Vale expressed outrage that, in her absence, her companions had found a sold a collection of ancient books and scrolls without holding any back for her to peruse (the words "simpering fools" may have been used), and she lamented the fact that she is still showing lingering signs of brain fever. Out of desperation Vale approached rival exploring group The Five Delvers and learned that they had indeed located and recovered the portable, ivory altar of Saint Tyche which Vale and company had lost when fleeing the dungeon in an earlier episode.
A vigorous round of haggling followed, and in the end Vale struck a bargain, receiving the altar (a key to her cure) in exchange for a few hundred gold, a partial map of The Reliquary level, and some "lore" regarding the oracular, metal face found on The Paths of Saint Mavors (which she made up on the spot) ...
"...The face is actually called the Head of Kallawagin and every seven days it comes to life and roams the dungeon, consuming all the dead bodies that it finds. That's why you don't find more corpses. Oh, and it has a body hidden behind the wall behind the face. So if you find yourself in Dwimmermount on the seventh day, I'd loot any bodies you can and get the heck out of there before Kallawagin can catch you."
A pretty clever little web of nonsense ... corpses do disappear from the dungeon if left unguarded for even a short time and notice how it discourages The Five Delvers from lingering in the megadungeon (where they might find the choice loot before Vale and her companions).
Once more in possession of the altar, the group used Y'draneal's map to make their way swiftly toward the steps to level 2. Along the way, however, they encountered not one but two separate packs of pig-faced beastmen. Fortunately, use of a Light spell, Comprehend Languages, Vale's high Charisma (17), and the shattered skull that top's her staff were enough to convince the beastmen that the adventurers were aligned with "The Maker" ... if not a reincarnation of Turms Termax the Thrice-Great ... and were best avoided.
Again I got that swell of DM-pride to see how Ivor and Vale's players have matured and, rather than simply trying to stick a sword in everything, they were able to bypass two potentially taxing combat encounters (both with wandering monsters that wouldn't have offered any gain) using negotiation and trickery!
|(c) 2011 Mark Allen|
Vale, Ivor, and Yang persuaded Ysabellon, leader of The Seekers, to open magically sealed door for them and were soon on their way. However, the very next room they explored was haunted by living shadows (1 Strength point perma-drain when they hit)!
Noticing how the shadows kept to ... well .. the shadows, more torches were quickly kindled to supplement Vale's Light spell. Still, the group had to watch their step because any shadows they cast instantly became an avenue that the creatures could flow along. Vale called a retreat and the party picked its way back to The Seekers who, already alerted by henchman Hurtis's panicked flight, made short work of the shadows.
Noticing how quickly the adventurers were apt to become dependent on these more experienced NPCs, I wasn't especially surprised when, upon finding a sealed orichalcum box, they again backtracked to ask The Seekers for help. This time, however, Ysabellon was firm: "Thank you, but no. We are presently engaged."
Still, Jeffroy, one of The Seekers was willing to come along with a pair of beastmen and have a look. A bit of an expert in locks and things, Jeffroy reported that the box was sealed, probably trapped, and best left alone. To my surprise, Vale, Yang, and Ivor agreed and headed off to explore elsewhere.
Our final encounter of the afternoon was a fateful one: beyond a southern door the group came face to face with a half dozen goblins ... but what manner of goblins were these? Rather than the shifty, little swamp-dwellers, these brutes stood as tall as a man and were decked out in antique armor and carried long, curved blades!
Vale, however, was in rare form. With the help of another Comprehend Languages spell (and her 17 Charisma), she was able to pick out much of their Thulian barracks argot and she made it very clear that the adventurers were not looking for a fight.
Offering some food and even doing a bit of bartering, they talked to these upraised goblin folk, learning that they were tasked with securing this level by their "centurion" on the next level down. Vale pointed out, reasonably enough, that the groups could work together, sharing any treasure they might happen across. The big goblinfolk were agreeable and so the party set out again, their strength considerably bolstered.
The question remains, however, will this alliance last, and if there is treachery, will the explorers (now outnumbered) have the strength to survive it?
I'm really, really pleased at how this batch of players has become adept at negotiating and using their wits to avoid potentially lethal combats where they stand little to gain. Dwimmermount, as a product, does a great job of encouraging this approach to play ... better than, say Keep on the Borderlands does. In addition, I've been delighted to see how the spells cast really reflect this approach ... Comprehend Languages and Light are the go-to spells rather than Sleep and Magic Missile.