Monday, May 25, 2009

Dwimmermount, Session 12

After a two-week hiatus because scheduling conflicts, we resumed the Dwimmermount campaign yesterday. At the conclusion of the previous session, the characters had to flee Adamas for fear of being charged with the death of an alchemist in their employ. This meant they had no choice but to rush headlong back into Dwimmermount, since, oddly, it was a safer place for them than the city-state, at least in the short term. Once inside, they continued their exploration of the sub-level they'd been mapping the last time they were inside the mountain fortress. In doing so, they discovered a ventillation shaft designed to allow fresh air from the surface to enter the dungeon (and the giant bats that were nesting in said shaft). They also encountered creatures that they called "big kobolds,"slightly tougher little guys than the ones they'd seen on Level 1. These creatures were engaged in the creation of strange whorls of paint on the walls of one room in the dungeon. After they were defeated, the PCs examined the paint to discover that it appeared to be mixed with small amounts of azoth, which caused the paint to dry quickly and leave behind peculiar vein-like patterns on the walls.

Pressing on, the characters first found a room containing a statue they assumed was related to the mythology of Turms Termax. In a rare display of impetuousness, the elf Dordagdonar entered the room alone and began looking for secret doors, failing to notice the green slime on the ceiling, which promptly dropped on his head. Fortunately, the application of fire by Brother Candor and Vladimir destroyed the slime but not without leaving a scar on the elf's face, which he declared forever marred his beauty and would deprive him of the company of other elves, who would judge him "hideous."

Slimes, molds, and fungi seemed to be a theme for the dungeon as they pressed onward into the dungeon, where they encountered a room whose surfaces were almost entirely covered with weird growths. Fearing what would happen if they ventured in too far, Vladimir decided to take his torch with him and clear a path from one archway to another. He figured he could burn away some of the growths, bit by bit, and avoid their potential danger. What he didn't count on was the fact that, in setting fire to them, he'd cause them to release noxious spores into the air, which he inhaled. A failed saving throw later and the intrepid dwarf was dead.

Through the clever use of a grappling hook, the party recovered Vladimir's body. Brother Candor decided that they could pool their limited funds to have the dwarf raised from the dead at the Temple of Tyche in Adamas. Unfortunately, that meant return to the city-state where they were wanted men. After some thought, they found a farm on the way between Muntburg and Adamas, where they paid the farmer for the temporary use of his cart. They then cleaned his stalls of manure, piling it into the cart and on top of Vladimir's corpse. They also applied a healthy dose of the excrement to themselves so that they could enter Adamas "disguised" as manure collectors. The plan worked well enough and Vladimir was restored to life. However, the priests of Tyche cautioned Candor about ever again returning to the temple, since he could bring the law down upon them. Meanwhile, Dordagdonar had an iron mask fashioned for himself to hide his "disfigurement."

With Vladimir once more among their company, the party returned to Dwimmermount. There they encountered some animated skeletons, which served as guards to a large chamber that looked like a desecrated temple to Turms Termax. Overseeing the temple was a strange lich-like being, dressed in the rotting robes of a priest of the god of magic. He was preaching to an invisible congregation, denouncing the church of Turms as a sham and immortality as a false hope that leads only to a living death. He took no notice of the PCs, who did not interact with him out of fear of what would happen.

Moving onward, the characters found a room where the floor stones had been overturned to reveal bare earth. Upon entering, giant ants burrowed up from below the earth and attacked them. The ants' poison claimed two hirelings, Wulfhere and Brandis, and, while Dordagdonar's use of a web spell helped defeat the giant insects, the party was now low on muscle. Brother Candor reluctantly decided to return to Adamas and face the music, hoping that he could use the head of Jasper -- which was kept preserved in formaldehyde -- could set the record straight. The priests of Tyche agreed to accompany him to talk with the constabulary and to cast speak with dead on the poreserved head, which did in fact exonerate him of murder. However, Candor was still fined for desecrating a corpse and he was told that the constabulary would be keeping an eye on him, since he was a "known troublemaker." With that, the PCs decided they needed to find new hirelings and to seek out more information about Saidon the Archivist, the priest of Typhon whom Jasper the alchemist had spoken to shortly before his death.

As usual, a superb session, filled with lots of action, mysteries, and roleplaying. I am very pleased with how the campaign is unfolding.


  1. It's not easy to turn a game session into a narrative but I find these game reports fascinating. The players seem to achieve a lot in a single session so I imagine as a DM you have techniques for smoothly transitioning between distinct locations, city and dungeon, without grinding out the journeys but also without teleporting the party back and forth.

    I never allowed a player character to be resurrected, though I am slow to kill them in the first place. I wonder if you see it as a problem and hence the plausible 'never return to the temple'. I really think a player should have to sit out a session after character death or perhaps take the role of a weak hireling as a once off.

    What is the attitude of the principal figures of state to Dwimmermount and mercenary parties of dungeoneers? Are there no state-funded expeditions below? Is it not a place that gives them sleepless nights?

  2. I loved the incident with the manure cart. It must be an unwritten law of RPGs that the corpses of dead PCs are subjected to indignities by their still-living colleagues. I recall once a PC wizard was killed by a dragon. To preserve his body until we could get him back to be raised, I (a F/MU/T)used a spell that let me turn living things to cloth. (Can't think of its name) It worked, but he was really annoyed at us for playing with the "Mr. Durathor doll." :)

    Sounds like a great session, and I love the room with the undead preacher: that's a mystery I as a player would have to come back to solve.

    Tell me, how common is Raise Dead in your campaign, and how do you keep it from seeming to be "nothing special?" That was one of the things that bothered me in D&D, so I made them quite rare.

    And the Elf seems to be doing a great job creating a memorable character.

  3. "...leaving a scar on the elf's face, which he declared forever marred his beauty and would deprive him of the company of other elves, who would judge him 'hideous.'"

    The Elf in the Iron Mask?

    Doctor Amarth?

  4. I get the feeling that the elf's player has read some Vance.

  5. I would be fascinated to hear about the actual play circumstances, and what if any mechanical elements were referenced, in the decision to inflict the elf with a scar! I think it could be an instructive example of how "rulings not rules" plays in practice. Would you be willing to give us more detail on how this played out at the table?

  6. Thanks for sharing the narrative, James. It was excellent. I think the resurrection question is a good one. I've typically not disallowed it by fiat but have made it very costly in one way or another; maybe requiring the characters to complete some sort of unpleasant task or pay through the nose (it's nice to have some methods to separate characters from their shekels). There are also geographic locations where it might not be possible. I think the onus is on the surviving characters to decide whether or not to pay the cost of resurrection, which makes for interesting role-playing and adventures (like the farmer and the manure--well-played all the way around, James). I've noticed a certain amount of meta-game activity as the player of the deceased character stares at the rest of the players in silent pleading.

  7. @Rafial

    The process of burning the green slime off of Dordagdonar required all of Brother Candor's memorized cure light wounds to heal. Even so, he was left one point shy of his maximum hit point total.

    So Brother Candor simply remarked something along the lines of "Well, you're none the worse for wear, though it may leave a slight scar.", which Dordagdonar's player immediately ran with.

    @The Rusty Battle Axe

    The decision to raise Vladimir was ultimately Brother Candor's, and it wasn't an easy one to make. Vlad's player was quite alright with the death, and was willing to play a henchman and roll up a new character.

    Candor, though a cleric of Tyche, is really a bit too softy-hearted for the adventuring life, to be honest. Candor justified the raising of Vladimir due to the fact that he felt that Vlad still had some important work as yet unfinished, the completion of Vladimir's son.

    In the end it worked out. Vlad payed Candor back for the gold he owed him as soon as he was able (we made quite a lot of gold from gems and jewelry found in the ant lair), and even told the party where he was keeping his son, in case something should happen to him.

  8. @FuriousDave

    Thanks! That's exactly the information I was looking for. I like the mechanical aspect of being one hit point shy feeding the casual remark, which then gets built by another player into a narrative development of lasting significance.

    Very cool!

  9. @FuriousDave.

    Second on Rafial's thanks for the reply and further detail. While vicarious adventuring is not the same as being there, I do feel as I have been eavesdropping on a grand tale being told at the next table while hanging out in my favorite Dwimmermount tavern.

  10. I always enjoy the Dwimmermount post reports but, assuming my assumptions regarding the inspiration behind one or two of the encounters of last session are correct, I liked this session recap best of all.

    Well played, James.

  11. DMing RPG's is the way to a great fantasy book. Your narrative is truly captivating- I was also surprised at the resurrection.

  12. Mate . Well done.
    My life just went into the corner and shot itself.
    I have to read everything you have written. Where has this blog Been ?

    My blog

  13. "My life just went into the corner and shot itself."

    Oh, consider this phrase stolen. :D

  14. This is strictly OT, but knowing your ambivalence about the thief, I thought you'd like to see (and hear) it: John Hodgman's and yahtzee's tribute to the video game tribute to the class, on the occasion of the fourquel coming out:

    FWIW I was deeply conflicted about the video game THIEF: on the one hand it offered thiefplay such as I had never actually seen pulled off in real roleplaying (especially not in D&D). On the other hand, being a video game, it worked inside a very reduced problem space, which seemed especially problematic given the sneaky nature of the piece. It was a bit like playing spy vs spy without gadgets.

  15. Awesome adventure!
    What is azoth and why the whorls of paint?