DF Whiterock Session 37: Cave with Pyramid




Very cold, windy

Player Characters:

Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 266 points

Garreth (Zuljita), Half-Orc Fighter, 323 points
Ibizaber (Demented Avenger), Human Thief, 316 points
Polly (Kalzazz), Wood Elf Archer, 300 points
Seépravir (Archon Shiva), High-Elf Wizard, 334 points

Significant NPCs:

2 Stirge Swarms
3 Trolls

The group started in the town of Cillamar, on a cold and windy winter day.  Garreth took a tour around town looking for magical plate armor and combat masters, but unsurprisingly didn't find either.  His case of custom sais wasn't ready yet, either.  Zaber looked for Lord Flitwick or his servants, but they still weren't around.  Seépravir researched the sigils on Bracers of Force, and found that they were usually there but not always the same design.  Perhaps an homage to the sigils on the original legendary cosmic version.

Both Seépravir and Polly lost their Bless +2 in the last session, and had them replaced by the (much cheaper and easier to cast in the dungeon) Bless +1, but Polly asked Elias (with some Lend Energy help from Seépravir) to cast another Bless +2 for her in town (and paid to recharge his power item).

It was still cold enough that Seépravir cast Warmth on everyone for the hike to the castle.  Zaber had heard a rumor of a huge serpent living within Lake Whiterock, which had been known to crawl up onto land and devour livestock.  That was enough to encourage the group to walk around the lake, rather than taking a shortcut over its frozen surface like last time.

Once they reached Castle Whiterock and got out of the wind, Seépravir dropped the Warmth spells on everyone except Zaber (who needs it for swimming), then cast Lighten Burden on Elias, Invisibility and Keen Hearing and Alertness and See Secrets and See Invisible on Zaber, Dark Vision on Zaber and Polly and herself, and Levitation on herself.

With the preparation done, the group went down one set of stairs, across the first former orc level, through the secret door, and down the elevator to the underground river level.  They found their two skiffs still on the beach where they had left them.  Zaber scouted ahead in the water, Seépravir floated a few feet above the boat, and everyone else got in.

Garreth again managed to pilot the skiff through a group of rocks to avoid the Giant Clams, then down a waterfall without any damage.  Zaber decided to swim the waterfall this time rather than getting in the boat, and managed to avoid hurting himself.  They went pass the illusory wall, then docked again at the north beach where they had found the derro camp last time.

Zaber climbed up to take a quick look, and noticed that the dead derro and both live derro (who had been taken prisoner, interrogated, then freed) were gone.  He also noticed (thanks to See Secrets) a boulder that had been cleverly wedged into the wall, as a crude secret door.  (The whole group had missed this last time.)  Zaber went back to the boat to tell the others, and they decided to investigate the secret passage first, before continuing down the river.

Polly was able to shift the boulder, and then everyone squeezed through and walked slowly down a windy passage, that some thought sloped downward.  (With no dwarves in the group, they weren't completely sure.)  Eventually the passage opened into a huge cave, dimly lit in places by some kind of phosphorescent lichen or mold. The cave was too big to clearly see the ceiling or the other side, even with Dark Vision, though those with it could see far enough to spy a large pyramid to the south.

Zaber scouted ahead, climbed up a slope, and reached some sandy ground surrounding the black pyramid.  Because he was Invisible he handed one end of his rope to Polly, so she could track where he was.  The sides of the pyramid were very smooth, but not quite a 45-degree angle, so they were climbable with enough skill.  The group found they were near the northeast corner of the pyramid, so walked west, looking for an entrance along its north face.  Around the center of the north side of the pyramid, they found a 5' wide staircase heading up, with 2' wide stone walls on each side, and some writing near the base of the staircase, written in odd symbols.  Everyone tried reading it, and when they were all sure they could not, Elias cast Gift of Letters, which told him that it said "Follow Chartrusa’s annual plight, To enter this holy place right" in Ancient Sphinx, a language that nobody had even heard of before.  Nobody had any idea who Chartrusa was either, though Zaber mentioned that it sounded kind of like Chauntessa, their innkeeper and occasional patron.

Garreth suggested visiting the lich librarian to find out about Chartrusa, but Polly mentioned that that was a long trip and would cost the group books and also that it would cause intra-party conflict with Elias, who is not a fan of undead.  So they kept exploring.  First Seépravir cast Invisibility on Polly, then everyone started up the stairs, with the two Invisible scouts in front, then the other 3 about 5 yards behind them.

The stairs went up about 100 feet until ending in a sealed double stone door with two keyholes, flanked by two cat-people statues, holding up a huge stone block.  Zaber searched for traps and thought the big stone block might be rigged to fall and smash intruders.  So Garreth and Elias and Seépravir went down the steps to near the bottom, and Zaber and Polly climbed the pyramid to above the stone block.  Then he kicked the block lightly, but it didn't move.  Then he stomped on it, but it still didn't move.  Seépravir flew sideways away from the stairs.  Then Zaber and Polly jumped on top of the block together, and it fell.  They both managed to jump off the falling block and grab onto the side of the pyramid.  Meanwhile, the huge block was descending rapidly toward Garreth and Elias, using the walls on the sides of the stairway as a ramp.  Both jumped sideways, managing to avoid getting crushed (though Garreth needed to use his Luck to reroll a bad initial DX roll), and both also grabbed onto the pyramid rather than tumbling to the bottom.  So, disaster averted, but only at the cost of a lot of jumping around.

With the trap disarmed, Zaber went back to the huge stone doors and tried their collection of keys in the two keyholes, but none fit.  He then picked both locks, resulting in clicks but no door movement.  He then tried pushing and pulling on the doors, to no avail -- it was a false double door!  Polly tried too, to no avail.  Then Seépravir came up and tried Shape Earth, which failed, presumably due to some anti-magic enchantments on the rock sides of the pyramid.  She also tried Find Weakness, which confirmed Zaber's opinion that it was just a huge block of solid rock with no real weak points, and the door was totally fake.

Annoyed, Zaber climbed around near the top of the pyramid (needing to use Luck to avoid falling) and saw that the next side of the pyramid over also had a similar stone block, held up by similar cat-people statues, with a similar double door arrangement, and a similar staircase down, with similar walls on each side.  Very symmetrical.  The group then decided to walk back down the stairs, and check out the other sides of the pyramid from the bottom.

As they walked around the east side of the pyramid, near the east wall of the cave, Polly thought there was something suspicious about the cave wall that might indicate a secret door, but nobody could find one (even with See Secrets), so everyone figured it was just a funny shaped rock.  Around the midpoint of the east side of the pyramid, they found another staircase that looked about the same, along with writing that looked about the same near the bottom.  

They continued walking, until they reached the southeast corner of the pyramid.  As Zaber rounded the corner, he spotted three trolls, leaning against the south wall of the pyramid in ambush position.  Fortunately for the PCs, Zaber is very hard to surprise, and popped back while yelling a warning.

Most of the PCs were faster than the trolls.  Garreth stepped up into position while fast-drawing a sai, and waited for a target to enter his line of sight.  Polly tried to shoot one in the eye, twice.  It dodged the first arrow, but not the second, and gained the One Eye disadvantage.  It didn't fall over or anything though.  Elias readied his flail and stepped forward.

The injured troll moved closer to Polly then tried to wrench her arm, twice, but she dodged both attempts.  Garreth tried throwing a sai at the troll's vitals, though he wasn't quite sure where they were, so ended up just hitting its torso.  The other two trolls moved up into melee range, and Seépravir cast Great Haste on Garreth.  Garreth stepped up and tried to chop up a troll, who ended up with two crippled arms, but still standing.  (Trolls are tough!)  Zaber climbed up the pyramid, out of easy troll grabbing range, and got his pistol crossbow ready.  

Polly shot the one-eyed troll in the other eye, gifting it with the Blindness disadvantage, and also apparently killing it.  (For the moment, anyway.  Trolls regenerate.)  A second troll tried to grab Polly, twice, but Garreth sacrificially parried for her, twice.  The third troll tried slamming Garreth to get his annoying katana out of the way, but Garreth dodged, and the troll ran past.  It turned as it did so to avoid turning its back to Garreth, but unwittingly turned its back to Zaber instead.

Seépravir flew straight up 3 yards to get out of reach, tried Rapier Wit in Undercommon to stun a troll (which failed), and then cast Death Vision to successfully stun the troll.  Garreth ran up to the unstunned troll next to Polly and cut it four times with his katana, doing massive amounts of damage but somehow not killing it or knocking it out or even stunning it.  Zaber used his pistol crossbow to shoot the stunned troll in the back of the skull, but didn't do much damage.  Polly shot the unstunned troll in both eyes, killing it.

Elias wailed on the stunned troll with his flail twice, injuring it.  Seépravir cast Death Vision on that troll, stunning it again, and at that point it had no hope, since (unless she rolled a 17 or 18 and decided not to use her Luck) she could keep doing that, while the other four PCs attacked the stunned troll at their leisure.  So I called the fight, as the troll went down to a hail of arrows and katana slashes and flailings and possibly even knife wounds.

The troll corpses were regenerating away, but the Polly and Zaber wanted to search them for treasure (especially keys) before burning them.  Unfortunately, they had nothing but loincloths.  Seépravir cast Create Fire and burned all three trolls to a crisp before they could come back to life.

With the trolls vanquished, the party continued west, around the south side of the pyramid.  They saw another staircase up, but didn't bother climbing it.  They also saw some large stalagmites to the south, but wanted to finish with the pyramid before exploring tehm.  They reached the southwest corner of the pyramid, turned north (with Polly yelling to take a wide turn in case of more ambushers), saw that the west side looked about the same as the other three sides, and gave up on the pyramid for now.

There wasn't much time left in the session, so the group decided not to go south to the stalagmites (which were on another map), but instead went north to explore the northern cave wall.  While they were doing that, two swarms of stirges dropped from the sky and tried to suck their blood.  Fortunately for the group, Zaber was once again hyper-alert and warned everyone, preventing surprise.  Unfortunately for Zaber, one of the swarms went for his barely-armored face, and did pretty good damage.  The other one went for Garreth, who was better armored and didn't get hurt as much.

Garreth stepped back and went into All Out Attack (Double) plus Rapid Strike swarm killing mode.  Zaber, realizing his face was by far the least armored part of his body, decided to drop to the ground and turtle, using the ground to shield his face so the stirges would bite him somewhere else.  Elias used his flail and shield to finish off the swarm that Garreth had reduced.  Polly fast-drew her edged rapier and started stabbing the swarm that was biting Zaber, and Seépravir decided to cast a ring of Create Fire around herself to encourage the stirges to bit someone else.

The remaining swarm went for Zaber again, this time biting his hands and feet, but his Bless spell decided to intervene and reduce the attack to minimum damage, keeping his HP above zero.  Garreth ran in and finished off the remaining stirges.  Elias cast Stop Bleeding and Major Healing on the seriously injured Zaber.  Stop Bleeding was enough for the slightly injured Garreth, and then everyone decided to go back to town.  (Seépravir and Garreth toyed with the idea of splitting the party and stopping at the lich's library, but the logistics for that turned out to be too complicated, so they just went to Cillamar with the others.)

GM's Comments:

The players intended to finish exploring the underground river, but got sidetracked by the secret door into the giant cave level...and now they still haven't finished exploring the river.  Maybe next time.

It took a long time to explore the outside of the pyramid, even though they only actually fiddled with one of the four entrances.  Zaber's high Per-based Traps skill saved the day, as that huge stone block would have done a lot of damage if it had falled on the party.  (Even with warnings to get out of the way, most of the group still had to make some combination of DX, Dodge, and Climbing rolls to avoid damage, but those were much easier rolls than if the block had unexpectedly fallen right on their heads.)

Trolls are tough, but they made the mistake of only bringing three trolls to face 5 PCs, and they didn't get surprise, and regeneration only helps so much when you're taking massive piles of damage.  Once again, swarms annoyed the PCs, but it was only two of them, against the whole group, so nobody was in serious danger.

This was the first zero-loot session of the campaign.  There were only two fights, and none of the opponents had any possessions of note.  Nobody was happy about this, but it's not like the PCs are in danger of starving: they can survive the occasional lean session.

Next time, we'll find out if they try to explore the river again, figure out a way into the pyramid, or do something else.


  1. Using Death Vision on the trolls makes me think that Unfazeable should really prevent stunning from that spell. If nothing scares you or even bothers you, and you're totally fearless, why would seeing your own death bother you? I know the rules don't carve out an exemption in the spell, but the spell description is unchanged since GURPS Fantasy - the 1986 version.

  2. I didn't get the particular impression the trolls were unfazeable, the one in particular seemed to find an arrow in the eye really annoying and it wanted to kill me with enthusiasm

    1. Canonically, they have that advantage, assuming DFM1 or DFRPG Monsters trolls.

    2. I agree that Unfazeable stops Death Vision and all other fear effects. That particular troll didn't have Unfazeable. Other trolls might...

  3. The DM isn't strictly using canon monsters


DF Whiterock Session 60: Fire Trap

Date: 2019-08-09 Weather: Warm, overcast Player Characters: Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 336 points Garreth (Zuljita), Half-...