Return to the Alabaster Tower: The Verdigris Tower (Telengard 2, session 8)

My players were not thrilled with the “Alabaster Tower” when I sprang it on them in the previous campaign — partly it was probably my pixel-bitching with the tricks and puzzles (I hadn’t DMed much before); partly it was the lack of fighting, and lack of treasure; partly it was the Robber Bats who stole the dwarf’s prized magical dagger.  The three players, all fairly experienced, ranged from ‘it was ok’ to ‘I hated it’.  Oh well.

I still like the basic design, and as it is a ‘hopping’ tower that appears and disappears seemingly at random, I had the idea that it might spend some time on the ocean floor, and reappear on land, flooded and strewn with seaweed.  I also have been meaning to use the ‘maggot farmers‘ for some time, and the idea of tower, filled with foul water and decaying sea life, kind of fit with the maggot farmer idea, and so now, when the Verdigris Tower (the alabaster having been stained sea-green) appeared, it carried the maggot farmer infection.  I had it appear near an apiary between Skara Brae and Puddington.  The PCs heard a rumor about the beekeepers being unusually aggressive and scaring off a merchant. Will they investigate before the plague of flies spreads, and eradicate the source before the tower hops away again?

I didn’t have much else prepared, and since I’d just restocked the tower, I came about as close to railroading the party as I felt comfortable doing — the mayor of Skara Brae, anxious about the lack of mead and an upcoming delegation from Delos he was to host, asked the party to look into what was holding things up at the apiary, with the offer of a large cash reward for any mead they could bring back and for dealing with whatever the problem might be.

We also had a guest player, one of Matt’s friends who had played a bit of 3.5 and Pathfinder, so I felt a little pressure to put on a good show for ‘old school gaming,’ but once we began playing I mostly let things run their course.

Anyway the apiary consisted of a farmhouse, barn, four large bee hives, and, a short distance away, a white tower, stained sea-green and strewn with dried sea weed. The party rode up to the farmhouse and began investigating, immediately attracting the attention of a group of beekeepers, who of course were all maggot farmers.  Most of the party immediately hid in the farmhouse, while the paladin and barbarian charged. The farmers were all slain, although a couple of PCs, and one of their horses, were infected with the flies.  The party then found a bull, also infected with the maggot farmer disease, but they won initiative and killed it before it could charge (which would have caused its head to explode in a large swarm of infectious flies).  Because the party cleared the cathedral last time, the clerics cast Cure Disease for them for free.  Good thing, too — the paladin used his weekly ‘Cure Disease’ power on his horse before checking how the party was doing.

I took the maggot farmers down a notch in power, because as written, a lot depends on the players figuring out that they need to burn them or destroy the heads from a distance, but called shots are not really part of the normal repertoire for D&D combat, and just telling them ‘the bodies have AC11, the heads have AC13’ or whatever would have ruined the fun of figuring it out, so instead I had them destroyed by HP damage but left in the 50-50 chance of their heads breaking when they fell.  The swarms of flies, and unknown effects of infection, kept things scary enough without having them be immune to damage on their bodies.

Taking advantage of the seaweed and barnacles encrusting the tower, the party sent the thief and assassin to climb to the top of the tower, and send down ropes, which got the party into the top floor of the re-keyed tower.  They fought their way down, bypassing the more puzzley rooms and wiping out the occupants (maggot farmers, giant flies, a volt, a demon, and a fly-headed evil cleric), and then instead attempting to loot the thing, the party decided to burn it down, piling firewood and lumber from the farmhouse inside the first floor and setting the whole thing ablaze.  What with the water tank on the second floor, and the damp rock, I figured a big enough blaze would crack the the tower’s lower levels and cause it to implode.  Mission accomplished!

The players did not remember the specifics of the tricks and puzzles very well, but the dwarf player figured he’d remember enough of the legends from his forefathers to know that the last time a dwarf explored the tower, he found it lacking in treasure, so the somehow enough of the party was convinced there would be no treasure in it. Happily there were ample rewards for bringing back the mead that was salvageable and for solving the mystery, so the party had had enough loot to carouse if they wanted to.

The guest player failed his will rolls and was beaten and robbed while partying.  After the fact I was a little concerned that my lack of attention to the new guy might have put him off but he seemed interested in joining the game in the fall if space permits, so I guess he had a good enough time. 90% of the fun of D&D, for me, is hanging out with fun people and luckily my players are all pretty funny or interesting, so I think at this point the group sells the game more than anything about my DMing.

Published in: on March 15, 2012 at 10:21 am  Comments (2)  
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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I feel terrible that the module wasn’t fun for them. It’s the last hold over from my AD&D, pre-OSR days. I’ve learned a lot since then. I really want to revise it with what I’ve learned in mind. Part of the problem was I didn’t want to put too many monsters in it because I used it as a solo intro to my campaign for mages and other weak folks.

    I like how you revised it by soaking it in the sea. I’ve wanted to do a toppled tower version for a while. Like the idea of players visiting once and then later with the same place wrecked.

    • I think it has more to do with my DMing than anything else. I could have prepared a little better and certainly should have increased the monsters and treasures, given the expectations I’d set up to that point with using the Moldvay random tables which are rather monty haul!

      Anyway the whole session was fun last time anyway. They sure enjoyed burning the thing down!

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