Yesterday saw the first session of the campaign in which the majority of the action took place not in Dwimmermount but in the nearby city-state of Adamas. The characters had intended to get the mysterious silvery-black oil they'd discovered analyzed by an alchemist. Since Muntburg has no alchemists of its own, Adamas was the only option. There they made the acquaintance of a fellow named Jasper, who agreed to look at the oil and gives his expert opinion on it (for a fee, of course).
While the characters waited, they all went about their business, with Dordagdonar penning multiple scrolls of read languages since it's a spell he thought useful but unworthy of being memorized while adventuring most of the time. The characters keep themselves quite poor -- more on that in a bit -- so the elf thought he'd save himself some money by hunting down some of the materials he needed to make the scrolls. One of the ingredients was the encephalic fluid of pixies. As it happened, Pike had kept the corpses of some pixies he'd encountered in Dwimmermount. The problem was that Pike doesn't trust Dordagdonar (and rightly so, since he'd cast sleep on the fighting man inadvertently during one combat), so it took a fair bit of alcohol before Pike would agree to give up the pixies to the elf for his scribing.
Meanwhile, Brother Candor visited the library of the temple of Tyche to do some research into both the cult of Turms Termax and Dwimmermount itself. He discovered Turm had once been a mortal man and was a rebel against the anti-magical tendencies of the Thulians. For his rebellion, the Thulians sought him out and they eventually did capture and brutally torture him, except that, instead of dying, he achieved apotheosis and escaped, now an immortal being. Oddly, and without explanation, the same Thulians who slew him then adopted Turms as one of their primary divine patrons. Of course, once the Thulians turned to evil, the worship of Turms -- and indeed the practice of magic itself -- fell into disrepute, since it was closely associated with their misrule.
Dwimmermount itself seems to have been a Thulian military base. This jibes with what they've seen within -- lots of armories, barracks, etc. Dwimmermount was very carefully guarded by the imperial army and very few outsiders were allowed into it, the primary exceptions being members of the Guild of Alchemists. This naturally sparked Brother Candor's interest and he decided to go and check on Jasper earlier than originally planned. Taking the party with him, they found the alchemist's shop was closed. Brakk the goblin was able to open the lock and get them inside. Jasper was nowhere to be found in the front area of the shop. His office in the back was behind a locked door that Brakk successfully recognized as trapped. Unfortunately for him, he wasn't able to remove the trap, resulting in a bucket of acid falling on his head. He failed his saving throw and took more damage than he had hit points, leaving behind a smoking corpse.
Inside the office, the characters found Jasper -- dead and nailed to the ground with long spike made of silvery-black metal. Brother Candor recognized that this was the Final Torment of Turms Termax, the one from which he escaped by divine ascension. Naturally, this led him to believe that cultists of Turms had slain Jasper and taken the oil sample they gave him. Of course, he couldn't prove this. He rued that he could not yet cast speak with dead (being only 4th level), but figured the priests of Tyche could do so. Without a second thought, Dordagdonar chopped off Jasper's head, placed it in a jar of formaldehyde, and explained that it'd be simpler to transport just the head than the whole body. The party dithered about what to do with Brakk, figuring they owed him a burial, but also realizing that his dead body made it less likely anyone would suspect others were in the alchemist shop. Brakk would look like a burglar that ran afoul of one of Jasper's traps. The party also spoke with the owner of the candle shop next door, where they learned that Jasper often visited the temple of Typhon. He had a regular client there among the god's priesthood.
Returning to the temple of Tyche, they had speak with dead cast upon Jasper's head. In the process, they learned that Jasper was killed by masked men. These men took the oil, which Jasper revealed was "azoth," which Brother Candor came across in his researchers as being "philosopher's mercury," a rare element believed to be a distillation of magic iteself and a key ingredient in transmuting base materials into higher ones. According to some books he read, azoth played a role in the apotheosis of Turms, since even mortal flesh was a base material that could be transmuted into something higher.
The party then concluded they needed to find out whom Jasper had visited and might have told about the oil. They enlisted the aid of a woman named Gaztea, a thief and rumor-monger. After a few hours, she informed them that Jasper had visited a priest of Typhon named Saidon, who was a collector of rare artifacts, relics, and exotic items. He was a regular customer of Jasper, but he did not seem to be in possession of the azoth. Gaztea couldn't prove that Jasper had visited anyone else but Saidon. The party soon worried that someone might trace the azoth back to them, so they hurried back to Jasper's shop, where they were met by the candle maker, who informed them that the constabulary had visited the shop and were looking for information about the murder and theft there. Fearing that the constabulary might come looking for them, they hightailed it out of Adamas, taking Gaztea with them as a replacement for Brakk.
The session was a very good and a turning point for the campaign, since it's the first time that active plot elements came into play. As I explained to my players, I'd been expecting this session to occur earlier and had had the broad outlines of it in mind for several weeks. However, they kept forgetting to return to Adamas, being quite content to stay in Muntburg and explore Dwimmermount. I'm not one to push them to do anything they don't want to do; this is a sandbox campaign, after all. I have sprinkled lots of little plot elements throughout, but it's only now that they're starting to knit together into something vaguely coherent -- and it took 11 sessions. Personally, I have no complaints about this, since the players set the pace rather than me. Still, I am both surprised and strangely gratified that Dwimmermount alone has held their attention for so long.
I'll also note that the "Dave Arneson rule" for converting gold into XP is working beautifully. I only give XP on treasure that is spent. This means that every time they find gold or gems or whatever in the dungeon, they have to use it to buy things for themselves, whether they be scrolls, new gear, hirelings, or just a night out on the town if they want to gain experience points from them. This has served two purposes: 1) They must return to Adamas if they want to spend big sums of money and 2) They are perpetually poor. I am very satisfied with this, as I am with the campaign in general -- an excellent session overall.