Don't Forget Your Boots

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Tag: The Great Bridge

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #19

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

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

Not appearing in this session:

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

Rumors Gathered:

Alric picked up some directions while talking at the inn:

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

McSwayze spent some time in the library:

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

Gabby gathered some gossip while drinking:

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

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

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

What Happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How many charges? Enough.

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

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

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

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

* * *

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

 

“Corbin, Inc. – Now with additional Corbin!”, Session #17

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, barbarian from the far North who ain’t get on no dang teleportin’ machine, Hannibal! (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, the pirate-swashbuckler who would not DIE! (PC)
  • The Knight of the Blood Oath, aka TKotBO, aka Corbin, holy warrior, founding member of the party, and prodigal returned (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk sniper-scout who’s thinking she might need to get more exercise after all these restful combats (PC)
  • Rolf, new hire, dog-folk knight, and giver of free, very disturbing, hugs (PC)
  • Tantric McSwayze, leprechaun demonologist, learning to adapt his style to the needs of the dungeon (PC)
  • Dean and Roman, long-lost junior members of the shield wall (NPC hirelings)

Not appearing or not entirely player-controlled this session:

  • D’arth Loathing, corpse-eater unholy warrior, out searching for his nemesis, a holy warrior whose name he does not know… (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, proprietor of the newest underground blues club and breakfast bar in all of Tembladera (PC)
  • Needles, too busy spending money (and shoplifting) in all the best shops to go into the dungeon this week (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s loyal goblin valet, probably still tied up outside the inn (NPC henchman)
  • Pai, cat-folk cleric and Posy’s loyal frenemy, left behind due to miscommunication, slept in and had a nice brunch instead… (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s eager young apprentice, now learning how to mix a proper martini (NPC henchman)

Rumors Gathered:

With Needles missing, Posy took over his rumor beat, on the bad side of town:

  • One of the sewer inhabitants named D’arth Fester is trying to sell some artifacts he claims were made by the dwarves before their empire fell. Nobody understands what they are. They’re thick, rectangular pieces of glass, a bit larger than a human hand, set in an orichalcum frame. “Word on the street was, you might be interested…?”
    • Posy gave the informer a look that clearly said, no, she wasn’t.
  • There’s a tribe of leprechauns that lives in the mountains. Rumor has it that they have a secret horde of gold stashed away in the dungeon. If you catch one of them, you might be able to get ’em to tell you where it’s hidden.

Gabby, Alric, and Rolf hung around at the inn.

  • Gabby overheard the ramblings of a drunk outside the inn. He said he went into the ruins to help search for a lost child, but ran into something that he cannot describe, something which obviously frightened him badly. He says that since then, his luck’s been soured and his nerve has been broken.
  • She also saw a gambling halfling thrown out of the inn when it was discovered that she was actually a leprechaun in disguise.
  • Alric hung out with a new arrival, fresh off the boat, who claimed that he saw a sea serpent as big as his ship on the voyage. He says it would have attacked, but the sailors distracted it by throwing some cured hams overboard and taking evasive action.
    • Alric: “So there’s hams in the water? Guys, we need to get a boat.”
  • Rolf heard a story from a warrior who told of how his party thought they had found an unguarded entrance into the ruins, through a door halfway up a sheer cliff face. When they tried to climb to it, though, they found themselves under attack by gargoyles who had hid among the rocks. The gargoyles grabbed the party’s packs and flew away with them, dragging several party members to their doom.

What Happened:

Alric spent the week practicing the finer points of the swashbuckling way, improving his acrobatic skills. He also practiced with his shiny new weapon of mass dungeon destruction, “Stormbringer”, an oversized dwarven great-axe with a backup hammer-head. In return for Gabby’s help in his training, Alric helped her with the final touches of training for her dire wolf pup (last seen back in session #7!), now a fully grown alpha female, ready to take her place at Gabby’s side.

During the week, Jed opened his new tavern. The party changed the location of their morning meetings from The Inn to Jed’s new place. (GM note:  I didn’t even realize until just now, but I don’t think I ever caught a name for the place. Given the way the humor skewed this session, I’m a little afraid to wonder…)  One of the traditions of the business was that the party’s usual table had a chair that no one was allowed to sit in, with a nice red cushion:  the Chair of the Blood Oath. It was reserved for Corbin, Inc.’s absent leader, The Knight of the Blood Oath.

Opening the bar didn’t keep Jed so busy that he couldn’t pursue other business, though. He recruited Rolf, a dog-folk warrior who fights with morningstar and spiked shield, to help bolster the party’s strength. Being dog-folk, Rolf pretty much hates all living beings that aren’t dog-folk. On the other hand, he’s an avid and enthusiastic member of the Church. He likes to sing. (Nobody says anything about how well he sings. Especially anywhere near him.) The clerics have managed to get the idea through to him that if he wants to sing in the choir, he has to stay on the good side of the gods, and the gods frown on randomly killing and eating one’s fellow church-members. Thus, he tolerates humans, so long as they don’t mind him belting out random hymns in a howl loud enough to wake the dead. And his other bad habit, about (GM: …let’s put the best possible face on it…) being a cuddler with no sense of personal space.

The first piece of business that Jed took care of, though, had been that glowing orb of Needles’. He, of course, took it straight to Strang. Jed and Mamu made the usual exchange for the piece of orichalcum, taking payment in cash, but then the question of the book came up. Mamu wanted to buy it for Strang, but Jed dug in his heels. He didn’t want cash. He desired knowledge.

Therefore, Strang and Jed struck a deal by which both would study Jed’s book, sharing the knowledge thus obtained. As it worked out, Strang clearly understood their shared research as a master/apprentice relationship, with, of course, himself in the masterful role. He put Jed to work doing the arcane equivalent of sweeping the floors and polishing the magical brass. Still, Jed obtained a better idea of what the Apparatus of Argha-hal was. Strang revealed that his researches had reached a point where he thought that he could somehow move people back and forth through space, casting them into the dungeon and recovering them remotely. Of course, this was all theory, until he could find a band of brave adventurers to risk their lives and sanity…

* * *

On the morning of Saturn’s-Day, the party gathered at Jed’s, only to find… sacrilege! Someone sitting in the Chair of the Blood Oath!  Someone wearing… a great helm and a Rol-X shield?  Slurping his drink through a long straw, so he could keep the armor on?  It was TKotBO, last seen back in session #10, back from his long journey!

TKotBO shared a thumbnail sketch of his adventures since they had last seen him. After drawing off Vanger d’Hast’s assassins, he had turned himself to the work of his liege, Strang. He had traveled up and down the coast of the New World, seeking out orichalcum bits held by other wizards and those who had no idea what they had, recovering lost caches hidden here and there. The results of his labor had returned to the tower of Strang, to be added to the growing structure of the Apparatus. He had finally returned to Tembladera, having received a summons. Strang needed him to assemble a group of adventurers with more boldness and greed than self-preservation instinct, to do something about something having to do with the thing… details didn’t really matter. Strang wanted TKotBO and some other folks to do something crazy. It was go time.

While discussing the quest, with some details provided by Jed, someone referred to “Strang’s infernal machine”. Alric latched on to the word “machine”, and flat refused to have anything to do with the endeavor. Machines mean technology mean scary violations of the natural order of things, and Alric doesn’t play that game. While he expanded on his anti-machine argument, a series of gestured conversations were had, which culminated in one of Jed’s bartenders delivering a new mug of ale to Alric. Upon his first quaff, he passed out. They had slipped him a mickey.

So, the party packed up and went down the street to Strang’s tower to volunteer, with Alric thrown over Rolf’s shoulder. TKotBO was able to quickly locate Dean and Roman, his old squire-hirelings, to hire on and help fill out the shield wall. However, in their enthusiasm and without Jed to play nursemaid and make sure everyone was prepared, the party forgot most of their ordinary prep work. Nobody picked up a blessing, all the Continual Light torches and light-stones had worn out, and nobody bought any new healing potions. Thanks to a miscommunication, Posy left Pai behind, but at least she remembered to replenish all her trick arrows.

At Strang’s, Mamu explained the offered quest.  Strang would pay 250sp to each party member, in exchange for playing guinea pig. He thought that he could open a doorway across space and deposit the party in one of the mysterious octagonal rooms. (The party immediately dubbed the octagonal rooms “hearthstones”.) He then thought that he could open another door, later, and retrieve them. After hearing the offer, Gabby led the charge to volunteer.

McSwayze offered some observations on how teleportation magic was one of the few things in this universe to be outright forbidden by the gods. If Strang could do what he claimed he could, it would be an arcane breakthrough of unimaginable proportions.

Mamu showed the party into the room under Strang’s tower where the Apparatus was taking shape. While they rearranged their marching order to take into account the small opening, Strang entered, wearing an expensive robe and a jeweled hat, holding his hands up in front of himself. He was followed by Jed, wearing somewhat less-expensive robes, carrying a box full of mystical paraphernalia. He, in turn, was followed by Trevor, wearing his normal working-wizard’s robes and carrying several bags and bundles of sundries. They set to work around the Apparatus, with Strang taking the lead. He went to work like a man playing the world’s most complicated glass harmonica, touching the orichalcum structure here and there. Under his hands, it began to light up.

In due course, a disk of blue light appeared in the “doorway” of the Apparatus. Shoving Alric’s unconscious body in front of them, Rolf crawling on his knees to fit through the narrow opening, one by one, they entered the portal, and fell into darkness.

* * *

When they came to themselves, they found themselves in a stone-lined chamber. The ceiling twenty feet overhead shed a soft light. One side of the chamber opened out into a hallway, which extended sixty or seventy feet to another, similar room. The midpoint of the hallway widened into a larger room, containing a pool with a low stone curb. Areas of this chamber, and the hallway near it, had clusters of razor-sharp metallic crystals, like knife blades, coming out of the walls.

None of this was the most interesting thing about the room, though. In the other chamber, at the far end of the hallways, there was a hole in the floor, with two more-or-less humanoid figures kneeling around it. They were shaped like elves, but with four arms. They were barefoot, wearing shorts and short-sleeved shirts of skin-tight black fabric. Their most striking piece of apparel, however, was their headgear: both wore featureless black masks that covered their entire heads in an unbroken expanse of black leather. They stood, each drawing four long, curved knives from inverted scabbards on their backs.

From his crawling position, Rolf broke into a series of sharp, alarmed barks. This was enough to wake up Alric, who was disoriented to begin with, but quickly caught up. TKotBO and the shield-bearers quickly formed a defensive line across the entire hallway, with the holy warrior belting out instructions:  No one should cross the line without orders. Alric, Gabby, and Rolf should form up in the second rank, taking advantage of their superior reach and range to strike at any enemy who came close enough. Posy and McSwayze should hang back, attacking from range. (The plan had been for McSwayze to summon his demon after they established a toehold on the other side. They hadn’t expected to fall directly into combat. Thus, no big demon to assist.)

Great plan, which lasted all of half a second. The two weird elves burst into movement, blurring from sheer speed. They took up positions at the central fountain. Then, one of them raised a knife-bearing hand, and gave the universally-recognized “come get some” gesture. Gabby couldn’t stand for this, of course; one of the first lessons Cap’n taught her was to not take crap like that off any sailor. She slipped right through the line, ignoring TKotBO’s shouts, and ran to meet them.

While Gabby engaged from the front, Posy came out of the shadows behind the bad guys, taking advantage of surprise to plug one right in the back. She put an Icy Touch arrow into the place where elves keep their lungs. The bad news, he didn’t drop with that tell-tale whistle that said he was done fighting and would rather pray for a while; the good news, he was covered with a thick coating of white frost, which rooted his feet to the floor and seriously cramped his mobility.

The warriors moved forward in good order, maintaining the wall, but it would take a couple of seconds to catch up with Gabby. McSwayze started charging a Stone Missile and picking his target.

While the ice-covered one tried and failed to break free, the other circled around, hitting Gabby several times in the neck, before scampering down the hall, slipping past the warriors, and taking up a position behind them, in easy striking distance of McSwayze! Gabby was gravely wounded, but managed to keep her feet. (GM: I mean, gravely. To the tune of -3xHP, or thereabouts.)

For a long, long time, that pretty much summarized the fight. The one weird elf ran back and forth, taking shots at PCs as it went. The ice-covered one dueled with TKotBO for a bit, before Bubbles, Gabby’s dire wolf pup, finally bit it on the leg and shattered the icy coating. After that, it, too, flashed back and forth like a bolt of lightning with four switchblades. The party members were forced to a defensive footing. Notable moments included Alric fencing with his axe, parrying attacks like the big weapon was a rapier, and TKotBO escaping a series of attacks only because the squires locked shields to protect him.

Gabby wasn’t the only one wounded. At one point, one of the elf-things ended up in position behind Dean, and took advantage of it to cut his throat. He fell, unconscious and barely clinging to life.

Finally, the fight degenerated into a series of critical hits and misses. Between some really lucky rolls when it counted, and some strategic applications of Luck, the Advantage, the party turned the tide. A critical hit meant that the elf-things couldn’t use their overwhelming speed to avoid the attack. A critical miss on an attack, and a critical success on a defense, put them both off-balance. One died of his wounds immediately, while the other lost consciousness after being pin-cushioned by Posy.

“You mind?” Rolf asked the cat-folk archer, waving his morningstar at the prone elf-creature. When she shook her head, indicating the negative, the dog-folk warrior stepped forward and pounded the creature into a wet stain. Things that dangerous don’t get taken prisoner.

The next hour was a mix of exhausted rest, light looting, and miscommunication. TKotBO noticed Dean’s wounds, since they had happened right next to him; he wasn’t so much aware of Gabby’s, since she had been at the other end of the hall. You would think he would have noticed how she was soaked in blood, but, after all, we are talking about a one-eyed man with his head in a bucket. He poured all of his Fatigue into healing Dean, which stabilized him but didn’t bring him back to consciousness, before he realized Gabby needed help as well. Everyone was tired, and could have used a meal, but everybody assumed that nobody had brought any food, even though Alric, being an experienced Barbarian Scout, always carries a little bit of this and that in his pouch, and Posy was carrying some dried fish snacks for later. They settled down at the end of the hall for a long rest.

Shortly after settling down, TKotBO realized that Gabby was bleeding to death, and nobody else in the party knew any first aid to speak of. Therefore, he got up from resting and staggered over to give her an adjustment, his esoteric medicine specialty being chiropractic in nature. Somehow, yanking on her leg helped stop the bleeding in her neck, but she was still near unconsciousness.

The looting didn’t take long at all. They gathered up the elf-things short swords, and recovered one of their hoods. (The other had been on the one Rolf finished off, and nobody cared to dredge it out of the mess.) The thing’s head, once exposed, looked nothing like an elf’s. It had large, black wells of eyes, a nigh-nonexistent nose, a tiny mouth and chin, and nearly no ears. (GM: “A grey,” TKotBO’s player announced, and he’s not wrong.)

The hood seemed to be made of one unbroken piece of leather, with a seam along the back. The seam could be made to open, with a tearing sound, but then seal itself back at a touch, merging so well as to be nearly invisible. The party dared each other to try it on for a moment, before Gabby decided to show ’em how it’s done. She wrapped the mask around her head and sealed it.

For a moment, she could barely breathe, and couldn’t see anything. Then, the mask became transparent, almost like it wasn’t there. Strange runes appeared in her field of vision. Then, she saw something so horrifying that it stunned her for several seconds before she could claw the mask off her face.

That was enough for everybody but TKotBO. He decided to give it a try, too. He saw the same kind of disturbing images, but his training helped him keep his cool. He could feel the mask rubbing his temples in a massaging manner. Considering upon the whole situation, he concluded that the elf-things were clearly some kind of Elder Thing, and so was this mask. None of them were really “alive”, like humans and so forth are alive. They’re all animated things that should not be. Likely, all the strikes at their vitals had been pointless, since the elf-things were just meat puppets for forces outside the universe. Most likely, that wasn’t a massage the mask was giving him… more likely, his head was in the mask-creature’s mouth, and it was trying to digest him.

Ah, well. He could heal himself faster than it could chew. He decided to keep it, wearing it under his cloth cap and great helm.

Finally, TKotBO announced, he had figured out where they were: they were clearly standing somewhere outside of time. These creatures had come from outside time and space. The gods had decreed that teleportation magic couldn’t work. Therefore, what Strang was doing couldn’t be teleportation magic, not really. Obviously, they had been transported to somewhere outside the universe — i.e., outside of time — to sidestep all that tiresome three-dimensional space. Basically, they were taking a shortcut, cutting through the elf-things’ back yard.

This was all philosophically very interesting, but didn’t change the fact that before they were even a third of the way through their proposed rest, Posy and Rolf heard some disturbing sounds from back up the hallway. First, there was a pop, like a soap bubble bursting. Then, there was a whisper of sound like a man-sized cat landing on all fours. Finally, after several seconds, there were a series of “ting” sounds, like someone tapping two knives together to make them ring.

Another one of the things. Maybe more.

In no shape for facing more of those things, the party quickly and quietly moved to escape through the hole in the floor. Up to this point, they had mostly avoided it. A look showed that it was dark, and they had left a guard to make sure nothing crawled out of it while they were resting. Now, they jumped down it, one by one, sliding Dean down with them.

TKotBO led the way, falling the last few yards, but landing in the darkness with uncharacteristic grace. The others dropped in, bringing light, revealing their new location: they were in an octagonal closet. Quarters became tight before they were able to open the door, spilling out into the alchemical lab where they had fought the brass dwarf-golems. Looking back, they found no hole in the closet’s ceiling. It seemed that the hole had actually been, somehow, the other end of Strang’s portal.

If anything, the lab was a better camp site than the Hallway At The Edge Of Time. They set up to finish resting. McSwayze finally summoned his bound demon warrior. After about an hour, there came a slow knocking at the door. McSwayze took advantage of his size and stuck his head under the door to see who was knocking. It turned out to be a fat, naked zombie, and he had a couple of friends with him.

Rolf and Alric formed up to chase off the zombie, and had Gabby — still barely keeping her feet — throw open the door and take cover. When she did, the first zombie gave a big grin and threw up his arms as if to hug Rolf, who ran right into him with a shield slam. The bloated corpse exploded on contact! Rolf was hurt, but Alric managed to throw himself behind the cover of the wall. The explosive zombie’s two buddies also went off, as they had been hit by shrapnel.

Licking at his wounds, Rolf mentioned what a shame it was that nobody had picked up any healing potions. “You mean like these?” Alric asked, revealing a few leftovers from last session that had been rolling around at the bottom of his pouch. Rolf and (finally!) Gabby split them, solidifying the cabin girl’s hold on consciousness.

Eventually, they were ready to explore. Some members of the party were more familiar with the second level of the Pit of Darkness than others, so they decided to go next door to sample the magical fountain. Rolf and TKotBO took drinks that gave them the “best meal you’ve ever had” sensation, but when Gabby tried the water, it burned like acid!  While TKotBO burned more Fatigue to keep her on her feet, Rolf amused himself by searching the fountain for coins.

Instead, he found a brass grate over a drain. Thinking that perhaps any wishing-well coins had washed down the drain, he successfully set his prodigious muscle to the task of tearing the grate loose. Seeing brass rings set into the wall of the drain, he told the others he would be right back, and started to climb down. Being a long-time fan of the buddy system, Alric went to go with him, borrowing one of Posy’s light arrows for illumination.

The others? Well, Gabby sure wasn’t about to cover herself in that acid water! Posy’s reaction was similar, but in her case, she didn’t care that it was magical water, just that it was water at all. TKotBO found the idea dubious, and didn’t care much for wading around in water while wearing his own weight in steel. McSwayze wasn’t that curious, either, and so stayed with the main group.

At first, the lingerers sat and rested, listening to the voices of the wanderers, as they climbed down with magical fountain-water spilling down their necks. Rolf remarked on the strange moss he found growing on the rungs, lower down. Alric answered that it wasn’t moss, it was some kind of… meat. Meat, growing over the brass rungs, and the wall of the well. A little later, Alric noted that those “rock formations” Rolf had observed were actually teeth. Still, they carried on, coming to a larger chamber. There, they found themselves being observed by several saucer-sized eyes set in the wall, and apparently suffering damage from the gaze. The warriors waded around smashing eyes, then continued deeper into the whatever-it-was. Rolf speculated it might be a purple worm.

Those who remained heard the others voices vanish in the distance, then listened to the silence. Eventually, TKotBO said, “Well, they got themselves digested. Damn shame, losing two fine soldiers like that. Shall we move along?” The others agreed, it was time to move on. After a quick discussion, they decided to return to the evil temple once used by the goblins and cleanse it once and for all, since they had McSwayze, a card-carrying exorcist, as well as the faith of TKotBO on their side.

Meanwhile, Rolf and Alric had forced themselves deeper into the foul depths of some gigantic beast. Alric sliced a big chunk of it off with his axe, causing a rumbling disturbance. Reasoning that if they had climbed down its throat, there must be an exit… of some kind… at the far end, they followed the slope of the land, so to speak, until they found a sphincter. One well over six feet in diameter.

At this point, Alric applied some earthy barbarian wisdom to cause the door to open, shall we say. (GM: I’m honestly not even sure what they all finally decided Alric did, specifically. Halfway through, I had to leave the room in tears…)

The two oversized warriors joined a foul and noxious flood of rich organic matter that splattered into a cavern several yards below. They managed to keep their own stomachs under control, but they were both coated with a thick layer of eye-watering nastiness. They waded free and tried to get oriented. It didn’t take long to notice there was a light coming from higher up in the cavern. They wiped off their hands and climbed up the rough rock face, finding themselves on the bottom side of another brass grate. The light was coming from above.

Again, Rolf proved himself stronger than an ancient brass drain cover. The two dragged themselves out of the sewers and into… what seemed to be another alchemical lab. The most notable features were three huge bronze tubs with a layer of burnt-on residue at their bottoms. One had a long leather coat thrown over its rim, which Rolf pocketed. After poking around looking for other treasure, finding none, they looked for exits, finding a stairway leading up and down. They went up.

They passed a side hallway, but continued up, hoping to break out to the surface, or at least some area they recognized. Several times, they offered to each other the possibility of going back and climbing back through Mount Beastie, but neither one found the possibility attractive. A couple of flights of stairs, and they found fog filling the stairwell above them. That was no good, so they turned around and tried the hall.

It led them around to the back of an empty room, with nothing more interesting than a collection of old, burnt torch stubs. They stepped outside the room, finding themselves on a twenty-foot wide balcony overlooking a vast, black space. Their one torch-equivalent wasn’t enough to give them a real idea of their situation. The light couldn’t reach the far side of the chasm.

They stuck their heads into another room or two, finding nothing but broken furniture, before they figured out that there was a broad stairway up in the other direction. They went in that direction, finding a dim light up ahead. Next to a door, they found a stone that had lit up, showing dwarven runes made out of light. Furthermore, the stone spoke with TKotBO’s voice! They opened the door and discovered inside… a dense wall of fog. Figuring they might as well check it out, they girded themselves for battle, and entered the fog.

There, they immediately became lost, and almost immediately became separated.

* * *

Once the somewhat-diminished party climbed to the top of the chain, TKotBO got his bearings and could lead the party to the Great Bridge. While Posy slipped across stealthily and without trouble, McSwayze couldn’t resist taking a shot at the sniper. He sent his winged demon flying up to take a closer look at the tower. Sadly, it took a crossbow bolt to the eye and was dispelled. On the plus side, that was enough of a distraction to let the rest of the party get from one side of the bridge to the other without being targeted.

From there, it was no large task to navigate to the old temple. Before beginning the exorcism, they checked the auditorium. The only thing of interest that they found was a stone behind the altar, which had lit up, displaying dwarven runes. They poked at the stone, trying to figure out how to pull it out of the altar. As they did so, a blue portal opened in mid-air, dropping Alric and Rolf in a foul-smelling pile in front of the altar.

Reunited, the party members reviewed their respective stories. Rolf was enthusiastic about participating in a real, live exorcism, and asked if he could help by singing. When given permission, he started to belt out his own special versions of such old-time Good Church favorites as “What A Mighty Fortress Is Anubis” and “Were You There When They Stabbed Baldur With A Piece Of Mistletoe And Brought About The End Of The Previous Cycle?”

Despite the din — not to mention the odor — TKotBO set to praying and McSwayze started incanting. Over the course of the next two hours, TKotBO had a vision in which he actually got to speak with Saturn, face-to-face. Empowered by this show of faith, McSwayze was able to bind and defeat the demon of the temple with ease. (GM: They both rolled a critical success, TKotBO rolling a complimentary Religious Ritual roll for McSwayze’s exorcism roll… both taking a penalty for Rolf’s failing Singing roll. The dog’s working from default, after all.)

In the lightened, less-cursed atmosphere, Posy noticed a bag of coin hidden under a chair. Considering this a sign from the gods, the party packed up and headed back to town, arriving at the gates of Tembladera after 7:30 PM. Back at the tower, Strang paid them their agreed-upon fee, while asking why they hadn’t taken advantage of the several times he had re-opened the portal for their return?

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #16

 200!

This is the 200th post on the blog, and a record-breaking 16th session in the same campaign, and we not only had a full house, we also added a new player!  Big doin’s all around…

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, axe-master barbarian whose hate for technology outweighed his fear of it (PC)
  • D’arth Loathing, surprisingly likable corpse-eater unholy knight (PC)
  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, 15-year-old ex-pirate and rapier prodigy (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard-wizard thinking deep thoughts due to his recent death and resurrection (PC)
  • Needles, thief-swashbuckler and hero of songs (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk scout raining watery death for a change (PC)
  • Tantric McSwayze, grumpy leprechaun demonologist, fresh off the boat from the Old World, where they stole his lucky charms… (PC)
  • “Dobby”, loyal goblin who thirsts for the blood of Alric’s enemies… still in the rear with the gear (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s loyal apprentice, lookout, and hat-passer (NPC henchman)
  • Pai, cat-folk cleric who tags along with Posy (NPC henchman)
  • Poutine, misen chef, shortest-lived ally ever (NPC henchman)
  • Jack, son of John, the only laborer looking for work on a summer Saturn’s-Day (NPC hireling)

Rumors Gathered:

Needles was out drinking one night. In the wee hours of the morning, when the party got really merry, a dwarf got up on a table and declared that he would sing a song of his people, one that he learned from his grandfather. The song was in a particularly poetic form of Dwarven, but he explained it tells the story of how the first Kings-Under-The-Mountains took control of underground caverns from demons, binding the most powerful to do no more evil, but serve the empire until the end of days.

Alric heard some gossip around the inn.  Several people around town have seen a shadowy figure playing a flute and dancing, in and near the cemetery, near the time of sunset. Sergeant Zim is investigating, but the old folks say it’s no use: you just have to get used to that sort of goings-on when you live in Tembladera.

Gabby, too, hung around the bar listening to folks telling stories. She heard that:

  • Valda Dije was a bandit and rogue in the early days of Tembladera’s settlement. He went into the dungeons, found powerful magic and vast wealth, bribed his way from the noose to a noble title, and died in his bed as an old man.
  • The sages say that some dragons are as intelligent as men and know how to talk, but there’s fighting men around Tembladera that know, most of ’em are just beasts. Giant, flying, cunning devil-beasts that spit fire, or acid, or bloody lightning bolts… but, still, just beasts.

Jed and Trevor spent their mornings in the city library, chasing down references in the lore, and discovered:

  • Many have reported the existence of moving rooms built by the dwarves. No one knows how they are powered.
  • It is a common tactic, among the worshippers of demons, to curse an area such that creatures of hell are summoned regularly. Even if all of the demons are destroyed, if the source is not cleansed, they will soon return.
  • Six-armed demons known as “peshkali” are summoned to act as immortal guardians. They exist only to defend their lairs and practice with their weapons, so only the mightiest of mortal warriors can stand against them.
    • “Hey, look at this picture. Isn’t that the thing that killed FuBar?”  
  • They read an account from a generation ago, telling how a gang of madmen started robbing graves and performing unholy experiments in the laboratories of the dwarves. In time, they came to the attention of the people of Tembladera, who sent a party against them. They were caught red-handed, and wiped out at their workbenches. Interestingly, a member of the party was paid extra to make up for the loss of a ring during the melee, claiming that it was “enchanted for the sight of mine eyes where the sun shineth not”.
    • Jed:  “It’s a ring of dark vision!”  (visibly salivates)
    • Alric:  “That’s not how it sounds to me…”
  • The sages of old say that a dragon has no weakness nor vulnerable point, aside possibly from vanity and greed. The only way to deal with a dragon, they said, was to bargain shrewdly.

Jed then took to the streets in the early afternoon to keep abreast of the latest news. He gathered that:

  • The goblinoid tribes to the west are awful restless this season. There’s rumors that a great leader has risen to weld all the little tribes into a great horde, just like every year, but this year the rumors are different. Usually the great leader from the stories is just another orc that’s a little bigger and badder than his buddies, but this time, they say it’s a talking lion…
  • Anne Page has heard of a dwarven artifact known as the Council Stone, a rock carved with runes and mounted on a shaft wall in the ruins. She would be quite generous to any who could recover it.
  • The Company of the Thunder-Raven went into the dungeons and found an area lit up as bright as day. They camped out there for a couple of days, taking advantage of the situation and plundering a rich set of rooms.
    • All the PCs give voice to angry protests at how those claim-jumping mercenaries were horning in on their monster and taking away their treasure.
  • A party went in to the ruins last year to search for a lost child, and they ran into a creature who they initially thought was a man, who called himself Zosar, the Worm Who Walks. Most of them didn’t survive the encounter. Since that time, some of those who didn’t survive have turned up, as particularly worm-eaten zombies.
    • D’arth expressed regret at the waste of all that perfectly good food.

Needles kept his ear to the ground on the bad side of town and got the word on the street:

  • Zarcoff the Grifter has got himself a new con, calling himself Zarcoff the Magnificent and claiming he’s an alchemist. Don’t be taken in by him.
  • They say there’s a merchant that you can sometimes find near the docks, goes by the name of “Fishy”. They say he’ll pay top dollar for slaves, all kinds, no questions asked.
  • If you ever recover any artwork or such with fish as its subject matter, you want to bring it to Lady Abergavenny. She’s wild about that sort of thing.
  • Be careful where you try to fence any orichalcum you might find, down in the ruins. Friend of mine was trying to sell a handful of bolts, had a couple of good offers, then one day, he just stops coming around. Turns up two days later on the beach, drowned. Looked like it had been two weeks, not two days. Still had his pouch on him, full of copper… but not a single scrap of orichalcum.

Finally, Tantric the leprechaun did some reading on the boat from the Old World, and learned that in the old days, the king of the dwarves would appoint princes over a particular mountain range, and those princes would appoint governors for each section of their mines. The governors each wore silver crowns. The princes wore gold crowns. They would carry these crowns to the grave.

What Happened:

The party took a couple of weeks off to recuperate and re-equip. During this time, D’arth met a new leprechaun in town, Tantric McSwayze, fresh off the boat from the Old World, and introduced him to the party. He’s a pot-bellied, grouchy demonologist who happens to stand only about one foot high. He explained that he was the kind of demonologist who studies demons so as to better defeat them, and there was absolutely no truth to any rumors that he was driven out of the Old World on that account. He went on to explain that he had left after some shadowy “they” had stolen from him. Exactly what they had stolen from him varied, ranging from his pot of gold, to his lucky charms, to the jewels of his family, but he was consistent that “they” had stolen it from him, and he was here to seek a new fortune.

The party also clarified the rules of the party charter, setting several questions. The charter provides for those lost on delves, detailed the way treasure is handled and shares calculated, and determines that until a member has made two trips, they’re on probation and get half-shares. D’arth and Tantric are thus junior members.

The party’s sometime patron, Strang, sent a message, which Alric, being the early riser of the group, picked up and passed along to Jed for doin’ the readin’ magic. The messages read:

Friends,
Surely you have noticed that you have come close to something very great in your recent delve. I have come to the knowledge that you had indeed stumbled upon one of the chambers that I asked you to search for. I urgently request that you return there as soon as you feel you are able. Truly, you must be fit and well before you attempt to gain entrance to that room. The “dwarves” that you encountered are, in fact, mechanized automatons and are not to be approached lightly. Another band of adventurers met a very grim end in that very room, with very little progress to show for it. I do not wish you to meet such an end.
To that end, Mamu will provide you with something that I have crafted. I think this addition to your arsenal might gain you some advantage against your most dangerous foes. The tips are enchanted to erupt with water upon sinking into an enemy. I recommend making every attempt to slip them between armor plates. The javelins carry a greater charge than the arrows and the shaft must be broken off for the charge to activate. Use them well.
Again, I request that you leave the room as untouched as possible. There is very powerful magic at work there, and I cannot guarantee your safety if you choose to ignore my advice. Indeed, I would feel very generous if I were to have access to that chamber, undisturbed.
Proceed cautiously, but quickly!

D.S.

The parchment of the letter was wrapped around a claim ticket at the inn front desk, which led them to a long crate. The party took the crate up to Jed’s room and crowded in. Wielding a crowbar, Alric popped the lid to reveal and bundle of half-a-dozen arrows and four javelins, all obviously magical to those who can see such things. Jed tried to figure out the specifics of the enchantment, but aside from seeing it was water-related (not unexpected for an item created by a Fluidist), he could discern nothing.

Gabby finally admitted that she hadn’t been feeling herself for some time, and went to see the clerics. They determined that she was suffering under a curse, which they traced back to the ring of invisibility she’s been carrying around, the one she took off the halfling, Doughal, in session #8. Apparently, it’s got a couple of quirks in its makeup. Aside from being made of unusually dense gold, which they already knew, the ring is also cursed to bring the wearer bad fortune. Furthermore, it weighs on the bearer’s soul, which is why Gabby had been feeling so tired and run-down. The priest didn’t think they had anything to remove the ring’s curse, so it was put in storage where it couldn’t hurt anyone. Gabby left the cathedral with a renewed spring in her step.

Through the week, aside from chasing goblin squatters away from his corner of the sewers, D’arth was pursing a deeper game. He sent Poutine, his misen servant, to clean up the old goblin kitchens, with instructions to scatter a thick layer of flour in the halls outside when he arrived, before locking himself in. When his day of labor was done, the chef was to observe the flour for signs of traffic. (This arrangement was given a name, something like “an Arkansas flour trap”, but I didn’t catch it for certain.) For the first six days, things went as planned. Poutine reported finding various tracks, the most interesting being those of many booted feet and something on wheels.

D’arth passed this information on to the rest of the party. There was much speculation as to the wheel tracks. They knew it was impossible to get a cart up the path they had been taking; it was far too steep, with too many sections of stairs. They though of the possibility of wheelbarrows, but couldn’t do more than speculate, in the end. Poutine cooks the animals, he does not track them.

On the seventh day, though, Poutine didn’t show. Conveniently, though, that was the morning of Saturn’s-Day, so D’arth didn’t have to gather a rescue party, he just had to add “check for Poutine” to the party’s agenda for their regular trip to the dungeon.

They were able to scare up Jack, son of John, but none of the other usual hirelings were available. The hike to the dungeons was uneventful, aside from the comedy relief of constants complaints from Tantric’s devilkin.

At the dungeon entrance, they distributed healing potions, ice potions, and torches enchanted with Continual Light around the party. Jack was given a special torch, with Continual Mage Light cast upon it. Of course, he couldn’t see the mage light, so he constantly questioned the need for it. When assured that it was an important detail, he pointedly asked if they wouldn’t rather have a professional torchbearer handle it, then, since it was so important?

The experienced hands went through all their usual practices for entering the dungeon, pointing out the sights to Tantric as they went. Needles ducked through the entrance and pivoted to check the niche just inside the doors, then sounded the all-clear. The new members admired the large bronze plaque installed inside the alcove. Wondering if the gargoyles holding the sign were gargoyles or, y’know, Gargoyles, D’arth gave one a smart rap with his sword, cracking off one of its arms.

With that long-standing mystery solved, the party turned towards the rest of the dungeon. They followed their usual path, up the main hallway to the second big stone head. They took a moment to admire it, and to tell Tantric a bit of the story of how they met Jim Kadabra. Thinking of the animated goblin statue further in, Jed asked the head for directions, but it persisted in remaining silent.

Right turn, into the broken ground set up so long ago by ambushing goblins. Most of the party picked their way through slowly. As is her way, Gabby jumped atop the barriers and jogged to the far side. For their part, Tantric and his devilkin were largely unhampered by the broken ground, since the narrow paths were wide avenues to them. In due course, the party made their way to the area of the old goblin kitchens.

At D’arth’s signal, the party stopped to investigate. They found Poutine’s flour trap, or, rather, the remains of it. Someone had swept the middle of the hall clean. Only a narrow band remained on either side. Alric bent down to look for tracks, then stood with a satisfied nod, saying, “Straw brooms.”

Unanimously, the party took this bit of dungeon housekeeping as a threatening sign. Needles checked the doors to the kitchens, finding them to be without traps, but sealed from the inside. After a little B&E, he was able to shove the door open.

Inside, they found the corpse of poor Poutine, dead of multiple stab wounds. They closed the door and checked over the scene, recreating what had gone on. They concluded that several goblins had descended from the surface above through the chimney and taken the chef by surprise. After easily overpowering the misen henchman, they had ransacked the place, taking anything of value and destroying everything else. Flour all over the place.

D’arth collected the useful bits of Poutine’s remains with all due dignity and ceremony, then the party sealed the kitchens behind them and proceeded on.

When Needles, the party’s traditional point man, came to the location of the notorious pit trap, he discovered that it had been re-covered with a fresh illusion of the floor. Alric had already retrieved their plank bridge from the former “dungeon convenience store” closet. While he positioned it, the others pointed out items of interest to Tantric, like the places where TKotBo had chipped the walls and pit edge to mark its boundaries, and told him tales of previous encounters with it, like the time it killed the party’s very first cleric.

After safely crossing the pit, the party regrouped on the far side. Posy detected faint squishing sounds coming from up ahead. Thus forewarned, and guessing that they had against run into the gelatinous cube known to lurk in the area, the party members armed themselves and made ready for ambush. It didn’t take long before the cube turned the corner and came into view. At that point, several thrown vials of alchemist’s fire and one extra-large bolt of explosive lightning did it in, messily. In fact, the lightning bolt was so enthusiastic, Jed took some amused ribbing on the next leg of the trip: the others asked if he had some kind of history with the gelatinous cube, like maybe he owed it money, or perhaps they had had a whirlwind romance on his last trip through the dungeon.

The hike continued, still pointing out items of interest. The party hurried past the entrance to the lair of the flame lords, past the broken barrel at the foot of the stairs, and up the stairs to the Great Bridge. The old-timers paused, explaining for Tantric and D’arth the dual threats at this point: the sniper in the tower, and the angry ghost.

Noting that the bridge had a low rail sufficient to entirely conceal him and his devilkin, Tantric dismissed the sniper out of hand, but found the information about the ghost to be interesting. He went out on to the bridge and went to work. Using a combination of luck, his natural abilities with spirits, and a Materialize spell, he located the ghost and forced it to take physical form. A naked, screaming halfling appeared halfway across the span, still shouting about “The ring!  The ring!  My precious ring!”  Posy made a face at the unpleasant noise, then quicker than the eye could see, sent an arrow into the halfling’s brain.

Pleased with their poor man’s exorcism, the party crossed the bridge, with the less-stealthy members opting for the combat crawl to keep themselves out of sight of the sniper.  As is their way, they stopped inside the far entrance for a short rest and a light snack.  “Smoked rat,” Alric said, pulling some from his pouch, “come and get it!”  As they rested, they discussed the tower sniper, and how they were going to have to do something about him, one of these days.

Rested and ready, they continued on up the hall to the turn. They paused at the foot of the stairs, there, to discuss the fact that they’ve never checked any further down the main hallway than this point. Jed cast Light on one of Posy’s arrows, which she sent flying down the hall. It vanished in the distance. Long hallway.

Curiosity satisfied for the moment, they went up the broad stairway, around the landing, and up to the intersection with the goblin statue. Jed demonstrated his command of the Dwarven language by putting the animated statue through its direction-giving routine for Tantric’s entertainment. They then went around the hall to the big room with the Pit of Darkness.

The big sunlight spell had worn off, of course. They gathered around the edge, peering into the dark. As they did so, Jack announced, in a satisfied tone of voice:  “Oops”.  He had dropped his Mage Light torch into the pit.

The falling stick was enough to set off the shriekers at the bottom of the pit, invisible light or no. Having thus dealt with the advantage of surprise, they fiddled around for a while dropping flaming oil and rocks with Light spells cast on them. Something at the bottom kept putting out dropped lights, but since nothing climbed out of the hole to kill them all, they soon got on with business.

Posy landed a Continual Light arrow on the second balcony from the top.  Jed sent a Wizard Eye into the hole, keeping far away from the ledges. He observed movement in the shadows on the first tier, but couldn’t make out any details. The second balcony was better lit, and seemed abandoned… aside from the large human corpse, right in front of the door they were after.

They had blown that door open with a siege stone on a previous visit, but it had since been repaired with stout, fresh, cedar boards. And, of course, equipped with a dead barbarian.

“A corpse, you say?” D’arth commented, listening to Jed describe what he was seeing. The corpse-eater started stepping over towards the hanging chain with a thoughtful look on his face.

It didn’t take long to get the entire party down on the second balcony. Most climbed the chain. Jed levitated. They set up Jack and Trevor as lookouts, then stood back while D’arth checked out the dead guy. Barbarian, for certain: bare chest, furry hat with horns, fur loincloth. After getting a closer look, D’arth realized that the young barbarian was lying atop another corpse, a halfling. When he went to roll the man off the halfling, a leaping leech was disturbed from its feeding and launched itself at his face, but he was able to avoid it and pin it to the ground with his sword.

Now able to see the barbarian’s face, Alric dimly recognized him. The dead man had been a member of the Company of the Thunder-Raven. Corbin, Inc., bristled at this evidence of poachers. Still, it didn’t seem like they had taken the room.

The party organized themselves for a hard fight. They arrayed their forced with care, making sure Posy had a clear line of sight into the room. They had a cascading series of Wait maneuvers set up. The plan was, Needles would pull open the door and duck behind it. Posy would land a Glue arrow a few yards inside the door, with the goal of restricting the inhabitant’s movements and forcing them to pile up for convenient killing, and then avert her gaze. Jed would throw a Flash spell inside the room, aiming to blind and disorient the defenders, and then sound the all-clear. The others would then uncover their eyes, and take the fight from there.

When it came down to it, though, it seemed like the plan would be derailed before it ever really got started. When Needles pulled the door open, he found one of the defending clockwork-armored dwarves waiting for him!  He was barely able to avoid a sword to the back, but he did avoid it. From that point, things were back on track. Posy, of course, put her arrow on target, fortuitously sticking one defender to the floor immediately, and Jed’s spell did disorient nearly all of the dwarves — even blinding one outright.

Alric and D’arth stepped up to hold the door, ready to hold it. They engaged the two defenders standing on either side of the entrance hall. The puddle of glue restricted free movement to one clear hex on Alric’s side, and a narrow avenue along the wall and around a corner on D’arth’s, which kept the fight two-on-two.

Then Posy started raining doom on the clockwork dwarves, in the form of Strang’s gift arrows. She aimed for the gaps in the golden clockwork armor. When an arrow would get to a few feet of its target, it would transform into a concentrated stream of water. Then, once inside the armor, it would convert into an explosive burst of steam. Between that, and heavy blows from the front line, the two defenders quickly fell.

GM interjection:  It should be noted that along about here, Jed’s player let slip that he knew these guys would come back from the dead, but they would only do it once, so they just had to kill everybody inside twice. How did he know this?  He had been reading monsters one day, you see…

The party wasn’t surprised when the first fallen clockwork dwarf stood back up. They were surprised when they knocked it down again, and it got up a second time. And a third…

The battle got desperate. It also got crowded, as everybody pushed in to the narrow gap, trying to deliver more damage, faster. Tantric jumped off his devilkin’s shoulders — he had been riding piggyback — and sent it into battle, clawing and scratching… where it was immediately mashed flat by a single hit from the maul of the defender’s leader. Gabby and Needles slipped inside the room itself, along the wall to the right of the entrance passage. That moved them away from the Glue puddle, exposing their right flank. They found themselves brutally assaulted by up to four and five of the clockwork dwarves at a time, with the fallen being replaced with new troops from further in the room, and their fallen being replaced by the resurrection of the first wave of fallen. D’arth found himself dueling with one defender, trading blows around a corner. Alric kept a lid on the door, which let Jed and Posy work without fear of counterattack. Both, but particularly Posy, were doing tremendous damage, but they couldn’t get a clear shot on most of the enemy forces.

The warriors were able to avoid major damage, for the most part, but they were starting to wear down, a bit at a time. One Fatigue point spent, here. A couple of points of injury, there.

Finally, Needles made a break for open ground inside the room. (GM note: I suspect he was angling to get behind them all, anyway.) This finally gave him a clear view of the parts of the room that they hadn’t seen before, being on the wall that the entrance was in. He saw that there were two big wall hangings on either side of the door. Both bore dwarven writing, and he could see both were magical. Being genre-savvy, he dashed to the nearer of the two and slashed it in two, top to bottom, with his magic short sword. Immediately, all the clockwork dwarves dropped, like marionettes with their strings cut!

While Needles checked for traps, Jed took charge of the party to organize the search of the room. They carried out the fallen clockwork dwarves, lining them up on the balcony outside. Alric bashed one apart, as the party investigated the question of whether the dwarves’ innards were worth money. They weren’t. It turns out, they weren’t dwarves at all, just constructs. What appeared to be armor was actually their bodies. They were clockwork all the way through. The eerily impassive “faces” had actually been porcelain masks.

Back in the room, Jed cataloged the contents of the room. They reasoned that since this room wasn’t octagonal, but square, it must not the be room that Strang wanted. Thus, they could loot the place. Strang’s room must be nearby, though.

They found an alchemist’s notebook, talking about “Wonderous Project Number 3, the Apparatus of Argha-hal”. They found several big bottles of elfbane and lesser amounts of demonbane. The clockwork dwarves’ leader had carried a magical maul with an amusing message carved into it in Dwarven runes. Tantric found three orichalcum pins that had rolled under a table, but no other orichalcum was apparent.

Jed translated the runes on the wall-hangings. One read “Defend the room.” The other, the one Needles destroyed, had read “Live forever.”

While Jed, Trevor, and Jack packed up the equipment of the alchemy lab, D’arth and Tantric scavenged. D’arth claimed the “Defend the room” hanging, figuring it would make a good decoration for his own crypt. After confirming that nobody else wanted to claim the clockwork dwarves’ bodies to sell for scrap, Tantric summoned a demon and gave it the task of hauling all the broken metal out of the dungeon to a hidden location near town, where it could be recovered later.

After the looting, Jed cast See Secrets to make sure they weren’t missing anything. It revealed the outline of a secret door. Needles was able to use his never-fail formula for secret doors — “Third brick in, second down” — to get it open. Inside, they found a small room, barely five feet square, with a pentagram on the floor and eight walls. Strang’s octagon!

They sealed the doors behind them, and headed home.

After selling off the loot, including the clockwork dwarves’ weapons and shields, the full members took home a share of 3,750 copper each, with the junior members each getting a half-share that was still ample pay for a day’s work. They passed the orichalcum pins on to Strang for the usual inflated price, and retired to the inn.

* * *

Hours later, Needles pulls a merry Jed aside from the party. “Hey,” he said, holding out a globe of orichalcum wire tracery the size of a basketball.  “I traded for this at the pub. Think it’s worth anything?”

Then, as they watched, many of the places where the wires met started to glow and blink like fireflies…

 

“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…”

 

The Situation At The Pit

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

GBCside

Side-view of the Pit of Darkness

 

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

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

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

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

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

TopOfTheShaft

View from the top of the pit

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aside from the screams.

As usual.

 

Player Feedback Means Changes

There was a certain amount of restlessness in the player feedback, this past time. They’ve just gotten into yet another fight on the Great Bridge, which is turning out to be quite the bottleneck. They’re finally strong enough, well-equipped enough, to want to spend more than an hour or two in the dungeon. The players expressed frustration at the idea of turning around and letting the dungeon off the hook for the week, just when they’ve finally got a good grip on it. There were worries that monsters would return to fill the space they had cleared, forcing them to re-clear it next week, greatly slowing their progress. There was at least one question about the availability of “town portal” scrolls.

I plan to address all these concerns with a mix of structural changes and revealed secrets. Well, not so much secrets, as stuff that the characters won’t know, but might make the players feel better.

First, the obvious change:  I’ve stopped pushing for the party to return to town between sessions. More hours in the dungeon for the PCs means more hours at the gaming table for the players, and we’re exceeding the number of hours at the table that we can afford. So, the delving day will be broken across multiple sessions. The benefit is, we can pick up next time with the party already in the dungeon. We won’t use any time, next session, on spending experience or buying gear, both of which only happen in town. We won’t use any time retracing their steps from the main entrance to the area they want to explore.

The price of this is, we lose on flexibility. The original idea was that PCs could come and go easily between sessions, since the party for any particular trip is just the group of PCs who show up on that Saturn’s-Day. If we end on a cliffhanger, though, it’s hard to explain folks coming and going. If we quit on one day with the party facing off against a bunch of angry barbarians, then pick up the next session with the entire front line of PCs missing, that’s going to cause suffering among the squishies in the second rank who wouldn’t have bitten off that particular bite to chew.

(Yeah, I could run the missing PCs as NPCs, but… no, wait, strike that, I’m full of crap, there’s no way I could handle that.  I’ve got my hands full, and then some, just with the monsters. Maybe we could hand off the PCs to be run by other players, but… no, I can’t see that working. “Of course the knight would taste the mysterious potion!”  They’re pretty good about treating their henchmen ok — hirelings, somewhat less so — but there’s no mercy when it comes to PC-on-PC….)

Second, the change I had already made through laziness.  It’s been a long while since I’ve done any serious re-stocking. That’s why the first part of the dungeon was a long list of “empty, empty, nothing exciting”.  They’ve already cleared those areas. I’ve been putting my energy into stocking new areas, and neglecting the old. By pure accident, this much seems to have worked out well. The first level of the dungeon was a simple question of navigation; if the party hadn’t taken the time to fill out some blank areas on their map, they would have been able to make it from the front door to the stairs up to the Bridge in a matter of minutes. They’re not wasting any time wading through goblins and reeks.

I had done a little re-stocking in the rooms overlooking the Great Bridge, but that was a while back. That’s why the party found the trapped room, and the goblin-ghouls. They found the ghost when they explored new territory. He has been there since I first stocked the area.

“But,” the Gentle Reader protests, “what about the Treadmill Of Doom that you keep calling a bridge?  Every time they set foot on that thing, they get into another fight!  Surely you’re restocking it?”

Yes and no. I haven’t been re-stocking it, but I have been causing the locals to respond to PC action.

Let’s review. When the party first saw the Great Bridge, they met the gang of goblinoids who held the overlooking rooms, and fought them until making peace through diplomacy.  The next visit, they started with diplomacy and ended up with a small massacre, leaving the formerly-enslaved goblins in charge and dropping Mongo down the Pit of Darkness. This riled up the demons in the pit (judging from the noises, anyway). The next time they visited the Great Bridge, they met Zombie-Mongo, so clearly, he managed to climb out of the Pit somehow. That same trip, they also saw goblins jumping out of arrow slits to their doom, apparently in fear of whatever was going on inside. It was on this trip that they first noticed the tower.

On the last couple of trips, they’ve been going out of their way to draw trouble. Time before last, they came out loud. Posy tested the echo. This drew the attention of [REDACTED] in the tower, which led to Alric getting gut-shot. The occupant(s) of the tower responded to these events by… um… doing some stuff that caused a chain of events that ended up with eight ghouls hiding in the hallway, waiting for people to try to cross the bridge. This last time, FuBar went out his way to draw fire from the tower, and discovered the guarding ghouls.

So, it’s not that I’m re-stocking, particularly, it’s that the party keeps thumbing their nose at the tower. There’s something up there. It has a crossbow, some mad crossbow sniper skills, and a burning hatred for loud adventurers. It kept to itself, to begin with… but if folks keep showing up to moon it, it’s going to keep taking shots at them.

The skeletons were just wandering monsters. Bad luck that they showed up there.

Thirdly, WOW, did I miscalculate the pace of everything. In general. I knew there would come a point where the walk back home would get oppressive, and I’ve got some features in the dungeon to help address that… but my guess as to where that point would come was way, way off. In vague terms, there are other entrances and exits to the dungeon, later on. I was taking a cue from the Diablo series, where every so often, you open up a new shortcut back to town. The problem is, the next one is way too deep in the dungeon to do any good right now…. so, I need to do some renovations.

I think the biggest impact is going to be from staying in the dungeon for longer.  Every trip, they’ve spent more in-game hours in-dungeon. The first few visits were the classic fifteen-minute adventurer’s workday.  Now, everybody’s “leveled up” enough, they can stay down there so long, it takes more than one session to play it out. That means longer between experience awards, and longer between paydays, but both should be larger for it. That might even give more of a “gained a level” vibe when experience gets spent, who knows…

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #13

Up-Front Disclaimer:  We had a lot of factors working against us, this time around, and I fear it showed. I’ve been fighting a cold all week, and clearly wasn’t at my best, in terms of attention span. We had one last-minute cancellation, and one late arrival. What with one thing and another, it look us a long while to get going, so by the time we got towards the end, fatigue was setting in. Finally, we’re coming to realize that some of the ground rules are working against us. (More on this later, after more contemplation.)  Call it the curse of session #13. Still, it seemed like everybody had some amount of fun, so we’ll count it as a technical win. 😉

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

  • Alric Redbeard, human barbarian and cat person — not cat-folk, cat person  (PC)
  • FuBar Bombad, sewer troll dancer who could have used a better night’s sleep (PC)
  • Mississippi Jedadiah Walker, bard-wizard who must have been practicing his Simon and Garfunkel, since he was feelin’ cloudy… (PC)
  • Needles, thief-swashbuckler and engine of doom (PC)
  • Posy, cat-folk archer with her own delving doctrine (PC)
  • “Dobby”, Alric’s goblin henchman and head armor-polisher (NPC henchman)
  • Trevor, Jed’s apprentice and seer into the Other Side (NPC henchman)
  • Brother Bob Pattson, healer cleric who hadn’t heard the party’s reputation for dealing with clerics (NPC hireling)
  • Bruce the Brute, more mean-spirited muscle than actual personality (NPC hireling)
  • Jack, son of John, one who totes and lifts and doesn’t think too deeply about it all (NPC hireling)

Missing in action:

  • Gabby the Cabin Girl, who spent the week drinking with both hands, and so overslept on delving day (PC)
  • Höss, rethinking the choices that brought him to this pass (popular NPC hireling)

Rumors Gathered:

As usual, Jed was up on all the latest news.

  • When Count Nalor the Thrice-Cursed was driven out of town for his crimes last year, it was revealed that he was half-demon. They say he fled into the ruins, swearing revenge. The angry mob would have killed him, except for his exceptional suit of magical armor.
  • The fashion in Moscow these days is wearing the fur of the giant ape. There are several traders with ships at the docks, ready to pay top coin for pelts in any condition.
  • Lots of pixies are moving in to Tembladera. They’re close-mouthed about their purpose, but they’re all staying in a cottage near the city wall.
  • There’s one particularly bad cult that’s established itself in the ruins. Their priests shave their heads and wear pyramid-shaped hats. The cultists are all insane. Even demons avoid them.
  • A famous dwarven smith from down the coast – name escapes me at the moment, you know how it is – anyway, famous dwarven smith has set up shop just outside Tembladera. They say he’s giving discounts to try and drum up business.

Furthermore, he and Trevor spent some time in the library.

  • The Darth clan were one of the most powerful and successful families involved in the settlement of Tembladera. For a generation, they made a fortune by plundering the abandoned ruins that became the town. One of their younger sons brought down a curse on his entire family, though, and within a year, they were all dead. Their family crypt is one of the largest in the cemetery.
  • Old ruins and other places that don’t get a lot of traffic are often infested by reeks, mimics, and gelatinous cubes. It is an invariable aspect of these monsters that they smell of fermentation gone wrong.

Needles listened to the storytellers outside the inn.

  • You hear the story of Salty Salvatore, a catfish over a thousand years old that’s learned so much wisdom it became a sage. Powerful wizards have been known to consult with it. It knows secrets of magic that have been recorded nowhere else. They say it got tired of all the attention and retired to live in a lake under the mountains.

Alric kept from being thrown out of the bar long enough to swap some stories with other delvers.

  • There’s a great stairway in the dwarven ruins, deeper than the tallest tower is high. Those who’ve seen it say it’s littered with riches from the days of the dwarves, but no one has a thing to show for it.

What Happened:

Enjoying the fruits of recent success, Alric traded in his half-naked, fur-and-mail look for a full suit of scale armor. Between that, and the dragon-head helmet he picked up last session, he’s cutting quite the figure these days.

Needles, on the other hand, spent the week in contemplation under the watchful eye of Jed and Trevor, and managed to kindle the spark of mana in his soul. (GM: He bought Magery 0, to avoid being caught by purely magical traps… or overlooking the good loot.) He also made some improvements to his gear, picking up a badly-needed trap-finder’s kit.

Posy made a breakthrough in her understanding of the bow, becoming a weapon master.

A flashback later in the game would reveal that FuBar had disposed of the still-living demon’s head from last session, through the simple method of handing it off to a gang of corpse-eaters in the sewers. It’ll probably be making soup for years

Several members of the party looked into the rumor of the crying man offering wishes, but they didn’t turn up anything useful. On the contrary, they found one local who claimed the crying man was just on old ghost story, nothing more.

On the first Saturn’s-Day of the month of  Quintilis, the hottest month of the year, Alric made his way to the inn for a pre-delve breakfast. One of the staff caught him at the door, asking if he had seen TKotBO around. Alric admitted to knowing the holy warrior, but said he wouldn’t be available any time soon. The maid handed over a sealed letter, saying, in that case, Alric could take his friend’s mail.

Meanwhile, upstairs, Jed was just stepping out onto his balcony for a breath of fresh air. An urchin from the street called up to him, saying, “Mistah Jed, Mistah Jed, I got news!” After receiving his silver coin, the kid informed Jed that activity had been observed at Strang’s tower. Food was being delivered. Apparently, the man himself was back in residence, returned from his vacation.

After getting dressed, Jed came downstairs and joined Alric, who passed over the letter. It was from Strang, explaining some of his researches. He informed them that he had clues pointing towards more orichalcum pieces in a place frequented by goblins. Needles and Posy joined the discussion. Things from the letter encouraged them in their half-formed plan to go check out the so-called Pit of Darkness.

With a firm sense of purpose, then, they set about preparing for their day’s work. They gathered a supply of healing potions, plus some other, more specialized concoctions and equipment. One notable addition to the group’s gear was a self-mapping scroll. The party fund paid for a quiver-full of arrows for Posy, half with Continual Light cast on them, half meteoric broad-heads for putting down enemy wizards.

As far as hirelings… They started by looking for Höss, but couldn’t find him. Sad faces all around. There wasn’t much hope of hiring a healing cleric, what with their track record for killing clerics, but they tried anyway… and met Brother Bob, who hadn’t heard the news. After Alric waxed eloquent on the virtues of hirelings lacking in education and imagination, they also hired Jack and Bruce, a laborer and a brute, both known for being among the dullest knives in the Tembladera drawer.

On the way out of town, they stopped off at the church for blessings for everybody. On the off chance that they might run into FuBar, they picked up a blessed button for him, as well.

The hike to the front door of the dungeon was uneventful. In fact, they didn’t encounter any surprises for quite some time. They entered through the main entrance, checked the alcove, and formed up in marching order, with Needles in the lead. They then proceeded down the main hall to the big stone head, took a right, and headed towards the Great Bridge hallway.

As they went, they checked doors. The failed dungeon convenience store was still failed. The kitchen had been disturbed — the pots and pans were moved around — but nobody was home and a quick search turned up nothing of interest. Needles found a live-capture rat trap, and stole the morsel of meat left as bait, just for the sport of the thing. The party realized that they had never actually checked the door just before the cleric-eating pit, so they took a look. The room turned out to be a long-abandoned small-scale fish-smoking operation, likely left from the tribe of goblins who used to call this corner of the dungeon home. Posy called dibs on the dried fish while the rest of the party was still dithering at the door, and so had something to munch on during the rest of the trip.

There was some confusion over the map, when the party started to approach the area of the flame lords. After finding the old farm for giant rats, across the hall from the flame lord’s door, they got themselves oriented, and moved towards the stair… only to stop when Alric and Jed heard something. It was a distinctive purr/buzz, coming from the door to the stair that led to their goal. Bee cats.

Alric tried to use one of his survival tricks, and mimic the bark of the bee cat’s natural enemy. This backfired, as the purr/buzz stopped, and over half-a-dozen cats came swarming around the corner!

The conflict was more of a slap fight than anything, and over in barely two seconds. One of the cats stung Needles in the leg, poisoning him. When one jumped at Alric to scratch out his eyes, he grabbed it out of the air and held it helpless by the scruff of the neck. The rest of the swarm were batted around and frightened off. Still restraining his captive, Alric applied his survival skills to suck the poison from Needles’ wound. While the cleric cleaned up the actual damage of the wound, Alric then turned his attention to the cat. As it turns out, while Alric is good with all sorts of animals, he’s a specialist in cats. He managed to settle the beast down enough to make it docile. It spent the rest of the adventure clinging to his shoulder.

(GM: If nothing else, the party could open a pet store, I suppose…)

Moving around the corner, the party found a broken barrel, the same one that had been rolled down the stairs at them some time ago. The bee cats had moved in and set up a hive in the barrel’s carcass. They found FuBar, sitting up as if just awakening from a nap, lying stickily in the middle of the hive. (GM: The player entered, late.)

Happy reunion all around. Alric pulled the troll out of the hive, along with two eggs (into the pouch!) and a couple of pounds of edible honey. The party explained the mission of the day, and FuBar agreed to join, being eager to test himself against the challenges of the Pit of Darkness. The blessed button was handed over. FuBar gravely stuck it up his nose. For safekeeping.

The marching order was re-organized, and the march resumed. It was somewhere around here that the others noticed, while Posy was keeping a close eye out, she wasn’t keeping her bow at the ready. This drew some comments, which she ignored.

Minutes later, they arrived at the Great Bridge. They paused at the door to take a good, long look around, mindful of the uncanny archer in the overlooking tower.

FuBar isn’t the “good, long look around” type. He bounded out of the door at a run, tumbling and dodging, throwing rude gestures and shouts towards the tower as he went. He had decided to test his skill of parrying arrows.

The party reacted. Posy and Needles broke cover, moving to follow the troll stealthily. Jed sang several verses and turned himself into a cloud, then flew in pursuit. Alric readied his axe and trotted forth. Trevor pulled out his money pouch and started taking bets from the new henchmen, on whether or not the troll would get himself shot.

The Great Bridge has a structure in its center, roofing over the span, decorated with stone heads looking in either direction. FuBar made it to the covered region without any trouble… but as soon as he stepped into the open on the far side, he saw movement from the tower. There was a flash of a humanoid figure, popping into sight at a window and firing a crossbow. FuBar lost sight of the sniper as he concentrated on parrying the bolt.

Just as the missile came within arm’s reach, FuBar felt a breath of cold air on his ear, whispering:  “Was I scrumptious?”

With a will of iron, FuBar maintained his concentration. “Delicious,” he muttered, and snapped the flying bolt with a sideways chop.

At this point, the party saw movement from the far door. A gang of greenish, obviously-decayed creatures burst from the door at a sprint, displaying fangs and claws.

The archer in the tower was largely forgotten in the face of this new danger. The undead creatures raced forward, with two tackling FuBar while the others passed by to engage the rest of the party. FuBar parried a couple of attacks, then acrobatically flipped up and back, putting himself on the roof of the bridge’s central structure, out of the reach of the crowd of “zombies”. Two of the undead scrambled up after him, while the others met the party below.

Posy put an arrow into the heart of the leading “zombie”, knocking it down but not out. Then Alric and Needles met the oncoming horde, and tore them apart. Jed, in cloud form, helped out with some lightning. Working together, the four of them wiped out the crowd. A high point was when one of the creatures tried to grab Alric, who grabbed it back, ripped it off himself, and threw it into the river.

During the fight, other members of the party heard a voice in their ear, trying to unnerve them, to no avail. Finally, Jack heard the voice (and failed the understand the too-veiled threat it issued) and Trevor aimed an accusing finger at him, shouting “The dead walk among us!” The mysterious voice was that of the ghost of Doughal, the halfling who died on the bridge chasing his lost magic ring, now in Gabby’s possession.

Meanwhile, though, FuBar was fighting a desperate battle for survival against two ghouls… for, indeed, that is what they turned out to be. He started out strong, attempting to shove them both backwards, over the edge. It almost worked, with one teetering on the brink before regaining his footing. The other, though, managed to tag the sewer troll, and paralyzed him. They bore him to the ground and went to work gnawing at him, one at his throat and one at his abdomen. This was enough to break the paralysis. (GM: A desperate battle marred by a variety of mistakes, on both sides. Ordinarily, ghoul’s paralysis lasts for minutes, and isn’t broken simply because the victim is being eaten. In this case, however, we had a series of goofs that ended up being redressed by having FuBar’s blessed button burn itself out counteracting the paralysis. Special case, don’t try this at home.)  The troll was able to quick-draw a healing potion to keep himself conscious, and a vial of alchemist’s fire to threaten his attackers. They counterattacked by grappling his arm.

The rest of the party had run out of targets, but they could still hear the shouts and growls of FuBar’s battle. Determining that he needed to gain some altitude, Needles went to climb up to the top of the bridge’s central structure, but nearly slipped on a slimy patch. His blessing burnt out, saving him from a hundred-foot fall. His second attempt was more successful. When he pulled himself up on their level, the ghouls took notice. One left to engage Needles, which turned out to be their undoing. The thief-swashbuckler took it apart, while FuBar was finally able to douse the other in alchemist’s fire.

The party was just catching their breath and getting organized for healing, when another crossbow bolt came out of nowhere and crippled Brother Bob’s leg. You guessed it, arrow to the knee. Some grabbed the wounded, and everybody ran for the shelter of the door on the far side, under the arrow slits.

The hall on the other side was plenty wide enough for everyone, so they decided to stop right there. They posted guards in both directions, poured healing potions into the cleric, and then set him to healing the others’ wounds. Everyone was pretty tired, so they shared out some food and took a rest.

After about twenty minutes, they heard a scrabbling noise from the doorway. Three nimble, grinning skeletons dropped from the cliff face above. Posy shattered the first one’s skull with a quick arrow. The second went down in a clatter of loose bones after Jed stepped around the corner and laid into it with the purple-flaming staff taken from the sleeper last session. The third, seeing this, turned and ran.

The party chose not to pursue. They re-arranged their guards and rested for another forty minutes. Forming up, they proceeded to the turn-off up to the overlook, formerly held by a force of goblinoids. They made their way up the stairs, past the early-warning system of curtains and chains, without meeting any opposition. From there, they went up another flight of stairs to the enchanted goblin statue. After playing with it for a bit, they set out to retrace their steps from previous visits. This time, however, they took the time and trouble to carefully map it.

They returned to the room that had formerly been used as a camp by the tribe’s orcish “nobility”. Opening the door revealed that someone had been hard at work preparing the place for visitors. The floor was a grid of cheap rope tripwires and snares, attached to different deadfalls and makeshift launchers of wooden stakes.

FuBar went through his “Crouching Tiger” wind-up, then Light Walked at a run across the entire room, ending up at the door into the room formerly used as an inner sanctum by the goblinoid tribe’s leaders. While he wasn’t looking, though, Needles disarmed the entire system by untying a single knot near the door. (GM: Natural 3, as I recall…)  Disappointed when he realized that he hadn’t passed the test he thought he was setting for himself, FuBar pragmatically went about collecting rope and wood stakes, while the others gave the room a thorough searching. They found a useful healing potion and some odds and ends.

They then turned their attention towards the door into the inner sanctum. Posy and FuBar didn’t like the smell of the door, so Jed used his magic to make the door transparent for himself. He found himself staring right into the rotted face of Gort the goblin-mage-turned-ghoul, pressed against the far side of the door, as it tried to listen to the party. There were similar figures pressed closed behind Gort, likely the other orc who had died in that room.

After a brief discussion, the party deployed one of their small capital improvements and set up to open the door.

Step #1: Alric gives the double doors his best hinge-buster with his maul, aiming for the siege stone pasted in their center.

Step #2: When the doors disintegrate in a hail of splinters, Jed unleashed a full-powered blast of fire breath, hosing down anything on the far side of the door.

Step #3: Wait for the smoke to clear, then brush aside some gruesome cinders on the way to looting the room.

Step #4: Profit!  … in the form of a bottle of perfumed oil, and some really nice lace pillows.

Previously, the party had discovered a secret door, but had not investigated further. Now, the door was hanging open. While searching, they left a watchful guard eyeing it. Once the room was clear, this was the next piece of business.

Needles and Jed went to stand at the doorway’s edge, to get a closer look. They got a brief glance at a table covered in pitchers, platters, and wine glasses, covered in dust in the gloomy room. Then Needles suddenly stood upright, spun on his heel, and began marching back through the rooms, with neither a word nor a glance for his comrades.

“The dead!” Trevor cried again, pointing.  “The dead are among us!”  A ghost was possessing Needles. FuBar entangled his feet, then Alric went to tackle the thief. The ghost, driving Needles’ body, drew a shortsword and attacked, delivering a massive cut to the barbarian’s leg. It was prevented from doing even more damage when Jed used a spell of Command to drive the spirit from Needles’ body.

While the others patched up Alric, Trevor used his spooky medium powers to talk things over with the ghost. He described it as the ghost of a dwarf, one of the inhabitants from before the fall of the dwarven empire. He announced that the ghost had drawn a line in the sand, so to speak:  anyone stepping over the threshold into the ghost’s rooms would be attacked without quarter, possessed, and made to walk out a window. Without any clear way to answer that threat, the party backed off.

They went back to check another, as-yet unopened door off the common room. They were able to unlock the door, but found it to be barred from the other side. Jed again assumed his Body of Air form and slipped through the cracks into the next room, but it was too dark to see anything interesting before he found himself under psychic assault from the ghost. Holding it off, he returned to the others.

The party returned to the hall and continued on, discovering the guard post overlooking the bridge. While checking it out, the party’s more sensitive noses caught the smell of blood. Investigating, the party found the big room with the Pit Of Darkness. The first thing they noticed was how the room had been redecorated with the torn-apart corpses of several goblins… the same goblins they had left in charge before, after freeing them from their orcish masters. Next, they realized that someone had taken a large chain, suitable for use as a ladder, and looped it around the base of some of the scattered equipment to anchor it, with one end hanging over the edge and disappearing into the gloom of the pit.

There was some discussion of cutting the chain, or possibly disconnecting it, but in the end, they decided to leave it for the moment. Jed pulled out a scroll he had purchased for just this occasion, and used it to cast a huge area of Continual Sunlight over the pit. This set off a gang of shriekers at the bottom of the pit, who starting in with their whistling screams.

Ignoring the screaming fugus and leaving a guard over the pit, they scattered to search the area. Alric found what appeared to be Mongo’s sleeping area, and found the chest he had been using for a headrest. When opened, it seemed to be some long-dead dwarf’s “bug-out bag”, packed with a mattress, some pillows, a couple of jugs of wine, and so forth. Most interesting was some jewelry at the bottom of the chest. The whole thing got bundled in with the party’s loot for later, closer, perusal.

FuBar declared his intention to test himself against this pit — his stated dream for some time, now — and clambered down the chain before the others could talk him out of it. The words “just to take a quick look around” were uttered. As he descended, the others gathered around to watch, and perhaps attack pursuers. Posy climbed up on the boom of one of the cranes, which the others positioned so that she stood directly over the center of the pit, ready to start launching a rain of arrows.

FuBar got a good look around the first level, seeing several doors. Seeing no opposition, he jumped from chain to balcony and went to the door. Again, “just to take a look around”. Opening the door, he found the decayed remains of what seemed to be some dwarf’s living quarters. There was a closed door on the far side of the room. Noticing some sort of bundle lying next to the door, FuBar entered the room for a closer look. It was a backpack, he saw. (GM: “… and certainly not any kind of bait,” Jed’s player said.)

He approached the pack, his hand outstretched…

* * *

… and that’s where we left it for next time. 😉

 

 

Edit 2 Feb 2015: I mis-remembered how they got the ghost out of Needles, and originally had it that Trevor applied holy water. I apparently combined two different events. Trevor threw some holy water somewhere, I’m sure, but it wasn’t at Needles.

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #12

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

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

Rumors Gathered:

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

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

Then he and Trevor hit the library:

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

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

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

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

What Happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“Corbin, Inc.”, Session #11

DRAMATIS PERSONÆ:

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

Sadly absent:

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

Rumors Gathered:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Happened:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

“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.

 

Peter's ESL

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Set Adrift, On 3d6

A brief look into my life through GURPS.

Northport

adventures in designing a GURPS Dungeon Fantasy setting

False Machine

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dreams in the Lich House

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Game Geekery

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

DYVERS

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dark Paths and Wandered Roads

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Roll and Shout

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Dice and Discourse

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Ravens N' Pennies

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

One Yard Hex

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

The Lands of Nandêmē: A Hexcrawl for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Richard's Dystopian Pokeverse

Mostly Old-school RPG musings

Orbs and Balrogs

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

RPG Snob

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

yog-blogsoth

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Spiderweb in the Corner

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

The Tao of D&D

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape

Game in the Brain

Meandering aimlessly around the GURPS landscape