Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Wednesday Dwimmermount: Session 2

(An ongoing series in which I chronicle the adventures of my two oldest sons, ages 14 and 11, as they explore the Dwimmermount megadungeon.)

Before We Begin
This one's a little late. I'm not as prolific as some other bloggers, I know, but writing must be practiced to become a habit. Session 3 will probably appear in a couple of days, as we played that one last week. Also, I've had a few requests for my GM sheets. I'm not sure that it's in any kind of usable state at this point, but I do plan to eventually share it.
For this session, I had hoped to spend a little more time in prep than I was able to. I’m not complaining here, but I do want to give you an idea of how much I’m putting into Dwimmermount and how much the product itself is helping me run things. To this end, let me say that the Dungeon Tracker has been a tremendous aid. This was one of the Kickstarter Add-on products. While I didn’t opt for a printed Dungeon Tracker, I do own it in PDF. It contains maps of the dungeon with the room names, monsters, and traps written directly on the maps. There is also space for party marching order, notes, a turn tracker, and other useful bits. So far, I’ve not gotten much out of the extra stuff, but the dungeon map is my go-to tool for running each session. It’s just nice to be able to tell, at a single glance, that there are 7 orcs in room 3, or that room 5 is the Mask Gallery. Even with all that, I feel like I’m not using the tracker to its fullest. Dwimmermount changes from session to session (as we’ll see below), and I feel like the tracker could help me on that front, but I’m not 100% certain how to best use it to that end.

According to the book, the GM should utilize the dungeon restocking that originally appeared on Sham’s Grog and Blog (http://shamsgrog.blogspot.com/) to determine if Dwimmermount changes between their visits. The rules instructed me to roll only for the rooms the PCs revisit, but since they barely scratched the surface of level 1, I decided that it would be easier to simply roll for the rooms they explored last time and make notes. A few quick rolls showed that most of the rooms should remain empty, one of them should contain an unguarded treasure, and one (previously empty) room should now have monsters present. I decided that the orcs encountered last time had spread out in the last week and now occupied the entrance room. The orcs had also hidden a minor treasure, a bag of gold, under a pile of rubble in a previously explored chamber.

I really like the dungeon restocking system. It helps make Dwimmermount a living, changing place without requiring too much work from the GM. I’m going to have to start tracking these changes, though, or I won’t be able to keep on top of it all. Ideally, that’s where the Dungeon Tracker would help, but it doesn’t really seem set up for that. Maybe I could write the changes on the map itself? I’m not sure if I care for that option. We’ll see what I can work out during actual play.

New Character
As you might recall, my youngest son’s character, Killan Goodpipe, died after inhaling a face-full of poisonous gas in the Mask Gallery. This time, he’s running a fighter, hoping that a character with a better AC and more HP will last longer. The ACKS Player’s Companion has a bunch of Templates, which are premade collections of proficiencies and equipment that represent common archetypes for each class. My son chose the “Legionary” template. After a quick discussion, we decided that his new character, Markus Petillius Nepos, retired as a Decanus in the Imperial Legion. He’d come to Muntburg, hoping to turn his small severance into a larger fortune by working as a mercenary adventurer.
Markus overheard Zazik at the Caravan Merchants’ Shop (#7 on the Muntburg map), attempting to sell some of the treasures he’d found in Dwimmermount. Markus volunteered to lend his spear and shield to Zazik’s future explorations in exchange for an even share of treasure (and he made him promise to buy him a horse, for some reason) and the two quickly struck a deal. Here’s the quick write-up for the new character:

Markus Petillius Nepos
While the nations of the world have fallen far from the greatness of the Thulian Empire, tradition still lives on in the city-state of Tier, and nowhere is it stronger than the Tieren legion. From their rank structure, to their ceremonies and battle tactics, the legion are the successors of the armies who once defeated the Red Elves of Areon.
You served in the Legion for nearly ten years, beginning when you were a boy of only 16. You rose to the rank of Decanus and commanded a squad of 10 men. Alas, you served during a long period of peace and longed to put your training to use against a real enemy. You resigned your position, collecting enough back pay to cover the price of passage east. You did mercenary work here and there, following rumor from town to town, until you at last arrived at the fortified town of Muntburg, in the shadow of the ancient stronghold known as Dwimmermount.

Session Recap
The beginning of session 2 was very much like session 1. After selling a few small treasures, including the mithral cobra necklace Killian had been wearing (Zazik has no idea how significant this item is…so it’s probably going to come up again) and with fiscal help from Markus, Zazik was able to afford the 50 gp retainer that the NPC wizard Climent wanted last session. Next, the PCs went back to the Flask and Scroll Tavern to hire a few more henchmen. (Recall that Gahret, the big farmer who accompanied them last time, shattered his knee after nearly being eaten by a green slime, and was no longer interested in heading into dangerous locations for money.) 

A few gold pieces spread around led the PCs to another prospective hireling, a simple-minded merchant’s son named Andre, who seemed motivated by boredom more than anything else. They had to sweeten their original offer, but Andre eventually agreed to come along to Dwimmermount. This new hireling, along with Climent the Arcanist, the increasingly loyal Bael (still desperate to pay off his gambling debt), and the two PCs, made a party of 5.

(This first part of the session was kind of slower than I would have liked. Last time, I rolled up potential NPC hirelings in advance. I don’t always like the organization of ACKS or Dwimmermount. I can’t specifically say why, as things SEEM to be grouped in a logical fashion, but I often find myself flipping through the books longer than I’d like. Sometimes, I just don't grasp what ACKS is trying to tell me, particularly when it comes to the economics rules. It's probably me, I admit, and hopefully it will decrease as I get more familiar with the rules and adventure)

The party made their way back into familiar territory, climbing the massive staircase and passing the strange red doors leading into Dwimmermount. The first room was the chamber of statues, where nine marble statues, their heads cut off and replaced by that of an intense-looking bearded human, stood against the north and south walls. When they exited the dungeon last time, Zazik carefully placed one of the demonic masks (the one that got Killian killed) on the floor here as a kind of marker. He noticed right away that the mask was no longer in its original location, but had been knocked against the far wall. What he (and the others) failed to notice was that the number of statues had increased by three since their last visit. The extra “statues” now began to move, emerging into the shadowy torchlight with menace in their red, pig-like eyes.

“Orcs!” Zazik shouted, but the moment of surprise gave the chaotic humanoids time to surround the party. Markus was the first of the PCs to react. Putting his military training to work, the former legionary placed himself between the party and its enemies and threw his shield up defiantly. The orcs pressed, but they simply could not touch Markus (banded mail, a good Dex, plus weapon-and-shield fighting style gives him an AC of 8). As Markus skewered one of the orcs with his spear, even Zazik got into the melee, knocking the second orc senseless with his quarterstaff. The final orc decided that discretion was the order of the day and tried to retreat, but Markus killed the humanoid as it made for the door.

While the enemy was easily defeated, the PCs didn’t feel like pressing the fight against more orcs, so they decided to avoid the north door where they’d encountered the monsters before. Instead, they made their way back to the mask room. Here, Zazik spent a bit of time trying to determine if he could remove one of the remaining metal masks from the wall without triggering the gas trap that had killed the thief Killian. He eventually decided that it was too risky and the party headed north, seeking unexplored rooms. The next chamber they found looked as though it had once been heavily decorated with wall hangings of some sort (Zazik theorized trophies or plaques) but was now entirely bare of furnishings. 

A dead body was lying in the center of the floor, face down. Upon further examination, it appeared to be a slain dwarf. Curiously, although his mail armor and ax were intact, his body had turned entirely to stone. Zazik seemed to recall something about dwarves turning to stone when they die (he has the Loremaster proficiency), so the party made note of the dwarf’s location but otherwise left it alone. (Random note, upon my re-read of this section, I discovered that there were supposed to be two dead dwarves here. Not sure why I turned it into only one during play?)

Opening the next door revealed a large room filled with smashed furniture and a deep, oddly colored carpet. Most of the “carpet” turned out to be some kind of mold, which the PCs agreed was probably dangerous. After a short argument about what to do next, the party decided to backtrack and try a different route.

Just north of the empty trophy room, the hall went east before ending at a closed door. Beyond was a small chapel or shrine featuring six marble pillars and a stone altar. The group entered the room cautiously, intent on examining the altar, when they heard movement from all around them. Cut into each marble pillar was a man-sized alcove containing a metal sconce, and balanced on each sconce stood a skeleton that shone with a metallic, silver-black gleam in the torchlight. The party had only a moment to draw their weapons before the metal skeletons were upon them.

Once again, Markus proved difficult to hit. He fought three of the skeletons himself, trying to keep them from reaching his companions, while Bael eagerly leaped forward to guard the legionary’s flank. Zazik and Climent, not keen to engage the monsters in melee, pulled back from the fight while Andre guarded their retreat. Markus fought well, but his spear did not seem to do much damage to the monsters’ steely bones, and soon he was overwhelmed by the creatures (it was several rounds of him hitting for half damage and the skeletons missing, until one of them nailed him and took him down to 1 hit point). Bael, despite his bravery, fell to the ground as a metal skeleton dug its claws into his shoulder. Zazik called for retreat and soon he, Climent, Andre, and Markus were back out in the hallway, the door shut behind them. Poor Bael was left, presumably dead, in the skeletons’ lair.

Of the four remaining adventurers, only Zazik was unhurt, and he insisted that the party head back to Muntburg and regroup. (Markus was down to 1 hit point, Climent had 2, and Andre was at, I believe, 3 hp at this point). The group made it all the way to the statue room before Markus’ arguments changed their mind. (Side note- I was giving my son a bit of a hard time here. I try to be an impartial referee, but it’s different when your only two players are a 14-year-old and his 11-year-old brother. The younger one tends to do what the older says, even if he clearly doesn’t want to. In support of Markus’ player, I decided to speak up. Zazik is lawful and hadn’t yet used his spell for the day. I told him that his character felt kind of cowardly and that his conscience was nagging him about leaving Bael for dead. The kids can do as they want, of course, but I feel justified in nudging them every now and then. I did not, however, expect what happened next.)

“Fine,” Zazik said, turning to Markus. “If we go back, we’ll likely die. Since you don’t want to leave Bael, here’s the new plan. We march back to the skeleton room and form a square. I’ll hit one of the monsters with magic missile and then we fight to the death, either ours or theirs. Are you with me?”

Markus said that he was.

The party waited as long as they dared, hoping that the skeletons would return to their niches inside the pillars. When they opened the door, they found that their hopes had borne out. The skeletons were nowhere to be seen and Bael’s body was still lying on the dungeon floor. On Zazik’s word, the characters rushed back into the center of the room and prepared to fight the skeletons. Within seconds, the creatures were back on them, fighting with unholy fury. Zazik cast his magic missile to little effect (2 damage), while Markus again tried to interpose himself between the enemy and his companions. Andre the torch bearer, despite his lack of training, seemed to be doing a pretty effective job at smashing and denting the metal skeletons with his club. Thinking quickly, Zazik ordered the hireling to toss his weapon to the legionary. As Andre turned, a skeleton’s claw found his throat and dropped him to the ground. 

Markus finally managed to kill one of the skeletons he was battling and, making a fighting withdrawal from the other, snatched the club from the ground near Andre’s fallen body.

Markus leaped back at his enemy, forcing it backward with his shield while peppering its head with his club. The new weapon proved effective and the metal skeleton crumbled to his feet in a clinking pile of bones. Letting his momentum carry him, Markus shifted his weight and attacked another skeleton, shattering its ribcage and causing it to fall, lurching to the ground (cleave!). Only one skeleton remained now. The legionary turned to face it, but the creature was too quick. It maneuvered past his shield and halfway behind him, lashing out suddenly with its claws. Markus tried to dodge the blow, but took the hit solidly in his ribs, the metal claws piercing through his banded plate armor and drawing blood (remember, he only had 1 hp this whole fight). Overcome with shock, Markus fell haphazardly, unconscious and bleeding.

All that remained of the party were the two wizards. The lone skeleton bore down on them menacingly. Zazik was the first to attack, trying to stay out of the skeleton’s reach while he thrust with his staff like a spear. The skeleton easily dodged the wizard’s attack, but its own counter swipe missed widely. Climent moved in from the skeleton’s flank, but his dagger clanged off the monster’s shoulder ineffectively when he tried to stab it. Desperate, Zazik attacked again, and this time luck was with the wizard. He dealt the skeleton a solid blow to the back of the neck. The stout quarterstaff smashed several of the monster’s exposed bones, causing its head to roll almost completely off its shoulders. The skeleton tried to turn and attack again, but whatever force powered its unnatural life was quickly waning. It took two more shuddering steps and then fell dead.

With their enemies defeated, the two remaining heroes turned to the bodies of their fallen companions. All three were still alive, including the hireling Bael, who was critically wounded but still clinging to life. (A very lucky roll on the Mortal Wounds chart kept Bael alive. His luck continued when I rolled for morale and came up with a 12. He’s now even more devoted to the party than ever. Everyone was very worse for wear, however, and would require weeks of rest to recover from their injuries. If you’re curious about the permanent wounds, Bael suffered a wound to his lower back that will prevent him from making a forced march and Andre suffered only superficial scarring. Markus, on the other hand, took damage to his lungs when part of his armor caved in and broke several ribs. His CON went from 15 to 10, he cannot force march, and he must rest an extra turn every 6 while adventuring.)

While Climent watched over the wounded, Zazik decided to search the altar, hoping there might be healing there. He found no treasure, but scratch marks on the floor caught his attention. He pulled against the altar, discovering a hidden pivot point, and the altar swung out to reveal a secret chamber. Within, Zazik found three bags of treasure that someone had stashed there. He sifted through it, finding silver, gold, jewels, and a small brooch in the shape of a scarab beetle. As Zazik held the brooch in his hand and examined it further, the scarab sprang to life and ran up his arm. Before the beetle could do him harm, however, Zazik was able to snatch it and toss it at the wall. It clattered to the floor and scurried off into the shadows. (The death scarab does not appear in the ACKS rules, but I found it in Labyrinth Lord. The rules imply that a character who handles the item dies within a round, so I decided to grant the wizard a save against death. He rolled an 18 and made his save. He then tried to toss the beetle at the wall but rolled a 1, so it survived…)

Treasure in hand, the party limped back to Muntburg to rest and recuperate for their next expedition.


  1. Did they find a statue head with the bags of treasure?

  2. Yup, I forgot to mention the statue head. That plays a role in the next adventure...