Thursday, March 24, 2016

Idalium Game 42: Laid to Rest

Session date: Monday, February 1, 2016
Game date: Wednesday, October 2, 208 to Friday, October 4, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 6293/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 7926/10000
Axel, Thief 2, hp 4, xp 2300/2400

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 1576/2000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 595/1500

So, I should mention a few things about the adventure the party is playing through at this point in the campaign. Some readers may have recognized this scenario as "Hammers of the God", a module written by James Raggi, one of the better-known figures in the "Old School Renaissance". I used this module because I thought it would make for an interesting "dwarven tomb" scenario when Gulleck went to bury the bones of his great-grandpappy. There are some cool and atmospheric ideas (the rune walls in particular), and I liked the notion that the dwarves intentionally cover up the more shameful parts of their past. In actual play, however, I was somewhat dissatisfied with it, probably because I modified the setup to the extent that the players had no motivation to put their characters in danger by continuing to explore the dungeon. But beyond that, Raggi likes to write "campaign breaking" modules, and his take on dwarven history didn't really jibe with my vision for my campaign setting, so I tossed out a lot of the backstory. The characters were there to bury some remains, not to loot the tomb of a dwarven emperor, and so in the end they decided to just leave well enough alone and do what they came to do.

When we last left our heroes, they had spent a restless night in a dungeon room right next door to a strange shivering ball of mutating protoplasm that thankfully showed no inclination to leave its room. They again considered the pedestal that covered a shaft leading down into a dark cavern in which something could be heard moving occasionally. They dropped a torch down the shaft, which prompted a sudden gout of flame from somewhere out of sight. In the end, they decided they had no reason to meddle with whatever was down there, and they returned to the room with the pool, running past the mysterious shapeshifting creature and avoiding another barrage of tiny spikes.

When the opened the door back into the hallway, there were four more of the perfectly preserved dwarf zombies waiting for them. The zombies seemed to be completely uninterested in crossing the threshold into the pool room, though, and they were easily defeated by peppering them with arrows from across the room. Stepping gingerly over their bodies, the adventurers investigated a library across the hall. They spent some time reading about the history of this place, and discovered that there were catacombs to the north of the great hall, and that this is where Gulleck's great-grandfather's family tomb was located.

Roughly three hundred years ago, the dwarven kingdom had nearly been torn apart by civil strife when one faction sought to secretly reacquire the Great Banes, powerful weapons that had been built centuries prior in a sought of "mutually assured destruction" scheme with the other humanoid races of the realm. In the resulting chaos, Ruck Stonefoot and his family fled the dwarven homeland and his descendents had been living in the lands of humans ever since.

The group returned to the Great Hall and stood before the altar at the north end of the hall. A golden pickaxe and hammer lay on the altar, and a curious metallic rock stood nearby, flecked with smudges of gold. After some experimentation, Gulleck discovered that when the rock was struck with both implements, a perfectly-concealed secret door behind the altar shifted back, allowing access to the catacombs.

The group left the tomb complex and camped outside on the mountain pass that night. The next day, they carried the coffin containing Ruck Stonefoot's bones into the tomb, reopened the catacombs, and ventured inside. It was peaceful and calm in here, much unlike the befouled and unrestful catacombs below Ancient Idalium. The halls were carved with graceful and calming architecture, and the adventurers passed many family tombs, labeled with the names of their occupants and their accomplishments. Eventually, they found the Stonefoot family tomb, and inside, a crypt already prepared for Ruck Stonefoot. Gulleck arranged his great-grandfather's bones in the crypt, spoke a few slightly awkward words of ceremony, and the group solemnly departed again. They passed a closed door from which the omnipresent purple mist seeps, but they had little interest at this point of investigating it, and chose to leave the tomb and return to the city of the dwarves.

After a night spent resting and recovering at the quiet and dusty inn, the party was granted an audience with the same dwarven official they had spoken with several days prior. Archivist Engin was also present at the conference, and he seemed nervous and fidgety. The dwarf official heard the adventurers' story of the hidden dwarven tomb and its strange purple mist that seemed to both preserve and animate the slaughtered dead there. He heard of the treasonous emperor Mâr-Rune and of the civil strife that occurred when a later sect took up his xenophobic teachings and tried to reclaim the four Great Banes.

The official calmly heard this story, and then considered silently for a while. Then he turned to Engin.

"Archivist, is there any record of this tomb existing, or of this emperor and his followers?"
"Not until I accidentally stumbled upon it while researching this dwarf's family tomb."
"Archivist," the official asked again. "Is there any record of this tomb existing?"
Engin blinked. "No, sir."
"Then all is as it should be. This tomb has been sealed for three centuries and has harmed no one. There is no need to awaken long forgotten memories and open old wounds."

The adventurers exchanged some glances, apparently unimpressed that the dwarves were just going to cover this up, but, you know, whatever. "Not my circus."

"What if we told you," ventured Gulleck, "that we discovered the key that lets you get into the crypts? Would that be of interest to you?"

It would indeed, agreed the dwarf official. It was important to them to maintain the integrity of the resting place of their ancestors, and Gulleck handed over the golden pickaxe and hammer, in exchange for the frankly surprising gift of a perfect diamond to each of the five adventurers who had been present. Each diamond was worth 10,000 silver shekels, Gulleck estimated.

This was enough treasure for both Axel and Meat to go up a level (and there was much rejoicing). Having put Gulleck's great-grandpappy's bones to rest, the group made plans to equip themselves for the journey to the rumored monastery in the mountains, in search of a lost holy lantern for the Great Church of Idalium.

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