Friday was the S&W Southern Reaches B-Team. Here is my summary, to fill in the gaps left in my teaser. There are some other related posts:
Tim's Summary - We Laughed Like Manly Men Who Wore Flannel
Doug's Summary - Return to the Mad Archmage
Tenkar's Take - Castle of the Mad Archmage - Session Report "Whatever" - More Fun Than a Barrel Full of Drunken Monkeys!
Minister "Quantum" "the Pink", Half-elf 4/3 Cleric/Magic-User (Tim Shorts)
Mirado Gargoyle-Friend, Human 6 Fighter (me)
Rul "Rainbow Warrior" Scararm, Human 6 Fighter (Douglas Cole)
Rosco P. Coltrane, Halfling 2/3 F/T (Joe the Lawyer)
Bronan, Human 3 Fighter (Reece Carter)
We picked up two new characters this session - Joe the Lawyer running his Flailsnails guy (Flailsnails? It's kind of a bring-your-character-between-GMs game thing), and Reece Carter running a just-made-up 3rd level fighter. Apparently Tenkar forgot the highest level guys are 6th level, not 4th or so. Oh well. They'll just level faster. They successfully transited the 5% slope down without great mishap.
We headed right down to level 3, and did a little more exploring. There were a few doors on our maps we hadn't opened. The first one we went to we bashed open and found nothing but broken glass. Bronan searched it but found nothing.
A little more searching found us a room (labeled with a letter). I decided this was a bad idea so Mirado voted with his feet to go elsewhere. We found a door, and in it were stored orange cones and orange-and-white construction barrels. We decided we'll use them in the future to detour wandering monsters away from us. A detour sign pointed to a pit should do. We didn't implement that yet.
We kept looking. We soon found a way down, and took that. Finally! We've been trying to find a way down and back up for a while.
We moved down, and immediately there was a left, and down it we could see the steady glow of Continual Light spells. So Roscoe and Mirado snuck down - Roscoe with his thief skills, Mirado with his Boots of Elvenkind. We saw a blue-decorated room and some guys training inside. They were humans, and Mirado was confident that no human ever did anything evil, so we could negotiate. In we went.
The humans stopped training and casually summoned their leader and some reinforcements. In all, about a dozen human warriors in blue, two trolls (wearing blue tabards), and a half-orc in banded mail and blue, came out. We "negotiated," which tends to be very chaotic with our group. Roscoe yelled stuff from the back, Mirado and Bronan spoke from the front. The confused mess of negotiation and grumpy threats about sending guys out to kill the little voice yelling from the back eventually prompted two things - one, Roscoe came up with the rest. Two, Mirado got into some verbal sparring with the leader when he wouldn't take "we just want to get some information in peace" for a reason to be talking to them. Annoying questions like "How good are you?" and calling Roscoe a gnome was a bit too much. Mirado said he was the best, and nothing faced him yet and lived, which is possibly even true. The leader challenged Mirado, and Mirado wouldn't back down. We got down to dueling, to the death. Roscoe bet 10 cp on the half-orc leader.
We tied for initiative and Mirado shrugged off a Hold Person spell as he whacked the leader for 8 damage. The next turn, Mirado did 4 and took 8. Then it went downhill - Mirado couldn't hit to save his life. Then it was 6 damage, then 8, then 10. Mirado kept refusing the (generous) offer to yield until he was down to 15 HP, which is close to one turn's bad rolling from death. At that, Mirado yielded. The half-orc asked for his silver dagger as the yield price.
Cheap, at that. Mirado handed it over and acknowledged his loss. The rest of the party mostly hooted and made fun of Mirado for losing. Good thing the leader didn't ask for Woundlicker, because Mirado wouldn't yield that no matter what. Mirado changed his name to Mirado Blue Beaten, but reminded Rul that last time something challenged Mirado Rul ended up with a sword +2 vs. mammals, so there. The half-orc also healed Mirado 5 points, which is partly why Mirado doesn't resent his loss. Hey, he was more fair to Mirado than Mirado has been to anyone except those mail-armored men back in session 4.
We spoke to them some more, and they filled us in on some level 4 politics. Apparently this the Arena Level. There are five factions who send fight teams in for pay, or gambling profit, I was never clear on what, from whom. The green are lead by a gnome. The red had a minotaur, but they're hurting a bit. I think they have gnolls, too. The blue are the tops. The purple are weak, and least likely to "enslave" us. I don't recall anything about the Whites. We decided to go check out the Purple, as the Blue felt we weren't worth it for them, although they ranked Mirado as better than 1/3 of their members, equal to some of the middle-rank ones, and below the top 1/3.
We asked for them to show us the arena. They did, escorting us, somewhat oddly, through the White faction's door into the arena. Sure enough, it looked like an area, with a 1' deep layer of sand and spikes to keep the duelists from coming up into the three-deep stands. Not only that, but you can't cast spells in it. As soon as Mirado heard that, his interest in fighting in the arena dropped from "How much do we get paid?" to zero. No way. Leaving our escorts, who were about as useful as tits on a boar hog, we headed into neutral territory. We moved around the area, finding the entrances one by one.
We also found stairs down to level 5, but the GM wasn't ready for that so we backed off.
Right around this time we found a bookie, oddly empty, but with a live video feed (okay, a magic video feed) of the arena. Also, a metal door. We got right to that. Bronan was ready to kick it down, but Roscoe stepped in . . . and rolled a 97 on his Open Locks. He had a 53 to open it, so he used Luck to try again. 67. Nope. We all tried to force it to no avail. Bronan was ready to hack it down but, metal door. Now what?
Minister stepped up and used Knock, which is how it works - the experts try and fail, and then the mage steps up and solved the problem with a spell. Minister was hit with a curse, but shrugged it off. Good thing - he'd have lost HP every day until we put back what we found. Round these parts that's called a fatal curse with no escape clause. (I have to wonder if Remove Curse would work, and if not, why not.)
Inside was some money - 6000 sp, 4000 gp, 19 gems, and 2 pieces of jewelry. We took it all.
We kept exploring, and found stairs going down deeper than level 5. Nice.
We found a room with four entrances and a statue of the god of athletics. Ah, Arnold Schwarzenegger. There was a coin slot so Mirado put in a gold coin. Nothing happened, so he put in 9 more. Still nothing. That's okay, Mirado was just getting serious.
We went back, through a door, and down a short flight of stairs. The door at the bottom defeated us, but some acid from Roscoe weakened it and Bronan kicked it open. Inside were cages with stuff like bonesnappers, giant scorpions, and so on. There were also an elf and a gnome (I think) with a phase panther coeurling away. They demanded 10 gp to repair their door. Bronan offered 5. They asked for 15. Bronan started to berate them about being idiots who don't understand how bargaining works. They started to threaten us with their panther, and the situation started to turn into a threat contest. Mirado got sick of this stupid crap. They were clearly a tough fight with no obvious treasure, or point. So he said he'd paid 10 gp and we were leaving. We did, but the elf and gnome respected Mirado's willingness to deal and said that if we faced one of theirs in the area, Mirado should let them know ahead of time. Mirado agreed.
We explored some more, and found a gated off cave full of bats. We left that alone, but made guano jokes.
We found a room full of some odd shaped winged things - eye killers! We ran. Don't fight creepy Fiend Folio monsters if possible.
We found a door and went through, and found two tough skeletons. We killed them (although Mirado wasn't able to fit into the fight in the tight doorway, and just stood guard), mostly with Rul hacking, Minister throwing Magic Missile, and Bronan and Roscoe whacking away. Once they dropped, we found a 2' diameter copper disc on the wall with a 7th level Lightning Bolt spell on it. We carefully removed it, and Minister took it.
After this, it was late and we had no clear line to anything worth going to. We headed back to the surface.
- a bit under 5000 XP for loot, exploration, and fighting. We spent a lot of, well too much, time bs-ing. Fun, but it slowed down the gaming a bit.
- The first two rounds of fighting the half-orc, Mirado hit and did okay damage - 8 and 4. But then I never rolled above a net 16 again, and rolled a lot of sub-10 totals, which sucks since I have a +5 or 6 to hit. I won't lie, it was pretty frustrating and not fun but my luck just wouldn't turn, and I had no other tricks up my sleeve. Sigh. But I survived it, and the cost was pretty low. Those first two hits and saving throw were the only successful rolls I made the whole session! I rolled a lot of 6s on hit rolls, and 1s on initiative. I still think doors should roll high.
Still, a session gaming with bad rolls is still a good day, and I made it out. During the session Joe was talking about how he kept gambling in Rappan Athuk because it's imaginary money and he doesn't need it to pay the rent. That's how I feel about HP. I can get beat on by a flail, bitten by spiders, whatever, but it doesn't hurt me. I can have the fun of fighting without the consequences. Once I was down to 15 HP, I knew I was a double-damage crit away from death and gave it up.
- If I remember, Mirado is going to give 10 gp to the Arnie Statue every session and thank him for "Commando" and "Pumping Iron." Maybe for the commentary on Conan the Barbarian, too.
- It was good to have a thief - it's so much better than doing without via healing potions and Saving Throws. The loss of Joe the Lawyer's high-powered wizard, though, meant we didn't have a lot of destructive firepower in case we had to fight those trolls or the panther-handlers.
- Rolling gems and jewelry at the end is fun. My approach is to roll them before, but I use a hoard total approach, so I have to know what they are worth. For D&D, though, I like it. Too bad we didn't get any exceptional stones.
- not sure about the Arena. Mirado isn't excited about non-combined arms fighting. I'm not excited about going back to the bookie we robbed to try and place bets. Or dealing with secret masters and the politics of the groups. Maybe if we can pit them against each other, but really, it feels fight-heavy and loot-low.
Overall, fun session, but Mirado needs like 4+ like that to hit level 7 so I'm hoping we can loot more and explore more next time!