Monday, December 14, 2015

Idalium Game 37: The Eternal Flame

Session date: Monday, November 2, 2015
Game date: Saturday, August 17, 208 to Sunday, September 1, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4723/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 6356/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 1052/1200

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 820/2000
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1867/2400

Gulleck dimly became aware of himself again. It felt like he was lying underwater, looking up where a light was shining somewhere above him. A muffled voice seemed to call to him: "Gulleck! Gulleck! Arise, Gulleck! Awake, Gulleck!"

He opened his eyes, and found he was lying in a small room that smelled of incense and scented oils. There was a young lady sitting next to him, and it seemed to Gulleck that white light was streaming all around her like a halo. He recognized her as Archura, the Abbess of the Great Cathedral of Idalium, whom he had met during Brother Jibber's elevation ceremony.

She smiled kindly at him. "It is good to have you back, Gulleck. You were lost, but have been called back to this world. It is not often that we would do this for one who is not a faithful member of our Church, but Brother Jibber did vouch most elegantly for your character. And I feel that you may have a role to play in the service to the Church yet."

Abbess Archura explained that in the mountains many miles to the east, near a kingdom of dwarves, was rumored to stand a old monastery, older than the new city of Idalium and this cathedral. This monastery was said to be the last resting place of a relic sacred to the Church, a Holy Lantern. Archura asked Gulleck to go as an envoy to the dwarves, seek directions to this monastery, and retrieve the lantern.

This actually aligned well with Gulleck's own personal goals, as he had reasons of his own to travel to his ancestral homeland in the eastern mountains. While he was musing on this, the Abbess was murmuring words of prayer over him, and Gulleck felt a sudden sense of resignation and commitment come over him.

"Uh, did you just do something to me?"

"It is not something to be concerned about. As long as you are making progress towards your goal, all will be well. Should you ignore your mission for us, the light of God shall be taken from you."

"Er... wait, what?"

"Let us not dwell on it. Make your preparations and go. I would not ask you to break your word to anyone, so resolve whatever existing commitments and promises you may have, but then go without delay. Rest here tonight, and in the morning your friends will be here to help you home."

Slightly troubled by this but relieved to be alive, Gulleck fell into a deep sleep. In the morning, his fellow adventurers came to see him and walk with him back to his apartment. Gulleck felt weak and frail, and he remained in his apartment convalescing for two weeks before he felt ready to return to the Undercity in search of the elixir of life for Lord Dinsdale. In the meantime, Caryatid was spending her hard-earned coin on books and esoteric inks and powders, working to master the Read Magic spell, so as to comprehend the contents of the spellbooks retrieved from the wizard's apartments below.

When Gulleck was recovered, he and Caryatid, along with their retainers "Meat" and Ylil, descended into the ruined city of Ancient Idalium once more. They had barely made any headway into the dungeon when they encountered a group of knockers. Gulleck had a long-standing hatred of the wizened gnome-like creatures, and charged into battle, sending them screaming in panic away. While he was returning his axe to his belt with a satisfied smirk, there was an even more fearful howl from the knockers down the dark corridor they had fled along. Then, around the corner, came an enormous spider, venom dripping from its footlong fangs. The adventurers quickly turned and scrambled through a door, but alas! Just as Ylil darted through and turned to pull the door shut behind him, the spider pounced with alarming speed, and its fangs sunk deep into his shoulder. He turned pale and quavered, and only managed to pull the door fully shut before he collapsed lifeless at its threshold.

The party waited, sober and grim, for the spider to stalk away, and then they carried Ylil's body back to the surface. Caryatid was impressed upon by her colleagues to pay for a proper burial with a headstone for her faithful retainer. Caryatid found a new retainer at the Great Cathedral, a colleague of Brother Jibber's named Brother Guntur Valto. The party reunited at the Rusty Lantern the next day and attempted to make better progress this time.

Down to the second level they went. Along the way they encountered a group of animated skeletons, allowing Brother Guntur to demonstrate his piety, repelling the undead and herding them into the animated crystal statue in the Temple of Hedonism. The adventurers applauded as the statue smashed the skeletons to bone fragments.

On their way to the caverns, the party stopped briefly in the wizard's apartment, only to discover that Caryatid's "doppelganger" had moved in and taken it over as her own home. She was quite cordial with them, but they were alarmed at the casual way she had taken up residence in the dungeon. "It is a good place for me now, on my path to personal self-improvement." None of them liked the sound of that.

They also ran into a lost and confused acolyte, who asked them if they knew the way to "the temples on the third level". She said that she was SO ANNOYED at Miss Frost. This rang a bell with the adventurers; they had encountered a Miss Frost and her band of black-robed acolytes several months ago. Continuing on their way, they encountered another adventuring party of their friendly acquaintance - St. Dwindum's Heroes - and then once in the caverns managed to find a sizable hidden treasure that was marked on a treasure map they had acquired long ago! Further on in the caverns they encountered a large group of traders, who seemed suspicious and skeptical of them. Axel surreptitiously used the medallion engraved "Clarity", which they had discovered allowed the wearer to hear the thoughts of anyone nearby. Axel could hear the lead trader's thoughts as though he were speaking them aloud. He was suspicious of the adventurers and concerned to avoid a fight. The traders let the adventurers pass by without aggression, however.

Then they were in the caverns where they had fought the horrible reptilian humanoids last time. The mind-reading medallion alerted Axel to the presence of one of the creatures, and they were able to attack it before it could surprise them. At the north end of the cavern there was a sort of ledge about ten feet high, and scrabbling down the cave wall from the ledge came another half dozen of the scaly humanoids. The air filled with the stench of their secretions and most of the party members were nauseated, gagging and retching as they tried to form a battle line. Things were looking uncertain for the adventurers, as they were outnumbered and the creatures were savage. But then Caryatid drew forth a dark mahogany wand that they had found in the wizard's quarters, and with a flick of the wrist released its power at the creatures. There was a pop and a wave of sparks that washed over the creatures, and when the afterimage of the light faded, all of them were lying on the ground twitching and squirming, paralyzed and unable to move. Axel did the dirty work of putting them down, and the group considered the ledge.

It seemed that it led in the direction they had been told to go in order to find the eternal flame and the elixir of life. Gulleck ended up getting chosen to explore, perhaps because of his infravision, perhaps because he was smaller could squeeze through the narrow passage beyond the ledge easiest. In any event, they hoisted Gulleck up and he cautiously explored a small chamber. There was an opening in the east wall near the floor, just a couple of feet high, but looking into it Gulleck thought he could see the flickering of flame. He lay down and squirmed through the low passage on his belly, coming out into a strange glittering grotto of sorts, where the cave walls contained flecks of mica that reflected the flickering of a flame that burned in a hollow in the far wall. Near the flame were scattered a number of gems, a jeweled medallion, and an ornate sword. Gulleck cautiously approached and inspected the flame. It burned in a small natural hollow in the stone, and it seemed that the heat of the flame caused a liquid to condense on the stone, where it dripped into a bowl-shaped depression below the flame. He could see the sticky liquid forming on the walls of the stone, and perhaps half a cup of the liquid had accumulated in the bowl. It had the consistency of thin honey, and he scooped as much of it as he could into some empty potion vials, and then gathered the treasure that was scattered here. The sword had an interesting hilt: one of the quillons being forged into the image of a sort of rat man and the other into that of a wolf man.

Gulleck triumphantly gathered the spoils and retraced his steps back to the rest of the party. They quickly and quietly returned the way they had come, back to the first level of the ruined city and then back up to the Rusty Lantern tavern. The gems and medallion, as well as the hidden treasure they had found, garnered enough experience points for Axel to achieve second level! It was time to break for the night, so the group left it for next session to deliver the elixir of life to Lord Dinsdale and collect their reward. And then to make preparations for their journey across the wilderness to the kingdom of the dwarves and beyond...

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Player Journals from Session 36

Journal of Tod P. Quasit August 17, 208
Dear Diary,

It is with a heavy heart that I must report that our dear dear friend, solider in arms, fellow adventurer and all around really good guy, Gulleck, is dead. I can not help but feel slightly at fault for his untimely demise. My plan to instigate a fight between a group of orcs and their pet troll Lorg backfired.  But I'll start at the beginning.

It was a small group that delved below the city that fateful day.  Just four of us.  I brought Jibber.  Gulleck brought a fellow I'd never met before who they called Meat. 

The delve started as they usually do, with the party making their way down to the second level.  Even before we got to the stairs we ran into weirdness.  A group of people dressed in animal masks speaking a language none of us knew.  After much gesticulating, we managed to get on by them without a fight.  It was looking dodgy for a while.

Then we ran into some goblins. They were easily dispatched.  In the orgy room, the four lizards were still hanging out, picking over the bones of that dead elf.  Gulleck suggested I try to get the lizards to fetch us the bag that the elf had by his side with the ring that lets you control the minds of beasts., I put on the ring and got the beast to do just that.  Unfortunately, when I released it from my mental control, it got really pissed at us and all four of them attacked us. They kicked our ass and we ran away.  The better part of valor. 

We tried to sneak past the lizards by drinking invisibility potion and leading the lizards out of the room with goblin bodies.  This plan seemed to work surprisingly well.  Unfortunately, those orcs standing guard by the gong figured out what was going on.  Maybe because of my glowing sword or maybe when the potion ran out. Anyhow, they gonged the gong and the fight was on. We killed about four of them and the others ran away.  Then Lorg the troll came up the stairs and we ran away. The better part of valor.  He was nine feet tall. For some reason he didn't chase us. 

We decided to go to the Goblin Market using the stupid rope bridge instead of fighting Lorg. Past the bridge we ran into another group of orcs, messing with those giant bugs that were eating the black gloop in that cavern.  That's when I told them that Lorg has told me to tell them that they were idiots. For some reason they didn't storm off to kill Lorg.  They attacked us instead. There may have been a bit more to it.  But at any rate, Gulleck was not up to the challenge and neither was his buddy Meat.  They both fell in battle. Jibber and I managed to kill all but one of them.  The last one ran away.  

The plan was to carry our two fallen comrades to the room with the resurrection pool.  Along the way we ran into a couple of really flamboyant hobgoblins named Clabberpus and Margleton. Or something.  I bargained with them and now I owe Clabberpus a favor, but they distracted the orcs standing guard by the gong... oh yeh, where the gong used to be!  We chucked it into the ravine under the rope bridge.  Heh.  That was poor Gulleck's idea.  Poor Gulleck. 

Anyhow, with the hobgoblin's help we got the bodies to the resurrection room.  Meat came back to life but Gulleck did not, as we feared.  Jibber mentioned that perhaps we could get the CHURCH to perform a very expensive resurrection. Luckily, the dead orcs who had killed Gulleck had a lot of treasure which should pay for the miracle. 

With Gulleck's body in tow, we decided to call it a day and returned to the Rusty Lantern.  I have to get to the Church right away. Jibber says the resurrection gets more expensive and tricky when rot sets in.  Perhaps there is time for one tankard of grog at The Missing Shoe.  Gulleck was never the most pleasant smelling of fellows but I think he's still fresh.  

By the way, I've never felt better.

Idalium Game 36: "Lorg Says Hi from All Your Mothers!"

Session date: Monday, October 26, 2015
Game date: Saturday, August 17, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2652/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4723/8800

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 1714/3000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 257/2000

Another week, another attempt to find the rumored elixir of life produced by an eternal flame in the caves north of the Goblin Market. As far as they had heard, Lord Dinsdale, the dying aristocrat who had hired them on this errand, was still clinging to life, and so the Infestation Managers regrouped once again at the Rusty Lantern tavern. We had an unusual player roster tonight, just Tod and Gulleck and their retainers. As they settled in with their maps and character sheets, comments went round the game table that pretty much everyone in this party had high hit points and good armor class, and they felt well equipped to bring the fight back to the hideous reptilian monsters from last week. Perhaps this turned out to be overconfidence later in the session.

They took their usual route into the Undercity, but as they pulled open a door that led to a robing room in the back of a temple, they came face to face with a group of strangely dressed figures. There were eight people; male or female, it was hard to tell. They wore black robes over plate armor, and worn bizarre animal masks over their faces. The one in the lead had a bird mask with a long curving bill, somewhat like a plague doctor's mask. Dark sticky blood was visible on some of their war hammers.

Gulleck and Tod cautiously attempted to greet the strange party, but they replied in rapid speech in a language no one understood. It seemed like both groups wanted to pass by the other, but both were nervous and cautious. Eventually, Gulleck made his intentions understood, and the masked figure waved its arm briskly at the door across the room. The party hurried past the bizarre figures and through the room, and the robes and masks ones left the room from the door that the party had come through.

Beyond the door was the temple with the ever-full basin of blood. Sprawled on the floor near the basin was a group of goblins, half of them dead with crushed-in chests and heads. The four survivors took one look at Tod and Gulleck and drew their rusty swords. "It's their friends come to finish us off! Kill them first!" Unfortunately, for the goblins, they were no match for the adventurers, and they very quickly joined their fallen comrades on the floor.

Resuming their expedition down to the second level, the group passed through the Temple of Hedonism and down into the basement. A note on the door to the "orgy room" read, "The Den is closed until further notice. :-( ". Tod pushed the door open to see that the four giant lizards were still nesting in the room. Several of the plush beds and ottomans had been shredded up and the stuffing was torn out. The body of Death Watch (now mostly skeletal and picked clean) still lay on the floor here, next to a leather sack. It occurred to the players to try one of the rings of animal control that they had claimed from the Night Walkers. Tod worn the ring and concentrated his mental power through it, focusing on one of the lizards, which suddenly stood stock still and stared at him. He concentrated his efforts on willing it to pick up the sack and bring it over to him, and it did so, moving stiffly and jerkily.

Unfortunately, when Tod released the lizard from the power of the ring (so that he could walk out of the room) it seemed to be decidedly unhappy about having been controlled. It snapped its jaws at Tod, but could not penetrate his armor. The other three lizards joined the fight as well, and Gulleck received a horrible bite in the leg. The group realized that these giant lizards were fearsome when provoked and beat a quick retreat out of the room, pulling the door shut behind them. Brother Jibber performed his first miracle in the service of the Church, laying his hands on Gulleck's wound and invoking fervent prayers to God. Gulleck was amazed to discover that his broken skin had knit back together and the pain was greatly reduced. And so they felt emboldened to press on rather than retreat to the surface and rest for a few days. (Perhaps another factor leading up to the doom that befell them later in the session...)

The group huddled and pondered whether there was another way down to the second level that could avoid the lizards. They knew of some possibilities, but nothing known to be safe. Eventually, they settled on a plan that involved retrieving the corpses of the goblins from the temple upstairs and luring the lizards away from the temple of hedonism using the corpses and the assistance of a potion of invisibility to confuse the beasts. This was generally successful, and the group managed to pass through the temple room and head out to the north. Here the dilemma was whether to use the stupid time-consuming rope bridge to cross the canyon (they have been talking about coming down with a wheelbarrow of lumber and building a proper bridge once and for all) or deal with the orc guards to the north. I guess they were in a fighting mood, so they chose to head north, where the orcs of the second level seemed to have their lair.

Everyone was still invisible from the potion, but Tod's sword was still shedding light, and as they approached they could see the two orc guards standing by their gong with swords drawn and suspicious, alarmed looks on their faces. Gulleck tried to sneak up invisible to the orcs to scare them off, but made too much noise, and anyway, just as he got up to them the invisibility wore off.

"Dwarf sorcery!" barked one of the orcs, and lunged at Gulleck with his sword. The other orc ran to the gong (really just a crude piece of sheet metal hanging from a wooden frame) and clanged frantically away at it. The orcs were quickly slain, but many more came running up the stairs that led down to the west. Tod, Brother Jibber, and Meat all came running up to join the battle. Some of the orcs had shortbows and stood back trying to line up shots between their front line. There was a struggle for Gulleck's axe, and then Gulleck fumbled and dropped it. But fortunately for him, one of the orc archers also rolled a natural 1 and then rolled very "well" on the followup attack against his ally, which resulted in the orc shooting his friend in the buttocks at point blank range.

Hampered by these kinds of comedic hijinks, and it being practically impossible to get anything past Tod's magical plate armor and shield, the battle turned quickly against the orcs. Their morale broke, and the survivors ran back to the west, down the stairs into their lair. The adventurers caught their breath, and Gulleck, wounded and annoyed, began sawing away at the ropes from which the gong was suspended.

Just as he cut the gong free, the sound of enormous, heavy footsteps came plodding up the stairs. A huge and hideously ugly man was stomping towards them. He was at least nine feet tall, and wore nothing but a filthy loincloth. He carried an enormous club and roared at them as he approached.

"They have a cave troll," sighed Tod. The adventurers wanted nothing to do with this ugly monstrosity, and ran at full speed away back the way they had come, ducking into a door that led through a series of rooms and into the caverns. The "cave troll" laughed mockingly at them as they ran away. "Ha ha ha, Lorg scare puny little people away!"

Gulleck paused at the rope bridge to pitch the sheet metal gong into the darkness below, hearing it splash into the rushing water far below them. Then they collected themselves, and headed north through the caves, in search of the Goblin Market and the Eternal Flame said to burn somewhere beyond it.

They wandered through the caves, and eventually came to the large cavern to the west of the Goblin Market. Dark sticky liquid wept from the walls at the west end of the cavern. When they were last here, a group of giant cave locusts had been lapping at the liquid, but now, a half dozen orcs were chortling viciously as they stabbed at locusts with their crude swords, stowing the dead locusts away in burlap sacks. As Tod's swordlight fell upon them they looked up with cruel smiles on their bestial faces.

Now, I still don't quite understand why things went down the way they did. These orcs were happily engaged in grasshopper hunting. They were blissfully unaware that the adventurers had just fought a pitched battle against their comrades. The reaction roll was quite positive. The orcs would probably have just made some vulgar jokes and offered a couple locusts to the party.

But then Tod said, "Hey! Lorg said that you guys are SO STOOOOPID!"

"What? Lorg didn't say that! You shut up!"

"Uh, what are you doing, Tod?" hissed Gulleck.

"Oh, and by the way," called Tod. "Lorg says hi from all your mothers!"

"Wha--?! You shut up or we'll shut you up with these!" And swords were drawn, and the orcs fell upon the adventurers, screaming and raging. Gulleck was stabbed deeply by an orc's dirty sword. He attempted to retreat behind his retainer, but the orcs were too fast, and he was stabbed again and again, and fell to the cold cavern floor, dead. Meat attempted to avenge his employer, but he too was run through and sank to the ground gurgling.

Tod's magical sword sang in the air as it decapitated orcs. All but one were killed, and the survivor lost his nerve and ran off into the dark. But it was too late for Gulleck and Meat, and Tod looked down on their cooling bodies with a guilty conscience.

The quest for the Eternal Flame was again thwarted. Now, the mission was to bring the bodies back to the pool of rebirth. Tod and Jibber set themselves to the unpleasant task of slowly dragging the bodies of Gulleck and Meat through the cavern and back into the dungeon. Tod was nervous about what they would do when they came to the orcs again.

And here, a wandering monster check came to their rescue. When they got to the cave just north of the rope bridge, they were startled to see two tall goblins just leaning against the cave walls. One was idly flipping a silver coin. His eyes widened at the dismal sight of Tod and Jibber dragging the bodies of their friends.

"If it isn't Tod!" cried a goblin. "It is I, Clabberpus. You remember me, I trust, and Margleton as well? I see you have met with some ill fortune today."

Clabberpus made an offer to Tod. He would help the adventurers bypass the orcs, but at a price. Tod would owe him an open-ended, undefined favor. "You will owe me a favor. At some point, I will call that favor in, and you will satisfy it. Do we have a deal?"

Ill at ease but feeling no other options, Tod shook on the deal with the goblin, whose hand was clammy and discomforting. The goblins led them out of the caverns and through a series of rooms, where they met a fellow adventuring party, St. Dwindum's Heroes. The "Heroes" had suffered a casualty as well, and like Tod and Jibber, were concerned about getting past the orc checkpoint. Brother Michael volunteered his party to help carry Gulleck and Meat in a more respectful manner than being dragged along the floor. Clabberpus raised a hand, and said, "We will go out and speak with the orcs. Wait a few moments, and then be on your way. I'm sure we will see each other again soon, Tod." The two goblins walked into the hall, and after a few seconds, the two adventuring parties followed. To the north, they could see the goblins talking to two orcs at the stairs. The orcs looked intimidated. Snatches of the goblins' words floated down the hall, and Tod heard "the Goblin King" mentioned. Clabberpus reached an arm behind his back and waved the adventurers away.

As quickly as they could, the groups carried their dead to the round temple of pink marble that contained the strange pool of rebirth. Bardelio, the slain hobbit of St. Dwindum's Heroes, was lowered into the pool, and soon came out looking more hale and hearty than ever. Meat was likewise brought back to full vigor by the ancient magic of the pool.

Gulleck had already been revived by the pool once, and it had not worked on Gulleck's former retainer Twiffle a second time. But they carefully lowered Gulleck in anyway, on the off chance that it might still work. Sadly, however, Gulleck remained inert at the bottom of the pool. Tod immersed himself to lift Gulleck's body, and Tod himself felt suffused with life and health (gaining a permanent point of Constitution and healing all his wounds).

Brother Jibber mentioned to Tod that the highest ranking officers of the Church did have the miraculous power to call a person back from death itself, and he thought they might be willing to do so for Gulleck, even though he was a dwarf and not a parishioner. For a significant donation, anyhow...

Lifting up Gulleck's body again, the adventurers carefully made their way back to the surface where they grimly divvied up the recovered loot. The leather sack that Death Watch had died with contained two exquisite bracelets, that earned Tod enough experience points to achieve level 3! (Sometimes it pays off when your fellow adventurers don't survive the expedition...) Tod sold the bracelets, for he had a feeling he would be making a very significant donation to the Church in the very near future...

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Player Journals from Session 35

Journal of Tod P. Quasit August 10, 208
Dear Diary,

It finally happened. Jibber got the recognition he deserved from his fellow churchy types and they bequeathed onto him a new sash with a beautiful golden symbol of power and piety. Apparently he can now cause miracles to happen. I am so proud of the Jibber.

After the ceremony and much celebration, we met up at the Rusty Lantern and got back to some undercity delving. We got to the orgy room and found four giant lizards eating what's his head, that other jerk elf that we didn't kill. Alas. I guess we didn't give him the fighting change we thought we had. Or something. I'll drink a toast to his memory I guess.

So we decided to keep looking for that Elixer of Life Flame for Lord Dinsdale. We made out way to the Goblin Market but it was closed. We got attacked by terrible smelling things. Three of us died but we were able to revive them in the pink goo. Man that stuff is handy. We were attacked by giant monkeys. Got some nice treasure. Killed some orcs. Decided we'd had enough fun for one night and went home. We'll find that damned flame of youth next time I guess.

Jibber and I are resuming our celebration at the Mutton Chop. I want to see him turn water into ale.

Idalium Game 35: Death from Above

Session date: Monday, October 19, 2015
Game date: Saturday, August 10, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2254/4000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 3930/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 6024/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 720/1200

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 1531/3000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1450/2500
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1701/2400

The previous session had started with some exposition of a quest for the party, but they never managed to actually get anywhere near the Eternal Flame that was rumored to exist in the caverns of level 2, north of the Goblin Market. Now, with a smaller group of players, they made another attempt to find the legendary flame, said to produce an Elixir of Life that could revive the dying Lord Dinsdale.

But first, now that Tod had regained second level and was able to retain Brother Jibber's services again (can't have a retainer be higher level than their employer!) we had a "flashback" scene to the elevation ceremony of Brother Jibber. In the Great Cathedral of Light, the Abbess Archura, a young woman with long strawberry blonde hair, bid Brother Jibber forth to kneel before her. She spoke of his exemplary service to the Church and the role he had yet to play in fighting back the forces of Chaos. "Brother Jibber, you have proven yourself a worthy member of our order. You are hereby invested with the power and right to perform miracles in the name of the All-Pervading Light." He was bestowed the rank of Deacon in the Church and a handsome silver holy symbol was placed around his neck.

(Even though Brother Jibber is merely an NPC henchman, you've gotta play up the transition from level 1 to level 2 cleric. It's such a huge deal to finally be able to cast spells!)

As they entered the Rusty Lantern tavern and made ready to descend into the Undercity, the talking head on the wall above the bar (dubbed "Headdie" by Gulleck) told them that Morlo, formerly of the Night Walkers, had come sheepishly into the tavern to empty the Night Walkers' vault in the cellar of equipment and treasure, and cross the Night Walkers off of the tavern "scoreboard". Their entry now read "Defunct - Defeated in a cowardly ambush by an insane dwarf". The Infestation Managers sniffed at the blatant inaccuracy of this recounting, but got on with their preparations unfazed.

They took their usual route through the first level of ruins, using the embroidered togas to pass by the crystal statue guarding the steps down to the second level. In the Temple of Hedonism, they discovered that a quartet of enormous lizards had made a nest of the pleasure den. One of them was lazily gnawing on the mangled and chewed corpse of a familiar elf. It was Death Watch, their hated rival whom they had allowed to run away after defeating his party last week. It was apparent that he had not made it out of the dungeon. A burlap sack lay on the floor near his hand.

Eyeing the four giant lizards warily, the group moved cautiously along the walls and slipped out of the room, heading north. They debated whether they should head east into the caverns and attempt the crossing of the rope bridge (time consuming or annoying) or tangle with the orcs who guarded the hallway to the north. The direct route through the orcs won out, and the party headed north to confront the bestial subhumans.

Two orcs stood in the hall in front of a crude metal gong and refused to let the party pass without paying a hefty toll. Tod was tired of being shaken down by these savage beastmen, and things got violent pretty quickly. Axel and Ylil scurried around them to try to lower the gong to the floor without a sound, and did so, but the orcs were rapidly overpowered and slain. The party hoped to avoid suspicion so they propped up the dead orcs, sitting against the wall. If nobody got too close, it might fool them for a while...

They moved on through a series of rooms that led to another way into the caverns, and found themselves in the room where they had battled the Night Walkers. They headed through the caves to the north, in search of the Goblin Market. Caryatid had been there once before, and gave directions according to her confusing and often incomplete maps. They clambered over uneven group in the caves, passing a cave with an eerie blue glow, and a cave where a dark sticky liquid seemed to weep from the walls. A number of giant cave locusts were clustered around the liquid, lapping at it. They ignored the liquid and the locusts, and headed east, into the Goblin Market.

Unlike the last time Caryatid had been here with Gulleck, the Market was empty and silent, except for the ticking of an imposing grandfather clock at the far south end of the hall. It had but one hand, which seemed to show the phases of the Moon. The three days surrounding the full moon were illustrated with a scene of the market in full swing, but they were about a week late. The tables were all pushed to the sides of the great hall with its crooked black and white checkerboard floor. The pens and cages at the north end stood empty as well, with only a slight animal smell lingering in the air.

To the north they went, into an unexplored region of the caves, trying to head north as the rumors suggested. Coming around a bend of a tight winding passage, they walked out into a more open space. All seemed calm, but then there was a sudden screeching and dark shapes dropped from the walls all around them. A horrible stench filled the air. It was unlike the sickly sweet putrifaction of the ghouls, but a stomach-turning pungence that nauseated several party members, who gagged and retched and had difficulty bringing their swords to bear on the creatures that had caught them by surprise.

Five bipedal reptilian creatures had leapt down among them. They had crests running down their heads and arms (which terminated in viciously clawed hands), and their coloration was a strange stony mottling that had blended in perfectly with the walls of the cave. Tyrriel, Wilhelm, and Ylil were pounced upon, and their screams filled the air as the horrible lizardlike creatures clawed and bit at them. Blood sprayed profusely, and the three unfortunates fell to the ground before they were even able to react.

Tod and Jibber did their best to form a line to protect Caryatid. Axel dropped into the shadows to get a clear bowshot at the horrible creatures. But they were outnumbered now, and the beasts pressed the attack. In desparation, Caryatid drew forth the crooked wand of fear, and released its power at the creatures. Three of them scrabbled away from her, and ran howling into the dark caverns to the north. Tod managed to slay another of the beasts, and Caryatid fired a magic missile into the last one and brought it down. She was dismayed to find that the wand, which had saved their lives on many an occasion, had suddenly turned ashy and crumbly and fell to pieces in her hand. So much for that.

So now the evening's plan had to change to getting Tyrriel, Wilhelm, and Ylil back to the pool of rebirth. Tod and Jibber carried Tyrriel between them, Axel and Caryatid got Wilhelm and Ylil into fireman's carries, and the group retraced their steps slowly and painfully. Thankfully, the two dead orcs were still propped against the wall where they left them, and they made it to the temple with the pool without incident. One by one, Tyrriel, Wilhelm, and Ylil were stripped out of their armor and backpacks and lowered into the shimmering, syrupy waters of the pool, emerging fully revived seconds later. Caryatid threw all reason aside and tried to take another dip herself, hoping to get another Constitution bonus I suppose, but alas, it had no effect on her the second time (as if one doppelganger is bad enough).

With the party fully revived, it was decided to return to the Rusty Lantern, although no treasure had been discovered. On the way, they decided to stop in the Temple of Chance, to give Axel the "opportunity" to spin the mighty Wheel of Fate. They carefully strapped him into the big wheel and then gave it a good spin. Axel whirled round and round on the circular table, gazing up at the dispassionate goddess of fate painted on the ceiling, who seemed to rotate with him. Eventually, the wheel came to a stop, and as Axel was unstrapped from the wheel he realized that all the gold in his belt pouch had vanished! Later on, when he got back to the Rusty Lantern, he discovered that a good portion of his money stored there was missing as well.

Wilhelm also wanted to try the wheel, so Tyrriel helped him on and gave him a spin. Nothing obvious happened to him, but as they were unbuckling him from the restraints, a half dozen enormous baboons suddenly charged into the room, hooting and shrieking, waving yellowed femurs above their heads. Tyrriel quickly spoke the words of the Sleep spell, and luckily all of the baboons slumped to the ground. A few were wearing some incongruously valuable trinkets - one had a jeweled necklace and had been wielding a golden scepter as a club, and another had a bronze medallion around its neck. This simple medallion was engraved with the word "Clarity", so they appropriated this as well for later investigation.

They passed through the Temple of Hedonism, avoiding the four lizards again, and headed upstairs and back to the Rusty Lantern. On the way they had a scuffle with some orcs, but nothing that Wilhelm's Sleep spell couldn't deal with handily.

Financially, the delve had been a bust until the encounter with the baboons, but the gold darics raised from liquidating the jewelry were worth enough experience points to enable Tyrriel the elf to finally achieve second level. A significant accomplishment for anyone playing an elf in Classic D&D! Axel, too, was getting quite close to second level, a testament to how fast thieves level compared to other classes.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Player Journals from Session 34

The Journal of Tod P. Quasit August 3, 208
Dear Diary,

After many months of introspective gasping at my navel, feeling sorry for myself and drinking way too much of Gorman's hard peach cider, I decided to join up with my friends to once again delve into the Undercity. I paid a visit to Jibber in the Chapel of the Erstwhile Ram, where he was doing his rigorous abstinence exercises while preparing for his accession ritual but he said he I was no longer worthy of his company and that he had too much to do before the ceremony to go with me. He did wish me luck however.

So we met up at the Rusty Lantern. I met a new fellow, a stout fighter named Moog who was very very stopped but a good sort of fellow to have around I think. Another new comer named Axel, and only one Caryatid was around, plus of course the dwarf and the elf.

We heard of a job that Lady Millicentis was offering. Her dear friend Lord Dinsdale was dying and wished our party to find an Elixir of Life that he was convinced was in the Undercity.

I'm suddenly becoming very thirsty for some peach cider. Suffice to say I was on a bridge toward the Goblin Market when suddenly a fight broke out in front of me. I was the last to cross because of my weakness of spirit. By the time I got across the Night Stalkers were either dead or defeated. We confiscated their stuff and exiled them from the Undercity. There was much burning. I guess that's about it.

I'm off to The Grubby Hedgehog for some delicious pies and chips and cider.

I'm feeling much better by the way.

Idalium Game 34: Burning Down the House

Session date: Monday, October 12, 2015
Game date: Saturday, August 3, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1737/2000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4723/8800
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 3436/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 5554/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 250/1200
Mog, Fighter 1, hp 8, xp 0/2000
Krong, Dwarf 2, hp 13, xp 2200/4400

This game took place on a rather festive occasion. A former member of our gaming group who had moved out of the country had returned for a visit home, and he sat in on the game. He rolled up an unhinged pyromaniac dwarf, a worshipper of some sort of ill-defined fire demon cult. The wonderful/terrible thing about players sitting in for a single session is that they have no attachment to your campaign and nothing to lose, so they can be inclined to just burn the whole place down if it makes the evening interesting. Vito's player was back as well, after a long absence! He was a bit bored of playing a thief, and so rolled up a big dumb fighter named Mog. And all of the other regulars were here, and so with a party of seven, they decided to entirely forgo retainers and venture into the dungeon on their own.

I thought that since we had a guest of honor for the night, I would provide an adventure hook to give the session some focus. In the end, the session went in an entirely different direction, but in any event, I co-opted the now-NPC Vito to provide some background. It turns out that Vito had been away from the party so long because he had acquired a new job, working as a gardener for Baroness Millicent Trenevant, an elderly aristocrat that he had been impressed by upon their previous meetings. Vito conveyed the message that Lady Millicent was increasingly worried about a dear friend of hers, a Lord Dinsdale, who was looking to hire adventurers to help him.

The party traveled across the City of Idalium, through various neighborhoods until they reached the grandest quarter of them all, where the Great Cathedral of Light rises above a grand public square, and wealthy manor houses line the streets. They turned down one of the older streets to meet with Lady Millicent at her house, still somewhat run-down as before, but now with much better kept gardens. Lady Millicent told them of her friend Lord Dinsdale, another "old money" noble fallen on hard times. He was old and dying now, but seemed convinced that he might prolong his life with the aid of adventurers. The party agreed to meet with Lord Dinsdale, and walked a short distance along the streets to his mansion. It was in worse condition than Lady Millicent's, once grand but now fallen nearly into ruin.

Their knock was answered by a melancholy-looking man, who walked with a cane and introduced himself as Pensley, Lord Dinsdale's valet. He led them through the big but empty house, full of dust and grime, to the bedroom of his master. Lord Dinsdale lay in bed in a frayed nightgown. His hair was white and straggly, and his voice quavered and rasped, interrupted frequently by fits of hacking coughs.

"Are you... adventurers? Have you come to help me? I am an old man... I am dying. But Pensley has told me of something that could restore my youth and grant me an entirely new life! And Elixir of Life! Speak to him, please, and if you can, bring me this elixir! There's money in for you. Twenty thousand shekels if you bring it to me! I have no need of money now!"

Stepping out of the bedroom, they spoke with Lord Dinsdale's valet. He told them that he had been an adventurer some years ago. He and his wife Junipress, along with other comrades, had explored the Undercity together. That came to an end, however, when his wife was seduced by the delicious fruit of the goblins, and chose to spurn him and stay in the dungeon to live with the goblins.

"Does this have anything to do with the Elixir of Life?" asked Krong, the visiting dwarf, whose player has always been impatient about extended exposition.

"I was getting to that," replied Pensley with a hurt expression. "We had bartered information from the goblins. They told us of a fantastical place in the caves to the north of the Goblin Market. The legends say there is an eternal flame burning in a niche in cave, and the heat of the flame produces a magical elixir with the power to completely renew the dying or even the dead. I told this story to Lord Dinsdale some time ago, and he has completely latched onto it as a means of surviving his natural end. But I... I would not trust the goblins. I believe the legend may be true, but I suspect there may be consequences to the use of the elixir. Those goblins delight in tricking people into their own downfall."

The group agreed to take on Lord Dinsdale's commission, and returned to the Rusty Lantern to gear up and head down to the caves of the second level. Krong had several flasks of oil strapped to a sash across his chest, and plugged with rags that could be easily lit afire. The regular Infestation Managers all gave him a wary look as he suited up.

Descending through the basement trap door into the ruined city of Ancient Idalium, the group moved swiftly among familiar corridors through the Temple of Hedonism and down to the second level of the dungeon. They headed east into the caverns, where they encountered a pair of very large giant lizards, that watched them cautiously from their nest. The group very carefully crept by them, staying close to the far wall and not approaching them, and were able to pass by without angering the beasts.

Then they were at the rope bridge that spanned the dark canyon where water could be heard rushing far below. They crossed slowly and carefully, one at a time. All but Tod had made the crossing and Tod was in the middle of the canyon when a smirking, familiar voice said, "Well now, what have we here? If it isn't the Rat Catchers!" It was their hated rivals, the Night Walkers, led by the sneering elf brothers Death Watch and Cobweb.

"I light a flask of oil and get ready to throw it," said Krong's player. Yep, it's gonna be that kind of evening.

"Oh no you don't, crazy dwarf!" yelled Death Watch, drawing his sword, and Cobweb began tracing odd patterns in the air and speaking unfamiliar words.

Darkness suddenly fell. None of the humans could see a thing, and the dwarves and elves could only see crude glowing shapes with their infravision. Tod was stuck out on the bridge in pitch blackness, listening to the sounds of increasing struggle up ahead.

Krong lit his beard on fire and then attempted to throw the flask at the elves, but fumbled his attack roll and managed to douse himself with flaming oil. Now committed to things, he grabbed two more flasks off of his bandolier. (I had him make rolls for each of his molotov cocktails to see if they ignited when he set himself on fire, and was rather surprised that none of them did. I was kind of expecting him to self-immolate right then and there.)

"I light them from my beard and charge screaming at them."

And then Tyrriel cast Sleep and knocked out the Night Walkers' front line. Cobweb barely had time to slump to the ground when Krong slammed a burning flask of oil into him, and he awoke briefly only to perish in a screaming inferno. Krong charged through the panicking back ranks of the Night Walkers, chasing a terrified magic-user down a corridor before slaughtering him with another flask of burning oil. A singed hobbit was allowed by Gulleck to return to the bridge, where he was tied up with the sleeping members of the Night Walkers, while Krong arranged his victims in the "ritual pose of purification" against the walls.

The party stripped the Night Walkers of all their armor, weapons, and valuables, and then woke Death Watch and gave him an ultimatum: Flee, and never return. Leave Idalium forever. Death Watch took a dreadful look at the burned remains of his brother Cobweb and agreed to their terms. He, his fighters Randall and Vince, and the scorched hobbit Morlo were allowed to run back west, out of the caverns and back into the worked stone corridors of the dungeon, without armor or sword or even a lantern to see by. "Wait for us, boss!" came their panicked screams as they ran after Death Watch.

The plunder was significant. A plain copper ring that left Caryatid feeling protected and defended, two bronze rings engraved with images of animals, a sword engraved with images of the Moon and runes that said "Shine" in Elvish. Several suits of armor that were in remarkably good condition and weighed less than one would expect, and a very shiny shield as well. There were beautiful pieces of jewelry (although sadly damaged by the fire!) and several potion vials.

And so, in the space of a couple of hours, the long-running feud with the Night Walkers came to a fiery end. And all because of a visiting player who, with no real interest in whether he survived the adventure, was liberated to just burn everything down because it was more exciting that way.

That's D&D for you!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Idalium Game 33: Talking Head

Session date: Monday, September 21, 2015
Game date: Saturday, July 13, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4473/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 5304/10000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 14, xp 5304/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 0/1200

Manley "Meat" Smyth, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 132/2000

Circumstances have conspired against us all month and we hadn't been able to field a quorum of two players besides the DM. But on this day, we had two, plus a new third player. We spent some time helping him roll up his new PC and explaining the basics of the game to him (he was entirely new to D&D). He chose to play a thief named Axel, intending to hang back hopefully safely in the rear of the party while getting the hang of the game.

The players wanted to finish exploring the wizard's apartment, so once everyone was ready the party moved swiftly down to the second level, avoiding the orcs' lair on their way back to the wizard's rooms. In the wizard's sitting room, the players were a bit unsettled to find that the rock baboon bodies from last session's climactic battle had been removed, with just a few bones and scraps of bloody fur scattered about. Head down the hallway to the north, they investigated the one area in the wizard's apartment that they had yet to visit. Gulleck opened a door to discover a cluttered alchemical laboratory, full of tables laden with esoteric glass equipment. Across the room, six squat wooden figures stood motionless facing the doorway. They were only about three feet tall, and rough-hewn into a crude humanoid shape. On the west wall, a old bookshelf still held some books and papers.

The front line of the party tentatively entered the laboratory, intent on investigating the bookshelf. To no one's particular surprise, one of the wooden figures jerked to life and marched stiffly towards the intruders. Gulleck was punched in the stomach, and he was shocked that such a small figure packed such a painful jab. It was not immune to his magical axe, though, and between that and Caryatid's magic missile, the animated doll was hacked to bits. Gulleck spent some time hacking up the other five, just in case they too came to life.

On the bookshelf, they found a few scraps of notes that mentioned books that were kept in the "north study". Concerned that they had missed something, they headed back towards the library, where a "secret" door had hung open on the south wall of the room. Perhaps there was a still-hidden door on the north wall? The door to the library was stubborn and hard to open. Gulleck pulled and pounded on it repeatedly, making an enormous amount of noise. Suddenly, a voice called out from behind the party.

"Hey, man, you're makin' a lot of noise. We heard you all the way up the hall."

The adventurers all spun round to see a group of men and women who had entered the sitting room. They seemed to be wearing what looked like ragged and tattered adventurers' clothes - some in armor, some in wizardly robes, and one with a tarnished holy symbol of the Church. But they seemed like unlikely adventurers: they were very mild-mannered and altogether too laidback and relaxed.

"You think you can open this door any quieter?" asked Gulleck.
"Sure, man, sure. You just gotta know the trick. Linda, give me some of that oil you got." A woman in leather armor passed over a flask of oil, and the man carefully oiled the hinges of the door, and then pulled it open silently and smoothly.
"So, what do you do when the hinges are on the other side?" asked Gulleck.
"Well, that's no problem, brother, you just gotta go all the way around and open it from the other side."

The two groups talked for some time. The newcomers said that they came from "up above", but now they live in the dungeon. "Right on, man, it's real groovy down here. You just gotta go know when to make yourself scarce. You seem like peaceful folks, come visit us some time." At the adventurers' prompting, they gave rough directions to their home: all the way to the north along the main hallway to the west.

The two groups parted amicably, and then the party walked into the library and began examining the bookshelves on the northern wall. And lo and behold, they did indeed find a secret panel exactly opposite to the one on the south wall! They pulled this open, and found a small study, still full of all sorts of interesting things. There was a bookshelf full of old leather-bound books, a writing desk, a stone pedestal with some sort of sphere atop it, covered in a velvet drape. And across the room was a big heavy wooden door reinforced with iron bands. The door had a very intricate carving of a face protruding from it: a grumpy-looking old man with bushy eyebrows and beard.

The bookshelf held all sorts of esoteric writings, including some elderly spellbooks containing the magical inscriptions of several spells (useful for reducing the cost of spell research). The "new" Caryatid busied herself packing away several books that described the workings of the summoning circle in the room to the west of the sitting room. Meanwhile, the original Caryatid carefully pulled the red cloth off of the round shape to reveal a clear crystal sphere. She gazed deep into the crystal, and found her peripheral vision fading to darkness, while within the crystal ball images began to take form...

She saw the ruins of a bathhouse, the pool filled with stagnant, scummy water...

She saw a room filled with cobweb-like strands of silk. White moths fluttered uneasily in the air, and through an archway at the end of the room, something large could be seen moving, something the same pallid white as the moths...

She saw a cavern full of steaming, bubbling mud. Waves of heat rippled her vision. Suddenly, there was a quick movement and something horrible came into view, staring right back at her - a face of sorts, with smooth greenish skin, large snake-like eyes, and a lamprey-like sphinctered mouth ringed with small tentacles...

Caryatid staggered backwards in shock, and the vision faded. She replaced the red drape carefully and the party moved on.

Meanwhile, the new recruit Axel had stepped forward to examine the strange door. As he approached it, the wooden face twitched to life and its eyes opened to peer at Axel.

"Who are you?" the wooden face asked in a cantankerous, creaky voice. "And what are you people doing in my master's study?"
"Cleanin'," quipped Gulleck.
"Cleaning?!" snapped the head in derision. "How do you dust the top of the shelves, Short Stuff? Oh, but I suppose you're real good at floors."

So this went on for a while, with the head berating and mocking the adventurers. Gulleck asked what was behind the door, and the head told him it was his master's secret vault, and then they asked it to open it and it said not a chance and then they implied that they could just hack the door down and that changed the tone of the conversation significantly.

"Fine, suit yourself," said the head, "Come on in!" The door swung open, revealing a small room lined with shelves. A wooden chest sat against one wall. And sprawled on the floor of the room were four bodies in ragged adventuring garb. "Wake up, boys! Go get 'em!" shrieked the face on the door, and the four bodies stirred and dragged themselves to their feet. The familiar sickly sweet stench of ghouls wafted towards the party.

Things looked bad. They had a small party, no cleric, and the last significant fight with ghouls had resulted in an effective TPK, averted only because the ghouls had a master who chose to keep the adventurers alive. Gulleck and "Meat" anxiously prepared themselves to meet the charge of the slavering ghouls as they rushed forward to the doorway.

But then "green Caryatid" spoke unfamiliar words from the rear of the party. Sticky strands of spider silk shot forth her outstretched hands, filling the doorway with a dense spiderweb and ensnaring the ghouls. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief - if they had lost the initiative roll everything could have gone terribly wrong. The ghouls were swifty beheaded and the webs burned away by Caryatid's lantern flame.

In the vault, the party found many treasures, as well as an assortment of odd and slightly disturbing paintings, presumably by the wizard who once lived here. The chest contains hundreds of gold coins, and on the shelves, they found several potion vials and two wooden wands.

Meanwhile, Gulleck was negotiating with the head on the door. He informed the head that over 200 years had passed since his master was alive, and that he had no real purpose here anymore. Gulleck offered to bring the head up to the surface, and the head nervously agreed. Gulleck set to work carefully hacking out a large square of wood from the door surrounding the head (which winced and complained with every axe blow). Once the head had been removed, the party packed up their treasures and made their way back to the surface.

Gulleck offered the talking head to Ralph, the owner of the Rusty Lantern, as a trophy. Ralph thought it was absolutely hilarious, and mounted the head on the wall of the tavern, overlooking the bar. And there it remains, heckling patrons and passing on rumors and gossip.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Idalium Game 32: Ape! Ape! Ape! Ape!

Session date: Monday, August 24, 2015
Game date: Saturday, June 15, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 4209/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 5040/10000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 14, xp 5040/10000

Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 804/2000

Today's delve sought to continue the exploration of the abandoned wizard's quarters on the second level. Again, we had a short roster (foreshadowing: and it was about to get shorter!). At the end of the last adventure, Caryatid (both of them, actually!) had gained enough experience to achieve 3rd level. Caryatid the magic-user is now officially the toughest PC in the party (except of course for the slight issue of having an armor class of 9). Caryatid chose Phantasmal Force as her new 2nd level spell. This spell requires a lot of creativity, and negotiation with the DM on how to rule on the outcome, but it seems like it will really lend itself to a lot of interesting situations that can send the game off in all sorts of unexpected directions. I look forward to seeing it in use.

Down into the dungeon the Infestation Managers descended, but before they got down to the second level of the dungeon, they ran into a pack of undead skeletons, the result of my random dungeon restocking between sessions. Skeletons are weak, but still bad news in Classic D&D: they always attack on sight and never fail morale. The group had no cleric today, making the situation worse. Gulleck and Gaspar stood in the doorway and prepared to meet the charge, and then farcical tragedy struck. "Green Caryatid" (the one that emerged from the pool of rebirth) rolled a 1 while trying to throw a dagger at the skeletons, and then rolled "well" on her subsequent attack roll, and high on her damage roll. Gaspar gasped in shock as Caryatid's dagger plunged into the back of his neck, and then collapsed to the floor with a rattling gurgle.

"Oops," offered Caryatid.

The skeletons pushed inward, trampling Gaspar's lifeless body and scratching viciously at Caryatid. Gulleck swung his magic axe and took the skull of one skeleton, but there were clearly too many. Reluctantly abandoning the body of their comrade Gaspar, the party retreated out of the room, slammed the door shut, and ran as fast as they could back to the rope ladder that led back to the Rusty Lantern tavern.

Not the most auspicious beginning for a session.

The group rested for a couple days to heal their wounds, and Gulleck made some rounds looking for a replacement for Gaspar. He ended up hiring a rather dim but sturdy fighter, whom they nicknamed "Meat". A random name generator gave him the actual name of "Manley". Oh, great, "Manley Meat", our inner 12-year-olds will never stop sniggering at that.

With their new henchman in tow, the group descended back into the dungeons of Idalium. The room they had fled was now vacant of skeletons and the remains of Gaspar, and they descending down to the second level. In the temple of hedonism, they found that abandoned leftover meat had attracted a hoard of dirty rats, swarming over the beds and sofas. They tried to creep past the rats, but the rats took an aggressive turn, and swarmed around the ankles and legs of the PCs, nipping and biting. After Gulleck and Meat slashed a few of them apart, the rest took flight, and the rats never even got to use their signature move of dragging their opponents down to the ground. :-(

The PCs decided to take another route to the wizard's apartment, passing what they suspected to be the lair of the orcs that live on this level. Two orcs stood guard at an intersection glaring at the PCs, and the party lucked out (maybe) and one of the orcs was the very same orc that had befriended Gulleck months ago under the influence of the magical waters of the temple of hedonism. Although Graggle no longer held the same devotion for Gulleck as he once did, he retained enough good will to cut the orcs' toll from 50 gold pieces down to 30.

In an effort to avoid the toll, the group attempted to explore the weird permanently dark room across the hall from the orcs' lair. The room was full of a pitch blackness that even Gulleck's infravision could not penetrate. Gulleck took one end of a length of rope and carefully explored the dark room. The room was pervaded by a cold, foreboding feeling, and the orc guards had looked alarmed as Gulleck entered. He could feel old broken-up furniture like benches or pews. Gulleck traced the wall, and just as he reached a doorway that led out of the room, he came to the end of his rope. Annoyed, he retraced his steps back to the hall, they paid the orcs' toll, and proceeded to the wizards' apartment.

From the sitting room with its eternally-flickering illusion of a fire, the group headed east, finding themselves in a library. The walls were lined with bookshelves, and on the south wall, one bookshelf had been swung away from the wall, revealing a secret room beyond it. Unfortunately, it had long been plundered, and nothing of value remained in the secret study beyond. The books in the library were mostly general interest books (histories, botanical references, etc.) rather than the magical grimoires that Caryatid hoped to find. Regardless, the group sacked up a dozen of the books in the best condition, and returned to the sitting room.

They attempted to go north to explore a hall they hadn't got to last time, but the door was stubborn and Gulleck made a colossal amount of noise trying to force it open. As he finally opened it and they began to proceed northward, they heard a familiar sardonic voice behind them.

"My goodness, Gulleck, we could hear you all the way up and down the hall outside. Try to be a bit more quiet, will you?" It was Shorty "the Mouse", the leader of a rival party ("Shorty's Sirens") with whom the PCs are friendly. The two parties bantered back and forth a bit, and then bid a cheery farewell.

"Try to make less noise on the way out!" called Shorty over her shoulder, laughing as she left. And then there were screams. And the shrieks and howls of some sort of beasts. The Infestation Managers hastily ran back into the sitting room to find Shorty's Sirens under assault by nine large, savage, ferocious baboons. They were wielding broken femurs as clubs, and biting with sharp yellow fangs.

The battle raged. The savage apes were battle-crazed, and Shorty's group was in disarray, being caught offguard and out of formation. Shorty was surrounded by two baboons, and fell with a scream as one sank its teeth into her neck. Talia, her leather-clad thief, was also brought down by a femur to the head. The PCs rushed to aid in the battle. Meat fought the baboons that had killed Shorty, and Gulleck fought bravely against two more. The two Caryatids made good use of their unerring magic missile spells. "Psycho" Sally, the high-strung hobbit, carved baboons up and down with her short sword, giggling hysterically all the while.

Finally, all was still. The room was strewn with the filthy and blood-spattered corpses of the apes, as well as those of Shorty and Talia.

"There's this pool..." began Gulleck.
"Yes, we know of it," replied Father Cedric, the only male member of the Sirens. "But none of us have dared enter it."
"Well, I think now is the time."

So the survivors of Shorty's Sirens carefully lifted their deceased comrades and carried them through the halls of the dungeon to the room of the pool of rebirth. One at a time Shorty and Talia were undressed (Father Cedric turned his back, looking so red that it seemed he would burst afire) and lowered into the pool, emerging moments later completely healed and revitalized. "You can turn back around now, Ced!" smirked Shorty.

"Gulleck, you saved my life. Take this as a token of appreciation for you guys," said Shorty, removing a gold and emerald bracelet from her wrist and handing it to Gulleck.
"Well, thank you, Shorty. Your group have been good friends to us as well. It's the least we could do."

While this sweet exchange was taking place, "Psycho" Sally had been eyeing the pool and now jumped in  fully armored with a splash ("Cannonball!"). She clambered back out, looking more hale and hearty than ever (with a permanent +1 bonus to Constitution). And then, shortly afterwards, another Sally climbed out of the pool as well, in identical armor and weaponry.

They goggled at each other.
"No way!" they exclaimed together.
"This is totally awesome! I've always wanted a twin!"

"Yeah, that's how I felt at first, sweetheart," said the original Caryatid in blue. "It isn't quite as cool as I expected," she mused with a suspicious look at the green-clad Caryatid.

Gulleck acquired enough experience on this delve to achieve third level, matching Caryatid in hit points. He has been biding his time, hoping to acquire enough experience and gold to embark on an expedition through the wilderness to his ancestral Dwarven home, where he hoped to bury the bones of his grandfather. So it may be in the future that we bid the megadungeon farewell for a little while, and experience a harrowing journey through the unpatrolled wilderness. We shall see where the adventure leads.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Idalium Game 31: The Goblins, the Prince, and the Wardrobe

Session date: Monday, August 17, 2015
Game date: Saturday, June 8, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 4025/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4838/5000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4838/5000

Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 712/2000

Another short roster, but the players were eager to continue exploring the northern reaches of the second level. Down through the Temple of Hedonism the party went, towards the area they had left off in at the end of the last session. Instead of continuing to the north, they turned east down a long common hall that they had previously passed by.

A short ways along this hall they found a pair of doors on the left wall. Pictorial signs hung next to them, the first depicting a pair of steaming kettles and the second showing several rolled scrolls. In the first room they found the remains of what appeared to have once been a snack shop. Rusty old kettles and cauldrons stood at the back of the shop, and shelves and counters filled the front. The front counter had a locked drawer that no one in the party was equipped to open, so Gulleck took the direct approach and pried it open with a crowbar. Inside was a strange metal cone, somewhat like a small trumpet horn. They vaguely remembered finding one of these before, but nobody could remember where. Eventually, someone got the idea to put it to their ear while asking someone else to speak to them. They were startled to discover the cone converted the words to an unfamiliar language, though Gulleck thought perhaps it sounded like the Ancient Idalian spoken by the statues in the town square and the skeleton statue in the Temple of the Dead. Meanwhile, Caryatid was investigating the cauldrons in the back of the shop, and found one with a false bottom. Gulleck's crowbar hooked and pulled out the bottom, and they were pleased to see hundreds of silver coins, neatly stacked in the cauldron. Gulleck filled a large sack with coins and Gaspar filled his backpack.

The door to the shop next door was extremely stubborn and Gulleck and Gaspar pounded on it repeatedly before it would open. All the noise echoing through the halls drew forth four goblins from farther down the hall to the east. They were giggling and snickering as they watched the PCs bashing on the door. "Shhhh! You'll wake something awful!"

Gulleck exchanged some curt words with the goblins and went back to working on the door. The goblins watched with amusement and cheered when he finally got the door open. Inside was another abandoned shop, a newstand full of rotting and faded papers. None seemed to be salvageable, but beneath a heavy canvas tarp in the back of shop the PCs found a large wooden check, secured with a large padlock. Again, Gulleck's crowbar was put to good use, and the padlock was snapped off. Quietly cursing the decision to go without their thief retainer, Ylil, today, the decision was made to have Gulleck carefully open the chest. There was a loud TWANG, and a crossbow bolt embedded itself in the wall behind Gulleck. This sent the goblins into paroxysms of laughter. Gulleck peeked inside to find hundreds of silver and gold coins within. He calmly closed the lid and declared, "Nothin' in there!" to the goblins.

The goblins narrowed their eyes and became more serious. They guessed the score, and made an offer to the party. "Well, now. There are four of you and four of us. I think that means we should split that treasure evenly." They sat themselves down in the doorway and refused to move.

Gulleck and Caryatid laughed outright, but the goblins would not be deterred. In the end, the goblins made a curious threat: split the treasure with them, or they would sing at the top of their lungs and see who or what showed up to investigate the sound. "Fine, go ahead," said Gulleck. "Teach it to me and I'll join in." The goblins started singing a strange, yodelling song, which echoed down the corridor. Gulleck attempted to pick up the chorus and join in. I think he was hoping for something that hates goblins to show up, but when I rolled on the wandering monster table, the thing that did show up was... four more goblins!

"This is not exactly how I hoped this would go," reflected Gulleck. The new goblins seemed less interested in playing games with the party. "There's eight of us, and only four of you. How about you just give us that treasure?" They drew swords and prepared to charge into the room to fight for it. Caryatid drew forth the ever-useful wand of fear, and with a flick of the wrist released its magic upon the malevolent creatures. All but one goblin failed their saving throws and fled, and the one remaining one abruptly failed its morale check and scrambled frantically after his fleeing companions. The terrified screams of the goblins echoes along the hall, eventually fading away.

It now became an issue that the party only possessed one sack, the one Gulleck had filled with coins. They filled their backpacks with gold and silver, but the chest still remained over half full when they had done so. They made the uncomfortable decision to leave the rest of the silver here, return to the Rusty Lantern with what they could carry, and hopefully return for the rest later. (D&D is in many ways a game about logistics and trade-offs, so this kind of situation is important not to just hand-wave away. The players were forced to make a difficult decision here, in part due to the fact that they neglected to bring enough carrying capacity for a bulky haul like this.)

As they left the shop to return home, the drums started up, echoing through the corridors of the dungeon, the drums that indicated that the orcs were conducting some foul frenzied ritual in the desecrated temple near the Temple of Hedonism. And indeed, on their way back to the exit, the party encountered a group of orcs on their way to the ceremony.

"Hey, whatcha got in that sack?" asked one of the orcs of Gulleck.
"Goblins!" bluffed Gulleck.
"Er... live goblins?"
"They were alive."
The orc grunted. "We could have used live goblins for the ceremony."
Another orc hastened his fellow along, and they turned the corner and headed away towards the pounding drumbeat.

They crept by the orcs' temple, where amid the drums and the gutteral yelping they thought they heard a panicked clucking of chickens. This wasn't enough to entice them into a battle with the orcs, and they crept quietly onwards. And then the wandering monster table came up with my beloved dungeon-wide "Other" entry, exactly as it did in this very stretch of hallway where they met the Queen of Nightmares!

Much like that incident, the party became aware of a large entourage coming their way. Tinny trumpets bleated out, and a goblin voice called, "Make way! Make way and pay tribute to his pre-eminance, his magnificence, his extravagance, the Goblin Prince!" The PCs flattened themselves against the walls and willed the entourage to pass by. There were over a dozen goblins, a half dozen of the tall goblins (sometimes called hobgoblins), and a pair of the tall lanky hairy monsters with their eerie staring eyes. Among the entourage of goblins strode a jolly and rotund goblin in ridiculous finery. Although he had the same pallid gray skin and strange features of all goblins, he looked for all the world like a fat spoiled schoolboy.

"Oh, greetings to my subjects!" he called to the adventurers. "I see you have come to pay me tribute! How kind of you to bring such a full sack of gifts!" He pointed to the sack of coins Gulleck carried over his shoulder. Gulleck attempted to hand over a bottle of wine instead. This was happily accepted by the prince, but he would not be put off. Nor would the magical earpiece serve as a substitute. One of the very tall hairy goblins loomed over Gulleck intimidatingly. "His Highness is ready to receive your tribute!" it hooted in its bizarre hollow voice.

"Oh, fine," grumbled Gulleck, realizing that at least the bag only contained silver coins.
"Excellent!" chirped the Goblin Prince. "Enjoy your stay in my domain!"
And the entourage struck up the bleating of trumpets and marched off into the dark, past the pounding drums of the orcs.

Annoyed at losing their coins but relieved to have escaped the goblin entourage, they swiftly made their way back upstairs and up to the Rusty Lantern. After taking a few hours to visit some of the shops near the tavern and buy a few more sacks, they returned to the dungeon to collect the rest of the coins and continue their explorations.

Luckily, the chest of coins had not been disturbed in their absence, and the PCs were able to distribute the remaining silver pieces among the four party members. Then they explored further along the hallway, and found a door that led to an old apartment. They found a living room full of musty old furniture. On a stand was a broken harp and an intact lute. There were shelves full of faded and mildewed papers. Most were unreadable, but they did find a scroll full of small punched-out holes. It was labelled, "An Air of Prosperity", just as the one they had found all chewed-up in the hydraulic organ in the Temple of Music.

Beyond the living room, they found a grand hall with a long dining table. The walls were painted with spooky portraits, whose eyes seemed to follow the PCs as they moved through the room. Beyond this hall, they found a bedroom with a tattered velvet canopy bed, and a pair of wardrobes. One wardrobe contained just a few moth-eaten cloaks, but the other was surprisingly full of coats and robes, such that the back of the wardrobe could not be seen.

The players were immediately suspicious of this! Gulleck ventured into the wardrobe at the end of a rope, and found that the coats and robes continued far deeper than one could possibly expect from this wardrobe. After about 15', he found another pair of wooden doors, like the inside of the wardrobe doors. Light glimmered behind the crack in the doors.

Gulleck returned to the bedroom and conferred with the party. They tied one end of the rope to the bed and then entered the wardrobe together. Pushing the doors open at the other end, they saw an empty, dusty room with bleached wooden floorboards. Late afternoon light streamed in from an open window, and dust motes hung in the light. From the window came the faint cry of gulls. Thoroughly weirded out, the party emerged from a plain wooden wardrobe against one wall, the only furniture in this room. Crossing the room to the window, they looked out and discovered themselves to be on the third floor of a house in what looked to be the neighborhood of The Steps, the old and rundown district that lay across the river from the city of Idalium. They could see the harbor to the south, and to the left they could see the city. It was approaching twilight, and the air above the city was already starting to haze over with smoke from its many chimneys.

The four adventurers crept out of the room, and entered a hall where doors led to other rooms, and creaky wooden stairs led down two flights to the entrance of the house. The front door and windows were boarded over with planks. Gulleck's crowbar came in handy again as he tore the planks off the front door, and the party carefully stepped out into a desolate side street on the hillside to the west of the city. There were only a few houses here, and they were similarly boarded up and decrepit. The two Caryatids and Gaspar waited at the house, while Gulleck crept down the street to investigate. He emerged onto a larger street, and was relieved to see other inhabitants going about their business. They gave peculiar looks at his plate armor, shield, and battle axe, and he hurried back up the side street. (I think for a moment there he was concerned they have traveled in time or to some alternate reality!)

Pleased at finding another entrance/exit to the dungeon, they re-entered the house, made an effort at nailing the planks over the door again, and went back upstairs to the wardrobe. When they passed through it, they were relieved again to find that they returned to the same bedroom in the dungeon that they had left from.

They left this set of rooms, and moved further along the hall. An ornately carved archway led north to a heavy wooden door. Above the arch was inscribed, "Quake, mere mortals, as you enter the realm of the great Frobnitzim." The door led to a once-elegant sitting room. A fire burned without noise or heat in a fireplace without a chimney. Doors led in all four directions.

To the west, they found a large room with a circle and triangle inlaid in brass on the floor. Braziers stood at the points of the triangle and the four cardinal directions on the circle. The braziers contained burnt remnants of various spices and herbs. The "newer" Caryatid took a great interest in this, and collected samples of the substances in the braziers for later investigation.

To the north of the sitting room, they found a bedroom with a large bed without legs, floating incongruously in mid-air. They made a great deal of noise trying to open the door to this room, though, and were startled by five tall goblins who strolled up behind them. One of the goblins was Margleton, who they had met many weeks ago in the Temple of Hedonism.

"Shush now! The homes of wizards still hold many dangers. There is a saying in our realm: Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger. This may hold true even for long-departed wizards."

The party conversed amicably with the goblins, and were invited to their palace. "Oh, you must come and feast with us! We would simply love to have you for dinner."

"What sort of food do you serve?" asked Gulleck nervously.
"Oh, the most wonderful foods, the likes you have never seen. Fruits of such ripeness and beauty! Once you have tasted them, you will never want to leave! You will want to stay with us, and dine with us forever and ever! Oh, but I am being too forward. Come to the palace, and see for yourself!"

"Now there's somewhere I don't think I ever want to go," mused Gulleck after the goblins had departed with a flourish. The party, too, decided it was time to depart. They returned to the Rusty Lantern with vague ideas about buying or renting the abandoned house in The Steps, to have a quick entrance or escape route from the dungeon. And perhaps it might be a worthwhile investment, as the party returned to the Rusty Lantern just as the guards were making preparations to seal the trapdoor for the night.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Player Journals from Session 30

Journal entry from Caryatid:

Dear diary:
It has been the weirdest several weeks in the Adventurers Guild! First, that Vito guy has simply disappeared, haven't seen him in over a month, I fear he has suffered a horrible fate, or worse, joined another band of adventurers!
Our untiring group finally did find Snapespindle in the catacombs and it was my mighty magic missile spell that defeated his sorry butt! Our dry spell of no treasure finally ended and we have found and sold many items including the Brazed Head, Blood Ankh, some gems, and many coins. We even found a punching bag piƱata filled with silver coins. 
The most bizarre thing ever happened; in a moment of selfish stupidity, I took a dip in the rebirthing pool hoping to gain some strength or wisdom or some other random benefit and something very weird occurred: I got duplicated. Now, I am keenly aware that I am the original, but this clone, or "Dopplemage" can't seem to wrap her brain around the fact that she is a magically-created twin. Sometimes frustrating, but having double the magic power has been advantageous, so I tolerate her. I don't see why no one else can tell the difference, but that's on them. I hope to make the trip to the mountains to see Granny Weatherwax soon and learn some more powerful magic. She will know what to do about this extra twin.

Idalium Game 30: Take Me to the River

Session date: Monday, August 10, 2015
Game date: Saturday, June 1, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1592/2000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3904/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 3309/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4717/5000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 10, xp 4717/5000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1464/1500
Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 651/2000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1386/2500

Today we had the full crew of four regular players (Vito's player has had all his free time crushed out of him by a new job, though we hope to eventually see him again someday). Having discovered the Goblin Market last session, the group now turned their focus to exploring some of the northern areas of the second level. They had a scrap of a treasure map from the gnomes, though it didn't really tell them how to find it, just how to recognize it when they stumbled upon it.

Down into the dungeon and along well-trodden paths they went. As always, I roll after each session to restock the dungeon rooms previously visited, and they had a few speed bumps on the way down to the second level. In a robing room behind the temple with the basin of blood, they encountered half a dozen skeletons. Tod swiftly took the skull off of one with his sword, and Brother Jibber's earnest exhortations repelled the skeletons far enough that the others could pelt them with slings and arrows until they moved no more. Then, slightly further along, in the vestibule of the Temple of Hedonism, they found two dessicated knocker corpses on the floor. Gulleck cautiously stepped forward and was pounced on by a giant crab spider! Three more of the venomous beasts emerged from behind the statues that flank the entrance. Tyrriel put two of them to a deep magical sleep, and Caryatid used her wand to instill a frenzied fear into another. It had nowhere to run except back behind a statue, where it and the others were destroyed easily. The wand of fear has been very useful and the players are a bit nervous about what they will do when its power is finally consumed.

Down to the second level they went. They headed west from the Temple of Hedonism, past the room with the pool of rebirth, and turning north. They walked past a door that led to a room of unnatural darkness, and past a crevice in the left wall, where a continuous trickle of smoke carried an exotic spicy aroma up a chimney in the natural rock. They listened at a door where Tyrriel heard a low droning buzz, and no one wanted to go in to find out if it was giant bees or something else.

Farther north they explored. A door on the left led to an old bathhouse. In the middle of a 30' square room, a large pool lay covered in murky, scum-topped water. Old crumbling mosaics on the wall depicted nymphs frolicking gaily. The party considered the water of the pool with some skepticism. Tod assembled his ten foot pole (it collapses into three pieces) and dragged the pole across the bottom of the pool. The pool was perhaps three feet deep, and near the center, Tod felt the pole hit something that felt yielding but heavy. It couldn't be moved with the pole, so Tod decided to wade into the pool and retrieve it by hand.

The cold, scummy water chilled his legs as he strode into the pool. The thing in the middle of the pool turned out to be a rotting leather satchel full of coins. As Tod looked up to tell the news to the rest of the party, who were anxiously watching him, his eyes widened as he saw the mosaic on the far wall seem to come to life! The alluring nymphs seemed to twist and warp before his very eyes, until they looked like malevolent nixies with seaweed for hair. The nixies beckoned Tod to join them in the water, and he suddenly found himself overcome with a horrible compulsion to lay down in the water. Water filled his nose and mouth, but the urge to breathe seemed to have lost its usual urgency.

The party all yelled at each other at once, trying to decide what to do, but in the end Tyrriel quickly waded into the pool to grab Tod's body from the bottom of the pool. She too saw the beckoning nixies, but was able to withstand the compulsion that nagged at her mind. Tod was heavy, but she was able to lift his face above the water and drag him to the edge of the pool. He was still clutching the leather sack, which turned out to contain several hundred gold and silver coins. After spending some time to allow Tod to cough up the cold and dank water from his lungs and catch his breath, the group moved on, exploring further north along the long common hallway.

A tarnished brass plaque next to a door read (in Ancient Idalian), "Lorinthus, Centurion, 4th Century, 6th Cohort". Tod pushed the door open and the group found themselves in a short interior hallway with three doors leading off it. Through the left door they found what was once an exercise room, full of rusted athletic equipment, including a mildewed and tattered punching bag hanging from the ceiling by a chain. Tod gave it a punch and was surprised to hear the unmistakable clink of coins. Gulleck's axe tore through the seam on the side and hundreds of silver coins spilled out of the bag. They shook their heads once again at the oddity of the Ancient Idalians (as they collected the coins).

Beyond this room they found a nearly bare bedchamber, decorated in a very spartan and martial manner. There was nothing of value in this room, but beyond an open doorway they could see what looked to be a room full of trophies of wall. Battered shields and broken weapons were mounted on the walls, and a life-sized statue of a man worn a beautiful, still-shiny suit of plate armor, including a helmet with a dyed crest of horse hair. The statue was of a dull metal, possibly iron, and had merely the suggestion of a face and was not a likeness of any particular person.

Gulleck stepped forward to investigate the statue and was surprised when it leapt into motion, drawing back its immense iron fists to attack him. It pounded him again and again, leaving heavy dents in his shield as he ducked behind it to avoid the onslaught. Tod and the others were unable to land a blow on the statue, but Caryatid sent two Magic Missiles into its iron torso and it staggered backwards and came to the a halt on one knee, the animating principle seemingly gone from its now inert body. Tod carefully removed the fancy suit of plate armor from the inert statue, and strapped in on in place of his own. Some of the retainers were enlisted to carry out the pieces of his old armor for later resale.

(As a DM, I used to think the Magic Missile spell was kind of weak compared to other spells like Sleep or Charm Person, but I have to say, the ability to always hit is incredibly useful, especially in a "swingy" system like B/X D&D where finishing a fight as soon as possible is always in your best interest. Caryatid has been absolutely crucial in defeating several "boss" type encounters singlehandedly, and we all have a definite appreciation for the Magic Missile spell now!)

Further up the same hall to the north, the party investigated an apartment decorated with a definite maritime theme. Mosaics and frescoes depicted fish and fishermen, etc. Beyond a closed door they found a bedroom where seven bandits were standing around discussing a large stuffed and mounted bass. They went through the roof when the door burst open behind them, and drew swords and screamed at the party to leave. Tod pulled the door shut again, and then called, "How much do you want for that fish?"

There was a sudden silence, and then a more subdued voice replied, "How much you offerin'?"

Gulleck asked, "Depends. Does it sing or something?"

Silence again, and then from behind the door came a warbling, off-key rendition of some old song: "I wanna know, can you help me, I love to staaaaaay..."

Nobody fell for that. Eventually Tod paid the bandits 20 gold darics for the fish, for novelty value alone, I guess. The bandits suspiciously crept out of the bedroom, handed over the fish, and bolted for the hallway.

Burdened by a large stuffed bass but keen to explore a bit more, they trekked farther north. They found a room marked by a sign that read, "Hotel Lethia - Office". Inside were a half dozen stirges, the grotesque mix of bird, bat, and insect hanging from the ceiling. Wilhelm wasted no time in putting the lot of them to sleep, and they were dispensed with. This room was, as advertised, a hotel reception room and office. In a drawer in the desk they found another pair of the magical spectacles that could translate Ancient Idalian writing.

Across the hall from the office they found an ornate door. A brass plaque to the side read, "Hotel Lethia", but the door itself was an ominous sight. What looked like wax-soaked rags had been stuffed into the cracks between the door and the jamb and floor, and a big red "X" had been painted across it.

"Yeah... nope!" deadpanned Gulleck, and the group decided to call it a night and hightail it back to the tavern.

It had been a moderately lucrative delve, and Tod had acquired a fancy new suit of armor. Brother Jibber had gained enough experience to achieve level 2! Of course, the irony is that now that he exceeds Tod's level, he will have to go away on Church business until Tod reaches level 2 - we can't have retainers working for people of lower level than themselves! "Hey Tod, you wanna be my retainer now?" was the joke.

Brother Jibber's promotion is a big deal (he will be granted the authority to work miracles!) and we will play that out in a future session.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Idalium Game 29: The Goblin Market

Session date: Monday, August 3, 2015
Game date: Saturday, May 25, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 3752/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4565/5000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 4565/5000

Gaspar, Fighter 1, hp 3, xp 575/2000
Wilson, Thief 1, hp 1, xp 654/1200

It had been several weeks since our last adventure, both in real time and in game time. We caught up on a few housekeeping tasks. Caryatid created a couple of Shield scrolls for her emergency stash. Life with a clone has become increasingly annoying, since both lay claim to the same purse and possessions.

The Night Walkers sent Albert, a naive and dimwitted hobbit who seemed to be the only good-natured soul in their party, to negotiate with the Infestation Managers for the return of all their stuff. Gulleck was kind-hearted and returned all of their valuables (over the grumblings of the two Caryatids), as well as giving Albert some advice to find some new adventuring companions.

A notice had been posted in the Rusty Lantern that a group of merchants were interested in hiring adventurers to escort them to the Goblin Market that allegedly lay below the streets of Idalium. The merchants were staying in an inn over by the river docks. The group decided to scout out the Goblin Market on their own, before offering to escort the merchants.

Down the trapdoor they went, as always, and along the familiar back alleys through the buried city of Ancient Idalium. They passed through the Temple of Hedonism, using the embroidered togas they had found here to pass by the crystal statue that guarded the stairs to the second level. They headed north from the temple's basement room, and then down a hall to the east, where they had seen an entrance to the caves earlier.

Indeed, after a short distance the worked stone of the hallway just petered out into rough natural cavern walls. The ground was uneven, with stalagmites and other protrusions interrupting an easy traversal. To the right, they could see an alcove or nook in the cave, and a pair of enormous lizards hissed at them aggressively. The leathery ruffs on their necks stood erect and rippled as the beasts growled at the intruding adventurers.

There was another passage leading north, but to get there the party had to walk past the lizards. They very cautiously began moving that way, clinging to the wall as far from the lizards as possible, making a show of open hands and non-aggressive gestures. The lizards continued to stand warily in front of their nest and growl at the party, but they allowed the adventurers to move past them without being attacked.

The northern passage abruptly ended at a ledge overlooking a large cavern. Running water could be heard far below, an underground river or stream. About 30 feet across the cavern, another ledge could be barely seen at the edge of Caryatid's lantern light, and a primitive rope bridge spanned the cavern. And primitive it was: no wood planks, just three strands of rope stretched across the gap and tied to iron rods embedded in the rock.

It took them a long time to cross the bridge, tying ropes to each other and crossing one at a time. Wilson and Gaspar went first, and stood on the other side chatting while Gulleck nervously crossed. The way I handled this was that the bridge was safe to cross as long as you went slowly or carefully, but took a long time, subjecting the party to wandering monster checks. A dexterity check (roll d20 at or below your dexterity score) determined whether you crossed in 5 minutes or 10.

As Gulleck reached the other side, he was startled to find someone coming down the passage on the northern side of the cavern. "Who're you?" said a suspicious man in somewhat foreign-looking clothes. After some conversation it transpired that the man was leading a party of traders who were attempting to find the Goblin Market. They understood it to be somewhere in these caves, but claimed to have got turned around and lost and they weren't sure where to go. They were hoping to open up trade relations with the goblins, and several of their party carried large packs stuffed full of goods.

Since they were all going to the same place, the two groups decided to travel together. The two Caryatids made their crossing, but as they reached the ledge, I finally did come up with a successful wandering monster check. Back on the other side of the cavern, a burning torch drew their eyes to the ledge, where two small figures had emerged from the passage. Childlike voices called across the cavern: "Hello? Who's over there?" It turned out to be members of the subterranean gang of urchins that the party had encountered some months ago, in the temple with the Wheel of Fortune. This pair, named Ben and Vicki, said they were relatively new to the gang and that James, their leader, had sent them to do some shopping at the Goblin Market (apparently this was the standard hazing for new recruits). Gulleck grudgingly invited them to come along with the rest of the group for protection.

"Now, how are you going to get across the bri--" And before he could finish the sentence, the girl had clamped the burning torch between her teeth, grasped the ropes with both hands and trotted lightly across the rope bridge, landing with a curtsey in front of them. Kids!

The caves were disorienting, twisty and uneven, and difficult to map. The unusually large party found a strange room where lights twinkled like stars high above them. Gulleck asked for the lantern to be covered, and with his infravision he thought he saw what looked like twisted humanoid bodied clinging to the ceiling some 40' above. This greatly unsettled everyone, so they backed away and sought another route. They saw a large cavern filled with a soft blue phosphorescence, the product of a pale lichen that covered most of the surfaces. They saw a cavern where one of the walls seemed to be covered in a dark sticky liquid, and chose not to investigate it. And then they found the Goblin Market.

A short cave passage abruptly turned into worked stone again. The floor was laid with a black and white marble checkerboard, but strangely crooked and uneven, as if laid by someone who didn't understand or care about the concept of right angles. A short way down the hall, the group could see flickering light and the sound of many creatures in conversation. But looming ahead of them were a pair of the frightful lanky, hairy monsters that had been in the employ of the Queen of Nightmares.

"Welcome to the Goblin Market!" one hooted in its eerie hollow voice. "You must leave your weapons here. All breaches of the peace will be dealt with most severely." There was a rack full of all sorts of armaments (many of them rusty and poorly maintained). The party nervously handed over their weapons, receiving a scrap of paper with a number written on it that matched the one tied around their weapons. And then they entered the Goblin Market.

The Goblin Market was in a huge, brighly lit pillared hall. Passages led out to the west, north, and east - it seemed to be incongruously sited in the center of the cavern system. The floor was tiled in the same uneven way as the hallway, and the marble pillars seemed similarly odd, crooked and angled strangely. Goblins and hobgoblins stood behind tables laden with all sorts of goods, haggling and carrying out business. At the north end of the hall, cages and pens contained a number of live animals for sale, including giant rats and shrews, as well as other creatures the PCs didn't recognize.

Besides the goblins, the market was full of all sorts of other people here to buy and sell. The group saw a gang of orcs, jabbering at goblins who were selling jugs of beer or wine. Another young urchin waved at Ben and Vicki from across the room, and they ran over to join their friend after thanking Gulleck for helping them get here safety. There was another group of scruffy looking merchants selling goods from the surface world to the goblins, and at another table the party saw a half dozen knockers buying roasted giant rats and centipedes and other hideous foods.

There was a curious group of people who were wearing clothes that clearly came from the city above. One wore the tabard of the King's Guard, and another wore the insignia of the Church. But they all seemed slightly dazed and blissed out.

Most frightful was the site of the Queen of Nightmares herself, accompanied by several of her tall lanky hairy servants. She was inspecting weapons and other goods. Her palanquin sat "parked" along one wall of the room. The Infestation Managers made it clear that they were avoiding her. One of the hobgoblin vendors noticed their wariness and said, "You do well to keep clear of her. She respects the truce while at the market, but woe to those who catch her eye outside these walls."

All sorts of things were available for sale at the Goblin Market. There were weapons and armor for sale, mostly rusty and dirty, but available quite cheaply. There was a junk seller who had all manner of bric-a-brac: from the useful to the useless. There were tailors selling clothes in the style worn by the goblins (brighly colored rags) and hobgoblins (strange parodies of aristocratic garb). There was food for sale, both the mundane (biscuits, preserved meats) and the less appealing (giant centipedes on sticks, live hedgehogs). There was beer and wine. There was a table full of the most beautiful fruits the PCs had ever seen, in the prime of their ripeness though many were quite out of season in Idalium or not even known in these parts. For some reason, this table seemed to be avoided by many of the visitors.

There were tables with all sorts of strange and mysterious curios on display. The PCs walked down the table looking at the goods for sale. They saw a framed collection of fairy wings, pinned to a card and labelled with type and the time and location of collection. Nearby was a basket containing what a goblin claimed were the meticulously preserved heads of sprites, wrapped in gauze made of spider silk. There was a box of small paper cards, each painted or drawn with pictures of strange vistas of cities and wilderness unknown to the party. The cards were cracked and faded, and gave off a sense of melancholic nostalgia for these places which may or may not exist.

There was a collection of letters of unrequited love - "a hundred broken hearts", pitched the goblin vendor. There was an ominous looking potion in a crystal vial that was said to produce the flawless appearance of death for 42 hours, after which the drinker would awaken again, alive as ever. And there was a plain wooden box. The hobgoblin vendor called it "The Box of Jhana", and told them, "What this box contains cannot be described, it can only be experienced. But it will change your life!"

Gulleck was intrigued by the box, but when he expressed an interest, the hobgoblin told him that he did not deal in things as prosaic as mere currency. These items were meant to be traded for something of equal value, something with a story, something with emotional weight. Caryatid smelled a scam right off the bat.

Gulleck considered and rummaged through his backpack, looking through the odds and ends he had collected over the months. He drew forth an empty velvet pouch. "What this pouch contains can also not be described but only experienced." The hobgoblin considered his offer with amusement. "And will it change my life?" "You'll have to find out!"

The hobgoblin laughed, and said, "You have a wit about you, dwarf. I will take your trade!" Gulleck examined the box and made to slide it open, but the hobgoblin wagged a finger: "Ah ah ah! Not here! That is for you alone."

The party left the market and retraced their path through the cavern. They found another way back into the worked stone area of the dungeon, happily avoiding the rope bridge, and found themselves in the room where they were recently ambushed by orcs. They made their way back through the Temple of Hedonism, where they encountered a single spotty-faced young acolyte who was in the temple all by himself "studying the ancient scriptures". (Random dice rolls often seem to have their own sense of humor!)

They made their way to the first level and headed back along the alley that runs behind the temples. They had just passed the door of a house when they were surprised by a group of orcs! I decided that one orc would leap out and attempt to pick off Wilson from the rear of the party and put him in a chokehold to shake the party down for loot. But the dice had other ideas. The orc rolled a 1, so he slammed head first into the brick wall across the alley and collapsed in a dazed heap.

"Boys, you want to try that again?" smirked Gulleck. The orcs, embarrassed, attempted to save face by shouting at the party and trying to scare them off, which conveniently was where they wanted to go anyway. They left the orcs to salvage their dignity and returned to the Rusty Lantern safely.

As they were storing their gear away in their "vault" in the tavern cellar, Gulleck slid the lid off of the Box of Jhana. He was startled by a primitive cloth puppet that was launched out of the box on a spring. He recovered his composure and started to laugh, but then noticed something odd about the empty wooden box. It seemed there was a light that shone from all around, and a strange low humming that grew to an overwhelming throbbing. Everyone in the room squinted their eyes and covered their ears to stave off the onslaught. It grew to a crescendo and then suddenly, everything was as it was. The two Caryatids and Wilson felt normal again, but Gulleck and Gaspar were profoundly affected by the experience. Everything seemed fresh and new. How miraculous to be alive! How incredible that this stone wall could exist, how beautiful the gold and silver coins. Everything seemed to vibrate with life and energy, and the idea of doing ever harm to another creature seemed unthinkable to them. They walked upstairs to the tavern, staring in amazement at this new and wonderful world.