Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dwimmermount with Middle Schoolers -- XXVIII

Image result for evil little kidAnd then they got evil.

Our 28th session of Dwimmermount began with the gang finishing up character generation to reconstitute the much-diminished ranks of "The Damaged Souls."

Vale the Conjurer, nearing 4th level, brought the following recruits into the fold:

  • Nyxia, level 1 magic-user and a longtime friend of Vale's, she is interested in the pursuit of power even if it means siding with Termaxian heretics.
  • Jack Trader, level 1 fighting man of high birth (up-jumped merchants who bought themselves a title), he fancies himself a champion of the common folk when not busy indulging his considerable appetites.
  • Ander, level 1 thief from a southern land, he left an innocent man to take the fall for his crimes before fleeing north.  Ander assuages any lingering guilt he may feel by the knowledge that the payoff was just too good to pass up.
This new composition gave the group a decidedly Neutral Evil flavor (especially without Hurtis or Ivor to balance things out a bit).

Sergei (F3) remained in Muntburg to recover from his latest harrowing, near-fatal delve and to bury his fallen comrades.
The crew did a little shopping, managing to forget to purchase extra torches but remembering the iron spikes, before ascending the Dwimmermount.
Vale took the lead and, after a bit of debate, decided that the group should move through the picked-over first dungeon level and descend to the western side of level two to do a bit of exploring.
En route, however, they heard voices and saw light coming from the direction of the great vertical shaft on level one that plunges deep into the mountain.

Investigating cautiously, the group came upon The Seekers, a higher level adventuring party who have helped them out a time or two in the past.  With the loss of Yang (a Seekers henchman who agreed to travel with Vale's group until he was captured by goblins), things had cooled a bit between the two groups, but they were still on civil terms and sometimes met at The Green Dragon to swap stories.

The Seekers were busy descending The Great Shaft.  As scout "Jeffroy" watched the rear and operated a carefully braced windlass, Ogal, the group's dwimmerling (dwarf) warrior guarded a lower hall at the bottom of the ropes.  Ysabellon, an aged but spry cleric and the group's leader was being lowered via a sling along with the party's magic-user.

It was at this point that Vale once again heard the thin, whispering voice in her mind that had first motivated her to explore Dwimmermount months earlier:

"Cut the rope."

"Oh no!  Wait ... What if I don't?"

"I will teach you ... again."
Vale approached the wary rear guard and began chatting with her characteristic silver tongue.

"Look, I know that things have been a little tense because of the whole Yang thing, but these big mutant goblin guys took him prisoner down on level two.  We've got this ... they've still got the rest."
At this point Vale tossed Jeffroy Yang's severed ear and, while he gaped at it, followed with a burst of Magic Missiles to his chest!
Ander was quick to follow with a shot from his bow and Jeffroy only escaped by quaffing a potion, shouting a warning, and leaping into the yawning pit.
Image result for cut the rope

While Nyxia and Jack cut through the rope supporting Ysabellon and Marguerin the magic-user ("I remember that ap"), Ander looked over the edge.  Below he spied Jeffroy clinging to the slick walls of the shaft like a fly (thanks to his magic potion), Marguerin casting Levitate upon herself in the nick of time, and a fighter dragging the injured (but not dead) Ysabellon clear of the bottom of the shaft ... however, before he could pick any of them off with his bow, an answering volley of Magic Missiles from below took Ander out of the action.

Vale's group fell back, fearing more spell fire from the more accomplished explorers, with Nyxia dragging Ander behind her.

Just then Jack cried a warning and ducked behind the unarmored characters as a swarm of six-foot-long, many-legged arthropods came scuttling from some other part of the first dungeon level.  

"You're a coward -- you aren't doing anything!"

"That's not true!  I switched from my war hammer to my spear and shield."

"...and the didn't DO anything!"
Image result for weird arthropodSurprisingly, however, all but one of the carapace-clad horrors didn't attack, but swarmed down the shaft.  The final creature came to a stop before Vale and began swaying.  Staring into its many-faceted eyes, she tried to communicate with it while Nyxia's Detect Magic confirmed that it was under the influence of some spell, but these attempts came to naught and it stung Vale on the back of her hand before scuttling off after its brethren.

"Hey!  Truce!  We aren't attacking any more.  We're putting our weapons away, okay.  We were just under the influence of some spider-god thing ... What was that spider-thing's name? ... some evil spider-god thing ... so ... yeah.  What do you want us to do?"

"Back away!" came the angry reply from below.

"Okay ... so ... " 

The group bolted from the dungeon and made a double-time march back to Muntburg.  

Realizing that The Seekers couldn't be too far behind them, they put most of their remaining coin toward the purchase of a donkey, strapped Ander on it, and left town in a hurry, bound for the city of Adamas.

We ended the session with the group pawning their last piece of jewelry to Gaztea the fence  on the edge of the Great Market of Adamas and taking a room at The Gilded Coach.
Well, for a botched hit on a higher level party, things could have gone FAR worse for The Damaged Souls, however, they are now afraid to show their faces in Muntburg again.  Is the opportunity to explore (and loot) Dwimmermount now lost to the party?

"Guys, we need to find ourselves another dungeon."

I'm honestly not sure where they will decide to go from here.  They have a map to some old Eld fastness (called "Stonehell" by the dwimmerling slaves who once labored there), but with their cash all but exhausted and only three sessions of club remaining this year, I don't think I can predict the group's next move.

Will they risk a return to the mountain, avoiding Muntburg or adopting disguises, try to join the criminal underworld in Adamas, set off in a cross-country ramble, or something completely different?

I'd like to bring the campaign to a satisfactory close of course, but by letting the dice land where they may and prioritizing player agency over any sort of plot line, there are certainly no guarantees!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Dwimmermount with Middle Schoolers -- XXVII

We opened what would turn out to be a landmark session with Vale the magic-user far from the rest of the explorers and surrounded by a squad of the thick-limbed, ruddy-skinned dwimmer-goblins.

The spells she had woven to maintain the ruse that she was one of them were quickly fading and already the goblins were becoming suspicious, but at just that moment the  floors and walls of the entire dungeon level began to vibrate!  As unseen pipes and conduits creaked, knocked, and groaned and distant lights flickered or flared and died in showers of sparks, Thaddeus V and the other recently awaken goblin clone soldiers hastened back to the command post of Rurik, their centurion.  Vale spared not a moment, but dashed off into the darkened halls.

Image result for pull lever[All this clamor was of course the result of Sergei's fiddling around in the room of lenses and levers down on level three, accidentally powering up various portions of the dungeon.]

At this point, since Y'draneal, the party's mapper, was down on level three, I cleared the table of all maps, insisting that Vale's player navigate her way out of the dungeon by memory alone!  Fortunately, Vale was up to the task and moved unerringly toward the stairs.

Never one to make things too easy, I also insisted on making three separate wandering monster checks as she fled, each at a 1 in 6 chance of an encounter.

Vale noticed that the steps leading up to level one were now damp, but continued to take them two at a time ... at least she did until an acid-weeping pseudo-pod detached itself from a tread to take a swipe at her ... a "2" ... Vale dashed onward, dimpling the top of the eyeless horror with the print of her shoe.

Crossing level one at a sprint, she tore past the decapitated statue of Saint Mavors and pressed on toward the entry hall.  With daylight in sight, she had little time to react to the crab spider that sprang from above another statue ... a "4" wasn't sufficient to catch her however.  She roasted the beast with "Bernie Hands" [sic], not realizing that a second spider was closing on her from behind.  Luck was still with the lady-conjurer, however, and when the spider failed to force its fangs through her robes she stunned it with a Ray of Frost.  Staying to trade blows struck me as ill-advised, until I recalled that in 5th edition this spell also slows its victims -- Vale made good her get-away.

Meanwhile, down in the guts of level three, Y'draneal, Ivor, and Sergei confronted a trio of shadows--negative, psychic silhouettes burned into the azoth-saturated atmosphere of the dungeon.  Y'draneal maintained his signature move, bolting away from danger at break-neck speed, while Ivor fended off attack after attack (the entities seemed to be drawn to him, perhaps sensing that much of his strength had been permanently drained by their kind in prior encounters).  To his chagrin, Sergei soon learned that mortal weapons couldn't harm these shadows, though his strokes were bold and well-placed.  In the end, the two fighters were able to flee their attackers, and fortunately their armor had been proof against nine separate attacks!

Regrouping, the trio pressed on in hopes of finding another route back to the surface.  In a domed chapel dedicated to Saint Tenen, patron of craftsmen and travelers, they found a thick, blue curtain of coarse felt.  Pulling it aside, they were at once set upon from behind by an animated statue of the saint!

Y'draneal executed his trademark dash, jinking past the imposing animated construct and toward the room's entryway, only to be clothes-lined by the statue's unyielding, outstretched arm.  The fleet-footed elf collided with such force that he turned a full somersault before landing on the flagstones with a sickening crack.

Sergei passed his shield to Ivor and gathered up the stricken elf, only to be hip-checked into the wall by the advancing statue.  Scrambling, he fled through an unexplored door as Ivor did his best to block the pounding stone fists, though the impacts buckled his shield and drove him to his knees.

Staggering into a broad, round chamber, Y'draneal flung over his shoulder, Sergei was confronted by a strange spectacle: three richly carved stone archways stood in the middle of the room, each marked with ancient glyphs far beyond his ability to comprehend.  Stranger still, the odd, polished, black rod that he had stuck into his belt last session began to vibrate of its own accord.  Before his eyes a shimmering, silvery mist filled the nearest archway.

"It's a portal!  Go through!"

"I don't ..."

"Go through!"

"Okay, I go through."

A battered Ivor at his heels, Sergei stepped into the mists and ... found himself in a hall of decapitated statues with bright light illuminating a set of steep steps.

"It's the entryway!"

"You got all the way back out!"

Just then the second crab spider, which Vale had narrowly escaped, struck from hiding.  It latched upon Ivor's leg, driving its fangs down in search of some fault in his dented armor.  Ivor responded by flailing with his torch and, in addition to driving the spider away, managed to set his own tunic alight!  Having survived countless dangers, the haggard fighter flailed at his own kindled beard and hair before collapsing within sight of the dungeon's front gate.

Sergei dragged his motionless companions upwards, step by painful step, making the fifty foot ascent to the Red Gates on sheer willpower alone.  By the time he finally reached the surface, however, it was clear that neither Y'draneal nor Ivor had any breath remaining and that he was the only member of the trio who could feel the wind upon his face.


What a session!

With Y'draneal having at last shuffled off his mortal coil (he did amazingly well for having only 8 hit points), Vale is now the only surviving member of the original "Fabulous Five" who began back in September.

Ivor, NPC-turned PC, was the next oldest character and, like Vale had nearly achieved 4th level before meeting his ignominious demise.

Fortunately, since Sergei lived to tell the tale (and meet back up with Vale at The Green Dragon) AND recovered the bodies of his friends, the party still has Y'draneal's precious maps, including a marked route down to the yet-unexplored 4th level.

Also, Sergei learned the benefits of being the last man standing ... gaining all the experience points that the trio had accrued over the last several sessions.  He is now level three after having played only a handful of times.

The lads were most keen to get back in the dungeon ...

"Can we meet again over the summer and do this?"

... and soon the former players of Y'draneal, Kenny, and Ivor had rolled up new characters to use next week.