Weather: Hot, humid, diffusely 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)
We picked up right after the PCs killed a pair of ankhegs in a brief fight. They quickly healed up the wounded while Gerry cast Zombie on both bugs and ordered them to the front, flanking Galen. Dryst cast Create Servant and sent it into the lead, and they headed out.
From there they made their way south to another wide pathway heading NW or SE (again, arbitrary directions). They chose NW and eventually found a NE pathway and took it. That split, and they kept right and found a dead end. At the end of the dead end were a number of trees totally denuded of bark and leaves. Wyatt wanted to investigate, so he moved ahead, trailed a bit to the rear by Crogar, Galen, and the two ankheg zombies.
As they went, Quenton kept an eye out for fruit and selected one that looked pear-like, and ripe. It had a cloying, sickly-sweet smell and didn't look right in spots. He put it in his pack.
He reached the end and knocked on the wood. After he did so, vines shot out from either side of the pathway, from right off the ground all the way up to 30-40' off the ground, grabbing at people. The ankhegs and Wyatt were grabbed - Wyatt by three around the body, one each around the left leg and right arm. They came at him from the flanks and he wasn't able to Dodge more than one. In moments the vines had 20 CP on his and he was in serious trouble. He tried to cut himself free with his left but couldn't land an effective blow due to his halved ST.
Galen stood between the ankhegs, shielded from either side, and took out his 10 cutting-tipped arrows. He shot one experimentally at a vine on Wyatt and cut it off. Caustic sap dripping from the vines started to eat into Wyatt's armor (but not his Mythic Corselet). More vines grabbed him, including one around his next. At least until he was able to get one arm free thanks to two more Galen arrow shots and then start cutting vines off of himself.
Crogar ran up and started to hack vines off of one of the ankheg, which bit vines off of themselves as well. But he, too, was quickly grabbed and forced to cut one off of himself. More vines reached out for the targets in range, and the ankheg got more and more wrapped up. Crogar was forced to back off or be grappled himself.
Vines just kept coming, and no one could spot a single source of them - just a massive tangle of vines on either side of the path.
Galen backed up as well, loosing arrows the whole time, eventually shooting off 8 of his 10 cutting arrows. Once Wyatt had free arms and enough CP knocked off to get back to full damage swings he was able to cut off the others.
Once Wyatt was free he ran back with Walk on Air and past the ankhegs, cutting three vines off of one with Move and Attack. But more grabbed, and the caustic sap was burning away their chitin and wearing down their HP. They tried to plan a way to free them. They hit on buffing the living hell out of Wyatt, putting Great Haste on him, and having him cut them free while Crogar stood just out of reach and cut vines off of Wyatt. But they realized as they planned that the ankhegs would be reduced to -1xHP in less time than it would likely take to free one, and Gerry didn't care if they survived or not. They did their job, he said, by shielding Galen from the vines so he could free Wyatt.
They left the vines dissolving the ankhegs and moved back and headed West.
At the end of the pathway was another section of wall. Wyatt tried to scratch it, etc. to test if it was the same kind of wall. It was. Dryst created a Wizard Eye and sent it up . . . but it just halted at 40' and wouldn't rise higher. So Wyatt went up with Walk on Air and walked the wall, running his hands along it. As he got to around 40' or so, he passed the eye . . . and was struck from behind by a bolt of lightning for 25 damage . . . and thus 23 injury. He passed his death check, but fell, stunned (thanks to a HT-11 stunning roll.)
Dryst and Gerry both tried to cast Levitation on him as he fell, and one (I think Dryst) succeeded. He was lowered down and quickly healed by Ulf with Faith Healing.
They decided to rest and recuperate, but they heard a noise coming closer. The eye spotted a few hundred birds, red with blue edging on the wings, flying in. They waffled between hiding with Concealment, moving, running, fighting, and depending on Invisibility. So they did none of those, although Quenton cast Lightning and rolled a 3, and got an 18d Lightning for free.The birds came . . . and Ulf decided to hold his shield overhead. No one else followed until the birds released their cargo - golf-ball sized acorns, hard as rocks but splotched with strange mildews and disease patches. They didn't managed to hurt anyone, but it forced the wizards to put Missile Shield on and everyone to cower until the rain let up in about 10 seconds or so. Galen shot two birds down, but the rest just circled.
They had a brief discussion of using Create Object to make bows for Galen, and then having him shoot until he'd killed all 300+ birds with his Cornucopia Quiver. They eventually decided this wasn't a useful strategy or one that accomplished much. Crogar took the two dead birds and put them in his pack, and Quenton took some acorns.
That led to a petrified area of trees. They eventually discovered a thin, cobwebby yellow slime on the trees and bushes. All of the ones that were petrified had it; none that weren't had it.
Naturally, they sent a servant to go scoop some up with its hands ("scoop handfuls" they instructed, but it was a thin, filmy substance.) They got it to put some on a nearby tree, and it started to slowly turn grey over several minutes. Fast by normal standards, slow for combat. Nonetheless, they wanted some.
Eventually, they got some onto the servant and had it try to wipe it into a vial, but merely messed up the bottle. They managed to create a spatula (originally created in Rome, we googled) and scrape some off and put it into a vial. (The alternate plan was, create a container to hold the servant's hands, then kill the servant so it disappears, and the slime drops into the container, then pour that into the vial.)
From there, they decided they needed to check the paths to and from the ankheg's area. They also searched the ankheg's burrow with the Wizard Eye and Dark Vision, but Dryst couldn't see much besides broken chitin casings from molting, presumably.
They went down one of the three south-heading paths. One turned out to be narrow, and dark, with roots tangling the ground and high grass. They threw an acorn, which did nothing. They sent a servant with a lightstone, and it was snaffled up by . . . something . . . lunging out of the tangle on the right. They sent the Wizard Eye and it was sucked down by a sucker-mawed plant-thing that shot out like a moray and sucked it down and disappeared back into the tangle.
They decided, having wasted a fair amount of time here, that it wasn't worth going down that way and went another route.
They headed to the vegepygmies at this point, and decided to send their druid to talk to them. After all, he's got a +1 to +5 from plant life (Green Thumb, ornate plant-themed gear), and is actually a non-threatening person lacking in the usual sociopathic disadvantages of most delvers (Bloodlust, Bad Temper, Overconfidence, Callous).
They sent him up to the gate with Walk on Air, Shield, and Gift of Tongues. He held his Lightning, still, crackling in his hand. He "spoke" to them that he was a friend, not a friend of the tree, and wanted peace. He offered "sun energy" - the lightning - to them based on Gerry's recollection that vegepygmies, like shambling mounds, grow from lightning. He asked to come inside for "stories and songs."
They eventually let him in. Quenton realized that without tendrils/root ends, coloration, and whatnot, he couldn't really communicate well. But he did his best and kept it without nuance. He identified the leader (easily) and their druids - four of them. It was silent within - they don't breathe, they don't make noise except to "speak" and don't always do that. It was oddly "normal" inside - a +3 to Nature's Strength, for one, and although the plants weren't terrestrial they weren't warped, rotting, diseased, or anything else.
He negotiated with them, wanting information and a trade for their metal (sensed with Seek Earth) for his "sun energy." They don't have a word for trade, though, just "give." Eventually he made it clear what he wanted, and they gave him the metal - a silver ring. He hit their leader with Lightning and rolled 45 damage - causing it to grow from roughly 5'2" to nearly 6'. After that, he played his tambourine for them and sang songs for about an hour.
He left and the group found a spot to rest for a bit. The ring was magical but they didn't take the time to use Analyze Magic
They then decided they needed more information, and needed Quenton to cast Pathfinder to find the way home. So they wanted him to go back in. He made more Lightning and "talked" to the vegepygmies again. They were reluctant to let him in, as he tried to explain that he had more energy. He eventually talked his way in, and learned more.
Quenton decided the vegepygmies must be castaways stuck here, not native. They said they survive on "only sky water" and make it distinct from "rain"(at least Quenton understood it that way.) The "evil tree" couldn't be destroyed ("no never" to his questions about destroying it). The "evil tree" is to the "East." There was a "window" but it's "gone." Where? "Gone." Can it come back? "Gone."
(Actually in this second conversation, Quenton got a lot more into wording and nuance, which made it tough - even with Gift of Tongues he can't actually construct or understand the nuance.)
In the end, he "gave" the lightning to the leader again but it did nothing. Not enough power? No more necessary? Who knows? But it meant they couldn't just "trade" free mana for information and items and expect it'll always work.
Taking their leave of the vegepygmies, they headed as east as they could, deciding the evil tree must shield the way out.
They made it to a clearing and heard a voice calling them - "Over here! Help me!" It was clearly human . . . to all but Galen, who made his Per by 10+ or so (maybe more) as his player opined it was probably a bird. (Great combo of player skill and character ability, there) So it was. It was a bird of some kind.
He said it was a bird, they should avoid it. The "voice repeated its plaintive call, and tried to talk them into coming to help. They moved on. Quenton, mostly to guilt Ulf, said it could be a bird, but a bird held captive by another creature. So it was a trap, but there was possibly a parrot-like bird in real danger. Poor Ulf didn't want to think about that.
They headed east and found a clearing with a large bed of sunflower-sized flowers with a sweet, fragrant scent. They sent a servant over to investigate, and it didn't have anything bad happen, so they headed out of the only other exit path - a narrow one north and west.
At the end of that narrow (3-4 yard) pathway was a clearing with palm-like trees on one side with weird fruit, and Seussian trees on the left. In the middle stood three animate trees - a rangy thin and tall one (roughly 22-24' tall) and two thick and shorter ones (roughly 18' tall but masssively thick.) All had glowering red lights for "eyes." As they came into view, they advanced in a wedge, the center one laughing evilly and hollowly. Beyond it was a long smear of dead black - not glossy, not bright, not wet, just dead lightless black.* Wisps of "smoke" of pure black rose from it.
Was this the evil tree? Certainly seemed so.
The PCs sprang into action. Galen shot the center tree as it ran up (at Move 8!) and both of his arrows bounced off. Crogar waited and swung his axe at it as the wizards began to cast buffs, including Flaming Missiles on Galen's bow. Crogar's axe bounced off of its hand as it casually swiped at him.
It clearly wasn't trying very hard - it was using big, looping, Telepgrahic Attacks as it laughed. It called out, "Flee mortals! I cannot be destroyed!" The PCs opened up on it more. Galen's flaming arrows - and then flaming bodkins - all bounced off. So did numerous axe blows from Crogar, some doing damage in the 20s.
The thick trees stoped moving and just waited on the flanks. Wyatt ran overhead, very high up, but below 40', to avoid it's grasp. They continued to attack, and tried Fireball and a 15d Sunbolt. Neither even marked it. It kept laughing and telling them to flee, and that they'd soon be "one with me" and "be my slaves."
(In the interest of time, I'm cutting this down to the results.)
The PCs tried to harm it, but couldn't. They buffed up the fighters with Shield and the casters with Great Haste. Quenton tried (and failed) to cast Wither Plant on the big tree despite the cost (see notes, below.) Quenton decided it needed Rain to damage it, being "sky water." So he started to cast it despite the 60 second casting time. Galen tried shooting the palm trees and Seuss trees - they could be hurt, and the fire might eventually catch if they were dry (it's damp in this place), but that didn't seem to affect it. Gerry sent his Skull Spirit at it and it was absorbed into the tree.
So Ulf tried casting Major Healing on it, to no avail. Dropping the herbicide from outside the gate didn't harm it, either.
They couldn't find a weak point on it or on its back. Behind it, though, was the black stain.
Galen, Wyatt, and Crogar ran past it. It tried to smash Ulf but missed and moved on to just following them around and throwing lazy slaps. Gerry fled at this point, and suggested everyone else come with him.
They reached the stain and decided one bit looked like a claw, and another like a folded wing. It looked like the outline of a dragon.
In the "stain" was a 2' deep, 3' wide "pool" of a lipped depression.
Crogar tried running into the stain. It made him dizzy, and then injured him with HT rolls at a cumulative -1 per second or per hex, so he was at HT-1 immediately and to HT-7 in seconds. They decided to dump water in the hole, to kill the tree somehow. Dryst floated over and used Create Water. Galen tried to use a spellstone but the tree grabbed him and tossed him toward the exit, telling him to flee. Galen tossed his stone toward Crogar, as the tree grabbed him, who had to crawl around looking for it. The eventually got 5 gallons of water created in the hole, but nothing happened. Dryst tried a Fireball. Nothing.
Wyatt tried taunting it, and asking it what it was. Ulf tried to reason with it, deciding it was warped and needed help. It claimed that "it is the black" and laughed when Wyatt claimed this was a riddle answering a riddle. Ulf wanted to know what it was before the black, but it only repeated that it was the black.
Crogar got a little giddy here, and alternated - seriously - between crying, cowering, madly chopping the black stair to "kill" it. Nothing worked.
(Quenton's player - "I look at my phone for one second and when I look back up Crogar is killing the planet?")
They tried holy water, too, but nothing. Earth Vision showed the stain went straight down as far as Dryst could see, which was at least a few yards (he was floating nearly 40' up.) They kept running around to keep it busy until Quenton finished Rain. It failed - he cannot manipulate the weather here.
Eventually, they all fled. The thick trees bounced a few arrows but otherwise weren't attacked, although they tried to kill everyone except Crogar, who the tall tree refered to "my slave" and for whom "the warping has begun!"
We ended there, with the PCs having fled to the echoing laughs of the "evil tree."
* Like Disaster Area's sundiver, or fugulin, or the cover of Smell the Glove. One of those, perhaps.
Even with a hot start in the game, the early part of the session was largely slow exploration and had a fair bit of ensuring the map lined up. It's fascinating how that happens - it's like every session has a standard rhythm to it.
Once again, a win for me with simplified Technical Grappling. No, it's not the same as the one Doug wrote for DFRPG. But the basic concept of control points is great. So easy to deal with.
The druid cast Wither Plant on the big evil tree, but failed. He was expecting it to be cheap - a base cost 2 Area spell. This was because he was exclusively consulting GURPS Magic and we're using Spells from DF as the primary document and GURPS Magic for spells ported over. He did have the energy to do it, but this is hardly the first time we've had someone assume differently about a spell because they didn't check Spells. What I really need is a single source that contains all of Spells, all the spells I've ported from GURPS Magic, and all of my house ruled spells. That's an enormous amount of work I don't have time for, to create a document I couldn't allow out in the wild under any circumstances (due to copyright issues.) So I haven't done that.
The PCs really milked every possible angle of "solve the puzzle monster." So that last "fight" went long - 40+ seconds of combat time, and a couple of hours, as they tried everything they could think of. I can't fault them, but it was amusing how fast Gerry got to "we need to flee" and how long it took everyone else to agree. The ability of the party to stair airborne and pump up Dodge to obscene levels (usually above 16 without Retreat) so they weren't in real danger most of the time encouraged staying. It's amusing from the GM's side of the screen how nothing can be a sufficient hint - the monster demonstrates and actually describes his invulnerability and the need to flee. Clearly, some kind of trick.