DF Whiterock Session 42: The Sand Devil




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.


  1. I am impressed with the range of utility spells your wizard uses; so many of my players are all about maxing elemental damage.

    1. She almost never does direct damage. I think this was only her second direct kill.

    2. Kalzazz has been keeping track (He keeps meticulous track of his kills as well), Seep's kill count is exactly 2 right now. Her main thing is keeping a pile of crazy spells on for the whole party. We'd still keep a fair chunk of her utility if she buffed us and chilled in the inn.

    3. I'll be honest, from what I've seen, with a tactical map, the least effective thing a wizard can do in most fights is throwing damage spells. Once you break that habit and accept that some rounds you'll start up a spell only to change course the next round, you'll be much more effective. In DoA and Whiterock both, I think I've seen more often than not that the answer to "What does your wizard do?" is the single biggest determiner for how a fight will go.

  2. That said, there are cases where you really want the wizard to do damage. Diffuse monsters are a big one.


DF Whiterock Session 56: Spider Temple

Date: 2019-07-12 Weather: None, session entirely underground Player Characters: Elias (Wiggles), Wood Elf Cleric, 320 points ...