Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Idalium Game 34: Burning Down the House

Session date: Monday, October 12, 2015
Game date: Saturday, August 3, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 1737/2000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 4723/8800
Tyrriel, Elf 1, hp 3, xp 3436/4000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 5554/10000
Axel, Thief 1, hp 3, xp 250/1200
Mog, Fighter 1, hp 8, xp 0/2000
Krong, Dwarf 2, hp 13, xp 2200/4400

This game took place on a rather festive occasion. A former member of our gaming group who had moved out of the country had returned for a visit home, and he sat in on the game. He rolled up an unhinged pyromaniac dwarf, a worshipper of some sort of ill-defined fire demon cult. The wonderful/terrible thing about players sitting in for a single session is that they have no attachment to your campaign and nothing to lose, so they can be inclined to just burn the whole place down if it makes the evening interesting. Vito's player was back as well, after a long absence! He was a bit bored of playing a thief, and so rolled up a big dumb fighter named Mog. And all of the other regulars were here, and so with a party of seven, they decided to entirely forgo retainers and venture into the dungeon on their own.

I thought that since we had a guest of honor for the night, I would provide an adventure hook to give the session some focus. In the end, the session went in an entirely different direction, but in any event, I co-opted the now-NPC Vito to provide some background. It turns out that Vito had been away from the party so long because he had acquired a new job, working as a gardener for Baroness Millicent Trenevant, an elderly aristocrat that he had been impressed by upon their previous meetings. Vito conveyed the message that Lady Millicent was increasingly worried about a dear friend of hers, a Lord Dinsdale, who was looking to hire adventurers to help him.

The party traveled across the City of Idalium, through various neighborhoods until they reached the grandest quarter of them all, where the Great Cathedral of Light rises above a grand public square, and wealthy manor houses line the streets. They turned down one of the older streets to meet with Lady Millicent at her house, still somewhat run-down as before, but now with much better kept gardens. Lady Millicent told them of her friend Lord Dinsdale, another "old money" noble fallen on hard times. He was old and dying now, but seemed convinced that he might prolong his life with the aid of adventurers. The party agreed to meet with Lord Dinsdale, and walked a short distance along the streets to his mansion. It was in worse condition than Lady Millicent's, once grand but now fallen nearly into ruin.

Their knock was answered by a melancholy-looking man, who walked with a cane and introduced himself as Pensley, Lord Dinsdale's valet. He led them through the big but empty house, full of dust and grime, to the bedroom of his master. Lord Dinsdale lay in bed in a frayed nightgown. His hair was white and straggly, and his voice quavered and rasped, interrupted frequently by fits of hacking coughs.

"Are you... adventurers? Have you come to help me? I am an old man... I am dying. But Pensley has told me of something that could restore my youth and grant me an entirely new life! And Elixir of Life! Speak to him, please, and if you can, bring me this elixir! There's money in for you. Twenty thousand shekels if you bring it to me! I have no need of money now!"

Stepping out of the bedroom, they spoke with Lord Dinsdale's valet. He told them that he had been an adventurer some years ago. He and his wife Junipress, along with other comrades, had explored the Undercity together. That came to an end, however, when his wife was seduced by the delicious fruit of the goblins, and chose to spurn him and stay in the dungeon to live with the goblins.

"Does this have anything to do with the Elixir of Life?" asked Krong, the visiting dwarf, whose player has always been impatient about extended exposition.

"I was getting to that," replied Pensley with a hurt expression. "We had bartered information from the goblins. They told us of a fantastical place in the caves to the north of the Goblin Market. The legends say there is an eternal flame burning in a niche in cave, and the heat of the flame produces a magical elixir with the power to completely renew the dying or even the dead. I told this story to Lord Dinsdale some time ago, and he has completely latched onto it as a means of surviving his natural end. But I... I would not trust the goblins. I believe the legend may be true, but I suspect there may be consequences to the use of the elixir. Those goblins delight in tricking people into their own downfall."

The group agreed to take on Lord Dinsdale's commission, and returned to the Rusty Lantern to gear up and head down to the caves of the second level. Krong had several flasks of oil strapped to a sash across his chest, and plugged with rags that could be easily lit afire. The regular Infestation Managers all gave him a wary look as he suited up.

Descending through the basement trap door into the ruined city of Ancient Idalium, the group moved swiftly among familiar corridors through the Temple of Hedonism and down to the second level of the dungeon. They headed east into the caverns, where they encountered a pair of very large giant lizards, that watched them cautiously from their nest. The group very carefully crept by them, staying close to the far wall and not approaching them, and were able to pass by without angering the beasts.

Then they were at the rope bridge that spanned the dark canyon where water could be heard rushing far below. They crossed slowly and carefully, one at a time. All but Tod had made the crossing and Tod was in the middle of the canyon when a smirking, familiar voice said, "Well now, what have we here? If it isn't the Rat Catchers!" It was their hated rivals, the Night Walkers, led by the sneering elf brothers Death Watch and Cobweb.

"I light a flask of oil and get ready to throw it," said Krong's player. Yep, it's gonna be that kind of evening.

"Oh no you don't, crazy dwarf!" yelled Death Watch, drawing his sword, and Cobweb began tracing odd patterns in the air and speaking unfamiliar words.

Darkness suddenly fell. None of the humans could see a thing, and the dwarves and elves could only see crude glowing shapes with their infravision. Tod was stuck out on the bridge in pitch blackness, listening to the sounds of increasing struggle up ahead.

Krong lit his beard on fire and then attempted to throw the flask at the elves, but fumbled his attack roll and managed to douse himself with flaming oil. Now committed to things, he grabbed two more flasks off of his bandolier. (I had him make rolls for each of his molotov cocktails to see if they ignited when he set himself on fire, and was rather surprised that none of them did. I was kind of expecting him to self-immolate right then and there.)

"I light them from my beard and charge screaming at them."

And then Tyrriel cast Sleep and knocked out the Night Walkers' front line. Cobweb barely had time to slump to the ground when Krong slammed a burning flask of oil into him, and he awoke briefly only to perish in a screaming inferno. Krong charged through the panicking back ranks of the Night Walkers, chasing a terrified magic-user down a corridor before slaughtering him with another flask of burning oil. A singed hobbit was allowed by Gulleck to return to the bridge, where he was tied up with the sleeping members of the Night Walkers, while Krong arranged his victims in the "ritual pose of purification" against the walls.

The party stripped the Night Walkers of all their armor, weapons, and valuables, and then woke Death Watch and gave him an ultimatum: Flee, and never return. Leave Idalium forever. Death Watch took a dreadful look at the burned remains of his brother Cobweb and agreed to their terms. He, his fighters Randall and Vince, and the scorched hobbit Morlo were allowed to run back west, out of the caverns and back into the worked stone corridors of the dungeon, without armor or sword or even a lantern to see by. "Wait for us, boss!" came their panicked screams as they ran after Death Watch.

The plunder was significant. A plain copper ring that left Caryatid feeling protected and defended, two bronze rings engraved with images of animals, a sword engraved with images of the Moon and runes that said "Shine" in Elvish. Several suits of armor that were in remarkably good condition and weighed less than one would expect, and a very shiny shield as well. There were beautiful pieces of jewelry (although sadly damaged by the fire!) and several potion vials.

And so, in the space of a couple of hours, the long-running feud with the Night Walkers came to a fiery end. And all because of a visiting player who, with no real interest in whether he survived the adventure, was liberated to just burn everything down because it was more exciting that way.

That's D&D for you!

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