Sunday, September 25, 2022

Dwarrowdeep #4

Prepping and Running the Game

As is now customary, we began the session with a recap of the progress of the thaig so far, as well as the consequences/repercussions of the progress.

The reopening of the West Gate a month prior had allowed the thaig to establish trade with the Avvar, exchanging dwarven tools and weapons for some food. The volume of the trade is not high, but news of it had traveled to the Fereldens, who are occasionally the victims of Avvar raids to the lowlands. Some elements have begun to call for a trade embargo with the dwarves.

Meanwhile, the discovery of the lake has provided another source of food supply, and work is in progress to re-establish the aqueducts to channel the water to the Lower Hall, which will further reduce the thaig's reliance on outsiders.

On the production front, the recycling of the old weapons found in the thaig has progressed slowly on account of a lack of smiths, as well as coal. The reopening of the coal mines has been delayed by a lack of miners, and the complaints from the miners that the mines haunted.

In this session, our adventurers were sent to follow the river flowing out of the underground lake to learn where it led to.

The party - Lorca, Boggart, and Bertil (see PC profiles here) - and the boatman Boran sailed down the underground river, and after some four hours came to a crumbling, dis-used dock right before a waterfall. The dock led to a cavern which was lit by bioluminescent Deep Mushrooms, which Boran informed them were dwarven delicacies.

The party disembarked and began to explore the caverns and its passages, and had to fight off a pack of Deepstalkers - small velociraptor-like creatures that inhabit the Deep Roads. Bertil began to develop a sense of unease and a headache, which he later realised was due to the presence of lyrium ore in the area. It soon became evident that the dwarves had carved rooms and shelves in the caves, and used the area as a sort of warehouse.

Exploring deeper, the party passed through a cave inhabited by a giant spider, which they fought off. Proceeding on, they were attacked by tall, reptilian humanoids. While they were fighting these strange creatures, they were attacked by the animated statue of a demonic form, and had to flee.

On their return through the spider cave they noticed a glint of metal reflecting the light of their lantern. With torches in hand, they set the webs covering the passages on fire and drove off the spider, and found some relics from centuries past: a dwarven axe with a Rune of Paralysis, an elven helm, and an elven lantern.


This session introduced two major plot threads: the discovery of lyrium in the thaig, and evidence of a Dalish Elf mission to the thaig.

Rolf Khunda has taken the decision to try to poach smiths skilled in the mining and processing of lyrium ore from Orzammar. To Orzammar this would amount to a declaration of war, although how this war can be prosecuted will require a lot of thought. The travel time between the thaig and Orzammar means I will have a gap of two sessions to think this over.

The second thread relates to the personal goals of the three Dalish Elf PCs in the group. Two of the players have indicated that they wanted their characters to pursue the Arcane Warrior specialisation. The Arcane Warrior specialisation is a very specific one in the fluff of the game, and it was a bit of a stretch to try to fit that into a campaign set in a dwarven megadungeon, but I think I came up with a believable reason, which will be revealed in the upcoming sessions.

Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Dwarrowdeep #3

Prepping and Running the Game

Once again I am running late and have to combine the AAR and the commentary.

In this session the party (see PC profiles here) was sent along with The Badgers, a fellow group of adventurers, to explore the passage that led northwest from the Lower Halls. When they arrived at the hall at the end of the passage they found signs of a conflagration that had occured a long time ago. The two parties split up, with our PCs exploring the left hand side of the halls while The Badgers explored the other side.

Our PCs fought an Ash Wraith and found an underground lake that was used as a source of water supply by the thaig, as well as docks indicating that the dwarves once navigated the waters. The lake would provide a secured supply of water and some food for the thaig, which would strengthen its chances of success.

Our PCs returned to the rendezvous point but The Badgers did not show up at the appointed time. Following the chalk markings left by them, our PCs tracked them into what used to be a coal mine. After a while they came across the prostrate bodies of The Badgers, bleeding and dying. Bertil rushed forward to aid the closest one of them - Brannoc the Avvar - and simultaneously the party was ambushed by darkspawn from all sides. Zunn and Milgrim used their magic to keep the darkspawn at bay, while Lorca fought his way to Brannoc to drag him to safety, and Boggart cleared the party's route of escape

The party had no means of rescuing the remaining three members of The Badgers, who in all likelihood have bled out by then, and so had to retreat. Once out of danger, they were able to revive Brannoc.

This session had the same format as the previous two: the main activity was combat, with the exploration providing exposition and moving the narrative of the thaig's progress; there was minimal role-playing. This is a major problem with a dungeoncrawl where there are no intelligent monsters/enemies. Hopefully as the thaig's fortunes progress there will be opportunities to explore encounters outside of the dungeons involving the allies and rivals the thaig will make in the future.

I am most of all very impressed by my players' decision to try to save The Badgers. The fight was challenging, and I did not give any indication that they were required to do so, but they nevertheless risked their characters' lives to do so. Had I not told them that they other three members were likely already dead, they may have continued to fight and died.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

Dwarrowdeep #2

Prepping and Running the Game

I am a little behind in my AARs, so I will just roll the AAR into the commentary.

This session had the party explore the (what was of old) West Gate of Khundara Thaig. The dungeon crawl itself was rather straightforward. We had a new player (new to TTRPGs) join us, and he gave me one of the most satisfying experience as a GM when he said he wanted to have his character "aggro" the monster; I smiled and ask him: how do you do that? His eyes widened, and I think at that moment he truly realised the difference between a computer RPG and a TTRPG.

The combats were pretty deadly as we had no warrior/tank for the session, with most PCs going down at least once. A lot of this is due to me not having a good sense of the durability of monsters with armour, and the infamous hit point slog of the Dragon Age system. This is an area I will need to do more work on.

During the strategic part of the session I revealed to the players that the West Gate opened high up in the Frostback Mountains, and was of old the gate through which trade with the Avvar took place. Soon after the gate was opened the Avvar made contact, and began trading food for dwarven weapons and tools. While this gave the fledgling thaig another source of food, it will lead to complications down the line...