Sunday was a scheduled Gamma Terra game, but one of the GT players couldn't make it. We'd have a very short crew. On top of that, the GM was busy right up until the night before game. So I volunteered to run Felltower instead. We still had a short crew, but since one of them was the player with the most powerful PC in the game, it seemed like it was the right move. We played Felltower and put off GT for a couple of weeks.
October 15th, 2017
Weather: Warm, wet.
Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (250 points)
Desmond MacDougall, human wizard (250 points)
Hayden the Unnamed Knight, human knight (250 points)
Vryce, human knight (497 points)
After the disastrous delve the previous time, a group of PCs again attempted to crack the six double doors in the caverns past "the dragon cave." Word had spread about the last attempt pretty quickly, as Church alarms meant to warn about the Sterick's Tomb, better termed Sterick's Prison, having been breached. Add on research the PCs had commissioned, Quenton Gale's Reincarnation and coming back to tell his tale, and general open-mouthed recruiting and word was out.
They'd heard the history of Sterick and how he came to be placed in his prison, and that he'd sold his soul to a demon in return for being undying and unkillable. But to escape the prison, they needed him dead. It says something about the group (and the game) that Vryce decided he'd go fight him and then figure out how to destroy him and leave from inside the unopenable prison.
Vryce gathered together an entertaining group of volunteers:
- a short knight with a bad knee.
- a white-haired old wizard who can't remember people's names
- a red-haired, red-bearded cousin (or brother, or retainer - it's not clear) of the Barcas - a swashbuckler.
. . . and that was it. No one else would come, for pay or promises of loot. Ahenobarbus asked if they couldn't just sweep up folks from debtor's prison, death row, or the drunk tank, and then realized, oh, wait, that's probably us. It actually made the group more plausible that everyone was kind of odd, like only the really desperate came.*
They spent a long time gathering up materials and discussing plans - a couple hours in real terms - but the whole session was one fight, so I didn't rush anyway. Even so, they stocked up on healing potions, spell stones, gems of healing, food, water, chain to bind Sterick and chain to bind his sarcophagus, and buffing potions of all sorts . . . and then headed out only to arrive at the cave mouth and think, hey, we forgot something.
They decided they needed a scroll of Summon Spirit, because they'd heard that only Sterick's confessor, Father Martin Hauer*, knew the secret to actually destroying Sterick. But Sterick killed his confessor first, and no one could contact his soul. They figured, maybe that's the head that Sterick is carrying on his belt, and they could use the scroll once they had the head. (No one put two and two together and got, "If Summon Spirit doesn't work now, it won't work later, either.")
So they turned around and headed back to town. They got in before curfew, but had to wait it out until the next day. Queue up Vryce calling in to work and asking to use a personal day to get off on Monday, etc. etc. jokes.
The next morning, they headed out again.
This time they made it into the dungeon. Getting around was a little easier - the church provided them a map of the prison, meticulously drawn when they made it. To make a long story short, they wound their way around, avoiding trouble and going through door after door. They did one, took a side trip to gather mushrooms and rest, and then started back on the teleporting doors.
They ran into trouble on one, though, teleporting right into a bunch of crushrooms. The church told them monsters were periodically summoned into the complex and were attracted to the teleport chambers when people began to teleport. All part of the wards they set up to make rescuing Sterick difficult. In any case, the crushrooms charged. The PCs began to hack them apart, easily hitting them and mostly staying out of reach. But just as someone (I forget who) downplayed the danger (and Vryce warned them, "These things are dangerous"), one of them roll a 4 and critically hit Hayden (whose player had, just prior to start of play, decided to remove Luck and buy more ST instead. Oops.) It bit on a random location - another 4, Skull. It smashed Hayden's helmet and knocked him out. The others sprang into action to try and kill that one first - Desmond hit it with an Ice Dagger, Vryce cut it up, and Ahenobarbus finished off the one close to him. But it still managed to squeeze down on Hayden and inflict 60 injury to his skull after armor. Hayden was mortally wounded. They cut down the crushrooms, but then were stuck - no Great Healing, no Stop Bleeding, no nothing. What to do?
They retreated to the "mushroom chamber" and its improved Sanctity. Desmond tried a quick prayer (he's a seminary school dropout) and defaulted Esoteric Medicine (Holy), needing a 6. He rolled a 7. Hayden held on, though, so he prayed again and then tried again. This time, I figured his prayers were worth a +1 (gee, I'm so generous) . . . and he rolled another 7! Hayden was stabilized after two hours of chanting, praying, bandaging, etc. They fed him red healing mushrooms and healing potions and eventually got him to nearly full HP. That would be critical later.
After some more travel around, avoiding dead beetles, rats, live beetles, and whatnot, they reached the final door and went in.
They found Sterick's tomb, floating. On the ground were the headless bodies of their friends. No heads, though. That put paid to a plan to chain up the tomb, grab the bodies, and escape with the corpses for Resurrection before the doors could close. Vryce quaffed his Strength (+2) and Dexterity (a phenomenal +6!) potions.
They piled in to the room. Desmond started in with Flight spells and Vryce started to crush spellstones, starting with Blur -4 and Flight and then used a Great Haste spellstone and then Invisibility as the sarcophagus opened. Sterick sat up and demanded to know who they were. Vryce glided up and struck his arm. He badly wounded Sterick's arm but it was clear he wasn't crippled despite the wound - and Sterick managed to Dodge the second strike of the pair as Vryce turned visible! He snapped out his sword and his axe and jumped into the air and struck Vryce.
Vryce and Sterick fought in the air, each climbing for superior height until they ended up level near the ceiling. Vryce went with a full-skill Feint on his first turn and then split his attacks on his second turn into Rapid Strike, heavily deceptive. Sterick tried one Feint but once it was clear Vryce was better than him (thanks to his potion-amped DX 20) he went for axe swing followed by sword-and-axe combo.
They exchanged attacks for several seconds while Hayden and Ahenobarbus moved up from behind. Vryce circled to get Sterick surrounded, but at the cost of being unable to parry for his friends. Sterick kept moving to face Vryce without exposing himself to too many back shots. Vryce's attacks hit home most of the time, thanks to some excellent Feint rolls. Often Sterick defended with penalties in the teens despite rolling very well on his own Feint counters. Even as he was badly hurt, he kept moving - slowly after a few strikes, but still going.
Ahenobarbus got cocky and moved up next to him, glancing down in to the sarcophagus and seeing a bunch of heads. The he struck. Sterick parried his attacks and, since Vryce was momentarily out of easy range, attacked Ahenobarbus instead. He used Feint, crushed Ahenobarbus's defenses, and then hacked him twice, putting him well below -5xHP. Ahenobarbus's decapitated corpse joined the rest.
Hayden was more careful, and managed to get behind Sterick and cut him twice in the back, once bouncing and one maximum damage hit wounding him. Sterick ignored him for the moment, pressed by Vryce. His counters never touched Vryce, as his only critical hit was foiled by Vryce's luck.
Again, Sterick took damage from Vryce, suffering a greater pounding then he took in the first fight, but routinely made his rolls to stay active (I rolled a 3 on an early on, a 4 on the next one, and nothing above a 9 for a 13 or less base target). Hayden tried him again, and this time annoyed Sterick enough to distract him from Vryce. He took two chops in the neck for his trouble - and went to -41 HP, made his death check (and stunning roll!) and kept his head. He backed off as Vryce moved in to keep him away. Desmond hit Sterick with an Ice Dagger and it failed to penetrate his armor.
Finally, though, Vryce hit him solidly and Sterick fell out of the air with a smell of sulfur in the air, gasping something like, "I'm not finished yet."
Vryce landed next to him and started to just hack him, pausing briefly to take off Sterick's invisible helmet and toss it aside (it appeared, as it's only invisible while in correct use.) Desmond insisted on rolling him over and taking the head off of his belt. Vryce said, "What head?" He hadn't noticed (PC or player) that he's got a head strapped on to his belt.
Vryce kept trying to hack him, but realized he was doing nothing - Sterick's inert body was immune to further harm! Desmond started to unroll his scroll to use it, but suddenly realized he needed to look at the head before he started spellcasting. It was animate! It looked fresh - pale, bloodless, but fresh. The eyes were open and looking at him, the mouth moving.
He started talking to it. "Are you Martin Hauser?" (Annoyed look) He couldn't read it's lips (Per-10 is a tough default, and no one thought to ask him to speak slowly or mouth along or anything like that to fish for a bonus.) Then he said, "Blink once for yes, twice for no."
They started a slow process of guesses of what to do. Eventually, Desmond decided to use an alphabet board. He quickly started to write in Ahenobarbus's and Hayden's splattered blood on the floor . . . until Hayden croaked, "Don't you have some wizard's kit or something?"
"Oh, sure, I have paper and ink."
So fine, he stopped writing in blood and used paper. With an alphabet board, they got Father Martin to spell out what he needed.
I M-U-S-T S-P-E-A-K
Desmond blew into Father Martin's throat to get air across his vocal cords. In breathy words, he told them to face him to Sterick - who was by now chained up and padlocked, with Vryce standing huffing and puffing over him. He told Vryce to kill Sterick again, as Sterick began to wake up and speak. Vryce split his skull and put him right to -5xHP or below.
Still powered by Desmond's air blowing, Father Martin banished Sterick to Hell.
A weird red whispy smoke emerged from Sterick's mouth, and hovered above them and looked them all over. "I'll see you in Hell."
With that, he disappeared.
The doors clicked open, as Father Martin expired.
After this was the task of healing up Hayden.
Next, they stripped Sterick of his stuff and debated bringing his corpse back. They realized this would add a lot of extra work, for one, and the church said they wanted him "destroyed" if possible, for two. They went with destroyed, and burned him to ash with alchemist's fire and flammable oil, and used his bonfire to burn Gale's corpse as well (Quenton the goblin saying, "I don't need that thing anymore" to Vryce as a pre-delve instruction.)
Next was gathering loot and corpses. Loot included their wish ring - worn by Sterick - Sterick's baton of office, his necklace, his personal seal ring, and two bent coins (passage coins for his eyes, bent so they couldn't be used according to custom.) They also took his armor - some of it fantastically well made and highly enchanted glossy-black heavy plate - and weapons, Magebane (a very fine balanced meteoric thrusting broadsword) and Shieldslayer (a Quick Draw dwarven balanced fine throwing axe that destroys shields on impact).
It took a few trips, but they got everyone out. First Desmond grabbed three heads and Vryce and Hayden carried corpses. Next, they left Desmond outside and made a few more trips in and back, luckily not encountering any lethal foes.
With all of the bodies on the surface, they send Hayden down to town for help. He went to the church, explained they'd destroyed Sterick, and asked for help getting bodies to the church for Resurrection. Some strong-bodied acolytes came and helped.
The bodies were assembled and the last wish of the Ring of Minor Wishes was used to put the bodies back together and restore them to "just slain." Still, all of time can't be rolled back, so they had a -1 to Resurrection rolls. Still beats the -20+ they'd have had otherwise.
Resurrection followed for most of the slain, with spiritually costly versions for Brother Ike and Hjalmarr, and a failed attempt for Hasdrubul (he needed a 14, and rolled a 16). The rest succeeded, and Raggi told his story of waking back up and going for his axe and mouthing off to Sterick. Veronico and Raska were given Final Rest.
XP for the session was 5 apiece, as everyone reached their loot threshold after selling some of Sterick's stuff, and each received 1 xp for defeating Baron Sterick the Red, a signature boss-level encounter of Felltower.
* Ahenobarbus's player said it was a sentence, "Prison or Felltower." That would explain a lot of the delvers - five delves or until dead, whichever comes first.
** Who kept getting called "Martin Hauser" by Desmond. On purpose? Maybe. He doesn't know any of the PC's names, either.
Sterick held up longer than I'd expected. The fight with Vryce was a superhero fight - both flying, one with weapon skill-28 and two magic weapons vs. one buffed up to weapon skill-34(!) and carrying a magical sword wrested from some other high-skilled foe. But the 6-point difference in skills told, and often Sterick was forced to defend at -12 or more. He went deeply negative before he finally failed a roll and dropped. Last time he was solidly negative near the end, but one or two more hits could have been enough to put him down (especially that 18d Lightning spell because of the effect through armor.) Vryce was able to crack his DR 15+ armor regularly with his 4d+12 attacks more easily.
Will there be massive negative repercussions for selling Sterick's stuff in town, having killed him, etc. etc.? No. Not that kind of game. All but Desmond paid 5 points for a +1 Reputation in town, though.
Brother Ike was given Resurrection for "free" - it cost him 30 character points, taking him from the mid-160s to the mid-130s. He'll slowly grow back to 50% of Hjalmarr's points, but I'll set a per-session cap so it's not just a snap back to where he was but a slow grow. Like I said before, there is a metaphysical cost to be paid to come back, and either you do it through money (which goes for sacrifices, good deeds and charity, etc.) or parts of your being or both.
Has' had enough cash in his 401(r) to pay for his own revivification. It failed, and he had most of the cash needed for another one for Ahenobarbus. I can't recall who fronted the rest of the cash for him. Raggi I just declared had 15,000 sp in uncashed empties and money laying around, since I know the party would pay for him otherwise. That seemed unfair since Raggi's lack of cash has everything to do with me no keeping track. So saying he had a 401(r) equivalent seemed fair to the players.
Now the PCs need to get some armor modified to fit people, finish passing out Has's stuff (Desmond already got his spiffy magical six-fingered vampire armor), and so on. Magebane went to Ahenobarbus (argument for this: "Hey, I lost a 350-point guy here!"), Shieldslayer to Hjalmarr, Sterick's armor to Vryce, his spidersilk underarmor is currently up for debate and/or sale, his seal ring to . . . someone. The other stuff was sold.