Monday, November 16, 2009

Play Recap: Session 3

Hello to all and apologies for the posting being a bit light since last Thursday. I do not wish a kidney stone upon my worst enemy Thanks to all who expressed their good wishes and prayers.

Well, I wasn't sure I would make it to Saltire Games for our session, and less sure that I'd be able to recount the details due to the painkillers messing with me, but fortunately I was able to do both.

To recap from Session 2, the group is exploring a mythical land far to the west of their homeland. In order to gain an audience with the church prelate of the city of Sidon (and fatten their resources and explore this new land), the group has (if not unanimously) decided to attempt to explore the Troublesome Tunnels, a honeycomb of natural and humanoid-made tunnels and caves around and below the city.

Here's the thing with the design of the Troublesome Tunnels: they are not a linear design. There are at least a half-dozen main entryways, to say nothing of the multiple side tunnels. Parts of it are extensions of Sidon's sewers; others are tunnels left by some long-forgotten burrowing monstrosity. Other parts are ratling-dug hideouts now used by human bandits and smugglers. And parts of it are the ruins of an ancient sewer and subterranean city.

Through a fair bit of happenstance, after grabbing the party's Friar and Druid for a bit of backup, they came to a part of the tunnels that appeared to be an old waterway or sewer. This was a bit puzzling, as they were by all accounts miles outside of Sidon. They followed the damp tunnels to a room with a pool, and then a long corridor. The dwarf noted the stonework was...familiar. Not dwarven, but of a quality make, and somehow familiar.

Eventually, the group came to a room with steps leading up to a barred door of strange metal. Two statues, now crumbled with age, their features gone, guarded the door.

The door was opened, and on the other side opened into a giant cavern. In the dim murk of the the distance, giant pillars receded into the dark (think Khazad-dûm). About 50 feet in, with a single shaft of light coming down from a shaft in the ceiling, sat a cairn of rectangular blocks.

Well, adventurers being adventurers, they pried a stone off the top of the cairn, revealing a giant yellow gem inside. Our party's jack-of-all-trades attempted to gain the gem, only to find it was magically trapped (and nearly losing a hand in the process). They decided to wait on the gem for the time being. Meanwhile, exploring the far walls of the room revealed a series of circular holes, wherein could be seen the dusty remnants of some long-forgotten warriors. Their skeletons appeared orcish, only somewhat larger. Our cleric nabbed a dagger that glowed when Detect Magic was cast upon it (he handed it off to our party's Druid).

Past the columns at the end of the cavern stood two giant doors, apparently of the same metal as the door prior. They were open, and inside stood a statue and scene that owners of a certain Handbook would recognize (sans adventurers, though they'd be climbing all over soon enough):

A shaft of light also came down from this room, illuminating the statue. Two mosaics were inlaid on the floor, made of tiny shards of various metals. 3 stone guardian statues on each side guarded the room. Two stone crypts were on either side of the statue. The statue itself appeared to have one gem eye that matched the one lying in the cairn in the cavern. Judicious use of Decipher Text revealed an inscription of the bottom of the statue that appeared to say "To Watch The Race".

What followed was a confusing series of events; there were statues, two mosaics, and It would take me longer than the game ran to type it all up here, but suffice to say things got wild. The players raided the crypts and found a massive medallion, a metal-clad tome, and a ceremonial-looking axe. The party was able to retrieve the gem from the cairn, and put it in the statue's eye (but not without a metric ton of contingency planning. When they did this, the stone statues on either side of the room came to life! Putting in the eye also caused another action; the statue slid to the right, revealing a small 5-foot secret room with a chest. Opening the chest (which appeared to either contain a lump of beef jerky or a dried heart, which soon crumbled to dust from poor handling) caused the stone statues on either side of the room to come to life and began to advance on the players! Our resident thief was able to arrest their motion by putting on the medallion from before, but could not control them otherwise.

The doors had also swung shut, but were opened by the touch of the ceremonial axe. A character (I can't remember whom) pried the other eye out, which is when things got really bad. The doors slammed shut again, wouldn't open, and the two mosaics on the floor came to life--swirling bits of razor-sharp metal that shredded anything they touched! They began to accost the players! The players escaped UP THE LIGHTING SHAFT--with a round to spare! It was pretty gutsy--and the last guy out snagged one of the gem eyes. Wow.

I'll admit; I had set up the "controls" for this room to be a bit perplexing. There were some clues that were missed, but I found even I had to check my notes as the players tried multiple things in this room. I'm sure I missed something in recounting this, but everything happened had a good flow of action, and I thought there was a definite intensity to the proceedings.

Now, when then eye had been put back in, one of the characters still in the cavern saw forms of light streak out from the tombs and up the shaft. When they got back to Sidon, they heard that around noon, their had been a "second sunrise" in the southern sky. People were still talking about the strange happenings that evening. The players laundered, rested, got a few items from the Tunnels appraised, did some recon in the tavern found out more about this land (I think they got some very good intel), and decided to hold council in the morning to see about their next course of action.

I was proud that nothing that happened was completely one-sided. We had varying factions for different routes of planning, caution or boldness, yea or nay. Some in the group were uncomfortable disturbing these resting places or taking the gems. A few players even played out the fact that seeing animated statues would probably freak you out for a while. Nice work all around.

I have GM'd a lot of sessions, but from a personal standpoint, this one was one of the most rewarding. I was able to shake off a lot to run this game, and though no game is ever perfect, this one was a tremendous amount of fun--the only measure that counts.

We take a break for (U.S.) Thanksgiving and Black Friday. We meet back on December 4 to continue the campaign.


jcosmon said...

It was great. Even though their were relatively little combat -- there was a great edge of creepiness and when the enemies were revealed they came from a direction I never expected (rather than the dead bodies popping up.)

Even though we didn't get all the clues as to what was really going on, it was clear that there was an internal logic, which made it fun to try and figure out. That is one of the strengths of the campaign -- there is s structure to the world.

The Tunnels are great, and even those of us who were trying to resist the siren song of the delver are finding reasons to go back in. Even though I had to cry myself to sleep.

Though there is that Blight in the forest . . .

All in all, a great game and a ton of fun.Thanks for rallying through the haze of pain and narcotic lotus to run it.

Zachary The First said...

ulcapIt was my pleasure. I was surprised at the absence of combat, but I think there was enough going on that it didn’t register as much until afterwards.

It’s a fun group to run with, and watching everyone problem solve and react (in their character’s own way, of course) made the night for me. I really think exploration is such a fun aspect that’s glossed over in a lot of campaigns.