The characters for this session
Fennec, L2 Wizard (Combat magic)
Cauleigh, L3 Warrior (Townsman)
Jotunn, L5 Warrior (Hunter, Tracking talent)
Crompton, L2 Rogue (Runebearer, Roguery talent)
They have been running for half an hour. A spall of dust, kicked up by sun-waked dust-devils, begins to murk the light and cover their trail. [I kick the session off with a random 6d6 for number of torches remaining, then a big L5 LK SR for Jotunn to see how accurate his approach will be, and he rolls a fail. I have results for odd or even number fails jotted down so we go to those!]
Ahead, Jotunn glimpses the crowns of forest trees. Then his heels have the feeling of sagging back as the ground he’s running over gives way and a sinkhole caves in!
Fennec has no time to react and falls with the rocks. Cauleigh’s quicker reaction saves him! And running last, Crompton cannot quite stop his momentum and he too falls. [Jotunn running first and Crompton at rearguard need L3 SPD. Cauleigh and Fennec in the middle need L5. Jotunn and Cauleigh make it, the other two fall. Now to the falling!]
Crompton’s pack is heavy and so is his armour. He falls heavily and loses consciousness. Fennec manages to tuck and roll and though winded, loses only his grip on his staff. In the gloom, he can’t see it, but he can see two points of yellow-greyish light! [Fennec misses his LK SR by 1 so fails forward to not have his staff; Crompton misses completely and takes heavy damage, losing consciousness.]
The two safe Dwarves move swiftly to rescue their comrades. A lit torch plunges down and luckily drops vertically, allowing Fennec to sweep up his staff. Something slithery withdraws into what appears to be a tunnel! He also locates Crompton: face down, smothering. Cauleigh ropes down, Jotunn lowering him rapidly [L5 STR SR] and he too sees what Fennec sees: there appear to be two passages.
“Smells bad…” Cauleigh mutters.
“And I think I can hear water running” Fennec adds quietly.Having attached rope to Crompton, Cauleigh ropes back up. As he confers with Jotunn – this may not be a bad place to hole up in – there’s a muffled WHAMM from below!
Two hideous tentacle-mouthed worms of great size, eyes gleaming palely, crawl toward Fennec and he unleashes a L2 TTYF! One writhes and dies! Then Cauleigh lands from high above [L4 STR jump] dead square on the second crawler: gouts of yellow ichor splash and drench them.
“There are actually four passages here, and I’ve worked out where that water is” Fennec notes.
About the time that Crompton regains consciousness, Jotunn joins them. Maps are pulled out and studied by the light of a torch. The idea of a river or stream seems something that needs investigating. As Crompton carefully clears grit from his arquebus they chat about options including a rest here and return to the dungeon.
Time to explore! Jotunn sheds his pack and bundles down the ‘water’ passage, finding a shallow stream that lines up, according to his sense of direction and taste [L2 IQ] with Whitespur Creek’s headwater. As he crosses the stream the passage widens and he’s attacked by more crawlers!
Jotunn’s battle experience allows him to keep his weapons in action. The combat is difficult for Cauleigh and Fennec to join. Fennec stays rearguard, Cauleigh shines as much light as possible. Jotunn gives ground – his armour taking some acid damage – and Cauleigh can join. Crompton smartly whips a torch off Cauleigh and the fight’s momentum shifts. Jotunn’s outer clothing and armour is looking worse for wear! Jotunn and Cauleigh roll past the crawlers into a cavern, Crompton ducks aside, Fennec blasts another TTYF in.To their surprise the small cavern hooks around, the stream reappears through the wall, and on the other side of it there’s a stone ledge with a casket on it. A casket seemingly of Dwarf construction.
[This is quite a find. I’ll skip over the general paranoia. Good treasure including a spell and two magic lockets.]
Despite the foul smell from the crawlers (a few more of which test the defences over the next day) the Dwarves rest, stand watch, heal up, and get to know the contents of the casket.
[I estimate that a very conservative PB policy allows 108 healing from Fennec with Crompton backing up.]
Foraging and a windfall
That being done they foray out and into the forest verge, in quest of more torches. In terms of damaged gear, every one of their outer garments and armour has some damage. It varies: Cauleigh has lost his aketon for example, Crompton merely has some heavy blood staining and cuts. It’s morning again – for they have taken a full 24 hours – but over the past day, the prairie fire of two days previous has extended into a forest off towards Perrol. By chance or good hunter’s instinct [best of four good SRs] Jotunn strikes a lightly-marked trail as the others quest about for mushrooms, beech nuts, acorns and pitchy faggots. On it, he finds the corpse of a man who seems to have fled the woods. It’s perhaps two days old, much pulled about by small scavengers and perhaps buzzards.
The others are summoned and cast about then head along the trail deeper into the woods – not without trepidation – to find a campsite and two more corpses. The marks of a fight are clear. Packs, sacks, bedrolls and weapons lie about a dead campfire. A small glass cube lies near the fire amongst the scattered weapons: it is strongly magical. They count four bedrolls. Many of the sacks appear to hold valuables. Crompton thoughtfully wrenches two fine throw-knives from the breast of one corpse, tests them for balance, wipes them clean and stows them away. Cauleigh loots a well-made steel dagger and locates the throw-knife sheaths. He calls dibs on the best-quality pack, which isn’t saying much. Crompton decides to keep his own pack but transfers a number of getting-out-of-town gear across including ropes and a grapnel.
But the most significant gear is in the sacks. A couple of detect magics later and after laying the loot out, it’s clear they have a major haul from a noble house named Halchos. A house moreover that has ready access to magic items including a wand and some scrolls.
They retrace their steps after another pleasant rest. The loot is stashed back in their own personal sinkhole-cavern. The looted food and torches stay with them!
Ape-heads on guard!
And then to the Ape-head statues that mark Fort Cullis. But there is something very different about them. Even from 600 metres away it’s obvious that the eyes in those ape-head glow bright white!
They take extra time and climb partway up a cliff, along, then rope down to land on the entry behind the ‘angle of vision’ of either head. [85 AP each, since otherwise Fennec would have boldly marched forward to try magic]
The door is shut, as they suspected. After some discussion Fennec opens it with a KK. They take up order of march with Cauleigh at front and Jotunn second, and Cauleigh leads the way down steps west then south to the first chamber.
Unfamiliar tunnels, and what’s with the statue?
After briefly checking that all is very much as expected – and that there are no alert guards – they test the east, to see where the first tunnel goes. It leads east and to a rubbish-filled chamber. Here, Cauleigh defends himself from some large rats. That large chamber in turn lets south to an east-west passage with a number of ape heads on pedestals. Here Cauleigh continues entertaining the troops [with a fail on SPD] when one of the heads flies up and attacks him! [CHR checks all round since this event triggers repressed memories of the Black Manse] He heaves it off before it can leech onto him, and Jotunn [L3 SPD allows 1 weapon, dice only] chops it. It was an evil-featured living head, not a stuffed ape-head.
That tunnel in turn lets south to two chambers: one a nasty-looking chamber with long whitish slug-like objects; the other a vestibule-like chamber which in turn lets onto another east-west tunnel. This one looks and is familiar, but they have not explored east here. East, the tunnel turns south, to a stone statue – of an ape holding an ear trumpet to each ear! [The search still feels a bit desultory, in that they skip at least one door at the entry area and test no doors west.]
They make nothing whatever of the statue, but before long make their way back to more familiar ground. Here the arch south leads through to the major tunnel east to the second large portcullis. They test it: it is well beyond their collective strength. Again, they can glimpse two guards beyond, perhaps 50’ back from it. West, the major tunnel narrows and wraps round a few chambers and ends south at the first small portcullis. They check, using a WoW. Three Dwarves later it is heaved up and Cauleigh whips hard right to take the slack up off the windlass.The large chamber beyond has a group of placid apes. The Dwarves check that things are as they were previously – they are – and turn their attention to the fatal second portcullis while the WoW is still up.
Resistance is futile!
Crompton makes sure he activates his Missile Dismissal arrow, and the three heave the portcullis up. [I’m looking for L12 aggregate STR on these small ones] Sure enough a well-flung axe hurtles down the tunnel but Crompton’s talisman knocks it down. Jotunn and Cauleigh whip across the T to what proves to be a tunnel with a flight of steps up. Fennec follows hard on their heels [L1 SPD] but Crompton, who has stayed to retrieve his axe from propping up the portcullis, is in danger!
A mighty Gnoll charges recklessly at Crompton! And as Cauleigh and Jotunn jump in to help, another Gnoll follows that one – and very soon after that Fennec realizes more Gnolls are loping towards him down the steps.
Fennec: WHADOOMMM! Deals a huge L4 TTYF that disintegrates the first Gnoll. As his two flankers hesitate he challenges them:
“There’s more where that come from!” [A feeble CHR SR]
They seem inclined to doubt him: WHADOOMMM! Fennec convinces the sole survivor by burning a Staff charge and repeating the L4. The surviving Gnoll flees. Fennec catches the sound of hissing, somewhere off to his right.
The other three: Crompton fires his unwieldy arquebus one-handed as the huge Gnoll closes to point-blank! [He gets L4 so I’m OK with it] Cauleigh and Jotunn help and that Gnoll dies – but more are piling in! Jotunn’s bladed chain strikes out at one and takes an ankle, Crompton hurls a knife and finishes it, Cauleigh trips one and the three have a big advantage as Crompton regains his ancestor axe and the other two hew in, tripping and leaping.
Fennec follows the other three: he scurries back down the steps and east through an arch, then in a chase north through barracks and east again into a vast part-pillared chamber. It is vaguely lit.
The great chamber and strange phenomena
Had the Dwarves not accounted for so many Gnolls in their previous foray things would go ill here, but a mere few Gnolls still remain alive and rather than defend a broad ramparted dais they flee. As the Dwarves follow up, two guard Gnolls attack from the north, hurling axes. Crompton once again wears it – but his pack takes most of the damage! [33 damage after his pack is ruined, he is on 3 CON] Cauleigh hurls his nice new dagger, and himself into cover: Fennec hits them with an OGA and hides behind Jotunn, who must perforce act as meat-shield. [Jotunn tries a fake-out, scoring a fail] But thanks to the thrown blade and being flanked by Cauleigh and Crompton the Gnolls are easy prey.
Briefly scanning the huge chamber – one corner is well barricaded and there is at least one other door untried – they check the north. It takes some time but they work out the secret of an illusory mirror-wall. And locate the windlass for the big portcullis and jam it open with a couple of Gnoll axes. There is another door, untried, beyond the illusory mirror. They leave it for the time being and take up the trail of the fugitive Gnolls.
And into new territory
Now at least half an hour behind, they reform and follow what they guess is the escape route of the Gnolls. They find some larger chambers – a rubbish room – a puzzle room – and another ape statue – this one carved with a flute – and various trophies that may be worth looting. Cauleigh cuts himself a poncho out of Lizardman hide, but leaves it off for now. They find a pair of lizardman thralls doing kitchen duties – the hissing Fennec heard earlier – and so back through to the second small portcullis and so across to the ape refreshment chamber. And by taking the north-east door they move through to a T-junction they have not yet seen, and the session ends.
Interesting but positive dynamic between players on this one, good improvisation around which plan seems best at the time. Cauleigh’s player got his way in terms of returning to the dungeon before spending AP, but I think the others are OK with being heroic and ending the menace.
As was the case in the first attempt, some rather selective exploration going on. For next session, I may highlight the ‘dark patches’ where they may have been aware of a door but not tried it.
I don’t think the lads are quite aware of how much time they were soaking up in looking at the north end of the great chamber and tossing the leaders’ quarters. They are at least an hour behind the fugitives.
Props: The two outside events are from Off the Beaten Path: Forest Excursions by Thom Wilson, a Kickstarter from ThrowiGames. Treasure from Wizardawn’s generator, slightly tweaked as usual.