Saturday, December 9, 2017

Idalium Game 72: The Schism

Session date: Monday, April 17, 2017
Game date: Saturday, August 16, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 14197/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 15948/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 4732/8000
Adrien, Fighter 3, hp 9, xp 4072/8000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 5057/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 2121/3000
Kevon, Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 131/2000
Debbi, Magic-user 1, hp 6, xp 312/2500

A couple of weeks had passed, in real life and in "game time". "Orc Debbiorc" and "Brother Orccake", who had been lodging with their "originals", Debbi and Brother Chase (aka Brother Beefcake), had grown so irritable and disagreeable that they both moved out and found apartments of their own. Rumors went round the Rusty Lantern tavern that they had found employment in a rival adventuring party.

Meanwhile, the adventurers decided to finally get around to purchasing that old abandoned house over in The Steps with the magical wardrobe. They called upon Vincent Patrenzi at his tastelessly gaudy mansion in the wealthy quarter of Idalium, and negotiated with him over a purchase price. Patrenzi's asking price had been 50,000 silver shekels, but Caryatid negotiated hard, insinuating that the house was unsecured, with unboarded windows, and it could present a liability. Why risk it, for a house he wasn't even using? This seemed to touch a nerve with Patrenzi, and they could tell he was willing to come down in price. Then, in a display case, they noticed the "Hand of Glory" (a withered human hand with black candles on each finger, said to point the way to wealth) that Patrenzi had won at last year's magical auction, and they remembered that he had a keen interest in interesting magical trinkets. Eventually they settled on a purchase price of 20,000 shekels but they also threw in a magical hand mirror they had found early in their adventuring career, that showed you the back of your hand when you looked in it, and a bundle of potpourri that was over two hundred years but still carried a strong aroma. Patrenzi was very amused by these magical conversation pieces, and perhaps happy to have a useless property out of his portfolio. They retrieved the money and magical items from their vault in the cellar of the Rusty Lantern and delivered it all to him the next day, and the deed was signed over to him. (Closing on a house in one day - try that these days!)

So, the team assembled at the Rusty Lantern on a Saturday in August, but this time they smuggled their armor and weapons out of the tavern in a wheelbarrow and made their way through the city and across the river into the ramshackle hillside neighborhood of The Steps, for they intended to enter the dungeon through the wardrobe. It did indeed work as before: they pushed their way through musty robes and coats and emerged from an identical wardrobe in a bedroom on the second level of the dungeon.

They emerged from the apartment into the hallway outside Green Caryatid's rooms, and at her doorway they found half a dozen hobgoblins hard at work rigging a bucket of something on the lintel above her door, with a string tied to the door handle. When the hobgoblins noticed the party watching them, one made an exaggerated ssssshhhhh gesture with a finger to his smirking lips. The adventurers shrugged and walked away, although Caryatid took a moment to cast Wizard Lock on the door into the apartment with their wardrobe, to keep those troublemakers out.

Next they went to check on the urchins who lived in the secret passages that ran between many of the halls in the northern portion of this level. Simon used his mind-reading medallion at the door of the urchins' hideout, and was disturbed to hear thoughts like, "Isn't it great that Caryatid the Green is our guardian now?"

Gulleck knocked on the door, but the urchins would not open the door to him. They seemed more reserved and distrustful than normal, and said that Caryatid the Green told them not to trust the adventurers.  She was their protector and guardian now, and the urchins didn't want to upset her by letting the adventurers into their hideout. The urchins blamed the adventurers for the rift that had been caused in their number. Some of the other urchins still favored the adventurers over Caryatid the Green, and that faction had been kicked out of the hideout.

"Well, where did they go?" asked Gulleck.
"Who cares where those losers went?" sneered the urchin. "I think they're camping out in that big apartment area. Not the one the Goblin Prince took over, but the other one near it."

So the party took an uncomfortable leave from the urchins, and made their way around the corner to the door that they assumed the urchins were talking about. Once or twice before they had thought they heard buzzing behind this door, and having had alarming encounters with giant dungeon bees before, they had always avoided this door. But now they opened the door and entered the apartment complex beyond. It turned out to be very much like the apartment complex the orcs and now the goblins occupied, with a big central courtyard, surrounded by a balcony level with many doors leading off from the balcony every twenty feet or so. But unlike the other one, in the middle of this courtyard, an enormous beehive, easily 10 feet in diameter, hung suspended from the ceiling. A resonant buzzing emanated from the hive, pervading the courtyard. Four giant bees, about a foot long, could be seen crawling on the outside of the hive.

The party began to cautiously creep into the courtyard, looking around for any sign of the other faction of urchins. Unfortunately, the four bees on the hive noticed the movement of the party, and launched themselves into the air, divebombing the adventurers. Before anyone could react, Debbi was stung by two bees. She collapsed to the ground, convulsing in spasms (along with the two bees that stung her, which lay dying next to her, having ripped their stingers out of their bodies).

Gulleck and Simon quickly used their rings of animal control to make the other two bees sting each other. Alas, the damage was already done, for Debbi had passed away from the deadly venom of the bees. Fearful of drawing the attention of more bees, the adventurers dragged Debbi's body up the stairs to the balcony level and quickly entered one of the one-room apartments.

The apartment was empty apart from a battered old bed frame, an empty table against one wall, and a large mirror on the opposite wall. Caryatid went over to examine the mirror, and discovered that she could see in its reflection a large chest sitting on top of the table, while the actual table appeared quite empty. Simon studied this phenomenon and then went over to the table and carefully swept it with the blade of his sword. It was blocked in its motion by the invisible chest! Simon was able to open the chest with the assistance of the image in the mirror. Inside he felt two burlap sacks. These became visible when withdrawn from the chest, and contained hundreds of silver and gold coins! The chest also seemed useful, or at least interesting, so Meat and Brother Chase carried it along with them, as they carefully emerged back onto the balcony.

They checked a few more empty rooms before they discovered the hiding place of the urchins. About a dozen of the children were hiding in an apartment. They were pleased to see Gulleck and the other adventurers, and told them of the terrible schism that had split their group in half. After the adventurers had left them two weeks ago, later that very same day, Caryatid the Green had entered their hideout from the secret passage that led to her rooms. She was accompanied by a huge ugly man that she called "Mr. Beefcake". The children were very suspicious of her, and upset that she had discovered their secret hideout, but she spoke soothingly to them of how she only wanted to protect them and keep them safe. The urchins argued together as to whether or not to trust her, and suddenly one of the older urchins, Steven, declared that he trusted Caryatid the Green completely and absolutely and that they should all believe her and follow her guidance. Some of Steven's friends took his side, but most of the group was still suspicious of her. Caryatid smiled at them, and told them she was sure they would change their minds once they got to know her better.

After that, Caryatid the Green and Mr. Beefcake showed up every day or two, and would sometimes speak strange murmuring words while the urchins were arguing with each other, and suddenly another urchin would have a change of heart and start defending her passionately. More and more of them began to take her side and speak ill against Gulleck and Caryatid the Blue and the other adventurers. After a week, the split was about 50/50 and the arguments were continual. Eventually, the urchins who were still suspicious of Caryatid the Green were kicked out of the secret hideout and had to take refuge in these apartments. It was OK, the urchins said. The goblins wouldn't bother them here because of the bees, but if you ran fast the bees couldn't get you.

The adventurers were at a loss as to what to say. They felt somewhat responsible that Green Caryatid had discovered their hideout and evidently magically charmed half of the urchins into her allegiance. They were deeply concerned about her actions. Now she had an enslaved demon, a man she had apparently stitched together herself and given the spark of life, and a small army of ensorcelled urchins. They all knew she would have to be dealt with very soon.

Entreating the urchins to stay safe until the adventurers could return and set things right, they left, carrying Debbi's body and the invisible chest with them. They ran out of the apartment complex as fast as they could so as not to attract any more bees, and brought Debbi's body to the pool of resurrection. They were grimly pleased to see that many of the posters of the Goblin Prince that they passed in the hallway had been defaced by the urchins with the black paint Gulleck had given them.

Debbi was immersed in the pool, and came sputtering back to life, and then the entire party made their way back to the magical wardrobe and evacuated the dungeon thusly.

They did not declare their afternoon's plunder to the Adventurer’s Guild, as technically is required of all members.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Idalium Game 71: Tall, Dark, and Ugly

Session date: Monday, April 3, 2017
Game date: Saturday, August 2, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13835/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 15549/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 4352/8000
Adrien, Fighter 2, hp 6, xp 3710/4000

Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1931/3000
Debbi, Magic-user 1, hp 6, xp 122/2500

For the first time in a while, I remembered to roll a morale check for retainers between sessions, and it transpired that both Meat and Kevon decided to take a week off (presumably Meat was soaking in herbal burn ointments the whole time after his near-death encounter with a fireball last week). So four PCs and two retainers ventured into the dungeon this time. Gulleck had procured a big chunk of cork, and they went directly to the door with the big red X and plugged the hole that Gulleck has drilled, which had allowed the freaky stretchy creatures to slip into the rest of the dungeon. Perhaps too little too late, though.

While they were doing this, they were approached by seven men and women in the hallway. They were wearing plate armor with black cloaks and carrying war hammers and maces. Around their necks they all wore an amulet of some sort, depicting an evil-looking goat head with long twisted horns. They were the cultists led by Ms. Frost, whom the party had met before. They were cautiously friendly, and the two groups made conversation in the hall. It didn't take long before some of the players dropped hints about wanting to get rid of the goblins, and the black-robed cultists looked eager at that prospect. In fact, they offered a bounty! They would be happy to take the bodies of any dead goblins off the party's hands, and would pay 10 gold pieces each.

"What about live goblins?" asked Caryatid.
"Oh, they are even more useful to us," smiled one of the cultists. "We would be willing to pay you 50 gold coins for a live goblin."
"What about those taller goblins, do you want those?"
"Certainly, and we would pay even more for them."

A bit nervous about these cultists, the party nevertheless made a friendly farewell. The cultists invited them to bring any goblins (dead or alive) to their temple on the third level.

"Seek us out at the Temple of Diana, in the Dark Dungeons below." (You know, I'm still not sure if any of my players get these references, or if I'm just doing it for my own amusement.)

The adventurers now decided to sneak into Green Caryatid's rooms. They were pretty much set at this point on paying her back for the fireball, in a lethal way, and as a first step they wanted to scout around her apartment in advance of a future assault. They decided to use the urchins' secret passages to gain access to the back hallway of Green Caryatid's rooms. They entered the secret passages and made their way to the urchins' common room, knocking on the door and announcing themselves. The urchins were happy to invite them in, and even happier when Gulleck donated 60 gold pieces to the urchins. He asked again if they were staying away from the goblins and especially not eating any of their food. Most nodded seriously, but one, a boy named Steven, defended the goblins. "I ate a peach that they gave me and nothing bad has happened to me! You don't know the Goblin King; I'm sure he would never do anything to hurt us. Why are you trying to turn us against him?"

Gulleck pleaded with the urchins not to listen to Steven and to stay away from the goblins at all costs. And he recruited them to write graffiti on the hallway walls - "All Hail the King of Shadows!" and "Orcs Rule, Goblins Drool" - in a general attempt to sow confusion among the goblins. He had brought a can of black paint from the city above, and gave it to the urchins to paint over the posters of the Goblin Prince that now littered the hallways.

Taking leave of the young dungeon dwellers, the party decided to split up. (I was rubbing my hands together gleefully upon this news.) Caryatid and Simon went through the secret passages to the secret door in the back hallway, while Gulleck, Brother Chase, Adrian, and Debbi went back to the main hallway to knock on Green Caryatid's front door as a distraction. Again, they played "Ding Dong Ditch" and banged on the door and then ran back through the secret passages to join the others.

Simon and Caryatid heard the banging and the sounds of Green Caryatid moving around in the front of the apartment, opening the door and looking out in the hallway. Both Simon and Caryatid used their magically-enhanced noses to sniff for gold, and indeed, they could detect a faint tang of the metal coming from down the hall to the right. It was dark in the hallway, and Simon crept forward, following his nose, while Caryatid waited by the secret door. Simon entered a room and drew his magical sword which shed forth light as he murmured the Elvish word "Shine!". It was Green Caryatid's bedroom, with a large bed without legs floating incongruously in the air. To the right of the bed, a large lumpy shape was concealed underneath a burlap tarp. Simon looked nervously at the shape in the corner, and then noticed a nightstand on the other side of the bed, upon which was a metal bowl containing what looked like several golden eggs!

Simon crept cautiously across the room, watching the lumpy shape the whole time, and made it to the nightstand. The bowl was large enough that he would need both hands to carry it (being only a three-foot tall hobbit, after all). He sheathed his sword (throwing the room back into darkness) and then carefully lifted the bowl off the nightstand. At this point he heard the rustling of a burlap tarp being thrown to the floor, and the sound of a chair scraping across the stone floor as something very large lurched to his feet.

Simon bolted for the doorway, doing his best to remember the layout of the bedroom in the darkness. Caryatid could hear the commotion in the bedroom and quickly tried to get the secret door open, but working in the dark was difficult, and I asked for a wisdom check (d20 at or below her wisdom score) in order to find the torch sconce that needed to be twisted in order to open the door. She failed the roll, and fumbled around blindly in the dark.

Simon ran, pursued by something very large and powerful, and failed a dexterity check in the dark, leading to him stumbling onto the floor at the threshold of the doorway. He wrapped his arm over the top of the bowl to keep the eggs from spilling. Suddenly, a huge, cold hand grabbed him by the arm and lifted him off his feet and into the air, and then threw him against the wall, where he fell to the floor, dazed and in pain.

Just then, the secret door was opened from the other side. Gulleck stood in the doorway holding a lantern, casting light upon the scene. Simon lay crumpled in the doorway of the bedroom, and behind him loomed an enormous man. He was clothed in a long coat made of rough sack-like material. His eyes seemed cold and dead, and Caryatid was sure she could see what looked like stitching around his thick, lumpy neck. Caryatid cast a Magic Missile at the creature, which snarled as it was struck. Simon, still prostrate, sent the bowl of eggs sliding across the floor towards Caryatid (making a successful dexterity check to do so). The monstrous man lunged for the bowl, and Simon grabbed at the man's leg as it passed, tripping him to the floor with a heavy thud. He clambered over the heaving bulk, while Gulleck ran forward and sank his axe into the back of the creature. It was badly wounded, but not defeated. The blood oozed out unnaturally slowly.

Simon grabbed the bowl of eggs and ran out the secret door, while the beast hauled itself to its feet, grabbed Gulleck around the neck and lifted him into the air, squeezing the life out of the dwarf as his feet flailed in the air below him. Caryatid launched another Magic Missile at the creature, but it barely flinched and continued to strangle Gulleck.

Suddenly, Green Caryatid appeared in the hall from the sitting room, looking angry and flustered. "Stop! Don't kill him!" she shouted. "I have better uses for him." She began tracing patterns in the air and speaking an incantation.

The creature opened its meaty hand and Gulleck dropped to the floor. Gasping for air, he got to his feet and made for the secret door. Green Caryatid finished her spell and Gulleck suddenly felt his mind cloud over. Wait, why were they fighting Green Caryatid? Wasn't she the real Caryatid, and wasn't Blue Caryatid the fake copy? But then the confusion passed as quickly as it had come (thanks to a successful saving throw vs spells).

"All hail the King of Shadows!" yelled Gulleck in a giddy panic, as he ran out the secret door along with the rest of the party. They barely stopped running until they were back out of the dungeon.

The golden eggs were sold for 2,000 gold pieces, giving Adrian enough experience points to go up to level 3. The players debated whether Green Caryatid actually had a magical goose that lays golden eggs, or if that was too silly to contemplate. Although, if she did, they definitely needed to go find it! Their cheer at having escaped alive and with a significant treasure was tempered by the knowledge that Green Caryatid now knew about the secret passage that led directly to the hideout of the dungeon urchins...

Monday, November 20, 2017

Idalium Game 70: Making the Dungeon Great Again

Session date: Monday, March 27, 2017
Game date: Saturday, July 26, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13805/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 15519/20000  
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 3, hp 11, xp 4320/8000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 5042/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1915/3000
Kevon, Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 116/2000

The adventurers emerged blinking into the mid-afternoon sunshine outside the Rusty Lantern tavern. They had with them Brother Orccake and Orc Debbiorc, bristly of hair, tusky of tooth, and generally foul tempered, and a man tortured to the point of derangement, spitting and snapping at any that came near. Trying to avoid crowds as much as possible, they led their captives through the ramshackle neighborhood near the Rusty Lantern through the narrow streets of the city towards the wealthy quarter in the southeast of the city. They eventually came to the grand open plaza, at the far end of which stood the Great Cathedral of Light.

They entered the cathedral, and inquired with an acolyte regarding whether it were possible to heal their three captives of whatever curse had affected them. They were brought to the office of Father Merrimoon, who looked over the tragic state of the three and offered the Church's aid for a mere 7,500 shekels. Each. Everyone hemmed and hawed and tried to ask for a discount, but the fact was that this *was* the discount rate, given the Church's extreme gratitude to Gulleck and Caryatid for their assistance retrieving the Holy Lantern last year. Eventually everyone agreed to chip in the healing of the poor deranged victims.

Brother Orccake, Orc Debbiorc, and the unnamed madmen were escorted by several burly acolytes into a room, with the rest of the adventurers left to wait anxiously in a small waiting room. Time passed, and then Brother Orccake and Orc Debbiorc came barging in, arguing loudly with two acolytes that were trying to calm them down. They no longer resembled orcs in their features, but they were as sullen as ever.

"You left us!" shouted Brother Orccake. "We got in that pool to cure Debbi's heart problem and, well, just because in my case, and then you walked away and left us! We were in the dungeon, in the dark, without food or clothes. The orcs found us, and what choice did we have except to hang with them? They were better friends to us than you turned out to be!"

Caryatid tried to reason with her irascible retainer clone, but he wasn't being soothed. "You know what? Forget it! I'll find some friends who appreciate me. Come on, Debbi!" And the two stormed out, without a word of thanks for the 1,500 gold pieces the party had just invested in them.

Next up came the tortured madman. He was dressed in a simple white robe now, and was now calm but seemed to be in shock. He told them his name was Eric. He could barely remember the past couple of years. He knew he had been living in the dungeon with a group of his friends ("Oh no, not the hippies!" groaned Caryatid) but had been captured by the orcs and tortured. It was all like a blurry dream. They had been an adventuring party once. They called themselves "The Soldiers of Peace", for they were really just in this adventuring game to have a good time. They had had a lot of success adventuring; they had even infiltrated the palace of the Goblin King and found their way to the goblins' treasure vault! But he told them about how they were caught by a mob of goblins and hobgoblins and chased out of the palace. "It was like a maze in there! Nothing made sense. But I remember we wrote down in a logbook the turns we had taken to find the treasure vault. I think we still had it when I was captured by the orcs." The Soldiers of Peace had eventually decided it would be easier to just live in the dungeon and do their adventuring straight from there, without having to get in and out every time. And after that decision, everything was kind of blurry for Eric.

But now Eric's memories of his life before adventuring were coming back. He had friends in the city that he intended to seek out and reestablish his life. He thanked the adventurers for rescuing him from the orcs and left with a hopeful smile on his face. And indeed, a couple of days later he tracked them down at the Rusty Lantern to tell them he had reunited with some old friends who had kept some items that he had left behind when the Soldiers of Peace left to live in the dungeon. Now Eric gave the party two potion vials, saying he had no more use for them. One was recognized as an invisibility potion, and the other seemed to have little bubbles continually streaming to the surface; when sipped it gave a feeling that the sipper was being lifted up out of his shoes.

A week after they had emerged from the dungeon, the adventurers reunited at the Rusty Lantern and prepared to head down again to mop up some loose ends. They descended via their usual path to the second level. When they emerged into the hallways, they found that some changes had occurred in the dungeon in the past week. The walls of the hall were festooned with ratty streamers, and several posters had been pasted to the walls. The posters depicted the smug, ugly visage of the Goblin Prince, surrounded by a motto in bold Common: "The Goblin Prince: Making the Dungeon Great Again!"

Gulleck wasted no time in burning down the posters and streamers, and then they moved on. Passing by what was formerly the orcs' temple, they saw that the door was open and light streamed out. Cautiously entering, they found the temple occupied by a single hobgoblin, who was looking thoughtfully at various aspects of the room.

"Oh, hello!" he chirped. "I'm just doing some redecorating here. This will make a wonderful feast hall for the Goblin Prince. Oh, did you hear? Someone wiped out the orcs, which left a wonderful power vacuum for the Prince to step into. It was quite fortuitous, really. Well, I'll be off, now. Toodaloo!"

And with that he left, leaving the party to marvel at the changes made to the temple. The painting of a hideous tentacled beast on the eastern wall behind the altar had been painted over, and a vague outline of the Goblin Prince's face had been sketched in with charcoal. The big ritual drums of the orcs still lay in one corner, and the adventurers decided to get rid of those fearful drums once and for all. Gulleck and Meat hoisted the drums and they marched off towards the chasm with the rushing water deep below (where they had ditched the orcs' gong some time ago). They beat the drums loudly as they marched, which of course triggered a wandering monster check every single turn. And in fact, wandering monsters did approach: a trio of the horrible featureless white figured that attacked with elongated arms and drained the very life out of their victims! Yes, it was at this point that the penny dropped: the adventurers had forgotten to patch the hole they drilled in the door of the Hotel Lethia, and the creatures were now free to roam the dungeon at will.

However, not much happened today. Caryatid whipped out her Wand of Paralyzation and suddenly there was a crack, a flash, and then there were three white figures in fetal position on the floor of the dungeon, twitching and shuddering. Axes and swords came down, and the creatures dissolved into rubbery liquid that drained into the flagstones.

On they went, continuing to bang the drums gleefully. This drew the attention of another wandering "monster", in this case Brother Jed and his gang of bandits. Brother Jed was once a retainer of the adventurers but now he was the spiritual leader of a bandit gang and led them forth to smite evil in the name of God.

"Oh!" gasped Jed. "Caryatid and Gulleck, how good to see you! You should be more quiet with those drums. Did you hear, someone killed all the orcs and the Goblin Prince took over their old lair!"

"Uh, yeah, we heard something about that..."

Wishing Jed and his boys a safe delve, they continued to the chasm, where they set the drums on fire (why?!) and sent them plunging into the rushing river far below.

Now, they were apparently feeling really tough, so they decided to pay the Goblin Prince a visit and find out what was going on. So back to the dungeon hallways they went and strolled up to the entrance of the apartment complex where last week they had fought the orcs. Four goblins stood guard at the door, dressed in tabards with a stylized version of the Goblin Prince's face.

"You can't come in, this is the Palace of the Goblin Prince!"

Caryatid waved an arm imposingly and cast the words of Sleep upon the goblins. Three slumped to the ground and before the fourth could react, Kevon yelled "Duck!" and shot a crossbow bolt over the heads of Brother Chase and Simon to kill the fourth goblin stone dead.

In they went into the courtyard. The orc corpses were all gone, and now the Goblin Prince sat on a wooden throne, surrounded by goblins as well as a few hobgoblins and bugbears clustered around the throne. He looked much as they remembered him, a fat pretentious schoolboy given power way beyond his ability to handle it.

"Ah, visitors! Have you come to pay obeisance to me? To pay me tribute? Just put it on the ground and my servants will collect it from you."

Simon started to talk smack with the Goblin Prince about the orcs. "You guys aren't worried that whoever killed the orcs might come back and take you out?"

"Oh, the orcs were expelled by the glorious Army of the Goblin Prince!" said the Prince pompously. "We purged this area of those beasts and making the dungeon great again! You should speak with more humility. Our next project is to build an enormous wall to keep you humans and dwarves out of my dungeon! And we're going to make you pay for it, too."

"You just keep telling yourself that," scoffed the diminutive Simon. "We took the orcs out and we can do the same to you!"

"Are you threatening me?" roared the Goblin Prince. "Kill them!" he ranted, pointing at the adventurers. "Kill them all!" A mob of goblins drew their rusty little swords and rushed towards the party.

"Ha, time to leave," laughed Simon, and the party raced up the stairs and out of the goblin lair, pursued by nine goblins, their shouts echoing off the hallway walls. "Let's lead them to Green Caryatid's house! We can 'ding dong ditch' her!" said Simon. He was really enjoying this!

So they ran over to where Caryatid's "evil twin" lived, with the sound of the pursuing goblins behind them. Caryatid slipped on her ring of invisibility and then banged loudly on the door of her clone's apartment. Then they ran further down the hall. Brother Chase tried to open a door for them to hide within, but it was stubborn and before he could get it open, they goblins had caught up with them.

Caryatid tried to use her wand of unpredictable magic, but once again, it suddenly reduced her and her pet monkey to 6 inches tall! On the bright side, she was pretty much no longer a target. Simon, Kevon, and Brother Chase all ran into the hall to do battle with the goblins.

Caryatid waved the wand of wonder again, and this time everything went black, as a sphere of magical darkness covered the hallway. The goblins shouted in panic, and Gulleck tried to prod their fear by bellowing, "The darkness of the King of Shadows envelops you!" Not bad for a spur of the moment improv.

Well, the next thing that happened was that further back up the hallway Green Caryatid opened her door and shouted, "How dare you make all this noise outside my home! Get out of here, all of you!" Then there were the chanted words of a spell Caryatid didn't recognize and then there was a BOOOOOOM and a rush of unbearable heat in the darkness. When the flames subsided, all of the goblins were dead, and so was Gulleck's faithful henchman Meat!

But no, perhaps he wasn't! The fireball had brought him down to -1 hit points, which is of course dead and I have never bent this rule. However, another house rule that we've had from the very beginning is that after every combat, each character that took damage can regain 1d4-1 hit points. This is meant to indicate the portion of hit points that represent fatigue, "will to fight", etc., that could be regained after a breather.

Gulleck's player rolled a 3, which meant Meat was still alive but practically unconscious at 1 hp. They helped him to his feet, and the group staggered out of the darkness and managed to escape the dungeon without further incident.

I quite liked this application of the 1d4-1 rule. I've always thought that there should be some option of just being knocked unconscious rather than always going from perfectly fine at 1 hp to stone cold dead at 0 hp. So I like the randomness of allowing this roll for characters that were brought below 1 hp, but only by a bit. We don't make the roll under after combat is over, so it adds uncertainty, but doesn't create the absurd situations we see in later editions where characters pop in and out of consciousness repeatedly and it's nearly impossible to die. So unless it causes any other issues, this application of the house rule will be permanently in place in my campaign.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Player Journals from Session 69

From the Diary of Caryatid:

Dear Granny,

You will not believe the adventures I have been having with my cohorts since we travelled to that insanely stupid monastery in the mountains. The “monks” turned out to be were-rats of sorts. We did manage to free an imprisoned Religion-y Wizard who seemed more like an ancient monk relic; and retrieved the stupid lantern for the Religion-y Witch who sent us on that stupid quest. The only good part of that adventure was that in liberating the monastery, I seem to have adopted an adorable like monkey. I call him Marcel. He is fiercely devoted and so darn cute. Much like your cat, You, but doesn’t sleep under my hat like You does. I’ve had him fitted with his own customized fez. This lovable creature is so loyal, that he went berserk, ape-shit crazy if you will, when I was killed by an insane Hippie. Yeah, I died. BUT, I lived! Well, I was resurrected actually. I’m fine now so no worries there.

I’ve begun to grow my collection of magical items including a ring which allows me to become invisible, and an interesting wand which, I surmise, invokes random magick, since it never produces the same result twice. It once shrunk me to the size of doll, but the effects were not lasting, I’m normal again. I’ve also learned a spell to lock doors. I’ve recently used this to lock a secret back door to the apartment my twin has, who’s magick has become increasingly concerning.

Since the trip to the mountains, we have encountered so very many strange and dangerous creatures, I cannot possibly list them all. But we are back in the city of Idalium again. I think one of the reasons we have survived as long as we have (ok truth be told, our membership has changed quite a bit since I last wrote to you due to premature death, so not all survived), is because we change our name with nearly every adventure: The Infestation Managers, Gong Inspectors, Bong Inspectors, Furniture Disassemblers, Dong Inspectors (you don’t really want an explanation for any of these names). That grumpy, annoying dwarf, Goo-lick, who causes all the trouble died too on that dumb quest we joined with him, but sadly, the Religion-y Witch resurrected him.

On a happier note, we have created an alliance of sorts with the adorable little gnomes who were instrumental in our scheme to retrieve a valuable demon statue. The happy little guys are just too much fun to have around. Speaking of too much fun to have around, I have employed a new companion, a cleric mostly, kind of. His name is Br. Chase Pike, but everyone seems to like to call him Br. Beefcake. And oh boy, he is rather aesthetically appealing. And so strong too! Mostly because the generous wages he receives from me allow him to work out and keep his hair highlights perfect.

We continue to finance our adventures by collecting treasure, so I don’t need to ask for any coins. But I do want to learn a spell that will give my dear Marcel wings. I’ll plan a trip to Bad Ass soon, perhaps we can go to the Unseen University with Nanny Ogg and Magrat. I remain inspired by your sense of magick and continue to do what’s Right. I’m off now for drinks with Tod at The Squeaky Barnacle.


P.S. Don’t let an overambitious dwarf talk you into spending a bazillion gold coins for a fancy rolling casket only to leave it behind while escaping  mountain trolls. And keep poison attached to your horse in case you need to sacrifice it to dragons. Life lessons learned.

Being a reprint from the Reminiscences of Tod P. Quasit:

I awoke from my hibernation naturally hungry and having to pee very badly. The full beard I expected was absent. As was my penis. I was still a woman. A tall handsome strong woman. I am proud. I think, perhaps, I will drink again from the fountain and see if I might return to my former gender. Not that there's anything wrong with being a woman.

Anyhow, after a long slow meal at the Gut and Trough, I went to look up Jibber.  Apparently he had just returned from a mission to convert the heathens to the north. From the looks of him he was not very successful. I didn't press the subject. 

We agreed to look up our old friends in our famous group, The Proper Authorities. They were hanging around The Rusty Lantern and welcomed us back happily. That was nice. I was afraid after being away so long they might not want us back.  But there were orcs to kill, Goblins to kill. Lurg was still down there. It was time to deal with that festering knob. 

My good friend Gullick was very keen to buy barrels of oil. His plan was to burn the orcs out of their nest by rolling the punctured barrels down the stairs and lighting the trail of oil and then KABOOM! That's how he put it. KABOOM! He was very enthusiastic. As enthusiastic as he gets anyhow.

So we went down into the UnderCity with the barrels. We dropped them somewhat unsuccessfully into the pit the Gnomes had dug for us. I got oil spilled all over me. That was nice.

Before we got to the stairs to drop our barrels, we encountered two asswipe orcs and started talking to them until Gullick and I had had enough. I killed one pretty quickly but somehow the other one managed to escape and call for help. An orc that looked a lot like me, okay, was a duplicate of me, came out complaining about how he had been abandoned and only the orcs were his friend. A fight ensued. Somehow I was set on fire. It hurt. A lot. 

We dropped a barrel into their nest and it went KABOOM! Then we went down to investigate. There were six orcs left and Lurge. We managed to kill them all. Okay, the magic users hit them with sleep spells and magic missiles. Then we killed them all. 

There was a pit with two huge snakes that for some reason were completely harmless. They fought each other, one of them killed the other and then just sat there to be killed. Wait.  I think Gullick and the new guy were using those animal control rights. Yes! That explains it. Anyhow, two dead snakes. I should have harvested their meat. I understand snake meat can be delicious. Oh well. Next time.

There were two other orcs and an crazy man. Apparently the orcs looked a lot like party members so we kept them in hopes of curing the orc. Curing the orc. When will they ever learn?  Anyhow, we looted the place and found a butt load of treasure.  

We also found a room where they make the Rage Dust. Apparently it's mummified and ground up dead orc. NICE.  We used the other barrel to blow that place up.

Then we returned to the Rusty Lantern. I was feeling really good about things. It was nice to get back to Adventuring.

Jibber and I celebrated with another huge meal at the Feathered Goat.  I had the goat.

Idalium Game 69: Rumble at the Orcs'

Session date: Monday, March 20, 2017
Game date: Saturday, July 19, 209

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 7614/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13434/17000
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 7550/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 15148/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 2, hp 6, xp 3930/4000

Father Jibber, Cleric 3, hp 16, xp 3885/6000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 2, hp 4, xp 3260/5000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1915/3000
Kevon, Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 116/2000

For the first time in months, Tod and Tyrriel's players were available to play. Such a rare occurrence necessitated an epic session - the defeat of the orcs!

Tod and Tyrriel were still gender-swapped after their sampling of the magical fountains in the Temple of Hedonism, so hopefully I'll remember to get the pronouns correct in this report. The first order of business for the party was to purchase a metric ****ton of oil to make the orcs go BOOM. We discussed back and forth a bit about what size barrels they were expecting to buy, and we eventually settled on two 16 gallon barrels (roughly like half kegs of beer), for which I set a price of 200 gold pieces each. Considering that a flask of oil (which I take to be a pint) costs 2 gold pieces, this seemed like a reasonable extrapolation with a hefty volume discount. Still, given that I eyeball a gold piece as roughly $10 in modern money, that's a pretty expensive purchase. They still had the handcart that they had used to retrieve the gilded idol a few sessions ago, and now they lowered the cart and barrels into the dungeon using the Rusty Lantern's winch, with the help of the trapdoor guards.

They were on their own getting the barrels and cart down to the second level of the dungeon, though. They went to their custom-built shaft leading into to the shrine formerly occupied by shadow creatures and prepared to lower the cart and barrels laboriously down the shaft. Gulleck and Tod went down first to recover the barrels at the bottom, and then they lowered the cart. I made the PC guiding the ropes make a dexterity check in order to avoid mishap. (That's a d20 roll, at or below your Dexterity score.) A bad roll led to the wheel of the cart getting snapped off on the side of the shaft. Tyrriel's player also rolled poorly for the first barrel, and it cracked nastily against the side of the shaft, spring a leak. Gulleck stepped out of the way, but Tod was clumsy and got drizzled with oil. They were able to patch the leak in the barrel using a chunk of wax that Gulleck had been carrying around for ages. The second barrel made it down fine. The cart was shot without professional attention, but no matter: the orcs were just around the corner.

Once the rest of the party joined Tod and Gulleck, they carried the barrels into the hallway just south of the orcs' lair. Two orcs stood guard in front of the stairs that descended into the apartment complex they lived in. Tod picked a fight with the orcs, and decapitated one before the alarm could be raised, with Gulleck just as quickly killing the other one. They opened the stopper on one of the barrels and gave it a push down the stairs into the orcs' lair. Oil splattered all over the stone steps, leaving a trail behind the barrel, just like some kind of Roadrunner cartoon. Simon pulled forth flint and steel and scraped them together trying to draw sparks. Meanwhile, several orcs had come up to the stairs to confront the adventurers.

One of the orcs was no ordinary orc. Although he had piggy eyes, bristly hair, and little tusks jutting up from his protruding jaw, his features were unmistakably those of Tod (or at least those of his original male appearance)! Tod and Gulleck had only a moment to consider this strange twist of events, when suddenly Simon managed to ignite the oil that drenched the stairs. Unfortunately, Tod as well was drenched in oil, and she was suddenly engulfed in flame. She backed into the hallway, and dropped to the ground, rolling to put the flames out. Gulleck, meanwhile, fought with the orc version of Tod, and then human Tod stood up, looking singed and scorched but no longer on fire, and put a sword through her strange alter ego.

Then there was an enormous BOOOOOOM and flash of light from down below in the orcs' lair, as the barrel of oil ignited, accompanied by the dying shrieks of many orcs. To maximize confusion, the adventurers quickly ran around to the other entrance to the orcs' lair, and then charged down the stairs into the large central courtyard of the apartment complex. Half a dozen orcs lay dead or dying on the ground. Puddles of oil still burned next to the exploded remains of the barrel. Another half dozen orcs attacked the party angrily, spurred on by a big fierce looking orc. Swinging a big club was Lorg, the brutish ogre that had sent the party running once before. And just like there was an orc version of Tod, here the adventurers found savage, brutish versions of Brother Chase and Debbi! Both were quite recognizable but were already showing the signs of transformation into orcs.

"You abandoned us!" shouted the orc Brother Chase. "You left us to fend for ourselves here!" The adventures made feeble efforts to justify themselves, but there was little time for conversation. The battle raged. Tod engaged an orc in melee, Wilhelm tried to take cover, but was also attacked by an orc. Tyrriel was surrounded by two orcs, but his plate armor fortunately deflected their blows while he spoke the magical words of Sleep. Gulleck found himself under attack by Lorg the ogre, as well as the orc Brother Chase.

The battle was somewhat anticlimactic. Half the orcs were already burnt to death, and Tyrriel and Wilhelm managed to cast their Sleep spells and put all of the orcs and their allies to sleep. The orc versions of Brother Chase and Debbi were tied up with the intention of rescuing them and given nicknames. Caryatid had taken to calling her attractive retainer "Brother Beefcake", so the orc version was dubbed "Brother Orccake". And Debbi somehow became "Orc Debbiorc". Real serious grimdark stuff, this game.

In the center of the courtyard was an enormous pit, some twenty feet deep. In the darkness below, amidst bones and rubble, two enormous snakes slithered. Gulleck and Simon donned their rings of animal control and the giant pythons attacked each other until one was dead, and then the adventurers shot arrows at the other one while Gulleck held it still with the ring.

Having put the orcs to the sword (or the flame), the party explored the various apartments surrounding the courtyard. They found the orcs' treasure room, containing several thousand gold and silver coins, and several sacks of the white "rage dust" powder. In another room they found a horrible idol made of wicker and bone. Brother Jibber put it to the flame. They found a man, manacled to the floor and apparently tortured, who could do nothing but scream and spit. Although he didn't seem very appreciative, Tyrriel insisted on rescuing him, first tying his hands and feet.

Finally, the adventurers found a room containing one of the most horrible revelations they had yet discovered in the dungeon. On pallets were laid the corpses of many dead orcs, in various stages of decomposition. The "freshest" orcs were at one end of the room, smeared with strange oils and pigmented powders. Farther away, the bodies of the orcs were decomposing into a chalky, powdery substance. At the far end of the room were trays of the off-white powder, set to dry. Partially filled sacks of the powder hung near the trays.

"Nope!" said Gulleck, and they went to fetch the other barrel and blew up the entire room with it.

Triumphant, the party made their way back to the surface, bringing Orc Debbiorc, Brother Orccake, and the insane man with them, shuffling along at swordpoint. The orcish copies of Brother Chase and Debbi grumbled the entire time about how the PCs had abandoned them at the resurrection pool, how the orcs had found them and given them shelter, food, and clothing. One big guilt trip all the way back up to the Rusty Lantern.

With the XP gains from the orcs' treasure, Tod and Simon both levelled up. The adventurers agreed to start the next session right where we left off, to see if the survivors could be somehow healed of their derangements.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Idalium Game 68: The Whims of Fate

Session date: Monday, March 6, 2017
Game date: Saturday, July 5, 209

Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 14952/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 2, hp 6, xp 3724/4000
Adrien, Fighter 2, hp 6, xp 2414/4000

Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1812/3000
Kevon, Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 18/2000
Debbi, Magic-user 1, hp 6, xp 19/2500

Well, we had a month between sessions, and a corresponding month therefore passed in game time. Caryatid took advantage of the downtime by scribing four scrolls of Magic Missile. That business taken care of, three PCs and their retainers (Gulleck's player being, unusually, absent today) descended into the undercity in search of adventure.

In the Temple of Hedonism's upper level, Simon used his recently acquired olfactory powers to sniff out a large sack containing hundreds of silver and gold coins, hidden beneath a pew. In the basement of the temple, the adventurers were suddenly set upon by a dozen angry giant baboons. They quickly hid in a small library room, and Caryatid cast Wizard Lock on the door to prevent entry. They looked through the shelves of scrolls and books while they waited for the baboons to move along. The shelves contained documents of all sorts of hedonistic pursuits: recipes for decadent feasts, directions for brewing beer and making wine, "instructional scrolls" full of embarrassing illustrations, etc. They found a scroll labeled "A Spell to Enhance Sensation" (Debbi translated from Ancient Idalian) and another labelled "A Spell of Bondage", which Brother Chase believed he might be able to cast from the scroll. They took these along with them and, hearing no more baboons, left the temple. Caryatid dispelled her Wizard Lock, so the hedonist acolytes would not be locked out of their library. (This is a bit of a house rule, but it seems reasonable that a magic-user should be able to dispel their own permanent magical effects.)

Next they headed to the Temple of Fate for more spins on the "Wheel of Fortune". Debbi took another ride on the wheel (which had given her frequent fits of sneezing last time, that still affected her a month later) and when she arose, she clutched at her chest with alarm. She was experiencing stabbing twinges and pains in her left side. Caryatid took a spin on the wheel, and discovered that like Simon, she too could now smell gold! Kevon was the last to ride the wheel, and when he get off it, he found that multicolored puffs of smoke now emerged from his ears at a steady pace, increasing in pace the harder he thought!

It took a while to decide what to do about Debbi, who didn't feel well at all. Eventually, the adventurers thought to immerse her in the pool of resurrection, which they knew would heal a living person of all their wounds. Would it cure them of impending heart failure? Well, it was right around the corner, so it wouldn't take much to find out. On the way, they ran into a half dozen goblins, who exchanged friendly words with them and urged them to get rid of the orcs that lived just to the north. "That's our plan," chirped Caryatid.

In the tiny chamber containing the pool of resurrection, Debbi cast her mage's robe aside and jumped stark naked into the warm liquid. She felt the warmth pervade her body, smoothing out the twinges in her erratic heartbeat. Her sneezing fits also stopped, and she received a permanent +1 bonus to her constitution score. She climbed out of the pool with a huge smile on her face. Brother Chase, who was not suffering from any illness, but obviously impressed by Debbi's description of her improved health, stripped down to his adventuring skivvies and took a dip in the pool as well, receiving a +1 constitution bonus as well. Brother Chase and Debbi dried themselves off as best they could, put on their clothes and armor, and the party was on their way again.

Refreshed and ready to take on the dungeon, the adventurers headed towards the lair of the orcs, passing through the room adjacent to the shadows' shrine. Now that the room was no longer shrouded in magical darkness they could see the broken up pews and other furniture filling the room. They also found an empty suit of plate armor, still wearing a backpack. Evidently these were the remains of a former adventurer killed by the shadows. Caryatid and Simon could smell gold in the backpack and they found it to contain over 300 gold pieces.

Then, they entered the hallway outside of the orcs' lair. Two orcs stood guard at the entrance to their lair. The orcs took a long look at the adventurers, and recognizing Caryatid and the others, one exclaimed, "Hey, those are the *******s who stole our gong! Get 'em!" An orc charged directly at Simon and would have run him right through with his jagged short sword, if not for a Magic Missile from Caryatid that instantly eviscerated him (she rolled the big green d30 for damage). The other orc ran screaming down the stairs into the lair, and the adventurers decided to make themselves scarce rather than face a pitched battle with the orcs.

The group explored a few more empty rooms and avoided a few encounters with the help of Simon's mindreading amulet, and eventually decided to call it a day and return home. Passing through the Temple of Hedonism they found two teenaged urchins furtively poring over a luridly illustrated "training manual". Pretending not to notice, Caryatid just reiterated the warning to avoid her "sister", and then the adventurers returned to the surface, pleasantly weighed down with gold coins for a change.

 * * * * *

Unbeknownst to the players, in a small room lit with a dimly diffuse pink glow, Brother Chase and Debbi gasped as they broke the surface of the pool of resurrection. They pulled themselves out of the pool and kneeled at the edge, soaked to the bone and dripping. They were alone in the dungeon, naked apart from Brother Chase's thin undergarments, without armor or weapon to protect themselves.

"Caryatid?" called Brother Chase. "Adrien?" called Debbi, panic rising in her voice. "Where are you?"

"Why did they abandon us!!??"

Idalium Game 67: Sneaking Round the Back

Session date: Monday, February 6, 2017
Game date: Saturday, June 7, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13399/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 14917/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 2, hp 6, xp 3687/4000
Adrien, Fighter 2, hp 6, xp 2379/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 5024/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1793/3000
Kevon, Fighter 1, hp 5, xp 0/2000
Debbi, Magic-user 1, hp 6, xp 0/2500

Another kind of aimless session, but that's the way some of them are in a "beer and pretzels" game. Adrian's player decided to roll up a retainer, and settled on a magic-user named Debbi, who had the distinction of being the smartest character in the party, and the only one able to comprehend the Ancient Idalian language. Simon's player rolled up a fighter named Kevon to replace the dearly departed/melted Remus.

The party proceeded down to the second level of the dungeon, intent on filling in the few unexplored sectors of their map. They stopped in the small Temple of Chance in order to "initiate" the new party members by giving them a spin on the magical wheel of fortune. Debbi was strapped to the wheel and spun, and ended up sneezing uncontrollable for the rest of the day, eliminating any chance of surprise. Kevon received a permanent +1 to his charisma.

Now that they had a party member who could understand Ancient Idalian, they proceeded to the room with the magical painting of a court jester. When he came to animated life on the wall and spoke to them, Debbi was able to understand him and translate. He said his name was Puntilio. He had been alone in this room for so long since the day of the disaster, when the owner of the apartment had fled the city. Being immobile, he didn't have a whole lot of information about the dungeon, so they left him, ignoring his plaintive cries of "Come back! You're the first person I've been able to talk to in decades!"

They wandered around the nearby hallways and poked their heads into a couple of rooms that appeared to be infested with giant centipedes. No one felt like tangling with them, and Simon couldn't smell any gold in the rooms, so they moved on. Then they came to a room that reeked of animal sweat and waste. Simon's mindreading medallion detected the presence of multiple primitive minds in the room. They dithered over what to do, and then Debbi sneezed loudly and repeatedly, and a great hooting and chattering went up in the room, and they were suddenly set upon by eight giant baboons wielding clubs made of sticks and femur bones. Well, Gulleck and Simon used their magical rings of animal control to sow chaos in the group of baboons, who spent more time fighting each other than the party. Caryatid used her new Sleep spell to eliminate the rest of them.

The party found a small golden cup in the room of baboons, so they took it and moved on. They studied their maps for a while, puzzling over a large blank area in the middle of the page, and decided to spend some time searching for secret doors. Luck was indeed with them, for they found that one of the torch sconces could be manipulated in a way that caused a panel of the wall to swing open. Behind the secret door was a dark and dingy corridor that felt very much "backstage" from the main hallways and rooms of this level. The group cautiously explored the secret passage, noticing the backs of several other secret doors along the walls as they went.

Eventually, they came to a plain wooden door, behind which they heard the voices of children! It seems they had found the secret hideout of the urchins who live in the dungeon. Gulleck knocked on the door, and there was a great commotion and then hush behind the door. He called out, "Don't worry, it's just Gulleck and his friends!" There were murmurs and whispers, and then the door was opened and the party was invited into the urchins' hideout. The room looked like it had once been some sort of command center, almost like a secret bunker, but was now the common room of the urchin gang. A big table filled much of the room, and boxes and crate full of presumably stolen food and other goods lined the walls. The adventurers talked with the urchins at some length, warning them against the orcs, and even more so the goblins. "Just remember one thing. Don't ever eat goblin food. It'll turn you into one of them!" Most of the urchins promised, but a few seemed skeptical. "I had an apple from the goblins a week or two ago, and it didn't hurt me! They're not that bad, the goblins. I don't think they would do anything mean to us."

The adventurers also tried to warn the urchins to stay away from Caryatid the Green, but the urchins said they knew all about that scary lady. In fact, they had a secret passage that went right into her apartment! The adventurers asked the urchins to show them, and they escorted them through another dusty back passage to a door which opened into the hallway in the back of the old wizard's rooms, between a bedroom and an alchemical lab.

"Well, listen, don't go in there, and you know what, just stay away from her altogether. She's got an actual demon in there!" Just to make sure that no trouble came to the urchins, Caryatid cast wizard lock on the secret door before they took their leave of the urchins and made their way back out of the dungeon.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Idalium Game 66: House Hunting

Session date: Monday, January 16, 2017
Game date: Saturday, May 17, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13399/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 14917/20000   

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 5024/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1793/3000

It was a short session this evening, without much dungeoneering to speak of. We had only two players, and I think we got started extremely late, so the session was mostly about taking care of some loose ends in town rather than braving the monsters of the undercity. In the two weeks game time since the last adventure, Caryatid successfully researched the Sleep spell (using the Cook Expert rules of 1,000 gp and two weeks of game time per spell level). The crew had their sights set on clearing out the orcs from their lair in the middle of the second level, and another Sleep spell would help that significantly.

And so, this sunny spring morning, Gulleck and Caryatid, along with their loyal retainers, visited the hillside neighborhood of The Steps, its ramshackle and decrepit houses clinging precariously to the erratic slope at the west end of the city. They made their way through the twisting narrow streets to the derelict house in which they had discovered a magical wardrobe cabinet that appeared to be linked to an identical one deep in the dungeon. The house - #6 Gullsbeak Lane - seemed untouched since the last time they had seen it, planks and boards crudely nailed to cover the windows and doors. The adventurers looked furtively around, making sure the street was deserted, before prying the boards off the door of the house and slipping inside.

Inside the house it was much as they had last left it. The sounds of outside seemed muted, and the dust that laid heavy on the floorboards gave a feeling that nothing ever changed here. They proceeded up the narrow staircase, past the second floor landing, up to the third floor and into the room with the wardrobe. It too was as they had left it, sitting incongruously alone in an empty room containing nothing else but dust motes floating idly in the sunbeams streaming through the cracks in the window shutters. The first experiment was to try to move the wardrobe, but alas, it appeared to be fixed to the wall of the room.

Next, the adventurers opened the wardrobe, and pushed through the moth-eaten coats and robes into the dark of the bedroom in the dungeon on the other side. They lit up a lantern, and then attempted to move the wardrobe on this side. This one seemed to be freestanding but was quite heavy and difficult to move. They started to explore the rest of the apartment, but quickly ran into a dozen goblins in the music room mischievously tearing off the strings of a lute and harp and generally causing trouble. Gulleck exchanged awkward greetings with the goblins, and the adventurers retreated to the wardrobe room. Caryatid locked one of the bedroom doors with Wizard Lock, and they returned to the house in the Steps via the wardrobe and left the house, replacing the boards across the door as well as they could.

As they were doing this, they became aware that they were being observed surreptitiously by a shabby man dressed in filthy clothes, poking around in a nearby pile of rubbish with a sharp stick. In his other hand, he held a rope snare - evidently, a ratcatcher. Gulleck and Caryatid approached the man cautiously, and asked if he knew who owned the house. The man seemed to deny any knowledge at first, but then hinted that a gold coin or two might aid his memory. Gulleck sighed with distaste and gave the man a few coins.

"Yeah, I seen a man come round here, months ago. Real posh fella, didn't really fit in this neighborhood, if you know what I mean. Not like you and I do."

The adventurers pushed for a name, and after a few more gold pieces exchanged hands, the ratcatcher offered, "He had a helper with him, with a bunch of papers. He called him... something startin' with a P. Patricky, Patrooza..."

"Patrenzi?" Gulleck asked.

"Yeah, that's the one!"

Vincent Patrenzi was well known to the party. They had met twice at the magical auctions. He was a very wealthy businessman, but seemingly possessed of no good taste, always dressed in gaudy and flashy clothes meant to show off his wealth. Still, he had always been friendly enough to the adventurers, so they made their way back down the hill and across the bridge to the city proper. They stopped at the Runcible Trading House, and inquired with Lord Runcible as to the address of Mr. Patrenzi on the pretense of wishing to arrange a private sale. Lord Runcible gave them directions, and they walked the short distance through the wealthiest streets of Idalium, soon arriving at the gaudy mansion of Vincent Patrenzi. Marble and granite statues decorated the lawn behind a sturdy iron fence. They spoke to the doorman and obtained an audience. They were brought into the house, where Patrenzi was seated at a desk going through some ledgers with his accountant.

Patrenzi greeted Gulleck and Caryatid with warmth, apologizing that he was quite busy and unable to properly entertain them. What could he do for them?

"Well," said Caryatid, laying on the charm, "we were considering using some of our recent earnings to get into the real estate business, and we heard that you would be the perfect person to talk to for advice!"

"Advice?" said Patrenzi, a bit confused. "Buy low, sell high, that's the real trick!"

After dancing around the topic for some time and flattering Patrenzi, they got around to asking about the house in the Steps. Patrenzi didn't seem at all sure, but his accountant informed him that yes, indeed he did own a house there. He had bought it in a larger lot of properties last winter, and hadn't decided what to do to with it yet.

The adventurers asked idly if he might be willing to sell that house to them, to jumpstart their budding real estate career. Patrenzi didn't see why not, and gave his asking price as 50,000 silver shekels. The adventurers protested that this seemed rather high for a house he only just learned he owned and that was vacant and decrepit, barely secured from the elements. Still, Patrenzi was unmoved. "Look, you come to me and ask if I'll sell you this house, that's my offer. You don't like it? Don't buy it. You're the ones asking me to sell it to you. I'm in no hurry."

"Thank you, we'll take it under consideration," said Gulleck, and the party left without taking any bold steps into the exciting world of Idalian real estate investment.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Idalium Game 65: X Marks the Spot

Session date: Monday, January 2, 2017
Game date: Saturday, May 3, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 13146/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 14664/20000   
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 2, hp 6, xp 3421/4000
Adrien, Fighter 2, hp 6, xp 2126/4000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 4897/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 2, hp 11, xp 1660/3000
Remus Thynerius, Thief 1, hp 2, xp 882/1250

Now we come to one of my personal favorite sessions of the entire campaign. My players finally took the bait on a set piece I had planned for months, after a nightmare I had one night. As a rule I tend to take things easy with this game and just use monsters from the B/X rulebooks, but I have created a few unique monsters, as I did for this scenario. It's always a bit of a gamble whether your monsters' attacks and statistics will work out the way you expected, but I think this went pretty well.

Having eliminated the shadows and auctioned off the demonic idol they guarded, the party set their sites on the few unexplored areas remaining on the second level of the dungeon. In the northwest quadrant of the level, not far from where the "hippie" berserkers live, they approached a sturdy wooden door, sealed on all four sides with wax-soaked rags, and emblazoned with a bold red X. A brass plate on the door read (in Ancient Idalian) "Hotel Lethia".

Gulleck had come prepared with a hand drill and set to work, laboriously drilling a inch-wide hole in the door at his eye level. This took quite a while and everyone kept a nervous watch for any wandering monsters, but they were undisturbed while Gulleck worked at the door. Eventually, he poked the last bit of wood out on the other side of the door and pressed an eye carefully to the hole, letting his vision adjust to the darkness beyond. In the dim, vague impression of his infravision, he could make out a long corridor lined with doors. He saw no sources of body heat, so the party pulled out the waxen rags that were sealing the door, and then heaved the door open. Clouds of dust billowed out, accompanied by an ancient, musty smell.

In the light of Simon's magical sword, the adventurers could see a once-elegant hall stretching into the dark. Closed doors lined both sides at twenty foot intervals. A dusty carpet with an unnerving geometric design covered the floor. Unsure of what might be under the carpet, the group decided to pull it up from the floor and roll it ahead of them. They proceeded down the hall, rolling the musty carpet as they went. The swordlight revealed more doors on the left and right. Simon stopped and sniffed the air. Due to a lucky roll on the "wheel of fortune" he was able to smell gold, and here he got a faint whiff of the metal.

Before he could identify the source of the smell, one of the doors on the left suddenly opened a crack and the group saw pallid white fingers creep around the edge of the door. The skin was flat and featureless, the color of the belly of a dead fish. The hand stretched out towards them on a long spindly forearm and then continued to stretch farther than any normal arm could reach, until it extended from the door some five feet, groping and questing. The party members were so shocked by the appearance of this ghostly arm that they could not muster any response before the hand closed around the neck of Brother Chase! He twitched and shuddered momentarily but rolled a 20 on his saving throw and casually swatted the hand away from his neck.

Gulleck came to his senses and drew forth his magical axe and brought it slicing down on the bizarre arm. He severed the arm with one hit, and it quickly snapped back into the darkness of the ajar door. The hand and the other side of the arm instantly liquefied, as if losing surface tension when cut, and white liquid splashed onto the stone floor. No sooner could the party catch their collective breath than two more arms emerged from the door. A bit farther up the corridor, another two arms emerged from a slightly ajar door on the other side of the hall.

The adventurers swung at the pallid arms, and the hands quested blindly for them, but no one could make contact. Caryatid in a confused panic drew forth her new "wand of random magic", pointed it into the first doorway, and let loose with its power. No fireball erupted forth this time, though: all she got was a strange sensation of emptiness and void in her mind. Simon was grabbed by one of the questing hands, but made his saving throw and struggled free of the grasping fingers. But then one of the four hands made contact with Adrian, wrapping around her throat. Her eyes suddenly flew back, fluttering and twitching, and her entire body began to shudder and spasm as she sunk to her knees. The pallid fishbelly arm began to pulse, as if drawing the very life from Adrian back into the dark of the room it originated from.

Gulleck leapt forward with his axe and again chopped right through the arm that grasped Adrian. The hand on her neck exploded into liquid, and the stump, as before, retracted into the darkness. Adrian slumped onto the floor, still twitching spasmodically. Meanwhile, two other hands grasped Remus and Meat. Both reacted as Adrian had, falling to their knees, eyes rolled up insensate, twitching and shuddering as the arms began to pump their lifeforce out of their bodies. Simon too was hit by another hand, and fell to the floor. Half the party was now incapacitated!

Gulleck decided he had had enough of these arms, and kicked the door open. Inside was a small hotel room, and standing near the door were two humanoids of the same white pallid flesh as the arms, naked and featureless. They gave the vaguest suggestion of a female form, but their bodily and facial features were rudimentary and vague, as if merely an imitation of a human being. Each one had one limp stump of an arm, and another long arm extended into the hallway. Caryatid attempted her wand of random magic again, and this time she found herself rapidly shrinking until she was merely 10" tall (her pet monkey shrank along with her). "Run!" she squeaked, and made her (rather slow) way out of the hotel hallway. "Great", muttered Gulleck, and concentrated on planting his axe in the chests of these bizarre things.

Meanwhile, Brother Chase used his mace to crush the arm attached to Meat, and the stump snapped back into the doorway it came from. But before anyone could attend to Remus, a dreadful choking gasp arose from his throat, and suddenly he (and all of his belongings) went *pop* like a water balloon filled with white liquid latex rubber. What was once Remus splashed on the stone floor and trickled away through the cracks in the stone. The arm, its owner apparently satiated, retreated into the room it had emerged from. Brother Chase, aghast with this sight, ran across to Simon to free him from the arm that pulsed at his throat.

In the room, Gulleck managed to kill one of the creatures (and it promptly exploded into rubbery goo), and then the other one, forced to retract its sole remaining arm after Brother Chase crushed it, slinked away backwards and hid itself under the bed against the far wall. Gulleck wanted nothing to do with this disturbing thing and quickly scanned the room for treasure. Against the nearest wall, he saw an adventurer's backpack nearly placed, alongside a set of neatly-folded clothes and shoes. This too was disturbing, but he grabbed the backpack, backed out into the hall, and closed the door of the hotel room.

Gulleck and Brother Chase dragged Meat, Simon, and Adrian out of the hotel hall and into the outer hallway as quick as they could. Brother Chase laid his hands upon Adrian with a prayer of healing, and she regained consciousness. They attempted to shove the wax rags back into the door as well as they could, and Caryatid cast Wizard Lock upon it to seal it magically.

The group holed up in a nearby empty room for about an hour until Meat and Simon regained consciousness. Then they high-tailed it back to the Rusty Lantern. The backpack was found to contain 400 gold coins, and a small velvet pouch containing a very valuable jacinth gem worth another 1000 gp! Perhaps a grim trade for the irrevocable loss of Remus, though...

Well, I have to say, nothing has taken my game closer to a TPK than ghouls or things related to ghouls like these creepy things! Getting paralyzed and taken out of combat is really dangerous, and has a snowball effect. You can just see the combat spiralling down the drain. I don't really mind; some things should be scary! That's why there was a big red X on the door! And speaking of...

Deep in the darkness of the dungeon, a sturdy wooden door was sealed with wax-drenched rags and magically locked. But, forgotten by some, an inch-wide hole gaped in the center of the door, and from this hole emerged, tentatively at first and then more aggressively, a pallid white finger and then an impossibly thin hand, wrist, arm...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Idalium Game 64: The Auction at Sea

Session date: Monday, December 5, 2016
Game date: Saturday, March 29, 209 to Saturday, April 5, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 12689/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 14207/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 2, hp 6, xp 2941/4000
Adrien, Fighter 1, hp 4, xp 1669/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 4668/8000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 1420/1500

After pulling off the dungeon heist of the campaign in the last session, it was now time to sell the spoils! As luck would have it, it was right on time for the annual magical auction in Idalium, jointly organized by the Adventurers' Guild and a trading house catering to wealthy collectors, and held each year around the Spring Equinox. After the unfortunate events of last year's auction, this year it was being held on a merchant ship that was anchored some way out of the harbor, for better security. The adventurers made arrangements with the Guild and the Runcible Trading House to have the idol and associated paraphernalia transported to the ship in advance of the auction.

The day of the auction, the party assembled at a specified dock at the river that runs along the west edge of the City of Idalium. There, a small barge ferried them downstream south, past the tanneries, blacksmiths, and other industrial uses that lined the river, past the city walls, and out into the sea proper. As they left the mouth of the river, they could see the large ship waiting, with many other barges and dinghies clustered around it, having ferried many other auction attendees over.

The adventurers boarded the ship and entered the large cabin that was set up for the auction. Musicians played softly in a corner, and light refreshments were laid out. Many familiar faces were present: Lady Mary Jameson, the young and extremely wealthy aristocrat seeking mysterious and occult artifacts; the Baroness Millicent Trenevant, with whom the party were on friendly terms, having once retrieved her stolen goods; the nouveau riche Vincent Patrenzi. And many of their fellow adventurers were here: Rugger's Raiders and Shorty's Sirens, as well as their erstwhile retainer Father Jed and his troupe of reformed bandits. And "Sallies Forth" were here: an adventuring party made up of "Psycho Sally" (formerly of Shorty's Sirens), plus three magical duplicates. And Professor Zinn, the elderly sage, was here, and it transpired he was bidding at the bequest of Caryatid the Green (adventurer Caryatid's magical duplicate, who now lived in the dungeon and was researching all sorts of disturbing things).

To make a long story short, I conducted the auction using a modified system that I borrowed from a Call of Cthulhu scenario that I used during the previous magical auction. A prewritten chart listed which attendees would be inclined to bid on which objects, and rolls of the dice determined whether or not they would continue bidding or drop out. It is a lot of dice rolling and done too often I think it would be tedious for everyone, but as a change of pace restricted to an annual auction, I think it worked well enough, and introduced some randomness into the events of the auction.

In the end, this is how things panned out: Shorty's Sirens won the bidding for a "smoking urn", a brass bottle warm to the touch and continually emitting smoke (said to hold an imprisoned demon) and well as a set of elvish boots and cloak with an intriguing shimmering pattern and silent soles designed to aid in concealment. Jed acquired a protective scroll against magical influence for 25,000 silver shekels. The party bid 11,500 shekels on a set of gold, copper, and tin medallions, but these turned out to be nonmagical trinkets. Gulleck was interested in a suit of wonderfully crafted dwarven plate armor, but so was Rugger, and the party eventually dropped out of the bidding war at 61,500 shekels. Baroness Trenevant acquired some carved ivory divination sticks from the far east and a golden ring engraved with a design of intertwined serpents. Caryatid spent most of the party's money to bid on a "wand of unpredictable magic", an 11" magical wand of rowan wood, whimsically carved and painted in various colors. Vincent Patrenzi won the bidding on a disturbing human skull, with the top cut away and the interior inlaid with silver to form a cup.

As for the party's own entry into the auction, Lady Mary, Baroness Trenevant, and Vincent Patrenzi all bid on this exotic and imposing idol. Bidding started at 125,000 shekels, and the three bid it up until Lady Mary prevailed at 136,500 silver shekels.

The party used their winnings to pay for the wand and medallions that they acquired, and returned to the Rusty Lantern to celebrate their winnings.

A week later, they reunited for a short delve into the dungeon. The first order of business was to deliver to the gnomes their half share of the proceeds. Of course, on the way, Caryatid couldn't help but test out her new "wand of unpredictable magic". As soon as they were in the dungeon, Caryatid drew forth the wand, and pointed it down the buried street into the darkness of an old city plaza. She felt the wand's power twitching, and reaching into it with her mind, she released the chaotic power and let it manifest. A bead of glowing light like a burning ember shot forth from the tip of the wand and streaked through the dark. There was a brief glimpse of the stone fountain in the plaza and the four statues surrounding it, and then there was a loud whooof of fire and a gust of heat that staggered them on their feet. The plaza was briefly brilliantly illuminated by the expanding fireball and then all was dark and quiet again. The party excitedly moved forward into the plaza to see the impact of the wand's magic, and in the light of Simon's sword they found that the fountain now lay in rubble, the four statues knocked away from it, lying in several pieces on the cobblestones of the square.

"Excellent!" everyone cheered, and then moved on to meet the gnomes. The gnomes were overjoyed to see their friends and even more so to see their large bag of gold that they delivered. An impromptu party was held in the gnomes' cozy little hideaway. Little seedcakes were eaten, and gnomish tea and ale were drunk. Little gnomes played little tunes on tiny little lutes and tambourines.

Well-fed and well-rested after the party, the adventurers still had some time so they decided to explore a bit more of the second level. They used their new shaft to descend to the room from which they had stolen the idol. The eerie green flames had vanished from the torch sconces on the walls, and the cold fear that had pervaded the room was gone. The adjacent rooms, that had been shrouded in a perpetual magical darkness, were now normal, and the darkness of the dungeon yielded to the cool light of Simon's magical sword. The adventurers proceeded to an apartment at the north end of the level. In the apartment was a stone statue of a woman, and an inscription on her clothing read "I shall guard my treasure until I am wed." Well, in the recent poring over of character sheets, Gulleck's player realized that Gulleck had been carrying around a "stone ring" that they had acquired many sessions ago in a "honeymoon suite". So, off they went to try it out!

Unfortunately, in the bedroom containing the statue, four hobgoblins were already present, examining the inscription on the statue for themselves. They party bantered with the goblins, and the banter turned a bit aggressive, but the party walked out of the room rather than fighting the goblins, whom they have mostly remained on friendly terms with so far (although recent revelations about the origin of the goblins have made this relationship much more awkward). They went into the adjoining room, which contained a fresco on the wall of a jester that would magically move and speak when approached. When they entered, however, they found several giant centipedes crawling on the painting, and the jester was hysterically yelling and crying in Ancient Idalian (which no one could understand). The party took one look at this, shook their heads, and left the room. Heartless!

In the hallway, they encountered four of the berserker "hippies" who lived not far from this area of the dungeon. Caryatid remembered only too well being strangled to death by their fellows, and the party conversed lightly, to avoid disturbing the hippies' mood. Eventually, they parted ways and the hippies entered the room with the jester. The adventurers listened with barely disguised glee and they heard the hobgoblins mock the hippies with sneering condescension. This enraged the hippies, and the two groups fell into a savage battle in the doorway between the two rooms. Gulleck quickly led the adventurers down the hallway around a corner, where they re-entered the bedroom with the statue. While the hobgoblins and hippie berserkers fought in the next room, Gulleck ran to the statue and popped the stone ring onto its finger. A vertical seam suddenly appeared in the torso of the statue and it opened up like a pair of doors, revealing a shelf containing several pieces of jewelry (two bracelets and a headdress) and a golden ring. He removed the stone ring, causing the statue to close again, hurled it into a dusty corner of the room, and bolted back out before the hobgoblins could take notice.

They made it back to the Rusty Lantern without incident. The bracelets and headdress they sold for 2,000 gold darics, earning enough experience points to raise Brother Chase to the second level (allowing him to cast a clerical spell each day!). The golden ring turned out to be a magical ring of invisibility, much like the one Caryatid owned. Quite a successful session!

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Idalium Game 63: The Heist!

Session date: Monday, October 3, 2016
Game date: Saturday, March 22, 209

Tod P. Quasit, Jr., Fighter 3, hp 16, xp 6282/8000
Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 11357/17000
Tyrriel, Elf 2, hp 7, xp 6278/8000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 12996/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 1669/2000
Adrien, Fighter 1, hp 4, xp 458/2000

Father Jibber, Cleric 3, hp 16, xp 3218/6000
Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 3, hp 17, xp 4062/8000
Wilhelm, Magic-user 2, hp 4, xp 2624/5000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 784/1500
Remus Thynerius, Thief 1, hp 2, xp 246/1250

Finally, the big day had arrived! The entire current roster of players were in the same room at the same time, and in the city of Idalium the vernal equinox augured an auspicious delve: the Great Heist of the gilded idol and ceremonial paraphernalia from the shrine of shadows! Tod and Tyrriel arrived at the Rusty Lantern for the first time in a couple of months. Tod was still a woman and Tyrriel was still a man, after sampling from the magical fountains in the Temple of Hedonism; apparently the effects were permanent.

In recent sessions, the adventurers had commissioned a mining party of friendly gnomes to dig a shaft straight down from the first level to where they hoped was the shrine of shadows on the second level (they lined up their hand drawn maps to figure out where to dig). Only today would they find out if they had calculated their target correctly. In the past few sessions, they had procured various supplies for the heist: a custom-designed leather harness and plenty of rope for lifting the idol, a block and tackle and winch for hauling it up the shaft, and a small handcart for moving it through the dungeon.

Buzzing with excitement, the adventurers descended into the undercity. Their first stop was the headquarters of the gnomes, deep in the mines in the northeast section of the first level. Tom Pipkin, the leader of the gnomes, greeted them warmly. The adventurers could see the same avaricious excitement in his eyes as they saw in their fellow party members' eyes, for they had promised the gnomes a 50/50 cut of the revenue from the sale of the idol and paraphernalia. Tom, his right hand man Grimble Grumble, and half a dozen gnomes set out with the adventurers to the dig site.

The dig site was in one of the old temples off the main Avenue of Temples. The inside was constructed to resemble a natural cave, and the ceiling was painted to look like the night sky. Great piles of earth and stone rubble now lay strewn in the corners of the temple, as well as in the street outside. Caryatid had wizard locked the door to the temple, which sealed it to anyone except her. The door in the back of the temple they had spiked shut with iron spikes, which Gulleck now pulled out, in case they had to escape that way in a hurry. Meanwhile, the gnomes and other party members went to work setting up the winch and the block and tackle system, along with rope ladders, etc.

While they were busy setting up their stuff, four scruffy looking guys in leather armor sauntered up to the open door. Bandits, evidently. "Hey, whatcha doin'? That's quite a hole you guys dug! Mind if we watch?" Pretty soon Tyrriel got tired of talking and cast Sleep on them. The bandits were dragged into a robing room behind the temple.

With that out of the way and everything set up, Gulleck and Tod descended into the shaft, climbing the ladders as quietly as possible down some twenty or so feet to the bottom, where they could see the shaped flagstones of the ceiling of the room below them. The gnomes had carefully cleared the dirt and rubble away, but left the ceiling itself undisturbed until the adventurers were ready. Now, they made ready to silently pry the stone from its space. Tod drank a potion of invisibility that they had found some time ago, and Gulleck slipped on Caryatid's ring of invisibility. (Now this kind of thing always leads to debates at the table as to what happens when someone goes invisible while carrying a leather harness attached to a long rope. My ruling is that the carried harness itself goes invisible, but the end of the rope that is not in first-hand contact with the character would still be visible, moving around with no apparent cause.)

Anyway, as soon as Gulleck and Tod shifted the stone, Caryatid quickly cast Phantasmal Force at the gap to "set up a camera loop" with the image of the stone ceiling slab. Then Gulleck and Tod lifted the slab out of the way, and poked their invisible heads through the illusion to see what was going on. The shrine lay still and unsettling as ever, heatless green flames flickering in torch sconces on the walls, casting eerie shadows all around. The hideous idol crouched on the bloodstained altar on the south wall. The adventurers were hoping to have come out exactly above the idol, but unfortunately their shaft terminated in the northeast corner of the room some fifteen feet away from the altar. Oh well, at least they hit the room!

Tod and Gulleck dropped as quietly as possible into the room, carrying the harness (trailing a visible rope behind it) and made their way over to the idol. Gulleck and Tod quickly the the harness over the idol, and it became visible as they did so. The room suddenly felt colder and a panicky fear began to catch in their throats as they saw the shadows begin to coalesce into eight man-sized shapes. They hurriedly continued securing the harness to the idol as the shadows drifted off the walls and swirled angrily through the air at them, cold voices hissing meaningless curses at them.

Gritting their teeth against the fear, Gulleck and Tod tugged on the rope attached to the harness, lifted the idol from the altar, and carried it towards the hole in the ceiling. The shadows swirled around them, snatching at the air angrily. But Tod and Gulleck were still invisible, having not attacked in any way, and I generally give a -4 penalty to attack rolls against invisible opponents, if the attacker even knows generally where to attack! Along with their plate armor (magical, in Tod's case), this was enough that the shadows flailed at the air ineffectively, and Tod and Gulleck were able to get the idol under the shaft without ever being hit by the shadows. The party members above began cranking the winch and the idol began to rise up the shaft. The eight shadows howled in rage and swarmed up the shaft, as dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly. Gulleck and Tod could scarce believe their good luck, and quickly ran back to the altar to collect the chalice, dagger, and sacrificial implements and secure them in a backpack before returning to the shaft and climbing the rope ladder back up to join the battle above.

And a battle it was. The shadows swirled through the air of the temple, barely visible in the flickering lantern light until they swooped down to slash at someone. They attacked indiscriminately, and because they were aerial, no one had shelter from their attacks. (Basically, I just assigned everyone a number, including the eight gnomes, and rolled a d20 for each shadow to determine its target each round.) Brother Jibber kept working the winch to bring the idol up, and Tod and Gulleck were trying to stabilize it from below to make sure it didn't get damaged on the walls of the shaft.

The battle raged on. Meat and Brother Chase found that their weapons passed through the shadows with no effect. Caryatid's voice rang out over and over, reading the magical words from her scrolls of Magic Missile. The glowing golden arrows shot forth and struck true every time with a small burst of golden sparks. Eventually, Tod and Gulleck surfaced and joined the battle with their magical sword and axe. There was an effort at some point to put the idol on the cart and get it out into the street in case the shadows wouldn't pursue too far from their shrine, but the shadows poured forth from the temple into the street and the battle continued there. Quite a few people were struck by shadows, feeling a cold numbness suffuse their bodies, but eventually magic weapons (and especially Caryatid's Magic Missile scrolls) prevailed, and the last of the shadows dissipated into a cold mist.

A great cheer went up. The adventurers and gnomes bid each other farewell with a promise to meet again after the auction to pay the gnomes their share of the revenue. And the adventurers carefully maneuvered the cart through the halls of the undercity and had it carefully hoisted up into the cellar of the Rusty Lantern (one of the few times they've used the cellar hoist for anything other than unconscious or dead bodies!).

A couple notes on the shadows: eight shadows are potentially a serious threat to a party of second level PCs (especially as they are immune to normal weapons). To mitigate this, I had the shadows be attached to the idol and ceremonial items in the shrine. They would not pursue PCs out the shrine if the items were left alone. (I do like including dangerous monsters or situations if the players have the ability to disengage and retreat.) If the ceremonial items like the robe and headdress were taken, the shadows would pursue into the peripheral rooms with the magical darkness, but not into the hallways. And if the idol itself was stolen, the shadows would pursue anywhere and without giving up or losing morale.

Now, in the end, my players left this room with the scary shadows until they were significantly above level 2 on average, and had several magical weapons to fight them with, so this fight wasn't quite as tough as it could have been. But I don't mind! I really enjoyed watching my players plan and execute this "heist", negotiating with the gnomes to do the hard work of digging a shaft (which is now a permanent alternate entrance to the second level for the PCs), and creatively using invisibility to get the idol out of the room while taking minimal damage from the shadows. The shadows didn't end up being a very significant threat, but it was still a highly memorable session!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Idalium Game 62: Shadow Boxing

Session date: Monday, September 26, 2016
Game date: Saturday, March 15, 209

Gulleck Stonefoot, Dwarf 4, hp 23, xp 10899/17000
Caryatid, Magic-user 4, hp 19, xp 12538/20000
Simon Sackwell, Halfling 1, hp 4, xp 1188/2000
Adrien, Fighter 1, hp 4, xp 0/2000

Manley "Meat" Smythe, Fighter 2, hp 13, xp 3833/4000
Brother Chase Pike, Cleric 1, hp 6, xp 544/1500
Remus Thynerius, Thief 1, hp 2, xp 6/1250

We had a new player join us this session, and some time was taken at the beginning to walk her through rolling up a character, buying equipment, etc., as well as delivering the campaign "elevator pitch" and explaining the basic premise. And so a fighter named Adrien joined the party.

Their first order of business was to do some shopping in the city, in preparation for their intended "heist" of the dazzlingly gilded idol guarded by demonic shadow beings. They purchased a wheeled hand cart, a block and tackle system for lifting the idol out of the chamber, and picked up their specially-commissioned leather harness that they intended to use to lift the idol. They returned to the Rusty Lantern tavern with all this stuff and stashed it in their secure storage closet in the basement, before changing into their adventuring gear and descending into the dungeon.

In the Temple of Hedonism, on their way to the stairs to the second level, they encountered a single giant bee, buzzing around the benches surrounding the eerily rotating statue. Gulleck smirked and, donning his magical ring of animal control, sent the bee headlong into the animated crystal statue that guarded the stairs. The statue's fist shot forward, crushing the bee's thorax. Smiling with satisfaction, Gulleck led the way downstairs.

Since Adrien was new to the party, they brought her to the Temple of Fate and invited her to test her luck on the "Wheel of Fortune". She was strapped to the wheel and spun, and when she climbed back off the wheel nothing seemed to be different, but the very next day she would receive a letter informing her that a relative (who she had never heard of until now) had passed away and left her a house (albeit in poor condition and in one of the most rundown neighborhoods of the city).

The party proceeded with a clear mission in mind. They made their way along the hallway until they came to the door that led into a room drenched in magical pitch blackness. Beyond the room was the frightening shrine with the idol and associated ceremonial items, all of which gleamed of gold and jewels. The adventurers wanted to test a few theories about the shadowy guards. Some stayed watch at the door, while Gulleck and Caryatide carefully made their way through the dark room, following the wall until they found the opening to the shrine.

Gulleck borrowed Caryatid's ring of invisibility and slipped it on. Caryatid cast a Shield spell upon herself for additional protection, and then an Invisibility spell. They wanted to see if the shadows would be able to detect them while invisible. They stepped cautiously into the room. Everything was as it was before: sickly green flames flickered from torch sconces on the walls. Along the south wall, the disturbing demonic idol squatted on a bloodstained stone altar. In front of it were various ceremonial gilded and jeweled objects: a chalice, a curved dagger, etc. Next to the altar was a wooden stand on which was draped a ceremonial robe, embroidered with silver and gold and studded with gemstones, and a matching headdress. The green flames cast eerie shadows that flickered and twitched anxiously, and Gulleck could feel his heart leap to his throat as an unnerving fear settled within him. But so far, all was still. He moved further into the room, and still there was no response.

Satisfied with this experiment, Gulleck decided to make the day a profitable one, and quickly snatched the robe and headdress from the stand. As he did so, the shadows on the walls began to coalesce and converge into several man-shaped forms, lengthening and drifting forward off of the walls...

Gulleck bolted for the exit, pursued by the shadows. He yelled as he ran, and the other party members guarding the door called back to him to guide him to the exit. As Gulleck ran, he ran the chilling touch of a shadow, draining the energy from his body and leaving him feeling tangibly weaker. But then he was back in the hall, in the light of Simon's glowing magical sword. The shadows did not follow him into the hall.

Meanwhile, Caryatid had a brainstorm and theorized that the green flames were the source of the shadows and if they could be doused, the shadows would disappear. She drew forth a vial of holy water, borrowed from Brother Chase, opened it, and attempted to douse the flames with the sanctified water. Unfortunately, the water poured through the flames as if they didn't exist, making a puddle on the floor. This action drew the attention of more shadows, although Caryatid had an advantage of still being invisible. She quietly slipped through the room and followed Gulleck back into the hall.

They made it out of the dungeon without further incident, and stowed the robe and headdress in their vault. They intended to sell them at the semi-annual magic auction, once they completed the heist and obtained the idol and the other ceremonial items. I gave them experience points for a "base value" of the robe and headdress now, with the understanding that they would not receive further XP when they sold the items at the auction, regardless of what the actual final bid was.

Not a bad first delve for Adrien: an unexpected inheritance plus almost 500 XP from the treasure they recovered!