Thursday, May 7, 2009

Playing the Dungeon of Voorand - The lure of liches

Today's game was interesting. It was not very heavy on fighting, none at all in fact, but the threat of it hung in there all the time. I dangled the carrot while wielding a big stick.

They decided to stay on level two a while longer, since they knew now that it was far bigger than previously thought. Going down through a "back door", they avoided paying for their entrance. A while back they encountered a bunch of scalykin (a term from our playtest of Vincent Bakers Storming the Wizard's Tower, basically kobolds) and bargained for passage down the stairs to level two. They now have few free passes and they decided to take another route this time.

Down at level two, they went mapping some areas formerly explored and found some interesting stuff. This is where the design of the dungeon becomes interesting. I have drawn two corridors on parallel, and as they go east-west they are connected by passages going north-south. In between those were a space where I fit a bunch of small rooms, all with wooden doors. Basically it was a bunch of "a maze of twisty passages, all alike", but more interesting. Now, they were empty (since I actually try to keep a decent amount of the dungeon open for improvisation) but the doors were interesting. I had planned it so that if you were mapping carefully you would at last notice that the last room was bordering one of the parallel corridors, and the door in that wall couldn't lead to those since there was no door on the other side. One way doors, and false doors, are things I use sparingly but it was my homage to Rob Kuntz and Gary Gygax. For some reason one way doors or false doors for me is a Kuntz thing. I really have to study more of Rob's dungeons one of those days. Suggestions welcome.

Well, they mapped closely, and realized that this was a dead end. What I really liked, though, was that one player decided to bash it with with warhammer to prove a point. Intelligent playing to map and realize it was a dead end, and a sense for when brute force is just plain fun.

They main event for the night, though, was the tomb. I had decided to place not only a jungle environment, a magic shop and a tavern on this level, but also a tomb of a high level wizard/knight. They entered it, scouted around and looked really longingly at the skeletal guardians of the tomb, sitting in their niches with rotting robes bedecked by jewelry and crowns of silver and items of magic. Two things were really fun here. One of my players was really torn. He would have loved to plunder the magical riches, but his fear of fighting powerful undead was tangible. Seeing the player and the character become one, roleplaying at its best, was the kind of sweet moment of indecision which makes it so fun to be the DM. I was very curious myself what this could lead to! I was as much in the dark as they! Throw in some cool stuff and watch the players run with it. I love it.

The second thing was more gritty. In the tomb there was this altar, a magical Rubik's Cube, which was set up to refold itself and open up a small compartment when someone put an offering on the table. In a moment which sits up there with some of the most hilarious and funny stuff I've read in campaign journals, one of my players decided to - wait for it - sit! on the altar! So, it folder into itself while he was sitting on it. I had never imagined anything like that to happen, and had to scramble for an idea of what would happen when an altar was chewing on someones arse! The poor dwarf was castrated and the he not only managed to roll 2,1 on his SPD save, but also roll a 6,6 (spite, of course) on damage inflicted! The image of his misery and the clash of mental images people got from him with a squeaky voice and the full dwarven bearded manliness caused a -10 CHA reduction. He is at 1 CHA right now. Poor sod.

So, they feared undead more that they were greedy, and after s short peek down some stairways to another level, they got back to town and got their 200 AP for surviving 2nd level! They did defuse a couple of other traps as well, and talked somewhat to some other delvers they found but for me the Tomb was the funniest.

So, once again the idea of exploring as central part of the game was proving fruitful for fun. Also, the idea of weird and unscaled encounters proved it's worth. Seeing delvers really fear undead brings back to me the image of Conan, followed by wolves and seeking shelter in a cave which turns out to be an ancient tomb filled with creepy feeling. Sword and sorcery at its most atmospheric. I love this game!

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