Tuesday, November 8, 2011

DF Game, Session 3 - Caves of Chaos vs. 250 pointers

Warning: this summary got wordy but I'm keeping it. It has Keep on the Borderlands spoilers.

Sunday November 6th, 3rd DF session.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (260 points)
     Koric, human guardsman (NPC hireling) (62 points)
     Orrie, human guardsman (NPC hireling) (62 points)
Volos, human wizard (260 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (260 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (255 points)
Borriz, dwarf knight (255 points)

We left off last time at Falcon's Keep (aka The Keep on the Borderlands), as detailed here.

The group finished spending their cash, learning a few new things (in other words, spending XP), and then officially taking on the two hirelings, Koric and Orrie. Vryce is their official employer, so they have one boss to ultimately obey if they get conflicting orders. The group debated hitting the evil shrine, but they decided they didn't have the weaponry to take on the wights Goldleaf had mentioned in session 1 and decided to raid orcs instead.

The group headed out to the Caves, taking two days instead of the usual one and a half, allowing them to camp nearby and listen to the night traffic unseen (thanks to Honus's wilderness skills), and to cast a few extra daylight-brightness Continual Light spells. The next day near dawn they headed to the hobgoblin cave they'd raided last time.

The knocked on the door - the idea was to ask them some questions and possibly recruit them to help raid the orcs. No answer, and no sounds within, either. So they climbed up the hills and worked their way around. Near one cave that the hobgoblins said was part of the shrine they found 13 strangely bloated and warped trees, with half-dead leaves. Honus popped an arrow into one and it passed almost all the way through with a rotten "thunk." They also smelled rotten meat near the cave mouth but they didn't approach too closely. They avoided that one and continued on, passing yet another cave, which the hobs had also said was a shrine entrance.

This next cave had some scattered copper coins in it and a burned out torch on the floor, and was a bit damp smelling, and had hooting, flapping, and cheeping noises emanating from it. They avoided it as well. They found a third cave, previously not spotted due to trees. It had a few wooden signs up in various languages including Common, saying that goblinoids were welcome and there was food and rest within. They entered and in short order they found a trio of gnolls toasting meat over a fire. In even shorter order they trashed the gnolls and left them dead on the floor, killing one a split second before he could hit a warning gong. The fight featured some impressive (max or near max damage) hits by Inquisitor Marco using his Flaming Weapon-imbued mace and a slam by Honus. They looted the bodies and checked the room. Some of the meat turned out to be human flesh, and the rest turned out to be roast rat. Honus ate some of the rat-onna-stick and the group continued on.

They quickly found the chief's room, pried the door open with a crowbar, and rushed in. The chief and his mate fought back bravely, and a gnoll shaman Winged Knife'd Honus in the face with a large knife, but it didn't help much. Honus shrugged off the blade shot and he and Vryce pounded the chief and his mate down, Volos used magic to disrupt the chief's defenses (Tanglefoot and Mental Stun, I think), while Inquisitor Marco and Borriz and then Honus moved in the shaman and finished him. Honus naturally body checked the shaman down to get that rolling, and Inquisitor Marco hit him a few times with his flaming mace. Once they were down Honus throat-slit the shaman and Vryce stabbed the chief's mate a few times, but everyone overlooked doing a coup-de-grace on the chief . . .

They then looted the room, finding a key and some piddling change and jewelry. Not much else, even after they tore down all the tapestries, flipped the tables and chairs, and pounded a few walls with a morningstar. Inquisitor Marco prayed and cast See Secrets, his newest prayer. Sadly he critically failed (he rushed the words and messed them up a bit) and apparently greatly annoyed the Good God. Far from seeing hidden things his vision went cross-eyed and will remain that way for a while (-5 Per and -2 to combat skills for 1d days - he rolled a 2).

They then found the nearby storage room for the gnolls, and swiped a big jug of alchemist's fire (flaming oil, the self-igniting kind) and some leather hides. They put the jug in a sack, padded it with cloth from the chief's room, and gave it to Koric (I think). They then went back to exploring. They found a set of stairs down and headed that way, and a hail of arrows and spears met them. One arrow critically hit Borriz and knocked him down despite minimal damage, and that left Honus and Vryce to charge . . . into 15 gnolls. They immediately went to work. The spellcasters chucked Sunbolts and Mental Stun spells into the fray, Borriz got back up and moved in, and the Koric and Orrie guarded the rear. The gnolls fought hard, but eventually they all got put down. Borriz brained a few, Vryce stabbed and chopped more, and Honus beat a few down with broken legs and ribs. They got a few glaive stabs in return, though, and Honus needed healing to keep him ready for front-rank combat.

The group slit throats, looted corpses, and found a couple of keys. They explored a bit more and found a room with 10 goblins, orcs, and hobgoblins roped to the walls, and another with three humans. They left the goblinoids after discovering none spoke Common, and freed the humans. The humans were Mikal and Aelfred, drovers for the merchant they'd rescued weeks ago, and Red Raggi, a barbarian raider who'd raided those self-same merchants just prior to them getting hit by hobgoblins. They had no love lost between them. Raggi was not impressed - he was proud to call himself a raider and a tribal renegade. The group debated not freeing Red Raggi but they were all on one chain . . . so they let them all go and armed Raggi with a couple axes (well, he armed himself off the dead gnolls) and the drovers grabbed spears but quickly found the PCs wanted them to pack-mule some weapons on a stretcher. The PCs also found some bloody footprints about this point, where three young gnolls had come and checked on the dead females and then fled. They followed the footprints to a door. They had Raggi chop it down, and then he rushed in.

By the time they got in the room, he'd pounced on the three young gnolls inside, screaming a warcry. Inquisitor Marco pointed out they were kids so Raggi finished the wounded one he was standing on with a blow to the head. The others were already slain. This got the group muttering. Heh. They looted the room (again, not much, although Honus found some ale to drink).

They decided the gnolls had to have more treasure, so they rested briefly and then headed back to the chief's room. He was missing! No bloody footprints, either. So they blocked and locked themselves in the room, cast See Secrets, and spotted a secret door. They quickly opened it and found a piece of tapestry the chief had used to sop up his falling blood and avoid leaving a trail. They followed on, found another secret door, and decided the wights must be nearby. The sequence of events was eerily like Goldleaf's story! So they left the NPCs behind in the room, blockading the door with the table and chairs from the chief's room.

They advanced into the caves and got rushed by a trio of yard-long giant glow beetles (basically AD&D fire beetles, GURPSified and modified). Borriz killed one with a thrown hatchet, Volos missed one (thanks to their tricksy Dodging) with an Ice Sphere, and Vryce killed one with his sword, slicing it in half. Someone - maybe Honus - accounted for the last one. Honus also carved out a glow-gland, and found they could be handled like heatless lights or pierced and drained of their glowing juice.

They advanced along, and followed their usual "keep left" approach. They entered living caves, limestone coated, dripping, stalactites and stalagmites, etc. - the usual stuff. Volos kept an eye on the ceiling. Piercer paranoia, perhaps? But nothing bothered them from above. They heard more hooting, more flapping, more skee skee noises, but didn't see anyway. They decided to turn back, but despite their careful "left only" strategy they managed to get turned around a end up in places they didn't recognize. Lucky for them they stumbled into daylight - the way out!

They went out, circled around, and back to where they left the NPCs. They knocked on the door and Koric let them in, saying they'd closed the secret door and barricaded it because something - a big man ("Not no gnoll!") tried to get in, and it wasn't any of the group. So they slammed the secret door shut and blocked it. The PCs cheerfully opened it back up and went in, this time with the NPCs. Left in a clear and obvious trail down the passage were five silver pieces. Bait? A breadcrumb trail? Vryce announced that of course they were going to follow it. My gamers can be careful sometimes but they aren't going to shy from obvious encounters, plus it's in character for Vryce.

They went back to the scene of the beetle fight and found some drops of glow beetle glow-sack slime left like a trail. They followed it, again winding around the caves. But now they here a lowing, groaning noise. Like a moose, or a bull. "OR A MINOTAUR!" as Borriz put it. "What kind of cow lurks in caves?"

As they passed one opening, out of the darkness lunged a mail-wearing minotaur with a spear. The party wasn't surprised but their PCs near the back got caught. Aelfred the drover got gored and Koric took a spear in the side, and dropped from the wounds inflicted. He also dropped the flask of self-igniting oil! Vryce's player dropped a d6 - on a 1-3, it would burst and ignite. On a 4-6, it would land gently enough thanks to their best-effort packing job. Clatter, clatter - a 4. Safe, from fire anyway. Since they had 10 flasks worth of alchemist's fire in that jug, this would have been really bad.

The group reacted. Red Raggi turned and charged back. Borriz aimed his hatchet into the melee. Vryce turned and put two hard chops into the minotaur's left leg, opening it up and spraying blood but not crippling it. Inquisitor Marco put Might on Vryce to boost his strength. And Volos did something, but now I can't remember what.

Then Volos got gored with the Lord of the Maze's horns and by his spear. He tried to block the horns and Fumble the spear. Both failed, and he was run through the stomach by the spear and gored through both of his pectorals by the mighty horns; he failed his HT roll from the massive damage and died.*

The group really opened up on the Lord of the Maze. It wasn't defending itself, so they hit the minotaur at will. Vryce sliced its leg twice more, shattering its thighbone for sure but he didn't fall. Borriz put his throwing hatchet into its skull and did enough damage to knock a piece off and expose some brain and carry a bit away, but it didn't seem to bother it much. And Orrie chopped the minotaur in the neck with his shortened halberd (thanks to Telegraphic Attack, which I added to the GURPS canon years back, heh), slicing through some mail. Red Raggi ran up and two-handed it in the chest with the captured gnoll axe. And still it came on, trying to gore and spear Vryce but failing. Vryce hit it again, this time in the body for tremendous damage. And then Red Raggi whacked it and dropped it to the ground.

Silence reigned for a second or two.

Then Red Raggi screamed his victory cry and thudded his axe into the mail-clad minotaur at his feet.

Amusingly, Vryce's last pair of blows had put the critter to 1 HP above automatic death (-5xHP), and then Raggi hit it and finished it.

We left the game there, right after the minotaur fell. It was late, late, late for us workers and family folks - I had to be awake for work in less than 7 hours and others had to pick up kids, get home to their kids, etc. So we literally dropped it there and decided to pick it up next time.

* For non-GURPS players, this is something I consider a feature of the game. All combat is dangerous, regardless of who or what is involved.

Some of out of game notes:

- the players have been told repeatedly the game setting was "lethal" and that PCs could and probably would die. Also, that more powerful critters than they'd encountered so far were around. They took this seriously and played with care and brutal ruthlessness in combat. Even so, they found one of those more powerful critters in unfavorable circumstances, and lost a PC despite their best efforts. But they didn't panic or get demoralized. They pretty much shrugged off the losses and then beat the Lord of the Maze down.

- My usual rule for DF is that we end a session when people have to leave, but you also have to get yourselves out of the dungeon and back to safety. So we tend to make decisions based on "I have to leave in 45 minutes, so you had better start looking for a way out."
This allows for rotating in and out of players and PCs, and lets me pass time between sessions using the actual calender. But even though we had an obvious stop point, we didn't stop . . . because the players wanted to go on a bit more, and I really liked to see people follow the temptation to do just . . . one . . . more . . . room and then find out it was a room too far. That's fun and worth the headache of not stopping 30 minutes or so before.

- I gave Volos a really gory ending to make his death fun, but it didn't help anyone's enjoyment at the table that I can tell. Oh well. What I might do is allow some kind of dying action, or dying speech, or other bit of fun for the player of the now-dead PC. My only concern is dying actions that undo the death of the PC ("I'm dead, eh? My dying action is to use this Ring of Great Wish . . . ") or make killing a PC instantly fatal ("I failed my HT roll. Crud. Okay, for my dying action, I smash my necklace of fireballs into the jug of alchemist's fire I'm carrying . . . ") But we'll see.

Volos's player is a bit disappointed he died, but he's already got ideas for his next wizard and we'll see what he ends up with. This is good because a trip to the nearby city and funds to donate to the church to get Volos Resurrected would almost certainly bankrupt them. And it'll cost them more than just cash, because I want to make Resurrection a big, big deal.

- I guess that session a while back where Inquisitor Marco's player showed up with a six-pack and it was all we had in the way of snacks and drinks for 4 people hit home. We had more snacks and beer than we needed, which is how it should be.

- My rule is, the music is on, what you say is in character. A few painful slips out of character might come back to haunt them - they openly discussed turning Red Raggi into the authorities when they returned to civilization. In front of Red Raggi, and in front of NPCs who strongly dislike Red Raggi. That might not bite them on the ass but it could.

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