“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #6

by mshrm

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, the thinking man’s barbarian… but you wouldn’t like him when he’s angry (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, surprisingly taking a role as the party’s conscience (PC)
  • Needles, always one step ahead, but you really don’t want him standing behind you… (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, bringing the swift vengeance and the furious anger (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s main goblin, charged with guardian the camp (NPC)
  • Höss, a brute working a laborer’s job (NPC)
  • Dean and Roman, earnest young shieldbearers (NPC)

Missing, but mentioned:

  • Gabby, suffering from an epic hangover after enthusiastic celebration (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

  • (Jed) Ryleh the Clever came to Tembladera to research the process of becoming a lich, decades ago, and they say he managed it in the end. Before he vanished into the ruins forever, Ryleh laid claim to an old dwarven watchtower, somewhere in the mountains. His servants said that he had uncovered a source of magical knowledge inside.
  • (Alric) There is a pool on one of the lower levels of the dwarven ruins that can raise the dead. For those who understand the ways of magic, it can do more than that.
  • (Alric) A long while back, an elderly goblin came to town with a bag full of old dwarven metalwork and sold it to Dekter Strang. The goblin took his payment in ironware: chains, gears, and tools.
  • (Needles) There’s a cavern under the mountains that has a false sun in its roof. There’s a forest that grows in the cavern, but the trees and animals are totally different than what you find around Tembladera. Some of the trees grow gems instead of fruit.

 

What Happened:

After leaving the dungeon early during the last trip, Needles went directly to his favored fence, Kajeet the cat-folk merchant*, who bought the agate that Needles had lifted off the ogre. Needles got 25 copper for it, which he immediately spent at the tavern.

When the rest of the party returned from the battle on the Great Bridge, they sent Mississippi Jed to pawn the loot, as is their custom. By luck, he, too, went to have dealings with Kajeet. When Jed arrived, he found the older Kajeet and his nephew, a young apprentice wizard, gloating over the jewel, making the chattering noise that cats make when they’re watching a bird they want to kill. Jed recognized the jewel’s magical aura. Mentioning that he was looking for a gem to decorate his cane’s head, he asked how much they would take for it. Kajeet dismissed his nephew with a glance and answered that he could not part for the gem for less than 250 gold. ($20,000!)

One double-take later, Jed admitted that was a bit steep for his wallet.

After finishing with the rest of his business, Jed tracked down Needles at the tavern. He informed the thief of how he had observed the pilfering, and how badly Kajeet had taken him when buying the loot. While denying that he knew anything about any jewels, Needles still learned a valuable lesson about evaluating possibly-enchanted items.

The thief-cough-scout and the bard talked over possible responses to the situation. Notably, Needles suggested that the world would be a much more satisfactory place if they were to take the gem away from Kajeet. While this course of action has obvious potential for profit, it would also break the meta-game truce that says that town is safe, absolutely… for just so long as nobody turns it into a field of conflict. With this in mind, they decided to consider further before making any rash moves.

In accordance with custom, the party enjoyed a week off. Alric’s craving to be the life of the party overcame his barbaric yearning for the wilderness, so rather than spend the week camping outside of town, he paid to drink at the inn. During the days, he spent his time playing an old Northern game with the local barbarian class trainer: they would each take a shot, both would throw their shot glasses at a target as hard as they could, then the trainer would punch Alric right in the face. After a week of this treatment, he was able to add +1 ST, Hard to Subdue, the Throwing skill, and the Focused Fury perk.

Somewhere along the way, Alric woke up with his pouch considerably emptier than it had been the night before. With a philosophical shrug, he took the reversal of fortune in stride, making his stoic Northern ancestors proud.***

During the week, Jed gathered trade goods to take back to the orcs on the far side of the Great Bridge, mainly blankets and distilled spirits. He also went to Strang to obtain distilled magical essence to tempt Gort, the goblin wizard. This appeared as a glass ball filled with sparkling blue light. He devoted $3,000 to the essence, which could be used to rapidly enchant magical items, and got 75 energy points’ worth.

After discussing the possibilities of bringing home more treasure if they had more people to carry it, the party retained three hirelings for their next delve. The more expensive was Höss, a Brute by trade, but hired as a high-priced laborer, charged with carrying that which was heavy. Dean and Roman cost as much together as Höss did by himself, as they were still young and green; the brothers were hired as shield bearers and (with luck) bearers of additional treasure.

Towards the end of the week, the talk of the town was about how a local peasant girl, a milk maid, had been kidnapped by “evil humanoids”. Both TKotBO and Jed were inspired by this news and eager to mount an investigation. Alric seemed indifferent, but was willing to go along with any plan that involved whacking things and taking their coin. Needles, too, was up for a trip to into the ruins, but questioned the need to search for peasant girls, as they, by definition, don’t have any money for rewards. Gabby didn’t express an opinion either way, as she was entirely too drunk and/or hung over from the night before, and so the swashbuckling cabin girl was left in town to recover as best she could.

At TKotBO’s suggestion, the party gathered at the temple to receive a blessing before they left town. They chose to invest in the medium-sized, 2 pt blessing for each party member.  (Looking back, I’m not sure if they paid for the hirelings to be blessed or not. Need to clear that up.) They also had Continual Light cast on several torches, which were distributed to the hirelings. TKotBO went a step further, having Continual Light cast on his helmet, but paying extra for designer colors, getting red light on one side and blue on the other. That way, he reasoned, his comrades would not only be able to locate him in the press of melee, they would be able to see which direction he was headed in.

The four left the town through the north gate and arrived at their usual entrance to the dwarven ruins by noon. With a mind towards the entrance hall possibly being re-inhabited, the party assembled in their usual marching order, with Needles moving ahead of the group to scout a course. When they got to the entrance, Needles crept inside stealthily. He saw a humanoid figure, standing in the center of the entrance hall. As he approached, Needles recognized Jim Kadabra, Mississippi Jim’s old buddy and the man that Needles had sapped shortly after Rho’s death.

The illusionist made no move until the rest of the party, with TKotBO in the lead, came into view. At that point, he announced himself: “Greetings! My name is Jim Kadabra. I am a prisoner in a Flame Lord prison camp. Great rewards await those who free me from my captivity!” When greeted and questioned, he repeated the same message, in the same tones, with the same gestures. Jed identified the phenomena as an illusion, programmed to respond to certain stimuli. At the sound of Jed’s voice, the illusion identified him by name and added an additional plea for help.

Jed said that the party had to see what they could do about rescuing his friend.  TKotBO remarked that the distressed damsel was the higher priority mission. Needles pointed out that neither one would make anybody any richer, as far as he could see.

Discussion broke off when Needles noticed that someone had been camping out in the nook behind the stone head. Moving aside a tarp that had been carelessly thrown aside, he discovered a locked and trapped chest. He casually disarmed the trap, recovering a poison-smeared needle, and unlocked the chest. Inside, he found a mace and a pouch. By the time he turned around, the coin in the purse had somehow made its way up Needles’ sleeve, leaving only a pair of bone dice. The mace went to Höss, previously unarmed, and Jed requested the dice as a souvenir.

The party proceeded along the path they have traveled many times before: down the hall, through the rough ground once used by the Red Hand goblins for ambush, and to the pit trap. The illusion was back, so they identified the spot by the marks TKotBO had made in the wall nearby. Alric tossed Jed and Needles across without incident, but TKotBO felt this was beneath his dignity. He went back to recover the broken door from where it had stashed it, in the room that they had dubbed “the closet”, the empty ten-by-ten room containing only a broken dresser.

Wondering what was causing the delay, Jed came to the edge of the pit and called back to Alric, who went to follow TKotBO. As he stood peering into the darkness, Jed heard a breathy “phoot!” noise from the pit. A glob of acidic slime came through the illusion from the hidden pit bottom, hitting Jed squarely in the chest. Needles took several prudent steps back from the pit, while Jed went into a frenzy of scraping. He used his glove-covered hand to clean the slime off his chest before it could penetrate to his skin, then managed to discard the fouled glove into the pit without getting any on him.

Meanwhile, TKotBO had been delayed at the closet. When he had gone to open the door, he had found it barred. A sliding door opened at eye-level, and a man inside challenged TKotBO, telling him that he was “either buying or shoving off”. TKotBO turned on the charm (and flashed his Rol-X) and got the man to open the door. He introduced himself as Ning. As Alric joined them, he offered to sell them iron rations and rum. Ning had taken over the closet and turned it into what the PCs described as a convenience store. His goods were stacked on makeshift shelves on the back wall. One of the shelves was made of the board TKotBO was seeking.

Hearing Jed’s shouts from down the hall, the two turned to leave. TKotBO grabbed the shelf and ripped it off the wall as they went, saying he would return it shortly.

As the two returned, Needles and Jed warned them that the pit was inhabited. Alric tossed a smoke bomb (one of their new purchases since the previous trip) into the pit, blinding whatever was lurking down there, while TKotBO threw down the plank to help cross the pit. Alric jumped across. TKotBO was alone on the near side of the pit when he realized something was creeping up behind him. He turned to face a carrion crawler, which moved to attack. He calmly took the creature’s paralyzing tentacles on his shield and bashed in its skull, then joied the others. The party continued down the hall.

Shortly, they came to the point of decision: would they turn right, into the room full of statues and then on to confront the flame lords in a bid to free Kadabra, or would they continue on towards the Great Bridge. A hurried consultation established that nobody felt that they were equipped to deal with the fiery people Alric and Gabby had seen. They passed on.

Needles led the way, slipped quietly into the side passage with the stairs leading up to the long hall to the Great Bridge. When TKotBO passed through the door, a glowing pixie flew up in front of his face. Thanks to his missing eye and great helm, he didn’t even notice, and brushed right by. The pixie recovered and delivered its message to Jed, the next in line: “The Flame Lords down the hall have no stomach for battle, but they do have wealth: gold and gems torn from the roots of the mountain!” Realizing that pixies don’t ordinarily glow, Jed poked it with his baton, causing it to burst like a bubble. Another illusion.

The party pressed on, stopping at the Great Bridge until they were acknowledged and allowed to advance. Gort the goblin wizard and Grogmar the orc ranger, the leaders of the orcs, came down to meet the party. Seeing that they had brought goods to trade, the orcs allowed the party to come back up to their chambers. Jed, Gort, and Grogmar went into the back room to negotiate, while the rest of the party stayed in the antechamber to carouse with the tribe.

Alric fell to drinking with two orcs who told him the story of their exciting morning, which included kidnapping the peasant girl and using her as bait to distract the demons while they went down into the pit. Simultaneously, TKotBO grabbed one of the goblin slaves and asked him if he know anything about the girl, receiving the same story:  Gort had come up with the idea of throwing the demons something to take their attention, they had grabbed the girl and thrown her into the pit, then several orcs had been lowered to grab what treasure they could find.

TKotBO dropped the goblin with thanks, saying he would grant the slave a boon.  “Leave this place now,” he said, then turned towards the back room. He knocked on the door, which was opened by one of the orc rabble. Getting the nod from Gort, he let TKotBO in.

negotiations2

The scene just before everything went to hell. Minis are PCs, except for the all-white one, which is Höss. Paper minis are named bad guys, with Mongo being the big’n. Pennies are orcs, silver coins are dire wolves.

negotiations

Green discs are goblins. The one yellow disc is also a goblin: the one that TKotBO interrogated, fleeing the room in fear.

Inside, the negotiators were gathered around a stone table. TKotBO went to join them, standing in between Jed and Gort. He kicked Jed in the ankle to get his attention, then put his hand to his morning star’s grip and tried to give Jed a significant look to signal his intentions. This didn’t work out very well, what with the great helm and all…

Which is why Jed was actually more surprised than Gort when TKotBO raised his weapon with the clear intent of bashing in the goblin’s skull. Everyone in the room was even more surprised than that, when Needles — who had quietly slipped into the room when the holy warrior had entered, unnoticed by all concerned — popped up behind Grogmar, fatally stabbing him once in either kidney before anyone could move.

“What-?” Jed began.

“They took the girl,” TKotBO snapped.

Jed sighed once, but his bardic training had included much practice in knowing which way the wind was blowing. The door guard threw open the door, shouting a call to arms to his comrades. Jed whistled up a “fear” spell, causing several of the orcs and goblins outside the door to flee. Gort scrambled away from TKotBO and cast a spell allowing him to breathe fire on the holy warrior, but the damage was not enough to stop the fall of the morning star, which cracked his skull and ended his career of evil. Seeing that the goblin slaves were no threat, Needles ran out into the antechamber, slipping along the wall in a bid to flank the orcs.

The carousing orcs, meanwhile, were slow to get organized. While they were busy getting it together — readying weapons, getting up from the floor, figuring out what direction to move in — the two biggest figures in the room, Alric and Mongo, sprang to their feet and moved towards each other. Just before they came together, Jed summoned a magical bolt of lightning and blasted Mongo. Mongo’s welded-on metal armor was no great defense against the electrical onslaught, and so he was greatly injured, but still standing.

Alric looked around him, at the orcs who had been drinking with him moments ago and who were now drawing weapons to come for his blood, and found himself outraged. He turned this fury on Mongo, striking him with two powerful blows to the torso with his great axe. The beast tried to defend himself, but wasn’t up to the task. He fell, unconscious and badly wounded, but still breathing.

At this point, TKotBO charged out of the inner chamber, bellowing a challenge. “Your leaders are dead! I swear by the rings of Saturn, any goblinoid bearing arms in three seconds will follow them!”  Shocked and disarrayed, leaderless, with their greatest weapon taken down before they knew what was happening, the orcs dropped their weapons.

The scene after the battle, with the orcs lined up against the wall.

The scene after the battle, with the orcs lined up against the wall.

Shortly, the party was shaking down the orcs, who they put up against the wall while they freed the goblin slaves and searched the two rooms. The ranger’s body yielded a gold ring, notably. They took a rug, a portrait of a dwarf in historical costume, and a pouch of spices from the inner chamber.

During the search, Jed and Needles discovered a secret door and the means to open it, on the back wall of the inner chamber. Inside, they found a small workroom, covered with dust, containing a table with a gilded platter and some fine crystal. There were two exits, a doorway straight ahead and a closed door in a foyer to the left. As they looked over the scene, Needles felt a passing moment of dizziness and disorientation, but didn’t think anything particularly of it.

Having looted the place, they still had not located the orichalcum orb. “Nort!” the party cried, remembering the old goblin engineer from their last visit. “Where is Nort?” The freed slaves were happy to show them the way. Keeping the disarmed orcs at the point of swords, they moved the crowd from the common room to the area around the demons’ pit, where they met Nort, who took the change in leadership in stride. It didn’t take much talking to uncover the orichalcum orb, which went directly into the party’s bags of loot.

Up until now, the party had assumed that if the girl had been thrown into the pit as a distraction, she must be dead. To their surprise, as they stood talking with Nort, they heard a scream from below! They began to discuss the best plan for rescuing the damsel. They considered the idea of sending down some of the captive orcs, but Nort laughed at that idea, being dismissive of the orcs’ ability to do the job. He pointed out that they wanted someone quick to do the job, so the best candidate looked to be Needles. For his part, Needles wasn’t all that eager to enter a pit full of demons to rescue some stranger with no reward offered. Finally, TKotBO volunteered to make a trip down the hole to look around. However, if he were doing it, he wanted to pull the distraction trick, too. Mongo, being unconscious and likely to go berserk upon regaining consciousness, was immediately volunteered.

Nort quickly attached a cable to the scruff of TKotBO’s armor. Mongo was bound hand and foot, then lowered first. Just before he passed out of reach, TKotBO reached over to lay on hands and heal the siege beast’s wounds. Mongo awoke, gnashing his teeth and foaming at the mouth, struggling to get free. Then TKotBO stepped out into space.

They lowered him down through the narrower entrance “neck” of the cavern, to the point that he could see the balcony of the top floor. He dropped a torch the full length of the chamber, retaining one for his own use, while Mongo continued the trip down. As his cable played out, the noises Mongo made went from aggressive cursing to frightened whimpering to howls of pain and terror.

Meanwhile, TKotBO looked around. He noticed that the edges of the balcony had been painted with a message in many languages. The one in the common tongue, at least, said “Send more zombies!”****  TKotBO tried to climb over to solid footing, but wasn’t able to do the trick. Instead, he put himself into a slow spin. Giving in to the inevitable, he gave the agreed two tugs and was quickly pulled back up. There was another scream from the girl, which seemed to be coming from the top level, rather than somewhere lower.

After the holy warrior quickly described what he had observed, everybody wanted to go make the trip.  (Even Needles, albeit somewhat reluctantly. While TKotBO had been dangling, Jed had been describing the riches to be found in the pit.) For one moment, they actually planned for all four party members to be hooked to cables. Then, they realized the peril they would be putting themselves into. Instead, they decided to leave Jed on watch, while Alric, Needles, and TKotBO descended. Nort happily rolled up more cranes. Alric bit his lip and put himself into the hands of the evil crane technology. Down they went. Before they dropped out of sight, Jed enchanted them all with a song of bravery, and furthermore improved Alric’s already-keen hearing.

Needles went first, holding a line attached to TKotBO. He climbed across the chamber ceiling, as Gabby had the time before, pulling TKotBO behind. Being plenty agile himself, Alric had no trouble joining them. He stood on guard, while the other two ventured further, seeking the girl.

The found an open archway and two closed doors. The scream had seemed to come from the direction of the archway, so they checked in there, first. Inside, they could see that the room had once been dedicated to a now-dry fountain, with a statue of a laughing female dwarf carrying a cornucopia. Since the days that the fountain had run with water, someone had apparently used the room for butchering meat. Poorly. But with great enthusiasm.

Behind the fountain, they found the girl, cowering in fear. She was glad to come with them, of course. As they turned towards the door to go, Alric cried out. His anchoring line had gone slack.

During this same time, up above, the orcs had realized the odds. They were fourteen strong, if disarmed, orcs, being guarded by one distracted bard, one dull warrior with poor gear, and two boys who were still wet behind the ears. They jumped the humans. Two ganged up on Jed, who had been leaning over the edge asking for updates on the situation. Luckily, he noticed them before they were able to pitch him over the edge. While they struggled to get a good grip on the wiry bard, Nort had pulled out a sharp knife and started cutting ropes, beginning with Alric’s.

Realizing the import of the slack cable sliding into space, and reasoning that the run-of-the-mill orcs he had drank with before were not fluent in human languages, Alric shouted “Cover your eyes!” in the common tongue, quick-drew a flash bomb, and threw it in an underhanded bank shot, up through the relatively narrow neck of the chamber. Jed and the others heard him and were able to close their eyes just before it exploded, blinding most of the orcs and throwing them into disarray.

Seeing that time was short, Needles and TKotBO ran to leave. The holy warrior took the girl in one arm and swung out into the void, calling for someone to crank them up. Needles wasn’t waiting; he started scaling his own rope, hand over hand. They both grabbed at Alric’s loose cable.

At this point, Alric felt his blessing dissipate. His comrades were able to get a grip on his cable and yank him off his feet, turning a sneak attack into a near miss. He got one look at a humanoid form made of solid darkness with cold stars for eyes, putting a clawed hand through the place where his heart had been, before he, too, was hanging at the end of his rope. It hissed at him, angered at the near miss.

Meanwhile, up top, Jed, Höss, Dean, and Roman had managed to shake off their blinded attackers. Jed and Höss jumped to crank TKotBO’s crane, while Dean and Roman fended off the feeble resistance offered by the orcs. Shortly, Needles was able to join them, and then it was a relatively simple matter to regain control of the situation and get everybody’s feet on solid ground.

Jed chased down Nort and dangled him over the edge of the pit until the orcs regained their sight. Making sure that all eyes were on him, he dropped the elderly goblin, screaming, into the depths.  “And I liked him,” he announced, giving the signal. The hirelings shoved the orcs over the edge after him.

Loading up the loot, the party left the formerly-enslaved goblins in charge, saying that they’ll be back soon. Taking the girl with them, they hustled back across the Bridge and back to the entrance. They made it back to town without incident, returning the girl to her family, gaining much in reputation but nothing in the way of hard coin. Even though the loot was lighter than they had hoped, they still managed to make over $1,200 each.

Nominally, at least. In point of fact, TKotBO claimed the dead orc ranger’s golden ring as his share. Since the ring, itself, was most of the value of the loot, this didn’t set well with the others, but he didn’t seem concerned, saying they could count it against future earnings. The conversation seemed to be leaning towards making the fire lords a priority for the next trip, with an eye towards freeing Jed’s old friend, before the question of the ring came up and drowned out all other considerations.

* Yes, “Khajiit has wares, if you have coin.”  Named the NPC after a Skyrim joke, I’ll admit it, I’m not proud. Changing the spelling to avoid confusion of the search-fu. I have a feeling this guy will be turning up again in the future.**

** Footnote off a footnote. Told ya I wasn’t proud. Anyway, the behind-the-scenes went like this:  As part of answering the questions around the enchanted gem that Needles had lifted, Jed’s player asked about the community of fences in Tembladera. Half-joking, I pointed out that Tembladera is like the towns in Diablo: there might be a huge marketplace with lots of NPCs standing around as window dressing, but really, there’s only about three merchants in the whole town, each having a couple of stock dialog options. The guys then pointed out that in that case, all Jed had to do was go around checking the “Buy Back” tab until he uncovered the missing gem. And, in the end… that’s pretty much what happened.

*** Behind-the-scenes:  Alric’s player lost his printed character sheet, where he had written the amount of cash he had on hand. Upon realizing this, he announced that Alric must have gotten himself rolled. We offered to go through the notes and come up with an approximate value, but he waved it off. You want to talk old-school?  That‘s old-school. In the source literature, folks like Conan and Fafhrd & the Grey Mouser are always freshly-broke, having “squandered a pouch full of rare jewels”… and in the old D&D days, the way we played it in junior high, if you didn’t write it on your sheet, it vanished while your back was turned.  This fed in to the tie-breaker vote at the end of the session, which once more awarded the Cool Point to Alric.

**** When Mongo started crying out, Needles’ player turned to the rest of the group and said something along the lines of “Oh my god, have we created Zomb-mongo?”

Edit 9 June 2014: Forgot about the carrion crawler and Gort breathing fire, so added them.

 

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