Sunday, February 28, 2010

Death Ferox Doom!

My regular Sunday group hadn't played for a few weeks, and even though half the group was down with the flu, I wasn't canceling again. The decision almost killed them, as there were only three of them, two clerics (one which wears no armor, carries no real weapon, and is pretty much a non-combatant) and a magic-user. All level 5 or 6, I forget exactly.

The first few sessions for what will be Death Ferox Doom were kind of slow.

They disabled and impersonated the people that were supposed to be going on the mission (per an oracle's orders), and traveled to the Southern Continent to the Empire's colonial beachhead, Fort Coronado. (This preliminary stuff won't be in the module; it will start at the Fort.)

Once there, they collected information about the mission: the Great General, Royal Blade of Arms, Mortimer Coleridge, and Imperial Arch-Mage Shelton Farrington had led an expedition searching for a City of Gold in this region... and disappeared. Someone has to find them.

They learn that the entire region is covered in thick jungle and had several native tribes living along the waterways. the colonial administration (little more than the military garrison at the fort at this point) considers the natives to be little more than animals, and the natives consider them to be something unto gods. The tribe local to the fort has been "domesticated," and one of their number is assigned the task of being the party's guide.

Their only clue at the beginning as to the general and arch-mage's fate (along with the squad of men-at-arms they brought with them) is an amulet - the Dead Sign. Word from the natives (who are all terrified of the symbol) is that one of the "pale men" returned from the east, alone and stripped of other equipment, wearing it. No sign of the rest of the expedition.

They don't travel up the river I'd set out for them... they boat up the coast a bit and go upstream on the larger river than can support canoe travel. They learn that the tribes in the area pretty much all hate each other, and in fact can treat each other worse than the imperial military treats them.

Most of the native tribes are not much trouble, however, as they are already frightened - Coleridge and Farrington had apparently not been gentle in their treatment. They finally come to a tribe that had given the expedition some grief - the Dida-Sine, a tribe at the fork of the two rivers that has a very large rust monster herd. Here they get their best leads to the City of Gold, and a warning about the To-Lem - the cannibals of the jungle.

My players, at least a couple of them, have honorable characters right now, so the trek through the jungle was much less eventful than it could have been. Let's just say a group of more mercenary or paranoid types can commit a bit of genocide on their way through the wilderness, and they might be able to easily excuse their slaughter as self-defense. Life is different in the jungle, and in addition to the more expected dangers to come, I offer the opportunity to make the players rather disgusted with themselves.

But my players avoided that as they avoided most of the tribes altogether, and dealt peacefully with those they did encounter. While this robbed them of the opportunity to get some important information, they avoided a lot of bait and temptation, and in fact one of the possible conclusions to the adventure is now closed to them (which is not a bad thing), unless they royally go out of their way to mess things up on the way out.

After some traveling, they find the "City of Gold." It is actually a pyramid in a clearing in the middle of a dead part of the jungle.

Before the pyramid are two large Dead Sign scultpures. Also a couple pools, and refuse pits - one filled with human remains. A large amount of equipment has been strung up on one of the Dead Signs - including the Arch-Mage's staff. If the PCs figure out how to use it, they will have a potent magic item.

The pyramid has eight entrances, and all three (plus the top) surface levels are much like Death Frost Doom - a lot of setup and things to look at, but not much that will get you if you keep a level head. The multiple entrances (including the shaft which sinks straight through most of the levels, allowing the party to go to the bottom level before entering any other room) correct one issue I have with Death Frost Doom - the linear nature of the map.

To show how cautious my players are, there are several altars with treasure, including a ruby, just sitting out in the open. In the three or four sessions they've been there, nobody has touched any of this treasure. It's actually fairly satisfying that nobody ever wants to touch anything in this place, but they know they have to in order to accomplish anything.

They've been pushing on into the lower levels of the pyramid and have found a number of interesting things. They've suffered many interesting threats. There have been multiple deaths in this pyramid (Explosive Runes for the win!), and this session one cleric was turned to gold, until a scroll was expended to fix the problem.

The great shark skeleton didn't pose much of a threat, but the squad of warriors clad in colorful ceramic armor, led by a mage, was almost the death of them. If the Hold Person didn't work, this would have been a TPK. But they were able to run away.

I want to see the looks on their faces when they discover who these guys are. :D

Oh yeah, and they're kind of trapped at the pyramid. The cannibal tribe discovered their presence, and while the cannibals won't enter the pyramid (or even the clearing area after having their butts handed to them a couple times), they do prevent escape. Their poisoned blowgun darts are a potential instant incapacitator, and with some of the party in plate mail, there will be no outrunning them.

The party has explored around (but not done much with) the Final Areas, but they haven't yet set foot in the more bizarre sections of the dungeon yet.

I won't be able to properly write this module for publication until bigger projects are completed, but especially this session, I got very excited about this and feel like I've got a worthy followup to Death Frost Doom on my hands. My big fear by making Death x Doom a series of modules is that I'll dilute the idea and lessen Death Frost Doom, but as long as I'm not just cranking them out, I should be OK. One a year sounds good to me.

gaaahh, I have so many frickin awesome things to do, and only so much time. Ah well, once the box is out, the floodgates will open. I've had a lot of time to get excited about a good many projects, and once I can get to them they should come out in fairly rapid succession. This will be a good year.


  1. This sounds great. It's such an evocative idea that I'm astounded no one's done it before. Death Frost Doom has a place in my campaign, although the players haven't got to it yet, and Ferox is going to be included as soon as it's released. Guaranteed sale.

  2. So Death Ferox Doom is an autobiographical dungeon about the time you spent in Florida? ;)

  3. This has the potential to be my favorite of your modules, James. It sounds right up my alley.

  4. Great adventure.

    It is interesting where twenty years since we played together, we have some common ground on treating the players the way the man in black and jacob do visitors to the "island" - presenting choices, temptations, seeming no-win scenarios...