Dungeon Fantasy Nordlond #3: “You Can’t Fight Tradition”

by mshrm

We had a couple of lineup changes this session, with one player returning after missing last time, and two players who couldn’t make it this time. Despite being short-handed, the group was able to complete the “tutorial level” adventure and get out into the wider world.

Spoiler Warning: Don’t say I didn’t warn you! This session completes the group’s run-through of I Smell A Rat, the introductory adventure from the Dungeon Fantasy RPG. The campaign as a whole is set in Nordlond, Gaming Ballistic‘s Norse-themed campaign setting, though it’s been hard to tell, since the group has spent almost all their on-screen time locked in a cellar.

After finishing up the initial adventure, the group just barely got started on Hall of Judgment, their first real foray into the world of Nordlond. I don’t think they necessarily got into any all that spoiler-y, but that’s likely to change in future sessions.

It occurs to me, though, that if I’m warning against spoilers, I should probably mention the equal and opposite warning. I often wander off from the original source material. Sometimes, the players lead me into improvisation, but more often, I overlook or forget or just plain don’t understand something, and then actual play deviates from the text as written. We muddle through.

Who’s Who

  • Blixa, Half-elf Barbarian. Not a Beastmaster, just a master of beasts.
  • Esen, Human Mentalist. AFK with real-life responsibilities.
  • The Great and Mysterious Blaadao Bla’Dae, Elf Wizard. Improvised lockpick.
  • Ilmarë “Ray” Kem, Elf Cleric. The solid rock on which the team’s success is built.
  • The Kid, Nymph Bard. AFK with the plague.
  • Senderbloke Qwerthunderchugg the Naescott, Dwarf Holy Warrior. In hot pursuit.
  • Slingshot, Human Scout. You mean he’s been leaving off that bonus the entire time?

What Happened

After a quick rest and heal-up, the party regrouped to investigate the last unexplored hallway. Sender rejoined the group while they were resting, saying that he had laid out the plans to excavate around the hallway of evil runes, and now somebody needed to start digging. For reasons that will remain murky, The Kid and Esen were sent back to the entrance to the devil worshippers’ lair to excavate, a job they are manifestly unfit for, while the rest of the party pressed on. Comments concerning the character-building aspects of physical labor were made.

The remaining party members assembled to explore the hallway. Ray cast Continual Light on her staff, while Sender carried one of the salvaged torches in his right hand with his great axe handy in his left. (It was at this point that they realized that the torch had been burning merrily for much longer than should have been possible.) Both Ray and Blaadao prepared full-power missile spells. Everyone else readied their weapons, and the group proceeded down the hall.

Shortly, they came to a copper-sheathed double door, embossed with leering demonic faces, which they discovered was locked. First, Blixa tried his favorite approach, spitting on his hands and using his maul to try to knock the door open. This did some cosmetic damage, and sent echoes throughout the dungeon, revealing that this door was extremely solid.

Next, they made several attempts to pick the lock. Taking their time and working together were no match for the twin impediments of a lack of appropriate tools and defaulting Lockpicking from IQ. The door remained locked, mocking them.

Finally, they decided they were done dealing with this door. They stood back against the walls of the hallway, giving Blaadao the room to unleash his full-powered Lightning spell! Molten copper flew in all directions as the lightning bolt blew a massive hole through the doors.

Inside, they found a large, dark room. The floor was littered with foul debris. Just at the edge of the circle of torchlight, two humanoid figures made of solid darkness stood, apparently surprised at the sudden flood of light. Quick as thought, Slingshot put two arrows into the shoulders of one of the creatures. As the thing gave an unholy scream, they heard a distinct “clunk” of metal on stone as the wounded thing dropped… something.

Both creatures backed off, vanishing into the shadows. Blixa entered the room warily, moving along the wall to the right so he only had to guard one flank. Thinking that, while these things weren’t any kind of demon he knew, they were clearly not natural, Sender made a bolder move, running straight into the room with his torch held high. This was a mistake, as two of the inky-dark beings came out of the shadows and struck him from behind, freezing him with the supernatural cold of their touch.

As Blaadao started forming a new missile spell, Ray stepped up into the doorway, unleashing her full-power Sunbolt against one of the attacking things. The burning light of the love goddess tore the shadowy creature to shreds!

Slingshot put a couple of arrows into the remaining creature, causing it to hiss with pain and turn to scamper for the shadows. Dropping his torch and readying his axe, Sender moved to pursue. Meanwhile, Blixa was confronted with another of the evil creatures who appeared from the shadows to menace him. Blaadao threw his new Lightning spell at the new creature, but it dodged. Seeing that, despite his aggressive stance, Sender was badly injured, Ray moved into the room, following the dwarf, intending to heal him.

At this point, Slingshot had no targets from his position in the hall, so he moved forward into the room to expand his field of fire. As he did, he was attacked from behind by yet another of the creatures, lurking off to the left of the door! Blixa dueled with his beast, while Sender wounded his; angered by this, the creature turned in fury, abandoning retreat in favor of frenzied offense. Blaadao moved into the room, using magic to Fascinate the creature battling Blixa, freeing him up to help others. Ray healed the wounded dwarf.

In its eagerness to attack, Sender’s opponent left its own defenses wide open, and so was quickly cut down. Seeing the way the fight was going, Slingshot’s opponent ran for the shadows and vanished, lurking in the darkness. Nearly exhausted herself, Ray drained her power item to cast Continual Light on the level of daylight, flooding the room with bright light. The now-exposed creature blinked in surprise, unable to hide.

As Blaadao held the one creature harmlessly fascinated, Blixa rushed the final beast, landing a heroic uppercut with his maul directly to the monster’s chin, neatly removing its head and (with apologies to Tolkien) inventing the game of golf.

The remaining creature, being mindlessly held, was subjected to multiple All-Out Attacks and fell with massive head wounds.

The excellent illumination made a quick search easy. The floor of the room had an engraved pentagram, which had the party a bit spooked. This was somewhat obscured by the remains of several people, who seemed to have been torn apart with inhuman fury. Remembering the metallic “thunk” from the first moments of the fight, Blaadao poked around with his staff and turned up a chunky ring, in the shape of an imprisoned skull, which was obviously magical. Wary of curses, he wrapped it up in a cloth without touching it and threw it into a sack for later examination.

Uneasy, the party left the brightly-lit room and returned to their previous camping location, where they healed, recovered, and discussed their exit strategy. Having apparently cleared the dungeon, they were able to scrounge up enough debris to make a crude sled. They loaded the sled with all their recovered treasure and whatever saleable scrap they could find. As is traditional, they hooked the barbarian up to the sled as a beast of burden.

Despite all of the off-camera excavation work, there ended up being no alternative to just running through the rune-lined passage a second time. There was a moment of tension, as they wondered if Blixa would be able to drag the sled of treasure fast enough to pass through the passage without having to resist the runes’ effects twice, but in the end, they passed through almost unscathed, with one member only mildly wounded.

Back in the sewers, the party paused to ponder. In their explorations, they had found a hidden lair used by devil worshippers, itself having more than one secret door and hidden surprise, full of undead and constructs created from Thieves’ Guild members. This wasn’t the kind of thing one expected to find in a sewer. Was there something special about this area? A short search revealed one thing: a hidden door on the same side of the sewer as the amateur-hour tunnel from the cellar of Uncle Merle’s inn, but several yards further down the passage.

Despite his protests that he’s an archer, not a thief, Slingshot was called upon the check the door for traps. He glanced over it, shrugged, and declared it trap free. When they pushed the door open, though, he noticed and pointed out a loose stone in the floor just inside.

As has been mentioned before, The Great and Mysterious Blaadao Bla’Dae only touches the ground once a day, when he first gets out of bed and casts Levitate, maintaining the spell for the rest of the day. Unconcerned by pressure plates, he floated into the small, dusty room.

Inside, he found an empty room lined with shelves. It appeared to be some kind of secret storeroom, but someone had stripped it of whatever goods it had once held. With, that is, one exception. High on one shelf, towards the back, Blaadao found a locked iron box that had been overlooked. Picking it up, he could feel its contents sliding inside. It felt like the box held a single object with a bit of heft to it. Onto the pile of treasure it went.

The far side of the room had a similar door-with-pressure-plate arrangement. Slingshot jumped over the first door’s trap and located a hidden switch to disarm the far door’s. The party passed through the hidden chamber, finding themselves back in the cellar of the inn!

Our heroes gave the top secret shave-and-a-haircut knock, prompting Lee to unlock the cellar door and let them out. They started out questioning her motives for locking them in the cellar, but it didn’t take long for them to piece together the story, particularly once they showed her the ring that they had taken off the human husk inhabited by an Elder Thing, hundreds of feet below the city.

Of course, it was Uncle Merle’s signet ring. Apparently Uncle Merle had always dabbled in magic, and been warned against his more exotic experiments by his merchant clan family before. He must have gathered a clandestine group of devil worshippers in the sewers beneath the city. Their larger goals were anyone’s guess, but they had clearly engaged in experiments making minions from the raw material of the Thieves’ Guild for some time. Eventually, though, things must have gone horribly wrong, the way they so often do for devil worshippers researching forbidden magic. Whatever happened, it had ended up with those creatures of darkness lurking in the room with the pentagram, and the possessed body of Uncle Merle burrowing busily into the stone beneath town for weeks.

To what end? Who’s to say?

No matter; the party had held up their end of the deal and then some. Lee paid the agreed bounty on giant rat heads, offered to use her family’s connections to dispose of their accumulated loot, and set our heroes up with private rooms upstairs for the week.

They spent that week training, processing their loot, and, of course, shopping. Blaadao analyzed the skull ring, discovering that it was enchanted to summon an undead skull servant. Voting was close, but the party decided they would rather have the cash than any undead minions, so they sold the ring to the Wizard’s Guild. Bashing open the lockbox from the hidden storeroom, they discovered a stoppered flask. Mistrusting that on sight, but not detecting any magic, they took it to the Wizard’s Guild to be checked out. The Guild declined to identify the flask, but offered a price for it, no questions asked. The price was accepted.

One notable purchase during the shopping phase was Blixa picking up a shiny new dwarven warhammer to take the place of his maul. Slingshot upgraded his bow, greatly expanded his selection of arrows, and picked up a Cornucopia quiver. [GM Note: Though now that I review, I think we’ve badly undervalued certain enchantments, including this one, likely as a holdover from the standard GURPS Magic rules. See, goofin’ stuff up.]

As the week wore on, Blixa started to notice that he was being treated somewhat oddly by the locals. They kept buying him drinks, then squeezing his muscles and commenting on how strong he must be. This was… welcome, but puzzling. After some time, he fell in with a local hunter and scruffy bushwacker wearing a bearskin who introduced himself as Addams.

“They want you to wrassle an aurochs,” he explained. “It’s a festival thing. Big local tradition, this time of year.”

Show me this ox, Blixa wrote on his slate.

So, outside they went, to view a wild aurochs, tied in a nearby square.

Cattle Aurochs Horns Animal Beef

Aurochs

Aurochs-Uro1

Oh my.

Having serious thrill issues, Blixa agreed to wrestle the wild aurochs.

aurochs_a-163_28psf29

Come at me, bro

The locals gave Blixa a beer. Ray gave Blixa a hug, quietly blessing him with Might. All glory to the love goddess. Blaadao gave Blixa a hug, quietly enchanting him with Armor. Sender took nearly all the money he had thus-far hoarded, and placed a bet that the skinny barbarian would win.

Blixa rushed the animal, trying to leap atop its back, while it charged him, aiming to scoop him up on its wide horns and throw him to the ground, where he could be conveniently gored and stomped to death. Avoiding the horns, he was able to get a grip on the beast’s head and pull himself onto it. From that perch, he was able to improve his grip, despite the aurochs trying to throw him. In the end, Blixa exerted all this strength to yank the creature’s head back into a devastating headbutt. As the barbarian slid to the ground, the beast blinked once, slowly, then toppled, dead on its feet.

The crowd went wild! Blixa was immediately doused in ale, scooped up onto the shoulders of several stouts townspeople, and carried off to celebrate his victory. Sender collected his massive winnings, chuckling contentedly to himself.

The next morning, Blixa found a gift outside his door: an excellent example of the local style of shield. (He was touched, but being a two-handed warrior with no need of a shield, Blixa ended up selling it later.)

During the wild carousing, the party learned some things. The lake and its surroundings were famously magical, giving rise to the prosperity of the town in its harsh location, but the word was that the lake’s enchantments had been erratic of late. A noted entertainer had gone missing after publicly performing a piece about the Law Giver, a legendary sword lost long ago. There were stories of unrest and incursions of hostile faerie.

While at temple, Ray was approached by an older cleric, who asked her in a whisper to meet with him later, and to bring her friends if she cared to. After he left, she overheard some of the younger acolytes giggling behind his back. His name was Tyrthegn, they told her, and he was a crazy old coot. “But harmless,” they added.

It was the “harmless” that convinced them. The party made the rendezvous.

There, Tyrthegn explained himself. The recent troubles with faerie and devil worshippers, the irregularities with the ancient magic of the lake, and other recent happenings were all part of a pattern, he said. In his opinion, the time is right to recover the Law Giver and to find and open the long-lost Hall of Judgment. His fellow clergy disagree. But, he said, he had a map!

All delvers respect a map, so the party took a look. Slingshot, being the party’s map-reader, examined it particularly closely. Tyrthegn continued, explaining that he also had a relic, a holy symbol, which he believed would be key to the successful completion of the quest for the Hall. If the group were willing to accept the quest, he would be willing to contribute the map, the relic, and a set of ponies loaded with provisions for the trip – essentially all his worldly goods.

The party asked for a night to consider, then discussed the quest. They decided to accept it, believing that the stakes were high enough that they should pursue the quest even without the clear offer of a monetary reward. The next day, they met with Tyrthegn to give him the news, and went shopping for more supplies.

The plan is to head north, out of town, and keep to the lowlands for as long as possible. There appears to be a river that they plan to follow into the heart of the mountains, in the area where Tyrthegn believes the Hall to be located. They have a wagon for the first leg of the journey, but expect to leave it behind once the terrain becomes too rough. For the most part, they expect to hike it, partly due to the terrain but mainly due to their lack of riding animals or skill to ride them.

Experience

The standard award for each member of the group was 6 points.

Cool Point: Blixa, for hitting that Demon From Between The Stars in the neck so hard that its whole head popped off

Booby Point: Sender, for detecting an ambush the old-fashioned dwarven way: by running into it!