2018-07-15

What Counts as an Attack for Purposes of Wrecking Invisibility in DFRPG?

In traditional D&D, the Invisibility spell went away if you attacked.  So it gave you one sneak attack, but not ongoing sneak attacks.  And there was sometimes also a higher-level version called Greater or Improved Invisibility that stuck around if you attacked.

In GURPS Magic, the Invisibility spell didn't go away if you attacked.  It was quite good, but also quite expensive.

One of the changes for Dungeon Fantasy and later DFRPG was making Invisibility go away if you attacked, but lowering the mana cost a bit to compensate.  The wording in DF1: Adventurers is "To keep Invisibility from completely upstaging thieves, the spell ends instantly if the subject attacks, casts a combat spell, or otherwise does anything more violent than moving around, spying, and stealing. Reduce energy cost from 5/3 to 4/2 to compensate."  This wording is reused almost verbatim in DFRPG: Spells.  So it's clear that violence ends the spell, but not exactly clear what counts as an attack.

A D&D 3.5 SRD goes into a bit more detail.  "For purposes of this spell, an attack includes any spell targeting a foe or whose area or effect includes a foe. (Exactly who is a foe depends on the invisible character’s perceptions.) Actions directed at unattended objects do not break the spell. Causing harm indirectly is not an attack. Thus, an invisible being can open doors, talk, eat, climb stairs, summon monsters and have them attack, cut the ropes holding a rope bridge while enemies are on the bridge, remotely trigger traps, open a portcullis to release attack dogs, and so forth. If the subject attacks directly, however, it immediately becomes visible along with all its gear. Spells such as bless that specifically affect allies but not foes are not attacks for this purpose, even when they include foes in their area."

(Of course D&D rules are not in play in a DFRPG game, but it's an example of someone thinking about the problem and writing more clarifying text.)

In our DFRPG game, I ruled that Rapier Wit counted as an attack.  It's an attempt to directly stun an opponent, and I think that the effect is more important than the mechanism here.  I see Rapier Wit as a whole lot like the Kiai ability that Martial Artists can have (which explicitly says it counts as an attack), or the Stun spell (which is obviously an attack spell since it's targeted on an opponent and nerfs them.)  I think Rapier Wit is an easy call.

The hard calls for me are the cases like pickpocketing an enemy, tying his shoelaces together, or cutting a rope bridge with enemies on it.  The DFRPG spell text explicitly allows stealing, so I decided pickpocketing is okay.  I think tying an enemy's shoelaces together in a combat situation is a grapple attack, so that makes you visible.  The D&D SRD uses the rope bridge as an example that doesn't make you visible, but I think they got that wrong.  It's an attack at a distance, but it's an attack.  Similarly, magically moving a heavy object over someone's head and then letting it fall is an attack, in my mind.

The other interesting case is area spells designed to affect enemies later, rather than now.  I think casting Glue in an enemy's current hex is obviously an attack.  But what about casting Glue in an unoccupied hex that an enemy might or might not step in later?  I think I'll allow that one, though it's a very edgy case.

(Of course these are just local rulings for games where I am the GM; I don't have any authority to tell anyone else how it should work in their games.)

The moral of the story is that RPG rules are never 100% clear, the GM on the spot always has to make a call, and players have to deal with it.  All the GM can promise is to try to be consistent and fair.  There are games that claim to be "100% Rules As Written," but that just promises a lack of deliberate rule changes.  The GM still has to fill in the gaps when the rules aren't perfectly clear, which is often.

2018-07-14

DF Whiterock Session 12: Bugbears?

Date:

2018-07-13

Weather:

Warm, clear

Player Characters:

Durkerle (M.C. Warhammer), Dwarf Cleric, 193 (+5) points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 201 (+5) points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 176 (+5) points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 206 (+5) points

Significant NPCs:

3 Bugbear mercenaries
6 Orcs of the White Roc tribe
1 Rock with spines


Play resumed in the same place we stopped last week, right after Garreth's Luck avoided a huge flail trap.  The group continued down that hallway to the west, in a clump, until Polly spotted a bugbear with a spear. lying in wait around a corner.  The bugbears had heard them coming (loud traps will do that) and had achieved surprise.  It threw its spear at Polly without taking more time to aim, and just missed her.

While the PCs were recovering from surprise, the bugbear readied his flail, and two other bugbears with throwing spears (one next to the first, to the south, and another down the hall to the west) started aiming.  Garreth fast-drew his knife, threw it at the bugbear down the hall, and missed.  Durkerle used Awaken on Polly to unstun her.  Polly started shooting at bugbears, but missed.  And Seépravir used Rapier Wit to try to stun a bugbear, which failed and made her Invisibility go away.

The annoyed bugbear swung his flail at the newly visible Seépravir, but Garreth used his sacrificial greatsword parry to stop the attack for her.  Polly shot a bugbear in the heart and knocked it out.  Durkerle kept running at the bugbears, very slowly.  The closer one threw his spear at Durkerle, who blocked it with his shield.  Seépravir cast Stun on that bugbear, successfully.

Polly shot the bugbear to the west twice, once in the vitals and then once in the torso, and killed it.  Garreth hit the closer bugbear with his greatsword, and it fell down trying to dodge, but the blow was surprisingly weak.  Durkerle finally reached melee range and smacked the downed bugbear with his mace, and it tried to surrender.  First it said something in Goblin, which nobody understood.  Then it said something in broken Orc, which enraged Polly, and she shot it through the heart.  It still wasn't quite dead, until Garreth hit it a couple more times while it was down.  Then he wandered over to the knocked-out bugbear and stabbed it in the eye.

The group looted the bugbear's bodies, just finding smelly leather armor and a key.  They then found the room the bugbears had come out of, which contained four (not three!) large beds, a table with some coins and dice on it, and a chest.  The chest had a lock that the bugbear's key opened, and contained a bunch more coins and a paper with writing in a language nobody could read.  It used dwarven runes, so they figured it was Goblin.  At the bottom were what looked like two signatures, one saying "Drugila" in Orc, and the other saying "X" in Illiterate.

After a bit of rest, the group followed the eager Polly down the hallway, then turned southwest at a fork.  A bit further down was a door to the southeast, which Garreth opened.  Inside was a big room containing an altar, three burning magical torches, four archery targets, and a crate.  Everyone checked out the altar, which had what appeared to be the remains of a sacrifice victim.  Further investigation showed that the victim had been human, but that the altar itself looked like something that would be found in a temple of Justicia, not an orcish temple.  At that point Durkerle lost it.  He was no fan of Justicia and decided he wasn't helping to fix her altar.  Polly and Seépravir started cleaning it up themselves, and then Polly decided to search behind it.  She found a secret compartment, which Seépravir figured out how to open.  There was a catch that needed a skinny knife or long lockpick, and she didn't have either, so used Apportation instead.  The compartment opened to reveal a shiny offering plate, a key, a book, and a magical bottle.

The book was entitled "Prayers to Justicia", and Durkerle decided to take it.  He wasn't allowed to, then decided to break the altar with his mace.  Seépravir countered with a Levitation spell on Durkerle, to move him away from the altar.  He failed to resist, and was floated out the door of the room.  Then Garreth held the door closed, and Seépravir read some blessings from the prayer book to attempt to restore the altar.  She then set Durkerle down on the ground, gently.

While fuming outside the door, Durkerle noticed a rock with spines on the ceiling over his head.  He jumped back as it tried to fall on him.  He tried to smack it with his mace, and it dodged.  The rock then started backing away from Durkerle.  The others came out the door, and Garreth ran the retreating rock down.  It tried to hit him, and he parried with his greatsword.  Then Polly took a while running shot at the rock and missed, losing her balance in the process.  The rock finally landed a blow on Garreth, but it didn't penetrate his scale armor.  Seépravir cast a Glue spell on the rock, sticking it securely to the floor, and at that point it was a sitting rock.  Polly shot it with a cutting arrow, and then Garreth chopped it in half, revealing some purple goo inside.

Polly tried to taste the purple filling, which was an impressively poor decision.  She hit the floor, unconscious.  Nobody had any way to cure poison, but Durkerle cast Awaken, and Seépravir tried First Aid to purge some of the poison.  Polly was still paralyzed for a few minutes, but eventually started moving again.  She was lucky that the purple paralysis poison was non-lethal.  The group looked for an empty vial and then gathered as much of the poison as they could.

After some more rest back in the bugbear barracks, they followed Polly down the hallway again, to another door.  This one opened to reveal a barracks with 6 orcs and a lot more than 6 beds.  The orcs were totally unprepared for invasion and were surprised.  Polly shot one, Garreth horribly missed one and dropped his sword, Durkerle ran slowly toward the battle, and Seépravir ran invisibly into the room.

Polly shot another orc, and yelled something about how they killed her sister.  Forgetting he had dropped his sword, Garreth charged into battle.  Fortunately, it was attached by a lanyard, so it followed him.  By the time he had his sword ready, Polly had shot another orc.  Another one was so surprised it turned out it was deeply asleep and would not wake up during this battle.  (Spoiler alert: it would not wake up after the battle either.)

The final two orcs broke out of stun and were brave enough to ready their flails and try to fight.  One yelled something about how Polly was too stupid to tell the White Talon orcs that killed her sister from the White Roc orcs.  (They looked the same: big, strong, milky-white skin, piggy noses.)   One tried to attack Garreth, and missed.  Seépravir used Rapier Wit to stun one, Polly shot one, and Garreth stabbed the other one.  Eventually both passed out.  Garreth then went on a stabbing spree to make sure none of the orcs would ever get up again, while Seépravir looked for loot.  These orcs didn't have much: their weapons, a couple of mail shirts, and a few coins.

At that, the group decided they had enough loot to go back to Cillamar.  They had explored three more rooms and fought bugbears, a rock with poison spines, and a new group of orcs.


GM's Comments:

The bugbears had a nice ambush set up, and achieved surprise, but there were only three of them and they were outclassed by the PCs.  Garreth used his Luck to give himself another chance to recover from mental stun, which turned out to be a good call.  Durkerle used Awaken to unstun Polly, another good call.  And then Polly and Garreth did a lot of damage.  The bugbears had surprisingly good treasure.

The temple was interesting mostly because of intra-party drama.  Seépravir and Polly wanted to un-desecrate the temple of Justicia and Durkerle wasn't having it.  Levitate is a pretty reasonable way to deal with an uncooperative cleric.  And finding a secret compartment in the altar with treasure was a pretty good deal, considering they didn't even have to fight anything for it.

All the yelling and pounding on the door earned a bonus wandering monster roll, which came up rock-with-poison-spines.  (The monster actually has a name, but the players don't know it yet, as none of the PCs recognized it.)  If it had managed to surprise Durkerle and achieve its goal of dropping on his head for impact damage and bonus poison damage, it could have gotten a nice meal.  But it failed to surprise him, and missed, and then it was a fair one-on-one fight on the ground.  And then Durkerle's comrades joined the battle, and four PCs against one rock was not a fair fight.  It was doing a pretty good job of dodging until it got Glued to the floor, and then that was that.  Polly then tried to even the odds by drinking the rock's poison. but fortunately for her it was non-lethal.

The group managed to ambush the group of orcs, and these orcs didn't have great IQ and so didn't recover from Mental Stun very quickly, and being stunned in a room with Polly is a good way to get filled with arrows.  That was a pretty quick and easy fight.

Overall, the group made a bit of progress through the third level of the dungeon, but there was some intra-party drama.

2018-07-07

DF Whiterock Session 11: Dust Mephits and the Ogre-Powered Elevator

Date:

2018-07-06

Weather:

Warm, clear

Player Characters:

Bernard (threethreethree), Human Fighter, 165 points
Durkerle (M.C. Warhammer), Dwarf Cleric, 193 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 201 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 176 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 206 points

Significant NPCs:

Ulrik, Duergar bookkeeper
Bork, Ogre elevator operator
2 Dust Mephits


The group got together at a private table in the corner of the Inn of the Slumbering Drake, to interrogate the Duergar prisoner they had captured in a secret room behind the orcish mines under Castle Whiterock.  Durkerle had the Compel Truth spell, and used it effectively.  The Duergar's name was Ulrik, and he was a bookkeeper and slave trader.  His job was to purchase slaves from the White Talon orcs and send them deep underground to his superior, a Duergar called The Impressario who ran a deep underground arena called the Bleak Theater.  The transport was largely achieved using an elevator, powered by an ogre named Bork, whom Ulrik was fond of.  The ledgers that had been found in Ulrik's room were records of slave transactions, in Undercommon.  When they ran out of questions to ask Ulrik, the group took him to the Temple of Danethar to get his crippled eye magically healed, and left him in the custody of Durkerle's superior there.

A plan came together: feed the ogre and gain his help.  So Durkerle bought a gigantic meat and cheese sandwich, and the party (minus Polly, who was off in the woods somewhere) headed for Castle Whiterock.  They got there without drama, and headed down to the orcish mines.  They decided that, rather than heading straight for Ulrik's secret room and looking for the ogre and the elevator, they would first clear out the rest of the mine level.

Seépravir turned herself and Garreth and Bernard Invisible, and cast Dark Vision on all three of them.  Durkerle, who had some kind of objection to stealth, remained visible with Continual Light on his shield.  The group snuck around the mines, using Durkerle as a landmark since nobody else could see each other.  Eventually, the invisible Seépravir came upon a small flying dust creature of some sort (which they eventually decided was a mephit), hanging out on a rock ledge near the end of a mine tunnel.  She failed to achieve surprise despite being invisible, as the creature heard her coming.  She backed off to rejoin her allies, while it flew forward looking for trouble.

Eventually, the invisible Garreth decided to sling a bullet at the mephit, but missed.  This made him become visible, and the mephit retaliated with its breath weapon, a cone of debris.  Garreth dodged it.  Meanwhile the still invisible Bernard aimed his crossbow.  Realizing Garreth looked pretty big and tough, the mephit attempted to summon another mephit, and succeeded.

Bernard loosed his crossbow bolt at the first mephit, which had no idea it was coming and didn't even get a chance to dodge.  The bolt did a lot of damage, slowing the mephit's flight, but not quite stunning it or dropping it from the air.  The mephit dodged a greatsword swing from Garreth, then cast Blur on itself to make itself harder to hit.  Meanwhile the second mephit unleased its pebble breath on Garreth as well, but he dodged that one too.

Durkerle, who had been (slowly) running toward the battle, heard a familiar elf coming up behind.  Polly had finally caught up to the group, and ran past Durkerle to fire arrows at the mephits.  She missed one, which was perfectly lined up with Garreth and (invisible) Seépravir.  Fortunately for them, the arrow flew harmlessly past both into the wall.

Finally, Polly loaded another arrow and fired it at the mephit that had been severely wounded by Bernard's crossbow bolt.  Slowed by its wounds, it failed to dodge, and the arrow was enough to kill it.  The second mephit immediately winked out of existence.  (Nobody was really sure if it turned invisible or teleported away or was automatically unsummoned when its summoner died, but it was gone.)  There was an attempt to collect the mephit's remains in case they were worth money, but they quickly faded away into ordinary non-magical dust.

Polly climbed up to the ledge where the mephit had been sitting, and found some coins and some cut blue quartz gems and a magic ring shaped like a seahorse.  After collecting all the treasure, she climbed down and the group scouted the rest of the mine passages.  They found nothing of interest -- the surviving White Talon orcs and their slaves appeared to be gone.  The mine work looked fairly shoddy, so everyone was happy to get out of there before it collapsed on them.

After a brief rest, the group went back to Ulrik's room and searched it harder, looking for the ogre and the elevator.  They eventually found a very well hidden secret door, behind a platform with manacles.  Behind the door was a well-built stone passage, leading to a large room.  The room contained a large ogre chained to the wall, plus a large box in the center of the room.  There was a wheel next to the ogre, leading to a chain at the top of the box.  They had found the ogre-powered elevator that Ulrik had told them about.

Durkerle advanced within throwing range of Bork the ogre, and threw it the huge sandwich.  The ogre deftly caught it and started eating.  At that point everyone tried talking to Bork in various languages, to no avail.  He didn't speak Common or Orc or Dwarf or Elf.  (Elf was admittedly a long shot.)  They climbed into the elevator, then tried some gestures, asking the ogre to lower the elevator.  The ogre tried some gestures back, asking them to release it from its chains.  Neither side was willing to give in.

Eventually Garreth starting threatening the ogre with his sling.  That didn't work, so he slung a bullet at the ogre, using only a fraction of his strength to avoid doing too much damage.  That made the ogre mad, and it turned out it wasn't really securely chained to the wall after all.  Bork slipped out of his chains, picked up his great hammer, and charged the elevator.  Garreth hit it in the leg with his greatsword, hard, crippling one leg.  The ogre went down, but kept fighting.  While prone, he swung his huge hammer at Garreth, who parried.  Garreth hit Bork again, in the arm this time, but not hard enough to cripple it.

Seépravir tried a Stun spell, but the ogre easily resisted.  Polly tried a bodkin arrow to the ogre's vitals, which was very effective, wounding Bork grievously, but he was tough enough to keep fighting with one working leg and a huge arrow wound.  Knowing he was in trouble, Bork tried an all-out attack on Garreth, but Garreth parried again.  Finally, Garreth walked up to the defenseless ogre and tried a rapid strike.  The first blow missed, but the second blow was a serious hit, enough to leave Bork unconscious and bleeding to death.

Seépravir asked Durkerle for a Stop Bleeding spell to keep the ogre alive, still dreaming of enlisting his help to work the elevator, but Garreth's blood was up and he shoved his greatsword through Bork's eye and into his brain.  So much for the elevator operator.  There was some discussion of using rope to go down the elevator shaft, but Garreth said they should just take the stairs behind Kaernga's throne instead.  So they did that.

The secret room with the stairs contained a wooden box, which they excitedly opened, before realizing it was empty because they had already looted it.  But Seépravir spotted a potion bottle that they had missed last time, above the secret door.  Not stopping to try to identify it, they climbed down the spiral stairs, into a small room with no exits.  Everyone started looking for a secret door, and they quickly found one.  They looked for traps on it, but didn't see any.  Garreth opened the door, and triggered the trap they hadn't found -- a deadfall of scrap armor.  He managed to dodge it, but it made a lot of noise.

Going through the secret door, the group found a large rectangular room, with lots of dust and dried blood on the floor.  Garreth pulled down an ugly tapestry on the west wall, which triggered another trap -- a gigantic flail swinging at him.  It critically hit, and he was in deep trouble, except he had Luck and it didn't actually critically hit after all, and he got a chance to retreat and dodge.

And that's where we stopped.  Another fight was about to start, but we didn't have time to finish it.  So we'll fine out next time what heard all the noise and came to investigate.

GM's Comments:

Compel Truth sure makes interrogation easier.  Durkerle rolled a critical success on the spell, so no resistance was possible, and they got to ask Ulrik questions until they ran out of ideas.

At this point Seépravir has Invisibility and Dark Vision at 20, which means she can turn the whole group invisible and let them all see perfectly in the dark.  (At the cost of having a huge penalty to casting other spells, from having all those spells on.)  It's amusing trying to coordinate an invisible group, though.  Durkerle's stubborn opposition to being made invisible was probably useful, as it gave them a rallying point.

The dust mephits were very hard to hit (SM-1, great Dodge, Blur) but didn't actually manage to hit with their breath attacks.  I didn't bother translating the percentage chance to summon another mephit into a 3d6 roll; I just rolled d100, which drew amused comments.

Seépravir guessed that the magic ring had to be either Swimming or Water Breathing because it was shaped like a seahorse, but there's no time to cast Analyze Magic in dungeons, and they didn't find any large pools of water to try swimming in or breathing, so they'll have to wait until later to find out.

Food wasn't enough to charm Bork the ogre.  He was surprisingly loyal to Ulrik, and cunning enough to try to fool these little people who presumably hurt Ulrik into coming within range so he could kill them.  But the PCs were smart enough to throw the sandwich from a distance.  And by the time Garreth enraged Bork into attacking them, it was a 5-on-1 fight without surprise.  Bork was tough but not that tough.  Without the ogre, they'll need to figure out another way to work that elevator, if they decide they need it.  But, as Garreth pointed out, they also had some perfectly good stairs down.

The first trap, a deadfall of rusty armor bits, was just a noisy annoyance, which wouldn't have done much damage.  The second one, a gigantic flail rigged to swing at high speed, could have been lethal.  It rolled a 4, a critical hit, so Garreth would have had no defense, except for his Luck.  (Just for fun, I rolled on the critical hit table, and got a 3, triple damage.  And then rolled 15 damage, so it would have been 45 crushing.  That would have been a death check, even on Garreth, with his scale armor and 20 HP.)

While both traps missed, they achieved their secondary objective of making noise to give the nearby denizens hearing rolls to notice intruders.  I would have liked to resolve the battle, but we only had 18 minutes left in the session, and you can't do much of a fight in 18 minutes, and one of our players was already very tired.  So we quit a bit early and will resume in the dungeon next time.

2018-06-30

DF Whiterock Session 10: Into the Mines, and a Mystery Duergar

Date:

2018-06-29

Weather:

Hot, partly cloudy

Player Characters:

Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 196 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 192 (+1) points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 173 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 201 points

Significant NPCs:

8 Orc slavers of the White Talon tribe
Tarik, orc slaver boss
unknown Duergar
10 human commoners, pressed into slavery by the orcs


Garreth wanted to investigate the clue they had found in the slaver monk leader Ikenvar's quarters: a mostly burned paper with "Umberwood Coffins" visible.  Ibizaber and Seépravir came along.  It turned out there was a business with that name in the Common Quarter of Cillamar, a small coffin factory.  But when they visited the premises, the factory was closed and the doors locked.  A neighbor said that creepy tall guy Mortimer Umberwood had locked up the factory and left a few weeks ago.

The group considered talking to the authorities to try to get permission to search the place, but then decided it would be easier to turn Ibizaber invisible and let him search the place unofficially.  So, after receiving Invisibility, Hush, Keen Vision, and Infravision spells from Seépravir, Ibizaber picked the lock and searched the place.  He found a few assembled coffins (just cheap thin pine boxes, really), a few planks and nails, and a partly burned ledger that talked about logs a lot.  The ledger was suspicious, but Mortimer Umberwood was gone, so that lead appeared played out.

After waiting a bit in vain at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake for Polly or Durkerle or Bernard to show up, the three decided to head to Castle Whiterock without them.  They all did a better-than-usual job of hiking the familiar path, and made good time.  Garreth wanted to go downstairs and look for more orcs to kill, but Ibizaber and Seépravir wanted to first check out the trap door down they found last time, under the fallen tower where a giant praying mantis had ambushed Polly.  Garreth agreed, and then opened the trap door, finding a rusty metal ladder leading way down.  Ibizaber carefully climbed down the wall instead of the ladder, making it to the bottom easily, then shook the ladder and found it was stronger than it looked.  Seépravir didn't trust it, and cast Levitate on herself instead.  Garreth took the ladder, without problems.  At the bottom of the ladder, the group found a winding passage leading mostly southeast, eventually ending at a staircase going down and east.  The staircase dead-ended at a blank wall, and they found the obvious secret door and opened it.  This led into a previously-found storeroom, near the orcs' former slave storage pits.  So now the group knew a second way into the orc slavers' level, and they were conveniently there to kill more orcs.

However, the western part of the level was still conspicuously empty of orcs.  It appeared they'd run out of reinforcements to guard it.  They visited the trollhound kennel, and found four trollhound corpses still there, about as stinky as before.  Garreth dragged two of them back to the stairs up, since Quintus had been interested in trollhound bits.  The three then walked over to Kaernga's throne room, and found it unoccupied, with the large pig on a spit still there, with a lot of the meat having been cut off it (with tools not animal teeth), but now a couple of weeks old and attracting flies.  Given the choice between continuing to the east to explore more of this level, or going down the secret stairs behind Kaernga's throne, they decided to clear this level first.  So they snuck carefully into new territory, with Seépravir invisible and levitating.  She also cast Infravision on all three of them, so nobody needed lights, as long as they didn't need color vision or the ability to read.

The passage opened up into a large cave, with 4 orcs with crossbows guarding 7 human slaves, 3 of them walking around carrying rocks, and 4 of them turning a large wheel to power some kind of mechanical contraption.  (It later turned out to be a conveyor belt, used to move rocks.)  There was also a huge pit to the north that the slaves were dropping rocks into.  The cave was loud enough, the heroes stealthy enough, and the orc guards lazy enough that the party achieved complete surprise.  A melee ensued, with Ibizaber backstabbing an orc in the face (I know, the face isn't in the back of the head, but he reached around from behind the orc to where its open-faced helmet didn't protect), Garreth missing with a sling then pulling out his greatsword and stabbing orcs, and Seépravir switching between Rapier Wit and Stun to keep stunning orcs every time they recovered from being stunned, so they hardly got to do anything.

The orcs had ideas, involving using slaves as human shields, threatening to throw slaves into the pit, calling for reinforcements, hitting the intruders with crossbow bolts, etc.  None of these ideas worked.  The orcs were very tough and wearing scale armor, so it took a while to kill them, but they never really accomplished anything beyond running toward reinforcements, screaming, missing, and getting hurt.

At some point during the fight, a familiar Elven voice with a woodsy accent came up behind them, accusing them of leaving to kill orks without her.  Polly didn't have Infravision, so she could only shoot where there was light.  (Fortunately for her the human slaves didn't have Dark Vision like the orcs, so there was some light in the cave for them to work.)  But there were enough lit-up orcs for her to have someone to shoot.

One of the orcs eventually fled through a passage to the southeast, screaming for help, pursued by Garreth and Polly.  Seépravir cast Haste on Garreth to let him give chase more effectively despite his armor.  In the room there was a huge orc with a whip and a greatsword, who the fleeing orc had called Tarik.  He saw Garreth coming and a greatsword duel ensued.  They were both huge and strong, but Garreth appeared a bit more skilled, or maybe a bit luckier.  He landed a vicious blow, enough that Tarik was slowed by his wounds.  After a few more misses, Garreth feinted Tarik out of his mail.  Realizing that he was in deep trouble, Tarik gave up on defense and went for a fast all-out attack.  Garreth parried though, and then struck a massive blow, killing the huge orc.

Meanwhile, the retreating crossbow orc fired its bolt at Garreth, and missed.  Polly then fired a whole lot of arrows at that orc, a couple missing, the rest hitting.  It went down hard and did not get back up.

Two more orcs with crossbows came up from the southwest, and loosed at Garreth right after he finished Tarik.  Neither hit.  These orcs were good at pointing crossbows at helpless slaves to intimidate them into working, not so good at actually hitting moving targets at range.

The group heard some other orcs running away into the mine passages, but there were a lot of places to check, so they decided to loot the rooms they had cleared instead.  They found a crate, which Ibizaber forced open.  It contained some uncut rough blue quartz stones.  Otherwise, they hadn't found any treasure, other than the orcs' weapons and armor.  But then Ibizaber found a secret door, behind the crate.  It was a well-constructed (surprising in this orc mine, which looked like it had not exactly been built to dwarven code) vertically sliding slab of rock  Ibizaber found the catch, and it slid down, silently.

The group headed down the secret passage behind the door, which went down some stairs, and then opened into a nicely appointed room.  The room contained a bed, a desk, a platform with some manacles, and an unarmored bald-headed dwarf with gray skin, facing the other way.  All four figured out that he was a duergar, and most decided to try for capture.  Polly decided the best way to stop him was by shooting him in the back with an arrow.  She missed -- and almost hit Ibizaber in the back instead.  He used Luck to make her miss.  Then Ibizaber decided the best way to capture the duergar was by stabbing him in the eye.  This was quite effective, as his knife went through the eye, into the brain, and got an instant knockout without doing enough damage to kill the duergar.  Seépravir performed first aid to keep the prisoner from bleeding to death.  Ibizaber searched the room and found a secret compartment, containing some ledgers in an unknown language.  The group also gathered up the dwarf's mail shirt and hammer and some coins and gems and a key, and headed back toward the surface.

Garreth thought of offering the liberated slaves cash to help carry back loot, so they made it back to Cillamar with a dead trollhound and an unconscious tied-up duergar in wheelbarrows, and a bunch of former mine slaves carrying scale armor and crossbows.  Interrogating the duergar to figure out what he was doing in the dungeon would have to wait until he woke up, if he woke up.

GM's Comments:


We got off to a late start, due to two players needing to start late, and a third player unexpectedly missing the session.  So we didn't quite get four hours of play in.

Chasing down the Umberwood Coffins rumor didn't pan out, because it had been weeks since the fake-monk slavers on the surface level of Castle Whiterock had been wiped out.  Maybe if they'd checked sooner...

The trap door they found last week turned out to just be another way into an area they'd already mostly cleared, so not that interesting, just tying up loose ends on the map.

Infravision and Stealth and Invisibility were effective, though.  The PCs started both fights with surprise this week.  The big fight against the orcs took a long time, but I didn't feel like the orcs ever really had a chance, since they kept getting stunned or hit or missing with their crossbows.  Tarik the giant orc with the greatsword could have done some real damage if he hit someone, but Garreth has a good parry and rolled defenses well, and Tarik kept missing when he took Deceptive Attacks to give himself a chance to get around Garreth's parry.  (This may have been the first time I had an enemy take a Deceptive Attack in this campaign.)

I like the house rule that you don't roll Feints until right before the next attack, so that the defender doesn't know how badly he's been Feinted.  I forgot to mention it until after Garreth feinted though, so next time.  Since that house rule was not in play, Tarik got to respond to being Feinted horribly with an All-Out Attack, but it didn't work.  (Running away is another great tactic if you know you've been Feinted horribly, but Tarik was slowed by his wounds and couldn't have gotten out of range.)

There was very little time left in the session when the group found the duergar.  He was surprised and didn't have his armor on, so it wasn't much of a fight.  The biggest danger a PC was in all game was probably when Polly shot through Ibizaber's hex and almost hit him, but he used Luck.  (Odds of an accidental hit are never better than 9 or less on 3d6, so 3 tries to not make a 9 are usually enough.)

Besides the Feint house rule, there were two interesting rules questions in this game.  One, if you're backstabbing from behind, can you hit the face?  The eye?  I ruled yes for the face; faces are pretty big, and a cheek shot from behind seems reasonable.  The eye is a tougher call, one I need to think about more.  (Of course slitting throats from behind is a common trope, but in DFRPG, the neck location gets protection from torso armor, so it doesn't always work well against armored enemies.)  Two, does Move and Attack benefit from the sprint bonus, like Move?  I thought that was a clear yes, even if the rules as written aren't 100% clear.

Next week: Maybe the group gets to interrogate the captured duergar, if he wakes up.  And what's in those ledgers?  Plus, they know at least two orcs are still running around in the mines somewhere, and the rescued slaves said there are more enslaved miners and orc guards back there.  Will they finally finish mopping up the last of the White Talon Orcs?

2018-06-28

Using a private Discord server to coordinate a roleplaying game

Peter mentioned that he was trying to coordinate more stuff with his Felltower group between game sessions over email, so that more of the time during the game session could be spent having fun.  I'm trying to do that too with DF Whiterock, except we use Discord rather than email.  Figured it was worth going into a bit of detail in case it's helpful to some other gaming group.

Discord is a voice and text chat system marketed at gamers.  There's a web client, plus dedicated clients for Linux and macOS and Windows and Android and iOS.  You can setup your own private Discord server for free, and invite whoever you want to join it.  (You give them a URL via email or whatever, and that URL is a bearer token that lets them into your private server.)

Once you have a server, you can add an arbitrary number of voice chat and text chat channels.  We have two voice channels: General (which we use for group chat if we run the game over voice), and Sidebar (which we could use if we needed two voice chat rooms at once).  We currently have four text channels: #general, #announcements, #ooc-planning, and #character-sheets.  #general is for whatever.  #ooc-planning is for separating out the Serious Talk about who gets the +2 Icepick of Flensing from the general discussion.  #character-sheets is for posting updated GCS character sheets, and summaries of character point spending.  (In this game, players don't mind the other players seeing their sheets.  In a game where sheets were private, that might be handled via private message to the GM.)  And #announcements is a place for the GM (only) to post brief announcements like when the game starts or if the character points spreadsheet has been updated.

Discord supports reactions to posts, so instead of posting "I agree with what you just said" you can just put a little picture of an upward-pointing thumb under it.  I know, I know, get off my lawn and learn to type actual words, but it's actually useful for things like voting: it's easier to count 3 thumbs up and 2 thumbs down right under the question than look for the right 5 text responses at random places further down in the channel.

Discord also supports pinned posts.  Used sparingly, this makes it easy to find important stuff (the link to the blog, the link to the character points spreadsheet, the link to the Roll20 game, etc.) in a busy channel, rather than searching through tons of text.

And that's pretty much all I've setup so far.  Make a Discord server, invite the players to join it, add a couple of a text and voice channels, configure the announcements channel so only the GM can post but players can react to posts, and done.  The only other thing I'd like to add is a bot to 1. allow rolling dice in Discord (we currently roll in Roll20 but I might want to move some between-games rolls to Discord) 2. Automatically notice when the blog, character points sheet, loot sheet, etc. get updated and automatically drop an announcement in the announcements channel, to save me the hard labor of doing that.  I'll probably write that bot next time I have a free weekend and can't think of anything more fun to do.

I guess the obvious question is, seeing that we run the actual game in Roll20 (mostly because of maps), why don't we do all this in Roll20?  The answer is that Roll20 has both voice and text chat features, but they're not as good as Discord's.  The voice chat has technical issues.  The text chat is fine, but there's only a single channel per game, plus "whispers" which are private messages.  And Roll20 pretty much just works from computer web browsers, not phones.  (It's a website, but it's a big heavy website.)  And it doesn't beep at you to get your attention when someone says your name.  And it doesn't support pinned messages.  So we use Roll20 for the main in-character game text chat with integrated dice rolling, but we use Discord for the other chats.

I guess that's enough on why we use Discord and how to set it up.  Next time I'll talk about what we handle during the game session versus between game sessions.

2018-06-23

DF Whiterock Session 9: Bugs and Books

Date:

2018-06-22

Weather:

Warm, cloudy, sunny

Player Characters:

Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 188 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 167 (+1) points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 196 points


Significant NPCs:

4 Monstrous Centipedes
1 Giant Praying Mantis
1 Water Hydra, unknown number of heads


It was the longest day of the year, a popular time for travel and festivals.  Durkerle was unavailable while running the Solstice Festival at the Temple of Danethar.  Garreth was unavailable because he drank too much at a slightly less classy festival.  Hugin had left Cillamar to go back home and see his family, who needed to know that he was okay after his stretch as an unwilling guest of the White Talon Orcs.  And nobody was quite sure where Bernard was.

Ibizaber and Polly and Seépravir decided to go back to Castle Whiterock without them, but be really cautious, since there were only three of them and none of them was a big strong heavily armored melee fighter or a healing cleric.  They made some extra healing potions, loaded up a wheelbarrow, and hiked back to the castle on a warm summer day.  Ibizaber stubbed his toe (surprisingly for such a nimble guy, but he'd recently found some Dwarven Deepwine made from some really strong mushrooms) and slowed down progress a bit, but they still made it to the castle in good order.

They decided to stash their wheelbarrow and some of their gear outside the castle, in case they needed to flee.  Then Seépravir started casting spells on herself -- Lighten Burden, Levitation, Keen Vision, and Invisibility.  She also made Ibizaber invisible, but Polly declined, as she said it would go away as soon as she took a shot at something.  And there's no way Polly could avoid taking a shot at something in a situation where invisibility mattered.

Polly wanted to go downstairs and kill more orcs ("orks" in Elvish) but Seépravir and Ibizaber said it would be safer to explore more of the surface instead, and save the orcs for when they had more allies.  Polly didn't argue too long, and they set out exploring, with Holly creeping along visibly, Ibizaber creeping along invisibly, and Seépravir flying invisibly a few yards up.  They went through the gatehouse, around the stable, and past the slavers' tents that they had previously explored.  Polly went into one of the tents and grabbed a free bedroll.  They then continued west to the ruins that the slaver monks had allegedly been exploring.

Searching the ruins, Ibizaber found a silver holy symbol of the Order of the Dawning Sun, and Polly found a gold and ruby ring.  But then four human-sized monstrous centipedes found Polly and started crawling over to eat her for lunch.  After a twinge of Elvish conscience, Polly determined that the centipedes were clearly monsters not natural, and shot one with an arrow, killing it.  Seépravir caught the other three in a Glue spell, they all failed to resist, and they were all stuck in place while Polly shot them.  Ibizaber didn't even bother helping, as it would have required switching weapons and avoiding stepping in the glue, and Polly would have been done killing them by the time he got around to it.  He did, however, think to collect the venom from three of the four centipedes.  (The fourth had been shot right through the poison sac, so there wasn't much left to collect, though Polly jammed the head of an arrow into that poison sac just in case there was some left.)

Just to the north of the tower where the centipedes had attacked, Seépravir spotted a faint, almost vertical, path down the cliff face to the lake below.  It would require a climb rather than a hike, but both Ibizaber and Polly were strong climbers, and Seépravir was levitating, so they headed down to the water.  They looked for caves in the cliffside.  But there was no cave, at least not above the water.  Polly, the strongest swimmer, decided to look under the water.  First she set her bow and backpack aside, then she tied herself to a rope so the others could pull her to safety if needed, and then she stuck her head underwater.  It was pretty dark, so she came back up and asked Seépravir for a Keen Vision spell.  Seépravir suggested Infravision instead, and Polly agreed.  She went under again, and saw some cold blocky shapes that looked like ruined castle walls, far below.  Who builds a castle underwater?  She started swimming down, and then noticed something really big and really far away swimming towards her, fast.

Polly yanked on the rope frantically, and swam hard for the surface while the others pulled her up.  The huge thing got within about 50 feet by the time she hit the beach, and she was pretty sure she saw multiple necks and heads, but didn't have time to count carefully since she was trying not to die.  She kept on going, climbing up the trail a bit to get more separation, before turning around to look again.

Polly paused to look back.  The invisible Ibizaber climbed up a bit, then also paused to look in the water.  And Seépravir flew high over the water and looked down.  Eventually, two reptilian heads breached the surface, scanning the cliff wall for Polly.  They watched her for a while, the three delvers watched back for a while, but nobody started a fight.  Eventually the sea monster went back underwater.  They figured it was some kind of water hydra, and decided to be careful around the lake.
Seépravir noted the location of the trail on her map, but said she would not put it on any maps they offered for sale, wanting to keep it a secret.

After climbing and flying back up to the castle, the three continued exploring to the southwest, then to the southeast.  They found a promising pile of rubble near the (once) top of a fallen tower, but didn't find any thing interesting in it.  They continued circling around to the southeast, and then Ibizaber spotted a suspicious groove in the rock face.  He stuck a knife in there and moved it around until he found a latch.  It was a stone secret door, pretty heavy, which apparently hadn't been opened in a long time.  He managed to drag the door open.  Inside was a small room, containing a skeleton holding a book, and a bookshelf.

Some investigation showed that the skeleton was the dead kind not the undead kind, that it was wearing a silver holy symbol of the Order of the Dawning Sun, and that the book had the same short line repeated over and over in four languages: Common, Elf, Dwarf, and Draconic.  In at least the three languages they could read, it said "Knowledge is the Key."  (None of them read Draconic but they figured it probably said the same in Draconic too.)  They grabbed the book and the holy symbol.  Seépravir spotted something magical among the bones, which turned out to be a bleached driftwood wand, with some words in Draconic etched into the side.  She grabbed that too.  Finally, they started going through the books on the shelves.  All were blank inside and out, with some water damage.  Nobody was quite sure what blank books were good for, but they decided to take them anyway.

With so much stuff to drag, Polly went to go fetch the wheelbarrow they'd stashed outside.  She decided to take the most direct route to the north around the fallen tower, rather than the long way they'd just explored.  And while walking around the rubble, something tried to eat her.  It was a giant praying mantis, significantly bigger than her, and it had achieved total surprise.  Things looked bad for Polly, but someone she managed to dodge its bite, even while mentally stunned.  It took her a second to get her bow out and her wits back, during which time she dodged another bite while frantically backpedaling.  Then Polly screamed for help and started shooting arrows, while her friends started running and flying to her aid.

The mantis was quite fast and agile, but eventually one of Polly's arrows hit it squarely, but didn't go through its thick chitin.  Polly realized she needed to switch to armor-piercing bodkin tips, which, like any good archer, she had plenty of.  She wasn't quite sure where a praying mantis's weak spots were, and the eyes looked like a difficult shot, so she just focused on the center of mass.  Meanwhile the mantis repeatedly tried to grab Polly with its front legs so that it could hold her still and bite her head off.  But she was too fast, and kept dodging.

Seépravir still had Levitate on, so she flew up until she could see over the fallen tower and rubble to where Polly and the huge bug were, and yelled which way to run to Ibizaber.  Then she dropped back to earth, because she could run faster than she could fly, and ran toward the fight, occasionally flying over obstacles.  Ibizaber ran as quickly as he could toward the fight, occasionally needing to acrobatically vault some rubble rather than slowing down for it.  Unfortunately, he was still invisible, so neither of the female elves could see his amazing parkour moves.

At some point the mantis grew tired of chasing the unhittable Polly, and went back to its lair in the rubble.  Polly thought about letting it go -- but was too angry that the thing had tried to ambush and eat her, and decided to keep shooting at it instead.  And that drew the mantis charging back out of its lair, at high speed.  (Did you know that giant praying mantises can fly?  Polly didn't, until then.)  Polly kept plinking it with bodkins, causing small amounts of green blood to leak out each time she hit solidly.  The bug kept trying to grab Polly, then tried just biting Polly.

Eventually the invisible Ibizaber caught up, and tried sneaking up behind the mantis to land a killing backstab.  But it had heard him running, and spun around to look for the new threat.  Ibizaber stopped and went silent, not wanting to give himself away.  Polly kept shooting, plunking the mantis in the back.  Seépravir cast Hush on Ibizaber, not taking any chances on his Stealth skills.  (He was invisible, so it was a bit tricky to target him, but she had heard him a second before, and made a good guess.)

With Ibizaber both silent and invisible, and Polly continuing to drill arrows into its backside, the mantis spun around again to face Polly.  Ibizaber landed a strong blow with his knife into a gap between plates in its exoskeleton, right next to one of the larger arrow wounds.  The huge bug continued to spew green blood, and was starting to slow down, but still wouldn't fall.  The attack dispelled Ibizaber's invisibility, though, so now the mantis knew it had opponents on both sides.

The mantis went a little crazy, spinning back and forth between facing Polly and Ibizaber.  No matter which one it chose, the other was at its rear.  It chose Polly.  Seépravir cast Darkness where Polly was standing.  She could see out, but it couldn't see in.  Polly shot out of the darkness, and the mantis completely failed to understand the concept that arrows could come out of that dark blob.  It didn't get to dodge.  Unfortunately for Polly, she was now out of bodkins.  Her regular arrows hadn't done such a good job of piercing mantis-armor.  While the bug was focused on Polly, Ibizaber kept stabbing at it from behind.

Polly took careful aim with an impaling arrow at the mantis's eye, and just barely missed, hitting its body instead.  Seépravir put another Darkness behind the mantis for Ibizaber to stand in, which he did, as he kept stabbing.  The mantis flailed wildly at the dark blob containing Polly, missing her completely.  Finally, Polly fired another arrow into the bug's eye, and this one didn't miss.  The eyes were unarmored, and the arrow went straight through the eye into the brain, killing the mantis.  It had been a long and drawn-out fight with many small hits needed to wear down the giant bug, but the eye shot ended all that.  Fortunately for Polly, who was almost out of arrows.

The group searched the mantis's lair in the rubble at the base of the fallen tower, finding half of the body of a human monk slaver.  It had a few coins in a pocket and a nice dagger in its boot.  They then started digging through the rubble, and found a trap door leading down.  Ibizaber considered opening it, but Seépravir suggested leaving it alone until next time.  The group fetched both their wheelbarrows (travelling close together this time), chopped the giant mantis corpse in two in case it was worth money, and headed back to town.

GM's Comments:

Only three PCs came, none of them heavy fighters.  That's very dangerous.  The careful decision to mop up the unexplored bits of the surface level made sense for this group.  Seépravir could make everyone invisible, and if they explored the surface in daylight, they didn't need lights to give them away.

The centipedes were total mooks.  Anything with no damage resistance that's vulnerable to impaling damage is archer-bait.  The Glue spell made it just unfair, especially when Seépravir made her spell roll by so much that they had almost no chance to break free.  I made Polly make her attack rolls to kill all four centipedes, but in hindsight I could have just declared them dead.  Good thinking by Ibizaber to collect their poison.  It's not very strong poison (just Monster Drool in DFRPG terms), but free poison is free.  

The path down to the lake is supposed to be hard to find, but this group is really good at finding things.  There was no reason to expect anything quite as nasty as a hydra down in the water, but excellent preparation (rope, Infravision) gave the group time to pull the Polly-bait out of the water before she got eaten.  (But I would have turned her invisible too.)  Underwater fights are really difficult for surface dwellers in GURPS (your weapon skill is limited to your swimming skill, swung weapons take hit penalties and do less damage, you can't breathe, etc.), so it'll be interesting to see if they ever come back to fight it, or keep a wide berth.  In any case, the group now knows that acquiring a boat and taking a shortcut across the lake isn't as safe as it appears.  And that there's a ruined castle down there.

The secret cave was also hard to find, and they found that too.  I'm not going to say anything about the mystery of the books.  Seépravir was pretty psyched to find a wand, though they won't know what it does until they take it back to town and cast Analyze Magic.

Polly going back alone to get the wheelbarrow was not smart.  There was a bit of debate as to reality here, with the other PCs wanting to be closer, but Holly was the only one who'd moved her token in Roll20, and going back through the logs I didn't actually see anyone typing "I'm right behind Polly" or anything, so I went with harsh reality: she's up here alone, and the other two are still back by the cave.  (One huge advantage of an all-text game is that you have logs for everything.  No question of what anyone said.)  That meant she had to fight the giant praying mantis by herself for about ten rounds before they got anywhere near the battle.  I was pretty sure she was dead, especially when it made its surprise roll.  (In hindsight I should have asked if she wanted to use Luck on her Perception roll there; because it was a GM roll she didn't know to ask if she could use it.)  But she made her Dodge even with the -4 for mental stun, and then for the rest of the fight kept making Acrobatic Retreating Dodges.  Given space to back up, and a ranged weapon so you don't mind backing up, and good acrobatics skill, that's a great tactic to have +5 to your base Dodge most of the time.  Polly also had Luck to save her if she blew a dodge or the mantis rolled a critical hit, but she never needed to use it.

The mantis had DR 4, and neither Polly nor Ibizaber does a ton of damage, so that was a problem.  After the first 3-damage hit didn't penetrate, Polly switched to bodkin arrows, which divided its DR in half.  She asked if she knew where its vitals were, but her default Naturalist roll failed, so nope.  When he finally reached the battle, Ibizaber aimed for armor chinks (the mantis wasn't actually wearing armor but I ruled that there were gaps between plates in its carapace which were functionally the same), also cutting its DR in half at the cost of a big hit penalty.  Ultimately I think Polly would have been better off going for eye shots -- not an easy hit at all, but if you hit, lots and lots of damage, a crippled eye, a knockdown roll, etc.  Of course I had the mantis's stats in front of me, while the players had to figure them out, so it's not as easy from their side.  This is one of the interesting things about this campaign for me: because it's using converted D&D monsters rather than stock GURPS/DFRPG monsters, the players never know exactly what their opponents can do.

When Polly shot an arrrow out of the Darkness, I gave the mantis a hearing roll to get a chance to dodge the arrow, and rolled an 18.  So, I ruled that this mantis was just too dumb to understand that arrows could come out of darkness, and that it would never get a dodge roll against such an arrow for the rest of its life.  (That wasn't very long, though.)

They didn't get a whole lot of loot this session (depending on how valuable the wand turns out to be), but they only have to split what they got three ways, so I think they made a profit.  And they found the books and the wand and the path to the lake and the trap door.  So, I think it was a good session overall.

Also, I need to make up rules for selling partial maps.  DFRPG says that characters with Cartography can make and sell maps of what they explored, but if you deliberately leave stuff off the map, what happens?  Obviously you can try (unless you have honorable mental disadvantages like Honesty or Truthfulness and fail your self-control roll to do the right thing), but maybe the buyer gets a chance to Detect Lies or something.  This would also apply to Selling the Tale: if you leave some of the juicy bits off, shouldn't that reduce your odds of getting paid?  After all, the juicy bits are what people want to hear.

2018-06-16

DF Whiterock Session 8: Kaernga's End

Date:

2018-06-15


Weather:

Warm, clear, sunny


Player Characters:


Durkerle (M.C. Warhammer), Dwarf Cleric, 175 (+10) points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 186 (+2) points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 160 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 180 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 179 (+9) points


Significant NPCs:

Hugin, Human Caravan Guard
Quintus, Human Wizard
Alrux, Dwarf Armorer
Kat Glimer, Gnome Wizard
4 starving caged trollhounds
Chu-Thuk the Ugly, Half-Orc Wizard
Findle Glimer, Gnome Gemcutter
4 Orc Harem Ladies
1 armored trollhound with spikes
Kaernga, Orc Barbarian Chief of the White Talon Tribe


The party started in town, waking up early this time to have more daylight hiking time.  They ran into an oddly familiar elf named Polly, who turned out to be the sister of their deceased ally Holly, and rather unhappy about her sister's demise.  Needing an archer, they immediately asked her to join.

But first they had some business to take care of.  They asked Quintus to identify a magic rock and some smashed bird eggs, and tell them if they could make armor out of their rust spider webs.  He figured out they had a Thunderstone, some smashed Blood Hawk eggs that were no longer worth anything because they were smashed, and not really enough rust spider webs to make spider silk armor beyond maybe a glove.  Also that a rust spider's rust gland would be valuable (though difficult to remove since you have to use stone tools), and that a live huge spider would be really valuable if it didn't kill you.

They took the rust spider webs to Alrux the dwarf armorer, who told them that he didn't work with that kind of vile stuff, preferring honest materials like metal and stone, but maybe they should try some pointy-eared elf in Mystenmere, a few hundred miles northwest.  He also suggested that everyone buy some heavy plate armor.  Nobody had enough cash for that.

Ibizaber went looking for Kat Glimer, who they had rescued from the orcs, to find out about a reward she was offering for the safe return of her brother.  She was pretty sure the orcs were still keeping him alive, since he was a gemcutter and they had a mine full of blue quartz that needed cutting.  And Hugin reminded the others about a reward that the old fortuneteller Sukuhn the Snake was offering for the head of the orc chief Kaernga: a stack of silver coins and a magic helmet.

Their town business done, the group hiked to the castle.  They made it there without significant incident, and made good time thanks to the usually slow Durkerle picking up the pace.  They headed immediately for the stairs down to the orc guardroom.

This time, there were no orcs standing guard.  The group snuck down a passage to the east, and found a locked door to the south.  Ibizaber picked it, and revealed a storeroom full of casks and barrels and digging tools.  Durkerle smashed a crate open while everyone else told him to be quiet, but nobody appeared to hear the noise.  The containers were full of low-quality food (a mix of mystery meat jerky and dried fruit), or water, or lamp oil, or mine cart wheels, or other mildly exciting things.  There was a secret door behind some crates, which led to a secret passage back to a torture chamber they had previously discovered behind the slave pits.  Seépravir and Ibizaber carefully explored that whole area of the dungeon, finding another mostly-empty storeroom and two mostly-empty barracks.  Then they found a room with a locked metal box containing some actual treasure: a bearskin rug and a locked metal box containing some more Thunderstones and a little statue and some coins and some dwarven deepwine, made from fermented mushrooms.  It smelled awful, but Durkerle assured the others that it would get any non-dwarf seriously drunk.

They heard the sound of howling behind a door, and geared up to fight.  When they finally stopped preparing to ambush and opened the door, they saw a room containing 3 large cages, with a total of 4 huge hounds inside, trying to break out of the cages.  Polly thought they were probably trollhounds, horrible unnatural creatures that she'd heard of but never actually seen.  They had green-black fur and scaly skin, huge jaws with underbites, orange eyes, and pus-filled blisters.  There was some debate about whether they were demonic.  Garreth stabbed one between the cell bars with his greatsword, and it bled a bit, then started regenerating.  The hound was smart enough to back out of reach, but then Polly put an arrow through its eye and it went down.  That started healing too, so Durkerle cast Flaming Weapon on Garreth's sword, and he opened the cage and killed it with fire.  That worked.  With the other 3 trollhounds also in cages and unable to really defend themselves, they repeated the same steps a few times: shoot them in the eye until they go down, then open the cage and stab them with a flaming sword until they don't get back up.  Thinking the regenerating trollhounds might contain valuable magical ingredients, but not wanting to carry a 350-pound dog corpse home unnecessarily, the group chopped a trollhound ear off to bring back to town as a sample.

With that section of the dungeon explored, the party headed back through the first storeroom to another door.  When they opened this one, it revealed a chained gnome cutting blue gems, and a very ugly orc (much smaller than the other White Talon orcs, without their milky-white skin) supervising.  The gnome dove for cover as the PCs attacked the orc using a mix of tactics, such a shooting it with arrows, hitting it in the face with thrown knives, stunning it with spells, and stabbing it with a greatsword.  The orc lasted just long enough to beg for its life and claim to have useful information, but not all of the party were in a mode for parley, and it died.  The gnome thanked them for showing up and asked them to unlock and give him some decent food.  He was Findle Glimer, brother of Kat, and had been enslaved and forced to cut blue quartz rocks into pretty blue quartz gems full time.  Once they freed and fed him, Findle pointed in the direction of the rest of the orcs, and said he'd box up the gems for them while they went adventuring.  Besides the pile of cut blue quartz, the orc also had a magic gem and a potion in its pocket, a magic staff, a couple of interesting non-fiction books (one about fungus recipes and one about gemcutting), a couple of spellbooks (one of them Kat's, which Findle asked be returned to her), and an Orcish romance novel which, fortunately, most of the group could not read.  (Unfortunately, it had pictures.)

The group then continued down the passage, which forked, giving them a choice of southeast and southwest.  Seépravir picked southwest, and she and Ibizaber did their usual slow stealthy sneaky searchy movement that way until they found a big wooden door.  It had a tapestry above it showing a white talon holding a morningstar, very Orcish, probably the banner of the White Talon Tribe.  Listening at the door revealed some indistinct conversation inside, so everyone lined up in Ambush Mode, and then Garreth kicked open the door.

Unfortunately for the group, they didn't achieve surprise.  Instead, they saw a big room featuring a fire pit with a huge pig on a spit above it, four scantily-clad female orcs, a huge trollhound wearing spiked armor, and an even bigger orc wearing studded leather armor, lounging on a huge thronelike chair.  A fight ensued.  Polly shot the closest harem orc, but she dodged.  Ibizaber aimed his throwing knife at the big orc.  Hugin aimed his crossbow at the trollhound but couldn't get a clear shot off without risking hitting his friends.  The trollhound charged Garreth and failed to bite him, and Garreth stabbed the trollhound.  Durkerle moved up to cast Flaming Weapon on Garreth's greatsword.  Seépravir moved up to cast Stun on the trollhound, succeeding.  The remaining harem orcs grabbed improvised weapons: a kitchen knife, a platter, a goblet.  Kaernga the orc leader readied his great axe and charged across the room.

It turned out that the female orcs weren't very good fighters.  Holly shot one a second time, and this time she didn't dodge the arrow and died.  Another one critically failed her attack on Garreth and managed to stab herself to death.  Another actually almost hit Durkerle with a silver serving platter, but he dodged.  Ibizaber threw a knife at Kaernga's face, and hit, but it bounced off his tough skin.  Garreth chopped and burned the trollhound again, killing it, then stepped and took a good swing at Kaernga, who almost dodged.  Almost.  He was a tough orc though, and didn't go down despite the massive cut.  Seépravir used her Rapier Wit to insult and stun Kaernga, then cast Itch on him to lower his dexterity.

The last harem orc ran out of the room, but Ibizaber threw a knife into her back and she went down.  That left just Kaernga.  Polly put an arrow through his eye into his brain, which did a lot of damage but didn't knock him out.  Then Garreth stepped up and used Rapid Strike to double-hit the stunned, itchy, knocked down, and extremely wounded orc chief.  He failed his third death check, and that was the end of that.

Kaernga's pleasure chamber had some nice pillows and goblets and platters, plus some decent (if overcooked) pork barbeque.  The elves immediately saw that Kaernga's armor and cloak were magic, and marked it for taking.  Hugin started hacking Kaernga's head off for the reward, which he was informed he would be sharing with the group.  Ibizaber found a secret door behind the throne, leading to a spiral staircase down, but nobody went down it.  Instead, the group grabbed Findle and as much treasure as they could fit into their two wheelbarrows, and headed for town.

It was a very profitable session, with rewards due for both Findle and Kaernga's head, plus the loot from Kaernga's house of pleasure and the gem-cutting room / orc wizard's lair and the orc ranger's quarters.  Not to mention a trollhound ear.


GM's Comments:

After multiple sessions fighting orc reinforcements in the same guard room, the orcs apparently ran out of guards to put there, and the PCs got to run around in empty rooms for a while.  Some of the players thought the orcs might have all left the dungeon, but then they found a few, too proud to flee but too few to survive.  Are there any left?  We'll see next week.

The trollhounds were pretty tough, but the first four were were in cages (because their handler had been killed last week, too far away to free them), so they never really had a chance to fight.  We did the fight against the first one the slow way, and once the players demonstrated that they could murder the caged hounds at no real risk to themselves, I fast-forwarded through finishing off the other three.

The orc wizard never really had a chance either, because it was one of him against 6 invaders.  He tried to parley instead of cast spells, and it didn't help him because at least one PC had Bloodlust and missed their self-control roll.  (He was unlucky not to hear the PCs making noise in the nearby storage room.  If he'd heard, he would have had a chance to run away, or go get reinforcements, or something.)

Kaernga and his armored trollhound were tough, but his harem were unarmored and almost unarmed mooks, so numbers told again.  And the room was big enough that it took Kaernga a few turns to get into melee, by which time his trollhound was almost dead.

"Defeat in detail" was the story of the day.  If all 11 enemies the PCs faced this week were in the same room (and not locked in cages), they might have won.  But orcs don't always use the best tactics.

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