Dungeons and Dragons is not all about fighting monsters. I thought exploring the castle and getting into battles would be a good way to introduce Toby to the game, and I think it was successful. Now that his character had been captured, he had the opportunity to try something new.
I began this session the same way I ended the last one, describing the dungeon cell in which Toby’s character found herself. He asked a few questions about the cell, and then the two of us just stared at each other for a while. He finally said, “I’m really stuck here.” Truthfully, he was, but I was hoping he’d try to do something.
While exploring the castle, Toby’s character discovered an enchanted spellbook. Because it was of goblin origin, Gorothau Dris (the “bad guy”) discarded it. But because she can speak the goblin language, it had become loyal to Kaden and followed her around of its own volition. The book sneakily followed the guards into the dungeon and made its presence known when the coast was clear. Kaden and the book had a bit of a conversation between the cell door, but Toby couldn’t come up with anything to ask the book to do for him.
We stared at each other in silence again.
I had decided in advance that, though the Yuan-Ti warriors acting as guards for Gorothau Dris were highly intelligent, their intelligence and free will was impeded by magic of some kind. They weren’t mindless automatons, but they were more likely to follow their master’s commands than to act of their own volition. Additionally, being reptilian, they would want to avoid the cold of the dungeon in favor of the warmth of the upper floors of the castle. Toby wouldn’t know this, but keeping that in mind is the only way I could make the story work.
I said, “The book suddenly goes quiet. You hear a door open and close, then you hear another door open and close, and then you hear a rustling sound approaching. You hear keys jingling, and the lock clicks. When the door opens, you see one of the Yuan-Ti guards standing there, holding something. He glares at you for a moment, then he hands you a plate of food, a cup of water, and a fork. He closes and locks the door. You hear him slither away. A door opens and closes, another door opens and closes, and the dungeon is silent again.”
Toby said he wanted to shout a “thank you” to the guard. Then he wondered to himself whether he had just missed a chance to escape.
“What’s on the plate?” he asked.
“You are surprised to find that it is a few chunks of meat and some boiled vegetables. It’s much nicer than you would have expected to be fed in a dungeon.”
“Oh! That’s great. I eat it. Also, I love vegetables.”
“Okay. So you eat the food. Now what?”
And we stared at each other again. I figured I’d have to prompt him.
Toby said, “Too bad I can’t pick the lock. I’m good at that.”
I asked, “Is there anything you can use to escape? Anything in the cell with you?”
Nothing the guard might have given you with your dinner?”
“No. Well, I have a fork, I guess.” The gears in his head turned. “OH! I could pick the lock with the fork!”
He was so excited by this revelation that I was reluctant to give him the next bit of information.
“Yes, you could. Too bad the keyhole is on the other side of the door.”
Toby was crestfallen. He knew he had a tool, but he couldn’t figure out what to do with it. So I brought the spellbook back to the other side of the door to give him some encouragement and a sounding board. I thought he’d come up with a way to have the book destroy the door, such as burning it with Produce Flame or something along those lines. His first idea was more clever than that and actually worked better than I thought it would.
“Okay, here’s what I’m going to do,” he said. I’m going to ask the book if it can move things with magic.”
“It can. The spell is called Mage Hand.”
“Okay. I’m going to pass the fork under the door and tell the book to lift it. Then, because I know a lot about how to pick locks, I’m going to tell the book how to move the fork in the lock so it will open.”
“So you slide the fork under the door. The book casts Mage Hand and lifts the fork toward the keyhole. Roll your D20.”
“I rolled a three.”
“You hear the fork thunk against the wood of the door. You don’t think the book even got the fork into the keyhole.”
“Can I try again?”
“Woohoo! I rolled a 20!”
“Wow. All right, then. You translate your amazing lockpicking skills into instructions that the book can understand. You hear the fork clicking in the lock. After a couple of minutes, the door unlatches.”
“Yes! I open the door. And then, I’m going to go out of the cell and close the door and relock it to pretend I’m still in there.”
I had to give him extra experience points for that.
I showed him the Lego diagram of the dungeon that I had prepared. It was simple—five cells on each side, with a wide hallway in the middle. Through a door, there was a guard desk and a store room. The main door led to a staircase. This was the same door his character had tried to hack open with a morningstar from the other side, but it was clear now that it had been magically sealed and strengthened.
He picked his way to the guard desk first and searched the drawers. He found keys and paper and decided to take the lot of it. He first used the keys on the store room, where he found his armor and some of the weapons he’d had. Naturally, he took his stuff back.
“I pick up my stuff carefully,” he said, “without stabbing myself with it. I rolled a three. Did I accidentally stab myself?”
“No, you didn’t. Kaden knows how to handle her own weapons.”
Knowing that there was no way he could break through the main door, he went exploring in the dungeon. He opened the cells that were locked and peeked into the ones that were unlocked. All were empty except one. This one had a small pile of rubble on the floor, an oval-shaped crack in the stone wall, and a purple Fungal Shrieker monster next to it. Kaden managed to kill this monster in three hits. I hoped it would be easy, but I didn’t read enough to know that this particular enemy has no direct attacks, so it was even easier than I expected. When it was dead, Toby said, “I go, ‘Whew!’”
For some reason, Toby didn’t pick up on the significance of the oval crack. It took his mom coming into the room and suggesting that it might be something useful before he thought to examine it more closely. At first, he wanted to stab it, but I reminded him that the wall was made of stone. Instead, he used the mangled fork to pry into the crack, which finally widened enough that the cracked section of wall tumbled inward with a crash, revealing a narrow tunnel behind it.
This tunnel led to a secret exit almost underneath the decorative fountain in the castle courtyard. It also led to a short series of secret rooms from which a person to eavesdrop on conversations in the Petition, Council, and Map rooms. I had given Toby a printed map of each floor of the castle, and he lined up the basement map with the first floor map and held both up toward the window so that the light coming through them would show him where the tunnel led to.
Beneath one of the rooms, he heard footsteps and the voice of Gorothau Dris. I told Toby that it sounded like he was hearing one side of a telephone conversation.
His character heard this: “Yes, master, I have the Encapsulator… It was damaged, and I am attempting to repair it… I have many of the Oubliettes, but I could not find the one containing the young dragon… I’m certain it is here. The fools I tasked with searching this place did not find it, so I assume it is in the one part of the castle they could not reach… Yes, I will find the dragon and the crown before I return. For now, I must rest and regain my strength.” Then she heard footsteps going upstairs.
Toby caught on to this one rather quickly. He sent his character right back to the dungeon and had her thoroughly search the whole place until she finally found a small, red marble with a tiny image of a dragon’s head deep within the glass. There were many rolls of the dice during this search to see if he could actually find the thing he sought. There were also many more rolls of the dice from my side of the table to see whether the guards returned to check on him. My D20 was stuck on very low numbers for a while. Toby’s search was uninterrupted.
“I power-walk back through the tunnel,” he tells me after finding the marble.
“As far as this tunnel with the secret rooms goes.”
“You follow the twists and turns of the tunnel for a while, passing what you think are those three rooms. You come to a narrow flight of stairs that leads upward into a very narrow space.”
“I go up the stairs.”
“And you find yourself in a very narrow space.”
“I think I’m inside the wall.”
He was indeed. It took him a while to figure out exactly where, but he was inside the north wall of the Maps room. After some searching, he found a panel on the wall that slid to the side to reveal eye holes. Through it, he saw a wooden rack on the big table in the middle of the room. The rack had seven rows, together holding about two hundred marbles. Toby almost decided there was nothing of interest in this room and went somewhere else, but I prompted him with a question of whether he remembered what happened to Hammar and Mira. “Oh, yeah! They were turned into marbles! Just like the king and queen!”
The doors were open, but the room was empty. After some more searching, he also found a larger sliding panel that would allow him to enter the room. He pondered this secret door for a rather long time, muttering to himself, “Should I do it or not?” Then he had an idea. He asked the book, which had been following him this whole time, to use the Mage Hand spell again to close the doors, retrieve all the marbles from the rack, and dump them into a map case. This was a brilliant idea because I planned for Gorothau to have set wards set on the rack to protect it from being stolen, but I didn’t do anything about the individual marbles.
Back through the secret tunnels to the exit by the fountain.
Out of the tunnels in the castle’s front courtyard.
Across the moonlit courtyard to the stables to retrieve some of the confiscated magic items.
Along the castle wall to the front gate.
Through the gate and into the night darkened streets of the town.
And that is how Kaden—with some “borrowed” magic items, carrying a map case full of marbles, and being followed by a floating sentient spellbook—sneaked away from the “bad guy wizard” who had tricked her, exploited her skills and efforts, and imprisoned her. Toby smiled about his successful escape, and I ended the session so we could both try to think of what will happen next.