Owing to the travel of one of my players, there have only been two sessions in the last three weeks. That does not, however, excuse my having failed to post a separate entry for session 33 before now. I can only say that I generally save writing up session reports for days when I don't have lots of other entries planned and since I've recently had plenty of other material to write, I simply delayed -- too long as it turns out -- which is why you're getting a two-for-one entry today, even though there are several other entries forthcoming.
The last two sessions have been heavily focused on the exploration and mapping of two sections of a single level beneath Dwimmermount. The first section was, as I've reported previously, seemingly used as a test bed for experiments with the "azoth infusion" of living creatures, particularly plants of various sorts. As the characters pressed on, they encountered numerous strange plant creatures, many of them greatly changed as a result of the azoth that now suffused them. This afforded me the opportunity to introduce some mutant plants from Mutant Future into the game and they worked seamlessly, both mechanically (of course!) and thematically.
Having explored this section of the dungeon as thoroughly as their map seemed to imply, they pressed on toward another section. That's one of the things I like about their use of maps: it makes it easier to keep track of where they've been and it gives them a sense of where they still have to explore. Megadungeon-delving without mapping isn't something I can really imagine, as it'd be far too easy to get lost and would likely lead to a lot of frustration on the part of the players. I wonder if the decline in the use of megadungeons (and, by extension, hexcrawls) is at least partly attributable to the decline in mapping among players. In any event, I think one of the keys to Dwimmermount's success is the use of maps, which make it simple to navigate the place and, perhaps more importantly, to give a focus to each session: "We've completely explored this area, but there are corridors extending here, here, and here. There's also a set of stairs going downward and a secret door here. Which way shall we go today?"
Moving into another section, the characters encountered more gnolls, leading them to believe that these humanoids have established a lair somewhere on the level. They also encountered some more "kobolds-but-not," which they hadn't seen this deep into the dungeon before. These creatures are clearly kobolds but they show signs of having changed in various ways -- odd bony protrusions here and there, discolored eyes, and so on. They also behave oddly, using various implements to "repair" rooms in Dwimmermount. The ones they encountered this time were drawing magical symbols onto the floors and walls of a room and they seemed most aggrieved to be interrupted.
Later, the party entered a room filled with eerily well carved statues, their faces contorted in expressions of surprise and horror. This immediately worried them, as they expected it meant some type of petrifying creature was likely abroad. Iriadessa in particular was worried and decided to stay behind with some of the hireling when Brother Candor and Dordagdonar pressed on to investigate. Using rings of invisibility, they scouted ahead unseen. After springing a dart trap, they came to a room that find traps indicated was also trapped and trapped in such a thorough way as to be wholly a danger. The room's only occupant was hidden from view by a screen at the far end and soon reacted to the duo's presence -- they may have been invisible but the opening door still made a noise -- by unleashing poison gas into the room. The characters quickly fled into the corridor and used an iron spike to close the door securely behind them.
At this point, Brother Candor decided to take advantage of his position as "prophet of the Iron God" by returning to an earlier level and taking control of two mechanical men and one mechanical dog that obeyed him due to his possession of the staff of office of the high priest of the Iron God. He took some hirelings with him and set off, leaving the other PCs behind to guard the door to the poison gas room. While he did so, a most amusing series of random rolls resulted in a gelatinous cube wandering down the corridor, surprising the remaining characters and forcing them to engage the creature in a very tight situation. Fortunately, they prevailed and a sword (later determined to be magical) was found within the cube's remains.
Once Brother Candor returned, the characters entered the room ahead. The poison gas had dissipated but there was no sign of its occupant, which the party assumed had escaped through some hidden door. The characters searched, finding in fact two doors out of the room, one of which led to a chamber containing a magic-user and a pair of ogres. Brother Candor quickly cast silence on the magic-user to prevent his use of spells. Unfortunately, the magic-user possessed a wand, which he used instead, as we'd previously established that wands function without the need for speech. Nearly everyone in the party, with the exception of a couple of hirelings and the mechanical constructs, failed their saving throw and were feared as a result of the wand. The hirelings and the constructs eventually carried the day, defeating the ogres and MU -- proof yet again of how useful hirelings and henchmen can be.
Two interesting things emerged from these sessions. First, I'm pretty strongly committed to continuing the use of miniatures in the campaign. They make combat more manageable and interesting and they add a lot of visual appeal to the game. My seven year-old son, who otherwise hasn't yet expressed much interest in playing with us, nevertheless finds the minis and dungeon blocks very intriguing. Second, the Advanced Edition Companion is ever so slowly exerting its influence over the game. I've admitted on numerous occasions that, deep down, AD&D will always be the edition of Dungeons & Dragons for me. My choice of OD&D for Dwimmermount's ruleset is more about wanting to scale back expectations and to keep complexity at a low level to start. However, as the campaign has evolved over the last year, I've been slowly adding rules and elements from the Supplements, bringing the game ever closer to a kind of "proto-AD&D." As it turns out, my players like this and generally share my opinion of AD&D as the edition, so it seems likely that, as the weeks wear on, we'll see more "stuff" added to the game that brings it closer to 1e, albeit a piecemeal and greatly simplified 1e. Thank goodness for the AEC; it's one of the best purchases I've made in a long time.