Sunday, January 31, 2016

Dwimmer-Game 9 - Bart the Door!

Cast of Characters:
Bud, a level 2 dwarven cleric
Utor, the elf enchanter (level 2 Mage)
Marthanes the Summoner, (level 3 Mage)
Tancrede, a level 3 cleric of Typhon
Wulfengard, a level 3 dwarf fighter
Jarvis, a level 2 fighter
Drev, a level 3 bard
Bart, a level 2 fighter
Mumford, a level 1 fighter (former henchman, now a new player)

There are some key things to making a megadungeon 'come to life' and create drama and interest with the players.  It's important to give them interesting options each game, provide a few compelling quests and rumors, and news on rival activity so there's time pressure and opportunity costs to the player's choices.

This session, we started with them learning about rival activity in the dungeon while hanging out in Muntburg's tavern.  The Fists of Typhon had started exploring level 2A, killing some orcs and freeing dwarven prisoners.  The Delvers had gotten really beaten up on level 2B by Throgrim, and were out of the dungeon a few weeks to heal.  But the Delvers had found stairs to level 3B, and the players offered to buy a map from them so they wouldn't have to keep searching for stairs on their own.  Finally, the Seekers, a more powerful group, had gotten a Knock spell to help with the elevator doors, and had started exploration of the deep shaft (all the way to level 4).  The shaft was filled with slimes and similar horrors, so it was slow going for them.

From the Secret History the players had gathered a few game sessions ago, they knew about a Pool of Life and Essence Machines on level 2A.  One of the big discussions was whether they should compete with the Fists of Typhon on level 2A, or use the Delvers' map to 3B and get a jump on the Delvers.  In town, they sent the Curate of Typhon after the Fists of Typhon to pester them with his quest to find the Temple of Law on level 2B, hoping this would keep the Fists out of their way while the players searched for the Pool.  As fellow Typhonians, how could the Fists say no?  Don't underestimate the fun and shenanigans some rivalries can add to your game!

This game saw the players pocket the map to 3B for now and instead focus on covering as much ground on level 2A as possible.  Armed with a number of level 2 fighters, they were able to quickly clear a whole series of rooms inhabited by the fragments of the orc tribe on the east side of the dungeon with workmanlike efficiency.  Cleave and damage bonuses turn ACKS fighters into death engines versus low level humanoids.

One of their fighters, Bart, is obsessed with getting to the largest treasure hoards as quickly as possible; they frequently skip detailed searches, and they don't listen or sneak around (and they don't care about the increased wandering monsters, either).  They've definitely missed some goodies, only getting 'saved' by having multiple dwarves and an elf who sometimes find secret doors through their demihuman senses even though they skipped a formal search.  Meanwhile, Bart has 'dungeon bashing' proficiency which makes him an expert at forcing open doors, leading to another signature phrase from the players when he charges from room to room - "He Barts the door."

One source of drama while playing with teens, and Bart is the worst, is the mad scramble over magic items.  "In this room, you see a bunch of boxes…"  Before I even finish the room description, Bart's player is saying, "I open all the boxes.  Before anyone else.  I'm taking any magic items, and putting the gems in my pockets…"  I frequently have to remind them that D&D is a team sport, and their party agreement involves sharing treasure and a fair distribution of magic items.  I can empathize with school teachers and coaches who see their mandates as part education, and the rest civilizing a bunch of 'Lord of the Flies' hooligans.

There was a terrifying wandering monster encounter with a Gelatinous Cube that sneaked up on the players while they were involved in one of their treasure \ item squabbles, but the Summoned Hero of Marthanes ended up putting in good work against the Cube and no one died.  The highlight of the night was when they found an arch and short flight of stairs leading down - still part of level 2A, but to earlier construction featuring precise architecture and alien doors - the Eld sub-level!  The players descended to the Eld section of level 2A, discovering eldritch technology (Glow Bulbs) beyond an adamantite hatch.

By this time, it was getting late, so we wrapped up.  Marthanes loves the idea of the Eld, and has everyone excited to explore the Eld sub-level and find the Pool of Life.  They were already looking forward to continuing this exploration next game.

I'm really enjoying Dwimmermount and running it with the ACKS rules.  The players are a little overpowered for the current dungeon areas, but they're working quickly to get deeper, and having plenty of fun.  The depth of the dungeon background, and stories that are emerging from the player's exploration, is shaping this into a very memorable campaign.

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