The characters for this session
Fennec, L2 wizard
Cauleigh, L3 warrior
Jotunn, L5 warrior
Crompton, L2 rogue
We have found ways down!
As he clears the last few rope-ladder rungs, Crompton spots a light far below. The Dwarves – and Ausecur – haul the rope ladder up and stand ready for trouble but nothing eventuates, so they retreat from the passages and up the gully, to see what else is happening.
Far off to their left, in the depths of the great cavern, can be heard the sound of voices raised in larking about and japes. They bend their course that way.
The great cavern drops away rather than eases down. The lower area, partly supported by an immense column of natural rock, seems quite wet under far-away lights. At one point a ladder has been placed, though the scramble down is not too difficult for Dwarves with hands empty.
They can see the noise comes from the heavy hitters, who are obviously light-hearted. Sharp makes some kind of joke, Damper makes some kind of joke, Gnat jumps and kicks Damper in the head. All good fun. Nearby them, a pile of stones can just be made out.
As they begin choosing a course down, Princess flies up and soars in their direction, up, and descends majestically, using a cloak that permits flight. The effect is slightly marred when Crompton realizes he can see up her tunic.
In her slightly formal speech pattern, Princess invites them down. The great cavern is cleared and sealed! And to see what the Lefties have to report. They have been checking a water course letting out from the cavern.
They make their way down as directed and across the wet stone to the rear of the cavern. It seems the rocks have been piled up against a door to another cavern complex. Cauleigh turns from where he is helping Sharp and Damper:
“Is this the job for a captain of Fingold? How’s tricks lads?”
Cauleigh has numerous endeavours to relate
Cauleigh, ambling back from the Customhouse with 2,000gp in merchant-mark gems to share round from the fire-mage’s stronghold, is diverted out through the gate and around (cautiously, using the shatterzone as cover) to the gunne battery.
The master gunner is no diplomatist. He needs the gunnes re-positioned to menace the neighboring bastion, because the much smaller gunnes there still cover the road out of Fingold. But Chion’s regiment has got the crazy idea that they are being paid in gold now… and he would need gold to be released from the Quartermaster-General’s office to pay them.
Cauleigh uses his knowledge of Esgaroth flim-flammery to work out that the rank and file Dwarves are playing the master gunner. Once Cauleigh dislodges the file chiefs like Sayer from the distractions their rankers have created, the master gunner gets his workforce.
There’s a distraction while this goes on: a flight of hippogriffs flies over Fingold, out of the west. One rider dips low enough for Cauleigh to see they are well wrapped up.
Cauleigh stays with them until he is happy with progress and heads into Fingold and walks briskly up the main streets to the citadel. He’s recognised, admitted, but then cannot make contact with QMGLC Saundra – everyone is extremely busy rushing around trying to cope with new supply situations.
Eventually Cauleigh gains an interview with the QM Lieutenant-general, one of Saundra’s abacus-men. He listens carefully, appoints Cauleigh acting Captain, and sends him back out. [L5 LK SR, only reaches L2 so misses meeting someone useful]
Cauleigh rejoins the master gunner to begin negotiations. He seeks two able seconds to stand proud for House Kimelas and gets two powder-monkeys. It is late in the evening and torches flare where the bastion commander awaits talks.
The opposing faction is now commanded by the Captain of Kimelas. A proud veteran noble below middle years, barely civil to the Dwarf, does not offer his right name. Cauleigh agrees to a truce during which the fallen can be removed, and learns that the Captain is a widower with children.
He heads back, very tired, to the Guild and sleeps the sleep of the just after calling in to Level 2 and learning that four more new adventurers have died and the fleeburns will have to break up and combine with other groups.
His brain sparking with a master plan, Cauleigh seeks very earnestly for Duchess Melissa and/or QMGLC Saundra and after much searching and waiting is admitted to see Saundra. She is still hard at work and is vexed at her sister’s decision to camp outside the walls with her ‘battalion’ which consists of hundreds of militia rabble.
Delighted to be able to plague Melissa with a suitor, Saundra falls in with Cauleigh’s master plan and writes out what she calls a ‘bill of sale’ for the potential husband to admire. On repeating his plea for admirable seconds, Saundra provides him with two soldier-courtiers: Belloc, whom he already gets on well with; and R’stair, a very presentable man of similar age and rank. Belloc retails the glory of the Fingold Battalion’s advance and clearing the lines. Though he does admit, as many fell from friendly fire as from enemy resistance.
The Captain of Kimelas does – partly – admit that the western faction might be a problem but speaks grandiosely of having reserves he can draw on. Cauleigh contents himself [no better than L2 to L3 CHR in these discussions] with waving the lure: “look! Duchess!” in front of him and dealing with his prejudice about Melissa (the Captain remembers her as a plump, plain child). He hands over the ‘bill of sale’ and the Captain seems interested but commits nothing.
The siege therefore remains in stalemate, and we may guess that the master gunner may order the battery to fire, but Cauleigh now betakes himself to the Guild and makes his way below.
The grand tunnel is barred, not far from the now-normal entry from the healing station, by an impressive stone wall, with firing steps and a gateway. Workmen from the town are atop a rickety scaffold finishing up, while a few Dwarves from Chion’s regiment work on the gate. They direct Cauleigh to the tunnel that leads through to the great cavern. And so to the stone-piling.
The Lefties also have had much success
The Lefties emerge from further left and fill in whatever Princess has left unexplained. They have scouted down a stream on the left side of the great cavern, down a waterfall, along a stream across the Dwarves’ trail, down more waterfalls and into a deep area. It was Soup’s torchlight that Crompton spotted.
There is a lot of information to exchange and maps to compare, so it’s time to retreat for a cup of tea and more planning.
They check in with Mother Hobb again, hearing from a couple of the newbies there that the groups have reformed, except not too sure where the new guy, Max was it, is supposed to fit. They agree to look for him. Jotunn hands a wet pack of cat-meat over to Mother Hobb.
And so to a nearby room where they won’t be bothered by the comings and goings of the healing station, and where tea can be brewed.
Ausecur checks that nothing is about to start, takes his fourth of the ogre’s coin pouch, and leaves to update the other Sveltes on progress. He seems smugly confident that he can persuade the arch-magi to teach him spells. Fennec mutters darkly about finding his frozen bones somewhere in the near future, but mutters it to the Svelte’s retreating back for he is off.
Princess sets her cup down
With tea properly made, each party explains what they have found or achieved and Two sketches Level 4 quickly on translucent parchment, overlaying it on the Great Cavern. If he’s right, the stairs up that Jotunn found will link somewhere to the ‘possible Level 4’ marked beyond the grand tunnel, beyond the furthest point the Lefties threw up a barricade.
They discuss the stairs down and Jotunn explains to the admiring crowd his logic.
Then Panic and Bless explain the water-course down. “One direction leads to a dead end, but the other takes you out above a huge wet cavern, where zombies stand around.”
“So tentatively, we can say Level 5 is shallowly below Level 4,” Two comments.
“What did you find in Level 4?” Gnat wants to know. “Randoms? Any kind of Level boss?”
“There wasn’t much,” admits Jotunn, “we ambushed an ogre and minion, beheaded some zombies, that was it really, oh, and a cat.”
As Jotunn speaks, Crompton notices [L3 LK SR] that when he mentions the ogre, Princess puts her tea cup down quite sharply. She is normally very particular about how she holds her tea and would never just bang it down.
“What’s wrong?” he asks curiously
“The sound of that I do not like!” she exclaims.
After a few minutes’ further elucidation Two explains:
“Two ogres seems one too many. In her homeland, there are magical ogres. In fact in her country’s legends ogres are ruled by magical ogres.”
According to these same legends magical ogres could look like anyone.
“Who’s seen those Sveltes lately?” Fennec suddenly exclaims.
“Uh, minutes ago you waved goodbye to Ausecur.”
The conversation moves on. Once again the physical dimension of navigating an aged cleric down to Level 6 must be focused on. As far as clearing Level 4 goes, the other groups seem to think that the Dwarves can have first go as their right, or they can choose to let the new groups try, and support them. But the priority is to find a non-main-stair way down.
Merry dancing furniture of death come knocking
A commotion – “protect her! Fall back! On me!” – draws the groups out and down to the healing station. Mizva has a huge shiny shield at the upper entrance – the one up to Level 2 – and Whitey and Burnley are on his flanks in support.
A massive table lurches into view, and slams Mizva a huge swipe, sending him bowling back to the healing brew. The table appears to be fairly flexible for all its size, and squeezes itself in.
There is an eruption of noise behind them – “what do you mean you lost your furniture animation wand?” “’ey, ees OK, I trap heem, will drop black drip from ‘e fingernails” – but regardless, the Dwarves press forward to aid the survivors. Behind the table they can see a large powerful chair waiting to join the fray!
Fennec holds back far enough to hear Two and Bless agreeing what they will try, and checks his own choice. “Yes, stick with the Glue-You, good choice,” Two agrees.
The front-rank Dwarves find themselves well outmatched by the table but as more forces take their place and hold it, Cauleigh leaps atop it and chops it apart. The chair, slowed by Fennec, is dealt with by Crompton who reads out a plant-control scroll; but a second chair joins it. Cauleigh attempts to topple that one but is flicked off into the next room along.
From that vantage he sees the young ex-militia wizard Max peering into the same room. About to wave him over Cauleigh spies black spots dripped below him.
He rushes, intent on tripping the gangling wizard.
“Hohoho, I don’t think so my friend,” Max chuckles and swells rapidly, drawing a short rod: which becomes an enormous spiked mace. A massive foot strikes Cauleigh solidly on his breastplate and he catapults over a balustrade and up against the stone wall, apparently dead. [Cauleigh is kicked aside with 90 STR, and has 34 CON, so I feel OK allowing him to sacrifice his breastplate to remain alive but stunned.]
Bless levels her staff across the debris and fires the next Dispel at the ogre mage. “Keep debuffing, at the worst he’ll have to counter it” Two urges Fennec, “I’ve just used my last buff, we are ready now. Damper! Push!”
As he planned to do even without Two’s advice, Fennec throws his last Glue You at the ogre mage. The furniture is being reduced to kindling, and Mizva has been put back on his feet by Mother Hobb. Sitting back in the pocket with the other wizards Fennec gets a good view of the fighting styles. The heavy hitter warriors fight in orthodox fashion around Damper’s defence, and they can afford to. The Lefties are even more so, though left-handed.
As Mizva barges the line once more the groups rush the ogre mage. Jotunn has gotten behind him and is stopping a retreat! Then Cauleigh – minus his mangled breastplate – launches himself off the balustrade and tangles the huge ogre up. Blades rise and fall and the ogre mage dies messily.
The dead ogre mage’s cache is found among the quarters – now tombs – of the other adventurers. In most cases, they have been killed quietly while asleep. A few seem to have awoken to be chopped apart by the ogre mage’s huge spiked mace or squashed by enchanted furniture.
Finding that the ogre mage has most of their fire-mage treasure on his person (along with the note from the arch-magi explaining them), the Dwarves begin reclaiming it. But Gnat, ever with her eye on the drops, wonders if it’s necessarily theirs. As an expedient, they hand over the fire mage’s deluxe staff. After all, they might have trouble selling it.
Pragmatically the adventurers all split the treasure of the dead fellow-adventurers, before contacting the authorities to have the bodies removed.
This changes the options for the drive to Level 6. Up until now, they have planned that low-level parties can guard their backs. Now they are back to four, counting the depleted survivors group.
They retire to restore wounds and mana.
[About 12 hours with healing and WIZ recovery, though it’s not just passive resting. Re-equipment such as purchasing armor is undertaken as well. I ask for a decision on who Filbard’s bearers will be, if anyone. They elect to use the official bearers, therefore are limited to being able to buy/borrow hauberks off Chion’s regiment.]
[Loot shares: all meal tokens are donated to Mother Hobb to buy better food/drink ingredients; various non-magical equipment* is bundled into the spare equipment room; everyone gets 300gp; each group gets 1 holy water vial.
To be sold/traded: 2 eye agates worth maybe 30-50gp each; *a hand crossbow which is too nifty to just lie idle; red target shield with amber unicorn design: shield absorbs 10 dmg for only 1 STR, but DEX requirement is normal. The Lefties are willing to surrender 3 minor items (eg potions, scrolls) for the shield.]
Scouting level 5
Lacking either Righteous Filbard or Duchess Melissa to pursue diplomacy, there is little to be done now save seek the best way down. The Dwarves are once again chosen for their ability to scout in limited light. They take plenty of rope, a billhook, and hauberks purchased from Chion’s regiment. They also have on loan the ‘fight for me’ zombie-command wand, and a potion for plant control.
The watery path down is as described by the Lefties and their map, so after not much more than ten minutes’ quiet descent from the great cavern, the Dwarves are ready to make the last drop down to a ledge overlooking the ‘big wet zombie cavern’. Jotunn rams a dagger into a rock crack and whips rope around it, then they cautiously lower themselves the last steep descent. Cauleigh ensures the billhook he insisted on bringing is lowered to him as well.
Fennec’s second WoW lights the ledge and the first few zombies below. Perhaps because it is above their eyeline or perhaps because it is faint, the zombies do not react to the light. The few they can see are shin- to knee-deep in water. They are not stationary, but nor are they patrolling in any order.
Immediately below their feet, double valves – one part open – let into the ledge from the big wet. Something more organised and structured lies beyond – perhaps a mine shaft. Whatever it is, they can carefully lower themselves into the opening, and avoid the zombies completely.
And so they begin, but the session ends before they can find out what lies beyond.
The three players not involved in Cauleigh’s flashbacking were very patient, but I did interleave chunks of the adventure so it was not (as it reads here) all Cauleigh. Then on to the set-up for the great deception. These are very hard to do even-handedly and without rigging the stage one way or another. I was reasonably successful. I felt that I worked the Princess tea-cup clue in OK.
I should state for the record that it was purely through Crompton’s player naming the rolled-up newbie ‘Max’ that I came up with the idea of using something like the canonical Max the magic ogre as the real level boss. Was he there trying to assassinate someone? Yes, but didn’t realize ‘Lady Melissa’ is Fingold’s ruler. Then by chance he is introduced to the Guild as a newbie. Hmm, this looks bad – these people have found their way down past Level 3! Have to intervene! That’s how my mind worked. The final coincidence is that the randomizer I used to generate an ogre mage produced the same wand for him that one of the Lefties has. So Max stole it and can produce up to four furniture items active at a time.
The animated furniture was lethal! I suspect whoever came up with it was thinking of it as purely a ‘normal human’ type of device, the attributes and dice leverage off its wielder. Although I intended to be GM neutral, I found myself actively preventing the Dwarves from dying. I’ve noted Cauleigh’s encounter with boot above, but Crompton planned to (a) tank up with Jotunn and later (b) sneak around the highly aware ogre mage. I managed to stop both those. Not as cool, but then, not so dead. I also allowed Fennec to not be included in the damage dished out by the furniture, by allowing him to choose to stay back.
This all involved far more prep than I usually commit, but I simplified by pillaging the old D&D boardgame (produced here by Parker) for random floor layout, and drawing the normal fighting pattern of each group on card circles so the players could simply lay out one circle for each group.