December 30th, 2017
Weather: Very cold, snowy.
Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Aldwyn, human knight (250 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (302 points)
5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (336 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (143 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)
Rolan Liadon, wood elf scout (250 points)
We started in Stericksburg with the PCs gathering rumors. One they especially were interested in was one about a fungus kingdom deep under Felltower. Otherwise they got their gear together and headed out. Alaric's acquaintance Rolan joined him - someone he knew before he dropped out of Scout College. Aldwyn knew Ahenobarbus (they say from both taking Extra Attack - they get mistaken for each other.)
The PCs suited up in cold weather gear and headed out. Hjlamarr shook Shieldslayer at Sterick's statue and Ahenobarbus spit on it. They headed out of the slums and climbed the snowy mountain.
The climbed over the snowy, icy walls with their ropes in the cold, but somehow made it over. Mostly thanks to Levitate by Gerry. They cleared the snow from the trapdoor, chipped the ice off, and pried it open. They headed into the dungeon and dropped off their cold weather gear (mostly). They spent a lot of time carefully sending an invisible scout ahead, and then meeting back up with them. Rolan has some ideas about using a set of colored runes he can leave as he moves to indicate where he went and what he saw, but they're too broke to implement that.
They headed down to the second level, and to the giant fantastic staircase. Near it, though, one of the hallways towards the "orc area" was heavily webbed up. Oh yeah, Mo planted a spider egg here and forgot it.
They opened the door and went into the staircase, and waited for the door to close before they reached the bottom. The new delvers were momentarily bemused by the optical illusion that it continues, which Rolan declared a "common, kindergarten-level elf trick." They opened the door, moved out, and waited for the door behind to close. Once it did, they moved toward the mosaic room on the way (I think) to the "golden swordsmen apartments."
They made it to the mosaic room and began to puzzle over the mosaics. I'm not sure what the original plan was, but it derailed right here. Hjalmarr started warning Aldwyn about Durak. Who? Durak. Durak? Yeah, Durak. How do you spell it? D-u-r-a-k. Durak. Etc. Suddenly he felt something in his stomach - butterflies, really, and a sinking feeling.
Soon after, they hear distant scrape-stomp, scrape-stomp noises . . . getting louder.
They immediately started to move deeper into the dungeon. Alaric scouted and found the corridor turned right at the end, but to the left was an archway into a roughly 6 x 6 room . . . with a 5 yard diameter ooze in it! He backed off quickly. They decided a) they couldn't risk to fight it, despite Gerry's Explosive Skull Missile spell, and b) sneaking past was probably not going to work. So they headed back.
The sound was getting closer. They briefly tried to figure out hot to set the ooze onto the Lord of Spite, and decided they had no actual idea how to do that without being between them both. They panicked and ran into the corridor between the "air gate room" and the direction the Lord of Spite was coming from. His scrape-stomp and the clop-clop-clop of his boars was getting louder. So they ran into the gate room. The room smelled smokey, and Ahenobarbus said something was trying to smoke them out. They decided to take the gate. They levitated Rolan up and behind the gate so see if they could hide there - but its swirling blues and greys were translucent. They realized they needed to fly to the gate as it was 9' up and 9' away from them, and the room was 50' top to bottom so they couldn't slide down the "bowl" and reach it. At the same time, wind started kicking up in the room. Air elemental, declared Gerry. So Gerry cast Levitate on everyone and pushed them through the gate one after another, and then came through.
On the far side, they found themselves smashed together (Gerry couldn't seem to move them further once they'd passed the gate, until he was on the same side.) They were blinded by startlingly bright sunlight in thin air . . . and hovering a few feet over a cloud, with the gate in the middle.
They blinked away the sunlight. Gerry eventually lowered Alaric to the cloud. He found it spongy and soft, and he sank up to his knees in it like deep snow. It was wet, and not hard, and his quickly got soaked feet and damp skin. But it was "solid" enough.
Gerry lowered them all and they searched. Above was more sky, leading to more clouds, some patchy, some a solid sheet. The sun, or at least sunlight, was bright. Above was only sky. Below, too, was more sky. Maybe a quarter mile or more below was a nearly solid sheet of clouds, but holes in that sheet revealed only more sky and clouds below.
They began to feel breezes coming from the gate. They fanned out and waited. Out of the gate came a smallish but rapidly spinning whirlwind with glowing red "eyes" within. The scouts shot it with minimal effect. It slammed Gerry and send him flying off of the cloud - luckily his Levitation was still on. They duked it out up close with the elemental, mostly ineffectively swatting at it. It let off a thunderclap and stunned Raggi briefly and also Alaric, who as usually rolled 17+ on his HT roll and was out of the fight. Hjalmarr found the lightning of the elemental was especially potent and lit his shield on fire, scorched him through his armor, and so on. He eventually had to ditch his flaming shield, and naturally got his hand crippled and dropped Shieldslayer, as is his wont. The elemental pulled up into the air and hovered above them, whirling in a tight circle and shooting lightning to the group more or less at random. Gerry tried to hit it with an explosive spell, but missed. His second shot, however, hit it square and demolished it.
They found Alaric's bow, Raggi's axe, and other dropped items "buried" in the cloud and possibly sinking slowly. They dropped Hjalmarr's shield down to see if it clunked or poofed through the cloud. More like the latter.
Gerry couldn't maintain Levitate on big, bulky, heavily-armored Hjalmarr. So he shucked his leg armor and lent it to Aldwyn and gave the skeletons all of his spare gear.*
They sat around on the cloud (Ahenobarbus lay on it, "It's like a dream.") They spotted some flying birds far off "ahead" near another cloud. So they slowly levitated Rolan over - a long trip at Move 3 and a few hundred yards. He made it to a nearby "strip" like cloud that was a good 40-50 yards long but only 3-4 yards wide and quite irregular. He lay down and watched the "birds." He was closer and had a better angle. He could see they were huge, they numbered at least 3 at probably at most 5, and there were cone-topped towers visible underneath them. Brightly colored pennants fluttered from them. It was clearly a "fairy tale" like castle, and the big birds enormous. He lay back on the cloud and tried to let his peripheral vision tell him the pattern of cloud movement. They were moving independently of each other, often with their "own" wind. It didn't seem to center on the gate, or the castle.
He signaled Gerry and Gerry slowly brought him back.
Meanwhile, Alaric spotted a few dozen stirges flying down beneath them, around a small cloud that had drifted close but maybe 100 or so yards down. They hid and waited. Rolan made it back and then plotted how to get to the castle. Lots of them wanted to go, but it was eventually pointed out that, if anything was hostile, they were dead. Gerry was the only way there or back, he had to levitate people one at a time. Not only that, but fighting air-native foes when you only can move at 3, when the wizard concentrates on moving you, pretty much mean unlimited free back shots against you while you Wait and hope to hit something as it flies by.
They decided to go back. They tied a rope to a skeleton and sent it through, hoping to pull it back to check on what it found. It went, the rope got sucked through (and Hjalmarr chose not to try and stop it), and that was that. After 10 seconds or so, Gerry checked and his Levitation spell was off.
They waited a while after this - maybe another 20-30 minutes - and then headed through the same way as originally. On the other side was a larger, but somewhat weaker, air elemental. They duked it out with this one. Gerry lowered Hjlamarr to the floor and then cut his spell, then began to cast spells. Eventually it "died" from an arrow shot from Alaric done immediately after it was badly weakened by an Explosive Skull Missile. Another skeleton had its leg blown off.
They gathered the broken gear and the skeleton's stuff and moved out. No Lord of Spite - he'd clearly gotten bored and moved on in the intervening hours.
The PCs headed out toward the "golden swordsmen apartment complex" and reached it, and went past. They decided to break down the brick wall they'd found. They did, using a bedroll to shield and quiet the hammer blows of Hjalmarr, and two more cloaks held out to further cut off escaping sound. Hjalmarr knocked a hole in the wall and began to unbrick it. On the far side was a crusted-over white material like still-damp plaster. It wasn't sticky (Hjalmarr tried to glue a brick to a wall with it.) Gerry took a look and identified it as a strong herbicide. They decided there must be killed plants nearby, perhaps the fungus kingdom was here and the herbicide was meant to block the fungus? ("Oh come on," said Raggi, "Fungi aren't plants.")
They smeared their weapons with the stuff, and Alaric took some.
They wounded down a snaky corridor and found a grate-like portcullis. On this side were two pairs of bladder-and-bellows ejectors, with cords leading to the portcullis. That had 12 small brass bells on it. They realized it was noise to alert . . . someone . . . and substance-ejectors to hit whatever tried to get underneath (bottom pair) or just come through (top pair.)
They spent some time carefully muffling the bells and prying them off the portcullis. Then they cut the cords for the bladders and re-rigged them with their own rope to make manual pull-ropes. They wanted to be able to trigger these on purpose if pursued.
Next, Raggi and Hjalmarr raised the portcullis. They decided spiking it open defeated the purpose of quietly removing the bells, so they lowered it. They entered the room beyond and quickly decided to go through a door to the right instead of a hallway to the left. They pulled the door open (Hjalmarr having tried and failed to push it, despite me saying it opened in toward him.)
The moved beyond this and found their way to a room with a broken purple disc. There, the air was close and Gerry felt sick. They smelled sulpher to the right, and so they went left.
They found an intersection and a pit. They lowered a rope down the pit, and realized it goes right down to a cavern below - there were standing on maybe 20-25' of rock over a big opening. Ahah.
They headed past the pit to a door. Hjlamarr kicked it open and revealed a they were in a T-shaped room . . . with six wolf-men standing at the fringe of their light range!
The lead three fighters moved in, and the wolf-men (werewolves, it turned out) charged them. The werewolves had no interest in letting the PCs form up. They charged right into close combat, bouncing arrows and slows blows off of their fur, and started to claw and bite the PCs. There were about a dozen all together, including a bigger, stronger-looking leader. They howled as they charged.
This quickly became a nasty, close-in brawl. Aldwyn could barely fight with his longsword and was hampered by his shield. Hjalmarr managed a few hits but could barely hurt them, and Ahenobarbus had Magebane bounce off of them. They were getting clawed and bitten, sometimes severely, and Ahenobarbus almost got his throat torn out (Luck turned a 4 into a normal hit, which he failed to defend). The werewolves weren't terribly skilled fighters but they pressed so close it was difficult for anyone to fight effectively. The scouts began taking eye shots when they realized magic arrows had no more effect than magic weaponry - and the werewolves healed damage at great speed. Gerry started putting Great Haste on everyone, starting with himself and the front-line types. The werewolves rotated out the wounded for fresh werewolves and let the others heal.
They dropped a couple with eye shots, and dropped a third that pushed into the hallway pursuing Aldwyn. Hjalmarr was surrounded and clawed but his hand-me-down armor from Vryce was solid. Ahenobarbus put away Magebane and got out Serrita, his beloved silver-edged fine long knife. He went to work.
While even brain injuries from point-blank max-damage arrow shots just wounded the wolfmen and put them down for a moment or two, Serrita was dealing traumatic injury quickly. Two cuts did little, but then a Great Hasted Ahenobarbus started to stab to the vitals after a Feint (he has Extra Attack). He started putting werewolves down. He managed to kill two before they either broke and ran or just changed tactics - but they fled. He turned to the fallen werewolf behind the front line. Alaric and Rolan had been shooting it over and over in the eyes, and Aldwyn had tried to take off its head. Alaric eventually dropped his bow and started sticking silver coins into its eyes (were they remained, actually, and were not recovered), putting in a total of 10 sp before Ahenobarbus killed it.
They'd slain three werewolves. The others fled out a side door. Gerry took a quick look (he was Invisible) and saw a pair of large double doors chained shut at the base of the T-shaped room, and they covered the opened door. Ike and Hjalmarr glanced at the map and realized they could be cut off from behind. Gerry cast Zombie on a werewolf and they fled. (Out of game, I think they thought this was a matter of seconds . . . but Zombie takes a minute, and Gerry was looking around, and Gerry needed to stop and drink paut and people paused to get healed. So they actually were left alone for several minutes. Still, they were concerned.
They basically fled back the way they came, lifting and placing down the portcullis. They wanted to fully re-arm the trap, but they'd dismantled it and re-rigged it for manual use and had cut cords to do so. They could do it, but needed time (10s of minutes, not ones of seconds) to do so. They decided to just head home.
Hjalmarr was navigating, and moved to the lead as the scouts trailed and the light fighters had moved up. He got into the actual lead and wanted to turn left at the next intersection. (At this point, it was very late, so I pointedly asked, "Are you sure you want to go somewhere you haven't been yet today?" I was assured that yes, yes it was fine, and Hjalmarr will lead off.)
So they headed up the corridor, looking - I think - to avoid re-treading ground that was close to The Lord of Spite. Hjlamarr led, with the scouts further back because of concerns about the werewolves trailing them. They moved quickly up the corridor and past the "Lost City" gate. There was a twang and Hjalmarr caught movement out of the corner of his eye (a very lucky Perception roll) and tried to block it (Combat Reflexes helps!). He failed, and it was still too soon to re-use Luck. A massive bolt - flaming, and enchanted, and envenomed - slammed into his side and severely wounded him. Then, arrows and howls came from ahead. Close to a dozen long arrows flew into the group. Raggi took an arrow to the chest through his mail. Others were blocked or just missed. The scouts shot back blindly, hoping for a random hit.
They heard barks and yowls - gnolls! They began to exchange shots with the unseen gnolls ahead. Raggi wanted to attack. Ahenobarbus was undecided. But Gerry said no, and put up Darkness. Ahenobarbus put down alchemist's fire in the darkness. The PCs fled after Hjalmarr downed some potions to stay awake and functional and get back to full move.
They ran around the other way to the stairs - and barely made it in time before arrows and gnolls came at them. Hjalmarr was narrowly missed by some arrows, and they headed up the stairs. Gnolls followed. Alaric took two pot shots on the run but didn't observe his results. Ahenobarbus smashed his other alchemist's fire on the stairs to block them. Gerry sent his zombied werewolf down to fight the gnolls. They fled as combat erupted. They got out on the top of the stairs and I declared that close enough to safety to get home. They wanted to "touch the hand" on the way out but no one remembered to tell me they did it, so no one did.
They made it back to town safely.
* This took a lot of actual real time to sort out weight. I still dislike weight-based Levitate very much. If it was SM-based, even with an encumbrance mod ala Teleport, instead, this would have been a non-issue. I may need to just do this, and endure the grumping.
This session marked the first time in the campaign an actual living being went through a gate. Until this point, it had all been Wizard Eye spells, Created Servants, and so on. It took what I should have expected - poor decisions followed by desperation.
We did have the usual "Okay, if a rope into a gate is pulled through a gate, then if we lasso the Lord of Spite, he'll be pulled in. How hard does it pull? Is it automatic? Is it . . ." etc. etc. I mentioned my whole, "It's Magic, not Science" thing - and if gates - specifically put in the game to allow the PCs to explore all sorts of weird and wonderful places - become multi-hour discussions of how to leverage them into weapons or how to partly stick something in and then come back out and if not can we use gates as precision cutting tools to manufacture things or destroy difficult-to-break items? It's amusingly creative but it means "figure out the specific and replicable mechanics of gates to weaponize them for a plan that requires skills and tools we don't have" trumps "explore this strange and wondrous world." I don't mind cleverness, but I do mind edge-case hunting and random experimentation, especially when it's clearly "do something because we're not sure if we just want to use the gate and go adventure."
The PCs started to try to think of silly names to assign to Durak, the Lord of Spite, so they wouldn't accidentally say his name. All sorts of stuff - Mr. Crunchy Pants, Fluffy Bunny, etc. I finally said, "he is called the Lord of Spite so people can avoid saying his name." They might still try to come up with a ridiculous name for him, but I did want to make it clear that saying "the Lord of Spite" is not the same as saying Durak, which is why people assigned him a title. The Good God isn't the Good God's name, because you don't want to tick off your god by drawing his direct attention whenever you need to talk about him. We'll see if the actual name everyone knows sticks, or people end up with multiple names. "Fluffy bunny." "Is that the Lord of Spite?" "Yes, but we call him Fluffy Bunny now to avoid saying Lord of Spite." "Okay, the Lord of Spite is Fluffy Bunny, got it."
The werewolves were tough. I had no sympathy, though. This is at least four levels deep in Felltower, and they have heard rumors of werecreatures, rumors that you need silver to kill them, etc. They tried every magic weapon they had, probably on the "Silver or magic to hit" AD&D logic. But this isn't AD&D. Just because some things in AD&D conflate the killing power of silver with magic weapons doesn't mean they're always equivalent in DF. I was surprised that neither scout had a single silver arrow, no one had taken a silvered dagger "just in case those rumors are true," etc. And while silver-plated isn't as effective as silver, it's cheap enough. They'll probably be more ready next time, although they're more broke than this time.
This was my first use of werewolves, which are basically the werewolves from DFRPG . . . but with some additions. My long-time inspiration for how fantasy werewolves should be are the savan dalage bred by Magden Norath, from the Glen Cook Dread Empire series. That series was a huge influence on my previous campaign. This campaign draws more on different inspirations, but in any case, I like the dark savagery of Norath's critters. I ditched their severe fear of light and vulnerability to fire, because in DF, that would mean they were harmless most of the time. That's better suited to a game where light and fire aren't things every PCs carries around on their delver's webbing.
Speaking of delvers webbing, at one point in the fight Ahenobarbus was fighting, but his player and Aldwyn's player hit on a plan. Aldwyn would sheath his sword, then ready some alchemist's fire off of Ahenobarbus's delver's webbing, and throw it. I was incredulous. I asked something like, "The alchemist's fire is in back or front? Front? So, from behind you, during a fight, he's going to reach around in front of you and take alchemist's fire off of your webbing while you stab werewolves in close combat?" I didn't even mention that Ahenobarbus was Great Hasted. That wasn't going to make it easier. Plus, the time they allotted was less than it would take if Ahenobarbus had already readied the vial and was holding it out for Aldwyn. I'd give that plan a die roll for mishap in a 1-minute AD&D melee round, but I just declared it a no-go on a one-second time scale unless they wanted to organize it better. It's an example of how desperate for solutions they were!
Although it was a fun and very interesting session, it was largely agreed that the smart move with the group they had was to just move on the orcs and invade the "orc hole." Two scouts, a necromancer, two heavy fighters and two speedy fighters, clerical support - and a low loot threshold. We'll see if they follow up on that, or the cloud castle, or the werewolves, next time. They wanted to promise Raggi they'd kill the gnolls next time to improve the odds that he'd come, but Raggi knows this group - they'd change their mind anyway, he's not taking "We will do this" as an actual promise of doing it.
XP was 2 each - 1 for exploring new areas, and 1 bonus point for the first actual exploration of a gate. MVP was Gerry because his Levitation spell was critical.