Date: Sunday, October 6th, 2019
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)
Quenton Mudborne, goblin druid (265 points)
Wyatt Sorrell, human swashbuckler (265 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (265 points)
We picked up with the tired, slightly battered group fleeing the laughter of the Evil Tree. They fled to the clearing to the SE, avoiding the fragrant flowers in a wide berth. The trees, meanwhile, and the bushes and other plants - moss, vines, fungus, etc. - started to move around as if in a slight breeze yet none existed. The susurrus of the leaves was overmatched by the cries of all the weird birds and insects in the place.
They ran instead to the West. As they paused to decide where to go next, all (except Galen, oddly, with a rare 18) heard something coming from behind. They waited and saw roughly a dozen tree-men - half little ones, half man-sized ones - pursuing them. If they stood still they were worried they'd get surrounded or cut off, so they fled. They had to keep up maximal pace* just to keep spacing and it was clear the tree-men could eventually catch them. Galen shot one of them with two arrows but they didn't much, just stuck in like hitting a tree.
They fled anyway, past the calls of "Hey, you're back! Help me! Over here!" from the clearing to the south. They kept going, turning toward the cardinals, and toward the vegepygmies. They decided to bypass them, not thinking it would go over to bring pursuing monsters to the plant-people. Their pursuers kept up a steady pace behind them, not trying to overtake them.
They approached the vegepygmy "castle" just as it turned "night." They tossed a lightstone behind them and moved past to the narrow pathway near where they'd fought two ankhegs. They turned and prepared to fight. Their pursuers sped up as they closed in. There were five small tree-men and six larger ones, including one three-armed brute. The small ones sped around their "front rank" of Wyatt, Galen, and Crogar and attacked the rear-rank skeletons and cleric (the two wizards were Levitating and Invisible.)
The fight was brief but hard. The small tree-men (twig-men?) had a hard punch and were very fast (Move 10) and nimble (very high Dodge) and had very fast punches. Although they were hollow like rotted logs they had strong bark. They swarmed the group from behind and forced Ulf back (and the wizards to protect him.)
The bigger tree men also pushed into the group aggressively, enveloping the front rank. Wyatt floated above with Walk on Air and was quickly Great Hasted so he could rain down attacks. But he had to stay in range to have them in range. Someone also put Flaming Weapon on one of his swords and that seemed to help against the tough-barked tree-men. One of the treemen struck Crogar with a club and a claw. The club hurt him badly, but the claw was worse - it not only opened up a cut but seemed to trigger something with him. His thinking got foggy and he was listless and hopeless (Will -2 on top of his current Will -1!). Galen melee'd the tree men, Crogar fought as best he could, and Wyatt hacked away.
Eventually they put all of the big tree-men down and turned on the smaller twig-men. They finished them off, but not before they destroyed four of five skeletons and badly mauled the last one (it's a few HP from destruction and is at 1/2 Move and Dodge from cumulative damage.)
They checked quickly if they had anything valuable - they didn't - and then hacked them into small pieces. They camped right there, after setting up a big Nightingale and Mystic Mist. Ulf healed the injured from both fights, and determined that Crogar had some kind of evil in him. He knew Exorcism wouldn't work as the evil was too powerful for him. Quenton decided to try Esoteric Medicine, and smeared Crogar with mud, ground up leaves, and dirt ("from home") from his esoteric medicine kit ("All the mud is why it weighs 10 pounds!"). He couldn't get the evil out but he did ease his symptoms and cut his Will penalty to -2 overall from -3.
Dryst used Analyze Magic on the ring they'd found and determined it was a Protective Ring (see DFT3). Quenton held onto it as a surety that the group would take the vegepygmies with them when they left. Wyatt said he'd promise to do that if he could wear the ring. He put it on - and it would be helpful later one.
Now very late, the group set up watches and went to sleep. Nothing molested them, except for terrible nightmares. The nightmares featured storms of lightning herding the group and killing them (Dryst), Quenton feeding them all poisoned fruit (Ulf), plants tearing people into bits and calling "Join us!" (Crogar), getting their eyes pecked out by birds after provoking them (Galen), and more of the like. No one got good sleep, and only 4 hours total of what passed for sleep. Crogar failed his weakened Will roll and lost more FP and more Will. He's a tired, haggard, and listless shell of himself right now.
In the morning they limped West and began to try to search out everything they could for a way home. The group was split on starting in the south or north, but Quenton pulled for the north on the grounds that it was silly to leave one area to search another and then come back again later.
They made their way around, spending a good chunk of hours circling around and around trying to make their map match up with their environment. At this point, they're half-convinced the "Warden" re-arranges the paths during the night. In the end, though, they made a methodical search of the area they were in.
They re-traced their steps a few times before figuring out where they were (they weren't lost, they mis-mapped and convinced themselves this meant they were lost.) That done, they approached a pool they'd spotted the second day from another direction and checked it out. It was full of untainted water and surrounded by strangely shaped oak-like trees and an immense tangle of squash plants - all seemingly unwarped and free of the splotches and whatnot of the other plants. They send a servant to push through the squash and fetch some water. It did. Crogar drank all 4 oz and it was fine, if flat (like distilled water). The squash all looked fine, if often oddly colored, but they passed on them.
From there, they explored East and hear the "Help me bird" again. They turned away and back. After circling the pond to make sure the map lined up (yes, again) they started exploring branching pathways off to the west.
They found one pathway that had a huge yellow-flowered plant in it. Quenton noted it seemed a lot like a yellow-flowered plant he'd learned about that had a way of making puppets out of things that breathed its pollen. But they spotted a ribcage and another bone sticking out of a bulb at the base, where it clearly had been grown-through by the plant. They sent Wyatt and Dryst over to check it over, floating overhead. They spotted a stone next to it that clearly didn't below and used Apportation to bring it up. They saw nothing else, just the bones and the stone.
The stone turned out to be a large seal with a tree on it. Quenton immediately recognized it as the seal of Trent Oakheart, like he'd found in the past when he was Quenton Gale.
So this, clearly, was Trent Oakheart's skeleton, the party decided. They did a little more checking and determined that anything organic would be long gone, and there wasn't any evidence of more loot (or more evidence.) So they left and headed north.
There they ran into an ambush of thorny archer bushes that flung a barrage of thorns at them. Crogar, Galen, and Wyatt were in the arc of fire but managed to dodge away. Quenton and Galen recognized them for what they were - common in the south, capable of living in the north with magical assistance, and popular among druids as guardian bushes. They sense ground movement but not air movement very well, and have a symbiotic relationship with some giant insects. The group decided to check ahead after a visual inspection revealed a good three dozen of the bushes around the rim of the clearing. So they put Walk on Air and Missile Shield on Galen and sent him in. He found only a cul-de-sac (named Archer Bush Court on the map) and came back.
From there they found another clearing with huge seed pods. They sent a servant to investigate and the seed pods opened a little . . . and one a lot, spewing forth a cloud of large dandelion-like seeds. The servant choked and died. So they decided to avoid that area.
Next, they found ten or twelve hanging wasp-nest looking nests hanging from a canopy of trees. Below them was a waxy yellow-green substance in piles. They moved away before Galen could shoot one "just in case."
Next, they found a small clearing down a tight pathway. In it stood two petrified trees. They decided they looked kind-of gate like, but maybe not, but in any case they wanted to know what passing between them did. So they sent Wyatt through with Galen holding a rope tied around Wyatt's waist.
As he passed through, the "petrified trees" each opened up a single, creepy yellow eye and extended five or six ectoplasmic tentacles and grabbed at him. One hit him and latched on. Dryst also had one latch on him (with a critical hit) as he was in a bit too close. The tentacles inflicting armor-ignoring toxic damage and latched on - no Control Points but they started to leech out HP 1 per second per tentacle. Wyatt tumbled back, and Crogar tried to cut the tentacles off of Dryst but went right through. Gerry put Affect Spirits on his axe. That worked, as no other attacks - from magic weapons or not - could affect the tentacles. They were easy enough to cut off but instantly regenerated, spewing only a greenish ichor that stank terribly.
The rock reapers tried to use their gaze to put Wyatt and then Ulf to sleep. Wyatt resisted thanks to his ring (and Luck) and Ulf did as well. Very low damage rolls by the reapers spared Dryst, who eventually was freed by Wyatt and Crogar. They fled as Galen shot two arrows into the eye of one of them. It hurt it, clearly, but it wasn't finished. As they fled, the tentacles and the eyes disappeared. Galen shot one again and chipped off some rock, but nothing else. They moved away.
From there they found a path that ended against the river. It was 75' across here. The river was a muddy red and murky and no one could see anything except . . . things . . . moving below - maybe eels or fish - and water striders the size of fists, and hand-sized snapping turtles. Dryst sent a Wizard Eye over to scout and found a vegepygmy "castle" and a narrow path across a narrow stream of (identical) water. He saw large bees, and eventually must have pissed one off because the eye was destroyed.
They basically flew over as a group with Walk on Air and Levitate.
They pulled the usual routine - they sent in Quenton with Gift of Tongues while the casters played musical FP loss with Lend Energy to keep Dryst capable of maintaining the spell indefinitely.
Quenton spoke to the new group, waving around lightning and promising sky-water, sky-energy, stories, and songs. They were more reticent and didn't allow him in. They told him basically what he'd heard before - window gone. Evil tree is not a friend. But also that they felt the the tremors, "winds," and storms when they fought the tree. When asked about the location of the gate, they said it was near "pond. round. blue. spirit." Naturally, the PCs found a pond on their map that was black.
We ended there as it was getting late.
* One thing that's funny is people often define how hard you've moving by how fast. Maximum move 3? You walk everywhere. Well, yes, but you're moving as fast as you can due to Basic Move and encumbrance. It's basically as tiring as the Move 6 guy moving at Move 6 . . . you just don't get places as fast and it sure doesn't look like a sprint.
We were down three players this session - the ones who run Dryst, Gerry, and Crogar. Gerry and Crogar are run by a father and son, respectively. But the players of Mild Bruce and Aldwyn stepped in to play Crogar and Dryst, and Gerry was run by Ulf's player since he's good at running casters.
Once again, a PC was tied to a rope held by another PC. I think I'm going to just flat-out rule that this causes X and Y penalties, as the players didn't seem convinced a slack rope hanging around you provides any penalties to, say, Dodge, Move, Acrobatics, etc. It's effectively a strong lifeline and doesn't affect you negatively in any way.
Rock Reapers are a three-way combo of Reapers from Ultima IV, the mini they're based on (a Reaper Bones roper clone), and on the Gardener in the Water from Adventures of Samurai Cat
MVP voting so far is heavily in favor of Aldwyn's player, who stepped in to run Dryst, for making a DF-themed homemade apple pie. The consensus was that everyone pulled their weight and then some, so no one clearly stood out as most valuable.
All in all, this was the most fun session of the three for me. Good fight, lots of exploration, decisive action in a lot of cases, and careful exploration without overdoing the whole "buff the living hell out of someone and have them fly around and then rest 30 minutes" thing. The whole mapping thing in the middle wasn't, but that didn't derail the session or anything like that.