TI2.19: Dungeon rush/Level 0 funnel

Characters for this session:

Fennec, L2 Dwarf wizard

Cauleigh, L3 Dwarf warrior (Townsman)

Jotunn, L5 Dwarf warrior (Hunter; Tracking)

Crompton, L2 Dwarf rogue (Roguery, Rune-bearer)

Because there are a lot of Dwarves around I may refer to these four as the furbishers.

Fresh plans must be laid!

Stowing the regiment in the North Barracks, the four Fingold furbishers bring these Dwarves to meet Duchess of Fingold Lady Melissa, and Quartermaster-General Lady Countess Saundra:

  • Ausecur, Ondsop and Kamerad the Svelte-Dwarf rogues acting as mission leaders;
  • Righteous Filbard, high priest of Hathlisveit; and
  • Five sturdy veterans that bear Filbard in his litter. (And Crompton, for the last couple of miles’ jog – he is exhausted.)

This time audience is held in one of the citadel’s halls, possibly usable as a ballroom. A fair number of courtier-soldiers and courtier-clerks are present. Speeches are exchanged – the Sveltes assume Cauleigh will speak for them so he does – and a meet-and-mingle accompanied by hors-d’oeuvre follows. The ladies manage the mingling so that they have a private word with the furbishers. [Except Crompton, who owing to a miscommunication with the GM, is snoring in Filbard’s litter.]

The ladies learn that Hathlisveit was not offered the free trade/tax deal originally proposed. As to the attack to relieve the siege, planning is called for. Fennec has some basics of strategy (he helped defend Jake’s Town) and is to meet the Archmage and Master Gunner atop the citadel’s tallest tower tonight. Other than that, it seems that trouble has again fallen upon the Adventurers Guild, so go there, find out, and report back without using that strange adventurer cant.

Passive-aggressive special forces Elves

En route from the citadel gate – which faces west – around its south wall to the Guild building at the inner north corner of the new wall, the furbishers (on their own – the three Sveltes are not invited over) pass perhaps half a dozen tough-looking Elves, apparently kitting up for a journey. Their armour is dulled and nicked, and many gadgets and odd containers are strapped around their persons. In a word, they look like experienced adventurers.

“Ah, you must be the Elves,” say the Dwarves wisely.

One Elf bows:

“So you must be the Elf-friends. We are about to take our leave. Job done.”

“Oh, so you have been aiding the Adventurers Guild in its fight under the city…”

Another Elf leans past the spokesman, dangles a necklace made of Dark Elf ears. “If you mean, did we clean the Dark Elves out for you, yes… and… you’re welcome he says sarcastically.

Before Fennec and/or Crompton can put foot to mouth Cauleigh begins to move them on. But too late!

“Are you taking those barrels of pickled Elf with you, by the way?” Crompton asks, rather than asking politely if the remains have been dealt with yet.

[I pinch my nose bridge, and decide I have got what I was angling for – an excuse for these Elves to go back and suggest to their prince that he cancel the “Elf-friend” status. I did expect Fennec to bait himself into the job though.]

“What he means is,” adds Jotunn helpfully as Cauleigh frantically signals to stop digging that hole, “We preserved the remains of your kin, do you know if they got taken care of? Or who we should turn them over to?”

[At this point I’m thinking I should give Fennec some AP for not joining in…]

The Adventurers Guild is poised on the brink

Inside the Guild the halls echo hollowly. Where is everybody?

It’s not until they get downstairs some way that the furbishers smell the hearty smell of fresh ale and tasty stew. Mother Hobb has a kitchen set up near the top of a stairwell leading down to the grand tunnel, Level Three. This is where she does most of her healing.

The story goes like this:

After the Dwarves left for Hathlisveit – and it must be admitted the Lefties thought they were permanently gone – the Guild teams felt that momentum should be kept up. Two gorgeous and noble Elves (flowing blond locks, emerald/amethyst eyes, shiny clean skin, the works) had just arrived to start questing (as they put it) against Dark Elves, meaning all the teams could switch to clearing the grand tunnel.

Work went on apace. New positions were set up and the circular stair to Level 2 was cleared, to make a new rally point.

Then the Elves pulled out, Gnat got isolated, the other Heavy Hitters rushed to break her out, and took a real hammering.

A couple or three days later the tough squad of hunter-killer Elves arrived to finish what their nobles started, but by that time the Lefties were holed up at the far end of the grand tunnel, the heavy hitters were mostly laid up in bed, and the survivors were covering all the levels round the clock. On the positive side the Dark Elf/Ant Warrior area is cleared and sealed so no zombies are attacking there; and the Lefties are stopping zombies before they get to the grand tunnel.

As far as the mission board goes, the Ogre on Level One wants to speak again.

Cauleigh is busy making all sorts of plans when general tiredness catches Crompton up. He falls asleep over his ale and is put to bed. Fennec takes his leave. He hears Jotunn and Crompton talking about swapping some weapons as he does.

Fennec’s report and strategy session

After some unsuccessful research in the citadel library Fennec checks the time and heads out so as not be late for the meet.

He is waylaid by a courtier who brings him to Saundra. She is obviously deep in sums with her abacus-wielding clerks, but has issued a BOLO on any of the furbishers.

Saundra needs that report on the guild… and she also gets a little more detail on the regiment’s strength. She doesn’t seem very pleased, says something about a puzzle they have set her.

Fennec hastens to the meeting, arriving later than he had planned. Neither Archmage nor master gunner seems bothered. The strategy meeting is fairly general, pointing out the lie of the land around the Fire-mage’s lines, and various obstacles to getting there, to Fennec.

The Arch-mage asks Fennec whether the regiment’s attack would be early in the day, or late after the exchange of attack spells. Fennec decides on the late show.

[As proof they are not committing spells to their side, both mages exchange full-strength attacks each evening. The Fire-mage throws a maximized multi-blast Blasting Power and the Arch-mage replies with a similar-power Freeze Please.

Technically both mages are using gadgets to achieve the range. The Archmage uses a multi-tray ballista, for example.]

Fennec’s bonus reward

Once the master gunner leaves he reports the overall success at Hathlisveit to the Archmage. “Bobby” the Archmage is fearfully pleased that “Fili” has arrived in person. He offers a free spell. Fennec opts for Glue You. “Good choice” says the Archmage.

“Uh, I’m not sure if QMGLC Saundra will approve it…” Fennec avers.

“Well I’ll just tell her I have already begun… if the subject arises” assures the Archmage tapping his impressive old-Dwarf-size nose.

With the first “impress” of the spell in his mind Fennec hurries to the Guild.

Meanwhile – the town run

As planned, Cauleigh catches up with the Heavy Hitters, and learns a little more detail about the grand tunnel situation. The “balls in a vice” aspect, which Mother Hobb was too kind to detail, is that about one-third of the way along, there’s a series of chambers leading to a lower and wider natural cavern. It wasn’t sealed off, and allowed a strong monster through. Two even helped the monsters by opening a hole on a wall, allowing defenders to be flanked at all times. (It seemed like a good test of a new spell…)

Gnat keeps the Lefties supplied, but she does that by sprinting at top speed twice a day. She reports only wandering monsters in the grand tunnel, no coordinated attacks and no zombie raids.

Also as planned Cauleigh joins Jotunn for a walk to the North Barracks. Listening to Cauleigh’s description of the grand tunnel problem, Jotunn proposes a brutal shortening of the front:

“Seal off the tunnel south of this cavern entry, then focus on clearing that. If Two is right and there’s a way down to Level 4 there, that will be perfect.”

[Seems like a plan! I ask Jotunn’s player to hit me up for AP if it goes through. The grand tunnel lies far under the old Temple Street, roughly north-south.]

Near the North Barracks townsfolk recognize Jotunn, slap him on the back or (if housewives wanting some luck) grab his beard and kiss his cheek. Good to be back in town!

[Jotunn got most of the credit for bringing much-needed wood, charcoal and saltpeter back to town. He has a +3 to CHR while in Fingold.]

Cauleigh swaps his poll-axe for another billhook, they check in with the regiment and head for the Guild.

The Ogre wants to get gone

Using their memories of the options on Level One the Dwarves creep quietly past the maze and are lucky enough to be contacted by Bryn, the Ogre’s trusted hench-hobgoblin. They agree on the previous protocol for meeting (though Crompton draws it out by making a loose reference, something you can’t do with Hobgoblins) and are soon seated facing the Ogre.

“I smell a change on the wind…”

Briefly, if the Dwarves can get rid of the Barghest up in the shatterzone, the Ogre will break out during the rumoured assault on the siege lines, bringing Bryn and ‘his missus’ with him.

The Dwarves are OK with this idea so decide to take the Level One mission, “Explore the shatterzone and if a Barghest exists, kill it.”

But that will be during the bright light of day, and meanwhile they will run to the Lefties and persuade them to retreat.

Bring ‘em home!

“Would you like an extra tank?”

Mizva, the survivor’s warrior, stumbles in while the furbishers are prepping. Apparently he is getting most of his calories from ale while doing the work of three warriors. Crompton makes sure he has some stew, as well.

But there’s a much better option. Gnat will scout in front, since she must do the run anyway.

Party order: Fennec and Crompton 2nd-rank with missiles and spells (Will-o-Wisp up at all times), Cauleigh and Jotunn front-rank with axes and shields, Gnat somewhere in front in the dark.

The grand tunnel expedition turns into more of a grind than anyone was expecting [when I roll Snakemen, max numbers, on my random list] but by keeping to one wall and making sure each Snakeman is down before going to the next, the Dwarves do well, not even getting scratched from the poison spears the Snakemen use. They create time and space for Gnat to dash around lopping bits off the Snakemen. With only three survivors the Snakemen flee up-tunnel.

[Good stunting, Jotunn typically using shield-charge while Cauleigh complements that by leaping. Good support by the 2nd rank with Vorpals too.]

“They’ve probably dissed down the ravine ahead on the left,” Gnat guesses.

She is kind of right – they are down the ravine but only waiting to ambush. A powerful goat-man uses a crossbow from the right flank once Gnat is safely past, and the three Snakemen charge from the left. The Dwarves all react well and quickly. Fennec virtually destroys the goat-man on his own (and loots the heavy crossbow), Gnat returns to clean up the third and final Snakeman as the other Dwarves deal with two of them.

Treasure from among the drops includes a couple of interesting items, they’ll check them out once they get to some light.

Aside from a scare from a retreating giant lizard the last third of the run is event-free.

As Two predicted the Dwarves’ persuasion tips the scales, and the Lefties begin packing for the retreat.

[25 AP each for the low-level mission success]

Items and swaps

Crompton has found a small glass hourglass, strangely empty. He pays Two his remaining 60 gold and learns that it will do Little Feets once per day. [Command phrase Tempus Fugit] This is exactly the kind of gadget Crompton needs to be a dodging-type rogue, so excellent news. Cauleigh has found a scroll that Fennec says is Level 6. He swaps it for Bless’ Phenomenal Kukri of Charitiki, a perma-zap. [Applies to weapon only since it is permanent.]

[So that I have a record of it, the scroll carries a non-standard 6th-level spell, Shared Sorrow, possibly created by an angst-ridden emo/goth wizard. Opponents affected share the caster’s emotions and may completely empathize, at least for the duration. Cost 40, Range 100, Area 100, Duration 3cbt rnds incr.]

The Lefties have a pile of spare stuff they could sell – there’s only so many powders and potions you can lug around – but the Dwarves are out of funds, so that’s as far as that goes.

Someone bringing Mother Hobb her food supplies has brought a rumour that notices will be tacked up around town. “Rations reduced” is everyone’s guess.

Shatterzone preliminary: Volunteers sought!

But morning finds a very different kind of notice. Volunteers are sought: adventure into the shatterzone, become Adventurers Guild members, and reap food tokens!

By the time the worried furbishers arrive outside the citadel, dozens of men and a few women are being marshalled into order. They place themselves in the ranks.

A worried courtier-soldier summons Saundra. In effect she asks them what they think they are doing? Learning that they want to be the ones to take down the Barghest Saundra decides to cope with what fate has thrown at her, gives them a “hmp” of disapproval and retires back to her plans.

And so it is that, to cheers of admiring townsfolk, the Dwarves lead a dozen militia into the shatterzone. For reasons best known to Saundra they are lowered from the wall.

Shatterzone: The first Level 0 funnel

It turns out the furbishers are noobs when it comes to leading formed ranks of men through uneven twisted ruins. Militia are equipped with polearms – mostly simple voulges – and the line of march is too long.

Once organized into three sections: left-flank, right-flank, and rearguard, the twelve seem much more capable. This is an illusion.

The line of march alerts a monsterish magical alarm, but Fennec is alert to it. Cauleigh (leaping) and Crompton (balancing) head to where two black-cloaked brutish shapes have charged into the left flank. Then Fennec realizes that the mage is positioned off the other flank, and Crompton leaps across to help Jotunn against four similarly cloaked shapes. Fennec identifies the enemy wizard (OTIS) takes a low-power TTYF, and returns the favour with L2 TTYF, killing the enemy wizard.

Although they drive the Uruks off and grab some basic treasure, seven militia are dead.

Swinging away from the next obvious trap sets the column alongside what was supposed to be an attack on the rear. The Dwarves sweep back and deal with pesky brownies before they can do any damage, while Jotunn, whose arquebus has misfired, struggles with some kind of runty spiderkin who knifes him with an envenomed fang-dagger.

Both Fennec and Crompton are low on mana by this time so the march is abandoned and the session ends with the column of nine survivors returning to safety.

Important NPCs for the session:

Duchess of Fingold, Lady Melissa, the warm heart of the gallant defense.

QMGLC Saundra, the iron fist to Melissa’s velvet glove.

Arch-magi of Fingold, an aged Dwarf, specialist in Ice based combat. Teaches approved spells to approved learners.

The demon in glasses, birth-name Two. Level 4 human wizard, mapper and planner, leader and tactician for the heavy hitters adventuring group.

Gnat, birth-name Rue. Level 4 human rogue, small but perfectly formed and with sex appeal, equipped with a hand-crossbow and twin short swords, and a range of items and gear. With double speed in combat and some signature moves, she packs the biggest individual punch in the Guild. She fends Bless off politely, tends to be cheeky to everyone but Two.

Mizva and Mother Hobb are two of the survivors adventuring group. Mother Hobb’s job is still mostly ale-wife/healer. Mizva is a human warrior using a magical heavy mace, and Mother Hobb is a Hobb rogue with potion specialty. Burnley and Whitey, the other members, are half-Elf rogues.

Panic, Lardo, Sprain, Soup and Bless are collectively known as the Lefties adventuring group. All speak with the same foreign accent, most are left-handed, and by common consent have the best non-weapon magic items of the Guild. Bless has a thing for Gnat, though maybe she just wants to dress her up in a nice dress for a change. At the furbishers’ urging there’s a recommendation heading to Saundra that the Lefties be promoted to Gold rank in the Guild.

This was a good session for most characters’ AP with some nice DAROs going Cauleigh’s way this time. Jotunn is enjoying that Coif of Quick Tricks picked up from the renegade Dwarf, often hitting L5 in STR based stunts. We left the matter of spending AP until next session, since I’m not sure how much down-time they will take.

There was more to the Elf encounter. The Elves wanted the fancy knife their dead kin had, but no one found it recorded so a LK SR was used to decide. The result was my call that it had been lost breaking through the Hathlisveit siege lines. Then, none of the Dwarves gave themselves a chance to get talking, so some useful info went begging. Not unexpected. It’s hard to deal with passive-aggressive NPCs.

I was a little surprised that the furbishers didn’t invite the three Svelte rogues along on anything. It wasn’t something I expected or did not expect, I just feel if I had been one of the players I would have added them. Unless the GM was playing them as mouthy jerks.

There was more to the Level 0 party. The Dwarves did not set out to waste lives, and pulled back partly out of concern for them. On the other hand, nor did they try to add extra equipment.

The ruins are a nice change of pace from the purity of unlit tunnels. In broad daylight most opponents are at a disadvantage. On the other hand not many are man-size so hitting them with missiles is a problem.

Props

More of a shout-out to Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG for QMGLC Saundra’s ruthless expedient of finding 64 volunteers to pour into funnel-type dungeon crawls, thus dealing with the “extra mouths to feed” problem the regiment’s arrival gave her.

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