Actual Play

13th Age: Gorram Adventurers #3

Shadows in Eldolan continues; as before, given this is playtest material I’m being intentionally vague.

Last session ended in a cliffhanger, with characters facing a dozen or so enemies.

While waiting for TS and AK to arrive we went through icon relationships for characters of those present, checking if there was a background that explained the nature of the connection, and talking about how the players and I saw the relationships as working. This was really good. In most cases the background was fairly obvious, and but the nature of the individual connections wasn’t always as I had assumed. There was one case were we realized the connection was far from obvious, and had to rethink things a bit.

Not entirely sure if it would have been better to do this during chargen, or if it was actually better to leave it a bit late like this.

Then we talked a bit about Horizon, since all the characters are supposed to be familiar with it, but it hasn’t made an appearance in the game yet. We established a sense of what the city looks from afar, and some history, but then TS and AK arrived and it was time to start the game proper.

I would in many cases have been perfectly willing to start without them, but I had left the game in a cliffhanger with the characters facing a hard fight, and decided to use the time while waiting otherwise — especially since I knew beforehand that they would be late. TPK in session #3 while waiting for reinforcements would have been pretty rough…

At this point I also explained my experimental take on icon relationship rolls.  …and then it was roll initiative!

At first things seemed to be off to a grim start as two of the opponents started manipulating the environment magically, essentially using the room the characters were in as a weapon — but then one accidentally hit the other, and it was downhill from there. Luck of the dice. The characters took out most of the mooks before the poor bastards even managed their first action, and after that it was mopping up, mostly, at least for the first chamber.

In the second chamber evil was afoot, and I asked the players to choose if they would either take a quick rest before attacking the inner sanctum resetting the escalation die to 0, or if that if they managed to penetrate to the next chamber in one round they could keep the current escalation. They elected to press on.

The fight in the second chamber was brief but very hectic! The door area was quickly overcrowded, and it took a few tried before anyone was able to engage the leader inside, trying to interrupt his nefarious plans… which didn’t quite work out. Still, once the dust settled the characters emerged victorious and alive. They had captured one enemy alive, but he later died from his wounds.

Leo also discovered that the belt Ancalimë had used to hang herself earlier is now apparently possessed by the ghost of his father. A magical belt is a nice thing to have… but this one has a personality and an agenda.

Highlights from the fight:

  • Enemy fumbles. Gods. Ouch.
  • Robina opening the fight by nailing two enemies with a single arrow, then subsequently attempting to surf past some enemies on an overturned brazier and …not quite making it.
  • Leo using the chain that was supposed to trap him to swing around the room. Swashbuckling talent is made of awesome. His later attempt to tumble through a mess of people in a doorway was less successful, but also possibly a misruling on my part. Need to think about the nature of engagement a bit more.
  • Lucius’ by turns brutally primitive and madly skillful tactics: at one point he engaged essentially all opponents all by his lonesome, and seemed very happy doing so. :)
  • Ancalimë teleporting in front of the evil leader and using Shocking Grasp to throw him backwards so he wasn’t where he wanted to be. Very stylish, very tactical. Who needs a bloody grid?
  • Eisenzwerg powering through the opposition to reach the big bad, and giving it the big smackdown with a big hammer.

I really really like the way the rules work. There is an awfully nice mix of “dice tell you what happens” and “players tell you what happens” at play here.

This was an awesome fight in many ways, but … it took  too long. (Then again, it was essentially a fight + a double strength fight in a row, so maybe that isn’t too surprising.)

I like to describe what’s happening, the players like to describe what their characters are doing, everyone has fun and laughs: this takes a lot longer than “I attack, 17, 5 damage”.

Everyone is getting proficient with their character abilities, so there was only a tiny bit of “Can I do this?” and “How does this work?”, and I had prepared a bit better so I had less paper to shuffle: I’m pretty sure if we’d run this fight last week it would have taken a lot longer. So progress is good. :)

Still, I do want to speed them up some more yet.

I don’t want to cut down on the awesome or the fun, but I do want to be able to fit more non-combat stuff in a session. Will need to think about this, keeping an eye out on what actually takes most of the time. Maybe it’s just making sure that one turn follows another without delay. Maybe it’s me looking for the right die. (I kept dropping my dice on the floor all the time tonight!)

My OSR influenced inclination would be to just cut everyone’s HP in half… but I’m not sure how well that would go down. :P

Surveying the place after opposition had been removed revealed some clues that the characters decided to follow up next day. There was some debate about weather they should report to the authorities or possibly torch the building (I told them that cities are usually warded quite well, so they’re highly unlikely to burn down more than the single building. Highly unlikely.) In the end they decided to stash all the corposed in the secret basement so innocent bystanders would not stumble across them too easily. They also rescued one prisoner who was still unconscious when they vacated the premises.

There is one complication that is emerging that I’m not entirely happy with: the fiction is forming in a way that bodies just left where they fall are quite likely to rise as undead due to the call of the Lick King. This means that adventurers who care about stuff need to spend time disposing of the bodies of their enemies.

It’s a dose of realism in a way, and not entirely bad, but it is a timing and logistics wrinkle — and I’m not entirely sure what it will do to the tone of the game.

We’ll need to talk about this a bit. I suspect the easiest solution is to say “it’s possible”, but that 99 times out of hundred when a zombie rises “spontaneously” there’s really an active agency behind it: so leaving a battlefield with thousands of dead on it to fester would be a spectacularly bad idea, but a dozen corpses in basement would not be much of an issue.

Next session will probably be next week. Based on the plans I’ve heard the players mention so far the adventure as written is probably about to go offroad — but that’s fine by me. :D

13th Age: Gorram Adventurers #2

Still keeping this vague, as the Shadows in Eldolan is not out yet, even though the playtest is technically over. Commentary is in blockquotes, while the actual actual play is the main text. Hopefully that’s readable.

One new player joined us: AK.

I expect this to be a semi-regular occurrence as it is my preference to run a fairly open table: I’d rather juggle the story to shuffle characters in and out than wrestle with scheduling too much. My rule of thumb for this game is that I’ll run a game with at least two players, and not more than 5. The players present in the last session have precedence, after that it is first come, first served.

This is why I’m thinking about a metagame rule for session end like I used in Guild of Dungeoneers.

In that game unless everyone present can immediately schedule a new game within two weeks, a session cannot end in a dungeon. If the party is not out of the dungeon by the end of the game a rather cruel Escape From Dungeon roll would take place to determine what happens. The game ran for 10 sessions, not the three recorded here, and I don’t think anyone was ever willing to brave that roll.

For Gorram Adventurers I’m thinking the Flee rule of 13th Age might take the same role: if not in “a safe and location convenient for shuffling characters in and out” (say an inn, or taking a non-detailed overland journey, etc) at the end of a session, either schedule the next game immediately, or Flee to an appropriate location — taking a campaign loss. Less wear and tear on the characters, but more weight on the narrative. I think that might work…

Another rule I have in place in order to make running an open table feasible is that unless you already have a character, or have made one character beforehand, you’re going to use one of the ready mades I’ve built. Later you can adjust it to taste, or make a fresh one, but we’re trying to spend a minimum amount of session time on chargen. The one I make have just One Unique Thing, Icon Relationships, and Backgrounds left empty, and for the first session they can stay empty if filling them up would take too long.

Anyways, back to the table.

AK picked a half-orc paladin I’d built. His OUT is pretty outstanding: “Unknown to myself, I’m the reincarnation of the original Orc Lord.” He’s been raised in obscurity by a paladin of the Great Gold Wyrm, and occasionally has strange dreams of ages past. He believes he carries a taint of evil and must do good to counterbalance that. I love it. :)

Last session had ended up with H’s character Ancalimë being sort-of dead as the result a ritual gone wrong.

While T’s character Leo (who can see dead people) was communing with Ancalimë via an ouija board, he observes that the ghost of his father that seems to reside inside Ancalimë’s lifeless body is getting less ragged as time goes by, and worries greatly.

AK’s half orc Lucius arrives, having been given a magical guide to locate the group by the agent of the archmage on whose behalf the characters are working. Leo and Lucius know each other from way back, and thusly his offer of help is readily accepted.

Ancalimë’s body is bathed in holy water, which appears to banish the ghost of Leo’s father, and allows Ancalimë to settle back inside his apparently dead body. After a brief discussion the adventurer’s decide to continue with their plan to [sensored], because dead or apparently dead doesn’t really make that much of a difference — and if he is truly dead it would be a pity to waste his sacrifice…

Following through with their plan they’re eventually sneaking into a building they believe to be the lair of [sensored]. It is dark inside, but Lucius sees a flash of golden light illuminating on unwholesome form hiding in the shadows.

No-one’s perception roll was sufficient to notice creature waiting in ambush, but Lucius rolled well and had a 6 from the Icon rolls that had not been used yet, so with a little spiritual help from the Great Gold Wyrm the party avoided being blindsided.

I’m definitely not quite comfortable with the Icon roll mechanic yet. Don’t get me wrong, I like it, but I don’t feel I know what to do with it yet: some of the characters have already accumulated multiple as of yet unused sixes and fives. I have a decent idea of what some of them mean, but as for the rest…

One thing I’m thinking of is that I could hand out tokens representing them to the players, and allow using them as currency. I don’t like it as the default option, but it seems an attractive way to get rid of excessive successes even if it stinks of taking the easy way out.

Need to meditate on this further.

After a pitched battle the characters discover a hidden door to a tunnel that leads to [sensored cliffhanger].

So yeah, the “Flee at end of session if not in a nice place” rule is not in effect yet. …but now that I think of it, it can actually work pretty nicely at the beginning of a session as well. If there is too much change in the group composition between sessions, the game can start by the characters fleeing from danger and re-grouping.

A very fun session, if a short one. We convened at 1930, the game didn’t really start until closer to 2030, and curtain fell a bit after 2300.

I do need to write myself a cheat-sheet for some rules, though. I also need a better combat record sheet. Tracking initiative and HPs on one piece of paper and having the opposition stats on another means constant shuffling back and forth, and either paper getting lost way too often. When running the Guild of Dungeoneers I discovered how much combat is sped up by making sure I’m organized in such a way that even if I lose focus for a second I don’t lose track of what’s happening.

Can’t wait the next session!

13th Age: Gorram Adventurers – Session 1

I guess Firefly references are the new Monty Python -quotes, eh?

Ran my first 13th Age today. Since it was a playtest game for a forthcoming adventure, I’ll hold mum on most of the happenings, and just pull out some impressions on the system, and a couple of isolated incidents I thought were especially amusing – no, make that gorram funny.

Three of the players had characters made up beforehand, and I made a few fill-in-the-blanks -options for K. who was known to be a late arrival. Chargen was smooth and easy, really. Most of the time went into talking about the world, and hashing out Uniques and Backgrounds, and picking Icon Relationships. After choosing race and class almost all of the option-shopping is contained within the class description, so there’s very little need for back-and-forth browsing — which is something I’ve really hated about making characters in some games.

H played a high elf wizard, who has done something the Elf Queen will not forgive (as mentioned in the previous entry.) A bit more fleshing out revealed that while the Head Librarian at the Queen’s Library, she he had browsed the Forbidden Collection and accidentally read some parts of The Gate and The Key out loud. Oops. The library isn’t quite safe anymore, and in addition to “Please Be Quiet”, there is now also a poster that says “DO NOT GO INTO THE STACKS ALONE!”.

M made a forgeborn fighter, who is “A dwarven artefact of a bygone age, discovered in the deep underworld by the drow, now fuelled by drow crystals distilled from the poison of the underworld.” He (it?) is a thing of clockwork and hydraulics, and strongly believes himself a giant — which he indeed is, …by dwarf standards.

T ended up with a human rogue who sees dead people. He was trained as a temple thief in service of the Priestess by his father, a priest of shadows. Unfortunately he was more interested in picking locks and raising hell than theology…

From the options presented K picked a half elf ranger, and determined that she bound the creatures of the Bloodwood into defence of the Wall while in command of rangers in service of the High Druid (there was a unique opportunity involving some ancient spell that came her way, and she took it.) The Druid was not happy.

All the characters kicked some serious butt, and felt very distinctive. Combat was pretty smooth. Wasn’t quite as fast as I might have liked, but part of that was due to a conscious decision to be clear about the rules instead of moving forward at maximum speed. I’m sure it will speed up quite a bit more.

Icon relationship roll handling will need some more thinking on my part, but I was somewhat constrained there by the adventure we were playtesting. Reading people’s comment on Pelgrane Forums, many groups seem to use them for rather straightforward mechanical bonuses a lot of the time, which I find distinctly unappealing. I think I’d rather let them guide my improvisation.

We saw our first ritual in the game. The characters were in need of a dead body, and decided to fake one. The wizard cast Disguise Self as a ritual: she he staged own suicide by hanging herself with the belt of the rogue character’s dead father; this was to induce a long-lasting pseudo-death she he could cancel at will. …and she failed her roll. Failing forward, her his body is now possessed by the aforementioned dead father. OOPS. By the way, this is the same rogue who has the unique “I can see dead people.” Eh-heh. Anyways, the group’s plan can still work just fine. This is just a minor complication. A highly inconvenient and downright hysterical complication, but definitely not a show stopper. :D

I had a blast.

EDIT: Turns out high elfs can be pretty gender-ambiguous.

Guild of Dungeoneers – S01E03

Caverns of Thracia, part 3

Players: J, VM, HJ

Having lost all their henchmen during their last excursion new ones were needed. Rolf the Hood (J) used his contacts with the local brotherhood to hire a serious young thief called Slim. Darios (VM) decided not to waste any more money than necessary and hired Lug, an inveterate gambler who professed great skill and bravery.

At this point the friends realized they had no-one with any skill in healing with them — but happily they were able to spend of their loot to buy a few potions of healing, and Alia was lucky enough to locate a Blade-Initiate called Niphon, from the same temple as Mearra, who professed modest skill in that direction.

Slim was Rolf’s (or rather J’s) second henchman, so the hiring roll was waived. Since he had paid tribute to the local thieves guild from the last haul I let him just pick up a 1st level thief. (Rolf ended last session 1 XP shy of 3rd level.)

Darios had gotten two henchies killed last time, so VM was out of waived hiring rolls — and needed to show cash up front to find a hireling. As he had also blown most of his money on spells and healing potions (and was still left owing a favor to a wizard in the local elementalists circle…) he cheaped out and went for a 0-level townie to act as a lantern-bearer. I rolled his proficiencies, and he ended up with Gambling x 2, Intimidation, and Trapping. Lug is wonderful: he can’t light a fire or tie a rope, but beats most anyone in dice, and knows how to look threatening enough to get paid. :)

Question arose if can they find a cleric to hire? I figured 1st level fighters are dime a dozen, but Clerics wanting to hire out would be rarer. A few random rolls produced no clerics, but one Bladedancer was available — and since they have access to both Laying on Hands and Healing proficiencies, I ruled that’s what Alia found. Actual hiring roll was again waived as this was Alia’s (or HJ’s) second hireling.

Before they left Mitylene Rolf was contacted by someone in the thieves guild, who told him that apparently a tribesman had been asking about people who sounded a lot like Rolf & company. The rumour was from the beggars, but didn’t come with a good description — so identity of the seeker remained mysterious.

I had earlier asked J if Rolf is going to pay tithe to the local guild: as long as he doesn’t operate in the city he could get away without doing that, but would also have less in the way of contacts. He opted to pay, and was rewarded with an early warning — but of what remains to be seen.

Two days trek later they were again approaching the ruins of Thracia, but this time from a slightly more easterly direction, which brought them across what they surmised was the empty shell of an ancient mill: a stone structure surrounding rapid twin streams of water gushing from a cliff. Since the structure seemed relatively solid and defensible, a base camp was established there — a bit less than a mile from the entrance to the dungeon.

Crossing the ruins of Thracia they saw two gnolls guarding the entrance that had earlier had four gnolls on it. Since the other entrance seemed to lead to areas controlled by tribesmen, and they had reason to suspect the reception there might be even less gracious than last time, the party decided to ambush the gnolls. Patient observation revealed two more gnolls hidden in trees: half an hour later one of them apparently got bored with guard duty and urinated on top of the guard standing below him.

Rolf and Slim sneaked closer to be ready to strike, and Darios cast Sleep on the gnolls. They went out like light, and Rolf and Slim quickly finished them.

Rolf and Slim both actually blew their Hide in Shadows rolls, but the gnolls also blew their observations so catastrophe was averted.

Gnolls out of the picture the party lit their lanterns and descended down the stairs into the unknown. After 80′ of stairs they came to a room with a disgusting stench and several inches of bat guano on the floor — and faded scenes of worship painted on the walls. The bats were disturbed by their light, but did not attack, and seemed to be of the normal-sized variety anyhow.

I had actually expected that the characters use this entrance the first time around… two sessions ago. You never know. :)

There were two paths through the guano: one from the stairs leading to a doorway straight ahead, and one to another doorway to the right. After suffering a few humiliating slips into the guano and investigating a dead-end to the left and finding no signs of secret doors the group continued straight.

They came to a long hall lined with pillars, with a full foot of batshit on the floor — and thousands of bats in the ceiling, and flying all around them, reducing visibility to just a few feet. Still, they could make out lizard-like footprints in the guano — and signs of someone else having slipped as well. Finally they left the hall behind, and came to a small chapel at the end of it, where the remains of an ancient statue lay on the ground, with doors leading both to the left and right.

Trying to shush Lug who was displaying an unfortunate tendency to babble they listened at the doors. From the left door they hears scratching and mulching sounds, perhaps rats or some other vermin? Sounds coming from the right door reminded Rolf of the lizard-speech he hard hear during their last expedition.

They decided to avoid the possible confrontation with the lizardmen and told Lug to hold the lantern high and open the left door. Lug pushed the door in, gave a yelp and jumped back: the floor was teeming with monstrous centipedes. Some of them were eating something on the floor, but several headed for the door!

Alia was quickest and rushed to pull the door closed, but just as she did that several of the centipedes attacked her legs — most of them foiled by her new plate armor, but two of them managed to reach unprotected spots and bit in. As the door slammed shut she nearly fainted from the burning pain of the bites, but others were able to kill the two centipedes that had ended up on the wrong side of the door. As the pain receded she discovered her leg stiff, but still serviceable — but not up to running.

This was HJ’s first encounter with failing Save vs Poison — a relatively gentle one, since these centipedes were cribbed from S&W, which has a slightly less crippling poison than ACKS’ Giant Centipedes: short incapacitation followed by long-term slowed movement instead of long-term near-total incapacitation seemed more appropriate to me.

A bottle of burning oil was pitched through the door, and some while later a peek verified it had cleared most of the centipedes. Shooting arrows from the doorway it was possible to kill all but four of the creatures: a few stubborn ones lurked in a corner they could not get a clear line of fire to. A frontal assault cleared to remaining centipedes, but Alia was bit again, and could now hardly walk at all. It was good that they had a Niphon with them: channeling Ianna’s power she was able to heal Alia’s leg.

I was actually a bit nasty here: since I allowed Laying on Hands to heal the poison, it meant the party would move deeper into the dungeon with less healing available… but I also figured that the centipede poison is about as wussy as it gets, and made the ruling that almost any healing magic at all would cure it. Players take note: healing potions and laying on hands don’t generally neutralize poisons!

After dealing with the wounded and examining the room — which seemed a side chapel of some sort — the party decided to head out and return to the first chamber. However, just as they stepped out of the door the door opposite also opened, with a party of six lizardmen coming out! One of them was leaning on a spear with his foot in bandages, but the others seemed in good fighting trim.

This was the first random encounter in three sessions! Aside from some %-chance-things all random encounter rolls so far had whiffed. However, since it was specified that a group a lizardmen were in the room to the right, I decided to have them come out at the same moment instead of rolling for another group of monsters.

Most everyone on both sides was taken off guard, but Alia and Niphon rushed ahead — trying to contain the lizardmen in the room they were coming from. For a while things seemed pretty desperate: Rolf’s arrow almost hit Alia just before a lizardman’s club crushed his foot, knocking him out with sheer pain. Niphon was cut down, and though Alia managed to finish the lizardman she had earlier wounded they were still facing five of them… then Darios cast Sleep, and took out the rest of the opposition.

This was Rolf’s second brush with death — and the first time the new house rule on Mortal Wounds activated! J took advantage of the Rule of the D30, and rolled d20+d30 instead of d20+d6 — and got a 26+ result, the best possible. So he was functional at 1hp, but three toes shorter. (During the game I missed the fact that there are specific penalties assigned to being lamed in this manner, which is why Rolf didn’t later get his toes regrown. I’m pretty sure J will want to reconsider that come next session.)

Niphon’s roll wasn’t nearly as good, and she would die in a day if not healed to 1hp from her current -5hp before that. Given that a potion of Cure Light Wounds heals only 1d6+1 points, and that she was the only one with any skill at healing in the party, I was pretty sure she would be a goner, but…

Concerned for Niphon’s life Alia pulled out her healing potion and used it on her henchwoman. The potion worked wonders, the Bladedancer came to — in surprisingly good condition. She would need some rest to recover fully, but was out of the danger.

HJ decided to use her roll on the d30 to heal Niphon, so instead of recovering d6+1 she got d30+1 points back… and HJ rolled 30! Strictly by the book Niphon should have recovered to 1hp, and would still need a weeks rest before being fit for duty, but I felt I had to acknowledge the combination of the awesome roll and use of the d30 to save an NPC’s life — so I upgraded Niphon’s status by one row on the Mortal Wounds table which meant she would only need a night’s rest given the magical healing. She was still left with a trick knee, though.

After examining the room the lizardmen had vacated, and the remains of the statue in the main chapel — which yielded the head of the statue in good condition — the party decided to beat a retreat instead of pressing their luck. No-one intercepted the party on their way out, and they reached their base camp in safety.

After a night’s rest, still feeling worse for wear, they decided to spend the day recovering from their wounds. The rest was interrupted by a group of Pixies who stole a mirror from Rolf’s pack, and a ceremonial scarf from Niphon’s — but nothing more serious occurred, so as the day turned towards evening they decided to return to the dungeon.

Second random encounter — and the first one in Wilderness! I’m starting to wonder about my dice, though: I’ve at this point rolled them for encounters an ungodly number of times over three sessions, and gotten only two hits so far. :) The luck continued with the encounter, since pixies are probably one of the least dangerous encounters they could have gotten… I should note here that I’m not using the 4+ encounter roll from ACKS for the jungle around Thracian ruins, but a 6+. Should they move deeper into jungle it would the regulation 4+ instead.

Since they had rested a night and a day I let them have their healing rolls at the end of the day instead of requiring them to wait till next morning — which would have of course required another random encounter roll…

Back among the ruins, the entrance they had used was unguarded. With some trepidation they descended back among the bats, and took a quick detour to check if the bodies of the lizardmen were still where they had left them. Gone, with some possibly gnollish footprints to be seen in the guano. There was some speculation if the gnolls and lizardmen were allies or not, but with no further clues there was no way to know.

Returning to the first chamber they took the door on the right, and moved deeper. The corridor snaked about, twisting and turning. Around one corner they could hear a faint sound of wood on stone. A quick peek showed a short empty stretch of corridor, and another turning. Figuring the noise must come from behind the next corner they blinkered their lantern to show only the least glimmer of light, and moved cautiously forward.

Slim and Niphon were bringing up the rear. As Slim stepped around the bend the flagstone under his foot sank and sounded a terrifying CLICK, which was immediately followed by two spears streaking out from the wall behind him. Alia had the reflexes to throw herself flat, but the rest did not. The first spear narrowly missed Slim and Darios in front of him, harmlessly flew over Alia, finally thunking against the opposite wall. The second spear, however, impaled Slim. Blood gushed from his mouth.

After a quick examination Niphon pronounced that Slim was mortally wounded, and that unless they were carrying healing magics she was not aware of, there was no way to save his life.

Slim was at -10hp, and while his Mortal Wounds roll was good, it wasn’t good enough. He was to die within a day unless healed back to 1hp. Niphon could at most restore 5hp to him in that time with her arts, and since the characters had not confided in her about their remaining two healing potions there was little she could do. No one volunteered their potion…

At this point I at least was really starting to like the way my Mortal Wounds house rule worked. (1) I had once again been able to tell just what happened immediately, (2) the healer didn’t have to waste her meager resources on a hopeless case, (3) -10hp was an appropriately huge deal, since it gave -10 to the Mortal Wounds roll.

Niphon quickly gave Slim last rites of Ianna, and kissed him on the lips while slitting his throat.

I figured this was the approach the more militant arm of the goddess of Love and War would take.

Leaving Slim’s corpse behind, hoping to recover it later, they continued. Around the next corner was another short stretch of hallway, a pair of doors to the right, at which point the corridor turned left. Listening at the door they were able to discern bestial grunts from within. Something in the rhythm of the grunts made them sound almost like “Wait for it… Not yet… Wait for it… Wait for it…”.

The characters chose not to wait, and kicked the doors in. In a small guardhouse-like space were six gnolls armed to the teeth, and ready to charge out the door. They had managed to knock the two closest the doors back a bit, but the others were primed for action. A brief inconclusive struggle and two sleep spells later the party was cutting the gnolls throats and emptying their pockets.

Ever cautiously they kept moving onwards. The corridor twisted and turned before coming to a long downward sloping stretch, which finally turned and became stairs leading deeper into bowels of the earth.

The stairs led to a rubble-filled cavern their lanterns could not fully illuminate. Keeping to the nearest wall they came to a short corridor which led to a room where a gnoll was sitting on a heap of refuse, cleaning his nails with a sword. Alia charged the gnoll, but could not take it down before it stood up to bang on a door and yell something, which provoked further noise and growls from the next room.

Lug covered in the corner holding the lantern as ever while Alia and Niphon engaged the gnoll in front of the doors. Niphon’s attempt to pin the gnoll against the doors failed, but Alia managed to wound it sorely. The gnoll clambered across the garbage heap and headed for the larger cavern — but Darios was in the way even though Rolf tried to push him clear.

His way blocked, the gnoll instead struck down Lug, plunging the room into near darkness. Niphon braced herself against the doors that were just then opening as Rolf grabbed Lug’s lamp from the floor while as Alia hit the gnoll, bringing it down. With Alia and Niphon struggling with all their might the others were able to spike the door sufficiently to contain the gnolls behind it at least for a while.

Niphon invoked the blessing of Ianna on Lug who was revived enough to walk, and the party beat a hasty retreat. On their way across the cavern they heard sounds of a fight from across the it to the right: bestial growls combined with some human cries. After some confusion they ran towards the noise, and came upon five tribesmen fighting five gnolls — and losing. These were not the elite tribal guards they had encountered earlier, but more lightly armored warriors getting slaughtered.

Rolf fired one of the gnolls in the back, causing it to turn their way. Alia engaged it as it rushed them, but was brutally cut down by the gnoll’s axe. The others were able to bring the gnoll down, and luckily the tribesmen were between them and the rest of the gnolls. After a brief but heated discussion if they should use a healing potion on Alia or try to carry her out she was given the potion and could limp on her own two leg — but she had trouble breathing and their speed wasn’t nearly as good as they would have liked. Still, they managed to flee the dungeon and return back to their base camp.

A few days later were back in Mitylene. The head they had recovered fetched a decent price, but with two healing potions used the expedition was in the red.

Niphon recommended Alia to chief Blade-Dancer of her order and she was granted healing at price normally reserved for parishioners and those in the service of the church. Her lungs were restored, but Ianna’s blessing left her voice hoarse and deep like a lion’s bellow, which most people find rather disconcerting.

First time Tampering With Mortality rules kicked in! That was pretty neat. I wasn’t sure if I was going to like them, but yeah, they rock. It took a bit of brainstorming how to interpret the side-effect appropriately, but H came up with a perfect solution.

While Alia was recovering from her ordeals and Darios was doing whatever it is that mages do, Rolf spent most of his remaining funds on booze and prostitutes.

As I stated earlier, J chose Rolf not to have his toes restored as I had not noticed the actual effects of laming: it might be that his partying gets retconned yet…

Not a bad session, but maybe not as great as the last one. That was pretty damn great. :)

The process of the party was pretty bumpy. Move forwards, run headfirst into wall. Stagger a bit, next wall. Ouch. Next wall…

Lug leveled up, and is now a 1st level Fighter! He will try to have Darios buy him some proper kit next time, as after some consideration he chose to remain in Darios’ service.

My time tracking could use a bit more discipline. It wasn’t off, but I’m not sure it was really accurate either. I need to print a sheet to use for it.

The d30-rule is very nice. I like it. It’s a keeper. I’m also so far happy with the oft-mentioned house rule for Mortal Wounds, but the jury is still out on that one.

I’m very curious to see what the characters do next time. The two obvious approaches into dungeon have now been at least partially mapped — and been discovered to be positively teeming with opposition. Motivation seems to be still pretty high: the haul they pulled out the previous time whetted everyone’s appetite.

The characters have started occasionally looking for secret doors, but have yet to discover any. It’ll also be interesting to see if they will start being more careful about traps…

Guild of Dungeoneers – S01E02

Caverns of Thracia, part 2

Players: J, VM, ME, HJ, SH

J continued with Rolf the Footpad. Uz’iel had mumbled something about needing to visit the lodge and was nowhere to be found, and since Rolf’s purse looked fairly empty he had to find new companions to visit Thracia — or be content with labor honest or dishonest.

He found Alia (HJ), a fearless ex-legionnaire from the north, who had Folker (henchman) in tow. Folker owed gambling depts to Alia, and agreed to act as shield-bearer for her in exchange for 3gp/week to be deducted from his debts, plus a 20% share of any loot.

They were joined by Darios the Elementalist (VM), a Dwarven Vaultguard called Jira (ME), and a Priestess known as Mearra (SH). Darios seemed to be pretty well off, and hired two henchmen more — a footloose couple Hira and Ghiza.

The journey to the ruins of Thracia went uneventfully, with Rolf showing the way.

Similar group of gnolls as Rolf and Uz’iel has observed a week ago was guarding one of the ruins. Circling wide around them the companions headed for the same entrance to the tunnels that Rolf and Uz’iel had used last time.

A single tribesman we seen spying at the gnolls and heading then underground. After waiting for a short while the group followed, silently, with Jira in the lead. Down the stairs… as Jira peeked across the corner she saw light ahead.

After conferring a moment it was decided that light or no, forwards seemed like the better direction than the right fork of the rope bridge. Coming around the corner, however, the light had now vanished. Mindful of Rolf’s warning they crossed the bridge without light, not wanting to rouse the giant bats.

The tunnel continued straight on to a T-intersection, with doors facing the hall they had entered through. Sharp ears picked whispers from beyond the doors. Rolf scouted first to the right, and discovered barred double doors. Not wanting to find out why they had been barred, the group took the left fork.

They came to a wide room with pillars supporting the partially collapsed ceiling. The wall of the room opposite the tunnel they entered through was open to a huge cavern and there was a small balcony-like protrusion on top of the dark emptiness. Imagining bloody rituals they decided to press on, towards the tunnel opening on the right.

Unfortunately light of their torches attracted giant bats from the cavern, causing them to attack the lantern-bearer Hiba. Alia and Jira quickly dispatched the bats, however, showing the less martial types how it’s done. Unfortunately Hiba went down from a bat-bite before the dust settled. Mearra ministered to her, and was able to revive her enough to walk — but not good for much else for a fair while.

Last session I had completely forgotten about the cleaving rules. This time I remembered, and I have to say HJ loved them. Her dice were steaming.

During the combat Rolf had slipped ahead, sneaking along the next corridor in darkness. He had discovered doors with light faintly showing from beneath them and had almost been discovered. On his way back to the others, however, he triggered a trapdoor in the floor and fell down into an icy cold river… the other heard his yelp and a splash and move ahead to investigate — and discovered the open trapdoor, but no sign of Rolf.

Moving ahead they found the same double door Rolf had seen and Alia and Jira promptly kicked it in — giving one of the tribesmen inside a black eye. Battle was quickly joined, and though it was touch and go they were finally victorious: Darios burned one of the men with his flame bolt, and henchmen fought valiantly, but it was clearly Alia and Jira who carried the fight, besting four heavily armored tribesmen, a trained bear — and capturing one of the tribesmen.

Meanwhile Rolf managed to swim to shore in pitch blackness. He could faintly see light ahead, and sneaked closer, discovering the cookfire of a tribe of lizardmen. Keeping well back, he found a cavern wall and followed it in the opposite direction. It eventually led to a door and a tunnel, up some steps, another corridor… and a door he could hear bestial grunts from behind. Just as the door creaked open Rolf legged it back the way he had come, and laid an ambush at the bottom of the stairs. A bottle of lamp oil on the last few steps made them if not slippery, at least less than ideal footing.

After a few moments and some barked bestial exchanges from up the hallway steps approach. Undeterred by the pitch blackness Rolf managed to kill the gnoll that was coming down the stair with a single strike. Planning and underhandedness paid off. Unfortunately it was not enough: the gnoll made a fair racket falling down, and more bestial noises started coming closer. Taking the better part of valor Rolf ran back to the cavern and the underground river and hid. The gnolls did not enter the cavern.

Considering the tunnel to be too dangerous to attempt Rolf decided to risk his lantern, and continued in the opposite direction, following the cavern and the river. He was lucky to spy what seemed a stalactite wobbling on the ceiling of the cavern as we has about to walk beneath it, and a couple of stirges lurking next to it — and ran back. Frustratingly, all routes seemed blocked by non-trivial threats.

While Rolf had been walking in the dark the others had bandaged their wounds and were taking stock. Most temptingly, the room they were in contained two large chests. No traps were to be seen, so Alia tried to open one of them… and felt a terrible cold in her bones as strength was leached from her arms!

Alia originally had STR 18, but the curse on the chest brought it down to 3!

The dungeoneers decided to have their captive tribesman try opening the second chest, which was probably a smart move as the second chest appeared to have an identical curse on it. The chests now apparently safe to touch they were still locked, and Jira took her axe and hacked through the lid of the first — which released billows of foul-smelling gas. The seasoned adventurers were able to hold their breaths till the fumes dissipated, but all but one of the henchmen fell unconscious. Maddeningly, the chest was empty. With others backing a safe distance away Jira axed the second chest as well. No gas escaped this time, and a lovely glitter of jewels greeted her eyes.

Suddenly paranoid, the group decided that they would have to do without magical healing … and Mearra cast Sense Danger to check the objects in the chest. They all seemed safe and were promptly looted.

While the chests were being investigated by the others, Darios had lowered a lantern down the open trapdoor on a rope — which both Rolf and the lizardmen in the cavern below saw. While the lizardmen started throwing rocks at the lantern Rolf braved the river and started struggling upstream. Just as he reached the rope one of the lizardmen managed to hit and break the lantern. A desperate lunge found Rolf hanging on the rope for dear life before it was lost i darkness — now target of the spears of the lizardmen.

Dario called for help, and with combined forces they hauled Rolf through the trapdoor just as a spear struck him senseless. With no recourse to magical healing Mearra tended to Rolf the best she could, and was able to revive him, but he wasn’t in shape for much anything and would require a weeks rest unless magical healing was to be found.

Taking a break before heading back with their treasures the group retreated to the chamber the chests had been in. Luckily they kept guard, and saw light briefly appear in the direction they had come from. Deciding to move as quickly as they could, they headed back that way — only stopping to spike the trapdoor so it should be safe to cross even for the invalids.

Lurking in the dark of the hall they had fought the bats in, they saw a warrior emerge from the closed room they had passed on their way in, and call something down the hall in the direction of the rope bridge. A few moments later footsteps started coming from that direction. They also saw a tribesman wearing somewhat tattered green silk wrap and holding a stick topped with a human skull emerge from the room, appear to give commands to the guard, and return to the room.

Three warriors appeared from the direction of the bridge, and were directed down the hall towards the party by the guard before he followed the shaman(?) to the room. Their exit blocked and much worse for wear from their earlier adventures the group ran — or limped — back. Jira stopped to un-spike the trapdoor, heedless of the approaching tribesmen. Unconscious Folker was left behind: there was no way they could carry him and escape the tribesmen.

Past the treasure room, down the hall they jogged. The hall ended in doors. Heedless of possible danger they burst through them and spiked them shut. A temporary reprieve, at least. From beyond the door they found stairs leading … down. Hearts sinking, they moved cautiously forward, and came to a large cathedral-like space their lanterns could not properly illuminate.

What they did see was rows and rows of corpses. Some recent, some ancient. Rolf recognized Pius lying among them. While the others waited by the doorway, Rolf scouted forward… till some of the dead started to stir, and rise! An expeditious retreat followed, during which Ghiza was dropped. Hiba tried to pull him along till she saw the undead approach and ran after the characters.

The door was quickly unspiked — and a brief combat with the lone tribesman guarding it followed: the warrior’s deft spear brought Jira down just as the undead rounded the corner. The tribesman stepped back in shock, Darios swapped his backpack for Jira’s — she had the loot — and everyone moved as fast as they could past the tribesman, many lightening their loads to keep up.

Again heading towards the outside world they ran, jumping across the by now familiar trapdoor as the tribesman turned to follow them. Brief sounds of carnage were heard from behind as the undead caught up with Hiba. Entering the corridor they had seen the shaman in earlier, they were confronted by him and two tribal warriors. From the tunnel behind them they could hear the sound of the trapdoor opening, and splashing water as some of the pursuing skeletons fall.

The shaman spoke halting common, and called the characters defilers. Still, the tribesmen did not seem eager for battle, and by quickly offering tribute the party was allowed to pass — leaving Jira and Folker to fate unknown. Just as they were turning the corner to the rope bridge they one of the skeletons came within view, and witnessed the shaman rising his hand and controlling it with a word.

Happily the shaman had not yet realized they had plundered the treasures — if that had been the case the characters could not have bribed their way out.

Two days of hard travel later the survivors were back in the relative safety of Mitylene. While everyone was exalted by their newfound wealth, Darios was rather wrought: he had only belatedly realized that his spellbook had been in the backpack he had left behind…

Thre dead henchmen, one dead PC, a crapload of loot including a pair of magical eyeballs: all four survivors hit level 2 — and Rolf hit the levels-per-session ceiling and is now one XP short of level 3.

This was an exciting session! It was great fun seeing the waves of cautiousness / let’s move on / oh-shit-oh-shit rise and fall.

There was one moment in the Rolf’s adventure in the cavern below where I goofed up a bit — screwing up surprise rules momentarily, but that happens. I also belatedly realized that as the tribesman speared Jira, he would have been allowed to cleave… which could well have brought another character down. Next time I shall remember!

I also skipped wandering monsters for the trip back to civilization, since it was already getting a bit too late. Next session I’ll have to set up a timer when the Escape from Dungeon rules activate. While this was a great session, we can’t allow things to stretch like this in general.

Overall, the dice were really on fire tonight. Basically three 1st level characters just bulldozed four 2nd level fighters in superior armor, and then summarily dispatched a 3+3 hit-die bear. *blink*

They truly deserved every bit of gold they managed to carry out. :)