Story emerges from play - last night's session

Last night was interesting, the players were definitely driving some story into things.  They had collectively decided to just get enough money to pay for the service at the Grand Temple.  So they had a good run through the dungeon, got a bunch of loot, and then it was back to the city to see what would happen.

So I gave some brief description of the Nisus appearance, was fairly tired and couldn't come up with anything interesting - so I just had her toss out her respects to the PC's.  Apparently that's what they were looking for - they went out and had their characters buy tabards with centipede images to declare their allegiance to Nisus, and have self-identified as the Knights of Nisus.  So there's the story making itself right there.

Gutboy is also holding a grudge against his former patron, Thor, and wants to torch Thor's temple.  Ahh, that's the antisocial PC behavior I love to see.  He's nervous that Nisus might be shacked up with Thor somehow.  Not sure how he's envisioning that working, since she manifests as a collection of bugs - but they're both satellites orbiting the earth, so no worries about romance interfering with his nefarious plans.  Not that he knows that.

I rolled a few dice, and Scientist Bob had the gumption to go further into the dungeon while the players were away, hoping to find the secrets the party alluded to - and a few more dice, and whoops, Bob and crew met an untimely end.  Captured or eaten, I don't know yet.

Finally, the spend-gold-for-XP houserule has had some interesting effects.  There was a half hour spent while Mongo's player tried to figure out how to spend enough gold to make 2nd level.  Blowing it all on lunch and/or vice was considered, but eventually he decided he wanted to lease an apartment.

Session recap, 2/23/2011

Here's the recap email I just sent for tonight's session:

Our cast:

Mongo the Fighter, and his henchmen Melzgar the Elf, Rogar the Elf, and Roger the Fighter
Gutboy Barrelhouse the Cleric, his henchmen Slezgar the Elf and Serlo the Elf, and his dogs Rufus and Ruby
Netal the Elf, and his dog Moe

As the adventure reconvened, P.W. the Halfling ran screaming into the dark, his time in the pit apparently having broken his nerve.  Unconcerned, the party continued north, coming across a tunnel filled with silk.  A single 4' long stony-looking caterpillar crawled towards the party, but was peppered with arrows before it got in biting range.  Searching  the silk, the party discovered triangular nooks behind the silk webbing, and each had a cocoon, with gold coins woven into it.  The slashed the cocoons apart to retrieve the gold, killing the chrysalis in each one.

After looting the cocoons, the party backtracked and explored a side corridor.  This corridor ended in an archway, with a dim light coming from the room inside.  Mongo peeked in, and saw 10 giant moths fluttering around an 8' tall black post, with a glowing globe atop it.  A murderous frenzy overcame the party, and they charged in, seeking the death of these insolent moths.  A few arrow shots and a sleep spell later, and the moths lay dead in sticky buggy heap.  Each party member took a turn trying to wrench the globe off the top of the black post, but they did not have the strength.  There was some debate about smashing it, but in the end, everyone decided to leave the globe alone and explore other parts of the dungeon.

Backtracking a bit more, the party went down another side corridor.  At the end of this corridor was a triangular-shaped room, completely empty.  Netal  went into the room, carefully searching, and found a pressure plate on the floor in the middle of the room.  Looking around some more, he saw cracks in the mortar on the south wall, roughly the same size as a door, and two loose stones in the wall on either side of the door-sized area.  The rest of the party entered the room, and began searching the ceiling, looking for anything ominous.  Both Roger and Rogar saw more cracks in the ceiling, in a square shape, above the pressure plate.

Most of the party went to the entrance to the room, while Mongo prodded the pressure plate with a 10' pole.  A trapdoor in the ceiling swung down, releasing five 2' wide translucent bubbles.  The bubbles floated towards Mongo, flicking tendrils at him, but they were unable to penetrate his armor.

Mongo fled, while the rest of the party shot arrows at the bubbles, popping two, while Netal attempted to sleep the bubbles.  The sleep spell had no effect, and the bubbles once again lashed out with tendrils, but missed.  Several more arrows and sword blows eliminated the bubbly threat, and aside from a bubble's goo falling on top of Roger, the party was unwounded.

Netal pushed in on both loose blocks simultaneously, and the secret door opened.  Following the corridor beyond, the party came into a strange room, with walls painted in pastoral scenes of frolicking deer, chipmunks, squirrels, and other woodland creatures.  Artificial bushes made of dowels with silk leaves were scattered around the room, and in the center were four wooden statues.  Netal moved up to investigate, and found the statues were of 3' tall men, sitting cross-legged, with three eyes and pointy hats.  At the top of each pointy hat was a gleaming sapphire.

Mongo was deeply suspicious, and pointed his sword at one of the statues' throat while Netal reached for the sapphire.  As soon as Netal touched the statue, it sprang up to attack, and Mongo instantly stabbed it with his sword.  The wooden statue just splintered a bit and started swinging at Netal, and the other three began to stir.

The fight lasted a few rounds, with one of the statues landing a few hits on Rufus the dog, but the party handily reduced them to splinters.  Gathering up the sapphires, the party realized they had enough money to pay for the service to Nisus at the Grand Temple.

The party left the dungeon, talking briefly to Bob the Scientist on the way out about the possibility of escorting him to some of the scientific secrets they had uncovered, but they needed to get back to Denethix.  So back to Chelmsfordshire they went, resting for a day so that Gutboy could heal the dogs.  The henchmen spent the time on a drunken bender, and Roger the Fighter informed Mongo that he was quitting.  "Look, I'm sick of you calling me George, and I know these elves think you're incredibly eloquent, but really, I'm starting to suspect that you're not that bright.  I'm going to Denethix to get some women."  With that, Roger headed off.

The next day, the party headed towards Denethix.  They paid the remainder of the fee to the Grand Temple for the service to Nisus, and Mongo was left in a spending mood.  They wandered the markets of the Bazaar Incomparable, looking for "magic potions" to make them feel better.  Mongo found a snake oil salesman, but doubted that the Yellow-Bellied Adder Oil would really work.  The salesman suggested something a bit stronger.

Salesman: "Perhaps the powdered dust of the cactus of the southern desert?  A little of that and you'll be feeling quite good!"
Mongo:  "Mongo want something that kill!  You have something that kill?"
"You take enough of the cactus dust, it'll kill you!"
"Not what Mongo mean."

They accosted the gun salesman they had bargained with a few weeks earlier, but found the prices way out of reach, even for a breech-loading rifle.  Mongo had enough cash for a palm-sized pistol, but wouldn't have enough money for the bullets, which were quite pricey.  The arms dealer explained that each bullet had to be hand cast, as the barrels were all different diameters, and the rifling different on each one.

Eventually, Mongo decided on leasing an apartment.  He put down first, last, and security deposit on a one-bedroom apartment on the Street of Worthy Servitude.  With his new home in the city, his self-confidence increased greatly.

The party stayed in the apartment for a week, waiting for the day of the festival.  It arrived, and they went down to the Grand Temple.  The front rows of the temple held the rich, with the poor in the back and up in the balconies.  The festival opened with a two-hour service to Blibdoolpoolp, the naked high priestess wearing her ceremonial lobster head.  Livestock were slaughtered, and a three-foot-long lobster was gutted and tossed onto the sacrifical fires.  Various other deities were introduced, and services held for them, with the accompanying reading of entrails.  No gods appeared in the great God's Eye, however.

Eventually the time for Nisus arrived, and Gutboy approached the altar.  He began extolling the virtues of Nisus, as the great fertilizer of the fields and so forth, and the God's Eye glimmered with color.  It filled with images of crawling insects, and Nisus' voiced boomed out:  "BEHOLD MY CHAMPIONS!  STAND, CHAMPIONS!  BEHOLD GUTBOY!  BEHOLD NETAL!  BEHOLD MONGO!"  The God's Eye then faded out, and Gutboy started giving directions to the booth of Nisus.  As he did so, the priestess of Blibdoolpoolp walked up and shooed him away from the pulpit.

The party went to Nisus's booth, and waited to see if any potential worshippers would show up.  One middle-class man did show up, and asked a few questions about the goddess.  Gutboy responded fervently, suggesting that the man could become a priest of Nisus, because somebody had to watch the temple while he was away.  The man nodded politely, explained that he already had a job, gave Gutboy a gold piece, and took off.

The party then went to the Temple of Science to negotiate rates with Bob.  The attendant in the vestibule seemed a bit worried, since Bob hadn't actually been heard from in 10 days, and wondered if the Gutboy had seen him.  When Gutboy said he had, and would go looking for him for a fee, the attendant went to get Head Scientist Gregory.  Gregory came out, standing on his stilts and wearing his ceremonial labcoat.  Some brief and mildly acrimonious negotiations ensued, and Gregory agreed to pay 500 gp for determining the fate of and possibly rescuing Bob and the other Scientists.

So, on Wed March 9th:  "What About Bob", the adventure.  See you there.


Wandering monster percentages

I just did an analysis of the wandering monster distribution over hit dice in Moldvay B/X.  I did this because I wanted to make sure my own wandering monster tables were "fair" - not overloaded with high hit dice creatures.

So here's the raw data.

First level: 15% 1/2 HD, 60% 1 HD, 20% 2 HD, 5% 3 HD
Second level: 20% 1 HD, 60% 2 HD, 15% 3 HD, 5% 4 HD
Third level: 5% 1 HD, 5% 2 HD, 45% 3 HD, 40% 4 HD, 5% 5 HD
Fourth-fifth level: 5% 3 HD, 40% 4 HD, 25% 5 HD, 25% 6 HD, 5% 7 HD
Sixth-seventh level: 5% 4 HD, 30% 5 HD, 40% 6 HD, 10% 7 HD, 10% 8 HD, 5% 10 HD
Eight+ level: 10% 6 HD, 5% 7 HD, 30% 8 HD, 20% 9 HD, 15% 10 HD, 10% 11 HD, 5% 12 HD, 5% 15 HD

Some of the monsters have hit dice ranges (hydras, hell hounds, etc) - for those I just used the hit die in the middle of the range, and if it was even, I picked a direction one way or another.  So there's some imprecision there.  For adventuring parties I gave their hit dice the same as the level.  Again, things are picked arbitrarily for the "fourth-fifth" multi-level tables.  If creatures are "+1" or "-1" or whatever to hit points, I don't care, they're that many hit dice.

A few observations:

a. Wandering nobles on the first level of a dungeon?  That's a little peculiar.  Maybe there was an assumption that dungeons are located under active, working castles, and of course nobles would occasionally head down to find the wine cellar or something?
b. Adventuring parties first start showing up on the wandering monster tables at level 3.  About where I was thinking of placing them in my own megadungeon.
c. The dungeon wandering monster tables really fall apart as you go up in levels.  You can definitely tell the focus turns to wilderness exploration and other non-dungeon-focused encounters.  There's just not a heck of a lot of effort in providing a variety high-level dungeon opponents.  Well, boo hiss to that.  Wilderness is fun, but don't abandon your roots!

So if I look at this data as # of creatures at -1 level, dungeon level, +1 level, +2 or more levels, I can put together the following table showing the distribution:

Level-1 HDAt Level+1 HD+2 HD or more

For the 8+ level, I treated 8 and 9 HD encounters as "at level".  For the "average" row, I rounded to the nearest 5%.

Now I like to use 2d6 for my wandering monsters, rather than a d20.  The curve means that more common monsters come up more often.  So if I roughly map those results to a 2d6, I get the following table:

2-3+2 HD
4+1 HD
5At level
6-1 HD
7-9At level
10+1 HD
11+1 HD
12+2 HD

And here's the distribution (in percentages) of my existing wandering monster tables:

AreaNon-combat-1 HDAt Level+1 HD+2 HD or more
Level 117%0%55%25%3%

Now I have an extra category of "non-combat" encounters that B/X doesn't have (spooky noises, etc).  Of course I don't have any encounters at -1 HD.  Comparing to the "average" table, it looks like my wandering monster tables, done entirely by "feel," are fair.  Probably slightly more than fair, since I've got those non-combat encounters instead of lower hit dice encounters.

In other news, I've got the cover art back from Brian "Glad" Thomas and will post that at some point, it's awesome. I'll be getting some interior art done as well, I need to figure out how much - the point of releasing the first level is to fund more art for the next, and so on, and so on... so while I'd love to have everything illustrated to the hilt, I do want to at least break even on the thing.

The "setting" type content is almost done. Just a few sections left to write, and then I want to write up a bunch of interesting NPC's. A friend gave me a copy of City-State of the Invincible Overlord, and while I think that supplement is overkill for how I run a city, I can see the utility of having piles of NPC's, their goofy motivations, and random details, for when the party begins to wander aimlessly. So I hope to have everything written before the end of February, and then the editing & layout begins. That's a good thing, because my players are on the cusp of heading down to level 2, and I need to get working on that.


Canus, Lord of the Hounds

Canus, Lord of the Hounds
No. Enc: 1
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 3
Hit Dice: 4th level fighter (20 hp)
Attacks: 1 (energy whip)
Damage: 1d6, see below
Save: F 4
Morale: 10
Hoard Class: XIX
XP: 190

Once there was a barbarian, vicious even by the standards of the reavers of his tribe.  This man was driven away by his brethren when he began to turn on his own, slaying men, women, and children who had failed to show him the respect his might deserved.

Canus (for that was his name) wandered long across the Land of One Thousand Suns, leaving a trail of murder and savagery, until he came across a wizard in need of a test subject.  The wizard had spent long years studying in the ruins of a pet cloning company, learning the fine art of gene splicing.  The wizard attempted to restrain Canus, and inject him with the DNA samples he had concocted, but there is always danger in using barbarians as test subjects – Canus killed the sorcerer with a bite to the throat as he leaned over to deliver the injection.

Canus was blessed with more than just sociopathic behavior and brute strength – he was a quick study, and soon produced more of the pet-cloning serum.  He captured dozens of helpless test subjects, and learned the serum’s true power – the production of the Dober-Men (see the Monsters section for more details).  Soon he had an army of these dog-headed freaks, and he has used them to carve a personal city-state for himself out of the barren wilderness.

Canus rules his lands from a four-story stone tower he calls “the Kennel.”  The stone tower has no visible entrance, and no windows except on the uppermost floor.  It is entered from an underground cave system he calls “the Den,” where he keeps his army of Dober-Men at the ready.

Canus’s long association with the Dober-Men has twisted his body into a “wolf-man” shape.  He is covered with black shaggy hair, except on his pink nose, and has a pair of pointed ears sticking out of the top of his head.

In combat, Canus wears a suit of plate mail and wields an energy whip.  The whip does 1d6 points of damage on a hit, and if the victim fails a save vs. paralyzation, he will be tangled in the whip.  Targets tangled in the whip will continue to take 1d6 points of damage per round automatically until they free themselves via a successful save vs. paralyzation.  This energy whip will cease to function 1d4 days after Canus’s death, as it is powered only by his twisted will.

Canus additionally has the power to charm dogs and wolves.  He may charm one dog or wolf per round, up to a total of four.  The dog must save vs. spell; if successful, they are only confused (as per the spell) instead of charmed.  A charmed dog is entirely under Canus’s command, and will unhesitatingly attack its former master.

Dober-Man (Minion of Canus)
No. Enc: 3d8
Alignment: Chaotic
Movement: 120' (40')
Armor Class: 8
Hit Dice: 2
Attacks: 1
Damage: 1d8 (or 1d4 for bite)
Save: F1
Morale: 12
Hoard Class: None
XP: 20

These monsters are the unswervingly loyal servants of the wizard Canus.  A Dober-Man has the body of a human, with the head of a Doberman pinscher.  In battle, they wear only loincloths and sandals, and wield sharp, curving scimitars.  If deprived of his scimitar for some reason, a Dober-Man will bite for 1d4 points of damage instead.

(A note to readers - when I say "servants of the wizard Canus," that's not a typo.  These are wizards in the Thundarr-the-Barbarian sense, lunatics who've gotten hold of super-science.  Canus is another genetic-modification style wizard, like Monsator.  It's a convenient excuse for designing goofy minions.  Yes, I know these are incredibly corny - I want my wizard villains to be full of cartoonish supervillainy, not deadly epic threats to the safety of the world)


Iridium Tombs, and d30's

When I added the little bit of "flavor" to the Greater Denethix Area map, I stuck in some "tomb" symbols, and figured I'd name them the Lanthanide Tombs.  Didn't really roll off the tongue, so I googled the periodic table, stabbed directly in the middle of it with my finger, and landed on Ir.  Iridium!  That really does roll off the tongue nicely, so in it went.  Then I had a nagging suspicion I had heard it somewhere before... eventually it hit me, the Iridium Plateau on Planet Algol.  Gah.  So I'll have to come up with a different element, I feel very plagiaristic using iridium.  Rubidium? Cesium? Strontium? Polonium?  It'll be somethingium.

I like the sparseness of symbols on the area map.  The symbols themselves are bland, stock CC2 symbols, except for the Denethix tower which is hand-crafted.  I don't mind the look, but then again I haven't been exposed to CC2-maps in published material.  Maybe it strikes people as incredibly fugly, if it does let me know, I don't want to produce crap.

I also just went ahead and ordered a fistful of d30's.  The ugliest will become the d30 of shame, for those of my players too cheap to buy their own.

Materials Science

There are many unusual materials in both Denethix and the Anomalous Subsurface Environment.  Many of these impart near-magical properties to the objects made from them.

Protonium-metal is well-known to those who live in Denethix and the surrounding towns, as its impressive properties mean that several artifacts of unknown purpose still remain in museums, fields, and junkyards.  This metal is a fusion of protons and anti-protons, suspended in a rigid baryon mesh.  The metal exists in a state that cannot be changed, and is thus entirely unbreakable, and cannot be worked in any way.

Protonium-metal cannot be bent, damaged, dissolved in acid, rusted, or otherwise corroded, and it is immune to disintegrate spells, anti-magic effects, and spheres of annihilation.  Only a wish may be used to alter protonium-metal, and even that will only affect a 1’ square area of the metal.  It cannot be breached via the use of teleport, dimension door, and passwall spells, as it exists in multiple dimensions.  It is also impossible to use ESP or telepathy on a creature wearing a protonium-metal helmet, and anything completely encased in the metal cannot be detected by any magical scrying.

The metal was only produced briefly deep in the Anomalous Subsurface Environment, using the Advanced Quantum Preon Collider.  The collider was found to generate lumps of protonium-metal, and methods were soon established to cause the metal to form in specific shapes.  One of the more common items manufactured in the security-conscious ASE were doors.  Furniture and other random items were also manufactured by the Collider team, as it was easier to fill a requisition by sending it to the affable engineers a few levels down, than to get approval from Accounting.

The rarest items forged in the crucible of the Collider were medieval weapons and armor, created mostly as whimsical wall decorations.  Such weapons effectively have magical bonues of +1 to +3, depending on how utilitarian or whimsical the particular weapon design is.  Protonium-metal armor and shields are always +3.  Blades of this metal never dull, and armor never dents or scratches.

In Denethix and the surrounding towns, pieces of protonium-metal can still be found.  There are large bits of scaffolding, massive shapeless lumps, and various abstract designs.  These pieces largely serve as eyesores, as the metal cannot be disposed of or re-purposed.

All protonium-metal radiates magic, if detected for.

This white, reflective material is a form of plastic infused with protonium-metal dust.  It is incredibly stiff and impact-resistant.  This material is not as resilient as protonium-metal itself, but is lighter and easier to manufacture, as the dust can be mixed into the plastic resin and molded into arbitrary shapes.

Armor and shields made from argonium are effectively +1 magic items.  Argonium, like protonium-metal, radiates magic.

Disintegrate spells will only function on the surrounding plastic matrix, reducing argonium to piles of protonium-metal dust.  It does still block inter-dimensional travel, as the dust exists in all dimensions, but ESP and telepathy will penetrate an argonium helmet, and argonium containers will not prevent magical scrying.

“Sick Rock”
To a human or halfling, sick rock appears as a crumbly yellow rock.  To dwarves or elves, sick rock is a terrifying sight – it is a blinding nightmare of shifting gamma radiation.

Any creatures within 30’ must save vs. poison every full half hour they are exposed to the sick rock.  If they fail, they will succumb to a wasting disease, losing half their hit points (round up) per hour, until they die.  Neutralize poison will stop the wasting, but victims of the sick rock will not be able to be healed in any way (magical or natural) until a cure disease is cast upon them.

The effects of sick rock radiation are blocked by a 1” thick sheet of lead, or 10’ of stone.

All dwarves and elves instantly recognize sick rock, as they have been told stories of the “sick light” since they were children.


Map of Greater Denethix area, this times with hexes

Spawn of Endra pointed out that I hadn't used hexes - total oversight on my part.  I completely forgot.  They looked fairly nice when I substituted them in for the square grid, so hexes it is.

I also tossed in some random bits of map flavor.  Only one area (the unnamed cave in the hill) do I know exactly what's in there - I have a general notion of what's in the ruins in the northeast corner, and the rest is just names dropped down for inspiration.  1 hex = 2.5 miles.


Map of Greater Denethix area

I came up with a map of the Greater Denethix area - the surrounding villages and towns.  I need to add some "flavor areas" now.  Nothing with any actual detail, but some evocative names sprinkled around the map would be cool.

Here's what I've got so far:


More notes on last night's session

So I'm changing up the rules a bit.  I haven't liked the dead-at-0-hp for a while now, so that's changed.  Occasionally you're going to take a hit, it's pretty penalizing to the front-line players to constantly have to roll new PC's.  I don't want to have the players end up so paranoid about standing up front that we're playing Dungeons & Dogs instead of Dungeons & Dragons.

I also decided to do the d30 rule that I first read about on The Lands of Ara.  We don't actually have any d30's just yet, so we're simulating with d6's and d10's, but it worked out well.  All four players blew their d30 rolls on saving throws against the troglodytes, probably because I said "save vs poison."

The henchman-retirement rule finally came into play - it's nice to see them cycle out of play.  The party is getting henchman-and-dog-heavy.  It's slowing the party advancement down as they have to share more treasure than they otherwise would.  So the elf "sleep" brigade will slowly erode, and the party power will reduce back down to what it really should be.  Right now everything they meet gets insta-nuked.  Enjoy it while it lasts, I say!  I might have the departed henchies return as a rival adventuring party at some point.  They know where the dungeon is, after all.

As the session started, I gave Gutboy's player the bad news that his XP was way out of whack.  I reviewed things and there's no way he had nearly as much XP as he thought, and the reason was almost certainly what Spawn of Endra suggested, he had mistaken the "xp for next level" for the "gold remaining".  Since I have the house rule that treasure turns to XP once you spend it, it's pretty easy for that mistake to result in quickly-gained levels.  I don't know exactly how much xp he should have had, but it would've been real close to 2nd level if not actually over the limit, so I reset him back to the exact amount of XP for 2nd level, and no gold.

Some other random comments:

a. Reciprocity.  I've tried to follow & link to the blogs of everyone who's linked to me, if I've forgotten or missed you leave a comment and I'll add you.  And when I say "trying" that's really an exaggeration, I'm incredibly lazy.  But let me know you want some blog-following-payback and you got it!

b. Some new minis arrived from Mega-Miniatures, I got four dogs, P.W. got a halfling, and Netal got over a dozen of the Guthrie Grenadier minis.  Including some monster prehistoric dog that they certainly will not be buying and bringing in the dungeon.

c. I thought it was insane that the players wanted to leave the partly-healed dogs behind - what's better, a dead PC or a dead dog?  Because they had long ago emptied Chelmsfordshire's inventory of war dogs, however, they decided that they didn't want to risk the dogs dying.  Insane, but it does make for better play - less henchies, less dogs, more smart play required on the part of the players.

d. They just never search for secret doors.  They briefly did in the mummified leathery body room, but some of the players actually refused to look after the first few failed rolls.  They were searching an entirely wrong part of the room, but I gave the elves a chance to notice in passing the secret door in the correct location anyhow - but the dice were not with them.  Too bad for them, there was some powerful mojo behind there.

e. Gutboy's player has come up with a theory that this is a "dungeon playground", based on the training room and motivational hologram in the gatehouse level.  Totally offbase - what's funny is, the "dungeon playground" notion is something he came up with in the campaign he runs on a monthly basis, that I also play in.  So he's unconsciously attributing his own dungeon design decisions to me, which should lead to a lot of incorrect assumptions about how things work down in my creation.

Session recap, 2/9/2011

Here's the recap email I just sent for last night's session:


First, we have adopted two new house rules:

a. PC's will go unconscious at 0 hp, and die at -10
b. Once per session, a player may substitute a d30 for any roll whatsoever.  Damage, to hit, save, anything.

So here's what went on last night:

The Cast:

Mongo the Fighter, and his henchmen Melzgar the Elf, Rogar the Elf, and Roger the Fighter
Gutboy Barrelhouse the Cleric, his henchmen Slezgar the Elf and Serlo the Elf, and his dogs Rufus and Ruby
Netal the Elf, and his dog Moe
P.W. the Halfling, and his henchman Fast Eddie the Thief

Gutboy instructed Slezgar to poke at the body-shaped patch of blue fungus some more.  Slezgar verified it was fungus, and then started prodding down the length of the "body."  At the waist, his dagger clinked against something metallic - scraping the fungus away, the hips and legs of a skeleton, made of tarnished silver, were revealed.  As the party packed up the skeleton, P.W. the Halfling suddenly burst in - he had been only a few minutes behind the party, having followed them from town.

Introductions were made by Gutboy, and then the decision was made to pry the crystal lamp from the ceiling.  It was firmly attached, but hammering an iron spike finally disloged the light, yanking a bit of wire out of the ceiling.  The lamp was made of solid crystal, with a bit of wire and some bolts sticking out.  The party put it with the skeleton, hoping to sell it back at town.

The party continued deeper into the dungeon.  Following a tunnel west, they came into the upper level of a large room with a balcony.  As they entered, horrible screaming was heard from the darkness, and eyeless pointy-eared clawed albino freaks clambered up from the balcony.  P.W. took a nasty hit to the head and was knocked unconscious, but a sleep spell knocked the screaming freaks out (several falling to the floor below as they lost their grip on the balcony).  The party slaughtered the sleepers, and screams receding into the distance convinced the party the freaks had retreated.

The party decided to stay out of the lower level of the room, and exited to the north, finding an enormous cross-shaped room.  In the center of the room were four yellow-and-red kruller-shaped things, with lots of legs and horns at one end.  Two more sleep spells were attempted, but the weird things were unaffected.  A short battle was fought, and the creatures eventually killed, but the dog Moe was badly beaten and unconscious.

Close examination of the room revealed that the tunnels leading out to the north and south were surrounded on either side by carved columns in the stonework, and topped by a lintel.  Above the lintel were niches, each containing a crudely-carved skull, and lifting the skulls revealed three metal pins protruding from the bottom of the niche.  The east and west sides of the cross-shaped rooms didn't have any tunnels, but did have the columns and lintel, surrounding a wall of smooth stone instead of an opening.  Experiments were performed, moving the skulls to various niches, but nothing happened.

The party headed north, and found themselves in familiar territory - they eventually made it back to the 30' square room, with a 10' square pillar in the middle, and stone faces carved on each side of the pillar.  The pillar was surrounded by skeletons.  P.W. investigated the pillar further, and discovered there was a lever in each recessed right eye socket, in each of the faces.  The party retreated to a room to the north, with a door, and P.W. pulled the lever.  He yanked his hand back quickly as clear ooze began dribbling down out of each eye socket, and ran back into the room to the north.  The party slammed the door shut, and worked their way back around the 30' square room via an alternate path.

Coming back into the room from an eastern entrance, they found no sign of the ooze, but most of the skeletons were now missing.  P.W. theorized the ooze dissolved the skeletons, but this theory was soon to be discredited.  To the south was an open door, and as the party moved south to examine it, eight skeletons with clear oozy bodies marched through the door towards them.

Gutboy immediately tried to turn their creatures, but to his horror realized he had no holy symbol - he had discarded Thor's but forgot to find a replacement.  So melee combat was engaged.  The door restricted the monsters' movement, however, and the battle was decidedly one-sided.  Mongo and the dogs moved up to the front lines, and carved through them, while P.W. and Roger shot arrows over the dogs' heads.  Mongo gave a blast with his napalm-loaded flamethrower, but only managed to splash the wall - he decided to switch to his two-handed sword after that miss.  The combat was brief, and the party prevailed, but another hound was knocked out cold.

Continuing exploration to the south revealed an empty room, without even dust, and beyond that a small room with rusty metal shelving.  The shelving mostly held tiny mounds of dust, but there was a small rack of six vials labeled "Ichor Samples".  Each vial contained a clear fluid.  Netal put the vials into his pack to investigate later.

The group decided to head back to Chelmsfordshire.  At the village tavern, Fast Eddie and Slezgar announced that they were retiring from the adventuring life.  There was muted discussion about killing them and taking their pay, but seeing as the party was in a public place, the two former henchmen were allowed to leave unmolested.  A few days were spent healing and resting, but the two wounded dogs were deemed too unhealthy to risk bringing back into the dungeon.  There was some talk of finding the village's cleric to help with healing, until they recalled that Gutboy was the appointed (and chronically absent) cleric of the town.  Gutboy took some time to teach five of the locals about the glories of Nisus, and soon they were rubbing bugs, worms, and dirt in their hair.  Gutboy also took some time to whittle a holy symbol, a piss-poor representation of a centipede made out of a stick.  The party then headed back to the dungeon, a few henchmen and dogs lighter than they were before.

The explorers made their way west back towards the throne room they had found during one of the party's earlier visits to the dungeon.  Instead of heading through the trap door under the throne, they instead went north through a massive pair of double doors.  The chamber beyond was only partially excavated, but strangely had dressed stone wherever there wasn't rough unexcavated rock.  There were also several giant earwigs, but the creatures didn't seem particularly interested in the party.  Gutboy praised Nisus, and the expedition west east down a long corridor.

The corridor stretched for over a hundred feet, before an opening with a door was noticed to the north.  Exploration of the tightly-spaced tunnels beyond revealed a room with a stuck door, and P.W. heard voices behind it.  P.W. failed to smash through it, but Mongo was able to bash the door open, sending a spike flying across the room.  Inside were four stinking lizard-people, with sharp claws and massive jaws.  Arrows were fired, taking one of the lizards out, and a sleep spell took care of the rest.  The party gleefully set to slitting throats and looting the bodies of their pouches of electrum pieces.  The lizard-people were clearly malnourished, with skin tight against their ribs and distended bellies.

Another room in the tight cluster of corridors was found to contain a stunning pile of perhaps 10,000 gp, plentiful jewels, and a pair of swords sticking out of the pile.  The entire party stared in absolute disbelief, and began raining arrows down on the pile.  The piles began advancing towards the party, but was slaughtered before it could reach them.  It was some sort of fleshy creature with two pseudopods, and the swords and gold coins were attached to its sticky carcass.  The jewels turned out to be the creatures multi-faceted shining eyes.  The gold was real enough, however, and the party divvied up the 1,200 gp (and pocketed the short swords as well).

Beyond this room was another, with a leathery mummified body in the corner.  The corpse was clutching a note, which read:  "I don't have long now.  It's been two days since I sent Jorge down to the pools.  He must bring the water from the brown pool only.  If he doesn't make it, there's still a skull left, use that to bring me back."  Theories were advanced about how the stone skulls might be the skull referred to, and a slanted wall in the room was examined closely, but no other secrets were found here.  The party took the note and left.

Continuing east down the long corridor, it went for another hundred feet or more, and a side corridor heading to the southwest was found.  The party ignored it, and continued on til the long corridor ended, and two new corridors headed north and south.  They headed north, and eventually came to a door.  Opening it, a room occupied almost entirely by a 15' deep pool of golden liquid was revealed.  Opposite the door, 25' from the door to its edge, was a 5' deep by 15' long stone platform, covered with several hundred gold coins.  Closer examination revealed that the golden liquid was probably clear, because the walls of the pool were covered with a sheet of gold that ran a fraction of an inch taller than the pool.  The ceiling was also found to have many strange, regular cracks in it.

Netal dipped his shovel in to see if it would turn to gold.  Instead, it dissolved almost instantly as it came in contact with the fluid.  Mongo flicked a gold coin in, and the coin sank to the bottom, unaffected.  Flicking a silver piece in, that dissolved quickly, like the shovel.

Unable to come up with a plan to get to the coins on the platform at the other side of the pool, the party continued deeper into the dungeon.  As they approached some stairs in a corridor heading down, P.W. and the dog Rufus suddenly fell as a pit trap opened beneath them.  As fast as it opened, it closed shut again.  The party tried pressing down on the pit, standing on it, jumping up and down, but they were unable to get the pit to open again.

In the pit, P.W. found that he was on a grate.  He had managed to hold onto his torch, and could see that there was another tunnel beneath the grate, and a lever on the wall, in the "up" position.  P.W. pulled some chain out of his pack and tried draping it over the lever, but it wasn't enough weight to force the lever down.  He also tried reaching through the grate and pushing with his sword, but his reach wasn't long enough.  As he sheathed his sword, he saw a half-dozen four foot long stony-looking caterpillars with nasty mandibles creeping down the tunnel beneath him.  They stopped and began circling below.  The halfling pulled out his bow and began shooting them, and soon they were all dead, riddled with arrows.

Up above, the party began a frantic search for a way to get to the trapped halfling.  They followed twisting corridors and ran through rooms containing glowing patches of green fungus, and more giant earwigs (that also remained uninterested in the party).  Finally, they saw the corpses of caterpillars up ahead, a lever on the walll, and a grate on the ceiling - they had found P.W.!

P.W. used his rope to tie himself and the dog to the grate, and Mongo pulled the lever.  The grate flung open downwards, stopping short of hitting the wall and the lever, and Mongo untied the two and lowered them to the ground.

And that's where we ended for the night.  Next session will be on Wednesday, Feb 23.


Floating Quarter

I occasionally make mistakes entering shipping costs into eBay, mostly when I click a "Send Invoice" button accidentally on an international shipment without entering the cost.  So apparently some of that shipping in the past has been for free.  An expensive error.  I'm mostly out of gaming goodies that I want to sell (I'm keeping my 1st edition AD&D stuff, thank you very much, and my Delta Green and a few CoC rulebooks).  I do have some other oddities that will be sold, I'll list them once I'm done mailing the current batch of stuff.

Today, I was writing descriptions of points-of-interest in the city.  Most of them have already been posted in "summary" form, but here's a new area I haven't mentioned previously.  Nothing mind-blowing, but I post what I'm working on, so take it or leave it...  Most of the city is described pretty sparingly, I don't need much detail when my players are in it, so I can't imagine anybody else needing much more to run a game there successfully.  Just "broad stroke" descriptions, and some random tables - that should be enough for a DM to make the place come alive, I hope.

Floating Quarter
The wide bridges that originally spanned the gorge proved to be too valuable as real estate to be used as mere transportation.  The bridges became crowded with small buildings and temples, and stone and wooden extensions were built.  Eventually, the space between the two spans was entirely enclosed.  This section of the city is now known as the Floating Quarter.

The Floating Quarter rises gently to a high point in the middle of the structure, as the underlying bridges are arched and buttressed.  From above, this part of the city is most notable for its wooden streets.  If viewed from below, the massive stone and wood buttresses and wooden floors of the buildings and streets can be seen.

Apart from the trapdoors placed in the streets for maintenance purposes, several buildings have private trapdoors leading to haphazardly-constructed "under-bridges" of rope, used by thieves, escaped slaves, and smugglers.  These under-bridges typically run to sewer and storm drain outlets emptying into the gorge.  Explorers brave enough to try these under-bridges will find that only few are maintained – many were constructed years or decades earlier for sinister purposes long since fulfilled, and the elements have since taken their toll.


Old maps

I'm in shipping/receiving hell.  140 items to package up.

Here are some maps, they're a little under 20 years old nowadays.

The Dwarven Crypts, upper level:

Dwarven crypts, lower level:

The Underworld!  Yeah, getting derivative - looks like I read a copy of D1-2.

Were-rats and drow?  Definitely D1-2...

And a drider lair.  Drow? Driders?  Oh well...  it was marginally fresher way back when...

Leading straight to... a MAZE.  Don't know what I was thinking.  When the players hit it, I remember hand-waving their way through it, they hired a minotaur guide or something...

Upper level of the maze... players are getting closer to the surface now.

One section of the maze changed depending on what levers you had pulled.  I'll probably recycle this concept for the megadungeon, it still works for me.

Finally, the players escape into the swamps, and discover.. this poorly drawn lair... of whatever Ki'inari is...


Soon, the excretions will be edible

So I've got a few things on my "must buy" list for this year.

Encounter Critical! - Check! After reading Jeff's write-up of his con session, I had to order a copy.  Let all excretions be edible!
Realms of Crawling Chaos - Check, just ordered it.  Thank you Lulu coupon!
Stonehell Dungeon 2 - I love megadungeons.  Eagerly awaiting this.
Dwimmermount - As I said, I love megadungeons, but I'm a bit nervous about the level of detail he'll include.  James has stated a preference for being light on detail and providing more of an overview on how levels should run, whereas I like loads of keyed rooms.
Planet Algol - no idea when Blair will publish, but oh I want it so.
Weird Adventures - I had no idea until last week that Trey was publishing something, it's on the list now.

So two down, four to go.

Classic megadungeons were full of portals to other worlds, and I see no reason to break with that tradition.  My players will be visiting all of the places in the books mentioned above.  Well, EC would be a "one-off" rather than campaign play - but the rest will be mixed in with portals, spaceships, or whatnot.

I might also go for the S&W version of Tome of Horrors when that comes out, that really depends on price though.  There's only so much money I'll put down for a monster book, given that I tend to just make them all up anyhow.

I'm just writing up stuff you've already seen in on the blog in some form or another, so no exciting new content tonight.  I do need to do a couple of wilderness maps for Greater Denethix and The Land of One Thousand Towers, so expect some pencil drafts next week sometime.

The 140 items I put up for auction on eBay are all ending tonight, too, so I get to play shipping & receiving clerk again.  That should take a good long time to deal with... the prices coming in so far are decent though, so I'll be commissioning some more art for the Anomalous Subsurface Environment book.  Not too much more though, it's a vanity publication and if nobody's interested in buying, I don't want to be too far in the red.  We'll see how the first level book sells (and given that the bulk of it will be available for free as well, I expect to be underwhelmed - it's basically a donation system to recoup expenses and hopefully fund a few bits of art for level 2).