Finding time to gather together the group during the holidays and the weeks leading up to it was difficult, so we only managed to get in two sessions since the end of November. And as so often happens, those sessions were fairly unfocused, with lots of digressions, asides, and general avoidance of actually playing. That doesn't bother me, as I've explained before, but it does tend to make it much harder for me to maintain my interest in the campaign, which is no doubt why my mind has been wandering lately toward thinking about games other than OD&D. After two years of slightly more than biweekly play, I suppose that's only natural. However, the Dwimmermount campaign hasn't yet reached a convenient "break point," where, if we were all so inclined, we could leave things off with an eye toward picking up the campaign again later. In my experience, campaigns abandoned "mid-stride," so to speak, never get picked up again, which is why I look for natural lulls in the action when considering a hiatus.
Despite all this, what gaming was done in the last two sessions was quite enjoyable and reinvigorated my interest in the campaign, ironically. What I've observed is that the surest way to keep a campaign going is to keep a campaign going, barreling through rough patches and periods of disinterest rather than seeing those things as signs that a campaign should be put to rest. I realize that that's an unpopular opinion among gamers, who generally seem to believe that a campaign ought to be abandoned as soon as every session ceases to be a mile-a-minute fun fest. That likely explains why it's so rare nowadays to hear about campaigns that last more than a few months. It also reinforces gamers' natural tendency toward attention deficit disorder, a phenomenon I consider to have had deleterious effects on both the hobby and the industry, but I digress.
My point is simply that, despite how busy everyone has been and despite my own periodic thoughts of playing other games, the Dwimmermount campaign is alive and well and I'm as happy with it as I was two years ago when I first began it. It's had its ups and downs, like most things in life, but, overall, everyone still involved in the campaign looks forward to it and enjoys it when we do get together. It'd be great if we could get together every week without fail and it'd be great if we managed to cram in more undistracted hours each week than we do. As it is, though, the campaign is still moving along at a good pace and we have fun. This is one of the longest D&D campaigns I've run since my D&D III days and, unlike those, there's no clear end in sight. Just where this campaign will go and how long it'll take to get there, I have no idea and I'm quite happy with that.
The last two sessions dealt with Brother Candor and Dordagdonar's investigation of the sewers beneath Adamas, seeking the location of Cyrus and his accomplices from the Thulian successor state to the south. For logistical as well as practical reasons, these two sessions were limited to two characters, each of whom had a ring of invisibility to make their efforts easier. Led by a rat, they eventually came to a series of chambers that were of ancient Thulian origin, perhaps even older, where the rat informed them the vampire and his cohorts had holed up, along with the Rat Boss's daughter, Muriel.
These chambers, it turned out, were heavily guarded by both force of arms and magic. Most rooms housed many Thulian guards, as well as Termaxian Magisters. From the position of invisibility, the pair were able to observe and plan ahead, which gave them a distinct advantage. What they observed was that a lot of the alchemical equipment that was missing from Dwimmermount had been relocated to these chambers, where they were again activated. The equipment seemed have something to do with the process by which a human being can be turned into an immortal undead being of one variety or another. Brother Candor had earlier surmised that Cyrus was instructing the Thulians in how to create more vampires like himself, in order to bolster their forces as the Thulians of his day had done.
In retrospect, this surmise made no sense, as the cleric and elf discovered after succeeding in capturing an individual laying on a pallet with various tubes and gizmos attached to his body. Under gentle interrogation (though Dordagdonar should little reluctance about inflicting actual harm on him if pushed came to shove), this human admitted that Cyrus himself was not directly helping the Thulians at all. Rather, he was their prisoner and his tainted blood provided the means by which they would create others of his kind. It seems that the southern Thulians had lost the technology to create free-willed undead, even as they retained the ability to create dwarves -- "You can create dwarves?" "Of course! The Empire has not fallen so low as to have forgotten that." -- which proved quite a revelation to the characters. From what they could gather, dwarves were originally created as a labor force by Men in ancient times and certain magic-users continued to make them, although not in the vast numbers they did in the distant past.
Interestingly, Dordagdonar tried to dissuade the prisoner from the path of undeath, suggesting that immortality came at a price. He also suggested that it was the finitude of mankind that enabled it to achieve such great things, a position he urged Brother Candor never to attribute to him in the future. The prisoner simply laughed at this notion, saying that immortality was Man's birthright, one that Turms Termax had first achieved and that all "true spirits" would also achieve one day. The choice, he explained, was between immortality and oblivion, as there is no afterlife, only life and it was the goal of the Magisters to find a way to extend it perpetually as Turms Termax had done. Further discussion revealed that the only difference between the "false Termaxians" and the Magisters was political, with the latter serving the southern Thulian Empire rather than usurping it, as their northern brethren had done. Both groups shared the same highly individualistic, willful philosophy and denied the existence of any gods except those who were once Men who seized godhood for themselves.
The pair eventually discovered the chamber where Cyrus was being held. He was strapped to another machine that was slowly destroying him by siphoning his vampiric blood to infuse into others. Among those in this chamber were a high-ranking Termaxian named Laskaris and Muriel, the wererat daughter of the Rat Boss. As in the other rooms, the cleric and elf used invisibility to good advantage, striking first and quickly eliminating many of their opponents. Still, the battle to free Cyrus was difficult, especially since they did not want to harm Muriel. What eventually transpired was that Cyrus was freed and used his charm person ability to place her under his spell so that she could be directed back to her father.
Cyrus explained that he had originally contacted Thulian agents in hopes of offering his services to the rightful emperor. A soldier by both profession and disposition, he found himself lost without a lord to serve. Who better to serve in this age of barbarians than the current holder of the throne of Thule? What he soon discovered, though, was that the Termaxians exercised almost as much influence in the south as they did in his day. Though servants of the throne, their viewpoint and methods were little different and they saw in him the opportunity to find a path to immortality. He was captured and experimented upon before they strapped him to that machine to create more vampires.
Dordagdonar was insistent that Cyrus could not be allowed to escape again and that he ought to be destroyed. Brother Candor, as usual, was not sure this was the best course of action and suggested that Cyrus might yet have a use. The elf was skeptical and argued that, as long as Cyrus lived, the Termaxians would be seeking him. They failed this time to get what they wanted from him, but they would be back. Cyrus confirmed this; he said that, even now, more agents, perhaps even larger forces, would be coming from the south. With Dwimmermount again open and full of ancient secrets, the southern emperor would want to take it for his own use, as would the Magisters. It was only a matter of time before Adamas and the surrounding region would be plunged into conflict with the Thulians.
This gave Brother Candor an idea. He suggested that perhaps Cyrus could offer his services to the Despot of Adamas. His strategic skills and knowledge of Thulian military planning would be invaluable. Plus, he might use his influence to lift the "barbarians" up out of the muck and become "properly civilized." Cyrus was uncertain about this, but agreed to consider it. He admitted that he needed a purpose for his existence and, having been betrayed by his own empire not once but twice, he could never again work with the Thulians. Brother Candor agreed to use his influence with the Despot and Senate of Adamas to try and get Cyrus a hearing.
Finally, the pair returned Muriel to her father, who was grateful for her safe return and promised she would be "disciplined" for her misbehavior, though he was evasive on the question of just what she'd been up to or why. Preferring not to antagonize the Rat Boss ("Better to have a criminal mastermind owe you a favor than to owe on to him," as Candor put it), they simply sought out their reward, the book the rat named Specs obtained for them from the library of the temple of Typhon. The book was very old and contained information about the Iron God -- how he was really a traveler from "beyond the sphere" who been sent by "the Makers" to fight demons. So successful was he that the local inhabitants came to view him as a god. Likewise, he attracted the attention of Orcus, who personally came to slay the traveler. Orcus was defeated, but the Iron God was wounded badly enough that he retreated from the world and has not been seen since (except by the PCs, of course).
And that's where things stood at the conclusion of our last two sessions.