Our regular GM is taking a break from it while the Christmas season approaches. We needed a campaign to tide us over until then, so I volunteered. I’ll post updates after every session, and will eventually make all the content available for those who want to run it themselves. That’ll be later, though, because I don’t want to spoil things for my players and my notes need work to get them into a state digestible by others.
I’ll recount things from my perspective, which might be spoilery in terms of players’ memory or my explanations on the night. Some mixture of the intent and the execution, basically. But information they clearly missed or misinterpreted will be recounted as-is.
For this campaign we should have five players, but we started with just three. Our team this week:
- Brus Reckoner
- Male half-orc Inquisitor of Yog-Sothoth. Paul’s posted a build online and the first session with player notes.
- John “Angel Eyes” Wilmarth
- Male Aasimar Cleric of the mad idiot god Azathoth. He’s a cleric with zero Knowledge (Religion).
- Fág an Bealach
- Male svirfneblin Brawler (Mutagenic Mauler). Little guy who packs a punch!
We’ve got a True Neutral, Chaotic Neutral and Chaotic Good (respectively), so this adventure will be bananas.
They all started at level 2. Our other two players:
- Bill the Bard
- A Bard with a donkey. Theme to come when it’s revealed.
- A rogue
- Morgs will make some sort of vanilla rogue, optimized to be a backstabbing machine.
Before the game I explained that it’d be a dungeon crawl, but was a bit mysterious about the details. Here’s the brief I gave to the players:
- It’s a very large dungeon
- It’s not a traditional dungeon. Don’t assume anything.
- You will get to use raise dead/resurrect if you like. Or bring in new characters.
- You get thrown in the deep end and figure it out over time.
- There’ll be plenty of fighting but potentially more opportunities for skills/roleplay than your usual dungeon campaign.
- First bit will be 2-4 fights, depending on swiftness. We’ll aim for at least two combats a session.
- It’s a bit of a rollercoaster ride from the get-go. You’ll want to be seated and have your arms inside the vehicle before it starts. Basically, turn up with a complete character so we can hit the ground running.
- Send me your character sheets before the game.
- If we get past the 4th fight, you’ll ding, so prepare for swift levelling.
- It’s designed to run parallel to my campaign we’ll play after Runelords. You need not worry about this.
- Talk to me if you want to take Leadership (if we make it that far).
- I’ll record treasure for you guys. There’s a loot mechanic.
- I’ll try to tailor dungeon levels for your characters (and against)
- Any non-jerk alignment, start at level 2, usual loot for your class, any core, featured or uncommon race, two traits, 20 point buy, max HP per level.
- The name of the adventure is “Limen’s House” but infini-dungeon is fine.
- You’ll begin in the floating crystal spire city of Nara, in the advanced, multicultural, cosmopolitan region of Tunga. That is, not Golarion so don’t worry about stitching in with that lore.
- You won’t need a reason to be together. Just enjoy a beer! We’ll do introductions on the night.
- I’ll keep a spare character around in case [our other player on hiatus] gets a hankering for Pathfinder or if your character gets smooshed quickly.
By “non-jerk alignment” I basically mean not evil, or if you are evil, then you need to be really cooperative about it.
The gang began the adventure in a large circular plaza. Along one side was tall buildings. To the north was a spire. There was a single bridge off this plaza. I read out the intro:
After a long travel, you finally get to the floating island cosmopolis of Tunga. The city is beautiful and vibrant with dark crystal spires extending high above, and far below. Every race and culture is here, doing business and enjoying themselves.
You take a break in the south island of Nara, an entertainment district. It turns out a great number of adventurers like yourselves have gathered there in advance of some news. Is there a new Adventurer’s Olympics? Have the Architects created a new Dungeon of Challenges? Or maybe there’s news of a lost artifact and a reward for retrieving it? You don’t know (and the adventurers nearby have less of a clue) but you buy a drink and you all join a small spare table in a plaza overlooking the clouds and the city.
Looking around, there are fair number of adventurers much more seasoned than yourselves. But you also notice tables of young layabouts just cutting their teeth on the world. You’re not the toughest here, nor the weakest.
I forced one of them to introduce themselves. When the next began his spiel, I rudely interrupted with:
You’re about to introduce yourself when there is a deafening explosion to the north. The outer wall of the nearest spire explodes into shards. There are screams and everyone panicks. Out of the clouds you see a mighty creature, larger than the plaza, winged and scaled. Its body ripples with a iridescent blur that chills and confuses you. This might be a dragon, but it’s nothing you’ve seen nor heard of before.
There’s a groan as the crystal spire begins toppling towards the plaza. The dragon roars and breathes… something onto the crowd running for the bridge. They don’t burn but… explode into dust. The spire smashes into the bridge, removing it completely.
In theory this is the place where normal people panic. But our group is extremely well-seasoned in chaos, so they mostly protect their beers in the stampede.
First rolls of the night, a Perception check, reveals in the midst of all the calamity:
Framed in all the chaos, you see a brightly coloured man waving at you, yelling “Here! Here!” and beckoning you into his house.
Grabbing their beers, they moved on. They were battered a little while pushing through the crowd, but not too much. The dragon is destroying everyone and everything behind them.
They make it into the guy’s house. More flavour text:
Amidst all the chaos a young man beckons you into his place. You manage to run inside as the dragon sights you and melts all those behind you.
The young man checks that you are okay. His house is nothing to be proud of - just a bare stone room, a table, a single picture, stairs leading down and two bare rooms off to the side.
The young man has wild blue eyes and a shock of blonde hair, and vividly coloured clothing like an actor. He whispers: “Good, good. You’re inside now. Safe now.” There is a thunderous crash as something is smashing into the facade of houses. “This house is old… very old… strong…. it will protect you. Come, come.”
They didn’t ask him his name, nor investigate the room, which is utterly fine. Brus the Inquisitor did Detect Law at him, which revealed a thorough aura of chaos… Which was a tick of approval from our PCs! Meanwhile the dragon attack outside (which had begun ripping through the buildings) radiated a lot of chaos as well.
Not a super-spoiler, but this is Limen’s House, of the module name. Limen is quirky and twitchy, but friendly. He mutters to himself as he lead the PCs downstairs into a dark room.
On the way down, the inquisitor and the cleric are trading philosophies about chaos and the inevitability of decay. The crystal spire was always meant to fall down and explode, so no need worrying about it. Limen is nodding in enthusiastic agreement.
Limen nods energetically and says:
Yes, yes! Fine catalysts you’ll be!
At this point he somewhat explodes/evaporates/disappears backwards, blowing out the boarded-up back entrance of his house. Windows and doors have the boards and hinges blown clear off. A caged-in courtyard is beyond… and three bad guys dressed in rags.
The cleric hails the three of them and they draw weapons in response. The inquisitor and brawler bounce between the baddies like pinballs, charging and slaying them. The old woman is cut in half, but not before blowing a weird horn… which seems to summon the dragon over to this side of the building. The cleric and inquisitor are Doomed by the horn blast. The three unarmoured, poorly-equipped bad guys are killed quickly as the dragon begins to descend.
Building pieces fall from the sky, showering the courtyard in debris. The cage has a locked door to a bridge over the clouds. The cleric attempts to open the lock with one half of the rogue. The brawler attempts to draw close and either squeeze through or kick it open. The inquisitor uses his fine half-orc intellect and shoulder-charges the door, busting it open.
Meanwhile a huge paladin has emerged from a wooden house on the other side of the bridge. He’s covered top-to-toe in armour and wielding a huge sword. He yells at them to seek refuge in there, and he keeps an eye on the skies for the dragon. Various magicks activate around him, in case he needs to defend them. The wooden house seems to be a large wine cellar.
The inquisitor notices all three of their foes had a horn on them so he grabs one, and on the way in, blows it. This just attracts the dragon even moreso and the Inquisitor gets a clip over the ear from the Paladin for his silliness.
The Wine cellar
The paladin directs them to a door at the opposite corner of this wine cellar and tells them to run. They move quickly through the wine racks, dodging bits of ceiling, bottles falling and shelves tipping over. In a perfect moment, John “Wild Eyes” Wilmarth dodges a falling bottle of wine, catches it and puts it in his backpack. Nicely done.
They make it into the closet-style thing as the dragon is ripping handfuls of wine cellar away. The paladin stands in the door and yells at them:
Keep moving! Find Coin! Avoid the others!
throws something through and then slams the door shut.
A little feather floats through and then turns into a piece of paper for them, landing in the cleric’s hands.
The cleric and inquisitor noticed a brief flash of a glyph on the door closed in front of them. The inquisitor also caught a large runed keyring with a single key on it. He ties it onto his belt and in doing so notices that it glows briefly when the key and keyring are oriented correctly. Basically if the key is inside the keyring and at a certain angle, it glows. There’s a brief “Aha!” moment, but then a debate on whether the key points outwards like a compass, or the other way (like an arrow).
The caved-in mine
Despite the loud destruction from before, the room is now deathly quiet. The svirfneblin feels oddly at home, like they were deep, deep underground rather than just inside a house in the clouds. It’s cold and utterly quiet. The PCs notice they are underground in what looks to be a mine.
The mine is quite large and covered in aged debris. They do some exploring. They had an immediate choice of left or right, which corresponded to a choice in the way the keyring glowed. They chose right and found a few doors. They listened to each and opened them from the last to the first. The last room was a ruined office where they found a scrap of diary and little else.
They also found a vast, deep hole at the end of the corridor, plunging straight down. The sinkhole had the walls collapse in about 50 ft above their level and there seemed to be no bottom to the sinkhole. “Angel Eyes” cast Light on a stone and dropped it. It disappeared down into the depths and there was a faint clack! clack! as it bounced off the walls or something and continued downwards.
The second-last room was a sleeping quarters with very little in it. They kick over stuff and make a bit of noise complaining about decay and the inevitability of entropy again. The brawler hears a noise… something like grind… grind… of metal on stone.
The first room (which they listened to but didn’t attempt to enter) suddenly had a bit of a crash and the brawler noticed a small pack of zombie miners walking out, dragging their broken mattocks behind them. Our next combat!
The zombies, while tough and could do a bunch of damage if they connected are considered “staggered”, which meant they could walk or hit, not both. They were hungry and angry, but not strategic. They swarmed the guys who held a line and then just chopped, punched and pummelled the zombies to bits. The inquisitor had done well chopping the three in rags before, but the brawler was in his element here.
The fight was a bit of a drag-out slugfest but not too bad. The PCs got whacked a few times with mattocks. No threat of a PC death, but they started to dig into the resources a little.
In this last investigated room they found a destroyed mess hall. The door was barricaded from the inside with tables. There was a small cleared area with a faded symbol to Azathoth on the ground.
They were about to investigate the other end of the mine, but they mentioned the magic keyring which pointed at the door to the ruined office. Curiously, from the main mine corridor there was no keyhole. They investigated the door from inside the office and there was a little divot… that they key fit in! They put the key in, turned it and saw a glyph flash on the door.
Where the door once opened into a crumbling mine, it now opened into an opulent room filled with hundreds of cats. Housecats. Of all sorts. Just wandering around, fighting, eating, sleeping, climbing. They took refuge in the room.
The inquisitor and the brawler cogitated for a bit on “finding coin” and “avoiding the others” (“Which others? Other whats? Is that a title or a designation?”) They tried to find cats with a coin on its collar or with some coin-motif. Nothing.
The cleric found a single dead cat in the middle of the room, avoided by the others. Looked like it was crushed and definitely dead. May need more investigating.
We cut it there because it was 9:30pm and a good place to stop. If they hit the next area then they’d hit two fights at least. It also gives me a good chance to bring in the two other players next week and play with the pacing.
Warning: MILD SPOILERS!
I think it went pretty well for the first session. I was less nervous than We Be Goblins.
The intro bit was fairly cinematic and I’m unsure if it’s a good match for traditional tabletop play. It was something different. I got to headfake the players with mentions of olympics and dungeons in the intro (although I think they were far too savvy to fall for such an obvious bluff). They seemed to get into their characters quickly and have fun with it. While it was a small twist on the old “you meet in a tavern” conceit, I hope it was more fun than the usual campaign intros.
Some of the design philosophy I’m following comes from video game design like Half-Life 2, which is by design railroading. This is just for the initial part where I start laying down the ground rules and expectations, and can then open it up a bit. I’m also using some techniques from plot construction in genre-novel writing, but it’s tricky to see if they translate.
One of the players expressed a wish for some of these mysteries to be revealed:
- The fate of the miners
- More details on the names in the diary entry
- Who the heck the Paladin was and why a Lawful guy would care for them
- The keyring (beyond being a very obvious tutorial arrow/Chekhov’s Gun for the mine)
- The crazy guy Limen
- The dragon and what type it was
Which will come. I have very many tricks up my sleeve. Some things were inspired by the player’s contributions. There’s a little bit of meta-gaming going on, which the campaign is utterly fine with.
Combat seemed to go okay. My characters weren’t optimized versus min-maxed level two adventurers, so they had a rough time getting through their AC. But it’s low-level. If I hit hard, I might hit way too hard. And I’m aiming low and ratcheting up the difficulty as they go. You also can’t do anything too tricky or cool at this level, so all my aces remain in my sleeve. Nevertheless, these are seasoned RPGers, so they’ll do well versus whatever I throw at them.
I now have to coordinate bringing the other two PCs into the group and bring on the fun.