Monday, 24 October 2011

"A She-Prince?": Sessions III and IV of the Earthshaker Campaign

Due to the stresses and strains of moving house and the resultant loss of broadband, session III of the campaign did not receive a proper write-up. So, here's a brief re-cap of events before we continue with session IV:

Session III: Brief Summary
  • Aware that leaving the first floor of the temple (that's the second floor for our American readers) unexplored while a marauding band of trogs was rampaging outside would be a baaad idea decided to clear out and explore the second floor.
  • At several times during their explorations, the party became aware of intruders trying to climb into the buildings first floor from the outside. Yet they never encountered them, despite locating the vine ropes they were using to get in during a quick patrol outside the Temple.
  • The party realized there was something odd about the door to the room the vines led into. Despite the rest of the first floor area being lavishly decorated, this one room had a door of solid bronze. Deducing there might be something dangerous inside, Ki Oman climbed out onto the roof, down through a hole into the roof-space, and cut himself a peep hole. At which point he lost an eye when the ooze creature dwelling inside the room stuck a tendril up through the hole. Wisely, Ki retreated and the party decided to leave this room well alone.
  • While searching quarters belonging to various senior priestesses the party found a number of useful items, not the least of which being a set of sculptors tools, a jewelers anvil (and other tools) and some magical weapons and armor that were quickly divided up between the various fighters. 
  • More mysteriously, in the last room they searched they came across the still warm corpse of a beautiful, scantily clad female warrior peppered with several darts. Going by the agonized look on her face, this woman had been the source of the blood curdling scream they'd heard only a few minutes before. They arrived in time to cut \ rope attached to a grappling hook imbedded in some furniture and heard an annoyed hissing from below. By the time the party reached the window, the trogs had fled under cover of their chameleon racial abilities. Ki Oman took a strange amulet of a female archer that the woman wore about her neck while various other party members helped themselves to her grapple hook and other gear.
Session IV:

The Party (active characters):

Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1.  Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Zaman) Male "Bard" (assassin) 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Thera Human Female (Mycenean) Paladin of Meerax 1. Played by Niall
Thot Half-Elf (Mycenean) Male Magic User/Cleric of Miranda 1/1. Played by Rob.
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter1/Magic-User 1. Played by Leoni

Not-Active (players not present/characters guarding temple)

Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Kallisto Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious Human (Mycenan) Male Fighter 1. Spare character for fatalities.

 Following the final clearance of the temple, the party spent the next two days engaged in various activities. Guarded by the non-active characters, Xenos and Ki Oman set about collecting enough fish to feed the rest of the party. Thot and Euthalia managed to heal all the wounds sustained during the explorations by the next morning, and so Euthali was free to take care of the laundry, cooking etc while Thot set about turning beetle bits into a breastplate and a pair of rudimentary scimitars. Boagris and Thera set about improving the defenses by beginning work on a ditch while Thanatos constructed and placed four more spear traps around the temple grounds. Glykeria and Shadowdancer, meanwhile, were busily swopping spells despite the racket raised by the blacksmith, Andros, busily recasting a few bronze pots to make new shields.

Throughout the two days of relatively peace, not a troglodyte was to be seen (or smelled). The castaways, including the many still recovering from wounds (including the ship's captain) were understandably beginning to think the scalies had given up. Until the morning of the third day:

Loudly rattling his drift-wood club inside a copper cooking pot, Sparious, the castaway on guard at dawn, rocketed into the main temple area screaming "Alarm! Alarm!". While the various Fighter and Paladin types in the party grabbed their weapons and rushed to the doors, the more cerebral characters took the time to find out what all the fuss was about. Thus, the whole party learned at about the same time (some using their eyes, some using their ears to listen to Sparious's frentic explanation) that three Troglodytes were standing outside the main gates.

Of the three, two were unarmed and these, their tails twitching nervously behind them, supported a third troglodyte, clutching a staff, between them. The two flanking trogs were young and clearly strong, with bone necklaces and feather adornments hanging from leather throngs. The third was much older: many of it's scales were missing, show grey, patchy flesh beneath and it's eyes were covered by a filthy bandage of colored canvas.

The three Trogs merely stood there. eerily regarding the dozen or so humans and the lone elf stood at the Temple gates regarding them. After a brief discussion, Euthalia, Ki Oman and Shadowdancer were elected the party spokesmen. Cautiously, they advanced to within about ten paces of the three trogs (Shadowdancer having had the presence of mind to bring along three bowls of fish soup). Ki Oman tried to mime their peaceful intentions with a serious of hand gestures. Hand gestures that were copied exactly by the trogs as soon as the smallest trog had finished hissing in the oldest's ear-hole.

After a few comedic moments, the six negotiators sat down in the sandy soil. Moving slowly (whether from age or in a bid to prevent any alarm), the Elder took a small stone vial from a medicine pouch around it's neck and, dipping a claw into the vial, proceeded to pierce it's tongue with the claw in question. When it spoke, all three party-members heard a translation of it's odd, hissing tongue in their heads.

"We. The People. Come talk peace with bad-smelling ugly flesh-things that have no scales. Agree, Yes?"

Ki Oman reached out to take the proffered vial from the Elder and placed a drop of the strange red liquid on his tongue. While he agreed to talk peace, the three trogs simply looked on him in confusion until the smallest one whispered something in the Elder's ear. At this point, the Elder trog let out a deep sigh, muttered something that sounded vaguely disparaging and then hissed at the third lizard, who snatched the vial from Euthalia (who was preparing to try out a theory) with an angry hiss and passed it back to the old one.

Again, the old lizard repeated his small ritual and hissed: "Stupid flesh-things. No claws to pierce tongue with. Must cut tongue then use potion. See?"

Ki Oman took the vial back, used his dagger to overcome the small obstacle of lacking claws, and began to speak in grand, prosaic terms of the benefits of peace and the groups desire for a peaceful resolution to any problem. The three lizardmen seemed to follow his words for a bit, but then began looking somewhat confused after the first twenty words or so. While Ki Oman passed the vial back, he and Shadowdancer surmised that there must be a limit on how many words the potion could translate and decided to pay careful attention to how many words the lizardman used in his next statement.

"Yes. The People Need Place for Live. People Driven from Home. Came Here. You Get People's Home Back. No War."

From this, the three party members deduced that they could speak perhaps twenty words per exchange, and guessed there was (perhaps) enough potion left for two or three more such exchanges. They also deduced that the cryptic statement that the trogs were offering to leave the temple and it's inhabitants in peace if they would clear out what-ever threat had driven them from their home. This seemed to the negotiators to be a tall order. They estimated from the numbers of camp-fires seen and from the number of warriors they had encountered so far that the tribe could number as many as two hundred trogs (a figure the players came to all by themselves with no DM input. Or, as I would call it, a wild-assed guess). Ki Oman declared in turn that the group wanted peace but that they needed more information before agreeing to undertake this mission and asked what had driven the trogs out.

The old trog replied they had been driven from their cave by plant men.Wishing to conserve the remaining potion, the negotiators them tried to determine what was meant through pantomime and by drawing lines and shapes in the soil. It transpired that there was only one myconid involved (though the three negotiators were never able to establish how "plant men" boiled down to just one myconid. A humerous moment ensued when Ki Oman pantomimed the question "how big" and the Elder responded by getting one of his escorts to lie in the ground, wave his arms over his head, and leave a "sand-myconid" impression in the soil. After a further bit of pantomine, Ki Oman indicated he would remain behind while the other two party members returned to the rest of the group to discuss the matter. The trogs happily tucked into their soup and settled down to wait.

Back at the temple, the three main options that were eventually proposed by the party members were:
1: Help the Trogs re-take their caves in return for trade, weapons and food.
2: Kidnap the three trogs as hostages.
3: Kill the trogs.

Minerva (the NPC High Priestess/Mycenean Princess) proposed that, in keeping with Mycenean tradition, they should vote on such an important issue. To no-ones surprise, the first option won out almost unanimously, the slaver Xenos (who had proposed the second option) eventually electing to vote for the peace and only the ever-paranoid Shadowdancer (still insisting that anything that drove out 200 trogs would easily be a match for the party) voted for option 3. This process took a consierable period of time, however, By the time Shadowdancer and Euthalia returned to Ki Oman the trog elder had been shifting his old bones uncomfortably for some time. The larger of the two escorts had been waving his arms unhappily and hissing his impatience.

Using very nearly the last of the potion, Ki Oman spoke:
"Lasting Peace With All Tribes for Food. Weapons. Equipment. Clear Caves. You Send Warriors to Show Cave Next Sun. Otherwise. No Deal."

To their dismay, the elder lizardmen allowed himself a fit of hissing laughter before replying.
"We teach you Hunt. You Come in Big Canoe. Know Nothing. Like Baby. He, " pointing to the angry warrior "Take to Caves. No Other People."

The elder then took a second, larger dose of potion (before up-ending the vial to show it was empty) and continued to speak. "No Speak for Blue. Yellow. Orange. Green. Pink. Purple. People. Only Speak Brown people. If Deal Good Take Tooth. You Give Your Teeth, Make more Potion."

With hardly so much as a flinch, the blind elder reachex up and matter-of-factly snappx off a tooth, which he presensts to Ki Oman.

At this point laughter erupted around the table at the though of poor, handsome Ki Oman (who'd already lost an eye) having to give up some of his teeth for the greater good. Fortunately Ki Oman's player realized that it didn't have to be his teeth (how would the first potion have worked if it had to be his tooth, after all) and that the party had come across a number of human corpses in the Temple that could provide human teeth just as easily.

Ki Oman took the offered tooth without hesitation, and tried not to blanch too visibly when forty or so trog warriors "de-cloaked" in a rough circle around the negotiating him and his fellow negotiators.

The party spent the remainder of the day in preparation for the expedition, preparing food (either fish stew or, courtesy of Euthalia, flat-bread) preparing poison, cutting and twisting vines to make rope, scraping skins for parchment, cutting wood (for torches) and smearing spare cloth and canvas with fish oil (again to make torches).


 Next morning, the shipwrecked were once again woken by the riotous tumult of Sparious rushing through the halls banging his copper port and screaming "Alarm." On this occasion however, only a single trog stood outside, lazily leaning on one leg and a tail while awaiting the arrival of the smelly flesh-things he was instructed to guide.

As soon as the expedition was ready (conveniently, the characters of all the players who were able to attend this session) their guide began moving off -careful to keep upwind and at least ten feet away from all the PC's at all times, even hissing angrily at anyone (such as Shadowdancer and Ki Oman) who tried to close the gap.

Though the trip took the better part of twelve hours, through (at first) dense jungles and then (finally) a barren, volcanic area of sulfurous fumes and razor sharp obsidian rocks, the judgement of the Wilderness types in the party was that they had traveled only a few miles in that time. The party seemed to believe this was solely due to the nature of the terrain they were traversing.

Spoiler Alert: Actually, the terrain was responsible. At least in part. But it never hurts to keep the players feeling paranoid :D

During one of the infrequent rest-stops their guide permitted, it sunned itself lazily upon a relatively flat (but still murderously sharp) rock while several of the pieces gathered up shards of obsidian. Some, such as Thot and Glykeria, were somewhat enthused by the idea of making arrow and spear heads from the stone. At least, until someone (Thera, I believe) pointed out that none of the wreck survivors (to her knowledge) were nappers.

Finally, at the sun began to set behind them, the guide led them to a small, sulfurous pool of otherwise calm water. Whereupon the guide plonked himself down on a rock and nonchalantly waved them on, towards a small cave entrance partially hidden by a waterfall. Several irate party members had it in their heads that the guide was supposed to accompany them into the cave. A humerus scene ensued when several party members attempted to communicate this complicated idea to the bemused (and somewhat irritated) trog. Eventually giving up on the idea, Thera then attempted to communicate  the notion of the trog drawing a map through the medium of chalk (thoughtfully provided by Shadowdancer). The trog watched with some interest while Thera drew a series of lines and circles on a stone, before hissing and rubbing it's belly in a fit of humor. Moments later, the lizardman had seized the chalk and sketched a artists impression of a spider, perfect to the last detail, which he presented to Thera with a theatrical tail-flourish and loud hissing.

DM (OOC): Ta-dah! That's how you draw a spider. Mother-******

Eventually giving up (after Shadowdancer idly wondered if Troglodytes even understood the concept of a map- and incidentally hitting the nail right on the head) the party began testing the water with a variety of staffs and polearms before gingerly lowering themselves into the pool. Somewhat surprised by the absence of a tentacled monstrosity, scolding hot water, acid or some-sort of horrible aquatic giant spider, the party formed into three ranks - warriors in front- and descended into darkness.

(This being a Hellenistic setting almost everyone has spears or short-swords, so there's plenty room for three people to fight in line. Boagris however, realizes he'll only be able to employ his great club in the larger chambers).

The party followed the course of a stream leading downwards from the pool and easily overcame the obstacle presented by the first of two waterfalls. This small waterfall, which descended about thirty feet, had a thick carpet of fungus on one side which the players were able to use to descend safely. Shortly thereafter, they came across a second waterfall. One lacking a convenient fungal cargo net. However, the sharp-eyed party soon located a circular, stone hatch in one wall. Noticing the presence of a wedge shaped indentation, the party hit upon the idea it might be some sort of key. Fortunately, they had brought along several obsidian darts and javelins "captured" from trogs (mostly "captured" by various PC or NPC body-parts, it has to be said) and hit upon the idea of poking a sharp-end into the indentation. Thereafter, the hatch swings open to expose a spiraling chute heading down into even more darkness.

All to aware that he's the only stealthy party member whose eyes don't really need that much in the way of light to see by, Shadowdancer allows himself to be persuaded into descending the chute. He has no problem slowly inching (rather than sliding) his way down. And it's as well he does. Sticking his head out the bottom hatchway, he is just swift enough to react to two sudden pendulum movements in either side of his field of vision to duck back from a wriggling mass of fungoid tentacles suspended from a circular pod-like object attached to the wall above him on either side.

Reacting to the noise below (including Shadowdancer's shouted warning since, according to Shadowdancer, "being humans they likely have trouble with anything more complex than wiping their own back-sides or picking fleas off one-another. Let alone knowing they're being attacked") the party (with the inevitable exception of Thanatos) rush towards the lip of the waterfall, fighters in front, and peer down. Fortunately for the party, none of the front rank fighters slip or are jostled over the edge. Less fortunately for the party, it transpires that one of the pendulum things manages to attach a tentacle to Boagris' face during the upward part of it's pendulum movement. Alas, for the poor fungus, of all the party-members it has to attach it's sticky, fungal pseudopod to the face of, it has to choose the face of Boagris. Weighing easily three hundred pounds, plus armor, plus weapons (and there are a lot of weapons), gear and everything else, the fungus has no chance of budging the massive warrior. Boagris, meanwhile, roars in agony while the plants weight pulls at the flesh on his face and whacks it with his greatclub. Only to inflict relatively manner damage and have to watch (well, not really watch, there's a great big mass of fungal flesh stuck to his face, after all) his greatclub sink deeply into his attacker. And then stick. Remember that gluey ooze sticking it to your face? Seemingly not. Alas, poor dumb Boagris is too, well, dumb to make the connection (lowest int score in the party by far) and there after decides to punch the foe.

Yes, you heard me. Punch it. Fortunately, by this point he has several more tentacles attached to him and hasn't a hope in hell of hitting anything. Good roleplaying here by Silv though.

Niall OOC: Good god, I hope he doesn't try a grapple!

There follows an exciting combat where the characters who have the best chance of NOT cutting Boagris' head off while trying to free him attack one fungus-pod while the rest of the party concentrate on the threat posed by the second (except Thanatos, who is, er, guarding the rear again) and Shadowdancer (who is, erm, stuck in the chute. Honest). While Xenos blasts the second pod with her magic and Glykeria finds out (to her disgust) that hitting the damn thing with a flaming torch just gets the torch covered in sticky gloop and extinguishes the flame, Ki Oman manages to get a rope to stick to the second creature. Euthalia, Thot and (once she realizes she's not going to get that torch re-lit while it's covered in glue) Glykeria all eventually grab onto the rope. However, the weight is too much for the four of them to hold the fungal plant (imagine how Boagris feels with that same mass trying to rip his face off) and the fungal pod drags all of them off their feet. Except for Euthalia, who clings on for dear life and winds up desperately clinging to the rope while suspended above a thirty foot drop. The other three breathe a sigh of relief. And then a little something they overlooked hits them like a punch from Boagris - the whole party (with the exception of Shadowdancer, who untied himself to crawl down the chute) is roped together. Oops. Thot, Ki Oman, Glykeria, Xenos and even Thanatos (basically, everyone tied onto the rope ether just before or at any point after Euthalia) start sliding towards the edge.

Fortunately, Euthalia works up the courage to let go of the rope and is quickly hauled back over the waterfall by her previously sliding companions. Meanwhile, just as Andros delivers the final blow to the tentacles hugging Boagris's noggin (he's now been struck by several tentacles by this point), Xenos remembers he has a bolas! Biding his time until the two swinging fungal pendulums meet in their arc, he tosses her weapon and strikes true (Natural 20!). The bolas wraps itself around the two gluey monstrosities and binds them both together. They drop down to the limit of their flexible bodies and are thereafter suspended just above the cavern floor, hugging and (presumably) well-and-truly glued to one another. While Boagris rubs his face and moans about loosing his precious great club (not even bothering to thank Euthali for the healing) the others wonder where Shadowdancer is. Feeling mischievous, Ki Oman picks up a rock (picks up, remember, this will be important later) and hurls it down the chute. Shadowdancer doesn't even see it coming, but his howl of pain echoes up the chute to his chortling companions. A few moments later, the angry shidhe appears at the mouth of the chute.

"By the Ever-Queen, which of you damned monkeys kicked a stone at me."

Completely straight faced, Glykeria puts on her most innocent and earnest expression and states (with perfect comedic timing):

"Shadowdancer, I swear by my Goddess. No-one kicked a stone at you!"

(Que a moment of stunned silence at the table. Much laughter, spilling of drinks and throwing of Dorito's and carrot sticks ensue. Yes, we have carrot sticks. We're healthy gamers at my table. Now pass the double chocolate cheese-cake!).

Before descending any further (and all too aware that one slippery chute makes for a very tenuous line of retreat) the party leaves several ropes hanging over the edge of the waterfall before continuing onwards. Several passages lead off from the pool at the bottom of the waterfall and the party decide to scout each as far as the first room before making a decision on their direction of travel.

The north-east passage leads to a wide, tall chamber. However, the party cannot quite discern the room's true dimensions without entering. Why? Because the chamber is packed with many, many pod-like fungal growths. Man-sized in their dimensions, each pulsating pod is lined with semi-transparent veins transporting a gooish ichor from the ceiling to the pod itself. Worse, several such pods seems to have been split open down a vertical seam and display red, flesh-like tissue within.

"Er, we'll come back to this one later, I think"

The more eastern passage leads to a source of blue light. Approaching cautiously, they see the eerie light come from a pool in the centre of a stalactite and stalagmite ridden cavern. Keeping a careful eye out for moving wedge-shaped pieces of stone on the floor and ceiling ( I mean, would I put piercers or ropers here? Would I?) they peek into the chamber from the passageway and note the presence of a blueish liquid dripping down from the ceiling.

Perplexed, they leave to scout the western corridor, which arcs southwards. As they travel, they pass a very humid crack in the passage-way wall. Intrigued, several party members call upon Shadowdancer to squirm down it. He's understandably not impressed - especially after what happened last time. At least until someone points out that the last time Shadowdancer went scouting it was the party who ended up being the targets and not him! Still not entirely convinced, he squirms down the thin tunnel -and recoils in horror at the sight of yet more tentacles flashing towards him through the gloom!

[We ended it there for the evening. I wanted a change of atmosphere this session. The module I'm running has a B-Movie feel to it so I deliberately went for a more relaxed gaming style after the  tension of the first three sessions. Although there were farcical moments, they all furthered the story (rather than detracting from it or wrecking that all important wall). I hope. A very role-play intensive, combat-lite session. I had great fun with it -and I hope you readers did too.]

OOC chat of the Week:

Rhidh: "Scared of us? Yeah, sure they are. They've got Predator-style camo and there's forty of em. I'm sure they're scared of us!'

Rhidh: "Of course he's a bastard (talking about Shadow-dancer)! He's a Shidhe Prince!"
Leoni: "Did you just say he's a she-prince?"
Rhidh: "No! No! A shidhe prince. S.H.I.D.H.E. Shidhe. You know, shidhe. Like a fairy!"
(Sudden pause as Rhidh realizes what he's just said. And why the whole table just erupted in laughter).


Caliban said...

Great stuff, Brian, the campaign is really coming along. And the puns don't even seem forced...

Dangerous Brian said...

Thanks Caliban. By the way, it's pretty much an open table. Drop me a line if you ever feel like sitting in on a game.

Ray Rousell said...

An Excellent read!

The Angry Lurker said...

Excellent, I've missed this.

Caliban said...

Hi Brian, thanks for the invitation. I don't know if I'll be able to take you up on it, but I'd love to.

Dangerous Brian said...

Cheers Fran and Ray, glad your enjoying reading up on our games.

You'd be more than welcome Cal. Drop me a line if you think you'll be available for any games. I'm waiting to hear about plans for this weekend, but I'll make sure I announce when the next game is.

Amber Renarde said...

Here is Ridh's explanation of Shadowdancer's point of view:-

"Shadowdancer stayed in the chute because none of the humans (again, please refer to previous comment about said species) had the presence of mind to call down to him what was going on.

All he was aware of was calling out a warning to the others of danger ahead and then the sounds of screaming and fighting erupting from above, potentially accompanied by the death of all there at the claws/tentacles of something hideous (and lets face it a few of them deserve it. Its only the need for sufficient forces to ward off the dangers of the island that has stayed his hand from assassinating some of them at one of the many opportunities and provocations they have presented him with so far. None of the rest of the barely sentient primates that comprise the group he has been stranded with are worth more than a few drops of his royal blood anyway, particularly against a completely unknown foe when he can't see what is going on...)."

We fellow players are hopefully looking forward to a peek at Shadowdancer's personal account of our adventures to get his own, rather unique, point of view on thing!