Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Dwimmermount, Session 30

The party continued its explorations of Dwimmermount, fully mapping -- or so they believe, at any rate -- the entirety of the catacombs beneath the temple to the Iron God. This left them with two options: return to Muntburg or Adamas or look for something they might have missed previously. Brother Candor suggested they consider looking more closely at a "mechanical table" they'd seen earlier. The table was festooned with gears, knobs, and dials, and was placed at the center of a series of tracks that led away in various directions. He assumed that, properly used, it might lead to areas of the catacombs as yet undiscovered.

A wandering monster encounter with an ochre jelly briefly interrupted their experimentation with the table. Once the ooze was dispatched, Vladimir suggested helpfully that no amount of mere experimentation would yield any results unless someone lay on top of the table. This was, after all, the purpose for which it was clearly built. This insight led to some momentary worry that it was a dissection or embalming table and that laying on it would result in death. However, there was no evidence of blood or gore stains on the table nor were there any runnels along its edge to suggest that such liquids were drained away when used.

After further discussion, Brother Candor decided to trust in the Lady and get on the table, while Dordagdonar operated its controls. After some fiddling, he found a setting that caused the table to turn to face a wall after which it seemed to lurch forward without even moving and Brother Candor disappeared. Startled by this, the party then discussed what to do next. Iriadessa emphatically stated that she would stay behind in Dwimmermount, while Dordagdonar, Vladimir, and Gaztea all took turns getting on the table and vanishing just as did the cleric of Tyche. Those left behind were all henchmen and hirelings, who indicated they'd stay only for a short time before returning to Muntburg to await their masters. They were, after all, not paid enough to wait in the dungeon indefinitely, especially when it's possible their employers had been forever lost.

Fortunately for the PCs, they were not forever lost, though they had arrived -- at varying intervals and out of temporal sequence -- in a featureless, foggy place. This place included solid ground beneath their feet but little else. The characters noticed a light ahead and they walked toward it, eventually seeing a translucent hemisphere inside of which they could vaguely make out what appeared to a funeral bier upon which lay the body of a man. As they got closer, the light become more intense and the shapes within the hemisphere became more indistinct. Touching the hemisphere, they found it cool to the touch but also permeable -- solid yet not.

Once again trusting in Tyche, Brother Candor passed within the hemisphere, followed by his companions, and found himself in a room made entirely of some peculiar metal. Vladimir licked some of the surfaces to get a good taste of it and stated that it was some type of adamantine but "with a spicy kick." There were no obvious exits and the walls were covered with all manner of blinking lights and whirring machines. In the center of the room was a raised table that bore some resemblance to the one that propelled them into the gray misty realm but much more finely made. Indeed, many of the devices in the room bore some passing resemblance to things they'd seen in Dwimmermount but, again, more finely made, as if those in the dungeon were crude copies of more perfect types.

Resting on the raised table was a man-shaped being in a suit of black armor. He bore some resemblance to a statue they'd seen in the temple of the Iron God, leading the characters immediately to think that perhaps this was the Iron God. The figure was clearly breathing but he did not move and seemed otherwise to be in a kind of stasis. Dordagdonar boldly attempted to examine the table on which the figure rested and then heard a disembodied voice in his head speak: "Greetings, traveler. What brings you to this place?" After some effort, all of the characters present were able to participate in this telepathic conversation with the figure on the table. He informed them that his name was Xaranes and that he had come "into the sphere" in order to find and destroy "the shard" that had passed within it. He claimed to be "just a man, no different than yourselves" and "a servant of the Makers."

These revelations led to more intense questioning. Xaranes seemed to have difficulty expressing his thoughts in words the characters could easily understand and so his answers were often cryptic. As best the characters could ascertain, he was from "outside" and was wounded in his original quest. Convalescing here, he sought out a way to heal himself and it was in this effort that he contacted "other men" to whom he taught the secrets of "energy conversion" for this purpose. The characters assume that these "other men" were the priests of the Iron God, whose machines were made according to the instructions of Xaranes, albeit crudely and according to the materials available to them. "The shard," they suspect, is the Eater of the Dead, which Xaranes noted was "but a piece" of a larger entity whose "kin" have more influence "within the sphere" than the Makers wished they had.

As the characters puzzled this out, Xaranes noted that he had hoped to have been fully healed by now but that the flow of energy had long since ceased. He wondered why that was. It was then that Dordagdonar explained that the men he had once contacted were long dead, killed by another group of men whose own beliefs were very different. When Xaranes asked for an explanation, Dordagdonar said that they did not know all the beliefs of these other men (i.e. the Termaxians) but that some at least did not believe in an existence after this one and so deemed the priests of the Iron God fools. Xaranes laughed at this, asking "Who could be so blind as to not see the plan the Great Maker has laid out for us? Who could doubt that this existence is but an antechamber to a greater mansion beyond?" Dordagdonar made a feeble attempt at explaining the Termaxians might think so, but did not press the issue.

Xaranes then asked the PCs to help him regain his strength so that he might remove the shard from within the sphere and complete his purpose. To do this, he would need someone to organize the effort. Brother Candor volunteered and Xaranes then transferred into his mind the means by which he could do this. It was then that Brother Candor realized that the worship of the Iron God was the means by which energy was generated and healed Xaranes. To heal him fully, he would need to re-establish such worship. How he would do this -- and what the high priestess of Tyche would think about it -- were the things he was left to ponder as Xaranes returned them all to Dwimmermount.


  1. While the PCs are away, do the NPCs have to deal with the possibility of wandering monsters?
    Could be very disconcerting to the PCs to return and find evidence (and bodies) telling the tale.

  2. Sounds like some exciting developments in Dwimmermount! Here's hoping there are many more trips through the portal.

  3. Interesting developments. There's a nice "Million Spheres" feel to this. Regarding Brother Candor, can one be an initiate of more than one cult at a time, or does the oath of priesthood make one the servant of a particular god, exclusively?

  4. I also have theological questions, but I guess we'll see them play out. You weren't kidding when you said you favoured a freewheeling pulp sci-fantasy setting: my sense is that with this, Dwimmermount has rather broken free from any pseudo-medieval fantasy idiom - it's maybe a Riverworld or Zardoz moment? How will the PCs integrate these visions with the world they know? I'm on the edge of my seat.

    In terms of mood, I find that how I visualise a game setting strongly affects the kinds of things I expect to see going on there, and from your campaign reports I see Dwimmermount in rather muted colours - cool white downlighting by Stanley Kubrick, set-dressing and low ground fog by Kurosawa: this excursion into the uninterpretable perfectly fits that.
    So I'd be curious to know how you see it: - if you see Erol Otus gonzo colours and lush, overdetailed Josh Kirby backgrounds for instance.

  5. I am also very interested in how you envisage the visual aesthetics of Dwimmermount. I am inclined to agree that the hyper-saturated pulp grotesquerie of Otus does not really accord with the descriptions of the setting. There is more of a sense of something muted and haunting.

  6. Re: esthetics of Dwimmermount

    If it makes any sense to say this, I consider Dwimmermount to be a "black and white setting" and any attempt to "colorize" it would probably due violence to its mood.

  7. very interesting. Shaded, or line art? I'm thinking now about those pen drawings - a paladin in Hell etc.

  8. Great job again, James. When I first read this, the thing that came to mind was The Tower of the Elephant. Do you ever draw inspiration from Howard and his Conan (or even non-Conan) works?

    As always, I look forward to reading more!

  9. This is the first post I have read on your campaign, and wow, what great images and stories it conjures. Of course it sparked me to go back to your older posts, I am up to session 14 now and really enjoying it. I also love watching the rules evolve as the need and desire arise, granting some insight into some of the thought processes the original designers must have had.

    I wish I could play in such a game, have had no luck finding like minded gamers in my area. Reading your game also makes me feel pretty uncreative as a DM myself, I shall endevour to be more creative myself in the future.

  10. Let me get this straight....

    One member of the party gets into a contraption and disappears.

    Next, one by one, most of the rest of the party follows, without any indication of where they will be going?

    It could have been a Green Devil Face for all they knew!

  11. There's a certain safety in numbers at work, right? The DM may well kill one PC who's foolhardy enough to try out the alien table, but if the whole party tries it out and it turns out to be arbitrarily lethal, that's disappointing for the whole group. I think it shows esprit de corps.

  12. While the PCs are away, do the NPCs have to deal with the possibility of wandering monsters?

    Yes, which is why the NPCs retreated to Muntburg after a short time and no evidence that their employers were returning.

  13. Regarding Brother Candor, can one be an initiate of more than one cult at a time, or does the oath of priesthood make one the servant of a particular god, exclusively?

    This hasn't been specifically discussed, but I had been assuming exclusivity for clerics at least, although I may well change my mind on this before next weekend's session. That's the advantage of having a more vague world: I can change my mind.

  14. Shaded, or line art? I'm thinking now about those pen drawings - a paladin in Hell etc.

    I'm thinking pen and ink.

  15. When I first read this, the thing that came to mind was The Tower of the Elephant. Do you ever draw inspiration from Howard and his Conan (or even non-Conan) works?

    Yag-Kosha was definitely an inspiration for Xaranes, so good call on your part for noticing it :)

  16. You do seem to have a smart bunch of players, who take advantage of "old school" necessities like using henchmen, being extremely cautious of traps, running away when necessary, etc. Over on HEROPRESS http://www.heropress.net/, the author describes his attempt to run a pure old-school Labyrinth Lord campaign, but he had to give it up after repeated TPKs which saw frustrated players rolling up two or three characters a session.

    When I played D&D, we not only checked for traps for every square on the map, we often rolled a dead body ahead of us to try to set off traps before they hit us (or when we had an evil cleric, an animated undead would lumber in front of us as an unpaid, never-wavering henchman). Those were the days :)