Monday, May 24, 2021

GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Session 153, Cold Fens 11 - Part II

Dates: May 16th, 2021 - May 18th, 2021
Weather: Sunny, warm to start.

Aldwyn Hale, human knight (340 points)
     Varmus the Hanged, human apprentice wizard (170 points)
Crogar, human barbarian (336 points)
Galen Longtread, human scout (490 points)
Gerrald Tarrant, human wizard (418 points)
     2 skeletons (~35 points)
     Rahtnar the Skeleton (~125 points)
Ulf Sigurdson, human cleric (343 points)
Wyatt Sorrel, human swashbuckler (354 points)

We picked up where we left off, with the giants about to continue attacking the PCs.

The first giant (the not-Great Hasted one) and the hasted one both piled shots onto Aldwyn, and landed a couple of hits to a random location - torso, naturally. Aldwyn was badly wounded and knocked into the wall.

The dire wolves snapped and lunged at Crogar, who dodged their attacks.

Ulf zapped the Great Hasted Giant (GHG from now on) with his Wand of Holding. That failed to paralyze it. Aldwyn went to drink his Great Healing potion but it had smacked into the wall with him . . . his DR 12 prevented any injuy to him but didn't help the potion vial - he rolled a 1 and it shattered as if on a fall. Varmus tried to Counterspell Missile Shield on one of the giants and failed. Gerry tried to counter Great Haste and also failed.

Galen dropped his dragonbone bow and unlimbered his wussy backup bow - a ST 17 composite bow. Wyatt used his Great Haste to ready and crush some spellstones - Blur 5 and Walk on Air.

Meanwhile, Crogar shook his shield off - it took a couple seconds - and then grabbed his axe lanyard, then snapped it off, then readied it. That and dodging dire wolf bites took all of his time.

The first giant swung at Wyatt, I think, who Dodged acrobatically. The GHG used his first turn to swing three times at Ulf. Ulf dodged one, was critically hit with the second, and the third missed. The second shot was to a leg (random roll) and did 26 damage (yes, on 7d+11). That was still enough for a double dismemberment, hacking both legs off. Ulf fell, stunned. The giant then switched his attacks to the body and hacked Ulf twice more, putting him well past -5xHP and just a bit shy of -10xHP. Ulf fell, bisected at the torso and legless, dead.

The dire wolves snapped at Crogar, who defended easily.

The wizards kept throwing counterspells, but couldn't manage to take down either Missile Shield or Great Haste. Gerry used Invisibilty to conceal himself and moved around after it dropped from his counterspelling attempt. Varmus then switched to Spasm on one giant, and then Itch on the other. Galen shot down one of the wolves, wounding it badly, as Rahtnar the Skeleton ran up to attack the other and missed. Somewhere in this part of the fray, Aldwyn swung at a giant and was critically parried, sending him to the Critical Miss Table . . . and he rolled a 15 and crippled his weapon arm.

The first giant kept swinging at Wyatt and/or Aldwyn, but not to much effect. The GHG decided enough was enough with Varmus, who kept hassling them with spells they had to resist. So he took three swings at Varmus, and killed him outright, and then went back to attacking the fighters.

Wyatt, meanwhile, managed to run up in the air at the first giant, and stabbed out one of his eyes. A moment later he stabbed out the other. Galen shot down the dire wolves, with a little help from Rahtnar the Skeleton.

The giant howled in pain and yelled out something, and backed off from Wyatt. The other stood still for both of his turns, and then the first giant turned into a watery form - Body of Water, presumably. His armor and sword fell to the ground.

The first giant made a beeline for the entrance ("In a straight line? While blind?" queried one player - yes. They play by the same rules as PCs, so yes, movement direction isn't vision-hindered.)

The second fought another second or so, and then Wyatt managed to blind him in one eye. He, too, turned to a watery version of himself and his weapons fell. Unlike the other, he fled through the leathery curtain.

The PCs split up - Crogar, Gerry, Galen, and Wyatt ran to the entrance. The Wyatt ran the other way, to chase the other fleeing giant. They shot the fleeing giants with arrows and Aldwyn tried to shield bash the other, but nothing slowed them down (but did seem to hit them and work - Diffuse on high-HP creatures is tough to overcome.)

Unfortunately, they found neither. The one who ran out into the rain was gone by the time they got out into the sheeting precipitation, and even Keen Vision and See Invisible and Dark Vision didn't help see very far. The other left some damp footprints, but the whole cave is always a bit damp, so they weren't easy to find. Wyatt had been expecting a "slime trail" of water, but the giant was merely made of water, not leaking fluids, so it didn't slowly break down as it moved.

They ended up cautiously searching and policing up the area. Gerry insisted they get out ASAP, before the giants could heal up and come back. They moved as quickly as possible . . . kind of. They ended up waiting for the temporary cripples to heal, examining some loot, and such. Aldwyn drank potions with Gerry's help, finally getting himself fully healed. They checked the giant's gear, and found the armor and swords were all magical. They also found an empty potion jug - a big one - near the GHG's position.

They searched around the caves a bit. Galen checked for the giant and found it had gone around to the tunnel they'd found the first time, and then out to a boulder-blocked passage. The boulder had clearly been moved recently, and had evil runes on its inside surface. They left it alone. They sent him to watch after he checked the kitchen chests - finding smoked alligator intestines and iron cups and plates, respectively.

In another cave area, they found casks, barrels, and bottles, and a second "trophy room," decorated with shields, two elf skeletons on the floor, four suits of plate armor with more than a bit of rust on them, a collection of battered helmets (some with heads still in them), etc. They opened up a big iron chest and found a lot of weapons, and had Aldwyn come in and evaluate all of the broadswords for quality before deciding to take all of them anyway (this took 11 minutes for 11 swords.) They checked the front room - also decorated with trophy skeletons. In the alcoves were the bones of 2-3 dozen ogres, clearly hacked to death with big swords. (None were in any condition for Zombie.)

Come 40-45 minutes later, they took the giant swords (around 85# each), their gloves and boots, and the dragon skulls, as well as the corpses of their buddies, to drag back to the boats. They also took the broadswords from the chest. Aldwyn cut all of the straps on the armor, which was clearly heavy dragonhide. They talked briefly of tossing oil on it to burn, but no one actually did that. They also took a quick look at the altar but didn't really have any time to search it - they were hoping for a hidden cache of unholy water.

So they rushed out to the boats in the heavy rain, which was starting to slowly taper off. Soaked and exhausted, they reached the shore . . . and found their boats destroyed. The skiff was gone, with only a few pieces of wood floating around - and a few choice pieces clearly left in view to make sure no one wasted time wondering what happened. The other boat was reduced to 1/3 of a boat, the bow, smashed by a large rock that had crushed through the concealment. The rest was also floating wood bits. The skeleton left to guard them was pieces of broken bone scattered around, its gear equally in the muck or water.

So they had to decide what to do. In the end, they threw the swords into the water, along with the dragon skull helmets. They tossed the boots far from one another in the water, and stashed the gloves and their broadsword loot. They waded into the water along the coast and began to walk north.

Their plan, basically, was to walk home. Galen could guide them with Absolute Direction, but they'd be slow. So Gerry put Haste on almost everyone to help them slog along at 0.6 mph.

Basically, they slogged through the water to the above-water bits, hiked on them as long as they could, and waded more. They stopped for 4 hours of sleep once and then a full 8 hours the next night, but otherwise kept going. They were eaten by bugs, blood-drained by leeches, caught some diseases, had their food ruins and gear soaked and mucked up. At one point Aldwyn was dragged under by a giant Wels catfish before Galen took a shot at it and critically hit it, driving it to let Aldwyn go. (They got lucky on lethal encounters, actually, but travel at night meant constant bugs and constant drains on resources and time.)

They did reach dry land after almost 40 hours of solid slogging, bug-bitten, drained, exhausted, and Aldwyn hacking up his lungs.

They hiked straight to Swampsedge and collapsed there.

Galen forked over $30K in gold, silver, and gems to the church to fun the Resurrection of Varmus and Ulf. Two rolls at 13 or less . . . both made. Ulf gave Galen what little money he had as an installment on the rest. Varmus just said, "Thanks." Wyatt opined this would come back to haunt him, but who knows? Callous city-folk haters probably don't want thanks from city-dwellers, or care how they feel.

They sold off the broadswords and a few ornate daggers and small knives Wyatt swiped from the giants' trophy room, and netted a few hundred each and around $800 for Gerry and Galen. Ulf healed his own legs with Regeneration.


- I was surprised at how this turned out. I expected the PCs to win. Also, when they did, the PCs were in a big rush to get out - not so big of a rush that they didn't take 45 minutes to leave the caves, but in too much of a rush to really thoroughly search. With people down, a couple of dead, and a lot to do, they ended up not being able to search too thoroughly. So they got out only with some difficult to carry loot, and couldn't keep it. I won't explain how the boat stuff happened, or when, but they didn't have a backup plan. Wading through the fens worked . . . but it cost them misery, leeches, disease, wet gear, and suffering.

- I swear I roll a 7 (lose your balance, turn ends) or an 8 (weapon unready) basically all the time on the critical miss table, so much so you'd think they turned up on a 7-15 or something. I don't have a good explanation for this. I don't think I've ever rolled a 15 (strained shoulder) this campaign more than once but the PCs had two of them this combat alone! Vic is very familiar with this one, having had it multiple times on one PC. So when people roll a 15 he just blurts out what it is.

- the Luck reset really helped the party, as it often does. It didn't helpt the giants, because they didn't use (or need) Luck the first part of the fight. I rarely give NPCs Luck, but it fit for these guys. They are veterans with a record of successful slaying, and you can't get out of that whole without some Luck.

- My players are all remarkably close-mouthed about stuff they do. Examples, "I ready a spellstone." "I crush a spellstone." "I Fast-Draw a potion." Of what? I know they want to keep it a surprise and all, but as the GM, I actually need to know what you're doing. They're the same with maneuvers. "I run up 3 hexes and attack." Okay, so a Move and Attack, then? How about declaring that? If it's All-Out Attack, I need to know that. Also, All-Out Attack (what)? "I concentrate on Counterspell." On what now? The target affects the time to cast. I'm not suspicious that they're readying "a spellstone to be decided on later when I see what happens," I'm just assuming they're being lazy about keeping me posted and/or want to surprise me and each other with their awesome selection. "Ha-HAH! I have a spellstone/potion/scroll/spell that solves this tactical conundrum! Witness it as I unleash it!" Heh.

- With the blinded giant running, yeah, maybe realistically he should have possibly missed the door, or face the wrong direction, or stumbled, or something. Maybe. But in my experience players generally expect that NPCs should be limited by what's realistic and believeable based on their own information about the situation. They also generally expect that PCs should only be limited by what the rules limit you to. In other words, if it's not likely, NPCs shouldn't be likely to pull it off, but if it's at all possible, PCs should be able to do it routinely. Or with a fairly easy roll. At least that's how my cynical GM ear hears the arguments.

- We briefly talked about Varmus and Ulf getting killed. Ulf stood his ground because he saw himself getting attacked as a way to spare the fighter-types from taking hits. It worked, but it killed him and had I rolled better on the third strike on the first turn, he would have been at -10xHP and not resurrectable. Varmus just took too much of a risk to try to get off some spells with a low likelihood of success. They both got killed, which, net/net, I don't think was a good result. I don't think baiting PC-killing strikes you can't stop so the guys who can stop them don't get hit is a good strategy. It may have worked here, kind of, but cost a huge issue in getting home safely and $30,000.

- They tried to destroy the armor, which was interesting. Ruining the straps was a great idea, but it's not going to destroy an enchantment (that seems too easy). They took the boots and gloves because . . . I'm not sure why those. They threw the boots away, but kept the gloves. They mentioned cutting them down into human-sized gloves, but that's going to take some doing. They don't have dragonhide ready to turn into armor. They have dragonhide armor with dragon scales. They'll need that cut down to a size and scale-size appropriate for a SM 0 person from an SM+3 glove. That's going to be costly and waste a lot of material, and also reduce the value of the material. Doable, but costly and it won't be as good as what it came from. Who needs heavy leather gloves? It's not clear.

- Wyatt was MVP. He defeated the giants, but all it took was Great Haste, Shield 5, Blur 5, Walk on Air, Haste 3, and probably other spells I'm forgetting. So that's all of this giving foes -5 to hit and +8 to defend. I'm not complaining, just saying - the PCs tend to depend on a lavish amount of magic to defeat foes. Interestingly enough, the giants never got double-teamed at any point; it was literally all Wyatt that drove them off.

- Gerry opined that the giants probably are dead, unless they have a large cache of healing potions, or one is a cleric, and that they can manage to coordinate blind.

- I think it's odd that using SM for melee means giants are easier to critically hit (Wyatt rolled a 5 at one point with a 15 skill, taking -10 in penalties . . . he had 22 +3 for SM = 25.) It probably shouldn't, much like Telegraphic Attack. "Hard to miss something that big" shouldn't mean "makes it impossible for something that big to defend." I may need to change that, as it doesn't actually make any sense to me. The idea that it's easier to critically miss against small folks does make sense to me, though, for reasons I don't feel like typing out right now.

- I'm not sure what the players want to do next.


  1. It was an expensive fight for Wyatt, no question. I think if things had started off a bit differently, and Crogar hadn't strained his shoulder, those three guys *would* have ganged up on one giant. Focused fire is really hard to overcome absent a really high dodge--which one or both of them *did* have. But otherwise being overwhelmed with attacks in one round is a killer when it comes to multiple defenses.

    The invisible giant was the fight changer, to be sure. We heard that there were brothers, we only saw one giant, Ulf was definitely concerned, in the moment, that the other guy was out there invisible...and he was! But he wasn't carrying the Visibility Dust (and even if he was, that might have revealed Gerry). Tough fight. Nice to have won. Interestingly, Ulf is curiously wondering if they are still alive from the reports everyone gave after he was resurrected, and would like to go back and check out that temple...but he's out for the next delve due to his legs still healing.

    1. If, if, if, right? Maybe if you got all of those critical defenses and hits but none of the critical failures, or they got strained shoulders and dropped weapons and you guys got "dropped weapon" and could quick-ready a replacement like nothing doing, maybe it would have been different. So it would have been had either of them rolled a single "3" on any attack . . . and done 53 cutting damage.

      You guys "won" in that they are blinded, lost gear, and lost their wolves. You held the field, with casualties, and took some minor loot, lost your boats, and had to flee. Pyrrhus won a battle that way, or so they say. It was a bloody end, on both sides.

  2. Okay, what was this about:

    "Meanwhile, Crogar shook his shield off - it took a couple seconds - and then grabbed his axe lanyard, then snapped it off, then readied it."

    Why did Crogar snap off his axe lanyard? Seems having it lanyarded saved them a lot time with dropped weapons this fight.

    1. His arm was crippled in Part I, from a critical failure roll of a 15.


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