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.