Tuesday, June 12, 2018

GURPS DF Session 104, Felltower 76 - Bottle Puzzle

Date: 6/10/2018

Weather: Warm, cloudy, misty.

Alaric, human scout (262 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (446 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (372 points)
Gwynneth, high elf wizard (250 points)
Hayden the Unnamed, human knight (277 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (341 points)
     Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Jasper, human swashbuckler (250 points)
Rolan Liadon, wood elf scout (263 points)
Vryce, human knight (509 points)

We started in town, with the group gathering rumors and purchasing gear. Galen stayed in town, despite his contempt for urbanites, and lived it up a bit now that his cash and equipment arrived. Much more lavishly equipped, he started to look into getting his dragon horn (taken back in session 46) turned into a composite bow.

The group gathered up and headed out, sans Rolan, who was a late joiner (the player originally couldn't make it, but plans changed during the day and he jumped in.)

With a group heavy on Levitation spells and Climbing skills, getting over the walls was trivial. The hatchway was still open so they climbed down and headed to the second level, and from there directly to the giant staircase down to the levels deeper.

At the bottom of the stairs, Dryst created a Wizard Eye on the far side of the door and put Dark Vision on himself. He sent the eye toward the octagonal room - and in it he saw two cone-hatted figures with axes and maces, standing guard. The party opened up the door and rushed out. The two figures moved quickly, opening the door to the party's right and stepping through. Dryst moved up and cast Trace on one of them - I figured Seeker doesn't make sense as a requirement for something in front of you. He tagged one of the figures and followed them through the door. That got his eye spotted, however, and it was cut down by one of the axemen. They closed the door with a too-familiar "click."

The PCs rushed up to the door and then faced the usually trap-strewn hallway. They ran a servant ahead. Shing! It died under a rain of weighted caltrops. The next died under a crossbow bolt while trying step past an obvious tripline. And so on - a few more died from traps - needle-firing traps, more caltrops, etc., and the "pursuit" became a methodical advance with Galen clearing traps. They eventually made it to the baffles and then moved towards where the norkers had been, and the doors heading away from there. One was barred, so they put Silence on it and Hjalmarr hacked it apart in seconds.

They continued to move carefully, mapping and checking for traps. Dryst sensed the Traced axeman was ahead.

Around this time the close air of the level got to a couple of the PCs, making them feel a bit ill (-1 to some stats.)

They soon found a room blocking their way, with a huge stone block over the doorway. They couldn't see any obvious trigger. So they sent in a servant - nothing. The servant opened up the other door - which set off bells set on posts on the back of that door. They had the servant close it. They then started to jump into the room, past the killzone of the block, one at a time. A servant was in, then Jasper, then Dryst floated in, then Alaric jumped in. As he landed the block fell. It was 10' x 5' x 3' of granite ("So about 1500 pounds" confidently announced of my players. Try nearly 10x that.) Dryst cut it in half.

(At this point, there was a really amusing - to me - discussion of silencing the bells so they wouldn't make noise. Nevermind the sound and impact tremors of 6 tons of stone block dropping 9' to the floor. They gave up on that in any case.)

From there they advanced forward and eventually passed another door. Passed| I meant destroyed. Beyond it was a hallway going left-right and a door ahead with strange writing on it. They determined it was Gnomic, and Gift of Letters revealed it said "Keep Out" and "Do Not Enter." Was the gnomes lair ahead?

Before they explored that, though, they saw some flickering to the right. They checked there - they found a gate, dully shimmering but only translucent. To either archway-side corner were statues of six-fingered cone-hatted robed figured, languidly pointing their left hands at the gate. Like the rotating statues, but without rotating bases.

Dryst sensed the Traced axeman was ahead and down, now. So they needed find a way down, they believed.

Dryst tried Scry Gate but it failed - perhaps the gate was closed. Alaric decided it was a good idea to draw a chalk mustache on one of the statues, so he borrowed chalk from Hayden and went to do so. As soon as he stepped up on the statue's base to reach the face, however, both blasted him with black energy. He lost 6 FP and enough HP to put him deeply negative. He passed a death check and his consciousness check, and stumbled back. Much time and a healing potion or two was spent healing him back to full or nearly so.

Around this time Rolan showed up.

Next they tried the gnome's room. They smelled incense in the air. They forced the door and found a corridor beyond. That smelled more of incense. They reached another door. Alaric spotted something smeared on the door handle, so Dryst created a rag for him to have him wipe it off. He did so, and then opened the door. Thump! A crossbow bolt came out of the room ahead, from the left side, and slammed him in the chest. No one saw it in time to do anything about it. Again, Alaric fell back terribly wounded - and poisoned, too, with the now-traditional four doses of Monster Drool. The group stopped again, this time to remove the crossbow bolt and expend even more resources healing Alaric to mostly-well.

They explored the room. They found a gnome-sized bed, a crossbow set up to shoot at the door, food, wine, an empty armor dummy, and lots of trap-making gear plus some vials, incense, a jar of monster drool, and several full vials (they'd eventually turn out to the Bladeblack and Demon Gas.) While sorting around the in the stuff incautiously, Hjalmarr set up a hastily-set-up Demon Gas trap and breathed some in, getting mildly hurt. He did find a key, however - a small orichalcum key with pictographs on the webbing. Jaspar's player kept insisting they go right to the orichalcum doors. No one else could remember any until much later. ("Oh yeah, those orichalcum doors.")

They took all of the stuff they found, including some fine wine and a bottle of Molotvian Throatscorcher (a high-alchohol fortified wine), and found 96 days of Dwarven Rations. Hjalmarr took a few of those. He then hacked up the bed, cut one table leg shorter on each of the tables, and knocked the screens over. Such is the wrath of Hjalmarr!

The other half of the room had four beds for large humanoids. Under the heavy incense Galen and Alaric detected a dog-like smell but also another funk. Galen recognized it as troll thanks to his service in the Troll Wars. Maybe a gnoll-troll mix? "Gnrolls" suggested Hayden.

After looting the room, they searched it with See Secrets but couldn't find a way forward. Dryst still sensed the Traced axeman was ahead and down.

So they headed out the only way left - to the left. They found an intersection and a turn in the direct Dryst figured they needed to go. But there were at least two pairs of Force Walled off 9' by 9' opening every 30' in the corridor. A Wizard Eye cast behind one revealed an Obsidian Golem. They decided to destroy them pair by pair (as one-by-one turned out to be tricky to arrange.) Dryst used Create Earth to make a wall, and then Earth to Stone to turn it into a stone wall, cutting off the second pair from the first. This cost a lot of mana, which Dryst mostly siphoned off of Gwynneth.

They couldn't reach the golem beyond the left Force Wall with any of their magical weapons. So they decided to create a brute warrior servant to send in. Dryst did so, and created it a maul, too. It lasted a whole second - it stepped up to take a swing and the golem stepped forward and grabbed it around the neck. It failed to defend, and the golem neck-snapped it and killed it. Still too far to hit, the golem stepped back into its ready position.

Meanwhile, they rested. Three phase serpents put in an appearance. Rolan shot and wounded one with a critical hit, but the snakes kept coming. In a few moments they were in melee range. Galen shot one dead in the vitals, Hjlamarr cut one in half, and someone else - maybe Rolan? - finished the wounded one. They briefly discussed how you skin them (except they'd mauled them beyond salvage) or milk their venom, but no one had Poisons.

They decided to give up on the snakes and the golems, and moved further into the hallway, away from where the Trace was saying the cone-hatted axeman had gone.

They found what turned out to the a short corridor connecting to a circular passage, which on the far side connected to an octagonal room they'd found before. They briefly moved into that, long enough for the strange air in the room to cause Jaspar some issues. The circular passage - which Rolan ran around to count doors and check on - was unusual.

It had eight identical, slightly curved metal doors, four on each "side" of the circle (as the corridors bisected it.) The floor was smooth, the ceiling smooth, and the wall smooth and perfectly curved. It was clearly of different construction than the corridors common to this level.

Hjalmarr opened the first door on their left with a touch of his hand. It revealed a 30' diameter circular room with a tall ceiling. Nothing was in it, and See Invisible on Galen didn't find them anything. They next room had a metal flask in the center of the floor. A servant sent in to investigate it touched it, and it opened to spill out a spore cloud. That killed the servant as it whisked forward and went for Hjalmarr. Hjalmarr went a bit tingly from it, but kept dodging aside as they attacked it as best they could - arrows, axes, Fireball from Gwenneth (proving she wasn't just a mana battery for Dryst.) They did a little damage to it, but then Dryst destoyed it with a powerful Air Jet that it just narrowly failed to Dodge.

They left the bottle alone after that.

The next room had a nearly 2' tall blue pottery bottle veined with white, decorated with three rows of red diamond pattern. A servant sent to touch this did so, and the top popped off, smoke came out, and the servant got sucked in. The spell ended right after that. They decided the bottle clearly destroyed whatever was sucked inside. A second servant had the same thing happen.

They moved on to the other rooms, and found yet another bottle. This one a servant touched - and immediately swelled up past Brute Servant size, turned to face Dryst, and pointed at him. "You will pay for what you've done to us!"

The servant charged. It got as close as Hjalmarr, who pretty casually decapitated it. It disappeared. Alaric really wanted to touch the bottle next, but as he rushed in Hjalmarr checked him down and put him prone, injuring him. They healed him up a little bit, and Hjalmarr stood with his foot on Alaric's chest.

The next rooms had bottles as well. One caused a servant to disappear, but not be destroyed. Subsequent touching did nothing. Dryst let the spell run out. Hjlamarr was blasted by fire by a door, but it opened - and they took the bottle from the last identical room.

They also determined that the doors could not be opened from within, and only opened from without by someone who touched a six-fingered handprint.

Rolan, meanwhile was knocking on the inner wall. He determined it was thin, and hollow. Dryst checked with Glasswall and saw nothing but a strange white mist. The wall was thin, but not magic resistant. They were reluctant to try and shape it.

The PCs decided at this point that the bottles were some form of puzzle, and perhaps the misted area within was part of it. (I'm not exactly sure.)

So they sent Rolan and someone else - I think Hjalmarr - running around the doors to get them all open at once. Slap, run, slap, run, etc.

Once they did so, the central wall started to go translucent.

Also, the corridors out of the circular passage were gone.

And then the central walls disappeared, and the mist began to slowly expand out. Someone threw a lightstone in and listened for impact. None. Maybe it is a way down?

Someone - I think Hjalmarr or Hayden - reached a hand in. It felt tingly, like blood returning to a numbed limb. Uh-oh.

It became clear the mist would expand. The doors didn't close on any of the rooms.

Spells were cast - Purify Air, Fireball, Sunbolt, Air Jet - no effect.

They decided the way out might be down. Vryce walked into the misty area with his boots of Walk on Air. He walked down, down, down, holding his breath and withstanding the numbing through sheer physical health (effective HT 16) - but he didn't seem to be going "down." Up was as quick as a few steps. It wasn't a way out. It was just . . . nothing.

They ran back around the mist and into the room with the big bottle. They tried things there, too. But nothing.

They all retreated to the room with the bottle that had whisked away one of the servants. They had to cross the mist to get there. Jasper was reduced to a staggering mess, and had to be dragged by Vryce with rope that Rolan had rigged to everyone's wrists. Hjalmarr and Ike were reduced in stats and especially IQ. But they made it.

They had another servant touch the bottle - but nothing happened. It tried to open it, but nothing happened.

Gwynneth checked the walls - were they magic resistant? No - worse. They were magically dead. The whole place was surrounded by mana-drained stone. They couldn't tunnel out.

They began to send Vryce zipping around with Hawk Flight, trying to drop off bottles in rooms (including all of the ones looted, and in the empty room all of the vials found in the gnome's room.) That didn't work. He tried opening bottles in the mist to "suck" the mist in. Nope. They tried See Secrets. No.

Brother Ike prayed, but no help came from the Good God.

The mist kept coming, slowly filling up the front part of the rooms. They decided this must be a prison, with a fail-safe to kill everyone if everyone tried to escape.

They began to run out of ideas. They decided to try and send someone to the room with the big bottle - Alaric volunteered. Dryst went to put Trace on him but critically failed - an 18 and a 17 on the confirming roll (he has Magical Stability). Dryst couldn't trace him or sense his other trace, but they all counted as spells up. He tried on others - nope. He let the spells expire.

So they send Alaric and Vryce over. Alaric touched the bottle, the lid lifted and smoke came out and - POOF! - he was gone. Vryce flew back to report.

Without a way to track Alaric, they just decided to all go. They put spells on people, cast Resist Poison (it didn't help), and headed over. More people were reduced to nearly-total numbness. Jasper hit IQ 0 and began a drooling moron!

But they made it.

And one by one, they touched the bottle until it was Galen, Dryst, and Hayden left. They finally touched it.

They all found themselves on a hot floor, with random gouts of flame coming up (they all took some fire damage, some people caught fire briefly.) They were in a large round room with some balconies overlooking them from three sides, with smooth walls that rose far above to a narrow dome. The walls were rosy. There were a few steps to a dias with a giant throne on it, and an archway beyond that.

From the archway appeared a mist which coalesced into a 12' tall or so red-skinned being. Some kind of djinn or ifrit! It towered over them, toting a giant silver-bladed scimitar. It spoke in a low, basso rumble - "Who are you? Who is your leader?"

They pretty much pointed at Vryce.

The being invited Vryce forward, and asked, "Are these your followers? And is this your woman?" "Yep." So he invited Vyrce to sit beside him. He waved a chair into being and a small stone bench for Vryce's woman. For the others he calmed the flames to mere match-flames and the floor to merely "quite warm" from "burning hot." He introduced himself as Pasha Tewfik, and was mildly disappointed they didn't know of him.

They spoke for a time. Vryce claimed he was merely a delver, seeking power and money. "Ah, noble goals! For what befits a man more than power and money? Aside, of course, from his honor."

Pasha Tewfik told them this was his realm. Were they gated into his realm? No. They were inside the bottle. Size is merely a reflection of one's surroundings, he said, as is shape. He turned into a gigantic form of himself, then a bird of flame, then back into his normal form.

("He's so big!" gigglingly confided now-IQ 5 Hjlamarr to now-IQ 4 Ike.)

Pasha Tewfik lounged on his throne, sword resting at its side and leg thrown up over an arm. He asked after the current state of affairs. He knew nothing of "Felltower" or the Kingdom, and didn't know of any passages into the "circular space." They concluded it was a long time that he'd been there.

Vryce said his wizard would get him out. Dryst tried to b.s. about how he'd figure a way out. Pasha Tewfik casually denigrated Dryst's IQ to Vryce. But he did confide that he wished to leave this bottle realm, as it was quite boring. He could send them on their way, and if they removed his bottle from the room and into another area and open it, he would reward them - something for Vryce, of course, and his woman, plus some treasure to satisfy Vryce's "warband." They all liked being a "warband." He claimed he had great powers to fulfill the desires of others, but not to fulfill his own. He needed aid, although he never used dirty words like "need" or "help."

Vryce agreed, if they could take a day to rest and recover. Pasha Tewfik agreed, saying if a noble's honor wasn't a surety, nothing in the world could be. He left them alone to recover. They did, healing up the wounded, eating rations from those who bothered to bring them, and drinking water created by Dryst with his spells. They discussed what to do. Vryce insisted that they will do exactly as agreed, and they drew up a small portion of the map to show Pasha Tewfik were to send them.

Once ready, he sent them - back to the room with his bottle.

They immediately set about opening the door. Dryst put Might +6 on Vryce and Hjalmarr, and they slid the door open a few inches. Alaric reached out and touched the outside, and the door opened. They left, leaving the bottle as is. "I only agreed because I assumed he'd be listening if we discussed not following through" said Vryce (more or less.)

From there they worked their way back. The gnome's room had been fully cleaned out. The PCs stealthily moved up, trying to catch the cone-hatted guys off guard, but they were gone. Many traps had been cleaned up and chalk marks showing were they had been were gone. The guards were nowhere to be seen.

They eventually made it up and out of the dungeon.


So I called the central area the "tingly murder mist" room. It didn't murder anyone, but it came close to murdering everyone. The amusing thing about this puzzle, to me, was that I pretty much went through this process:

- mapped out an area with a circle surrounded by a bunch of smaller circles.

- connected it up.

- randomly rolled what was in the rooms (empty, monster, trap, special, etc.)

- decided it was a waste to fill the central area.

- made it into a puzzle that was lethal only if you pretty much decided to do silly PC things, like say, "Maybe we need to open up all of the doors at once?"

. . . and that's what happened. The puzzle was a trap that could only be set off by willful and deliberate PCing.

The mist wasn't lethal to this group, but it was close enough - the cascade of lowered stats meant you slow down, you get dumb, your HT drops and you're more vulnerable . . . and if you collapse in it, the lethal effects of breathing it kill you.

Why did Pasha Tewfik trust them all and send them all on their way, and not keep anyone back as a hostage to their word? The PCs don't know. It might have been oversight, or foolishness - but equally might have been because of other limitations. They simply don't know. One player was nervous about the effect of releasing the genie on the game world. Someone else said, "This isn't that kind of game." True enough. Either way, they passed up the promise of reward for the certainty of having gotten out safely. No one's Code of Honor really impinged on that, either, and no one has Truthfulness or Honesty.

Naturally my game needed genies in bottles, because I'm a big fan of Thief of Baghdad (basically, all versions I've seen.) Also, I needed bottles with places inside because I'm a big fan of High Cook's Wizard War, too.

Loot was minimal, but still enough - they sold the tools they'd taken from the gnome, his poisons (not the drool though - Galen took that), his gear. Split carefully, that was enough for full loot for the newbies and near-newbies, and partial loot for the second tier. Dryst and Vryce got nothing except some change (if that.) They got a rare 2 xp for exploration, so the new guys got 6, the second tier 4, and the top tier guys 2. MVP was Rolan, because it was his player that insisted on doing all of the puzzle-solving that almost got them killed. He protested a bit, but they argued it really made the session what it was.

Fun game. Long, but fun.


  1. I'm glad Mo stayed home! He could've messed that up a lot. But great fun. I say we release him, if he can get Gram back for Vryce! Haha.

  2. Hmmmmm, maybe we could release him down by Mungo....

    1. I'd be interested in seeing what happens.

    2. In all seriousness, that would be a crazy thing to give to Mungo in tribute in exchange for Gram. There is a powerful being in the bottle who would be happy to be freed...

    3. I'd be interested in seeing how that goes.

  3. 9 PCs! 3 Scouts, 3 Knights, 2 Wizards, and a Swashbuckler. Who needs balance?

    "The puzzle was a trap that could only be set off by willful and deliberate PCing." I think that would work on pretty much every group of PCs, no?

    1. Probably. It's why I set it up the way I did. It's generic in its meta-analysis of gaming groups. "This must do something, and something leads to treasure. Let's do stuff until the treasure happens!"

    2. That’s exactly what happened.

    3. Except for the treasure.

      It was glorious.

  4. New characters! But none of the goofy intro stories I am sad. I love hearing your quick intro stories

    1. We didn't make any up. Well, Gwenneth has one but it's kind of boring.


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