session recap, 11/14/2013

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (2) and Bunny the Thief (2), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Pai Mei and Colt Seavers waded through the glowing green mist in the room and approached the stone sarcophagus - inside was a roughly coffin-shaped machine of silvery metal and transparent pipes flowing with green fluid.  As they examined the techno-coffin, the mist suddenly gathered up into a humanoid form - a horrible chitinous creature with bug eyes, pincer hands, and a giant brain-shaped head.

Ki-Ris:  "I am Ki-Ris of the planet Duvan'Ku!  Now, you will help me return to my ship!"
Gutboy:  "Whoa, hold on!  Why are we going to do that?"
Ki-Ris:  "You have no choice!  You have destroyed the Suppressor, and now the animated dead have risen!"
Gutboy:  "Are you from space?  How did you get past the Veil?"
Ki-Ris:  "The Veil?  You must refer to the extra-dimensional shields around this planet.  My people are from this dimension!  Your veil is no barrier to us!"
Gutboy:  "So, you're from space then?  Can you destroy Thor?"
Ki-Ris:  "I know not of what you speak, earth-man."
Gutboy:  "He's one of the gods that orbit the planet.  Don't you fear them?"
Ki-Ris:  "No!  Our technology is far superior to anything you humans possess!"
Gutboy:  "Why do you need our help?"
Ki-Ris:  "Thousands of years ago, my comrades betrayed me.  I killed them all, but I have been trapped here, and cannot venture far from my life support capsule."
Pai Mei:  "Why did you come here?"
Ki-Ris:  "My planet was a paradise.  Our technology allows the dead to be reanimated and to serve us in all manner of menial labor.  We lived as gods.  Sadly, our women were killed by the living dead"
Gutboy:  "I thought you controlled them?"
Ki-Ris:  "Mistakes were made.  Accidents happen.  My people are doomed without females!  We have come to this planet to take your women back as our brides, and to slaughter the men, who shall rise again as our eternal slaves!"
Gutboy:  "You can mate with human women?"
Ki-Ris:  "Yes!  It is one of the great Laws of the Universe!"
Gutboy:  "Makes sense."
Pai Mei:  "You could marry Madame Prepin"
Madame Prepin:  "I... uhh... I'm kind of seeing someone already..."
Ki-Ris:  "It matters not!  All women shall be taken!  Your human civilization shall fall, and you shall all die!  Now, take me to my ship!"
Gutboy:  "Why would we do that?"
Ki-Ris:  "You have no choice!  You have destroyed the Suppressor, and the dead have arisen!  Only I can stop them from devouring your living flesh!"
Gutboy:  "Prove it - control this zombie!"
Madame Prepin:  "You mean Goonie!"

Ki-Ris ordered the captured zombie to dance, and the ancient corpse began awkwardly prancing about.

Ki-Ris:  "There is your proof, humans.  Now, we shall go to the Duvan'Ku Promise Machine, and the Bargain shall be made."
Gutboy:  "Where's this machine?  In the sarcophagus?"
Ki-Ris:  "No!  That is my life support capsule.  The Promise Machine is down the hall."
Gutboy:  "We're going to need to think this over..."
Pai Mei:  "Forget it!  Colt Seaver, go break that capsule!"

Colt Seaver reached down into the capsule - and Ki-Ris moved faster than any human could, gripping the bounty hunter by the throat.  Colt struggled feebly as his flesh visibly withered, and Ki-Ris dropped the dried husk to the ground.  The party ran out of the room in a panic, slamming the door shut, and leaving the catatonic grad student behind.  A shout of "You'll be back!" was heard as they ran down the corridor.

They followed the corridor to its end - a dead end, to be precise, covered with ancient dried blood, and with the words "Thank you, my dear ally, for sacrificing your life force for my own" inscribed in Duvan'Ku upon the wall.  Pai Mei briefly considered reciting them aloud and sacrificing the grad student, before realizing he had been left behind with the alien.

They followed the corridor back to its other end, and found a pit in the floor.  The words "Jump, My Child, and Experience the Infinite Forever" were etched on the wall in Duvan'Ku.  Gutboy stared down the pit, at the glowing phosphorescent patterns spiraling along its walls, going down so very very very far... and then snapped out of it, realizing he had been momentarily hypnotized.

A brief argument ensued about the next course of action - and then a massive tarantula clambered out of the hole!  Trezgar cast his somnolescent magic, and the tarantula was put into a gentle repose - until Trezgar stuck a sword through its head.

That threat past, the party returned to the secret door between this portion of the tomb, and the room that had held the Suppressor "vine" they had destroyed.  They listened at the door, hoping that the zombies were trapped in their crypts - but they heard the shuffling and moaning of the living dead beyond.  The corpses had figured out how to turn the valves on the doors to their tombs.  Rufus II briefly "blinked" to the other side, and saw that the living dead had piled themselves into a corpse-pyramid, allowing others to clamber up the hole in the ceiling to the surface.  He blinked back before getting torn apart by the brain-hungry mob.

The party then began opening various barred doors in the corridor.  They came across a fast-moving corpse, and destroyed it - and then in another room found a sarcophagus on a strangely uneven floor.  A mummified corpse with an emerald crown burst through as Bunny hammered on the uneven section of the floor, but Gutboy's faith (or non-faith) in the satellite entities above drove the mummy away.  They tracked it down to the end of the corridor, and Bunny used the Sword of Unlife to force the mummy to obey her commands - the first of which was to relinquish its emerald crown.

They then opened a third room, choreographed a corpse-fight between the mummy and the living dead within, and discovered what must be the Duvan'Ku Promise Machine.  A metal orb sat on a pedestal, with ten knobs protruding from its circumference.  Bunny handed the mummy a hammer and ordered it to destroy the Promise Machine.

As the mummy began banging away, a green mist flowed down the corridor and coalesced into Ki-Ris.  The alien grabbed Bunny and she began to wither, as Colt Seaver had done, losing 2 levels in the process.  The alien released Bunny, and walked over to the machine (yanking the hammer out of the mummy's hand).

Ki-Ris:  "Enough of this idiocy!  It is time for the Bargain!  I need four of you to carry my life support system to a clearing wide enough for my ship to approach!  Without proper equipment, I cannot control the undead reliably, only repel them - I need you to serve as my bearers."
Gutboy:  "How does this machine work?"
Ki-Ris:  "The Promise Machine of Duvan'Ku will link our minds sympathetically.  Any attempt to break a Bargain will cause eternal torment!  Now, come, grab the knobs and we shall declare our Terms and Conditions!"
Gutboy:  "You said you needed four - that's not enough.  It has to be all of us!"
Ki-Ris:  "That is acceptable.  Now, enough wasting time!  Let the Bargain be struck!"

The party grabbed the knobs (Rufus II gripping with his teeth), and the Bargain began:

Ki-Ris:  "You shall, in good faith, carry me and my life support capsule to a clearing at least a mile wide, and place the capsule into the cargo elevator when my ship approaches.  In turn, I shall in good faith prevent these living dead from harming you until that time."
Gutboy:  "And what happens after we put you on the ship?  Promise not to harm us ever!"
Ki-Ris:  "Ridiculous!  I shall enslave and destroy all human males!  Under the condition you depart immediately, I shall not cause you any harm for a twenty-four hour period after returning me to my ship"
Pai Mei:  "Good enough!"

The Bargain was struck, and the party could feel their minds linked to Ki-Ris's.  He bore them only hatred and malevolence, but they could also feel that the Bargain was in force, and even the slightest thought of betrayal caused great anguish.

All was as Ki-Ris claimed - he returned to his capsule, and the party dragged it through the undead hordes, back up into the cabin, and out into the graveyard, where thousands more corpses were clawing their way up from their graves.  The cart and cage were still there, and contained the reanimated corpses of Zeke and his wife. They forced the captured zombie into the cage, and to meet Madame Prespin's quota, they forced three more walking dead into the cage as well.  From within the coffin, Ki-Ris yelled "Move it along already!" and they slowly made their way down the mountain, and after a day's journey turned north until they found a meadow large enough to meet Ki-Ris's specifications.

The Green Comet of Undying Flesh hung in the sky above, and as they watched, it grew larger and larger, a halo of flickering green flames surrounding it as it approached the earth.  The ship, for that is what it was, was fully a mile in diameter.  It hung several hundred feet above the ground, and a tube slowly descended.  Once it reached the ground, a door slid open, and the party carried the life support capsule inside.  They quickly ran out, and watched as the tube ascended - the ship, however, remained stationary, floating above the field.

The party draped their tents over the cage to hide the living corpses within, and made their way to Chelmsfordshire as fast as they could.  The marching of undead hordes coud be heard behind them, and the ship appeared to be an unmoving green moon low in the western sky.  They marched straight through Chelmsfordshire without mentioning a word to anyone, and then onwards to Denethix, where Madame Prepin quickly contacted some of her associates and the covered cage was whisked away.

Pai Mei:  "So where's our money?"
Madame Prepin:  "Look, let's keep this between us right now - it wouldn't be prudent to let the Academy or anyone else in the city know too much about what just happened.  You'll get paid, it just has to wait til the political climate is right."

The party eyed some of the broadsheets being sold - the headlines spoke of the Unyielding Fist having been sent north to deal with the inexplicable predations of Ferayn's Exterminators upon the northern villages.  With the army so occupied, what fate would befall Chelmsfordshire, and Denethix itself?

Gains: Emerald crown, six required "Goonies" per the Academy contract
Kills: Giant tarantula, zombie, ghoul, mummy (subjugated rather than destroyed)
Losses: Colt "Rottweiler" Seaver, two of Bunny's levels, one forgotten grad student, most likely all of Chelmsfordshire


Nitty gritty of dungeon design

My players are pretty much at the end of Death Frost Doom.  They're probably going to want to head back into the dungeon, so the horror of an unwritten 4th level is staring me in the face.

Going back a few years, check out this post on keying level 1 - I still follow that process by counting the total # of rooms and using that to calculate how many of each different encounter type I should have.

I have a big Word document full of ideas that I haven't put in the dungeon yet.  I cull some for being too stupid (choco-medusas, you are DENIED), delay even more to deeper levels, and then assign the tiny remainder to rooms in the 4th level.  Finally, I'll mark off the "monsters", "monsters w/ treasure", "specials", etc. that I've used, so I know roughly how many more I have left.

Then - I randomly write little notations in all the unassigned rooms ("M" for monster, "MJ" for monster with treasure, "T" for trap, etc), until I've assigned everything.  None of it makes sense now, but it's a starting point.

As I go through writing up each room, occasionally the placement will strike me as ludicrous, and I'll move things around until it works better.  But when you've got a few hundred rooms staring  you in the face,  you have to start somewhere - and for me, it's with this process.

Finally, I figure out how much treasure to put in the entire level by taking the amount of XP it takes a fighter to go from 4th to 5th level, multiplying it by 5 characters in a party, and then multiplying again by 0.8 as roughly 80% of XP comes from treasure, and then doubling because I don't expect players to go through more than half before heading down to the next level.  That total number will get divvied up among the dungeon - I'll keep a countdown as I add treasures to the encounters.

All this is a long-winded way of saying I'm actually working on the 4th level now, for those of you wondering when I'm going to publish it...


session recap, 10/28/2013

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (2) and Bunny the Thief (4), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Having explored a series of unoccupied and featureless rooms to the north of the chapel, Gutboy and Pai Mei turned their attention to the bronze door with no handle.  Next to it were stone basins, built in to the wall, each full of teeth.  They looked up at the toothless skulls hanging by chains from the ceiling, and a thought occurred - "What if we added fresh teeth?"

A quick scan of the room provided one likely candidate: the dead grad student.

Pai Mei (to living grad student):  "You!  Go yank out his teeth!"
Grad student:  "What? No!  NO!  IT'S TOO MUCH!"

The constant life-threatening abuse overwhelmed the grad student, and he threw himself at Pai Mei in a burst of psychotic rage.  Colt Seavers quickly stepped in, hurling his bola at the student's feet, incapacitating him.  The student curled into the fetal position and became unresponsive.  Not even threats to his grades by Madame Prepin could make him respond.

Bunny pulled a set of pliers from her thieves' tools and yanked out the dead student's front teeth.  She tossed them into the basins, and the door clicked open.

The tunnel beyond had several bronze doors, sealed with valves.  They opened the valves, and found crypts beyond, full of thousands of bodies.  The few crypts they inspected had but a few gold coins (in addition to their non-zombie occupants) each, so the party decided to ignore the crypts, and sealed them shut again.  Madame Prepin was becoming increasingly outraged at the non-shambling-and-brain-eating behavior of the dead within.

They also found a small room with four bloodstained stone slabs.  Next to the slabs was a podium, and upon that was an aluminum book, filled with glowing green alien letters, and occasional simplistic anatomical illustrations.  The contents were a mystery, until the party stumbled across another room containing something that looked like a jeweler's loupe sitting on a pedestal, and more leatherbound books in the same alien writing.  Bunny was able to use the loupe to read the alien writing, although it gave her a headache - the aluminum book they had taken earlier was a manual for the revivification of tortured dead flesh, and the leather-covered books were "The History of Duvan'Ku", volumes one through eighteen.

In a room nearby, they found another podium, with an alien inscription ("Oh brave ones, mark your defiance against the ones who oppress!"), atop which were needles and a vial of glowing green ink.  Surmising it was for tattooing, Pai Mei took the needle and inscribed "Do Not Resuscitate" upon the comatose grad student's chest.

Along the long tunnel, they also found more basins, apparently full of coins, and tossed more coins in, to little effect, and then tossed a corpse in one of the basins, also to no effect.  Finally, the corridor ended at a room stuffed full of a strange plastic-like vine or hose, covered with holes, thorns, and cobweb-like material - the source of the strange whistling noise.

Pai Mei approached, using the comatose grad student as a human shield between him and the plastic vine.  He shone a flashlight through the vine, and saw that it was the same room pictured in the painting in the cabin above, with the skeleton and altar.  There was no door next to the altar, just a blank section of wall - perhaps a secret door would be found?

Bunny started poking and prodding the vine with a 20' extensible pole - and the vine lashed out.  It only had a short reach, about 5', so Gutboy bravely lobbed oil at the vine.  Eventually the party was able to burn the vine away entirely, leaving patches of melted plastic on the floor, and the crypts were now eerily silent.

The party approached the altar, and found a pair of golden goblets atop it, along with an alien book (titled "The Book of Unspeakable Shame", and full of descriptions of shameful acts perpetrated by the cult that worshiped at this site).  Inspecting the skeletal statue, Pai Mei found an inscription detailing a ritual to open a secret door, involving a living sacrifice.  He eagerly began to push the grad student towards the altar, but was dissuaded when Gutboy easily found a second secret door where the opening was shown in the painting in the cabin above.

As they discussed what to do next, a soggy-bottomed corpse meandered into the room, groaning "braaaiiiiins" - the same corpse they had stuffed into one of the basins. Madame Prepin was ecstatic, and shouted "Behold!  The Goonies have arisen!  A new Golden Age of Prosperity awaits us!"

Colt Seaver easily captured and bound the "Goonie".  As he tied a rope leash around it, the banging of fists on bronze doors was heard from the tunnels - the thousands of dead interred within the crypts had surely arisen.  The party decided to make a retreat through the secret door.

Following the ancient stone corridors, they passed several barred doors, most with corpses banging on the other side.  Finally, they reached an unbarred door, and opened it to reveal a mist-filled room, with a stone sarcophagus in the center.

And that's where our tale (and its accompanying run-on sentences) ends - for now.

Gains: Two gold cups, Build-Your-Own-Frankenstein book, Book of Unspeakable Shame, glowing green tattoo ink, Loupe of Comprehending Alien Texts, a single "Goonie" on a leash
Kills: None
Losses: None