Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1
Lemon Jackson – An loin cloth wearing wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic User 1
Huxley McTeeth (Hux) – A gaucho with a past, clad in plains finery (M) Fighter 1
“Eyestabs” Nell – A tall scary woman armed with many poison hat pins (F) Assassin 1
Drusilla – Eleven lass of surpassing beauty, disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies (F) Elf 1
The diminished party has been lurking in their apartment looking at their dwindling stack of Gold for a week after their disastrous foray into the ASE gatehouse.
The party has reached the following conclusions:
- They aren't going back into the gatehouse for a while. (They don't realize they've already killed the meanest thing in there)
- They need to beef up their ability to not die – oil is going to get more popular I think, but there's talk of buying dogs or slaves and of hiring henchman. Of course they lack money for these things.
- They need to get rich quick. (I really like ASE's treasure progression/cost of living, while advancement feels a little slow the party is so far cash strapped and a bit desperate, just as unestablished treasure seekers should be.)
Finding replacements isn't an issue 'cause P and B are itching to join in, so the following vignette is invented.
The party goes to their local tavern to drown their sorrows. The Toothless Gear recognizes them all now, and nobody even bothers much about Drusilla (who even if a sinister “baby biter” is the best looking and often only woman like creature in the place). The barkeep was even sad to hear about Mukuls, because of one time Mukuls came in he helped bring some kegs up from the cellar, but Gearman wasn't sad enough to throw a free wake – though the party promises one “when they get paid”.
Dickering with the bartender over the price of fungus beer is a tall muscular man in garish gaucho's dress – wide brimmed hat and fur chaplet over the left shoulder, basket hilted saber and a sweat stained triceratops leather brigantine with silly bead-work depicting flowers and dinosaurs all over it. He even appears to have some kind of gaunt plains' strumpet on his arm, who is staring outward at the bar patrons with a look of surprise and nervously fiddling with her unfashionable, backwater hairpins. She is also armed with a heavy looking basket hilted saber, more appropriate to the saddle then foot, and it is hard to believe ssomeoneone so skeletal could wield such a heavy weapon.
The plainswoman introduces herself as “Nell Hassephaffer, but everyone calls me Sweet Nell” and offers a firm handshake to Drusilla while her smile and eyes seeming to take in Grimgrim and Lemon with a hint of flirtatious mockery.
“That's my Cousin Hux”, Nell continues, “We all is looking to find some work, but there ain't no tops to punch in this town – you lot look like you might know of something that pays, and ain't as rough as ropin n' a bull top in heat – not that much is, ya know.” (P is seriously putting on the accent here, but since everyone was laughing why not.) Grimgrim motions the Certopsians to sit down and says shouts “Gearman, get you toothless self over here with a round of whiskey – there's business to discuss!”
Whatever happened the night before a great deal of beetle whiskey, fungus beer, waste vodka, grub alcohol, cactus wine and even bark liquor (it's piney!) was consumed – see previous table for types of thousand cities' booze, their costs, and histories. Monstcrom knows how, but the next morning the party is 20 gp poorer and massively hungover. Lemon may or may not remember a romantic interlude. Grimgrim and Hux now seem to know many of the same songs and Drusilla woke up wearing Hux's armor on the kitchen floor. She may also have traded her lacquered moon decorated helmet for Hux's steel lined hat, but given that the helmet doesn't fit Hux and Drusilla swims in the hat, the trade can't be permanent.
Their heavy drinking out of the way, the party confers with it's new friends about funds. It turns out that the party all together have somewhere in the range of 200GP. Enough for supplies, and maybe a henchman or two. First they need something to do though, but they still don't like the idea of going into the city underfoot, and the Molybdenum Tombs have crystal panthers and whatnot.
The party picks Hux and Nell's minds for places where foreigners, drovers and sailors might loiter in Denethix, because they figure these folks will know of adventure.
Lemon has the highest charisma, with Nell also being quite capable of turning on the charm when she's not being a dead-eyed killer. Lemon, Nell and Hux wander off to hire some damage sinks in bars along the street of lesser men. They also plan to ask about stories of treasure or adventure that don't involve Mt. Rendon. After a few hours of buying old sea dogs and decrepit drovers drinks, Hux learns that there's a giant froghemoth in the midst of the vile fen guarding some kind of ancient flying machine, there are well armed goblins to the north marching like an army, and that somewhere along the coast there's a graveyard of lost ships.
Drusilla heads to an elf bar but the only rumor she can glean is that “Deezlex's elixir is looking for elf girls to promote it at wealthy student's parties and the home for aged heiresses - all you need is a short checked skirt and/or some fanciful elven wise woman robes and they'll pay you 1gp a night”. She saw a posting that someone's was hiring caravan guards to go all the way to the Lanthanide.
The party (again failing to realize that the wilderness is far more dangerous than the dungeon in Old School games) decide to head West to the shore and south until they find either frogamoths or shipwrecks.
Preparation for a 30 day trek begin with 20gp going to buy a donkey, 40gp (from the PC's private stashes) to keep the apartment another month and 40gp for a donkey load of provisions/supplies. The party even buys a 6 person tent. They have no luck finding any henchmen who want to sign on to a month long dilly-dally in the woods, as it “sounds too much like work”.
Grimgrim wants to buy some attack dogs though, preferably at least 4, with spiked collars. Hux persuades him that they need dinosaurs instead and manages to locate a dino-dealer who has a mated pair of rust horned rippers (small vicious dinosaurs that attack and have stats as dogs). They are 10gp each. Hux buys them and takes charge of their care, naming them 'Scrapple' and 'Bacon'.
The PC's are ready to being their trek, they see no difficulty in walking 250 or so miles to the sea for unknown purposes. I can easily see them not returning to Denethix, but I will do my best to get them back into the gatehouse (really anything short of explaining to them directly that it's a fairly easy first level dungeon).
They head South to Lugosi, early in the morning and stop for a midday meal at the Stinking Fang. The barkeep indicates that he has something special if the players want a “unique tipple” to go with their blood sausage and cabbage. Only Grimgrim feels like spending two gold pieces on something recommended by a barkeep. Grim's curiosity is rewarded with a nice little show. The bartender returns with a tray containing a glass, a bottle,a spice ginder, small pitcher and a beet stalk. The bartender announces the “Bloodsucker's Repast” in a festive voice, attracting the attention of several lunchtime patrons, He quickly pours some kind of orange-red liquid out of the pitcher and into the glass. He follows this with a twist from the spice grinder and then holding the bottle, a thick rounded affair with a skinny neck, close to Grim's face gives the bottle a fierce shake. Grimgrim does not disappoint his god when the ½ rotted, fanged visage of the undead serpent within the bottle slams against the side inches from his eye. A save under wisdom was made for Grimgrim to remain impassively "metal" despite the very eyes of reptilian death staring at him for a brief second. With the dead snake in the bottle thrashing the barkeep quickly pours a long shot from the swaying bottle, snaps a serious looking plug back into the neck that stifles the eldritch hiss of its resident. With a more sedate demeanor, the bartender (a young fellow affecting a widows peak) stirs the drink with the beet stalk garnish and places it before Grimgrim.
The drink isn't bad, it appears to be some kind of vegetable juice, savory spices and some sort of slightly off spirit that makes Grimgrim's blood pound in his ears momentarily. A few of the patrons clap sedately as Grimgrim calmly sips his drink. A few minutes later a young, rurally attractive woman tentatively steps to the table and bats her eyes at Grimgrim. She begins “I'm Dawn and I'm looking for a man, or men and ladies, even elves really … I need a favor.” Grimgrim glowers a bit, and Dawn drops some of her femme fatal pretense. “Well you see it's my grandma's locket – she's dead, and you don't seem afraid of the dead, well at least not Tottle's snake trick at least”. The party is more interested now, but Hux scoffs, "if yer grammy's up n' movin' taint us that should put her down, that's always best a family affair – re-internment.”
Dawn explains that she doesn't think her grandma is undead, just dead, but that grandma was a bit of a witch and so to be safe the family didn't bury her in Lugosi. They took her down to the old necropolis about 20 miles South-ish of the next town down the road, Southdeep. The place is called “The Obelisk of Unwanted Memory” and it's a special cemetery complex used since time immemorial by most of the villages in the region. It's not even for burying most people, just those who were evil, uncanny, knew magic or otherwise suspect. There's a temple in the cemetery amongst the graves and the gods make sure that the dead stay dead, no matter how strange they were. Dawn thinks it'll be easy to find and loot Grandma's corpse as her family (well-off farmers) paid for 5 years in one of the sepulcher crypts before Grandma's bones were to be placed "reverently" in the ossuary. Dawn is annoyed because her family were so afraid that witch-nana would return they had all of her magical paraphernalia buried with her, including a locket that Grandma wanted to give her, and that Dawn “absolutely needs now”. Grandma's bones should be easy to find, though Dawn can't remember which of the two above ground crypt rooms the body was placed in. The locket is blackened silver and shaped like a bat with tiny emerald eyes.
The PC's ask if Dawn can pay anything for the locket, and Dawn bats her eyelashes and rubs suggestively against Grimgrim with the line “Oh, I am just a poor young farm girl, I don't have gold, but I would be ever, ever so grateful.” She adds “Plus the necropolis is full of valuable grave offerings.”
It is unclear if Grimgrim wants to investigate this obelisk in hopes of treasure, Dawn's favors or pure lust for combating the undead, but the Grimgrim (and the rest of the party) clearly feels this is an adventure they must take.
Hux interrupts Dawn's flirtations to ask - “Well now missy, this spot you're talking about, why you reckon you need our help to find your grandma's fripperies.” NOTE: Yes, B is really talking like this, I think Hux is so taciturn because B has to script this sort of thing.. Dawn seems intimidated by Hux's Eastern bluntness but explains that nobody visits the memorial grounds anymore because the cult that has taken over is very unfriendly to visitors.
Dawn says they can leave a note with the bartender when they return, but that she must be running, and flounces off winking at Grimgrim.
After lunch the party heads South, staying on the good road, and meets up with a traveling veterinarian who compliments Bacon and Scrapple's glossy scales. He says they are only a few miles from Southdeep and should get there just after dark. Indeed the party makes it to Southdeep, even if they almost miss the turn off, and refuses to stay at the inn when they find out the rates. They take their chances with the caves at the bottom of the hole and are awakened late in the night by the snarling of the rippers.
Something slick and stoney looking has bubbled up from cracks in the cave floor and is now crawling towards the sleeping Hux leaving a trail of glistening brownish slime. The dinosaurs refuse to attack whatever it is, and Hux jumps up grabbing at his saber and shield. Hux sleeps in his armor, but the other PC's do not, meaning this could be a very dangerous fight for them. Nell plunges a crossbow bolt into the stone colored mass, but it doesn't seem so slow it. The slime creature oozes forward but misses Huxley. Huxley manages to nick the creature in response. Lemon is preparing a flask of oil, Grimgrim steps away from the ooze, and Drusilla misses her thrust, too hemmed in by the retreating party members. Hux lands a solid blow, and Drusilla fires another bolt plunging it into the ooze, which is starting to look ragged. Lemon flings his oil and it fizzles on the ooze's dense wet substance. The ooze lashes out again at Hux, but is unable to catch him. Before it can recover Drusilla plunges her spear into the ooze and it stops moving.
The party is furious that they weren't able to sleep safely inside Southdeep, but the next morning when they speak to the local Fist guards they are met with a shrug. Apparently oozes, slimes, jellies and other nasty things come up out of the pit sometimes, but since they're usually not numerous it rarely presents a problem. Again I am amazed by the PC's ability to pump out and avoid damage. A three HD gray ooze, which I thought would be a real threat, was a minor nuisance.
The PC's leave town angry that Southdeep is both dangerous and uncaring. The party heads due South along the road. It is another bright day and the party encounters no one and nothing moving North along the increasing badly repaired dirt road. At one point the party discovers a burnt covered wagon, abandoned several months, that has been pushed to the side of the road with a few bones scattered about it. The party had gleaned little information about the area South-West of Denethix, only that a worn road follows a line of hills in a curve towards the ocean with inbred hill clans lurking on one side and rude, dusty, dried-out farming villages on the other. Like the nearer Certopsian, this area represents Denethix's hinterlands, where the Fist travels rarely and then usually only for punitive expeditions against bandits, goblins or the forces of rival Wizards trying to expand their domains.
The PC's are leaving the settled lands around Denethix, not realizing the danger of wilderness hex-crawling. Still the area they are entering is semi-civilized, and the areas between Denthix, the hills/fens and the ocean are borderlands as opposed to true wilderness. I've created a table of random encounters for this mostly forested hinterland area (to be posted later).
The PC's have turned off the main road and are walking towards the Obelisk of Unwanted Memory when they encounter a recently felled log across the pathway. As the party stops they hear a call from beyond the log and a man in a rust brown coat of plates over fine chain mail and wearing a visored helm trots out from behind the trees. He waves heartily and shouts “Mourners, you'll have to stop for a bit, me and my lads are auxiliary road wardens for these parts and must report that the way to the obelisk is currently closed. We've been instructed to inspect passers by for contraband and to collect the road tax that local powers have authorized us to take.” Hux shouts “ambush – charge left!” and promptly charges to the right followed by the rest of the party, trying to get under cover. Initiative is rolled and the party makes it into the bushes before the bandits hiding behind the log, or on either side of the road can react. The party can't react because they can't see their enemy, except for the two startled bowmen that try to bar their way. Hux's charging thrust misses but Grimgrim smashes one bowman off balance and Drusilla finishes him with a thrust that takes off his left leg above the knee.
The closest bowman puts an arrow into Hux, right through his dinosaur hide shield due to the short range. A flight of arrows from from the other side of the road bracket the party and one catches Grimgrim in the armpit. As the Party moves deeper into the wood, the bowman in front of them attempts to break from melee, throwing his shortbow in Huxley's face. Nell fires a crossbow at one of the bandits barely visible behind the fallen tree and makes a miraculous shot through the eye killing him instantly. Huxley hacks down the fleeing archer, taking some glee in plunging his scimitar into the ragged man's spine. Lemon drags Grimgrim, who is calling on Mostcrom's favor to heal his arrow wound. Grimgrim feel the arrow head lodged between his ribs turn to warm water that flows out of the wound as it magically closes leaving him winded but almost recovered. Three of the bandits are dead, and an unknown number remain with their leader, hidden in the woods across the road or behind the tree. The party clusters behind tree trunks, their mule milling in the center of the road. Huxley and Drusilla each appropriate one of the dead Bandit's short bows and quiver of arrows while the rest of the party waits.
After a few minutes a man tries to crawl towards the forest from behind the log, but a quarrel thumping into trunk near his head sends him back under cover. Again the party waits and nothing happens. A Turn passes, than two. An arrow lofts from the woods across from the party, and then another from a section of the woods farther up the road. Another turn passes as the party remains hunkered behind their trees. The mule begins to wander off, up the road.
Finally the voice of the bandit leader calls out from the trees across the road. “Well see, now you've done it, we've had to surround you bandits and your attack on the law will go badly.” "I understand the confusion, lonely road, armed strangers... but you killed Lebo, and that has to be explained to his children if no one else.” The party says nothing and cranes to see if a target shows itself. Again the leader shout, “These are hard times, I can make this right, but it'll need money, just let any of my lads you've captured go and throw a purse out into the road with 200gp in it and we can go our ways.” The party waits, and finally decides to solve the impasse through trickery. Lemon fills his purse with stones, copper and silver pieces and then shout “Alright, I can see we've made a mistake, here's a purse of gems and gold, it's what we've got, just let us on our way.” Lemon tosses the purse into the road and replies “There's your gold, call off your men.” Another turn passes, and the bandit leader emerges from the forest. The party wants to shoot him down, but he's concealed behind his horse and the party doesn't want to kill valuable treasure.
Lemon decides to go through with the plan anyway, dropping his sleep spell on the leader and the bandit behnd the log, while Drusilla's pink mist attempts to knock out any bandits in the trees across from the party. The spells are somewhat effective, though all the party sees is the horse drop into slumber. The bandit leader is astounded, but fights off Lemon's sleep magic. Grimgrim's slingstone bounces of the leader's plate, Hux's arrow goes wide, but Nell's heavy bolt seems to have punched through his armor. The leader shouts for his men, but there is no answer and as he turns, Drusilla's thrown axe catches him in the back dropping him to his knees and dislodging his helmet. Grimgrims well aimed slingstone ends it, caving in the crawling man's skull from behind. The party waits only minutes before it's melee fighters charge towards the opposite woods ready for an ambush. No arrows speed towards them, and they find only the unconscious man behind the log and another in the woods beyond, both of whom Huxley makes sure do not awake. The party quickly wakes the horse, which Huxley mounts and rides off in search of the party's mule. The rest of the adventurers finds little of value, the leader's silvered sword and loose change worth about 20GP. They strip the dead bandit leader of his armor though, and now Huxley is clad in plate mail, with only Drusilla needing heavier armor.
The PC's have done well, but are out of spells and exhausted. They move on (luckily as a bandit escaped - unknown to the party), and rest, massaging out their bruises and drinking away some of their excess energy from the fight. The next morning Lemon decides to memorize his Hell's arrow spell (an evil magic missile) rather than a sleep spell, as the party is entering a haunted graveyard and he worries they will meet the undead.