Monday, October 26, 2015

DF Game, Session 68 - Lost City 2 - Vegepygmies and Thornies

October 25th, 2015

Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)

Characters (approximate net point total)

Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (284 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (257 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (256 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (250 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (250 points)

In reserve:
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (250 points)
Dave, human knight (252 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)

We opened in the trading camp. About half the party camped out to avoid upkeep (and thus received no rumors.) Mo wanted to camp out, but he's got Compulsive Carousing, and the bar is in town . . .

The stocked up on healing potions, clearing out the local stock. All the paut, as well. Somehow Gerry was out 240 sp and up five skeleton servitors, which he equipped with hatchets, light shields, and cloth torso armor. And a backpack for one.

They hear rumors about animal-men, mostly - bear-men in the city, snake-men in the jungle (and were admonished to kill them no matter what they offered for their lives!), and other sorts.

The PCs headed off with their new scout, Kenner.

It took four days to reach the city, all in all. The weather was mostly good, but numerous obstacles (fallen trees, a washed-out section of trail, flooding, etc.) slowed them down, as did repeated biting insects that gave Hasdrubal jungle rot and annoyed everyone. They also took a detour around a poisonous snake, choosing a safe detour over a chance that an unlucky bite would doom someone.

They camped overnight near the city, and Gale heard some distant voices(?) and hooting and movement in the city.

The final day was rainy, and involved pathfinding to the west to get to the switchback they'd seen. They cut through the jungle, which was slower but didn't result in any risk of being watched from the city below.

They reached the switchback, and it looked a little rough - six level switchbacks, between 2' and 5' wide, chewed up by roots and vines. With the rain it was riskier, but Gale stopped the rain in an area covering the entire switchback and they headed down.

The passage wasn't exactly safe (DX+2, minus enc. every level for six levels) but they didn't think Gerry's skeletons could climb, so . . .

They made it most of the way down towards the over-grown knot of jungle at the bottom before they had any problems. Gerry slipped and fell - dropping 20 yards (4d) to the next ledge down. He took the whole fall on his left arm, shattering it (more than twice needed to cripple, and a 17 on a consolation HT roll to boot). As he lay stunned as started sitting up, out from the vegetation at the bottom (some 15-20 yards away) burst a knot of vegepygmies (11 in all) headed up by two thornies.

It took them a few seconds to arrive - just long enough that Gerry was able to get his wits about him, cast Levitate, and move up three yards. Sadly, though, the thornies leapt at him. One missed thanks to Phase, the other clamped onto Gerry's foot and bit through his footwear and into his foot, crippling it. The additional weight dragged him slowly back down, and the thrashing of the thorn hound on his foot meant there was no way to cast more spells.

The rest of the party was 20 yards up, with a tangled path that they could traverse with speed only by rolling every turn not to fall. Kenner began to shoot down into the thornies, but his arrows either bounced off or stuck into them without making much of an impression. The second thorny got Gerry's left leg and they pulled him down. Hal threw an axe and nailed the thorny on Gerry's right foot, injuring it badly. Meanwhile Mo and then Hal moved to get down the switchback to Gerry.

Hasdrubal decided to end it quickly with a Windstorm but he was 20 yards up - no way to do it. So he charged up a Lightning spell and zapped the wounded thorny. Nothing happened except that it was now crackling electrically, and the axe and arrow stuck in its side popped out. Stunned, maybe?

Turns out, healed. But they didn't understand that just yet.

Vegepygmies reached Gerry and two short ones began to hatchet him to death. Gerry decided he was going to die, so he called for his skeletons to jump down to him. That's 4d damage, they take double from crushing. One, two, three, four - smashed to pieces. One got smashed down to 2 HP away from destruction, but made his HT roll and was still going. It began to fight the vegepygmies next to it on either side of the narrow path. It lopped the leg off of one standing over Gerry, and managed to critically Block against another and disarm it.

The skeleton lasted a short time, but didn't manage to take out another vegepygmy before it eventually went down. But it lasted a while - its natural DR was just enough to fend off the stone hatchets of the vegepygmies for a few seconds.

Meanwhile Mo kept charging down, but managed to trip over a vine and cause a rockfall. The rocks smashed into him, knocking him down to the next level (the one with Gerry on it). He got up at the bottom, gathered up his flail, and rushed into the fray.

He made relatively short work of the first thorny - he whacked it hard, and then backpedaled as it kept smashing its spiny body into him. It didn't that long, eventually taking another hard flail shot and dropping. Mo moved forward but in a melee with the next thorny but somewhere in here lost his flail when he fell. It fluttered down to the ground below. The thorny pounced on him but he Dodged aside, so it didn't get any control. Despite his shield confounding his own room to fight, he began to grapple it (taking a handful of thorn) and then whack it with his shield. Meanwhile two small vegepygmies hacked at Mo's legs, but couldn't deal more than Shatnerian superficial wounds.

Around the same time Hasdrubal threw an Explosive Lighting spell into the waiting vegepygmies. Zaaaaaaap.

They all got a little bigger.


Hal finally got close to Mo. Just as he did, Hasdrubal failed a DX roll and triggered more falling rocks. One took him in the neck, stunning him, and he fell and broke his leg. Lucky for Hal it was just behind him, so he could continue unimpeded. Has quickly dropped unconscious. Gerry passed out around now, too. The vegepygmies on Gerry kept hacking, but Kenner steadily shot arrows into them. He eventually dropped one with about 6 or 8 arrows.

Hal was able to aid Mo, uses his backup axe to start clocking the thorny and the vegepygmies. Mo managed to sit up, and swept up a pair of vegepygmies in his arms (one grab was a 3, the other was a normal hit). He stood, turn to his right, and dumped them off the cliff.

(What happened to those two? No one ever asked.)

Mo finally got to standing and started to move forward, slamming his shield into vegepygmy after vegepygmy, knocking them over. Hal followed, killing them. One bounced Mo back, who drew his sword and started slashing at them. A wall of vegetation sprang up, cutting off Hal, who started to cut it down.

Around this time Kenner spotted a smaller vegepygmy in the back and decided it was a "shaman" (my players refer to all non-PC race spellcasters as "Shamen"). He started to shoot at it, but it kept Dodging him after the first arrow that hit alerted him to danger above.

Mo kept hacking through the vegepygmies, finally reaching two almost man-sized ones and eventually beat them down after taking a few hits. The "shaman" put up three hexes worth of walls of vegetation and then just walked off. Mo decided to "cut him off" and jumped down to the city floor 10 yards below, crashing into a pile of vegetation. By the time the Hal hacked the walls down, it had melded into some vegetation and was gone.

The PCs were a mess. Mo found his flail and worked him way back up. Everyone gathered together, and it took 90 minutes to repair the wounded enough to get them going. They heard lots of hooting back and forth, and scratching noises, and walking noises. Nothing came after them, which was probably fortunate. They downed all of their potions and used first aid to get Gerry and Hasdrubal awake and splinted.

They needed loot, though, so they headed to a building that they decided was marked with an "H," just south of a spooky ziggurat.

They moved along a line of mostly-intact buildings, systematically exploring them. They found one with a domed roof depicting a red sky with unknown stars. The next had many stone beds and low stone tables - perhaps a barracks of some sort. They found nothing, though, despite careful searching.

They checked out the ziggurat from inside one of the buildings, and Kenner saw that the steady rain wasn't wetting it - it was pooling around the edges. He shot an arrow and it bounced off of nothing. He could occasionally see a shimmering in the air, as well. Force Dome?

After they checked the other buildings, Mo decided to check the "Force Dome." He marched demonslayer-sword first into the dome, confident it would let him in, so he could discover the Golden Bells of D'Abo.

Instead, the moment the sword touched the field, he was zapped for 6d damage and took 20 points, straight through his DR. He stepped back, miraculously unstunned by a blow that would kill a normal man, and made a wisecrack (that I forgot.)

They had a brief and pointless "let's dig under the force dome!" discussion at this point, but luckily they realized that never works.

After this, with time running down on the daylight (and session time), they went and picked through what was left from the last session's looting of the armoury. They took that and headed back.

The managed to make it back in four days, despite delays, more Jungle Rot for Has and for Hal as well (cured by Gale and his Esoteric Medicine skill), quicksand they needed to detour around, and something that stalked them in the night until Kenner put an arrow into it. It scuttled off, never to be clearly seen.

The made it back to town, torn up, but with food to spare and loot worth 133 sp each.


- I was sick, so it was hard to stay focused and keep things moving. So the fight went slowly.

- First Awesome bonus in a while, for a fight that had three things going for it:
     - Gerry calling for his skeletons to jump 20 yards to protect him.
     - Mo picking up two vegepygmies and hurling them both off the cliff.
     - Hasdrubal healing and strengthening the enemy.

- Lots of discussion of Berserk/Battle Fury/Enraged. My summation of what I expect from that combo is probably a post in and of itself. Suffice it to say that, you can fight smart, but you can't choose "best long term move" over "immediate chance to attack." If you want to stay calm and collected in combat, don't take things that are called "Berserk" or "Enraged" or "Battle Fury."

- I may let Gerry buy a Foul Arm (DF11) as a Power-Up by taking a temporary extra disadvantage. He'd have the arm, then would have to pay off the disad with his next bunch of points. I also have an idea for a new Foul Arm or two - only one of which is remotely in his point range. Normally I don't do "buy on installment" but it fits the situation well. "Hey, this arm is totally and permanently destroyed. Instead of Regeneration, what if fix it with Zombie? No reason that shouldn't work!"

- the players seemed to have no particular place to go in the city. Well, except the "Hoard" building, clearly marked with an H. They were disappointed to find out it was just a structural separation. There are a lot of empty buildings - in fact, most of them are empty, intact or not. And some of the non-intact structures have encounters and/or loot in them. So this session felt a little like those megadungeon sessions when people are just relentlessly "clearing" and hoping something good is in a randomly chosen place. Paid the same as those, too!

First session had a rumor that gave them something to shoot for, but they also followed up on that rumor to get more details. So they had a target (Find the city, find the armoury) while this time they had no special goal (Find the city . . . Step 3: Profit!). I expect Lost City 3 to be different. There simply aren't enough sessions (3 left, 4 if they push it!) for the group is just haphazardly explore buildings.

- XP was 2 each (1 for no deaths, 1 for Awesome bonus) and MVP was Mo for killin'. They took home above zero loot, which would have been 2 points, but loot is based on discover & exploit. They did that already - discovered and exploited the armoury, and this time was just returning to take what wasn't valuable enough to take the first time.


  1. I see that someone likes the Coldfire Trilogy by C.S. Friedman. :-)

    1. I read some of book one. But one of my players really enjoyed that series.

      I thought Kenner would get more of a reaction, especially since the same player runs Galoob.

  2. I think the group had some good ideas for exploring, but that all went to hell with that fight. I wonder how it would have worked had we actually all been ambushed, instead of just Gerry. I feel like it would have been much shorter work (although without Angus, whose player surely would have said, "no lightning," I'm sure we still would have healed the baddies. Still a lot of fun, though. The skeletons jumping to their doom to save Gerry was fantastic.

    1. I wasn't privy to the plans, so I had no idea. It felt more random.

      The fight and the injuries took a lot out of your capacity to explore. It also took a lot of game time. When a fight goes even a little bit pear-shaped, everyone slows down to a crawl and wants to make the most of each and every second, and you get long discussions about what the best move is. Which means when the find finally reaches its end, there really isn't much time for another fight, or exploration, or looting. That's one reason I push people on fight times - it seems like taking a few extra seconds to decide what to do is the way to go, but in the long run, it's less adventuring getting done and more "run at the protective barrier with my sword in case that's the key to the treasure and then go home." IME anyway.

    2. I don't know, I felt like we were generally pretty speedy with our turns, especially considering Gerry and Has were out for a long portion of this fight. Maybe that's just because I didn't do anything beyond "I shoot my bow." Your suggestion to figure out all the numbers ahead of time made it super easy for me, too.

    3. It got faster at the end - and you generally did one thing the whole time. But the fight started close to 2 pm, and ended close to 6 pm. For a 30-second fight with 20 combatants, that's not crazy - but it's not remotely fast. It just eats into time you can spend looting and exploring. Had we had a second fight, I think we'd have had to end the session mid-fight. That's okay if everyone likes the fights more than the other stuff, but we all agreed XP has nothing to do with fighting. :)

    4. All good points. It was a little bit harder to visualize without minis, but we did take a long time with that fight. In retrospect, maybe taking out the rope and grapnel would have helped, although I don't think we had a stable surface to hook up a rappelling line.

    5. That brings up a clear mistake I made - not insisting on lighter combat details. I let everyone worry about individual hexes, worry about retreating room on a 3' wide root-choked cracked path, relative position, etc. I should have shut that right down. Position mattered, but once I start letting people worry about facing and hexes without a map I helped it slow down.

      Mapless shouldn't mean "I can't keep track" but rather "We don't have to worry about keeping track as closely." Of course, that means when I say "He's on your flank, -2!" you pretty much just have to sit there and make the roll at -2 without complaining. And not do the "I'm not complaining but I didn't visualize it that way" comment and then rolling thing. :)

  3. What game effects are you using for jungle rot? My Pyramid draft on diseases has it, so I'm curious, especially as I think you're using a short and sweet version, which might be better.

    1. I'll have to find the handwritten note on it. -1 to everything from having the sweats and shakes, basically, with some long-term effects if left untreated. Everyone treats it right away.

    2. Well, that's a wee bit more simple than I have, but I was writing for a more realistic game. I have 1 HP damage to the foot each day, and some pain once it's crippled.

      I think my players are going to be happy that I only made rolls for histoplasmosis. :)

  4. Do you allow Ranged Deceptive Attacks? Guessing that "shaman" had Shield up, hence the dodging. Wondering if the Scout has a way to mitigate high defenses. Beyond, I suppose, $26 a pop fine, balanced, meteoric arrows sharpened with a dwarven whetstone.

    1. Yes, we use Prediction Shots. I'm not sure qpop knows how they work, though.

      No Shield - it just Dodged. No sign of arrows deflecting.


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