Monday, August 20, 2018

GURPS DF Session 108, Felltower 80 - Rats

We had a poor combination of players for continuing the delve on the far side of the Oylmpia gate. So instead we picked up with a B-Team of PCs - a mix of experienced PCs who hadn't gone through the gate and some brand-new PCs.

Date: 8/19/2018

Weather: Damp, warm.

Ahenobarbus the Lacerator, human swashbuckler (286 points)
Aldwyn, human knight (254 points)
Bruce MacTavish, Jr., human barbarian (250 points)
Desmond McDermott, human wizard (260 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (330 points)
     5 skeletons (~25 points)
     skull spirit (?? points)
Jaspar, human swashbuckler (260 points)
Murak, God's Hammer, human cleric (250 points)
Raggi Ragnarsson, human berserker (?? points)

We started in town, as usual, gathering rumors and buying supplies. Two new delvers joined the group - a soft-spoken skirt-wearing barbarian with a greatsword and a harpoon, and a stumpy cleric of the order of Saint Taralle of Racciopi, who wields a hammer, hates evil, and claims to be half-dwarf. No one's really sure how they met those guys, but here we are.

They headed out the north gate across the Old Stone Bridge over the polluted Silver River to Sterick's Landing, with the badly vandalized statue of Baron Sterick the Red. Ahenobarbus spit on the statue, and they moved on. While they did Desmond made sure to caution everyone not to tell Mrs. McDermott about Felltower, just that they went on a hike near it just to look around, and that nothing happened. Mrs. McDermott has a low opinion of delvers and delving. Gerry made a Skull Spirit and rested while this went on.

They had decided to hit two areas of special interest: the "touch only once" altar, with those who hadn't touched it, and then over to a grindstone found all the way back during Total Party Teleport II.

They made their way up to the castle and through the acid-eaten portcullis. They opened the trap door and took the short spiral staircase down, and made their way toward the stairs down to level 2. They planned to go right past the "orc hole," assuming the lack of recent orc encounters means it should be pretty safe. They went the long way around . . . and as they did, they passed some doors to areas not yet mapped.

"That was mapped, but the map was lost."

So it was quickly decided to re-check those areas, just in case.

The first door of the three on their map was forced open by Bruce MacTavish, who kicked it open . . . and took a envenomed crossbow quarrel to the groin. It pierced through his kilt and his skin, but his great health was sufficient to keep the old, flaky venom on it from doing any harm. The PCs sent in another to check the room. All they found was a 30 wide by 60 long room with a crossbow trap set up in the corner. They took it, and made Bruce carry it. Murak used Surgery to remove the bolt. (The PC rolled it, and made the roll exactly! Hurrah! Except that he doesn't have a surgery kit. Oops, penalties . . . he ended up tearing the bolt out rather too violently.) They healed up Bruce a bit and moved on to the next room.

They forced that door, and found nothing but a dusty room. They searched but none of them were particularly effective at it.

The forced the next door, and found again, an empty room. But they spotted a ghostly young girl who fled from them. They tossed a lightstone to follow her, and saw she fled to hide in a corner. Then, something unseen grabbed her by the hair and dragged her. Gerry put See Invisible on himself but couldn't see anything dragging her. She was dragged to the door and disappeared.

They spent some time determining what to do about the ghost, but also checked the room. They quickly spotted a 3' wide, 2 1/2' high hole in the wall opposite the door. A chucked lightstone showed only more tunnel, quickly turning to the right. They decided to tie a rope to Ahenobarbus and send him in. He handed Murak his sword (who played around with it, Vow against edged weapons or no, while he waited), put Serrita (his knife) in his teeth, and crawled in.

He found a Y-fork ahead, and heard rats to the left. So he turned right and crawled along until he found a short side tunnel that led to a flat stone wall that was clearly meant to be pushed away. He messed around with it, carefully, but couldn't force it open from a safe position. He moved on a bit further but came to the end of his rope.

He turned and crawled back . . . and ended up face-to-face with a giant rat! The rat attacked at the same moment and Ahenobarbus. The rat bit him several times but couldn't get through his armor (thanks to hist Bracers of Force and helmet) and Ahenobarbus eventually managed to shiv it several times and kill it. He crawled over it and out, followed by more rats.

He crawled out of the hole and announced, "My friends, rats!"

They had some time to get organized, but chose to mostly stand around and argue about how to fight the rats. So, the rats poured out of the hole. The PCs weren't that well organized; plus, it's hard to create a fighting line against speedy and small creatures.

The PCs ended up in a brawl with 30 giant rats and a hundred or so smaller rats (rodents of unusual size, in that they weren't giant, like the usual-sized rats) in the form of 10 hexes of rat swarms.

Gerry tossed a 1-hex height Stench spell, which did help discourage the smaller rats from coming in. Desmond hit several with am Explosive Acid Ball, but also hit Murak and Aldwyn, blinding Murak in one eye! The PCs otherwise just kept chopping and slashing at rats, who proved quite nimble. It was a lopsided fight in the end, but one of Gerry's skeletons was chewed up a bit, another was chewed on and accidentally dis-right-armed by a "helpful" Aldwyn sword swing, and a couple of other PCs were threatened. Desmond hit six rats with Mass Sleep, and the others were hacked up and eventually died.

Gerry used Mass Zombie and brought up nine giant rat servitors, who followed him around.

They began to explore the tunnels. Over the course of an hour or so they sent pairs of delvers into the tunnels, exploring and crawling. At one point Adlwyn got stuck, and Desmond had to crawl in and free him with Shape Earth. They eventually forced open the movable bit of rock they'd found much earlier, and moved out into that room. Everyone except Raggi and Bruce could fit, so they stayed behind with the skeletons. Raggi sat and sharpened his axe, and Bruce just waited.

Murak, while crawling to the hole, found a 2.25 carat pearl stuck in a corner behind the movable bit of wall.

They eventually found the room they'd entered was the second of the two rooms they'd explored.

They made it back to the room with Raggi and Bruce, but those two didn't hear the gentle knocking on the door. So they wrote a note and slid it under the door. Bruce and Raggi opened the door.

They crawled again through the tunnels, and this time took the left fork. They found the main rat den, in a room just like the others. The PCs searched it even as baby rats and young rats scattered, and found some copper coins, silver coins, and a few other trinkets. Plus two waterproof torches (see DF12) and a Potion of Minor Healing.

They left via the door in that room, and explored around. To make a long story short, they ended up going in circles around and around the rooms, until Aldwyn pointed out to Desmond that the map wasn't "totally wrong!" but just that he wasn't seeing that the rat tunnels formed connections between two mirrored layouts of three identical rooms per side. Once that was clear, the mapping was completed. That still ended up with lots of walking, lots of crawling, some shaping of stone, slipping that note under several doors, and much staring at the map to figure out where they were.

Before they left, Murak decided to sit down and pray to the Good God and Saint Taralle for guidance on what to do about the ghost. Or how to find the ghost. [I shot this down - I pointed out that Last Ditch praying doesn't say anything about clues, hints, or guidance - that's a different thing.] He ended up just recalling passages from the Scriptures that said things about "good things come to those that wait" and "patience is the virtue of the true believer" and such. So they decided to come back again in the future.

They headed out from here toward the second level, determined to at least hit the altar in the time remaining. That didn't work out. They heard the sounds of muffled voices and leather and metal. Orcs?

Ahenobarbus moved up and threw a lightstone around a corner. That got the voices to shush, a door to close, and then they heard a muffled horn. The orcs were calling up reinforcements.

They decided to hightail it out, since they had little time left and no stomach for a useless brawl with orcs. They hurried back the way they came and out of the dungeon.

They made it back to town with a pittance - the only valuable thing they'd found, really, was a 500 sp pearl and that old crossbow trap (300, 12 lbs.). They sold those and called it a day.


Once again, that caution in the AD&D PLAYERS HANDBOOK is on the money - "Do not be sidetracked. A good referee will have many ways to distract an expedition, many things to draw attention, but ignore them if at all possible. [. . . ] always stay with what was planned if at all possible [. . . ] (Gary Gygax, PHB, p. 109)

Lack of significant Per scores told here. That pearl was missed almost a half-dozen times before it was spotted (and no one searched, it was just a lucky roll.) The PCs missed significant clues about the rats, various dangers, the "secret panel" that would have revealed the rat holes much earlier, etc.

Raggi was available, but the Meeposian brothers were not. Raggi came, but this was a pretty boring and unprofitable delve. He's likely to keep his current frequency of appearance, or even lower it. Killing a few rats and earning 79 sp isn't really what he got into raiding and pillaging for.

The Stench was interesting. Can you cut down the height of an Area spell? I said yes, because it seems like you should be able to for spells that fill an area or clear an area. I didn't allow it for Mass Sleep, because I feel like that's the beginning edge of abuse.

We also had the usual "We'll use Seeker to [fill in blank with something Seeker specifically can't do]." It's a great spell for tracking down known people or things. It's not useful at all, specifically by design, for finding people or things you don't know well. You can't use the spell to find the owner of an object you found, or find an object you know must exist, or find a person you glimpsed briefly, etc. "Where is Raggi?" is valid; "Where is the ghost woman?" or "Where is the owner of this pearl?" is not.

I allowed folks with Acrobatics to try to Acrobatic Dodge and Retreat away from swarms. Not strictly canonical, but it makes sense with ground-bound rat swarms. I wouldn't allow it with flyers or swimmers, though.

MVP for the session was Ahenobarbus for his tunnel crawling. Also, he got my vote for saying, at one point, "Krull is canon. I'll fight anyone over it!"

Fun session, and even the little bit of loot they got was enough for this low-point group to get some XP, but it wasn't a great delve. They explored some rooms, found a mysterious ghost, and killed some rats . . . but level one wasn't renowned for its loot even before it was pretty thoroughly picked over. Hopefully next session we have enough people to resume in Olympia and get that cleared up!

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