Progress continues on the latest merge. Since there’s not a great deal to talk about while we wait for that, I’ll fill you guys in on the latest stuff I’ve been working on and thinking about.
As some of you might know, I finally got my feet wet playing Dungeons and Dragons not so long ago. Having never played or really understood it until now, it’s fascinating to see how the systems work and how it, and games like it, served as progenitors for the RPG videogames we play today. With that in mind, I’ve been considering trying my hand at DMing for the couple friends I usually play with, using CS lore and background.
It’s actually been a surprisingly productive endeavour. In just building the dungeon itself, I’ve written more about the Mage’s College and the Archmage, and the dungeon and its story will work perfectly well inside CS. Obviously it will need to be rebuilt using hex tiles and whatnot, but the concept and the story I think will make a great quest and dungeon. Plus, if I get time to actually run this little campaign, I’ll be able to look at what the players do and use it to inform some decisions about what can happen and where details should go, as well as highlight anything that doesn’t strictly make sense. Kind of like playtesting a concept, since it’s become hard not to think of myself as the DM of Carnal Souls.
It’s also given me some practice at level design. It’s tough, but fun to do. I’m a firm believer that everything in a dungeon should be there not only for fun, but also for a good reason. For instance, if there’s an area of a temple that people regularly visit, it doesn’t make much sense to have a nasty trap there. And why do they visit? To make an offering or pray? Maybe to make a sacrifice? It’s definitely a challenge but so far a lot of fun to do. I’m fairly excited that I’ve stumbled onto a way to practice level design, as well as test concepts for CS ahead of time.
Archmage Mezzalt, who previously has only existed as one piece of flavour text on an item mock-up I made, has now become a much deeper character. I’ll outline the story and quest I have in mind below – keep in mind this will be a rather large spoiler, so only read it if you’re happy to have that quest spoiled for you. I’ll leave out details like riddles to solve and secrets of the dungeon, though. This is the D&D-ified version. In CS things like ‘halfling’ might be replaced with ‘lapen’, for instance.
Spoilers below – The Mezzalt Legacy
The Archmage of the Mage’s College – Archmage Mezzalt, a name synonymous with the position since the archmage has always been a Mezzalt – has recently put out a bounty notice for any adventurers or delvers to effectively rob his own family tomb. Also given that the reward is rather high, this has caused quite a stir in Sunrest, especially in the College itself. One party of would-be graverobbers has already been sent and has not returned. The player(s) then first must locate the first party, since they were given the key to the vault.
Before entering the tomb proper, which is built into the base of a mountain, a winding staircase leads down into the servants’ crypt. Here lies dozens of skeletons in a miniature catacomb, apparently also all of the same family line according to a relief sculpture here. Also adjacent to the main doors of the tomb is a kind of waiting area with a reflecting pool, perhaps for friends of any visiting Mezzalts to wait comfortably.
The main tomb is huge and dark, as mages usually carry their own light sources, and houses dozens and dozens of sarcophagi, each for a previous Mezzalt. In the center is a tall statue of an old god, surrounded by four statues of mages, apparently memorialising the legend of the God’s defeat at their hands. Opposite is a shimmering altar, apparently the entrance to the family vault.
Delving on, the player finds corpses of previous adventurers (also serving as warnings of traps) but no key. Eventually they find a caved-in corridor with a hole, and from the darkness can hear screams. Venturing in, they’re ambushed by hobgoblins. Defeating them, they meet a bloodied halfling. Apparently the hobgoblins tortured her in order to draw the party into the ambush. She has the key, and hands it over freely, stating that she wants nothing more to do with this place, but as she owes a life-debt to them she’ll accompany them if they desire in order to assist.
Making their way back, unlocking the vault triggers the statue to animate, the last defense against unauthorised access to the vault. It’s a tough fight, and the halfling flees out of terror. Once defeated, the party enters the vault, where golden serpents defend small mountains of gold. On the central altar is a plate, the top of it like glistening, reflective water – the item they were sent to retrieve. On the side reads “Secrets are revealed when reflection is turned upon itself”. As they read it, it begins to levitate, floating higher before flying across the room and into the hands of the halfling. She says that she pities them for not knowing it’s just another key, before stepping into an arcane dimension door.
If the players are smart, or just exploratory, they’ll find that the waiting room at the beginning of the dungeon has changed. The plate now rests face-down on the reflecting pool, and has unlocked a hidden spiral staircase.
Following it, it leads to the real Mezzalt Vault, containing the Genesis Book – apparently the secret to the Mezzalt line, and the answer to how the line continues with apparently no mothers, or without a single Mezzalt being female. Apparently all Mezzalts are born of a demon, a demon which this book summons for surrogacy. Again the player(s) are ambushed, only this time the halfling reveals herself to be a wizard of the college under illusory disguise. He steals the book from them, and they must now travel to Sunrest to explain the situation and hunt down this wizard, as well as get some answers from Mezzalt.
That’s more or less the gist. Let me know what you guys think if you read it, and if you’d like a report if I do end up running it as a one-shot D&D thing. I’m excited about the prospect of seeing how other people interpret things and go about solving problems, as I feel it can only enrich things I put in CS. I don’t plan to make all quests or dungeons this way, of course.
Until next time!