Cast of Characters:
Marthanes the Summoner, (level 4 Mage)
Tancrede, a level 3 cleric of Typhon (henchman)
Wulfengard,a level 4 dwarf fighter
Bart, a level 4 fighter
Mumford, a level 2 fighter
Jay and Akmed, 2 mooks, plus Owenheim
Malthena, a level 1 thief (henchman)
Game 13 began with the party entering the Palace of Sempiternal Wisdom in the hot, desert city of Volmar, via a portal from dungeon level 3A. They were accompanied by Opilio, a cleric of Mavors, and a squad of Volmarian soldiers. The characters were guests and allies of Opilio, so they were escorted through the palace and given an audience with the Emperor and his advisors, as there was great interest in far Dwimmermount among the court.
Volmar is only introduced in the campaign book as a far off remnant of the old empire. In advance of the game, I decided Volmar was this world's Byzantium, a fragment of the Thulian Empire that clung to the old ways in the far south east, on the edge of a vast desert - beyond which are the desert nomads, dangerous raiders that would threaten the City-States if Volmar didn't block their advances. Politically, the Imperial advisors are split between those that believe all attention must go to the south, and those that want to reconquer the north; there's a minor faction that suggests an alliance with the City-States is in order. The Emperor, sitting on the purple throne, sides with defense against the south, but hopes that Dwimmermount holds powerful magic and secrets that will allow Volmar to reconquer the north. The patron of Volmar, is Mavors Invictus, the war god of the Thulian pantheon.
After the kids got some exposure to Imperial Volmar, I gave the kids some license to add additional color to the threadbare continent maps and setting. What I got, was a vivid description of a statue like Iwo Jima, showing Mavors helping the first Volmarians conquer the city and raising the Imperial banner on a hill (the banner is purple, and features a scorpion, I discovered). Also, there is a large island off the coast called Squindia - the people of Squindia are pirates, and they wear turbans like Sinbad, and their symbol is the Squid. I think they just compressed the words for Squid and India. The players immediately retconned that Drev, their pirate bard, is a Squindian, and must forever be described as wearing a turban and using a scimitar. It was convenient that Drev's player wasn't present.
Because Dwimmermount belonged to Thule at the time it fell, and Volmar is the successor state to Termaxian Thule, the Emperor laid claim to everything in the dungeon. It all belongs to him. He doesn't need to pay the characters because letting them keep his treasure when they explore his dungeon is payment enough. At this time he agreed to let them keep everything they found, as long as they made him aware of permanent fixtures, like the Pool of Life.
They were given an escort to go the markets and buy stuff, and then the kids were chomping to get back to the dungeon. We established they spent about a week in Volmar, leveling up where appropriate. Collothus came with them (he was the guy freed from a stasis tube last game), but Arethusa, his 3rd level mentor, wanted to stay in Volmar longer and learn more about the modern world. The players also hired a pair of mercenaries, Jay and Akmed.
A big chunk of the session time went to Volmar, but the players made great time motoring through the dungeon. They worked their way north (and eventually east) from the gate to Volmar.
There was a fight with some gnolls, and one of the mercenaries was killed in that battle. A pile of rubble in another room concealed a nest of giant boring beetles, and they were nasty - 5HD terrors! Owenheim, another mercenary, died in that battle, leaving just Akmed as a mook. One of the guys found a potion of speed in the rubble when the beetles were all gone.
The night ended with the players discovering a large circular room with a large upright portal. On guard in the room was a squad of tall, gaunt, elves, with reddish skin and black hair. The Eld! There were also a half dozen burly bugbears with them.
Marthanes immediately started talking to them in ancient Thulian, praising the Eld for their scientific genius and pointing out why they should be natural allies to retake Dwimmermount. However, once he mentioned that he had taken over the Pool of Life and was eager to build an army worthy of the Eld, the commander's reaction soured. 'Take this hairless monkey into custody so we can dissect his brain…'
We had run right up to time on a school night, and since the gang agreed to regroup on the weekend, we stopped in the dungeon, ready to go for next time. Boss fight!