Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Dwimmermount, Session 8

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.

19 comments:

  1. Excellent report - sounds like a great mix of role-playing, mystery and puzzle-solving.

    Reading a lot of Rob Kuntz's material recently makes me realise that clever players drive DMs to finding more inventive ways to bring them pain and suffering... better warn your group not to be TOO clever ;-)

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  2. better warn your group not to be TOO clever ;-)

    Sometimes I think they are daring me to try harder to kill their characters.

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  3. I just had an interesting conversation w/ a buddy of mine and was telling him about the organic nature of old school DMing. My buddy's a bass-guitarist who totally digs jam bands. So I made an analogy: Old school DMing is a lot like playing in a jam. One guy takes the lead and others riff off of him.

    I'm finding that this type of DMing is really a neat exercise in creativity. What fun.

    Dwimmermount sounds like a VERY cool place James! A huge lake of oil just beneath the surface...what could it be for?

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  4. Wait, Dwimmermount's not connected to the Saatchi gallery, is it?

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  5. "Of course not. I would have abandoned the party if you'd gotten into any real danger."

    An honest elf... will wonders never cease?

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  6. Sounds like a good one.

    What's up with dead adventurer's laying around, while the players party seem to be able to handle most things they have come across? Is there a harsh beasty they met that the character party has yet too? Hmmmmm...

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  7. What I like about your approach is that your explicitly take advantage of the old school approach in your design.

    The mystery and sense of exploring the unknown were big draws back in the day, and the tendency to mechanize everything (particularly via skills) works against that. I think there are techniques to preserve that feel in modern D&D, but they take a little work and aren't necessarily obvious uses for the system.

    I really like these updates. Keep 'em coming!

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  8. Sounds like a fun session. I'd love to be a part of a campaign this exciting... though I'm not so wild about mixed-level parties.

    Any chance we'll eventually get to see maps or campaign notes for Dwimmermount? I think that'd be a good DMing resource for those of us trying to get a better grasp on the old ways.

    V-word: Rafflens
    Definition: Raffle tickets.

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  9. I'm surprised that they didn't bottle up all that black stuff; I can't think of a single group I've been in over the years that wouldn't jump all over such an abundant source of destruction!

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  10. What, no love for "time to bring home the bacon"? (Vladimir's battle cry when fighting orcs--which of course are the traditional pig-faced kind).

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  11. Awesome stuff! Fantastic! :-)

    Re mixed levels, what are your plans for new PCs once existing ones get higher level, say 5th+? Will you continue to start all PCs at 1st level, or bring new ones in at higher level?

    This is something I always wrestle with. With 3e I generally use "new PCs 2 levels below highest level current PC", with 1e I used "new PC has half the old PC's XP". For an old school game I do like the idea of 1st and 6th level PCs in the same group, but I'm unsure how it would work out. I know that in 3e the power disparity and monster lethality are so great that I don't think this would work well.

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  12. Mike Mearls:
    "The mystery and sense of exploring the unknown were big draws back in the day, and the tendency to mechanize everything (particularly via skills) works against that. I think there are techniques to preserve that feel in modern D&D, but they take a little work and aren't necessarily obvious uses for the system."

    I was just thinking about this, the negative impact of using skill checks for everything. I'm running a 3e tabletop game, a C&C online game, and a Labyrinth Lord online game currently.

    When it comes to the PCs finding hidden things I find there's a big difference between "make a Spot/Search check" (3e), "make a WIS check" (C&C) and the GM rolling a d6* and providing clues to exploration (LL). LL as a B/X D&D clone is the one with the 'old school' approach, and I'm finding it makes the exploration much more atmospheric and exciting. Weird, huh.

    *1 in 6 to find a secret door; elves get 2 in 6.

    I could try to old-school rolling d6s for 3e and C&C whenever the PCs encounter stuff, and only make skill/attribute checks when the players ask for them. That ought to work ok in C&C, with 3e though you get issues about 'nerfing' skills. I could also secretly record everybody's listen/spot/search skill totals and roll secretly, but that's a lot of extra work in what is already a difficult game to run.

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  13. What's up with dead adventurer's laying around, while the players party seem to be able to handle most things they have come across? Is there a harsh beasty they met that the character party has yet too? Hmmmmm...

    You have come to a conclusion my players have yet to reach ...

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  14. I really like these updates. Keep 'em coming!

    I'm glad people are enjoying them.

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  15. Any chance we'll eventually get to see maps or campaign notes for Dwimmermount? I think that'd be a good DMing resource for those of us trying to get a better grasp on the old ways.

    Eventually, yes, but it'll be a while yet. For one, I don't want to reveal too much to my players. For another, there's actually not a lot of there there when it comes to my campaign, since it's still only in its infancy. The setting is still sketchy and our house rules are few.

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  16. I'm surprised that they didn't bottle up all that black stuff; I can't think of a single group I've been in over the years that wouldn't jump all over such an abundant source of destruction!

    Actually, they did :)

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  17. What, no love for "time to bring home the bacon"? (Vladimir's battle cry when fighting orcs--which of course are the traditional pig-faced kind).

    Accept my apologies, Comrade Dwarf.

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  18. Re mixed levels, what are your plans for new PCs once existing ones get higher level, say 5th+? Will you continue to start all PCs at 1st level, or bring new ones in at higher level?

    The plan my players have already adopted is that, should one of the higher level PCs die, they'll take up the roles of various hirelings and convert them to full PC status. Brother Candor's player has stated he wants to play Brakk the Goblin should the cleric ever meet his demise.

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  19. should one of the higher level PCs die, they'll take up the roles of various hirelings and convert them to full PC status.

    This is, of course, pure OD&D, and yet it took Ars Magica to teach me the "troupe" approach.
    Weirdly, I'm discovering the Pokemon also has a "core party" and a kind of broad occasional/second string bunch of Pokemons "in storage:" I'm wondering how many of these old school methods are still kicking around undeclared in other kinds of gaming.

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