Sunday, December 21, 2014

Idalium Game 7: Whoa, Your Head's on Fire

Session date: Monday, December 15, 2014
Game date: Saturday, December 15, 207 to December 17, 207

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1509/2000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 1424/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 292/2200
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1349/2500
Vito Aneti, Thief 1, hp 6, xp 852/1200

Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 681/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 681/4000
Wilson, Thief 1, hp 1, xp 340/1200
Ylil, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 306/1200

Another full house of players, though one had to attend via speakerphone because he was stuck at home waiting for a boiler repairman who never bothered to show up. Brother Jibber and Sprat had failed morale checks after their last adventurers, but Ylil returned from a few weeks of alternative employment, and Caryatid decided to employ both Ylil and Wilson for this venture into the dungeon.

Ylil brought with him news that the thieves' guild had received a notice from some rich old lady offering a reward for the reward of some valuables that had been stolen by the renegade thieves in the undercity, and some of the former members of Cretch's gang were very interested in pursuing this opportunity. The group had "liberated" a matching crystal goblet and platter from Cretch's mansion, and had been keeping it in their storeroom with the thought of eventually finding the proper owner, assuming it would be too difficult to fence in the city.

So, perhaps urged on by the thought of bandits with a grudge coming after them to reacquire their treasure, the group decided to follow up on this reward themselves. Ylil had been given the name of a very fancy "wine bar" in the ritzy quarter of the city, where they were to inquire after the reward. The group made a cursory attempt to spruce up their appearance a little, and then made their way into the nice part of town. A grand plaza stretched out in front of the Great Cathedral of the All-Pervading Light (inside of which Brother Jibber was busy helping with preparations for the upcoming winter solstice holiday), and the plaza was surrounded by mansions, government buildings, expensive shops, etc. The group felt decidedly out of place here.

They found the wine bar, and a snooty maître d' sat them in the back of the restaurant. They ordered expensive wine, cheese, and charcuterie. When asked about the message, the maître d' sent a runner to fetch a man named Roger, who turned out to be the butler of Baroness Millicent Trenevant. He set up an appointment between Lady Trenevant and the party for later that afternoon.

Lady Millicent Trenevant
Arriving at the mansion of the Baroness, they found it to be a grand city estate, though somewhat run down around the edges. They were shown into the sitting room where Lady Trenevant (played by Maggie Smith, in my mind) met with them. Hers was one of the "founding families" of the new city of Idalium, and though Idalium is a mercantile city where the business class wields a great amount of political power, these families still hold an enormous amount of authority in the highest social circles of the city.

Lady Trenevant identified the goblet and platter that were burgled from her house, interjecting some choice bits of disdain for the thieves' guild. "What's the point of me making all these monthly payments if they can't live up to their promises to protect me from common thievery?" The group delivered the items to her, and she had Roger fetch them a pouch containing forty platinum minas as their reward. "It is good to know that the nobility can still count on the loyalty of the working classes." I think a few of the PCs had to smile through gritted teeth after that one.

At this point it was late in the day, so they returned to the Rusty Lantern early the next morning to delve once again into the buried city. Having dealt with the knockers, they tossed around a few ideas for what to focus on in this session, eventually deciding to perhaps check out the garden area behind the mansion Cretch had been using, and checking out a few of the other rooms and halls on their way.

Descending into the ancient city, the group retraced a familiar path through the tavern and kitchen off of the city square, and then stopped in the courtyard containing the small statue of a smiling chef that they had puzzled over some weeks ago. The statue held a tray inscribed with the Ancient Idalian words, "Your generosity is appreciated!" Tyrriel tried offering an old Idalian gold piece that she had been hanging on to, but still there was no apparent effect. They decided to investigate the building connected to the courtyard, and Tod shouldered the stuck door open.

Beyond the door, a dim red light pervaded an abandoned kitchen. Five giant beetles were crawling through the rubble, the glands on their heads and abdomens providing the strange red glow. For the moment, the beetles seemed to ignore the party, but then from a doorway across the room emerged a horrid, shriveled gnome-like creature, with more lurking behind it. The knockers stood in the doorway, scowling at the adventurers. Gulleck cursed the knockers in their own language with the rudest words he knew in that warped tongue, and then someone sent an arrow whizzing over the backs of the beetles, wounding the knocker in front. The knockers hissed at the party and retreated into the dark, and the beetles suddenly became aggressive, rustling towards the door with mandibles clacking. The group quickly backed up and Tod pulled the door shut. As they regrouped in the courtyard behind the building, a dozen knockers came running at them out of the dark, having flanked the group. Tod was stabbed viciously by one of them. Gulleck charged into the fray, hacking at the monstrosities with his axe. With the help of two Sleep spells, the knockers were soon routed, and a couple of survivors ran back the way they came, but were chased down and slain as they ran.

Tod was badly injured, and although the group had barely explored anything in the dungeon, they decided to retreat to the surface and rest for the remainder of the day. Tod slept with the pillow that Quazzle had been using, and found that he woke up remarkably refreshed and energizing (it allowed him to heal an extra hit point per day of rest). Pleased at the powers of this "pillow +1", the group - now fully healed - again descended into the dungeon. They quickly searched the rooms they had found the fire beetles and knockers in, and found a small amount of silver and gold coins, and in the front counter of an abandoned cafe, Vito found an intriguing pair of glass spectacles that allowed him to read Ancient Idalian writing as easily as if it were written in Common.

Proceeding along the back alley, they entered another house, finding themselves in a dark hallway with an open door some forty feet away, from which case flickering lamplight and nervous voices. Vito crept forward to investigate. Lurking at the edge of the doorway, he could hear hushed voices arguing. "Oh, if we can find someone up top to fence this with, he won't have to work another day for months!" "But where can we sell it? Oh, I wish Cretch were still around. He was a jerk but at least he always knew what to do..."

Vito briefly contemplated attempting to mimic Cretch's voice, to startle or scare these bandits, but decided that plan was too risky. Instead, he carefully and quietly poured a flask of oil onto the floor at the threshold of the door, leaving it slick and slippery. He quietly beckoned the rest of the group to join him. They attempted to creep up as quietly as possible, but with several of them in plate mail, there were a few creaks and clanks...

"Shh! What's that noise? Go check it out..." A man dressed in leather armor, carrying a sword and a lantern, came cautiously out of the room and jumped in surprise at seeing himself nearly surrounded by grim-faced adventurers. He stumbled in the pool of oil at his feet but managed to keep his balance. But then Wilhelm spoke the words of the Sleep spell, and he fell, with the lantern, into the oil.

There was some discussion at the table over how likely the lamp would be to just go out upon hitting the ground, versus igniting the oil. Caryatid's player said, "Come on, in all the movies it would just go up like 'whooof'!" So I offered a 2 in 6 chance for the lantern to break open and ignite the oil, the players agreed that seemed reasonable, and lo and behold, the die came up with a 2.

If he was asleep for a few moments, the bandit was awake now, screaming in pain and terror as the flames roared up around him. He rolled on the floor desperately trying to prevent the fire from igniting his clothes and hair. Two other bandits rushed to the doorway to see what was happening. "Holy $#%@!" they exclaimed as they saw their comrade on fire on the ground, surrounded by strange people with weapons drawn. They lunged at Gulleck with their swords, but they were hindered by the pool of flaming oil in front of them, and their thrusts fell short.

Tyrriel put a lethal arrow into the chest of one of the bandits in the doorway. I think Vito's player was feeling actual guilt over the poor sap on fire, and put him out of his misery with a crossbow bolt.

"Well," mused Tod's player, "this certainly got a lot more murderous than usual really fast."

The four remaining bandits in the room completely failed a morale check at this point, and their swords went clattering to the floor as their hands shot up above their heads. "Oh, God! Please don't kill us! Please don't set us on fire!"

The party quickly bound the hands of the bandits, and liberated them of the treasure they had been discussing: four beautiful pieces of jewelry worth about 4,000 gold darics altogether. They escorted the bandits back to the Rusty Lantern, and handed them over to the thieves' guild for their usual reward. And then they returned to celebrate their very successful expedition!

Gaining experience in B/X is really all about finding the jewelry, and the players were quite lucky to stumble upon these bandits with their somewhat disproportionately valuable treasure. I really don't mind the "swinginess" of the random treasure tables - I think they contribute to an exciting style of game where you never quite know when you will strike it rich. And strike it rich they did, with both Tod and Vito earning enough experience to go up to level 2! Tod rolled the maximum roll of 8 for his hit points, and Vito has an 18 constitution, so even though he rolled a 1 on his d4, it was still enough to nearly double his current hit point amount. Both of them are now guaranteed to be able to survive at least one hit with a sword, which may seem a bit funny, but in by-the-book D&D it's quite a bit deal to no longer carry that constant fear of dying from a single hit. A major milestone for these two players!

(Of course, the gallows humor at the table was that now everyone will get cocky and reckless...)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Player Journals from Session 6

Journal of Tod P. Quasit, Jr.
It is with a heavy heart that I must report the death of dear Quazzle. So frail. So delicate. Alas. So dead. He was too good for this world. And too weak to be delving in the undercity. He had managed with for quite a while by staying behind people and things, and he was more than handy at putting our enemies to sleep. I will miss him and drink a toast later at the Two Frogs. This entry is a direct transpose of my notes that I took. My memory is shaky. These will have to do.

Room with sliver ore glowing green and blue.

We mine a bit. SILVER ORE IS BURNING Tyrriel!

KNOCKERS! Death to them.


All asleep... we crush their skulls and slit their throats.

Church of the All Pervasive Light.

We find a dwarf. Just as one member leaves, another arrives. Sitting in a pit with two dead friends and green ooze. Just in the nick of time.

Piles of Gold and Copper. Copper and Gold. We go back to the gnomes. Tainted ore. Tyrriel is doomed. The copper is gold. The gold is copper. The gold is the gnomes. We get a cup and a vile of dream potion. No wait. Vaporous potion. turns you into a cloud.

Tyrriel survives. We all go drinking. Our new friend is named Gullick Stonefoot and he smells a great deal. We ask him to join us because why not? What could go wrong? Trust in complete strangers is what Jibber is always preaching right? Actually, I don't think that is right. I'll have to ask him over a couple shots of grog at the Blind Turkey.

TPQ jr.

Journal entry from Caryatid
Dear diary,

It turns out that our band of adventurers are in possession of some magical items, yay! I LOVE magical items. The pillow seems to have some kind of healing powers, mild or slow-acting, but still effective. The grapes, however, don't seem to do anything except that they remain fresh indefinitely.

Again, I am saddened by the untimely death of one of our team; this time it was poor Quazzle. We nearly retrieved a considerable amount of gold pieces which turned out to be only copper pieces in disguise. Mean, ugly smurfs can be SO utterly disappointing.

I thought I saw Ylil/Paul at the market in town the other day. He didn't see me and I lost him in the crowd. It might not have been him, he looked an awful lot like Eddie Izzard; high heeled boots, painted fingernails, and glitter lipstick…

Anyway, we have a new member in our group: we rescued Gulleck Stone-something from a pit with that Green Slime stuff. I'm curious to see how he will fit in with our group.

We're meeting up at the Rusty Lantern again. We've explored a considerable amount of the tunnels and passages under the city but have heard rumors of at least one deeper level. Oh I HOPE we find more magical items. I still have only the one spell, and continue working on a another Shield scroll which may be useful if we encounter worse demons in the lower levels under the city…

Gulleck's first journal
Well, Whatshisname and Thingy are dead. Complete tragedy. What a waste. Their stuff all got melted by that green gunk. Not a single bit of salvageable gold.
Got rescued by some folks. Seem nice enough. Little too trusting, didn't really think twice about letting me join em. Guess they lost a fella to the Knockers. Terrible thing. Sounds like I don't get any of that gold neither.

Helped the new fellas haul a bunch of gold and copper. Cept the gold was really copper and the copper was gold, and they gave the good stuff to some gnomes. Every penny counts I guess, when you don't have any, but I didn't head down under the city to pick up coppers.

I might just hire this elf fella whose boss bit it. If I can scrounge up enough to pay him, anyway.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Order of the d30

I've mentioned my "big green d30" house rule a few times. I should probably explain it in full for readers who aren't my players. I blithely stole this house rule from Jeff Rients (though he did authorize people to do so). It is as follows:
Once per session each player may opt to roll the Dungeon Master’s big green d30 in lieu of whatever die or dice the situation normally calls for. The choice to roll the big green d30 must be made before any roll. The d30 cannot be rolled for generating character statistics or hit points.
The players have taken advantage of this rule in a number of interesting situations. My games tend to spend much more time on exploration and role playing than on combat and other dice rolling, so not every player ends up choosing to roll the d30 every game, but so far it has been used to:
  • win initiative (very important when trying to get the Sleep spell off before the baddies get to attack)
  • make a save-or-die saving throw vs. poison
  • avoid being surprised
  • attempt to pick a lock, on the reasoning that it's easier to roll between 1 and 15 on a d30 than on percentile dice
The last use was particularly interesting to me, since I hadn't originally expected anyone to use the d30 when they were hoping to roll low!

I like this house rule a lot, and the players definitely seem to enjoy it. It gives everyone an opportunity (but not a guarantee) to do something extra heroic each game, and adds a bit of strategy over when it's worth using your d30 roll. I don't feel it unbalances the game much; the game is plenty dangerous for the characters and I don't mind giving them a bit of extra luck. And that's all it is, after all - the element of chance and risk is still there.

By the way, technically the DM does count as a player and is allowed one throw of the d30 per game. I haven't used it yet, since it seems kind of unsporting on my part to stack the die rolls in the monsters' favor, but I might do someday if I had a villain or NPC that I really wanted to live to fight another day or whatnot.

Idalium Game 6: Don't Come a-Knockin'

Session date: Monday, December 8, 2014
Game date: Saturday, December 8, 207

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1190/2000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 1146/4000
Quazzle, Magic-user 1, hp 1, xp 1126/2500
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1084/2500

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 554/1500
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 542/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 542/4000
Wilson, Thief 1, hp 1, xp 208/1200

All things do come to an end, and when you are a magic-user with only one hit point, you are basically just waiting for your number to come up. After five sessions of unexpected survival, Lady Luck finally turned a jaundiced eye upon Quazzle, proving his father's irritating expectations correct. Ah well, it's a chance to try out a new character type! The nice thing about D&D is that life goes on, even when it doesn't!

But I'm getting ahead of myself. The Infestation Managers regrouped on a sunny but crisp December morning at the Rusty Lantern tavern, making plans to invade the lair of the knockers and recover the stolen gold belonging to the gnomes. Vito wasn't available, so the party numbered eight in total today.

Descending into the tavern cellar and paying the toll of a gold daric per person, the group climbed down the cellar trapdoor once more into the buried city of Ancient Idalium. They quickly retraced their steps from last week through the city and the narrow, twisting mine galleries until they arrived again near the house of the gnomes. Wanting to avoid the giant bees that had attacked Tod the week before, they explored a mine gallery to the north, where they found abandoned mining equipment near an exposed vein of silver ore. The silver was oddly discolored, with a strange blue-green tinge to it. Tyrriel decided to spend a few minutes attempting to chisel some silver out of the ore, a fateful choice indeed. Her hands and wrists started to burn and itch where dust from the ore had touched exposed skin.

The party retraced their path through the mine again, and took a new route to the east. They emerged from the mine in a natural cavern area, where the floor was rough and damp, and the walls were uneven. Tyrriel's infravision detected half a dozen small figures in the cavern, and as they entered the chamber, the figures were revealed to be knockers, their wizened and shriveled features again seeming like a mockery of the plump and jolly gnomes. One turned towards the group and hissed, "This is our mine. Leave us alone." "Uh, can we leave by going past you?" someone tried. "No. Leave the way you came," the knocker retorted.

Tod decided that these creepy things just basically needed killing, and drew his big two-handed sword from where it was strapped to his back. The awful creatures dropped into a battle stance, wielding their tiny axes, and charged Tod and Brother Jibber. Stones from the slings of Tyrriel and Wilhelm smashed into the heads of several of the knockers, sending them senselessly to the ground. Tod's sword cleaved through another. The creatures scrabbled at Tod and Jibber with their axes, but could not penetrate their plate mail. Soon, only one knocker remained, and it ran into the darkness to the north.

The group paused a moment to discuss their options for pursuit, but rather than run at full speed after the creature, they chose to carefully follow. They came to a fork in the cavern passage, and not knowing which way the creature had gone, chose the right-hand passage. This turned a corner and opened out into a large cave, dotted with stalagmites and stalactites, and a small stream of water trickling through the cavern. The party could see another passage leaving from the east end of the cave, and they decided to carefully move along the wall towards that passage.

That was when their luck turned against them. The surviving knocker had run back to its lair to raise the alarm, and the knockers had set an ambush against them. I gave the party a 4 in 6 chance of being surprised by the hidden knockers, and unfortunately the dice deemed that they were indeed surprised.

Suddenly, the group was peppered by small, jagged knives, thrown at them by a half dozen knockers that stepped out from their hiding places behind the stalagmites. Because the party was all spread out along the wall, I randomly diced to decide who was targeted by the barrage. Tod took several attacks, and was wounded by one that managed to hit an unarmored part of his body. Quazzle was missed by one knife, but sadly, the dice decided that another was thrown at him, and this time a roll of 19 indicated a definite hit. A rusty knife sank into Quazzle's chest and he collapsed in the trickling stream under his feet.

Tyrriel and Wilhelm both recited the words of the Sleep spell, and before the knockers could repeat the barrage, they were overcome with slumber, the half dozen knife-throwers and also a larger knocker who was watching from farther back and who worn a coronet of sorts of twisted metal. With him were two strong-looking knockers wielding swords, but all fell to the potent magical spell. The party wasted no time in slaying all of the foul creatures in their sleep.

Quazzle's player chose to roll up a new PC (I don't think he was keen on taking over Twiffle as a PC, seeing as Twiffle also has only one hit point). He decided on a fighter, but when he rolled the d8 for hit points he rolled a one! Generally, I would encourage players to just take in stride what the dice give them, but Quazzle's player had already had his share of 1 HP wonders, so I allowed him to discard the scores and roll up a new PC. This time a dwarf, but also with one hit point! All right, I said, one more try. So that unlucky die was set aside, and now he has a dwarf with three hit points.

A passage from the northeast led through the rock and eventually emerged on a ledge overlooking a chasm, a shaft in the rock that led downwards farther than their lantern light would reveal. Another ledge, too far to jump, was visible to their left, and about twenty feet up, they could see a large number of strange bird-like creatures roosting. Some of the stirges took notice of the party, and began to circle the top of the shaft. The group decided to beat a hasty retreat for now.

Back in the knockers' cavern, they explored the passage to the east that they had originally been heading towards. Crude wooden signs stood outside it, painted with a skull and crossbones. Tod cautiously led the way, probing with a long wooden pole. His cautious was well merited, for they came upon a collapsed floor in the middle of the passage, and at the bottom of the 10' deep pit they found a dwarf in chain mail, calling for help. He was standing on a small portion of ground in the pit that wasn't covered in a strange green slime. The bodies of a human fighter and another dwarf were immersed in the slime and were slowly dissolving into it. The surviving dwarf was hauled out of the pit, and he introduced himself as Gulleck Stonefoot, a new adventurer whose inaugural delve had been less than successful. (As the DM, I can never resist amusing myself with things like this, where the fighter and dwarf that Gulleck's player rolled up and discarded were explained as casualties of his original party.)

In the room behind the pit, they found an enormous pile of gold nuggets, perhaps a thousand coin-sized pieces, and a separate pile perhaps twice as large of copper coins. A fair amount of time was spent figuring out how to load up all of the gold and bring it back to the gnomes. Brother Jibber filled a sack with the copper coins as well. Eventually, they schlepped all of the gold back to the gnomes' little hideyhole, where the gnome leader, Tom Pipkin, expressed his condolences for the death of Quazzle. The gold nuggets were not the coins that the gnomes had lost; those ought to be stamped with the image of the gnome king. The party borrowed some sacks and a mining cart from the gnomes to help retrieve the rest of the copper coins. Tyrriel had been getting increasingly weak and feverish over time (a save vs. poison every hour, with failure meaning the loss of a point of constitution). The gnomes were saddened to hear she had touched tainted ore. They had encountered this before, and told her that usually people recovered from it, but some of their people had died. Either the illness would pass within the day, or she would die. She stayed with the gnomes while the rest of the party went back to retrieve the copper coins.

The copper did have the image of a gnome king on it, which perplexed Tom Pipkin, until Tyrriel mentioned that they had found some gold that turned out to be copper when it was brought into daylight. In the end, Tom agreed to keep the copper and send Pluck Fimple with the party back up to the Rusty Lantern with a small pouch of the copper coins, to see if they were revealed as gold in the light of the surface world. They quickly made their way back out of the dungeon, and indeed, the copper coins did show themselves to be gold. Pluck gave them a crystal vial containing a potion he said would temporarily transform the drinker into mist, and a scrap of parchment with a fragmentary map and some words in Ancient Idalian that described where a hidden cache of money could be found.

Sadly, all of the gold nuggets they hauled out of the dungeon also turned out to be copper again, and for all of their troubles, the total financial take from this delve was less than twenty shekels apiece, perhaps enough for a decent dinner out. On the bright side, Tyrriel managed to just barely squeak through the illness from the contaminated ore, dropping to 0 constitution (comatose but alive) before the toxin ran its course through her system. The life of a dungeoneer is a fraught one!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Player Journals from Session 5

There were two player journals from game 5:

Journal Entry for Tod P. Quasit Jr.

I have no heavy heart this week. No one in our party died on our delve into the Undercity.

We decided to find our good friends the Gnomes. A gnome named Pluck Fimple had repeatedly invited us to visit them in the mines on more then one random encounter. We had a vague idea of which direction to go but got hopelessly lost. We found a theater, but my idea to put on a little play celebrating the birth of the little Prince Napoodlia, was voted again. Besides, the stage was in terrible condition. We eventually got through to the underneath of it and found a bottle of rare pills used to cure insomnia. Or so it said on the label. Note to self, get up the courage to eat one of those magic grapes.

So, eventually we ran into another group who delve out of the Rusty Lantern. They were immediately hostile and threatening so we did the prudent thing and ran away. We did spike the door and poor oil on the floor to spite them.

Note to self, don't TOUCH ANYTHING, specially graven images or false idols. We found a workshop full of half finished statues of tentacle head creatures and touching them made me sea sick and filled me with dread. I heard a voice saying Tod... Tod.. don't eat the salmon mousse. I don't know what that means.

Suddenly we were set upon by a group of... wait, did I mention the spooky knocking we were hearing? Anyhow, we were set upon by a group of shriveled hell gnomes and Vito did not like them at all. One of them threatened us for our money and THWACK, bolt through the skull. Down it went and then we fought the little bastards. They weren't that tough but they were unsettling.

Then we found a gallery and behind a curtain was something that paralyzed most of the party. Note to self, don't look AT ANYTHING.

Luckily we all survived only to walk into a room with THREE GIANT BEES. GIANT BEES. In the undercity. Where do they find the pretty flowers for their honey? So we ran away but one stung me, ripped out it's guts and luckily the poison didn't get into my system. Nice.

Finally we met the gnomes, including their leader Tom Pipkin and his lieutenant, Grimble Grumble. That Grumble looked quite good. He kept muttering about needing fresh air.

We found out the shirveled hell gnomes were terrorizing them, crafting fake gold and being a general nusance. We were tasked with destorying every last one of them for an ampe reward. Apparently they had stolen all the gnome's start up cash. So, we have that going for us. Which is nice. Despite spending seven hours in the Undercity, I didn't really feel like I gained much experience. Strange that isn't it? Surviving that other party, and the bees, and the art work. Oh well. I need a drink and a roasted chicken. Maybe I'll grab Jibber and pop down to the Sloppering Dog.

A fifth letter home (Quazzle's journal)
Dear Matron Della,

I hope this letter finds you well, and that Roger has not been causing you too much trouble. I know how difficult I was at his age. Thank you again for your patience and my apologies one more for the episode with the snake. I know you've asked me to stop apologizing, but I don't think I'll ever be able to make up for that.

If I don't get the chance to write to Abigail, please express my regrets that I can't be there for her wedding. From what little I know of the young man, he seems a decent sort, and my lack of attendance is no reflection on my approval. Not that Abigail has ever needed my approval or anyone else's. One of the things I love about my dear sister. I imagine she'll understand my absence. She knows very well how Father and I are getting along these days.

Oh! Something you'll find amusing! We've been exploring the undercity, and discovered a mining operation run by gnomes! I recall fondly the bedtime stories you used to tell of "the small fellows." It turns out that they're not quite as small as the stories describe, perhaps three foot rather than small enough to fit in a pocket, but they certainly are just as friendly. They also quite enjoy wine, a detail that was never mentioned! Perhaps you can amend the stories as you tell them to Roger. Although perhaps he's getting a bit old for that now. How time does get away from us...

At any rate. We're helping the gnomes by clearing some very unfriendly earth spirits out of the mines for them. Twisted things, like gnomes gone wrong. They have the power to warp precious metals and disguise worthless ones. Very annoying! We've eliminated several of them already. Not terribly dangerous to the well-equipped, thankfully!

As I'm thinking of it: Do you happen to know anything of the religion of ancient Idalia? We found a workshop down below with disturbing idols, partially crafted. They seem to have some sort of power to them, which worries me greatly. The idols are of some kind of fish-beast, with tentacles and a lamprey-like mouth. Anything you recall could be helpful.

Thank you for everything you've done for us as we've grown up, Matron. We owe you more than we could ever repay.

Yours always,

PS: If you can give Mother my love without falling afoul of Father's temper, please do.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Idalium Game 5: And Little Gnomes Stay in Their Homes

Session date: Monday, December 1, 2014
Game date: Saturday, December 1, 207

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1159/2000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 1120/4000
Quazzle, Magic-user 1, hp 1, xp 1098/2500
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1059/2500
Vito Aneti, Thief 1, hp 6, xp 824/1200

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 540/1500
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 528/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 528/4000
Wilson, Thief 1, hp 1, xp 195/1200
Sprat, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 195/1200

After a lucrative session of looting the empty mansion of the bandits, the Infestation Managers turned their attention towards meeting the gnomes. They have had repeated random encounters with gnomes who keep inviting them to their camp in the mines to the east of the town square, and they decided it was time to make good on their continued promises to go visit the gnomes.

Quickly through the empty streets of the buried city they went, crossing the wide plaza and leaving alone the distraction of the fountain and its talking statues. They headed east, and quickly entered a region where the streets and alleys were little more than pockets in the collapsed rubble and stone that had buried the city over two centuries ago.

Ducking down an alleyway, they investigated a half-buried building that was once a small theatre. The stage still remained, but was visibly rotten and water-damaged. They could see a trapdoor on the stage, but did not want to risk walking on the rotten wood. So they took the time-consuming but safe approach of tearing the front of the stage apart with their crowbars until they had an opening wide enough for Caryatid to slip in and investigate. In the shallow pit below the stage, she found a box full of old musty costumes. Among them were hidden a couple of more well-made robes, with rather sensual designs embroidered in colored thread. These robes looked very similar to the togas worn by the strange youths they had met last week. The two robes were stowed in backpacks in case a future use arose for them.

Continuing through the rubble-filled avenue, the group found an entrance to a narrow and low mine shaft that was dug through the rock and soil that had buried the city so long ago. The mine corridors were narrow enough to require single file, and low enough that most of the group had to stoop as they walked through. The mine shafts were somewhat mazelike, with occasional zigzags and dead-ends, and intermittently an unnerving knocking and creaking would be heard, echoing through the corridors, sometimes ahead of them, sometimes behind them.

They found the backdoor to the house where they had originally met the gnomes, and in a kitchen in the back of the house, they encountered a rival party of adventurers from the Rusty Lantern, led by two arrogant-looking elves. This rival group was clearly on edge, and they drew their weapons immediately when the party burst in. There were raised words back and forth briefly and then the NPC party rather haughtily suggested they leave. "Death Watch, we should let them be on their way, and avoid wasting our resources on such failures," said one elf to the other. "Quite right, Cobweb. They have obvious met with no great success. It would not even be worth our while to shake them down." So the party retreated back the way they came, but not without spitefully pouring a flask of oil on the floor in front of the door, and then spiking a further door shut.

Beyond more of the winding mine shafts, the group found a set of rooms that filled them with unease. In an abandoned pottery workshop, they found half-finished statuettes of some kind of humanoid with bizarre, octopus-like features. When the statues were handled, they gave the adventurers a disturbing sea-sick feeling. Worse, when Brother Jibber and Vito handled some of the pottery tools, they each felt a strong compulsion welling up within them to finish the statuettes, to make one of their own. The group quickly put down the statues and tools and left this room, moving through to explore a bedroom and a living area, both decorated in an extremely spartan and ascetic way, and with disturbing scratched all over the plaster walls. In the living room, they found a small shrine in one corner with a complete statuette of the bizarre creature. This led to a loud debate among several of the characters over whether they should destroy the shrine or if that would cause them more trouble.

Suddenly, in the midst of their argument, they were interrupted by a group of strange creatures standing at the door that no one had thought to close or guard. These creatures looked something like gnomes, but like horrible mockeries of gnomes, their faces shriveled and withered. Where gnomes had brightly-colored tunics and full white beards, these creatures worn tattered rags and had tangled wisps of hair. They clutched small rusty pickaxes in their twisted hands. One spoke in a hollow, rasping voice: "These are our mines. Give us your wealth and we will let you go free."

Vito apparently has a religious enmity against muggers, and he decided that he didn't need to parlay any further. Rolling a natural 20, his loaded crossbow fired a bolt directly into the forehead of the talking creature and it dropped instantly to the floor. Then the rest of the dozen of the grotesque creatures were scrabbling in the doorway, lunging at Tod and Brother Jibber with their pickaxes, but fortunately the warriors' plate armor was proof against their attacks. A couple of Sleep spells eventually ended the battle, but not before Tod and Jibber had slain the creatures they had been fighting.

Whereas the party had been quite generous with the human bandits, they held no such scruples for these creepy monstrosities, and Vito quickly made the rounds with a dagger. One was spared and unceremoniously placed in a large sack carried by Wilhelm.

The group retraced their passage through the mine, exploring further north, and came to an old art gallery, full of destroyed paintings and sculptures. A set of curtains hung across the opposite wall. "Should we look?" "It's probably a painting of a medusa that's so real it actually works," said Tyrriel's player. But curiosity got the better of them, and they opened the curtain to reveal... an extremely life-life fresco of a medusa that was so realistic that it paralyzed half the party for the better part of the next hour. Apparently my poker face was impressive. It was one of those situations where I had to read my notes aloud, so nobody thought I just stole the player's idea on the fly!

Luckily, no wandering monsters showed up while most of the party was standing around like mannequins, and once everyone had regained bodily control, they proceeded to explore the mines. They found a pile of a couple of hundred gold nuggets that seemed like an obvious trap, but they were able to gather them up without mishap. Tod led the way into a room containing a trio of enormous bees ("the size of basketballs!") and we had a slapstick moment when the entire party of ten single-file adventurers backpedaled furiously away from the bees. One flew in pursuit, and despite his plate armor, Tod was stung! He chose to roll the big green d30 for his save vs. poison, and luckily survived the venom of the sting.

The group had escaped into a wider hall with a door at the end of it, curiously containing a drilled peephole at about knee level. They knocked on the door, and were greeted by a gruff voice telling them to go away and make a commotion somewhere else, but when they said they were sent by Pluck Fimple to see Tom Pipkin, they got a much warmer reception. A gnome unbarred the door and invited them into the house that they had converted into their mining camp. The gnomes had decorated the house in an implausibly cozy and homey way, with little comfy chairs, a cuckoo clock, little still life and nature paintings on shelves, and several triple-decker bunk beds. Vito offered wine as usual, and the gnomes shared some tasty seedcakes with them.

The party was introduced to the leader of the gnomes, Tom Pipkin, and his second-in-command, Grimble Grumble. Tom told them of the troubles they have had with the "knockers", which he described as evil spirits of the underground, twisted elementals of the dark places of the earth. "Er, if we theoretically had captured one of these knockers," asked Tyrriel, "what would you suggest should be done with it?" "I should say you should slash its throat without delay!" said Tom with a sudden violence that subsided as quickly as it had come. "Here, have another seedcake." Tom told them the knockers had stolen a significant sum of gold coins from them and if the adventurers could recover them there would certainly be a reward in it for them. They showed him the gold nuggets they had found, but Tom said that the gnome coins would be stamped with the image of their king.

It was getting late, so the group bid farewell to the gnomes and retraced their steps back to the town square, pausing to dispose of the sleeping knocker that Wilhelm was still carrying. In the square, they paused to leave some aural graffiti with one of the statues ("Please make sure to check out the wonderful artwork behind the curtain in the gallery. You won't regret it!"). D&D players are such pranksters.

And then they returned back to the Rusty Lantern tavern. At a table, they excitedly emptied out the sack of gold nuggets they had found, only to discover in the afternoon sunlight streaming in the tavern windows, it was clearly copper rather than gold! "Damn fairy gold!" swore Tod.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Player Journals from Session 4

Two more player journals from last week's game: 

Journal of Tod P. Quasit Jr.
It is with a heavy heart that I must report that my dear friend and com-padre, Vinnie has passed away on one of our delves into the Under City. Killed by a godless bandit. I drink a toast to his memory. A toast or two perhaps.
So I was too ill last week to write in this journal. I think you will remember that I was poisoned by some rot gut I drank at the Slippery Eel. I was warned about their bargain swill but I was also invited there by a person who I could not say no to. It is with a heavy heart that I must report that my old drinking friend Lenore is no longer with us. Her liver just couldn't make it anymore. I drink a toast to her memory. But not at the Slippery Eel. I will have that place shut down.

Last week, after turning in all the bandits except for their leader into the proper authorities, we delved back into the Under City to investigate their hide-out. Somehow, one of the bandits, the one that the Wizzard Twiffles charmed, has now joined our group.

We encountered three young people on our way to the hideout. Dressed in very expensive armor and adorned in expensive upholstery, they were clearly out of their depth. We saved them from some thugs and Brother Jibber gave them a stern lecture. We did let them go and they gave us a little statue as way of thanks. Jibber seemed quite rattled by the thing. I have no idea why. Looked like a panda to me.

So after turning in the four thugs who were accosting the kids to the proper authorities, we decided that our group was in fact quickly becoming "the proper authorities" and it wouldn't not be completely unlawful to behave as the police of this filthy crime filled vermin infested hell hole of an Under City. 

So we searched the hide-out and successfully found several caches of moneys as well as some rather expensive looking items. It was suggested we try to find the rightful owners of the items, but Jibber began expounding on the righteous need for redistribution of wealth and that the very act of owning such extravagant items rendered the owner a moral-less  plutocrat. Not sure where he was going with all this, as most of us are clearly in this for the money. That and the fame. Fame and fortune. And power. And righteousness.  Yes.

I think I'm going to pop off to the Festering Gob for a quick pint and maybe a cold meat sandwich. I believe our group, now officially known as THE INFESTATION MANAGERS plans to delve again soon. Maybe I'll grab Jibber for a drink and talk about his philosophy about property ownership.

TPQ jr.

A fourth letter home (Quazzle's journal)
Hello again Father,

Not a lot to say this week. We've retrieved a large number of valuables from the bandit's mansion, including some pieces that pre-date the fall of the old city, things the bandits didn't even find.

And in case that isn't enough for you, father, we also rescued some rather naive-looking youngsters from muggers. Now, those are the sorts of people who really shouldn't be down here. They claimed to be able to take care of themselves, but clearly that's not the case!

Well, I haven't got much more to talk about. Twiffle continues to be a stalwart companion, though I'm sure you wouldn't approve. You've made your feelings about elves very clear indeed over the years.

Please pass along my best wishes to Mother, Roger, Abigail, and Matron Della. I hope they all are doing well.

Your son,