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Experiences in Castle Amber

by Stefan Beate

X 2, the OAR version (with some modifications, for example, I use the GAZ3 family tree. I donīt like the changes the OAR made here. I even made a family tree including the dates, as far as could be reconstructed from the GAZ, G:KoM and MoA, and will include this as a handout somewhere in the library), for 5e. Five PCs, all level 4, a human and a wood elf ranger, a wood elf druid, a human cleric/sorcerer (divine soul or something like that), and a dwarf berserker (the players made their characters without knowing anything about the adventure that would await them). We play short session on weekday evenings via roll20, and Iīm using Jon Pintars beautiful maps for the original parts of the castle.

First session: The group was somewhere in the wilderness and had their night camp established, including someone on guard. This did not help them any, as the fog closed in rapidly and brought them into the castle. Inside the Foyer, they looked around and tried to gain any information about their surroundings, with limited success. At least they did not walk into the fog. After a while, they opened the door into the unnamed hallway (I added a portrait gallery of the family to this). As soon as they walked into it, they were attacked by five shadows, a random encounter from the table. The fight was much harder than I expected, owed to the fact that I did not give the party any magical weapons..... They found out the hard way that radiant damage helped. It was interesting to see the PCs imagination run wild - exactly as many shadows as party members, coming out of the portraits. That has to be important, are these guards of some sort? (Looking at the table given in OAR #5 p.56 would seem to indicate this to be a easy to medium encounter, but the lack of magical weapons obviously was a big problem.)

After musing on that for a bit, they entered the salon. After some discussion, the barbarian (luckily being unharmed by the previous fight) entered the boxing match. They went the full set, 5 boxing rounds at 5 combat rounds each, and the barbarian managed to score a narrow victory, but only because he had his rage activated for half damage. The boxer, with two attacks, +5 to hit and 1d3+3 damage each, is quite a strong opponent. (might be better if the PCs were level 5 as well, for two attacks.)

I decided to play Jean Louis as jaded gentleman, and he told the PCs the broad story of the curse, not without stressing that he had seen his share of adventuring groups come here and obviously fail. He knows no details, of course, and has no idea how to break it. After talking, the party decided that they had enough, being strength drained and battled down, and rested in the salon, with Jean-Louis leaving. That was it already for the first session.

Yesterday, second session. The group talked to the Rakasta (neutral reaction), was blinded by the hallway (and simply waited it out), talked to Richard, who was slightly pissed to see another group of scoundrel and neīer-do-wells invading his privacy, looking ready to plunder. He had some choice things to say of his late brother and his wife and his other late brother, and sent them out of his room again. I played him as frustrated and easily enraged. They then encountered the wights in the other bedroom, the fight was no real threat for the party, although the druid missed his CON save twice and had his max. hp reduced roughly by half. (Roll20 rolled an inordinate number of 1s for this player, like five in a row. Sometimes, the random generator is really off)

Much to my regret, they did not partake of the feast, assuming that it would be a trap (well, sort of). After a look into the kitchen, they decided to venture into the forest.

They noticed the killer trees prior to the attack (two rangers in the party), and one of the rangers decided to dash past the trees. Well, the first attack hit and hauled him off his feet. He did not manage to escape the tree, so the thing bit him and then flung him back. (I noticed that the 5e version did do some hefty damage, at 3d10+2 for the bite, and did not want to kill the PC). Afterwards, the party cleared the way from the distance with fire - little do they know that they are just setting themselves up for retaliation. The Illusions did make them nervous, and they tried to interact, but of course to no avail.

Afterwards, they met the Maiden and the Unicorn, and had a lenghty talk to the unicorn. I used the write-up in the OAR, having the dragon act as a very scared child, holding the gold chest tight. Naturally, the party wanted to have a look inside, as they assumed a clue to the curse (I like that idea!). They really managed to talk to her, and the talker did offer another gold coin to have a chance looking inside the chest, but to no avail. But he noticed pure greed in her eyes, when doing so. I told them the story that Isabelle cursed them, so they canīt leave the forest. Luckily, the PCs did not try anything that might enrage the Maiden... (I think that the weakening breath weapon of the gold dragon in 5e is somewhat - well, weak. Disadvantage on strength rolls? Thatīs it? Besides, I was always wondering what would be more harmful to a forest in the original adventure - fire or chlorine?)

I guess next time will be quite bad for the PCs - I like the idea that Isabelle sees herself as a protector of the forest, and she will not be pleased that the PCs had burned down a part of it. Neither will Andre-David be pleased. Maybe I will have them encounter Isabelle on the way to the bridge, and she will in turn inform her brother...