Shadow over Alfheim, pt2 – Maze of Nuromen

I’ve had a lot going on! After I finish this rundown of Maze of Nuromen, I have some more thoughts on the new X-Men now that I’ve actually seen it.

First, I’d like to mention, the reason I shared that previous article, aside from my hatred of hashtag activism, is because I think Shonda Rimes is pretty awesome and what she’s saying is being decontextualized. Which is ironically why she begins with saying that she doesn’t like giving commencement speeches, because instead of being the intimate affairs they once were between the speaker and the students, they’re now posted, criticized, reviewed, and generally picked apart by anyone and everyone. But the gist of her whole speech was “Be someone who does something”; she didn’t tweet “#morewomenandpeopleofcolorinTVnow”, she actually went out there and created successful ensemble shows featuring incredibly diverse cast and crews. Yeah, it’s hard, yeah it takes a lot of work, but if it’s something you really want, you’ll put in that work to see what you want become reality.

Which segues awkwardly into the rest of this post. It’s one thing to talk about game theory and write about gaming; it’s another thing to actually run a game. It’s a lot of fun, but it takes a lot of time and a lot of work, and I’ve found that I’m fudging on things I told myself I wouldn’t fudge on, making my game a lot more forgiving than maybe a b/x game should be, though my reasoning has been that I’m running modules balanced for parties of 4-6 for two characters. When one person dies in a large party, it’s easy enough to write in a new character, a replacement. It happens often enough in stories with ensemble casts. But when there are only two characters, it’s like if mid-way through the first season of CHiPs, someone shoots Eric Estrada and he’s dead for real. Or if someone shoots Stephanie Zimbalist and Remington Steel just chugs along with some other lady. That’s not a MJS trapdoor; that’s an aborted story and probably the end of the series, or, in this case, the game.

I was really hoping to do a more in-depth review of Maze of Nuromen, but now is not a good time. First, because I’ve been crazy busy and don’t have the time to devote to it at the moment, and secondly, my players are still in the Maze! No fair giving spoilers, but I’ll talk about what I’ve done already.

In some ways, I’ve made Law’s End a lynchpin of my setting, even though I’ve changed a few things about it. In this setting, there was no entourage of elves and an elven prince, rather Nuromen himself was an elven autocrat and servant of Caelden, the wicked high elven king. The crown was a gift to Nuromen for his loyalty. I’ve also cursed it: since elves are unconscionably evil, it’s definitely not going to give any charisma bonuses to non-elves, but it might give them some affinity for the elven undead. Mwah ha ha.

One of the advantages of making Law’s end an early crawl in this setting is it just goes to illustrate how horrid and depraved and evil the elves in my setting were. And if Caelden is even more wicked than Nuromen, and he is going to return to claim his kingdom, heaven help us!

Going through the module with a highlighter and checking off the things that are important to be mentioned in the room was a tremendous amount of help. If there’s one problem with Maze of Nuromen, it’s that it feels like a module meant to be read rather than run. A lot of details, while fun and adding to the ambiance, will never be known to the players, will be difficult for a DM to work in easily, and make the room descriptions more cumbersome than they need to be.

I put the group of goblins under the control of a new player (since halflings are goblins in this setting) who wanted to play a ranger (thanks, Zenopus Archives!). He was supposed to be with a Magic User whose mentor had killed himself, driven mad by dreams of Caelden, Nuromen and Law’s End, but the player who wanted to be a MU bailed at the last second. SO, they all camped in room 16 for the duration of the short (traffic was a nightmare, and everyone was late, myself included) session. I have to take a little bit of pride in my DMing that even though this new player didn’t get into the action, opting to stay put until the other characters found him, he had a good time and enjoyed listening to the rest of the game. He also remarked how much easier it was to play and create a character than our previous 3.5 gestalt game where we spent 4+ hours creating characters while it was Ragnarok outside.

Anyway, my players who were a part of the action began some serious exploration, including the main hall, the dining hall, kitchen and dungeons. I went easy on them with the harpies and after a few hits, the harpies legitimately failed their morale checks. I could’ve had a TPK on my hands, but preferred it to be good scare. Ironically, they had more trouble with the zombie who shuffled out of the kitchen to see what was going on. They set it on fire, and then had to fight a burning zombie.

I had fun with the locked door to Nuromen’s study, though I wish that the door were described in the main hall or that the Study’s number was closer to the main hall’s, if only because there are a lot of important details about something IN the main hall that’s listed a few pages away. Again, I also had a lot of fun with the illusory prisoner; because I’d established that there were elven ghosts, they couldn’t figure out whether it was an illusion or a ghost. They eventually figured out that they were wasting their time. Now, THIS was one of the times when the additional information in the room descriptions was helpful, because it gave an idea of how to roleplay the illusory prisoner.

Anyway, the party is looking for a book that their patron has asked for them to retrieve. Ideally, they’ll bring it back, be handsomely rewarded, and the lord will have some money to begin his project to start building a harbor near Alfort. But things are never what they seem. Plus, if they leave after only completing part of the dungeon, I can always send them back for more stuff.

 

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