We've transitioned, as I may have mentioned, from The Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom to Anomalous Subsurface Environment, Level 3. It's been a pretty refreshing change of pace. The Pod Caverns are a decent module, I suppose, but nobody in the party found them particularly compelling. We've gotten used to a certain level of gonzo in our campaign, and that setting just seemed way too tame for this group of scaliwags. So, here's how it went down the last few sessions.
The PCs came ASE's 3rd level via deus ex machina. "Where," one of the players asked, "is the door we came through?" There was none, as I'd simply ported them into a large, relatively safe cavern. We decided it was in the ceiling. Problem solved. I've already told you of the death of Klaus the Thief (a promising lad, now dead, eaten by giant frog-thing). He represented the first character death in the entire campaign, outside of some zero-level guys. Frog-things attacked from ambush and critted him with a natural 20. He took immense damage and was swallowed. By the time anyone could free him from the belly of the creature, he was toast. After that death, the characters became a lot more cautious, though that caution led to tragic consequences for Vane Barbute, chaotic warrior, as you shall see.
The characters worked their ways through the chain of natural caverns in which they found themselves, managing to avoid several fights by not mucking about with things that seemed sketchy, eventually finding a cache of supplies. After resting there, they pressed on to find the Tomb of the Bone Lord. They entered the tomb, ready for battle, but all they found initially was a large, well-lit room, furnished like a bordello. "The room is furnished... with red velvet divans, oriental rugs, tapestries depicting elegantly dressed monsters... attending parties, and exquisitely carved mahogany coffee tables" (ASE 2&3, p. 86). The room also contained a plain stone sarcophagus and a large dining table, set for a party of 12. Several skeletons dressed in tuxedos stood ready to serve, and gestured that they should sit and partake.
As I mentioned, Vane Barbute was having none of it. Knowing as he should that this soon would become yet another way to try to kill him, he refused to sit at the table. Instead, he stood ready at the sarcophagus, aiming to cause harm to whatever inhabited it. This proved to be a poor choice, as it placed him right next to a wight (the Bone Lord), and he soon learned what "level drain" means. Also, is a sad bit of irony, Vane was the first of our DCC crew to make it to 3rd level. He literally hadn't even had a chance to roll his brand new deed die (now a d5) before a successful hit by the Bone Lord reduced him to 2nd level. I don't think that Vane's player had ever dealt with level drain before, and was a bit taken aback by it. Since I'd not yet had a chance to stat up a DCC version of the wight, we worked out the following house rule. When level drained, you make a Fort Save. If you don't save, you lose half your experience points. If you do save, you lose a quarter of your experience points and one point of Strength (permanently). It was pretty brutal. In the end, though, the party was victorious. Aram the Cleric killed the Bone Lord with the Frosthammer of Graki Deathstalker.
The rest of the creatures were dispatched, and they looted the place completely, transferring their newfound wealth to the surface, and using the proceeds to finally build their Barbie Dream House in Ur-Hadad. They built a nice one, kept the Bone Lord's furnishings (to make it classy, don't you know), and turned the main floor into a tavern. The tavern has helped to fulfill the dreams of Crag Beerbeard, James' character, whose name should tell you what those dreams were. They also added an armory/forge, a stable, and some other basic, but useful, additions. All in all, they spent a lot of their loot, but ended up with a decent pad to live in. Also, they got to move out from beneath the bridge where they had been living previously. After a brief respite, they returned to the dungeon. This time, though, it was one character per player. We've decided that this is going to be the standard from now on, in recognition of our renewed commitment to...
Nathan Explosion approves of this New Way.
We returned to the Tomb of the Bonelord, and the decided, based on a crude map they'd recovered, to head north. This was where it got fun. There was a magical trap. It made those failing the save see a vision of the Grim Reaper, following behind. Crag and Vane both failed their saves. So, Reaper Entourage. They quickly ascertained, though, that it was probably an illusion, and pretty much ignored it after that. Vane also triggered another of these traps, one that made him see the living as undead. Again, they pretty quickly figured out it was illusion, and nothing untoward followed. Also during this sequence, they party seemed a lot more cautious than usual. It's funny how not having a thief in the party and only having one character per player helps to focus the mind, isn't it?
They eventually found their way to a room with rusty metal folding chairs and a rotten podium, an assembly hall of some kind. There they found the bodies of two grey men and two weird, fish-like creatures, dead in the water between the rows of chairs, being eaten by crabs and worms. Finding no other items of interest, they pushed on to the west. The exit from the assembly hall led into a large (30 feet wide) passage, with a door directly opposite the one from which they came. Carefully (again, no thief available), they opened the door. Inside was a large, metal pedestal with a hexagonal opening in the top. A brief examination revealed a blue crystal skull resting at the bottom of the opening. They were not suckered into reaching for it, and a test with the butt of a spear showed them that it was trapped with scything blades. Vane used the handle of his maul (the Whore Whammer), a black metal monstrosity of a weapon, to stop the blades from resetting and they were able to break them and remove the skull.
To the south were two other doors. One led into a closet. Inside, on a bronze bar, were hung a bunch of space suits with bubble-like helmets. In each of them was a dead Toothman (humanoids with 3 inch, razor sharp fangs too big for their mouths). The next door revealed a very wet room, without about two feet of water on the floor. The areas they'd explored so far had had anywhere from an inch to about two feet of water in them. In this room there was a large, stainless steel tank with several nozzles pointing down toward the floor. They entered the room, and someone approached it, tripping a trap. The tank discharged liquid nitrogen, instantly freezing the water. Two of them (including Vane and the wizard formerly known as Ian) were stuck in the ice. This also served to trigger an alarm summoning the Goblin (Gray Man) Emissary and eight of his troops.
The party tried to fight, but soon were zapped with ray guns (set to stun) and rendered unconscious. At this point, I began ad-libbing madly. They awoke to find themselves taken prisoner, and being interrogated by the leader of this group. "Who," he wanted to know, "do you serve?" They had no fucking clue what to tell him. Vane (of course) began to threaten them with grievous bodily harm. The Emissary, Grolikus, was not impressed. Vane tried to break his bonds and got zapped with electricity for his troubles. Eventually, he calmed down, and Grolikus proposed a plan. If the party would do him a favor, they would be rewarded. He wanted them to destroy the Toothmen, he told them, and kill their leader.
This is where I kind of screwed up. I'd read about the factions on this level of the dungeon, but made the mistake of assuming that the Toothmen were a major faction. They weren't. Well, they are now. I'm going to have to figure out how to make that work, as it departs from the adventure as-written, but I think it'll be pretty easy to do. However, Grolikus was not finished. "I do not," he told the party, while pointing at Vane, "trust this one." So, he had one of his minions affix a tight collar of silvery metal to the chaotic warrior. Yes, of course it's an exploding collar. How could it not be? He promised to take it off later, should they fulfill his instructions to visit death upon his enemies. We shall see.
And that's about where we ended our last session.