Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Idalium Game 21: Friendly Fire

Session date: Monday, April 27, 2015
Game date: Monday, March 25, 208 to Thursday, March 28, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2546/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3576/5000
Vito Aneti, Thief 2, hp 10, xp 1491/2400

Rutger, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 601/2000
Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1261/2400
Brother Jedidiah, Cleric 1, hp 1, xp 24/1500

After a day of rest so that Brother Jedidiah could assist with Sunday services at the Great Cathedral, some of the Infestation Managers regrouped as usual at the Rusty Lantern tavern. A few days ago in game time, Gulleck had left a message for Shorty "The Mouse", the leader of one of the NPC parties that the PCs were generally friendly with. Gulleck hoped to recruit her help especially because of the magical sword she had purchased at the auction, engraved as it was with skeletal designs. Shorty had received the message, and agreed to accompany the group for a full share of treasure and first dibs on any magical items that they might find. With Shorty temporarily joining their ranks, the group descended into the dungeon and quickly made their way to the temple of death, intent on finding Gregor Snapespindle and recovering the stolen brazen head.

When they arrived at the plaza of the temple of death, they found a group of nervous men gazing anxiously at two of the statues of weeping angels, which were bent over a body on the ground of the plaza. When the men heard the approach of the party, they whipped around in fear, drawing their swords in panic.

"Back off," one of the bandits exclaimed. "This is our headquarters now! Find your own place!"

Gulleck was completely unimpressed. "You guys are complete idiots. Do you realize there's a guy raising an army of the dead underneath there?"

"You can't fool us!" The bandits thought they had a handle on what was going on. "Hey, it's those guys the Night Walkers warned us about. Cobweb said they played dirty tricks!"

"If you guys are taking advice from the Night Walkers, you are in way over your heads!" Gulleck and Vito continued to harangue and mock the naive bandits. And then Caryatid said something particularly rude, and one of the bandits yelled, "We'll cut those words out of your mouth!", and then the mob of them charged, screaming.

"Oh, for God's sake," sighed Gulleck. He and Rutger attempted to defend themselves against the bandits without inflicting lethal force in return. But Gulleck was viciously wounded by the sword of a paranoid bandit, and blood trickled down his left arm.

Behind him, Brother Jedidiah drew forth his sling and stone with quivering hand. "Repent, sinners!" he shrieked, and let a stone fly unerring into the knee of one of the bandits fighting Rutger. The bandit howled in agony, dropping to the ground and rolling in pain, clutching his shattered knee. Vito wounded another bandit with a crossbow bolt, and Brother Jedidiah sent another vicious stone across the fray, cracking across the pate of yet another bandit and dropping him senseless to the ground.

The remaining bandits turned tail and fled back towards the temple. "Really?" shouted Gulleck. "You're really gonna run into there?"

The wounded bandit told them, between whimpers, that the Night Walkers had struck a deal with them where the bandits could have the temple as their hideout from which to launch burglaries and thefts, as long as the Night Walkers were allowed safe passage through the temple.

Gulleck sighed and prepared to enter the temple to drag out the remaining two or three bandits who had fled. With the party behind him, he entered the temple vestibule and called out, "Now come on, we don't want a fight, just come out and let's talk about it." He opened the inner doors to the temple and cautiously moved in, looking around. Suddenly, the original bandits plus a larger group of men came charging from two directions - "There they are! Get 'em!" - with swords drawn and rage on their faces. Gulleck and Rutger were staggered by the furious attack. Gulleck's sleeve, already stained with his blood from the earlier attack, turned dark with his blood as a sword bit into his shoulder. Unprepared for the intensity of this fight, Gulleck and Rutger pulled the door shut again, with the mocking laughter of the bandits echoing behind the door.

"All right," said Gulleck, "you wanna play that way..." and he pulled out hammer and iron spikes and began spiking the door shut. Vito ran a length of rope between the handles of the temple doors and tied them tightly shut.

They took the wounded bandit with them back to the surface and handed him over to the master of the Thieves' Guild, and then spent a couple of days resting, to allow Gulleck and Rutger's wounds to begin to heal.

When the group reconvened on Thursday morning, Shorty again accompanied them into the dungeon. They made their cautious way down to the temple of the dead again, and noted with some concern that the weeping angel statues had now vanished entirely from the plaza. The group approached the temple doors with caution, and saw that their ropes now lay on the floor in fragments, and a piece of paper was tacked to the doors. "To 'The Rat Catchers'", read the salutation. It was from Death Watch and Cobweb, the elf brothers who led the Night Walkers, and upbraided the party for interfering with their recent hires. The Night Walkers gave the party one last warning: interfere with them again and their rivalry would turn to outright war.

Vito felt that this had already happened, when the Night Walkers employed the bandits to ambush them, and decided to take matters firmly into his own hands. He set out two wineskins full of wine, one of them adulterated with a large quantity of everyday rat poison. He wrote his own note - "For the Night Walkers" and set it on top of the wineskins. Then the party passed into the temple of the dead and headed down into the catacombs.

They passed the nest of giant rats at the base of the steps, using flaming torches again to frighten the rats away as they passed them, and made their way to explore new areas of the catacombs. Eventually they found themselves at a heavy stone door with inscriptions in Ancient Idalian that declared it to be the  mausoleum of a wealthy family. There were scratches on the floor that suggested that this door had been opened and closed more often than one might hope for a mausoleum door. Rutger pulled the door open and the party cautiously entered a long hallway lined with alternating crypt doors.

They pushed open the first door and their noses were assailed by a familiar sickly sweet stench, and a hideous corpse-like creature turned towards them, dropped a bone it had been gnawing on, and leaped at them with ravenous hunger in its dead eyes. Gulleck and Rutger quickly brought the creature to senselessness, but the noise of the battle had drawn the attention of another half dozen of the ghouls, and the adventurers' stomachs sank as they heard the sound of multiple crypt doors creaking open along the hallway.

The party attempted an orderly fighting withdrawal, hoping to get back to the door and use the time-honored "close the door and run away" strategy. Gulleck and Rutger were scratched and bitten by the filthy ghouls, and a tremendous nearly-paralyzing fear coursed through their souls, but they both kept their cool and fought on. Gulleck and Rutger hacked away at the ghouls from the front, while the others looked for openings for arrow, bolt, and stone. Brother Jedidiah attempted to repel the horrible monsters, but his faith wavered and he turned to his sling with more effective results.

"Try this, Gulleck," came Shorty's voice from behind him, and she passed up her magical sword, engraved with skeletal patterns. As Gulleck's hand closed around the hilt, he could feel the magical power thrumming through his arm, and the sword quivered as if it longed to plunge towards the undead abominations. He lunged forward with it, his hand almost guided by the sword itself as it sank itself effortlessly into the chest of the beast in front of him.

"Shorty, your sword is awesome!"
"Yeah, I'll want it back after this, too."

The tide seemed to be turning for the party, but then Ylil made a terrible, terrible blunder. His player rolled a natural 1 for his sling attack. This is the only situation where I enforce a possibility of friendly fire, and I randomly determined the target of his attack among the three allies in front of him. Poor Brother Jedidiah was the unfortunately target, which was bad because old Jed only had one hit point. This time Ylil's player rolled nice and high for the attack, and as Brother Jedidiah was refilling his own sling to attack the ghouls, Ylil's sling stone cracked him in the back of the head from point blank range, fracturing his brittle skull and sending the old cleric crashing to the floor of the crypt.

The party managed to get clear of the mausoleum door and pushed it closed against the scrabbling claws of the ghouls. The mission now became to get Brother Jed's body down to the resurrection pool on the second level. I think they were concerned that the Church wouldn't loan them any more acolytes if they kept losing them. And so they quickly crossed the undercity to the temple of hedonism, passing through and down the corridor to the resurrection pool.

Right outside the door to the room of the pool, they encountered a group of tall goblins, including the two they had met before: Margleton and Clabberpus. They were as friendly as before, in that rather unnerving way. The party explained that they needed to use the pool, and Margleton said, "Oh, be our guest! But you do know, of course, that every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and for every gift there must eventually be a repayment." Some of the players are already suspicious about the long-term effects of this pool, and this did nothing to make them feel any better. But the goblins strolled off into the darkness chuckling sinisterly, and the party entered the room of the pool and lowered Brother Jedidiah's frail and bloodied body into the slippery water of life.

Moments later, his feeble arms came thrashing above the surface of the pool and they pulled him carefully out. I'm not sure if they ever explained to him what actually happened back there with the ghouls. Yet another (albeit temporary) entry on the Memorial Roll of the Idalium campaign.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Player Journals from Session 20

My players have been sort of slacking on campaign journals lately! I think it is partly because we've been doing these role-playing heavy sessions lately that have not given them any opportunities to earn experience points. But now that we have returned to our regularly scheduled program of dungeoneering, it starts to make more sense to earn that 10% bonus to experience points.

Gulleck's tenth journal

Turns out humans aren't totally crazy after all. At least some of em make sensible catacombs.

The other fellas did some investigating while I was dealing with cousin Darneck's latest... issues. Sounds like they maybe forgot what subtlety is, but that's about normal.

Seems like the skull was stolen by a nasty stinker looking to raise a dead army. Not real good, so we headed down to the catacombs where he may be holed up. Had to get a cleric from the temple cause most of our group got busy with other stuff. Weird old guy. Real excitable. I wasn't too sure we'd be able to get him back in one piece, but we did.

The humans showed at least a little bit of crazy even there... Statues that move on their own are weird enough, but a door that only opens if you bump a dead thing into em? That's pretty dang nuts. 

And since they're humans, the clues to open the door hadda be hidden away in a skeleton statue that talks into your brain. Why not, right? Never the easy way with those guys.

Down below we mostly didn't find much yet. Bunch of rats we kept away with torches, and a dang big spider. Got its attention by burning the webs. I find that's a good way to deal with that crud without getting all hung up. Found a little treasure, finally! Been too long.

Ran into another bunch of adventurers. Nasty pair of elves and their bullyboys. They offered Muscle Boy a job, and he declined. Figured he would, we get along pretty good. Offered their bullyboys the same. Could make good trap-catchers at least, if they take us up on it.

We left em and went on. Didn't explore too much more as we were getting tired, but we found an old dead fella holding a rolled up scroll. Seemed like a caretaker type fella. The text was in that old language, but it wasn't regular words. With Old Cleric's help and cousin Birrel's big brain, we managed to get the thing translated. I'll attach that at the end, in just a second. 
On our way out we got jumped by an ugly dead thing. Old Cleric didn't help a whole lot, but we managed to get it dead anyway. Magic and axes work pretty good for most things. 

And here's that translated text:

"Idalium has fallen. The barbarians have sacked what is left of the city. The battle will not reach me here, but there will be no replenishing my food and water once I have exhausted what remains here. The treasure beyond the sea will be of no use to me now. I have spent my last days completing the index to the roll of the deceased. I have placed the map of the catacombs in the records room. Perhaps some day our departed citizens will be remembered and honored once again. I choose to believe I have done my duty in protecting their legacy. Antovinius Nerpatian, Caretaker."

Idalium Game 20: Down Among the Dead Men

Session date: Monday, April 20, 2015
Game date: Saturday, March 23, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 2, hp 10, xp 2494/4400
Caryatid, Magic-user 2, hp 8, xp 3524/5000

Ylil, Thief 2, hp 5, xp 1237/2400
Rutger, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 575/2000
Brother Jedidiah, Cleric 1, hp 1, xp 0/1500

We were short a few players this session, but the game went on. Our typical standard had been to have a week of game time pass per week of real time, but due to the introduction of a "time sensitive quest" into the game, the players were keen to pick the campaign up immediately where we had left off last time. Knowing they were going to explore the unquiet catacombs below the city of Idalium, and being absent Brother Jibber, their usual cleric retainer, Gulleck and Caryatid made their way to the Great Cathedral to inquire into hiring another acolyte for this expedition. I rolled up the stats for this new retainer at the table - Constitution 5, hit points 1 - and decided that their new retainer was a frail elderly man who entered the clerical order late in life as a second career. So that was fun, I got to use my goofy quavery old man voice. The players weren't so sure about Brother Jedidiah's long term prospects: "Can't we look for someone else?" "No, he's the only acolyte they can spare." "Yeah, I wonder why that is..."

At the Rusty Lantern, Gulleck left a message for Shorty "the Mouse", who had bought that magic sword with ominous skeletal patterns at the auction the other night. He was hoping to extend an offer to team up for this mission, thinking her sword might come in handy against the undead. Shorty was not to be found, however, and the group descended into the undercity and made their way back to the temple of the dead.

When they arrived at the plaza of the dead, they were disturbed to note that half of the angel statues were no longer on their plinths, but frozen in mid-stride in the plaza. The group quickly made their way past the angels and into the temple. Beyond the vestibule, they found a wide hallway with walls painted to depict a funeral procession. At the end of the hall, a tattered curtain of blueish-gray linen hung. Near the curtain was the body of what seemed to be an adventurer. He looked fairly recently killed, with his body marred with savage claw and gnaw marks. In rooms off the halls, they found a room full of embalming equipment and work tables, and other rooms containing ceremonial robes and prayer books containing funeral rites.

Beyond the curtain was a large chapel. Several rows of pews faced inward on an open area before a lectern. Behind the lectern was a larger than life statue of a frightful skeleton on a throne, dressed in a shroud, and holding a large scythe in one hand and a bundle of what seemed to be soothing herbs in the other.

Archways on either side of the throne led to a hall behind the chapel and a large pair of metal doors. The doors had no lock or even handle, and appeared to simply be two heavy plates of metal held tightly closed. No matter what they tried, no one in the group could pry the doors open.

Caryatid returned to the chapel and tried pulling on the scythe of the skeleton statue to see if she could somehow trigger a locking mechanism. The scythe did not move, but as she touched the statue it boomed out words in an unknown language. "Words from Ancient Idalium!" exclaimed Brother Jedidiah, who rather fortuitously knew some of that ancient tongue. "How fascinating! It said, 'Let the last act of the dead be to open the door to their place of eternal sleep.'" They puzzled over this at great length, and eventually deduced that only the touch of the dead could unlock the doors. The corpse from the hall was unceremoniously dragged through the chapel and up to the doors, and as they propped it up against the doors, there was a hollow metallic boom, and the great doors slowly opened, revealing a stone staircase that descended into the dark.

Down they went into the cool of the catacombs. The stairs led to a large square entry hall, with narrower catacomb halls exiting to the west and south. This room was overrun with more than a dozen giant rats, and the filthy vermin scampered and scurried around the shredded and befouled shrouds that had become their nest. The reflected glitter of hundreds of coins could be seen in the shrouds and on the floor, but Gulleck and Caryatid, remembering the rats to be surprisingly vicious in numbers (and keenly aware of their lack of a sleep spell) chose to deal with this more cautiously. They lit torches afire, and proceeded cautiously through the room, waving the flaming brands at the rats, which recoiled from the open flame and let the adventurers pass. They passed through the archway to the south and entered the crypts.

They moved through a long narrow hall lined with burial niches on both sides. Shroud-wrapped bodies, some embalmed and still preserved and some long reduced to skeletal remains, lay silent as they passed by nervously. Eventually they came to a door, beyond which was an old abandoned workroom, full of corroded tools, workbenches, sawhorses, etc. Beyond the workroom were other rooms, including a records room of some sort, full of shelves containing scrolls and books, as well a card catalog that seemed to provide an index to the documents on the shelves.

The party also found some sparsely-furnished living quarters here. In a bedroom a skeleton lay silently on a bed, and seemed to be clutching something to its chest. They nervously approached it, and drew a rolled up parchment from its grasp. It turned out to be a letter, but while the writing was in Ancient Idalian letters, the words were unrecognizable. Gulleck reckoned it to be some kind of cipher, and tucked it away to try to decode later.

Beyond the living quarters they found more catacomb hallways, and within one of the halls the found a heavy stone mausoleum door, standing ajar. Cautiously looking within, they found that the room was full of enormous spiderwebs. Corpses lay on the ground and on stone slabs, but seemed to be wrapped in silk rather than shrouds. A silver chalice sat glittering on a shelf, but it too was draped in webs. Gulleck lit a torch from Caryatid's lantern and set the webs on fire. They evaporated in the flames quickly and satisfyingly, but in response, an enormous shiny black spider came squeezing through a doorway on the opposite side of the crypt. It was easily six feet across, and an ominous red hourglass marking was visible on its bloated abdomen as it pulled itself into the tomb. It rushed at Gulleck, venom-dripping fangs snapping at him as he took cover behind his shield. Caryatid spoke the words of the Magic Missile spell, and a glowing golden arrow appeared at her shoulder and then shot past Gulleck to embed itself in the spider. Then Gulleck's battleaxe came crashing down firmly into the spider's head and it shuddered and fell still in the tomb.

There was a similar mausoleum on the opposite side of the hall, and the party heard voices within. As they cautiously entered, a rough-looking hobbit spotted them and called out, "We got company!" And from out of the inner tomb strode the arrogant elf brothers Death Watch and Cobweb, the leaders of the Night Walkers, a rival party from the Adventurer's Guild. As usual, a variety of barbs were exchanged, the elf brothers scoffing with condescension and Gulleck offering deadpan putdowns. Both sides made employment offers to the others' retainers. Eventually, the groups parted and the party decided it was time to begin returning to the Rusty Lantern.

As they walked through yet another catacomb hall, Ylil suddenly heard something shift behind him, and turned to see a corpse drag itself from one of the niches and begin sprinting towards him with frightening speed and unnervingly silent. It looked much like the creatures they had fled in Snapespindle's basement apartment, and as it approached they got the same whiff of sickly sweet stench that had accompanied the creatures there. Gulleck and Rutger quickly moved to get between Ylil and the creature. Brother Jedidiah raised his holy symbol and pronounced in a quavering voice, "Begone, thou abomination, in the name of God!" But his fear was greater than his faith, apparently, for the creature kept running. Caryatid and Gulleck repeated the same one-two punch that had worked on the spider, with Caryatid's Magic Missile softening it up, and then Gulleck's axe taking the head off the creature with one well-aimed blow.

They returned to the surface without further event, glad to be out of the oppressive, claustrophobic catacombs, but knowing they would soon have to return.