Monday, September 29, 2014

DF Session 48, Felltower 39 - Near TPK

September 28th, 2014

Weather: Cool, clear.

Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (250 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (372 points)
     Father Keef, human initiate (125 points, NPC)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
     Demetrios, Antonios, and Leonatios of Meepos, human spearman (unknown point totals, NPC)
     Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (unknown point total, NPC)
     Yellow Liz, human smallswordsman with a very leggy mini (unknown point total, NPC)
     Jon Blackbart, human swordsman (unknown point level, NPC)
     Boohee, pig
     Swoinch, pig

Still in town:
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (250 points)
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
     Mark Strawngmussel, human laborer (62 points, NPC)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Vryce, human knight (444 points)

We started as usual, in Stericksburg. A new member joined the group - a dwarven cleric. He'd met Gort, who told him that if was interesting in bringing the Good God's word (and hammer o' smiting) into the depths, he should come along with these youngsters he'd been escorting into the dungeon. Thus Al Murik joined the group.

Since Vryce couldn't make it this trip, they went for hirelings. They found a trio of brothers trained as a shield wall. The Meeposian brothers hired on as a trio for a single share of treasure. They were pretty well equipped (scale, helmets, large shields, spears, swords) and knew how to fight as a team. The others came as volunteers - and included "Leggy" Liz aka Yellow Liz, a smallswordsman and Gort of the Shining Force. They turned down Orcish Bob, though, and I think they missed him in the big fight. They similarly turned down Rexos the Axe, who'd offered to join last time as well.

Well, not Jon Blackbart, exactly. He wasn't around, so they spread around 30 sp in drinks money and bonus money to find him, and he turned up. They wanted him because he seemed to handle Swoinch and Boohee well enough.

They gathered some rumors - including one about a lever on one side of the dungeon opening doors on the other side, another about rock trolls being friendly if you get to know them, and one about an unkillable warrior guarding a fantastic treasure. Al Murik immediately said, "Unkillable doesn't mean we can't hurt him." They also heard that some monsters are immune to magical weapons.

Since the orcs are now too powerful for the group to reasonably assault (oops!) so they headed down through the dragon's cave, hoping to link up with the "behir" aka the twelve-legged wyrm. They spent a lot of time wandering in circles, trying to ensure they hadn't missed anything on their map. They hadn't, and having Galen there to verify when they'd backtracked helped a lot.

They wandered around the cube-shaped room they found outside of the dragon's lair, found another pair (or was it the same pair? Doesn't seem likely) of giant metal doors, and some half-magically dug tunnels. They were chopped sheer enough to be Destroy Earth, most likely, and then chipped out more before work was abandoned.

They heard water drips, the occasional roar or muffled thump, and other ambient dungeon/cavern noises. Nothing came of those, though.

Advancing further, they eventually found a series of tunnels breaking off from a small intersection, along with a set of rough-hewn stairs going up. They looked like a natural slope hacked into stairs, according to Gort. They sent a Wizard Eye with Dark Vision up to scout, and saw that after a landing the stairs continued up a natural pipe, and ended in a half-cave, half-worked room with a white tile floor and a solid door. They moved up, and after being sure it wasn't trapped, got to work on the door. It was triple-locked, a close scan of the opening edge revealed, with no lock or handle on this side. There were hinges, metal ones, but they were mostly covered with a metal covering and stone was worked or shaped over that. Raggi went to work on the hinges with a maul, but couldn't even ding them (vault-level hinges, more or less). The door was similarly too much (it bounces many greataxe blows from Raggi's magic axe) until they deployed a ram. It took almost a minute of solid blows from Raggi and the three Meeposian brothers to take the door down, leaving only a wrecked iron-bound door and bits hanging on the locks and hinges. A Silence spell kept the ram from making noise, but they didn't set it up past the door so its fall made a lot of noise. CRASH.

Beyond it was a cross-shaped intersection with alcoves flanking the door, with pedestals for the stone golem they've encountered. None were there, though. Past that two corridors angled off. From one or both - echoes are tough - Galen heard orcish voices in hushed but fast conversation and then not-too-successful sneaking noises fading away. Ah, orc guards. They realized they'd busted out of door meant to keep stuff in, and alerted the orcs about that.

Some quick investigation by Invisible Galen and Dryst's Wizard Eye showed they were near the place they'd fought the hobgoblins and siege beasts and the six-fingered elven demon vampire master thing. So they took a side tunnel past the roper lair and climbed down the cliff, lowering the pigs.

From there, they advanced in a very tight, very close formation, waiting for a strix attack. Sure enough, dozens of the stirges flew out and attacked. They killed a couple dozen with only some minor injuries - mostly because even when stirges attached themselves to bare flesh, either Raggi grappled them and ripped them off with ease, or Galen shot them off the victim from the other side of the crowd (Bow-30, effectively, with his bonuses, so a mere -10 to -14 meant easy shots). Armor spells on the few vulnerable folks bounced many attempts, too.

They chose to rest right there, and naturally, the stirges came back and attacked again, disrupting their rest. They killed another half-dozen or more and then finished resting as the survivors didn't come back.

Past there, they met the wyrm, who was very impatiently waiting for his months-ago promised pigs. They fed it Swoinch, who it devoured in a big gulp or three. Then they started talking. It told them about some nearby dangers (a flying shadow with hundreds of friends, some apes they promised to feed it, some other stuff like poison mushrooms). It also told them the easy way to the dragon (which it knew was dead) was to stick to the left after skipping the first left (a dead end on their maps.) They figured that might take them past the cloaker and they didn't want that. So they went right, aiming for the treasure they'd spotted with a Wizard Eye a while back.

They went down a long gallery, hearing stone-on-stone scraping but seeing nothing. They found another cube-shaped room with a faint feel of magic. Beyond it was a big room with thick stone columns with a staggering amount of treasure scattered around the area between the columns and spilling out. They formed up, advanced cautiously, and sent in a servant and Wizard Eye. The servant disappeared before it reached the treasure, the spell ended. Maybe dispelled? It wasn't attacked. They began to hear flapping noises, so they quickly buffed up and started to advance slowly. Dryst decided something might be hiding, and started throwing See Invisible on Galen. He rolled - I swear this is true - 18 (converted to a normal failure via Magical Stability), and then an 18 which was followed with a 17 vs. his sub-16 maximum skill. Critical Failure, confirmed - his first since spending a boatload of points to get Magery 6 stabilized. I made up some possible disasters and it came up as "Forget the spell for 1d weeks" - 2, it turned out. They also got off lots of buff spells - Haste and Shield, mostly. The first was invaluable, the second, because it's front-arc only, only helped a few important times.

They kept moving in, spreading out as they exited the tunnel entrance. The flapping revealed itself as a mob of flying demons - identified as the shark-mawed Shurakar by both Dryst and Al Murik. Shark-Bats is what they actually got called. Galen started shooting them, and as each one was hit it blinked out of existence. Illusions? Some real, some fake?

Meanwhile the flapping got louder, and a stone grinding "voice" or "roar" was heard from in the room somewhere.

Galen moved around the edge, and once he was well into the room, he shot the treasure - it disappeared. Illusion. The loud flapping stopped suddenly, although some distant flapping was heard, and last of the grinding noise stopped.

That was when it went badly. As he did that, with so many of the party spread out and facing away from the door (and the pocket-like corners to the right and left), they were jumped. Literally. Four till-then invisible demon-apes leaped out, landing behind them, and grappled. One grappled Dryst's neck, one Galen's, one Raggi's, and a fourth dropped in front of Raggi and clawed his face open. The fight was on - except even the least-grappled person had 8 CP on him, thanks to strong and skilled grapplers.

The fight got nasty right away, as the brothers advanced to help Dryst, backed by Keef and Al Murik. Galen tried to shoot the demon grabbing him over his shoulder - he was Great Hasted, most of the turns gone from shooting illusionary shark-bat-demons - to mixed success. He was shooting at something like -19, thanks to shooting blind, being grappled, shooting with a reversed grip, etc. Basically, almost impossible to even do for anyone, which for him meant a 11 skill to hit and a miss might hit himself (he nearly did, a couple times.) He shot the ape at least once, and it told him, "You'll pay for that. I'm bringing you to Hell with me!" He also took a mild fear effect from the demon's touch.

The one on Dryst tried to neck snap him, but his damage cap was low because of only 10 CP so he couldn't hurt Dryst (despite having his "backup" armor while the main stuff is being enchanted). The ones on Raggi started to grapple him for more CP, even as he dropped his axe (he'd have had a sub-10 chance to do anything, even All-Out Telegraphic) and grappled back.

The others moved in, leaving Keef, Gort, Blackbart, and Liz to guard the rear.

Just then, Gort yelled "Gargoyles! Hell gargoyles!" as a pack of 5 especially well-fanged gargoyles and a giant sized fanged gargoyle flew from where the party came from and horn-slammed into the group. Gort went right down, missing his defense roll and getting creamed after bouncing his sword off the gargoyle. He went right out, which ultimately saved him. Liz and Blackbart got mobbed, with Blackbart falling back even as the big leader went after him, and the others tore Liz apart even as she desperately tried to hold position. They'd all made their Loyalty rolls (well, Gort doesn't roll) but they were badly outmatched.

That grinding roar? The call to the gargoyles to come and get some. The demon-apes noted the scout and reacted to it in the intervening sessions, making some plans for backup.

The fight kept rolling. Raggi was borne down to the ground and taken to 0 ST and DX from CP (which takes 40 CP on him!) even as he drove himself Berserk just to make sure he'd stay awake. He was helpless but berserk.

The demon holding Dyrst turned to fight the brothers and Al Murik, even as Dryst - in an ultimately suicidal but gutsy move - quick-drew and opened a flash of Alchemist's Fire and dumped it on the demon grappling him. He made his DX roll but not critically, which, naturally, meant they were both soaked with alchemical napalm doing 1d(5) burning damage per turn. ("Way to commit, soldier!")

Galen's foe did some neck snaps on him after foiling some attempts to break free, and Galen was eventually forced to drop his bow and go for his sword. Raggi was getting chewed on. Dryst's demon-ape got annoyed by getting hacked with Al Murik's axe and speared by the brothers so it jumped 15 yards over them and into a corner, carrying the now-helpless Dryst (ST 7 vs. lots and lots of CP = helpless) The brothers rushed to help him, Keef took cover, and Al Murik ran to help Galen. He put an axe into the back of the demon grappling Galen, who then let go, turned invisible - and probably jumped away, based on later events. Things looks extremely bleak despite Galen suddenly being free - he was barely alive, making death and unconsciousness checks.

The fight went worse - Blackbart went down after whacking the boss gargoyle for a while, and it failed lots of Bloodlust self-control rolls, and just kept biting him (it and its buddies were Ravenous, per DFM1) for 3d+3 vs. Blackbart's leather armor. He reached -5 x HP in no time and died. Dryst went unconscious from neck snaps, even as the demon and he burned. More and more, the fight went badly. The brothers finally reached Dryst and the demon, which neck-snapped him (nearly killing him outright) and dumping him on the ground before turning invisible and leaping away. The brothers couldn't know he'd left, so it took them precious seconds to stop waiting and try to put the fire on Dryst out. They'd be too late - they missed a roll to pat out the fire, got burned themselves, and the next turn Dryst took just enough damage to put him to -45 HP and automatic death.

The demons on Raggi were just gnawing on him. One kept biting his face and attacking to establish more CP. Once it had 40+ itself, the other let go and jumped Father Keef, cracking him down in a single blow (random location was Neck, for 15 penetrating damage, which became 30 for 10 HP Keef.)

The group did finally get a demon down around now - the one on Galen re-appeared and sucker punched Al Murik, who failed to resist the Fear effect despite a +8 to resist and Will 15 or something like that (a 17!) It jumped to "safety" but "within line of sight" isn't safe with Galen around. Galen acrobatically rolled to his bow on a prior turn, avoided the demon's previous strike, and readied the bow. With it now far away, he plugged it and killed it. It turned into a howling cloud of greenish smoke and disappeared, leaving only a piece of jewelry behind.

The gargoyles entered the fray now, with one branching off to engage the Meeposian brothers. It couldn't seriously threaten them, but they couldn't bother it with spears. Even when they later changed to swords, all they managed was to annoy it a little with a single hit and fend off its claws. Gargoyles know they can't die from non-magical attacks, so they aren't very serious about combat sometimes. They literally have forever to beat you to death and act that way. That saved the party.

The fight went on, with Galen eventually shooting down another demon, Al Murik sticking one with his pick and then ripping it out, and the one on Raggi getting shot by Galen a couple times. The one that was on fire never re-appeared (it died 1-2 seconds after killing Dryst, before it could re-engage in the fight.) But several misses by Galen meant that what should have been a death-shot on the demon wasn't. He ended up running around the battlefield dodging gargoyle slams and being chased by the big gargoyle. Al Murik got cornered by three gargoyles. The final demon - only wounded by Galen - went invisible.

Right here, that miss by Galen was huge. It almost cost them everything. The demon grappled Galen from behind and inflicted a 9-point fear penalty on him. I ruled that didn't affect Attacking to Break Free and its terrible rolls to parry or even get more CP meant Galen eventually got free. In the meantime, though, the boss gargoyle starting rending on him.

In the meantime, desperate, Al Murik blew all of his available FP on a huge Awaken spell to wake up Raggi, who was very near death (-85 HP or something like that) but not dead. It was barely successful, and Raggi was no where close to the 9 or less he needed and stayed down. He'd have been in terrible shape anyway, one hit from going down at all times.

The demon yelled on Galen yelled at the gargoyle and said to go away, and it did, wandering over to deal with Al Murik. That helped Al, because the big boss started pulling gargoyles away from Al to get in himself, and Al ran for it. He managed to get free of the pile-on, which thanks to his Armor spell hadn't been hurt but he was rightly scared of the gargoyles getting bored and grappling him.

At this point, Galen got free, and despite the -9, turned and shot the demon-ape down. Four for four, they were down.

It was really late, and at this point I told them it was clear that a) they didn't have the firepower to deal with the gargoyles, even if they got Raggi back up, and b) it was hopeless to figure. They took the direct suggestion I gave them to deal with this in some way that would let me get home (I have early work on Monday, and it was very late). Galen said, "They like gemstones." Dryst's player said "I have my emergency gemstones - you've all been told about them in case I die and need Resurrection." So Al Murik rolled Public Speaking and offered to bribe the gargoyles with some gems.

The boss said they'd kill them all and take them.

Al said, no, you'll never find them.

They managed to convince the gargoyles to turn around (no peeking!) and not look. They took out the five most valuable stones from Dryst's collection and offered them. The boss demanded six, so they'd have one each. Al produced the "last one" (He's Honest, but not truthful, apparently) they had to give away, and the boss was satisfied. They flew off, leaving the party in a huge mess.

Thanks to a beaker of great healing potions, a charged healing scroll, and a 4 on a healing roll, they managed to get the non-dead guys up and fully mobile. They took Jon's corpse and Dryst's corpse, left the remnants of Liz where they fell, found the four pieces of jewelry the apes had, and fled. They got past the wyrm (it was full from eating like 30 stirges and two live pigs, and in no mood to bargin for Dryst's delicious corpse), climbed back up, took the stairs back down, and wound they way out to the dragon cave mouth and home.


So in the end, the finaly tally was:

Dryst - dead, at -5xHP (almost exactly - at -45 or -46 HP)
Liz - dead, at below -10xHP (the gargoyles weren't happy with her)
Jon Blackbart - dead, at -6xHP (the big gargoyle kept failing his Bloodlust self-control roll).
Swoinch and Boohee - eaten; such is the lot of sacrificial pigs in a dungeon.

Everyone else is alive, but Father Keef is going to have a scar from that neck wound. He's lucky he's not dead.

Dryst will possibly get resurrected - they need to fork over $15,000, which they don't have, and then I'll roll the spell. Dryst has some of that, but we'll see if Vryce has some handy. Raggi, sadly, had been sitting on some money for a while (he'd done well) and then spent it all in a fury of partying and sped-up gear upgrades, and he's nearly broke.

I doubt anyone will resurrect Jon Blackbart, showing again the Curse of the Henchmen Page.

Raggi was freaking angry at being useless in the fight. You could say he kept 50% of the ape-demons completely occupied for most of the fight, and came out of it okay. This is true, but as he sees it nothing died horribly from his axe or hands like they damn well should have, so he's annoyed at being useless. This may affect a) his availability and b) his patience.

It could have been much, much worse. It was almost a TPK, and the casualties are so light only because of lots of healing stuff expended, good rolls on healing, and some luck when I checked to see if anyone died of their frightful injuries.

Invisible demon-apes attacking by surprise is tough. I figured they'd either leverage invisibility and super jump and do a lot of good stuff, or not and die. It was the former.

This session went way, way, way too late. Like, 3 hours late. Mostly this is because:

- the fight went long. Way long for the actual seconds of game time and the number of combatants.

- as the fight got bad, and the stakes got high, people took a long time to decide what to do. Every decision was magnified, or so it seemed, so everyone took forever to make a decision. Things got slow.

- people took a long time between turns, for the same reason.

- Morale got low as it looked like it was nearly a certain TPK, so talk turned to "What character next?" and "What went wrong?" and not "What do I do now?" which also slowed it down.

I think I need to get my timer going again and do 3-2-1 countdowns even when it's life or death, TPK or not. I don't think anyone did anything at 10 pm they wouldn't have been able to do at 8 pm just because they dragged their feet.

Honestly, I obliquely hinted the gargoyles weren't defeatable, but I think everyone was too tired to notice. Since it was late, and I didn't want to spend any more time playing out a slow, helpless grind of death, I basically said in some like these words - "You can't outrun the gargoyles and you can't kill them. So find another way or just get ground down." That's when they negotiated. I charged a -1 point "Hint Fee" from their XP.

Al Murik is a dwarven cleric with a mysterious Y-shaped scar on his cheek. There are two references there, if you can find them. He's run by a player new to this campaign but not new to us - the player has gamed with me since High School, and joined our 10-year-long GURPS campaign about a year into it and played until it ended. He's got a little more free time these days and jumped back in. Good thing, they need a cleric.

Awaken probably needs a tweak - right now, it's + margin of success, -3 for injury, -6 for drugged. Probably makes sense to scale the injury penalty to the HT penalty to wake up, from -0 (above -1xHP) to -4 (-4xHP and below), actually. Got to think about that.

The group - or at least members, like Galen - had a chance to break off from the fight and run. It would have been the smart move. But everyone, or close to everyone, has things like Sense of Duty (Adventuring companions) and wouldn't consider it. Had Al dropped, though, I bet Galen would have made a break for it. If he dropped some gear he could make No Encumbrance and would have had Move 13 with Haste and could outrun the gargoyles. But he wouldn't stop fighting while his buddies were up.

This was also a fight that, thanks to lots of terrible rolls, went worse than it should have. Galen missed easy bow shots a few times, rolled minimum damage a lot, and otherwise had some issues. Twice Al Murik had a fight-ending shot on his axe or pick and did too little damage to matter. A max-damage axe throw would have taken that demon out, yet his minimum damage hit meant it lived to nearly win the fight for Hell.

So why Swoinch and Boohee? Swoinch is the sound Hen Wen makes in The Book of Three. Boohee - aka ブヒ - is onomatopoeia for pig noises in Japanese. So now you know, and knowing the half the pig.


  1. Phew, that was brutal.
    Not only was it Vryce('s player) not being present, but the group also stumbling into a trap AND the demons getting reinforcements. Well, and unkillable Gargoyles.

    I feel the players will go Gargoyle hunting next time...

    1. It was really tough.

      I expect they might go for the gargoyles - but sadly, they already got XP for those gems, so they won't get it just for retrieving them. :)

    2. I think they got off easily. Though I do like monsters willing to negotiate/ make stupid tactical decisions or back off. That puts both sides on an equal footing.

      That said the monsters got off much easier. Preperations or no if Vryce or even Chuck Morris (perhaps) were there, then there would have been bits of demon and or gargoyle all over the place.

    3. I can't remember if Chuck's weapon is magical or not. Gargoyles seem to bounce right back from non-magical hits - the group can't decide if it's Supernatural Durability or Damage Reduction or both, but they've literally beaten gargoyles down multiple times with no effect . . . but killed them with magical weapons.

      But yeah, the monsters aren't all there just to kill PCs. Or just to kill. Gargoyles are pretty classically uninterested in whether you live or die. They're callous bullies, but also seem more interested in gemstones than killing - which saved the PCs here. Had they been something less intelligent (or just smarter about long-term consequences of not killing the PCs when they had the chance) it might have ended with a chargen session.

    4. From memory CM picked up a +1 pole weapon, but it might have just been fine. I was in any case referring to the pair of them frequently making trouble for monsters, even when they cant kill them

    5. Wait, does Unachimba = CM? Or do you just have a dang good memory?

    6. I unfortunately do not play in your campaign

    7. Ah gotcha. Don't feel too bad though, I've only had a chance to play in two sessions myself! Although missing this session was probably to my PCs benefit.

    8. CM did pick up a magic halberd, but as his Weapon Master doesn't cover it I think it's just floating around in town somewhere.

      He did get his Light Horse Cutter enchanted to Puissance +1. He also got busy with non-gaming things, so it's not likely that he'll show up and help fight anyone soon.

  2. To me, the real critical point was the spell fail for detecting invisible. If it had gone off, no ambush, or at least less chance of it. Then, things would have been on a more even foot.

    1. Possibly, although they never once looked in the places where the apes were hiding for their initial ambush. Not once - they were so focused on the illusionary flying demons, trying to knocked them off and find the "real' one that they didn't look to the dark corners beyond the range of their lights.

      It would have helped Galen later in the fight, though!

  3. Yeah, that was tough. It was good to get back into the game. I forgot the earlier mention about the gargoyles being unkillable without magic weapons. I thought Galen's bow was hurting them.

    1. There was some discussion about whether a bow with Puissance makes all of its arrows count as "magic weapons." I think I said yes, but I should have said, "It depends."

      The arrows did seem to be denting them, just like your hammer blows, but Impaling is a terrible way to hurt Homogenous targets - it has a damage multiplier of x0.5, so he'd do 8-14 damage, minus DR, halved, even if they were potentially lethal shots or weren't foiled by the supernatural nature.

  4. Both sad and incredibly glad to have missed this session. Galoob would have been ape food or gargoyle meat in no time flat.

    1. Or he'd have pulled off a fight-winning backstab!


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