[Actual Play] Swords Against Chaos 33 (Mystara B/X); Bees

It was the 11th of the Sviftmonth, with autumn creeping across Karameikos, and transforming the whole of the dymrak into a tapestry of yellows, orange, browns and ochres. Struck by queer impulses, and not yet ready to venture south in search of the missing Rancher, they instead set out to hunt for the Hive of Giant Bees they had come across months earlier.

For their quest they loaded their animals with jars and pots of ceramic. They tarried not, but set out, driven by strange impulses. Away from the beaten path, they descended from the Black Peaks, slowly making their way across the hilly terrain. On the way, Shing had devised a new method of protecting their camp from attack.

As their journeys progressed, he had enchanted several rocks with a spell of continual light. These he would keep in a backpack by day. By night the Lame Ones would scatter these in a rough circle around the camp, making it seem much larger then it was, and keeping away careful stragglers. This method was quite effective, though on occasion Firebeetles would come from their burrows, to investigate the glowing rocks, thinking they were a potential mate.

It was a three days trek across the hilly terrain, and such was their speed and their number, that they passed largely unmolested by the solitary mountain lions, or pairs of wolves that they encountered. Only Stirges from the fetid swamps would still attack when they travelled in such numbers, and these easily dealt with. On the 13th of the Ambyrmont they came across a band of Quarrelling gnolls, 3 in number, and listened to them argue over a female before ambushing them. A sleep spell struck them and they perished unknowingly.  

When at last they found the Hive, nested in a cavern in the rock of the Black Peaks, their mood turned grim at the sight of several animals, hideously bloated and blackened, found slain within a stone’s throw of the place. Merkull refused to enter anywhere near the hive until he was given their only concoction against poisons. Niffa cast the Sleeping spell at the Killer Bees within the forward cavern, and snuck forward to investigate, wearing elven boots, the rest regarding the cavern uneasily from concealment. As she dispatched one in its sleep, an acrid stench arose from its corpse, and from deeper within, a deafening buzzing emerged. Quickly she ran back, as more of the things emerged from the cave, to investigate the death of their comrade. As it began to awaken its sleeping comrades, the Lame Ones attacked, and dispatched it with arrows and swordplay. A few close calls, but none were injured.

Deeper they ventured, into the cavern, its walls slick with wax and stinking sweetly of insects and decay. The winding passageway emerged in a large central cavern, where the Queen of these infernal insects had made her larder. Outnumbered by the Bees and her deadly Queen, the Lame Ones faced a veritable swarm, and only a remaining Sleep spell by the Golden Shing dispatched all of them before they could bring their deadly venom against soft flesh. They butchered them and obtained a jar full of honey for their trouble.

On their way back, four Gnolls of the Death’s Head tried to ambush them to avenge the death of their kin, but they dealt with them in the usual fashion, and all but left them to sleep off, if it had not been for Niffa, who hated Gnolls above all else.

With paltry reward, but refreshed from the journey, the Lame Ones returned to Threshold, preparing once more to venture out.  It was the 17th of the Ambyrmont, and long was yet their road. But they had gained strength in the meantime, and were prepared to face greater dangers.

The Tally
10 Stirges
20 Killer Bees (4 1 HD)
1 Killer Bee Queen
7 Gnolls

The Book of the Living.

[B] Niffa (Elf 3, 19 hp)
[D] Rallo the Bastard (Thf 5, 25 hp)
[E] Shing the Golden (MU 4, 12 hp)
[F] Hummingbird Twiceborn (Mys 4, 11 hp)
[G] Edmin Os Traytor (Clr 3, 12 hp)
[NPC] Sarah (Thf 4, 16 hp).
[NPC] Merkull (Ftr 4, 25 hp)

The Book of the Dead:
[A] Ilyanka Pjottrsdöttr (Clr 1) – Beheaded by Giant Chameleon
[B] Liliath the Elf-maiden (Elf 1) – Skull-split by the horrid Bugbear
[C] Cold-Souled Fenrig (Thf 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
[D] Balan the Lame (Dwr 1) – Cut down by the Orc menace
[D] Rallo the Bastard (Thf 4, 24 hp) – Throat ripped out by a Cave Bear
[B] Earendil (Elf 1) – Struck down by vile Orc Sorcery
[G] Azalesh Slyly (Clr 1) – Shanked by common robbers
[NPC] The Wardog Biter (Dog) – Cut down by the Orc Menace
[NPC] Aziz the Impetuous (Ftr 1) – Struck down by an impostor’s hand
[NPC] Hyacinth the Fair (Ftr 1) – Felled by an Arrow
[NPC] Kellhus (Mys 1) – Drained by Stirges

The Rolls of Honour:
[A] Egil Soft-pate (Ftr 1, 18 Str) – Long may he Reave!
[C] Sir Ioric (Ftr 3, 17 hp) – Retired in glory, long live the Duke!
[NPC] Erren (Thf 3, 10 hp) – She wanders the roads, looking for who knows what.


9 thoughts on “[Actual Play] Swords Against Chaos 33 (Mystara B/X); Bees

  1. So this is based on B10 yeah?

    How much of this is straight B10 and how much you made up/ used Gaz.

    If you made it up how did you expand ? Do you felt like you had tools, please expand with thoughts and DM process

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    1. Hi Paul.

      I use the hexmap from the Gazzeteer, which includes several settlements not included in B10, such as the Penhaligon estate, but in broad outlines it is compatible with the hex map included in the back of B10. For overland encounter tables I prefer the ones in B10 as they are more “thematically faithful” but I have been known to supplement them with the outdoor encounter tables from the Dungeon Cyclopedia because they provide more variety and are suitable for a greater range of levels. One of the drawbacks of B10 is that 3-6 stirges or 1-3 boars quickly stops being a threat if you are high level and have access to sleep spells.

      There’s additional areas where I should make up rules, but so far I wing it. I’m in the process of formulating some sort of rough henchman availability tables with classes, level ranges and alignment scores, I think considering how often players go back to town some sort of Town Nuisance table (tax collectors, pregant daughter, rabble rouser etc. etc.) would be in order to spice things up a bit.

      The Giant Bees is from the tables in the Cyclopedia, I quickly made up a lair on the spot and just used the N. Encountered in Lair to get a quick amount.

      Random encounters in my mind always need some sort of reason so based on the encounter roll I make up something on the spot. Why are 4 Gnolls indifferent to you? Because they are quarreling among themselves about a mate. Take it from there.

      In the above case we had a very short session, 2 hours, and the elf player needed 20ish xp to level up, so they remembered the Bees they had encountered 10+ sessions ago and decided to pay them a visit.

      I am starting to see the appeal of the pure hexcrawl again, because having the players trudge around the map, looking for clues and being tempted by all sorts of interesting features or tombs and whathaveyou while being able to abandon them if they want to explore something else is very satisfying.

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  2. Totally agree thank you for your answer!
    Shout out to good tools!
    To develop bee plot there is the dungeon from Gabors Echoes 1!

    Do you feel the players have exhausted the text of b10, by that I mean the printed encounters not in table form? Or in other words “plot” ,I know thats nit the best word, of the module? Sounds like they have if they are high level.

    What are your plans going forward in terms of what to seed in the environment (tombs you will write or other printed material) of political forces that will attempt to influence the region?

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    1. The Death’s Head Gnolls beg to differ (and there are nearly 200 of them). And if the PCs get as far as the Lost Valley, it is like a combination of the climaxes of Alien and the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

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    2. They still have quite a bit of hexcrawling to do (as you will see in the next installment) before they have exhausted all of the places on the map, and they haven’t even gotten to the part over the river just yet. They are relatively high level for the module (a level 5 thief, most of them around 3-4) so the random encounters are something of a nuisance. I have full confidence in the more bastardly encounters further down the line, and the Gargoyles in the Lake of Lost Dreams probably would have offed them if they had foreseen such a peril and memorized Hold Portal.

      For now I suspect B10 will keep them for a while. After that I think I might transport them to the Age of Dusk for a run at Palace, or failing that, the Isle of Dread seems pretty awesome.

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  3. That sounds sweet, so the narrative crux of b10 is done but not all the material or locations in it?

    I know Bryce hates Isle of Dread!

    Curious to hear your thoughts! He called it unrealized.

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      1. Sounds good!

        Maybe Jaquays Dark Tower could be a contrast to this review. Does it also capture the feeling of trapped dread!

        You conversation on high level challenge in I6 is interesting and could lead to M5 talon of the night lvl 30 woooo

        Isle of dread could be a nice companion to Nod. The classic hexcrawl vs the new what

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  4. I think the play of this module is going very well: the players are clearly being challenged, as casualties are being taken (and raise dead spells bought), and they had to use their fireball scroll or it was probably curtains against the skeleton horde; the party is following up (skilfully seeded) rumours/exploring as they see fit.
    This particular group has a lot of thieves and magic-users/elves, and if they ever get surprised at close range, the random encounter will suddenly be far from trivial.

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