Sunday, May 15, 2011

Session 34: The Gate and its Guardians

"So this guy who's raising me from the dead -- can he do bionic arms or anything?" 
-- Hazel

This session (played 5/2/11) picked up immediately where the last one left off. The party -- consisting of Innominus (Clr 5), Hazel (Ftr 4 / MU 3), Dak (Dwf 5), and Vivuli (Assassin 4) [Yor's player had to miss this sesh] -- headed back into Stonehell Level Two in order to continue the search for the hobgoblin General and his minions.

Hazel's player asked right away if Beastarr, Innominus' bobcat familiar, could sniff out where the missing General had gone by tracking him via the fecal matter left on his desk (see last session). The party thought this sounded promising and took the bobcat to the General's office right away. After smelling the feces, Beastarr led the party due south down the long passageway and began pacing back and forth in front of a southerly section of wall. The party searched the area and found a secret door leading to a westbound passage. They also heard a deep, low-frequency humming sound that oscillated in and out, louder then softer. As they proceeded down the westward hall and then turned north, the regular, oscillating sound grew louder.

The party's two front rankers -- Hazel and Dak -- fell into a 20' pit trap, then climbed out using Hazel's rope of climbing. The remainder of the group skirted the trap and then everyone proceeded north to a door, from behind which the oscillating humming sound emanated. The group readied its weapons and Dak threw open the door.

Inside was a 20' x 20' chamber whose northwest corner was completely dominated by an upright, 8' diameter circular gate -- just like a Stargate without any inscriptions on it. Bright white light shone out from inside the circular portal, illuminating the room, and the whole thing hummed quite loudly at its very low, bone-shaking frequency. This circular gate was flanked on either side by two 8' tall metal humanoid "statues" who advanced on the party as soon as the latter opened the door.

Dak entered the room at a charge, threw a dwarven steel handaxe at one of the metal beings (he hit), and ran through the glowing portal. On the other side, he found himself in a vast stone cellar, clearly constructed by intelligent beings but quite ancient and possibly deserted. The huge rectangular chamber was so vast that, even with the bright light of the portal illuminating the place, Dak could not see all four walls; the ceiling was at least sixty feet above him. A circular gate identical to the one he just jumped through appeared to be the only thing in the voluminous chamber, so Dak quickly reversed course and jumped back through the gate to assist his friends in the gate-guardian battle.

The party quickly discovered that only fairly powerful magical weapons and steel weapons could truly injure the metal gate guardians; even Hazel's flame tongue sword seemed not to hurt them! By the end of the fearsome and ferocious melee, the two statues were finally destroyed but four party members lay dead: Innominus, Hazel, and NPCs Gorgo (Dwf-4) and Kilgore (Ftr-2). Vivuli pissed in one fallen statue's face, and Dak removed the iron beings' heads and hands for future use. The main aim of the battle's survivors (Dak, Viv, and NPCs Gark and Fuzz) now became: how to get our fallen comrades out of this dungeon and back to town?

First an idea was hatched and attempted whereby the group retraced its steps north to the "crystal columns" room and Dak chucked Innominus' body out onto the tiles in the hope that some healing magic would be activated (as it had been in Session 18). And lo! one of the columns shot a ray of light at the freshly deceased cleric, and Innominus instantly revived and sprang back to life! The Follower of Endra was weak and would need to be assisted out of the dungeon, but he was alive! The PCs tried the same strategy with their other fallen dead, to no avail; nothing happened to Hazel, and Gorgo's body suffered the indignity of having all its body hair seared off by a column-based lightning bolt.

Having only worked with Kilgore for one adventure, the group decided to leave the fighter's body behind; but they carried Hazel, Gorgo, and the corpse of Sir Boren (see Session 33) out of Stonehell with little incident other than being ineffectively shot at by some crossbow-wielding orcs right at the dungeon's spiral-staircase exit.

The group reached their war wagon outside and saddled up for the return journey to Fortinbras. On the way, they were briefly hunted by a strange red-and-black dragon; they distracted the dragon by sending Kilgore's riderless horse ahead and themselves hiding in the brush. The dragon swooped down out of the skies and killed and ate the horse; Hazel's kestrel watched the feeding dragon for awhile and noted the direction in which it flew away afterward. Despite his present physical infirmity, Innominus recalled some recent rumors from Fortinbras about how dragon activity was increasing in Rogaland (Southern Minoch) since the eradication of the Skullface Occupational Army (i.e., the hobgoblins the party killed). The party moved on and reached Fortinbras late that same night (just before midnight) without incident.

Unfortunately, Father Ouzo, the only local priest powerful enough to raise dead, had already departed for Farn Junction the day before. So the party slept the night at their rental house and prepared to continue on to Farn Junction the next day. (Though not before Vivuli picked some pockets in town and Dak bought morning drinks for everybody in the King Hargon Inn, the local dwarf bar.)

The group -- including Zappo the Wondrous, who asked to accompany Gark northward with Sir Boren's body -- reached Farn Junction with their fallen comrades the next afternoon, Day 89 of their Arandish adventures. They spent the bulk of their remaining group funds to have Hazel and Gorgo raised by Father Ouzo of the Brothers of Carcoon, and then settled in for a two-week hiatus in Farn Junction while Hazel, Gorgo, and Innominus recovered and rested.

Gark, concerned about the state of decay of Sir Boren's body, informed the PCs that he wished to take said body north to the Free City of Kaladar to have it preserved for its longer journey north to Achelon. He told the party he and Zappo would be staying at the Green Dragon Shanty in Kaladar, and would wait for the PCs to meet them there before heading on to Northern Achelon to Sir Boren's homeland.

Vivuli, having entered Farn Junction in disguise, began his usual routine of relieving many locals of their valuables via pickpocketry. He managed to obtain over 200 gp, a silver ring, and a personal note "to Alvy" about the writer's need to leave bardic college and go on the road as a traveling minstrel. (After any given unsuccessful pickpocketing attempt, Viv would switch disguises before making more such attempts.)

Meanwhile Dak visited Farn Junction's main Dwarven pub, the Stone Mountain Inn, and found out that anti-human sentiment was on the rise there due to a recent incident: Ironblade the Noffellian (after overseeing the summary execution of Brian in Fortinbras) had passed through Farn Junction just yesterday but had refused to stop and investigate the reports of "hauntings" in the dwarven mines west of the city (see Session 32). The dwarves accused him of xenophobia and felt that Ironblade's brushoff constituted yet another reason to be upset with Minoch's human rulership, i.e., Price Arkus. Dak fueled these flames of dissent, talking up the idea of a new "Dwarven Kingdom in the West" with Yor as a strong candidate for regional leadership.

This is more or less where we left off.

DM Notes
A great session! The battle with the iron gate guardians was the deadliest melee yet, resulting in four party member deaths. I like high-stakes, death-dealing melee, so this was a very satisfying encounter for me. Then the PCs used that damn pillar chamber to bring Innominus back to life: well played! The chamber has a specific die-roll mechanic (provided by M. Curtis in Stonehell Dungeon) that allows for a result of "Target is healed of all damage, diseases, curses, poisons, or other afflictions." Sure, this doesn't explicitly state "raises target from dead," but the chances of obtaining this result are so low to begin with that when it came up in the attempt to bring Innominus back, I just knew in my heart that I had to rule in the dead cleric's favor: he was raised! One of the most clever and effective strategies yet deployed by the PCs.
Hazel goes bionic: As Spawn of Endra noted in this post, Hazel's player is quite good at immersing herself in the game-world and asking for whatever wacky magical items or offbeat actions, etc. that she can think of in the moment. One of the high points of this session -- and by far the biggest laugh -- came when she inquired as to whether Father Ouzo could provide Hazel with a bionic arm as long as he was raising her from the dead anyway (see epigraph at head of post). I sadly had to tell her no, but encouraged her to keep her eyes open for other beings who might be able to provide such a service in the future!
Lastly, note that as of this session, our new Arandish wilderness movement rates for horses and carts [link needed] are officially in place -- even though Blogger ate the post in which Spawn of Endra announced them.


  1. Very nice. Sounds like another darn fine session!

  2. I am quite lucky to have such inventive and amusing players!

  3. Great session. I'm getting more out of every campaign report as I get to know the characters more and more.

    When are you and Spawn reposting the horse and wagon rules?

  4. @ Thoust Jovial Priest:

    I'll probably repost that later this week, despite the blows to my enthusiasm for it from 1) having the final draft destroyed, which was tough to write, and 2) some keen comments that suggested that all the rates were too fast ... but I'm not trying to get at verisimilitude, I just want rules that make a bit of sense on some practical level. Of course it's the same with your broad jump mechanic: at some point you have to ask how much does level (dungeon movement rate for a pack horse, breed, etc) affect the ability to jump? For the Bard, I feel like I cared enough to go down a rabbit hole of verisimilitude. Oddly, for a mechanic much more suited to realism (i.e., we have horses in the world today and can measure them), I find it both tedious and possibly detrimental to many other mechanics in the game to attempt to make it more realistic.

    Hmm. Alright, there's the seed for the repost. Thanks Mr. Priest!