I have been very reluctant to try and give a good account of what three sessions inside a funhouse dungeon look like. Suffice it say that the party ran into and triggered quite a number of traps, encountered countless constructs and undead, got separated and lost most of their NPCs. As a Referee, I really enjoyed running the thing and it seriously challenged my players. Having run enough of these over the years, I recognize mental exhaustion when I see it. So, in place of three long-overdue posts, I'll give you some of the highlights from the last three sessions:
- Feeding the dragon. Part of the equipment bought by the party was several sheep and goats, specifically for the purpose of giving their "pet" dragon live prey. They very carefully open the bag (an earlier attempt resulted in the near death of an NPC) and the dragon has enough room to reach out a grab a bite to eat. They carefully worked out a pattern so that everybody (including the dragon) knows what to expect.
- Maze Madness. The characters very quickly found themselves caught inside the Minotaur Maze. One of the rooms has a arena with a pair of mechanical gladiators. Once two characters entered the room, a mechanical king and queen split the party into teams to fight along side one of these gladiators. Characters could not damage the gladiator on their own side, nor the king and queen. Once one side had won, the room would reset after the party left the room and would start all over again once two party members re-entered the room. This became hysterically funny when this aspect of the room was first discovered. Hamlen was trying to recover from having stepped in some green slime. He managed to climb up to a bridge crossing a pool of the stuff after losing one of his spiked boots, which got slimed. As the rest of the party was trying to figure out how to join him up on the bridge without likewise getting slimed, a Coffer Corpse attacked Hamlen. He clubbed it for over 6 points of damage, it "died" and he kicked it off the bridge. One round later, it revived. All but the dwarf and one NPC (neither of which had magical weapons to damage the Coffer Corpse) failed their saving throws and ran in fear — back into the arena where chaos ensued.
- The Climactic Battle. After making their way through the Minotaur Maze, the party confronted what they believe was Xerxes. They weren't entirely certain, because he was wearing the Mask stolen from the Church in Headwaters. This minor detail, however, didn't stop the party from fighting the kind of desperate fight that happens when you run into an arch-nemesis. I love to run these kinds of battles. The energy level on the table is infectious and the ingenuity and creativity of players trying to survive an onslaught of spells and special abilities is always a wonderful thing to see. When Xerxes had survived just about everything the party could throw at him, someone remembered that they had a dragon in a bag. Everybody retreated except for Hamlen, who opened the bag in the general direction of Xerxes. Although extremely happy to have survived, the party soon discovered the downside of this particular strategy. All those magic items Xerxes was using are now in the bag with a very angry dragon who regenerates.
- Choices, choices. The party set off a trap that allowed a rather large amount of acid to seep into various parts of the dungeon. In process of running away from this very real threat they found a room with a puzzle that promised riches or death. They knew that by the time they figured out the puzzle, the acid would block their way out. This didn't stop them from seriously considering staying and going for those riches anyway.
- It is always a good night when players lift up their hands in triumph because they got out of a dungeon alive.
- The 3.5 veterans had a hard time with this adventure. They knew in their bones how dangerous it was and it scared them (a quote I heard several times during the adventure: "We are never going underground again!") They also had a difficult time justifying why a funhouse dungeon would exist. ("Why would anybody build something like this?") Whereas some of the younger guys or the guys that are new to the hobby loved it.
- The Minotaur Maze was far more difficult than even I imaged it would be. The players had to keep track of rations, because starvation became a very real possibility.
- No identify spell means cursed items actually have a chance to get used.
- It is funny how a pattern of random rolls can create a narrative that becomes true even though it was never intended to be true. The party own a magic bow that gives no bonus to hit or damage, but does allow the user to shoot twice per round. Several characters have tried to use it, but when they hit, the damage die always seems to come up 1 or 2. Thus, the characters are convinced it is cursed — and a new magic item is born.