- 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)
- Höss, Dean, and Roman, hirelings who barely appeared, and then had no lines (NPC)
None, since we pick up with the delvers still in the dungeon.
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.