Happy April, everyone. Today, I’m going to be doing something special. The D&D Adventure I’ll be playing, Hunt for the Thessalhydra, seemed to have been written in a notebook and then published by Hasbro Gaming, presumably cleaning up and digitizing the text that was written into the notebook, though keeping some pretty nice drawings done by someone named “Will the Wise”. The aesthetic is interesting enough for me to play it, so that’s what we’re going to do today.
There’s five premade characters I’ll be using. Let’s get an introduction to them, shall we?
- Adam, a Half-Elf Wizard who is devoted to a god despite not being a cleric. I would assume that, with Elama, a Wood Elf Cleric, took him in as her own (right down to getting a trait from her known as Mask of the Wild) where they worship the deity known as Naralis Analor.
- Baggi, a Half-Orc Ranger who has explored the far reaches of the realm with her companion Cadman, a Human Paladin who doubles as a mercenary.
- And lastly, Dain, who is a Dwarf Bard who just wants to entertain.
This will be an interesting game and the notes from the adventure creator, Mike Wheeler, gives some nice advice about DMing a game. While it’s indicating that these are notes for himself, the way it’s all described, it feels more like the standard advice you’d get from a starter’s box… Strange.
Anyways, we open the story with the group being brought together by Sir Tristan, the king and long-time friend to the quintet, who tells them of this monster known as the Thessalhydra. I could understand why Baggi and Cadman would be hired, but Dain, Adam, and Elama?
[Detail Question: Why would he want to recruit them? A: 48 & 27, Hastily Enormous]
Seems like he called whoever could respond to him, most owing him a favor. Dain? He gave him the chance to sing at his daughter’s wedding. Adam and Elama? Paid for repairs at the church.
Because of this, the question is to be asked:
[Q: Tristan offers 100 gold coins each for slaying the Thessalhydra. Do they ask for more pay? Purpose: To Knowledge. Odds: Somewhat Unlikely. A: 66, Yes. Surge goes up to 1.]
Yes, they do, but we have a random event to settle. We’re going to use Mythic Magazine’s Meaningful Event Table.
- Event Focus: 38, move toward a thread.
I don’t think I’ll need a meaning. Tristan understands the risks. His guards had tried and failed to slay the Thessalhydra and the people outright interested in the job are mercs, with three only tagging along because of that favor. So, he convinces them by adding an extra hundred to the deal.
Of course, Elama accepts the original 100 out of the goodness of her heart and Adam, wanting to follow his surrogate mother’s footsteps, chooses to opt out of the extra 100. As a token of his good will, Tristan gives them all rings of protection and potions of healing. He gives Cadman and Adam weapons, however: a greatsword made for killing the Thessalhydra and a wand of magic missiles respectively.
With that, the crew heads off to hunt for the Thessalhydra. We end our scene there with the situation in our control.
[Scene Roll: 3]
The next scene would have had the crew come across some people who would give them rumors, but the logical conclusion is that the town is suspiciously quiet as they were leaving… Eerie, but we’re still in control of the situation.
[Scene Roll: 4]
With Baggi’s expertise in survival, they were able to track the Thessalhydra to a series of caves that belonged to troglodytes. However, in their poor timing, they encountered eight troglodytes having returned home from a hunt.
[Q: Were they the ones who stole the villagers? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 94, with Surge bumping it to 96.]
Yes, but they seem to come back with only a few of the villagers. We don’t know what happened to the others, but the situation seems dire enough. The Trogs spot the crew and engage. I decided to use MookAI for this, which helps reduce the overall thought process of the battle, but because it does use some limited AI, the most the Troglodytes do is swarm en masse to one person and beat him up. For what it’s worth though, it does reduce time and is a lot easier to use than getting a dice table for monster behaviours.
Dain makes one of the Troglodytes fall asleep. Adam and Elama unleash cantrips that did minimal damage while Baggi and Cadman fell at least one Trog. It’s at this point that I realized that they should have done a multi-attack, so with that in mind, I have them go all out. With that, they bring down Baggi and wound Dain.
Next round begins and the troglodytes use their stench to try and distract the fighters. Both Dain and Elama are poisoned, but because Elama got a natural 1, I’ll say she also takes some poison damage. However, since they’re fighting in broad daylight, I’m giving them disadvantage due to sunlight sensitivity.
After a long, arduous fight, the heroes valiantly defeat the troglodytes and earn themselves 200 experience. They decide to hold a short rest, ending the scene. Scene was pretty chaotic, so we’re bumping up the Chaos by 1.
[Scene Roll: 5]
During the rest, the crew ask some of the villagers what was going on.
- NPC Mood (Friendly): 43, sociable
- NPC Bearing: 2 & 9, façade.
- NPC Mood: 35, fame.
Hmmm… This is actually kinda unique because a façade means that they’re hiding something. They’ll probably explain how the Troglodytes knew of Sir Tristan’s reputation and they wanted to attack his Kingdom by depriving him of civilians.
However, they rolled a natural 1 on their deception. Everyone knows they’re lying and they want the truth. They’re not going to waste the Zone of Truth on them, however.
One of the villagers confess that they wanted to kill the Thessalhydra but that the Troglodytes captured them. Few of the others escaped and they were the unlucky ones. With that peace of mind, the group lets them go, resolving the thread. And because these Engines act as GM Emulators…
[Q: Do we get experience for completing quests? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 49, Surge goes up by 1]
No. Ah well, at least we tried. So, the scene ends with us in control.
[Scene Roll: 6]
Our heroes enter an empty cave.
[Q: Would a search party be looking for the Troglodytes? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 20, Surge bumps it down to 18, then goes up]
No. Okay, we’re good. A free rest. Now will be a good time to get acclimated to my party’s passives. We end the scene there, things are in control.
[Scene Roll: 7]
As they enter the cave, Baggi stops the party and notifies them that something isn’t quite right. They spend a few moments locating a rock trap that would have blocked off the area had they tripped a wire. They disarm it and move on. Scene end with us in control.
[Scene Roll: 4]
Our crew discover some hidden treasure worth 80 gold each. They also find a secret door, but are unable to open it. They go off, exploring the rest of the cave. With the scene in control once more, I feel like this will trigger an incident.
- Incident: 13, Obstacle
- Type: 5, Allied NPC Faces A Set Back. Conclusion: Villagers.
- Trihex: 135, 416, & 415, attracting lion known.
Chaos Factor resets to 5 as we see a villager being threatened by a lion. The group rush in, beginning the initiative. Adam unleashes a ray of frost on the lion, which irritates it and goes after him, knocking him prone. However, the team gang up and kill the lion, gaining 40 XP each. With that, the scene ends with us having moderate control, but because this is an Incidental Scene, we’re not bumping down Chaos.
[Scene Roll: 5]
An altered scene. The obvious alteration is, instead of sleeping, the Troglodytes are ready to fight. Dain opens with another sleep spell, knocking one Troglodyte out of the fight while another is killed. However, the rest of the Troglodytes gang up on the crew. One of the Troglodytes takes down Adam and rushes to alert the guards. He gets out with minimal damage.
The other Troglodytes rush in, no mercy is given to these people as, eventually, all of them were knocked out. Because they took out some of the threats and gave others wounds to lick, I’ll give them the combined experience but half it before splitting it up. As for Chaos and Turmoil, they’re getting increased. I’m going to say +2 for both, since that entire fight was a TPK.
[Scene Roll: 3]
So, altered scene here. Rather than toss them into a prison, they instead toss them into a maze as they get a Long Rest’s worth of recovery. The maze in of itself isn’t exactly major, as there’s a lot of dead ends, however, there’s a set of doors that takes you to what is arguably a good dungeon generator.
The premise of this labyrinth is that the path constantly shifts whenever a person turns. As such, you use a table to roll on it and see where you go from there. As a dungeon generator, it is a pretty decent generator.
However, this runs into the same sort of problem that I had encountered with the choose your own adventure books I played with long ago during one October. There’s only one optimal route to take and it’s mired with random chances. In this case, it’s that you’re to encounter a specific character, but the problem is that they’re only accessible if you roll on the “special encounter” result, which is a 12 to 14 range. When starting this map out, you have a 2.5% chance of encountering the character on the first try. Every subsequent encounter increases the chance, but even if you go through every option save for said character, it’d be just a 15% chance.
The characters will be aimlessly wandering through this maze trying to find the character, so I decided to streamline this by having them go through each encounter. The scene that follows is them finding that a wall was damaged, immediately indicating that the Thessalhydra was here. Adam, using his Survival, notes that this was made…
[Hours or Days?: 88, days]
Not going to trigger a random event, but it will add one to the factors. The marks were made at least two days ago. With that, they continue to explore the labyrinth. They’re in control, so Chaos is lowered, but they get a +1 to Turmoil because they’re in an unfamiliar territory.
[Scene Roll: 3]
[Good or bad alteration?: 9, good]
The crew find an ancient dead body with a bunch of gold. They each take 5 gold and be on their merry way, still under control.
[Scene Roll: 8]
There was a pit trap but Adam was able to uncover it and everyone save for Baggi makes it across. Control is still retained.
[Scene Roll: 7]
Here we have an actual fight with four troglodytes. Immediately, they get into battle. What makes these troglodytes more dangerous than they let on is their ability to stench up the room and cause the fighters to save or be poisoned and gain a disadvantage. Most of them failed and are poisoned as a result. It doesn’t really matter since they roll so high. One Troglodyte even knocks down two characters, then a third character later.
However, the heroes managed to take out the Kobolds and gain 80 experience for their troubles. They then take a short rest before they venture onwards, gaining a chaos for the lack of control.
[Scene Roll: 6]
And here we have a scene interrupt.
- Event Focus: 20, NPC Action.
- NPC Focus: 4, Thessalhydra.
- Event Meaning: 20 & 67, Truce Ambush
The Thessalhydra may not be the one who asks for the truce, as it lacks any intelligence to have a conversation. Instead, eight skeletons awaken and approach the heroes. They, along with their leader, Vasselius the Voyager (wait, what?), tried valiantly to kill the Thessalhydra, but were unable to. They ask for the crew to avenge them and kill the Thessalhydra with their help. However, as they themselves cannot speak, they need to wait for Vasselius to join them and explain… And so, they rest… As… should… Aaaahhhnnn…
[Scene Roll: 9]
I awoke to the calls of my fellow soldiers. For far too long, I had slumbered, waiting for someone to encourage me to take up arms once more. I had approached the newest band of unlikely heroes. My voice forever lost to time.
[Q: Does Elama react negatively? Purpose: To Conflict. Odds: Very Unlikely. A: 96, Odds knocking it down to 81 to which Surge bumps it up to 87. The result is a Yes And, so surge resets.]
One of them, a wood elf, widened her eyes and invoked the name of an unknown goddess. However, I knew that it was a holy spell, since I had developed a fear in her. My men included, as they ran off. One of them disintegrated while another attacked, but failed.
[Q: Do the others try to stop her? Purpose: To Conflict. Odds: Very Likely. A: 60, odds bumping it to 75]
A half-elf wizard restrains her and calmly talks to her about the possibility of me being a revenant, a being full of vengeance towards an enemy. My soldiers and I calmed down as I explained myself to her, mustering the chords that had long since decayed.
I told them of the Thessalhydra, how we tried to destroy it once before, only to fail. I swore to destroy it, bounding me and my colleagues to undeath. The cleric takes a moment before she calms down, believing my story. With that in mind, we pay respects to our fallen friend, one whose name I forgotten, and carry on… Though we got off on a rocky start, we eventually regained control of the situation…
[Scene Roll: 6]
We told them of the plane that this labyrinth sits on. It is the Upside Down, a cold, dark version of the Material Plane. It is similar to the Shadowfell. We warned that resting after the exit of the labyrinth will not restore any health.
I, alongside my comrades, were natives of the Upside Down and had hunted down the Thessalhydra. However, our battle had caused enough damage to break the barrier between the Upside Down and the Material Plane, creating a doorway in the form of the cursed labyrinth. The Thessalhydra was able to escape and continued its conquest to the Material Plane while we rotted on the vine.
[Gonna roll for their reactions to this place:]
- Adam reacts with [6,6] trying to test the overall limits of the Upside Down.
- Baggi reacts with [4,9] disbelief.
- Cadman reacts with [3,12] feeling accused? Maybe he’s accusing Vasselius?
- Dain reacts with [5,9] criticizing Vasellius?
- Elama reacts with [6,3] feeling devalued.
Only the wizard believed me. Everyone else either attacked me or despaired at the location. I decided to ask them a simple question:
Do they want to slay the Thessalhydra? Because I was the closest person to doing so… And they would need my help.
[Persuasion vs. Passive Insight: 9]
However, they do not believe me. The wizard tried to find the Thessalhydra’s tracks, only to find another creature tracks as well… Without someone to guide them, they are ruined… I feel like we have lost control already.
[Scene Roll: 0]
- Event Focus: 69, PC Positive
- PC Focus: 5, Adam
- Event Meaning: 26 & 27, Procrastinate Project
However, the wizard seemed quite insistent of tracking. This only served to hinder us by quite a lot. We wasted valuable time by watching him track the completely wrong thing. That’s when I heard thunder and lightning and I saw her standing on a hill.
[Q: Does Vasselius have a connection to the Proud Princess? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 97]
[Unexpectedly: 5, Key Grip]
[Q: Does she recognize Vasselius? Purpose: To Knowledge. A: 46]
Alas, she doesn’t recognize me, passing me off as just an undead. However, she turned her attention to the wizard and his crew and asked the one thing we all wanted to know:
“You’re looking for the Thessalhydra, correct?”
I think we may have some controlof the situation.
[Scene Roll: 8]
She had us taken to a destroyed castle that made the heroes quiver in fear for some reason. If I were I to assume, I believe that its inverted version would have been a kingdom that they hailed from. To see it be in tatters would both shock them to the core and make them staunch believers to what I and the Proud Princess had to say.
[Gonna roll insight to see if Vasselius will notice what the Princess’s intent is with revealing info on the Thessalhydra: 15]
It’s no secret that these people were clearly intruding on something she was doing and that she’s only giving the information away so that they’d be out of her hair sooner. She explains that one way to exit the Upside Down is to shed a monster’s blood on a flower that blooms in both worlds. While we have no such blood, she and I know of a monster that would…
A Demogorgon. The cleric seemed spooked at first until she calms and asks if it was a two-headed monkey…
These people have weird monsters in their realm.
She explains what our Demogorgon looks like in our plane: a humanoid creature with the head of a blooming flower. They are attracted by the smell of blood. The half-orc, Baggi, seems to understand this the most and cuts his palm, draining some blood. The princess gets the memo and leaves while we wait for the Demogorgon. We would have control of this situation.
[Scene Roll: 0]
- Event Focus: 54, Close a Thread
- Thread Focus: The only closeable thread would be finding out what the Proud Princess’s quest is all about. That or hunting down the Demogorgon. Since the latter is what we’re focused on, I feel like it makes the most sense.
- Event Meaning: 18 & 63, Move Power
Oooh, power move time?
We set up a trap for the Demogorgon. Adam used a flaming sphere on it, Baggi used a Hunter’s Mark on it before letting loose an arrow, Cadman used a divine smite on it, Elama using a spell to inflict wounds, and lastly, Dain to put it to sleep. I was amazed that they took it out effectively.
[And I’m quite amazed at that too, so much so that I’m giving them 440 experience, twice the amount they would have earned.]
Carefully, they lug the bleeding body over to the flower and put its blood on the flower. As they did, the flower blasted open, creating a planar gate. As we crossed through, I knew we would finish this fight.
[Scene Roll: 1]
[Q: Did the Troglodytes have enough time to call upon allies? Purpose: To Conflict. A: 71, Surge bumping it up to 73]
However, the Troglodytes had waited for us outside the newly forged cavernous lair of the Thessalhydra and had back up in the form of giant spiders and an ochre jelly. This would be a brutal battle for us all. Fortunately, the skeletons rushed to our aid and formed their own barrier.
It was a brutal blood bath as the Troglodytes made short work of my comrades. However, they did not go gently into the night as they too killed some Troglodytes. Eventually, we cut our way to the Troglodytes, but not without heavy casualties from the skeletons. The spiders came and tried to web me, but I broke free of the restraints.
All of the Troglodytes had died and all that was left were the spiders and jelly. After a long, difficult battle, we killed the spiders and the jelly. Their greatest weakness was the narrow cavern entrance that made it so only one could stand out at a time, allowing us to gather together and attack each one. We took advantage of the Ochre Jelly’s ability to split into two and weakened it, allowing us to clean up the mess. All but one of my comrades had died in the battle, but they will rest knowing they helped us get one step closer to stopping the Thessalhydra.
[They gain 645 experience and gain a level up save for Vasselius]
[Scene Roll: 6]
It took a while, but we finally managed to make it to the lair of the Thessalhydra. It was sleeping, so we decided to sneak up on it…
[Group Stealth Check: 11, below the passive perception]
However, it woke up, having us resort to battling it. We ran up to it, but it managed to grab me with its tail before munching on me and my remaining comrade, nearly knocking me out were it not for Elama healing me. Then Dain came in and blessed me and Cadman with a stroke of inspiration. However, the Thessalhydra was not going down without a fight and splashed a lot of people with acid. However, Elama worked overtime to heal everyone.
And that gave us the edge we needed to defeat the Thessalhydra as Baggi cleaved one of its heads off with his short sword. With the Thessalhydra dead, my ties to the physical plane were severed. Before heading off to the afterlife, I buried my final comrade and thanked the group for helping me slay the beast once and for all. My final view was of the skeleton, now having found peace… Just as I had…
Uuuugh… That was a weeeeird dream… H-huh? I beat the Thessalhydra already? Um… Okay? So… the crew get 185 XP. Wait, shouldn’t it be 220?
Wait, never mind. Seems there was an extra character sheet for that Vasselius guy… Never heard of him before… And yet, he feels familiar…
Well, I might as well wrap this up, especially since we’re in control of the situation.
[Scene Roll: 0]
Seems we’re not out of the woods yet.
- Event Focus: 19, NPC Action
- NPC Focus: 9, Skeletons
- Event Meaning: 74 & 4, Divide Outside
Okay, so I think this is just an additional scene where our band of heroes honor the deceased by collecting the bones they can find and burying them in separate graves, marking them and the cave as their burial site. Elama blesses the ground with holy water so as to help them move onto the afterlife. With that, the group heads out.
They report back to Tristian who showers them with praise and one boon, of which I will leave unanswered as we’ve finished the module.
So, what are my overall thoughts? Well, I’m gonna go easy on this given that this might be Mike Wheeler’s first module. The overall quest, while simple, works in introducing people to D&D. There’s a monster that must be slain and you and your friends must work to kill it. The justification for why your character is partaking in the quest also makes sense and helps establish a small setting for which you can expand your adventures, with King Tristian acting as a sort of Group Patron.
There’s a little bit of Monty Hauling, but not to a degree that breaks the game, but rather sets it to “easy”. The Rings of Protection add an extra 5% chance of not being hit, potions of healing help to regain wounds should other options fail (or you’re reserving them for tougher fights), a wand of Magic Missiles for when the Wizard’s actual Magic Missiles run out, and of course, the Greatsword which deals a +4 on the Thessalhydra, +3 in the Upside Down (so against the Demogorgon) and a +1 otherwise. It’s made to kill the tough opponents with relative ease without it breaking the game outside of those tough opponents.
There are small chances to do roleplaying here and there, but not to a huge extent. Its major draw, though, is that it offers two different dungeons to explore, three counting the shifting maze, thus encouraging a small bit of exploration. There are places where you could do more roleplaying, such as encountering a Troglodyte who speaks common and would rather talk things out than fight to the death or a shrine devoted to their god, Laogzed.
Encountering the Lost Knight is its obligatory “you can solve puzzles in this game” section, as he asks two riddles which have clever ways of solving them. I won’t obviously reveal them here, but all I will say is that the second riddle has a rather interesting solution, but the path to solving it and the clues that help the players don’t make it too impossible to solve.
I think the Upside Down has some great possibilities for future campaigns. One mechanic is that you can’t short or long rest to recover HP, which would make for a pretty dangerous session if there were more encounters. However, the module makes it a point that the Upside Down is meant to be scary, not dangerous. It’s nice enough to give you some form of blank cheque of how scary the Upside Down could be, though the module only lets you remain there for the amount of time it takes to talk to the Proud Princess and beat the Demogorgon.
The Proud Princess… exists. She’s mainly there to tell the players where to go next and that’s about it. Granted, she has potential, like the Upside Down, to be expanded upon for a future campaign, especially since her character is that she’s so devoted to a quest that the only reason she tells them about getting out of the Upside Down (and by extension, hunt down the Thessalhydra) is so that they’d get out of her way. There’s always the idea of what quest the Proud Princess is on.
I kinda like how the module lets you know that players don’t have to kill monsters to progress. Aside from the Troglodyte from earlier, there’s also the fact that players don’t need to kill the Demogorgon, just draw enough of its blood to activate the flowers. In fact, the only creature you need to kill in the caves is the Thessalhydra. The module either lets you know that players can bypass the monsters or have a condition where the monsters let the players go.
Overall, it’s not a bad module and it has the right amount of difficulty to not only introduce new people to the hobby but also give a nice starting spin for those that are experienced. Check it out if you have the chance. Bon voyage, Gamers.
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