Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: Jim Kadabra

“So… you’re taking a level… in… Innkeeper?” (Also, character trees.)

Jed’s talking retirement. Maybe it was his “beyond death” experience that got him thinking. At any rate, he’s announced that he’s piled up enough savings to finally afford his dream:  to buy an inn and settle down.

And, of course, the player is wanting to try some new stuff. We’re at the point where folks are getting comfortable with the rules, and the templates, and the kind of stuff the party does, and so there’s a certain tendency towards experimentation. You can see it in the new guys, D’arth and Tantric. We started out with the standard human-dominated fighter/cleric/magic-user/thief party, and now we’re trotting out the freak show… as we’ll see in a moment.

Anyway, back to Jed. The thinking is, he’ll retire to the background animation that we call “town”. He’ll act as an agent for the party, and keep track of their money and investments. The regular pay for an agent will be subtracted from the party’s earnings, and they’ll share out treasure just like they had hired a hireling. The pay will not be added to Jed’s tally, but by the same token, we won’t try to price out an inn and subtract that from his earnings. If and when he returns to play, his character sheet will stay right where it is now.

It doesn’t matter what the story is. Maybe he’ll say that he bought the inn, lost it to arson, worked his way back up from the gutter, and now he’s back with a purse that’s coincidentally just as full as when he left. Maybe he’ll say he started a world-wide franchise of inns called “Mississippi Jed’s Tembladera-Fried Owl-Bear Parts”, became richer than Odin, went to be the king of all Londinium and wear a shiny hat, only to be betrayed by his vizier’s evil mustache, and now he’s back to make his fortune again…. with a purse that’s coincidentally just as full as when he left.

… ’cause that’s how we’re playing it. Ever since Day 1, I’ve offered the option of character trees. I see it working like this:

  • A player can have as many characters as desired, and swap them out freely in town.  Or even in the dungeon, between sessions, if I’m feeling generous. I would treat it similarly to how I’ve handled missing players in the past, with a bit of narrative hand-wave.
  • A player can only have one character active at a time, and a character can’t be active without a player. This means two characters in the same tree shouldn’t share a single bank account. At least, not without an Unusual Background of some kind.
  • A character who’s not on deck is frozen, like a saved game. Tell whatever tales you like about what life is like off-camera. Treasure and experience are only earned in active play. No secondary characters making fat cash working as enchanters who never leave town, bankrolling the primary.
  • Let me say that again:  A character who’s not on deck is frozen. Ever since they mugged Kadabra, they’ve remarked on how a starting 250-point character has $1000 in equipment, on average, while the goblins around Tembladera are usually only carrying a sword and some sub-standard archery equipment. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t care if the party members go around killing each other in play. (The rest of the campaign world might care, but that’s a different story.) What won’t happen is, player A misses one session, returns the following session, and is informed that the party needed cash for dinner, so they robbed and murdered player A’s character, since he was link-dead anyway.
  • For the sake of story, an off-camera character can act as an off-camera hireling.  Like Jed acting as an agent. If the numbers on the character sheets come out the same, I don’t care if they deal with “Nameless The Hireling” or someone they’ve adventured with. Either way, fortunes are made by adventuring, not through boring business deals.

Nobody’s ever taken me up on it, until now. If now, rather. Both TKotBO and, now, Jed, have been retired from play. It’s not clear if they’re “on ice” in the character tree, or retired forever. We won’t know until they come back.

Anyway. At the end of last session, we went through the process of choosing Jed’s replacement. I think the original vision was to give everyone a thumbnail to think over, and then have the in-play auditions next session, but it ended up being more of a quick selection process. The latest news, still subject to change, is that the newest new character will be a dog-folk Knight. Quite a change from Squishy Jed. 😉

For those keeping score at home… Why, yes, I would say that this addition makes the party look an awful lot like the group of monsters in Room 37. My question is… does this mean D’arth will take leadership along with full membership?

 

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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…”

 

“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.

 

“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #8

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, a barbarian learning the wicked ways of civilization, deadly from any position (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, a two-rapier swashbuckler who can take ya with one hand tied behind her back… luckily (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, flingin’ spells faster than he’s ever flang ’em before (PC)
  • Needles, swashbuckler-thief with no love for ranged combat at all (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, practitioner of the way of the turtle and collector of rings (PC)
  • “Dobby”, goblin henchman and griller of bratwurst (NPC)
  • HössDean, and Roman, hirelings who barely appeared, and then had no lines (NPC)

Rumors Gathered:

None, since we pick up with the delvers still in the dungeon.

 

What Happened:

As we left it last session, the party had barricaded themselves in an unexpectedly well-furnished apartment off the caverns of the fiery creatures dubbed Flame Lords. With them were two prisoners:  Jim Kadabra, rendered unconscious (yet again) by Needles, and the invisible halfling would-be assassin. TKotBO had taken the halfling’s golden ring, claiming it as his share of loot due to his religious fixation with “the rings of Saturn”. When he picked it up, he found it unnaturally heavy. Furthermore, his surroundings seemed suddenly more gloomy and threatening. Slightly dismayed at these oddities, wanting his hands free, and completely lacking pockets or pouch, he passed the ring off to Gabby, who put it in her own pouch.

Upon recovering his senses, the halfling began to desperately plead for his life, offering directions to someone who could grant wishes. Jed attempted to question him, with the (questionable) assistance of Gabby and TKotBO, who both attempted to add further intimidation in the background. As it turns out, Gabby’s not all that intimidating.

In between intimidation attempts, the prisoner managed to babble out bits of a story. “I used to be an adventurer, just like you guys,” he began.

“Until you took an arrow to the knee,” Alric commented from where he lay on the rug before the fire in barbaric splendor.

The halfling gave him a curious look. “How did you know?”  He continued with his tale. His party had been attacked and badly defeated. The survivors had left him for dead. Wounded, lost, and short on supplies, he had wandered deeper into the dwarven ruins. Finally, at the end of his strength, he had found a guarded door. They had taken him in to what he described as a casino, and wonder of wonders, opened him a tab.

The party marveled at this in silence for a moment.

At the casino, the halfling continued, they had given him an opportunity to gamble, where he “got lucky”. (At this point, Jed’s lie-detection skills were triggered. It wasn’t luck.) Finally, he had played a game against “the owner, or one of the owners”. When questioned about the identity of his opponent, he tried to avoid the question, first saying that they wouldn’t believe him. He finally admitted it was “a giant flying eyeball”. Winning this round, he was invited to meet a shadowy figure, one who owned his own table at the casino, where he made a deal to have a wish granted.

“What did you wish for?” was the next question.

“The power to sneak out of the place,” was the answer. He elaborated, explaining that his enhanced invisibility was a product of the encounter. He also indicated that he was a relatively innocent bystander with no beef with the party, in itself. He blamed the entire misunderstanding on Kadabra, going so far as to make an attempt to kick him while he was down, claiming “the whole scheme was his idea”.

As they talked, the barred door was taking a pounding from outside. Tensions were high. The attempts to frighten compliance out of the prisoner finally seemed to cause him to lose his composure. He ran towards Gabby, as if he were trying to take refuge behind her. Luckily, Gabby’s education on the pirate ship didn’t leave her as the trusting sort. She caught him trying to dip a hand into her pouch, but grabbed his wrist in time. TKotBO backhanded the halfling across the back of the skull, doing no actual damage (rolling a 1 on the damage roll for a punch to the skull, absorbed by the skull’s natural DR 2) but setting off a storm of whining protest.

It is worth noting, at this point, nobody had indicated any intention of accepting the halfling’s offer. They had no map, nor directions, just vague rumors.

The halfling’s desperate attempt to pickpocket the ring drew the party’s attention to it. Jed had already seen that it was magical in some way, but the specifics were still a mystery. Gabby took the ring from her pouch, looked it over, shrugged, and put it on.  “Do what you do,” she thought… and immediately vanished.

This wasn’t entirely unexpected, but it was still startling enough to draw the gaze of all the party members, leaving the halfling momentarily unguarded. He took advantage of the distraction, diving through a curtain and down the hole of his privy. Needles had the quickest reflexes, but wasn’t able to snag the halfling himself, only the frayed edge of the curtain.

The part of Gabby’s invisibility that came as a surprise was the cost in Fatigue. Everybody was tired from their recent fight outside the door, so the cost of activating the ring was enough to take her to 0 Fatigue. She staggered, suddenly exhausted, and barely managed to sit down in the rocking chair formerly occupied by Kadabra before her knees gave out on her.

The pounded at the door continued. Seeing the halfling’s route as the only possible exit, as they knew they couldn’t fight their way through the entire crowd of angry Flame Lords, the party hurried to get itself organized. Jed saw that the big man, Alric, had no chance of wriggling through the small space, so he cast Body of Air on the barbarian. With a shouted “Whee!”, Alric dove down the hole and gave chase.

The rest of the party proceeded more slowly. Being closest, and the most agile, Needles went first. The privy hole opened into a small natural passage, steeply sloped downwards, with a trickle of foul, ankle-deep water. The rocks were slippery and slimy from use. Being an experienced climber, this was no obstacle for Needles.

TKotBO, next in line, however, is not known for his climbing skill.  He slipped as soon as he entered the vertical section of the tunnel, sliding down in a shower of clanking, cursing, and crud (which somehow fell all around him, but left no stain on TKotBO — cleanliness is next to godliness, after all) and sprawling prone.  Needles had to squeeze himself against the wall to make room for the holy warrior’s rapid descent.

Jed threw a rope around Kadabra’s shoulders so he could drag the unconscious illusionist behind himself. “Come on!” he shouted to Gabby, still sitting droopily in the rocking chair, and lowered himself and his dead-weight burden into the privy. Like TKotBO before him, he tried to climb down, but ended up making a semi-controlled slide to the bottom.

“Don’t worry about me, I’ll catch up,” Gabby replied, waving the bard off and fighting to stay awake.

Rushing ahead of the others at the speed of the wind, Alric quickly caught up with the fleeing halfling, who was able to stand upright and therefore was making much better speed than the humans, who had to travel on hands and knees. In the darkness, the halfling didn’t realize that he had company in his flight, but Alric could do nothing effective to stop him, either. Being an untutored barbarian, and not an experienced enchanter, he didn’t understand how to end the spell, and even if he could, he wouldn’t, because he would then be trapped in a passage somewhat narrower than his chest. At a stalemate, they continued down the tunnel.

The others, minus Gabby, began crawling down the tunnel after them. Jed was lagging a bit, due to his burden.

Back at the apartment, Gabby realized that she could smell smoke. Wisps were coming through the cracks in the door. Clearly, the Flame Lords were directing some hostile intention towards the apartment. She staggered to her feet and followed the rest of the group, fighting the urge to lie down for another rest. As she crawled to catch up, she started to notice evidence that the Flame Lords had put the entire apartment to the torch. Bits of burning debris started to float past.

Alric and the halfling finally made it to the surface. The tunnel came out on a sheer cliff face over a rushing river. While the halfling paused briefly, caught his breath, and began to scale the cliff, Alric was faced with a decision. He decided to linger at the tunnel entrance, rather than get too far ahead of the rest of the group. In doing so, though, he lost the trail.

Then, Gabby heard the sound of many rats, approaching from behind. Unable to fight back, she was torn by the rats as they stampeded past. Luckily, her armor kept her from major injury. “Rats from behind!” she shouted.

Thus warned, Jed was able to plan for the assault. He readied a Wall of Wind spell and dropped it behind himself and Kadabra, dispersing the rat swarm and sending them flying.

At the cliff face, Alric heard the commotion, and came to wish that he were solid, and it was so.* One by one, the others gathered. Based on the distance they had crawled, and the map, Jed opined that they must be looking at the same river that the Great Bridge crossed. In fact, it should be just around the next bend. The climbers of the group — Alric, Needles, and Gabby — went up the cliff to the top and hiked cross-country in that direction, while Jed cast Body of Air again, upon himself and TKotBO, so that they could fly ahead.

At the bridge, the two cloud-form adventurers noticed themselves being noticed by several goblins at the overlooking arrow slits. They threw a half-hearted “We come in peace” in their direction, then landed inside the covered area in the center of the bridge. They returned to solid form, while Alric and Gabby climbed down to join them. (Needles was feeling paranoid, and stayed at the top of the cliff, about eighty feet above.) Packs were opened, rations were shared around, and being nearly exhausted, they threw themselves to the ground to rest for the next three-quarters of an hour. Then, they took another half-hour for TKotBO and Jed to set up the Faith-Healing-powered-by-Lend-Energy engine and heal all the party’s injuries.

Just as everyone was feeling better about their situation, there was a commotion from behind the arrow slits. “PRETTY LADY!” roared a thunderous voice. Goblins screamed. A couple of them, fleeing whatever was going on inside, either jumped, fell, or were pushed from the arrow slits, falling into the river below. Interested, but not really worried, the party members looked in that direction.

They were surprised to see Mongo, the Seige Beast, obviously dead and risen as a zombie, shamble forth from the doorway on the far side of the bridge. He broke into a sprint, foaming at the mouth and waving his hammer-hands in the air. Most of the party rolled to their feet and got out of the way. Alric, on the other hand, kept his seat while readying his great axe. He took a stance, ready to chop the undead creature’s legs out from under it when it approached.

It was a sound plan, but it didn’t work out. Too excited to wait for the beast to come to them, Gabby drew her rapiers and charged forward to meet Mongo a few yards in front of Alric. Mongo lunged forward, attacking with all his speed. Gabby was able to avoid the first blow, but the second shattered every bone in her right arm, crippling it and forcing her to drop one of her treasured rapiers.**

Gabby retreated, dropping her other rapier and pulling a healing potion from her bandoleer. Needles got out his bow and tried to line up a good shot, but was defeated by the range modifier; he eventually packed it up and started climbing down, knowing he couldn’t reach the bridge before the fight was settled, one way or the other. An angry mob of goblins came to the doorway and began to approach at a measured pace.

Without his previous target, Mongo was free to approach Alric. Again attacking with a pounce and a two-fisted assault, he managed to deliver a grievous blow to the barbarian’s groin, reducing him to -12 HP. While still conscious and cursing, Alric was in no shape to carry on.

Jed blasted the undead Siege Beast with lightning, then threw a Concussion spell into the midst of the goblin mob, ending their advance.

TKotBO attempted to disarm the beast, but realized there was no way he was going to penetrate Mongo’s armor plating. Taking stock of the battlefield, he dropped his weapon and stooped to grab at the creature’s ankle. When Mongo threw both hammer-hands into the air while standing over Alric, TKotBO grabbed and heaved. With an assist from below by the prone barbarian, he was able to throw Mongo off-balance and over the railing, to the hundred-foot drop into the raging river below. (And earning himself the Cool Point for the evening.)

The party moved to secure their line of retreat, returning underground through the smaller door on the “near” side of the Great Bridge, after getting Alric on his feet with some slapdash healing and recovering Gabby’s dropped weapons. Needles took the lead to scout, as is their way. They passed through the long hall, to the stairway leading down to the main dungeon on that side of the river, without incident. At the doorway at the foot of the stair, they paused so Needles could peek around the corner.

A good thing: the next door down the hall was the one leading to the statue room outside the Flame Lords lair, and two of the fiery men were there, gesturing wildly and breaking up the wooden statues. The dry wood burst into flames from their touch, and they were throwing the burning wood out into the hallway.

After a quick discussion, it was decided that Needles would sneak out to get the drop on the Flame Lords. He was given a couple of the remaining ice potions to arm himself with, and Gabby offered him the halfling’s ring of invisibility. When he took it, Needles felt the unnatural weight of the thing and felt the aura of gloom settle around him. After thinking again, he declared he would rather take his chances without it, and dropped the ring, which Gabby later retrieved. He left, slipping into the shadows and becoming at least as invisible as the ring could have made him.

While Needles was moving quietly into position, the others waited with bated breath. Gabby heard a noise coming from the top of the stairs, a noise that reminded her of loading barrels on board ship. She drew the others’ attention to it, as the rolling-barrel noise gave way to a barrel-banging-down-stairs noise. Outside, the Flame Lords looked that way, their attention drawn.

All the delvers at the foot of the stair aside from Alric pressed themselves against the wall to let the rolling barrel pass. Alric, on the other hand, took up a kneeling position in the middle of the stairs, holding his axe in a defensive grip. When the wooden keg came barreling (heh) down the stairs, he parried it, causing it to explode in a soaking, but harmless, gush of beer.

The Flame Lords were very interested in this, and moved to investigate. Needles took advantage of their distraction and quickly doused them both with ice potions. They fell. The party moved quickly past… but not so quickly as to forget to collect the valuable residue left behind by the Flame Lords’ deaths.

Needles nearly forgot about the infamous pit trap, but noticed it before falling in. The board bridge was missing, though. They figured that it had been collected by its caretaker, Zing the Unworthy, and sent Needles to climb across and recover it. The man’s in-dungeon “convenience store” was in disarray, however; the door had been knocked down, the shelves torn from the walls, and the chamber smelled strongly of burnt pork. Needles couldn’t find their board, but improvised from the wreckage. The party crossed the pit, then salvaged a few meals of iron rations and a good deal of rope from the shops’ remains.

Finally, they made it back to the indoor giant stone head. Here, they paused, knowing they were only a short distance, in a straight shot, from the dungeon entrance.

“Well,” Jed said, “we haven’t recovered enough treasure to show a profit, and we’re in pretty good shape. I say, we explore a room or two before we leave.”

“‘Good shape’?” the others exclaimed. Gabby shook her useless right arm at him for emphasis, while Alric made a barbaric allusion to his own wound.

For his part, TKotBO just shrugged, shook Jed’s hand, and said “Best of luck to you.” He turned and started making his lumbering way towards the entrance.

He probably expected to have company, but apparently Jed — and the jingle of coin — are powerful motivational speakers. The others agreed to kick in “just one more door”. They agreed to check out the so-called “troll room”, the one beyond the door concealed behind the stone head, the one where two trolls had made their nest. Jed had never seen the place, and had mentioned a powerful curiosity about it in the past.

Nothing interesting. Two exits, one right and one left, offered themselves. The party chose the left door, finding themselves in a wide hallway. They quickly determined that this hallway was just the next portion of the hall with the stone head, just further up and around a corner. It carried on further past the troll room, so they continued in that direction.

Around the next bend of the hallway, they found a pair of double doors to the left. Needles checked for traps and locks, and finding neither, pushed the door open. Inside, he found a large auditorium. They were at the back, behind the rows of seating. Down below, at the focal point of the room, he saw the goblin shaman who used to work for Ghorbash, flanked by a couple of hobgoblin mooks. The shaman threw a quick spell, and Needles found himself struck blind.

Even without Needles, TKotBO, or Gabby’s good right arm, though, the three goblinoids were no match for the party. The hobgoblins split up, with one moving up either side of the room. They were met by Gabby and Alric, who both easily won their own duels. Jed took the shaman down with magic with no great trouble, as well.

Needles recovered his vision, to his great relief, in just a few seconds. They searched the room, turning up a brass gong and a couple of decorated, sealed urns. Needles found a collection plate full of coin, and only took the copper and one piece of silver before announcing the find.***

Deciding the urns were interesting, but the seals weren’t worth tampering with, they packed up the loot and moved back into the hall. Still without a clear profit, they continued on.

Outside, TKotBO made it back to camp. Realizing that he was alone, he sighed, gestured for Höss, Dean, and Roman to follow him, and turned back towards the dungeon, planning to rejoin the rest of the group and lead them out to safety.

 

The party came to a door to the right. Needles checked it over and again opened the portal.

Inside, they found a room filled with refuse and fungus, with a giant, animated, angry mushroom. It charged them. They returned the favor. Everybody took a whack at it, but Alric was the one to put it down: he voluntarily dove into the thing’s gaping maw to attack its soft innards.

TKotBO and the hirelings rejoined the group while they were searching the room. Gabby found a potion, and opened it to take a sip. Luckily, she realized it was (ironically) an ice potion before she drank. Jed discovered a pistol crossbow, highly decorated and obviously magical, judging by the shower of blue motes of light that it shed when moved.

This, they realized, was enough to show a profit. Furthermore, TKotBO’s Rol-X shield showed that it was getting on towards sundown. Time to go.

However, when they returned to the hall, they found a pair of Flame Lords approaching from further down the hall.**** The flaming men tossed fireballs at the party as they approached, while the delvers readied their last pair of ice potions. Luckily, the PCs’ aim was true, and the two Flame Lords fell. Again scooping up the pouch-full of coals left behind, the party moved quickly to leave the dungeon.

Outside, back at camp, they found Dobby cooking up sausages for the whole group. Packing up, they hurried back to town in time to make it inside the walls before night fell.

Back in town, there was some debate about whether to sell the ring or keep it. In the end, they decided to keep it. Jed’s research indicated that the pistol crossbow used to belong to a priest of Anubis who was lost in the ruins — thus completing the quest that Rho had left undone before his death, to recover the two relics that the priest left behind. They were still able to show a profit without selling the ring.

With the experience points gained, TKotBO was able to complete his multi-classing into Holy Warrior/Knight. Alric declared that he would be studying with Gabby to come a Barbarian/Swashbuckler. The party unanimously agreed to pay for Gabby’s restoration, which will nevertheless take a month to complete.

The only remaining piece of loot to dispose of was the pair of urns. When the party showed them to the priests at the temple, the clerics turned pale, hustled everyone out of the room, locking it behind them, and called for a young priest and an old priest. TKotBO volunteered for the position of “young priest”. In the exorcism attempt that followed, the old priest faltered; TKotBO’s faith wasn’t enough to finish the task, but was enough to let them escape the room. The priests re-locked and sealed the door.

Upon reflection, the party realized that the auditorium was some sort of evil temple. TKotBO and Jed declared support for a mission to return and exorcise the temple.

* * *

* … and at this point, I come to realize, there’s a lot of tricky spells in GURPS Magic, and I really need to keep a closer eye on things there. First, we played it as if the recipient of the Body of Air spell could end it at will, but now that I’m looking at the book, I’m not seeing any such thing. No big deal, it wouldn’t have changed anything if Jed had just dropped maintenance when everybody gathered at the cliff face. Second, the spell description speaks of up to 6 pounds of clothing coming along, which would have greatly complicated events, considering that Alric carries around a bag full of treasure and a big axe, and TKotBO has an obvious armor fixation. For now, we’ll say there was some complex “fox, goose, and bag of corn” arrangement, in which the party was dragging Alric’s gear through the tunnel and Alric, in turn, carried TKotBO’s armor up the cliff while TKotBO himself traveled in his long underwear. And I shall wear a mighty oath to examine the spell descriptions more closely when spells get cast.

** First crippled limb!  Though, TKotBO did come awful close in the first session, inspiring the name of the blog and only escaping with his foot thanks to a mis-reading of a rule…

*** For Needles, this was an emotional confession of loyalty to and love for the group.

**** I do roll for wandering monsters.

 

The Dilemma of the Invisible Halfling

My favorite kind of retcons are the ones that rearrange things behind the scenes. If a player wants to move points around on a character sheet after the game has begun, if it’s something that hasn’t yet appeared “on screen”, I allow a free hand. In most games, if somebody wants to spend points to pick up a skill or some such, I’ll accept the rationale of “I’ve had it all along” (or “You never asked“), though in this game, in the interests of simulating the dungeon circa 1984, I’ve been charging training costs.

Likewise, I’ll happily re-arrange the furniture of the room the PCs haven’t seen yet. I’ve often thought it would be possible to run a murder mystery in the tradition of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, by throwing out some inconclusive clues and just accepting that, say, the third good accusation from a PC would uncover the “true” villain. Until a PC opens the box, the cat might be alive or dead, according to the demands of plot and quantum mechanics.

This time around, though, for the Dungeon Fantasy game, I’ve sworn that I’m playing with my cards face-up. In fact, if we can get meta for a moment, that’s the whole reason this blog exists in the first place, and that it’s more than just a monthly play report. The things that I post between games are partly a way of showing off what goes on “behind the camera”. Demonstrating the infrastructure, I guess you might say. Given that, I feel like I shouldn’t let it go unremarked when making such a behind-the-scenes change.

So, to the case at hand:  In the last session, I made a bad call about the way the Invisibility spell works. I remembered the baseline GURPS Magic version, which is not ended by hostile action, and forgot that GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 1: Adventurers, page 20, changes that. At first, I was inclined to stand by the ruling, but since then, I’ve been persuaded that there are unseen dangers ahead on that course. If nothing else, it goes against the grain of the “circa 1984” goal.

The problem is, the PCs have seen (well, kinda…) the halfling attacking people while invisible. The easier thing to do would be to wave it off and say it never happened. If any of the players objected, I could just throw shiny goodies at ’em.  “Forget about the spell, and you can find the bag of coins he had concealed in his loincloth. Did I not mention the drawer full of healing potions?”  Trouble is, sometimes I just can’t bring myself to follow the path of least resistance… so I’ve been worrying at it. Now, I think I’ve found a solution that preserves events as they happened.

Originally, my thinking was that the halfling was invisible thanks to a spell. (Ok, the whole story is a wee bit more complicated than that, but it’ll serve.) Now, I’m thinking it was actually a special power that the halfling has access to.

From the chatter I’m hearing, I’m thinking that the first ten minutes of the next session are going to be some sort of medieval interrogation scene. Answers are going to be had, by gum!  The last question I was asked went something like “If we put a bar of soap in a towel, then soak the towel in a healing potion…” so I’m pretty sure the prisoners are going to talk, in the long run, if not the short.  Therefore, I don’t feel that I’m giving anything away here. It’ll all come up in the upcoming conversation.

What’s going to come out is, the halfling has been living in the dwarven ruins for some time, sneaking around the edges of things and stealing what comfort he could. Some time back, he stumbled on to a room deep within the dungeon and found… something. He’ll be light on the details — have to leave some grey areas for the PCs to ask pointed questions about, after all — but he’ll claim that the point is, it granted him a Wish.

(cue dramatic orchestral sting here: da DA DAAAAH!)

A Wish! The most coveted of all treasures, more valuable than gold and jewels, rarer than dragons!

He used his to enhance his stealth. It gave him the Advantage of Invisibility, not the spell, with a series of enhancements and limitations. This, in turn, helped him escape the depths of the dwarven ruins. Since that day, it has helped him make a life for himself with some amount of comfort. Not so long ago, it allowed him to see what happened to Jim Kadabra in front of the giant stone head…

* * *

Final tally. The Invisibility spell again conforms with DF standards, and no longer threatens to become a “must have” buff. The recorded history of the game needs no tweaking. The power displayed by the NPC is hypothetically available to the PCs, if they want to go questing for the source of that power… and if they want to use a Wish to get that power, rather than some other desire. I get to toss out another compelling reason to go deeper into the dungeon. If they do manage to get to the end of the quest, I’ll get a chance to hand out wishes, which is something I’ve never had an occasion to do.

Now I just need to install that dragon…

Session #7 and the Scooby-Doo Ending

There were some odd things going on for sure in the last session. As they were happening, they were mysterious and spooky. Both the PCs and the players were dismayed. At the end, though, they figured out a lot of what was going on. (“And I would have gotten away with it, too,” the halfling snarled, “if it weren’t for you meddling murder-hobos!”)

The as-yet nameless halfling that TKotBO knocked senseless had been trailing the party from shortly after their arrival at the dungeon, looking for opportunities to make mischief. He picked Alric’s pocket — well, bandoleer — and made off with the missing ice potions. He had been looking for an opportunity to employ his garrote, but never had an unfair-enough shot at a straggler, until Gabby. At one point, he had a great shot at Alric, but he would have had to climb up the barbarian’s back to get at his neck, and even if he had made it that far, who wants to get into a contest of strength with a half-wild seven foot tall lumberjack? He might have tried for a backstab, but he didn’t like the high chance of wounding Alric without disabling him. At least once, he could have taken a shot at TKotBO, but that great helm covers the knight’s neck, and he lacks any other obvious weak points in his defenses.

By the time the halfling jumped Gabby, he was getting nervous. She and Needles were right on his doorstep. He nearly despaired when Needles found the first trap. When the thief was distracted by the needle trap (ironically), the halfling took advantage. He was doing quite well, I thought, until Gabby got Needles’ attention. Later on, during the general melee, the halfling was again forced into desperate measures, when he attacked Needles. When that fell through, he tried to cut his losses and escape, with consequences which we already know.

It would seem that the halfling had rescued Jim Kadabra after his near-slavery experience in session #3. While details and motivations remain murky, it seems clear that Kadabra was working with the halfling to some extent. The worm, “Lord Kimboat”, was a Phantom, while the skeletal apparition was a Complex Illusion. Both were programmed with Independence. Casting all those spells without his original awesome power item, the so-called Rod of Wonder (long-since sold), had left him a bit tuckered, which is why he was having a rest and a drink. He was trying for an Invisibility spell when Needles busted his lip for him.

Furthermore, the previous illusions the party encountered are also assumed to be Kadabra’s work. For whatever reason, it seems that he was trying to attract attention to the area ruled by the flame lords.

Mention was made of how, every time Jim Kadabra appears in person, Needles immediately knocks him out with a blow to the head. It’s approaching Quirk level.

Things are starting to get a little routine, I think, which worked against the party this time around. They didn’t mention their usual prep — stop at the church for a blessing, get the torches’ enchantment renewed — but they did remember to stock up on potions. Particularly ice potions, figuring they’d come in handy if they had to fight the flame guys.

There are still some questions that need clearing up, but I imagine they’ll fill in a lot of blanks early in the next session, when they start beating answers out of the halfling. And, possibly, Jim, too. Jed has claimed to be good friends with Jim all along, but he seemed somewhat vexed by the illusions. And, of course, he didn’t say anything about Jim’s busted lip, or how his rocking chair had been knocked over backward.

Truth be told, I expect the first question they’ll want answered is, “Where’s the back door?” … since, there doesn’t appear to be one.

 

“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #7

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, a towering storm of mail, beard, and flashing axe (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, swashbuckler, recovered and ready to grab life by the throat and shake it until it coughs up its wallet (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, fully multiclassed into Wizard and sporting the colors of a new gang (PC)
  • Needles, thief-swashbuckler who knows how to treat a prisoner (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, one who believes the best offense is an awesome defense… and he might be on to something (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s devoted goblin henchman and leader of the second crew (NPC)
  • Höss, brute and enthusiastic hireling (NPC)
  • Dean and Roman, young shieldbearers and soon-to-be squires (NPC)

Rumors Gathered:

  • (TkotBO) The dwarves were working on something called “The Unstoppable Armor” when their empire fell. Only one suit of Unstoppable Armor was ever built, but it can resize to fit any wearer.
  • (Jed) An ancient dragon has slept under the mountains since before the dwarves themselves came. A serpent mound covers its resting place atop an unbelievable pile of treasure.
  • (Needles) Timlas Proudfoot says he once fell into some ruins, spent the night drinking with monsters in a hidden tavern, then woke up outside the North Gate the next morning, unharmed. Aside from the hangover, of course. Timlas also claims he won his safe passage playing pai sho with a floating eyeball. You’ve got to remember, he admits he was drunk to begin with.
  • (Gabby) Wizards are drawn to Tembladera. They’re involved in some kind of strange competition with each other. Some of the nobility around Tembladera are secretly wizards involved in the deepest levels of the competition.
  • (Alric) Strang keeps a stable of prize-winning slorn. His stablekeeper is always interested in slorn eggs.

 

What Happened:

Even back in bard school, Jed had always been more interested in the mystical side of the job. In the magic-rich society of Tembladera, his full magical talent has blossomed. Between trips into the dungeon, he had sought out training in the wizardly arts, and this week, he graduated to full membership in the Order of the Sun. As a fully-fledged wizard, he was invited to the weekly wizardly get-together for tea and conversation. While there, he saw Strang, in the distance, from behind. He also learned of the competition among the arcane in Tembladera, which has drawn wizards from around the world. They’re all seeking the three so-called Wondrous Projects, artifacts of craft and enchantment which were the focus of the dwarven empire’s efforts in the days shortly before its fall. Details of these artifacts are not readily available, but there’s lots of speculation. Apparently, if any one wizard were to get ‘hold of all three Projects, that wizard would be able to learn the secrets of the universe, return to the Old World and take over Spain, achieve his heart’s desire, win friends and influence people… They’re your basic, all-around MacGuffins.

The next day, the party heard back from Strang about the orichalcum globe they had recovered from the orcs. Strang’s manservant, Mamu, delivered a sealed message, a small box tied with twine, and a crate. The message indicated that the globe was, indeed, one of the relics that Strang has been collecting. It spoke of a song, growing as more pieces are gathered, indicating that more pieces would be found in the ruins, in the chambers of the the beings that the party calls flame lords. He explained that the small box contained the price of safe passage, while the larger would serve as payment and reward for the globe.

When opened, the crate turned out to contain an oversized great axe of fine quality, carved with dwarven runes declaring it to be named “Cleaver”. Jed immediately saw to the heart of Cleaver’s enchantment, declaring that it would strike more powerful blows against foes of the goblinoid races. A grin split Alric’s beard, as he picked up the new axe and took a few experimental swings. Seeing the barbarian’s glee, the rest of the party considered it fair payment and then some for the otherwise-useless globe.

This led to a discussion of their plans for the next trip into the ruins. Gabby suggested a return to the pit of darkness for another “fishing” expedition, but that idea was voted down as too dangerous, for now. It was put aside until they’re better equipped.

TKotBO felt honor-bound to pursue the aims of Strang. Having developed something of a working relationship with the nobleman, he felt the first stirrings of what could develop into a liege/vassal arrangement. Thus, his honor demanded that he further Strang’s work. He argued for investigating the fiery men that Gabby and Needles had seen. Jed agreed, adding that they had clues indicating Jim Kadabra was being held by the flame lords. In the end, the rest of the party agreed to this mission.

During the debate, Höss showed up, asking if the party planned another trip into the ruins. Being pleased with his performance on the previous trip, the party agreed to hire him for their next. The fact that he sends much of his income back home to his family came up in conversation.

On the way out of town, the party ran into Dean and Roman, the young shieldbearers, and re-hired them, as well. In all the excitement of getting going and moving against a strong enemy, the party neglected some of their usual preparations. They didn’t stop off at the church to receive new blessings, and so some of the party did without. (The lucky few still had their blessings from the previous trip.) It wasn’t until they were at the dungeon that they realized the Continual Light enchantments on their torches had worn out.

Still, the party was in good spirits as they made their way out of town, along the trail, past the statues of the one-eyed giant and the three monkeys, through the ford at the river near the ruined watchtower, and up the steep mountain trail towards the stone table. It was there that Needles spotted an over-eager sniper, attempting to conceal himself behind the table. When he raised the alarm, a gang of around a dozen bandits sprang their ambush prematurely. Even so, the party was surrounded.

During the first few seconds of the combat, the party didn’t even know who was attacking. Even so, they reacted with quick and decisive action. Gabby and TKotBO turned to deal with the bandits coming up from behind, throwing one to his doom on the rocks below, then ganging up to cut the other down. Jed threw a Concussion spells, one of his favorites, which opened a gap in the enemy lines to the front. Alric and Needles advanced forward, taking advantage of that gap. Alric set to chopping down the main body of goblins, so identified by the axe’s extra damage kicking in. Needles moved past that group to engage the left flank, taking an arrow wound to the leg from the snipers in the process. This wasn’t enough to slow him down, so he continued on and got into a short, brutal sword fight, throwing one off the cliff and gutting the other.

In the time it took the snipers to fire once and re-load, every bandit within twenty feet of a PC was messily dead, so they decided to head for the horizon. Seeing the poorness of the bandits’ equipment, the party declined to pursue. They efficiently stripped the bandits of all useful equipment, upgrading a grateful Höss’ armor in the process. Dean and Roman would have scored some armor, too, but they already had better equipment… which speaks to the poverty of the bandits. The party paused for a few minutes to patch up and rest, then continued on to their usual “parking spot” near the dungeon entrance with no further excitement.

At this point, now wary over the threat of bandits and other danger above-ground, the party re-considered their usual policy of posting Dobby, alone, as camp guard. Instead, they left the mounts and all the hirelings, with only the main PCs making the trip into the dungeon.

This time, they were feeling pretty confident. They went in loud, with Gabby in front “beating pots and pans” followed by a rattling Knight of the Blood Oath, at a jog. Even so, nothing took any interest. The entrance area appeared to be deserted. Putting together a more conventional marching order — and discovering that they had to actually light their torches — they moved through familiar territory: down the long hall to the second stone head. Along the way, Needles noticed and pointed out a lurking reek, which Jed disposed of with one of his new yellow-robe spells.

Here, the party paused, with Jed observing that he had never actually seen the other side of the stone head, only heard about it from the others. Needles and TKotBO described the troll room in disparaging terms, dismissing any ideas of being interested in returning. Jed pointed out the two unexplored exits on the map.

It was pointedly observed that whenever the party finally gets themselves organized and on a mission, that’s when people start thinking of all the side quests and unopened doors. 😉

In unanimous agreement, the party forged ahead. They made their way through the rough terrain of the old goblin ambush point, then stopped off at the little shop of Zing the Unworthy. Back in town, the party had picked up a broad, sturdy plank. Jed negotiated with Zing to store this plank, when the party isn’t using it to bridge the infamous pit trap up the hall, offering $25 a week. Zing nearly hurt himself agreeing to the deal. Promising that they would be back later to drop it off, they left and put the plank to its intended use, further up the hall.

At the intersection on the far side of the pit, a disagreement came up. With a small hall to the right, and a larger hall to the left, they weren’t sure which direction to turn. They unfolded the map and set to studying it, while disagreeing over it loudly, while holding torches high for light. Even so, no wandering monster appeared. (Even so, players have started noticing when I’m rolling the dice “aimlessly”. They realized their peril and got it straightened out quick.) They took the left turn, coming up to the door into the room full of statues.

As team negotiator, Jed took the lead, carrying the small tied box. He carried it through the breach in the wall, into the warm natural caverns of the flame lords.

As before, two of the fiery humanoids were here, playing at some obscure game while guarding the two exits. They didn’t seem to speak any natural language, so Jed started off with gestures. As Strang had predicted, the contents of the box were accepted to buy the party safe passage (with some caveats, which came up later). One of the flame lords burnt the cord and opened the box, taking the amulet it found inside.

The flame lords led the party to the right, into a room where another half-dozen of the fiery men were standing around. On the far side of the natural chamber, they could see a hole leading downwards. Their hosts didn’t object when the party moved towards it, so they climbed down the hole to see what they would find.

The already-high temperature rose as they went, so Jed cast Resist Fire on everyone. They made their way through a twisty cave, eventually dropping a rope down a twenty-five foot sheer rock face to make their way to a wide ledge. The ledge overlooked a huge cavern, probably a hundred feet deep and over forty feet across, lit from below with a reddish light. Towards the bottom of the chamber, a hole in the wall was spouting molten lava, which collected in a pool at the bottom of the cave.

This huge space was occupied by at least a couple dozen of the flame lords, as well as flying birds made of fire. The flame lords would climb up the walls to perches around the cave, where they would high-dive into the lava.* Some of the flame lords were swimming around in the pool. There were two other objects to be seen, floating in the lava: an open ring, about eighteen inches across, and something shaped like an elephant’s tusk, about five feet long. Both were made of metal that looked like bronze, but they weren’t melting. Likely, they were the pieces of orichalcum that Strang was expecting.

The party stood in indecision for a moment, tossing around different ideas. Finally, Jed sent the rest of the party, less Alric, back to the top of the twisty cave, where the air was only hot, rather than deadly, so he could stop maintaining their Resist Fire spells. (Alric was rugged enough to do without, at least for a little while.) He then attempted to cast Apportation to lift the metal objects from the lava at a distance. Just as he got a “grip” on the orichalcum ring, the flame lord wearing the amulet, who had been acting as their guide to some extent, stepping in front of him and raised a warning finger. Apparently, “safe conduct” didn’t include removing the flame lords’ toys.

It was about this time that Alric realized that the four ice potions he had packed in his bandoleer back in town, in anticipation of battling fiery people, were now missing.

Meanwhile, yards above, the rest of the party were climbing out of the hole only to find themselves confronted by a huge, multi-tentacled worm-thing. The half-dozen flame lords were lined up against the wall, heads down. The worm-thing introduced itself, in an arrogant tone, as “Lord Kimboat”**, and demanded that they surrender. TKotBO answered the challenge from the edge of the hole, where he was clumsily climbing up, then watched as Gabby and Needles flew up the last of the climb and across the room, puncturing the thing from every direction. After only a few attacks, the thing popped like a soap bubble, leaving no sign of its existence. This was cause for great upset and unrest for the three PCs.

Alric and Jed returned from their experiment to find the others shaken by their experience. Discussion of their next steps was inconclusive. While they had gathered valuable intelligence, they didn’t have a clear plan to act upon that intelligence. Jed used his magic to get around the language barrier, using Lend Language on their apparent guide. This allowed the party to get the answers to some of their questions, but still no plan appeared. The flame lord denied any knowledge of worm-things in general, or Lord Kimboat specifically.

Nervous, the party started to head back to more familiar environs, then realized that they had only taken the right-hand fork after the statue room. They asked if they could check out the left-hand fork, but this request was denied. Their guide claimed that the left fork wasn’t their territory, and that they had a long-standing peace treaty with someone, but part of the treaty was to keep quiet about details about that someone.

Intrigued, the party asked the flame lord if any of them had seen Jim Kadabra, giving a description. The flame lords conferred among themselves, and agreed that they had seen such a creature. It had been dragged through by “another creature”. Again, no details could be had about this other creature.

By now, the party’s curiosity was unstoppable. While the others distracted the flame lords, Needles and Gabby quietly slipped into the shadows and down the left-hand passage.

There, they found another half-dozen flame lords, wandering aimlessly around a cavern similar to the one they had just come from. Similar, that is, except for the corner walled off by wooden beams, with a sturdy door in the wall. With, forsooth, a welcome mat.

Needles moved to unlock the door, then hesitated. Moving aside the welcome mat, he found that it covered a cavity holding a set bear trap, ready to clamp down on the first foot laid on the mat. Chuckling to himself at his own cleverness, he tossed a rock to trigger the trap, then turned his attention back to the lock. As he was working on picking the lock, he felt the sting of a needle trap poking his hand. It was poisoned, but he made his HT roll and took no damage. However, he was mightily distracted for a moment.

While Needles was busy, with his attention on the door, Gabby was standing back keeping an eye on the situation. This didn’t help at all, though, as she felt, but did not see, a rope garrote settle around her neck. Suddenly, she was being strangled from behind! Of course, she couldn’t speak to get Needles attention, so she struggled alone for several seconds. Gabby finally did manage to get Needles’ attention, though he didn’t know exactly what was going on. Seeing no enemy there, he nevertheless aimed his sword at the back of Gabby’s neck. Just before he laid the point to her skin, the pressure on her throat was released.

The two swashbucklers were again unsure what to make of events, but they had their eyes on a prize, now. They moved towards the door once again. This time, a translucent, skeletal figure wielding a two-handed sword stepped through the door and announced that they would not pass. After a bit of inconclusive conversation, it swung at Needles, which seemed to signal the six nearby flame lords to advance.

Thinking quickly, Gabby reached into her pack and pulled out… her dire wolf pup! “Go get help, boy!” she shouted, toss the pup scrambling towards the cave entrance and fast-drawing her rapiers. The flame lords started throwing balls of fire at the two adventurers, who were agile enough to avoid any serious damage. They responded by attacking the nearest pair of flaming men, who turned out to be quite rugged.

The untrained pup ran wildly back into the cavern where the others were still pulling their shuck-and-jive on the guide and the other flame lords. Alric, being knowledgeable in the ways of animals, immediately realized the import of the canine’s appearance and body language. (Crit success on the Animal Handling roll.) “They’re under attack!” he shouted, running for the left-hand passage, followed closely by Jed and TKotBO. They left the startled flame lords in their dust.

The party reunited in the cave with the locked door. Gabby and Needles started off across the room from the rest of the party, who came piling in the doorway. A sprawling melee followed. The six flame lords displayed the ability to absorb an astounding amount of damage, and the party began to think they had bitten off more than they could chew. That is, until Needles drew one of his two ice potions and poured it over the head of a flame lord in close combat, finally producing a satisfying amount of damage, which showed the way to take the foe down effectively. In the end, two of the flame lords were extinguished, leaving valuable cinders behind, and four were knocked out.

During the later stages of the combat, Needles moved back towards the door, ignoring the apparently-harmless ghost, and found himself under attack. He felt a rope settle around his neck and begin strangling him, but he was able to wriggle free. He saw a length of rope fall to the ground at this feet, then he felt the distinctive sensation of his armor absorbing a stab in the back. Turning, he saw nothing, and menaced it with his short sword.

Jed (rolled a critical success on a Hearing check and) heard the sound of footsteps running by him, where he saw no feet to make the sound. Thinking quickly, he threw out his baton and cast Fascinate on whatever unseen creature was hurrying past, capturing its attention. Holding the pose, he drew TKotBO’s attention to the area where the whatever-it-was must be lurking. The Knight, for his part, shield-bashed the area. With a solid BONG!…

… an unconscious halfling fell to the floor. A quick search revealed that he was carrying a short sword and wearing a gold ring.

Meanwhile, Needles had paid no attention to the ineffective ghost, which Jed had finally identified as an illusion, and concentrated on unlocking the door. Managing this neatly, he threw open the door, then jumped backwards at the sound of a firing crossbow. Aside from the bear trap and the poison needle, the door had also had a crossbow on a tripwire! Saved by his quick reflexes, he moved into the space beyond the door.

He found a small but cozy apartment, with a bed, small table set for two, fireplace with rug in front of… and a familiar gentleman sitting in a rocking chair, nursing a glass of cognac: Jim Kadabra! He babbled out a surrender, but then made the mistake of starting the words of what sounded like a spell. Needles put an elbow into the illusionist’s jaw, knocking him to the floor and putting a decisive end to any of that nonsense.

The others grabbed up the unconscious halfling. Knowing that they would at least have to fight that same fight over again in the next room if they tried to exit, they instead followed Needles through the door. They slammed the door shut and locked it behind them. Jed wasn’t surprised to see his friend, but was a trifle startled at his position on the ground. Alric threw himself, exhausted, onto the rug in front of the fire.

Next step, they tell me: interrogation.

 

* Totally stole it, from a classic source. Probably worth a rumor to identify where from… 😉

** Stole that, too, but I bet it’s easier to research, so I’d only give bonus xp.

 

Real Life Eats Game, Playfully Mauls GM

Yeah, no play synopsis this month. Sadly, real life came along and rolled right over the regularly-scheduled game. To make a long story short, our usual play venue had a plumbing-related malfunction at a really bad time. The situation is contained and corrected, at this point, but the game had to be cancelled. What with one thing and another, I’ve been too short on time to post… then I had time, but no energy… then I had time and energy, but no opportunity… and, now, finally, we’re back to something like normal life on something resembling a normal schedule.

Some of the gang came to visit and give me a hand when I really needed it. In appreciation, I think I’ll give ’em the choice of a special GM-awarded character point, or a free rumor. Least I can do, really, since everybody’s character missed out on the monthly infusion of experience points.

I’ve requested a “to do” list from the players:  a list of things that the party needs to do, places it needs to go, rumors they want to follow up on, and that sort of thing. By now, they’ve started to get oriented and make plans. If I know what direction they’re heading in, I can make sure there’s something more interesting than a blank map edge waiting for them there. So far, a couple of ideas have come up.

Jed feels like he should follow up on Kadabra’s illusionary plea for rescue from the flame lords, but he’s uncertain. The first illusion called him by name, which makes him think it was for real. On the other hand, the second illusion, the one with the fairy talking up the wealth to be had if one were to take out the flame lords, makes him wonder if something more is going on. Either way, his plan is to use his alchemical skills to brew up a few cold-based potions to use as anti-fire grenades, when they finally do decide to move against the flame lords. It’s an expensive solution, he admits, but after all, there’s only two of them. The total price shouldn’t be prohibitive.

On the other hand, TKotBO wants to explore. He points out that there’s a whole big chunk of map that needs filling in, if one were to go left at the second big stone head, rather than taking the right, as they have been. There’s lots of doors they haven’t opened, yet.

I’m looking forward to hearing what other ideas come up. The players never have the same perception of the world as what I expect. Getting a look at their plans is one of the best ways I know to get inside their heads.

 

 

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

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

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

Missing, but mentioned:

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

Rumors Gathered:

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

 

What Happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

negotiations2

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

negotiations

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

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

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

“What-?” Jed began.

“They took the girl,” TKotBO snapped.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“The Delving Band With No Name”, Session #5

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, the barbarian with a heart of gold (PC)
  • Gabby, sailor-turned-pirate-turned-adventurer, whose love of gold outweighs her sense of self-preservation (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, singer of songs and teller of tales (PC)
  • The Knight Of The Blood Oath, like a rock (PC)
  • “Dobby”, goblin henchman and keeper of the sables (NPC)

Missing, but mentioned:

  • Needles, rogue who doesn’t know the trouble he’s got in his pouch (PC)

Rumors Gathered:

None, since this was the second half of their third trip into the dungeon. No rumors, but plenty of good intel…

 

What Happened:

Picking up where we left off last time, the party had made it to the far side of the Great Bridge and through the door. Inside, they found a hallway, much larger and more impressive than the halls of the area they had left behind. The chasm shadowed the door, so the sunlight only went so far. From the darkness beyond their sight, they could hear the sound of many approaching feet, the cracking of whips, and angry bellowing in a disturbingly deep register.

“I’ve got an idea,” Needles said, then faded into the shadows, to be seen no more this session.

Quickly discussing their situation, the party decided they could better fortify themselves back on the side of the bridge where they had come from. “We’re running?” Gabby asked. When she got the nod, she tore off at a full sprint.

Before the others could really get their retreat in gear, the orcs’ first wave came in sight: half a dozen humanoid slaves in loincloths, chained to a battering ram with a crude “cow-catcher” on its front and running full-tilt with their heads down. With sinking hearts, the party saw the plan. The enemy hoped to knock them off the bridge to their doom as they fled.

Knowing that there was no way TKotBO could outrun the sprinting slaves, Alric grabbed him by the collar of his armor and took off dragging him. Being fleet of foot, Alric seemed to have the speed advantage, even with the extra weight.

Jed wasn’t as fast, but he was plenty quick. Dodging around the door, he avoided being caught by the ram. He jumped astride it as the slaves ran by and used his Rapier Wit to distract them all. Losing their teamwork, the group became tangled up and fell in a heap, Jed among them.

Meanwhile, the second wave came into view, observed only by TKotBO, being dragged backwards. First came an enraged, bellowing siege beast, a goblinoid creature even bigger than Alric, with bands of metal crudely welded around its entire body and huge metal hammers enclosing its fists. It was closely followed by two orcs with whips, snapping at its heels to encourage it. They, in turn, were followed by a gang of ragged, armed orcs.

Meanwhile, Gabby had continued her headlong flight, paying little attention to the sounds behind her. The one exception was when she heard the arrow coming towards her back, from the windows overlooking the bridge. She narrowly dodged the arrow (to a chorus of “She used to be an adventurer like us” jokes), making it to the cover of the bridge’s central structure. She would make it all the way back to the door that the party had originally come through, then stopped there, panting, before looking back.

In a moment of pure team spirit*, Alric spun in a tight circle, using his free hand to grab up Jed from where he was struggling free of the wreckage, and carried on running away, with the bard over his shoulder and TKotBO dragging behind, sparks flying. This prompted a cheer from the observers at the windows, twenty feet above. The equivalent of “Hey y’all, watch this!” in Goblinistani came from the right-hand windows… and a streak of light flew from the window towards Alric’s feet.

Thinking quickly, and with very few options remaining, Jed used his bard’s magic and spoke a Command to Alric: “Throw!”

Burdened as he was, and carrying his two comrades the way he had been, Alric, too, had few options. He chose to interpret the Command as requiring him to try for distance. He spun and flung TKotBO before him. The heavily armored warrior flew nearly five feet before plowing into the paving stones.

Then, the explosive fireball went off at Alric’s feet.

Both the bard and the barbarian were hurt. Jed went down, unconscious and on the verge of death, while Alric struggled on. TKotBO felt the heat of the blast, but with the extra distance from being thrown, his armor was sufficient to protect him.

While all of this was going on, the siege beast had trampled over the fallen slaves, crushing them beneath its metal-shod feet. The wreckage somewhat hampered the escorting orcs. After the fireball went off, the beast was able to close the distance. It hammered Alric into the ground, unconscious, to a round of cheers from the watchers above.

TKotBO made it to his feet during this time. Shouting at Gabby to save herself, he turned his shield towards the siege beast and stepped forward, prepared to hold the bridge.

This drew another round of cheers. As the two combatants closed the distance between them, the same voice from above jeered, “I’ll put ten copper on the knight!”

TKotBO shouted back “I’ll take some of that action!”

Then the melee was joined. The orcs stood back and cheered. Gabby took advantage of the distraction to return, going over the edge of the bridge and climbing along the side, where she eventually discovered a narrow ledge to run along. TKotBO and the siege beast — inevitably christened “Mongo” — went at it hammer and tongs, with neither able to land a telling blow. TKotBO was dripping with sweat, burning Fatigue at a breakneck pace, to keep up an impenetrable defense with his shield. He repeatedly landed shots on the beast’s head, trying to find the chinks in its armor.

As he did so, TKotBO kept side-stepping to the right, slowly rotating the fight around his opponent. Finally, he had the beast turned entirely around, facing back the way it had come from. Gabby took advantage of this to spring back over the edge of the bridge and try to sneak up behind it. Her rapier wasn’t able to penetrate the beast’s armored hide, but it was enough to distract the thing. TKotBO had been playing the long game, getting into position, and that was the opening he had been looking for. He had been holding one of the party’s new healing potions in his shield hand the entire time, just as a standard precaution. He threw the vial onto Alric, shattering it and dousing the barbarian with the potion. Enough entered his wounds to bring him back to consciousness, if only barely.

Now, the siege beast faced three opponents, using wolf pack tactics. TKotBO shouted to Alric to hang back, then joined Gabby in harassing the beast. Amazed at the spectacle before them, the orcs began to cheer on both sides. Alric grabbed another healing potion from Jed’s bandoleer, bringing him back to fighting shape. Ignoring TKotBO’s warnings, the barbarian entered the fray, joining the line alongside the holy warrior.

The big man’s great axe made all the difference. With several mighty strokes, and another head shot from TKotBO’s morning star, the siege beast fell. It was unconscious, barely. TKotBO was ready to drop from fatigue, while Alric was still badly wounded. They quickly slipped Jed a healing potion, which brought him back to the land of the living, then turned towards the rest of the orcs.

Luckily, the enemy was impressed by their performance. The owner of the voice, Gort the goblin mage, and his partner, Grogmar the orc ranger, came down to meet the party and parlay. Jed was shaky, but on his feet, so he took over the diplomatic negotiations. TKotBO staggered about, administered first aid, while Gort and Jed talked. As it turned out, Gort’s mocking wager had earned him some winnings, so he was kindly disposed towards TKotBO and the others, while the orcs respected the show of strength. Sips from flasks were shared. TKotBO did some first aid on Mongo, then gave him one of the party’s lesser healing potions. Gestures of goodwill were made on all sides. Alric found that he shared a certain rough kinship with these people. Finally, the orcs invited the party upstairs for drinks.

They were taken back to the door on the far side of the bridge, then perhaps another eighty or hundred feet down the hall. In consideration to the humans, the orcs lit torches. While the hall continued on, there was a broad stairway off to the right, which they took. At the top of the stairs, they found a curtain of moldering tapestries and lengths of chain, hung to foil sneak attack, which the orcs parted for them. Beyond the curtain, they found a landing where the stair turned before continuing up. Several dire wolves were here, along with bedrolls and such, indicating a standing watch.

At the top of the second flight of stairs, they came out into a crossroads of wide halls. In the middle of the juncture sat a statue of a subjugated goblin in rags and chains, sitting on a pedestal. As the crowd approached, the statue moved, seeming to tilt its head to listen to the hubbub. The party remarked upon this, but their hosts waved off their questions: “Oh, don’t worry, it does that.”

Jed approached the statue to investigate closer, with the orcs and Gort following along. He tried speaking several words to the statue, to no avail, until he finally hit upon the Dwarven word “treasure”. The statue straightened up and pointed towards the right, where the orcs obligingly held up torches to display a set of double doors, further down the hall. “We never have gotten those open,” Gort commented. TKotBO went to check out the door more closely, while Jed tried a few more words on the statue. At the word “armory”, the statue pointed to the left.

Satisfied, Jed went to join TKotBO. The two noticed a brass plate over the doors. They wiped off the soot and mold of years, revealing the word “storeroom” in dwarvish runes.  “So are we drinking or what?” Gort asked.

“Drinking,” the party answered. Gort and the orcs led the party to the left, in the direction of the “armory” indication, and brought them through another set of double doors into a large room. The room had clearly been a fine place in its day, with extensive carvings and goblin gargoyles holding up the corners of a vaulted ceiling. It had windows looking out on the Great Bridge, and signs that this was the orcs’ common room. A place of honor was given over to an elaborately painted barrel of dwarven beer. Drinks were drawn for all. Jed wisely let Gort take the first toast before joining in on the revelry. TKotBO was just happy for a place to sit down and rest.

As the carousing went on, the party offered to act as go-betweens with Tembladera’s merchants on behalf of the orcs, hoping to set up profitable trade. Gort seemed somewhat interested in the idea. When asked what sort of goods they would be interested in purchasing, they were told “Strong drink!”

When asked about the dead slaves, Gort was dismissive. “If we need more, we’ll go across the bridge and take some more,” he said. As far as Dorgob, the dead orc knight, the goblinoids’ position seemed to be that since the party killed him in a fair fight, that he had agreed to, his stuff was their loot. Nobody made much mention of their treachery during that duel.

For his part, Mongo didn’t seem to have any hard feelings about being beat down. He had been given healing, which was somewhat more than he was accustomed to, and then Alric poured drinks into his mouth. For a siege beast, that’s a good day.

TKotBO mentioned their quest for orichalcum, which prompted Gort to call for one of the orcs’ treasures. It was a globe of orichalcum, outlined in curved bars with thin wire in between. The party was properly impressed. Jed made an offer to trade many “goblin cigarettes” for the thing, which drew a laugh from Gort. “We can’t sell it, that don’t mean we don’t know it’s expensive.”

Eventually, Gort offered to show the party what the orcs “farmed”. He led the party, and the horde of orcs, down the hall to a large room. On the right, there was a profusion of hanging chains, pulleys, and cranes, with an elderly goblin moving among them with an oil can doing maintenance. On the left, they saw Mongo’s nesting place. In the center, the floor fell away into a dark well, perhaps thirty feet across.

Everyone looked over the edge into the impenetrable darkness. TKotBO could sense that the pit was just chock-full of supernatural beings, including demons.

Gort called for a lit torch, which was passed up quickly. He tossed it over the edge. As everyone watched, the torch tumbled for around a hundred feet, then was suddenly snuffed out. The way the torch went out was strange; it didn’t seem to go out like you would expect if it had, for example, fell into water, but the distance was too great to be sure.

“May I?” Jed asked, making as if to drop a second torch.

“Go ahead,” Gort said. “We do it all the time.”  As Jed leaned over, he added, “It makes them mad.”

The bard used his magic to enhance his vision, and threw the torch over. This time, he could see something like hands of darkness reaching out to take the torch. Comparing notes with TKotBO, they combined their knowledge of demonology and thaumatology, concluding that they were seeing the work of Demons From Beyond The Stars.**

Gort and Nort, the elderly goblin, explained further. The orc band’s main occupation was “farming” this pit. They had found it, full of darkness and demons. (“But they’re thicker towards the bottom,” one of the goblins confided.) The demons had apparently occupied the pit since the days of the fall of the dwarves, since the pit was still full of ancient dwarven treasures. They would tie ropes around searchers, then lower them into the pit to grab what they could, before the demons gathered to tear them apart: high risk, high reward.

The party met one goblin slave who had made the trip.  “Three times,” he proudly announced. He described the general outline. The pit descended for some distance before opening into a wider shaft. That shaft was surrounded by balconies and ancient dwarven apartments.

TKotBO announced that his destiny would be to go down in that hole, but not today. It would have to wait for proper preparations. Strategy. Gear. Planning, and contingency planning.

“There’s treasure down there?” Gabby asked. This was confirmed.  “Give me a rope,” she said. The orcs cheered.

A crane was brought up to anchor Gabby while TKotBO and Jed tried to talk her out of going in. Alric’s response was more direct: he took his ax to the crane, citing its untrustworthy technological nature. As everybody passed around a “is the barbarian drunk?” look, Gort had Mongo and Alric led away for more drinks, while Nort had a replacement crane brought up.

Gabby could not be talked out of making the descent. Taking one of the party’s enchanted torches, she waved off her comrades and rappelled into the pit. When she hit the section where the wall fell away, she free-climbed across the blocks to get a better look at the situation before jumping in. This turned out to be wise, as she found three zombies standing over a corpse on the nearby balcony. There was no rail along the edge, but she could see the holes where they had likely been anchored. It seems that the wooden railing and stairs had rotted, or been torn, away.

Scrambling back, she reported what she had seen. TKotBO still protested against any further descents until they had improved their situation. Of course, Alric and Jed declared that they had to make the trip, too. TKotBO was talked into supporting Alric’s rope, so the barbarian wouldn’t have to depend on evil technology. The three descended.

Gabby repeated her free-climbing escapade, but Alric and Jed couldn’t match her performance. They swung around to get a grip on the edge of the balcony, while Gabby flanked the zombies, dropping in behind them. The party members tossed one of their enchanted torches on the corpse to better light the scene for the fight with the zombies.

To their surprise, the corpse rustled when hit. Then, three creatures shot from the corpse towards the delvers’ faces. Leaping leeches!

Gabby side-stepped hers, which splatted against the wall and was rapidly stepped on. Jed was barely on the edge when he saw the leech flying towards his face, so he simply stepped back one step and let the rope take his weight. The leech sailed out into the darkness to fall to the bottom of the shaft.

Alric’s leech, on the other hand, hit him squarely between the eyes. It rared back and tried to drive its fangs into his skin… and failed. Northern barbarian hide is some pretty tough stuff. Seeing that it was harmless, Alric ignored it for the rest of the fight.

…which was really short. Gabby put her rapiers through one zombie’s head multiple times. The other two were tricked and/or shoved over the edge, following the leech. The three happily looted the corpse, finding some unexceptional armor and one quite exceptional gold ring***, set with a piece of polished amber. They tugged on their ropes and returned topside.

The orcs cheered to see that all three had lived. Gort happily slapped them on their backs and said, “Next time, we’ll talk about payment for a dive.”  Apparently, first trip’s free.

The party parted ways with the orcs on good terms, trading final toasts and promising to return with trade goods. They quickly returned to the familiar areas of the dungeon. This time, rather than trying to climb around the pit trap that claimed Rho’s life, they sent Gabby on ahead to fetch the broken door from the ogre’s room, and used it to bridge the gap. No further injuries occurred.

Hustling back to the stone face where the party met Jim Kadabra, they paused for a moment so Jed could take a closer look. He discovered a live-capture mouse trap behind it, containing a piece of cheese. He tried to steal the cheese, but managed to get his hand caught. Alric had to tear the trap apart to free him.

The party returned to Dobby and the mounts, then made their way back to town without further incident. Each received nearly $1500 as a share, easily enough to pay their bar tabs for the coming week.

* … which did, indeed, earn him the Cool Point for this session…

** And, oh my YES did that get a wide-eyed stare of disbelief. 🙂

*** First gold!

 

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