Wizard and warrior down!
When we left our combat en tableau last session, the Restorers and their allies the Herbal Teas had unleashed a volley of flung weapons at Samuel of the Loam in his snakey, gliding-along-the-ceiling form. Seven missiles had got close enough to be shot down by the wizard’s protective spell, and then when Jotunn roared for one more, Sage had shot the wizard with his light crossbow, then screamed:
“Get him, Wolfie!”
[As Crompton is currently out of the combat, I get his player to roll for Wolfie: first a STR SR to see how close his jump will be, then a DEX SR to target the wizard with his bladed chain. It’s the beginning of a good night for Wolfie and he makes two fine rolls.]
Cauleigh Jotunn and the two Herbals warriors see the Wulfan appear from off right of the passage, leap high, and near the top of his arc cast his blade unerringly into the wizard! Samuel gives a great cry and his staff drops to the ground below.
The warriors of course have not halted to see the outcome! Jotunn and Cauleigh keep their momentum and clear the grisly pile of corpses near the passage mouth. But nor have the black Dwarves halted their momentum! Fennec sees the pair that Jotunn and Cauleigh had been fighting off, looming out of the pitch dark and rushing him! Bellowing a warning he flees and leaps and lands clumsily thigh-deep in bloody corpses, on the ‘safe’ side of Heartsease and Trefoil: those two swing their polearms back ready to defend him. There’s a tremendous flash [L7 CON for all out to Cauleigh and Jotunn; L5 will be adequate; secondary check of L3 for Crompton] – Trefoil and Fennec cry in pain and fear – grunting and clashing as polearms and swords are wielded and screams of pain – then Heartsease is yelling:
“Trefoil’s down! Sage! Where the hell are you!”
An unexpected reversal and fire-breath
Where indeed? Sage has instinctively re-hidden and is cowering in a different corner lest the pistolier swing his way.
Meanwhile Cauleigh hands Jotunn a bolus from his locket, takes one himself and – despite throats being dry – they swallow. And look to where the pistolier was.
But the pistolier has decided retreat is the best option. Giving up his chance for a shot he gets back out of the door and is lost to sight. At the same time with a <PHOO> sound Samuel’s body is vomited out and a vast serpent barrels at Jotunn and Cauleigh!
Flame erupts from their throats and bathes the mighty form as it crashes through the warriors and along the passage, knocking all aside including the black Dwarves, and away north into blackness.
[The pair chooses to protect the less-armoured characters and share some spite, their excellent armour takes the rest]
Fennec secures the scene
Fennec picks himself up, finishes clambering over the bodies, as the warriors reverse course again and leap past him to pursue the huge snake. He rushes to where Wolfie is ravening into the wizard’s body: kicks the staff well clear: keeps his foot on it as he commands:
The Wulfan looks up, startled. Shreds of fabric armour cling to his tiger-claw and a large chunk of the wizard’s throat drips blood down his muzzle.
Sensing that Samuel won’t need to be subdued, Fennec kicks the staff out of harm’s way and hastens back to the passage. By this time Sage has managed to tiptoe his way through he blood and slime and is working on Trefoil, Heartsease distractedly leaning over the pair. Fennec pats the Gnome’s shoulder:
“He’s gone lad, leave him be.”
But with no leisure to see the outcome he gets to the corner in time to see:
The fight in the east passage
A furious fight ensues as the black Dwarves collect themselves after being barged through, the black Dwarf women north of them attempt to deal with Crompton, and Jotunn and Cauleigh arrive on the scene.
At first the black Dwarves believe themselves to have the better position. Crompton spoils this for them! Alone in the dark, he’s smeared Blindsight paste on his eyelids and has hunted into the black Dwarf women. They are relatively ill-armed but in such numbers that soon, Crompton is in danger! But they do not lend their numbers to their king and war-leader and Jotunn – using his strength – and Cauleigh drive that pair back into their womenfolk. The fighting becomes general along the passage around the eastern guardroom. Wolfie – though not Heartsease – joins at the tail of the melee and uses his bladed chain as a missile.
[The players choose to use their slight advantage to keep the group penned up rather than letting them retreat. It does have the effect of isolating Crompton to some extent, he survives but gets in trouble as he tries to skirt the fight.]
The Dwarves are not fooled a second time by the king’s blinding radiance gadget, and the king and his henchman are not fooled by Cauleigh’s dodging and sweeping. The latter has his mace kicked away, and sweeps up the frostbrand sword. Now on the scene and bringing his Will-o-Wisp to enable him to see, Fennec, staying tucked in cover back at the corner, throws in a Glue-You: it’s aimed at the king but he’s already shifted, and his henchman suffers its effect. Jotunn with axe and knife and Cauleigh, now two-handed, turn on the king. They see, like a dark shadow, Crompton driving south around the melee – then there’s a clong and he falls. Unable to help, they hammer at the king’s weird blank-faced helmet until with a cry he stumbles and nearly falls. His women drag him further north, back over the bodies of two of their number that Crompton felled in his first attack. Cauleigh sees an opening and yells:
Wolfie bounds away, joins the other Herbals and the trio drag and carry Trefoil towards the secret panel. With a sigh Cauleigh draws his light-cube and follows up north.
The Dwarf warriors – though not Fennec who is well back – realise the black Dwarf women are carrying Crompton’s body away. Jotunn risks a cut sideways at the king as he surges forward against the henchman, while Cauleigh continues to hammer at the king. His shiny helm is smashed off and, guard beaten down, he takes a mortal wound. Jotunn powers into the henchman and he too falls!
Is Crompton alive? Let’s loot!
Jotunn and Cauleigh recover Crompton’s body there, much further north than they last saw him. He’s been carried, then dropped. He sits up and rubs the back of his head. There’s a nice goose-egg lump there. [9 off CON and a weird semi-dream scene where he understands what the black Dwarf women are saying]
Fennec looks back at where the Herbals are retreating. He notices a long fang lying where Sage Heartsease and Trefoil were clustered. He’s down to his last drop of mana, but sees the perfect chance for spending it:
“Keep that fancy light on Cauleigh, I’m casting Detect Magic!”
Looting anything magical and the obvious retail-value stuff, and bringing Trefoil’s spear, the party returns safely to base camp.
A drastic remedy calls for diplomacy
“It was all I could think of – the poison is paralytic – I thought that, if it preserves the body, that’s Trefoil’s best chance!”
So explains Sage. He injected Trefoil with the fang. Thinking “by the Lady – that’s completely bonkers” Fennec strokes his beard and chooses diplomatic silence. The corpse is rigid and pale. No heartbeat can be detected.
The Dwarves have now worked out at least part of the riddle of the snake-bodied. It seems that the huge serpent swallows a man to the waist, punctures the small of the back with their fangs, then uses the man as a thrall. As Crompton points out they had clues quite a long time back and even defeated a thrall-warrior and snake.
As the party winds down, remembers Trefoil’s bravery and good nature and the good times and hard times shared, AP is spent.
Cauleigh is level four!
Heartsease is given the superior steel Ravenclaw heroic dagger. (Ravenclaw is a Sarn-mark slang term, in the same sense as ‘Arkansas toothpick’.)
Cauleigh keeps the frostbrand sword (Freeze Please as per spell) but hasn’t attuned it yet.
Two non-magic two-hander swords are of good quality and superior quality respectively.
Two beaten-iron daggers are of sufficient balance and quality to replace two of Crompton’s and go to him.
The sword-length, needle shaped gadget that generated light needs some Omni-Eye studying. It comes with a scabbard and baldric.
The faceless helm has a low-level protective charm but cannot be used by the Dwarves.
The wizard’s corpse rendered:
- the staff (not deluxe, 3d6 in combat)
- a jade ring that is a battery and
- a gold ring that appears to hold ‘charges’ – possibly spells – but will need proper Omni-Eye work.
Jotunn will need to get his magic coif to a magic-shaping smith, its power is gone.
Strategy session and a good face-wash for blind Crompton
After a rest of perhaps a day Trefoil’s corpse is shifted away north of the great chamber behind the mirror-wall, and Cauleigh inspires the team to keep moving forward. Plans and tactics are discussed. Mass Little Feets seems a good safe option. The “fire breath pills” are shared out and the activation word learned. Painfully for some. Fennec makes sure Heartsease is given one.
There’s discussion of the Blindsight paste now that Crompton can report on its usefulness. Because of its short range effect versus great use of missile and long-range spells, it’s a last resort. But until he uses water and a cloth to wash his eyelids the paste does not come off – it is durable.
Strategy is over – let’s get down there!
Heartsease close behind them, Jotunn and Cauleigh lead the way to Level Two. Crompton with arquebus and Fennec with staff at the ready are next, and Sage and Wolfie are rearguard.
There’s a hitch in the general strategy of “same route, known path” when the ‘ambush room’ proves to have two scavenging fire beetles in it.
It’s time to navigate the pit! Rope is fetched in a quick return to Level One, and Wolfie uses Jotunn’s stirrup-assist to leap up from the shallow water and out into the guardian chamber. From there it’s easy.
Jotunn finds a trail
This time, bodies lie where they fell though insects have already been at work. The chambers north of the east passage have been evacuated in haste. Here and there rocks or knives have been used to slow pursuit.
It’s in the second or third stage of checking for sign that Jotunn holds up a fragment of wood.
“Crate fragment. And a fresh chip, at that. Haven’t seen sign of the hyena-man gear again, till now.”
Stuffing crude electrum bars into their packs – the only thing of any real value other than some throw-axes and a longbow and arrows – they begin choosing whether to keep pushing north or explore east.
Another ambush survived
As Cauleigh and Jotunn look north to a T-passage the pistolier tries a shot! Crompton falls!
Only to get up again rubbing his chest ruefully: his locket is ruined. [The Blindsight paste can be used this dungeon only.]
[The pistolier is not specifically targeting Crompton, he just gets the lowest LK SR. 3 off CON based on spite damage]
Jotunn reloads his arquebus: he’s tried a return shot but it was stopped by the pistolier’s heavy back-mounted shield. Fennec frowns angrily: he was sure that Oh-Go-Away would work. Crompton picks up his torch again: it hasn’t even gone out.
Fennec rips one off
As far as Jotunn could see, the pistolier-snake went west, so with all firearms are primed and matches lit they follow up that way. The west arm of the passage leads to a door.
And in the rear the ‘Samuel’ giant snake attacks!
“Fall back!!” Fennec bellows, stepping smartly out of the line of charge into safety south. He readies his staff… Crompton, who is next the door, Lock-Tights it to prevent that sneaky ‘double back and snap-shoot’ the pistolier loves… Cauleigh and Jotunn fire their matchlocks accurately past Heartsease who despairingly braces her Demilune:
There’s a huge crimson CONCUSSION that near-stuns everyone. The fanged skull and vertebra of a gigantic snake clatter to the floor at Heartsease’ feet; wisps of snakeskin and vaporised snake-flesh drift away.
Just south of the T, Fennec looks grimly smug. He’s used the second-last charge on his staff and delivered a L5 TTYF!
The party checks the east passage the great monster came from. It looks as though the broad T-shaped chamber that way is a throne-room, but there’s no opposition and they sense they have the momentum and follow up through the west door.
Chase that pistolier! Watch out above!
A much broader gallery runs north-south. This door appears to pierce it perhaps halfway along. Cauleigh ducks and rolls across it ending back-to-wall facing the others. To his right, a great ape-shape rises. Opposite it, another very similar yes – statue – stands. Beyond them to the south, double doors.
As Jotunn paces carefully across the broad stone floor looking for tracks he’s nearly taken unawares – but his feeling more than any coherent knowledge that the double doors are not fully closed allows he and Fennec to throw themselves to cover. BAM! The pistol ball is wide of its mark.
In the next moment the silent swoop of an enormous winged humanoid catches them off-guard. It strikes at Cauleigh who dive-rolls clear! From the door, Crompton levels his arquebus and lets drive, accurately. Leaping back to his feet Cauleigh fends it off: it flaps back up to clutch a stone lintel. As Jotunn weighs up his options he again senses a winged approach: he seizes Fennec, pitches him through the door into Crompton and dives after him! Coming to his feet he defends the doorway against another equally huge gargoyle-like creature. In the background he can hear Sage protecting the tail with Hidey Hole. Fennec pitches in a Little Feets and Jotunn readies his two-hand mace:
Cauleigh senses movement from the double doors again. He dives across the chamber behind the creature battling Jotunn and jumps up, grabbing a wing. Crompton activates tempus fugit and Fennec LFs Cauleigh.
[ad-hoc, but this is roughly what the chosen strategy was before this foray]
Everything slows down when you are this fast
With such vastly enhanced fighting power the two super-gargoyles are shattered and the double doors gained. As the warriors check in their victory, Fennec follows up and semi-adequate light returns to the broad chamber. Wolfie bounds to the fore with a growl and scrabbles at the double doors. Sage and Heartsease are still unseen somewhere in the rear.
One of the double doors eases open enough for a pistol-shot: Cauleigh speeds forward and pitches his kukri: it whirls through – there’s a hideous scream – and a forearm and hand, still clutching the pistol, drops to the ground. Wolfie is on it! Cauleigh dives, sweeps up the pistol, and snap-shoots! Jotunn is hard on Cauleigh’s heels and wrenching open the door dives through and tackles the snake behind the Elf! Fennec and Crompton are both trying to see a target but the space beyond the doors is in darkness. Crompton tries a shot and his bullet glances off Jotunn’s breastplate.
<PHOO!> A dead Elf hits the floor and in a whirl of Dwarf and giant snake the battle writhes away into pitch darkness. Cauleigh mashes with his mace, Jotunn stabs one-handed and the snake writhes in its death throes!
The survivors for the session:
Fennec, L3 wizard
Cauleigh, L4 warrior
Jotunn, L5 warrior
Crompton, L3 rogue
doubtfully assisted by the Herbal Teas:
Sage, L3 wizard
Heartsease, L2 warrior
Wolfie, L2 wulfan
NPC death: I gather the lads had done some brief thinking about the tacticals over the week and had kept their focus on the pistolier/wizard combo. Extraordinarily this meant running away from their wizard: though as he had deliberately placed himself as close to the oncoming Black Dwarves as possible, the alternative was to retreat fast out of the wizard’s line of fire and stay in the Black Dwarves’ faces. Another perhaps riskier choice would have been to divide up, one Dwarf and one Herbal per flank.
I went with what felt right in the vital result – the ‘blinded’ Fennec could still chip in for half his combat total. Trefoil had rolled a fail on CON so I only allowed him his weapon dice. I guess if a player had argued for it I would have added his warrior dice. He kept full armour. I divided the surplus up evenly and beginning with Fennec, who was at the back, asked what portion of the damage he would take. He left himself 6 CON. Had I then thought strategically I would have dropped both Heartsease and Trefoil to minus CON. But Heartsease had made a great CON check and deserved, or so I felt at the time, the 3 CON I left her with. Between those two decisions Trefoil took 82 damage rather than the 78 he could come back from.
Props: The set-piece dungeon for the season is named Many Gates of the Gann, by Chaotic Henchman Productions. It got a Bryce Lynch commendation and seemed to fit what I wanted out of the season – a dungeon, weird stuff going on, women being stolen and no-one willing to go after the hostiles. I wanted to see how the Restorers would go without same-or-better allies around them.
The dungeon (as it turns out) is well suited to players that have no special time limit. It is ingenious and fit my sense of why things work they way they work. It offers factions for groups that are alert to them and morally elastic enough to use them. There are some very dangerous things to encounter, which I progressively scaled back as more of each level was ‘conquered’. There are a couple of weaknesses, such as the complexity of the lights-and-whistles gadgets and the progression of events after the evil guys know intruders are making inroads on their minions or level. For example while the ‘army’ factions are set up to defend vigorously, anyone familiar with siegecraft knows that you have to take the battle to the besiegers, or you have lost. I left a lot of that to the d10.