Monday, August 16, 2010

Dwimmermount, Session 48

When last we left Fortune's Fools, they were puzzling out the meaning of a magical device that seemed to hold the key to their passage forward. The device in question was a metallic skull placed on a pillar inside of whose open mouth they found a large sapphire. The sapphire radiated magic under a detect magic spell, but was otherwise an ordinary, if extremely valuable, gem. Gaztea, Brother Candor's henchmen and an accomplished fence, guessed that it might be worth close to 10,000 gp to the right seller and she practically begged the party to take it with them back to Admas to sell, figuring they could find another way into the House of Portals level of the dungeon. Neither Brother Candor nor Dordagdonar thought much of this plan, unfortunately for her. The only way out of the room with the skull was a large metal door that had no handle or knob and would not budge under normal attempts to do so. It too radiated magic but it was immune to knock.

I should note here that this room and the ones immediately before it were lifted in outline from Michael Curtis's excellent Stonhell Dungeon, which has been the source of some inspiration for me as I've fleshed out Dwimmermount. Because of my rather seat-of-the-pants style of refereeing, I often scramble to keep just ahead of the players in terms of populating the dungeon. When ideas of mine just aren't flowing as quickly as they need to, I unashamedly swipe good stuff from various sources, like Stonhell, Castle of the Mad Archmage, The Darkness Beneath, and other similarly sprawling megadungeons. This is actually useful in many respects, because it helps make Dwimmermount feel weirder and less predictable, as, like all referees, have tend to have standard approaches that I might otherwise overuse if I didn't borrow elements from other sources. Call me lazy, if you will, but I've found this approach both minimizes my prep time and keeps the campaign fresh.

In any case, the pedestal on which the skull sat was inscribed with magical runes that read, under read magic, "The soul is the font of all great Art." Now, the characters immediately surmised that "Art" in this instance refereed to magic, which is why Brother Candor assumed that the gem was some kind of magic jar or similar device. What neither he nor anyone else in the party could decide was whether the gem already contained a soul that needed to be released from it in order to remove the power from the device that kept the door closed or if the gem needed a soul to inhabit it in order to power the device that opened the door. In the end, the characters came to two possible avenues of approach: somehow destroy the gem or somehow place someone's soul within the gem. The problem was that the former approach, if incorrect, would bar their way forward on a presumably permanent basis, so they did not want to use until they'd exhausted other possibilities.

Puzzling out the gem and the ramifications of various approaches took up a very large part of the session (as did non-game-related side discussions, but that's another matter). I was actually surprised by how much time was taken up by this, but, in retrospect, I shouldn't have been, as the clues I presented were limited and ambiguous and I'd contrived to put the party in a situation in which certain avenues of investigation, while potentially correct, could also be sufficiently disastrously long that they were reluctant to try them. I don't regret doing this, though I doubt I'll do it again anytime soon, as it slowed down further exploration of the dungeon more than I wanted it to do.

Eventually, Dordgadonar concluded that, if the gem were a receptacle for a soul, then perhaps someone could cast magic jar on themselves, inhabit the gem, thereby powering it and opening the door, and the rest of the party could move forward, presumably finding some way to get the trapped soul back into the caster's body. Since he didn't know anything specific about the mechanics of soul jar, it being a couple of levels higher than his highest level spells, he suggested that the party travel to Yethlyreom to seek out more detailed information. The party could have done this in Adamas, but they reckoned it had the potential to create trouble, especially if anyone in the churches of Typhon or Tyche found out that they were messing with such dark magic.

The party booked passage on a riverboat and made their way to Yethlyreom. The City of the Necromancers, you might recall, bans the entrance of all clerics, both out of philosophical disdain for the gods and because the potential havoc a cleric's turning ability could wreak among the city's main undead. So, Brother Candor opted to disguise himself before entering Yethlyreom rather than waiting outside the city's skeleton and zombie-guarded walls. Once inside, they took in the sights, finding that, if you ignore the fact that there were a lot of mindless undead and their human handlers wandering about the city, doing menial tasks, it wasn't that much different a place than Adamas. Yethlyreom is a bit less labyrinthine in its layout, meaning that it was actually less gloomy than Adams, though, again, the presence of so many undead tended to detract from this fact.

The eventually learned that the best place to find the information they sought was at the shop of a necromancer named Callett, who specialized in such things. They entered his large place of business, which was packed with weird and disgusting merchandise, and were immediately met by a young apprentice who welcomed them and asked what they sought. Dordagdonar rather straightfacedly admitted that they sought some information about the workings of the magic jar spell, as well as potentially of a scroll of the same. The apprentice explained that magic jar was "a very popular spell" in Yethlyreom and he was sure they had several such scrolls in stock, though the price would be high -- 1500 gold pieces.

Dordagdonar wasn't put off by the price, as he had in fact assumed the price would be higher. He did want to know a few more answers about its working, such as its range and if the caster whose soul was now in the magic jar could cease its operations at will. When he learned that the spell had a sizable range and that the caster could in fact choose to end its effects whenever he wished, he was satisfied that this was indeed the spell he needed. The apprentice then asked a few questions of the party, such as where they came from and what they intended to do with the spell. They were as truthful as they could be, but nevertheless guarded, since they didn't want to alert anyone else to where they were exploring.

This coyness led to their being asked to speak with Callett himself before the scroll could be sold to them. Callett was a distinguished older gentleman who spoke with a commanding but un-sinister voice quite different than what they'd expected based on his occupation. His questions mostly echoed those of his apprentice, but he also tried harder to get the PCs to admit just what they were doing and why, "out of professional curiosity, you understand." When they stayed tight-lipped, he simply smiled and sent them on their way. Dordagdonar purchased the scroll and, in the process, discovered that Callett's shop had most of the supplies he needed to complete his flesh golem, except the cadavers, which, by law, cannot be sold in Yethlyreom, all corpses becoming property of the city's ruling council for animation into undead servitors.

Scroll in hand, the party took the riverboat back to Adamas and then journeyed to Muntburg and thence to Dwimmermount. Finding their way back to the room with the skull, Dordagdonar cast magic jar from the scroll, placed his soul inside it the gem, and, as expected, the door opened. However, there was no evidence of a handle or knob on the other side of the now-open door, so Brother Candor expected that the door was one-way. Beyond the door was another circular room in which there was an empty archway that reminded him of other portals they'd seen in Dwimmermount and no other exits, suggesting that this was indeed the entrance to the House of Portals they sought.

After briefly considering other options, all of the party moved into the newly-opened room, bringing Dordagdonar's lifeless body with them. Sensing this, Dordagdonar released the spell, his soul snapping back to his body and, as expected, the door closing behind them, preventing their return back the way they came. Reading the runes inscribed on the portal, the revived Dordagdonar realized the spell required both a fireball and lightning bolt cast in quick succession in order to power it. Doing so, the portal sprang to life and the Fortune's Fools prepared to pass through into whatever lay beyond.

All things considered, a fun session. I was happy to have the opportunity to describe a little more of the world outside of Dwimmermount and lay the groundwork for future developments. I was also pleased with the players' ingenuity in figuring out a course of action, especially given that the inspiration for the skull and sapphire works very differently than the way it worked when dropped into Dwimmermount. I borrow shamelessly from other sources, but it's rare that anything I borrow makes the transition into my game without lots of changes. I may be lazy, but I'm not that lazy.

13 comments:

  1. That had to be a big decision for Dordagdonar. I love the look of slight terror when a PC makes a choice like that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Oh yes, it was quite uncertain what would happen, leading to some discussions beforehand as to whether or not elves even have souls to jar. Dordagdonar was assured in Yethlyreom that they do, or at least something close enough to make the spell work.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love how cautious your players are, and how much time they spend working things out. It may make for a slower game session, but it certainly feels more realistic.

    ReplyDelete
  4. My players are definitely cautious, but that's because they're experienced roleplayers with a long history of gaming with me and thus know their characters' lives depend greatly on being careful :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Sounds like a fun session, to me, and Dordagdonar is braver than I probably would be; the whole question of "But what if there's something we haven't accounted for and I can't get out of the gem" would weigh a bit too heavily. :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. Your accounts are fascinating. How I long for my old gaming group and our crossover campaigns that lasted years!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I wish my groups were able to figure stuff like that out. They more than likely would have spent an entire game session trying to figure out if the gem could be moved and sold. x_X

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think the little details like the bit about the characters not wanting to research the magic jar spell in Adamas because of the potential repercussions from the clergy of Typhon and/or Tyche are what make the campaign recaps such fun to read. It really gives a good flavor of the world you've built, but it also shows very clearly how much the players have invested in the details of the world. I love it when the players are able to remember things like this and put their knowledge of the campaign world to good use, instead of just going for the quickest "game mechanic" solution.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I wish my groups were able to figure stuff like that out. They more than likely would have spent an entire game session trying to figure out if the gem could be moved and sold. x_X

    Well, one of their henchmen was advocating this course of action, at least :)

    ReplyDelete
  10. It really gives a good flavor of the world you've built, but it also shows very clearly how much the players have invested in the details of the world. I love it when the players are able to remember things like this and put their knowledge of the campaign world to good use, instead of just going for the quickest "game mechanic" solution.

    This is the kind of stuff that happens when you have a longstanding gaming group consisting of people who know and trust one another. I've been gaming with some of the people in this group since 1992 or thereabouts, which I realize isn't all that long in the grand scheme of things, but it's long enough that we can play games together and get into a good groove early on in the campaign.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Another excellent summary. I must echo the people above, I love all the little details, that make it seem so alive.

    I like this style of play rather than the endless combat of 3.5 (and I love combat) or the "Roll on you arcana skill". A couple skill rolls and the DM would probably all but tell us we need to use magic jar. We would then travel to the city of Necromancy, and when the apprentice hesitated to sell us the scroll, the interaction would be, I bluff him, I rolled a... I know it does not have to be that way, but 3.5 encourages it.

    Sorry I really meant to compliment you on your excellent summary (so you will keep writing them) and somehow descended into edition wars.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Now I'm kind of curious what those side discussions you mentioned were about. Well, maybe not in great detail, but has that ever been a topic—the most interesting/funny digressions one has ever had during a game session?

    ReplyDelete
  13. Now I'm kind of curious what those side discussions you mentioned were about. Well, maybe not in great detail, but has that ever been a topic—the most interesting/funny digressions one has ever had during a game session?

    Our digressions can be truly wide ranging, but typically hang either on some real world reference someone makes in the game or else on some point of contention about an aspect of the game. So, for example, if I describe a particular type of gem or metal, then we might go off on a tangent about gemstones or metallurgy and then wander from there. In this past session, I made a joking reference to Y2K and my daughter, who was born in January 2000, asked "What's that?" and we wound up wasting a good 30 minutes talking about it and topics pertaining to it.

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.