Game date: Saturday, January 12, 208
Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 2162/4000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2001/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 896/2200
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1947/2500
Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 732/1500
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 970/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 970/4000
Ylil, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 582/1200
As expected, a more focused and goal-oriented session this time. Vito's player couldn't attend, so we were down to a party of 8 characters. The players spent a little time discussing places on their map that they hadn't yet been, and leads they've yet to follow up on. Not a bad time to recap some of those right here:
- the courtyard behind Cretch's mansion, rumored to be full of very lively and aggressive plants
- the bathhouse across from Cretch's mansion, rumored to contain stairs down to the second level
- rumors of a magical bank vault to the southwest (and they mused that they might be able to find records and historical documents there for the reward that was offered last session)
- rumors of temples to the south, including a temple of health with a basin that seeps a liquid that heals wounds
- the cavern shaft (full of stirges) that seemed to lead deeper down into the dungeon
So back into the buried city of Idalium they went, heading back to the manor house where they had encountered and scared away the giant rats several months ago. There they were again, a handful of dog-sized rats scampering around a filthy dining room. Wilhelm spoke the words of Sleep and the rats were overcome without a fight. The party stood looking down the dark, cramped rathole in the wall of the room, wondering if they really wanted to explore the rats' nest badly enough. Gulleck squeezed his way into the tunnel long enough to see that it twisted around a corner, and then backed out. Tyrriel and Wilhelm were bold enough to crawl through the small tunnel, emerging in another apartment's bedroom, where several more rats quickly darted away out of the room at the approach of the adventurers. They returned to the main group to report, and then everyone crawled painfully through the filthy tunnel and followed the rats into a living room half buried in rubble and debris. Mixed in with the rubble were torn strips of cloth and upholstery stuffing, forming a giant nest for the rats, a bunch of whom now hissed and charged at the party. Tyrriel's Sleep spell dealt with these rats in a hurry, but as Gulleck begin killing the vermin, four more rats came squeaking from another rat tunnel in the south wall.
Tod, Jibber, and Gulleck formed a line and met the rats' charge. Tod was bit in the shin by one, but the dice were hot for the players in this battle. Tod rolled a natural 20. I don't do "critical hits" that do extra damage, as this quickly becomes way too lethal for the PCs, but I treat a natural 20 as doing something extra good in addition to damage (whereas a natural 1 is a fumble of some sort). So Tod killed a rat by slicing it in two, and then with a flick of his two-handed sword, sent the front half of the corpse flying into one of the other rats, momentarily pinning it to the rubble pile. Twiffle then rolled a natural 20 for his bow, so as the poor rat was attempting to squirm out from underneath the bleeding half of its fellow, an arrow impaled it, pinning the carcass to its thigh. The rat attempted to limp back to the tunnel, dragging the hunk of rat along with it, when it was finally put out of its misery with yet another natural 20.
From the stinking rats' nest the group plucked a golden bejewelled decanter. (Yeah, I guess I was hinting a little bit.) Then they crouched down to crawl through the other rat tunnel to the south. This emerged in a storeroom full of everyday goods like oil lamps and candles, but also containing a rack of tattered, ragged robes. Swirls of colored dye and embroidery could barely be made out on the ancient fabric. A door to the east led to an imposing room: four stone statues stood in the center of the room, hands outstretched to their sides and faces raised expectantly to the ceiling. The walls were painted with frescoes showing men and women in robes joining hands and chanting or singing and gazing upwards, where strange swirls and whorls of colors were painted above their heads. Some of the figures showed a look of ecstasy on their faces; others showed fear and horror. As the party looked at this odd scene, they became aware of a faint chanting or singing, right at the back of their hearing, not coming from anywhere in particular, but just pervading the room.
"Nope, nope, nope! Don't want anything to do with this!" They all moved hastily around the statues to the door at the other side of the room, and left this place to its own devices.
They found themselves in a wide north-south avenue lined with buildings with ornate facades. Across the street from them was another door, flanked with marble cherubs playing harp and flute. Carefully they entered, finding themselves in a large semicircular room, ornately decorated with frescoes of people enjoying music of many different types. Benches surrounded a strange apparatus: an organ of some kind, with two ranks of keys, and a curious recess with four pegs or pins and a large number of tiny little pipes or tubes. On the side of the organ there was a tank or reservoir that apparently held water at some time, as they could see a line of scale along the edge. Gulleck was fascinated by the mechanical sophistication of this organ, and began sketching it. Brother Jibber tentatively played a "middle C", but the organ merely creaked and hissed. After studying the reservoir, they used one of their waterskins to fill it with water, and Jibber played a minor scale on the keyboard.
Suddenly, many strange things happened. Several of the party members were unaffected by the music, but Ylil and Twiffle suddenly found themselves talking backwards for the next hour, and from the air above the organ rained a shower of many-colored flower petals!
Choosing to leave this organ alone now, the group explored a room to the north. Ten horrible knockers were smashing drums, breaking harp strings, and denting trumpets! Gulleck, on a mischievous whim, ran back to the organ and pounded on the keys, hoping to mess with the knockers. This time, Caryatid began to talk backwards as well, and Tod and Brother Jibber were struck blind! Gulleck's hair, including his beard, turned a lovely shade of lavender.
Many weeks ago, Tyrriel and Wilhelm had spent some time and money to create a scroll of Sleep (I use the scroll-making rules from the Holmes Basic rules). Tyrriel read the words from this scroll now, putting all of the knockers to sleep. (They were lucky to not be among those who could only speak backwards!)
The party decided to wait and see if the backwards speech and blindness would wear off, and after about an hour it did (fortunately, no monsters wandered by while Tod and Jibber were blind). Once everyone was back to normal, they chose to investigate of the five doors off of this large room. Ylil listened at the door, and heard snoring. They carefully oiled the hinges of the door, hoping to increase their chances of catching the sleepers off-guard (I gave them an extra chance to open the door on the first try). Tod shouldered the door open.
Inside an old rehearsal room full of music stands and broken instruments, a group of four ugly men were sleeping, slumped against the walls. One more sat at a table, awake. They looked human but bestial, with little jutting tusks, heavy brow ridges, bristly hair, and little piggy eyes. Muscles strained beneath filthy leather armor, veins bulging along their arms and necks.
The guard was completely taken by surprise, and Twiffle immediately spoke the words of the Charm Person spell. The look of surprise was replaced by relief as the beastman said, in a gruff, harsh language, "Oh, thought you were someone else! You find any good loot?" Twiffle recognized this language as the crude tongue of the orcs.
"A little," whispered Twiffle. "Come on out here. Let's let them sleep." The orc hesitantly followed Twiffle out into the room with the organ and they shut the door. From the orc, the adventurers learned that his group had come up here from the second level and had established a base camp in this room. They were taking a brief rest and then going plundering.
The players weren't quite sure what to do with their new friend at this point, but Tyrriel offered her last bottle of fine wine. The orc took a sniff and then a drink and smiled broadly. "Wake up boss now, give this to him!" The players dithered and debated what to do while the orc opened the door and yelled, "Boss, wake up!"
All of the orcs woke up, blinking suspiciously at the party. "They friends, boss, they bring this!" The orc leader took a long pull on the wine jug, and the suspicious look on his face eased a bit, though he still looked puzzled. (There were several reaction checks here, modified by the fact that the party seemed to be buddies with one of the orcs, and for the gift of wine, but also by the sheer weirdness of the situation.)
The conversation started to go downhill, as the orc leader seemed happy enough to drink with the party and let them go on their way, as long as they handed over any other valuables they might have found. The PCs started to make up bizarre fibs and pretenses, and the orc leader's patience wore thin. Turning to the charmed orc, he yelled, "Ugrok, why you friends with these stupid people?!"
Then Wilhelm drew out his own Sleep scroll, and read from it. "It trap!" yelled the orc leader, and they began to draw their rusty swords, but the party won initiative and all of the orcs returned to a deep slumber. "Ugrok!!!" wailed the leader, shaking his fist as he slumped to the floor.
The players have shown zero remorse in slaying knockers, but with these orcs they felt a twinge of scruples and chose to strip them of their swords and armor, leaving them tied up in their disgusting skivvies. Apparently, once you've shared wine with someone you just can't slash their throats in their sleep. They liberated the orcs of a burlap sack full of several hundred gold coins, as well a small leather pouch full of a suspicious-looking off-white powder, and retraced their steps back to the exit of the dungeon (ditching the nasty armor and swords in the rats' nest).
We always joke that D&D brings out the 12-year-old boy in all of us, so my punchline for the session was, "Gulleck (with his new lavender hair) stepped out to the back alley of the Rusty Lantern to take a leak, and was dismayed to discover that the effects of the strange magical instrument were quite comprehensive."