When we left off last time, we had just driven off an ambush directed at us by a couple centaurs who ran away before we could “detain” them. The bear-like mutants who ambushed us where not terribly helpful on interrogation, so we pressed on through the jungle, following the track of the large creature who we firmly believe is not a dragon.
We were then intercepted by another centaur, who blocked our away across a small clearing. We weren’t sure whether this was a centaur involved in the previous ambush or not, but she seemed up for a parley; so we tried to chat. She accused us of being from the fort, and being one of those barbaric humans who were enslaving the elves; we protested our innocence. She accused us of being from the fort; we pointed out that one of us was an Elf, so that seemed monumentally unlikely. She accused us of being from the fort, we asked what we could do to convince here we weren’t. She accused us of being from the fort, so we got tired of this and backed up into the jungle. We decided to just go around her. This kicked of a series of events that was a bit problematic.
Our detour to avoid the annoying centaur involved about a quarter to half-mile off-track trek through the jungle. We figured this would be no problem for Kala the +14 Survival Druid; “tough” tasks are DC 15, so we figured that a short trek through the jungle and then finding 3-day old tracks of a 2-ton monster that we knew roughly were they were would be something Kala really couldn’t fail. Somehow, though, we did both get lost in the jungle, then miss the tracks (that Kala could have missed these seemed wildly improbable). OK, well, so far all we’ve lost is time, so we dig in to camp for the night.
In the middle of the night, Kala’s wolf companion is out hunting, and is attacked; he comes back lightly wounded. Kala and Inapo decide to try to track down the hunter. Makai and Trinki are not sold on this idea, and with their lack of Survival skill they decide to stay back and watch the camp. It turns out that the wolf was attacked by a tiger, and the GM had misunderstood some of the tiger’s abilities when attacking the Wolf. When the tiger actually attacked Inapo & Kala, he had figured things out and it was far more dangerous. In fact, it did over 46 hit points of damage to Kala before she could do anything at all, which left her below -10 hit points and dead. This was unfortunate – one character has been killed off 90 minutes into a 7 hour session, under slightly awkward circumstances. (Kim & I were trying to recall the exact sequence of events here, because there was surprise round in which the Tiger did 35 points of damage to Kala, then in the initiative round Kala rolled very poorly, but Inapo rolled well – we remembered that Inapo heavily damaged the Tiger, but couldn’t remember if he did that before or after the Tiger finished off Kala).
Continuing along, Inapo is no slacker when it comes to tracking, so we pick up the trail again. We run into the same female centaur again, when she says something along the lines of “I see you ran into my friends”, at which point Makai has had it with her senseless hostility and takes off after her with the intention of beating her senseless. Unfortunately, the centaur is a druid and so is able to move swiftly through the jungle, and is able to escape – but on the way out she says something like “we shouldn’t be fighting, we’re on the same side!”. Yeah, right, a little late to realize that.
Having chased her off, we continue down the tracks. Soon we find out that the dragon is, as expected, not in fact a dragon but a Tyrannosaurus Rex. Right near the T-Rex there is also a temple-like structure guarded my more centaurs. This is where things get confusing. After some talking with various people, we find that we’re caught in the middle of a mult-way conflict. The female centaur is named Cerra and an outcast, while the tribe is now led by a centaur named Lucien (her son). There is a power-struggle underway between the two, which Cerra has lost and been ousted. Lucien, while certainly a questionable character, is at war with the humans in the stockade, and our main goal in life is to take down the stockade at this point. However, we are suspicious that the temple is the Dragon Fall we’re also looking for, because a) this adventure apparently involves a Dragon Fall and b) we haven’t seen anything else that looks even remotely promising.
There follows some convoluted negotiation and deception in which we gain access to the temple. Sure enough, it appears to be the Dragon Fall, but accessing it seems to require solving a riddle. We struggle with the riddle for a while, then give up and call it a session.
The question of when to kill off characters is a tough one. On the one hand, as the GM you do obviously have to kill off characters every so often so that your world seems dangerous, to keep the sense of threat going. On the other hand, this is a game, and it’s definitely not so good to kill off characters somewhat arbitrarily, or early on in long sessions. I don’t think Kala’s death was arbitrary per se, but it required an long run of extremely bad luck to occur (missing the huge T-Rex tracks, having the Wolf companion escape miraculously lightly-wounded so Kala and Inapo would underestimate the tiger, the tiger being able to avoid detection until Kala is within 5 feet even though she knows it’s out there somewhere and her Spot and Listen significantly exceeds the Hiding and Stalking ability of the tiger, then the tiger hitting on every attack and almost maxing out his damage, then Kala and Inapo botching their initiative roll).
I dunno what the right thing is. I’m not one to advocate fudging die rolls as the GM, but on the other hand, unless the characters were being stupid (which I don’t think was the case here), you can usually find ways to cut them enough slack so they just get mauled and have to waste time, expend resources, etc., instead of killing them if the timing is bad. On the other hand, in the couple games I’ve GM’d recently, and in the Traveller and D&D games I ran in college and high school, I don’t think I’ve ever killed off a character which probably isn’t so good either.
Regardless of all this, at the end of the day I do think this is an interesting module … but probably not well-suited to our party. It seemed to involve a lot of negotiation and discussions with various different organizations and people in the area, and our party simply doesn’t have any Diplomacy skill. Not counting Dan’s character Kernighan, who was basically an NPC and so not the best candidate, the highest Diplomacy was Makai’s +4 (everyone else is, I think, -1). Converting the various people who I can only assume are Hostile even just to Indifferent involves a DC 25 diplomacy check (which generally can’t be retried), obviously not one we are likely to succeed at.