Sunday, 20 November 2011

Session VII: Time of the Trogs.

Character Roster:

Exploring the Caves (players present):
Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 2/1. Played by Ridh
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Euthalia: Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Kallias: Human (Mycenean) Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) Male Dual Class Assassin 1/Bard 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human(Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Xenos: Human (Mycenean) Fighter/magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Camp (absent players and NPCs):
Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Friendly: Troglodyte Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Caroline
Surly: Troglodyte Guide.NPC. Temporarily played by Niall
Third: Trog Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Rhidh
Thot: Half-Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. Played by Rob

Temple of Meerax, Garrison (absent players and NPCs):
Antipater: Human (Mycenean) Ship's Master. NPC.
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human (Mycenean) Female 0 level Priestess of Heastia. NPC
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparios: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.

Glykeria: Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1. Death by poison. Session VI

Taking Menithera and Bombatta with them, the party return to their camp by the pool. The two former-prisoners quickly take the chance to rest. Kallias -a previously unconscious Cleric of Dion- and his Trog guide arrive from the Temple later that day with reports of heavy fighting between the Trogs and Gray Demons. Kallias brings with him word from Minerva that, if the party do not clear the caves quickly, she may have no choice but to let the Trogs join her in the Temple. After a brief discussion, the exhausted Kalias quickly joins the former prisoners in slumber, though not before scrounging some "weapons," a dagger and a hefty bronze ladle, from the companions. Although other weapons are available -and even Bombatta has been entrusted with a spear- no-one seems to expect much in the way of fighting skill from a pretty-boy priest like Kallias.  Alas, there is also no spare armour to be had.

Though many daylight hours remain, the party chooses to rest overnight to recover spells and prayers.

During the night, several of the characters have trouble sleeping, in part because they have suffered their first fatality, instead passing the time in conversation.

[The conversations in question took place on facebook while I was away for the day. Caroline sent me a transcript which I edited, removing some anachronisms, and altering a few paragraphs to cut out the odd bit of meta-gaming and a very small section of  God-modeing. Because of this impromptu RP session I learned that several of the players were having a hard time grasping the difference between player knowledge, character knowledge and player skill. I was naturally quite happy about this, as I'd rather not have to explain complicated subjects when we're sitting at the table. Unfortunately, the transcript of the facebook session is on my desktop PC, which is currently away for repairs. I'll have to post it later.]

In the morning, Alexis and Thoht volunteer to stay behind and keep an eye on the camp – not to mention the three Trog guides and the two Thyatians. Before departing though, Thanatos summons the group together. The assassin apologies for his previous behavior, explaining to the group that he is slow to trust and asking their forgiveness. He then goes on to explain that he has a secret to share, in order to prove his sincerity to the group and in the hope that they will then trust him. With that, the assassin unties the knot holding his long hair in place, shakes it loose and, removing a few outer layers of clothing, nervously reveals that he is, in fact, a she. The reaction is, perhaps, not what she was expecting. Far from being outraged by the deception, as most Myceneans (with their strict gender roles would be) the citizens of Mysos are instead somewhat confused. Why would she hide her gender when there are armed women -including professional warriors- among the group? Taking on a masculine role is no shame in the city founded by Dion. Instead, Thanatos is solemnly thanked by Euthalia and one or two others for her gesture of trust, and formally welcomed into the group as a “sister” rather than a brother.

Needless to say, the young woman looks somewhat relieved at her reception. Only Bombatta offers negative comment, claiming that she is just as “disgusting” as the other “mad-women” in the group who bear arms. This attitude is not, perhaps, surprising given Merithena's somewhat sparse “attire” and the bodyguards earlier refusal to let “that thing”, Shadowdancer, speak with him. The Thyatian's comment is simply ignored. However, his speech does give the group the opening they were waiting for.

The first question asked is, unsurprisingly enough, whether the extremely capable looking Bombatta will accompany the group on their foray. Bombatta's contemptuous snort might seem answer enough, but he goes on to add that “Where she [meaning Merithena] goes, I go. And since I clearly cannot permit her to enter the cave, neither can I.”

A few of the characters wonder at the bodyguard's word-choice. He certainly does not seem to speak of Merithena (who some party-members have taken to calling, “the Princess”) in a manner befitting her rank. Not to Mycenean ears at least. Nor does he present himself as being subordinate to her in any way despite being her bodyguard. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that Merithena seems to regard this behavior as perfectly normal. Bombatta continues to answer most of the groups questions even, on one occasion, cutting off Merithena mid-sentence. Regardless, few of the questions asked by the group result in useful answers, though they do clean the following information:

                 The Bull-Headed King rules over the city of Thyatis

                 The city lies perhaps two days to the east, going by Bombatta's assessment
                 of their present location and based on landmarks the PC's can provide.
                 Merithena and her party were ambushed. One moment they were walking, they next
                 they collapsed. Several guards were absent when they awoke in the cages. Only
                  one other bodyguard was present, and he was first fed into the grinder in their
                 prison before being fed to the creature in the cage-room pod.
                 Bombatta describes the skull-in-flames tattoo he wears on both wrists as his
                 “badge of rank.”

Perhaps strangely, neither former-prisoner seems at all interested in finding out more about the group or it's members. The group almost seem irrelevant in the eyes of the Thyatians.

Leaving camp, the group travel quickly to the second waterfall. Once again Ki Oman carefully descends the chute (climbing rather than sliding), and smiles contemptuously at the trap he finds in the chamber below: a series of spears hammered into a wooden plank angled to skewer anyone sliding down the chute.

Ki Oman: It's safe to come down... only kidding! Permit me one moment.

Still chuckling to himself, Ki Oman (the same Ki Oman who keeps warning people about touching strange or suspicious objects in a dungeon, the same Ki Oman who saw what happened to Gykeria just a day before, the same Ki Oman who discarded his gloves from fear of accidentally poisoning himself with contaminated blood afterwards, this same Ki Oman) reaches out his hand and attempts to move the spear trap.

Some time later, having heard nothing from below, the party members hiss a question down the chute to Ki Oman, Not receiving an answer, Euthalia, and Andros decide to risk climbing down the chute to investigate. Meanwhile Thera peers over the waterfall, looking for any signs of Ki Oman, but can't see him or the chute exit because of an overhanging slip of rock. However, despite Andros volunteering to go down first, Euthalia the cleric, concerned that Ki Oman might need healing, insists on going first. Euthalia effortlessly manages to control her descent down the chute, and climbs out in time to see a clearly paralyzed Ki Oman poised over the spear-trap, one hand touching the wood, his eyes (or rather, eye) being the only part of him still moving. Just as she is about to call the news back up the chute, Andros slips, careers downward, and knocks both herself and and the cleric onto the spears.

Luckily, both of them are just nicked, but Andros succumbs to the paralysis poison. Euthalia meanwhile, hisses a warning about the trap back up the chute. Drawing Andros' sword, she first pulls Andros off the spear-frame and then tries to lever it aside with her borrowed blade.

That's when Thera (watching from above) realizes they are not alone.

Thera: Euthalia, look out!

[Wandering Monster time]

Though not in a position to witness events in the vicinity of the spear-trap, from her perch looking out over the water-fall Thera is able to discern a fungal humanoid shape lunging towards the clerics unprotected back. Wasting no time the Paladin flings her spear at the pod-man. It's a long throw, with a bad angle, but the spear nearly strikes true. It grazes the lurching pod man's shoulder as it flies past. A small wound, but enough to buy Euthalia some warning. The pod-man's flailing limbs manage to wound the cleric, but only slightly, yet the pod man captures the clerics shoulder in a vice-like grasp.

Above, Thanatos tries to distract the thing with a thrown rock, knowing as she does that blunt weapons will not harm it. Meanwhile, Boagris, with a similar idea, hefts his spear into the melee and again manages to find the wrong target. His spear arcs across Euthalia's back, tearing a wound that leaves her screaming and open to the pod-man's next attack. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer slides gracefully down the shaft, rolling aside at the last possible moment to avoid impaling himself. Once in the chamber beneath the waterfall, he draws his weapons, ready to attack. Xenos unleashes a magic missile (the first of three he cast's during the encounter) at the pod-man, blasting a chunk from it's shoulder.

Euthalia, already badly wounded by Boagris' throw, goes down under a pummelling from the pod-man.

The plant is pelted with javelins, rocks and a magic-missile thereafter. Shadow-dancer triumphantly throws his coat over the beasts head. Above, Kallias, unable to pay a great deal of attention to his surroundings while he prays, casts a light spell on the cloak-enshrouded pod-man, both in the hope of blinding it and to provide better illumination for the party's missile attacks. A bright ball of light appears above the things head. Right. Next. To. Shadowdancer.

Shadow-dancer (using his elven heat-vision): AAAAAARRRRRHHHHHH!

[Elle's new character gets off to a less than sterling start by blinding the only conscious/non-paralysed PC in melee range of the monster. However, to be fair, Kallias neither knows that SD has heat-vision (elves arn't exactly common on Edarnia) nor can see events 30ft below him in a dark cavern very well either]

While Shadow-dancer desperately fends off blows from the (clearly not in the least bit cloak-or-light-impeded) pod-man with his spear, Thera, seeing his danger, leaps down the chute after him. The Paladin misjudges her roll terribly, impaling her arm on the spikes. Fortunately, she manages to avoid succumbing to the numbness spreading across her limbs and hauls herself painfully off the sharp wooden points. Boagris, perhaps hoping to atone for his earlier mistake, leaps after the paladin, using his bronze meat-hook to control his descent. He therefore arrives safely just as Xenos' last magic missile strikes home. Meanwhile, Thanatos, eagerly trying to climb down the waterfall into back-stab position, slips and falls from the overhang, landing on the spikes and poisoning herself. Thera's blows distract the fungoid monster long enough to draw it's attention from Shadowdancer, but she takes more wounds in the process. Finally, completely out of spells and desperate, Xenos throws her bolas into the melee. Fortunately, she hits the pod-man, not Thera, but as the podman falls it pulls Thera down on top of it.

Seeing the pod-man rendered immobile, Kalias leaps down the chute, dodges aside at the correct moment, and moves towards Euthalia with the intent of healing the downed cleric.

With Thera and the pod-man rolling about the cavern floor, no-one else is able to get a clear shot. Thera's attempts to slay the thing with her dagger are hindered by it's grip on her. With a solid punch to the temple, the pod-man lays the Paladin out and attempts to throw her off.

At this Boagris lunges forward, hauling Thera to one-side. Between them, Boagris and the half-blind Shadow-dancer manage to finish the wounded, hobbled and prone pod-man, but despite it's grievous situation it does not go down without a fight. Even Kallias manages to get a decent strike in with his dagger (though the ladle doesn't prove much use) much to the surprise of the two more experience party members.

Panting heavily, the heroes look about them with some degree of astonishment at the havoc wrecked by just one such creature. A creature not so different from the twelve the group tore through not a day before. That one alone could work so much carnage.....

Thera and Euthalia are down and near-death, though being tended by Kalias. Thanatos was not only wounded, but Paralysed. As were Andros and Ki Oman. Five of the group -fully one-half of their number- brought down in a single encounter!

The decision is unanimous – retreat to the surface to rethink, and re-group. The party set about rigging a harness to lift the wounded up the face of the waterfall, using shields, moss and cloaks to soften any impacts with the sheer walls on the way up. Shadowdancer stands guard and tests a theory, peering through the cloak with his elf-vision, he could see the heat-shapes of his companions clearly. He announced his suspicions regarding the pod-mans mode of vision to the group but later considers that, while the light spell had blinded him, it had not affected the pod-man at all.

By the means already described, the group has just finished hauling Thera and Euthalia to the top of the waterfall when Ki Oman finally regains control over his body. Just as they finish rigging Andros into the make-shift harness, she regains control of her muscles and sits up. Thanatos spasms slightly shortly thereafter. She has regained enough control over her numbed body to call a warning. From her prone position, ear pressed to the ground, she has heard the noise of skittering insect movements when -thanks to the roaring waterfall- no-one else can. The party -at least, those of them still below- mobilise themselves to face the threat. A number of centipedes, each as long as a man's forearm, come scuttling over the moss-carpet coating the cavern floor. With ease, the creatures are soon dispatched, Andros claiming the first kill and the final insect being splatted by a well aimed and hefty throw from Xenos. The former-slaver's driftwood stick claims another insect victim, earning the make-shift weapon a new title: “Verminator”.

[At least once in every session where Xenos has been present, the slaver, once out of spells and other options -including his bolas- has managed to kill something -usually vermin- with that damn lump of wood. It's become something of a legend, that stick. One or two of the party members have even demanded -half-seriously- that someone cast detect magic on the thing. For my part, I'm tempted to have it spontaneously develop magical anti-vermin properties. At least, if its record of killing vermin holds up for a few more sessions]

Back at camp, Thera and Euthalia are made as comfortable as possible. Though healing -magical and mundane- has saved their lives, it will take some days for either to recover fully from their wounds. Solemnly, the group -with the exception of the three Trog guides and the two disinterested Thyatians- discuss their remaining options.

Some voices, Thanatos and Ki's among them- call for simply abandoning the Trogs, the Caves, and the Temple altogether and making for the City. Others- Shadow-dancer for example- argue against this course, observing that they have no guarantee of the reception they will find there. Others are against abandoning their word. Kalias observes that the wounded from the Temple would never be able to make the trip. In the end, there choice is clear. They'll have to continue, but in order to do so they must demand that the Trog guides come and help.

Meanwhile, the three Trogs, Surly (roleplayed by Niall), Friendly (roleplayed by Caroline) and Third (roleplayed by Shadowdancer) have been having a powwow amongst themselves.

Third: The Grey Demons press us harder every day. We cannot tolerate any more delays.

Surly: It seems not. These human food-things do not seem as competent as they first did. Perhaps the old one was wrong to trust them.

Friendly: If the Grey Demons press so hard, why does the Old One not simply demand shelter in their stone house?

Third: The stupid man-things left without giving the old one any teeth.

[Collective exclamations -or rather, hisses- of stunned disbelief from Surly and Friendly.]

Friendly: The fools. Perhaps they really are worthless as anything but food after all?

Surly: If they are, then it seems we cannot rely on them. [To Third] Go back to the Old One. Tell him we are taking the man-food into the Home. Make sure the one that smells most like food – the thing with one-eye, gives you his teeth to take to the Old One.

Friendly: Hssssss. They are looking at us.

Third: Yes. Hush. The Big Tasty One (Boagris) seems to be trying to communicate to us.

Surly: How do you know he is not making a mating call?

Third: If you were attempting to attract a mate for spawning, would you wear the skin of your kin on your back?

Friendly: Point taken,

[Boagris wears the rotting, un-tanned Hide of a baboon as armor. Perhaps explaining why he smells so "tasty"].

Boagris fails to make himself understood, but when the three Trogs attempt to indicate that two of them will being go into the caves, the party quickly grasp the point. “Third”, the Trog who brought Kalias to the caves, stalks up to Ki, grasps his jaw with a clawed hand, forces it open and clacks a claw against Ki's teeth. Taking the hint, Ki Oman hands over the bag of teeth. Third quickly disappears into the rocks, his passage marked by the noise of skittering claws tapping against rock, while he runs back to his people.

Surly leads the PC's -minus Thera, Euthalia and Thoht- back into the caves. Friendly takes up the rear to make sure none of the stupid man-things tries to sneak away. They quickly try to lead the group down the southern passage, but the man-things insist on heading towards the blue goo chamber first.

Friendly: What could they possibly want with the spawning pool, anyway?

Surly: Outrageous, this is no time for mating!

The two Trogs watch in perplexed disgust while the fleshier party members dip various items into the sacred spawning pool. They don't attempt to stop them however. Perhaps it's some form of odd fleshy battle-ritual?

Tongues hanging out, mouths open, the two Trogs shake their heads and lead the party towards the main habitation areas of the Cave-complex. They continue down the southern corridor, and pause at the Cage room.

Friendly: Why have they left the short fleshy-thing in the fungus cage to rot?

Surly: Perhaps they intend to eat him later?

As they continue, the two Trogs are careful not to come into contact with any of the (to them) sweet-smelling pod-man remains. They have no intention of being infected by the Black-Death that strips them of their scales and eats them alive from the inside out.

After a few more tunnels, they party reaches a series of chambers carved from the living rock, with regular floors and walls, albeit with the non-familiar coating of fungus, moss and lichens. The tails of the two Trogs twitch irritably and they seem to have a hard time controlling their excretions of fear-scent. Still, they lead the party onwards.

In the first of the carved rooms, the party encounters three bubbling vats atop burning braziers, a work-bench and a number of papers. One of the vats reeks greatly of what the Trogs think of as the Black-Death, they avoid it, preventing the humans from exploring the room. Covering their snouts with their tails as they pass it at as great a distance as the geography will allow, the Trogs lead the party onwards. In another chamber they encounter what can only be described as a study or library. The Trogs seem to become more agitated with every new room. Clearly, they do not like what the fungoids have done with the place. They also uncover another pod-room, similar to the one they cleared the day before but much larger. Cautiously, they return back the way they came and enter another chamber.

And come face-to-face with the Sinister Shroom itself.


Ray Rousell said...

I thought you was going to break into "Wild Thing" then!!

The Angry Lurker said...

Continuing a great story but they are turning out to be a bit of a sad group, I'm with the Trogs for the moment.

Dangerous Brian said...

Glad you're both enjoying the story. I would't go so far as to say the group's performance was sad though. Most of the players present hadn't played an RPG on any kind, let alone an old school one, before starting this game.
And there have been genuine moments of brilliance in past sessions. I'd simply say that Ki Oman's player had something of an off-day when he forgot he wasn't wearing gloves any more. Once Ki went down the group lost their de facto leader. Ali, to his credit, didn't try to give the group instructions or advice while his character was out. It was the lack of coordination from a leader figure, the inexperience of a player using a cleric for the first time and the actions of a player who simply doesn't seem to care about hurting his companions by firing into melee (third time this campaign, I believe) that cost them this time. Not to mention a lot of simple bad luck with the dice rolls to climb down the chute.

They absolutely tore through that 12 pod-man encounter last week, after all.

thekelvingreen said...

I'm really enjoying this campaign write up. Good stuff!

Talmyr said...

Well, my dice rolls with a paladin are legendarily bad - I believe my first paladin doing Temple of Elemental Evil in 1E averaged a '6' - about the only reason the DM allowed me to play a half-elven paladin (as per the brand new and somewhat 'suspect' Unearthed Arcana rules).

The deadly encounter was also a classic example of the combination of a nasty-ish monster (unblindable and sticky), a fiendish trap (well-positioned spikes bad, paralysis poison Grimtooth-worthy), and unfavourable terrain (most of the party stuck up a 30-foot waterfall with a narrow chute the only way down). A great example of 4E-style encounter design, carried off masterfully by the chance of wandering monsters.

Dangerous Brian said...

Glad you're enjoying it Kelvin. And yup, have to agree with you Talmyr. The trap on it's own was fairly nasty -but that wandering monster roll is what made the whole encounter a killer.

but I would point out just one thing. The combination of monster and double-blind trap is hardly a 4th ed phenomenon. You yourself mentioned Grimtooth. And Grimtooth style traps combined with a monster have been around for a loooonnng time.

I have painful (to me) memories of a losing a 1st ed character to a Gelatinous Cube/Sphere of Annihilation combo in a 5ft wide corridor. Actually, there'a an idea.... I'd forgotten about that one.