Tuesday, February 9, 2010
Arandish Campaign 2010 - Session 4
Last night's session began with the party -- consisting of Innominus, Uncle Junkal, and Barbarella -- readying themselves to explore the lower levels of the Orc Gully, starting with the wooden door leading to what they presumed must be "the pit." Uncle Junkal and Barbarella used daggers to drill two holes into the damp door, and Uncle Junkal peeked through, seeing a descending cylindrical pit shaft with wet sides. A faint gurgling noise was heard.
Barbarella, who tends toward risk-taking, volunteered to enter the pit chamber and descend the spiral stairs within to investigate. She saw a couple of alcoves set into the walls near the bottom of the pit, and a foul, murky pool of water at the bottom, which appeared to vaguely hide some dark shape lurking below the pool's surface. Barbarella returned to the top and reported this, and the party decided to throw a bunch of recently killed orc corpses (from the previous session's exploits) into the pit, in order to distract the dark, shapeless lurker.
This was a successful ploy, for the slimy thing -- some kind of amorphous black ooze -- partially surfaced and ingested all the orc bodies thrown down into the pit. This activity kept the thing busy for 3 turns while the party quickly descended the stairs to the two alcoves and searched each for secret doors. In the second alcove -- both of which contained 3 sets of arm and leg irons bolted to the stone walls -- the party found a secret door, revealing a descending staircase that took them to the lower levels of the complex.
The three PCs were accompanied by six brave hirelings from the nearby, ravaged village of Vedik. This was down from the original ten, two of whom died last session, and two more of whom were sent to the surface ot the outset of this one for a two-part mission: (1) to pose some of the recently killed orcs in horrid positions, dangling from trees etc. around the Gully complex's entrance, and (2) to go back to town with some villagers' belongings that had been found in the orc lieutenant's chamber last session. So only six hirelings, including group favorite Porkins (a Level 1 Fighter) descended with the PC's into the lower levels.
The party found itself in a roughly hewn stone tunnel heading north, with a 4-way intersection in sight about 30' ahead. Uncle Junkal perceptively noticed a brief movement from the western branching of the 4-way, and alerted the party. Barbarella hooked a lantern onto a 10' pole and pushed it out into the far side of the intersection, while Innominus and a villager named Xark (a cousin of the recently deceased Xork) led the charge into the (now well-lit) western passage, actually a rectangular chamber. The cleric and the hireling found themselves face-to-face with three Dark Orcs [a new monster I will profile in a forthcoming post] who were covering the retreat of a fourth Dark Orc who was hustling into the far corner and about to bang a huge gong with an upraised mallet.
Innominus threw his warhammer in an attempt to stymie the gong-ringer, but missed (despite his rolling his once-nightly d30 for that attack). Similarly, Xark the hireling got off an axe throw, but also missed. Barbarella was scoping the eastern passage so was out of line-of-sight, but Uncle Junkal was able to get off a crossbow shot that finally dropped the would-be gong ringer (rolling the d30 for damage I believe). Now the party faced off against three bloodthirsty Dark Orcs armed with long swords.
Long story short, the party killed these three before any of them could ring the gong, and Porkins in particular had a good fight, critical-hitting one Dark Orc and killing it in one blow. However, Xark perished, leaving only five hirelings alive: Porkins, Val Kilmer, and three others.
Unable to find any additional exits out of the Gong Room, Innominus and a hireling dismounted the gong from its stand, leaving the huge, unwieldy thing there but not easily ring-able, then the party moved on up the northward passage. At a "T" intersection they went left, away from a gurgling water sound to the east, then came to another "T" intersection. Deducing that the existence of the gong implied other dark orc troops about, and suspecting an ambush, Innominus hurled a sling bullet (the same one used to liquefy an orc sentry on a tree branch during the group's second session) into the "T," hoping to provoke any would-be ambushers into tipping their hand. Nothing happened. So Innominus and Porkins eased into the "T" back-to-back, the cleric facing south, the hireling fighter facing north. Innominus saw a passage bending 90 degrees away to the west; Porkins saw a wooden ladder leading up 10' to a passage entrance. The party decided that the northern ladder was the way to go, so Innominus started climbing up, followed by Porkins, and covered from below by Barbarella and Uncle Junkal with crossbows. Then two rodians also chucked torches up into the elevated passage entrance, so the other party members could see once they reached the top.
Even before reaching the top, Innominus noticed the tip of a pole edging its way along the stone lip above, about to make contact with the top of the ladder and (presumably) to push it off the wall with Innominus and Porkins still clinging to it. So the cleric acted swiftly [i.e., beat my villain at an initiative roll], vaulting up to the top of the ladder and grabbing the end of the pole. This rather surprised the dark orc at the other end of the 8' pole, who nevertheless quickly ditched the implement in favor of drawing its long sword.
A terrifying battle ensued in the ladder-top chamber, as more Dark Orcs emerged from a neighboring room and the rest of the party came one-by-one up the ladder. Innominus started things off well, critical-hitting the Dark Orc with its own 8' pole, instantly decapitating it and sending its disembodied head flying into the crotch of one of the other advancing orcs, slowing the second orc's progress momentarily. Porkins followed this up with a critical hit of his own -- his second this session -- which, given that he also rolled maximum damage for his long sword, instantly killed a second dark orc. Despite some mediocre rolling on both sides, which kept the battle quite close for a few rounds, the party eventually prevailed, though not without losing poor Porkins to an amazing sword strike by the Dark Orc captain -- I rolled my own nightly d30 roll for the captain's damage vs. Porkins, scoring a 22 and killing the popular hireling instantly. The PCs were quite sad to lose Porkins, especially given his high performance the past couple of sessions, but most agreed that it was a spectacular and worthy death at the hands of the toughest and most skilled of their Dark Orc foes.
The death of Porkins.
After the battle, there was just some final searching about and settling in to do. The party liberated a human prisoner from his cell in the adjacent Dark Orc prison, then searched the only two remaining rooms, finding no living denizens but happening upon a huge statue of a demon-like creature in the final room. The party decided to pull the wooden ladder up, post hireling guards, and get some rest.
Referee's Observation: Interestingly, the party was much more focused on reaching the assumed end of the lower level and encountering the boss than they were in doing thoroughgoing exploration this session. This may have had to do with their somewhat reduced numbers, and the fact that Barbarella was fairly low on hit points the whole session (they decided not to use Innominus' Cure Light Wounds until somebody really needed it in a battle situation). They may have figured that they needed to clear the level of dangerous foes before those foes mobilized (remember the un-banged gong!) and started hunting them down. But they did leave a few turnings unexplored, and while I personally welcome this -- I actually get somewhat bored by parties who obsessively comb every square inch of a dungeon -- it will be interesting to see if they decide revisit any unexplored areas next session, or simply press on into still more uncharted territory. We'll find out next week!