Friday, December 20, 2013

ASE - Onward to the Obelisk - Play Report



ASE SESSION B 1 – Return to Mt. Rendon

The Party
Mungo Stroot – CL 2
Jane Dill – IIL 2
Raymond ‘Numbers’ Gamma – SCI 2
 ‘Bee Bot’ – ROB 1
Darth Acne – MU 1 (necromancer)
Yana of Cithras – CL 1



After spending a few weeks going about their own business in the newly booming town of   Grain doesn’t grow in the mold patches of Chemfoldshire and the demands of the Certopsian  War to the South East have meant that grain shipments to the new brewery are frequently getting hijacked by troops, including mercenary bands and private militia heading to the front.

In Denethix Mungo can’t even get a meeting before the magistrates and the Boards of Proper Apportionment won’t honor most of the brewery’s scrip for refund as they are on the wrong form or misspelled.  A clerk suggests that Mungo and his business partners retain a lawyer to travel with each grain shipment to make sure that the brutish mercenaries and angry Unyielding Fist Sarjents fill out the right paperwork.  With this setback Mungo wanders into a nice bar near the Street of students and begins to realize that the life of a business priest is perhaps less certain and more cutthroat then wandering into the darkened lairs of eldritch horrors from ‘before time’.   He soon meets up with his old nemesis/adventuring companion Ray ‘Numbers’ and finds the scientist equally glum, as his reports on opening the subsurface environment were received only with threats from Ray’s advisor who wanted to know about the secret entrance and where the gold Ray had found was, far more then he wanted to hear Ray’s theories about subsurface life cycles and robot ghosts.

 Chemfoldshire, at the foot of Mt. Rendon, Mungo Stroot heads North to Denethix to seek solution for problems in the adventurer owned and operated “Chemfoldshire Non-Mold Based Brewery”.
The two got to talking and were soon joined by a neophyte necromancer on a sabbatical from the College of Elevated Thought.  Darth Acne is an odd fellow with his beautiful porcelain mask, and terrifying claw tipped gloves.  The priest and scientist both advised Darth to keep his skeletal canine companion in the sack he brought along – at least until they’d finished their meal of triceratops tripe stew.

Frustrated with the filth of Denethix, the betrayal of mentors and the snideness of taxmen, the trio resolved to embark on a trip through the pastoral Southern Marches, where Darth claims a pack of stranded pilgrims are paying for an escort to an ancient holy site at an even older necropolis.  On the way out of town Mungo finds himself pursued by a young acolyte, Yana of Cithras and pressured into allowing the priestess of civic works to join the group on their jaunt. 

Along the road, past fields of barley, giant blackberry and artichoke the party soon spots a dust cloud coming their way.  It proves to be a band of three mounted gauchos herding 12 protoceratops for the meat packing and leather industries of Denethix.  Almost to civilization’s entertainments the dino-pokes are in a ebullient mood, tossing and spinning their lance like saurus goads in friendly greeting.  When the party is willing to let them and their herd by and even more when Mungo shares some sample Chemfoldshire  Brew the gauchos grow talkative.  The party learns that a band of thirty pilgrims are camped in the dangerous caves of Southdeep, a despised mining town, two days walk Southwest along the Damp Highway (the Southern Road the party travels upon).  The pilgrims are desperate, seeking to bury the bodies of several magic users/cursed relative or other magically tainted dead at the Obelisk of Forgotten Memories, twenty miles along forest trails West of Southdeep, where the watchful eyes of several orbital funeral gods will prevent necromantic shenanigans.  The travelers went so far as to offer the gauchos 200 GP for an escort, claiming that they had been turned away previously by armored monks. The gauchos laughed off this paltry offer, as they were herding at least 2,000 GP of scaly stock in Denethix’s wartime market and almost to their destination.

With a friendly wave and a whoop the gauchos ride on to full purses and a week or two marinating in Denethix’s pleasures.  The party continues South, until early afternoon when just outside the gates of the prosperous farm town of Lugosi the band was hailed from a roadside encampment.  Seven men and three tent stood only about 10’ from the road within sight of Lugosi’s gate (an ornate ironwork thing that looked like it wouldn’t stop a determined band of infants).  The bare chested men all have green scarves or cloth masks concealing their features and are armed with large scimitars. Ray begins to walk towards them, suddenly recognizing the group as a pack of slavers from Denethix’s respected, or reviled, League of Flesh-Debtholders.  The party wisely refuses the sausages that the slavers have cooking, and Ray confronts them with their identity, which they do not deny.  Indeed the slaver’s leader offers the party an exciting opportunity to sell themselves (profits escrowed, transferred or placed into trust) and begin the glamorous life of pit fighters.  He even discusses the philosophical underpinnings of slavery: huamnity’s anxiety and fear at self-directed thought and the easy life of the iron collar.  No party member is willing to sign up, and the adventurers repeatedly decline more offers of (dosed) sausages.

While slightly menacing the slavers do not attack the party, realizing that a band of heavily armed dungeon delvers with at least one wizard might be too risky a gamble, especially to take alive.  The leader even gives Mungo a stack of ten blank “indenture consent forms” which are necessary to sell a formerly free individual into Slavery in Denethix.  

Moving into Lugosi, past it’s numerous garlic fields, the party stops in the town’s quaint square, noticing that almost every building has mirrors prominently displayed.  At the center of town is an ancient monumental crypt of gray stone topped with a 10’ sculpture of an ascending bat.  Benches around the crypt and a well kept set of flower beds indicate that this odd artifact is a point of civic pride.  Exploring the square, a small plaque indicates that the rain scoured edifice is “The Crypt of the Vampire” and invites donations for its upkeep and refurbishment.  A rusted robot with a long sword strapped around its near skeletal frame sits on one of the benches and seems to be eyeing the party.   

Feeling peckish Yana heads into a café (The Square Side Café) and purchases a plate of boiled garlic greens with grunkie legs for lunch and a garlic and cheese sandwich for later.  Darth, noticing that all the town residents seem to enjoy a macabre style of dress and white face makeup, posts a notice on the café corkboard seeking “applicants for the dark sorcerer’s academy”.  While Yana eats her grunkie legs the rusted robot enters the café and greets the party “I am a robot, and you meatbags will accompany me to the Obelisk of Forgotten Memories, there is paying work there, you will each receive an equal share.” It politely adds “You are acceptable companions”.  An armed robot, no matter how rusty, seems a fairly good companion and despite his brusque manner the robot (called bee bot due to the hive of insects that has replaced a long missing chunk of his positronic mind and allowed his reactivation).   The group, now with robot pushes on South, and arrives at Southdeep just as the last rays of sunset illuminate the blasted earth around the strange town.

Southdeep is a strange town, built directly along the spiraling ramp that leads into a presumably bottomless bore hole from ancient days the majority of the town is underground, with only a small log fort guarding the entrance to the pit.  A town crier is lighting a series of festive paper lanterns above the gate, and a short squad of Unyielding Fist in painted splint armor lounge about the gate.  Their sarjent seems unconcerned about the party’s arrival.  Mungo gives him some beer and the party passes into Southdeep revealing a town that seems to mostly consist of saloons and company barracks for miners.  Indeed, as the party winds down the long ramp that circles the bore hole, paved with boardwalks in Southdeep’s business district, they pass two saloon’s “The Bent Pick” and “The Flagoon of Ooze”  before heading into a classy looking dive called “Chet’s”.  As the party enters the bar they hear a deep bass singing, and the tromp of feet as the Southdeep mines’ dayshift trudges up toward the light and diversions of the upper town.

Chet’s like every other building in Southdeep is 80% cave, dug into the mine wall, with only a 10’ wooden façade extending onto the town boardwalk.  Chet, a white haired man in dirty shirt sleeves sporting an enormous pair of sideburns, stands behind a large bar with two beer pulls and displays of liquor well protected by mesh screens. The old man pours Mungo a pint of expensive Mushroom Stout and Yana a schooner of wretched Mold Beer.  He speaks to Mungo about the town and beer revealing that the pilgrims are still looking for escorts, and Chet has little love for grain based beer.

Two dusty miners enter, each ordering a mold beer and a shot of bright red fen style beetle brandy.  They glance grumpily at the party.  The men are undoubtedly the first of a wave of thirsty toilers, and Chet nods to them as regulars.  As the two men sit they are joking about work, something about a rock ooze that was killed on last night’s shift and the inflated ego of it’s slayer.  Darth is intrigued and inches over to the men, settling wraith like at their table, his long ceramic claws clicking on a frosty pint of mushroom beard.  The masked necromancer is too much for the miners, and before he can speak one man curses Darth while the less eloquent of the pair punches him full in the mouth.  Darth is knocked unconscious by the miner’s huge scarred fist, but manages to remain in his chair, which preserves a modicum of the sorcerer’s dignity.  The men laugh and Mungo laughs with them, apologizing for Darth’s creepy manners.  The men, backed by Chet, express the common anti-wizard prejudices but seem more friendly after the exchange.  Soon the party has the location of the pilgrims (down the ramp a ways)and Mungo has been subjected to rambling lecture about the slimes that ooze from rock faces in Southdeep's mines and prey on miners.  From "slimelets" occasionally kept in mason jar as dangerous pets, to "purple bruisers", the size of a house ans so dangerous that their rampages necessitate the collapse of entire mine shafts.

Soon several and then tens more miners pour into Chet's, boisterous and with pockets full of company drink coupons. The party winds down Southdeep's ramp between rowdy miners, including at least one robot with enormous hammers for hands and soon finds a cave entrance, with a staff clutching guard in a ragged robe out front.   This is clearly the cave where the pilgrims are staying, but the sound of hymms to the orbital gods, pablum about the star that never flicker and such, confirm it.  Within the cave, two lay friars - Brother Turner and brother Ike, are shepherding 30 pilgrims and six lead sealed coffins.  The friars first rejoice thinking that Yana and Mungo are devotees of Bezonaught the Boogeyking, god of corporeal undead, unholy burials and bed wetting, whom they have asked to aid them.  They are still elated when they discover that the party is a band of money grubbing sellswords will to take them to the cursed necropolis for 200GP.

The Obelisk of Forgotten Memories is a place where the people of the Denethix region bury the unholy dead: sorcerers, werewolves, the cursed, the pitifully ugly and the sick rock tainted.  Overseen by three orbital gods the necropolis is built atop an older memorial to a long forgotten war. A landmark, because the Obelisk itself is a 1,000 foot tall spire of black green protonium, indestructible and enduring, but cared for only by an elderly hedgewizard groundskeeper who sells trinkets and a handful of guards, gravediggers, and priest how charge to intern accursed corpses there.  The pilgrims, led by a member of the Lugosi gentry named Big Jim, and his two surviving sons, were turned away at the entrance to the graveyard by copper scale mail clad men, who claimed to be groundskeepers and told them to return in several months.

Spending the evening with the pilgrims in their cave, where the night before a couple disappeared from their bedrolls, leaving only a residue of orange jelly on their pillows, the adventurers chat with several pilgrims.  Beebot wins the affection of a megalomaniac child who attempts to recruit him into a future "army of mechanical destroyers".  The junior despot reveals that he has heard that the Obelisk grounds contain the sepulcher of Torpo the Cannibal, a great warlord (and giant, and cannibal) who ruled a vast empire a few centuries prior.  Darth talks more deeply with Brother Ike and learns about the caretaker who used to guide visitors to the temple. 

In the morning, the entire pilgrimage, protected by the party, move out from Southdeeps foul exuberance, with the wheels of the coffin loaded wagon splashing through many a puddle of alcoholic vomit on the way to the town's gate.  The forest is peaceful, but dense beyond Southdeep, and the adventurers elect to camp two hours from the Obelisk, so they can arrive early n the morning rather then after dark.  Night starts out uneventful, but the third watch, Yana and Jane Dill, is awakened by strange howling in the forest.  Odd, lupine shapes stalk the edge of the camp, staying outside the light of the central bonfire.  Soon the entire party is armed and armored, but the stalkers do not scatter.  At least seven strange wolf-like beast move around the camp, sulking towards its perimeter and then fleeing into the woods to howl. Thier howls are sleep shattering and deeply upsetting, but Jane is able to calm the pilgrims and the party endures until morning when the creatures vanish pack into the thickets without ever offering the party a close look at them.

Soon the adventurers, the friars, Big Jim and his son Little Jim arrive at the dell where the obelisk stands. The entire area is shrouded in unnatural fog, which one of the friars assures Darth is normal.  Standing as mute guardians on the bluff above a narrow stair that descends into the mist are three statutes of the funerary gods: Bonechewer Jackal Mask, Bezonaught and Delphina.  The odd statutes are well carved green and white marble, but provide no clues beyond their presence.  No armored monks greet the band as it descends towards the huge Obelisk past trees draped in moss and a choking undergrowth of thorns and ferns.

The obelisk is 40' to a side at it's base, which starting abruptly does not appear to be it's actual base, and is surrounded by a half collapsed orante iron fence and dozens of funeral offerings.  Most of the offerings rest in crude black glazed pots decorated with slip skull designs.  Brother Turner explains that the groundskeeper solid these pots to pilgrims as containers for offerings.  Examination of the Obelisk shows that it is hollow, but reveals no panels or seams.  The entire obelisk, as far as the adventurers can see is covered by tiny engraved names, unscratched and unworn after eons.  Each name bears a military rank in front of it and their must be millions or billions of them on the 1,000 foot monument.  Darth casts a divination, detecting the dead, and discovers that the entire area, for several hundred feet in every direction is a carpet of graves, going deep into the earth, his magical senses are almost overwhelmed by the enormity of the necromantic power focused on the obelisk, and he is convinced that the ground contains legions of tortured and angry spirits.  As the necromantic radiation before Darth Acne's eyes subsides he soon discovers that there are some undead moving, corporeal and active amongst the background of necromantic torment.  Concentrations to the East, Southeast and Southwest, but mostly the East.

The adventurers elect to head South dragging the dazed necromancer behind them but leaving the friars and gentry at the obelisk.  South of the Obelisk is a murky pool, clad in blue tiles, also engraved with names.  The party ignores it and pushes on through the fog, past simple iron grave markers and ornate carved marble tombs, some so worn by the elements that their statuary has been reduced to vague lumps.



A building looms from the mist, a shrine of green marble with massive bronze doors.  The shrine is covered in carvings of winged skulls, mourners, spirals and representations of the funeral gods.  Within the party hears chanting, and decides to forgo the front entrance. Yana is boosted to the roof and discovers a dome, pierced with a skylight, but the skylight is unapproachable without walking across the noisy bronze surface of the dome.  Weapons drawn the adventures push open the doors which swing silently inward, revealing a top hat wearing man, his arms open in greeting, who is flanked by a pair of suture covered walking corpses, with copper bolts in their necks and copper scale armor.  The welcoming man greets the party as a celebrant of Furter, and waves behind him to an altar on a raised dais where three robbed figures chant to the glory of Furter.  Furter, the Rememborator, a generally dislike orbital deity of mechanical necromancy and the forgotten dead has claimed the Obelisk grounds, and the celebrate is attempting to reclaim them form the forces of the displaced gods, who he claims had previously abandoned the necropolis.  Furter needs the party's aid to return the obelisk to its prior state and function and promises that his god will reward them for smiting Furter's enemies.



It here that we were forced to end for the night, with the mysteries of the fog shrouded necropolis first revealing themselves.  A fun session, and one that I felt really gave a feel for the land of 1,000 towers.


[DM NOTE: This session had no combat.  The party was lucky with reaction roles and wandering monster roles, but more they played smart and talked out unnecessary altercations.  The slavers, night beasts and even the horde of surly miners (avoided by entering a bar) were all hostile and would have been tough fights.  Furthermore these encounters were all tricks of a sort – eat a sausage, chase a weird beast or push on towards one’s goal without reading considering NPC sentiments and a fight is on.   The bar miners rolled a ‘12’ to Darth’s attempts to interact, but two miners don’t really want to fight an adventuring party, and Mungo smoothed it over.  I was no unhappy with a combat free session, and felt the session had both a real sense of travel and exploration with two odd towns and a unique location visited.  Furthermore I was able to take some time to build up the Land of 1,000 Towers a bit.  I had only vague ideas about Lugosi and Southdeep before – but we now know that Lugosi has a crypt in the town square (can it be entered?)  and is populated by goths.  Southdeep is an even better adventure town, it’s got slime monsters under it in ancient mining tunnels, a community of surly roughnecks (including a robot minority).  The town guard even offers bounties on mine horrors – oh a chance to use my new 20 entry eldritch slime table…  Yet all these bits are new to me, maybe bits of them were percolating  in my mind prior, but now world fiction.  Anyway I really enjoyed this session and I think the players did to, despite requiring very few dice rolls from them (there were a fair number of stat checks, but that’s it). ]

2 comments:

  1. I really like the theme park goodness of Lugosi. No combat is great, but no loot/XP is rough.

    And yeah, after a day of reflection, I'll admit that Bee-bot is a better name than 0011012.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey there was 120 or so XP each... and you walked past several opportunities for treasure.

      Bee-bot (or B Bot) is far more memorable at least.

      Delete

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