Playtesting The Cliff-Lair of Heeter with Whitehack
Writing a series about Whitehack
really made to want to play it again. I recently received a review PDF
copy of Corey Ryan
low-level adventure The Cliff-Lair of
(aff) (USD $ 1.99).
The adventure is for OD&D or similar retro-clones. This shouldn’t be a problem for Whitehack, as it is based on Swords & Wizardry WhiteBox.
I will normally need a group of heroes (4-10) of 1st level to 3rd level. Using Scarlet Heroes (aff), I can easily make do with 2 heroes of level 2. I’m using the conversion notes from SH p. 24.
I will try to emulate the players and run the adventure with the help of The GameMaster’s Apprentice (aff) (read about it here).
I use Basic Fantasy’s rule for hopeless
characters and I flip ability scores (substract from 21).
Each gets some kind of personality so I can decide how the characters react.
Ulsak, lvl 2 Strong Dwarven Rune Warrior
STR 14 (Rune Warrior), DEX 9, CON 13 (Dwarf), INT 12, CHA 11 (Dwarf)
ST 6 (+1 poison, death), HP 11, AC 5, MV 25, AV 12, Fray Die 1d8
melee option 8 (+4): parry Battle Axe 1d6+2 (two-handed), Splint Mail AC 5, Backpack, Lantern, Oil 1 pint, Waterskin
Dwarven Rune Warriors are protected by intricate magical runes which they use to defend the Dwarven realm. Their runes tell them if there is a magical presence nearby and grant them special protection against hostile magical attacks (+1 ST). Ulsak is brave but not dumb. He will use force instead of subtleties, but he won’t blunder into unknown territory. He’s unscrupulous towards those he see as enemies and will prefer to tie up loose ends. Still, he is curious and greedy. He will try to help the weak, but mostly the world is black and white for him.
Tiana, lvl 2 Wise Halfling Trickster STR 9, DEX 8 (Trickster), CON 9, INT 9 (Halfling), WIS 17 (Halfling), CHA 13
ST 7 (+2 magic, mind influence), HP 8, AC 2, MV 30, AV 11, Fray Die 1d4
miracles: “Confuse Mind”, (“Open Locks”, “Veil of Invisibility”, “Slip Sliding Away”)
Shortbow 1d6-1, Sword 1d6+1, Leather AC 2, Backpack, 10ft Pole, Rope, hemp (50 ft.), Torch (bundle of 6), Waterskin, Lockpicks
Tiana is cautious and very aware of her surroundings. She tries to avoid conflicts but enjoys discovery. She tries to be clever about things. She is no altruist and cares more about herself than about doing the right thing.
Hooks: There are three hooks provided in the adventure, I will roll to see which one applies.
II. A magic-user may have access to a scroll or fragment of parchment detailing a strange encounter with an unknown man-thing. The parchment will have broad directions to the cliff-lair.
So, during their previous adventures, the two PCs stumbled about this scroll. In the hopes of excitement and loot, they traveled to the cliff-lair.
1. Bridge and Door
(I’m using the room numbers from the included map.) There is an expertly
constructed stone bridge in the wilderness. Ulsak notes that it is
similar to Dwarfen stonework. At the end of the bridge is a large red
doorway to the fortress. The left column beside the bridge has a red
button and a looking glass embedded to its surface.
The fortress on the other side on the bridge extends farther to the left than to the right. Does Tiana look around and check her surroundings? - Yep, absolutely!
She notices the mostly camouflaged slits in the cliff-face across the gulch. The PCs will most likely proceed cautiously as they know that there are defensive mechanisms. Also, the looking glass indicates some kind of surveillance equipment, so they won’t touch it. Crossing the bridge (20 ft. long), they come to the red door which is locked. Ulsak will be combat ready while Tiana tries to pick the lock. As a Trickster she has experience with it (and she has lockpicks), so it will be a positive double roll on Dex. [roll of 2 and 16, the 2 is a success].
2. Entry and Hallway
The PCs enter the hallway. Tiana goes first, slowly.
[Tiana: awareness check for the slits from #3 and #6: yep, no problem.] Two blue-skinned Gignoks walk the hallway (10 ft. wide, 40 ft. long) just after the PCs have entered the fortress. [roll 1d6 for reaction: 5 = generally hostile but negotiations can be made] “What do you do here?” They approach aggressively.
Ulsak threateningly lifts his battle ax. Tiana tries to defuse the situation with tricking the blue-skinned manlings.
“Uhm, we just want to see the …. man-thing.”
“Yes, we have this letter with descriptions that lead us here.” Tiana shows the scroll.
[Tiana: difficult Charm check (-2) opposed vs. Gignoks’ ST (HD+5=7)
Tiana: 8 (success), Gignoks: 15 (failure)] Looks like the Gignoks can’t read and they seem impressed with the parchment. Although they are still suspicious. They gesture towards #10. Do the characters try to knock them unconscious when the Gignoks turn around? - Yes Ulsak does consider these small creatures (they are child-high) as enemies. He gestures silently towards Tiana and tries to hammer down the blunt side of his battle ax on one of the Gignoks while Tiana should do the same.
Gignok: HD 2, AC 3, MV 30, dmg 1d6 or Special: Scream 1d8 (deafening)
[converted stats from the module to Whitehack]
Ulsak: (double positive roll) 4/14, the 4 is a hit
Tiana: 2, failure] Ulsak knocks out the first Gignok, but Tiana’s blow is too weak.
Combat Round 1
[Initiative: Gignok 5, Ulsak 1, Tiana 1] [Gignok vs. Tiana: 18
(failure as it’s higher than their AV (HD+10=12))]
The other Gignok stumbles back after Tiana attacked him and can’t muster up the precision to strike her. [Ulsak: attack roll 4/17 (4 = hit), damage = 1 point; Fray Die dmg = 1 pt.]
The Dwarf’s battle ax cleaves the blue wimp. Ulsak uses his momentum to swing his ax at the other Gignok’s side.
[attack roll: 9/17 (9=hit), damage = 1 pt]
The Gignok is bleeding heavily. [Tiana: attack roll 1 (failure)]
Tiana’s attack grazes the small manling, but it is not enough to hurt him further.
Combat Round 2
The Gignok screams! [1 pt. dmg] The PCs’ ears ring.
[deafened: 1 round AV -2] Ulsak’s battle-axe swings in a wide arc … [attack roll: 12/12, crit!, dmg = 4 pt.] and fells the blue man with great impact. – end of combat – Blood and gore of the two small weirdlings have splattered the ground. There are three doors, leading to #2, #4 and #5. Unfortunately, the last scream of the Gignok may have alerted more denizens, so the PCs don’t have much time.
The door leading to #2 is detailed much richer than the other two doors. Those are simple and look like they’ve been used often.
The heroes catch their breath (and recover 2 HP per Scarlet Heroes' rules).
[Ulsak: full HP, Tiana: full HP] Will the PCs want to explore the right side of the building (assuming it’s less time-consuming)? - Yes
5. Gignok Sleeping Quarters
Tiana curiosly peeks into room #5.
This room is filled with 10 bunks, all empty. Against the eastern wall is a large shelf with freshly cleaned onesies — the service outfits of the Gignoks. There is a door to the east. Will the PCs drag the bodies into this room? - Yes.
The sleeping quarters don’t have a mop or something like that, so the blood will still be visible in the hallway.
The PCs search the room quickly. Will the PCs notice that the proportions are off and that there must be another (secret room)? [Int check: success]
After some probing, they find the pivoting door to #6: the bathroom.
6. Storage and Bathroom
This room acts as a storage area and a bathroom. It is approximately
20x30 feet. Along the eastern wall are 6 seats with holes. There are
barrels, crates and shelves next to the doors and in the corners of the
room. There’s also cleaning equipment available. Will the PCs will
grab the mop and a bucket to disguise the fight? - Yes.
Tiana takes the stuff while Ulsak will escort her. Back in the hallway: Tiana quickly hastily tries to clean corridor when one Gignok enters from #4. He is combat ready as he has heard the noise from his fellow manling. Tiana and Ulsak are also not surprised, but Tiana was busy so she hasn’t drawn her weapons.
Combat Round 1
[Iniatiative: Gignok 4, Ulsak 3, Tiana 1] The Gignok rushes at Tiana. [attack roll: 11 (success), dmg = none] Ulsak grunts and flexes his muscles. Then he rams his ax into the blue man. [attack: 18/17 (failure), Fray Die dmg = 2 pt.] While the initial attack failed, a follow-up attack leaves the blue man crumbled down. The players have the choice of checking out the other doors or doubling back to the sleeping room (#5). – end of combat – “Nice, another one to clean up.” Tiana mumbles and beckons Ulsak to hide the body while she mops away traces of the fight. Do the PCs explore the east door in the sleeping quarters? - No. Ulsak wants to see if there are more Gignoks where the last one came from.
A wide stone bench dominates the northern end of the kitchen. Atop the
bench are various cooking utensils. The southern portion of the room has
recessed fire pits for cooking, and two large cauldrons suspended above.
There are 3 exits from this room: the western door leads to #7, the
eastern door leads to #2 (where the PCs came from).
There are no Gignoks here. Do the PC search the room cursorily (are there hiding places etc.)? - Yes.
Does the search show them the secret pivoting door? - No. The PCs don’t find anything of interest. They listen at the door to #7 but they don’t hear anything. Do the PCs continue to #7? No. Ulsak and Tiana double back and go the route to #11 (the eastern door of the Sleeping Quarters (#5)).
Leading away from #5 is a winding cave-like passageway, which opens
into a cavernous room. The PC can hear voices from the cavern. Tiana
takes point and sneaks towards the voices, short bow ready. Ulsak with
his heavy armor stays back.
[Dex check for stealth (positive double roll): 4/18, success] Tiana spots 3 Gignok sentries. Half of the cave has been divided into a prison, which in turn has been divided into 3 discrete cells. The middle cell is empty, but the outside cells are occupied: a human and a harpy sit in them. There are some stalagmites and stalactites which could provide cover. Ulsak and Tiana decide to ambush the Gignoks. Tiana hands him the short bow and some arrows. He will target one of the blue men while she tries to work the miracle “Confuse Minds” on the other two. [I determine that the spell works like in the D&D SRD. The wording is spot on but for 2 targets it will be a cost of d6 and the Gignoks have a save.
HP cost: 3
Gignok saves: 12 & 3 (1 Gignok saves successfully), Fray Die dmg = 1 pt] Grey mist wavers towards two of the Gignoks. One of the bluelings inhales it and looks glassy-eyed. The other Gignok blinks, coughs (1 pt dmg from the Fray Die). He looks around for the source of danger and spots the two PCs. He opens his mouth to shout a warning.
At the same time one arrow shoots towards the third blue man.
[attack roll: 2 (under AV but not high enough to beat the Gignok’s AC), failure; Fray Die dmg = 2 pts]
The third Gignok goes down in a hail of arrows.
Combat Round 1
[Iniatiative: Gignok A: 6, Gignok B: 3, Tiana: 2, Ulsak: 1] The first
Gignok looks dazedly around and does nothing this round [roll of 50 on
the SRD table, see above]. The second Gignok runs towards the
characters but takes cover behind a stalagmite. Tiana shoots at him
[attack roll: 3 (not enough to beat AC (+2 for cover)), failure; Fray Die dmg = 1 pt]
One arrow finds his mark. Ulsak runs at the Gignok, moves around the cover and strikes him.
[attack roll: 20/8 (success), 2 dmg]
His brutal attack kills the already wounded Gignok.
[no free attack and no Fray Die as the third Gignok is not in melee range]
Combat Round 2
[roll to see if Gignok A is still confused: 90, attack nearest
The last Gignok snaps out of it and charges Ulsak.
[attack roll of 12, dmg = none]
Still, he doesn’t look like he is up to his game and the glancing blow of his claws doesn’t hurt Ulsak. Tiana shoots at the last blueling.
[attack roll 3, miss; luckily Ulsak isn’t hit either; Fray Die dmg = 1 pt]
Miraculously, her arrow finds the way and kills the last blue man.
[Both heroes still have full HP.] – end of combat – The blue men lie in the cavern, slain by the heroes. The man at the cage has watched this with big eyes and cries out: “Help me get out of here!” Meanwhile, the harpy has screamed at the party but now her voice turns to a song.
Harpy: AC 3, HD 3, Mv 6/20, dmg 1d6 or Special: mesmerizing song [converted stats]
Let’s see if the PCs can escape the song.
[Ulsak: roll of 8 (fail), Tiana: roll of 12 (fail)]
The beautiful siren song of the Harpy lulls the two heroes into her grasp. It asks the two to open her cell. Tiana searches for the keys while the human prisoner begs her not to do that.
Unfortunately,she regards the monster as friendly and follows its instructions.
As soon as the cage is open, the harpy attacks Tiana.
[Harpy: 5 (success), 2 pt. dmg -> Ulsak: 9 HP, Tiana: 6 HP] So, this will result in another fight. Luckily, the siren song’s effect expires as soon as the harpy resorts to a violent action.
I will conclude this session for now. I got a good impression from the
module and will review it soon. Whitehack is a really good old school
ruleset. I just need to remember that I need to convert AC as Whitehack
has it’s own armor class system.
If you’re interested in an in-depth look of Whitehack, you can follow my Let’s Study series. Thanks for reading.