4Ward/FrankenFourth: Age of Worms, Episode 406

  • Humal (level 6 wrathful cambion wizard)
  • Corzale (level 6 dwarf war cleric)
  • Sumia (level 6 elf rogue/ranger)

The spongy-yet-stone secret door opened into a narrow, pitch black corridor. Sumia had Corzale hold her torch while she snuck ahead to scout it out, but she wasn't able to make it far due to the darkness. Still, she learned that many of the walls looked to be mirrors, and that the corridor branched off at several points.

The party decided to stick along the outermost wall of the corridor, hoping that it would at least make it more difficult for whatever they were certain was lying in wait to ambush them. Case in point, once they'd all filed in something attacked the rearmost skeleton, and per Humal's instructions it chased its assailant out of sight.

During the chaos, Sumia spotted something vaguely like a face peering from behind one of the mirrored walls, but when she pursued it a panel slammed in place behind her, separating her from the rest of the party. Sumia was able to see flickering light from Corzale's torch from another direction, but little else, and when she tried to regroup with the rest of the party whatever had lured her away began stabbing her.

The walls were metal, or at least seemed like metal, but were fortunately thin enough for Corzale's maul to punch through with a few strikes. Still carrying Sumia's torch, they both saw what had lured her away. It was roughly humanoid, pale, and almost looked to be made of wax. The only mark on its otherwise smooth face was the thin scratch of what they assumed was a mouth. It had two arms, but one was much larger and longer and covered in spiky protrusions.

Corzale shielded Sumia from the creature, battering it with her hammer while Sumia loosed arrows, and like the other, actually human-looking doppelgangers it collapsed into a puddle of pale ooze when slain.

Humal commanded his skeletons to attack everyone but Corzale and Sumia, which was when something that looked like Sumia dived upon one of his skeletons and began frantically stabbing at it with a fist-turned-punching dagger. He then commanded his skeletons to attack the Doppel-Sumia, and once they surrounded it the real Sumia was able to maneuver behind it and lodge an arrow into the back of its skull.

While they regrouped, they realized that they were essentially wandering in a maze with mostly mirrored walls. Sumia marked various mirrors with doppelganger ooze, and they soon found a door. It opened into a short passage, which ended in a wall that Sumia discovered was illusionary. Beyond the wall was a wide, octagonal room with more mirrored walls and a circle of chairs at its center. Humal scanned the room with his arcane sight, and discovered that a section of the wall was also illusionary, beyond which was one of the bedrooms they'd investigated earlier.

They returned to the maze and continued exploring until they came across another door. This one opened into a very large chamber, which was both fortunately well-lit and didn't feature yet more mirrors. Bottles, tubes, and other strange machinery was heaped against one of the walls. Amidst the tangled mess was Filge, unconscious and strapped to a table, with a strange helmet attached to his head. On the other side of the chamber, an elaborate throne was perched atop a raised platform.

Eligos was seated in the throne.

Humal asked what he was doing, and he calmly replied that they'd requested information, so he was helping them. He then tried turning the party against Sumia, by stating and answering questions that they'd asked her previously in the mirror-maze to confirm her identity, before following it all up with information that none of them had brought up since their arrival in Dovin.

This both unnerved Sumia and prompted Humal and Corzale to attack. Corzale charged at Eligos, just barely evading a pit trap in front of a set of stairs leading up to the throne, while Humal's skeletons maneuvered about to trap him. Eligos blasted Corzale with fire, but once she'd closed the distance his form changed into that of an axe-wielding bugbear, revealing him to also be some sort of doppelganger.

Humal tried charming him, but when that failed he resorted to conjuring illusionary boxes around his head. Doppeligos remarked about this classic Humal strategy, before reverting back to his "original" form and unleashed more arcane fire upon Humal, just before Corzale splattered him across the floor.

With her companions facing off against Doppeligos, Sumia attempted to free Filge. But, once she cut the straps binding him to the table, he suddenly transformed into a fleshy mass and attacked her. She was unsure as to whether this was truly Filge, a clone, or some other trick, but he didn't respond to her and seemed fully intent on killing her. Fortunately his movement was both slow and clumsy, allowing her to get some distance and kill him with a few well-placed arrows.

While using her maul to shove as much of Doppeligos's jellied remains into the pit, Corzale noticed numerous metal rods and a pair of crystals amidst the mess. The rods explained why Humal's charm had failed: cold iron was naturally resistant to arcane magic. The crystals radiated something akin to divination magic, and while that wasn't Humal's area of expertise he theorized that they contained memories from other creatures.

Sweeping the room with his arcane sight, Humal discovered that some of the machinery was magical, specifically a few clusters of slowly expanding crystals in viscous, fluid-filled jars. Other jars contained brains, which supported Humal's theory and explained how they went about it.

Searching the rest of the room, they found a door behind the throne, which led to a lavishly furnished bedroom. Thanks to Humal's arcane sight they were easily able to identify several magic items, in addition to a chest filled with thousands of silver pieces, a wardrobe packed with clothes, a ritual scroll that Humal would need to translate later, and more documents detailing various treaties and other dealings in Dovin.

One of the magic items was a roughly spherical stone, covered in what looked like scratch marks. When Humal touched it, a voice spoke in his head, instructing him to meet the speaker at the "sewer junction" to discuss the removal of several "troublesome small minds".

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Design Notes
While running these adventures, I've been mostly going by the numbers when it comes to monsters (for treasure I convert it to sp and then usually reduce it, because you can't load up on magic items). This is bad because these adventures were written for 3rd Edition, which requires you to rework monsters so that they're an appropriate challenge.

Case in point, the doppelgangers aren't just doppelgangers, because their math isn't good enough for the math that the characters will be expected to have in this adventure. So, they've got four fighter levels tacked on. The mini-boss is a made-from-scratch, beefed up doppelganger that's I guess intended to challenge a party of whatever level they're supposed to be.

During all of the fights, Sumia didn't suffer any Wound damage, which sucks but maybe isn't that bad considering what's going to happen next (and what happened before, namely her losing a bunch of Wounds), but it still felt too easy. I thought about bumping up monster levels so they'd last longer, but then I realized that since FrankenFourth has actually flat math you don't need to do any of that.

Rather than throw arbitrarily beefed up doppelgangers (and/or drow) at them, I could just use more than what the adventure lists. So, instead of two in the mirror maze, I should have used three or four. When they fought Doppeligos, I added one posing as Filge (since the adventure mentioned one fleeing from the maze to warn him), but given that he was supposed to be a kind of mid-boss I should have added in another pair, maybe even three.

As for adventure changes, we were running out of time and I wanted to get this leg of the adventure done, so skipped over having a bunch of shit show up in the octagon room.

If you're curious about FrankenFourth and/or Dungeons & Delvers, you can find public alpha documents here and here respectively.

A Sundered World is out (and also available in dead-tree format)! If you for some reason don't want the entire setting, you can just snag the races and classes.

The Cleric is out! Next up, The Paladin and probably The Mimic, after which we'll run another class vote.

By fan demand, we've mashed all of our 10+ Treasure volumes into one big magic item book, making it cheaper and more convenient to buy in print (which you can now do).

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