Thursday, March 3, 2011

Session 29: Seeking a Wizard's Lair, Finding Rock Trolls

This session (played 2/21/11) picked up a split-second after the previous one left off, with our PCs -- Innominus (Clr 5), Hazel (Ftr 4 / MU 3), Uncle Junkal (Rodian Bard 4), Dak (Dwf 4), Yor (Dwf 4), and Jwi (Rodian 3) -- standing in a natural cavern on Level Four of Stonehell having just vanquished ten hobgoblins and their human wizard compatriot. 

The group looted the bodies, finding very little besides the dead wizard's staff.  Then the party heard Gob, their dwarven NPC sentry, scream in pain as he was being torn apart, and then the group heard the rapid approach of some fiercely territorial rust-colored rock trolls from immediately to the south.  The PCs gained initiative.  Innominus cast Bless upon the party as a precaution.  Then they swiftly fled north into a narrow passage the trolls (due to their size) could not pass through. 

Besides offering an escape route from the ravenous rock trolls, the northward passage was of inherent interest to the party: they were most eager to find the late wizard's hideout, and this was the direction he had been fleeing when Hazel's amazing longbow shot pierced him through the throat while invisible during last session's battle.  As budding magic-user herself, Hazel hungered for the late wizard's spell book, wherever it could be found.

The northbound passage led to a small, rocky chamber, which Dak the dwarf immediately searched.  He found a curious feature: a petrified arm sticking out of a rock formation on the chamber's west wall.  The arm wore an ornate-looking bracer around its wrist.  Dak tried to remove the bracer, to no avail, then he set about excavating the rock around the arm to see if the whole body could be extracted.  Dak, Yor, and a couple of dwarf NPCs used picks and Yor's +1 Crowbar to dig out this petrified individual -- an effort requiring three turns of labor -- while Innominus, Hazel, Uncle Junkal and Jwi headed further north to investigate the areas beyond. 

The next chamber to the north was a huge, vaulted, natural cavern with a deep blue pool occupying its northern third.  The PCs skirted the pool and exited via a passage to the northwest.

The next cavern westward, which the PCs heard before they saw, contained huge, humming boulders whose audio emanations sounded like Tuvan throat singers.  Hazel approached one such boulder -- not threateningly but gently -- and tried to push or move it.  The boulder was so massive as to be unmovable, but it seemed to be unfazed, perhaps even pleased, by her presence.  The party passed through the humming chamber unmolested.  At a "Y" intersection beyond, the group, by this time rejoined by Dak, Yor, and co., went south. 

The next chamber south was quiet, and there were some large boulders scattered around here as well. Jwi observed that some of the rocks in this cavern were actually stony, insect-like creatures sitting very still.  The party sat watching the stone-things for a turn or so, but the queer creatures did nothing and did not move.  The party decided to simply walk through the chamber, weapons at the ready.  Uncle Junkal announced that he was filling a flask with his own urine, which (I believe) he planned to dump on one of the insect creatures.  When questioned about this activity by one of his comrades, he replied "It's that or acid!" 

It turns out that Uncle Junkal's unusual precautions were not unwarranted, for once most of the party was fully inside the cavern, the four giant stone-beetles attacked the party.  Hazel successfully cast sleep on two of them, Yor killed another with one blow, and Dak and Innominus team-destroyed the last one left awake.  The party then moved further along south, discovering only an unstable chamber threatening to collapse.  They turned around and explored the northern branch of the "Y" passage exiting the humming chamber.

Sixty feet further west, the party's point man, Jwi, came upon a large chamber occupied by busy kobold miners, mining coal.  The PCs learned from the miners that there were no known wizard's dwellings in the immediate vicinity, and that the rumor was that the wizards working with the Black Oil operation were housed up on the second level with the Hobgoblin Central Command.  

With only an hour (real time) left in the Session, the players discussed whether or not they wanted to go up and assault the Hobgoblin Headquarters on Level Two, or go after the rust-colored rock troll nest in the southeast quadrant of the current level.  They chose the latter plan.

Before heading into the rock troll warrens, Innominus re-cast Bless and also cast Prayer.  The PCs entered the warrens, whose first chamber was a long, 20' wide natural hallway headed northeast, with a huge statue of an ogre against the southeast wall.  At the end of the long hallway was a much huger natural cavern, where the party could already see the rust-colored rock trolls amassing for combat.  The rock trolls won initiative the first round and four of them charged southwest into the hallway.  The PCs shot arrows and hucked oil flasks, to great effect, thanks in part to a d30 damage roll by Dak.

The next round, melee combat was engaged.  Using mostly flame-based attacks such as oil flasks and Hazel's flame tongue sword, and immediately torching the remains of rock trolls they killed by other means, the PCs decimated the four rust-colored rock trolls without incurring a single PC or NPC death.  After softening it up over a few rounds of fierce combat, Innominus dispatched one rock troll with a d3o mace damage roll, and NPC Gorgo finished one off with a natural "20" critical hit on his final oil flask throw.

During the main fight, at least two other rock trolls (initially glimpsed but never engaged by the party) fled north, into or through a large chamber containing eleven huge insects chained to a central iron ring.  After the fight, the PCs followed their trail as far as the insect chamber, but did not feel like messing with the giant bugs just then.

Retracing their steps from the insect chamber, the PCs found Gark's former colleague, Zappo the Wondrous, chained to a wall in a side cavern of the rock troll warrens.  The session ended with Innominus casting Cure Light Wounds on Zappo, and Dak giving the poor, weakened, dehydrated magic-user some small sips of water, at 4:40am on Day 73 of the PCs' Arandish adventures.

Notes and Comments on the Session
I have little to say about the events of the session itself, which was great fun, but I want to note that two rules changes were implemented at the start of Session 29:

1.  We switched to rolling d6 initiative every round, i.e., doing initiative "by the book," as described in Labyrinth Lord p. 50.  This move away from the prior "initiative only once per combat" house rule (lazy DM!) also now includes following much more closely the combat sequence on LL pp. 52-53.  I think some of my early house-rule tweaks were out of laziness or for tweaking's sake -- and my not rigorously following the combat sequence was simply inattention to detail.  But as play evolves I am getting sharper at noticing the rules that are important, and I am lucky to have intelligent, detail-oriented players like Carl, Spawn, and Uncle Junkal's player to help keep me on track with that. Interestingly, in general it seems like we are drifting away from unnecessary house rules and gravitating closer to Labyrinth Lord as written.  (Kudos to Moldvay, Cook, and Proctor!)

2.  On the other side of the house-ruling coin -- i.e. "adding to or modifying the original rules" rather than "stripping back to the original rules" -- we began official implementation of both 2d6 Thievery and 2d6 Bardery.  As I discuss in the 2d6 Bardery post, I have never been too keen on d% skill mechanics in D&D, and once I saw Dyson Logos' excellent 2d6 Thievery system, I knew I would deploy it in the Arandish campaign.  So here we go!  I will be relying upon my players -- especially Uncle Junkal, our bard -- to keep me posted about how the 2d6 skill mechanic is working out in play.  Since the 2d6 system allows for attribute bonuses (e.g., DEX bonuses for Thief skill rolls, CHA bonuses for Bard skill rolls), I suspect that the PCs may come out ahead in the long run under the new system.  And I am happy as hell to have them rolling 2d6 rather than d%.

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