Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dungeon

Something Funny Happened on the Way to the Dungeon

I'd mentioned before that I'm running an ACKs campaign. For those not familiar, ACKs - Adventurer, Conqueror, King system - by Alexander Macris was an answer to the question "what if we took Basic, Moldvay-style D&D/OSR, and gave it a slightly more coherent set of rules, incorporated economics that make sense without requiring a ton of math, and used that to expand the rules all the way to "domain play" - kingdoms, armies, and so forth. While we're at it, we're neither running in the default Auran Empire (think late magical Roman Empire) setting, nor a truly unique setting, but instead in the Dwimmermount megadungeon.

One way in which the game is very old-school is that it is by no means Storygaming. As I've mentioned before, encounters, reactions, and many other results are subject to fate - read "dice" - and result in some truly unique situations. The potential deadliness of combat strongly encourages not only tactics but negotiation, subterfuge, and avoiding combat if there's another way to get the gold (burning a roomful of soporific mushrooms such that the smoke knocks everything out in the level and a chunk of the level above resulted in some nice loot).

It's been said that that in a real D&D game, the first few levels are the backstory - and even before hearing that the most I've ever allowed was "I am the sixth son of a fruit and preserves trader sent to find out why our farm in a far-flung province is failing". One line that describes why your character is there. Your character is arguably well above average, but he's just starting out. He's not special, legendary, or lived a life that everyone wants to know all the details of.

Which brings me to Three Steps, and the latest delve.

Three Steps, always at the back of the party (just like the song) is a priest charged with and dedicated to bringing light - in the form of a holy candle - into the darkness. Every session the candle is left a bit further in. This has resulted in the candle strangely never going out or being disturbed no matter how long it has been left in the mountain halls, the local orcs erecting their own shrine of candles about it, and even allying themselves with the party at times. Some of the factions hate the men of the candle, most respect them, some see them as useful pawns, and some truly like them.

Up to this point his character, and the others, have grown and developed in interesting ways. Among other things the party must be careful how they sort themselves as the self-willed sword the fighter, now Paladin, carries hates mages. Dwimmermount gives plenty of material for a good GM to strategically nudge them with reminders of just how weird the place is.

So, with the other members occupied, Three Steps the cleric and the mage round up some henchmen and the carrion crawler that follows the priest around and decide to map out a level already half explored. They find a door lock they cannot pick, a blocked up room that, as they clear the fallen rubble to squeeze in, they bar the door again for the dozen not-undead wizard animated skeletons that rise up out of the rubble. In a room full of pipes, the floor covered in flammable liquids, they run into an ochre jelly - and run like hell while dropping a torch behind (and thus disposing of the Jelly). They discover a cavern full of ridiculously valuable, volatile, toxic, and magically charged azoth.

But the truly fun part was encountering a secret room with a nearly forgotten god of law, holding a magic lantern.

This is the part where the story of the character, and what's on the map, combine, with just a bit of tweaking, to something truly awesome. Seriously, a lawful priest dedicated to bringing light into the darkness stumbles into a nearly forgotten god that he doesn't recognize holding a magic lantern?

Oh, the potential left laying there, ready to be plucked.

Let's just say that Three Steps got the strong hint the gods not only approve and bless his quest, but have given him a better tool to do so. And it is fortunate that it was Three Steps and not some other non-lawful, non cleric, who attempted to move the lantern (that last was in the book).

So no, this is not "storygaming" - yet stories arise out of it through the choices a player makes.

About Last Redoubt

Ex nuke mechanic, jack of all trades.