TI3.47: The pace picks up on Level Two

The characters for this session:

Fennec, L3 wizard, carrying a couple of weird potions (brains! eyes!)

Cauleigh, L3 warrior, with the wooden block of light-beam and locket with fire-breathing pills

Jotunn, L5 warrior, toting the Soulcube

Crompton, L3 rogue, with the locket with see-in-complete-darkness paste

ably assisted by the Herbal Teas:

Sage, L3 wizard – wears 3pts armour under his robe

Trefoil, L2 warrior – 20 base points armour, reach weapon

Heartsease, L2 warrior – 12 base points armour, long reach weapon

Wolfie, L2 wulfan – armour?

Let’s check around – so many choices!

There’s a minor fray as the four Restorers reach the great double doors to the steps down. From behind and to the left charge black Dwarves!

Our heroes react with speed and nimbleness and slay them. The crushed and broken bodies are the same as before – dark grey skin, sharp teeth, opaque white eyes, beaten-iron swords and simple iron-reinforced armour. And a few gold coins on each.

“Beer money!”

Reaching the great entry foyer to Level Two they fall into discussion as to which way to check. Cauleigh, recalling they had not finished probing a tunnel beyond the ‘tannery’ chamber, wants to do that first. But first first, check east to see what was down there.

Crompton is easy with whatever. Fennec has a side-track of thought. Jotunn has various thoughts. But eventually they do go with Cauleigh’s idea, and find the grand passage east ends at a drop into water some 20 or so feet below.

 

A casual menace is met and killed

Jotunn explores for hand-holds, Cauleigh experiments with depth and finds it is only a few inches, then Crompton hears a casual gravelly voice behind them:

“Oi, chummy.”

He swings his arquebus around and hears,

“Yer don’t wanta do that, yer wanta shoot that wizard.”

“Enemy spellcaster thataway!” Fennec cries, gesturing with his torch. The arquebus swings his way…

Cauleigh drops his plumb-line and focuses the ‘light cube’ using two hands, picking out a very squat, red-brown chap, massive-jawed, barely-clad. Fennec throws Dispel as Jotunn charges, drawing his axe, and strikes the newcomer in one leg, knocking it – not fully off its feet – well off-stance. Crompton shakes off whatever was suggesting itself to his mind, scuttles sideways out of Fennec’s line, and waits for a shot. Cauleigh hurries closer, as best he can while holding the beam of light steady.

“Give’s a break, throw it away mate,” the shortie suggests to Jotunn, its wound beginning to close.

Jotunn throws his axe away. But he prepares to tackle this creature. Then a huge crimson flash lances past him and the blast of L3 TTYF echoes from the walls. Cauleigh and Jotunn leap atop their foe as it topples – Cauleigh muffling its mouth – and find themselves wrestling with a roughly humanoid-shaped pile of rock.

Jotunn retrieves his axe on the way to dragging and pushing the body to the pit edge, and they push it over. It lands with a mighty splash of shallow water.

Nothing else happens.

 

Secret door checking is worthwhile

Returning to Cauleigh’s original idea, they next explore north past the ‘tannery’ room, to find that the passage leads north to a simple finish, with a door west.

The small chamber beyond gives Jotunn a start – it almost looks like another smoke-demon jar – but contains merely a single vat, empty this time.

Checking for secret entrances with Fennec keeping guard outside takes another ten or so minutes and ends when Crompton tries the bottom of the vat. With a quiet click a secret door is revealed, west wall.

The small chamber beyond contains treasure, of a kind. A single glass case or coffer sits on the floor in the middle of the chamber.

Much testing and checking for traps later, the Dwarves gleefully carry the case back up to Level One and holler for the portcullis to be opened. Aside from some magic inside, it is valuable in itself.

Sage rubs his hands at the prospect of more ‘interesting’ things. After more checking two whistles (middle C and low-pitched warbling) are set aside and the smoking-pipe unscrewed to reveal another, very small, whistle. This is magic, of the communications branch. Wolfie reacts to the unheard sound (and Heartsease claims she hears something too). Sage’s Omni-Eye reading on it suggests it is a demon-soothing whistle.

 

Mapping the differences – what’s with the weird doors?

Back to Level Two, and though Fennec has earlier heard stealthy movement and an ambush is expected: without incident.

Now begins an intriguing piece of mapping. The Dwarves learn a lot more about doors that seal off after closing, leaving only wall. The net result is a good sketch map showing a route back from the various passages, to the grand foyer of Level Two. And a possible path east, mainly picked out by Jotunn, following drag marks.

These are marks they spotted some time ago, seeming to have something to do with the Gnolls’ brief retreat.

As they follow the faint marks, Jotunn picks up enough evidence to suggest that a crate caused them, being dragged along the floor.

[Minis! I’m mapping in full 5’ square scale and I hand out a mini for each character. The players put their minis where they think they are.]

Taking the very best of care, the Dwarves move from door to door to door through a number of winding paths and at last find a stone panel which can be opened using a sliding latch on their side. Crompton snuffles around the door: he can smell something reptilian. Maybe snakey.

 

Black Dwarves guard the inner passages

Once all are ready Crompton opens the panel and swings it smoothly all the way back, keeping it open with one foot. Their light splashes over a deep dark chamber and two pair of opaque white eyes that are seeking the source of the light.

This is where I try my ‘concealed domino’ effect. It creates a sense of uncertainty, to help with the ‘complete darkness’ vibe that is so hard to convey.

There’s an uneasy pause, perhaps just a second, then some muttering in archaic Dwarven tongue and a pair of feet moving urgently. Then two more pair of eyes join the first pair. Iron-reinforced bucklers lock down.

Crompton senses there could be something above the doorway and gestures to the others. Cauleigh attempts to blind the ‘Morlocks’ with his direct light: they don’t react.

Up to this point, and even beyond, my players are referring to the black Dwarves as Morlocks, because they are very similar to the Fingold Morlocks.

There’s a mild (for Fennec) crimson flash and blast and a low-level TTYF rattles one of the black Dwarves back.

“Give fire!”

All three pieces bark and two black Dwarves fall.

[For the record the damages are 72 for TTYF, 103 from Crompton, 113 from Jotunn and 130 from Cauleigh]

The remaining pair run and are gone left (further east) faster than the Dwarves can bring any light to bear.

As Cauleigh and Jotunn advance the roof-hugging giant lizard attacks! Cauleigh’s speed is so good [L9] that he rolls back up with his light aimed directly at the right spot. Fennec throws Glue-You and though the lizard does rend and bite it’s an easy fight from there. [The three non-wizards share 20 damage] Crompton wastes an Alakascram as Fennec puts the kill in with another low-level TTYF.

Fennec, who has prudently stayed back out of the range of angry lizard, scuttles in before the secret door swings shut.

“I wonder if lizard tastes good,” wonders hungry Jotunn. Trail rations aren’t really what his girth demands.

A brief search of this large chamber determines:

  • Black Dwarves were at guard in niches either side of the grand passage’s water-pit
  • There’s a door north
  • The black Dwarves fled east down another fair passage, which turns north a short way down
  • Almost all track marks go that way, and the dragged wooden object Jotunn has tracked went that way too.

 

Onward! Let’s go for broke!

“Do we get the fuck out or do we charge in?” Cauleigh demands as alarms drum in the deep.

Crompton and Jotunn are confident.

“Right we’re going with crazy. But some choices will change – we can’t take too much time on any one thing”

“No need to move fast – my guess is they’re moving fast towards us,” Fennec doomsays.

“That’s why we have to move fast!”

A quick move up the passage: a chamber opens right. It is empty – some sort of guard-room – and they cluster into cover there. Pausing to listen, they catch a deep commanding voice speaking in archaic Dwarven. At random odds, Cauleigh plays the beam down the passage and Crompton places his arquebus on its monopod and tries a shot:

Boom!

“Pretty sure I got him,” Crompton announces, reloading. Fennec tries a long-reach OTIS but nothing lights up. Whatever the voice was roaring, he’s now saving his breath. There’s a heavy slam, as of a door.

Two doors, one either side of the passage, lie between the four and that retreating foe. Both doors open into the passage, and Jotunn indicates the right-hand one shows signs of traffic. Both are jammed using knife blades.

“Since it’s a trivial amount, I’m going to make sure of this,” Fennec says, throwing a Lock-Tight on each.

[With a L2 tracking roll Jotunn can’t be too definite about what went where]

 

Missing the leader – time to flee!

Fennec protesting at the speed of advance, they push on to the end of the passage and a door. It appears to open away from them. Jotunn pushes it open:

A large group!

[L11 IQ check to gauge what’s happening, when Fennec asks for the IQ roll. He gets level 6 and spots the ‘important’ one with a two-hander sword, and womenfolk, among the general group of Black Dwarves.]

Fennec tries a L3 TTYF but as it happens a regular black Dwarf steps in front at that moment, and dies.

Crompton shoots: one staggers.

Jotunn hauls the door closed again and yells:

“Retreat!”

Fennec attempts to Lock-Tight it but isn’t quick enough: Jotunn grabs him up as black Dwarves boil out! Cauleigh is far ahead by this time. Jotunn, Fennec more or less carried, runs past Crompton and into the side-chamber. Two fleet-foot black Dwarves catch Crompton.

 

Cauleigh swings back, wrenching Crompton free and dragging him away from the pursuers. Crompton’s pack straps tear.

“Pull back on me – Hidey Hole!” Fennec calls, dropping the Hidey-Hole over all of them as the two black Dwarves rip away Crompton’s pack and stumble back.

As the black Dwarves follow up, torches are hastily doused, leaving the black Dwarves with the smell of extinguished torches! They rush past, and hard on their heels go the bulk of the other black Dwarves. Jotunn presses his ear to the ground and guesses about ten.

I ask Fennec’s player to remind me to reward him later. The LT on the side doors was decisive. 

 

Herbals armour up! Let’s get back down there!

A game of blind man’s bluff commences as the Dwarves feel their way to the secret door and the black Dwarves try to distinguish them from any other black Dwarf.

 

At length they gain Level One. They’ve killed one guard further back, hauling him into the HH and slitting his throat. And they’ve decided not to tackle the leader as he’s surrounded by others.

 

“Let’s rest up, bring the Herbals, and at least take out a half dozen or so more,” Cauleigh suggests confidently. “I think we should hit them now, not later,” he continues.

“I’ll be low in mana,” Fennec warns

“But you’ll have Sage’s store, or whatever,” Cauleigh prompts.

 

The Herbals are keen for action! A day of exercising ponies or standing guard will do that. They seem fairly confident that they know what to expect in combat now.

 

Luck stands with the eight-strong party: they catch another patrol of four, isolated at the pedestal. Firearms are levelled and two fall. Before the other two can run, Fennec cracks an OGA over them. One, wounded, charges dying on his feet straight onto Heartsease’ Demilune, and Cauleigh trips the other and he is done to death immediately.

“Reload,” Jotunn reminds them all.

 

Ambush – let’s turn the tables!

They push through the weaving course of passage-chamber-passage and are ambushed in a chamber with three doors: or more precisely two doors and a disappearing door.

Cauleigh jumps for a barely-glimpsed group, finding it is but a single foe, and sweeps his feet out; Sage calls his warriors to cover the rear and he and Fennec follow Cauleigh. Jotunn, with a good surge of strength, overbalances a group coming at them from the side, allowing the Herbals to get clear. But he drops his torch, and Crompton decides not to shoot into that pile-up. He swings the barrel to cover the Herbals’ warriors, seeing only their backs. He swings again, seeing a flurry of bodies at an open door. “We’re falling back!” cries Sage. Crompton changes grip and checks the black Dwarves pressing the Herbals with an Alakascram! Trefoil and Heartsease back up, Crompton and Jotunn leading.

Cauleigh’s opponent is still full of fight and both he and Fennec are slightly wounded by the time Cauleigh wrestles him over the door threshold. Wolfie leaps past or over them into the grand passage, scanning for enemies: it’s clear!

Fennec and Sage stop mid-retreat for a chat about possibilities to shape the dungeon stone.

“No hurry Sage, we’re only fighting for our lives!” Trefoil bellows. They are taking some damage despite having the best of the fighting withdrawal.

Cauleigh, under a Little Feets, leaps back into the chamber to help the others retreat. With another sweep, four enemies pile up. Hopelessly enmeshed, the black Dwarves begin fighting one another: the warriors laugh and slay them!

They realise victory is at hand and pursuit speeds them after the remaining pair of black Dwarves. Wolfie and Cauleigh prevent their flight and they too are slain.

Rifling the seven corpses turns up about 100 gold coins. The path lies clear back through the guard chambers and to the black Dwarves’ inner chambers! And as they pause to decide their next move the session ends.

 

Whew! Some good decision-making on when to force the pace. Must try to reflect that when handing out dungeon level bonus.

I wasn’t surprised that in each “quick decision” encounter the lads have gone for violence. I’m sure I’d do the same if I was playing a fully geared-up tank in a dungeon. Let’s face it – I did the same when I was playing a slender scholar in the Dark Heresy universe. Violence is the simple solution.

We’re nearly at the point where I can do a mini-review of the dungeon. What I’d like to do here is note a difference I decided on when planning out adapting for dT&T. The black Dwarves are based on a dT&T illkin race, more than they are on the AD&D original. If I changed the balance of the module by doing that, it’s my fault, or to my credit, depending. Since it had a huge effect on escape back up to Level One it proved crucial. Basically, you can’t ever hide from the original short of polymorphing into them, and you can from this version. 

Props

Dominoes! (Those Disney-themed plastic things your kid drove you nuts about a year or so back.) Lucky accident really. I pasted paper Grimlock pix on the dominoes, leaving the dotted side visible on the flip side. One domino covers about two inch squares on the battlemap. Then I thought, ‘why don’t I use the dots to create uncertainty as to how many are in each group?’ It worked really well, and partly prevented that ‘we can see everything’ issue that you get using a battlemap and minis. Neither I nor players knew exactly how many would be in any group, until the domino was flipped. In one excellent moment, Cauleigh’s player correctly guessed which domino to go for – the number was one. It really felt like that ‘I can see something moving – or is that several somethings?’

Chessex Battlemaps! We’ve got three between us and at 1″=5′ all three are now in use. Make sure you use water-soluble markers, not dry-erase.

Minis! I’ll try to take a picture next time. Two – Crompton and Fennec – from Reaper Bones, Cauleigh from Gamezone, and Jotunn from Darcy Perry’s (who is a long-time T&T fan) Star Hat Miniatures. The Herbals, as befits “also starring” are much more generic and makeshift. 

 

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