Another hum dinger of a session. This time I had four players, and no henchmen, initially.
Which is funny, because the theme for the evening was definitely henchmen abuse!
Renegotiate your contract? I'll renegotiate your face with my boot, worm!
An excellent deploy on the fireball ended what looked to be a pretty tough fight, and netted them four terrified minions, plus the raw materials to make more. *shudder* So lots of fun with the TMD's (Transylvanian Mine Detectors) and redshirt action. (I just realized the minis actually are kind of red, color wise. Win!)
It was also fun to whittle down the huge entourage of undead through the sinister influence of the vermilion earth. Gotta be careful when yer carting around that many undead, they can turn on ya...
The biggest laffs of the evening were from the grimling skeleton randomly floating around in the chamber of electroskulls, just going about it's business holding up the torch as if nothing was amiss. Heh.
A couple of the fights dragged a little, but that was as much tactics as it was execution. All told, they were mostly satisfying, and again I'm amazed at how much can be crammed in to what was essentially four & change hours of play.
The biggest problem I had was I somehow allowed orientation on the dungeon map vs. orientation for the players to get all kerfloopty, which made it hard to keep track of where the players were going, and I ended up fudging toward the end. I don't quite know how it happened, but I ended up having to read my keyed map upside down.
So gavel down, from here on out, North is always away from me, south is toward me, east is right and west is left, as if I'm looking at a sheet of paper right side up. I shoulda cracked down sooner on that 'cos it really threw things off. Again, I dunno how we got it twisted around...
That aside, again I was stoked that the stuff we got to was the stuff I wanted to highlight. The fight with Morgus was a treat 'cos he played so prominently (and somewhat disjointedly) in last year's Halloween Crawl. My wednesday DM Paul ended up as Morgus' arch enemy last year, and I was gratified he was here at this session, albiet as another character.
The sandboxy nature of Ghoulardia pass got to shine, as each session caused elaborations on following sessions. One prime example of this was the Crypt of Gore De Vol, that became the lair of the Iron Skull in the next session, finally becoming the electrified room of floating bones, all based on what had transpired before. The werewolf lair becoming the spider wolf's lair is another example, or the red earth in Vladek Lobovich's tomb.
That said, though, I think for next year I'll cook up something new and give Ghoulardia Pass its well earned rest in a shallow grave. Mini sandboxes are a hoot, tho. I recommend them highly.
And so, another Creepy Crawl season comes to a terrifying end. Thanks to the players who came out to both sessions with their own brand of awesome! I hope you all had a good time.
Yes! They thought it could be killed! They thought it would never return to haunt us!
I had such a blast last week with the Creepy (dungeon) Crawl that I decided to bring it back another week for another helping of ghoulish ghoulash. Let us see what transpired on a dark, October night...
It was late at night in Ghoulardia Pass, and yet more disreputable malfeasants had been driven from the sullen city limits of the Krunkavian hamlet of Strangledorf.
Left to right: Cliff the Homanculus, Solomon Bach the totally metal Cleric, Kolomalu The Mad, a sinister wizard, and Boris the Grimling.
As the four travelling scoundrels passed beneath the stern edifice of Cardille Keep, they reasoned among themselves that that might be a good place to seek out their shared goal of universal power. But first, a little grave robbing, provided by the vast cemetery that covered the barren hill below the keep.
With some difficultly, they eventually instructed Cliff to use his vast strength to bend some of the rusting iron bars of a wrought iron fence surrounding the graveyard. Once inside, Boris set to sniffing for graves most likely containing suitable corpses.
The troupe's eyes lit on a partially dug up grave at the center of the graveyard, complete with shovels poking out of the earth. As they grabbed the still warm shovels to set about digging, a booming terrifying voice echoed out to leave the grave alone and flee. The group looked at each other, shrugged, and kept digging. The voice called out no more.
While their grotesque assistants worked, Kolmalu and Solomon Bach examined the headstone, and found it belonged to a dead sorceror of ill repute known as Svengoolie. Truly an excellent corpse to dig up.
As soon as Boris called up from the grave that they'd struck wood, the same voice called out, this time from behind a nearby crypt, shouting. "TAKE THEM! MORGUS COMMANDS IT!"
With a bloodthirsty shout, a quartet of ruffians leapt from behind the crypt, at the behest of an evil looking wizard, who stood flanked by homanculus and grimling henchmen.
Yes, get them my pretties... er... my henchmen!
The battle was joined, as the cutthroats hacked at the grisly grimling and hearty homanculus. But the evil Morgus hadn't counted on the phantasmagorical Kolomalu the Mad.
Hot cha cha!
Finding themselves suddenly unemployed, the singed but surviving henchmen of the pile of charred bones that had been Morgus the Malevolent decided to enter a new contract with Kolomalu and Bach, and thus the party's ranks were swelled by four.
Ehhh. It's a living...
Naturally (or unnaturally, to be honest), the new henchmen's first task was to finish digging out Svengoolie's grave and lift out the casket. Inside, in addition to a lovely new skeleton, they found several bone scroll casings full of arcane scrolls of great power.
Invigorated by a good grave robbing, the group formed up and marched up the hill toward the gates of the keep. A wolf's head of iron with a ring in its mouth hung on the door, so after some coaxing and trial and error, they got the level headed (literally!) Cliff to knock.
The door opened with a soft click, although no earthly doorman awaited on the other side. Beyond, another door to the inner sanctum held a similar knocker, so they repeated the polite gesture. This time, the double doors swung open with a grating creak, revealing a large, circular feast hall, watched over by figures in red, rusted plate mail bearing halberds.
Desiring to take no chances, Solomon Bach started throwing fire, in the form of torches and flasks of oil, into the room, setting the table and tapestries smoldering. Boris and Ernest the henchman stepped inside, and found themselves challenged by a booming voice, that said. "WHO ENTERS THIS HALL?"
Lacking a good answer, they said they were just friendly neighborhood grave robbers. This got the armored figures moving, striding toward them from all sides with halberds raised to strike. Boris scuttled back among the group, as the unfortunate Ernest took a painful looking stab to the groin and went down moaning.
Just walk it off, Ernest!
After a furious battle and more fire throwing, Solomon Bach invoked the power of his nameless deity and laid a mighty turning on the threatening guards, destroying three where they stood in a burst of shattered armor and grave earth. One fled, on fire and crashed into another tapestry, setting it alight, while the surviving warriors took the other two down. Boris crouched over the writhing, moaning Ernest, to "render aid", and somehow a moment later he was dead. Ah well...
Once the dust settled and the flames were smothered, Solomon decided they now had enough bones and corpses to invoke is Animate Dead spell, and with a quick unhallowed ritual, five skeletons and a zombie now shambled ahead of the party. The living henchmen had been promoted!
Ehhh. It's an unliving...
The party discovered a ramp downward, and decided to take it, going deeper into the creepy keep.
They found a wine cellar filling the next floor down, with cobweb draped bottles in criscrossed racks covering the walls. Cliff, in the spirit of experimentation (since he was an experiment himself) started taking down bottles and drinking them before anyone could stop him. He drank a bottle, and suddenly vanished into thin air. Try as the rest of the party might, they couldn't get him to understand that he'd become invisible, so they just threw up their hands and continued.
Kolomalu took down a bottle and discovered it tasted like blood. (The henchmen were a bit unnerved that he recognized the taste so readily.)
Cliff took down another bottle and drank, and felt funny in the tummy. It was doubly funny for his companions, who watched the eerie outline of a homanculus' stomach fill with bubbling, boiling liquid in midair. The simple minded giant was indeed lucky he had such a good constitution against poisons.
Kolomalu took down two bottles and decided to mix them in a jug, and ended up with a nice jug of poison blood. Perhaps it would come in handy later.
Moving on, the party found themselves in the deepest basement of the keep, a large round room with a dais in the center, surmounted by a stone coffin. The earthen floor of this room, out to a narrow band around the perimeter, was a bright, vermilion red.
When Solomon Bach's contigent of undead stepped onto this red earth, an eerie red light came to their eyes, and suddenly they turned on their master. A furious battle ensued, joined by two more zombies shuffling out from a row of four cells along one wall, and by a strange, ghostly figure of etherial flames that hovered over the coffin.
Obey me! I am your master! Oh fiddlesticks!
Enraged, the cleric turned his minions and destroyed them, save for the animated skeleton of Morgus' grimling henchman, who stepped off of the red earth and had fallen back under his control.
Kolomalu read from one of the recovered scrolls and cast Move Earth, causing the vermilion soil to leap into the stone coffin like an uncanny reverse fountain, as the fiery spirit took on the cruel, enraged features of the vampire Vladek Lobovich.
At his companion's instruction, Cliff hastily grabbed up the coffin's offset lid and slammed it back onto the top. The flaming wraith dissipated with a moan.
After a brief sweep of the room, they found nothing but a cryptic message from a gypsy girl named Stella, only legible thanks to Kolomalu's Read Language spell. She said she had escaped on her own wits but was now lost in the catacombs. Should someone help her, she would bestow a good luck kiss upon them. Confused by this, the roving band of malcontents pressed on into the depths below Ghoulardia Pass.
As they wound through the corridors beneath the keep and countryside, they found many strange things. They passed another chamber full of the vermilion earth, and eventually found their way to an iron door, bearing a wrought iron skeleton with scroll work declaring it the crypt of Count Gore De Vol and his legion. As Cliff forced the door, he caught a poison dart in his neck, but it didn't really phase him.
A blue glow suffused the corridor, as inside, an eerie sight awaited them. The room was an ossuary with an open iron coffin at it's center. Skulls and bones floated through the room like leaves in a chill autumn wind, with blueish sparks of electricity arcing between them.
The group sent the hapless henchman Wilkins in to investigate, and he got zapped badly for his trouble before fleeing the room. So they sent the skeleton of Gretch the grimling in. Whatever eerie electric force was causing the bones to float caught the obedient skeleton up, and he floated lazily about the room rigidly holding his torch until they dragged him out by the rope around his spinal column.
Gretch! Stop clowning around!
Since homanculus' and electricity go together like chocolate and peanut butter, they sent Cliff in. He caught a few of the floating skulls in a sack, where they continued to float and spark. He also caught a few nasty shocks, before they instructed him to close the coffin. When he did, whatever uncanny effect was happening got switched off, and the remaining bones tumbled roughly to the floor.
Taking the door beyond the coffin, they came to a long ramp downward, that appeared to be some kind of set off stairway trap. They secured a rope and lowered themselves down, moving carefully to avoid slipping and sliding to their doom.
At the bottom, they found a room open to the sky, covered in twining tree roots. As they moved across it, the tree roots began to move, and formed into a horrible nondescript form that lashed out with two mighty tendrils.
In Ghoulardia Pass, problem gets to root of YOU!
Another desperate battle ensued, with blade and fire meeting the crushing force of the animated roots. The faithful skeleton Gretch was crushed and cracked like so many matchsticks, and Marvin the henchman had his head incontinently popped off by a squeezing vine, before they felled the thing.
In the burnt roots on the ground, the group saw a glitter, and were overjoyed to find a wealth of gold and jewels hidden beneath the twisted thatch of roots. They filled their sacks, loaded their intrepid mule Priscilla (Who had been following them the whole time so quietly as to not even be mentioned in this gripping narrative, and who also is still not painted enough to show up in photos on this blog.)
The party moved on until they found an odd corner of the dungeon where several barrels of slaughterhouse waste were stacked beside a wheelbarrow and a jug of sleeping potion, which in turn were next to a large metal funnel and a strongly secured iron door. They slid aside the peep hole, and saw something large and shaggy moving around in the dark chamber beyond.
Thinking quickly, and quite deviously, Kolomalu brought out the jug of poisoned blood that he'd made in the keep's wine cellar, and poured it in thru the funnel. The group was rewarded with the sounds of stirring and growls in the chamber, followed by the sound of something large lapping up liquid from a bowl. This, in turn was followed by a tumult of gagging and wretching, as the door shook with the thing's pounding. Then silence.
They shot the bolt and looked inside, finding a huge, rat like monster lying dead on the floor of the cave.
Who's the bigger rat here? Who indeed?
The party closed the door and moved on, and found themselves at a T juncture. They followed the north hall, and found their way to a hallway that ended in a half flooded room with a coffin floating within. Leaving Priscilla behind, they used the coffin like a boat, searching the walls and finding a secret door.
It's the only way to travel!
Beyond, they discovered a chamber full of various sized jars, from bell jar sized to gigantic, each containing a twisted rat like creature, from field mouse sized to man sized. They decanted one of the small ones, and it lay on the floor gasping and writhing, before being pocketed by Kolomalu as a souvenir/pet/snack/what-have-you.
They found a set of stairs leading up, which led to a room with a pressure plate at the top of the stairs that caused a spring loaded iron bar to snap shut on Wilkins the henchman's neck, bearing him painfully to the floor, nearly killing him.
Cliff lifted the bar off of his neck and they proceeded, to a pair of iron doors that were securely locked. Since none of the group were skilled at lock picking, and since it was getting late (or early, since this WAS a party of nightcrawlers), they decided to double back, collect Priscilla, and leave the catacombs.
When they floated back across the flooded room, they discovered no mule, but a smear of blood with hand size, clawed tracks crisscrossing it. Which is really to be expected when you leave overloaded livestock out in a monster infested dungeon, but who am I, your narrator, to say?
They followed the blood trail to a wooden door that had been gnawed out from inside. They heard furtive scrapings and scrabblings inside, and decided to lead with some flasks of flaming oil. This did the trick, as it sent the denizens of the room scurrying for their hidey holes, cursing in a gibbering patois of common tongue and rat squeaks. They entered, as beady eyes watched them from the edge of the light, and found the half eaten corpse of their pack beast. The party grabbed their sacks of gold and jewels and backed out of the room, with hissing invective chittered after them.
They made their way to the root choked room, and climbed up the walls into the misty pine forests of Ghoulardia Pass, and fled in the creeping rays of the sickly morning sun, never to be heard from in this neck of the woods again.
So it's been a while since one of these floated across the wires. That's because my DM Paul and his lovely wife went on a big trip to England, and thus we had a brief hiatus. But they got back last weekend and so it was back to the table this Wednesday.
Jolly good, eh what?
So, when last we were with our mighty band of adventuristas we were making our way through the gloomy gloomwood, and had just finished a fight with a couple of wereboars.
We camped out for the rest of the night without any more trouble, so the next day we packed up and got going again, working our way through the dark, creepy tangle of trees along an ancient elvish road that was more weeds than paving stones.
Eventually, we came to a tight narrowing in the road where the trees became like a tunnel, and something big and arachnidy had gone and webbed this small passage up. So we were left with a choice of going off the path into the tangle of the woods, or cut/burn our way through the web.
We chose the latter, since with what we'd already seen and fought and the rep this area had, we didn't want to add getting lost to the list of our troubles.
So we set Gentleman Jack Getz up in front with a torch tied to a ten foot pole, and he began the arduous process of burning a big enough hole for a guy on horseback to get through the gauzy barrier that faced us. We decided on this rather than a smaller hole just in case we had to make a quick retreat.
As it was it was slow going, and for added annoyance we really didn't have more than two torches between us. (We're mostly lantern/oil based light, since you get the added bonus of Molotov Cocktails from that.) So we were pretty concerned about running out of torch before we ran out of web to burn.
After an hour of burning we were only half way through the web tunnel, with Getz, his horse, Kashim on his warhorse, and Jantz on his horse standing single file while the thief slowly burned away the webs. Of course, this was when a couple of gimundous frikkin' spiders pop out of the webs and attack. They grabbed up Gentleman Jack with huge suction cup tipped legs and tried to cram the poor guy right in their maws.
Well, the rest of us were kind of parked outside like we were in bad traffic on I95 (in other words, like we were in traffic on I95), so the best we could do was move to the sides of the "road" so that the guys in the tunnel could back out.
Only Kashim, our fierce foreign fighter from far afield where they're fond of falafel, could mount any kind of counterattack, so he charged in with blades blazing, and managed to keep from getting grabbed and mawstuffed too.
Getting the horses out turned out to be a bit of a problem, since Getz' horse blocked his escape, as well as Jantz's horse and Kashim's. I kind of kick myself about this juncture 'cos I forgot I had the Ring of Animal Control on me. I could have backed the horses out by remote control a lot sooner.
While we were making three point turns with the horses, the spiders got into a little tug of war over Gentleman Jack, which really wasn't doing him or his spine much good. Thankfully, they didn't seem to have any poison, or else our hapless thief would probably have been dead several times over. He just got munched, and had a chunk taken out of his thigh in a critical hit.
Things were starting to look desperate, which is usually the go button for Kashim. He leapt off of his horse and dove onto the back of one of the spiders, succeeding in stabbing it through its cephalothorax and killing it. I'm a little muddled with events here, but I think the other spider had dropped Gentleman Jack at this point, and he managed to crawl away and hide under the dead spider.
Meanwhile, we'd gotten the horses rearranged and a couple guys with polearms took the front to help Kashim out, and we managed to get the other monster arachnid dead with a bit more stabbing.
From there we laid some healing mojo on Getz, popping that chunk out of his leg back into place and giving him a little bit of git up n' go. Then we set back to work burning the webs, and after a short while longer we made it through, burning the rest of the way with a flask of oil.
The gloom still loomed though, and the woods got spookier as we went. As night was beginning to fall, making it marginally darker than it already was under the forest's impenetrable canopy, a terrified fox bounded across our path, pursued by a trio of ghostly elves riding ghostly elf horses.
Two rode off after their quarry, but one spotted us and turned, howling like a banshee and charged us. Right off, the Deacon tried to turn him, but didn't roll good enough, so we were forced to take up arms and fight.
Klint, our senior thief got most of the good hits in, since he had the magic sword with a +2 vs. undead. Meanwhile, Kashim and the Deacon concentrated fire on his horse, since we both had +1 weapons of our own, Kashim the Vadium Sword and the Deacon his Mojo stick. We managed to unhorse the wraith, popping the ectoplasmic equine like a soap bubble and sending his rider tumbling to the road. After a few more whacks, we dispelled the phantom elf, but not before he got a constitution draining hit in on Gentleman Jack. (He was quite lucky that Paul's kind of working out what he wants to do with level drain attacks.)
After that, we decided to camp, again setting up right in the road. Mercifully, night passed uneventfully, or at lest as uneventfully as it could in the Gloomwood with all the monsters and evil faerie and squirrel on squirrel violence going on.
The next "morning" we set out, and by midday found we were moving into a classier section of the wood, that Hearth, our companion elf wizard, said was telling him we were close to our destination in Elfhold. We met up with a couple of elf hunters who were just regular elves, not ghosts, and they were nice enough to guide us the rest of the way. So we made it!
Cookies for everyone!
Once we were there, we set up a meeting with the Elf King, who received us most graciously. Unfortunately, it turns out that Prince Gway, who we'd been seeking to warn about the eminent danger to Restenford (where all the bars we go to are located), had run out of patience waiting for his sidekick Rodger, who we'd busted out of jail and escorted here, and hand gone on a quest to find certain elvish artifacts of great magical power he was convinced would help him fast track his way to the crown. Rodger was understandably ticked off, and walked out fuming about his boss.
So we got a little chance to sit back and kind of re-appraise and huddle up.
One of the main issues was that Kashim was operating under a quest spell, ever since his little escapade in the temple fountain back in Greenwild, and we weren't sure if we'd tripped it off or not. The conditions of the quest spell stated that as soon as we saw Prince Gway he had to drop whatever else he was doing and go on a mission to find a missing temple acolyte somewhere around the cheerily named Skull Mountain. But we hadn't met with Prince Gway, so odds are we're still clear.
Hearth the elf sought out Roger and had a long (and excellently role played, btw) chat about the prospects of the kingdom and whether we should go search for Gway or cut bait. The upshot was that Gway was a good enough guy, for a prince, and a damn sight better than Prince Hank, but he tended to get caught up with the idea that some sort of magical solution could solve all his problems, rather than going the political route as Rodger had recommended.
So with that in mind, we decided we'd probably do well to go find our errant Prince and get his butt back on mission. We asked a favor of the Elf King to speak to the sages that Prince Gway might have consulted before going off on his search into the Gloomwood.
From them, we found out about this place called "The Shelf" which was some sort of geographic feature that reputedly contained the site of the Tree of Life, where the elves and all other sapient life first arose. There, apparently, was a great book that held mighty magics from the early days of creation.
So the plan was to find this place and hopefully find Prince Gway before something bad happened to him. Of course, we needed to prep, so we spent the rest of the session getting some stuff done.
The Deacon was sorely missing the BOOM! component of the mighty Mojo Stick, and thus inquired about any mage who might be able to help us recharge it with Magic Missiles. I was directed to the tent of an aged elf mage known as Hovan of the Four Masters, who after a bit of bargaining agreed to lay a buncha magic missiles on my staff for 10 gold a spell. I forked over 100 so that the Mojo Stick would get nice and charged up, but it meant we'd have to hang around for about 4 days while Hovan made with the boom booms. Klint accompanied me, and struck a bargain to transcribe some spells into his spell book. I don't rightly recall which ones, but they'll come in handy if he can learn 'em.
Gentleman Jack was still feeling the spiritual drag of his encounter with the elven wraith, and thus sought out some clerical assistance to restore his lost Constitution. He was directed to the Shrine of the Maiden of the Waters (I think it was.), which was crewed by a bevy (and you can only use the word "bevy" in this particular context, really) of lovely, exceedingly friendly elf maids.
I think Kashim went with him, and the Deacon sent Frog, our henchman, along to keep an eye on them based solely on the description of "shrine maidens". (Look, the Deacon's no bluenose, but we already are on kind of shaky footing in several towns as it is...) Well, it turned out that would be no problem, as this shrine was kind of a pointy eared version of Hef's grotto. Frog reported back, and I quote "Boss, you gotta see dis place..." So yeah. I guess no intervention needed. Yet... (Do elves form torch bearing mobs? Maybe they just wave sticks...)
And I think that was mostly where we left things, planning for an excursion into the depths of the meanest forest around looking for Prince Gway and his fifty men. Some of us think it shouldn't be too much to find him, a group that big will leave a trail.
My opinion, I think the variety of woodland horrors we'll encounter as we hack through the brush will be a little bit fatter as we delve into deepest, darkest fantasy land. I just hope they save the Prince for dessert.
Anyway, a good session all around, nice action, good roleplaying from our new elf buddy Hearth. As I said in an email exchange afterward, he's kind of turning out to be the party's Spock, just like the Deacon is kind of our Dr. McCoy. The rest of 'em can slap fight it out on who gets to be Kirk.
Thanks again to Paul for running a cracking good game, and to the rest of the 10d gamers. Cheerio!
P.S.: Apropos to the youtube clip, Star Trek would be a HELL of a lot cooler if there were more Gorn around. Just sayin'. I love that sound effect. (GrrrrYayhey!)
Truly huge giant spiders are subtle and wily in their way. An arachnid doesn't grow to the size of a horse without possessing some measure of cunning. There are some mercifully rare cases where such a specimen my overcome another, equally fearsome predator and feed on its vital juices.
Such was the case with the fearsome spider wolf, who had managed to steal upon a werewolf and its mate and entrap them with its deadly venom. Bound and hung in the spider's gruesome larder, the eight legged nightmare fattened upon the supernatural blood of the lycanthropes, finding them an ever flowing source of nourishment as their curse prevented them from expiring from its horrible ministrations. Through months of feeding on this tainted blood, the great spider changed and mutated, becoming something altogether more terrifying.
The spider wolf is an eight foot long spider with a slavering wolf's head growing from its cephalothorax. It has eight burning eyes that peer out at the world with the ravenous hunger of both wolf and spider. It is capable of spinning vast webs to entrap hapless passers by in a gossamer prison, for later exsanguination.
The most fearsome aspect of the spider wolf is its magically corrupted venom. When bitten by the spider wolf's terrible fanged jaws, victims must make a save vs. poison or suffer from a fast acting strain of the curse of lycanthropy, becoming a vicious werewolf within 2d6 turns of infection. These werewolves will instinctively avoid the spider wolf, preferring to attack their former friends and allies. They are normal werewolves in all respects, but retain their hit dice if they are a higher level than the werewolf as written in the book.
The spider wolf is affected normally by weapons and spells, but takes double damage from silver weapons.
So lets lay this one on the slab and see what animates, shall we?
I'm very pleased with how this session went. I had three players, each with a backup henchman, except for the homanculus, who don't make friends easily. I guess he was planning to play the mule if it came to it, although the lightning based revivification worked quite nicely!
The cool thing about Ghoulardia pass is that it's kind of a mini-sandbox. I wrote the majority of the material for last year's session, and updated for this year based on what went before. Thus, the werewolf and his wife in the hunting lodge became fodder for the hideous wolf spider that appeared in this year's session. I was so psyched when the lycanthropy venom kicked in. Heh heh heh...
Also, the Iron Skull was the mortal remains of the late, hapless Grar the Barbarian from last year's party. His undead revival kind of felt like the sword battle in Raiders of the Lost Ark. Poor guy never could get an even break.
It was interesting that the group followed the same path through the dungeon almost blow for blow from last year. I think mostly it's a result of starting in the hunting lodge and finding the well in the pantry, although when they came to several crossroads they still seemed to choose places they'd been in a prior incarnation. (2/3rds of my players were returns from last year's game.)
I also got to try out a few house rule fundingys. I used Trollsmyth's "Shields Will Be Splintered"rule to welcome effect. I also was using Paul'sCritical Hit tables, with some ghoulish additions to add more horror flavor. Instead of just Broken, Maimed, or Severed, the character's could also suffer body parts that were Severed & Vengeful (The crawling hand! The creeping eye! The ambulatory pancreas!), Attached & Vengeful (Think Dr. Strangelove's hand...), or face instant Zombification. Which is the source of Hamza's disgruntled shin. (Sometimes random tables speak with eloquent poetry, and sometimes they aardvark pothole lederhosen...)
The creme de la creme, of course, was the player's last minute decision to hang around disguised as the Count's doom guards and surprise him, after befouling his bed of grave earth with the corruption from the red floored room.
This was all improv, and it was such a bucket of hemoglobin flavored awesome that I couldn't refuse. With that sort of set up, you HAVE to roll with it. We were all starting to flag, but when somebody suggested this was the plan, we all kicked into high gear. I gave them the payoff of Count Lobovich gliding in and looking into his coffin as if someone had left a flaming bag of dog doo in there. Heh heh heh...
The fight probably should have been tougher, but I'd forgotten to write down the vampire's immunity to normal weapons in my notes and therefore went ahead without it, although I was using his regeneration. All told, I figure no harm no foul 'cos he was out and about in what was ostensibly the daytime, and it could be argued he'd be weaker. They "killed" him with magic, and the rules say they go gaseous and return automatically to their graves, but since the grave was gunked up with the vermilion earth I decided to end the Count with a BOOM, and it was sweet!
So yeah, a series of unscripted events played out into a real corker of a session. Which is old school play at it's best.
I had so much fun, that everybody should stay tuned for next week's shenanigans in SON OF CREEPY CRAWL.
I was gaming in the game room, late one night, when my eyes beheld, an eerie sight...
A party of three sinister adventurers, their sinister henchmen, and their sinister mule were making their way along the road from Strangledorf to the nightmare haunted Ghoulardia pass, walking past lake Zacherly under the stern edifice of Cardille Keep. They were whistling past the half flooded graveyard, when they espied a deserted, dilapidated hunting lodge.
L to R: Svanholt the Dampyr, his henchman cleric Banrevi of the Blazing Eye, Hamza Aziz the Homanculus, Sir Maggot, Grimling henchman to Hanke the thief. (Not pictured, Buttercup the mule, who in addition to being the most black hearted hoofed mammal in Upper Krunkovia was too unpainted to present on this blog...)
Visions of larceny dancing in their cracked heads, the party made their way to the darkened hut and began to case the place. They found a ruined, empty building, festooned with thick cobwebs in all of the rooms.
In one room, the remains of a kitchen, they found five hanging cocoons, two of man size, two slightly larger, and one very large one with antlers protruding from the end. Just as they'd cut one of the medium sized ones, which feebly writhed and whimpered, they were attacked by the lodge's horrible tenant. The montrous wolf spider!
Aaagh! Kill it kill it kill it!
Thrown into a panic, the party of cutthroats did fierce battle and slew the beast, even though as a bizarre amalgam of wolf and spider, its throat was difficult to locate. They cut it down as it tried to scuttle away, but not before Hamza Aziz received a vicious bite from the thing. The venom burned, but did not slay him, so they went about their business of investigating the cocoons.
Upon opening the bundle they'd cut down, they were sprung upon by the emaciated form of a female werewolf. The creature was weakened and slow, and it was a simple matter for them to slay it with the dampyr's magic missiles.
They proceeded more cautiously with the others, eventually finding a dead knight in full armor, who was armed with a magic dagger and carried a pouch with 30 silver talons, and a dead friar in the another, who bore a silver holy symbol and several potions in a pouch. The other weakly writhing, larger bundle they decided to take no chances with, and stabbed it with the dead knight's dagger until it stopped moving.
While they cleared the bodies out of the hut, Hamza began to feel funny. Then he began to feel hairy, and undergoing a fearsome transformation into a hulking homancuwolf turned on the party with slavering jaws.
In Ghoulardia pass, Frankenstien IS the Wolf Man!
The party fought their fearsome former friend with blade and magic, finally felling him. They shed no tears, for due to his unusual homanculus constitution, the simple expedient of a cure spell and a lightning bolt would revive him almost as good as new. They kept clear of the corpse for now, however, because somehow in his death a sinister vitality had been imbued in his shin, causing it to kick at anyone who came near.
The group holed up in the ruined hut's pantry, and waited out the rest of the night for Svanholt's spells to recover. An open well at the back of the little room led down into the depths of the earth, and they planned to explore the depths the next day.
The night passed uneventfully. (As uneventfully as night can in Ghoulardia pass.) The next morning dawned, black and overcast with pouring rain washing through the thick pine forests and dampening the earth. They carefully laid out Hamza's corpse, lovingly tended it with a healing spell, and then shot a million volts through him. The homanculus jerked back to life, and the party was complete once more.
Climbing down into the depths, they found a long earthen hallway that led to a crossroads. Taking the northwest heading passage, they found a room that had caved in and was open to the sky, its walls and floor covered with twisting, trailing roots and a thick layer of damp moss and lichens. While the glittering of half seen gold and jewels caught their eye, they also noticed some of the roots were sluggishly moving, so they decided to pass through and head for an opening in the northwest corner.
There, they found a set of stairs leading up, which they followed, with Hanke the thief in the lead. He discovered a tripwire trap at the landing at the top, which he accidentally set off, causing the stairs to turn into a polished slide dumping them down into the lower room.
This proved only to be an inconvenience at worst, as they tossed up a grappling hook and climbed up with a rope. At the top of a short second flight of steps they saw an iron door, hanging slightly ajar with an ironwork skeleton on its front that was missing the skull. Over the empty space where a skull should be scrolling ironwork proclaimed the room beyond to be the tomb of Count Gore De Vol and his Legion.
They pushed the door open and peered inside, narrowly avoiding a spring loaded scythe trap, and found a fast ossuary, full of stacked bones and skulls, at the center of which was a rusted iron coffin. Hanke approached the casket, and found that his longsword stuck fast to its sides. Sir Maggot rushed forward to help him, and found his iron breastplate and greaves dragged him across the room and stuck him to the side as well. After a bit of frantic flailing, the grimling got loose and scampered from the room.
After some deliberation, Hanke pulled the lid off of the sarcophagus, and was confronted by a hulking figure dressed as a northern barbarian, with the missing iron skull for his head. The thing arose, uttering incoherent curses as it advanced, its bony hands clutched into fists.
Mrrph! Murmmph! Grr!
With a casual gesture, Svanholt cast his remaining lightning bolt, disintegrating the creature. They plucked the iron skull from the ashes, and fitted it back into place, narrowly avoiding the poison dart that flew out of its mouth when they did so.
Moving on, the group went down a long corridor, that branched off at one point and led them to a large room with a glaring vermilion dirt floor. Not liking the look of it, they tried tossing a flask of flaming oil into the room. It sizzled and blackened, but soon after the flames burnt out it faded back to the glaring red color. Hamza stuck his sword into the dirt, and found that while it felt like solid earth, a glaze of viscous red covered the point of his blade. Unnerved, they left without entering.
It was red, so they fled...
After following some more corridors, they found a room stuffed with noisome garbage and offal, that they also declined to enter, and then followed a east leading passage 'til they found a solid oak doorway.
Opening it, they looked inside to see a pack of twisted, half man/half rat creatures bearing prominent surgical scars and scrabbling and squabbling among a layer of shredded cloth and wood shavings. As the beasts turned to advance on them, their pointed snouts dripping with drool, the party backed out of the room and sealed the door with an Arcane Lock. They crept down the hall as the sound of chisel teeth gnawing on oak planks sounded through the darkness.
Eventually, their explorations took them to a dead end, although from their reckoning it was near where the Cardille Keep was located. So Svanholt burned a finger on his Hand of Glory and revealed a secret door.
Opening it, they found a 30'X30' circular chamber, with an open stone sarcophagus sitting on a raised platform in the center. Four figures in archaic red, full plate armor stood in the "corners" holding halberds, and along the east wall were four iron cell doors.
Prudence and pyromania took hold, and the group threw some flasks of oil at the coffin. The armored guardians banged their halberd staffs on the floor and advanced, and soon the battle was joined.
Yo EE oh! Yeoo HOH!
A furious battle took place, with oil flasks burning the undead doom guards and halberds plunging into mortal flesh. After a furious fight, the ghoulish creatures lay shattered, skulls seperated from bony necks inside their red iron shells and the soil stuffing the armor scattered all about.
The group investigated the room, and found three of the four cells were occupied. Two contained moaning zombies, while the third held the lovely vision of a red haired gypsy girl named Stella, who said that she'd been kidnapped by minions of the vampire Count Vladek Lobovich, and dearly wished to be released. The foul undead had risen from his coffin in the daytime for some unknown and doubtless horrible purpose, and she was uncertain when he would return.
Of course, being seasoned dungeon delvers, the party didn't believe a word of it, and decided to let the poor girl rot in her cell.
What a bunch of knifs...
Hamza investigated the stone coffin, and found it was full of grave earth. In the spirit of experimentation, he plunged his blade, still moist with the substance from the red floored room, into the dirt. Almost instantly, the soil turned bright vermilion red, the eerie effect spreading out from the blade.
At this point, the party hatched a plan wherein they would take the place of the dispatched doom guards and spring upon the hopefully weakened vampire when he returned from his unknown errand. At the very least it would be worth it to see the look on his face when he discovered they'd contaminated his grave soil.
And thus the party waited, standing uncomfortably in the earthy smelling armor as hours passed. Finally, a chill filled the room, and a tall, pale creature of cruel demeanor glided down the ramp from upstairs and strode across the room to his coffin.
A look of disgusted horror flitted across the monstrous nobleman's face, as he gazed in dismay at his befouled resting place. What the blah!?
His keen, supernatural senses kicked in, and he saw the hearts full of blood beating inside the armored shells that were formerly his silent guardians. Tossing his head proudly, he snarled a challenge at the mortals who thought to fool him. So angry was Count Lobovich that he attempted to dominate Svanholt, and was stymied by the dampyr's ability to resist his evil enchantment.
With a wave of his hand, he caused the iron doors on the cells to fly open, releasing the zombies inside. Banrevi cast Silence 15' Radius, plunging the room into eerie stillness as they fought. He and Sir Maggot rounded on the zombies and did battle with them.
Hey! Do I come around and mess up YOUR bedroom? Jerks...
The rest of the party charged Count Vladek, striking with blade and spell. Their luck held as the time of day compromised the vampire's unearthly stamina, making him vulnerable to their mortal weapons. He slashed Hanke with his claws, draining his vitality away. Svanholt loosed his magic missiles while Hamza swung his mighty sword, whittling away the monster's resolve faster than his unnatural vitality repaired the wounds to his body.
Feeling overwhelmed, the vampire summoned a swarm of bats, that filled the room in fluttering bodies that crashed into one another as their natural sonar was stilled. Svanholt fired his last magic missiles into the midst of the swarm, and the Count's physical body dissolved into heavy white vapors, which oozed to the ground and crept up the side of the coffin, pooling inside.
A blush of red spread through the unearthly fog, as it began to tremble and expand. Flashes and sparks began to pulse in its depths. The party decided quite hastily that they didn't like the look of that and fled the room, with only Banrevi, who was still battling one of the zombies, unaware of the growing danger.
With a huge, silent boom, the room exploded in a fireball!
This is what it would have sounded like...
Charred bats rained down and hit the floor, as a large black scorch mark bore final testament to the fate of Count Vladek Lobovich. Sadly, Banrevi of the Baleful Eye was nowhere to be seen, save for a pair of smoking boots and a half melted holy symbol.
The beautiful Stella had ducked behind her cell's iron door to shield herself from the blast, and now gazed through the tiny barred window, calling out to be released. But there was no one to hear her. The party had fled out the corridor and quit the catacombs of Ghoulardia pass.
The gypsy maid let out a sigh, pulled a hairpin from her slightly singed hair and set wearily to work on the lock.
So every month, a loose confederation of Boston area games enthusiasts gathers to hang out and play games at one of the member's places, and last weekend I had the honor of hosting. I'd like to make a habit of blogging about it whenever my Awesome Chamber of Gaming is used for such a purpose.
Well, to be perfectly Frankenstien, we didn't actually use the ACG, as the turnout was rather low (2 guys, besides myself), and it was much too lovely a day to spend inside, so we took the show on the road, and went "nerding" as my compadres and I tend to call it, which is like a pub crawl except instead of pubs we hit comic book, animé, record, and gaming stores.
To keep this post on topic, we did hit two game stores: The Games People Play in the Harvard/Cambridge area, which has a fine selection of boardgames and some classic strategy stuff too, and Pandemonium Books, one of the premiere game stores in the Boston area. Also one of the last holdouts, in the wake of the closings of the much lamented Danger Planet in Waltham and Your Move Games in Somerville.
I miss Danger Planet in particular. I designed their sign, back when a good friend and co-worker was one of the founders. Got paid in a Warhammer 40k Tau army and bragging rights, which my friends probably can tell you I abused with abandon (The bragging, not the Tau).