Hey there! This is Jake and this week I’m writing the summary of events for our game! You may recognize me as the player of both Jason, and the late Vesk. We had far too few players to play a proper session of spelljammer and so we settled on a one-shot dungeon crawl of one of my favorite rpg publications!
Two players down is no way to continue our Spelljammer adventure. With only a night to go before our dice hit table we decided to play a one shot to curb our rpg cravings. With our amazing DM wanting to sit on the other side of the table I, Jake, stepped forward to run Kili and Mike through “Maze of the Blue Medusa”.
Enter Emelina, druid and bear lover extraordinaire played by Kili, and Valmaximus, the baddest paladin of Pelor to walk the earth played by Mike. These two started at level 5 to compensate for it only being the duo to brave the maze. Needless to say this will contain spoilers for the dungeon.
To prep for this particular game was fairly easy. It was only a matter of reading though the book itself to make sure that I understood most of the rooms in the dungeon. The hardest part was converting the system neutral stat blocks provided for the monsters into 5e. The system neutral book is both a blessing and a curse as it makes it easy to convert but some things don’t translate well to fifth edition as it might to other rpg’s like Dungeon World or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Including strange monster abilities or strange effects that have no clear cut rules.
One challenge that really proved tough was getting a feel for all the possible npcs that the two might run into. The book itself has a very useful section in the back for npcs but the sheer number of them can get overwhelming pretty quickly if the players meet many of them along the way. Thankfully this didn’t end up being much a problem but it may rear it’s ugly head in the future.
Our story opened up with an unshown victory against a group of bandits. The heroic duo going over their spoils find a strange, tasteless painting of a woman bound in chains in a room of moderate luxury. The two decided to spruce up their tavern room by hanging it on the wall. As the moonlight struck the painting it began to come to life.
With a chained up woman begging to be released the valiant Valmaximus was more than willing to assist as Emelina spent her time wildshaping and sniffing about the room as a bear. The two entered the painting with no trouble. They found out the woman’s name was Ashen, and she was not to be trusted. Freed, the woman made a mad dash past Valmaximus to the painting. Our courageous paladin let her by thinking it merely the artifact of a terrified mind only for her to betray him and trap them in the painting from the outside.
The duo now understandably shaken by their entrapment go to investigate the only door left in the room. With Emelina finding it impossible to open in her bear form, and Valmaximus finding it locked, it was summarily bashed open with a mace. Beyond the portal a massive woman with striking draconic features mumbling to herself about “It being a real shame.” After a short conversation with the paladin she reveals that she is willing to pay hefty sums of gold for any art brought to her.
Valmaximus declined her offer for the time being and Emelina was unable to communicate as a bear. From this room they travel east into a room where shadows cast by living things become pits. With our resident bear just barely avoiding falling in they make it through the room unscathed. They enter the next room where vines grow and die rapidly around black marble statues. Deciding not to go forward they turned back to investigate past rooms with Emelina transforming back into her true form to make communication possible.
They entered an unremarkable room filled with nothing but a few chairs. As they explore the room and the two adjacent ones they begin to see the semi-transparent apparition of a man with three swords impaled into his shambling body. Realizing these swords correspond to indentations on thrones in one of the adjacent rooms, they attempted to liberate the weapons from their ghostly owner.
Each time they pulled a sword from the man a knight formed of gas would appear to try and get the swords back. First a knight of crackling electricity, secondly a knight of golden sunbeams, and finally a knight of choking gas. Each one appeared and was destroyed by the heroes, and with the three swords dislodged the ghostly man finally found his peace. They returned to the room and placed the swords in their correct places to recieve 3 large kegs of wine, a golden crown, and a yellow rose that made our druid all the more radiant.
Moving north through a passageway comprised of a very deep pit and a rope bridge they ended up in a chamber filled with a truly massive chess set formed from petrified angels and demons cast in white and black marble respectively. In the corner a strange human caterpillar snake child nawed at a white rook. Valmaximus tried to make conversation with the snake child only to be met with bestial sounds. In a single use of scorching rays the paladin reduced it to a pile of ashes much to the approval of the sentient chess pieces. After looting a blunted safety sword and a scroll of petrification from its remains, Mike decided to settle a score with the demonic chess pieces. Emelina vacated the room as the paladin wielded his mace and one liners against the horrid marble creatures. All the while the druid spotted a corpse at the bottom of the pit wearing a pack laden with loot. Spider climb made short work of the drop revealing a small amount of gold, a couple days worth of rations, and a brass skeleton key labeled “37”.
The duo attempted to round the corner of the hanging bridge passageway into a dark dungeon-like room filled with a strange shushing noise. Deciding that was nothing to be dealt with while they still had the option not to our heroes both avoided it like the plague.
From there they moved further north past the now one-sided chess board into a blinding white room with only a single black line connecting its two doors. Emelina stepped forward onto the black line and had her fear of drowning drawn across the floor by the single black line. Valmaximus deciding to test the room’s powers stepped forward revealing his fear of spiders. Meanwhile, in an attempt to cross the room safely our druid used her spider climb to try and circumnavigate the floor using the walls only to be struck with The Fear as soon as she touched it.
This caused an amazing scene with Emelina fleeing from nothing and Kili doing some great roleplay as an absolutely terrified druid having to sing to cross a riddle spewing living tile mosaic. From here they ended up going in a large loop resulting in them meeting up with the large dragon lady.
Mike decided to finally have Valmaximus take up her offer to fetch art in a spectacular show of verbal prowess that convinced her that the blunted sword was a symbol of how futile war was. She gladly accepted and decided that she was next in the mood for a statue, but only if they could describe where it had come from.
With the only remembered statues of note being those last remaining chess pieces Valmaximus spent two hours ferrying the pieces as our Emelina spent some time resting and getting over her fears. After some quick bluffing by Kili she managed to convince their patron that the chess pieces were all remained of a king’s army who sought to fight the medusa.
Our two heroes decided next to brave a room of MC Escher stairs that folded in on themselves multiple times. The stairs were easy to bypass and eventually they reached a locked door mysteriously opened by their key labeled “37”. Inside they found the cloak room and entrance to a very nice wedding guarded by a fabulous mechanical peacock.
After a short conversation the paladin discovered undead in the room beyond using his divine sense. The two prepared for battle: Valmaximus readied himself, and Emelina summoned bears to aid her while also turning into a bear herself. Samuel, Billy, Allen, and Tara, as they quickly became known, made short work of the undead. Turning them to dust with a single hit. From here they had a few ways to go but decided to walk into a rotten buffet headed by an immaculate wedding cake. Emelina, who figured it was magic and hated Billy, had him try the cake to no ill effect. From here they moved into the wedding itself where the bride and groom remained frozen in time surrounded by burnt corpses.
Deciding that messing with time magic just wasn’t worth it they moved into a room where a immortal swan swam in a stream of red wine. Valmaximus only finding out it was immortal after immediately blasting it with fire bolt. They moved north into a room choked with vines with a secret passage in the ceiling.
Emelina decided to abandon bears, both the wild shape and her summoned friends, to enter the passageway. This short tunnel led them to a massive room filled to the brim with dangerous orchids. The brave heroes dropped down and engaged in a fight with Orchid men while Kili had Emelina obsessing about the naked woman restrained at the center of the room. After a pretty lackluster battle Valmaximus desecrated the corpse of the woman at the center of the room to snap Emelina out of her strange obsession. They took one of the two doors going south finding out it was an enchanted door south that made them fall in love with the person they saw first. Valmaximus passed through first and succeeded his save, and Emelina didn’t. Now meeting the second love of her life in the past 10 minutes she clasped eagerly at the paladin’s hand in an attempt to grow closer to her new soulmate. Beyond the door they found a crazy witch and decided to go back through one of the doors. Out of sheer luck they picked the one door that would cure Emelina, and with both of them passing their saves that the new door brought on this time they decided to go a different way.
After a short encounter with light eating roses and a giant snail they looped back around to the chess room, realizing that the maze itself was built in impossible space. After a long night and quite a few rooms we decided to end the session back in that chess room. It was quite the adventure for how few of the rooms they actually got through, clearing a mere 19 of 300+.
What I learned
During the course of the dungeon there were many times where a room’s quirk would be discovered and it immediately became less interesting. The book itself suggests you roll for encounters often, and f I would change one thing about running it I would have rolled for random encounters more often than I did. Some of the rooms mentioned previously would have been much more interesting with a battle, but instead many of the random encounters landed on the “none” option.
There were times when mapping became a real problem due to my inability to accurately describe room shape and door location. The dungeon itself started as a painting and then had material written for it so some rooms came with strange shapes that were very difficult to properly describe geographically. The most notable problem came when four “rooms” of the dungeon had no clear entrance points, and instead conjoined themselves at a single corner that served as a thoroughfare. If I run this dungeon again I’ll be sure to set up some kind of system to more reliably reveal the map to the players.
I also learned to appreciate Mike and Kili’s level of character involvement. From great rp moments with them to amazing combat descriptions I could have handed out inspiration like candy, and should have handed it out more frequently. While we’re not sure if this one-shot will evolve into a more regular occurance, I am sure that if we do I’ll be giving it out far more often.
Thank you so much Jake! This adventure was awesome, and you’re a damn good DM.
Image Credit goes to Satyr Press.