Thursday, February 26, 2015

Player Journals from Session 13

Caryatid's Diary
Dear diary:

Finally made it off the mountain after an extended visit with Granny Weatherwax. I swear if I had to spend one more day near that evil mountain troll, I’d have killed him myself, Infestation Managers’-style. Back to adventuring down below the city, our group was inexplicably smaller than usual although I did hear a rumor about some cleric and an epic tour of every pub in the city with a vowel in its name. We met an acquaintance of Sprat’s, an meek guy named Alex who wanted to join us in a quest for treasure while searching for a lost friend. We agreed to let him join us and wouldn’t you know we ended up in that crazy room with the thorn throwing plant. Gosh darn are they hard to kill!! Lucky for me I was able to make use of the Magic Missile spell I learned while visiting Granny, it was only slightly more useful than tossing Molotov cocktails at the thing. We spent nearly our entire time there battling this vicious weed. It killed Alex. We gained a little treasure, but were exhausted from the extensive battle so we returned to the surface. Oh and on the way back there were giant bees (of course), there’s always giant bees.

Gulleck's seventh journal
Been a profitable couple of runs. Don't much want to go down below without more folks helping out, though, even if I gotta share more of the cash.

Thinking I may just stick with muscle boy as a helper from here on out. Ol' pointy-ears was helpful enough, but a wall of muscle sure comes in handy.

Lessee here. Found a bank with a magic vault thingy. Found a key, found a box, found a trap, found an alarm, found some nasty gas. Some of that were less nice than others. Some nice stuff in the box, though. Gems, scrolls, some weird food and drink... Gems were worth a nice little bit.

Found the hall of records, finally. Old guy was pretty happy with a lotta what we found, and some of it was good for us too. Magic scrolls, wands and whatnot. Killed some orcs on the way in, killed a filthy knocker bastard while searching, scared off some silly humans who thought they could muscle in on us. Some sorta invisible guardian in there, helped out with the humans a bit.

Found some poor lost gnomies with maps about as hard to read as ours. Helped em get back home. Hate to see a cousin in distress, y'know?

Headed back up after that. Next time down was a bit more lonely. Lots of folks not around for reasons and such, just four of us went down, plus thiefy whatsit. Oh yeah. Thiefy whatsit told us his buddy and him find some loot and his buddy got all killed getting away from their boss. Guess there was some back way by some killer plants, and they lived up to the name.

Took thiefy whatsit down with us, he wanted a share, seemed fair enough.

Plants were nasty. Lots of em, first off. Lots of flying thorns, too. Leastwise they were slow, so we could stay away from the things. Figured pretty quick that running in would get us killed, so I hacked a hole in the boards round the garden. Muscle boy took my crossbow and shot at the ones we could see for a bit. Wizardry guy hit em with some glowy bolts, and we set one on fire pretty good.

Thought we had em all taken care of, but when we went in to look at buddy's body, turned out there were a couple more. Muscle boy and me hacked em up pretty good. Damn near made it out with only minor scratches... Cept thiefy whatsit charged in too. Turns out that were a mistake. Last mistake for him. Plants killed him dead right by his buddy. Took a bit of my share to get him buried, figured it was the least I could do for a guy who got me lots of loot. And there sure was some nice loot. Jewelry and whatnot worth a mint.

I'm glad those crazy humans never decided to just take this place over. More stuff for me!

Idalium Game 13: Gardening at Night

Session date: Monday, February 16, 2015
Game date: Saturday, February 16, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 1580/2200
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 2599/5000

Rutger, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 233/2000
Ylil, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 880/1200

Two of the players were out of town on this Presidents' Day weekend, and one is taking a short hiatus from playing, so we were down to two players tonight. For a while it looked like the game would get canceled, but they still seemed game to play and I was happy to run the game, so we ran with it. Another of the many virtues of the episodic megadungeon campaign: players can choose the level of risk they wish to take on, rather than be stuck playing in whatever scenario the "plot" requires. And the use of retainer NPCs makes it easier for a small group like this to handle the hazards of adventuring.

At the end of the last session, Caryatid became a level 2 magic-user (a Seer, to use the old level titles). She chose Magic Missile as her second spell, and chose to memorize it twice for this expedition into the dungeon. She had previously spent some of her share of treasure creating several scrolls of her Shield spell, so she would still have some versatility with her magic.

When Gulleck and Caryatid entered the Rusty Lantern, Ralph the owner and bartender waved them over. "There's a guy over there in the corner who came in asking about you. Says he knows Sprat. I told him you guys usually come in on Saturdays." So they bought a couple of drinks and walked cautiously over to the table in the corner, where a slight, mousy-looking man sat watching them. "Hullo," grunted Gulleck.

"Uh... hi. You're the guys that Sprat sometimes works for, right? Um, my name's Alex. I might have a business proposition for you, if you're interested."

Alex was cagey at first about the details, but he claimed to know where some valuable jewelry might be in the dungeon below, and wanted to lead the party to it, for an equal share. He wanted them to shake on the deal before giving the details, seemingly afraid that they might cut him out of the deal and just go find the treasure themselves. Eventually, Gulleck and Caryatid convinced him that they were honorable people ("I mean, didn't Sprat vouch for us?") and he spilled the beans.

It turns out Alex used to be in Cretch's gang with Sprat, until that fateful day when the Infestation Managers showed up and put everyone to sleep and then sold them all to the Thieves' Guild. "I mean, it's cool. Thanks for not just killing me, you know?" Alex had been friends with another bandit in the gang named Jake. One day Alex and Jake had been exploring the second level of the dungeon and found a couple of pieces of jewelry from the heyday of the ancient city. The rule was that all treasure was supposed to be handed over to Cretch, but Jake wanted to do a runner, and he asked Alex to come with him. With the proceeds from selling the items, they wouldn't have to work or steal for months. Jake said he knew a secret way out through the back of the mansion that the bandits were using as their hideout, through a garden that contained fearsome, carnivorous plants that could fling barrages of sharp thorns at you. Alex declined to go with Jake; he was afraid of the plants and also of Cretch, who was a cruel and vindictive man who ruled his gang by fear and intimidation. So Jake decided to go alone, and said he would try to contact Alex on the surface once he had got out and fenced the goods. Alex never heard from him again, and presumed he had been killed by the plants. Shortly thereafter, the adventurers arrived and shut Cretch's operation down permanently.

Alex believed that the jewelry might still be there, in the garden with the plants, and wanted to go retrieve it, but was afraid to go by himself. Gulleck and Caryatid were a little suspicious, but figured that with Rutger and Ylil along, they outnumbered this mousy bandit four to one, so they took him up on his proposal.

Descending into the streets of Ancient Idalium below the tavern, they made quick time heading north along a back alley behind some ruined buildings, soon emerging onto the grand avenue where Cretch's mansion stood, still locked with the padlock the group had secured it with the last time they were here. Caryatid opened the lock with the key and they entered the dark mansion. The stench of death and decay was still strong here, as three bandit corpses still lay in the atrium, considerably worse for the wear three months later. The adventurers held their breaths and moved quickly through the atrium to the courtyard garden behind the mansion.

The courtyard was surrounded by a colonnaded walkway, which the bandits had barricaded over with planks and sheets of wood, along the south and east sides of the courtyard. The group crept to the southwest corner where the barricade ended, and carefully peered around the corner. The garden was full of dead, withered, and gnarled vegetation; brittle and twisted branches cast weird shadows on the chalky dirt floor. But beyond these flickering shadows was other movement: a group of larger, thorn-covered bushes seemed to quiver and react to the lantern light and twist in the party's direction. They quickly ducked back behind the corner to plot a strategy.

In preparation for the fight, Caryatid took a moment to recite the words from one of her Shield scrolls, and a slight shimmer in the air around her body indicated that she was protected against most attacks. Nobody wanted to get too close to the thorn-spraying plants, and the thought occurred to them that wood burns pretty well, so Caryatid cut a strip of cloth from her tunic, stuffed it in a flask of oil, and set the rag on fire from the lantern. Then she stepped boldly around the corner and heaved the flaming flask of oil towards the nearest group of bushes. Her aim was poor and the flask smashed against the paved stones of the walkway, the rag going out in the darkness beyond their lantern light. The bushes began to shake as if in anger, and suddenly Caryatid was peppered with dozens of vicious thorns. Despite her Shield spell, some of the thorns penetrated the flesh of her left arm. She gasped in shock and dropped the lantern she was holding, but luckily it did not break. She quickly grabbed the lamp and pulled herself back around the corner, barely avoiding another barrage of thorns that clattered against the wall of the courtyard.

Now began a slow game of potshots, darting around the corner to take a shot at the bushes and then trying to duck back again before the plants could spray their thorns. Gulleck attempted to fire at the plants with his crossbow, but most of his shots went wild. Caryatid tried again with a flaming flask of oil, and was able to hit the nearest bushes, but as luck would have it the rag's flame went out as it hit and did not ignite the oil. The plants seemed to be creeping towards them: quite slowly but very unnerving to the group.

Gulleck retreated up the walkway and began to hack through the barricade with his hand axe, attempting to make an opening wide enough to get a better crossbow shot. When the opening was wide enough, he peered through. Inside he could see the group of bushes they had been fighting, and in the middle of the garden the lamplight glinted off the white bones of a skeleton: presumably Jake. He handed his crossbow off to Rutger, who was a slightly better shot, and Rutger shot a crossbow bolt around which they had tied another flaming rag from Caryatid's tunic. He hit the oil-soaked bushes, and this time the rag ignited the oil, and the dry, brittle bushes went up in flame.

This got the attention of another bush in a different part of the garden. Rutger continued to fire crossbow bolts, and Caryatid used her unerring Magic Missile spells to good effect. A bolt pierced the trunk of the bush and it went still.

The group carefully returned to the corner to see what had become of the bushes they had set alight. One of them was completely burned, but another was still moving, creeping away from them. With a battlecry, Gulleck and Rutger charged forward, and Rutger's sword hacked the bush in two. They moved into the center of the garden to investigate the skeleton. Alex turned away with a pained look on his face, at the sight of the remains of his friend. Before they could investigate further, however, another two of the carnivorous bushes made their presence known. Deciding that the best defense was a good offense, Gulleck, Rutger, Ylil, and Alex all drew weapons and charged screaming at the plants. Rutger hacked another apart, and Alex managed to chop some branches off of another, and then roll away and take cover under some (more passive) vegetation. The sole remaining plant began to shake and quiver. I rolled a d4 to determine who would be attacked, and the dice said "Alex". Even with a cover bonus to his AC for his hiding place, the barrage of thorns hit him for 4 points of damage.

Only then did I roll a d8 to see how many hit points Alex the bandit had. And the die came up with a 3. Gulleck's axe slammed into the twisted shrub, splitting the trunk in two, as Alex gurgled and spluttered, his throat pierced by a dozen razor-sharp thorns, and his body fell lifeless next to the skeletal remains of his friend. Ahhh... I love a bit of bathos in D&D!

There was a brief moment of silence, and then... "Well, guess he won't be needing his share of the loot." In a leather satchel next to Jake's remains, Gulleck found several dozen electrum half-darics and platinum minas, a few nice gemstones, and a beautifully carved ivory bracelet and a silver and jade necklace that Ylil figured would be worth about 10,000 silver shekels each.

Gulleck insisted that Alex's body be returned to the surface and given a decent burial, so Rutger grimly hoisted the thief's body over his shoulder and they set back the way they had came. It's not that long a walk from the mansion back to the trapdoor to the Rusty Lantern, but far enough that another wandering monster check was called for. And wouldn't you know it, but as the party made their way down the back alley they stopped short at the sight of five giant bees. A very negative reaction check indicated that the bees took to the air and came angrily buzzing towards the party. Rutger quickly lowered Alex's body to the floor and prepared to meet the venomous onslaught.

This could have easily been an even more bathetic anti-climax, but Caryatid drew forth the wand of fear that they had discovered in the hall of records the previous session. She pointed it at the oncoming bees and released the powerful magic within it. Three of the bees peeled off and flew back into the darkness, but two continued to fly towards Gulleck and Rutger. One landed on Rutger's shield, bending its dripping stinger towards him, trying to reach a gap in his armor. Rutger smashed his shield against the adjacent wall, crushing the bee's exoskeleton, and Gulleck hacked the other bee out of the air with his axe. Pleased to have avoided any injury or poisoning, the group swiftly made their way back to the Rusty Lantern without further incident.

The jewelry did turn out to be as valuable as Ylil estimated, and with only four party members to split it between, it represented a very significant amount of experience points. Gulleck ended up just a few points short of second level, something ridiculous like 22 XP. For the first time in the campaign, he had not submitted a journal entry, and the 10% bonus would have been enough to push him over the threshold! There was palpable regret at the gaming table. And here I ended up being a real softie. I figured it would be better for the next session if Gulleck could be level 2 at the start, so the party could feel emboldened to explore new and more interesting areas. We remembered that the party had found two folders of deeds and records last week, so they made a quick visit to Professor Zinn over in The Steps, who eagerly paid them for the documents. Split among all of the party members who had been present when the documents were found, this ended up being just enough to put Gulleck over the threshold for level 2 (and a good die roll more than tripled Gulleck's hit points). Yes, it was probably being overgenerous on my part, but I was feeling rather grateful to my two players for being willing to play with the rest of the group absent. And as I said, with four out of five of the PCs now at second level, I think it will not be long before they feel ready to take on the second level of the dungeon of Idalium...

Friday, February 20, 2015

Player Journals from Session 12

Actually, only one player submitted a journal entry this week (a fact that would cause Gulleck's player some regret!).

Journal of Tod P. Quasit for February 9th
So far, despite mighty temptation, I have not attempted to use the ZAP, the Rage dust, the Total Chaos. I have to talk to Zin again to ascertain the proper way of taking the drug and the proper dosage. 

On February 9th we delved once again into the depths of the Undercity. Vito and Sprat were no shows again. I fear they have gotten themselves into something over their heads and we won't see them again until spring. Velvet was missing, so Tyrriel decided to go it alone. I of course couldn't leave Jibber alone. Last time that happened he tried converting an entire brothel and was left for dead in a barrel out by the river. Caryatid and Ylil joined us again which was awesome. So there were seven of us. 

We live in complete and utter fear of bees. 

We found the old seat of government for the ancient city. Indeed. We found the bank. At first it seemed the bank was completely looted, but in a false bottom drawer we found a key that was identical to the key that was stuck in the vault door. Gulleck had the bright idea of locking the vault and then removing the key that was there and trying the new one. Wowser! It worked. He's a whole lot smarter then he looks. 

There, instead of the looted vault, was an empty room except for a pedestal and on top of the pedestal was a lock box. Gulleck ran up to grab the box but Tyrriel screamed for him to stop. She smelled a trap. And then we spent the better part of three hours discussing how to proceed. The thief actually discovered the box was on some sort of pad on the pedestal. I figured the pad was just being held down by the box, but when i went to hold the pad down, I noticed it actually had some downward give. Back to the drawing board.  We finally decided to just tie a rope around it and pull it out of the vault with everyone outside. A cage came crashing down. It would have killed me where I had been standing a moment before and the box was still inside it. We managed to pull the cage up and get the box out. The thief tried to pick the lock but failed. Gulleck finally succumbed to his need for greed and broke open the box while I supervised. Suddenly we were chocking on poison gas. I nearly died. That was twice in as many minutes. After much retching, we didn't die and found the box was full of jewels. Priceless jewels. Actually, not priceless, but very valuable. Success.

Then we went into the Hall of Records and looted a fountain full of coins until I because absolutely overwhelmed by guilt for stealing the wishes of long dead children. After I returned the coins, we started finding cool things on the shelves.  I felt a wash of dizziness and suddenly I understood the intricate workings of the ancient Idalium bureaucracy. Forms led to files. Files led to other files. More forms. More files. Until I finally found what I was looking for, a wand confiscated from a wizard who was abusing its power by scaring old ladies to death after somehow getting himself written into their wills.  Tyrriel found a cool scroll. Plus we found lots of documents for Zin. And we found a seed cake that says "EAT ME" in nuts, and a vile with a note that says "DRINK ME". This is going to be drate.

We killed some orcs, ignored some bandits until they left, and helped some gnomes find their way home. We are, after all, at long last, truly The Proper Authorities. And so, we went back out the Rusty Lantern, paid a hefty tax, but still cleared quite a bit of money and some very nice things. 

I have to go. Jibber and I are meeting Velvet and a person who Jibber met at his last intervention at The Level Field. They are having a roasted meat special. Velvet likes her meat. Apparently.

Idalium Game 12: The Bank Job

Session date: Monday, February 9, 2015
Game date: Saturday, February 9, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 2422/4000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2244/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 1150/2200
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 2169/2500

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 862/1500
Rutger, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 17/2000
Ylil, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 684/1200

Finally, the players turned their focus towards the bank and government halls that they were rumored to lie to the southwest of the central square. They had heard multiple rumors of a magical bank vault, and Professor Zinn had repeatedly offered to purchase any historical documents or records from them. (Yes, I have ways both subtle and not so subtle to encourage the players to explore the more interesting areas of the dungeon map!) Twiffle was still recovering from the virulent centipede venom, so Gulleck chose Rutger to accompany him once more. Velvet apparently wasn't impressed by Tyrriel's leadership last week and was nowhere to be found, and Wilhelm was still away, so Tyrriel decided to just go it alone this week. Ah, these players are getting bolder by the week!

Descending below the Rusty Lantern, the party followed the back alley south that led behind the temple district, but turned off at a narrow crevice in the western wall, a twisty tunnel that seemed to have been created by natural cave-ins. The tunnel wound roughly to the southwest, and opened up into a small wider space where they found a narrow shaft descending deeper into the ground, and a much smaller channel opening up in the ceiling. A thin trickle of smoke wafted up continuously from the natural chimney. It had an exotic, spicy smell to it, perhaps like cardamom and cloves. Someone tossed a rock down the chimney, and they listened to it clatter down the twisty shaft. Tyrriel thought for a moment she might have heard a deep grunt or sigh from far below, but it was hard to tell if it was just her imagination.

Leaving this natural chimney for the moment, the group continued to the southwest, where the natural tunnels opened into a partially collapsed room. They emerged into the ruins of a restaurant kitchen. A door to the west took them through a ruined hallway into the restaurant's dining room, the northern half buried in rubble and debris.

Leaving the restaurant, the group found themselves in another wide, grand avenue, lined with imposing buildings with impressive marble facades. Inscriptions on the buildings read (in Ancient Idalian): "First Imperial Bank of Idalium", "Hall of Records", and "High Court of Idalium". At the end of the avenue to the south was a partially open wrought iron gate. An ornate sign at the top read, "Through these gates all must pass in their own time." "Must be the cemetery," thought these hardened D&D players. "Not going in there!"

In the Bank of Idalium, the party found a once-elegant lobby with a large wooden teller's counter. It looked to have been thoroughly looted at one time, but they spent time searching the drawers and shelves anyway, looking for secret compartments, false bottoms, etc. Their persistence paid off, and Gulleck found a large iron key below a false bottom in one of the drawers. It was engraved "2036".

Past the lobby, the group entered a room with a few chairs and reading tables. On the far wall, an enormous metal door stood open, and within it a small room appeared to have been completely plundered, full of smashed chests and boxes. The group was momentarily disappointed, but then they discovered that the vault door had an iron key in its lock - very much like the one Gulleck had found, only this one was labeled "1572". It would not come out of the lock, but when they pushed the door shut with some effort and turned the key in the lock, it then came out. Gulleck put the other key in, turned it, and pulled the door open, and they found the room inside the vault was different. Now there were no chests or boxes, but a stone pedestal standing in the center of the room, with a metal lockbox (about as big as a shoebox) sitting on top of it.

Ylil cautiously stepped up to the pedestal and examined it carefully. He noted that there was a seam of some sort on the surface of the pedestal surrounding the lockbox. All sorts of discussion broke out at this point among the players. Was it better to just try to open the box here? Obviously there was some kind of trap here, but what? Tod was in favor of replacing the box with a bag of rocks or something, but when he ventured an exploratory prod at the pedestal top, he noted that it quivered alarmingly, so that plan was discarded as too risky. Eventually, they settled on tying a rope around the box and giving it a quick yank from a theoretically safe distance. When they did this, however, a barred cage slammed down from the ceiling around the pedestal, so fast that the box was slammed up against the bars of the cage and trapped inside. At the same time, an alarm bell begin ringing loudly and furiously.

Although the bell threatened to bring every knocker and orc in this place down upon the adventurers, Ylil managed to quickly find the secret compartment in the wall that concealed the bell, and cut the mechanism that was making it ring. Once silence fell, they set to lifting the metal cage enough to pull the box through, and then brought the box back into the lobby to consider. There was a small keyhole on the front, but they had no key, so the decision was made to pry it open with a crowbar. Ylil levered it open while Gulleck stood over his shoulder watching impatiently. Suddenly, there was the sound of glass cracking, and a yellow-green gas sprayed forth from the chest. Both Ylil and Gulleck choked and retched and gasped for breath, but eventually the air cleared and they were left short of breath but still alive.

The metal box contained quite the treasure haul! A velvet pouch with a handful of precious gemstones, a scroll of several arcane spells, a crystal vial full of a strangely twinkling liquid, a brown glass vial with a paper label that said "Drink Me", and a preserved fruitcake wrapped in wax paper, with nuts spelling out "Eat Me" on its top. There was rejoicing around the room, and all of the goodies were tucked away for later.

Next they hit up the hall of records. The lobby here had a fountain full of stagnant water and several hundred tarnished coins. Tod greedily picked out all of the gold pieces. The party moved on down a hall, looking for documents and records that they could sell to the professor. In an office, they stumbled on a group of orcs. The hideous subhuman beastmen were trashing the place, but upon seeing the adventurers, one screamed out "Meat!" and lunged for them with rusty swords. Tyrriel's magic put the orcs to sleep and they were swiftly dispatched with little mercy.

Finally, they found the records room itself, a large room lined with shelves, sadly full of charred and burnt scraps of paper. There had clearly been a massive fire here at some point, and the smell of smoke still lingered faintly in the air. Nonetheless, the group began to search through the remnants, hoping to find some intact documents that would be worth something. But an odd feeling came over them as they searched. Every time they thought they might have found something, it would turn out to be a burnt scrap of paper. Meanwhile, Tod was developing a growing sensation of guilt, as if someone or something was very upset with him for something he had done. Eventually, he thought to return the gold coins to the fountain in the lobby (along with a couple extra of his own by way of apology), and when he had done that and returned, they all found their searched went much better, and Tod's feelings of guilt lifted.

While they were searching, a group of knockers appeared in the doorway, blinking and scowling at them. Gulleck had nocked a bolt in his crossbow a few minutes earlier, before they had entered this room, and without a word he shot it directly into the forehead of the horrible withered gnome-like monster. The rest of the knockers scrambled and scurried away in fear. Gulleck returned to his search with some satisfaction.

They spent the best part of an hour here, and recovered several folders full of deeds, loan records, and other documents, but even better than that was a scroll that seemed to be an invocation of protection against the undead. Best yet was an ornately carved wand, wrapped in a vellum document that said it had been confiscated from a sorcerer in the underground residences, for abusive use against other citizens. It was described as being able to create an overwhelming feeling of fear in its targets.

As the adventurers were wrapping up their search, a scraggly group of men dressed in ragged leather armor walked into the records rooms and eyed them hesitantly. "Who're you guys?" "Archaeologists!" chirped Tyrriel. The men glanced nervously at the assorted suits of plate mail, two-handed swords, etc., and at the dead knocker in the doorway with a crossbow bolt protruding from its forehead. "What kind of archaeologists are you guys?"

Eventually, the two groups parted company and the party headed up the avenue to the courthouse and explored inside. They didn't find much there, except a witness booth with a sign that said, "Speak no falsehood in this place," and when Tod stood in the booth and tried to tell a lie, he found himself unable to speak! They also found an odd metal cone, like a hearing aid, sitting on the rail of the witness stand. They took this along with them, though they weren't sure if it was of any use.

In the judge's chambers behind the courtroom, they ran into a small party of gnomes, who had apparently become lost and were frantically trying to make sense of their maps. "I think this page lines up with this other side here... no, wait, the corridors don't match up correctly. And why is this page folded over like this?!" Gulleck shared some wine with the gnomes, and they were delighted to see some friendly faces. It was getting late, anyway, so they escorted the gnomes back to the town square and pointed them back to their hideout in the mines. One of the gnomes gave Gulleck a nice little moonstone in thanks for his help.

Returning to the Rusty Lantern, the party eagerly liquidated the gemstones they had recovered and split their earnings. It was indeed a substantial amount of treasure, and provided enough experience points for Caryatid to achieve level 2! With Gulleck not far behind, it may soon become time for the party to turn their attention towards the deeper levels of the dungeons below Idalium...

Monday, February 16, 2015

Player Journals from Session 11

Journal of Tod P. Quasit
Perhaps it would be a good idea to jot down my journal entry while the adventure is still fresh in my memory. I fear tomorrow the vivid images will have begun to fade because tonight I plan to take full advantage of the three for one shot special at the Flaming Sow. Jibber lost a bet with me concerning the sex of three people we met in The Steps. Let's just say they weren't women. So he's buying.

Anyhow, after arranging for my new lizard skin boots to be made, we again delved into the Undercity. There were a bunch of the usual gang missing. Only six of us delved, including a new thief by the name of Velvet. Wilhelm has left us. I'll miss his utter lack of personality and quick sleep spell.

We went to the other exit we had found last week and sent Velvet up because she looked the most like a normal person. She came back down and told us that it was only a few blocks away from the Rusty Lantern. I would have thought farther but apparently every mile under the city is only ten feet above. Like time in a dream. Right?

We went back to the temple with the night sky painted on the ceiling and the tub of blood. Tyrriel decided to fill up some flasks with the blood and sure enough just as she reached towards the tub giant freaking centipedes come pouring out a biting as they went. They bit her real good. Jibber and I attacked along with Gulleck and Twiffle. Velvet ran up and sucked the venom out of Tyrriel's wound. If it weren't so gross it would have been hot. But Twiffle got bit real bad and no one sucked out his wound. We killed a few of the bugs and the rest ran off and Twiffle got real real sick. Poor bastard. He was utterly incapacitated so we took him back to his apartment and made him comfortable. It didn't seem like he was getting worse. We asked at the Rusty Lantern and apparently these centipede bites aren't uncommon and so far have never been fatal, but they do knock the victim out for at least a week if not two.

Gulleck, losing no time, went to the Rent A Fighter warehouse outlet near the river and returned with a strapping young lad going by the name of Rutger. See yah Twiffle.

We delved again, and put Rutger to the test, having him do my job, popping open sticky doors. He ran head first into the door and bounced off it. He did this four times until I sort of hinted he should use his shoulder. Bravo young Rutger. You show a propensity for learning. Maybe I'll be keeping my door opening job after all. So we made our way back to the tub of blood temple, and went south to what looked to be another temple. Gulleck listened at the door and heard something inside. Hah ha! We opened the door and there were three little fuckers the likes of which I have never seen before. Like the Knockers only even more repulsive if that's possible. Small, and pathetic with little red eyes and rusty swords and tattered clothes.

Gulleck, being the happy go lucky friendly sort he is, said hello to them. This did not go well. They spit something about filthy dwarves and attacked. Rutger and I were in the door. Rutger put his sword through the first ones head. Somehow I missed the one attacking me. What happened next is confusing. The little bastard hit me in the groin. I was doubled over in pain and when I regained my composure they were all dead. We searched their bodies and found some coins. Not a lot, but better then Knockers. So we explored some more. There were rooms behind blue curtains. One of them had a giant shrew in it. The same shrew that killed Mookie. I know I've sworn eternal vengeance on the giant shrew but this was not the time or place. We backed away. Then we came upon a group of cowering gnomes who apparently were hiding from the critters we had just killed in the other room. They said they were goblins. Goblins. We've heard rumors about goblins. Anyhow, Gulleck gave the gnomes some wine, because that's just the awesome kind of guy he is. The gnomes followed us around for a bit and then went there merry way without even hinting at offering us any kind of reward for saving their lives. All in a days work for the Infestation Mangers!

Eventually we found a wooden box with a vile of liquid in it. Then a room with a marble font with some liquid in it which we sopped up with our bandit armbands and saved. Then we found a secret room with robes and symbols and more viles with liquid in them. And a book of three prayers in the ancient language that Tyrriel said were prayers of healing. Jibber was very excited about this and laughed maniacally for what seemed an inappropriate amount of time. It actually became quite uncomfortable.

That was about it. We went back out the Rusty Lantern. They taxed us for value on unsold goods. We split what little loot we got and decided to keep the box to hold the viles in. We told Rutger it was customary for new retainers to buy the first round and so we all went off to the Hopping Banshee to celebrate what will no doubt come to be known as the Time We Ran Away from a Giant Shrew. Legendary are we.

From Caryatid's journal:
dear diary,

I was enjoying my vacation visiting my great-grand mother in the mountains. Such a pleasant change of scenery compared to all the adventuring in the tunnels below the city.
All was lovely until terrible storm blew in and buried Granny Weatherwax's cottage in the snow. We managed to convince the old grey mare to pull the cart out of the barn, but the mean troll that shares the mountain trail moved all of the snow by his cave to block Granny's gate. We cannot get out.
I wonder how the old gang is making out down below the city. I hope they can find an adequate substitute to stand guard at the back of the line holding the lantern and fiercely wielding a dagger...

Gulleck's sixth journal
Well, ol' pointy-ears is sick with centipede bite, so I tracked down another helper. Muscle boy should do just fine.

Centipedes were hiding in a basin fulla blood-looking stuff. Nasty. Dead now.

Rescued some gnomes from some unfriendly goblin sorts. Tried to be nice, but the ugly critters just wanted to fight. We obliged. At least goblins have more coin than those horrible horrible knockers.

Not much cash this time, but we found some magicy-looking liquid and a nice box to keep the flasks in. And a book of prayers. Suppose maybe Brother whosit will have some use for it. Guess we'll see.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Idalium Game 11: A Fistful of Centipedes (Reprise)

Session date: Monday, February 2, 2015
Game date: Saturday, February 2, 208 to Sunday, February 3, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 2387/4000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2214/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 1118/2200

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 845/1500
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1077/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 1077/4000

A winter storm left a couple of players housebound, so we were down to three this session. In addition, Wilhelm failed a morale check between sessions, and took a couple of weeks off. Tyrriel recruited an eager new retainer from the thieves' guild: a red-haired vixen named Velvet.

Before venturing into the dungeon, Tod went looking for a bootmaker to convert his lovely giant lizards into a pair of orange-spotted blue boots. On the ritzier side of town, he found a cordwainer named Elsbeth Finley, a no-nonsense lady who took detailed measurements of his feet and told him it would take about a month to cure the leather and construct the boots. She charged him 1,000 silver shekels for the pair of boots, taking half now and half due on receipt. Tyrriel hoped to have a cloak made from whatever was left over afterwards.

Then back again to the Rusty Lantern tavern, where the party heard rumors regarding goblins. There is said to be a goblin market on the second level, where monsters and others respect a truce and exchange goods and information. And another rumor told of the goblin palace: "It's like being lost in a nightmare. The map doesn't make any sense!" "So, just like our usual maps then," quipped Tod.

Descending once again into the ancient city of Idalium, the group made a beeline back to the temple where they had slain the giant lizards. All seemed quiet and empty in the cave-like temple. The stone basin full of (apparently) blood stood silent. They looked again at the frescoes on the wall above the basin, depicting scenes of diseased people being healed (or perhaps healthy people being cursed with disease?), below the moon amid a constellation of stars. Tyrriel recognized the constellation as the sign of the bull.

Tyrriel wanted another sample of the blood from the basin, and she reached in with an empty flask she had bought in town. Suddenly, boiling up from the blood came many gigantic centipedes, clinging to her hand and biting with their fanged mandibles! (Dungeon restocking tables FTW!) The rest of the party rushed forward to crush the horrid little vermin, while Tyrriel frantically shook the centipedes off her hand and then collapsed next to the basin, retching and heaving as the centipedes' venom began to affect her body.

Velvet demonstrated amazing loyalty to her brand new employer by dropping to the ground next to Tyrriel and attempting to suck the venom out of the bite wounds on Tyrriel's hand and wrist. My attitude as DM is to be generous about this kind of thing, at least for poisons that aren't immediately lethal, but to always make it involve a trade-off of some sort. So Tyrriel received an extra saving throw to shake off the effects of the poison, but Velvet, by exposing herself to the venom, now needed to make a saving throw vs. poison as well, albeit with a +4 bonus since it was not injected directly. Luckily, for Tyrriel and Velvet, they both made their saves, and Tyrriel slowly began to recover her composure.

Meanwhile, the party hacked the centipedes apart, but not before Twiffle was bit as well. Gulleck apparently didn't have nearly as much concern for his retainer as Velvet had for her employer, and watched dispassionately as the elf began to gag and retch, staggering against a wall and clutching his stomach in pain. The remaining centipedes fled into crevices in the walls, and the party slowly helped Twiffle back the way they had came, leaving the dungeon, and helping Twiffle to bed.

Twiffle didn't seem to be getting any worse, but in his current condition he was clearly too weak to adventure. Ralph, the owner of the Rusty Lantern and a retired adventurer, told them that giant centipedes did have a nasty bite that could lay someone out for a week or two, but he had never known it to be fatal. So Gulleck found a strapping young lad named Rutger (with exceptional ability scores and a maximum hit point roll) and all concern for Twiffle was quickly set aside. Their new retainer in tow, the party returned to the avenue of temples yet again to pick up where they had left off.

A bit to the south of the temple with the basin, they party found a temple entrance with images of healing and medicine decorating the facade. Inside, they saw a sort of waiting room, with benches and chairs and a desk, but also three ugly little creatures. Somewhat taller than the knockers, they had pallid gray flesh and eyes that dimly glowed red. They all looked somewhat different: one vaguely dog-like, one rat-like, one cat-like, but all were ugly and malevolent in aspect. They wore shabby, stained, and tattered clothes and wielded rusted and pitted short swords.

"Hello," ventured Gulleck and the response was negative indeed. "A filthy dwarf!" one of the creatures spat in the goblin language, and the three creatures lunged at the party in the doorway. Tod and Brother Jibber swiftly brought the goblins down and they party collected a few handfuls of electrum half-darics from the creatures.

A note about the immediate reaction: the Basic rules state that goblins will attack dwarves on sight, and I followed that element of their description, but I think I am going to modify this, since it denies any possibility of parlay and roleplaying as long as Gulleck is with the party. Especially given the rumors of a goblin market, I don't want to eliminate these avenues of play. I think what I will do from now on is give a -2 penalty to all reaction checks made if a dwarf is with the party, making it more likely that Gulleck's presence will incite hostility among goblins but not to the point of always precluding any other result but combat.

Beyond the waiting room, the group found a hallway lined with doorways draped in tattered blue curtains. Behind the curtains were small rooms, containing one or two cots and little else. In one room they found a small party of gnomes hiding in a corner, who were relieved to see friendly faces. They said they were being stalked by the goblins and had hidden in here, hoping to avoid a battle. In another room, the party quickly turned away from a giant shrew, remembering all too well the fate of Brother Mookie in their earliest explorations of this ruined city. Fortunately, the shrew seemed content to stay where it was, and did not react aggressively towards them. In yet another room, they found a beautifully carved wooden box containing a single crystal vial of liquid, sealed with wax over a cork stopper. Pleased with their find, they packed this away for later use.

At the end of the hall, they found a room containing a marble font on a pedestal. In the basin was perhaps half a cup of liquid. They sopped the liquid up with one of the armbands they had taken from Cretch's gang many weeks ago, and squeezed into another of Tyrriel's empty flasks. No one was brave enough to drink it yet.

Tyrriel examined her map and noticed that this room was not as wide as the width of the hallway plus the rooms with the cots and spent some time scrutinizing the western wall of the room. Her attention to detail paid off, and she found a cleverly-hidden door, and pulled it open revealing a supply closet filled with robes, holy symbols, three crystal vials similar to the one they had found in the box, and an ancient booklet of prayers. These were written in Ancient Idalian, but Brother Jibber could sense the divine power that they were imbued with, and believed that if Tyrriel could provide a translation and assistance with the pronunciation of the ancient tongue, he could make use of the miraculous power held within the scrolls. There were three prayers in the booklet, one that spoke of purifying food and drink, one to cure diseases, and one neutralize the effects of even the worst poisons.

Excited by their discovery of several useful magical items (although yet again rather lacking in cold hard cash), the party returned to the surface world to celebrate another successful delve below.

Player Journals from Session 10

Journal of Tod P. Quasit for January 26th
Professor Zin was a wise old man who lived in the tallest house on the highest floor of the highest place in the whole entire city with his friend Peter who attended to all his needs and wants and desires.

And so, why not go ask him what this little bag of white powder is? To The Steps we trudges in search of knowledge. Through the warehouse district, and the hair district and the kazoo district and the waffle house district and through the potted plant district and the slightly dented district and the up and up and up and up and up and up and up we went to the house of Professor Zin. And his dear friend Peter.

Turns out, for 500 silver pieces, Professor Zin will answer all your questions for a good half hour. It was Rage Dust. Candy Anger. The ZAP. I took the bag after giving the professor a small sample. I plan to use it when the time is right. I hear it gives a person the strength of ten. I caught Jibber looking at me judgmentally. That's what he does.

So, we went back into the Undercity later in the week having made a new friend in the bad part of town. We found a new temple and encountered a bunch of idiots. Guess what we did with them? Go on. Guess. We found a new way into the Undercity but we didn't go out that way. And we killed some beautiful giant lizards so I could make boots from their skin. Probably the last of their kind. Given how every single creature in the cursed place tries to kill us, more or less, I didn't have any misgivings. That's about it for this last delve. I know I'm forgetting something but I can't remember it. Oh yeh. Some pool of blood or something of questionable properties. We filled a water skin up with the juice and will probably bring it back to Zin later on.

Jibber has invited me for large jugs of beer and a ham sandwich at the Shiny Onion (all you can eat special) where he will no doubt lecture me on the dangers of foreign substances. You see the irony there.

Gulleck's fifth journal

Humans are nuts. Just rock-chewing crazy. Who else would live in a building that'd fall over in a storm? I guess I'm nuts too, though, since I went up to the fifth damn floor of one of those things.

Old guy who lives there is supposed to be smart, too. How smart is a guy who thinks a good view is worth more than solid engineering?

Seems to know enough about stuff, though. Knew what the orc powder was. Some sorta rage stuff, keeps em angry and wanting more. Nasty.

Left him my sketches of the magic organ thing so he can make a copy. Maybe someday I can figure out how to make a small version of the thing. I'd need help from some magic type folks, I suppose.

Not much to say about the city underneath this time. Killed some spiders and some lizards, saw some more damn strange temples, knocked out some crazy folks who attacked me for offering em wine and left em by their entrance to shuffle on home.

Oh yeah, found another way down. Could be handy, but first we gotta know where it comes up.

Gotta remember to check with cousin Harfang about costs to hire and equip a ship heading back to the Mountain.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Idalium Game 10: The Musings of Professor Zinn

Session date: Monday, January 26, 2015
Game date: Saturday, January 26, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 2350/4000
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2181/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 1, hp 3, xp 1084/2200
Caryatid, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 2135/2500
Vito Aneti, Thief 2, hp 10, xp 1457/2400

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 827/1500
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1060/2500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 1060/4000
Ylil, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 668/1200
Sprat, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 238/1200

After missing a week due to multiple players with winter colds, we got the full crew together for another delve into the buried city of Idalium. But before descending into the dark again, the party was keen to find out what they could about the white crystalline powder they had obtained from the orcs last session. Ylil (aka Paul) had spent a few weeks running a gambling ring for the thieves' guild a while ago, so Caryatid sent him over to the pawn shop that served as a front for the thieves' guild's offices. After exchanging some pleasantries with the shopkeeper, Blaggo, Ylil asked if he knew anything about the powder. "Naw, usually when we buy something like that, the dealer tells us what it is. Maybe you should find one of those bookworm types, you know, a sage..."

Regrouping at the Rusty Lantern tavern, the group asked Ralph, the tavern owner, if he could refer any sages. Ralph pointed them to the advertisement that had been posted for a few weeks, from a Professor R. Zinn, who was offering payment in return for historical documents and records from Ancient Idalium. Ralph told them the professor was eccentric, but known to be a scholar of all sorts of esoteric knowledge. There was an address on the advertisement: #5 on the Street of Steps.

On the west bank of the river that runs through Idalium, a steep hill rises, and clinging to the hillside are the houses and shops that make up "The Steps". Over two hundred years ago, this neighborhood was a center for the immigrants who followed the monotheistic worship of the All Pervading Light. After the city of Idalium catastrophically fell, this neighborhood was spared the worst of the damage, being across the river from the city proper and at somewhat higher elevation. The Steps thus became the base from which the new city of Idalium was reestablished, and is now one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. But being so old and disconnected from the city proper by the river and the awkward topography, it now lays mostly forgotten and ignored, a neighborhood of low rents now home to artists, students, eccentrics, and others who prefer to live on the fringes of society.

The party walked through the streets of Idalium, through the working-class neighborhoods near the Rusty Lantern and into the even grittier district along the water's edge. Warehouses and factories crowded the shore, frequently shadowing out the sunlight. Many foul varieties of stench filled the air from the smelteries, tanneries, and other industrial sites that made use of the river. They came to the river bank and crossed the ponderous stone bridge that spanned the wide river. Ahead of them they could see the buildings of the Steps rising up on the hill. At the top of the hill, an ivy-covered stone wall encircled the neighborhood, older and more crumbling than the city walls that protected the city on the eastern side of the river.

They passed more dark stone warehouses and factories, and then narrow cobbled streets led them to a small market square. They paused a moment to get their bearings, and then began their climb up the Street of Steps itself. This was the steepest and one of the oldest streets in the city, and clearly showed the wear and tear of the centuries. The paving was irregular - sometimes slabs of stone, sometimes cobblestones, sometimes patches of bare earth where grayish plants attempted to gain a foothold. In places there were flights of poorly-maintained steps, and in other places there were simply old ropes strung through iron loops embedded into the buildings along one side.

The houses, tall and peak-roofed, were uniformly old and rickety, leaning alarmingly backwards, forwards, and sideways. At times, an opposite pair of houses leaned towards each other, almost meeting like an arch over the street, and there were even places where the residents had cobbled together makeshift bridges between the upper stories of these houses.

Finally, the party pulled themselves to the top of the hill, almost to the crumbling stone wall. They turned to look back down upon the entire city of Idalium, and from their height they could see beyond the walls on the opposite side of the city, and to the south, the shipyards and harbors lining the bay where the river opened out into the Great Sea itself.

Their destination, #5, was the third house from the top of the street, but taller than its neighbors, and indeed, set at the summit of the hill its five stories made it the highest point in the entire city. It was even more rickety than many of the houses they had passed, and it seemed as if each story tilted unsettlingly in a different direction.

There was a labelled panel of bell ropes next to the door, and the group found and pulled the rope labeled "5-B: Prof. R. Zinn". After a few minutes the sounds of bolts being drawn came from the door, and the door was pulled open by a youth of perhaps 14 or 15 years, who asked how he could help the adventurers. They asked if Professor Zinn was available, that they had a question for him, and the boy said that the professor's usual consultation fee started at 500 silver shekels. After they assented to this fee, the boy led them into the house, and up many flights of narrow, creaking stairs until they reached the top floor of the house. He led them through a cluttered living area and into a room full of shelves containing a very eclectic assortment of books, scrolls, maps, and artifacts: odd statuettes and carvings, strange skulls, etc. At a large desk in front of a window overlooking the city sat an old man, bald on top with wild tufts of white hair above his ears.

"Professor," said the youth, "these people are here to see you." "Ah, thank you, Peter. How may I be of service to you all?" After paying the professor his consulting fee, the group showed him the pouch of white powder and told him they had taken it from some orcs in the old city. The professor sniffed carefully at the powder and then licked his finger, dabbed it in the powder, and touched it to his tongue. He spat it out almost immediately. "Oh, it's bitter, isn't it?" Several of the adventurers exchanged looks. The professor consulted some of the books on nearby shelves, and told them that the powder was known as "rage dust". He told them that although no one truly knew what the orcs were or where they came from, his theory was that they were once human beings like themselves, that had lost themselves in the underworld, becoming creatures of pure passion and violent lust. The rage dust was the means by which the orc leaders kept their underlings enthralled. If one were to take a pinch of the dust, like a snuff, it would infuse them with a fierce bloodlust, temporarily boosting their combat prowess, but he warned them against using such aids.

The group left a sample of the rage dust with the professor for further research, and Tod retained the bulk of it in its pouch (for, uh, further research?). The professor reiterated his offer to purchase any legal records and documents from the old city. The professor's apprentice, Peter, led them down the steep narrow staircases, and the party retraced their steps back down the hill, across the bridge over the river, and back onto familiar ground. Their experiences in the Steps felt slightly surreal and dreamlike now that they were back on flat streets amid buildings that were square and level.

Those who are well-read in D&D's literary foundations may recognize the source for a lot of the imagery of the Street of Steps. (The title of this blog entry is a big hint.) I was greatly inspired and "borrowed" liberally from H.P. Lovecraft's The Music of Erich Zann. His evocative description of the Rue d'Auseil has haunted me since I first read the story, and I borrowed many of his words directly for my narration of the ascent up the Street of Steps. It was very effective for me as a DM - the images were clear and vivid in my mind - and I hope that my narration to the players managed to convey those images.

So, after this extended roleplaying vignette, we had about half of the session left, so back into the dungeon they went. "No faffing around this time!" declared Vito's player. They headed back towards the avenue of temples, but taking an alternate route in hopes of avoiding the tight squeeze through the rat tunnels. They followed a back alley south, and opened a door that led into a sort of robing room, with rotting tattered robes hanging from pegs on the walls. Tyrriel took a few minutes to look over the walls and discovered a hidden door - not a secret door, exactly, but a portion of wall that pulled open, with no trim or jamb to mark it as a door.

Beyond the door, she found a cramped space within some sort of metal structure. On the opposite wall, a pair of eyeholes looked out into a dark room full of pews. An odd metal funnel protruded below the peepholes. Tyrriel found another door on the side of the structure, which opened outwards into the room. She found that she had emerged from a bronze statue of a hideous demon, horned and with grotesque features. A pair of elaborately carved wooden doors exited to the east. Through those doors, the group saw a larger room full of pews, but also several skeletons lying on the floor. Luckily, Caryatid had the foresight to look up at the ceiling, where she saw two enormous spiders lurking silently. Each one was at least five feet in legspan. Vito nocked a bolt in his crossbow, but the party quickly decided it wasn't even worth the risk, and Tyrriel spoke the words of the all-important Sleep spell. The repulsive, bloated abdomens of the grotesque spiders sagged, and then they tumbled to the floor of the chapel. Gulleck darted out with his handaxe, and quickly severed the heads from the spiders' bodies. The group watched in distaste as the enormous legs twitched and slowly curled inwards.

Leaving this chapel, the party found themselves in the wide avenue of temples, and they could see the door to the temple of music up the avenue to their north. Beyond a very plain door along the avenue to the south, they found a temple decorated to look like a natural cavern on the inside. Frescoes showed blindfolded initiates kneeling and being baptised by the elders of the cult. Moving forward towards the front of the temple, their lamplight fell upon a large stone basin about the size of a bathtube, and lying in front of the basin were two giant gecko lizards, each about five feet long. They were sleeping for the moment. The group tried to creep up and investigate the basin without waking the lizards, but as they moved forward, the lizards blinked awake. Someone tossed a portion of iron rations at the lizards, and they ferociously tore into it, devouring the jerky and biscuits.

I'm not quite sure why they didn't just leave the creatures alone, but I think in the end Tod managed to persuade the party that he really wanted a pair of boots made from giant lizard leather. One of the lizards was killed by Vito's crossbow, and the other was put to sleep by Wilhelm's magic. With the lizards dispatched, the group investigated the basin. It was full of a dark, coppery smelling liquid. Frescoes above the basin showed a sequence of events. On the left panel, a naked man with leprous scabs covering his arms and chest lowered himself into the basin. In the middle panel, the man bathed in the liquid, underneath the image of the moon within a constellation of starts. In the right panel, the man emerged, his skin now unblemished and hale-looking.

"Watch out," said one of the players. "What if back then they used to read from right to left and this basin actually gives you leprosy?" I'm cultivating such paranoid players... I love it.

At the rear of the chapel, the group listened at a small door and heard indistinct voices that seemed to be speaking Common. Tod burst through the door, to find five scruffy looking men in leather armor. The men quickly drew their swords and one yelled nervously, "Back off! We're exploring here! Get outta here!" Completely high-strung and on edge. Gulleck deadpanned, "Want some wine?"

Snake-eyes on the reaction check. "That drunk dwarf is trying to bribe us! It's a trap! Kill 'em all!" The bandits charged, and Tod and Jibber met them in the doorway. Their swords clashed against plate mail and shield. Tyrriel drew forth a scroll of Sleep she had recently written, and soon the five bandits were lying on the floor. They turned out to be penniless except for a small leather pouch containing a small amount of off-white powder. (I hadn't planned that, but it seemed like a good explanation for why these guys were so instantly hostile.) The group left the bandits tied up.

The bandits had come from a door on the other side of this room, and beyond the door the party found a ladder leading through a hatch in the ceiling, and then up a wooden shaft with a ladder of metal staples. At the top, Ylil found a manhole cover, and when he opened it he emerged blinking in the light of the surface world, in a dingy back alley. I think everyone was quite pleased to have found another exit from the dungeon!

We were short on time, so the group quickly returned to the Rusty Lantern (by the usual route, choosing to leave the manhole exit for later), toting the two dead giant lizards along with them. I guess next week's session will be all about finding a cordwainer willing to work in exotic leathers.

Not a very lucrative session at all, but the dungeoneering portion was fairly short. The first half of the session was full of very atmospheric roleplaying that allowed me to introduce a whole new neighborhood of the city and an interesting NPC, both of which I'm sure will become recurring features in the campaign.