Well. This was an exciting session (especially for me!)
During the week prior, the players were discussing what they could do, and the “ruins” that they had found proved to be a real fascination for them. No-one (even me) knew what was in those buried ruins, but the players were talking about bringing excavation equipment, extra supplies and maybe even hiring some people to help dig.
So during the week i was trying to think what could go in there, when I took a real look at the “Overland & Underworld” book in the freebooters playtest. It has a whole series of tables and procedures on developing a dungeon! So I spent a bit of time (about 2 hours in total) rolling dice and writing results. I followed all the procedures except one – I picked “unknown origin” rather than roll for it in the first step.
OMG this worked great. I was soooo excited to get the players into this place and put it through its paces!
Andrew (fighter) Big hairy guy
Huli (Magic-user) mad-monk-alchemist
Lothar (Magic-user) Scarred magical assassin
Richard (fighter) – Loyal protector
Everyone had a mount of some kind or another, and supplies were purchased for a dig-site. The trip out took a few days meandering through the countryside. But at the site they quickly got down to work. Andrew & Richard did the hard labour while Lothar “supervised” from the shade of a nearby tree (technically keeping watch on the vicious cow grazing in the nearby field). Huli was fascinated by the carved bas-relief all over the side of the building. The carvings indicated late-empire Elderfolk design, but the stone doorway and the gold-copper alloy metalwork on the surface was from the Imperial Crusaders – the founders of the current Kingdom. (Some nice use of find answers and establish!)
Everyone was excited to be entering an unspoiled tomb! Then the two fighters cracked open the cover-stone.
The interior had very clearly been modified. There was evidence of vandalised artwork, knocked down walls, and the drilling of holes in the roof. The Crusaders had apparently rebuilt the interior of the ground floor to act as a kind of gatehouse or prison – all the defenses were aimed at keeping things inside the building! The crew discovered pots full of oil ready to be boiled and poured, gates, and defensive barriers. Carefully they went forward until finding a huge spiral staircase and a chain hanging in the center leading down into the darkness.
They carefully decended. The stairs let into a giant cavern. Their torches were beginning to leave the cavern roof in darkness when the stairs came to an end – crumbling steps hanging over. But as they moved about they noticed strange distortions in the light. On closer inspection the distortions were strands of a light-absorbing material, stretched and leading from the stairs into the darkness, like a giant, shadowy, spider’s web. Andrew tried cutting the strands, but only with a great effort was he able to saw through one – which whipped back and left cuts in his arm. He heard vibrations in the strands – like something heavy walking along them.
They quickly returned to the ground floor, lighting fires and camping for the evening to think on their course of action. They found some remnants of boxes left here centuries ago, but underneath the rubble were a couple of bars of a strange blue-metal. Huli and Lothar huddled and discussed possibilities (and found the end of the chain – wrapped around a complex winch!) In the early hours Andrew once again heard something moving. He went down the stairs and peered into the darkness. His nerves got the better of him and he fired off his musket. The darkness shifted suddenly and he found himself facing eight giant lenses and mandibles – a spider so large it was unable to crawl up the staircase! It was annoyed by the shot and dissappeared into the cavern.
In the morning they built up a fire and heated the pot of oil until it was steaming. Luthar went down and started banging on the strands. When he spotted the giant spider coming, he dashed back up the stairs to get out of the way… Andrew and Richard were waiting on at the top and poured the boiling oil down once the spider showed its face.
The screech was deafening.
After the sound stopped, they found that much of the web attached to the staircase had been burned away by the boiling oil. Huli found that the winch was working again and pulled up a large platform on the end of the chain – an elevator! (at this point Huli’s player suffered a blackout… he became the elevator operator to stay out of trouble)
They were lowered into the dark cavern. Their torchlight lost the roof and staircase, but soon chunks of stonework appeared suspended in the cavern. Broken bits of bridges still held up by the web, reaching out to dimly seen doors at the cardinal directions. There was a long argument about how to proceed, until Lothar tied the end of a rope around his waist and handed the other end to Richard before crawling out on the web-strands. Trying to make as little disturbance in the webs as possible, he made his way across to the broken stones, and then even futher until he spotted the broken base of the bridge and a barred door in the walls of the cavern. He clambered onto the small platform, tying the rope to the door handle and leaving the torch in a sconce.
While Lothar was examing the door, Richard noticed the giant spider tentatively crawling towards Lothar at the edge of the light. He tried to signal (quietly) at Lothar. Meanshile Andrew collected what stones he could find and threw them to the opposite direction. The spider seemed to grow confused – turning it’s blinded and burnt face in many directions before decending into the darkness again.
Lothar raised the bar and opened the doors. Oblivious to the others trying to call him back, he entered the chambers. Both Andrew and Richard began to dispair of returning to the sunlit lands above… They managed to pull themselves across while hanging under the rope – no webs were disturbed. They found Lothar happily pillaging among the ruins of an alchemical laboratory. The books and notes were unreadable (turning to dust when trying to turn pages). The smell was different though – they followed their noses through passages and reached an overgrown garden – lit and warmed by stones! The entire room was overgrown, but sustained by ancient magics! There were even insects crawling amongst the vines and leaves.
Andrew clambered up and started prying the magic light-stones from the ceiling, while Lothar and Richard busied themselves with squashing some rather venemous looking spiders. They were all surprised when a voice queried them from a doorway.
The creature was a strange amalgem of spider and humanoid. It spoke words only Lothar could understand. It tentatively came forward and scooped up some of the squashed spiders, and ate them. Lothar tried to ask it about the giant spider in the cavern, but it only grew frightened and fled back into the corridors.
This was the last straw for Richard. He dragged the others back to the broken bridge, and ordered them all to return to the surface. Giant shadow-spiders, mutant magic-speaking creatures and ancient laboratories. This needed proper preparation and planning, not just running in and hoping! Andrew and Richard were already across on the platform when Lothar noticed two of the spider-centaur creatures stealthily approaching. He overheard their questions – Is it edible? – and grew furious enough to unleash a spell – but in his andger the spell went awry and caused some kind of feedback – the enture cavern shook! Chucks of rock fell from the wall and roof, bouncing on the webs, and Lothar tubled over the edge, only just managing to catch himself on some strands of web at the very edge of the torchlight.
Richard and Andrew were terrified by this – Lothar almost plummeting to his death, a pair of spider-things at the door, and they could see the giant spider moving beneath them towards the struggling Lothar. Andrew fired down with his musket – drawing the attention of the giant spider! It scuttled towards them. Richard tried to stab the spider with his halberd, but the mass of the spider throws him across the platform. The Giant Spider tries to reach for Andrew, waving its legs and knocking him off instead. Andrew desperately grabs for the webs, and watches his musket fall into the darkness.
Richard struggles to his feet, and braces the halberd against the metal spokes in the platform – and starts to hell at the spider. It wavers, feeling Andrew crawling back onto the platform, but also hearing the stomping and jingling armor of Richard. It slowly turns and rears at Richard, poison dripping from its mangled face.
Richard sees Andrew climbing higher on the webs, and the spider starting to show interest. He roars once more, banging the halberd on the platform and causing the spider to charge. At the same time, Andrew leaps for it’s back.
Richard manages to dodge between the reaching legs and plunges his halberd deep into the thorax of the spider. It pulls itself away, spurting a thick ichor all over Richard.
Andrew meanwhile finds himself on the back of a fleeing spider. He stabs a dagger into one eye socket, but finds his legs falling away from the spider as it crawls across the webs upside down. He tries to get a better grip, but finds the dagger pulling away as he drops down onto the webs.
All three manage to regains some composure and call for Huli to bring the platform back up. Every agrees that they shall pack up and return to the Violet City.
After the two day hike (mostly spent in tense silence) everyone returns to the Silver Swan house of entertainments and settle into the rooms provided by Silas. A week of relaxation and some drug induced stupur is just what they need after their encounter with the nightmare demon-spider.
If you are still reading, I hoped you enjoyed reading this as much as we enjoyed playing it. There was a lot more to the dungeon complex, but this showed me how “old school” the game/scenario/players are. During the random rolling in the morning, the giant demon-spider i totally expected to be a hireling-eating monster that the party would end up sacrificing henchmen to get past… but instead they worked out a way of scaring and blinding it! It them became much much weaker and less of a threat (but still almost killing them in the end). Only one of the strange doors was opened, but even that one led to more questions…
I am not entirely sure if the players will want to come back and face the spider to try to see whats beyond – but in any case the random generation of Freebooters has shown to me that I can rely on it to make interesting sessions.
If you are interested in joining in, come have a chat on the Crossworlds discord server where we run these games every Sunday at 17:30 gmt 🙂