My group played in Death Frost Doom across three sessions.
The first was covered in a previous post. The PCs met Zeke, explore the cabin, opened the trap door, and then returned to Zeke’s from the mask to rest and leave behind some of the haul they had found. They returned to the cabin, made their way down the shaft to the corridor filled with tiny carved faces, and we stopped there for the evening.
The second session began with them moving forward down the corridor, the lantern light reflecting off the small faces and feeding into darkness beyond. They found the huge gargoyle face door. Hesitated a moment before turning the key found in its mouth and proceeded forward.
The first room was filled with the writing desks in the bone hands and arms. Sheets of paper or upon the tables. They searched the room thoroughly and I ruled that they found the traces of some of the answers given by the magical power of the room on the remaining sheets–the impression of the answers left behind from the sheets that have been about them when the hands wrote.
They found answers about villages the Duvan’Ku could raid–which freaks them out. But then they also found answers from sorcerers from Carcoas who would come to explore and had been captured by the Duvan’Ku. Their answers involved the World Stone, which is the item that they had heard about from Sir Boris, a dying knight of the Order Medicinal who had been tortured by the mutated villagers controls by the forces on Carcosa. It was one of the key reasons they had traveled to the shrine. This was the quest item they sought.
But even more disturbing one of the answers revealed that to activate the World Stone would require three sacrifices. Still they pressed on.
They opened the double-breasted doors sealed with a thin layer of frost, each door emblazoned with the symbol of death.
They entered the chapel, too large for their lanterns to illuminate fully the darkness extending before them. They explore the room finding each of the items within. One of them, with taking careful notes so far during play, stood before the tapestry of the hanging women and spoke to Molly, assuring her that the remains had been honored and taken care of by Zeke. Her image vanished from the mural and everyone received 100 XP. To the players took the cursed items from the altar. (Neither the have entered combat yet, so while it detect magic spell cast days later revealed that they were influenced by magic, they have yet to discover what the effect will be or even that they are cursed.)
They played with the organ, and found the hidden valuables within. They found the box with the carved features of the man with a would later recognize as the Sacred Parasite.
They tried various methods of opening a locked panel leading to the crypts, but didn’t make a connection immediately between the teeth in the basins in the door.
Instead they traveled to the door to the north and explored the living quarters area. They found many items, all of them in fact. Including the strange mask with the rotted teeth that stank of the basin water in the chapel. This was an aha! moment. They returned to the chapel, pried a tooth from the mask, and dropped it in the basin.
Nothing happened. And in the moment after that there was a delicious moment of “Ooooooooh,” as all of the players realized at the same instant one of the PCs was going to have to give up the tooth to activate the magic.
The PCs drew straws (rolled dice) with the shortest straw having to give up the tooth. One of the magic users was the designated tooth-offerer. The specialist used pliers from his kit to pry a tooth loose. They dropped it in the basin and the door opened.
By this time several skulls had fallen and they had figured out the timing system about 40 minutes had passed and they knew they had to keep moving.
One by one by one by one by one they opened the vault doors, peered inside, took stock of the kind of people buried in particular crypt, and moved on quickly. (I should note that one of my players is the son of a professor of Greek antiquity (one of the top three in the world, in fact) and he greatly appreciated the accuracy of the dead being buried in groups by the social station.)
They were very clever and booby-trapped each vault door. They left each door slightly ajar and balanced a list later atop it after splashing a flask of oil along the floor inside the doorway of the crypt. Thus if anything inside the crypt pushed open the door the burning lantern would fall to the floor and ignite the oil along the floor inside the crypt. This would of course burn any undead heading to the door, and the bodies would pile up tripping up those behind them as those bodies burned in turn.
It was at this moment that I realized DFDs reputation as some sort of killing machine might not be deserved. My players are being very smart. They were cautious (for the most part), think their way through the puzzles, and all rebuilding their exit strategy if everything should go to hell.
There’s nothing extraordinary about this. The Referee Book makes it quite clear that the game is not about combat, that the world is a dangerous place that is out to kill you, and that you will have to outsmart it if you are to survive. Poking about into every corner is not the strategy at hand. It is to know your ambitions and stay focused on them, mitigating risk whenever you can.
[It was this blog post at Hack & Slash that me maybe understand how this kind of play works. And my players were playing out in style.]
They made their way up the corridor along the crypts, found the Hall Of Memory, and the eyepiece that lets them read Duvan’Ku. (Which one of my players declared the coolest magic item he ever gotten in a game. Which speaks volumes about how engrossed they were in the growing mysteries of the Duvan’Ku and their desire to have more control over their interactions with them. Clearly the Duvan’Ku is an organization to play up in this campaign.)
They made their way up to the turn in the corridor. (Here I made an error. I forgot to bring up the eye of eyes. But we moved on with little loss I think. Though I would have loved to see their reaction.)
They turned the corner and came to the fountains of the children. They opened the crypt. And the son of the antiquarian was properly freaked out because this he had not expected.
They moved a few feet further down the corridor, hearing the strange unearthly song they’ve been hearing the entire time within the shrine louder and louder and now right before them… As the Sacred Parasite came into view.
And here we stopped for the evening.