Session XVIII

•March 4, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The following are notes from November’s game, to the best of my recolletion. None of the players took notes, or if they did I don’t have them, so what follows may be not entirely accurate. Then again, the party seems to be in another world altogether – and one of them is apparently now a skeleton – so who’s to say what’s accurate and what isn’t?

Nutshell: the party found their way to Chelmsfordhire, a depressed town whose economy appeared to be based on dirt farming. They learned from a wretched dirt-farming old woman that they are in the Land of 1,000 Towers, where wizards rule the countryside. The dober-men they faced were followers/creations of the wizard Canis.

As they killed time at the Muddy Cup (the only joint in town), two armored guys called Terry & Phil came in, breathless. Seems they had been guarding a caravan belonging to the merchant Harvinius, when suddenly the caravan had fallen victim to a raiding party of “motkars” – fierce creatures with the bodies of men and the heads of lions. Apart from the merchant himself, who had been kidnapped, the entire caravan – including family members – had been slaughtered. Terry & Phil recruited the party to help them track the moktars & rescue Harvinius.

Trekking through the forest, the players followed Terry & Phil to the scene of the slaughter, and from there followed a trampled path through the underbrush to the side of a hill. The earth had been hacked brutally away, revealing a perfectly square tunnel entrance with the faded impressions of hinges around the edges. The footprints and drag marks led right up to the entrance, and stopped.

In the interests of getting this entry written, I will not dwell on all that was found or happened within the moktars’ lair. Rather, here are some highlights:

* a pit trap

* an attack wolf that suffered a very quick death

* a bunch of moktars, most of whom seemed pretty unhealthy, with patchy fur and open sores, all of which the party dispatched more or less effortlessly

* the merchant Harvinius, gravely wounded. He urged players to leave him, for his time was up, and to leave the room because it was not safe – “It is poison!” He also gave them an ancient map showing the route to the entrance of a small cave. A note on the map said “Sick rock is the key.” Harvinius died with an outstretched arm pointing to… what?

* Terry & Phil running off at some point

* a magnetic corridor featuring a metal plate in the floor which hid a secret stairway

* a couple crab spiders with poisonous bites

* a really heavy lead-lined chest containing about 800 gold. How to carry so much loot?

So, if memory serves, the party remains somewhere in the moktar lair (which is now devoid of moktar), contemplating a massive chest of gold, a map to a cave in a mountain, a cryptic reference to some kind of rock, or key, or both. In addition, nobody they’ve met seems to find it strange that one of the party members is a living skeleton. Koringa, for his part, has been trying out his best spooky voice and claiming to be Death.

What is this strange land? Where does the map lead? What is sick rock, and where can they find some? Tune in after this coming Wednesday, when all may or may not be revealed!

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Session XVII: [insert excellent psychedelic title here]

•November 4, 2012 • Leave a Comment

These things happened next:

1. They went through the portal and it was not dissimilar to this:

with the exception that instead of words and Time Lords they each saw memories – of things past and/or things never real – and it felt like either their bodies were staying in place and their minds were moving or vice versa.

2. Eventually everything went black.

3. Then they realized they were standing in a black field spangled with lights brilliant as diamond, sapphire, ruby, emerald, stretching  infinitely in all directions. Gaseous clouds in unimaginable colors floated around them. Spheres fanciful as marbles, of incalculable size and proximity. And Looking at each other, they appeared to be mere outlines of themselves – like diagrams of constellations, shapes suggested by points and lines. The PCs’ minds were blown by this, to different effects: some experienced a sense of cosmic unity, and some were fairly devastated at the realization that they were insignificant blips in a cold, uncaring universe.

4. After awhile in which they experimented with the potential for floating around in space, they noticed six doors which would not be out of place in a dungeon but which looked completely anomalous here: six-foot circular doors apparently made of wood and banded with iron. They opened each unlocked door, with these results:

First: It is like looking into a broken prism. You see yourselves, reflected & refracted.

Second: You’re not sure but you think you see a giant eye blink – and then the portal is clear.

Third: It feels electrical and smells of ozone.

Fourth: Picture the warmest, most soothing blue you can. But it feels somehow wrong.

Fifth: Cool and dark; almost sacred.

Sixth: Very windy and also fragrant, alternately smelling of soot, filth, salt, nature, cold.

After much hemming and hawing by both PCs and DM, the party chose the first door.

5. It was kind of like this:

6. They landed with a thud (five thuds, actually) and found themselves on a cold stone floor about 15′ in diameter, which they quickly realized was at the top of a tower that must have stood about 100′ high. The floor was covered in broken glass, the remnants of the windows that had once encircled the entire room. The rest of the surfaces (stone floor, wooden rafters) were covered in untranslatable – even by magic – glyphs.

7. The party was alternately horrified and fascinated to see that somehow the interdimensional journey had turned Koringa into a skeleton! His armor and possessions were untouched but all of his flesh had disappeared. His eyes were now a burning red, and Koringa himself felt decidedly ambivalent about this new turn of events.

8. Also there was a sixth body present: a female body wearing a long, flowing robe that was once white but had been dyed completely red by what seemed like all the blood in her body. She was thus very pale, and had no teeth, but otherwise looked to have died peacefully. A small silver compass fell out of her robes. She lay atop a trap door in the floor, the opening of which revealed a ladder that led 10′ down to a landing atop a stone stair.

9. There was a commotion from below that included a lot of barking. It turned out to be a gang of 8 creatures with the bodies of men, the heads of dogs, and the scimitars of killers. There was a combat that involved some kind of round explosive device and a bunch of yipping; eventually the Dober-men retreated.

10. The stone walls of the stairwell leading down were covered in dried blood and more unintelligible scribbles.

11. The stairs led down to a room about 50′ in diameter. It seemed to be an all-purpose living space: mattress, basin, fireplace, table, bookcase. It had also been the scene of a slaughter: the corpses of three fighter-types in leather armor with long swords and and shields had been freshly wasted. An inspection of the bookcase found three volumes containing words like “benzene ring,” “molecule,” and “waveform gamma.” Gibberish!

12. Somewhere along the line the rest of the Dober-men got wasted (as in “slain”) and Koringa discovered that his new skeletal form resisted roughly half the damage of the Dober-men’s blades.

What strange land is this? Is Koringa’s condition permanent? What the hell is a “waveform gamma”? Tune in next time to find out!

Session XVI, part 2: Negotiation

•August 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

… where they find two lizardmen, claws bared, in a standoff with three sword-wielding Red Temple soliders. There are also the corpses of three men and two lizard men. They realize that the room provides its own luminescence by way of the bright pool of water beyond the standoff in the northern end of the room. However, between the standoff and the pool stand Dinos – along with Lucinda and Aline!

Everyone turns to look at our diplomatic delvers as Dinos says “Well, here we are.” A lengthy discussion ensues during which the following positions are established:

1. Dinos wants to just waste the lizardfolk. They are no longer of any use to the Red Temple.

2. The lizardfolk want to just waste the Red Temple. They are sick and tired of their resources being exploited.

3. Stark and, more or less, the rest of the party, want to prevent either of these things from happening. The Red Temple are cruel bastards, and the lizardfolk are dying anyway, so why throw their lives away?

Eventually Dinos gets tired of “diplomacy” and is about to order the RT soldiers to kill the LF, but Chief Diplomatic Officer Stark convinces him to let the party stand in for the lizardfolk, who then return to their tribe. Stark yells “Tell King Kags that we’re still working on this!” He attempts to convince Dinos that that shows the honor of the LF, but Dinos tells him they’re just going to go get reinforcements.

Dinos goes on to explain that the Gate is the key to knowledge of other worlds beyond their own. Eiluned is particularly vocal about the idea that this knowledge may best be left unknown, but Dinos isn’t having any of it. The party learns from him that several people have entered the portal but none have returned; however, Dinos cites “strange artifacts” that resemble no known craftmanship (such as the axe Bunny recently found in the spider’s nest) as evidence that “others” have come through the Gate. For her part, Lucinda seems to support Dinos’ explorations of the gate, though she comes across less as a slightly-manic dick and more as a devout believer. (They also learn that Dinos and the RT access the cavern by teleportation and not by tunnel).

The Gate itself sits in the middle of a brightly lit pool of water. There is a five-foot round raised platform in the middle of the pool, and a rushing stream streaming in through the northern wall. Atop – or, rather, above – the platform hovers a blue doorlike shape that fluctuates in opacity. Occasionally it can be seen through but nothing can be seen beyond it.

As Dinos waxes slightly manically about the mysterious potential of the Gate, the party learns that on occasions when men have gone in tied to ropes, the ropes have returned fully intact, but without the men they were attached to. As they attempt to learn more, the entire conversation is disrupted by the loud, angry arrival of 10 raging lizardmen! They engage the 3 guards and, though they fight fiercely, they seem surprisingly ineffective.

The party bravely decide to stay out of the battle at first. They notice a lizardman standing away from the fracas. He chants a somber chant before taking a dagger and slitting his throat. Seconds after he crumples to the ground, a huge claw reaches out of the clear water. Everyone backs away as what seems to be a huge salamander starts to crawl out of the pool. Dinos, observing, says “This must be the Guardian! This is amazing!”

The Amazing guardian then begins to attack those nearest: the party, and Dinos, Lucinda, and Aline. Spiderssen takes a hit from a claw, and Koringa stops short his axe swing when Stark yells “It’s sacred!” Most of the rest of the party flees to the other side of the ongoing fracas.

As the various combats ensue, the party chips away at the Guardian while Dinos and Lucinda argue heatedly – Dinos somehow manages to avoid serious blows from the Guardian, while Aline guards Lucinda. Eventually somebody notices Lucinda plunging into the pool and start swimming toward the Gate. She dodges the Guardian’s whiplike tail and climbs onto the small raised platform. When she does this, the room starts to shake and the Guardian starts to roar. In quick succession:

1. The remaining lizardmen start to argue;

2. Stark loses his sword;

3. Lucinda waves at a distraught Aline and steps through the Gate.

Everybody gets angry and the room is starting to collapse. Some lizardmen die by falling rock. Dinos produces a scroll and mutters some words, causing him to disappear along with Aline and the remaining RT guards. In the shaking and collapsing chamber, the last two remaining lizard guys quickly explains that the Guardian needs blood and that no, the recently felled corpses won’t do. He urgently describes an arcane ritual to the party, directing them as to where to stand and what to say. They all chant some mysterious lizardy words, at the peak of which one of the lizardman slits his own throat. Stark and the last remaining lizard guy carry him to the water’s edge and throw him to the Guardian, who sinks back beneath the surface, sated. The room stops collapsing and the Gate is a beautiful blue.

Session XVI, part 1: Exploration

•August 6, 2012 • Leave a Comment

The party surmises that the Gate they sought lies down the eastern stair, and so decided to explore the rest of the caverns before venturing downward. Highlights of their delving include a stagnant, shallow pool containing two male corpses in Red Temple garb, from whom Spiderssen lifts two gold & garnet rings.

Also, the party encounters four Rock Spiders. Spiderssen puts them to sleep & the PCs decimate them. Spiderssen attempts to rip off a spider leg and gets splashed with poison. He falls unconscious for around half an hour, while the party just sort of hangs out.

At the end of a cul-de-sac they discover a dead-end passage covered in yellow mold. Bunny suggests lighting it on fire, which results in the passage swiftly going up in flames and producing a vile yellow cloud of smoke that the party attempts to flee. Everyone but Bunny manages to do so – as she flees, she is seized with convulsions! Without stopping, Koringa scoops up her seizure-wracked body. It is apparent that Bunny is going to die if nothing can be done… fortunately Koringa has one remaining potion of Cure Poison, which he manages to force down her convulsing throat. Bunny lives but is greatly weakened, until she quaffs a potion of Cure Light Wounds.

Spiderssen ventures back into the dead-end, his face wrapped in an oil-covered scarf to prevent fume-inhalation. The smoke has cleared, and there is a heavily decayed corpse at the end of the tunnel, along with a nice-looking silver dagger.

After passing through a bunch of empty caverns & corridors, the party, convinced it’s seen everything, decides to head down toward the gate. As they approach the stair, in addition to the sweet and clean air they detect the frenzied sounds of combat. They stealthily sneak down the stair. At first not seeing anything, after a minute or two a soldier in Red Temple garb stumbles into view – beaten back by an unarmed lizard guy. The party watches while they fight; eventually the soldier runs his sword through the lizardman’s throat, takes a few deep breaths, then runs back to the fray.

Eventually the fighting dies down and is replaced by angry-sounding discussions, at which point our diplomatically-inclined ragtag band of malcontents saunters into the room…

Session XV

•June 27, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Stark, Bunny, Koringa, Eiluned, and Spiderssen awoke feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world – or at least their employers at the Red Temple. They made their way back to town, and after selling a bunch of loot and stocking up on potions, headed to the RT to make their report.

Dinos was unavailable, and thus the party met with Nika, who had been the one who hired them in the first place. She was uninterested in any of the “treasure” they showed her (the amulet of St. Cyrus, the book of St. Cyrus’ writings), except for the Red Temple circlet. She seemed puzzled by this and asked where they found it. Stark did most of the talking and told her about their meeting with the Scalehide Clan, and asked what she (and the temple) wanted “down there.” Nika admitted that the Red Temple had been trading with the Scalehides, and explained that the resources – water and minerals – in the Scalehide caverns possessed magical powers which they had been harvesting to help create the Red Temple’s special unguents, etc. The party accused the Temple of making the Scalehides sick, but Nika denied this, saying – as the Scalehides had – that they had been sick for some time when they started trading. When asked what the Temple had given them in exchange for their resources, she said “something harmless that provided hope.”

The party was pretty disgusted that the Red Temple had essentially hired them to commit genocide – though they did glaze over the fact that they had accepted the offer – and stated that they would not kill the Scalehides. (Koringa idly asked how much she would pay them to do so; she said about 1000 gp). They would, however, see to it that the RT got what they wanted without having to wipe out the last of the dying race. Because of their intransigence, Nika released them from their contract and said they were free to pursue whatever they wished to pursue. However, she pointed out that the Red Temple was the most popular church in Southlake, and was far more well-connected than the PCs. They said they would return within three days with a solution, and she said that if that was the case, then perhaps they might renegotiate a deal, but dismissed them anyway. Stark attempted to charm the lovely priestess into meeting him individually to discuss the matter, but she ignored his smooth insinuations.

After lunch, the party brought the twisted amulet of St. Cyrus to a curiosity shoppe. The owner said he could give them 10 gp for it, but that it wasn’t really his kind of thing, and provided the name and address of a dealer in more arcane items. However, the party chose to return to the caverns. Upon their entry into the Scalehide camp they were once again met at spearpoint, but King Kags and the rest of the clan were more friendly to them than before. Stark told the king that the Red Temple was determined to eradicate them, which raised a belligerent, though not surprised, watermelon-cantalouping throughout the room. Kags said that the Temple wanted the waters of the caverns, and access to “the Gate.” The Gate, apparently, is a means of “being elsewhere” which the Scalehides guarded, but had never used successfully.

Stark tried – at some length – to convince the King that the tribe should move, but the idea was repugnant to them. As the last of their race they would make their stand on their own terms. The party asked if they could see the Gate, and King Kags konsented. Stark asked if he would accompany them, but the King could spare no men, nor himself, as they had much contemplation to do regarding their fate. After some questioning, which revealed that the water in the “lake room” on the floor above was the same water that was so mystically charged – though it itself was not charged – the Lizardfolk showed them the way down.

Descending a great stone staircase, the party found themselves in a similar cavern to the ones above. Exits lay to the northwest and east, and one of the holes in the rock was large enough for a small person to get into. Bunny tied a rope around her waist and made her way in, and started down a short path toward a steady red glow. She stumbled onto a nest of 5 fire beetles with glowing eye-stalks! They attacked her, wounding her severely, before the party was able to pull her out. The fire beetles followed, and after a round of combat Spiderssen put the fire beetles to sleep, which was followed by the party squashing them and removing their eyestalks for later use. Bunny healed up and went back in the hole to explore.

In the beetles’ nest she found an axe and helmet of unfamiliar style. The short tunnel terminated in a slightly smaller room whose northern wall was dominated by an exquisitely carved mural of an elegant, humanoid lizard figure doing battle. However, the mural was apparently unfinished, since the other combatant was unrepresented.

Returning to the rest of the party, they chose the eastern passage, and shortly came to another intersection, with passages to the north and south, and a faint dripping sound coming from somewhere. Stark led the party south, but as the rest of the party passed under the low archway, they screamed to find themselves covered in green slime, which was dripping from the archway. Acting fast, Eiluned demanded that Stark burn it off of them, and so he did (Spiderssen, however, drank a Cure Disease potion and neutralized the slime). Spiderssen then used his torch to burn off the rest of the slime from the archway.

As the party moved southward, the passage sloped gently downward and the air became crisp and sweet. A poorly-hewn staircase lead down and to the east, but before they could continue the party heard a skittering sound which heralded the arrival of four giant rock spiders! A brutal combat ensued. Spiderssen was about to cast another Sleep spell, but Stark dissuaded him, telling him to save it for later. This was unfortunate, because Stark soon found himself bitten by one of the spiders, upon which he fell into a poisonous coma! Over the course of combat, the spiders put serious bites on both Spiderssen (the irony!) and Eiluned, both of whom avoided poisoning – but sustained so much damage that they fell to the floor and began bleeding out. Fortunately, the party had recently restocked its supply of Cure Light Wounds potions, and everyone barely escaped death while still dealing crushing blows to the spiders.

Session XIV, part 2

•June 24, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Applying a crowbar to the manhole, the brave invaders discovered a long and narrow stone tube that went at least 50′ down. After a dark descent by way of more crude rungs, the party found itself in a nondescript dirty, stony room about 40’x60′. Heading to the east, it became clear to all that the smell was not nearly as bad on this level, though the party’s relief at this was tempered by the increasing sense that they were being watched, and the observation of Spiderssen and Eiluned that the shadows of their flickering torchlight seemed somehow… off.

The party came to a larger chamber which featured a number of shallow pits against one wall, as well as numerous piles of metal bits, chopping implements, and other debris. Stark became very certain he saw something move in one corner, and when he moved toward it with outstretched torch, found himself on the business end of two spears wielded by two 7′ tall humanoid creatures, whose skin was thick, scaly, and greenish-brown, and whose eyes were yellow.

Long story short, the scaly guys with the spears were none too pleased to find that our heroes were working for the Red Temple, and they (the heroes) were escorted at spear’s end into the next large chamber, where they met King Kags, Last Emperor of the Scalehide Clan. They learned that the Scalehides had lived in these caverns for “time unending,” but that their race was dying. The clan had been trading with Dinos and the Red Temple, providing materials used in religious rites in exchange for medicine that the Temple claimed would cure the mysterious disease that had rendered the lizardfolk infertile. However, the medicine had not had any effect, and the tribe was beginning to suspect that the Red Temple had designs on “the bounty of the caverns” and were trying to gain access to “the gate.” What’s more, some members of the clan were contemplating addressing these issues directly – and violently – with the Red Temple, though the ultimate outcome of such a pursuit was questionable.

The party suggested that they might return to the surface in order to figure out WTF the Red Temple was up to, in order that they might aid the Scalehides. Before King Kags would allow this, he demanded the party prove their worth… via hand-to-hand combat. Stark volunteered to represent the party and as he and a rather large lizardguy squared off, a weird smell that could only be described as “psycho musk” filled the room. The two warriors fought and exchanged blows, and ultimately Stark must have met some unspoken standard, for Kags stopped the combat, declaring that “we trust your valor” and thus the party did not need to leave any members behind as insurance. “If you would act on our behalf, act on your best behalf.” The party promised to honor its promise, and King Kags granted his leave.

Returning through the smelly caverns, as the party passed through the chamber where they had recently slain some jelly, a cacophonous jibber-jabber filled the room as a previously unnoticed pile of debris suddenly revealed itself to be an amorphous blob with many eyes and mouths. Eiluned was baffled by the gibberings of this mouther and stood gaping as it applied its horrible mouths to her person. Meanwhile Stark and Spiderssen were confused by the wretched shriekings and began attacking each other! Bunny and Koringa fought it valiantly, though they were unable to prevent it from surging over Eiluned, covering her and pinning her to the ground with even more mouths!

Eventually Stark and Spiderssen snapped out of it, and they joined the rest of the party in killing it – Koringa dealt the final blow, though he was not using his new Butterstick – while sustaining surprisingly minor damage. In its gullet they found 46 copper, 30 silver, and 5 gold.

The party extricated itself from the ruins without further incident and pitched camp near the entrance. Casting “Detect Magic” on all the items they had recently acquired, Eiluned was able to tell that the former holy symbol of St. Cyrus had a faint magical aura, but everything else seemed mundane.

Then everybody went to bed!

Session XIV, part 1

•June 5, 2012 • 2 Comments

Heading west into the chamber beyond the locked door, the party saw a flickering in the distance, as though their torchlight was being reflected. As they stood and waited for something to happen, they saw a suit of full plate armor and a great sword floating down the corridor toward them. Spiderssen tossed out a greeting, which was not returned; his call echoed slightly, but less than one would expect in this stony chamber. As the armor and sword approached, the party realized that the space around the objects was not in fact transparent but translucent; almost immediately after, Stark suffered a mighty slam from what turned out to be a gelatinous cube!

The valiant warrior found his torch arm stuck in the cube, though his sword arm remained free. The party attacked in their various fashions: Bunny let fly a crossbow bolt, which somehow managed to miss the great blob; Spiderssen Magic Missiled it, Koringa dealt it a wicked blow, and Eiluned used her Ring of Heat Metal on the suit of armor.

Over the next couple of rounds, more blows were aim. Some hit, some missed, and as the suit of armor began to heat up, the cube seemed to weaken. Indeed, it weakened such that Bunny dealt it a decisive blow, causing it to burst in a gelatinous explosion. The remnants of the cube fizzled away, and in addition to the ordinance the party found some gems and an iron circlet of red and gold stones that looked very similar to those worn by high-ranking members of the Red Temple. Determined to have the biggest weapon in the party, Koringa took possession of the great sword.

Venturing further west, the party explored a dead end and then doubled back to explore a southern passage, from which a horrible charnel stench floated across a 20′ wide pit. Looking into the pit revealed no bottom, but crude rungs were carved out of the wall. Lighting a peat brick, Spiderssen dropped it into the pit, which seemed to be about 50′ deep. After much effort a grappling hook was tossed across the pit and secured on some rocks; Stark bravely descended into the pit, with a lit lantern being lowered alongside him.

At the bottom of the pit, stony debris was found to obscure a stone manhole cover. Rather than explore further downward, the party decided to venture further south, into the smellier regions of the caverns.

Across the pit, the party found a room to the east and a twisty passage leading off to the south. The smell was worse from the east, which is the direction the party headed. They found themselves in a large room strewn with corpses, several of which were being eaten by four ghoulish creatures. A fissure in the ceiling suggested that this chamber lay below the room above where the party had recently disposed of the head of Melchett.

Combat ensued, with the usual storm of hits and misses. Koringa was very excited for his new great sword; so much so that as he swung it in a mighty blow, he lost his grip and the blade went spiraling out of his hands – twice in a row. After that, Koringa decided to go back to his broad sword for the time being, and the party eventually put paid to the ghouls.

Searching through the corpses revealed that most of them seemed to be the remnants of the Order of St. Cyrus. Apparently in the sacking of the temple, many adherents hid their valuables in the safest place they could think of, for many gems were found in the stomach cavities of the ghoul fodder. In addition, Stark found a small disk with twisted bits of metal on it that once was a holy symbol of the Order.

Proceeding down another hallway, the party became aware of an increasingly loud buzzing sound. Passing a few empty rooms, they turned a corner and found themselves face to face with three giant flies the size of dogs! The flies were quite zealous in guarding the large pile of filth in the center of the room, and a vicious, buzzing melee occurred. Many fly guts were spilled, and the party managed to survive with a minimum of damage. Much time was spent pondering the purpose, origin, potential usefulness, and fate of the pile of filth; in the end, however, the party left it as they found it and headed back for the manhole at the bottom of the pit.