May 26th, 2014
Weather: Hot, breezely, clear.
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (250 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (327 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Vryce, human knight (401 points)
Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
Melchior the Malevolent, human wizard (approximately 125 points, NPC)
Melchior's Zombie Rebel Crazy Boss, human? zombie (NPC)
Jon Blackbart, human volunteer fighter (NPC, unknown points)
Still in town:
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Christoph, human scout (258 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (345 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
We started in Stericksburg, as always. A new delver joined the group, having heard of their massive money hauls, relative paucity of total massacres (recently). He'd met the others during the downtime, and they offered him a full share for joining in based on his obvious skills. That's Bern, the artificer.
They picked up only a few rumors - something about 6 levels or so in the dungeon, one about how flaming skulls, flying skulls, and flying spirit skulls are all undead, and another about how some areas of the dungeon you can only get to by going up from below them. Considering the many cul-de-sac areas they found, that one for sure is plausible.
Galen hung out for a week or so near the top of the mountain, scouting the orcs out. He found out a lot:
- they no longer come to Felltower partly overland, but they have some kind of big settlement north of it.
- they have regular patrols, repair crews, and guards.
- there are maybe 20+ or 30+ orcs on the surface and inside the castle, plus at least two different shaman, an ogre, 4 "devil dogs," and he was sure he smelled ape (maybe gladiator apes?)
- some of the orcs are darker, bigger, nastier orcs who seem to be in charge (not half-orcs, though)
- they've fully fortified the castle and repaired the gatehouse portcullis.
- they are, naturally, most active at night.
Basically, Galen used Stealth-assisted Observation to gather information on the target. Nice idea.
Once they'd stocked up on the necessaries, they headed out of the river gate, crossed the Stone Bridge across the Silver River, to Stericks Landing past the statue of Sterick, out of the slums and up to the ruins.
They scouted around looking for another way in via the ruined buildings, but found nothing. So they decided to go in and talk to "the stupid orcs." (Galen)
The orcs clearly decided to push the deal - they demanded 200 sp, not 50 sp, for passage, and shrugged off negotiations as "orders" from "the chief." They also told the PCs they'd be escorted out of orc territory - no safe passage wandering around within the orc's area. The PCs agreed, because they felt like they didn't have the firepower to truly manhandle the orcs. They're regretting their deal, even if it was working for a while. The orcs have gotten a bit big and dangerous, which annoys them.
The orcs told them the area near the easy stairs to level 2 was off-limits, and so they headed to the right. They'd hoped to drop down a level or two and explore, but instead they decided to find a way to connect their map up to the level two map. They'd explored and mapped the area before, but that was long before, and that map had been lost in a watery grave with Nakar.
A good portion of the session was just mapping, dealing with traps and incidental monsters, and more traps.
They explored an area they'd been in before, but found a secret door they'd once gotten through easily was trapped. It zapped Vryce for what turned out to be a 3d deathtouch, which Melchior identified with his spells. It was still there after a second touch (ouch), so they waited while Bern MacGuyvered up a crossbow-powered crowbar secret door opener. It worked, forcing the door open without harming them. They moved on and explored the room beyond - nothing special, just a big room they'd visited many times before. After syncing up their maps, they explored an area with meteoric "stall" walls used as a magical target practice zone and a couple empty rooms.
They also saw some webs, and recognized the webs, sound, and so on of acid spiders. So they moved in. They torched webs as they went with a torch wielded by Gort, and a big webbed area was cleared by a Molotovian Cocktail (named after the troll-plagued city of Molotov to the East) gizmo'd up and thrown by Bern. Galen wounded a spider, and they had to choose one of two corridors to clear first - they chose the nearer, with a strong rear guard. They were attacked by 7 spiders from front and back. The spiders didn't last long, despite launching themselves from far off and marching over the front rank to bite Galen in the back as he supported the rear. He was wounded badly and was being scorched by acidic poison until Bern gizmo'd out a handy base he was carrying in his pack to neutralize it. Bern also wounded one badly with his ST 27 crossbow, too, making him a very handy companion to have. They searched and found some victims but only a few gold coins on one corpse to show for it.
More exploration found another trap - a man-trap sitting out in the open. Bern went for it, and clicked the safety . . . but set off a Linked Deathtouch. He was hurt, and tried to get out a potion. Bad move - he dropped, horribly hurt (and if not for Luck dead). They dragged him free and healed him up.
They mentioned the evil gnome who has been setting traps, right after Bern disarmed one. Raggi suddenly had a thought, and gave him the ol' narrowed gaze, and said, "Hey, you're a gnome good at traps. How do we know you aren't him?" "Oh, that's Bramble Bernberry. Totally different guy."
They found a room with a pressure plate and triggered it remotely with an arrow, showering the room with poisoned caltrops. This turned out important later as Bern scrounged a few and saved their poison.
They circled back around and found a way past the trapped areas. They made their way first to the stairs up to the fallen tower (and unlocked it, and found the orcs had weighted the top down to stones.)
They'd hoped to check out some corridors they aren't sure they'd dealt with before but a lurking huge hunting slime - dozens of feet across - convinced them to just back off and forget it. Instead they went through a pair of secret doors to the area they'd once fought the cultists in, and where they'd taken a tunnel down to the next level. But the tunnels were filled last time, and they could see a stone smear where someone had shaped the stone trap door closed.
After that they found a room with a gold framed painting of Felltower in it. Scratch marks on the floor convinced them it was a trap, and Melchior confirmed it was an Illusion. Galen shot some arrows to dispel it, and it revealed the far wall was covered with grasping stone arms. He damaged one with arrows, but they pulled back into the wall. The illusion popped back up, and when dispelled again the arms were back. Clearly something had dragged the loot from the victims back from the grasping arms.
Finally, they moved back to the noisy room area and to the "right" of the trolls/slorn area. They found four niches with tall stone statues of armored men wielding flails. Six-fingered hands were painted on their chests. Beyond them, a door painted with a red tower with a sword and axe underneath it. They recognized the statues as golems, and set up and attacked them. All four sprang down and engaged them. The golems threatened, but Vryce had used a spellstone of Shield (DB +2) and that helped him parry for himself and Raggi despite the flail penalties. Galen even put one down with arrows, firing around Raggi, albeit with help from Raggi's axe.
Beyond the golems (who had no loot - the flails were stone, too) they examined the door. No traps, but it was locked. Bran picked it, and the Vryce forced it. He did so and it opened 3/4s of the way and jammed. Behind it was a dead slorn - long dead and dried, and his shove had broken it up and jammed one of its bones under the door and dragged it tight.
Inside was a big room - 120' across, in the form of a big octagon (I accidentally said hexagon, driving the mapper crazy. Oops.) In it was 13 pools. All were the same size (roughly 10' across), but with varying contents. One was flaming, another was a glowing clear, another dark, another smokey, another silvery - and more. The ceiling was high, too high too clearly - and no one looked at it clearly, either.
Instead, they were distracted by the pools, and by a dessicated body laying on the floor near a smokey pool in the far left "corner." They moved to it. Melchior used Mage Sight to examine it, and pronounced the dead man's robe and staff magical. They he cried out in pain. He dropped. They tried to move him, and he cried out again and squirmed, then again, even as they ordered his zombie to drag him clear.
Only as he dropped unconscious did they look up. Overhead, staring down from the inky darkness near the top of the room, was a 3' diameter eye.
An Eye of Death! - Gort knew it, as he'd fought them back in his Shining Force Days.
With Melchior out, their ranged weaponeers were Galen, Vryce (with his sling), and Bern (with his heavy crossbow). They immediately set up to fire. Galen started dual-shooting at the eye, only to find it was an elegant and quick-dodging thing. He shot, it dodged, and then it would casually nail him with its Gaze of Death and it kept doing maximum damage. He put up a fight for a while but then dropped, right after switching bows after an 18 snapped his bowstring.
Vryce, who'd fired ineffectually with his sling (even trying Luck on one shot), ran to aid him. So did Bern, who'd taken a shot with his heavy crossbow. They got him healed by pouring a potion in his open mouth, then using an Awaken stone (Gort did that). He got up, got his bow ready (he has a spare these days), and started shooting. Bern gizmo'd up a poison area-showering arrow for Galen, and Galen took a shot at the eye. It dodged, but was hit by the poison . . . but sadly for them, it was immune. Then the Eye put Galen back down again even after Vryce healed him up with a Gem of Healing.
The eye wasn't foolish, either, and kept attacking the greatest threat, putting the threat down, and then moving on to the next threat. When Galen fell, it targeted those helping him. When he was up again, it targeted him.
Things do desperate. Raggi ran around cursing the eye, throwing things - first his long knife, then Blackbart's knife, then his dwarven whetstone - all hoping for a critical and a good damage roll. He missed. Meanwhile Bern and Jon grabbed the wizard and dragged him (as loot!) while the zombie dragged Melchior. Gort grabbed Galen's better bow.
Vryce decided to try something risky. He readied an alchemist's fire in his sling. Then, he slung it at the ceiling above the eye. He hit his target despite the range (over 40' up) and it exploded. The eye was ready to be attacked but couldn't dodge the falling spray of burning oil from above. It caught some oil as it dove aside and burned.
It quickly dove for a pool - and Raggi and Vryce ran to meet it. As it came down it zapped Vryce (he resisted, again) and just before it could hit the water Vryce feinted it and then sliced it in two.
They'd won, with their best ranged fighters down, with a chancy and lucky move by Vryce. It was close - if he'd missed, they had nothing else to try, and a long, long slog to the door under constant attack from the eye.
But they killed it.
It was late, so they grabbed their loot (the dead mage - as it turned out) - and headed home. They locked the pool room door behind them.
Their loot was okay - a gem, some coins, a minorly magical staff (fine, Staff spell), and a hooded robe of protection with Forify+2 and Soilproof on it. That was worth a lot, but if they kept it (and gave it to Melchior) it would have not been profitable enough for all. So they sold it.
Melchior was disappointed, for sure. But everyone did take a moderate profit home (and Bern ended up with once again his starting cash, too!). No one died, and they (finally!) found the room of pools.
Amidst their loot was - a broken eyeball-shaped marble (a summoning item? Useless now), a notebook (maybe a diary?) in Eastern Kantish (which none can read), and enough clues to tell them the wizard got stuck in the room with the slorn, used the marble, and either died from his claw wounds (he was badly torn up) or from the Eye of Death. The slorn? Killed by the eye.
Now the group is planning
a) how to deal with the pools
b) how to put the orcs back down, now that they'd grown so strong.
All for next time.
- A new PC joined - run by a new player - a long time buddy of mine yet one I don't think I've ever GMed for and only rarely got to play with. Same guy who returned my long-lost Champions stuff to me, too. He's known my other players, at least some of them, for almost as long, too.
- Two funny things came up - the idea that orcs mark their skulls by territory, which lead to "Know Your Skulls!" work skills posters for orcs. "Goblin Skull - Yield. Human Skull - Stop!" Also, naturally, a "Days Without Death" counter that's perma-etched to "0."
- Eyes of Death can be deadly. They are fragile, and limited, but unless you can give them a steep Dodge penalty, they are just nearly automatic damage every turn. They are smart enough to attack the most dangerous targets, too, which nearly spelled doom for the PCs. Lucky for them Vryce is an utter tank who shrugs off HT-5 rolls as "easy" and seems to have one of everything at this point somewhere on his potion belts or webbing. I've been told they are too frail and too weak, but if they have room to attack from above, you're in trouble. The Scout had a hard time putting one down when it could Dodge so easily and kept hammering his HP down every single second.
They might need a little more ranged power, somehow. But with the EoD, they needed a high-skill shot. Even magic would have been tough against it. Good thing there was only one! This time. I have a number of home-made Eye of Death minis.
My players were quite proud the Eye of Death originated in their games, too. With slightly different powers, but no less nastiness.
- I tried to say "yes" to Quick Gadgeteer as much as I could, within its limits. I said no to "whip up a loaded crossbow," "whip up an alchemist's fire potion," and one or two others like that. But I said yes to the crossbow door opener, an oil flask, an turning contact poison powder into an area-effect poison attack. Seemed okay.
It was a lot of fun. The Artificer was a cool add, because he's got such a wild possibility of clever solution that don't depend on thinking of your needs ahead of time. His combat utility was merely okay, but that's fine - he's not in the group to kill, but to solve problems they can't. The base to counteract 8 more seconds of acid spider venom was inspired, too. He'll be an interesting addition, and I think he was more fun for a starting character than another fighter or so would be.
And once again, Vryce saved the day. Truly impressive - he's an impressive character design coupled with very, very good play. He's won the day more often by skill and good play than by luck, and rolled with bad luck very often.