Saturday, May 7, 2011

Leaving the Tumbling Dungeon

Acch, I'm three play reports behind.  Here's two:
"G" F
    Le Bouche hireling
    Janis hireling
"Z" F
    Pita hireling
    Mika hireling
    Fabrino hireling
Darkyo F
Hugelina F

The party intended to re-enter the dungeon to look for Zhang Ziyang who holds the knowledge to cure the crew of plague.  Entering the first room they found a leather satchel with a root and a recipe signed by ZZ.  They followed the recipe, administered to three of the crew members, two of which died an agonizing death in front of them.  G feeling the accusations of the rest of the crew, drank from the concotion himself to show it wasn't intentional.  He lived. (he rolled the Big d30)

They pushed into the dungeon recovering ground previously explored.  There was a tense moment where G miscalculated turn time and was caught in the well room's cylindrycal passage as the dungeon turned.  With some scrambling, a rope was thrown to him, he walked along the bottom of the water and survived several attacks by creatures that look like giant tadpoles-- with lots of teeth.

Then a lever was surely and firmly pulled.  They found their way to the Alchemists Sleeping Chamber just as the dungeon was turning a way it had never turned before.  The frantic party jumped to the gimballed bed.  Pita, she-of-the-ever-bad-luck failed a roll and ended up in a squirming mass of grubs.  The party pulled her out.  And then realized someone was in the bed!

Zhang Ziyang.  He said he couldn't remember anything.  Under the bed were 6 drawers which revealed 2 silver rings, a bolt of folded cloth with an inscription in Arabic, a wolf's pelt and some gold.  We stopped there, with the party having a slumber party.

Mollie DP
Toral DP
Athydas MU
"G" F
    Le Bouche hireling
    Janis hireling
"Z" F
    Pita hireling
    Mika hireling
    Fabrino hireling
Zhang Ziyang NPC

We started out with Toral and Mollie heading into the dungeon alone (the rest of the players were late anyway) to search for the rest of the folks, the sick crew was getting worse-- a few more days and they'd all be stranded here.  Toral, who had grown a familiar with the Tumbling Dungeon's ways noticed at the first tumble that something was off.  They soon found themselves faced with something new, the Component Library was open for browsing.  Athydas (who joined the two above when his player showed up) decided to explore the shaft heading directly down with floating stone spheres in it.  He was very aware that if the dungeon tumbled he would be in bad shape.

Eventually the party below saw the lantern light and yelled up.  Ropes were rigged and the party all came up into the Component library.  ZZ was consulted and the appropriate root was found.  While this was happening Toral and Darkyo scouted out the central, spherical chamber to find a huge sphere of water slowly rotating in mid air.  Within it were darting black shapes and a pale, teenaged body.  Toral's hireling.

The party got the root and got out of Dodge.  The concoction brewed and administered, the crew began to show signs of relief.  Z administered some to the Knight of the Order of St Letholdus, who he seems to be trying to become friendly with.  Just as the party sailed Zhang Ziyang said he was staying behind.
Some Thoughts

I need to do these sooner so the things I learned are more fresh in my mind.  I improved my descriptions of the dungeon as they became more clear in my head.  Poor Toral and Gail might have found the treasure trove if I had described the bed in its gimbal better.  The brass library with all the spells embossed was never described well by me, I still need to clarify that one in my own head.  I did figure out a simple way to fix my stair problem: floating, buoyant steps that stay where they are as the room rotates.

The session with all fighters was sort of boring, you need some magic to give players a wider range of options.

You can see how my constantly shifting player attendance can wreak havoc with any sensible narrative.  But I make it dreamlike and let people join the party and leave it without making a big deal about it.  When I go up a level as DM I think I'll try to implement Jeff Rients' table of Dungeon Doom to make sure partys aren't left in a dungeon at the end of a session.  This dungeon would have made that a little harder of course, because finding the exit would have been a tricky.

This sucks for players too, though, Because Gail and Toral basically mapped the whole dungeon out and then, when they couldn't play, G and Z had to figure it all out again for themselves.

Giving the spell transcription costs has made a huge difference for the magic-users.  They've been trying to kill seagulls to gather blood and quills, they are moving spells from scrolls to books and seem empowered in general.

Oh, I almost forgot, in that first session it was everybodies' birthday (or near it) and since it has been my tradition to give Boons to folks as gifts, three people wanted one.

"Okay, okay," I said.  "Two of you can pick a hard core perk the other has to pick from the animal perks."  Dice were rolled and Darkyo had to pick an animal.  She chose a trained ferret.  G chose the Obsidian Blade and Z chose the Iron Hammer, though I don't think he understands how, even as simple as it is, it works.  Interestingly, G was speculating later whether his blade might have killed the grubs. Yes, it would have worked if he tried.

Some things my players never found out: Pita has been infested with a parasite and will start vomiting monsters soon.  There were two witches.  Zhang Ziyang was charmed.  At the center of the dungeon, the reason for the tumbling, is a golden elixir.  Zhang Ziyang knows this.  He intends to drink it.


  1. ZZ should return in your games as a villain!

  2. Do you think they got out quick because (a) they achieved their objective and figured that was what the place was for or (b) they just thought it was too damn dangerous for any potential reward?

    Seeing how their ventures went, I'd be inclined to change tactics if I were one of your players - approach dungeons with something like a swat team approach, set up warning systems and traps, try to hold territory I'd explored and most of all increase the size of the party. Those witches would teach me to lead with an expendable scout and maintain line of sight with them, so that even if they're surprised not everyone has to be. They seem profoundly incurious, though.... did they not feel like they had an "in" for understanding what the place was?

    Really fascinating, as always.

  3. @ Squidman: :) How about a solid gold Lich? Yeah, as soon as I was thinking he was a Chinese alchemist and that this rotating dungeon was related to alchemy I thought he might get involved in some hijinks. Because knowledge always leads to evil, haha.

    @richard: A little of both. First, remember I twisted their arm to go in (to find the plague cure) so that goal achieved, they have less reason to stay.

    Second, they did find some gold and magic items.

    Third, that lever caused some inter-party squabbling "why did you pull it before we were done scouting!?" and has left a bit of bad flavor over the place.

    Fourth, there was the near TPK and loss of a long-time hireling.

    Fifth, they had actually visited every room in most configurations.

    So, they pretty much knew the secrets, and knew it was dangerous to stay any longer.

    That being said, player's being absent made it much harder for them to be efficient. I think if everyone had been playing each session they may have stayed and hunted down the witch(es) to kill-- they hated "her".

    I also think there may have been more reluctance to leave if Gail's player was present this last session because he knew that Brass library held inscriptions of all first level spells as well as some rarer, oddball spells. I think he transcribed one of them, but he just didn't have enough time/materials to get them all.

    I wonder if he'll want to revisit once he finds you can't get spells in a magic shop. Hell, that's why the witches were there, learning those spells.

    Your recipe for handling a dungeon sounds like a pretty good one in general. Well, they might have trouble holding ground, but if they at least had some means of detection to know if baddies were skulking around behind them they would be better off.