Monday, July 24, 2017

DF Felltower, Session 90, Felltower 63 - Gates & Phase Serpents

July 23rd, 2017

Weather: Intermittent rain and clouds.

Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Hasdrubul Stormcaller, human wizard (332 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (337 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (340 points)
Quenton Gale, human druid (312 points)
Vryce, human knight (494 points)

We started in town, gathering rumors and re-equipping. Alaric started to look into getting an owlbear cloak made as well.

Raggi was not available - it was a 12 or less, +1 for Vryce's reputation and +1 for $400 spent on a crier to look for him, but Vryce rolled a 15. Oh well, he must be on vacation.

The group decided to take a different way down to the second level, investigating a tunnel that had sat disused since they'd found it full of earth many, many sessions ago. After that, the plan was to go to the bottom of the big staircase and explore more, away from the gnolls and the Lord of Spite.

They made their way up to the castle, and then up and over the walls without mishap. They scouted ahead and saw no sign of the orcs in the pillboxes, so they put down their bridge and crossed. They made their way to where their old maps had marked a trap door in the floor. It took some searching but they found it.

They pried it open, expecting a two-way tunnel shaped like a J, possibly filled with earth. It was now a shorter, one-way tunnel, but equally J-shaped, with no earth in it.

First Mo climbed down and squeezed into the flat space (almost 9' wide, but only 3' tall) and scouted it out, and reported no trap door down. So he came back and Hasbdrubul went in following Gale. They shaped open the ceiling above a lower corridor where a trap door had formerly been. The group slowly climbed down. The corridor was labeled "Gnome Trap Corridor" on their map, so they waved off Mo's curiosity and ignored the doors and headed down.

They heard stirges nearby, but turned the other way and made their way up another door-lined corridor. As they passed a door, however, Alaric heard a sound and snapped around. The door opened and out burst the first of six rock trolls! The PCs immediately attacked. Alaric's arrows did little or nothing, bouncing off of the rocky forms. Hjalmarr put away his axe and got out Inquisitor Marco's Mace as Vryce and Mo rushed to the front. Gale and Hasdrubul began charging up Lightning spells.

The PCs tried to form a line, but Mo kept needing to back off to defend, and the rock trolls kept pressing into close combat to bite. Mo dropped his morninstar on a critical failure, and was forced to fall back on his axe swung peen-first. The fight see-sawed back and forth, but eventually Vryce's sword, Hjalmarr's mace, and hits from Mo and the lightning of the mages paid off. The rock trolls crumbled one by one, but not before landing a few blows and bites, wounding a couple of PCs. In the end they all fell, unwilling or unable to retreat. The PCs bound their wounds, checked the room (it was empty now), and gathered up splintered bits of eyes and gemstone teeth as loot. [I let them roll for the amount, which was fun for all.]

From there the PCs moved down the hallways until they reached the Giant Freaking Staircase and its metal door. Mo opened it.

They proceeded to the next landing, and tried to open the red-palm printed door. They're heard a rumor about blood sacrifices. So Mo cut his chest and smeared blood on his "stank hand" (the one that touched the palm prints) and tried the door. Nothing. Hasdrubul tried it, with Mo's blood. Nope. Gale tried it with his own blood. Nope. They gave up, deciding they'd misinterpreted (or misapplied) the rumor.

The made it down to the next level and carefully moved out and left, through the octagonal room where they'd fought the gnolls. The went left instead of right this time.

Around this time they noticed the air was a bit more stale and stifling than it had been. They tried to figure out what it could be - it wasn't an animal or monster odor, it wasn't gas, it was just more stale and less invigorating than the air normally would be. Hasdrubul and Brother Ike felt a little fatigued (failed HT rolls for -1 FP until they could get fresh air and real rest).

They headed to the "eye beast" room, where they'd fought the Ravening Eyes. They forced the door open and saw six gargoyles! Alaric took a shot at one but it dodged. He took a shot at another and it dodges as well. The PCs advanced into the room, Vryce yelling, "Get out! Beat it!" and things like that. His default Intimidation is not high, though, so they weren't impressed. Mo rushed in and tried to hit one of the gargoyles but they fell back. Vryce slashed one, wounding it severely. He yelled, "I said get out!" again. This time, they gargoyles fled. They clearly weren't interested in a fight, at least not this one, and split up, three and three flying out the different entrances. Hasdrubul tried to hit the fleeing wounded one with Explosive Lightning and missed; Mo chased him and equally missed on his Move and Attack. They gave up the pursuit after that.

They headed left, having gone straight out of the room the previous time. Once again, they found natural tunnels. Tucked into the corner of a small side cave was a grey-clad corpse, an old one. Hjalmarr investigated. He saw it had grey skill, pointed ears swept back, and bony plates on its skin like natural armor. He went and grabbed the corpse by the ankles and started to drag it. To his shock thumb-sized grubs burrowed out of the feet and into his hands! Only his mail gloves under his gauntlets helped him. His squeamishness couldn't take it, though, and he badly failed a fright check and started screaming and trying to shake them off. Alaric stepped up and shot one of the rot grubs (despite a -11 to hit!) and Brother Ike cast Cleansing on the corpse, killing the rest of them. The PCs had a good laugh at Hjalmarr's expense, then checked the corpse. It had only a dirty loincloth - rolled over, Vryce recognized it as a norker, which they know are a kind of hobgoblin although no one knows how exactly they're related.

The headed down more tunnels, passed an iron-bound heavy wooden door, and tried to squeeze down a very narrow tunnel. Has' got stuck Mo shoved him through. Then Ike got stuck so Gale shaped the stone aside to make it wider. They found more caves, and felt some wooziness and weakness around one cave. Again, Has and Ike suffered FP loss from it. They hurried on and found and forced another iron-bound door into the worked areas.

In the first room they found a black hemisphere on the ceiling. Mo broke it immediately, swiping it twice with his morningstar.

They moved down some corridors and found another 10 yard square room. As Alaric moved into the room, he was shot a jet of black fire. He was both injured and fatigued by it, and stumbled back. Standing outside the room, he scanned the ceiling and spotted a small purple disk in the ceiling. He shot that several times, breaking it into pieces. They moved in again, and no more jet of fire.

They took a left out of the room, and came into a room with a gate - and with a snakeman and nine large snakes! Alaric shot immediately (his goal is to kill one of everything, and these were new to him). The snakeman parried his arrow out of the air with his twin swords! Uh-oh.

The PCs attacked, as did their foes. They tried move up cautiously, waiting, as the snakes did the same. Vryce crushed a Shield spellstone. But as the PCs got too close, the snakes moved into action - they phased out and zipped insubstantially through PCs, walls, through ineffective Wait-triggered swings, etc. to get in, around, and behind the PCs. Instantly Ike was bit in the neck and went down, badly injured and heavily poisoned. Mo was bit.

What followed was a very nasty, confused brawl. The snakes were in and around the PCs. Everyone dodged, not sure that a parry would work. Alaric got surrounded and bitten repeatedly after critically failing and dropping his bow. He quickly was bitten repeatedly and felt unconscious from impaling and toxic damage. Vryce laid about himself with his sword but couldn't hit the snakes, who kept trying to dodge (usually failing) but then would phase a moment later. Hjalmar realized that the serpents would phase when hit and tried a shield rush. He went right through the snake and kept going, ending up just short of the now bow-armed snakeman.

The snakeman shot him but he blocked the shot, and then it drew its swords. Hjalmar took two swings - the first a critical hit, the second a normal hit. The snakeman phased from the second but the first was too quick and sliced him for 16 cutting damage, right into his bronze corselet, wounding him badly. The snakeman never regained the initiative, and Hjalmarr sliced him again a second later and knocked him down and unconscious, possibly dead (he dropped right away.) So he spent the next second cutting off his head with two hefty neck cuts.

Meanwhile Hasdrubul started throwing Explosive Lightning into the melee, hitting friend and foe alike to hurt the snakes. His first throw stunned a couple and mildly wounded others (and almost hurt Ike, too). His second attempt was a normal Lightning spell and the snake phased, so he switched back to 6d Explosive Lightning spells and tossed them at clusters. He zapped Mo badly and stunned him but also killed four serpents, then did it again against three more bothering Vryce. Gale helped out by throwing a pair of missiles from his Necklace of Fireballs (gifted to him by Hasdrubul, because Gale a) has Throwing, and b) doesn't have explosive spells), wounding a few phase serpents. His final throw was a critical miss, however, and he spiked his ruby at his own feet, setting his clothes on fire and wounding the serpent he was after. Once the snake was down, Gale stopped, dropped, and rolled while Hasdrubul used Create Water to dump water on his fellow delver.

In the end Vryce managed to parry one and slice it apart, and Hjalmar kicked the snakeman head at the serpents to scare them (it didn't work) and then parried one and sliced it. The realized parries worked, and so did piling attacks onto single serpents.

With all of them dead, they started in on healing. Luckily Mo had a Universal Antidote, which they used on Ike, and then fed him healing potions. Once he was back on his feet (he'd faked dead, again, and hadn't passed out) he started in on Instant Neutralize Poison and used his Combat Medic power-up to heal people quickly.

The PCs gathered up the snakeman's gear - an 80 pound bronze corselet, swords, a bow, and a Cornucopia Quiver - and took his head and the snake heads to salvage their brains for sale.

They inspected the gate. It seemed active, but they had no spells to scry with. They did find a carved fool's cap on the floor in front of the gate. [I explained it out of game - see the notes, below)].

It had gotten late, and resources were running down, so they headed back home. They made it, but made a wrong turn in the tunnels and found a four-way intersection including a narrow passage with carven stairs going down. They backed up and found the right way out. It took a while, and they heard the Lord of Spite walking around, but they made it to the GFS and up.

They spend some time messing around with the trap door into the tower knocked down way back in Felltower 1. They opened it from below, and figured out that when locked it is trapped with the black energy so common in Felltower. Mo got zapped trying to open it. He tried to pry the bar so it wouldn't lock anymore, but he utterly failed. So they gave up, got their bridge, and climbed the walls/Apportated the bridge over and went home.


We got a lot in this session because people generally stayed focused, and because fights didn't drag down into slogs.

MVP for this session was Hasdrubul, for electrocuting most of the phase serpents. XP for the others was mostly 5 (4 for loot, 1 for exploration) but only 3 for Vryce (2 for loot, even with almost half of the day's take, and 1 for exploration.)

Phase serpents and rock trolls are two of my originals that made it into Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 3: Born of Myth & Magic. The rock trolls are unchanged from their original writeup. The phase serpents are very slightly different - I changed their phasing ability from "once per turn" to multiple times, as written in the book. That made them as lethal as they should be - before, it was just hit them twice in one turn and they die. Ganging up on one is still the best tactic - witness the many failed attempts to cut them down. The phase snakeman? Uses the prefix from "the same book. He didn't do as well because Hjalmarr rolled a number of critical hits on him.

The fool's cap - the coxcomb cap - is my blatant in-game indication that anything that gate leads to is silly. No, check that, capital-S Silly. Also amusingly lethal, eminently lootable, and potentially nasty - but silly. I figured some players might not like to risk their lives in my own Dungeonland/Land Beyond the Magic Mirror. Apparently not - everyone seemed at the very least interested, and several players where really excited. Good! The PCs think it might be the fabled Tavern Level, but they saw no indication of that. So there are some doubts. That level might not actually even be really silly, even if it'll be much more lighthearted or less serious than other delves.

Today was the last session for Alaric for a while, as the player is heading off to college. This almost caused the Cornucopia Quiver to get sold, but then it was decided that Mo might be able to use that instead of his normal arrows. I think that might put paid plans to go after the orcs, since their scout is their best orc slayer. They passed on it this session because Vryce really wanted to go deep, and they made out well by doing so, but it's always a tradeoff when you choose what to do. Good, fun game session.


  1. Replies
    1. Hjalmar's player can tell you himself, he's got the exact wording.

  2. Will not handle old corpses. Just not happening. We're not sure of the exact threshold, but anything over a day is definitely out. That's no longer in his job description.

    He also "dislikes" rot grubs, but that's really a subset of a quirk he's had since character creation ("dislikes" arachnids and insects).

    1. Plus, to be fair, everyone dislikes rot grubs.

  3. Does deceptive attack work on the phasing ability?

    1. The one headed up by "Phase Dodge." I didn't want to spell this out in front of my players, but I guess I might have to: Nothing in there says it is an Active Defense. It's just a magical ability like a Blocking spell, and therefore is not affected by anything that would not also affect Blocking spells.

    2. Deceptive doesn't affect Blocking spells?

      Huh. Hmmm. Huh.

    3. They aren't active defenses, per se, they are spells. I see no reason (and no rules that state) that Blocking spell casting should be affected by Deceptive Attack, Feint, Bad Footing, etc. And once it's successfully cast, there isn't anything left to roll.

      And here is Kromm on the subject.

    4. Sorry, I wasn't questioning "your ruling"... I just never run vanilla magic (or rather I haven't yet for 4e) so this is one of the many, many things I've encountered while reading your session reports that has made me go "I didn't know it worked that way" or rather "Huh. Hmmm. Huh."

      Informative as well as entertaining!

  4. I'd love it if you do a further post on clarifications, use and abuse of phase serpents since I'm actually at that stage where I'm running the 'You all meet in a tavern' adventure

    1. I really do use the tactics and powers as written up in the boxed text in DFM3 - phase around to get back attacks and avoid barriers and "evade," Dodge first and phase if it fails, and be willing to Move and Attack and depend on Phase to get in extra strikes. That's about it. They're potentially lethal if they penetrate DR, harmless if they don't.

    2. So... Kalzazz... has the tavern level burned down yet?


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