“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #13
Up-Front Disclaimer: We had a lot of factors working against us, this time around, and I fear it showed. I’ve been fighting a cold all week, and clearly wasn’t at my best, in terms of attention span. We had one last-minute cancellation, and one late arrival. What with one thing and another, it look us a long while to get going, so by the time we got towards the end, fatigue was setting in. Finally, we’re coming to realize that some of the ground rules are working against us. (More on this later, after more contemplation.) Call it the curse of session #13. Still, it seemed like everybody had some amount of fun, so we’ll count it as a technical win. 😉
- Alric Redbeard, human barbarian and cat person — not cat-folk, cat person (PC)
- FuBar Bombad, sewer troll dancer who could have used a better night’s sleep (PC)
- Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard-wizard who must have been practicing his Simon and Garfunkel, since he was feelin’ cloudy… (PC)
- Needles, thief-swashbuckler and engine of doom (PC)
- Posy, cat-folk archer with her own delving doctrine (PC)
- “Dobby”, Alric’s goblin henchman and head armor-polisher (NPC henchman)
- Trevor, Jed’s apprentice and seer into the Other Side (NPC henchman)
- Brother Bob Pattson, healer cleric who hadn’t heard the party’s reputation for dealing with clerics (NPC hireling)
- Bruce the Brute, more mean-spirited muscle than actual personality (NPC hireling)
- Jack, son of John, one who totes and lifts and doesn’t think too deeply about it all (NPC hireling)
Missing in action:
- Gabby the Cabin Girl, who spent the week drinking with both hands, and so overslept on delving day (PC)
- Höss, rethinking the choices that brought him to this pass (popular NPC hireling)
As usual, Jed was up on all the latest news.
- When Count Nalor the Thrice-Cursed was driven out of town for his crimes last year, it was revealed that he was half-demon. They say he fled into the ruins, swearing revenge. The angry mob would have killed him, except for his exceptional suit of magical armor.
- The fashion in Moscow these days is wearing the fur of the giant ape. There are several traders with ships at the docks, ready to pay top coin for pelts in any condition.
- Lots of pixies are moving in to Tembladera. They’re close-mouthed about their purpose, but they’re all staying in a cottage near the city wall.
- There’s one particularly bad cult that’s established itself in the ruins. Their priests shave their heads and wear pyramid-shaped hats. The cultists are all insane. Even demons avoid them.
- A famous dwarven smith from down the coast – name escapes me at the moment, you know how it is – anyway, famous dwarven smith has set up shop just outside Tembladera. They say he’s giving discounts to try and drum up business.
Furthermore, he and Trevor spent some time in the library.
- The Darth clan were one of the most powerful and successful families involved in the settlement of Tembladera. For a generation, they made a fortune by plundering the abandoned ruins that became the town. One of their younger sons brought down a curse on his entire family, though, and within a year, they were all dead. Their family crypt is one of the largest in the cemetery.
- Old ruins and other places that don’t get a lot of traffic are often infested by reeks, mimics, and gelatinous cubes. It is an invariable aspect of these monsters that they smell of fermentation gone wrong.
Needles listened to the storytellers outside the inn.
- You hear the story of Salty Salvatore, a catfish over a thousand years old that’s learned so much wisdom it became a sage. Powerful wizards have been known to consult with it. It knows secrets of magic that have been recorded nowhere else. They say it got tired of all the attention and retired to live in a lake under the mountains.
Alric kept from being thrown out of the bar long enough to swap some stories with other delvers.
- There’s a great stairway in the dwarven ruins, deeper than the tallest tower is high. Those who’ve seen it say it’s littered with riches from the days of the dwarves, but no one has a thing to show for it.
Enjoying the fruits of recent success, Alric traded in his half-naked, fur-and-mail look for a full suit of scale armor. Between that, and the dragon-head helmet he picked up last session, he’s cutting quite the figure these days.
Needles, on the other hand, spent the week in contemplation under the watchful eye of Jed and Trevor, and managed to kindle the spark of mana in his soul. (GM: He bought Magery 0, to avoid being caught by purely magical traps… or overlooking the good loot.) He also made some improvements to his gear, picking up a badly-needed trap-finder’s kit.
Posy made a breakthrough in her understanding of the bow, becoming a weapon master.
A flashback later in the game would reveal that FuBar had disposed of the still-living demon’s head from last session, through the simple method of handing it off to a gang of corpse-eaters in the sewers. It’ll probably be making soup for years…
Several members of the party looked into the rumor of the crying man offering wishes, but they didn’t turn up anything useful. On the contrary, they found one local who claimed the crying man was just on old ghost story, nothing more.
On the first Saturn’s-Day of the month of Quintilis, the hottest month of the year, Alric made his way to the inn for a pre-delve breakfast. One of the staff caught him at the door, asking if he had seen TKotBO around. Alric admitted to knowing the holy warrior, but said he wouldn’t be available any time soon. The maid handed over a sealed letter, saying, in that case, Alric could take his friend’s mail.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Jed was just stepping out onto his balcony for a breath of fresh air. An urchin from the street called up to him, saying, “Mistah Jed, Mistah Jed, I got news!” After receiving his silver coin, the kid informed Jed that activity had been observed at Strang’s tower. Food was being delivered. Apparently, the man himself was back in residence, returned from his vacation.
After getting dressed, Jed came downstairs and joined Alric, who passed over the letter. It was from Strang, explaining some of his researches. He informed them that he had clues pointing towards more orichalcum pieces in a place frequented by goblins. Needles and Posy joined the discussion. Things from the letter encouraged them in their half-formed plan to go check out the so-called Pit of Darkness.
With a firm sense of purpose, then, they set about preparing for their day’s work. They gathered a supply of healing potions, plus some other, more specialized concoctions and equipment. One notable addition to the group’s gear was a self-mapping scroll. The party fund paid for a quiver-full of arrows for Posy, half with Continual Light cast on them, half meteoric broad-heads for putting down enemy wizards.
As far as hirelings… They started by looking for Höss, but couldn’t find him. Sad faces all around. There wasn’t much hope of hiring a healing cleric, what with their track record for killing clerics, but they tried anyway… and met Brother Bob, who hadn’t heard the news. After Alric waxed eloquent on the virtues of hirelings lacking in education and imagination, they also hired Jack and Bruce, a laborer and a brute, both known for being among the dullest knives in the Tembladera drawer.
On the way out of town, they stopped off at the church for blessings for everybody. On the off chance that they might run into FuBar, they picked up a blessed button for him, as well.
The hike to the front door of the dungeon was uneventful. In fact, they didn’t encounter any surprises for quite some time. They entered through the main entrance, checked the alcove, and formed up in marching order, with Needles in the lead. They then proceeded down the main hall to the big stone head, took a right, and headed towards the Great Bridge hallway.
As they went, they checked doors. The failed dungeon convenience store was still failed. The kitchen had been disturbed — the pots and pans were moved around — but nobody was home and a quick search turned up nothing of interest. Needles found a live-capture rat trap, and stole the morsel of meat left as bait, just for the sport of the thing. The party realized that they had never actually checked the door just before the cleric-eating pit, so they took a look. The room turned out to be a long-abandoned small-scale fish-smoking operation, likely left from the tribe of goblins who used to call this corner of the dungeon home. Posy called dibs on the dried fish while the rest of the party was still dithering at the door, and so had something to munch on during the rest of the trip.
There was some confusion over the map, when the party started to approach the area of the flame lords. After finding the old farm for giant rats, across the hall from the flame lord’s door, they got themselves oriented, and moved towards the stair… only to stop when Alric and Jed heard something. It was a distinctive purr/buzz, coming from the door to the stair that led to their goal. Bee cats.
Alric tried to use one of his survival tricks, and mimic the bark of the bee cat’s natural enemy. This backfired, as the purr/buzz stopped, and over half-a-dozen cats came swarming around the corner!
The conflict was more of a slap fight than anything, and over in barely two seconds. One of the cats stung Needles in the leg, poisoning him. When one jumped at Alric to scratch out his eyes, he grabbed it out of the air and held it helpless by the scruff of the neck. The rest of the swarm were batted around and frightened off. Still restraining his captive, Alric applied his survival skills to suck the poison from Needles’ wound. While the cleric cleaned up the actual damage of the wound, Alric then turned his attention to the cat. As it turns out, while Alric is good with all sorts of animals, he’s a specialist in cats. He managed to settle the beast down enough to make it docile. It spent the rest of the adventure clinging to his shoulder.
(GM: If nothing else, the party could open a pet store, I suppose…)
Moving around the corner, the party found a broken barrel, the same one that had been rolled down the stairs at them some time ago. The bee cats had moved in and set up a hive in the barrel’s carcass. They found FuBar, sitting up as if just awakening from a nap, lying stickily in the middle of the hive. (GM: The player entered, late.)
Happy reunion all around. Alric pulled the troll out of the hive, along with two eggs (into the pouch!) and a couple of pounds of edible honey. The party explained the mission of the day, and FuBar agreed to join, being eager to test himself against the challenges of the Pit of Darkness. The blessed button was handed over. FuBar gravely stuck it up his nose. For safekeeping.
The marching order was re-organized, and the march resumed. It was somewhere around here that the others noticed, while Posy was keeping a close eye out, she wasn’t keeping her bow at the ready. This drew some comments, which she ignored.
Minutes later, they arrived at the Great Bridge. They paused at the door to take a good, long look around, mindful of the uncanny archer in the overlooking tower.
FuBar isn’t the “good, long look around” type. He bounded out of the door at a run, tumbling and dodging, throwing rude gestures and shouts towards the tower as he went. He had decided to test his skill of parrying arrows.
The party reacted. Posy and Needles broke cover, moving to follow the troll stealthily. Jed sang several verses and turned himself into a cloud, then flew in pursuit. Alric readied his axe and trotted forth. Trevor pulled out his money pouch and started taking bets from the new henchmen, on whether or not the troll would get himself shot.
The Great Bridge has a structure in its center, roofing over the span, decorated with stone heads looking in either direction. FuBar made it to the covered region without any trouble… but as soon as he stepped into the open on the far side, he saw movement from the tower. There was a flash of a humanoid figure, popping into sight at a window and firing a crossbow. FuBar lost sight of the sniper as he concentrated on parrying the bolt.
Just as the missile came within arm’s reach, FuBar felt a breath of cold air on his ear, whispering: “Was I scrumptious?”
With a will of iron, FuBar maintained his concentration. “Delicious,” he muttered, and snapped the flying bolt with a sideways chop.
At this point, the party saw movement from the far door. A gang of greenish, obviously-decayed creatures burst from the door at a sprint, displaying fangs and claws.
The archer in the tower was largely forgotten in the face of this new danger. The undead creatures raced forward, with two tackling FuBar while the others passed by to engage the rest of the party. FuBar parried a couple of attacks, then acrobatically flipped up and back, putting himself on the roof of the bridge’s central structure, out of the reach of the crowd of “zombies”. Two of the undead scrambled up after him, while the others met the party below.
Posy put an arrow into the heart of the leading “zombie”, knocking it down but not out. Then Alric and Needles met the oncoming horde, and tore them apart. Jed, in cloud form, helped out with some lightning. Working together, the four of them wiped out the crowd. A high point was when one of the creatures tried to grab Alric, who grabbed it back, ripped it off himself, and threw it into the river.
During the fight, other members of the party heard a voice in their ear, trying to unnerve them, to no avail. Finally, Jack heard the voice (and failed the understand the too-veiled threat it issued) and Trevor aimed an accusing finger at him, shouting “The dead walk among us!” The mysterious voice was that of the ghost of Doughal, the halfling who died on the bridge chasing his lost magic ring, now in Gabby’s possession.
Meanwhile, though, FuBar was fighting a desperate battle for survival against two ghouls… for, indeed, that is what they turned out to be. He started out strong, attempting to shove them both backwards, over the edge. It almost worked, with one teetering on the brink before regaining his footing. The other, though, managed to tag the sewer troll, and paralyzed him. They bore him to the ground and went to work gnawing at him, one at his throat and one at his abdomen. This was enough to break the paralysis. (GM: A desperate battle marred by a variety of mistakes, on both sides. Ordinarily, ghoul’s paralysis lasts for minutes, and isn’t broken simply because the victim is being eaten. In this case, however, we had a series of goofs that ended up being redressed by having FuBar’s blessed button burn itself out counteracting the paralysis. Special case, don’t try this at home.) The troll was able to quick-draw a healing potion to keep himself conscious, and a vial of alchemist’s fire to threaten his attackers. They counterattacked by grappling his arm.
The rest of the party had run out of targets, but they could still hear the shouts and growls of FuBar’s battle. Determining that he needed to gain some altitude, Needles went to climb up to the top of the bridge’s central structure, but nearly slipped on a slimy patch. His blessing burnt out, saving him from a hundred-foot fall. His second attempt was more successful. When he pulled himself up on their level, the ghouls took notice. One left to engage Needles, which turned out to be their undoing. The thief-swashbuckler took it apart, while FuBar was finally able to douse the other in alchemist’s fire.
The party was just catching their breath and getting organized for healing, when another crossbow bolt came out of nowhere and crippled Brother Bob’s leg. You guessed it, arrow to the knee. Some grabbed the wounded, and everybody ran for the shelter of the door on the far side, under the arrow slits.
The hall on the other side was plenty wide enough for everyone, so they decided to stop right there. They posted guards in both directions, poured healing potions into the cleric, and then set him to healing the others’ wounds. Everyone was pretty tired, so they shared out some food and took a rest.
After about twenty minutes, they heard a scrabbling noise from the doorway. Three nimble, grinning skeletons dropped from the cliff face above. Posy shattered the first one’s skull with a quick arrow. The second went down in a clatter of loose bones after Jed stepped around the corner and laid into it with the purple-flaming staff taken from the sleeper last session. The third, seeing this, turned and ran.
The party chose not to pursue. They re-arranged their guards and rested for another forty minutes. Forming up, they proceeded to the turn-off up to the overlook, formerly held by a force of goblinoids. They made their way up the stairs, past the early-warning system of curtains and chains, without meeting any opposition. From there, they went up another flight of stairs to the enchanted goblin statue. After playing with it for a bit, they set out to retrace their steps from previous visits. This time, however, they took the time and trouble to carefully map it.
They returned to the room that had formerly been used as a camp by the tribe’s orcish “nobility”. Opening the door revealed that someone had been hard at work preparing the place for visitors. The floor was a grid of cheap rope tripwires and snares, attached to different deadfalls and makeshift launchers of wooden stakes.
FuBar went through his “Crouching Tiger” wind-up, then Light Walked at a run across the entire room, ending up at the door into the room formerly used as an inner sanctum by the goblinoid tribe’s leaders. While he wasn’t looking, though, Needles disarmed the entire system by untying a single knot near the door. (GM: Natural 3, as I recall…) Disappointed when he realized that he hadn’t passed the test he thought he was setting for himself, FuBar pragmatically went about collecting rope and wood stakes, while the others gave the room a thorough searching. They found a useful healing potion and some odds and ends.
They then turned their attention towards the door into the inner sanctum. Posy and FuBar didn’t like the smell of the door, so Jed used his magic to make the door transparent for himself. He found himself staring right into the rotted face of Gort the goblin-mage-turned-ghoul, pressed against the far side of the door, as it tried to listen to the party. There were similar figures pressed closed behind Gort, likely the other orc who had died in that room.
After a brief discussion, the party deployed one of their small capital improvements and set up to open the door.
Step #1: Alric gives the double doors his best hinge-buster with his maul, aiming for the siege stone pasted in their center.
Step #2: When the doors disintegrate in a hail of splinters, Jed unleashed a full-powered blast of fire breath, hosing down anything on the far side of the door.
Step #3: Wait for the smoke to clear, then brush aside some gruesome cinders on the way to looting the room.
Step #4: Profit! … in the form of a bottle of perfumed oil, and some really nice lace pillows.
Previously, the party had discovered a secret door, but had not investigated further. Now, the door was hanging open. While searching, they left a watchful guard eyeing it. Once the room was clear, this was the next piece of business.
Needles and Jed went to stand at the doorway’s edge, to get a closer look. They got a brief glance at a table covered in pitchers, platters, and wine glasses, covered in dust in the gloomy room. Then Needles suddenly stood upright, spun on his heel, and began marching back through the rooms, with neither a word nor a glance for his comrades.
“The dead!” Trevor cried again, pointing. “The dead are among us!” A ghost was possessing Needles. FuBar entangled his feet, then Alric went to tackle the thief. The ghost, driving Needles’ body, drew a shortsword and attacked, delivering a massive cut to the barbarian’s leg. It was prevented from doing even more damage when Jed used a spell of Command to drive the spirit from Needles’ body.
While the others patched up Alric, Trevor used his spooky medium powers to talk things over with the ghost. He described it as the ghost of a dwarf, one of the inhabitants from before the fall of the dwarven empire. He announced that the ghost had drawn a line in the sand, so to speak: anyone stepping over the threshold into the ghost’s rooms would be attacked without quarter, possessed, and made to walk out a window. Without any clear way to answer that threat, the party backed off.
They went back to check another, as-yet unopened door off the common room. They were able to unlock the door, but found it to be barred from the other side. Jed again assumed his Body of Air form and slipped through the cracks into the next room, but it was too dark to see anything interesting before he found himself under psychic assault from the ghost. Holding it off, he returned to the others.
The party returned to the hall and continued on, discovering the guard post overlooking the bridge. While checking it out, the party’s more sensitive noses caught the smell of blood. Investigating, the party found the big room with the Pit Of Darkness. The first thing they noticed was how the room had been redecorated with the torn-apart corpses of several goblins… the same goblins they had left in charge before, after freeing them from their orcish masters. Next, they realized that someone had taken a large chain, suitable for use as a ladder, and looped it around the base of some of the scattered equipment to anchor it, with one end hanging over the edge and disappearing into the gloom of the pit.
There was some discussion of cutting the chain, or possibly disconnecting it, but in the end, they decided to leave it for the moment. Jed pulled out a scroll he had purchased for just this occasion, and used it to cast a huge area of Continual Sunlight over the pit. This set off a gang of shriekers at the bottom of the pit, who starting in with their whistling screams.
Ignoring the screaming fugus and leaving a guard over the pit, they scattered to search the area. Alric found what appeared to be Mongo’s sleeping area, and found the chest he had been using for a headrest. When opened, it seemed to be some long-dead dwarf’s “bug-out bag”, packed with a mattress, some pillows, a couple of jugs of wine, and so forth. Most interesting was some jewelry at the bottom of the chest. The whole thing got bundled in with the party’s loot for later, closer, perusal.
FuBar declared his intention to test himself against this pit — his stated dream for some time, now — and clambered down the chain before the others could talk him out of it. The words “just to take a quick look around” were uttered. As he descended, the others gathered around to watch, and perhaps attack pursuers. Posy climbed up on the boom of one of the cranes, which the others positioned so that she stood directly over the center of the pit, ready to start launching a rain of arrows.
FuBar got a good look around the first level, seeing several doors. Seeing no opposition, he jumped from chain to balcony and went to the door. Again, “just to take a look around”. Opening the door, he found the decayed remains of what seemed to be some dwarf’s living quarters. There was a closed door on the far side of the room. Noticing some sort of bundle lying next to the door, FuBar entered the room for a closer look. It was a backpack, he saw. (GM: “… and certainly not any kind of bait,” Jed’s player said.)
He approached the pack, his hand outstretched…
* * *
… and that’s where we left it for next time. 😉
Edit 2 Feb 2015: I mis-remembered how they got the ghost out of Needles, and originally had it that Trevor applied holy water. I apparently combined two different events. Trevor threw some holy water somewhere, I’m sure, but it wasn’t at Needles.