24 April 2024

Actual Play: Stirring the Hornet's Nest at Het Thamsya

I got to take Stirring the Hornet's Nest at Het Thamsya to one of my open table sessions and it ran pretty well - some squeaks but those were driven by the typical open table stuff - no filtering of play-style, no session zero, ended up with a massive table (nine) of which six were new to me, four of those were new to D&D. Review of the module is here. Writing it up as per Gorgon Bones Record your hobby experience.
This is a big site - 25 rooms - and an intriguing heist/rescue. Spoilers abound from here on.

Party composition
1. Francis - Elephantling (Loxodon) bard, dapperly dressed reporter
2. Giovanni Giovanni - human bard, middle-aged, wearing once-fine, now worn clothing
3. Polpin - cloaked raccoonling ranger
4. Orin “Big Boy” - gnome ranger, dressed for the outdoors
5. Silvan - elfin cleric of Timora dressed as a wandering friar
6. Alliar - bald, fish-gilled man, wizard in a patched grey coat
7. Brie - half-orc barbarian, burly, braided, well-looked after gear
8. Krokaloc - kobold wizard wearing long coat festooned with tools and watches
9. Marnarius - part-elf (simic hybrid) rogue, well dressed

Session synopsis

After agreeing to assist the desperate First Disciple Sumgan our party voyages to the island where the temple of Hey Thamsya lies. There they see the towering wasps next and understand the need to extract Master Satur from within - without breaking their meditations. They were also told the Automata operating rules - "no step in, satur no out, automatons in temple'

After scouting the perimeter our heroes spot the path leading to the break-in at the side of the templs and effect entry. Stumbling on the Screaming Cobra, a judicious use of a Silence allows them to deal with it quietly. Pausing to feast on cobra eggs and harvest the cobra's meat allows some gruesome half-wasps to stumble upon them and another viscous fight ensues.

They peer into the Atrium of Analytics and spot the very large automata being repaired there. They exit the temple again to seek one of the monks and ask how to operate the automata. Directed to the the workshops they figure out the rules and spend some time trying to turn this to their advantage and eventually they turn one of the small ones to their own use to guide them to Satur.

Venturing at pace into the temple they dash through the Courtyard of the Sun, before the resident Tortotons can react, past the Passage of Golden Idols, pausing only to snatch up the paint and the child carrier and into the wasps nest proper.

Arriving at the wasps nest they spy the gruesome doings of the half-wasps but decide to ignore them. Finally sighting Satur in his repose, a last Silence and focussed violence prys a hole in the wasps nest wall enough to carefully extract the meditating master.

All was looking very well, with Satur under Invisibility in the child-carrier being carried out by someone Expeditiously Retreating until the Tortoton constructs in the Courtyard of the Sun blocking the rest of the party and were answered with a Shatter, the ringing noise of which woke up Satur.

Casting Sleep to disguise that his meditations were broken, the party retraces their path in and deposits Satur with Sumgan and the few remaining monks before returning to the temple to investigate. Frustration in the library, after discovering and rescuing Bookworm, starts a fire that rapidly catches and consumes the temple and with it the towering wasps nest which our heroes witness burning through the night as they flee hastily aboard ship.


The wasps and half-wasps have their nest destroyed and the half-wasp threat is ended.

The path of Automata is badly effected with Satur awoken, their workshops and library destroyed along with most of their existing automata when the temple burned. But for the fact that Bookworm was rescued, it would be utter ruin for them.

The party made off with trinkets and pocket change - one valuable book and the "Smouldering Stilletto" retrieved, all other valuable items lost to the flames. In rescuing Satur and Bookworm they demonstrated clumsy good intentions so the Path of Automata bears no grudge, nor has the resources to prosecute one.

Observations / Lessons Learned

As a test for feeding OSRcontent to a 5e group, it worked well. There was enough non-linearity and potential for exploration that there was room for lots of approaches but it did eventually funnel towards the finale.

I missed a trick with the guards in the garden of #25 - failed to have them interact when the party did a scouting loop.

Module layout andlocation descriptions are great - just enough to get going, pithy enough to flip to and from as people moved around fairly randomly

ItO stats converstion - unclear I got this right - seemed ok but 5e players savaged them - on the other hand it was a very big table with the usual 5e 'go nova' issue. The frequent smaller encounters was helpful in this way.

I was generous with information so players could dwell in the decisions phase not the scratching for clues. They found a clue or two to how the automata worked and then they found the workshop with the rest of the instructions which got them into interesting conversations on how to manipulate the machines. Some really odd thoughts on what would be the most useful way to program them

The party figured out there were factions present but did not engage with them. You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make them drink.

I had to drop one location for session length - the Room of Emptiness where a thief NPC could be found - as I felt that the interactions would have taken a disproportionate amount of time, we were running it as a five hour one-shot and there was more interesting stuff beyond.

Brute forced their way to a solution at the first opportunity and attempted to flee - again I think driven by it being a big table with some trigger-happy players among the group.

Overall I ran this a little hot as a one-shot, there is plenty of content here to run it as a spookier, tenser sneak-and-peek. This could easily be two or more sessions of creeping about. All told I feel my impression from first read-through was accurate and it was easy to run at table - my only criticism would be to pull area #25 up to an 'approaching the temple' entry to make sure it does not get missed on the way in. This minor nit-pick is all I have which speaks to the quality of this overall. Definitely looking forward to more like this.

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