Session 15: Should I pull that lever…?

Last time I tried the AngryDM version for recapping. I’m not going to use that method here on the blog, as this blog-text is also a record of our game for me and the players. However, it works well at the table before the game (we tried it), and for readers of the blog, who are not part of the group, a short recap at the beginning could also be useful, so I will try to include it in the future.

I also want to write something about my approach to dungeon design and my pet peeves and preferences, but I will do it in a separate post. But a couple of things I try to keep in mind for this dungeon are:

  • Attrition of PC resources is key, which is one of the reasons why wandering monsters are important. They can interrupt rest and slowly drain spells and HP.
  • The order in which the group tackles dungeon areas should matter.

Brief recap:

The group is exploring a distant continent. They live in a small settlement, and have been informed by the local elves of a valuable source of iron. When they get there, it turns out to be an abandoned mine, and the previous session ended with a gas explosion, the tunnel collapsing behind them and an attack by Grimlocks, which they survived…

Deeper into the Mine we go: 

After defeating the Grimlocks, the group is somewhat burnt and worn from the explosion and combat, and have a short rest before they begin finding a way out. The aging dwarf Korrick, with his bum leg and mostly sage advice, is the only one who feels truly comfortable that deep underground. The young leader Yarn feels out of his depth (but conceals it) and the mysterious and socially inept half-orc warrior Arak has a hard time deciding if decapitating 20 Grimlocks is worth the effort. The mine is vast, but there is a monorail through the main mine shaft that they decide to follow. Initially they discover another vertical shaft after about 200 meters, and are attacked by a single Giant Bat (wandering monster), but decide to push on instead of going down.

At the end of the horizontal mine shaft, another 200 meters further on, they see light. They find a room with a stout door with a magical silver elven face on it, and a partly collapsed tunnel where the light is coming from. The elven face speaks and requires a password, and the light turns out to be from a dozen giant firebeetles feeding on the corpse of a big Displacer Beast.

They deduce that the area around the door is warded, the face is not a Magic Mouth spell, but more an intricate magic item, so they suppress the magic on the door and unlock it. Inside they find the former overseer of the mine, who has taken his own life with a magical dagger and carved a message into his desk:

“The End is coming. Defense is meaningless. I’ll see you soon honey.”

The visualization of the Mines of Moria in the LOTR movie was great, and the journey in the dark is something which I try to emulate. More on that in a future post…


They could see that he killed himself. The door was locked from the inside. Does it mean that the elves awoke something in the dark? (Or would that be too cliché…??)


The group also kill the firebeetles and take their useful light emitting glands.

Next to the overseer office they also found a final shaft, which sloped down with stairs on each side, and with the monorail running in the middle. They follow the shaft down for about 150 meters before they reach an open area, with the shaft continuing down and two major exits. The open area also has a greenish light spilling from the side, and to one side of the open area they could see five copper cylinders connected to a sort of console with a handle and some crystal dials. The first thing they investigate is the console and the cylinders. The wizard simply pulls the lever, which releases five metal automatons which attack (had they investigated further, they might have found a way to avoid the attack by the automatons – thus it was an optional encounter). Impulse control is one of the things players/characters rarely have… The five automatons are tough with two attacks and high AC (and it doesn’t help that I roll five natural 20s during the encounter), but they survive with a broken nose and a bruised kidney (using my Crit system), so there will be some blood pissing.

They decide to have a short rest, but they hear another automaton approaching (random encounter). To my positive surprise, they retreat back up the stairs, and the automaton walks around a bit before it returns from where it came.

Finally, they investigate the green light, after passing through some sort of workshop, where they used to repair the automatons. It turns out that there is a room with natural light, and it is completely overgrown with plants, primarily vegetables, fruits and nuts – such as beans and tomatoes. The druid speaks with the plants and learns that something lurks within. They cautiously enter, and encounter three Gricks and a Grick Alpha. As I manage to miss with all of the Alphas bite attacks (doing 4d8+4 in damage), the encounter doesn’t become as dangerous as it is on paper. But I liked the jungle mood underground. Afterwards they find two adjoining rooms, which the ancient elves used for rest and relaxation, and they decide to do a full rest there, which we ended the session with.

too many players
Splitting the party would mean running two games – not really an option…

Afterthoughts: Particularly group size

You could feel that we were “only” five players, as two players we unable to attend. Things went just a bit more swiftly. At 5th level combat begins to take longer, and having six or seven players can impact the game negatively, because the interval between each PC acting increases, it reduces the amount of spotlight time for each character and discussions have to be cut short(er). By having an appointed leader, the discussions lead to quick decisions in-game, which is good, and my players are good at rolling attack and damage at the same time, a player tracks initiative and so on, so we do what we can to alleviate it. However, we approach 10th level it is not going to improve. In our Temple of Elemental Evil game a couple of weeks ago, we also had 7 players at 5th level, and we almost only had one big encounter. That is ok for a major boss battle (and it was the Water Temple), but it is something I would like to avoid, and it wasn’t equally fun for all players. On the other hand, I have seven great players, who are all my close personal friends, and it is impossible for me to ditch anyone from what I think is a really fun group. Down the road, I may have to resort to rotating one player out each session, so we never are more than six players. But let’s see how it goes…





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