April 6th, 2014
Weather: Cool, patchy remaining snow and ice, but warming up.
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Dryst, halfling wizard (326 points)
Vryce, human knight (401 points)
Ellis, human crossbowman (bargain hireling, NPC)
Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
Melchior the Malevolent, human wizard (approximately 125 points, NPC)
Orcish Bob, not-orcish orc brute (approximately 125 points, NPC)
Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (327 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
We started in Stericksburg.
The group stocked up on spellstones (Gems of Healing, and Awaken spellstones) and took in some rumors. Vryce cleaned up on rumors, garnering five.
They heard some good ones, too. How do you know a witch when you meet her? She floats. Newtmen are fanatically loyal to whomever hatches them (explaining why they refused to negotiate, ever, or respond to interrogation). A body dressed as a southern pirate turned up in the (till recently ice-bound) Silver River. A pious old man told Vryce that sometimes doors are locked to keep things in, not keep you out. A listener to last time's story said something about green gem-headed guardians set by some evil race. And the kingdom is thinking of sending in troops to put down the orcs who are establishing such solid control of the ruins of Felltower.
Amusingly, that last one triggered a scoff from Vryce, and then brief musings about getting a reward for fighting the orcs, and then about getting paid by the orcs to repel the kingdom's troops. Perhaps even a fake invasion by cheap hirelings acting the part. Nothing came of this.
Red Raggi wasn't available (I roll a 17 on his 15 or less availability roll) but Gort showed up. Gort told them he'd heard of a dwarven guard set over the tomb of the Orc King down in Felltower. Who set them? Not clear - was it the dwarves to prevent orcs from getting there again, or orcs posting their foes to guard their king in some fashion? It's not known - the stories aren't clear.
Three other hirelings were around - Ellis, a crossbowman. Melchior the Malevolent - a necromancer and self-professed evil wizard- "I have extensive experience working with zombies" and "I know my way around a zombie" were the best quotes dished about him. Melchior keeps talking (quietly) to a phantom companion, but otherwise seems okay. Finally, Vryce met Orcish Bob. An orc. Well, physically an orc. He claims he's human, but there was this time he touched this spooky altar two times, and well, no one seems to be able to fix it. So he's human, looks like an orc, is as strong as an orc, but doesn't speak orcish.
Gort came as a volunteer, Ellis for 30 sp day rate, and Bob and Melchior for 1/2 share each.
The PCs headed up the mountain, crossing the Silver River and past the statue of Stericksburg, and then up the mountain to the ruins.
The orcs still hold sway, and the PCs marched up, paid their 30 sp (kept in a special bag with only the 30 sp in it), and headed in. Orcish Bob had to endure questions, but Dryst answered using Gift of Tongues. They settled up and headed down, but not before Dryst figuratively cornered the orc by revealing they knew there was an orc king someone in Felltower and offering to tell them if they find him. The orc eventually said yes, to tell him, but they could see him squirm and grind over admitting he knew what there were talking about and what to do.
They headed down and left, passing the gargoyles (who still flee when they come), and down the long corridor the "head room." They entered, and placed the boy's head they recovered last time on its bust. There was a melodious voice that said "Free us all from our prison. You shall be rewarded." Vryce asked quickly what the reward would be, but there way no answer. We joked it was "you will get what you deserve" - "We don't want that!"
Seeker turned up a response on one more head, with a vision of a pretty almond-eyed woman wearing a king's crown in a small room with a corpse in it, off a blocked-off corridor, well over a hundred feet down if not more.
The group rested and then headed down to the next level. There they found one of the statue rooms, and Dryst got the (in retrospect) foolish idea to try Ancient History on the statue. It turned and blasted him, knocking him flat and injuring him. The PCs forced a nearby door, passed through a bent portcullis that used to keep the orcs away from the lizardmen. After that, they moved into an old lizardman room and holed up to let Dryst rest. Meanwhile Vryce amused himself looking for secret doors with Gort, who waxed on about hidden treasure chests with odd treasures in them.
After that, they headed down a long, sloping corridor, which Gort detected with his natural dwarven talent for detecting sloping passages by putting a clay marble on the floor. They bypassed the "Player's Handbook Room" and found the room with the pit. After some scouting and listening, they put in an iron spike (while covered with Silence) and dropped a handy rope (after examining it for flaws and finding none). They climbed down (Dryst used Walk on Air) and began to scout the level below. They found what, after some investigation, turned out to be the watery level that doomed so many PCs long, long ago.
After they explored the rooms they found and found a balcony overlooking a flooded but worked underground area, water filled with fish, and a stone dock. They sent Vryce out to scout with Walk on Air. He found a dock and an archway with a flooded area beyond. Opposite it, they found a dry area, with a fishing net and fishing pole sitting idly on the side. Vryce moved down, and a troll climbed up from the dry area beyond. It spoke to him, and asked why he was there. Vryce asked about a boat. The troll ("Big John," they'd later learn) told them that the "food" to his right had boats. Big John took his fishing tackle in, eying Vryce suspiciously. Vryce headed back. They went as far as climing back up to the previous level before Vryce was able to argue that a) he remembered meeting people on this level, and that b) those people mentioned having boats and a leader. At his insistence they headed down to the balcony and he yelled "Hello! We need a boat!"
After a time, a boat came - Orcish Bob spotted it first with his I'm-not-an-orc Infravision, and then they saw it in the light. four Ghost-white humans with wild hair and wiry muscles in a boat with oarlocks made from manacles. They negotiated and a second boat, crewed by one, came to pick them up. If they wanted to meet their leader, okay - a boat came to them. The boat rowed along, with a single white-skinned "crazy" (they'd get named that somewhere during the session) pulling the oars. He silently pointed out "fishmen" and "ghost" held areas, and of course, razor fish shadowed the boat.
They headed to a dock in front of an archway - the standard for this area, and let the PCs off. Inside was a dry ahead with a 15' drop to 12' high prison cages. Most lacked top bars, but all had places for them. Along the 15' level was a 1' wide iron walkway. A mountain of muscle climbed up on top of the walkway and said, "Who is your champion?" Vryce said, "I am." The champion, armed with a mace (they recognized it quickly as Inquisitor Marco's old mace, recovered from wights a while back) and a barbed spear, and wearing a loincloth, told Vryce they'd fight until one was knocked to the floor. Vryce accepted. The champion asked, "Armed or unarmed?" Vryce said "Armed." They began.
The champion howled and threw the mace, but Vryce parried. The champion readied his spear at reach 2, and begin to fight. Vryce used the flat of his blade (and indicated he would to his unimpressed foe), and his foe used his barbed spear to kill. Vryce had a run of bad luck. First, he rolled critical failure on his defense, and needed Luck. Then he rolled another critical failure on his attack, and needed Luck again to bail himself out of that. The bad luck continued - he manage to land a number of really hard strikes on his unarmored foe, but the champion just howled in anger and continued to attack using Committed Attack, and Dodged despite his penalties. He landed a max-damage critical hit on Vryce and punched a hole into his vitals with the spear, and then ripped it out (he - and I - clearly forgot he could leverage the inherent grapple there to topple Vryce.) All the while, despite the hard hits by Vryce and the spear hits by the champion, they managed to stay standing on this 1' wide beam and fight. Truly a battle of warrior elites. But Vryce got him for a minor vitals shot, and - his Luck burned long before - failed a HT roll and suffered knockdown. He fell 15 feet, spear still in him, and landed with minor damage (possibly none), and his opponent yelled in triumph!
Vryce got up quickly, as his opponent jumped down to give him a hand up. He helped Vryce up and ripped the barbed spear out, because macho manly men are like that. They clashed hands and Vryce congratulated him. The champion clapped him on the back, took a step, and collapsed face down from his wounds - he was well negative, and Vryce still more-or-less okay (bleeding, but not negative.) The champion's kids fetched his weaponry, and his womenfolks (who wore silver necklaces sporting hand amulets) tended to his wounds, fearful of both the champion and Vryce.
The crazies were impressed - Vryce's plan to win but make the champion look good failed, but oddly succeeded at the same time. They couldn't believe their champion won but passed out, and that Vryce lost and was still standing. They took the PCs to "the Warden." They warned them to be polite, because the Warden can make your head asplode.
The Warden lived at the end of the flooded area. That turned out to be another dry area full of cages, only twice as big as the ones before. The PCs realized this was some kind of flooded prison - cages that were below water level, easily flooded, filled with razor fish, etc. - hard to escape.
They climbed down and met the Warden - unlike the others, he was shaved bald, and had one squinty eye and one wild, bug eye that wandered crazily all over. He spoke in the royal "we" and wore a gold and silver belt holding up his loincloth, and was guarded by callous-knuckled brawny types. They spoke to him, and the Warden enlisted their aid. Some "rioters" had broken away from the tribe, and, led by "the Crazy One," fled to a different prison section. He asked the PCs to kill the Crazy One, and to take his headband - which made people crazy - away forever. He asked them to swear to it, and took "that works for us" as an answer. He warned them, the headband makes you crazy.
They ferried the PCs over after the PCs tried to wrangle more money and some help in the quest (to no avail). As they were rowed over, Vryce and a scout (spotted by Bob, with his not-actually-an-orc!-Infravision) exchanged sling stones, the scout aiming by the PC's lights and the Vryce via Dark Vision. The scout hit the boat, and Vryce hit the scout's leg (and crippled it) and then hit the crawling crazy's body and he lay still. The PCs arrived and moved in quickly. They found the same dock-and-cages setup. They ate some sling stones, including one that hit Orcish Bob while Gort deflected two aimed at himself and Vryce. Then the fight began in earnest. Vryce jumped down 15' and charged the group below, while the missile troops and then Dryst (using Walk on Air) engaged the ones on top of the cage walkway.
The fight wasn't short, nor easy, but the PCs had the edge and retained it. The crazies were both unarmored and spear-armed, which made it hard for them to penetrate Vryce's magical plate over magical spidersilk cloth combo. A sling bullet from the boss did hurt Dryst, but it was just a lucky critical against his Missile Shield spell (we've used a rule that 3-4s bypass that spell since it was ruled on in Roleplayer magazine). Vryce steadily worked over the 14 crazies below, with help from a fireball from Melchior and a quarrel from Ellis, and then from a stream of good rolls, critical hits, and very high damage rolls from Orcish Bob after he climbed down and joined the fray.
Dryst used Walk on Air, Great Haste, and Acid Jet to great effect, knocking the top-level slingers off their 1' wide walkway perches. The boss avoided him by jumping down the melee Vryce, but he took a hard sword chop and then a scimitar whack in the face from Vryce and Bob, and dropped.
The PCs looted the boss of his magic headband, but then decided to question him. Melchior cut his throat, and then they rested a bit before using Summon Spirit to question him. They found out his magic headband repelled the "make your head asplode" power of the Warden, and sometimes reflect it back. Also, they found he was a fellow "prisoner" but wanted to use the "sacred escape tunnel" to try to escape "down to heaven below." The Warden didn't like that and tried to quash it, so they fought back and had to flee - using the headband the boss had stolen from the Warden to protect himself. The Warden has some power to look at people and explode their heads. Finally, they learned the location of the escape tunnel. They also took a gold necklace, gold earring, magic sling, headband, and assorted jewelry and salable stuff off of the crazies. Nice loot! Four of them - who'd dual-wielded spears and fought just in front of the boss - had only manacles for loot. Odd - they were old, rusty, etc. but clearly cared for.
The headband was magical, looked like crinkled thin silvery metal, but felt like cloth. Vryce put it on under his helmet, at Dryst's insistence. It fit nicely, and it felt warm, briefly, and then felt comfortable.
They rested, had Mechior zombify the boss, and then headed back, with the zombie in the boat and Vryce walking on air. They reported back to the Warden, all friendly (especially considering the loot), but watching their back all the same. The Warden went off on a crazy tangent about his power being handed down by the wardens before him, how the prisoners who rebelled were trying to leave the prison where they must stay, and how the "Savior" who tunneled down to the heavens would someday come back up the tunnel, as written in their holy book. He ranted that the crazy rioters had tried to travel down the sacred path instead of waiting for the Savior. Dryst suggested if they knew what the Savior looked like, they could give him to them or vice-versa. The Warden gave him such a look - the Savior needs no help!
The PCs took a cue when the Warden talked about celebrating their "holy massacre" and needing to consecrate it. They welcomed the PCs "visitation" and said that although no visitors are allowed, sometimes rules must be relaxed to accomplish the higher holy good. They bid them good day, and went back to waiting in their prison, where they belong, until the Savior crawls back up from the escape tunnel he dug. The Warden gave them a heavy manacle of friendship, and told them he'd have other quests for them in the future.
The PCs took a boat ride back and made their way back up, and then out, of the dungeon. On the way out Bob had to deal with orcs giving him racist hell for being a human wannabe, while he kept saying, "Sorry, don't speak Orcish!" in unaccented Common.
Thin crowd today - just the brothers who play Vryce and Dryst. Still, it was plenty of players for us after a long layoff. And in general, really - I'll run game as long as two people show up.
Vryce bought ST up to 19, and now does 3d+12. Or as we say, 12+3d "bonus damage." Seriously. Back in the day I used to convert dice - if we did, this would be 6d+1. Hah. Vryce's minimum damage is almost twice Dryst's HP. His goal is ST 20, mainly because he wants HP 30.
Amusingly they seriously considered attacking the draugr, because with only two PCs they could ridiculously amp up both of them and only have to worry about bailing out one other person if it got rough. In the end, though, they decided to do other things.
I was pleased to hear the list of "unfinished business" - there is a lot. Vryce's player has a list on his phone and rattled off about a dozen things they want to deal with. Nice. A sandbox can be pretty small geographically and still be a sandbox.
The spells History and Ancient History mean that I need to have an idea in my head of up 1000 years or so of stuff that happened to object and locations in my dungeons. Well, not always, not today. But in general, "how it got here is unknown" doesn't suffice - I need to know, or decide on the spot. I don't mind - the first mage in any of my GURPS games took those spells and used them like crazy.
I love how Dryst's player fills in details of Gort's career based on playing the old video game I stole his name from. Whatever the crap he says about the game, I have Gort repeat in some fashion.
The last time the players explored this section was December 12th, 2012, in the infamous "Total Party Teleport II" session, which filled the graveyard and has become a linchpin session in the history of the campaign. The Flooded Prison was a very early addition to the dungeon, even before I had any idea what should go there besides "the descendents of prisoners." I'm glad it worked out, and the background details just fell into place. About 1/3 of what I had today was written (in terms of backstory and details) but the other 2/3s just all made perfect sense hanging on the details of what's been revealed in play. Sometimes I write down details, sometimes I have them in my head as an image. Today was drawing on that image to fill in the missing bits not written down. The walkway cages I stole from A1 Slave-Pits of the Undercity, at least in concept.
Heavy armor saved Vryce today. He often got speared, but his armor shrugged off the damage. Spears aren't ideal weapons against heavily armored types, as good as they are as an overall weapon. Slings would have done better, if they'd hit often enough or hard enough. So would better aim - but sadly, most of them did around 1d+3, and Vryce had DR 9. The champion punched through that easily enough (he did 2d+3) but not the poor rival crazy group.
The haul was substantial - keeping the boss's sling (turned out to have Accuracy +1 on it) and headband (Mind Shield 6, with some tweaks) and a broken ruby chunk, they still managed to get over 11,000 sp today. They gave a 200 sp bonus to Ellis, 250 sp to Gort, and 1/2 a share each to Melchior and Bob. So it was divided three ways, and the PCs ended up with over 3600 each and the NPCs with over 1800 each. A nice, nice haul. One player commented that adventurers don't so much as work as play the lottery for a living. Bob, for one, can fully replace his loadout with better gear, and make himself worth consideration for next time, too.
Melchior has a killer zombie now, but next time it'll be a skeleton. Although I usually declare these guys gone between sessions, yeah, maybe I should let him keep this skeleton or zombie next time.
Dryst picked up enough points (including a self-voted MVP) to pick up Magery 6 (not cheap thanks to Magical Stability bumping up the cost by 40%). He's maxed it, now.
Finally, we had the usual brother split today - Dryst argued free or cheap henchmen are the most trustworthy, because they're too weak to be a serious threat from backstabbing. Vryce argued the opposite, that the really high-cost guys must be trustworthy because they ask for so much up front.