Very cold, snowing
Player Characters:Elias (Wiggles), Human Cleric, 257 points
Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 309 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 302 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 286 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 320 points
3 Duergar slavers
5 Giant Clams with Harpoons
5 Zombie Skum
2 Leech Swarms
1 Roper (possibly illusionary?)
1 Huge Aquatic Wizard Thing
The party started in Cillamar as usual, as the weather got colder and snowier.
Though she'd spent the last week learning a bit of written Celestial and translating the book found in the Fane of Justicia, Seépravir didn't really talk to anyone about it. Instead she did some private research about the Order of the Sundered Scale in the Hall of Worms, but didn't find anything major.
Zaber went looking for Lord Flitwick, or his servants, and found none of them, but heard more rumors about Flitwick abusing his servants.
Garreth went looking for rumors and heard something about the local Thieves' Guild. Garreth also tried singing for beer money and was rewarded with a nice bottle of brandy by a wealthy fan. Polly found a Balanced sai for Garreth. It was the only one currently available in town, but Garreth was able to order a case of 16 more for future delivery.
Elias cast another Bless +2 on Garreth, to replace the one that had worn off last week to save Garreth's skin. This meant fully discharging and recharging Elias's power item, for which Elias charged Garreth a fair market rate.
Finally, Polly went looking for a boat, since the group has destroyed two skiffs so far and doesn't want to run out. Despite the middle of winter being a low time for the boat business, a very good roll meant a skiff was available. The good news was that it was only $250, easy to afford. The bad news was that it was 1000 lbs. and portaging it 30 miles over rolling terrain was going to be very difficult. But Seépravir cast Lighten Burden -50% on both Garreth and Polly (the spell is written to reduce the encumbrance of a person rather than to reduce the weight of a particular item, so I ruled it took two spells if they were going to carry the boat together), reducing the effective weight from 1000 lbs. to 500 lbs. And Garreth and Polly are both strong. And the wandering monster rolls were once again kind to the party; even with their greatly reduced speed meaning extra rolls, nothing ambushed them. When they reached Lake Whiterock, the group again decided to portage the boat around the lake rather than rowing across, fearing attack from the hydra they suspected was still down there somewhere. (Also, the lake was starting to ice over.)
Once they reached the castle, the party had to drag their boat across the courtyard, down the stairs to the second level, then down the elevator to the river level. There was a lot of fiddling at the elevator, about who goes with the boat and who works the controls (which are at the top and bottom, not in the elevator basket itself). Zaber got impatient and just scaled down the elevator cable to the bottom. (This is the kind of crazy thing you can get away with when you have very high Climbing skill and Luck and a Bless.) Eventually they decided to have Garreth in the basket holding the boat (to reduce its weight from 1000 to 500 lbs.) while Polly turned the elevator crank. Then Garreth removed the boat and everyone else took the elevator down. Then Garreth and Polly dragged the skiff the last few yards from the elevator landing to the underground river beach, which was pretty trivial compared to dragging it 30 miles.
With the teamster part of the adventure complete, the group got back to underground river exploration. (The ale barrel in the Derro cave is empty, so Zaber didn't get to stop to take a beer break, though Garreth did drink his new brandy.) They decided to take the same skiff they used last time, rather than the new one they just brought, or the Folding Boat that Garreth carries. Zaber wore both the Ring of Water Breathing and the Ring of Swimming (that most of the PCs forgot they had for the last few sessions) and Seépravir cast Warmth and Invisibility and Alertness and See Invisibility and Dark Vision on him, so he was able to swim a few yards ahead of the boat and scout. Garreth navigated the first set of rocks deftly (he's made all his Boating rolls so far despite only having 1 point in Boating; high DX and Bless +2 are handy).
But then the group spotted an apparently empty skiff coming upstream toward them. Garreth asked which way the current was going, and it was pushing the party's boat downstream, so something was definitely fishy about the empty boat. Zaber had See Invisibility so could see 3 Invisible, Huge Duergar in the boat, one rowing, one aiming a pistol crossbow, and one standing on the prow holding a hammer, preparing to board. (See Invisible makes Invisible things look translucent, so you know they're invisible to others.) He swam back toward his allies and whispered a warning, then moved to the side of the stream to avoid getting accidentally hit by any boats.
Polly couldn't see the opponents, but with Zaber having told her they were there, and seeing where the oarlocks were on the boat, she made an educated guess and fired at the primary rowing position, aiming low to avoid shooting over a dwarf's head. (Zaber had mentioned that they were dwarves but not that they were huge.) She had -10 to hit an invisible target, but made the shot anyway, and one of her two arrows (Heroic Archer, Extra Attack, No Nuisance Rolls perks for the Fast-Draw and Fast-Ready, so she basically just fires two arrows every turn) hit. Her arrow disappeared as it lodged in a duergar. Some blood splatter was visible in the boat. The injured duergar was pretty tough, as he didn't cry out.
Seeing that Polly was a highly skilled archer who could hit invisible targets, the duergar with the crossbow did a logical thing and tried to shoot her. This made his Invisibility go away. Because Polly couldn't see the crossbowdwarf until after he shot her, I made her make a Hearing roll to be allowed to Dodge. She made her Hearing roll, made her Acrobatics roll, and made her Dodge roll (with +2 for Acrobatic Dodge). Then the fun continued, because the dwarf had cleverly lined up all 4 PCs in the boat with his shot, so it got a (small) chance to hit all of them if it missed Polly or she dodged it. (The rule is you have roll 9 or less to hit someone by accident, or the number it would have taken to hit them on purpose -4, whichever is worse.) The bolt missed Seépravir, was on target for Garreth but he made his Hearing and Dodge rolls, then missed Elias. Oh well, so much for that crossbow. No way that duergar was going to live long enough to reload it.
After he missed, the crossbow duergar yelled to the others in Undercommon (which only Garreth knew) to kill the archer before she killed them. Seépravir cast Great Haste on herself. (She has it at 25 now so can do this in 1 turn.) Zaber swam under the duergar boat. Polly shot the (now visible) crossbow duergar in the eye, he failed to dodge, and that was 15 points of damage to the eye, through the eye, into the brain, multiplied by 4 to give 60 points of injury and multiple death checks, and he rolled an 18 on his second death check for a no-doubt don't-need-to-check-his-HT kill. (GURPS GM pro tip: when someone gets smashed from above zero HP to seriously negative HP in a single attack, and you need to roll death and consciousness and stun checks, roll all the death checks first, then the KO check, then the stun check. That way if the opponent is dead or knocked out, you can stop there without making as many rolls or playing with status counters that might not matter.) When he died, the duergar shrunk back to normal dwarf size, showing that it was some kind of magical effect rather than a Dire Duergar. Seépravir immediately said that she wanted that spell. Not done yet, Polly fired her second arrow at the still invisible duergar in the rowing position, hitting him for the second time.
Elias, in the back of the boat, didn't see any way to reach the opponents and decided to yell loudly, which echoed throughout the tunnel. Seépravir cast See Invisible on Polly to remove those pesky -10 penalties for not being able to see her targets. The duergar on the front of the boat decided to jump across to the PCs' boat and tackle Polly. Unfortunately for him, with her new power to see him, Polly easily dodged. Also unfortunately for him, this counted as an attack which made him visible, and Garreth was nearby with a katana and chopped him for pretty good damage.
Zaber, under the duergar boat, tried to flip it over and dump the remaining duergar in the river. Unfortuately, it was a pretty heavy and stable boat and he's not really strong enough to easily do that. (I ruled it was a ST-4 check and he failed it.) But he came close enough that it forced the duergar remaining in the boat to make a DX check to keep his feet, and he rolled poorly enough to have to spend a turn grabbing onto the boat to steady himself. Unfortunately for him, that was the last turn he was going to get. Polly shot him in the eye, and he made his death and KO checks, but failed his stun check (with -10 for an arrow through his eye into his brain) by more than 5, enough to knock him out. He stopped holding onto the boat and fell in the water, and stared sinking due to his mail armor. She put her final arrow into the duergar who had foolishing boarded the PC boat, and knocked him out too.
Garreth rolled a check against his Bloodlust self-control number, failed, and decided the unconscious duergar needed to be dead duergar. Zaber, still in the water, helpfully fetched the overboard duerger and dragged him into a boat for looting; it turns out this just turned death by drowning into death by katana. The total bounty from the fight was an ornate pistol crossbow with mother-of-pearl accents, a few crossbow bolts, some small vials of an unknown substance that Zaber was pretty sure was some kind of poison, a couple of suits of dwarf-sized mail, a couple of hammers (basically just maces with cool ethnic flair, as GURPS lacks separate weapon stats for blunt hammers), a potion, a magical suit of dwarf-sized leather armor, a shortsword, and another skiff (with some manacles).
There was a brief detour to take the extra skiff back to the beach, and stow the extra dwarf-sized armor in the hidey-hole in the derro cave. I decided to save time by not actually moving tokens on the map, just calling for two Boating rolls (Garreth, and Zaber at default for the captured boat) to make it past the rocks on the way back to the beach, and one Boating roll (Garreth) to make it back to where they had been. All three rolls were successful, and the party was back at the scene of the battle, discussing whether dead duergar made good Giant Clam food. (They know from a previous session that there are five giant clams with harpoons just upstream, and they're still trying to figure out a humane way to harvest pearls from them without hurting them.) Garreth chopped the duergar corpses in half so that there would be enough for all the clams, then Zaber (Invisible again after having Seépravir re-cast the spell on him) guided the gory pile of half-dwarfs to the appropriate place in the stream so that they would drift to the clams. The clams didn't have to be told twice, and there was a lot of harpooning and eating. Unfortunately, the clams were huge enough to be able to easily close on half a duergar, so any plans to take advantage of the feast to steal pearls wouldn't work. Garreth suggested they think of something larger to feed the clams, that would force them to keep their shells open for a while.
The party took their skiff around some more rocks, giving the clams a large berth, and Garreth made yet another Boating roll to avoid hitting anything. Around the next bend, there was a waterfall down, which Garreth had navigated before. Zaber decided to climb in the boat rather than swimming it or climbing the wall, and Garreth made yet another Boating roll to avoid drama. Then the skiff came up to the site of the illusionary wall on the west side of the cavern, where the skum had ambushed the PCs last time and the barbarian skum with the big magic axe had destroyed their boat. This time, there was no ambush, and 4 of the 5 PCs could clearly see the illusion. Garreth was the only one who couldn't, but he believed his friends. Further north, the group spotted a beach where they could land their skiff. Garreth suggested bypassing this area for now and going to the beach, but Zaber's Curiousity got the better of him, and he couldn't resist climbing through the illusionary wall and seeing what was there.
What was there was a ledge, and behind the ledge a narrow passage sloping down to the southwest, wet enough to be quite slippery. Zaber couldn't resist exploring down it a bit, and saw that the passage led to a large pool of water, containing 5 aquatic zombies. Not wanting to fight aquatic zombies alone, he prepared to head back up the sloping passage to his allies, when he was attacked by a swarm of leeches. (Leeches attack based on body temperature rather than sight, so his Invisibility didn't save him.) Garreth stabbed leeches with his knife while trying to head back up the passage, while the leeches sucked his blood. There were enough of them that he couldn't dodge them all, and they did a bit of damage (but not enough for his Bless to trigger) each turn. They also inflicted HT checks, but Zaber passed them. Eventually Zaber yelled for help, and then Garreth ran the skiff into the illusionary wall (and through it, beaching on the ledge) and all the PC had to make a DX roll to keep their balance in the boat crash. Everyone except Elias made it; he failed and lost one turn getting back up.
Going down the slippery slope required a DX roll. Polly rolled a 4, a critical success, which gave her "Legolas mode" (or Lego-lass mode if you ask Zaber) for this particular waterslide: she could surf down at up to double move, or climb up at full move, with no more DX rolls needed. Which she immediately did, sliding down the slope toward Zaber. Elias activated his Heroic Grace before wading into the fight, rolled horribly, used his Luck, and rolled great, getting +7 to DX. Garreth used Fast-Draw (potion) to quickly pull out a Major Healing potion to give to Zaber when he reached him, and started heading down the slippery slope. Seépravir cast Great Haste on herself.
Zaber had been carrying the Bag of Wolverine for a long time, and had never actually used it after initial testing, but he decided that being reduced to 1 HP by a leech swarm was a good time, and opened it up. Out popped Logan the Wolverine, who looked around, saw leeches, and started biting leeches. This helped Zaber in two ways. Once, it was more damage against the leeches every turn. Two, it was another target for the leeches who wasn't Zaber and wasn't at 1 HP.
The leeches, now with three targets in range, randomly decided to bite Polly. She took minimal damage. Then she decided to keep sliding downhill toward the other enemies. Seépravir Levitated herself down-slope a bit and cast Great Haste on Garreth. The leeches decided to bite Logan and hurt him a bit. Elias moved down the slope and made his DX check. Garreth slide downhill, made his DX check, and started stabbling leaches. Those were the last remaining leeches and the swarm was dissipated.
Polly, down at the bottom of the slide, saw 5 Aquatic Zombies in the pool below. She shot the closest one twice and knocked it out. Elias slid down the slide toward the zombies. Zaber staggered toward a healing potion at half speed. Garreth passed him the Major Healing potion, then went downhill toward the zombies.
Polly shot another zombie (this one looking and smelling like it used to be a troglodyte) and stunned it. Polly and Garreth (also within range of the stench) both made their HT checks. As Elias and Seépravir came within range, they also needed to make stench HT checks. Seépravir missed hers, but decided to use Luck to reroll, and then made it. Zaber drank the Major Healing potion, rolled badly, used his Luck to reroll, and then healed 9 HP plus 2 more for Bless, back to full HP.
The zombies crawled out of the pool onto the bottom of the sliding passage to get the PCs. Garreth went into helicopter-parry mode, stopping 4 different attacks in one turn, which I think is a new record. Polly shot one, Elias (with 19 DX thanks to Heroic Grace) rapid-strike flailed one to bits, and Garreth chopped one. As this happened, some more bad guys came out of the water: another leech swarm, and some kind of flying rock beast with rope-like tentacles.
Seépravir cast Great Haste on Elias too so he could use his Heroic Grace twice as much. Zaber, fully healed, wanted to slide downhill to join his friends, but found that Seépravir had cast Levitate on him a couple of turns ago, for medivac purposes that had seemed necessary at the time, and he was hanging in the air uselessly.
The leeches came within range, and Garreth (who had had a Wait) attacked them and killed some of the swarm. (Swarms are diffuse so limited to 1-2 points of damage from most attacks, so it takes a lot of hits to kill them, even if you're Garreth.) The tentacle beast (which I will call a Roper even though I'm not sure any of the PCs figured out that it was a roper) also came within range and Elias flailed it a lot. Then Garreth stabbed it, but his attacks passed right through, like it was insubstantial or an illusion.
Meanwhile, the group spotted yet another opponent still in the large pool: some huge unidentified aquatic monster that was swimming along from the northwest corner of the pool to the southeast. Polly, using the rule "if in doubt shoot it in the eye", shot it in the eye. Four times. (It had quite large eyes, as befit a SM+4 monster, easier to hit than most eyes.) The first arrow was magically deflected. The second arrow was dodged. The third arrow was dodged. The fourth arrow seemed to hit, sinking into the creature's torso (missed the eye), but not doing much obvious damage.
Then Elias flailed the snot out of the possibly-illusionary roper multiple times, doing lots of damage, and it dissipated.
We ran out of time there, and stopped there in mid-battle, with one leach swarm and one unknown huge aquatic creature that can possibly cast blocking spells remaining. We'll resume in mid-fight next week. Tune in then to see what the heck that huge thing in the water is.
It's funny to me that despite having plenty of money and not much to spend it on, the PCs still do little things every week to try to earn a few extra coppers.
Dragging a 500 lb. (after magical lightening) boat across 30 miles of terrain using only muscle power in cold weather is a truly annoying task. I tried to make it annoying for the players to give them a taste of what they were putting their PCs through. It's especially funny to me that they went through all that pain when they have a Folding Boat in Garreth's backpack. They did it anyway, of course. Can't be too safe. Knowing that things break their boats, they want to keep the Folding Boat as a lifeboat for emergencies, rather than actually using it.
I have detailed rules written down for failing Boating rolls in each place and still haven't got to use any of them. Garreth is really good at Boating, despite only having one point in it. Zaber also made his one Boating roll, despite only having it at default. Good DX and Bless make everything easier.
I like making up rules for critical successes on the fly, at least for critical successes that don't already have good rules. Polly has been the beneficiary of at least two of these: she rolled a critical success on her first roll to resist Troglodyte stench and I ruled that she was completely immune to that tribe's stench forever (forever, or for the lifetime of that tribe, which was two or three sessions), and this session she rolled a critical success against the waterslide and I ruled that she was totally immune to its negative effects but could still use it for extra speed downhill. I also like making up rules for critical failures on the fly, but the whole party has Luck and tends to use it to avoid critical failures, so I hardly ever get to.
Sometimes it's a tough call whether a threat is bad enough for Bless to avert it and then go away. The leech attacks against Zaber were more "death by a million paper cuts" than one big hit, so he kept his Bless even though he got down to 1 HP. (I would have had the Bless stop the next one, as going to 0 HP with a leech swarm on you is bad, but there was no next one as Logan and Polly arrived to take the next 2 leech hits, and then the leeches died.) As with many things, players are free to ask "Does Bless stop that?" but the GM has the final judgment call on whether the threat was bad enough for the spell to intervene.
This party is not well prepared for diffuse opponents, and pretty much had to finish off the leech swarm one 2 HP attack at a time. Pretty much the only things that work well against diffuse opponents are explosive attacks, which mostly come from wizards, and Seépravir has mostly chosen to avoid direct damage in favor of buffs and stuns. But it turns out that Great Haste works pretty well against everything.