Shadow over Alfheim pt3 – Maze of Nuromen, concluded

My group wrapped up the Maze of Nuromen on Friday night, and as much as I enjoy the module as a reader of modules, as a DM I’m thankful that it’s over.

I know that a DM should always assume nothing, but I was at least hoping that I wouldn’t be dealing with a party that was chaotic stupid. Having a Thief in the party (played by someone I wasn’t expecting to show up) changed the group dynamic enough that it brought to light some serious flaws in both my own DMing and in the module. I had really thought that playing the stereotypical asshole evil thief was so played out and such a negative stereotype that it wasn’t a thing anymore. I was wrong.

While the fighter picked the pieces of the gallows off the cleric, I took up with the goblins who were camping at the bottom of the stairs on level 2. This group was now comprised of a few level 0 npc goblins, a level 2 character goblin, a level 1 elf pretending to be a human magic user, and a (barely)  level 3 goblin thief (I handwaved racial restrictions to quickly deal with an unanticipated complication), who I’m not sure understood that he was considered an asshole by goblin standards even.

The goblins broke camp and returned through the dining hall. Seeing that one of the harpies was dead, the NPC goblins took some time to loot banquet hall, with the thief taking some too, of course. Instead of immediately going for the prison wing where, the the Fighter and Cleric were, they went to the pantry first, and did some raiding of the stores. While they did, some skeletons showed up. Not as many skeletons as I rolled up, mostly because I didn’t feel like running that big a combat (they would’ve been fighting 8 skeletons with max HP; I put them up against 3). Glad I didn’t, because everyone was making lousy rolls, and it was the NPC goblins who did the most heavy lifting during the fight.

One goblin was mortally wounded, but was allowed to live via some DM generousity. After tending to the wounded goblin, they started hitting up the elf wine, figuring that since there was no way to haul it out of the dungeon, they might as well enjoy what they could then and there. The PC Goblin and Elf convinced the goblins, reluctant to stay in the dungeon, to stick around for at least one more day.

The Cleric and Fighter clumisly made their way back to where they found the drunken goblin party. After some awkward introductions, they finally got the ball rolling and found
Nuromen’s private chambers. I had a lot of fun describing the tapestries in the room, adding some of my own little details, but man, there is so much going on that room, and with 5 people all wanting to do different things, it took some serious crowd control to get things back on track. The elf was curious about the tapestries, and ended up taking one of them. The Goblin checked the drawers, and ended up taking the puppet, having some fun with that. The Thief and Cleric checked the bed. The Thief, being chaotic asshole, disregarded the bodies and pocketed Anthea’s bracelet without even looking at it (“The child’s wearing a silver bracelet with an inscription in ancient elvish”, “Yeah, whatever, i take it, what else is there here to steal?”). Thus the password proved too much a lynchpin of the dungeon. Without that clue, there was no way the party was going to get through the horror door unless I gave them reminders. First, i let them squirm a bit to see if they’d figure it out on their own, but they didn’t.

Leaving the bedchambers, they party found the groto and poked around a bit. The guy playing the Fighter was joking about getting naked in the fountain, so I figured that was a great opportunity to have a Giant Fire Beetle bite his hand. Late in the first round, the Fighter was asking everyone what, if anything, would be the benefits of fighting the Fire Beetles. Maybe because of how he asked it, I ruled that he lost his next combat round because he was asking the NPC goblins existential questions while a fire beetle was biting his hand. The other players all concurred that this was the appropriate (and amusing) response.

Anyway, the beetles were killed, leaving the players wondering if there was anything worthwhile in the Grotto. I let the Cleric know that based on his own knowledge of plants, he could tell everyone that everything in the garden was poisonous such that even touching it was not the best idea.

At some point, I don’t remember exactly when, but it was after they raided the bedchambed, the party camped for the night so the cleric could heal the dying goblin. On the second watch, Nuromen’s ghost wailed angrily. On the final watch (the thief’s), the ghost wailed again, shrieking curses, and mentioned the name “Anthea”. Of course the Thief, playing Chaotic Asshole wrote it off and told the party it was nothing. He got his comeuppance in the barrack’s though. Being a dude who tried to steal everything, he got hurt pretty badly in a surprise attack by the skeletons at the gaming table. Two more NPC goblins got killed in this scrap, at which point the goblins said it was time to go home.

The party continued to be confounded a bit by the dead-ends both on the second floor and the torture room, though they came up with a pretty elaborate scheme to grease the view-port of the iron door, so I let them get a glimpse inside. But seeing as they were going to be stuck unless I gave them a nudge, a few of the goblins, who were going to try to take a barrel or two of wine back with them, said “Hey, check that guy’s pockets, we saw him steal something back in the bedroom off that corpse.” Provided now with the information needed to get past the horror door, the party proceeded to Nuromen’s study.

This was another difficult room to run, since there was so much stuff in it and so much going on. The cleric made a bee-line for the bookshelves, since they were sent to find a book. For simplicity sake, I let all the books on the shelf be ruined ala Myst, but the Cleric found the secret door and went down it. Meantime, the thief is stealing exploding potions, and the goblin lets the frog out, which caused a bit of madness.

The cleric takes the Book of Power, the elf takes the two spellbooks, and the goblin takes the keys. The Cleric and Fighter have their objective, and Elf has some new spellbooks. The thief wants more treasure, and the Fighter and Goblin concur, so they decide to go on. The torture room is torturous, and the thief gets more treasure. The iron maiden has an angry zombie; I decided that the zombie is stuck on the spikes and can’t get out, so I gave him extra HP to see what the party would do. They spent about 4 rounds making sure it was dead, rather than just closing it back up.

The hall of Statues was a bit of an unsuccessful test of the party’s dedication. They got about halfway there, they really did! The fighter made his save after he turned the head the wrong way. The elf came up with an elaborate pulley to turn the other statue’s head, but turned it the wrong way. They gave up before trying to turn the heads the other way.

After finding the illuminated manuscript with the dead evil cleric, the party leaders decided they were laiden with treasures in the form of the 4 books and chest they couldn’t open, and decided that they’d head back to Alfort for their reward and wrapup.

So, Nuromen doesn’t show up, which means he’s now going to be an angry (and possibly recurring) villain, with a grudge against the elf, the cleric, and the thief.

I’m going to be sending my players some of their item assessments by email, after I tally up their XP. The Minstrel got to recur, this time playing in the tavern. (“You see. I was wrong. Caelden’s not coming back. He’s already here!”) I’m still trying to figure out the best way to assess items & calculate XP for things. As much as I like the realism of not giving out the value of non-coin treasures and not giving the exact number of coins in chests unless the party takes a turn or two to count them, I feel like it’s going to be a mechanical stumbling block, and a personal stumbling block for myself, since I’m having to keep track of treasures rather than just handing them off to my players.

Anyway, unless they decide to return to Laws End to continue looting, this will be the end of Maze of Nuromen. Again, it was harder to run than I would’ve liked, but going through with a highlighter helped tremendously. Also, have some contingencies if the party can’t figure out the Bracelet clue.

I hope I will find out after a few emails, but the players will either be taking on the Old Island Fortress, the Zombraire’s Estate, or Tower of Dreams in the next session.

Anyway, I won’t be around for most of the rest of this week, so it will take longer than usual to approve comments from new posters, but I’ll try to have a little bit of content scheduled for while I’m gone.

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7 responses to “Shadow over Alfheim pt3 – Maze of Nuromen, concluded

  1. Hm. Reading this has me thinking about the dungeon flowcharts from the other day. Or was it the same day? Either way I’m only just getting to this post. Imagining the various goings-on has been an interesting exercise.

    –Dither

  2. Great account, Alex. So what would you have done differently, in hindsight? I agree there is quite a lot going on in some of the rooms. I don’t think the password is that much of a stumbling block, because brute force will also work in getting through the door. Plus, there is always the option of going the other way, which my groups somehow managed to do – they never take the “obvious” route, possibly due to that Wall of Overthinking™ they seem to keep running into.

    Anyway, it sound like fun was had in various quantities! 🙂

    • Really, the main thing I would change would be taking the essential facts of the room, placing them at the beginning, then traps/encounters, and lastly fun little tidbits about the room’s history. Ultimately, doing some highlighting was all it really took.

      As for the password, the only reason it was a stumbling block is because the rather uninquisitive evil thief is the one who grabbed the bracelet without bothering to look at it. On the fun side, he hasn’t suffered any negative consequences for using the magic cursed mace… on account of him being evil.

      Interestingly, no one in my group tried the brute force method on the door, which kind of surprises me.

      • Having played a few other modules and given the hindsight of comparison, I’d like to add that I feel like the Blueholme dungeon is more conducive to exploration and problem-solving than some of the other things I’ve been running the last few sessions. It has been a striking contrast. I’ve run bits of two different BFRPG modules, and both have been exercises in cascading encounters. If you ever write more Blueholme modules or open it up to other writers, I’d like to encourage you and your writers to use Maze as a model, emphasizing exploration over encounter. Though some of the descriptions were difficult to handle without doing some highlighting, there were a lot more roleplaying opportunities when the players weren’t under a constant deluge of monsters.

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