So I decided to run my wife through Portal Under the Stars in preparation for my upcoming campaign, partly to help familiarize myself with the system and partly to shake off the cobwebs from over a decade away from the screen.
My wife loves board games, CCGs and deck-builders, but prior to this her only experience with rpgs was when she sat in on a game of Shadowrun I was playing back in the day. She described that as, “Playing poker with a table of people that weren’t speaking English.”
I had her roll up 4 0-levels and was going to have 8 npcs come along. She insisted on playing them all if she was going to do this, and I relented. She rolled up 8 more and I briefly explained the basic rules to her.
So 12 villagers set of for the old stone mounds…
At first it was touch and go as she had almost no experience with role-playing games. I would describe the area and she would look at me like, “Yeah, now what?” But eventually she started to get the hang of it.
The party crept cautiously into the Guardian Hall, wary of the statues but not sure how to deal with them. As soon as one of them crossed the center point of the hall, the statues let fly, ending the lives of Veronica the Costermonger and Damien the Beadle. That was a blow to the group, as Damien had a 17 intelligence and was the only one of the bunch that could read. They looted the bodies of valuable equipment, stripped the statues and distributed the armor to the strongest characters, and gave the spears to 4 members that had the weakest weapons.
In Monument Hall, the party split into three groups, one at each door. When the first person tried a door, the monument let loose and panic ensued. Do to a combination of poor rolls on my part and quick thinking on her part the Monument didn’t manage to kill anyone in three bursts, but a few members were slightly toasted before escaping. The party was left divided into three separate groups.
Raven the Brewer, Phoebe the Dyer, and Sabrina the Gypsy – all Halflings - found themselves in the Gazing Pool room. After an initial scare, they quickly figured that the crystal statues were attracted to light and left them gathered around some candles in a corner. Then they ventured into the pool itself but decided against messing with the crystals on the bottom as my wife thought that it might anger the crystal statues.
Meanwhile Sonic the Bee Keeper, Dyson the Dwarven Moneylender, Ian the Squire, and Diggs the prospector explored the Chieftain’s Burial room. As they went to loot the funeral masks, the skeletal bones began to clatter and they fled the chamber. As they ran back into the Monument Hall, Diggs was blasted with a full-on gout from the monument and met her fiery end. The last blast missed, and the survivors barred the door to the Burial Chamber with a staff.
Tristan the Woodcutter, Liv the Halfling Keeper of Hounds, and Shim the Male Prostitute explored the Scrying Chamber. Ssissuraaaaggg attacked and they leapt into combat. Some really good rolls from my wife allowed Liv and Tristan to make short work of Ssissuraaaaggg, but not before he managed to bite Shim almost in half and reduce Liv to 1 hit point. My wife was disappointed, as Shim was her clear favorite up to that point. Tristan took the horn and they left the Scrying Chamber.
At this point, Tristan’s group and Ian’s group met up in the Monument Hall. They decided that Dyson and Liv were too wounded to continue, so they left them waiting in the Guardian Hall and went to join the Halflings at the Gazing Pool.
Making their way down the stairs into the Strategy Room, I mentioned that Sabrina noticed a few of the soldier pieces seemed to be made of silver, to which my wife replied, “I’m not falling for that. We don’t touch anything.”
They sent Sabrina up ahead to scout. She cracked the door a tiny bit and I described the Throne Room to her. When I got to the part about the Clay Army, Sabrina quietly closed the door and they decided to head back.
At this point I reminded her that the whole point of them coming here was to get treasure. They took the silver statuettes and headed back up to the Gazing Pool. For some reason, she decided that they would smash the crystal statues for parts. Five rounds later, Ian, Sabrina, Phoebe, and Raven were dead. The two survivors, Tristan and Sonic, wisely decided to let the remaining 4 statues go back to their candle watching and went to pick crystals from the pool instead. When they got to 50, I mentioned the shift of the floor and they stopped and got out of the pool. My wife figured out that the water from the pool had drained on to the clay soldiers below, but came to the conclusion that it had, “Probably freed whatever horrors were beneath the clay.”
Sonic and Tristan, with their sack of crystals, went back to get Dyson and Liv, came back to the Gazing Pool and looted the bodies of their dead companions, and they all fled the through the portal and back to town, thus ending The Portal Under the Stars.
In the end they left 8 dead behind, but Tristan the Woodcutter became Tristan the Warrior, Sonic the Bee Keeper became Sonic the Thief, Dyson the Moneylender became Dyson the Dwarf, and Liv the Keeper of Hounds became Liv the Halfling.
My wife said she had an okay time but found it to be a bit boring. She thought it might have been better with more players, which is pretty much true of any rpg – two people don’t usually make a good session. She didn’t burn any luck and I thought she had forgotten about that mechanic, but she said that she kept wanting to save it for emergencies and then her guys kept getting killed in one shot, so she never really got to use it. She rolled really well and only had a few fumbles, the worst resulting in Tristan shattering the handle of his axe on a crystal statue. Her favorite part was making the characters. She was surprised and pleased that Sonic, one of her weaker guys, had made it through the session unscathed. She said that she would consider playing again. I told her if she did, she could only play two of the survivors, mostly because I felt like it would be too much for her to play four once special abilities and such started to come in to play. She chose Liv and Sonic. All in all, I thought she did well considering her experience with DCC and rpgs in general.
I used Purple Sorcerer’s Crawl app and my tablet and it really helped move things along with any reference checking in the book needed.
I’m excited to run my actual campaign as soon as I can get it going.