Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Dim Expanse part VII

Another pair of rooms copied and pasted from my files for UU-KS-1F. The Mermaid Fountain proved deadly once, and did save one other hapless PC from imminent death. When it was encountered, there was a group of adventuring Kobolds here in the room, arguing over who should test the water. None of them did, and they parleyed with the player group before moving on, leaving the PC's to their own devices. The fountain itself and how it functions is not an original idea, but the graffiti and the fact that it will still heal even if ingested threw the PC's off a bit.

15: The Mermaid Fountain: At the center of this chamber is a large 10’ diameter fountain, with the statue of a mermaid at it’s center, with water burbling forth from a large vessel which she holds with both arms. There is some old graffiti on the south wall, scrawled very sloppily in Kobold, it reads “These waters heal wounds”, and written beneath in another hand it reads, “So drink deeply, but only from the falling water.” This is in fact a fountain of healing waters, but…the waters function as a topical healing liquid, to be applied externally. If anyone drinks the water from the fountain, they will need to save vs. poison or die. When applied to a wound or upon the flesh (including drinking, which still necessitates a save), the water will heal 2d4 damage. The fountain may only be used once per day per individual, and the water will only retain it’s power for one day if removed from the fountain. There are two secret doors in this room. The north secret door is opened by depressing a button located within the vessel held by the mermaid, and the south secret door is opened by depressing a loose stone in the wall nearby.

This next room allowed me to have some fun. Heckler was inspired by a character in the movie The Last Unicorn, and allowed me to role play in an effort to rile the PC's by questioning their abilities. The group ended up dragging a slain Giant Spider back here to feed the mold. They figured out the twist here, but never traversed the room.

17: Moldy Mess: This room is rank, musty and damp. The walls, floor and ceiling are covered in a layer of putrid brown and black mold, 1’ thick. A clear track is ‘cut’ through the room, running from the south entrance to the east hall, a full 3’ wide. It clearly reveals the locations of both secret doors, and from this direction the doors are plainly visible due to opening and closing. In the north west corner of the room, clean of all mold, is a stone pedestal, 7’ high, atop of which is a skeleton, named Heckler. Heckler will taunt and laugh at those who enter this room. Heckler will tell the PC’s that they are doomed, that they are going to become so much insect food soon, that they are fools for walking on the clearly trapped path, and that the mold is safer. Heckler is attached to the pedestal, and may not be dislodged. Heckler may be conversed with once he tires of his teasing and taunting. Heckler explains that if the PC’s desire any of his knowledge, they must return to him with a sack of freshly killed flesh, of any sort, that they can feed to his pet. Heckler’s ‘pet’ is the mold in this room, which does indeed eat flesh at a rate of 1 hit point per round. The mold is immune to all elements except Cold, which causes it to recede and dissipate slowly. Flaming oil is doused, as are torches inserted into the mold. If the PC’s do return with meat for the mold, Heckler will tell them to strew it about into the mold and then he will answer their questions. During the feeding, Heckler will seemingly be in a state of bliss. Heckler’s ‘talking’ is actually the manifestation of the sentient mold within this room, and it knows nothing of the dungeon. Heckler will laugh at the PC’s and tell them “I am still hungry, fools!”…”Oooops I mean my pet is still hungry …”. Heckler’s purpose is to lure food into the mold.

Heckler will likely make another appearance deeper in Dim X, but next time in a Dunking Tank of sorts.

~Sham, Quixotic Referee


belst8 said...

More please! Each room is a pleasure.

belst8 said...

While I'm at it, let me ask you a question. All the campaigns I've run have had 3 or 4 players, and we never used hirelings. The entourage approach is fascinating to me and does seem very old school. But given my lack of experience I'm having a little trouble imagining how it works, especially in a dungeon.

Take combat. Isn't combat basically restricted to the two guys at the front? And isn't that boring for everyone else? (And doesn't it end up being especially deadly?)

And more generally, with so many players, does everyone really get a chance to actively play? Do some people just more or less sit there? What style of play does it encourage? Are people always trying to distinguish themselves?

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks, Belst8.

My groups aren't normally much larger, usually 5 players. I've had as many as 8 or 9, as well.

There's nothing wrong with 3 or 4 player characters taking on a dungeon, if you're comfortable and having fun with that.

With the Entourage Approach, while there might be 10-16 characters, the number of players remains the same. With OD&D, or any rules light version, combat still moves very quickly. I use a somewhat abstract approach, so there isn't a lot of tactical planning going into each round of melee.

Adventuring being especially deadly is one of the reasons I adopted the Entourage Approach. Dungeons should be lethal, imho. I am not going to go out of my way to 'save' a character simply because that player will have nothing to do if his lone adventurer perishes. I like the idea of continuing on if at all possible.

Recently, one player did lose both of his characters, and was able to continue playing after a mate allowed him to control a member of his own Entourage until the adventure was finished.

As far as players more or less just sitting there, I try to keep melee and the action rolling and moving around the table quickly. During standard play, many of the players sit back and listen as the caller and mapper interact with me, the Ref. Such is old school dungeon crawling.

Most of my combat occurs in rooms, but when it does spill into the halls, or when Wandering Monsters catch the party unawares, they are indeed in a 10' wide corridor. The Fighting Men and Barbarians at the front or rear take the brunt of the damage, the others cast spells, look for a way to bring a Spear or Polearm into the conflict, or just cheer on their mates. Such combat is the exception to the rule, though.

I usually allow the party an opportunity to at the very least gain enough of a foothold in an occupied room to fan out their front rank a bit, space permitting.

Hirelings are fun, and add a lot of flavor to the game. The fact that they are members of an Entourage allows the players some flexibility, while still allowing them to have a Primary Character to role play with.

As far as players trying to distinguish themselves, that's a personality thing more than a game or role playing thing in my experience. I do try to provide plenty of situations for all involved to do so.

You can use the Entourage Approach with 1, 2 or 10 players. As it is established and grows, the concept actually allows you to run a game if only 1 or 2 players show up. When 10 arrive at your door to play D&D, you can tell them to limit their followers for those rare sessions, or just let them take a small army into your dungeon. The monsters will likely respond accordingly.


Amityville Mike said...

Thanks for posting this. I had read the play notes from the first crawl session and the Fountain's effects had me a little confused. Now I see that the "drink deep" clue was just misdirection. All is now clear.

PatrickWR said...

Just wanted to chime in and tell you how much I'm enjoying this series, Sham. It would be great for the hobby if more DMs offered up some cut-and-paste inspiration from their homebrew settings more often. Keep it up!

Sham aka Dave said...

Thanks! I hope some readers gain inspiration or just ideas from these blurbs I'm sharing.

More in the days to follow.