I wanted to use a one page dungeon I found that burst with flavour, interactivity, and variety. https://campaignwiki.org/1pdc/2019/Jesse%20David%20-%20Buried%20Pyramid%20of%20the%20Undergod.pdf
I changed up the hook to connect with the church burning, for which a previous Wish or two had wanted to see some consequences. Thus I came up with Entropus, a polar opposite to Prospero, the only real deity we’ve explored in this setting. (Not entirely true: I’ve aluded once or twice to Molotek, of Hot Springs Island, but I didn’t feel its involvement in this setup would make sense.) Entropus gathers them in a dream state, and I did a creepy, whispery voice with a greedy, greasy streak in it, modeled off the voice of Marvin Glass, from Pretending to be People, I began to realize as I performed it. I based Entropus’ look off a line drawing from Warframe, I think, and cast it as enormous to give it the proper deitical vibe.
I had to come up with a list of domains on the fly, as I hadn’t prepared much for the Entropus RP encounter — even the voice was decided on in the moment — but I offered a number of verbs in rapid succession, like change, renewal, revival, decay, and of course, entropy. I intentionally set up Entropus as a chaos deity to Prospero’s implied lawful alignment. We’re using Knave as a system, so we don’t have alignment, per se, but it’s a pretty old school trope, so I figured now was a good opportunity to bring it in. The party seemed decently into the idea of doing a chore for a chaotic entity like his — they’d been through some stuff in the Veins already, and I guess it was a strong enough hook. This is the second session in a row where I’ve intended to provide multiple hooks, specifically to get them into the Veins, but the first thing I throw out is the biggest show, and they bite onto it. I’d actually generated a whole nine cave system by the Veins rules, “the Faults of Last Chances,” which would be accessible from a warped spiral staircase under the Hole in the Oak, which they nearly discovered at the end of last week’s session before turning back for the village instead. I’d sourced images from the web of different types of stone in the caves, for crying out loud! But they never went back because I dropped the Entropus thing right out of the gate. Alas.
Sidebar: the Faults would lead to the maze of Omnipotent Dream of All Knowledge — a powerful Deep Janeen who has a beef with Svarku, as another Hot Springs tie in — or a separate cave system with a Tachyon Troll and a Caddis Larvae, so it would’ve been a good time. I can still use this later, I hope.)
I set up our equipment list with Silvering for 5x the base price in advance of the pyramid session, knowing the boss was a wraith. The party has a single magic item, a longsword of lich slaying, which would have worked, but nothing else that could have harmed either Kolls or Vladdis, their intended targets. So I ensured they had access to this stuff early. Of course, they could afford it, which most Knaves at level 1 could not. Something to think about as I’m already intending to run this same dungeon for some colleagues next week.
Sidebar on magic items: something my players have enjoyed so far is the in-the-moment creation of magic items. I got this idea from the OSR sphere, and the idea is that in a moment of grand heroics, an item can be imbued with power. In practice this has meant getting an astonishing killing blow against a particular type of creature confers a +1 magic status to a weapon, along with a +3 to that particular creature. This happens in the pyramid session, when Gardot kills a couple ghouls with amazing shots, so on the fly I enchanted his bow +1/+3 to ghouls. I suppose this could work for armour and even other items, too, but we’ve not seen that in play, yet. Last session the longsword +1/+3 to liches was born, and early in the campaign, a bill hook +1/+3 to igneous wraths, but that was lost down the gut of the Civilopede.
Otherwise I ran the dungeon pretty close to the page. I rolled up random encounters ahead of time, and because the table is bell-curved, I ended up with a bunch of ghouls, which was a hit and a miss. (Literally: one player’s hit was the ghouls’ consistency, another’s miss was their frequency!) The first random encounter was actually not perceived as such by the party: the disembodied screams at the pyramid’s mouth as Taavo the frightened adventurer fled.
There wasn’t much rigid time-keeping — certainly not to the level I’ve done in the past, with strict rest periods on 1 in 6 turns — but when sufficient time passed I rolled for an encounter, then just used the next one on the list. Thus, the demonic apparition actually appeared in the sphere room. I had it shift into this dimension from behind the sphere no matter where the party was in the room, to imply it was an illusion or apparition or something, but they seemed to think it was a perfectly demonic thing to do, I guess.
Anyway they defaced the sphere thinking it was connected to the demon, when really they weren’t. I did take the opportunity to give them more info about the sphere. They’d already tried to read it unsuccessfully, but I don’t like gating info too harshly, so when they wrecked it, I let them get a psychic sense of its purpose. The gang was immediately excited to try to fix and use it — by the end of the session, Viktor would have a pretty decent claim to being able to read Abyssal, having found the sentient spellbook, so maybe they will!
The party explored about half the dungeon, finding one secret room and missing another, though I was careful to telegraph it more than once. I was also careful to telegraph the rug that was actually a mimic: I mentioned it carefully, noted it wasn’t burnt, as was the rest of the room, though I could see how their suspicions would be low, given a dragon lived in the room! I was quick to mention she was shocked by it too. After all, by the book, she’s young and a new arrival herself.
On the subject of ghouls and paralysis: so the dungeon doesn’t have stats for its creatures, but ghouls are a pretty common D&Dism. I flavoured them slightly for the sandy environment — specifically, their paralyzing touch resulting in a sandstony vibe with grains of sand forming in your tear ducts, etc — but otherwise lifted their statblock wholesale from Old School Essentials, which gives them 2 1d3 attacks + paralysis. SO! That’s a lot of paralysis. To rule on this, I let Luwang, who’d beaten ghoul paralysis in the previous, unrelated session, have advantage on his saves. Knave’s save system can be unforgiving, with a roll 16 or higher on a d20, so having advantage is a boon. (For the uninitiated: advantage means roll twice and keep the better roll. Disadvantage is the opposite.) Thus Luwang made most of his saves. When Viktor was stricken, Luwang thought fast and used some flowers he had (from his background maybe? I’m not sure. standard flowers, anyway, non-magical.) as smelling salts to wake Viktor up. I thus ruled Viktor could have advantage on his saves, too. Once he beat the paralysis the first time, he’d also have “resistance;” advantage on his saves. So in this way, adventuring actively makes you hardier, even without mechanical advancement. (This definitely helps, though: in Knave, you add one of six ability scores to each save you make. For paralysis, this is Constitution. When you level up, you can improve three of the six by one point each. So you do get stronger with time. Adding advantage to certain saves through experience is a little like the magic item thing, above; get better through action, not just xp!)
I’m not sure the conclusion of the dungeon will take the whole session next week. The setup and Entropus RP took about 40 minutes, which was a bit excessive, but admittedly it was a fun experience, and the party rightly had questions. Then the dungeon half they saw took the rest of the session. I noted that Entropus wants a complete map of the place, which I hope will prompt them to find the second secret room, where the archpriest Vladdis lairs. He has a magic sword, too, and other loot. I’ll have to roll a few more encounters. Since I let the dice fall where they did last time, many ghouls and all, I guess I’ll do the same this time. There are a few other interesting results. Actually one that I’ve already rolled and haven’t used yet is 12 on the 2d6 bell curve (what, around 3% chance?), which is “300 Undead Scarab Beetles.” I’ve been thinking about how I’ll run that encounter when it happens! Gonna look into various swarms in OSE and even the Scissorfish in the Veins to handle them. They’re undead, so silent, and probably morale 11. Maybe every 50 does 1d6+disease?
If the party wants to do more errands for Entropus, as one or two players have mentioned, I think I’ll go with The Hole in the Sky, a DCC adventure I’ve run once before (early in my career, with my biggest table ever: it wasn’t great), that fits the theme to a T and I could also run much better today.
logan bright, works, osr, sunday special, pyramid, veins, Entropus, Prospero, dungeon, magic item, knave, hot springs island, session summary, session reflection,