Sunday, September 9, 2012

DF Game, Session 13 - Felltower

Finally we had time, a playing space, and enough people to play. Summer is hard for parents and for me as well. Last session was July 15th.

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (299 points)
Nakar, human wizard (about 285 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (about 280 points)
Fuma, human thief (254 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (280 points)

Reserve (players couldn't make it)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (283 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC) (Red Raggi is around town right now on a 15 or less on 3d. I rolled a 16, so he wasn't available.)

We opened up with the PCs in town. Fuma did some gambling and learned Poisons (and picked up some poisons for his crossbow and Vryce's sword.) Vryce did some carousing and picked up some rumors. Nakar tried to learn about gargoyles (they are elementals, and some wag told him you need special dwarven magic gargoyle hammers to kill them). Borriz caroused as well (not as successfully). Father Marco's player showed up late, late, late so he didn't get anything done in town, he just caught up later.

The group headed out up the mountain to Felltower, passing the usual landmarks - across the Stone Bridge to the northside slums and Sterick's Landing, up past the statue of Sterick the Red himself, up the windy path, to the top of the mountain, and to the crumbling castle that marks Felltower.

They entered the dungeon with the usual caution (invisible scouts, watching the arrow slits, etc.) and put down their bridge. They were amused to find the hobgoblins (presumably) had put up wooden shutters backed with leather, wool, or felt (to ensure no light penetrated) across the inside of the arrow slits. Tired of duking it out with the PCs (and paying for it) presumably.

Since Inq. Marco wasn't there yet, they decided against a run at the wights, and turned right. They passed the echo-y chamber they'd encountered before, and went what they call "map north" (the dungeon doesn't actually line up neatly N-S). They saw a mosaic-floored 20' corridor with two side exits. Fuma scouted invisibly, and saw the edging of flicking light as if escaping from a closed door to the left. He also heard voices - sounded like orcish - and booted feet heading away. Also, some snuffling and grunting noises.

(Editing later: Forgot the mention that Inq. Marco's player showed up, so we ruled that he'd caught up with them after a slow start.)

Fuma went back and explained, then the group followed. The wide corridor continued ahead to the extent of their magical lighting. The headed left.

The passed a dead-end alcove and a side passage they didn't explore, and reached the door quietly. They heard voices speaking Common, something about a trapdoor, stuck, injuries, and "what do we do now?" So they lined up and bashed the door down and moved in. Inside the room were five men - two down (one still slightly smoldering), three standing - one with an axe and shield, one with a sword, one with a bow - around a campfire made of broken bits of scrap wood. It was a long room ending in a stone spiral staircase and with a portcullis closing off a 10' wide passage to the "north." There were scorch marks on the floor in front of the portcullis.

Vryce decided to speak, and they were willing to talk.

Long story short, they said they were the Choke brothers - Grimleck Choke (axe guy), Bowbender Choke (bow), and "Big" John Choke (greatsword). This will be funny later. They and their two (wounded) hirelings had entered the dungeon and found this room. They and the PCs conferred with each other, and then together. They decided to team up. The PCs revealed they weren't three, but five (Fuma and Nakar being invisible). The Chokes told them the portcullis was locked but they bent a hole in it, but a trap on it burned one of their hirelings and some painted faced zapped the other a bit. They tried the trapdoor at the top of the stairs, but it wouldn't budge. And they heard orcs coming (and mentioned seeing trolls, but no one seemed to notice) so they hid in here.

Sure enough, down the blocked corridor was a black, smooth door (metal, for sure) and two pairs of open-mouthed faces painted on the wall.

Fuma went through the bars to investigate, and tried to crawl between the faces. They blasted him with fire, and set his cloak on fire. He cut it off and crawled to "safety" between the faces. While he waited, the group planned. Borriz and Vryce tried the trapdoor and managed to force it up a bit, but rocks and dust fell on them and a bigger rock blocked it partly open. No dice - it's buried by crumbled stonework.

So they decided they'd shape the stone from above (and later from a section of floor by the door) and ooze it down, between the bars, and create tilted walls of stone to block the mouths of the faces. They did one, then two (and the trapdoor crashed shut as un-shaped rock above shifted), and then a third by tearing up a 6' x 3' x 3' foxhole out of the floor with Shape Earth. Fuma hung out on the "wrong" side of the portcullis, just because.

(This is short to explain, but it took a couple hours of play, which I'll gripe about below*)

While they rested, I kept having Nakar (who was taking all the time to shape and rest, shape and rest) make some rolls. Oops, too low. Wandering monsters. The orc patrol in the area showed up . . . with a bang. The group hear thundering steps and roaring noises. Suddenly, BANG, the (Magelocked) door exploded into pieces. A big boar (!) came charging in, flattening Grimleck Choke, ignoring a hatchet to the brain from Borriz, and taking a few cuts from Vryce and John Choke plus an arrow and a sunbolt before dropping. Instantly after it fell, two gladiator apes charged in. They did little besides get beat up by Borriz, but they kept everyone busy until the orcs arrived. They did, firing arrows and then four big brute orcs charged in.

As this happened, the PCs suddenly realized too late that John Choke had moved behind Vryce, Grimleck behind Borriz, Bowbender had lined up a shot on Inquisitor Marco, and the two "scared hirelings" moved right next to Fuma (albeit on the wrong side of the portcullis) and Nakar. And they suddenly attacked. Borriz dropped from an axe to the back (although he was only down, not out), Vryce was neck-and-arm grabbed by John, Bowbender missed Inq. Marco, one hireling grabbed at Nakar (and missed) and the other snaked out a hand and grabbed at Fuma.


What followed was a three-way fight. The orcs kept attacking everyone, while the Choke brothers engaged with weapons . . . and their bare hands.

Fuma's fight was short. He dodged the grapple, dropped his crossbow, and engaged with his shortsword. He lightly wounded his opponent, who (along with most of the others) shifted into the form of a green ogre! The green ogre grabbed his neck, and as Fuma tried to fend he off, proceeded to begin to crush his neck. It took only two seconds of squeezing (and two really brutal ST rolls by the ogre) to choke the life out of Fuma. He dropped to the ground, dead.

Vryce was borne down to his knees and his sword knocked out of his hands, before he could finally break free - even as his opponent and he were attacked equally by orcs and a gladiator ape that got back up from his stunned and prone position. Nakar blasted Bowman choke with a powerful stone missile (8d+8, for 37 damage) but it didn't drop him. Inq. Marco fire off spells and then tried to fight with his mace but was knocked into that hole they'd made harvesting stone for their face-blocking walls. Two of the Chokes tried to get Nakar, but he kept fending them off with spells and magically-enhanced defenses. They kept trying to grappling him and wring his neck, but he was too wiley (and lucky!) for them.

The fight really turned when John Choke got clipped by a gladiator ape and knocked out cold with a terrible HT roll, and Borriz got back up. Vryce got back up, too, with his sword at the ready (yanked back up from its lanyard). At that point, Orcs started to die as fast as Borriz wanted them to. Inq. Marco fought from his hole, fending off an ape (and crippling it's leg), using Command to get an orc to drop his weapon, and hurting one of the Chokes, too. A big half-orc half-ogre ran in and swung his hammer but Vryce parried and then Borriz killed the guy outright with his signature double head blows. Vryce attacked the apes, and the Chokes. Borriz pursued the orcs a bit, killing a couple archers who'd followed the originals into the room, but when their morale broke he couldn't keep up with them as they fled. Vryce, meanwhile, killed off the Chokes.

A shaman and two archers escaped, but six orcs and a half-orc half-ogre died along with two apes and all five Chokes (John by coup-de-grace to both eyes).

The loot was disappointing, and so was the loss of Fuma. The orcs had only a mix of so-so weapons and some coins, and the Chokes were broke. They decided to head back the way they came, after hearing more noise from that direction and not wanting to be cornered.

They got the intersection of the mosaic hallways and the way back when they heard something approaching. They decided to go for it, despite dwindling resources (and re-world time). They left Fuma's body in the open and tossed lightstones nearby to make anyone coming look past them, and set up a quick ambush. What came around the corner were the first two of (eventually) five poison slorn, big lizards that breathe toxic streams of gas. They attacked and hacked up the slorn, but not before Borriz took a big blast of venom. Just then, the slorn's master came up - a troll! Hloo, hloo, hloo, it went, and attacked. Borriz got clawed up (and knocked out), and Vryce, Inq. Marco, and Nakar attacked with spells and swords. They managed to finish the lizards, and then after a nasty scrap dropped the troll. Before they could light him up, though, another troll and another slorn came at them from the hallway . . . and nastier-looking troll and two more slorn came up from the door they'd been planning to use to escape!

Inq. Marco probably saved the day here with a timely Great Heal (to cure Borriz entirely) and then a made-it-exactly-despite-penalties Awaken to get him up. Nakar also set a big section of the battlefield on fire, cornering himself but forcing the slorn to close instead of sit back breathing toxins. He eventually tripped trying retreat across a wounded troll, got his face clawed open, and needed rescue - but the fire helped, and Borriz and Vryce managed to dice up the remaining slorn and bash the trolls down. They group then quickly heaped the trolls into the magical fire and Nakar kept it up for 2 minutes to ensure they burned to ash (100+ seconds in magic fire is a lot of damage, even to trolls!)

We decided to end it there. While they could have scampered out of the dungeon, they're convinced they just exposed the troll's treasure and want to make a grab for it. So next time, we'll pick up there and let them look around a bit. Hopefully they'll take a (short?) break once they find the troll's/slorn's lair or lairs, and go back to the surface. Fuma's player needs a new PC introduced.

That's where we ended.

* If there is one thing I could change/would change "next time", I'd add another change to the DF spell changes list - Shape Earth cannot shape worked stone. No shaping holes in walls, no shaping carven floors, etc. I understand the value of this, and that GURPS mages are more utility than combat, and that taking it away means taking away a valuable ability. But man, the session grinds to a halt at every obstacle and people say "Can we shape a hole in it? What's the magic resistance of the floor? Of the wall? Of that rock? Can we cover it with shaped stone? Can we shape the wall away from the lock? Can we shape barricades in front of the trap?" And since the spell is extremely costly (6x cost for worked stone) but not so costly they can't cast it, this means shape, rest, roll wandering monsters, have a fight, more shaping, more resting, etc. and we spend a few hours of the game session in one room trying to bludgeon a way into an area I meant to be hard to get into. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't . . . but it means less exploration and more "solve it by shape it." I'd recommend for a traditional D&D-style or video game-style game, where walls are true obstacles except where specifically destructable, stone that's been worked by tools cannot be shaped at all.
Would that I could change this now, but it's too late (and characters and plans are based on it.) It's just not that exciting, which is my main complaint.


Fun session.

A few things this time:

You can find Andersonian trolls, poison slorn, gladiator apes, and those green ogres in GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1. It was mostly luck that the PCs hit all of them in one session.

d30 Rumors. I put 30 rumors on a list and let my players roll the d30 for each rumor they picked up (1 automatic, plus 1 for every 2 points they made a Carousing roll by). This was a lot of fun, actually. I bolded out the rumors they have, and I'll pull them off the list and fill in new ones.

Combat can be slow. Especially if everyone is kibbitzing about each other's best options and worried about maximizing this turn's actions while not opening up their rear hexes to any attacks on subsequent turns. So while it's fine we have a high proportion of the session being combat, it sucks that it's one combat or two combats. So we're going to try a few ways to speed it up next time.

They need more bodies in the fray. But some players are reluctant to hire folks who'll get killed in the process.

We also discussed some meta-issues like always leaving the dungeon at the end of a session, how to get down to lower levels if you have to re-fight your way down each time, etc. We also talked "one group" versus "loose confederation of looters" and having extra PCs. We did all agree that killing monsters while drinking beer with your friends is awesome, but we're hoping to find a way to further maximize the awesomeness . . .


  1. I've been thinking about your stone shaping wizard a lot. I think one answer might be traps.

    While anti-magic paint on the stone will let him know that a particular wall isn't to be melted out of the way, a wall with a quarter ton of ball bearings behind it might just get your group to look into other solutions. Same with cave-ins.

    1. Yeah, I'm keeping an eye on cave-ins as a consequences of too much structural change. As for traps, I suspect they'd just disarm them (with Shape Earth!) and then move on. You couldn't build in too many traps, because who would do that? It makes sense on defensive walls but not everywhere.

      There are some other consequences for shaping stone my players aren't aware of, and have ignored hints about.

      Honestly though I'd just rather have them explore more rooms than spend time drilling a hole through inconvenient walls. Or make us spend time figuring out the thickness of a stone wall made X yards high by Y yards wide when it's made out of Z cubic yards of stone. It's less fun than killing monsters, to me.

  2. This account was most interesting. It seriously threatened the entire party with extermination, something that isn't commonplace. Lots of more interesting creatures (than orcs and hobgoblins). The deceptive monsters turning on the party in a three-way battle royale was even very like one of my own encounters run in my (first) megadungeon. I'm not familiar with "green ogres" but they sound like the doppelgangers I used. And instead of an orc patrol they were engaged in battle with an extradimensional nightmare, but it played out in *very* much the same way.

    In your comments you express your frustration at Shape Earth and you use the phrase "traditional D&D-style...where walls are true obstacles except where specifically destructible." I just wanted to point out the mistaken assumption here. In AD&D Stone Shape is a 3rd level druid spell. Passwall and Rock to Mud are also 5th level environment-shaping spells available in D&D, but by then you have limited teleportation magics to bypass obstacles as well. But more to the point druids get 3rd level spells at 3rd level, a mere 4,000 experience points! Someone a long time back gave a rough estimate of DF points vs D&D levels in your blog and by that estimation Stone Shape is available in D&D by 150 points, albeit only once a day (twice a day at 4th level / 175 points, thrice at 7th level / 250 points). So this was quite possible, though rare since few people saw the huge advantage of druids. It is of course more of a problem for DF since GURPS allows complete customization while to get this spell early in D&D requires accepting all the other conditions of being a druid. To my memory Stone Shape and Meld with Earth were only problematic in a single short-lived campaign. Later editions altered them in basically the way you are proposing.

    1. Now that the players know, I can say what the green ogres are - Throttlers, one of Sean Punch's creations from Dungeon Fantasy Monster 1.

      You're not wrong that AD&D had environment shaping spells. But they were higher level, took spell slots needed for other spells, had relatively limited effect (in terms of time), and took a long time to use if you needed many of them. In my AD&D days, they came up sometimes, but it was a last resort kind of situation, and people generally didn't tunnel through all obstacles or passwall past them because of the effective high cost of doing so. So unless a wall is something you can bash down, you need a high level spell to circumvent it.

      Shape Stone is a 1-minute duration, 1-second casting time relatively cheap spell. It's available to even a very low point mage. With it in hand, a GURPS earth mage can re-shape anything given enough time. There is no real cost for having it (1 point, sure, but it's a prereq for other spells you presumably want too), only a minor cost for using it (more time in the dungeon), and no upper limit on usage. Very little can stop it. In my old games, this was fine - dungeons were a "Saturday Night Special" kind of a thing, the main game was wilderness and city adventuring. In this game, big issue.

      That's why I changed it to a 1-second spell, which has reigned it in nicely while still keeping it around in a useful fashion.


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