NIGHTWICK ABBEY: The Purple Eater of People Session 93


If these horrid halls of Nightwick Abbey call to you, then please join Miranda Elkins' Patreon!

Previously in Nightwick...

This week's adventurers:

Liminal Space (Changeling 4)
Krupe (Cleric 3)
Lump (Frogling 1)
Blossom (Rogue 6)
Mayfly (Magician 5)
Thekla (Magician 3)
Assman (Fighter 1)


The party assembled once again at the best bar in Nightwick Village. Thekla gains a new tattoo under her right eye- a square symbolizing devotion to the Zenopolian interpretation of god. Liminal jostles Mayfly as he runs in exclaiming about the most delicious venison (PC Edit: +4 hp permanently; whole additional HD). Before heading out, the party takes advantage of a surprising sale on blunt weapons at Rubert vanToad's emporium. Off to the Abbey. And commissions the blacksmith the frog-size some spare chain armor found in the Abbey.


THE EVER-SHIFTING ABBEY: The party's goal lately has been recovery of the "book of the Master". A tome of magic that might have been used by the talking gold skull Mayfly has in his possession. It might contain helpful magics that could help the party on the 4th level.  However, again the PC has to deal with a rather large shift (party-induced). The PCs enter the Abbey on the map above at the door labled "LEVEL 3 (NEW)"

[PC NOTE: We are using for our VTT. I really like its stripped-down nature. We assign marching order, use sticky notes for treasure and monsters, and, of course, we draw the map as we go.]

GOING FORWARD BY GOING BACKWARDS: The party decides to move backwards (map-east) to a T-interaction and discovers a staircase up most likely to LEVEL 2 (although it remains unconfirmed). The party turns map-north and encounter a large, shaggy hulking beast crouch over an open sarcophagus. 

Liminal, the realm's most beloved changeling, decides to open up a dialogue with the creature: "Hello! How can we help?" After a small exchange, the party is rudely rebuffeted ("jerk") and decides to continue map-north to see if there is an easier score without getting into a fight.

[PC NOTE: Since we lack our strongest fighter, Mectilde, it is easier to do an exploration of the Abbey than a search-and-destroy]

Going north, the PCs find little else, however, they do discover how this connects to the LEVEL 3 entrance and Mayfly is able to collect a spell component.

BREAKING WHEELS KEEP ON TURNING: After comparing older maps with this newer one, the party agrees that continuing map-south is the best way to proceed. Once map-south, the party takes time to investigate what could be a secret door. The Abbey seizes the moment to attack!

The grinding of wheels on stone heralds forthcoming monsters! Mayfly readies web to launch at the oncoming unseen foes while the rest of the party braces spears for the charge. As the wicked wheel round the corner, Mayfly is quick enough to get web to fill the hallway. The party descends and destroys the hapless fiends!

DOUBLE DOORS: The party continues map-south and come upon very familiar double doors. After taking a peek inside, they confirmed this was the location where they previously incinerated ~20 cultists using Liminal's hypnotism to group them together. This also resulted in the incineration fo their very fine robes.

A "DANTE" OF DEVILMEN: Still feeling a map-south direction is best, the party continues onward. Moments later, Blossom returns from scouting to report a room up ahead containing 15 devilmen bathed in a pale blue light (promising and deadly!). The party attempts to creep forward but there are too many keen eyes, pointy ears, and black hearts to escape notice.

With a wink at Mayfly, Liminal says, "Fireball" while making the motions for phantasmal force. This sends the devilmen in disarray and knocks a few of them out as they writh on the floor in the imaginary fire. With an indignant stamp of his foot, Mayfly quickly casts fireball on the remaining devilmen leaving piles of corpses and warm armor.

NO PATIENCE FOR ORACLES: The party now turns their attention to a tall statue of a robed figure, faceless, with two small flames flickering where the eyes should be. Above its head floats a crown. The party has encountered these before and has stolen the crown each time. This time was no different! 

Lump, with a mighty push from his back leg, pulls the crown from its floating position. With an indignant howl, the statue summons a mass of skeletal warriors from their graves. And a final fireball sends them back. The party grabs the crown, extra sets of armor, and makes off back to the surface.

The party ends up collecting about 228sp/ea and 512xp/ea. Very successful!


Darkvison Ruins The Fun Again

In my Where Hell Comes To Prey Nightwick campaign (latest on that campaign here), I have recently changed the way I track light from using an overloaded encounter die to using a "light dice pool" mechanic from DURF by Emiel Boven which represents the total light the party has among torches and lanterns. Every round this pool is rolled along with the encounter die and lose any die with a "1". Lose all of your light die and you have an encounter regardless of the encounter die-- now in the dark!

Now, combat in the dark in Nightwick Abbey would be a terrible proposition. But I started to wonder if I should ratchet up the tension of a depleting light pool further by requiring everyone to roll on an Escape The Dungeon table instead of combat (if you are unfamiliar here is an example).

This would ratchet the tension up and simplify the whole procedure to a "1" or "0" state: if you have light, keep exploring; if you don't have light, you run for your life. This sounded exciting! And certainly, keeps in the horror vein of Nightwick Abbey. And make the light spell and its cousins far more useful. 

But then my thoughts came to a skidding halt: what about dwarves and changelings with darkvision? Ugh. I expressed this lament in a Discord and Josh of Rise Up Comus suggested the dark vision should be taken out back and shot. I had to agree with another "ugh". 

The biggest problem for me with darkvision in old-school games is that for anything you do with light and sight in a dungeon a DM almost has to create two states for the party: one for the humans who can't see and then for the 2-3 demi-humans who can. But often both are present at the same table so you are giving "hidden" information in the open. Nothing is interesting here and a lot of DMing brain power goes toward maintaining these states.

Now, while complaining about darkvision is no doubt one of the 5 most common perennial discussions in the old-school scene, this one spurred a good discussion out and two tools useful for my game: 

  • darkvision as magic item
  • alternatives for darkvision that could be applied to different

Darkvision As A Magic Item

Azure Lotus Drops allow a character to have 6 exploration turns of darkvision with an additional 1d6 turns rolled in secret by the DM on the last turn. If use more than once a day, make a Save vs Spells or become blind for 6 exploration turns plus 1d6 additional turns.
  • They are commonly used by thieves so possession is suspect
  • Manufacture requires rare arcane components; the most widely known is azure lotus necter

Alternative Special Senses to Darkvision

Here is what I mean by "alternatives to darkvision". Its not necessarily a different type of sight, but instead different senses that could be used that are useful but not as "complete" as sight.
Last Note

So, I don't know if I'll end up enforcing the Escape the Dungeon roll, I'll have to see what my players think of that. Maybe if a few combats don't go well in the dark this is a good alternative and maybe I'll see how they feel about the light situation.

WHERE HELL COMES TO PREY: Running Nightwick Abbey 03


I have just completed DMing my 10th session of Nightwick Abbey, an OSE megadungeon authored by Miranda Elkins and illustrated by Chris Huth. These posts will be a continuing effort to document this campaign I dubbed Where Hell Comes To Prey. If these horrid halls of Nightwick Abbey call to you, then please join Miranda Elkins' Patreon!


Our Sunday Congregation:
Miriam Cleric 2
Froggie Frogling 1
Shiva Rogue 1
Grog Fighter 1
Hirelings: Hyme (barber)

Session 10 APRIL 28 Highlights: 

A DUEL!: The cleric Miriam was challenged by a fellow seminary student who believed he was wronged in the past. Miriam chose Grog as his second who then proceeded to kill the challenger in one blow.

HARTS WITH HEARTS: Down in the dungeon, a trio of deermen offered, for inexplicable reasons, a bowl of still-beating hearts and encouraged the PCs to eat them like apples. Scattered hearts and scattered deer heads resulted.

A TERRIBLE END IN EITHER DIRECTION: The probing of a dead body causes the irruption of gas which seems to paralyze Grog. As Miriam watches over the fallen fighter, Shiva and Froggie travel south until they stumble into a dining hall. They quickly leave as an impossibly large bulk squeezes itself into the hall. The party travels north and stumbles upon a room whose floor is covered in paper. Froggie leaps in to grab a few pages and also earns wounds as if some terrible invisible claws ranked his leg. 


At session 10, how do I still feel about Nightwick? Love it! A player asked me if I still enjoy DMing it after playing in ~90+ sessions as a PC- (again) love it. It is fun to be on the other side of the screen and to be the master of the maligned forces.

Here is what I think I am doing right:

"100 Minutes of Megadungeon Madness": When I started this series, I discussed how I was going to attempt a 120-minute setup by starting 10 minutes after the hour, run 50 minutes, break 10 minutes, and run a final 50 minutes. Around sessions 7 and 8, I started doubting about this format. I wondered if I was cramming a megadungeon into too short of a time period mainly because the players were not covering much distance in the dungeon. If they had an encounter at the beginning of the session, it was possible to have a chunk of time gone. I mulled over if I needed to change combat or allow all weapons to do average damage or if I should shortcut (undercut) some part of the BX D&D system. 

But in the end, after playing 90+ sessions of Nightwick, I know the BX chassis and the dungeon crawling aspect works. There is no need to change that, but I did wonder if I could change some other aspects of how I run the game. Plus the players were having fun.

Pre-gen PCs/Hirelings: Gotta keep doing this. When I have new players join, rolling up characters takes the most time, especially since there are some delightfully unique takes on the character classes in Nightwick. Plus, pre-gen PCs help players that die due to vampire bats or blood puddings get back into the game quickly.

Treasure Maps: These maps are actually a staple of classic play. As evidenced by the presence of treasure maps in OD&D and under Scrolls in BX D&D (B46). These maps will help enhance exploration but will come at (1) a resource cost and/or (2) require some deciphering either because they will have incomplete information or perhaps some riddles.

Light Variation: Recently, I started to use the light rule found in DURF. In short, basically, the PC roller a pool of light dice, "1"s are removed, and if all dice are removed then an encounter happens in the dark. I like it. It actually touched off a meaningful discussion about light. If the pool is equal to or larger than the number of party members, they win initiative ties in the dungeon.

Here is what I think I can improve on:

Use The 5 Senses: I really need to bring more of these into play in Nightwick. Just to add a little bit more to the world that I'm painting. And often in horror, you know something is wrong before you see "it". Like realizing the yellow rush matts on the floor are woven out of human hair or that the sound of water trickling is accompanied by the smell of blood.

Combat Variety and Objectives: I have written two particularly good posts on how to vary bands of enemies and also on objectives in combat. I need to be better about implementing them in the Abbey. In terms of bands of enemies, variety not only keeps it interesting for me the DM, but also provides a tactical opportunity for the PCs as well. I kinda think back to Darkest Dungeon- it would be fun to have something that vomits on players. Variety can also act as a way to further describe the Abbey instead of skeletons with swords, cultists with...swords, or beastmen with...swor...axes! For instance, deermen could be something like:

  • (1-2 hp) Range x Special Deerman Caller Its piercing shrieks disorient enemies; the initiative die is a d4   
  • (3-5 hp) Range x Dmg Deerman Hunter Uses a bow
  • (6-7 hp) Melee x Dmg Deerman Stalker  Uses a battleaxe
  • (8 hp) Melee x Special Crown-o-Horn Charges into battle with head heavy with a tangle of antlers & tusks    

While the Abbey is murderous, in my mind it's also interested in capture, corruption, and contamination. All these things might require a target to be alive. I'd like to force myself to slow down and give each group of enemies an objective. And actually, since starting this post, I've actually run Session 11 of Nightwick and it worked great- I had horrible rat things go after the nearest NPC and a group of Devilmen demanded the cleric hand over their holy symbol to leave the Abbey. Interesting the cleric wouldn't do that, so the devilmen ended up slaying one NPC and breaking several bones of a PC-- then they handed over the holy symbol.

"Quests": While megadungeons are eternal, my time and my player's time is not so I'd like to avoid the campaign just having to stop dead in its tracks like a tv show that gets canceled mid-season. 

After seeking some advice from other DMs and consulting the blogs, the best solution is just to declare a set period of play. Since my players so far have really dug the little "quests" that organically pop-up, I decided to make some more. 

Nightwick Abbey has a lot of blank space where elements are present but not completely defined. This provides an excellent opportunity for the DM to carve some personalization out of the module. A case in point is the tome the players "decapitated" from its lectern, then spent the next few sessions trying to find a body to reattach it to by the request of Halfdan the Necromancer. Players loved it! And now it earns them rumors.

Again since starting this post, during Session 11, I had a shadowy group approach the group to recover several more pages from a particularly violent area of the Abbey for a reward 100sp per person if at least 3 pages were recovered. A great opportunity for role-play, negotiation, and the PC to get a sense that they could have a first crack at understanding the knowledge.

In all, the players are still really engaged and are enthusiastically plunging head-first into each delve, so that is the best feedback a DM can have!