Friday, 19 October 2012

Death Frost Doom

In this post, I talked about my players' first foray into James Raggi's excellent Death Frost Doom, as our group's Halloween Month themed adventure.   Last night, we had the second session of that game.

Having ended with the group's finding the lens that allows them to read the language of Duvan'Ku, the characters decided to go back to the cabin and take a look at the book on the desk, which for some reason they had largely ignored during the first session.  This led to an exploration of the house overall, but, oddly enough, they still didn't follow the footprints leading from the back door.  Ah, well, after this session they probably never will.

So, the party examined the book of offerings, and discovered that there were about 40,000 names in it.  They figured out that the last names were being marked by Zeke Duncaster, and even that he was using blood to mark them because he had no ink.  Cool.  They read the writing on the outside of the cabin, and, examining the mirror more closely almost figured out what it was for.  They still think that the clock is just random.

They discovered the bedroll, coins, etc. in one bedroom (and ended up putting the coins back, not wanting anyone to know that they are there and block the trapdoor.  Which, of course, is left open and un-padlocked.  Heh.

They find the purple lotus powder and take that.  Again, heh.  James Raggi certainly knows how to come up with ideas that play with players' expectations.  Even knowing that the purple lotus powder can destroy you, I feel certain that it will get used.  It hasn't yet, but.....

In the harpsichord room, they discover the thousand-year-old oil painting of the party.  This actually offers a major clue that makes the tombs below more survivable, but the players seem not to have remembered it.  Once, in the altar room, one player asked if there was a door.  Ah well.

In this room, I had a great chance to play with the characters, because they wanted to see if the lens could translate all languages.  One player wrote "Hello" in Chaotic on the floor.  The other player, and only the other player, saw "Help" written in Elvish.  He could not read it through the lens.  After trying several other things they finally went to leave the room where the second character saw "Agony" written in large letters on the door, in blood.  Real to the one character, not to the other.  They decided that this was because they had sacrificed their dead elven companion's teeth to get further into the complex on the last session.  There is some discussion about whether or not they should add the elf's name to the book of offerings.

So, back down into the crypts!

On the way up and down, I made sure to find out who was going first and who was going last.  It is not that these decisions had any serious importance in terms of events in the module, but asking the question made certain that the players understood that someone was going to have to be down there -- and up there! -- alone.  It is hard to run a creepy scenario without making the players think about, and commit to, their choices about things like this.

Once more, they use the dead elf's teeth to bypass the bronze door.  This time, they are more careful in their examinations, and turn right.  There they discover, using the lens, the Grimoire of Walking Flesh.  Do they take it?  No.  "Let's leave that now and get it on the way back."

Their wanderings take them to several other crypts, and, while the full extent of the burial vaults may not become clear to them, that there are a lot of dead folks here is.  On top of that, there are 40,000 names in the book of offerings....

They discover the Eye of Many Eyes, and are suitably creeped out, although they are fairly certain that the perception that the eye is following them as they move is an illusion.  They are concerned that, perhaps, there are eyeballs in the basin, and that they will have to pluck one out.  They go fishing in the basin, and discover that there are old copper pieces in there.  Dob, the Chaotic wizard, tosses in a copper piece, and gains a point of Luck.  That causes several other people to toss copper in, losing Luck or Intelligence, depending upon the character.  Then one character takes his copper back, and leaves.  Cough, cough, wheeze, wheeze, fever and illness.  Instant Stamina 4!  "I don't even get a saving throw?"  No.  No, you do not.

They then discover the Prayer Room, where the lens proves treacherous, because Dob reads aloud the inscription in the language of Duvan'Ku, causing characters to begin to make saving throws, in order, until one decides to tattoo the Dead Sign of Duvan'Ku on his body.  Luckily, he is prevented from doing so by his party, but during the long wait for him to recover, there is some talk of just letting him do it, and some talk of just smashing the ink bottle.  In the discussion of the terms of the curse, the inscription is almost read a second time (!) but wiser heads prevail.

They then discover the children's crypt, and open the door without putting coins in the fountain.  Twice.  With two separate characters.  Ah well.  Make a note of their ages, and go on.  The result should be fun if the characters survive the next session.  Dob is an old man in his 60's, so there might even be some initial benefit for him.

The characters then discover the High Priest's Temple, slay the sussurating plant creature, and move in to examine the room.  Quest object recovered?  Check.  Hmmm.....these golden chalices look interesting.  Better snag them.  Let's take a look at the book.  Another couple of inscriptions in the language of Duvan'Ku?  We will not read them, thank you very much, but it is interesting to note that a sentient creature must be sacrificed on the alter to open the secret door to the left of the altar.

Wait a tic....what's that noise?  The dead are starting to rise?  Best get out of here while we can!  Just a dozen or so there at the end of this tunnel?  We can push past them!  Err.....the numbers don't seem to be diminishing, the front lines are being cut off, and the judge has rolled three Critical Hits already.....One wizard has spellburned, twice, to recover flaming hands, and then immediately lost it.  Some of the players are getting that bleak look that announces an expectation of, if not a TPK, their characters not surviving.  Time to flee!  But where?  Wait a said there was a shaft over the altar?  Why, yes there is.

(A funny moment when they think they might end up having to fight their own fallen characters, and it is noted that the elf, at least, won't be able to bite as easily with far fewer teeth!)

(At another moment, Dob, the Chaotic wizard, is so effective at ordering the troops to fight these minions of Chaos that he is docked a point of Luck.  He is beginning to reconsider his alignment choice, although we also had a discussion of the many, many ways he could get that Luck back.)

I ask if anyone has seen The Walking Dead.....then casually point out that if you took all of the zombies in all of the episodes and added them all together.....there are more zombies down here.  Over 10,000, in fact. I'm not sure if saying this is a good idea or not, because the characters have no idea, yet, just how deep in it they are.  I think it is a good idea, though, to let the players know, because creating a sense of dread is as much about the players knowing how bad it is as anything else.

Of course, the rejoiner is, "That's better than we thought.  We thought there were 40,000!"

And then they remember the graveyard.

Now, magic in DCC can be quite costly to the caster, but it can also be quite powerful.  Clerics are healing people to shore up the flagging lines.  Ropework is cast to good effect.  Mighty Deeds are performed to cover retreats.  A natural 20 on magic missile gives the party a short breathing space, followed by a natural 20 on spider climb, and the assistance of the lucky halfling, gives the entire party the means to ascend the shaft.

Surprisingly, nobody dies this session, despite an initial decision to charge into the zombie hordes.  There is a growing sense of hope.  We leave it there for the night.

I am pretty sure that my players will be trying to think of a way to deal with this between now and next week's game.  Once more, massive props to James Raggi for writing this opus of fun and dread!


  1. 'There is a growing sense of hope.'

    That's just cruel.

    1. My legendary kindness as a GM is sometimes overstated....:D