[I was planning to write the first session report for a new short-run weekly game playtesting a dungeon set in Mesomergos, but one of my players, a true historian, took the liberty of taking the most extensive session notes I've ever seen. I present it here, with slight edits, in the belief that it will provide a better view of the game from the players' view.]
[images by my players]
The Ancient Labyrinth
...Fed by the carcass the people worshipped in the mountains. Pigudix the founder of our land, embodied in the emperor, sat as ruler of the world. His rival Aurochs works, gnawing his way out of the bellies of those who ate him first. The sins of the parents have been passed onto their children. The world and balance between gods, mortals, and spirits strive toward balance and order out of chaos and chaos out of order. May the spirits of song and story aid me in telling this the newest chapter in the history of the Double Axe Palace, the Celestial's Home, Asterion’s Bane, and the Labyrinth of Fear.
Xiaodi (RenegadeTLA on the discord): from the west. Tall and lanky looks like she is not from here but has the name and speaks well. Is a practitioner of the gigre of circumlocution. Super ambitious, wants power and prestige. [Note: incapable of telling the truth about herself]
Sid (Lotus on the discord): orbseeker, about 40 curly but greying hair and some scraggle. Somewhat squirrelly, perhaps high strung and ferociously curious
The Arm of Kang: The financiers of the party. [a band sent by the oathkeeper who funded their expedition]
Zexian (Oblidisiderptch): a practitioner, flagellator. Can do things like transmute items, non-suspicious of everyone. A golem. Weird half cracked mask. [Veteran of a previous game]
Arnulf: an old man from the city we are sent from. Well past prime, a warrior, part of the fighting men. Pushed to assignment not necessarily by choice, possibly a forced retirement. Late 50s balding with good sideburns. Generally an orderly.
Continuation of Double Axe Palace History
An ancient imperial decree to retake an ancient palace in the mountains of Mesomergos, convinced Oathkeeper Kang, lord of a prominent city, to finance this party’s expedition. The long-destroyed gallery roads approaching the Double Axe Palace having been reconstructed made the initial trek reasonably easy, and the party set out to make it inhabitable, seeking treasure and title to the land
The ancient star-worshipping people claimed the site was cursed, and constructed the original palace to appease their zodiac sign of Fear. In these days the palace was known as the Celestial’s Home or more commonly the Labyrinth of Fear. In time, the emperor of Mesomergos appointed a noble, Duke Asterion, to suppress star-worship in the mountains. His rule was characterized by cruelty and greed as he set to forging a statue of pure iron in his own likeness; additionally the frescos lining the walls capture the likeness of Asterion and his eventual downfall.This fall came when his servants revolted, killing him and his retainers, and burning the gallery road leading to the site. In recent years, that gallery road has finally been rebuilt and the troupe of adventurers set up camp in preparation for a final summit.
On the Journey
- Xiaodi thought she saw a pale woman with an ornate two-headed axe, walking along the mountain above her.
- Sid found a copper flask, hot in the midday sun. When he poured it out, the water seemed to sizzle and foam.
- The Arm of Kang swear they saw a star in the constellation of Fear pulsing in the night sky.
- Zexian dreamt (?) They saw a pale woman with an ornate two-headed axe, walking along the empty air beside the gallery road.
- Arnulf pointed, and you all saw a star in the constellation of Fear burned black in the light of day.
- When we set down to camp, Kumiho saw a outcrop of conical rocks. When we awoke, they were gone.
Lotus has suggested a methodical approach so as to make our search thorough. The old man, Arnulf, heaved a grappling hook up and created an entrance for all to pass. Xiaodi encountered some gnomes [having caught on one with the grappling hook] and one fell when Arnulf pulled on the rope. The gnome fell into Zexian’s arms and the two began to bargain for passage into the palace. This reminds me of an old children’s tale involving gnomes
Careful one must be when making deals with gnomes or goblins and similar gremlins. Forget their names, forget your promises, or break the rules, and their tiny spears are sure to fly. Remember the story of Faang who asked a gnome to steal his friend’s book but forgot to stipulate his desire to own it. The gnome took off with the tome leaving Faang without his prize and both lads reeling without their treasured knowledge.
A brief fight broke out, a gnome was drop kicked, as the rest of the party clambered over the wall, past the weathered stone and shrub. A deal was struck between Zexian and the fallen gnome bringing the fight to an end as quickly as it had begun. Dashing into the palace the party gathered with their brokered ally. Zexian decided to follow the gnome in spite of Xiaodi’s protests, he presented a case and all seemed agreed the party should split to better understand the lay of this land. A loaf of bread split many times feeds many a little while a loaf split in two feeds a few much more.
[In a hallway of the palace, the party inspected frescos and noted] horoscopes for each of the birth signs for immediate future and for the rest of the year... On examination the frescos revealed a history of the past 200 years in this place. [The palace has been abandoned for at least a century]
At this same time Zexian was attempting to strike more deals with the gnome to further establish our claim over this land and the palace itself. A feast they discussed roast beef, and potatoes with some lovely asparagus. The meeting planned Zexian allowed the gnome to give a location and it was decided the theatre to the north east would be best. With a warning to not drink the water [!] this gnome trotted off toward his kin as Zexian returned to his own.
As the group made its way to the theatre through the courtyard a series of strange vegetables overgrow the area, but more concerning flickers passed through the windows... It is more than likely this place has seen much violence and death, and one would be wise to honor the spirits of the fallen. As Zexian took to marking our way an unknown figure shambled their way past. Arnulf called out and we were met with a woman who promptly bounded up to the group. “Right away!” was all she could seem to say. [This haunted creature is one of many such inhabitants of the palace, with animal-like minds but human habits]
At this moment our attempts to communicate with the woman were interrupted by a young man falling from the second story. Some of the party took concern and went to talk to the man but his terror overcame him and he panicked backing up fast screaming “Right Away!” Her eyes like an eclipse with a thin and bright iris. A man identical to he who fell screamed from the second story heights “I told you not to go in there!” as the woman frantically responded "Right Away" to the mention of Lord Asterion’s name. Zexian, intrigued by this woman’s odd nature, is interested in taking the broom, the merits of which were promptly discussed among the party.
Without other recourse some of the party began to take spirits in order to ascertain any divine influence in these creatures ["as soon as he does that, does anyone want to start doing drugs?"].
As the party prepares to move on, they have failed to adequately heed the signs of the past, with strong fear overhead the push forward toward the theatre in preparation for their meeting [dinner-date] with the gnomes. Xiaodi [dosing her absinthe to get a sense of anything arcane going on] is led away by her companion and commandeers Zexian’s wine for good measure.
[Zexian confers with the stone stairs in their own language, learning] of a few servants traversing the meaning halls and winding cases and of the soldier who acts as their master. From an alcove at the top of the stairs a pair can be heard mumbling through the dim light. The frescos in these halls depict mercantile scenes and one character is peddling an orb of solid gold and while it continues a ways down the hall is replaced by other stories. In the hall of red light two servants appear from the dim; one better dressed than the other. They discuss all in nonsense, though, on our approach, stand and present as if waiting for someone to speak. Moving on quickly from these servants who seem stricken with the same fear as the others the party came across an intelligent rat. After a less than formal introduction the rat was questioned on its knowledge of the palace happenings and the palace structure. Sid took a lead in questioning the rat after Xaodi decidedly would not put the poor fellow down.
[After the rat spent some time yelling and sulking, they decided to help it reclaim its previous, allegedly much nicer alcove.] The rat led the party down the hall to a pair of rats [copulating] and Xiaodi quickly dispatched the rats using a nearby rock. [The party claimed 1d4 soiled coins, their first treasure.] Warned again of the signs of fear, the cruelty and greed of Asterion, and the rights of ownership both for the celestials and gnomes the group pressed on plundering and murdering.
Those with no respect to history will be doomed to see it repeat in their own lives and actions.
Closer inspection of the mirror in the center of the room revealed 12 defaced symbols around the frame. Zexian and Sid begin to polish what they now know is an arcane mirror and the defaced symbols appear to be the zodiac.
[This ended up a madcap session, with a one-round combat following the accidental kidnapping of a gnome, the interactions with uncomprehending guards, the always-amusing realization that two party members both speak the language of stone, and the indulgence of an annoyed rat's worst impulses.]
[The party has made first contact with the gnomes who inhabit part of the palace, and have gotten a gnome to promise to help them forge a peace. They have observed strange behavior by these ancient servants, and do not understand why they act in this way, save that they suspect it has to do with the Zodiac Fear. They have not yet found an orb.]