May 15th, 2016
Weather: Warm, cloudy.
Characters (approximate net point total)
Dryst, halfling wizard (395 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (267 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (269 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (135 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (271 points)
Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (267 points)
Vryce, human knight (468 points)
Angus "Mithrilbraid" McSwashy, dwarf swashbuckler (261 points)
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)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
5 skeletons (~25 points) (one is a hunchbacked zombie)
Honus Honusson, human barbarian (302 points)
Kenner Baumfellen, wood elf scout (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
We started in town, as always. Raggi wasn't available, sadly, but oddly (see the notes.) The group gathered rumors and finished equipping. Notably, this included Vryce and Dryst. Vryce had some money, and during the downtime equipped himself with ornate heavy plate (enchanted) and cloth armor underneath, and had a fine Puissance +1 greatsword made for himself. We did that all this session, but we'd agreed he'd had the downtime to do it but the player didn't feel like sitting down and doing the equipment list until he needed to . . . and he hadn't been expecting to run Vryce today.
The rumors were a mixed bag of proverbs, rumors, and even one grumpy complaint. That last one was - and I quote - "Why don’t you guys just kill the orcs? They say all this delving into Felltower is what stirred them up, which means you did, right?" Clearly, any hope that the town will scare up money to pay the delvers for orc ears or to wipe out the orcs is pretty low. The decided they'd negotiate with the orcs for passage, and their goal was a metal door in the orc-held area they felt that had a key to. Dryst had found the key in the room of pools, and a vision had showed him a black metal door. That was the door, so that's where they'd go. If it failed, they had a backup area they'd negotiate for.
Geared up, the group made lightstones and headed out to Felltower. Partway up the hill they stashed their "ladder" - the ladder-turned-bridge for assaulting the main entrance. They went up and right up to the castle, and demanded to talk to the orcs. Naturally, the orcs told them to clear off and shot an arrow at Hasdrubel, the spokesman. It missed due to Missile Shield, and Hasdrubel sneered at them and made his demand again in Orcish (thanks to Gift of Tongues from Dryst.)
They kept talking, though, and eventually worked through some orcs to one able to make decisions. It took more than 90 minutes and repeated bouts of negotiations, with the PCs offering 300 sp and a small share to the orc's demand for 300 per person and 25%. In the end the PCs agreed to pay 1000 sp total for safe passage to a "black door" in an octagonal room which they clearly described, and the orcs get 1/4th of the loot. The usual trouble started immediately - the PCs would pay half, then half more once inside. They tied a bag of coins to a rope but Mo wouldn't let the rope up until they were in. So the orcs closed the door. Then when they went inside, the orcs demanded the second half. No, not until we're inside the dungeon and by the door. No, now, drop it on the group, Mo tossed it hard to an orc. It kept going like that - basically each side pushing the other, although it was mostly the PCs pushing.
The orcs took them down into the dungeon, past some devil dogs (that growled at Dryst and across the pit on a rickety bridge. They walked them through the echo room, and down a large corridor. "Wait!" said Hjalmarr, consulting the map. "Aren't these No Mana Zones?" They demanded to go another way. The orcs took them around and then back towards the NMZs (there is another that blocks the next convenient way to level 2). Again, no, take us the long way. They did.
(Was that a malicious circumvention of the deal? Was that orc humor? Is that the orcs not caring, since they don't need magical light sources and probably notice No Mana Zones not at all? The PCs didn't seem to care as long as it didn't affect them. The orcs did open doors for them and point out some "gold" coins that are actually a trap, which confuses the issue a little, too.)
From there they went through one statue room to the one with the unopenable door. They passed the "orc hole" - as it's called on their map - but an orc stood guard and there was a curtain up.
They examined the statue, and then the door. Of course, Dryst was still invisible, so they did some song-and-dance to get the key from invisible Dryst without the orcs noticing. This was almost certainly not successful, even with how generous I am with dealings between invisible people and their fellow party members. Gale took the key and looked for the keyhole. No keyhole. Er, what?
No keyhole. Just a meteoric iron door, not black, just scorched black in some sections and with black scorches on the floor in front of it. A big ring in the middle. A tug - even a tug with the key in contact, after the key was in contact, by someone else while the key was held, etc. - did nothing, as if the ring was set in a solid stone wall.
Hasdrubel tried to blame this on the orcs, but his default Fast-Talk wasn't very good. His protests that "We said the black door, blaaaaaacccckkkkk dooooooor!" didn't cut it. The orcs mostly chuckled - lots of them had come to watch. The orcs did agree to take them to the "crazy pit" after they explained what that was.
The orcs led them there, and they saw a bas relief of a demon in the lizard man area that yes, matched Gerry's description and sketches of the demons in Sakatha's lair. (Hasdrubel has a whole Sakatha thing going on, probably because his now-dead brother sent him letters gloating over his great adventuring career. Seemed the type, anyway.) Hmm. Past that they found a noisemaker-surrounded pit down to the flooded prison.
They made it down, walked to the water's edge, and called out hellos. The crazies recognized them. Vryce didn't have his manacle of friendship, but they welcomed them anyway as "dwellers of the level above." They brought boats and rafts to bring them along. Gale magnanimously used Shape Water to try and help push the raft along, to impress the crazies. They were impressed a bit. Turns out Gale knows a lot of water related magic - that is what kind of druid he is. They made to the dry cell block of the crazies and met the Warden. He was pleased they were back and that Vryce didn't seem to have the mind-protecting headband anymore. When assured it was "gone" he seemed relieved.
The Warden, the Champion, and a select number of his men sat and ate a "feast of welcome" with the crazies. It was raw fish, warm bowls of slime, and dried bats. You dip the bat wings in the slime. How do they warm up the slime, given that they don't seem to use fire? No one asked. Probably for the best.
Hasdrubel made an error by asking if there was another way out of the prison level. They went pale as he'd broached a taboo subject, and one told him, "There is no other way!" They found out the crazies occasionally climb up to the level above and hunt the "new green skins," probably meaning the orcs since the lizard men are all gone. It was noted earlier that the orcs abandoned the lizard man area and kept it blocked, locked, and barred off, plus the noisemakers. And Big John the troll? They leave him alone, and vice-versa. The ghosts are forbidden, haunted, and left alone.
They offered to help the crazies with any tasks - since that had been mentioned before. They asked them to take care of some fishmen that occasionally kill the crazies when they fish in the "great ocean" (the watery area.) They agreed to help the crazies. For how much? It was never broached. Later Mo would remark on it being "riches undreamed of." Gale said, "You mean 75% of riches undreamed of." Hasdrubel changed this to "fishes undreamed of," which is probably right.
They took two rowboats and crewed them with skilled Created Servants with Boating-16. They rowed out to where the fishmen were holed up and docked. As they began to get out, Vryce went through the arch into the flooded cells area. Immediately a water elemental rose up and blasted him with water. He Dodged and Mo took it on his shield, getting pushed backwards slightly. As that happened, four fishmen popped up out of the water and to their feet bracketing Vryce. Dryst Great Hasted himself, "the best move in all fights!" he claimed.
As this happened, razor fish started to jump into the air and attack the PCs. "Not my servants?" said Dryst's player. No, not them. He wanted them gone because they're each -1 to his spells, but cost 1 turn and 1 FP to dispel early. But instead the fish leapt at the living. Gale was savagely bitten by one. So was Ike. Hjalmarr had to bat one side with his shield. Another bit at Kian, who was still in the boat getting up with her crossbow in hand. It snapped on her right arm, and did a bit past twice the crippling threshold - dismemberment. The fish bit her arm in two at the elbow and splashed into the water with her forearm and hand. She screamed. Ike's leg was crippled, but not (in the end) permanently.
The razor fish that ended up on the docks got quickly pounded and sliced and zapped, but more kept leaping to the attack and then flopping away into the water. They are big, for fish - around 36" and thick, like a stumpy muskie a too-thick northern pike.
Meanwhile, Vryce sliced down one of the fishmen. Another stabbed him the foot with a barbed spear. Mo whacked one. Hjalmarr got speared, in melee or a thrown spear, I can't recall now, but soon his foe was down and Mo brained him. Vryce parried some thrown spears and Dodged some water jets from the elemental. But twice his body wrenched as a spell hit him - and only Luck (first time on the caster's spell roll, the second on his HT roll) spared him. Hasdrubel cast Identify Spell - it was Shapeshift Other (Fish). Dryst put Water Vision on himself and floated into the flooded cell block. Hjalmarr pulled out the barbed spear stuck in his chest with some effort and a good Will roll.
In a few moments the excitment with over . . . briefly. The wounded fishman dove away, as did an unwounded one. Three were left behind. The wounded - Brother Ike, Gale, and Kian - were pulled into the cell block. Everyone crammed into a 10 x 10' flooded block of stone inside the archway and Dryst ordered his servants to jump into the water, submerge and hold their breath. With resigned sighs, they did so. After a short time, they faded out, drowned or bitten.
The PCs decided to clump together to avoid the razor fish. Not that they had anywhere else to go, but you can sense the change from "We're fighting" to "pass me that potion, and let me know when 2 minutes go by so I can get some FP back." The fishmen were using the lull to regroup and get ready to attack again, too, and instead of reeling from sudden casualties they were able to replenish and fight on their own terms.
While the PCs were still trying to get sorted, the water elemental popped back up and let loose with a tidal wave-like wall of water. It smashed into the PCs. Vryce and a few others remained standing, but enough were knocked flat and Hasdrubel and Ike were washed into the water. Hasdrubel, despite being a nautical wizard, didn't have Swimming . . . but he rolled a 4 on his default, so I let him spend a point then and there to learn it. He did.
Then eight giant electric eels moved in, as dig six especially fierce razor fish (they had the Determined prefix.) The eels zapped Hasdrubel and Ike, which didn't do that much damage but added stunning to the mix. The razor fish snapped at them, too. And two fishmen moved along the bottom to stab up at the swimmers. In moments Hasdrubel was unconscious, and Dryst's magic couldn't nail the fishman who did it.
The PCs fought in place, Vryce stabbing down into the water at fish and eels and Gale trying to haul Hasdrubel out. Hjalmarr tossed his axe aside and hauled in Ike, who was again severely wounded. Meanwhile the water elemental did its wave thing again, knocked many of the PCs flat again but luckily dumping no one in the drink.
Gale responsed by finishing a big Freeze spell, turning the "flanks" of their interior area into ice as well a lip past it, all 3" thick. No more flanking. Meanwhile they threw Explosive Lightning at the water elemental, after previous spear and lightning attacks did little (it's Diffuse.) It was wounded but not slain, especially after it rolled a 3 on its Dodge versus one of the spells.
With that, they decided they finally needed to go underwater after the fishmen - it's not like the fishmen were going to have a dry lair somewhere to fly over to and attack. In the drink or go home. So they started whipping spells on their three best fighters - Mo, Vryce, and Hjalmarr - and into the water they went, escorted by Dryst overhead with Water Vision. They got about halfway across the room before the eels, fish, and fishmen attacked in waves, and the water elemental too.
The fight underwater was a close-in one. Mo wounded an eel after getting zapped, and then wounded a fishman before getting swarmed by a razor fish and the fishman caster. The caster put a spell on him with a touch, but Mo rolled a three on his resistance, causing an automatic failure of the spell and triggered Mo's player to give me an arm-and-hand combo North Jersey salute in celebration. The caster then bit him on the face, but his tough skin and beard helped him there. Vryce meanwhile killed some fish, got grabbed by the water elemental for 9 CP, and then casually broke free for 11 CP. He started hilt-punching the water elemental to death and moving to the surface, where Dryst and Hasdrubel waited with Explosive Lightning . . . Dryst having put Resist Lightning on Vryce for this very exigency. Hjalmarr fought with a fishman and they mutually stabbed each other with barbed spears, and the fishman kept dragging him down to foul him up and let the razor fish eat him. It didn't work but it did result in Hjalmarr getting bitten a fair amount.
Vryce did reach the surface, and got the elemental zapped. And then he punched it to -1 x HP and it faded. Vryce then stabbed the fishman attacking Hjalmarr and killed it. Mo seemed in a bad way, so despite refusing to do it many times earlier, Vryce decided to attack into close combat. He rolled an 18, fouling his up second attack and running Mo through the leg. Lucky, that, he only did 11 injury, and didn't do an Asher on Mo. A few moments later the fishman caster was off of Mo and they attacked and slew it, and finished off the last eel and razor fish, too.
We ended there.
I seem to have misplaced Raggi's printout, so he wasn't available. That didn't sit well with all of my players, but hey, sometimes the GM loses a record sheet and that's that. I couldn't print out a replacement at the game, and it's hard to run game off of my PC and run an NPC off of a file on my PC at the same time. I've done it, it sucks. I'm still struggling with sections of my dungeon where I got lazy and didn't plug in a short monster stat summary.
Shapeshift Other (Fish)? Works exactly like you'd expect.
I forgot to enforce the -4 per yard of reach for long weapons underwater. Still seems odd that a spear gets that penalty, but maybe it's not. In any case, my players argued that you should be able to Retreat underwater. No way, not even with Swim. The Swim spell is expensive but extremely useful; it was annoying to have to say about three times that it wasn't D&D's "Free Action" so no swinging attacks, no throwing weapons underwater, no Blocking, no slams with shields, etc. It's effective enough in removing your combat skill cap for Swimming skill and giving you full move underwater.
Session MVP was voted very early and stuck - Hjalmarr, because the player noticed that the orcs were going to walk them into a No Mana Zone. Then, when the orcs were going to walk them into the same No Mana Zone, he insisted on the long way around.
Vryce's offensive power really told, here. With ST 20 and Striking ST 1 and Weapon Master, plus Two-Handed Sword-27, he was dealing 2d+9 impaling and 4d+13 cutting with his sword, and even hilt punched at 2d. He's a defense-first fighter, but never lacked offensive power. It was clear in this session when Hjalmarr and Mo would hit stuff for 2d or 3d damage and wound them badly, and Vryce would roll below-average damage and practically automatically kill things. At least once he one-shotted a foe down to -3xHP. It's easy to think, "I need to maximize my defenses first" but the upside of offense is that one good blow can end a threat, instead of being the first step in forcing a foe down further down the death spiral.
I busted out some new dice, and rolled a huge pile of 3s and 4s. Lots of 3s and 4s. This made for a lot of hits by the razor fish. Also, I rolled very high on damage pretty consistently right until the end, when I rolled a bunch of ones against Hjalmarr. It made for a bloody fight, but also a fun one. Foes biting for 2d+1 cutting roll 3 damage is kind of lame. Rolling 10+ regularly?
A good limitation on Create Servant would be that you have the skill you're lending, and capped at 16. In case you have a "skilled servant" abuse problem. I don't, I'm just saying that one would work as a sensible limitation.
How did the fishmen come from "fully submerged" to "standing" in one turn? Fast swim, right out of the water, and land. If Chris Krieder can jump out of a pool, why can't a fishman one-up that?
A rare split session - I hate to do these, but it was late, late, late. I was hoping to end it earlier, but the fight dragged a bit - at least partly because the PCs really didn't want to commit to getting in the water and fighting there. There are good reasons for that, but it was get in and fight or back off and fail to complete their agreed task, so it turned out to be delaying the inevitable. Still, I didn't want to rush the end into "and then you gather all the loot, hidden or not, and get back to the Warden, and they give you a reward, and you get past the orcs, and you split it with them or not, and then back to town." That wouldn't work. We needed at least 30 more minutes and I had -120 minutes. We'll pick up in the place we left them, and if they hurry out we'll get in a split session. If they dither, it'll just turn out to be a two-part session. Since XP are awarded by delve, not by session, there is real incentive to getting out and back in.
If I can post up a picture of the player's map of the prison level, I will. I know one of the players took some snaps during play.
Druid spells in the prison are at -3, -1 if directly affecting the water (it's more natural). So Swim was at -3, but Freeze and Shape Water were at -1.