Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Idalium Game 58: In the Palace of the Goblin King

Session date: Monday, August 8, 2016
Game date: Saturday, February 1, 209 

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 10093/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11726/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3429/4000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 119/1500

A smaller roster than on recent evenings, with just the "dynamic duo" of Gulleck and Caryatid and their retainers. The adventurers consulted with a tailor in the neighborhood near the Rusty Lantern tavern, to duplicate the embroidered togas that allowed safe passage through the Temple of Hedonism (including a miniature toga for Caryatid's pet monkey Marcel), and then entered the dungeon with no particular goal in mind this evening.

They encountered a handful of random wandering monsters that they either avoided or that posed no threat to them. This included the ominous sight of a pair of the "Weeping Angels" last seen to have mysteriously vanished from the courtyard of the Temple of Death. Gulleck opened the door to the Temple of Hedonism and there they were in the vestibule. The stone statues of angels stood incongruously in the narrow hall, seemingly stopped in midstride. Everyone played along and backed into the temple without taking their eyes off the statues, and certainly, no one dared to blink!

Down on the second level, the group visited the lair of the orcs to see how they had responded to the theft of their gong and depletion of their forces. Unusually, no orcs stood guarding the entrance to their lair. On the floor lay a crude clay bowl containing a few coppers, below a sign painted on a scrap of wood that read, "LEEV TOLE" with an arrow pointing to the bowl.

The adventurers laughed roundly at the orcs' cowardice and continued on their merry way. In one room they stumbled on a half dozen of the young urchins who seemed to live in the dungeon. Though usually friendly with the adventurers, they jumped in surprise as the party entered the room and nearly fell over themselves trying to run away. Gulleck calmed them down and asked why they were so nervous. It turned out that one of their number, a girl named Vicki, had been kidnapped by the goblins, and the rest of the urchins were feeling particularly vulnerable and on edge. Gulleck and Caryatid promised to help find Vicki and bring her back if possible, and said they would leave a note for the urchins in the Temple of Hedonism. (Kind of a funny place to leave messages for children, if you ask me!)

Further along in the dungeon, they passed a pair of swinging saloon doors (yes, just like in the Old West), behind which came the incongruous sound of singing and laughing in weird, high-pitched voices. Inside, the party found a half dozens goblins partying in the old tavern room: dancing on the bar, guzzling wine from an ancient cask, playing cards around a table. They were friendly and eagerly invited the adventurers to join them. Gulleck offered them a bottle of wine from his backpack and they became friendlier still. The adventurers made small talk with the impish creatures, and then carefully broached the subject of the missing child. The goblins grinned conspiratorially. "Oh, she's come to live with us in our palace. She's come of her own free will and we would never hurt a hair on her head!"

The adventurers asked the goblins for directions to the palace, which the goblins were very happy to give them. Through the caves, east of the rope bridge. The adventurers were welcomed to visit the palace and meet the Goblin King. They could join him for a feast and partake of the goblin's delicious food, the likes of which was unrivalled for flavor. In fact, the goblins assured them, once they had tasted of the food, the goblins were confident they would want to come back again and again for more.

That did nothing to reassure the players! And off they went, following the goblins' directions to the palace of the Goblin King.

In the caves to the east, south of the dodgy rope bridge that spans a chasm, the adventurers followed a winding passage that ended in a small cave chamber that gave way to polished flagstones and an incongruous pair of ornate double doors. Gulleck knocked cautiously on the doors, and craned his neck to look up at the huge, hulking goblins that opened the doors from the other side. Inside the doors was a small guardroom in which four of the looming, hairy creatures were stationed, peering down at the adventurers with their baleful, bulging eyes.

"What business do you have in the Palace of the Goblin King?" one of the guards asked, in the eerie, hooting voice common to these creatures.

"We've come to seek an audience with the Goblin King. We were invited!"

"You must leave your weapons here. They will be returned to you when you leave the palace."

Nobody was happy about this (they have a very uneasy "friendly terms" thing going on with the goblins, which has only become even less easy with the new implications about the children), but they eventually figured that they had come here just to make inquiries, not to attack the goblins in their own lair. They handed over their obvious weapons, though Caryatid made a point to conceal her magical wands.

After being left to wait for some time, the party was escorted by a pair of the looming goblins into the hallways of the palace. The floors were tiled with black and white squares similar to that of the Goblin Market, slightly off-kilter and crooked in an unsettling way. The walls likewise seemed just ever-so-slightly out of square, producing a disorienting feeling when contrasted with the opulence of the hallways, lined with torch sconces, tapestries, and other decorations. Occasionally, they passed hallway junctions that were marked with curious pieces of furniture: a writing desk, a large stuffed ostrich, a tall fish tank containing strange ocean denizens...

The goblins led the party on a bizarre, circuitous route, and the players (and characters) were frantically trying to sketch out a map in case they needed to make a quick retracing of their steps. They turned a corner and suddenly the map made no sense at all. According to it, they should have turned back against another hallway where there was a solid wall, but now the hall stretched out in front of them!

"What? Whaaat?! Whaaaaat!" sputtered Gulleck's player, as the map became increasingly nonsensical. Eventually, the players tossed up their hands in despair and declared that Marcel (Caryatid's monkey) had been doing the mapping as they walked (and doing a poor job of it). They were led through the disorienting hallways and eventually through a corridor whose walls were lined with various flags and pennants, and then passed through a pair of doors into a great hall where goblins and hobgoblins were engaged in a raucous feast. Platters of sublimely beautiful fruit and meats sat on the table, and goblins were devouring the food with relish. Energetic music came from a corner, where a small band of goblins played unfamiliar instruments. There were goblins laying on a table below large barrels and kegs of wine and beer, letting the liquid pour directly into their mouths. As the adventurers surveyed the alarming sight before them, they made eye contact with a pair of hobgoblins seated at the head table, and recognized their "friends" Margleton and Clabberpus. The hobgoblins smiled and nodded to them in greeting across the room.

The adventurers were ushered to seats near the head table, and they sat looking nervously at the preternaturally delicious-looking food laid in front of them, whispering to each other not to eat it. Suddenly, a door behind the head table was thrown open, and a tall, striking hobgoblin strutted in. He wore a resplendent doublet, tight leather pants, and a felt top hat, which he swept from his head and tossed into the crowd. His features were bold and angular, almost elfin but with the same sort of feral danger present in all of the goblins. Imagine a cross between David Bowie's Goblin King in "Labyrinth" and Tim Curry's Dr. Frank in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show".

"Welcome to the Palace of the Goblin King!" he called to the adventurers. He spoke in an exaggeratedly posh accent. "How d'you do? I see you've met my... right-hand men," he said with a curl of his lips, wrapping his arms around Margleton and Clabberpus as he sank into his throne at the center of the head table. "And to what do I owe the extreme pleasure of your company?" And without giving them a chance to respond, he continued, "Ohhh, have you come to join us and stay here with us? Oh, do say you have, it would be positively ducky! We could feast together, and you could stay here forever and forever and ever..." His smile grew wider and more predatory as he spoke.

"Uh... thanks for the offer, but I'm afraid we can't accept right now," stammered Gulleck. "Actually, uh, Your Majesty, we've come to ask about some children."

"Yes? What children would those be?"

"Well, we've been given to understand that some children have perhaps come to live here, and we wanted to find out if everything was all right."

"Oh, those children!" smiled the Goblin King. "Oh yes, everything's fine. They're here of their own free will, you must understand. Nobody comes here except by their own free choice. We would never coerce anyone, especially not children."

"All the same," said Gulleck, "perhaps we could see the children?"

"I don't see why not," said the Goblin King amiably. He murmured instructions to a goblin servant, who hurried from the feast hall. "Now while we wait, please, enjoy your meal. I'm sure it will be the most delicious repast you have had in oh, ever so long. In fact, I'm positive that once you taste our food, you'll want to stay here and have it any time you like... So please, tuck in!" The adventurers made various excuses, or moved the food around on their plate. Some of them surreptitiously tucked away some food in a belt pouch for further investigation back in Idalium.

After a few minutes, the goblin servant returned with four children. They looked well fed and uninjured, having traded their urchin rags for the more brightly-colored rags of the goblins. Vicki was there, whom the other urchins had been searching for, as well as Jo, Dorothy, and a boy named Jamie. Vicki told Gulleck not to worry about them, that they were happy to be safe in the Goblin Palace. "We don't have to hide and scavenge for food any more. We're all grown up now." She told them that she trusted the Goblin King and that they wanted to stay in the palace. The other three children nodded and expressed agreement.

"Well, I really think you should reconsider," said Gulleck, but he was unable to muster a convincing argument that life with the goblins was worse than the hard knock life of a dungeon urchin.

"Are you satisfied that no harm has come to them?" asked the Goblin King jovially. "You see, they're happy here!"

Having ascertained the situation of the lost urchins, the adventurers politely disengaged themselves from the feast. The Goblin King was disappointed to see them go, but graciously waved for a party of guards to escort them back to the entrance. "Oh well, feel free to stop by any time you like. Although, best to make an appointment for an audience. I'm such a busy man, you know."

The guards led them back through the back door, through unfamiliar corridors that followed no logical path, and eventually they emerged at the guardroom where they had entered. They made an appointment to see the Goblin King for early next Saturday, and then collected their weapons and headed back to the surface. They were troubled by their discovery, and deeply suspicious of the sparkling and shining fruit tucked away in their packs...

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Player Journals from Session 57

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

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

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

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

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

Idalium Game 57: Gong Inspectors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Idalium Game 56: The Gang's All Here

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 5, 2016

Idalium Game 55: Gnomish Negotiations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 12, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some days things just don't go your way!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Idalium Game 53: Shadows in the Dark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Your... pet?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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