I am posting through my backlog of play reports to get this started well.
A week passed, I was expecting it'd be two before we played again, but my players are resoundingly eager. They all returned. The cast of villains is:
A week passed, I was expecting it'd be two before we played again, but my players are resoundingly eager. They all returned. The cast of villains is:
Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1
Lemon Jackson – An under-clothed wizard with strange yellow eyes and who tattoos himself with spells. (M) Magic-User 1
Hump – Dwarf with a fake beard, red splint armor festooned with axes & heavy crossbow. (M) Dwarf 1
Mukuls – Barbarian with stereotypically savage strength and a fondness for axes. (M) Fighter 1
Drusilla – Pretty elfin lass, of disturbingly unpleasant affect and with a taste for human babies (F) Elf 1
The party awoke in Mung's House of Ale and set out to find the temple of science and see both what it was and what work they might need. They arrived at the black pyramid at 10 AM and the Scientists were open for the day. Lemon and Hump did the talking while the rest of the party lurked in the background.
The Scientists thought they could find something for such a band of adventurers to work at, something besides a long stint in the temple's boron mines, because “Science is always in need of willing bodies”. The adventurers learned that a visiting Scientist and retainers had been expected by the South road, but were a week late. The Scientists would pay 50gp per party member for the party to escort the visitors back to the Temple of Science. When Hump asked where the visitors had come from they were told that the missing Scientist had been prospecting for artifacts in the Molybdenum Tombs, a place of ancient technology. Also the Scientists insisted that they didn't work with the Steel Leviathans, as those were powered by the “crude engineering” of the Academy these days.
The party walked back to the bazaar and spent more of their quickly dwindling cash reserves on camping gear and rations. They refused Drusilla's suggestion that they go to the Street of Tormented flesh and buy her a human baby in lieu of her1/5 of the rations.
On the way South through the soot stained streets and among the clanking factories the adventurers observed a fist fight amongst local toughs, unemployed machine workers and drunken rowdies. The party skirted around the fracas and refused even to bet on a winner with a cancerous factory foreman who was sure that his 'boys' would smash the opposition.
The party looked a bit ridiculous as they walked, bristling with weapons through the bucolic, peaceful countryside. Five hours later there was still no sign of the wayward science caravan and the group passed through the town of Lugosi, where the road split. No one the characters asked had seen any scientists, but they were told to take the right, less traveled road if they were heading towards the tombs. An elderly yokel was heard to remark “Ha them youths is all gonna die in the tombs. That pretty armor's gonna be soft cheese to the teeth of a crystal jaguar.” Mukul's player P voices concerns to the rest of the party and briefly advocates some sort of meta-game theory that the DM is trying to warn them away from the tombs and they were supposed to stay in “starting area” of Denethix (I sorta despise MMO's for encouraging this kind of thinking). The other players ignore P's theory and Grimgrim wonders aloud if Monstcrom would protect him from crystal jaguars, if a crystal jaguar skin cape would would be pleasing to Monstcrom and if Monstcrom would prefer his followers to befriend or sacrifice a crystal jaguar? Grimgrim instinctively feels that a cape would be pleasing to Monstcrom, but not as pleasing as a crystal jaguar fur loin cloth and furry wrist bracers, also that Monstcrom wants sacrifice, not to be worshiped by cat-hoarders.
I proclaimed that Grimgrim had earned 20xp for his priestly mediation on his deity's desires regarding crystal felines, and pointed out that was as much xp as he'd get for killing four goblins. I want to reward in-game thinking and character building here. Drusilla will be getting xp if she gets her teeth into a human-type baby for example (though I don't think Hump, Mukuls or Lemon will like that much and there may be terrible lynch-mob style consequences).
Five miles out of Lugosi on the Tarryfield road the party was set upon by a gang of violently drunken halfling hillbilly toughs who failed to achieve complete suprise only because their leader (a young halfling with a shaved head and gruesome facial scars) decided to shout “Stand aside dwarf, and we'll let you run while we murderate these beanpoles.” The other halflings giggled while Hump appeared to momentarily dither. Hump didn't wait long to send a quarrel towards the halfling leader. Hump missed. Four of the Halflings charged, wielding nail studded clubs and pitchforks, the remaining bow-ling put an arrow into Grimgrim's shoulder guard). Lemon tossed a sleep spell at the charging halflings, but his lack of battle training left his pussiance wanting and the incantation only put down the archer and two pitchfork wielders. Mukul's thrown hachet caught a club-ling in the chest and left him coughing blood but stumbling forward with drunken determination. Grimgrim missed, as did the attacker's leader, but the wounded halfling rapped Grimgrim on the shin and draws blood. Attacking last, from the second rank, Drusilla's crescent headed polearm neatly decapitated the halfling leader and sent his screaming head whirling off into the bushes. (I stole the flying screaming decapitated head from a Roman epic poem – it's a classical allusion, respect it!). Hope drains from the remaining halfling's eyes as he wheezes with blood filled lungs and his brave, but feeble club swing is deflected by Grimgrim's shield. A flurry of counterblows end the last halfling's determined stand and reduce him to ground chuck.
Grimgrim decides that they must let one sleeping halfling live “To tell his children Monstcrom's might and in honor of his friend's bravery in the face of death.” G is fishing for xp methinks, but it's a once per game session bonus.
Lemon agreed to let the sleeping halflings live, and declared they were “his kills” so it was his right to decide. The party then buried the 'brave' halfling (the last to die) in a shallow grave, nailing a gp (they now have 39) to his club as a grave marker and left the groggy tied halflings with the decapitated leader's corpse in the ditch. They looted some 64sp, a copper chased drinking horn, and lucky protonium disc, engraved with pictures of a bull head/tail (10 gp gem replacements) from the defeated.
Grimgrim's wound was minor (2hp – leaving him with 4hp) and he bandaged it. He clamed his frayed nerves by draining the captured drinking horn. I am using the “MetalEarth” “bad-ass healing rules” so Grimgrim was back to full hp (1d4 healing for taking appropriate efforts – especially a stiff drink). Mukuls suggested Drusilla enjoy a “Halfling haunch” cause they looked like babies, but Drusilla replied with the jaunty elven rhyme “If it's gray let it lay, if it's not in the Pot!”. Laughter and XP bonus followed.
Leaving the site of the yokel slaughter (which could have gone very badly I think), the party walked on, with Lemon flipping his new 'lucky' token in the spring sun. They arrived at Tarryfield at 11PM and stumbled into “The Wretched” for a quick drink. They ate their own rations, in preference to the rat on a stick or “mold fries” while telling the local drunks about their encounter with the halflings, asking about Scientists and generally being tough guys. The adventurers rented the loft for 5gp and retired after a couple rounds paid for with the Halflings' silver.
Shortly after 4am the party, and the barkeep (sleeping in a pile of greasy straw by the smokey fireplace) were awakened by a pounding on the door. Two wild-eyed men in ragged splint mail and dirty Temple of Science tabards burst into The Wretched shouting for help. The party tries to calm them and starts suiting up. Terry and Phil are the intruders names and they are armsmen for the temple of science, most recently exploring the Molybdenum Tombs with a Dr. Spivey from the South. This Dr. is clearly the man the players have been sent to find.
The armsmen relate their predictable story of being robbed by Moktars … hostages, treasure caravan etc. The party decides to head out, in the dark, as this is exactly the clear cut adventure they want. Hump catches Terry and Phil exchanging avaricious glances.
A slightly exhausted 2 hr later, just as dawn is breaking, the party finds themselves at the caravan site. They're tired and a bit dazed (I'm giving them all -1 on damage rolls until they rest), but quickly search the burnt caravan, finding three dead guards and a dead “postoc”, as the servants/slaves of Scientists are known. Almost as quickly as the party realizes that the caravan is looted, they discover large cat-like footprints in the mud. Terry and Phil report that Dr. Spivey is not among the dead, and that another guard, Kolem, is also missing. Following the footprints the party arrives at the Moktar lair, visible ½ way up a low hill as a perfectly square hole in a roughly excavated rock wall.
In an heretoforth uncharacteristic fit of tactical sense the characters array themselves around the opening, with the Melee armed Mukuls and Drusilla at the doors edge, and the rest of the party hefting their missile weapons (crossbow, darts and a sling) crouched above the door's lip. Terry and Phil stand behind Drusilla on the left side of the door. After nothing happens for a few minutes, Mukuls shouts “Surrender in the name of the law and come out with yer hands on yer heads”. After several seconds they hear a distant clang, a viscous howl and shortly afterwards the sound of a breaking branch and a sustained pained yipping. The guard wolf has fallen into the pit. I rolled the moktar's morale and he decided to check out the disturbance before running for help. As 'healthy' moktar sticks his head out of the doorway he is subject to a flurry of blows. He avoids the heavy melee attacks of Drusilla and Mukuls, as well as a bolt and stone. Lemon's dart catches the moktar in the back of the arm and draws blood. The Moktar leaps back into the cave entrance and starts to retreat towards the sprung pit trap and his wolf. He is followed shortly by Mukuls and Drusilla, then Phil and Terry, and finally the rest of the party, with Lemon in the 4th rank.
Eager to press on even with darkness closing in as the outdoor light dims the party backs the wary Moktar up against the pit. The first round is a flurry of missing missles and blocked blows, but in the second Mukuls lands an overhead battleaxe blow and his strength carries his blade through the moktar's guard and deep into it's shoulder. The dying moktar falls into the pit with a splash and the trapped wolf's yelps grow louder.
Drusilla kills the wolf with her polearm by leaning over the side of the pit with Mukuls and Grimgrim each holding one of her legs. Even in this awkward position the trapped beast is silenced in only a few rounds. The sick guards down the hall have followed the commotion, but their sickness induced lassitude keeps them from acting aggressively until they see the party's lamps as they emerge around the corner from the pit and begin to assemble.
The party had trouble crossing the pit, with only 20' of rope and one grappling hook, they were all forced to descend (Phil offered to 'stand guard' even if it meant he had to stay on the doorway side of the pit, but his offer was declined) and then remove the grapple and ascend up the other side. Hump takes charge as they assemble, organizing the party for melee efficiency. He and Mukuls form a first line, with the polearm wielding Drusilla thrusting over Hump's short shoulders while Grimgrim and Lemon provide missile support. Terry and Phil gladly slink to the rear. The two moktars are worried that they are out numbered but they figure they're only be facing Hump and Mukul's axes in the narrow corridor so they advance with warning roars. The attacking Moktars run straight into Drusilla's braced braced crescent pike, but the injury it inflicts fails to bring down the first moktar. Grimgrim's slingstone cracks the same moktar's skull, but the tough brute still refuses to go down. Both moktar's miss their tentative swings at the well shielded fighters of the front line. Mukul's great strength is again telling as he lays out the unwounded Moktar with a single mighty blow. The wounded Moktar turns to flee, and is cut down just as the rest of the enraged moktar band emerges from the end of the hall.
The fight in the corridor is long and exhausting with Grimgrim moving forward when a second pair of moktars tear into Mukuls and force his retreat. The moktars fight to the end though, despite their disadvantage in armor and the flurry of missiles and pike thrusts from the parties back row. By the fight's end Mukuls has exhausted his throwing axes, and is still bleeding from a pair of serious wounds, even after a bandaging. Grimgrim is forced to call on Monstcrom for healing, and the party presses forward to find the empty guardroom and then the mess of the common room. Dr. Spivey is trussed in the corner and the players heed rush to free him. He curses Terry and Phil as worthless cowards, but Terry and Phil aren't cowed. The party takes the obviously ill Dr. back down the hall to the Guard room and lay him on the table. Drusilla tells Grimgrim to heal him, but Grimgrim states he isn't a Dr. and that Monstcrom is a stingy God who will grant no more boons today.
Lemon, as the party's most educated tries to conduct first aid, but before he can do much Spivey expires. A search of his body reveals a rolled map and nothing else.
The party rushes back into the common room to search for any more moktars, and this time Hump notices the telltale mad radiation of the sick rock in the corner. He tells the party to hurry into the next room, and they burst into the Chief's chamber in total disarray. The chief is surprised, the noise of the battle in the outer hall having only begun to wake him from a sick rock tormented stupor. The party is equally surprised and barely sorts itself out before the groggy chief charges them. The chief's first blow smashes Hump back into the hall, reeling with 1 hp remaining. No blows land for several rounds until a recovered Hump puts a bolt into the Chief's thigh and the shock leaves the chief open to blows from Mukuls and Terry. The chief dies, roaring his outrage, while Terry attempts to claim the chief's necklace by right of having landed the final blow. The party threatens Terry; Terry relents as his cowardice defeats his greed.
The party stops for a while, trying to mend Hump's serious injury. Hump has at least one cracked rib but he is better off after a tight bandaging and a brief rest. The adventurers are in amazingly good shape for having rapidly done in 19 HD of monsters without a rest. Grimgrim and Hump still have painful minor wounds, but all the other adventurers are unscratched.
The party finds a lever at the entrance to a tunnel, and Mukuls promptly pulls it. A loud clanf follows and the party then nonchalantly begins walking South towards the source of the noise. Hump is thrown to the ceiling by an unseen force, when he fails to heed a magnetic pull on his armor. Mukuls leaps back in time, but his beloved battleaxe is torn from his grasp. From Hump's anguished shouts the party is able to determine that the trap is magnetic in nature, and Lemon goes down the hall to toss Hump a rope. Hump has nothing to tie the rope to so Mukuls, Grimgrim and Drusilla all remove their armor and stand beneath Hump with a blanket stretched out to catch him while Phil put the lever into down position. The plan works as the blanket barely holds 200lbs of plummeting armored dwarf. Hump is again soothed, this time with a vigorous back rub from Mukuls for his badly wrenched shoulders. The party pledges to remember to bring whiskey on their next delve, as Hump is still sore and his busted ribs feel worse again. The adventurers works their way to the end of the corridor and cannot shift the steel trapdoor the find there. They surmise correctly that the lever will lift it and leave Lemon by the trap door with instructions to yell about what happens. Sure enough the trap opens when the massive steel pyramid, it's base the “trapdoor”, slams into the ceiling. The party debates how to get their armored selves down the trapdoor, but cannot figure out a good way, especially one that will allow them to retain their armor and keep the trap pinned to the ceiling. Finally Grimgrim decides on a possible plan and the party drags the guardroom table to the trapdoor and activates the magnet. While the door is up, they lay the table over the hole (it barely spans the pit). When the pyramid again falls to the hole the table succeeds in partially deflecting (several rolls were made – they went well) the pyramid so that using rope and the remaining table chunks as levers the party's combined strength can shift the pyramid to the side.
The party lowers Mukuls into the hole with a harness under his arms, his axe in one hand and lantern in the other. Hump and Lemon stand ready to pelt anything that emerges with missiles. It's anti-climactic as Mukuls finds only a damp hole with stairs heading down. The party follows and arranges themselves in their tested battle formation before proceeding into a vault. They don't know what to expect, but it's not the purplish corpse of a caravan guard and a large chest. There are cheers about the chest, and the party rushes forward as two spiders leap from the ceiling, the first pounces on Terry as he emerges from the stairs and the second launches itself at Lemon. Both Terry and Lemon are bitten, lemon takes a bloodly but mostly superficial scratch to the face, leaping back so quickly that the dose of spider poison meant for him spurts harmlessly onto the floor. Terry is less lucky, and the viscous bite of the fangs drops him to his knees where the spider leisurely pumps venom into him. As Terry expires gasping and purple, Phil's short sword takes the spider above a knee joint, but the beast barely seems to notice the shortened leg as it turns towards Drusilla and Grimgrim. Lemon has darted to cower behind the cleric and elf while clawing at his bloody face. Grimgrim braces himself but his wild swing fails to connect. Mukuls and Hump dart forward completing a crescent formation around the two spiders, Phil and the deceased Terry. As this shuffling takes place Drusilla has dropped her crescent pike and begun to mouth the mystical words of her sleep spell. The spiders prepare for leap, almost sure to carry off at least one party member with their virulent poisons, when the winds of slumber (Drusilla's spell apparently creates a bluish mist that smells of coconut, ginger and key limes) hit them and luckily send both monster arachnids into a deep sleep filled with lovely dreams - this is apparently a side effect of Drusilla's sleep spell, though it begs the question as to what 'lovely dreams' mean to a giant cave spider). There is no talk of mercy and Drusilla uses her crescent to lop off the head of each spider while Hump and Mukuls each drive axe blows into the eyes. This bit of butchery kills the spiders quickly and the party returns to the chest after searching the room for more monsters. Lemon staunches the his bleeding face with a fist full of giant spider web (the party may remember to look up when they enter strange treasure tombs from now on, but it's unlikely) and on close examination the wound is superficial despite a stinging from trace amounts of venom.
Turning to the chest the party finds 800gp within as they note the chest's unwieldy lead construction. Phil suggests that the coins (750 of which are rolled in 30 Bank Inviolable coin sleeves) represent pay for the Scientist's caravan guards – meaning himself. Grimgrim mutters something about 'blood for Monstcrom'. As Phil takes in the scratched but hardy adventurers and he can only meekly suggest that “Not for me you see, something for Terry's three babies, and maybe you know a bit for me to ummmm - put aside.” The party ignores him and scoops the gold into their packs.
The weary trudge back to Tarryfield is uneventful, but they spend only enough time in the Wretched's loft to achieve the minimum of rest and for the casters to pick through their spell books and commune with their gods. The next night is spent in one of Lugosi's inns, a comfortable spot called The Sinking Fang. On their fourth day after leaving Denethix the party walks back into the city up the same sooty street they left. Phil trudges dejectedly behind the party, somehow having lost his Science tabard and almost silently whining about “a fair share for the Philster”.
Treasure and XP – It was a good haul, 857 gp in coin, 20 gp in nicknacks and a mysterious treasure map. This is less than last time, but that was basically a hand-wave to give the PC's starting cash. This timed they earned their loot like good adventurers, through bloodthirsty slaughter and smart tactics.
Victims -5 halfling hillfolk (3 released), a wolf, a healthy moktar, 8 poisoned moktars, 1 dying moktar chief, 2 crab spiders. The total is something like 1120 XP total, or 224 each.
Losses - Terry the Incompetent Armsman.
Treasures of Note: A Strange Map – It's a map to some kind of cave near the top of Mt. Rendon, a massive lone mountain about 35 miles from Denethix. The Mountain is known to be dangerous and topped by peryton inhabited and/or haunted ancient ruins. Some say it was “the last redoubt of the ancient wizards” but people say that about every ancient ruin. The map is clearly very old, printed on crumbling plastic and showing topography in the ancient manner. The dead scientist, Dr. Spivey, has written in his neat block letters “sick rock imperative to ingress” in some kind of grease pencil with an arrow towards the cave.