Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Temple of the Burbling God, Part 1

Last time, I posted scans of all my notes from the Isle of the Frog adventure that I used to kick off a short campaign last fall. This time, I'd like to talk about what happened in play. 

Set Up
There were three of us (me, Bill, and Ben), and we played in Bill's apartment. Where we played may seem like minor point, but it ended up having an interesting side effect. I didn't have as much stuff at the table as I might have had at my place. It was just the nudge I needed to just leave the minis and maps home, and it was ended up being only session in the campaign that we played without minis and grids. I tend to think this had a positive effect on the game that night, something I say in spite of my general fondness for maps and minis. (I'd be remiss at this point if I didn't mention that the role of minis seems to be a topic of some discussion again at the moment.) 

In any case, I came without minis and dungeon tiles. And I also came without many books: I had my notes, my copies of the B/X rulebooks, The Monster & Treasure Assortment, and The Risus Companion. We rolled up characters using the standard rules: 3d6 in order, hit points rolled, etc. Since there were only two players, Ben and Bill each created a couple characters. They each only played one character at a time, but having an extra PC on hand let them choose who to use depending on the situation. It also gave them backup characters if needed -- a useful thing to have in classic D&D. 

The Situation
The setting was "The Island Kingdoms," a vast ocean filled with inumerable fantastical isles. The PCs crewed a ship of exploration, sailing forth to discover new isles with a small crew. They arrived at the beach of this little swampy isle to find a somewhat decrepit resort run by a staff that looked suspiciously like a bunch of damned pirates pretending to be in the hospitality industry. Green statues of frogs with coins in their mouths decorated the otherwise somewhat "polynesian" style resort. 

The Adventure Begins
The PCs weren't the only guests at the "Emerald Resort" -- a goblin ship had also docked and the goblins were busy running around, laughing, drinking, and trying to set fires (there was more than a little bit of Pathfinder influence on the goblins). Ironbeard (Bill's dwarf) listened in on the goblins' own adventuring plans while getting drunk in Rummy's bar. The goblins were heading into the island's swamps in search of treasures from a sunken city.

I'm not sure I actually remember having planned this bit. When Ironbeard started listening to the goblins talk, I thought it would be a good way to let the players know where to find the island's main attraction -- the temple of the burbling god that could be found in the mucky ruins in the swamp. Of course, as soon as the goblins said they were going out there as soon as it got dark enough, it struck me that the players would probably try to beat them to the ruins. 

In fact, they decided to get a good night's rest and set out in the morning, preferring to explore dangerous swamps by day rather than in the dark. 

This added an interesting wrinkle to the adventure -- the goblins were already in the ruins causing havoc the night before the party arrived. In fact, I decided that the goblins would have made it to the second dungeon level when the PCs arrived at the ruins. 

The Temple of the Burbling God -- Some Background
The temple is the home base for a frog cult that has teamed up with the pirates. The pirates provide some extra "muscle" and get coin and treasures from the cult's profits. The pirates are set up in parts of the 1st level of the ruins, but they don't actually buy into the cult's religion or get involved in its weirder activities on the 2nd dungeon level. As the island map shows, the pirates also have their own home base outside the ruins in a wrecked ship. The frog cult is up to your typical frog cult behavior -- creating arcano-genetic frog/human hybrids, carrying out strange rituals to turn the whole world into a swamp, and crafting cheap little frog jewelry to sell to tourists at outrageous prices.

Deep in third dungeon level, there is a magical frog statue vomiting out water that flows upward through all three dungeon levels and out into the swamp. It's the reason the island is a swamp. There's a 1000 gp emerald coin in the dungeon (location 2 on the map) that can be placed in the frog's mouth to stop the waters from vomiting forth and so return to the island to its former state (not a swamp). That is, of course, assuming you're the kind of person who is willing to forego a 1000 gp coin in order to restore the natural balance of the island's ecology. 

All these things I knew about the dungeon, but there was no requirement that the players actually do anything in particular with them. What would happen in play was just going to depend on what the players decided to do. 

I'll talk about what the did do in the next post. 


  1. ...magical frog statue vomiting out water that flows upward through all three dungeon levels ...

    I'm assuming the upwards-flowing frog vom-water is an intentional part of the wackiness?

  2. Yeah. The stream of water flowing upwards was meant to be an immediate cue that things are not quite right here in the swamp, that something positively unnatural is going on.

    It also doubled as a mapping aid and metaphorical "trail of breadcrumbs" because it leads more or less straight from the entryway of the 1st level to the deepest parts of the dungeon. In fact, the players didn't follow it all the way to the source, though they did keep track of where they crossed its path while exploring the dungeon, so it still served as a landmark as well as a bit of atmosphere.