Our doughty adventurers:
Ziegfried trained baboon
Pegleg Penny hireling
Mr Pugglesworth talking dog
Hearing rumors of a fabulous shield embossed with gold coins, the party searched Nidus for two day before finding one of the original vendors where they had spent cursed gold coins. They bought the shield and noticed an animal arena across the way.
Bets were made, several folks lost money as a kudu gored a camel. Toral began prying the coins off the shield as they watched, but one popped off into the arena, luckily Derek sent his baboon to fetch it before baskets of rattlesnakes were poured into the arena. A tortoise did not fare well against them. And the final round was a great grizzly against a bull walrus, the bear was the bloody victor.
After a few more chores, such as Darius finally ridding himself of his troublesome chalice, the party headed back to the sodden temple to put the cursed coins back into their place and hopefully lift the curse.
The trip was uneventful except on the way out, one of the fly priests asked Derek to assist him with matters in the temple. Derek resisted what was apparently a glamour and the party readied their weapons, but the fly-armed man seemed to disappear.
Back in the fresh air again, they felt the curse lifted! Their oozing cuts and wounds tingling as they began their natural healing process. Back to Nidus for rest and prayers for healing. Finally, after weeks of being on edge the party was back to full health and capable of natural healing again.
They decided to head back to the sodden temple again to investigate a portal that they had opened but never entered long ago. It had an ancient clay seal. The problem is that the lower levels are partially underwater and recent tremors seemed to have sunk the temple even more. The party brought along a canoe.
There was a lot of engineering and logistics they led to naught. After tying ropes to the canoe and shuttling the big party across trap infested waters, and then stripping of armor placing it in the canoe and swimming into even deeper water, the party was set upon by spider-geckos.
These creatures are not much to fear by hardened veterans, but with the party armorless, swimming, unable to use shields and most weapons, it meant chaos and an end to the expedition. Fabrino and Yestick both had close calls and barely escaped with their lives. The party decided to turn back at that and head for the safety of Nidus.
First, some little notes: the talking pug puppy was a birthday gift for Darius' player, she seemed to love it. Z was desperate to save his hireling Fabrino, unconscious, floating face-down in the water-- because he'd seen a favorite hireling fall to her death into the Maw just recently.
The party seemed frustrated they didn't get farther into the temple, but it balances with the palpable relief they felt earlier when the damn curse was lifted (they been cursed for ~6 weeks real time).
Now two major DMing puzzles. Lesser one first:
1) I don't think I've ever read any DMing guide mention what to do with parties travelling through previously covered dungeon terrain. These folks had been a certain way so many times that rolling to open doors, etc. was boring, so I just rolled 4 encounter rolls-- 2 going in 2 going out-- and handwaved the rest. That's fine. It worked. It makes sense for the DM to make a judgement call to keep things paced briskly. And yet it worries me a little. What if, for instance, I'd though "Uh oh, they're getting frustrated trying to get this big party through the water here" and handwaved that? I think I'd lose the real sense of accomplishment they'll feel when they finally get somewhere, and take away the motivation they feel because they really want to beat the damn water now.
But wait a minute, the difference is simple isn't it? In an exploration game new places always trump something seen many times. So I probably made too much of this.
2) I mentioned in a previous post that, because the party was looking for cursed coins they'd spent, it seemed like a cool opportunity to have at least one end up overseas. And I felt a little uneasy about that; isn't that a little railroady? Anyway, I never prepared my sea travelling encounter tables and such to my liking, they've been cursed for weeks, and we're going into the holiday season with few sessions for a while, so I had the guy sail back to Nidus bringing the coins right into their grasp. Right decision? I don't know. Better than a half-assed ocean voyage I suppose.
Is this a problem because I'm wanting to play a sandbox style game but I haven't yet given them a sandbox? They don't even have a map of the local environs! I guess what I wonder is where to trust the emergent storyline that is bound to be interesting in ways none of us can predict, and when to nudge the events in the world as DM because I see a narrative opportunity. I feel like I may have pondered this somewhere before-- it has to do with players having a choice? Anyway, I'll stop here and go drink some more coffee. Hope you're all having a nice December.