Last night it happened, it finally happened. I got to run Death Frost Doom to an eager set of players who, when we finished for the night, agreed things were pretty fucking horrifying. Result. Onwards with the details, though I’ll try to keep things brief rather than produce a small essay. Please be aware that while I’ve tried to keep some aspects vague, its still going to be a spoil for you if you plan to play in the adventure at some point in the near future.
With a stack of pregens to hand, the group set up the slopes of Deathfrost Mountain in search of unspeakable riches, shoving a crazy man to the ground who tried his best to convince them to turn back. They were hard adventurers, and hard adventurers dont heed no warning. Reaching the peak was the first tinkle of uneasiness at the table for I’d been hamming up the weather conditions only for sudden silence to take over; the snowstorm stopped, all they could hear was the crunch of snow underfoot and the sound of their own breathing, and pale moonlight lit up the unsettling scene of roughly constructed grave markers. One of the characters was intrigued by the old hanging tree’s bark and picked away at a bit only to panic when it started bleeding. The Magic User tried prizing a piece of bark off, earning himself a violent flash in his mind of thousand’s of voices crying out in a mixture of pain and rage. The consensus was to leave that tree well alone.
More exploring turned up a grate, and a corpse. The corpse was briefly investigated but the drawing darkness of night ushered the group to the lodge where, due to a lack of checking, the door fell inwards off its hinges and announced their arrival with a loud boom across the peak. The mirror proved a source of much gnashing of teeth as the group noticed the magic user wasn’t showing up in the reflection, and it was generally agreed that the chained trap door could jolly well stay chained for just now. The clock gave everyone a fright as it chimed the hour and performed its little display with the stuffed birds wobbling out and back in again, the ledger of names was perused (and one of the group thoughtfully added her colleagues name to the list to see what would happen).
The cold was getting to them now so the Specialist got a fire going in the fireplace, breaking up one of the chairs, but it did little to fight back the plunging temperature (though at least made seeing a bit easier). While exploring the house, the Specialist was also the first to find the Purple Lotus Powder which quickly got stored in his backpack with nary a word to his companions. The harpsichord freaked them out but not as much as the painting did (though this was quickly cut down and stowed in the backpack after the Fighter tried rubbing himself out of the picture – Ill work out how much he reduced the price by if they make it off this peak alive). The recently deceased corpse’s belongings were pilfered but not for use – there was the mentality that anything not nailed down right now rightfully belonged to the group, regardless of its purpose or origin.
This only left the trapdoor to explore. The bravado had quickly dissipated and, under the unseeing gaze of the deer head on the wall, they tried dropping a torch down the shaft that sadly went out before hitting the bottom. They made their way slowly down regardless, the magic user’s lantern casting some light for them to see their way down into the depths though the dim light did little to help the Fighter’s mood as it revealed the silent screaming faces in the wall. He tried rubbing one of them, netting the face coming briefly to life and twisting under his touch, screaming that he was a gift to the Nothing (my scream was heard by the neighboring RPG groups in other rooms, going by the sudden silence). The party that had so happily pushed a crazy old coot to the ground earlier were now creeping in small steps along this macabre corridor to the foreboding door shaped like a gargoyle’s face. They were taking no chance, having the Specialist manipulate the key in the door with his tools in case the mouth suddenly shut.
The odd display of skeleton hands around the next room resting on blank diary’s confused them but the Magic User picked up one of the blank books in case it was useful later on before they made their way into the main temple. As they crept deeper in they started lighting some candles to help see more clearly though they all kept their respective torches and lanterns to hand. The circle of hanging skulls grinned at them, one of the skulls falling downwards and smashing into frozen shards across the floor (and a second shortly afterwards as someone tried to look at one closer). As they looked at the murals and the altar, there was a general feeling of “Nope, nope, nope” echoing around the table but this didn’t stop one plucky adventurer from taking the contents of the altar’s basin. While the Specialist examined the basins filled with teeth to the right of the room, the Fighter examined the organ and after dislodging the bowl from its internal workings to make it play properly, randomly struck a few keys. This is how the first character death of the adventure occurred as man-eating spores poured out of the tubes and swarmed over the hapless figure who had sufficient time to scream but not to achieve much else. The remaining characters stared in surprise as their companion fell to the ground, devoured to the bone. Another skull smashed to the floor behind them.
Another character was quickly brought in (it was agreed that the assumption would be all the spare pregens were lurking up in the cabin for now, ready to come down as needed), another Fighter who was remarkably more cautious than his predecessor. The Specialist looted a small box from its toothy abode in the basin but refused to examine it while the rest of the group went deeper into the dungeon through the west door. They couldn’t get into the first locked door but scouring the rest of the rooms turned up a strange mask with more teeth plunged into its wooden face, some musical notes (though it was agreed the organ was off limits now), a delightful compendium on how to properly torture people, and a few silver pieces.
Turning back to the temple, they had the idea of donating teeth into the basin (I was very impressed they got this, I thought it might be a tad obscure) so they prized a tooth from their recently departed friend and dropped that into the basin. This caused the north-east door to rumble open and, apparently, another skull to fall to the ground behind them. Exploration through this area was slow as the group seemed keen to rummage around everywhere but, conversely, not examine things too carefully. For example they found bottles full of “liquid time” but didn’t open them to experiment. While the specialist was having a quick breather he gave in and looked inside the box, finding the ivory relief of a man he recognized from the mural in the main temple. The rest of the group found silver and copper pieces in the burial chambers (with the Fighter finding a lovely expensive sapphire necklace on one corpse).
It wasn’t long of course before they came across the source of the weird music they’d been hearing since they descended into the mountain: a strange mass of twisted human flesh filling up a part of a hall, the stretched body parts of a man bound from ceiling to wall to wall to floor. The face of the man stared impassively at them as they kept a safe distance, though the Specialist remarked that it was the same man from the mural and from the box he found. The group had a play with the monstrous state of hundreds of eyes; the Fighter got a boost to his Charisma for his troubles, the Magic User lost a point of his Dexterity, and the Specialist developed a nasty cough for trying to remove a coin from the statue’s basin.
They found the crypt going north, donating a coin to both fountains out of experimentation before opening the door. The fountains featured two children apiece vomiting black water into their respective bowls which discouraged close investigation or sampling of the water, and when they realized the crypt was full of dead children it also discouraged any further exploration to the north.
Returning to the strange creature in the hall, they had the great idea of showing the creature the box with its picture in it. It extended a long tendril and took the box, holding it up to its dead eyes before screaming in rage and lashing out at the party. That’s where I ended the session for this week.
After Session Thoughts
Death Frost Doom is by far one of the best scenarios I’ve ran to date. The slowly escalating creepiness works really well, with a natural pacing developing among the group, and there was a nice ‘wave’ like vibe to things: just as the group would begin to get comfortable and confident, they’d uncover something disgusting or deadly (often both) that’d put them back on the defensive. I felt I did a good job of keeping the descriptions coming in, taking time to reinforce simple things like the plunging temperature through to the constant sound of unsettling music that grew louder as they neared the creature, and generally building the mood and scene but not to the extent of boring the players with my voice. It was interesting to see the player’s naturally work out some of the puzzles that I had thought maybe a tad obscure, though I am concerned that they’re going to burn through a few pregens next week when the fighting starts.
My only source of frustration is that the player’s are unlikely to experience the full range of horror in one sitting. It’s like cooking someone a full-cooked breakfast then watching them struggle to finish it all, and seeing them leave the sausages. Obviously this lends itself well to replays, as the chances are of course that different groups will react in different ways.
As it stands now, every single ‘mass’ crypt door is wide open, all the skulls have fallen to the ground in the temple and smashed, and the group is about to take on the ‘thing’. Next week is going to be either very very brief or incredibly drawn out. I’m confident that in any case its going to be an awful lot of fun.