Sunday, May 30, 2010

LL at Paul's: Crush Groove & Gleaming the Cube

So yet again, here we are, telling tales out of school. Old school, that is. Gaming. With a capital G. Yo.

Yeah, it's late and it's Memorial Day tomorrow so what the heck. Not 100% in the mood to write this but if I don't I won't get around to it later so there you are. Live with the non-sequitors.

So when last we left our heroes, they'd lost their entire back nine to various calamities, and were down to the primary characters without benefit of faithful henchmen/meatshields.

We rested up the night in the Shrine, and climbed down the long shaft to the long tunnel to the dungeon below.

When we got down there, we decided to try a new methodology for exploring, which was to map out all the hallways, ignoring doors, so as to get a good general lay of the land, and THEN going thru and hitting the rooms. This, overall I think, was a pretty good plan of action. I won't bog this post down with every twist and turn we went thru, and will instead hit the highlights of the rooms once we got the halls sorted out.

The only wandering monsters we ran into in all this hallbusting were the survivors of the lizard man pack (pack? I wonder what a plurality of lizard men would be called. A school? A gang? A handbag?) Anyway, we ran into them again, and I think we soundly whupped their scaly butts without too much misery and woe. After last week's troglodyte attack, these guys were literally a breath of fresh air.

The first room we explored fully, and got into trouble in, was a large chamber that seemed to be some sort of nautical museum. There were paintings of ships on the walls, some suits of armor with a vague oceanic theme in their decoration, a chest which we found to contain various pieces of scrimshaw, and these two statues of giant crabs in the northeast and southwest corners, both made out of coral. When we opened up the scrimshaw chest, the statues animated and attacked, which is pretty much par for the course in D&D unless it's an abstract sculpture (Those, instead, usually have curses. It's hard being a curator in a dungeon.)

The group split up and started whaling away on them (note the nautical verb there...heh) I think the Deacon and Yøgund took the one in the left corner while Kashim and the thieves took the one on the right.

I got a couple of good whacks in with the Mojo stick, but things kinda got outta whack in general when the sculpture grabbed the wandering cleric around the middle and kinda started crimping him with maximum prejudice. I actually got taken down to 0 and got a crit effect, namely crushed ribs. Everybody got kinda nervous at that point, and all took a shot at the rampaging crab statue, since the other had been busted to rubble by then. It was a bunch of bad rolling all around, and it looked like curtains for the man with the silver stringed mandolin...

The Deacon was only saved at the last minute by a thrown dagger from the party mage, Elef the halfling, who was in henchman mode that night. By extreme good fortune he did just enough damage to take the thing down, and the Deacon spent both his healing spells on himself to cancel the crushed ribs and put some hit points back on his bones.

The hit was SO fortuitous that I had to get confirmation from Paul, for which again I apologize, since it IS poor manners to accuse a DM of fudging, especially if it benefits you. Paul doesn't run that kinda game though, and this is Old School gaming, baby. Fudging is for bake sales! He showed me the HP tally and by golly it was those 2 hps that made the difference. Especially since Elef has a Strength penalty, so if he'd done anything besides throw the dagger, it woulda been it for the Deacon, as the crab's claw was doing auto damage.

Anyway, enough about my character's near death experience. We squeaked by and that's good enough. We bagged up some of the coral chunks from the crab in case they would be valuable, and swiped the scrimshaw, and set out on our hall exploration.

The next room of note we encountered was what appeared to be some kind of jail, with rows of 5'X5' cells, some with skeletons chained up inside, and a torture chamber at one end. I don't rightly recall what set it off, but we did something that caused this unearthly, howling voice to start bellowing "FREE ME!" ad nauseum.

Eventually, the caterwauling attracted a bunch of skeletons, but they didn't go for much 'cos the Deacon and Yøgund can now both turn undead. Actually, it was a good initial outing in the smiting of the unliving for Yøgund, 'cos even though my silver stringed mandolin is powerful juju against the walking dead, I rolled for crap, wheras Yøgund got a good hit in, spiritually speaking, and turned 'em away. (I may be conflating this encounter with a gang of zombies we met later in this narrative, but regardless, it was a good outing for our resident pants wearing paladin.)

Once the skeletons were de-boned, we loitered around trying to FREEE the shouting spirit, mostly by busting the non-moving skeletons loose from their chains and chucking them out the door shouting "Go! Be Free!", but nothing was working.

It's here we coined a term for what we're discovering is a dungeoneering no-no: monsterbaiting. In other words, getting too focused on one encounter and wasting time that gets converted into greater wandering monster checks, when the prudent move is to Get The Früdje Out! While a certain aspect or foe in the dungeon may be fascinating, keep an eye on the main goal, which is getting out alive and not attracting more attention than you can handle by hanging around.

Don't monsterbait, kids. You'll go blind (when your torches burn out 'cos you've been hanging around a screaming magic mouth for hours.)

Another minor encounter in this area was a room full of yellow fungus that threw out a big cloud of spores when we tossed a torch in there. We slammed the door and decided to give it a wide berth. Fungus, statues shaped like anything, and the color yellow are all vital warning clues that a healthy dungeon delver should pay close attention to. (As pointed out in Michael Curtis' wonderful Dungeon Alphabet. Pick up a copy, won't you?)

We also found a shrine with a baptismal font of some kind in it, which self filled with what we think might be holy water, so we filled some spare vials with the stuff. This came in VERY handy later on, as I shall elucidate in the future. There was also a statue or something there which we had to firmly convince Gentleman Jack Getz not to pocket right away. (Look, if you've seen Raiders of the Lost Ark, you don't swipe the golden idol until you've thoroughly stretched and are ready to outrun the poison darts and giant sphere trap...) I'm sure we'll pilfer it when we're ready to exit, but better not to offend the gods while we're still in the field.

Moving on, after we'd fully mapped the halls we entered a crypt in the north quadrant where we ran into a bunch of zombies lying in a room with a big sarcophagus. They got up, and we put 'em down, and like I said earlier I'm not sure if this was the room where the Deacon got lousy rolls and Yøgund got to show his stuff as an undead turner, but once they got turned we hacked 'em up good.

The sarcophagus contained the dried out corpse of a priest of Kor, and he'd been buried with this rod with a bronze sun disk on top, so we swiped it. Again, a little nervous that we were tugging on something that might bite us, but a staff is too hard to pass up, especially since I've been so happy with the mojo stick we got from the gnoll shaman. We need to Detect Magic on it to see, but that's an in town spell, not an in the field spell for our resident mage.

The next door in the north section led to a storage room full of barrels. I'm not remembering much beyond the barrels. I think there might have been some normal sized rats in there, but even if there was something fightable, it wasn't much for being memorable. I'm not even completely sure what the barrels contained. Health and ammo? Me no know...

The final door we hit for this evenings festivities was where we started to accumulate trouble. We walk up to it, and Yøgund turns the latch. And feels a prick on his finger.


Well, mercifully it turned out to be a paralytic poison, and not a fail n' die type poison, so we now had a nice temporary stretcher to carry out loot on. (I kid, we probably would have used him as a battering ram before we'd use him as a treasure sled...)

So anyway, the door turned out to lead to this odd hallway that surrounded a room of some sort. We pressed on, I think hoping whatever we found beyond this trapped door would have some kind of poison antidote or something hidden among it's mysteries. We rounded the corner, and found the inner door, but then heard some movement in the hall behind us.

Kashim, our mighty, foolhardy desert warrior, rounded the corner and saw a rat skeleton floating in the air about a foot off the ground. He was about to charge it, when the Deacon came around the corner and urged him to stand off while I tried to turn what I thought was some kind of undead. That didn't phase it, so I pulled one of the vials of what I hoped was holy water and tossed it at it. This stopped in midair about a foot above the rat skeleton, and the sick realization of what I was looking at hit me.

Yep. Always 10'X10' room for jello. It was a fershlugginer GELATINOUS CUBE!

Yeah, thank goodness Kashim didn't end up charging the thing. Of course, we were now isolated as it was blocking our way out. That's where we ended the session, with a paralysed paladin and a perilous pythagorean protoplasm preventing our passage. Perhaps we will prevail, perchance we'll perish. I can't possibly predict. (Okay, I'll stop. Gettin' too much spit on the screen...)

At this point I gotta throw a big old kudosaurus to Paul for one of the best monster reveals I've seen in a while. The floating rat skeleton that we thought was an undead and then suddenly realized was actually something else. It was an impromptu decision on his part 'cos the cube failed it's surprise check, and it was a good way to represent it. CHOICE! Golf claps all around.

Thanks once again to Paul and the 10d gamers for an excellent session.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

LL at Paul's: Hamburger Helpers

Tally ho, my peeps. It's time yet again for the weekly run down on the Labyrinth Lord game.

So when last we left our hearty band we were lurking in a stairwell waiting for hobgoblins to come marching down the hall, so that we might present them with an ambuscade. Waiting around is pretty much a bad idea in a hostile, monster infested dungeon, as we learned when we were jumped by a bunch of lizard men last week.

Still, we decided to stick it out, but re-organized ourselves somewhat. We positioned our archers, namely Klint, Gentleman Jack Getz, and Melchior down the west hallway in the hobgoblin detachment's camp, put Kashim and Yøgund in the south branch with lanterns hooded and swords drawn, and positioned The Deacon, Elef the Halfling wizard and his ensorcelled servant Gneal the Gnoll to the north. Our quarry would be approaching from the east, crossing a plank set across a small, bottomless chasm. We posted our Charmed hobgoblin ally Sergeant Grumpus at the chasm to lead our victims into position, and prepared a nasty little trap by sawing most of the way thru the plank.

There were a couple tactical problems with our plan. The big one was hobgoblins can see in the dark, and we can't, and we were keeping our light sources hidden to not tip them off. We were counting on Grumpus to lead them to the crossroads where we'd unhood our lights and get a good shot at them. The other big problem was we didn't know exactly when the hobs were coming and in what numbers.

Eventually, we heard the tromp of feet and the harsh voices of the hobgoblins, marching down the hall toward us with the sound of our enspelled alley urging them on. These hobgoblins are a pretty rum bunch, all told. Very organized and efficient, they don't mess around. They approached our position in a phalanx formation, with polearms deployed to sweep the hall ahead of them.

This is when things started going kinda pear shaped for us. Somehow the bastards had made it across the plank without it snapping. (I guess this was lucky dice rolling on Paul's account.) They weren't surprised when they entered the crossroads, and were ready to respond with force, which they did. The first one to get it was Gneal the Gnoll, polearmed in the gut and down for the count. ("GNO! GNOT GNEAL!!!") Our archers didn't have a really good view, even when Kashim opened his lantern, and so their shots fell short or missed, and they were putting up a really stiff resistance to our fighters. We managed to take down the front rank with a lot of effort, and took a few nasty wounds in the process.

The back ranks retreated back down the tunnel shouting for reinforcements, so we decided to bug out, fighting the middle ranks to secure OUR retreat. With a heavy heart, the Deacon used the gnoll shaman's mojo stick to put Gneal out of his misery, since we weren't gonna spend healing magic on an ensorcelled evil beast, and the rest of us regathered and beat feet across the chasm in the north tunnel which led to the stinky keg room and out. As we fled, we were gratified to hear the distant sound of a board snapping and a hoot of hobgoblinish alarm.

We scampered up the ladder and barred the door in the column of the mountain shrine and settled in to rest up, totally tapped of all but a healing scroll with two spells. We were in pretty bad shape, so we decided to just rest the rest of the day and get a full night's sleep.

It was round about the second watch, and it was Melchior and The Deacon's turn to sit awake when...


Yeah, gotta love those wandering monsters, Paul.

So this huge, angry mass of bear gristle, claws, and feathers wedged itself between the pillars of the shrine and came in looking for a midnight snack.

Now, I'm gonna digress here for a second and state my opinion of the owlbear. A lot of internet gaming wags like to claim that they're goofy, or ridiculous, or a combination of two cuddly animals.

To this, I say bearfeathers! A bear is pretty much one of the worst things that can happen to you in the real world, so anything with that in it's makeup is something to be reckoned with. As for an owl, well, look at these claws.

And also note the beak.

I think too many graphic designers and tchotchke artists have stylized the owl into a cutsey poo little aerial garden gnome, and that's what colors people's opinions of owls. The wise old owl, blah blah. The owl is wise, people, because he knows where the bodies are buried...

As for me, I grew up in the country, and have seen what an owl can do to rodents, or chickens, and the primeval, dinosaurian/avian gusto with which they do it. If you're a field mouse, an owl is silent death from above and a sad footnote in the mouse actuarial tables as an owl pellet. Now make that big enough to do the same to a human...

Add to all this the fact that due to their unnatural nature, the beasts are purported to be crazy insane, tree snapping, twist the head off of a full grown moose angry at all times, and a truly alarming picture is painted.

Nothin' cute or ridiculous about an owl bear. Sorry kids.

Anyway, the Deacon and Melchoir sprang to defend our sleeping comrades, with the Deacon whaling away with the mojo stick and Melchoir drawing his sword and raising his shield. Our brave henchman apparently managed to get a wicked hit in on the beast, enraging it to the point that it grabbed him in an owl hug and proceeded to crumple him up like remedial origami. (See! This is what I'm talking about!) The Deacon hauls off and lets the beast have it with a mighty wack of the mojo stick, finally felling the monster.

The next step was unfurling the scroll of healing spells the Deacon had on his person and giving it to Melchoir with both barrels, as bits of him looked ready to fall off due to a lack of connective tissue and internal structure. The two cure light wounds got him back on his feet, another near brush with his nemesis, nature...

The next morning we were back to having spells recharged, so I did a round of healing and reviving on the rest of the party, so that we were approaching fighting trim once more. I think we decided to camp out another day to heal up some more, so it was on the second day we girded our loins and salleyed forth (or down, in this case.)

When we got down into the dungeon again, we saw that the hobgoblins had been busy. We found our plank across the north passage chasm, and when we checked it we saw that it had been similarly sawed through to make a trap. Clever bastards... So we went back to the keg room and pulled a fresh plank out of one of the kegs, and took the doctored board and put it across the east chasm on the very off chance it'd get some unaware dungeon monster, hopefully a hobgoblin.

From there, we decided to make our way up the stairs and do some more exploring of the complex. We found a hall going east and west at the top of the stairs and checked it out. There was a small alcove with a shrine to the sun god who the big shrine upstairs was devoted to, and to the south we found a complex of rooms that seemed to betoken a barracks of some kind. There was a bunk room, a room full of tables, a combat practice room with dummy swords and shields, and another bunk room.

In the first bunk room, we were menaced by a couple of ghouls, but the Deacon's silver stringed mandolin turned 'em around and put them to flight, or they would have fled if the fighters hadn't chopped 'em down like corpse eating firewood.

As we entered the final bunk room, a nasty stench assailed our nostrils, and a band of seven slimy, scaly, crested lizardoids leapt out of the darkness at us. Troglodytes! We drew our swords and charged forward to the attack.

At this point, I will give my opinion on troglodytes, although not in the extended rant fashion of my opinion about owlbears. Long story short:


Seriously. We WISHED they had slingshots...

Troglodytes are MEAN MOTORSCOOTERS. You got the overpowering stench that causes nausea and combat penalties, you got two HD, and you got, worst of all, Claw/Claw/Bite. The last bit is the worst. Three attacks in a round is a LOT of attacks, even if individually they don't do a lot of damage. So yeah, we stepped into a freakin' meatgrinder.

I think only Yøgund, with his incredible 1 AC, and the Deacon, not being a front liner, made it out with more than 5 hp. Sergeant Grumpus fell victim to their gnashing claws and slashing teeth, and, much more tragically, our favorite henchman Melchoir's luck finally ran out, bit in the gut and thru the neck. Kashim got his arm bit thru to the bone and pulled out of it's socket. I think another party member took a nasty crit to the nethers as well, but I'm not recalling. I put it down to PTSD.

Anyway, we finally managed to put the slimy hellbeasts down, and gathered up our wounded and dead and scampered for safety. Another morning ruined...

At the top of the ladder in the mountain shrine we took stock. We considered seeing about bringing Melchoir back with the aid of Almox the druid, but sadly we would have needed A: A huge, expensive jewel and B: to get him back in a very short timespan. (I guess I misunderstood last week when they told me they raised young Amos. I thought it was the magic healing pool, not a bog standard Raise Dead spell.) Well, we were short on expensive rocks, and we were deep in the mountains having sent our horses back with Garund, our groom.

So, with deep regret, we buried brave, faithful, pitifully unlucky Melchoir on the mountainside with his armor, wolf pelt cloak, and cherished sword. We split up his equipment, and the Deacon took charge of his remaining money, with an eye towards seeing it get to whatever next of kin he might have. I've still got a bag full of coins from Strang that I need to bequeath as well. I'll have to make some inquiries when we get back to Restenford.

And thus it was with a funeral and much knitting of wounds that we ended this session. We were down to core party members, having lost our entire second string. How would our team fare as we move into the next quarter? Tune in next week to find out. I know I will.

Thanks again to Paul, for all of his lovely wandering monsters, and thanks to the 10d gamers for another awesome session.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

LL at Paul's: Idea men.

Hey ho! Yet again we have the word from the Labyrinth Lord game.

The week before I didn't manage to attend because of crunchiness at work, so to give a repetition of the capsule version of our group's adventures with the Deacon in hench-mode.

Apparently, as we searched the gnoll camp, we found that the subject of our search and rescue, young Amos the half elf ranger, had already been sacrificed to whatever carrion diety the gnoll's worshiped, so with heavy heart the group carried his corpse back to Almox and Feldara.

Luckily, the magic pool that Almox presided over apparently had a "reset" feature installed, and through its power the hapless lad was brought back to life. Hugs all around.

From there, I guess the group decided to go after the magical, see in the dark night cap that we'd heard about from the sage in Bridgefair, so we set out toward the mountains to the north. We hired a wilderness guide by the name of Mac the Lizard, who was willing to guide us thru the mountains to the shrine referenced in the scrap of poetry we'd bought.

On the way, we encountered and battled a pack of wild boars, defeated them, and then proceeded to convert them into a mother lode of bacon. This is where the Deacon joins the narrative as a fully functioning party member.

Anyway, we had a ways more to go, so we travelled on through the wilderness. The following night, we camped on the mountainside and set watches. About the time of the second watch, which I think was the Deacon and our new thief, Gentleman Jack Getz.

As we sat up watching and listening, we heard the sound of wolves howling, getting closer and closer. Getz hurriedly awoke Yøgund the paladin, and none too soon, as a quartet of HUGE wolves padded menacingly into the edges of the campfires light and sprang to the attack.

Yøgund charged up the hill with his magic sword and stood in battle with two of the beasts, as a third chased Getz back toward the rest of the sleeping adventurers. The fourth charged the Deacon, who took up a burning log from the fire and whaled on the slavering beast's noggin'.

Elef the halfling, crouching behind his ensorcelled gnoll flunky, whom we'd dubbed "Gneal", managed to cast sleep, sending one of the pair attacking Yøgund to beddybye and making his job a lot easier.

The Deacon got a couple of decent hits in on his wolf, but the thing wasn't catching fire as well as I would have hoped (Paul kept rolling 1's on fire damage.) while the fourth wolf savaged the rest of the group.

Our wilderness guide, Mac the Lizard, lived up to his moniker and scuttled away into the darkness while the unarmored contingent of the party got gnawed on pretty well. Soon, things were looking grim for the group, with a couple of the team getting reduced to 0 and taking some injuries on Paul's critical injury table, so the Deacon fell back, waving his flaming log in the wolf's mush, to see if he could slip some heals in there.

Finally, Yøgund managed to finish off the beast he was fighting, while Klint (I think, or maybe Elef) slipped around and slit the throat of the sleeping wolf. This tipped the balance and made the remaining pair decide that discretion is the better part of valor and slip off into the darkness. The Deacon healed up the party members suffering from severe HP deficiencies and we went back to bed.

The next morning, another round of patching up, fixing any broken limbs and the like, and we were on our way. We got to the foot of the mountain trail leading up to the shrine we sought, but it was barely there, and much too narrow for our horses. Mac the Lizard, who'd returned in the morning after our wolf issues, accepted the rest of his payment and departed, followed soon after by young Garund Greyward, our groom, who took our horses back down the road to Restenford.

We hiked into the mountains, following the winding goat track, and eventually came to the shrine, a pillared, domed affair set into the side of the mountain, with a standing statue of it's deity standing in the center with upraised palms. The statue looked to have at one time held something like a mirror or lens in its hands.

The scrap of poetry we'd managed to barter from the sage in Bridgefair referred to a door being indicated by the rising of the sun, so we surveyed the landscape, looked around the shrine, and by guesswork and eyeballing figured out where the sun would point at the time referenced by the poem. This led us to a pillar, which when searched revealed a hidden door with an iron run ladder leading down into the depths of the mountain.

Since we were still a bit bunged up from the wolf encounter the prior day, we braced the secret door shut, to avoid any subterranian surprises popping up on us, and bedded down for the night in the relatively peaceful surroundings of the shrine. Once the Deacon's spells had been recovered, I topped up those who needed some hit point refills and we made our way down into the depths.

At the bottom of the shaft, we found a long, loong, loooooooong tunnel leading to the south, about 2 hours worth of walking. At the end of this tunnel we found a door, beyond which was a room storing huge wooden casks that were revealed to be full of some noisome, sulfurous smelling liquid. In one corner of the room we found the corpses of a trio of dungeon delvers. We also found a giant spider lurking in the broken out shell of one of the huge barrels, which sprang to attack us.

Yøgund took the creature on from one side while either Melchior the hireling or Kashim of the Long Sands took on from the other, as Elef, who I think was the one who discovered the thing, beat a hasty retreat to take cover behind Gneal the Gnoll.

It was a fairly straightforward fight, the cool part was, for me, that the Deacon got to use a new magic weapon to finish the beast off.

The party had gotten a hold of the gnoll shaman's staff after we looted the bodies, and it had turned up magical when a Detect Magic was cast. Elef had been carrying it, but it turned out halflings can't use weapons that size, so it was given to me. (Perhaps after the wolf fight, now that I think on it.) When Gneal the Gnoll saw it in my hands, rattling with bird skulls and an entire mummified squirrel tied to it with a thong, he intoned the word "Breeshk" which we took for the command word. So as we fought the spider, I said the word and the staff started to buzz with power. I took a wack at it, and did 2d6 points of damage, causing the thing to kerplode and spray spider guts all over the party's front line. AWESOME! So yeah, now the Deacon's got a mojo stick!

(I hope the rest of the group and the internet in general will forgive me going on about awesome stuff my character's got. It's my blog, after all...

If you don't like it, get your own blog, or your own mojo stick!)


So from there we struck out through a door to the south. We found a short hallway leading to another doorway at a corner going west. Checking inside, we found a mud room. No, not a room for taking off muddy shoes, a room with a shallow pool and a thick layer of slippery mud coating the floor. Most of us took a glance around and moved on, but Klint the thief became convinced that there HAD to be something good in the pool, and proceeded to strip down and wallow around in the mud for a while.

Yes, well. Good show and all that. Whatever d's your 20's.

Once the mystical wonders of the mud room had been exhausted, we rounded the corner and found a 5 foot wide fissure breaking across the hallway. After much deliberation and suggestion of Rube Goldberg type devices we used a rope around the waist to secure ourselves as we leapt across, which is good since I think the Deacon blew his jump check like three times in a row and had to be repeatedly hauled back up to try again. Embarrassing.

After we'd all gotten across, we found ourselves at a crossroads of tunnels. I'm not 100% sure if we went back the west corridor or got jumped at the crossroads, but we ran into a cadre of hobgoblins, who came down the corridor at us with polearms leveled in a narrow phalanx formation. As Yøgund and Kashim braced the front row with their heavy AC and flashing blades, the spellcasters got to work. The Deacon cast Hold Person on one of the hobs, while Elef worked his Charm Person on another. Thankfully, this one spoke common (unlike Gneal the Gnoll, who just followed Elef around like a slavering, carrion scented puppy.) and was asked to kindly start slashing up his former comrades. Between the spellcasting and a strong offensive line, we beat back the hobgoblins to their camp at the end of the corridor.

We put the held one and a couple of others who surrendered to the sword, after a brief debate about trying to charm them. (Long story short, not a good idea 'cos we'd have to have them stewing around looking for a chance to bust loose for two days while Elef recharged his spells.)

The charmed hobgoblin identified himself as Sergeant Grimmer (later dubbed Sgt. Grumpus in the inevitable distortion of names that happens in table talk). He was part of a larger contigent of hobgoblins who'd been sent to scout for a conquering army intent on taking some local sea ports for conquest of the human lands. (Note to the party. THIS IS IMPORTANT! I think we need to get back to Restenford and drop a couple copper pieces about this...) When Grumpus let it be known that there was another force of hobgoblins waiting down the east corridor for his group to return at lunchtime, the party's thinking caps all whirred into motion, and we started coming up with nefarious plans to ambush them. (Now any mages out there with Detect Sarcasm will note that the screen is glowing a bit at this point.)

We scouted down the corridor in question, and found a similar fissure in the floor to the one we'd jumped earlier, only this one was bridged with a plank. We discussed sending our man Grumpus down to lure a contigent of them over so we could take them piecemeal, which didn't seem like a bad idea. The other idea was to lie in wait for them for an ambush, although we were aware that it was going to be three hours before the larger group got suspicious of the detachment's lateness and came looking. Still, this is the plan we came up with, and we were sticking to it. For good measure, we pulled the plank and made a cut thru it, so that the first hob across would break thru it and fall.

So we waited at the base of a set of stairs about 10 feet past the south corridor. For three hours. At this point I'll forgo any literary artifice and state flatly THIS WAS A VERY BAD IDEA.

As we crouched on the stairs, convinced of the brilliance of our scheme, a party of lizard men came down the stairs behind us, intent on grabbing a bite of delicious mammal. Yes, in our machiavellian brilliance, we'd reminded our DM just what wandering monster checks were good for, as he mentions on his post on the session. Since our modus operandi is to put strong fighters in the front and weaker guys in back, of course they're exactly in the right place at the right time (for them).

After some frantic repositioning and waving of mojo sticks, we managed to fend them off and send them packing, and thanks above to the merciful Allmaker that we didn't have a bunch of pissed off hobgoblins on our other flank.

It was here, as we caught our breath, that we ended the session.

I hope this all doesn't come off as too snarky, as I'm trying to be more tongue in cheek than anything else, and Lord knows I'm as much implicated in this peccadillo as the rest of the group, so I'm not trying to come across as Deacon Know it All. I just think this session we crossed the line from "clever" to "too clever", and allowed our tactics to get overly baroque. It happens when the generation of ideas becomes too free form without any overriding focus. Well, ya live n' learn, and hope that it don't cost ya too many Cure Light Wounds.

Anyway, thanks once again to Paul and the 10d gamers for a fun session.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rest in Peace, Mister Frazetta

Just moments ago on Grognardia I learned of the passing of Frank Frazetta. As a professional illustrator and a fan of fantasy art, this is a significant event to me, and so I'll add to the doubtless soon to be huge welling of regret.

The man's work was, to use an inadequate phrase, amazing. Whatever the medium, be it oils, pen and ink, pencil, sculpture, he was one of those lucky artists who's more like a spigot through which the crackling energy of the universe pours onto the page or canvas. There was nothing mannered or affected about his art, it was all honest and glorious, power backed up with tremendous skill. His artwork is summed up to me in this quote from Robert E. Howard's Conan, with whom Frazetta's art is forever and indelibly bound:

"Let me live deep while I live; let me know the rich juices of red meat and stinging wine on my palate, the hot embrace of white arms, the mad exultation of battle when the blue blades flame and crimson, and I am content. Let teachers and priests and philosophers brood over questions of reality and illusion. I know this: if life is illusion, then I am no less an illusion, and being thus, the illusion is real to me. I live, I burn with life, I love, I slay, and am content."

This is the essence that was mixed in with his paint. This is what came through in his imagery.

I'd heartily recommend checking out Painting With Fire to get more of a picture of what sort of guy Mr. Frazetta was. He was one of the last true masters, and I honor his memory, and take heart in the amazing legacy the man left behind him.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

LL at Paul's: Pit n' Git.

Yes, brethren and sistren, it's time once again for my regular rundown of how things are going in Paul's Labyrinth Lord game.

Last time, we'd spent a lot of time around the city of Bridgefair, buying and selling and talking and jumping off of tavern roofs. We'd acquired a selection of fine horses and a groom to take care of them, and were preparing to leave the city.

As we were making ready, we were approached by a foppish young ne'er do well who introduced himself as Gentleman Jack Getz, who seemed intent on selling us some silverware he'd acquired. He seemed an affable enough fellow, although none of us were quite prepared to buy anything off of him. He started following us around, but remembered he had an appointment elsewhere when we informed him we were going to Captain Godsarrow to report that we were leaving town.

In short order we were ushered in to the harried guardsman's office to let him know we were leaving. He asked if we knew when the rest of the Paladins of Palenthor were leaving, and we said we didn't know. The question led Yøgund to ask a few probing questions about the town guard's political leanings, as far as the war of succession between the Princes Guay and Hank were concerned, but the conversation wrapped up before it led anywhere dangerous, and we were on our way.

As we saddled up and headed out of town, we were pursued out the gates by Jack Getz, who begged us to allow him to join our group, as he suddenly had a rather urgent need to leave town. We shrugged and agreed, putting him up on Melchoir the henchman's horse as we set out for Restenford.

As we traveled, it became apparent that the city bred Mister Getz had ill prepared for a journey thru the wilderness, as he'd neglected to buy travel rations or any useful equipment. We loaned him some of our extra rations, and he scavenged along the roadsides as we traveled.

On the second day out as we stopped by the road to have lunch, the roguish gentleman went into a nearby woods to check out a stream that was running through it, hoping to maybe find some food there. What he found instead was a trio of huge lizards sunning themselves on a large boulder in a crook of the stream bed. The beasts looked at him hungrily, and he turned and fled back toward the rest of the party, with the hissing reptiles in hot pursuit.

As Getz ran for cover behind Gerund, our groom, and his mule, Kashim of the Long Sands and Yøgund stood and drew their swords, fighting the beasts to a standstill and then slaying them. The three huge reptiles were brightly colored, one red, one blue, and one green, so we set about skinning them and then roasted the meat for a couple days worth of eating, enough to last us on our way to Restenford. The rest of the journey was uneventful.

Upon arriving in our old port of call, we were met by the Baroness' man, a devotee of Palinthor whom Yøgund had recruited to help run the charitable house that he'd established in the sleepy fishing villiage. The older gentleman was in a bit of a tizzy, because his co-proprietor, Feldara the elf and wife of Almox the Druid, was allowing elves to stay at the Palinthor house.

Now, we were expecting this kind of static, since the old boy seemed a bit down on the pointy of ear, but the other issue was that these elves were kind of political, spouting off about how great Prince Guay was to all who would listen. Yøgund was placed in the uncomfortable position of refereeing between the two factions who he'd entrusted with running his charity. He generally established that the house was open to all who needed to stay there, but that it would be a politics free zone. He also expressed a preference for it to be available to folks who were more down on their luck than just your average traveller, but then that's kind of tough to judge, and there's a question of how much can be done in such a small community. He did find out about a local fisherman who'd lost his boat, and put some of the mound of gold he'd acquired toward helping the poor salt out. At the Deacon's suggestion, he decided to treat it more as a loan, with a little bit of the fisherman's catch being dedicated to supplying the Palinthor House in return for the help he'd received.

That matter kind of settled (although I think this elf/human tension thing's gonna rear up again), the other big issue we found was that our friend Amos, the young half elf yeoman, had gone missing while traveling thru the Kellman woods. Feldara was quite worried, and so we went around to Almox's to talk to him. We also bore the sad news that Liam, our one armed elf companion, had died as he'd lived, being mauled by animals.

This brought us to the uncomfortable realization that Almox had Liam's severed arm, now preserved and mounted, to deliver to us. Thinking quickly, we took the arm around to the Palinthor House and hung it on the wall of the entry hall with an upraised palm and a sign hanging from it proclaiming "Donations Welcome". Again, he probably would have wanted it that way...

After settling in, we decided to head out and see if we could turn up young Amos. We bought some trail rations and set out on foot for the Kellman woods. We made our way through the underbrush, pausing by the watering hole were we found the wolf corpses we'd hung up a month ago had long been cut down.

We continued the length of the stretch of woodland, until Yøgund unceremoniously discovered a shallow pit trap under a layer of leaves and scrub. A trio of spitting cobras lurked at the bottom, and they promptly started spitting their poison at him. Thankfully, his helmet visor protected him from the worst of the venom, and he strode forward to strike the serpents down, joined in the pit by Melchoir and Kashim.

Once the snakes were dead, we took stock of the situation and decided to lay a trap for the trappers. Somebody dug this pit, and pretty recently too from the look of it. We positioned Getz and Klint at the bottom of the pit to act as victims of the trap, while Elef took up a position of hiding nearby due to his natural halfling ability to vanish in the woods. The rest of us dug in under a layer of brush nearby, and laid in wait as the afternoon faded to night and the bugs crawled over us.

As darkness fell, a party of gnolls came loping cautiously out of the woods, brandishing spears and sniffing the air, attracted by the mock plaintive cries of our party's two thieves. As they came near the pit to investigate, Elef stole over to our position to warn us of what was happening, as being buried under branches we couldn't see.

Suddenly, Kashim burst form his hiding place and charged the gnolls, bellowing a battle cry and swinging his scimitar. He had hoped to shove the beasts into the pit, but they were alert and got out of his way, splitting their force of six into two groups of three. The dusky foreign warrior nearly toppled into the pit himself, save for braking his progress right at the lip.

Now, at this point something of Kashim's bravado had somehow infected the Deacon, as he leapt up and charged the gnolls as well. In this case, the wandering cleric braced his quarterstaff and managed to clothesline the mangy bastards into the pit. (Natural 20, baby!)

Now, this was awesome and all, but on the other hand it was probably a major tactical error, seeing as two of our own guys were down there, minding their own business and not expecting to be toppled upon by a trio of seven foot tall hyena headed goons, and then be stuck down there with them. Once the gnolls recovered their senses they started attacking their fellow pit occupants.

At this point Melchoir and Yøgund got up and charged the rest of the gnolls. The Deacon cast Hold Person on one of the ones down in the pit, while Elef cast Charm Person on one of them before the rest of our fighters closed. Both spells were successful, freezing one in his tracks, while the other became instant bestest buddies in the world with the halfling magician. Sadly, he only spoke gnoll, but Elef was able to convince him that his former fellows were a threat to him and that he should fight them. Apparently there was some bad blood between the gnolls that needed to be worked out, because our newly charmed ally attacked his former tribesmen viciously.

Speaking of vicious, Kashim decided to dive down into the pit to help the thieves, and managed to roll a massive critical with full damage, nearly bisecting one of the gnolls with his scimitar when he landed. Klint took some heavy damage from the desperate survivor before they managed to shut him down, which the Deacon was more than obliged to heal by lying on his belly by the pit rim and laying a hand on him. (Least I could do, after dumping the gnolls on 'em in the first place.)

Soon, we'd slain our foes, and put the Held one to the sword. The charmed one was completely obedient to Elef, as far as could be managed with the language barrier in place. There's slight danger in keeping him around, as he can wise up and snap out of it, but gnolls are intensely stupid creatures, and don't really have much chance of breaking out of a charm. So for now we've got a pretty heavy duty henchman, which is kind of like this:

Except the beast isn't muzzled, is armored and armed with a spear, and the guy with the metaphorical chain's only three and a half feet tall. Who says halflings can't be badass?

The next day we decided to make our way up to the gnoll settlement in the midst of Tritop hill, of the infamous battle with the ogre and cheiftain were we lost that first bit of Liam the elf. We figured the gnolls probably had Amos, if they'd begun hunting down in the Kellman woods. They are known to keep slaves, so there was a good chance we'd find him alive. Taking our turncoat gnoll with us, we headed up the hill.

When we got to the top, we decided to send Klint and Getz ahead to scout, but that plan soon went south as a bunch of gnolls loitering in the courtyard of the settlement spotted us, and raised an alarm. The party decided to stand and fight, as a total of nine gnollish warriors piled out of the huts, with a garishly feathered and masked gnoll shaman in tow.

Ut oh... Spellcasters are a great thing. Spellcasters on the other guy's side? Not so much...

We started sending as much missile fire toward the shaman as we could, hoping to take him out before he cast any spells, but we didn't manage to get any arrows into him. He cast Sleep, which I think caught Melchoir and Yøgund. Thankfully, they gnoll warriors were far enough away that we had time to kick our sleeping beauties awake before the battle was joined.

The Deacon and Elef both cast our own spells, and managed to freeze one with Hold Person and charm another gnoll to our side. A big, nasty scrum ensued, as Klint and Getz broke off around the flanks and tried to make a strike on the shaman. In the melee by the hut, they managed to get in an amazing number of backstab attempts, until eventually Klint managed to shank the gnoll wizard with his longsword, sending him to whatever spotty, carrion stinking hell the beast was overdue to arrive at.

Meanwhile, our newly charmed gnoll had fallen to the spears of his former comrades, while the Deacon rapidly burned through his allotment of prepared Cure Light Wounds spells, and was reading them from our backup scroll to keep our guys on their feet. Melchoir, I think, got a lungful of gnoll spear, but was breathing with 0 hp after the Deacon fixed him up. (It might of been a party member that got nailed, but I don't totally recall. I know I had to patch Yøgund up a little, in spite of his heavy duty armor class and agility. Gnolls are 2hd, and hit hard.)

After a long, bloody battle, we finally managed to take out the gnolls, with only one survivor taking to his heels after the pups and females who had scampered for the hills after the shaman went down. We'd won the day and conquered the gnoll lair, but it will be next week when we see what we'll find there, 'cos here's were we knocked off.

All told, a good session. Good to be back in action after last weeks' commerce, bartering, and politics. Thanks again to Paul and the rest of the 10d Gamers for a smashing time.