Friday, February 26, 2010

LL at Paul's: The Long and Winding Hall

So we started this week's session "in media res" as it were, with the party standing in the shaft of a T junction at the opening of an orc infested dungeon, with two fairly large parties of orcs arrayed on either side of us.

When I arrived, Liam and Yogund's players had come up with a pretty clever strategy for getting our foes to break ranks and move into sight, where the party's mage Koode could cast his sleep spell on 'em. Basically, we'd toss a handful of coins into the junction, and hope the creatures' greed would overcome their tactical sensibilities.

We also started with a little retcon/employee relations. Over the preceding week, Paul had checked up on the rules and discovered that we were drastically underpaying our hirelings. The 4 gp a month quoted by the rulebook was for getting guys to stand guard duty, not for risking life and limb as dungeon delvers. He wasn't going to retcon the agreement, but he said that Strang and Melchior would be kind of on the disgruntled side after seeing all the gold pouring out of the ogre's sack when we were counting our swag at the Minotaur. We decided that at the time we indeed gave them each a half share, in the same spirit as the half share of XP they get, and also agreed that we'd no longer be buying stuff for them. Melchior took his money and bought himself a crossbow, while Strang decided to start saving up for better armor, as the hapless warrior only had leather armor currently.

That bit of prologue business out of the way, we got down to the task of clearing out the orc lair. We took up a collection of silver pieces from all the party members, and handed them to Liam, who took them in his remaining hand and tossed them in a wide scattering at the point where the T crossed. As we expected, about a half dozen orcs ran out to pick up the jingling, shiny coins. Koode stepped forward and let loose his sleep spell, sending all but one of the brutes to sleep, and a couple of others out of our field of view as well. The remaining orc continued to shovel coins into his pockets, inspite of his growing unease at being the only one standing in the crossroads. The party leveled their bows at the hapless beast and took him down in a hail of arrows, with a thrown knife from Koode striking the creature in the neck and finishing it.

With the orcs in disarray, the party charged into the T, with Yogund and Melchoir breaking to the east and Liam and Strang attacking the group to the west. The Deacon moved in behind the paladin and hireling fighter, while Klint moved in with the elf and spearman. Koode led our donkey down to the crossroads and set about putting the slumbering orcs out of our misery with one of his daggers. I seem to recall Melchoir taking a pretty grievous hit from an orc, requiring the Deacon to heal him with one of his two (count 'em, two!) healing spells. I also recall Klint trying to fire his bow into the fracas, and managing to strike Liam by mistake, which made for a little tension. (I might be wrong about this, it might have happened later in the session.)

Otherwise, the fight in the east branch went pretty well, with Yogund's mighty blade and implacable armor class making fairly short work of the marauders. On the west front, the orcs made a fighting retreat down the long, dark corridor, angrily shaking one of their sleep addled cohorts as they went. The party made the tactical choice not to pursue them and split up our group, so after a few missed shots with sling and bow, the retreating orcs vanished into the darkness.

With a brief respite, the party formed back up and made ready to go deeper into the dungeon. With his finely honed wizardly attention to detail, Koode managed to find and retrieve every single silver piece we'd thrown to lure the orcs. (This was actually the result of Paul rolling exactly the number of coins we'd thrown on a check to see what we recovered. Dice are funny.) We also managed to loot a few silver pieces from the fallen foes.

We decided to let Liam scout down the tunnel to the west for a bit, since we knew for certain there were orcs there, whereas we'd cleared, as far as we knew for sure, the tunnel to the east. Using his ranger's ability to move silently, he crept down the hall, finding an odd little switcback in the tunnel before it continued for several more feet to the west, and then turned south.

When he rejoined us, we set out, tapping ahead of us with the 10' pole and checking for traps at the switchback, since it seemed odd enough to warrant some caution. From there, we continued cautiously south, until we came to a two way split to the south, with a third corridor leading off to the west shortly before it.

As we approached this area, we heard a low, ominous growl from the split passages, and a quartet of mangy, half starved looking wolves crept into the light of our lanterns, bristling and baring their fangs. Thinking quickly, Liam pulled some dried jerky from his pack and tossed it among the beasts. The hugry wolves dove on the morsels and fell to fighting among themselves. With the feral creatures otherwise occupied, the party decided to hurry past them.

Following the west corridor, we came to another corridor leading north, and about ten feet beyond that to the west an opening that led into a rough hewn 20X20 room containing a large table and a few stools, with a half carved roast sitting on it. (Apparently, we'd caught the orc marauders at dinner.) Yogund seized the meat off of the platter, pulling out the knives that were jammed into it, and took a brief jaunt down the hallway, where he threw the meat to the squabbling wolves, buying us more time before the beasts would come sniffing around for us. We searched the room for secret doors and found none, and decided to claim the fine silver platter and carving tools as swag.

From there, we headed up the corridor to the north. It went on for a long stretch, twisting and turning to provide defense for whatever lay beyond. Well, I shouldn't be vague, what lay beyond was what pros refer to as an *assload* of orcs.

We came to a largish room, packed to the gills with the creatures. Among them was a leader of sorts, as could be told by his meatier frame and better armor and weapon (in this case, chainmail and a longsword). He ordered his underlings to charge, and from there a long, brutal toe to toe fight ensued.

This was simple brute force vs. brute force, with Liam and Yogund holding the front line with their shields as masses of pork scented orc bodies slammed against our defenses in a wave. The Deacon and Strang held the second rank for the party, striking between our front line with our longer reached weapons. We took some hits, but mostly killed orc after orc, as their aggressive press drove us backwards down the hall. This turned out pretty tactically good for us, as when we reached the end of the corridor the party fanned out to take the remaining orcs from two fronts, bringing all of our blades to bear. Melchoir, with his usual talent for getting mangled, got his arm nearly severed at the elbow, forcing the Deacon to use his last healing spell for the day, and I think Klint took a pretty hefty wound too. Still, at the end of it, the party stood panting and mopping our brows at the end of an epic slugfest, having slain over a dozen orc attackers.

Weakened though we were, we decided that we'd best press our advantage against their captain, and stormed down the hall to the chamber where the creatures first encountered us, planning on swarming what we had little doubt would be a particularly hardy specimen. When we burst into the chamber, we found it empty, with the orc leader deciding on the better part of valor and fleeing out an opening to the east that we saw now that we had an opportunity to take in the room's contents. In the center, was a huge 10' diameter table laden with various haunches of foul meat and a nasty crock of "stew". Carved into the table's surface we found a map of the area around Restenford, which meant that this was probably the marauder's council table.

Taking stock, we realized we were much too weak to press on into the dungeon, but didn't relish leaving the underground complex and camping in the wilderness. We decided to barricade ourselves in the smaller room and use the large table to block the entry, so we swept the noisome feast off onto the floor and rolled the great oaken disc down the winding hallway over the corpses of the orc raiders, as Koode, not really much one for physical labor, set about looting the dead monsters and turning up a pretty sizeable pile of silver pieces (about 52 if memory serves.)

We settled in for the night, setting watches as we bound our wounds and tried to get some sleep. On the second watch, which consisted of Liam and Strang, sounds of something sniffing around outside and muttered orcish was heard, but nothing came of it. The following morning, as we were stretching ourselves (and appreciating the natural healing that had ocurred overnight, plus the regaining of spells) a pair of orcs approached our barricade with axes and started trying to chop through.

The party ranged ourselves on either side of the opening and readied our weapons. With a nod to one another, we kicked down the table legs holding the great oaken tabletop away and allowed it to fall into the room, surprising the orcs beyond. One reared back, while the other, taken off guard, was pulled forward into the room still gripping his axe. Klint slipped up beside him and drove a sword into the hapless creature's ribs, while Yogund and Liam charged the third.

In the hallway beyond, another orc stood with a pair of snarling wolves, barely restrained by stout chains. He released them toward us as his cohort with the axe fell to our swords, and a furious fight ensued. While Melchoir stayed back, not wanting any part of the beasts. (He understandably was developing something of a complex about wolves.) Strang distinguished himself by getting in a lot of solid hits on the beasts. Eventually, one fell to his spear, causing the other, and its orcish keeper, to flee down the hall.

The party then headed back up the winding corridor to the feast room. We headed down the East passage, and came to a solidly barred wooden door. We sent the hirelings back for the orc's axes, and when we retrieved them set about chopping through. When we opened a hole big enough to peer through, we saw the orc leader standing at the ready for our assault. Klint fired a bowshot through the hole and missed him, as the rest of us cleared away the door and charged in. After a brief skirmish, the orc leader lay dead at our feet. (I have the impression I'm misremembering something here. Either we found the orc in a different room, or he made a bad luck morale roll, since he did have avenues of escape from this room, I think... Hrm....)

We stripped him of his chainmail and gave it to Strang, who'd been in need of an armor upgrade, and set about exploring the room. It was a long chamber, some sort of feasting hall, hung with tapestries much too rich and well made to be orcish work (I don't really think the pigheaded bastards are really the tapestry type, to be honest. More the "skin it and stake the hide up on the wall" sort of thing...) We took these down and rolled 'em up, and piled them on the donkey. A stuffed manticore head adorned the far wall at the heads of the two long tables, which we also took down, after searching behind it for any secret compartments, and also put on the donkey. We think it'll be a nice gift for Pelltar, who seems to be a connoisseur of ghastly taxidermy.

There were two exits out of the room along the long side to the east, a stout wooden door, and a corridor. We decided to check out the door, and Klint found it locked. Unfortunately, he missed the poison needle trap on the lock as he checked it over. Super fortunately he made his saving throw, which is good 'cos otherwise we would have had a dead thief on our hands.

Inside, we found a store room with three chests, and a shelf containing several vials of colored liquid. The vials the Deacon took charge of, knowing them to be some sort of magic potions. (I reckon we'll get 'em identified later in town. Maybe Pelltar or one of his apprentices could help us with that.) Searching the chests, we found that one was trapped with some sort of spring loaded device. The other two contained a mass of copper coins (which we initially piled on the donkey but then dumped when the poor creature's knees started to wobble) and a pile of gemstones, respectively. We divvied the jewels up among ourselves, not knowing their full value (We need to take them to a larger city to get appraised.) Finally, we positioned the trapped chest facing away from us, tied a rope to the lid, and cleared the room, lest there be poison gas inside. With a tug of the rope, a pair of spring loaded daggers shot out and blunted themselves on the wall opposite. (I think I'm having another memory short here. Maybe the gems were in this box. I recall another crate full of rotting cheese someplace, but I can't quite place where...)

After we cleared the store room, we decided to explore down the other hall, and I think that's where we found an underground pool full of fresh water. As we made to leave, Liam decided to search it more thoroughly, removed his shield prosthesis, and dove in. While it seemed an unnecessary dunking, he actually found something, a scroll case covered over with mineral deposits lay at the bottom of the pool. When we examined this prize, we found a parchment inside covered in unintelligible writing, which Koode said didn't look magical. It will bear more scrutiny.

From there, we made to retrace our steps and explore some of the other areas of the dungeon, and it was here that we ended the session.

All in all, an awesome night of gaming. Big, tense moments from the epic slugfest, and from Klint nearly meeting his doom on a poison needle. I'm eager to get back to it next week, especially since we pulled down a huge payoff in XP for all the orcs we slew. The Deacon managed to hit 3rd. level in one session's gaming. (I was about 900 pts away at 2nd. lvl last session.) Whooee!

Thanks again to Paul, and the rest of the 10d gamers.

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