Monday, December 5, 2016

Idalium Game 55: Gnomish Negotiations

Session date: Monday, July 11, 2016
Game date: Saturday, January 4, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9861/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11494/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3312/4000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 0/1500

Another short-staffed party this session, so Caryatid went looking for a replacement for the dearly departed Brother Guntur. There was a consensus (aka a running joke) around the table that the group had gone through so many NPC clerics that they might be wearing out their welcome at the Great Cathedral. So instead, they hired their new clerical retainer from one of the many fringe sects that operate nominally under the umbrella of the Great Church of the All-Pervading Light but mostly completely independently. They found their new acolyte at a tiny storefront church, the Church of St. Dilbert, patron saint of the freelance and contract employee. There was much jovial discussion about how his share of the treasure would be paid directly to the church, which would then pay him a much smaller cut. Their new cleric was named Brother Chase Pike, and was somehow decided to be "played" by Chris Hemsworth, and so we have been playing him like the guy from the new Ghostbusters movie - handsome but ditzy.

So, as usual, the team made their descent into the dungeon. Their mission today was to seek out the gnomes that live in the mines on the east side of the first level. A few weeks ago, they had discovered a room filled with horrible frightening shadow demons guarding a huge statue of some awful demon or demigod, gilded with precious medals and studded with jewels. Their idea was to dig directly down from the first level into the chamber with the statue and lift it out with ropes and some kind of harness. The trouble was, they didn't want to do all the hard work of digging, so they intended to try to hire the gnomes to do so.

The only problem with this plan was that no one could remember exactly where the gnomes lived, or piece their fragmentary maps together to figure it out. They made their way to the tight, claustrophobic mine tunnels and wandered around rather blindly for most of the evening. They encountered an angry band of knockers, but Caryatid quickly entangled the twisted and withered gnome-like monstrosities in the sticky strands of a Web spell. They stumbled upon a pack of giant cave weasels, that hissed at them and aggressively protected their lair. The adventurered threw a handful of silver coins at them - why, I'm not sure - but that didn't pacify the weasels in any way.

Around the corner from the weasels, the group had a random encounter with stirges. Now, just last session they had a very unfortunate experience with stirges, but this time I rolled a 12 for the reaction roll. What do you do when your players encounter "enthusiastically friendly" stirges? Well, these stirges took a great interest in the adventurers, hopping up on the arms of Gulleck and Meat and nuzzling them affectionately. An affection that was NOT returned by the two fighters! They carefully brushed some of the stirges off, and then grabbed the others, ran back around the corner, and threw them with full force at the pack of weasels! There was a savage burst of activity and howling, feathers flew every which way, and the adventurers walked away from the carnage with satisfied smiles on their faces.

Eventually they did stumble upon the gnomes' little house, and they were welcomed warmly by their diminuative hosts, and brought into the gnomes' sitting room for tea and tasty little seed cakes. Gulleck explained the party's business proposal to the gnomes. Now, the gnomes under Idalium are fairly mild-mannered, cautious, and reticent to put themselves in any danger, but gold and jewels are a strong intoxicant for them, and their eyes grew round and avaricious as Gulleck described the gleaming golden icon he had seen. In the end, a deal was struck: the gnomes would dig a shaft, in a place of the party's determination, in return for half of the money realized from liquidating the statue and the other gilded paraphernalia. They would not fight the shadows, however; that was entirely the party's job.

After shaking on the deal and picking a spot on their map (by overlaying maps they decided to dig in a small temple on the street of temples), the party returned to the surface. They were kicking themselves a little at perhaps not negotiating as hard as they could have: when Gulleck offerred a half-and-half split it was immediately accepted by the gnomes. But they consoled themselves with having someone else to do the digging. The gnomes had told them it would probably take a couple of months depending on the type of rock they encountered between the levels. In the meantime, the adventurers needed to commission some sort of harness to lift the statue out of the room, and also to seek more information about the frightening shadowy entities...

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Idalium Game 54: Why Did It Have to Be Stirges?

Session date: Monday, June 27, 2016
Game date: Saturday, December 21, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9495/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11128/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 670/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3179/4000

This was a much shorter session than usual. For various reasons, I arrived quite late, so late in fact that I gave my players a bonus of 100 XP each in apology!

Before descending into the dungeon, the party paid a visit to the slightly doddering old sage, Professor Zinn, at his apartment on the top floor of a rickety, tilted old house in the hillside neighborhood of The Steps. They made guarded inquiries with him about the recent activities of "Caryatid the Green". Professor Zinn was confused at first, completely unaware that Caryatid had a "sister". He spoke of her enthusiastically, happy to have found someone who shared his passion for research into the ancient ways of magic and esoteric knowledge. It transpired that Green Caryatid had hired Professor Zinn to make copies for her of information in old books and scrolls related to human physiology and anatomy. The other odd thing that came up was that she had paid him in gold eggs, about the size of a chicken egg or perhaps a bit larger.

None of this made them feel any better about Green Caryatid's activities, but they arrived at the Rusty Lantern tavern on a cold Saturday morning and made their way down into the undercity. They didn't get far, though. They had just emerged from the gnomes' mining tunnel south of the main city square when they were beset by a flock (swarm?) of stirges! Five of the bizarre bird-like bloodsuckers came flapping out of the darkness, diving towards the adventurers. Two swarmed around Gulleck and he fended them off with his axe. One attacked Meat, and one focused on the diminuative hobbit, Simon.

My players really hate stirges, and when Tyrriel and Wilhelm are in the party they usually cast Sleep immediately. But Caryatid does not know Sleep, and could only launch Magic Missiles at them. While she was doing so, Simon was impaled by the sharp proboscis of a stirge, and as his blood was pulled out in one big gulp, his face grew pale, his eyes rolled back, and he collapsed on the cold stone floor. The stirge continued to drink for a few seconds and then disengaged and flapped ungainly away into the darkness.

Gulleck and Meat dispatched their stirges, and the group took stock of their situation, aghast. Barely into the dungeon and Simon dead. So, the mission now was to descend to the second level and find the pool of rebirth that could restore life to any person, once.

They made their way down without further encounters, Meat carrying Simon's body over his shoulders. When they arrived at the small round chapel containing the pool of rebirth they were surprised to find it in use! A befuddled-looking man and woman were just sort of hanging out in the pool, arms holding the sides, apparently enjoying the body-temperature water.

"Whoa, hey man," said the man. "We're, uh, in the middle of using this pool."

Oh great, groaned the players, it's the hippies. They find these guys a bit too weird for their tastes.

"Uh, excuse us," said Gulleck, "It's kind of urgent. We need to put this body in there."

"You what?" asked the woman. "What're you talking about, man?"
"Whoa, whoa, whoa..." said the man, "Janis and I were just enjoying the hot tub, man. You can't come in here and dump a dead guy in here! Total buzzkill!"

And so it went. Eventually the hippies were persuaded to just step out of the pool for a few minutes while they stripped Simon of his plate armor and let him slip into the pool. A few moments passed and then, with a frantic thrashing, Simon came to the surface gasping for air. The two hippies' jaws dropped in amazement.

"Oh man, that is far out... Whoa..."

And so, having restored life to Simon, the adventurers bid the hippies a pleasant time in the "hot tub" and made their way right back upstairs the way they had come, and right back out to the Rusty Lantern.

Some days things just don't go your way!

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Idalium Game 53: Shadows in the Dark

Session date: Monday, June 13, 2016
Game date: Saturday, December 7, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9452/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11085/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 625/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3157/4000

Ahhh, back to the dungeon! Side treks and diversions in the wilderness are fun and add variety and spice to the campaign, but when it comes to being able to run a low-stress "beer and pretzels" game every week, nothing beats a megadungeon. I have my B/X rulebooks, my binder of maps and keys, and my Crown Royal bag of dice and I'm all set!

We did some "housekeeping" and roleplayed the return of the Holy Lantern to the Great Cathedral of Idalium. The Abbess Archura was pleased to see Gulleck complete his quest, and with a wave of her hand, Gulleck felt an odd weight lift from his shoulders. The party was rewarded with a payment of 200 platinum minas and a promise that any curative prayers that they might need from the Church in the future would be performed at half the usual "requested donation".

At the Rusty Lantern tavern, the adventurers were welcomed with good cheer by the regulars, who seemed frankly surprised to see them again. The party caught up on some rumors about what might have been going on in the undercity in their absence, and then made their familiar way to the basement, paying the usual toll of a gold daric apiece, and descending through the well-used trapdoor into the buried city of Ancient Idalium that lies below the bustling city above.

The group attempted to take their usual path to the second level below, but found that in their absence there had been a cave-in, and the alleyway was blocked by rubble. They backtracked to the abandoned town plaza, avoided a group of giant rats that were scurrying around in the shadows, and took another, longer, route. However, they were pleased to find that a passage that had previously been blocked in by rubble now had a small tunnel (about 5' high) excavated through it, braced with timbers like a small mine shaft. In the tunnel they found small mining tools, and suspected that their friends the gnomes were probably responsible for this.

Down to the second level they proceeded (destroying a squad of animated skeletons on the way, which Caryatid caught in a giant web of sticky spider strands). They stopped briefly in the "Wheel of Fortune" room, intending to "haze" the new guy, Simon. In the room were five orcs, one of them spinning on the wheel and coming to a rest as the party entered. The orcs were in good spirits and encouraged the adventurers to try out the "magic table", guffawing as they pushed their way past the party and out the door.

Simon was strapped to the wheel and given a spin, and when he came to a rest he suddenly noticed he could smell a strange, metallic smell that he had not noticed before. He sniffed around and traced to his companions' money pouches. He could smell gold now!

The group had no clear goal in mind for this delve, and decided to go visit Caryatid's "sister" (actually a magical duplicate) who had taken up residence in the abandoned apartments of some long ago wizard. On the way, however, they decided to investigate a scary dark room that they had found many months ago. The room was so dark that not only did lantern light (and now, magical sword light) not even disturb the inky blackness, but Gulleck's natural ability to see in the dark was completely useless. It was darker than Gulleck had ever experienced in his life, and a cold, foreboding fear settled in the PCs' hearts. They knew from prior investigations that there was another doorway across the room, and now Gulleck and Simon carefully moved through the room, trailing ropes behind them that Meat and Caryatid held.

As the two approached the doorway, Simon's nostrils were flooded with the intense smell of gold. Reaching the threshold of the doorway, they, and Simon used the mind-reading medallion that he possessed. Expanding his mind forward to encompass the space beyond the doorway, he became away of a malevolent lurking evil presence. He could not articulate any clear thoughts, but there was something there, something alive and hateful.

Gulleck stepped carefully through the door, and it was as though the darkness broke over his face like water. He entered a room lit by sickly, greenish flames flickering in metal sconces attached to the walls. The cold foreboding feeling was more intense than ever here. Along the wall to the right, there was an altar of sorts, on top of which was a frightening statue or idol of some kind of demon, about five tall with curling horns and wild googly eyes. Despite its hideous visage, it was clearly well-crafted of gold and silver and studded with gemstones. Before it on the altar were a ritual chalice, a sacrificial dagger and other more ominous-looking "tools", also crafted from precious metals and stones. On a stand next to the altar was an ornate ceremonial robe and headdress.

Gulleck approached the idol to get a closer look, and he did so he felt a quickening in his heartbeat, and the eerie cold fear tightened around him. The shadows from the flickering flames seemed to lengthen and converge, flowing together into several man-shaped forms, looming towards him on the walls and even seeming to drift off of the walls towards him...

"That's it! Nope!" muttered Gulleck, and ran like hell, grabbing Simon on the way. They two ran panicked into the hallway, where they pulled the door shut and caught their breath before leaving this strange place behind them.

It was just a short walk along the hallway to the abandoned wizards' apartment that Caryatid's magical duplicate had taken up residence in. Gulleck knocked at the door and a familiar voice called, "Who is it?"

"It's us!" replied Gulleck.
"Could you be more specific?"

(I don't understand why, but we go through this every time they knock on a door...)

Eventually, "Green Caryatid" recognized the voices of Gulleck and "Blue Caryatid" and pulled the door open with a smile on her face. As before, she was effusively friendly, and they exchanged some small talk on their respective adventures in the past few months.

"Oh, as you can see, I have settled in so nicely here. It's such a wonderful place for my research and my quest for personal self-improvement."

Every time she says things like this, Gulleck's face looks more and more alarmed.

She told them of how "that delightful fellow, Professor Zinn" had been doing some research for her, and perhaps they wouldn't mind checking with the sage to see if he had any information for her?

"What kind of research?"
"Oh, well... do you remember the braziers in that room over there? The ones with the strange residues? Well, Professor Zinn has been invaluable in helping me identify the powders and herbs that were burned in those braziers. In the protective circle, there was rosemary, sage, cinnamon, and frankincense. In the summoning and binding triangle was the remains of turmeric, asafetida, and the dried dung of goblins."

Gulleck nearly choked on his own tongue. "The what!?"

Green Caryatid continued as if she hadn't heard. "And after many months of study and research into books found here and provided by the good professor, I was successful! Would you like to see my pet?"

"Your... pet?"

"Yes, he's not the most attractive fellow, but he's going to be ever so helpful to me. Come on in and see!"

And Green Caryatid opened a door on the west side of the sitting room and led them in the summoning chamber, where a large circle and triangle were inlaid into the floor and flanked by waist-high braziers. But all eyes were drawn to the triangle, within which stood a hideous creature: vaguely insect or crab-like, with bulbous eyes and covered in a light filamentous hair - a sort of giant hairy prawn. As they entered it became agitated, and their ears were filled with a terrible hissing and gnashing and clacking of mandibles.
The Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula

"Oh shush now," said Caryatid the Green. "Let me introduce you to my pet," she said to the adventurers with a flourish of her hand. "This is Morgluthkluthor, called the Destroyer of the Seventh Nebula, the Blight of Jupiter, the Dark Rain that Falls Upon the Forsaken Desert..."

"That's a bit of a mouthful, though, so I nicknamed him Marcel!" ("Blue Caryatid"'s capuchin monkey gave a screech from his perch on her shoulder.)

"And... why are you keeping him here?" asked Gulleck in shock.

"Oh, he's going to grant me power, wisdom, understanding of the world. I haven't quite decided what to ask for yet, but I will soon."

"Er... we have to get going soon..." mumbled the adventurers.

"Oh, of course. I've enjoyed our visit. I'm so glad you're taking care of my duplicate. Be careful, from what I've learned in my researches, when people are duplicated like that, the copy is usually unstable and degenerate. But be kind to her. It's not her fault she's the duplicate."

That set the "real" (they assume) Caryatid a bit afire, but Gulleck saw an opportunity. "Well, maybe you could ask your 'pet' to stabilize the duplicate?"

"Oh. Well, I could do that. I suppose..." She didn't seem too taken with the suggestion, though.

In the end, the party made their farewells, left Caryatid the Green's apartment with more misgivings than they had entered with, and made an uneventful trek back through the dungeon to the Rusty Lantern again.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Idalium Game 52: The Voyage Home

Session date: Monday, May 23, 2016
Game date: Tuesday, October 23, 208 to Friday, November 15, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9402/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 11035/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3132/4000

This session was all about planning and executing the long voyage home to the city of Idalium. Khrisong the acolyte from the monastery had originally planned to travel with the party to Idalium, but he was recognized and welcomed in the village, and he made plans with some of the villagers to rebuild the monastery and its order, and gratefully parted ways with the adventurers.

There was still some dissession in the party regarding what to do with Brother Guntur's body. Some members would have been happy to bury him here in the village, but when Father Jibber was asked his feelings on the matter, he seemed to feel rather strongly that Brother Guntur should be returned to his fellow devotees of the Great Church of Idalium, and so the party went to extraordinary lengths to commission an elaborate contraption: a coffin for Brother Guntur, impregnated with melted wax to make it watertight and, more importantly, smell-proof, as the journey was long. As long as they were building a custom-designed coffin, an idea was hatched to build a sort of cart under it, to put the coffin on two large wheels to make it easier to transport through the mountain passes. This came at not insignificant expense to the party: over a thousand silver shekels were spent to build this contraption.

Meanwhile, Caryatid found a tailor in the village to make a tiny red fez for her pet monkey, which was constantly perched on her shoulder and whom she had named Marcel [yes, our game is full of these kinds of jokes].

And so, with Brother Guntur's rolling coffin constructed and everyone reprovisioned for the long journey, the adventurers set out again, with Grimbo Shimspall the hobbit ranger leading them. They had briefly considered attempting to travel through the wilderness directly to the port town of Trobadanz, but eventually decided it would be a safer (if longer) trip if they
simply backtracked to the monastery and then to the citadel of the dwarves and then on to Trobadanz.

They ran into trouble on the very first day of their travels. I use the Expert book wilderness encounter tables, whichs means just about anything can be encountered. And while trundling Brother Guntur's "wheelcoffin" through a rocky mountain pass, the adventurers were horrified to see the awesome and bonechilling sight of four red dragons fly overhead. Two were smaller and seemed to be children, and they flew into a cave in the side of the mountain, but the other two wheeled around in the sky and swooped towards the party again.

There was a sudden scramble. People abandoned their horses to leap into the cover of a gully full of bushes and trees. Brother Guntur's coffin rolled recklessly into the gully, his body thumping around unceremoniously inside.

Then there was a roar of wind and a buffetting wave of heat, and the scream of a horse. A flapping of wings. And when the adventurers peeked out from the bushes, they saw that Caryatid's horse was gone, and the grass where it had been still singed and smoking. The party rounded up the other horses and quickly as they could, and put as much distance as they could between them and the dragons' cave before camping for the night.

On the third day they passed the abbey, abandoned now on the top of its hill, and turned to follow the faint trail back to the dwarven citadel. On the fourth day, the party was minding its own business when from out of nowhere a boulder came hurtling through the air, slamming into the side of the head of Tod's horse, killing it instantly. Tod barely managed to leap off his horse as it fell. Everyone turned to look where the rock had come from and saw a trio of enormous men: almost twenty feet tall, with stony gray flesh. The giants guffawed at the adventurers' horrified faces, and weighed more boulders in their hands.

Nobody thought twice about this. They fled. Those on horseback spurred their horses to the fastest they could safely go on the rocky trail, and those on foot ran as fast as they could. Poor Brother Guntur and his very expensive customized coffin were abandoned here in this mountain pass, and the cruel laughter of the stone giants echoed over and over again off the mountain peaks as the adventurers ran at breakneck pace down the trail.

And that was the ignoble end of Brother Guntur's story.

The rest of the journey to the dwarven citadel was generally uneventful, although at one point they were attacked by three giant hawks ("They're coming back for Simon!" someone quipped). Caryatid tangled the wings of one hawk in the strands of her magical web, and then Gulleck used his magic ring to control another hawk and fly it right into the webbed one. They left the two hawks tangled up in the inescapable sticky silk and continued on their way.

The party arrived at the dwarven citadel and spent a night there, restocking some provisions, and then left the next morning, and made good time to Trobadanz, arriving without peril three days later. Grimbo bade them farewell, and they booked rooms for the night at the Grizzled Harpy, where they had first met Grimbo at the beginning of this wilderness adventuring.

Heading down to the harbor the next day, the party made inquiries as to whether the Black Marigold was still in dock. I gave them a 1 in 4 chance that she would be, and fate was for once kind to the players, and Captain Lauren Kerr was still in town, making ready to leave in a few days. She was happy to sell the party passage on her ship, and on Monday, November 11th, the Black Marigold set sail from Trobadanz, heading west along the coast of the sea back towards Idalium. The winds were strong and favorable, and on November 15th, after a sea voyage of 450 miles, the smoking chimneys and spires of Idalium came into view, and soon they were once again in the harbor of the river that runs through the city.

Soon there would be time for returning the holy lantern to the Great Church, and for visiting the Rusty Lantern tavern to see what changes might have happened in the dungeon below Idalium in their absence. But for now, the adventurers made their way to their respective apartments and houses for a well-deserved rest. It was good to be home!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Idalium Game 51: The Return of Krong

Session date: Monday, May 2, 2016
Game date: Tuesday, October 22, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9180/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 10813/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 403/2000
Krong, Dwarf 3, hp 20, xp 4500/8800

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3021/4000

Our friend and former DM was visiting from overseas again, and we invited him to drop in for a game. I still had his character sheet from the last time he was in town, so again he played Krong, an alarmingly unstable dwarf cultist of some obscure fire god, as unlikely as it might be to encounter him again many hundreds of miles from where they last parted ways. I quickly bumped Krong up to third level to account for his "offscreen" adventuring exploits, and we were ready to play. Of course, most of our game time was spent chatting and catching up, so this session was much shorter than usual.

When we left off, the adventurers were caught in an awkward standoff. They had arrived in a small alpine village in search of assistance, only to find that the four surviving wererats monks had got there before them, and had conned the villagers into believing that they had been unjustly attacked by the party!

"It is them, headman!" hissed one of the monks. "These are the vagabonds I told you about! We welcomed them in to our monastery, gave them food and shelter, and they repaid us by slaughtering our entire brotherhood! Attack them! Attack them at once!!"

"Now, wait just a damn minute," grumbled Gulleck. "They attacked us! We came to their monastery on a quest for a holy relic, and they tried to murder us for no reason. You see that body on the horse? Ask them how he got that way!"

"Headman, these are pillaging vagrants. Whose words will you believe, those of we monks who have helped this village for centuries, or some unknown ruffians?"

"It is true," said the headman tentatively, "that the monastery of Sri Santo Pelasong has been a friend to this village for as long as anyone can remember. And you are strangers here..."

"What was that name? I don't recall hearing that before. I thought you were the Brotherhood of Saint Rathmus!"

The bickering was interrupted by the sound of a tavern door slamming open, and a stout and ruddy-faced dwarf emerged, clutching a beer stein in each hand. "What's all this noise?" he shouted, and then his face turned to surprise as his eyes fell on Gulleck.

"You!" he shouted in disbelief, pointing.
"You!" shouted Gulleck in return.
"How the hell are you!?" Krong exclaimed, pounding the Gulleck on the back.

There was a confused exchange of greetings and explanations, and the headman looked disorientedly from one to the other. The monks looked disturbed as well, displeased that they had lost the momentum of the conversation.

"Headman, were you not going to throw these vagrants out of the village?"

But the party turned with increased confidence on the monks. "There's an easy way to answer this, headman. Let's just wait until nightfall and then we can all have this conversation. I think everything will be clear then." (The monks grew pale at this suggestion.)

At this point someone realized that they actually had one of the original monks with the party, the acolyte Khrisong whom they had rescued from the catacombs under the monastery. It turned out that Khrisong was known to the headman, and when he vouched for the party, the ratman monks snapped, "We will not have our good name smeared in this fashion. Headman, we will talk with you again tomorrow. In the meantime, we will be in our cottage!" And they stomped off to a small cottage tucked away in the yard behind the headman's house. The headman had given them shelter in his guesthouse when they arrived battered and hungry the night before, but now, with Khrisong telling the story of his imprisonment, he was deeply disturbed and anxious. He agreed to join the adventurers in confronting the monks at nightfall.

As night fell and the moon shone down on the forest, the party, along with the headman and a couple of his guards, gathered near the cottage. Krong had equipped himself with a bandolier from which hung several oil flasks stuffed with oily rags. (I generally don't allow convenient "Molotov cocktails" in my game, but I make an exception for Krong.)

Gulleck pounded on the door. "Open up, we want to talk!"
"Go away," hissed a now-familiar squeaky voice. "We are indisposed. We will settle this in the morning."
"All right. I tried. Open it up, Meat."

Meat slammed his shoulder into the locked door repeatedly, until the latch splintered away from the jamb and the door burst open. With a hiss of rage, a man-sized rat sank its teeth deep into Meat's arm (just barely failing to do enough damage to inflict lycanthropy on him!). Meat struggled with the rat monk in the doorway, and then Krong threw a flaming flask of oil at point blank range into the ratman's chest, and he and the other one in the doorway went up in flames, screeching in pain and anger.

Meanwhile, the other two ratmen had sneaked out a window, and were rather foolishly attempting to flank the attackers instead of just high-tailing it out of the village. They too found themselves engulfed in Krong's fiery wrath, and things ended quite ignominiously for the brethen of St. Rathmus.

The party having cleared the misunderstanding with the villagers, they procured rooms for the night, and Krong returned to his libations, joined by Gulleck. He would vanish the next day, departing the party's adventure as suddenly and coincidentally as he had joined it.

It's a funny thing about monsters. Sometimes the chance events of an initial encounter, the random die rolls and tactical happenstances, can define the character of a group of villains. The wererat monks of St. Rathmus started off with the potential to be sinister and malevolent enemies, but a few fumbled attacks and botched ambushes led them to quickly take on a personality of selfish and arrogant incompetents whose threats significantly outstripped their ability to make good on them. It got to the point where the players were rolling their eyes and laughing at the bombastic threats of the rat monks. On the other hand, perhaps it's not so inappropriate after all for shifty, cowardly creatures like wererats.

The adventurers are still quite concerned about the letter they found in the monastery, implying that there is another group of St. Rathmus cultists in the dungeons below Idalium, but with the power to change freely between human and rat form, regardless of the time of day. But for now, they spent some time in the mountain village resupplying for their journey home, and seeking to commission a sturdy casket to transport the remains of poor Brother Guntur.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Idalium Game 50: The Bear Necessities

Session date: Monday, April 25, 2016
Game date: Sunday, October 20, 208 to Tuesday, October 22, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9180/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 10813/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 403/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3021/4000

It was a relatively short session this week, and almost entirely dealing with logistics and making preparations for the long journal back to the adventurers' home city of Idalium. Having routed the remaining wererat monks, but having suffered the loss of Brother Guntur, the adventurers regrouped in the courtyard of the monastery to tie up loose ends and prepare themselves for the journey home.

They were all hungry (and pretty much out of rations), so they set to work preparing the Abbot's slain grizzly bear. Grimbo (their hired hobbit ranger guide) skinned it (Tod called dibs on the fur) and once it was disemboweled and cleaned, they moved to the monastery's kitchen to start a low fire to roast the bear meat. In the kitchen, they made a terrible discovery. There was a pantry door secured with a padlock, which Gulleck hacked off with his axe. Inside, they discovered a meat locker of sorts, and hanging from a hook was the flayed body of Axel, who they had handed over to the monks in hopes that they could restore life to him! Oh, such cruel irony.

The group ended up moving Axel's remains to the catacombs below the temple, finding an empty slab to lay his body out upon. Brother Guntur was also laid there in the cool underground air, but temporarily, as Father Jibber was rather insistent that the right thing to do would be to return him to the Great Cathedral in Idalium, where he could be interred with the other members of his order. They ended up spending the night in the kitchen, next to the warm fire that was slowly roasting the bear meat.

In the morning, Khrisong (the acolyte they had rescued from the catacombs) packed up some of the more important scriptures. Having no other members of his brotherhood left, his plan was to return with the adventurers to Idalium, and hopefully start up a new monastery there. Brother Guntur's body was retrieved from the catacombs (where they bid a final farewell to Axel), and hoisted onto his horse. They ate as much bear meat as they could stomach, and then loaded up as much as they could carry for their journey. Then they made their way out of the accursed monastery, and carefully led the horses down the steps that wound around the mountainside.

Khrisong told them the nearest village was perhaps a dozen miles to the north. The party hoped to resupply there, and commission a proper sealed casket for Brother Guntur, so they could bring him back to Idalium without having to smell or look at him. They traveled through the mountain passes and over hills and valleys, without any significant encounters, and camped uneventfully in an alpine meadow.

On Tuesday the 22nd, they traveled the remaining few miles to the village, passing through pastoral fields where they began to see shepherds watching over flocks of sheep, and people working in fields of grain. Eventually, they came to the village, a small collection of wooden houses clustered in the midst of a thin grove of pine trees. The villagers watched nervously as the large procession of weary and battle-scarred adventurers entered their village, with a corpse draped over the back of one of the horses. The door of the grandest house opened, and a man emerged, flanked by two other villagers holding spears.

"Greetings, strangers," the man spoke guardedly. "I am the headman of this village. What brings you here?"

Gulleck and Caryatid both started talking at once, trying to explain their odd appearance (with somewhat contradictory stories), but they were cut off by the sight of four monks in saffron robes stepping out of the doorway of the headman's house.

"It is them, headman!" hissed one of the monks. "These are the vagabonds I told you about! We welcomed them in to our monastery, gave them food and shelter, and they repaid us by slaughtering our entire brotherhood! Attack them! Attack them at once!!"

(Cliffhanger ending!)

Monday, August 15, 2016

Idalium Game 49: What a Tangled Web We Weave

Session date: Monday, April 4, 2016
Game date: Sunday, October 20, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 9047/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 10680/20000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2954/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 2, hp 8, xp 1793/3000

A short-handed and relatively short session this time, and the adventurers were focused on mopping up the remaining wererat monks in this accursed monastery. But now, having caught a few hours of sleep, they first inspected the tin lantern they had retrieved from the temple. There was an inscription encircling the top of the lantern, in letters that they recognized as Ancient Idalian. Though no one could read the old language, they did possess a magical pair of spectacles that could allowed them to understand it. Gulleck put the strange goggles on, and read, "The source of the all-pervading light salves the wounded and restores health to the diseased." He opened the lantern to find a crumbling wick in a small reservoir of pasty, congealed oil of some kind. Oddly, the paste smelled absolutely delicious to him. Gulleck ventured to swallow a small amount of the paste, and felt a wholesome warmth pervade his body, and suddenly he was aware that the feverish delirium that had been growing by the hour was gone. (This was a lucky thing, too, as it turned out that according to his unlucky dice rolls, the disease from the giant rat bites would have killed him. Which would have been rather bathetic, so to speak, having just retrieved the item he was sent to acquire in payment for being raised from death!) Experimenting further with the oily paste, Gulleck and Meat found that when rubbed on their wounds, it had a remarkable healing power and their wounds were significantly less livid and inflamed.

Emboldened by this, they set out in search of the remaining monks. At the end of the last session, they had crept into the monks' house, but found it empty and abandoned. They decided to return to the temple, for they had seen a flight of stairs at the back of the shrine where they had defeated the Abbot, descending into the underground catacombs that seemed to connect many of the buildings in the monastery complex.

On their way to the shrine, they passed through the terraced porch that was the entrance to the temple. The little capuchin monkey that had guarded the room when they were last here had returned, its leg still shackled and chained to a short piece of wood that had split from the pole that formerly leashed it here. It barred its teeth at the adventurers and squealed. Gulleck held forth his ring of animal control, and his eyes rolled back in his head as it became still, and allowed Meat to break the shackle from its leg. Once released from Gulleck's control, the monkey looked confusedly at its leg and then at the adventurers and then pointed to its open mouth and screeched.

"Oh, he's hungry," said Caryatid, and offered him some scraps of rations and some water. The monkey seemed grateful, and before Caryatid could react, he ran up onto her shoulder, where he remained perched and would not come down. And that is how Caryatid ended up with a pet monkey.

The group entered the catacombs and explored an unfamiliar tunnel, eventually finding a ladder leading to a trapdoor. According to their maps, they were somewhere below a building that the monks had called their training hall. Caryatid slipped on her ring of invisibility and quietly opened the trapdoor and peered out. It opened into a room with a bookshelf of books and papers against one wall. A monk (human now, during the day) sat in a chair facing away from her). A polearm rested against the wall next to him, and a lantern burned on a low table.

Caryatid quietly gestured for the others to join her, and they attempted to overpower the guard without being noticed. Unfortunately, the clank of plate armor gave the party away, and the monk whipped around, eyes wide, and shrieked an alarm. Gulleck and Meat moved quickly to deal with the guard, while the sound of running feet approached from the courtyard outside the room.

The guard went down in a heap, and Gulleck and Meat quickly pulled the bookshelf down and over to block the doorway. More angry monks in saffron robes arrived, wielding polearms over the bookshelf. Caryatid's new pet monkey leaped off her shoulder to perch on the table with the lamp, hooting and screeching at the chaos surrounding it.

The battle was going well at first, with Gulleck and Meat fighting the monks over the barricade, but then four more monks came charging in through the other doorway leading into the room, effectively flanking them. Brother Guntur was suddenly surrounded, and issued a horrible death cry as two vicious polearm blades sank deep into his body.

Caryatid spoke a complex incantation, and then sticky strands of silk spat from her fingertips (say that five times fast!), entangling the monks in a snarled web from which they could not escape. Seeing their comrades incapacitated, the two remaining monks behind the barricade dropped their polearms and ran from the doorway, their running feet echoing as they fled the building.

Gulleck wiped blood and sweat away from his forehead and looked at the captured monks, and then at the pale, bloody body of Brother Guntur near their feet. He made one last attempt at peace with the ratmen, insisting that one of them swallow some of the oily paste from within the holy lantern, in the hope that it might cure them of their shapechanging curse. But the monk only gagged and spat - "It burns my throat! What poison have you fed me?! It burns!"

"Well, I tried," quipped Gulleck grimly and then got on with the dismal task of dispatching the evil monks. He didn't want to get his axe stuck in the sticky web, so he used the new magical spear they had found in the temple. Only six inches long, when lunged with it suddenly expanded to a ten foot spear and then blinked back to its miniature size again. Over and over Gulleck stabbed at the wretched monks with the magical spear, dispassionately carrying out his work until the shrieking stopped. It was truly horrible.

We ended the session here, with the rat monks vanquished from the evil monastery, but the death of Brother Guntur a rather bitter payment in return. There has been some speculation that with the rate this party goes through hired clerics, the Great Church may stop allowing them to hire any more of them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Player Journals from Session 48

Tod's Journal
Jibber and I woke up alone in the dark. Terrible things were afoot. Why did they let us sleep in? What were these idiots thinking?

We followed the trail of carnage and despair to the outside the Abbot's rooms. When we arrived I heard screams and squeaks of pure horror and pain coming from the other side of the door. And there was something different about Gulleck. Can't quite put my finger on it. He just seemed different somehow. 

Apparently, while Jibber and I slept there was much fighting with the Rat Men. Our tiny little guide had been captured and held hostage and was rescued. A Rat Man had been captured and then thrown into the room beyond the door where there happened to be a ten foot long rattle snake just hanging out. Shortly after we arrived the screaming and squeaking stopped. And then there was silence.

The plan was for me to open the door, confront the snake, while the rest of the party threw things at it. Jibber stood by my side and I opened the door.  The giant serpent, fangs dripping with venom, a hideous bulge in it's body, reared up to strike me. And then it fell asleep.  I cut off it's head. Poor snake. 

There was a door across the room and we could hear chanting and praying and growling. All good things.  So I opened the door and Jibber and I were instantly attacked by a humongous bear. One claw smacked me on the side of the head, and the other dug a vicious rake across Jibber's forehead.  Jibber let out a scream. Suddenly, the bear stood up and got a blank look on its face.  I knew that look anywhere.  Gulleck was using his animal control ring.  The bear turned, and attacked the stinking Abbot rat bastard who was screaming at us and praying to this ridiculous statue of a rat man in the center of the room. With a tremendous hug, the bear squished the Abbot into a broken lifeless pulp.  Then it fell asleep and I killed it.  Poor bear.

We found chests of gold and silver, jewels and scrolls.  Tremendous fortune. We dragged it back to our sleeping quarters and then had a good nights sleep even though it was morning.  

We then adventured into a final room we had not explored.  Or maybe it was the other way around?  I forget.  Anyhow, at the end of a wide hall was an alter with a statue of someone decidedly not a rat. In one hand he held a tin lantern which glowed with a holy light and gave off a almost imperceptible choral tone. At long last our quest was at an end. The Holy Lantern of Gurtle's Folly was found. 

There remained the unpleasant business of clearing out the rest of the rat man infestation.  After all, it is what we do.  We figured they were held up in their barracks.  Caryatid, being invisible and possibly hopped up on Orc Crank, went in there looking for trouble while the rest of us waited outside.

That bear claw is going to leave a mark on Jibber.  Maybe he should try to cure himself?

I need to find a tavern soon.  I hate this place.

Idalium Game 48: Snakes, Bears, and Rats

Session date: Monday, March 21, 2016
Game date: Saturday, October 19, 208 to Sunday, October 20, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 4813/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7991/8800
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 4994/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9624/10000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 2545/3000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2426/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 3, xp 1982/2500
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1265/1500

Since we had ended the previous session on a cliffhanger, we picked right up from where we left off. This was complicated a bit by a change in the roster of players this evening, but we all suspended our disbelief and declared that Simon the hobbit had gone  back to the guesthouse with Grimbo (their hired ranger) and that Tod and Brother Jibber had awoken in the guesthouse and followed the trail of destruction to the monks' temple where they were reunited with the rest of the party.


"Hey, Abbot!!" the ratman screamed in a panic, as the open door revealed a room containing a gigantic rattlesnake, easily three feet in thickness. Gulleck unceremoniously shoved the captive ratman into the room and closed the door behind him. There was the sound of snapping fangs, a frenzied squeaking, and then silence.

Gulleck and Caryatid brought Tod and Jibber up to date with recent events, and once everyone was ready, they prepared to open the door and confront the rattlesnake on their way to find the Abbot of St. Rathmus. The door was pulled open, revealing the giant snake, now with an ominous bulge in its middle, and Wilhelm quickly chanted the words of the Sleep spell. The snake's head wobbled on its body, and it slumped to the stone floor. Tod ran his sword through its neck without delay.

There was a door on the other side of this antechamber, and Gulleck's keen ears detected the sound of urgent prayers and chanting from the other side. Tod kicked the door open. Inside, the Abbot of the monastery (now in ratman form) stood praying to a stone statue of a giant rat, presumably St. Rathmus. Near him, a huge grizzly bear lay growling on the floor.

Even now, Gulleck attempted to parlay with the fanatic monk.

"Why are you doing all this? All we came here for was the lantern. We even did you a favor and killed that ice lizard!"
"You will all die! St. Rathmus will torture your souls in hell!"
"Oh, for crying out loud..."

The Abbot pointed at the group and screamed, "Attack!" and the grizzly bear lunged at Tod and Brother Jibber, tearing at them with its claws. It could have been a dangerous encounter, but Gulleck concentrated on the power of his ring of animal control. His eyes rolled back as he took control of the beast.

The bear turned upon the Abbot. "No, not me! Attack them!" The Abbot was struck by two fearsome paws, and then the bear squeezed him in a terrible embrace. There was a cracking and popping of bones, and the Abbot went limp.

There was some discussion of what to do with the bear, but in the end self-preservation was deemed more important than kindness to animals. Tyrriel put the bear to a magical sleep, and Tod killed it. He and Tyrriel were looking forward to making some snazzy fur cloaks, and everyone was quite hungry, having run out of rations a day or two ago.

In the Abbot's chambers were thousands of gold and silver coins, stamped with the exotic heraldry of unfamiliar realms. They also found a letter that greatly disturbed them. Written in Common in a scratchy hand, it was a welcome from the Brotherhood of St. Rathmus below the Old City of Idalium! The Idalian brotherhood encouraged the monks of the monastery in their struggles to be "free of the tyranny of the Moon" and welcomed them to come to Idalium once they were able to travel incognito during the night.

The adventurers gathered up the treasure to carry it back to the guesthouse. On the way out of the temple, they investigated a hall that they hadn't been down, and found that it ended in a dusty, unused shrine. An ancient statue of some saint or demigod stood behind a small altar, and in one hand the statue held a tarnished and dented tin lantern. Gulleck carefully removed the lantern from the statue, and Brother Jibber examined it and noted that some of the symbols on it were archaic versions of familiar ones from the Great Church! Could this be the holy lantern that they had traveled here in search of?

Stowing the lantern safely away, the group retreated to the guesthouse, barricading the door behind them and setting watches while they grabbed a few hours sleep in the early morning. Gulleck was concerned about the rat bite on his leg; it already felt hot and tender to the touch, as if infected.

The treasure acquired from the temple provided sufficient experience points to raise Gulleck and Caryatid to 4th level, which gave Gulleck a significant bump in his "to hit" numbers and saving throws. Brother Jibber went up to 3rd level, undergoing a "field promotion" to become Father Jibber, and Wilhelm finally gained enough experience to achieve 2nd level. Everyone was quite satisfied with the lucrative and successful session. All that remained in the monastery was to mop up any remaining ratmen.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Idalium Game 47: Hey, Abbot!!!

Session date: Monday, March 14, 2016
Game date: Saturday, October 19, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7991/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9624/10000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 403/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2426/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1265/1500

Fully expecting a further attack from the Brothers of St. Rathmus, now revealed to be shapechanging ratmen, the adventurers moved to defend their position. Tod and Brother Jibber (even in the absence of their player) moved their pallets onto the trapdoor under the stairs and slept there, holding the trapdoor closed with their weight. They resumed their schedule of watches, with one person awake on the ground floor in the central courtyard, and another patrolling the second floor and peering out the windows to watch for any oncoming attackers.

In the middle of the night (around 2 AM) Tod and Jibber were awakened by someone testing the trapdoor beneath them. Their weight held it closed, and the movement ceased and did not recur. All was quiet for another hour or so, but then, while Gulleck was patrolling the second floor, his keen dwarven eyes picked out movement in the darkness outside. Four ratmen in monks' robes were scurrying over the roof of the stables that lay directly north of the guesthouse. Gulleck could see dimly crossbows hanging from their necks on lanyards. They moved quickly to the guesthouse and he could hear their feet up on the rooftop.

Simon was awake on the first floor, and ran into the courtyard to see what was happening. He could see two figures silhouetted against the starry star, peering over the edge of the open atrium above the second floor. One raised a crossbow, there was a twang, and a bolt torn through Simon's sleeve, grazing his arm. Simon ran for the stairs, hoping to get a better view and shot from the second floor.

Gulleck called out a warning to wake the others, and then came up with a plan to intimidate the ratmen. He rummaged in his belt pouch for a potion they had obtained from the Night Walkers, which he suspected of being a potion of growth. He climbed out a window onto the tiled roof of the stables, and drank the potion, quickly ballooning into an eight-foot tall dwarf! The giant dwarf clambered up the side of the guesthouse, using the window for footholds, and pulled himself onto the roof. The clay tiles of the roof crunched worryingly under his feet. There were two wererats aiming crossbows down into the courtyard, and their jaws dropped when they looked up and saw him. Panicked, they fired at him while staggering backwards.

Gulleck lunged for the wererats, but unfortunately rolled a natural 1, a fumble. Well, what else could I do except the roof collapse beneath him? And so, Gulleck plunged through the roof into Caryatid's bedroom (luckily she had awoken and moved into the hallway to see what was going on). The dwarf cursed and clambered clumsily up the collapsed rafters back up to the roof, only to find that the wererats had fled. Unfortunately, it turned out that the ratmen on the roof had been a diversion, and that two other rats had dropped lightly down into the courtyard, entered the room where Grimbo (the group's hobbit guide) was sleeping, and abducted him through a secret door that led out of the guesthouse. (The party had discovered and barricaded this door, but the ratmen opened it from the inside without difficulty.)

Angry at the loss of their companion, the group wasted no time in leaving the guesthouse and marching to the inner sanctum temple, the one place in the monastery that they had been forbidden access to. Gulleck was still double-sized and so was his magical axe, and he set to work hacking at the wooden gate until the bar that held the door could be knocked aside and the gate opened. The group entered the courtyard of the temple. Across the courtyard, they could see a sort of lattice-sided porch that served as an entrance to the temple building itself. Gulleck was in no mood to waste time, and literally smashed through one of the walls ("Hey, Kool-Aid!"), surprising a small monkey that was perched on top of (and chained to) a post upon which hung a large wheel covered with small bells. The monkey frantically spun the wheel, bringing forth a tinkling of bells. Gulleck charged in and smashed the wheel to the ground, the post snapping as it fell. The monkey scampered away, dragging a three foot long piece of wood behind it on its chain.

Now that they were in the temple itself, they decided to be a bit more stealthy. Caryatid had an invisibility ring they had recently found in the hearth of the blacksmith's shed. Putting this on, she crept down a hall and into the main temple shrine, to behold a grisly sight in the flickering light of a number of braziers. Two wererats stood by an altar, one wielding an evil-looking dagger. Grimbo's wrists and ankles were tied to the altar with ropes. A dozen or so giant rats lurked in the shadows of the room. Caryatid returned to the group and they concocted a plan. Simon would sip from the invisibility potion that they had, and the two of them would creep into the room and attempt to spirit Grimbo away before the wererats could sacrifice him.

That was the plan, anyway. What happened was Simon got distracted by a door on the other side of the shrine, and wandered off while Caryatid was trying to deal with Grimbo. He found a robing chamber with four large chests against the wall. He started exploring the chests, finding only clothes, before remembering he was supposed to be helping Caryatid.

Caryatid decided to mock the wererats and whispered strange things in their ears, trying to convince them she was the voice of the original gods of the temple, or the spirits of the monks they had killed, or something. The wererats were confused and alarmed and this voice coming from nowhere. Simon returned around now and fed the remaining invisibility potion to Grimbo. The wererats were freaking out at this turn of events, and they decided to carry out the sacrifice immediately regardless of the disappearance of their captive, but Caryatid had cut the ropes restraining Grimbo, and pulled him down off the altar, just as the wererat plunged his dagger towards the altar. Gulleck and Meat ran into the room, and the battle was on.

The adventurers were beset by the filthy giant rats that had been lurking in the corners. Gulleck was bit by multiple rats, but his axe killed one after another. One of the wererat monks grabbed Meat by the arm and bit his arm fiercely. As Meat struggled with it, trying to dislodge its teeth from his arm, Gulleck's axe came down and severed the head from the rest of the wererat's body. The other wererat observed this in horror, and attempted to flee, but Grimbo, invisible and hiding on the ground, managed to trip the fleeing wererat, and he was quickly restrained with some of the rope.

The adventurers marched their wererat captive into the room with the chests, where they found that unlike the first three chests that contained merely clothes, the fourth chest seemed to open into a deep shaft into hell itself, with flames and leaping demonic creatures at the bottom. There was some argument over what to do with this, and eventually someone forced the wererat to enter the chest, upon which they were all surprised to find his standing in the chest as if there was nothing out of the ordinary. They yanked him out again, and Gulleck carefully reached into the illusion, feeling around to see if anything was hidden. His hand came back holding a miniature spear, only six inches long. But when he lunged with this tiny spear at the floor, it suddenly snapped out to ten feet in length, striking the floor with an echoing crack, and then snapping back to its former diminuative size.

There was another door leading out of this robing chamber, and they asked the ratman where it led. To the abbot's chambers, was the reluctant reply. "Well, let's go see him," grunted Gulleck and pulled the door open.

"Hey, Abbot!!" the ratman screamed in a panic, the punchline of a joke that had been running for several sessions. We had to stop here, on more of a cliffhanger than we usually do, but it had grown late, and the rest of the adventure would have to wait for the next session.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Player Journals from Session 46

Journal of Tod Quasit Jr.
After what could only be described as the worst meal ever we dragged Meat's comatose body back to the barracks and settled down for the night.

Wait. I forgot to mention that after the unspeakably horrible death of Axle the Thief, almost as if a god was watching over us, a giant bird carrying its dinner home to the nest dropped the food right over the well in the Abbey. The food turned out to be a halfling ready to join our party. I mean... what are the chances? Jibber says the chances are so infinitesimally small that there's no point in even trying to calculate them and has written the entire event off as a Genuine Verified (by him) Miracle and he hopes to report back to the Church with this news and probably get in the Church Picayune for next month or something. So anyhow, Axle gone, Damned if I can remember this new guy's name... in.

As it happened, Munch and I (I'll call the halfling Munch. It's not right but I'll fix it later) took the first watch of the night and it was uneventful. Second watch was Jibber and maybe Gulleck? I fell asleep with my armor on, as I'm want to do. Suddenly I heard the unmistakable sound of Jibber screaming. I lit my sword grabbed that other sword we found and rushed in to find two horrible rat men attacking. We fought and fought but somehow, even though I struck one across the back with the new sword and dealt it a grievous wound, they would not die. Eventually both of them shrank into rats and ran down a trap door in the floor that none of us, despite our meticulous search, had discovered.

We descended down the trap door into an old and rank tunnel. Clearly these ran all under the Abbey. We followed a path, always taking the option to turn left. Eventually we entered a very large room with a statute in the middle. Suddenly, as we were poking around looking for stuff, part of the statue came alive and attacked. A giant worm like thing with tentacles and eyes on the tips and a huge gaping maw with thousands of needle like teeth. It gave off a poisonous foul odor and glowed ever so lightly a putrid green color that filled me with horror and dread. It put up quite a fight but eventually we killed it and carved it into steaks for the BBQ later.

We proceeded out of the room and came across a very old man shackled in an alcove in the wall. He had been tortured and imprisoned for over 800 years. His name was Shovelpooven and he had been a monk at the Abbey before the attack of the Rat Persons. We set him free and asked him about the Lantern Of Griselda's Weaving. He thought he knew of such a relic and gave us directions on how to get to it by using the tunnels. We're taking a short break before proceeding so I thought I'd write this down now because my memory is not reliable lately and if I don't take almost contemporaneous notes I lose the gist of things.

Idalium Game 46: The Rats in the Walls

Session date: Monday, March 7, 2016
Game date: Friday, October 18, 208 to Saturday, October 19, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 4785/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7966/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9599/10000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 377/2000

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 2531/3000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2413/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1252/1500

The players, suspicious that their friendly reception from the Brothers of St. Rathmus had worn out, set a schedule of watched for the night. Two PCs would stay awake in the central courtyard of the guest house while the rest slept, and they would change shifts every four hours. I asked them to tell me who would be on watch during each shift over the course of the night, and then I rolled a die to determine when the attack would indeed strike.

It was around midnight, and Gulleck and Brother Jibber were on watch in the courtyard when the silence was broken by a strangled shriek from Brother Jibber. The players had failed a surprise roll, so despite their careful setting of a guard they were taken unawares.

Gulleck whipped around to see Brother Jibber struggling against a figure in a saffron monk's robe, who was attempting to garrote him with a length of metal wire attached to a pair of wooden handles. The attacker seemed unusually short compared to the monks they had seen, and Gulleck's eyes widened as he noticed that the attacker's head was covered not in hair but in dense matted dark gray fur, and two pointed ears stuck out from the top of the pointed head. He shouted out, and the figure twisted to look over his shoulder, revealing a long snout and large beady black eyes that glinted in the reflected lantern light.

Gulleck barely had time to take this sight in when another ratman was upon him, snarling and hissing. Brother Jibber pushed his attacker away, and brought his magical snake staff to bear. Slamming it down onto the ratman, Jibber spoke the command word "Saaleetha!" and the staff convulsed in his hand and transformed into a large snake, coiling around the ratman and pinning its arms to its sides.

Meanwhile, I was rolling dice to see whether the rest of the party would hear the noise of the battle and wake up. Meat had a penalty, since he was still sleeping off the soporific poison in his dinner, and wouldn't awaken until the battle was just ending, but the others gradually roused themselves. Tod grabbed his magical sword and ran into the courtyard to assist Gulleck. His sword flashed as it bit through the ratman's robes and into its fur, causing it to howl in pain and rage. It grabbed at Tod and attempted to bite him, but he got it in a headlock and struggled to subdue it. However, it began to shake and quiver in his grasp, and then seemed to crumple and collapse, falling out of his headlock and down to the ground, where the yellow robes fell in a heap. A small gray rat emerged from the pile of fabric and scurried between Gulleck's legs and into the darkness near the front door of the guesthouse. Likewise, the ratman snared by Jibber's snake staff performed a similar transformation and followed its counterpart into the dark.

Meat emerged from his room rubbing his eyes and yawning as the others gasped and caught at their breath. Once recovered from the sudden attack, they carefully crept towards the entrance to the guesthouse where the rats had run to, and discovered a formerly secret trapdoor below the stairs to the second floor, now lying open. Peering into the trapdoor, they could see that a crude ladder of metal stapled pounded into the stone led down to a tunnel below the ground. The air smelled stale and dank.

The party decided to pursue the ratmen into the tunnels, though there was no trace of the monks once the PCs descended the ladder. The walls of the tunnel were rough and jagged, though the floor was worn smooth from years of use. The tunnel proceeded unevenly through the earth, and several times, the PCs came to forks in the path, choosing to go left each time so as to more easily retrace their steps.

After several turns, the tunnel opened up into a wider chamber. The light shining from Tod and Simon's magical swords fell upon a hideous statue of an enormous crouching rat. Draped around its neck and shoulders was a horrible worm-like animal, with many legs and intricately carved tentacles ringing its mouth. Gulleck shuddered as he remembered the numbing sting that a live version had inflicted upon him.

As the party entered the chamber, the mouth of the statue seemed to move (or was it just a trick of the swordlight?) and a voice hissed out, "Ah, small beings, you have come to do homage to St. Rathmus! Kneel and pray for my mercy!" The adventurers scoffed loudly back at the voice and strode forward to explore the chamber, but suddenly the great stone worm around the statue's neck slithered into life and crawled with alarming speed towards the party! Caryatid wanted nothing to do with this beast and swiftly pulled forth her "lightning wand", with a "pop" sending a spark of light towards the beast, and when their eyes readjusted to the dim light, the worm was coiled awkwardly on the floor, tentacles twitching feebly. Gulleck put his axe to gruesome use, and the creature was summarily dealt with.

Beyond the cavern with the statue, the adventurers found a hall with a number of small alcoves or cells off it. At the back of each alcove shackles were attached to the rock. In the last niche, a pitiful-looking man was shackled, and slumped blinking and flinching in the light of the swords. He was terribly afraid of the adventurers at first, suspecting them to be the rat monks of St. Rathmus, but the party was able to convince him of their true natures. They learned that his name was Khrisong, and to his knowledge he was the only survivor of the monks of Shree Santo Pelasong, who had served in this monastery for centuries, until the arrival of the accursed Brotherhood of St. Rathmus perhaps a year ago. They had arrived at the monastery claiming to be travelling monks from a distant order, and the Abbot had offered them sanctuary and hospitality. That hospitality was repaid with slaughter, as the Brotherhood revealed their true nature at nightfall. Khrisong was a simple acolyte with no power to call upon miracles, who had joined the monks only a few months before the massacre. The ratmen had kept him barely alive for about a year now, occasionally asking him for information about the monastery, sometimes to translate the contents of the library. They seemed to be seeking to gain mystical power, but to what terrible ends Khrisong was not privy.

The adventurers helped the weak and nearly crippled monk to his feet, and brought him back to the guesthouse, where they planned their next move and attempted to bolster their defenses against any further attacks by the wererat worshippers of Saint Rathmus.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Player Journals from Session 45

Journal of Tod Quasit Jr.
It is with a heavy heart that that I take up my pen to write these the last words in which I shall ever record the singular gifts by which my friend Axle The Thief was distinguished.
You ever have that thing where suddenly you wake up, but you weren't asleep, and it's weeks later and you have no real independent recollection of anything that has happened and you have no idea how you got where you are? I hate when that happens. 
So, I "woke up" at a monastery where we believe a lost artifact called the Lantern Of Grisold Wolding is hidden.  Gulleck must find this lantern and summon the evil Djinn that lives inside and with the three wishes he is granted he must restore ... I forget the rest.  Anyhow, there's something not right about these "monks".  They tell us there is a curse that must be lifted.  A coldness that comes at night and gobbles the monks up and leaves nothing but the echoes of their frozen screams hanging in the night air. We have found a source of great cold near an abandoned fire pit in an abandoned blacksmith's shop.  We plan on exploring further.
To make a long story shortish, we chased the monstrous blue six legged worm lizard from it's lair.  We blocked the obvious exit it had been using with spikes and oil fire. Gulleck and I followed the monster as it came out of a new hole behind the blacksmith shop. Gulleck whacked it good and it climbed up to the roof, apparently just as poor Axle also went up there. As a thief will do.  But alas, as a good thief will not do, he will not jump right into the giant gaping gob of the monster and get bitten in half. In the end, it was Jibber's heroics with his sling that did the mighty beast in. We searched its belly for treasure and found many things of interest and value. We took what was left of Axle and gave it to the Abbot to perhaps resurrect.  What a mess.
The Abbot has invited us to a banquet, which is very nice of them since they seem low on food.  After that he has assured us he will help find the Lantern. I can't wait to try their beers.

Idalium Game 45: "I Want to See the Look on His Face!"

Session date: Monday, February 29, 2016
Game date: Thursday, October 17, 208 to Friday, October 18, 208

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 4390/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7607/8800
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 4617/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9240/10000
Axel, Thief 3, hp 5, xp 3614/4800

Brother Jibber, Cleric 2, hp 10, xp 2333/3000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2233/4000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 1, hp 4, xp 1793/2500

The sun set over the western wall of the fortress monastery, as the adventurers made their plans to engage the horrible ice beast that was said to lie at the heart of the curse that afflicted the monastery and its pious occupants. The creature's burrow had been discovered in the abandoned blacksmith's shed, a structure about twenty feet square, with sort of patio roof that extended east, supported by pillars. Several of the party members hid behind pillars, while Tod and Gulleck waited with weapons drawn at the head of the burrow. Before dusk, they had sharpened some wooden stakes and gathered what pointy metal implements they could find, and arranged them in the burrow as a barricade. Brother Jibber, aware that they were facing some sort of supernatural cold, prayed blessings over the party that filled them with an inner warmth and protected them from the chill emanating from the burrow.

As darkness fell, there was a scratching and scraping from deep without the burrow. Tod and Gulleck readied their weapons, but then the sounds stopped momentarily, and then retreated. The adventurers could hear claws scrabbling at dirt, and realized that the creature was burrowing out on the other side of the wall, outside the shed.

Tod and Gulleck ran out of the shed and then around it, rounding the corner just in time to see an enormous creature, lizard-like but with six legs, emerge from a newly-dug burrow near the west wall of the shed. It gleamed a pale blue in the moonlight, and the two warriors could feel the intense cold radiating from the beast, drawing all warmth from the space around it, but Brother Jibber's blessing still lingered with them, and they were able to withstand the icy chill without distraction. With fearsome cries, the two fell upon the beast with sword and axe.

Meanwhile, the other party members ran around the shed in an attempt to help. Axel decided to put his thiefly skills to use, and nimbly bounded up the stone wall of the shed, hoping to shoot arrows at the beast from above. Down below, Caryatid tried to line up a Magic Missile spell, but as she rounded the corner of the shed and began invoking the arcane words, the lizard scrambled up the wall of the shed to escape the battering it was receiving from Tod and Gulleck, heaving its bulk onto the roof with surprising dexterity for its size. And there stood Axel, standing on the flat shed roof with mouth agape as the enormous ice lizard snarled and slavered at his.

Axel made to drop back down onto the ground as the beast lunged at him. Situations like these come down to an initiative roll. Faces were tense at the table as Axel's player rolled the dice... and lost initiative. And then I rolled a natural 20 for the monster, and alas, poor Axel was no more. With one ferocious snap of the beast's jaws, Axel's head was chomped right off his body.

The monster, emboldened by this kill, leapt back down into the alley behind the shed. Caryatid had been trying to cast Magic Missile at it on the roof, and was again frustrated as it ducked out of sight. But Brother Jibber was able to strike it with an unerring sling stone, which hit it square between the eyes, stunning and disorienting it just long enough for Gulleck to plunge his magical battle axe into its skull.

Tod used his sword to open up the belly of the beast, in order to retrieve Axel's head. "I want to see the look on his face!" he quipped grimly. They did indeed retrieve Axel's head, plus the "Clarity" medallion of mind-reading that was still wrapped around what was left of his neck. In the belly of the monster they also found a golden necklace, covered in gore but still valuable. This encouraged them to search its burrow for treasure, and Caryatid crawled in and discovered two more pieces of valuable jewelry. They retrieved the rest of Axel's body from the roof of the shed, and paused a moment to collect themselves.

So, Axel's player quickly rolled up a new PC and decided to play a hobbit named Simon Sackwell. Now, as a DM I like to get players back into the game as soon as possible, and I don't might stretching one's suspension of disbelief to do so. Normally, it's never a problem, since the megadungeon of Idalium is known to be a popular adventuring destination and we can always use the "sole survivor of a TPK" premise like we did for Gulleck, for example. But here in this remote monastery, isolated from civilization, sealed behind fortress walls, it seemed harder to justify how a new character would arrive. In the middle of the night, no less! "Maybe I fly in on an eagle!" quipped Simon's player. "You know? Why the hell not?" I said in return.

So as the adventurers were catching their collective breath, they heard the echoing cry of a giant bird of prey. They looked up in time to see an enormous dark shadow cross the moon, and then there was a whistling shriek and a terrific crash and then a splash, as something (or someone, as it turned out to me) plummeted through the air and into the well not twenty feet from the party, destroying the little wooden roof and bucket winch. It was Simon! A giant eagle had swooped him up and carried him away across the mountains, and only released him when he stabbed it in the leg with his dagger. How lucky he was that his fall happened to be broken by the monastery's well! The adventurers hauled the soaked hobbit out of the well, made their introductions, and invited him to join them (as you do).

Problem solved!

The group marched over to the entrance to the temple, that they had been forbidden to enter, and knocked loudly, wanting to announce their victory to the monks. There was silence for a long time, and then a monk spoke from the other side of the heavy wooden gate. The monk's voice was strange, slightly shrill and strained.

"We have defeated the curse! The monster that was troubling you is no more!"
"That is excellent news. We shall glad to speak to you of it in the morning."
"You don't want to come out here now and see it?"
"It can wait until the morning. Please leave us to our rest."

Puzzled and suspicious, the adventurers made their way back to the guest house and settled down to their own rest, getting a few hours of sleep in before morning.

The next day, the monks were all smiles at the sight of the corpse of the six-legged lizard beast, hacked apart behind the blacksmith's shed. The Abbot met with the adventurers and effusively praised them to St. Rathmus with glowing words. He welcomed them to a feast in their honor, to be held in the monks' house that afternoon. When the group was asked if there was any other way the monks could help them, Tod showed them the headless body of Axel and asked if there was anything the monks could do. Did they have the power to revive the slain?

"Ah, yes," said the Abbot. "This is quite tragic, but it may be possible to help him. We will bring his body into the temple and pray for the mercy of St. Rathmus. It may be that his soul can still be recalled to his body."

And so the adventurers handed Axel's body over to several of the monks, and watched as the monks carried it into their temple and vanished from their sight.

When the time arrived, the group walked across the courtyard to the monks' house. The monks welcomed them in and escorted them into a simple dining room. A low table was surrounded by cushions, and set with bowls and platters of delicious-looking nuts, vegetables, and fruits. The monks smiled and made to leave the dining room.

"Aren't you joining us?" asked Tod.
The Abbot smiled awkwardly. "This feast is in your honor, dear friends. Our faith does not permit us to partake in such a decadent feast with you, but we are honored by the opportunity to make this gift to you."

The Abbot left and the adventurers exchanged glances and raised eyebrows. Nobody dared taste any of the food, except Meat, who failed a morale check and tucked in heartily, being right fed up with the rapidly diminishing supplies of hard tack and jerky. The adventurers were having a whispered discussion about whether to attack the monks, pretend to be poisoned and see what happened, or lock themselves up in the guesthouse to get a full night's sleep, when Meat's eyes rolled back and he faceplanted right into a bowl of grapes, snoring loudly.

The adventurers decided to head back to the guesthouse, and knocked on the dining room door to be let out. The monks looked surprised and expressed concern for Meat. "Oh, he's just had a tiring day," said Gulleck cagily. "We hope you enjoyed your meal," said the Abbot as the adventurers carried Meat back to the guest house. There, they nervously began setting a watch schedule and making plans to defend themselves during the night. They had been slightly suspicious of the monks from the beginning, but the strange "feast" had done nothing but strengthen those fears. They were dozens of miles from any sort of civilization, running out of edible rations, and it looked like they might soon find themselves under siege by these unsettling brothers of St. Rathmus...

Monday, May 2, 2016

Idalium Game 44: The More You Know

Session date: Monday, February 22, 2016
Game date: Thursday, October 17, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7607/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9240/10000
Axel, Thief 3, hp 5, xp 3614/4800

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2233/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1252/1500

The Infestation Managers, as they still occasionally call themselves, spent a tense and guarded night in the guesthouse of the monastery. The monks had warned them that a terrible demonic beast prowls the courtyard at night, and that they themselves would sequester themselves in their temple at night to pray and conduct rituals and rites that would ward the beast off and keep it from entering the temple or guesthouse. "No matter what strange or frightening sounds you may hear, do not go outside," the monks had warned the adventurers. And indeed, that night they did hear strange chants, shrieks, and howls, and several times the upstairs watch could see a large shape barely visible in the dimly moonlit courtyard, while an bestial grunting reached their ears.

But the frightening noises subsided as morning approached, and the adventurers emerged, poorly rested but ready to further explore the monastery in pursuit of the holy lantern that was the object of their quest.

They spoke with a monk in the courtyard, asking to meet with the Abbot. The monk said he would find them when the Abbot was available to speak to them. Caryatid kept asking if she could go into the main temple, but the monk was firm that only those initiated into the cult of St. Rathmus could enter, and politely refused Caryatid's offer to join the cult. It was a long and involved process taking many months of study and devotion.

The group explored a few more of the "out-buildings" in the courtyard, including a large storage shed full of seemingly long disused tools and equipment. Everything was covered in dust and cobwebs. They explored a small house that seemed to have once been the residence of the abbots of this monastery but now appeared long abandoned. Then they explored the monastery's library, and spent several hours there looking through the books and scrolls that filled the shelves lining the walls, hoping to find any clues on the whereabouts of the holy lantern. Many of the books were written in an exotic foreign language that none of the party could read, but they discovered that some of the oldest books looked to be written in Ancient Idalian, and they were able to read this with the help of the magical spectacles they had found in the buried city. The old books told how the monastery was founded hundreds of years ago, before the fall of Ancient Idalium, when what would eventually become the Great Church was merely a small upstart fringe religion that existed at the edges of the establishment's pantheon of gods. These worshippers of the All-Pervading Light had established this remote monastery in the mountains where they could devote themselves to their worship and studies, recruiting new followers from the scattered villages nearby.

Later books recorded an increasing syncretism with other religious traditions from the lands to the east, and one got the impression that due to their isolation from the "mother church" in Idalium, their traditions mingled and drifted freely in a sort of divergent evolution. Even today in Idalium, the Great Church formed a wide umbrella, within which the numerous subdenominations and cults of saints freely developed their own eclectic rites and doctrines, and having been so isolated, this monastery's residents seem to have drifted into something barely recognizable as part of the Church.

In the last room of the library that they investigated, the adventurers stumbled upon some much newer looking scrolls that were written in the modern Idalian language. The ink looked relatively recent, and the writing was in a cramped, scritch-scratch sort of hand. In a journal entry dated about a year ago, they read something with alarmed them:

"This monastery will make a perfect place for the cult of St. Rathmus. The former occupants have been handled without difficulty, and it will be simple work to repurpose this temple for our own rituals. The nearby villages shall provide us sustenance and provisions, and we will grow in strength and numbers here."

And then on other scrolls that praised the mysterious St. Rathmus:

"St. Rathmus is great and powerful. St. Rathmus protects the downtrodden. St. Rathmus watches over and cares for those who skulk in the shadows and flee from the light of day. St. Rathmus shall bring righteous judgment down on the oppressors who deny his followers their proper due. All hail St. Rathmus!" And so on.

Unnerved, the adventurers left the library, only to run into the monk they had spoken with before, who was now accompanied by the Abbot, his face placid and kindly below his enormous hat.

"Ah, my friends," said the Abbot. "I trust you had an uneventful night? I hope you were not too alarmed by anything you might have heard. Every night we must struggle against the curse and ward ourselves against the beast that stalks these grounds."

Gulleck asked if they had any information on the holy lantern, and the Abbot shook his head sadly. "I regret that we were so busy last night that we have had little time to investigate this for you."

Gulleck hesitantly offered the party's help against the curse. If the beast was defeated, perhaps the monks would be more readily able to help them find the lantern?

"Oh yes, we would be most grateful for your help, and of course, if the lantern is here, you are welcome to it. But I must warn you, other travelers like yourselves have tried and failed. The monster is fearsome and powerful."

The group asked more questions about the curse, and learned that it seemed to be centered around a blacksmith's shed in the middle of the courtyard, which radiated a strange and unnatural cold all the time since the curse had begun. The beast had never been clearly seen (by anyone who lived to tell the tale, at least), but it was described to them as a giant reptile of some sort, about ten feet long and with six legs.

The adventurers bid the Abbot farewell and headed over to the blacksmith's shed. Indeed, as they approached it, they could feel an eerie chill permeating the area. The shed was a simple enclosure of three walls and a roof, open to the east. On the west wall, a large hearth lay long cold. Various blacksmith's tools were scattered about the shed, but all looked disused and some were rusting from exposure to the damp air.

Gulleck and Axel found a couple of shovels and began clearing the cold ashes out of the pit below the hearth, in search of the beast's nest. They worked for quite a long time, as the pit was surprisingly deep. Eventually, they did uncover the entrance to a large tunnel burrowed into the earth, but before that they found treasure! A skeletal hand clutched a finely made battleaxe, engraved with dwarven runes. Gulleck hefted it appraisingly and could feel power and urgency surging through his arm as he wielded it, even more so than that emanated by his current magical axe! The skeletal hand also worn a golden ring, engraved with what looked like elvish letters. Caryatid tried on the ring, and the others were startled to see her vanish from sight. When she removed the ring, she appeared again.

The group debated sending someone to crawl into the burrow, from which the cold seemed to radiate, but after some discussion it was thought that this would be a very awkward way to battle a dangerous monster. They agreed to wait for the beast to emerge at night, and ambush it then.

They had a few more hours before darkness would fall, so they explored another of the monastery's outbuildings. This one was a bathhouse, seemingly long disused. The pool was covered in a layer of dust and slime. They looked into a changing room off of the main room and saw that it was completely engulfed in bright yellow mildew, which coated the walls and floors, and partially covered a grinning skeleton holding a shiny steel sword. No one wanted to enter this moldy room, but the lure of potential treasure was strong. Axel tied a grappling hook to a long rope and pitched the hook towards the skeleton, attempting to snag the sword. The hook landed in the skeleton's rib cage, sending up a silent plume of yellow spores that clouded the air. Anxious, not to breathe any of the mold, Axel carefully begin to reel in the rope, dragging the skeleton and its sword across the floor and sending up an ever-growing cloud of yellow dust behind it.

Suddenly, Meat shouted out a warning, for as Axel was moving slowly backward from the door, Meat saw the surface of the pool begin to ripple and bubble, and there was something large under the slime on the top. It was shapeless and slimy, ochre in color, with a gelatinous sheen. It pulsed and rippled as it lunged forward towards Axel and the others.

The group quickly decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Axel dropped the sword, and they all ran screaming out of the bathhouse. Fortunately, the ochre monstrosity did not pursue them out of the building.

The adventurers began to make preparations for their attack on the mysterious beast that haunted this monastery. Several of the monks stopped them as they passed by and thanked them for their courage and selflessness. "We will be praying for your success tonight."

As the sun set below the western wall of the monastery, the monks retreated into their temple and the Infestation Managers took up positions around the blacksmith's shed, awaiting the arrival of their foe.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Idalium Game 43: On the Road Again

Session date: Monday, February 8, 2016
Game date: Saturday, October 12, 208 to Wednesday, October 16, 208

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 3, hp 15, xp 7579/8800
Caryatid, Magic-user 3, hp 15, xp 9212/10000
Axel, Thief 3, hp 5, xp 3586/4800

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 2219/4000
Brother Guntur Valto, Cleric 1, hp 5, xp 1238/1500

Having successfully interred the remains of Gulleck's great-grandfather, the party spent a week in the dwarf citadel resting and buying provisions for their journey to the rumored monastery in the mountains. They spoke with the dwarf officials, who were happy enough to help them in their quest. The dwarves confirmed that the monastery existed, less than a week's travel from here, and that a trading party of monks usually made the journey to the dwarf citadel maybe two or three times a year, though it had perhaps been a year since the last time the monks had been seen here. Rough directions through the mountains were given to the party, and they offered additional payment to Grimbo Shimspall, their hobbit ranger guide, to lead them to the monastery.

At midday on Saturday, October 12th, the group set out into the mountains, mounted on horses and ponies. They traveled through valleys and passes, sometimes climbing and sometimes descending rocky trails. There was a trail of sorts, although it seemed to have been barely used for a long time.

In the evening, as they were traveling along a plateau covered with sparse conifer forests, they caught side of another group of about a dozen travelers making camp on the plateau. The other group looked ragtag and somewhat shifty, and were wearing leather armor. The adventurers chose to greet the other party cautiously. They said they were on their way to Trobadanz, the trading port that the adventurers had left a fortnight ago. They suggested that the adventurers make camp here with them, an offer that was cautiously accepted. The players made it very clear that they were keeping a solid watch on the other group's camp all night, and indeed, while Caryatid was on watch, she heard a crunching of twigs that revealed a member of the other group attempting to silently approach their tents.

"Uh... I was just, uh, going to take a leak."
"Yeah... sure you were," smiled Caryatid. "Why don't you go and do that closer to your camp?"

The next morning things seemed a little awkward and stiff between the two groups, but they decamped and parted ways amicably.

The second day of travel went uneventfully, apart from a periodic drizzle that had them huddling into their traveling cloaks as they picked their way through the mountain passes.

On the third day, however, a wandering monster roll on the Expert wilderness monster tables came up with something VERY interesting indeed. Wilderness encounters in B/X are incredibly "swingy", and have no regard for the level of the party. Monsters of all power levels appear on the encounter tables. First you roll on a table for a given terrain, which gives you a monster subtype. Then you roll on that subtype table for the specific type of monster. In this case, the combination was quite significant...

As the party travelled through through scrubby pine forests along a plateau, they were startled by a group of small yellow birds that was flitting from tree to tree across the path ahead of them. They had seen birds from time to time on this journey, but rarely any so boldly colored as these canaries. The canaries swirled through the air over their heads, circling the party, and then flew bobbing away down the trail through the trees. Exchanging some glances, the adventurers led their horses along the trail, emerging into an open valley. There, they were met with the incongruous site of an old man sitting on a large rock, surrounded by a number of the yellow canaries. One was perched on his shoulder, as if whispering into his ear.

The old man squinted upwards at the adventurers. "Greetings, travellers!" he called. "What brings you to these parts? These hills are not to be travelled lightly."

The party cautiously approached the old man. He was dressed in rough brown robes and looked like a hermit who had cast himself out of society. But his eyes flashed with wisdom and purpose.

They told him about their quest to the monastery on behalf of the Great Church and he smiled warmly. "Those who quest on behalf of the Church are allies of mine. I do not follow this denomination precisely, but I respect the Church as important proponents of civilization and decency." He told them that the monastery was not far, perhaps another two days of travel, but to be cautious. Something strange was going on there, and he feared that there was evil afoot.

"How do you know that?" they asked him.
"They are my eyes and ears in these hills," replied the hermit, waving at the canaries perched on the rocks nearby.

He told them that he watched over and guarded these mountain passes. Caryatid was intrigued and asked how he could guard them.

"Do you doubt my power? Beware that you do not give me reason to turn it against you!"
"No, no, of course not! I'm sure you are powerful indeed. I just wanted to see a small demonstration of your great power and strength!"
The old man smiled, flattered. "You see that bush there?" he said, pointing to a small shrub at the peak of the valley. He murmured some arcane words and with a clap of thunder, a bolt of lightning sparked from his pointing finger, and the shrub erupted into flame.

Caryatid was duly impressed, and the chatter among the players around the table was, "Now you can duplicate that spell with Phantasmal Force!" Very clever on their part!

The adventurers exchanged farewells with the old hermit, and left his valley, unsure of exactly who or what they had just encountered. [Can you guess?]

The fourth day was uneventful but on the fifth day they came to the monastery. The party emerged from a copse of pine trees to see a mesa or butte of sorts rising ahead of them. Stairs were carved into the side of the mountain and at the top of the mountain was perched a fortress-like structure, its whitewashed walls gleaming in the sunlight.

The stairs gradually ascended the hill, circling around the slope, and the PCs dismounted and carefully led their horses up the sometimes uneven steps. Every so often a small niche was carved into the hillside, containing a small statue to some esoteric god or saint.

At last they reached the summit of the mountain and stood before the monastery. A pair of monks in saffron robes stood guard with tall polearms in front of the gates of the outer wall. They bowed to the adventurers as they approached.

"Greetings, travellers. We are the Brethren of the Holy Order of Saint Rathmus. What brings you to our isolated place of meditation and worship?"

Gulleck explained about the holy lantern he had been sent to inquire after. The monk looked puzzled and said, "I am not sure I know of any such thing, but our Abbot would know better. Would you like to meet with him? Our monastery is humble, but we can offer you shelter in our guesthouse for as long as you require. May we take your horses to the stable?"

The monks led the party inside the tall outer wall which surrounded the monastery. Inside was a large courtyard containing several smaller buildings, all made of whitewashed stone. They brought the horses to the stables, which were empty and seemed rarely used. "We do not receive visitors very often, but you are welcome here."

Next, the monks showed the party to the guesthouse, a small two story building. There was a courtyard in the middle of the building that was open to the sky, and several rooms off this courtyard on both floors, each very simply furnished with a hard pallet, a stool, an oil lamp, etc. The group warily settled in and awaited their meeting with the Abbot.

Shortly, a monk came to the door of the guesthouse and invited them out to meet the Abbot in the courtyard. The Abbot wore similar saffron robes as the rest of the monks, but also wore a rather silly tall hat. He bowed graciously to the adventurers and welcomed them. They told him that they had been sent here by the Great Cathedral of Idalium to retrieve a holy lantern that was said to have been here, several hundred years ago. The Abbot said he did not know of such a thing off-hand, but that there were certain storerooms in the temple that he would have checked.

The conversation then turned a little odd. The Abbot apologized that the adventurers had arrived at a somewhat awkward time. The monastery was cursed, he said. For the last month or so, an evil and malign influence had haunted the place, causing their crops to wither and fail. At night, he said, a baleful beast emerged and stalked through the monastery in search of prey. Several of their number had been devoured already. Now, the monks spent their nights engaged in fervent prayer and ritual, beseeching St. Rathmus to fend off the dire beast. The Abbot told the adventurers that no harm would come to them if they remained in the guesthouse at night, but that they should not at any cost leave their house during the night, no matter what strange or frightening sounds they might hear. He told them they were welcome to make themselves home in the monastery during the day, and were free to move about as they wished, with the exception of the main temple itself. Only those initiated into the worship of St. Rathmus were allowed into the inner sanctum, and he asked them to respect those restrictions.

Taking their leave of the Abbot, the party explored a little of the monastery. There was a second door leading into the guesthouse, and they found that this led into a small chapel or shrine. There was a small altar with wooden statues of strange and esoteric gods or saints, and a large folding screen obscured the back wall. Consulting their maps, they realized that the back wall was shared with one of the bedrooms on the ground floor. Going into the guesthouse, they carefully examined the wall of that bedroom and discovered a nearly invisible seam of a secret door! Gulleck swiftly pounded some iron stakes into the floor to jam the door closed. Apparently, he had some suspicions about these kindly and friendly monks!

They walked back outside and briefly investigated the monastery's granary and found it to be full of dusty, rotting and moldy grain. Part of the curse, a passing monk explained.

It was getting to be evening now, and the party retired to the guesthouse, setting up a careful schedule of watches on both floors. Gulleck spiked the main door of the guesthouse shut as well, not sure yet if there was danger but not wishing to take any chances. The adventurers settled in for an uneasy night, unsure of what they had walked into.