Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: FuBar Bombad

Arguments and Alignments

I was thinking about the big argument at the end of last session. Well, “argument” probably isn’t the right word. It’s just a new phase of the same old bickering. This leg of the journey had to do with the execution of FuBar’s last will and testament, and the appropriate reward for someone who just happened along during the second half of the delve.

But, either way, it got me thinking.

First off, I think I owe all four party members another experience point. I try to toss one out whenever anybody does themselves a disservice through displaying their “role-played” disadvantages. I say “try”, because I regularly forget it… and I think I did so, here.

And I realized I owed a roleplaying award because I was thinking about how the argument was a natural expression of the mental disads involved. D’arth Loathing isn’t a nice guy: he has Bad Temper, Selfish, and Stubbornness. Of course he was going to insist on clinging tight to anything owed to him. Of course he was going to hold a grudge against anyone who got in his way.

Jed, on the other hand, is a little more complex. He’s got a Quirk that amounts to a preference for fair play, but then he’s also got a Sense of Duty to his comrades. D’arth isn’t a comrade, not until he’s walked in the front door of the dungeon alongside the party a couple of times, at least. Jed likes to announce how honest he is (“Ask anyone, they’ll tell you I can be trusted!”), but, strictly speaking, that’s not true. Or, rather, it’s lower-case “honesty”, not the upper-case “Honesty” that means you’ll follow the law and give everybody a fair shake. It’s true that Jed wouldn’t (for example) outright steal from the party fund, but that’s not because he won’t steal.  It’s because he won’t steal from his comrades

Maybe Jed supports the idea of honoring wills, in the abstract. Perhaps he’s a fair dealer, in general. But, when it comes down to some corpse-eater making claims against the party’s living members, his SoD kicks in. He’s pretty much compelled to try to bargain D’arth down. Perhaps if FuBar had lived longer, Jed would have formed more of an attachment to him, and his SoD would compel him to see FuBar’s final wishes through. As it stands, his loyalty is to the party above either FuBar or D’arth.

The way it played out, when they got back to town, they discovered that they had hit the jackpot. Then, Jed’s quirks on fair-dealing and his Xenophilia came along, and D’arth ended up with a half share. Not bad, really, for the short while he was on the scene.

* * *

… and all of that got me thinking about honesty and morality in characters. What Saint Gygax would call “alignment”, in other words.

I see Alric as Chaotic Good, tending towards Neutral Good. He’s pretty easy-going, gets along with everybody, but has no problem going his own way. We know that he’s willing to drop everything — drop treasure! — and put himself through a rough cross-country ride to save a friend. We know he’s willing to go into battle to defend the weak (even if they did turn out to be disguised bad guys).

There’s actually a picture of Gabby in the dictionary under “Chaotic Neutral”. She’s motivated by greed, like all adventurers, but beyond that, there’s simply no telling what she’ll do next. She picked a fight with a mostly-peaceful ogre, once, on a whim. She discovered the hidden ledges on the outside of the Great Bridge when she went over the edge to avoid a fight, again, on a whim. I keep expecting her to light herself on fire… because when you’re on fire, the ninjas can’t catch you.

I would say the same about FuBar. Chaotic Neutral. He had a guiding goal in his life, but in the little time he had, he didn’t really get to show it. Ah, well. At least he died the way he lived: with a full stomach.

D’arth is pretty much evil by definition. Really no way around that, what with being a monster who worships something other than the pantheon of good gods. I would put him down as Lawful Evil, and probably closer to the Lawful side than the Evil. Of course, we haven’t seen much of him, so my first impressions could easily be wrong.

In my opinion, Mississippi Jed is Neutral Good, maybe with a tendency towards Chaotic. As already mentioned, he’s loyal to his friends, all the way to the bitter end.  (Literally.  When he died, he was trying to use a blocking spell to shut down a demon’s fiery breath, to protect the entire party. As it happened, the rest of the party are a bunch of stealthy, agile types, and they all jumped out of harm’s way on their own*, but it’s the thought that counts.) He’s got a couple of specific Quirks about slavery (against) and fair-play (for) that strike me as characteristic of CG. Jed’s also a something of a stickler for “the rules”: he’s the party accountant, quartermaster, and hammerer-out of contracts. If Corbin, Inc., ever wrote out a real charter, he’d do everything but the signatures.

Ah, Needles. As nice a guy as he is, I figure him as Chaotic Evil. He’s a liar, and a thief, and an all-around scumbag. His one redeeming quality, such as it is, is his Pirate’s Code of Honor. He’s loyal to whatever band of thieves and cutthroats he’s fallen in with, at any particular time. For all of that, though, he’s a pleasant enough guy to hang around with, and the party respects his skills, both with sword and lock-pick.

Posy is mildly Neutral Evil, I’d say, like most cats. She gives off a vibe of “eh, I can take you or leave you, I just happen to be headed in the same direction”. She rather enjoys the suffering of others, but not so much that she goes out of her way to inflict it. (Quirk-level Sadism.) She’s not much for taking prisoners. She doesn’t have any particular Sense of Duty, even to long-time comrades. Instead, she makes do with a Pirate’s Code of Honor… so at least she won’t stab anybody in the back while they’re on the job.

* * *

Time to do like the song says, and add it up. Looking only at the living members of the party, nobody shares an alignment. They’ve got everything covered except Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, and plain vanilla True Neutral. As far as that goes, I would argue that Rho was Lawful Neutral and TKotBO was Lawful Good. Knock a Druid in the head and throw ‘im in the wagon, we’ll have a counter on every square of the classic alignment checkerboard.

Put that way, this party should have turned inside-out long ago. Back in the day, playing AD&D, I don’t believe any of my GM’s would have allowed it. Even if they had, the players wouldn’t have; there would have been a PC-on-PC murder within the first twenty minutes. (And it might not have been the so-called Evil ones that drew first, either!) These guys have been getting along reasonably well.

Well, once they got rid of the Lawful types. Hmm. That doesn’t bode well for D’arth…

– – – – –

* Even if Jed had pulled it off, it wouldn’t have worked out like he wanted. His thought was, use Command, cause the entire attack to go somewhere else — towards the other enemy, I believe — so nobody would need to give ground by diving for cover. But, even if he had been able to overcome the effects of range and the demon’s high Will and send the attack astray, everyone would have still gone for cover. Remember, everything’s happening at once. The others see an attack coming. They’ve got a split second to decide what they’re doing. (If I remember correctly, I emphasized that nobody really knows how big the area of effect is going to be, so it’s possible for one to decide to dive out of the way, and still end up inside the area, because it was bigger than one guessed.) Anybody who held their dice to see how the Command worked out would be essentially declaring that they weren’t jumping. When a grenade lands in one’s foxhole, one does not stand there looking around to see if anyone else is going to jump on top of it.

 

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“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #15

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • D’arth Loathing, just a corpse-eater in the right place at the right time, being a good neighbor (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, sewer-troll who needed eyes in the back of his head (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, flinging spells like a ninja monkey throws… shuriken. (PC)
  • Needles, thief-swashbuckler who might be getting another song after this trip (PC)
  • Posy, long-distance artillery and a terror for eyes everywhere (PC)
  • Trevor, making his money the old fashioned way: winning it off the new hires (NPC henchman)
  • Pai, cat-folk cleric of Mielikki (the Finnish one, not the other one) who more-or-less follows Posy, when he’s not on the catnip (NPC henchman)
  • Poutine, a humble misen chef, compelled to follow FuBar on a quest for really exotic cuisine (NPC henchman)
  • Höss, Jack, son of John, and John, son of Jack: carriers of heavy things and losers at cards (NPC hirelings)

The entourage of Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Adventure:

  • Alric Redbeard, stung by his new bee-cat in a training incident (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, likewise, stung. It’s a long story. It has penguins in it. (PC)
  • “Dobby”, nursing the wounded and practicing his penguin-whisperer technique (NPC henchman)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed was mostly forced to keep his ear to the ground.

  • A band of goblinoids was captured trying to sneak over the walls of Tembladera. When questioned before their execution, they claimed to serve something named “Shauldula”.
  • Lady Abergavenny has been trying to hire shipbuilders who are willing to go into the mountains for a job, but she’s having trouble finding takers. They doubt her sanity: who would build a ship on top of a mountain, miles from the nearest ocean?
  • Sir Hugh has returned from an expedition into the interior jungles, bringing many captured elves and crates of their treasure. If you ever wanted to buy a pair of elven boots, now would be the time!

Still, he got in a little time with the heavy books.

  • The chronicles say that the last of the dwarven kings made a pact with “beautiful creatures from the edge of time” to protect the dwarves’ most precious secrets. There is little recorded detail about these creatures, aside from general agreement as to their invincibility in battle.

Needles picked up the word on the street.

  • A dragon’s been sighted flying over the mountains near Tembladera.

What Happened:

As expected, Jed survived the resurrection process. His apprentice Trevor handled the arrangements, and Trevor’s getting a reputation for both diligence and luck. They stitched his bits back together and brought him back to life, if not health. That was taken care of by a healing potion and a couple of days’ light duty.

Even hampered by Jed’s illness (if that’s the right word for losing your head), and by Gabby and Alric being bedridden with bee-cat-stings, the party still got a lot done around town.

Needles piled up his coin and invested in one of the more expensive, 2 point blessed buttons. The others weren’t so extravagant, sticking with the cheaper, 1-point, bronze buttons… but those, they handed out like candy. All the henchmen got one. I’m pretty sure they’ve got some spares rattling around in the bottom of someone’s pouch.

Furthermore, Needles went over his load-out with a fine-toothed comb. He and Jed hit the armorers’ shops around Tembladera, replacing bits of his kit with new pieces of armor, specially tailored and enchanted to be as light as street clothes. By the time he was done, he had dropped his load enough to be unencumbered. (He’s been lightly encumbered for some time now, believe it or not.) He also picked up a spellbook and learned his first spell: Haste.

Needles wasn’t the only one making capital investments. Posy picked up a wide assortment of arrows, including some spell arrows. (She also picked up a Perk to let her choose her arrows accurately without searching through them, explained as carving coded notches into the shafts.)

Jed hit the books and picked up some new spells. He cast one of those new spells, Seeker, in an attempt to locate his once-friend and now-nemesis, Jim Kadabra. He was able to get a very detailed vision of the illusionist’s location:

Green felt. A table covered in green felt. Playing cards, really expensive hand-painted ones. On the other side of the table, a red-skinned humanoid with horns growing out of his head, wearing a fine silk vest. The other speaks some words, and passes a wooden box across the table towards the viewer.

From his recent studies in demonology (having put points into Hidden Lore: Demons), Jed was able to identify the red guy as a “demon of old”, similar to the ones the party met before, in the Pit of Darkness. Skinnier, though. More like the geekier younger brother of those guys.

FuBar dedicated a lot of time to meditation. Jed dropped a koan on him:  “What was in Kadabra’s box?”  After much pondering, FuBar’s harmony with the Cosmic All brought back the answer, “Cards, for gambling, which is just another dirty trap tying the unwary ego into the illusion of reality.”

It seems like everybody was making friends this week. Posy ran into another cat-folk, a cleric of Mielikki named Pai, who decided to tag along with Posy on her adventures. FuBar ran into a misen cook and saved his life. (“I won’t eat you until after you’re dead.”)  This was enough to gain the cowardly little beastie’s loyalty, and so now the trash ninja has an entourage.

Around mid-week, Mamu delivered a harshly-worded letter from Strang, the party’s sometime-patron:

Friends,
I must express some frustration with your recent activities. I have provided you ample information – at no small cost in time and money – and you continue to dawdle with this worthless pit. Now, you have seen one of your company fall victim to these unnecessary side-trips with nothing to show for it. Again, I feel it necessary to remind you that finding these orichalcum artifacts is of utmost importance!

Additionally, I must ask you to be on the lookout certain hexagonal rooms that I know to be present within the area near your search locations. I believe these rooms are key to my research and, as such, I must ask you to TOUCH NOTHING when you find them. Regardless of your own perceptions of value or relevance, I need these rooms to be pristine and whole. Kindly catalogue and map the rooms, but do not move any of the contents. I believe that these chambers will ultimately be mutually beneficial, and I will certainly share my good fortune should my requests be met. However, you risk my ire by proceeding recklessly.

Friends, we are close to unlocking something wondrous. Do not delay!

D.S.

Upon having the note read to him, FuBar remarked on how it was awful that “your guy’s‘ boss” was mad at them. He’s a free agent, don’t ya know. 😉

The question of payment for FuBar’s services on the last delve came up. Rash promises had been made, concerning the party obtaining a ninja-to and black ninja suit for the sewer troll.  (Well, actually, it was more like “some of those awesome black pajamas and one of those cool straight swords to go with it”.  FuBar had a dream to someday be accepted and trained as a ninja. He had admired them from afar. Nobody else know anything at all about how ninja operate — or even that they’re called “ninja”, really — and so nobody realized certain very important facts about them. Like, they don’t just sell that kind of stuff, to anybody….)

Jed asked around, and was given directions to the place where all the fancy black suits came from.  The foot of the stair is just outside of town, just at the edge of the rice paddies, and it travels steeply up to the top of a near peak. All the non-vertical space at the top of the mountain is taken up by an extraordinarily tall castle with multiple roofs. The stairway is carved out of the sheer cliff face, making several switchbacks along the way.

Like this, but more vertical. And on top of a mountain. And swarming with hidden ninja.

A peasant with an ox was standing near the foot of the stair, and passed a few words with Jed. The bard started up the stair and soon came to a wider area, high above the fields below. A section of the path was dug out about six feet, and the hole filled with cut bamboo stakes, forming a grid. A monkey was hanging upside-down from a small tree growing out of the cliff-side, gripping a small bamboo staff and wearing a vest. “What’s your business?” it asked.

Somewhat startled but willing to play along, Jed discussed things with the monkey, who introduced himself (unsurprisingly) as Monkey-san. It turned out that the ninja aren’t willing to let just anybody come up to the castle and do some shopping. Mr Monkey explained that there would be a series of challenges, and that he was the first of them. He asked if Jed cared to try his luck, but the bard declined. They parted respectfully, and Jed walked back to town.

There, he explained the situation to the others. They agreed, the whole party would go up and give FuBar a hand. So, they made the walk to the edge of town. When they returned to Mr Monkey’s station, they found him (seemingly) asleep on his tree branch. FuBar started gathering himself for a sneak attack — the ninja way, after all — but Jed spoiled it by calling out, saying hello to the monkey. After some pleasantries, Mr Monkey offered to give FuBar a shot at the title.

Monkey-san jumped down from his perch to take up a position balancing atop a couple of the bamboo staves, and gave FuBar the classic “bring it” gesture. With the rest of the party cheering him on, FuBar raised his fists, jumped atop… well, ok, not so much “atop” anything. Actually, he missed his footing. Rather than his foot landing on a staff end, he slipped and took the end of the staff directly to the groin. Even the monkey cringed. FuBar slid slowly to the embrace of the soft sand below.

Figuring this was a sign that his mind and spirit were not in unity, FuBar pulled himself back together, bowed to the monkey, and started the long, slow march back to town. “These things take three tries anyway,” he observed. “That’s one.”

Saturn’s-Day came at last. The party hired Höss, their favorite brute, and two laborers: Jack, son of John, and John, son of Jack. The four PCs were also joined by their loyal henchmen: Trevor, Pai, and Poutine. Without the mounts usually provided by Alric and Gabby, the group only had one donkey between them, so the hike was longer and drier than usual. Still, they made it to their usual campsite near the entrance to the dungeon.

Needles took point, confirming that no ambush was lurking inside the door. The party formed up with Needles in the lead, followed by Posy, then the main group, with FuBar trailing, walking backwards, keeping an eye out behind. Between Posy’s nigh-superhuman tracking skills and FuBar’s frankly-superhuman sense of smell, they came to realize that another party had followed the same path not long ago. FuBar was able to identify the scent of Bjorn, one of the members of the Company of the Thunder-Raven, another party of adventurers.

Jed cast another one of his new spells, Seek Earth, to determine the nearest source of orichalcum. It was quite a distance away, in a sort of “over there and down some” direction, more-or-less consistent with the expectation that there was a find to be had in the Pit.

They made their way through the now-familiar halls, stopping briefly at the old goblin kitchens. Poutine was impressed with the room, pointing out how it would only take some cleaning to make it usable. FuBar noted how he had considered moving out of the sewers and into the dwarven dungeons on a permanent basis. The kitchen would make an excellent foothold. FuBar ordered Poutine to stay behind, clean up, and make the kitchen as operational as possible. They scrounged up a plank to prop the door shut, in lieu of a lock, and proceeded on.

As they traveled, they continued to notice signs of another party following the same path, without deviation.  This continued until they reached the Great Bridge.

Mindful of the sniper from the overlooking tower, they crossed the bridge cautiously. Posy took up a concealed post at the door and kept an eye on the tower. First, FuBar went out alone, crossing the entire span doing back-flips, backwards. He made it unscathed. Needles went out, displaying his full sneakiness. Then it came time for the hirelings. Given Trevor’s level of athletic ability, it was decided that John and Jack would just carry him across. The three linked arms, wheezing apprentice in the center, and hustled across the bridge.

They made it about halfway before one of the J’s stopped dead in his tracks, bringing them up short about halfway across. “The dead walk among us!” Trevor shouted, as the possessed laborer yanked him away from the other apprentice-bearer.

The possessed John, or possibly Jack, started dragging Trevor towards the edge, shouting “The ring! Return the ring!”

Everyone but Posy ran to help. As they were running, Posy saw a target appear at the tower window. Her arrow passed the incoming crossbow bolt, which took Höss in the chest. She was certain she had hit her target, which didn’t re-appear at the window. Considering her work here done, she shouldered her bow and strolled across the bridge.

Meanwhile, Trevor used his free arm to draw a bottle of holy water and smash it across the head of Jack-or-maybe-John. This, or the gang tackle, or possibly both, was enough to shake off the possessing spirit’s influence. Dragging their wounded with them, the party again set up camp just inside the door on the far side of the bridge, resting and healing. Pai deigned to share some of his healing prayers with the hairless apes.

After resting up, they continued up the hall. Again, they found signs that Bjorn had passed this way, and taken the right turn up the stairs to the overlook. They followed the same route. After playing with the animated goblin statue for a bit, they trailed Bjorn to the edge of the Pit of Darkness.

The last time they had been there, there had been several dead goblins scattered about. They were gone, now. Furthermore, the big chain down into the Pit had been augmented with the addition of several ropes around the Pit’s edge.

“I’m getting the idea that these guys might have gotten away with some of our treasure,” Needles observed. The others nodded agreement as they collected all the free rope. An adventurer can never have too much rope.

From way, way back in Session #2!

From way, way back in Session #2!

Consulting the map they had picked up from Strang weeks and weeks ago, they decided to go directly to the second balcony down. FuBar led the way, tossing around several pebbles previously enchanted with a candle-strength light spell. Once he had determined that the balcony itself seemed deserted, they others came down to join him.

There, there was some debate. They didn’t want to waste a lot of time searching the place. (Curiously, Jed didn’t think to cast Seek Earth again.) The map said to go west, but it also had a big “X” on the east side of the square representing the Pit. They chose to check out the east wall, sending FuBar through the big open doorway in the center of the wall.

As on the level above, this room turned out to be a dwarven restroom, with several curtained alcoves. Unlike the room above, this one smelled terrible. The source seemed to be the three curtained alcoves in the middle of the row of alcoves. FuBar figured they were dealing with some rotten zombies, and so he might as well take care of things himself. He tossed a bottle of alchemist’s fire into the middle stall.

It wasn’t zombies. Three clouds of disgusting green vapor came boiling out. They were some kind of toxic demon. Hearing his shouts, the party ran to give FuBar some backup. Jed threw down a Wall of Air, which initially threw the demons into disarray, but it turned out that they were fast enough to simply go around it. It also became clear that arrows and swords don’t work well against clouds of noxious gas. After taking a little damage, the party mostly withdrew. Jed blasted two of the three to bits with magical lightning. The third withdrew back into the darkness of the restroom, hoping to draw in victims to pick off one by one.

While this was going on, Needles and FuBar ended up wandering back to the room where they had previously fought the cat-demons. At one point, FuBar looked back at Needles, just entering the room, and said, “You know, you’re standing right where Jed died.”

Needles looked down, at a small bloodstain, then at the wall, at a somewhat larger one, then took a couple of quick strides to one side.

The two rogues looked over the exit on the far side of the room, deciding it didn’t seem to be trapped. Needles picked the lock while FuBar kept an eye out, then threw open the door. He was confronted by a big, beady-eyed, multiple-armed thing sporting enough swords to outfit a squad of infantry, atop a body like a snake. It boomed out a shout of defiance, something about no one disturbing its master.

Needles politely shut the door again.

The rest of the party was just trying strategies to draw out the toxic demon when the two rogues came scampering back. Informed of the news, the others dropped the subtlety. Jed popped into the room with cover from Posy, and blasted the entire right-hand side of the room with explosive lightning. They paused long enough for the bard to gather the remains with a whisk broom, then returned to the site of Jed’s demise.

The arm-thing hadn’t pursued, so the door remained shut. The party held a conference in whispers, then deployed their forces. The general idea was that Jed would make almost everyone else Invisible, while Needles tossed off a couple of Haste spells (easier said than done, as it turned out, but he managed to get himself sped up, at least), and then Jed, pushing himself to his limits, would charge up a gigantic Concussion spell.

The plan was, once Jed gave the sign, FuBar would throw open the door and Jed would unleash destruction. As soon as he started singing that one high note his Concussion spell requires (since he’s a bard-wizard, with song-based magic), though, the door was flung open from inside, and the snake-arm-thing came rushing out.

From its point of view, the only person immediately visible was a wizard in a top hat, in the corner on the far side of the room, clearly casting some kind of spell. Its headlong rush to crush this annoyance was interrupted when it barreled headlong into Posy, standing invisibly in front of Jed! Things got messy, as one by one, the party struck at the creature and became visible. Suddenly, it found itself surrounded and beset. FuBar jumped on its back, likely hoping to apply a choke. Posy hadn’t been knocked back by the impact, so she came up from a crouch and put two arrows into the thing’s eyes at point-blank range. Finally, Pai became visible, violently presenting his holy symbol and shouting “Back, accurséd thing!”

Disconcerted, the demon reeled backwards, seeking better ground. Of course, FuBar was carried along, still clinging to its neck. Unfortunately, that put him square in front of the second demon-thing, coming out the door to see what all the commotion was about. Even forewarned by his keen sense of smell and his uncanny danger sense, FuBar wasn’t able to parry six attacks coming from behind.

He was hit four times. Two of those were critical hits. Both came up “maximum normal damage”. The other two were just above-average damage rolls. FuBar went from “undamaged” to “below -5 x HP” in one second, and died without even a HT roll.

The party went into a frenzy of vengeance. Pai continued to apply the power of his faith and his goddess, stepping forward and forcing both demons back into their lair, even as the others wreaked bloody vengeance. Even with all the damage the party was handing out, though, they still weren’t falling.

At one point, Needles found himself facing the second demon, all alone. It turned all of its attention to him, striking six times at his vitals. Dodging like wild, Needles was able to evade all the attacks!

Posy planted a couple of arrows into the first one’s hands, pinning them both to the outside of the door, as it tried to pull the door shut behind it. Needles hacked at any parts he could reach, while Jed finally got to throw a spell through the door. Between Posy putting arrows through hands and Needles cutting at arms, it wasn’t long before the first demon was entirely (ahem) disarmed. It then fell apart into ectoplasmic goo, the way summoned beings tend to do.

Now that they knew the trick of it, dispatching the second one wasn’t too difficult, even inside its own lair. The only bit of a kerfuffle came when Needles found himself being attacked from surprise by a trio of undead, animated hands.

Like that, but more gnarly and evil.

The first took a wild leap and tried to gouge out his eyes, but he was too (Hasted!) quick and dodged. Another tried to land a foul blow, but as it turns out, Needles’ most heavily armored location is his groin. He’s a street-fightin’ man, after all. His parry impaled one, and the others scurried away to escape the burning power of Pai’s faith.

The party was in some disarray at this point, mourning their fallen comrade. Not so much that they forgot to loot the room, of course, but some.

They found that the demons’ master was long dead. They found a dwarf skeleton in repose on a fine couch, clutching a wand and an iron lockbox, wearing the traditional poncho-and-skirt combination of the dwarven empire. They found a quartz IOUN stone under his pillow. Furthermore, there was a small cabinet full of clothes and bronze jewelry.  (“What’s a nasal?”)  They packed it all up for later inventory. Without Alric along, they were forced to leave the fine couch.

While they were getting organized, they were hailed from the doorway. D’arth Loathing, who had previously tried out for the team and been turned down, was standing there, two-handed sword in hand. (GM: In-game substitution for the fallen FuBar, since the character sheet was on hand.) After some tense negotiations, it was established that both sides were in agreement that FuBar’s death was a bad thing.

In fact, it turned out that FuBar’s short will (“I, FuBar, bein’ only mildly chewed today…”) named D’arth as the recipient of all FuBar’s worldly goods, including Poutine. Being down a man, the party made a rough bargain with the corpse-eater: he would help them carry back all the treasure, he could have FuBar’s valuable, edible corpse and all his stuff, plus some pay to boot.

Getting re-oriented, the party went to the west side of the balcony, with the exception of Posy and Pai, who remained on the eastern edge, poised to act as snipers. (Well, sniper and hanger-on.) As on the floor above, there was a large open doorway, with two closed doors on either side of it. They could heard the sound of trickling water as they approached.

A fountain with a statue of leaping carp was inside, running with clear, clean water. This was an oddity. D’arth boldly stepped up and drank a palmful of water. “Mmm,” he remarked, smacking his lips, “tasted like roasted elf. I haven’t tasted that since…” (looks around at the humans) “…. I mean, wow, that was filling!”

Intrigued by the magic fountain, Needles also took a drink. In his case, all his little aches and pains went away, and he was restored to full Fatigue. Feeling as rested as if he had just risen from bed, he too praised the waters. Seeing this, Jed took a sip, and found himself as satiated as if he had just eaten a big dinner of roast beef, mashed potatoes, and fine ale. Jed took a couple of samples in empty potion bottles.

Back to business. They went to the left door, where Jed did his see-through-doors trick. Empty, trash and ruined furniture. They didn’t even open the door.

On the right, though, they hit paydirt. Jed could dimly see the forms of several dwarves wearing bizarre armor, hanging around tables covered in glassware, apparently some kind of alchemical lab.

Spreading the word, they again set up for door-opening. This time, they applied a Glue spell just in front of the door, then put one of their siege stones on the door, and had Posy shoot it from across the room with a blunt arrow. BOOM!  The door fell in. Jed threw a full-power bolt of lightning at one, knocking it down and seemingly out. Posy shot another in the eye (!), doing only a little damage but driving it berserk. It moved ponderously forward, “rushing” towards her at the rate of a quick walk.

The other dwarves shuffled a bit to take cover, then maintained their positions. D’arth used his sword’s great reach to poke one through the open doorway, hoping to provoke it into stepping into the gluey area, to no avail. Needles decided to hang back, sensing that something was off in this whole scene.

He was proven right when the one that Jed had knocked down stood back up. “Ok, that’s no good,” he said, even as the berserk one stepped into the glue. “Time to go.”

Everyone else agreed, they didn’t want to mess with any self-resurrecting dwarves. Luckily, since the dwarves were so weighed down by all their armor, it was easy for the party to make an organized withdrawal.

In possession of new knowledge and (more importantly) interesting treasure, they decided to head home. The trip was uneventful, aside from the talk. The entire walk home was spent discussing exactly who owed who what. D’arth was of the opinion that, in accordance with FuBar’s will, he should get everything the sewer troll owned, including several expensive potions that the party had purchased for him just this morning. Jed disagreed, claiming that the potions had only been issued to him, not given to him. D’arth pointed out, correctly, that FuBar had considered them to be his own. Furthermore, D’arth claimed that the party still owed FuBar a fancy sword and suit of black clothes, but since he was a reasonable corpse-eater, he would accept their value in coin, instead. Jed pointed out that the ninja toys had turned out to be a dream, anyway, so nothing was owed on that count. Finally, as keeper of the party’s coin purse, Jed wanted to keep the payment for service rendered to a minimum, since D’arth had only participated in the one fight, and that hadn’t been much of anything, anyway. Of course, D’arth claimed that signing on at all entitled him to payment, even if the expected risk hadn’t turned up.

When they arrived at the gates, D’arth pulled his hood down low over his face and managed to make it past the gate guards without being ejected.

Back in town, Needles picked the lock on the dwarf wizard’s lockbox. He made an attempt at pulling some sleight of hand, but Jed’s sharp eye prevented it. Inside, they found a magic ring, some gems, and a pile of mixed coin! After identification, it turned out that the ring was a Ring Of Breath Holding, and the IOUN stone could cast Grace with its own dedicated power reserve. They were very impressed with the shininess of it all, but decided they could use the coin more, and sold both.

In the end, a full share worked out to over $18,500 each. As is the practice of Corbin, Inc., the party fund got one full share. Somewhat light-headed with the sudden influx of precious metals to his financial system, Jed agreed that D’arth could have half of FuBar’s expected share, with the other half going to the party fund.

* * *

Even if the monetary award was exceptional, experience points were relatively low, what with a dead party member, no completed quests, and comparatively little exploration. Needles was unanimously voted the Cool Point, for being the recipient of six highly-skilled attacks and coming away without so much as mussed hair. Of course, FuBar was awarded the Booby Point, for losing sight of the classic adventurer’s rule: “Always check your six.”

In accordance with FuBar’s will, D’arth took posession of the Booby Point, as well as all that savory sewer troll goodness… “Yum, yeah, no fear in this meat…”

 

Favorite Moves

Over time, most characters are going to develop a fondness for certain attacks. We’ve seen a lot of experimentation as people worked out what made sense for their character’s stats. The way the PCs fight has evolved as we (slowly, oh so very slowly) work out the parts of the combat system we didn’t understand before, as people have become aware of options, as experience points have been spent to improve discovered strengths and paper over unsuspected weaknesses. There are some actions that are becoming characteristic of certain PCs.

Even so, we’ve pretty much been grinding through the calculations and consequences every time. “Rapid Strike, which is -6 for each attack after the first, except you’re a Weapon Master, so it’s -3 for you, but you’re spending Fatigue for a Flurry Of Blows…”  There’s value in this, even though it slows things down. Folks get to hear about options that might be news to them:  we’ve got one player in particular who mines the combat option cheat sheet for tricks, then others see what he’s pulling, and they copy the parts that make sense for them. Familiarity comes with repetition, and familiarity with the options and modifiers speeds things up:  we’ve got so many folks making called shots for high-value targets, they’re starting to memorize the hit location penalties, and just about everybody’s gotten comfortable with Rapid Strikes.

This last session, the combats went really smoothly. It was remarked that we were moving the turns around the table at a speed that we hadn’t seen since the Old West game. In that campaign, all the fights were like the 10-12 second gunfight from Appaloosa: a bunch of guys standing around insulting each other, followed by a few seconds of a bunch of guys blazing away, followed by bleeding. (No, really, the first time a PC died, he took something like six bullets to the torso, won the fight, and then bled to death because he was the second in line to get first aid. Thirty minutes of bleeding is bad for the complexion, kids.)

“That was quick.”

“Yeah, everybody could shoot.”

Incidentally, in Pyramid #3-74, Hans-Christian Vortisch, the mind behind GURPS Tactical Shooting, breaks down that very gunfight in GURPS detail, along with several others. There’s a lot of All-Out Attack (Determined) in there. I recall that being the case with our Old West game, as well.

Anyhow, point is, when you cut down on the options you consider, you can make your decisions faster when it’s your turn. Too many options lead to analysis paralysis. As it happens, though, most characters are going to have a very small selection of “go-to” moves, that they’ll use over and over.

For example…

Alric: The party’s Big Man has been switching between maul and great axe a lot, as he goes between the roles of “damage-per-second” and “door-opener”.

  • Cleave:  Used when two targets present themselves side-by-side, as they so often do. A Rapid Strike using the great axe against the torso. Effective skill 16 + 1 fine weapon +1 weapon bond -3 Rapid Strike with Weapon Master = 15; does 3d+13 cutting.
  • Decapitation:  A popular move with the whole party, it seems. A normal attack, with the great axe, against the neck of a standing opponent. Effective skill 18 -5 neck = 13; does 3d+13 cutting, with a x2 wounding modifier.

From time to time, he’ll change things up with an AOA version of one of these, if he sees a good opportunity.

FuBar: The exception to the rule. He actually makes a point of not using the same attack twice if he can avoid it. He’s thrown shuriken. He’s grabbed weapons with his kusari to create an opening for a comrade. He’s thrown potions and scattered them behind himself while fleeing wildly. He’s knocked down a zombie with a thrown severed head. (He threatened to use Jed’s head as a weapon in the same way, but finally decided against it.)

If FuBar ever does develop an actual signature move, I fear it’ll be some sort of “Johnny Cage”-inspired horribleness.

Gabby:  Gabby fights exclusively with rapier and main-gauche. She’s got lots of things going on, on her character sheet, and we’ve probably screwed up the rules as they apply to her more than we have for any other subject, short of magic.

To be frank, I’ve been a little bothered by Gabby. (No, no, wait, hear me out, now!)  She’s got gobs and gobs of points dedicated to making her hell on wheels in melee combat. She’s got the highest weapon skill in the group. She’s got more effective options available to her than anybody else. And… I’ve gotten the feeling sometimes that that very plethora of options is a problem, that it’s such a huge bite to chew that it ends up with that paralysis of choice, and so in actual play, more often than not, Gabby’s actions amount to “I poke it a lot. I need to roll anything better than an 18.”  I worry about player frustration, honestly.

Lately, though, she’s started exploiting more of her potential, and it shows in the kinds of attacks she’s been throwing.

  • Dual-weapon: A normal Attack maneuver, in which she strikes with both her rapier and her main-gauche. She can attack two targets, but if she uses both attacks on a single target, that target defends at -1. She cannot perform a Rapid Strike! (We’ve goofed this sooo many times…) If she takes the default torso hit location, her rapier is at an effective skill of 20, doing 1d+2 imp, and her main-gauche is at 18, doing 1d+1, either cutting or impaling.
    • Since an 18 always fails, there’s nothing to be gained by rolling against an effective 20. If there’s nothing else to soak up excess skill — see below — and if the default torso hit location is acceptable, there’s no reason not to go for a Deceptive Attack. At a minimum, taking -2 to the rapier would leave an effective 18 skill, meaning the same chance to hit, and the target of that attack would defend at -1. If she were ever to meet an enemy with great active defenses, like another fencing Weapon Master, she might make both attacks Deceptive. If she reduced both attacks to an effective 12 skill, the target would defend against the rapier at -4 and the main-gauche at -3…. or -5/-4 if aiming at the same target.
    • It doesn’t take much DR at all to hamper Gabby’s damage rolls. Therefore, if her opponents aren’t soft and squishy all over, she’ll likely want to go for high-value, lightly-armored locations. Lately, she’s been directing her dual attacks at enemies’ two eyes; at -9 to hit, that gives her effective skills of 11 and 9. Luckily (heh), she has Extraordinary Luck, so even if the dice aren’t cooperating, every half-hour, she can nudge ’em.
    • Another favorite is the vitals, for skill of 17/15… which could be made deceptive to 13/13 for -2/-1 to defense (or -3/-2, for a single target, remember).
  • Rapid Strike: As a Weapon Master, Gabby only pays -3 for her extra attacks in a Rapid Strike. Less, if she burns Fatigue… but, then, there’s been some oddities about Gabby’s Fatigue and how it recovers, lately, so it seems like she’s being a bit more tight-fisted about spending it.
    • Two attacks with rapier at torso, both effective skill 17.
    • Two at the vitals would be at effective skill 14, or three at 11.

Jed: Being a Bard-Wizard, the first tool to come to Jed’s hand has always been a song. Since he picked up that awesome staff with the purple flames, though, he’s been more willing to mix it up, hand to hand. No word, as yet, if his recent post-death experience will change his ways.

At a skill of 12, Jed isn’t pulling any fancy tricks. Generally, he swings for 1d+5+2 burning, which is pretty darn good for a spell-caster. I believe he’s gone for an AOA (Strong) at least once, which would bump his damage to 1d+7+2 burn.  Probably fighting zombies. I could have sworn he whacked something in the face, but that would have dropped his effective skill to 7, which seems really unlikely.

Needles: Ah, Needles, the well-known engine of destruction. He’s all DPS. He’s not only a Weapon Master with his chosen weapon, he’s also gone to some trouble to spend experience elsewhere to improve his damage-dealing prowess. (I just noticed again that Needles has Lifting ST 1 and Striking ST 3, so he’s essentially bought a point of ST, hold the Hit Point. “Wiry”, I guess you’d call ‘im…)  In particular, he’s picked up Slayer Training for a shortsword swing to the neck, and the Run And Hit power-up. That last one gives him outstanding mobility on the battlefield, which he has used to line up multiple targets for his Rapid Strikes.

Needles carries two shortswords, but I don’t believe he’s ever held both at the same time. He didn’t invest in the dual-weapon traits like Gabby, so if he ever did use them both and try to attack with both of them, he would suffer penalties to both attacks — crippling penalties, in the case of the off-hand — and he wouldn’t get all his nice Weapon Master stuff for Rapid Strikes. Then again, if he just carried one in each hand, he would pick up an extra Parry. At any rate, he favors the fine, balance, Penetrating one. With it, he has an effective skill of 19, doing 2d+5(2) cut or 1d+3(2) imp. Ever since he got that extra die of damage with the swing, he’s favored it pretty much exclusively.

  • Stand-Up Fight:  Needles likes to share the love, so he’s prone to performing Rapid Strikes for two attacks (-3) against the neck, at an effective skill of 14.
    • “I Ain’t Got Time For This”: Needles isn’t afraid to burn Fatigue when he’s in a hurry. He’s been known to spend 3 Fatigue to half his Rapid Strike penalties for a total of three attacks, at the neck, each at an effective skill of 15. (We’ve goofed on that, too, and counted it as just 1 Fatigue for the whole turn’s-worth of attacks, when it should be 1 per attack. When we finally realized our error, someone was just on the verge of trying to launch seven attacks…) It’s not something he can do very many times in one fight, but it’s been a win-maker. The fight that’s made him famous, when he was locked in a room with a bunch of goblinoids, he started his first action doing this. I think he might have done it again, on his second action, but couldn’t swear to it. I don’t remember there being much of a third action.
  • Sneak Attack: Of course, Needles preference is to work from behind. He’ll usually perform an All-Out Attack (Double), then Rapid Strike one of those attacks into two (-3), using a Telegraphic Attack (+4) with a swing targeting the neck (-2, with slayer training). That would give him one attack at +2, then two more attacks at -1. And now that I see the math laid out, I think we’ve been doing it wrong, and applying the Rapid Strike penalties to all the attacks, when it should not apply to the other attack given by the AOA maneuver. Not that it matters, so much, since we’re still talking about effective skills of 21 and 18. Either way, he can absorb some darkness penalties.

Posy: All bow, all day long. I don’t think Posy’s ever readied a melee weapon, that I can remember. Once she used her natural claws on an unsuspecting target. There was some discussion once about the possibility of her using her bow as a club, but she decided to put two arrows into whatever-it-was in the end, anyway. She’s a Heroic Archer and has paid points to do the “two arrows at once” trick. Without bothering to aim, she’s got an effective 23 skill, before range and hit location penalties. She’s doing 1d+5 imp with each arrow, and the only reason not to fire two would be conservation of ammo.

As it is, she’s carrying two quivers, one divided into two compartments, so she can keep three kinds of arrows organized. Just wait until she finds out about the Cornucopia enchantment… In fact, it seems to me that even a small investment in enchantments could prove useful for Posy. Enchanted arrows can be astonishin’ cheap.

  • “Heart.” (zip-thwap!):  The standard shot, two to the vitals.  Effective skill 20, minus range modifiers.
  • “Head.” (zip-thump!):  Used on zombies and such. When heart shots aren’t enough, go for right between the eyes. Two shots at the skull. Effective 16, or 18 if they’re running away.
  • “Eye.” (zip-squish!) “Other eye.” (zip-squish!): Once or twice, just for variety, there have been some eye shots. Effective skill of 14. Ends up about as damaging as a skull hit, but blinds ’em, too. So far, everything that she’s hit anywhere in the head region has immediately died, so she hasn’t gotten any benefit from taking that extra -2, but now they’re getting into territory where there’s monsters that won’t necessarily die just from a single arrow in their brain. Might also come in handy against anything with heavy DR that doesn’t cover its eyes, like folks in heavy armor, or giant man-eating armadillos.

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #14

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian philanthropist (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, infamous trash ninja and swinging bait (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, catching up to the others just in time for all the really good violence (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard/wizard who gains a really unique perspective (PC)
  • Needles, the famous monster-slayer — really, he’s got a song and everything (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk archer who’s so Woo she’s got her own doves (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s goblin henchman, left outside the dungeon and thus not appearing in this episode (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, apprentice wizard who got to be the party’s chief wizard, for a while (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Bob PattsonBruce the Brute, and Jack, son of John, flunkies who get put in a corner (NPC hirelings)

Rumors Gathered:

None, because we picked up with the party still in the dungeon.

What Happened:

(GM Note: This is the second half of the dungeon delve that started last session. We pick up only a moment later.)

“Hey, guy, what’re we looking for?” Gabby asked, joining the bulk of the party at the edge of the Pit of Darkness. She had missed the party leaving town, and only just now caught up. She had cut cross-country and left her rope hanging down the cliff face to the Great Bridge. (GM: If I caught the story correctly, that rope made the difference between encumbrance levels, so leaving it behind was a win.) The others quickly muttered out the story, over the screams of the shriekers, explaining that FuBar had gone down into the Pit of Darkness, and they were waiting for the screams or the mad dash for escape, whichever came first.

Like this, but with wrinkles, a snout, two big ears, and random tufts of orange hair.

Down on the first level of the pit, FuBar was reaching for the backpack, when he heard the creak of door hinges. The door in front of him was slowly opening. Thinking quickly, he acrobatically made his way up the wall and clung to the ceiling, “River Tam style”. Luckily, he was able to win the war of stealth. He saw that a humanoid figure was lurking just inside the door. Deciding to abandon the backpack, he dropped a flask of alchemist’s fire in front of the doorway and made a wild, leaping dash for the exit.

Hearing the ruckus, Needles and Gabby jumped to climb down the chain and provide support. Posy kept her overlook position, in case of bad guys exiting the pit, but became increasingly restless. Alric also maintained his position, axe at the ready to chop any climbing hands. Jed held a missile spell at the ready, splitting his attention between the pit and the surrounding area, directing the hirelings to watch in all directions.

Inside the pit, there was a bit of a standoff. The monster, whatever it was, was lurking inside the room; apparently the slick of fire on the ground hadn’t caused it much difficulty. The three PCs tried to draw it out, to no avail. Finally, they entered the room. The creature, a humanoid figure made entirely of  darkness, managed to pop up being FuBar. Its sneak attack was somewhat spoiled, thanks to FuBar’s finely-honed sense for danger and a desperate, behind-the-back parry. Still, it got one hand on him, and he could feel the icy fingers of death tearing at his very soul.

FuBar and Gabby moved to engage the creature, while Needles edged around the fight with his eye on the backpack. Just as he made it to his goal, Gabby launched a successful attack that put a rapier into both the creature’s eyes. Dead before it hit the ground. The backpack turned out to be full of less-than-epic loot. The most interesting items were a dungeon-camouflaged cloak — for some reason, the party is wild for cloaks — and a vial of Luminous Dust.

They checked the next room in, where the shadow-man had come from. There, they found the skeleton of a goblin, still clutching a mace in one hand, and a sack in the other. Obviously, a failed treasure hunter. Checking the sack, they found a couple of silver buttons and a wand-like object; when investigated outside, in the light, it turned out to be a unicorn’s horn, covered in scrimshaw, worth nearly $1,000. While they were investigating, a handful of zombies approached outside on the balcony. They made short work of them.

Meanwhile, the rest of the party was still on watch. Trevor drew the others’ attention to the far end of the room, saying he had seen movement. Investigation revealed nothing, which might have actually increased their level of paranoia. Reconsidering their position, they had Posy call the rest of the party up to the top of the pit. The whole group retreated to the far end of the room, to the old dwarven storeroom. The two groups compared notes. They decided that the high-powered members of the party could handle the level of hostilities in the pit, but the henchmen would be at risk. They posted the hirelings there, in the storeroom, behind barred doors, and returned to the pit.

Everybody climbed down the chain, except for Jed, who used his Wallwalker spell to avoid risking a fall. The experienced hands pointed out items of interest to the newcomers. There were two large open doorways, on walls opposite each other, each flanked by two doors. The other two walls each had three doors.

The party started working its way clockwise around the level, starting with the door to the right of the door that FuBar had originally entered. The first room was a small chamber with no exits. Next came one of the large doorways, which led to a tiled chamber with curtained alcoves, where FuBar discovered quite a prize: a fine chamber pot.  The next door was spiked shut, with a chalked message, saying, “Do not enter! Dead!”

After a quick conference, the party left that door alone for the moment. They backtracked to the first door, then proceeded to the left. The other big doorway led to a room with a dried fountain, with a layer of sticky green slime in the bottom. As is usual in these situations, there was a nervous conference to determine if this was just green slime or if it were Green Slime!, the bane of unwashed adventurers everywhere. Alric announced it was just common pond scum, and FuBar volunteered to give it a taste to make sure, surviving the experiment unharmed. In another room, they found a huge mess of shredded paper and broken shelves (sad Jed) around a lectern bearing a single, untouched, closed book (happy Jed!). Wary of curses, they swept it into a bag and packed it away for later examination.

By the time they made it make to the “Dead!” door, they had started to get an idea of the layout of the place. As they put it, “There’s the one suite, but it’s mostly studio apartments.” Most of the rooms had been looted already. While FuBar slowly accumulated a hobo’s stew of unspeakable components, nobody else was making any profit.

At the “Dead!” door, the party discussed whether they should mess with the door or leave it alone. Jed declared that he would do some reconnaissance. Now, through this part of the trip, Jed had been carrying around a missile spell. To free his hands for other casting, he tossed the spell over his shoulder.

The resulting lightning bolt and clap of thunder took everyone by surprise. The shriekers stopped screaming, which freaked everybody out even worse than the sudden thunder. Gabby bolted for the chain and didn’t stop until she was back at the top of the pit. Looking back over her shoulder, the only thing she saw was FuBar’s new chamber pot, spinning like a top. Everybody else had dove for a hiding place. Even Jed, surprised when everyone else vanished, found a place to hide. Slowly, over the course of several minutes, as nothing came screaming out of the bottom of the pit, the party came out of their hiding places and returned.

There was much whispered discussion about the virtues of stealth, in the dungeon environment, and the general lack of wisdom inherent in giving away their location to every bad guy with ears within a half-mile radius.

Back at the “Dead!” door, Jed did his see-through-doors trick, confirming that the room was, indeed, crowded with zombies. The party sorted out their battle line. Alric used his maul to trigger a siege stone, blowing the door to bits, and Jed blasted through the opening with a full-power breath of flame. This tore up the first rank, but there were plenty of zombies to fill the gaps. Battle was joined. Posy put arrows through eyes. Gabby did the same with her rapiers. Needles put his trademark head-lopping move to good use. Jed even rolled up his sleeves and went to work, bashing in zombie skulls with his purple-flaming quarterstaff. Alric was somewhat hampered by fighting with his maul, rather than his great axe, but he still caved in his share of undead. FuBar worked around the edges, with his most notable move being when he caught a flying zombie head, thrown from Needles’ last adversary, on the point of his sai and used it as an improvised throwing weapon against the next zombie in line.

Sadly, the only payout was a pile of badly-damaged corpses in dirty loincloths. Having cleared level one of the nigh-legendary Pit of Darkness, the party put their heads together. Pickings had been slim thus far. It was unlikely that they would show a profit from the trip, if they called it a day here. Unanimously, they declared that they would try the second level.

This called for some discretion and examination. They sent FuBar down the chain to take a look. He returned, declaring that the whole next level’s balcony was crowded with zombies. Furthermore, he reported, there were several gathered around some kind of object, in one corner, that he couldn’t get a good look at. Posy worked her way around to see if she could get a good shot, finally getting an angle on the lower body of one. She put an arrow into its groin, spurring it to action. It staggered forward in anger, arms outstretched… until it toppled over the edge of the balcony, falling to its doom.

Inspired by this, the party put together a plan. They tied FuBar on a rope and dangled him over the edge, so that he could “run” along the wall below the second level. He joyously teased zombies until the entire crowd had stumbled over the brink, chasing him. He signaled for the rest of the group to join him, then went to check out the previously-hidden object… which turned out to be a chest with a bear carved into the lid. Needles unlocked it after examining it for traps, opened it, and saw that it seemed, at a glance, to be full of fine clothing. Satisfied with that, the party closed the chest and strapped it onto Alric’s growing bundle of loot.

Getting their bearings, the party realized that the chest had been sitting in the same corner as the two-room suite on the level above. Based on the theory that the floors’ layouts would be similar, they opened the door that should — and did — lead to the big apartment on this level. Needles checked it over, then handed the door over to Alric, who gave it the boot.

Inside the room, they found two cat-headed humanoids, sitting on two benches, facing each other, with swords across their knees. They were obviously not cat-folk, despite the similarities: they were far bulkier, with fangs overhanging their lower lips, glowing red eyes, and licks of flames coming from their eyebrows, ear-tips, and so forth. They turned their heads and snarled. With no specialist on hand to identify them, they were classified as “demonic cat-folk”. Accordingly, the party rushed in the room to engage.

Before any of the heroes could actually reach them, though — it was a tight doorway — the cat-demons were in motion. Both stood. One brandished his sword and sidestepped in an effort to flank the incoming party. The other stepped to the center of the room, drew breath, and exhaled a tremendous cone of flame!

Nearly everybody dove for cover. Alric ducked to the side and used his heavy cloak for cover. FuBar had already stationed himself against the wall, outside the door, and hadn’t rushed in, so he was out of danger. Jed held his ground, trying to use a Command spell to cause the creature to aim its attack at its partner, rather than the party. Sadly, the demon resisted his bardic mind tricks, and Jed was blasted, full-force. Though badly wounded and swaying, he kept his feet.

… for about a half second. The cat-demon who hadn’t breathed fire jumped into the middle of the party. The nearest standing enemy on its side of the fray was Jed. Accordingly, the beast stepped up to the dazed wizard, swung its sword once, and lopped off his head!

(GM Note:  PC down!  PC down!  Here’s the funny thing:  Jed’s player had finally obtained an appropriate miniature, top hat and all, and even got it painted. The running joke, up to this point, was that by putting his money down, he had tempted fate, and now Jed’s days were numbered. As you see… the omens were right.)

As designated thrower- and catcher-of-things, FuBar recovered Jed’s severed head before it rolled too far, and popped it into his pouch, right next to his treasured chamber pot. Posy didn’t even bother getting to her feet, she just started raining arrows, two at a time, through the doorway. (In fact, she remained prone for the rest of the battle.) The others stood and tackled the demons, with Alric and Gabby double-teaming the fire-breather.

The sword-favoring demon had the misfortune of ending up with Needles to his back. The thief-swashbuckler went to work, lumberjack-style, on the demon’s neck, but couldn’t manage the trick of decapitating it. For that matter, he couldn’t get it to stop moving!  It kept backing up, as it fought, trying to get outside the room so it could get a good angle on the entire party for its own breath of fire. It just had to get a couple of yards outside the door to be able to hit nearly everyone. When it stepped outside the cover of the doorway, however, it came within sight of FuBar, who had been preparing for this moment. He flung an ice potion at it, dousing it in alchemical cold. It howled once and went down dead, and nearly headless.

Observing this, Needles turned and returned to the room, where Gabby and Alric were busy unloading damage into the other demon-cat, who also refused to die despite receiving many should-be-mortal wounds. Needles pulled his own ice potion and shoved it down the demon’s throat! It tried to roar, failed, and fell dead.

The party gathered up the rest of their dead companions’ remains and searched the room. They found that the demons had been sitting on either side of a locked chest, which was sitting on a fine run covered with geometric figures. They took both. (GM: And maybe the benches, too. They were iffy on them.)

No jokes about “just one more room” this time. The party didn’t even argue their next move. They left the Pit, returned to the storeroom to collect the henchmen, and left the dungeon using Gabby’s previously-prepared climbing line. They returned to town without further incident.

There, the party split into two teams. The first group took Jed’s corpse to The Church. It was determined that Jed’s spirit was willing to leave behind the afterlife to continue working in the mortal realm. It was further determined that between Jed’s stored-up goodwill with The Church (GM: cough-cough-DONATIONS-cough) and a few thousand copper from Alric’s personal fortune, they could afford to pay for a resurrection. The service was paid for and scheduled. (GM: … but I haven’t fully investigated all the ramifications of being brought back from the dead, so there might still be rolls to make and consequences to address. For the moment, we assumed that Jed was back in the land of living, free of any hair or trace of eyebrows from his flame-bath, pale and weak, but able to issue orders for Trevor to carry out.)

Loot inventory back in town revealed that the two cat-demons had been guarding a chest full of scrolls, written in the dwarven manner, on sheets of metal. The zombies’ chest was full of fine clothing — a cap, a poncho, a bright red skirt, a silver bracelet — which the party did not sell, suspecting it might be of ritual significance and would bear further investigation. It also had a quart bottle full of dwarvish peach brandy, which Needles took away from Trevor; the bottle was used to toast Jed’s death and return.

The delve was declared profitable for the party as a whole, though Jed and Alric might very well have walked away with less wealth than they walking in with. Jed received the Cool Point for dying dramatically while taking one for the team… though it was observed that we’re slowly turning the Cool Point into the Consolation Prize, “Here, Buddy, Walk It Off” Point.

The Situation At The Pit

I thought it might be worthwhile to review the PCs’ current situation. When we last left them, the party was mostly gathered around the top of the so-called “Pit of Darkness”, aside from FuBar, who had already entered the pit on his own. He’s well on his way to earning the quirk, “I work alone”.

GBCside

Side-view of the Pit of Darkness

 

This is a simplified side-view of the pit. The white central portion is a vertical shaft, which opens at the top into a large room. The grey areas are balconies carved out around the shaft, as if it were a courtyard for them to overlook. From previous visits, the party knows that the balconies have doors around their outside edges. The entire structure resembles a high-rise apartment complex’s inward-looking parts, and from the descriptions they got from the goblins, the party has concluded that this area used to be living quarters for dwarven families, before their empire fell.

The shaft entrance is about ten yards above the first balcony. The distance from one floor to the next is just about seven yards. Each level is a bit over eight feet high, floor to ceiling. There’s about four yards or so of solid (one assumes…) rock between each level. The central shaft is about ten yards across, side to side. The balconies extend another five yards beyond the central shaft on all sides.

Long ago, there was apparently some sort of system of stairs or ladders to allow easy access between levels of the complex. The party has observed recesses in the walls that might have been used to attach such a system. Whatever its nature, it must have been made of some material less sturdy than stone, because there’s nothing left of it. Currently, the easiest way to enter the pit is to clamber down a big chain and leap to a balcony.

At the bottom, the shaft continues another ten feet or so. Perhaps the dwarves were expanding, or perhaps they meant it as some kind of central feature: a fountain, perhaps, or some kind of underground garden. For all the party knows, it could have been anything from beachfront property to the catch-all “item of ritual significance”. Now, after years of neglect, it’s become a swamp of stagnant water, rotting wood, and foul fungus. The party has observed shriekers in this cavity, once before.

All told, the shaft is just about 50 yards, top to bottom. Looking down it is a lot like leaning over the rail of a tall stairwell and looking down:

TopOfTheShaft

View from the top of the pit

 

You can see a bit of the next floor down, a bit less of the one below it, and after that…. who knows?  The angle’s just too steep to be able to see. Posy, the cat-folk scout, had placed herself atop a crane overlooking the pit, so she’s looking straight down into it. She might be able to take a shot with her bow at someone standing right on the edge of the first couple of levels, but that’s about it.

The others, arrayed around the edge of the pit, had best just give up the whole idea of ranged weapons. Their angle is bad, the range penalties are bad, their skills with ranged weapons are bad… it’s just all bad. They would be far better off hurling insults than missiles, if a target were to present itself.

When we left off, Jed had used a scroll of Continual Sunlight to light up the entire pit. In review, I think we might have glossed over a couple of important details.

(Mental note:  Need to start taking the time to review all the details of all spells. Seriously. Every time I don’t, I end up handing out the equivalent of +10 or more to the roll, as we’ll see here.)

The big thing is the range. Continual Sunlight is an Area spell, which means there’s a range modifier that kicks in whenever the caster cannot touch any part of the affected area. The spell description muddies the waters, somewhat, since it says the light extends from the affected area to the sky, or the ceiling, whichever comes first. I think Jed’s player might have assumed that meant that he could aim the spell at the bottom of the shaft and fill the whole thing, with no range penalties, because Jed could touch the created sunbeam, up near its ceiling portion. My reading is that the spell affects an area, just like any other Area spell, which has a radius and a four yard height. The effect then extends from that affected area up to the local sky. It’s as if the spell affects an area, which becomes a doorway for the light to enter.

So, either Jed rolled for that scroll at about -43, or the light doesn’t make it all the way to the bottom.  Unless there’s something I’m forgetting (always likely), the roll was at no particular penalty. That would put the spell area just about halfway between the top of the pit and the first balcony. This would mean that the very lowest levels of the complex are still shrouded in darkness. Most of the balconies are going to be at a -3 darkness penalty. Inside one of the rooms beyond the balcony doors, like the one where FuBar is, the light level would drop to -9, and that only thanks to the light from the open door. Any deeper, and the ambient level returns to absolute darkness.

The good news is, yeah, that scroll was far and away their best bet for lighting up most of the place, and it’ll last for some days, which gives them a good window for exploiting the situation. The bad news is, no, it wasn’t the silver bullet the party might have wanted.

In further bad news, thanks to that bad angle, nobody in the rest of the party is going to have any idea what’s going on with FuBar.

Aside from the screams.

As usual.

 

Why the Cat Catches the Sewer Troll (maybe)

There’s been a lot of discussion on the forums this past couple of weeks about light levels and darkness penalties, in light (heh) of the release of GURPS Powers: Enhanced Senses. For one reason and another, I don’t really have a dog in that fight, but it has got me thinking again about the question of light in the dungeon.

I’m running Dungeon Fantasy, which means I’m using the simplified rules for light and darkness. Light sources cancel penalties within a certain distance, varying by the intensity of the source, then decrease the penalties within a somewhat wider area. Outside that wider area, the ambient light level rules, and in my dungeon, the ambient level is often “pitch black, no light, everybody’s blind”.  Simple and unrealistic. Works for me.

You would think we would be applying darkness penalties right and left, but in practice, this hasn’t really been the case. My guys have been really paranoid about their light sources. They haven’t quite gone to the extent of hiring professional torch-bearers, but they have taken care to carry multiple light sources and so forth. As their working budget has increased, they’ve gone from buying torches to using unlit torches with Continual Light cast on them. Over the past couple of sessions, they’ve even started using arrows with light enchantments to illuminate distant areas without approaching, and scrolls of Continual Sunlight to chase the shadows from the so-called Pit of Darkness. Temporarily, at least. One way or another, they’ve been pretty good about lighting the place up.

Of late, we’ve even added a couple of new characters who can see in the dark. (I suspect that might have been a major selling point in both cases.)  Being cat-folk, Posy has 5 points of Night Vision, and like all sewer trolls, FuBar has eyes that are adapted for dim light, a 0-point feature. FuBar has a pair of goggles with smoked-glass lenses, which give a -5 to Vision rolls. I’ve ruled, at his instigation, that these are effectively sunglasses, and the penalty is, effectively, a darkness penalty. Therefore, he can walk about in full sunlight wearing his goggles, and enjoy a net -0 to Vision rolls. When he’s in the dungeon, and operating in dim areas without humans and their torches, he removes the goggles.

… which got me to wondering:  was this really fair?  Is FuBar getting 5 points worth of advantage from the purchase of a $150 piece of equipment?

Comparing the numbers, it turns out that so long as FuBar is free to switch in and out of his goggles — which takes a Ready action, a cost worth noting — he’s just as good in the dark as Posy, but still a little worse off in dim light. When the ambient penalty is -1 or -4, he can’t do better than an effective -1, and when it’s -2 or -3, he’s stuck with a -2.

As penalties go, that’s some weak tea, there.  The thing is, that -3 darkness penalty is where I expect FuBar to live, since that’s the penalty in force in the 3 to 6 hexes between the bright light of a torch and the utter darkness of the rest of the dungeon. His main weapon is a kusari with a reach of up to 4 hexes, and his claim to fame is his mobility. Unless he takes to carrying a torch himself, I don’t see him spending a lot of time in areas with no darkness penalty. If he’s not careful, he could end up spending all his actions Readying and un-Readying his goggles and changing his grip on his weapon.

That’s the theory, at least. Ever since I failed to understand the utility of the Druid, I’m reluctant to depend too much on my theories. 🙂 So, I’ll be keeping an eye (heh) on the situation. If it seems that further balance is needed, I’ll just start enforcing the rules about how long it takes for one to adapt to new light levels…  Y’know how you’re practically blind when you come inside a dark room after being in bright sunlight? If that happened to the PCs, I bet we wouldn’t see nearly so many of those times when the party runs into the dungeon, banging their shields and calling for anybody who wants a piece of ’em to make their wills and come on out…

 

Expressive Ears

Here’s a little racial mini-Power-Up that I’ve been promising for at least a couple of months.  I mentioned it, in passing, while introducing FuBar for the first time. When we were working up his character sheet, the player asked if he could have the big, floppy ears that you see on a lot of Muppets. So, here’s my take on it.

“Expressive Ears”:  Acute Hearing 1 [2] + Easy To Read, Only to discern point of attention (-80%) [-2]; Net cost: 0

The idea is that the character gets +1 to hearing rolls, for having such big, sensitive ears. However, those ears aren’t entirely under conscious control. They tend to swivel around to catch faint noises, making it obvious where the character’s attention is focused. Anyone using Empathy, Body Language, or similar abilities to determine the character’s intentions gets the usual +4 for Easy To Read, but there are no further effects from the Disadvantage. There is no effect on the character’s ability to lie or bluff, unless they’re trying to conceal where their attention is directed.

Such mobile ears also allow a hands-free Gestures roll to communicate “Hey, what’s that over there?”  This isn’t even worth a point as a Perk, so it’s just a 0-point feature. There’s no bonus to the roll, like you might expect: sure, the ears make it obvious when the character’s attention is caught, but they also react to everything that catches the character’s attention, even for an instant, which means the character’s associates will quickly start to ignore the dozens of “false positives”.  In short… SQUIRREL!

Such ears can have an impact on appearance, but like an eye-patch or a decorative scar, it can go either way. If the character is ugly, they’re likely to come across as creepy and overly-mobile. If the character is cute, they’ll just add to the cuteness. They probably preclude any tremendous level of beauty, but, hey, it takes all kinds…

This trait is required for sewer trolls, and available as an option to cat-folk, dog-folk, elves who really crave a merciless mocking, and anything else y’all can convince me needs to have big, goofy ears.

 

“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. 😉

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • 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)

Rumors Gathered:

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.

What Happened:

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.

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #12

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian who knows his first taste of fear (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, amateur botanist and would-be spider (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, underage pirate swashbuckler, now with all four limbs! (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, only able to hit architecture with his lightning (PC)
  • Needles, slicer and dicer (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout who finds the tables turned (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s loyal goblin servant, keeper of the campsite (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s apprentice and potion-carrier (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Farooq, cleric and healer who really, really gives it his all (NPC hireling)
  • Höss, hired to carry heavy things but pressed into combat, to his expense (NPC hireling)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed kept his ear to the ground, and learned the news:

  • Some people have met a man weeping on the road who won’t give his name. Those who have talked to him say that he claims to be under a curse, and offers to grant a wish to anyone who can break it.
  • Ham the Turnip Farmer is scheduled to be hanged next week, for the unprovoked murder of a stranger in the market. His accomplice, described as having a shaven head and wearing an orange pyramid strapped to his head, managed to escape the scene by slipping away in the crowd. Ham protests his innocence, but there are over a dozen witnesses to the crime.
    • “So,” the party remarked, “you’re saying that Ham the Turnip Farmer is getting boned. Got it.”

Then he and Trevor hit the library:

  • The long-term use of goblin cigarettes can lead to respiratory ailments and vulnerability to demonic curses.
    • This provoked a string of curses from Jed, known for enjoying the occasional goblin cigarette… 
  • A dragon’s been sighted flying over the mountains near Tembladera, on occasions several months or years apart, for a matter of decades.
  • Some dragons have blood so poisonous that anyone who wounds the beast in battle will soon perish from the toxin.
    • “Ranged weapons. Check.”
  • Underground fountains in the New World will sometimes take on magical properties. Alchemists will pay handsomely for water from some of the magical fountains around here.
  • Dwarven watchtowers often have no doors at all to the outside world, only observation windows and an internal staircase.

Gabby returned to town and spent some time carousing. While she was at the inn, she overheard a drunken swashbuckler loudly mention something about “drinking on the coin of the Fiddlers Three” before her companion, an obvious rogue, kicked her in the shin and hushed her.

Needles also heard about the Fiddlers Three, in his professional life. “Word is that rogues and swashbucklers who want to earn good coin can sign up with the Fiddler’s Three, a trio of outlaws who have set up shop outside Tembladera. They’re hiring, but nobody seems to know exactly what the job is, only that the pay is good.”

While drinking, an old man said to Needles, “Magic gets twisted, under the earth of the New World. You’ve got to keep an eye on your wizard. Some places, they can’t cast spells at all. Other places, they’re all powered up and can throw spells all day long. Still other places, if a wizard tries to cast a spell, he’ll explode, or turn into a newt, or be possessed by a demon. So be sure and watch ’em close.”

What Happened:

The party was happy to greet Gabby upon her return to town. They admired her right arm, which had regenerated nicely during her time away. (In a flashback, the party dug up the most accomplished cleric available to cast the Restoration spell, then paid for an extra Blessing, to make sure the one-shot healing “took”.) The others quickly brought her up-to-date on the whereabouts of TKotBO and their accomplishments over the past month or so.

Alric picked up a long-coveted purchase: a dragonhide helm, fashioned in the shape of a dragon’s head. Jed touched base with Höss and Farooq, making sure they could both come along on the next delve.

On Saturn’s-Day, the party left Tembladera. On the way, they picked up FuBar, who was standing by the side of the road, dancing for alms. On the way, they discussed the question of their goal. Needles suggested that they seek employment with these “Fiddlers Three” that were being talked about so much, but this plan was rejected on the grounds that they aren’t a party of swashbucklers and rogues. (GM aside:  I would suggest a trip to the mirror, on that count.) FuBar was game for anything, anything at all, just so long as he got first pick of the meat. There was some interest in seeking out the so-called “pit of darkness” and going fishing for treasure. (Memorably, at one point, Posy and FuBar were talking about how much in favor of this plan they were. FuBar announced he would be quite willing to go into the pit. Straight-faced, without missing a beat, Posy answered, “Well, I don’t know if I’m that willing.”) In the end, though, the party agreed with Jed’s plan to fill in their map of the area near the main entrance, off to the left of the second giant stone head.

Along the way, Gabby went looking for any berries she could find, but came up empty. Observing this, Alric gathered a meals’ worth of berries and gave them to her. She rejected them, though, saying she wasn’t looking for berries to eat, she was looking for the ones that entertain

The party made its way through the entrance hall, finally taking their time and counting all the exits. Some, they had been down, while others, they had overlooked. There were two doors, off to the right as one walks in, that were mysteries. They checked them out. One led to stairs downward, which they realized must lead to the scene of the fight with the rust monsters. Thinking of the curse inflicted on Posy at that time, they backtracked and tried the other door.

The second door led to a bare room with the clean-picked skeletons of several giant rats. Alric declared that the skeletons were unnaturally clean, for bones so fresh. There were two exits from this room. One seemed to be where the rats were coming from. The party carefully investigated, finding a smallish, conspicuously-clean room. FuBar’s finely-honed senses alerted him in time to avoid the attack of an erupting slime, lurking above the door. The interested members of the party gathered around to check it out and poke it with sticks, then Jed blasted it to ashes with a gout of dragon’s-breath. FuBar scraped up what few scraps were left, hoping to nurse them into a full-grown oozing doom grenade.

They checked the second exit, finding yet another stairway down. They felt it likely met up with the cursed area, and decided to drop that route, as well. Re-establishing their marching order, they traveled to the interior giant stone head. After a brief disagreement concerning the orientation of the map, they got their bearings and went to fill out their map of the left-hand hall. After a couple of turns, they came to the door to the evil temple, carefully pointing it out to each other as something they did not want to mess with on this trip. Further down, they opened a door and confirmed that it opened onto the room where they had earlier fought a man-sized animated mushroom.

Feeling that they could all use a breather, and that the room had escaped a careful search on the previous visit, the party entered the room and started poking around. They shortly discovered a trio of tiny, animated mushrooms, rooted in a corner and sheltered behind a pile of debris. They stood only about three or four inches tall, but were very stout and broad of cap. They hadn’t grown their legs yet, but they were clearly of a type with the mushroom that they had fought before. They had tiny arms, and little mouths, which they used to make “hungry baby bird” noises.

Gabby and FuBar were both immediately charmed. They wanted to take one with them as a pet. Their first experiments killed two of the tiny mushrooms. First, FuBar attempted to pull one up by hand, but found himself overpowered, put into an arm lock, and borne to the ground! Releasing the sewer troll cost the little crushroom’s life. They then tried to cut the second with Alric axe, which killed it, as well.

So, they reasoned that they had to take their time and dig up the final survivor to be transplanted. The others were okay with taking a half-hour break, so the two set to work carefully digging up the mushroom. As they worked, Alric started a little fire and roasted one of his dried rats for a snack.

Things got really casual, really fast. Jed, Trevor, and Höss were sitting down, having a smoke. Gabby and FuBar were absorbed in their work, backs turned to the entrances. They had closed the doors, but hadn’t made any effort to secure them, or to post lookouts. Thus, they were caught utterly flat-footed when five full-grown crushrooms opened the door.

The first few seconds were a mad scramble, and it didn’t look good for our heroes. Alric had been tending the fire with both hands still on his great axe (Akimbo is a wonderful Perk), so he was able to fend off the two mushrooms that jumped him, from his seated position. Höss had been idly fidgeting with his pick, so his weapon was to hand. One mushroom grabbed Farooq by the leg, pulling him prone, and followed up by slinging him head-first into a wall; he was dead before he hit the ground. Posy had been looking for secret doors, without her bow in hand, and was quickly overpowered. That crushroom made an attempt to drag her away from the fight, pulling her out the door and down the hall.

Back in the room, the tide of battle turned. Once on their feet with weapons in hand, Needles and Alric started dealing horrific damage. Jed threw a lightning bolt which injured one crushroom and fried another. He then attempted to imbue the crushrooms with magical terror, but found that the only thing inside the spell’s area of effect that had the brains to feel fear was Alric, who spent a couple of seconds convinced that the mushrooms were actually some sort of clockwork.

Enthusiastic at being back in action, Gabby nearly exhausted herself throwing flurries of blows with her rapier, rapidly perforating a third crushroom. FuBar dropped from his position on the ceiling, took a quick bite out of the lightning-cooked ‘shroom, then rushed to catch up with Posy’s captor.

They stopped the fleeing crushroom just a little way down the corridor. It was forced to drop Posy, then turned to grapple with the others. Despite a desperate final defense, it died, the same as its brothers.

Injured and aching, the party returned to the room for more rest… but this time, they posted guards at the doors. They confirmed, Farooq was beyond their help. FuBar and Gabby finished digging up the baby crushroom and sacked it up for transport back to town. Since Gabby already had her dire wolf pup to care for, they decided that the crushroom could be FuBar’s responsibility.

Höss heard something squishing down the hall and drew the others’ attention to it. No one could see anything, even Posy with her night vision, but they could hear the squishing noise getting closer. “Gelatinous cube,” was Posy’s professional opinion, so they quietly pulled the door shut and waited for it to proceed past.

Once the noise of the cube had turned the far corner, the party left, retracing their steps to avoid catching up with it from behind. At this point, they had gone through quite a few healing potions, as well as other consumables, and had no treasure to show for it. They decided to go for the pit of darkness after all. They returned to the giant stone head, then made their way to the Great Bridge.

There, Alric spent some time scanning the arrow slits on the far wall for possible attackers, observing none. The party moved to make their way across the bridge as stealthily as possible. (This effort was somewhat spoiled when Posy decided to try out the echo.) Gabby dug into her pouch and brought up her invisibility ring, putting it on. Shortly after stepping onto the bridge, she decided she didn’t much care for the sensation of being invisible, so she took it off, stumbling a bit with the distraction.

At this point, two things happened at once. First, a black crossbow bolt came arcing up from the tower, unseen by most of the party, taking Alric in the stomach. Second, Doughal, the halfling who originally owned the invisibility rings, came sprinting from the hall behind them, screaming “Mine! Mine!  Give it back!” and the like, throwing himself at Gabby.

Gabby stepped back, leaving the halfling to land where she had been. FuBar pounced on the halfling, biting his nose entirely off, before Posy finished him with an arrow to the forehead.

“Braaaiiins…” they heard, as three zombies came from the darkness from the same direction as the halfling. The party fled. Jed’s steps faltered, though, as he heard the zombies switch to moaning “Waaaiiit….”

“‘Wait’? What?” he said, turning to look closer. He noticed they weren’t showing shadows, despite having shambled into the afternoon sunlight. “Hey, Posy, shoot one of these guys for me?”

When she did so, the zombie vanished like a soap bubble. “Illusions! KADABRA!” Jed shouted, then joined the rest of the party in the shelter of the far side, where the others were tending to the sorely-wounded Alric. Digging even deeper into the stock of healing potions, they got him on his feet and moving. FuBar brought along the halfling’s corpse, insisting that it was part of his share of the loot.

Up the hall, they took the right-hand turn for the stairs. At the landing, they found the bodies of the dire wolves, torn apart. (FuBar had a little snack, while the others tried not to look too close.) They made it to the top of the stairs, and realized there was one hall that they hadn’t explored. Postponing the main mission (as is their way), they went to check it out. They quickly discovered that the hallway ended in a cave-in.

Between Höss’ pick and a couple of shovels that FuBar scrounged up, they had the tools for excavation. Alric and Höss set to work, while the others kept an eye out for trouble and rested up. After about 45 minutes of digging, the pair broke through into the space beyond the cave-in, coming face-to-face with bad air. Alric passed out, unbeknownst to the rest of the party.

The first they knew of anything happening, was when Höss dragged Alric out of the tunnel, falling down in a swoon, himself. Some quick first aid got them on their feet. Then, the party considered how to crack this nut.

First, Jed sent his wizard eye to check out the discovered room. It couldn’t see much in the darkness. Infravision was little better, only showing that the room was uniformly cold. Jed put a continual light spell on one of Posy’s arrows, which she fired into the room through the small hole at the far end of the tunnel. This revealed a once-fine, now-ruined room, covered in slime and mold, with a skeleton sitting in an armchair and an extremely stout iron-bound door. (GM clarification:  A skeleton, as in, the bones of a dead humanoid creature. Not the undead, animated version.)  Deciding this seemed safe enough, they cleared the dire fumes with a wall of air and crawled through to check out the room first-hand.

An aura of palpable cold fell over those who crossed the room. This was determined to be coming from a bastard sword, leaning against the wall next to the skeleton’s chair. The sword was wrapped in canvas and tucked away in Alric’s treasure sack for later invstigation. The skeleton was wearing a necklace, and had a carved ebony pipe in its fingerless hand. Neither hand had any bones for fingers or thumb, despite being otherwise intact. FuBar swiped the pipe, sharing the contents with Jed while the others searched further.

Finally, their attention turned to the door. It rebuffed all their usual tactics: Needles was unable to pick the lock, and neither Alric, with strength, nor FuBar, with kung fu tricks, were able to burst the hinges. They were just about to set to work with crowbars when Gabby asked if she could take a shot at that lock. With luck and her default skill, she managed the trick. The lock popped open.

Jed cast a spell to make the door transparent, before they rushed in. Inside, they discovered a bedroom, just as ruined as the room they were in. In the bed, they could see a humanoid figure, showing no signs of decay. It was pale, with fine, handsome features and pointed ears. Some of the party thought it was a vampire, while others thought it was an elf. (Though, nobody could say that they had ever heard of an elf dressing so civilized: it seemed to be wearing a black robe, from what they could see under the blankets.)

Assuming the worst, the party formed up behind Jed. FuBar threw open the door, and Jed tossed in a Continual Sunlight spell. The party rushed in, expecting a flaming vampire on the defensive. What they found was one peaceful corpse.

Somewhat puzzled, they pondered what to do. The creature was wearing a robe and a ring, both of which appeared to be magical. A magic staff was leaning against the wall next to the bed. Around its neck, it had an unfamiliar, squid-y holy symbol.

“When in doubt,” Jed announced, “loot the corpse.”  He pulled the robe off the man without incident, packing it away in Alric’s loot sack. When he took the ring off the man’s finger, though, he began to stir. He coughed a couple of times, then brought a hand to his face. All of his fingers writhed like boneless tentacles.

“Hit it, Alric! Hit it!” Jed scrambled back while Alric stepped up, axe at the ready. A single mighty blow removed the waking creature’s head at the neck.

Moments later, after making sure the head was really and truly dead, while Jed was examining the staff, the party heard movement from outside, then growling voices, and then the sounds of a heavy object being used as a club, apparently wrecking some of the decayed furniture in the anteroom.

“We know you’re in here, mortals,” a voice called. “Come out and plaaaaay!”

The party didn’t like the sound of that. They quickly looked around for an exit, finding none. Gabby even got down and checked beneath the bed. Finding nothing suitable, they arrayed themselves around the room and made ready to strike whatever came through the door. Nothing did. Eventually, a curved wall of darkness appeared, obscuring the area around the door. They heard the door squeak open.

A group of naked, undead-appearing babies carrying rusty knives came out of the darkness. The party quickly figured out a couple of facts about them: they were extremely hostile, they weren’t all that rugged, and they exploded at the point of death. Luckily, the explosions were no great danger to anyone at a yard or two distance and wearing armor. The party knocked down two waves of the evil babies before FuBar decided it was time to take the offensive.

The sewer troll dove through the darkness where the door used to be, into the room on the other side, tumbling into the far corner. He found himself surrounded by many of the little beasties, as well as two big, red, hairy, barbed-tailed, devil-horned, cloven-hooved humanoids, each towering over seven feet tall and wielding a spiked chain.

FuBar yelled back a quick version of what he had found. The quicker members of the party pressed through the darkness, in some cases feeling the creepy sensation of many tiny, angry bodies brushing past their legs. Trevor and Höss were both ganged up on, both taking some damage. In particular, Höss attempted to grab one of the little beasts, in preparation to throw it, but received a knife through his right hand, crippling it. Both FuBar and Jed had four, each, jump them, and managed to escape from the tight spot, using the creatures’ explosive natures against them.

The party used the darkness to their advantage, hanging back until Jed could be the first one out. He used his long-underutilized Rapier Wit to confuse the big demons. Needles slipped silently out of the darkness behind one, taking advantage of its distraction to give it the gift of many bleeding wounds, including blinding shots to each of its eyes. It absorbed an unbelievable amount of damage while still keeping its feet, until Posy managed to put an arrow through its heart.

The other big demon never had a chance to figure out Jed’s confusing insult. When it finally stirred, Jed caught it with a Fascinate spell. Sadly, FuBar broke the spell by kicking the demon. Still, disarmed and outnumbered, it didn’t take long for the monster to be brought down. They didn’t actually kill it, despite Alric removing its head. They put the snarling head in its own sack, to bring back to town as a trophy.

Looking over their battered teammates and the pile of expensive, enchanted loot, the party decided they had had enough of it for one day, and made for the bridge. They made it back to Dobby and the campsite without further trouble, and returned to town before sundown.

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #11

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian-swashbuckler, team player, and the cavalry (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, sewer troll hired for the dance of his people (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard-wizard who needs to work on his situational awareness (PC)
  • Needles, rogue and trainer of new hires (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout who only seems to be remarkably curious (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s dedicated goblin man-servant, keeper of the stables (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s serious young apprentice (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Farooq, medic, priest, and light buffet, in the right circumstances (NPC hireling)

Sadly absent:

  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, pirate swashbuckler who may or may not have re-grown all the bones in her right arm (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

Jed picked up some news from back home in the old country:

  • An account of Tembladera’s history with the so-called “Resurrection Men” has been widely published back in the Old World. It implies that they discovered the secret of eternal life before they were destroyed. They say several noble families have hired mercenaries to come scour the ruins for the lost secret.

Jed and Trevor spent some time in the library, as well. Jed learned some things about the dwarves:

  • The dwarves didn’t trust paper. Their better books were etched metal. Their most precious tomes, like their spell books, were carved onto slabs of stone.
  • At the height of the empire, the dwarves claim to have mined both the heart of the earth and the stars themselves.

Trevor did pretty well, himself, for an apprentice, assisting with the search:

  • He stumbled across a description of a dwarven tower in the mountains, overlooking a tall stone bridge. Of those sent to examine it, many did not return. Those who did, said that the tower had no door that they could find. They also said that the tower was cursed with an aura of sickness, such that any who approached it fell deathly ill.
  • The dwarves used to get their water from a vast underground reservoir. They used to sail that subterranean sea and trade with strange creatures from beneath the earth.

Needles made the rounds of some of the more…. specialized… drinking establishments in Tembladera.

  • He found himself talking at one point with a scarred old veteran, who tells him that he used to be delver, too, until he tried to use an ice potion on a fire elemental. He learned that elementals aren’t physical creatures like a reasonable person would think. The way the clerics explained it to him, during his recovery, was that elementals are more philosophical objects than living beings, so they’re really only vulnerable to the element that opposes them.
    • This discussion was prompted by the new popular song around town, which talks about a legendary rogue who goes through gangs of goblins like a whirlwind, who successfully used an ice potion on men of fire. The veteran called shenanigans.
  • The nobles of Tembladera have put a bounty of 250sp on the head of Count Nalor the Thrice-Cursed, once a nobleman himself before he was declared an outlaw. He heads a band of bandits who hide out in the ruins.

What Happened:

The party took care of a fair amount of business in town. With the departure of Corbin, The Knight of the Blood Oath, there were a couple of holes in their lineup. They realized that their tactics, such as they are, would need to change. Furthermore, they thought that they could do with some non-potion healing. Thus, they went looking for some new guys.

Healing was easily obtained, in the person of Brother Farooq, a talented young medic and cleric. He was willing to take wages for his participation.

Next, they needed more muscle. After asking around, they found themselves interviewing two applicants in a shanty bar outside the walls. First was FuBar Bombad, a sewer troll “dancer”. He demonstrated the dance of his people, which involved leaping and bouncing all around the area and putting Jed into a demonstrative joint lock. He also explained that he was a simple creature, not so much interested in money, itself, and so he would join for a half-share, so long as the party helped to get him inside town, where the soft, clean beds lived.

The second applicant introduced himself as D’arth Loathing. He was wrapped from head to toe in a voluminous black robe, with a hood that covered most of his face. Despite moving like a vigorous warrior, he had the appearance of an elderly man who had been dead for several days. He declared himself to be a warrior and displayed a well-worn greatsword. He also declared himself to be an excommunicated demon-worshiper with certain unholy powers.

The party gravely considered the applicants, and decided they would rather go with the cheap, smelly acrobat over the anti-paladin with the spooky aura. Jed fast-talked the troll past the gate guards. That night, of course, both Alric and FuBar got themselves thrown out of town after a mutual faux pawhile carousing…

Later on during the week, Alric spent a day scoping out the terrain between Tembladera and the dungeon entrance, hoping to find a better route than the somewhat-circuitous road they had been taking. The main hope was that there might be a road that would allow the party to bring a cart, but the roughness of the land foiled that. The secondary goal of finding another way to enter the dungeon was more successful. Upon examination, Alric thought it might be possible to scale a mountainside, beat cross-country for a few hundred yards to the edge of a ravine, hike along the ravine for a bit, drop a rope, and descend onto the Great Bridge. This would bypass a good bit of dark dungeon hall.

Back in town, before their Saturn’s-Day departure, the party put their heads together. The map that Trevor found the week before had a reference to a bridge, and seemed to indicate treasure nearby. This brought up the story of the storeroom defended by a gang of animated stone statues, from a few trips back. Jed’s research indicated that such golems were pretty rugged, being made of animated stone, but not invulnerable. They weren’t, for instance, encased in orichalcum armor. The expectation of loot seemed high. The party determined to go statue hunting.

Needles took possession of the magic, armor-penetrating sword from the last trip, so he wasn’t worried about striking stone, but Alric didn’t want to blunt his good axe. He picked up an oversized maul more suitable for breaking rocks.

In all the excitement, nobody thought to invite Höss to come along.

The hike to the dungeon was uneventful. They “parked” their various mounts in the normal location, under the watchful eye of Dobby. Alric pointed out the cliff face that he propose scaling. Four of the five PCs looked it over, shrugged, and started in to free-climbing. Alric carried along Brother Farooq, but Jed was left to his own devices. For his part, he cast a Wall-Walker spell on himself and danced his way up the cliff, doing a soft-shoe past the others. Grumpy at having his pride bruised, FuBar snagged Jed’s belt with his chain to keep him from getting too much of a lead. At the top of the cliff, the party settled down for a quick rest. Alric offered around some questionable jerky. The others told him he could keep that goodness all to himself.

The barbarian took the lead in bushwhacking through the vines and scrub to the ridge line. At the top, they got a good look at the tower on the far side of the river. Jed called for a halt, then cast one of his new spells, producing a flying Wizard Eye to send across the way for a closer look.

The Eye approached, giving a better look at the tower’s design. It stood about sixty or eighty feet high, with a ring of standing stones at its top. There didn’t seem to be any obvious door, but there were arrow slits. As the Eye approached one of the arrow slits, it caught a quick glimpse of a humanoid figure in the shadows. It lifted a crossbow, then the Eye got a detailed close-up of a crossbow bolt, point-on…

When Jed jumped, Needles caught sight of an arrow flying from one of the tower’s windows, to arc down into the ravine.

Jed relayed what he had observed. Reactions were mixed: FuBar was all for an immediate assault on the place, while the others emphasized the stories of plague surrounding the place. It’s possible that FuBar was less concerned about such things, being pretty resistant to disease to begin with. At any rate, the party decided to continue with their original task. Alric watched the far side of the bridge for activity, seeing none, while Needles dropped to take a foothold on the bridge. The party descended in good order, unchallenged.

There, they formed up. FuBar enthusiastically trotted off towards the far side, taking point. This threw the whole marching order in disarray. Posy pointed out, as they entered the dungeon, that somehow she, the scout, had ended up pulling rear-guard with the hirelings and the wizard.

Jed, Needles, and the bulk of the entourage paused at the doorway to examine the treasure map. There was some confusion and argument at that point, since the map made mention of a door, but no door was apparent. Needles repeatedly searched for the concealed door that Jed insisted must be there. Posy finally pointed out the marks where there used to be a set of large hinges mounted on the wall. They decided a door must have hung in the doorway at some point in the past, and the map was simply talking about the hallway they were presently in.

Meanwhile, FuBar had just kept on putting one foot in front of the other. Finally feeling at home with the light levels, he removed his smoked goggles, and soon came to the right-hand turn up the stairs. (The hallways itself continued on.) The stairway was hung about with cloth, hides, chains, and other noisemakers, just as when the party first saw it.  Unsure of his next move, he shouted back to the others. This hurried them up, and soon the entire party was gathered at the foot of the stairs.

Once he had confirmation that their path led up the stairs, FuBar again bounded ahead, pushing noisily through the curtains. As he approached the first landing, the entire party heard a warning growl from further up the stairs. Thinking quickly, Alric made use of his mimicry skills, and growled back! This was enough to cow the dire wolves, which FuBar found on the first landing, cowering behind an overturned table.

When the party had last passed through, this landing had been set up as a guard post, with a couple of benches and a few other comforts for the goblinoids stationed there. This time, the only sign of goblinoids was the blood on the walls. (FuBar confirmed, by smell, that this was the blood of “short beef”, his pet term for goblins.)  The dire wolves had lost much of their morale. Clearly, some incident had occurred while the party was away.

Careful not to turn their backs or make any sudden moves, the party passed by the wolves with no violence. They continued up the second flight of stairs, finding themselves at a crossing of hallways. As before, there was a statue of a defeated, enslaved goblin, enchanted to give directions. Jed confirmed that speaking the word “treasure”, in Dwarvish, caused the statue to indicate the storeroom to the right.

The party moved to the big double doors down the hall in that direction. There, they girded themselves for battle. Alric traded his axe for his brand new maul. Jed cast a spell on the doors to make them transparent, to give the more nocturnal members of the group, at least, a better look at the scene. They reported that there were four statues of dwarves, each standing as tall as Alric, scattered around the room. Two were facing the door, while the other two were facing the other direction, some distance deeper within the chamber.

When all the prep was done, Posy threw open the doors. (They had her doing the job because they expected her arrows to be ineffective against things made entirely of stone.) She and Needles slipped through and took to the shadows while the rest of the party rushed in, raising a ruckus. They left Trevor and Brother Farooq standing watch at the door, but Trevor almost immediately entered the room, sticking close on Jed’s heels. This left Brother Farooq, an inexperienced healer, on watch.

Inside, the party engaged with the first golem while the others turned and moved in. FuBar entangled its weapon — an oversized maul, by coincidence — with his kusari, fouling both its parry and its main attack. Alric took advantage of the opening, and gave his best “John Henry” impression, using a rapid series of body blows. Jed threw his most explosive lightning bolt to date at the next-closest golem, only to see his target side-step it and keep on coming.

Thinking that perhaps she could find some weapon to turn against the golems, Posy began poking around in the crates that were scattered around the room. She was soon joined by Needles, once he decided that the rest of the party had the battle in hand.

As FuBar improved his hold on its weapon, the first golem switched tactics. It dropped the weapon, and switched to barehanded techniques. This wasn’t all that effective, and Alric reduced the construct to rubble, just in time to meet the next one. Jed began charging another missile spell, and instructed Trevor to start applying buff spells. The apprentice applied Armor, first to Alric, then to Jed — just in time, as it happened.

When the golem dropped his maul, FuBar didn’t want to take the time to free his kusari, so he dropped his weapon as well. Falling back and fast-drawing a shuriken, he looked over the battlefield. He figured his thrown weapons weren’t too likely to injure giant stone dwarves, and he noticed Needles and Posy poking through the loot before the monsters were down. This offended his bad temper. With a high-pitched, aggravated squeal, he flung the rusty bit of sharp iron at Posy!

Not to injure, of course. The weapon stuck in her pot helm, just jarring enough to draw her gaze. (And Needles’, as well.) FuBar delivered a rude gesture towards them. For his part, Needles was irritated that the new guy would be so cavalier with the possibility of injuring a more-senior member of the party. He ran over to smack the sewer troll in the back of the head, open-handed.

During all this amusing byplay, Alric was still turning big, carved dwarves into small-to-middlin’ boulders. He took a few blows, but was still cheerful, even though the last couple of golems started to crowd him a bit. They attempted to get the big man bracketed between them. While doing so, one of the golems noticed that Jed was flinging lightning around the place — missing, but still, lightning — and furthermore, that Jed didn’t seem to realize his peril. It sidled up close to him, while engaging Alric, then suddenly turned to strike at the lightly-armored mage!

Right around this point, the party was surprised to hear a scream from outside the door. The scream was cut off suddenly, making the party think of the halfling strangler they had met in the past. Being the closest PC without other responsibilities, Needles moved to the door to investigate.

As it happened, Jed opened the doors for him, as a solid torso blow from the golem’s maul threw him through them. He was badly wounded, but still fighting. Outside the door, they found Brother Farooq grappling with a zombie, while two others approached from behind. Needles moved to attack the zombies. Two of them went to work on Brother Farooq, taking him to the ground, biting him repeatedly in the face, and quickly rendering him unconscious. The third tried for Jed, who scrambled to his feet.

… just in time for the last golem to hit him directly on the top of his skull with a mighty strike from its maul. The damage was somewhat blunted by Jed’s just-purchased protective turban (made from the finest Corinthian giant-spider silk!) and Trevor’s protective spell. Still, it was more than enough to put him down (if not out) with a mortal wound.

Enraged, Alric made short work of the remaining, already-damaged golems, while Needles finished off the zombies. Trevor poured healing potions on his boss, but they weren’t going to fix his condition. Jed needed surgery, and the only available surgeon was Farooq, the man who had just had his face gnawed off by zombies. Things looked grim.

Their first plan was to get Farooq back on his feet, improve some surgical equipment, and have him do impromptu brain surgery right there on the dungeon floor. Alric lit a small fire and started assembling an absolutely horrifying assortment of small knives, bone needles, and fishhooks. Trevor and Needles used up the last of the party’s healing potions (and a couple of uses of Gizmo) to bring Farooq back to badly-wounded consciousness. When they explained the plan, he announced there was no way it would work: the best he could hope to accomplish under those conditions would be to torture Jed for a little while before finally killing him.

Still, the healer confirmed, to wait was to condemn him to slow death.

At this, Alric took control of the situation. Pulling out his rope, he rapidly wove a sling to carry Jed and Brother Farooq. He threw them over his back and left at a sprint. He retraced their steps, returning to the Great Bridge and scaling the cliff on the other side. (Yes, there were mentions of the Cliffs of Insanity, among the cheers.) He ran cross-country to the ridge above their “parking spot”. As he climbed down, he yelled for Dobby to saddle the war-cat and get out of the way!

Startled but game, Dobby got Alric’s big cat ready to go just in time. The big barbarian jumped into the saddle, throwing the wounded over the cat’s back, and took the reins. “We ride!” he shouted, as they bounded off towards town.

Remember back at the beginning of the week, when Alric went and scouted out alternate routes to the dungeon?  He didn’t find any that could support a cart… but he did gain familiarity with the cross-country route. Thus, after a wild, hour-long ride, they arrived back at town. The wounded pair were handed off to the hospital maintained by The Church.

Meanwhile, back at the dungeon, the rest of the party dug in to the loot. What they found wasn’t quite the riches they had expected. They uncovered about forty crates of dwarvish iron rations, still edible after who-knows-how-many decades. They found several bronze war hammers and quite a few pieces of serviceable bronze armor. They gathered several hundred pounds of scrap iron and bronze, from the leftover bits of tools that had lost their wooden and leather parts to decay. The most exciting finds were a bunch of alchemists’ fire grenades and one knockout gas grenade.

Needles checked out the rest of the room, discovering a back door, locked. This wasn’t much of an obstacle to an experienced picker of locks, and so Needles discovered that it was a door into the rear of the large room they had seen before, with the opening to the “pit of darkness” shaft. The one full of undead and demons of darkness. Curiosity sated, he closed the door. Then made sure it was re-locked.

Despite Posy’s attempts to improve a sled, the party just didn’t have the muscle to cart out all the booty. They picked out select pieces — the grenades, the armor, some of the weapons — and left the rest behind closed doors, hoping to come back and find it undisturbed. They left following the same route as Alric, just slower, until returning to the campsite. There, they met up with Dobby and the mounts, and returned to town at a more leisurely pace.

Once in town, they realized that their normal loot-disposal method wasn’t going to work with Jed down. Instead, Needles took the proceeds around to his own set of fences. After expenses, each share was enough to show a profit.

Alric was unanimously voted the winner of the Cool Point, for excellent all-around teamwork, particularly his wild rescue ride.

 

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