Date: November 20th, 2016
Weather: Cold, windy, first flurries of snow.
Dave, human knight (262 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (439 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (304 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (304 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (147 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (301 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (290 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)
We started in Sterickburg, as usual, gathering rumors. One of note was that orcs are "fearless and ruthless, but not very disciplined." You know, just like delvers. They stocked up on paut and healing potions and some other things, including a Watchdog scroll for Hasdrubul.
The PCs also forked out 450 sp for a pig, which Mo named Squealy Dan. They then made lightstones, one each of holy and magical for everyone ("including the pig" joked Dryst), turned everyone Invisible (actually including Squealy Dan), and slowly worked their way up. They headed out and hiked up the mountain, turning left most of the way up and rounding the crest to reach the dragon cave on the west side.
Once there someone casually remarked something like, "You know, we don't actually need to pass the behir to get to where we are going." So Quenton Gale cast Entombment on the pig, beating its resistance, and it was swallowed up by some earth and rock. He's now their backup pig.
They passed through the rock "toothed" cave and into caverns below. Once inside they dropped the Invisibility and moved to the "mushroom cave." It was quiet and peaceful for most of them, but not Hasdrubul, who felt tired and confused (-2 FP and IQ) for a number of hours. All but him ate some of the mushrooms, and the PCs took all of the color-tinged mushrooms they could. Mo ate one and it gave him Dark Vision, but they saved the others until later. Mo also mocked Has', saying, "You wanted to be evil."
They worked their way up the steps to the half-finished tiled room and to the blockage on the stairs to the level still further up. Once there, Dryst cast Ethereal Body and slipped through the wreckage. On the other side he cast Simple Illusion of the same wreckage (more-or-less) and moved back. Then, with a large Silence spell over the particular area they worked on, plus two brute servants Dryst created, got to work. The strongest three PCs - Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr - did most of the digging, with Dave spelling one of them for a time. The servants carried the rock into the corners of a nearby room and carefully stacked them. Gale helped by using Shape Earth to get the fill out of the mass of wood, rusted metal, blocks of stone, etc. that made up the bulk of the barricade. It was 90 cubic yards (!) of junk, so it ended up taking nearly seven hours with rest and breaks. By the time the PCs finished, it was after dark outside. Luckily they brought lots of mushrooms from the cave. By this time, Mo's dark vision was long gone and Has' felt better.
They moved up the now-clean stairs, putting another illusion behind them. They ate the mushrooms that gave dark vision and improved poison resistance. They cautiously - but not too slowly - moved to the bottom of the "pillboxes" that guard the main entrance. They forced doors with Silence over them and wedged one shut with a crowbar underneath it, and then Mo went up the left "ladder" and Vryce the right.
Vryce's pillbox was empty except for some quivers of arrows and some spare bows.
Mo pushed his open and found himself face to face with an orc. He pulled himself up as the orc drew his sword and another, behind his position, yelled "Human!" in common. The sword-armed orc slashed him but he parried, and luckily his knife held. They kept yelling. Dave decided to come help and started to run from the room the PCs waited in. He stormed up and grabbed the orc and stabbed at him with his knife while the other one whacked him in the back with an axe. He took three or four very hard two-handed chops with the axe before he could knock out the orc he grabbed with a serious vitals stab. Then he spun him around, then dropped both, drew his morningstar and took the orc out in a second. He was badly wounded.
Meanwhile Vryce saw through the arrow slits that the orcs from the surface were coming across the pit via their "bridge." He couldn't find a way to close the gates or doors, and realized the controls were elsewhere, and headed down.
They healed Mo up a bit [maybe entirely, I don't track that for them] and moved towards the "orc hole."
They reached it after some quick marching, with their three best fighters in the front and Dave trailing in the back. The passed one of the statue rooms, forced the door, and kept going.
As they approached the orc hole, arrows flew out at them. Dryst was hit by one which penetrated his armor - he didn't bother to dodge some wussy orc arrow, but I rolled max damage and it was a poison-coated armor piercer and punched a hole in his dwarven plate. The PCs charged, all at maximum Move, quickly getting spread out. The arrived and found a group of the biggest, darkest, fiercest looking orcs they'd ever seen, backed by a few more normal sized orcs and at least one spellcaster.
Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr rushed in. As is traditional, Hjalmarr threw an axe and then drew his good melee axe, did a Rapid Strike, hitting and then rolling an 18 to drop it. Like, you know, every fight. He eventually drew Inquisitor Marco's Mace and fought with that. The PCs engaged in a close-in brawl, with the wizards throwing Explosive Lightning in mostly for the stunning effect, Gale put a large Pollen Cloud over two areas of the fight, Has' followed it up with Stench over the "orc hole" - really a vertical tunnel - to discourage reinforcements. The orcs responded with Spasm spells from their caster and Deceptive Attacks and spear-thrusts to chinks in armor.
Meanwhile Dave rushed up, trying to join the fight, but he's heavily burdened and slow. He arrived eventually. The four of them were too tough for the orcs, even though Mo got a foot crippled by a chance shot. Those orcs took a tremendous beating before they'd drop, but eventually they did. The caster, too, was stunned with lightning and slain, along with a sub-chief type, but several of the archers fled. In the end the PCs had killed around a dozen orcs.
They quickly policed up the swords - the only lootables they care about - and triple-killed the dead orcs. Everyone was in such a rush that they ended up - this is true - spending five minutes "quickly" getting some stuff done. Gale chopped up one orc with Hjalmarr's axe. Hjalmarr and Mo both bashed skulls. Someone else said they'd cut throats, I can't recall now which PC. They used Mage Sight to check for magic items (none), grabbed magical staff off of the orc spellcaster, and put Force Dome over the "orc hole." Has' followed that with Watchdog from his scroll, and grabbed the orc spellcaster's head.
Then they headed back, hoping to encounter more orcs while keeping their path home clear. They worked their way to the incredibly misnamed "Lord of Spite's Door" and made sure Mo could open it - and left it open. Around now Has's Watchdog went off, over and over and over again. Hostiles in that area. They headed back.
They reached an intersection where they once had a big brawl with the orcs. History repeated itself - the orcs were waiting and attacked. The PCs rushed out to the right of the T to attack them. Gale, though, with See Invisible on, rushed out and to the left. He saw a mass of bad guys charging - four devil wolves, two really big owlbears, three ogres (one really big one, too), an invisible orc wizard, and some of those big, dark-skinned orcs. He yelled.
The orcs piled in - from one side, devil dogs charged. From the other, axe-armed orcs backed by spear-armed orcs rushed them. Invisible Dyrst plastered himself to the ceiling and put up a Force Wall in front of the left side - but it takes a second to form, and the dogs and one owlbear came in too fast.
The devil dogs caused havoc, using pouncing to do full-out runs and jumping on PCs. Mo, as is traditional, was bitten and knocked down by one (he rolled just about the worst slam damage possible vs. pretty high for the devil wolf.) Hjalmarr turned and chopped one up but its still-moving corpse smashed into him and knocked him down. Another pounced on Gale and knocked him down, and a moment later he dropped unconscious. Dave broke that one's leg and in a second or two beat it to hamburger. Hjalmarr got up to kneeling and killed the owlbear, first driving it berserk with damage and then braining it before it could smother him with its arms and hug him to death.
The PCs had a nice wall to the right, and Vryce, Mo, and Hjalmarr killed some orcs but once Mo got up Vryce moved to the left, letting the orcs pile through. Vryce was afraid the orcs would dispel the wall and the PCs would be overrun.
One more devil dog rushed through after Has', who yelled "Oh crap" or something or that sort. Dave yelled "Yes!" Has' dodged (against all odds, really) and knocked its bite aside with his staff, then zapped it with lightning, stunning it. Dave smashed its foreleg and body, and then piled more on the second after. Around this time, Brother Ike woke up Gale with a healing tap from his staff and Awaken. Vryce charged the force wall but the orc caster saw him and shouted to his owlbear and ogres. The ogres moved to screen him and the owlbear pulled back. Vryce ran up to the wall and slashed through it (his sword is magical, and can pass through) and killed one ogre - and then double-killed him to make sure after he fell. Unable to be sure where the invisible guy was, he swung wildly around low and high. [The player knew, but his PC didn't.] Has' put up Stench on those orcs behind the wall, which the orc caster Dispelled, leaving the wall intact - clearly, they realized things weren't going well. They put up Fog and Gale blew that away with Wall of Wind.
From here, especially on the right, it was a pretty straight-up brawl. The casters threw Explosive Lightning into the fray, mostly aimed at the floor [I did inflict heavy penalties to claim the +4 to "hit the floor in that hex" when there are 3-4 orcs in between.] Dave, Mo, and Hjalmarr kept killing orcs. The bodies got stacked so high that Dave the Crippler, self-dubbed, had to physically climb them to get at the orcs. More lightning and Pollen Could spells tossed in the back to hit archers and casters messed up the orc's plans, and eventually they started to back off. A few pressed forward to fight, others followed orders, and the PCs ran into trouble when they hit their own Pollen Cloud. As one orc fought on (he'd rushed the PCs despite the order) a wizard put up a wall with Create Earth. Mo charged it and slammed into it, but rolled terrible damage and merely dented it - it wasn't a thin sheet. Moments later, it turned to bronze! Clearly the orc earth wizard was here and he's pretty good.
The PCs let the others escape to the left, and looted and healed up some injuries. They dispelled the magically created wall and followed the orcs. No surprise, they were gone, but had left some nail-studded boards behind. Mo, now snapped out of his enraged status, had moved cautiously and saw them. They were close to their exit, and took it, but not before lighting up some oil the orcs had spread ahead of their path (they heard fleeing footsteps from whomever was hanging around waiting to light it.)
They headed down, and found their way out. By now it was deep into the night, but they managed to get back to town safely.
Loot was okay - a few hundred for most, once they sold the swords and divvied up some minor jewelry from the orcs and some gold and silver coins, more for Vryce and Dryst. But it wasn't enough to cover the costs completely. Still, they were satisfied they'd killed over two dozen orcs, one of the wizards, four devil wolves, and an owlbear. Plus they ensured that yes, Mo's "magic hand" still works post-dismemberment. They plan to come back again next time, a different way in, and assault the orcs again. If their estimates are good, they inflicted roughly 10% permanent casualties on the orcs.
Pictures tomorrow, no time to edit them in! [Pictures are up!]
I tested some time-tracking methods in my game today, they were excellent although counting-intensive. It helped a lot to be able to say "It takes 40 minutes from here to there" instead of "Uhm, let me guess." Once I polish them up more, I'll submit them to Pyramid.
Aaargh, even my players have me calling "orc wizards" "orc shaman" instead. Gah. Hopefully seeing Dispel Magic, Create Earth, and Earth to Stone will change that. It probably won't. I used to refer to them as that myself, until I realized it was totally misleading everyone and shocking them when they had "real" spells. Dryst's player said that "shaman" sounds more dangerous, like they have mysterious powers.
My players aren't terribly happy that Earth to Stone can create metal, but I don't allow the metal spells like Shape Metal. Mostly because they'll see no cool adventuring use and endless amounts of "We can shape the metal door aside." "We can shape the hinges off the door." "We can shape this fine enchanted armor into something else." Etc. Dispel Magic did the trick anyway.
One question that came up - why does Force Wall and Force Dome say it takes a second to form, and Shape Earth gives someone time to move off the hexes affected, but Create Earth just makes stuff instantly? Basically to avoid abusive auto-kills with the former spells. The latter, like most other spells, don't come with a lag time because they can't really usefully function as "win buttons" in an unfair way. You could potentially make all spells that create anything work after a full turn delay, but that would make the vast majority of offensive area spells useless except at massive sizes. It would also make most area-denial spells useless, because you can see them coming and ignore them. I'd rather keep the special cases for the spells which, in my experience, are most ripe for abuse.
Putting Dave in the rear guard was an in-game good decision, but an out-of-game poor one. Dave's player is very young, loves combat but not much of the rest of delving (yet, anyway), and Dave the Crippler has ST 14 and heavy armor . . . so he has Move 3. This means he spent a good amount of time in the first fight running up to the fight. I suggested putting him up front even if it meant having no rear guard in the second fight, and the players seemed like they were already on that page, too. He was much happier getting into the thick of things right away, and his success at smashing limbs and beating down orcs and devil wolves made him and everyone else very happy. Even if his move was higher, you put the elementary school kid's fighter in the thick of the action and let the vets handle them more patience-taxing task of tactical area control.
Remembering that you roll unconsciousness from HP loss on your turn has had a significant effect on the game. No longer is the best way to kill fodder torso shots for high damage. That will work, but a HT 11-12 orc might be stunned and knocked down on a major wound but is unlikely to roll 16-17+ to pass out immediately, and over half the time won't even be stunned. Even if fodder fail their unconsciousness rolls on their next turn, they are still there in the way. Skull shots suddenly seemed like a great idea as they nearly ensure knocked (HT 12, -10 for major wound to the skull = Knocked out on a 7+). It makes the "no wasted damage, maximum hit potential" torso shot approach have a tradeoff vs. "but when I hit, it goes down" skull and vitals shooting. Nice.
Where do PCs keep all of those swords? Really, "we grab all the swords and move on." With the scabbards, this takes time and it's annoying to carry them. Without the scabbards, they are where exactly? I don't worry about this too much, enforcing only the weight, but I have to wonder. "Oh, I have them, I've got plenty of encumbrance cap to spare." But where? I couldn't even schlep two shinai to kendo in a special pack without thinking, this sucks. Imagine ten scimitars you scooped up in battle.