Friday, May 17, 2019

Idalium Game 100: An Unexpected Party

Session date: Monday, June 25, 2018
Game date: Dreaming as the days go by

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 71130/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 5, hp 24, xp 20046/40000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 4, hp 15, xp 8797/16000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 7764/8000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16623/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 4129/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1830/4000
Jack, Thief 3, hp 10, xp 2511/4800

The party watched with some alarm as Humpty Dumpty tumbled from his perch, fell some fifty feet, and shattered at the base of the enormous brick wall. Then they scurried over to him. It was an awful sight; enormous shards of eggshell lied tangled in clothes in a pool of thick egg white and yolk. Curiously, there were a number of smaller egg-shaped objects lying in the puddle of yolk.

"How dare you?" croaked Humpty Dumpty as they approached. "Just you wait until the King's horses and his men arrive and put me back together. Then you'll be sorry, I should think!"

Ignoring his threats, Gulleck and Simon picked the strange eggs out of Humpty's remains.

"I beg your pardon!" he squawked. "Put those back at once! Oh! I am slain!" And he breathed a last, melodramatic breath.

The adventurers had little time to examine the eggs before an enormous hue and cry was raised. A hitherto unseen yet enormous gate opened in the brick wall and dozens of blue-skinned giants stomped forth. They were accompanied by two dozen giant rhinoceroses, and all were regally arrayed in red and white heraldic dress.

The adventurers were swiftly surrounded by the giants, and one stepped forward and bellowed:

"We come on the King's business to put Humpty Dumpty back together!" Then he spotted the small eggs that Simon and Gulleck were hastily trying to stow away, and shouted, "Stop! Put back those potions of the Exalted Eggcellency which you have taken! Get from this place immediately, or we shall slay you all!"

Well, as usual, the adventurers attempted some sort of awkward parlay, which again as usual turned into insults being slung in both directions, and things went south quite quickly. Several party members decided to make themselves scarce: Simon used his levitation boots to float to the top of the wall away from the fray, Caryatid slipped on her ring of invisibility, and Jack scrambled up a tree and hid in the foliage.

The giants ordered an attack, and it was over in mere seconds. The remaining adventurers were gored by the rhinos or slashed from neck to groin by the giants' enormous axes.

Jack peeped through the leaves of the tree that he was hiding in, and saw his fellow party members sprawled on the grass. But then he realized that he saw no blood and their armor seemed undamaged. Simon descended from the sky and likewise saw that his comrades seemed curiously unharmed. Caryatid faded back into visibility as well and saw that the others were merely unconscious, and were breathing steadily.

The rest of the party members were shaken awake. They were groggy at first and could hardly believe they still lived, but indeed they found themselves unharmed. After collecting themselves, they looked around for the giants and rhinos, but instead saw a gnome, who was in the midst of rolling away one of their barrels of gold coins!

"Hey!" yelled Simon, but the gnome turned and murmured strange words and then gestured at him. A blast of dazzling colors shot from his hand, bowling Simon and Jack over, stunned by the magical lights. The gnome, cackling gleefully, rolled the barrel down the grassy field, back towards the river and the rowboat. Gulleck gave chase, but alas, she lost sight of the gnome and had to return empty-handed. But now the great gate was open and unguarded, and so the adventurers passed beyond the wall and into the forest beyond.

They had not walked long along the forest path when they came to a small wooden sign pointing further along the path and bearing the initials "M.H." Following this sign led them to a clearing, in which unfolded a very odd sight.

There was a strange house, built of all sorts of different materials (brick, wood, plaster, stone, etc.) with windows of all shapes and angles. The chimneys were shaped like rabbit ears, and the roof appeared to be thatched with brownish fur. But the oddest sight lay before the house, where a large table was set on the lawn. The white tablecloth was cluttered with teapots, platters, sugar bowls, pitchers, and many sets of teacups and saucers. There were over a dozen chairs of various mismatched types along the sides of the tables, and several strange creatures were seated at the table. There was a human wearing a tall hat and suit, a rabbit-like humanoid, and a large mouse-like creature that seemed half-asleep and drowsy. But most unexpected of all was the unmistakable visage of the Goblin King, leaning back in an ornate armchair with his boot-clad feet up on the table.

The adventurers' eyes widened as they recognized the Goblin King, as did his as they approached the table.

"No room! No room!" bellowed the Mad Hatter and the March Hare as they approached.

"Nonsense, there's plenty of room," beamed the Goblin King. "These are friends of mine. Well, now, fancy meeting you here!"

"I was about the say the same about you," said Gulleck, perplexed.

"Oh, well, you know, I'm just passing through on my way to greater things. No thanks to you," he scowled. "Oh, I'm just kidding, no hard feelings. It was a bit unsporting, though, how you didn't even give me a chance to fight back. It was all rather embarrassing, frankly!"

The two hobgoblins who had been accompanying the party spoke up at this point. "Your Majesty, we've brought you those children you asked us to guard. We were watching them like you said when the palace fell apart."

"Ah well," said the Goblin King. "It's all a bit moot now. You should probably come with me when this is all over."

He smiled again at the party. "Why don't you sit down and join us? We're celebrating, you know." And he gestured at an enormous cake, covered with frosting and candles. On the frosting was written, "Happy 100th!" [A rather serendipitous bit of fourth wall breakage here.]

The Hatter and the Hare seemed a bit put out at the way the adventurers had been invited to their table but grudgingly gestured for them to sit.

"Why is a raven like a writing desk?" asked the Hatter. While the adventurers attempted to puzzle this one out, the Hatter apparently got bored of his own question and decided to insult them instead.

"What a horrible little creature," he sniffed, looking at Norman, Adrien's giant ferret. "I think a new hat would greatly improve its appearance."

And with that he took his own hat off his head, rummaged within it, and pulled out a floppy woolen cap which he tossed onto Norman's head. In the blink of an eye, Norman stood on his hind legs, grew to six feet tall, and his fur faded away and suddenly he looked identical to Father Chase! He still had the mind of a demonic ferret, however, and when he opened his mouth, nothing but hissing and screeching came out.

The Hatter grinned with mirth and tossed another hat from his own hat onto the head of the real Father Chase (who had mysteriously reappeared alive and well at the beginning of the session). "Here, try this on for size!" This hat suddenly blossomed into an enormous sack-like object that completely engulfed Father Chase, who promptly fell over, rolling on the grass struggling to free himself from the bag that entrapped him.

The March Hare laughed hysterically, the Hatter's grin grew wider, and the sleepy Dormouse merely mumbled, "Could you keep it down, pleazzzzzz..."

"How about you, my dear?" said the Mad Hatter to Caryatid, and before she could react, a black hood landed upon her head. It too suddenly grew larger and engulfed her head, cinching tightly at her neck and constricting her breathing. Caryatid scrabbled at her throat, trying to remove the black hood.

"This feels entirely too familiar," remarked Caryatid's player dryly, still sore years later about the time Caryatid went invisible but still managed to get strangled to death by a berserk hippie.

Yet another hat landed on one of the hobgoblins, and he suddenly stood up ramrod straight and started shouting orders. "Bow down before me, little people, for I am the rightful Goblin King now! And stop this silly business with the hats at once!"

Caryatid's retainer, Jack attempted to sweet-talk the Mad Hatter into removing the hood that was quickly strangling his employer.

"I get it, you like a laugh, I like a laugh, we all like a laugh. But she's much funnier if she's still alive. I'm sure you have an even funnier hat in there that would look better on her."

Well, Caryatid's player rolled really well on a reaction check to see how Jack's attempt went over, so the Hatter paused and considered.

"You do have a point," he said, and whipped the hood off of Caryatid, only to slap a jester's cap on her head. She immediately began to caper and dance, the bells on the cap jingling, and many of the people at the table found themselves doubling over with laughter that seemed to erupt uncontrollably from them.

Orin could feel the situation spiralling out of control, and attempted to cast a Sleep spell on the Hatter, but this didn't work at all. Winking at him, the Mad Hatter leaned over and slapped a hat on the head of the Goblin King, who was busy arguing with his subject over who the true Goblin King was. This turned out to be the same kind of hat of delusional authority that the hobgoblin was wearing, so the argument only redoubled in volume.

"I dare say you'll listen to me now!" exclaimed the Goblin King. "You may believe yourself to be the rightful Goblin King following my untimely death, but I am now the Immortal God Emperor of All Goblins! What do you have to say about that, eh? Ehhhhh!?"

"Quiet, please, some of us are trying to sleep..." murmured the Dormouse, who had his head in the teapot. And the March Hare was simply whooping and hollering with hysterical laughter at the rapidly degenerating scene.

In all the confusion, the adventurers slipped away into the woods to the east of the clearing. Jack pulled the jester's cap off of Caryatid's head and she stopped dancing uncontrollably. I honestly think Father Chase was just left behind again, wriggling helplessly on the ground like a giant cloth caterpillar. (Remarkably similar to his sad fate the prior session!)

The noise of the tea party faded behind them as they moved through the woods. They had not gone very far when they heard the whinny of a horse, and they saw before them an enormous figure mounted on an equally enormous horse. Both man and horse were clad in reddish gold armor. A huge helmet shaped like a horse's head covered the man's head, and from it boomed a hollow voice.

"Do you serve Whitfield or Rosewood? Speak quickly or prepare to withstand my onslaught!"

"Uhhhh... Whitwood!" chirped Caryatid. "I mean, Rosefield!"

The red knight stared down at her in puzzlement. "Speak plainly, wench! Whom do you serve!"

"Rosefield! Er, Whitwood!" protested Caryatid.

"I grow tired of your foolish larks," boomed the knight, and he moved to draw his sword.

Caryatid drew forth the jingling jester's cap and put it on her head. She immediately began to dance a jig, with Marcel the flying monkey dancing along in midair beside her. The red knight stared for a moment, and then began to shake with laughter that boomed out from deep within his armor.

Suddenly, another knight on another horse, both clad in silvery-white armor, came crashing out of the trees and an immense club came smashing down upon the red knight, knocking him off his horse and he lay still on the ground. Gulleck removed the jester's cap from Caryatid and she stopped dancing.

"My lords and ladies," boomed the white knight. "Allow me to see you safe to the end of the wood. There you shall find the manor house in the Eighth Square and you shall be crowned kings and queens of the realm." The adventurers accepted this assistance, and the knight escorted them along the forest path until they emerged to see an elegant house on a small hill. There were livery-clad servants bustling around near the grand doors and signs of much activity within.

As the group approached, they were met by two attractive, regally-adorned women, arrayed in robes of red and of white, respectively, and each wore a gold coronet.

"You have achieved a great triumph in reaching the Eighth Square," said one of the queens. "Join us in the Great Feast Hall for a party in your honor."

Entering the hall, the adventurers found an enormous table set with all sorts of foods and seated at the table were creatures of all sorts. The adventurers were bestowed with golden crowns and given the place of highest honor at the feast table.

Well, the crowns, it turns out were "crowns of delusion" causing the wearers to believe completely in the complex illusion of the feast hall. I gave them all a save vs spells (which I'm not even sure is allowed in the original module) and EVERYONE FAILED! So...

The great feast began, wine was poured, song and poems were recited. The roast joint and a large plum pudding were served. Gulleck and Adrien carved the roast joint (which turned out to be a mimic), and Caryatid and Simon cut the plum pudding (which turned out to be a black pudding), and then all hell broke loose. The adventurers were attacked by all of the "guests" at the party, but because of the delusionary crowns they believed the attacked to be merely the loving touches and kisses from the admiring crowd. They never even realized they were under threat and then they were all dead.

TOTAL PARTY KILL.

Well, not really.

The adventurers awoke on the cold stone floor of a bedroom with stone walls and ceilings. There was a heavy layer of dust everywhere, and cobwebs hung in the corners. A rather gaudy four-poster bed was now moth-eaten and dusty. Scattered on various pieces of elegant furniture were what looked like pieces of "memorabilia" from the dungeon below Idalium: a Hotel Lethia room key, a handful of fake gold from the knockers in the mines, a book of naughty drawings from the Temple of Hedonism, etc. They found a small potion vial labeled "Drink Me" and a dried up cake with "Eat Me" spelled out in nuts. On one wall, a floor to ceiling mirror reflected a weirdly different version of this room, with ivy and vines encroaching the walls, and strange twinkly lights like fireflies drifting around. They puzzled at this mirror, but found no way to pass through it (nor did they want to at this point).

They exited the bedroom and walked down a hall to find themselves in the very room in which they had slain the Goblin King. Here as well, everything was dusty and cobwebbed, and the once elegant furniture was now shabby and threadbare. It seemed that the Goblin Palace had been abandoned for years if not decades. How long had they been gone? They suddenly noticed they were all feeling extremely hungry.

They made their way back to the goblins' treasure vault and found it as they had left it, except that the five barrels of coins were back in the vault as if they had never removed them! An eerie magical twinkling still shimmered around the threshold of the door to the vault. I don't know whether they forgot that they knew the password to deactivate the magic, or if Gulleck was just feeling extra confident in her saving throws, but she just walked into the vault, resisting the magical force that threatened to transform her very being. She pushed the barrels back across the threshold and then walked right back out, successfully resisting the magic once more.

It was somewhat slow going, but they eventually found their way back to the entrance, rolling the barrels along in front of them. The palace halls were no longer lit by torches, but were now dark apart from Simon's magical sword light. Everything was cobwebbed and dusty. The arrow-studded and burnt stuffed ostrich was looking a bit worse for the wear, but they left it behind and passed out of the palace. In the guardroom, the heavy guestbook still lay open, and Caryatid took up her pen and wrote, "The Proper Authorities were here. This place is closed and condemned."

They carefully maneuvered the barrels through the caverns and eventually found their way back to the worked stone of the dungeon halls. Then they escorted the four urchin children back to the urchins' secret hideout in the center of the level. The rest of the urchins were overjoyed to see their friends back after months and months, and even more overjoyed when the adventurers offered them one of the barrels of gold.

And then the party made their way back out of the dungeon. Getting the barrels up the stairs was somewhat difficult, but they eventually made it back to the Rusty Lantern. The guards at the trap door were shocked when they heard the adventurers call up from below to have the rope ladder lowered and the barrels hoisted up. It turned out that they had been missing for almost three months and everyone assumed they had all perished in the dungeon. We joked about how the PCs had all been evicted from their apartments and had to retrieve all their stuff from their various friends (mostly we handwave the PCs' "normal lives" and treat the city as a safe home base but it is fun to joke about it).

The treasure haul from the Goblin King was significant, over 8,000 gold pieces worth of coins and various art objects. Adrien went up to level 4 and Caryatid now had enough XP for level 5, and so 3rd level magic spells are now at her disposal.

"What spell are you going to learn?"

Caryatid's player, doing her best Pitbull impression: "FIREBALL."

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Idalium Game 99: And Shun the Frumious Bandersnatch

Session date: Monday, June 11, 2018
Game date: Dreaming as the days go by

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 71030/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 19946/20000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16573/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 4129/6000

Gulleck, Caryatid, and their retainers found themselves walking on their own through the woods, Simon and Adrien strangely absent. Perhaps they had remained back with T. Diumm and T. Deeous? The dark trail led east through the forest for about 500 feet before splitting into three separate trails. The strange twin brothers had told them the crow had flown east, so after considering the three paths, the group decided to continue on the one that more or less continued to the east. They passed several more branches of the trail but continued on what seemed to be the main trail until they reached an open clearing a few hundred feet across. The grassy ground was littered with enormous feathers in many colors: black, yellow, green, red, and blue. As the adventurers looked around the clearing in search of the giant crow or its nest, a hideous shrieking and squawking came from the trees on the periphery of the clearing. An enormous and bizarre bird emerged from the woods. It was over 9 feet tall and brightly colored like a macaw (not that any of the PCs would recognize a macaw!).

"AAAAAWK! WANNA SNACKER! JUBJUB!" the bird squawked as it flapped towards the adventurers. Caryatid made to cast a spell at it but it gave her a sideways glance. "AAAAWK! TAKE A KNEE! JUBJUB!" Caryatid found that her legs moved against her will and she was forced to bow to the ground.

The beast descended upon Meat and battered him with claws and beak, but Meat drew his sword and slashed the bird viciously across the breast, knocking it off him. It recovered and flapped back into the air, readying for another strike.

Gulleck drew her axe and ran forward to meet the Jubjub bird as it descended, but as it flew down for another attack on Meat, it rudely shrieked at her, "AAAAAWK! SIT AND SPIN! JUBJUB!" And Gulleck found her charge interrupted as she stumbled to a half and staggered dizzily.

Meat struggled with the bird as it tore at him with its talons. Gulleck soon recovered her composure and charged the bird, embedding her magical axe into its lower back. It shrieked and fell out of the air and was still. Meat stumbled back, nursing his wounds. Caryatid wanted a trophy from this rude and horrible bird, so she walked up to it to pluck a feather from it. Sadly, however, it transpired that the beast was merely feigning death, and as Caryatid approached it lunged at her and bit her savagely in the side. Caryatid fell to the ground with exactly 0 hit points!

Father Chase hit the bird with his staff of withered wood but nothing seemed to happen. Gulleck attempted to jump on the back of the bird and ride it, but rolled a 1 and managed to leap over it and faceplant on the ground. The bird in turn half ran, half flew shrieking into the woods to the west. Father Chase murmured a healing prayer over Caryatid's wounds and she regained consciousness and staggered to her feet.

Collecting themselves, the adventurers attempted to track the wounded Jubjub bird into the woods. It was relatively easy to do so, as being so large it had broken many branches as it tore through the trees. Varicolored feathers lay scattered on the forest floor. Soon they emerged into another clearing, where the wounded bird stood hunched. When it saw the group it raised an unnerving keening that echoed off the trees that surrounded the clearing. The adventurers ran forward to attack the bird, but suddenly there was a flapping of wings and the clearing was momentarily shadowed by something huge that blocked the sun like a cloud. They looked up to see an enormous black crow, much bigger than the Jubjub bird, descending upon them, talons outstretched.

Caryatid had the clever idea to scare away the crow with a Phantasmal Force spell in the form of a red dragon (which she had seen on their expedition into the mountains over a year ago). She began to cast the spell but the crow slammed into her, knocking her down and disrupting the spell. The rest of the party fell upon the enormous beast, hacking at it with swords and axes. Gulleck hit it for 10 hp, and then Caryatid, still sitting on the grass, cast Magic Missile and rolled the Big Green d30 to do 15 points of damage! Gulleck also rolled the d30 on her next attack and hit for 25, finishing the giant crow off.

Then they turned their attention to the limping Jubjub bird, which glared at Gulleck and shrieked, "AAAAAWK! DO A LITTLE DANCE!" But Gulleck resisted the bird's magic control this time, and then Meat ran over and stabbed it over and over again, making absolutely sure it was dead.

While the adventurers were catching their breaths, who should come huffing and puffing into the clearing but the brothers T. Diumm and T. Deeous! They had seen the giant crow flying over their cottage and heard the sounds of battle. They were delighted to see that their feared nemesis had been slain, and rewarded the party with an unusual magical device that they called a "buckler wand". It was a wooden wand with a sharp metal point on one end and a curved handle on the other end. Heavy pleated canvas was attached to a metal and wooden frame, and when a trigger on the handle was pulled, the canvas snapped open to create a unexpectedly rigid shield about two feet in diameter. Caryatid's pet monkey was the recipient of this clever device.

The brothers asked if the adventurers had found their sword and bag yet. Learning that they had not, they suggested that perhaps the crow had taken them to the Jubjub bird and might be in its nest. The party bid the brothers farewell and returned to the clearing where they had first encountered the Jubjub bird. A bit of exploring and its nest was discovered, a tatty heap of sticks and leaves. Inside the nest was the red bag that T. Diumm had described, and it contained a golden ring, a fishing net, and a couple of embroidered silk cushions. They stowed these safely away and then headed southwest along another trail in search of the sword.

This trail wound through the forest and eventually emerged into another clearing several hundred feet across. This clearing was dotted with a number a strange earthen mounds, each a few feet high and shaped something like the shell of a turtle. The adventurers made their way to the closest mound and saw that there was a sort of burrow leading below it. Before they could explore further, a bizarre and terrible creature emerged from behind one of the other mounds. It was vaguely insect-like, with six pairs of legs, and was perhaps eight feet long. Its head, however, was not like that of an insect, but rather simian in appearance. Sharp teeth glinted as it opened its mouth and spoke with a sibilant, hissing voice.

"Whhhhat have we here?? Isss it lunch?"

"No, I don't think so," said Caryatid. "We're looking for a very special sword. Have you seen it?"

There was a suspicious pause.

"Whoooo wants to know? It'ssss mine."

"Oh, we're, ah, sword inspectors, just doing a census of local magical swords. Can we see your sword? To see if it's the very special one we're looking for?"

"No, it'sss mine. It'sss none of your businessss."

"Oh, well, it's probably not the sword we're looking for anyway," said Gulleck. "I'm sure your sword isn't special at all. Probably just some ordinary sword and not interesting at all."

"You inssssolent creatures! I'll show you it'sss special!" And the strange centipede-like beast rummaged within one of the mounds and pulled out a vicious looking longsword.

"You sssee! But it'sss mine. I stole it from the Jubjub bird fair and sssquare!"

"Oh did you?" said Caryatid. "But we killed the Jubjub bird. So logically that makes it ours now, doesn't it?"

The eyes of the creature narrowed. "I think that makessss you lunch," it snarled, and then it pounced on Father Chase, who fell beneath a horrible flurry of claws and fangs. He screamed and gurgled and then was silent. The creature grabbed him with several legs and held him fast while it exuded an awful sort of silk that bound Father Chase's corpse in bands of webs.

"Father Chase has been snatched and banded," I deadpanned. (Gary Gygax's lame joke straight from the module, not mine!)

"What did you just say?" asked Gulleck's player and then everyone groaned as the penny dropped.

Well, they all leaped into battle with the creature. Meat was also "snatched and banded", although unlike Father Chase he survived the ordeal. He struggled but could not free himself from the cocoon of silk. Caryatid tried to cast a Sleep spell but it had no effect on the bandersnatch whatsoever. But then Gulleck dove to the ground to retrieve the magical sword they had tricked the bandersnatch into showing them.

As soon as her hand closed on the hilt she felt a powerful mental presence emanating from the sword and overwhelming her own mind. A voice shouted out from the sword.

"Snicker-snack! Snicker-snack! I'll cut off your heads if you don't take me back!"

Gulleck could barely manage to speak, such was the overwhelming dominance of the sword within her mind, but she managed to make out, "That what we plan to do, but right now can you help us deal with this horrible abomination?"

Gulleck's arm darted forward without her volition, dragging her stumbling towards the bandersnatch, and the sword flashed upwards and then down at the beast.

Gulleck's player rolled a 19, which for a vorpal sword means an instant kill.

"SNICKER-SNACK!" The bandersnatch's head rolled across the meadow.

"Now take me back to my master," commanded the sword.

"We will," said Gulleck, "but first... hey, you got a name?"

"I am Laprov," said the sword.

"Of course you are," said Gulleck's player, realizing the joke.

"My purpose is to help my master smite chaos in all its forms, and you are wasting time. Return me to him now."

"We'll take you back, but we need to free our employee first." She nodded at Meat. "He can help bring you back faster, if we run into any trouble."

"Very well, but be quick about it. I tire of this conversation already."

So Meat was freed from the webbing, and Father Chase was sadly left behind as the group headed back to the north. They passed a little stream and what looked like a small shop on the bank, but the sword tugged Gulleck's arm to the northeast and dragged her towards the cottage of T. Diumm and T. Deeous.

When they arrived at the house, they were surprised to find two hobgoblins arguing with T. Diumm and T. Deeous. Next to the hobgoblins were four scruffy urchins, looking around with alarm and confusion.

"It's not our fault we're here! We were just assigned to watch these annoying children and then everything went crazy. Something must have happened to the King."

"Oh, it's the children!" piped Caryatid. "You can come with us!"

The hobgoblins turned to look at the adventurers.

"Well, you can have the brats, but you need to get us out of here as well. I'm sure this is all your fault."

T. Deeous was delighted to have his magic sword back, and Gulleck was rather glad to get rid of it. They also returned T. Diumm's red bag of things. And then the now larger group headed back to the banks of the stream to investigate the shop. The hobgoblins grumbled as they went, but wanted to tag along in hopes of returning to their own world.

The shop turned out to be full of all sorts of interesting things on shelves, but whenever they tried to focus on a particular item, it always seemed to be on the next shelf over. The shopkeeper, an oddly sheep-like woman, watched them with wry amusement.

"May I help you?"

"Well, do you have any maps?"

The woman reached behind the counter and pulled out a map of an unfamiliar land, labeled "Scotland".

"I actually meant a map of this area we're in right now."

"I'm afraid not, my dear."

They couldn't find anything useful in the shop, so they left and started walking downstream along the brook. Soon they came upon a large rowboat. Everyone piled in and the hobgoblins were persuaded to row ("Look, we'll do the fighting and you do the manual labor, all right?"). They traveled some ways between banks lined with rushes and eventually came to another grassy shore, where they pulled the boat up and disembarked. They were in another grassy field that led east, but very soon they came to an enormous brick wall, at least 50 feet high, and spanning the entire width of the meadow, over 100 yards. Atop the wall, peering down at them, was an enormous egg, but with arms, legs, and a haughty face!

"That's the biggest egg I've ever seen," cried Meat.

"It's very provoking," shouted Humpty Dumpty, "to be called an egg!"

Like everyone else in this land, Humpty Dumpty was gratuitously rude to them. He told them the "way out" was to the east, beyond the wall, but would he let them pass? Absolutely not.

Well, to make a long story short, Caryatid sent Marcel the flying capuchin monkey up to Humpty Dumpty, and Marcel gave him a big shove, causing him to lose his balance and topple forward, falling fifty feet and shattering into a jumbled pile of broken eggshell at the base of the wall. I think everyone felt a little guilty about that.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Idalium Game 98: T. Diumm and T. Deeous

Session date: Monday, June 4, 2018
Game date: Dreaming as the days go by

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70930/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 19846/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 4, hp 15, xp 8697/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 7664/8000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16523/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 4079/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1780/4000
Jack, Thief 3, hp 10, xp 2461/4800

"You have done well to get this far, travelers. Now you must face your final challenge. Defeat me in mortal combat and you will be victors of the game. But be forewarned, I do not intend to die easily."

So spoke the lamia that was the white queen of this strange chess game, the sun gleaming on her silver crown and chainmail. The adventurers felt oddly refreshed and unhurt, although they also noticed that Orehoe was again absent from their party without anyone having noticed her leave.

The battle began, and immediately turned ugly. The lamia cast an uncomfortable gaze upon Gulleck, and with a smirk said, "Come stand beside me and defend me, my dear." Gulleck totally failed her saving throw and her face went blank as she turned to face her own comrades, her magical axe glinting in the sun. And then everyone managed to roll 1s on their attacks, dropping their weapons and tripping over their own feet all over the place. The lamia's longsword slashed through the air while the adventurers scrambled to retrieve their weapons. Jack leaped up to a low hanging tree branch and scampered into the cover of the foliage.

The battle was a bit dicey without Gulleck, but Adrien managed to deal some substantial damage with the Goblin King's scintillating "disco sword", and Orin finished off the lamia with a well-placed arrow.

"Well fought," she acknowledged through gritted teeth. She slumped to the forest floor, and her body was engulfed in a cloud of smoke. When it cleared, all that remained was her silver crown and the ermine-lined cloak she had been wearing. This latter item proved to give a remarkable feeling of security and protection when worn, and pleased with their victory spoils, the group proceeded to the south, out of the strange chessboard landscape.

An obvious trail led through the dense woods to the south and quickly turned to the left. Every couple of hundred feet or so, there was a signpost with two painted boards, one labeled "T. Diumm" and the other marked "T. Deeous". Both signs pointed in the same direction however, and continued to do so with each signpost. Soon they emerged into a wide clearing in the woods, where a little cottage stood beneath an immense tree. One last signpost pointed at this cottage, and in front of it stood two bizarre men, as still as waxworks. They were short and plump, and wore nearly identical outfits of short breeches and grubby shirts. They stared back at the party with a haughty gaze.

Gulleck chanced a word. "Pardon me, gentlemen, but..."

"Who do you suppose this rag-tag lot is?" interrupted the man on the left, looking at his twin.

"Haven't the foggiest, old chum. Mayhap they'll bugger off."

"Now, just a..." tried Gulleck.

"Shall we speak to them?" interrupted the first man, still ignoring Gulleck.

"Only if we must... they do appear a stupid lot!"

"Now there's no need to be ru..." ventured Gulleck.

"WHY DON'T YOU GO BOTHER THE WALRUS AND THE CARPENTER?" shouted the two men in unison, drowning out Gulleck. Both of them shot an arm up, pointing down a forest trail that left the clearing to the northeast.

"Fine with us," said Simon. "Let's not waste our time with these jerks."

"Rude!" chided Gulleck as the party left the two men alone in the clearing and headed down the trail.

As they walked through the woods, they began to hear the familiar sound of ocean waves on a shore, and the smell of the sea became noticeable in the air. Soon they emerged from the woods onto a wide sandy beach. Ahead of them, the sea glittered brightly in the sunlight, stretching out to the horizon. Walking along the shore were a pair of strange creatures. One looked like a walrus (not that any of the adventurers knew what a walrus looked like!) that walked upright on its stubby, flipper-like feet! Walking next to him was a man dressed in denim overalls. The pair spotted the party, and began waving and calling to them to come down to the shore, seeming very friendly.

The adventurers made their way down to join the odd creatures on the beach. The pair were effusively friendly in their greeting.

"Welcome, friends! Are you travelers who have lost your way, or are you perhaps come to seek treasure from the sea?"

"Well," considered Gulleck, "a bit of both, to tell you the truth. We're not at all sure how we got here. But we are always interested in treasure."

The Walrus and the Carpenter exchanged glances with a smile.

"Well then," said the Walrus in a rich, plummy voice. "I wonder if you'd be interested in helping us settle a grudge, and earning yourself a nice reward in the process?"

"You see," explained the Carpenter, "my friend and I were diving for oysters in this very sea, and some senile old wizard showed up and told us they are *his* oyster beds! Cursed us, didn't he?"

"And now the merest touch of ocean water is unbearable to us," mourned the Walrus, a large tear rolling down his whiskery cheek.

"It's not even like he was using them!" blurted the Carpenter. "So if you'd be willing to head out there and bring us back some oysters, we could all have a nice lunch and get back at him all at once! And some of the oysters have pearls inside then, you know."

"You'd be welcome to keep any pearls you find," offered the Walrus.

"Well, we wouldn't be averse to one or two ourselves, if you could find it in your heart to share," said the Carpenter.

"What about this wizard?" asked Simon. "Won't he curse us?"

"Oh no," said the Carpenter. "He up and left. That's the worst part: cursed us and took off on holiday!"

So the party agreed to swim out and fetch some oysters and were offered the use of a weathered but sturdy rowboat. Caryatid decided it was such a nice day that she decided to simply swim out into the bay by herself, after leaving her backpack and boots on the beach. Some distance from the shore, she peered into the water and could see that the ocean bed beneath her was littered with oysters in various sizes, from ordinary to almost a foot across. The seabed seemed to form a sort of underwater ridge, and the larger oysters seemed more numerous deeper down. She called back to shore, and Marcel her flying monkey was sent out to her carrying a burlap sack.

Caryatid held her breath and dived down to the field of oysters, opening her eyes as much as she could underwater and reaching for any oyster she could grab. Her hand closed on a shell, and she rose back to the surface, handing the oyster to Marcel. She dove several more times, returning with a large oyster and then a giant oyster. At this point Marcel's bag was full, and they returned to the shore. The oysters were pried open and the largest one contained an enormous pearl! This roused everyone's interest and they discussed ways to make this more efficient.

The Walrus and the Carpenter offered the use of a weathered but sturdy rowboat that was beached some ways up the shore. Gulleck removed her armor and she, Caryatid, and Orin took the rowboat out, bringing with them several ropes that were attached to sacks filled with sand from the beach. When they got to the oyster field, the boat was maneuvered above the deeper portion of the ridge, where the largest oysters were most numerous. The ropes were tied to the boat and the other ends with the sandbags were dropped down into the water. Orin stayed in the rowboat to make sure it didn't drift and that the ropes didn't come loose. Gulleck and Caryatid entered the water, held their breaths, and descended, using the ropes to pull themselves down as far as they could go, groping with their hands in the dim and blurry water for the largest oysters they could find. They surfaced with their oysters and Orin helped heave them into the rowboat.

Twice more they repeated this, bringing back more giant oysters, but on the fourth dive Gulleck was feeling along the ridge for an oyster when suddenly an enormous clam opened its shell and clapped shut on her leg! Gulleck thrashed in the water, trying to pull her foot free. Caryatid, somewhat higher on her rope, heard the bubbles and disturbance of the water, and looked down through the water to see Gulleck struggling some depth below. She quickly shot back to the surface of the ocean, and held on to the rowboat with one hand while using the other hand to trace the mystical sigils of the Magic Missile spell. A glowing golden arrow appeared at her shoulder and she ducked her head back underwater, peering through the gloom for the clam in order to let the arrow fly. It shot down into the water, leaving a trail of golden light behind it and the clam rocked with the impact. Meanwhile, Gulleck (rapidly running out of air) took the direct approach and punched the clam inside its shell with her Gauntlets of Ogre Strength. The clam's grip on her foot immediately loosened and she was free. Gulleck pulled the giant clam up from the sea bed and soared back up to the rowboat, gasping for breath when she broke the surface.

The trio returned to the shore, to the applause of the Walrus and the Carpenter, who had been busy started a small cooking fire on the beach and boiling some ocean water in an iron pot. The oysters were pried open, and two more large pearls were obtained. Then they all had a lovely lunchtime feast of boiled oyster and clam meat. There was bread and butter, pepper, and vinegar, and everyone enjoyed the feast.

When everyone had eaten their fill, the adventurers asked the Walrus and the Carpenter if they knew of any way out of this strange land.

"Hmm," mused the Walrus. "You should probably seek out the Red and White Queens, at the Manor House beyond the woods." And so the party bid their farewells to this odd pair, and headed back into the woods.

[DM's note: I'm not quite sure the whole diving sequence was remotely plausible. I've been snorkeling before and found it quite difficult to dive any distance, even with fins and mask, and of course opening one's eyes in ocean water seems like it would be quite difficult too. Still, I would rather err on the side of an entertaining set piece rather than ruling that it's flat-out impossible, and besides, we *were* in a surreal dreamland here.

It turns out the Carpenter (actually a high level thief) easily pickpocketed the pearls away from the adventurers during their picnic, replacing them with a bag of ordinary pebbles, but as luck would have it the players never thought to check on their pearls afterwards and never noticed the substitution!]

The adventurers returned to the cottage of T. Diumm and T. Deeous, and the twins were still standing outside where they had left them.

"Oh, it's you again," said T. Diumm, much more friendly than before.

"How do you do?" nodded T. Deeous. "Any chance you're here to get our treasure back? Might be a reward in it for you!"

He went on to explain that a hideous giant crow had stolen his favorite sword and a red bag with some of his brother's belongings, and flown east into the Tulgey Wood. The group agreed to retrieve the items, especially since they apparently needed to pass through the woods anyway.

"Oh jolly good! But, beware the Jubjub bird, and shun the frumious Bandersnatch!" warned T. Diumm.

"The what?" asked Gulleck.

"Oh, you don't want to tangle with them. Nohow!" said T. Deeous.

"Contrariwise, if you do, just make sure you survive!" advised T. Diumm.

And the adventurers turned away from the strange brothers and headed east into the dark Tulgey Wood.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Idalium Game 97: The Garden of Live Flowers

Session date: Monday, May 14, 2018
Game date: Dreaming as the days go by

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70930/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 19846/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 4, hp 15, xp 8697/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 7664/8000
Orehoe Hüfflestüff, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 1177/4000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16523/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 4079/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1780/4000
Jack, Thief 3, hp 10, xp 2461/4800

The adventurers stood blinking in the unexpected daylight. Something very strange had happened indeed. Having slain the Goblin King, and fled the mazelike corridors of his palace, they now found themselves not in the subterranean caverns below Idalium, but outside on a neatly manicured lawn. And somehow, Orehoe was with them, as if she had been there all along, although everyone was sure she had not. The grass rolled gently to what they decided to call the east, for lack of any other orientation, where a well-tended flower garden was laid out. Something seemed odd about the perspective of the garden, as if it were either much closer than it seemed or perhaps the flowers were much larger than they ought to be. As they walked across the lawn towards the garden, rolling their plundered barrels of coins in front of them, it turned out to be the latter case.

Tidy gravel paths were laid out in orderly rings between neatly-trimmed hedges, and in the center of the formal garden the paths came together where four flower beds contained a number of enormous flowers, taller than any of the party members. Upon closer examination, the adventurers saw that the petals of the flowers gleamed as though made of mother-of-pearl. In the center of the blooms, enormous gemstones glittered and sparkled in the sunlight. The leaves below the blossoms likewise glittered as though gilded with gold and silver. Even in these bizarre circumstances, the adventurers could not help but have their attention drawn to potential treasure.

Suddenly, one of the flowers (a tiger-lily) twisted on its stem to turn towards the group.

"Ugh, what are you doing in OUR garden? And what sort of horrid flowers are you, with your dull petals and drab leaves? Ugh, so wretched!"

"Oh, and they smell terrible, too!" a rose chimed in. "They must be some sort of stinkweed! Or skunk cabbage perhaps?"

Gulleck tried to ignore the abuse and talk politely with the flowers, trying to ascertain where they had found themselves. But the flowers were impertinent and seemed to stubbornly refuse any sort of proper conversation, continuing to heap abuse on the adventures while the rest of the flowers sent up a continuous stream of shrill giggles and cackles.

"Why don't you just leave, already! Oh, you'd better not be thinking of planting yourselves here in OUR beds!"

"Oh no!" wailed a violet. "I'd sooner be plucked than have to share a bed with that pale sickly flower! Look at that dreadful little weed!" It looked pointedly at Orin as it said this.

Orin had by now had enough, and cast a Sleep spell on the irritating flowers. Three of them stopped giggling, and their blossoms drooped down.

"What!? How dare you!" shrieked the tiger-lily. "Help! Help!" A cacophony of shrieks and rude noises erupted from the flowers. Moments later, a loud, low buzzing filled the area, and an enormous bumblebee bobbled through the air into the group. Before he could react, the bumblebee stung Orin in the arm and he fell to the ground, at first writhing in pain and then still and silent. The others drew weapons and attacked the bumblebee, but as they did another bumblebee clumsily flew in from behind a hedge. Gulleck and Simon were attacked by the bees but fortunately dodged both stingers, and quickly enough the party dispatched the two bumblebees.

Orin was down to exactly 0 hit points, so I let his player make a 1d4-1 roll to see recover hit points during this lull in the combat. It turns out Orin had only briefly passed out due to shock and he grimly pulled himself to his feet, just as another bumblebee arrived, along with three enormous ants, each about three feet in length. Gulleck killed the bee,  and Adrien injured one of the ants, but then yet another bumblebee and another three ants came in from the other side of the garden. This was clearly an untenable fight, and one that they hadn't really wanted in the first place, so they decided to run. As a parting shot, Gulleck swung her axe and hacked off a glittering leaf from the violet ("Oh how dare you! You awful, terrible, disgusting creature!") and then they all ran off to the south. Orehoe was overtaken by an ant and savagely bitten in the ankle, bringing her down to exactly 0 hit points, but Father Chase was quick to heal her with his sacred staff of healing, and they all ran away, pursued by giant ants and bumblebees. There were a few more ant bites, but none that prevented their escape, and the insects stopped pursuing them when they reached the edge of the formal garden. As they ran south across the grass, they could hear the howling laughter of the giant flowers growing fainter behind them.

Now they found themselves at the top of a hill overlooking a great expanse of countryside. There were a number of tiny little brooks running straight across it from side to side, and the ground between was divided up into squares by a number of little green hedges, that reached from brook to brook. The squares seemed to alternate between open fields and dense wooded thickets in a way that gave the impression of an enormous green chessboard. A path led down the hill in front of them, zigzagging back and forth in switchbacks, and the party began to descend, but in the strangest way all their walking did not seem to advance them down the path at all. Something very strange was going on. Simon tried walking backwards but that only looked silly. Gulleck tried to leap down to where the path zigzagged back below them, but try as she might all she could manage was to jump in place. They tried running and that seemed to move them a little, albeit very slowly, and eventually they tried running as fast as they absolutely could. The world seemed to blur around them and when they stopped running they found that they were at the bottom of the hill, not far from the first little brook that marked the boundary of the great chessboard landscape.

The party crossed the brook, and made their way across the first open field without event. Then they stepped over another brook and entered a dark thicket. Midway through the woods, they encountered a creature whose lower half was a horse, clad in full barding, painted red, and whose upper half was a man, likewise clad in red plate armor and helmet.

"Halt, strangers!" commanded the centaur. "You are hereby challenged to mortal combat. Fight me, or return the way you came. Make your choice now."

Well, they figured there were nine of them and only one of him, so retreating didn't seem like a serious option. Gulleck hefted her axe and stepped towards the centaur, when he reared up on his hind legs, whinnied, and leapt right over Gulleck, kicking her in the back before she could react. That was momentarily impressive, but then Adrien and Simon stabbed the centaur and he collapsed to the ground.

"Well fought, friends. You may proceed." And he disappeared in a sudden cloud of white smoke.

They moved on, emerging from the woods and crossing a stream into an open meadow, where they confronted a squat dwarf-like man in red chain mail, who issued a similar challenge and was dealt with almost as swiftly. He too vanished in a puff in smoke when vanquished. They crossed through another wooded square and another open field, where they fought another squat fighter, this one in gleaming white chain mail. In the wooded copse in the next square, they were picking their way through a swampy wet area when suddenly a mass of semi-decayed leaves and unidentifiable vegetative sludge rose from the bog. It seemed to be wearing a silver crown on its amorphous head.

"Turn back," it hissed, "turn back or perish."

And Gulleck attacked, slicing into the vines that made up its torso. The strange decaying mound swung a foul-smelling arm at Gulleck and it slammed into her, and then it did the same with the other arm. Gulleck found herself embraced by the horrible rotting creature, pulled deeper into its chest as vines entwined and entangled her.

This was potentially a bad situation for Gulleck, but she resisted the suffocating embrace and managed to break free of the vines that held her. She took a few steps back and recovered her composure, while Simon shot an arrow into the monster, and then Gulleck's axe cut deep into it, and it slumped back into the bog beneath dissipating into a cloud of white mist.

The adventurers moved on, across another open field and into one more copse of trees. This time they were confronted by a very strange creature, somewhat like the centaur. This one had the upper half of a woman, wearing silver chainmail and a crown, but her lower portion was a bizarre hybrid of a goat and a lion.

"You have done well to get this far, travelers. Now you must face your final challenge. Defeat me in mortal combat and you will be victors of the game. But be forewarned, I do not intend to die easily."

And that is where we had to stop for the evening!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Idalium Game 96: The Death of the Goblin King

Session date: Monday, April 9, 2018
Game date: Saturday, May 22, 210

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70250/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18996/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 7804/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 6814/8000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16098/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3633/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1355/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 2015/2400

The party came together once again, with an eye to finally ridding the underworld of the Goblin King. Adrien purchased shortbows for herself and her retainer Jack, after several awkward combats in which she yet again realized she had forgotten to ever acquire one. Orin wrote out another Sleep scroll. Adrien fed Norman the giant weasel another serving of blood from her bruised and constantly bandaged hand.

They descended into the ruins of Idalium and made quick time to the second level, passing swiftly through the dungeon and into the caverns that led to the Goblin Palace. Curiously, the big double doors were unbarred, and the guardroom within seemed empty and still. The doors leading deeper into the palace stood open. The adventurers cautiously moved into the room and towards the inner doors. Suddenly, there was a whoosh of wind, and three small daggers clattered across the stone floor. A fourth dagger embedded itself in Jack's arm! Something in the air seemed to rush through the inner doors and down the hallway, an eerie tinkling of bells lingering after them.

Unsure of what had just ambushed them, Gulleck and Simon nervously led the party into the hall. The normally brightly-lit hallway was dark now, the torches in the wall sconces all cold. Caryatid lit a torch and began to light the wall torches as she passed them, in order to mark where they had been. Likewise, Gulleck drew forth a stick of chalk and began periodically marking the walls. When they got to the intersection with the large stuffed flightless bird (still pincushioned with arrows), Simon pulled out a ball of twine and tied one end to the bird and started unwinding the ball as they moved on. But Caryatid decided to really leave her mark on this intersection, and set the bird on fire. The dessicated stuffed bird quickly went up in flames, and acrid smoke filled the hall.

This triggered an immediate wandering monsters check, which came up as "yes" but turned out to be a small posse of intrepid dungeon urchins sneaking into the palace in search of their kidnapped friends. This was cause for some guilty grimaces from some of the players, as they've known about the abducted urchins for literally months and months but have never quite managed to do anything about it. But now Gulleck assured the urchins that the adventurers were taking care of it and this was no place for children and they would keep an eye out for their friends, and the adventurers hurriedly ushered the urchins back out the front door.

Returning to the hallway and the smoldering remains of the stuffed ostrich, the group made their way to an empty kitchen and beyond that to the great banquet hall where they had fought the big battle in the last session. The hall was now deserted, and a long sideboard table had been pushed up against the main entrance doors that they had come through last time. They pulled the table aside in case they needed to beat a hasty retreat, and then moved on, deeper into the palace. They came to a locked door, decided that the direct approach was the simplest, and Gulleck began to systematically swing her magical axe into the door. Wood splintered and split, and the thumps of the axe echoed through the halls. This drew the attention of a half dozen goblins, who came scurrying down the hall with rusty swords drawn but Orin cast his Sleep spell, and they all fell in a heap before they even made it to the adventurers.

Gulleck cleared enough of the door for the adventurers to step through into another hallway, and after a few turns they found themselves back at the still smoldering ostrich (which of course did not make any cartographic sense). They kicked open a door they hadn't been through yet, and suddenly again found themselves the target of small knives flew from somewhere above them. The same sinister tinkling of bells filled the air as several "somethings" flew above their heads and out the door. Gulleck followed the sound and was just able to make out a vague shimmer in the air like waves of heat in the summer, moving quickly down the hall into the darkness. Gulleck charged after the departing shimmers, followed by the rest of the party. The pursuit took them around several corners and eventually to a four way intersection, where they were attacked from multiple sides by four goblins and a hobgoblin, as well as the invisible flying beings, who dipped through the air and slashed at them with invisible daggers.

The battle went well enough at first, although Adrien managed to fumble her sword and drop it on the stone floor. Two of the goblins and the hobgoblin were killed, but then two bugbears ran in from the hall to the north and another five hobgoblins arrived from the east to reinforce the battle. And standing in a luxuriously appointed room behind them was the Goblin King himself, resplendent in a high-necked brocade doublet and tight leather breeches. He was idly spinning several small crystal balls between his fingers. Four more bugbears stood guard around him, and further back in the room were four more hobgoblins.

"Fear not, my subjects, your King stands with you!" he called, and the hobgoblins seemed emboldened and confident in their attack.

And then Caryatid cast Sleep and the last of the goblins and hobgoblins all passed out. One of the creatures in the air fell asleep, and as it fell to the floor it turned visible, revealing itself to be some sort of faerie, no more than a couple of feet high, with pointed ears and elfin features. The other faeries lost morale at this point and scattered down the hallways, the tinkling bells receding into the darkness.

The Goblin King's smirk turned to anger as his subjects slumped to the ground. He cast the crystal balls aside and drew his longsword, which burst into scintillating, multicolored light, casting moving prismatic patterns across the dungeon walls.

"He's got a disco sword!" gasped Adrien's player. "I want that!"

The actual fight was somewhat anti-climactic. (That's what happens when your players don't finish level 2 of the dungeon until many of the PCs are level 4 or above!) Orin cast his Sleep scroll, putting two of the bugbears and one of the hobgoblins to sleep. Caryatid cast Magic Missile and used the Big Green d30 to roll for damage. In rare cases like this I reserve the right to a Big Green d30 roll myself, and used it to win initiative, so that the Goblin King was at least able to dodge out of Caryatid's line of sight, forcing her to take out one of the other hobgoblins instead. But then Gulleck and Adrien stormed into the room and finished the Goblin King off in a single round.

The two surviving hobgoblins turned out to be Margleton and Clabberpus, the very first hobgoblins the adventurers had ever met. Margleton surrendered, offering to leave Idalium for good if their lives were spared.

"You know where the King kept his treasure?" asked Gulleck.

"Oh yes, it's just around the corner, in the vault."

"Is it locked? You got a key?" prompted Gulleck.

"Fine, you can have the treasure; it's little use to us now," said Clabberpus, tossing a large key to Gulleck.

"You had better be quick about it, though," advised Margleton. "The death of the Goblin King has surely caused a great magical disturbance. Who knows what you have unleashed by your reckless act?"

Gulleck made them swear that they would never again return to Idalium and then let them go. Margleton and Clabberpus smiled slyly, thanked them for their mercy, and with one last affected laugh, strolled arm in arm down a hallway to the south. (Exeunt stage left.)

The group turned their attention to the body of the Goblin King, but it was suddenly engulfed in a plume of thick green smoke, and when the air cleared the body was gone, leaving only the scintillating sword and a pile of clothes, including a necklace, behind. Adrien took the sword and Caryatid picked up the necklace, which held a polished moonstone within a gold pendant. Suddenly, the ground trembled and shook. Plaster crumbled from the ceiling.

"Uh oh, he was a load-bearing boss," quipped Gulleck's player.

They left the King's sitting room and headed up the northern hallway that several of the bugbears had come from. At the end of the hall was a very sturdy looking door with a large keyhole. Gulleck used the key from Clabberpus to unlock the heavy door, and pulled it open to reveal a small room containing several barrels brimming with gold and copper coins, in addition to several pieces of jewelry and artwork. The frame of the door seemed to twinkle with some strange magical light.

Gulleck noted the twinkling with some anxiety, but decided to risk it and stepped over the threshold into the vault. As she did, she felt an immensely powerful force that seemed to press in on her, but she crossed the threshold into the vault without mishap (dwarves have excellent saving throws!). She picked up a finely crafted cuckoo clock and a golden goblet and walked back to the rest of the party, feeling the same powerful magic but she resisted it as before.

Alarmed by this sensation, Gulleck went back to the intersection and grabbed one of the goblin corpses, dragging it back into the antechamber to the treasure vault. She picked it up and tossed it into the treasure vault, and as it passed the threshold of the doorway there was a flash and suddenly instead of the body of a goblin there was a small crystal ball like those the Goblin King had been juggling in his hand. The ball hit the ground and rolled into the far corner of the vault.

Meanwhile, Caryatid was examining the pendant with the moonstone that they had retrieved from the Goblin King's remains. There was writing inscribed around the perimeter of the pendant, that read "Down in the Underground". Gulleck spoke these words aloud, and the twinkling faded from the door frame. The group entered the vault and took inventory of the contents. There was a rather nice painting of the Goblin King. The frame was bulky, but Gulleck stripped the painting from the frame, loosely rolled it up, and tucked it in her backpack. Father Chase pulled on a flamboyant fur robe, and Caryatid was pleased to recover the gold and emerald belt that the Goblin King has once taken from her as tribute. There were five large barrels full of coins. It was judged that each barrel would need at least two people to roll it through the halls, so they rolled out three barrels and left two behind, planning to return later to retrieve them.

The tremors in the ground seemed to be increasing as they returned to the four way intersection, and more dust shook loose from the ceiling periodically. They made their way back to the entrance of the palace, using some now-familiar landmarks for navigation, and as they traveled they noticed a strange silvery mist starting to seep into the halls. Eventually it was as if they were walking through a cloud, although there was no dampness. Oddly, the mist almost seemed reflective. Finally they came to what they thought were the main doors of the Goblin Palace and they hurried through them.

The mist cleared, and the adventurers looked around in amazement, for they were outside and it was daylight. They were standing on an unusually well-manicured grassy lawn. The bluest of skies hung above them. Some distance away they could see what looked like an ornate garden full of neatly trimmed hedges and colorful flowers.

Clearly they had been magically transported following the death of the Goblin King, much as had happened when they had slain the Goblin Prince. But where and what was this place?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Idalium Game 95: The Goblin Battle

Session date: Monday, April 2, 2018
Game date: Saturday, May 15, 210

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70093/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18800/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 7598/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 6618/8000

Retainers:
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 5, hp 17, xp 16000/32000
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3530/6000
Orin, Elf 1, hp 4, xp 1257/4000
Jack, Thief 2, hp 8, xp 1912/2400

Now that Meat had been restored (after a fashion), the party set their sights on the vanquishing of the Goblin King. They did a little pre-delve shopping, buying some gemstones from a jeweler near the Rusty Lantern Tavern (to feed to the animated stone column they had befriended). Adrien was feeling reckless, and intentionally did not feed her demonic giant ferret Norman the weekly dose of her blood that she had been told he needed in order to remain bonded to her. After exchanging some friendly words in the tavern with the Brothers Fruthwood (another adventuring party made of three hobbit brothers and a couple of others), they descended below and hurried towards the second level.

In the Street of Temples, they were swooped upon by four blood sucking stirges. Norman strained against his leash, and Adrien let go of it and let him lunge forward. He snapped a stirge right out of the air (natural 20!), crushing it between his foaming jaws. Gulleck deftly swung her axe and another stirge fell, sliced in twain. But the remaining two stirges descended upon Norman, impaling him with their long proboscises and sucking the foul blood from his mangy body. But the stirges had little time to drink the ferret's blood, because Adrien and Gulleck stepped up and stabbed them through. Norman twisted on the ancient cobblestones, whining and lapping at his wounds. Adrien took pity on him and decided to feed him, slicing her palm open on her sword and letting him lap at her blood. The other party members turned away in horror.

They moved on, through the Temple of Hedonism, and down into the basement den where the two magical fountains bubbled merrily away. To their surprise, two hobgoblins were present, filling flasks from the fountain on the west side of the room, the one that could cause the drinker to become magically enamored with the first person they saw. (A pair of orcs had once fallen for Caryatid and Gulleck this way.) They talked to the goblins, who slyly heckled them, encouraging them to drink from the fountains and see what happened.

Well, it turned out that suited Meat just fine. Unlike Gulleck, she apparently was uncomfortable with the sudden transportation of her memories as a man into a woman's body. Meat drank deeply of the shimmering water from the fountain on the east side of the room, and after a few grotesque convulsions, she turned... well, not back into Meat as they had known him, but a male version of the "new" Meat, still dark haired and pale of skin and considerably weaker than before. And now his armor fit oddly again after Gulleck had just paid to have it adjusted.

The hobgoblins were disappointed to see that the party members were not more impressed and dismayed at this transformation, and sauntered off, saying "Perhaps we shall meet again soon!"

"Oh, I'm sure we will," laughed the adventurers to each other after the goblins had left, because their next move was to head directly to invade the Goblin Palace.

The group entered the caves and made their way down the twisty passage that led to the grand double doors that were the entrance to the palace. When they arrived, they found the doors guarded by a pair of tall, lanky bugbears.

"We have an appointment for Saturday!" Gulleck cried out, which was technically true, as they had once left an entry in the appointment book for "Any Saturday". Alas, the bugbears were not in a humor to indulge them.

"His Majesty the Goblin King is not receiving visitors today."

Well, Orin put an end to the conversation with a Sleep spell and Gulleck quickly put an end to the bugbears. Caryatid checked the big double doors and found that they were locked. So she went ahead and knocked on the door.

"Yes?" came the hooting, querulous voice of a bugbear from the behind the doors. Caryatid decided to bluff, and tried to imitate the strange, hollow voice of the bugbears.

"There's some people here who say they have an appointment. Let us in so we can check the appointment book."

Well, to me this seemed unlikely to work, so I made Caryatid's player roll 4d6, trying to roll her Charisma score (which is 10) or lower. She rolled a 17, so I guess her bugbear voice wasn't very convincing.

"Go get lost!" came the reply from behind the doors.

The group conferred in whispers for a minute, and then Caryatid and Orin slipped on invisibility rings and hid in the corner of the cave chamber, while the rest of the party retreated around the corner of the passage, loudly and conspicuously calling out, "Okay, we're leaving now!"

After a minute or so the double doors were unbarred and two bugbears poked their heads out. Their baleful yellow eyes widened as they saw their dead comrades lying on the cavern floor, and they cautiously moved into the chamber to drag the bodies back inside. Caryatid slipped invisibly through the doors into the guardroom. There were another two bugbears on guard here. Caryatid began to push the door closed, but the closing door was noticed by one of the bugbears, who leaped forward to try to pull it back open. I had Caryatid made an opposed hit dice roll against the bugbear (this is how I handle grapples and other struggles, adapted from an article by Gary Gygax in an early issue of The Strategic Review). Somewhat surprisingly, Caryatid succeeded in the opposed roll and managed to slam the door shut on the bugbear's fingers.

Outside, Orin shouted "Come get them!" and the party fell screaming from around the corner upon the two bugbears in the cave. They made quick work of them, with Adrien landing both killing blows. Inside the guardroom, Caryatid cast Sleep but unfortunately only one bugbear fell unconscious. The other turned to her (now visible) with an evil glint in his yellow eyes and pulled a thin leather cord from his belt and with horrifying speed had it around her throat and was throttling her. Fortunately, before she expired the rest of the gang burst through the doors and struck the last bugbear down. He surrendered and begged for mercy but they weren't interested.

Caryatid cast Wizard Lock on the outer door and then they began their explorations of the Goblin Palace. A short hall led to an intersection marked by a large stuffed ostrich. Gulleck decided to mark the bird in some way in case there was more than one. First she slashed its side open with her axe, revealing filthy old stuffing, and then reached up and cut its beak right off. The group explored some of the halls, and found them confusing as ever. They went up and down short flights of stairs and along hallways that eventually led back to the same place they had started in ways that seemed topologically impossible. Eventually they returned to the stuffed bird, which was still missing its beak.

Gulleck got tired of wandering around these insane halls, and decided it would be best to find some goblins and force them to lead them to the King. She banged her axe on her shield loudly and hollered, and soon eight goblins came running into view at the end of the hallway to the south with small drawn. Orin put on his invisibility ring and hid behind the stuffed ostrich. Gulleck sized up the situation and decided to run headlong into the goblins. Arrows flew through the air, clattering in the hall and making a pincushion out of the ostrich that Orin was hiding behind. Gulleck was hit by three arrows but kept running at the goblins, but then she took an arrow to the knee (natural 20) and her charge was stopped short. But Orin had been murmuring the words of Sleep behind the ostrich and completed the spell, and all of the goblins fell in a clatter of bows and swords at the end of the hall.

Before the adventurers had time to reach, another ten goblins came running in at the north end of the hall. Gulleck and Adrien ran to attack this second group. Arrows flew around them, but ricocheted off armor and shield, and then Adrien and Gulleck were laying into goblins left and right and the poor goblins had little defense. In fact, the worst injury Gulleck received was when Simon's player rolled a 1 and Simon managed to shoot Gulleck in the back with an arrow. A majority of the goblins were killed and the last three broke morale and fled around a corner.

Caryatid didn't want to wander these maze-like corridors, but was persuaded to continue on with the party under duress. They explored a bit further and Simon used his mind-reading amulet to listen at a door, but as he was doing so, the party was attacked by surprise by half a dozen hobgoblins at the end of the hall they were in. Adrien was hit by an arrow, but then Gulleck and Chase charged the goblins down. Gulleck killed one and the other five bolted. Gulleck took the opportunity to run after them, screaming and threatening them the entire time. The hobgoblins led the party down a long hall that turned several times and then suddenly opened into a large banquet hall, in which a goblin feast was is full swing. Counting the five hobgoblins that had just run in, there were nine goblins, fourteen hobgoblins, and one bugbear. Nine hobgoblins were sitting at the large u-shaped table eating meats and fruits, and nine goblins were carousing merrily. Some were lying under the taps of barrels of beer, guzzling the beer as it poured into their mouths, some were swinging from chandeliers, and some were just shoveling food into their mouths in the most gluttonous way. When the five hobgoblins and the party burst through the door into the hall, it was one of those "record scratch" moments where everyone stopped dead and stared at them. And then chairs were shoved back and goblins leaped to their feet, drawing swords and jumping forward to engage the intruders.

As the battle began, Orin cast another Sleep spell from a scroll, which took all of the goblins and one of the hobgoblins out of the action immediately. Caryatid attempted to frighten the hobgoblins by casting a Phantasmal Force spell to create the illusion of their erstwhile adventuring companion Krang the pyromaniac dwarf. Krang came running through the door with a bandolier of oil flasks stoppered with oily rags and a lit torch. "BUUUUURRRRRRN!" he bellowed, and threw a lit flask at a hobgoblin, who fell to the ground screaming and rolling around trying to put out the illusory flames. Krang didn't last long before one of the hobgoblins stabbed at him with a sword and he blinked out of existence, but it was funny while it lasted.

The battle raged on, and the party was taking some severe injuries, even as they were doling them out. There were moments when it looked like the tide was turning against them, but eventually they rallied and hobgoblins were falling left and right. Eventually there were just two hobgoblins remaining, and Caryatid cast Magic Missile to take out one of them. As her glowing arrow slew the hobgoblin, he turned to the sole remaining hobgoblin and croaked, with his dying breath, "Go inform His Majesty!" The last hobgoblin, pale of face, ran out the door at the opposite end of the feast hall, screaming "Your Majesty! Invaders, Your Majesty!"

The adventurers caught their breath and looked around at the piles of goblin bodies. They were bloodied and exhausted, and the mages had no useful spells left. They decided to take advantage of this lull in the action by retreating, hoping to return in a week to finish the job. Luckily, they were able to retrace their steps to the entrance and made it back to the surface without further encounters.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Idalium Game 94: Fresh Meat

Session date: Monday, March 12, 2018
Game date: Monday, May 3, 210

PCs:
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 7, hp 41, xp 70003/140000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 18688/20000   

Retainers:
Father Chase Pike, Cleric 3, hp 13, xp 3471/6000

We had only two players for this session, so they knew they had to be cautious. But Gulleck's retainer Meat was still laying dead in his apartment, so another delve was undertaken to retrieve the mysterious Elixir of Life for him. Gulleck, Caryatid, and Father Chase descended into the ruins of Ancient Idalium. They were missing Simon and his magical glowing sword, so Caryatid had to resort to carrying a lantern, its yellow flickery light a marked change from the pure light of the sword. They swiftly made their way to the second level of the dungeon. On the way they encountered a batch of venomous snakes and later a group of giant beetles, but both were rapidly dealt with using their rings of animal control. They crossed the rope bridge over the underground river (much more cautiously this time than the last) and slowly moved through the natural caverns that make up the eastern half of this level.

They passed by the Goblin Market, and heard voices and activity echoing through the caves. Gulleck investigated, wearing a ring of invisibility, and saw that the entrance to the Market was guarded as usual by a pair of looming bugbears. Since the party were not exactly in the favor of the goblins at the moment, Gulleck retreated to Caryatid and Father Chase and they took an alternate route that did not involve passing through the market hall.

While they were walking through a narrow cave passage, Caryatid's lantern flame suddenly guttered and turned blue and feeble. A cold wind seemed to blow through the cave, chilling them to their bones. And then the Wraith Lord came floating out of the darkness, his tattered and rotting robes seeming to trail off into nothingness. All three of the adventurers found themselves stricken with fear, unable to move from the spot. The Wraith Lord stopped and seemed to stare at them from the blackness beneath his rotting hood, and then finally he moved on into the darkness to the east. Caryatid's lantern slowly regained its cheer, and the horrible fear finally subsided, though the adventurers decided it was as good a time to rest for a few minutes before moving on.

Further into the caves, they were suddenly attacked by a flock of hideous stirges that had been perched on a stone ledge. Five swooped down to peck at Father Chase, but none could penetrate his plate armor, and Caryatid made swift work of the flock with a Sleep spell. Gulleck made the rounds with her axe.

Beyond the ledge was a tight crawl that led to the chamber of the Elixir of Life. Gulleck took off her backpack and crawled through the low space, accompanied by Caryatid's pet monkey Marcel. Caryatid gave Marcel the lantern and chose to wait, invisible, in the dark for their return. On the other side of the crawl, Gulleck was suddenly attacked by another small flock of stirges, but her axe sang through the air and the stirges did not last long.

Brushing herself off, Gulleck approached the eternal flame that burned in a crevice in the southern wall, casting eerie reflections on the shiny walls of the chamber. The stone was formed into a natural bowl below the flame, and a syrupy liquid exuded from the wall behind the flame, slowly collecting in the hollow of the bowl. Gulleck collected as much of the elixir as she could into an empty potion flask, and then she and Marcel returned to Caryatid and the three of them made their way back home.

On the way out of the caves, however, the trio were suddenly surrounded and attacked by eight fierce baboons! Gulleck was bit on the wrist and dropped her battleaxe in shock. Caryatid let the lantern fall to the ground (I rolled to see if it would go out upon impact) and slipped on her invisibility ring to avoid combat. Gulleck drew her backup axe and cut down a baboon with a single blow. The rest of them failed a morale check and fled howling into the dark.

The rest of the trip back to the surface was uneventful. The adventurers hastened back to Meat's apartment, where his body was getting a bit worse for the wear. Awkwardly, Gulleck spooned the elixir into the mouth of the corpse, and then they stood back and waited. Meat's body suddenly twitched and spasmed, and then there was a light and a roar of sound that seemed to crowd out every other sensation. They squinted their eyes and covered their ears and just as it reached a crescendo it was gone, and where Meat had lain was an entirely new person, wearing Meat's garments which were now oversized and ill-fitting.

As usual, we rolled dice to see who Meat became. Meat remained a fighter, but was now female! (Frankly, this is starting to get silly...) She had black hair and pale white skin, and was in her early 20s. Her ability scores were now thoroughly mediocre: S10 I10 W11 D8 C7 Ch5. On the bright side, she gained a couple of levels, becoming a level 5 fighter with 17 hit points (amusingly, the rerolled hit points stayed the same). Gulleck's player has some quite powerful fighters now!

Then I made Gulleck spend 30 gold pieces to get Meat's plate armor adjusted.