I’ve been reading through the original Grognardia blog posts about Dwimmermount, and I came across this quote on the original purpose of the Dwimmermount campaign that I thought was very instructive:
Dwimmermount is explicitly an experiment in seeing how both rules and campaigns develop organically through play […] Our game is diverging from the rules as written, but those divergences are not based on theory but on practice. We are in the process of creating our own game, unique from everyone else who plays, and it’s the embrace of this process that I see as at the heart of the old school.
I’m running my own Dwimmermount campaign with the Ironsworn rules. Being primarily designed as a solo or GM-less game, naturally Ironsworn uses a lot of Oracles to help guide events and narrative outcomes, which may seem at odds with using a published setting.
Knowing that Dwimmermount was originally allowed to grow organically, I’m finding there’s much to be enjoyed in letting the Oracles mutate the published word, resulting in a unique interpretation all of my own.
Helgot spends a few days in the Flash and Scroll inn, tending his wounds and considering his next move. His morale is low; though he spent time exploring the first floor, he feels no closer to finding the Exarchate of Theana for Jasper, and has become convinced tackling the vastness of Dwimmermount is a far greater quest than he feels capable of achieving by himself.
He swears an iron vow to found a proper adventuring party to better tackle the imposing megadungeon. He wants Jasper’s help, and to gather around him like-minded adventurers, treasure-seekers and loremasters. They will be The Ironsworn.
However, he decides, he would have better luck convincing Jasper of this course of action should he return to the City-State of Adamas successful, with the map in hand. Depressingly, rumours abound of another adventuring party, styling themselves Typhons’ Fists, who have been bragging about the progress they’ve made delving Dwimmermount on behalf of the High Priest of Typhon in Adamas. Helgot hasn’t yet come across them in Muntberg, but surely it is only a matter of time.
He asks around the inns to see if anyone knows them and discovers some promising information — they’re currently making their way back to Adamas to report their findings, so they are, temporarily at least, out of the picture.
Back into Dwimmermount
It seems there is nothing to do but head back into Dwimmermount and continue searching for the map. Returning it to Jasper would not only fulfil an iron vow, but seems the best way to convince him to continue funding a group to explore the rest of the site. Helgot readies his gear and sets out.
The short journey back to the base of the mountain, and then the trek back up the stairs is uneventful, though Helgot does find the Red Doors ajar when arriving — perhaps someone (or something?) has recently passed through. Cautiously, he ducks inside and heads up to the entrance chamber, wary that last time he was here a patrolling metallic skeleton had been present.
Helgot’s plan was to this time head through the doors immediately in front of him, but he finds his way barred — the doors are guarded by a pair of pig-faced orcs, who bristle and ready their weapons at he comes into view.
Helgot has experience with fighting orcs, and he uses their bulk and poor training against them. He deftly manoeuvers around them, skewering one in the gut with his spear before it can bring its short sword to bear. The second manages to land a blow, thumping the hilt of its sword against Helgot’s shoulder, but Helgot manages to twist away and a well-timed thrust sends his spear up through the orc’s jaw, killing it instantly.
A statue of Turms-Mavors
The doors swing open to reveal a long, wide corridor, at the centre of which is a circular area with another corridor at right-angle to the first, creating a cross-shaped intersection. In the middle, a plinth supports a huge mable statue of Mavor, the god of War, holding a shield and barbed spear. The head, however, is clearly Turms Termax, the Thirce-Great, the Man-become-God.
Including the doors through which he entered, there are four exit doorways, one in each cardinal direction. The doors to the east are the most unusual, made of white nephelite — a pearlesent, smooth material, cool to the touch — and covered with soot and grit. They also prove impossible to open, perhaps even magically sealed.
The passages to the north and south are much more mundane. Helgot decides to try north, having largely travelled south on his last visit. He cautiously creeps along corridor to north. There are closed doors at the end of the corridor, two sets on the left, and one on the right. Helgot decides to try the nearest door, one of the ones on the right.
The room is dominated by a long, steel-reinforced oak table, stained in a variety of colors. The walls are criss-crossed with iron shelves, all empty, though many are stained like the table. The floor is covered in smashed glass and scattered with broken and rotten wooden chairs and crates. Having skill as an alchemist, Helgot immediately recongnises the purpose of this room — it was once a laboratory. He picks through the debris, but finds nothing of use — the place has been ransacked.
This abandoned laboratory also offers a further two exits, to the north and to the east. Before he can really decide what to do next, the door on the east wall swings open and a pair of kobolds bound into the room, branishing swords, with another three behind them.
Kobolds are short, dog-like humanoids with cowardly and sadistic tendencies. A kobold’s scaly skin ranges from dark rusty brown to a rusty black colour. It has glowing red eyes. Kobolds wear ragged clothing, favouring red and orange. A kobold is 2 to 2½ feet tall.
They bark and shout in their native language, unintelligable, but one phrase is repeated over and over in their calls: Arach-Nacha!Arach-Nacha!
The fight is short but brutal. The kobolds are armed with short, curved swords which they swing wildly. Helgot tries his best to keep them in the doorway, limiting the number that can slash at him at any one time. One kobold goes down, and then another, but not before Helgot has been slashed down the length of his arm, leaving a ragged cut. Mustering his strength, Helgot manages to impale a third kobold, and as he kicks its lifeless body from his spear, the remaining kobolds realise the tide has turned against them.
They turn and flee away to the west, screaming, and again the words Arach-Nacha! are repeated. Helgot slumps to ground, wounded. He rummages through his pack to gather some bandages and alcohol, and patches himself up.
In the kobold’s haste to leave, they left the far door open, revealing a small storeroom beyond. Helgot is able to find a few coins and some tattered cloth that will make do for bandaging, along with a single unbroken glass vial, which he tucks away with his alchemy supplies.
Discretion is, of course, the better part of valor, and Helgot decides the dull ache in his arm is telling him this would be a good time to retreat. The map is still not found, but the discovery of a laboratory and storeroom seems promising — if science was being performed here, perhaps there is also a library or study nearby.
He retraces his steps and heads back to Muntberg to rest and resupply. And deep within Dwimmermount, the kobolds flee to their master…
You don’t actually need any new game rules or mechanics to play a magic-user […] You can represent spellcasting completely within the existing game rules.
Throwing a Fireball or Lightning bolt at someone? That’s an attack at range. Strike or Clash + edge.
Conjuring a magic shield to intercept an enemy’s attack? Face Danger +wits.
Using a Sleep spell to sneak past the guards? That’s Compel. Summoning demons, or animating constructs to help you perform some task? Secure an Advantage.
Does your spell or ritual have a complex or dangerous ritual, which can easily go wrong? Face Danger first, to get it right.
Does your spell require some special condition to persist? (Concentration, an unbroken magic circle, direct moonlight, etc.) Makes for a good Pay the Price on a miss later.
I’ve been wondering how best to represent magic-users (and clerics) in my Dwimmermount campaign. Ironsworn has the various rituals and the devotant assets, but I felt like I might need something more. This wise advice perhaps shows that I don’t — if I just let the fiction come first, Ironsworn already has all the tools I might need.
Between sessions I’ve been mulling over my options for what to do next. Helgot needs to continue exploring the first floor, searching for the The Exarchate of Theana for Jasper, and he could do to pick up some oil and some tools to try and coax the rusted mechanical face he found back into life.
What’s more concerning is how close he came to death in the last session — first almost mauled to death by a pack of giant rats, and then narrowly dodging past a patrolling eldritch bone skeleton. If Helgot dies, Jasper would never hear from him again, and in theory the campaign would end. Unlike the OSR/D&D campaign Dwimmermount is designed for, there’s no party to continue on should the worst happen; a solo death is also a TPK.
Luckily, I have options. I think the best thing to do is to roll up another Ironsworn character and run them through a little mini-adventure: they can start by meeting Helgot in Muntberg, then make a journey back to the City-State of Adamas to meet up with Jasper. Then we would have three characters — Helgot as primary player character, a newly rolled one as backup, and NPC Jasper gluing them together. Ultimately, I’d like to have a little adventuring guild of PCs to rotate through, based in Muntberg, and if at all possible, I’d like to convince Jasper to close up his shop in Adamas and join them there. I can then pick-and-choose which PC to use for a given session, or take one of them along using a temporary Companion asset.
There are, however, a few issues with convincing Jasper to make the journey from Adamas to Muntberg. First of all, Adamas is his place of business, and he does good business. He’s unlikely to want to close up shop and cut off his income. Secondly, and probably more importantly, he’s currently being surveilled by Termaxian cultists. He doesn’t know this for sure, but he’s paranoid about it (and with good reason). This is all good plot material though, and should the cultists ever make a move he may just decide he’d be safer with his budding group of mercenaries and treasure hunters after all!
One of the recurring threats of the Dwimmermount campaign are the other adventuring parties also exploring the site — at the start of the campaign, there are three groups in competition with the players:
The Five Delvers, sponsored by Muntberg’s temple of Typhon have not discovered much and are mainly scouting out the various entrances
Typhon’s Fists, from Adamas, sent by the High Priest of Typhon, have made some small progress inside
The Crimson Band (working for the despot of Adamas) have not yet been committed
I haven’t yet decided how to slot these into my Ironsworn variation of the campaign — I’m thinking perhaps as slowly-advancing Threat tracks, once the oracles show a reason to introduce them — but their background presence makes me think I should solidify my own characters into a recognisable party, even if they do delve solo.