Monday, September 12, 2016

DF Game Session 79, Felltower 52

Date: September 11th, 2016

Weather: Clear, breezy.

Dryst, halfling wizard (417 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (287 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (292 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (283 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (145 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (291 points)
     Kian, human pirate (~65 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (279 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)

We started in town, as usual. Surprisingly, someone made the appearance roll for Raggi, and he was in town and looking to fill out "Raggi's Roughnecks" for a delve. The group gathered rumors, replenished supplies, got magical repairs and healing, and otherwise got ready for the next delve.

They headed off, out of the North Gate, over the Stone Bridge across the Silver River, and so on, and eventually came to the castle.

The negotiations with the orcs were formulaic - wait out the initial arrows intended to kill them, talk, pay 500 sp up front and 500 sp more once inside the gates, ask after Glarg's wife and sons, asked if anything had eaten orcs lately (no, they seemed to have dealt with that last time), and headed down into the dungeon. "These guys are loaded!" said Hjalmarr, which probably isn't far from true.

The PCs had a main goal and a backup goal* when they headed out. The main goal? These stairs:

They weren't really sure anymore if they'd gone down those stairs or not. They knew they weren't sure, and figured it was worth checking.

They headed in that direction. They got lost briefly trying to follow their own maps, got regaled by stories from Raggi ("We killed a bunch of gnolls in this room. Good times.") and eventually found the stairs to the next level. They had to force the locked door on the ogre's room, and headed down the stairs.

They confidently moved ahead, and I had to backtrack the group when they said, "Down the stairs to the door on the right, we open the door . . . " and say, "As Brother Ike steps on the bottom step, it cracks . . ." They walked right into a trap. The bottom step had a new, thin, hollow layer of stone put on it. It cracked open and released a gas. It was poisonous, but no one succumbed, and Purify Air cleared out the gas. It left a thin film, though - Gale identified it as a fungal extract that, if powdered (like it was), was a powerful attractant for stirges. They cleaned it off with Air Jet and a timely critical success (a 4.)

They moved on, and to the room with an arrow carved in the floor. They backtracked to the secret door it pointed at, but - despite See Secrets and Keen Vision - they couldn't figure out how to open it. No one could remember how to do it. So they moved on.

As they moved ahead, some stirges - first six, then maybe a dozen or so, attacked. In a brief and bloody fight, the PCs chopped, slashed, and electrocuted all of them - but in the meantime Mo and Raggi got stirge'd and nearly lost eyes to them, but good Crippling Injury rolls and timely healing dealt with that.

The PCs worked their way to the chamber with the crystal in the ceiling. As their lead servant moved in, it snapped a thin wire tripwire and was sprayed with Alchemist's Fire. It died. Dryst used Extinguish Fire and they moved in, watching their back and front. Nothing, though - only a one-shot siphon that had been filled with the flammable mix.

Mo smashed what was left of the crystal in the ceiling and took a hunk of it as loot and/or throwing weapon. They eventually made their way to a chamber where there were once flame lords, but now was a bunch of mold. As in, hundreds of square feet of brown, crunchy, rough, rock-lichen-sharp mold. Gale identified it as sickness-causing.

They decided burning it - even with Purify Air to keep the smoke off of them - was too dangerous. So they sent a magical servant ahead with a Create Object "snow shovel" to clear it. Dryst had rolled a critical creating a servant, so he got a Brute servant. They sent that one ahead with the shovel.

It last a minute or two of attempted scraping before it wilted until the sickness of the mold-spores.

In the end they decided to just levitate past it. They did, each taking a HT-4 roll from the aerial spores instead of a series of them from stirring them up further. A good number of PCs got mold-sick, and all except Gerry had their clothes coated and food spoiled. Gerry avoided this with Ethereal Body and having his skeletons carry his stuff in a Create Object wrap.

They found a room - marked "snake room" on their map - and moved in. There were two giant glow beetles in the room. Mo smashed one and Dryst fried the other with Lightning. Hjalmarr bravely waited outside, having beetle-related anxiety. Gale harvested one's glow glands, and they rested after their energy expenditure.

They moved into the room with the stairs, ignoring the rotatable statue, and down the stairs after tossing glow glands ahead to test the way. No traps - although they muttered a lot about needing to find "the gnome" and deal with him.

At the bottom of the stairs was a long room, 30' wide and maybe three times that long, with an exit out the opposite side and four archways spaced evenly on either side. They found found many broken urns and scattered bones from skeletons, niches with clearly searched bones (shoved to one side to make it clear which had been dealt with), and broken stone that was what was left of golems. Also, each of the side passages ended with big purple six-fingered hand symbols. They didn't find any loot, and had discussions about whether they'd been there before. Dryst announced they'd never seen purple six-fingered hands before, and everyone else was either a new delver or Raggi, who doesn't care or remember or care to remember things.

The far end of the corridor held a passage lined few yards with bas relief faces, much like the black energy-shooting ones they'd seen before. A servant was sent down to scout. It found only two double doors - big grey metal ones painted with a white axe-and-sword over tower motif. Nothing blasted it, despite evidence the faces did just that in the past - scorches and burn marks between them. The servant couldn't open the the doors.

Hjalmarr went down, after getting Resist Fire, Resist Acid, and Resist Lightning on him. He wondered aloud why he wasn't so shielded all the time, but Dryst ignored that.

Nothing blasted him, and he couldn't budge the doors. More of the bruiser types, plus Dryst, came up to the doors. It took three tries, but Mo and Raggi eventually forced the big valves open.

Inside was a 13 yard circumference room, with a semi-circular dais with a sarcophagus on it, two flail-holding obviously-golem warrior statues on pedastals, and lots of evil-looking decorations on the walls and sarcophagus.

As the group debated how to move in, what to do, etc. the sarcophagus opened. A mummy sat up in it, saw them, and stood up. The two golems animated and stepped forward. (Another "things happen while you debate what to do" moment.)

The PCs cautiously moved in. Raggi charged. Mo lamented, "Raggi shows me how it's done." Raggi doesn't have a self-preservation instinct. The folks in the back - Ike, Gale, Gerry, and the skeletons - ran forward to catch up.

In short, a big fight broke out. The PCs ran in to follow Raggi. He ran right up, got his leg crippled by a golem, and went right down** at the feet of a golem. The PCs ran up. Meanwhile the mummy didn't do much - except to concentrate and starting casting spells on itself and its golems. These would later be revealed to be Shield and Resist Fire - and after the PCs revealed their main missile spell - Resist Lightning.

As the PCs pressed in, two toxic skulls - thinking flaming skulls, except toxic - appeared and joined the fray.

I won't summarize the whole fight, which took hours. The short version was:

- the PCs charged the golems. They turned out to be magically Shielded Elite Juggernaut stone golems layered with bronze plates armed with flails. They fought well but gave ground to use their 2-hex reach to advantage.
- the PCs rolled a lot of critical failures. Dropped weapons and falling down was typical - and only Signature Gear kept Hjalmarr's axe from breaking.
- the PCs concentrated heavily on the golems and skulls and not the mummy.
- Hasdrubel managed to take out their own healer.

The PCs basically whittled down the golems first, but it was costly and ugly. Unable to easily flank them, they were forced to Great Haste most of the fighters and all of the wizards. The flying toxic skulls were an issue, and after Raggi went down - followed by Mo, also with a leg cripple - an attempt to fry one of them by Hasdrubel also fried Brother Ike. He rolled a 17 on his stunning roll and ended up twitching the rest of the fight. A few massive Stone Missile and Skull Missile spells helped weaken the golems, and eventually they went down, but not before Mo and Raggi fought from their backs or crawled for most of the fight. Hjalmarr managed to slash the mummy's leg badly and that trigged it using Iron Arm to deal with his attacks. Raggi even grappled one for around 30 or so CP over multiple turns and dragged one to the floor, in the midst of a Fog spell put up by Gale. Eventually Hjalmarr got knocked out, then woken back up magicaly, and stood back into the fray.

The mummy tried to engage Dryst when he closed but failed - and Kian charged him. He grabbed her around the neck and crushed her larynx, and tossed her skull-first into his sacrophagus's side and left her for dead, mortally wounded. Gale tried to snag the mummy's amulet, successfully guessing it was the key to his supernatural toughness. He barely missed (by 1) and was taken out by the toxic skulls.

Dyrst moved around throwing Air Vision on allies and explosive spells to catch toxic skulls in the area effect; Hasdrubel was much less discerning and managed a lot of friendly fire damage but also finished a golem and badly damaged one of the toxic skulls.

In the end, the mummy ran out of the Fog Gale created to shield his grab at the amulet, Hasdrubel tried and failed to burn it with Alchemist's Fire (sorry, Resist Fire is a natural for a mummy spellcaster), and it just hung out in the flames and made them come to it. Mo tried to slam it (nope, much stronger than him), Gerry used Hidden Lore to determined Gale was right, and they eventually cut off its talisman. Hjalmmar beat it to death in short order after that. They used Extinguish Fire to suppress the flames and recovery their gear and goods.

(I know my players are disappointed at this rough summary - lots of heroics happened. But this fight was hours in real world time, maybe 30+ seconds in game time, and it would take that to re-write it here, even if I remembered it turn by turn.)

Once the mummy was down, took only a few more seconds to deal with the toxic skulls.

They looted the place, taking the mummy's mace (ornate, and magical until it broke on a critical failure, then repaired back to mundane value by Dryst), a candelabra with black candles, six gold passage coins, six chunks of opal, six potions (which seemed to be Great Healing but were actually poison), a charged skull scroll, an unholy symbol, a chalice, and some other goods.

They also found (and I forgot to mention until after game, see below) a six-fingered hand print on the wall, cultist-themed carvings on the sarcophagus, and two skull-less skeletons of northerners smashed up and tossed behind the left door. No exists proved extant, and they had to remove themselves to the bones-ash-and-golem-bits strewn room to rest and heal as this was a No Sanctity zone. Kian, horridly manged by the mummy, died, and they took her back to the surface. Two skeletons were annihilated, and so was the hunchback zombie Gerry had been keeping around since the Lost City.

They passed the mold the same way (suffering more ill effects) and gave the orcs the candelabra and some opal chunks. The orcs asked fore the mace instead, which was a solid gain for the PCs. They went with it, and went home.

Back in town, Kian was laid to rest with Final Rest.

* The missile complex at Laputa. I mean, something else - I'm not sure what they settled on.

** One of Raggi's two typical moves - charge and kill, charge and be killed.


We ended late, so I forgot to mention the hand on the wall and the skeletons behind the (left) door). It didn't matter for the session, but I will allow any ret-con actions that fit the moment before we start play next time. It was late - more than two hours past my maximum end time, thanks to "Monday" getting turned into "Tuesday plus Monday" on my schedule. Even so, one player had to leave earlier than the end of the session.

The players couldn't recall if they'd ever been to this area before. I know the answer, but I'll let them figure it out. They're certain they've never encountered purple six-fingered hand symbols, though.

I thought it was an interesting choice - ignore the spellcaster boss and work on his heavily buffed golem guards first. It worked, but it wasn't cheap. Or quick. They expended a serious amount of resources to win this fight. It wasn't intended as a lesson, but I expect the players will understand how I feel when they take guys with defenses in the high teens and put Shield +5 on them and then Retreat for a +1 to +3.

The mold inflicted stat and defense penalties - and these often proved the difference between success and failure.

XP was 4 each - everyone hit their loot threshold (4 xp), they only explored a single new area (0 xp), and they did not have a clean run since an NPC died (0 xp). The "clean run bonus" effectively is required unless you get a lot of loot and also do significant exploration. That was the tradeoff in the XP system we agreed upon. Some of the players will argue that any new areas should be worth +1, but then I end up having to reveal if they've found a new area (sometimes, they aren't sure) and encourage "find a new room, stop exploring" in order to get 6 xp (loot, exploration, clean run). I prefer to keep it more nebulous.

I'm not a huge fan of "I roll Skill X, what do I know?" I let it fly this time, but I vastly prefer using it for answering questions. The "What do I know?" question puts me on the spot - what do I reveal, what values the roll and the skill level properly, what is too much, what isn't enough? The "Do I know if they are X?" is easier - it's yes or no, and a skill roll success tells me to answer. It's a quandary.

My players tried some totally useless tactics - Mage Sight to see through the fog, Dispel Magic to kill toxic skulls, and a few others - which leads me to think they don't always pay attention to the text of spell descriptions. Oh well.

MVP was Gale, because he correctly determined the mummy's weakness.

Fun game, although it took longer than I though it would.

(Pictures are up: Sunday's Game in Pictures)


  1. What was the fate of Raggi?

    "Missile complex at Laputa" made me snigger, both because I've seen the movie and speak Spanish.

    1. He passed out after Hasdrubel hit him and everyone around him, including the golem he was grappling, with "friendly fire" from an Explosive Lightning spell. He's fine.

      I'm glad that reference made someone else laugh.

  2. Did Kian dieing cause Mo's value to drop?

  3. It was a rough fight and Kian finally got in a fight and died. The last time she lost an arm immediately to a razor fish and was out; I didn't have a chance to use her "Fire ST19 crossbow, then drop it and charge with cutlass swinging" ... I figured she could annoy the mummy so Hjallmarr could take it, but she didn't even slow him down as encumbrance when he lifted her by the throat.

    The fight got off to a bad start with two crippled legs on the damage sponge fighters. Mo was only at -3 HP which I think is a record. He managed to block flails while on his back and still get some hits in, thanks to Great Haste. Once the Fog rolled in, he made a self control roll to break his battle fury, suck down potions (I think Dryst also used a Major Healing spell stone on him) to heal his leg, and re-enter the fray.

    Hasdrubel took out Ike with intentional friendly fire, hoping to kill both Skull Spirit-like foes. Raggi was a result of a rare miss on an explosive lightning bolt. Mo's toughness DR kept him from taking enough damage to make the stun roll difficult.

    I think the only bad tactical move was protecting the fallen tanks from the flail golems instead of taking the mummy head-on. While I appreciate the backup, and Hjalmarr used sacrificial block to save Mo from a nasty blow, let us soak up the damage sometimes. Both Raggi and Mo have limped away at -88HP and -93HP respectively. It's obviously not ideal, but Mo carries 5 Major Healing potions for a reason (effective 10d6 x 2 HP healing, so average 70HP). He used 2 this time around. Might get a spell stone as well, faster if not cheaper.
    Sadly the Mummy broke its magical mace. I'm saving to have Puissance +1 put on one of Mo's morningstars for my first big purchase (then shatterproof). We need magic weapons that our main fighters can use with their primary weapon skills, when Vryce isn't around.

    1. Thanks for the extra detail!

      Kian slowed the down because he chose to kill her with his hands, not beat her to death with his mace. 4d+3 would have killed her outright, probably, especially since he would have had the same to hit roll for the throat and then the same defense roll by her, but instead of a bunch of CP it would have been 4d+3 crushing with a x1.5 injury multiplier.

      And that's a good point about the prone guys, I think. I want everyone concerned about getting much higher defenses to remember that moment - Blocking, while Prone (-3 to defenses), against a flail (-2 to Block), done as a Deceptive Attack 1 (-1 to defend), with no bonus for Retreat . . . you made those rolls with a -6 to defenses and no magical defensive buffs.

      You guys do need to invest in magical offense.

    2. Like the great one* said, "The best d-fence is a great o-fence".

      * Mell the cook on Alice.

  4. "The "Do I know if they are X?" is easier - it's yes or know, and a skill roll success tells me to answer."

    Interesting spellcheck error... or interesting way of looking at it if purposeful.

    1. Heh. It really is Know or No, isn't it?

    2. The problem with "Do I know if they are X?" is that there's a world of X, and I don't want to play 20 questions with the player either. It's not fun to be put on the spot, but I think I'd waste less time by telling a creature's weakness and abilities after some thought than having the player tease it out, question by question.

    3. That's also a problem. Although the players usually have very specific questions in mind - what are its vulnerable points, is it Homogenous, do they normally have No Brain, are they vulnerable to fire, what is it called. So they're not any more happy - I've had players roll a Hidden Lore skill by a lot, get a pile of information and say, "None of this is what I wanted to know." So if I'm not happy with picking out what to hand out, and they're not always getting the answer to they question they had in their heads, then it's probably not the right mechanic for us.

      I'm not really sure what solution to this I'll really like. After all, I do like the idea that PCs have knowledge and experience and that is available to (but also limits) the players. But I want most of the figuring things out to be player facings. Less "I rolled well, tell me what to do to win!" and more "I rolled well, so enhance what I know so I can figure out how to win on my own!"

      That's a hard balance.

    4. I deal with that by looking at their MoS. I tend give as many answers as they got MoS and let them pick which questions get answered (sometimes I'll give more answers, if it's supposed to be fairly 'common knowledge'). Some answers require multiple answer slots (for example "What is Asmodeus' weakness?" might 2 or 3 'answer' slots, where "What are werewolves weak to" would on be one).

      Also I weight skills based on the 'skill type': Occultism is the lowest tier, Professional knowledge the next (Theology, Thaumatology, HazMat, Archaeology, etc), and Hidden Lore the top.

    5. That's an interesting way to do it. I'd be concerned that if I weighted the skill's value, it would encourage people to avoid those skills. I'd go with a larger penalty.

      I have a post going on this, if I have time after tonight's work I'll finish it and post it up tomorrow.

    6. The way I see it:

      Occultism is for the characters who don't want to go to the effort to know the deep secrets, but would still like to know whether or not Silver is Good Against Werewolves and is it Steak or Stake that one takes to a Vampire Party.

      "Professional" Skills tend to be taken by people with a need for that skill, Clerics want Theology, Mages want Thaumatology, nature types might take Naturalist, etc. I 'weight' these skills a bit more than Occultism due to the narrower focus.

      Hidden Lore. These characters want to know /secrets/. As such they need to get full value for the extremely narrow focus of their skill.

    7. I use them as written and split up in DF2, p. 9.

    8. I think I'm drawing my use of "Occultism is broader but shallower than Professional Skill is broader but shallower than Hidden Lore" comes from Monster Hunters.

      I don't run DF. And the rule on DF 9 for Occultism is contradicted by pg 15 of DF 14 Psis... so I'd probably just keep my set up if I ran DF.

      Besides, my Players are somewhat used to it.

    9. Well, since I run DF, my thoughts and approaches of how I'll run this going forward are going to be DF-centric. DF14 does change up the usage of Occultism a bit, since DF2 implies it's for Elder Things, but that's fine - I don't use that many elder things, and I don't use much from DF14 except a few monsters. It's not really going to be game-relevant for Felltower.

  5. I recently had to answer a "I roll tactics for a good plan" with some info about the position of ninjas in the rafters.

    1. That sounds like exactly the kind of result I don't like about knowledge-type skills. It's one thing when they players want to know if their PCs know where a good place to stash rafter-top ambushers would be, but otherwise . . . ugh.

    2. Inversely (specifically with Tactics) that's what I like about that skill. And the info Denis gave was pretty nebulous, along the lines of "The ninjas will probably move along the sides of the upper floor avoiding the poison cloud area to get ahead of you and use the other murder holes...".

    3. I'd like to hear more of Denis's example.

      Generally, though, I do not want your dice rolls against skills to mean I tell you what your characters should do. If you discern someone else's tactics ("What are they trying to do?"), fine. If you want to answer a specific question ("If we guard our flanks by throwing down flames in those hexes, what's the potential downside?"), probably okay. If it's rolling to have me tell you good tactics, no, I'm not looking to run that game.

    4. Again, inversely, I know people who suck at tactics but occasionally want to play characters that should be good or great at handling tactical situations.

      This goes back to my philosophy of, It Is The Character Not The Player.

    5. I allow Tactics to be useful, but not replace player decisions. The player and the character is my approach.

    6. I ended up giving a more detailed description of what the layout was. It did not stop one of the mages from chucking an explosive fireball into an enclosed space where two of the party members were crawling through smoke released by a prior fireball igniting a bandoleer of nagatepos and a tear gas bomb the party ninja had put there. Lot's of impulsive characters in my group...


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