Date: December 11th, 2016
Weather: Cold, snowy.
Dave, human knight (262 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (435 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (296 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (312 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (148 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (316 points)
Vryce, human knight (493 points)
Raggi wasn't available - clearly, he's already left for winter break. So the group gathered some rumors and headed up to the dungeon. It was cold, so Dryst created some winter clothing for some (others had their own gear) and they headed up.
Some miscommunication about the plans lead to some wasted time - they headed up to the summit and camped for lunch in sight of the castle, but then decided they intended to sneak in. So after a lunch break they headed around the west side of the mountain and partway down and into the dragon cave. [To be fair, they may have intended as a group to go to the dragon cave, but no one actually told me this until I was resolving top-of-the-mountain details. "No, we didn't want to do that" is too late.]
The PCs worked their way in through the dragon cave, following their exact same path. Once they reached the first "cube room" they heard chittering and squeaking. In a few seconds, a carpet of rats swarmed into the room at them. This was a nine-hex horde of rats. In moments they got swarmed. The PCs chose some inefficient tactics at first, not realizing that swarms aren't fought the same as individuals. Mo yelled to keep watch, if rats were swarming then something was following them. Dryst moved up and kept an eye on the passage they'd swarmed from.
The rats were eventually dispersed with some cleaving strikes by Mo, cuts and smashes and stomps by Ike, Dave, Vryce, and Hjalmarr, and Explosive Lightning by Has. Has was way off his game this delve, rolling 3 damage on a 3d twice - not even enough to kill off rats!
Just as the rats were cut apart, though, something followed - a crushroom! It barreled into Hjalmarr, who barely dodged aside. They started piling in on it, surrounding and chopping it. Chopping it helped, but attempts to flank the mushroom to reduce its already pathetic defenses didn't seem to matter. Moments later, two more rushed in, at Mo and Vryce. Both of them botched their defenses and were chomped - Mo on the body, Vryce on the groin. Luckily both have a lot of DR.
The PCs eventually hacked the crushrooms down, but not before Mo and Vryce get crushed pretty badly in the process. Wounded, the PCs headed to the safety of the pool-and-mushroom room, as Ike lectured them on the Miracle of the Rats and Crushrooms of Buyya Duad. Dryst grabbed a chunk of crushroom to cook and eat (he later did, it tasted awful.)
They huddled in the safe area, all except Hasdrubel. Dave asked him why he was evil. He argument is basically, "Because it's fun." Dave was unconvinced.
They recovered FP and healed up, but were disappointed that only a couple new special mushrooms had grown back. They clearly grow very slowly.
After this the found their way up to the winding staircase, then to the stairs to the levels above that. They weren't blocked, but the top of the stairs was - a wall of rubble with wood planked up around the far side. Dryst floated through with Ethereal Body and Invisibility and found four orcs and two devil wolves. The wolves woofed and howled when he arrived, causing the orcs to pull behind some barricades and sound a horn.
The PCs lost surprise completely, but dug anyway. They set up two brute servants to dig out the rubble; this worked but took some time. Halfway into the pile was an orc torso full of nasty killer maggots, which burst out and crawled the servants and burrowed into one. It screamed and disappeared. The PCs stomped the maggots, taking a few minutes to do so. Mo lit a torch and burned the ones in the corpse. The stench was terrible.
Once the PCs collapsed the top half of the blockage, the orcs throw in four jars. They shattered, smearing greenish paste on the floor that gave off a horrible stench. The PCs withstood this gas until Has used Purify Air. The orcs followed the jars with arrows and a heavy cossbow bolt that took out the servant but no one else.
Mo and Vryce clambered up the half-collapsed blockage. Mo took an arrow to the face but blocked it, barely, and then lept down. Vryce landed on caltrops. Lucky for him, he only took three and lucked out on the damage - no penetrated his heavy sollerets. Beyond was a barricade with a gap in the middle. Mo chucked an alchemist's fire over one barricade, Vryce ran up and leaped into the fire (he had Resist Fire on). Mo threw and axe as they headed in, wounding one badly. In moments they cut down all four orcs - Vryce cut three nearly in half, Mo skull-smashed another.
Hjalmarr walked through the gap. Turned out to be - of course - a clever trap. Someone had shaped a thin crust of rock over a jar of poison gas; Hajlmarr's foot broke it and set it off. He took some minor damage.
The PCs set up and waited for the orcs to come after them - they heard more horns, more footsteps, more howls. After nearly 10 minutes (!) they realized the orcs weren't going to gleefully charge through a narrow gap into a semi-circle of superior warriors with superior numbers and close-in magical support. The PCs advanced instead.
The orcs had set up two spiked barricades on either side of a "T" intersection. The PCs moved up and took some arrows, then the orcs tried to push the barricades into them. Then pushed them into a V as archers kept firing at them. The PCs eventually tossed lightning, alchemist's fire, and more lightning over the barricades, naturally also catching Hjalmarr in the blast. Vryce leaped one and ran down some orcs, killing two of three archers before another fled - he chased him briefly but missed and gave up. The other PCs finished off the stunned, wounded, and burning orcs. They decided to loot quickly and then move on - they grabbed coins and loose cruddy jewelry, ensured all of twelve orcs they'd fought were dead, and shoved the barricades aside.
From there they had a quick confab - go after the orc hole, or go down after the Lord of Spite? [Out of game, it was this debate of "which fight is longer in real time?" - I told them both were going to be long, so decide based on what you actually think is worth doing.] They settled on the Lord of Spite.
They headed down towards the door to the big spiral staircase (aka the GFS - Giant Fantastic Staircase.) They arrived, dealing with only occasional arrow shots at them. Once there, Dryst wanted to have a spare person touch the black hand. So they headed almost all the way back, only to find a blockage. So they turned around and went back. With cautious advancing to avoid traps and stay on guard against the orcs, this was almost 90 minutes of walking. They went into the GFS and wound their way down. Eventually, they reached the bottom, and discussed defacing the fantastical artwork at the bottom that gives the optical illusion that the stairway continues.
The PCs moved out into the areas beyond, briefly exploring and then coming back to rest at the bottom of the GFS. They cautiously explored around, first heading to the left. They found an octagonal room with two doors - and as they approached, they faintly heard one click closed. Not sure which one it was, they Magelocked the right one and headed left, forcing the door open. They walked a long corridor, keeping left and avoiding a turn off, turned left, and down a corridor. They almost skipped a side passage because - I swear this is true - it went off the graph paper used to map. They chose to explore anyway.
The passage to to a 30' wide x 20' deep room with a pair of nearly floor-to-ceiling pillars about 15' in. Between then was a shimmering force. They instantly realized it was a gate. A comedy of servant fun ensued. Send one in, realize the gate worked but there is no way to communicate with the servant. Send another in, with Trace on him. That revealed he was far, far to the south. A Cartography roll revealed that, yes, that could be where the Lost City of D'Abo is. A third servant was sent in, told to find the others can come back. It went - this one was sent around the back, in case the gate sent people different places if you went in from a different way. None of them came back. Dryst concentrated on his spells but they were gone - something had destroyed or dispelled the servants. They tried a Wizard Eye but it wouldn't go through.
They decided to check the room facing the stairs and a side room off of that, and so headed back that way. It was a duplicate of the other gate room. A servant tried the gate but nothing happened - no gating. Dryst used Wild Talent to learn Scry Gate but it, too, failed to turn anything up. They cajoled Dryst into going back to the Lost City gate to scry it, too. So they did, again winding around.
They rested while Dryst scryed. The spell revealed a sky-painted domed room, quiet, with an archway facing the gate. The paintings on the wall on one side showed a map, possibly a world or continent or island map. The other side had a familiar mountain top with an unfamiliar squat black fortress on it. Nothing else was seen.
Dryst used Seeker on the lost stone book, and got a vague heading. So they moved on, finding more turn-offs and side passages. They headed over to where the book was.
While heading this way they heard noises - Dryst used Dark Vision to see ahead, and spotted four orcs and a large shape with them. As the PCs advanced, they backed off. They tried to engage but the orcs wouldn't, and moved back in the direction of the stairs.
From there they headed past a room with a hemisphere of black crystal on the ceiling and then into the room with the big orichalcum doors. There, though, they heel click-click-click of bootheels. At the fringes of their light an elf walked up.
Has talked to him, but he seemed disinterested in Has's question ("Are you a fellow traveler?") except say he was a "seeker" in an oddly hollow, "bottomless" voice. He focused on Vryce, and asked his name. When he heard it, the elf said, "Vryce the Dragonslayer? I have been seeking you."
He introduced himself as Valmar, and asked Vryce if he wished to fight a duel. The stakes? The loser's sword belongs to the winner. To the death, of course. Vryce accepted.
Dryst realized this was a sword-spirit, and what that meant - it was a former mortal cursed to immortality, forced to fight duels, as a punishment for cheating in a duel. Dryst suggested putting a bunch of spells on Vryce, but Vryce (wisely, and appropriately) refused. "So I can end up a sword-spirit when I die? No." Nevermind Vryce's various codes and precepts wouldn't let him do that. Valmar drew a glowing longsword and waited.
They set up and fought. After waiting until one committed a moment too soon (Valmar, resolved with a Quick Contest) they engaged. It was a tense duel, with Vryce quickly realizing that Valmar was very slightly less skilled them him . . . probably. They launched a series of attacks back and forth - Vryce mixing in Feint with Attack, sometimes a straight Feint, sometimes just his Trademark Move (a double body cut.) Valmar mixed in stabs to the chinks in armor over the vitals, Feints, heavily Deceptive Attacks (like, -5 to -7, depending on his target). Vryce drew first blood, after using Luck to avert a hit and then landing a massive 32 damage cut. Valmar staggered but didn't fall, despite being cut nearly shoulder to hip. Again they enagaged, Vryce drawing Valmar in first.
Hjalmarr tried to psyche out Valmar, but it had no effect - he was simply ignored. [Good thing it didn't, if it did, and Valmar felt it was cheating, well, Higher Purpose would kick in.]
Again Vryce used Luck to avert a hit, and again managed to cut Valmar after a Feint - once he made his Feint by 23 points, only to have Valmar make his by 20, but still it was barely enough. Vryce managed to land two body cuts, both critical hits, cutting Valmar nearly in half, dropping him. [To speed combat, I rolled defenses as fast as Vryce's player rolled attacks. My rolls for those two defenses that never needed rolling? 4 and 4. Had either not been a critical, it could have reversed the whole fight.]
Valmar weakly asked Vryce to finish it, saying the duel wasn't over. Vryce tried, cutting him twice, then trying to cut off his head - but he couldn't do it. Valmar wiggled his fingers towards his sword. Mo said, "Come on, man, there can be only one." Vryce picked that up, and cut off his head. Valmar died. Within a minute, he faded away, leaving only his gear behind - some magical (but horribly trashed) elven mail, a matching gold ring and necklace set, and his sword.
They moved on, and blundered right into the "Force Dome room." They actually had assumed it was further on. No book, and they used Dispel Magic to carve a hole.
From there they found the door to the cavern area, and used Wizard Eye to scout it out. The found the treasure pile from last time was now a huge mess of coins and gems scattered around. "Like someone kicked it all over the place?" Yes. Dryst also found a long-broken pentagram off to the side, but couldn't seen all of the limits of the cave area.
Mo could just barely hear some ragged, wet breathing from the room. Also, some suppressed giggling, like a mass of voices of people giggling behind their hands.
They ended up deciding to Great Haste Vryce and then Mo, send them in to "grab handfuls of treasure" and then run out. Dyrst walked in after them with Walk on Air. This didn't work out brilliantly.
They made it in, but bad footing slowed them down. Vryce reached the statue head they'd seen last time and grabbed it. Mo had to grab gems one at a time - move, crouch, grab, stand, repeated. Even with Altered Time Rate this is slow. No handfuls to grab. He put three gems in his sack before he heard something.
That turned out to be like a half-dozen doomchildren charging them in a loose mob. Mo got slashed by one but dodged, and then brained it. BOOOOOOOOOOOOM. Mo was engulfed in flames - loincloth, chest hair, ferocious beard, gem bag, etc. - all on fire. One grabbed Vryce right after he scooped up the statue head lefty, his new sword in his right hand for light. Vryce shooked it off (an AOA Double, break free followed by a push kick) and knocked it two yards back. It rushed him but he parried it and ran.
They took off for the exit. They barely made it, with Mo on fire and doomchildren on them. They blew one up with lightning, catching Vryce in the blast (IIRC). They managed to reach the door with one on their heels. Dave crushed it, setting off a fireball that engulfed him, Mo, Vryce, and others - then Hjlamarr slammed the door and Dryst Magelocked it.
They heard deep voiced chuckling.
From there they basically headed back. They dealt with more orcs lurking in ambush and shooting arrows and bolts at them, but couldn't do more than follow. They found the way down, realized the orcs had policed up the bodies and the caltrops, and went home.
Well, not exactly. They ended up getting lost about three times, as Hjalmarr led them with the map. He couldn't quite place where he was, and kept choosing the wrong fork in the tunnels. After a wasted hour or so, they eventually found the dragon cave and went home.
Quote of the session? Mo's player, as we left. "So, I didn't know they exploded."
Dave was a last-minute (almost literally) addition. "I'm playing!" just as I was handing out rumors.
I think I've said over and over, tie it all to the megadungeon. Thematically, the Lost City had six-fingered hands and hints of a connection; the Cold Fens are physically close and feature some of the same enemies and possible ties between them. And now you can see the physical connection of the Lost City - a gate the PCs did not manage to discover during their delves there. Now they have, and they were congratulating themselves on not selling the Bell of D'Abo because "we'll never go back there again." That's why I kept referring to all of this as the Felltower game - it's not just common PCs, but a common link of all of the campaign areas. Link it all together, it's always worth it!
You can also see with the gates discovered what I meant by distinct places in the dungeon that may force multi-session delves. Especially since not all gates are two-way and reliable, and what's beyond them isn't likely to be one room with one encounter, they might end up being multi-session delves.
Swarms are really underused. I've got more of them in the dungeon. Rats was a good "easy mode" learning experience - low HP to disperse, DR protects normally, no venom (and no one caught a disease). I didn't explain the rules for them, because I prefer a) organic and natural responses and b) I got tired of explained how swarms and diffuse creatures work in GURPS like 5 years ago. So PCs did stuff like All-Out-Defend, tried for stunning with lightning (can't usefully stun a swarm), etc.
Oddly the players really started to worry about how to ensure 100% actual casualties on the rats. Not, enough damage to disperse them, killing some in the process and driving the rest off, but rather "every single rat is dead." Luckily they didn't follow up on this, because it's a waste of time and resources at best, dangerous to all involved at worst. I'm not even sure why, except typical "nothing attacks us and gets away with it" PC logic. You know, everything less than 100% casualties on the enemy is a failure. Maybe I need a picture of Gaston de Foix to remind people to quit while they're ahead.
Crushrooms are tough - piles of HP, enough HT to ensure you generally need to take them to negative multiples of HP. At least one of them didn't drop until -5xHP.
The Valmar fight was good - he's been prowling around for a while, and came up in rumors. Obviously he was juiced up over DFM1 stats, because he wasn't meant to fight a 250-point guy like the base sword-spirit is. Vryce is nearly 500 points, with 56 points in sword alone - he needed a better foe to challenge him. It was a good fight. Tense, and since Vryce's player and I have been chatting two-handed sword tactics for high-skill PCs for years and years, it was really a lot of fun to see how they'd play out against each other.
I need to revise Scry Gate, and the largely useless Seek Magic. Maybe Scry Gate, too, since I suspect it might just be a routinely cast spell used to pre-explore as much of the dungeon and gate destinations as possible. That's why Wizard Eye didn't go through - do I really want all gates to be, "Hold on, let the wizard send through a Wizard Eye and explore for a while, then we'll decide not to go"? No. Allowing servants is bad enough, but I've allowed them to be gated before under nearly identical circumstances so it's too late.
All but Vryce got enough for full XP (5 each); Vryce got 3. MVP was Vryce for grabbing the statue head. They'll need it for the Saints of Felltower. Also, for "sucking up no XP for a while to fight orcs."
Good session to end the year on.