Monday, April 30, 2018

GURPS DF Session 102, Felltower 74 - Black Axeman

Date: 4/29/18

Weather: Clear, warm.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Dave the Crippler, human knight (262 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human wizard (318 points)
       5 skeletons (~25 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (336 points)
       Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in town, with the PCs gathering rumors and stocking up. They also gathered early and took the time to pull out one of the skulls they'd retrieved from looting the crypts under Felltower. They laid out their paut and Ike got ready to Lend Energy, and Gerry cast Summon Spirit - and rolled a 4. He had at least a -10 to cast, and it's resisted by Will, but criticals automatically overcome resistance. They had the energy for 13 questions, and proceeded to interrogate the spirit. First question - name - Brother Drakes. After that, they asked him about the Brotherhood, their religion, the hands, where the six-fingered "Masters" are (down below), the answer to "Who do you serve?" - "the Brotherhood." They also asked about the the the city of D'Abo and were told those people were of the same religion as the Brotherhood.

Equipped that knowledge, they headed out to the dungeon.

They climbed the walls (Dave did so easily this time) and checked the metal trap door. It zapped Hjalmarr - locked from below. They griped about forgetting to smear the locking mechanism with contact poison. So they climbed back down, got the bridge, hauled it up, and brought that with them.

Hjalmarr went ahead, to took arrow fire from the pillboxes. He backed up, but naturally a critical hit randomly to the throat pierced his armor and wounded him seriously - and the poison on it hurt as well (he can't buy a save vs. poison.) He went back up. Ike took out the arrow but it was barbed - the orcs basically fishhook the backs of their arrows. He was able to heal him up.

They went back down again, this time Hjalmarr with Missile Shield and Dark Vision and Levitate and Gerry with the same plus Invisibility. The orcs retreated as it became clear they couldn't hit anyone, and they stood watch as the other PCs came down and laid the bridge down. Gerry stood ready to Stench the pillboxes if anything appeared. Nothing did.

After that, they made their way down to the second level and over the giant circular staircase. They opened up the door and there was a large mantrap with a drying head sitting right on the trigger. They backed off, and Gerry used Apportation to lift the trap. He did, the head fell, and a clink of breaking glass sounded before a cloud of poisonous gas was released. They moved the trap aside and waited for the gas to dissipate. Once it did, they carefully moved down the stairs, Hjalmarr checking for traps the whole way. Hjalmarr had taken a class in Traps during his downtime ("It was a weekend course.")

At the bottom, they checked for traps again - nothing. So Hjalmarr touched the hand print on the door to open it - and was zapped with electricity! He was injured badly and his hand was crippled. Ike swooped in and healed him back to full vitality. He examined the door - and the hand was clearly lower than before. Sigh - it had been painted over. "I hate this gnome!" he said. "We don't know it's the gnome" said Gerry. He tried where the hand should be, and it worked - the door opened. He walked out, followed closely by Dave, who was eager to go kill norkers.

Almost immediately Hjlamarr heard a click and felt something depress under his foot. He immediately stepped back. Oops. That triggered an explosion and a spray of alkahest onto him and Dave. Dave was hurt, Hjlamarr more so. With that BOOOOM, the halls went quiet and then they heard doors banging and footsteps. They backed off and closed the door and waited. They decided the norkers were going to rush them, and they wanted to fight in the staircase.

But after a few minutes, nothing. They opened the door and heard muffled noises for a bit, then silence. They decided the norkers must have set up an ambush. So they sent Hjalmarr forward. He saw a tripline, a waxed thread, clearly in view. He backed off. They set it off with a crowbar moved with Apportation, and a hidden box above dropped caltrops all over the place. Gerry tried to move them aside with the crowbar but made a mess of it. They were clear enough for careful movement to avoid them.

Hjalmarr moved ahead and around the corner. He took prodd fire (but managed to deflect it) and a purplish ray of some kind of paralysis. He resisted. He tossed his lightstone down the hallway and saw two norkers guarding two hobgoblins, one of which had a wand. The wand holder zapped him again but again he resisted. He ducked back and returned to the group.

They decided to send Hjalmarr to guard their flank and the rest would run to the right, headed up by a skeleton to trip traps. They ran. The skeleton tripped a tripwire and it dropped a stone block that narrowly missed the running skeleton. They dodged around that, and naturally there was another with caltrops. They avoided those and kept running until they reached an intersection. Hjalmarr guarded their right - good thing, as arrows flew out after them - and they turned left and moved further away from the norkers. Gerry dropped Darkness to obscure the view from behind.

They reached the mosaic room, and quickly tapped out "the brotherhood" on the single-letter tiles they found. A secret door silently opened. They moved inside and closed the door.

They were in a long corridor with a turn and a dead end. The floor of the dead end showed scraping, as if heavy objects had been shifted around there - although not in any particular direction.

Long story short, they spent more than 90 minutes exploring, tapping walls, checking floors, etc. for something - anything. Then Gerry got the idea of stripping down to clothing and using Ethereal Body. He floated along the walls and ceiling, with his head through the wall with Dark Vision on. In the end, it turned out the dead end had a 6-foot hold in the ceiling to a shaft going roughly 40 feet up concealed behind an illusionary ceiling.

They send up Gerry - Invisible, etc. He saw the shaft ended off-center in a circular room with a domed ceiling about 12' at the top. Against the walls of the room were stone chests, boxes, heaps of clothes, an old urn, and similar items. Opposite the hole was a metal door with a large pull-ring in the center.

But what kept his attention was a figure in front of the door. It was human-shaped, 8' tall, clad in all black - black plate, black gloves, black cape, and the face in the helmet was as black as night, leaning on an oversized greataxe. The only colors were the silver of its downward-pointing horns and its glowing eyes (red, they'd find, once they saw it with light instead of color-blind Dark Vision.

Gerry floated down and reported.

His Hidden Lord (Undead) and (Demons) told him this was a construct of sorts, infused with a major demon and/or a major form of undead, built as a guardian. It would, obviously, be very tough to kill. It could potentially have interesting powers, but likely most of its strength would be physical.

They quickly decided they had to get up there and rush it and try to destroy it ASAP, preferably before it could start attacking them. Then, they could loot the room and whatever it was guarding beyond the door.

They then spend roughly 45-50 minutes in the real world - and equally that time in game - plotting how they'd get everyone up there in case it was activated by light, by contact with the ground, etc. They settled on stacking everyone except Ike, the skeletons, and Raggi (too costly) with Levitation and moving them in. So they did that. The fighter-types crushed Blur spellstones, drank potions (Hayden got +5 ST, Ahenobarbus +6 DX), etc. to get ready.

Once Hjalmarr, Dave, Hayden, and Ahenobarbus were in the room, Hjalmarr advanced. He got within two steps of it when it swiftly as could be it lifted its axe in one smooth motion and struck him - twice! - across the torso. Clearly, it could see him - Hjalmarr was Invisible. He defended and retreated. It followed up on its turn - it had been Waiting - and attacked again. This time it landed one and knocked Hjalmarr flying and down. He landed near the hole. He gasped out, "This thing is too tough for us!" before he passed out, still clutching the healing potion he was going to quaff.

The black figure unhurriedly advanced. Click, click.

The others moved in. Ahenobarbus managed to feint it - a little - and land a blow that bounced harmlessly off of its armor. Dave smacked it twice, but neither blow hurt it at all - and in fact, it simply turned its back on him to deal with Ahenobarbus. It used Beat to knock down Aheno's guard and swung at him, but Aheno acrobatically tumbled back and away and ran for the metal door. He tried yelling his Brotherhood passphrase but the door didn't open or anything.

Dave decided to retreat that way, too, despite the shouts of his party members. It parried attacks with its axe and followed up with Beat and Attack, slicing Hayden up horribly.

The PCs started to retreat - but the hole was too far down to fall without risk of serious injury, and to escape Gerry needed to move each of them one at a time via Levitation! He cancelled it on Ahenobarbus at his request, but otherwise, they needed him to get down.

The black figure just walked after each target, putting them down in a blow or two - it was doing 5d+12 with that axe, and aimed for the torso each time.

What followed was a messy escape. Gerry lowered Hjalmarr. Aheno kicked Shieldslayer down the hole and jumped down while drinking a Walk on Air potion (or crushing a stone, I can't recall which.) Hayden clung to life and consciousness and tried to drag himself down the shaft with his hands. Gerry just moved aside. Dave ran around to the treasure. It turned to stalk him, instead.

Dave tried to run to as chest, open it up, and grab treasure. We reminded him that a) it's a one-second time scale and b) he was at a dead run with a weapon in one hand and a shield in the other. He settled for spending the next second smashing open a box and looking inside - robes. Then he ran to the hole to get lowered down.

As they escaped down the shaft, Aheno dragging Hayden (who had passed out), Ike cast Awaken at range and managed to get Hjalmarr awake. The black axeman walked up to the edge and fell face-down the shaft and glided down at the same Move as the PCs.

The black figure actually reached the bottom before some of the PCs - Dave and Gerry specifically. The others had landed and started to run, with the skeletons behind to absorb blows. As the figure landed, Gerry hit it with an 18d Skull Missile and did 60-odd damage to it. That managed to dent its armor and get it to physically react to the force. But it simply started to walk after the fleeing PCs.

It kept after them, and Dave and Gerry went back up the shaft to the door.

The PCs piled out of the secret door, but the thing stopped following them, spun on a heel, and walked back, click, click, click.

Gerry and Dave tried to get the door open, but it wouldn't budge - and zapped Dave with the black energy common to Felltower.

Meanwhile, the thing floated back up and landed and walked toward them. They split up, keeping to the walls. The plan was, Gerry floats down, Dave jumps and hopes to survive the fall. They kept away from it, but then Dave saw it turn to stalk Gerry and took a shorter path. It spun on a heel and swung its axe twice. Dave was sliced badly and knocked back. It turned to keep after him. Gerry reversed paths to keep away. Dave managed to stagger to the hole, but before he could dive down it (he tried and landed too short) it caught up to him and swung twice. The two blows put him well past -5xHP and killed him outright, cutting him in half. Gerry managed to slip by.

It pursued, gliding down after him, and then walking after him. Click, click, click.

Gerry ran out of the secret door -the group had kept it open. It followed. The door closed and he ran with the rest of the group. They made it down the corridor when they heard a clank and bang, and what sounded like breaking stone. Then click, click, click.

They ran straight to the teleporter room and used that to get to the caverns. From there, they navigated home.

Tough trip. Dave died, many resources were expended, the "easy" way in is locked (and they didn't go and unlock it), and the bridge left behind. Not a single copper of treasure was recovered.


So what was that thing? I think at least one of my Rolemaster vets can guess. He briefly encountered one in a game I ran in AD&D, in fact. I kept the description and word choice exact. They'll find out for sure through research. (Editing later - my veteran player recognized it - it's a Black Reaver.)

Sadly, that's the first ever character death for the player of Dave the Knight. He was pretty disappointed. He's not sure what he'll run next. His mistake was running a little too close to the enemy, confident it would keep after Gerry. It did not, and opportunistically turned and hacked him up badly. Had he gotten by, he could have reasonably risked a fall to the floor below. Well, maybe - even that was iffy. A high damage roll or an unfortunate location (skull, limb) would have left him dead or crippled and soon dead. In any case, it was a good trio of lessons for a player in my game:

- don't get greedy ("Unless you have Greedy, in which case good roleplaying!" - Hayden's player).

- character death happens.

- keep fighting as hard as you can until you die. Resignation or accepting your fate nets you nothing.

Still, it's tough be be nine and have your character hacked to death at your dad's gaming group's table. He'll get used to it, Felltower is like that.

XP was 1 each (new exploration) and 2 for Gerry for everything from the 4 on the Summon Spirit to everything else.


  1. I'd recognize that "click click" anywhere. *shudder* Good show!

  2. Yeah, I remember our encounter with the black axeman. This is a tough spot to fight one in! And from the hacking through stone, who knows what its "command" is? It followed them even though they took no treasure. The robes might be useful as Brotherhood disguise. I think this is a job for Vryce and Mo to keep it "busy" while the room is looted. This may be the time for "In the name of the Brotherhood, let me pass!" (or "I am brother Mo!")

    1. Ahenobarbus tried that, I think. He definitely tried it on the door. Not the "Brother Mo" one, though.

  3. What are we talking about here? Skill 30 plus? ST 30 plus?

    1. I'll let you back-figure it like my players have. It was doing Deceptive Attack-7 even when faced with a -4 from Blur, if that helps.

  4. 20 years ago we fought a Black Reaver in one of the best RPG campaigns I've ever played in. The DM literally arranged a special Saturday afternoon session, because "This fight might take a while".

    1. In Rolemaster, yeah, it would take a while to beat one down, either lesser or a "normal" one. I did a test fight between a dragon and a black reaver once. That didn't take long at all . . .

  5. Oh and Peter, this Saturday I DM'd my first ever session of DFRPG (I've many years of experiance with other systems). It went very well, one of my players had never played an actual tabletop RPG before and loved it. My buying DFRPG and running an old school game with maps and figures Gygax style was entirely inspired by this blog. My thanks for the inspiration.

    1. You're very welcome. I'm glad our gaming has inspired yours. And thank you for letting us know.

    2. You've sold more DF books and led to more GURPS games than every "SJ Games should do this..." poster on the SJ Games forums.

  6. I'm impressed by Gerry's continued not dieing

    Did all the skeletons get creamed?

    Seems Raggi being to big to levitate saved him (and he probably isn't happy about it)

    1. No, the skeletons were fine. I'd have mentioned them getting wiped.

    2. Ah, the "with the skeletons behind to absorb blows" made it unclear

    3. That's a correct description though. That's where the skeletons were, and why. I never mentioned them actually taking any blows. I don't know a better way to put it than that.


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