The second session of Dead in Thay at Goodgames Ballarat once again had 21 people attending – 17 players, 3 DMs and me as the co-ordinating DM. This session saw the player enter the Doomvault proper, each group taking one section of the dungeon and exploring it.
We began with everyone together, waking up after the explosion of the Bloodgate in the last session. The group found themselves in a shadowy hall with many teleportation circles faintly glowing on the floor. The image of a female Red Wizard appeared and explained that she’d rescued them from certain death – and she needed their help. She was a rebel wizard, wishing to overthrow the lich overlord of the realm, Szass Tam. If the party helped her by infiltrating the Doomvault – his hellish research lab – and finding and destroying the phylactery vault at its heart, which would like destroy all of Szass Tam’s lieutenants.
Well, she didn’t give the players much of a choice. “Help me… or rot!” is not such a good sales pitch, but it helped that overthrowing Szass Tam was a good idea in the first place. Syranna, for such was her name, explained the basics of the Doomvault and the magical protections that restricted travel into and throughout the place. Primary to this were the Black Gates, which allowed teleportation around the dungeon and to the gatehouse where they currently were, the White Gates which restricted travel between areas of the dungeon, and the Glyph Keys, which allowed players to travel through the gates.
She also told them that the Floshin siblings were imprisoned somewhere within the Doomvault. The two other NPCs, Hadarr and Jekk, chose to stay behind at the gatehouse to keep an escape route open for the players, and to try and ensure Syranna didn’t betray them. Otherwise, everyone entered the Doomvault. They were given three glyph keys, and used the Black Gate to travel to the matching sites.
At this point, the groups split up and my role diminished – I was mainly helping with answering rules questions and using my tablet to show the occasional illustration of monsters the groups were unfamiliar with. I’m also tracking the alert level in the dungeon, and relaying messages between the teams. I’ve been taking notes of what occurs with each group, but as I’m moving between them, I can’t always give all the details. However, this is what I remember…
Callan’s Table: Leader – Josh (Fiendish Arena, Temple of Chaos)
The adventurers found themselves in a small antechamber, guarded by two vampire spawn, who challenged the group as they appeared. Thinking quickly the group just acted like they belonged there, bluffing their way past the guards into the chamber beyond, which contained a great arena, where a Vrock was fighting human prisoners. The arena was overseen by a vampire, who was somewhat bored with the entire business, as he was cursed to remain here, and was not participating of his own will.
The group recognised that Shalendra was one of the prisoners, and leapt in to defend her, eventually slaying the demonic Vrock and freeing here. Curious as to why the vampire didn’t interfere, they discovered that he was a particularly apathetic soul, but he was willing to aid them in exchange for a taste of their blood – Vicki, playing a paladin, volunteered!
(The exchange went something like this. Vampire: “Do you mind if I just tap a vein?” Tim: “I’m a dwarf!” Vampire: “That’s fine, I’m not racist!” Vicki: “I’m okay with it!”)
The vampire gave them a glyph key, and warned them not to enter the room to the south. The group agreed, and Shalendra, now freed, took the glyph key and used it to go to the gatehouse. The rest of the group moved eastwards. At this point, they’d finished one zone – and one zone per session will be standard for most of the campaign. However, as the group had dealt with the enemies so quickly, and we have more zones than can be covered by the groups in the entire season, I advised Callan to continuing running another zone.
So they advanced into the Temple of Chaos.
Within the temple, after dealing with a room of traps, they found Pencheska, the succubus that had caused trouble for them by becoming the Duke’s Mistress back in Daggerford (Scourge of the Sword Coast). Josh took the lead here, reminding Pencheska of how the group had overcome her in Daggerford, and warning her not to try anything. Subdued, the succubus just watched in fury as the players looted her closet.
Continuing past the succubus, they found a trapped fire elemental. Continuing the group’s idiosyncratic approach to the dungeon, their spellcaster cast resist fire on himself and moved up to hug the fire elemental, whilst the rest of the group erased the glyphs that were holding it captive. The elemental, touched by this, chose to join the party.
And that’s pretty much what Callan’s group did this session.
Ben’s Table: Leader – Glen (Augmentation Chambers)
Glen and his friends were attacked immediately upon entering the Doomvault by a wight and three sentient ochre jellies – not a particularly nice way of being greeted! Once they had defeated their foes, they proceeded onwards into a chamber which seemed to have once been a temple, but now housed a number of skeletons. Three wights moved between the skeletons, pouring steaming ooze over their bones.
As battle was joined, more oozes and jellies joined the fight, and the group was extremely hurt at its conclusion. They considered the benefits of resting…
It should be noted that, at this stage, we were still quite unsure about how to handle certain aspects of the dungeon. Ben, quite reasonably, decided that the reason resting wasn’t allowed in the dungeon was because they’d be attacked, and so rolled up a random encounter which stopped the short rest they were attempting to have. Attacking skeletons tends to do that. At this point, the group could have retreated to the black gate and entered a special Chamber of Seclusion where they could properly rest, but they were curious to what would happen if they rested again… once again monsters attacked. After that, the group really needed healing, and so retreated to the Chamber of Seclusion. No time passed in the outside while they rested inside, but the chamber would begin to reduce their maximum hit points if they used it again!
I would later rule, in the next session, that due to the time-critical nature of the dungeon resting was, in fact, entirely impossible in the dungeon, after reviewing the adventure again. However, the other groups were very amused by the reports they were getting through the circlets of telepathy: “We got attacked when we tried to rest.” “We got attacked again!”
The group finally made their way to a room where there were many spawning vats, with a Red Wizard controlling the creation of more oozes. It wasn’t a pretty fight, and Lachie’s paladin was now finding his armour and weapons degrading from the acid of the oozes. Eventually, the group were successful, and prepared to move on – although, as the zone was cleared and this group had taken the longest of all three tables – it was time to end the session.
Lee’s Group: Leader – Paul (Forest of Recovery)
The final group emerged into quite a nice chamber in which trees grew. A wight demanded to know where the pig carcasses were, and upon not getting a reasonable reply, ordered a Helmed Horror to attack. This battle took quite some time, and at the time I wondered if they’d run out of time to complete the zone. This proved not to be the case!
The next cavern didn’t have much in the way of trees, but the grass grew high, providing cover for a family of barghests – goblin dogs – to stalk the group. Unfortunately, once they’d revealed themselves, the spells and swords of the party proved too much for the barghests.
A pool, glowing with a pale blue light, allowed the players to recuperate somewhat, gaining the effects of a short rest (something Glen’s team surely needed), but it would only work once per hero.
Finally, the group reached some displacer beasts. The notes in the adventure read “they all attack when it becomes clear that the adventurers have not brought food.” Well, Paul and his friends had been thinking ahead, based on what the wight had said – they’d brought the bodies of the barghests! Having thus distracted the displacer beasts, they were ready to move onto the next zone.
I apologise for the briefness of some of the notes – although I can give great descriptions of battles I run, it’s a bit trickier to note memorable events when I’m moving between tables. At this stage, four zones have been cleared, but by gaining an ally of the vampire, the alert level of the complex remains unchanged on zero. (This will increase dramatically in later sessions, I bet!)
Having three groups all in the dungeon at once really does add to the experience, and it has been great fun to see the players compare notes after each session. We’re still grappling with how everything works together – some of the maps and dungeon features aren’t as clear as we’d like – but the DMs are doing a great job of making it fun for the players. And challenging…