Monday, July 30, 2018

Player Journals from Session 93

Journal Entry of Tod P. Quasit, Jr.

In the distance I see a drop of quicksilver hovering at the end of a long fingernail belonging to an old friend who I haven't seen for years. I am on a boat, adrift on an ocean of thought, forever floating without meaning.

Idalium Game 93: Chasing Waterfalls

Session date: Monday, March 5, 2018
Game date: Sunday, May 2, 210

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70000/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18684/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 7594/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 6614/8000
Orehoe Hüfflestüff, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 1173/4000

Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3469/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1255/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 1910/2400

When we last left our intrepid party, Gulleck's stalwart retainer Meat had been killed by a living statue that sprayed lava from its fingers. Meat had already been revived once in the resurrection pool on the second level, so that was no longer an option. The players and I discussed the various options: Gulleck could hire a new retainer (who would start at first level but quickly advance, assuming their survival); they could pay 1,250 gold darics to have Meat raised from the dead at the Great Cathedral of the All-Pervading Light. (Gulleck had been raised in such a way, and then sent on a quest for the next few months, so Gulleck's player was a bit leery of going back there for help.) Finally, there was the Elixir of Life produced by the Eternal Flame in the caves on the second level. This elixir had reincarnated Gulleck into her current body, and it was decided to try the same with Meat. And if Meat came back as a monster, all the more fun!

And so the group descended into the undercity, and were immediately derailed trying to figure out exactly where the Eternal Flame was and how best to get there. They struggled with their maps, turning pages around and over and trying to fit them together. Fortunately no wandering monsters showed up while they were puzzling over the scraps of paper, in the light of Simon's magical sword, as they stood in the empty, echoing town square.

Eventually they determined their course, and headed down through the Temple of Hedonism to the second level. In the vestibule of the temple, they encountered a dozen knockers on their way out. Gulleck used to hate the tiny, wizened imps with a murderous rage, but her new personality was a bit more easy going and she didn't immediately put her axe into them.

"Trade gold for information?" the lead knocker hissed.
"Why, what kind of information do you need?" asked Caryatid mischievously.
"No," growled the knocker, annoyed. "You pay gold, we give information about this place."
"How much?"
"One gold piece. Each."

Well, everyone expected to be extorted for much more than that, so they were quite jolly about handing over a dozen gold coins. I don't even remember what question the group asked, but what I do remember is that the knocker gave them a real sarcastic smart aleck answer that wasn't helpful in the least. Adrien lost her patience and let go of Norman's leash. The demon ferret, which had been growling and straining at his leash, pounced forward, nipping one of the knockers. It drew its rusty knife and stabbed Norman, while the rest of them fled back into the temple. Norman tackled the knocker and ripped it to pieces, and once that furious activity subsided, the group followed the path of the fleeing knockers and found that they had excavated a crude tunnel into one of the changing rooms off of the hallway that led to the stairs down. It was too small for any of them to fit through (except perhaps Simon) so they abandoned the pursuit and went down to the second level.

They passed quickly through empty rooms and halls, and made their way to the rope bridge across a chasm. Down in the darkness, rushing water echoed and a cool mist floated up. There was discussion among the party regarding how to carefully harness themselves to the ropes of the bridge. Then Caryatid's player got bored.

"I'm just going to run right across."
"You're going to run across?"
"I'm going to hold the two ropes on the side with my hands, and just... scamper right across."
"So you're not tying yourself to the rope, or taking any special precautions, or going slowly and carefully..."
"OK. Roll a d6."
"A five! That's good, right?"

So while Gulleck and Simon were debating the best knot to use to secure a safety line to the bridge posts, Caryatid just scampered across, lost her balance, and plummeted through the inky darkness into the river below. Some forty feet down, she hit the cold water hard, knocking the wind out of her, and struggled to swim back to the surface and keep her head above the water as the current carried her away. A short while later, she came to an abrupt halt, washed up onto a shallow ledge where the river turned into a waterfall, pouring down into some unseen sea. Various bits of flotsam had become wedged on this shelf, and as Caryatid groped in the dark for a more secure position, her hands fell on what could only be the orcs' two sheet metal gongs that they had dumped into this chasm many months ago!

Meanwhile, back at the rope bridge, the party scrambled to find a way down to Caryatid. Adrien tied a rope to one of the bridge posts, and Simon descended with his sword, while Orehoe lit a lantern back at the top. Simon could see that the river passed through a tunnel on either side of the bridge and that the roof of the tunnel was a good ten feet above the surface of the water. He considered dropping down into the river, but the idea of swimming in cold water wearing plate armor seemed like a bad idea, so he remained hanging from the rope fretting about how to go after Caryatid.

Then Adrien called down, "Wait, don't you have flying boots?"

Well, levitation boots! Simon used the power of the boots to suspend himself in the air and then Caryatid's pet flying capuchin monkey, Marcel, was enticed to push Simon downstream into the tunnel. Finally, spending all that money researching a single use spell to give Marcel wings paid off!

Simon found Caryatid clinging to the waterfall ledge as cold water rushed over her. They hollered back up the tunnel as best they could, hoping the rest of the party would be able to hear them over the roar of the water. Gulleck had climbed down the rope to be nearer the mouth of the tunnel, and faintly heard Simon (made a Hear Noises check successfully). She called back that they were going down to the third level to find them, and then climbed back up the rope to rejoin the group. They returned to the worked stone area of the dungeon and took the mossy stairs down to the third level.

They first went to see "the judge", the talking stone pillar in the room near the stairs, though they had not brought any gems for him to eat. When they entered his room, they were surprised to see a man sitting casually in the wooden chair against the side wall, chatting idly with the pillar.

"Oh, my friends from above!" said the judge. "Today is a rare day indeed, so many visitors. Have you met my friend Bor? He comes to visit once in a while. Bor has made this place his home for some time now."

Bor was thin and lanky, with straggly unkempt hair. He had an odd, unfocused look about him. He wore a suit of plate armor, draped with a dirty and tattered tunic bearing the heraldry of the Great Cathedral of Idalium. A tarnished holy symbol hung around his neck, and they recognized the stylized sun of the All-Pervading Light. Father Jibber had worn a similar symbol.

The judge asked the adventurers what they were up to, and Gulleck explained that they needed to explore the underground sea to the east of here, and what they really needed was a raft.

"Hmm. I don't know of anything like that around here..."

"A raft, you say?" mused Bor. "Actually, I think I might have something like that stowed away. It was a long time ago, to be sure... I wonder if I still have it. Would you like to come and take a look? If I do still have it, I'd be happy to loan it to you for, shall we say a hundred gold darics?"

"Well, that's mighty kind of you," said Gulleck.

"Oh, I'm sure if you are friends of my stone friend here, you're trustworthy enough. Come on and let's see if we can find it."

The judge bid them good luck, and Bor led them back out of the room and down a hall to the west. On the way, Gulleck tentatively inquired about Bor's holy symbol and tabard.

"Oh, do you know, I'm not sure, really. I think I might have been a member of some kind of order, once upon a time. It was a long, long time ago, whenever it was." Bor's speech was rambling and distracted, and he seemed to have difficulty following a train of thought. "Yes, I think there were several of us traveling together, much like you all are now. But that was before..." He trailed off into confused silence.

"And now you live down here, by yourself?" Adrien prompted.

"Oh yes! It's not too bad, as long as you know how to stay out of trouble. Most of the trouble leaves me alone anyway. Not worth bothering with, I suppose." Bor gave them a weak grin.

Bor led them to a place where a long corridor stretched north into the darkness. The wall that ran along the west side was ornately decorated like the walls of a palace, and they recognized this as part of the same wall they had seen farther north. Bor opened a plain wooden door above which was written "Servants' Entrance" in Ancient Idalian. They entered a small anteroom and then went through a door to a somewhat larger room. Bor drew forth a large set of keys on a ring and unlocked a sturdy door on the opposite side of the room. Next to the door was a large sandwich board sign, upon which had been written in Common, in bold black paint:

(This means you, Queen of Nightmares!
(I have enough nightmares of my own, thank you very much.))

"This guy's all right!" declared Gulleck. Bor pulled the door open and escorted the party into a small room packed full of crates and barrels of various supplies, seemingly scavenged from different parts of the dungeon. Bor gazed distractedly over the clutter and then mused, "Hmm, there's no raft here, maybe it's in the other closet. Come along, come along..."

He led them through a door on the other side of the room into a large L-shaped room set up as a bedroom. A dingy bedroll lay in one corner next to a barrel with a tarnished old lantern on it. In another corner was a strange little shrine of sorts. Gulleck ventured over to get a closer look, and saw that it contained a few stubbly candles and some crudely whittled wooden idols that depicted strange figures with clawed, webbed hands, and grotesque lamprey-like sucker mouths. Gulleck nudged the other party members and nodded at the shrine, trying to be discreet but Bor noticed her interest.

"Paying your respects? That's wise of you. They are the source of all, be it good or ill. They brought us together today," he murmured, seeming to get lost in his thoughts.

"I, uh, thought you were one of those All-Pervading Light people?" asked Gulleck nervously.

"All-Pervading...? Yes, yes, that seems familiar. But that was before my mind was opened." ("Oh no," muttered Gulleck.) "That was before they showed me the truth beyond the veil."

"Who are they?" asked Adrien.

"They are beyond names. They are ancient, older even than these stones. I call them the Great Ones..." ("Oh no," muttered Gulleck.)

"What about that raft?" chirped Orehoe.

"Oh, yes, the raft. Just wait a moment..." Bor opened a door at the north end of the room and rummaged around. A few minutes later he emerged, dragging a dusty old raft of logs and rope. "It must be years since I used this last. It's so hard to keep track of time down here. It must have been back when the others were still..." And he trailed off again. "Well now, bring it back when you're done with it, won't you?"

The adventurers paid Bor 100 gold pieces and then awkwardly dragged the raft back the way they had came, passing the Judge's doorway and heading east to the shore of the Underground Sea (the infamous "Rocco Beach"). They shouted out for Caryatid and Simon, and Orin's sharp Elvish ears picked up faint return cries off to the left. The adventurers debated briefly, and then Orin and Jack were sent out on the raft to rescue Caryatid and Simon. (This required morale checks for the retainers, but they passed and so both nervously did as they were told.) The water was almost unnaturally still and silent, and once Jack and Orin were far enough away from the rest of the party, it was as though they were moving in a bubble of lantern light through a dark void, featureless apart from the rocky cave walls that they kept within sight on their left. Even the paddles slipping into the water seemed oddly muted. At times, water splashed up from the paddles onto Jack and Orin and they found that it seemed to sap their strength, leaving them feeling unnaturally fatigued and listless. But soon enough, they rounded a bend in the cave wall and spotted the light from Simon's sword. The water from the river plunged down some 15 feet in a waterfall, but even that seemed to lose all its energy and potency as it struck the quiet sea. The roar of the waterfall seemed muted at the bottom, and Orin and Jack had surprisingly little trouble bringing the raft quite close to the base of the waterfall without being disturbed by its wake. As they drew near, they saw a live fish wriggling as it went over the waterfall and slip into the dark sea, and they were alarmed to see it float motionless back to the surface a moment later.

"Don't touch the water!" shouted Orin up to Caryatid and Simon. Caryatid was carefully lowered down to the raft by Marcel the flying monkey and Simon's levitating boots. Once they were safely on board, Jack and Orin paddled quickly back along the cavern wall until they returned to the rocky beach where the rest of the party was waiting. They carried the raft back to Bor's room and returned it to him with thanks. Then they called it a day, and headed back to the surface.

And so a day went by, and Meat's body got a little riper where it was lying back in his apartment. We would pick up next time with another attempt the next day to find the Elixir of Life that could revive him.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Idalium Game 92: The Statue Got Me High

Session date: Monday, February 26, 2018
Game date: Saturday, May 1, 210

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 6, hp 37, xp 36486/70000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18432/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 7329/8000
Orehoe Hüfflestüff, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 908/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 6416/8000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3337/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1129/4000

In the downtime between delves, Orehoe spent some of her newly acquired wealth to research the Read Magic spell. After two weeks of furious study and the expenditure of 1,000 gold pieces worth of esoteric books and other research materials, she emerged triumphant with a new spell to go along with her Ventriloquism spell. Meanwhile, Simon paid for his retainer Orin to scribe two more Sleep scrolls for his personal use.

The adventurers had only just descended into the buried city below the Rusty Lantern tavern, when they encountered a now-familiar figure, the veiled witch who sold potions and elixirs at the Goblin Market. She was accompanied by a pair of large, dog-like creatures, who growled quietly at the party while she conversed with them in her slightly sibilant voice, offering them a variety of potions. The adventurers balked at the high prices, however.

"Very well," the woman spoke from behind her opaque black veil. "Seek me out on my island in the underground sea, should you change your minds."

The group continued on their way, and in the upper sanctuary of the Temple of Hedonism, they encountered a trio of sketchy looking men; bandits, by the look of them. The two groups traded insults, but it was clear that the ruffians were outnumbered, so they backed down and rudely pushed their way past the adventurers on their way out of the temple. Some time later, Caryatid would discover that one of her magical wands was missing! (I made a pick pockets roll for a 1st level thief, fully expecting the attempt to be detected with hilarious consequences, but I rolled something like 4%!)

The party continued down to the third level, picking up their explorations where they had left off, at a door next to the room where the wererats had made their last stand. They opened the door, revealing a sitting room full of mildewed and tattered old furniture. Three odd statues squatted on stone pillars, bat-like wings folded behind their backs. Examining the statues cautiously, the adventurers noted that one was wearing a pair of jeweled bracelets, and another wore a golden torc around its neck. Meat stepped gingerly forward and reached for the torc, when suddenly the gargoyle sprang to life and swiped at him!

The group jumped into combat with the three bizarre creatures, which lifted themselves into the air on slowly flapping stone-like wings. Orin tried a Sleep spell with no affect, and Meat landed a devastating blow (a natural 20!) with his sword that unfortunately just rebounded off the chest of the gargoyle with an echoing CLANNNNNNG! Meat dropped his useless sword to the ground and borrowed Gulleck's magical "second best axe".

Gulleck, meanwhile, had ripped a vicious wound in the side of one of the gargoyles, and a dark gray sludge, like wet cement, came pouring out. Caryatid shot another one with a Magic Missile spell, and then Gulleck finished her opponent off with another axe strike. Father Chase was slashed badly across his handsome face by one of the gargoyles and retreated into the corner to pray for miraculous healing. Caryatid blasted another gargoyle with a second Magic Missile spell, and Simon used the Big Green d30 to one-shot one of them, and then finished off the third on the next round.

After collecting their breath and the treasure, the adventurers left the room, crossed the large, ornate hall and opened a door on the other side. They entered a dusty, cobwebbed feast hall. A long banquet table stood in the center of the room, still set with tarnished and web-strewn silver plates and goblets. But what drew their attention first and foremost was yet another statue. A tall (maybe eight feet tall) abstract granite sculpture of a man stood next to a chair at one end of the table. The chair was oddly scorched looking, as if burnt in a fire many years ago. The statue held one hand extended towards the chair as if in welcome.

I think most of the players were intimidated by this setup, but Gulleck's player knew a good set piece when he saw one, and Gulleck gamely sat in the chair and took the statue's hand. A brilliant white beam of light shot from its eyes into hers, and then she was engulfed in flame. All the other party members could see was her plate armor, and within that a raging furnace. Then the statue yanked its arm upward, and seemed to fling the column of fire upward into the ceiling, and Gulleck was gone. All that was left was a charred and smoking chair. And then the statue turned slowly towards the rest of the party, arms outstretched, smoke rising from its hands.

Orin started to panic (with his four hit points) and Simon quickly gave him his invisibility ring to stay out of trouble. Orin and Orehoe both scrambled beneath the table to hide. While Simon was distracted, though, he was blasted with a gout of glowing red lava that sprayed from the statue's fingers. He barely dodged out of the way to avoid being hit full on.

Meat ran up and landed a solid blow on the statue, and Caryatid used a Magic Missile scroll to chip away at the granite foe. Simon recovered his bearings and raked his sword across the statue while avoiding another blast of lava.

Caryatid tried to command her magical silk rope to entangle the statue's arm, but this didn't seem too effective, and Father Chase took a blast in the face ("Not the face!") while everyone tried ineffectively to land a solid blow on the statue.

Meat was sprayed again, taking serious damage. Caryatid, somewhat desperate now, cast Sleep but to no effect. Meat was hit again with a full blast of lava to the chest and fell to the ground with a gurgling dying scream.

The next couple of rounds were tense. Simon and Chase had very few hit points left. Caryatid didn't seem to have any useful spells left, and Meat was gone. Simon's player rolled the Big Green d30 to win initiative but both Simon and Chase were unable to do any more damage to the statue. In desperation, Orin and Orehoe used their backs to lift the heavy banquet table a few inches off the ground, and rammed it into the statue, doing a few points of damage. Father Chase then brought his mace smashing down into the neck of the statue, and the internal lava glow faded and it slumped into immobility.

Meanwhile, Gulleck found herself sitting in a chair in a familiar yet different room. It was the same banquet hall, but there were no cobwebs or dust. Torches burned brightly in wall sconces, and the table was set with fragrant meats and vegetables and goblets of wine. Gulleck felt full of new knowledge and wisdom, as if the statue had shown her things that she could only vaguely consciously remember now. (In game terms, she had gone up to level 7!)

As Gulleck looked around, she saw the granite statue standing at the other end of the table, hands outstretched towards her, fingers smoking and spurting orange lava. Flush with new power, Gulleck jumped onto the table, knocking goblets and platters down clattering to the floor, and charged screaming towards the statue, axe raised over her head. Fiery lava sprayed all around her as her ran, spattering on the stone floor and hissing where it fell on the wooden table. She slammed her axe into the statue again and again, while it sprayed her with glowing molten rock. No other party member would have likely survived such a frontal assault, but Gulleck's hit points outlasted the statue's, and within four rounds she finished it off.

Back in the real world, the rest of the adventurers were catching their breath and mourning Meat, when they saw the inert statue suddenly shudder and rock. Then a gauntleted dwarven fist punched its way out through the chest of the statue, and began to pull the burnt-out husk of the statue apart. The other adventurers ran forward to help, and quickly freed a soot-smudged and singed Gulleck from the steaming rubble of the statue.

They gathered up their fallen comrade and hurried back out of the dungeon and up to the surface. Would they bury Meat's body and hire a new retainer for Gulleck? (Although honestly, does Gulleck even need a retainer now?) Would they pay to have Meat raised from the dead at the Great Cathedral? Would they venture into the caves to find the Elixir of Life that could bring a person back to life in a new body? Time would tell!

[A note about this encounter, which was loosely adapted from a song by the band They Might Be Giants (that also gave its title to the title of this session report): This is one of those set pieces you dream up and then wait for months or years for the players to find and you just hope they take the bait. The way it worked is that I kept track of how many rounds it took the party to destroy the statue (a rock living statue, by the way). Then, when we switched to the alternate world with the character that sat in the chair, they would have to survive that many rounds in solo combat against the statue. The exit from the room would turn out to be bricked up if they tried to escape via the door. If they perished in the alternate world, the character would be dead forever with no chance of resurrection. I think it was very lucky for the players that Gulleck was the one to sit in the chair!]

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Idalium Game 91: The Ratcatchers

Session date: Monday, February 12, 2018
Game date: Saturday, April 17, 210

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 6, hp 37, xp 36173/70000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18041/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 6918/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 6223/8000
Orehoe, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 497/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 6220/8000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3131/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 933/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 1704/2400

Having recovered from their skirmish with the ratmen last week, the Infestation Managers prepared to head back done to loot their lair, and to mop up any remaining ratmen if necessary. At a jeweler's in the neighborhood of the Rusty Lantern tavern, they bought a handful of gemstones to feed to the old forgotten god (the talking stone column) on the third level. At the Temple of Hedonism, they knocked on the door and were let through by a group of nine partying hedonists (thankfully they were still at the toga-wearing portion of the party). They went to see the stone column and found that his chamber was occupied by nearly a dozen of the black-cloaked cultists. The cultists greeted the adventurers with smirks and sarcastic jibes, and brushed through them rudely on their way out. Their leader walked out in a curious pose; he seemed to be shielding his face from view with his cloak. Simon attempted to trip him as they passed, but rolled a 1 and managed to trip himself somehow. The cultists laughed and pointed ("haw haw!") and left the room.

The adventurers went in to talk to the judge, who was pleased to see them and said it had been an unusually busy day, what with the other folks visiting him as well.

"It's so rare that people come to see me. Usually I just stand here all alone..." he grumbled.

Gulleck told "the judge" that they had brought some "shiny stones" for him, and the column rotated noisily to turn to a hungry, greedy face. Gulleck gingerly reached forward with a polished piece of coral and fed it to the face, which crunched it into dust in savage frenzy.

"Ahhh, delicious!" he cried and his face turned to a pleased, satisfied expression. "What question can I answer for you?"
"Do the ratmen have any particular weaknesses?" asked Gulleck.
"They are vulnerable to silver," said the judge.

Simon fed a handful of gems to the judge and asked who has the largest treasure on this level.

"Hmm..." the judge considered. "Those people you just met must have a fair amount, as they sometimes trade shiny stones with me for information. And of course, the Queen of Nightmares, although thankfully she never comes to talk to me."

Adrien gave him a garnet and asked what the secret was to getting through the Goblin King's palace.

"It can be mapped," said the judge, somewhat unhelpfully.

Back to the wererat's temple they then went, and they found Father Jed and his gang of reformed bandits poking around in the room where they had killed the giant rats. They exchanged pleasantries, and Jed said that the door to the north seemed to be locked from the inside (Caryatid smirked, knowing that she had wizard locked it). Jed's Boys departed, and Caryatid opened the northern door and they entered a hallway beyond it. There were empty bedrooms with bunks on either side of the hall and they seem to have been evacuated in a hurry. At the end of the hall was a somewhat better appointed room, also clearly abandoned in a rush. A wooden chest stood open and empty. Gulleck found a pair of smelly shoes under the bed, but no treasure. Then Simon examined his map and deduced that there was an empty space between this room and the bedroom to the west. Jack searched for secret doors and found a camouflaged latch. He flipped it up and pulled open a portion of the stone wall, revealing a hidden closet containing some very ancient emergency supplies, now long rotten and crumbling. But in a tattered burlap sack were almost a thousand silver coins.

They took the coins and returned to the main room of the temple and proceeded down a hall to the east. A giant statue of a bipedal rat had been erected here, and a bloodstained altar squatted before it. They rummaged through their belongings looking for something to help destroy this idol, and Caryatid remembered she had been carrying around a very fine silk rope, that seemed to vibrate with magical power as she held it. She tossed it at the statue and it fell to the floor, but then thought to order the rope aloud to tie itself to the statue's neck. The rope wriggled with magical life and snaked its way across the floor and up the statue to tie itself securely around its neck.

Gulleck, wearing her "Hulk hands" (gauntlets of ogre strength), pulled the statue of St. Rathmus down singlehandedly. It toppled on its plinth, fell roughly across the altar in front of it, and smashed into several pieces on the stone floor. Several bags of copper and gold coins had been hidden in a compartment in its torso, and the adventurers gleefully collected these and left the wererats' temple for good.

They headed north to a hall lined with old paintings and tapestries, and investigated a door on the south side of the hall. This led to a small antechamber with doors leading east and west. Simon "listened" at the east door with his mindreading amulet, and coincidentally enough, discovered that this was the final hiding place of several wererats that had escaped the temple! Gulleck tried to boot in the door, but found that it a barricade of furniture had been assembled on the other side.

"OK, this is your one chance to surrender. Otherwise, I'm smashing this furniture to pieces and then you."
"Leave us alone! St. Rathmus shall curse you to a life of misery and wretchedness!"
"OK, I offered..."

And, having all the time in the world, Gulleck brought her battle axe to bear against the door and the barricade behind it. It took a little while, and the ratmen hurled curses and invective against her the entire time, but soon enough she broke down enough of the barricade to force the door open. ("Heeeeere's Gulleck!") The wererats lunged forward in their tiny room, snapping with fangs and claws at Gulleck, but between Gulleck's axe and Adrien's magical lycanthrope-killing sword, two of the ratmen were quickly killed, and the other two dropped to their knees and surrendered.

"Oh, now you want to surrender," grumbled Gulleck.

The wererats wanted to be let go and promised never to return to Idalium, in exchange for their treasure. This wasn't much of a deal to Gulleck, who counteroffered to take them to the Great Cathedral of Idalium to see if their wererat curse could be lifted.

"Never!" swore the ratman. "Those accursed priests will kill us!"

Well, the argument seemed to be going nowhere, so Caryatid cast Sleep on them. They were bound with rope, their treasure (many electrum pieces, four valuable pieces of jewelry, and many plans and maps detailing potential targets in the aboveground city of Idalium). Then they lifted the wererats and awkwardly carried them back through the dungeon, up towards the surface. In the Temple of Hedonism, the party had died down, leaving only a single young couple necking in a corner.

"Don't mind us!" chirped Caryatid as they carried the two unconscious ratmen through the temple den and up the stairs to the first level. They had almost made it home when the ratmen awoke. There were some squeals, and a sudden convulsion and then the ratmen were shrinking and falling through the ropes to the floor and scurrying away. But before they could escape, Orin cast his Sleep spell and the small rats stopped in their tracks. Adrien and Simon strolled up and drove their swords through the rats, and that was the sorry end of the Brotherhood of St. Rathmus beneath Idalium.

Player Journals from Session 90

Diary of Caryatid

Dear Granny,

I apologize for the long delay since my correspondence. I am well, so no worries there.

My conspiring adventurers are thriving, more or less. I was able to finally learn the magick to grace Marcel with wings. He continues to be a constant & fiercely loyal companion. He is truly a dedicated member of our troupe. Marcel is a severe contrast to the demon ferret that one of our members acquired at the Goblin market. I fear that at anytime this horrible creature could turn rogue at any moment and kill us all. I especially fear for the well-being of the half-ling in our group: surely to be the first eaten by the demon rodent should it no longer be linked to its owner.

We have discovered some very bizarre entities while adventuring in the depths below Idalium: one being a morose, eons-old deity of sorts who will trade knowledge only for valuable gem stones (to eat!) Finding treasure in the deeper levels has become scarce and I often wonder if we are pursuing folly. We did recover a Dark Magick book from an unlikely coven, that of which cannot be touched with bare hands. Instead of trying to investigate the Dark Magick, we agreed to sell that awful item for profit at the local auction house, and we received a fair price for it. I constantly hope to find magickal items whose powers are not Dark. I know you would disapprove, but I doubt that by ignoring Natural forces I may stumble upon similar gifts which have settled upon you through your sheer refusal to participate. I would love to have another wand.

Oh, did I tell you that the annoying Dwarf, Goo-lick, was resurrected as a she-dwarf! I love irony sometimes. “She” is still as stubborn as any Dwarf and refuses any of my excellent suggestions for a new identity such as Gullikina or Gulleka. I fear Dwarves may never evolve…good thing someone invented mountain caves for them to retreat into.

Deliver my best wishes to Nanny Ogg, You, and Magrit, I miss you all so very much.


Thursday, May 24, 2018

Idalium Game 90: Running the Gauntlets

Session date: Monday, February 5, 2018
Game date: Saturday, March 20, 210 and Saturday, April 10, 210

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 6, hp 37, xp 35901/70000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 17701/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 6561/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 5883/8000
Orehoe, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 240/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 6050/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 2952/3000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 763/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 1525/2400

The first half of this session was a flashback a few weeks of game time ago to play out the annual auction of magical and esoteric artifacts. The auction was held at the Runcible Trading House in the wealthy quarter of Idalium, as it had been the first year the party attended. That auction had been interrupted by one of the artifacts being stolen from the cellar vault by a ghoul that burrowed its way right through the wall, and now Lord Runcible announced that everyone could be assured that all of the cellar vaults had since been reinforced with iron bars along the walls.

All of the usual suspects were at the auction, a mix of Idalium's wealthiest aristocrats and businessmen with other scruffy adventurers like the party members. There was time to mingle before the start of the auction, and Gulleck and Caryatid made sure to talk up the finer points of the unusual tome that they had placed in the auction. They chatted up Vincent Patrenzi, the gaudy and tacky nouveau riche investor who collected ominous occult artifacts. His interest definitely seemed to be piqued, when they told him that the book had been taken from a coven of witches in some sort of other world.

The auction got underway. Moonpetal's Marauders bid aggressively and won a magical sword that could burst into flame on command, as well as a magical wand that could turn people into other forms. Vincent Patrenzi got into a bidding war for the party's book with Lady Mary Jameson, a young noblewoman fascinated with the occult, and the book finally sold for 66,000 silver shekels, far beyond the 10,000 shekel minimum bid. Father Jed and his band of merry bandits acquired two separate lots of magical potions, and another set of potions went to Sallies Forth, a party composed entirely of magical duplicates of "Psycho" Sally, an unhinged hobbit formerly with Shorty's Sirens. And Gulleck had set greedy eyes upon a pair of magical gauntlets said to bestow the strength of an ogre. Gulleck's player was quite excited to bypass Gulleck's absurd Strength score of 5, so the party bid most of their newly-acquired wealth of the gauntlets, and eventually outbid all the other adventuring parties to acquire the gauntlets for the low, low price of 59,500 silver shekels. (That actually is very low, given the presumed cost to craft such a magical item!)

Having finished with the auction, we jumped forward three weeks to the current date, and rejoined the party on another delve down to the third level of the dungeon below Idalium. They talked briefly to the lonely old stone pillar, and then headed west and north to assault the lair of the wererats. Coming to the door with a large rathole chewed in the bottom, they listened but heard nothing beyond it. The door would not open, so Simon the hobbit slipped on an invisibility ring and crawled through the ragged hole. On the other side he felt blindly in the dark and found a wooden bar holding the door shut. This he removed and let the party in, drawing his sword to provide light. Once some light was shed on the situation, they found that they were in a short hallway leading to another door, with a similar hole chewed near the bottom. A grotesque woven wicker effigy of a giant rat's head was mounted on the inner door. Gulleck strode up and smashed the wicker head to the floor. Apparently responding to the commotion at the door, a sinewy giant rat came angrily through the hole in the door. Gulleck, surprising herself with the unfamiliar strength flowing from her gauntlets, deftly beheaded the rat with the single slash of her axe.

They waited to see if any more rats would be forthcoming, but when no more emerged, Simon repeatd his trick with the invisibility ring and crawled under the door to unbar it from the other side. In the dark, he could hear the shuffling and squeaking of many other rats. I began to declare that he was immediately pounced upon by multiple rats, but was reminded that we had previously established that magical invisibility renders one invisible to all forms of sight, including infravision. Scent was a different story, and the rats grew agitated at the unfamiliar smell, but before they could react Simon had unbarred the door, let the rest of the party in, and drawn his sword for light. There were a couple dozen giant rats slinking around this defiled old temple. The walls were painted over crudely with dreadful images of rats cruelly dominating over cats, dogs, eagles, humans, etc. Filthy shredded nesting material was strewn around the room, and several pieces of expensive-looking jewelry glittered among the filth.

Orin and Caryatid both cast Sleep spells and sent most of the rats into slumber. Gulleck and Meat stepped forward to deal with the few that evaded the magic, and Adrien's demon ferret Norman tore into two of the rats with a horrible savagery that sent spouts of rats' blood fountaining into the air and drenching his mangy fur. While the adventurers were dealing with the giant rats, a door was thrown open at the north end of the room, and four bipedal ratmen burst in.

"How dare you invade the Temple of St. Rathmus!" the lead ratman hissed. "You shall surely die in pain and fear for your impertinence!"

Well, they lunged forward to bite and claw at the adventurers, but Orin read from his scroll of Sleep, and three of the wererats collapsed to the flagstones. Two more wererat reinforcements arrived at the north door and surrounded Meat, snapping at him with slavering jaws. But Adrien drew her magical sword with the hilt engraved with heads of rat and wolf, and it sang as it cut into the flesh of the ratmen. She killed two of them, and then Gulleck killed everyone, the surviving wererat as well as systematically dispatching all of the sleeping wererats and giant rats.

It was late and the party had taken some damage from the wererats, so they quickly gathered up the jewelry in the room, and Caryatid wizard-locked the north door, in hopes that any other treasure would not be plundered before they could return (having learned their lesson from the lost treasure of the Goblin Prince). Then they headed back to the surface with their plunder, which gave them enough experience points that Brother Chase made it to level 3, being promoted to Father Chase by his "supervisors" at his "temporary clerical staffing" chapel.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Idalium Game 89: Siren Songs

Session date: Monday, January 22, 2018
Game date: Saturday, March 27, 210

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 6, hp 37, xp 35718/70000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 17472/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 6321/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 5654/8000
Orehoe, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 0/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 5935/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 2831/3000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 648/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 1404/2400

On the Spring Equinox of each year, an annual auction is held in Idalium, co-sponsored by the Adventurers' Guild, of which the party are members, and the Runcible Trading House, an importer of expensive artifacts, curios, and art objects. The players intended to sell the sinister spellbook they had somehow returned with from Castle Ravenloft. But, today we had a new player, a friend of the players of Simon and Adrien, and so rather than have her first session be a simulated auction, we thought it would be better to spend the session with a regular dungeon delve, and then do a flashback to the auction later.

Our new player was familiar with computer role playing games, but had never played a pencil and paper RPG before. She wanted to be an elf (regardless of their slow advancement) and named her elf "Orehoe". I suspect inspiration from the package of cookies on the table. For her single first level spell she chose Ventriloquism.

Down into the buried ruins of old Idalium they went, heading for the Temple of Fate on the second level so they could "haze" their new companion. They ran into some skeletons in the town square, but Brother Chase presented his holy symbol and they cowered away from him, and were easily dispatched by the rest of the party. While they were catching their breaths after the quick battle, a half dozen horrid stirges flapped into the town square. The adventurers wasted no time in running from from bloodsuckers, and fortunately they were not pursued into the tunnel leading south to the Street of Temples.

They made their way downstairs without incident. In the Temple of Fate, they heard the cruel laughter of eight hobgoblins, who were just finishing hazing one of their own company on the wheel, and egged on the party to take spin and spin on the great wheel of fortune. Adrien was blessed with good luck for the day, her giant ferret Norman did a nimble backflip upon being released after his spin, and Jack would have lost a level but luckily made his saving throw. Orehoe took a spin on the wheel in good humor, and she too was lucky to make a saving throw against some unknown curse.

Having had their fun with the wheel, they proceeded to the third level and explored some new areas towards the west. They found a long corridor stretching north and south far into the darkness, and the western wall of this corridor was ornamented with decorative architecture that gave the impression of an ornate palace wall. They came to a rather fancy door, and Simon used his mind-reading amulet, sensing the bored minds of several creatures on guard duty. Gulleck knocked tentatively at the door, and the eerie hooting voice of a bugbear echoed back to him.

"What business do you have with Her Majesty, the Queen of Nightmares?"

"None!" blurted Gulleck in a hurry, and they all continued along to the north. They found a much plainer door in the west wall, and Gulleck attempted to open it but somehow managed to fail (she only fails on a 1 in 6 due to her gauntlets of ogre strength). Simon was concerned that the pounding on the door might have drawn attention (they were still too close to the Queen of Nightmare's palace for comfort) so he used the amulet again, and sensed several creatures on the other side who were preparing to ambush anyone who came in.

There was some debate over whether they could bluff their way in, and Orehoe even cast her Ventriloquism spell to try to make a bugbear voice (which she had only heard once in her life!) call out "They're probably friendly, why not let them in?" But the bugbear guards were not fooled by this nonsense.

"You sound ridiculous! Go away and stop bothering us!"

So they did, continuing their exploration to the north, beyond the palace. They came to a place where the hall opened into a large room. They peered into a ruined and wrecked feast hall and caught a glimpse of many white bones strewn among the rubble covering the floor and table. Before they had time to react to this sight, a surreal vocal harmony floated forth from the darkness. Several feminine voices joined to create a wordless song that saturated the air, overwhelming the senses of the adventurers. All rolled saving throws versus magic, and only Simon and Orin made their saves. A blank, enraptured mask fell over the faces of the others in the party, and they staggered slowly forward into the feast hall, the better to hear the entrancing song. Simon and Orin followed in nervous fear, and the light from Simon's sword fell upon five hideous creatures, half woman and half giant eagle. Their hair was tangled and matted with filth, and their faces were pale and drawn with hunger. The beauty of the song that pervaded this room was bizarrely incongruous with the hideous appearance of the creatures. Their hands were outstretched in long claws, and the party members were sleepwalking directly towards them.

Orin began speaking the words of the Sleep spell, and several of the monsters launched themselves into the air, flapping towards him on heavy wings. He completed his spell, and three of the fiends fell asleep where they were. Two sprawled across the table and chairs, and one fell out of the air and landed heavily on the floor. But another one raked him with her claws, for three hit points of damage (out of only four hit points he had!).

Now, this called for some DM judgment. The Basic rules are rather vague about how the harpies' charm effect works. Presumably the charm wears off if the harpy stops singing (the general rules about charm attack say, "The death of the charming monster will usually break this type of charm"). But are the party members charmed by all of the harpies at once, or an individual one? My thought was that this looked like a TPK in the works if all of the harpies had to be silenced in order for the rest of the party to snap out of it, so I decided that each character is charmed by a specific harpy, and I rolled a d6 for each charmed character, to see if "their" harpy was one of the three that had fallen asleep and ceased singing. This worked out well for the party: Gulleck, Caryatid, and Adrien all came to their senses and Caryatid was able to use her own Sleep spell to deal with the remaining two harpies. Gulleck wasted no time in putting the sleeping monsters to the axe.

Harpies are kind of like ghouls in that they are potentially a TPK because they have the potential to remove PCs from the entire combat. I'm not sure my ruling was the best way to handle it (I'm not sure it's thematically convincing for the PCs to snap out of it while the other two harpies are still singing), but I'm not sure Simon and Orin could have defeated the remaining two harpies on their own. I'm open to suggestions on a better way of handling the harpies' singing.

Amongst the filth and bones and rubble, the adventurers found three valuable pieces of treasure: a jeweled necklace and bracelet, and a gold and silver goblet, worth over 2,000 gold darics altogether. They quickly collected the treasure and the group made their way back to the surface, satisfied with their harrowing escape.