It turned out to be, well, not enlightening, exactly, but interesting enough that I started taking notes. Much easier to do that when you're not playing or DMing, actually. That, in fact, was interesting enough: the opportunity to really see what was going on in a session, and notice a lot more than I usually do when immersed in it myself.
For reference purposes, the group consisted of the DM, the DM's girlfriend, the DM's brother, the DM's brother's girlfriend, and the ex-Traveller player.
- The DM rolled treasure at the table, in the open, off the DMG charts, adjusting the treasure for monster type. (In this case, an ooze, that had 10% coins.)
- He calculated XP at the table the same way, right after the fight in question, and noted that he hadn't remembered how much work it was. (Which didn't surprise me. Oh, do I ever not miss the CR system.) He also said that it didn't really matter anyway because he was going to up them to 4th level at "the end of the tunnel," but went ahead and calculated XP and handed it out all the same.
- As usual, I showed up just after they fought the gelatinous cube. I am perpetually hearing stories about fighting gelatinous cubes, but have never actually been present for one.
- They had a number of health restoring abilities, one of which I'm guessing was a dragon shaman aura, (I know the party consisted of at least a knight, a duskblade, and what I suspect was a warlock -- whatever she was, she had spider climb at will) and one of which was provided by a magic item ("a jewel") that the DM's girlfriend's character had.
- The DM's girlfriend hadn't played D&D before this campaign, which had only been going on a few sessions. This was pretty obvious; he explained things to her a couple of times, and rolled dice for her at least once. She also didn't speak up much; the other characters were much more active in interacting with things.
- Lots of filthy jokes.
- They'd fought the slime for some ettercaps, in exchange for their freeing a few "human prisoners" (as the Traveller player explained to me) who turned out to be a dwarven cleric and an elven rogue. The dwarven cleric "healed the party," in what was pretty clearly a DM hand wave to get the party back to full health, and then the two of them gave the party 200 gp and a potion of flammable oil.
- The party decided to give the potion to the knight, on account of him being the character who could get the most use out of it.
- The dwarven cleric and elven rogue had just come from the other end of the tunnel, the dungeon that the party had heard had treasure and was trying to get to. As they were leaving to go back the other way, towards the town the party had come from, the Traveller player (finally!) asked if they had any information about said dungeon. They didn't. The DM said a few things about how all they'd seen was the pit they fell into when the ettercaps got them.
- Neither the dwarf nor the elf had names. The DM didn't supply any, and the party didn't ask.
- The next one was a puzzle of some kind. Interacting with it made everything worse: sleep spells, spikes, and then the room filled with lava. They turned it off by rolling a Search check, whereupon the DM told them about the switch that reset everything.
- By the time they'd set of the third or fourth trap, I wondered, "Why don't they just back off and find something else to mess with?" Then I remembered that the whole thing, being a tunnel, was a straight line: they had no where else to go.
- Then they rolled another Search check, and the DM told them what they needed to do to solve the puzzle.
- Accidentally filling a room full of lava is fun. Especially if it's mostly one player's fault and the rest of them can make fun of him for it.
- Arcane spell failure made the spell in question misfire rather than just fizzle.
- No one was quite sure how to calculate a spell DC. I spoke up at that point, but probably shouldn't have; it would have been interesting to see the solution they came to on their own, and how long it took.
Best quote: "Oh Ettercaptain, my Ettercaptain."
I'm going to have to find out if the dungeon they're headed for turns out to be as ridiculously linear as the tunnel was. Which shouldn't be too hard, since boytoy lives with one member of the group, and I have classes with the DM. It made sense considering that it was tunnel, but I still feel very strongly that a dungeon ought not to be linear, and watching this session more or less confirmed that idea.
I'm very, very tempted to write up another dungeon for Swords & Wizardry, taking into account what I learned from the megadungeon about organizing my notes, and invite this crowd, the rest of the players from the Traveller game, and the group that I've heard plays Vampire: the Masquerade for a proper dungeon-crawling experience.
On the other side of the spectrum, I'm not entirely sure why they weren't playing 4e D&D. The DM's brother I know, from previous conversations, has an intense dislike for the system, but I suspect that they would have found the healing surge system useful. (It was fascinating watching the way healing happened in that game; to my eye, it looked like they'd patched together a less elegant solution to the problems that the healing surge system is intended to address.) Moreover, they were mostly playing as a series of encounters strung together with the occasional talky bit, so there wasn't much that 4e would have interfered with. Probably just a matter of familiarity, I suppose. Or due to an issue that didn't come up in this session.
Overall, though, they were clearly having fun. Philosophical objections aside, the DM was entertaining, and good at keeping things moving. And the players were all into it and enjoying the game. Which is really what matters.