Saturday, December 9, 2017

Barrowmaze #27: Driven Deeper into the Chaos Sepulcher

TL DR  Tired, tense, driven by hunger.  Unable to escape the dungeon, with running low on food and torches, the explorers found a secret door into an ancient elemental crypt and hurried down forgotten halls, desperate for an exit.

DM Notes: In Too Deep and the Public Doom Die
Tuesday's session was a pretty great one.  The tension was thick.  Resources dwindled.  Lost and short on spells, the their exit route cut off, they delved ever deeper into the dungeon, hyper aware of the mounting danger.  I have no idea what will happen next.

We have been playing this Barrowmaze campaign for about a year now.  It's usually me as DM and two players with two or three characters and a few henchmen.  We play using roll20 video chat (the fog of war feature makes dungeon exploring very easy).  After quite a few early deaths the guys have gotten their characters up to 4th level.  I was starting to think they were getting a little big for their britches.  Not any more.

With the exception of the Skull Mountain excursion, most of the campaign has taken place in and above the Barrowmaze, and most sessions have involved walking from town, exploring a bit, sometimes just a mound or two and returning for some carousing.   The last few sessions have been different.  Each time we ended in the dungeon.  Characters had no rest.  At first it was because they really wanted to explore deeper to find the fabled Fount of Law.  The second time it was because I rolled a random encounter as they tried to leave and we did not have time to play it out.

I've run games before where characters got in over their heads and bit off more than they could chew in the past.  Usually I would feel a bit guilty and responsible.  I would conveniently forget about some things like torches and food, exhaustion etc.  This time was different.  With the Doom Die being rolled by the players after nearly every action, the ticking of time became very clear.  Through a series rolls of 2 and 4 (hunger/exhaustion and torches) resources became taxed.  It was a lot of stress eating apparently.  By the end of the session they were down to their last couple of rations.  They had even chosen to take the 1hp a couple times.

The Doom Die was really great here.  It gave me a sense of when to have the pursuing necromancer appear, and the rolls of 4 and 6 made me think hard about what clues or boons I could offer the desperate party.  I think one clue unfortunately compelled them away from a safer choice, but oh well.

We used the Battle Die as well.  This was again interesting.  It made it clear when spells ended, when it was time to introduce a complication, or when to offer an extra action to a player.

This was a session were a combination of the familiarity with the context of the Barrowmaze and the procedures in place made for a really cool experience.  I can't wait for the next game, though it could easily end in a TPK.

The Saga
The session started with the four grave robbers at the door of a large room through which they needed to pass to get to their exit stair.  They were weary but triumphant with their newly acquired orb.  They heard chanting in the "Dark Speech" and the groans of many voices.  Peering under the door they could see orange light and smell brimstone.

They decided to find another way around, but searching unexplored passages yielded no secret passages.  Worried now, they tried to backtrack, exploring side passages they had passed on the way to the Fount of Law.  These passages were a maze of narrow, natural tunnels.  After a few dead ends they discovered a crumbled wall of masonry.  In the chamber beyond their dim light fell upon a livestock sized insectoid creature, it's tentacled head buried in the corpse of a goat-headed beastman, which itself reclined upon a pile of jewels and coins.  Striking from ambush, the group quickly slew the thing and gathered the treasure, a kings hoard!  They also found a concealed stone door.  An escape.

The door opened to the space behind a massive stone statue depicted a four armed demon holding skulls of various provenance: a bird, a reptile, a fish and a badger.  The room was huge, with a vaulted roof.  Doors to the north and south were locked and elaborately designed, so they were ignored and the party fled east.

Immediately the floor fell out from beneath the fighter.  Luck was on his side.  A Dexterity Saving roll of 1 saw him leap to safety as the trap door spun beneath him.  There was a bricked up door at the end of the corridor beyond.

As the group began to work on it with sledge and crowbar, light appeared in the demon chamber behind.  It was a Necromancer of Set with his retinue of skeletal minions and the zombified corpses of the band of goat-headed beastmen with whom the party had recently parlayed.  There ensued a strange stand off.  The players were somewhat protected by the pit, into which two skeletons immediately fell.  The trap door was doused in oil and set afire.  The cleric used the final charge of his Wand of Wonder to create a globe of darkness for a time.  The Necromancer called out, demanding the Font for the glory of Set, but with his Stinking Cloud ineffective and unable to send his clumsy minions across the trapped pit, eventually resorting to skeleton rock throwing.

 Meanwhile, three tomb robbers attacked the bricked up wall relentlessly, finally breaking through a small hole and tumbling through.  A long, silent passage stretched into the darkness.  Hurrying, the group passed doors and side passages, finally exploring north, turning back with a bad feeling from a northern door and exploring a few alcoves, discovering yet more wealth (cleverly avoiding a collapsing floor to do so).  They had discovered more ancient coinage and gemstones than ever before but were no nearer to any known exit.

Again footfalls could be heard in the darkness beyond the light...