Unseasonably warm, snow has melted
Player Characters:Elias (Wiggles), Human Cleric, 247 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 299 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 292 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 276 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 310 points
Iolas, Elf Musical Craftswoman
Brie, Half-Elf Bard
Aeraelith, imprisoned Air Elemental
Vulgaris, Minyad mushroom farmer
5 Giant Clams
After taking a couple of weeks off from adventuring for the winter holidays, the 5 PCs assembled at the Inn of the Slumbering Drake in Cillamar to plan their next delve. They needed someone to play their jade-stringed harp to help free an imprisoned air elemental, so they asked Brie, a bard who often played at the Inn, if she would do it. While the harp wasn't her favorite instrument, she claimed she could play one well enough, and they hired her for $200 to accompany them to Castle Whiterock.
Nobody heard any particularly interesting rumors over the holidays, though Zaber started using his newly acquired Propaganda skill to start spreading nasty rumors about Lord Granger Flitwick, who was still out of town somewhere to the south. Garreth found a dwarven teacher who knew Undercommon and started taking some language lessons.
The group went together to the shop of Iolas the musical crafts-elf, where the harp she had constructed for them around the magical jade harp strings they had found in the dungeon was finished. They paid the balanced owed, handed the harp to Brie, and started hiking to Castle Whiterock. It was a much easier than usual hike for winter, thanks to uncommonly warm weather over the past few weeks. They made it to the castle in reasonable time with nothing eventful happening.
After casting a few spells, everyone walked over to the castle's stairs, down through the former upper orc level, then down through the former lower orc level, to the former upper troglodyte level, past the cave formerly full of piercers, and over to the flowstone cavern containing the strange organ and Aeraelith the imprisoned air elemental. The elemental was making a bunch of whoosing and whistling noises that nobody understood. Brie started playing the harp, Seépravir joined in on the flute (which she plays quite well), and Polly played the drum (at default skill, but playing a single drum isn't that hard). Apparently they played the song from the stone tablets found inside the organ's bench well enough, because there was a bright flashing light and the smell of sulfur and then a huge wind that knocked Seépravir down, followed by a lot more whistling sounds.
Elias eventually cast Gift of Tongues to figure out what the air elemental was saying, and it was the expected "thank you"s plus some crude mockery of the drow female who had imprisoned him. Elias asked if there'd be a reward, but the elemental said he'd been locked up for 500 years and didn't really have anything to give as one. But if his friends ever needed any wind, they could call on him. Elias asked how, and Aeraelith said they could use a summon spell or something. Elias wasn't impressed. The elemental said it wanted to go experience some sun and fresh air, and left. Her work done, Brie also decided to head back to Cillamar on her own, rather than waiting for the others. She took their harp with her, promising to deliver it to the Inn.
Something had happened to the Ring of Water Breathing that Seépravir usually wears; she found that she now understood Aquan and could cast Create Water. (Though she could already cast Create Water so that wasn't a huge win.)
With the elemental freed, everyone decided it was time for more underwater river boating. So they headed down to the lower former troglodyte level, then to the underwater river level, where Vulgaris the Minyad was tending to her fungus. When the visible members of the party revealed themselves, she emerged to ask if they brought a rapier to trade, and managed not to say "to replace the one you took from me after almost killing me." They had, so she offered a couple of fungal Major Healing potions for it, and the group accepted. She went off to practice trimming mushrooms with her new rapier, while they headed west toward the underground beach.
Zaber mentioned something about leftover old Derro beer in the nearby cave, but the others eventually lured him back out to scout ahead. Seépravir cast Warmth and Swim on him (to go with the Invisibility and Dark Vision he already had), and gave him the Ring of Water Breathing (and Aquan and Create Water). With the spells and ring, Zaber was able to scout ahead easily, while the others followed in a boat. After a brief debate of which boat to take (there were three on the beach, plus the Folding Boat that the group found last delve in Garreth's pack), Garreth picked a random skiff that looked watertight, loaded everyone, and started rowing.
The group hadn't gone far at all when they were ambushed by two huge raylike creatures, one swimming below the water and one flying above. The creatures somehow managed to achieve surprise despite Zaber's watchful eye, and the underwater one tried to smash the boat and turn the air-breathers into drowning dinner. Fortunately for the PCs, while it put a hole in the boat, it didn't quite do enough damage to capsize or destroy the boat, and they all recovered from surprise pretty quickly. (Everyone except Elias made their first IQ roll, and he made his second.)
The underwater lurker's second attack on the boat was ineffective (it rolled a 16), and by then Garreth was chopping it up with his katana. The flying one tried to swoop in and grab Seépravir, but she dodged. (She didn't have Levitate up, so didn't get to retreat unless she was willing to fall in the water, since there wasn't enough empty space in the boat, but she made her Dodge roll anyway.) Polly started filling the flying one with arrows. Zaber swam up and grabbed the front of the boat. Realizing that the skiff she was in might not be floating much longer, Seépravir cast Levitate on herself.
The flying lurker went after Seépravir again, but Garreth used his sacrificial parry to defend her. Then he used his katana to slice up the underwater lurker some more, until it stopped moving. Seépravir cast Shape Water to make water stop coming in the hole in the skiff. The flying lurker went after Elias, but he blocked. And then Garreth sliced that one too, and it went down into the water.
At that point the PCs went back to the beach and traded their skiff with a big hole in it (granted, with no water currently coming in thanks to a magical patch job) for a skiff without a big hole in it. Then they headed down the river again, exploring past the spot where the cave fishers ambushed them last time, then back to the southeast, until Elias noticed a high sanctity area. A quick check revealed a ledge with a hallway back into the rocks. The group beached their skiff then went up to explore the passage. It ended in an artificial-looking dead end with two 45-degree-angle passages, some writing in a language nobody knew, and some kind of supernaturally projected holy symbol of Justicia (a sword and shield, with the sword piercing a dragon's head). Elias tried praying, but this didn't have any obvious effect. Polly and Zaber looked for secret doors, but didn't find any. Elias cast Gift of Letters and was able to read that the writing (in Celestial) said "Believer, wield your faith to gain entry." But apparently his Elyr-oriented faith wasn't good enough, as he couldn't figure out how to gain entry. The group went back to their boat.
Heading back to the north, Zaber spotted a group of rocks ahead, with a gap to the right that should allow safe passage. Everyone was immediately suspicious of this, and Zaber invisibly snuck up to find what evil must lurk in the "safe" part of the river, and saw several giant (bigger than man-sized!) clams. He went back to the skiff and there was a discussion about pearls and weather Giant Clams counted as Nature and should be left alone. The conclusion was to go get one of the Lurker corpses and have Zaber feed it to the clams and see what happened. So they rowed back, chopped off as much Lurker as they could fit in the boat, returned to near the clams, then had (still Invisible) Zaber carry the Lurker bits near the clams then let go, having them become visible. The experiment worked, and one of the clams opened up and fired some kind of spear at the lurker bits, then reeled it in and closed on the tasty treat. Zaber tried to get a look inside while the shell was open to see if there were any giant pearls, but didn't see any. Seépravir was pretty sure these kind of clams should have pearls, though. After some more discussion, the group decided to leave the clams alone for now, and instead try to boat between the rocks on the other side of the stream. Garreth did a good job controlling the skiff, and the clams didn't mess with group as they went past. So, possible combat avoided, for now.
Continuing to the west, the group first heard then saw a waterfall. Garreth back-rowed to keep the skiff from going downstream toward it, while they discussed the options. Seépravir used Levitate to fly ahead and check the waterfall out, and was able to report that it was about a ten-foot drop with reasonably deep water at the bottom, possibly safe to boat down. Zaber climbed up on the slippery rock to on the side of the passage near the waterfall. Garreth decided to try it, and successfully piloted the boat down the waterfall without crashing it. This left Zaber behind, but he decided it was safer to climb past the waterfall than swim down it, even with the Swim spell and Water Breathing ring making him basically a fish, and he didn't have any problem climbing on the slippery rock. So everyone was back together under the waterfall. Someone mentioned that making it back up might be a pain, but that was a problem for later.
The group continued down the underground river as it bent north, with Zaber invisibly swimming ahead, until he spotted some kind of humanoids lurking underwater. He swam back to the boat to alert the others, not wanting to call out and make noise. But they took a bit too long, and one of the ambushers got impatient and decided to swim under the skiff rather than waiting for it to come to him. And then hit it with his axe for 5d+3 damage. BOOM! That was enough to turn the skiff from a single cohesive boat to a collection of floating boat bits. Fortunately for the PCs, the skiff was made of inherently buoyant wood, rather than being completely reliant on its shape for all flotation. So they had the option to attempt a DX roll (to grab onto some wreckage) or a penalized Acrobatics roll (to stand on some wreckage and keep their hands free), or to go into the water and roll Swimming. Polly and Garreth both chose Acrobatics and both succeeded at surfing on skiff bits. Elias chose to drop his flail (fortunately attached by a lanyard for such emergencies) and grab onto some wreckage and succeeded in staying above water. And Seépravir had been Levitating above the skiff rather than sitting in it, so the skiff breaking up had no great effect on her.
Still, three of the PCs were now perched on floating bits of wood, not the best fighting perch, as the underwater axe-Skum and his band of merry ambushers prepared to knock them off and drown them. Fortunately, Seépravir was able to use Shape Water to make a nice solid (er, okay, actually liquid, but well- behaved liquid) four-hex platform for them to stand on. While she was doing this she got a good look at the big guy with the axe and called out that the axe looked magical. And she also happened to notice that the west wall of the passage was looked like an illusion, maybe worth checking out when the group wasn't busy trying to survive.
Polly asked if the unknown humanoids had visible eyes, and they did, so she tried shooting one in the eye. It dodged the first arrow, but not the second, and took an arrow through the eye and presumably into its brain, stunning and slowing it. Zaber, still Invisible, decided to use the Ring to Create Water over the head of one of the nearby skum. This worked, and wasn't an actual attack so didn't make him visible, but had no apparent effect. Elias stood up on the magically Shaped water platform and used his lanyard to deftly yank his flail back into his hand.
The big underwater Skum with the magic axe decided to kill Garreth with it. Garreth initially failed his parry, but used his Luck, and then rolled a 4 for a critical success on the retry. The huge guy went to the critical failure table, and dropped his weapon, and no longer had his magic axe, which went splashing into the water. (Unlike Elias, he didn't have a lanyard.)
Garreth tried to stab the disarmed huge opponent, but the -2 for attacking into the murky water plus the big deceptive attack penalty he chose were enough to make the 5 he rolled not a crit, and the opponent dodged it, while Retreating downward toward his axe. (He was a very impressive dodger and obviously had Amphibious.) Polly shot the stunned opponent in its other eye, rendering it blind, and also unconscious. She shot her other arrow at a different opponent that was climbing onto the water platform, but it dodged.
At this point invisible aqua-Zaber had a new mission: go steal that axe before its owner recovers it and gets to roll 5d+3 damage again. With the Swim spell he was fast enough to get their in one Move, and with Invisibility, once he grabbed it, the axe turned invisible too. Elias decided to double strike a nearby opponent. His first attack rolled a 3 for a critical hit, a major wound, good damage, and a (rare in GURPS 4E) hex of knockback. His second attack hit too, as the skum splashed back into the water, stunned.
Another skum came onto the water platform and tried to claw Elias, but he blocked with his shield. A different one tried to grab Polly, but she acrobatically dodged, jumping over its grasping clawed hand. Seépravir started casting Great Haste on Garreth, and a couple seconds later he was super-fast. Garreth unleashed four high-speed Deceptive stabs at the big skum in the water looking for his invisible axe. It failed to dodge the first one and was hit hard enough to be slowed, reducing his crazy-high dodge to a much less impressive level, allowing two more hits, for a combined massive amount of damage. The huge skum was super-tough though, and made all his death checks and consciousness check and major wound checks, so was still moving down there.
Polly shot another skum in the eye and rolled 16 damage that was quadrupled to 64 points for a brain hit and the skum rolled an 18 on its death check, so that was one less enemy I had to track. Elias laid into a skum twice more with his flail, getting two hits but not managing to knock it out. Zaber Waited, axe in hand, for the big skum to come out of the water. And he did, jumping out of the water to come kill Garreth with his bare claws. Unfortunately he never saw Zaber there, who got a backstab neck-chop with the axe. Zaber didn't actually have Axe/Mace skill, but he had a lot of DX and a pretty good default and Bless+2, and managed to hit. The big skum had no idea that was coming, didn't get to defend, and took a solid chop to back of the neck, which was just enough (when added to all the damage Garreth did last turn) to get a third death check, which he rolled a 16 on. Dead skum. Garreth once again did most of the damage to an opponent then had Zaber swoop in and get the kill with one hit.
There was one skum left. Seépravir tried Death Vision on it, which didn't work, so apparently skum aren't alive or don't fear death. Garreth tried multiple-katana-chops on it, did a bunch of damage, and it failed its first death check, so it turns out that not fearing death doesn't make you immune to it.
We were out of time, and the group wanted to go back to town. Their skiff was destroyed but they still had the Folding Boat in Garreth's backpack. Since there was no time left, I used my usual "getting back to town is safe" house rule and ruled that they figured out how to use Levitation and Climbing and ropes and stuff to get back up the waterfall, off camera, and they made it back to town.
Freeing Aeraelith the air elemental was something the group had been working toward, part-time, forever, so it was neat to see it finally happen. They didn't get much of an obvious reward for doing it, though.
I was kind of surprised the group was willing to trade a rapier for a couple of Major Healing potions, considering they have way more healing potions than they ever use, but maybe they're just trying to stay on the Minyad's good side.
The lurker ambush was a neat encounter, and they rolled a 6 on surprise to actually manage to ambush this high-Perception group, but the underwater one didn't do quite enough damage to wreck the boat on its first attack, then completely whiffed on its second attack, and then it was dead. Turns out two lurkers were not a match for 5 PCs in a boat. If they'd managed to sink the boat, maybe that would have changed things: surface dwellers don't fight so well underwater.
I was also surprised that the group decided to bypass the Giant Clams rather than murder them for their pearls. For once, Sense of Duty to Nature defeated Greed and Curiosit. Of course that might do that later. Clams tend not to move very fast.
The skum ambush was a very scary encounter. This time the enemy didn't achieve total surprise but the PCs spent too much time discussing while too close to an enemy, and the enemy snuck around them and unleashed 5d+3 axe damage to their skiff. I thought I was pretty generous allowing Acrobatics rolls to surf on boat bits, but it still would have been a very tough fight with the (fully Amphibious) skum trying to knock them off, grapple them, drag them underwater, and drown them. But Seépravir's ability to Shape Water and make a stable platform to stand on, combined with Garreth's Luck creating a critical success on a parry leading to disarming the huge Skum with the axe, then Zaber invisibly stealing the axe before the skum could get it back, won the fight. The moral of the story: if you have a $10000 magic axe, consider buying a $1 lanyard for it.
Total casualties this session: 2 skiffs. Total treasure found this session: 1 magic axe.