Sunday, November 11, 2012

Session 3 Recap--Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad: Crypt of the Lizard King

Let me begin by saying that I managed to dodge a bullet with this session. When I sent out the event notice, I wasn't really thinking things through. I posted it to my gaming circle. There's only about 115 people in it, but still... 115 people is a lot to invite to one session. I ended up getting two new players to accept the invite (only one actually played), but the number of "Maybe" responses had me scared that I might have to tell a bunch of people that they couldn't play, and right after inviting them to do so. How rude! Fortunately, this didn't actually come to pass.

However, in anticipating the crowd, I was left with a bit of a quandary. Since this adventure was almost complete (only the main encounter to go), I was left wondering if that would be satisfying to the new players. I mean I pimp this campaign a lot, and send out an invite to do a couple and a half hours of gaming, and potentially it could be over and done in about 45 minutes or an hour? What a letdown! So, I did something about it. I produced an "extra" level of content for the adventure, something to add some more potential encounters and to pad the length of it a bit. I tried really hard while doing so to ensure that the new content and the already-written content would play well together. I think the result was a good one. One of the encounters (which I'll discuss presently) was good enough that Adam M. remarked that it alone was worth the price of admission. That's high praise indeed, and all for a little bit of one-off weirdness that I'd hoped would foreshadow another adventure arc. Good stuff.

So, when last we left our adventurers, they had climbed through a sarcophagus and down a shaft that it concealed, and found themselves in a small, unadorned room carved from the native rock of this place. A wide stairway led down into darkness. Originally, the stairway led to the "The Crystal Ship" room of the adventure, where they would do the whole "Boss Fight" thing with some undead creatures I called "crocodogs." I imagined them to look like a cross between this:

And this:

In any case, they would encounter those creatures (and an enhanced number of them) later.

Area 13: Take It as It Comes

Featureless room with staircase descending to south.

So, waiting to go down the stairway were:

  • Adam, playing a Corn Farmer, a Barber, and an Elven Sage. Adam opted to leave his characters nameless until they had survived the funnel. Oddly enough, he would be the player to bring the most characters through the adventure, with three survivors.
  • Bear, playing Ferris Umberton (halfling vagrant), Corm (our last urchin), Andro Aleus (elven falconer), and Vane Barbute (Armorer)
  • Gabriel, playing Norring (dwarven miner) and Ian (minstrel)
  • James (our new player), playing Miff Sapsipper (elven navigator), Lardo Cutpurssian (merchant), Crag Beerbeard (dwarven blacksmith), and Michaelangelo Aggrosong (cooper).
  • Wayne, playing Clave Naglioni (turnip farmer) and Denny Smedd (confidence artist).

They also were accompanied by the bandit leader, the only survivor of that group, who was elected to take point.

As they descended the long stairway, a landing was revealed: a large area with doors to the east, south, and west.

Area 14: The End

Pit trap triggered by use of any of these doors. 20 feet deep with spikes (2d6+1d4)

The players were suspicious of the landing (and rightly so). Gabriel (I think) decided to pour some water on the flagstones of the landing, and it drained away rapidly. After tying a rope around the bandit leader's waist, they persuaded him to step down onto the flagstones. Nothing happened. However, they determined that the floor sounded a bit different than solid stone would, and decided to pry up a flagstone. Below it was wooden subflooring. Hmm... so maybe something funny was going on here after all. They tried to pry up a board as well, but I told them the boards were too long for that. Instead, they told the bandit leader to open the east door.

As soon as he opened it, the floor collapsed, revealing a pit 25 feet deep, with great bronze spikes mounted in the floor. A strength check was made by those holding the rope, so the weight of the bandit leader didn't drag them to their dooms. The collapse also furnishes the PCs with some boards, which they use to bridge the gap created by the collapse of the floor. Ferris the halfling vagrant is chosen, because he's the lightest, to cross into the east room.

Area 16: Shaman's Blues

Two lizardman tomb guardians guarding a large altar with a gigantic snake statue of that unknown black metal. It probably weighs about 400 lbs.

There is an altar in there, and some of the lizard man tomb guardians (or "taxilizard" as they are now known colloquially). Ferris flees, and the players yank the board back, but the creature leaps the gap and is suddenly in their midst. Almost immediately Ferris is killed by a lizard man tomb guardian. Vane Barbute (aka The Hammerer) hammers the creature to death, avenging him. They manage to kill the other one as well.

A search of the room reveals an altar carved from the stone of this place, of a piece with the floor. This whole level, it seems is carved out of the native rock, including the furnishings. On the altar is a huge snake idol, made of that mysterious black metal, its scales enameled in green. Again, it probably weighs about 400 pounds, so it's not going anywhere.

Gabriel has the idea to set a lantern on one of the boards and to shove it ahead of them, to light the way. I ask him to roll against Luck. Yeah, he fails. Yeah, it falls into the pit. Yeah, it breaks and ignites the wood from the subflooring. The PCs are forced to move quickly into the south room.

Area 17: Been Down So Long

In this room is a large fountain, now dry. Two lizardman tomb guardians are here. In the fountain are some bones, seemingly a combination of snake or fish bones and humanoid bones. Also there are two shiny red stones and a short sword made of black metal.

If the PCs disturb the bones, dark smoke will suddenly gather around them, coalescing into a serpent man figure. The serpent man wields the blade. The stones are his eyes.

The players take a little while to make the crossing. While they do so, the tomb guardians attack. It takes some doing to kill them, and I believe it was Miff Sapsipper, James's elven navigator, who bit the dust here. One of them examines the contents of the fountain, and picks up one of the "eyes." The serpent man guardian coalesces around the eye, and shortly that PC finds himself with a handful of trouble.

At this point I'm realizing that I need to do a bit better job recording who died, where, when, and how, as the chat log from Roll20 doesn't contain all answers to these questions. Needless to say, the players manage to get past this area, and decide to explore southward. This would take them to the material I had written originally, before adding this level. They also decided not to open the west door. We'll come back to that, later.

They send the bandit down first, though he is now insisting that his contribution rates him a share of the treasure. They offer him the eyes of the serpent man guardian. He accepts, but they caution him not to pick them up just yet, having seen what happened last time. 

When they reach the bottom of the steps, they find a huge, open archway leading into the final area of the dungeon. Here's the flavor text.

Area 18. The Crystal Ship

As the players approach the arch, they should see two squat pedestals about 8 feet high. On each sits what seems to be a large, stone statue. Each is slightly different, and resembles a cross between a crocodile with a vestigial tail and a bulldog. These sit about 10 feet in from the arch. Any player that crosses the room and passes them, will wake the Crocodog Guardians.

Past the pedestals sits a gigantic ship made of some sort of glassy material. The material is smooth to the touch, and a warm amber color. The ship is surrounded by a shallow pool, now mostly dry, about 6 feet deep. The water has drained away into the large fissure to the port side of the ship. The break in the stone is very fresh, and a cool, damp breeze blows steadily up from it. From below the PCs can faintly hear the roar of rushing water.

On a stone bier on the ship's deck rests the remains of a lizardman. He bears a jagged spear of black metal and wearing the same kind of armor as the statue in Area 10, including a stunning helm of blue-green jewel-toned chitin. 

Originally, I only had 2 of the crocodog guardians. In anticipation of a larger party, I bumped that to 4. This almost resulted in a TPK, partly because of how we've been handling combat (i.e., one action per player per round). After a little bit of combat, it became clear that the players needed to be able to make all of their attacks (and hence to use more than one PC per combat round) if they hoped to survive. I graciously agreed (for I am nothing if not gracious) to let that happen. And it was a damned good thing, too. They rolled terribly, and so did I. The combat broke up into about four different battles as each player marshalled his own troops. Slowly, they began to work together as a group, and to gang up on the crocodogs a bit instead of spreading out the attacks. By the end of the fight, Corm the Urchin, Andro the Elven Falconer, and Michaelangelo the Cooper were casualties of the crocodog guardians (at least so much as I can remember--correct me if I'm wrong about that).

Heard from Vane Barbute the Armorer during this fight:

"Hey, crocodog! You know the difference between your mother and a washing machine? When I dump a load in a washing machine, it doesn't follow me around for 3 weeks!"

It was then time to loot the joint. They made their ways up to the deck of the Crystal Ship.

Flanking the bier are two stone chests made of the same material as the ship. They are elaborately carved and probably weigh about 17 stone each.

They asked the bandit to use a crowbar to lever the tops off the chests they found there, revealing the following:

The first chest seems to have been filled with a variety of clay bottles, now dry. The vessels themselves are alien in design, and might be worth something to the right buyer. There are several chunks of raw amber totaling about a pound, and several large pearls in here, worth 15, 25, 26, 27, 37, 39, 40, and 44 s.p. each.

The other chest contains 5 large, burnt-looking chunks of an unknown metallic mineral (totaling 21 pounds). It's actually star metal, and may be worth something to right smith or wizard.

Once they did the looting of the chests, there was the little matter of the Lizard King, and his treasure. Three players were in the race to see who got first pick of this. Adam had bowed out at this point, anticipating that he would be running the next campaign arc and didn't really need anything else. I decided to do something to decide it randomly. I had each player use the die-roller in Roll20 to roll 5 13-sided dice. This emulated a poker hand, with 1 being an Ace and 13 being a King. And, yes, I realize that the app has a card deck feature, but I'm not keen on it. I just used dice. They worked fine. In the end, Gabriel picked first, then Bear, and then Wayne got what was left.

Gabriel picked the helm. 

Item 2: Helm of The Lizard King

Type: Helmet; AL C; Powers: (see below).
  • If someone puts on this helm, it will bond closely and permanently to the person's head. The helm may be removed by magical means, but no mundane means short of decapitation will do so.
  • Wearer gains a 3 point bonus to for any task involving influence, leadership, or persuasion.
  • Grants the wearer the ability to find his or her way while afloat on water, and to detect currents and hazards like rocks, reefs, whirlpools or storms.
  • Unless the wearer is of chaotic alignment, he or she will lose 1 hit point per day unless the helm is removed.

His lawful dwarven miner donned the helm and immediately took 1 point of damage. He only had one hit point. He died. Ooops! I totally didn't mean to kill him, but them's the breaks. It was decided that YES, THE OTHER GUY IS CHAOTIC! So, he donned the helm, and came to no harm in doing so.

Bear (I think) picked the armor. The players didn't know it yet, but it's the same as the helm in nature. I was asked about its nature, and sort of said (making it up as I went) that it was crafted from sea dragon scales. Later, I told Adam that it has the same AC as half plate (17), but is only as encumbering as banded mail. It also has the unfortunate effect of bonding permanently to the wearer's body. If the wearer is Chaotic, no problem. If not, same damage as the helm: 1 point of damage per day, a blood price for the protection of the great sea dragons.

Wayne got the spear:

Item 1: Spear of The Lizard King

The Spear of the Lizard King is a fearsome-looking, bloodthirsty and willful weapon, with a preternaturally sharp, serrated blade of an unfamiliar, incredibly hard black metal. It will continually urge its user to seek power, to slay all enemies, and otherwise to dominate people and situations. This dynamic emerges as the user becomes more attuned to it.
Type: Spear (1d8+1d3 damage); AL C; +1 to hit (or +2 if previous hit drew blood); Int. 4; Comm.: Simple urges/ Bane (Warriors)/ Special Purpose: Dominate All Others; Power: Cleave. Each time an enemy is slain with this weapon, the wielder automatically receives another attack against the nearest creature at +1 to the existing bonus (this bonus can continue to stack to +2, +3, etc.) but the wielder does not gain an additional move. If the creature to be attacked is an Ally, the wielder must make a Will Save at the negative of the to-hit bonus or strike the ally (i.e., if it's at +2 to hit, then it's at -2 to the Will Save to avoid attacking the ally).

It's so black metal it kills its friends. Fun!

So they gathered up their loot and went back upstairs. Before leaving, they decided to look in the last, unopened door. Here's what they found:

Area 15: Soul Kitchen

Mushroom men eating the fresh corpse of a large lizard. There is also a large hole leading down into blackness. If disturbed, they will quickly flee back down the hole. A river can be heard rushing below. Cool, moist air blows up from the hole.

The players, understandably, were charmed by the idea of mushroom men eating the dead lizard (corpse! The other, other, other white meat!), and a laugh was had by all.

What they did not realize, probably, is that this was supposed to foreshadow what they might find should they venture into the fissures. But that's a story for another day.

I was inclined to be generous due to the challenge of the last encounter, and the fact that Gabriel's awesome dwarver miner perished so unfortunately. I'm such a softie, sometimes, I swear. The PCs each got 5 XP for this session. Everyone but James leveled as a result.

Adam Said: The party at first level so far: Gabriel's minstrel has become a Wizard and Wayne's stable of characters now includes a Thief and a Warrior. 

We still don't know what Bear's characters are.

I said: 

A metric fuckton of sea dragon scale armor pieces. I'll leave it up to Adam to decide how that plays out (AC, cost of making armor out of it, how much of it you can haul away, etc.). For game purposes, it can be worn by elves, as it's not ferrous.

There's also the possibility that some of this stuff will attract all of the wrong kind of attention (evil wizards and thieves who think such low-level pukes need to be relieved of the treasure).

HOUSERULE ALERT: After totaling the treasure, deduct 25% for living expenses, carousing, poor dealing, and other costs of doing business. You need downtime, food, lodging, wenches (or farm boys, whatever you're into), and copious amounts of grog. Probably some of it gets gambled away. 

Optional: Make a DC10 Luck Roll to add 2d30 % back to the total.