November 25th, 2012
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (about 315 points)
Nakar, human wizard (about 300 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (about 290 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Galen Longtread, human scout (about 270 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (about 290 points)
Kullockh, human scout (about 260 points)
Reserve (player couldn't make it)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (283 points)
Nearly a full house! We would have had Dr. Honus, M.D., but his current rotation is pretty harsh so he couldn't stay for today's session.
We opened as usual in Stericksburg.
Last session, the PCs were forced to leave their hirelings behind thanks to a teleport room that sent them to the surface.
This session, they headed out with a few different goals in mind:
- explore level 2
- find their hirelings, or their remains
- investigate a rumor of an entrance to the dungeon in a well.
Before they headed out, though, they put down some money for a sage to tell them about killing gargoyles. They learned that gargoyles don't eat, breathe, or sleep - they're living stone. However, if you deal a final blow with them with a magical weapon (one with Puissance +1 or better on it), it will die. You must deliver the killing blow, so you can't just beat them down with non-magical weapons and then tap them all with a magic sword. Magical creatures are like that.
They also hit on a bunch of related rumors about Baron Sterick the Red - he had an adviser who claimed to be from another world, he went crazy after his adviser did something to him, he had a huge paychest that was never found, and his prisoners were never released and are still down there. Further, they heard rumors about hobgoblins originating in Felltower - they're goblins that drank from a magic fountain there. Finally, an old man told them that the further underground you go, the further you are from the eye of the Good God, so that's why evil critters lurk down there. Inq. Marco confirmed this was a teaching of the church. ("Aren't you familiar with Marco 15:2?")
Raggi also told them he'd heard from some gnomes that they were in town hunting down a renegade gnome who was consorting with goblin-kind, but they wouldn't tell him the name.
More interesting stuff happened, as well. The big news in town was that a tower, much like but also unlike the towers of the wealthy folks, suddenly appeared in town. As in, just showed up overnight. Not only that, but it didn't stay - some mornings it just wasn't there. Meanwhile, criers went out and announced that Jans the Black, Enchanter of the Dark Marches, was offering his services as a wizard and declaring his interest in buying "especial curiosities" with gold, gems, or "curios of the far south." Meanwhile, while invisible, Nakar was confronted with a "perfectly normal looking goblin, except for his third eye" who handed him a personal letter. It said much the same thing as the public announcement, but with an admonition not to bother Black Jans with trifles. It was signrd "The Kio, Servants of the Enchanter Jans the Black."
The PCs decided a) he wasn't going to come adventuring with them and b) it was best not to bother him yet.
Finally, they found out to un-Curse Nakar the Happy (from his Euphoric state) would cost 1000 sp. Too much! They left him happy for a couple weeks just for good fun, and then decided to fix him. They badgered Inquisitor Marco to pray for more power from the Good God (he's been saving points since something like session 3). He did so, getting another level of Power Investiture (now 5) and Remove Curse. And Curse, for good measure. He did it "free" for Nakar, but Nakar owes him one. "No, let me pay you!" "No, just owe me, it's fine."
The group hiked up the mountain, past the statue of Sterick, and to the ruins above. They had lunch, didn't get bothered, and then investigated the castle. Nakar checked the room they'd been teleported to - nothing special, no runes, no markings, no magic. Meanwhile the others found a dry hole in the ground that was once a shallow well. Kullockh climbed down and searched - no entrances on the sides, but they dug out the dirt and grass at the bottom and quickly found an old trapdoor (clearly the "well" was never a water source). They pried it up, looked down to make sure it was safe, and then proceeded down, leaving a rope tied up to an anchored grapnel on the surface.
The bottom was a circular chamber, and they quickly located a secret door out to a 10 x 10 hallway with another secret door on the other side. They exited that (again finding the push-stone easily) and found themselves in a hallway. Some scouting and searching around, plus some extra time spent lining up maps, and they realized they were right near the ogre's room/stairs to level too, the "obscure" water room from their very first trip into Felltower, and near the "big room" they kept fighting wandering monsters in.
They headed right down to the second level. They found no sign of the apes they'd fought except a simian oder, very faint. They moved past the arrow mark on the floor (carefully not touching it), past the shattered black hemisphere (some bits had been crushed and moved out of their original spot), and out into the hallwall they'd ended up in last time. "Ooh, shiny" applied. Instead of going to where they'd lost their hirelings, they went to the big corridor (20' wide, arched ceiling) and followed it down. It was long - they went well over 100 feet before running into some doors - single on the right, big doubles on the left, matching the ones they'd encountered last session, plus the corridor extended at least 100' more, and they could faintly see flickering torch-like light ahead.
They went for the first double doors, and got them open with a boot and moved in. Inside was a lot of old furniture - barracks room stuff, like from Vryce's army days. Moldy old cots, trunks for clothes (the cheap kind that don't lock or open quietly or close tightly) . . . and a hobgoblin crouching behind a trunk out of their vision range (but not out of Kullockh's magical Dark Vision). Kullockh shot him in the face with an arrow . . . and it broke in half.
Closer inspection showed this was a petrified hobgoblin, in a pose that screamed "I'll just peek over this trunk." Inq. Marco cast Stone to Flesh and restored him. Galen used his broken Goblinese to talk to him, and they found out he was Krug, he'd been looking for money on his own, and saw a snake-headed woman and that's the last thing he remembers. Also, up the corridor are "fire men" - that's all he knew about them.
Naturally, they recruited him. (I gave a scripted +5 to Loyalty if they rescued him and offered to hire him - Galen did, but only ended up with a mediocre 11 Loyalty - still good enough for now). No offer of loot except he could keep his money and gear, and they might give him more.
"Oooh, shiny!" take two - they headed back to where they'd left their hirelings. They found the spot - some bloodstains and broken quarrels with Grey McCape's grey paint rings on the wood. Nakar used Seeker to find Grey, and found a path to them. With Krug's help they navigated forward to the hobgoblin's area. They spotted two goblins standing careful watch - and invisible Kullockh shot them down (amusingly, he double-shot and missed them, but they looked to where these arrows went, and before they could react further he shot both down with a second double-shot). They cleared some caltrops tied to one another and to wooden noisemakers, and moved on.
Krug led them to where he said a troll lived. They found a big room with a door, and a hook with a sack of iron spikes hanging on it as high up off the floor as it could get. Huh. As they went to open the door, a troll did that for them from the other side and attacked. Vryce parried his claws and sliced him up a bit, and then Kullockh arrow'ed him a few times. Borriz rushed up into the doorway, and got attacked by "Rusty," the troll's pet rust monster. It flailed at him with its feelers and first rusted away his mail hauberk and then his left leg's mail. Krug didn't mention him - hey, they're using broken Goblinese and gesture, so stuff gets lost.
The troll went down seconds later with arrows, and then the rust monster got smashed in the head by Borriz with his crowbar (he wisely tossed him good mace far away first) and then shot with an arrow and killed. Inq. Marco lit up the troll with a Sunbolt and burned him to ashes.
They didn't search the troll's room, pausing only to grab an orichalcum small shield (sans straps) used as Rusty's feed bowl.
Again they moved forward, and found more stuff - a room Krug said was "goblin females and kids." They ignored it. A bricked-up hallway - he said a "stone bird" was there, along with "three hands" of dead hobgoblins. They coaxed out of him the bird is stone colored and it makes you die. They decided if the hobgoblins had bricked it up, they better go in! But by now even the party had decided enough "Oooh, shiny!" and moved on. A couple more goblin scouts went down, and the party found a 20' pile of mortared rubble . . . and somewhere past it were their hirelings. So they left Nakar their to slowly shape the stone aside, and went ahead. They basically found a bunch of hobgoblins waiting for them, with possible attack from the sides. So they set Galen and Krug to watch their rear, Kullockh and Inq. Marco to watch their flank, and sent Borriz and Raggi up the middle behind Vryce.
The fight was long, but not so dangerous. Vryce charged into the room, saw 15-20 hobgoblins, and ate like six quarrels over a few seconds (2 and 4, I think) but Inq. Marco healed him. They lit into the hobgoblins and killed over half of them in a few seconds. Their morale broke, just as more hobgoblins ran out of a side passage and into arrow fire from the two scouts. Borriz and then Vryce ran back to help, while Raggi chased down the broken hobgoblins. Then Raggi said "I see their priests!" and Vryce ran back to help. Amusingly, the priests had just called out and rallied the broken hobgoblins, and the second the turned to start fighting again Vryce ran back into the room. I rolled morale again and they routed utterly; so did the priests. Vryce killed two of them, Raggi another two, and then he head back again.
Meanwhile Nakar hasted himself and came running. Borriz, Marco, and the scouts (and Krug, cheerfully attacking his former friends) broke the other hobgoblins. Galen convinced on to surrender and then to join them if he wanted to live. He did.
Galen ate a strongly envonomed crossbow bolt (serves him right, all his arrows are poisoned too), and then a mob of norkers lead by some hobgoblins and a goblin charged them. They formed a line (Marco, Borriz, Krug backed by Lurg, the spear-hobgoblin) and started on the Norkers. They didn't do too poorly - they managed to wound Krug and hit Inq. Marco (only to be repelled by his light plate and Armor spell) - but in the end they died, fighting to the last without thought to surrender.
After this fight, they policed up the loot (not much, except the six-fingered relief amulets of the priests), found Raggi had butchered four goblin females in the priest's room, and found some assorted saleable stuff. They sent Galen and Krug and Lurg to recruit four cornered hobgoblins, and they did ("Join us or die." "Hail new chief!") and were put into a squad under Krug. They were given the pick of loot, so they each ended up with an axe, spear, sword, mail armor, and a crossbow. And their pick of the females to take with them (one each). They also found the big melee room had ladder rungs up to what were certainly the "pillboxes" on level one. Aha.
The group explored further, and found the chief's room. Vryce kicked down the door but the chief had fled - clearly, down the steep stairs leaving his room! The went down to the first landing and found a strange statue of a somewhat pointy-headed, lobeless-pointy-eared, six-fingered humanoid in robes in a side room. It was clearly a well-made statue, but not excessively so. No inscriptions, artist's marks, or magic. Another set of stairs went down around a corner, but they decided not to follow the chief. It was getting late, after all, and their guys were tired from a brutal combat or two.
They found a guard room - this one had doors barred from the inside, buckets of sand and water, a door with a watch-slit (beyond they could see a small barricade of loosely mortared stone and two goblins hiding), a door covered with an untanned deer hide freshly wet with water facing more (or the same?) "fire men," and a more normal (but barred) door. They chose that way, and found a room stinking of feces and urine (they didn't investigate), yet another barricade (lots of them - the hobgoblins clearly were walling off areas to create defensive chokepoints), and a junk room with their four battered hirelings still in it. They'd been held captive by the hobgoblins, and beat up occasionally, but otherwise alive. Inq. Marco healed them all with his Staff of Healing and they brought them back to their new hobgoblin hirelings. Their old hirelings recovered their stuff from a storeroom, and the PCs headed home.
Here is where, late on Sunday night, the fun began.
Nakar said they should use the Teleport room to get home. It was very close, and he was "positive" it would safely take all 23 of them (7 PCs, 4 hirelings, 6 hogoblins and 6 hobgoblin females) and their loot back to the surface. Borriz argued there were two other easy ways to the surface, why not use them instead of this? Nakar insisted, and carried the day with surprising ease.
They all piled into the room, getting ready to head to the surface. The door slammed shut as Nakar read the mix of nonsense symbols and real symbols on the wall, there was a wrenching twist . . .
. . .
. . . and the the whole group found themselves 3 yards in the air over a dark, dark body of water, and they fell. Their very brief impression was it was a dark, underground place, with a vaulted roof overhead, and then splash.
We ended right there.
First off, what a fun ending. I was shaking my head and just saying "Geez, you guys . . . " My players? They were laughing loud and long. They loved it. They knew it was risky and crazy and did it anyway, because . . . why is that again?
They were on the verge of a profitable trip - the orichalcum shield, the amulets of the priests, and some assorted coinage wasn't a huge haul but it was enough. They'd also recovered four hirelings (and braved personal danger to do so), which would tell well for them, and they'd recruited a half-dozen hobgoblins they'd planned to leave out camping with Galen and take with them as low-rent henchmen when they raided the dungeon. They'd suffered little in the way of injury (well, some, but not too much), and while Kullockh was almost out of arrows they were otherwise fine. They gutted the hobgoblin menace to a significant degree, and found out about "fire men" and "lizard men" foes of the hobgoblins and roughly where they were. They found what is probably a stairway down to level 3 at least, possibly deeper (they didn't check all the way). They even had updated and combined their maps to a degree.
Now they're going to have to make default Body Sense rolls to avoid disorientation, and then fall into unknown black waters underground, fully equipped. Only Galen, Kullockh, and Raggi can swim - thanks to their outdoorsy type PCs. The other 20? Nope. They will need to default it, and succeed in their rolls, to get their heads above water. Meanwhile, encumbrance penalties count double. Swimming is only one point, but no one learned it, because how often does it matter? Rarely . . . I doubt anyone gave it a thought except for the guys who had it on their template as a required purchase. At least one PC - Inquisitor Marco - is so heavily encumbered he doesn't even get a roll (net Swimming skill 2).
This can easily kill the entire party.
And that's just the possible effects of disorientation from the teleport and swimming. If their are hostile aquatic lifeforms (known in fantasy as "sea monsters"), they are in even more trouble.
Meanwhile, the maps will be toast (ink on parchment), and hirelings, etc. will dump their gear to try and swim, and their loose loot will just sink.
Nakar's player announced he'd throw Levitate and made the roll, but I realized after I'd left he can't, it's a one second spell and a 9' fall takes a fraction of a second. No chance, he's got to make a Swimming check first and then cast it (or try to concentrate while drowning - not happening.) Next session might be very brief, and more of a post-mortem followed by a chargen session (or at least double-checking new PCs with me). So no, next time we start with some very difficult rolls and see who survives.
I expect new PCs might know how to swim, for, oh, no particular reason. Just in case . . .
So how did the players take this setback?
Borriz's player said "If this is how we all die and the campaign ends, that would be the best ending ever." A few guys goofed on Nakar's player, Nakar's player moaning about the illogic of putting a teleport room in your castle that sends you to bad places ("Yeah, who would ever put that in their EVIL DUNGEON?" said Inq. Marco's character), and how they'd have done that eventually so now was better than later. A few guys bemoaned probably losing good PCs and good stuff. But seconds after it happened the laughing started and people started saying "I'll start making up my next guy" and "we have to have our new guys find this place and loot our old guys!" So I don't think - even if this becomes a TPK - this will derail our DF game. It just might mean I need to bust out another low-level dungeon for people to explore until they're up to the challenge of Felltower.
This move was inexplicably risky. A classic proof that there are old adventurers, bold adventurers, but no old, bold adventurers. There was a very easy way to the surface nearby, a slightly less easy way somewhat close buy, and a third way out though level 1. It was late, they didn't have full resources and weren't equipped for anything except the teleporter working exactly as it did the time before. Foolish and/or foolhardy. Maybe a teleporter that sends you dangerous places is a crazy, inexplicable thing to put in your castle. Maybe it's a trap, maybe it's a tool they just don't have the most remote idea of how to use except by accident. It's not clear. It was a game changing error.
But man, did they love it.
Which is the whole point. You "win" when you have fun, no matter what stupid crap happens to your poor, poor paper men.
As you can see, rumors can be fun. All were randomly rolled but most of the good "Sterick" ones all come up in a cluster. Spending on Carousing rolls really has paid off for the PCs in a wealth of knowledge, some of which is really true (the Well entrance, for example).
The wizard, well, I felt I needed a powerful wizard in town. So why retcon one when I can just have one whisk himself into town, tower and all? I partly stole this idea from Beedo, but also from Gygax's wizard in the tower, several of my own previous grumpy wizard types (Joachim Zavian from my 1st edition GURPS game and Jan Wroclaw the Enchanter from my last one), and a bit of the Ifrits of Yrth as well.
More fun quotes: "Trolls and rust monsters - natural friends? Oh wait, that actually makes sense . . . "
There was some amusing discussion about docking the hireling's pay for missing equipment and lost quarrels, but when they eventually realized the hirelings came with their own gear that wasn't going to fly. They probably wouldn't have done it anyway.
I played around with some variations on the morale check rules, and they work just fine, but obviously need more playtesting before I can churn them into a real set of workable rules.
Also, I really enjoyed Krug and recruiting more hobgoblins. I knew they'd recognize him as petrified and revivify him (or might, if Inq. Marco was along), so I was ready for "what is his name?" and "will he join us?" I wasn't sure they'd hire him, but I knew the chances were good so I'm glad I prepped for that. I'm happy they ran with it, even they didn't get to run very far.