playing D&D with mike mornard: better to be lucky than good. third best: be amusingly incompetent

Last time I played D&D in Mike Mornard’s campaign was over a month ago, and I never got around to describing the game. I’ll see what I can remember now. I should have detailed it at the time, but my kickstarter’s taken up all of my time for the past month or so.

I took a look at my last “D&D With Mike” blog post to refresh my memory, and found this interesting passage:

When TSR printed 1000 copies of D&D, Mike said, people thought they were crazy to print so many. Today I feel an especially strong kinship with the guys at TSR, because my D&D poster kickstarter is driven by very much the same sort of loving pastiche, [although] I’d be crazy to expect to sell 1000 of my posters.

Since I wrote that, I sold 1000 posters! I am officially as good as TSR! Right??

OK, maybe not. I think my kickstarter’s success was one of those freaks of fate. But hey – it’s better to be lucky than good. And, best of all, my good luck means labor for Mike Mornard, since I convinced him to provide a dungeon as a kickstarter stretch goal.

On that note, here’s what happened in that month-ago D&D game in Mike’s dungeon:

I’ve mentioned before that in Mornard’s game, some of the dungeon’s denizens are significantly more powerful than we are. A few sessions ago, when we crept into a dungeon room and saw an unarmed old man scribbling away at a desk, I was terrified. I was convinced that this was one of those guys you don’t want to mess with.

Last session, the group convinced me that we should at least go TALK to the guy. Somehow my 11 Charisma makes me the party negotiator, so I walked down the long, straight corridor to his study (thinking all the while about my chances to evade a lightning bolt in such a place). I cleared my throat nervously, and started babbling about how one rarely gets a chance to find such civilized company in the dungeon, and were there any errands we could run for him in town?

Our host introduced himself as Necross the (ha ha ha!) Mad. (As well as a dweller in the dungeon, he seems to be a character from the late 70s Cerebus comic.) Necross did have a quest for us: he wanted us to pick up some pipe tobacco in town next time we were in the area. OK, as quests go, that one sounded like it was within the capabilities of second- to third-level characters.

He also offered us a unique moneymaking opportunity. He had access, he said, to a private entrance to a rich part of the dungeon. He’d show us the entrance for a nominal fee of only 100 gold pieces.

This sounded a lot like the beginning of a confidence scam, but we decided to take the risk. It was only 100 gold pieces, after all.

Necross summoned a djinn and gave him a command. The genie summoned a set of wooden stairs that climbed to a doorway high on the wall of Necross’s chamber.

We weren’t sure what to make of this. Everyone knows that lower dungeon levels were more dangerous: what do you make of a dungeon level that’s higher than level 1? One thing we all agreed on: we were glad we had talked to Necross, and not gone in swords a-blazing. Any wizard powerful enough to command djinn was probably a match for a ragtag group of low-level PCs, bandits, and muleteers.

We climbed the stairs and ventured into the new section of the dungeon. Somewhat to my surprise, we found that Necross had played straight with us about the richness of the treasure. We lost a character to monsters, but found a bunch of treasure, including a piece of jewelry worth 1000 or so gold.

With our loot and our fallen companion burdening our mule, we returned to Necross’s chamber. And that’s where we hit the “if I was smarter, I would have seen this coming” moment that I’ve experienced a few times in Mike’s game. No doubt you know exactly what’s coming, but hey, I’m not as smart as you.

We were in a doorway a few dozen feet up the wall of Necross’s chamber. The djinn-summoned stairway was gone.

Necross offered to bring the stairs back, for a nominal fee…

“That’s outrageous! We’ll get down ourselves! We have a coil of rope!” we cried.

Necross sat back in his chair. “If you can get your mule down with a coil of rope, I’ll gladly waive the fee,” he said.

We tried. We couldn’t find anything to work as a pulley system, and nothing to hang pulleys from anyway. The door was stone and had no doorknob, nor was there anything particularly doorknobby within a few yards down the corridor. If we abandoned the mule, we could have lowered down the corpse, our treasure, and most of our companions, though I don’t know how the last party member would have gotten down.

Our wizard suggested that we drop the mule and use his corpse as a mattress to soften our landings, but our faithful muleteer would not have it.

When we finally admitted defeat, Necross waived the fee and summoned the stairway, in exchange for the entertainment we had provided him. Sometimes it’s better to be hilariously incompetent than to be lucky or good.


11 Responses to “playing D&D with mike mornard: better to be lucky than good. third best: be amusingly incompetent”

  1. Grandpa Chet says:

    This is a prime example of why I shake my head whenever anyone says that, in the old days, it was all hack & loot. It was always at least 40% about the bad jokes and puns, and the wonderful tricks we could play on each other!

  2. Runeslinger says:

    Very nice! Very nicely done, indeed~

  3. Bobby says:

    Hi Paul,

    I just wanted to let you know, in the email the “read more” link is broken. It looks as if it’s expecting the blog to support some verbose link syntax that it doesn’t.

    Great post! Gotta love dirty DM tricks.

  4. paul says:

    In the email? is there an email?

  5. James says:

    you can follow the blog in email, and yep, broken link

  6. ranthoron says:

    Just my curiosity: how many coils of rope did you have?

  7. paul paul says:

    You’d THINK we’d have a lot. A well-equipped party of 8 or so characters and a mule should have hundreds of feet of rope. We’re playing today – I’ll take a look at people’s character sheets.

  8. Michael (Gronan) Mornard says:

    +100 XP for recognizing where I cribbed Necross the (Ha Ha Ha!) Mad from.

  9. AJ Stone says:

    Did you crib it from Cerebus the Aardvark #13…???

  10. Michael (Gronan) Mornard says:

    Of course!

    “Some day, I’ll breathe life into my stone Thrunk! And then… And then…”

    “And then what?”

    “I have no idea! That’s one reason I’m a little bit reluctant to breathe life into him!”

    * thinks * Cerebus always feels out of place asking intelligent questions in Lower Feldwa…

    “Destroy the universe? Isn’t that a bit drastic?”

    “I prefer to think of it as suicide on a cosmically grander scale!”

    “Necross the Mad doesn’t half do you justice.”

    “Being EVIL and CRAZY at the same time is no picnic, believe me!”

  11. […] of the things I liked about Mike Mornard's old-school dungeon crawl was that there was a significant cost to entering the dungeon each time. You had to negotiate past […]

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