Monday, June 6, 2016

DF Game Session 76, Felltower 50 - Part I, Waking the Sleeping Dragon

Yesterday was a split session, where we closed out one delve and started a new one, which a majority of the players chose to extend to a Part II.

June 6th, 2016

Weather: Warm, intermittent heavy downpours.

Characters (approximate net point total)

Adventuring:
Dryst, halfling wizard (399 points)
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)
Quenton Gale, human druid (267 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)

In reserve:
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (261 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points) (one is a hunchbacked zombie)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Kian, human pirate (~65 points)

We started in town, after a three-week layoff in game terms. Mo spent 1000 sp of his loot getting Regeneration on Kian's right arm, because it's always the hirelings you care about that get expensive injuries. She was still out for this session as it'll take a full month for her arm to be fully regrown and useful.

The PCs stocked up on some gear, including iron spikes (but no mallet), and headed up to Felltower. It was only after they'd arrive they realized no one thought to see if Raggi was around. Oh well. They put up with some orcish arrows, then negotiations, then handed over the 1000 sp (all Vryce, this time) and agreed to provide 1/4 of the loot to the orcs, and were taken in.

They went the "long way" - they way they'd negotiated last time. They went back to the "scary pit," intending to kill the ghosts and talk to Big John the troll. (It wasn't really clear to me if "talk" was a euphemism for "kill if he's got obvious loot" in the latter case.)

Once the orcs barred them into the old lizard man area, they decided to go through a secret door to a side passage instead of the way they went last time.

A servant opened up the door - and something rushed them from the space beyond! It came too quick for anyone to close the door and smashed the servant out of existence and crashed into Hjalmarr. It was a crusty black rubbery sphereoid. A pudding! Mo recognized it for what it was, and that they liked to knock foes down and slowly digest them . . . alive.

Once it crashed into Hjalmarr, a close-combat brawl started. Hjalmarr nailed it with his barbed fishman spear, and then drew his axe and slashed. Mo bashed it. Its crusty exterior and rubbery form made it hard to hurt. It smashed at them and eventually knocked Mo over - and then moved right on top of him!

Using our and auto-pin CP rules, the pudding was able to put 40 CP onto Mo, putting him at -20 ST and -20 DX (we simplified the scale for ST-to-DX penalties a lot) and helpless. Oh well.

Hjalmarr and a Great Hasted Vryce were able to cut the pudding up, and Hasdrubel contributed with several Lightning spells but it took a while - they are very hard to kill. They were able to keep it from inflicting any real harm. Using a Created Object jar, Dryst gathered up 4 pounds of saleable goop before they continued to the pit.

They hammered in a spike with a Create Object mallet and tied off the rope and went down. Dryst had his two magical servants jump down. They died. He summoned new ones at the bottom and made everyone wait.

They headed down and called for the boats. The crazies did what they normally do - they sent over someone to check, then sent two rafts to pick up the PCs (they can cram on one or be comfortable on two, especially with two Created Servants.

They were ferried over to the Crazies' main living area and spoke to the Warden. The got a little more information them. The Crazies were chosen by some Great One and placed here. When the guards died, it fell to the chosen ones who had been placed here to care for the welfare of the prison.

Hasdrubel asked if they killed the ghosts to give them more living space, would that help? The Warden said no. (And to be honest, they leave a lot of open space as is, because there is space for several times as many prisoners, enough that the Champion has a private cell block. I guess I didn't make that clear enough.)

Would it be against their religion if the PCs killed the ghosts? No. But no ones goes to the ghost cells and comes back.

Hasdrubel made a few odd mis-steps in speaking to the Warden, sometimes seemingly forgetting he's dealing with a legitimately crazy religious fanatic but not a low-IQ one. But he did manage to veer the conversation to a place that led the Warden to volunteer to let them look at the Holy Stone Book.

So it turns out that this pedestal and cloth-draped stone book they'd seen in the main living area was some kind of holy book. When you get old enough, you can choose to look at the book, or stay with the tribe. Those who look at the book all disappear, never to be seen again. "What if you return?" "No, no one ever returns." The PCs decided this must be a teleporter, not a one-way ticket to Judgement, and asked to see the book.

"If you look, you are no longer part of the Prison."

Hasdrubel insisted they'd surely be back.

With spartan ceremony, the crazies took the PCs to the book. It was on a pedestal that clearly had been taken from somewhere else, and the "stone book" also didn't match the pedestal. Hasdrubel convinced them he needed "time to meditate." Translation: Dryst needed 30 minutes to cast Analyze Magic.

It was a teleporter, all right, and it would take anyone within about 10' of the reader. The PCs gathered in, whisked off the cover, and looked in. Hasdrubel was totally unable to puzzle out the rune on the book, but Dryst could read it, in the split second before they teleported . . . somewhere.

The place was totally black. There was a splat of the pudding good on the floor, but then nothing. Quiet, but black. No light stones. Okay, cast some spells. No, no mana. Well, Brother Ike can . . . no, no Sanctity, either.

Lucky for them, Hjalmarr actually carries a torch. And they hadn't decided to go swimming to drain the fishmen's area (which had been one plan - to spend some time digging out the oakum and rags to let it drain.) After some slow fumbling around in the dark, he managed to get it out and get it lit.

They found themselves in a rectangular room with one one exit - an iron door, very slightly rusty in some spots from age, with no handle or keyhole. Some tentative tries wouldn't open it up.

Where were they? Gale started casting. No Mana, no Sanctity? Eh, it was only a -5 for his Druid spells. He used Know Location to find that they were close to Felltower castle, so they didn't go all that far.

Vryce and Mo put theirs backs into a combined slow drive against the door to break the hinges or lock. They did, although it was a close thing (Vryce used Luck, and made one of his rolls by 16.)

The door swung open and bumped into an old, urine soaked bedroll that prevented the door from clanking into the wall. Behind the door was a wooden bar, fitted for integral slots in the iron door, which had a clear lock from this side. Clearly, a cell. They put Silence on the area and Hjalmarr hammered in two spikes to keep the door open. By now, they decided they were lucky it wasn't barred (true) and that they could get that book and use it to teleport to this area whenever they wanted!

Long story short, they put See Secrets on Gale and explored around for a while. They found they'd stumbled onto an area they'd explored a long time back. They fiddled with some previously explored doors and a pedestal behind magic-resistant bars and searched for secret doors on dead ends. Eventually they realized this, and that they were exploring part of level 1 from a tag-end hallway they'd never gone down.

They headed back to level 2. They chatted with an orc patrol after they surprised each other. They found the stairs down, but also something new. Gale's superior Perception allowed him to notice a long-hidden secret door. It was well concealed and proofed against magical detection, but he still managed to spot it. Beyond it was a secure room with clean, fresh air provided by a Link and Purify Air.

The went back to the pit and climbed down. Again, thanks to his Perception and See Secrets, Gale spotted a secret door. It took some work to open - you needed two people to trigger it, and it slid into the floor. It revealed a hidden room with cracked anti-magic lacquer on the walls, holes where something was possibly once mounted along three of the walls, and it was a Low Mana Zone. They couldn't figure out what it was, despite spiking the door open and smashing the walls with a morningstar. They moved on.

They went to the balcony and dock and called for the boat. One came, and then fled.

After a while, another came back, stayed out in the darkness, and it contained The Warden.

Hasdrubel told The Warden they had been sent back by the Great One. The Warden couldn't accept this. "Lies! You are not who you claim."

"We have the manacle of friendship you gave us!"
"Show me!"
"Uh, it's not here . . . " (they'd scrapped it and sold it, and Vryce lost his original one)

They kept trying to convince The Warden, who responded that they were lying, no one comes back, the Great One doesn't send people back, etc. They even Levitated Hasdrubel so he could ascend, but didn't try to put illusions on him to gussy him up because they're pretty sure The Warden isn't affected by them (he never seemed bothered by Dryst being invisible, and even looked at him and spoke to him in that state in the past.)

Invoking Vryce's long-ago vision of a trap door down here with treasure under it, they demanded to see the trap door.

The Warden was shocked. How did they know of this? How did they know of the Secret Escape Tunnel, which must never be spoken of? The Secret Escape Tunnel that, one day, the Savior would return from and rescue them?

That convinced them. They sent over a terrified boatman in a raft. They crammed on, and were taken to the far dock of the crazies' living area. They passed a cage full of feral children, some families with much less feral looking kids, and were taken to a big cell in the back corner. The Warden produced a home-made key and unlocked it, and showed them a loose stone in the floor that concealed a 2 1/2' tunnel down and then bending off to the right.

The Warden told them to go down after The Savior, and to "Never return."

Gale used Shape Earth to widen the hole enough to get them down in full armor. Vryce went first, oddly going feet-first. Luckily, it opened out into a 30' x 30' x 20' semi-star-shaped cave with a 10' wide sinkhole over by one side. They all went down, and the crazies sealed the hole up. The place was stale and stank of sulphur and the air was very acrid and not so easy to breath.

Dryst sent a Wizard Eye down the sinkhole, with Dark Vision on himself. Down about 30' or so, it opened to a large cavern. Stalactites, stalagmites . . . many broken. In the middle was a dust, rock-covered mound, narrow on one end, wide in the middle, and narrow on the other end.

How big? Maybe 60' long overall, 15' or so thick in the middle, but high in the middle. The eye zoomed around. No ways out, though. But there was a tremor.

Dryst sent the eye closer. Hmm. The lump shifted. A tremor happened again, and dust fell. Closer, he saw two stalactites move and more dust feel and rocks tumbled and broke. Again, the mountain moved.

Dryst ran the eye away as a head broke up from the rocks.

It was a dragon. Buried until layers of dust and rock and detritus, a really big dragon. Big enough to bite that other one in two. And they'd woken it up. It opened its eyes and then its maw, there was a blinding flash, and the Wizard Eye was gone.

Dryst reported a "giant monster" but wouldn't say dragon, since Hjalmarr's goal is to kill one. (Bizarrely, someone said if he failed his Self-Control Roll, he'd have to jump down the sinkhole to fight the dragon if he survived the fall. Er, what?) It's not like he didn't figure it out. They started to talk about what to do when a wave of gas welled up the sinkhole and sent Mo and Dryst into nausea and Hasdrubel to his hands and knees vomiting. Guess that's what happened to the poor Savior, who had told the crazies in times past he'd go for help and then come back with help.

No sign of its hoard, but the entire floor was covered with dust and loose stones from the earthquakes and so on, so it's quite possible it is there.

Gale cast Shape Air to get some air moving, and someone cast Purify Air. Ike tried to tend to Hasdrubel with Neutralize Poison, which didn't help too much.

The PCs scrambled back up in no real semblance of order. Gale was first. He pushed the stone off and confronted two surprised members of The Warden's bodyguard. He said, "I saw The Savior! He's amazing!" and similar things. They paused for a few seconds, but then threw spears at him after The Warden shouted out something they couldn't understand.

The PCs piled out of the hole as best they could. Gale threw a Pollen Cloud, which took two tries, and drove back the bodyguards. Seeing them come back from the hole also scared off four crazies who were carrying a big piece of rock, clearly to put on top of the floor stone. They dropped it and ran.

Long story, short, Dryst Lockmastered open the crude lock and Hjalmarr threw open the gate. Gale canceled his spell and Mo and Hjalmarr ran to fight the crazies. Vryce walked, chuckling at how the new guys run to fight things. The two bodyguards went down quickly - Mo smashed one's arm, Vryce caught up and cut one down, and then Mo finished the wounded one. They charged down the hall and caught and killed the four fleeing crazies, who were kept from escaping by long-range Lightning and Explosive Lightning spells from Dryst and Hasdrubel. Three of them died, and one had his arm destroyed and was left as the PCs got up.

Meanwhile Dryst drifted up near the ceiling. He felt a sharp pain in his head, but nothing came of it. He floated down. Dryst cast Vigor on himself after a few failed tries, to help ward off the Warden's head asploding power. The Warden didn't try again after that initial attack.

The PCs caught up to a rafter desperately trying to pole away - and in his terror, he hadn't thrown off the rope. Mo jumped onto the raft and cracked him in the body with a weak shot, but put him down wounded and winded.

At this point, the PCs could take the raft and go. They couldn't easily get the raft away with them, but they could leave. And it was as late as I could play, in the real world. Leave, or stay and fight the crazies?

A majority of the players voted to finish them. Or at least, kill the Warden, demand all of their treasure, and then take off. We'll start next turn with the battle between the PCs and the crazies.

Notes:

Pretty much, the logic for the vote was:
- if we don't do this now, we'll never come back here;
- even if we do come back, it's too hard to steal this raft so we can have a way to paddle over and attack them;
- we need loot, they must have some;
- we have to kill them, because they attacked us.

A few players weren't too convinced but didn't insist on return, and they weren't swayed by me pointing out that means one session worth of XP for two sessions, and that 1-2 points for this session beats even 5 from next session - there will not be a split session next time due mostly to real-world logistical issues like vacations.

If it seems like the crazies lost a good chance to bottle the PCs up in a hole and fight them while they were at a severe disadvantage, you're right. It was late, and I was giving the PCs an avenue to leave the dungeon after a short skirmish. If I'd known how this would tumble out, I wouldn't have had them back off. They're likely to fight ferociously, because the PCs have violated a number of their taboos, and because they're cornered and on their home turf.

The pudding was fun. There was some digression into, "It depends on how these were converted from D&D" but I pointed out that it's from Sean Punch. It's not a D&D black pudding in GURPS terms, it's a GURPS monster that shares a name with them, made by someone with a related but very different idea of monsters than me. I managed to head off some really useless "if this is a black pudding, then . . . " discussions. Sometimes recognition of a monster is hampered by the player's knowledge.

How do NMZs work? No Magery-based magic, including any items or potions affected by Magic Resistance. No Sactity means no holy spells or items or powers work. Druid spells, though, ah, well, they're not either, they're affected only by the environment, so Gale was extremely useful in this session. That seemed like the most fun way to do it. The best you can do to druids is utter despoiling of nature for a -10.

How does the Warden's power work? Is it a mental magical attack or Psi or some pseudo-Psi attack like those of at least one monster in DF2? Will a PC get his head asploded? Would Instant Regeneration heal that? No. You'll have to wait until late June or early July for the rest of the answers . . .


***

Good session, although lack of loot drove lots of decisions. I probably missed some little details because so much was going on. And they finally found the big dragon I'd been telling them was there. Did anyone thing I bought a big dragon mini and started to painted it to never use it? The players argued the dragon was a "significant find" for XP, but I said no way. It took 76 freaking sessions to find it, and then woke it up and ran away. I don't give out XP for that.

6 comments:

  1. PCs are loot driven, players are XP driven. As the end of session nears we're going to do whatever it takes to get loot or explore a new area to get XP, even if that means fighting fodder who we could easily pass to escape. They tried to lock us in there with the dragon. I don't care about their taboos, you wave knives at a Berserker and you get brained. Mo didn't kill (and won't) anyone who was unarmed. If fanatics come swarming to brawl they'll get slammed and knocked around.

    I thought Hasdrubel talking his way to the book and the trap door was brilliant and significant.

    Both of which led to a dead end and no treasure or "significant exploration."

    If we don't think the Crazies have any worthwhile treasure we might as well leave, rest to get past the noxious fumes, and use the raft to do our own exploration of the ghost area and visit Big John.

    If we want to kill fodder for meager returns we can attack the orcs and get beyond the curtain. Seal up the Demon's door with a huge Create Earth / Earth to Stone / etc and slaughter orcs until we have to leave, use power items to destroy fortifications so we can feasibly fight our way inside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be fair, the request was for bonus XP for finding the dragon. There are very few bonuses for discovery in the dungeon, and even fewer now that we changed the XP system. I could be more generous, but honestly, you found a major monster in Felltower and then ran away. That's pretty tiresome as a GM - I like to give out bonuses for finding things and interacting with them in some interesting way and adventurous way.

      And yes, they tried to close you in. Of course, you guys agreed that it was a one-way trip down the sacred and secret escape tunnel, after faking "we were sent by your god!" to get them to reveal it and agree. Then you came back, again. Messing with barely-understood belief systems by claiming to be of the gods - does that ever work?

      And do they even know there is a dragon there? Their "savior" went down the tunnel, promised to return, and didn't come back.

      Delete
  2. This is the perfect session to come so soon after your blog entry on how there are no friendships in the dungeon, just temporarily shared interests.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Heh, yeah. It also helps make clear what the PCs' interests are - loot, no matter how they get it or who they get it from.

      And that no matter how you reason or rationale it out, or no matter what your abiding interest, it's dangerous to mess around with people's deeply-held religious beliefs. "Preserve our vision of the world" might not make sense as an interest to the PCs, but for the Crazies, it does.

      Delete
  3. So is it possible they can use the book to get into FellTower?

    That's not as ideal as an exit, but might be useful. (I'm sure it will eventually be a risky option too)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I can't confirm or deny that. But I know they think it can be used that way. A one-way dump to a NMZ with a single exit that leads to an easy choke point is probably not an ideal entrance, unless the book is like the other teleporter they found, and doesn't reliably put you in the same place.

      Delete

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