July 27, 2013
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Dryst, halfling wizard (288 points)
Father Hans, human cleric (?? points, NPC)
Jon Shieldbearer, human guard (??, NPC)
Shieldman Zed, human guard (??, NPC)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (297 points)
Grace the Slick, human cutpurse (125-point NPC)
Lean Jean d'Archer, human archer (125-point NPC)
Norman the Axe, human squire (125-point NPC)
Basher the Thug, semi-human thug (?? points, NPC)
Barefoot Geroge, human pirate-type (?? points, NPC)
"Pigsticker" Pete, human spearman (?? points, NPC)
Still in town:
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (251 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (310 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (311 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (346 points)
Lucky Pete, one-handed human guard (not many points, NPC)
Larry One-Eye, one-eyed heavy crossbowman (even less points, NPC)
We started out in Stericksburg as usual. They gathered rumors, paid upkeep, collected their gear, and looked for Raggi - but he wasn't to be found. A few volunteers showed up, though, and they took them all with them, along with two shieldbearers - one new one and one they'd hired in the past.
(Annoyingly, at the very last minute) they also decided to hire three skilled hirelings - a cutpurse, and archer, and a squire. With lots of quick but effective searching (lucky rolls by Dryst's player they did manage to find some.
They were Grace the Slick (thanks to a big-chested thief Cardboard Hero I have), Norman the Axe, and Lean Jean d'Archer. They were promptly hired and put into the ranks. With two created servants as well, there were 13 guys in the party.
Who was in charge?
Me: "Do either of you have Leadership?"
Honus's player: "I have Intimidation . . . "
They headed up to Felltower and Honus, Grace, and Jean scouted around. There was a clear path through the wall now, and lots of tracks (clearly coming from, and then back to, the ruins). But nothing was by the well so they climbed down that way and in.
In the room to the second level, they forced the door and found themselves face to face with a rust monster that had been eating the iron banding on the door. In a nasty brawl, it ate Norman's mail shirt, Paul's spearhead, and nearly got Honus's mail. Honus lost a gauntlet punching it while Basher beat it to death with a club. Geez.
A quick trip to the second level, and then to the "fire-men" room, and there they decided the plan was a) figure out the statue puzzle, and b) go to "level 2.5" - the newtmen/lizardmen area, on the way to checking out "level 3."
They moved into one statue room, and forced open what was, naturally, a false door. The statue turned and zapped Basher, who was forcing it. Then it turned back. They manually turned it to face the wall (after checking for traps, etc.) and the turn turners (NPCs) got zapped lightly by black energy.
Then they checked a side area they'd avoided, and found a pair of rooms that had been (previously?) used by the hobgoblins. One was a toilet, or had been used as one. Honus ignored the feces and urine and tromped around looking for secret doors. Nothing.
The next room was a junk room, with two skeletons in the corner. Nothing told them how they'd died (although one had no front teeth), and nothing of value was found. So Dryst whipped out See Secrets and then Seek Earth (on gold - down and over, and silver - just over.) They decided the "just over" was a bricked-up room the hobgoblin Krug had told their predecessors had a bunch of dead hobgoblins and a "stone bird" in it. They figures, cockatrice, which everyone who memorized the AD&D monster manual knows turns you to stone.
So they headed there, and bashed down two successive doors (one bricked up, one shut) and found . . . screaming death. The "stone bird" was a little stone-colored serpent with wings and the face of a human. It was so venomous looking at it caused you poison damage - and the battering-ram wielding NPCs took it badly, as did Lean Jean when he moved up to get a shot.
Honus pushed through and with a blind, wild attack, smacked it with a lucky shot and did amazing damage. They heard stone breaking.
Long story short, it was dead - and had turned into bits of broken stone in death. They gathered them up (they'd prove dangerous and valueless) and searched the room - 14 dead hobgoblins were there, all long dead and dessicating. They took their weaponry, and set to resting and healing.
Father Hans healed a few of them, but a terrible critical failure on the badly wounded Lean Jean pushed him to negative 1 x HP and he blew his death check and expired. Damn. They took his bow and decided they'd carry out his corpse. They looted the hobgoblins and found some armor Norman could fit into, getting him leather on his torso.
But shortly after that, they heard some clomping of hooves, and the staggered stomp-bang-drag, stomp-stomp, stomp, stomp, stomp of an ungainly walker - oh shit, the Lord of Spite! They ran immediately. No one mentioned Lean Jean until later ("Aren't we carrying him?" "You never told anyone to." Oops) and he was left behind.
They caught their breath and kept exploring.
They checked the next statue room, climbing over the goblin barricade. As they reached the door, they heard a door shut behind them and a bar drop into place - someone just blocked their retreat. Nevermind, they moved on.
In the room they did the same routine - forced a false door (Basher refused, earning their respect - and Honus did it), turned the statue to face it (and got zapped, both times), and moved on.
They moved to the next room and did the same, after stopping at that weird altar and having everyone touch it - a variety of beneficial effects were had, including Honus getting a temporary Puissance +2 on all of his weapons. (Later they'd argue that included his shield, I said no, shields may be weapons but aren't valid for Puissance in this campaign, so no.)
In the third room, they repeated this again - force, get zapped, check for secret stuff, turn the statue and get zapped.
They also took a run at the meteoric iron door in that room, with their 4-man battering ram they'd brought for this occasion (and used to smash down a few doors already). It didn't give way, even with Honus helping (they were doing something like 8d+2, but couldn't do more than scratch it.)
After all that noise, they realized people would know they were around. And the next statue room was after what they're sure is an orc-infested area. So they suddenly decided to move on to objective B, level 2.5.
So they moved back to the room that leads to the spiral staircase down, and found the door was tightly wedged shut from the other side. A few swings of the battering ram and there was no more door to wedge.
They went down the stairs, NPCs first, into a duplicate of the lizardman / newtman ambush from last session. Basher and a leading servant ate a bunch of poisoned arrows. The servant went down but Basher stayed up and kept fighting until he ate a pick shot to the body. Paul moved in, and he quickly got a crippled arm and chopped with an axe to the body and dropped, stunned. Norman fought well for a few seconds before a blown defense put him down - the the lizardmen were largely unharmed.
Honus then waded in, the way finally clear. But it went badly for him, too - he rolled three 18s on defense, unreadying his shield (and getting hit and hurt), then dropping his Flail of the Gales, then re-readying his shield and unreadying it again with another 18. His slams proved ineffective as the lizardmen were too strong and bulky to get trampled down, too.
At this point Dryst let loose with an 8d Concussion spell. He aimed past the melee at a wall, to just clip all the bad guys and do some minor damage to the PCs and NPCs. He missed, thanks to shooting through an occupied hex. "See if you hit that lizardman you shot past." BANG. BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM. It hit him, way, way too close to the PCs, and he rolled pretty good damage.
Everyone right up to the next to last person in line (Grace, on the previous level!) was still close enough to be hit. The four lizardmen went down, but the newtmen took minimal damage and were mostly okay. Honus was hurt. Basher, Paul, and Normal were making (and passing) death checks. Dryst as barely holding on to consciousness.
Honus was well enough, though, and grabbed his flail and charged the newts. They shot him with a number of poisones arrows, but he shrugged them off (most failed to penetrate, but the ones that did hit his HT 13, Fit, and Resistant to Poison for a 17) and killed them.
They tried to move on, resting for a few minutes while they policed up the area and bandaged the wounded, but Father Hans couldn't heal everyone. He started with Dryst and Honus, and then on to the hired help and volunteers. Dryst made a brute servant and a wheelbarrow, and they loaded up the wounded, Magelocked the door ahead, and moved down a side passage. Their servant was quickly killed by newtmen arrows. Dryst threw a Concussion around the corner but they were way out of range, wasting it. They Missile Shielded Honus, who stepped and shot an arrow at a newtman and missed, before deciding they couldn't advance and if the Magelock was removed the lizardmen would surround them.
They moved back, trying to retreat to the surface - three of their number were so badly injured they had to be carried and couldn't be healed back up (Pigsticker Paul was lightly injured at -16 HP, from a starting 12) but they managed to make it back to the barricade and over, as they heard lizardmen pursuing them.
That's when they realized the door was barred.
Stuck in a tiny pocket, they started to bash the door down. As soon as it crumbled, Honus let go of the ram and pushed to the back, getting out his alchemist's fire grenade. He threw it as they heard lizardmen opening the door in the statue room. Woosh. Flames filled the corner, blocking their rear.
Meanwhile Grace and Barefoot George moved past the destroyed door and into the room. Grace the Slick shouted "Hobgoblins!" as an bolt whizzed at her. She Dodged, and it kept going - and nailed Father Hans, who was still holding the ram and shiedless, and in front of his shieldbearer. He dropped unconscious.
So Grace and George moved in out of the cramped hallway. In short order, Grace was stabbed by a dueling halberd-wielding hobgoblin and George was attacked by more. Honus started to push back to there as Dryst readied a spell. Honus moved in as George and Grace both dropped.
Was followed was a long fight. Honus critically failed a Block again (with an 18, his fourth - from some who rolled a lone critical the whole session) and got hurt, and couldn't managed to hit the Dodging hobgoblins. They were smart, and used Dodge and Retreat vs. his morningstar and Wait to engage him all at once. Dryst threw in a Concussion spell and injured and stunned two of the hobgoblins, but the explosion caught George and Grace and put them both negative - and they failed their death checks (I made Dryst roll them) and died. (George may have been dying from a hobgoblin hit, so we can't solely place the blame on Dryst). Honus stubbornly meleed the hobgoblins and clipped their halberd-wielder in the leg, crippling him. But the other four held him back and hurt him a bit with strikes as a bunch of female hobgoblins ran forward to cart the crippled guy (and his weapons) away.
Honus pushed forward, and so did Dryst, meleeing with his human-sized short staff and Shocking Touch spell, but they couldn't land a blow. Finally, Honus decided that straight shots and Rapid Strikes were a bad idea and started going heavily Deceptive - and that turned the tide. Just-made Dodges became just-missed Dodges and he put down the hobgoblins. Dryst managed to hit a prone one in the face (it fell after a critical failure) and hold off the others. ("That's us Honus - back-to-back! Toe-to-toe!" "What? How is that even possibe?" "I don't really have the lingo down.") As one hobgoblin got to his knees facing Dryst, Zed charged and knocked him down, giving Honus a chance to reach over and smack him and Dryst to shock him.
They just managed to put down the four hobgoblins - the other one had been hauled off by the females - when they realized the flames would go out soon. They grabbed some available hardware (swords, and Grace's smallsword) and just ran. They couldn't carry the dead, so Dryst woke up the wounded (Paul and Hans) with Awaken and got them stumbling forward. At this point, he was maintaining his spells off HP, so he was bleeding to death while fleeing at 2 yards/second. They closed and Magelocked the doors they passed through to slow down the lizardmen and ran.
They managed to make to near the stirge lair before trouble started - Paul, in the back, got attacked by some stray stirges. They knocked him out but Honus squeezed on strix to death and Dryst pulled off a crazy shot, blasting one with lightning while Honus held it. Yes, seriously, halflings are good shots.
Somehow they made it to the surface and stumbled back to town, stopping on the way to stabilize the wounded more and heal up a bit.
In the end, they barely made enough coin to cover their bar tabs, rent, and so on, from sales of the weaponry and some coins from the cockatrice's "hoard" of dead hobgoblins.
Gaming Wine - we didn't have any, though.
A rare appearance by Honus, because the player lives two states away from us and needs to come down for the weekend to get in a session.
Profitable trip, barely, thanks to low upkeep (both are just short of the 300 point doubled-loot requirement), but -1 for lots of losses. Two 125-point henchmen died, so did one volunteer. Two volunteers were so badly wounded they'll be down for weeks at least (if they live), Hans was terribly wounded, and they couldn't afford to pay anyone anything extra. Norman lost his good armor and they took back the extra axe he'd grabbed to sell as loot. All in all, they did some serious damage to their ability to recruit NPCs.
As you can see by the NPC names, it was a little silly out on Saturday. Honus's player suggested that their three hirelings should be Conan's companions from Conan the Destroyer - but somehow "Grace Slick" came up before Grace Jones. He said Grace Slick would be a terrible henchman, and thus, Grace the Slick was born. We decided she really needed the job, and looked a little strung out. Good voice, though.
She and the others didn't last long - and it highlights a contrast in ideas. Honus figures the "cannon fodder" needs to be in reserve or behind the good guys, so the heavy hitters can suck up some attacks and get the ball rolling so the CF can jump in and finish. Dryst figures the CF is there to suck up the attacks and start dying, so the good guys can rush in and finish. It's the old "ram the expendables in and save the Old Guard for the finishing blow" versus "send in the elites and use the less skilled for mopping up" argument. You can see the difference in approaches in the two fights.
The group really missed having a scout with them today - all of their opponents would have been arrow-fodder for Galen or Christoph, who could easily have shot them down in short order. Even so, lots of bad luck (4 critical failures for Honus, 3 in a row in one fight!) cost them more than it should have.
I need to work on how I lay out doors. People knock them down and they expect, thanks to how I put down the map, to be able to move freely through a 3-hex wide area. No, a normal sized doorway isn't 3 yards across, but I make it look that way. I'll fit that.
We use 3e-style explosive spells, both for simplicity and awesomeness. So it's 8d on impact, 7d in the next circle of hexes, 6d in the next, etc. down to 1d on the rim. So they are BIG but dangerous to all.
All in all, a fun game, although Honus's player was really frustrated. Part of it is your basic Barbarian isn't a combat death machine. The other part was his terrible rolling meant that he couldn't easily outfight some lizardmen or some hobgoblins, despite majorly outclassing them in a lot of ways. So I felt for him, there. He needed to be the muscle and he couldn't manage it for bad rolling. Red Raggi does, through a mix of being suicidally aggressive and sheer lucky rolls (near-max damage very often, lots of criticals, lots of unlikely double hits with low odds, etc.) while Honus had a pile of critical failures and rarely rolled even average damage. How can that not be frustrating? You drive for hours for one of your few annual sessions and your guy brought his C-game to a B-fight.
Still, a good way to celebrate Gygax day - casualties and people fleeing a megadungeon!