Friday, July 4, 2014

HMS APOLLYON - New Campaign - Play Report II

In which Briney the netfighter, Mr. Groob the incendiary, Nelson the Academic, Von Lumpwig’s Son the Reanimator and the disgraced passenger Anzio venture again into the Fetid Pit, lay waste to its denizens and face tragic consequences in a brutal melee.

Again into the Humid Jungles of the Fetid Pit

An expedition of scratch scavengers down the great airshaft marking Sterntown’s Port border gave up fine treasure on the last expedition and success draws imitators.   A smaller band of scavengers, most now proudly wearing the green arm band of The Scavenger’s Union (Groob, Von Lumpwig and Briney), and having recruited a stilt walking scholar by the name of Nelson, A fallen passenger caste elementalist called Anzio resolve to seek more treasure deeper in the pit.

Groob manages to talk a punch-drunk pit fighter the party decides to name “Punchy” into joining them as an equipment bearer, the addled fighter believing that the pit will be an excellent place to “Find flowers for a pretty lady”.  Before they disembark Von Lumpwig reveals his true nature as a dabbler in the cursed necromantic arts, though only up to raising an animate mass of chicken skin and soup bones cunningly wired into the form of one of the red worms the party battled in their first expedition.  Von Lumpwig names the creature “Kissy Face” much to the disgust of Mr. Groob who’s face is still bruised and scabbed from encountering the actual red worms.
Prepared with a lantern and plenty of oil the band descends the great chain into the Fetid Pit with a few words of encouragement from the Steward detachment guarding the bastion.  Climbing the chain is simple enough, but now knowing that the Pit is filled with floating monsters and flying horrors the chain no longer feels safe.  

Deciding to forgo another expedition into the Agricultural Station and with Nelson and Groobs urging the scavenger’s continue to descend the chain, deeper into the hanging jungle.  Thick cables of oily black vine, and the stark white spines of giant albino bromeliad press ever closer to the climbers, and the chain itself grows slick with lichen and slime mold.  After descending 280’, almost three decks below Sterntown, their way lit only by the oil lamp dangling from Punchy the boxer’s belt by a short rope, the adventurers notice a stairway winding down the side of the pit.  The stair is 300’ feet to the right along the overgrown walls of the pit, and while the terraced walls are covered with handhold: pipes, vines, old scaffolding and planter boxes, negotiating them looked difficult, slow and very dangerous, especially over the long distance.    

While gauging their options, observing their surroundings, and ultimately abandoning the idea of setting off across the curved walls of the pit towards the stairs the scavengers discover a series of smashed windows in the pit wall only 40’ from them.  Von Lumpwig cajoles his crude reanimated thrall to flap clumsily into the windows, and when nothing attacks it the nimble Mr. Groob offers to climb into them, if a rope and grapple is affixed for him to shimmy along.  Soon Groob is hanging from a rope inching along towards the open gallery, with the other scavengers watching, bracing the rope and trying to aim crossbows at the surrounding foliage while maintaining their grip on the great chain.

An Ancient Industry
Despite their watchfulness, the adventurers fail to notice the emergence of a three foot long housefly with a shriveled human face and tiny humanoid arms emerge from the tangle of vines below Groob.  The swooping abomination darts at the engineer quickly, landing on his chest, while Groob hung clings helpless to the rope for life.  The fly does not attack, but instead snatches Mr. Groob’s wallet from the pouch tied to his waist and begins to fly off.  Nelson tries to distract the creature by waving a shiny gold piece in the air, but while interested, the Robber Fly was content to carry off its treasure and quickly disappear back into the vines.
Following the unlucky Mr. Groob along the rope, the entire party soon finds themselves standing in a former viewing gallery, bar and restaurant, its interior dressed in chipped stone panels.  Stone dust and flakes lay thick on the floor, a sign that primitives once used the chamber for flint napping, flaking and grinding chunks of the wall covering and various planter boxes into stone points. Two stairs lead from the initial gallery back into the hull, with a colony of fist sized mollusks overlooking the Eastern stair.  As the scavengers watch, a long tendril, covered in tiny cilia tastes the air from one of the wall clams, but luckily the creatures look too small to be especially dangerous.

Searching the upper area, the adventurers find two doors, and more signs of inexpert industry.  The more ornate door exits into a gangway where a rotted pipe has crashed through ceiling and floor, creating a ruinous jumble impossible to bypass without at least a block and tackle. The simple door behind the gallery’s defunct bar enters a store room, long striped of anything but bare metal shelves.  On one of the shelves is an obsidian idol in a small stone shrine.  Nelson tips the thing over, disturbed by its grotesque snake-like visage and finding it inert slips it into his pack to sell.

A Savage Interlude
Leaving the gallery, the scavengers continue their climb down the chain, but are spooked by a pulsating colony of pink puffball mushrooms that are corroding the orichalcum plates of the hull, and resolve themselves to finding a way to the spiral stair.  By climbing back to the trusses and support beams beneath the Agricultural Station the adventurers discover a fairly easy path along the wall of the pit.  While moving closely amongst the pilings of the station, they also discover the first sign of humanoid life, a series of strange gris gris, made of bundled bones, carefully tied with sinew and strung amongst the beams.  Mr. Groob notes that some of the beams and the plates beneath the Agricultural Station greenhouse look weak and decayed.
Beyond the struts and pilings of the Agricultural Station the scavengers have a bit of luck, discovering that the station’s piling are at least partially the remnants of the stairway’s supports.  The stairs have been torn away, but the struts that once held them jut from the wall, and even in the dim light filtering from far above the scavengers notice that the winding stairs resume only seventy feet from the tangle of supports they stand in. 

With the remaining struts to aid them, passage to the stairs can be accomplished safely with ropes and jury rigged harness, but it takes almost thirty minutes for the scavengers to reach the crumbled concrete and metal of the wide stairway, which descends slowly, hugging the wall of the pit in a long curve.  As the adventurers begin to descend the stairs, they are startled by the sound of voices and a faint glow of red fire light emanating from a niche in the pit wall, where an ancient piece of machinery has been torn away.  Shaded by a few overhanging vines the occupants of the niche are hard to make out, especially after Mr. Groob’s henchman shutters the lantern, but after their eyes adjust to the feeble natural light and the glow of the stranger’s fire the scavengers make out four lanky figures.  Maggot white and approaching eight feet tall the strangers appear humanoid, but warped, their bodies hunched and covered in sinewy cords of muscle and their scarred skin covered only by thin belts of sinew that hold bone hatchets.  Bone, rebar and fungus wood spears lean in a pile near the fire.  The tall white humanoids have still not noticed the scavengers, and are arguing furiously over their small fire made of charcoal in a language of grunts and hisses. 

Anzio decides to awe the savages with his bound earth elemental, a crude monkey like figure of dirty white crystal.  Taking the obsidian serpent idol from Nelson’s pact, Anzio wraps it in a his cloak to affix it to the oreades’ head and sends it to walk majestically past the strange humanoids’ fire.  The creatures are startled, but don’t attack immediately.  One attempts to prod the elemental with a spear, but not aggressively.  The elemental steps back, but soon returns to stare.  Having had enough from the strange spirit, the savages attack and one smashes the crystal with a bone hatchet, sending cracks throughout its body.

Seeing their ally attacked, the party unveils their lantern, startling and blinding the large yellow eyes of the humanoids.  The melee is quick and brutal, with an oil bomb sending one of the creatures reeling over the edge of the stairs, to fall, still burning and meteor-like into the pit. The three other savages fight brutally, their weapons covered in some kind of paralytic, but they are slain quickly, one blasted with the a foul grey rag of necromantic force by Von Lumpwig and the other two hacked and stabbed to death.  Amongst the humanoid’s effects the party finds nothing of value, beyond a dubious skin bag filled with large cave crickets.  Another cricket cooks slowly on the fire, and Nelson takes it, snacking on the rich nutty meat as the party descends the stairs. 

The Black Bastion
The stairs wind one through the hanging jungle, with plants nearly covering the worn steps in some places.  However a path remains, continuing downward as both plants and animals become increasingly bioluminescent and strange.  Small fish like beasts, floating on reserves of internal gas and glittering from glowing pits along their spines dart amongst spires of pale slime mold grown huge and dripping like molten wax.  A snake like creature suddenly flashes a glowing red at the scavengers as they move slowly down the stairs, its entire body glass clear and its bones blazing suddenly with a bioluminescent warning as it slithers off the stairs into sheltering vines. 

After thirty minutes of slow descent the scavengers find their progress arrested by the looming black shape of a fortress built astride the stairs from riveted plates of black iron.  Rust and spalling deface the huge plates that make up the bastion, but it still appears sound.  The stairs vanish through an open gate in the fortresses’ front wall, an unforgiving slab flanked by a short tower pierced with metal shuttered windows and weapon ports.  No light comes from the fort as the party approaches, but rather then walk through the gates they resolve to use Kissy Face the undead worm to ferry their grapple and rope to the roof. Climbing the side of the tower the scavengers meet no resistance and soon they stand on the bastion’s battlements.  A spiral stair, wrought in geometric shapes winds down into the tower, it’s central support doubling as some sort of chimney.

Descending the scavengers find a nearly empty room, filled with rust flakes and dust with an iron door leading deeper into the fortress.  The only item of interest in the room is the column of the  stairs, which bells out into a decorative stove in the shape of a man’s horned face with sharp teeth and a plaited beard.  The mouth of the carving is a brazier of some kind and the chimney above is engraved with strange runes.  Nelson investigates the runes with his magical skills, waving his wand in shimmering arcs which slowly transform the runes into normal writing.  The chimney and brazier are a shrine to Ishum, a fire god and they ask the god to protect the fortress, and make each man into a forge of truth.  The prayer also promises that Ishum’s truth will be manifest if the god is fed the essence of his essence.  Despite the cryptic nature of the prayer, Nelson tries to follow it, pouring a pint of oil into the brazier and lighting it to no effect.

Leaving the Shrine a mystery, Mr. Groob cautiously pushes the door in the tower’s Eastern wall ajar and it opens slowly, rust grinding in its hinges.  The chamber beyond was once a barracks now smashed and splotched with the ominous pollution of rose colored lichen.  Beneath a decayed and moldered red banner in the center of the room stand ten humanoid figures.  Appearing to be partially bone and partially skinless pink muscle the circle of abominations stands silently facing inward, still clad in rusted black metal scale armor.  Groob shuts the door and the scavengers resolve to act.  After converting all their remaining whale oil flasks into firebombs, the clumsy Anzio flings open the door while the other scavenger’s led by Mr. Groob fling a barrage of smoking missiles.  Von Lumpwig throws his bomb high and it shatters beyond the circle of reanimated horrors, but the other three scavenger’s bombs fly true and the lurid flames char consume several of the creatures, even as they turn towards the party and scuttle forward.  Slamming the door and setting a large iron bar the adventurers wait silently, straining their ears for any sign that their enemies remain beyond the portal.  The thick walls and iron plate of the fortress drown out all noise however, and when Groob opens the door to check, he is assailed by the remaining five of the abominations.  Mr. Groob falls back beyond the door, joined by Briney, and the pair ply their polearms against the shambling dead.  Now in melee it is clear that what first appeared to be muscle, clinging to the abominations’ limbs is in fact some sort of pinkish fungal growth, aping the limbs of mankind and bringing a semblance of life to the long dead skeletons.

Though a pair of the fungal zombie are destroyed, one taking the hooked blade of Groob’s weapon in the eye, and another immolated in a puddle of flaming oil Von Lumpwig shatters on the floor beyond the melee, the remaining three press on, and overcome Briney’s Defense, the gladiator is pulled helplessly into the mass of horrors, and with a sickening sound they proceed to snap his limbs and gnaw out his throat. With the scavenger’s defensive position broken, a zombie surges into the room to be spitted by Anzio and slashed by his elemental companion’s crystal fists.  Nelson also scurries backward, trying to land a blow while stabbing one of his stilts like a spear. The fight is still desperate and an unexpected figure flings himself forward to fill the gap left by Briney’s death.  VonLumpwig, howling and reeking of chicken grease plys his dagger with an untrained fury, slashing again and again at the rubbery flesh of his attacker and somehow managing to fend off the zombie’s unnatural strength.

The remaining two fungal zombies are eventually brought down, but in the fury of combat none of the scavengers know who destroyed them.   Groob is lacerated, and Anzio’s wounds from the earlier skirmish with the white humanoids have reopened while VonLumpwig is a mess, unhurt but covered in flensed bits of vile pink fungus.  Even Nelson is panting in the corner, his welder’s mask askew and his hair hanging lank.  Briney is dead, his body ripped by and already being speckled by pink fungus.  The scavenger’s search the chamber quickly, too battered to continue their expedition and discover a chunky silver ring engraved with runes, as well as a chestplate made of some kind of light, flexible black material.  The plate is ebonite, a miraculous form of magically vulcanized gutta percha, and it is both strong enough to stop bullets and blades and light enough to be worn under clothing as a form of concealed armor.  Taking their treasures, and Briney’s body, the scavengers step out of the bastion and climb the stairs a safe distance before signaling the stewards above with their blue flares and returning to Sterntown.

Treasure Recovered
Obsidian Snake/Demon idol – 1,000 Gp
Chunky Silver and Platinum ring of Blackgang manufacture – 300 Gp
Strange Objects
Satchel of Air Clams – Tasty but lacking in value, they aren’t a common species, but they are known and raised in Sterntown.
Skin bag containing two foot long cave crickets - Makes a decent celebratory snack when fried in oil with a few handfuls of mushrooms.
Note: Considering the gusto the party collected snacks with, you can all take 5GP off your upkeep costs for next session on account of the filling cricket in clam sauce meal you were able to have prepared upon your return to the Rustgates.
Eight bone charms – Bone charms are identifiable non-magical, worthless and as being of Ghula make. The description of the tall pallid humanoids you encountered also matches that of Ghula, cannibal creatures of sub-human intelligence, superhuman strength, exquisite cruelty and paralytic spit.
Magic Items Discovered
Ebonite Vest – A formfitting chestplate like undergarment of mystically treated black rubber, this concealed armor is both flexible and very hard to pierce.  The item requires no armor proficiency to wear, can be hidden under normal armor and provides a plus+2 to Ac as long as the wearer’s Ac is less than 14 (e.g. assuming a normal dexterity, the vest provides plus+1 Ac bonus to a wearer in light armor or a plus 2 to an unarmored wearer.


  1. Love the Ebonite Vest! Having so much fun even though Briney got himself perished.

  2. What a great read - must have been fun as hell to run or play...