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.