September 27th, 2015
Weather: Varied (mix of clear and some rain)
Characters (approximate net point total)
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (250 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (278 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (250 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (250 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (250 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (250 points)
Kasias, human guide (62 points)
Dave, human knight (252 points)
Galoob Jah, goblin thief (256 points)
Angus may or may not have forgotten to name himself, so we did that for him. It's possible it'll change. We also constructed an elaborate backstory for Quenton.
Gerry showed up late, but put a point in Survival (Jungle) which will help in the future.
They set up in town, got sorted out, and collected some rumors while hanging out at the thrown-together drinking hole "Rumshackles" run by an ex-pat from the north named Rick. Hjalmarr heard one about the twin golden bells of the Princess Ailivo of D'Abo, and that one will lead you to the other. They heard that not all "men" are actually human. They heard about a round, spike, stinky fruit that's good to eat (+1 to Survival rolls for Mo for foraging only), and about the mix of dangerous snakes to be found, and that supposedly the princess wasn't killed centuries back but is trapped in the temple.
Hasdrubal made a special effort to find anyone in "town" who wanted anything special from the city. No one did, but someone told him there is an old armoury on the West side of town that people go and retrieve stuff from when they go. Haz is nutty but oddly personable (Diplomacy skill helps.)
All that taken care of, they met up with their guide, Kasias (Kah-SIGH-as), and headed into the jungle.
The trip was a bit of a slog. With only Move 4, great Navigation rolls (Kasias has Absolute Direction) and some delays from fatigue, they took a longer time than expected to get there. They insisted on sleeping on to recover from lost fatigue from their nasty daily HT rolls against the heat, which cut down their travel time. They also hit a fallen tree (which cost Haz 2 HP and a twisted ankle) which needed circumventing, some torn-up trail flooded from water, and other delays. Biting flies also infected Gerry with Jungle Rot (luckily, an easy cure for druideopathic medicine). They managed to scrounge up a spiky stank fruit during a break, but only enough for one person's meal. Worse, after a short rainstorm a giant rhino beetle was disturbed and rushed them, coming out of the jungle nearly point blank. It stormed forward and smashed into Mo, who was knocked aside, and then it bit Mo's shield and held on. A short but nasty fight ensued. Its massive skullplate shield bounced the Lightning and Skull Missile spells of the wizards harmlessly. Meanwhile Mo and Hjalmarr bashed at it (after Hjalmarr cippled both legs) and Angus tried to stab its armored eyes - to no avail. He switched to slashing the protruding eyes and the heavy fighters kept pounding on it. They took out its right eye so it berserkly swung around and bowled them over and tried to bite Hjalmarr. But it took a pounding after that and dropped. Mo was badly wounded from being struck with its horn, but not terribly so.
Concerned (rightly) about being dogpiled by critters coming to investigate, they moved on for an hour before resting.
They kept on ahead, avoiding army ants and dodging bad weather ("daily rain" being "passable" weather for jungle), before they finally arrvied at the plateau in the early afternoon of day 4. They hacked through the brush and reached their first view of the city.
Here is my base map and their handout:
(Yes, that's the I1 map. I re-purposed it.)
When they first saw the city, Hasdrubal immediately pointed to a building and said, "THAT is the armoury."
They rested a bit and spent an hour watching the city. It was suspiciously free of flying birds, animals, and other things. Occasional movement could be seen but it was hard to make out.
The decided there were three clear ways down - some lianas vines on the far side, a big tree that nearly reached the top of the cliff (which is between 120-140 yards high in most places), or a switchback trail. The tree was closest, so they went there.
They had little rope, but enough. They picked a strong-looking branch and snagged it with a grapnel, and tied it off to a spike driven into a largish stone since there were no trees near the plateau edge. Mo leapt out and climbed down, followed by Hjalmarr and Angus. The wizards and druid went down with Levitate from Gerry. The climb down took 16 minutes, but wasn't that hard (trees are +5). Except for Hjalmarr, who missed his grip and fell - but in a frenzied grab snagged the rope, which held (lucky for him), and he managed to climb down the rest of the way.
They used Conceal to put some (temporary) tall grass around them while they rested at the bottom. From there, they worked their way around the edge of the cliff. The buildings in the city were mostly one story, flat, made of cyclopean stone shaped together with magic and worked with tools. The streets and side-streets were 18" round flat stones set into rain-damp earth.
They checked a few buildings as they moved along the wall aiming for the "statue building."
Once there, they moved in. The interior was largely gutted, as if there had been temporary interior walls now gone, leaving pillars and a box-like structure inside. They opened a sliding pocket stone door on the box-like structure. Inside was a staircase and frescoes showing the varied architecture of the city, including the statue. They ascended to the roof.
Atop was the statue - a 24' tall statue of a man, not terribly well made, with a shield and a stone sword aloft in its right hand. It was chipped around the legs, and in front it had a big crack in its abdomen. Moreover, it had a right eye of some marble-like stone (different from the rest of the body) and its left eye socket was empty. Deciding it was a) a golem and b) had a valuable eye, Mo cracked it in the face with his flai (he's 7', reaching to the face with a hop and a strike wasn't that hard.) He hit it, smashing most of its nose off. It responded by bringing its sword down into him. Mo unwisely decided to Block, which didn't work at all.
It hit him for 13d+7 (ST 100) and shattered his shield and hurt his arm, and knocked him flat. Gerry snapped off an Invisibility spell on Mo. This didn't seem to matter. It hit him again and knocked him flat again - by this point, Mo was making death checks and trying to stay awake. The other fighters sprung into action, as did Haz.
(Lucky for Mo, I rolled awful damage three times. I think I need to roll one by one or something, or just take average damage, which would be higher - avg damage is 59, I never rolled close.)
What followed was an interesting fight. Angus tried to get it to hit him, while he dodged around. It took a swing and missed. Hjalmarr whack it in the legs from behind, so it spun and tried to whack him. Hjalmarr hit its sword and took a chunk out of it and then broke it a second later. Then Angus chipped at it from behind, and Mo ran up with his flail. It spun to face them and punched Mo (11d!) and knocked him flat. Angus hit it more, aiming for the abdomen crack, while Hjalmarr hit it from behind. Haz hit it with a 6d Explosive Lighting spell and zapped friend and foe alike, for not much effect. Finally they knocked it down - Hjalmarr took out its leg when it spun to punch Mo. It dropped to one knee and one fist, and Angus took it down with a few more slices. It fell into pieces . . . and through the now-cracked ceiling. Hjalmarr and Mo fell with it.
Haz climbed right down to work on Mo's wounds, only to to find him smashing the head apart. The eye they wanted as loot? It had fallen into pieces, and out of the socket.
The sounds attracted some attention, though, and they heard gorilla noises. They quickly packed up and fled to the southwest and used Conceal.
Sadly, flesh-eating apes have Discriminatory Smell, and tracked them down. A man in hooded robes and five apes found them and attacked. Haz put up a full-strength Windstorm but the apes charged through (although one briefly fell) and into them. Mo put one down, Angus dropped three, and Hjalmarr hacked off one's arm and then killed it a second later. The man tried to throw an Explosive Skull Missile but it was diverted by the storm, so he fled (pursued by the storm.) A Great Haste Angus chased him, but he was gone.
They decided to hang out and zombie the apes, after Gerry finished draining the still-living of vitality and energy. But when some giant ants started to come around, they decided they'd eventually be worn down and had to move. They managed to zombie up two apes.
They reached a building they called a "ziggurat" but which was a multi-story building. They found three doors and sent one of their two zombie apes in. It shouldered its way through the door but somehow the ceiling and wall fell on it and crushed it to death. Angus climbed up to the top floor, and found a "glass" sunlight and looked down into a hazy green oval. He climbed back down and said something about a "giant green emerald" and that they should go in and look.
They tried a couple entrances and found a way in that wasn't in imminent danger of collapse. A few staircases later and they found themselves in a red-mosaic floored room lined with windows and faded frescoes. In the center was a mosaic oval of circular stones with a red mortar holding them together. Gerry and Haz could, using their magical senses, see a six fingered hand (wrist east, fingers west) made of slightly-magical stones. It was slightly slick with accumulated slime from element exposure, but yes, it was there and visible only to the magically sensitive.
They decided it was pointed at the next building, so they checked a few other rooms and then went next door. Sadly, next door was just a burned out ruin with some clearly cooked-and-eaten bones and scorch marks on the walls.
Running low on time, they headed along the wall to what Hasdrubal insisted was "the armoury."
They arrived after spotting some man-sized beetles in the distance down a road. Around this time, Haz started naming all of the streets - "Crap Avenue. Crap Boulevard. Crap Street. Crap Court. Crap Terrance." He's kind of negative when the money isn't flowing.
They made it to the "armoury" (also called "building #3" for reasons I don't recall) and found many doors - one of which was partly open. It took the ape-zombie three tries to get it open.
Inside was, indeed, an armoury. But a looted one - 40,000 square feet of storage area, mostly full of rotted wood, rusted metal bits, and broken stone shelves. Using the light stone they'd made for the previous building exploration, they found there were some 10 x 10 or 15 x 15 areas closed off - most of which had been opened and plundered.
They searched around, and Gerry noticed one "block" was covered with piled stone racks with a door behind it. 30 minutes of clearing later, they reached a stone door. The ape-zombie couldn't budge it, but after two tries Hjalmarr was able to crowbar it open.
It opened and a skeleton fell out. It was of a man who'd died trying to bash the door open. His broken sledgehammer was next to him - head broken, handle broken, a vial tossed to the side. Inside was a great supply of weapons - spears, bows, arrows, dozens of machetes of different sizes, a few polearms, leather armor (Quenton swapped his helmet for a D'Aboan style one), and so on. Also, 6 silvered small machetes, 2 silvered machetes, and 1 silvered huge machete with a golden amulet welded to the hilt - all fine.
The PCs basically loaded up all of their bags with machetes, bows, etc. and strapped weapons all over the ape (and tied a bundle made from Angus's tent to it, as well) until they were close to dropped below Move 4. Then they skedaddled.
They originally planned to block the door, but the sun was setting and they wanted to be out of the town by nightfall. They also originally planned to leave via the switchback trail but logic (go back the way you know vs. explore new ground on the way out) prevailed.
They headed out and away. They spotted some short guys off in the distance with a dog - Angus guessed at what they might be (I joked it was zombie Rahtnar, now with an evil dog companion).
As they left, they heard a creepy and disturbing scream in the distance, like a woman's scream of terror cut short. Then some bird cries, then, nothing. They finished their climb and left.
They made it back to town with good speed thanks to perfect weather 2 out of 3 days, and no seriously delays. They managed to get just over 1000 sp apiece, and found the oil was a magical Oil of Puissance and the machete had a Demonhunter Medallion on it (as in DF6, but a little stronger.)
What's the funniest to me in this session was, when I re-purposed the I1 Dwellers of the Forbidden City map, was that "building #3," as they called it, seemed like a natural place to be a weapons depot or armoury. So I was secretly very pleased when Hasdrubal's player pointed at it and said so, too. That's probably why I spent extra time detailing it (no "here are the basics, wing it if they go") and making a handout sheet. I knew someone would identify the suspiciously intact building surrounded by damaged buildings as one worth going to.
Speaking of re-purposing the map, am I worried that my players or commenters on the blog will reveal stuff? No. It's really just a map re-purpose. I got a blank version and put down my own locations. I used the same features but not the same encounters. What might be Area F on the module map might be nothing at all on mine. So it's a non-issue. But it makes it much easier for the players to navigate and pick targets, for people at home to see what's going on, and for me - my job is filling in detail, not spending hours mapping a city and describing it. So whatever you know about I1, it's probably not going to help much here. Way, way too much has been changed. The handout was a great success, though, as they've marked up the building, they're going into ways into and out of the city, what is worth checking out, what's a low-priority target, etc. Great stuff - and they can do it by email, too. Win, win, win.
I just want to say, my experience back in the day running Pitz Burke for my cousins' PCs in Gamma World paid off in spades here. I used a "search turn" like time setup for exploration, a rough idea of what's in the empty buildings, and a good set of concepts to fill in around the keyed and detailed areas. It worked extremely well.
The stone golem fight was a lot of fun, even though I rolled awful on damage. Not that I want PCs to die, but I don't like rolling sub-average damage all the time with my "scary" monsters. 13d+7 shouldn't be a yawner, it should be making you think about your next guy and if you can stay below -10xHP and be up for Resurrection. I assumed the PCs would think it was a golem and try to attack it - and yes, it was down on HP to start with. And had Wounded. Fun fight.
As always, there aren't really fights on the way home through the wilderness. I count all "lethal encounter" rolls as time delays, and discourage extra resting and slowing down with extra rolls. It makes the trip home hard, and a real logistical issue, but doesn't take a lot of out-of-game time.
XP for the trip was 6 points - 5 for 5x their threshold in loot, +1 for no deaths (my players really like that one), +0 for expected level of exploration. I realized 5x in loot is too low, so I'll re-tool the XP for next time and post the new plan. I have a suggestion out already - I'll post it before next session.
Speaking of the next session, it's in 4 weeks - 2 weeks from now should be Gamma Terra. We'll switch off between them for a while.