Last Sunday's Dwimmermount session went well and accomplished much. Unlike most sessions, Session 17 didn't end with the PCs leaving the dungeon and heading back to Muntburg. Instead, they decided to remain within the dungeon, which threw off my timekeeping records a bit, but I didn't mind, since it saved us a lot of time when it came to kicking off Session 18.
The room they entered immediately after we started contained a locked strongbox guarded by three shadows. Brother Candor was unhappy to learn that, in OD&D, shadows aren't undead -- they're raw Chaos given malevolent intelligence as I explained them -- and so can't be turned. They're also immune to normal weapons and most of the party still lacks magic items. This meant that only a few of the characters (and henchmen/hirelings) were able to engage the shadows in combat. The strength-draining ability of the creatures also reminded me that we hadn't established an exact ability scores of some of the NPCs, which we rectified on the fly, as needed.
The shadows, as it turned out, were guarding what was probably the biggest stash of loot on the sub-level, necessitating that the party return to the surface and then make the three-day journey to Adamas to get gems/jewelry appraised and to unload some of their haul. While there, they also stocked up on various supplies and tried to find ways to dispose of their excess coinage. As I've mentioned before, I only give XP for gold that's spent. The intention is to keep the character poor but living high on the hog, in true Howardian/Leiberian fashion. The problem my players have discovered is that, after a certain point, it's very hard to find things to spend their money on. Since the highest level character -- Brother Candor -- only just turned 5th-level, strongholds aren't really an option. Or are they? Dordagdonar's player stated outright that he intends to find a secluded vale near Dwimmermount and begin to build a home for himself and, he hopes, other elves fed up with with having to live with "ephemerals." Interestingly, the other players were quite enthusiastic about this plan and we've decided that our next session will be a wilderness adventure, seeking out such a vale in the area around Dwimmermount.
With that decided, they returned to Dwimmermount for further explorations. The section they were exploring was, as they'd noticed previously, one that had been shut off from the rest of the dungeon -- from the inside. Consequently, most of the rooms were empty, except for a strange phosphorescent fungi that they avoided, for fear that it might be deadly. They did find a room that contained a chute down to a black pit, but none dared venture downward at this time. A room with a couple of giant spiders did cause them some concern, but they eventually dealt with the foul arachnids handily. Several more rooms were discovered and their dangers, such as stirges, were avoided in the interests of journeying downward to the next level.
The next level -- roughly the fourth, by most reckonings -- seemed subtly different than the rest of Dwimmermount. There was less evidence of regular traffic and the architecture looked both older and creepier. The first room they entered had a statue of a robed figure with a stern face, holding a upward-pointing sword in one hand and an open book in the other. Brother Candor thought it might be another aspect of Turms Termax, the Thulian god of magic to whom much of the dungeon is dedicated, but he had no proof of his theory. The same room contained the mummified head of a frog-like creature -- like those seen earlier in the dungeon -- which bellowed a warning to the PCs, when they approached it, claiming that death awaited those who ventured any farther.
Naturally, the characters ignored the severed frogman's head and sallied forth into a maze-like series of corridors. Brother Candor was suspicious and used find traps to avoid a couple of pit traps placed within these corridors. He also began to think that, in future, he would take speak with animals as his 3rd-level spell, since he figured he could use it to communicate with the rats the characters have started to bring with them as lures and "trap finders" when the spell isn't available. A well placed web spell cast by Iriadessa allowed the party to quickly dispatch a group of frogmen they encountered along the way, before they decided to retreat and head back to Muntburg, with the goal of preparing to seek out a vale for Dordagdonar's eventual stronghold.
This was a very satisfying session and one that saw the players start to think a bit more about their characters' futures, at least in general terms. They also began to ask questions about the world outside of Dwimmermount, Muntburg, and Adamas. I was pleased by this, not because I'm tiring of the dungeon -- I'm not -- but because it gave me a chance to use a slightly larger canvas than I've used in the last five months of weekly play. I don't anticipate any world-spanning adventures any time (if at all), but I've laid the groundwork for expanding the scope of the campaign should the players ever wish to pursue it. Next session should be interesting, since it'll be our first fully-fledged wilderness adventure and I am intensely curious to see what happens.