Monday, August 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Player Journals from Session 30

Journal entry from Caryatid:

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

Idalium Game 30: Take Me to the River

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Idalium Game 29: The Goblin Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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