I’m exciting to share my first actual live play of Blood of Pangea with another person. I’ve been waiting for this opportunity for over a year, and I had a great time. It just so happens that my ex-wife and I have become friends again, and I got to play this with the very person who inspired my taste in fantasy role playing games. If you haven’t played it, I highly recommend it as a versatile, rules-lite system that easy covers low magic fantasy, sci fi, and dark fantasy genres.
I did not run the game rules-as-written. Instead of a narrative, I had her describe five things her character is particularly good at. Inspired by the first draft of my book, she named her character Tana. Which, funny enough, the character was inspired by the first Fighting Fantasy character she played who was also named Tana. So we’ve come full circle, game-wise. (No, we’re not getting back together, but we are friends)
I also used the bestiary “Out Of the Pit” to populate this dungeon. There are some custom monsters, but most come from there. I particularly like this bestiary because it’s mostly descriptions of behavior and habits, and very little in terms of mechanical crunch, and as such the monsters are easy to adapt to any game system.
Here are five noteworthy things about Tana:
1) good at communicating with animals
2) has good aim
3) has good balance
4) grew up in the mountains
5) very creative
Tana’s inventory at game start: backpack, bedroll, 7 rations, hand ax, bow and arrows, lantern, climbing pitons, rope
She also has a six armed monkey named Abu.
After briefly explaining how Luck serves as both hit points and a chance to boost die rolls, we got down into it. A young lad arrives at her village burnt, battered, weather-beaten and half drowned, but with a bag full of gems. He claims to have been to the Cave of the Elements., After surviving monsters, traps, and hazards, found great riches.
So being down on her luck, Tana and Abu set out, and after two days reached the Cave of the Elements.
Tana examines the ground around the inscribed stone plinth at the main entrance and sees many footprints in the dirt heading in and out along the stone bridge. There are daintier, lighter footprints going to the rope bridge. On either side of both bridges, a chasm of unknown depth (in reality, maybe 15 to 20 feet before hitting a cliff edge) Thinking this was a trick, she considered taking the rope bridge, but thought better of it and decided to just test each step of the bridge before putting her weight on it. Tana lights her lantern.
Given that this would take time, I rolled an encounter. A swarm of bats came up from the depth and began buffeting Tana and Abu with their wings. She rolled to communicate, and succeeded in conveying her non-hostile intent. The swarm began to leave, but she called one back and asked him if he knew what was beyond the bridge. The bat replied there’s a door that’s seldom opened, but there’s a very damp breeze that comes out when it is opened.
Tana crosses the bridge and reaches a swollen, damp oak door. She forces it open (auto-success, I just wanted to warn her this was the water room) and opens onto a damp, drippy cavern with a well and bucket in the middle. There are three other buckets of water. There’s a marsh troll here sharpening mussel shells. This is the Cave of Water.
Tana greets the troll, and I roll a reaction, and got a neutral response, and so let her play it out. She learns that other heroes have come here and tried to hurt the troll, and some got eaten. She offers the troll a ration in exchange for a bucket of water to put out the fiery door to the southwest. He agrees and eats the ration. Now on more favorable terms, she asks about what’s in the fire room to the southwest. He explains that gems spew up from deep vents in the earth, and that they’re guarded by fire creatures.
So Tana pours the water into the doorway and puts out the fire, and enters The Cave of Fire. It’s really hot in the fire room. There are little gems on the floor around the red-orange glowing vents. Every once in a while there’s a puff of vapor and debris flies up, and in that debris are gems.
Tana makes a run to scoop up some gems, trying not to get scalded. She succeeds, and two hell-hounds materialize. They have glowing red eyes and smoky breath. They win initiative, she dodges one, and the other blasts her with fire. She then escapes the room and strikes the doorway with her flint and steel to re-ignite the flames. The magical flames erupts, and the hell hounds do not pass through it. Note that I didn’t even consider that it was possible, but because she thought of it, I decided it made sense that some kind of magical field needed a spark to get the fire going again.
She asks to buy a bucket of water for a gem, and the troll agrees (he would have let her take it for free, but accepts the donation). She quenches her scalded skin and heals one point.
She takes Abu down the east corridor and the air gets progressively drier. She hears shouting and laughter around the corner. Tana sneaks in and finds three dwarfs playing some kind of chess game with animated clay pieces. They bet gems over the game. There’s some bedding here, a cask of ale, and some digging tools. It looks like they’re taking a break from excavating the cave. They don’t notice Tana until she announces her presence.
Startled, but not hostile, they laugh at Tana and say she’s yet another fool out to risk her neck in this place. Come, play some chess. She bets one gem and loses a game (opposed roll).
After this, she is dismayed and moves on. Tana and Abu reach the Cave of Earth, which is dry as a bone, and filled with soft diggable clay. Some little trenches have been dug here and there. There’s a mining cart here amd digging tools. There is also a giant clay oyster, and a giant clay toad, each about three feet high. Tana picks a spot behind the clay toad and she and Abu begin digging.
In comes two wandering giant centipedes. Tana and Abu stay put. Both Centipedes blow their notice rolls and move off to the south.
Tana finds some gems in the clay and pockets them. She then checks out the clay toad, which blinks, and then comes to life. Tana assures the toad she’s not hostile, and begins asking questions about the place. The toad can’t answer much. He came out of the oven just a month ago. Someone made him. He likes to eat bugs. Thinking of the danger posed by the giant centipedes, she sends him south in pursuit of the nasty critters.
There’s a banging and crunching ruckus, and then silence. Tana then turns her attention to the giant oyster. When she approaches, the clay mouth opens wide, revealing a fist sized pearl! She tries talking to the oyster, but it doesn’t respond. Maybe it’s a trap, or maybe it’s just a chest of sorts that opens when you approach.
She tells Abu to snatch the pearl. Abu snaps it up before it can slam shut on his arm.
They then move south to check on the toad. It is crunching away on giant centipede. It’s skin is cracked from battle damage, but slowly heals as it eats the big creatures. It then follows her and Abu to the Cave of Wind.
I drew this whole map on a white board, and put the ledges a lot closer together. There’s a brisk wind blowing out of the darkness, and her lamp light cannot reach the ceiling. I add that there’s several human skeletons in pieces on the floor, as well as a sack and a staff with a crystal knob. Tana puts the monkey in her pack, and then hammers pitons into the wall using her superior balance to get across. There are little crystal eggs on each ledge. They are translucent, but there’s no sign of babies inside. I roll for encounter at each ledge, and when she works her way down to E, six lizard-like clay bats dive down from the ceiling. Three go after her and Abu, and three go after the toad.
Initiative is tied. Tana dives under cliff E (success). Three attack her with a penalty. Two crash into the cliff and shatter to clay dust, and one bites her arm. Three go after the toad. He snags one out of the air with his tongue. Another fumbles and smashes to dust. The third bites the toad. Next round, Tana swipes the bat off her arm with her ax, and it shatters to clay bits. The toad eats the other bat, and then there’s only the brisk wind and no other noise.
Tana gets down to the floor and checks out the loot. In the sack is a potion of blackish liquid that’s unusually light. “Thank you Willy Wonka,” my ex-wife says, and tells me Tana drinks it. She floats up to the very top of the ceiling and sees a hole from which the wind comes and it pushes her about. There’s also nests made of clay straws, and more crystal eggs, only these do have embryos. So Tana doesn’t take them, burps and farts her way down to each ledge, and takes all the other crystal eggs. The potion expires just as she reaches the toad.
Tana debates climbing down for the staff, is puzzled at how to do it, and gives up, figuring 28 gems (counting the crystal eggs) and one giant pearl are plenty of loot. She returns with Abu and the toad to the Cave of Earth. She asks if the toad wants to come, but he’s not much of a talker, and figures he’ll stay here and eat bugs. So she says goodbye and goes to visit the dwarfs.
The dwarfs greet Tana and congratulate her on finding so many gems. Would you like to play another game of chess? Tana agrees and wins the game this time. Then they party for a little bit, and the dwarfs talk about how they made the animated chess pieces with the clay from the Cave of Earth. Mix water with the clay, and cook it in the Cave of Fire, and they come to life.
So Tana gets the idea to make a friend for the toad she left behind, and she and Abu go dig up some clay. She makes a toad and puts it in the mining cart, and pushes it up the corridor to the Cave of Water and uses the water to pack the clay tight and finishes her work.
The Troll warns her that the hell hounds won’t like her trying to get into their lair, and offers to help defeat them for one gem. So she agrees, and Tana, Abu and the Troll each take a bucket of water. The troll douses the magical flame door. The hell hounds can see them now. Tana and Abu each douse the hell hounds with water, and the red glow in their eyes goes out, their breaths hiss with steam, and the two beasts whimper and run to a corner. They then fade away.
Tana pushes the cart over the fiery cracks and leaves it to cook for an hour. They then come back with water and douse the mining cart to cool it, and push it out of the room. By the time they push it back to the Cave of Earth, the new giant clay toad blinks and hops out of the mining cart. Tana tries to explain to the new creature what it is, but it hardly comprehends. It sees the older toad, however, and begins mimicking its movements. In time, she realizes, the newly born toad will learn to live like the other toad.
Satisfied that she had done good deed, and happy with her winnings, Tana and Abu escape and return home.
The final haul is 28 gems and one giant pearl.
I liked how I could tweak the adventure to suit her tastes. My ex-wife does not like prolonged combat scenes, so it’s easy to have just enough enemies to make it interesting, and I made them all one-hit foes with success on 7+. As things went, she only had to fight the bat-lizards in the Cave of Air, and used diplomacy and puzzle solving for the rest of her adversaries. The troll would have taken two or three if she decided to fight him. I’m glad he wasn’t hostile right away, because I think parleying with such a creature early in the game is a lot more entertaining, at least at first. Maybe things go sour and you end up in a fight. If she went down the well and held her breath, she could have swam to a mucky cave where the troll slept and try to pilfer his treasure.
All in all a great time and I’m so glad I finally got to play BOP with someone else.