August 22nd, 2016
Weather: Hot, light rain shading to downpours later
Characters (approximate net point total)
Dryst, halfling wizard (417 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (292 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (283 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (135 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (291 points)
Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Larry the Crossbowman, human
Naida River, wood elf thief (250 points)
Vryce, human knight (478 points)
We started in town. One of the players rolled for Raggi, but the dice came up short - still no Raggi. Maybe he moved home? Unlike a lot of the PCs, he managed to make some spectacular hauls and avoid a lot of the major money losses. Maybe he's done for now, or off spending the money at home for a long haul. He's been MIA since January 2015 - the badly failed orc castle raid.
The PCs bought equipment and gathered rumors in town. A few of them concerned keys - one about a "master key" some guys grandda found when he was part of the coalition putting down Sterick (granda is long dead, now), one about how it's the hand that holds the key not the key that opens doors, and some others. One pointedly said that dragons know their hordes and remember people who steal from them. Another ominous one said the city is considering an "orc bounty" - better make that an "orc toll" - anyone ranging north of the river will need to turn in a number of orc ears or pay a per-ear fine for not having them . . . but it's stalled right now because people are worried about this bringing the orc's attention from the dungeon to the city. The players had briefly gotten excited, thinking their orc allies might now become walking loot, but an "orc toll" would be a problem - pay to get into the dungeon, pay the town to get back into town.
A new PC joined, as well - Naida River, a blue-haired wood elf thief. She met Mo, clearly drawn to his presence by his new-found Elf Woman Mojo. "Hey, baby, why don't we spend some more time together?"* "Sounds great, I'd love to go to Felltower. I'll see you tomorrow morning at the gate to town!" "Hey, come back . . . " Good thing he didn't bust out "Thieves should be hanged."
They also looked for hirelings, specifically for Larry the Crossbowman. They found him - he asked for a day rate of 40 sp, as working for tips didn't work out so well last time.
The made their way up to Felltower castle.
As always, they camped and ate lunch, then headed to the castle. The orcs fired a couple of arrows at their emissary, Hasdrubel - who would have been disappointed if they didn't - and then talked. The usual deal - 500 sp (half off, thanks to Hasdrubel's negotiations last time) and 1/4 of what they find. They went in, and Hasdrubel made small talk with the orcs, who he rather likes. He got the names of the orc guard leader (Glarg) and the one am talking human talk (Lern).
They asked the orcs if there was anything that was bothering them, fishing for a commission. Lern said, "Something am killing orcs that way." And showed them towards an area of level 1 they'd been to long ago - only Vryce had ever been there out of the current group, and the map had been lost. They decided to check it out. The orcs were totally useless when it came to information on how the orcs were killed, who was killed, etc. etc. Who cares about other orcs once they die? Not the orcs.
They made their way through the tunnels and heard a clicking/scraping noise, getting closer. They chose to duck through a secret door they'd found, though. Naida didn't see any traps, but didn't feel right about the door, so Mo opened it. Zap, 3d Deathtouch. (Ah, that never gets old, especially when the PCs keep re-finding and re-triggering them.) It didn't hurt him too badly, though, only 7 damage, and they moved on.
They worked their way around some passages and past the spiral stairs that lead up to the trap door to the ruined tower, above (rubbled-over by orcs, now.) They eventually stumbled into a gigantic hunting slime lurking on a ceiling in a room. Thanks to just remembering to check the ceiling, they weren't surprised - but Mo still got nailed with a sticky pseudopod. The slime started to ooze itself down the pod, transferring its bulk from the ceiling to Mo. The PCs opened up on it with a variety of weapons - axes, a bow, spells, etc. Mo tried to break free and partly tore the pod off of his chest, tearing off some chest hair as he went. Kian yelled, "Nooooooo!"
The slime only lasted a few more seconds before the PCs piled on the damage, destroying it. It slowly came unstuck from the ceiling and fell - all 20' or so of it across. It wasn't the kind with valuable bits, so they left it and moved on.
They found a wall with some unusual - probably shaped - stone of a different kind than the rest of the dungeon. Hmm. They moved on, and checked a series of empty rooms.
In one they surprised a small slugbeast on the ceiling. Mo threw an axe at it - a fine, oversized axe he'd just purchased. That basically killed it right there. It fell down, axe and all. But then Mo heard sizzling. Over what was at least two minutes real time they tried to figure out what to do - the wizards said wine or vinegar would slough off the sticky oozy corrosive of the slugbeast's innards. So by the time they decided they had nothing and that Dryst should use Flame Jet to burn it off, the axe head was all pitted and the handle ruined. And now burned. Mo will need to spend some cash getting the axe re-edged and a new handle in town, or buy some metal and wood and have it Repaired. They harvested some ooze that can be boiled down to saleable acid, 80 sp worth.
They explored some other areas the group had been to a while back. They peered into a privy with Earth Vision, explored some old rooms - including one with a trap door down to level 2 (which, oddly, they never said they would open and check - it was closed off with stone, last time), and one with a gold-framed gemstone-adorned picture on the wall!
Naturally, it was an illusion and a trap. When a servant got close, arms reached out of the wall and grabbed it. One pair per yard, 7 or 8 yards of wall. It got grabbed and disappeared. Mo ran up to attack and damaged an arm. He got grabbed, too, so Hjalmarr chopped at the arms. He smashed one and damaged the other. They backed off and they retracted into the wall, and the picture re-appeared. Repeat two-three times before they gave up. They seemed to have thought this was a mimic, but they realized it was probably just some kind of magical trap.
They also used Shape Earth to get past that shaped wall. What was behind it was a High Sanctity area that was also Low Mana. Nothing special otherwise, so they left.
In the end they went back past the orcs and towards the second level - their goal, the maze not messed with since it killed Lucky Pete. At Mo's insistence, over the dismissals of the vets, they stopped at the room of pools.
They worked their way around, investigating the pools again - the one with clear water with silvery flakes. The one with purple water. The flaming pool. And so on. Their main goal? The pool with about a gallon or so of mercury (maybe 100-120 pounds of it?) thinly spread out in it. Dryst has Crystal-Gazing and could use this excellent pool as a high-quality scrying pool. That's the only reason this liquid wealth is still there. He began to cast and use it, 30 minutes per pop. A closed door and guards kept them from being bothered (than the orcs having pacified the area.) As he cast, they got distracted by the pool of delicious alcohol, but even their lushiest of PCs managed to resist binging. Hjalmarr drank some of the purple pool and fell asleep. Brother Ike woke him up. Hjalmarr had been dreaming of a rich treasure - a ruby the size of his thumb, a pile of gold and silver coins with an axe or mace handle sticking out of it, and as his vision pulled back to show him where it was . . . Brother Ike succeeded on Awaken. Hjalmarr yelled at Ike, who cautioned him with a parable of the many near-matyrdoms of Saint Buyya Duad that involved prophetic dreams. Hjalmarr was inconsolable.
In the meantime, Dryst did some scrying. He tried to find a new entrance to Felltower, which failed. He triedscrying the maze, seeking the solution to it. It showed a rune that read "Transport" in the Elder Tongue, which Dryst can read a broken level. It also showed a smaller run hidden within it, which Dryst couldn't read, but felt he could remember. They may have scryed something else but I can't recall.
They filled some skins with alcohol, though, even though previous experience showed it didn't last outside Felltower. Experience this time showed them it didn't last, period. They headed out.
They eventually worked their way down to the maze, passing some orc patrols on the way. The orcs just eyed them and didn't make small talk, especially since the PCs don't speak Orcish without using a spell.
They made it to the maze area. They set off a trap on a door that sent horrid screams through the dungeon and got the orcs to come running, but dealt with it with a simple Silence spell and went through into the hall of crystals.
They tried to deduce what the nine crystals are for, but despite fishing for clues ("Do any face the doors? Do I see a pattern?" etc.) they really didn't know what to do with them. So they sent a servant to check out the double bronze doors. It got tossed backwards and slammed into the ground. So they went into the maze. The door was locked but Naida opened it easily.
Armed with a clue about which rune to touch, they started around the maze. They found a number with hidden runes within the "Transport" run, but none that matched the one they wanted. As they checked one, though, something zipped up from behind. Mo was watching the back with Kian, and saw a pit - an honest-to-goodness 10' pit - move right up to and under him. He and she tried to jump aside - she made it, he didn't. He fell in. He saw two red eyes in the pit, so he slammed it with his morningstar, possibly damaging it. The pit slammed shut on him as Kian finished stumbled aside. The PCs opened up on it - Hjalmarr came running with his spear ready, Naida shot it with an arrow, Kian stabbed it, and the wizards started in on Lightning spells - Hasdrubel threw one he had ready, Dryst cast one and floated over to see the fight (out of sight around a corner.)
Mo was helpless, and getting crushed (but not terribly, thanks to his natural DR) and suffocated (much more concerning) by the living pit. Kian chopped at it, Naida shot arrows at it (mostly they bounced off), Hjalmar's spear possibly hurt it a little. Larry barely nailed it with a snap shot, and the bolt sunk in a few inches. He started to reload, second one of 75!
Vryce stepped up, though, and in a few seconds dealt scads of damage to it (one near-maximum shot, balanced by a near-minimum shot, 34 and 18 IIRC). The pit kept moving away, but it couldn't outpace them while full of Mo. Eventually, it stopped, opened up . . . and remained. There was now a real pit in the floor, right in the weird metal-like material of the maze. This really disturbed them.
Eventually, though, they found a rune like the one Dryst was looking for. He wasn't sure so they checked another, which also was a maybe. He decided to use Gift of Letters to just be able to read it - with that, they checked and found the other said "Capture" and the first maybe was "Safe." They huddled up and used that and zip, teleported.
Well, most of them. They'd put Magic Resistance on Vryce and Hjlamarr. So they waited a few seconds and tried again, confident that Dryst would cancel the spell. He did. They teleported.
They found themselves in a small room with a black metal door with no lock or handle, but with a horned, bearded, evil-looking face etched into it. Naturally it spoke.
They couldn't understand.
Dryst assumed it was Elder Tongue - he can't speak it - and cast Gift of Tongues. It asked, "I guard the Black Library. Are you evil?"
"Prove it. What's the most evil thing you've done?"
"Uh . . ."
"What's the most evil thing you did recently?"
Dryst really isn't capital E-evil. Or even lower case e-evil. He's more like capital DRYST neutral. So he had a confab with Hasdrubel, and put Gift of Tongues on him.
"I guard the Black Library. Are you evil?"
Hasdrubel: "Hell yeah!"
"Prove it. What's the most evil thing you've done?"
"Today? Or in general? I throw lightning at my friends."
"They're in my way."
"Not evil enough, what other evil things have you done?"
"I faked being a god and destroyed someone's religion for personal gain."
"Do something evil now."
"You know what to do."
He sure did. He charged up a 9d Lightning spell. Everyone got ready . . . clearly he's going to attack the door, right? Dryst suspected otherwise, torn between his goal of getting magical power and his Sense of Duty. He hesitated, Has didn't.
Has walked over the Larry and said, "Larry."
Larry turned . . . and ate a 9d Lightning spell for 36 damage. ZAAAAAAP!
He dropped. Larry has 9 HP, so he went straight to -27 HP. Three death checks with HT 10. Rolled a 10. Then a 9. Then a 12 . . . mortally wounded.
Hasdrubel turned to the door and said, "Good enough?"
"You may open the door."
It let them through as everyone was still asking Hasdrubel what he was doing. "What needed to be done."
Ike quickly went to work on Larry, using Stop Bleeding to stabilize him and tapping him with the staff to get him to -24. They all went into the next room. All except Hasdrubel, Naida, and Ike were hit with Curse (level 1). Ike is holy, and the others passed some sort of evil test, Hasdrubel with flying colors.
Behind the door was a waiting area, with black walls shot with purple and a red ceiling. Also, some tables, comfy chairs long rotted, a couple of tall wooden chairs, etc. Most were pushed to the side, and in one corner was a bedroll, a few bottles of wine, some rations, and a backpack set up like a pillow (it had underwear in it). Clearly a camp, probably for the wizard they'd killed.
They also found a gold-plated human (?) skull used as a candle holder, two silver lamps, an ivory-handled gold-chased magnifying glass . . . and a bearded Zardoz looking stone statue head. "Hey, we need that!" said Dryst. Finally, another head for the broken busts on level 1.
There was also a door to the actual library. They went in.
In it were 36 bookcases, each with one book - locked behind a cross-grilled meteoric iron cages with very well made locks on them. There were a few stone tables and lecturns, bare, and some uncomfortable wooden chairs.
(Oh, and a small door to a privy - because sometime nature calls when you're learning evil.)
The wizards immediately realized the books were being kept separate from each other.
They started to look around - many unlabeled, some very interesting looking, many very plain. The few marked in any kind of text weren't decipherable, but one had a rune tied to demonology in the Elder Tongue. Some had sigils connected to witchcraft, sacrifice, forbidden magic, death, and other cheery topics.
Naturally, they got right to work on them. Each of the locks was meteoric, -5 to pick, and the bars too thick and close-set for simple brute-force trying. That didn't stop Mo from trying on a dragonhide-bound red book that Hasdrubel coveted. He managed to critically fail and bust the lock. That one would stay where it was. A second book was jammed behind a lock from a failed roll by Naida. The other 34 were sprung free without a big issue.
The books all turned out to be in the Elder Tongue. They estimated them to be worth about 2000 sp each, on average - some more, some less. But roughly 68,000 worth of books. Why 2k each? Mostly it's a market issue, and also some of the risks of using the books and/or owning them.
The group spent some time debating what to do with the books. They asked the door - it said, "The books cannot leave the library."
Hasdrubel asked, basically, what if they leave anyway?
The door sardonically and confidently said, "You'll return them."
"What if someone else takes them?"
"You'll return them."
It implies all sorts of consequences. Real? Well, they got a Curse just for coming in. What if they steal the books and sell them? Or worse, have to hand some off to the orcs and then need them back to break the curse?
There was a debate for a while, and they got as far as stacking up the books and loading up Mo and some servants. They wondered about selling them to Black Jans for a higher price (no, sorry) or if the curse could even be removed. Basically it was everyone vs. Vryce, who wanted to leave them.
(By the way, we had a brief aside into "these are useless except to Gerry." I took the time to point out that there are evil spells and evil powers tied to all spell colleges, so this wasn't "useless" to any wizard willing to dip a toe into very dangerous knowledge.)
They decided it was risky to take them, and if they left them they could potentially access them in the future. If they needed something from the books, say, or need one of those books, they're here and safe.
So they ultimately left them.
Did they put the books back? Nah, they dumped them in a big pile on a table and left. Surely, those precautions the Black Brotherhood took were just silly. We'll see.
They took their loot and the statue head and brought it back to the metal-doored room. They mounted the head, and a voice spoke to them and told them there were four more to place, and that they are the Saints of Felltower.
The group gave the orcs one of the silver lamps (less than 25%, naturally), and Hasdrubel claimed it was half. They weren't convinced but he eventually got them to agree to it. They offered up the wineskins of "good booze" but the orcs weren't impressed with it. Hjalmarr tried the magical amazing booze from the pool . . . and it was weak and bad. Spoils quickly, apparently, when out of the pool.
Mo made up for it by giving them a bottle of cheap wine (Mad Dog 5/5, it hasn't made it all the way to 20/20 yet) he'd taken from the wizard's camp. They left, and returned to town in the rain.
Larry got housed with Ike, who is nursing him back to health. It's going to be very, very tough to get hirelings when Hasdrubel is around . . .
* Read in your best Wilt Chamberlain meets Barry White voice.
I actually had to cap the number of rumors you could get - two guys have have Carousing skills and keep rolling well. So I said, 5 rumors per person, tops. I have 30 on hand, and I have to keep making them up. Gathering more means I have to make up more, but that doesn't necessarily mean I feed you more information. As one player pointed it, it was more likely you'd get variations and inaccurate ones as I made up random stuff to fill in the table.
Our new player is my brother-in-law, who I rarely get to game with thanks to wildly different schedules. His schedule and mine finally have overlap on game day, so, here he is. He's running a thief, which is useful, because "-5 meteoric lock" is just a 13 or less roll to open it. Without a thief, this is an impossible barrier than blocks progress.
Mo took a "wineskin" of alcohol. I asked how big his wineskin was. "I don't know, I'm using the one that comes in Personal Basics." I said it's not included. Why not? Because the smallest wineskin costs and weighs more than Personal Basics does, so clearly it's not included. It's just enough stuff to not get a penalty on Survival - toothbrush, small cup, tinderbox and flint and steel, small bits of whatever - not a package of everything you'd need to transport food, water, loot, etc. I'm always surprised by what people think is included - wineskin is the latest, but I have heard, rope, empty vials for transporting liquids, chalk, paper, a compass, a combat-worthy knife, and more I can't recall now.
Elder Tongue costs double for Gift of Letters and Gift of Tongues.
The PCs started to think about bringing in fake but attractive junk to the dungeon and pawning it off to the orcs as loot they found. See, we figured out how dungeon monsters originate, why traps are re-set and furniture is always trashed, and now we can explain all of that fake jewelry that seems to populate dungeons. It's all perfectly logical and self-consistent.
No surprise, there isn't anything approaching loot in the areas that have been triple-cleared by the PCs. And the orcs didn't offer anything for killing slimes, just said, basically, "Go do this."
Best comment of the game? Tough call. Maybe Vryce's player, who said, "Man, running Vryce is way easier than running Gerry." Or Dryst, for saying that Slimes are "just like wolves, they run in packs." Or maybe Hasdrubel's claim that he's "a good man" because "he did what needed to be done." You know, doing the evil that needed doing is proof that he's good. Logic. Use it wisely.
XP was 6 for the lower-point guys (4 for loot, 1 for clean run, barely, 1 for finding the Black Library) and 4 for the rest. No roleplaying penalties, since everyone handled Hasdrubel's total disregard for Larry appropriately. They aren't terribly happy with Hasdrubel, but he's very happy with himself. He did the right thing! He was also MVP, because as one player pointed out, he turned a two-hour discussion of how to appear evil without being evil into a one minute solution. Lots of potential MVPs, honestly, since many people did things that turned out to be very significant to moving things forward.
I'm only sorry they didn't find one of the Living Pits until after I put them in a book.