Saturday, July 14, 2012

BDQ3: In the Service of the Black King

This is the thrid installment in the module series BDQ The Barrow of the Dwarven Queen. The series follows a group of heroes trying to bring down the spectre of a derro dwarven queen.

1. Prep

Absolutely none. I had planned on introducing love letters, but playing Diablo 3 kept me from doing so. So I relied on previous prep.

Also, everyone was pretty exhausted and had a difficult time getting into the mood. But in the end, the story was quite satisfying.

2. Character Creation

None. Grimdrig the dwarven fighter, Durgar the dwarven cleric and Lucius the human paladin were good to go.

3. Actual Play

At the end of the last session our heroes had entered the service of Ragnar, warlord of Svarturvigi and hater of elves. Grimdrig had been drinking and sharing stories with the other dwarves. He had learned that Ragnar had a well hidden armory and an equally well hidden torture chamber for elves. Durgar had spent some quality time with the female kitchen staff, and Lucius was more or less keeping watch on Ragnar.

Grimdrig and Durgar ventured into the city looking for a mage that could identify the properties of Grimdrigs magical armor. They found a strange tower marked by the sign of a blue lightning cloud. The owner, a beautiful woman of indetermined heritage, invited them in offering tea. She lived in the tower with her daughter who left as the fighter and the cleric entered the tower. While drinking tea, she displayed a great knowledge about the characters and even told them about an impending gnoll uprising in the Skogurhörmulegur. Apparently, adventurers had slain an important priest of the gnolls (back in BDQ1). Also, she seemed worried about Ragnar, but had no knowledge about the black wedding and the spectre queen. When Grimdrig asked about his armor, she offered to analyze it. But she would have to have some time alone with the armor. Grimdrig refused, because he believed that for now he would need his armor.

Meanwhile, Ragnar asked Lucius to fetch him dinner, since his manservant Ivar was nowhere to be found. Lucius went to the kitchen to get the dinner. There, a dwarven maid by the name of Swenja asked him about Durgar. She had to tell him something very important. Lucius kind of suspected what, but couldn't obtain definite proof. He then took the dinner plate and went back to Ragnar's quarters.

Durgar went to the temple of Gurun, the secretive dwarven god of medicine, to talk to Sturla the Acolyte. When asking for the history of Adalfridjur, Sturla excused himself to get the Librarian. Then came back dressed as the Librarian. But he didn't have much news to add to the knowledge of Durgar. When Durgar prayed, Sturla switched into the role of choir master. Later, he offered Durgar to stay as a priest in the temple. Durgar refused citing his desire to be alone.

Back at the black fortress, Lucius brought Ragnar his dinner. In the chambers of the warlord he saw the terrifying dwarf writing something in a book, but couldn't discern what. After setting down the plate, Ragnar ordered him to find Ivar. Durgar and Grimdrig met Lucius while he searched for Ivar.

They went to Ragnar's room, but when they knocked no one was answering and the door was locked. Grimdrig lifted the door right out of it's angles. Then they went inside. The room was a mess, the food almost untouched, only the wine had been drunken. There was no sign of Ragnar. Durgar inspected the bed and found a secret door leading down into the dungeons of the black fortress. Grimdrig sniffed the wine and drank the rest of it. He was suddenly transported to a cemetary in the north of Svarturvigi.

Durgar and Lucius went down into the dungeons. There, they discovered the secret armory of Ragnar. Quick thinking on Durgar's part disabled the spear trap guarding the door. Inside, Durgar donned the black armor sitting on a rack there and stole a big opal. But then realized that he couldn't remove the armor anymore because it was cursed.

At the cemetary, Grimdrig did his best to disrupt the black wedding. Ragnar was bound to a tombstone and Adalfridjur was reciting the ritual from the Tome of the Forgotten. Grimdrig destroyed the tome, thereby slowing down the ritual considerably. In her wrath, the spectre queen sent him back to the chambers of the blackened warlord. There he went down the stairs into the dungeon to meet Durgar and Lucius.

Lucius triggered a trap. The whole armory began to sink deeper into the ground. Lucius and Grimdrig got out in time. But Durgar was trapped. Grimdrig drove a hole into the floor, while Durgar was meditating on the proper course of action. Gurun showed him that he should turn to the left. Lucius used the spears from the disarmed trap to secure a rope from his adventurer kit. Then, Durgar could climb out of the sunken room.

Using a door to the left, they found the hidden torture chamber. Grimdrig knocked out the dwarven torturer, Lucius took his keys and Durgar lowered the cages with the malnurished and tortured elves to the ground. One of them was a half-elven mage. They told him about the tower and the woman, who he identified as his wife Rhiannon. He offered to help Durgar with his cursed armor. Then, Lucius and Grimdrig told him about the black wedding and the cemetary to the north. The mage offered to use his remaining power to teleport the heroes. They agreed and together with the elves, the half-elven mage sent them on their way.

The battle at the cemetary didn't go very well. Adalfridjur slew Grimdrig, scared off Durgar and almost bested Lucius. But the paladin got hold of the obsidian dagger that the spectre queen was planning on using to tear out Ragnar's heart. Also Durgar and Lucius protected Ragnar. In the end, Adalfridjur fled the battlefield grievously injured and bereft of her ritual dagger.

Durgar took the silver sword and rammed it into the Tome of the Forgotten. Both items of power annihilated each other. Without the sword, Adalfridjur is pretty much invulnerable. They freed Ragnar who honored the sacrifice of Grimdrig by carrying him back to the citadel himself.

Durgar slipped away unnoticed and went to the mages' tower. Rowena offered a cup of tea, time for reflection and tried to break the curse on the stolen armor. But without success. Durgar resolved to go to the black fortress and resurrect Grimdrig. He arrived right in the middle of the wake for the fallen fighter. After resurrecting him, Ragnar went for Durgar. He commanded his stolen black armor to fall off, then hit the cleric and demanded that he remained in his service until Durgar had saved his life again. Durgar accepted and Lucius healed him with a laying on hands.

Durgar and Grimdrig knew that the resurrection isn't permanent until Adalfridjur has died. But for the next two weeks, Grimdrig could walk among the living once more. Unknown to Lucius and Durgar, Grimdrig has turned to evil as a result of his resurrection.

Later at night, Lucius was alone in his room. He examined the dagger and saw that it had been made from hell obisidian. Obsidian literally from Hell. Suddenly, Adalfridjur appeared and asked for his hospitality because she had been gravely wounded. If Lucius refuses her, his blessing for his quest to slay Adalfridjur will be revoked, leaving him vulnerable to her touch attack again.

4. Feedback

  • The player of Durgar thinks I am too hard on her character. I offered her to point this out to me immediately in the next session, so that we can avoid this. She was also annoyed that the dwarven queen got away again. I had her flee when she was down to 4 HP. I think she wouldn't risk her existence in a hopeless fight. And without the obsidian hell dagger she was unable to complete the black wedding.
  • The player of Grimdrig was a bit dissatisfied that I allowed Grimdrig's resurrection. Also, he still doesn't grog the system. So in the end, I will probably end this Dungeon World series after Adalfridjur has been defeated.
  • The player of Lucius still thinks the Defy Danger move to harsh. But overall he liked the system and the development of the story. He thinks it's fitting that the spectre queen fled.
  • I am unsure about the wording of resurrection. Can it be used on a character who has failed his last breath move and already passed beyond the Black Gate? The wording isn't very clear on that. Also, given the wording, I think the spell could resurrect the undead. They still have not fully passed from Dungeon World... Clarification would be appreciated!

Probably in August we will play the final installment of the BDQ series: BDQ4 "Revenge of the Black Queen". After that, it doesn't look very likely that the adventures of Durgar and Grimdrig continue. Something which I find a bit sad. The paladin Lucius will probably join the ADE Series beginning with ADE2 "Into Dolor's Gap". Geography-wise that means the highlands of the ADE Series are situated right on the east bank of the as-of-yet unnamed river that flows into the Byrjotasund.

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