or, scouting Level 5 the hard way
Characters for this session:
Cauleigh, L3 warrior
Jotunn, L5 warrior
Crompton, L2 rogue
[minded by GM] Fennec, L2 wizard
Ausecur and Ondsop, L4 rogues, and Kamerad, L2 rogue
Attracted by the noise, Zombies
Our four Dwarf heroes have just lowered themselves off a ledge and beyond massive double valves letting into it. Their aim is to scout Level 5 and locate a passage down to Level 6. Preferably a secret one.
Cauleigh, heavily equipped for the rigors of dungeoneering, makes a heck of a racket, and Jotunn is just about as noisy. [No roll permitted, Cauleigh is well above 25% capacity] Fennec and Crompton glare at them. The four stand in a small faint pool of WoW light, darkness pressing in around them. The shaft or chamber appears to be so broad the sides can barely be glimpsed, and barrel-vaulted in section. They stand at what appears to be an entrance to a very wide, level shaft with twin tracks cut in the stone. It is dry enough to be termed slimy. Filthy water fills the tracks or channels suggesting the cavern outside the gates is very nearly on the same level.
As Cauleigh begins to sort through his gear and decide what can be left here, a zombie, attracted by the noise, shambles to the still-open gate. Another is close behind.
Fennec lets out a nicker of fear and repositions himself adroitly, further into the tunnel so that he is rear-guard. He holds off on spell-casting. Crompton, who at that moment is beginning to test the gate for ease of pulling shut, whips the rope they descended on around the ankles of the second zombie as Cauleigh’s billhook trips the first. Jotunn chops the head off the first.
More zombies appear! The rope trick works well again, but Jotunn stumbles in one of the stone channels or gutters. The second zombie grabs his ankle. Cauleigh slams down the billhook blade, taking the arm off that zombie, though leaving it attached to Jotunn’s ankle. Crompton and Jotunn heave on the gate, and the remaining zombies are shut out. The remaining two zombies are dealt with.
Then the real defenders show up
Fennec throws up his second WoW and squeals in terror and pain as a broad-axe cleaves through his pack. In the confusion he has not noticed a small phalanx – six or seven strong – approach from the shaft’s depths.
These defenders seem disciplined enough to stay in a tight formation. They are pallid, of no more than Dwarf stature, and their eyes bulge blindly. They each bear a wicked-bladed broad-axe and target shield. Their armor is heavy grey fabric or leather of some type.
Jotunn decides the formation needs breaking up and salmon-leaps into the axes! They bite deep, [37 off CON!] but his tactic works insofar as Cauleigh is able to cripple one that Jotunn cut. Cauleigh too experiences the excellent axe-work of these strange deep-dwellers. But the enemy are down to six.
That doesn’t make them less dangerous! Jotunn rolls out and cuts at one’s legs, taking more damage, Crompton, now LFed [his tempus fugit charm] dances in to one flank, and Cauleigh, also LFed, cuts on both. The tactic of sharing damage around the phalanx is the wrong one and Cauleigh is severely wounded. One of the defenders is hurt to the point of falling out of formation.
By this time flight is looking a good option. Fennec struggles with the gate but lacks the strength to push it back open. Jotunn, now reeling from wounds, joins him and the valves squelch back apart. Meanwhile Cauleigh and Crompton use their speed to stay out of range and bring the wounded defender down. They are down to five. Two more rounds of WoW remain, three more rounds of LF.
Jotunn shimmies up the rope intending to haul Fennec up. [I roll a 3 for Fennec] The wizard takes a broad-axe to the back of the head and falls face-down! Crompton scoops up the WoW-enchanted staff and uses it as a makeshift shield trying to draw the defenders off the wizard. Cauleigh outfoxes a defender and puts him down. They drop to four. One more round of WoW remains, two more of LF.
Jotunn realizes things have gone amiss and that he is effectively in the dark. Frantically he operates his tinderbox and gets a torch alight. In the broad mineshaft Cauleigh and Crompton team up to wrong-foot another defender and he too falls. They drop to three. The WoW gutters out, one more LF round remains.
Jotunn bravely drops, grabs Fennec’s collar and yanks him out of the muck, so he won‘t just drown. The light allows Crompton and Cauleigh to repeat their maneuver. The defenders are now only two, one of those badly wounded. But the Dwarves are now reduced to normal speed.
Jotunn joins in, though defensively so as not to take damage. To his surprise the grey defenders reel back from his torch! With this advantage and being just as fast on their feet, the remaining two are slain without more than a couple more scratches being taken among the Dwarves.
It’s time to breathe, and pick up the various bits of gear their desperate tactics threw off. And pull out!
As they rope Fennec’s chest a healing potion is found, tied prominently to the wizard’s doublet. How fortunate! [I roll a good LK SR to make up for the 3] They lack the expertise to safely apply it, but what’s he got to lose! It is poured down the wizard’s gullet.
They clamber back out, sluicing the muck and blood off in the running watercourse, and report to the Guild.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many 3s rolled in one cluster from the zombie-fight to the Morlock fight. The Morlocks were collectively far more powerful than the four Dwarves so stunts were paramount. I was handing out the spite damage and ignoring total scored. Crompton and Cauleigh both fumbled. Weapons were dropped, it was pretty desperate stuff. Jotunn left Fennec exposed as he retreated. Fennec rolled a 3 to escape before being hit. Since his player was absent I just hand-waved him as falling unconscious, then the healing potion as having an effect. Normally when a player steps away their character just holds packs or has other chores, but Fennec’s WoW was needed, at least at first.
Having survived, the Dwarves use their allies wisely
It takes more than a day for them to heal, during which time the Guild is called on to perform other missions, such as harvest guarding, and applying scrolls to ballistae. Cauleigh limps over to the citadel and though QMGLC Saundra is still extremely busy, manages to gain permission for the master-smith to fashion him a new breastplate. The initial measurements are done.
Crompton and Jotunn also make arrangements for armor, using Cauleigh’s influence if necessary.
While at the barracks, Cauleigh invites the Sveltes back to the Guild. Their help will be needed.
In Guild council, the Dwarves find the other groups are still happy to lend support. Two can mystically link to Fennec so that Fennec can describe what he sees, allowing Two to map it. Bless and Two can both provide Cateyes which will allow perhaps twenty minutes dark-vision inside the shaft.
Most importantly the Sveltes agree to help scout. Sveltes have dark-vision as part of their heritage.
Ausecur: STR20 DEX16 LK40 SPD14 CON27 IQ16 WIZ16 CHR17. Spells are DetM, LT, OGA, WoW, A-Scram, Boombomb, U-Bd, Ding, HH, Shrug, BLTG, Teacher.
Ondsop: as Ausecur; for spells Ding, BLTG, Teacher are dropped, OTIS and TTYF are added.
Kamerad: STR16 DEX14 LK20 SPD14 CON22 IQ14 WIZ14 CHR17. Spells are ItsEl (earth), LT, U-Bd, DetM and Boombomb.
Seven strong on Level 5
The uses of HideyHole are much debated. Cauleigh is keen to go in under invisibility to sneak forward as far as possible, so they try this first up.
There are no issues getting into the shaft: it seems nothing has closed the valves. Considerably more of the wet cavern can be seen now that they have Cateyes up. It is huge, stretching out into blackness. They can see dozens of zombies, aimlessly moving or standing in the water. As for the water, it seems it must gently drain away, somewhere beyond.
Cauleigh comes up with a cunning plan for tabling at the Guild and above. If the arch-magi can use his special Ice power to freeze the cavern the zombies can easily be dealt with.
Inside the shaft, a side-passage or guard-room can immediately be seen. The Sveltes investigate. Inside is a huge icy lizard! It can sense them, though it can’t see them, and lurches out to attack.
Glue You! Fennec yodels happily and the six others hack the lizard apart before it can get fully out of its lair. Crompton sighs regretfully: he has used the last Sheeting Arrow of Claes.
Sveltes tracking ahead they all follow the twin trackways in. Again on the left, another doorway stands open. This time they do not have the luxury of a HideyHole and with a booming challenge a monster cave-ape galumphs out to the attack! Ausecur uses his BLTG to speed away at great pace, and muttering the time-honoured phrase “I don’t have to be faster than him, I just have to be faster than you” Ondsop speeds ahead of Kamerad!
Kamerad is swatted to the floor but the fighting Dwarves are there to help. Jotunn and Cauleigh each flank around, cutting at its tree-like forearms. They get into difficulty when they try to improve on that the next round: Cauleigh is casually batted across the shaft to smack against the wall and Jotunn is parried off. But meanwhile Crompton has done a lot of damage to the beast’s hamstring and it is soon toppled and dispatched.
Finding a secret way down?
The Ape’s lair is truly filthy, but noticeable in the nest itself is a staff with a silver head. It is the mace-staff Crompton lost on his second zombie fight! “That’s got a definite owner” Crompton explains, handing it to Fennec to mind. There is one other exit in the lair, a closed stone door on the right. Crompton examines it, finding it still in working order. Muck and filth are dug back to permit the door to be dragged open.
Beyond, they can see two passages into connecting chambers. As they explore further an immense beetle rumbles out of the further chamber!
It is so large that both Cauleigh and Jotunn can leap atop and chop through its carapace. As it struggles sideways to fit through a doorway, they slay it.
Little of note is found in either chamber until Crompton presses a pressure plate, and locates a hidden door. It leads to a passage that curves down!
With no more Cateyes, they close the door and pull back out.
Resting and recovery brings Cauleigh and Kamerad back to fitness. Crompton hands the staff-mace over with due ceremony. Mizva is mightily pleased.
Meanwhile the early harvest is completed and under the truce, trading progresses between the camps and town. A few merchants from further afield east bring news and goods to trade.
But unlucky Fennec loses a prized possession
It’s still too early for the breastplate to be fitted but time presses and the seven-strong party returns to Level 5.
This time, they choose not to throw a Hidey-Hole down since it may be an empty area now.
The previously-icy lizard lair is empty and thawed, and some beer-money coin is found. So far so good. Sticking to that left face, they work down to the next side-entry, where the ape laired.
A mighty snake has made its nest among the usefully-warm dung the ape left and lunges forward. There is much ducking and diving! Unable to constrict a victim, it recoils back and sits in a good defensive position. Fennec makes the call to use OGA. Jotunn leaps high as Cauleigh blocks low. Not good enough! The snake smashes the already-weakened staff Fennec uses to protect himself as Cauleigh opens it up with a mighty gash, and Jotunn chops down into its barrel-size body.
Inside the snake’s crop is a healing potion, which is added to Fennec’s supply. Fennec would be ranting about his broken staff but strict noise discipline is being observed. He tucks the staff pieces into his new pack.
On Level 6 a voice is heard
Nothing has been through the further chambers, though the beetle carapace lies jammed in the doorway, eaten out to a hollow.
Crompton operates the secret door again, and they scout in. The passage curves, drops down a few steps, curves down some more, a few steps more… and is blocked by rockfall.
But, Ausecur realizes, not the kind of rockfall that is impenetrable. Quietly, a chain of rock-movers is formed, and rocks stacked around the chamber. Eventually (and for part of the time Fennec has rested so as to be able to cast WoW again) a Dwarf-size tunnel is made atop the fall.
They all squeeze through carefully, soon finding the down-passage gives onto a straight, well-cut shaft into a larger chamber, opening towards their left.
Jotunn swipes his hand across the grime on the floor. Beneath it the stone is good quality, a nice polished granite.
Not far ahead on the right face of the chamber are two strong stone doors. Another impressive stone door is across the chamber, and a fourth stands on the chamber’s right face. These last two have impressive vaulting and arching around them. Cauleigh studies these.
“Some religious significance” he mutters confidently. [Based on making L1 IQ SR]
Crompton meanwhile has caught the indistinct sound of a female voice from beyond the door at the far end of the chamber! [Just shy of L3 LK SR] He waves urgently, signalling ‘vampire’ and they retreat. Jotunn and the Sveltes smother their tracks so it is not obvious a party of Dwarves just explored, and a false rock-fall is carefully re-inserted at the low end.
As they pull back to the level’s main shaft a swarm of large beetles emerges from the dark trackway passages and attacks, their bites poison. Jotunn and Cauleigh shield the weaker members and they all pull out safely.
Much excitement in the Guild! Though it will be difficult to maneuver Righteous Filbard over the rocks, this is a genuine prospect for a surprise attack on Level 6.
And meanwhile, events in Fingold march on
The Guild is still busy with normal patrol and other duties though the Lefties, minus Soup, have part-cleared Level 4. And yes, they came back with another nice item. Two has a theory about the circular roof-carving the Dwarves found in Level 4. He also has thoughts of that side-quest he suggested to Fennec.
Speaking of that: Cauleigh places his genius plan in front of the wizards. Fennec thinks the arch-magi is too important and busy to use, but Two says “I like the way you think” and he and Bless will take it higher. Two also likes the idea of a huge cavern – it gives the heavy hitters a lot more combat options than they usually have.
Duchess Melissa has curbed her mettle and her ‘battalion’ has returned to normal city life. The western faction seems unwilling to re-prosecute the siege – though the presence of hippogriffs means the arch-magi is still having to churn out scrolls for ballistae. Chion’s regiment has been paid and is ready to march home.
As talk circulates of a dinner at the citadel, for the purpose of bringing the Duchess and the Captain together on a social basis, the Dwarves and Sveltes decide to keep scouting Level 5. Or clearing it, if that’s a likely thing.
Fennec agrees to go along, though he’s mainly there as the light-source. So back the seven go.
Back down to Level 5: clearing the outer mineworks
In the short time they have been absent the areas they have cleared have stayed clear. With growing confidence they advance, following the twin tracks, to a point where they can see the tracks disappear through twin shafts or tunnels. On the right face of the main shaft a shallow bay and stone door beckons. A little further along the main shaft on that same side, quite near the trackway-passages, a similar bay and door.
Crompton investigates and heaves the near door open. Beyond lies a large chamber, somewhat reminiscent of a forge but larger, where the remains of smelting pots, stands, ore-benches and the like are vaguely recognizable though crumbled to nearly nothing.
Among the rubble that was once a trying-furnace the Sveltes find some more coin.
Beyond a further solid door, another chamber. This may once have been an assay area. Ausecur scoops three lengths of jewel-rock, or raw gold, out of the remains of an ore-bench.
The second door off the main shaft is tried next. It leads to a long chamber. Though debris cloaks the floor, it is hard to say what purpose it served. On the left side, and therefore on the face that the main shaft extends down, two bays and doors stand. But time is pressing (these cautious explorations tick through WoW) and they begin pulling out.
As a last spiteful farewell, as Crompton checks just one last door, it falls outward and over on him! He is thoroughly depressed, but the others heave the mighty stone off him and drag him out for healing.
News and rumor chase one another in the city above! The Captain of Kimelas has been assassinated!
And the session ends.
I set the Level 5 monsters to be very direct, requiring a lot of damage. It gives advantage to those that can think their way round, which is usually the case.
There were a few options for recruiting help, once the players had canvassed it. All sorts of combinations might have been tried. They went with the stealth-mode choice. I turned over the Svelte stats to them, though vague about armor. Each player played his own character plus one Svelte. On the whole it didn’t work very well, we are not really used to handling multiple characters. I think the dungeon would have flowed better with me just playing Sveltes fleeing back and reporting dangers.
If you are wondering about the comms spell Two uses, it is his own Communication spell, though also an obvious nod to the ‘RPG gamer’ vibe of the heavy hitter adventurer group. Team-talk, enables chat between team members, LVL2, cost 6+2 per added member. 3 turns duration, higher levels extend time.
There’s a lot going on up in the bright summer sun of Fingold, but next session the lads are continuing to clear Level 5. Wish them luck!
Level 5 comes from Dyson’s 2014 Dodecahedron, &Magazine’s Wizardawn generators provided the monsters, both op cit., and I used HeroQuest (the MB Games boardgame) chance cards to decide what was encountered while clearing.