Oct 22, 2023


This week I read:

Roleplaying Games

The Halls of Arden Vul

If last week demonstrated what I like about Arden Vul—cool stuff and mystery being everywhere—this week demonstrated what I like about old school play: using player skill in creative problem solving to overcome obstacles.

We ended our session last week with the players barricaded into a room with angry baboons battering down the door. As the players have now discovered, these baboons aren’t just wild animals, they serve a paranoid spellcaster (called Gerrilad) who has taken up residence in this part of the dungeon. So between sessions, I figured out what Gerrilad would do when the players tripped his baboon alarm: how long it’d take for the baboons to alert him, how many reinforcements he’d send, when they would arrive, and so on. I had a timeline of events all ready to go.

The players ended up stalling for time, so they were attacked by a much larger horde of baboons than those who had initially trapped them. Still, with some lucky rolls and the expenditure of magic scrolls, the players managed to drive off the baboons.

They then continued exploring, and happened to discover Gerrilad in his throne room torturing a dwarf who he captured some months previously. Half the party are dwarves, this guy is a dwarf, so Gerrilad was assuming that the party had come to rescue his prisoner.

The players decided to try to save the dwarf.

But how? Gerrilad was right there, they assumed he was probably a spellcaster if he could control baboons, and there were also several baboons in the room. A tough fight in the best of cases.

They ended up using a potion of flying (expending a magic item) in combination with a pair of magic rings (which turn the wearer of one invisible, but at the cost of turning the wearer of the other blind for the same duration), and a magic battleaxe (no special powers, just really good at killing) to sneak up on Gerrilad and behead him before he could react.

It was a clever solution.

They first asked about invisibility, but I said that that alone wouldn’t guarantee getting Gerrilad: he’d get a chance to hear them approach. I didn’t tell them flying would do the trick, they went through their resources and figured that out for themselves. Then I gave them a choice: they could either roll to hit, but be guaranteed to kill him if they did hit; or be guaranteed a hit, but have to roll damage which might not end up being fatal.

They chose the former, and the risk paid off.

Gerrilad was an important NPC. Was letting him just die without a fight a step too far? I don’t think so. The players spent a while coming up with this plan, they had to expend resources and go into danger to accomplish it (they could have failed to hit, alerting him to their invisible presence) and, like all good RPG situations, this actually ended up creating a new problem. Now they have all of Gerrilad’s weakened prisoners to escort out of the dungeon, and his treasure—which is far too much to carry in one go—to deal with.


This week I continued playing with mdBook and set up some nice documentation for my NixOS configuration and also ported over the DejaFu docs from the previous Read the Docs site.

It’s quite satisfying writing documentation, and refactoring things to make that documentation better.

I don’t think I have any other repositories in desperate need of docs. Though, when the next major release of Elasticsearch happens, I now have a place to put a runbook for that.