Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Set-Pieces, Choices, and Homages from DF Session 51

A couple notes on Sunday's game.

The Unholy Temple

This odd twinned temple - a trapped and dangerous front temple with an unusual connection underneath to a nearly identical temple full of monsters - came about in a fit of mapping inspiration. I just drew the first temple, had some space, and drew the second and connected them. I figured out a reason for it after, after I let it sit on my map for a while. I knew based on the rooms in the area that everything in that spot was kind of strange, so I came up with a reason why and what that would mean. That area of the dungeon had the twinned temple, the dooomchildren-spawning statue locked in a room by big secure doors, the slick curved tunnel to the diamond-shaped room with the gemstone zombies, the hydra, and some other odd stuff.

I needed a monster, and I had one I wanted to use but mostly in a setpiece. I settled on the Demons From Between The Stars.

The Demons From Between The Stars are Sean "Dr. Kromm" Punch's creation. Oddly, when we were doing DFM1, I had a shadowy group of life-draining shadowy monsters on my list of things to use. They'd been featured in my previous game, and matched the TDFBTS in a lot of their style and substance. So when I saw Sean's, I was basically like, "Dammit!" and crossed mine off the list. Way, way too similar.

But I still had these seven homemade cardboard standups for them. So I dug around and found them, and although they're more shadowy capes than ebony humanoids, I knew they'd resonate with the players who'd fought them at least 10 years back in our big campaign.

The setpiece of the temple was fun. The floor had three kinds of floor - 1/3 of the hexes cast a powerful Slow spell on the victim, 1/3 did Cosmic, irresistible, ignores all DR damage and FP loss, and 1/3 caused Fear, using my house rules. There was a detectable pattern, but not an easily detectable one. Magical light was reduced dramatically in effect, and the foes had access to Blackout spells to turn non-magical light sources dark, too.

So it was a combination of foe that's lethal in the dark or by surprise, using darkness and surprise on a battlefield primed to disrupt their foes constantly and prevent free movement.

The PCs figured that out last time, and managed to flee. This time, they came back with Dark Vision to deal with all of the darkness, putting them on equal footing with their foes. They also used Walk on Air, in order to circumvent the floor traps. Thus they turned an easy massacre into a solid fight they could win with a little effort.

The Altar

Yes, had someone taken the altar up on its offer and sacrificed a member of the same race, they'd have gotten an attribute boost of their choice. Evil isn't always about false choices. Evil is sometimes about making someone else suffer for your shortcut to power. If the shortcut to power that is evil doesn't come with the power, no one is really tempted to take it.

The Special Space

So what was in that special, 'tween worlds (?) 2d/3d secret door?

It's a secret, and will stay so. But I wanted to give the players a 3-way choice of actions, and make the evil temple more than just a set-piece fight.

Choice 1: Investigate the place, and see what was beyond the (evil?) secret door.
Choice 2: Exorcise the place.
Choice 3: Back off and leave things alone.

Had they chosen 1, options 2 and 3 would be off the table. Option 2 took options 1 and 3 off the table. It was very probable based on their actions that choice 3 might have resulted in the loss of the chance to do anything later. So it was very much a "what do we want?" choice that couldn't be left for later decision.

I didn't present it as an explicit forked choice, but I did volunteer a roll to the Holy Warrior about it. His basic professional knowledge told him that exorcism wasn't "make it safe to investigate freely" but rather "get rid of the evil and much of what came with it."

Pretty much the only poor choice, here, would have been an attempt to temporize, get the loot, and then leave the door and exorcism as a later choice. That wouldn't have gotten anyone a bonus XP, and might have come with more costs. I like the occasional choice that is "Jump left, jump right, or stay in the middle and lose out" to make up for the sheer weight of choices that are more like "jump left, jump right, or leave everything alone and you can decide later."

The Golem

The golem and its illusionary treasure is a straight lift from an AD&D module. I always liked the idea of that encounter. It went spectacularly well, since almost everyone was immediately interested in the chest. That allowed the magic to take effect and weaken the party. Lucky for them Vryce got that 3 (using Luck) and turned the fight from a systematic slaughter by the golem into a straight up fight. It could have been worse.

The golem's look and weapon were based on a Mage Knight terrain bit I had and intended to use at some point. It came in a pack of generic pieces I thought I could use, so I planned from the time I put that room down and brought it every session just in case. Top row, center:

And yes, all of those things will show up at lease once in Felltower. I love that squat idol and the altar!

The Holy Place

Just a question - why are players deeply, deeply suspicious of peace, calm, and holiness? Yet the same suspicious players will see a blatantly obvious falsehood ("Trade your crappy magic items for your choice of almost anything that is way, way better!") and investigate it more without proper precautions? "You sense calm and holiness!" "Stomp it!" vs. "You are offered an unlikely generous offer by a giant statue with a sword." "Oh, what is it offering?"


I wonder if I do that when I'm playing Mirado?


  1. I really like extra-dimensional weirdness in DF. It reminds of some of Gygax's temples. Also as far a good areas, I feel these are great for suspense. If most of the good areas in dungeons offer healing or some other benifit then the PCs will likely think about trying them. If most are just tricks them PCs will just ignore them however so it is in the interest of fun to have most of the good places be true and hlepful. As for why there might be a pool or fountain of healing in a dungeon well maybe that was an area where an angel was slain and his holy energy still fills the area or maybe a powerful holy warrior or cleric was slain there. This is just a few ideas but they do make the dungeon more fun if the PCs are uncertain as to whethe areas of good are helpful or just tricks.

    1. There is at least as much reason to have holy stuff in the dungeon as unholy - areas of purification and blessing, areas of fortuitous holiness, sites sanctified by sacrifice, etc.

      Of course, the PCs are rightly suspicious of deception. But if you check the holy fountain or magical area of rest or angelic ghost's intentions with the usual ruthless delver tactics (10' poles, dipping in hands, casting spells, etc.) you risk losing the benefits. The holy water in the little ewer isn't so holy after you've stabbed at it a few times and had a magical servant jump around in it. ;)

    2. I agree that it is good that the holy benefits can be negated by analyzing it too much. I also think that having other things than holy stuff offer benefits too. Imagine touching an unholy altar and your character is healed or cured of an affliction and the only drawback is detecting as evil for 1d days. Having everything that is unholy be really harmful also makes PCs never try them too. Actually I like a lot of things that are unholy be helpful with only slight drawbacks to PCs. But every once in a while the PCs are in for a nasty surprise.

  2. The risk versus reward ratio of that door seemed all risk.

    1. Sometimes it's hard to be a delver. :-)

    2. Heh. You got that right Doug.

      I won't comment on what was there, but it would have been interesting, at least. Exorcism was probably the safest choice, in terms of knowing what happens if you choose that option.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...