|Battling the Master in his laboratory|
The PCs, who were all new 1st level:
Axebit the Ranger with pet War Dog
Voltra the Illusionist with pet Genie
Luna the Flame Wizard with pet Winged Cat
Zengar the Vermling Mindthief (from Gloomhaven) / Tinker with two pet Rat Swarms
— As background, I referenced an adventure some of them had started a few months ago, one from Dungeon magazine that involves a search for a missing faerie dragon. Only one PC was the same, but kids don't care about such details. I scrapped the rest of that adventure, and just had them start at a dungeon entrance.
— The game took place over several short sessions. At first the dungeon was improvised, but in between sessions I came up with an idea for the overall setting. For visuals, I used WOTC dungeon tiles with Dwarven Forge doors and assorted minis. The PC minis were mostly Wardlings, which each come with a pet. The monster minis were all plastic, some Reaper Bones, some Dungeon Command.
— Rules were basically "D&D from Memory", Holmes-ish but using whatever other rules I felt like including. Monsters were improvised variants of what I could remember and generally did 1d6 damage per hit. Natural 20s did double damage, natural 1s a fumble - drop a weapon, fall down, lose control of your rat swarm, etc; often equaling "lose a turn".
— Spellcasters each had a single spell that they could cast repeatedly, but had to roll a d6 each time to see if it tired them out (1-3 = could cast again, 4-6 = taxed, could not cast again for a while). The Illusionist could make illusions, the Flame Wizard a flame bolt, the Mindthief could attempt mental trickery.
— Initiative was in order by Dexterity, although I often let whoever said they were acting to go before starting an actual "round".
They tracked the captor of the missing faerie dragon to a cave with a wooden door with a broken hole in it. Peering through, they saw a hallway with a portcullis at the end and two doors part way down, each with a barred window. Entering, they noted footprints in the dust heading to the portcullis and into the room to the west. They proceeded to the east door, and looked through the window, seeing a treasure chest in center of the far wall. The door was locked, but Voltra easily picked the lock with a bobby pin from her hair. Examining the chest, they found it unlocked, but when they tried to open it a mouth appeared. The Vermling recognized it as a mimic, and Voltra fed it an apple, and then more fruit which it happily munched. It began following them, hopping along.
They went down the hall and looked through the portcullis. The room beyond was filled with hot coals, with just a small ledge running around the edge. No other exits were visible. They backtracked to the other door, which had a similar barred window. In the middle of this room was a statue on a circular pedestal. After some poking and prodding they determined the statue swiveled, but without apparent effect. Returning to the portcullis, they tried lifting it and succeeded with three PCs working together, but then didn't know what to do about the hot coals in the room. Eventually they tried the statue again, and figured out that turning it raised the portcullis, vanished the hot coals, and opened a narrow passage at the far end. They hurried down this passage when they heard the statue swiveling back on its own, fearing return of the hot coals. The Flame Wizard was particularly scared.
The passage opened to a large room. As they went in, six skeletons came towards them from different directions, two wielding bows, two swords & shields, two polearms. Their eyes flickered orange-red in the torchlight. They battled the skeletons until destroyed, with only a few injuries. Luna's cat used a once-a-day power to turn into a "battlecat". The mimic aided them when it saw Voltra being injured. After the battle the eyes of the skeletons were revealed to be fire opals, 12 total.
Zengar found a secret door to the west. Pushing split the wall in to two doors opening into an apparently empty room with a door to the north. Axebit threw a rock in, causing the room to fill with blue light and a swirling wind. He then threw the remains of one of the skeletons in and it swirled around in the vortex, banging into the walls until dashed to bits.
Everyone continued searching the skeleton room, until Luna found another secret door of similar design on the east wall. Another empty room lay beyond, also with a door on the north wall. Axebit threw another rock, but with no effect. Walking in, the entire floor dropped out beneath him — a pit. He failed a Dex check and fell ten feet, taking 4 points of damage. To escape he threw his grappling hook up to the door ledge on the north wall, and pulled himself up. He tried to throw his rope back to the others to make a tightrope to walk across, but there was nowhere they could attach it. Instead they figured out other ways across — the Vermling and rats climbed down the wall and up the far side. The pet cat and genie flew across, carrying the war dog. The other two hung off the edge and then dropped down since it was only 10 feet deep. The mimic continued to follow them, hopping across the gap.
Beyond the door lay another portcullis, this one with a carved face above the bars which spoke, telling them "The Master is out, go away". After some conversation where they failed to trick the face, Zengar used his mind control power to cloud its mind and make it think he was the master and it opened the gate for them — "Welcome home, Master!".
Heading around the corner they found a solid iron door with a lock in the center. Luna used her flame to melt the lock. Beyond, another room, with a circle on the floor in which stood a gigantic four-armed skeleton wielding four swords. Voltra tricked it with the illusion of a party member running to the corner. The skeleton followed it over, and then the party members attacked it from behind. It fought with four swords, but each time it was damaged for 5 HP, one arm was removed. After the battle they took the large curved swords, which were finely made and looked valuable.
Heading through the south door they found a laboratory with a large bench covered with all sorts of equipment and fizzling liquids in containers. As Axebit went up to the table, a bookcase at the back of the room swung outward and a figure in black robes entered — the Master! He hit Axebit with a magic missile. Axebit in turn, threw one of the fizzling liquids on him, but it gave the Master the power of a Speed potion (I rolled randomly on the DMG Potion table). He then charmed Axebit, who moved over to his side of the table. Zengar then threw another liquid, which had the power of Oil of Etherealness, sending Master to the Ethereal Plane. This broke the charm, and the Master was like a spirit who could still talk to them but no longer touch anything on the Material Plane.
The ethereal Master drifted through them to the north and then east through a door they had not yet entered, to a room with four large coffins. They heard him call out, "Arise my children!", and out of the coffins came a Ghost, a Zombie Dog and two big Zombies [these, along with the Master and the four-armed skeleton were from the Dungeon Command set the Curse of Undeath]. The PCs retreated south past the bookcase to make a stand at the door of what turned out to be the Master's bedroom. The Ghost was fastest and on them first. Luna hit the Ghost with fire for just a single point, but then hit it with her dagger for double damage (natural 20) in the next round and destroyed it. Then they battled the other Zombies, defeating them one-by-one. At this point the Master — still ethereal — fled to take revenge another day.
Searching the Master's room they found a cage with the missing faerie dragon, who was happy to be rescued. They also found a trap door under the bed, which led to a narrow escape tunnel. They realized that the Master was actually out but had returned, and realizing there were intruders, had snuck in through the back way to confront them. Searching the Master's rooms they found potions, scrolls and money, the exact nature of which were to be determined later — it was bedtime.