Sunday, May 31, 2015

DF Game Session 63, Cold Fens 5 - the Cavern

May 31st, 2015

Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)

Characters (in the dungeon): (approximate net point total)

Asher Crest-Fallen, human holy warrior (279 points)
     Koric, human guard (~70 points)
     Orrie, human guard (~70 points)
Bjorn Felmanson, human barbarian (256 points)
Dave, human knight (250 points)
El Murik, dwarven cleric (269 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (262 points)
Hannibal the Flammable, human wizard (264 points)
Rahtnar the Vegan, dwarven martial artist (265 points)

In Swampsedge:
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)

We started in Swampedge, as usual. The group gathered rumors - including ones about denizens to the far south, one about swamp trolls (water breathing trolls), and that the leaping leeches are starting to multiply and swarm. Some local residents told Hannibal that maybe since the bandits were gone now, maybe they should leave well enough alone?

The rolls for potions and paut came up empty, so we realized it was the annual Crone Convention and Young Crone Hazel was taken her broom and gone off to attend. It also turned out that Old Crazy William was gone, and people had heard screaming a few weeks back from down by his hit. Did they confirm what the screams were? Yeah, of course, the villagers were in a huge hurry to run down and check on screams from by the madman's hut near the edge of the monster-infested swamp.

With that, they set off. Bjorn was late (player was late getting into town), but he came on his own boat later with Koric and Orrie. Rahtnar joined much later, also on his own boat.

The trip through the swamp featured the usual bugs, bugs, more bugs, and bugs. The only potentially lethal encounter was a nighttime brush with some undead corpse-eaters that were wading through the swamp. Everyone hid, and thanks to a lot of good Stealth rolls (and a critical success by Asher making up for El Murik's failure), they managed to keep out of a fight.

They reach the temple at night and chose to camp there. All experienced more fog, more bats, and more chittering rats. Also, strange dreams none could recall - but not no disturbing they lost rest over them.

In the morning, they bypassed the nymphs after an unsuccessful attempt by El Murik to speak to them with Gift of Tongues.

They went down into the dungeon below without incident. There things were much the same - no one barricaded anything, and nothing was added or changed.

They spent some time investigating the secret doors that frustrated them last time. This time, they figured one out - the one near the priest's cells. El Murik touched a coin to the mouth of the demon and the door opened.

Inside was an antechamber with wall-mounted unholy water basins. Beyond another door was a trapezoidal room with a tiny altar, two more wall basins, and a black miniatures statue of the demon from the main temple. Also, the floor was tiled and there was signs of incense burning in front of the altar. They eventually decided this was the high priest's personal altar. Naturally, Asher decided to grab the demon statue. It instantly transmuted into a black, toxic, corrosive slime that started up his arm. Eeew. His glove burned off in 2 seconds, and he took corrosion and toxic damage. Gerry used Stun on the slime to keep it from spreading, and then Hannibal put Flaming Armor on Asher. Since he was already grappled with the slime, the spell broke instantly and did 3d to the slime. Woosh. That was enough to kill it.

After this, Dave smashed the altar with his morningstar. It took a couple of smashes.

Next, they found a secret door in one wall. They found a trigger pretty quickly, and opened it up. Beyond was a pie-slice room full of cobwebs. Dave refused to go in, because it's a bad idea. Others did go in, though, and found a large chest with two small ones placed nearby willy-nilly. Long story short, they got the chests open. The large one contained 5000 sp and 200 gp (a 9K cash haul, and 21 pounds of coins!), the small ones each had a screw-topped ivory scrollcase, each totally waterproof. Gerry opened one and read the scroll inside, which was written on skin. Sadly, it was cursed, and the curse drained the magic from all of his magical and alchemical items - his magic armor, staff, potions, power item, etc. became non-magical. The other scroll was indecipherable.

They also burned the incense with Essential Fire, pixel-hunted the tiles to see if they opened secret doors, based another wall down (and found just bare space that had been walled off to create a duplicate to the treasure-filled space, and otherwise tried to find a way past the main temple's secret doors. Nothing.

They also went through the library, the vestment room, and all over the place looking for triggers. Nope. Finally, they tried to bash the doors down. But the stone was too thick, and way too strong for the ram to even scratch.

Hannibal recalled some phrases from the prayer books he burned last time - mostly of the "Hail Great Sakatha" and "Praise Lord Sakatha" types. He tried those - nothing. He also tried walking in the unholy water. Nope. Blood ont the altar? No. In the pools? No. No, no, no.

Finally, they sent Gerry through with Ethereal Body. He found a passage, but no signs of how to open the door. He came back.

As they mulled over options, Hannibal decided to dip his hand in the unholy water and write "evil demon symbols" on the door. As soon as he touched the door . . . his hand went through. Aha! Further testing showed that while wet, the unholy water made the door insubstantial. They filled some vials with it and went through.

Beyond was a tunnel to a room. In that room were two more doors. Bjorn checked one . . . oddly, for him, decided to push on it before his usual ear-against-the-door listening drill. Good thing - it wasn't a door, it was a mimic! His hand was stuck, the door spread out over him, and a fanged mouth opened and chomped on him (for 3d cut, every second, for a while). The rest of the group sprang into action. Dave started to whale on it, hitting, ripped his morningstar out of the glue, and then hitting it again. Hannibal popped it with a Fireball, and El accidentally toasted Bjorn with a Sunbolt. Koric and Orrie piled on, too, before finally it died.

Just as Rahtnar showed up (they'd left a note, explaining the wall trick), Gerry put Zombie on the mimic, which he ordered into what they consider its most appropriate shape, a walking fanged chest.

They explored more, finding a secret door, another "mimic" room (no mimic, but it had false doors instead), and not much else. So they put on Magic Sight and See Secrets and explored again, and found a secret door in the floor in a small connecting hallway. It was easily opened (clearly counterweighted), and found stairs down. They sent down the luggage, er, mimic. To its second doom, it turned out. A few steps down, the top stairs turned into a slide and the rest retracted, dropping the mimic down a sunken pit where it splattered a few seconds later. Then, woosh - fire. A burned rubber smell of roasted zombie mimic came up.

An hour later, the trap reset. Using some flight magic and rope, they explored it and noted the 5th stair was a trigger. Bypassing that, they went down.

At the bottom was a tall cavern, oddly rectangular, with a river flowing across it. The ceiling was maybe 50' above, and full of bats. Undead vampire bats, as a matter of fact.

Searching the near side, they found a dirt mount with an opening it it. Long story short, it is a High Sanctity bolt-hole with a Holy-based Avoid spell on it. The cleric and holy warrior could ignore the Avoid, and the others could with some difficulty. Clearly, a safe forward base. They stashed their loot within.

They investigated the river next. Bjorn put his hand in it, and it felt odd. Like water, but it wasn't actually wet. His hand came out dry. A boat appeared (as in, slowly faded into view) a short distance away. So Bjorn moved toward it. When he waded in, he fell into a hidden pit full of acid! It gnawed at his stuff, but he didn't swallow any and pulled himself out in mere seconds.

More testing showed the "water" wasn't really real, but had some mild substance and obscured the footing below. El Murik called to the boat . . . and it came over. Bjorn hopped in. It was real enough to hold him. As they debated, the boat started to move away. Bjorn hopped off, and it went out of view.

They explored there side of the river more, and found the limits of the cavern. They also found another mound, but this one lacked a hidden holy safe zone. So, naturally, it was investigated with a large array of spells and walking and poking and checking, because a mound of earth in an earth-floored cavern that isn't full of magical whatever is totally inexplicable. Not to say it isn't, but they found nothing.

After about an hour, the boat re-appeared. This time, they called it and piled on. It took them across the river, which was maybe 70-80 feet across. It reached the far shore, near a number of 6' high, 10' wide mounds. The boat started to fade away, so they jumped to safety.

Or, rather, into danger. Within seconds, sixteen wights appeared, including one with a head-topped staff with the head still animate, and mouthing words. Scary. The wights swarmed in, and began to attack, dodging or fending off a few attacks as they came in.

Quickly, though, Asher used his True Faith ability to turn them. The wights rolled well (made Will by 5), but Asher still better (made it by 9), forcing them 4 yards away.

The PCs began to fling fireballs, sunbolts, and even an axe at the wights, and while two wights got burned (one badly), once the wights realized they couldn't attack but were under fire, they fled.

The PCs realized they were caught, though - no boat, acid in the "water" (and some experimentation with El Murik's coin on a string found more acid straight back), and wights all over.

Not only that, but a quick scouting trip ahead onto a mound showed these were wight burial mounds (clawed open from within). Beyond the mounds was structure of some kind, quick large and partly obscured by mist. Off to the side of the structure were a half-dozen or so blue, ghostly fires, each surrounded by some humanoid figures.

The PCs decided to beat a retreat. Poor Asher had to keep concentrating on True Faith for over an hour as Gerry used Levitation to ferry everyone over the river.

Once everyone was back, they quickly retrieved their loot and headed to the surface.

Once there, they made it back in 4 days, delayed from some rain trouble.


Dave is the first-ever GURPS PC of Gerry/Vryce's player's son. It's a testimony to the templates that he had a very effective character despite only shallow knowledge of GURPS. His dad helped him along where necessary. He seemed to enjoy it, we'll see if it's a one-time thing, he's a regular, or he's an occasional drop in.

The PCs netted something like 1500 sp each after dividing the coins, selling the scroll cases (much to Gerry's annoyance, since they were 100% waterproof, not merely resistant), some assorted stuff they found, and paying off the NPCs.

That curse scroll was nasty, and Gerry really paid for reading it. But it could have been worse - they could have lost much more powerful items than the potions and minor enchantments he carried with him.

True Faith is a win button vs. undead. I have no issue with this - undead are weak against this. Willfull undead can ignore it, per that post, but generally don't. Wights are willfull undead. They are also vulnerable to Affect Spirits, so the PCs might be more willing to fight next time, if they have to.

MVP was Asher for True Faith and for thinking, hey, we need unholy with us to get back through the door.

Overall a good session. Good loot-to-danger ratio, and Dave's mimic kill was his first as a player.


  1. I very much like that trick door.

    1. You mean the unholy water one? I only get partial credit for that one. The need for unholy water to open it was in the adventure I've adapted into GURPS. The way it worked is mine. AD&D adventures are heavy on secret doors with no explanation of how they are secret, how they work, or how the mechanism works. So I decided on the way it worked, above.

  2. "In the morning, they bypassed the nymphs after an unsuccessful attempt by El Murik to speak to them with Gift of Tongues."

    (Dispirited cheer from "Watery Murder Nymph Fan Club" section of the bleachers.)

    I wonder what the heck is up with that river of not-water and the magic boat.

    1. I should have mentioned the whole "swamp ecology" discussion that posited that mimics come in swarms, the watery murder nymphs are the female of the species, and their young first develop as swamp cows aka catoblepas before they mature into mimic form.

      Which, actually, makes as much sense as chimeras mating with gorgons and hydras and whatnot. Maybe more sense.

    2. OSR ecology makes about as as much sense as OSR hydrology. Extensive underground complexes made from fitted stone in swamps. Shapechangers who like to pretend to be money mating with things that can turn meat into stone by breathing on it. Comme ci, comme ca.

      It occurs to me there might be some fun unflammable stuff in that stair trap, if they can get at it...

    3. Although to be fair to the subterranean dungeon in the swamp, magic makes what would be an engineering marvel or impossibility in the real world actual trivially easy. Especially GURPS spell-based magic.

      Besides, it's not fitted stone. There is some work done to make it appear build up, and there are some interior walls that are fitted stone, but the majority of it is carved and relatively smooth. That's either Shape Stone, or Shape Earth along with Earth to Stone. Both make building this dungeon pretty easy. Plus, there is a variety of magic available to keep things as they are.


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