September 6th, 2015
Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)
Characters (approximate net point total)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (302 points)
Koric, human guard (~70 points)
Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (282 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (276 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (277 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (264 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (270 points)
Dave, human knight (252 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
We gathered at long last, with a full house. Sadly, Dave's player has been seduced by the power of GameCube, and could not be persuaded to join. Too bad, his firepower was sorely needed.
No rumors, because by this point there wasn't anything else to learn. It was just getting to Sakatha's tomb and destroying the source of evil. The PCs stocked up on potions - the maximum number was available, so they bought all six healing potions and paut potions. The group assembled their gear, re-equipped Bjorn, stocked up on food, and headed out.
They made it to the temple in relatively good condition. No lethal encounters, and only a few nuissances like leaping leech swarms and biting bugs. They saw the dragon in the distance, too, but it didn't bother them.
They reached the island, bypassed the nymphs (who, they agreed, need to provide $1 hamburgers and drinks), and headed down. The doors to the dungeon weren't closed, so the junk wood had become damp. They needed something drier for tinder to start a fire to summon a fire elemental.
They made a strange mistake early - the unholy water needed to bypass the secret doors was dry. They had some, and used it up to go through. But they realized they needed tinder to summon a fire elemental, so they had to go back through the secret doors and hack down a door to get one (having found they'd burned most of everything else already). They used up the last drops and went through, effectively a one-way trip unless they were successful. They'd had enough to make a full trip there and back except for this need to return for wood.
They decided there must be loot at the fire-trapped bottom of the trapped staircase, so they tied a rope to Hannibal, had him Resist Fire the rope and himself, then Levitated him down after tripping it off. No - just a put with charred bits of ash and carbon at the bottom. They waited until the stairs reset, climbed down, and then crossed the "water."
They avoided the wights by moving quickly and sticking to the wall. They moved into the tomb structure. The stone block that fell onto El Murik's foot and trapped Bjorn was still there. They set up a bonfire and summoned a fire elemental. Even with Luck, though, Hannibal's best reaction roll was a 7. He resorted to Control Elemental to force it along, but keeping the spell up was expensive and speed was critical So they moved into the "feast room" and down into the lower level right away.
There they had Gerry load up on unholy water from the twin urns. back. Then they kicked the doors open. Beyond it was the T-shaped room, the three clerics, and twelve armored and shield-carrying hulking undead lizard men they'd run from two sessions back. This time, they were primed with Resist Poison spells and Affect Spirits (in case they were wights).
They moved in cautiously, but seemed to have a plan to split - send the fire elemental and Great Hasted warriors ahead, while the support troops move up in the rear. Asher began to concentrate to turn undead, but kept getting fairly poor rolls and tried and tried again. Gerry started to Great Haste the characters one by one - first Rahtnar, then Bjorn, then Asher, then Hannibal (after doing himself, of course.)
The enemy ranked up, with 10 lizardmen across backed by two underpriests, and 2 in the back shielding the main priest. Hannibal threw a 3d Explosive Fireball for almost no damage to start things off, and then the PCs started to throw alchemist's fire around the fight to channel the enemy and the enemy clerics put up a bit greenish poison gas cloud (which was also -2 to shoot through.)
The fight went well, early. Rahtnar and Bjorn ran up and engaged. The waiting lizardmen interrupted them (despite Great Haste) but couldn't get past their defenses. Equally, though, the fast and reasonably skilled elite undead guards could defend and strike hard, and they set down to fighting. It seemed like the pair would be in good shape but then Bjorn got hit hard with a pick in the arm, flanked and hit with another pick in the back, and Rahtnar was frustrated with a number of good defenses by his skilled foe.
(The fight was long - the whole session long - and ebbed and flowed a lot. The summary here is going to be kind of an overview)
The fight continued, and mostly turned against the PCs. The evil priests had summoned a Toxifier (DF2) and it finally showed up. They sent it along with instructions to kill the enemy holy warrior who was trying (without any success) to turn undead. Hannibal tried to stop it (I think) by putting alchemist's fire in its path. It just ignored that and moved in. Everyone was immune to poison except Korric and Orrie - Orrie got nausea and then started vomiting from the toxins.
Meanwhile, at the left flank, Bjorn took a few more hits and drop unconscious after dropping a lizard man and wounding another critically. He was critically hit in the bunch, burned his Good God Boon to turn it into a regular hit, blew the defense roll, and got taken out. Rahtnar charged forward, attacking the priests even as the undead warriors charged the party. This was critical because just as they were about to overrrun the party and they turned and came back to protect the (alarmed) priests.
Rahtnar briefed engaged the priests but their strong Staff skills, Shield spells, and threat of Deathtouch spells on their staffs drove him off. Gerry, meanwhile moved around invisibly hoping not to get run over by accident by the charging undead warriors.
Rahtnar gave up his brief attack on the priests and ran back, clouded by undead the whole time (like a soccer ball on a peewee pitch.)
By this point, with Bjorn down (although El Murik was running up to wake him up and eventually heal him - a little, anyway - only 16 HP), Asher moved up to try and clear the undead off of Rahtnar.
El managed to wake up Bjorn, but Asher got taken out by one of the undead lizard men. He dropped, head in a pool of alchemist's fire the PCs had set off. He'd never get back up again.
Bjorn did, though, after many Awaken spells by El Murik. He quickly got mobbed. Rahtnar busted out of the circle of foes who'd hacked at him over and over (the back shots, hurt, but he was too good to get hurt often by anything else.) Bjorn had to ready a potion, drink it, re-ready his shield, ready his axe, and fight back. He took out a lizard man or two before he and El Murik were cornered against their own alchemist's fire. Bjorn went down again, then El Murik did, many turns later, slowly hacked to death. He finally dropped at -55 HP, with two picks in him - either which would pit him to -5xHP and automatic death when pulled out. Bjorn would die later, slain casually by the victorious undead.
On the other side, Gerry was accidentally slammed prone by a lizardman who ran into his invisible self. Gerry managed to scramble out of the way and the lizardman vented his attacks on a now-empty floor. Rahtnar moved through flaming hexes to escape, and finally took out a couple of his pursuers. Hannibal kept throwing fireballs - mostly 3d explosive or 6d regular - but couldn't take out anyone or set them on fire. He did substantial damage, though, it just wasn't enough.
Full-on retreat was happening. Korric and Orrie tried to step up, but Korric was poisoned by the toxifier and Orrie started to vomit. A single lizard man took some pounding from them, before being finished by Rahtnar. Another skirmished with Korric a little, but then took him out with a solid whack and left him unconscious next to the vomiting (and soon slain) Orrie. Neither of them would survive, either.
Gerry, Hannibal, and Rahtnar made a run for it. They fought all the way with the toxifier (annoyingly willing to block movement - diffuse doesn't mean insubstantial smoke you can run through, I ruled - and no one tried to just slam it, which might have worked better), a few lizardmen undead, and their own low movement rates due to fatigue and injury. They made it to the stairs, where Hannibal set a fire with alchemist's fire. He almost tripped trying retreat up the stairs, but his Good God Boon saved him. The undead ran through the flames, willing to take damage to pursue the PCs on the orders of their priest commanders.
Meanwhile, Asher was slain by the priests. They walked up, repeated used Deathtouch on him, and he went to Mortally Wounded and they left him dying in place.
Next Hannibal went down, when he blew a parry against a pick and it took him from 10 HP to -10 HP in one blow. He fell unconscious. We didn't bother to resolve his death check when the pick was pulled out, as its own was destroyed. Two more lizardmen undead were around, and the toxifier. Gerry struggled to open the trap door out.
(I ruled the trap door had been closed, because the PCs have always been careful to close doors behind them to slow down anyone trying to attack from behind. Since they didn't specify, I went with SOP. It hurt them here. I basically asked, if I said, "You never said you closed it, the wights came in, who would have said they left it open?" Aha. Closed it was. That's their SOP - close doors, watch the six.)
Gerry finally got the door open and began to climb out. Rahtnar did, too, in a single bound. They slammed the trap door shut and ran out the door as the feast-hall lizardmen jumped down, looking all too hostile now that the PCs were in combat with their fellows. They ran into the hallway - forgetting the spear trap. Gerry set it off, but avoided the spears by burning his Good God-granted Boon. Rahtnar wasn't so lucky, and was hit with four spears. Two hurt badly, two not at all, and one mildly poisoned him despite his HT, Resistance to Poison +8, and so on - a 17 always fails. He staggered on.
They made it out of the tomb, and started running along to the cavern wall. Rahtnar made it only a few steps before finally dropping unconscious. Gerry sprang back into action, turning Rahtnar invisible, then draining him of some FP with Steal Vitality while ignoring the harmless-to-him toxifier. The lizardmen - what few remained after the slog of a fight - piled out looking for him. He used Levitate to move Rahtnar along, dodge the wights, and flee to the holy sanctity sanctuary they'd found.
There, he bandaged Rahtnar - but he was still negative, and still in roll-every-12-hours-or-die territory.
Gerry managed to get Rahtnar to the surface from there, using the some of the last of the unholy water to get by the secret doors. He avoided the water nymphs the same way. Their skiffs were there, stocked with food. He took one and moved out.
From there, he tried to straggle home with default Navigation, default Survival, and default Boating. He sort-of made it. He picked up a disease, got lost, got swamped, struggled to make progress, got attacked by leaping leeches, and more. Once, the dragon spotted his skiff moving around with no visible occupants. It circled low and eyed the skiff for 15 minutes before flying off.
Days later, during a rainy day, Gerry had to try to wait out the weather. Rahtnar, though, finally rolled a 15 on his 13-or-less-or-die roll, and expired. Gerry sadly used Zombie on his friend to access his Boating skill, succeeded in Navigation to orient himself, and straggled on. Later that day he flew home with Hawk Flight, taking Rahtnar's obvious valuables and leaving instructions to the zombie to try to find its way to Swampsedge. He flew home carefully, luckily not spotted by the dragon (which Gerry assumes senses him even when he's Invisible, and made it to Swampsedge.
Out of the eight PCs and NPCs who set out, he was the only one.
Remarkably close to a TPK. It should have been, but for a serious of timely rolls by Gerry and a lot of willingness by other PCs to put themselves on the line to make it easier for someone to escape. Gerry got lucky a few times, but was also good and careful. He could have gotten home earlier, easier, and not risked his life - except he wouldn't abandon Rahtnar until he actual expired. He staggled back to Swampsedge low on FP, stricken with disease, and otherwise much the worse for wear. But he made it back.
Bjorn, Rahtnar, El Murik, Asher, Korric, Orrie, and Hannibal didn't.
What next? Not the Cold Fens. The PCs want to start somewhere else, and nothing in-game binds them to stay (it was Asher's job, not Gerry's, to clear the evil there.) We'll figure something out ASAP as we're probably playing next week.
Why didn't the Toxifier, with a Dread of holy objects, stay away from Asher? The unholiness of Sakatha's inner tomb is such that it could ignore it. Outside, it didn't need to, as Asher was inside. Oddly the Toxifier says it is vulnerable to weapons that can hurt spirits, but it only says that Unkillable is affected by magic weapons - it's still Diffuse, not Insubstantial. So I enforce Diffuse but let magic weapons (and those with Affect Spirits) potentially kill it, so it was hard to kill. Hannibal never did try Explosive Fireball to just remove it in short order, probably because it wasn't a serious threat to anyone except Korric and Orrie.
Honestly, I thought they'd clear the encounter that ultimately killed them in short order. Worthy foes, with solid defenses, but not so much skill or flexibility that they could do much more than provide a physical threat. Their magical support really depended on poison or being close in (Summon Demon - Toxifier, some poison-based magic, and Deathtouch), and while not especially vulnerable to anything they were Fragile (Unliving), only armored on their body, neck, and skull, and had no ranged attack. Yet the fight went south quickly, and a wavering between "let's run!" and "let's finish this!" plus a lot of worry about controlling the ability of the foes to flank vs. dealing damage to the bad guys seems to have finished them. Bad rolls didn't help, either, but like a lot of fight recently I rolled a lot of awfully bad damage (someone took 7 points on 3d+3, for example, and 5 points on 3d) so it wasn't just rolls breaking the wrong way.
MVP was Gerry, because, who else could get it? XP was base 5, -1 for no profit, -5 for 5 dead PCs, for a net 0. MVP is always post-min-0, so Gerry walked out with 1 point to spend.
I'll do a postmortem tomorrow, and look ahead to next session.
(Editing later: Here is the postmortem.)