Castles & Crusades Diary: Barrowmaze, Session 50.

I celebrate 50 sessions in my Barrowmaze campaign – with many more to come! The Army of the Light acquires a House Spirit (Domovoi) named Sobol.

Celebrating 50 sessions of Barrowmaze:
Background. After running games in my version of the Forgotten Realms (FR) from 1992, I left FR and D&D5E behind in 2018. It was time to start fresh and use a game system that gave me the most flexibility to create my own game world, make use of all the D&D editions, and draw upon my academic background in history and philosophy. Castles & Crusades was that game. I spent the late summer and autumn of 2018 beginning my first-ever non-D&D campaign. That pre-Barrowmaze set of adventures numbered 20 by the time the summer of 2019 rolled around and my new group of players made their first visit to the Barrowmaze (a megadungeon made for the Labyrinth Lord retro-clone of 1981 Basic D&D). I had never before had a campaign last more than two years – two years was the max, and most lasted around six months. But for the first time since I began running games I had a campaign that was not winding down, but was actually getting more popular!

The present. After more than two years the excitement is stronger than when it began. How many people can say that about a campaign they are in? This is a good thing, since after 1.5 years of gaming weekly (for the most part), there is still a lot of Barrowmaze to explore and many new challenges to meet and mysteries to solve.

There are 7 players in this campaign, and each have roughly 4 characters which they rotate in and out of each session based on who is off training getting new abilities after leveling up and what the players are most interested in using that particular night. That means there are around 28 characters that make up the Army of the Light! It is not a small adventuring party like you find in a typical D&D-like game, it is an ever growing network of adventurers pooling resources and collaborating to build their skills and their powers. So often in games I’ve previously played in or run, the players would seek out NPC’s to expand their knowledge and skills, and although this group can do that, we have 28 characters ranging from level 1 to 6, each mentoring those of lower level and pooling resources to and sharing knowledge. So while two or three of the wizards, or illusionists might head off to the Barrowmaze to find ancient scrolls, spellbooks, and magic, a couple of the other wizards might remain in the multi-story building they have in Ironguard Motte’s town center to transcribe the scrolls and spellbooks they discovered in the previous adventures. They are turning adventuring into a well-oiled machine!

But in spite of this collaborative work, they are not losing site of their personal ambitions. Several of the Norse characters are being approached by a local Viking lord to join him as he attempts to set up a nearby Viking enclave. Ironguard Motte, run by a local lord worshipping local Saints is trying to hold onto his own power, and knights from one of the nearby Crusader kingdoms is trying to recruit the local paladin, Cobalt, to set him up as the future power in the area. Then we have the elven clerics and wizards, and they have been offered assistance in building their elven temples and wizard towers to maintain a strong elven presence. Finally, we have the rogues, who are being warily watched by the well established guilds in the Duchy of Aerik, wondering if they will join them or are planning on creating their own, competing, guilds (they are!). The characters that are being approached for future leadership are entering 5th-6th level – which is mid-level in C&C – and they have reached the point where people have taken notice of them. Now as they continue their exploration of the mighty secrets and magic of the Barrowmaze, they are also slowly working away at setting up their post-adventuring career at high levels, for when they hit 9th level, that will be when they can begin establishing their towers, castles, temples, guilds, and establishments (and they’ll still need to explore the Barrowmaze to fund these massive building projects). It feels good to see such a rich campaign continuing to grow with such a bright future. This campaign is slowly building towards something great. This campaign began with 3-4 players with around 6 characters in a backward Duchy in the Borderlands, to now being made up of 7 players with 28 characters with a strong local reputation, and steadily moving toward a position where they could eventually be ruling the region and running the local economy!

The Army of the Light get a House Spirit named Sobol.

Game Diary:
Although the Tuesday session was quite exciting, I can abridge it to just the essentials. The adventure began with a little fella who called himself Sobol, appearing out from the hearth of the building where the Army of the Light relaxes and studies between forays into the Barrowmaze. The building had acquired some structural damage during the attack of an elemental creature in December, and it was while they were having it fixed up that Sobol entered the house. He now declared to the group that he was their house spirit, and if they fed him (a little bread, honey, butter, and milk), that he would keep the household clean and tidy (at night when they slept) and even defend it if someone were to enter. The group agreed and now they have a new friend (who remains invisible and out of sight most of the time…as long as they keep the Domovoi happy!).

Having acquire a House Spirit, the Army of the Light spread out their Barrowmaze map fragments across their main table and decided they needed to finish exploring the north western portion of the dungeon. After 10 members stepped forward to partake on this excursion (the rest were either training for new abilities, or researching), they headed out.

The encounters they had once they arrived at the Barrowmaze (it is about a half-day from Ironguard Motte), involved your typical zombies – both slow and fast – a variety of traps, such as a deadfall trap which could’ve crushed Malcolm, the rogue who failed to find it! – a flock of stirges, and then there was the mummy! They did some creative thinking by destroying it’s canopic jars, which weakened it, and luckily for them I kept rolling 2’s on my initiative, so it was always going last, which allowed them to pound it with their attacks. This was good for them, since it didn’t get a good hit in and let’s be honest, mummy rot is not fun!

After this encounter, however, two players had to leave the game early, and since they were using 4 of the 11 characters in this adventure (40% of the group), the group was suddenly handicapped, for these four characters made up 2 of the 3 wizards in the party, and all of the clerics. This almost led to the groups fall when they entered a room fighting two elemental sand creatures and a yellow mold which infected Arthur, the oathsworn. It was with the use of a card from the Deck of Dirty Tricks that allowed them to abruptly summon from his wizard study area in their Ironguard Motte home, Llewelyn, their elven 5th level cleric/5th level wizard. He launched a series of magic missiles to finish off the sandlings, and then had to use a large amount of his clerical power to cure disease on Arthur and heal a number of the other characters who were down to only a few hit points.