Thursday, September 27, 2018

Idalium Game 95: The Goblin Battle

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

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

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

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

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.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Player Journals from Session 93

Journal Entry of Tod P. Quasit, Jr.

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

Idalium Game 93: Chasing Waterfalls

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who are they?" asked Adrien.

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

"What about that raft?" chirped Orehoe.

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 23, 2018

Idalium Game 92: The Statue Got Me High

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Idalium Game 91: The Ratcatchers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Player Journals from Session 90

Diary of Caryatid

Dear Granny,

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

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

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

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

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