Archive for July, 2011

Leah began her auspicious DnD career getting tumbled underwater by a giant crocodile. She ended her career by giving the what-for to a pair of Nightmare riding undead eladrin. In between, the characters of our favorite player Leah have fought and struggled to become the bad-asses they were. In her stint with our gaming group, she played a halfling paladin, a human cleric and a human warlord. (Yes she likes healers.) And she will be missed. Next week she will be moving to a new state, ending our year-ish of playing together. This post, and last Friday’s game night are dedicated to her.

I first met Leah at our workplace. I walked past her desk carrying my DM Guide or something, and she said “Oh, you think you’re so cool with your DnD books,” which stopped me in my tracks. I have heard many comments when someone notices a DnD book in my possession, but that is the first time it was equated with ‘cool’ so I knew right then this called for more investigation. I replied “Of course,” and asked her if she would like to play next Friday night. So began a year of great gaming.

On her first night playing, while exploring a dungeon they came to a pit. Leah stood up and mimed pulling out her holy symbol, while casting the light spell, and I knew right then that we had a great new addition to the group. She brought energy and hilarity to the game. She was also great outside the game, and always contributed to the meals, often bringing unusual but delicious dishes, including some new types of cheese, always a pleasure to discover.

So last session saw the group finally leave the free port of the Marquoil and arrive with incident at the Jewel of the Jade and Azure Seas, Shalazar. The vampire Rook was the estranged daughter of the immortal queen of Shalazar, and the party was quickly escorted to castle Ravenloft, where the queen held audience. The were barred from going in while the queen spoke to a strange traveler. It looked to be a demi-human with the head of a lion, whose mane was twisted into elaborate braids. They overheard him speaking of waking in a mysterious ruined city where he was the only living soul. He lef the city and made his way to Shalazar, passing through mountain regions crawling with giants and other evil monstrous humanoids. Though he did not recognize the party, they recognized him as Rowthar, leader of the people of the City at the End of Time. They had met him while time hopping thousands of years into the future. He was old then, but a young man now.

As Rowthar left the audience hall and they were called in, they agreed to speak later on. Rook was estranged from her mother the queen, due to a foolish marriage and the cruel slaughter of her new husband, but mother and daughter quickly made up. They came bearing news of an invasion of Yuanti to the south, threatening the Three Seas area. This news was not the only grim reports of warfare to come to the queen’s ears that day, as a dwarf entourage came bearing news of giants in the northern mountains.

On the other hand, the new leader of the northern city of Fallcrest was there as well, Doctor X, and he claimed his city could take care of itself. The dwarves of Hammerfast were being cowardly. The queen listened to both side and called a war council for the next day. She then offered the party lodgings in the old east tower, and bade them come back on the morrow for further council.

That night, there was a huge explosion and the hearth at the end of the hall tore itself free with malevolent consciousness, and from the gaping darkness where the fireplace once rested, two nightmare steeds leapt forth bearing undead eladrin mounts. The battle in the old tower was fraught with danger and flames, but the party was victorious. The hearth golem was a fearsome creature of spewing flames and ash, but these veteran heroes were practically immune to its scorching heat. The slaughtered their attackers, and prepared for the morning meeting with the queen.

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Year one ended with a ton of dwarves packed into Winter Haven, while miner after miner risked, and ultimately lost his life to mine the central shaft of the Hammered Pillar, sunk down to bedrock 5 layers beneath the surface. A great shaft, open to the sunlight, was their reward for such suffering. It was the foundation of their glorious undertaking.

During the spring of their second year, the dwarves finally began the arduous process of moving out of Winter Haven and into their new fortress. Of course, with only two bent and mangled picks, and two wet-behind-the-ears dwarves to wield them, the mining out of the great halls beneath the pillar was a time consuming task. The level just beneath the pillar was to be a military zone, so they had to dig one below that, down to level 7 for the dining hall and private chambers. This was a process that took all summer to complete, as more and more dwarves showed up.

Being open to the air had drawbacks as well. Even though a wall was built around the pit, flying creatures were a problem, and the workers were continually beset by curious buzzards flying down into the shaft, and thence into the rest of the underground network. Many doors were needed to seal off the interior of the fortress from the outside, while a quick glass-making factory was set up to produce green glass grates to seal off the surface and enclose the shaft in beautiful emerald refracted light.

As summer heated up, the buzzard attacks continued and eventually a dwarf was knocked off a platform and into the new fountain being filled below. The water was red with his blood, and before it could be stopped, the water was drank up by the hordes of thirsty dwarves toiling away.

So began the summer of madness. A disease was released from this corrupted water, and within a few days, the dwarves were becoming insane. Lack of a hospital contributed to the mania, and the miners were diverted into hollowing out a chamber for the care of sick dwarves, but their were so many dwarves that the beds were used by the scores of floor sleepers, and little healing got done.

Right at this time a new mayor was elected, who began throwqing tantrums that he had no bedroom or office. With heavy heart Lolor the now defunct expedition leader had to be removed from his sumptuous chambers to make room for the mayor. Bad mistake. The mayor was now contented but Lolor immediately flew into a berserk rage that left him and many other dwarves dead.

Within days, every level of the fortress was rife with rebellion and fighting. Out of water, unhappy with the lack of quarters, injured, and out of work dwarves took to the halls with anger in their hearts. 20 or more dwarves lost their lives during the uprising, and their decaying, stinking bodies caused clouds of purple miasma to waft up and out through the central shaft, increasing the illness, anger, and sadness of the dwarves in a spiral of doom that continued into late autumn, when the goblins attacked.

If only that were the bitter end, but no, amazingly the dwarves pulled together, and while the entire fortress ran to Winter Haven for protection, two quickly formed squads of dwarves actually managed to repel the goblin raiding party. They returned to find a small room full of 60 or more angry dwarves unwilling to do anything but fail at getting drinks of water. The fortress became untenable, and with a heavy heart, the mayor called off the expedition and the survivors abandoned the Hammered Pillar and returned defeated to their mountain home.

If only that were the end of the sad tale, but no, two more expeditions were launched to recover the Hammered pillar. The hardest work was done, and a newly stocked expedition could take over where the last left off. Only the roofing of the shaft was left undone, but careful management of floors and green glass grates could see it done.

What they didn’t count on was a huge buzzard-like forgotten beast, who had taken over the pillar as its lair. Both expeditions were wiped out trying to slay the beast, and finally, the king under the mountain decreed that the Hammered Pillar was a failed experiment and that none shall try and reclaim the lost riches of that place. Haunted, forlorn, and finally forgotten altogether, the dwarves would have to plan a new strategy.

The magic amulet Fancypresent was never recovered.

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Auspicious Beginnings

Join me as I recount the trials and tribulations of Megadru the Hammered Pillar, a dwarf fortress meant to stand the tests of time. This fortress is meant to provide the foundation for my next dungeons and dragons campaign. See [this article] where I go into some details about my plans. For now, though, sit back and enjoy reading about the stubborn dwarves known as the Gilded Picks Guild.

The Gilded Picks Guild set out from the fortress of their fathers in the year 260 by their reckoning, and headed north, to a previously scouted area that lay in a mountain pass where the black sands of an arctic desert give way to a conifer forest. Here in this pass they struck their picks into the sand and soil and broke the foundations of their vision: a dwarf fortress of such magnitude that the world would sing its praises until the end of time.

Their vision was of a wide square shaft, over 100 cubits on a side, drilled down into the sand and soft clay five levels, or about 100 cubits. The stone they used to create this shaft would in turn be used to build a great stone tower to encompass the shaft and rise as far into the air as the shaft’s descent. Skylights would be placed into the tower to give natural light into the shaft, all the way down to the stone floor below. It would be splendid, and the green glass windows would allow for indoor farming. The Pillar would then be surrounded by a high wall, and two spires would mark the grand entrance. There would be no entrance into the pillar itself from above ground.

With the floor of the Hammered Pillar five levels below the surface, the bulk of the working fortress itself would be deeper. Level 5 would be a major military zone, and the tentative plan is for level 6 to house the vast warehouses, level 7 will be the workshops, level 8 will be the housing, level 9 will be the treasure vaults. At some point another defensive bulwark will be set up at the entrance to the underdark caverns, and then of course, like all good dwarves, dreams of magma forges would keep them digging ever further down.

The complexity of the task meant Lolor, expedition leader, had to plan for temporary housing whilst the Hammered Pillar was completed. Now, the site between two mountain roots featured a small drop off between the highland desert and the lowlands of the pine forest. There was a sloped area that formed a sort of three-sided cupped or protected valley-like area that Lolor decided would be perfect for the grand entrance. Drilling into the slope would provide an excellent grand hall to get to the Pillar, but on the other wall to the left, a smaller entrance was mined out. This would eventually be an off-shoot guard house when the fortress was complete, but for now it would be a completely disconnected burrow for the fledging Hammerer Guild. It was into this burrow, named Winter Haven, that the dwarves wintered their first year, and they hoped they would be out of it before the second winter hit.

While getting the fortress set up for the massive undertaking, his miners, Thob and Zan began mining a staircase down from Winter haven, and dug through layers of soil then stone until they hit an open space at level 11. They had broken through the roof of an underworld cavern, and so they immediately ordered a pair of hatches to seal the doorway from any flying creatures that might find dwarf tasty.

Moving back up the stairs they began hollowing out a set of chambers 5 levels below ground. These rooms were meant for various needs of the fledgling community, including a water reservoir that they totally failed to fill before winter set in, causing the dwarfs to become mad with thirst, as usual for one of my games; but we are getting ahead of ourselves, it is still spring.

In the far north, the ice doesn’t melt until sometime in late spring or early summer, and after the The Gilded Picks Guild arrive, one of them, we shall call Erimikus, went out hunting for plants to brew. He was the brewer, farmer, and all around expert horticulturist for the entire colony, but mere days after arriving, he drowned. Erimikus was foolish enough to cross a pond of water just as the thaw came, and fell into the deep pond and drowned. Being down to six dwarves right out of the gate, especially a dwarf so important to the survival that first year, was a major setback. In addition, none of the other dwarves could retrieve his body, and by the end of summer, the ghost of Erimikus was haunting the pool. It was a sad affair.

With the temporary burrow done, the miners Thob and Zan spoke to Lolor and got the first orders for the grand undertaking. They would spend the winter months mining out the deep shaft of the Hammered Pillar, by digging out five layers, then going back and removing the floors between each layer. Now, thob and Zan were professional miners by this time, having single-handedly dug out Winter Haven, and they took to the new project with gusto. They followed Lolor’s plan to a tee.

Now Lolor is only a dabbling architect, and his plan called for clearing out each level, then going back afterwards and removing each floor between levels, starting with the level below the surface. They decided to leave the surface unbroken until the outer wall of the tower rose to encompass the shaft, thereby protecting it from nosy neighbors. This was a good plan. Removing the floors between open levels, however, not so good.

Thob was the first to go. He was working on level one, happily clearing floors and opening up the shaft, when he got turned around and started clearing out the floor sections that connected him to the edge. This caused a cave-in, and he dropped all four levels, breaking through the floor of each level on his way down, until he smashed into the rock floor of level 5. He didn’t survive the fall.

Zan, shocked by his brothers demise, was called off duty for an emergency mission to prepare a crypt down in the basement of Winter Haven. The stone mason was called in to prepare a stone sarcophagus as well as a slab for engraving the great deeds of Thob the legendary miner. Luckily his pick was recovered, and a new miner was chosen amongst the 11 new immigrants to show up, hearing of the Hammered Pillar as its fame spread. This miner didn’t last long until he too fell to his death.

Lolor is a dwarf driven by success, and at this point he made a private decision that the Pillar was the most important, and that it had to be continued at all cost. Taking up the two bent picks, he nominated two more miners from the new immigrants, and continued picking new miners as each one lost his life. Poor Zan was next to go, and the work was finished by a series of low-paid novice miners. Four miners died, and a carpenter who was struck by a falling miner, as well as countless injuries, but by spring of the second year the shaft was done.

Right in time for an influx of 24 new immigrants. Over the course of a few weeks in early spring, before even the ice had melted to allow fresh drinking water, the Hammered Pillare almost tripled in population, up to 55 dwarves. This was good news and bad. More dwarves would help the fortress to success in the long run, but in the short term there was little housing, food, or beer to go around.

Stay tuned to find out what happens during the second year of the construction of The Hammered Pillar.

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By the time my first successful fortress fell to a goblin siege, I had hundreds unique chambers spread over about 34 levels. Each room told a story. Each was filled with goods, engravings, or furnishings that depicted its main use, and many were the items (including legendary artifacts) that an adventuring party would covet. While playing I constantly paused to imagine the goings-on as the dwarves went about their daily lives, trudging up and down endless flights of stairs, drinking in one of the vast meeting halls, or fighting denizens of the underworld as they came up into specially prepared murder halls. The levels each had their own themes, both in the material they were constructed from as well as the usage to which they were put. In short, I had built a mega dungeon, out of a working, thriving Dwarf Fortress.

For a few weeks now, I have been obsessed with the free independent game known as Dwarf Fortress. You can read my preview of it here, as well as my two part series detailing the Rise and Fall of Stasisgem. While playing the game, I was continuously struck by how much of the game could be used for a mega dungeon in Dungeons and Dragons. Then the idea hit me – why not put it to that use? My plan is to play a game of Dwarf Fortress with this end result in mind. I will use a roll of Gaming Paper to transcribe my fortress (once complete, and by complete I mean inevitably abandoned) and I will have the seed for an entire campaign ready to detail out and play.

The idea here is that an organically grown mega dungeon will be more realistic than one created from whole cloth. It will be useful that the needs of the dwarves are what lead to which chambers being carved, and that it will make sense to the future explorers, rather than being a random assortment of rooms and creatures. The adventurers will spend their time searching for the fabled treasure vaults, uncovering the giant mushroom farms, seeing the destroyed barricades down where the fortress penetrates the underdark ( underground caverns) and other inspiring locations, ALL BASED ON ACTUAL GAME PLAY.

Dwarf Fortress is a complex enough simulation that almost all the details of the game will translate well into D&D. There are legends, artifacts, treasures, monsters, heroes, villains, epic pets, ghosts, and everything else one associates with a dungeon. Nearby trading communities and enemies will provide above-ground opportunities, and the life and death of the fortress will help to re-populate the abandoned fortress for future dungeon delving.

Indeed, Dwarf Fortress already has an “Adventure” mode, where a player can take on the role of a hero and explore abandoned mines, fight monsters, and that sort of thing, in a computerized D&D-like manner, so this idea isn’t as far-fetched as it may sound. Bringing it to a role-playing source is more about taking it out of the computer and putting a real live DM (that’s me!) behind the screen. So what would a Dwarf Fortress mega dungeon campaign look like?

The Nuts and Bolts
First comes the playing. The Fortress must be built, must grow to appropriate size, and with a mind to the future, must be destroyed. It would be awkward to try and loot a thriving dwarf community after all! With that in mind, the next few weeks will see a series of posts on “Megadru the Hammered Pillars” a dwarf fortress in the northern highlands. Situated in a mountain pass that is the dividing line between a cold sandy desert and a pine forest, the Hammered Pillars will grow to become the Next Epic campaign I run for Dungeons and Dragons. (That is, if my dwarves survive. It may take a couple of tries before I get a fortress with sticking power.”

As the game progresses, extensive notes will be kept regarding notable events, personalities, and items. These notes will be used to create story elements, rumours, legends, and quests. For example, in the year of its founding, the brewer Lolor the Blind fell through the ice while plant harvesting. Not only are his whereabouts worthy of a quest, but the items he had on him could also be valuable. It could be that he had seeds, or a recipe for a now extinct brew of dwarf beer. Using these notes will help to provide a rich tapestry to weave into a campaign.

The basic premise is that the fortress Megadru was lost (unknown why at this time, though I suspect it will be goblins) and that after 100+ years, the abandoned fortress has been found. A pioneer town has built up nearby to cater to the increasing number of adventurers. This alone is enough to spark a campaign, but for Megadru, I want to go further, and embed certain over-arching campaign goals.

Each character will have the following goals, associated with them being a representative of their culture, come to reclaim what rightfully belongs to them:

Amass 1 million gold pieces. Personal wealth and items do not count toward this goal, it must be ‘banked.’

Retrieve certain artifacts from the Fortress (Each PC will have 2-4 items they are responsible for finding).

Determine the fate of each of the 200 dwarves who lived and died at Megadru.

If all these conditions are met, which I foresee taking 10-15 levels worth of adventuring, then the character can be assumed to have ‘won’ the game. I hope to come up with a few more goals, such as something including the engravings, or piecing together certain historical events. I would also like to add something for retrieving dwarven historical tablets, or steles. And in addition to these general goals, each character may have a set of specific class or race goals associated with the dwarf fortress.

The options are limitless, but the intent is to make this a pure dungeon exploration campaign with distinct, attainable goals. That is not to say that all adventuring is done in the fortress, there can be wilderness and other adventures, but they will (or should) relate to the primary goals outlined at the start of the game.

Having played for 4+ years in fairly non-linear open ended games, it will be interesting to have such a straight-forward campaign to play. And for any of my players reading this, do not worry about being forced to retire your 13th level characters any time soon. The game itself will take weeks to play out, and when it ends, the job of transcribing the results into a workable mega dungeon will begin. I see 3-6 months passing before the campaign is ready to kick off.

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So the heroes of too many adventures to list here are embroiled in the politics of the free port city of the Marquoil, and have been given instruction by the deities Raven Queen and Erathis to see that the correct king is crowned. Having determined the guilt of three of the four merchant lords, it becomes clear that Lord Crabstone is the only merchant lord fit to rule.

Lord grey Frost and his belief in the equality of all intelligent creatures led him to become allied with the evil Sahaugin. He was deemed unfit, but Crabstone professed that it was Grey Frost’s fecklessness rather than evil intentions that led to the sahaugin alliance. Prince tallyman, son of the dead king, was discovered to have killed his father and therefore cannot be king, and finally lord Samarquoil was found to be in leage with the Snake Tongue Cultists, and in fact was their secret leader, and therefore had no right to the kingship. This left only the stout red-face Lord Crabstone, who normally sat back and played at politics passively.

He took up the reins, and with the aid of the PCs it was decided that they must strike first to insure that the false pretenders to the crown do not usurp the throne. He handles the Tallyman, while he sends the heroes off with 100 of his soldiers to bring in lord Samarquoil dead or alive.

Phase one of the operation involved storming the Delta Suburb, a floating platform/town that rests in the protected cove of a nearby river delta, which is the seat of House Samarquoil power. Arriving on the scene, they find a Crystalnacht-like event happening, where the snake tongue cultists are hunting down all the non-snake tongue civilians and slaughtering them in the streets. Poppy and Thokk each lead a troupe of 50 soldiers down the two long docks of the main platform, while Hex, felipe and Rook sneak into the mansion for the Lord. He is not there, but they find a note from his sister, flameborn, who is the wizard in charge of the fireball launching catapult on the roof of the main defensive fortress above free Port. The note admonishes her brother for getting involved with the snake tongue cult, but ends with an offer of protection if he comes to the stone building where she resides.

By this time, the civilians are safe, and Thokk is pleased with the 40 cultists he slew, out of a total of 200 on the docks. The heroes go to the fortress, meet up with Crabstone who is hard pressed to hold back the angry crowds while the heroes assault the final redoubt of Celebrant and Flameborn Samarquoil in the stone library building atop Flambeaux Hill. The map I used is the same map from Dark legacy of Evard for the 2 story library. It is a great place to have a wizard on the top floor blasting away at the players down below, slipping and sliding on books, and in theis battle, dealing with large constricting snakes, as well as a pair of hellhounds. Hijinks ensue.

In the end, Flameborn pleaded for her life once Lord Celebrant was struck down, and the party acquiesced, since she was just protecting her brother. They decided to arrest her and let Lord Grey Frost, Merchant King of Free port, deal with the problem.

Oh and something about an army of yuan-ti in the jungle.

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The Descent
The Stasisgem Fortress was built to stand the test of time, and for many long seasons it continued to thrive, digging ever deeper as its dwarves greedily mined the mountain of its gems. Earlier the initial fortress, or “Ground Zero” was described, and how it was hewn from the stone of Misty Mountain during that first long winter. When spring finally arrived, Meng and his cronies set about planning the full fortress in all its glory. Level Zero was meant to be the bulwark of defense for Stasisgem, and the true fortress would be spread out on the many levels below. Meng, architect and engineer as well as expedition leader, set out the mining plan for the next seven levels.

The plan for Stasisgem was to dig as deep as possible, in hopes of setting up a magma forge. It was unknown how deep the dwarves would have to dig (level 32 it turns out) and so they planned a newer, larger burrow on level 4. This would be where all the housing, dining hall, cooking and brewing would take place, as well as the Royal Chambers and private treasure vault for the eventual leader, once Meng stepped down as expedition leader to make way for a mayor.

Moving upwards a level, we come to level 3, intended to be the main treasure vaults of the fortress. This massive chamber would contain all the finished goods of the fortress, and its many sub-chambers each housed a specific type of treasure, including one room set aside for nothing but raw adamantium. In addition to the vaults, level 3 also contained an extensive crypt and eventually a rough hewn chamber housed the hospital and recovery rooms as well.

Above the treasure vaults, we have level 2, the workshop. This level of the fortress had outer and inner arcing hallways with many side rooms each housing a workshop and small storage area. Thus the entire output of the dwarves took place on this level, from coal forges, carpentry shops, to clothiers and bowyers, level 2 rang with the sounds of dwarvish industry day and night. As the fortress expanded to two or more of each type of workshop, more looping hallways were added.

Next we come up to sub-basement level 1, or the level directly below the initial fortress. This massive, sprawling series of chambers was home to the main stockpile. Anything not a treasure was stored here, including food, raw ore, and trade goods. Carpenters had full time jobs making bins for this level, which eventually numbered in the hundreds. Of to one side, a rich loamy clay was unearthed, and a secondary chamber was mined out for kennels and additional farming, as well as some underground plant harvesting.

These four levels were the main backbone of the fortress. They were defended above and below, and were intended to be inviolate. Indeed, during the life of the fortress, no enemy ever managed to breach levels 1 through 4. That is saying something about the design, which featured among other things, staggered stairwells. The dwarves learned early on not to use one central stairway for the entire depth of the fortress. With a single step and an enemy can (and will) step out onto whichever floor they want, and this is not good. With this in mind, Ibuilt level 7, the home of the Brazen Hammerers, and elite squad of heavy armor wearing melee dwarves.

Level 7 was built with an up stairway at the south end, and a long l shaped passage leading to the downward stairs. In this passage a ballista was erected, as well as a wall of fortifications, behind which the Hammerers had their barracks and training rooms. No enemy from the depths ever made it through this gauntlet, including some pretty ferocious underworld creatures, including the Gorlak, and the Gorlak’s son.

Levels 5 and 6 were set aside for exploratory mining, as they were primarily marble with lots of gem clusters. Over the life of the fortress, when the dwarven miners were not digging deeper, they would return to levels 5 and 6 and continue digging in a grid pattern to locate the most valuables. While I uncovered much marble, and many valuable gems, I never found any veins of metal other than iron. Gold and silver would have been nice, and indeed my search for gold helped lead to the inievitable fall of Stasisgem, as we will hear about shortly.

Once levels 1 through 7 were complete, the next phase of Stasisgem fortress kicked off – to dig as deep as they could go. Level 13 was important, because here they cracked into a vast underground cavern which included an underground freshwater sea, as well as valuable gem out-croppings, giant mushrooms and other plants, and various denizens of the underworld.

Out of game note: I would have slowed down game play here to get the most out of the caverns, but I was intent to get to the magma as quickly as possible. As I continue to learn more about how the game works, I can see earlier mistakes becoming compounded, leading me to believe this fortress was doomed from the beginning. Activity zones and stockpiles were something I didn’t fully understand when organizing the first few levels, and it led to the dwarves doing much more walking back and forth than they should have.

Drilling down from level 13, we went all the way to level 31, where we discovered aomething amazing. At level 30, we were surrounded by wet stone, due to vast underground water reserves, but found a vein of adamantium, holding out the water. The vein was wide and deep enough that the dwarves built a stairwell inside the protective adamantium and drilled down to level 32, where we found our first magma. The adamantium continued downward, so we kept building stairs ever further, all the way to level forty, where a vast sea of magma opened up, preventing any deeper mining.

Now, on our way down through this adamantium ‘pipe’, the dwarves drilled through water and magma both. As they came back up, they began carving out chambers in level 31 for the magma forges. Here would be the Stasisgem secret forges. Constructed of adamantium, hidden from above, and protected by their own squad, the Still crystals, with their own rooms, dining hall, and food/alcohol storage, level 31 was designed to be almost self-sufficient. Dwarves would have no outside interference to keep them from hammering away on their adamantium anvils. Sadly I did not fully understand the workings of magma.

The fall
The Fall of Stasisgem came from three sources. The first was magma. The dwarves had a perfect stairwell , but they could not resist mining out the gems, and when they mined a certain cluster of fire opal, it opened up a crack that allowed the lava to pour through into the stairwell, turning it into a magma chute straight down the the magma sea, and totally unusable by the dwarves, even the ones trapped below when the magma started flowing. This also made it impossible to mine out the floor below the smelters, as a pool of magma (4 deep) is required directly below any magma powered workshop.

Eventually the dwarves found a way to channel out a room below the forges and smelters, and even managed to open it up to the slowly filling magma, but because the stairwell continued to drain, the room was never able to fill to the capacity the workshops needed. It was a tragedy of poor design, that surrounded by magma, my deep dwarves could use none of it, and the secret forges never were fully operational.

Incidentally, when that adamantium stairwell broke through the roof of the vast magma cavern, a message popped up saying that unspeakable evil had been released. However, by turning the stairwell into a giant impassable magma waterfall, Stasisgem may have actually been saved from whatever unspeakable evil was aroused.

The second cause of the fall was a nearby mountain brook, which wended its way along level 3, the treasure vaults. Hearing about how gold is often found in mountain streams, the greedy dwarves dug out chambers, shafts and tunnels near the stream in hopes of finding that gold. They never did, but they eventually broke into the river itself, unleashing a never ending tide of water that began to fill level 3, and eventually everything below. Doors and walls could stave off the water, but the flooding of the crypts, treasure vaults, and hospital was such a blow to the dwarves that they could never recover, especially with what was happening on the surface.

The third major reason, and the ultimate cause of the abandonment of Stasisgem was at the hands of loathed goblins. Two sieges were launched against Stasisgem in 2 years. The first siege was handily repulsed, as I shall describe. At this point in the game I had 3 squads. One, which I forget the name, was stationed at the entrance. The second squad was stationed on level 7, and the third was the private defense of the secret magma forges, on 31. The goblins easily scaled the wall (and open doors) surrounding the hidden valley, and the first battle took place on the valley floor. I had my squad retreat into the mountain, nd the goblins were decimated by my fortress entry fortifications, including cages and stone fall tracks. While 1st squad defended the halls, second squad assaulted out onto the valley floor, and 3rd squad assaulted up out of the valley and to the gates. Third squad was decimated, but they drew the fire of the goblins as they charged.

The sacrifice of 3rd squad allowed 1st and second to mop up their areas, the main entrance and the valley floor, and so together, 1st and 2nd came to the aid of 3rd squad and repulsed the goblins off the mountain. I got enough silver goblin arrows from this siege to begin minting commemorative silver coins.

The second siege, a year later, caught me unawares. 3rd squad had never been rebuilt (due to the tragedy happening down on level 31) so 1st and 2nd squad were all I had to defend. As magma was flooding the lower levels, and the river was pouring into the upper levels, the goblins chose this moment for their second siege, and they gained the walls, and valley before any squads even mustered. So began a long, losing battle in the upper works, that eventually led to the population being reduced from 125 down to forty.

In one glorious moment, old Meng, the legendary miner, and original expedition leader, strapped on the first artifact of the Stasisgem, the legendary iron boot Dancefortress, and with the only adamantine battle axe in the fortress, he waded into the enemy goblins and trolls, striking to and fro with wild abandon. The iron boot sits there still, buried under the bones of dwarves and goblins.

Three things combined to doom the Stasisgem fortress: greed, thirst, and laziness. Greed for gems brought about the loss of the magma forges, while a thirst for clean water caused the river to be diverted into the fortress. Finally a laziness in reforming the 3rd squad, as well as a general lack of consideration for the might of the goblins, was the nail in the coffin. They were trounced so soundly the first time, the Stasisgem dwarves gambled that they would not be back soon.

Farewell Meng and your doughty band of survivors, you will be missed. However, the world continues to rotate on its axis, and another Dwarf Fortress is in the works. The next fortress will be bigger, better than before, and there will be some other unique features that are sure to prove exciting. Stay tuned for MEGA DUNGEON.

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The Hidden Mountain Valley of Stasisgem

The Stasisgem dwarves were so named for their unquenchable lust for precious stones. They refused to trade or sell the gems with such fervor that they eventually earned the strange name. this eventually led to turmoil in Mountainhome, and so the leader of the Stasisgems, Meng, chose to strike out and form a new stronghold where him and his seven allies could mine gems to their hearts content and never have to sell or give them away. After mulling over the world map for many long nights, Meng stabbed his finger down to a spot in the Misty Mountains and said “here will be our fastness.”

With a wagon full of mushrooms, barrels of ale, peacocks, and a goat, they began a trek of many weeks that at last found them in an idyllic spot. Near the peak of a forested mountain, they found a small valley surrounded by crystal clear lakes, with a swift flowing brook far below. One wall of the valley was made of red clay, while the rest was hard stone.

Meng knew the stories of previous colonists. They invariably starved, died of thirst, or were destroyed by enemies known and unknown. He was determined that this fate would not befall the fortress of Stasisgem and he had measures to prevent it. Eggs, milk, and mushrooms should provide their sustenance through that first deadliest of winters. Little did Meng suspect that there are other dangers that can befall even the best prepared pioneers.

Stasisgem, Fortress of Dwarfitude

The first thing, after sighting the region and picking out the optimal place to begin digging, was to set up shelter. While his pair of miners began the task of digging into the side of the mountain, he sent the rest out to forage for wood and plants. One miner drilled a shaft due south into the mountain. This long hall would be the main entry, and Meng was already planning for its defense. Long and straight, it would eventually be full of traps and fortifications. Halfway down the hundred foot long hall he cleared out two rooms, one on each side. Eventually these would be staging grounds for the door guards, but that was a long way off. For now, one chamber would be a combination workroom housing the carpenter and brewer, while the other would be a temporary storage depot. As soon as the rooms were complete, he ordered everyone off the mountainside and into their new home.

While this was happening, the second miner was digging into the soft red clay, clearing a room perfect for mushroom farming, right near the mine entrance. He then set about cutting a channel from under the nearest lake to flow out into the valley of the dwarfs. By this time plant harvesters had returned with many mountain strawberries, and so a strawberry farm was planted between the fresh water channel and the mushroom farms, under the sun. The dwarfs brought the animals into the valley and penned them up. So far they had no luck producing eggs, but the milk and cheese were a boon.

With the beginnings of a farming system set up, it was important to turn inward. As all dwarfs know, stone is good for just about everything except making beds. Too hard. So the carpenter was put to work crafting seven beds. He could have gotten away with fewer shared beds, but Meng tries not to skimp where comfort and luxury are concerned. After beds, barrels are the next top priority. Mushrooms and strawberries both produce dwarf alcohol, and this had to be stored in barrels. In fact, most everything is stored in barrels or bags. Or bags in barrels. Or bins. Or bags in barrels in bins. I’m confused.

Besides barrels, dwarfs need comfort while they eat and drink. This means a dining hall, and Meng planned to have the grandest dining hall of all. A table and chair for every dwarf was his motto during the election, and he put his carpenter to work to make that dream come true. As the carpenter toiled, the farmers farmed, and the brewer sat around getting drunk. The miners bit into the hard rock of the mountain to carve out a vast pillared dining hall, surrounded by private bedrooms for each dwarf. At one end of the dining room was the long entry hall. At the other end were stairs. These stairs would one day lead downwards to ever greater glory, but for now, they were merely symbolic of what future seasons would bring.

By this time an elf caravan showed up wanting to trade at the new trade depot constructed in a hollowed out cavern open to the outside, and right next to the kennels, bee hives, and nesting boxes. Apparently elves do not like dwarfish woodcrafts, and were so insulted by the injuries done to their precious trees when we showed off our brand new oaken screw press, that they left without a word. This was not good, as they held many interesting things for the dwarves to covet. They better not get haughty! But now was not the time for conflict, and so our worthless broker had no chance to give away our goods for a song. He couldn’t even tell what our stuff was worth, much less the foolish elven goods. No worries, karma would see that he never brokered another trade, but we are getting ahead of the story.

Summer was coming to an end, and a few immigrants showed up, bringing the colony to a respectful 12. The farms and brewery were buzzing with activity, unlike the beehives, as the dwarfs prepared for winter. A cold hand of doom gripped each of them as they thought of the long cold winter, but Meng looked with pride on his stocks. He had food and booze enough to ride out the longest winter, if little else. A few more workshops sprang up, including a masonry. This masonry was the pride of the fledgling community and the stone mason began cranking out stone doors to keep out the drafts. Doors, chairs and tables were his forte, while the carpenter mastered the art of crafting barrels and bins.

As the first snows fell, a plant gatherer was struck by a fey mood. He rushed to the masonry and took over the shop, kicking out the mason, and working on some secretive project. Meng thought no more about it, excited to see what this young dwarf might come up with. He instead spent his winter cajoling the brewer to make more brew and the carpenter to keep the community supplied in barrels. Where do all the barrels go? It was touch and go for awhile, but winter had to end eventually.

Suddenly a scream echoed down the halls. The young dwarf Ing had lost it. He spent all winter fretting over the right piece of stone to carve, and never found the one he was looking for. The perfectionist in him would let no other stone suffice, and so the poor dwarf eventually went insane. Even as the first birds flew overhead to mark the coming of spring, Ing went berserk and turned on his fellows. So began a month of chasing, stalking, slaying, and fleeing into the mountains that eventually ended with three dead dwarfs at the hand of insane Ing. Checking the logs, it turns out Ing died of thirst after slaying 3 dwarfs, 2 donkeys, and a yak. What a maniac.

Stasisgem was down to 8 dwarfs, but Meng comforted himself by knowing that the survivors were tough as nails. One more thing of note happened while the berserk Ing was out fighting through his troubles. Another quiet dwarf was struck by a fey mood and took over a crafting building. Thankfully He did not go mad, but instead created the Stasigem dwarfs first legendary item: an Iron boot named Dancefortress. What a boot!

Stasisgem recovered over the long spring and summer. Check out the next episode, where the Stasisgem dwarfs decide it is time to delve deeper.

A note on mods
I am using the Lazy Newb Pack for my modded games. I don’t change any fundamental rules (or cheat, in other wods) but stick to graphical mods. I am using Ironhand graphics pack for the game, and the awesome isometric views are taken using Stonesense, and incredible piece of software that allows you to watch your dwarf fortress in 3d. In addition, I have recently started using Dwarf Therapist, arguably a cheat, but it is the most efficient way to handle dwarf professions I have found. In fact, the program is almost a necessity, since it is so hard to do using the game interface.

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