Monday, April 17, 2017

Monday Recap: Dressed to Kill

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Not from art from the Maze, but still by Zak Sabbath
We had a good session of Maze of the Blue Medusa this weekend. I really like this dungeon, but I can tell that my players aren't used to the kind of dungeon-crawling that OSR games are all about.

I think this will change as the players get more into the dungeon. This is definitely a dungeon that has a story to tell, and the more they explore, the more they will get a sense for how the dungeon operates. Plus, they can get some good NPC companions soon that I think will help them find their way.

Maze of the Blue Medusa: Dressed to Kill



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It's an abstraction of your worst nightmares
Cast of Characters
Jon: Dungeon Master
Megan: Aniria Lightningblood, Firbolg Tempest Cleric, accidentally destroyed her home, now an adventurer, rushes in to things
Makayla: Coria Kelvardil, Moon Druid Elf, traveling the world and cataloguing all the animals she can find, cartographer
Jackie: Derrik Evanwood, Human Bardbarian, punch things, woo women, deal with alcoholism, collect magic swords
Tom: Alan Xanthudides, Human Phoenyx Sorcerer, secretly a noble with a bad family, trying his best not to burn the place down, actually quite good at talking to nobility

When we last left the group, they had finished up talking to Chronia Torn, an ageless woman who was not in favor of the Maze being destroyed. This was in direct contradiction to the plan of Lady Crucem Capilli, a dragon who was planning to burn the place down after she had collected enough artwork from it.

The group wanted to grab one of Chronia's books to present to Lady Capilli, to stave off the destruction of the Maze until they had more information on whether or not the maze should be destroyed. They found Chronia's library, which was full of incredibly rare, strange, and mostly melancholic books written in ways that her time aura wouldn't affect.

Suddenly, they were attacked by some golden ghosts! One of them possessed Aniria and forced her to destroy several shelves of books. Alan ran to grab Chronia's candle, which allowed her to dispel ghosts, and Aniria was freed. However, Chronia was quite upset at the loss of some of her books, and insisted the group only take a small novel written on a mummified snake. Coria recognized the author: Caphtor Clowe, known for his terrible writing. The novel was "Through the Eyes of the Gorgon", supposedly all about the Blue Medusa Psathyrella, but according to Chronia it was nothing but gossip and speculation.

The party made their way through a room with a book-hungry scarab beetle, and a room with a line that displayed whatever your worst fear was, before arriving back in the chess-piece room where they had first met Gibba Gognata. However, there was something odd waiting for them: a tiger, carved entirely out of beautiful lapis lazuli, moving towards them.


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RUDE
It spoke, calling itself the Lion in Lapis Lazuli. It began to ask pointed questions about what the group thought of it, becoming more and more demanding and capricious. Coria and Aniria tried to placate the beast, but when it turned its questions on Alan, the former noble didn't hold back and called the construct horrible and rude. Alan couldn't stand to see people claim they held a higher position than others.

The tiger attacked, tearing deep wounds into Derrik with its gemstone jaws. The group was able to quickly dispatch it, but Derrik was hurt and the party wanted to rest. They made their way to Lady Capilli, hoping to take a respite in her chambers.

After presenting the dragon lady with the book and the shards of the tiger, they requested Lady Capilli allow them to rest up a bit. The dragon was opposed to the idea, claiming that their journey through the maze shouldn't be sullied by her hands. She also already had a new item for them to find: a biography, from a unique creature. Lady Capilli insisted they not tarry until they had found it.

The group sulked off, displeased that their "benefactor" was so uncaring of their situation. They opted to board themselves into the room where the thrones had been previously, allowing them a short time to rest. Since they had discovered another route north, Derrik collected the three magic swords that they had previously placed in the thrones.

While they rested, Coria noticed a small flower poking through the corner of the wall. She watered it, and surprisingly, it closed up and withdrew between the stones. A moment later, a large bundle of vines poured out of the walls and threatened to engulf the party. They were being attacked by some sort of vine monster!


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All it wants to do is eat you
Derrik decided to attack the creature with his brand new Tree-sword, and he suddenly found out exactly what sort of magic enchanted the sword. All the thoughts of the vines were transferred to him, and he knew everything about the strange monster. It called itself Pellory-of-the-Walls. It once served a lich in the gardens named Xanthoceras, but it escaped its pot and fled into the walls. It also has a root somewhere in the dungeon that it's trying to use to spawn another vine monster.

The group beat back the monster while Derrik reeled. It retreated, and the group finished their rest. Fortunately, they now had the biography Lady Capilli asked for. They gave it to her, and she loved it. Being much more encouraging this time, she asked them to find her a piece of art, and also include how it was made and how the group obtained it.

Coria had been mapping their progress so far, and was able to guide them back to the fear line room without incident. As they crossed the treacherous line once more, Aniria saw a small figure at the other side: a small ghost boy. They had seen him once before in the dungeon, an afterimage in the False Chanterelle. They had avoided him the last time, but this time Aniria decided to take his hand.

The little ghost began to lead them in a direction they hadn't gone before. Coria was mortified and quickly began mapping as quickly as possible to keep up with the group. They passed though a room with a bunch of hypnotic disks that Derrik got bamboozled by, and a helpful hanged corpse who told them how they could have avoided killing the Lion in Lapis Lazuli.

They arrived in a room with a shifting black and white mural on the north wall, and lots of rotted treasure in the south section. Realizing they were close to a potential way out of the dungeon, they headed south to speak to a mysterious old woman named Lady Nine-Bones.


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Abstract art strikes again
Lady Nine-Bones was sitting in a room, drumming away on a small set of finger drums. She was highly suspicious of the group, acting very oddly until they revealed that they were simply looking for a way out and a place to rest. She touched one of the nine bones on her necklace, and suddenly began to radiate pale light. The entire group was compelled to tell the truth! She began to speak in the voice of Torgos Zooth, and asked them a few questions about their intentions and if they had found his sons yet.

They answered honestly, and then Torgos said something very strange: he told them to destroy the maze. Immediately afterwards, Lady Nine-Bones pitched backwards, and woke up as herself once again. She said she would allow them to leave the dungeon, and pointed them in the right direction.

Following her directions, they found a large staircase spiraling down in a nearby room. The little ghost boy stayed at the top of the stairs, and waved goodbye as the group went downwards.

They walked for a long time in darkness. At some point, they must have changed directions, because they suddenly found themselves walking upwards out of the top of a stairway leading out of the ground. It opened up into a huge temple that seemed to be dedicated to the maze itself.

Standing in the center of the temple was a man in a mask that looked like a dour-looking female face. He seemed to think the party was a group of Gods that had come up from the maze, and ran off. The group decided to rest up in the temple, and deal with all that later.

After they had recovered, they opened the temple of doors and were greeted by a throng of people and priests. They were also greeted with a miraculous sight: they were on the top of an island, in the middle of an ocean! How they had gotten here, they couldn't tell. Coria said it looked like nothing she had ever seen in her travels.

The priests begged the party to be merciful, and the group decided to play up their godliness. Remembering that the mechanical peacock Zaccheaus had told them they needed fancy clothes to pass, they asked for a set of fine robes for Aniria and Derrik. Alan was already well-dressed, and Coria could simply transform into a fancy animal.


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All hail the stairs of the afterlife!
At this point, I had the group level up to level 6. I'm going on a milestone-based level advancement system, and I've given the players a few esoteric hints on how to find those milestones. One of them was "Take an Island Vacation" which is why they got to level up here. "Light the Wedding Candles" is another one, so the players were planning to go to the area called the "Dead Wedding" next. To get in, they would need the fancy clothes that Zaccheaus required.

After the islanders delivered the clothing to the group, the group thanked them and headed back down (up?) into the dungeon. The ghost boy was gone, but the party now knew exactly where they wanted to go. Coria decided to try out her improved shapeshifting powers by transforming into an Allosaurus.

They had gotten all the way back to the MC Escher-esque stairs leading to Zaccheaus's Cloakroom, when suddenly Derrik (who was bringing up the rear of the party) was stabbed in the back by the weird ogre-shaped shell with a baby inside it. The group destroyed the shell, but once again Derrik was badly hurt.

Aniria patched up his wounds and they pressed forward, stopping to pick up a strange monocle the shell had been holding. The thing had a not-very-funny bulging lizard eye, but it did allow the user to read the ancient lizard language they had found elsewhere in the dungeon.

Zaccheaus was very impressed by their fancy robes and "pet" Allosaurus, and allowed them to explore the wedding at their leisure. They first decided to check out a side-room of the cloakroom, revealing a room lined with velvet pillars. In the center of the room was the little ghost boy! Aniria was very happy to see him again.


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I'm a little ghost boy, short and stout! I'm so alone, please help me out!
Zaccheaus told the group that the boy's name was Tyko Wort, son of renowned Chancellor Sophronia Wort, and that he was the better behaved of the two young Worts. He also told them that nobody ever went in the Red-Pillared Room, meaning the group could use it as an area to rest in.

The group went out into the lobby of the wedding, where they could see into a few different rooms. They saw the ceremony hall, where ancient corpses walked around, pretending to be at the wedding, oblivious to their state. They saw the buffet, where all the food had long rotted away, except for a single perfect cake.

And they saw a small room labelled "children's room", with a key on the ground near the entrance. It was attached to a string, and was being reeled towards the door. Aniria went after it, and entered the door frame to a ghastly sight.

The bodies of the children were all as black and burned as the rest of the guests, except for one. The body of Tyko Wort was reeling in the string, and with a howl it attacked!

It used a needle to strike at the group, drawing the strength from their bodies. The party felled the unfortunate creature, but not before Derrik and Aniria had some of their vitality drained from them. They successfully recovered the key, which was marked "Treasury."


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My body... my body's telling me yes!
Searching the room, Coria found some notes on a time elemental they had seen earlier. She was very excited, as this meant that she might be able to transform into one when her shapeshifting powers were strong enough. Derrik discovered the skins of a previous adventuring group that the body of Tyko Wort had been poking with his needle. It seemed that small braille messages would appear in conversation when poked into the skins. Derrik had an odd conversation with some birds, and was sufficiently creeped out to the point that he decided to leave it alone. Alan realized that the guests hadn't been burned by fire, but had been rotted away somehow.

The group made their way through the buffet, and Alan told them about the enchantments on the cake (common for a wedding among nobility). The cake made people more pleasant for the wedding, and the cherries lowered any woman's charisma below that of the brides. Coria put a couple cherries in her Goodberry pouch, just in case.

The group entered a room with a central archway, surrounded by more of the charred wedding guests. Under the arch was a dais, upon which stood the wedding couple. They were dressed in fine robes, and just about to kiss, but it seemed that they were frozen in time. Coria tried to approach but couldn't. The eerie stillness of the scene created a haunting and somber atmosphere.


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They were thaaaaaaat close!
We stopped there for this week. I really do enjoy this dungeon, but with a module like this, full of curios and oddities, it's very easy for the group to cover a lot of ground, and I definitely do a disservice to the complexity of the dungeon in these write-ups. I'd highly recommend playing or reading the module to truly appreciate the massive depth this book has to offer.

The other note I want to make is about the combats. The group has been steamrolling the monsters in this dungeon, but not before they get a lot of damage in on the party (usually concentrated on Derrik). I'm okay with this, for a few reasons. First off, they have a lot of dungeon to cover, so I'm okay with slightly easy fights. Second, There are many monsters that do worse things than HP damage, and I'm excited to have those effects come into play. Third, they are still kind of squishy. The big monsters deeper in the dungeon will be real threats, but for now I'm fine with small challenges.

I'm not sure when we'll return to this dungeon, but I'm very excited for them to explore the rest of the Dead Wedding!

Thanks for reading!

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