Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: Dag Stoneminer

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #20

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, the Spine-Breaker (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, the Pirate Without Fear (PC)
  • Needles, Climber Of Trees (PC)
  • Posy, the Cat-folk Who Goes For The Eyes (PC)
  • Rolf, Wolf-Wooer (PC)
  • The Knight of the Blood Oath, aka TKotBO, aka Corbin, acting leader and header Presser Of Buttons (PC)
  • Pai, cat-folk cleric who only comes out to take credit (NPC henchman)
  • Dean, Roman, Jack, and John, shieldbearers, laborers, goat-keepers (NPC hirelings)
  • One surviving cave goat, terrified entirely out of its wits

Not appearing in this session:

  • D’arth Loathing, in hiding (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, retired (PC)
  • Tantric McSwayze, dicing with demons (PC)

What Happened:

When we last saw our heroes, they were a couple of spirals down a huge staircase, standing in front of a pair of double doors. They had discovered a group of wolves set out as watchdogs, and Rolf was attempting to communicate with them in their own language, loosely speaking. The resulting ruckus had drawn the attention of a dwarf on the other side of the doors, who had poked his head out and introduced himself as Dag Stoneminer. The party had recognized this as a name from one of their long-standing quests — something about recovering a dragon statue. Just as Rolf gathered himself for a pounce and tackle — the preferred diplomacy method employed by dog-folk — several distractions occurred all at once.

First, McSwayze’s bound demon, “Etrigan”, shouted something amounting to “Finally, my chance!” It tackled McSwayze, and the two vanished in a burst of hellfire. (GM note: Missing player. Best thing about Dungeon Fantasy is the abrupt entrances and exits the characters go through.) For all the party knew, this was just something that happens to demonologists, leprechaun or not. Anyway, there didn’t seem to be anything to do about it, so they gave a collective group shrug and returned to the matter at hand.

Second, almost simultaneously, there was the familiar sound of someone getting shivved from above and behind the group. “You guys didn’t need this lizard-man, did you?” Needles called, opening his hand to reveal himself in the light of his enchanted glow-stone. While catching up to the group, he had noticed the one surviving lizard-man archer from the earlier encounter, lurking and waiting for a good shot. The party hadn’t noticed in the earlier trip down the stairs, but there was a gigantic chain draped across the center of the spiral. Its purpose was never determined, but it was wide enough for a nimble person to walk on. The archer had avoided the party by crawling out into the darkness over the abyss, only to lose the game of stealth to Needles.

Third, there was a reaction to all the hubbub, from what appeared to be the bottom of the huge stairwell. Needles, from his excellent vantage point, and Alric, with his barbarian-trained senses, both noticed dozens of pairs of eyes suddenly open and reflecting light from far below. It’s hard to tell if the whatever-they-were were reacting to the falling lizard-man corpse, or the howling of the guard wolves, or the clattering reaction of the shield-wall to McSwayze’s uncanny disappearance, but whatever the reason, they knew they had visitors.

Finally, in response to all of this, Stoneminer pulled his door shut. Even from an extreme distance, Needles heard the telltale sound of traps being engaged, and called out to the others to A) don’t touch the door! and B) wait for me!

The warriors formed a line facing in the downstairs direction, while Needles hurried to inspect the door, finding and disabling a trap. In their hurry, they applied a siege stone to the door, which Alric activated with the hammer side of his over-sized weapon. The doors blew open with their latching mechanisms destroyed. The party hustled inside, closing the freely-swinging doors and instructing the hirelings to hold them shut.

The room inside was unremarkable but for two things. They found a dwarf-sized bedroll and other signs that Stoneminer had been camping there, and they found a weird stone door. A rapid search of Stoneminer’s belongings turned up little of interest and nothing of value. The door was more interesting.

It was made of stone, with no obvious hardware. There was a seam down the center, vertically, which seemed to indicate that it should slide back into the wall on either side to open. It displayed two runes, both stylized arrows, with one pointing up, and the other pointing down. The “down” arrow-rune was glowing red, and emitting a quiet, periodic bell noise: “ding… ding… ding…” As they watched, the series of rings ended, and the glow faded away.

Accordingly, the party declared that this mystery was an elevator. TKotBO pressed the “up” rune, which lit up green. After a short wait, the doors slid open, revealing a smaller room. The walls and floor seemed to be made of the same stone as the location dungeon, though there was a thin brass line on the floor across the doorway.

The mutiny started when TKotBO started to lead the party into the room. “No way,” Jack and John, the hireling laborers, declared. “That thing’s a disintegrator! We’re not going in there! It scares the goat!” It took some amount of talking to convince them of the necessity, but in the end, everybody crowded inside.

The door closed. There were no bell sounds, though there was some quiet instrumental music with no visible source. Everyone got a sick feeling in their stomachs, prompting the cave goat to voice a protest. No one disintegrated. The doors opened onto darkness.

The party reacted with caution. Jack and John changed their tune; now, they refused to leave the “elevator” chamber. TKotBO stationed Dean and Roman to hold the door, both in a tactical sense, and literally: nobody wanted to see their only available exit close and lock itself behind them. The party peered into the darkness, able to see nothing, until Gabby reported that she thought she could see some kind of tiny, multi-colored reflections, hanging at about head-height, several dozen yards away.

Rolf flung a lit torch ahead of them. The cavern they were looking at turned out to be extremely large, much larger than they could see. While the floor appeared to be natural stone, like any other cave floor, it supported unexpected life. They could just see, at the edge of the light, the beginnings of an underground forest of sturdy, low-growing trees. The “fruit” on the trees was faceted gemstones, which were reflecting the torchlight.

“The forest that bears gems as fruit!” The party had heard about this legend some time ago, and they were ready to check it out. Motivated by a burning need for negotiable assets, Gabby took off at a sprint, not even bothering to draw her weapons. Alric hung back, keeping an eye out for danger. Every other party member went ninja-mode, slipping stealthily into the shadows.

At Gabby’s approach, the other occupants of the cavern showed their faces. A pair of bipedal dinosaurs stepped out of the darkness at the edge of the woods, hissing and showing impressive teeth. They drew the attention of the stealthy party members, who moved to attack them.

That’s when the other ‘raptor came running out from the side, using its incredible speed to move from full cover to close combat with Gabby in a single second!

Do you have any idea how satisfying it is, as a GM, to “clever girl” the party with an actual velociraptor? Even for a second?

It looked good on paper, but the plan wasn’t good enough. Up close, it because clear that the dinosaurs were undead. Needles chopped the head off one, and Rolf bashed in the skull of the other. This left the one chasing Gabby, but it made the mistake of turning its back on Alric, who sprang from his position at the door and gave it the axe. For her part, Gabby put a little zig into her sprint, evaded the velociraptor’s claws, and continued on.

At that point, Needles discovered that the velociraptors weren’t the real threat, as the undead Tyrannosaurus Rex roared and picked itself up from its resting place. He quickly ascended a nearby tree to assess the value of the jewel-fruit, while its charge led it harmlessly under him… and right into the middle of the rest of the party.

The T. Rex was surprisingly quick and agile for such a large zombie-beast. Alric used his animal magnetism to mostly keep the beast’s attention, while the others used wolf-pack tactics on it. It would charge Alric, get distracted by attacks to its rear, circle around, and then get distracted by Alric once more.

Posy put several arrows into its eye-sockets, but, lacking eyes, it didn’t suffer too badly from it. (When she switched to fire arrows later in the fight, though…) As it became clear that they were facing undead dinosaurs, she called upon Pai, a cleric and her not-so-loyal follower, to come out and use his holy powers on them, but he declined, staying under cover inside the elevator room.

Gabby jumped onto the dinosaur’s leg as it rushed past. Over the course of the fight, she struggled to a position at its neck, where she clung while dropping a rope. By this time, Needles had come out of his tree (pockets filled with gemstones, naturally) to attack the T. Rex from behind. Seeing the rope and understanding her purpose, Needles dropped his weapon, grabbed the rope, and climbed up the dinosaur’s other side. This put one swashbuckler on either one of the dinosaur’s shoulder blades, each holding one end of a rope that was looped around the front of its neck.

Kinda like that, but with better fashion sense. And swords.

(GM Note: This fulfills the requirements of the standard “Ride A Dinosaur” quest that’s offered once per campaign.)

They used this leverage to force the creature to turn, giving Alric a window of opportunity. He rushed to take advantage of it, hacking repeatedly into the dinosaur’s spine, killing it. Or, at least, given its undead status, making it lie down for a while.

Pai, the cat-folk cleric and Posy’s not-so-loyal follower, finally decided that he could come out and bring the holiness to the undead at this point.

During the fight, both Rolf and Alric were injured to the point of rolling for unconsciousness. They both crushed a healing gem and kept on going. Pai deigned to help patch up the other minor bumps and bruises.

Then, it was time for the harvest. Needles had already discovered, while up the tree, that the largest fruits seemed to be quartz. Rather than worry about the details, they just set to shaking the trees and putting whatever fell into sacks. Everyone was loaded to capacity, even the reluctant cave goat.

Being early to the feast, Gabby had her pockets filled and started getting bored before the others were finished. She went back to examine the elevator, asking why they hadn’t seen any sign of the dwarf. Discussion among the players, if not the characters, turned up a point of interest: they had seen one arrow-rune glowing in Stoneminer’s wake, and then they had pressed the other one.

With this point in mind, Gabby pressed the “down” rune, the one that had originally seen glowing, and entered the elevator room alone. Again, the doors closed and she fell mildly ill. Then, the doors opened to show a large, finely-built lobby, decorated in rich marble. There was a good-sized decorative statue in the middle of the room, and there, huddled behind it as if to hide from something further in, was Dag Stoneminer, clutching a cubit-long carved dragon statuette. Hearing the doors, he turned to look at Gabby, with terror obvious in his eyes.

“Shhh!” he whispered, “you’ll wake the dragon!


End of “Season One”.


GM Note: And that’s where we left it: on a cliffhanger. I joked that when we come back to DF, we’ll start with a fade-in saying “Six months later…”

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“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #19

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, next-beast thing to a ninja  (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, apparently immortal (PC)
  • Posy, receiving some of her own medicine (PC)
  • Rolf, gettin’ lucky (PC)
  • Tantric McSwayze, a firm hand with the demonic help (PC)
  • The Knight of the Blood Oath, aka TKotBO, aka Corbin, leader for the day (PC)
  • Pai, healer of the wounded (NPC henchman)
  • Dean, Roman, Jack, and John, shieldbearers and laborers (NPC hirelings)

Not appearing in this session:

  • D’arth Loathing, out searching for a new misen henchman (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, semi-retired (PC)
  • Needles, searching for chess piece for to woo witches (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

Alric picked up some directions while talking at the inn:

  • The Great Stair lies at the end of a long hall, straight from one end of a great bridge.

McSwayze spent some time in the library:

  • One of the most noted experts on magical essence over the past century was Ryleh the Clever, who designed several mechanisms for its collection.
  • According to the old dwarven legends, there’s a shaft in the lower levels of the ruins, with an enchanted stone mounted in the wall. One of the old dwarven kings had it made and mounted, hundreds of years ago. If you kiss the stone, it will answer any one question whispered to it.

Gabby gathered some gossip while drinking:

  • Word is, there’s a guy, goes by the name of “Fist”, who’s offering a gold piece each, no questions asked, for any kind of baby demon. Or demon baby. Reports differ.

Posy hung out on the wrong side of town and heard some news:

  • One of the weirdest nobles in Tembladera is Abraham Slender. He only does business at night, and even then, he stays behind thick curtains. He doesn’t do much business, as a rule, but he’s always very interested in any pieces of orichalcum one might find.

What Happened:

The party has had problems, in the past, with direction. So, this time around, they made some changes to their ways. They decided on a revolving leadership role. They’ll take turns choosing what the goal of the mission is. This week was TKotBO’s week, and he declared that they would go deeper into the dungeon and get some exploring done.

TKotBO believes in the power of gear, and the power of numbers. Spending freely from the party’s shared purse, he hired all the hirelings he could scare up. (“Scare” being the appropriate word. His pushy approach scared off an artillery mage who didn’t find his invitation to “come and die with us in the dungeon ruins!” all that alluring. Maybe next time.) Everybody got a blessed button, including Dobby, Pai, and the hirelings. After getting Alric’s opinion on the animals, he purchased two cave goats, then filled their saddlebags with a variety of potions and alchemical preparations.

(GM note: The usual party quartermaster was late, so we had a different person doing the shopping. This part of the session was marked by comments like “Great, we’ll take five!” and “Why haven’t we been buying these all along?”  Later, when the usual bookkeeper returned, the questions were more like “Why didn’t you get Jed to buy the potions for us? He gets a discount!”)

Once fully kitted out, the party went for their usual hike, arriving at the front door to the dungeons shortly before noon. While they rested and ate lunch, McSwayze called up two demons. One was an old ally. The other, he called up from hell and coerced into accepting a position as his bodyguard for the next hour. They left the mounts under the watchful eye of Dobby, Alric’s devoted goblin servant and budding apprentice druid.

The long walk to the bridge was no challenge. They passed both giant stone heads, the torn-up terrain of the old goblin ambush point, and the kitchens. When they came to the invisible pit, McSwayze got a lift from his winged demons while the others crossed on their usual bridge of broken door planks. They made it past the rooms controlled by the flame lords without incident. Up the stairs, and they were on the Great Bridge.

Wary of the sniper from the overlooking tower, the party crossed cautiously, with TKotBO and the shieldbearers putting up a defensive line and ferrying the others across. Their caution was rewarded, as everyone made it to the far side without any incoming arrows.

The party took a moment at their usual campsite, just inside the big hall on the far side of the bridge. Usually, they have wounded. This time, they had maps to unfold and organize, holding the loose pages up against the dungeon wall and attempting to figure out which meant what. (No skilled cartographers in the group.) Eventually, they got themselves straightened out, formed up into a marching order, and started walking.

About eighty feet or so inside the hall, they passed the stairs up to the overlook. For the first time, they didn’t take the turn-off, but kept on walking deeper into the mountain. They traveled several hundred feet, and then…

Perhaps it would be worthwhile to describe the appearance made by Corbin, Inc., as they explored. Posy was on point, walking ten or fifteen feet in front of the nearest member of the party, well within the light of their torches. She was being light-footed and stealthy. The others… not so much. The heavily-armored members of the shield wall weren’t making all that much effort to keep the noise down. McSwayze, in the well-defended center of the group, had two demons flanking him, occasionally grumbling observations or complaints. Behind him came two bleating cave goats, complete with little goat bells on their collars, being herded inexpertly by John and Jack.

As the party approached the end of the hallway, TKotBO was scanning for the presence of supernatural beings. Sensing such a presence up ahead, and not wanting Posy to be taken by surprise, he called out to her in a ringing voice, “Supernatural up ahead!”

And that’s how the party found themselves facing a steady barrage of arrows coming from up ahead, fired by unseen archers. Posy took one in the face, knocking her prone and leaving her badly wounded. Others were hurt, though not as badly. TKotBO got hit right between the eyes, but nothing made it through his great helm.

Still taking fire, the party scattered to take such cover as they could behind the columns lining the hallway. Gabby sent Bubbles, her dire wolf, running on ahead to engage the enemy, while she followed close behind, slipping from cover to cover. TKotBO ordered Dean and Roman to defend the laborers and the cave goats, while Rolf came up from behind to advanced shoulder-to-shoulder with the holy warrior. Alric was advancing up the left side, but between being somewhat hampered getting past the goats and Gabby’s sheer speed, he wasn’t able to keep up with the pirate-girl. McSwayze sent his pet demon, “Etrigan”, down the hallway, spitting fireballs as he went.

For once, Pai was paying attention to reality rather than being lost in mystical contemplation of last night’s dinner. He rushed to Posy’s side and applied healing prayer until she was back on her feet. Literally: as soon as Pai had her stabilized, she jumped to standing and began returning fire, even while the cat-folk cleric was casting another healing spell to finish the job. She started by putting a Continual Light arrow halfway between the party and the end of the hall, casting better illumination on the enemy’s position.

Finally, the archers were revealed. Bubbles and Gabby got close enough to see what was going on. There were four lizard men archers, set up and concealed behind a screen of camouflage netting. One was firing noticeably faster than the others. Bubbles charged, but found himself sticking to the floor.As the two fleet-footed party members approached, the lizard men concentrated their fire on them. Bubbles was hurt, but Gabby got pincushioned. Blinded in both eyes and well past -50 hit points, she somehow managed to maintain consciousness. (GM note: It doesn’t hurt that she had just dumped a bunch o’ points into ST and Hit Points. She might look like a wee slip of a girl, but she’s got the constitution of an ox, the grit of a honey badger, and as many HP as a 250-point Barbarian…)

That was all the opening Alric needed. While the archers were distracted by Gabby, he rushed up throwing an unlikely weapon for an axe-wielding barbarian: a flash grenade. One of the lizard men stumbled away in retreat, leaving the other three blinded and defenseless. They were rapidly cut down.

One odd thing happened during Alric’s charge, though. Like Bubbles, he ran into a section of sticky floor, and, also like Bubbles, his great strength made it no serious obstacle. (Gabby got hung up once or twice, briefly.) The odd thing was, just before he hit the sticky patch, his Continual Light torch went out. The party figured it must have been defective, until the next such torch crossed that same line, and also went out. It didn’t take long to figure out, there was a line across the hall that shut down arcane spells. Not much troubled by this, they left their remaining enchanted torches behind to possibly be recovered later, lit up torches the old-fashioned way, and proceeded on.

Pai was talked into helping to heal Gabby. As TKotBO said, she was beyond the laying on of hands; she needed real healing magic. Luckily, it turned out that the damage to her eyes was only temporary, and she regained her sight once she was fully healed.

While the confusion over the torches was going on, Alric and Rolf had gone on to secure the lizard men’s position. There, they found a well-dressed wood elf, on his knees, surrendering vigorously, and took him prisoner. Bob The Wood-Elf Wizard turned out to have a low pain threshold and a great need to unburden himself of information. The party settled down for a half-hour rest and interrogation.

Before getting too comfortable, TKotBO took a look past the camouflaged cover on the other side of the lizard men’s small camp to see what might be lurking. He saw what seemed to be three open chests, but couldn’t see much detail in the darkness. Suspicious, he prodded the nearest one with his flail. The flail stuck to the chest, and the chest reared up, revealing a mouth full of grinding teeth, and tried to bite off TKotBO’s hand. A mimic!

… just as everyone expected. Nobody buys that “I’m just an innocent chest of gold sitting here wide open in the hallway” shtick. Without the advantage of surprise, the three mimics weren’t a match for the party’s heavy warriors. Rolf picked through the splattered remains on the off chance that a monster that looks like a chest might have something valuable inside, but found nothing but teeth. Nevertheless, he took them all, likely for the making of jewelry.

Bob the Elf — not his real name, but all the handle they’re willing to give him — explained that he and the lizard men archers had been exploring as scouts for a larger force. He claimed that something was coming, something that was driving the lizard men out of the swamps, forcing them to find new homes. Bob and his partners had been scouting out a route through the mountains. He claimed that they had entered the dungeon through a natural fissure opening out into a room up ahead.

The noise of the interrogation attracted some attention from up ahead, past the dead mimics. A small ooze came nosing around. Luckily, Posy’s keen hearing kept the party from being surprised. When it struck, it found itself doused in a couple of ice potions, froze solid, and died. Bob tried to make a break for it, but Posy pinned his knee to the ground with an arrow. This set off a fit of screaming and crying such that Rolf lost patience and backhanded the slim elf once across the face, instantly knocking him unconscious.

Onward! Rolf threw Bob The Elf over his shoulder, declaring that he had taken a liking to him and would keep him as a pet. The others packed up their gear and got into marching order. They rolled up the camouflage netting for possible future use, and headed down the stairs.

The stairs opened out onto a gallery, with a wall on the right, and a sheer drop into utter darkness on the left. (GM note: The players noted the similarities between this area and the old dwarven apartment complex in the Pit of Darkness, and were worried for a moment that they had somehow doubled back to that area. This is purely an artifact of my poor verbal descriptions, and poor lighting. The characters were not dismayed, seeing the differences: this area had a stone rail, where the Pit had none; the design of the floor tiles here is much more elaborate; the way the walls are carved and decorated is distinctively different. The chief difference, though, is that one could lean over the abyss with a torch, in the Pit, and get a glimpse of the far side of the same level, while this hole had no visible far side… nor top… nor bottom.)  There was a chilly wind from the open space. They moved forward, finding three doors on their right.

While the party conferred at the foot of the stairs, they heard a rustling from the dark cavern, as if there were many observers fidgeting at their appearance. In fact, after a few moments, someone called out from far below!  “Who’s there?” the voice asked, in the Common tongue, after trying some language that none of the party spoke. “No one!” TKotBO answered confidently. After several exchanges in this vein, the mysterious voice declared that so long as Nobody continued doing Nothing to Anybody, then Everybody could relax and go about their business. This was followed by a series of complicated bangs, clicks, ratcheting sounds, and one mysterious, thunderous thump.

Thinking of the elf’s confused directions, they decided to open the second door. Their normal door-opening routine was impossible, since they lacked Needles. Posy handled trap-checking duty, but didn’t want to handle any doorknobs, so Rolf kicked in the door and stepped inside. He had just enough time to notice a pile of clothes and armor on the floor, when he felt the first trickle of slime on the collar of his armor. He stepped back outside with a closely-held calm, and got some help from the others removing the contamination. Upon close checking, it proved to be disturbingly-mobile green slime. When it dodged the flame of a hand-held torch, McSwayze had “Etrigan” spit fire at it until it was consumed. The “pile of clothes” turned out to be what’s left over after slime dissolves an eager young barbarian.

At this point, TKotBO lost patience with the slow-and-sure method, and just took off walking, torch in hand. His thinking was that he would bypass doors, only take stairs, and reach the bottom of the big cavern; then, armed with a better sense of the situation, he could come back with an informed plan of how to handle the doors. He was also hoping to confirm the party’s suspicion that Alric and Rolf had been in this same chamber, after their trip through the innards of some kind of room-sized abomination. And, of course, there was always the source of the mysterious voice.

Rolf felt the need to stick close to the leader of his pack, so he followed TKotBO, but not being suicidal, he followed at a ten-yard distance. The others watched with amusement from the first gallery.

At the end of the first gallery, TKotBO found another wide flight of steps down to a landing, then a left turn onto a similar flight of steps, opening onto a second gallery, somewhat lower than the first. He was moving at a purposeful walk, carrying his only light source in his shield hand, and peering with his one good eye through the visor of his great helm, so his impressions of the second gallery amounted to “Stairs. Sheet hanging on the wall? Door. Door. More stairs.” Trotting to catch up, Rolf noticed that the sheet had something written on it, but didn’t want to take the time to decipher it. He tore it from its nails and stuffed it into his pouch and went on.

TKotBO finally discovered why they usually have a trained scout out front when he stepped onto the stairs at the far end of the second gallery. He felt a tug on his ankle… then he didn’t hear the creak-and-woosh of a swinging log trap… and then he was struck in the chest by a good-sized chunk of wood, swinging on a complex system of ropes. Once again, his loud and cumbersome armor kept him from taking any serious damage, but he did take damage. Enough to get his attention, if not knock him down.

Carefully, TKotBO rotated in place until he was facing back the way he had come. “Let’s check those doors,” he told Rolf, when they met. Seeing that the colorful suicide attempt was over, the rest of the party moved to join them for the door-opening ceremony. They discussed leaving the hirelings and goats behind, but finally decided against it, bringing them along. They worked their way backwards, starting with the two doors furthest from the point where they entered.

The first door was locked. Without Needles, they fell back on the use of a siege stone. (Luckily, they had stocked up, just that morning. TKotBO believes in explosives.) There were two points of interest inside the room. First, Gabby found a doorway covered by a hanging sheet, leading to comments about this being The Level Of The Dirty Sheet; when she investigated, she found that it led to the room next door, where she discovered a poison needle trap ready to jab the first person to try to pick that room’s lock. Second, they found a hole in the wall, too small to be a door, leading into a shaft that extended both up and down as far as they could see.

After they kicked around various plans for investigating the shaft, McSwayze finally told Etrigan to climb down the hole and check it out. Grumbling (“Never take another job for a leprechaun boss”), the demon slipped into the tight space and headed down. The party listened as its voice vanished in the distance, and then, after a short interval, as it returned, moving faster and cursing louder. “Otyugh,” it reported, lying gasping on the floor and blaspheming the names of unknown gods. “Garbage chute, with a damned otyugh at the bottom. Oh, worse boss ever.”

Satisfied, they regrouped and returned to the first gallery. The doors there led to a couple of large, but empty, rooms. In the back of one, they found a small spiral staircase, leading down, which they took. It opened out into the back of a similar, but lower, room. When they opened the door to exit, congratulating themselves on skipping a whole turn of the stairway, McSwayze called out for them to stop. “Runes,” he pointed out. “Freeze runes.” They were carved into the floor of the gallery for yards in either direction.

This was followed by a time of experimentation, as they satisfied themselves as to the workings of the runes. Tossing a javelin (taken from the lizard men earlier) onto them didn’t do anything special. Perhaps only living things set them off?  TKotBO took off his helmets, peeled his “Elder Thing gimp mask” off his face with an audible sucking sound, and tossed it to the floor… where it shuddered, screeched, froze solid, and died.

“Huh,” TKotBO said. “Think they only have the one shot?”

Tiring of all this, Gabby jumped out and danced between the runes, just to show that it could be done. Despite her example of how easy it was, nobody took her up on it.

They settled the question of how many charges the runes carried by sacrificing one of the goats. TKotBO wanted to use the still-unconscious elf, but Rolf objected. The goat froze to the floor, bleated in terror, froze solid, and died.

How many charges? Enough.

Conceding that the runes had them stumped for the moment, the party collected Gabby and turned back. Up the spiral staircase, back to the first gallery, and then down the stairs the way TKotBO had gone. At the place where he stopped, they rolled the log down before themselves, setting off another three log traps, built in the same way.

Congratulating themselves on how well they were learning this trap-finding business, they moved on to the third gallery. There, they saw an oddity: three or four dire wolves, chained up like watchdogs, in front of a double door. Between Alric’s animal handling, Rolf the Big Bad Dog, and Gabby’s hench-wolf, Bubbles, the party had the wolves cowed, though they did set up a ruckus.

That ruckus was nothing compared to the noise they started to make when Rolf set about making himself alpha wolf, though.

That noise was enough to draw attention from inside the doors. A dwarf opened one door just enough to peek out at the spectacle. He demanded to know who they were and what the heck they were doing to his dogs, introducing himself as Dag Stoneminer.

* * *

And it was there we had to break, as it was getting late, and much too silly.

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, the delving band formerly known as “The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #9

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bringer of fire (PC)
  • Needles, voted “Deadliest Man In The Dungeon” and awarded the Cool Point for it (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout who’s mainly in it for the chance to puncture living things (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, a holy knight who has finally decided to get on a first-name basis with the party (PC)
  • Trevor, apprentice and walking potion belt (NPC)
  • Höss, respected hireling and recipient of friendly fire (NPC)
  • Dean and Roman, shield-bearers and possible squires (NPC)
  • Bob and Other Bob, two unarmed, unarmored, unwashed hobos without so much as a single “murder-” prefix to their name

Absent, but oft-mentioned and near in our hearts:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian of The North, learning how to sip ale with his pinkie out (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, roughing it while her arm-bones grow back in (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s fanatical henchman, likely dressed in fancy butler clothes by now (NPC)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed found in his research: “The dwarves were only the last occupants of some of their ruins. Whenever they found dungeon ruins, they took them over and added them to their own holdings. For the most part, the dwarves followed existing caverns when building their homes. They saved the serious digging for following seams of ore in their mines.”

Needles heard a song about Belrose Softshoe, a rogue and highwayman who owned a legendary short sword that would seek any man’s vitals, no matter how well-armored. The song says that he fell in love with a farmer’s daughter, but due to an earlier offense he had given the “King of the Flames”, she was stolen away by “warriors afire” on the night before their wedding. He pursued them into the dwarven ruins, but never returned.

TkotBO overheard that the halflings have a legend of a shortsword that ignores armor. They got the legend from the dwarves.

What Happened:

Up front:  This was the day the dice betrayed me. I rolled about a dozen critical successes along the way, none of which did a dang bit of good, between repeated 11’s on the crit-hit chart (“normal damage”) and poor damage rolls. Towards the end, I started trying out different dice for damage rolls, since my set were obviously calibrated for success rolls. Didn’t do any good. Along with the flood of useless crit successes came a handful of critical failures, all at important moments. To add insult to injury, at one point, I went to leave the table and set down a natural 3. Wasted it. I should know better by now than to set them down on the table, and just stick them in my pocket instead…

With the barbarian and the swashbuckler out of town (both in-game and out-), the remaining party members started drinking with a new cat-folk in town, a scout who gave her name as Posy. She’s an archer and all-around outdoor cat, with something of a problem with crowds (and people in general), but a strong urge to wound small dungeon creatures and then bat them around while they bleed out. She fit right in.

There were many jokes about the other party members going out to check on Gabby and Alric and discovering them in different situations:  Dobby wearing a cravat; Alric balancing books on his head and reciting “The rain in Spain…”; Gabby perched on Alric’s back, Yoda-style, with a flask in one hand, a switch in the other, and a disappointed expression.

Jed picked up a young apprentice named Trevor. Being young and new to all this (and a last-minute purchase that I wasn’t expecting), he was mainly represented by a terrified expression for the remainder of the adventure.

Kajeet approached Needles, saying, “If you have the time, Kajeet has the beer.”  When Needles seemed reluctant, he upped the offer to boilermakers. This was enough to make Needles sit on a bar stool while the cat-folk merchant made his pitch. He waxed eloquent about how great Needles was at recovering lost treasure and what a sharp trader he was, which got him little more than a sour look. When he finally got to the point, he said that there was a piece of treasure he wanted recovered. (“I wondered why you had that big question mark over your head.”) It was the “Dragon Statuette of the Fiery Rain”, a one-foot long crouching dragon carved of dragonbone, with gems for eyes. He said that it was valuable enough in its own right, but he was particularly interested due to its historical and religious significance with his people.

Recently, Kajeet had come into a couple of pieces of information. First, the statuette was reported to be in the possession of one Dag Stoneminer, a semi-crazed tinker dwarf who spends most of his time in the dungeons, only coming in to town occasionally for supplies. (“So he’s the flip side of us.”) Second, word was that Dag had been planning a trip to a location within the dungeon which he referred to as “the Greater Stairway”. Kajeet offered 25gp ($2000) for the artifact, no questions asked, no strings attached. Having put the offer out there, he took his leave.

TKotBO and Jed went to report the sad news of the outcome of their quest from the last trip into the dungeon to Strang, via his manservant, Mamu. They played it straight — remarkably so, for them — with Jed laying out the whole story and TKotBO acknowledging his failure to serve his lord. The next day, TKotBO received a letter bearing Strang’s seal:

My friends,

It seems that I made a most grievous error regarding the price of admission with the Flame Lords. Their language is quite different, as you may imagine, and I’m afraid that I misinterpreted some subtlety in our arrangement. You have my most sincere apologies for the unpleasantness in the mines.

That said, my need for those pieces of orichalcum has not changed. It will, however, require a different tactic, as my goodwill with the Flame Lords is now entirely spent. Instead, I would press upon you to mention your find at the local tavern the next time you are there. Mention it loudly, but not too loudly, if you take my meaning. Then, prepare. Gird yourselves for battle and await my message. You will know it when it comes. At that time, I expect that you will find the orichalcum pieces in transit from the mines to town. I would ask that you act with all haste to intercept and relieve the couriers of such a burden. You may deal with the couriers as you see fit, and complete the delivery to my residence instead.

If this is done, I will see that you receive just recompense for your efforts. But you must not fail to deliver those items!

Regards,

D.S.

This plan suited them just fine. In accordance with it, they gathered up Needles and Posy for an evening on the town funding out of the party treasury. During the evening, they spoke openly among themselves about the fortune in orichalcum that they had seen, but couldn’t recover. TKotBO was particularly loud in lamenting the loss.

Eventually, Posy noticed a weasel-faced man noticing the story, gulping down his drink, and heading for the door. With feline grace and stealth, she left the bar, taking to the rooftops and shadowing the man. He went straight to the gates of one of the many towers around town, where he was immediately admitted. The brass plate outside the gate declared that it was the residence of the wizard Vanger d’Hast. Posy returned to share the news.

For the next couple of days, the party stayed close to one another. Finally, during brunch on Wotan’s-Day, the other shoe dropped. A crudely-formed humanoid, about two feet tall and made entirely of water, threw open the door to the inn and marched inside with a determined attitude. Morning patrons scattered as it strode across the floor and scaled the party’s table. It struck a heroic pose, caught up each party member with its watery gaze, and declared: “I speak in the voice of Dektor Strang! Now is the time to strike! Go forth with haste! My duty done, I go!”

It then collapsed into a puddle of apparently-normal, and unseasonably-cold, water, all over the remains of the party’s meal, much to Posy’s displeasure. Jed realized that this must have been a water elemental, charged with the delivery of a simple message. Boggled at the extravagant expenditure of magical prowess, he declared that Strang must really want those pieces. Strongly motivated, the party scrambled to prepare, giving themselves no more than 30 minutes before leaving town.

In their quick huddle, the party put together a few pieces of current events. They knew that the Parson Boys, a trio of disreputable brothers, had taken a job as hirelings with Ridra’s Raiders. The combined group had left town at the crack of dawn that morning. Nobody knew much about either group, in particular. The Parson Boys were half-orcs (“well, maybe three-eights-orcs”) with a shady rep, but their capabilities were unknown. Ridra’s Raiders were another delving band, formed of recent arrivals on the boat from the Old World. Even though they didn’t know anything about the make-up of the other team, they realized they were going to need some help, what with two-fifths of their strength being off in the woods.

Therefore, there was a rush for hirelings. Höss, Dean, and Roman were readily available. The call for other warm bodies wasn’t so successful. All that could be turned up was Bob and Other Bob, two bums hoping for a day of nothing more exciting than holding the reins of the horses. Still, a meat-shield is a meat-shield, so they were hired on.

The augmented party headed out of town at a crawl. They were long on pedestrians and short on riding animals. They discussed tactics as they went. The opposing party had a grand head-start, and was probably travelling faster, anyway. While the two parties were at odds on this occasion, the other party wasn’t evil, they were just working stiffs just like the members of the Delving Band With No Name, and so they deserved a chance to escape without violence. Of course, times being what they were and with emotions running high, it was just as likely that the opposing party might turn out to be ruthless, heartless maniacs who would flip out and kill everybody as soon as look at ’em, so there was no reason to make it any easier for them than necessary. Finally, for the first time in its history, the party had a creditable non-magical ranged attacker, in Posy.

Therefore, they decided there was no point in trying to catch the other party at the dungeon. Instead, they set themselves up on the road up towards the dungeon, figuring that Ridra’s Raiders would have to pass that way. They found a section of mountainside road that was mostly straight, so they could see anyone approaching, but with a rough cliff face with several depressions suitable for concealing archers and lightly-armed hobos. They spread an extravagant carpet of caltrops across the entire road, for a distance of half-a-dozen yards. TKotBO took up station on the defended side of the caltrops, in the middle of the road, backed by Dean and Roman. Needles and Posy concealed themselves on the other side of the caltrops, up on the hillside, with an eye towards being behind the Raiders when the talking started. Jed, Trevor, and Höss took up a semi-concealed position behind TKotBO and to his right, up against the hillside. Bob and Other Bob were placed in an excellent hiding spot, about ten feet up the mountain directly off TKotBO’s right hand, where they remained, cowering, for the entire encounter.

In due course, Posy announced the approach of the other party. When the Raiders came around the bend in the road, everyone finally got a look at them. In the lead was Ridra herself, a dwarven knight, heavily armored, with a wooden shield and a pick. Behind her came a hunchback wearing ill-fitting leather armor, a man Jed vaguely recognized as an up-and-coming wizard’s apprentice. Next came a pair apparently engaged in conversation: a scruffy bushwacker-type carrying a quarterstaff, and a fifteen-foot long snake. (!!) Bringing up the rear were the Parson Boys, armed with nets and spears, but working together to carry a heavy bundle wrapped in canvas.

Just as Ridra’s Raiders came to a stop, Posy looked over her shoulder and noticed that their scout had obtained a superior position, further up the hillside.

TKotBO and Ridra conversed, in the way of knights. TKotBO offered to accept their surrender graciously, if they wanted to just hand over the orichalcum. Ridra wasn’t impressed with this offer at all. TKotBO counter-offered a fair duel, which Ridra also rejected, adding an insult. TKotBO asked if, in that case, they would like quarter to be offered? Ridra responded with nothing but rage, and the battle was on.

(Let this be a lesson to ya:  Bad Temper will kill ya faster than Kleptomania, Berserk, or On The Edge. Ridra didn’t like TKotBO’s tone at all… to her loss, as we’ll see.)

When it came down to it, Posy was the faster of the scouts. She put an arrow directly into the center of the other scout’s forehead, which firmly established artillery superiority for the rest of the battle.

Across the battlefield, Jed received a sudden education in ambushes. A humanoid wrapped in black from head to toe came out of nowhere and pounced on him. Ridra’s Raiders had sent a ninja along in advance. Sadly for her, poor dice rolls gave Jed a chance to dodge, and he managed to sidestep without losing control of the Concussion spell that he had been nursing along for some time, now.

The Parsons dropped their bundle, revealing the orichalcum pieces from the lava pit. (I wonder what everyone would have done if it had been, say, a freshly-dressed boar carcass?) They displayed their team training, as the two in front pulled out their nets, and the third readied his spear.

Needles went after the Parsons. Well, I think he really just made a bee-line for the loot, but the Parson Boys were inconveniently on that line. The anaconda, on the other hand, passed him going up the hillside, heading for Posy. Ridra charged at TKotBO, either relying on her heavy footwear to protect her from the caltrops or not noticing that they were there. For his part, TKotBO stepped forward and set to receive her.  Who cares about moving slow, when they’re coming to you?

Höss stepped up with the little mace that the party tipped him with a couple of jobs ago, and crippled the ninja. Lack of armor can quickly lead to career-ending injuries. This freed up Jed to try to plant that giant Concussion spell in a helpful location. He lobbed it across the battlefield, aiming for a spot near the center of the Raider’s main group. The hunchback dove for it, in an apparent attempt to catch the missile. This valiant effort was stymied by another bad roll, causing him to catch his foot on a loose stone and perform a perfect face-plant, directly into the exploding spell. He became messily dead.

Needles, on the ground, and Posy, on the hillside, put rapid ends to the anaconda, its druid master, and the Parsons. Several of them were stunned by the Concussion spell, and they couldn’t pull themselves together quickly enough to defend themselves.

This left Ridra, alone, with the rest of her allies either dead or bleeding to death, just getting within striking distance of TKotBO. He chose to follow a risky strategy, and give her an opportunity to take the honorable way out. He lowered his weapons and dropped to a knee, offering his surrender. “Your force is routed,” he said, “Stand down and we shall discuss terms.”

Bad Temper. Terrible disadvantage. Ridra was truly enraged at the idea of someone surrendering to offer her terms, and so she chose not to parlay.  With a stunning lack of honor, she performed an AOA and put her pick into TKotBO’s good eye.

Entirely blind now, TKotBO fell to the ground and dropped his morningstar, but managed to somehow cling to consciousness. Posy put an arrow into Ridra’s lightly-armored neck, dropping her to the ground beside him. Laughing maniacally and babbling about “see my sacrifice for my lord”, TKotBO crawled over to Ridra. Before the rest of the party could approach, by feel, he took her by the head and stuck his thumbs into her eyes. No visor on a pot-helm, so… one textbook eye-gouge, and TKotBO announced that now, they were on even footing, it would be a fair fight.

Somewhat appalled, the rest of the party pulled the apart and set about the healing and cleaning up.  TKotBO made his HT roll for crippling injuries, meaning he was only temporarily blinded. Being by far the worst wounded, he sat down and ran himself down to 0 Fatigue to heal himself, then laid down where he was for a nap. The others stripped the other party of their gear, disposed of the bodies, and got organized to return to town.

The only survivor of the Raiders was Ridna herself. That’s how it goes, when you backhand your pick into the eye of the other party’s only healer. Seriously, Ridna won the contest of Tactics up front, but blew it during the battle. Most of the Raiders were gravely wounded and bled out around this time. No one was eager to display any medical skills.

There was some debate about exactly what to do with Ridna. She didn’t have anybody who would be clearly ready to ransom her. Jed strongly objected to selling her as a slave, and what with her injury, she probably wouldn’t bring much profit anyway, so they finally decided to take her back to town and hand her over to the Church.

Spirits were high on the way home, for everybody except for the overloaded donkey. (Dwarves ain’t light!) TKotBO was particularly happy, even bubbly. (Fanatics and martyrdom, whattayagonnado?) He was so pleased, in fact, that he took of his helmet — he’s played by a youngish Kelsey Grammer, with an eye patch — and finally introduced himself to the other PCs by his actual name. Well, his actual legal name. The story goes, “The Knight of the Blood Oath” is a title.  Similarly, he’s been looking around for a candidate to become “The Mount of the Blood Oath”, and when he’s relaxing, in town, late at night, he takes off his armor and lounges around in “The Union Suit of the Blood Oath”. His name, though, is Corbin. Not his birth name, mind you, which he sacrificed along the way to becoming “The Knight of the Blood Oath”. He took the name “Corbin” afterwards, as a replacement.

Heavy religious symbolism, sweetheart, you know how it goes. He had to sit up all night watching his armor while sipping wine and eating nothing but dry white toast, one time, too. These days he just does it for the entertainment value.

TKotBO is very disappointed in your attendance at temple, Jed...

TKotBO is very disappointed in your attendance at temple, Jed…

In the wake of this touching moment of camaraderie, the party finally took a name… and pretty much acknowledged TKotBO as at least a figurehead:  they’re “Corbin, Incorporated”.

The orichalcum went directly to Strang, according to instructions. Mamu delivered his thanks and an offer of $3000 in cash or $6000-ish in magic items. Strang is either an enchanter or a dealer in magic items, because he’s got a cellar-full, so it’s better for him to take it out in trade. After much casting about, they decided on five matching silver rings, enchanted to cast a zone of silence around the wearer for a few minutes, with their own reserve of magical energy. Needles was skeptical about the short time span,

The other party had obviously stripped down for action: the only gear they had carried was practical, and none of them carried any coin. Still, their gear wasn’t cheap, and there was one suit of enchanted leather armor. Posy didn’t get a magic ring, so she got an extra-large share of the loot money. She walked away with about $1500, while the others split the rest according to their usual custom, coming away with $400-$500 each. The hirelings were paid their usual day wage.

Posy was happy with her share, the party was happy with their victory, Strang was happy to get new toys to play with, but the true victors of the whole caper were Bob and Other Bob. The party decided they weren’t worth anything resembling a share, since all they did was cower under cover. Nevertheless, they came along and could have hypothetically found themselves hiding near harm’s way. So, Jed stood them to a $50 steak dinner. They ate and drank until their eyes were bulging, then rolled out the inn door, drunk as lords, with their pockets stuffed full of bread.

And that’s how the party spent their Wotan’s-Day.

Come Saturn’s-Day, their usual day for going to the dungeon, the party decided to take it a little easy, and do some light exploration. They decided to follow up on the oldest loose end, the one that dates back to shortly before they first entered the dungeon:  “Remember that manhole outside the dungeon entrance?” Naturally, Jed and Posy didn’t, so they got to hear the story. They collected the usual hirelings and headed out of town, pointing out the sights along the way to Posy.  “Statue. Statue. Big stone table, turn your back on the big dwarf.”

After resting up from the hike, they set to work. Keeping a close eye on their surroundings, they approached the entrance. TKotBO scraped blown sand off the manhole cover and knelt to pry it up, but Needles put a hand on his shoulder and shook his head. Without speaking, Needles bent down, levered the cover s-l-o-o-o-w-l-y from its socket, and darted his hand inside. He pulled out a bundle of light scrap metal, hung on cords so as to be a set of improvised chimes.

An alarm system implies someone to hear it. Those who had them activated their rings and made their way down the hole, using the rungs, to a floor twenty feet below. Posy led the way, since her cat’s eyes could see more in the darkness than the humans’.  (“Yeah, the scout outta get up front and scout!” Needles enthusiastically agreed.) They crept up slowly and came to a door. They examined it, and Needles declared that it didn’t appear trapped.

(Ok, ok, those aren’t Needles’ words, they’re mine: “<roll, roll>  The door does not appear to be trapped.”  Posy’s player:  “‘Appear’? What’s ‘appear’? Is it trapped or isn’t it?”  The other players:  “Oh, he always says that.”  Then they all turned towards me, as one, and gave me the eye. Good times.)

So, as it has always been and forever shall be, the question that follows “Trapped?” is “Locked?”  The door opened inward, with just a push-plate, no keyhole, doorknob, or pull-ring. So, Needles gave it a push. No good. Secured from the other side.

The group fell back and conferred. Jed decided to try his hand, and attempted to use Apportation to cause the door to open itself, while standing at a distance.  (“In Soviet Russia…”)  This didn’t work out so well. He was able to give it a good rattling, but the door remained secure.

On the far side of the door, unknown to the party, the room’s occupants noticed that something was up when the door rattled. Up to this point, they had been oblivious, thanks to their foolproof early-warning system not being Needles-proof, and the effects of the Silence rings during the initial probing of the door. When they fell back, though, the door was outside of their Silence radius. Apportation was enough to move the door, at a not-inconsiderable cost of 4 Fatigue, but not enough to break the bar. The attempt was noisy, which alerted the occupants, who quietly prepared an ambush. (I imagine a dungeon dweller’s life involves a whole lot of time crouched down performing Wait maneuvers, wondering if the door will hold.)

There’s no way some door is going to stand in the way of Corbin, Inc., and so the party went to work on the door in earnest. TKotBO gave it a kick, which didn’t impress it. Needles and Höss went at it with crowbars, which was making slow progress. Jed waved them back, and with a wink, turned and breathed fire on the door. Still, it held, though it was taking damage as they went.

The occupants of the room gave one another grim glances. These guys were determined. Time for a more active defense.

Needles took another shot at the flaming door, which flew open! A small room was thus revealed. Four goblin archers were standing against the far wall, bows pulled, aiming for the door. The door opening triggered their Waits, and so all four fired their arrows straight at Needles’ chest.

At this point, the soundtrack would change, and we would start to just hear the first few notes of what would soon be known as “Needle’s Theme”. We didn’t know it at the time, but we were about to see Needles become a legend. Or earn a unanimous Cool Point, which is just about the same thing in this campaign.

One missed and continued down the hall to end up embedded in someone’s shield. The next one was a possible hit, but Needles dodged it; it continued down-range and did some minor damage. The other two both came up as critical hits that could not be dodged. “Been nice knowing you Needles. What’s the next character going to be?”  Then the effects of the criticals both came up as “normal damage”, and the damages both turned out to be a minimal “1”… and everyone had forgotten, or never knew, that Needles has been quietly plowing a lot of his profits back into his armor. Under that threadbare cloak, he’s wearing a suit of camouflaged leather armor, fortified by enchantment. The arrows embedded themselves firmly in his armor, just over his heart, but the man himself wasn’t even scratched.

Posy had been stationed as rear-guard, and so had the entire party between her and the targets. “Down!” she roared, readied an arrow, and set to wait for the first clear shot. Everyone else declared their intention and readiness to crouch down under Posy’s fire and advance… except for Needles. He figured, he might as well clear the door entirely. Throwing down his crowbar and fast-drawing his shortsword, he skipped across the room toward the archer on the right.

… which activated the Waits of the two hobgoblins concealing themselves on either side of the door. Needles caught sight of them as he passed through, so he wasn’t entirely defenseless. They attacked from behind with axes. Needles dodged one, but the other was a critical hit, unavoidable! Again, a disappointing “normal damage”, a wimpy damage roll, and his armor absorbed it. Barely even thrown off a step, he continued his charge across the room, coming into contact with the archers. Even as he struck, though, the hobgoblins threw themselves at the still-burning door, slamming it shut in the party’s faces. One dropped the bar back into place from where they had lifted it.

Needles was trapped, alone, with six hostile goblinoids. The party threw themselves against the door, desperately trying to get it open.

Inside the room though, Needles just went to work.

Something to keep in mind, for the visuals, is that Needles just recently invested in a bit of Striking ST, which pushed his swing damage to two dice, which (in turn) bumped his Weapon Master bonus. It was as if he had just leveled up and hit a new quality of ultra-violence. In the past, Needles has been one for the impaling thrust, so his opponents have ended up leaving fairly neat corpses. Lots of “he looks so peaceful!” with a single patch of blood. This time, he was swinging in the style of Babe Ruth. When he used to puncture his enemies, now he’s lopping things off entirely. Messy.

He took down two goblins with a Rapid Strike before the hobgoblins finished securing the door. One of the surviving goblins did the math, realized Needles was within ten feet and there was absolutely no way he was going to get another arrow into play. He threw down his weapons and went to tackle the thief, while his partner backed up and went for the long shot, drawing an arrow. Either way, to no avail:  Needles shredded the would-be wrestler and the dedicated archer, then turned to deal with the hobgoblins.

Seeing the way things were going, the two hobgoblins went for a classic gang-up move. One dove into close combat, grabbing Needles around the chest, using his axe handle for additional leverage. (And rolled a crit, which doubled his rolled Control Points! He ended up with 12 CP on Needles. Again, groans of despair from the observing players.) The other hobgoblin leered evilly and came in with his axe, looking to put a quick end to the bouncy human, now that he wasn’t bouncing around so much anymore.

No good. Even with a hobgoblin on his back, Needles is a slippery customer. He dodged. (And rolled a critical, turning the attack into a critical miss. I declared there’s only one possible crit failure in these circumstances.) The axe ended up firmly lodged between the eyes of the grappling hobgoblin. With a cross-eyed look of surprised on his face, he fell.

The last remaining hobgoblin lost control of his morale, and several sphincters.  He dropped his axe to the ground, fell to his knees, weeping openly, and begged for mercy. Needles grabbed him by the throat, dragged him over to the door, threw open the bar, and (carefully, wrapping his hand in a corner of his cloak, due to the flames) yanked the door open.

The party had seen Needles shot by arrows, struck by axes, apparently yanked into the room, and the door slammed behind him. Seconds later, the door was flung open, revealing Needles, breathing hard, with a bloody sword and an unmanned hobgoblin, held by the neck. The room was strewn with corpses and bits of corpses. There was blood dripping from the ceiling.

Earlier, during the walk back from the ambush of Ridna’s Raiders, the talk was along the lines of “How are we going to ever vote on a Cool Point? We were all awesome!”  When the time came, though, Needles won the point, unanimously, for this encounter. It was called his “River Tam” moment. 

The party’s interrogators took charge of the hobgoblin, who was more than ready to share. Through babbled tears, he told them that he thought there might be some leftover cloth in the next room, no, there’s no other guards, no, no traps, but if you go out that door and take a right be sure you’ve got somebody to take care of you because you’ll end up with a bad buzz without even drinking anything please please don’t let that guy have me….

Jed comforted the poor broken hobgoblin, once he was sure they had all the information they were going to get, with no lies. He straightened him out, thanked him for his cooperation, and told him that he could exit back the way they had came, if he left his weapons. Sniffling, the hobgoblin agreed, and shuffled off down the hall. Posy was still hanging back, in the hall, watching all this with a jaundiced eye. When the sad ‘goblin passed by her, while the rest of the party was distracted with searching for loot, she quietly poked him one time in the neck with a razor-sharp claw, puncturing a major artery and leaving him to bleed to death behind them.

There was a bolt of silk in the next room, stashed in a bag and apparently forgotten, but no other remarkable treasure. The party proceeded out the door on the far wall, into a narrow hall which extended left and right. To the left, they could see the foot of a stair. To the right, the hall continued into darkness. Across the hall, they saw another door. Figuring that the stair led back towards the area they had already mapped, and having been warned of the right-hand turn, they went to work on the door. Needles declared it trap-free, but locked. Worse yet, when he tried to pick the lock, he couldn’t do the deed!

Höss stepped up with his crowbar and laid into the door, while the party spread out to keep watch. As the racket continued, Posy noticed some movement from the right-hand fork. She sent an arrow at it and announced the arrival of wandering monsters, but wasn’t able to name the creatures. Needles advanced and got a good look.  “Rust monsters!” he called.

“Welp, see you back in town!” called TKotBO, who turned and started heading back for the manhole at his top moseying speed.

While their fearful leader retreated, the rest of the party took care of the oversize bugs. Needles put away his sword and kicked one to death. Posey doesn’t carry any metal larger than belt buckles and arrowheads, so the monsters weren’t interested in her. She was able to out-maneuver them and took a hideous toll with her bow. A couple appeared behind the party, coming down the stairs, and managed to destroy Höss’ crowbar, the only loss in the fight, before being driven off.

After recovering from that interruption, it didn’t take long to finish knocking in the door. Inside, they found what seemed to be an old, abandoned camp site. There were signs of a camp fire, and a pack and bedroll, both ruined by damp and age. Jed poked around in the pack and turned up a bronze necklace, which clearly glowed with a magical aura. No other loot was obvious, so they continued on to the door on the far side of the room. That door was locked, from inside the room, with a key sticking from the keyhole. Needles pocketed the key as they passed through.

They found themselves at a small landing at the foot of a stair leading up. The wall at the stair’s foot was decorated with a three-foot-tall carving of the face of a dwarven king.

While the others were searching, Posy got bored and decided to check out the right-hand turn that the hobgoblin had warned them about. (I think she may have gotten turned around about which direction he had pointed.)  She walked maybe twenty or thirty feet down the hall and then nearly fell down, as she felt the effects of a dozen shots of rum in an instant. Staggering, but still in possession of her feline grace, she returned to the party to announce that she had figured out what the hobgoblin had been babbling about. She was obviously under the effects of a curse.

The party regrouped, and decided they didn’t need to press their luck any further. They re-locked the door on the far side of the campsite room behind them and retreated back the way they came.

Upon their return to town, they made a couple hundred copper from recovered loot, but didn’t sell the enchanted bronze necklace. Jed attempted to identify the nature of the enchantment, but wasn’t able to figure it out. There was some inconclusive discussion over the mystery, and if it was worthwhile bringing it to Strang’s attention, before the party broke up for the evening.

 

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