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Lair of the Vermin Lord - Dunross questions *spoilers*

 
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jltsavage

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Joined: 12 Jul 2011
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 4:23 pm    Post subject: Lair of the Vermin Lord - Dunross questions *spoilers* Reply with quote

I'm about to run this adventure and I want to make sure I have solid rationales for the events surrounding the destruction of Dunross. If my group is presented with a situation whose outcome they can't affect, they'll grill me about the justifications. At times it may sound like I'm talking to myself as I puzzle things out, so bear with me.

First, the town is under quarantine because of rat-carried disease, which is why the citizens haven't simply picked up and left town. But this raises the question, if the party saves some citizens, what do they do with them? It may be unwise to bring them to another town. I suppose that's part of the moral dilemma. During the first session I ran Cold Vengeance from Encounters 1 and the party took possession of the farm, which I put in a relatively remote area. Perhaps the party can save some of the named NPCs to form the core of their own stead. I don't forsee many problems with this issue.

Next, the big questions are about burning Dunross. How much oil is there, and why does a small town have so much in the first place? Is it really enough to torch the whole town, buildings and all? If the town is already infested with rats, why haven't they used the oil yet? And when the massive rat invasion begins, do the Dunrossers think they would kill enough to make losing the entire town, including the crucial mill, worthwhile? This is the issue I'm having the most trouble trying to justify. Perhaps they're making poor decisions under stress? No reason they have to act logically, I suppose.

How about this outcome: the rats attack, the guards and party manage to burn a large number but do not come close to killing them all. Dunross doesn't burn down but is deserted except by a horde of rats. The vermin lord still has to be dealt with before anyone can make a dent in their numbers. Same effect, Dunross is unuseable no matter what happens.

What do you think?
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wmarshal

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 6:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

One thing I added to make the destruction of Dunross more complete was to have a rat that had caught fire enter the mill, which ignites the flour particles causing a large explosion. This kept the PCs from trying to fall back to the mill. The focus stayed on getting out of Dunross for the most part. Between the large explosion and oil they never questioned Dunross burning down.
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Enno

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Joined: 11 Jun 2009
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:15 pm    Post subject: Re: Lair of the Vermin Lord - Dunross questions *spoilers* Reply with quote

jltsavage wrote:
First, the town is under quarantine because of rat-carried disease, which is why the citizens haven't simply picked up and left town. But this raises the question, if the party saves some citizens, what do they do with them? It may be unwise to bring them to another town. I suppose that's part of the moral dilemma. During the first session I ran Cold Vengeance from Encounters 1 and the party took possession of the farm, which I put in a relatively remote area. Perhaps the party can save some of the named NPCs to form the core of their own stead. I don't forsee many problems with this issue.


It's your game, so the adventure may have any outcome you like.

I don't see your dilemma. Of course, some of the people may be persuaded to come to your heroes' stead. A trait roll up to a full social conflict may suffice, depending on the circumstances. But i doubt, that any high ranking people would follow them. Also remember that we are speaking of families and extended families that lived in Dunross. Without enough provisions to get the people through the next winter your idea is most likely doomed to fail, if you don't have a very good plan to provide food and shelter for the next months.

The scenario already gives you the mostly likely outcome.

"Any rescued villagers thank the adventurers. They plan to march to Aslov and inform the ruler in person. They beg the characters to find out what caused the attack, so other villagers do not suffer a similar fate."

jltsavage wrote:
Next, the big questions are about burning Dunross. How much oil is there, and why does a small town have so much in the first place? Is it really enough to torch the whole townbuildings and all? If the town is already infested with rats, why haven't they used the oil yet? And when the massive rat invasion begins, do the Dunrossers think they would kill enough to make losing the entire town, including the crucial mill, worthwhile? This is the issue I'm having the most trouble trying to justify. Perhaps they're making poor decisions under stress? No reason they have to act logically, I suppose.


There is enough combustible oil to burn any dead rats, to scare of some swarms and set ablaze any of the mostly wooden buildings, if the need arises. The exact quantities are irrelevant - it's simply enough.

The oil may be trade goods, provisions for all tilleys for a few months, oil to tend weapons, armor and tools in the settlement etc etc. So the available oil will be stored in a few barrels like at the gate, and many smaller vessels, like skins, urns and amphoras.

How and when the inhabitants planned to use the oil, depends on you. Most likely they simply planned to burn down the settlement as good as possible when no one can keep them in check anymore and flee to the Aslov, the next big city. With the arrival of the heroes the whole situation changed, depending on their actions, edges and available spells, especially Area of Effect magic, like Burst, Blast and Fear.

jltsavage wrote:
How about this outcome: the rats attack, the guards and party manage to burn a large number but do not come close to killing them all. Dunross doesn't burn down but is deserted except by a horde of rats. The vermin lord still has to be dealt with before anyone can make a dent in their numbers. Same effect, Dunross is unuseable no matter what happens.


That's already the outcome, as Dunross is in the end overrun by any number of rat swarms and giant rats. It's rather obivious, that the objective isn't the rescue of Dunross, but to flee, and take any survivors, flour, grain and goods with them.

"There is absolutely no chance the heroes can save the village. There are effectively an infinite number of rats, both giant and swarms. All they can do is hope to escape and save a few souls. Should the heroes try to do anything other than escape, send a rat swarm against them. If the swarm is killed, send another and another until the heroes either get the message or are slain."
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jltsavage

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PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Enno, thanks for your response. I realize that the end state is for Dunross to be rendered useless as a mill, and that the greater the destruction, the more likely that is to happen. I also want it all to make sense, and you suggested several ways to do this.

Even though total destruction is the desired outcome, I hesitate to remove all agency from the players. Maybe someone will devise an absolutely brilliant plan to save the town. Most likely they will not. At the least I'd like for there to be several different outcomes that can result in Dunross being uninhabitable. I think then the situation will seem less forced, more organic. Asking these questions helps to get it clear in my head, so thanks again for your input.
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Enno

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Joined: 11 Jun 2009
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Location: Ulm, Germany

PostPosted: Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is often the main point of criticism about the whole adventure. To some people the definite end of Dunross feels a bit forced.

As a GM you have to see (and present) it from a different angle. It shows the players that there is no guaranteed chance of success, only because they play the heroes in your stories.

You can't withstand an earthquake, a tidal wave, a volcanic eruption or a blizzard in the Hellfrost. The heroes are only novice or seasoned mortals and can only try to survive such forces of nature as best as they can. Their actions might be heroic, despite their inabilty to overcome such raw power in the end.

Surviving such a catastrophe is only underlining their path to greatness, and adds to their glory.

It also underlines the main point of this adventure, the "icky evilness" of Gautrek and the Idol of the Rat King he possesses.

Your goal as a GM is to show the connection between the destruction of a thriving community and a relic made from blood-red marble. In the end there mustn't be any rise to doubts why this evil relic HAS TO BE DESTROYED, not looted and sold to the highest bidder. That is the real dilemma in this adventure, if you ask me.
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wmarshal

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 2:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

For my campaign I had every PC be a resident of Dunross, and most of them had families that they had come up with details for. (This was the initial adventure of the campaign, and would provide a reason why they knew each other and why they had essentially become adventurers.) I switched the rulers of Dunross and Dalsetter, and made Dunross a primarily Saxa settlement.

The campaign started with them in Aslov as usual, but they were there because they had just sold the spoils from a cattle raid in Aslov for a pretty penny with large portion due back to the ridder who sanctioned the raid. The merchant approached them because he knew they were of Dunross, and thought they wouldn't mind some extra coin.

When the rats attacked as the party was just beginning to head out I put down a ton (probably 5 times the initial amount that came with the adventure) of the figure flat rats to do my best to let the PCs know that it Dunross was doomed, and I had a couple of villagers already head towards the gate to get out of Dunross. I think it helps if you can draw out the whole village to the 1" scale. I had used Gaming Paper, which is good stuff for these kind of things.

Still one of the PCs raced back to his home to try to rescue his wife, but it was too late. The same for a brother and sister team of PCs as I described how their mother and younger siblings had already succumbed to the rats.

That night has been described as one of the darkest night of roleplaying that they ever had, but they were fully motivated to avenge Dunross and their families. When the found the Valu relic in the caverns there was no discussion about possibly selling it to the Reliquery, it had to be smashed and destroyed. Ever since then they have adopted a policy of refusing any reward offered for their subsequent actions against Vali aside from a meal to eat and a place to sleep.

I've made the other published adventures dealing with Vali tied in as part of a larger conspiracy. After picking up some clues they have completed Death in the Mire, and soon may be heading south to head after the Vali priest who's corrupting bees (I forget the name). They suspect that there is at least one active agent in Aslov, but they haven't been able to track that down yet.

Basically there were a decent number of Vali priests involved in the general Aslov area, but there was a split between the Corrupters and the Destroyers. The Corrupters forced the Destroyers to leave Aslov itself alone, but the Destroyers were given free reign to affect neighboring areas. Some, like Gautrek (if I remember right) stayed close. The destruction they would cause would create more refugees, increasing the pressure on Aslov and making the city more vulnerable to corruption. Others went a bit farther away, but an undead dragon causing havoc in Heligioland could still add to the refugee problem.

Wiggy at one point had mentioned to me an idea about the cult of Vali taking a direct shot at Aslov, and I'm hoping that some day he develops it, but it seems he will be quite busy with LOF and other things for a while. I figure some of the Destroyers of Vali may decide that they've had enough of waiting for the Corrupters to work their will on Aslov, and decide that a more direct approach is in order. Maybe cause a situation where the PCs and Corrupters are extremely reluctant allies while trying to defeat the Destroyers, just itching to go after each other once the Destroyers have been defeated.

I guess what I'm trying to explain us that while the start of Lair of the Vermin Lord may rob the players of some agency at the beginning it can also provide great motivation to the PCs.
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jltsavage

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PostPosted: Wed Mar 27, 2013 3:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Excellent stuff. It's great how you made your party citizens of Dunross so that its destruction and future tussles with Vali would be personal. I sort of wish I had done something similar but my party went the route of outsiders coming to Freelands to grab their own piece of the pie. Eventually I need to work in a situation to make the campaign more personal.

Like you, I'm also pondering having Vali up to no good in Aslov. I lean towards Aslov eventually declaring martial law and triggering a huge battle for the city's survival, with the party front and center. Some of the refugees may have infiltrated the city just for this purpose. For Dunross, I might let the party arrive pre-quarantine, have a few short adventures and make some friends, before I hit them with the rat hordes.

I'm always fascinated to see how different groups utilize the same material, thanks.
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