2019-03-26

DF Whiterock Session 43: The Mummy And His Zoo

Date:

2019-03-22

Weather:

Around freezing, blowing snow

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 278 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 339 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 336 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 320 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 354 points

Significant NPCs:

2 Owlbears
Mummy boss
Dire Lion
Dire Tiger
Huge Python
4 Beetle Swarms


We started in the town of Cillamar.

Seépravir researched the jars of goo, and found that they cure disease and poison and wounds.  (Later discussion revealed that Garreth actually wanted her to research the unknown gross goo in the other jar instead of the magical healing goo.)

Elias re-cast Bless on Garreth and Polly.

Zaber heard a rumor about a castrated ogre soprano who'd wowed the Lord Mayor.  He also heard that Lord Flitwick had hired a bodyguard.

Garreth got a letter back from Master Naburu (or possibly one of his minions?) inviting him to visit the Master after the first blossoms of spring, and to bring alcohol.

Everyone hiked back to Castle Whiterock, down one level of stairs, across the level, to the secret door with the elevator down.  Zaber and Elias both decided to climb down the elevator cable instead of using the elevator like a normal person, and neither fell to his death.  Garreth and Polly climbed in the elevator, and Seépravir started spinning the wheel to lower them -- and then two owlbears jumped out from hiding and tried to eat Seépravir.  This didn't work, as they didn't achieve surprise, and Seépravir (who already had Levitate on) merely ran to the elevator shaft and jumped in, while the owlbears chased a bit then watched in dismay.  (There was some question of whether owlbears could fly, since they had feathers, but it appears at least these ones could not.)

It got worse for them a few minutes later, as Seépravir cast Levitate on Polly, and Polly flew up and filled the owlbears' eyes with arrows from outside grabbing range.  With the brief wandering monster interlude over, Polly spun the wheel to lower Garreth and then flew down to the bottom of the elevator shaft.

The group piled in a skiff, and Garreth made four Boating rolls to avoid dumping anyone in the water.  Once they landed the boat at the far beach, everyone got out and hiked toward the giant cave, then to the pyramid.  They made it to the pyramid, at which point Seépravir declared that she'd rather stay outside in the normal mana zone and maintain spells, and let the others do the icky low-mana pyramid exploration.  She cast Invisibility on Zaber, both because it's useful to be Invisible, and as a two-way warning system.  If Seépravir was in a trouble, she'd stop maintaining it and Zaber would appear and everyone would know to go help her.  On the other hand, if Zaber got in trouble, he'd attack to make the Invisibility go away, and Seépravir would notice that she had one less spell on, and go help them.  Polly then used a shared piece of twine to keep track of Zaber's location.  Seépravir then cast Flight on Garreth, because flying is fun and she can maintain one Flight spell pretty much indefinitely.  

Zaber went inside the main entry hall of the pyramid, and with See Secrets on, spotted a fourth secret door to the northeast that he hadn't seen before.  He also figured out that someone large and barefoot had entered the pyramid, broken pieces off of the clay golem statue, and peed in one corner.  After getting bored with the entry hall, he climbed up the secret door to the southwest to re-explore the Sand Devil's room some more, but didn't find anything interesting, just a lot of sand.  He went back into the secret room and kicked another clay jar.  Polly followed him in, and found another jar she thought was magic, so she had Zaber take that one out to Seépravir.  After getting bored with that room, they went back to the dire desiccated lion room and searched for secret doors some more, but didn't find any.

Eventually, having run out of excuses to re-search the rooms they had already explored, the group had to pick one of the remaining secret doors: north or northeast.  They picked north, a small low door that had been between the statue's legs, before the statue rose up and attacked them and they smashed it.  The door required using the clay golem's huge mace to open, but fortunately Garreth had it.

Zaber went in first, with the other three following, and Seépravir still hanging out by the pyramid entrance resting.  Stairs led down into the darkness.  After a while Zaber found a patch of sand-covered wall on the right side, contrasting with the darker walls everywhere else.  He poked at it and listened to it, but didn't find anything interesting, so kept going down.  A bit further down, he found a pressure plate trap on a step.  He wedged an object in there to keep the plate from triggering, then kept going to the bottom of the stairs, which ended in a featureless door.  There was no obvious handle or keyhole, but there were some levers attached to the trap on the stairs which would open the door, so, after searching for traps and listening at the door, Zaber repurposed those to open it without turning the stairs into a ramp.

When the door popped open, it revealed a large room, containing a dais with a sarcophagus and an undead guy with a mask and a staff.  Zaber (who was Invisible) snuck in.  Garreth (who had Flight) flew in.  Polly fired arrows.  Her very first shot (a bodkin with Continual Light on it) was a critical hit, and the mummy was now a light source.  It dodged her second arrow.  Elias brought up the rear.  The mummy tried to cast some kind of spell, but rolled a 16 and nothing happened.

Garreth flew forward some more, Polly fired a couple more arrows that were dodged, and the mummy re-cast his spell, this time successfully, creating a large area of nasty whirring blades around Polly (and also Zaber, though Zaber was Invisible so maybe that was just luck.)  Polly, two hexes inside the area, needed to make an acrobatic retreating dodge at -4 to escape the blades, and did, jumping backwards.  Zaber, only one hex into the blade zone, just needed a regular retreating dodge, and also succeeded, jumping forwards.  However, now Elias and Polly were now behind the blades, and would remain separated from Garreth and Zaber until the blades went away, unless they felt like risking getting cut up.

The mummy summoned a dire lion, then some beetle swarms.  Garreth used the spear's power to Great Haste himself, then threw the spear at the mummy, and the mummy rolled a 17 on his dodge, tripping over the sarcophagus.  Polly shot some beetles, through the blades.  The mummy used some kind of force effect from his ring to try to knock Garreth back, but Garreth dodged it.  The mummy then summoned a huge tiger, to match the huge lion.  The lion tried to bite Garreth, but he dodged that too.  Some of the beetles started climbing inside Garreth's boots and chewing.

Garreth started chopping the mummy with this katana.  Polly added a couple more arrows.  The mummy, still conscious, spiked his staff into the ground, and it turned into a huge python.  The lion tried to circle behind Garreth and bite, but he dodged it, straight up with Flight.  That also got him out of range of the beetle swarm, which was ground-based.

Garreth chopped the mummy some more.  Eventually, it just vanished into thin air.  At that time the blade spell also went away, but the summoned creatures remained.  Garreth knocked the huge snake out with a single hit.  Polly shot the dire lion in the skull a couple of times and stunned it, but didn't knock it out.  The dire tiger tried pouncing on Garreth, but he acrobatically critically dodged it, leaving the tiger prone and clawing at nothing.  Garreth then hit the tiger twice, hard, and killed it.

Elias boosted Polly up in an attempt to reduce her penalty for firing through the blades.  Polly fired two more arrows into the dire lion, and knocked it out.  At that point the only targets left in the room where the beetle swarms, and they were stuck on the ground while Garreth was flying.  So he flew around above them stabbing away with his katana's reach advantage until the beetles were all dissipated.  When he was out of moving targets, Garreth made sure the lion and python were both dead.  When the python died, it turned back into a staff.

With the fight over, Zaber went over and picked up the mummy's snake staff.  Surprisingly, it didn't like this, and he took 12 points of curse damage for picking it up.  He used his Luck, and reduced the damage to 5 points on the reroll, then dropped the staff.  Not deterred, Zaber went over to check out the sarcophagus, and it rushed him!  He tried an acrobatic dodge away, and failed the acrobatics roll but still made the dodge.  Once he got out of range, the sarcophagus stopped moving.

Garreth and Zaber decided to set up the sarcophagus.  Garreth got his katana ready, and Zaber went to touch it.  When it tried to slam Zaber, Garreth sliced it with his katana, and the sarcophagus stopped moving.  Zaber tried opening the lid, but it was too heavy.  Garreth opened it, and inside was ... nothing.

Elias decided to exorcise the area, just in case.  Zaber helped Polly recover arrows, rolled a critical success on his Scrounging roll, and got all of them.  Not wanting to leave the cursed staff behind, Garreth tied it up in some twine (without touching it) and dragged it behind him.  This sounded questionable, but he rolled a critical success on his DX check, so it actually worked and he avoided taking any curse damage.

It was late, so the PCs all headed back to Cillamar.  They thought they had defeated the mummy and its summoned zoo, but the mummy had disappeared, so they couldn't really be sure.

GM's Comments:


The owlbear ambush was well planned: two on one versus the squishy wizard.  But the squishy wizard is very hard to surprise, and had Levitate ready, and there was no safety fence around the elevator shaft, so once they failed to get surprise, Seépravir just had to jump in the shaft to get away.  At that point the owlbears, who foolishly had no ranged attacks, where Polly-bait.  (She had to make sure they weren't nature, first, but owlbears are clearly magical not natural.)

Should a wizard be more effective maintaining spells from outside a low mana zone than coming inside?  By the DFRPG rules as written, maybe.  I'm not really a fan of a wizard staying outside having no penalties for maintaining spells in a low mana zone, but I didn't want to introduce house rules in the middle of this level, so I decided that, for this particular pyramid, that strategy would work okay.  So Seépravir transformed from local party buffer to remote party buffer.

Elias's player lost his Internet connection halfway through the session, and Elias got trapped behind the blades, so Elias didn't get to do much.  The fight against the mummy and his animal friends was mostly Garreth and Polly, with Zaber staying out of the way and watching.  Thanks to making all his defense rolls while the mummy failed half of his, this worked okay.  Garreth and Polly but a brutal amount of damage into the mummy before it finally ... disappeared.  So, nobody's sure what's up.

So that's one more room of the pyramid explored, and one more secret door found.  Will the PCs manage to finish the pyramid next session?  We'll see.

2019-03-19

Time Spent on Travel to the Dungeon

In a traditional megadungeon campaign, where most sessions start in the same town and then move to the same dungeon and then back to the same town, how much time and energy should be spent travelling back and forth between town and dungeon?

Answers in published megadungeons vary.  Castle Greyhawk and Ruins of the Undermountain are right under cities, avoiding all that pesky travel completely.  The Temple of Elemental Evil is about a half-day's walk from Hommlet, and right next to Nulb.  Castle Whiterock is "a full day's ride" from Cillamar.  (Ride!  Clearly their PCs aren't as cheap as ours.)  Rappan Athuk is off in the wilderness somewhere, an unspecified distance from the nearest town, surrounded by brutal wandering monster tables.

Regardless of the game-world distance, what really matters is its effect on play.  If the travel distance is 500 miles but the GM handwaves the trip every session with "you hike to the dungeon and nothing happens on the way," without so much as a random encounter roll, and the time and provisions spent travelling don't matter, then the dungeon might as well be in town.  On the other hand, a 20-mile trip featuring horribly risky terrain and monsters might be as hard as the dungeon itself.  So perhaps it's better to talk in terms of the travel time in terms of percentage of session time consumed, and amount of risk to the PCs.

At one example of the time-versus-risk continuum, imagine a game where mundane travel is impossible, but the wizard has the ability to teleport the entire party to the dungeon instantly, except there's a decent chance of critical failure resulting in a total party kill.  (Let's call this "Star Trek Redshirts.")  Given that scenario, most PCs are going to try to dramatically reduce that critical failure chance as quickly as possible.  (Luck, Bless, more Teleport spell skill, etc.)  If they can't, they're going to make that trip as seldom as possible.  They're going to want to move into the dungeon, or set up a permanent base camp nearby.

At the other extreme, if town is safe and travel to the dungeon is risk- and pain-free, the PCs will probably return to town almost every session.  Town has nice things like rooms, hot food, healers, sages, trainers, and shops.  Unless you have very particular disadvantages (like you're a "monster" that townspeople might try to kill, or you're afraid of crowds, or you're terminally cheap and think that sleeping in a tree and hunting for your food full-time is a great bargain), you're going to want to live in town.  Beyond the shopping and training and such, one great advantage of returning to town is that it makes it easy to swap PCs between sessions.  So if you want to run a "pickup" game with rotating players and/or characters, like Peter's Felltower campaign, easy travel to and from town is the way to go.

Somewhere in the middle, you make travel to and from the dungeon take a non-trivial part of every session, and there's some risk (wandering monsters, bad weather, etc.)  But if the PCs are going to the same dungeon every session, clearly their commute can't be that hard, or they'd stop doing it.  If you want outdoor travel to be a major part of the game, maybe you want a hexcrawl with lots of little dungeons rather than a single megadungeon.

Castle Whiterock is designed for a quick trip from town to dungeon.  The adventure doesn't come with a local area outdoor map, or wandering monster tables.  Clearly, as published, the intent is to move the PCs quickly from town to dungeon, where the fun is supposed to be.  The castle is "a long day's ride" from town.  But the terrain is pretty rough, so horses are only so much faster than walking.  Since the PCs are (so far) too cheap to buy horses, that means a very long day's hike, modified by encumbrance level and whether the slower PCs make their Hiking roll.  Also, there's a lake between Cillamar and the castle, so going over the lake rather than around it is noticably faster.  (Unless something in the lake eats you, of course.)

I could probably just handwave the trip to the dungeon every time, both ways, but I can't resist making the players make some choices about travel.  Do you buy horses?  A wagon?  A boat?  Snowshoes?  Skis?  A sleigh?  A flying carpet?  (Ha, good luck finding one.)  The Flight spell at a high enough level to keep it going for the whole trip?  Winter clothing or Warmth spells?  NPCs to help?  Applicable skills?  And I make them roll Hiking every time, on the way to the dungeon.  (The trip home is often handwaved for out-of-time reasons.)  And I roll for random encounters every time, though it's a not a super-dangerous area, so the odds aren't high of meeting a challenging one.  My goal is that we usually spend about 30 minutes per four-hour game session on town business and travel.  If a non-trivial wandering monster attacks, it might be more.

So far, the answer this group of players has come up with is "we're too cheap to buy horses, and we're afraid of lake monsters, so we walk and we take the long way."  They have a few wheelbarrows for hauling heavy gear and loot overland.  This has worked well enough that I don't see it changing, until Seépravir achieves Flight-25.  (Flight has a 1-minute duration, so if you have to pay even 1 FP to maintain it, that's 5 FP per minute for 5 PCs, not sustainable.  But skill 25 gets the maintenance cost to zero, and at that point why wouldn't you?)

Of course travel to the dungeon is only half the story; I'll talk about travel within the "cleared" parts of the dungeon another time.

2019-03-17

DF Whiterock Session 42: The Sand Devil

Date:

2019-03-15

Weather:

Unseasonably warm, partly cloudy, but threatening snow

Player Characters:

Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 339 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 336 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 320 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 354 points

Significant NPCs:

Lord Flitwick, Artist and Clothes Horse
Harda, Magn'gard and Herder of Musicians
Narg, Dwarf Bagpiper
Unknown, Ogre Subwoofer
Franz Mentzer, Lord Mayor and Patriarch of Cillamar
One Huge Dire Sand Elemental


The group started in Cillamar, on the day of the party at Lord's Gate Citadel, where Garreth was invited to sing.  Garreth managed to resist his Compulsive Carousing, and showed up on time, dressed in his fancy red outfit, and sober.  He forgot to show up unarmed, but cheerfully surrendered his hidden knives when asked.

Harda of the Magn'gard informed Garreth that he would be taking the place of an elf lady singer who was unavailable today.  Garreth wasn't great at reading music, so Narg the dwarf played the vocal part on is bagpipes for Garreth to follow, while the ogre harmonized a few octaves down in the shelf-rattling range.  In rehearsal, Garreth sang the part okay.

When brought out onstage to prefer for the Lord Mayor and Patriarch and his noble guests, Garreth nailed it, rolling a 5 on his Singing check.  This bought him a brief friendly conversation with the Lord Mayor, along with a whole silver piece ($20).

Meanwhile, Zaber had found that Lord Flitwick was back in town, and cased out his town house.  The windows were closed, but at some point the Lord himself emerged, alone, and walked toward Mord's Tailor Shop.  Zaber followed him, but somehow Flitwick figured out that he was being tailed, and yelled at Zaber to leave him alone, before going inside for his appointment.

Garreth took the Wight Lady's unholy symbol (of the skull with the blade through one eye socket) to the temple of Daenthar to see if they could do anything with it.  The dwarf priest on duty immediately said they should melt that down.  Garreth agreed, but asked if they would pay him for the privilege, or he had to pay them.  Not missing an opportunity to fill the collection basket, the priest immediately told him that he should throw in some cash for the good works.  Garreth tossed him the silver piece that he had been paid for singing, and the priest offered to let him have the purified lump of steel back, after all the evil was melted out of it and it had time to cool to a safe temperature.

Nobody's pending deliveries (Garreth's epic plate armor, Polly's new rapier, or Garreth's letter back from Master Naburu in Galaron) were available, so everyone decided it was a good time to hike back to Castle Whiterock, and further explore the black pyramid inside the giant cave.  Except Elias, who had church duty and couldn't come along.  Garreth grumbled that with Elias gone he'd have to survive the delve with Bless +1 instead of Bless +2, but went anyway.

The hike to the castle went uneventfully, though the warming temperatures of early spring meant they'd be walking around rather than over the lake from now on.  (Though they already had been for the last few weeks, after hearing rumors of a great lake monster.)  After reaching the castle, 
Seépravir cast a bunch of dungeon spells (and Polly threw in a couple of Keen Visions) and then everyone hiked down one level, across the level to the top of the secret elevator, and then took the elevator down to the underground river level.

Once they reached the underground river, everyone piled into a boat, and Garreth tried dodging the rocks near the Giant Clams, as he had several times before -- and missed a Boating roll for the first time ever.  Not wanting to see what happened if the skiff hit the rocks, he used his Luck to reroll, averting the crash.  But then, piloting the skiff down a small waterfall, that he had also successfully navigated several times before, Garreth missed another Boating roll, with his Luck not yet back.  However, all three passengers in the boat made their DX checks to avoid falling out, and Seépravir (who was actually Levitating just above the boat rather than technically riding inside it, just in case) cast Shape Water to divert the rapids that were about to flip the boat over.  So no real harm was done.  Garreth somehow managed to bring the skiff safely to a stop near the north beach without rowing into a whirlpool or anything, and the group was back on dry land.

The hike through the passage to the giant cave, and then through the northern part of the giant cave to the pyramid, was uneventful.  The south door to the pyramid was still open, and the pyramid was still a Low Mana Zone, prompting Seépravir to ask if she could just cast some spells on everyone else and stay outside.  The others wanted her wizardly wisdom, though, and also didn't want to leave her alone unguarded where trolls might eat her, so she reluctantly came along.  The party had found three secret doors out of the huge entrance hall with the (now dead) clay golem: north (down low, between where the golem's legs and been before it stood up and tried to kill them), east (20 feet up), and west (10 feet up).  They had explored west and killed the desiccated dire lions that way last time, so they debated a bit between north and east, then went east.

Everyone climbed up, except Seépravir who Levitated up, and then they went down a flight of stairs to the east, and were back at a closed stone door with obscure writing on it, which Elias had previously translated using Gift of Letters as "Retrieve the key for a chance to defeat part of me".  The door was locked, but Zaber easily picked the lock, and then Garreth was able to push the stuck door open to reveal a hemispherical room with uneven deep sand on the floor.  Up near the ceiling was a large golden key, inside a glass globe, hanging from the ceiling by a wire.

After much discussion, the plan was to cast Flight on Zaber, have him fly under the globe ready to catch it, and have Polly shoot the wire.  The wire was not an easy target, but Polly shoots moving eye-sized targets regularly and even got to take time to aim this time, so she got it with the first arrow.  The globe fell, and Zaber caught it, without breaking it.  It was heavy enough to hurt his hands a bit, but the magical force field from his Ring of Force negated the damage.  

Polly ran across the sand to recover her arrow, and that appeared to be a mistake, as when she reached the center of the room, the glass globe exploded into fragments.  Zaber was quick enough to avoid being cut by the fragments and catch the key.  Worse, the sand in the room started moving downward through some kind of sand drain under the center of the room, but Polly made her DX roll and wasn't sucked under.  Even worse, some of the sand coalesced into a huge sand elemental and tried to surprise Polly.  Fortunately, she was alert enough not to be surprised.

Most of the group was faster than the sand elemental so went first.  Zaber flew around behind it.  Garreth threw the strange pearly returning spear, with magic strong enough that it still worked in this Low Mana Zone, at it.  The elemental dodged.  Polly backpedaled and fired two cutting arrows at the creature.  It dodged the first, but she rolled a critical hit on the second -- which passed through the elemental doing minimal damage.  This thing appeared to be Diffuse.

The sand elemental then fired a huge cone of sand at Polly.  It was wide enough that the only non-magical way to partly avoid it was with a sideways dodge and retreat, at -2, for half damage.  And full damage was 6d.  Nasty.  Polly made her Acrobatics roll but failed her dodge with a 17, used Luck to reroll, then failed again.  But Polly's Bless decided that she made that dodge after all, and reduced 16 damage to 8, then went away.

Seépravir cast Concussion.  Zaber flew back around to the front of the elemental where he wouldn't get Concussioned if Seépravir threw the missile spell in the most likely place.  Garreth waited for the spear to return.  Polly backed up some more, and again made her DX roll to avoid getting sucked under by the shifting sand.  The elemental blasted Polly with another cone of sand, and he failed to dodge any of the damage again, taking another 19 points.  That was good for half move and dodge, a major wound for a knockdown and stun check, a HT check to stay conscious, and a death check.  She made all her rolls, the death check exactly.  (If she hadn't spent 5 points on Fit, she'd have died.)

At that point Seépravir lobbed the Concussion ball, far enough behind the elemental that it wouldn't take any direct damage, but so that it would be the only one making a HT-3 check to avoid stunning.  Unfortunately for the PCs, the sand devil made its HT-3 check and kept coming.

Garreth activated the spear's Great Haste ability.  Zaber flew around some more.  Polly made her knockout check and her DX check to avoid being sucked under the sand, then took All-Out Defense: Dodge and backed up some more.  The elemental chose Polly as its target again (it was random, but the dice hated her).  Polly survived another death check and another Major Wound stun check.  Seépravir moved forward.

At this point, the PCs decided to try to survive rather than to try to win.  Garreth ran forward to grab Polly.  Zaber flew around.  Polly kept all-out defending and moving toward the doorway.  The sand elemental blasted Polly again, but Garreth heroically decided to play human shield and tried to take all the damage for her.  Fortunately, Garreth is bigger than Polly, and he made his dodge (anti-dodge?) roll to position himself well to protect her, and ate 21 points of damage, minus a bit for his armor, taking a major wound.  Garreth's Bless decided not to intervene, and let him take the damage.  Polly was still alive.  Seépravir cast Levitate on Polly in case she needed magical evacuation.

Garreth dragged Polly toward the door.  Polly helped a little bit, moving at half speed on her own turn.  Zaber flew much faster toward the door, not wanting to be left behind.  This got everyone out of the sand devil's cone of sand range, so it had to take a turn off from trying to murder Polly to move up closer.  Seépravir stayed inside the room and Levitated straight up.

Garreth and Polly and Zaber got through the doorway, and the sand elemental decided to blast Seépravir, the only target left in range.  However, she had a Phase spell, and was able to escape the sand by monentarily gating into another dimension.  This annoyed the sand devil a lot.  Seépravir flew back down toward the door, not quite getting through the doorway.

That was close enough for Garreth, who slammed the door forcefully with Seépravir in the way.  That counted as an attack, so she used Blink to teleport back 3 hexes and avoid getting hit by a door.  (A bit of crushing damage and knockback from the door would have been preferential to 6d from the massive sand cone anyway.)  The door closed, locked with a click, and the sand devil sprayed sand against it in frustration, but the door had been built to be sand-proof.  The retreat had worked, and nobody had died.

At that point the group pulled out the wineskin of many healing potions, and Polly drank 10 doses, a new record.  10d was enough to get her above 1/3 of her full HP, so she was no longer slowed.  Garreth also had a little swig.  At that point there was some discussion of whether to head home, but Seépravir had another idea: go outside the pyramid into the normal mana zone, make a huge Concussion spell, sneak back in, open the door, throw the Concussion at the sand elemental, close the door.  Repeat if needed.

After much discussion, they pulled off this plan, with a slight tweak: after Garreth opened the door Polly would also fire a Continual Light arrow in there, to make sure they could see the elemental.  The plan worked pretty well the first time.  Zaber re-picked the lock, Garreth opened the door, Polly fired the glowing arrow, Seépravir spotted the sand elemental (on the far side of the room) and threw the big (turned out to be 15d) Concussion at it, and Garreth slammed the door.

This was enough Concussion to badly wound the sand elemental, but not enough to kill it.  So everyone climbed back down, went back to the normal mana zone on the steps inside the pyramid entrance, let Seépravir cast another Concussion (only 8d this time), then came back in and repeated the process.  There was a minor hiccup when Polly missed a Climbing roll and fell, but fortunately she was near the bottom when she fell and didn't take any damage besides her pride.  The second time, the sand devil was more alert and ready for the plan, but it didn't matter.  It was too far away from the door to get off a sand cone attack before Seépravir threw her Concussion, and her second Concussion was enough to take the sand elemental below -HP and kill it.  (It had Unnatural: Summoned so died at -HP rather than getting to roll death checks until -5 * HP like a normal creature.)

With the sand devil blown into plain old sand, some wanted to head home, but Zaber was adament that they needed to loot first.  So everyone went back outside to the normal mana zone, and Seépravir cast Flight and See Secrets on Zaber.  He and Polly went back to the sand room, and he immediately spotted a secret door on the far side.  After searching for traps, he opened it up, and found a small room containing hundreds of urns.  Big urns, little urns, clay urns, metal urns.  He opened a dozen or so, but didn't find anything.  Polly (who like almost all elves has Magery 0) detected that one of the metal urns was magic, and pointed it out to Zaber.  It has some kind of white goo inside.  He didn't know what it was, so flew outside with that urn to have Seépravir check it out.  She confirmed that both the urn and the goo were magical, so they decided to take those back to town.  Zaber went back in and searched a few more clay urns, then kicked on to death in frustration, before deciding that clay urns suck and he wasn't going to search about 300 of them while Seépravir and Garreth lounged around outside.  He decided to take the 20 or so metal urns home, and left all the clay ones.

At that point it was getting late, Polly and Garreth were still injured (since they frugally only drank enough healing potions to get out of danger, not enough to heal fully), and Polly had no Bless spell.  So everyone decided to head back to town.

GM's Comments:


Garreth's singing career is going pretty well.  It's good to have something to fall back on if you get too old to kill monsters.  Zaber has Flitwick back in town to harass.

The sand devil was pretty mean.  First, it was diffuse, so most attacks only did 2 HP damage to it.  Second, it had a 6d6 cone attack, with 10 yards range, that could be dodged (at -2, plus possibly another -1 for bad footing) for half damage.  The combination of big damage and hard to kill made it really nasty.  Polly came really close to dying there, but the sand-elemental-proof door made retreat possible, and then abusing the door to lob in Concussions (one of the attacks that isn't nerfed by diffuse) and avoid return fire was a winning tactic.  The sand devil was actually a little faster than Seépravir, so if it had been standing within 10 yards of the door it might have gotten a cone off before she killed it, but it had IQ 8 and no tactics skill, so it was randomly stomping around the room in anger rather than lying in ambush.  Fortunately for the PCs, they surprised it on the first Concussion alpha strike, and it was more than 10 yards away for the second one, out of sand cone range.  So, the sand devil died.

Seépravir really doesn't like Low Mana Zones.  Something tells me she won't be moving into the pyramid, when and if the group manages to clear it.

2019-03-10

DF Whiterock Session 41: Return to the Aboleth's Cave

Date:

2019-03-08

Weather:

Below freezing, overcast

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 274 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 335 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 332 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 316 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 350 points

Significant NPCs:

Aboleth Wizard
2 Giant Leeches
Lady Chauntessa, Innkeeper and Historian
Quintus, Alchemest and Wizard


We started in the town of Cillamar, on a cold late winter day.

Garreth received a letter saying that the party at the Lord's Gate Citadel (at which he had previously been invited to sing) is next Thursday and to wear red and arrive early and sober.  He asked Lady Chauntessa where the fancy tailors are, and ordered some fancy red clothes.

Seépravir researched the Wight Lady's holy symbol, a skull with a blade through one eye socket, and found that it belonged to the evil god Mulgrim, and probably wasn't a good thing to be carrying.

Zaber went looking for Lord Flitwick again, and found that his town house was occupied, but didn't actually spot him.  Zaber heard a rumor that the Lord Mayor Franz Mentzer killed a dragon in his youth but never talks about it.  Garreth heard a rumor that Master Naburu once defeated eight opponents while totally drunk, and bought a bottle of the hardest liquor he could find as a gift for Master Naburu.

Garreth and Polly both managed to special order rare items: Garreth a suit of Epic Plate of Weightlessness, and Polly a Penetrating Edged Rapier.

Having concluded their town business, Seépravir cast Warmth on everyone (with one critical success, which I ruled didn't count as a spell on for that session), Levitate on herself, and the group traveled to Castle Whiterock.  They made it there unmolested, though did hear some wolves howling in the distance.  At that point Seépravir dropped the Warmths (except the free one on herself) and cast Dark Vision on everyone.

After some debate, the consensus was to go back to the underground river level, and try to explore the hidden underwater passage off the room behind the illusory wall, where the leeches and skum had earlier been defeated.  A brief trudge through the empty upper orc level of the dungeon, one elevator ride, and four Boating rolls later, the group was at the illusory wall.  Everyone carefully headed down the slippery waterslide passage.  Garreth failed his DX roll and went down it a bit faster than intended, ending up in the cold water at the bottom.  Fortunately it didn't contain any monsters, and he made his Swimming roll, so he was just embarrassed and cold, not hurt.

Garreth asked Seépravir for the Ring of Water Breathing and a Swim spell, then swam over to the secret underwater passage to the northwest.  Seépravir Levitated over to a small rock island near that passage to provide support if needed.  Garreth asked Zaber to throw over some of his twine, and used it to connect himself to Seépravir, saying he'd yank twice if he were in trouble.  Then he went into the underwater passage -- and saw two huge leeches.

Garreth drew his knife and waited to see if the leeches would come at him.  They did, so he backed up into the room where his friends could see (and Polly could shoot) to see if they would follow.  One of them did.  Polly managed to put a couple of arrows into it, despite the penalties (-4 to hit, half damage) for shooting at something underwater.  At that point the leech retreated back into the underwater passage where Polly couldn't shoot it.

Garreth followed the wounded leech back into the passage, and stabbed it with his knife.  Combined with the arrow damage, that was enough to put it under 0 HP, and it failed its consciousness check.  Garreth kept stabbing it until he was sure it was dead.  The other leech was in the back of the cave, not coming forward to fight again.  Garreth swam at it.  The leech had taken a Wait maneuver to bite him when he got into range, and rolled a 4 for a critical hit.  Garreth used his Luck to make it reroll, turning that critical hit into a miss, but that meant his Luck was gone for the next hour.  Which was important, because the Invisible Aboleth Wizard in the cave behind the leech decided that was a good time to use its Mind Control power on Garreth, and became visible in the process.  Garreth got a Will-1 roll to resist, and rolled a 5, resisting easily.

The leech tried biting Garreth again, and he retreated and dodged.  The Aboleth tried another spell and rolled a 5, a critical success.  This meant no chance to resist, but Garreth's Bless intervened to deny the critical success, and then went away.  So now Garreth had neither Luck nor Bless active.  He fled the underwater passage and fled back to the big pool outside, where his friends could see him.  Neither the aboleth nor the leech followed, so there was a break in the combat.  Garreth climbed back onto the short and asked Elias to cast a new Bless on him.  (Only +1, as +2 costs 50 FP so involves a very long and elaborate and fatiguing ritual and a full power item and Seépravir casting Lend Energy a lot, that is best done somewhere safe.)  It took 3 tries (Elias's spell casting rolls are not great while he has -3 for 3 other Blesses up) but neither sea monster interrupted, and eventually Garreth was Blessed again.  Polly had been standing guard with her bow pointed at the entrance to the underwater cave the whole time, and her arms were getting tired.

Garreth tried taunting the aboleth into coming out by saying rude things in Undercommon, but that didn't work.  The group talked tactics for a while.  Sending one person in alone with Swim and Water Breathing didn't seem ideal.  Those spells were too expensive to put on everyone at once, plus bows don't work underwater.  So Seépravir came up with a plan B: dig a dry tunnel to the cave behind the underwater passage, using Shape Earth.  If they had the distance and angle right, it would take a couple of hours of casting and resting to regain FP to make a 6' wide by 6' tall dry entry to the cave.  Before she started digging, Zaber asked Seépravir to cast See Invisible on him, so he could watch for the aboleth sneaking up on them Invisibly.  They decided the best place to start the tunnel was back up the waterslide to the northeast.  Garreth went with Seépravir to guard her while she cast Shape Earth and rested, while the others stayed near the bottom of the waterslide to watch for monsters.

Sure enough, when Seépravir only had the tunnel about a tenth done, a huge Invisible head slowly peaked out of the underwater passage.  Zaber had managed to stay alert enough to see it, despite guard duty being boring.  (I made him roll Will to be a good sentry, since he has Laziness.)  He aimed his crossbow and alerted Polly.  Polly didn't have See Invisible, but fired blind anyway at the area where Zaber pointed, and managed to hit even with the -10 for not being able to see the target.  The aboleth used Deflect Missile to parry it.  But Polly has Extra Attack, and blocking spells can only be used once per turn, and the second arrow was also on target, so the aboleth had to dodge the second one.  Somehow it did, with a huge splash.

The aboleth retaliated by using its Mind Control attack on Polly, figuring her rapid and accurate archery would better be used on the other puny invading land-creatures than on himself.  Polly made her Will-1 roll to resist, by the skin of her teeth, needing both the bonus from her Bless and the bonus from her Cloak of Resistance.  This attack dispelled the Invisibility and let Polly and Elias also see the aboleth clearly.

Zaber decided to join the missile party and fired a crossbow bolt at the aboleth's huge eye.  His shot was accurate, but it dodged.  Polly followed up with two bodkins with Continual Light on them, also going for eyes.  The aboleth Deflected the first one and dodged the second.  (It was rolling really well on the dodges so far.)

The aboleth tried to Mind Control Polly again, and she resisted again.  The leech swam towards the human and elves on the shore.  Garreth headed down the water slide to join the fun, and this time didn't fall.  Seépravir moved down a bit too, and cast Great Haste on Polly to increase the rate of fire from silly to ridiculous.

Zaber put his hand crossbow away (since it takes forever to reload) and drew his knives.  Polly fired four arrows at the aboleth's eyes.  It Deflected the first one, but then its luck ran out with dodges, and it took the other three arrows to its eyes.  The first eye hit caused a stun check, but no stun.  The second arrow, in the other eye, rolled maximum damage and crippled an eye.  The third hit, back to the first eye, caused stun and knockout checks.  Somehow the aboleth made all its rolls and was not stunned, but it was down an eye, slowed (half move and dodge) for being below 1/3 of its HP, and making a knockout check every turn it did anything for being below 0 HP.

The aboleth all-out defended and retreated back into the underwater tunnel, out of line of sight.  The leech kept coming, and attacked Elias.  He had taken a Wait, though, and got to attack first.  He smashed the leech up with his Flaming flail, taking it to 0 HP and also stunning it.

Garreth kept moving closer.  Seépravir cast Great Haste on Garreth.  Polly put some arrows into the leech and made it bleed more, but it was still thrashing.  Elias smashed the leech with his flail again, but didn't quite kill it.  Garreth took the Ring of Swimming from Zaber.  (He still had the Ring of Water Breathing on.)  Zaber moved into Elias's hex to get within knife reach of the leech, and stabbed it.  Then Elias hit it for the third time, and that was finally enough to finish it off.  Blood everywhere.

Garreth swam, quickly, toward the underwater tunnel and the badly wounded aboleth to try to finish it off.  When he got to the tunnel, he saw an amusing sight: the aboleth was unconscious.  (After retreating out of sight, it wanted to cast Invisibility again, but that required a HT check to say conscious first, and it rolled a 16.  Oops.)  Garreth finished it off, with no more dice rolls needed.

Behind the underwater passage was a dry-ish cave, with some stale humid air, and a bunch of glyphs on the walls in an unknown language.  Some of the glyphs appeared to involve precious metals.  Garreth, who was wet and didn't have a Warmth spell on, was getting pretty cold.  He went back to the others, and Seépravir cast Warmth on him to stop the freezing, and then they discussed whether to have everyone swim over, passing the rings around, or whether to finish the dry tunnel.  Everyone swam over, with Polly packing her bow in oilskin first to protect it.  While sliding past the aboleth's corpse, Polly found a magic amulet, and took it.  And Elias found a (non-magical) pearl on a chain, and took that.

When the whole group was in the aboleth's cave, Elias cast Gift of Letters on Seépravir, allowing her to read Aboleth, and she found that the glyphs on the walls were spells.  A lot of spells.  Seépravir cast Warmth on the other three (starting a fire in the cave seemed like a bad idea since there wasn't necessarily a lot of air), then decided to finish the tunnel from this side, avoiding digging through any of the glyphs.  Eventually she finished it, which solved the air problem and also allowed walking rather than swimming out.

Unfortunately nobody had any dry paper to write spells on.  Also, the group suspected that some aboleth bits might be worth money, but nobody was sure which parts.  So, rather than just going back to town and asking and then coming back next week, they decided to have Seépravir cast Flight and Invisibility on Zaber and send him back fast.  (She has Flight at 20 but not 25, so it costs her 1 FP per minute to maintain, so she can keep it going for a while on one person using a combination of FP and ER and Recover Energy, if she's not doing anything else.)

Zaber flew out of the dungeon (at Move 10) without encountering anything, then flew all the way back to Cillamar unmolested, then entered the Inn of the Slumbering Drake, still invisible.  He surprised Lady Chauntessa, who recovered and asked some questions about the aboleth.  Zaber decided to slap himself (gently) to make the Invisibility go away to stop freaking people out, then discussed things further with Chauntessa, then walked over to Quintus's tower and asked if he wanted any aboleth parts.  Quintus said that he'd like the aboleth's head, but that it must be kept wet and cold, and provided some notebooks as a down payment.  Zaber asked if Quintus could make him Invisible again for the return trip, and it turned out that Quintus did know that spell, and grudgingly complied.  

Zaber flew back to the dungeon, Elias cast Gift of Letters on Seépravir again, Seépravir used the Copy spell to copy the spells from the glyphs into a notebook (translating from Aboleth to Common in the process), and then Seépravir made a Surgery roll (using Garreth's Penetrating Katana rather than a puny little scalpel because aboleths are big) to remove what was left of the head in one piece.  Everyone headed back to Cillamar with the aboleth head in a wheelbarrow.


GM's Comments:

The aboleth was the nastiest foe the party has fought so far.  Though less nasty this time than before, since they killed all his skum minions last time, leaving him with only a couple of leeches.  Not having a huge group of skum to command greatly reduced the penalty on his Mind Control ability, though, making the resistance roll Will-1 this time, pretty nasty.  Fortunately for the group, Garreth only failed his resistance roll once and his Bless prevented it, and Polly never failed hers.  Also fortunately for the group, the aboleth didn't know Missile Shield or Reverse Missiles, only Deflect Missile, which only stops one arrow per turn.  Once Polly got some eye shots though, the aboleth was in deep trouble.  Then it rolled horribly on its consciousness check before it could enable its last ditch defensive plan: turn Invisible, make an illusion of itself, send the illusion out to fight and "die", and then sneak out to hide somewhere else on the level and heal and recruit more minions.

Now the PCs think they've totally cleared the underwater river level.  So they get to choose between going back to the pyramid, exploring the rest of the huge cave, or messing around with the alleged dimension gate to some forest realm.  We'll see what they pick next time.

2019-03-03

DF Whiterock Session 40: Gelatinous Cube and the Desiccated Dire Lions

Date:

2019-03-01

Weather:

Freezing, overcast

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 270 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 331 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 328 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 312 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 346 points

Significant NPCs:

Huge Gelatinous Cube
4 Desiccated Dire Lions


The group started in Cillamar, where Garreth made a critical success on his (totally unnecessary) singing to earn extra money roll, and got an invitation to sing at a party at the Lord Mayor Franz Mentzer's Citadel in two weeks.

Zaber went looking for Lord Flitwick and found he was still out of town.  Zaber also heard rumors about the dead spirits of an old adventuring band haunting Castle Whiterock.  Seépravir researched cat god pyramids, and found that Basthetys, a minor goddess of cats, was in fact worshipped in an ancient civilization far to the south long ago, and that pyramids were built in that area.  Then Seépravir decided to get some fresh air by scrounging around the Lantern Guard's practice ground for an extra arrow to give to Polly.  (She does this every week.  It's amazing how cheap these PCs are.)

Garreth looked for rumors about Master Naburu in Galaron, and heard that he's a phony and his fighting school is weak.  Undeterred, Garreth asked Seépravir to write a letter to Master Naburu, and then asked Lady Chauntessa who might be delivering letters to Galaron.  She noted that the armorer Tyber Lasir travels there regularly and might be willing to take a letter.  Garreth paid Tyber a visit at the Sign of the Scimitar and Shield, and paid him a couple of silver pieces to deliver the letter next time he's up that way.

Having exhausted everything they could remember to do in town, the group started hiking toward Castle Whiterock on a not-that-cold winter day.  Polly rolled an 18 on her Hiking roll, and decided to use Luck to reroll it rather than risk injury.  The group once again decided to take the long way around Lake Whiterock rather than hiking over the ice, after hearing rumors of giant lake monsters.

There was some debate on where to explore next: behind the illusory wall on the river level, in the pyramid, or through the stalagmites to the south of the pyramid.  The pyramid won, and no wandering monsters appeared on the way there, and no Boating rolls were missed, so we fast-forwarded down to the giant cave.  There Seépravir cast Invisibility on both Zaber and Polly, and they scouted ahead together, using a piece of twine to keep track of each other's location.  They didn't see any enemies, so the whole group eventually headed south toward the black pyramid.  There Seépravir noticed that the falling boulder trap on the north side of the pyramid had not been reset, like it had the first time they set it off.

As the group went around the northwest corner of the pyramid, on the way to the door on the south side, Zaber spotted something transparent and wiggly ahead.  It was some kind of huge cube-shaped wiggly blob, which Zaber had only been able to see because there were some pieces of armor inside it.  Zaber called out a warning to his less-perceptive allies, while Polly started shooting arrows at it, losing her Invisibility in the process.  

Seépravir Levitated straight up to get out of ooze attack range.  Zaber, still Invisible, climbed up the pyramid to get out of the way, then watched the fun.  Garreth retreated, dragging Elias with him.  The cube oozed forward toward Polly, Garreth, and Zaber, while Polly filled it with arrows.

Seépravir decided to slow down the cube by casting a 1d Concussion on it, more for the stun effect than the damage.  The first Concussion didn't stun the cube, but the second one did.  Meanwhile Polly kept firing arrows into it while staying out of its reach.  Eventually, the combination of arrow damage and a bit of Concussion damage was enough to slow the cube's movement.

At that point the fight was pretty much won -- Polly could keep shooting the cube until it died, while running away from it.  But Seépravir decided to have some fun.  She cast Great Haste on herself to get two actions per turn, Levitated to right above the cube so she could just drop Concussions (as a free action) rather than having to use one of her actions throwing them, and then went into stun-lock-plus-2d-damage-every-second mode.  The cube needed to make 2 HT-3 rolls per turn to avoid stun, and once it got stunned it had to lose its next turn doing nothing but recovering from stun, while Seépravir kept re-stunning it and incidentally adding 2d damage every turn.  And it was already below 0 HP and needing to make a HT roll every turn to stay conscious.  This was too much, and the huge Gelatinous Cube eventually lost its structure and shook apart into more of a Gelatinous Stain.

Once it stopped twitching, the PCs switched to loot mode.  There was some armor inside the remains of the cube, and it was possible that its gooey remains were some kind of useful poison or acid, but nobody really wanted to touch it.  It was slowly dissolving the sand underneath it, and when Zaber tried to collect some of the slime, it ate through a glass vial.  It also dissolved the wooden shafts (but not the metal heads) of all the arrows that Polly had fired into it.  It clearly didn't eat metal, but nobody had a metal flask, so they gave up on collecting gelatinous slime to weaponize, and focused on getting the armor out instead.  Seépravir was able to do that using Apportation so nobody had to risk their hands.  Along with the armor pieces, which turned out to be magical (something Seépravir had noticed earlier but not mentioned because she didn't want the fighters getting too excited about treasure and getting slimed), was a non-magical warhammer head (just the head, no shaft), which Seépravir also recovered.  Polly spotted something small and magical inside the slime and had Seépravir Apportate that out too.  It turned out to be a magic ring.  Garreth threw caution to the wind and put it on, but it didn't have any obvious effect.  The magical plate armor (a full suit minus gloves) turned out to be dwarf-sized, to Garreth's disappointment.

The group decided to bury the armor and hammer head under the sand, then continue around the pyramid to the south entrance.  They made it there without further excitement, and went in the open door, to the room where they had killed the clay golem.  It was a low mana zone, so Seépravir started whining about not being able to maintain a dozen spells at once.  All the group's magic items except the Ring of Water Breathing and the Returning Spear stopped working in the low mana zone, though their Continual Light items still worked because Seépravir has that spell at 20.  The sanctity level was normal so Elias's cleric spells still worked, and he had Flaming Weapon on his flail for an alternate light source.
The entrance was on the south wall, and the group had previously found two secret doors; low on the north wall and high on the east wall.  Zaber opined that they had to be missing something on the west wall, and immediately started re-searching that wall for secret doors.  Sure enough, he found one, about 10 feet up, disguised as a picture of a lion in a mural.  He climbed up, searched for traps, didn't find any, and opened it.  It led to a passage going west a bit, then leading to stairs down to the northwest.  The group decided to go that way.  Polly ran right up the wall (she rolled a 4 for a critical success on Climbing), Garreth climbed up and pulled Elias up after him, and Seépravir Levitated.

Everyone went down the stairs, which ended at a stone door.  Zaber searched it for traps, didn't find any, and tried to open it, but the door was very heavy and didn't move at all.  Polly immediately gave it a try, and managed to pry it open.  (She's a lot stronger than she looks.)  Some black sand spilled out the doorway.

Behind the door was a large room with a vaulted ceiling, some kind of huge stone structure with ramps and platforms and ladders and bridges, and four gigantic half-skeletal undead lions lounging on the platforms.  Zaber the alert noticed the lions before they could pounce and avoided surprise.  The fact that the lions were undead quickly stopped any moral objections to shooting the nice kitties, so Polly dropped her quick release backpack then started shooting arrows at one of the lions.  Meanwhile Garreth and Elias started running down the stairs to reach the battle (which required DX rolls to avoid slipping).  And Seépravir Levitated forward and started casting Great Haste on Garreth.  

The lion that Polly had just shot made a mighty pounce from the platform across the room and tried to slam her, but she dodged.  Then put a couple more arrows into it at point-blank range.  Another lion, having spent a turn wiggling its skeletal hindquarters back and forth, pounced at Zaber, but he did a retreating Judo parry to avoid solid contact.  The lion on Polly tried biting her neck, but she Acrobatically dodged it.

Elias missed his DX roll running down the stairs by 1, which was just a little slip costing him 1 hex of movement, not a face plant.  Great Hasted Garreth made it to the bottom then chopped up the lion that Polly had already shot several times, finishing it off.  For his second attack he tried cutting off the face (all he could reach) of the one near Zaber, but it dodged.

A third lion pounced at Polly, and rolled a critical hit ... but she used Luck to turn it into a regular hit, and then Garreth sacrificially parried for her.  She put another arrow into it, putting it below 0 HP, and it failed its consciousness check, falling to the floor.  The fourth lion pounced on Garreth, but he made an acrobatic, retreating dodge, and evaded it.  

At that point Elias had finally reached the battle and he unloaded on one of the undead lions with his Flaming flail to the skull.  Turns out it was vulnerable to crushing damage (good) but had no brain (bad), so this resulted in double damage, not the quadruple damage Elias was hoping for.  That was still enough to slow it, halving its Dodge, and put it below 0 HP into consciousness check range.  It made its consciousness check.  Seépravir spend her turn giving tactical advice to Garreth.  Her advice was to kill the last lion with his katana.  Garreth didn't really need that advice, and proceeded to kill the last lion with his katana.

Interestingly, all three dead desiccated lions dissoved to sand, leaving no bones behind.  The unconscious one was still lying there, so Garreth chopped its head off, and it too dissolved to sand.  When it did, a small object remained, that had been inside its body.  It was a small brass urn with two handles.  Zaber checked it for traps, didn't find any, and opened it up.  Inside were some mummified organs.  Zaber winced and held the urn away from his face, but managed to avoid hurling.

At that point the PCs were in a room with the world's biggest cat tree.  I forced a Curiosity roll on Zaber to avoid playing on it, but he used his Luck to reroll and resisted.  Instead of playing on it, he professionally climbed it and searched for secrets, but didn't find any.  At that point Seépravir was getting weirded out by the low mana level and really wanted to go outside the pyramid, and asked Elias to come with her.  But we were running out of time, so everyone decided to go outside with her.  Then they dug up the treasure they had buried and went back to Cillamar.

GM's Comments:

The huge gelatinous cube was a cool monster, but there's a general rule that, given sufficient space, an archer that can outrun a melee-only combatant who's not totally immune to arrows will eventually win.  The cube wasn't immune to arrows, and Polly could outrun it while turning it into a pincushion, so Polly was going to win unless it had more HP than she had arrows.  Until Seépravir decided it would be more fun to Concussion-bomb it to death from above, also a viable option and one that saved arrows.  So Seépravir got a rare direct kill.

The plate armor with Fortify +2 and Lighten 50% that was inside the Gelatinous Cube is exactly what Garreth has been dreaming of all his life -- but it's dwarf-sized and he's not.  Ha ha!  (Actually this isn't something I did on purpose to hose Garreth -- the armor was dwarf-sized in the D&D 3.5 Castle Whiterock adventure that I converted.)  In DFRPG, using different armor than humans despite both being SM 0 is a called out feature of dwarves.  Sorry, the armor is too short and wide to fit.  It's valuable treasure though.

I thought the desiccated dire lions were cool opponents, but this group of PC just has too much Dodge and Parry and Luck and Bless for the number of attacks the lions could muster per turn.  It didn't help that the lions wanted to play with their food and pounce individually rather than all at once.  The only treasure the group got for beating the four desiccated dire lions was an brass urn full of mummified guts.  Whether that turns out to have any value, well, the players don't know yet.

This week turned out to pretty much be a cakewalk for the PCs, thanks largely to good tactics.  It would have been more fun for me if the players had tried to melee the gelatinous cube.  Probably not as much fun for the players.

2019-02-23

DF Whiterock Session 39: Green Slime and the Wight Lady

Date:

2019-02-22


Weather:

Just below freezing, partly cloudy


Player Characters:

Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 327 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 324 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 308 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 342 points

Significant NPCs:

Lady Chauntessa, innkeeper and historian
Ixnay, shoulder dragon
Vulgaris, Minyad druid
The Wight Lady, wight spellcaster
5 Wights


We started in Cillamar, on a not very cold winter day.  Seépravir tried playing her flute to make extra money that she didn't need, and failed miserably.  She also did some research on druidic portals, and found vague rumors about a place called the Far Garden, the essence of all forests, which is allegedly reachable via dimensional gates in some other forests.  There was no confirmation of known gates that actually work, though.  

Garreth returned from his quest to find a martial arts master, without actually meeting one but having heard rumors of a Master Naburu in Galaron.  He also found that his order of balanced sais had come in.

Zaber once again failed to find Lord Flitwick, but heard a rumor about summoning creatures being impossible near Castle Whiterock, and managed to order a potion belt.  Polly found that hard carrot juice was back on the menu, and shared some with Ixnay.  Zaber and Polly decided they needed some twine (for tracking invisible allies, because rope is heavy) and bought some at a bargain price.

Lady Chauntessa made an offer to purchase the huge lions-head mace the PCs had found in the black pyramid, but they decided not to sell it yet in case it turned out to be useful.

Seépravir cast Warmth on everyone, and they hiked to Castle Whiterock without difficulty, except that Seépravir slipped in the snow one time too many and decided to Levitate instead.  Once they reached the castle, she cast Dark Vision on everyone, Invisibility on Zaber and Polly, and Keen Hearing / See Secrets / See Invisible on Zaber.  Not to be outdone, Polly, who is technically a mage, cast Keen Vision on herself and Zaber.

The group decided to go looking for green slime for Vulgaris.  Garreth remembered that it was somewhere in the mine shafts of the lower orc level.  But none of the players remembered exactly where.  Garreth asked if Zaber or Seépravir, who had found the slime previously, could make an IQ roll to remember where it was.  Zaber rolled a 3, a maximum critical success, so I told him that he was sure he remembered exactly where it was.  Which is good because otherwise the PCs would have probably blundered around a cleared level for hours looking for it.  Even with Zaber giving exact directions, the other players had a hard enough time following him, but eventually he led them to the shaft with green slime dripping from the ceiling.  With his perfect memory of its location and magically enhanced vision, there wasn't much chance of him stumbling into it.

Seépravir cast Apportation on a vial, and then floated it up near the slime on the ceiling and tried to collect some.  It took her a few tries, but the failures didn't really matter because there were no PC fingers anywhere near the slime.  I asked for a DX roll to safely cap the vial, and Zaber and Garreth competed to be the one to heroically risk their fingers near slime.  Zaber, with slightly higher DX, eventually made the roll.  There was more slime left, so they repeated the whole process with a second vial.  Then there was hardly any slime left, so the group decided to leave it alone to possibly regrow, in case they needed more in the future.

While in the area, Seépravir decided to cast Seek Magic in case they missed any magic items on that level.  Instead it found that the walls of of the nearby tower where they had (long ago) defeated the cloud giant / orc Drugila were magical.  Seépravir then wanted to cast Analyze Magic, which revealed that the walls were enchanted with some unknown anti-digging spell.  Probably whatever the cloud giant wizards use to keep pesky earth mages out.  At this point everyone else was really bored and Garreth and Polly had started playing catch with sais, so they stopped playing with spells and headed out.

With two potion vials of green slime in Zaber's (borrowed) potion belt, the group went up one level to the top of the elevator, then Seépravir prepared to lower the elevator using the winch then Levitate down after it.  But she critically failed her Levitation spell, and for once decided not to use Luck to avert it.  The critical failure ended up casting the spell on the wrong target, which meant Polly was the one who could fly, which was actually fine, so they went with that.

The bottom of the elevator was right near Vulgaris's mushroom farm, so the group headed over there to trade green slime for access to the gate that was allegedly in her lair.  But they didn't have Elias with them, so they didn't actually want to go through the gate yet, just purchase future access.  Vulgaris agreed to the deal, and also mentioned that they might want to bring some construction equipment and possibly a dwarf since the gate is actually currently a pile of rocks.  Then she took her green slime and headed into her other cave to start making potions.

The group decided to try to finish the river level.  So, with Garreth rowing, they went north down the underground river.  They went through the rocks to avoid the giant clams, and this time no clams attacked them.  Zaber, who had been scouting ahead in the water, climbed back in the boat to go down a waterfall.  The group went past the illusory wall, past the landing that led to the passage to the giant cave with the pyramid, and then reached the end of the river.  There was a dry passage heading north, a small beach to the southwest with a pile of rocks beyond it, and a huge whirlpool sucking all the river water down.  Garreth landed the boat in the dry passage, which only went a few feet then ended in a huge pile of rocks.  It looked like the former path of the river, before it had been diverted down into the whirlpool.

Garreth announced that he wasn't taking the boat anywhere near that whirlpool, so instead Seépravir cast Flight on Zaber so he could fly over and check out the other beach.  He reported that there were a lot of rocks there and it would take forever to move them.  So Seépravir Levitated herself over there then started using Shape Earth to move rocks aside.  After a bit of this, a passage opened, but some creepy undead started coming through it.  So Seépravir re-closed the passage, then Zaber flew back over and carried first Polly, then Garreth across.  (Surprisingly, Zaber can actually lift Garreth at Extra Heavy encumbrance, which is good enough to fly at Move 2.)

When everyone was ready, Seépravir started manipulating rock again, with a goal of getting access to some undead for an unfair fight.  This worked, as one wight popped out while the other four were still behind the rocks.  Garreth, who had been Waiting for just such an occurrence, smashed the wight twice with a katana, re-killing it before anyone else got to help.

Seépravir started shaping the rock again, and this time managed to open a skinny tunnel leading to a trapped wight a few yards back, out of melee range.  This was Polly's cue to fill the defenseless wight with arrows until it stopped moving.  That took four arrows.  Seépravir played with the rock some more, but apparently all the other wights had moved back out of the smash zone, as when the passageway opened back up, three wights and the Wight Lady (a wight with long hair, a breastplate, some boots, a ring, and a flail) were standing well back in a cave, away from all the moving rock.

A slightly less unfair fight started.  Polly shot at the leader twice, but she dodged twice.  Garreth moved up.  The minion wights moved up.  The Wight Lady cast some kind of fear spell at both Garreth and Polly, the only two PCs she could see.  Garreth resisted, but Polly was terrified and decided to hide behind some rocks rather than fighting.  Seépravir Great Hasted herself.  Zaber considered running up to backstab the leader, but instead waiting next to Seépravir to get Great Hasted.

Garreth waited.  Three wights charged him.  When the first one got within katana range, he chopped it up, but it dodged.  Then it tried punching him, but he parried.  Garreth then chopped up another one and killed it.  The Wight Lady, seeing Garreth punishing her minions, yelled "Did she send you? She left me in this cave to die!" and then cast some totally unfair spell on him that melted his organs a bit for 4d damage, which turned out to be 13.  A decent amount, but he has over 20 HP, and he made his Major Wound knockdown / stun check, so his Bless decided it was not worth averting.

Seépravir decided she was tired of watch Polly cower, and cast Dispel Magic.  It worked, and Polly became less scared and started preparing to resume shooting things.  Meanwhile, Zaber invisibly ran up to the Wight Lady at double speed and tried stabbing her in the eye.  Somehow she heard him coming, and somehow she parried the blow with her flail despite him being invisible.  While Zaber complained, one of the surviving wights slammed Garreth.  But he parried, aggressively since its body wasn't a Striker like its hand, and he killed it.  Oops.  Mook wights are not the best tacticians.

The Wight Lady speecified "She makes me do her dirty work and then buries me alive in a cave! And then sends you...mongrels after me. DIE!", and then cast her unfair 4d damage spell again, this time on Zaber, but he doesn't have the kind of HP that Garreth does, and Zaber's Bless decided to expend itself saving him from going below 0 HP.  Garreth hit the Wight Lady hard with his katana, and she rolled a 17 on her death check, and that was the end of that.  The mages noticed that her breastplate, ring, flail, cloak, and boots were all magical, quite a haul if they were useful.

It was pretty late at that point, so the PCs decided to gather up their pile of loot and head back to Cillamar.  They had found some green slime, the end of the river, and a few magic items, not a bad day's work.


GM's Comments:

The green slime would have been a really annoying fetch quest, watching PCs stumble around through mine shafts,  if Zaber hadn't rolled that 3 to remember exactly where it was.  That short circuited things a bit, which was probably for the best.

The fight against the Wight Lady and her 5 minion wights might have been a big tougher if two of the wights hadn't died to earth moving tricks, or if the Wight Lady hadn't failed her very first death check.  Oh well.

Next time, the group has to choose between checking behind the illusory wall some more, going back to the pyramid, checking out other parts of the huge cave past the pyramid, or trying to play with the dimensional gate.  We'll see.

2019-02-17

DF Whiterock Session 38: Huge Clay Golem

Date:

2019-02-15

Weather:

Just below freezing, light snow


Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles not present, played by GM), Wood Elf Cleric, 270 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 320 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 304 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 338 points

Significant NPCs:

Vulgaris, Minyad druid
Giant Clams (with harpoons)
Huge Clay Golem


We started in Cillamar, except that Garreth was out of town, looking for some kind of teacher.  Zaber did his usual search for Lord Flitwick and his servants, and again failed to find them.  He also did his usual pub crawl looking for rumors, and heard something about an underground vampire lord bartender.

Seépravir researched "Chartrusa's annual plight" and learned that Chartrusa was a mythical warrior who rode in a battle on a magical chariot, and that she is immortalized in a constellation that makes a journey from the east to west every year.  Seépravir also brewed a few potions.

Polly found that the Inn of the Slumbering Drake was all out of hard carrot juice, tried hard beet juice instead, and found that it wasn't as good.

The weather had warmed up to the point that regular winter clothing was enough for prolonged outdoor activities like hiking to Castle Whiterock, but Seépravir cast Warmth on everyone anyway.  They made it to the castle in good order, without encountering anybody or anything.  Elias pushed the wheelbarrow, containing the Wineskin of Many Healing Potions.  After some spell-shuffling for dungeon conditions (less cold, more darkness), everyone walked across the former upper orc level (still unoccupied) to the secret room with the elevator, then Seépravir worked the crank to lower everyone else in the elevator, and Levitated down after them.

Polly wanted to check the minyad's lair for other exits, and Zaber wanted to hit on the minyad, so they went that way.  Vulgaris showed a strong interest in some green slime, or possibly blue slime if they couldn't find any green.  Polly asked Vulgaris if there were any other exits from her area, and she said that there were not, except for the disassembled dimensional portal.  Seeing their interest in the gate, the minyad said that she would allow the group to play with it, in exchange for some green slime or getting her old rapier back.  However, the PCs decided they would wait until Garreth was back to play with any dimensional gates, and decided to go explore the pyramid instead.

There was still a skiff sitting on the nearby underground beach.  Without Garreth available to steer it, Zaber volunteered for boating duty.  He did a fine job, piloting around some rocks near the Giant Clams without hitting any.  Unfortunately, one of the Giant Clams must have been a bit hungry, as it decided to harpoon Elias in the back of the skiff.  Fortunately, it didn't do enough damage to penetrate Elias's armor, and none of the other Giant Clams too a shot.  The group has decided that Giant Clams are Nature and not enemies, and should not be harmed, so they ignored the attack and kept going.

Zaber steered the boat down a small waterfall, and managed to land it at the dock that had been formerly guarded by Derro.  There was no sign of the Derro or anyone else, so the group formed up and went through the concealed door, down a long passage to the huge cave.  This time, nobody attacked them in the huge cave, and they made it to the pyramid easily.

Elias noticed that the big boulder that had slid down the pyramid's north stairs last time was back on top of the north entrance.  So someone, or something, had reset the trap.  Seépravir thought she knew how to get into the pyramid, based on the Chartrusa story, and announced that they needed to mess with the east doors then the west doors.  This time, rather than triggering the trap by jumping on top of the boulder, they would trigger it "naturally" by trying to open the door, and then Seépravir would cast Phase Other on whoever triggered the trap to keep them from being smashed by the huge boulder.  Seépravir first dropped most of her spells on, so that her Phase Other would work on 16 or less.  Then Polly triggered the trap on the east doors, Seépravir kept the boulder from killing Polly, and the east door was still a false door.

Seépravir asked if the Chartrusa constellation was in the Northern or Southern Hemisphere.  It was in the Northern, so she decided they should try the north doors next, then the west doors, and things would open.  So everyone went over to the north door (except Elias who pushed the wheelbarrow around the base of the pyramid and stayed out of where the boulder should fall), and they repeated triggering the trap.  Then they went over to the west door and repeated the process -- and nothing happened.  It was still false doors.

Seépravir was confused that her plan hadn't worked, but both Zaber and Polly suggested the south door as the only one they hadn't tried, so they went to that one.  This time, when Polly touched the door, the rock didn't fall.  And Zaber was able to pick the lock, but the door (a real stone door this time, not a false one) was very heavy, so he needed Polly's help to open it.

Seépravir re-cast Dark Vision on everyone, and a few other spells, and then the group started down the dark stairway into the pyramid.  But a few steps in, Seépravir noticed the mana level dropping.  Keeping all those spells up would no longer be practical in a low mana zone, with -5 to all spell skills.  Also, all the group's magic items except the Ring of Water Breathing (Etc.) seemed to go non-magical in the pyramid.  So Seépravir dropped the Dark Visions and most of her other spells, and Elias used Flaming Weapon to light up his flail (sanctity level seemed normal so his clerical spells still worked fine), and Polly pulled out a couple of arrows with Continual Light on them (cast by Seépravir at skill 20, so they still worked in low mana), holding one and handing the other to Zaber.

The stairs down ended in another heavy stone door, which opened effortlessly, as though it was crafted and maintained by skilled dwarves.  It revealed a huge hall, about 50 feet wide and 80 feet long and 30 feet high, with soft light coming from the ceiling, and lots of picture writing on 3 walls.  Against the far wall stood a huge stone statue of a human male wearing robes and a breastplate and holding a huge mace with a roaring lion head.

Elias noticed that the statue was wearing a holy symbol of the cat goddess Bastetys.  Polly declared that cats are cool, and stopped aiming an arrow at the statue.  Zaber started looking at all the pictures on the walls.  They seemed to tell a story: a plague had come to some desert cities, apparently carried by rodents.  The previous ruler and his priests could not stop it.  But a heroic cat priest came to town, summoned a lot of cats (of all types and sizes), the cats killed all the rodents and stopped the plague and saved the city, and the cat priest was made king, and a giant black pyramid was built.

After finishing looking at all the pictures, Polly decided that there had to be a secret door or something behind the statue, and asked Zaber to search there.  He touched the statue, and the statue started moving, and readied its huge mace.  Polly resumed hostile mode despite kitty cats, and fired a couple of arrows at the statue, but it dodged them.  The statue then charged at Seépravir and tried to crush her with its huge mace, but he retreated straight up (Levitating) and dodged.

Elias, without his usual Lighten Burden 50% running because of the low mana zone, was quite slow, and took a while to charge into battle.  Seépravir tried Rapier Wit on the statue, in Celestial, but it didn't work.  Either it didn't speak Celestial or it didn't think she was very witty.  Polly kept plugging arrows at the statue.  Zaber ran behind the statue.  The statue spun around and tried to smash him.  Zaber rolled a 17 on his Acrobatics roll, but used Luck to fix it (he recently bought his Luck up to Extraordinary Luck so now he gets to reroll every 30 minutes), and then made his acrobatic dodge.  Seépravir Great Hasted herself.  (Because of the low mana this took two turns rather than one.)

Polly shot a couple more arrows into the statue, one hitting its eye (which seemed to be just as hard as the rest of the statue) and the other its torso.  This time it failed to dodge, and the arrows seemed to knock off a little stone.  Zaber, behind the statue, decided to jump on its back and go for a piggyback ride.  He made his Jumping roll and grappled it from behind, though the statue was so much bigger and stronger than Zaber that the grapple had no real effect.

Elias was finally pretty close, and the statue decided to smash him.  First, it started moving faster - - the PCs weren't the only ones with Great Haste.  Then it spent one action closing to within reach, and the second action trying to smash Elias with its huge mace.  Elias blocked with his shield, while retreating.  (DFRPG doesn't have shield damage rules and lets you block huge things with a shield.  I find this cheesy but have not house ruled any changes.)  Elias then used his Heroic Grace to get +5 to DX for 10 turns, transforming from somewhat good with a flail to really good with a flail.  Seépravir cast Great Haste on Elias.

Polly hit the statue with another arrow.  Zaber, still riding piggyback, Fast Drew a sai and tried to shove it through a gap in the statue (aiming for armor chinks).  He rolled a critical attack, double damage, and actually managed to penetrate, though he didn't do a lot of damage.  Still moving super-fast, the statue went after Polly.  She retreated and dodged its first attack, despite rolling a 15.  Its second attack was a Deceptive Attack for -3 to defenses, but she acrobatically dodged that one.  At this point, Elias was finally in attack range, and he attacked the statue 3 times: first an All-Out Attack Double then a regular attack.  Two of the three attacks were critical hits, one for double damage, and the statue seemed extra-vulnerable to crushing attacks, so this tore pieces of clay off, but the statue didn't fall down.

Seépravir gave tactical advice to both Elias (hit it faster) and Zaber (try not to die), while Polly shot more arrows at the wounded statue.  This time, it rolled a 17 on a dodge, falling down.  This could have been bad for Zaber, on its back, if it fell backward, but the dice decided it fell forward.  Zaber jumped off to stay out of the crash site.  Polly fired another arrow into the downed statue, and it stopped moving.

Zaber started trying to pry the inactive golem apart with his sai, and Elias decided to help with his flail.  The statue was hollow, and Zaber found a small urn inside.  It didn't appear trapped, and inside was a small urn.  Inside the urn was a bead, with a hole through it, which Seépravir said was magical.  So they took that.

Seépravir went to the top of the stairs where the mana level was better to rest.  Zaber found a secret door under where the statue used to be, with a huge keyhole that looked like it needed a huge flanged key.  Zaber stuck the golem's mace in there, and it fit.  (Zaber was just barely strong enough to lift it, nowhere near strong enough to use it as a weapon.)  This opened the door, leading to a short crawl under the statue's former base then some stairs down, but the group decided not to go that way yet.

Zaber decided to search the hall some more, and found two vertical rows of holes along the east wall, going up around 20'.  He decided to use the holes to climb up, then searched for a secret door at the top.  He found one, then went to get Seépravir to ask for a Levitation spell.  She cast one on him (rolling a 3, a critical success) and then flew Zaber up there, where he could work on the secret door with both hands without worrying about falling.   He figured out how to open the secret door, and it led to another staircase heading down east into the pyramid.  He also saw some writing on the door, in an unknown language.  Seépravir Levitated Elias up, and he cast Gift of Letters, which told him that the message (in Ancient Sphinx again) was "Retrieve the key, for a chance to defeat part of me."

Seépravir cast Seek Magic, and the nearest magic (excluding known items carried by the PCs) was some magical lights up around the ceiling of the huge hall.  The group managed to carry the huge mace out of the pyramid, load it into their wheelbarrow (which fit in the skiff only because Garreth wasn't there), and headed back to Cillamar.


GM's Comments:

Another light week for loot.  All the group found was the huge mace and the magic bead.  Though they learned a few interesting things, so it wasn't a bad week.

Elias's player was supposed to arrive an hour late, which was why Elias tagged along, but then the player never showed.  I usually have late arriving players' PCs catch the rest of the party partway through the session, but decided that with all the Boating rolls needed to get through the underground river level, that would be a bad idea this time, so I would just run Elias until his player got there.  So he ended up being run by the GM for the whole session, something I normally avoid.  (One of the benefits of usually starting in town is that it makes it easy to run with whoever showed up that week, so nobody ever needs to run PCs for absent players, so nobody has to worry about their PC dying when they're not there.)

The getting-into-the-pyramid puzzle took a long time, and the players still aren't really sure what's going on, but they got inside.  The overhead map of the pyramid with the four staircases and four boulders helps some, but I think I should have also provided pictures of the double door keyholes / cat people / boulder arrangements, to make it a bit clearer.  

The golem was pretty buff, and would have done a lot of damage if it ever managed to hit, but there was only one of it versus 4 PCs, and the combo of high defenses and Luck and Bless worked again.  It wasn't super-vulnerable to arrows, so if Elias hadn't been there it might have been iffy, but once he had Great Haste and Heroic Grace up, that statue was doomed.  Its drawback was that it had Unnatural: Brittle and automatically died at -HP, rather than making death checks.  So they only had to deal twice its (large) number of HP past its (high) DR to kill it, rather than up to 6 times its HP.

The PCs found two secret doors inside the pyramid, one with a cryptic message.  And also some kind of disassembled dimensional gate near the minyad's mushroom farm.  So they have options for next week.  We'll see what they pick.

DF Whiterock Session 43: The Mummy And His Zoo

Date: 2019-03-22 Weather: Around freezing, blowing snow Player Characters: Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 278 points Garreth (...