Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Play Report - HMS APOLLYON - Uptown Ranking

 HMS APOLLYON - ONE SHOT - THE MADAM PROPOSES A SOIREE

This one shot ran a few months ago and I hadn't finished the play report. It was a very successful session for the party, though they ignored the mansion's upper floors.




Madam Bibi Laughs Last
Quartle the frogling aquamancer, and Semm, crusader of Lyris lounged outside Semm's bustling strorefront church, awaiting a delivery of salted giant pigeon meat that a local butcher had promised in return for the crusader's efforts to cure the terrible fungal infestation the man had picked up somewhere.  The meat would be going into the Lyris's stewpots and then most likely into the mouths of the many poor and desperate who clustered about the church. They might not be devote, but Lyris offered up good fare and other sorts of help in exchange for setting through a weapons lesson or two, without the sanctimony of the Queen's Church, or the exhortations to combat that the chapel of the Ship Spirits had lately become so insistent about.  As for the Leviathan's preachers, well when they managed to offer up food, it was always frog grub, and it took a special stomach to eat grubs and live fish on a regular basis.


Despite the promise of a large supply of meat, the church was expensive to run, and its coffers not as full as they might be.  It was time to go scavenging again, to brave the dangers beyond the fortress gates or undertake a desperate mission on behalf of the rich and powerful. Piles of recovered weapons, scavenged copper and abandoned luxuries had made Semm and Quartle the almost respectable members of the crew that they were, and scavenging could pay for a climb a few more rungs up the social ladder along with a pot or two of stew.

Of late the war raging beyond the rust gates - between colonists from the Ship Spirits' church (backed by underworld and scavenger muscle and supposedly supplied out of the Steward's own arsenals) and a legion of undead refugees who had failed to make it to the Rust Gates forty years before. There was glory, fame and wealth to be won in that war, but it was also a mess, something not well suited to Quartle and Semm's skills.  Other opportunities to make the rent abounded however, of late Madam Inrouvibibi, the vice queen of the Gates had been making discreet inquiries for scavengers and burglars.  As much as Bibi was a creature of immorality and personal annihilation, she had a reputation for keeping her word, and her gangs of tattooed thugs kept the peace around the Rust Gates at least as often as the few Stewards that patrolled its cracked deck plates.

Semm and Quartle collected a pair of recent arrivals dredged from the ruptured and fateful seas by the fisherfolk only a few weeks before, and the nucleus of a band had formed.   Fang the Holy Warrior, confused far from home may have seen a kindred spirit in Semm, also the only voice for his deity aboard the great vessel.  It's hard to know what Annard the sea slayer saw in the group, perhaps just the chance for plunder and something to do beyond wandering the Gate's low bars and marveling at the terrible quality of the drink served there.  Elsijinn the tiny pugilist also promised to join the group later, if they obtained a favorable contract.

Heading to the Madam's place of business, the sprawling, towering burlesque hall (gambling den, brothel, drug den, distillery, fighting arena and Fagin school) known as the Gilded Exile, the adventurers noted that the gilded and mummified body that Bibi's establishment used in lieu of a sign appeared different than it had been a few weeks before.  After waiting only a few minutes among the main bar room's mirrored glass and reddish thaumaturgic lamps, watching the mid day's entertainment, a somewhat lethargic line of frogling can can dancers, one of Bibi's attendents, an eldery woman dressed like a society governess led them through a maze of stairs and chambers to meet the proprietress herself.  Bibi met the band, dressed fashionably as always, in a tailored brown and white checked men's hunting suit and puffing a long cigarillo of something woody mixed with mad kelp.  The timeless madam's dress was perfectly proper for the opulent,cshabby den of shark leather, hunting trophies and cut crystal tumblers that she chose to conduct the interview in.  Her straightforward manner also fit the surrounding and soon it became apparent that she was offering a 20,000 gold coin bounty if the group could clear an abandoned uptown mansion, of whatever evil, untoward and dangerous lurked within keeping her client's from seizing the place.

The mansion in question was the last property of the fallen and diminished Haldicar clan, once a leading family of sorcerers and diabolists who had been decimated by their enemies, and whose patriarch had disappeared ten years ago leaving only a child heir.  The heir had recently vanished, and no one, not even a servant had been seen outside the mansion for months.  Bibi knew that the local militias of other  passenger caste families had undoubtedly investigated the abandoned mansion, both for the valuables and secrets undoubtedly within and to see if the place could be added to their own holdings.  That the mansion hadn't been transferred to some distant relative or hanger on by now, using dubious deeds, a forged will or some other legal contrivance was proof enough that these initial efforts had failed.  Bibi admitted that she had sent a few of her own trusted specialists, including a magician she described as a 'wayward apprentice',  to investigate the mansion and clear it for her clients.  The band of yeggs had not returned.

If the scavengers would undertake her mission Bibi offered them passage Uptown using a set of fake tickets to one of the Al Ghulop fmaily's endless balls, whatever they could carry out of the mansion and the fat purse of newly minted gold.  The Madam's only conditions and cautions were that if caught the adventurers would likely be executed by the rakes and private guards of Uptown, and that the house, including it's internal fixtures must remain intact.  Semm chose to hire an expert house breaker and magsman named "Brickbat" Muldoon, handsome, highly skilled and useless in fight compared to the hardened adventurers, Brickbat agreed to come along for a flat 5,000 gold coins off the top (much of which undoubtedly ended up in Bibi's hands).  In addition to providing access to the services of Muldoon, Bibi gave Semm a small gem, glowing a quiescent purple which she claimed would heat up as it got near to the 'evil'  haunting the Haldicar Mansion.

Soon the adventurers are ready, new anti-Outsider spells scribed, holy oil and water primed, and dressed in their best clothes, still a few notches below Uptown standards on and equipment entrusted to a pair of Flying Monkeys who promise to smuggle the weapons into Uptown and meet the band at an abandoned tailor shop near the mansion. The plan goes off without a hitch, though the elevator guards seem to understand that the party isn't the destination of these awkwardly dressed crew deck toughs.  The party consists of Semm, Quartle, Elsjinn, Annar, Fang the paladin, Brickbat and two henchmen - Quartle's longtime bodyguard Princps and Pikay, a devotee of Lyris and marksmen.

The monkeys are good on their part of the deal and soon the adventurers are prepared to enter the mansion, loaded down with guns, ammunition, armor and assorted hand weapons.  The first problem however is the mansion's eight foot iron fence and gate, a lovely fortification of wrought flowers flanked by statutes of bug headed women. 

Brickbat's expertise as a burglar of fine ladies and gentlemen was consulted and he suggested that the most dangerous moment was likely entering the compound itself, and that the fence and front door should be avoided.  Semm invoked Lyris's power and the victory deity warned him that the entire fence (though not the statutes or walls of the guardhouse) presented a danger.  Elsjinn, using her supernatural physicality vaulted the fence, and Muldoon scrambled up the face of one of the statutes in a second, secured a rope and then back-flipped into the mossy garden beneath the apple trees.  The rest of the party followed the housebreaker up the face of a statute, in a clanking obvious line, while Brickbat watched an anxious grin on his smooth, well-moisturized face.

Once inside the garden the band looked around, and noted that the apple trees appeared to have been picked clean.  To the side a narrow passage between the mansion proper and a guardhouse pierced with loopholes revealed a pair of doors leading into the guardhouse and mansion.  The house itself appeared to be two stories, with a balcony over the front door.  Brickbat's advice was to avoid both the front door and the balcony, as the door was surely trapped with fell magics and the climbing to the balcony would invite the risk of being spotted by a patrol.  Indeed, encountering the proper denizens of Uptown was the parties greatest concern, as they stole toward the servant's entrance.

In this state of heightened caution, Elsjinn and several other adventurers noticed movement in one of the trees, and when the nimble gnome hurtled up the tree to investigate she terrified a pair of juvenile flying monkey apple thieves, wearing the green and gold uniforms of their troop.  The monkeys dropped their bag of apples (a rare delicacy aboard the Apollyon - and likely the first apple Quartle had ever tasted), a shot straight up into the air on furiously flapping wings, one reprimanding the other loudly with the repeated phrase "Clandestine!"

The purple gem remained cool and only sparked deep in its depths, but Fang's sense of justice was outraged by some unnatural radiation of evil oozing from the guardhouse (really from the entire vessel, but by now the Apollyon's overpowering air of unnatural creatures, injustice and unholy magic had simply become an annoying background for the paladin's honed sense of right).  Deciding to take their mission to "clear" the mansion grounds seriously Semm and Annar flung open the door to the blockhouse to find an empty and cluttered room.

Notably, 3 figures lay on the floor, obviously dead.  Two slight men in black leather armor and a third figure leaning against the wall, the black robe on his chest shredded with bullets and a circle of iron filings laid protectively around him.  The room also contained weapons racks and a ledge around the ceiling that almost concealed a large nest opposite the door.  Undoubtedly a guardhouse formerly staffed by simian guards, the dead on the floor did not respond to prodding in any unnatural ways. However once the adventurers advanced into the room, four dessicated monkey corpses on decayed wings flapped from the nest, and began to fire upon the party with monkey sized carbines.  Semm's holy power drove the monkey revenants back into their nest, but the parties fusilade of fire, when it hit the creatures through their nest, proved only that each monkey body contained a much more dangerous ash and ember wraith, with huge burning fangs and searing ember claws. The wraith darted forward lashing out at Annar for destroying its earthly form, while the rest of the party turned to slash, pound and stab the monstrosity.  Semm's attention was drawn away from the remaining zombies and they emerged, on plugging Annar in the throat with a rifle shot.

In the battle that followed Quartle and Annar were badly mauled by simian wraiths, which once they latched on to a target, mauled it brutally.  finally though the haunts were slain, and the room looted of the  deceased burglars valuables.  Most interesting an evil necromantic grimore "The Spellbook of the Blackhearted Yegg" was recovered, along with a wand capable of spitting black bubbles of corruption.

SPELLBOOK OF THE BLACKHEARTED YEGG

A small thick book, crudely glued together from seemingly random scraps of paper.  The spells within its woven black eel leather covers are arranged in gemoetric shapes of letters and words cut from other books. possibly in an effort to avoid any corruption associated with writing out the sinister spells the book contains.

The Book contains three 1st Level Spells, two 2nd Level Spells and three 3rd level incantations
1st - Alter Self, Magic Missile (sickly yellow ray that causes necrosis), Sleep (nightmare inducing)
2nd - Obscuring Fog (Continual Darkness), Detect Lies (last four turns - will not detect untruths or evasions only flat out lies).
3rd - Miasma of Decay (see below), Zombie Ritual (see below)

NEW SPELLS:

Miasma of Decay
Level: 3   Components: V, S, M  Range: Centered on Caster  Casting Time: One round   
Duration: 1 turn + 1 round/level  Saving Throw: None    Area of Effect: 10' diameter cloud + 5' per level

The necromancer summons a vile cloud of rot and decay that will age cause anything within it to rot and decay (if it is capable of it).  Any living thing remaining in the cloud for more than one round will begin to rot away as if suffering from leprosy or a similar disease, and take 1D6 points of damage per round they remain in the cloud.  Inanimate organic objects that remain in the cloud will be destroyed the following rate: fresh plants or food (1 round), cloth (3 rounds), leather (5 rounds) light wood (8 rounds) thick wood (15 rounds). Once the cloud is summoned the caster may not effect, dismiss or alter it, and is as easily harmed to its corrosive powers as anyone else.

Zombie Ritual
Level: Components: V, S, M   Range: Touch  Casting Time: 12 turns per zombie  Duration: 2 turns/level 
Saving Throw: Neg. or ½  Area of Effect: 3zombies + 1 per level maximum

Casting this supremely evil ritual reanimates the recently dead as angry, aggressive zombies, fueled by hatred, pain and the purpose of destroying the livingThe six hour ritual to raise each zombie requires valuable incenses and oils, worth approximately 200 GP per zombie raised, it is also immediately obvious to any observing that it is a piece of very dark magic, more sinister even than the normal reanimation of the dead.  It is also dangerous to the caster as for each zombie raised the caster must roll a save vs. spells and suffers a -1 penalty for every zombie over 3 currently under the caster's control.  So aggressively evil are the zombies raised by the ritual that should the caster fail a single spell save, all zombies currently under his control will revolt and attack any living thing they can reach. Zombies raised by this spell, while especially aggressive are otherwise identical to regular zombies.

With the blockhouse cleared the adventurers move to the main house, entering through the servant's door and checking all every door along a battered hallway containing the servants' quarters and kitchen. Brickbat checks the doors of a linen closet, restroom and maids chamber before the party stumbles upon something interesting.

As he opens the door of another servant's chamber, ably picked by Brickbat, Fang the paladin is set upon by some sort of stitched together monstrous giant clad in a torn blue velvet butler's uniform, with its face covered by a porcelain mask.  Jutting from the giant's neck are two large copper bolts jolting with electricity, but more disturbing, fat thumb sized larva writhe in the flesh of it's arms.  The Paladin is struck, and wheels off as one of the voracious worms digs into his shoulder, burrowing rapidly heartward under the skin.

The rest of the party battles the automaton while the paladin tries to decide how to kill stop the worm crawling towards his heart.  While the automaton seems impervious to the bullets of the parties guns, Semm's ancient ceramic flail, Annar's ensorcelled blade and Quartle's haunted pistol are sufficent to bring the insane automaton down. As the battle winds to a close Fang has torn of his armor, and is prodding at the quickly moving worm.  Semm ends Fang's danger with a lucky application of magical flail, pulping both the worm and a good chunk of the paladin's arm, though not beyond the effect of magical healing.

Moving along a well used and perfectly normal kitchen is discovered, guarded by two more galvanic butlers, who attack when the party opens the door, still operating on their last instructions. They are dealt with fairly quickly, thanks mostly to a lucky blow by Annar that knock one of the creatures over and allows a flurry of blows to disassemble the clumsy golem.

A trapdoor in the kitchen leads to a small cellar, where a magically chilled stone case is discovered with rotten meat and more figner sized grubs (which are smashed).  Also in the cellar are a large number of broken wine bottles, and a pair of brandy kegs.  As Semm is poking around he notices several rats scurrying away from the spilled wine, and strangely carrying small spears. As the party prepares to carry off the brandy and a few unbroken bottles, they are suprised to here a high squeaky voice coming from a rodent wearing a tiny thimble helmet. The intelligent rat informs the party that they are collecting the wine within the cellar and tries to warn them off in a friendly manner.  Semm assists the rat by removing the remaining wine bottles from their racks and placing them on the floor.  As more rodents appear and begin to use a set of tubing and strange apparatus to pump the wine from the bottles, Semm discusses the mansion with the rat.  With a warning about the already slain golems and a door behind an evil painting the party and the rodent burglars go their separate ways.

The party explores the mansion's central chamber, a hall or ballroom with magical torches a fountain and a distant sky light through which they can see stars.  Beyond the ballroom is a sitting room, now completely rotted as if through some unnatural means.  There is little to loot from the sitting room, but the umbrella stand by the front door holds a battered iron sword cane marked with the Haldicar family symbol of a fly head. The cane is magical and later proves to be a dangerous blade, designed specifically for dueling, that will only work when it's wielder is engaged in a fair fight.

BLACK IRON SWORD CANE
A cane suitable for a taller gentleman or lady, its shaft  a rod of battered black iron, cold forged and ideal for pushing varlets off of gangways or gesticulating lewdly at the cabaret.   The head is made of the same black iron, but delicately sculpted into the shape of a fly head, a traditional emblem of the Haldicar family.   The head and first few inches of the cane screw off easily and the body contains the thin blade of a high quality smallsword (1D8).  The weapon bears a powerful enchantment that allows the wielder to fight well in the classic duelist’s style despite any lack of natural abilities, thrusts from the weapon hone in on gaps in armor or the exposed areas of an opponent’s defense almost without effort, usually with fatal results (+3 to hit/damage).  However the weapon is not without drawbacks. The nature of the sword’s enchantment requires that the weapon is used in a “fair fight” for it to be effective.  The wielder must be fighting a single enemy, face to face, with both combatants intent on doing each other harm.   The best way to activate the sword cane’s magic is to call out an opponent, to meet in single combat and to abide by the rules of such combat.  If these strictures are not obeyed (such as in a battle or common melee), the sword cane is inert, a simple but well-made blade without magical enhancement.  In its inert form the weapon will not even strike creatures immune to normal weapons.

Across the entrance hall from the mouldered sitting room the party discovers a museum filled with paintings, empty display cases, a taxidermy elephant and a huge sea stained basalt statute of a tentacle faced deity.  Taking the advice of the rats Annar removes the protective cloth from the central painting carefully without touching the painting.  When nothing happens the viking examines the painting and finds a catch that allows it to swing away from the wall.  However in doing so Annar is momentarily drawn into the forest scene depicted on the painting, and only returns to his body with a great exertion of will.  Removing an re-wrapping the magical painting the party continues through the conceal door behind it into a cold cement laboratory.

To the North they discover a set of cells and a torture chamber, guarded by another galvanic flesh golem, which is destroyed easily after the party traps it beneath a portcullis. In the cells Quartle discovers the remains of two housemaids and a note written in dried blood that explains that the house keeper locked them into the cells and left them to die, presumably absconding with much of the house's wealth.

Investigating the Southern door, a simple trap is not discovered and when the door is opened protective wards are disturbed.  Staring into a low concrete chamber, obvious decorated for magical ritual, the party watches as a pink greasy smoke fills the now disturbed protective circle in the center  of the room.  The smoke quickly coalesces into a hulking bird like beast, three armed, many eyed, asymmetrical, standing on crooked talons, covered in mangy pink feathers and patches of rotten flesh.  With a delighted caw from its jagged beak the demonic parrot creature surges forward croaking "freedom!" and "Now I will feed on your souls!".

Quickly Semm calls on his deity to ward him with a silent white flame that he hopes will burn the flesh of the unnatural beast.  Quartle flings bottles of holy oil to little effect, and begins firing his ghost pistol.  The beast charges forward through the band's fire, and claws at Semm and Annar.  After the initial attack, the demon steps back and vomits a cone of disgusting bile, filed with maggots on the party, and several are stunned with disgust, but quickly recover.  In a few rounds both stalwart warriors are torn and bleeding, with Annar's shield reduced to a mass of shattered wood.  Semm's henchman Pekay is struck down and killed by the beast's savage attacks as he swings at it with an enchanted mace.  Still the magic of Semm's god has burnt huge rents in the demon's feathers, searing it to the bone, and as the party squares off with the demon for a final confrontation it collapses to the floor and then bursts with a puff of filthy pink feathers.

In the ritual chamber the adventurers discover several valuable artifacts and the body of an ancient sorcerer, assassinated during a summoning ritual. The destruction of the demon has cleansed the mansion of vile evil magics (though not the taint of the mundane evils that the Haldicar family enjoyed on a daily basis), so the band returns to the Rustgates for their reward.

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