Weather: Very hot and humid
Alaric, human scout (293 points)
Dryst, halfling wizard (450 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (389 points)
Gwynneth, high elf wizard (262 points)
Hjalmarr Holgerson, human knight (370 points)
Brother Ike, human initiate (160 points)
Mo (his momma call him Kle), human barbarian (394 points)
Vryce, human knight (509 points)
We started off in town. Rumors were gathered and equipment purchased. Not everyone could afford to repair their corroded armor from last session's ooze battle. But even so, at Vryce's insistence, folks bought rations for what could be a long trip past the gate at the end of the marble hall. Meanwhile, Galen's special order bow finally came in - a Fine Balanced Elven ST 19 Composite Bow made from dragon's horn, enchanted to Accuracy +1 and Puissance +1. He will own no more than he can carry, so he handed off his old backup bow to Alaric, keeping what used to be his main bow as his new backup.
The group set off for Felltower. On the way, Mo smashed yet another of the statue of Sterick's horse's legs. The statue is becoming unstable, and will soon fall.
Once they reached the top, Mo climbed up the walls. But then Dryst, under some pressure from the rest of the group to shape the wall into stairs, conceded that he could do so. It was "too expensive," he said, and that it would be cheaper to just burn the portcullis down with Acid Jet. He ended up doing just that, standing around like a grumpy old man in his garden, hoses down the metal with 2d Acid Jet until he corroded a 2-hex passage through. Alaric, who'd just upgraded his Climbing skill, climbed the wall anyway.
Once inside they took the trapdoor down and worked their way to the second level, and then to the giant fantastic staircase. Tired of all this opening the door, Hjalmarr made everyone decided who was doing what before they headed in. He opened the door and they went down. At the bottom, they headed straight for the marble gate. The air was very close and stale across the whole level, though, and Brother Ike and Gwynneth both suffered penalties from it. The air has been getting progressively more stale in their delves to the "gate level," formerly known as "the apartment complex." They aren't sure why.
They made it unmolested to the hall with the gate. They stopped to carefully examine some of the pillars, looking for any markings or words on them. They gave up after a short time.
Dryst was called upon to use Scry Gate. He did, and saw a round, pillared area with a fountain in the middle. An old man in a white robe off one shoulder was sitting with a wineskin on the edge of the fountain. No edges of the room could be seen, only darkness past the circle of pillars. Dryst pronounced it non-hostile appearing.
The gate was big - 15' wide by 12' high - so they sent in two waves. The gate dispelled all of their ongoing spells, causing Dryst to fall as his Walk on Air (and servant, and Invisibility) was cancelled. He landed well enough, though.
They could see only the fountain, the old man, and a circle of pillars. Beyond it, blackness, although they could smell fresh air (which helped those weakened by the poor air of the level they were on.)
The old man turned to face them and spoke, but none could understand him. He gestured to Gwynneth to drink some of his wine, though, and indicated a tiny pinch between his finger and thumb. She drank . . . and when he spoke this time she understood him! He told her to pass it around to her friends, and warned her that only a little was to be drunk. Naturally, the lushes in the group - Alaric, Hjalmarr, Vryce, and Mo - all drank more than that. Gwynneth and Mo ended up pretty tipsy . . . giving them stat penalties the entire session. Mo tried to offer his own cheap win in return, but the old man refused to drink the drinks of barbarians, he only drinks civilized wine.
The old man said he was a seer, and neither asked their names nor gave his. He claimed at one point that as a seer he knew all, but was allowed by the fates to only say so much at certain points. The group began to query him about the area.
He told them enough that they could get their rough bearings (and let me hand out a rough map). He asked them what they sought. They said treasure and glory. He told them of four places that held such:
"The cave of serpents" held the most wealth but the most risk.
"the field of fire" was were the bronze bulls roamed, and offered the most chance at glory - and that their eyes were the reward and weapons plunged into their hearts would be proof against fire.
"the tree of the fleece" was were a golden fleece lay, guarded by a terrible hydra
One of those places he mentioned that to win you needed to make the immortal, mortal - but they can't remember which.
Finally, he told them of "the forge of eternity" where a one-eye blacksmith forged weapons for the gods. That forge lay on an island across the "Sea of Chains" and the blacksmith was hostile unless one brought him an appropriate gift.
Gwynneth asked for magical power, and more spells. "Only Chronos the Titan has those, on the top of his mountain" ("Mt. Supermountain" it was quickly nicknamed). "Is that mountain of Olympian height?" asked Mo, pointedly. Yes, yet it is. Chronos, however, jealously guards his knowledge, and he is guarded by "the 300 who are three."
They grilled him further, but he didn't provide much else. He finally told them that this was the hall of arrival, and that they could not return the way they came. There was no gate behind them. To return, they needed to pass through the gates of the underworld and its guardian.
A debate followed about what to do. Once more, the Seer pressured them to choose and go . . . in a short time no choice would be possible. So they chose the Field of Fire and headed out where the Seer pointed. As they passed the pillars, they saw sunlight, blue skies with puffy white clouds, and green rolling hills with a huge mountain capping a range off to the NE. Behind them, only the fountain and pillars and green hills beyond. Each new member of the group to pass merely appeared out of the air. There was no way back.
They debated going right to the underworld, dealing with the guardian, and thus securing a route home. Vryce vetoed that, claiming it was unlikely the guardian would let them pre-pay (or pre-slay) their path home and then come back later.
So they walked toward the Field of Fire. On the way, they saw off in the distance out of their way to the north a house with a walled-in field of grape vines and olive trees. They headed there, since the Seer had told them a wise man speaks to all who will speak to him.
They closed in on the house, and a man wearing a bronze helmet and clasping a spear stepped out. They spoke. He addressed them all as barbarians, and was suspicious of them. They questioned him about Chronos (he takes what he wants), the bulls (beloved of Chronos, like all of the mystic beasts of the land), he hydra, etc. They got some useful information, but not a lot of friendliness. They eventually moved on.
They found the Field of Fire - a scorched area patrolled by two grazing bronze-scaled bulls, much like the stone bulls they'd fought in Felltower. They spent about 20-30 minutes discussing a plan to use Shape Earth to dig a 3' deep hole, put a berm behind it, cover it with an illusion, and then lure the bulls in. Finally the scouts got frustrated and Galen started shooting. The bulls charged 500 yards at them. Dryst put Resist Fire on everyone Even with the damage the bows of the scouts could do, it took bodkin points at under half damage range to actually penetrate (and even then, not much.) Vryce fired some sling stones, Dryst and Gwynneth waited with missile spells. Dryst plugged one with an 18d Stone Missile, wounding it badly - on top of all of the arrows Galen and Alaric put in it. But it kept coming!
The bulls charged up and tried to gore Hjalmarr and Mo, who dodged and hacked at its neck. The bulls turned and breathed fire. Despite Resist Fire, they tried to dodge. The fire was too hot, however, and ignored their level 1 Resist Fire spells! Ike was badly burned and set on fire, and Vryce was set on fire as well . . . and Ike took a second bull's breath as he went down.
They piled on the attacks, the scounts trying to guess where the vitals were but to no real effect. In a few seconds, though, the two bulls were brought down. Vryce split one's skull open and Galen shot twice into the exposed brains and put it down. The second, wounded badly by Galen's arrows (also Alaric's and Dryst's spell), was put down moments later. The fires were put out, but only after Vryce rammed his blade into the heart of one of the bulls. Blood wicked up his sword and then sloughed off. Hjalmarr quickly dunked Shieldslayer into the other. Mo tried to jump in on that, too, but only once per heart - nothing special happened.
Ike got to work on the eyes, aided by Grace to guide his hands. Even so, he mangled two of the four eyes they sought to recover. They were like squishy gemstones, not quite like stones or like eyes.
Alaric was goaded by someone (maybe by Alaric) to try and eat the heart of one of the bulls. So he did so. It set fire to his mouth (6 injury!) and he narrowly missed having his tongue burned out.
They healed up a bit and then headed out, Mo keeping an eye on the mountain to the north. They decided the next destination would be the Tree of the Fleece.
On the way, they saw horses in the distance. Wait, not horses - centaurs! Fifteen of them rode up, bearing bows, clubs, and spears. One was unarmed, older and bearded, and carried only a bag over his shoulder. The youngest of them rode up and gave a wave as Hjalmarr did the same. He called himself Oros, and demanded to know who they were. Mo answered even more belligerently, and in moments they had a challenge going. Oros rode back. The older centaur and a big one rode back. The older introduced himself as Achaeos, and the other as Escalos. He asked if a duel was to be between Mo and Escalos. Mo agreed. Escalos asked if it was to the death, or to victory?
"Victory," said Mo.
"Weapons or wrestling?"
"Weapons," said Mo.
Mo told him he'd only use blunt weapons, and put away his axe. Escalos only had his bow and a club, so, club it was. The reward? A great prize to the victor.
They fought, with Escalos quickly landing a ferocious blow right after Mo landed one on him. They exchanged blows several times, with Mo and Escalos both rocked seriously by the injury. The centaurs cheered Escalos on. But he finally fell unconscious after a hard blow from Mo's morningstar.
They were hushed, their champion down.
Then put his foot on the fallen Escalos, and posed there and said something like, "He put up a good fight." Hjalmarr quickly said, "We have a healer!" and Brother Ike was gestured forward.
The centaurs were silent, and the old one waved off Ike and gave Escalos a potion. His wounded healed instantly and he awoke! He stood, and Mo asked for his reward. The old one gave him one of the potions, said it was the reward, and as a body they turned and rode off, saying nothing more. Mo quaffed the potion and it healed 6d (!) and healed all of his injury. He was disappointed in the "great prize" he expected for victory.
After this, they moved toward a hilly grove in the distance, seeing (but not going to) farms in the distance to the east-northeast (they were headed southeast.)
They reached the edge of the grove and sat and ate and rested a bit. They moved into the grove, and all smelled something lizard-like ahead. "Like a dragon!" said Hjalmarr. They all disagreed.
They sent Galen ahead to scout, cloaked in Invisibility and Mage-Stealth 4 and No-Smell. He found a clearing, and in it a dead tree with a golden fleece on it. Next to it was a cave, some 15' high and 30-35' wide. He snuck up to the fleece and saw something asleep in the cave. So he carefully took the fleece down.
The thing awoke with a snort and many roars!
He turned and jumped the bushes and ran. Something came after him.
He ran until he passed the party, dropped the fleece and readied his bow. The others formed a line, suspecting the roars and such meant a fight was coming.
One was - a nine-headed hydra about 18'-20' long and 12' wide came at them. They attacked.
The hydra was long and fast, and although it took arrows from Alaric and Galen and an axe from Mo, it kept coming and snapped at the lead fighters. Vryce tried to parry but it was too big and brushed his blade aside, injuring him with its long fangs. He stepped into its reach and slashed.
The PCs quickly piled on, dealing an immense amount of damage. The wizards had discovered the trick of starting to cast Great Haste and then abandoning it a second later, until the fight was clearly started - then they finished it. In short order, Dryst and Gwynneth put it on themselves and then Vryce and Mo. Galen and Alaric kept shooting. Ike kept healing the injured. And the fighters kept cutting it up.
Hjalmarr finally split a head in half, presumably not wanting to cut it off at the neck . . . and two popped up in its place in any case, growing in a few seconds into full heads! It went from 9 to 10. They argued about how to kill it. The only other one they fought they killed with brute force damage to the body, so that should do for this one, only more damage was needed.
The hydra fought, and its toxic blood sprayed around. Mo was too resistant to care, and Vryce and Hjalmarr encased in plate from head to toe, and weren't hurt by it.
Gwynneth piled Fireball spells into it, as did Dryst. Mo tossed on alchemist's fire. But it wasn't regenerating, it just wasn't dying from damage.
But it started to dawn on them, a few hundred injury into hurting it, that it wasn't likely to just fall over and die. Eventually they decided to try to take off a head and cauterize the stump. They did so, burning off the two heads.
Having hit on that, what followed was a slow dance of trying to take off just enough heads that Dryst could burn them off with his 6d Flame Jet But it was slow, and the hydra was at 11 heads for a while before they managed to slowly whittle it down. They never stopped piling damage onto its body. Mo managed to cripple a leg after 3-4 tries, but as a quadruped it wasn't really phased by that. A critical block eventually knocked out one head cold, but they still had to kill of the rest slowly.
Eventually they did, after lots of Fireball misses by Gwynneth and unlikely Flame Jet misses by Dryst (he was missing on a 15 or less!). Gwynneth put Flaming Weapon on Vryce's sword and he finally decided to hold that against a stump himself, and burned it beyond healing. They fianlly put it down to one, unconscious, head. Hjalmarr and Gwynneth started to concoct a complicated plan to deal with it. As they did, Mo smashed it and Vryce held his blade against it.
The thing died.
They washed off the toxins and healed the injured.
It was late, so they grabbed up the fleece and sent the scouts to check out the cave. In it they found bones of men and animals alike, and some bronze weapons, some gems, some low-value jewelry of silver and gold, and about 7000 or so in in silver pieces. The fleece was non-magical - they tried to use it to heal Mo by draping it on him, but not such luck.
We ended it right there. Next up, rest, and then the Cave of Serpents?
This was our first ended-beyond-a-gate session. There was simply no chance for the players to return this session. Luckily I'd made plans for this - XP is per session, not per delve, in a gate area, but I rate each and every session as a unique delve for XP purposes. So they'll gain loot and exploration XP based on this session, and then for next session separately. So, no XP yet. MVP is still being debated.
What do we do if we can't get all of the same players? Either we wait until we get the same mix, and run an alternate character set in the meantime, or we may swap in players. For example, if Dryst's player can't make it, he may let Jasper's player run him and finish out the delve, or something of that sort. New characters will not be portal'ed in or out or anything of that sort.
This gate turned out not to go to Meepos (although I did joke the suspicious farmer was the Meeposian brother's dad), but rather to a Greece-like mythical world. Greece-like in that it mixes some of the pre-rebellion of the gods structure, and some of the post-rebellion myths. A fair bit of "Jason and the Argonauts" and assorted Ray Harryhausen bits, too. Enough that familiarity by the PCs would help, but that you couldn't wholly rely on what you think you know to solve everything. Still, we had some stuff like "the Golden Fleece heals, put it on Mo!" and yet also had "I don't want to meta-game, I'll keep hitting the hydra in the body" stuff going on.
I tracked the damage the PCs did to the hydra's body. At the end of the fight, it came to ~2000 injury. Yes, 2000. For some monsters, I use a variant of Unkillable where you simply cannot kill or even disable the creature through sheer damage to non-vital areas. I did this quite on purpose, because even a high damage limit is just saying, "Don't find the weak point on this puzzle monster challenge, just beat the living hell out of its torso and eventually it'll die no matter what." A lot of time and resources were wasted trying to kill the hydra through just sheer damage.
The centaurs were interesting. This is about the only place I'll use them. The duel was fun; I didn't expect it to be Mo that caused it. But Mo was being very belligerent to everyone, even for Mo. I don't think he realized it, but the centaurs were terribly shocked and insulted by his planting a foot on Escalos's fallen form and patronizingly saying how well he fought. That was immediately followed by Hjalmarr helpfully offering that they had a healer . . . to the race of people that healing potions were named after in the original GURPS Magic, and the mythic fathers of doctoring. That cut down the reward from "great" to "minimum to satisfy their word." They've potentially made enemies instead of impressing potential allies.
They are still deciding if the fleece is sufficiently impressive of a gift to give to the cyclops on the island to get powerful magic weapons. We'll see . . .