And now on to the megadungeon. Using Maptools, I did this an unusual way. I made a large scale map of the tunnels, with each square representing an hour of walking. Each hour, there was a 1/6th chance of an encounter. I had previously made a chart of possible encounters - some vicious, some innocuous. So it was sort of like an old 16-Bit JRPG video game - walk around the map until there's a sound and you're in a battle!
This way, the story evolved very organically. The Grims were on the list, as was Drusiphia (one of my favorite NPCs) and some other characters. There's a lot I designed that was never even approached, or rolled. This is, of course, good - it means I'm kept on my toes just as much as the players, and it means their choices and luck really have an impact, instead of stuff just thrusting its way in front of them.
Here's Steph's report:
Mostly this one was a series of dungeon encounters as we followed the tracks of the mine cart. People digging up rocks usually want them brought to the surface, right? Or at least to some sort of city. So we head along the tracks. First, we encounter a large talking owl called the Grim, who informs us that it's a guardian placed to help cleanse the dungeon of evil -- and that, as good creatures, we're safe around it. That's good to know! There are other Grims in the dungeon, including some "padfeet", but it doesn't know the way out. Too bad!
Traveling on, we find some mysterious things on the ceiling. Spucky throws a rock and skeletal bats swoop down to attack! We make short work of them, especially with Junior around.
Farther along still, we come to a watery area with a lot of puddles. One of the puddles hulks up into some sort of humanoid form made of living blood, and here it comes! Agartha and Spucky bat at it a bit but the real heavy lifting is done by Junior again, who hits it once and splatters it messily. Junior makes things a bit too easy, truth be told, but since I don't have Chops with me, I'm glad to have him! Spucky saves some of the blood in an empty flask (from a healing potion, taken off one of the gang, which Agartha chugged earlier). You never know what might be useful.
The tracks end at a vast underground lake, where they seem to have collapsed. Whoops! I guess we're not getting out that way. The cavern is huge - we can't see the ceiling, and we're too high up to get to the lake. Agartha chucks a rock, and there's a flash of something mysterious and humanoid in the lake. Then, suddenly, the lights go out, and Agartha is almost stabbed from behind by a mysterious assailant. She manages to grab them instead, though - turns out that it's a woman named Drusiphia with horns on her head. Even though she just tried to attack us, she seems to be stuck in the dungeon too - she claims to have been on the run from flying heads for a while. Hmm, can we trust her? Spucky probably would -- their aren't many evil gnomes, and she hasn't been in big-people land too long. Besides, when lost in a dungeon, we can use all the help we can get, and Drusiphia says she knows the way out. So she comes along, even though there are some suspicious things about her. For instance, when Spucky shows her the bottle of blood, she grabs it and drinks it!
DM: Specifically, Dru has two deer horns on one side, and a ram's on the other. I introduced her because I wanted another living being lost in the caves, but she became so interesting to me that I'm basing a novel around a (un-DnDified) version of her.
Soon the flying heads Drusiphia mentioned catch up with the party. Vargouille attack! The tiefling puts her fingers in her ears just before they let out a paralyzing screech. Sheesh, thanks for warning us about that! Agartha is frozen, while Drusiphia and Junior each take out one vargouille each, and even Spucky manages to down one with a couple of bullets from her sling. It doesn't take long, and when the battle is over Agartha is angry at having missed it.
We decided to end the session here, so the party prepared to make camp. It was still late afternoon in-game, but we'd been hiking around all day, and Spucky was totally out of spells, so we agreed to stop for a while and eat our rations.
She's right about Junior making things too easy. It's a good thing they rolled Drusiphia when they did.