I'm trying a summary with pictures, so this is both big and long!
Sunday, January 29th 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)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (260 points)
Red Raggi, berserker barbarian (NPC co-adventurer) (unknown points)
Unfortunately, Borriz's player wasn't able to make it to game. We had to use a substitute player and a substitute mini. Borriz's player took his mini home to paint him, and we haven't met since that session. Honus's player made it, so I told him Honus just missed the PCs leaving for the Caves and tracked them down. ("Damn it, I go to the outhouse and when I come back you're all gone!")
At the end of Part I, the PCs had just snuck up from the EHP's room to the shrine's alters. They looked into the room, and saw three altars, a dias with a throne on it, and purplish light coming from above. As Nakar the Unseen peered in at the ranks of priests, zombies, and skeletons, he spotted a vulture demon - who spotted him in turn and hissed a warning!
That's where we picked up. The fight was between - ahem - one priest in plate, four acolytes in maroon and black robes wearing goat masks and toting shields and maces, 43 zombies with cleaver-like blades, and 24 skeletons. Oh, and a 10 1/2' tall winged vulture demon.
The fight started ugly. Thanks to the heavy tapestry, no one could just launch missiles into the room. Red Raggi ran forward at someone's suggestion (Borriz? - run by Honus's player) and whacked his axe into the tapestry and started to cut it to the floor. Unfortunately, an axe is a good door buster but a poor slicer, and it opened up a gash but didn't drop the curtain or open a doorway. The zombies advanced, the vulture demon flew over and landed on the opposite side of the curtain, and the PCs backed up and readied missile weaponry and spells. They all took Opportunity Fire actions to aim at a specific hex, hoping to attack the vulture demon when it came through. It didn't. Instead, it stabbed through the tapestry hole that Raggi made and injured him badly, and he went berserk. He chopped more but the tapestry still didn't fall. The demon sliced it and it dropped . . . and beyond it was a wall of blackness - it's demonic darkness power (aka GURPS Obscure). No one quite knew what to do - attack into the dark? Attack a hex you can't see to aim at? How does that work?
Occasionally my players get a little too into "solve the in-game problem with rules" and not enough "if I was there I'd just . . . ". IMO, anyway. This was one. I asked people to tell me if they attacked into the blackness or not - no "Where do I think he is?" or anything - just tell me what you aimed at and roll. They went for it. A sling-fired flask of alchemist's fire flew into the darkness. So did a big stone missile. Both struck something and breaking noises and a falling body "thunk" were heard.
The demon kept advancing - as noted by the advancing wall of darkness. The PCs nearly panicked - what do we do? If it covers us with darkness, we're screwed. There was a brief debate about fleeing to the surface and coming back another time. Hello panic my old friend! But wiser heads prevailed - Vryce's player argued that no where was a good place to fight a flying demon with a giant sword, so here was as good as any place.
Red Raggi, now berserk, charged into the blackness. He swung wildly but didn't land anything, and two massive sword chops later, he dropped, seemingly dead. The fight looked bleak. Vryce fired another alchemist's fire into the darkness, and heard it break somewhere.
Then the demon closed with them - and tho their relief their light stones were sufficiently bright to counter its (weak) darkness. Not well, but they only had a mere -5 to hit instead of -6 to -10 for fighting in darkness. They laid into it. It slashed at Vryce and did 19 damage, wounding him seriously. He shrugged off the injury and attacked back, as did Borriz (whose night vision ignored the gloom's penalty). They inflicted some heavy damage on the demon - Borriz crippled its left hand, and then fended off its claw and tail strike, and Vryce slashed it with his sword. Then Vryce sliced it and finished it off - it disappeared in a pillar of smoke and went back to Hell, leaving only its dropped sword and its darkness faded. Inquisitor Marco held up his holy symbol and began to turn undead. They could see into the room and saw that a few zombies were down, and two big roaring pools of flame covered part of the entrance.
Suddenly, having run after the other PCs, Honus Honusson roared up into the fight - from the other entrance into the temple. In fact, from the side the priests had expected all of the PCs to come. He saw the wall of skeletons, shot at a priest and missed, and then ran. Exit, pursued by skeletons. He stayed just ahead of the skeletons due to a head start and a long stride, but they were closing.
Meanwhile the other PCs advanced into the fray. The zombies didn't seem inclined to run from Marco's power - they simply ignored him and advanced. Nakar cast Great Haste on Vryce and he moved up and started killing, quickly.
And this it got messy - Honus fled and then starting shooting arrows at the skeletons when they returned (as commanded by their leaders). Borriz chucked a hatchet and nailed the priest, despite his distance, intervening zombies, and his ready shield. Bamn. He ducked down behind the dias to take cover. Nakar cast Great Haste on Borriz and Inq. Marco contributed a Sunbolt or two (once to try and distract the priest, another to just singe a zombie).
After this the fight got even more messy. Vryce stacked up some corpses, and then did a running jump up on the dias and crouched down. Borriz moved up into his spot and started to kill zombies. He killed them by the score - of maybe half the 43 zombies in the room, Borriz must have killed 20 of them in a 3 x 2 yard belt around the door. He had to climb up on bodies to keep killing, and even then he couldn't kill them as fast as he wanted. Nakar moved up, as did Inq. Marco - who realized he couldn't turn the mindless undead as he'd been doing in the past.
Vryce popped up on his next turn, stepped up and (still hasted) attacked the main priest and his two acolytes. He chopped down the priest, who was holding some kind of black sphere-ish thing in his hand . . . it spread over him as he fell and sent him twitching. Then he wheeled to his right and slashed down the two acolytes.
Honus faced off with a dozen skeletons, and the rest headed towards the main fray. Inq. Marco kept up his attempts to turn, and headed to the dias. So did Nakar, still invisible. Borriz kept killing. Honus kept maneuvering to find a way through the skeletons. And Vryce charged the other two acolytes.
In short order, Vryce reached and slew the acolytes, and then turned on the skeletons.
Honus tried to slam some skeletons but fumbled and lost his shield, and backed off - but with the acolytes dead they merely waited at the edge of the room.
Borriz kept killing zombies, Vryce started killing skeletons off on his own, Honus started to charge into the fray, and Nakar and Inq. Marco got up on the dias. This is when it got bad for a while - with the visible Inq. Marco up on the dias, a bunch of zombies peeled off from trying to kill Borriz and attacked him. Nakar blew one away with a massive Stone Missile shot, but then he was visible and they went after him, too. Borriz tried to hop up on the dias to defend them, but critically failed to jump up on the run and slipped and fell (oops - it's hard to jump 3' on the run when you're 5' and carrying a hundred pounds of crap, in combat). There was a great Conan book cover scene going - surrounded by undead, the harried warriors fighting to the end. Unfortunately, zombies are very poor opponents for barbarians and knights, but are more than a match for wizards and clerics (who couldn't turn them). Inq. Marco took some cleaver shots, and Nakar was slashed and knocked back off the dias - actually, he stepped off the edge to try to get away (Retreat) but it didn't work and he dropped unconscious from a slicing cleaver blow. Inq. Marco was reduced to making consciousness rolls, and Borriz barely got up onto the dias in time to defend him.
But from this point the fight got anti-climactic. Honus ran through the skeletons, who dodged his slams and let him through. He ran towards the altars and dias and then turned to fight as he closed in. Borriz diced up zombies. Vryce, having chopped up a bunch of skeletons, had run back to stand over Nakar and defend him. They stood there and finished the zombies, and then whittled down the skeletons.
In the end, everything in the chamber was dead or destroyed, and none of the PCs were down. Red Raggi turned out the be unconscious, not dead, thanks to Hard to Kill. ("What'd I miss?") It took a long time in real terms (like, 3 hours?) due to a few things, like GURPS fights generally being a bit time consuming and it taking a long time to knock off 72 combatants with 6.
The PCs secured the room by dragging dozens of corpses to each exit and heaping them up as barricades, and then standing guard. Inq. Marco healed Raggi and everyone who needed it got first aid. Meanwhile, they examined the room and its odd tapestries (which no one looked at too closely), altars, and throne. Then, as Vryce and Red Raggi stood guard, and Inq. Marco and Nakar rested and looted, Borriz started to chuck his hatchet into the bone chandeliers decorated with black candles that hung from overhead. He rolled a critical and cut the chain on one and it fell and blew into pieces. The place got oddly lighter. He did it again, standing back a bit futher to avoid bone shrapnel, and rolled another crit. Down it went - and the place got brighter still. Then he nailed the last (no crit though), and it came down. Then the unnatural glow was gone, as the strange dancing skeletons and goat-masked people on the tapestry were gone.
After this, the PCs got down to business sanctifying the temple. Honus and Nakar helped chant while Inq. Marco did an exorcism on each item, taking a full 30 minutes each and sanctifying it with holy water (brought to kill wights, ironically). Each time he rolled well vs. the resistance of the items and destroyed them. Borriz set the work prying gems and gold out of the throne, Vryce and Honus and Borriz flipped the altar, Nakar looted corpses, and then Nakar even used Shape Stone to check the dias to ensure it wasn't hollow. Oh, and they cut down the tapestries.
After this, they took their loot - which was substantial, and checked the nearby room. Nothing - just a "barracks" for zombies and skeletons. They returned the way they came, looted more stuff they'd bypassed on the way, and then headed home. They found more places in the shrine they needed to visit, and marked them for later.
On the way home, though, trouble struck. Still wounded, and laden with loot, they camped pretty close to the caves. While Borriz (luckily) was on watch, he heard something close by. It sounded like snuffling, and then like mail armor moving. He quietly woke up Honus and Vryce and they got ready. Then suddenly a minotaur rushed out of the dark, with mail and a spear! A brief fight ensued. Honus struck its hand, and Borriz struck him and Vryce jumped up and fast-drew his sword. The minotaur stabbed and gored with his horns, first getting Borriz (and dropping him, stunned with a maximum damage roll hit!) and then Honus (1 point off max damage!) but not dropping him. Meanwhile Vryce, having discussed tactics of "how to kill berserk minotaurs with Nakar" (their players are brothers, and discuss this kind of stuff), repeatedly stabbed the minotaur in the eyes. He blinded him in two shots using Telegraphic Attacks, and it kept fighting (and even nailed Honus). So as Honus cracked its other hand and then body, he stabbed it in the eyes again and it fell. Red Raggi had just jumped up, and was dismayed he didn't get to kill it.
They took its horns, buried its mail nearby, and then in the morning started to track it back - believing it to be the minotaur Honus discovered to be the caravan marauder. They tracked it and discovered it had been tracking them, possibly since they left the caves that previous afternoon! They headed back to their camp . . . and the minotaur was gone, the mail was dug up, the spear was gone. They decided it was some kind of were-critter or something, or regenerating, and debated hunting it down. They decided to leave it for next time, and headed to the Keep.
They made it back, and that's more or less where we ended it. The group made it back to Falcon's Keep, got healed by the priest (well, Inq. Marco did), and took some time to evaluate their magic items. These included some ornate magical light plate, a magical shield (albeit with a Goat Demon Face on it), and an amulet that protects against good and holy powers. Nakar is tempted to keep that as his power item, but . . .
- that demon really panicked people. It threw up Obscure and you'd think the battle was automatically over. Nevermind even a flat -10 and can't aim wouldn't drop Vryce or Borriz below double-digit rolls to hit. I was really surprised by this.
- I tried some time guidelines for searching, just so we're all clear on how long it takes to do stuff. We'll see how it works out, but I learned already that I need to ask "What are you doing?" and then assign a time based on that, not "How much time do you spend?" or "How thoroughly do you search?"
- Great Haste is a killer spell. We always knew this, but man, it's so clear how useful it is. But I'm not worried, really - it's almost a Win Button for big fights but Dungeon Fantasy is about winning the big fights and managing resources, and Great Haste costs a lot of resources (5 to cast, and 5 off the target - only the first can be reduced for skill).
- the downside to Power Items is that no one wants to sell valuable things that can be used to store energy. So even though the PCs scored some nice loot (gems, jewelry, magic items), they won't part with much of it. Speaking of power items, I'm not going to allow armor or weapons, in most cases, to function as power items. Staves, sure, but not swords and plate armor and such.
- GURPS fights with 78 combatants can be long. But awesome. We've done lots of these before but this was the first in a long time.
- Tactically, this fight was very much like our usual gaming group's fights. Initially everyone is very cautious, and often will throw away surprise or a location advantage in favor of tactical defense. Then, once it gets rolling and they realize they have a power advantage, they split up to take advantage of tactical opportunities (kill the wizards, usually), then they get hurt by having exposed weaker members of the group, then they converge and wipe out the remainder of the enemy. This works out fairly often, but I can't help but feel that it's resource costly and eventually going to bite them. It did in previous games. It can be painful as a GM to watch a group have a good chance of a solid victory and pull out a Pyrrhic one because of a little too much caution or too much confidence. I'd rather see a more disciplined fighting force and willingness to take a little punishment to win a larger victory instead of "best way to survive this turn" type moves. But everyone seems to be having fun and they aren't my PCs, so . . .
- the group realized that more than half the undead were hobgoblins and orcs and goblins. Yeah, those guys. No gnolls, though. It hit them that their avoidance of the temple meant its ranks of minions got larger.
- the group also realized it's not minotaurs out there, but one that keeps coming back. Heh.