Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Chronicles of the Adventurers Guild #15

On the 14th day of Ostar, guild members Aksinya, Erik, Folly, Francis, Grak, Kelso, Kimly, Leowe, Madian, Moonshadow, Piper, and Tamira (see PC profiles here) explored the underground complex via barrow #35. Exploring to the west, they came upon a series of chambers, guarded by undead, which they defeated, and recovered much grave goods.

Grave goods recovered were assessed to be 525 Gros in value, of which 131 Gros was disbursed to the members according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

On the 16th day of Ostar, guild members Tamira, Madian, Kimly, and Leowe, with the bearer Karl in employment, explored the underground complex via barrow#16. Exploring west and then south, they came upon a chamber within which were the crushed remains of tomb robbers. The stones upon the walls of the chamber animated and took the form of men, and attacked the party when they sought to cross the chamber, but they were able to overcome the enemies.

Proceeding further south, they came upon a fork in passage. To the west they came upon a bronze door, upon which were four niches, each carved with a different symbol, which they surmised to represent the four elements. To the east the passage led to a square room, within which was a bronze statue of a four-armed demon. The four walls were painted each a different colour: blue, yellow, red, and brown. There were a sealed door on the north, east, and south walls.

The party broke down the eastern door, and found within it a single sarcophagus. When they sought to open the sarcophagus, a ghostly form appeared and attacked them, but they were able to defeat it. Within the sarcophagus the found the remains of an individual with much grave goods. The party then broke through the northern door, and found again a single sarcophagus. Once more a ghostly undead rose to attack them, and once more they defeated it, but member Tamira was grievously wounded in the fight. The party recovered the rich grave goods within the sarcophagus, and returned to the guild.

Grave goods recovered were assessed to be 186 Gros in value, of which 64 Gros was disbursed to the members according to the terms of the contract.


Jeras, Guild Chronicler

Prepping and Running the Game

This session was a continuation from the last one, although we had to retcon a little because of player availability.

The party came upon the fight between the Dragon cultists and the Death cultists, and a confused melee ensued, made worse by the use of the darkness spell by the Death cult leader. Eventually the PCs were able to gain the upper hand and drive the Death cultists away, but they were able to flee through the room with zombies, which delayed the pursuing Dragon cultists enough for them to escape.

The two victorious parties then looted the belongings left behind - I used one of the random tables from Knock! #1 as a random loot table - and I had the Dragonkin rogue from the Dragon cult gather the grave goods and divide them into four piles, and then inviting the PCs to pick three of them as their cut of the loot. This was done to show the players that the Dragon cultists were either stand-up fellows, or else not really interested in money...

It was a massive haul, but divided among 11 PCs, it didn't come up to much per character.

One of the players was still fixated on the idea that the undead woman in the underground pool was what the cultists were after, and managed to convince the others to break the terms of the agreement with the Dragon cultists and make a night-time trip to the cavern, a sector that was technically out of bounds to the PCs, to search it more thoroughly.

I was totally unprepared for this - I have told them that the area was rumoured to be crawling with undead after sundown, and no one in their right mind would travel there after dark, and assumed they would never do so either. During the time they were discussing this I realised I could use one of the mechanics in Five Torches Deep to resolve the journey. This mechanic was intended to allow a GM to resolve a session if there wasn't enough time to play a party's journey to the base, and involved having each character make a single roll to see how many hit points he or she lost. As we were using this to roll for the forward journey, this meant some of the PCs started the delve with many hit points down, and had to cast healing spells, which had the risk of the caster losing the ability to cast spells for the actual delve. Fortunately for them, that did not happen.

The players then went through in detail how they searched the cavern, and I had to come up with something quick to not disappoint them. I decided that the undead woman was the ghost of a woman strangled and sacrificed in the pool, like a bog mummy. The party was able to recover her skeleton, which they decided to bring back to the guild. The player now wants to see if he can somehow resurrect the woman with the aid of the NPC cleric...

The following adventuring day the players decided to stick to the agreement with the Dragon cultists and explore the part of the dungeon that now "belongs" to the guild. This section of the dungeon features an elemental evil theme, so the things they discover there all featured the same theme.

The eastern branch of the passage actually leads to five other corridors, including the one with the bronze door with niches. The other four corridors each led to a room that held one of the keys to the bronze door. Strangely, instead of walking down the other four corridors, my players decided to explore the western corridor, and came upon the room with the coloured walls and statue. They at first assumed that the statue was the key to opening the bronze door, but could not figure out how that worked. Then when one player had his character touch one of the walls, I described how the pigment rubbed off onto his hand. The next thing I knew I had four PCs, each with one hand covered in pigment inside one of the niches. It was a face-palm moment, and I told the players that had this been a Gygaxian dungeon, we would be having four one-handed PCs right now.

That said, I am happy with how they got into the OSR mode and explored various ways of interacting with the environment I described to try to solve the puzzles they faced (or for that matter, created for themselves...). Most of their initiatives were not rewarded, however, as I could not reasonably 'say yes' to them and spin a whole new thread to the campaign and still keep everything on schedule for a finale in two more sessions. The other issue was that XPs in OSR was tied to challenges, and had I allowed their solutions to work, it would not have been fair (and it would not have felt fair to them) to award the PCs enough XPs for them to level up before the final session.

The chasing of the red herring (the strangled woman) was an interesting one. I wonder if this was a side-effect of using a pre-made module. Had I designed the adventure on my own from ground up, perhaps I would have been 'economical' and omitted any element that did not relate to the main plot.

Unable to figure out the bronze door, they decided to just fall back on what they knew best: break down doors, kill undead, take their stuff. They were able to clear two of the three crypts in the square room before they ran out of spells and return to the guild, which was perfect for me - hopefully they will complete this section of the dungeon the next session, which will allow me to end that session with the big reveal, and set up the final session.

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