Tuesday, December 20, 2016

DCC session report - Blackrock Manor #3 and #4

It's been a while since we visited that blasted suburb of Punjar, Blackrock, and its eponymous brothel - although, it should be noted that its owner, mistress Archimedia of...what was the name of her family, anyway?  Anyway, her - she renamed it "Blackrock Manor."  And why not?  It's no less a manor than a brothel.  The reality is neither; it is the rat-infested and rain-sodden guildhouse of a budding adventurer's guild.

That's nothing new, just a bit of a background recap.  Except for the part about the new name.

Anyway, when last we visited our intrepid adventurers, they were emerging into the sun, blinking furiously and too parched to form words.  As they greedily eyed the babbling brook, looking to slake their collective thirst, a peculiar troupe of imps had emerged from the forest path bearing an unconscious priest.  Upon sighting the party, they had laid down their recumbent cleric as a disembodied voice bid them to feast on your flesh.  That's pretty much where we left off.

The group for this session consisted of the following:
  • Stan, in charge of Grognard the Dwarf and Courve the Thief
  • Xavier, running with the priest Dar Shasta and Archimedia the Thief
  • Steve W., keeping custody of Sizarius the Wizard
  • Brendan, back to resume control of Greg the MurdermanWarrior
This session was pretty straightforward, as far as these things go.  The bestial troupe of eight imps was swift and vicious, with envenomed claws that would cause paralysis on contact.  But their blows were not deadly, and their diminutive bodies could not sustain much punishment.  In short, the adventurers made short work of the little demons.

The invisible voice laughed at this turn of events, thanking the party for entertainment and freedom...whatever that means.  For them, it meant the end of a deadly endeavor, payment, and a chance to recuperate before the next quest.  Our ambitious guild was in no mood for holiday.

Off they went to Rhalabast of Many Eyes, their employer, with the promised cylinder.  The hand-off went hitch-free, with payment almost in full.  Almost, because Greg's magic sword would take some time to enchant.  The party got their 250 GP, new spell and fake bauble.

That was pretty much it for this session, which is why it took me so long to post. It was one big fight, and a payoff, and a pretty low-intensity fight at that. However, it set the stage for the next session, which was another all-day kill-a-thon.

It was at the onset of this session that I was informed as to the new name of the guild.  Here are our players:
  • Stan, whose Courve joined forces with Archimedia to search every doorway in the Ghost Ice for traps (I kid, guys)
  • Xavier, whose Archimedia not only collaborated on the aforementioned search for traps, but seemed determined to lick every surface encountered
  • Steve H, whose Martine the Dwarven Rune Priest was busy keeping his hungriest teammatest alive
  • Steve W, this time making sure that every unfriendly thing he met got a taste of Grognard's shield rim
  • Brendan, insuring that Gregh (I'm not sure where the silent "h" goes, but by definition, it doesn't matter) brought the pain to all things robotic
  • Gareth (a newcomer, invited by Brendan!) acquitted himself well by having Sizarius the Wizard show everyone that Flaming Hands is no joke
First off, I'm not sure how things shuffled around such that Steve W. was helming Grognard instead of Sizarius.  It had been so long since the prior session that I had forgotten who was running whom, and not all the characters are chained to a single player.  Oh well...I'm sure I'll hear about it if it was a problem, and otherwise, it wasn't.

But more noteworthy than that was our new player, Gareth!  Brendan brought him along on short notice, but since he was supposed to have roleplaying experience, I was fine with it.  It turns out that my confidence was justified; Gareth did a great job jumping in with Sizarius, not to mention the DCC rules. The rest of us all know each other pretty well, so I give him a lot of credit for jumping into an ongoing game with this lot.  I hope we see him again!

It was also great to have Steve H. back with the crew.  He hadn't been around since the funnel, and since we were going to be losing Dar Shasta for an adventure (due to obligations earned through deity disapproval), we needed a new Cleric.  This was perfect, since Steve had two dwarfs survive the funnel, and I had designed the Rune Priest as an alternative class for dwarfs.  The Rune Priest sacrifices some of the standard Cleric powers (turning and divine intervention) for a smidgen of arcane power, but not healing.  We were able to get Martine ready for adventure in about fifteen minutes, which is one of the appealing things about OSR.

Once we took care of the obligatory bookkeeping and webcam setup, we were off to the races.  The party rejoined with the barbarians (called the Tutaru, or "Ice Stalkers" in their own tongue) who were looking for heroes to explore their own sacred grounds, a place called the Ghost Ice.  The story there is that their tribe formed an ancient compact with the devils that lived therein, promising never to enter so long as the devils occupied it.  Recent events have led them to believe that the devils may have left, and the Tutaru seek access to the valuable hunting grounds that rest upon this glacier.

So the party travels north by sea with a hunting party from the Forlorn North, in a ship called the Salamander helmed by Captain Mulls.  It's a three week trip from Punjar, and the party swaps stories with the barbarians, learning about their greatest ambition, which is to hunt mammoths.  The players actually asked their Tutaru patrons for stories and tips about hunting, which allowed me to setup a reference that came up shortly.

After three weeks, the ship made port at an impromptu trading post in the Forlorn North called Mootstown.  This lively and muddy hive of activity was an annual gathering related to the inter-tribal Moot that meets at this time of year less than a day to the south.  Captain Mull warned the party to return within a fortnight if they wanted passage back to Punjar on the Salamander.  With a pause to pickup crampons for traversing the ice (which turned out to be a wise decision), the group set out for the Tutaru village to the northwest.

It was a two-day trek in the brisk late autumn arctic terrain.  Towards the end of the second day, the hunters let the party know that they had sighted a young male mammoth, and due to lack of numbers, they were steering around.  Of course, the players recognized this as an opportunity to engage in a mammoth hunt, but they unanimously declined the opportunity.  Their decision made, they continued to the Tutaru village.

I had planned this opportunity to hunt mammoth ahead of time.  I figured that it was usually the job of a dozen hunters, who are probably not as tough as the party members but skilled in their craft.  I designed the mammoth ahead of time, and he was tough, but I figured the party could probably still take it down. 

However, it's entirely possible that they could have suffered casualties in the process, so they may have made the right decision.  Either way, I'm not the least bit disappointed.  The point isn't to force the players to hunt mammoths, but to make decisions.  It may sound strange, but I'm just delighted to see them talking things out and getting engaged in the process.

After they arrived in the village, they were greeted by those Tutaru who remained from the expedition to the Moot.  Their contingent was led by the shaman, Mother Wisdom, and the wives of the village leadership.  The party was given lodging with an old hunter, and told they would be feted the following day. Ambitious as always, the Blackrock Companions declared that they would save the festivities for a victorious return.

Later that evening, Mother Wisdom came to the adventurers in an elaborately painted animal mask, declaring that the ancestors required the party to pass a test before being allowed to visit sacred ground; they had the choice of a test of the Body or a test of the Spirit.  They opted for the Test of Spirit, which required crossing hot coals in holy oils without flinching.

Nadine the Rune Priest rose to the challenge, boldly strode across the first section of coals...and then tripped and face-planted in the burning embers. Gathering her wits, she stood tall (as tall as a dwarf can stand, anyway) and completed the course.  She had passed, though the shaman was visibly disappointed that she hadn't made it without wincing (not to mention the subsequent tumble).

Nevertheless, the party departed the next morning in high spirits, with a fresh supply of rations and mammoth-hair ropes.  Approaching the Ghost Ice, they gazed upon the calamity that had raised the hopes of the Tutaru: the front of the glacier had cleaved off and collapsed into icy rubble, and now two tunnels situated halfway up its face belched an emerald smoke.

Approaching the mighty glacier, the party decided to scale the icy rubble at the base, and use their grappling hooks to reach the caves above.  Deciding to rope themselves together in groups of three, they ascended carefully.  I made the climbing rolls, and they called for two members of each group to take a tumble, something likely to pull the entire group down for a painful fall.  However, reminded of the bonuses from the crampons (previously stated to give a +2 to handling icy surfaces), the result was only one member of each group losing their footing.  With two to catch one, the top was reached safely by the entire party.

Thinking back, just because two characters lost their footing during the climb doesn't mean that they lost it at the same time. The idea of roping together in groups of three is a sound one, allowing a 2-to-1 advantage on recovery from falls.

From the top of the rubble, it was only a grapple away to the smoking tunnels. Crampons made this climb a relatively safe endeavor, obviating the need for any rolls.  The entire party made the climb, one by one, and found themselves in a perfectly round tunnel, tiled with some strange ceramic, about five feet in diameter.  Looking forward, they could see it curve smoothly in an arc, such that they could see only forty feet ahead.  Torch in hand, they ventured forwards.

After following a branch to the side, the group found themselves in what appeared to be a very smokey control room of some sort.  Blinking lights, dials and switches adorned a host of incomprehensible panels.  Most of the party was pretty apprehensive about these controls, but not Archimedia.  Heck no...you don't run a guildhouse by NOT flicking random switches, do you?  An errant burst of steam and electrical jolt later, her curiosity was well-satisfied.

Searching further into the verdant murk, the party came across a wide pillar spanning from floor to ceiling, with a narrow aperture on the side.  A partly-open sliding door, they forced it wider, and lights flicked on inside the inner shaft.  Peering inside, the company saw a solid floor, but the lights led upwards by about one-hundred feet.  The curious shaft proved to have an anti-gravity effect once entered, and the adventurers gently ascended to the top of the shaft.

Once there, they were confronted by a closed sliding door, and a protruding panel.  The thieves carefully searched for traps - you can assume that they did this for every door and container that they encountered, because they did. Hey, it's a good idea!  It seems really boring, and then you forget to do it, and then things get really exciting again.

Anyway - no traps, so they pressed the panel.  The door slid open with a whisper.  The adventurers filed out of the magic levitation shaft, finding themselves in some kind of exotic greenhouse, long gone to seed.  There wasn't much going on here, and only one other exit: another sliding door with a protruding panel.  After gathering some samples, the adventurers proceeded through this door.

The party found themselves in a room covered with ice and slush, with another levitation shaft to the side, and an exit door at each of the four cardinals.  The adventurers found the shaft's door closed and incapable of being pried open, as with two of the other doors.  The northern door was ajar, however, so the group followed their only way forward.  And apparently the only way out, period: too late, the group noticed that the door to the old garden had closed on its own.

This room had been ruptured by a crack in the glacier that extended into the room itself.  Snow crystals danced in the air, and this was clearly the source of the ice and slush in the prior chamber.  As the team entered this room to investigate it, a yeti-like creature (actually a yeti) erupted from the snow, baring fangs and staggering forward.  The party made short work of it, but after it was slain, they discovered that it had already been wounded on the thigh, and not cleanly.

A search of the chamber turned up a mahogany box with a strange silvery metal circlet with five metallic tendrils.  Archimedia's eyes lit up, correctly intuiting that the disc was some sort of key for the various doors through which the party could not pass.  Eagerly grasping it, she was surprised but not disappointed when the tendrils wrapped around her hand, pressing the disc into her palm.

A cleft in the glacier extended into this room, but the party decided that it might be another way out of the complex, and deferred its investigation.  Returning to the previous chamber, the group immediately put their discovery to the test by pressing Archimedia's new device into the depression on the western door. Success!

The room past contained some kind of high-tech kitchen, full of weird powders and food processing devices.  Archimedia, ever daring, sampled some orange powder both before and after converting it to orange goo in the processor. Unfortunately, this time, her daring got the better of her, and she nearly died but for the timely ministrations of Martine.  After reviving their dauntless comrade and taking samples of unprocessed powder, they returned to the central chamber, and used Archimedia's key to open the sealed pillar.  The adventurers found another ascending shaft, and follow it upwards.

Stepping out, they now found themselves in a hallway running east to west, with closed doors at each end.  The one to the east would not open, even when presented with Archimedia's disc-key.  The one to the west, however, did not limit their access.  Inside, they discovered some kind of bedroom chamber. Therein waited a hovering sphere, covered with sharp spines, and it floated towards the intruders.

Boldly, they quickly dispatched the innocuous machine.  Perhaps it was not aggressive; even though it had plunged a spine into Archimedia, no damage was inflicted.  Still, better safe than sorry.  After destroying the sphere, the party searched the chamber and discovered a mummified corpse in the bed.  Once they had inexplicably disrobed and then re-robed the body, they discovered that it possessed its own palm disc, although it was gold in color.  Archimedia reached out with her other hand, essentially transforming herself into a human skeleton key.

So equipped, the party was able to breach the next room.  Therein, they found a room of plinths, each containing some kind of artifact, surrounded by strange auras of light.  Some plinths had no aura, and on some, it flickered.  As the party took in this scene, they were assaulted by yet another metallic construct, this one unmistakably aggressive with its snapping claws.  Once again, swords and magic laid the creature low.

At this point, the party took to inspecting the chamber, the walls lined with artwork.  Of course, the contents of the plinths was the main focus of their attention.  After it was discovered that the auras were damaging to whatever touches them, the party set about trying to remove the items that were protected by flickering fields. 

This is pretty much where we were forced to leave our intrepid explorers, until the next session.  Real world considerations smashed right through our fourth wall, dragging my unfortunate players into the cold night.  They were proof against all my spells and blades, although the battle was hard-fought.

All-in-all, it was a very successful session.  Some unnecessary risks were taken, but that's what Clerics are for.  At this point, injuries due to this adventure consist of one Agility damage from walking on coals and one Strength damage from ingesting ancient alien food.  The party made a lot of good decisions and correctly deduced a number of facts about the place they not explore; of course, some of their assumptions have been entirely incorrect, but that's what makes it fun, right?  The only disappointment is that I haven't been able to give much XP for battles that have been pure cakewalks.

Fortunately, the next phase of this adventure promises a bit more damage and mayhem.  You know how much I love giving out big XP awards for combat, and I know that adventurers love to have interesting scars to show off when they hit the local taverns.  I think we're all going to get what we want for the New Year.

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