Saturday, October 22, 2016

DCC session report - Blackrock Brothel #2

When last we left our heroes...

In this session of the Blackrock Brothel campaign, we return to our intrepid adventurers as they have reached the bottom of the wizard Nekros' subterranean sanctum, a bizarre scene: at the bottom of a gaping two-mile deep shaft, reached after two days of marching down an interminable staircase, there lies a lake of acid, inhabited by colossal leeches, spanned by a set of narrow circular bridges.  At the central convergence of these bridges there waits a gigantic mound of guano.  This is the home of a wizard, and clearly, the ways of wizards are not the ways of ordinary men.

For this session, the following players were in attendance:
  • Stan, in charge of Grognard the Dwarf and Courve the Thief
  • Xavier, running with the priest Dar Shasta and Archimedia the Thief
  • Steve W., stepping in for Brendan to manage Sizarius the Wizard, and the mighty warrior Greg
In the real world, our session was delayed by about an hour due to connectivity issues, and the need to bring Steve up to speed.  I was worried that this would leave us without enough time to stab things and generally dampen spirits, but once the action got started, my fears were proven groundless.

Circling the odoriferous mound

The party was able to expeditiously rescue Dar Shasta from the underground lake of acid with a rope and a little heave-ho.  The party made it to the central guano mound after a couple more spills into the lake.  This caused only slight damage, since the leeches had been dispatched (although I forgot to weaken the equipment of these clumsy characters).

Upon reaching this huge central mound of avian waste (fully 50' in diameter, 20' high), they encounter a pair of doors made out of a weird brittle material.  The party circles the mound, looking for other entrances, and Dar Shasta uses his power to lay on hands, healing his allies' injuries to a great extent.  In the process, he accumulates a fair amount of divine disapproval, but no other significant repercussions..

The pair of thieves check out the front door, each attempting and failing to pick the lock.  As a result, Greg borrows a crowbars, and sets to work upon the glassy portal.  After a few rounds of effort, he is able to shatter enough of the door to provide ingress, but at the cost of injuries from the splintering brittle material.  Again, Dar Shasta beseeches his lord, Amun Tor, for the power to repair the mighty warrior's bleeding thews.  This favor is eventually granted, but not before accumulating more disfavor, as well as a minor geas whose nature currently escapes me.  Xavier sees that there is a certain momentum to this whole disapproval thing.

Inside the sanctum

Upon gaining entrance to the inner sanctum of Nekros, the party is greeted with a disturbing sight.  The Box is before them: a white cylinder, three feet in height and diameter.  It has a spout which receives blood from a dripping pipe.  Indeed, the room is crowded with all sorts of copper tubing and even transparent pipes, bubbling with various fluids.

The perimeter of the room is in the shape of a five-pointed star, the stone walls lined with metal coffins which are connected to the greater plumbing network.  In the center, a pentagram surrounds the raised platform on which the Box rests.  Accompanying the gurgling sounds of the pipes is the sound of raspy breathing.

The characters start opening coffins, discovering a succession of desiccated bodies which were apparently drained of blood, clearly to maintain the seals on the Box (recall that the Box is said to contain a dangerous entity, and the only way to keep it closed is with a constant source of Lawful blood). Finally, they come upon the lone survivor and the source of the sounds of breathing: a captive monk, moments from expiration, who manages a few final words.  The monk says that they must feed blood to the Box to keep it closed.

A thorough review of the bodies shows that some were apparently ensanguinated rather more abruptly, showing signs of deep claw marks that look to have been lethal.  The players are noticeably unnerved by this observation.

Shortly after this, the Box starts gurgling and shaking.  In short order, the players realize that they must serve as the source of its blood, and the dwarf steps forward to donate a single hit point.  This quells the Box's thirst, for the time being.

The party is about to depart with the box, when Courve the Thief thinks to check the walls of the chamber for hidden features.  This decision and a high roll later, Courve finds what appears to be a hidden door, in the form of a very subtle door-shaped seam in the stonework between two coffins.  Taking even more care, Courve locates what appears to be a cloth tab that would be released if the door is opened, perhaps triggering a trap.

A few fortuitous rolls later, the party thieves had jammed the trigger, and slid the panel in, and to the side.  This revealed the entrance to the hidden personal chamber of Nekros, currently (fortunately) unoccupied.  Spartan almost to the extent of a monk's cell, the small chamber is dominated three features: a set of shelves with scrolls and bottles, a desk, and a bed.  

The adventurers loot the shelves, although they neglect to so much as open a desk drawer.  Hey, you're going to miss the occasional detail.  They did take note of a glass bucket, which made Stan immediately think of the acid lake.

Leaving with the prize

Once outside the mound, Courve filled up the bucket from the lake, and the party took stock of its options.  Sizarius considered whether to use any spells (and possibly spellburn) to facilitate the journey.  I drew the players' attention to the kinds of things that Spider Climb can do at maximum power (i.e. give you and your friends, for an entire day, the power to cling to surfaces, spit ensnaring spider webs, and inflict venom with any melee attack).  

I wasn't trying to force their hands, but since they are new to DCC, I wanted them to see that if Sizarius went all-out on the spellburn, the party might be able to safely cross the bridges and walk straight up the walls fo the shaft.  But I also wanted them to understand that there was a risk, if the player rolled really low, he might not have enough to give the entire party wall-walking for a long enough period of time.   And there's always the chance for corruption and the like.  Basically, since they're still new to DCC, I want them to understand all the myriad possibilities.

They decided against using any spells, at this point, and started to make the precarious trip back to the stairs.  Before they but emerged onto the first narrow span, the guano mounds erupted with a terrifying swarm of odd creatures.  Grapefruit-sized globs of flesh, each with a pair of bat wings and a haphazard assortment of eyes and fangs.  Screeching, this cloud made a beeline for the party.

The adventurers quickly decided to turn back from the bridge to the main platform, and engage with ranged weapons.  Sizarius blasted the swarm with a good casting of Flaming Hands, but Courve's bucket of acid did horrendous damage to these things, as they were particularly vulnerable to it.  Because of this foresight, the swarm of flying fanged globs was stopped in its tracks.

Their foes defeated, the party turned angrily back to the laboratory of Nekros, using Sizarius' Flaming Hands to register their displeasure.  Having done so, they withdrew to the spiral stairs, ready to return to the surface with prize won. Nekros' inner sanctum continued to burn for some time, filling the shaft with abominable smells (which I forgot to mention).  Guano is not known as a particularly pleasant form of incense.

The return trip

On their ascent, the party was ambushed once by the lone Tirgefrab, miraculously healed of its condition.  The weird vomit cat's attack missed, but it was able to safely withdraw underneath the stairs.  It did not bother the party again.

The party's supplies were running quite low; at this point, all water skins had run dry.  This could have been avoided if the players had realized that some of the plumbing in the laboratory must carry potable water.  I made all the thirsty characters to roll a Fortitude save vs. DC 13.  Those that fail take 1d3 Stamina damage, and those who succeed only subtract one Stamina point.  This was a spur of the moment ruling.

That evening, during his watch, Dar Shasta was visited by a vision of his god Amun Tor.  The deity told his priest that he had been lied to, as the Box actually imprisoned one of the god's servants.  The vision said that the Box was a thing of Chaos, and when infused with the blood of Law, it served to imprison Neutral beings like its servant.  As a loyal priest, Dar Shasta was bid to release his god's minion.

Xavier was understandably suspicious.  He asked me if he could subtly cast Second Sight.  I told him that his god would certainly know, and if real, would surely punish him for his lack of faith.  Xavier was pretty hesitant at this point, but he cast it anyway.  The vision of Amun Tor roared in anger, but Xavier rolled well, and I told him that he sensed it would be very dangerous to open the Box. Decrying the vision as a false spirit, Dar Shasta bid it depart, and it did (he didn't try to turn it, but it left anyway).

As the party continued on its journey, low on water and torches, it was also necessary for the dwarf to feed more blood to the box, and for Dar Shasta to heal him by laying on hands.  Although the evening's rest had reduced deity disapproval, more curses fell upon him from bad die rolls.  


After another day of weary trekking, the party finally emerged into the sun. Exhausted, parched and wounded, their first thoughts were to drink deeply of the nearby creek.  Unfortunately, this would have to wait.  No sooner did they step out the darkness, than a strange procession joined them in the clearing.  A host of eight diminutive bipedal beasts, bristling with fangs, claws and spines, came bearing an incapacitated man.  An unseen voice bid them lay down their burden to feast on the flesh of our bedraggled heroes.

And that's where we left it!  Our six reavers have braved the darkness and many dangers of the lair of Nekros the Sorcerer, and now they face what would seem to be their final obstacle.  None have yet died, which I attribute largely to good judgement on the part of the players.  But the perils of this endeavor have made worn the characters down.  Will they all survive this final encounter?  Tune in next week!

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