Friday, March 20, 2015

Idalium Game 16: Crowded House

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

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 2, hp 14, xp 3027/4000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2428/4400
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 2693/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3455/5000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1120/1500
Twiffle, Elf 1, hp 1, xp 1188/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1077/2500

Some sessions are weirder than other sessions. Between my dungeon restocking and the wandering monster checks, the dungeon was chock full tonight.

When the party regrouped at the Rusty Lantern tavern, they found the room occupied by Rugger's Raiders, another adventuring party that they had met once or twice before. The Raiders seemed to have lost a member, and the remaining ones looked grim and solemn. Gulleck raised a toast to fallen comrades, and Rugger gave a curt nod of acknowledgement to his fellow dwarf.

Beyond the table of unhappy delvers, the tavern was buzzing with talk of the semi-annual magic auction that would be held in about a fortnight. Twice a year, on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Adventurer's Guild cosponsors an auction of strange and marvelous magical items. This auction tends to attract two classes of bidder: rough and rugged adventuring types, and a much more refined group of extremely wealthy collectors and their agents. One group seeking items to put to their advantage in actual use, and other seeking unique curios to display in their mansions. (I'm not a fan of "magic stores" like you see in video games and later D&D editions, but I like the idea of limited and significant opportunities to exchange magic items in a way that creates interesting role playing interactions and introduces new NPCs. I was inspired by this post on the Dreams in the Lich House blog.)

Now that they had Tyrriel with them, the group decided to head back to the temples on the second level so that she could translate the various bits of Ancient Idalian writing they had seen but been unable to read. But it seemed like everyone in town was in the dungeon today! First they ran into a group of bandits in the robing room behind the temple with the basin of blood. They were the same bandits that had attacked them without provocation once before! This time, however, they seemed much more mellow and simply wanted to pass by without a fight. "We're sorry we were so high strung before! Please don't cast any spells on us this time!"

Passing through to the temple with the basin of blood, the party stopped short as they saw a group of half a dozen orcs clustered around the basin, taking up handfuls of the blood and slurping it noisily down. The orcs glared at the intruders, and demanded a toll of fifty gold coins from each adventurer in order to let them pass. There were harsh words back and forth, and then Tod said something very rude, and the orcs charged the party. Swords clashed against shields, and the orcs got right up in the faces of Tod, Jibber, and Gulleck, snarling and grunting, and then Tyrriel spoke the words of sleep and all of the orcs staggered to their knees and were soon put to the knife.

In the vestibule of the temple of hedonism, Gulleck took a stroll around the statues, looking to see if he had missed anything the last time and was surprised to discover a burlap sack full of a hundred or so silver and gold coins. In the sack was a note, saying "Rhonda, store this in the hideout aboveground." In the next room, the group encountered a pair of somewhat bumbling bandits whose hidden coins they had just walked off with. The bandits gave a kind of confused story about how they raid the dungeon for coins and then their business partner Rhonda makes quick runs to established drop points to retrieve the loot. The party was skeptical about this arrangement, but Gulleck took pity on them and gave them back their sack of coins, with the advice to find a better hiding place. What a softie!

In the hallway on the way down to the second level, the party decided to make another attempt against the rats. Gulleck listened at the door and could hear them squeaking and scampering around, so he and Tod shoved the door open and Wilhelm invoked the magic of sleep against the giant rats. They all squirmed momentarily and then collapsed, and Gulleck made the rounds with his axe. On the floor were two rat-gnawed corpses, one of which was holding a wooden staff with carvings to resemble a coiling snake. Since he was the only one who could make use of it, Brother Jibber was granted the staff. He looked it over and found the word "Saleetha" engraved on the back of the snake's head at the top of the staff. When he spoke this word, the staff suddenly convulsed in his hand and became a long serpent, coiling and flicking its tongue as it looked inquisitively back at Jibber. He spoke the word again and the snake straightened and in the blink of an eye returned to a wooden staff.

Pleased with this acquisition, the group dressed up in the embroidered togas to pass the crystal guardian statue at the top of the stairs, and then left two of their number at the bottom of the stairs while the others ran the robes back up to the others. This has been working for them, but takes time and exposes them to another wandering monster check at both sides of the staircase while the party is split. But at least this time, they reunited at the bottom uneventfully.

In the inner sanctum of the temple of hedonism, Gulleck filled flasks from both of the fountains that trickled in the middle of the room. Nervously, he ventured a sip of each. One gave him a strange feeling of exciting refreshment for a moment, and the other briefly overwhelmed him with a sense of affection and camaraderie for his companions. Then they headed for one of the barred doors that exited the temple, only to be intercepted by a pair of strange humanoids that strolled out of one of the rooms off of the hallway.

The group had met goblins before, and these seemed similar in appearance, but man-sized. They had the same mottled gray skin and eyes that flickered dimly red, with oddly animal-like facial features. One seemed slightly feline and the other had a long snout like a rat. Although the creatures were monstrous in feature, their clothes seemed like a parody of aristocratic fancy dress, with ruffled shirts and harlequin-style diamond patterned doublets. They were oddly affected in their speech patterns and gestures, and welcomed the party in an alarmingly warm fashion. "Welcome to the domain of the Goblin King!" The goblins gave their names as Margleton and Clabberpus, and invited the party to visit the Goblin Market. "What kind of payment do you take?" asked one of the PCs. "Oh, whatever you find valuable! Precious gemstones, gold, your fondest hopes and wishes..."

The party got rough directions to the Goblin Market - through the halls to the north, and then into the caverns to the east - and were warned against the savage orcs who live nearby. Eventually, the adventurers parted ways with these strange creatures, unnerved by their effusive manners and quite unsure whether any invitation by goblins was in their best interests.

Onward to the temple of fate they went, as Tyrriel was keen to see this wheel of fate the others had told her about. When they got there, however, Gulleck could hear what sounded like children's voices on the other side of the door! "Come on, Johnny, you can do it! Make a wish!" followed by the clattering sound of the great wheel spinning. Tod shoved the door open and the group walked in on a surprised bunch of ragamuffins and urchins, one of whom was strapped to the wheel, gradually slowing to a halt. The group of children, ranging in age from perhaps seven to about fourteen or so, told the adventurers that they lived in the dungeon in a secret place and had no desire to go back to the city aboveground. They were orphans and runaways and made their living by scavenging and exploring the dungeon. While the adventurers were talking to the urchins, Johnny was unstrapped and helped down from the wheel and exclaimed, "Where's my money? I had a bunch of shekels in my pouch and they're all gone!" The thieving hands of fate move quickly!

The bemused adventurers asked the young runaways about the dungeon, and learned that there were orcs living nearby ("You have to run quickly so they don't see you") and that the goblins were not trusted by the urchins ("You should stay away from the goblins, they're dangerous").

"You know anything about that room that's totally dark?"
"I don't like that room. I think something bad happened there."
"What makes you think that?"
"We went in there once, and it felt really scary so we ran."
"Oh, kids are so annoying!" said the players out of character, "'Oooh, the dark is scary!'" "Er, but isn't that just how we reacted?"

Gulleck gave the kids a spare portion of iron rations ("Yuck, dry biscuits and jerky?") and told them to leave a note in the temple of hedonism if they needed help, and the two groups parted ways.

Everyone now turned to the wheel of fate. The PCs kept trying to get their retainers to give it a shot ("Hey, Twiffle, wanna take a spin? How about you, Brother Jibber?") but failed morale checks meant the retainers refused to take the risk. Eventually, Tyrriel (whose player is typically the instigator of the group) threw caution to the wind and climbed onto the wheel to be strapped in and spun. On the ceiling, a painted image of a stern goddess of fate gazed impassively down upon Tyrriel, and as the wheel spun, so too did a disc in the ceiling, so that the goddess remained clear and in focus while the rest of the world revolved dizzily around Tyrriel. Eventually, the wheel came to a stop, and Tyrriel found that she felt ever so slightly more lucky and less susceptible to magical curses - her wisdom was permanently increased by a point!

Next they went to the circular room of polished pink marble with the pool of liquid, and Tyrriel translated the words inscribed on the north wall: "Come, believer, submerge yourself in the sacred water of life and be born again."

"Hey, Twiffle, you wanna be born again?"
"No thank you, Gulleck."

It was running late, but the players insisted on pushing onwards to explore at least one new place that they hadn't been before. They continued along the main corridor, past the door that led to the dark room, and suddenly in their lamplight they came upon two bestial orcs standing guard at a T-intersection. A crude gong hung on a rack next to them. The reaction roll was favorable, and the orcs were not immediately aggressive, but demanded a toll if the party wished to pass by them along the hallway.

"Want some wine?" offered Gulleck, except that instead of wine he held out the wineskin he had filled from one of the fountains in the temple of hedonism. One of the orcs sniffed cautiously at it, and then took a big chug. A random die roll indicated that the first person he set eyes on after drinking the liquid was Gulleck, and a broad smile crossed his primitive features, as he gazed at Gulleck with awe and admiration.

"Hey, this ain't wine, but it's goooood!"
"Maybe your friend would like some too," suggested Gulleck. The other orc took a deep gulp of the magical liquid, and as luck would have it, he first laid eyes on Caryatid, and a look of lustful desire came over his face. And then everything degenerated terribly.

"Hey, baby! You're lookin' good! You wanna party with me?" And then the players decided they had the perfect guinea pig to see what that "water of life" pool did to someone.

"Oh, orcie!" cooed Caryatid, flashing some leg. "Follow me, we can go in the hot tub together!"
"Her" orc was all for it, drooling with barely-suppressed anticipation. The other orc seemed conflicted: "We can't just leave our posts! I want to go with you, but my chief'll rip my skin off."

Eventually, Gulleck volunteered to stay with "his" orc, sitting in the dark, while the others returned to the water of life pool with the amorous orc. That orc was impatient and agitated, but followed close after Caryatid, as the players imagined little cartoon hearts floating above his head. Once back in the temple with the pool, Caryatid told him to get naked and get in the pool and that she would be "right there". The orc was confused and frustrated, but stripped off his filthy leather armor and undergarments (nearly blinding the party with his hideous nakedness) and uncomfortably lowered himself into the pool, holding on to the edge. Nothing in particular seemed to happen to the orc.

"Why you not get in, too?" the orc barked, frustrated.
"You gotta go all the way under," said Tyrriel. "You know how these humans are, she wants you to wash yourself up first!"
"No! She make me wait too long! I'm gonna have her right now!"

And the orc climbed back out of the pool, the viscous fluid dripping from his filthy naked body, and advanced menacingly on Caryatid.

Meanwhile, Gulleck was trying to avoid making conversation with a very friendly orc as they sat in the dark in the hallway. "You kill anything good lately?" "Uh, some giant rats." "Oooh, rats, yeah. I just love to sink my fingernails into their sides and rrrrrip 'em apart. And then when you bite into 'em, the way the bones crunch in your mouth..." "Uh, yeah..."

Back in pool room, Twiffle frantically spoke the words of the Charm Person spell, but the orc shrugged the magical influence off! (Perhaps he was already too enraptured by Caryatid?) The orc turned to Twiffle with a look of rage on his face. "You try to keep me from her! I'll kill you!" Before Twiffle could react, the naked, dripping orc had pounced upon his, claws and teeth sinking into his throat. Blood spurted forth, and the orc dropped Twiffle's limp body in a heap and turned his now bloodied face back toward Caryatid. "Now, you are all mine..."

Caryatid calmly invoked her Magic Missile spell, and the golden arrow appeared, glowing brightly in this dim chamber, and sped forth to bury itself in the orc's torso. He spluttered incoherently and then fell to the floor, dead.

It seemed at this point like they had nothing to lose by dunking Twiffle and seeing what happened. They stripped the elf out of his plate armor, and carefully lowered his body into the slippery fluid of the pool. They waited anxiously, and just when it felt like nothing was going to happen, there was a vigorous splashing in the pool, and Twiffle's arms emerged to grab the side, and then Twiffle pulled himself out of the pool, gasping for air. The fatal wounds on his neck had vanished completely, and he seemed completely revitalized and renewed.

As Twiffle, lost in thought, strapped himself back into his armor, one last wandering monster check turned up a single bandit, so passing by the open door to this room came one of the bumbling bandits they had met upstairs. He took in the sight of the dead naked orc on the ground, and the dripping elf in his skivvies climbing back into his armor, and merely said, "Uh, I was just passing by." It was like a comedy drum fill for the end of the scene.

The group went back to retrieve Gulleck from his new best friend, and they all made their way back to the Rusty Lantern. The snake staff was the only treasure they had found (and it doesn't count for experience points), but what a weird evening of roleplaying!


  1. I didn't realize those guys we gave the coins back to were bandits. I thought they were fellow adventurers. Damn.

    1. Bandits, adventurers... it's such a gray area, isn't it? They were "unaffiliated, freelance adventurers".