Had a session on Friday and the party barely survived the Expert book's ocean encounter table. That thing is populated with multi-HD, giant monsters! I thought the ocean would facilitate sandbox-type play by making travel to various destinations easy, but not if it's deadlier to travel on than dry ground. Hear the tale of this journey and let me know what you think:
Le Bouche hireling
The party is sailing North to the city of Mont St Brise to deliver a heretic to be burned at the stake (well, to help her escape). They know the prevailing winds are against them. The laodah told them that tacking into the wind like this, it will take 6 days to reach the city.
The first day out the wind died in the morning. Becalmed, they saw a giant crocodile slithering off the shore and heading toward them. It appeared as if they would have no chance against it. Having a vase full of potions that allow the control of water, several members of the party drank these draughts simultaneously, creating a wave surge to push them away from the beast. When things still looked dicey, Athydas cast a spell called The Story of the Wind which is meant to answer yes/no questions, but does so through wind. The breeze from the spell was enough to put the creature behind them.
The afternoon of the first day the wind freshened again. G and Z stripped of their armor and began learning to help the sailors with the sails. They are also trying to learn some of their language. In the dusk an odd wave was seen by its bioluminescent outline. It turned out to be the end of the tentacle of a Giant Squid.
A tentacle shot from the water and plucked Toral off the boat so expertly he dropped his mace and shield. G climbed the mast with Janis. Z helped Roger up from the hold (his feet were damaged by torture). Together they formed a circular shield wall with the rest of the party. The potions of water control were brought out again. Several people drank simultaneously and forced the water to push the tentacle clutching Toral out of the water. While hanging in air, Janis and G peppered it with arrows and it released Toral to the deck. Toral proceeded beneath decks, kneeled, and began Chanting.
Athydas tied himself to the mast with a rope and dipped his darts in giant scorpion venom. A tentacle swept him over the side. He managed to jab his dart into it several times. The great tentacle let go and slid down into the darkness. Toral came out of the hold with a glowing, golden halo that seems permanent. Perhaps his god wishes him to live.
First of all, they have way too many of about five types of potion. I randomly determined these when they were in the Black Pyramid (where they messed with Time). The room they got the potions from pipes they dis-respectfully called the Soda-Shoppe, haha. Anyway, I thought the uses for the potions were creative and awesome, so I allowed it. Also it was burning like five of the potions at a time, so seems as good a way as any to use them up.
Also, another DM might have ruled differently on the poison killing such a large creature, but I thought it was smart, exciting, and the only way they would keep from getting TPKed, so I allowed it. How are you supposed to fight a giant squid from a ship?
One thing I had players do at the beginning of this session was take stock of all their items. I know Ben from Ars Ludi has said that the time players pay attention the most is when they get treasure, and I took note of this bit of Dming advice and tried to utilize it. But . . . uh, for my players if it isn't coin they throw it in a sack until I remind them of it sessions later (because it's something cool I made and want to see them use it!). They seemed to care not a whit that there were Arabic phrases on a bolt of cloth (Turban of Climbing) or the coracle in the dungeon (C'nor's Collapsible Coracle).
So this stocktaking is how they remembered they had all the potions. Also they had two identical rings. Playing around they finally figure out they are Rings of the Joined and seemed pretty excited about them. It was fun to describe to them what it felt like as they pushed weight and intelligence back and forth at each other, Mollie even feeling the muskiness of G's gender that she could pull toward herself and vice versa.
Remember all that blah blah blah about how I run my clerics, well, Toral just turned 4th level so I allowed him to take a permanent miraculous effect. He now has that halo. May be too low of a level to give it to him, but it seems pretty cool. Can't wait until they walk into the city with that glowing on his head.
But what the heck, a giant crocodile and a giant squid on the same day! There is no way they will survive 5 more days of this. Umm, now looking back at The Expert book, I see it only calls for one encounter check a day. So maybe the party can handle 5 more mega-monsters :)
I'm going to have to make my own sea encounter chart I guess, but how dangerous should it be to keep it challenging and yet not keep players from wanting to travel on it at all?