Monday, September 2, 2019
GURPS DF Session 120, Felltower 92 - Entering the Forest Gate
Date: Sunday, September 1st, 2019
Weather: Moderately hot, clear, sunny.
Dryst, halfling wizard (463 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (268 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (409 points)
Gerald Tarrant, human necromancer (355 points)
5 Skeletons (~35 points)
Skull Spirit (?? points)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)
The PCs gathered in town, having spent a good bit of money on potions, spell stones, and some assorted mundane items they felt they needed to deal wtih the Forest Gate, their stated destination. They also had concern about how to deal with the "mold" - the yellow-brown gunk on the floor near the gate, and equipped themselves with push-brooms and some crystal vials for mold samples. Wyatt wanted a crystal spoon, since crystal vials seem immune to so much hostile matrial, but nothing of that delicacy was available. They passed on getting any NPCs because Raggi was not around (after last session's debacle from his point of view) and Orcish Bob was already grumpy from the lack of loot last session.
They made their way to the top of the mountain and then down the trap door entrance into Felltower. From there, they made their way to the next level, hurried away from some skittering and chittering noises too big to be rats, down the giant staircase, and then to the "apartment level." They came out into a scene of semi-recent carnage - blood splatters, bits of broken weapons, and even a half of a helmet. They bothered Dryst until he agreed to cast History on the helmet, for a one year lookback (as they didn't want to risk missing anything.) He saw a lot of an orc wearing the helmet, cooking in it, hitting other orcs with it, sitting on it, etc. and then getting his head split open by a norker-held axe.
They headed toward the gate from there, with Galen in the lead. The close air of the level didn't debilitate anyone - thanks to Luck in some cases - but it wasn't pleasant. Even so, they made it unmolested to "yellow mold" room. The room was actually coated with some sticky yellow-brown gunk, not mold - none of those who'd encountered it last time still lived to pass along that correction. Either way, Quenton was able to identify it as an herbicide - a virulent plant-killing contact poison. Not especially harmful to non-vegetable life, but nothing you wanted to get onto your skin or into your ears, nose, or eyes. They scooped some of the sticky stuff up into the empty crystal vials to hopefully use as a weapon.
They crossed the gunk and reached the portcullis and pits. Crogar wasn't able to lift the 1500 pound portcullis by himself - it took him, Galen, and Wyatt all using extra effort (plus an assist from Quenton Mudbourne) to lift it; Silence kept that quiet. Ulf hammered in all four of his iron spikes to keep it open and they then face the twin 20' wide pits. Ultimately they used Walk on Air on the non-casters (who carried skeletons) and Levitate by the two wizards. Once across, they touched down and moved into the wooded cave. They rested for a good ten minutes or so, while Wyatt and Galen checked for tracks and found clear evidence of what must have been vegepygmies and thornies, but old prints of both. While Galen joined the others to rest, Wyatt decided to circle the gate area on his own.
He didn't get far before he got disoriented, and wasn't able to find his way forward or back. After he didn't return Galen led the group after him and found him in short order. Everyone, save Galen, felt a little disoriented. Galen was able to lead them back. Going to the gate was no problem, however, and they found it, faintly shimmered between two poles of living wood.
Dryst cast Scry Gate but saw only a forested area of strange plants with a path leading away. So Crogar rushed in and the rest quickly followed. They felt a twisting feeling - Dryst failed HT and took 1 HP of injury. All of their spells stayed up, however.
Beyond the gate was a large clearing, some 40-50 yards wide and maybe a bit less deep, not quite square and not quite sharp-edged, with two paths leading out. The clearing had earth and sparse grass. The plants grew in a tight tangle but ended abruptly along the edge of the clearing. The air was warm-to-hot and humid, but the air felt odd. It smelled heavily of overly-sweet flowers, too-ripe fruit, rotting plants, humidity, damp earth, and unpleasant odors of all kinds. The plants were quite alien, superficially resembling plants "back home" but nothing they could identify. They were all bigger than seemed appropriate - bushes were unusually tall and reached up to man-sized, trees substantially taller than most trees back home, etc.
The gate was nowhere to be seen - clearly, a one-way gate. They've dealt with those before, so this didn't really bother them.
Quenton cast Know Location but couldn't identify his proximity to anything he knew. Galen couldn't find north. He was sure he could navigate as usual, but didn't have any sense of which cardinal direction was what. There was no sun in the blue sky, just a diffuse sunlight-like light everywhere. They arbitrarily designated a direction "North" (based roughly on the facing of the gate they entered and how they faced when they arrived) and used that to navigate from there. (All directions hereafter follow that arbitrary decision.)
Dryst immediately cast Seek Earth, seeking after gold, and located some a few hundred yards northwest of their current position - he received a vision of a gold-wrapped sword stabbed into earth. They immediately headed "west" along a pathway between the strange plants. They spotted a narrow path to the south but ignored it and headed north, and kept winding their way through the paths - sometimes as narrow as 3-4 yards, but mostly a good 8-10 yards wide, sometimes wider.
They wound their way around the pathways, and found a clearing with water seeping up from below. A servant was sent to explore and test the water but nothing molested him. They saw movement on the far side of the clearing - seven man-shaped figures with two dog-shaped figured. Vegepygmies and thornies, they decided (correctly.) They watched them. Wyatt wanted Galen to shoot them, but most of the group didn't want to start a fight when they didn't have to. The vegepygmies made their way west and moved out of sight.
Around this time they decided to scout "up" and sent up Galen with Walk on Air and Invisibility. He walked up and looked around, and determined that the trees went up from 40', 70, even 80' and higher in many places. He could see trees in all directions but clearly the "swamp forest" (as Crogar was calling it) was bounded in all directions, making it a box or dome of some kind. He could see birds, mostly in flocks, but a few overly-large birds flying alone. No sun, just blue sky in all directions.
Some birds, like hook-beaked "crows," seemed to laugh at the PCs. They eventually flew off when they tried to mimic sounds back at the birds.
They found their way to a clearly with spiderwebs along one pathway out, and a mold-rotted range of trees and bushes to the NW. Hoping to get closer to the treasure, they tried out their herbicide. It worked, but it was hard to get out and use. So Quenton tried his new Wither Plant spell on the mold and it worked. It was clear the mold wasn't healthy but probably only mildly harmful, and then only if you let it get into your eyes, mouth, nose, or ears.
Naturally, this meant sitting down and calculating how many castings of wither Plant, at what size, would be reasonable to carve a path through the mold. This turned out to be around 35 castings. They did so, slowly, resting as needed and using Lend Energy to fuel more castings. As they carved a path through, killing the mold down to the rotten dead plants below, they realized they were being watched. Some more vegepygmies - the same ones? Came and stared at them in an obvious fashion. They didn't cause any trouble but kept looking until the PCs were mostly across, and then left.
Once past, they made their way toward the sword again. They passed a mixed of different kinds of trees, include a big stand of "willow" trees that moved steadily and slowly as if in a breeze despite the still air. They pass them, and threaded a narrow path between them and a pond from which they heard weirdly distorted croaking and the occassional loud "GRONK!" noise.
They located the sword in a big field of Venus flytrap-like plants surrounded by buzzing giant flies of mottled hues and weird markings that were all of 2' or so with a 3'+ wingspan (and around 20-30 pounds). They decided to avoid the flytraps, hopefully by sending someone underground with Walk through Earth and then have that person come up, grab the sword, throw it, and then come back underground.
They put Earth Vision on Galen. The "earth" was only 6-10' feet deep in this area, and it was riddled with roots like a pot-bound plant. There were so many roots under the field (although not for a few feet under the "path") that it would be impassible without also having Walk through Plants. They gave up on that.
Galen shot one of the flytraps, and it waved over in their direction but didn't seem especially bothered by the arrow. He shot another into its "mouth" and that didn't bother it any more.
So naturally they shot the same plant with a Fireball and then a Sunbolt, scorching it badly. That caused black clouds to form overhead. They went back to charging up spells and a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and zapped Crogar for 6d (doing only a little injury). "Why me?" moaned Crogar. They avoided fire spells after that, and Dryst put Resist Lightning on almost everyone.
Some of the flies attacked at this time. Galen shot most of them down pretty quickly, and Wyatt stabbed one to death, but Crogar wasn't so lucky. Once flew up to him and bit him in the face, critically. He tried to cut it off with his axe and critically missed and hit himself in the leg and crippled it. He dropped down with a fly on him. It didn't last with Wyatt and Galen nearby.
Back to the drawing board, they healed Crogar and then they tried killing the wounded plant with Stone Missile and then with Crogar rushing it and cutting it up. That worked, and he managed to finish it off. This triggered more flies, which were killed. Galen proactively shot down all of the flies he could see. They were big and slow, relatively, and although they had a reasonable Dodge he was able to finish them quickly.
They figured out which plants were within reach of the sword or the path to the sword. So they planned on basically using Haste, Great Haste, and some other defensive buffs to make Wyatt or Galen able to run over, grab the sword, and then run back. Ulf argued that it was simpler to just toss the dead flies at the flytraps to get them to snap closed on them. They tried with one off to the side, and it caught the fly and stayed closed. A number of plants they could see had closed maws, so it was reasonable to think they'd stay closed for a while.
So they basically tossed flies to the flytraps, and then sent Wyatt in with all of those spells on. He threw flies while Great Hasted and then grabbed the sword. One plant he missed widely so it tried to grab him, instead. It snapped on empty air as he Dodged. He ran back with the sword.
It turned out to be a magical, ornate broadsword. Another Seek Gold showed gold still where the sword was.
So they ended up retrieving another fly, tossing it to the one flytrap in reach that wasn't fed, and then having Crogar dig and chop roots with Wyatt guarding him until they found 21 sp and 2 gp and some rusted bits of gear and clothing. They took that, too.
They cast Seek Earth first on gold (none) and silver (some to the north, hundreds of yards away.)
From there, they started to head north when night fell. Like a dimmer switch, it went from "noon daylight" to "full moon night" in five minutes. It was night. They covered their lightstones, accepting a flat -2 to vision instead of a -0 and then a -3 out to 40' and then relative night-blindness. Deciding to press on and not rest, despite the fact that it was at least 14 hours since they'd walked out of the gates of Stericksburg (and longer since they'd risen). They steadily got more tired but kept on. The noises and smells changed radically at night - weird hoots, more GRONKs from the pond, warbling insects, etc. It was loud.
They kept going until they reached a river almost 100' wide, lined with mangrove-like trees on the far side and with a few on this side, crossed by a bridge.
They checked the area and found it was very, very quiet. Also, they found vegepygmy tracks going E-W and W-E and S but nothing to the bridge. So they headed north, carefully. About 1/3 of the way across the bridge they found out why it was quiet. Each and every one of them felt a pull, a desire to jump into the water. Nixies (aquatic pixies in AD&D name) or a magical river, either way. They all resisted and ran full tilt for the shore. They managed to make the shore. They kept going. Tired from the run, and it being even later now, they decided to camp in the middle of the large field-like clearing they'd reached.
They set up watches, and Forest Warning, and camped. Nothing molested them, although it was very noisy. They planned to sleep in late to make up for sleep missed to shifts, but the rapid change to full noon daylight didn't allow for that. They all woke short on FP and sleep. They also all suffered terrible nightmares - of being eating alive by swarming bugs, their friends eating fruits from the strange plants and then murdering them, dying of thirst, dying strangled by plants, etc. Crogar was badly affected (-2 FP, -1 Will) but the others managed to make it though. It didn't bode well for long-term stays. They ate only the food they brought and drank on water created by Create Water but even so, rest and supplies may be an issue.
They continued to explore north, and used the Walk on Air bit to send Galen up to scope out the location of the silver. He spotted a U-shaped area of smaller trees surrounded E-S-W with larger trees and tangled brush. The silver was there. They just had to find a way to it. They headed West and eventually found a cul-de-sac with a beautiful field surrounded by nasty, warped alien trees (perhaps) covered with shelf-like rippling fungi. The field had lush green grass, and a kaleidoscope of wildflowers in brilliant hues. All of it was from home. The gate back, perhaps? Quenton ran in . . . and disappeared. So they sent Ulf in next, and he disappeared as well.
Dryst put See Invisible on himself and then Galen. They could see the fields but saw a sleeping Ulf being dragged by his heels by two antler-headed 3" people with butterfly wings. Four more flew around Quenton, who was awake but clearly fascinated by these little people.
Galen shot down the two pulling Ulf. They died screaming and broke up into dust. The others shrieked, alarming Quenton. Galen shot at two more and killed one and missed the other. The other three dove for cover and the field showed itself as blackish grass without flowers. Quenton was not happy. He used up almost all of his FP casting Wither Plants to wipe out a good chunk of the field. He then walked out, not looking back at the destruction he'd caused. So much for vegetable rights and peace. They looked for the other three that fled but couldn't see them, and moved on.
They made it around the trees finally, and found a "wall." it was a flat wall of stone or metal of some unknown type. It couldn't be cut with Wyatt's knife, and it made a weird clunk when hit with it. It couldn't be scored or marked, and it didn't spark. It was just an odd grey color.
They made it to the U-shaped area they sought, and it was covered on top with a canopy of trees and around front with a woven wall of vines clearly grown into a living barrier. 20' up was a pair of well-concealed "doors" in the vines.
They sent Wyatt up with Walk on Air and a portable ladder. A thorn-tipped javelin poked out of a opened hole in the "door" of vines and stabbed at him. He dodged back and dropped the ladder. He tried talking but only heard thumping noises.
Dryst cast Gift of Tongues on him for vegepygmy.
This worked, sort-of, getting the "spoken" portion of their communication. They were alerting each other to danger from without.
Wyatt thumped back "friends" and "travelers."
The vegepgymies inside thumped back something like "Who?" and then "Friends of Tree?"
Wyatt said "Don't understand."
"Friend of Tree?"
They repeated it. The partly encouraged Wyatt to say yes, so he thumped back "Friend of Tree."
The vegepygmies thumped away "Friends of Tree! Danger!" and thorns started growing in patches on the doors. The party heard thorny growls, too.
So they backed off, because a) it was late in the real world and b) they were sure if they wanted to force the issue or not.
They headed west and found a big pile of dirt. Suddenly, two big bugs bored out of the earth and attacked - ankhegs. They were lightning-quick on the defense and fast and strong on offense. Crogar was immediately bitten and tried to parry - bad move, it was too heavy and knocked his axe aside and bit his arm and crippled it. He dropped the axe. Wyatt dodged a blast of acid from one. Galen started to shoot.
Basically, Ulf tried to heal Crogar, Galen kept shooting one in the eyes with limited effect, Wyatt kept stabbing with the same. Quenton created a mound of earth to hide behind and then stepped out to blast one with Lightning and stunned it. They eventually cut them down with the help of Great Haste on Wyatt, despite him straining his shoulder on one blow early on, more arrows from Galen, and a Stone Missile from Dryst.
The ankhegs slain, we ended the session.
History is a useful spell, but it's possible to overdo it. If you zoom in too closely (a day, a month) you might miss something. Zoom back to far (a year, or use Ancient History) and you might get only a glimpse of the actual past you're interested in. It's not necessarily a case of "more is better." Its existence means I have to know what every single thing I put in the dungeon has been up to for years, even, or at least an idea of it.
As soon as the PCs got through the gate and determined it a confined environment, they started to guess where they were. "We're on a spaceship. Didn't you ever play Metamorphosis Alpha?" said Galen's player. Wyatt's opined it was a Dyson Sphere. Clearly, their PCs hang out in a weird bar in Stericksburg.
I'll argue that GURPS doesn't really need a lot of heavy math, but it does require a lot of adding and subtracting and counting. Unless you've got a bunch of spellcasters, Lend Energy, and a problem they perceive solvable with multiple spell castings. Then you've got a lot of math - energy/time/cost calculations and how to divvy it all up efficiently. My players do this very well, so I just tune out and let them figure it out. But still, it's not the best part of gaming.
The logic of wyatt's "tree" answer was, "If someone asks if you're a god, you say yes." Clearly, this wasn't what the vegepygmies hoped to hear. At least they didn't go with the truth, which was "you have treasure, can we come in and loot it?" Maybe they'd changed their minds but they headed there with lootish intent in the first place.
MVP for the session was Ulf for the "feed them dead flies" idea, which was naturally coupled with the "cast every spell we can think of on one guy and have him run in" plan. No other XP because the delve isn't over yet.
Overall, this was fun. It's a mix of a few sources I quite liked but none of which I thought executed their ideas quite the way I would. The PCs are after treasure, though, and it seems sparse here. We'll see if they can find the way home next time.