Campaigns I Have Known
BASIC DUNGEONS & DRAGONS
- SKULL MOUNTAIN
- SKULL MOUNTAIN
Synopsis (Continued...): And now the second half of the campaign, which features the two new players/PCs entering the fray following the departure of Aaron and his recently deceased Elf.
The story thus far...After being marooned on a mysterious island by a terrible storm at sea, two old friends, a Fighter and a Cleric, join forces with an Elf they met to find shelter. They discover Skull Mountain, the former home of a giant long since dead.
Strange creatures and fantastic treasures are found within the mountain. With each level deeper our intrepid explorers descend, the foes become more dangerous, and the rewards greater!
On the next to last level, the sixth level of Skull Mountain, a terrible creature slew the Elf as he tried to help his allies.
Now, with their Elf friend gone, the Fighter and Cleric swear to find out what is at the very bottom of Skull Mountain if it's the last thing they do! Before they can make good on their plan, another dreadful storm comes through, depositing a damaged boat, and two new castaways into their midst.
Jeff's Fighter, and Josh's Wizard had arrived! David's Fighter and Matt's Cleric brought the newcomers to their campsite, gave them food, and some first aid, and learned about the brothers' need to go home.
The PCs made a deal to aid each other in their respective goals. The newcomers would help the Fighter, and Cleric explore the lowest level of Skull Mountain in exchange for some of the treasure, and their help in repairing the boat. In exchange, the brothers would take the stranded adventurers with them to The Mainland**.
Fairly quickly, things became complicated. A series of phantoms accosted the newcomers, especially Jeff's Fighter. Luckily, Matt's Cleric had the magic amulet that let him see the ghost-like figures, as well as speak with them. They turned out to be ancestors of Jeff's people and they were trying to warn the brothers to leave the island immediately.
Josh's Wizard, and Matt's Cleric consider this, while the two Fighters refuse. Jeff wants to find treasure and weapons to aid his nation. Dave wants to avenge Aaron's Elf.
Boldly pressing onward, the party uses the pit entrance in an attempt to reach the sixth level quickly. Unfortunately, slippery ledges and loose rocks make it slow, and treacherous going. Exploring the area thoroughly once they arrive, they PCs discover it to actually be the den/nest of the creature that killed Aaron's Elf. In addition, they felt that the creature had been placed there on purpose by someone, perhaps as a guardian beast.
Was it the protector of whatever, or whomever was on the bottom level?
Finally, the PCs made it to the seventh, and final level, which turned out to be a cavernous chamber filled with seawater which formed a miniature lake. In the lake was a small island, and on that island was a domed, stone structure about the size of a small keep. Several other structures were found that eventually led to the party calling it 'The Domed City'.
The Domed City is revealed to be the home of a race of Dwarf-like beings who saw Skull Mountain as both their home, and their charge. They felt it was their 'true purpose' to protect the mountain, and the giant's treasure to the point of seeing the PCs as invaders, and criminals. Even after an attempt to explain, the Dwarves felt compelled to attack the party. Luckily, the Wizard and Cleric were able to reason out the why of this.
The small people of the Domed City were the descendants of Mountain Spirits, and Brownie-like Faeries from the giant's house. They simply could not allow the PCs to go unharmed even if they wanted to. However, if the adventurers could take the treasure, and get it out of the mountain, not only were they free to go, the Dwarves were likewise free of having to remain in the mountain to protect it.
With clever thinking, lucky rolls, and the discovery of The Giant's Heart (a magic artifact that may, or may not have actually been the heart of the giant who lived in the mountain), the party was able to defeat enough of the Dwarves, and their minion beasts to get past them, find the treasure, and escape with it to the surface!
The campaign ends with the party at sea on the brothers' repaired carrack (boat) heading for a new chapter back on The Mainland**.
Appendix N: The other players (meaning not me) brought in influences from books, movies, cartoons, and other sources that I was less familiar with. Things like The Hobbit, Lords of The Rings, Warlord and Conan comic books, and more that I couldn't tell you.
I personally sourced (in addition to the stuff I mentioned in the preface of the previous post) a lot of folklore, just as I do today. Specifically, I used British, German, and Russian folktales, as well as some Greek and Norse Mythology.
*I came up with the idea of Signature Magic Items so that I could give the PCs cool magic items without having to keep giving them items. They would find one item that would get better, and better as they (the PCs) went up in level.
Signature Magic Items start as something like a +1 Sword, or an amulet that lets you see ghosts. When you go up in level, beat some difficult challenge, or something similar, you discover a Shield that is also +1, but makes both the Sword and Shield +2 each IF they are used together. The amulet lets you speak to ghosts as well as see them. That kind of thing.
This is an idea I still use when playing my D&D-But-Not style games.
**The entire campaign took place on a single island with a skull topped mountain on it.
World building was somewhere between simple, and non-existent.
At the same time, I believe that at some point I did sketch out what we knew of the world. Story elements from both the players, and some of the NPCs gave me just enough information to get an idea of where the campaign took place (if you're very lenient about the meaning of that phrase).
The original map is long since lost. It would look something like this:
The entirety of the world besides Skull Mountain Island was either The Mainland or the mysterious 'Lands Beyond The Sea', where Dave's Fighter, Matt's Cleric, and presumably Aaron's Elf came from. It is also possible the Elf came from The Mainland and was simply exploring the Lands Beyond The Sea just as Jeff and Josh's characters were.
The Mainland consisted of several small nations including Jeff and Josh's PCs' homeland, a number of warring neighbors, and The Hidden Forest.
While I primarily used creatures found in the Basic D&D rules, I felt the need to create a few original beasties to make the setting special. The monster that slew Aaron's Elf was inspired by the Dobhar-chú, an Irish folklore creature whose name means 'Water Dog'. The Dwarves of the Domed City were based on Domovoi, a type of Slavic Brownie.
As part of a series entitled, 'Dungeon Mastering As Fine Art', the site Zenopus Archives gives considerable attention to the map of Skull Mountain and the various incarnations it has had.
James Maliszewski, on the GROGNARDIA blog, likewise gave the locale some thought.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, that's all for this tale. It was a lot of fun reminiscing about this campaign, and I hope to do more 'firsts' in the future (my first Mekton campaign, my first Traveller campaign, etc.).
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
See you soon.