Sunday, 28 March 2021

Play Report: the Cherry Crypts


I was able to run my regular group through my new dungeon The Cherry Crypts over the past few weeks. It took them four sessions to go through most of the dungeon, and they decided to leave after losing a party member to a tough fight. We will now return to our regular campaign, hopefully with some fond memories for the group, and some lessons learned for me. 

Evil flying cherry skull. Best pic I could find. 


Cribbage: halfling wizard obsessed with sketching maps. 

Briar: pixie druid who loves to fly around. 

Bozzy: frog-man ranger with a purple slime companion

Jim: big half-ogre barbarian (only joined for Sessions 2 & 3)

Kez: goblin warlock fond of hiding from all danger

Session 1

  • The party entered the Cherry Crypts through room 15 ROYAL CRYPT, fought the King & Queen skeletons. Nobody succumbed to the poison herbs, but the goblin warlock’s familiar got clawed to death. 
  • They went south and examined 16, 17, 18 CRYPTS and avoided the beetle swarm. The frog sent his slime familiar into 17 CAPTAIN CRYPT and it got enraged by the mood spell, but they enticed it out with some illusory metal (the slime likes to eat metal). 
  • They headed west and started listening at some doors. Behind the door to 20 RUINED BREAK-ROOM they could hear three cherry pitlings fighting over something. The goblin cast Tongues and translated their strange language for everyone else. They were fighting over something they called their ‘shiny’ and talked about their dead dad (i.e. the wizard whose corpse is in 12 WIZARD PARLOUR). 
  • They left that room alone and started exploring further. As two party members examined the wine casks in 22 CASKS, the pitlings exited their room, facing the goblin. 
  • They rolled neutral on their reaction roll so simply demanded who he was and what he was doing. 
  • He explained that they were exploring the dungeon—the pitling didn’t like that and told him to get lost. The goblin noticed that the lead pitling was holding a shiny plaque, presumably the ‘shiny’ that they had been fighting over. He pointed back to the south and said ‘there’s a shiny back there’ (referring to the platinum chain that they had left behind in 16 EAST CRYPT). The pitlings charged to the south, right where the frog happened to be. A bit of combat ensued, but the party made quick work of the pitlings. 
  • As soon as the combat ended, they heard a deep voice from behind the door of 21 SALT DEVIL: "Hello?" Everybody crammed in front of the door and spoke through it, discovering that there was a devil trapped in there, begging to be let out. 
  • They debated what to do but eventually opened the door to speak to him face-to-face. Debate ensued, with the halfling and pixie saying they should walk away, and the frog and goblin saying they wanted to release him. Eventually the frog said that he would make a deal with the devil, and not involve the other party members. Everyone vaguely and reluctantly agreed.
  • They all returned to the room and the frog wrote out a deal. He said that the devil could not harm, injure, kill, do ill will, etc. to him or his compatriots, or do anything that “would be considered bad.” The devil asked him to clarify: “considered bad by whom?”
  • “Considered bad by me,” the frog replied. “And you have to do me a favour in the future, plus give me all your gold.” The devil agreed, and the frog scuffed the circle of salt with his foot, freeing the devil. 
  • The devil immediately grew in size, and boomed in a loud voice “thank you, you have freed me. I know you worship your slime as a god, so I will invite all monsters in this place to come worship your slime” and he let out a loud noise as an alarm. 
  • The noise of approaching wandering monsters began immediately, from the north and the south. The devil shouted one last time, and disappeared. 
  • The frog's player has made his character revolve around his slime companion. He believe the slime is a baby of his slime deity, and he worships him and tries to convert all those around him to slime-worship. This is a central pillar of his character, so the player agreed that I had tricked him, and that his frog would not consider this ill-will, as he was notoriously naive about how others felt about the slime. The rest of the party held no such illusions and went to hide in 19 PIT PILE and 20 RUINED BREAK-ROOM while the frog and slime awaited their new slime worshippers. 
  • I decided that all monsters within two doors of the location would be alerted, plus I rolled on the encounter table. So that meant the beetle swarm from 16 EAST CRYPTS, plus two pitlings from 23 FERMENTING PITS, and four leather mummies off the encounter table. 
  • They blasted through everybody pretty quick, and the frog made friends with some pitlings who were impressed with his slime. The pitling led him back to his fermenting pits to show off his wine, offering a taste and shaking hands. 
  • The rest of the party crept out of hiding and went to 24 STEMWARE STORAGE. They spent so long trying to find the lever for the secret door that I rolled the Cherrywood Root Golem on the encounter table. I thought that this would be a hard fight, but the halfling blasted it with fire magic right away and got him whittled down fast. They ran up and down the hallways a bit, but eventually defeated him. 
  • They took a rest in 24 STEMWARE STORAGE and eventually found the secret door lever. They found the time watch and thought it was pretty cool.
  • The party continued, into 26 FORGE, where they snooped around for a bit, and decided not to tempt fate with a trapped door. They retreated all the way back to 15 ROYAL CRYPTS to try the north door that they had avoided all the way back in the beginning. 
  • The goblin listened at the door and heard some snuffling. He opened the door carefully, and spotted the giant three-headed ferret sitting on top of its cage, eating parchment. The goblin immediately reminded me that he had found a bunch of blank scrolls in 19 PIT PILE, and wanted to use the paper to coax the ferret into submission. One good die roll later, he had the ferret munching paper right out of his hands. This was one of my favourite moments of the session. Some really clever thinking from him. I feel like placating an animal with its specific favourite food is such a great OSR problem and solution. 
  • The rest of the party cautiously entered, searched the wizard’s corpse and jimmied open some locks and secret doors. They found all the goodies, and then just as the goblin was running out of paper, they slipped out of the room through the secret door (I had really hoped they would go down the stairs to the sub-level, but alas). 
  • The frog went to 27 LOBBY and started listening at some doors. They left the doors alone and went north, peering down the hallway and seeing the doors for 32 through 37. 
  • At room 32 SPARRING ROOM the frog listened at the door again: he heard some wet bodies wrestling around. He said “sounds fun” and opened the door to see six pitlings sparring. They rolled an 11 on their reaction roll, so I said that they all paused for a moment before one just reached over and closed the door in his face. Everyone had a good laugh at that and then moved on. 
  • One by one, they cautiously opened the doors to room 34 TABLE, found nothing, 35 BLOSSOM LOUNGE, were wary of the crackling blossom time energy field, 36 BATHROOM, recoiled at the stench, and 37 CHAPEL. 
  • The frog plucked a tiny piece of his slime and tossed it into 35 BLOSSOM LOUNGE to see what would happen. I described the slime as moving around very quickly, growing in size, but then suddenly starving to death all in a manner of minutes.
  • The halfling wizard questioned exactly what they were seeing. He asked if it seemed like time was passing normally for the slime, or if it was a perspective trick. He really interrogated the nature of the time room, and I said it seemed like time passed normally from the perspective of the slime. 
  • At this point, I kind of became confused about the room and its implications. The wizard asked a few more questions, and then confidently entered. I realized that this room was not as dangerous as I thought it would be: the way I had it set up basically meant that someone could enter into it as basically a hyperbolic time chamber from Dragon Ball Z, which is not what I intended. I thought they might throw a pitling in there and watch it age into dust or something. 
  • Basically I got totally dunked on with this one, and the player took a rest to regain all his HP, chilled out, and investigated the room for treasure, confident that he would be able to just walk out of the room again and only seconds would have passed. I could have just let him have it, but I didn’t want to get totally boofed. 
  • I quickly thought back to the slime piece that went in—I had stated that it ran around the room a bunch before starving to death. That doesn’t really make sense, as it could have tried to leave rather than starve. So on the fly I decided that the entrance was one-way-only. As soon as the wizard tried to leave, he came upon a force field in front of him. I narrated to the other players that they saw him enter, and the begin to move rapidly, searching the room and taking a rest very quickly. But then at the end, they saw him start slamming his hands against the entranceway, obviously trapped. I specifically kept saying it had been “less than 10 seconds,” hoping that it might remind them of the time watch they had (thinking that they could rewind 10 seconds and prevent the wizard from entering). 
  • Instead, the pixie used her highest level spell and cast Dispel Magic, ending the effect. Good use of the spell I think. The halfling exited and was grateful for being rescued. He then immediately went into 37 SMALL CHAPEL and pulled the lever, spraying acid on himself. What a fool. 
  • The party returned to 27 LOBBY and opened the door to 28 BEETLE CLOSET. They blasted the beetle into oblivion and then opened 30 JUICING ROOM. The frog triggered the door trap but didn’t fall into the juice pit: the enraged pitling was quickly dispatched, and they hauled themselves back into the lobby. The party also opened the door to room 29, but alas! There is no entry for room 29 in my key! I must have missed that room when making the dungeon. Big oops on my part. 
  • The last thing they did was go to 33 KITCHEN, where they were very suspicious of the red jelly hanging from the ceiling. They avoided it as they searched the room, but at the last minute the frog got really suspicious and thought it might be a slime relative of his pet slime. He noticed some objects deep within the jelly and used his slime to slime-merge together with the jelly to extract them. They were covered in a coating of crystallized sugar, which when broken apart revealed a spatula and bowl. Useless. 
  • That was the end of a wonderful 6-hour session. Everybody had a great time and we agreed to pick up where we left off next week. 
Cherry jelly. 

Session 2

  • The party continued northwest and started exploring the crypts. 
  • They fought some leather mummies, finding them easy to dispatch.
  • They found the two smilodon in 41 CHAPEL CRYPTS and rolled really well on the reaction roll, so they were more curious than aggressive. 
  • For a lot of these creatures, I first started with gibberish languages and charades. That is certainly fun for a bit, but it gets old fast. Eventually I dropped it and just gave them accents and bad grammar to showcase their ancient language. Something to think about in the future.
  • They joined forces with the two smilodon (who had been asleep in their cryo-chambers for 10,000 years and therefore hadn’t seen any of this upper level) and kept exploring. 
  • They went up to the seasonally-themed ossuaries and rolled the Floating Cherry Skull on the random encounter table. It got a terrible reaction roll and immediately starting blasting them with fire spells. 
  • The halfling wizard got knocked down immediately, but everyone piled attacks onto the skull and brought it down in one round. Very fun and dangerous fight!
  • The two smilodon didn’t like that and ran away, heading back down to their sub-level.
  • The party healed up their halfling buddy and kept going. They fought some leather mummies but got bored of those weaklings fast, so just closed the door on the last few and kept going. 
  • In 11 DRUID CRYPTS the barbarian found the bear tonic and drank one without knowing what it was. He loved the bear ability and used it to goof around. 
  • They explored a few more rooms before returning to 41 CHAPEL CRYPTS and headed down the stairs. 
  • The doors downstairs were a lot tougher, I decided, and they found them difficult to break through when locked. They got through the east door and then headed south. 
  • They poked their heads into a few doors, meeting the ice servants and the giant snail. They heard loud eating noises behind a locked door (S17 CAVE BEAR CHAPEL) so kept going. 
  • They came upon S19 GHOUL SLOTHS and were very creeped out. The sloths wanted meat desperately and the party was having none of it. They retreated back and the barbarian (new player who missed the first session) cast a spell to speak to the snail. 
  • I hadn’t planned a personality for the snail, but it was sucking bones so I made it very bone-focused. The barbarian brought a couple armfuls of bones from the other rooms, gaining its favour. He convinced the snail that a door was made of stone and wood—i.e. the bones of the earth and trees. Would the snail be so kind as to suck up the door to S17 CAVE BEAR CHAPEL?
  • The snail agreed and the group retreated into S14 WEST OSSUARY to have a rest. 

This is the picture I used for the ghoul sloths. 

Session 3

  • By the time they finished their rest the snail had eaten through the door so they approached carefully. The bear was now asleep and they did some finagling of the trapped door and remaining chunks of door. 
  • The barbarian has an affinity for bears (and one more bear tonic potion) so he transformed and tried to bargain with the cave bear, bear-to-bear. He rolled a neutral reaction roll so wasn’t impressed. Just wanted to be left alone. 
  • The bear-barian kept pushing and things went south and they started a bit of a fight, with some party members pushing past into S33 TAR PIT. The bear eventually surrendered and the whole group entered the tar pit room. 
  • A smilodon was trying to rescue his mammoth from the tar so the pixie transformed into a great bear and went to help. 
  • The frog went north and recklessly opened the door to S34 MAMMOTH JERKY, revealing six smilodon warriors who were not impressed at the trespass. A big fight broke out but eventually the warriors were subdued. The shirtless mammoth-keeper and the leader of the group of six got in a big argument and somebody mentioned “the Countess.” 
  • The group latched onto that immediately and wanted to go fight her. Fair enough!
  • They rested in the jerky room and really bonded with the shirtless guy, who spoke of his wonderful god Seleno, the white lion. The party shrugged and headed south for the lair of the Countess. 
  • They absolutely just burst in guns blazing and found her hanging on the ceiling in her mosquito form. 
  • What followed was a very very long fight. The mosquito vampire and her slaves had a regenerative ability so they kept soaking up tons of damage without dying. The vampire kept trying to hypnotize and bite people, and finally captured the halfling wizard. She enchanted him and then started sucking blood. He got severely weakened but eventually the team chased her out into the tar pit area and the frog tried to swallow her like a bug. 
  • That didn't quite work but he started wrestling her into the hot tar, and the goblin blasted her into the sludge with a spell. She was in her mosquito form and therefore quite weak in terms of physical strength. I ruled that the sticky tar was too much for her to transform. I did some maths—with the damage from the tar combined with her regenerative form and being too weak to escape, I ruled that she was trapped alive in burning tar for eternity.
  • The party loved that and celebrated their hard-won victory. A very fun turn of events to be sure. 
  • For good measure, the blasted the methane gas off the tar with a big fireball. Very fun! They started branching out to explore nearby rooms, but unfortunately the methane kept burning. Uh oh! Pretty soon the room would be completely aflame and impassable, so they rushed around to try to find anything good (just the room full of blood machine and mosquito) and then they all went up the north-east passage to S36 SERVANTS PANTRY before the room became too inflamed to traverse. 
  • They kept going and saw the back of the old smilodon tinkerer in S38 GEAR WORKSHOP, then poked into S41 PILLAR ROOM and saw the spinning blades. We left it there and called it a night. 

A mammoth. They named her Mammantha. 

Session 4

  • Starting again in the pillar room, they tried blasting a pillar with some spells, but I said it would take a while and attract attention, so they went back into S38 GEAR WORKSHOP and tried talking to the wacky old smilodon. He was being old and not helpful so they sort of ignored him. The frog took his lightning box and zapped the old man, killing him instantly. He was kind of surprised by that but liked the lightning box. 
  • They kept going north and checked out S9 FACTORY. I mis-read my own notes and had the machine chugging along at full speed, rather than frozen in place. I said they were manufacturing 1-inch ball bearings which were getting dropped into an almost-full mine cart. The frog immediately became obsessed and wanted to know what would happen when the cart filled to the top. 
  • They started spreading out and exploring more rooms, including S8 CRYO-CHAMBER (sniffing around to see what the difference between the tanks was), S6 CRYO-MENAGERIE (leaving the dinosaurs alone for now), and S7 LABORATORY. 
  • In the snow room the pixie and halfling started having a snowball fight. 
  • At this point I decided that everybody had been having too much fun and feeling too safe. I wanted their presence to be having an effect, so they heard a deep leonine voice coming from the corridor: Seleno the White Lion. He was flanked by the two smilodon warriors they had met upstairs (named Joe and Exotic), plus two rhinocetaur guards and a white-furred smilodon mage. 
  • Seleno was polite but he demanded fealty in his kingdom. The players knew this could be a tough fight so they generally kneeled and made to obey him. 
  • The halfling wizard wanted to blast him with a fireball, but realized he had used his last 3-rd level spell on a magic snowball fight, leaving him with nothing. He did an about-face and fully gave up, lying down on the floor to go to sleep, and then letting himself be dragged into S3 LIBRARIUM by Joe and Exotic. 
  • The frog got taken to S5 ICE TEMPLE and guarded by the rhinocetaurs, and the pixie and goblin were taken into S3 LIBRARIUM by Seleno and the mage. 
  • The barbarian’s player was missing this session so he had mysteriously disappeared. 
  • Seleno began lecturing everyone and started insinuating that he needed one of them for a ritual. 
  • Soon it became clear that he was going to slice somebody wide open and use their entrails to divine the future. Everybody decided they had had enough and booked it. 
  • The goblin and pixie ran back into S7 LABORATORY and tried to escape down the back hall. The halfling turned invisible and tried to steal away. The frog heard the commotion and tricked the rhinocetaurs into staying behind as he raced out. 
  • Everyone started trying to run, but Seleno blasted out with his magic cold-lion-roar, instantly killing the halfling wizard. Joe the smilodon knocked out the pixie before she could escape, but the goblin kept running. He stopped to let out a T-Rex from its forcefield, and kept going. He eventually skidded into S10 AMPHITHEATRE and hid beneath the sleeping stegosaurus. 
  • The frog ran to the dinosaur room and let loose the triceratops as well. I let the halfling’s player control the dinosaurs, as they were mad at their smilodon captors and therefore generally on the gang’s side. 
  • The frog convinced the gear gremlins to knock over their cart in the corridor, letting loose a thousand ball bearings down the hall, slowing everybody down. Except Seleno, who started flying through the air and blowing magic cold blasts every which way. 
  • A huge fight ensued, with the frog getting knocked down and only his slime companion remaining. The rhinos, one smilodon warrior, and the mage all got killed. The dinosaurs got whittled down but eventually the T-Rex ripped off Seleno’s head. Without those dinosaurs they definitely would not have been able to win the fight. 
  • Once Seleno was taken out, his remaining warrior jumped on the mammoth and fled. 
  • The goblin came out of hiding as the three dinosaurs reunited and started cuddling each other (cute) and dragged his unconscious companions into the tinkerer old man cat’s bedroom for a rest. 
  • After their rest they decided that they had delved too deep and another fight like that would take them out. They headed back to the large rooms to grab some stuff from the glass cabinet in S6 CRYO-MENAGERIE and heard noises coming from S3 LIBRARIUM. The goblin strode in confidently to find three nude wet smilodon (recently awoken from the chamber in S8 CRYO-SLEEP CHAMBER) and the remaining injured warrior, standing over Seleno’s headless body trying to decide what to do. 
  • The goblin successfully intimidated them into submission by claiming defeat over Seleno, pilfering magic moon gems from his pockets, and blasting the injured warrior into the wall with a blast of magic. 
  • They explored this last room, gathering some old scrolls as treasure, and opened the door to S4 DIVINATION ROOM to sadly find their shirtless mammoth-keeper smilodon dead, gutted, and entrail-divined. 
  • And with that, they called it a day and retreated back up the stairs to 42 TOP STAIRWELL and then out the entrance stairs at 1 STAIRWELL. 

Seleno the White Lion. 

Lessons Learned

Thus went the Cherry Crypts. Overall they found over 20,000 sp worth of treasure, some choice magic items, and only got one party member killed. Pretty successful delve. Everybody had a lot of fun and I did too. 

My favourite moments were all ones where they surprised me with choices and decisions. I purposefully jammed a lot of "toys" and things to play with into this dungeon. A lot of random crap that I just threw in without thinking ended up being incredibly helpful, like the scrolls used to placate the three-headed ferret beast. I am going to keep doing that. Putting lots of play-things into a dungeon leads to surprise. 

Something I did not like was my choice to have everyone speak an ancient unknowable language. It is no fun to do charades all the time. And more importantly, it IS FUN to talk to things. In the future, I will maybe keep it to a maximum of one creature or faction without a common language, and just hand-wave the rest into sharing a tongue. 

I also felt like this dungeon was a bit too big. It was certainly fun, but by the end I was getting a bit sick of it. This might be helped by having larger encounter tables (I got sick of those stupid leather mummies faster than my players did) or by having more entrances and exits so they can leave and return more often. 

Overall I had a great time. I haven't made a dungeon this large in a long time and I think it taught me a lot about how I want to keep running games in the future. Thanks for reading. 

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