DCC3: The Frostfang Expedition, part two

Welcome back! Eight level one adventurers and two NPCs seek to prevent the Earth-Mote of Dagon the Eternal from plummeting onto Neverthawe!

Our session begins with death saves:

Survivors of a Frost Gnat swarm: Fleentz the halfling, Gruin the NPC dwarf, Bootsie the warrior, Mickey the wizard, Boris the elf, and John the thief: have finally burnt the Frost Gnats away from the crevasse in the steps carved into Frostfang mountain. Bodies are being checked for signs of life: but among them Levi the NPC cleric stirs. And rises!

In the intervening week I made all four poison Fort SV for Levi and he also managed to heal himself, to around half hp. Levi is on neutral Disapproval.

Here I should note the “Luck check” for not being dead appears to be a Luck SV ie roll under your Luck. That’s what I went with.

As they gather round Levi to congratulate him, two characters recall that during the fight they were near him at one time and had a vision. At this stage they do not reveal those.

Martin the cleric: lives! -4 to all checks for an hour, and at 1hp, and permanent -1 STR

Trev the warrior: lives! -4 to all checks for an hour, and at 1hp, and permanent -1 STR (which also drops him to -1 to attack and damage).

Percy the warrior: sadly his plummet into the crevasse proves fatal.

John pitons in and ropes down to loot Percy and the desiccated corpse of a previous expedition member. He notices that the latter has a tarnished and tattered version of Levi’s amulet – the one he claims Dagon dropped from the sky.

Loot: mainly sharing out Percy’s travel gear, rope, oil, torches etc. Coins are shared round.

[At the GM’s insistence, for time is pressing] the party finishes the roping-across business – John clambers up with little difficulty – and as they finish scaling the steps, the gnat-affected pair slowly recover their focus [ie are no longer at -4 on all rolls.]

Are we there yet?

For all that, it has been an increasingly-cold climb. Fort SV!

Thanks to having cut through the mines and clad themselves warmly, [earning a +4 on the roll] most characters cope – in fact a pair of them feel invigorated! Bootsie and Martin become frostbitten and the latter slumps, unconscious. Levi musters a great Lay on Hands check and rises to -1 disapproval. Martin recovers four of his hp.

Encouraged by this Levi then tries to heal Trev, one of the other characters on 1hp, and Fleentz. He first fails then receives full disapproval with a nat 1. For the next while, he must pray constantly to his god and can’t take part in conversation or the like. Martin does manage to heal Trev and Fleentz (Fleentz burns a Luck and Martin burns 2). Martin is now at -1 disapproval.

XP: +1 each.

The Ugnoids!

The sleeting wind of the mountain cuts into all present. They have reached the end of the trail as such: it has wound its way clockwise to where a tunnel pierces the mountainside, leftward, and from it a mining-cart rail heads to a sheer drop, rightward. In theory the tunnel should lead straight towards whatever allows access to the earth mote!

The area between the party van and the tunnel is rugged and provides plenty of cover. Two small, blue, and ugly humanoids are outside and stationed above the tunnel mouth, despite the icy cold. They appear to be bickering about a card game.

One character, Bootsie, speaks dwarven and their language seems somewhat alike. Fleentz reminds the others – citing Dagon’s note – that they were told to speak to these blue-skinned critters.

The decision is to negotiate. Bootsie is willing to try, and Levi supports the proposal. Mickey keeps well in cover.

XP: +1 each

PRS:PRS test: Bootsie gets a good result, but the critters roll a 17.

The guards challenge them! And seem un-inclined to allow them any further!

Raisin-loaf is offered. [Boris has the best PRS and gets to make a bonus check.] Not good! A very large number of Ugnoids emerge from the tunnel and surround the party, keeping far enough away that they can use slings first. Among the tribesmen are fanged, penguin-like creatures.

John suggests that the tarnished amulet he looted may prove tempting. PRS check 15!

While the Ugnoids cease threatening death, they herd the party inside the tunnel and to the common chamber of the tribe. This is good news, because it is well-warmed by a hearty fire. But what will be their fate?

XP: +4 each, they have avoided a pitch battle and gained the chance for diplomacy

Two characters have appropriate backgrounds and work out that the Ugnoids must be making firewood gathering expeditions below the treeline.

Scroll Bargain

Urged to their haunches the nine await their fate. A wrinkly old Shaman leading war-penguins emerges. Behind him a mightier, chieftain-like Ugnoid leads a frail human slave. Who translates!

Thilas Evergood has endured long years of slavery. The chief wants to know, why they are trespassing?

Boris seeks to persuade further: PRS check 18! Convincing!

The explanation satisfies the chief. He allows them to pass on condition they share half the loot of what lies ahead.

XP: +2 each. Loot: Boris can say “I know something about this” in one earth-mote crisis.

While they consider their next move (and Levi is still occupied praying) Boris recounts a vision he had while Levi was rubbing that amulet. This is the third vision someone has had in similar circumstances, and they are beginning to get the idea that these may be revealing how to resolve the town’s peril. “…The blue-skins have the scroll,” he finishes.

Finally, to the matter of the scroll!

I feel the diplomacy effort should be rewarded. The lowest PRS now gets to make an attempt to either drop the party into a running-battle-escape, or really take advantage of success to date.

Trev steps up with PRS 4: nat 20!

The chieftain, deeply enjoying the raisin loaf, waves benignly at the shaman’s quarters. Despite the splutterings of the latter the party collects a ritual scroll from the shaman’s lock-box.

XP: +4 each! A huge gain for no pain!

The Bridge 1000 feet up!

The icy winds of the summit slap the party’s exposed skin. They can see ahead of them the earth-mote, floating opposite. Connecting their summit to the mote is a rickety rope-and-plank-bridge. Frozen ropes, and ice-crusted planks.

Levi reminds Mickey he has a Mending spell, and we read the description. A rickety plank would be mended by the minimum effect. Or I may accept one piece of the rope.

As they make their way onto the bridge Levi clutches his amulet and Fleentz and Boris receive visions. Porcupine blood poured, then Sycamore bark and Crows feet burned, then the Scroll reading, seem to be the order of the ritual.

Agi checks all round, and again most character do very well! Gruin has to burn 2 Luck, and Levi and Fleentz 1 each. John rolls a nat-1!

John crashes through a weak plank, misses his chance to catch himself (since he is next to Levi and Gruin and they both missed their own checks) and with the roll of a d10 and a d4 drops 1000 feet, crashes through the roof of the Gilded Griffon, and distributes himself through two floors.

In hindsight, Gruin failed worse – I did not apply his Agi check penalty for chainmail. But in the long run it all worked out.

XP: +2 each

Evergreenk of doom!

Amazingly, the earth-mote has a warm micro-climate. The castle walls lie beyond green turf – strangely torn up as though by tree roots – and a scatter of sinister pine trees, each with morbid trophies of the many deceased that have attempted the walls.

The castle gate lies left, but seems closed by a rusted portcullis. The party moves to investigate the wall instead, and is attacked by an animated pine tree! It wields the rusty but effective weapons borne aloft in its branches!

Combat

Since this is largely theater of the mind, we arrange Trev Gruin and Bootsie into one rank of defense, Martin and Levi into a second rank of torch-tossers, and Fleentz and Boris into one rank of oil-hurlers. Mickey stays well back – he is vital to the ceremony.

It’s time to go for broke and bust out Mighty Deeds of Arms! A success means a successful shield-block, failure means a squishy support party member may be hit.

The Evergreenk gives Gruin a right beating – it has 4 activations – but he and Bootsie and Trev do succeed in blocking attacks while oil is (eventually) thrown accurately and torches are (50-50) lobbed in the right place. Mickey uses Animal Summoning to bring forth a beaver which ring-barks the Evergreenk, then Bootsie makes the final chop and fells the tree!

XP: +2 each. Loot: at the foot of the tree, a previous expedition’s recipe-bag containing porcupine blood, crows feet, and sycamore bark gives them spare ingredients.

The Ritual and the Hourglass: Dagon Revolts!

A fine Agi check to scale the wall soon has them all roped up and over before the evil wood-spirit can inhabit another tree. In the courtyard, off to the west, they can see an ethereal hourglass floating above a circle formed of deep-cut stone. They head there, but as Mickey supervises the prep and Fleentz (who is dextrous and nimble) prepares to conduct the physical work, they are interrupted!

A booming – yet serene, at first – voice questions their motives.

On learning they intend to prolong the earth-mote, an entire corner of the castle tears itself away, revealing that Dagon has somehow become so corrupted and deformed that he is part of the castle itself!

Combat

There’s a lot of moving parts to this combat, but it is simpler than some the adventure envisages.

  • Levi struggles against the mind-control effect of Dagon’s amulet – but shakes off its demand that he fight for Dagon and with a second sequential success on WILL SV, tears it off and hurls it away!
  • The warriors again form a defense screen, battling first with scroll-golems then to prevent Dagon-tower-beast from breaking through.
  • Dagon-tower-beast uses Gust of Wind to destroy the ritual once – which slams Boris back into a nearby wall, killing him – but Fleentz and Mickey manage to remain on site and get the fire going.
  • Levi attempts to Lay on Hands on Boris, but fails. Then he nat 1s the next attempt and goes to full Disapproval!
  • Jumping into danger to prevent Dagon-tower-beast from burning Mickey is painful. Luck SV to avoid! Fail! All warriors fall!
  • Mickey screams out the ritual as the last warrior falls! And Fleentz and he turn the hourglass!

XP: +4 each

The Goddess Malotoch descends!

The vast raven-shape cloud hovering over Mickey condenses, forming a carrion crow dragon seeming as large as the mountain. It folds Dagon-tower-beast into its wings. His form shrinks to become merely man-size, a wizened ancient possessed of a fiery eye and attack tentacle!

The goddess ascends to watch with interest…

The final conflict!

“You madmen! I have to serve for another hundred years! I’ll kill you allllll!!!!” – Dagon

Combat

Martin manages to Lay on Hands in time to save one of the warriors. He randomly chooses Bootsie! 9hp! Bootsie is healed! Fleentz laughs insanely and charges! Dagon simply sidesteps the halfling, who careens past. Mickey attempts Choking cloud but fails. Dagon’s eye blazes and Bootsie burns 2 Luck and manages to hurl himself aside! Dagon’s next attack fails! Levi – realizing Dagon is vulnerable – advances, calls on Blessing and rolls a nat 1 – he is effectively out of Bless. Bootsie rises, charges (he is lightly armored) and cuts successfully. The first damage to Dagon!

Martin has a chance to confront Dagon, draws his mace, and joins the front rank: he misses! Fleentz has a temporary advantage but manages to miss with both weapons. Since he is on 1 Luck that’s where that stays. Mickey attempts Animal Summoning but fails. (He is now down to Mending.) Dagon lashes out, smashes at Martin but misses and his scorching eye-ray flares wildly away. Levi finishes drawing his battleaxe, swings and misses.

“Shoulda been with a Lawful god” – Martin

Bootsie turns a hit into a Mighty Deed, makes the thumb-jab into Dagon’s eye he aimed for – and Dagon falls!

“More raisin loaf for us all, boys! Ah hah hah hah hah hah!” – Bootsie

Malotoch swoops, tosses the dying wizard up and crunches him down like a delicious morsel.

She gazes at the last living wizard – Mickey – and offers him the deal of a looooong lifetime. He declines.

“My god has filled me with self-loathing for the last time” says Levi as he takes up the offer.

Boris and Trev both make their death checks!

XP+4 each. Everyone is level two!

Aftermath: Loot and Fame

The castle lies open. Exploring it, they find a room that mirrors, to some degree, the room that the Gilded Griffon owners keep ready above-stairs. Mickey deciphers the portal command, allowing ready access through the supposedly brick wall, into the inn.

Many arcane treasures lie about the castle. Once Mickey has transcribed Detect Magic into his Grimoire, no doubt he will share them out and all survivors will go on to even greater fame. Maybe to one of the locations that seem to be accessible from a second wizard’s circle… But for now they are the Neverforgotten Saviors of Neverthawe!

Judge’s final word

This was another top-notch adventure from Purple Sorcerer Games. There were one or two points that could have been clearer. This does not mean I would drop my overall rating of the adventure. Highly recommended.

The two points I noted are:

A couple more lines on the stat-blocks for Levi and Gruin would have made my life easier. Particularly check penalties. If I ran it again I would pen those in.

The Ugnoid stronghold appears to be written as a hostile camp. But here and there, negotiations of the “you are helpless captives” type are described. In my own solo DCC plays I leaned heavily on PRS v PRS for abstract interactions so went with that, but that certainly is not what the text implies. Equally, it does not say “they attack on sight” or go into detail about what would, or would not, be a red line. Maybe one callout-box “for diplomats” and another “for ninjas” would clarify what types of checks are appropriate.

It’s so long, for now, to DCC. I have quite a lot of DCC adventures, and the group seems to enjoy them as fun one-offs, so I strongly suspect we’ll see this or a group based around this party again.

Next 2 weeks: I am away from the tabletop. I expect to kick off DGA Season 6 in 3 weeks time.

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