Monday, January 31, 2011

Dwimmermount, Sessions 60-61

Since the conclusion of their dealings with the Rat Boss and Brother Candor's surreptitious recovery of the tome of the Iron God from the archives of the Temple of Typhon, the PCs have been largely concerned with investigative matters. The tome, for example, solidified Candor's growing sense that it was time to make a break with Tyche and adopt the Iron God as his "divine" patron. For one, the faith of Tyche is heavily dominated by women -- there are no males in its highest echelons -- and, for another, Candor senses that he is viewed with suspicion by his superiors, a loose cannon who threatens to undermine the temple's growing respectability in Adamas. Furthermore, what he has seen in Dwimmermount has caused Candor to question the very nature (and existence) of the gods of the Thulian Great Church. Having come face to face with the being others called the Iron God had done much to undermine his belief in Lady Luck.

The question then became how Candor ought to proceed. He had been given the means to start up a cult devoted to the Iron God and he knew that doing so would speed his recovery from the wounds he received in his long-ago struggle with Orcus. But how does on go about starting a new religion, especially when doing so might well arouse the ire of already-established religions? Likewise, where does one find worshipers? After much discussion, Candor and Dordagdonar -- who finds the whole matter of human religion somewhat baffling -- concluded that it might be best to create the first shrine to the Iron God in a location far from Adamas, a place that could be kept secret. Odd as it seemed, the most logical location were the Thulian crypts that once held the zombie horde that ravaged the countryside months ago. Properly blessed, they'd be sufficiently far away and hidden that they could be made to serve.

As to worshipers, the idea was hit upon to possibly use the gate to the Red Planet of Areon to travel there and spread the word of the Iron God among the slaves of the Eld. After all, the Eld consort with demons and undead alike, two foes of the Iron God. To the downtrodden of Areon, the Iron God's teachings might well hold appeal. The problem, of course, was surviving long enough on the Red Planet to be able to effect any change, let alone change far-reaching enough to result in devotees of the Iron God. Of course, Dordagdonar had his own reasons for suggesting a trek to Areon. After the recent revelations regarding the dwarves and their relationship to humanity, the elf has begun to suspect that the history of his own people may not be quite as he had been told. He's begun to take an interest in alternative versions of elven history and feels that there may be hidden knowledge on the Red Planet that will shed some light on the past.

Before doing any of this, though, the party returned briefly to Dwimmermount to revisit the temple of the Iron God within it. There, they removed the great statue of the god and placed it within a bag of holding so that it could be easily transported to its eventual home in the crypts north of Adamas. While there, Candor, Dordagdonar, Dr. Halsey, and Brother Marius also made use of the arcane device that can transport people to the realm of Xaranes the Iron God. Brother Candor had some further questions to ask of him, as did Dordagdonar. More to the point, it simply seemed wise to consult with the Iron God prior to undertaking this grand plan to establish a new cult in his name.

Upon arriving in the otherworld where Xaranes dwells, the party found him up and active -- a remarkable change from their previous encounter with him. He was surprised to see the visitors and initially did not remember them. It was only after his memory was jogged that he recalled their having come before. He explained once again that time "flows differently" for him than it does "within the sphere" and that often made it hard for him to tell if he'd already met someone or if his meeting was still to come in the future. When Brother Candor asked how some of his wounds had healed, Xaranes explained that he had been receiving "positive energy" sent via the statue. He began to thank Candor for his role in this, but Candor quickly told him that he had yet to establish a cult in his name and so had no part in his healing. Xaranes was genuinely puzzled by this and pointed out that he was receiving aid through one of his statues, a comment that raised further questions, as Candor had mistakenly believed that the statue formerly in Dwimmermount was the only one in existence. Xaranes denied that this was so and stated that there was one near the city they called Yethlyreom.

Needless to say, this caused quite a shock to the PCs, who then decided that they'd need to investigate the location of this other statue. Before doing so, though Dr. Halsey took the time to ask some questions of the Iron God as well. In particular, he wanted to know how he could get home, to which the Iron God shrugged. Xaranes admitted that it was possible to travel "between parallel spheres" but that this technology originated "with the Ancients" and was not one to which he personally had access. The PCs had never heard of "the Ancients" before and Xaranes provided little information about them, except to say that they "existed before" and it was they who had driven the Eld to Areon, a detail that contradicted the accepted history of the Thulians' role in overthrowing the Eldritch Empire and establishing their own in its place. Xaranes did suggest that the Eld might still retain such knowledge, as did the his own masters, the Makers, but obtaining it would take much effort.

Filled with even more questions, the party then made use of the Iron God's transportation device to journey to the location of the other of his statues. They found themselves in a dark and damp cavern, filled with melted candles and showing evidence of having been used recently as a worship site. Dordagdonar suggested they were in a natural cave somewhere along the Ildhon River that ran past Yethlyreom. Further exploration uncovered a concealed door (behind a false stone) that led into a small archive filled with books and scrolls of all sorts. The archive was inhabited by a middle aged man named Alzo, who was overjoyed to see Brother Candor, whom he immediately took to be a messenger from the Iron God (owing to his plate armor and the holy symbol he bore).

Alzo answered many questions from the PCs, explaining that there'd been a cult of the Iron God in Yethlyreom for several centuries. Indeed, the city was once devoted to his faith but it was overthrown in the wreck of the Thulian Empire, when the ruling necromancers decided that all religion had been tainted by the Termaxians, even though that of the Iron God was one of the few that had stood comparatively firm against the pretensions of the followers of Turms. The local cult was small and had recently suffered some setbacks after several of its cells were betrayed and its members slain. But the appearance of Brother Candor proved that the Iron God was watching his faithful and was now sending a champion to turn things around!

The Yethlyreom cult was headed by an old woman named Phaedra. Alzo agreed to arrange a meeting between her and Brother Candor, which would take place in the Outer City, where clerics were tolerated. Phaedra was a steely-eyed woman of ancient years and was clearly suspicious of these new arrivals. From talking to her, it soon became clear that, though she knew much, she wasn't quite as well informed about the Iron God as was Candor. She did, however, know that Xaranes was no god but some other type of being -- "a magically potent man, perhaps" -- which is why she interrogated Candor as to his intentions. Phaedra seemed doubtful that an individual who had previously devoted himself to one of the Thulian gods would now abandon it to serve as an evangelist for a being they both knew was no deity. And Candor quickly got the sense that she was herself more devoted to using the cult as a tool to overthrowing the ruling necromancers than to tenets of the Iron God.

The conversation was a frank one and Phaedra agreed to cooperate with Candor "in matters of mutual interest." He taught her how to communicate between the statues, allowing the two cults to stay in contact with one another. At the same time, Phaedra suggested that Brother Candor stay away from Yethlyreom for a while. If he and his companions were ever needed, she would get in touch with them, but she implied that he would have other matters to keep him occupied. To this, Candor agreed, explaining to her that he felt some kind of change was coming to the world and the Iron God would play a major role in this change. Phaedra admitted that she, too, felt the future would soon be upon them, though she had no idea what it would bring.

11 comments:

  1. I have been patiently waiting for this next update. Thank you! You and your group's story is a terrific one, and it's developing apace (with or without pre-planning).

    At what point did you know, or decide, about the second statue? Is the details about the Makers and the Ancients a new one, too? Is Xaranes' description of the "spheres" inspired by or similar to the conception of Lankhmar's plane being on the inside of a bubble admist other bubbles?

    You don't have to answer my silly questions, of course. But thank you for presenting such an intriguing story that I can't help but wonder about the bits and pieces.

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  2. Several nice turns in these two sessions -- I can't wait to see how it plays out.

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  3. Although it took some time for me to realise the Dwimmermount posts' charms - compared to the immediate appeal of the "Pulp Fantasy Library" - I believe that they are the pieces that will have the most lasting effect on how I think about gaming. I think that a document collecting all of these pieces together would be a fantastic resource. (I realise that they're all here on the site, but a blog's structure showing things in reverse chronological order makes following the narrative rather awkward)

    For me, these insights into how a game was played are worth more than details of the game itself. I don't feel so much inclined to play Dwimmermount per se as to play a game in this style.

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  4. Like PCB, I also was initially disinclined to read the Dwimmermount posts with more than a cursory glance, as what really attracted me to the Blog was your retrospectives of older games, and I usually find reading session reports of other peoples' games to be a chore. However, now I really look forward to reading the Dwimmermount posts and I think they're now my favorite part of the blog. And, also like PCB, it's the style of the Dwimmermount game that sounds very intriguing, although I also really enjoy the old-school "pulp" feel of the campaign so far.

    I also really like that, in the above two recaps, there was a lot of "figuring things out" versus "where are the orcs to kill?" I think it's cool that your players are okay with having a whole session with little or no combat. As a referee, I often enjoy those sessions more than the combat-oriented ones.

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  5. James, you have an uncanny -- and I would wager unconscious -- ability to tell whenever I'm getting burned out with D&D. As soon as I start to feel the malaise, you make a dwimmermount post and I'm inspired again to work on my megadungeon.

    Keep them coming.

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  6. It's fun to see how the game naturally moves out of Dwimmermount and embrasses the wider world (created from adventures inside Dwimmermount).

    This seems to be a natural evolution of most old school style campaigns, which doesn't happen when one forces a narrative structure on the play (which is usually focused on "completing" the dungeon). The upper levels give you the ability (power, wealth, and equipment) to establish yourself in the Real World™. The lower levels then become the repository of increasingly potent secrets requiring greater resources to exploit properly than would appear apparent in a simple dungeon crawl.

    Enjoying these tales immensely and awaiting each new revelation with bated breath.

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  7. I haven't played D&D like this for years, but man oh man, you make me want to join a campaign so badly! If only I could find some around me! Keep writing, this is quite possibly my favorite blog out there.

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  8. Reverance Pavane said it better than I ever could.

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  9. This is phenomenal. I had (and I suspect you had) no idea where you were headed, but we have one PC going through a crisis of faith and planning to start a new religion based on a figure he's happy to classify as "not a god" (how are the clerical powers going to work out, I wonder), another who's about to embark on Indiana Jones quests to find out the origins of his race, and active engagement in the deep mysteries of the gameworld, including plans to go see the Ancients and the Eld: stuff most gameworlds (following Tolkienian precedent) keep locked away safely in the metaphysical past. All from pretty modest origins, with avowedly no grand quests.

    I am in awe. As a player, I figured teleporting to unknown destinations like the Red Planet and that peculiar bubble tower would be deeply unappealing: Dwimmermount's right here, and Adamas nearby, and you can resupply here but the Red Planet's a totally alien place. And your players seemed about as chary as I would be. But give them a couple of months for the ideas to become familiar and they'll come round to mounting an expedition.
    I'd genuinely never thought of this. All my games have been point-to-point globetrotting campaigns. But your structure, with a home base and regular forays into dungeonland, seems to encourage active exploration beyond the local area. Players remember the pieces you set down, and start to recombine them on their own. And it's beautiful.

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  10. Fantastic!

    I love these updates, thanks for sharing!

    I get this feeling that there will be others who see what Brother Candor has "brought up from the deptsh" of Dwimmermount as yet another reason that dungeon should never be explored. I cannot wait to see where your players take things next!

    You've given us great insight on how to run a good "sandbox" game, and how it can really be more rewarding than a published adventure/setting. (I say this as an unashamed Dragonlance fan!)

    Keep 'em coming!

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