Monday, October 26, 2015

Idalium Game 33: Talking Head

Session date: Monday, September 21, 2015
Game date: Saturday, July 13, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4473/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 5304/10000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 14, xp 5304/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 0/1200

Manley "Meat" Smyth, Fighter 1, hp 9, xp 132/2000

Circumstances have conspired against us all month and we hadn't been able to field a quorum of two players besides the DM. But on this day, we had two, plus a new third player. We spent some time helping him roll up his new PC and explaining the basics of the game to him (he was entirely new to D&D). He chose to play a thief named Axel, intending to hang back hopefully safely in the rear of the party while getting the hang of the game.

The players wanted to finish exploring the wizard's apartment, so once everyone was ready the party moved swiftly down to the second level, avoiding the orcs' lair on their way back to the wizard's rooms. In the wizard's sitting room, the players were a bit unsettled to find that the rock baboon bodies from last session's climactic battle had been removed, with just a few bones and scraps of bloody fur scattered about. Head down the hallway to the north, they investigated the one area in the wizard's apartment that they had yet to visit. Gulleck opened a door to discover a cluttered alchemical laboratory, full of tables laden with esoteric glass equipment. Across the room, six squat wooden figures stood motionless facing the doorway. They were only about three feet tall, and rough-hewn into a crude humanoid shape. On the west wall, a old bookshelf still held some books and papers.

The front line of the party tentatively entered the laboratory, intent on investigating the bookshelf. To no one's particular surprise, one of the wooden figures jerked to life and marched stiffly towards the intruders. Gulleck was punched in the stomach, and he was shocked that such a small figure packed such a painful jab. It was not immune to his magical axe, though, and between that and Caryatid's magic missile, the animated doll was hacked to bits. Gulleck spent some time hacking up the other five, just in case they too came to life.

On the bookshelf, they found a few scraps of notes that mentioned books that were kept in the "north study". Concerned that they had missed something, they headed back towards the library, where a "secret" door had hung open on the south wall of the room. Perhaps there was a still-hidden door on the north wall? The door to the library was stubborn and hard to open. Gulleck pulled and pounded on it repeatedly, making an enormous amount of noise. Suddenly, a voice called out from behind the party.

"Hey, man, you're makin' a lot of noise. We heard you all the way up the hall."

The adventurers all spun round to see a group of men and women who had entered the sitting room. They seemed to be wearing what looked like ragged and tattered adventurers' clothes - some in armor, some in wizardly robes, and one with a tarnished holy symbol of the Church. But they seemed like unlikely adventurers: they were very mild-mannered and altogether too laidback and relaxed.

"You think you can open this door any quieter?" asked Gulleck.
"Sure, man, sure. You just gotta know the trick. Linda, give me some of that oil you got." A woman in leather armor passed over a flask of oil, and the man carefully oiled the hinges of the door, and then pulled it open silently and smoothly.
"So, what do you do when the hinges are on the other side?" asked Gulleck.
"Well, that's no problem, brother, you just gotta go all the way around and open it from the other side."

The two groups talked for some time. The newcomers said that they came from "up above", but now they live in the dungeon. "Right on, man, it's real groovy down here. You just gotta go know when to make yourself scarce. You seem like peaceful folks, come visit us some time." At the adventurers' prompting, they gave rough directions to their home: all the way to the north along the main hallway to the west.

The two groups parted amicably, and then the party walked into the library and began examining the bookshelves on the northern wall. And lo and behold, they did indeed find a secret panel exactly opposite to the one on the south wall! They pulled this open, and found a small study, still full of all sorts of interesting things. There was a bookshelf full of old leather-bound books, a writing desk, a stone pedestal with some sort of sphere atop it, covered in a velvet drape. And across the room was a big heavy wooden door reinforced with iron bands. The door had a very intricate carving of a face protruding from it: a grumpy-looking old man with bushy eyebrows and beard.

The bookshelf held all sorts of esoteric writings, including some elderly spellbooks containing the magical inscriptions of several spells (useful for reducing the cost of spell research). The "new" Caryatid busied herself packing away several books that described the workings of the summoning circle in the room to the west of the sitting room. Meanwhile, the original Caryatid carefully pulled the red cloth off of the round shape to reveal a clear crystal sphere. She gazed deep into the crystal, and found her peripheral vision fading to darkness, while within the crystal ball images began to take form...

She saw the ruins of a bathhouse, the pool filled with stagnant, scummy water...

She saw a room filled with cobweb-like strands of silk. White moths fluttered uneasily in the air, and through an archway at the end of the room, something large could be seen moving, something the same pallid white as the moths...

She saw a cavern full of steaming, bubbling mud. Waves of heat rippled her vision. Suddenly, there was a quick movement and something horrible came into view, staring right back at her - a face of sorts, with smooth greenish skin, large snake-like eyes, and a lamprey-like sphinctered mouth ringed with small tentacles...

Caryatid staggered backwards in shock, and the vision faded. She replaced the red drape carefully and the party moved on.

Meanwhile, the new recruit Axel had stepped forward to examine the strange door. As he approached it, the wooden face twitched to life and its eyes opened to peer at Axel.

"Who are you?" the wooden face asked in a cantankerous, creaky voice. "And what are you people doing in my master's study?"
"Cleanin'," quipped Gulleck.
"Cleaning?!" snapped the head in derision. "How do you dust the top of the shelves, Short Stuff? Oh, but I suppose you're real good at floors."

So this went on for a while, with the head berating and mocking the adventurers. Gulleck asked what was behind the door, and the head told him it was his master's secret vault, and then they asked it to open it and it said not a chance and then they implied that they could just hack the door down and that changed the tone of the conversation significantly.

"Fine, suit yourself," said the head, "Come on in!" The door swung open, revealing a small room lined with shelves. A wooden chest sat against one wall. And sprawled on the floor of the room were four bodies in ragged adventuring garb. "Wake up, boys! Go get 'em!" shrieked the face on the door, and the four bodies stirred and dragged themselves to their feet. The familiar sickly sweet stench of ghouls wafted towards the party.

Things looked bad. They had a small party, no cleric, and the last significant fight with ghouls had resulted in an effective TPK, averted only because the ghouls had a master who chose to keep the adventurers alive. Gulleck and "Meat" anxiously prepared themselves to meet the charge of the slavering ghouls as they rushed forward to the doorway.

But then "green Caryatid" spoke unfamiliar words from the rear of the party. Sticky strands of spider silk shot forth her outstretched hands, filling the doorway with a dense spiderweb and ensnaring the ghouls. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief - if they had lost the initiative roll everything could have gone terribly wrong. The ghouls were swifty beheaded and the webs burned away by Caryatid's lantern flame.

In the vault, the party found many treasures, as well as an assortment of odd and slightly disturbing paintings, presumably by the wizard who once lived here. The chest contains hundreds of gold coins, and on the shelves, they found several potion vials and two wooden wands.

Meanwhile, Gulleck was negotiating with the head on the door. He informed the head that over 200 years had passed since his master was alive, and that he had no real purpose here anymore. Gulleck offered to bring the head up to the surface, and the head nervously agreed. Gulleck set to work carefully hacking out a large square of wood from the door surrounding the head (which winced and complained with every axe blow). Once the head had been removed, the party packed up their treasures and made their way back to the surface.

Gulleck offered the talking head to Ralph, the owner of the Rusty Lantern, as a trophy. Ralph thought it was absolutely hilarious, and mounted the head on the wall of the tavern, overlooking the bar. And there it remains, heckling patrons and passing on rumors and gossip.

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