Thursday, February 26, 2015

Monsters as Traps

10' Pit?  No 100' Dragon
Traps are most often mechanical or magical things, but looking at it abstractly, traps are a challenge to overcome that is not really combat based.  At some point I started using monsters as traps - monsters that are incredibly deadly and well beyond the capabilities of the players.

For example, a pack of adventurers skulking around a dungeon comes across a chamber they need to get through ... except there is a huge dragon in it.  Fighting the dragon will almost certainly end in doom.  If they spring the trap (waking the thing up) there will be consequences (damage/death/etc.)  but disarming (laying down some additional magical sleep on the thing) or avoiding the trap (sneaking by) will reward the players by giving them more dungeon access, treasure, or what have you.

In my recent game, there was a huge demon trapped in a sarcophagus.  It was described ominously, opening it has ominous results.  It was obviously a "bad thing" ... but adventurers love danger and had to muck about with it.  At this point the trap is set and the players are going to spring it ... and spring it they did!  The next session the demon possessed and killed a character (not to mention caused massive damage to some others).  The session after that the party went back to where the thing was and it not only caused holy hell with the party (another character dead) but they let it escape into the world ... which has consequences.

Some might call this a "no win" situation.  I posit, however, that the warning signs were there and the previous experience with the trap/demon showed it was a deadly thing.  Winning would have been avoiding or leaving the thing alone.  Engaging the demon was devastating ... just as would be walking into a room with 100 swirling giant blades obviously coated in poison.

I don't use this trick/trap often as it would simply make the dungeons far too deadly, but having them lying about keeps players on their toes and keeps things interesting.  In a game where combat is deadly and the focus is more on exploration and loot that fighting monsters, these encounters help set the perfect tone for my game.

Trap Monsters vs. Monsters as Traps
There are some classic trap monsters - mimics, lurker above, trapper, that sort of thing.  These are not the same as monsters as traps.  The encounter with them is a monster encounter, just disguised as something else ... these are more ticks than anything else.  Monsters as traps are obvious ... trap monsters are not.  Giving clues as to the situation are the same as giving clues to any monster encounter.  Broken statues of terrified people mean there is some old school shit that turns you to stone around the area.  There is something less satisfying about a treasure chest springing to life and trying to devour a character (making all future treasure chest encounters take 20 minutes instead of 30 seconds) than watching the players realize there is something well out of range and deciding to walk into it anyway.

Just some food for thought.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Aldsburg Chronicles: The Spring

Between the plague that sprouted from the bowels of Lions Teeth Tower and a seemingly endless and terribly harsh winter, the spring is welcomed like a new god and savior in the crumbling warrens and glittering spires of Aldsburg.  A season has passed since the adventurers last set out (with results some might consider disastrous at best).

Around The Iron Streets
Life has gotten back to normal in the Iron Streets with one exception - the Central Gate has been sealed off and the wall between the Iron Streets and Smoke Hill has been rebuilt.  The Calis Contingent who runs Smoke Hill and Calis Mining (in the Calis Ward) has been charged with security and managing trade.  Clarissa the Grotesque has appointed Fremulon Yerk as Bishop of the Iron Streets, and he rules with a mightily corrupt and iron fist.

The Red Shields are all but gone.  Once their involvement in the plague became known mob justice took the bench and with fearsome brutality meted bloody justice.  The few remaining members of the Marigold Street Runners have taken their place as kings of the Iron Street underworld - the catwalks and platforms hanging over the Kellian Gorge served as a place of execution, and the bodies of many, dressed and painted in red, still swing in the mountain breeze.

The Coterie of the Unfettered Raven, bolstered by their association with the Magnolia Street Runners has gain in popularity and have more followers.  The Undying Temple, dedicated to the Wyrd, is in serious decline and rumors of a new type of gang warfare, spurred and powered by divine might, are seeming more and more plausible.

Around Aldsburg
  • Something terrible happened in the Steel Tower and it has not been opened in months.
  • Mountain Perl Tower, thought abandoned, is showing signs of life and prosperity.
  • Visitors to Aldsburg are increasing and more and more strangers are being seen.
  • A large contingent of Galresians have taken settled a section of the Guildhall in LionsTeeth.
  • More and more frequently dwarfs are seen around the city!
  • A halfling revolt in Jurgdan Tower has made it a dangerous place for tallfolk
  • Adventurers visiting Royston Vasey have returned with tales of dungeon adventure as well as the scars and loot to prove it!
Other Rumors
  • The Daemon Lord of Bortund is now demanding blood as payment for metal
  • An actual dragon is laying waste to the region around Frandor's Keep
  • Concerns about the Cult of the Horned Rat are all around the North ... something is brewing
  • Trolls and Ogres have been seen watching Aldsburg from the mountain peeks
  • The Devil Heldorado was seen gambling in New Hope and talking about a "Bloody Journey North"

Some Followup
  • Alois eventually rid himself of the parasites infecting his gut ... but that dungeon pie was delicious!
  • Backlash from the spell Boreas and Pendergast cast have linked them in a strange way ... they feel connected in an uncomfortable way.
  • Everyone has a season to do things (like alchemy, research, and so on), heal from all wounds, do some serious carousing, update equipment, and generally get ready for the spring adventures.
  • I'll be taking rumors from within the Aldsburg as well as the surrounding territory.  There are definitely dungeons in Bortund and Royston Vasey you know of, but plenty of party in Aldsburg as well.  

Session Report: Aldsburg Chronicle [A8]

... for which one of my players wrote a summary ...

The Party
Alois - cleric of the Unfettered Raven
Boreas - winter mage of the Unrelenting North
Ludwig - Warpriest of Sigmar
Pendergast - dusk mage of the Eternal Void

The Setup
With Olaf setting a 7 day ultimatum to clear out the dungeon or clear out of the town, the party gear up for another foray into the cursed mine.

The Statue
After the short hike up the mountain, the party find the mine entrance as they left it.  Tendrils of snow grasp at the characters as they descend, as if to hold them back from certain doom.  The great central chamber is as they left it: the spider statue standing in the center– fresh blood and gore sliding down its side.  The party decides that this statue has to go.  Pendergast chants ominously.  The shadows darken at the edges of vision.  With one final deafening shout, Pendergast slams the palm of his hand, writhing with dark energy, into Ludwig's back.  Shadows pulse around Ludwig’s arms; with each pulse, his muscles growing.  With one mighty blow, Ludwig slams his great war hammer into the statue, shattering the head and shoulder.  Blood erupts for stone, covering Ludwig, and all hell breaks loose.  After a desperate battle with blood flies and corrupted spiders, the party stands victorious.

The Guardian
After taking a moment to catch their breath, bandage wounds, and dispatch two corrupted bandits with the audacity to ambush the distracted party; the adventurers enter a side chamber.  Pendergast is intrigued by the description of the flesh guardian given by Boreas the night before.  Unable to help himself, Pendergast pushes back the finger bone curtain and enters the small alcove.  "Help me" the guardian utters as Pendergast enters.   Brimming with curiosity, Pendergast approaches the dedicated guardian.  From behind, Boreas calls out "the flesh–it moves."  With one final step, Pendergast steps onto the piles of flesh and guts, which immediately spring to life– as if offended by the intrusion–wrapping around Pendergast, nearly suffocating him.  After a successful rescue and some dithering (ok more like an hour), the party again enters the alcove.

This time mighty Ludwig takes the lead, unfortunately with nearly identical results.  Alois goes into try to save Ludwig and is also grabbed.  Boreas goes in and is nearly grabbed as well.  Sensing near certain doom upon the party, Pendergast begins to chant.  Silent words escape his mouth, forming arcane symbols from the very shadows themselves and with each silent syllable, Pendergast appears shrivel.  The dark symbols float through the air towards the flesh, expanding into an inking black screen of smoke between the flesh pile and the group.  The arms of flesh continue to reach for the party, but nothing extends to the other side of the screen; instead the arms enter the void between.  After some additional deliberation, the group realizes that the half alive corpse anchors the flesh pit into this reality.  A coup de gra later, the spell is dispatched and a secret door and treasure (including a sweet, sweet, dungeon pie devoured by Alois) is found.

We tried out the new coursing rules for two nights, effectively drinking all the booze in the small mining town and getting permanently banned from the bunk house.

The Demon and the Death of a Friend
Alois, out of commission with a nastily stomach bug (tape worms caused by eating a dungeon pie?), is left behind and the two mages and the cleric again enter the dungeon.  After much debate, the party decides to open the stone door, behind which the shark demon was trapped in the previous session (I know it’s hard to believe what characters, bored with not knowing what to do in one of Dale's dungeons, will do).... But the demon, and water, are gone.  With a great assign of relief, the group proceeds to ransack the cauldron of body parts (finding some, sweet, sweet, loot).

Swelling with overconfidence, the party decide to move onto the next door.  This door, however, is crusted closed with layers of salt and GM warnings.  Headless of the signs, the party slams into the door, once, twice, three times and......Initiative!

The shark demon lunges forward, crashing into Ludwig's shield.  The mages, frozen in fear, snap out of it.  Boreas begins to ransack his pack, pulling a multitude of bits and bobs.  Mixing these arcane ingredients with water from the mountain spring, he begins to chant.  Pendergast, understanding the dire situation, pulls deep one the surrounding shadows–the torches begin to dim.  The words of Boreas and Pendergast swirl and merge together, almost as if the two chants were meant to be one–Winter and Void pulling and magnifying together into one intertwined spell.  With a final word, the chanting stops and an uncanny silence falls.  A second later, the mist begins to swirl, the snow begins to build, and a blizzard of snow and hail flies towards the demon.  As it charges, the pure white blizzard snow, turns black as night–every flake of snow and ice ripping into the demon (10d6 dmg!).  With a wail, the demon is pushed back and falls to the ground;
 down but now out.

"Run!!!" shouts Boreas and he turns to follow his own command.  Mighty Ludwig, though, shouts defiance and a prayer to his god, and CHARGES; his mighty warhammer barely missing the fallen foe.  It's eyes blazing with ominous fury, the demon swings a massive fist at Ludwig, and with one solid blow, the demon casually flings Ludwig 20' through the air, where he lands with a sickening thud.  With no time morn their fallen friend, the remaining group run for their lives, but the demon follows.  The party scatters under the cover of a quickly summoned blizzard.  With utter horror, Pendergast and Boreas stare as the mighty demon charges into the mining town of Bortun, leaving only destruction behind it.

Tapped out, stretched well beyond the natural limits of any normal mage, the two turn their eyes from the wasteland that was once Bortun, and grasp hands around their most prized artifact–The Babylon Candle–and in a flash, find themselves back in the city slums.  The danger avoided, for now.

GM Notes
Thanks to Eric for a great write-up.  I always enjoy getting the player perspective on the game.  I have a lot of prep before the next session, but I'm totally good with that! I'll post up the epilogue shortly.  Good times!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Session Report: Aldsburg Chronicles [A7]

... wherein the adventurers run afoul of previous adventurers' misadventures ...

The Party
Boreas, Winter Mage
Alois, Cleric of the Unfettered Raven
Werner, inexperienced Fighter/Thief
Minock, Fighter associate and non-scoundrel
Larry, freakishly loyal henchman of Minock

Recap and Setup
The adventurers, temporarily fleeing Aldsburg because it is in the middle of a pogrom and the plague has lasting effects and Clarissa the Grotesque has sent her Praetoria to hunt for scapegoats ... like the party.  The adventurers stopped by the small mining camp of Bortund to investigate the rumors of bandits who stole a wizard treasure and a cave that is full of evil (and therefore adventure and loot).

Wandering the Underworld
After settling in the posh estate of Mr. Olaf, town boss, the adventurers head into the underworld cave.  The encountered the bloody statue of an insect god, wandered around a bit and found a "bedroom"(?), went through a beaded curtain made of finger and knuckle bones, killed something that was undead but imprisoned (and surrounded by Arcane Guardian symbols), then got jumped by some asshat with a bow.  The battle was more of a chase back by the bloody insect god statue which ended with the enemy plunging off a cliff that was previously ill investigated.  There was definitely something down that cliff snuffling and gurgling and generally being ominous.

Retracing steps, the party made their way through a stone door into a corridor flooded with brackish water with bits of gore and scabby clotted blood floating on it.  They smashed open a door to find a huge cauldron filled with body parts.  A moment later a swarm of huge bloated flies, the size of grapes and filled with blood attacking the party.  Werner went down and almost drown, but with some clever torch-work the flies were driven off.

 awesome image stolen from site this image is linked to
More exploration brings the party to a room with a huge stone sarcophagus with water splashing out of it.  Werner drops again vomiting and bleeding ... then goes completely crazy.  As he attacks the party some huge demonic thing bursts from his body and attacks the party (Jeremy can fill you in on the details of why that happened).  This huge writing mass of tentacles and chitinous plates slams into Minock the fighter, nearly killing him outright.  Boreas, Minock, and Larry flee while Alois makes a slow retreat.  Something strange happens to Alois as he nearly gets crushing slamming the stone door and retreating.

A bloody mess, the party, down one member, makes their way back to Mr. Olaf's place.  In the morning, Alois' room is completely destroyed and covered in sour-smelling feces.  The party is wounded and troubled, but there is definitely something in that dungeon worth adventuring for ... why else would there be such fearsome foes?

GM Notes
This is the second session in a row where I've only had 2 players because the weather in New England is pretty crap this time of year.  The next session is next weekend so hopefully the weather will have relaxed a bit and I'll have a full table and some new players as well.