February 15th, 2015
Weather: Cold, cold, cold. Windy. Also, cold.
Characters: (approximate net point total)
Al Murik, dwarven cleric (277 points)
Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (270 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
Father Keef, human cleric (125 point NPC)
Gort of the Shining Force, dwarf adventurer (NPC)
Still in town:
Bern Brambleberry, gnome artificer (265 points)
Borriz, dwarven knight (308 points)
Chuck Morris, human martial artist (303 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
We started in town, as usual. The group paid upkeep and gathered rumors.
One especially interesting one was picked up by (or remembered by) Gort. He said, the only way to kill a ghost is to let it possess someone, and then kill them both. That was coupled with a rumor that priests who die on unsanctified ground rise from the death as undead, unholy priests. Those two rumors really stuck out, of course, but they also heard one about a "missing" level between two other levels, and one about an archmage hermit living out in the frozen northern wilderness.
The plan was, water entrance. They knew they could get a few NPCs in, as well, and looked for Raggi. Raggi's appearance roll came up as a 17 - critical failure! Raggi is out this session, and next time he'll only be around on a 9 or less. Gort was around (Gort is always around, he's retired), as was Father Keef.
They departed the north gate, crossed the Stone Bridge over the Silver River, turn right at Sterick's Landing and wound their way through the slums to the edge of the heights and dove for their water entrance.
The water was cold (Sunday was about 4 degrees F, here, which is pretty cold for NJ and Stericksburg) but they managed to make the swim, then had to rest and warm back up. It turned out that neither Keef nor Gort could swim. Vryce's player argued that swimming should fall under his generic dungeoneering skills only when undergound. Heh. They solved that with Breathe Water and two skilled Created Servants with Swimming skill.
They moved in, past the purple worm room, and then into new territory.
The first thing they found was a natural staircase going sharply down. They sent a Wizard Eye to scout, and found it led to a three-way intersection. The left went up very sharply, the right was more-or-less level. The eye scouted that, and found it was at the bottom of a sinkhole. The eye was sent up, and found a cave covered with white snow-like crystals, studded with a bunch of sinkholes, and edged with a (let's say "man-") made balcony of stone about 30' up with a lip sticking out into the room. The eye couldn't see past the edge of the balcony - beyond it was fuzzy nothingness.
The eye was sent to the balcony, but as soon as it reached the fuzzy edge it was dispelled.
The PCs scouted themselves. The intersection gave a weird double echo, and smelled oddly sweet but not good. They checked the base of the sinkhole and the crystals - it was salt. Thinking that salt is 15 sp/ounce meant wealth, they sent a servant to collect some. Sadly, there was only a thin layer of salt over layers of solidified salt crusting the floor. Nevermind, they decided - for now!
They climbed the steep lefthand tunnel. At the top, it widened out into a larger cave area. From the darkness ahead and to the back right padded a lot of trolls. How many? At least 11, one of whom was carried a cleaver-like sword.
The PCs arrayed for battle, but Al offered to talk. Gift of Tongues was cast on him, and he greeted the trolls in what Al insisted was "High Church Trollish" and gave the old "Greetings noble dwellers of deep caverns" speech.
The trolls asked if they were servants of the masters. Al replied that they were neutral but friendly with the masters, trying not to give a sign that they were either allies (bad if the trolls aren't) or enemies (bad if the trolls aren't.) They negotiated, and the sword-armed troll said they could pass to the left or go back, but this was MUNGO's territory. It says that Mungo would let them pass. They decided to offer to help, and the trolls told them of their enemies, the gargoyles.
(Dryst's player said, "This deep, they're marlgoyles." His brother: "What's the difference?" Me: "They're like gargoyles, but made of stone." They also decided gargoyles would be the perfect enemies for trolls - neither could kill the other.)
The trolls told them to go around to the left, ignore the first two lefts, follow the wall to the right, and then go straight up the third left.
Naturally, they agreed, headed off, argued about which lefts counted, and made a turn which may or may not have been the third.
They found the sinkhole from last session, and the lurker above's cavern.
After that, they found another intersection and then a long winding tunnel that ended with a rockfall.
Earth Vision revealed a shattered skeleton under the rock, about 20' or so in, by an equally shattered chest leaking some contents included a gem-and-pearl studded box. Score!
They set up, put a Mystic Mist covering their camp area and deep into the piled stones to ensure the treasure would be in the mist, too.
They reached the bones, just a yard or two short of the buried treasure. When they exposed the bones, a ghost rose out of them. They could see a skull, ghostly limbs, and tattered priest's clothing. In fact, that of a Bishop! Al and Asher recognized enough to know what they saw but not enough to know who it was.
The ghost jumped into Dryst, possessing him. It couldn't access his spells, and Dryst was aware, but it could use its spells - and yes, indeed, it was an unholy priest. Al immediately boosted Vryce's Will, and the PCs sprung into action.
They, naturally, tried to talk to the ghost. It wasn't in the mood to negotiate. It cursed the Good God, told them he'd see them in hell, the usual stuff. Asher's knowledge of undead told him the ghost was probably insane, and not capable of being talked into friendliness.
Meanwhile, Vryce waited for the lead types to back away from Dryst, and shrugged off some attack spells from the priest and an attempt to paralyze him. He got close to Dryst and - in what must be a move he's been thinking of for a while - stabbed Dryst once in each leg, crippling them. From the ground, the ghost cast a spell at him. But then Dryst passed out, and the ghost escaped.
It tried to possess Vryce, and failed, and then moved past him to the rest of the PCs. It used its Finger of Doom to paralyze Asher, despite his high Will and Resistance to Evil Supernatural Powers. It tried on Al, but it failed.
It took over Gort, and Vryce ran up and took out Gort's legs, knocking him down and unconscious. Once again, the ghost left the body. Meanwhile Al woke up Dryst, who promptly passed out again trying to cast spells. Again, they woke him up and healed him. This time he got off a an Affects Spirits spell on Vryce's sword Gram, and then shortly after one on Al's pick. But the ghost dodged through the walls and tried more spells.
Earth Vision on Vryce let him track the ghost, and Al smashed the fallen priest's skull with his pick before dropping it. Then he got out holy water as he scrounged around for the bishop's holy symbol. Al was possessed by the ghost at this point, and took two leg wounds from Vryce for his trouble, and dropped unconscious.
Vryce kept after the ghost. Finally, Vryce got a chance to strike the ghost.
Two swift cuts and he hit it once, wounding it. A few seconds later he got another, and it faded away.
Gone, for now. Asher (once he recovered) told them it was gone for now, but would be back. They needed to exorcise it. They also needed to rest - multiple characters with crippled legs. They started healing, and figuring out if they could spend 3 hours to do the exorcism.
They got Dryst healed (but sadly, he had a 6-month crippling of one of his legs) and Al, as well. They had a quick decision - drag out their wounded and get the heck out of there, or rest up, secure in the mist, and get the treasure?
So a few minutes of rest later, they heard noises and saw trolls - the trolls had followed, and boxed them in. They briefly talked about negotiating, as the trolls (rather oddly) gently escorted the servants away.
(This was explained by the PCs by the trolls natural hatred of slavery, and clearly they came to liberate the servants. I have no idea how that started, but there you are.)
The PCs decided they may have to fight. So Vryce drank his Potion of Giant Strength, which doubled his strength (so much so he was capped on damage with his sword, at ST 36 and 6d+17 cutting), and they started buffing him up. He advanced to the edge of the mist, and then once Great Hasted ran out and attacked. Trolls started falling, and when they counterattacked they lost arms to his blade. The arms, of course, started crawling around looking for targets. Vryce made sure of the wounded, because they're trolls, and kept advancing.
Meanwhile the priests kept in on the healing and so on, as Dryst levitated toward the fray.
It was going pretty well, with Vryce backing off the trolls and Dryst using Create Fire to light up the fight, when Vryce turned the corner.
There were more trolls. And there was Mungo.
Turns out, the troll with the sword wasn't Mungo. He was speaking on behalf of Mungo, who clearly rules the trolls by pounding dissenters into paste. He was holding a huge hammer and a person-sized "knife" and scraped the 25' ceiling with his head and shoulders.
Mungo yelled, "Give Mungo loot!" and attacked.
Vryce engaged him, heads up, Great Haste giving him the edge he needed. He was able to slash up Mungo a lot, but Mungo dodged often and even parried once.
Mungo yelled, "Give Mungo food!" and kept attacking. Mungo stomped on a fallen troll, and ground him apart without a second thought as he used him for footing.
The other trolls tried to intervene, but Vryce paused to put one down and wound another, even as Dryst started hurling Explosive Lightning and Lightning spells into the fray. Mungo was hurt, but not stunned, thanks to his massive size.
The fight more or less proceeded like that - Mungo attacking, occasionally being forced to the Critical Miss Table with deft dodges by Vryce, and Vryce was forced to use up all of his Luck. Al threw alchemist's fire into the fray and missed Mungo but splashed oil behind him.
Meanwhile, in the mist, Asher disposed of the crawling hands with his flaming sword, and Dryst charged up more spells and dispelled his own servants, one after the the other.
More trolls kept coming.
Vryce was forced back into the flames, and Mungo just walked right into the flames after him.
That's where we left it, because it was getting late and I just couldn't stick it out. Plus, any potential TPK situation grinds slowly, as everyone takes just a little longer on their turn. I almost cut it short when the troll fight started, but I thought we should play a little bit of it. But time ran short, and we had to stop in the dungeon, for now.
Will the PCs be able to defeat Mungo before he lands a hit? Will they escape alive? We'll see on 3/1.
Raggi's appearance rolls? Simple. 12 or less if he's doing okay. 15 or less if broke. 9 or less if flush with cash. Any critical failure knocks it down a level the next time, too. Critical success pushes it up a level. So a 17 means it went from 12 or less to 9 or less for next time.
Aren't ghosts invisible? Standard ones, yes, but if you can't float around being ghostly and scaring people it's not as fun, so I don't do that.
Why so many trolls? Simple. I always liked the mass troll fights in D1-2 Descent to the Depths of the Earth. If you didn't make trolls foolish enough to all pack into a single 20' radius circle, those fights could be really long and scary. So I added a very large mass of trolls into my dungeon. Not 2-3 or 4-5, but bunches. Then I went out and got a lot of Bones trolls from Miniatures-Giant. I painted them - you can see how the pre-paints I previously bought stand out since I couldn't color match them (also, they don't match each other.)
Why Mungo? Because he was $2.39 on eBay, buying one more figure pushed the shipping down to a discounted level, and I had no idea he was that big. There was nothing to show scale, so I figured he'd be roughly the size of my other trolls. So I showed my brother in law and said, basically, what am I going to do with this guy? He said something like, "Of course a group of trolls is going to have Mungo, the giant troll, who they call out for big fights." I sat right down and statted up Mungo the Giant Troll. I wouldn't have made a troll icepick gripping a person-sized blade myself, but since I have one, that's what he does. He suffers the usual problems of giants in GURPS, though - he's easy to hit and he's only a threat if he can overcome the very high Dodge that the PCs are capable of getting. He's skilled but not that skilled . . . even so, one hit and splat.
Could they have bribed their way past the trolls? Maybe. It's hard to tell. Trolls are smart (Mungo may or may not be) but they're also heartless killers with a love of treasure and a taste for sentient beings. They may go with a deal, they may not - and
The PCs had the amusing comment that with trolls, you can kill a bunch and then negotiate as it's no harm, no foul. Not after fire, though.
I'd mentioned dogpiling before. This area, thanks to what's in it (trolls and worse) and the layout (some looping connections, some dead ends) makes it especially prone to this. The trolls are smart enough to know a group weakened from a fight and in a dead end might be a good target.
The dungeon at this level is very lethal. The treasures are rich but the fights are potentially killers. The PCs are a 50/50 mix of medium-to-high points (Vryce at nearly 500, Dryst at nearly 400) and starting (Al and Asher around 275). That means Al and Asher can't contribute much to combat, and don't have a lot of power to back up their actions. They're not liabilities but it means if Vryce and Dryst can't do the job . . . everyone might need new PCs next session, and no one will be capable enough to survive a delve to recover the corpses and equipment for a long time.
For what it's worth, as they fought the trolls, they decided - next time, fight the orcs. They're not ready for this, yet.