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White Box sessions

Both me and my wife used to play tabletop RPGs –abbreviated as TTRPG– back in the 90s, using different systems (AD&D, Rune Quest, Middle-earth Role Playing, Vampire, Call of Cthulhu and others).

A few years ago we tried to get back into the hobby, at that time with Dungeon World; but we didn’t get too far.

Our sons are now almost 6 and 8, so we have running some simple sessions with them –the sessions must be family friendly and likely under 1 hour long–.

The result is not too bad, and we are having fun, so I decided to transcribe some of them here.

What is White Box?

White Box is a fantastic medieval adventure game that emulates the original edition of Dungeons & Dragons, with some quality of life improvements.

The rules are available at the official website, or via this document at Google Drive (Version 2.1: April 2020).

You can also order a printed copy (on demand), available via Amazon and Lulu (I own a copy of each, and the quality is good!).

The system is very easy to pick up and play:

  • You don’t use all the rules all the time and playing humans simplifies things further.
  • It only needs 1D20 and 1D6 –having 3 is nice for character creation, but not essential–.
  • The HDE value in the monster’s description (Hit Dice Equivalent), is used to separate monsters into “difficulty levels” so that when creating an adventure the referee has some guidelines concerning what characters can and cannot handle.
  • It is very lethal: even in simple encounters, bad luck can kill a character easily.

House Rules

We have added the following house rules:

  • 20 in the attack roll is a critical hit and the player character makes maximum damage automatically. This rule doesn’t apply to monsters.

Session 0 - Character Creation

It wasn’t really a session, as it took us less than 10 minutes to make all the characters.

We created initially 3 characters:

  • Tor, human fighter
  • Morteen, human cleric
  • Dragnur, human thief

As we didn’t plan to apply rules for encumbrance, we equipped the party ready for adventure, although that may mean unrealistically carrying a lot of things that aren’t likely to be needed at all times.

We decided that one of the adults would be the referee and also play one of the characters.

Later we created another character, but it hasn’t joined the game yet.

Session 1 - The Sewers of Port Pearl

The party arrived to the prosper city of Port Pearl, on the coast.

We were received by a couple of guards of the city, that asked us what was our business in Port Pearl. We said we were just travelling north (?). Because we run out of money after paying passage to get there, we asked them if they knew where we could go looking for an adventurer type of job.

They referred us to Councillor Bowen: “you can find him on 1st of Cannon Street, near High Street”.

When we arrived to the councillor house, an aide led us to a meeting room where a man in his mid-50s introduced himself as Councillor Thomas Bowen. He told us about a situation they had:

  • Big rats have been getting out of the sewers and have been attacking people; mostly merchants.
  • They don’t seem to go after food, by looking at their targets.
  • What is even weirder is: “the city guards haven’t been able to deal with them.” –told us Bowen– “Is like they are too smart and anticipate all our plans”.

Nothing seems to work so he was desperate and looking for a party of adventurers to go down the sewers and get rid of the rats. He was willing to pay a good amount of gold coins.

In the middle of the conversation a young man entered the room. He referred to the Councillor as “dad” and seemed to be against killing the rats. He is of the opinion that the issue was that their are innocent animals and that the problem is that parts of the city were very dirty and that’s what was making the local pests get out of their usual habitat and attack people.

After a heated discussion, the young man left and the Councillor asked the party to ignore his son Julien.

We accepted the job and two guard took us to the outskirts of the city where we could enter the sewers –the guards unlocke a metal gate and locked it again once we started walking into the sewers, so the only way was forward–.

The cleric offered to use his oil lamp to light our way.

The sewers seemed to follow mostly the layout of the streets of Port Pearl, plus some larger rooms that work as water collectors that include a ladder that goes to a manhole probably to the surface.

Unfortunately we didn’t have a map of the city, so we started making one and leaving marks on the turns to be able to come back and don’t get lost.

After a few turns, we heard some noise of animal steps and we had our first encounter with 4 giant rats. We manage to dispose of them, with a couple of small wounds. 1 in 20 rats can transmit a disease, but nobody was affected that time.

Following the tunnels we got to another collector with another 4 rats and we saw someone running away climbing the ladder and getting out to the street.

We killed the rats but we ended quite beaten after a few unlucky moves. We climbed the ladder and got to a familiar area of the city: Cannon Street. We couldn’t see the fugitive.

After evaluating our chances to keep fighting and, considering that we didn’t have much information to offer to the Councillor, we decided to look for an inn and spend a couple of days recovering.

Session 2 - Back to the Sewers

“Well, I’m a fighter and my business is fighting.”
— Tor, the fighter

We had the feeling that killing 8 rats, despite being giant, was not enough to consider the rat problem sorted.

We decided to go back to the sewers, following our own map, and we found a hairy humanoid: a Wererat. We noticed it was wearing good quality clothes –for a Wererat in the sewers–.

There were another 4 rats and we fought, but we couldn’t handle all the monsters, so we run and got out the sewer so save our lives.

We decided to report to the Councillor. A Wererat is something more remarkable than 8 dead rats, after all.

When the aide took us to the Councillor back in Canon Street, his son was with him.

We explained them that there was a Wererat in the city and it was controlling the rats. Julien didn’t believe us: “what is a Wererat anyway?” –he said– but the Councillor seemed interested and asked us to deal with it. Perhaps getting rid of the monster would solve the rats problem.

The Councillor gave us an advance for the information delivered so far. We decided to recover and heal our wounds.

The fighter thinks he recognised the boots Julien was wearing in the meeting, and we found the Wererat suspiciously close to Cannon Street, so we decided to keep an eye on the Councillor house until we saw someone leaving the house late at night and heading into a nearby alley.

When we faced the individual, turns out it was Julien. The fighter was sure the boots and Julien’s sword are the same of the Wererat. When confronted, Julien drew a sword and transformed into a Wererat in front of us.

Given that it didn’t seem possible to reason with him him, we decided to fight trying to incapacitate him –to not make things complicated with the Councillor by killing his son–.

We managed to defeat Julien and took him to the Councillor when he still was in Wererat form. We explained everything and he thanked us for “saving” his son, and asked for discretion.

We got paid and the Councillor asked to keep in contact because he could need our services again.

After this session we decided to level up all the characters:

  • We were not counting experience points after killing monsters.
  • Level 1 feels very underpowered.
  • The thief decided to buy a sword; he had a long bow and a dagger, which is not ideal for melee combat (damage is 1D6-1).

Session 3 - The Curse of Julien Bowen

After we recovered from our last fight, the Councillor summoned us.

He explained that his son got cursed and apparently he found a wizard that claims he can remove the curse. In order to do that, the magic user had requested Julien to recover a magic item that had been stolen from him: an Orb.

The wizard told Julien that one merchant in Port Pearl had it, and that’s why Julien was using the rats to attack merchants, hoping to find the one who had the Orb. Because he was informed of all the plans of his father to deal with the rats, it was easy for Julien to command the rats to outsmart the guards.

The Councillor asked the party for help: “recover the Orb and will pay you another good bag of gold”.

We accepted and before leaving the house we asked the Councillor aide where we could find information about stolen goods being sold. “The docks, definitely”, answered the aide.

We went to the docks and decided to enter “The Fishy Frog” tavern, looking for information. The idea was to present ourselves as buyers of a magic item for our master, instead of saying we wanted to recover a stolen Orb.

We met Frink, the pub owner with an eye patch and a funny accent. We tried to ask for information but Frink wanted us to order first.

The cleric decided to pay a round to all the patrons, paying with gold coins. Not such a great ideas as it seems gold coins aren’t seen often in this pub and this may have called the attention of any thugs in the pub.

Frisk suggested we talk to “Snake”, a shady guy that was sitting alone on a table.

Snake thanked us for the round. We told him we are looking to buy an exotic magic item for our master –the fighter used the name “Melmork”, that is a wizard friend of his–, and we wanted to know who could have things like that on sale.

He seemed interested but didn’t want to talk about that in the pub: “too many eyes on us”. He would meet us outside, in the alley next to the pub, in 5 minutes.

When we got to the alley is pretty clear this may not have been a brilliant idea. Snake ambushed us with two of hist mates. He wanted our gold, so we fought.

It was a fine fight: one thug was killed, other run away, and we spared Snake’s life in exchange of information.

He had heard that the owner of a warehouse in 13 Hook Street, here in the docks, had got himself on a weird business with magic. He didn’t know –or wanted to tell us– anything more, so we let him go.

We went back to talk to Frisk and he didn’t know anything about magic, but the owner of that warehouse is Zaltan. He haven’t seen him in a while, but he was a good customer –the quiet and paying type–.

The cleric dealt with out wounds and we decided to postpone our visit to the warehouse so we could rest –and the cleric could use the healing spell again if needed–.

Session 4 - Warehouse at 13th Hook Street

We went to the warehouse and tried the simplest approach: knock the door. It didn’t work.

We broke in on the back of the building and sneaked in as quietly as possible. It was a large room poorly illuminated with the floor cluttered with chests and bags, not very organized. There were stairs on one side going to another room, perhaps more storage or a small office.

We decided to go upstairs as quietly as possible, the fighter first, followed by the cleric and last the thief. After a few steps, a man wielding a sword charged from behind.

He was very thin, with almost transparent skin showing his bones. If this was Zaltan, he looked more dead than alive. How could he attack us with such energy?

Before he manages to hit any of us, our cleric decided to use her “turn undead” skill. It was successful, some force made it resist its impulse to flee: “I… must… protect… my… master…”. Or could also be that he wasn’t completely dead yet.

The cleric action made the monster hesitate long enough for the thief to attack, although with limited success. It looked like it could be hurt, so perhaps we could kill it.

The fighter had already started climbing the side wall stairs so he decided to try a difficult manoeuvre by jumping from the stairs and slash from above. He killed the thing in one spectacular blow –he rolled a critical hit! see the house rules–.

There were no other dangers in the room so we decided to try going upstairs again, this time the cleric first in case there was more use for his “turn undead” ability.

When she gets first to the room she can see a crystal ball on a table. It is the size of a small pumpkin and “it is beautiful” –said the cleric–. Looks like it has some sort of magic influence on anyone that looks at it, the cleric tried to resist –saving throw– but she couldn’t. We suspect this could have happened to Zaltan as well.

We all tried to get to the orb and cover it with something so we don’t see it and its influence stops, assuming that it may take it time to fully control a person. It took us a considerable effort but finally the thief managed to put the Orb on a sack.

The cleric was exposed to the Orb effects longer, so she needs more time to recover. Even after some time, she still mentions occasionally how beautiful was the Orb, and may ask the thief to see the Orb again.

We decided to keep the Orb away from the cleric, and that it was probably a bad idea to give it the Councillor. It seemed like an evil magic item, if it was stolen from the unnamed wizard, it was probably not a good idea to give it back.

The fighter suggests: “Let’s take it to my friend Melmork. He will know what to do”.

We decided to rest and recover from the fight with the poor Zaltan before travelling to see Melmork.

Session 5 - Travelling to Melmork’s Tower

As we decided last time, the Orb was too dangerous to give it to an unnamed wizard –even to lift Julien Bowen’s curse–, we travelled north to met Melmork the wizard as advised by our fighter: “Melmork will know what to do with the Orb”.

Before leaving we had a chat with one of the city guards to get information on the area (e.g. possible dangers). He told us that there are rumours of Goblins near the tower. Nobody had seen them, but some merchants have told stories of feeling like someone was following and observing them.

  • If nobody has seen them, how do they know there are Goblins?
  • Could these rumours be unfunded? It is a tower of a wizard after all.

It was two days of travel, we had rations and everything we needed. We had to set camp once; there were no houses (e.g. farms) nearby, so we decided to move away from the road –in case there were actual Goblins– and setup a concealed camp site.

We set guard turns and on the second turn our fighter alerted us of something running around the camp. We had to deal with a giant centipede in the dark –we didn’t have a campfire to avoid attracting any Goblins–, but nobody got hurt. We were not familiar with that type of enemy, but it didn’t seem too dangerous –thing could change if there were large numbers of them–.

A few hours before arriving to the tower we saw a farm at the other side of a river running near the road. We could go and ask to confirm the rumours about the Goblins but given that we were really close to the tower and we wanted to get rid of the Orb, we decided to continue.

We finally got to the tower without further encounters.

We met Melmork that was pleased to see our fighter. We had a chat with him:

  • He offered to deal with the Orb.
  • Apparently the influence of the Orb on our cleric is not an issue anymore once Melmork takes away the Orb from us.
  • He could prepare a potion that should help Julien back in Port Pearl (we would get paid after all!).

Unfortunately we needed to help him to open a door; or find a misplaced key to be exact, in order for him to access his laboratory and prepare the cure for Julien.

Last updated Nov 23, 2022