September 25th, 2017
Weather: Hot, sunny.
Hasdrubel Stormcaller, human wizard (333 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (347 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (166 points)
Raska, human laborer (62 points)
Veronico, human archer (125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (350 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Quention Gale, human druid (317 points)
We started in town, with the PCs exhaustively buying up potions, spell stones, and so on for the delve. This was aided - as was recruiting hirelings - by Hjalmarr living it up off of last delve's profits, spending 4x his usual upkeep to eat well, drink well, and fritter away cash well.
The PCs hired the same two NPCs as last time, but couldn't find Orcish Bob. No matter, they found Raggi. They headed up to the "dragon cave" entrance, planning to try opening these double doors they'd found way back in the day but previous delvers hadn't solved. They were sure extreme danger, probably something really evil, was behind them, and that loot was sure to follow.
They stopped briefly in the slums to visit Sterick's statue, and Hjalmarr patted his axe and said, "I'm coming to find you" to it. They headed out of the slums. On the way out, Mo grabbed some "acorns" (actually, seed pods, but he kept saying "acorns") from the whispy, thorn-covered scrub bushes that grow up the near the trail to Felltower. They worked their way around to the "dragon cave" and carefully entered.
With a copy of their not-to-scale, semi-accurate-looking, but well-labelled map on hand, they started to work their way to a pair of the double doors. They made it to one of the cube-shaped rooms (a 30 x 30 x 30 cube with exits on all four sides) just as three acid spiders did as well. There was a quick fight, with Hjalmar going "Eeeeeeeeewwwwwwww!" the whole time, and the acid spiders were chopped up and Lightning'ed down. They wanted to harvest spider acid, but lacked any containers. (There was a side discussion about "Couldn't Raska be carrying Has's Alchemy Kit, and we can use the containers in it?" But I shut that down by saying kits don't come with free crytal vials, sacks, pouches, etc. That's what Gizmos, Create Object, and planning are for.) Gale grabbed part of a leg for some purpose, and Has' and Mo started to discuss a dungeon-to-table restaurant. Then the PCs moved on and began to work their way around the tunnels.
They made it to the "rest area" cave, and harvested some red-tinged and purple-tinged mushrooms, plus refreshed and ate from the Essential Water and Essential Food (mushrooms) there. Gale complained at the lack of lentils, a recurring theme. Has' waited outside with someone else to "guard" - his soul is too stained to enter.
From there they reached the first pair of double doors they intended to open. It took some work to move the 9' wide, 21' tall doors, but they did it. They moved down the red-marbled hallway inside to a door covered with silver studs, linings, and edgings. Blocked the big doors open with magically shaped stone, and opened the interior door. There was a crack as the big doors closed despite the stone, a golden flash . . . and the PCs were in another cube-shaped room.
They found themselves amongst six flesh-eating apes who were wandering through. Many of the PCs had failed their Body Sense rolls, and the apes grabbed Raska and bit him in the face (for max damage), grappled Veronico, and failed to significantly engage anyone else. Then the PCs got rolling - Gale and Has' used Lightning to shock the apes, Hjalmarr, Raggi, and Mo just attacked them straight up, and Ike tried to not get killed. In a few seconds it was over - Raska was badly chewed on (two max damage face bites!), Veronico strangled a bit, and the six apes ranging from "mortally wounded and twitching" to "definitely dead." Mo smashed one's skull to make sure of him.
They lingered a bit, checking the apes and healing, until they heard stone scraping and flapping - gargoyles. They fled down a random corridor, and found a marked number and used it to orient themselves on the map.
They went to the next door, and through that. Same result. Hjalmarr's attempts to quickly peek didn't amount to anything - he saw literally nothing but a flash of golden light.
On nearly the last trip to the doors, they found themselves in a tunnel near the gargoyles, and again hurried away to avoid having a useless fight. Instead they got attacked from the flank by a hungry, angry umber hulk! The weird blobby humanoid confused poor Veronico and nearly did so to Mo and Gale, and bit someone on the chest (Veronico, I think). But in a few seconds the umber hulk, too, was slain, having been shocked and smashed in the skull repeatedly. They moved on.
They made their way back, again. This happened six times in turn.
When they opened the interior door the sixth time, the outer doors closed, but they could now see inside.
Inside was a spherical room, 30' across, painted light green to dark green on the bottom half, light blue to deep blue at the top, with a white sarcophagus floating in mid-air in the middle. It was decorated with seals with a tower and crossed axe and sword. That's Baron Sterick the Red's symbol. Oh . . .
But how to get to it? It was far, it was 15' off the floor, and only Has' has Levitate and he has to concentrate to move you. The doorway was too narrow for a second person. So they decided they'd hook a grapnel over the door's ring, attach it to Has, and send him in. He didn't touch but did verify the symbol was on top.
He floated back. Now what?
Mo tossed in an "acorn." The floor was solid, the seed pod was unharmed. The floor was clearly smooth - marble-smooth (I joked it was coated in White Plumium, the slickest element known to GM kind, but it was just marble.)
Before they got too involved, Mo insisted they see if they could open the big doors.
So they did. As they tried to opened the big doors, the interior door closed, there was a golden light, and they found themselves in a cube-shaped room.
Six more trips around the dungeon later, they made their way back in, only having one significant encounter. They stumbled across 15 man-sized slicer beetles. They made short work of them, but Raggi got a sliced foot from a bite and the PCs were concerned a lucky shot would mess them up.
The second time they faced the sarcophagus (now called either "the trap" or the "sarcophagus of endless slimes" or "Sterick's tomb"), but from another angle.
This time they tried to anchor a grapnel on it to pull in the sarcophagus (didn't work, it was rooted as if on stone), or pull off the lid (not, it was seemingly lift-and-slide, not slide or just lift), or otherwise get it to do something. Has' called to the sarcophagus and tried to talk to its occupant. Nothing.
So Has' floated in, with a rope around him, anchored to Mo. He saw the top of the tomb had an unfinished inscription, in florid script - "Our Dear Lord, who" and then it cut off to part of a letter (not enough to identify it). It had been chiseled in, but the work hadn't been completed. The top also had a large logo identical to the ones on the side.
In the end, they had Has' touch it. The sarcophagus started to open. He Levitated back as Mo reeled him in. As they did, the door started to close. Raska was holding it fast with his high ST, but it was still moving inexorably as the sarcophagus opened. They put in a crowbar, but it bent, and snapped. Inside of a minute, before they could see what was in the sarcophagus, the door closed.
Golden flash, Body Sense rolls, and in a cube-shaped room.
So they made their way around to the doors again, this time having to take a detour to avoid a slime, but otherwise finding their way around and eventually making it to the double doors, each of six in turn.
They came in a third door. Hjalmarr gave the NPCs a speech about this being do-or-die, no retreat, you're in and that's it, but we're there too and once more unto the breach and folks in Felltower will regret not being here this day and such. It worked well enough.
In the PCs went, sliding down the walls of the sphere. Has' floated up and touched the sacrophagus. As before, it opened, and before it was open enough to see inside the door was fully closed.
He floated back and away. The others looked up.
A man sat up and blinked at Has', and asked who he was. Then the man stood up - balding, but with flowing grey hair, wearing glossy black ornate plate armor (magical, obviously). The man drew a sword and an axe and held them, and demanded they say who they were. Has' answered.
Who was this guy?
They all recognized him as they saw his face - Baron Sterick the Red. They recognized this weapons, Shieldslayer and Magesbane*, the names of which they'd just found out thanks to Hjalmarr asking that specifically in town. He demanded they kneel before him. Has' lowered himself into somewhat of a floating mage-bow (it's a robe-holding curtsy), and Hjalmarr knelt and had his NPCs kneel, too. Mo, Gale, and Raggi refused. They kept talking, and Sterick was stern and didn't say much but made some demands of names, actions, etc. Sterick motioned Has' closer.
Has' came just a little closer.
"DIE WIZARD!" yelled Sterick, and he slashed Has' with Mageslayer. Has' tried to Dodge, gaining a pile of bonuses for height, retreat, and aerial movement, but it was a Deceptive Attack -7. He was struck and sliced badly, despite his six-fingered guy Magery-enhanced scale. The PCs started to stand up and act. Mo shouted up a challenge to come and fight him.
Sterick accepted the challenge and jumped down to attack Mo, quickly Feinting him and swinging his axe at Mo's Targe of the Tiger (from DF6) and his neck. He hit both - and Mo's shield howled a tiger-like yowl, and wrenched and twisted and broke into bent pieces. The neck hit landed, and he wounded Mo badly, but failed to kill or stun him. Mo went berserk. The others stood and moved in, but Sterick had placed Mo between himself and easy attackers.
In a second or two everyone was going. Veronico shot Sterick in the face, but the arrow loudly pinged off the air in front of him. Raggi swung at him and critically hit! But then he only rolled average damage and merely creased Sterick's armor.
Sterick wounded Mo further, but rolled an 18 on his axe swing and lost it! It clattered to the ground. The PCs moved to force him back. Mo's morningstar had turned in his grasp, so he dropped it and tackled Sterick and forced him to parry and retreat to avoid it. Sterick did, nimbly walking up the sphere's side even as PCs slipped and fell trying to follow. Raggi fell trying to follow up on his success.
Has' and Gale opened up with Lightning, nailing him once apiece, leaving him smoldering and angry, but otherwise he was able to Dodge. Generally they fired face-on against him when he was obscured by friends, so they couldn't usefully use Prediction Shot (and ma have forgotten it entirely, or didn't know the rule) and Sterick was able to Dodge all of them from then out.
Mo kept after Sterick, taking horrible damage. Sterick hit him in the neck over and over, Feinting and then striking with both weapons, missing the bear every time (clearly he's an expert at dealing with barbarians). Ike healed him, but to no avail - tired of chopping his neck, he chopped his skull open to the chin with Magebane.
As Mo was dying, Hjalmarr was picking up Shieldslayer. He stood up and tried to hit Sterick, but he was easily parried. Sterick chopped at his hand. Hjalmarr parried. A second chop was a critical hit, and off came Hjalmarr's hand, axe with it.
Has' decided enough was enough. He spoke into his ring and wished for the PCs, living and dead, and their stuff, and Sterick's weapons, to be teleported to the Old Stone Bridge outside of Stericksburg.
Nothing. The ring literally did nothing - it didn't expend the wish, it just did nothing.
Too greedy, maybe? - That seemed to be the consensus.
Sterick was still after Hjalmarr, as Raggi got up, recovered his axe, and tried to hit Sterick. He had a 15, rolled a 6, and hit . . . oh, if he'd only not done his Trademark Move and had a 16+. Sterick critically parried and knocked Raggi's axe out of his hands. Raggi drew his knife because he couldn't get to his axe. Has' blasted him with an Explosive Lightning around now, missing but catching him in part of the blast. It wasn't enough.
A second later, Has' tried another wish, this time asking only that the PCs be whisked away with with their stuff.
Gale ended up close to Sterick at this point, missed him with an 18d Lightning and got slashed down. He lay on his back, wounded, trying to stay conscious while he faked dead and started in on Entombment.
Has' said something at this point, as he backed up into the air, mocking Sterick (or at least seeming to). Sterick angrily walked up the air and slashed at Has', hitting him and killing him outright. His body fell on the ground next to Gale.
Sterick ignored him as Hjlamarr tried to shield bash him, contemptuously parrying, and reached down and snapped his axe up as it flew out of Hjalmarr's severed hand and into his.
Raggi slashed at him as Sterick offered him a joke - "Axeman, join my bodyguards!"
"Sorry, my crew needs me."
So Sterick killed him - or at least seemed to. He slashed Raggi's neck with his axe, rolling pathetic damage, but it was still enough to put him to -23 HP. Raggi failed his death check by his margin of Hard to Kill. He dropped, seemingly dead, but really just unconscious. Ike started saying prayers in between casting healing spell after healing spell.
Sterick called the PCs church fools as Hjalmarr tried to talk now that violence wasn't working. Sterick mocked him and destroyed his shield and then cut him down. He went after Ike, next, even as the wizards cast on him. Ike zapped him in the face with Sunbolt. Sterick didn't Dodge, he just took it, and blinked off the attack with only a slight face burn and no blindness.
Gale tried Entombment, and made it . . . but Sterick beat his roll by a few points. Nothing.
He killed Ike with a contemptuous sword blow, saying that people like him had made him as he is.
Gale tried to throw a fireball from his necklace, but missed badly. It exploded harmlessly. Sterick kicked him in the chest for 10 damage and broke some ribs and told him to just lay there and stop bothering him (not in so many words.)
This whole time, Raska held back (he's not a fighter) and Veronico pinged arrow after arrow off of Sterick. Even his bodkins did nothing, and his skill was too low to useful aim for chinks. Sterick's exposed face was protected and bodkins did nothing there, either.
The fight was over. Sterick stalked Veronico and cut his head off. Then he stalked Raska right after Gale fell unconscious. He ran him through, fatally.
We ended the session there. No survivors, although it's still technically possible Gale and Raggi are alive. They were when everyone was out and couldn't verify what happened next. But there isn't any easy escape from the place Sterick was meant to "rest," forever.
For pictures, check Instagram and the #Felltower tag.
XP was 1 per person for finding a new area, MVP was Hjalmarr for asking to try and open all of the doors this session. No one can spend them, of course . . .
Using the DFRPG screen - actually two, one for me back to back with one for the players - was great. So was using Spells and Exploits instead of other books. Nice. Smooth, easy, handy, fast.
This was a "danger pocket," one of the originals. It's a centerpiece to the dungeon in some ways - the burial place of Baron Sterick the Red. Lots of clues pointed to this area, and some on how to get into it, but they were sometimes bypassed, misunderstood, or just not encountered as people veered off from area where they were. It's fine, the danger was clear, they just could have had a firmer idea of what could be within. I think Dryst's player suggested long ago that this could be Sterick's burial spot, but I could be mis-remembering.
As danger pockets go, this one is outstandingly dangerous. Tough environment. Go in, or don't go in, and a do-or-die choice. Every attempt to either secure a retreat (keep the doors open, check if you can leave) or effect a retreat (Wish their way out) failed. The opponent within isn't unstoppable but he's utterly lethal, and how someone put it was that they now know how everything in Felltower feels fighting Vryce. Add some poor choices, convincing themselves the opponent was potentially incorporeal and preparing for that, and some just inopportune rolling and good rolling by me and things went badly. The PCs had no where to run and had bet on being able to do so. They couldn't. TPK.
Just goes to show, you can go in eyes wide open and as prepared as possible, have reserves for the worse case scenario you can prepare for, and still have bad things happen.
I feel badly about this. I though they'd lose a few guys - Sterick is murder on his target, honestly - and some shields - but otherwise win out. They didn't. But at the same time, I deliberately set out to make some danger pockets places where going is betting your paper man that you are good enough for them. Retreat, recovery, and non-win options being limited or impossible. And I made those places that way only if I could logically do so in a game-world consistent way. It worked as designed. Sadly, it didn't work as I'd hoped.
What next? Not sure, how we proceed is being discussed. In-game explanations for how everyone knows the summary when no one lived have been identified. I'll post about that tomorrow. I had to cut out some must-do work today to get this written, so if my responses to comments, etc. seem slow, yeah, they are. I traded sleep later for writing now, before I totally forgot the order of events instead of merely garbled it.
* My players will detect a name change here - the origins were Mageslayer and Shieldbane, but in actual speech I kept revesing them to Magebane and Shieldslayer every time. So to heck with it, let's change them officially.