Back again, two weeks later and I am impressed that no one has dropped out. In fact it's been mentioned that some other folk may be interested in joining.
Our protagonists are:
Grimgrim – Fighting priest of the fierce God of Dooms, Monstcrom! (M) Cleric 1
Lemon Jackson – An underclothed 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 large and small. (M) Fighter 1
Drusilla – Eleven lass of disturbingly unpleasant affect and taste for human babies. (F) Elf 1
The party has just returned to Denethix with 857GP in loot and 18GP left over from prior adventures. They decided over email last week to buy a suit of plate armor for the party (at 450 gp it's an investment) and maybe get a second man-sized set when they get their reward from the scientists for determining the deceased Doctor's fate. I like flavor and so the armor they bought isn't strictly plate mail, it's a blackened steel half suit of heavy plate with a closed helm. If worn over mail (splint, chain or scale) it grants a -2 to AC (though never a better AC than 3). I've decided to describe it as a bulbous clamshell back and breast piece with semi attached pouldrons and topped with a morian (a conquistador helmet) that has a silvered steel face plate attached via a hinge. The mask is of a fiercely toothed pig faced demon. The PC's seem to think their investment armor is damn cool and I'm okay with that - as 450GP is a serious investment for 1st level PC's and looking cool has no effect on game play (unless they refuse to swap it for something better).
The remaining 400 GP (they're keeping 26GP in traveling money) they split equally. That's 80 GP each, not enough to buy anything major (Lemon wants a hand cannon), but good enough for night of carousing, a new weapon or to hire and equip a henchman (they haven't figured that one out yet). Grimgrim reminds the party about Phil and they all chip in 10GP to keep him from bad mouthing them to the scientists, but he still sulks off grumbling.
I ran little email stories with each player about what they wanted to do with their cash:
Mukuls wants a one handed axe that is better than a hand-axe. P realizes the advantage of a shield in hand to hand, and wants to do damage like a sword, without giving up Mukuls barbarian 'axeiness'. I figured that seemed fair, it's just a cosmetic change to a longsword and I allowed Mukuls to find a large one/two handed “bearded-axe” for 25gp. Mukuls traded in his battle axe for 5gp and bought it immediately – the bearded-axe does damage as a bastard sword but looks way viking.
Lemon, unable to afford a pistol, seeks to determine the contents of old Skull-face's spellbook. I tell him a sage will rent him space and reference materials to study at a rate of 10gp per day (which is low, but hey) and he can get a chance to decipher the new spells once each day. On the first day he must roll under his Int with penalties of + 4 (+1 additional per level above spell level he can cast) per spell on a D20. Lemon has a 17 Intelligence and the first day he decodes Detect Magic, Phantasmal Force and amazingly the 4th level spell Summon Monster II (he rolled a 1 on that). This is a spell that Skull-face apparently stole from someone else with a wicked looking spellbook*. Lemon painstakingly copies these spells to get tattoos of later. The next day Drusilla joins with her 14 Int (she's more a stabby elf then a casty one). Working together they decipher the 2nd level spell Darkness. Lemon (with an additional + 1 penalty) manages to work out Magic Missile and Floating Disc while Drusilla unpuzzles Skull-face's special magic missile (harder to counterspell) named Damnation's Arrow (or something else hellish) and read magic. If they'd bothered to pick up read magic before this would not have been a problem. Since they worked together on the project Drusilla and Lemon share spells. Now Lemon has to find a tattoo artist. Lemon finds a tattoo artist and buys the inks and needles he needs (only a wizard could tattoo spells onto a wizard with any success he reasons correctly) for about 25GP, and spends the evening tattooing Damnation's arrow on the remaining space of his left forearm (tattooing demonic spells on oneself may have unintended consequences – See table below). Drusilla helps Lemon the next day and by the evening he is covered in new spells. Both forearms (all first level spells), the back of Lemon's left hand (Phantasmal Force), the top of his right bicep (Darkness) and the left side of his belly (Monster Summoning II) are now used up.
Grimgrim and Hump decide to look into finding a better place to stay than an inn. Hump first buys a scimitar (15gp) and then joins Grim. They decide on a 3bdrm apartment on the Street of Industrial Efforts near the Palis Public – it rents at 40gp a month (w/1st and last deposit) but with a free month if they kick out the current residents. The party can't find Lemon who is off at the scholars, but the rest of the party gets together and moves in to evict the current tenants. The apt. manager, a one-armed, scarred former rivet press foreman and ex-Fist trooper named Mr. Mud tags along. He has already informed the adventurers that he doesn't know the landlord, leaving the deposits at the bank every month. He also claims he'd let the party slide on rent a bit, but the one time he tried that some Moktars and a slaver in green leather came looking for him and he had no choice but to show them to the door of the late paying renters. Penalties were assessed and the working class family of renters had to give up their child to the slaver to pay them.
The PC's are questioning their decision to become an eviction squad now given the obvious cruelty of their absentee landlord and the fact that if the landlord has serious muscle, why hasn't he evicted the current residents. I rolled a random encounter and when the door goes down to Mukul's boot (now clad in the blackened steel plate, over his reddish splint armor) the inhabitants appear. They are ready, two surly looking men with poniards and and rapiers stand to the sides and in front of the door while a woman is braced against the back wall of the room with a light crossbow. An elderly woman holding a crying baby peeks from one of the bedrooms.
The woman shouts “How dare you! Brother Joohassanville will hear of this audacity!”. The men growl but look less than ready to tangle with the PC's. Even Grimgrim and Drusilla don't feel quite right massacring these lodgers and everyone is wondering who Joohassanville is. Hump pushes the superintendent forward and say “The Lammie's gotta tell you people to leave”. Mr. Mud, gulps and stammers out that “Indeed the rent is rather overdue, and he thought that your eminences had vacated the premises … it is most unfortunate these (sweeping his arm to indicate the party) hardened mercenaries compelled him to rent the space.”
The party is not pleased with Mr. Mud – and Drusilla starts to step forward when the woman haughtily begins a monologue. The gist is that she is the mistress of Exalted Brother Joohassanville, and that the Exalted Brother's child is in the other room. Her companions are also in the employ of the Exalted Brother as his footman. The PC's had best pay for the intrusion and leave, because even if the rent is three months late it is only because Joohansanville has not been available lately to provide a stipend to his retainers, as such a paltry amount of money is beneath his notice.
The party stops to take in their opposition more closely and notices that the woman is rather attractive, young, and wearing a valuable looking silky gown with lace about the neck. She's also wearing high-heeled slippers of some kind with huge feather poofs on them. The two men are also well dressed, if a bit shabby, one is in his undershirt and bracers, but the other is in a natty blue blazer with only a slight worn look at the elbows. Both men are wearing high quality slacks and good leather dress shoes.
Drusilla takes the scene in and steps forward with anger in his eyes. She begins gesticulating and growls toward the woman that these lodgings are beneath the mistress of a worthy such as an exalted brother, and that she must be lying. The woman insists that she is Joohassanville's 7th mistress, and raises the crossbow. Drusilla steps deeper into the room and begins in her best wizard voice.
“What are your petty lives to me, the puissant Drusilla, elf and sorceress! I need these rooms for my researches, and your mayfly lives will not thwart me – marvel the demonstration of my arcane craft, that you shall know my might and begone!” Drusilla continues to mumble mystic syllables while the two bravos lean in confused and the woman seems about to speak. Before anything more can happen, colorful mists of sleep swirl from Drusilla's hands and wash over the squatters causing the whole lot (all 5 and 1/2+1 HD), even the (+1) baby fall to the floor unconscious.
The party quickly disarms the squatters, while Mr. Mud starts to caper and dig through drawers muttering about “back rent”. Hump stops him, and shoos him out as the party starts to drag the squatters and their belongings out into the street. Drusilla tries halfheartedly to claim the baby, but is easily convinced that if she must eat baby, it should not be the baby of the rich and powerful.
After the apartment is empty and with the groggy squatters sobbing, growling and staring sullenly from the street, Mukuls tosses out 2GP “to hire a wagon” along with the crossbow (with cut string) and the men's weapons. The party begins to celebrate their new apartment, and sure enough in an hour or so the squatters have left, abandoning 2 rickety chairs that Grimgrim quickly grabs, and which constitute the party's only furniture.
Drusilla, on the first day back in Denethix, prior to her sleep spell trick on the squatters, she attempted to purchase a human baby on the street of tormented flesh, but failed because every slaver insisted that they either “didn't sell babies”, “didn't sell babies to elves” or “didn't sell eatin' babies”. One actually offered her a teenager, but Drusilla seems focused on finding a baby and is uncomfortable cooking someone who can talk. She may also be having second thoughts on her baby eating quest, perhaps living amongst humans is making her more accepting of their sentience, despite their short life spans and pink/brown flesh.
The Session Begins
The Session Begins
Their errands done and having found a new home, on the fourth day since returning to Denethix, the party finally remembers the map that the dead scientist had. They realize it's a treasure map and that they will need to return to the moktar's cave for the sick rock and the lead lined chest if they wish to follow it. Before leaving the adventurers stock up on rations, lamp oil, rope, another grapple, bandages and booze.
Lemon tries to cage money out of the Scientists for determining the fate of the missing Dr. Spivey, but the scientists refuse to reward the party because they didn't escort him in safe as were the terms of their contract. When pressed the scientist asks the party if they might have found the lost expedition's payroll and suggests that a small reward might be offered for the payroll's return. Lemon quickly leaves and the party heads out of town. The party decides that the scientists are all cheats.
The trip to Tarryfield is uneventful, and the adventurers rests the evening in the loft of “The Wretched”. Even the trip to the cave is without incident and the party starts back towards Tarryfield early afternoon of the second day out, wishing they had brought a cart, donkey or even a handcart. They haven't gone far towards Mt. Rendon when Mukul's wasteland attuned senses notice something large seems to be pacing them on the left and the party stops shedding packs and dropping into a defensive formation facing the left.
As the party slides into fighting formation, with Mukuls and Grimgrim in the front Drusilla behind and Hump and Lemon farther back A motley grey skinned band launches from the trees. 2 stick like grey humanoids, looking much like short skinny and deformed elves charge forward with crude spears. Three more of the humanoids stand about 15' back and while one chants and waves a strange doll in the air (counterspelling) the other two loft barbed arrows at the PC's. In addition to the goblins, which Hump recognizes and identifies with a howling shout, is a bear, but with an overly muscled goblin body growing from where the bear's head would be. The horror charges Mukuls and while it's right claw smashes into his shield, the bugbear's left whollops him in the head and sends Mukul's reeling. As he steps back the bugbear sweeps a crude bill through the air Mukals just vacated with enormous force. One of the goblin arrows finds a target in Drusilla's leg staggering her and bleeding profusely. The two goblins with spears miss as they attempt to get around/through Grimgrim.
Hump fires his crossbow putting a bolt through a goblin archer's skull. The rest of the party misses, with Drusilla barely able to stand. The architecture of Lemon's sleep spell falls apart in his mind as the goblin shaman's chanting seems to tear apart his concentration and it's ridiculous stick doll looms menacingly in his mind's eye.
As the party digs in and prepares a real counterattack only the bugbear is able to find it's way through the party's considerable armor. It slams again slams a paw into Mukuls, deftly reaching around his shield and tearing through the splint armor on his weapon arm. The injury is minor, but the it the effort has badly unbalanced the Bugbear and it stumbles over as it tries to sweep Mukuls into a hug. In fact, the large monster is so unbalanced that in flailing to right itself it accidentally plunges its bill into the spine of a goblin spearman who was trying to get around behind Mukuls.
Hump runs forward, dropping the spent crossbow to help Mukuls, Lemon misses with a dart at the still chanting shaman and Grimgrim inconclusively fences with the remaining speargoblin, unable to get past it's guard. Mukuls takes advantage of the Bugbear's loss of balance and his axe thuds home viciously into the bear shoulder. Drusilla, still bleeding and looking very pale drives her Crescent deep into the Bugbear's belly as it rises, tearing a huge gash that sprays yellow ichor.
Seeing their champion stumbling and wounded, the goblins launch only half-hearted and feeble attacks that the party easily brushes aside. The bugbear manages to right itself but cannot attack before Mukuls neatly steps forward and lops off it's goblin head with his axe. Lemon throws a dart with pub honed accuracy and skewers the goblin shaman in the throat, ending his chanting. Drusilla and Grimgrim miss and Hump charges forward at the remaining archer. The remaining goblins try to flee, but Grimgrim pounds the spearman to the ground as it tries to break away. Lemon catches the last goblin with a dart, but doesn't being it down as it drops its bow and runs.
Mukuls shakes off his bear claw wounds, such injuries are common enough among his people, and his armor having taken most of the damage anyway. Hump helps him patch the torn pieces of this armor. Drusilla is a more serious case, as blood loss has staggered her and pushed her to the edge of shock. A belt of whiskey doesn't do much to restore her color, but Grimgrim's first aid, drawing the arrow and putting a tight bandage on the wound means that it quickly scabs up. Drusilla may have a slight limp for a few days but she is no longer in any danger.
Note: I threw this random encounter at the PC's with malicious intent, hoping that a 4HD beast with 3 attacks, backed by archers and a counter spell for sleep might put the fear of old school combat into the PC's. It may have slightly, given that a single arrow reduced Drusilla to 1hp (out of 4 so it's not surprising) despite her AC2 (16Dex). Likewise the ability of the bugbear to consistently hit Mukuls, with an AC1, was of some concern to the PC's. They don't seem to realize how lucky they were that the bugbear fumbled twice in one round or that Drusilla and Mukuls hit for a big 19 points of damage the next. The encounter was not a complete railroad, I rolled a wandering monster and I rolled 5 goblins, but I felt like upping the challenge, otherwise that fight would have simply been a nuisance and waste of play time.
The treasure from the bugbear is in a leather bag around its neck in the form of a polished chunk of amber about the size of a walnut, with a strange horned beetle frozen within. (100gp gem). The goblins have nothing except stinking fur armor.
That evening the party reaches Chelmsfordshire leading a mule cart and its driver, a lazy eyed youth named Tobi. The lead chest is in the cart with the wounded Drusilla who is keeping off her injured leg. Chemlsford an the Muddy Cup do not impress the party, though it appears a marginally better town than Tarryfeild. They rent a room and heave the chest upstairs while Tobi retires to the common room to drink much of his day's wages.
* Skull-Face's spell-book – A large black tome bound in what appears to be some kind of giant reptile hide, but is actually tooled leather. The cover has a white skull crudely painted on it in thick, cracked white paint. The book is 50 pages of vellum, and the first 9 pages contain the ledger of an alchemical supply shop, seemingly in Denethix, written in a neat hand in brownish faded ink. The next 6 pages contain the spells: read magic, sleep, magic missile, damnation's arrow (identical to magic missile, but not commonly known and evil looking), floating disc and detect magic. After that 6 pages are inscribed with: darkness, phantasmal force and detect good. All these spells are written in spidery black characters with too many curlicues and spirals as decoration. On the 28th page of the spell-book someone has drawn a cartoonish piece of halfling erotica, and tucked under the badly re-glued endpapers is a folded page of another spell-book (gold film-like paper with tiny raised writing that lets off a subtle blue-green glow) containing the 4th level spell “Summon Monster II”.