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Monday, July 7, 2014

The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children

Lamentations of the Flame Princess is a weird fantasy role-playing game that is quite similar to D&D, except that is set in historical Europe and its' adventures are generally much more extreme than your average D&D module. I like the LotFP adventures by James Raggi because they are quite original and clever. My group really liked The God That Crawls and F*ck For Satan, so my goal on Free RPG Day was to grab James Raggi's newest effort: The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children.

Obviously, there are going to be piles of spoilers in this blog post. Do what you must, my grizzled veteran.

There's certain aspects of this adventure that you will find really ridiculous or really hilarious, depending on your sensibilities. I urge you to keep in mind that all of the really extreme stuff can be altered. One reason I wrote that blog about Spellweavers is because I used them to replace parts of the backstory when I ran this adventure last night.
The scenario goes like this. A guy finds a cave with a giant crystal in it. The crystal contains knowledge of "meaningless cultural trivia" - stuff like the internet and and pop stars. It also has a tube sticking out of it, which the dude has sex with (I know.. stay with me, people). It magically creates crystal-headed children in an hour or so. He is building an army of his children to attempt world domination.

My group loves ridiculous stuff, especially if it is perverted. If it doesn't fit your campaign, you can easily change the "sex tube" to some kind of "psionic dna sample" or magic cloning process. I jetisonned the "Earth pop culture" stuff entirely, as well as the guy's new name: Wiki Dot Pod.

The crystal makes some kind of link with a female in a nearby settlement each time a child is generated. She is implanted with memories of raising the kid. So there's your hook - women in your town are all wondering where their blonde-haired boy named Andrew is, though no-one else knows what they are talking about.

After some not-so-subtle urging by yours truly, my players brought some NPCs with them. They went through 4 levels of the parody adventure Castle Greyhawk, and befriended many of the NPCs in there. So they brought the Star Trek parody characters with them:

Captain Kork - "He's dead, djinn"
Mee Staspock - A green logical elf with magic instruments (drums) that study things
Bones - A skeleton cleric

I urged them to bring NPCs because there was one room where this jellyfish god will kill one of them, forever. I wanted to use the NPCs as a buffer, to absorb the more extreme effects in the adventure.

This dungeon is all about random charts. I love random charts, so I was very excited about it. I had an enemy NPC up to no good deep in the dungeon, to make sure our heroes actually went past the first few rooms. The giant crystal that generates the kids is in room 2, and I thought it was entirely possible the heroes wouldn't even bother exploring further if they dealt with "Wiki Dot Pod" right off the bat.

But what ended up happening was that the adventurers actually bypassed some rooms to explore deeper, meaning they skipped right by Wiki's room.

They went into the maze-dungeon and began to explore, looking for their enemy NPC. They almost immediately came upon a room I was really pumped up about. There was a land bridge crossing a bubbling lake of a random color. The heroes could be affected by vapor, spray from the lake and if they fell in they'd just be dead. Yikes.

Here is where the randomness actually bit us in the butt. I had to roll a 1 on a d6 for an effect to go off. I rolled... no 1's at all. All that happened was that fruit grew out of their necks, containing a stat point. They could eat it to regain the point. They did.

Then they came to some dead-ends, which I was also really excited about. Each dead end had a button of a random color. If pushed, the button set off random effects. Well, our heroes pushed some buttons, and each time they got a negative result. The worst one was "All iron and steel in the Underhallways is vaporized. Gone."

Their armor, their weapons, all gone. Once this happened, they declared they'd be pushing no more buttons in this dungeon. This was a bit of a bummer, but I could understand why they would do this.

Then they came upon a room with a gas cloud. The gas cloud would "scan" the first person to enter, and generate an effect depending on what class or type of person it was. For example, if a wizard enters first, his or her spells are stored "in the cloud". Every non-wizard who enters the room gains the use of those spells as if they had memorized them. This effect lasts more or less until the spells are all cast.

My group has a long history of sending hirelings into dungeon rooms first. They told "Bones" the skeleton cleric to go in. Since he was a skeleton, they figured, the gas cloud wouldn't hurt him. Bones of course said, "Dammit! I'm a cleric, not a guinea pig!". Eventually they got him to go in.

Bones is basically a 0-level nothing. He's just a comedy hireling. The adventure has a special entry for PCs who send a nothing NPC into the cloud room: The heroes lose most of their XP. Basically, if they have 12,375 XP, they now have 2,375 XP. Remove the first digit.

I read aloud to the players from the text: " sure to remind the players that their big brave heroes made some NPC schmuck go first into a GLOWING CLOUD IN A DUNGEON. Honestly, their anger is merely a deflection of their own cowardly and abusive shame."

Some possible random button effects
This group is my "A-Team". They are the elite players, in my opinion, out of the large pool of players I have access to. There are a lot of players who would cry and throw dice over this effect. Not these guys. They rolled with it, and immediately tried to figure out a way to reverse the effect. They theorized that perhaps if they found someone high level to enter the cloud, they'd actually gain their levels back and then some. That's pretty good, right?

For now, they had to continue on. They came upon a huge room with three people trapped in crystals, and a musical instrument. They played the instrument, which summoned a jellyfish god that demanded that each of them declare why the multiverse is better off for them existing. The person who answered the worst would be killed forever. Then, the jellyfish said he would answer one question.

Cue a bunch of nervous stammering. This encounter is why I made sure some NPCs came along. I didn't want a PC to be killed forever over this. So I let the heroes come up with reasons.. and they came up with good ones.. and then I had "Spock" give a lame, logical answer. Spock was struck dead.

You might randomly encounter this fellow
Kork and Bones were obviously devastated. I didn't do the "needs of the many.." speech from Wrath of Khan because I had already jokingly done it in the previous session.

The PCs could have the answer to any one question. In this campaign, the uber-bad-guy lives in some mystery plane that nobody can find. This was the perfect opportunity to find it! But the PCs instead asked for the history of this dungeon. They got it, and were quite satisfied, blissfully unaware that they could have altered the campaign significantly.

They were at this point very risk-averse (can't blame them!). They came upon some rooms with weird stuff that they just backed out of. They had one goal, now: get their levels back.

They had freed an 8th level soldier from a crystal shard prison in the jellyfish room. They brought him to the gas cloud room. They urged him to go in first, hoping they could then follow.

He went in. The fighter effect was fairly benign. He'd share hit points with others, sort of. The heroes "re-set" the room by shutting the doors and opening them, and this time they sent in the party cleric.

The cleric effect: "...uses the character as a psychic conduit to contact the character's deity and bring its' attention to the room". The players immediately burst out laughing. This is because this cleric worships the goddess of sexual healing and his goal in life is... to make sweet love to his deity.

We decided the goddess looked like Kate Upton
I won't go into details, but basically things got extremely filthy and people got very creative. As a reward I made a liberal interpretation of this result: "Non-worshipers who follow the tenets of the deity are rewarded with a doubling of experience points..".

So basically, our heroes got their XP back, had one of their trademark ridiculous dirty skill challenges, and the cleric got a special boon.

From there, they found the enemy NPC and took him out. Then they apprehended Wiki Dot Pod and brought him before the Queen.

Our campaign is about a mortal city involved in The Blood War. The mortals are aiding the demons, who are attacking the devils' first layer of hell. The mortals of the city do not like fighting alongside demons and think they shouldn't be involved at all.

The plan is now to use the crystal to generate soldiers to fight in the blood war. The heroes were able to convince a rainbow dragon to use the crystal. So basically, our campaign is now about the heroes leading an army of crystal-headed dragonborn in an assault on the Iron City of Dis.

The players really liked the adventure. The randomness nearly bit us in the butt, but by the end it had swung the other way. Incorporating a Lamentations adventure into your campaign can easily be done and in my opinion, is more than worth it.

In the strongly-worded intro, James Raggi says: "This adventure has been played just enough to confirm that it can work, not beaten down to blandness so that it always will work."

That sounds about right. This was a really fun adventure. Yeah, most DMs will need to modify it, but that's the case with almost any published adventure. It didn't take much to make this work for my campaign, and it was definitely worth it.


C.D. Gallant-King said...

Ho-lee crap.

I need to get a copy of this adventure.

Sean said...

You might be able to snag one on ebay for about $10. LotFP will likely have it available soon in pdf form. I am pretty sure they put up last year's Free RPG Day product online pretty quick.