Sunday, November 14, 2010

LL at Paul's: Double Indemnity

Aw fer cripes sake...

Geez, I've been pretty remiss at this. Better catch up. There's two sessions worth of action to recount here, so buckle down while I try to slog thru. There were a couple Wednesdays that we didn't play as well, one because Paul was busy having tea and crumpets in England, and one the week before last because we had a critical player shortage for various reasons.
I guess they were all busy with something else...

Okay, so when last I was not being lazy about blogging the sessions, we were all in Elfhold figuring out what our next move was gonna be. We decided that we would head back through the Gloomwood and go to Skull Mountain to take care of Kashim's little curse problem, which was a result of him serving the fantasy schmantasy version of community service for skinny dipping in a temple's holy font one carousy evening.

So we formed up and set out, after going to the elvish equivalent of a tavern and picking up a couple more hirelings to supplement our offensive line. We found two likely subjects, a human in full plate armed with a mace named Evund Knifeweilder and an elf with a fancy helmet who went by the name of Tamar Tinhelm. Since we figured this was gonna be a long, rough journey, we hired 'em both, and after bulking up our rations set out on horseback.

After leaving the elvish lands we retraced our steps along the ruined road through the dark, sinister heart of the Gloomwood, a land that was once an elven kingdom that had kind of turned into a DMZ since a long ago great war between elves and men.

I think the first night we spent camping out was uneventful, but the second night we had another encounter with wereboars. The group that was up on watch included Gentleman Jack Getz, and I think Evund and maybe Jantz. As before trouble came slouching up the road in the form of a big, fat, ugly naked guy.

Getz approached him and got the same slurred demand for food, so he decided to just attack. The creature transformed into its bestial form, and let out a resounding squeal that echoed thru the woods. This meant more trouble was coming. The fight was pretty fierce, and our foppish thief ended up getting wounded so badly he decided to pull back and climb a tree to get out of the creature's reach. Two more boars crashed out of the woods at the creature's summons and charged to the attack with fierce tusks. The exact details of the fight are hazy by now, but I think our henchman Frog and maybe one of the new guys took care of them while Kashim, Klint, and the Deacon, who all posessed magic weapons, ganged up on the wereboar and took it down. I seem to recall Klint's bejeweled magic blade did the most damage again. I think we should start calling his sword "Pigsticker", but then maybe that doesn't have quite the panache he'd want.

Anyway, we coaxed Gentleman Jack down from the tree and healed him up, and spent the rest of the night in as much peace as you can in a spooky, doom haunted wood.

The next day we packed up and traveled on, and were still in the vast, scary forest when it came time to bed down. Around about the second watch, it was Kashim (played by myself since his player was absent), Gentleman Jack, and probably Hearth the Elf sitting up playing harmonicas and philosophising. Kashim had wandered to the periphery of the camp to check on something (so Paul informed us), when he got jumped by another raging giant boar. He turned on the creature with his Vadium sword and put it down with three brutal slashes.

To his horror, when the thing's last breath escaped in bloody bubbles from its snout, it shrank and transformed into the dead body of Gentleman Jack Getz!

Hamina hamina hamina!

Now, as the Deacon I kick myself a little 'cos it never occurred to me that Getz would contract lycanthropy, although that's what is very likely to happen if you take over 50% damage from a lycanthrope. If it had, we probably would have watched him a little closer after he got treed by that wereboar. As a proxy player for Kashim, I have no regrets, save of course killing a compatriot. He's a headstrong man of action attacked by a fierce beast, and I kinda think that somebody from the southern desert lands wouldn't exactly dig on swine...

So with a heavy heart, we buried Gentleman Jack after Klint looted his finery. (It's a thief thing...) and went on our way.

Soon, we'd made it out of the haunted wilderness into more familiar territory. We passed the crumbling castle where we'd encountered Tevlar the sorceror, and shook our fists as we rode by. We'll get back to you, buddy boy...

We eventually got to the fork in the road that took us either to the town of Wildwood, or toward the Dead Hills and our destination, Skull Mountain. So we took the exit to Skull mountain.

Sure enough, as we got closer to it, it did look like a mountain with a skull on top. It seemed it was originally just natural formations, but had been helped along to make it more skull like by whoever or whatever occupied it.

We camped out at the base of the mountain, and during the night, we saw lights flickering in the mouth and eye sockets, and heard the beating of drums deep inside the mountain. Spookular!

Unsettled, we kept a watch on it but spent the night otherwise undisturbed.

The next morning, we set out on foot up the mountainside, leaving Tamar Tinhelm with the horses. He was a bit put out, having hired on to adventure, not just watch the horses, but we assured him he'd get his turn on the next outing.

We approached the face of the skull and stood on the platform in front of a row of stalactites that formed the thing's "teeth" in front of a cave mouth. Of course, just standing around in front of a big, frightening edifice like that is sure to invite trouble, which it definitely did, as arrows started to rain down on us from the eye socket windows.

The party scampered inside and made our way down a hallway leading inward from the mouth. About 3/4'ths of the way along, our lead guys, who were Jantz and Kashim, suddenly found themselves doused in oil from a murder hole in the ceiling. We just barely managed to back out of the way as a torch dropped down, setting the pool of oil at their feet alight but missing the party.

We backpedaled to the cave mouth, and for some insane reason members of the party tried to strike up a parley with the guys up in the eye sockets. I don't totally recall what was said, all I remember is our doughty group trying to bargain from probably the weakest position I've ever heard of. We were invading their hideout. What the hell were we hoping to convince them of? That we were selling Amway or something?

Anyway, we finally got back into game on mode and went back down the hall after the flames had died down, coming to an octagonal chamber with this black stone statue of some nondescript, sinister figure in a cloak with horns and a monster face.

There was a staircase to the north, which we followed up and around to find a sort of watch room where two sketchy looking guys were hanging out with bows in their hands and empty oil barrels. Having put a face to our pain we put some pain to their faces and took them down. Searching them didn't turn up much, just their weapons and some leather armor. Probably bandits or some such.

So we doubled back to the room with the statue and checked it out for hidden compartments and secret stuff. Didn't find any. We took the other exit from the room, and found ourselves in a large, vaulted chamber with a couple of kettle drums and a set of stone double doors at the far end. This was where we broke off this session.

Flash forward two weeks later. We start off standing in the room with the kettle drums. Jantz, our ranger, decides to slice open the drums, but there's nothing inside, so we check out the doors. Klint searches them over, then successfully picks the locks. Beyond, we find a hallway, so we follow it around until it comes to a set of stairs leading down.

We take the stairs down, and come to a juncture of underground hallways. Jantz uses his tracking skills, and finds several sets of footprints leading down the one to the north, so we follow that one. He also spots a couple sets of tracks leading to a section of the wall and stopping.
Hmm. Looks like an ambuscade...

So we send Klint forward, creeping silently along with his theifly abilities and using his see in the dark hat to good effect. He spots a crevice in the wall and approaches, and dodges back just in time as someone lunges out with a sword and tries to strike him. He backpedals, and decides to fight liars with fire, tossing a lit flask of oil into the breach. We're rewarded with the sounds of shrieks coming form the occupants of the alcove, as we charge in to attack. The Deacon finishes one off with his Mojo Stick (Breeshk! BOOM!) and the other guy is too on fire to put up much of a fight. (You know what they say: Build a man a fire, you keep him warm for a night. Set a man on fire, you keep him warm for the rest of his life...)

Since our two fricaseed friends are too toasty to search right now, we keep heading forward. The tunnel hits a T junction, so we head south, and round a corner where Jantz and Kashim suddenly fall into a concealed pit trap. Once again, d'oh! I'm a little hazy, but I think Jantz took a critical and exploded his kneecap on landing, which meant the Deacon had to heal him up when they got him back up out of the hole.

There's a little bit of hall beyond the pit, so we figure maybe there's something good hidden behind this trapped area. So we start sending party members over by having them climb down into the pit and up the other side with Klint's expert climbing leading the way. We send Hearth over with is elvish ability to find secret doors, and maybe one of the henchies.

The rest of us stay on the other side of the pit, and search along a wall that by a trick of the map looks like it might lead to some kind of concealed room. Neither group finds much of anything by way of secret doors though.

Next thing we know, suddenly we're taking bow fire from a bunch of guys down the hallway. Crap. You'd think these guys don't want us down here or something...

Kashim, Jantz, and Frog charge them, and I think manage to cut at least one of them down, sending the others fleeing. The Deacon tries to fire off a Hold Person, but due to Paul experimenting with turn order and spell initiative it doesn't go off in time to affect anyone, and I lose the spell. (I won't hash it out here. We're still in negotiations about it. He's posted about it here.)

We drag the corpses over to where their fellows are smoldering, and find they've cooled down enough to search, not that we turn up much more than fresh charcoal. So we decide to move on, heading up the other way from the hall with the pit. We round the next corner to the east, and find... Another pit!


I think once again I had to repair a broken leg on Jantz, and I think Frog or Evund dislocated something too. On the other side of the pit, there's a short dead end hallway heading north, and a doorway just past the pit. We cross over and check it out, and discover that the door is in fact a fake, with a solid stone wall behind it. We cross back over to the other side to decide what our next move will be.

While we're considering our options, we come under more bow fire from the complex's inhabitants. We return fire and send the survivor running, but now Evund (Played by the late Gentleman Jack's player until his new character gels up), Frog, and Jantz have their blood up and go chasing after them. They run through the dark hallways following the retreating bandit's torch, and eventually fall afoul of a crushing block trap that wounds them all severely. Mercifully, they're alive, but they're deep in enemy territory having not bothered to map their progress. Meanwhile the rest of the group is staying put by the pit so as not to get TOO separated.

Finally, our half crushed wayward party members find their way back to us. By now we're all pretty badly munched, and we're out of spells, or at least out of spells that are of immediate use. So we make the brilliant tactical decision to hole up on the other side of the pit in the little space made by the dead end hallway. We detach the fake door from it's hinges and set it up as a barricade.

Now, at this point I'll take a moment to comment on what my esteemed DM Paul has deemed the Goldilocks Syndrome in a post he made pertaining to what happened. In short, it is MONUMENTALLY STUPID to camp out in an occupied space, essentially in enemy territory. He likens it very much to someone deciding to take a nap in the bedroom in the midst of a home invasion, leaving the house's occupants to mount whatever defenses they choose.

Looking at it rationally, I'll have to agree about 90% with this sentiment. We *really* need to stop doing this, as it has bitten us on the posteriors almost every time we've done it. On the other hand, though, there are times where you've just clawed your way through a perilous dungeon, and finding yourself bereft of resources, the choice between facing the way out with nothing in your tank vs. holing up to try to replenish isn't quite so easy to make. I think it's an easier call in a "wilder" place like a ruin or cave complex, which is almost the same as camping in the wilderness, vs. this instance, where we were very much in somebody's home. No, not home, a better word would probably be fortified base.

So yeah, the fruits of our bad call came calling around first watch, when a couple guys took up a position at the far end of the hall and started pelting us with flasks of flaming oil and arrows. The barricade was set alight, so we kicked it down into the pit, and then the space in front of the fake doorway was filled with burning oil, leaving us crouched against the wall in the little 10X10 space to the north.

Jantz stepped out and tried to return fire, and got an arrow in the neck, dying instantly. I think Hearth tried to cast Sleep but got his spell interrupted. Kashim, Evund, and the Deacon all tried to jump the pit and failed, falling to the bottom and taking damage, and then taking even more as a flask of oil landed down there with us. Things were looking pretty bleak. Could this be the end for little Rico?

Klint made the leap across and charged them, maybe with Frog backing him up. Either way, it was a close call, but he killed our attackers before they could toss another flask and sent the rest packing. We hauled the guys in the pit up and out, grabbed Jantz's body, and beat feet for the exit.

Out out out, run run run, go go go!

We didn't stop until we'd gone all the way out the skull mouth and down the mountain, down to the campsite where Tamar Tinhelm and our horses should have been waiting, but werent.


So we camp out, congeal and heal. In the middle of the night we hear more drums from the skull, and see more lights. Hey, keep it down up there, ya jerks!

The next morning, we see a bunch of riders approaching. Playing it cool, we approach and parley. Their leader is a fella with a FABulous hat who goes by the name of Bors Tolvek. We decide not to let on we just raided skull mountain, in case these guys were from there, instead just telling them we're refugees from the hobgoblin raids in Restenford.

As we fall to talking, we get the skinny on the Skull Mountain and it's occupants. Seems the riders are the last remnant of a thieves guild known in Bridgefair as the Haberdashers. A while back, they had a guy by the name of Cooper try a takeover, which failed, so they gave him the standard severance package, which took the form of them carrying him up to the smoking crater at the top of Skull Mountain and tossing him in. Somehow, he survived, and returned claiming he'd become the servant of some dark god living there. He started a cult, which took over most of the Haberdashers and brought them out to set up shop in Skull Mountain. From there, they started raiding and kidnapping, taking hapless souls into the grisly mountain to unknown fates. They beat their drums whenever captives had been taken. Bors and his men had made a habit of checking up on the cult's activities, but weren't strong enough to fight them head on.

We decided to come clean with these guys after determining they were the enemies of our enemies, and told him we'd made a raid on the mountain and killed a few of them. He wasn't interested in joining forces with us for another go, but he was kind enough to lead us to a secluded cave where we could rest up and heal without being bothered by raiders from the cult, which called themselves the Obsidian Order.

We also asked if any of his guys had seen an elf with a big helmet and a bunch of horses. One of Bors' men said he had seen an elf matching that description leading a bunch of horses toward Bridgefair.

Son of a bitch must pay...

So we rested up for a couple of days, getting ourselves back up to fighting trim. We buried poor Jantz in the back of the cave, too worn out to think of anything novel to do with the corpse. We also buried the nasty protoplasmic slime which was all that remained of our very late mage Koode's face. (Remember that? I'd been carrying that nasty thing around for weeks. Sometimes it's tough being the group's general purpose medic/chaplain/undertaker... Egughhghhh...)

Once that was done, we drew up our plan. We decided if this Cooper guy could survive getting tossed into the caldera with no rope but the little bit binding his ankles and wrists, we could do even better with the whole 100 feet we had at our disposal.

We approach the mountain again, taking care to skirt around to the opposite side of the mountain from the skull face part. We climb up to the plateau, and find the large, smoking hole in the ground where the Haberdasher's used to deal with their discipline problems. (I know it wasn't really the Deacon's place, or his alignment, to point this out to him, but really a dagger across the jugular is a lot more efficient way to handle this sort of thing, unless they were trying to rack up frequent rider miles or something...)

We sent Hearth down on the rope into the choking smoke, and sure enough with his uncanny elvish vision spotted a small ledge with a crack in the wall leading into the depths of the mountain. So we proceeded to lower the group down one by one, using a combination of Klint's Ring of Feather Fall with the rope for insurance, and to send it up for the next guy. Each party member then crept into the narrow crevice, groping forward in the pitch dark, until Klint finally brought up the rear, climbing down using his natural theifly skill and bringing the rope with him. We'd gone in on a one way trip, baby.

The party inched along, only lighting a light when the lead guy came across a hole in the floor that we needed to step over. We eventually came to a widening of the tunnel, and that was where we left off.

So yeah, a lot of thrills and chills. Two dead party members for two sessions, from debateably avoidable circumstances. So we'll be starting next time with a couple new PC's. The plot is indeed thickening. Our enemies list is growing too, now including Tevlar, the entire Obsidian Order, and frikkin' Tamar Tinhat the elven horse thief. On the plus side, I think most of the guys who're wanted in Bridgefair are now dead, so we can go into the city without getting tossed in the slammer. (I think it's just Kashim now who'd be on a wanted poster. Maybe if we get him a hat or a fake beard or something he'll blend in better.) We still need to work on our tactics a bit. That's for sure. Paul's gonna need to update his graveyard sometime.

Anyway, this one goes out to the party members, living or dead. Thanks to Paul for running an awesome game, and thanks to the rest of the 10d Gamers. Shine on you crazy diamonds...

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