April 3rd, 2016
Weather: Windy, cold (but warmed up)
Characters (approximate net point total)
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (261 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
5 skeletons (~25 points) (one is a hunchbacked zombie)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (267 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (269 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (135 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (271 points)
Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (267 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
We started in Stericksburg, first time in a while.
The group gathered rumors, and did all of their bookkeeping. They especially picked up some rumors about pools - the pool room periodically changes, there is a pool that grants wishes (Hasdrubel wants to see if he can wish Mo dead, just to see if it would work - his alignment is clearly Chaotic Wizard), and one about a pool that turns your water to poison.
One bit of bootstrapping - Gerry traded in his regular armor for a suit of enchanted scale armor that scales up in protection depending on your Magery level, picked up a long time ago. Of course, with its cone-topped helmet and face mask, he looks like one of the six-fingered ones. With it, though, he's got DR 9 (it caps at Fortify +5, despite his Magery 6) and it's very light - only about 1/3 normal weight. They also picked up a pig, which was on sale for 300 sp. Probably a bargain - I couldn't quickly lay my hands on the price for pigs. They named it "Delicious."
With copies of the maps provided by Vryce and Dryst, and holding onto the keys Dryst found in case they needed them, they headed up to the dungeon.
They decided to go right into the dragon cave, sending Mo ahead to scout. He checked it and determined no one had come and gone recently, especially not orcs. So they headed in. They worked their way around the caverns, trying to reach the "behir" - the lightning worm they'd met and bribed in past groups. First they headed to the "sanctuary" - a mushroom-lined pool found in a previous delve and marked on the map.
They made it there and rested up, with Brother Ike telling them it felt peaceful and restful. They also found the water was Essential Water, the mushrooms edible and filling, and some color-tinged ones had magical effects. Eventually they'd discover some gave you resistance to poison (immunity, in Angus's case), others dark vision, and others very minor healing. They picked some (but not all), and took them along while Angus and Mo ate one of each.
From there, they sought out the "behir." They eventually made it, hearing only chittering rats and squeaking bat. They started to set up, carefully, to meet the wyrm, concerned about provoking it or alerting the nearby gargoyles (who they could clearly hear scraping the stones). The wyrm poked its heard out, though, and instigated conversion. Hasdrubel could smell the ozone on its breath, confirming it had a lightning breath attack at the very least (possible other lightning magic, too.)
As usual, it was interested in food, especially the pig and even more so those little delicious people (it means halflings). They made a deal, giving it the pig in return for passage through its lair and back. They also got some information on treasure, sort of ("The gargoyles might have some. Or there could be some behind those big doors.") in return for promising it freshly killed stirges. It also confirmed there was no way out of the caves except the ones they knew.
They made good on the stirges immediately, going past its lair into the twin stirge caves they'd been in a couple times before, where Galen shot a stirge off of his own face. Stirges flew out and attacked. The PCs cut down a number of them, but one got past Hasdrubel's guard and put a proboscis right into his right eye for 3 impaling damage. He took 12 injury, blew his stunning and knockdown roll by almost 10 (maybe more than 10, actually), and dropped unconscious. The stirge didn't get to savor its victory, though, because Hasdrubel had just charged up a 3d Explosive Lightning spell . . . which went off. ZAP. It badly injured Has, fried the stirge, fried his friends, and fried another pair of stirges that were in mid-air.
The rest of the "fight" went easily, though - stirges got mown down by Angus McSwashy, Hjalmarr, Mo, and even the skeletons. Once they defeated the stirges, they healed, Cleansing'd and then healed and Awakened Hasdrubel, and moved into their home nest area. A few more lightning spells and swings and so on killed a few more, cutting their number to zero in the room.
They headed back through the lightning wyrm's lair, offering him almost 20 stirges - some roasted by magic, one stunned and crippled but not dead.
After this, they debated engaging the gargoyles. While they lack the magic weapons to slay then, they do have two doses of Oil of Puissance, which would do just as well. What clinched it was the gargoyle's high roosts, where they could easily flee and remain during a fight once they realized they could be hurt. Gargoyles are the worst sorts of bullies when they face weak foes, but will back down and flee against lethal ones. So they realized they might waste their oil and not be able to finish them.
So they wound their way all the way around and across the caverns, passing the stairs up. But as they came to the intersection, a large earth elemental came stomping down the stairs! They started to debate what to do to it, but it didn't wait and waded into melee with them. A skeleton managed to block a punch, and the fight was on. The earth elemental was hostile and tough, and they had trouble hurting it. So Gale decided to try Shape Earth as an offensive spell to tear it up. It was costly on a SM+2 earth-and-stone monster. He tried and failed and they fought. Then he tried again . . . and got an 18. Oops. The battered earth elemental instantly healed up and grew in size to SM+3 and commensurate stat gains. Suddenly its DR was too tough for most of their attacks.
The fight turned into a dangerous brawl. The earth elemental swept up Mo and a skeleton in its arms and started to squeeze them to death. Mo managed to partly break free but was hurt. Hasdrubel zapped it with lightning but it wasn't terribly hurt. Gale tried his spell again and this time hurt it (I ruled it did 2d injury, resisted by HT - not great, but not nothing). Mo finally broke free, though, after Angus stunned it with a fierce Kiai, and then stunned it again when it recovered! Meanwhile the zombie, and Hasdrubel, rained down blows on it - Hasdrubel many All-Out Attack (Strong) strikes thanks to Great Haste.
This gave Gerry enough time to build up an 18d Skull Missile and launch it at the stunned elemental. It was already damaged from all of the striking, but still solidly up. Until it took 79 damage and just came apart. Booooooom, crunch, crumble.
They spent a few seconds gathering up their tired casters and checked if the earth elemental was made of treasure (it wasn't), and fled to the sanctuary. They rested their and recovered before setting back out. It was clearly safe, even from bugs and rats and whatnot.
They worked around the caverns until they found a room with faint magic and a faint smell of sulfur and ozone. Identify Spell told them it was some kind of gate-related magic, but that's it. (Amusingly, Hjalmarr's player misheard this as Ape Magic, which is now a thing. Also, a thing Hjalmarr is afraid of.)
They finally made it to the other stirge-filled room. They killed a number of them with melee and spells. Notably Kian got bit and had to rip one of her chest, Mo did the same. Mo then smashed the grappled stirge into another stirge sucking his blood and smashed it, then flung the one he had at one that Gale had just pulled off of his face guards. He missed the stirge and hit Gale's hand, crippling it!
Gale fell and dropped the stirge, but as soon as it fluttered out of his grasp Hjalmarr threw an axe through it.
After this they dealt with the sinkhole aka the stirgehole. It went down 35 or so feet from the base of the 8' sinkhole, with a width of between 20" and 32", and then turned off. A dropped lightstone revealed some details and depth past a twist and bend.
In the end what they did was put a Stench spell down the hole, followed by capping it with a max-strength Lightning Wall after it dropped to stirge-level depth (or so they hoped). That fried five or six stirges that tried to escape, and the rest died from the poison gasses.
After that, they stood guard and had Gale use Shape Earth to slowly shape the tunnel a little wider and into grippable rungs and climb down. Once he got low enough to ensure there was space for Gerry, he climbed back up.
Then, invisible Gerry levitated himself upside down into the hole to look. He found a dead-end collapsed low, wide, flat cave full of stirge guano and dead stirges. Some more investigation revealed nothing. Just a dead end, probably collapsed long ago (or with the past few years, possibly) from an earthquake or tremor. No further way down, no way in or out of the dungeon. Just another dead end (with enough space to house stirges, really).
That done, the PCs made their way to and up the stairs to the finished area above. They poked around at some dead ends, empty rooms, smashed doors, and other areas they'd been in before. They checked out the wood/rags/bones/earth/stone blockage the orcs put in to seal off the stairs to the level above. They debated going to the "green gem zombie" room, but knew it took a thief to get the door open the one time they got in, so they didn't bother with the effort.
After a lot of poking around dry holes, they tried to head home. They made it, but got lost a couple times before they re-oriented themselves and made it out.
No loot, but no casualties, and everyone emerged in good condition.
Nearly a full house today - all of the current regulars made it out. A couple major PCs stayed in town, but their players made it. At some point I'll do a list of associated PCs - which ones were/are run by the same players.
No Raggi - the dice said no, he wasn't around. Probably a good thing, since he's cranky when they aren't looting.
Lots of player memory influencing PC actions - many of the players have delved here before, but not one veteran PC was there. We explained this by them having heard the rumors, spoken to Vryce and Dryst and essentially joined up with them, and so on. To have a rotating pool of PCs can occasionally require this, and clearly they had the knowledge, because they know these things. Right? Results drive narrative for these kind of things.
The title is a bit of an exaggeration - they killed something like 40+ stirges, but didn't totally wipe them out. They did pare back their numbers to almost nothing, though.
Navigating the caverns proved a little tricky, but for the most part they managed okay. Their map is extensive and works, but it's very visually inaccurate, with lengths and widths approximate and inaccurate. Finding some of the numbers they'd scratched into the walls (they being the previous PCs, but same players) was difficult. They knew of them, but finding them was hard and took between 5-30 minutes. Generally they skipped them and only searched them out when they got a little turned around. They tended to wind the long way just to keep on the same path, even when they were in purely physical terms just around the corner from their destination. Not getting lost was the priority, though.
Using the current XP rules, coming in empty was 0 points, 1 point for no casualties, and 1 point for extensive exploration. I was generous on the last because it's not a lot of new areas (one, really), but they checked a few areas and made a real effort to clear up some loose ends in the "dragon cave" area. There isn't anything left for "new areas" in the area, though, except for one big spot . . . which they are worried about checking out. MVP was Gerry for the massive Skull Missile.
Overall, an enjoyable session, but the PCs need to figure out a path forward. The "stirge hole" was a hail mary pass, hoping they could get in without dealing with the orcs and delve deeper. That's clearly out. So now it's a question of how to get into the dungeon and either attack, or negotiate with, the orcs, so they can have deeper passage. But all the known entrances either take a lot of work to get to the orcs (dragon cave), are through the orcs (well, main entrance), or are within sight of the orcs and dangerous no matter what (the bugbear cave). What will happen? We'll know next session, in a number of weeks . . .