Sunday, 24 April 2016

Actual Play: Escape The Undermaze

Yesterday was a Manchester Games Day, and me, Chris, Barry and Nick met up to play some games. I was excited because I had offered to run Escape The Undermaze, my tiny little RPG about thieves trying to find a way out of a labyrinth beneath a dead scientist's house. The game's mechanics are stripped-down from Into The Odd, and everything about the game and setting is on a sheet of A5. I made it as an experiment, was 95% sure it would work, but still hadn't tried it with a group.

The cover side of Escape The Undermaze

The thieves were:
  • Chris, playing as Gizzard, we weren't sure if that was a first or last name;
  • Nick, playing as Trevor Mountjoy, a disgraced officer;
  • Barry, playing as Evans the String, a wily thief capable of Macgyvering out of any situation.
Technically everything below is spoilers of a sort: the sequence of Undermaze locations and encounters are generated from tables and a simple procedure. If you were to play this these would be shuffled around based on what the procedures spit out; plus you as player or GM would be inspired to use the ideas differently. I guess I'm saying, this AP has details that are both unique to this game and potentially common to any game of Escape The Undermaze. Sort-of spoilers below the cut!

While breaking into the house of recently deceased (mad) scientist, Carrie Murie, the band of thieves fall through a chute trap and end up in the Undermaze. They carefully explore their surroundings, as they have very limited equipment, and pick their way through the tunnels and rooms. Weird mould throws spores at Evans, but he backs away just in time to avoid unconsciousness. A mouse-sized mammoth becomes a lovable pet, and traps are narrowly avoided thanks to good search questions.

(I've never heard the phrase "What does the ceiling look like?" so many times in my life)

A dead body with a row of small puncture marks on the neck sets the thieves on edge, but they press on. A zombie dog in coffin armour is killed thanks to taking the high ground, as is a mammoth-sized mouse - although the latter takes a bite out of Trevor, he makes his STR save and survives.

The party find Hogarth, a burglar, crouched on a shelf above floor level. He's been hiding for a few days and is hungry, tired and desperate to escape. The party convince Hogarth to join them; he's unarmed, and will sneak ahead and whistle-signal back if the way forward is safe. Shortly afterwards, the party find him standing over the body of his dead brother, who has been neatly dissected. They push on, but the party don't know that the previously unarmed Hogarth has taken the pistol that his brother had on his belt.

A bottomless pit has chains that can be swung across, and Hogarth is sent forward to make sure the way is safe. He makes it across, turns back to cheer the party on, and is promptly set upon and eaten by four zombies who surround him. Some very clever thinking from Evans (and a series of good DEX saves) results in a series of improvised weapons to lure the zombies over the edge of the chasm. While this is happening Trevor and Gizzard wait on a weird scraping, clanking sound, before scarpering across the chains when a huge rusty metal man dragging a massive mace comes up from the rear. The rust golem looks across at them and bellows, but then turns away.

Finally, the party finds themselves in a great room that is somewhere between evil cult crypt and mad scientist lair in terms of decor. Carrie Murie is SPOILER ALERT! now an undead mad scientist, and sends zombies after them while she sharpens a massive medical cleaver.

(I've never used the phrase, "KILL THEM!" so many times in my life)

Once again, Evans pits his brains against the zombies' lack thereof; luring them back to the bottomless pit, the dead slip over the chasm on soap suds. Meanwhile, Gizzard and Trevor hide as Carrie Murie walks past, but the mouse-sized mammoth, the scientist's pet squeaks out and then Carrie is on them. She gets a couple of hits in, but Evans is able to sneak up while she is distracted, giving him a d12 to roll instead of his d6 and BAM! 12 damage. Really dead scientist.

The creepy room they found has a barred door, stairs leading up and thus the party have managed to Escape The Undermaze...

The map at the halfway mark

I'm still thinking through reflections on the game. I guess that was the first playtest of a game that I've already "released"! If anyone else has given it a try, or even just read it, then drop me a line with what you think. And if you want a copy of your own, you can get one for free with a print copy of A Random Encounter #2!

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