In my last post, I described a big nine-PC D&D adventure set in 1912, on board the sunken Titanic. Like Telly Savalas, the PCs were after the contents of the Titanic's safe.
During the adventure, the PCs managed to placate the Titanic's ghosts by organizing one last ghostly waltz. Now that the ship had been drained of dangerous ghosts, the PCs had less to fear on their way to the safe. Still, I ran the exploration of the ship as a standard dungeon crawl. Here were the rules I used:
To get to the safe, the PCs must go down 2 staircases and through 6 sections of hallway. In each one, roll for a random encounter:
1-2: SEA ZOMBIES OF FIRST CLASS PASSENGERS: 2d4 zombies wearing furs, pearls, suits, top hats... there may be zombies of people the characters know. [Use zombie stats as appropriate for edition: I used the ones from the 5e playtest.] Every successive first class sea zombie encounter has 1d4 more zombies than last time. Treasure: do the treasure check as if you had rolled a 10-12.
3: SEA ZOMBIES OF THIRD CLASS PASSENGERS: 2d6 zombies. Mostly Irish. One of them is playing a fiddle faster and faster: zombies get +1 to hit every successive round (use an escalation die as if you were playing 13 Age). They all die if the fiddler is killed. Treat any further rolls of 3 as more first class zombies.
4: CARNIVOROUS SEA HORSES ridden by mermen. 3 units. Bite (+3, 1d8+5 and trident (+4, 1d6+5). After round 1, they will try to blow a conch to summon reinforcements: 50% chance of summoning more mermen.
5: PROBING TENTACLE (if the kraken was not defeated. If the kraken was killed, a roll of 5 results in no encounter.) A huge tentacle probes down the corridor. AC 14, 30 HP, +5 hit, 2d6+4 damage. If it hits someone, it automatically does 2d6 next turn unless they've escaped. After it grabs someone, it tries to draw them back out to be eaten three turns later.
6: LOCKED OR STUCK DOOR: strength check to open. Each round of failure: The PCs hear noises from behind them. Make a new random encounter roll.
7-9 No encounter.
10-12: Inanimate first class passenger corpses (wearing necklace, rings, furs, books, checkbooks, gold headed canes, cigarette box, gold pencils, etc). If the PCs loot their bodies, roll 5d6: every roll of 4-6 lets them find a valuable item worth 400, 500, or 600 GP.)
I ran this section pretty much straight, except that when mermen called for reinforcements, I decided that more identical mermen would be boring, and had them summon a merman riding a giant racing crab who made 2 pincer attacks per round.
The PCs got to the safe. In front of it, there lay three corpses: two older men in fancy clothes and one surprisingly handsome young man in working-class clothes.
At this point, several of the girl players made "aha" sounds. The guy players remained mystified.
The rogue opened the safe. "You find--" I said.
"--a nude picture of Kate Winslet," said one of the girls.
"--A surprisingly inept pencil sketch of a nude woman," I said. "Also, a priceless diamond. And the will of Patrick Crawley."
The party high-tailed it up to the deck of the ship, where they met
UNDEAD LEONARDO DICAPRIO
A ghostly Leo teleports in front of each player in turn, spending a second or less in front of each, and says "Where is my diamond?" (If, for some reason, no one has taken the priceless diamond, he will leave them alone.)
Roll initiative! Not that it matters. In order to make a single creature a viable challenge for nine players, I had Leo act right after every character's initiative, attacking that character (whether the character made an attack or not). Thus, Leo got 9 attacks per round. Leo was teleporting from character to character so fast that every character could make either a melee or ranged attack on Leo, their choice.
Oh, one more thing: While fighting Leo, use a laptop to play this heavy metal version of the Titanic song.
Leo attacks each character with a dagger:
AC: 16. +2 all saves, +4 on dex saves. 150 HP.
Attack on each initiative: +5, damage 1d4+10.
Quick Teleport: Leo attacks after each character's initiative. Movement-restricting effects don't work on him. Stun and similar turn-stealing effects only works for one player's initiative.
When Leo is brought to 50 HP, he yells "I'M THE KING OF THE WORLD!" From this turn on, his attacks do an extra 5 damage a turn.
Here's an ability I forgot to use in the game:
If Leo is ever alone, he uses one of his attacks to whistle and summon 1d4 sailor zombies. They attack random targets on Initiative 0.
When the PCs killed Leo, I described him getting old and puffy before his spirit dissipated.
Once the players had the will, they did some investigation: they found the new heir to Downton Abbey, a one-year-old baby. Next there was some player-directed roleplaying, wrapping up loose ends:
I had been thinking of having a final battle with Matthew Crawley, but it would have felt anticlimactic after the Leonardo fight. (I was going to play "Mr. Crowley" by Ozzy.) Anyway, Matthew's anticlimactic ambush was funnier.
All in all, the game was a pretty good prediction of what will happen in Season 3 of Downton Abbey.
I'd never DMed a group this big. Given the challenges, I think that it didn't go too badly. It's tough to keep a nine-PC game moving swiftly through combats, and I bet there were times when it got annoying to wait several minutes to take your attack. Luckily, 5e combats do run a little quicker than 4e, and I had people roll their attacks simultaneously whenever possible.
Outside of combat, everything worked very well. As it happened, everyone got to spend some time in the spotlight, and people were very entertained by each others' antics. This was strictly a result of having a good collection of D&D players.
As a 5e playtest? We hit a few jagged edges, which I'll note in feedback. In general, though, I had a great time. That's true of every D&D edition in which I play, which, maybe, makes me not a stellar playtester.