Saturday, July 16, 2011

Session 39: Sleestak Caves and Valley of Danger

This session was played on Monday 7/11 and included four players with their PCs Innominus (Clr 6), Dak (Dwf 5), Yor (Dwf 5) and Vivuli (Assassin 5, now multi-classing as MU).

Before I get into this, I must call your attention to Spawn of Endra's excellent capsule session report written the day after (or the same night that?) the game transpired. I think Spawn's writeup captures the spirit of the session better than I could, so I will be skipping / glossing a few details throughout this, really just enhancing his report with some additional points of note.

The group began in the snow-dusted village of Wellspring in central Minoch [hex 1816] on Day 146 of their Arandish adventures. They took little interest in the village, however, and after a brief set of transactions with the proprietors of the General Store (one of whom did not like the group at all, referring to them as "trouble"), the party set off overland toward Stonehell. The dungeon was quite close by, 15 miles south of Wellspring, in the same hex [1816].

The group approached via the southwesterly road through the mountain tunnel that they originally found back in Session 22. Its previous residents -- a platoon of the hobgoblinish Skullface Occupational Army -- were apparently long gone, and the whole place was completely shrouded in an uncanny magical darkness that even dwarven infravision could not penetrate. Hoisting their sources of continual light -- whose range was halved due to the powerful, murky darkness of the place -- the party plunged in, and found that the whole network of bandit caves had now been taken over by a tribe of Sleestak, who advanced on the party en masse, hissing as they came. Dak, the group's point man, was mesmerized by the hissing and was unable to attack. As a result, the party retreated from the caves to seek a more thought-out strategy.

Once they were able to devise a way to protect themselves from the mesmerizing effect of the sleestak group hiss -- by melting candle wax and plugging their ears with it -- the party ventured back into the bandit caves. They first checked out the "well room" that Dak firebombed in Session 23 and that the PCs asked the Stone Giants to permanently monkey-wrench in Session 26. The Stone Giants had apparently done their job well, for the vertical shaft was completely sealed with piled boulders and stone slabs.

After leaving the well chamber, the party headed north, deeper into the caves, to find the remaining sleestak. They soon found them, and had no trouble burning, hacking and bludgeoning to death the twenty-plus green hissers that remained. However, the PC's earplugs prevented them from immediately catching some audible ruckus involving the horses and the War Wagon, which luckily Beastarr the Bobcat did hear and subsequently conveyed to Innominus.

So, no sooner had the PCs slain the last poor sleestak than they instantly rushed back to the caves' entrance chamber to see what was making their horses neigh. They saw the War Wagon in flames, and in the firelight a small, stooped, cloaked figure was leading their horses away! The party ran into the chamber and Dak threw his winter cloak over the middle of the War Wagon bed, hoping to save the ballista -- which, miraculously, he did. Meanwhile, the cloaked interloper dropped the horses' reins and dashed -- with supernatural rapidity -- out of the cave and off to the right (southwest) down the cliff-face road. Vivuli chased the perpetrator out onto the road, lined up a longbow shot, and, as Spawn of Endra breathtakingly related in his report, killed the cloaked horse thief in a single shot by using his nightly d30 roll to score a total of 19 damage, just enough to snuff the guy.

The assassin next used his x-ray vision ring to scope out the cloaked thief's corpse. Turns out the little fellow -- of indeterminable race, maybe a quasi-halfling or fey-humanoid hybrid -- had a small metal tube up his rectum, which contained two small rolled pieces of parchment, i.e.:

Parchment #1. A crude diagram of what looks like a sleestak's head, with strange instructions -- possibly a formula -- written in an arcane language below. And

Parchment #2. A brief letter written entirely in Demonic.

Vivuli pissed in the dead guy's face, and the party kept his body and one sleestak corpse, chucking them both into their bag of holding.

The War Wagon was damaged and charred, but still driveable, though one wheel had lost a few spokes and looked shaky. Dak's swift action (and some luck) saved the ballista from any harm in the fire.

Innominus used Speak With Animals to ask their horses about what had happened. They conveyed to him that the fire started quite suddenly, like a burst or explosion, and that next they knew this smelly little fellow (even the party noticed that the thief had probably never bathed, and smelled of offal and smoke) was leading them away from the flames. When questioned, the horses remembered that they had smelled that fellow sometime before, in these very caves, back when they were enslaved by the hobgoblin army prior to coming into the party's service.

After this, the party traveled southeast down the cliff road and then, at the lowest point, bore hard left into the southwest end of a vast valley. Despite the onset of evening, the temperature was subtly warmer down here than it had been up on the cliff face, and a damp mist hung in the air of the marshy place. As night fell, the bloodthirsty roars of huge predators and answering mortal shrieks of wounded prey echoed over the marshes and woods from time to time.

Thus the party encamped once again at one end of the warm, swampy valley I'll call the Valley of Danger.* They set watches and most of them slept.

During the second watch -- Yor's -- beating wings were heard in the air overhead. Yor awakened his colleagues in time to be attacked from above by a huge, featherless, birdlike creature with rows of sharp teeth lining its long, deadly beak. A vicious melee ensued, and though the foul bird-monster did get a bite or two in, Yor and Innominus hacked and bludgeoned it to pieces in a couple of rounds. The huge, winged thing's mashed, leathery carcass slumped to the earth, puking out pus-y vomit and blowing out putrid diarrhea from its other end. Upon examining that fallen corpse (and holding their noses) the party members realized that none of them had ever seen (or fought) a creature quite like it before, though it did vaguely remind some of them of the huge, birdlike menace called a roc, which they fought back in Session 9. However, Dak, a northerner who had seen rocs many times, declared that this foul thing was certainly not a roc.

Of course, Vivuli and Innominus immediately leaped into doing some field surgery on the cadaver, with Vivuli x-raying the thing, but to no avail: it hadn't eaten any unusual items or treasure lately, just squirrels, badgers, small raptors, and the like.

The rest of the night passed uneventfully, and Day 147 of the party's Arandish adventures dawned. It was surprisingly temperate in the Valley of Danger for it being so late in the year. Innominus, having prayed to Endra as day broke, was now able to cast Speak With Dead upon the body of the cloaked, would-be horse-thief from yesterday's encounter at the bandit caves. Their exchange:

Innominus: What is the meaning of this evil letter written in demonic? What does it say?

Dead Guy: It is from my master. It contains instructions for what to do with the sleestak.

Innominus: What is the name of your master?

Dead Guy [in demonic]: Zuggmoth.

Having concluded that strange business, the party started traveling northeast, along the long axis of the valley. Dak had much earlier procured maps of the region (just prior to the Hobgoblin Camp Raid) that showed a pass leading out of the opposite (northeast) end of the valley, coming out near the trail back to Fortinbras [i.e., southeast edge of hex 1816 leading into hex 1916]. It would take them all day to traverse the length of the Valley of Danger.

A couple of hours along the way, the PCs were confronted by Innominus' old enemy, a swampy sludge monster that looked like this:

Innominus cast Bless as soon as he saw the thing charging them, and then he, Dak and Yor formed a front line to meet the beast's sickening onslaught. During the ensuing battle, Dak and Yor both scored critical hits (damage doubled) once in the same round. Soon, the party demolished the poor tentacled slimeball, who was just trying to defend its frikkin' home, after all.

Anyway, after heartlessly slaying Innominus' Bane, the party continued their northeasterly journey, but not before Innominus instructed Beastarr to track back along the slain creature's trail, hopefully leading the PCs to its nest or lair. This strategem proved successful, and about an hour later, after a bit of bushwhacking to the left of the main valley trail, they found themselves looking northwest across a murky pond at a cave entrance at water level on the cliff wall opposite. And as Spawn of Endra so brilliantly put it,

Dak tried out the demonic fire gems for the first time while we all hung over the Neo-Otyugh caves by ropes [. . .] and unleashed a 3-round firestorm that incinerated them all.

I really can't add to that meaningfully. There were two more three-legged slime-creatures in the damp cave across the pond, and Dak totally incinerated them in two rounds by detonating one of his demonic fire gems. Afterward, in a pool at the back of the neo-otyugh cave, the party found the creatures' treasure horde, which included lots of gold and gems, a golden ring, a few potions including Super-Heroism, a crystal ball in a nice case, and three scrolls in waterproof bamboo-like tubes.

Hauling their treasure away and getting back on the northeastward main trail, the party did have brief fracas with a couple of owlbears, which were easily dispatched after Innominus cast Hold Person on them.

Then, at sunset, at the conclusion of their trek across the valley, the party heard a terrible roar, and looked instinctively toward the sound, at the top of a hill directly ahead. There they beheld a T-Rex, roaring and gnashing its teeth atop a rise at the northeastern end of the valley. Dak instantly quaffed the Super-Heroism potion, but since I wasn't yet aware of Joesky's killer interpretation of the elixir, we followed standard LL rules and Dak simply got much stronger and gained many more hit points as a result of his temporary gain of 4 Levels. This allowed him to charge headlong into and survive the climactic battle with this awe-inspiring monster.

And I'll just let Spawn of Endra, the Kerouac of session reports, take it home:

during the T Rex attack stupid Dak said 'I hope I don't roll a 1 on this d30' and OF COURSE he rolls the most mocking fucking '1', rolling up one side of the rule book and back down again, and the T Rex wins initiative and bites him almost in half, but for Super Heroism, and he's got plenty of hit points and we're all throwing the d30s in the last minutes of the session and the T Rex is killed.

* This is a "name changed to protect campaign secrets" situation. I do not yet wish to reveal my private DM-only name for this locale.


  1. A T Rex, not seen one of them since Isle of Dread

  2. Okay, so who decided to search the dead guy's rectum? That is so funny! I also like the peeing. Ha!

    Regarding the sleestaks, do the PCs have to make a saving throw to avoid being stunned? That's a great effect.

    It sounded like a great session as always!

  3. @Christian: Yes, there's a save, vs. Paralyze I think (or maybe spells).