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




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.

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