There’s something very humbling about “the dungeon” in Dungeons & Dragons. As a World of Warcraft player, I came to learn all-too-soon that these were places of horror and wonder: Places that the game creator spent all-too-much time creating for the enjoyment/peril of the players. It had to be challenging, of course, with many a twist and turn. In fact, the first time I ever ran Deadmines, it was a total party wipe. And that was my first dungeon… ever.
So needless to say, I’ve always regarded dungeons with a certain amount of dread and respect. And sometimes, the dread isn’t even all about the monsters. For example, two friends and I are presently playing Vampire the Masquerade as a play-by-post on Enworld. Due to this fact, things seem to take longer than they should. In fact, we’ve been stuck in a sewer-level dungeon for, oh, three months now? Needless to say, I check Enworld daily with growing amounts of trepidation. It would just be nice to… move on, or something.
Likewise, we are presently in a dungeon in our current DnD game as well. Three sessions ago, your heroes–Griswold, Auerion, Denya and, of course, Ari–descended into the Temple of Moligar to face adventure, creatures from beyond the veil of evil, and possibly death. In fact, the Temple is so evil, that Ari’s “detect evil” paladin ability is completely useless! Now that’s pretty evil.
But I digress. There are two main reasons that we are in this temple–one of which is unbeknownst to everyone in the party but Ari, and one of which is… um… knownst to everyone in the party.
Let’s start with the “knownst” reason. Many, many sessions ago, our party met a thief by the name of Nightpanther. Initially, Ari was agitated by the woman because of her rather awkward advances towards her… oh, and of course the whole “thievery” thing (paladin’s don’t tend to like that). But after some rather touching plot exposition, Ari warmed up to her. I mean, she still wasn’t planning on jumping into bed with Nightpanther anytime soon (or at all), but they ended up reaching such an understanding that Nightpanther was willing to jump in front of a poisoned arrow to save Ari’s life, thereby becoming poisoned herself. At present, she lies in a coma in the Elven Lands, being looked over by the caregivers of Ari’s household.
We ended up finding out that Nightpanther had been poisoned by an evil solution referred to as “The Essence of Moligar.” Moligar is the name of the decidedly evil god of rot and decay in our world, and his “Essence” is–apparently–his blood, which was extracted where he lies sleeping beneath the earth. The Essence is apparently instant death to elves, but Nightpanther, being human, will be able to survive, just barely, for now. In any case, she will die unless Ari and company go on a quest to find the antidote which, apparently conveniently, is also located somewhere near Moligar in his rather ancient and evil temple.
So, dungeon? Check.
Next, we need to find a way to get in to the dungeon, since the Temple is actually an active site where worshiper of Moligar actually live and pay homage to their rather rotten god. Obviously, there isn’t a large, “Come on in!” sign on the front door, and his followers aren’t readily available to ask: Especially since Ari is a Paladin of Selene of Griswold is a Cleric of Pelora. Yeah, um… we’re kind of the “anti-Moligars” of the group.
One thing led to another, and after Ari read through a rather disturbing journal entry where she found out that her cookie-loving cousin (who the party had to kill because she was… well, the word “evil” is starting to sound redundant, so how about we go with “misguided”?) had been boinking her vertically-challenged cousin to try and seduce him (pun intended) into taking over her family by force from the inside out, she found out that the only way to gain access to the Temple of Moligar was to go and talk to an estate overrun with fallen and demonic elves and ask for the password.
Oh come on, even a noob would know that this was a bad idea. However, since we were all rather worried about Nightpanther, and since the story probably wouldn’t have progressed otherwise, the four of us proceeded to the Marjoram Estate.
Quite a while ago, I actually made a post about this and what happened there. To be brief, Ari went in alone and ended up making a deal with the demonic elves (imagine! a Paladin making a deal with demons! oh, the shame…) that in exchange for the way into the Temple, she would bring them back the spell which could potentially, under the right conditions, free them from the prison of their estate so that they could be released upon the world. Of course Ari knew that this was a bad idea, but when your lover… I mean, friend is bedridden with poison because she jumped in front of an arrow for you, you tend to do what you have to do. Swearing a blood oath to fulfill this promise, they gave her the spell to enter the Temple and eagerly await her return.
Of course, this is the part that she conveniently didn’t bother to mention to her party (after all, why would a Paladin admit to those around her that she had fallen ever-so-slightly to make a deal with a demon? the shame…). So now they’re mad at her because they can tell she’s lying (I can imagine that paladins make terrible liars). Despite that, by and by, our party made it to the Temple, Ari said the Darkspeech phrase that opened the door, and we proceeded below ground.
Very below ground.
You know that part of Lord of the Rings when the fellowship is on the snowy mountain and they’re arguing about whether or not they should turn back and try going through the Mines of Moria? And you know that part where Legolas pretty much says that he really hates going below ground, as most elves do? Well, we are so below the ground at this point, that Legolas would probably be whimpering like a little girl. And in fact Ari, as the resident elf, is similarly as unnerved after they travel down a spiral staircase into the ground for about an hour.
BUT HER LOVE FOR NIGHTPANTHER KNOWS NO BOUNDS…
Um… I mean, but she knows she needs to save Nightpanther, and so presses on. And actually, Ari gets to be the first “casualty” of the dungeon by tripping a trap door and falling about 25 feet onto a bed of rusted spikes. Seriously. I get impaled about ten minutes into the dungeon. Of course, being a paladin, Ari sucks it up and tries not to show the pain, and her party pulls her back to safety… when the party is then faced with flying arrows (brilliantly dodged by Auerion) and rabid, pestilence-ridden rats (which we burn with one of our few lanterns and they scatter).
Next up, we find ourselves wandering into what seems to be some sort of a living quarters for someone who’s rather fond of rotting flesh soup. There’s no one present in the antechamber, but as soon as Griswold finds and reads a paper that is a list of prisoners, and as soon as he notes that there are some child prisoners somewhere in the dungeon, Ari, in classic charging-blindly-yet-resolutely-forth paladin fashion, leaves the room and proceeds on in the dungeon alone… down yet another unnervingly long spiral staircase. After all, as soon as he said children, she felt morally obliged to save them. (reasons are explained in my Clips of Reverie section)
So while Ari charged forth, Auerion and Griswold and… well, Denya didn’t actually fight… found themselves faced against… zombies. Yup, zombies that just tumble out of the closet. Hilarity ensued as Griswold and Auerion kept making fail attack rolls and the zombies (NPCs manned by our fearless DM) make equally as fail attack rolls. In fact, I seem to recall that one of the zombies ended up killing himself. And after a lot of fumbling around and making Denya laugh at the ridiculousness of it all, somehow, the zombies ended up dead.
Ari found herself at the bottom of a spiral staircase… alone. Now, WARNING! Never go off by yourself in a dungeon! In fact, as soon as she found herself at the bottom, three rather strong undead creatures appeared. And then, some sort of even stronger undead creature appeared. And… fighting ensued! Utilizing the power of Selene, I smote the evil doers with the light and goodness of the moon! Meting out justice to all who stood in my way! Causing pain and destruction to the undead abominations, which resulted in… the calling forth of more undead! And these, once again, I duly endeavored to vanquish. Calling upon my skill as a paladin, taking hits from the evil-doers and dealing damage besides, there was a glorious battle! Creature after creature went down, struck down by my mighty, holy blade. And eventually, I was down to two enemies and about 2HP when… the rest of my party showed up.
(I should mention at this point that, due to where I had put points into my paladin abilities, I can go down to -15HP and still be “conscious”… and in a lot of pain… before I pass out into a death-like coma. So, basically, Ari can’t “die,” exactly. But as long as her body remains whole, she can always be brought back to life with a simple heal. Either way, it’s still a rather horrible way to spend your life, I would imagine…)
Right, so, the rest of the party showed up. Griswold continued to fail roll, but Auerion and Denya got in a few hits. Meanwhile, Ari was struck down, “dead” after reaching -15HP. And finally, the battle was over. Luckily, we had Griswold the Cleric with us–since he could sense that Ari wasn’t exactly dead and actually healed her so she could wake up. Otherwise, there is no doubt in my mind that Auerion probably would have tried to “honor” her by partaking in sweet Elf meat. Um… but that’s another story…
Anyway, to make things a bit shorter, we’ve been fumbling through the dungeon ever since with a number of “fail” moves. Griswold allowed a door to be blown up onto him. Our party took an hour to get over a snake pit, during which time Griswold, Ari, and I think Auerion as well fell in. We tried doing a logic puzzle at 3AM and ended up having to be helped and hinted back by the DM. We ran into a rather oblivious follower of Moligar–was he a Steve or a Bob?–who readily handed us his key card. We destroyed magical gargoyles. Griswold almost ended up bowing down and worshiping a statue of the god of rot and decay. Ari tortured a follower of Moligar to tears. Griswold, Denya, and Auerion played dress-up so that they could pretend to be worshippers and “sneak” into the prison cell block (more failure). Then Ari was backstabbed (literally) by a slave that she was trying to help save.
Oh and right now, Ari is watching over three slaves while Griswold, Auerion, and Denya are off doing who-knows-what. And, yup! You guessed it! More baddies are coming! At the moment, Ari stands poised between the three slaves and two or three followers of Moligar, who want their slaves back. And Ari, good person that she is, basically says, “Over my dead body…”
Which could very well happen. I guess that will be decided tonight.
Which brings me back to the whole reason for this post (aside from wasting your time on a Saturday morning). My prediction is that someone’s not making it the night. It’s not that our DM is sadistic, but he’s rather good at making us go through “realistic” campaigns. After all, who could have seen it coming that Ari was going to be attacked right outside of her own house? Or that she would be backstabbed by a slave she had just helped save? Or that those meat pies were really made of human… nevermind.
So in my opinion, I think that there’s going to be some sort of death before the night is over for dramatic effect or horror. I mean, we might have to resurrect whoever it is, but yeah, I think that someone’s dying. Granted, that should be determined by the actions we take/mistakes we make in the game, but I’m thinking that one of us could still be slated for death and not even know it.
So who will it be?
Auerion, with his kind and innocent outlook on life? And with his player all ready to go with a backup paladin/fighter in the wings just in case our lupine friend bites the dust?
Or maybe Denya, whose fallen brother and emerging mage powers have made her lose touch with reality? I believe she also has a blade singer player ready on the back-burner…
Or maybe Griswold, who could use a good kick to the rear to get his drinking problems under control?
Or Ari, who can already go into a death sleep. Unless her body is destroyed, however, she could be brought back. But wouldn’t that be the ultimate kicker if something terrible happened… (really, I would cry to lose Ari).
Or maybe even Nightpanther, who already lies on her death bed and who Ari would probably blame herself for if she died?
Yup, my guess is that something terrible is about to happen. The only question is: To whom?