The surviving PCs are:
-Cazael the spiderling fighter. Hardened survivor of many perils and far too much "wizard business".
-Swainson the garden wizard. Turned into a Lamassu (lion-bodied human-headed flying sphinx). Has a cat-coat with pockets and enchanted claws.
-Klaus the barbarian-sorcerer. Turned into a brownie; very unhappy in current form.
-Alice the deerling animist witch. A little bit mad. Strapped magic daggers to antlers.
-Emilio, the human speleomage. Enhanced spellcasting power thanks to liquid occultum injections.
-Jericho, the human elementalist wizard. Stole some occultum and got dire radiation poisoning. Currently losing his hair and bits of skin.
Assisted only by light spells and the glow of the ruins, the party continued their descent into the shattered city.
They found a complicated, new, and fully active machine boring into the rocks. It seemed to be some sort of occultum-extractor, pulling and condensing raw magic from the ancient stones. They weren't the first to find the prize; Tiggy the hedgehogling thief and her three scabrous camp followers had laid claim to the huge machine.
The party negotiated. With the aid of some wizard skills and a scry spell, they managed to "safely" remove a canister full of occultum gas. After some debate and bickering, Alice decided to spray the gas directly into her sinus cavities, hoping it would condense into solid form somewhere near her brain and give her extra powers. Everyone else found cover.
Amazingly, Alice's plan worked. Her ego, formerly an unshakable force, grew to deific proportions, and her spellcasting abilities grew in equal measure.
Side Note: How many Saves vs Death can one character pass!?!Reasoning that the occultum-extractor was a Dvergr machine, the party continued to descend. A few hours later, they spotted a spray of sparks from the side of a truly enormous vault. The castle-sized structure was made of strange glassy stone, impervious to the general ruin and destruction that had befallen the rest of the city. It stuck out from a vertical wall of rubble like a tree root from an eroded riverbank.
Suspended on the vertical face, on a gantry fused to the stone's surface with lumps of foam, six stumpy Dvergr miners operated an enormous and extremely complicated drill. Every few minutes, it sent out a spray of sparks and eroded another microscopic layer of stone. The hole into the vault was wide enough for a very small person to squeeze through, but not, the party reasoned, a full encumbered Dvergr.
"What's inside?" Tiggy asked.
"Treasure, probably. Lots of it. Otherwise, why all this effort to get to it?" Alice replied.
That settled it. Thoughts of "rescuing" the mining team faded. They didn't need rescuing... except possibly from the avaricious PCs.
Their appearance went unnoticed by the Dvergr on the vault's exterior. The flying cat and the brownie crept through the glass-stone chambers, examining strange rune-marks and magic control panels. They found enormous glass tanks containing preserved - or gestating - biomechanical war golems, creatures of sinew and magic clearly designed to terrify and devour. Or so Klaus conjectured; he really had no idea.
"If the Dvergr want to get inside, they probably know these things are here. If they know they're here, they can probably control them. And if they can control them, they'll kill us all." Swainson said, counting out her arguments on her clawed paws.
"True, Klaus said. "I wonder why the city-builders made this thing?"
"That last room had a surface-map in it. Maybe they wanted to invade the surface?"
"Maybe the Dvergr want to finish the job."
When the sorcerous effect expired, Swainson and Klaus returned to the top of the vault. The moving light source attracted some attention. While Cazael tried to distract the Dvergr by leaning off the vault and hollering diplomatic comments at them, the rest of the party prepared for a tactical ambush.
They seemed on the brink of success. Six unarmed dwarf-like things vs. a fully stocked, armed, and armoured party of experienced veinscrawlers.
Needless to say it all went to hell.
2. Klaus tried to use sorcery to teleport all 6 Dvergr into the air above the poison gas fog in the centre of the ruins. The teleport would only be temporary, but exposure to the toxic green fumes (after a brief fall) would still probably kill them.
3. Unfortunately, the sorcery misfired. Instead of targeting the 6 Dvergr, it targeted 6 of the PCs: Cazael, Swainson, Alice, Emilio, Jericho, and Tiggy. Luckily, Klaus remained on top of the vault.
4. Klaus used sorcery to teleport Emilio, Jericho, and Tiggy, back to the top of the vault. Alice could transform into a flying bird-form. Swainson could already fly and had caught a very unhappy Cazael.
5. The strain of so much rapid sorcery caused Klaus to pass out, bleeding from his ears and twitching violently. When he fell unconcious, all sorcerous effects ended. The group was un-teleported once again. Everyone ended up where they started, deeply confused and very unhappy.
6. Alice, in bird-form, barreled into the vault at full speed, falling upon the Dvergr inside like a hawk on fieldmice.
7. Swainson, who had been carrying Cazael and flying at full speed when the teleport ended, flew off the vault and into the air. Cazael, still hanging from her claws, followed, howling the whole time.
8. The vault started to glow. Powerful magic circles appeared under the glassy surface. Apparently the Dvergr had activated something inside.
9. Jericho started climbing the ropes up and away from the vault, following the Antlings.
10. Emilio and Tiggy, on the surface of the vault, tried to heal Klaus.
11. The vault teleported upwards. Anyone touching the surface was smeared into a paste and spread into a thin sheet several miles tall. Emilio, Tiggy, and Klaus perished instantly.
12. Safe inside the vault, Alice continued to hunt and slaughter Dvergr.
13. Jericho, dangling from a rope and trying not to look down, waited until Cazael and Swainson landed before shimmying the rest of the way up to a semi-stable platform.
14. Swainson realized that she could use her teleport spell to follow the vault upwards. The spell had left a channel in reality, a sort of ozone-path a similar spell could easily follow, even if she didn't have a clear picture of the destination. While Dvergr-controlled war-golems were frightening, Alice-controlled war-golems would be unthinkable.
15. Cazael, thoroughly sick of life underground, agreed. Jericho was more-or-less coerced into joining the two survivors.
The teleport spell carried the PCs upwards. They landed in a swamp in the middle of the night, next to the half-sunk bulk of the vault. While Jericho shouted "WHAT IS THAT?" and pointed at the moon, Cazael stripped off his armour and climbed through the drill-hole.
Inside, Alice had cornered the last two Dvergr inside a golem vat-room. Cazael assisted in dispatching them before they could activate a golem. Just to be safe, Alice decided to cast doom on the golem.
She botched the spell and it targeted her instead. The mighty wizard, full of occultum and ambition, keeled over from her own spell.
Cazael shrugged, kicked the corpse, and dragged it out of the vault. Jericho used a full-power control earth spell to bury the giant stone structure in the water and slime of the swamp, hopefully concealing its dangerous cargo from ambitious warlords and wizards.
Jericho spent the next few hours pointing at things and screaming. Trees, stars, toads; anything new and surface-related got a thorough examination. When the sun finally rose he pulled his hat over his eyes and sat in abject terror. A small group of curious visitors from a local barony found him sitting next to Alice's body.
But that's a story for another time.
Veinscrawl NotesAs a framework to use Veins of the Earth, the Veinscrawl worked fairly well. The yellow line above is the approximate route the PCs took; ~29 hexes over 21 sessions. There's still plenty of material to use. The PCs didn't really get to see large sections of the map and entire factions. The also avoided cities and large settlements.
Finding a consistent group goal beyond "get loot" was a problem. The party happily followed anything that vaguely resembled a quest until they forgot the original goal. The players weren't intersted in domain-level play or carving out an empire.
Food and Light
Food was never a major issue. The PCs just ate whatever they killed, no matter how weird. Light was a constant concern. They used lanterns, fungi-branches, magic items, and conjured fire.
These session reports are very condensed and hastily edited. They're the highlights only; details, descriptions, and rulings are often left out. Overall, I'd say the game had a darker tone than the writeups, though there were still sections of pure farce and ambitious over-extension. As usual, the PCs were their own worst enemies (followed closely by gravity and 10' of water).
Whole subplots got cut (like Jericho's fire elemental familiar, Cazael's badly articulated plan to take Death hostage using a god-slaying spear, the dEr0, etc.).
Missing a Session
The oppressive darkness of the Veins let players drop in and out easily. The Missing a Session table saw a lot of use.
The mix of Veins-creatures, creatures from the AD&D MM, and invented monsters kept things very interesting and volatile. The players never quite knew what to expect. The use of Omens (sounds, smells, or signs before the encounter) helped set the scene.
What Got The Most Use
-Veinscrawl encounter tables.
-Veins of the Earth bestiary and climbing rules.
-VotE treasure tables, cave shape tables, and spell list.
-Veinscrawl hex descriptions.
Things I'd Create For Next Time
-A player-facing price list with no prices and a GM-facing price list with prices. It just helps prompt good item-based problem solving and avoids the GM listing off every mundane item a market. Even a list of 20 common items would be good.
-A mundane "I Search the Body" table to complement the one in Veins of the Earth.
-I used the medieval-based GLOG hack throughout. In retrospect, a more carefully curated section of classes, races, etc. would have been useful, but I never got around to it.