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.

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