(These events took place May 13, 2018.)
Kaden and Amaryllis left the Cryohydra dozing, encased in ice, and continued to explore the ice caverns.
Toby was uncharacteristically nervous today. His character is a Rogue and can’t take much damage, but he usually played more boldly than this. He kept telling me, every time he described moving from one room to another or even moving through a room, “I take a defensive position.”
They found a Darkwood Buckler frozen into the ice, which Amaryllis claimed because Kaden already had a small shield. They found a heavy-duty Dwarf-sized helmet that Amaryllis also claimed after the book identified it as a Helmet of Bashing. They found an icepick; Kaden took that. They found a small chest full of gold coins, plus a gem-studded bracelet big enough to be like a belt on a Halfling. And they found a pair of glasses.
Me: In the middle of the icy floor, bent and covered in frost but otherwise normal looking, is a pair of gold-rimmed glasses.
Toby: I walk up to it, a little concerned, but I walk up to it to see if there’s anything upon closer inspection.
Me: They’ve got frost on ‘em.
Toby: I ask the book if they have any magical devices… if they are… magic.
Me: The book checks them out and says it looks like they might have been made by magic, but the glasses themselves are not magic. They have no magical properties.
Toby: All right. I use my hammer thing and try to pick it out of the ice.
Me: You don’t have to; it’s just sitting there on the ice.
Toby: Oh, great. I pick it up and try to brush the frost off with my hand.
Me: Okay. That’s easy.
Toby: And I ask the book, “Would these possibly be dangerous?”
Me: The book cannot possibly imagine how glasses could be dangerous.
Toby: I put them on.
Me: Everything becomes rather blurry.
Toby: All right. I take them off, and I put them in my bag.
Me: Okay. You now have a pair of gold glasses.
Toby: I don’t know why I need those, but I could probably sell them.
I was surprised he didn’t immediately guess the true purpose of the glasses.
They went down another steep, icy chute. Because Toby rolled a 1 on his Balance check, Kaden took a bit of a fall at the bottom of it, but otherwise they were unharmed. In a narrow ice tunnel, they encountered three skeletons, which they dispatched quickly. I had intended the skeletons to be an easy source of a few extra experience points, but I did not realize that, because of the Armor Class scores Kaden and Amaryllis had, they’d have to roll natural 20s just to hit the players.
Just as Kaden and Amaryllis found a room with a large, clearly artificial shaft carved through the ice and stone, angled sharply upward, at the end of which they could discern sunlight, Lottie wandered off. So, as Amaryllis suddenly shimmered out of existence, leaving Kaden alone to climb out of the cave system. As a Rogue, this was easy for her, but it was not so easy for Water Dog. Toby was very concerned about the dog and made absolutely sure it would not be left behind.
Me: You are on the side of the mountain, standing amongst volcanic rock. There are a few plants growing among the rock but not much because of how high on the slope you are. Below you, you can see the jungle sort of taking over down to the level part of the island and off toward the beach where you docked your boat.
Toby: What did the guy say I needed to find for him?
Me: He didn’t tell you what it was called. In fact, he said he doesn’t know the word for it in your language.
Toby: Did he describe it?
Me: He did not.
Toby: I think it might be his glasses I found.
Me: You scoured every room.
Toby: You bet I did!
I think he’s figured out now that the old man on the beach had lost his glasses and needed someone young and agile to retrieve them for him.
Toby: Are there any boats?
Me: You came over in a small boat.
Toby: Oh, yeah. I hop in the boat…
Me: From the side of the mountain!? That beach is at least a mile and a half away.
Me: Roll a Jump check. Just kidding.
Toby: What if I got a 20 for the Jump check?
Me: You wanna try?
Me: Then, let’s not.
Toby directed his character down the mountain, from the rocky heights to the jungle below, taking a “defensive position” the whole way down. Just to make him nervous, I rolled my dice as if checking for random monster encounters. As the tangle of jungle plants became thicker, he started to worry about getting lost, too.
Toby: I take out my dagger and attempt cutting the grass.
Me: Okay, let’s roll another D20.
Toby: I got a 20! Do I literally kill the grass?
Me: Your dagger slices easily through the plants that are getting in your way, and you happen to remember exactly where it was on the mountain that you climbed up here in the first place. Using that miraculous knowledge, you slice your way through the plants and find the trail that you followed to get up to the original cave entrance. Your dog’s trotting along thinking you are the smartest human it has ever met.
To continue playing with his nerves, I muttered, “Dang 20s.”
Toby: Wait, was there any enemies you would send in?
Me: I’m not telling you anything like that. I’m the Dungeon Master; I have secrets. Or I’m not prepared. You don’t know.
Kaden and Water Dog finally reached the shore where they had left the boat. Time for more DM games.
Me: You make it along the trail without incident, and you reach the beach where you left your boat. Now here’s the question: Did you tie off your boat?
Toby: … Oh, dang!
Me: Roll your D20.
Me: You didn’t.
Me: You left your boat just beached on the sand. Now it’s my turn.
Toby: I keep taking my defensive position!
Me: Fortunately for you, the dice like you, and you had beached your boat at high tide. The water has receded; it’s clearly now low tide, and your boat is still on the sand, but it’s much farther away from the water than it used to be. You’re so lucky.
Toby: Oh, yeah, I definitely am. Thank you, dice, I owe you a favor.
Truth to tell, I wasn’t going to let the boat drift away. I doubted his character had the necessary skills to assemble a raft, and even if she did, Toby would become severely frustrated trying to figure out what to do without a boat. I don’t want him to be frustrated; I just want to amp up the tension from time to time.
Me: You and Water Dog shove the boat across the sand in the direction of the waves. You get the boat into the water.
Toby: We both jump in the boat. Oh, and I keep taking my defensive position in case an animal might have gotten in my boat.
Me: There are no animals in your boat. Some bugs, but you probably don’t care about those.
Toby: I stab the bugs, just in case.
Me: You stab the bugs?
Toby: No, ‘cause that might break my boat.
Me: Tiny beetle, giant dagger! Stab, stab, stab, stab, stab! “Why is my boat leaking?”
Me: Your character has an Intelligence score of 12; she’s not going to do that. Okay, are you going to row back to the mainland, are you going to set off on your own island adventure?
Toby: I go back to the guy.
Me: Okay, you start rowing back toward the mainland.
Toby: I keep having my defensive position!
Me: You can’t maintain a defensive position and row at the same time.
Toby: No. Dang. You must have put a giant sea creature in my way.
Me: But, luckily for you, all the sharks appear to be asleep, because none of them show up. You get to the beach at the mainland. What do you do with your boat?
Toby: I make sure that I tie it off…
Now all Toby’s character had to do was figure out where to go. Previously, she had spoken to an old man who lived in a lonesome hut on an otherwise deserted beach.
Me: You remember where the old man’s cabin is.
Toby: I got an 8. Did I find it correctly? Did I find the right one?
Me: You found the right only cabin on the beach for miles.
I thought that was a fitting revenge. I keep Toby on his toes by rolling my dice randomly and making him expect danger where none exists, and he insists on rolling his dice to see if his character succeeds at tasks for which he would never need to roll. That is where we ended for the day. After the Coastal Cave, I had some more prep work to do for the next chapter(s).