dragon grabbed the ogre's throat and ripped it out.  

"I guess I won the sing-a-long," declared Knuckles.

Yancy and Ulfgarr watched in absolute horror, unable to move but completely aware of what the little dragons were doing to their associate.  

"I don't think this was a good plan, Yancy," Ulfgarr whispered to his brother.

"No, Ulf… I think the boss bit off more than WE could chew.  But who knew the little lizards would wake up?" said Yancy.  "Oh no, they're coming right for us!"  

Knuckles, the absolute last dragon anyone would want to meet in an interrogation chamber, dragged Yancy the Ogre to the center of the room and each dragonling started shouting in different languages at the monster.  Chica was still the only dragon who spoke ogre, but he was busy drawing on one of the cave walls with some chalk he found, mixed with ogre blood.  But Violet spoke a little giant, and it seemed like Yancy knew a few words as well, and was quite willing to chat with the newborns.  

Yancy spilled his guts figuratively so he wouldn't have to face the literal alternative.  The ogres broke into the Council Aerie in order to steal eggs for the Frost Giants to the north.  Krug Bonebreaker, chief of the small ogre tribe, had been successful on several raids outside of the Aerie, and hoped this excursion would be several times more lucrative.  Yancy told Violet that the rest of the ogres were in the two northern chambers, just before Knuckles put him down like the dog that he was.  Frostburn and Bima slew the other.  Knuckles searched for a few animals to speak with, since she could communicate with them, hoping to get some help getting some of the eggs to safety.  She managed to find a pair of honey badgers, and asked for their assistance.  

But the honey badgers just left the chamber.  They didn't care.   

My mom was getting frustrated with her rolls

Frostburn pointed the rest of the hatchlings towards the northern secret passage, and Knuckles took point.  On the other side was another hatchery, with three more ogres and another couple dozen eggs.  Sticking his head out the other side of the hidden pass, Knuckles blasted two of the ogres with some searing desert heat.  Although it seemed to wound the ogres, it didn't take them out, and both turned toward the tunnel and threw spears at the brass dragon's head.  Pierced twice, Knuckles started shouting and cursing, while yanking the spears out of his tough, but baby-soft scales.  Knuckles threw both spears back out of the passage, but only managed to graze an ogre.  

"My turn!" exclaimed Violet, who stuck her own head out and coughed up a glowing purple lozenge, spitting it across the room where it exploded right in the middle of the ogres.  The explosive blast shattered two of the bestial humanoids, and paralyzed the third.  With a chipper smile on her fang-laden visage, the amethyst dragon strolled right up next to the incapacitated ogre and chewed his face off.  

Evie describing her all-out slaughter fest on paper

The rest of the dragons entered the room from the south, but heard footsteps to the west as the rest of the ogres arrived.  Krug Bonebreaker had heard the exploding lozenge along with his seven associates.  "What's this?" the ogre chief shouted.

Her fangs still dripping with ogre blood Violet turned to the chief and just whispered, "Hi."  

Krug's subordinates started to shake and quiver at the eerie sight, but Krug was made of tougher stuff.  "They're just babies, you fools!  Charge!" 

Seven ogres ran out in front, followed by their spear-toting commander.  But before the ogres could close the distance, a wall of combined breath weapon attacks burned, froze, and pierced each of the bestial warriors.  The dragon hatchlings had lined up in formation, each one expelling a breath attack in unison.  Desert heat from Knuckles, freezing cold from Frostburn, blazing flames from Chica, and shredding crystals from the twins Bima and Bromi.  Those fortunate ogres who survived the combined attack were slain by cute little Violet, who used her claws to tear the remaining survivors apart with her crystalline claws.  

Krug was defeated, and grabbing one last egg the ogre chief tried running out of the chamber only to end up facing Bromi.  The little crystal dragon was only six feet long, compared to the massive chief, but was a well trained martial master.  Bromi slashed out with both claws and with a fierce bite tore the ogre's head from neck.  

The baby dragons had won!  They protected countless eggs from the clutches of the evil ogres, while gaining information about a Frost Giant threat from the north.  Sviliffa was saved, and with her restored vigor she escaped the first chamber to get Mykell, the highest ranking dragon in the Council of Wyrms.  The majestic Amethyst Dragon entered the hatchery and peered down at the six babies.

"Good work, little ones, but do not be too sure of yourselves.  Consider this your first test… there will be others."  

Jen got to use her new Steampunk dice from Q-Workshop!


"Trying to describe fantasy scenes with Mambo Italiano in the background is difficult." - Jim pleads with the rest of the family, after asking for mood music and getting the Dean Martin channel.

"The chalazae in an egg keeps you centered!" - Carrie starts reciting biology during the hatching sequence.  

"Ricolaaaaa!" - Jen, remarking on the Amethyst Dragon's explosive "lozenge."

Jim (as Ogre):  "We're following our lord Krug Bonebreaker."   
Evie:  "That sounds like my friend Dylan's dad!"

"I hate D&D!" - Jen missed bennies from Savage Worlds and Experience Points from Numenera/The Strange.

Just a glorious and captivating Dungeon Master!

Parting Shots

I've run Council of Wyrms a total of six times (well, now seven), and this particular adventure (Not the Draca) three of those times.  It is a great game to try out if your crew needs a break from their fighters, mages, and elves, but I've never had the opportunity to give it a long-term run.  One significant reason is the XP system.  To get to the next level a dragon needs to meet three requirements:  Age, XP, Hoard Value.  Smaller, weaker dragons need less XP to advance.   So while a weaker dragon may only need 64,000 XP, a larger may need twice, or even triple that.  But it doesn't make much sense to put one player on a break while the others play.  You could alternatively make every player the same kind of dragon, fixing the XP issue, but that would be dull for the players.  

Still I'd love to find a way to run this game more often, and do a complete campaign just for a change of pace!  The opportunity to play a dragon, even a hatchling or young drake is just awesome!  

If you'd like to give the game a shot, follow this link to purchase a PDF copy from DrivethruRPG.  You could also find a used copy on Ebay or, or possibly at your local used book store.  You'll need an AD&D 2nd Edition Players Handbook, Dungeon Master's Guide, and Monsters Compendium.  

How my daughter Evie sees me as a GM

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