Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Player Journals from Session 57

Journal of Tod Quasit Jr. Sunday January 26th, 209
I can't get the stench of Orc out of my nose. Yes. It's been a while since I wrote in this journal. Too long. But I can finally calm my thoughts down enough to seem rational. I think. Am I dreaming this? Do you hear me? Jibber was right. Maybe I should think about adjusting my life style. But then again, he's started talking in earnest to a stuffed rabbit he bought at the Goblin Market for a kiss who he has named Lord Stuffins. It is hard to take serious life style advise from a fellow prone to this sort of behavior. When I confronted him about it, he said it was a form of therapy condoned by The Church and he was doing research. He mentioned something about a phone to God. I have no idea what that means.

So yesterday, we descended into the Under City as usual, to check up on the gnome's progress in the hole we have commissioned. Flap Jinkins said it would probably be a couple more weeks. That hole is already 30 feet deep. How thick are these floors? Then we ran into the Wraith King. I like to think I'm a brave sort. I generally don't back down from a fight but the sight of this guy froze me in my tracks. Jibber and his rabbit did not seem at all concerned. I don't want to talk about the Wraith King anymore, other then to say he seems concerned with the general tidiness of the tunnels and he generally didn't harm anyone.

We gathered ourselves together and went down to the second level. Just for the fun of it I drank the pink liquid from the fountain in the orgy room. Now I'm a girl. Let's just leave it at that. That elf drank it too and now she's a man. Jibber refused to drink. Lord Stuffins apparently advised him against it.

After much discussion, we decided to have a go at the orcs standing guard by their annoying gong. Gulleck hates that gong and I do too. We confronted the guards telling them we were there to inspect their gong. They weren't buying it. Then I said we were taking a census. They didn't buy it. Out popped an Orc and he shot an arrow at Gulleck and missed. I got out my bow and shot back. Thwunk! Right through the neck. We killed three of them and one got away. We took their gong and dumped it into the ravine. Then we went around and tried to attack from the other entrance.

A Great Battle ensued. I think that guy Meat who travels around with Gulleck hit Gulleck in the back with an arrow. Nice miss Wally. Gulleck tumbled down the steps but made it back up. Many orcs and orclike men were killed. Gulleck got himself a fancy shield. It got late and it was time to go home. We'll save the rest of the orcs for another day I guess. Time for another bath and then I'm meeting Jibber at The Filthy Arab for a well deserved Sunday brunch and drinks.

Idalium Game 57: Gong Inspectors

Session date: Monday, July 25, 2016
Game date: Saturday, January 18, 209

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 6235/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 10054/17000
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 6237/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11687/20000

Father Jibber, Cleric 3, hp 16, xp 3196/6000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3409/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 2, hp 4, xp 2603/5000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 99/1500

Another unusual opportunity for Tod and Tyrriel's players to attend, which of course meant a somewhat sillier and less focused session than usual. (It's just the nature of things when your more "irregular" players finally get to play.) The session opened with some back story and exposition from the other players to fill in Tod and Tyrriel about the strange shadow demons, the golden idol they guarded, and the daring heist that was planned to liberate said idol from their clutches. Craftsmen in the city were hard at work making a custom harness, supplying a winch, etc., and the dungeon gnomes were busily digging away at the shaft straight down into the room with the idol.

On their way to the second level, the party stopped by the temple room where the gnomes were digging to check on their progress. The diminutive miners had a whole operation rigged up, with ropes and scaffolding in the partially completed shaft, and the southern end of the underground avenue outside the temple was filling up with discarded dirt and rubble. The shaft was perhaps thirty feet deep, and the gnome foreman said that he expected that they would complete the excavation in a couple of weeks. Gulleck made it clear that they were not to break through the final ceiling slab until they were present and ready to execute the heist.

As the adventurers left the gnomes and crossed the avenue to enter the temple of hedonism that provided them access to the second level, a terrifying thing occurred. The temple doors swung open, and a chilling apparation drifted out. It was man-shaped, shrouded in tattered, disintegrating robes, its face obscured by a deep hood, upon which rested a tarnished and dented silver coronet. Instead of legs, the apparition simply faded away at the bottom of its torso. The sight of the ghostly vision struck an unnatural fear into most of the party members, who found themselves rooted to the spot, unable to move. The figure moved into their midst, and paused to glance at the untidy pile of rubble the gnomes had been dumping at the end of the avenue. It seemed to shake its head disapprovingly and then passed between the fear-stricken adventurers, drifting silently off into the darkness to the north. The cold fear relinquished its grip on the adventurers and they drew deep shuddering breaths, collecting themselves.

They returned to the gnomes to ask about this uncanny apparition. The gnomes' faces drew pale. "We call him the Wraith Lord. He doesn't seem hostile but isn't he terrible to see?" When Gulleck pointed out that the Wraith Lord seemed displeased by the mess in the hallway, the gnomes' grim expressions grew even more uncomfortable.

The party went down from the temple of hedonism and into the inner sanctum below, pausing to consider the brightly-splashing fountains that played in the room. One of the fountains was a sculpture of a young man and young woman partially dressed in togas, embracing each other and intermingling waters from a pair of pitchers. The water from this fountain had once caused a pair of horrible orcs to become infatuated with Gulleck and Caryatid. The other fountain depicted a beautiful young woman, toga falling down around her waist, lifting a pitcher above her head to pour shimmering water into the fountain trough. No one had ventured to drink this water until now, when Tod decided it had been too long since something interesting happened. Cupping his hands under the water, he took a deep draft, and when he turned round, he was a she! Her facial features were unmistakably familiar as Tod's, but her features and figure had undergone a strange transformation. Not to be outdone, Tyrriel sipped from the same fountain, and now the elf was male. (There were jokes made about this not representing all that much of a change.)

More sips from the same fountain did not reverse the change, so still laughing at their altered companions, the adventurers headed out onto the second level. Their goal: to pick a fight with the orcs that lived nearby. Two orcs stood guard in the hallway in front of a short flight of steps leading down into their lair. A round metal alarm gong hung from a wooden frame next to them. The orcs attempted to collect a toll from the party, as usual, but Tod was in no mood for such small talk. "Gong inspectors!" he shouted. "We're here to take your gong for inspection." The orcs were as humorless as ever, and the conversation grew tenser and louder until swords were drawn and the argument became violent.

Tod and Gulleck quickly dealt with the orcs, and the victorious adventurers gleefully carried away the gong into the nearby caves to the east, where they pitched it into a chasm spanned by a flimsy rope bridge. They heard it splash into running water far below.

Then they returned to the orcs' lair to try their luck at the other entrance. The orcs were waiting for them in the dark at the bottom of the stairs, and a pitched battle ensued. Meat had a critical failure (a natural 1 followed by a successful attack roll against Gulleck) and accidentally shot Gulleck in the back at point blank range. Gulleck went tumbling down the stairs into the orc lair, bringing several orcs down with him as he rolled down the steps.

In addition to orcs, a handful of strange bestial men joined the battle. They looked to be halfway between humans and orcs, and some were more orc-like than others. They wore plate armor and wielded war hammers.

Gulleck recovered and retreated back up the stairs at the approach of the strange orclike men, but meanwhile another group of orcs came running up the hall from the direction of the southern entrance to their lair. The party was flanked! It was a fortunate day to have Tyrriel and her (his!) retainer Wilhelm along, for Tyrriel cast a magical sleep upon the bestial men and Wilhelm likewise put the newly-arrived orcs to sleep. All were then sent to a far deeper slumber with grim efficiency by Meat.

The party quickly looted some small change and a few gemstones from the bodies of the orcs and their odd companions, and Gulleck acquired a particularly fine shield from the leader of the orclike men. Then they beat a hasty withdrawal to the Rusty Lantern, happy to have inflicted some serious losses on the orcs.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Idalium Game 56: The Gang's All Here

Session date: Monday, July 25, 2016
Game date: Saturday, January 18, 209

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 6081/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9926/17000
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 6103/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11559/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 1049/2000

Father Jibber, Cleric 3, hp 16, xp 3126/6000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3345/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 2, hp 4, xp 2536/5000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 35/1500

It had been a long while since we got the entire roster of players together for a game. A fair amount of time was spent socializing, bantering, and catching up Tod and Tyrriel's players on the recent events of the campaign.

The first portion of the session involved taking care of some investigations in the surface of the Idalium. The party travelled to the crooked and steep streets of The Steps to visit the elderly sage, Professor Zinn. The professor greeted them as usual in his 5th floor apartment overlooking the city. He listened to their description of the shadowy beings with interest and consulted "the usual references, Tobin's Spirit Guide..." He told them that there were reports of creatures like these, entities of darkness itself, invulnerable to ordinary steel and capable of sapping one's very bodily strength with a touch. Contrary to their expectations, he told them that these creatures were not to be considered the undead like the skeletons and ghouls they had encountered before, but something else.

The group had a long discussion about how to pull off a "heist" and extract the idol and associated treasures without engaging the shadows, if at all possible. Some sort of leather harness would need to be commissioned to wrap around the gilded statue, and a winch would be needed at the top of the shaft. Later that they visited a leatherworker who supplied teamsters and dockworkers, and commissioned a custom harness that would meet their needs.

They next inquired at the Runcible Trading House which had hosted a magical auction the previous year. There had been a book of ancient religions of Idalium that they wanted to inquire after, but Lord Runcible informed them it had been auctioned to a wealthy landowner and when they made inquiries at his manor, they were told he was out of town inspecting his farms and would not return for at least a week.

They visited the Great Cathedral to ask about the shadows, and Father Merrimoon corroborated Professor Zinn's belief that these shadowy creatures were something different from undead, and the prayers of Father Jibber and Brother Pike were unlikely to influence them.

Finally, they descended into the dungeon in search of adventure and treasure. Realizing it was near the full moon, the idea was mooted to visit the Goblin Market and that met with applause from everyone except Caryatid, who viewed it as a big junk sale. Everything went well for them. They met a flock of stirges in the town square which were sleepy and let them pass. In the temple of hedonism they had the misfortune of rolling TWO random encounters while the party was split trying to get past the crystal statue that only lets you pass if you are wearing the official toga of the cult. They don't have sufficient togas for everyone, so they have to pass in batches. Tod, Jibber, and Wilhelm were still upstairs when they encountered a trio of angry orcs, but they merely slipped past the statue and taunted the orcs to run towards them, where they were stoutly punched by the statue. Downstairs, the rest of the party encountered two large and fierce baboons in the temple's inner sanctum, but Gulleck used his magical ring of animal control to compel one baboon to attack the other.

Through the second level halls and into the caverns they passed. They met an suspicious gang of merchants who were looking for the goblins as well. Tod and Tyrriel picked an unnecessary fight with the traders, and just as things started to heat up and blades were drawn, Tyrriel cast a wave of magical slumber across the men. She relieved them of a couple of nice jewels and left them a bottle of wine with a note upon which she wrote, "Think next time!"

At the Goblin Market, they reluctantly handed over their weapons at the entrance to the bizarre lanky tall goblins that looked down on them with baleful bulbous eyes and welcomed them to the market in their eerie hooting voices. The market was quieter than the last time they had been here. Four of the placid and spacey "hippies" were making purchases at one of the table. A woman dressed in black robes and an opaque black veil that hung in front of her face from a wide-brimmed hat sat at a table behind an assortment of vials and flasks. Tyrriel spoke with this woman and learned that she lived on an island in the middle of the underground sea one level below this place, and she made potions. Tyrriel took the opportunity to sell some of the strange fluids and components she had been collecting over the months: venom sacs from a giant spider, the tentacles from a carrion crawler, blood from the mysterious basin in the temple the gnomes were currently digging within. She bought an invisibility potion from the mysterious veiled witch.

As before, there were goblins selling strange and slightly unsettling things, as well. A collection of bone relics of dubious saints and heretics; a number of decapitated and meticulously preserved heads of sprites, wrapped in gauze made of spider silk (Tyrriel traded three giant hawk feathers for three of these heads); and a sad little stuffed bunny rabbit made of velveteen, slightly singed and scorched looking. Father Jibber was persuaded by Tod to buy it from the hobgoblin dealer for a kiss from a priest, which the goblin found so scandalizingly amusing that he could not refuse.

Around this point the traders that they had encountered in the caverns stumbled in, looking grouchy and out of sorts. They were carrying bags of rusty old swords and spears to sell to the goblins. The party decided that discretion was the better part of valor, and crept out of the market before they were noticed.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Idalium Game 55: Gnomish Negotiations

Session date: Monday, July 11, 2016
Game date: Saturday, January 4, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9861/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11494/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3312/4000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 0/1500

Another short-staffed party this session, so Caryatid went looking for a replacement for the dearly departed Brother Guntur. There was a consensus (aka a running joke) around the table that the group had gone through so many NPC clerics that they might be wearing out their welcome at the Great Cathedral. So instead, they hired their new clerical retainer from one of the many fringe sects that operate nominally under the umbrella of the Great Church of the All-Pervading Light but mostly completely independently. They found their new acolyte at a tiny storefront church, the Church of St. Dilbert, patron saint of the freelance and contract employee. There was much jovial discussion about how his share of the treasure would be paid directly to the church, which would then pay him a much smaller cut. Their new cleric was named Brother Chase Pike, and was somehow decided to be "played" by Chris Hemsworth, and so we have been playing him like the guy from the new Ghostbusters movie - handsome but ditzy.

So, as usual, the team made their descent into the dungeon. Their mission today was to seek out the gnomes that live in the mines on the east side of the first level. A few weeks ago, they had discovered a room filled with horrible frightening shadow demons guarding a huge statue of some awful demon or demigod, gilded with precious medals and studded with jewels. Their idea was to dig directly down from the first level into the chamber with the statue and lift it out with ropes and some kind of harness. The trouble was, they didn't want to do all the hard work of digging, so they intended to try to hire the gnomes to do so.

The only problem with this plan was that no one could remember exactly where the gnomes lived, or piece their fragmentary maps together to figure it out. They made their way to the tight, claustrophobic mine tunnels and wandered around rather blindly for most of the evening. They encountered an angry band of knockers, but Caryatid quickly entangled the twisted and withered gnome-like monstrosities in the sticky strands of a Web spell. They stumbled upon a pack of giant cave weasels, that hissed at them and aggressively protected their lair. The adventurered threw a handful of silver coins at them - why, I'm not sure - but that didn't pacify the weasels in any way.

Around the corner from the weasels, the group had a random encounter with stirges. Now, just last session they had a very unfortunate experience with stirges, but this time I rolled a 12 for the reaction roll. What do you do when your players encounter "enthusiastically friendly" stirges? Well, these stirges took a great interest in the adventurers, hopping up on the arms of Gulleck and Meat and nuzzling them affectionately. An affection that was NOT returned by the two fighters! They carefully brushed some of the stirges off, and then grabbed the others, ran back around the corner, and threw them with full force at the pack of weasels! There was a savage burst of activity and howling, feathers flew every which way, and the adventurers walked away from the carnage with satisfied smiles on their faces.

Eventually they did stumble upon the gnomes' little house, and they were welcomed warmly by their diminuative hosts, and brought into the gnomes' sitting room for tea and tasty little seed cakes. Gulleck explained the party's business proposal to the gnomes. Now, the gnomes under Idalium are fairly mild-mannered, cautious, and reticent to put themselves in any danger, but gold and jewels are a strong intoxicant for them, and their eyes grew round and avaricious as Gulleck described the gleaming golden icon he had seen. In the end, a deal was struck: the gnomes would dig a shaft, in a place of the party's determination, in return for half of the money realized from liquidating the statue and the other gilded paraphernalia. They would not fight the shadows, however; that was entirely the party's job.

After shaking on the deal and picking a spot on their map (by overlaying maps they decided to dig in a small temple on the street of temples), the party returned to the surface. They were kicking themselves a little at perhaps not negotiating as hard as they could have: when Gulleck offerred a half-and-half split it was immediately accepted by the gnomes. But they consoled themselves with having someone else to do the digging. The gnomes had told them it would probably take a couple of months depending on the type of rock they encountered between the levels. In the meantime, the adventurers needed to commission some sort of harness to lift the statue out of the room, and also to seek more information about the frightening shadowy entities...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Idalium Game 54: Why Did It Have to Be Stirges?

Session date: Monday, June 27, 2016
Game date: Saturday, December 21, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9495/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11128/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 670/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3179/4000

This was a much shorter session than usual. For various reasons, I arrived quite late, so late in fact that I gave my players a bonus of 100 XP each in apology!

Before descending into the dungeon, the party paid a visit to the slightly doddering old sage, Professor Zinn, at his apartment on the top floor of a rickety, tilted old house in the hillside neighborhood of The Steps. They made guarded inquiries with him about the recent activities of "Caryatid the Green". Professor Zinn was confused at first, completely unaware that Caryatid had a "sister". He spoke of her enthusiastically, happy to have found someone who shared his passion for research into the ancient ways of magic and esoteric knowledge. It transpired that Green Caryatid had hired Professor Zinn to make copies for her of information in old books and scrolls related to human physiology and anatomy. The other odd thing that came up was that she had paid him in gold eggs, about the size of a chicken egg or perhaps a bit larger.

None of this made them feel any better about Green Caryatid's activities, but they arrived at the Rusty Lantern tavern on a cold Saturday morning and made their way down into the undercity. They didn't get far, though. They had just emerged from the gnomes' mining tunnel south of the main city square when they were beset by a flock (swarm?) of stirges! Five of the bizarre bird-like bloodsuckers came flapping out of the darkness, diving towards the adventurers. Two swarmed around Gulleck and he fended them off with his axe. One attacked Meat, and one focused on the diminuative hobbit, Simon.

My players really hate stirges, and when Tyrriel and Wilhelm are in the party they usually cast Sleep immediately. But Caryatid does not know Sleep, and could only launch Magic Missiles at them. While she was doing so, Simon was impaled by the sharp proboscis of a stirge, and as his blood was pulled out in one big gulp, his face grew pale, his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed on the cold stone floor. The stirge continued to drink for a few seconds and then disengaged and flapped ungainly away into the darkness.

Gulleck and Meat dispatched their stirges, and the group took stock of their situation, aghast. Barely into the dungeon and Simon dead. So, the mission now was to descend to the second level and find the pool of rebirth that could restore life to any person, once.

They made their way down without further encounters, Meat carrying Simon's body over his shoulders. When they arrived at the small round chapel containing the pool of rebirth they were surprised to find it in use! A befuddled-looking man and woman were just sort of hanging out in the pool, arms holding the sides, apparently enjoying the body-temperature water.

"Whoa, hey man," said the man. "We're, uh, in the middle of using this pool."

Oh great, groaned the players, it's the hippies. They find these guys a bit too weird for their tastes.

"Uh, excuse us," said Gulleck, "It's kind of urgent. We need to put this body in there."

"You what?" asked the woman. "What're you talking about, man?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." said the man, "Janis and I were just enjoying the hot tub, man. You can't come in here and dump a dead guy in here! Total buzzkill!"

And so it went. Eventually the hippies were persuaded to just step out of the pool for a few minutes while they stripped Simon of his plate armor and let him slip into the pool. A few moments passed and then, with a frantic thrashing, Simon came to the surface gasping for air. The two hippies' jaws dropped in amazement.

"Oh man, that is far out... Whoa..."

And so, having restored life to Simon, the adventurers bid the hippies a pleasant time in the "hot tub" and made their way right back upstairs the way they had come, and right back out to the Rusty Lantern.

Some days things just don't go your way!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Idalium Game 53: Shadows in the Dark

Session date: Monday, June 13, 2016
Game date: Saturday, December 7, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9452/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11085/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 625/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3157/4000

Ahhh, back to the dungeon! Side treks and diversions in the wilderness are fun and add variety and spice to the campaign, but when it comes to being able to run a low-stress "beer and pretzels" game every week, nothing beats a megadungeon. I have my B/X rulebooks, my binder of maps and keys, and my Crown Royal bag of dice and I'm all set!

We did some "housekeeping" and roleplayed the return of the Holy Lantern to the Great Cathedral of Idalium. The Abbess Archura was pleased to see Gulleck complete his quest, and with a wave of her hand, Gulleck felt an odd weight lift from his shoulders. The party was rewarded with a payment of 200 platinum minas and a promise that any curative prayers that they might need from the Church in the future would be performed at half the usual "requested donation".

At the Rusty Lantern tavern, the adventurers were welcomed with good cheer by the regulars, who seemed frankly surprised to see them again. The party caught up on some rumors about what might have been going on in the undercity in their absence, and then made their familiar way to the basement, paying the usual toll of a gold daric apiece, and descending through the well-used trapdoor into the buried city of Ancient Idalium that lies below the bustling city above.

The group attempted to take their usual path to the second level below, but found that in their absence there had been a cave-in, and the alleyway was blocked by rubble. They backtracked to the abandoned town plaza, avoided a group of giant rats that were scurrying around in the shadows, and took another, longer, route. However, they were pleased to find that a passage that had previously been blocked in by rubble now had a small tunnel (about 5' high) excavated through it, braced with timbers like a small mine shaft. In the tunnel they found small mining tools, and suspected that their friends the gnomes were probably responsible for this.

Down to the second level they proceeded (destroying a squad of animated skeletons on the way, which Caryatid caught in a giant web of sticky spider strands). They stopped briefly in the "Wheel of Fortune" room, intending to "haze" the new guy, Simon. In the room were five orcs, one of them spinning on the wheel and coming to a rest as the party entered. The orcs were in good spirits and encouraged the adventurers to try out the "magic table", guffawing as they pushed their way past the party and out the door.

Simon was strapped to the wheel and given a spin, and when he came to a rest he suddenly noticed he could smell a strange, metallic smell that he had not noticed before. He sniffed around and traced to his companions' money pouches. He could smell gold now!

The group had no clear goal in mind for this delve, and decided to go visit Caryatid's "sister" (actually a magical duplicate) who had taken up residence in the abandoned apartments of some long ago wizard. On the way, however, they decided to investigate a scary dark room that they had found many months ago. The room was so dark that not only did lantern light (and now, magical sword light) not even disturb the inky blackness, but Gulleck's natural ability to see in the dark was completely useless. It was darker than Gulleck had ever experienced in his life, and a cold, foreboding fear settled in the PCs' hearts. They knew from prior investigations that there was another doorway across the room, and now Gulleck and Simon carefully moved through the room, trailing ropes behind them that Meat and Caryatid held.

As the two approached the doorway, Simon's nostrils were flooded with the intense smell of gold. Reaching the threshold of the doorway, they, and Simon used the mind-reading medallion that he possessed. Expanding his mind forward to encompass the space beyond the doorway, he became away of a malevolent lurking evil presence. He could not articulate any clear thoughts, but there was something there, something alive and hateful.

Gulleck stepped carefully through the door, and it was as though the darkness broke over his face like water. He entered a room lit by sickly, greenish flames flickering in metal sconces attached to the walls. The cold foreboding feeling was more intense than ever here. Along the wall to the right, there was an altar of sorts, on top of which was a frightening statue or idol of some kind of demon, about five tall with curling horns and wild googly eyes. Despite its hideous visage, it was clearly well-crafted of gold and silver and studded with gemstones. Before it on the altar were a ritual chalice, a sacrificial dagger and other more ominous-looking "tools", also crafted from precious metals and stones. On a stand next to the altar was an ornate ceremonial robe and headdress.

Gulleck approached the idol to get a closer look, and he did so he felt a quickening in his heartbeat, and the eerie cold fear tightened around him. The shadows from the flickering flames seemed to lengthen and converge, flowing together into several man-shaped forms, looming towards him on the walls and even seeming to drift off of the walls towards him...

"That's it! Nope!" muttered Gulleck, and ran like hell, grabbing Simon on the way. They two ran panicked into the hallway, where they pulled the door shut and caught their breath before leaving this strange place behind them.

It was just a short walk along the hallway to the abandoned wizards' apartment that Caryatid's magical duplicate had taken up residence in. Gulleck knocked at the door and a familiar voice called, "Who is it?"

"It's us!" replied Gulleck.
"Could you be more specific?"

(I don't understand why, but we go through this every time they knock on a door...)

Eventually, "Green Caryatid" recognized the voices of Gulleck and "Blue Caryatid" and pulled the door open with a smile on her face. As before, she was effusively friendly, and they exchanged some small talk on their respective adventures in the past few months.

"Oh, as you can see, I have settled in so nicely here. It's such a wonderful place for my research and my quest for personal self-improvement."

Every time she says things like this, Gulleck's face looks more and more alarmed.

She told them of how "that delightful fellow, Professor Zinn" had been doing some research for her, and perhaps they wouldn't mind checking with the sage to see if he had any information for her?

"What kind of research?"
"Oh, well... do you remember the braziers in that room over there? The ones with the strange residues? Well, Professor Zinn has been invaluable in helping me identify the powders and herbs that were burned in those braziers. In the protective circle, there was rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and frankincense. In the summoning and binding triangle was the remains of turmeric, asafetida, and the dried dung of goblins."

Gulleck nearly choked on his own tongue. "The what!?"

Green Caryatid continued as if she hadn't heard. "And after many months of study and research into books found here and provided by the good professor, I was successful! Would you like to see my pet?"

"Your... pet?"

"Yes, he's not the most attractive fellow, but he's going to be ever so helpful to me. Come on in and see!"

And Green Caryatid opened a door on the west side of the sitting room and led them in the summoning chamber, where a large circle and triangle were inlaid into the floor and flanked by waist-high braziers. But all eyes were drawn to the triangle, within which stood a hideous creature: vaguely insect or crab-like, with bulbous eyes and covered in a light filamentous hair - a sort of giant hairy prawn. As they entered it became agitated, and their ears were filled with a terrible hissing and gnashing and clacking of mandibles.
The Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula

"Oh shush now," said Caryatid the Green. "Let me introduce you to my pet," she said to the adventurers with a flourish of her hand. "This is Morgluthkluthor, called the Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula, the Blight of Jupiter, the Dark Rain that Falls Upon the Forsaken Desert..."

"That's a bit of a mouthful, though, so I nicknamed him Marcel!" ("Blue Caryatid"'s capuchin monkey gave a screech from his perch on her shoulder.)

"And... why are you keeping him here?" asked Gulleck in shock.

"Oh, he's going to grant me power, wisdom, understanding of the world. I haven't quite decided what to ask for yet, but I will soon."

"Er... we have to get going soon..." mumbled the adventurers.

"Oh, of course. I've enjoyed our visit. I'm so glad you're taking care of my duplicate. Be careful, from what I've learned in my researches, when people are duplicated like that, the copy is usually unstable and degenerate. But be kind to her. It's not her fault she's the duplicate."

That set the "real" (they assume) Caryatid a bit afire, but Gulleck saw an opportunity. "Well, maybe you could ask your 'pet' to stabilize the duplicate?"

"Oh. Well, I could do that. I suppose..." She didn't seem too taken with the suggestion, though.

In the end, the party made their farewells, left Caryatid the Green's apartment with more misgivings than they had entered with, and made an uneventful trek back through the dungeon to the Rusty Lantern again.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Idalium Game 52: The Voyage Home

Session date: Monday, May 23, 2016
Game date: Tuesday, October 23, 208 to Friday, November 15, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9402/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11035/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3132/4000

This session was all about planning and executing the long voyage home to the city of Idalium. Khrisong the acolyte from the monastery had originally planned to travel with the party to Idalium, but he was recognized and welcomed in the village, and he made plans with some of the villagers to rebuild the monastery and its order, and gratefully parted ways with the adventurers.

There was still some dissession in the party regarding what to do with Brother Guntur's body. Some members would have been happy to bury him here in the village, but when Father Jibber was asked his feelings on the matter, he seemed to feel rather strongly that Brother Guntur should be returned to his fellow devotees of the Great Church of Idalium, and so the party went to extraordinary lengths to commission an elaborate contraption: a coffin for Brother Guntur, impregnated with melted wax to make it watertight and, more importantly, smell-proof, as the journey was long. As long as they were building a custom-designed coffin, an idea was hatched to build a sort of cart under it, to put the coffin on two large wheels to make it easier to transport through the mountain passes. This came at not insignificant expense to the party: over a thousand silver shekels were spent to build this contraption.

Meanwhile, Caryatid found a tailor in the village to make a tiny red fez for her pet monkey, which was constantly perched on her shoulder and whom she had named Marcel [yes, our game is full of these kinds of jokes].

And so, with Brother Guntur's rolling coffin constructed and everyone reprovisioned for the long journey, the adventurers set out again, with Grimbo Shimspall the hobbit ranger leading them. They had briefly considered attempting to travel through the wilderness directly to the port town of Trobadanz, but eventually decided it would be a safer (if longer) trip if they
simply backtracked to the monastery and then to the citadel of the dwarves and then on to Trobadanz.

They ran into trouble on the very first day of their travels. I use the Expert book wilderness encounter tables, whichs means just about anything can be encountered. And while trundling Brother Guntur's "wheelcoffin" through a rocky mountain pass, the adventurers were horrified to see the awesome and bonechilling sight of four red dragons fly overhead. Two were smaller and seemed to be children, and they flew into a cave in the side of the mountain, but the other two wheeled around in the sky and swooped towards the party again.

There was a sudden scramble. People abandoned their horses to leap into the cover of a gully full of bushes and trees. Brother Guntur's coffin rolled recklessly into the gully, his body thumping around unceremoniously inside.

Then there was a roar of wind and a buffetting wave of heat, and the scream of a horse. A flapping of wings. And when the adventurers peeked out from the bushes, they saw that Caryatid's horse was gone, and the grass where it had been still singed and smoking. The party rounded up the other horses and quickly as they could, and put as much distance as they could between them and the dragons' cave before camping for the night.

On the third day they passed the abbey, abandoned now on the top of its hill, and turned to follow the faint trail back to the dwarven citadel. On the fourth day, the party was minding its own business when from out of nowhere a boulder came hurtling through the air, slamming into the side of the head of Tod's horse, killing it instantly. Tod barely managed to leap off his horse as it fell. Everyone turned to look where the rock had come from and saw a trio of enormous men: almost twenty feet tall, with stony gray flesh. The giants guffawed at the adventurers' horrified faces, and weighed more boulders in their hands.

Nobody thought twice about this. They fled. Those on horseback spurred their horses to the fastest they could safely go on the rocky trail, and those on foot ran as fast as they could. Poor Brother Guntur and his very expensive customized coffin were abandoned here in this mountain pass, and the cruel laughter of the stone giants echoed over and over again off the mountain peaks as the adventurers ran at breakneck pace down the trail.

And that was the ignoble end of Brother Guntur's story.

The rest of the journey to the dwarven citadel was generally uneventful, although at one point they were attacked by three giant hawks ("They're coming back for Simon!" someone quipped). Caryatid tangled the wings of one hawk in the strands of her magical web, and then Gulleck used his magic ring to control another hawk and fly it right into the webbed one. They left the two hawks tangled up in the inescapable sticky silk and continued on their way.

The party arrived at the dwarven citadel and spent a night there, restocking some provisions, and then left the next morning, and made good time to Trobadanz, arriving without peril three days later. Grimbo bade them farewell, and they booked rooms for the night at the Grizzled Harpy, where they had first met Grimbo at the beginning of this wilderness adventuring.

Heading down to the harbor the next day, the party made inquiries as to whether the Black Marigold was still in dock. I gave them a 1 in 4 chance that she would be, and fate was for once kind to the players, and Captain Lauren Kerr was still in town, making ready to leave in a few days. She was happy to sell the party passage on her ship, and on Monday, November 11th, the Black Marigold set sail from Trobadanz, heading west along the coast of the sea back towards Idalium. The winds were strong and favorable, and on November 15th, after a sea voyage of 450 miles, the smoking chimneys and spires of Idalium came into view, and soon they were once again in the harbor of the river that runs through the city.

Soon there would be time for returning the holy lantern to the Great Church, and for visiting the Rusty Lantern tavern to see what changes might have happened in the dungeon below Idalium in their absence. But for now, the adventurers made their way to their respective apartments and houses for a well-deserved rest. It was good to be home!