Saturday, April 7, 2012

In which I run Death Frost Doom

Running Death Frost Doom! 

Or, how to liven(?!) up a Sandbox in just five hours.

What the Hell am I Going to Do, Tonight?

For reasons, various & sundry, I hadn't gamed in over a month. But, Friday Night's Birmingham Meet-up Group game was fast approaching. And while I had fully intended on doing some in-depth work on my mega-dungeon and re-working/fleshing out the abandoned temple in Larm, I had done neither. Between my personal life being so chaotic of late, and just not feeling it, creativity-wise, come Friday morning I had managed to do little more than jack and squat! I did redo my map of the campaign area. 

Last session, the players expressed interest in that abandoned temple in Larm. In my game, it's an old, locked up church, once devoted to Tyr. In the Larm supplement, the temple is supposed to serve as a short adventuring intro, for newbs really, and I needed it to be more than that. The players had just finished defending Larm against a Goblin Siege! The temple, as presented, would be rather dull after all that and I needed it to move things along, not get them started.

Oh, I could just wing it. I do some of my best DMing, by the seat of my pants.

I walked over to my gaming shelf, eyeing the spines of books, supplements and modules. And my eyes alighted upon my LotFP collection. It hit me:

The Session's Dramatis Personae

John - Itchy Triggerfish - A Neutral Good 2nd Level Fish-man Cleric.
David - Goat - A Neutral-Good 2nd Level Human Fighter.
Stephen - Romdybout - A Neutral-Evil 2nd Level Elven Magic-User.
2nd David -Malcuth - A Neutral 2nd Level Half-Orc Fighter.

That Door is Barred to You!

The temple door is sealed! The former abbot of the temple, now a crazy hermit (see The Village of Larm) informs the party that it may only be opened by Orison of War, the temple sword, stolen over forty years ago by Gralph, a traitor who was a secret devotee of a Death Cult. Gralph may have taken the sword to the Cultists sanctuary, which had been located upon a nearby mountain.

You're all going to fuckin' die!

Zeke tries to warn them. Thanks to some diplomacy and a Friends spell, the party gathers a little info on Zeke's doings and the Cult of Duvan' Ku.

Zeke tries to stop them, but they easily overpower the old man and eventually find themselves passing through the eerie graveyard, into the Cabin.

We're in the Painting? Huh? I'm doing What?!?!

We have some fun, while the party investigates the Cabin.

"Back when you humans enslaved my people, you would make mirrors that wouldn't reflect an Elf. So we couldn't see our own beauty! That's an evil mirror," the Elven MU explains.

"We wait four hours, to see if the Half-Orc Fighter shows back up."

"Goat, a light shines upon you, in the painting, as you sip from an ornate chalice."

Good, creepy fun. The players are interested in what's going on and having fun with the weird atmosphere of the place.

This is a good thing! Two of the four players are old CoC hands. I think I'm doing a decent job of building the appropriate atmosphere and playing upon the weirdness. But, I have little experience running horror. I can manage to creep out players, on occasion. Often, to quote Stephen King, I settle and "...go for the gross-out." 

So, as awesome as Mr. Raggi's module is, I'm not counting on being able to induce heebie-jeebies, all by myself. I'm relying upon their collusion, the players enjoyment of the weird and the macabre.

When the DM Commits and the Players Commit, you can create that space, where the magic of D&D happens.

Save or Die!!!!!!!!!!!!

Into the crypts, the party descends. The Half-Orc Fighter incautiously bangs on an Organ made of Bones.

Five seconds later, he fails his Save, the Yellow Mold killing his ass, dead!

David (2nd David, to differentiate him from the 1st David, sitting at the table) rolls up a Halfling Thief, who conveniently, had been shadowing the party.

Crypts and More Weird Shit 

The party doesn't screw around with the crypts, much. They only bust one open and find only a corpse. They manage to avoid most difficulties, though the Halfling is now under a curse. They screw around with a few things. The MU finds the monocle, enabling him to read the script of Duvan' Ku. And an evil Golem manual. The Cleric, a good-aligned Fish-man, by the way, almost finds himself with a nasty Tattoo. Having to scrape away some scales, slows him up and helps the party get him under control. The MU is more careful about reading things aloud, after that.

Goat tosses a coin into a basin and his 18/32 Strength shoots up to 19! He's stoked!

The Halfling tries his luck, loses a point of Charisma. And Int. And Con. He finally stops, when he loses a point of Dex.

Of Course they Kill the Damn Plant! 

They arrive at the corridor, leading to room 22. Using fire, they kill the plant, from a distance. It burns up nicely, clearing the tunnel in the ceiling, as well as their path forward. The weird music stops.

They enter the room beyond, indeed discovering the sword, Orison of War, as well as a few other things. Like another evil book for the MU to drool over!

The MU reads what's written upon the alter. They talk among themselves. But don't begin searching anything, really. Save for the alter. A few minutes later, the crashing sound of multiple, loosely mortared brick coverings, smashing upon the floor, over and over and over again, reaches their ears.

"We're Screwed!" John exclaims, a wide grin upon his face.

"I think maybe this module was made for higher level characters," Stephen opines. He's new to my game.

"No. 2nd level is fine for this adventure. It's meant to be an actual challenge," my Cheery, Neutral, If You Die, You Die, DM Personae, smiles at him.

We Take a Cig Break - And One More Important Factor

David, John and I step outside. Leaving Stephen, who is running the evil elven MU and 2nd David, who is running the halfling Thief, by themselves.

One more thing. A few sessions ago, 1st David - Goat the Fighter - found a sword. It's blade is a light, metallic blue. Etched into the cross-hilt, is the stylized symbol of a Door. He has no idea that it's sentient. Or, that it can cast Dimension Door, once per day, at a rather high level of magic use. It's also a bit cowardly and named "Sir Robin's Discretion."

In Which, Things Don't Go the Way I Expect 

I expect the party to begin frantically searching for secret doors. The elf had already blown his chances to automatically notice such things. Still, the MU believes there is at least one door. And that he needs a sacrifice to open it. The MU casts Spider Climb from a scroll.

The halfling thief attempts to backstab Goat!

And fails. They roll initiative. Goat misses. Things have taken a turn for the interesting, as one of the possibilities Mr. Raggi wrote into his module, plays out. The evil MU, having picked up some of the lore and magic of Duvan' Ku, gets into the spirit of things and decides that there will be Blood!

In Which, Again, Things Don't Go the Way I Expect

When the MU casts Magic Missile at Goat, I'm puzzled. I thought he was setting the halfling up to die and be the fall guy. Even if the thief had hit and the MU had done the max on a MM, they wouldn't have taken Goat out. The MU could have cast MM at the thief and then claim he was helping them deal with the treacherous halfling. But, it had been a long time since Stephen played AD&D. He miscalculated Goat's hit points and the thief's backstab abilities.

The Cleric comes to his friend's aid and shoots his harpoon gun at the MU. The MU tries some fast-talking, but no one is buying.

The Thief asks for quarter and tries to cut a deal. As the zombies approach the entrance, the thief finally decides to search for secret doors. Goat takes a stand in the doorway. That's when "Sir Robin's Discretion" makes itself know and tells Goat to call the Cleric to his side. The sword has a firm grasp on depth, spatial relations, etc., and has just enough power/casting-level to take Goat and one ally on a Dimension Door jaunt, to outside the complex. Logically, the sword chooses the only person Goat can trust. The Cleric.

In a burst of light, the pair are gone!

The MU Spider-Climbs his ass out of the room, and up the tunnel in the corridor, as the zombies approach.

Gee 2nd David, I'm about to Kill your PC, Again!

Alone, the thief scrambles up to the top of a large, monstrous statue, vainly seeking to delay by a few moments, the doom which is upon him.

A thought occurs to me, a way he might could actually survive.

I'd already killed him once this evening. And he's a new player. This was his second ever session of D&D.

The others had already written him off as toast. He didn't have the playing experience to think of creative ways, he might save his life from a DM's assault.

I decide the situation calls for a twist and that if I'm going to do it, I might as well make it interesting.

"The angle is very, very bad, but if you could use your weight to wobble the statue, you might be able to aim it to crash into that secret door."

I give him an overly generous, 50% chance of pulling off this improbable action!

If successful, he would have a shot. If he was willing to cut a deal with what lay beyond. I tell 2nd David to roll percentile dice.

He rolls very, very high, blowing it!

The statue topples off its mark, crushing a couple of zombies, while dozens more, begin feasting upon his flesh. The Halfling, whose name I didn't record, meets a slow, horrifying end!

Ok, the players all laugh! But it must be horrifying for that little halfling!


The MU makes his escape, utilizing a scroll of Invisibility once he makes it above ground, carrying two books of evil, evil magic.

The Cleric and Fighter find themselves under attack from four ghouls. I decide that since they're at the edge of the graveyard, if they can take out the ghouls in two rounds, then they can escape, before a large number of undead discover and descend upon them. Otherwise, its 1d6 ghouls joining the party, on the third round and every round, thereafter.

Goat and Itchy easily dispatch the ghouls, within two rounds. I give Fighters Cleave in my game, which provides Goat the edge he needs! The pair of good aligned adventurers, high-tail it out of there!

Meanwhile, some 12,000 undead begin making their way down the mountainside, heading for the tiny village of Larm, population 112, below.

DMing is Like Having Sex...

When it's below average and kind of an off, I feel really tired, when its over.

When its good, I feel both exhausted and exhilarated, afterwards.

When its really, really good, when its Great, I just feel exhilarated! I feel like I can play all night and will usually stay up for hours, afterwards.

It was after midnight when we wrapped up Death Frost Doom. I was wide awake and bursting with energy. We hung out for an hour afterwards, laughing and talking about everything that happened. John and David making their plans for the next session and trying to figure out how to defend Larm from the Undead Apocalypse. And what to do about Stephen's PC. I arrived home and didn't go to sleep until about 4:00 AM.

So, in Conclusion

So. What happens now? Not sure yet. But running Death Frost Doom was a blast! My players seemed to have fun.

Even 2nd David, who lost two PC's.

I'm thinking of working Hammers of the God into things, somehow.


  1. That module was fund indeed. The group of players I ran it for managed to get the hell out of dodge; all accept for the guy who rode his horse off a cold mountainside trail in the dark.

  2. I'm about to run this too. Well, my players have active hooks for hammers of the god, death frost doom, and blasphemous brewery of pilz. It will be interesting to see which way they jump. None of them are familiar with any of the modules (or even that they are modules) so the differentiating bits are all in game. As prep for myself I have turned them all into a series of one page dungeons.

  3. I love reading about how other people play Death Frost Doom; I ran it under Rogue Trader and also had great fun. Someone should collect all the play reports together somehow.

  4. Hello everyone! Rogue Trader - I can so see that!

  5. I ran this once, but didn't get as far you did, nor have as much fun. It was nice to read about your session, though.