Cast of Characters:
Bud, a level 3 dwarven cleric
Marthanes the Summoner, (level 4 Mage)
Tancrede, a level 3 cleric of Typhon (henchman)
Wulfengard,a level 4 dwarf fighter
Drev, a level 4 bard
Bart, a level 4 fighter
Mumford, a level 2 fighter
Malthena, a level 1 thief (henchman)
Akmed, a level 1 fighter
Collothus, the Thulian (mage 1)
"The Investors", the name the players have given themselves, had discovered a portal to the Eld homeworld of Aeron on level 3A of Dwimmermount near the end of the last game session; they defeated a patrol of Eld and Bugbears, and captured the Eld leader. We ended that game outside the dungeon, with the players in the woods outside of town figuring out what to do with the Eld leader.
Marthanes insisted on keeping the Eld prisoner alive for debriefing; the Eld were basically immortal, and he surmised they'd be able to learn "Eld secret history" if they could get him to talk. If you've read my review of the Dwimmermount book, you know that piecing together "secret history" is one of the great mechanics that's been added to the dungeon, and a few of the players have really focused on it as a motivation.
This objective, getting information from an Eld prisoner, forced the players (most of them teenagers) to work through a number of alternatives and options on the best way to get what they needed. Some of the options, like intimidation or torture, you don’t exactly want your teenagers getting too excited about or describing in any detail, but the larger context of the problem forced them to do critical thinking, weighing alternatives, and strategy. This is where tabletop gaming is such a great medium.
For example, would it be better to camp in the deep woods and do their 'nasty business' far away from town, or smuggle the Eld into Muntburg surreptitiously? If they decided to smuggle the Eld, how could they get him into the town without the guards and authorities finding out they had a living Eld? Could they charm the guards, or scale the walls at night, Sleep some wall guards, or hide or disguise the Eld somehow?
I enjoyed the debate and thought they came up with a clever solution all around. First, they decided an ESP spell would be a better way to get information (from mind-reading) than torture or intimidation; there's hope for their ethical growth yet. Second, they decided the best way to get the Eld into their cottage basement would be to smuggle him in the front gate, hidden in a wagon. They Charmed and bribed a simple peddler out on the road, hid the unconscious Eld in a barrel, and got him in that way. Drev, their Bard, started an impromptu musical performance near the gate on the way in, distracting the guards with his charisma (and stories of the party's latest exploits) to make it easy for the peddler to slip through the gate without much scrutiny.
While a few new players have joined, we haven't seen one of them in a long time, meaning his character is a near-permanent resident of Muntburg and the cottage. So Parquas the Elf has been tasked with keeping the Eld prisoner secure and fed. The rest of the players planned a journey to Adamas to buy an ESP spell for addition to Marthanes book. They had a treasure map to the Adleigh Woods, something they've been sitting on since the first game session, and decided this was the time to go find the lost treasure, while they were near Adamas. (A number of characters were close to leveling up, so they figured recovering a sizable treasure would push them over the top).
I don’t know if I've mentioned it before, Simon Forster (fellow blogger and ACKS-phile) published a book of lairs for ACKS on RPGNow (Book of Lairs); it's nicely done and is a handy tool for wilderness lairs and treasure maps. I love these kinds of supplements for quick use at the table. I pulled a lair to use as the destination right from the book, an old tomb filled with mummies on a misty island out on a pond.
In theory, the players only had to fight a mummy at a time, if they explored carefully, posted guards, and kept their wits. Mummies are pretty dangerous to low level characters, since their paralyzing fear can (and did) take out huge chunks of the party. In this case, they defeated the first mummy fairly easily, then allowed their Protection from Evil spell to lapse, started bickering and fooling around, as they're kids, and thus were completely surprised when another 2 mummies shambled out of the darkness behind them, paralyzing just about everyone.
Drev, the bard, ended up dragging Marthanes away from the mummies, who were stooped and rending falling characters, spreading mummy rot and death. Marthanes ended up summoning two heroes and a squad of berserkers, and sending them in to fight the mummies. "Pick up any weapon off the ground", he exhorted, "It was probably dropped by one of our frightened guys and is enchanted". Meanwhile, Drev continued to look for openings to drag other guys out of the room so they could recover from Mummy-Fear and attempt to re-enter the fray. This one was clearly pointing towards being a full on TPK until Drev (one of the adult gamers) settled on the plan of saving Marthanes first, getting Marthanes to send in some level 4 heroes and occupy the mummies, so he could pull more guys out of the fray. They owe that guy big time, and he single-handed prevented a restart to the campaign.
This game ended with two dead henchmen (Collothus, the ancient Thulian they freed from a stasis tube), and Akmed, the Volmarian mook that went from zero level mercenary to first level fighter over the past few sessions. All mooks die in the end. The survivors were beaten badly and suffering from Mummy Rot.