Monday, November 8, 2010

Dwimmermount, Sessions 54-56

I haven't posted any sessions reports for Dwimmermount in a while, but the campaign is still ongoing. I continue to struggle with the best way to present these reports, since, being a dungeon-centric campaign, much of the "action" that transpires each week consists of exploring, mapping, rooting around in rubble and refuse, puzzling out secret doors and hidden rooms might be located, interspersed with combats against wandering monsters and the like. This is (mostly) fun stuff at the table, but, were to recount this enjoyably in any detail would require storytelling far beyond my meager abilities. Consequently, when, as has been the case lately, the sessions have mostly been about the PCs fumbling around in the dark, I don't find myself strongly compelled to write up a session report.

Now, some of this is my own fault. When the characters learned some time ago that they could circumvent the magical shield that blocked descent beyond Level 5 by means of a series of dimensional portals, I set things up so that their trip was one-way. That made perfect sense within the context of how I'd presented the structure of Dwimmermount, but I'll be the first to admit that it had the potential to backfire by trapping the PCs within the dungeon without any clear means of escape. I thought I was prepared for this possibility by establishing a number of (obvious to me) paths out of the dungeon, but my players, if they saw them, chose to ignore them. In the case of, for example, the portal to the Red Planet, I can't say that I blame them, but the fact remains that I'd mistakenly assumed they'd follow bite the bullet and make their way to Areon (or some other world) rather than puttering around on dungeon levels whose entrances and exits were unknown to them.

Looking back, I don't regret my decision nor do I begrudge my players for behaving rationally. What I do regret is that I didn't re-arrange the contents of the dungeon levels a little bit and throw some of the more interesting bits and pieces at the players. They were, as if by design, systematically avoiding all the significant locales of the two dungeon levels on which they were lost. If they'd just gone left rather than right, they might have found something other than another room filled with dungeon trappings or a chamber filled with giant spiders or whatever. But my gut instinct is always to present the game world as it is rather than alter it to achieve a certain end, no matter how preferable that end might seem to me to what's currently happening. That's the difference between a referee and a storyteller, I think, and the only storytellers in the Dwimmermount campaign are the players and myself after the fact, as we piece together all the disparate events of weeks of play into something that, to an outsider, seems to cohere but is in fact just "a bunch of stuff that happened."

Lest any think nothing of import happened while the PCs were wandering in the dark, it should be noted that the party found a new level that appeared to be devoted to experimentation of various sorts. Many rooms contained alchemical and magical apparatuses and showed signs of having been recently used. Many rooms were guarded by ogres and bugbears, who worked in concert, using their knowledge of the dungeon level to attempt to ambush their opponents. There was also a bizarre room with nine niches in its walls, each niche being filled with powdered stone. In a nearby storage room were three sets of nine statues, all made from the same stone as the powder the PCs found. Eight of the statues were of the deities of the Thulian Great Church, while the ninth was of an unknown god (but not Turms Termax).

The same level was filled with lots of normal rats, scurrying about, collecting items. Eventually, the characters discovered a room where a somewhat larger white rat was seemingly directing the other rats in their activities. Brother Candor used his speak with animals spell to engage the rat, who was displeased to see the party, whom he addressed as "the Cat King's errand boys." Surprised at this, Candor engaged the rat, who called himself "Rico" in conversation, and learned from him that the rats and cats of Adamas were gearing up for war and the rats were attempting to enlist the aid of the dogs in their cause, sweetening the pot by collecting unusual bones from monsters in Dwimmermount. Rico offered to help the PCs escape to the surface if they promised to go speak to "the Boss" back in the city-state and put in a good word for him. Candor agreed, although Dordagdonar doubted that the rats would prove loyal, to which Rico responded, "Rats can be bought, it's true, but, unlike cats, we stay bought." A rat named "Johnny" guided the party through several corridors and rooms to a flight of stairs with a door at its top, which opened on to the eastern side of Dwimmermount. Carefully scaling the cliff to the ground, the party then made it way back to Muntburg.

At Muntburg, they checked up on their apartments and the guards left behind. Brother Candor used his scroll of raise dead on Angrboda, no longer worried that the weakness with which the spell would saddle her for two weeks would endanger her life further. She remained behind in the apartments, while the rest headed to Adamas to identify and sell their loot. Visiting Adolphus, the sage they employ, they discovered that they had suits of magic armor in their possession, along with a staff of power, and some belts that replicated the functions of a necklace of adaptation. Using Gaztea as a fence, they managed to sell quite a lot of their gems, jewelry, and other baubles, netting them some good coin. Brother Candor gave a significant tithe to the temple of Tyche, enough to reach 7th level, which also gave him access to 5th-level spells, including plane shift, which he thought might be useful in helping Dr. Halsey return to his own world.

But such considerations would have to wait until some time later, after they'd paid a visit to the Boss of the Rats and learned more about this looming war between his subjects and those of the Cat King. This was left to next week's session, which, I am hopeful, will prove a lively and enjoyable one after so long trapped within the bowels of Dwimmermount.


  1. If any particular Dwimmermount session seems too mundane to relate, how about turning it into a post relating in detail one aspect of the evening? For example, this: "a bizarre room with nine niches in its walls, each niche being filled with powdered stone." How did they (literally) approach the room? What did they see first? How did the PCs react? What did PCs do with the powders? Did they "test" them? Did they put some in a pouch to take along? Et cetera.

    Setting aside the difficulties in composing such a post (e.g., recalling all of the detail), it would make for a viscerally pleasing experience for us readers. We'd get a feel for the detailed back and forth between you and the players, and experience second-hand the problem-solving the players engage in during such adventures.

  2. I'm just loving this side plot with the animals: first the King of the Cats, now Johnny and Rico the Rats? I half-expect the King of the Dogs to be named "Bowser." :)

    Seriously, I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

  3. Ah ... the beauty of Old School. In 4e, scurrying rats would be an environmental distraction / flavor along the tracks to the next mook or boss combat scene.

    Here, they become potentially central NPCs. If the players choose to follow up. Otherwise, the preparations for war continue apace, and may or may not ever impact the PCs.

  4. "...the rats and cats of Adamas were gearing up for war and the rats were attempting to enlist the aid of the dogs in their cause, sweetening the pot by collecting unusual bones from monsters in Dwimmermount."

    I love this.

  5. "Rats can be bought, it's true, but, unlike cats, we stay bought."

    I'd always suspected as much about cats...

    The animals remind me of my favorite obscure Tolkien character, the fox passing through the woods "on business of his own" spotting the hobbits and muttering to himself. He meant nothing in the grand scheme of the book, but served as reminder that the world was still going on and was much bigger than the limited perspective of the characters. Plus there's a fun "fairy tale" sort of element to it all. Great stuff.

  6. Completely understandable that they would seem to be systematically avoiding anything interesting. The secret is that they where! They are trapped in a strange place with no clear way out so to them "interesting" is just another way of saying death wish. The curse "May you live an interesting life" is used for a reason.

  7. I love this.

    The players do too. The Animal Kings have become some of their favorite NPCs.