Sunday, July 19, 2015

Megadungeons are pinball, and the party is the ball
[5e Dwimmermount]

While I was thinking about the party's progress through Dwimmermount, it occurred to me that their foray into the first two levels was careful and planned but now that they're encountering more of the factions in the lower levels they are bouncing around exploring and pillaging and destroying quite randomly. Like a game of pinball, the ball comes out at the top in a predictable and measured way but then gravity and the bumpers propel the ball into new directions and you have no idea if it will sink down the center of the table (TPK) or if it will fly along the sides of the bumpers to be smacked upward and propelled through the turnstiles and targets again.

Today I asked the player of Horatius to show up early so we could hash out what happened to him when he split from the party.

Turns out, Horatius almost got killed. Repeatedly.

Braak had mentioned he saw a mimic and he led Horatius and Poach back to a room closer to where they first entered this level. Braak pointed out the room, there was no door but inside the floor was lined with silvery-black mushrooms. Horatius stepped into the room to investigate and promptly fell asleep.

The mushrooms are a sleep trap, and after both Braak and Poach failed their saves as well I decided this was the perfect opportunity to say that Horatius had been asleep for an indeterminate period of time.

Horatius awoke to see Klayqus above him, pleading for him to wake up and help him and his friends. A human wearing the old, battered plate mail of an Adamas soldier was fighting some of the thorgrim alongside a gigantic 7 foot tall, green-skinned repugnant man with a flaming sword. The flaming sword skewered one of the thorgrim, and Horatius tried to plead "These guys aren't evil, they aren't going to hurt you." The green man saw Braak and shouted "Goblin! Kill the goblin!" That settled it for Horatius, these guys had to die.

These are Greenfellow and Tarf, from here. Scarleaf and Gimble will be with them the next time they appear.

The green man charged and Horatius tried to stop him, but failed to do much. Braak ran into the room of silver-black mushrooms and the green man followed while the plated human killed another thorgrim. Braak was stabbed through the chest and was almost certainly dead, and the green man was moving to Poach'es still sleeping body to do the same to him. Kalyqus turned to Horatius and said "We should run."

They fled north, down a corridor to the west, and into a circular room filled with pipes, seemingly a dead end.

Klayqus turned a wheel attached to one of the pipes and sliding wall revealed itself. Horatius was escorted through several secret doors until he arrived at the main thorgrim camp, Klayqus explaining who Horatius was as they encountered every new thorgrim. Horatius had begun to learn the Beastial tongue and was picking up some of what was said, but not all of it.

Klayqus pointed down a corridor and said "The ranine are this way, perhaps your friends are as well?" and Horatius continued onward. He found dead ranine, burned to a crisp, and a few more trying to hide from him. He threatened them with his sword and asked where the wizard that had fried their friends went, they said "Downstairs." Horatius returned to the room with the tapestry and the now-destroyed animated statue and ventured down to the next level.

Encountering another statue, he warily approached it and it spoke the name "Micma!" in an echoing voice. Horatius continued on, fighting a rust monster in the next chamber, finding a secret door concealing treasure, continuing west he was bespelled by confusion and then fell into a pit with a black pudding.

I wasn't trying to kill his character, I never even rolled for random encounters, but he was rolling really poorly whenever he fought anything or rolled a saving throw.

Nearly dead, and stumbling north, he found a minotaur slaughtering ranine with a heavy axe. The minotaur asked if he was friends with the wizard and Horatius impulsively replied "No." The minotaur was also nearly dead and asked for help getting back to his king, Bik. Horatius agreed and they were soon separated by the teleport trap.

Horatius saw light coming from the door where his friends were and his arrival was soon followed by the minotaur, who recognized Sulla and attacked. After a brief fight the party took steps to secure their resting place.

We went slightly backward in time. The last session ended with this rest ending, but now at least Horatius had returned to the group.

Shortly after Horatius reunited with the party, the minotaur found his way into the resting area and attacked Sulla. After a short battle, the ratkin were asked to keep guard while the party rested and healed, and while they rested they debated about what their next action should be. The ratkin insisted that Ilona meet with their leader, Krishka, and so they set off down one of the corridors to find her.

Using ratkin instead of wererats was a big departure, but it allowed me to expand on the connection with sapient rats. The ratkin are the only race within Dwimmermount that I set up to automatically be allies with anybody coming in since their primary agenda is to escape, this means the party did not receive any XP for making an alliance with them.

Upon finding Krishka she asked if the way out of Dwimmermount was clear and Sulla explained they would need to be escorted if they hoped to make it past the horngorblin patrols as well as the mercenaries following Louys Herint, the cleric of Typhon. When asked how they managed to survive for 200 years Krishka explained that there was a small farm where they could produce meat.

Another addition on my part, I put a few chickens and sheep into the cloning chamber and decided that Bik has the key because he killed the former ratkin leader for it. The ratkin have been cloning the chickens and sheep whenever they need more food, but now they're starting to starve because the minotaurs have the only key and won't share.

Ilona was keen on having a guide who knew the layout, even after Krishka drew a map of the level.

Ilona insisted on being shown where this chamber was, and Krishka explained that they wouldn't be able to get in. Along the way, Sulla and Horatius discovered that saying "Micma" would deactivate the teleportation trap, making the level more accessible. They found the cloning chamber doors and couldn't get in, as Krishka predicted, but Horatius found the alteration chamber and they began experimenting with the canopy. Horatius was healed slightly, but Ilona insisted they move onward and confront Bik.

They passed a set of double doors and Horatius tried to open them. A voice spoke from the other side "Hello? Is somebody out there?" and they determined that a woman was trapped behind the doors. Nobody could force the doors open so Sulla explained they did not have a way of getting her out of the room and they would be right back as soon as they found something.

This is Melissia (page 202) and I figure she's absolutely desperate to get out but isn't going to make any offers until she actually sees those doors open. Her powers are slightly different in 5th edition compared to, say, 2nd edition and I don't really like that, so I'll be scanning 2nd edition stats when the party returns to this room.

Incidentally, the past few sessions the Knock spell would have been extremely useful and I've put a single Knock scroll into Bik's treasure hoard. They could use the scroll on Melissia's door or Sulla could spend a week trying to learn the spell. Actually, I've put a ton of minor magic items into Bik's hoard because I assume the ratkin would have amassed a lot of items and the minotaurs are basically slaughtering the ratkin and taking their stuff. The evidence of ratkin deaths has been minimal so far, but a pile of bodies will likely be found in the next session.

Ilona was now determined to confront Bik and led the party down the halls she believed would end up where he and his minotaurs were camped. Indeed, they stumbled into his throne room. Bik almost immediately singled out Levity as somebody to negotiate with since Levity had small horns, and while Levity tried to mollify Bik and make peace with him (in Beastial) Sulla interrupted and soured the conversation by challenging Bik's self-proclaimed authority.

A fight was about to occur, but it was the end of the session...