Weather: Hot, sunny, moderately humid.
Crogar, human barbarian (268 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (355 points)
5 Skeletons (~35 points)
6 Skull Spirits (?? points)
Hayden the Ebon Page, human knight (307 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (250 points)
Red Raggi, human berserker (?? points, NPC)
Orcish Bob, not-orcish orc brute (approximately 125 points, NPC)
The group gathered in town for another delve. Given the short handed crew, the lack of a Scry Gate scroll (it's on order, and will come in two more weeks), and desire to put paid to the orcs, they settled on dealing with the orcs. So they decided to go down the orc hole again, for a fourth straight session.
With that in mind, they found Raggi and recruited Orcish Bob, both of whom are always down for combat.
They gathered some rumors, including one about the orcs despising hobgoblins and "all of their allies." What allies? The PCs weren't sure. They also heard of a giant staircase up that goes to a "heavenly realm."
They purchased a portable ladder (since Wyatt has the one from last time), some assorted basic gear such as rope, mallets, spikes, etc. and headed out. They moved up to the castle and had Galen scout it out while Invisible. He found no signs of recent occupation. Meanwhile Gerry pulled out a skull to summon a Skull Spirit. He did, and rolled a 3. I thought of some good options . . . and told him a 1 or 6 was special. 1. Okay, roll again I said. 6. He ended up with six skull spirits. They'd have to act like a Mass Zombie grouping, not get individual commands, but it was still a great addition to the group. They rested a bit, then headed into the castle. They opened up the trap door and headed down.
From there they made their way, unmolested, to the orc hole. They kept an eye on that and checked the six doors they dealt with last time. The "stuck" door was still stuck, so Ulf put Silence on the area around the door and Crogar chopped it down. Beyond it were just abandoned orc beds, like the other rooms.
From there, they went down the orc hole in the usual fashon - Silence to nail in a rope ladder, Galen and Gerry Invisible going down first, the group once it was determined what the situation was. There were no guards on the "cliff" but the fishnet was there, repaired crudely.
They climbed up and cut it down, again under Silence, while Galen scouted ahead and determined the four-cave complex was empty and not recently used for living space. Hayden sliced up the net into knotted ropes, "so the sea turtles don't get caught in them" and tossed the bits in the pond ("Where the sea turtles live.")
The group scouted out and mapped the caverns, crudely. Then they formed up and headed up the "orc tunnel."
It was about a mile in that Galen, scouting ahead, found a barricade across the 9" wide tunnel. Beyond it was a 6-7 yard circular cave, with two goblins (preparing some kind of stew over embers), and seven orcs with bows, axes, and clubs. He pulled back and explained what he saw. They contrived a plan to get Galen up there, then Ulf would sneak up and cast Silence to allow them to be slain without alerting anyone.
Sadly, Ulf's terrible Stealth roll meant the orcs must have heard him; when Galen arrived four orcs were waiting on the far end tunnel - the goblins and other three were gone. When Ulf arrived, Galen shot two orcs once each in the right eye. They dropped, dead. The other two shot him as he became visible. One arrow bounced off his armor, another barely penetrated (but he resisted the poison.)
He shot them in the vitals and dropped one and wounded the other. Then he shot that one twice more and killed them, then shot the other four more times "to make sure." The other PCs rushed up.
Raggi kicked down the barricade and the checked the pot - maybe stew, maybe poison for arrows. They decided to pursue the others who clearly fled. They did so cautiously, though, with Galen scouting ahead and waiting at bends for them so they didn't lose track of each other or put him out of help's reach. They found a watering hole along the way (and some dropped arrows), fed by trickling water from the rock above.
They kept going - eventually another two miles, hearing more and more howling and yowling and growls ahead as they kept going. Finally they found the exit - a tunnel mouth out to the bright sunlight of the day. Highlighted in the light were about a dozen devil wolves. The group decided Galen should shoot a couple and lure the rest into the tunnel where they could be killed. So they set up, and Galen shot and killed two. But the wolves retreated instead - the PCs couldn't determine why (they failed the relevant PER rolls I made for them to detect anything.)
The PCs advanced to see outside. They saw a wooden palisade, about 15-20' high, embedded in a solid stone embankment - clearly Earth to Stone was used if not Shape Stone. The palisade had many orcs on it, and two sturdy gates to the left and the right. Beyond them, separate from the palisade, were two covered towers with movable shutters and a tarp covering them - clearing artillery platforms. Orcs in the scores - maybe hundreds - were organizing and they heard owlbears and ogres, too. And goblins, of course.
The group had planned to attack but decided to talk, instead. After some discussion of what they wanted, of course.
They seemed to have settled on "we want the orcs to leave us alone and let us go anywhere we want freely, and we'll ignore them in turn." Some suggested that the rumors of an "orc king" in Felltower meant they wanted the bones of that king, and the PCs could find it for them for a suitable reward.
So they sent Galen out to negotiate. Galen clearly was respected by the orcs, if not feared - probably feared. They accompanied him with the six skull spirits.
He walked out, bow away, but with Missile Shield on. Ten orcs launched arrows at him, then another ten. All missed. He called for a parley.
After some back and forth, the orc chieftan himself climbed down to talk, accompanied by five well-equipped orcs (guards? subchiefs?) and a standard bearer with a head mounted on a pole. The chief worse decorated armor and carried a bastard sword. The stood about 10 yards apart and yelled to each other.
Galen basically told the orc they were bored of killing orcs and wanted free access, but also asked what the orcs sought in the dungeon. The orc chieftan said that wasn't for non-orcs (using the blanket, very insulting term in orcish for "non-orcs" that basically indicates sub-orcish scum.) Galen mentioned the "orc king" and the orc chieftan looked momentarily surprised before putting his fierce negotiation face back on.
Galen and the orc couldn't come to terms. Galen said if they didn't agree they'd keep killing orcs, and the orc chieftan's response was, basically, "So what?" The orcs clearly wanted to explore Grak Yorl ("the Boneyards") and didn't care about casualties taken doing so. Once it was clear the PCs had nothing else to say, they both went silent and the orc chieftan climbed back up. As he was vaulting the battlements, Galen said, "We have the orc king's bones." The orc chieftan stopped dead amd turned, and said, "Show me."
Galen couldn't, of course, and remained silent. The orc chieftan left. Galen pulled back and the group discussed what to do.
They decided to leave a strongly worded note in Common and drafted one. Then Ulf wrote it out and Galen shot it into the palisade wall with one of the captured orc arrows.
The message said:
To the Leader of the Orcs: We have no desire to kill any more of your orcs beyond the scores that we have already slain. We will not invade and destroy you, or even kill any more orcs, if you tell your troops to stop annoying us with their feeble attacks as we explore Grak Yorl. Leave as alone, and you may well see the bones of your king.
—Galen and his Warband
They trudged back the three miles to the caves, and climbed out of the orc hole. They took the time to loot the dead orcs, finally, and cast Mass Zombie on them, set up the barricade, and order them to kill anyone who came.
From there, they headed to the crystal lenses/mirrors they'd found back in session 35. Only Raggi had been there before. The others had heard of/read about them.
They proceeded to spend a lot of time experimenting with the mirrors and the repelling doors. They put Bravery on a willing Crogar and then convinced him to to walk backwards toward the doors. He went flying onto his face for 4d-4. They tried sending a skeleton, and it was flung back (for 2d-2 and it survived.)
They tried casting Dispel Magic on the doors from an Ethereal Body Gerry, but it didn't work - nor did Lockmaster. They tried Crogar rushing it after another spell and he went flying and landed on his neck.
They tried casting spells on things beheld in the mirrors to see if it amplified spells. It did not do that. But a Sunbolt shot in a way to ricochet off of all of them into the door was clearly amplified, and it scorched the previously undamaged doors. They couldn't make a large enough spell to matter, though, and decided blowing the doors off wasn't the solution.
They spend a good hour or so there (maybe more like 2) experimenting before they finally called it quits and headed back home. Luckily, nothing molested them the whole time.
For all of the non-combat action, and non-action at the end (due in party to very uncooperative wandering monsters dice) this was a very interesting session. Generally I feel a bit bad when the PCs try to find treasure and just can't eke any out. This one, I don't feel badly at all - no one even remotely tried. They briefly discussed killing the giant, but decided they'd already robbed him so he wouldn't have any loot. Red Raggi and Orcish Bob voted for that but didn't have the numbers to carry it.
The fortifications really slammed the PCs to a halt. I had mentioned way, way back when Galen scouted that the orcs had heavily fortified a cave entrance to the south that seemed to potentially reach into Felltower. Yes, yes they had. Clearly it was a good idea because the PCs weren't sure what to do and talked instead of killed because of the walls.
Shame of a waste of a massively successful Skull Spirit casting. All they did was- aid? hinder? do nothing for? pick one - some diplomatic talk.
The diplomacy was actually pretty amusing. The lack of a "face" character - even someone who is potentially likable but also talkative - hurts a bit here. You literally had two killers - Galen and the orc chieftan - possessed of no other agenda than "leave us alone so we can explore the dungeon as we please" and both with Callous and Bloodlust - talking about a non-aggression pact. So it ended exactly how you'd expect. "We'll keep killing your orcs." "Okay, you do that." It didn't help that the PCs had nothing to give and nothing to demand other than ignoring one another and a bit of "stay out of Felltower."
Loot was 31 sp each. That's a big drag on Bob's and Raggi's availability. From their perspective the PCs didn't even really try to get loot.
MVP was Crogar, as decided by a random die roll. XP was 1 for exploration.