Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Dwimmermount, Session 24

Faced with the prospect of not just one zombie horde, but two others lying in wait beneath the city-state of Adamas, the party decided to go spelunking in the sewers to locate their hidden crypts. Naturally, they sought out Saidon, archivist of the Temple of Typhon, to look at old maps of the city to determine the most likely places to start their investigation. The characters identified three likely locations: beneath the ruins of the old temple to Turms Termax, beneath the main temples of the city-state, and beneath the necropolis outside the city's walls.

Brother Candor suggested they look beneath the active temples first, as he thought it best to ensure that no army of the undead rise up under them and thereby eliminate the party's best allies in Adamas. Vladimir the dwarf's knowledge of stonework -- even inferior, man-made stonework -- enabled the party to find a place in the basement of the Temple of Typhon that looked as if it might lead underground. With pickaxes in hand, the party battered the walls and entered what appeared to be an "undercity" -- an older portion of Adamas upon which the current version had been built in ancient times.

Because of fallen rubble, natural decay, and deliberate attempts to fill in this undercity, navigation was difficult in places, but the PCs nevertheless managed to find their way. The discovered evidence of an active cult of Turms Termax in the undercity and wondered who might be involved, speculating somewhat wildly about the various persons of importance in Adamas. Pressing forward, they found a chamber guarded by many eldritch bones, which Brother Candor took as evidence that they were close to where they needed to be.

Vladimir's skills again proved invaluable and he located a secret door that led into a series of crypts very similar to those beneath the necromancers' cabin in the elven vale. There was one big difference, however: the presumed leader of the sleeping undead was already awake and appeared to be a lich, or at least a lich-like being. The creature did not recognize the PCs but did not attack them either. He simply asked, "Is it time for me to assume my duties?" Naturally, the party tried to convince him otherwise but he demurred, saying, "I know they are close; I can hear them." Brother Candor took this to mean that this lich-thing sensed the presence of the other zombie horde and would soon awaken his own army to attack Adamas.

The party was accompanied by porters with casks of oil and other incendiary devices they'd procured from the Senate of the city-state. While Brother Candor continued to engage the undead commander, the others started spreading oil around the crypts, preparing to set the place alight. Just before they did this, Dordagdonar decided to attack the lich-thing with his bow, which enraged the creature and combat ensued. At first, the undead being used magic to create a wall of fire to protect himself, which led to the party throwing corpses into the wall, as Dordagdonar informed them that the spell did extra damage to the undead.

This only infuriated the lich-thing more and he ended the wall of fire, just in time for Brother Candor to cast silence upon him. Bereft of his magic, the creature employed a wand of cold, nearly slaying Dordagdonar in the process, bring Vladimir to within seconds of death, and killing the shield-maiden Henga. Surprisingly, the elf sought revenge for the demise of his henchmen and, together with his companions, destroyed the undead commander. His destruction, however, triggered the awakening of the zombies, which began to shamble to life. The party then set the whole crypt ablaze and beat a hasty retreat, leaving behind yet more burning casks of oil to prevent the zombies from escaping to the surface.

On the surface, the Temples of Typhon and Tyche were suffused with black, choking smoke from the underground fires. Saidon and his acolytes did their best to protect the temple's precious archives and the PCs helped as best they could. However, they also knew they had to move quickly. There was still one more crypt hidden somewhere beneath the city and Brother Candor was now more convinced than ever that it was beneath the ruins of the old Temple of Turms Termax.

As it happened, he was correct. The party found the crypts -- but they were empty of sleeping zombies. There was evidence of a great fire having raged here at some time in the past. All the corpses were reduced to ash and bits of bones. The crypts were empty except for its lich-like guardian, who made no effort to attack them. Using his helm of comprehend languages, Dordagdonar learned that this undead being's name was Pharaxes and he was once a sorcerer in the cult of Turms Termax. He had volunteered to be placed in the crypt so that he might achieve immortality as an undead being. He explained that his regular consorting with demons -- an important part of the cult, it seems -- had convinced him of "the truth," namely that there nothing after this life, only oblivion. The gods and any dreams of an afterlife are but human fairy tales without any basis in fact. Better for one's consciousness to live on, even in an undead shell, than to have it die with the body after so brief a span of years.

Pharaxes added that he had destroyed his own army out of concern for his continued existence. He doubted that he would survive leading his undead troops into battle and figured the best way to preserve himself was to ensure it would never awaken. In this way, he could remain forever beneath Adamas, free to study and to think -- and continue to exist. Dordagdonar confessed that this was the first ephemeral he'd ever met who seemed to have a proper perspective on things and he said he might return one day to converse with him further. Since no other member of the party could understand Pharaxes (he spoken in ancient Thulian), they knew nothing of what he said other than what Dordagdonar told them. He told them most of it, but not all, keeping Pharaxes' claims about the gods and the afterlife to himself, as he did not feel his companions would be able to accept it.

With that, the party had fulfilled their tasks for the Senate and returned to them to report what had happened. The Senate was pleased to learn of the destruction of the slumbering zombies, as that meant the city was (mostly) safe. The downtown temples were in some disarray and it would be a while before their clerics could return to them safely. The Senate then asked if the PCs had any further business in the city-state and not so subtly hinted that they leave and not come back for a very long time, if ever. Though grateful that the mess the PCs had created was resolved, the Senate nevertheless was not ready to forgive them for their foolishness.

The party paid a visit to Morna, high priestess of Tyche, who seemed less bothered by recent events than the Senate. She reassured Brother Candor that he was indeed doing the Lady's will out in the wilds and that he should continue to do so. Dordagdonar, uncharacteristically, asked that Henga be restored to life, arguing that it takes so long to properly train an ephemeral that he could not bear the thought of having to start over with a new henchman. Morna acceded to his wishes and Henga was returned to the party, seemingly no worse for the experience. This raised a few eyebrows among the elf's companions, but no one said anything to him, as they were pleased to be leaving the city and returning to Dwimmermount.

As they left, a courier arrived, bringing news that the original zombie horde had been defeated by the army of Adamas. The courier also brought a note, sent from Muntburg and intended for Brother Candor. It read simply: "It is done. -C" And with that, they left the city.


  1. An exciting session! Isn't the party roughly 4-6th level? I'm surprised they were able to defeat the lich - if lich it really was.

    Oh, and did they tell the senate they had left a clearly mad lich (un)alive beneath the city? Sure, he wiped out his own command, but I can't imagine the current rulers would be too comfortable with the idea of just leaving him down there.

    Sounds like great fun was had by all. :)

  2. "Since no other member of the party could understand Pharaxes (he spoken in ancient Thulian), they knew nothing of what he said other than what Dordagdonar told them. He told them most of it, but not all..."

    I'm wondering how this was played out. Did all players hear the whole thing, and need to play-act otherwise? Was the initial conversation done in notes or sidebar?

  3. Gee, that sounded like a great session!
    I like how your story framework fits so perfectly into the boundaries of the OD&D format.

  4. Anthony,

    No, those creatures aren't liches, but that's what my players called them for lack of a better word. I'll probably post stats for them here later this week.

    Dordagdonar did tell the Senate about Pharaxes, actually. What happens to him, if anything, will have to wait for a later session.

  5. Delta,

    All the players heard what Pharaxes was saying; they simply ignore it when playing their characters, except for the details Dordagdonar told them. When I was younger, I used to make an effort to keep things "secret," by taking players into other rooms, using notes, and so forth. In the end, I found it was too much effort for too little reward. Plus, I've been blessed with great players who can keep their knowledge separate from that of their characters.

  6. A fascinating session! Nice to see an apparent Big Threat turn out to be a thoughtful character with whom one can reason--and to see the PCs proceeding to do so. In my own experience, this doesn't happen as often as I'd like, in-game.

  7. It would be interesting to see if any mercenaries/adventurer's praise the PC's for their efforts in thwarting the undead. Maybe it could lead to free hirelings? Although they probably wouldn't need much more than the shield-tank. Still, it would be interesting.

  8. When I was younger, I used to make an effort to keep things "secret," by taking players into other rooms, using notes, and so forth. In the end, I found it was too much effort for too little reward.

    Not only is it less hassle, but letting everybody enjoy the "secrets" makes the "being the audience" part of roleplaying more fun for everyone, at least in my experience. Plus it puts players in a position to actively play off each other's character secrets, while the characters remain in ignorance (the averted discovery! The unknowing allusion!). This kind of stuff is fun in fiction, and its fun in roleplaying as well.

  9. I love the way you handled Pharaxes, like a neutral atheist interested in immortality instead of the traditional villain. "Uh, gee, thanks, Turms Termax, for the immortality and all, but you can keep the army of zombies."

    I also enjoyed Dordagdonar's reaction, like a riff on Spock in the original Star Trek.

  10. Pharaxes is the most interesting game element I've seen on this blog I think.

  11. I just LOVE reading your game recaps James...Ah, if I only lived in T.O., I'd fight to be in your game. ;-)


  12. I love your session write-ups. As a newish DM, I'm curious: how did you decide that the 2nd lich-like guardian would destroy his own zombie horde. Was this determined through a random roll on a table.
    Also, is this the case for why the creature did not initially attack?

    Your narrative is very engaging. Keep up the good work.

    RotW (Toronto Area Gamers)

  13. I love reading these.

    Personally I really enjoy taking players aside for some things. The "telephone" aspect as they relay this information to the other players can be really entertaining. It can be another way of substituting player skill for character skill.

    Unpremy - Deciding that something won't actually be in your possession when you have previously decided that it WILL be in your possession before it is in your possession.