They were joined there by another group of zero level characters led by Phil, who will be joining us in our campaign. Phil seems to fit right in, making the absence of +James MacGeorge somewhat easier for us to bear. I handwaved the zeroes in by suggesting that the village (having been annihilated, pretty much), does not really favor the prospects of anyone who tries to return to his or her "old life." So we had a Radish Farmer, a Hunter, a Woodcutter, and an Elven Navigator. The Elven Navigator was someone from one of the recently arrived ships in Samsara's harbor. He claims he's just interested in finding out what's happening. It may be that his motives are somewhat less pure than that, but that's up to +phil spitzer to decide.
My readers may remember that last time the party found Forktongue himself killed in a brutal (totally metal) ritual. This session, Denny Smedd the thief recovered a ritual knife from the victim. There are designs and terrible runes engraved on the blade, and the overall design of hilt and hardware is suggestively Ophidian in flavor. It's made of that extremely hard black metal they keep stumbling across in my games. For mechanical purposes, I needed to make it a thing in the world. So, it's a big knife, bigger than a normal dagger, smaller than a shortsword. So, damage is 1d4+1. It's also made of that black metal, which is harder than steel. So, +1 to hit. I worry that I might be putting too many +1 items in the world. However, given what they're about to face, I probably shouldn't worry too much.
The party (Well, really they are mercenaries, now--They have a flag, you know.) searches the room, looking for whatever they can find. First item of business is a sheaf of papers found in the smashed chest lying next to the hidden compartment in the floor. They were coded in some crude cipher. I gave Formerly Ian the wizard and Nimue the cleric a chance to read them. They were not successful. However, Phil's plucky Woodcutter offered to take a look. BTW, check out this fuckin' guy:
If this poor bastard survives, he should make a really, really excellent thief. He'd also make a really, really excellent wizard. Pretty decent warrior, too, come to think of it. Phil will probably want to keep this 2 hit point prodigy safe and sound until he levels up. The rest of his zeroes seem to have somewhat grimmer prospects. However, this is DCC and we all know that the dice don't favor anyone, longterm. He may fall and some other champion may arise.
Anyhow, the (apparently very well-read) woodcutter crits his check to make sense of the papers (Natural 20+3!).
Here' the relevant section from my module:
A valise containing a sheaf of papers, still lies in the hole.
Note: This chest held The Serpent's Eyes, which were stolen from the Temple of the Serpent God. The papers are in some sort of cipher or shorthand. Any player character with an Int of at least 9 may make a DC 10 Intelligence check to attempt to make sense of them. If successful, the PCs will learn some or all of the following, depending on the degree of success (Give them one of the following items of info for each success, and one additional for every point above the target DC for the check):
The Revelations of Balas Forktongue
- This person was Balas Forktongue. He was indeed the contact of Amor Ba'Gish. And there are several correspondences between them in the packet of papers.
- Balas Forktongue, his manservant, and four mercenaries visited a ruined temple that lies within the jungle about 10 miles to the northeast of Samsara.
- Within the temple, he found a large idol, depicting a huge, two-headed cobra-like, cyclopean serpent, each of the heads containing only one eye. The sockets of the eyes were empty.
- They also discovered a vault in the underworks of the temple where two large, red stones were stored in a locked casket of unfamiliar black metal. They managed to open it and removed the stones.
- The Eyes of the Serpent themselves were made of a heavy, dark red, faceted stone with luminescent properties.
- Balas Forktongue sent a message to Amor Ba'Gish, detailing the find and asking a truly staggering price of 50,000 gold pieces for the Eyes of the Serpent. Surprisingly, Amor Ba'Gish accepted the price without haggling, which fact Balas Forktongue bemoans in his notes. He was sure he could have gotten twice his asking price or more.
- There are a variety of mechanical traps which they managed to avoid, for the most part, though one of the mercenaries was grievously wounded, and was later killed by a large lizard
- They also managed to escape from a gigantic lizard-like creature. The wounded mercenary and the manservant, on the other hand, were not so lucky. Their deaths, however, allowed the others to escape just steps ahead of the creature.
- Balas Forktongue's true target was a weapon he refers to as the Frosthammer of Graki Deathstalker. The Serpent's Eyes were an unexpected discovery, but one that soon became more interesting to him.
- The temple contains, at its heart, a gigantic egg-shaped machine, made of the same weird stone as the Eyes of the Serpent.
- The name of the temple is Kraa Sssa'a Laass ("Temple of Sssa'a Laass" in the tongue of the Serpent People).
- They found strange beings in the temple, their bodies metallic and in the form of Serpent Men. They seemed inanimate, but they were not statues. They had flesh on their forms, but it was cold and unresponsive, though uncorrupted by time. Perhaps they are the guardian the ancient scrolls spoke of (but they don't seem to match the description which suggested that a powerful master of the arcane guards the ruins).
- They found other machinery there, but all of their fumbling around with it only resulted in illuminating a red glass panel of some kind and initiating some kind of droning sound which grated on the nerves. They left soon afterward.
So, they party is operating with all of the relevant information. Though the info is not complete knowledge, it's a nice way to start their adventure.
Then the party searched the rest of the place. It was filled with old junk, none of which appeared to be particularly valuable. The also found things on Balas Forktongue's desk:
There is, in addition, at a desk in this room, a long scroll case made of waxed leather. It contains a map showing the coastline, the port of Samsara, and a marked destination some distance to the northeast. The location is on the other side of what appears to be some sort of chasm or ravine. There are a series of notes on this map, sketches of places, a drawing of a magnificent egg-shaped construction, and another of what appears to be, perhaps, a door. The door is massive and decorated with disturbing runes and a large inscription of something that appears to be a war hammer, possibly dwarven, wrapped in the coils of a constricting, two-headed serpent of evil aspect. Next to it is a scribbled note that asks, "Frosthammer of G. D.?"
Also, on the back of the map is a remarkably well-rendered charcoal drawing of an immense tumble of ruined towers and buildings, their cyclopean stones strewn like the dice of the gods themselves, and overgrown with vines and trees. A squat, blocky, roughly pyramidal building with crude snake head architecture, and sitting on a rocky prominence, is marked with the note, "Kraa Sssa'a Laass." The language is Common, but what these words mean is unclear, for they are not words in the Common language.
After some dicking around, it was decided that the party would start out for the temple immediately. The Hunter (Vergil, by name) used his knowledge of the area to inform the other PCs regarding what they could expect from the terrain. Using this knowledge, they were able to make good time. Their trek through the dark jungle seemed interminable, but they eventually followed the game trail to a semi-cleared area. There, the found that a whole lot of the smaller trees had been snapped off at the base. Toward the northeastern side of the clearing, they spotted a teepee-like structure. Vane and Denny decided to have a look. Denny was fairly silent, but Vane sounded like a bus tub full of saute pans. Their movement away from the rest of the party put them about 60 or 70 feet away when Vane's noise woke up this guy:
Four-armed ape-man: Init +3; Atk bite +6 melee (1d6+5) or slam +8 melee (dmg 1d8+5); AC 15; HD 6d8 (27 hp); MV 40’ or climb 20’; Act 4d20; SP rend for additional 1d8 damage if more than 2 slam attacks hit same target in one round; SV Fort +10, Ref +6, Will +2; AL C.The ape attacked Vane and Denny, clouting them soundly, inflicting damage and knocking them prone. I knocked them prone in lieu of the other two attacks the ape could have made. Basically, I chose to grant the monster an Advantage instead of rolling the other two attacks. However, I couldn't really justify not attacking them at least twice.
Then the ape saw the rest of the party. Enraged, it charged toward them. Jerkal the wizard (who looks like Kenny Rogers) got hammered by the ape after it beat down Denny and Vane. He was the only guy in the area, and both attacks (again, minimum 2 of the 4 allowed attacks) landed very, very hard. He was reduced to something like -10 hit points.
The rest of the fight was a bit touch-and-go, but the party eventually did in the ape, and didn't take as much damage in the process as they could have. Jerkal was healed by one of our many clerics (a must in this game), but lost a point of stamina, permanently. The other injured party members were also healed. However, Smolken incurred Diety Disapproval, and now will Heal at -1 until his completes a Quest-to-be-determined. Bummer for that guy. Bummer for the rest of the party, too, come to think about it. Dice can be quite contrary in this DCC thing.
So, Virgil the Hunter skinned the ape, Vane claimed yet another set of giant ape balls (*sigh* + *head shake* ... What is wrong with that guy? I think if he were alive today, he'd have a mullet and would drive a truck with those Truck Nutz things on the trailer hitch).
Anywhoooo... The party camped in the clearing overnight, and the new zeroes were introduced to the miracle of Purple Meat, ingesting a dose each of the powdered form of the the Purple Tentacle from Beyond Space and Time. Again, Muppets were witnessed. Other things happened as well, but I didn't write them down so I won't report them here. The important thing is that Phil is clearly fitting in quite well with the rest of this party. Hmm... maybe not "party." More like "Party Van."
Hey, how else you gonna solve a groovy mystery?
You gotta have one o' these bitchin' vans, right?
At last the PCs reach the edge of a cliff. Below lay a vast, ruined landscape of broken architecture. The former temple complex has been reduced to little more than house-sized blocks strewn across the landscape. The sole, remaining structure of any note is the Kraa Sssa'a Laass, or "Temple of Sssa'a Laass" dedicated to the two-headed serpent god, whose aspect is that of a cyclopean, two-headed cobra.The temple, of course, was across a gorge. The span of the gorge was around 50 feet and it dropped probably 70 feet.
The temple itself is a partially-collapsed, pyramidal structure, overgrown with vines and surrounded with and overgrown by gigantic tropical hardwoods. Colossal snake heads spout waterfalls which cascade down into broken fountains and spillways, and into the gorge itself on the collapsed side, where the temple gapes open.
The gorge itself contains a variety of debris, including what appear to be large statues (of Serpent Men and of Sssa'a Laass, the Serpent God) and other monumental features. The wall of the gorge on the temple side dropped enough masonry into the gap that crossing is possible below.
There is also a waterfall cascading into the gorge, not too far from where the PCs first catch sight of the temple from the trail on the other side of the gorge. (Waterfall Entrance—As the PCs walk down the trail near the gorge, have each player make a single Luck Check to spot, using the highest Luck mod for their PCs) If successful they see what seems to be a natural cave behind the falls.
To reach this entrance, they either (1) climb down over the wet stone surface (DC 10, or DC 5 with rope) from the temple side, or (2) climb down from the Samsara side of the gorge to the massive stone obelisk that spans the gorge to within 8 feet of the entrance. The climb down to the "bridge" is about 50 feet (DC 5 with rope).
The PCs decided to cross there, though there was a bridge further to the West. Formerly Ian the wizard cast Rope Trick to good effect, and the PCs used it to cross over to the temple. They didn't descend to the entrance behind the waterfall, because they saw a huge lizard come out of that hole and climb off along the wall, to the west (in the direction of the bridge). The lizard was a brilliant yellow color, with electric blue stripes.
In crossing, Banvha the halfling haberdasher almost fell, but used her Luck to survive. I ruled that even zero level halflings can regenerate Luck, as it's a racial trait. Hey, it's a halfling thing. You wouldn't understand.
They made it across the gorge and entered the lower level of the main temple building. There, they found the remains of a fire, and signs of human habitation (smells like piss in one corner). They began to explore the interior when the lizard made its comeback appearance. Here's what they were dealing with:
Spike LizardInit +2; Atk bite +5 melee (1d10) claw +5 melee (1d10); AC 15; HD 3d12 (20 hp); MV 50’/30'; Act 2d20; SP spiky claws on limbs allow creature to climb sheer surfaces at speed of 30; SV Fort +1, Ref +2, Will +1; AL N
Abel the wizard cast summon animal, and conjured a quartet of dogs. They attacked the lizard, and the lizard slaughtered two of their number. Vane thought to go full Steve Irwin on the lizard, but I said that he probably could not actually get his arms around the jaws of the beast. He tried a Mighty Deed to leap upon its back. Failed. Was right in front of it. Eventually, though, the PCs killed the damned thing, and nobody died. Their immediate thought was to make cowboy boots out of the beast's hide. The Banvha the halfling haberdasher thought that was a FABULOUS!! idea. She's got real plans for that hide. Vane is getting into professional wrestler territory, possibly verging on pimpdom, with his wardrobe choices. Sort of a hypermasculine (trying too hard) combination of Rob Halford,
Rob, we love you!
the Road Warriors,
600 lbs of "Please, please don't hit me."
I love giant ape balls in a totally manly way!
In any case, this party will soon be
Before we ended the session, Ol' Sucker, Clave's Egg-Sucking Hound, and Morfans the Dwarf had gone off to explore the temple's interior. Morfans called out for the rest of them to come quickly. They were confronted with a scene of utter horror:
A grim scene confronts the PCs as they approach the ancient stone altar of the Serpent God. It has been used very recently, and flies swarm everywhere. The altar itself is caked in mostly-dried blood. The bodies of many dozens of children lie in piles here. They have had their throats slit and their hearts ripped from their chests. The hearts are nowhere to be seen, but the blood… oh, the blood. It must have run in rivers for there to have been this much blood.
And that's where we ended. Call me Captain Buzzkill.