Friday, April 11, 2014

Taenarum Game 2 - This Little Piggy Went to Market

Players!  If there's a choice out there that sounds interesting, they're going to take it.  You'd better be ready, DM!  That's my cautionary note from last week's game.

We only had one game night last weekend instead of two.  My daughter decided it was more exciting to have a little girl sleep over with a bunch of her friends.  D&D lost out to American Girl Dolls.  That's fine, the family game night should be back on for this weekend.  The regulars were able to come as planned the following night.

Lykourgos, proprietor of the adventurer's guild hall, commended them on surviving their first week, but also remarked that 150gp wasn't enough to get them on the scoreboard.  "If I put every adventurer group that survived one or two trips into the dungeon and came back with a little gold, the wall would be full of the nobodies.  Survive a few excursions and get a thousand gold or more, then we're talking.  You'd still have a long way to go to be like the Nine".

A new player joined this week, playing "Mack", a dwarven craftpriest of Hephaestus.  Once the recruitment and introductions were in order, Moe's Marauders made the sun drenched walk down the peninsula to the sea cliffs where the brooding entrance to Taenarum beckoned.

This time they followed the massive main passage, remarking on the detailed frieze near the ceiling showing scenes of daily life - ordinary folks stalked by little winged deaths.  The road to the Underworld is broad and wide, and everyone walks it eventually, or so it implied.

Where the main passage turned northward, a split appeared in the wall, forming a black-lipped magic mouth with gruesome teeth, enunciating this short message:

Tablet, key and door rewards
with treasures from the death god's hoards;
In order to conclude the quests,
You'll need to find the seven chests.

Heading north, the players found a typical dungeon side passage, and down the side passage was a door.  Connell, their burly Celt, slammed it open, and they were surprised to see a lit room with a handful of humans camped out.  These men, traders, ended up surprised as well, so the two groups scrambled for position and warily got ready for combat.

The NPCs were understrength compared to the party, and it was obvious they were traders with quite a few trade goods.  It was a perfect murder hobo opportunity.  Instead, Moe and Alantir stepped out to talk to the leader and diffuse the situation.  The leader was a handsome guy with an earring named 'Kyriakos of Gytheio', and he was intent on finding the dungeon market on level 2 - 'where the creatures of the underworld meet in truce with surface dwellers and trade underworld rarities…'

Moe immediately blurted out - "We'll guide you there for a modest fee.  Looks like you could use a strong escort."  The wide-eyed guardsmen of Kyriakos huddled with their boss and seemed pretty happy to accept help.  You wonder  if he told them they were going deep underground into a scary dungeon when they were first hired.

Moe's Marauders had heard a rumor in town about a dungeon market, where hags and dark dwarves and creepy inhabitants offer safe haven to surface dwellers that come to trade.  Not knowing anything about the size and scope of the dungeon, it was fairly entertaining that they immediately volunteered to go down there.  An accord was reached with Kyriakos and his men, and they all set out shortly thereafter.  Kyriakos explained that members of his merchant house back in the city of Gytheio roughly knew the way to the market, but this was his first trip.  The great road to Hades spiraled down into the earth, with sprawling dungeon corridors to each side, but as long as you stayed to the main road, you'd reach the market - assuming you survived.

Of course, the players didn't realize it would take them about 6 hours (game time).  The main road spiraled through areas where the floors were worn smooth by countless feet, and the sound of bones clicking on polished marble echoed in the dark.  There as an area where roots and growth of unknown vines threatened to clog the passages.  Another area bespoke of habitation, with sconces mounted on the walls and small oil lamps lighting the way.

There were a lot of 'wandering monster' checks.  The party encountered a patrol of Pig Men.  They butchered a group of goblins fleeing out of a side passage, and then quickly moved on so they wouldn't have to face the 'Red Horror' that the goblins were fleeing.  On level 2, a shambling crowd of moaning zombies shuffled out of the darkness ahead.  The most interesting encounter was with a floating, skeletal figure with piercing red eyes and a burnished crown.  The characters were such low level they were frozen rigid on the spot, most unable to even meet the lich's gaze.  Lord Skotos is the "Dungeon Master", charged by Hades with adding new areas and traps to the dungeon.  After scaring the bejeezus out of the players, the floating skeleton merely admonished them, "Don't destroy anything in my dungeon.  I don't like it".  I can honestly boast my first level party encountered a lich as a wandering monster.

They finally made it to the turn off for the market right as we were nearing time in the session.   A pair of ashen, black clad dwarves lurked in a side passage, illuminated by a smoky torch.  They whispered it was 'This way to the market', and the party headed the way the dwarves indicated.  Dwarves in the campaign are broadly separated into two bloodlines, the tan skinned followers of the Forge God, who favor volcanic mountains and the crafting of exquisite devices; the others are the sullen, ash-skinned followers of Hades as Pluto, god of wealth and the underworld.  These 'dark dwarves' have foresworn the surface for mining the veins of the earth, and they're known to cavort with the undead.

There's no way Kyriakos and his men would have survived the trip to the market without the players.  "Whatever we agreed to pay you, it wasn't enough", Kyriakos remarked, as the injured travelers entered the underground market.  We stopped there, with the players about to enter a strange place, far deeper into the dungeon than any first level party can be expected to go.  Aren't sandbox games fun?

Cast of Characters
Etor the Explorer
Alantir, Paladin of Poseidon
Moe, a Bard
Talus, a Magic User
Mack, a Dwarven Craftpriest
Connell (NPC)

Missed the Game:
Leonidas, a Necromancer
Olympos, an Assassin


  1. It's interesting to me that you let them suspend play in the dungeon. I figured in sandbox play, especially with multiple parties, it's best to strongly encourage the players to end each session in town.

    What will you do if the kids group takes the same route and meets the adult group? Play them as NPCs?

  2. Yes, yes! I totally agree, this is a major problem for me. It runs against all of my preconceived notions of the campaign to let a group stay in the dungeon in between sessions. I'm counting on the fact that the kid's group will explore the sprawling level 1, and have zero chance of running into the adults, who are really far away.

    It was eye opening to count out squares on the graph paper and realize how long it was going to a group to reach the market using the main road. There are shortcuts to be found, definitely, but this blew up my delusion that we'd start and end every session in town. The dungeon is either too big, or I need to make inter-level transit much faster than walking.

    A radical approach is to make the market area a 'town within the dungeon' and let the players treat it like a safe place to end adventures and pick up or drop off members that have to miss.

    We'll meet the inhabitants of the market next session.

  3. That's interesting, that you didn't anticipate they might get lost or still be pushing their luck as a session ran out. It seems to me that it's more likely they are in the dungeon playing scratch tickets than up on the surface cashing them in.