Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Death Frost Doom

In my regular group we've been playing Dungeon World, and I've been grinning and bearing it because the GM had the idea of trying a Lamentations of the Flame Princess module using the Dungeon World system. It was an interesting crossbreed.

Spoilers ahead, so if you haven't played Death Frost Doom stop reading here. If you have played Death Frost Doom, then read on.

Before the game began the GM asked me if I wanted to play through that module because she knew I owned it. I promised I could keep relatively in character for the game, and informed her of everything I could remember about the module in case she wanted to change a few things up and surprise me.

We had a druid in our group who can talk to plants, and as we got closer to the plant that keeps all of the undead asleep the druid could hear the susurrus as the repeated word "sleep."

Some uses of the Discern Realities move revealed insights into the weirdness of the cabin and the functions of the underground temple, but the GM was conservative with details most of the time and many of the players seemed to find direction to pursue other goals. We had one of those long breaks between two sessions where players forget what they were doing in the last session and this was most incongruous for me as I tried to remind people of the horrible things we had seen in the last session, several weeks ago for the players but only a few hours for the characters.

I know that the ground is cursed and it's not wise to camp anywhere on the mountain, but our GM was pretty lenient in that regard, everybody was able to rest up their characters after one day of delving and then continue the next without issue. This is the only thing that really threw me a curveball because I was expecting a terrible morning that never came.

We found the secret passage that leads down to the crypt, but it was choked with vines. The paladin surmised that it was too tight a fit to cut through the vines and the wizard refused to let anybody burn the vines. We were looking for a Codex, which was the MacGuffin of our quest, a book that could translate the ancient Duvan-Ku language and the wizard objected on the grounds that should the flames reach down to some chamber where the Codex was stored our entire quest would be wasted. I echoed the wizard's plans, as I had been doing that before we began this adventure, one of my bonds was that I thought he was incapable of surviving without my help.

The chamber where one must put a tooth into the basin in order to open the door was one that stopped the group. The ceiling, however, is lined with skeletons hanging from chains and after asking a few questions about the chamber and waiting suitably long enough for other players to figure it out, I knocked a skeleton down and used a tooth from it's skull to open the door.

There was little exploring beyond that door as the paladin dedicated himself to finding the Codex and had an unerring sense of direction towards it. However the bard and the thief seemed to forgot how horrible this place was during our second day of exploring and insisted on checking every room because "the Codex isn't going anywhere" while my dwarf was insistent that this was an evil place and we should just grab the Codex and leave quickly.

When we got to the "heart" of the vine plant we saw that it was blocking our path to the Codex, and the paladin carved a hole through the plant so the thief could get past and pocket the Codex, and he pocketed everything he could find while the rest of us fought the plant as it lashed out at us. I struck the killing blow.

We saw the grate in the ceiling and saw that as our escape route. The paladin and my fighter guarded the doorway while everyone else managed to climb up the shaft to the surface before we became overwhelmed by the waking undead. We saw the dead rising from their graves and pouring out of the cabin so we left and fled down the mountain as quickly as possible. When we made camp a consensus was reached that the undead must be coming for the Codex and were awakened because we disturbed it from it's chamber, I slept with the Codex far from camp so that in case I was attacked by undead in the night the rest of the party would be alerted and could flee.

And that's where we left the last session.


  1. I had a lot of fun running this adventure in Dungeon World. There are some things in the adventure that upon a first reading did not seem necessarily fair, however in play, I felt Dungeon World's information gathering moves let me give out needed information if the characters thought to do the right things and ask the right questions. (Which is probably how it's intended to be played, but I feel classic D&D doesn't really give you the guidelines to do that.)

    So, out of our five players, two of them (Tim and Abram) had played the adventure up to the Chapel, and Doc had read parts of it. My reason for picking this adventure was because it had a lot of fascinating stuff in it, a great twist, and it's a classic adventure that people in my area seem to have trouble running successfully. In fact, the game was pitched as 'Death Frost Doom in Dungeon World.'

    There were two things that had me slightly worried going in: when the Wizard received his commission to research this place, I told him to ask three questions, and one of which was "what's the worst case scenario," to which I truthfully replied "thousands of undead rising up."

    The other was the fact that the Druid can Speak with Plants, which in the adventure is mentioned specifically as a possibly way to bypass the spiny plant defender, but when he first realized the plant was saying "sleep, sleep, sleep," that actually creeped the group out more than anything else, and I had to be careful not to laugh my ass off at that.

    However, the group was sufficiently scared of sleeping near the cabin, that when they stated they were retreating far, far away from the Cabin to camp, I felt they had sufficient cause to escape the aura of dread- no need to roll for the area's effects.

    Session One saw the exploration of the house above and the first portion of the catacombs, up to the bronze doors. I had lots of fun with Announcing Future Badness on failed rolls, really getting into the oppressive and horrible nature of the place. One thing that tripped me up is that the Cabin is so dense with weird stuff- maybe that's why Doc says I was conservative with details, but in actuality there was so much there for me to keep track of and announce at once (and it didn't help that they hit the cabin from front and back, SWAT style, and split up into pairs to search it room by room, and then split up to fuck around with the harpsichord.)

    The Wizard kept casting spells and getting 7-9 results, which means he has to choose some downside. He kept choosing "draw attention to himself", so I kept having his spells have unwanted side effects. I think a botched Detect Magic had him stricken with fear, needing to get out of the Cabin as soon as possible... and when he regained his senses, he realized he was standing in the exact spot where they had found Glover's body... his reaction was priceless.

  2. I juiced up the Glyph guarding the Chapel Doors- anyone looking upon it had to Defy Danger or suffer a debility. I think everyone but the Thief ended up suffering so, and they propped the door open.

    In one of the priest's chambers to the east of the Chapel, the Bard decided to split off to search, and botched a roll- getting himself locked in the room and his torch going out, and generally freaking the fuck out.

    The bard also played the organ in the Chapel. I had everyone Defy Danger or be Sickened (save or die effects are not my thing, but wearing everyone down with fungal spores certainly is.) He didn't play the Organ long enough to unlock the secret.

    The Wizard cast Detect Magic on the cursed relics in the Chapel, and got a 7-9 result, so I had him realize they were cursed... as he picked them up to investigate them, cursing himself in the process.

    Doc, as stated, knocked some of the skulls down to put a tooth in the basin. He told me he didn't expect it to work, but would get the party thinking about teeth. (This is one area where I was glad I was running dungeon world. When I played, this is where I got stuck, and said 'fuck it, let's play the obviously trapped organ' The fact that Spout Lore exists lets a player prompt me for information, but no one actually asked me what they know about horrible basins in cursed chapels.)

    They got the door open, and broke for the first session.

  3. Session 2 was like a month later, because people kept being unable to make it, and we kept "waiting a week" for them, when someone else couldn't make it. Eventually Abram the Druid couldn't make it and said play without him.

    Tim the Paladin was out the first session with food poisoning (he was at the table, barely there for an hour, before going upstairs), and then rejoined the fray, activated his Quest to find the Codex, and let the party find the passage down. This probably saved their bacon later on, since they would have known about the shaft going up to the surface.

    They explored the very edge of the rooms near the catacombs. The Wizard botched a detect magic on a magical book they found, and is now compelled to follow the instructions to create a flesh golem. The Bard fished some coins out of a fountain and is cursed. They got to the plant, the Fighter and Paladin killed it, and then the Wizard started his ritual to copy the Codex. Just as it was finishing up, undead began bursting from the tombs, and we had a nice tenseful getaway scene where the Thief, Bard, and Wizard were trying to make their way through the vine-clogged shaft, and the Fighter and Paladin were holding off the first waves of the horde.

    As the Thief and Bard gained the surface, the undead began to rise, hands poking out of graves. Time to go! Everyone raced towards the wagon, and made their escape.

    The rest was bickering over what to do with the Codex and the other magical books they found, and arguing over who's fault it is.

    1. It's been awhile since I read the module, and some of my dread was likely enhanced by the prior knowledge, but the botched Detect Magic roll was the best moment of the first session because it really nailed home the idea that "this is a place you do not want to linger at." Exploring the cabin was, in general, a real treat because the only thing I could remember about it was the painting. I didn't realize we could camp far away from the cabin, I thought the whole mountain was cursed. I didn't think our details were conservative when describing the place, but there were a few times when somebody asked something from a Discern Realities roll where I thought there should have been a more elaborate answer, again prior knowledge of what was waiting for us probably tainted my perspective.

      There's a secret in the organ? I clearly don't remember any of the really cool stuff from the module.

  4. So, I realized I've been slacking on finishing the writeup.

    The next session, the players, having escaped by the skin of their teeth, realized that the oncoming Zompocalypse was a ridiculously bad thing, and had to do their best to stop it.

    They had a couple of ideas:

    *Maybe they could fight the zombies?
    *Maybe the Druid could learn to speak the plant song and put the zombies back to sleep?
    *Most promising, perhaps the Wizard could find a Place of Power in the temple and perform a ritual to stop the zombies.
    *If all else failed, the Druid could use Elemental Mastery to blow up the mountain- a potent but risky course of action. Since the Druid had yet to use Elemental Mastery in this game, I had not realized just how crazy powerful that ability can be.

    The Dwarven Fighter wanted nothing to do with this, and went back down the mountain with the Bard (who's player was absent). Together they stopped the Dwarven party from going further up the mountain, lit a fire to burn lots of zombies (and themselves), and failed to warn the town at the base of the mountain, who heralded the forest fire as a sign from their god to wipe away sin and zombies.

    Meanwhile, the main group encountered a small (something like 5-10) group of zombies. The wizard found he could cast Dispel Magic to easily destroy one zombie at a time, and the Druid found he could speak the song of sleep, which I treated as an at-will Sleep spell... which affects 1d4 creatures at a time. Not good enough to put the horde to sleep. And after that batch was done with, the druid scouted to see that there were hundreds, if not more zombies descending down the mountain in all directions.

    Discussing their options, the druid summoned a spirit of air to make a tornado to carry them up the mountain. It wasn't completely controlled though, so dropped all the players in the middle of the horde atop the mountain... in completely different spots.

    A fierce and deadly fight ensued- I think the thief was caught in the tree, and everyone was scattered across the map. The party managed to regroup, focusing on fending off the zombies rather than killing them. The wizard was the first one down the ladder, and encounters Cyrius Maximus in the throne room.

    Me: "(describes the vampire lord).... and he's played by Benedict Cumberbatch."
    Wizard's Player: "Oh snap! Shit just got real."
    Me: "My name is Cyrius Maximus..."
    Wizard's Player: "Cyrius Maximus? Oh come on."

    The vampire made his offer, which the Wizard refused. The Druid was the next down the shaft, and was charmed by the vampire. The wizard's Dispel Magic cured the curse, but then Cyrius got his hands around the wizard's neck, and when the druid refused his offer, he crushed the wizard to death, the only casualty of the evening.

    With the wizard dead, the only option left was plan D: Nuke the place. So the Druid asked the spirits of Earth and Fire to turn the mountaintop into a volcano, which yes, Elemental Mastery can conceivably do. And he aced the roll.

    So I gave him a choice between total utter destruction: everything, including him and the party, or almost total utter destruction, in which there might be a chance for him and the party to survive. He chose the chance. Everyone made their defy danger roll, so they were flung from the exploding volcano temple, badly battered, bruised, and shattered, but somehow clinging to life.

    "Hey, did we kill that vampire dude?"
    "Well, no one could have survived something like that, right?"

    Obviously, they didn't get the vampire.

    I called that an end to the campaign; where can you go from there? However there are some lingering plot hooks (the troll prince, and the druid owes the spirit a mighty price) which everyone was very interested in. I'm at the point where I could see picking up this game again, now that a few months have passed.

    Also, fuck druids.


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