Friday, April 23, 2010

LL at Paul's: Two for One

Hokay. Whether you wanna blame Helgacon, being sick for two and a half weeks, or the siren song of Spring a-sprunging, it's been way too long since I've updated the ol' weekly Labyrinth Lord report. So this post'll be a twofer. It woulda been a threefer, but the week of Helgacon we cancelled from a combination of sickness and other folks having other stuff they had to do.

So when we last left our hearty band of miscreants, they were deep in the depths of Stonehell, having just battled a bunch of giant rats. Now, by this time, we were all pretty raggedy, so we set about figuring out what we could do to recuperate a little.

We decided to go back to the room with the prophetic bronze head and barricade ourselves in there for the night. Of course, sleeping in the dungeon has its risks, and it soon became apparent we weren't gonna get a good night sleep.

Round about second watch, we heard something scuttling around outside. Instead of ignoring it like we probably should have, the group got up and opened the door. Outside a bunch of giant centipedes were crawling along the walls, and one of them almost came into the room except that the Deacon and the henchmen, I think, slammed the door shut.

Presently, the scuttling continued down the hall, and we all settled in again. It wasn't long before we heard scratching at the door. Now, I'm not sure if we were in our right minds or what, but we set up around the door again and opened it. This time, it was giant rats, who sprang to the attack with a sharl and a hiss. My memory's a bit hazy, but I think we drove them back with sword and polearm thrusts, and got the door closed again.

By this time we were all getting kind of sleep deprived, I guess, 'cos eventually we heard more movement outside the door, accompanied by low jabbering voices and the sound of something being pounded into the door. Again, we got up, and again we threw open the door. This time it was a gang of kobolds, a couple of whom were furiously backpedaling with iron spikes and hammers in their scaly little mitts.

A group of them charged us, and got cut off from their fellows as we slammed the door again. A furious battle ensued, and while we managed to kill the little bastards, they got some vicious hits in on Grut the dwarf and the poor dope died before the Deacon could read from his Cure Light Wounds scroll or force a healing potion down his throat.

Reeling from this turn of events, we braced the door with the Deacon's staff. Elef the halfling, who spoke kolboldish, shouted thru the door, demanding to know what the little creeps wanted. They replied that they were gonna seal us in so we wouldn't kill anymore of 'em, and leave us to rot.

After a brief consultation we decided not to do anything about that, since it meant they'd go away and leave us in peace. Once the kobolds had finished driving in iron spikes, they scampered off, and we bedded down for the night and finally got some sleep (except for poor Grut, who was getting more sleep than any of us had bargained for. The big sleep, if you will.)

After we'd gotten our rest, we took out the late dwarf's crowbar and pried open the door. Elef tried to take the prophetic bronze head off of its pedestal to take with us, but got a solid zap of electricity and a stern admonition from the head for his troubles.

We carried Grut's body outside and settled up. We took whatever was useful, the Deacon said a few words and played a song on his silver stringed mandolin, and then we buried the body in proper dwarvish fashion. (Crushed under the largest boulder we could find.)

Since Elef knew the way to the nearest village, known as Broadberg, we decided to quit Stonehell for now and head back to civilization. (This decision was also predicated, a bit, on the fact that I'd forgotten to bring the map of Stonehell that we'd been keeping with me to this session. D'oh!)

We set out, going down the mountain around around the side of a second peak, until the tiny logging town of Broadberg came into sight.

There we hied ourselves to the local tavern, where we got to talking to the locals about how to get to the city of Bridgefair. We made the acquaintance of a lumber dealer by the name of Sam Fisher, a gruff older gentleman of few words. After a little wheeling and dealing, we agreed to escort one of his wagon trains down the road for a nominal fee (I think it was 5 silver per man, but might have been more. Paul's whole money conversion thing, ratcheting values up by one and eliminating platinum, has caused a little muddying of the waters, but overall I think it's a good thing.)

We also made the acquaintance of an exotic gentleman from parts far to the South, a dark haired, dark skinned man with a scimitar at his hip and a turban on his head, who introduced himself as Kasim of the Long Sands. He told us a tale of his time as a royal guard, and how his princess had been stolen by dark sorcery, and now he searched the world for her. Seeing as we seemed a bold band of adventurers, he decided to throw his lot in with us, and we were happy to have him, since we were down a couple of fighting men since losing Liam and Grut.

The next day we set out on the rough country road towards the city of Bridgefair, accompanied by three creaking, log laden wagons pulled by mules and driven by the irascible Mr. Fisher and a couple of hired hands.

As we made our way down the mountain trail into the plains, we eventually came up on a more heavily traveled road. It was there that we sighted a group of travellers on foot ahead of us. They were moving much faster than our mule train, so we figured we'd catch up to them when night began to fall and see if we might share a campsite. From a distance, they appeared to be several priests or holy men in brown, hooded robes, accompanied by guards.

As twilight deepened, we drew the mules to the side of the road, and Yøgund and the Deacon approached the travellers to see if we might join them. As we approached, the paladin did his Sense Evil thing, and became instantly alert and wary as it went off, detecting sinister intent as a couple of the hooded figures stood up from their campfire and walked over to meet us. The Deacon laid a hand on the crusading warrior's arm and bade him to play it cool.

We approached the clerical appearing figures, unable to see their faces in the gathering dusk and the shadows of their heavy cowls. The Deacon put on a smile and introduced himself and Yøgund, and asked if it were all right for us to camp near them. One of the hooded priests replied they would be happy to have us nearby. They seemed pretty enthusiastic, actually, although from the tone and timbre of the fellow's voice the Deacon could tell he wasn't a native speaker of the Common tongue, and might possibly not even be human. With a courteous smile and a nod, we turned around and headed back to the mule train.

Once there we filled the rest of the group in and drew up our plans. There were nine of them to seven of us, which were decent odds, plus we were pretty sure we had the element of surprise, in that we knew something was up and hopefully they didn't know we knew something was up. We weren't happy about that many potential clerics on team evil, but we'd see how that played out. We decided to park the wagons between our camp and theirs, set up a campfire, put the mules and civilians on the far side of it, and then pretend to bed down, whilst keeping our armor on and our weapons handy. Klint and Elef, being our stealthy types, volunteered to scout, either sneaking into one of the suspicious group's tents, or maybe catching one as he went into the nearby woods to make like a bear. (At this point, I'll note I'm glad I'm not a stealthy type character...)

So we set up and waited. Klint and Elef headed toward the enemy camp, with the halfling taking up a position on top of the logs on the center wagon while the thief crept toward the strangers' campfires. He stopped short in the shadow of the wagons, alert to several dark shapes creeping out of the tents and toward our campsite. Doubling back, Klint ran to the rest of the party and warned us. I think at that point we all just got up and took up defensive positions at the choke points between the three wagons, with Yøgund and Strang on the right and Melchoir, Kasim, and the Deacon on the left.

When they realized the jig was up, the strangers let out a gutteral cry and charged us, swinging their ash blackened blades and meeting us in battle. The Deacon managed to cast Hold Person on a group of them coming around the far left flank, but only caught one in magical immobility. Elef attempted to cast Charm Person, but his target shrugged off the magic.

Kasim turned out to be a whirlwind of destruction, striking the foes down with swirling slashes of his exotic pole arm. Meanwhile, things weren't going as well for Yøgund and Strang, and both were getting wounded and not making much headway. After swatting a couple knots with his staff, the Deacon rushed over to help them out, casting two Cure Light Wounds on Yøgund to bolster him up, as Strang fought valiantly, refusing offers of help. This proved his undoing, as he was cut down by a savage blow from one of the raiders. Our brave, tragically unlucky henchman bled out on the ground as the Deacon and Yøgund mopped the last of that flank, soon joined by Kasim and Melchoir as they'd polished off their attackers. (In this instance, the player of the late, lamented Liam was running Strang, and recommended I spend the healing on the paladin rather than on our henchman. It was a good thing, all told, 'cos Yøgund took a LOT of damage, but made it thru the fight on his feet. Still, it was a bummer. I kinda liked the hapless schnook.)

Finally, our group finished off the last of the threats, as the Deacon went over and bound the one who he'd cast Hold Person on. We'd defeated the mysterious raiders, but lost another member of our group in the process. It was here we ended the session.

Moving forward to the following week found us on the morning after our encounter. We examined the bodies of our assailants, and found that they indeed weren't fully human, but rather humanoids of evil cast with leathery brown skin and slitted eyes. Five of them wore robes, and four of them tabards bearing the device of a bridge over a river on a field of blue. Underneath, they wore solidly made boots and immaculately clean chainmail. The Deacon's instinct was that they were hobgoblins, but we couldn't be sure.

We tried to interrogate the prisoner, but found he didn't speak our language, or any of the limited number of other languages we knew. Without any better option, the Deacon clapped a hand on Yøgund's shoulder and asked him to Detect Evil. When he did, the wandering cleric nodded and told the holy warrior to "Do what you need to do." With that, Yøgund dispatched the prisoner.

From there, we took care of the dead as we felt they deserved. We claimed what was useful from Strang's equipment, and buried him with his trusty spear as a grave marker. The humanoids we looted and burned in a pyre, making sure to take their ears, in case of a bounty, and at least one of the cloaks and one of the tabards. I was a little suspicious of the whole setup, since it was my guess that the heraldry on the tabards was from Bridgefair. Either these guys had gotten hold of some tabards and were posing as servants of that town, or they were in cahoots, so we took what we figured would be the most flexible depending on how things stood.

With that out of the way, we set out again, travelling deeper into the plains along the Broadberg/Bridgefair road. When it came time to make camp, we ran into a trio of dwarves leading a mule toward the mountains, and seeing that they were non-evil, made camp with them and talked, mostly with their leader, Badger.

We told the dwarves about our recent adventures, and they were impressed to hear the name Stonehell, as they'd heard the legends. They weren't able to identify the creatures we'd fought by their ears, but they did ID the tabards as those of the Bridgefair town guard. They said that there had been merchant caravans and travellers waylaid and lost on this road, so the hypothesis that our attackers were bandits was bearing more weight. Otherwise, we spent a pleasant evening and moved on.

A few days later we pulled into Bridgefair, a bustling city on a river flowing South, that was about a week's travel to Restenford. We'd decided to talk to the town guard about the incident and the tabards, rather than try to be crafty about it. Yøgund needed to check in with representatives of his paladinic order, and we had some gemstones to sell, as well as all the stuff we looted off of the raiders to fence. We arranged our priorities, rented a wheelbarrow from a local and took our goods to market, since a bunch of armor and weapons were weighing us down.

We got a good price for the spoils of our fight, minus a small commission to Sam Fisher the lumberman for hauling the stuff on his wagons.He'd settled up on the price of our escort, so we had that money jingling in our pockets too.

From there, we went to the town guard garrison and looked up their Captain, a harried man at a desk by the name of Alfred Godsarrow. He was a bit snappish and impatient, but we filled him in, and showed him the tabard and the ears (which he was thoroughly grossed out by. So much for bounties.) He seemed kind of pissed that we burned the rest of the tabards, since apparently they were part of an order that had gone missing. The Deacon offered to recompense them for the cost, but was told that wasn't the issue. Anyway, he took our report, and bade us tell him when we were going to leave town. I think he was kind of suspicious of us. He did make it known that he was kind of down on the order of Palinthor, deeming them troublemakers and do gooders after Yøgund offered to lend a hand in any evil afoot in town.

Leaving the garrison, we headed back to the market to sell our gemstones, and eventually found our way to a small establishment run by a bunch of gnomes, who crowded around their dutch door as we showed them the gems and struck our bargain. We showed them the gems in three lots, the middling stuff, the good stuff, and finally the not so good stuff. I caught some flack from the rest of the group for not haggling, which in retrospect was probably justified, but all told we made out pretty darn good, about 450 gold pieces, which under the new monetary regime is equivalent to 4500 in un-Paulified Labyrinth Lord. (I'll also note that Paul's portrayal of a crowd of gnomish gem merchants was hi-larious! Great stuff. I wanna sell more jewels to these guys! I bet they have relatives all over the place.)

With a fat sack of cash burning a hole in our pockets, we proceeded to the Golden Goose, a tavern where the delegation from Yøgund's order was staying. Our noble friend presented himself to them and gave a report, and offered to accompany them when they set out for Restenford.

He also took their chancellor aside and spoke privately about his conflicted feelings about his required tithe. Normally, he'd give his money directly to the order, but he'd on his own set up the Palinthor house in Restenford, and wanted to know what they thought about that. The chancellor, not unsurprisingly, said he preferred the money going straight to the order, but they were happy he was out spreading the word and doing good. Yøgund turned over half of his cut of the haul, and thanked his superior for his advice.

Later, he was still kind of conflicted, since he felt he didn't want to give ALL of his money to the order without question. The Deacon advised him that Palinthor was the ultimate authority over him, not his order, and as long as he was right with the "upper management" if you will, then it was okay. He's a paladin, after all. If his powers get shut down, he knows he's doing the wrong thing, and conversely, if the order wants to bitch about it, he can show he's still got the big boss' favor.

After that we retired to an inn recommended by Sam Fisher, known as the Rusty Bucket, and spent a pleasant night there, taking advantage of the magical, self filling bathtub they kept there. (Everyone who played in the Treigue campaign in our old Thursday night game will remember the ol' Rusty Bucket with fondness, as it was a bar our characters bought and maintained. Ursula the barmaid's still there, by the way. She's not a half orc anymore as there are none in Paul's campaign, but she's still a whole lotta woman. (She doesn't just serve drinks, she's also a bouncer, especially if her bodice isn't laced as tightly...))

The next day we did some more shopping and info gathering. Klint the thief had always been interested in obtaining some kind of magics to help him see in the dark, and by asking around he found out about a sage, collector, and dealer in curios named Aldred who might be able to help.

So we went around to his house, and were invited inside by an unkempt, raggedy old man in a dressing gown who'd apparently just gotten up. The interior of the house was a rats nest of hoarded junk and papers, stacked almost to the ceiling. We settled in to a clearing in the rubble and talked.

He told us of a magical night cap that a wizard had created to aid him in his late night ramblings, that had fallen into possession of an adventurer who'd been lost in an expedition to an ancient Ilmorian ruin. The old sage offered to sell us a scrap of poetry that had led the hapless treasure hunter to the site. As we dickered, it came out that we knew where Stonehell was, which really peaked his interest. Eventually, we bargained for him to trade the poem and some item identifications for a map to the location of Stonehell. He also identified the ears we were carrying as probably goblinoid, which confirmed the Deacon's hobgoblin hypothesis.

The deal struck, we handed him the magic sword, the copper circlet from the subterranian pool, the gold ring I'd used to distract the ogre, and something else I can't quite recall right now, and parted ways, glad to get back out to fresh air.

The air wouldn't be fresh for long, though, 'cos next we went to the livestock district to buy some horses. We bought a bunch of war horses, a war pony for Elef, and some mules. (My destrier's name is Buttercup, btw, and Yøgund named his Equesthor.) We also hired a likely young lad named Garant Greyshield to travel with us and serve as groom and guardian for our mounts. Klint was dubious as to the value of buying expensive war horses when he figured they'd get eaten when we left them outside a dungeon. The increased movement rate is one big plus, we should get back to Restenford in half the time, and having a horse that's not gonna shy and run off when faced with monsters and combat in the field is another benefit. (Although being on the horse that stays rather than the one that gets the heck outta there might be a bug, not a feature.)

Anyway, we were soon set with mounts and ready to set out, the only thing holding us back was waiting for Aldred to ID the items, and waiting for the Palinthorian envoys to conclude their business with Prince Hank's army outside town. (Who was there as part of the war of succession that was going on in the wider world. We'd kinda stayed clear of it in neutral Restenford. How much longer it's gonna stay that way is up for grabs.)

Getting back to Aldred, we found out that the gold ring I'd been carrying was actually a Ring of Feather Fall. (I seem to have a knack for carrying magic items around unknowingly, although this is a lot better than that Armor of Arrow Attraction that my paladin character in the long ago Wardicon campaign was wearing. He was such a tank he just never noticed the extra hits.)

Klint expressed an interest in the thing, since he was the party member who did the most climbing. We agreed to give it to him, as long as he was willing to test it out. So we went to the Rusty Bucket and got him to climb up to the roof and jump off, attempting to drum up some spectacle and maybe some betting on the side. Alas, the Deacon didn't really draw the crowd, and Klint's oviously knocking knees detracted from the showmanship, even when we set out a flagon of water for him to dive into, a la the legendary Fearless Freep. The ring worked, and Klint claimed his prize and went to change his pants.

The sword, it turned out, was just a +1 sword, made of the mysterious metal Vadium. The ancient Ilmorians used it to make enchanted items, so there was potential to get the blade further magicked up, but for now it was still good to fight foes immune to normal weapons.

With that, we wrapped up. This was more business than action, but we got a few leads and made some more contacts in the wider world, so I call it good.

Thanks again, Paul, for good DM'ing and world building, and thanks to the 10d gamers for being a good bunch to play with.

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