Characters for this session
Fennec, L2 wizard
Cauleigh, L3 warrior
Jotunn, L5 warrior
Crompton, L2 rogue
Part one: faction down
Significant NPCs for the first stage
Lady Melissa, Duchess of Fingold: Autocratic, almost a force of nature when roused in her city’s interests. She loves her people, they love her.
The arch-mage: Dwarf elder with ice magic specialty. His power has fended off the besieging force for two years, allowing the city of Fingold to develop their Adventurers Guild.
Armouring up at the north barracks
News of the assassination (of the Captain of Kimelas – last ep) flies quicker than thought! Soon the whole city is discussing what it means. Cauleigh’s cunning master-plan of Lady Melissa wedding the Captain of Kimelas is over. He says to Fennec: we need to investigate!
More prosaically Crompton and Jotunn set off for the awl-prickers and to the north barracks to see if the armour ordered is finished. Crompton has had four separate trickles of healing to get him up and walking, Jotunn is relatively unhurt but has shed his armour – there’s nothing worth keeping.
[The door trap end of last crawl dished out 30 points. Crompton had 21 CON and maybe 9 to 11 points of armour at the time. He’s walking around on 4 to 6 CON.]
Crompton orders another gambeson – there’s no doubt he’ll be needing it. “Keep the sleeves short” he commands. He wears a fancy bracelet on one wrist, which has a powerful enchantment on it.
At the north barracks Jotunn finds his status as hero has brought a benefit. Cauleigh placed an order for a breastplate for him and he has jumped the queue.
“I have to apologise Jotunn, given the urgency I simply cut down a fine cavalry breastplate. It’s near shot-proof, the latest design. If you don’t mind waiting I’ll just finish the last fitting and it’ll be ready. Oh, and your comrade’s breastplate should be done after that.”
Jotunn readily agrees to wait, secretly delighted, while Crompton heads off to see if he can find the Sveltes.
He can’t, and for the remainder of the day is kept busy enchanting ballistae off scrolls provided by the arch-mage. Apparently the hippogriff overflight requires defences to be kept up like this.
“By the way,” the master smith says approaching Jotunn again, “I converted this off a cavalry helm as well. I thought it would make a good helmet for you. There’s a second one as well, if you find it useful.”
“What do you call this?” Jotunn asks, turning the helm over in his hands. It has a short nasal, three crests or ribs – the central rib high like a morion’s – and round ear-protectors with gaps cunningly fashioned between the helm and protector.
“I don’t know… a morion-burgonet? A basquenet?”
Trying it on, Jotunn finds that styling aside, it works well, a good balance between clear sight and sound, and solid protection.
He returns to the Guild with the new armour by evening. He walks against a current of rumour: the east faction has surrendered! And in truth, there are a number of east-faction deserters being sworn in or assigned tasks around the citadel wall and gates.
The truth of the diplomatic coup
The truth of the matter, Crompton and Jotunn discover, is that Cauleigh (wearing good gear) and Fennec (wearing best wizard robe) accompanied Duchess Melissa, along with Bless (dressed as lady-in-waiting) and Gnat (dressed as maiden-in-waiting), and Melissa carried all before her and persuaded the besiegers, who were in disarray, that their best interests lay in changing sides.
“I don’t like to brag but my few well-chosen words did have a startling effect,” Cauleigh explains modestly.
“I don’t like to brag but I kept my mouth shut the whole time, even when Bless was creepily ogling Gnat in that blue dress thingy,” Fennec adds.
[Since Melissa is doing the talking I get the two characters present to roll on CHR and the two players not involved to roll for Bless and Gnat. Cauleigh DARO’s to level 8. Bless and Gnat hit L2 and 3 respectively. Fennec hits L1 with a bonus for being a wizard but has already specified that he is keeping mum.]
“How’s that staff?” asks Crompton, seeing Fennec with it now.
Fennec waxes lyrical. This replacement for his shattered staff is a swap from the Lefties. It is named the Staff of the Wizard, and has a number of properties. Cauleigh traded off his scimitar for it and just wants to get remembered in the next good drop.
With this change of direction for the defences – and the east faction soldiery is already being drafted to building bastions facing west and south – the Adventurers Guild Council is convened.
Part two: the die is cast, kind of, pretty much
Significant NPCs for the second stage
Two AKA demon in glasses, party leader for the heavy hitters, specialist in communications and conjuration
Gnat, party rogue/assassin/tracker for the heavy hitters
Bless, brains for the Lefties, has some private agreement with Two
Mother Hobb: party leader for the survivors, potion specialist, secretary to the Guild council
Mizva, inebriated survivors tank
The Council pretends to study calculations
There are a number of things to bring to the table. Foremost, the pressing need to fulfil the mission against the vampiress and to purge the shrine.
Crompton (with health much closer to normal now) quite rightly points out that the “shrine” is an assumption, not a fact. The great wet zombie cavern might have a shrine tucked away just off it. Perhaps this colours the decision-making later.
The great wet zombie cavern brings up the arch-mage’s response to Cauleigh’s proposal. It’s midway between Fennec’s guess of ‘too important to bother’ and what they hoped for. He’s provided Two with a barrage of calculations showing that in a wide cavern of slowly-moving water there’s no practical way of freezing widely-dispersed zombies.
The way zombies are replaced is discussed. The fall of the east faction probably means no fresh zombie supply. But no-one found how the fire-mage and the vampires communicated, so nothing’s certain.
And as to zombie maintenance, Two has made his own calculations, he says with a gleam in the glasses. His theory is that the statue-shrine on Level 3 is more important than originally thought. Scouting spotted seven statues and if each provides a maintenance battery that explains how such an enormous amount of necromancy mana is being spent to keep zombies moving day after day.
The side-quest he suggested to Fennec some time ago seems even more attractive.
But the side-quest will not go down well with QMGLC Saundra.
But, independent-maintenance batteries.
Cauleigh gently calls the wizards away from their collective drooling. “Speak flatteringly to the QMGLC using her titles, and present her with reasoned arguments. She will listen.”
Then considers going in with full force
The next item to consider is the effect that clearing levels is having. There is no mistaking it – at least not if you have been doing this for a couple of years – the response is fragmented, even accidental in the case of Level 4.
This means that there is a really valid argument for putting in a big effort on the great wet zombie cavern. Then, finish clearing Level 5. That will allow a real base to be set up, from which the assault on Level 6 can be made properly.
Two (and Bless, who is clearly on the same page here) sees no great problem with the secret tunnel the Dwarves found, as a means to introduce Righteous Filbard to Level 6.
“He’s got what, five sturdy veteran bearers? Just clearing back more of the rubble while we ready ourselves. It would work.”
The Dwarves opt for this plan, and the survivors throw in. Mizva is keen. “I get to swat zombies? Works for me,” he mumbles. Cauleigh catches Mother Hobb’s eye and murmurs something about keeping Mizva dry.
Tucking away vital equipment
There’s a pile of holy water vials, one per person. Each Dwarf takes one.
There are three mirrors not counting the one Bless has already called dibs on. Each is larger than a tiny hand-mirror. They could be useful checking for vampires, illusions, etc. Jotunn takes one.
Mother Hobb has two healing potions per person. She explains:
“It’s slow-acting, using your mana to power recovery. Don’t expect to jump back into action – this is just the difference between dying and not.”
[Technically, over the course of an hour WIZ moves down 6 and CON up 6.]
The general dimensions are agreed
Then to the discussion of forces. The way Two (and Bless) see things, the Lefties and heavy hitters should hit the great wet zombie cavern from above.
“We know there are guard stations on the stairwell. We can deal with those, then use the height of the cavern to our advantage.”
So that means the non-fliers are creeping down and assembling at the other end, where the massive double doors are. The wizards will all be in communication with one another (using Two’s spell) so everyone will know when noise and light aren’t a problem.
Speaking of light, it’s an immense cavern so there’s some discussion there. Mizva has a “lantern shield” but Mother Hobb suggests spirit-boat paper affairs, with candles or the like.
The plan in summary
The Lefties and heavy hitters work down from the main Level 4 passage, knocking out the guard posts. The others are waiting. They team up to hit the great wet zombie cavern, clear it, sweep Level 5 again, then see whether the side-quest is something that can be presented to QMGLC Saundra.
The council breaks up to rally rogues (Soup is still out reading scrolls over ballistae) and gear up.
Part three: down among the dead men
A quick summary of the adventuring groups, in order of power
Heavy hitters: Three warriors of differing fighting styles, a powerful wizard quarterbacking them, and a lethal rogue to guard the wizard or assassinate stubborn opponents. The fighting members all have powerful melee weapons, so the caster is free to coordinate strong attacks or defences, and the rogue is reserve.
Dwarves: Two warriors with similar fighting styles, a strong L2 wizard in support, and a strong rogue supporting both ends. They rely on a mixture of spells and magic weapons to power-up melee, so once the casters are done they have little staying power.
Lefties: Three warriors with very similar fighting styles, a rogue in support, and a strong L3 wizard in support of all. They rely on spells to power-up melee, which limits caster options.
Survivors: One tank warrior, two missile rogues, and a potion-specialist strong L2 rogue in support of them.
On Level 5, Zombies are moving out
We rejoin our heroes as they walk away from the watercourse that splashes down to the great wet zombie cavern. And as Mizva’s brightly-shining shield activates, they notice a difference.
The zombies are moving in organised clumps, away towards what’s believed to be the exit. The nearest clump of zombies, half a dozen or so strong, are short in stature and armoured in grey fabric of some type, and bear axes and shields.
“Should’a whicked those heads off” Cauleigh curses. There’s a quick tactical session. “The other two groups are held up!” Fennec pitches in with, “the guard posts are stronger than expected!”
“Can you LF me?” Cauleigh calls back, “Pretty please?” By this time he’s already jumped down and is forging through the knee-deep water. Jotunn is with him, while Crompton swings his arquebuss into line and leans into the monopod stand to get a steady shot.
Boom! To the zombies at large and anything nearby in the tunnels, Crompton announces their presence. The shot definitely strikes the group but not being a head shot, has no effect at all.
Nor does Fennec’s OGA: undead don’t react to normal stimuli.
Nor does Jotunn’s flaring torch: the sturdy short zombies are definitely the same group he helped kill, but don’t react to light in any noticeable way.
“Mmh, well, I guess we need something…” Fennec grumbles and speeds first Cauleigh then Jotunn.
Two LF, the OGA and some more grumbling later Fennec is pretty much tapped out. [It’s his choice though: he could have used two of his staff’s limited stock of charges up, and have plenty of mana left. The Staff of the Wizard reduces spell cost by 10, but there are only 17 charges left.] He (and Mother Hobb, on his arm) have splashed through the water to stay in support. Crompton calls tempus fugit and flanks around the warriors, getting to close range.
Cauleigh’s first foray is against the zombie-Morlocks and Jotunn takes the heads off two Cauleigh trips. They can hear one another quite clearly thanks to the new helmets. Then Cauleigh glimpses a huge splash over left.
Mizva is in trouble! The survivors’ fighting men have tackled another larger group of zombies, but one is whaling on Mizva’s shield with an immense polearm, pounding him down below the water’s surface again and again. Whitey and Burnley don’t have the stopping power to do anything about it.
Meet ferocious grinning dancing zombie-shepherds
The three Dwarves race through the water. They’ve got the rhythm of moving at twice speed now. Crompton pulls out the wand that Sharp forgot to collect back off him, levels it and yells:
“Fight for me!”
Jotunn smashes his shield into the creature – which seems agile but is temporarily at a loss – and Cauleigh brings his billhook’s pole-end up and down in a leaping spike, pinning the thing’s head to the ground. Boom! Crompton’s shot shatter’s the thing’s head open and globs and bits begin drifting away to where a stream drains.
The larger zombie group ceases marching purposefully away, and begins swinging around towards noisy adventurers.
Cauleigh’s proficiency with billhook is accelerating! He trips two, even three zombies at a pass. Jotunn swipes heads off with athletic sweeps – though at one stage he ploughs through the water as he hits an unexpected deeper footing. Mizva pitches in again, his powerful mace shattering heads completely.
Crompton is acting as caller. He sees two dangers. On the far side of where they are, another zombie group has marched in from a side-channel. And towards the supposed exit, where the other groups are to appear, a zombie group has turned, and its shepherd is grinning and dancing, waving its huge polearm.
As they turn though, two of the crew topple into a deeper area. It’s worth marking out as terrain they can use.
“The other groups are just about here! They’ve finished up above!” Fennec calls. Indeed the lights from their advance can be glimpsed, dimly.
“Fight for me!”
Crompton’s tactic works again. Cauleigh feints the hesitating shepherd onto the wrong footing then between them the four butcher it apart. Its limbs join the drifting mess of zombie brains.
And finally, the delayed arrival of the flying teams! The heavy hitters have their approach all worked out: Gnat is flying high running interference against any bugs in the roof; Two is lower coordinating, and the warriors are flying just above zombie head height where they can comfortably whick heads off. The Lefties have a less-calculated approach: Bless is perched at ease on a floating bedroll casting VB at her leisure; Soup is towing her while casting VB as needed; Panic is using the magic scimitar they swapped off Cauleigh; and the other two warriors are using billhooks.
Crompton uses up quite a supply of shot, shooting zombies struggling up out of the sinkhole he spotted. He marks the side-passage down as a possible location of zombie shrine and rejoins the group.
Aside from a mouthful of water (Jotunn) and a lungful of water (Mizva) there are no wounded among “team sneak down.” The other team seems to have had a tough fight up in the guard stations. Snake-monsters, skeletal guardians, and a trap. But the wizards still have mana in reserve so they all bundle into the relative dry of the broad “workings” shaft.
Part four: accidentally, everything is go, OK?
The first ten minutes is spent explaining the layout, and cautiously checking the guard-chamber left of the entry gate is empty.
Mizva’s lantern shield is still shining bright, so with a couple of torches flung down as they go, the Dwarves form advance guard and check the next pair of doorways. These stand opposite one another across the broad shaft.
Jotunn is following bloody drag-marks – it’s obvious to his eye where the Morlock corpses were dragged way for preparation, and that other Morlocks did it – when he stiffens, alert to a new sound, or presence.
The warriors fall back and tank up with support warriors.
Almost anticlimactically, an ice lizard steps menacingly into the light, its head weaving in alarm. It does not seem to have a choice about its advance, though.
“It’s just icy. We Glued one and killed it quickly.”
“Oh. OK. Gnat, just get rid of it.”
There’s a blur, a scuff as Gnat kicks off from the roof, and a nasty thwoock sound as she dive-slams a shortsword down through the creature’s skull. It topples, dead. Gnat shakes the blood off her sword, sheaths it and wanders back through the shield wall to her post by Two. Fennec and Mother Hobb edge closer to Two.
But the pause has allowed Jotunn to sense more oncoming enemy. From the right scrabble a swarm of huge beetles! Their mouth-parts glow with ichorous fire.
Jotunn and Cauleigh leap atop a pair of them, Mizva just uses his shield to take the fiery spittle. With three down in short order the remaining few are quickly dealt with. Glowing paste sticks on the blades that hacked them apart.
But meanwhile Crompton has been watching out carefully. It wasn’t bugs that drove the lizard on. There! In the left doorway! He swings the long arquebus barrel around on its stand and lets drive.
“Spriggan!” someone screams.
In the doorway a Spriggan jerks, struck by the bullet. Its face snarls in a rictus of anger! It pulls a pistol from its belt! It levels the pistol at Crompton!
“Bang!” the Spriggan shouts.
It looks crossly at the pistol barrel then levels it again.
“Bang!” it shouts again. The other Spriggans around it snicker and begin attacking.
There’s a general movement of shield-carrying warriors forward to block the recess the Spriggans are emerging from. But the wounded Spriggan appears in front of Crompton. And grabs his arquebus by the barrel.
As Crompton wrestles the Spriggan for control of his precious, Jotunn hurtles in, swinging his axe laterally. By an inch he clears the barrel and Crompton’s fingers! The Spriggan stumbles back, an arm missing. It still looks very annoyed. Then Cauleigh hurls his kukri! It’s not built for throwing but he times its rotation perfectly: with a chwuck it takes the top off the Spriggan’s head, and it falls dead.
Cauleigh is after the kukri in a flash! Hunts desperately… can’t see it… then a small hand presses it into his grasp and Gnat vanishes back to the fight again.
A peculiar power of the Spriggan is to suddenly become gigantic. From behind the main line of shields Cauleigh yells:
But luckily there’s another yell:
“Tank up! Don’t let it past!”
Although the giant can and does lean over and deal massive damage, the line holds and the other Spriggan can’t get past to attack the weak rear!
[The combined attack surplus is dished out among the warriors and rogues. The Dwarves share 200. One of the great things about T&T combat is that tanks can tank, by taking a larger share of the damage. Cauleigh and Jotunn (52 armour each) take the bulk. Each is left on single-digit CON]
Crompton now has his harquebus back on its stand and loaded. Ignoring his wounds he aims the piece up:
Can’t miss! A piece of its shoulder is torn away.
At the rear, where Fennec and Mother Hobb are sheltering, Two and Bless seem to be about ready to do something. Bless slides one of her four wands out of her hair.
Fennec’s own mana has trickled in, and he slams a TTYF into the giant. WHAMM! There’s a slight red tinge to his spell’s effect now, he’s interested to note.
Two levels his arm and white lights begin playing around it, and a noise like metal bolts slamming home begins in sequence:
Chu chu chu chu chu CHOOMMMM
[Accompanied by wanking motions from some of the players. Hey, if you can do it, why wouldn’t you trick your spell up to look more lethal? But fun, I’ve been waiting for Two to throw a higher-level TTYF since he first partnered with the Dwarves]
A tremendous whitish-blue arc blazes from the wizard to the giant’s chest. It falls!
The warriors press forward, jabbing with swords and axes. They hold the remaining Spriggan, but only just. Then someone in the front rank makes the call:
“Now Two! Now Bless!”
And gestures the line back:
In one sweep, the Spriggan are entangled then torn apart as the complementary spells take effect before they can escape.
A couple of nice drops are found and shared
The Spriggan seems to have recently arrived – there’s no lair as such. They had a chest, covered in stone dust. Later, Jotunn finds where they pulled it out of the rubble the Dwarves had been working on.
Aside from a nice collection of coin, there’s a red, two-blade shield in it. Magical. The Lefties and Dwarves begin dickering over it as though the other groups don’t count. Cauleigh agrees to surrender his kite shield, and gets the attack shield.
The rooms are checked again and pronounced clear. The path through to Level 6 is much as it was – though the space the chest came from is noticeable. On the other side, since the Sveltes just did a once-over, they look more closely. At the narrow end of the ancient forge-room where stone lies in a pile, Jotunn can feel a breeze from above. Shifting the stones quietly, they unearth a grapnel in perfect condition. It has a short length of rope attached.
One of the heavy hitters recalls such an item once belonged to an earlier group. The rope extends, apparently. The Lefties claim it. In exchange they surrender the plant control potion jug, and that weird powder that makes black ooze from under fingernails.
[I should also add that the Lefties get the two enormous polearms. They are simply too long for a Dwarf.]
Level 6 is a go!
Although Two and Bless are now significantly down on mana there’s a general feeling that this is the time to launch at Level 6. If the vampiress is bringing allies like the Spriggan in, delay can only harm.
Gnat is despatched ahead to shoulder-tap Righteous Filbard and Two and Bless, with a screen of four warriors, head back to Level 3 to await the cleric.
The remaining teams begin setting up camp, drying gear, and exploring. And the session ends.
Whew! This is a bit of a marathon but I felt I should deliver all four parts, because:
Waitangi weekend bash! Level 6! Stay tuned!