2019-09-26 Deep Carbon Observatory Day 2

I don’t even know why I’m writing these things down. I guess it’s because I feel a lack of actual play review and here is the opportunity to write one. See Day 1 if you’re interested in the previous issue. This is day two!

The music was again Godspeed You! Black Emperor.

For prep, I read the session report of day 1 (Der Dammbruch von Carrowmore), I read the pages in the Drowned Lands section of the book, and I made a list of characters they hadn’t met yet, with names and epithets, just in case I needed to introduce more. As it turns out, there was no need.

I more or less went in order, and between the encounters I rolled a d6 with a random encounter on a 1 and signs of a random encounter on a 2.

The first set encounter is with the sarcophagus and the children. Of course, more children. Later that night the players will note that I seem to be obsessed with children in need of help. It’s in the book. Actually, as I was reading the adventure, I felt a bit weird because so many of the non-player characters seem to be men.

This is my rule: when introducing a non-player character, roll a d6.

d6human
1young man
2young woman
3middle aged man
4middle aged woman
5old man
6old woman

Anyway, back to the first encounter: a swimming sarcophagus that looks like a stone, and some children. The player nearly let it pass. The children are crying for help and food and so they let them dock and at last one of the players is curious and investigates the thing and now a discussion starts at the table: the sarcophagus is clearly not heavy enough to hold a lot of gold so it probably holds a mummy. One players suggests that it’s probably a guardian and the guardian will try to go back to the thing it needs to guard so we could just follow it. The others suspect that this is going to be a useless fight with a mummy and who wants that? It’s an entertaining conundrum and in the end they open the sarcophagus and discover the mummy, the key, and the sword. They try to take the sword but relent as soon as the mummy awakens and pulls it back. But now the mute mummy is awake and gets up and moves around and tries to leave towards the north. Somehow the players realise that they can talk to the mummy even though it can’t answer and then they hand over pen and paper in the game and I’m sitting there at the table, describing the pictures the mummy draws in response to their questions. Oh my, what have I gotten myself into. What are the keys good for? What is it guarding? What was its job? I have no idea! But I can search the PDF and I remember something about a ship or a chariot and the dam and soon enough I find the things I describe a flying ship in the sky, and a hero with a sword between a horde of demons and dragons and kneeling skeletons, a column and many jars chained to it and a hairy key somehow fondling the chain. It’s confusing and entertaining at the same time. The party wants to go north. The mummy wants to go north. It can stay and so it joins the posse.

Next up is the duel of fools. Two wizards, two spell lists, and they are going to duel. When I read it, I was disappointed. This is never going to work. But oh well, I’ll try. It worked surprisingly well. I had to think up a ton of accusations and insults and would have liked a list, but I managed. As the players didn’t feel like interfering – and perhaps because they didn’t know how serious it was – they duel started with rolls for initiative, a triple magic missile and a shield. Already the players are gasping and noting that this is a magic user on level 5–9. Some more talking and some more insults, the players still don’t engage. An illusionary octopus rises from the river and starts to envelop the shielded one, using phantasmal force. The shielded one throws a frog at the other and casts enlarge to blow it up to cow size in mid flight, dropping the other into the water. The players are impressed but they also want them to stop. Now, I had already introduced the two fools as arrogant and haughty, putting player characters in their place, telling them to shut up and all that. So now as one of them interjects more forcefully, it distracts one of the magic users who casts shrink on a player character who saves. This gives the other time to recover, they cast fly and rise from the water. More insults, the players consider casting silence but find that the two are too far apart to catch them both and so they still don’t stop the duel. At this point, or perhaps in the previous round, the exact order of things breaks down and in the end what happens is that the flying one casts mirror image to protect himself and then dive bombs the other with a dagger and stabs him, killing him. He lands and kicks the body into the water. “Finally the idiot is dead!”

The survivor is the magic user they need, Rem Koolhaus. He is a narcissist, pushy, unfriendly, full of himself and the players are instantly divided: one player in particular thinks that we need him and so is very submissive and respectful, another one is practically ready to fight, the other two players are laughing at the situation. We talk about why Koolhaus killed his subordinate, about the guild rules, whether to join his guild, to fetch the canoe, and on and on. It’s surprisingly entertaining given the text of the encounter.

Then I rolled up an encounter with the platypus which they evade, but then one of the players thinks they need rations and tries to fish, thinking of the man-sized, land-walking fish the children mentioned and I roll another random encounter and it’s the platypus again. OK! There’s a fight and the platypus is killed and shields were splintered and rations were acquired. We agree that meat doesn’t conserve too well but since we mostly assume one week in-game between sessions the rule is this: no more rations used this session and as much meat and offal to attract or distract animals both this session and the next.

I’m not quite sure how to read the map, now. I decide that what I’m seeing is a flood plain and the characters can go along either shore but I have the mummy wanting to go straight north because that’s where the windmill encounter is and that episode on the Deep Carbon Observatory I had heard on the Fear of a Black Dragon podcast had really impressed on me the importance of the swimming sarcophagus and the windmill (and the upcoming witch). Anyway, the players saw no reason to disagree with the mummy and so we ended up at the windmill.

The players have been going upriver on a giant turtle or tortoise, a Tulita spirit that’s willing to help them because of them previously fighting the shark god avatars (that’s the Razorcoast material I’ve been using as the framing story for the current campaign). So they are on a tortoise and decide that crabs are not very smart and so given a staff, a long sword, and a net, they should be able to build a barrier that will prevent the crabs from climbing up into the windmill if only the poor woman inside will stop it from turning. I roll a d6 to find out how many rounds they will have to fend of crabs in order for this to work and get a five. I tell the players and ask them whether they want to go ahead with it. There are a hundred 1m crabs here, so clearly something is going to happen. I tell them that every round a crab will climb the windmill and they’ll have to kill it. They want to know how tough these crabs are and I tell them a bit like wolves and war dogs but tougher on the outside and squishier on the inside (better AC and less hp). The players are still willing to go ahead with their plan.

The first round is easy. On a whim I decide that every round 1d6 crabs will also climb the tortoise. I roll up four or five of them, announce the result, and then it’s the players’ turn (that is, the crabs climb onto the tortoise without attacking). And that’s how we slog it out: every round another 1d6 crabs come aboard, one crab tries to climb the windmill, and the crabs already aboard attack. The players fight them off for five rounds and that’s that. We decide to spend some time here, in-game because the windmill seems like a good place to rest and recover, and out-of-game because we usually assume one week passes until next session.

In short, the Deep Carbon Observatory adventure is much better, now! It was easier to prep and the encounters are more interesting. I did skip the ones that were about dead farmers and corpses and vultures and electrical eels and stuff like that. I just described the fat toads eating corpses but there was no reason to fight, it was just a scene à la Apocalypse Now – bloody madness on the way up river. They also didn’t investigate the church of the Optical God but really, what is there to investigate? Complicated stuff about holy water that I don’t care about anyway. They did see signs of a turbine golem in the distance but didn’t investigate. Just a little foreshadowing, I guess.

I forgot about the Crows.

Fighting crabs at the windmill

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Comments

“I don’t even know why I’m writing these things down. I guess it’s because I feel a lack of actual play review and here is the opportunity to write one.”

For what it’s worth, I always appreciate reading these. Especially since you go into what worked and what didn’t, which is useful.

The map is notoriously hard to read. I think I read somewhere that the entire area is flooded, and that the shores drawn are where the river used to be, but I have no idea if that’s true or not. DCO always seemed like it’d be a blast to run but everything is a bit too much to piece together, though I think I can manage the dungeon itself, dropped into another setting.

– PK 2019-09-26 14:56 UTC


Thanks!

– Alex Schroeder 2019-09-26 15:28 UTC


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