Topic: Death Frost Doom Experiences

Here's a thread where you can post about how Death Frost Doom went over with your group...

I dropped Death Frost Doom into the middle of my campaign--to see how it went on the day of, check here...

(spoilers) … -doom.html

(more spoilers below)

A few days ago I ran my first post-Death Frost Doom session.  It was excellent.

At first I was kind of worried about having an undead mini-apocalypse let loose on the game world, but then I changed it so that instead of ghouls, the countryside was overrun with just skeletons.

This made it feel more medieval to me (Holbein Woodcut plus opened up an interesting theme:

Zombies and ghouls, nowadays tend to make people think about fear of conformity (or AIDS), skeleton images, in the middle ages, were often a metaphor for the Black Plague.

So I decided to run with that--skeletons stalk the land, causing mayhem--the cities (and dungeons) are the only "safe" places, where people hole up and hope to outlast the plague.

It gives a nice, isolating post-apocalyptic-yet-still-middle-ages feeling to the thing.  Adventures feel like that Edgar Allan Poe story "Mask of the Red Death".

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

I adore the sort of mischievous and sadistic nature of skeletons in those old illustrations of plague.

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

I've been running a "sandbox" campaign starting with Keep on the Borderlands, using heavily modified Moldvay Basic rules. Recent sessions have been with a single player. He requested a Halloween-appropriate session, so I tossed out a hook for Death Frost Doom and away we went. What follows is a long, spoiler-filled account of our session. It's not the most engaging example of such a thing ever written, so if you get bored, now or later, skip to the end for the commentary.

Character roster:
Alissa, 2nd level Lawful Cleric, player character
Derrick, 2nd level Chaotic Magic-User, henchman
Luke, 1st level Neutral Fighter, henchman
Evro, 0th level Neutral Fighter, hireling
Alho, 0th level Neutral Fighter, hireling
Estrazo, 0th level Nuetral Thief, hireling

All the characters except Estrazo constitute an adventuring party operating out of a border keep who are currently on a mission to find and capture or kill a priest who is believed to be operating a shrine of evil chaos somewhere in the wilderness nearby. They are approached by Estrazo, who has heard of their mission, and is in possession of a map which shows the way to a mountain and a secret trail which leads up the mountain to an ancient, evil shrine. Hoping to find the evil priest they are seeking, or information that could lead them to him, the party agrees to seek the shrine with Estrazo.

The party travels for three days before reaching the mountain, and near dusk on the fourth day finds a cabin off to the side of the trail. They investigate the area, finding animal skins, blood, and crude wooden gravemarkers. Alissa calls out a greeting and in response a filthy backwoods eccentric stumbles out of the woods with an armload of firewood. He introduces himself as Zeke, smells bad, and welcomes them. Starting a fire and preparing root tea and critter bits, he learns the party intends to seek the evil shrine up the mountain. As several of the characters enjoy the savory critter bits, Zeke mentions they are badger parts and there is a round of spit-takes. Zeke tells the party all he knows about the shrine and strongly discourages them from continuing their journey. The party is thoroughly confused by Zeke's history lesson, and adamantly insist on seeking the shrine. Zeke encourages them to camp the night and sleep on it. In the morning the party begins to set out for the shrine against Zeke's continuing discouragement. Zeke grabs the party's mule and starts leading it back down the mountain. Luke pushes Zeke to the ground, and Zeke springs back up and begins wrestling Luke. Alissa directs Derrick to end the situation, meaning that he should cast a sleep spell. Derrick, misunderstanding, draws his dagger. Zeke's demeanor changes and he makes some statements about the souls of men and the party's doom as they leave him and proceed up the mountain.

As the party crests the ridge before the graveyard, their mule refuses to proceed. They lead it back down to the tree line and tie it off. Returning to the graveyard, the party proceeds down the path directly to the cabin. They note the petrified condition of the wood, and the script etched upon it, then peer in the windows to get a good look at the main room before Luke touches the door, which falls loudly inward. Moving into the main room, Luke notes the chairs have turned to face him. Derrick investigates the book on the desk, the hirelings investigate the trapdoor and clock, and the others investigate the mirror. Derrick doesn't learn much. The hirelings immediately remove the clock from the wall and stuff it in a sack. The others notice that Derrick's reflection does not appear in the mirror. Everyone gathers around the mirror, and Derrick feels very special. Then they remove the mirror from the wall and stuff it in a sack, not noticing that Derrick's reflection appears once the mirror is moved. Luke moves the chairs around.

The party proceeds into the kitchen and pantry, and then the adjoining bedroom where they find Grover's belongings. They toss the room and take Grover's purse. The party returns to the pantry and proceeds down the back hall, intending to check the back door. They hear harpsichord music and investigate the sitting room, and discover a painting of themselves before an evil altar, with Alissa sipping from a goblet and an open door nearby. Crossing the hallway, they search the other bedroom, and Derrick enthusiastically claims the bag of purple lotus powder which he is able to identify.

Returning to the back door, they discover frozen prints of bare human feet. Following the footprints, they stop to shine a lantern down the well, then continue on and discover Grover's corpse. It is getting late and the party decides to return to the treeline, tend the mule, and camp. In the morning, they return to the cabin and Luke notes the chairs have turned to face him. Estrazo opens the padlock on the trapdoor.

The party shines a lantern into the pit, notes the handholds, then drops a torch to the bottom. Nervous of falling, they pound a spike into the petrified floor of the cabin, lower a rope, and all descend the pit. At the bottom Estrazo taps the twisted faces in the screaming hall with a hammer, but no one touches them with bare flesh. At the end of the screaming hall, Luke breaks and carves the end of his 10' pole into a suitable implement which Estrazo is able to use, eventually, to turn the key in the door. Proceeding into the entry chamber, Derrick recognizes the Dead Sign on the doors, and readies his scroll of protection from undead.

Entering the chapel, they travel directly to the altar, noting murals and chains and skulls along the way. Derrick investigates the altar and takes the dagger and necklace in the bowl. Luke probes the basins with his 6' pole and can tell there is something beneath the surface of the black water. Retrieving the bowl from the altar, Luke scoops some water from one of the basins and pours it on the floor. The hirelings surround the organ, and Estrazo attempts to play it. A cloud of choking dust and spores issues from the organ, and all of the hirelings fall dead to the floor. The horrified remainder of the party waits for the dust to settle, then Luke holds a cloth over his face while collecting a healing potion from one of the hireling corpses, along with the bowl and gem which spilled from the workings of the organ.

Unable to open the door and looking for anything they may have missed, Luke scoops deeper into one of the basins with the bowl from the altar, pours off some of the water, and discovers it is full of teeth, which he dumps on the floor in disgust. Alissa points out that some temples require an offering to enter. In response, Derrick uses the bowl to get some teeth from a basin, spills them on the altar, and chants some evil mumbo jumbo. Not having achieved anything, he gets some more teeth and spills them on the door, and then puts some teeth on the organ. Eventually Derrick has an idea, and uses the pommel of his dagger to bash some teeth out of the mouth of one of the still-warm hirelings. He places the teeth in a basin and the party proceeds through the door.

Reaching the first pair of bronze doors with spinning wheels, the party decides to first explore the nearby embalming room. Derrick finds the grimoire within and stuffs it in a sack. Returning to the bronze doors, they open the priest crypts, proceed down the corridor to the first intersection, and without investigating further, return to the other bronze door and open it. They open the warrior crypts, and peer in only enough to determine that the area is full of crypts, and surmise the previous area must have been full of crypts as well. Returning to the corridor, they next enter the hall of memory. Derrick takes the eyepiece and uses it to read the covers of the books on the pedestals. He opens them to find they have are completely deterioriated. Returning once more to the corridor, they proceed to the eye of many eyes, which they attempt to stab with a dagger. Satisfied with the ring of steel on stone, they open the commoner crypts, peer within, and then head back to where the eerie sound first heard in the graveyard seems to be louder.

Ignoring the side passages and encountering a strange coral/vine/webbing, they peer beyond it to see the altar from the painting in the cabin, with a pit in front of it. Derrick immediately pours a flask of oil under the growth and, after some effort, manages to light it with flint and steel. Bursting into flames, the plant creature lashes out with its spiked vines and deals Derrick a vicious wound. He staggers back, and the party keeps their distance from the whipping branches. Alissa magically cures Derrick's wound while the plant creature is reduced to ashes.

The party proceeds into the temple. They shine a lantern into the pit, and Derrick investigates the altar. Using the eyepiece, he reads the inscriptions all around the base, but not out loud. The inscription describing the sacrifice ritual also states the purpose of the ritual is to "open the way". Derrick then looks at the book on the altar, reads the title, skims the interior, and stuffs it in a sack. The party agrees it is a good time to leave the shrine and return to camp, then to the keep, to find more hirelings before returning. They exit the temple, intent on leaving and with no suspicion of danger. Luke is in front, Derrick in the middle, and Alissa behind. Alissa hears an unintelligible moan from ahead and asks Luke to repeat himself. As Luke insists he didn't say anything, Derrick is startled by banging on the doors of the child crypts. Before they react to the banging, they hear more moaning, then stampeding feet, and a wave of dead surges around the corner and rushes at them. Derrick frantically reads his scroll of protection from undead, and as his chanting ceases the dead crash as against an invisible wall, inches in front of Luke. The party retreats into the temple, a churning mass of reaching arms and hungry mouths moving with them, restrained only by a temporary mystical ward.

There the session was suspended, to be concluded this week. The player seemed suitably creeped out by Zeke, the cabin, and the shrine. He seemed surprised and maybe disappointed by the arrival of the dead. Later I related the events of the session to my girlfriend and when the party opened the first crypt door and left she immediately asked "Did they close the door?" and expressed disbelief that such precautions would not be taken in an evil place. "Those doors are there for a reason." She also thought it foolhardy to mess with the plant creature. It is a shrewd and comical module design in that sufficient paranoia and suppression of curiosity are rewarded with little danger, but most jaded D&D players will be unable to resist taking the bait and unleashing hell upon their own heads. I look forward to learning the fate of these characters, and particularly the temptation and frustration for the chaotic magic-user whose only remaining spell is sleep. It's of no use against any of his opponents, but he could use it to secure a human sacrifice for the altar in the temple. Or maybe he will get into the purple lotus powder? Whether the party survives or new characters are required, I also look forward to the keep under siege by an army of darkness. To be continued.

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

It's official:

Death Frost Doom encourages more amateur dentistry than any other release in the history of role-playing.

I hope they get to the Greater Tombs. I don't think I've seen anybody mention their players getting back there yet.

Cool writeup. big_smile

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

Sorry--the previous post made me think of something that I sillily posted before realizing it was a threadjack. Please disregard.

Last edited by sleepy (2009-10-31 21:28:19)

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

Death Frost Doom on the Borderlands, Part II:

We just finished the second (and final) session of Death Frost Doom. We decided to rewind the action a few moments and take it from there.

Character roster:
Alissa, 2nd level Lawful Cleric, player character
Derrick, 2nd level Chaotic Magic-User, henchman
Luke, 1st level Neutral Fighter, henchman
(3 hirelings previously deceased)

Exiting the temple, the party was shocked to find a torrent of crypt things hungry for living meats. Derrick hastily read his scroll of protection from undead, and the horde stopped just short of the party, furiously clawing at the unseen force holding them back.

Alissa ordered Derrick to remain in place holding the dead at bay while she and Luke investigated one of the side tunnels. As they headed down the passage, Luke reminded Alissa of the door next to the altar seen in the painting of the temple upstairs. They found the prayer room, and after Luke retrieved the eyepiece from Derrick, Alissa read aloud the engraving on the bronze plaque, and Luke commenced with attempting to tattoo the Dead Sign in the flesh of his arm. Alissa called out instructions to Derrick and pushed Luke into the hallway, where Derrick's sorcery left Luke lying in slumber. Alissa broke the inkpot, bent the needles, and roughly dragged Luke into the temple, with Derrick following.

Luke awoke disoriented, and Alissa explained what had transpired. Checking for any way to seal the temple off from the corridor, they found the shaft leading up at the doorway. Not wanting to part with their bulky armors and treasures to escape, they decided the shaft would be their last resort and continued to seek another exit. Derrick remained at the doorway to hold the dead back and keep the shaft accessible. Once again in possession of the eyepiece, he busied himself studying the Book of Unspeakable Shame and the Grimoire of Walking Flesh but failed to find any information of immediate value. Alissa and Luke set about tapping and probing the wall where the door had appeared in the painting, but could find no sign of it. Appraising the giant skeleton statue and thinking of the jawless skulls in the chapel, Alissa climbed the statue and found the jaw was hinged. Pulling on it resulted in a loud click from the wall next to the altar, and Luke confirmed the wall could now be moved with ease. Alissa yelled to Derrick and the party retreated through the door, dead flooding after them, filling the temple, piling up, many even plummeting into the pit. They closed and latched the door, and drove two spikes into it for good measure.

Wondering at their new situation, they tentatively investigated the side tunnel, and found the door of the Grand Inquisitor's Tomb. Hearing familiar scratching and pounding on the door, they declined to open it. However it did not sound like there were more than a couple of creatures on the other side, and based on their map the party suspected a way to the chapel might lay beyond.

Returning to the main passage and exploring further they found the door to the Mausoleum of the Guard. Luke opened the door and shone the lantern around seeing nothing but a plain sarcophagus with its lid askew. The party cautiously entered the mausoleum, and noticed a stair on the wall. Following it upward with the lantern light they were confronted with a grisly visage which leapt upon them. Its expression of hate briefly changed to confusion, then rage, as it belly flopped onto the protective radius of Derrick's magical barrier and slid to the floor. Confident and relieved, the party brashly insulted the dead thing while searching its sarcophagus for valuables before backing out of the mausoleum and barring the door.

Proceeding down the corridor they encountered the door to the Mausoleum of the Honored Sacrifice, which they declined to open in consideration of audible violence being performed upon the other side. Next finding the door to the Mausoleum of the Builder, Derrick placed and lit some incense in the censer over the door. Finding the censer performed adequately but unexceptionally, Luke chipped the paint from the edges of the door and opened it. Assessing the pyramid within, Luke cracked the glaze around the top section, looped a rope about it and affixed it with a spike, then retreated to join everyone just outside the door. With a mighty heave the top of the pyramid toppled off, releasing a chill mist of human shape which rushed at them, shrieking. With the enraged spirit stopped by Derrick's continuing mystical protection, the party barred the door.

Continuing onward, they opened the door to the Crypt of the Exalted Interrogator. Derrick stood on the threshold while Luke crossed the broken floor to reach the ornate sarcophagus. Intent upon the sarcophagus, no one noticed the chimney above it. Luke opened the sarcophagus to discover a tunnel within, and the floor behind him buckled and surged with the appearance of something trying to break free. Believing Derrick's continuing enchantment to be his only shield, Luke rushed around the side of the chamber to avoid the broken floor and leapt for the doorway. As his feet left the floor, a powerful arm thrust upward, clutching where he had just been. A powerful, frustrated bellow echoed up the tunnel from the sarcophagus as the party barred the door.

Hearing scratching and moaning from the door to the Crypt of the Blessed Blasphemer, the party continued on. They opened the door to the Mausoleum of the Ancient, observed the hazy mist, entered, observed the carving on the sarcophagus, and left, shutting the door. Proceeding to the end of the corridor, they observed the ancient bloodsoaked surfaces, and Derrick declined to share the carving on the wall with his companions after reading it with the eyepiece.

They decided to return to the temple and explore the first tunnel they had neglected. They found the two spikes had fallen to the floor, as the entire door to the temple was now giving an inch in its frame as the dead beyond continued to surge against it. They followed the tunnel to its end at a deep pit with a strange glowing pattern within. Someone read aloud the inscription on the wall and Luke rushed into the pit, saved at the last moment when Alissa lunged forward to grab his arm. Luke immediately regained his senses and was pulled up by Alissa and Derrick.

Determined to fight their way out, they returned to the Grand Inquisitor's Tomb. Unhappy to find the immediate area obscured with hazy mist, Luke prepared to unbar the door. They were surprised by a commanding voice behind them suggesting that would not be a good idea. They found themselves facing Cyris Maximus, and demanded to know who he was. Maximus introduced himself and demanded to know who the party was. After their inoffensive reply, Maximus informed they were out of options and must bargain with him for their lives. Alissa rudely declined but Maximus did not react as the party opened the door and found themselves facing the hungry corpse beyond. Blows were traded, and the unliving foe fell to axe and hammer without giving injury. Now able to clearly see within the tomb, the party was crestfallen to not find a passage beyond. Investigating the sarcophagus, Derrick retrieved a wooden box. Finding it locked, he pried it open with his dagger. As the lock gave, a needle sprang forth, but did not prick him. Inside he discovered a vial of liquid and a goblet.

Exiting the room, Maximus again confronted the party and repeated his offer. Again declined, he stepped aside and let them return deeper into the tombs area. Stopping at the entrance to the Mausoleum of the Honored Sacrifice, they opened the door and were confronted by dead outnumbering them. Battle ensued and Alissa suffered a deep wound to her shoulder. She attempted to turn the abominations confronting them, but the light that shone forth from her holy symbol died in the gloom of the ancient mausoleum. Their dead opponents cackled dryly, and the monster confronting Alissa dug deeper into her wound, extinguishing her life.

Maximus immediately commanded the dead to stop their assault. Even before Maximus could utter his command, Derrick, now free from Alissa's restraining presence, agreed to assist Maximus.

Maximus lead Derrick and Luke to the Crypt of the Blessed Blasphemer and they all swore oaths. Maximus waited while Derrick and Luke collected items of value both material and sentimental from Alissa and cremated her remains. Under direction from Maximus, they conveyed his coffin from the tombs to the cabin, then waited while the dead under his command overran the dead victims of the cult. The graveyard appeared as if turned by a great plow, and they observed a macabre battle of withered forms wrestling and clawing, endless rotten flesh torn and bitten, the snow littered with dismembered black limbs.

The opposition waning, they carried the coffin through the graveyard and down the mountain, passing the gnawed remains of both their mule and Zeke. Sometime after midnight they reached exhaustion and Derrick informed Maximus they must rest. Maximus gave them permission to rest as necessary, but no more. Cautioning them against breaking their oath, he dismissed the undead still following them, and retired to his coffin. The undead faded into the deep night and an exhausting sequence of forced marches and brief rests followed. On the second day they encountered a mounted patrol from the keep, but upon identifying themselves and claiming to carry Alissa's remains, they were allowed to continue on strength of their heroic reputation.

Coming within sight of the keep near dawn of the fourth day, six skeletal figures on winged skeletal horses descended from the sky. One of the riders gestured at the coffin and beckoned for it to be brought to them. Derrick was confused, so the ominous figure repeated its gestures. Derrick protested that he was oath bound to convey the coffin to the keep, but Maximus' muffled voice from within instructed him to give the coffin to the riders. Derrick was grief stricken, as he'd hoped to become Maximus' favorite minion. The riders left with the coffin, and Derrick and Luke returned to the keep.

At that point play transitioned from the module back to the regular campaign. The little retcon at the beginning of the session allowing the party to explore the side tunnel was agreed upon as we were both somewhat fatigued and befuddled as the previous session had wrapped up. I was fairly generous with rulings in the session, most of all with the effects of the protection from undead scroll. I felt this was fair given how dire the circumstances and the party not having much else going for them. The various evil compelling inscriptions did not make so much sense to write down with a single player. Instead, I told the player what the character with the eyepiece read, and then asked if they told the rest of the party what it said. In both cases of inscriptions read out loud, Luke failed his save, but the other characters were allowed opportunities to react, and the dice were with them as he dove into the pit. I was worried the party would jump at the chance to escape via the chimney and as a result not enter the greater tombs, but an unwillingness to part with equipment and treasure kept things interesting. Finding the secret door in the temple became frustrating. The characters knew it was there, but failed their rolls to find secret doors, and I had some difficulty improvising the nature of the door's secret. I liked the player's line of thinking regarding the jawbone, and made it so. Really, I was glad to have the party gain entrance to the greater tombs, and was not satisfied to have that thwarted by their inability to find their way in. The dead falling in the temple pit did not awake the giant as I have the pit eventually connecting with another dungeon instead of a nose. The player seemed somewhat grim and disheartened by the party's predicament, and the comic relief of the ambush in the mausoleum of the guard helped get things moving again.

I won't go too much into details about the ongoing campaign, but there will be consequences and they seem surprisingly unanticipated. Maximus will now have a presence, and its effects will be felt sooner or later. More importantly, no one at the keep realizes the party encountered anything more than a couple dozen zombies, and the party seems to have assumed an out of sight, out of mind disposition to the thousands of undead roaming the wilderness only several leagues to the north. Everyone will have an unpleasant surprise when the keep is surrounded by undead in maybe a week. On the character side of things, Derrick is now the PC and party leader. He is utterly depraved, foolishly rash, gleefully unsupervised, and yet for the moment has the trust of the keep's inhabitants. In the near future there will likely be more deaths within the keep than without. Discussing the module with the player, he enjoyed it but definitely wouldn't want to experience anything like it regularly. I shared with the player " . . . let's face it, how many characters will volunteer to go anywhere else they see the Dead Sign after the first encounter?" and he agreed his characters would never set foot in such a place again.

Last edited by giantbat (2009-11-07 08:56:07)

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

Seems like you got the whole nine yards out of that module, bat.

Last edited by Zak S. (2009-11-07 22:46:52)

Re: Death Frost Doom Experiences

Thanks for letting me read this great post, keep it up.