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In our last session, Graf the Veteran got lucky and left the dungeon with a 6,000gp jewel, more than enough to level up. Back in town, he upgraded his armor to plate, purchased a short bow, a lantern and some oil, and set about trying to hire some help.

In OD&D, retainers are classed and leveled help that a PC can hire to accompany them on adventures, for a share of the loot. The rules stipulate some expenses, but “the referee must determine expenditures”. However, in the section on hiring specialists and mercenaries, a guide of 100-600gp is given for advertising expenses, so I used that to make it easy.

Graf spent 100gp and had two potential hires present themselves – a Cleric and a Magic-User. Graf offered 200gp up-front to each and a 1/3-share of any treasure. The Cleric was insulted by Graf’s offer, but the MU reacted favorably, and agreed to accompany him back to the dungeon. Total expenses for Graf: 417gp.

I perused my stash of index card characters, and pulled out Shal the Medium, with a 15 INT, giving her an extra 1st-level spell under my house rules. She memorized sleep and hold-portal, and headed out to the dungeon with Graf. For this I was using the Monster & Treasure assortment and the AD&D 1e DMG random dungeon generation tables.

Shal lit a lantern and the duo descended the entry stairs, which went down 20′ to an empty chamber with several exits. They chose to go down an eastern tunnel, which after a short while opened into a dusty, 40’x40′ room. It was also empty, save for a leather sack on the floor against the south wall, next to an exit. Graf approached the sack and cautiously prodded it with his spear. Satisfied it was safe, he picked up the sack and peered inside – gems! But at that moment a wave of nausea overtook him and he stumbled back, dropping the sack and spilling the gems. Shal helped Graf move away from the sack, and he examined his hands. There was a slimy, greenish substance on his fingertips (ref note: contact poison on the sack, but Graf easily made his saving throw). He quickly wiped his hands on the floor, and after a minute he felt better. Shal gathered up the gems, being careful not to touch the sack, and the duo proceeded south.


Graf and Shal were in a longer tunnel, with a side tunnel to the west half way down and an open archway directly ahead, at the limit of Shal’s lantern light. As they started down the tunnel, a trio of giant spiders emerged from the west and skittered towards them!

Graf was able to bring his spear to bear on one of the spiders and wound it. That spider and one other attacked Graf, one of them biting him. He backed away as Shal cast a sleep spell which put all three spiders to sleep. They quickly killed the spiders, but poor Graf started to feel the affects of the poison bite, so they decided to head out of the dungeon. Shal helped Graf back to the entrance and up the stairs, but he never made it back to town. RIP Graf the Warrior. Shal buried him under a nearby tree and headed back with the gems, 620gp worth.

Referee notes

Hiring Retainers

Even giving a +2 bonus for the 200gp up-front offer, I rolled first “uncertain” and then “hostile” for the Cleric’s hiring reaction. The MU roll was much better.

Contact Poison

Unattended treasure should always be trapped or hidden in some way. I used the M&T Assortment tables for this and came up with the sack and contact poison.


The spiders were crab spiders, rolled as a wandering encounter in the M&T Assortment. Crab spiders first appear in Moldvay Basic, and according to those rules, crab spider poison is deadly in 1d4 turns – Graf failed his save (even with +2 for the weak poison) and I rolled a 4, meaning he died four turns later, on the way back to town.

For the combat with the spiders, initial reaction was hostile. Neither party was surprised, and the crab spiders won initiative. However, Graf had a spear ready and I ruled he would be able to stab at the spiders before they could move close enough to attack. So he went first, followed by the spiders (I allowed two to attack him at once in the 10′ wide tunnel), then Shal’s sleep spell went off.