Saturday, November 21, 2009

Dwimmermount, Session 22

My apologies for the long delay between posting session reports. Here it is, the day before Session 23, and I'm only now posting details of last weekend's session. Better late than never. I should point out that this report includes lots of spoilers about Jim Raggi's Death Frost Doom, since I had been using that adventure as the basis for my last few sessions. Last weekend, we completed the adventure and, while I did change quite a number of elements from Raggi's original, enough similarity remains that, if you're the sort of person who doesn't want a module "spoiled" for them by reading details of someone else playing it, you should stop reading now.

At the end of the last session, the party decided to return to Zeke's cabin to re-supply and rest. Brother Candor was keen to pray for find traps, which he hoped would make things easier for them as they continue to explore the catacombs beneath the old cabin in the elven vale. Iriadessa decided, once again, to remain behind, thinking it safer to stay with the crazy old trapper than to venture into a dungeon that was apparently once the lair of Thulian necromancers. So, after a while, the remaining party returned to the dungeon, better armed for what awaited them -- or so they thought.

As they determined last time, there was no way to proceed except through the room that was blocked by a weird, coral-like "plant" whose brittle "branches" impeded their progress. The plant made a peculiar, low-pitched, whistling noise, but the PCs couldn't determine its purpose. With some reluctance, they decided that, to move forward, they had to break their way through the plant. They attempted to do so as little as possible, but its brittleness, combined with the way its branches had spread in the room, made this difficult. They wound up destroying it almost completely, leading Brother Candor to soon notice that the sound the plant had been making had ceased. This concerned him.

Moving ahead, they discovered numerous rooms bolted from the outside. Some of them included inscriptions in Thulian on the outside, indicating that they held the remains of various deceased Thulians, often with impressive titles. Both Dordagdonar (thanks to his helm of comprehend languages) and Brother Candor (thanks to an enchanted jeweler's loop) were able to read these inscriptions. Again, in most cases, there was evidence that the deceased were no longer among the merely dead -- banging on the doors from the inside, moaning, etc. The party dutifully investigated these rooms, almost none of which provided a real danger. Brother Candor is 5th-level and thus able to automatically destroy and turn all undead up to the power of a wight. Amusingly, the one room containing an undead creature potentially dangerous to them was the one they did not enter, opting instead to investigate another nearby room.

This room was filled with mist and, upon closer inspection, a simple coffin filled with earth. This immediately worried the PCs, particularly once the mist started to coalesce into the shape of a middle-aged man dressed in simple but very refined clothing. Speaking in Thulian (which only Dordagdonar understood), he explained his name was Cyrus, a former military commander of Dwimmermount placed here as the result of a "political disagreement" with his superiors. He impled that his disagreement had something to do with his resentment toward the influence of the Termaxians. In any case, Cyrus added that he was trapped within the room in which they now stood and asked the PCs' help in taking him -- and his coffin -- to another location. When the party asked why they should help him, he told them simply that they would need his help to escape now that "you've silenced the song." It was at this point that Brother Candor almost immediately realize that destroying the plant-thing had caused something bad to happen.

Cyrus elaborated on his cryptic comment, explaining that this entire underground complex was one of many placed at hidden locations throughout the Thulian empire. Filled with "sleeping" corpses, they could be awakened, creating an "army of the damned" that would rise up and slaughter the Thulians' enemies, provided "certain protocols were put into action," namely the destruction of the plant-thing whose sounds kept the dead from awakening. These underground sites were a final defense by the Thulians, a kind of dead man's switch that would ensure that anyone who brought the empire low would suffer for doing so. Of course, history doesn't record any hordes of undead rising up to attack the Thulians' enemies, so that means the plan failed for some reason or other -- or had until the PCs interfered.

Dordagdonar kept very careful records of how big each crypt was in the underground complex. He also noted how high the corpses were stacked. Quickly calculating, he estimated that this complex alone held nearly 11,000 corpses. Rising up, especially if they acted as a single unit, which Cyrus assured them they would, they would be a formidable force. The PCs determined they had to do something and so accepted Cyrus' offer with some reluctance. He asked that they take him and his coffin to a location within Dwimmermount that he'd reveal once they were within the dungeon. In exchange, he'd aid them against the undead now swarming the complex and implied he'd also answer some questions about Dwimmermount, the Thulians, and the Termaxians. Brother Candor in particular was not happy about making a deal with a being they assume to be a vampire, but they had little choice.

Cyrus proved to be an impressive warrior, aiding the party in fending off waves of zombies. He enabled them to escape and they in turn brought his coffin to the surface. They then made their way toward Muntburg until the daybreak was approaching. At that point, Cyrus retired to his coffin and the PCs plotted about what to do next. They assume that Cyrus will betray them at some point, but they also need him for the information he holds. Likewise, with ravening undead soon to be scouring the countryside, he may prove useful. The session ended as they debated their next course of action, with the main options being traveling to Dwimmermount as planned, heading instead to Adamas to seek out Saidon, or heading to Yethlyreom to implore the necromancers there for aid in defeating the zombie horde they accidentally unleashed.

Needless to say, this was a superb session and one whose consequences will set the tone for many more sessions to come. Those familiar with Death Frost Doom will note I made a few changes to the original. These were last minute changes as I was inspired during play and realized how I could connect several elements of the campaign so far into a cohesive whole. I'm actually rather pleased how this all turned out, as it gives me several outlets for ideas I wasn't sure how I'd introduce into the campaign. I'm very much looking forward to the next session.


  1. I think people who decry the use of "published" material in their campaigns don't see the interesting ways a good DM can tailor the material to his own campaign and make it relevant. Sure, original material written by yourself for you own campaign will always be more rewarding. But as a DM it's very fun and challenging to adapt such material and blend it in seemlessly to your own mythos.

    The best complement I have gotten at times is for a player to say "Wow, that was a GREAT adventure you wrote!" after play, and then reveal it was an adventure from Dungeon magazine, or maybe an old non-D&D module from the Gamelords, that I had taken and adapted to my own campaign world. The fact that I was able to blend such material so seemlessly into my own campaign milieu is, to me, as creative an endeavor as writing the material in the first place. Such material can spark the imagination because let's face it, no matter how many great ideas a DM has, it doesn't hurt to get inspiration from "outside" sometimes. Looks like you've done a great job of implementing Raggi's "Undead Horde" into your campaign in a way to further your player's understanding of your campaign's backstory.

  2. I completely agree with Badmike. I don't think I'm a great adventure writer and rely heavily on stuff written by others. I've always warped them in small and large ways to fit into my campaign worlds.

    I assumed everyone does this?

    Building a whole world is work. But, gluing together modules with bits and pieces of milieu into a greater whole is just the right amount of organizational and creative challenge for me.

  3. I used to adapt published adventures all the time. It's a great time-saver, and why not make use of someone else's good and/or fun idea?

    And this sounds like a fun session. I love those moments when the PCs have a "What have we done??" revelation. You must have been delighted.

  4. The singing coral-plant and the rising dead sounds like the old White Dwarf D&D monster The Sussurus created by Albie Fiore, featured in the scenario The Licheway. A free 3e conversion is online:

  5. That sounds like a great session and I have to admit that I am already stealing from it for my own campaign.

  6. S'mon,

    You're right; that does sound like the sussurus. Funny I hadn't made the connection until you pointed it out. The adventure doesn't specifically reference the Fiend Folio monster, but I'd be amazed if it wasn't derived from it. Perhaps Jim could comment here.

  7. Page 5 (print version), second paragraph, second sentence, in case anyone thinks I'm trying to hide the obvious influence here. :)

    The creature itself has different stats (AC, HD, attacks all different) and a different appearance (the page 17 illustration does not at all resemble the FF picture; my instructions to Laura were to make it look like the solidified slime from Aliens instead of an actual creature) than the "official" sussurus. The FF creature is also not a plant.