Meriwether the infantryman (1st level Cleric)
played by American John
Nell the innkeeper (1st level Warrior)
played by Todd
Pemberton Nimby (sage)
The townspeople of Brimstone had finally recovered from their collective hangovers (brought on by a bit too much neighborly affection from the Canadian fur trappers) ... but unfortunately, one of the supply trains was infested, and it brought a whole passel of mice into town. Their brown furry bodies skittering over the dirt roads made it look like the whole ground was crawling with horrible life. Brimstone had booze again - but that was about all they had, as the dadgum little varmints ate up pretty much everything but the whiskey. The situation didn't bother Meriwether and Nell much though, as they didn't plan on spending much time in town.
Nell and Meriwether had previously agreed on a plan to try to bring Archibald back to life. Nell swore she would have her revenge on Archibald for how cruelly he had treated her in the past, and while Meriwether had no memory of Archibald being cruel to anyone, he did want to see his friend again, and he had a peculiar itch to learn more about this whole resurrection business. Meriwether had adopted the bat statue he found down the Maw whole-heartedly, and he'd given himself up to the worship of Camazotz the bat god. He might not know much more about the demon bat than the critter's name, but he was fixing to start him a cult if he could just persuade some people in town to join him. And beside's Nell could be awfully persuasive. "Oh he was so terrible cruel to me!" wailed Nell, "And you what? Yes, come to think of it, that hustler owed me money, too! Oh, I'mma make him pay something good!" Again, Meriwether didn't really think any of that was true, but who could say no to Sweet Nell?
Fortunately for their plan, Nell's former occupation as an innkeeper meant that she knew a rumor about a disgraced doctor who'd been run out of town after people caught him paying vagrants to dig up graves so he could study the bodies. Rumor was the sonbitch hadn't even gone far, just moved out to the tent city just past the northwest corner of town. They took the long way round, sticking to the outskirts, passing through the cemetery to retrieve Archibald's body before making their way over to the tent camp. They found the resurrectionist's abode, an old Civil War hospital tent that received a wide berth from its neighbors. And inside, they found the resurrectionist himself, Pemberton Nimby.
|This guy, basically. (And yes, I did a Peter Lorre impression for his voice.)|
Nell and Meriwether showed Dr Nimby Archibald's ant-bitten body, and the nugget of demon ore they hoped he could use to resurrect him. Nimby assured them that he could bring Archibald back, and that he could be less of a free-willed individual and more of a puppet. (Nell was adamant about this point.) He explained that he would fashion the ore into an artificial heart, and whoever held the heart would command Archibald's body. On the issue of payment, Nimby didn't want money. ("Are you sure?" asks Nell, "because Archibald is good for it. He'd be happy to repay you just as soon as he's done reimbursing me!") He wanted them to either bring him more demon ore, or convince the mayor to let him come back into town. Despite Nell's golden tongue, they preferred to fetch the ore, although Meriwether felt nervous about going back down the Maw after what happened to his friend. Fortunately, Nimby has a lead on some demon ore. There's an older mine where the final discovery was some demon ore, but unfortunately, the miners released something from deeper underground and all of them were killed. The company closed down the mine and hushed the whole thing up. (How does he know what the miners found before they died, if none of them survived to tell the tale? Better not to ask.) He'll use their ore to resurrect Archibald, on the condition that they pay him two nuggets of demon ore in return. They all agreed, and Nell spat into her hand to shake on it, baffling Meriwether, who, for all his interest in the occult and macabre, remained startlingly naive.
Nell and Meriwether rode out to the site of the mine. They tied their horses up to the last intact hitching post, next to a shattered water trough. They easily broke away the makeshift carpentry where the entrance had been halfheartedly boarded up. The sign announcing the mine's name had been splashed with whitewash, then broken in half. Lighting a lantern, they entered the mine, and immediately saw a main shaft straight ahead of them, and a secondary shaft opening off to one side. Meriwether observed that the miners likely wouldn't have gone to the trouble of digging a second shaft if the first one still had any ore in it, but Nell ignored him, and they started down the main mining tunnel.
Nell led them into the first "room" (really a side-tunnel, but as Meriwether would later observe, the whole mine and cavern complex really was laid out like a building, even in the natural, water-carved regions). As they entered, they heard creaks and groans of rock and timber, and the doorway collapsed trapping them in the room. Inspecting the rubble, Nell decided the hours of digging it would take to escape was too much work, so they searched among the wood scraps littering the floor until the found a trap door and a ladder leading downward. Nell climbed down first, and saw a natural cave filled with stalactites growing up out of the floor like a sapling nursery.
Squinting, she thought she saw a patch of darker darkness at the far end that likely represented another way out of the cave. As she strained her eyes, a rock whizzed past her head and shattered against the cave wall behind her, showering her with fragments and dust. Meriwether, who was halfway down the ladder, dropped the rest of the way to the ground and fired in the direction the rock came from, exploding a stalactite. Nell realized that one of the stalactites had moved, just not the one Meriwether shot, and opened fire as well, her bullet passing through the stalactite as though it were made of water. The stalactite's surface rippled and seemed almost to boil, and lashed out like a tentacle, grabbing another stone from the floor to pitch at Nell's head, grazing her temple and sending her to her knees. Meriwether dropped his rifle and ran forward, drawing the weird tooth-shaped dagger the group had discovered down in the Maw. For the barest instant he hesitated before striking - a voice of protest spoke in his head "It does not live. It will not bleed." - but Meriwether's determination to protect his friend prevailed, the dagger struck true, and the stalactite turned to dust and fell away like a crumbling sandcastle.
The two paused to bandage Sweet Nell's head and check the lantern, then collected a sample of the dust and made their way through the crowded cave to enter a natural tunnel. In one direction, they saw the tunnel continue on with other caves branching off it. In the other, they saw a twisting slope where it looked like they'd be able to clamber back up to the top level. They hurried up one at a time, with Meriwether holding the lantern, then passing it up to Nell before beginning his own clamber. They found themselves in a mine shaft that the believed was the main passage they'd been in before. The peeked into the first room they encountered without entering it, and saw a sagging ceiling barely being held aloft by a few makeshift support beams. They passed it by and looked through the door to the next room, where they locked eyes with a pair of bizarre amphibians with long noses who appeared to be "fishing" down a hole in the floor.
Nell produced some dried beef she had once taken from Harry the butcher's dead body. Meriwether took the beef into the cave, and broke off flakes to offer the two creatures. They rolled up their snouts like reeling in a line, then approached Meriwether to accept the food. By carefully flaking off chunks of dried meat while walking slowly backward, Meriwether was able to lead the amphibians to the mouth of the collapsing room. He tossed the rest of the beef inside, and when they followed, shot and broke one of the beams, causing the entire ceiling to collapse, either killing (or at least trapping) the two creatures.
|I totally forgot that cave fishers are supposed to be crustaceans, so this what I described instead.|
Using a grappling hook and rope that Meriwether had
The cave they found themselves in was like a tunnel in its own right, albeit a very narrow, tightly curving one. The followed the winding path downward until they reached a point where a waterfall was pouring into the room from above. Opposite the waterfall was an exit, which led out into a much wider cave tunnel with other side-caverns opening off of it. They entered one of these, where they saw a pair of large, drowsy lizard creatures lounging alongside a pool of water. They managed to back out carefully, and chose another side-cave. Here they saw well-preserved fossil bodies of two ancient lizards encased in the wall. Working together, Meriwether and Nell dug out the fossils, then climbed and clambered their way back to the surface, and rode back to town.
Back at the tent camp, Nimby had laid out Archibald's body on an operating table, and appeared to be doing ... well something to it. He was well pleased to see the fossils. He refused to take them as payment in lieu of demon ore, but told them that if they left the fossils with him, he would perform another favor for them in the future. After some quick deliberation, Meriwether and Sweet Nell agreed. Nimby promised that the next time they came to see them, Archibald would be read to rejoin them in the mine, to help retrieve the precious demon ore to pay the group's debt to the disturbing resurrectionist.
2 fossilized lizards
1 resurrection of Archibald
None (for a change!)
2 XP for negotiating with Pemberton Nimby
1 XP for first stone mimic
1 XP for cave fishers
1 XP for second stone mimic
1 XP for snapping salamanders
2 XP for fossils
8 XP for exploring 8 new rooms
Total: 16 XP each
Running graveyard (and session of death)
Archibald the 1st level Thief (3), Officer Shia "the Beef" the NPC Mexian police-officer (2), Daniel the plumber (2), Officer Benicio "the Bull" the NPC Mexican police-officer (2), Luther the factory-hand (2), Jed the miner (1), Henry the huckster (1), Lilly the clerk (1), Bill the livery-stabler (1), Harry the butcher (1), Rusty the auctioneer (1)
This week, Dreams in the Lich House's random campaign event table gave us vermin. This didn't come up much since the group decided to head out of town to rob an abandoned freestanding mine instead of going back down into the Maw. I think my players are feeling understandably wary about the dangers of the first level of this place. Giant centipedes, cave crickets, and giant soldier ants all have 3 HD, and two of the three have attacks that can kill a 0th or 1st level character outright. The only 1 HD monster they're likely to encounter is the giant worker ant, and even those have a high AC that makes them challenging for low-level combatants to defeat. I do really like the campaign event generator though. It definitely helps me, at least, feel like the campaign world is a living place. Recently I've been trying to think of ways you could use something like this to breathe some life into domain-level factions ... although I wouldn't want the random events to become so important that they overwhelmed any attempt by the players to form their own agenda and set their own goals. That wouldn't be railroading, exactly, since it would be random rather than scripted, but events that forced my players to be re-active instead of active would still rob the game of something important.
I created Pemberton Nimby because of my players' goals, specifically the goal to bring back Archibald. The fact that it was Todd who wanted to resurrect John's character to use as an undead servant is fine within the social dynamics of my group - although in general I would want to be very careful about allowing one player to take over another player's character. If the friendship dynamics were different, I wouldn't have let it go quite this way. One thing I am okay with is letting characters come back from the dead as a new character class - once. If Archibald dies again after this, that'll be the end of him. I actually quite like, though, the idea of character classes that you can only take on if you've died. Metal vs Skin suggests that the only way to play a shapeshifting hengeyokai is to come back from the dead as one, and of course Terra Frank wrote three wonderful undead character classes for the first Gongfarmer's Almanac in 2015. (Her contributions are in the first issue, if you go for the free pdfs instead of the at-cost print copy.)
The mine itself was procedurally generated using Melancholies & Mirths' abandoned mine generator. Lungfungus' generator creates a mine above a larger cavern complex, with more dangers in the untamed caves below. The monsters are all his recommendations as well. At first they were all randomly generated, but at a certain point, I capped the list so that wandering monsters would come from a reduced subset of his original bestiary for the place. This generator did not produce a large number of monsters or treasures - although I think it did produce enough of both to make the outing worthwhile - but what it did generate in quantity were "trick" caves.
Lungfungus also doesn't say anything about it one way or another, but I used his baseline "tricks" to create more interconnections between the rooms and levels. So the room where the entryway collapses, for example, doesn't force you to dig out the entrance - it also provides you with a second exit to the level below. Water features also connect upward and downward, linking rooms that would have been separate if I hadn't decided they must be linked and then connected them. The one thing I worry about is that a dungeon (even if it's supposed to be an abandoned mine) with so many empty rooms could get a little boring. Even if the empty rooms are enlived slightly by tricks and interconnections, there's not really a lot there for the players to do or interact with.
This whole campaign is something of an experiment, with me using other people's random generators to procedurally generate a megadungeon, minidungeons hidden inside the main space, even campaign events. At some point, I'm going to get tired of this, and use what I've learned to write more of my own material. I haven't reached that point yet, but I can see it, off on the horizon somewhere, and I know that it's coming. This isn't because there's anything wrong with the generators I'm using. On the contrary, a big part of my desire to make things of my own is because of how much they've inspired me. Another part is simply that they are someone else's, made for their goals, for their campaign, and thus they don't necessarily fit my goals quite as well. Everything implies setting, and I find myself wanting a slightly different setting, with my own materials to imply it.