Having destroyed the "Gate" last session, the party reported their success to Bishop Iova; however, they feared that more evil lurked beneath the Necropolis. When the bishop mentioned putting out a call for adventurers, the party immediately begged for a first crack at the job (thus far, their exploration of the dungeon beneath the Necropolis has yielded a lot of combat, but very little treasure). The bishop gave them a week head start. Healed and with shields bought and repaired, the party set off to finish the job they started.
At this point, I have to make an admission. This dungeon did not turn out the way I originally planned it — at all. When I first loosely planned this campaign, I took existing dungeon maps, modules and adventures and placed them on the campaign map in order to be prepared for any whim of the players. Originally, I placed the castle of Ravenloft in The City (now Trisagia), knowing it to be a decent dungeon crawl if handled correctly; however, I forgot just what a major headache the map was.
Thus, after being frustrated for much of a session trying to decipher which part of the map led to which and what was supposed to be there, I abandoned the map and started making things up on the fly. At my earliest convenience, I grafted an old school map onto what had already been explored and went from there. This session saw yet another unplanned shift. My family has been beset with a lot of illness recently and, though I was loath to admit it, I was physically exhausted. As we began our session, I quickly realized that I was mentally exhausted as well. I was not going to be able to run an entertaining session if I had to do much thinking — handling monsters, running combat, etc. So, I pulled out some puzzles, in order that my players could do all the thinking. As the party made its way through unexplored sections of the dungeon, I placed puzzles in rooms instead of monsters. When the party got something wrong, they would get gassed, zapped, spiked, etc.
The end result was interesting and fun, tainted by a small amount of tragedy. While experimenting with one puzzle, Hamlen's favorite spiked club failed its saving throw when it took the brunt of a lightning bolt and was burnt to a crisp. I set each puzzle up in rooms that had mosaics on three walls. The left wall had visual instructions, the right wall contained a clue and the opposite wall had someone holding a chest. When the puzzle was solved, the chest could be opened like a drawer. Needing a future explanation as to why there were little or no monsters left, and a way for them to escape with little or no detection, each "chest" contained one of a series of keys needed to open another portal (as well as some other treasure).
Thus, the party ended up exploring much of what remained of the dungeon in an entertaining way that literally opened a whole new and unexpected door for further adventure. This is why I like the old ways as much as I do. When we allow ourselves the freedom to make stuff up on the fly, it can be awesome fun.
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