Thursday, October 27, 2016

West Marches session 6

We only had the Friday session this past weekend. While everyone was keen to play again, a moment of lucidity came upon us regarding having things that needed to get done in the real world.

Rested and resupplied, the party set out to meet the farmers to see if the thefts had stopped, and of course to ask about the reward. There were several farmers together having a lively discussion as the party arrived at Grint's. With reward in hand, the farmers expressed their thanks for tackling the problem. For several days no livestock had been stolen. Then discussion turned to the reward.

Grint asked if the party would consider donating some of the reward to the families of the volunteers that were slain by the giant hornet. After a short discussion it was agreed that the full amount of 50 silver would be given.

Announcing that they were going back to the goblin cave for a further look, the party journeyed west. Arriving at the caves in the evening without incident, the investigation began. The cave was busy with flies and other insects, many feasting on the giant hornet corpse. The smell of decay in the air proved no deterrent for the explorers and they delved further into the cave.

Deeper within was a flowing stream amid stalactites and stalagmites. Cautiously the group moved along the path of the flowing water. The stream led them to a descending stepped area, the water tricking down into a pool. Between two small Stalagmites they stumbled upon a small pouch containing a vial containing a cloudy blue liquid which Rae pocketed for later examination. Ahead and to the side was another opening leading to a narrow crevice.

While Dorrak and Rae explored the pool, Zena crawled head first into the declining fissure while Mira prepared to follow in the event of trouble. Zena's senses were assaulted with horrific smells and the awareness of insects everywhere. Dorrak tried to get a clearer view into the pool and noticed some odd lumps on the bottom. Rae determined that the basin was nearly 4 feet in depth and it was decided she would wade in to try loosening and moving the larger lump.

Zena stood up into a larger space foul with the smell of sour milk, rotten meat, urine and feces. A mass of disgusting goo filled the cavern floor before her. Calling up the shaft Zena informed Mira of her findings then began rummaging through the bone strewn, sticky accumulation. Moving aside bones, thousands of maggots, and flies, she reached elbow deep seeking anything of value that might lie hidden beneath the midden. Despite the description given by her companion, Mira ventured into the narrow opening.

Retrieving the marble trophy from the water, Rae passed it to the dwarf. The back of the statuette was thick with a mineral crust, the front revealed a humanoid in robes though the face had been vandalized beyond the possibility of recognition. Dorrak regarded the find, noting that even in its current state there may be some value to justify keeping the figure, a point to which Rae agreed.

Fox had been keeping watch and grown bored. Calling to the others she suggested they explore toward the source of the stream. The party, split into different parts of the cavern agreed to try to meet up after Zena and Mira finished exploring the chamber above the waste. Climbing up into a makeshift bedroom Zena examined the dried grass mats about the floor. She discovered a small, cut diamond of some obvious quality.  Fox decided to move a short distance upstream and noted that the passage curved to the left. Not wanting to be any further separated from the group she waited and watched for activity.

Having identified the passage out of the sleeping chamber as the place where they slew the injured goblin, they hurried to rejoin the group moving through the entrance chamber and back around to the stream, and the others.

The party moved upstream, across slippery rocks, to the source. The water flowed in through tiny cracks and holes in the cavern wall. Another recess loomed beyond the tiny falls.

Moving to explore the dark corner, Fox met with a hungry large spider. The fight was tense with both the party and the spider unable to connect with their attacks until Fox brought it low with a magic missile spell.

Exhausted by the investigation and lateness of the hour, they set camp in the passage between the stream and the entrance chamber. It was restful until the last watch when Zena noticed movement of the giant hornet corpse and quickly woke the others.

Bursting from the hornet's abdomen several giant centipedes rushed toward the groggy crew. Zena and Mira held them at bay, slaying two of the venomous insects and casting sleep on the writhing remainder. The companions grabbed their belongings and ran from the cave into the early morning light before the other centipedes could fully emerge.

Avoiding pursuit the party marched back to town. Fortunately Zena and Mira made their poison saves to avoid disease from their exposure to the midden goo.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Game Session Three: Encounter of the Riddle Column!

Thought I'd share a fun encounter we played out Sunday. It was of course inspired by the 'Riddles in the Dark' encounter from 'The Hobbit'.. But of course I added a twist to it. The set up can be seen in the first Pic below.. the 'U' Hallway section. This encounter also demonstrates one of my signatures as a DM... I like to SHOW the PCs the means by which their demise will be occurring before it happens and use a combination of terrain obstacles, role play, and monsters to make things interesting. In this case, its the innocuous drainage grate in the hallway section is the 'peek' at what's to come. The players can HEAR the waterfalls, and running water in caverns below, especially when they take the time to stop and listen.

What they don't know is that a gelatinous cube lies in the caverns below, and will be attracted to the dungeon halls by the vibrations of the character's passing, entering the hallway by oozing through the bars of the grate.

The next part of the set up is the 'Riddle Column'. Set up by the Priests of Nerul to guard access to the 3rd level, and further protect the secret passage, this column is quite insidious. The souls of those who have failed the challenge can be seen, as countless heads 'floating' in the red substance that makes up the column. There is also one evil, large head, and this is the 'Riddler'.

Anyway... As the characters make their way down the hall, they will first hear the chatter of whispers. Once they can SEE the column, the large head will 'float' to the side of their approach, and pose a riddle. The first riddle the column asked was:

“ I have rivers without water, Forests without trees, Mountains without rocks Towns without houses.”

Of course rather than trying to answer the riddle, they all decided to turn back and try a different way. Problem... because, as you can see in the pic, by this time the Gelatinous Cube was making its way towards them. Kind of an, “Oh Shit” moment when they turned back down the way they came, and their perception allowed them to see the thing.

Okay.. plan B.... lets try this riddle thing... They didn't know for sure, but they know me as DM and knew there would be consequences for just trying to 'walk on' without answering the riddle. The problem was... this one stumped them. I think they tried, “A desert' when the answer was, 'a map'. So, DC 12 con saves all around, and 4d6 necrotic damage. OUCH! The good part is that the column then posed another riddle, the bad part is, the Gelatinous Cube is getting closer. The barrage of missile weapons and spells really had had only minor effects to this point, and the thing was baring down on them.

Second riddle:
“Ten Men's Strength, Ten Men's Length, Ten Men can't break it, Yet a young boy walks off with it” The most experienced player got it almost right away, “A rope!”

The column replied, “Good. Now, give one and you may pass.” Which meant, give a riddle back.... they had to think about it for a second... the gelatinous cube double moved and almost engulfed the wizard (which would have been certain death with his measly 12 hit points) but he managed a nat 20 on his dex save.

Thinking quickly the Bard replied with the riddle of the sphinx, to which the column replied, “Good, you may pass.”

So, moving quickly they managed to get ahead of the thing, and finally took it down with combined missile fire and spells.

Afterwards, everyone changed their shorts.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

West Marches sessions 4 & 5

Yup, another two session weekend!

The players are really getting into the game. They've started buying sets of dice, dice bags, and building dice towers. It wouldn't surprise me if before long they begin shopping for their own miniatures.

During the week of recovery needed for Mira, all of them came by some information.
- Widow Penik's shawl being found not far north of the farms and her home.
- A cloaked stranger arrived and took up residence in an unoccupied cottage in the south of town.
- A large number of crows spent an afternoon on the town rooftops then flew off to the north.
- Mira had a strange dream of a stooped over old crone cutting the head off a chicken and splashing the blood Mira.
- The rival adventuring group, the Silver Blades, had gone south to investigate rumors of a treasure hoard somewhere in or near Stonefall Keep.

Having a sense of missing something, they decided to return to the burial mound to the north. There they focused added scrutiny on the sarcophagus where they recovered the gold belt buckle. Careful examination revealed a hidden compartment and within a small scroll. The scroll bore an image of the tile mosaics in another chamber and showed missing tiles. It was now apparent they had indeed missed something.

After an exhaustive search they discovered the hidden compartment and within it an onyx box. Returning to town and consulting with Platte the silversmith revealed the contents as 1000 copper pieces, and a silver sheath inlaid with crushed moonstones and sized for a dagger. The box was worth 200 silver, the copper was equal to 100 silver, and the sheath was worth 700 silver. (silver based economy) They chose not to sell the box or sheath for now.

Going back north to the farms they arranged a stake-out to try catching the animal thieves. On the second night a cow was stolen from a neighboring farm, but they were unwilling to continue pursuit at night into the western wilderness. In the morning they surveyed the scene of the theft and discovered some blood and a trail. Tracking the stolen cow they found some of the thieves.

The ambush was sudden, and injurious, but over quickly leaving 4 goblins dead and another escaping beyond a hill. Dragging the bodies back to the farm they opted to rest and heal before heading back out to find the missing livestock.

Going into town to request help for the farmers, the party leaned that the bandit that had been hanged a few days back was not in his grave. Someone had committed an act of grave robbing/ body snatching.

Taking the time to work with the local constabulary, investigation turned up a gruesome scene. Within the cottage where the cloaked figure was believed to be was a blood and gore soaked cellar. The remains of several animals torn, crushed, splattered, with intestines strung about like garlands of carrion. In the center of an obscured  ritual circle was a roughly human shaped spot free of the wet viscera blanketing everything.

The players feel like the cloaked figure stole the body, animated it as a zombie and then left town.

Returning to the farms the party teamed up with 3 volunteers to continue the search for the goblins and stolen livestock. At the site of the ambush they discovered a cave entrance, but before they could begin a detailed search, a giant hornet set upon them.

One volunteer was slain by the giant hornet as they retreated into the dark, unexplored cave. The angry hornet was trying to squeeze through the narrow crevice to get at the rest of the group and they fought to keep it out. Eventually the dangerous bug forced its way into the open cave. Fighting as they withdrew deeper into cave passages, another of the volunteers fell to the sting and venom of their predator.

It was a battle of attrition that they eventually won, but the cave held another surprise. From behind them a lone goblin crept through the darkness, murder in its one good eye. The goblin had suffered a glancing kick to the head while stealing the cow. Its face was now a horror, half smashed in, missing teeth, with one eye dangling from the socket. Finishing this nearly dead foe they decided a retreat to safety was in order instead of exploring further.

There is a very good possibility of the specialist reaching level 2 in the next session or two. We'll have to see what the party plan are once they've rested.

Monday, October 10, 2016

West Marches: sessions 2 and 3

Woohoo! Two session in two days!

This Friday we played our second session and the players got more into the explorer and investigator mode. The new players are beginning to take a little more initiative in group decision making and character actions. They had a great time and asked for another session Saturday, and that too went well, including addition of another new player.

The party has not progressed in their tasks of finding the missing widow, and finding the chicken thief, however they have been involving themselves in other rumors. They went off to see what was happening at the Lonely Well and discovered a campsite nearby whose occupants were dead or missing. After deciding to postpone delving into the well itself, they returned to town and chose to look into the new bandit situation that cropped up along the east road.

Soundly defeating the small number of highwaymen, they dragged a captive back to the town jail for safe keeping and questioning. The information given by the bandit indicated that the highwaymen were also worshipers of something they call the Eyes in the Darkness, and each of them bears tattoos of red eyes above their eyebrows. The captive also informed the party that the hideout was 500 yards north of the road, in a cave down in a gully.

Along with two town guards and the merchant that first reported the robbery, the party sought out this cave. The cave entrance, was guarded by a vine that attacked them. Defeating that obstacle they carefully and very hesitantly began to explore the cave.

Inside the cave the found a dead bandit that may have been the one that escaped from the battle a few days earlier. They also heard some clicking which made them paranoid within the closed confines and they left the cave.

Setting camp not far from the gully they got some rest until three large scorpions assaulted the camp. The 2 foot long creatures managed to kill one of the town guards and very nearly kill Mira (the group's specialist). Mira remains confined to bed while being treated for the poison and her wounds. Camping by a suspicious cave has taught the party a couple of lessons about becoming potential monster dinner, and about how difficult it can be to fight in the darkness.

(House Rule - one use of a D30 per session by each player, for any of the following - attack roll, damage roll, or a saving throw.)

It was the spell casters (Wizard and two Elves) that allowed them to get through the fight without more casualties. Magic Missile, Faerie Fire, and Sleep spells turned the battle around just in time.

Overall results have been positive for this fledgling game group. Some of the new players have caught the role playing bug and have started buying dice, and planning to make dice bags, among other things.

As DM, I am pleased to finally have gotten back to a frequency of play that has been missing from my gaming for far too long. It is also wonderful seeing the reaction of the players as they discover the world with all of the danger and mystery.

Next week will be interesting. The addition of another rumor to the pile of unfinished threads should really have the players twisted in knots trying to decide what to pursue.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Tower of Zenopus - Full Map and Overview

I never did finish all the painting, but some projects will go on forever, and time does eventually catch up to you, but before I dismantled the thing, I wanted to share the complete work, which includes a labeled 'DM's Map' for the room keys, which you can match to Holmes's Key in the basic set. Of course its not an exact recreation, as space, and available pieces simply would not allow it, but having played it out, I can attest that play went very close to the original. The one thing that the players did, that has never happened before, was the use of the tomb lids to block the rat holes in Room N. Very creative, and I think inspired by the fact that there was such a tactile visualization of the place. Please, comment, and share your thoughts below! Thanks for looking!

Saturday, October 1, 2016

West Marches - New Campaign

Ran the first session of a new West Marches style campaign Friday night here in Idaho. We're using the OSR style rule set from Lamentations of the Flame Princess with house rules. Four of the five players were in attendance. The Party consisted of a Dwarf (Dorrak), an Elf (Princess Xena the Big Boobed), a human wizard (Fox the ADHD), and a Specialist aka thief (Mira). The players include two that have some small amount of experience with D&D, and three that are completely new, although one is a big fan of Skyrim and has an understanding of how it translates.
They learned of 4 possible rumors to look into and chose to take on two at the same time since they figured it was possible they are connected. The party decided to help a teenage girl locate her missing mother, and to try and solve the thefts of farm animals from north of town.
While traveling north they discovered a burial mound with a collapsed entrance. Fortunate to have a party member with a shovel, they cleared a way to get inside. Investigating the tomb they found 3 chambers, one blocked by a portcullis, the other two by stone doors. They explored them all and came away with a gold belt buckle encrusted with tiny gemstones.
Their one opponent was a skeleton encrusted with concretions which made it tougher to bring down. The wizard was brought to unconsciousness during the fighting and needed to be nursed back to health in town.
On their second trip north, they got lost a couple of times and wound up circling back to town after a few days. They encountered and killed two giant centipedes the night before getting back to town.
Good first session. Looking forward to next week.