Once more the brave adventurers Brother Candor, Pike, Dordagdonar, Iriadessa, and Vladimir plunged headlong into the dungeons of Dwimmermount, continuing their explorations of Level 2. The characters are of mixed levels, with Brother Candor and Dordagdonar both level 3, while Pike and Iriadessa are level 2, and poor Vladimir still at first level. For some reason, I find a mixed-level party very satisfying to me. I suspect that's pure nostalgia talking, as it was very commonplace in the old days to have a wide spread of levels in the same group. Partially, of course, it's a function of the different XP requirements for the various classes, but there are other factors too, such as the introduction of new PCs into an existing campaign. In any event, I'm very pleased with the group and how it's progressing.
There were comparatively few combats this last session, as the players spent most of their time mapping out unknown areas of the dungeon and grappling with its mysteries. There were fights with a swarm of angry oil beetles and a giant black widow spider, but that was about it. Having slaughtered 20 beast-men in their last foray, they seem to have de-populated a goodly portion of their current area of operations. This was perhaps fortunate, since there were numerous traps and oddities with which to deal.
In one room, the characters encountered a strange manhole cover-like object that could not be pried open. When sufficient weight was placed on it, the object descended about 20 feet into a darkened chamber filled with an oily, black liquid. Because the characters couldn't see the size of the room or whether it had any inhabitants, they hastily pulled up Pike, who'd volunteered to take a look on the condition he had a rope tied around him for just such an emergency.
Later, the characters found a darkened room from which no sound, smells, or light emanated. Entering it, one was swallowed up a palpable blackness that left only one's sense of touch intact. Brother Candor (again, with rope attached) went in to examine the place by feeling his way around, which led to the discovery of a large hole in the middle of the room. A bag filled with copper coins -- the characters consider copper worthless -- was lowered into the hole until the rope went slack, which turned out to be about 20 feet down. The bag was pulled back up and removed from the room. It was found to be covered in an oily, black liquid, which was combustible. However, the liquid was consumed so quickly by the flames that it did not burn the bag at all, even though it generated (brief) heat. The characters now assume the two rooms both lead to the same place beneath them, though they have no idea what the black liquid is or what purpose it might serve.
Another room contained a door covered with what the characters assumed to be magically trapped glyphs. Because the door opened outward, they hammered an iron spike into the floor a distance away from it, tied a rope to the door's handle, looped the rope around the spike, and then pulled on it from a safe distance away. This way, no one was directly in front of the door should opening the door activate the glyphs, which they did. I was quite amused by their cleverness. They're getting very good at foiling traps. I guess I'm going to have to be more devious in future.
In their explorations, the PCs discovered numerous dead bodies, which they presume to be those of other adventurers. They'd seen evidence -- chalk marks, messages painted on doors, etc. -- that someone else was exploring the dungeon ahead of them. They'd even ordered a couple of their hirelings, twin Norsemen Erik and Ethil, to hang out in the inn at Muntburg to see if they saw anyone who looked like they were also heading off to explore Dwimmermount. Unfortunately, their hirelings are overly fond of drink (and women's boots, as it turns out, but that's another story), and so remembered seeing no other adventurers. Because the dead bodies consisted first of a dwarf, then a cleric of Tyche -- whose holy symbol Brother Candor intends to return to the temple in Adamas in an effort to curry favor with them -- the suggestion was made, in jest, that maybe these people were the PCs from the future. When it was pointed out that these bodies couldn't be the PCs because there was no dead elf among them, Dordagdonar said, "Of course not. I would have abandoned the party if you'd gotten into any real danger." Needless to say, no one completely trusts the elf.