So I got to run a session of Operation Unfathomable over Christmas. It was with a group of Pathfinder players in Edmonton who wanted to try the “old-school”. And I wanted to try the tournament version of Operation Unfathomable (from Knockspell #5), supplemented with the backer draft of the Kickstarter product. It ended up being a bit of a gong show – which, of course, was entirely the point.
The players had already read over the Swords & Wizardry rules and some had lovingly crafted characters before the game. The first thing I did was have them roll up two new PCs each (ability scores 3d6 in order, as God and Gygax intended) and declare some house rules.
Elves were actually cat-headed people (just the heads); Halflings were Oompa-Loompas (the orange kind); and Dwarves were Dwimmermount style (crafted from stone). Druids were nudists (but could gain the AC benefit of leather armour by painting themselves Braveheart-style blue).
(The cat/elves players needed to say “meow” or a cat pun each time their character talked, and the oompa-loompa player needed to sing an oompa-loompa song whenever he did anything. I hate halflings.)
I also gave each character an awesome magical weapon of their own devising. These ranged from a Glass Sword (d% damage, destroyed in a single hit) to the Staff of Blood-Boiling (I treated as “heat metal”, but on blood). One of the players asked for a Staff of Wizardry. I said they could have a staff with the retributive strike ability, but nothing else (basically a suicide bomber). He decided on a magic missile wand instead.
I got lucky and the first random encounter was with Thrantrix. The chaos godling demanded immediate subservience, to which one of the players asked “What’s in it for me?”. Thrantrix, not yet recognizing sass at face value, declared “complete obedience followed by death” in a matter-of-fact way. To their credit, the group managed to survive this first encounter without a single character death. Kudos.
The next notable event occurred when the group met the Scientific Mushrooms. The party’s ranger managed to inhale some spores with odious effects, and the mushrooms suggested that additional exposure may reverse the infection (in actuality he would have been fine as long as he got a cure disease within a month). He huffed some more fungus, and his eyes turned black (permanent darkvision, but only after 1 turn of blindness). In a panic, he tried a third round and exploded like a ripe puffball (he rolled poorly).
The party followed the trail of the Prince, with a few others dying or fleeing before the end. They actually made it to the chamber of the Worm-Sultan, but chose to engage in combat instead of running. To my surprise, they managed to drop their foe to 3 hit points while only suffering 50% casualties! (The Glass Sword and Staff of Blood-Boiling came in really handy.) We closed the session with the Worm-Sultan escaping and the group licking their wounds (and gathering the treasure).
After the epic battle, we did a quick calculation for experience and several PCs were eligible for 2nd level. (If they fled to the surface at this point I would have granted “story XP” sufficient for everyone to gain a level.) It was late, though, so we decided to pack up for the night.
I had a hoot, and I think the players had a good time too. It’s given me something to think about for my hypothetical “Operation Unfathomable” campaign, and let me try out Swords & Wizardry again.