Saturday, February 27, 2010

Dwimmermount, Session 32

Having left Dwimmermount, Brother Candor decided that now was the time to return to Adamas to discuss the matter of Xaranes with Morna, the high priestess of Tyche. He wasn't looking forward to this, but he also knew it was necessary. Surprisingly, Morna was not angered by the information he passed along so much as concerned. The political situation in Adamas was fragile in the aftermath of the zombie invasion of the previous weeks. The church of Tyche was in a better position than the church of Typhon, as it had acted decisively in order to protect the city-state, while the Typhonists dithered.

At the same time, the church of Typhon remains powerful and influential. Though harsh and unforgiving, the religion remains popular because it has a history of defending Adamas and other bastions of civilization in times of need, whereas the church of Tyche is seen as more "flighty" and less reliable. If Morna were to sanction an expansion of her church through the adoption of Xaranes as a saint or hero of Tyche, as Brother Candor suggested, it might look like a bid to gain more power and influence and turn opinion against her, just as her temple's star is rising. Consequently, she did not agree to Brother Candor's plan -- not yet anyway. Instead, she suggested that they wait until after the imminent arrival of a Typhonian inquisitor in Adamas, who would be attempting to clear his church's name by finding scapegoats to blame for its slowness in responding to the zombies.

Brother Candor and Dordagdonar also did some further research into the Iron God's history and beliefs. There was comparatively little information, but there was some. They discovered that the cult was older than they'd realized, stretching back at least a thousand years, which meant that it predated the Termaxian ascendancy by at least 500 years. The cult never seemed to enjoy a huge following, being primarily one adopted by Thulian soldiers who'd been stationed at Dwimmermount at some time in their careers. Its beliefs remained obscure but it seems to have shared a fair bit with the religion of Typhon but with a wider focus and a less harsh approach to problem-solving. And of course the cult of the Iron God was strongly devoted to the protection of the dead, both their physical remains and their spirits/souls. Precisely why this cult was singled out for special hatred by the Termaxians is unclear.

The party then returned to Dwimmermount to continue exploring. Along the way, Brother Candor decided to pay a visit to the temple of the Iron God to see if, thanks to the clerical regalia of the cult he now possessed, he might demonstrate any extra authority there. As it turns out, he was able to command a mechanical three-headed guard dog that the party had encountered earlier. He also discovered that his ceremonial lantern, when lit, dispelled even magical darkness, the lantern being an important holy symbol of the Iron God.

After that, the party descended deeper into the dungeon and more fully mapped out the area they'd explored the previous week. What they noticed was that the ceiling pipes, which had carried azoth in the past, were limited to a particular area of the dungeon. They did not extend beyond a handful of rooms and corridors, suggesting that they were the site of an experiment to determine the effect of azoth exposure on living creatures both sentient and not. Interestingly, the characters encountered very little in the way living things in this part of the dungeon, with the exception of the mushroom men they'd battled previously. Most of the azoth-changed creatures, including many plants, were already dead, presumably from the adverse effects of the magical liquid but they could not be sure. Brother Candor also suspected that the vampire Cyrus might have had a hand in all of this too.

Moving on, more "beast men" were encountered, but they seemed to be from a different part of the dungeon. They were out on patrol, gathering supplies to take back to their lair, wherever that was. The characters defeated them and decided to seek out where these creatures might have come from. It was at that point that we ended for the evening.

All in all, it was a fairly "workmanlike" evening of play -- no great revelations or events but more fodder for making ex post facto making sense of it all. As I've said many times before, the secret to the longevity of any campaign, particular one without an explicit story or plot, is that you play regularly. Every minute you spend playing, even if it's just mapping out the dungeon, searching for secret doors, or battling wandering monsters adds elements that, in retrospect, might take on greater significance. They all add to the texture and depth of the campaign, even when the specific details of "slow" sessions fade into indistinctness.

Dwimmermount has proven far more successful than I ever expected it would. I've kept things as minimalist as is feasible, allowing details to grow through play rather than through any plan of my own. It's been a valuable learning experience, one that's all the more gratifying because it's managed to hold the interests of my players for so long. Like a lot of things in life, not every session is unadulterated joy or even particularly memorable; some of them have been downright dull. But we pressed on nonetheless and, while I won't go so far as to say that those dull sessions were necessary for the longevity of the campaign, but I do think they were inevitable. That's why I've found it so essential to get together regularly: the dull sessions are less likely to set the tone for the whole campaign if you have lots of other more enjoyable ones to overwhelm the dull ones in your memory.

In any case, the campaign continues on.


  1. Quick question: How extensively have you detailed Adamas? Do you have it thoroughly mapped/described or (as I suspect) do you just have it sketched out in rough form?

    As always, your posts continue to inspire my own megadungeon campaign.

  2. Adamas is loosely based on JG's City-State of the Invincible Overlord map, with some changes here and there to reflect my own personal eccentricities. In general, though, I only use the map to judge rough distances between locations and so forth. I've never used it more than that, since the characters rarely spend lots of time there. If they took up residence in the city permanently, though, I might well begin to flesh it out more.

  3. Do you have a mechanic for these research sessions, or is it simply a case of asking them who they're going to talk to, or where they're going to look, and then providing the information? As a long-term Cthulhu GM, I'm aware of the utility of the Library Use skill, but I'm also aware that it can be used as a shortcut by unimaginative players. Since D&D has no mechanical equivalent, I'm wondering how you handle it.

    On the suject of regular games, I've had some success in the past few weeks of running a sandbox Rogue Trader game. However, two of the four players are unavailable for tonight's session, and one of the remaining players is going to be away for five weeks starting next week, so I have to decide whether we'll carry on with tonight's game, or play a pick-up game instead.It's tough being the GM.

  4. James, It has been great fun to follow along with these Dwimmermount session recaps. Thanks so much for taking the time to write them up. I don't know if you've considered doing so, but I, for one, would love to see (hear) an actual-play podcast of your game. As I'm sure you are aware, there really aren't any "old-school" actual plays out there and we need some so that people can see how the game plays out. Pretty please?

  5. Even the write ups of quiet research sessions have been interesting, just to watch the world grow through the interaction between you and your players. (Non-sequitur)One of these days, I'd love to see maps of Dwimmermount.

    Security word: "aerth." Strangely appropriate. :)

  6. Kelvin,

    I handle research in a very loose fashion. Most of the time, so long as the players ask the right questions, I provide them with the information they're seeking, assuming I know the answer myself.

    Sometimes -- oftentimes -- they're looking for information I haven't considered and, since I'm making this stuff up on the fly, I might stall by making the research "difficult" and requiring that they come back later or seek out a reclusive sage who doesn't readily see callers, etc. This gives me time to think about what they want to know and decide what's available and what isn't and why.

    It's a workable system when you're playing in an open-ended sandbox campaign, but I don't think it's very applicable to other kinds of games.

  7. Pretty please?

    The thought's occurred to me from time to time, but I do worry that the presence of recording devices would adversely affect the flow of our sessions, which already suffer from lots of digressions, asides, and interruptions as it is. People tend to behave differently when they know they're being recorded for others to hear/see, so it wouldn't necessarily give a very authentic impression of how our sessions run.

    Still, it is something I think about ...

  8. One of these days, I'd love to see maps of Dwimmermount.

    There are plans in the works for just that at some point. I was initially reluctant about the idea, but enough people have asked about them that I'm already working on presenting them later this year, at least in part. So, you'll get your wish :)

  9. Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I don't think that would work too well for games that already have a strong investigation mechanic built-in, but it's still a good useful tool for on the spot research requests, and I could see it being useful in my sandbox, where the players are always asking to research star systems and the like, but I haven't been able to decide on a consistent way to allow it.