Sunday, January 8, 2012

DF Game, Session 6 - Caves of Chaos, Evil Shrine Part 1

Sunday, January 8th 2012

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Vryce, human knight (266 points)
Inquisitor Marco, human cleric (265 points)
Borriz, dwarf knight (264 points)
Nakar, human wizard (255 points)
Red Raggi, berserker barbarian (NPC co-adventurer) (unknown points)

Again, due to work Honus Honusson's player couldn't make it. We'll say The Honus took a long trip home to visit his family or something. Koric and Orrie were let go for lack of funds to pay their upkeep.

After some bookkeeping, we got underway. The group decided to "nut up and go fight the wights" they'd heard about in the very first session from Goldleaf. They figured out he'd probably come out of the cave up around 75', the one with all the bloated and mishapen trees and the vague scent of rot coming from within. You know, the one with the bloated tree Honus shot. They loaded up with holy water and some alchemist's fire and rations and left for the caves.

They roamed up, having had no encounters on the way (seriously, why can't I roll a one, like, ever?) they got to the cave and entered. The weird smell, and the unknown grey rock shot through with veins of black and strata of red, and the worn-by-countless-feet floor got them on edge. So did the way their footsteps echoed and their magic light dimmed when they entered.

They came in, immediately hit a 20' wide 20' tall corridor with an arched ceiling, and headed right. They walked to the end and found two doors and a hallway sloping away to the left. They pried open one (with a 3, a sweet critical) and saw stairs down and curving away. They left it open and turned to the other to ensure they didn't leave enemies behind. They opened it rather noisily but effectively with a crowbar and Borriz headed in. At the other end he found a living chamber and four goat-masked occupants in red robes jumped him with maces. Briefly surprised, he fended off the attacks and then the PCs counterattacked. Three acolytes went down to hatchet blows, and another got stabbed a couple times by a lunging Vyrce. But one managed to yell for a few seconds before he died, and his yells echoed throughout the hallways. Two died, and two were bleeding but not dead. The group pulled into the room, closed the door, and began to search as Inq. Marco bandaged one up to question later.

They found some coins, robes, holy symbols, etc. and - when Nakar decided to check on the acolytes - found that one of the men had stayed in the keep for about a week a little while back. A "passing traveler." Guess not. Meanwhile, a big gong noise started. The PCs hastily decided to fight here, and Marco and Vryce put on robes, and Marco a mask, to at least briefly disguise themselves.

They heard noises outside - clinking, clanking, shuffling, and a walking mob. A knock on the door came followed by "Come out and help us find the intruders!" Inq. Marco answered, and when he peeped through he saw a red-robed priest with a nicer goat mask with a mace and a freaking army of zombies and skeletons toting cleavers. The priest went to swing at Marco, clearly having figured out the PCs were in the acolyte's room. Marco cast Command and said "Wait!", beat the priest's resistance, and slammed the door shut. The PCs got ready, ditching robes and lining up to fight.

The zombies hacked the door down and came through. Borriz and Raggi and Vryce started chopping them up, but it was slow work. And then they forced their way in - the zombies and skeletons literally mobbed up and pushed the front rankers into the PCs, with no regard for balance, safety, room to fight, etc. Sheer numbers was the plan.

Inq. Marco stood in their view and used his True Faith w/Turning and rolled pretty well. The zombies and skeletons rolled pretty well but still blew the roll and lost the contest by 10. So, they had to back away ASAP from Marco until more than 10 yards away. Meanwhile, the ones in the back, out of range or out of sight or both, kept pushing forward.

This led to an extended but nasty slaughter. The PCs began to push out, led by Raggi (who got hit and went berserk). A priest yelled "Surrender!" and Vryce answered "We accept!" The PCs fanned out, and as Father Marco slowly advanced and backed them off with his True Faith they slaughtered the packed and retreating undead, who couldn't fight back and couldn't get away. They cut the undead into two groups and then attacked both. Something like 33 skeletons and 25 zombies fell, and four got backed down the stairs and then closed into the stairwell. The priests were briefly glanced, along with one in black robes with plate armor, but they retreated behind a wall of skeletons. The PCs let them fall back and finished off the rest. Red Raggi took a couple hits, but his mail hauberk helped.

The PCs then paused to briefly take in the situation, and then followed the priests. They found another room and entered - another living quarters. They tore it up, and Inq. Marco burned some scrolls containing prayers to the demon lords on them by putting them on a bed and Sunbolting them alight. They closed the room off and headed up.

They hit a corridor and found a secret door - thanks to Nakar, who is both Invisible and maintaining See Secrets the whole damn time (and carrying an 8-die stone missile, just in case). They found the way in, and entered the door and closed it after ensuring they could leave. They found another door, and opened it - it lead into the EHP's wardrobe. So they opened that, found a nice stack of gold coins (like 100) and a basket of precariously balanced gems, and dumped them into sacks. They entered his room, looted it more (and had a statue fall on Borriz, injuring him a bit), and then headed out. They found themselves in a corridor with a tapestry at the end, and heard chanting and piping noises and shuffling and a susurrus. They sent invisible Nakar ahead to peak into the room, and he saw multiple Evil Altars (dah-dum!), the five priests, and ranks of undead . . . and a big-ass vulture demon with a wavy-bladed sword. The demon stared at him, obviously seeing him, and hissed.

We stopped there, for lack of time.



Stopping in play. I hate to do this, but we had to. It would be a long fight so why rush it? Besides, if Honus's player makes it next time, I'll just say he tracked them after just missing them at the keep, and he'd obviously follow the clear path of destruction and then the sounds of battle. So that's not bad.

Why did the priests respond with such alacrity? I dunno, maybe because they live in a neighborhood that has been repeatedly ransacked by adventurers and noticed? Heh.

Maybe "1 week passes in game for each 1 week in reality" is a bad idea. Upkeep costs $150 a week, and that means with the slow pace of meeting folks generally need to make a lot of money to stay afloat. The PCs took home pretty good money last time but it wasn't enough to cover 5 weeks off, because of our inability to get a session together. I'm not sure if I'll change the time rate, or just start to be much more generous with money. Probably the latter because the first is too convenient. So maybe this note should be "I need to place more loot."

Nobody likes rolling initiative. Well, they don't like losing the roll. The guys I played with for years dislike this the most, because I rarely used it due to the nature of the previous campaign's encounters (generally at very long range, or a fight broke out after talking). I think everyone feels like "ready for combat" and "advanced slowly through the dungeon" are sufficient to mean "cannot be surprised or lose initiative" and I (and the rules) disagree. They'd like to be less easy to surprise, but that's difficult. I sympathize, but they need to find out what's waiting for them. Good scouting is the way to deal with this, IMO, and if enemies hear them coming (like the acolytes did) and wait in the dark in ambush, yeah, it's possible they'll get in a shot or two before the PCs can react effectively.

Pack fights made easy. I used a swarming method suggested by Sean Punch today. I just plunked down the 30+ minis I had and, ignoring separate movement, hexes, facing, figures per hex, etc., just shoved the pack forward at their movement pace every turn. End up in your hex? They're in your hex. End up through you? Too bad. The players immediately realized they'd be swarmed and counterattacked, which was cool. But this made running a big swarm easy, and make it potentially scary - they could overwhelm the group just with numbers, despite being fragile and weak. The fact that it backfired badly when the undead got turned only made it better.

All Undead Shall Be Turned. True Faith w/Turning from GURPS Powers is very, very effective. Couple it with a Will 15 priest and low-will mindless undead and you get a rout. Even with a strong evil shrine's influence, Inq. Marco was able to back off over 50 undead with no problems and force them into packs to be slaughtered. It has no numerical limit, so he could have done this to an undead army if they'd been close enough to him. I think this is fine, though - in a game with a strong cleric with True Faith w/Turning, undead are just going to be forced back and slain. Powerful, strong-willed undead better get their shit together to resist, use distance attacks to disrupt the priest, and otherwise step up. Undead do poorly against dedicated undead hunters, and that's just how it goes.

Dead counters. I need to make more 1" x 1/2" dead body counters. I used all of them and then some in that fight.


  1. On undead turning, keep in mind that your players are (by my calculations) approximately equivalent to 7th-8th level characters in D&D (I figure that a 0-level person caps out at 50 pts, and each D&D level is about equal to 25 GURPS points above that). A 7th or 8th level Cleric turns skeletons at (*flipflipflip*) D, or automatically destroy 2d6 undead per round in BECMI/Cyclopedia.

    Speaking of undead and wraiths, how are you planning to model level drain? It's still a conundrum to me, though I am leaning toward making it a touch Terror (possibly without the touch limitation for spectral undead).

  2. Sorry, I meant that your players' characters are 8th-9th level. Everything else remains unchanged, though.

  3. @faodleh: I'm not complaining about their turning power. I pretty much expected the army of undead to be so much fodder before the cleric, and I designed him to make short work of (especially mindless) undead. The evil clerics know this and summoned a demon instead of hoping the skeletons can stop the party.

    And honestly, I don't see much value in comparing points-to-levels. It's too variable and doesn't help you set encounters or judge appropriateness of opponents or rewards. True Faith with Turning doesn't destroy undead, it just chases them away. And the fighter types are already master swordsmen and macemen, and were out of the gate.
    I know that may seem odd, because I am using a converted D&D module for me to say that. But I set all my challenges based on my GURPS experience.

    The thing I do think about in comparison to D&D is that, even in D&D, clerics are really meant to trash undead. You can’t think of a mob of skeletons and zombies as a real threat to a group with a cleric. Even vampires, etc. are weak in the face of a cleric, and they should be. In return they have nasty powers if the cleric doesn't stop them. They are fragile but destructive. Same in GURPS if the cleric sets himself up to turn undead.

    As for level drain, you'll have to wait and see because my players read this blog, too, and they don't know how I'm doing it yet. :)

  4. Eh, I would say that the "destruction" effect is part of the abstract nature of D&D combat. It just assumes that the turning power will be used tactically, and that the skeletons are actually killed by other means, something that GURPS plays out.

    I take your point on not giving a hard-and-fast equivalent between points and levels.

    I look forward to seeing what you come up with!

  5. @faoladh: I'd never considered D results on turning as representing "turning so thoroughly they get destroyed by other means" but rather as "destroyed outright by holy might." I'm curious if there is any text in the original rulebooks to support one over the other. It'd make an interesting post if this was a D&D blog. :)

  6. My "default" D&D is AD&D, and DMG 76 says that a D result for a Good-aligned cleric is "destroyed or damned" - which I've certainly read as "they are permanently out of the fight and you can pick up their loot".

  7. That's the thing about abstract combat, though. The GM can define any result in any way she wants to. The easiest interpretation is that the skeletons are shattered by the intensity of holy power, but it's not the only one available. But, as you say, this is more for a D&D blog, perhaps to go along with a discussion of what hit points represent. ;)

  8. One a 1-minute scale, yeah, you've got room. But I figure destroyed by other means would get weird when the cleric is on the wrong side of a chasm, say, or otherwise unable to hard the undead, or alone, or whatever. That's probably why I like GURPS's more specific approach - HP are meat, not luck. Each blow in combat is one blow. Etc. Etc. Less vagueness that leads to odd rulings that lead to weird places! I like my worlds fuzzily defined but my rules a bit more specific. :)

  9. Preaching to the choir, Peter, preaching to the choir. :) Remember that one of the big projects on my blog is the conversion of the wonderful Greyhawk to GURPS terms (speaking of which, I realized that I had forgotten some important things on that elf template, like alignment, so I'm going to revise it before I publish any of these others that I'm working on; I'm still getting my sea-legs on how I want this conversion to work).


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