Weather: Cool, cloudy, wet.
Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (262 points)
Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Aldwyn, human knight (255 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (265 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (341 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Demetrios, Antonios, and Leonatios of Meepos, human spearmen (~125 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (383 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)
We started in Stericksburg, as usual. Galen Longtread finally showed up again, which was nice. He's back from the Troll Wars. Not all of his baggage arrived with him though - clearly some got packed onto the wrong wagon, but the wagonline says they'll have it for him sometime in the next 24-48 delves. He had most of his main gear, however.
The group gathered rumors, stocked up on gear, and otherwise got ready for their next delve. What they'd found out about Black Reavers told them they should avoid it if at all possible.
They had been discussing going after the norkers, and the appearance of both Galen and Alaric clinched it. They sought out Raggi, and found him drinking at his usual bar. The also found "the Meepos brothers" - who aren't terribly happy that their employers think their country name is their last name. They are actual "Meeposian brothers." At least the players remember the name of their King, Balki, although they must remain perfect strangers.
They made their way up to the castle, and Mo finished knocking the head off of the statue of Sterick on the way. They climbed the wall - but without a wizard, they lacked Levitate, and none were particularly adept at rigging a sling. They had to resort to the old tie-and-haul, which is risky and painful to the tied-and-hauled. Demetrios fell and was badly injured, and had to be healed by Ike and re-hauled. They eventually made it up, and once again bemoaned the short-sited decisions that lead to the sealing off all of the easy ways into the castle.
They scouted the entrance and they moved it. Their bridge had been burned and the smashed burned bits tossed into the pit. So Mo leaped the pit and they rigged up two ropes along the right wall.
From there they headed in and right, opening a metal door, quietly moving through the noisy room - and Mo ruined that with a well-timed fart. It didn't attract any wandering monsters.
Eventually they made it to the second floor and down and over to the staircase. From there, Galen was on new ground. They explained about the hands and the door, and the traps. He took the lead, backed by Alaric - who kept an eye on the ceiling. Sure enough, they spotted two identical traps - a tripwire and a bunch of poisoned caltrops. Galen marked the wire with an arrow, and cleared the caltrops to the side. They headed down to the bottom. They opened the door after examining it for traps, and fake hand prints. They debated how to detect the "click" but after some debate they heard the "click." They moved in carefully and to the hex-shaped room, opened the door to the trap-filled corridor and headed down it. First, though, they drank up a variety of potions - Ahenobarbus got +2 DX, Mo +5 ST and +5 DX.
There were traps at least every 10'. Tripwires, caltrops - included two rigged to a hidden crossbow with a bodkin point, a box of something ("bees" suggested Ahenobarbus), and more. At the intersection was a very well-concealed circular pressure plate that even Galen's keen senses (Per 17, Acute Vision 1, Night Vision 6) could barely detect. He bent over to mark it with chalk and caught motion out of the corner of his eye. He ducked back and an axe just missed him. They tossed a lightstone down the hallway . . . and something tossed a blanket over it. As that happened, he fast-drew two arrows and shot the hand that released the blanket twice. The norker yelled in pain and pulled back his crippled hand.
Mo readied and tossed an Alchemist's Fire onto the blanket, shattering it and lighting the blanket on fire. This also blocked their path forward. Mo is like that.
They tossed another light stone down the corridor ahead, to verify it was just more corridor and not a two-way ambush.
They then moved into the baffle-lined corridor. They advanced, fighters up front, scouts behind, and the Meeposian brothers trailing to protect the rear, all stepping around the partly-marked pressure plate.
Mo led off, jumping the fire and attacking the norkers who were waiting for him. Hjalmarr charged after, and the others followed. Galen hung back to protect the corner, and saw the norkers. He took two shots into the crowd . . . and rolled an 18. He nailed Ike right in the foot, crippling it and dropping him. Not a good start.
Ike would eventually heal himself and get back up (actually no one ever mentioned him removing the arrow - he just healed the wound. What's with that?) Galen decided to move up as the norkers fell back around the corner. The fighters charged, most of them running through the fire and a few caught fire and needed to beat it out.
Mo got around the corner into the next T-intersection and ran right into a half-dozen norkers, the norker champion, and a robe-clad hobgoblin priest with a wand. Mo was quickly hit with a purplish ray and was paralyzed. Hjlamarr and Raggi followed. Hjalmar was hit with a ray and shrugged it off. He stepped up and threw Shieldslayer and hit the priest in the chest and killed him instantly.
The hand-shot norker was killed around now, in the initial rush against the norkers. He died before I had a chance to say it was that guy. Oh well.
Raggi, meanwhile, rushed the norker champion and his two flanking norkers. He tried a Great Cleave - foolishly, it would prove. The norker he targeted parried and ended the attack. The champion and norkers chopped Raggi up severely and drove him berserk. Aldwyn engaged a norker and the champion. He champion fended him off while he kept stabbing and slashing Raggi. Aldwyn was briefly concerned about facing the champion. He didn't need to be.
At this point, it basically began to be the Galen Longtread Combat Demonstration. He ran into view and put two shots into the norker champion, right in the vitals. The champion dropped, unconscious or dead, it wasn't clear. Alaric fired, too, and wounded Galen with his shot. Oops.
Hjlamarr moved and cut down another norker with his original axe. Ike rushed up to un-paralyze Mo. Hayden moved up and readied a javelin. Alaric moved up and shot norkers, too. One norker took four arrows and a javelin before Aldwyn cut him down.
Galen started to pick up steam. From this turn on, basically three turns out of every four he killed a norker. The times he didn't was because he lacked a shot of any kind or a norker got lucky with a death check. When he had them, he'd put two shots into the same norker's vitals. Most of the time, he rolled 13 and 10 damage (seriously, on 1d+8).
With the champion down, the norkers who were aware of it kept fighting but not as effectively. Raggi was badly wounded but berserk, and decapitated a norker, skull-split another two, and then suddenly, they were all down. The PCs had mopped up a total of 12 of them, not including the priest and champion. But Raggi was still berserk! They tried to calm him, but it didn't work. He turned on his closest ally - Mo. The knights tried to use Leadership to calm Raggi down. It didn't work - Raggi rolled an 18 to snap out of it. Uh-oh. Raggi swung his axe at Mo, and Mo got a well-timed critical defense! Raggi's axe turned in his hand. Ike moved up to cast Relieve Madness. Alaric shot Raggi in the hand and nailed it to the axe, but couldn't cripple it. Raggi punched Mo but missed, as Ike's spell went off. Raggi snapped out of it, rolled consciousness, and rolled an 18. He dropped, out cold.
Meanwhile, Aldwyn was yelling - "Norkers! Hey, more norkers!" Galen noticed and began to shoot them down, and Aldwyn fought the next wave on a body-strewn area of the battlefield. Most didn't hear the yells over Raggi, Mo lording it up over Raggi as he fell, and so on - plus most wear full-head headgear, which doesn't help. Alaric spotted the fight and contributed, occasionally shooting people in the back. Galen shot two, wounded them both, and shot another down by hitting him twice in the eye before he could attack Aldwyn.
Soon it was clear to everyone a fight was going on. About 18-20 more norkers and another priest piled in, and the PCs waited for them to advance. The norkers waited for them - and after two died from Galen's shooting, waited along the flanks. The PCs started to climb the body-piled that choked the corridor and move to engage the norkers. Galen continued to shoot, dropping norker after norker.
Eventually Mo go over the corpeses by jumping into a melee. He took two thrown axes into the right arm but was still up and engaged. He turned his back on the norkers he faced and lept a pile of corpses and broke a norker's leg. Two norkers tried to cut him off as the priest moved back, casting a spell. So Mo evaded the norkers thanks to his insane DX and helmet-horn rushed the priest. He rolled a 3 and killed him instantly with his horns. A norker rushed him from behind, and Galen shot him and wounded him. Hjalmarr cut that one down with his axe. Moments after that, the last few norkers were cut down.
In the end, 32 norkers, two hobgoblins priests (who may or may not be wizards), and the norker champion were slain. The PCs healed quickly and moved down the corridor, trying to find their base area. They did - they found a guard room of some kind, and then found their sleeping chamber. A curtained-off area was clearly for the hobgoblins. They searched it carefully and found some food - including mystery jerky that Alaric ate ("Dude, it's human." - Galen, who might be right) and dry grains - mushroom spirits that Alaric put in his wineskin and Mo drank, and spare loinclothes. They also rooted up some coins, hacksilver, and a chunk of copper and some spare robes (they'd take them to twon, but they were valueless.)
They decided that a) it was really late in the real world, b) they were in a risky area in the game, and c) they needed loot, so why not go back and check the gnoll and ogre area they'd partly looted after the last big brawl with the norkers? So they did that. On the way they took the heads of the priests and the norker champion to give to Gerry.
They found the rooms they'd cleared before, but also some new ones. One had foodstuffs, including more of that jerky. Another clearly had a covered pit trap. So, I swear this is true, they tried to set it off. After all, if it's a trap, there must be a dead guy down there with loot. So they threw in a lightstone, tried pushing on the floor (Hjalmarr), and tossing in a headless norker body. Nothing worked. So they sent in Ahenobarbus to look. He couldn't find anything to set it off.
They also found a room with a painting, with a floor covered with dust that kicked up when the door was kicked in. They couldn't make the painting out from the door. Ahenobarbus went in after it, with a rope tied to him. He carefully examined it. It was a creepy painting. It showed a woman turning away from a crowd of hooded figures, with grey hills in the background and a red sky. It was 3' x 6' and in a badly worn wooden frame. He stepped to the side and carefully lifted the painting with his knife Serrita to look behind it. It was just hanging on two nails. He lifted it up. The dust started to coalesce. He ran. The dust formed up into a shadow demon!
It reached for Aheno but he dodged and ran. They moved up to fight it at the doorway. Galen shot it in the head but his arrows did little. It moved up to him and reached into his chest for his heart. He casually Iron Armed it . . . oops! It went right through and into his heart. He took 10 injury and felt his heart momentarily stop (a successful HT-5 roll!) He still lived and fell back. Hjalmarr attacked it as Mo crushed a spellstone of Affect Spirits on his morninstar. Meanwhile, the party decided to run. So Aldwyn, Hayden, and the Meeposian brothers ran. Raggi kept saying, "It doesn't look like we're running!"
They guessed the demon could out-run them with his giant wings. So some stayed to fight. Ike charged up a 4d Sunbolt as Mo's morningstar did no better with Affect Spirits. They did some damage to it, but it howled at Mo and almost terrified him (. . . almost) and tried to touch more of them. They kept Dodging. Ike aimed and yelled for them to clear a lane. He took his shot, and hit. The demon failed to dodge. The Sunbolt destroyed it completely!
They regrouped, and sent Mo in. Mo gave his Brotherhood pass phrase, touched the woman in the painting, and so on - nothing. So they took it down, removed the frame, rolled it up, and took it.
From here, they explored some empty rooms (including a slorn pen) and then headed out.
They made it back to the surface, disarming traps and removing bits such as the crossbow to take as loot. They made it up to the surface by way of the hatch. They spent some time trying to figure out how to destroy it so it wouldn't lock, and used a Find Weakness spellstone to identify the weakest point - the handgrip wheel. Still, that would be the work of hours, and it would surely attract attention and wandering monsters. They simply left it open and left the castle.
Back in town they paid to ID some of their loot. The painting was worth 5K (sold for 2k), and the champion's belt was a Belt of Might +3 and his sword was a wavy-bladed fine thrusting greatsword with Puissance +1. They sold that, kept two six-fingered hand necklaces they found on the hobgoblins, and kept the belt. Discussion is underway about who gets that - it's too small for Mo or Raggi. Loot was enough for everyone, even after dividing it up by nine.
MVP was Galen for his performance against the norkers and traps.
So Galen's player rejoined us after a long illness-related break. We've been chatting occasionally for a while about him restarting, and naturally we had a spot at the table reserved for him. Now here he is again. His character sheet was left at our old meeting place, so we need Dryst's player to rejoin us or at least coordinate with someone to find Galen's sheet. Until they, only what I kept up to date in GCA and what we remembered (his twin Cornucopia quivers, his Iron Arm bracer). That reminds me, I need to refund him for the Power enchantment he paid for but I nixed.
I'd been saying for a while that the only reason a lot of the fodder - even tough fodder - they faced was a problem was a lack of a solid scout. Galen demonstrated that in spades. He'd have killed even more, even faster, had the terrain been conducive to clear shooting. Instead the baffles, the frequent need to shoot through 3-4 friendlies to hit a target, etc. limited what he could do. He needed to double-tap vitals because eye shots were too risky through the crowds and narrow shooting arcs. Even so, he killed outright most of the opponents in the entire fight. That's not a typo. He killed over half of the enemies, and wounded a few that others ended up killing later. He killed the champion that had Aldwyn so concerned. He's quite lethal. It was a good comeback.
My one concern with the magic item they found - the belt - is that it'll because some form of "party treasure." You know, it gets brought on every expedition and passed around constantly, session to session or fight to fight. I can see why that would happen, but still, I'm not a fan. I do have a built-in limitation that will cut some of that down.
Good session overall.