AAR: Entering the Barrowmaze, briefly

18 Oct, 2020, updated 10 Jan, 2021 5e barrowmaze

BEHOLD! Marvel at the majesty of the Barrowmaze! Gaze in awe at its breadth, its depth! It has hundreds of rooms, leaving years of material to play in!!!

How Far We Got

The party triggered a trap in room 2, and died, fleeing, in room 1. As a GM, not my finest hour. Again. This is the same group that I killed before!

Standard setup: roll20, discord, and the PDF of Barrowmaze, using the D&D 5th Edition rules. There’s also a Labryinth Lord version as well.

The party consisted of two PCs and an overspec’d NPC ranger (the Miller’s ~son~ daughter helping to find the missing son). There might have been a second NPC actually - I can’t remember, none of them lasted that long.

The plot of Barrowmaze is: there’s a moor, half a day out of the town of Helix. It’s covered with barrows, which have undead and loot in various proportions. Disregard undead 🧟‍♂ïļ, acquire wealth 💰.

More seriously, the PDF gives a number of possible hooks if the players don’t self-motivate. I used one of them, the Miller’s son is missing. I added a daughter to help the PCs find the moor, as the PDF says they won’t find the barrow mounds without a guide.

The random encounter table on the way to the moor rolled 3 pteranodons, which are fun to strafe around the level (they disengage for free) and hide behind things. They did literally no damage but we had fun dodging around for a few rounds, before they flew off.

So, we got to the barrow mounds, and the players naturally find the entrance to the maze (it’s pretty near to where the players start looking). The second room has a trap “after the second PC has entered, the door slams shut and d6 skeletons attack”. The magic user wins on his initiative.

PC: “I cast *Poison Spray!”

Me: “Uh, are you sure? On the undead skeletons?”

Other PC: “What with them not being susceptible to poison, and everything?”

PC: “Yes!” rolls dice

PC: “I hit!”

Me: “Uh well yeah but it does no damage to any of them”

Skellies: “Rar”

Other PC: ðŸŠĶ

The players open the door that slammed, and retreat, but it’s a 30ft drop so they can only climb the rope over a few rounds. The skeletons (who rolled much better than the pteranodons) killed them all.

Lessons

My plan:

Okay, yeah I murdered them, because these encounters aren’t written for 3 level 1 5e PCs.

A lot of lessons from a two-hour (if that, and that includes explaining Helix and its surrounds, and generating the NPC):

  1. More more more players/retainers/sidekicks in the party. d6 skeletons is not the largest trap or random encounter listed.
  2. Read a bit more than what I was doing - give some hints to the players maybe?
  3. This was a bit of a dick-move trap, in that there’s not much to sign-post and there’s nowhere really to flee to this early.
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