April 26th, 2015
Weather: Chilly, clear.
Characters (in the dungeon): (approximate net point total)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
Koric, human guard (~70 points)
Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (252 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (260 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (254 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (254 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (254 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
We picked up in Swampsedge. The group gathered some rumors, include one that certain patches of swamp water will turn you undead (prompting a lot of unsafe sipping of water by Gerald), one about how it was unseasonably misty, cold, and foggy in the swamp, and two words - Swamp Apes. Oh, and root-men. Man-like root monsters.
The group bought gear and food with the little bit of money they eked out selling looted weaponry from last time. Hannibal didn't have enough for both a healing potion and an alchemist's fire, and since healing potions don't set things on fire, he went with the latter.
They went to find Old Crazy William, but he was out (probably fishing or hunting in the swamp.) So they departed into the waterways of the Cold Fens.
Right away, they had problems. An untimely (but oddly quiet) 18 on a Continual Light stone by El Murik just set the tone. They only had one boatman this trip, and needed two boats. So Asher was put in charge of poling the second skiff. Since he defaults Boating-8, and they need to succeed in their daily Boating roll to make full speed, they immediately started falling behind. They only made it three miles the first day, and got mobbed with insects early in the day. Later in the day, they came too close to some stagnant water, and out it came . . .
Five leeches attacked them. Two tried to jump onto Gerry's eyes but didn't get him, one barely missing. Korric had one jump onto his face, and two went for shirtless Bjorn. He has too much DR for one to bother his bare chest, but one got him on the left eye.
Gerry quickly put Blur on himself to stop further attacks (good idea, it caused the next attacks to miss), and then as Korric struggled to get a grip on the pinky-sized leech that was sucking his blood Gerry used Spasm on it to get it to let go. It dropped, full of blood, and Korric stamped on it. Gerry stomped on one by his feet, too, and ground it with his boot until it was a black smear.
Bjorn just grabbed the one on his eye and pulled it off a second later, then carefully popped it with his fist. Then he ripped off the one on his chest, and stomped that one.
They camped, but had a hard time finding a good camp, and ended up tired and crabby in the morning. They didn't make much progress and dealt with still more biting flies (basically, wandering FP damage). Then they rolled an 18 looking for a camp, and got no concealment, no comfort, and bad lines of sight. They bedded down on the wet ground and pitched their blankets as tents and suffered in the water. As dawn was just starting to break, as El Murik was taking a watch, he found himself staring at a lump of vegetation moving with the current. It got to within 4 yards before he realized . . . there is no current. At that moment, a long neck emerged from the water, connected to the "lump," with a hideous head on the end. He suffered a Fright Check (which he passed) and made a Will roll . . . but still took 2d toxic damage. He yelled for help and people started to wake up. In the next few seconds, everyone woke up, except Bjorn. They woke up, looked over at the danger, made their Fright Checks and took damage. Asher started to fall back, Hannibal charged up an Explosive Fireball fast (right up to 3d right away). Damage all around, again - it started to look like a crushing disaster. Hannibal hit it with his fireball, scorching its body. The "swamp cow" lowed, and El Murik failed his Fright Check and was stunned for 10 seconds. More damage ensued. Hannibal somehow got off a Flame Jet, after resisting being Stunned, and blasted it for 4d. He did a lot of damage (13-15 points, something around that) and the creature could no longer keep its lethally ugly face out of the water. It lowered it, and walked off rapidly. They let it go, pursed by fireballs as it glided along just under the water.
At this point, Bjorn woke up. He scoffed. Yah, "Swamp Cow." He kept his disbelief as Asher used his holy skills to cure some of the "damage" and El Murik started casting healing spells. Everyone else was faking it, he figured, and did his morning pushups and squats to get limber while they moaning about their injury.
But the group was decimated, at least two days from the temple, and didn't have enough food to get there and back. They discussed going back - but they couldn't really afford to re-stock. They had to go forward. So they hunted up a better camp - this time, getting a timely critical success. They concealed themselves in a comfortable area and relaxed and did some fishing (with improvised gear, and other than Gerry caught nothing) while Bjorn hunted food all day (and blew most of his rolls.) They didn't add to their stock, but they did defray the cost of a day's delay and recover somewhat.
Lucky for them they hit that critical - because they saw the dragon flying overhead, hunting for something, but they had good line of sight but it didn't see them.
They headed to the temple and reached it a day and change later without further mishap.
There they found Rahtnar waiting (the player showed up late, and easily made his Boating and Survival rolls.)
They did their usual suppressive fire routine on the watery murder nymphs, then regrouped out of their reach by the demonic bas relief. They discussed some ideas about the nymphs, and what might be in their pools beneath them. No one moved to find out, though.
El Murik took out his secret weapon, and the secret behind the economic collapse of dwarven civilization - the silver coin on a string. He fed it into the demon, waited for a click and the trap door to unlock (it did), and then reeled in his coin. It worked!
Bjorn was sent to hack down some wood while the group rested (watching the nymphs and the stairs down). He came back down and Hannibal lit up a fire he could use to summon a fire elemental. He did, which he prompted named Burnie, short for Burnadette. it was minor fire elemental, and Hannibal scored a 12 on his reaction roll - Neutral. It was bumped to 13, Good, because Hannibal's only request was, come set things on fire. So it agreed to help.
They headed down, and advanced cautiously into the big room, in formation and hurling light stones ahead of them.
It was empty. It had three ways out besides the one they came in. They took the one to the right, a pair of double doors. They took a turn to the left through another door in the hallway, and marked that with a couple of axe blows. From there they moved on and found a barred door. Bjorn couldn't force it, so Rahtnar stepped up with Power Blow. It still took two tries, since he blew his first Power Blow attempt. His second worked and he broke the bar off its bracket and they burst into a barracks. There was space for 25 guys, but they only found two convalescing swordsman with foot injuries, holding swords and shields - one supporting himself on a cot, the other sitting on a cot.
The swordsmen immediately began yelling for help, saying, "They're here! They're in the barracks! They're in the barracks!" Bjorn yelled for them to be quiet, and they stopped yelling. They demanded the men surrender. They didn't. So they attacked. Bjorn decapitated the seated one after knocking him flat on the cot. The other was hit in the chest with Rahtnar's axe, and fell back over his cot. He was killed moments later.
The group moved out the door and decided to start mapping so they wouldn't get lost. That lasted a minute or two before they took some arrows from the distance - only warned by Gerry, who could see past the edge of their light with his Dark Vision spell. Still, Hannibal took an arrow as he dove prone. The archers kept up their arrows, guided by at least one archer would could equally see well in the dark, but didn't inflict any more damage but did get a few hits blocked by the front rankers. At this point, all of the lightstones made by El went out (Remember that 18?) but luckily they all had one each of Holy and Magical stones.
The PCs retreated into the barracks and out through a side door. They ended up in an elongated H, coming from one door to face another. They set up and Bjorn started to hack it down as they heard shouts, drums, and booted feet. The door was just starting to give when it became clear they had to fight right there. So they got ready, like so:
As the enemy moved in, Hannibal lit one up with a fireball (literally, doing 11 damage and setting all of his clothing on fire).
(the burning man is marked with a rubber band)
Then he sent Burnie in to attack the archers, first putting Fast Fire on her to give her ersatz Altered Time Rate and then putting up a Smoke spell on top of her and obscuring the hallway. It was good tactics, as the archers had to fall back under the attack and couldn't fire from a distance and affect the fight.
The enemy poured in from both sides - El and Rahtnar held the right flank against swordsmen backed with spearmen. Gerry quickly put Great Haste on Rahtnar once the fighters were engaged. Rahtnar immediately began cutting down his foes, and despite their attempts to swamp his defenses with attacks he held them off and started to cut them down, quickly resorting to his favorite foot shots. They responded once by trying to hit his feet, yelling, "How do YOU like this?" They didn't land any shots, through, except for a single spear thrust that did maximum damage, getting 1 point by Rahtnar's heavy armor.
The axemen fought Bjorn and Asher, and the fight held fairly even at first.
But then, the damaged door burst open, and in it appeared some swordsmen. Gerry put Darkness on the area, cutting visibility in half (which was a double-edged sword for the party). Hannibal backed it up with a Smoke spell. The enemy charged out, though - six swordsmen and a spearman in fine mail armor. He was Great Hasted, and run up and speared Hannibal in the back, knocking him out. That's all he had time for, though, as he tried to kill Bjorn and left himself open to a back shot from Gerry, who somehow managed to get off Deathtouch unmolested by the spearman's swordsman buddies. Gerry cracked the spearman in the back with his staff, injuring him lightly with a solid hit but dealing 13 toxic damage with Deathtouch. The spearman went slightly negative HP, and had an easy roll to stay up. He rolled a 16 and dropped like a stone. The group started chanting MVP, MVP.
(Which they would then do for anything remotely good anyone did, even the bad guys on occasion.)
The fight continued. Bjorn got hacked with axes and swords and whatnot, barely able to make any reasonable defense rolls. Asher defended and hit with ease, but rarely rolled better than minimum damage and just pinked foes he could have slain with an above-average roll. Bjorn was cut off from El Murik healing him because he was far and Murik couldn't see him thanks to the dark.
The Darkness spell went out then, dispelled despite Gerry making his spell roll by 13. Youch. Shortly after, as Rahtnar was beating down the swordsmen and spearmen, more foes ran up - crazed-looking guys in red, black, and purple robes and shirts with a mix of clubs, maces, flails, and even dual-wielding morningstars. They charged right in.
Rahtnar engaged, and although he was hit once or twice he took little or no damage and proceeded to hack them apart. He rolled no less than two 3s on random location shots, splitting skulls open, and double-tapped another in the skull on purpose, each blow being enough to kill him. They were crazed, but maybe not berserk, because they just died horribly and quickly.
On the other side, Bjorn fought foes on both sides and Asher kept stabbing and slicing away. The middle of the fight was Korric and Orrie and El Murik, while Gerry covered himself in Darkness to impede easy strikes on him - which worked oddly well. Korric wounded a swordsmen and then fell (an 18), but Orrie spiked one, then sliced one with an axe blow, then got two 4s on three rolls to take out a couple more. The disorganized center attack came apart until the weight of PCs. El Murik spiked one foe early and took two tries to pull out his pick, and then put the guy down with an axe blow. The enemy was so disorganized by the all-sides attack many died to back shots, and a couple just failed easy HT rolls and defense rolls and went down quickly. (Which is odd, because they were well equipped and skilled.)
Bjorn finally dropped unconscious from wounds at this point, as Burnie returned (called by Asher, mimicking Hannibal's cries of "Burn! Come burn!") and lit the axemen on fire from behind. Asher chased the one that stood after all of that as he ran off, and ran him through from behind, doing only his second above-minimum damage roll (he rolled a 2, instead of a 1). It was enough, though, to drop him.
Once it was all done, almost all of the attacking bandits had been put down. Some swordsmen were merely wounded, but combat ineffective. The wizard, some archers, and a couple spearmen were MIA. The wounded? Rahtnar killed them all, after they asked one where food could be found.
The PCs quickly got a perimeter going, looted the dead. They also looted the two rooms - the barracks, and its twin that the enemy had come from. There were a total of 50 lockers in them, almost all locked and many trapped. It didn't matter, because they hacked them open. They found clothing, coins (enough to total out 900 sp and 25 gp), four gems, a Potion of Major Healing, a glow vial, and a silver ring worth 300 sp.
One locker was unlocked, and contained the usual stuff plus a jelly donut (NSFW). I seem to recall Bjorn eating it while the others looted. Might have been Asher.
After that, they found the food, an old storeroom, the cistern used for water, and a mostly-empty armory. They took what they could. They almost went Full PC on the food stores by burning, trashing, and fouling anything they couldn't carry, but reason - they'd want this food to be edible if it was still here next time - and practically - that's a lot of time destroying a resource for no good purpose - won the day.
They headed out, avoiding the nymphs (and again briefly wondering what is in those pools). They managed to make it home safely - I abstracted the return to a single set of die rolls.
- One funny thing about my players - maybe all players, actually - is the willingness to bet everything on some pretty bad rolls so long as they aren't combat rolls. Boating-13 and Survival-13, and a guy with Boating-8 by default? Good to go! People stocked up with 6 days of rations for a trip that is 3 full days out, 3 full days back if they make every travel related roll, including that 8. Heh. I think I do this, too. 90% chance to hit? Not good enough! 60% per day of not eating the poison berries or avoiding drowning or not falling off a cliff? Nearly certain success! Bring it on!
- We had a long email discussion about tactics and sticking together prior to this session. You can see the result in this session. Even given the possibility (later, fact) of getting cut in two didn't invalidate the value of their tactics. Rather it demonstrated them - Korric and Orrie and Gerald were able to effectively hold the middle, even if they did it with a fairly obscene amount of luck (Orrie rolled two critical hits, the best bandit passed out right away, a few foes dropped unconscious despite fairly routine HT rolls). The key was that they were there to hold the middle. Asher and Bjorn fought well side by side, and Rahtnar and El Murik did the same. They used their fire elemental well - it would have been excellent if they'd been able to keep it in reserve, but expending it routing the archers meant there was basically no threat Bjorn and Asher couldn't stands up to. And even when things went badly for individual fighters the enemy didn't even have a second to build on the victory or finish off a wounded foe. That's why the PCs ended badly bloodied and the bandits ended up massacred. The bandits used good tactics, too, but they aren't 250+ points, so they still lost.
- Rahtnar is thinking about making his Trademark Move double foot cuts with an axe. Personally I think it'll only be useful on a relatively few opponents just as easily dealt with by raising damage potential and overall skill, but still, he might do it. You can see why Borriz Borrizman went with a double tap to the skull and Slayer Training - it was a pretty sure way to not only take a foe out but kill the foe.
- The catoblepas? The relevent bits I'll reveal here is a Gaze attack based on Will - 4d cosmic toxic, 2d if you resist. Fright Checks if you look at it, penalized Fright Checks if it lows. Not "dead with no save, dead with save if you aren't looking" but this was better. As in, everyone thought it was totally awful but fair and enjoyed the encounter.
- Those are a classic "don't give the GM ideas" thing. I had leeches in a swamp, and my buddy Aaron said, "Leaping leeches?" with the prescience of someone who knows that in Peter's game, it's always the worst thing possible. So, yes, leaping leeches.
- All FMJ references are their for Hannibal's player. He loved that movie so much he lived it.
- They made a solid profit (in the 1200-1300 sp each range), paid their hirelings a bonus equal to twice their daily rate (which is good, because it's a 6-8 day round trip and they only paid for one day). They also got a magical ornate balanced spear (Puissance +1) off the spearman leader type guy, along with enchanted mail (Fortify +1, and it's Fine.) Asher got the mail, and Rahtnar took the spear because TBAM covers that, too.
- They voted Gerry MVP for his timely takeout of a dangerous foe.
- I made the return trip easy because at that point, the session is over, extending it with wandering monsters just isn't worth it. They're fun when they wear down resources going it, not deplete time at the end of the game session.