Thursday, January 25, 2018

Greyhame Mountain Dungeon Expedition 17

Orcs have returned to the caverns of the Glimmervaults;
the Goblin King and the Lord of Werewolves have renewed their ancient alliance beneath the Howling Tower;
and the secret treasury of the ancient Bronding Kings is said to lie somewhere behind the Brokenbrand Falls, haunted by enchanting naiads ...
and Jaer the Windlord looks down on the world below from the Eyries of the Eagles on Greyhame Mountain itself;
and the Stars themselves are singing an eerie song, night after night ...

21 January's roster:
Kord (half-orc fighter 1/cleric 1)
Ham (cleric 1)
with Livy and Lysimmachus (normal men)
and Fang, Orkie, Blade, and a nameless mastiff

Kord's last expedition to the Greyhame Mountain Dungeons was the 14th, which is to say a couple weeks back, in-game. On that expedition, he and his compatriots (including Finbar the half-Elf) discovered a secret room behind some burial niches, a room filled with treasure--but also with strange magical shadows that leapt to life and attacked the party, draining the strength of those they touched.

Desiring to return there, but to defeat the shadows, Kord turned therefore, in search of a sage who might know more about what it takes to slay such enemies. There are two such sages who "lair" near enough town to be easily approached: Morla of the Mists, a sort of witchy hedge-wizard who dwells on a misty fen, and Axxl the Mask, a creature who hides his face -- rumored to be the ugliest face in the world -- behind an ever-changing array of masks. Kord elected to seek out Axxl.

AxxL is also a bizarre German Youtuber

When he arrived, he found Axxl the Mask to be standoffish and unwilling to consider any research for less than the going rate, i.e. 2000 gold for a month of research (or 500 gold for a week). This price seemed stiff to Kord, and he attempted to talk it down, but Axxl would not budge, other than to agree for an up front fee of 350 gold and payment of the rest on Kord's return ("We all know how you adventurers are of a short-lived variety, and my time is very valuable to me."). Kord seemed to intend to adventure during the week of research, but ultimately just paid the 500 gold; and after a week he was informed that the shadows typically encountered in dungeons are not undead, though they seem such, but that they are incorporeal and can only be struck by magical or possibly silvered weapons. Axxl further informed Kord that if a piece of one of these shadows were brought back to the sage, he would pay handsomely for it--though he had no idea how that might be effected.

Armed with this knowledge, Kord returned to Brakeridge and outfitted himself and his party for a foray to the Howling Tower (he had heard the tales of the last expedition from Baby Face and Blackleaf, but was also eager to seek out the secret gold he knew of). He bought two new dogs (Blade and the nameless mastiff), but with four dogs, two hirelings, and the henchman Ham to follow him, I had to check his Charisma score for maximum number of retainers--and CHA 9 allows four retainers at most, so even with dogs counting as half-retainers, he couldn't bring all of them.

Blade and the new mastiff were kenneled at the inn for 5 gold, and then Kord, Ham, and their cronies set off for the Howling Tower. Nothing molested them on the way out ("That's a first!" Kord exclaimed on arriving unscathed), and the party found themselves outside the tower on the spur of the ridge, but with the pyre that once held Begor's bones vastly expanded and filled with numerous smaller bodies. Goblin bodies, they figured on a brief inspection; then they headed into the tower.

To get to the stair, they had to go north and into Begor's old room. Then at the southwest door of that chamber they listened and heard goblin voices--Kord speaks goblin. The goblins were debating what they wanted to eat--"These rats are fat enough. Now let's get some cheese." "Cheese? I want mutton!" "Well you know we don't have any ..."

Hoping for surprise, the party burst through the door, but the goblins were not surprised per se, so much as astonished, and we proceeded to roll initiative. A short fight ensued which involved some goblins running around the corner to seek reinforcement, but also a rat thrown by another desperate goblin straight at Ham, which dealt 1 damage as it scrabbled and bit at his face. The party cut down five of the six goblins, but one escaped to warn his comrades; as the party came around the corner, they found him rallying a crew from a further room.

Couldn't find much in the way of imagery for "rat-throwing"

Kord and his crew withdrew to set up a fighting line, and soon were engaged by eight fresh goblins. These fought for a round, losing only a couple goblins, and then began a fighting withdrawal back around the corner; Kord and crew stuck with them, pressing forward and maintaining the melee. Unfortunately, around the corner was an additional dozen or so goblins, including one which began to cast a spell. The goblins also had shortbows and other missile weapons, and with their overwhelming numbers they managed to quickly knock out both dogs (Orkie and Fang) and also to slay the mercenary Livy. Lysimmachus panicked with a bad morale roll and Kord and Ham elected to retreat alongside their comrade rather than face the goblins while outnumbered ten to one.

Because of the hallway's bend, fewer goblins got off missile attacks and so the remaining party members quickly escaped back the way they'd come and out the door. As they scrambled down the stair to the ridge on which the tower stands, the goblins boiled out behind, but hissed and scowled at the sun. They threw a few ineffectual missiles at the party, along with a great number of jeers, and then retreated back into the tower.

Licking their wounds, Kord and crew retreated to town (again, miraculously, without any attrition). There, they collected Kord's other two dogs, Kord bought some oil, and Lysimmachus agreed to accompany them again in hopes of retrieving Livy's body. On the second day back to the tower, I rolled a single attrition die; Kord's player suggested losing his rope, and I agreed that Lysimmachus had somehow misplaced his boss' 150' of rope.

Then on the fourth day they arrived back at the tower, with an eagle soaring among the clouds overhead. As they climbed the stair to enter the tower, they found a spear wedged outside the door with Livy's head impaled on it--Lysimmachus blanched as he failed morale, and I adjudicated that he would be at -1 on all rolls for the rest of the expedition.

Anyway, in they went. Heading up through Begor's old room and around the corners through the corridor, they encountered none of the goblins there previously; but at the door to the room with the stair down to the dungeon, Kord heard within several goblins discussing the best way to kidnap a child. Hoping to cut them all down quickly, they burst in the door; again, the goblins were not surprised, and we rolled initiative. There followed a three round slog of mostly misses, typical of first level encounters. Noise began to gather in the hallway behind, and then the same goblin horde as before came in through the door. The nameless mastiff was both cut down in this melee, as well as a number of goblins; and Kord, feeling hopeless of victory, ordered everyone down the stairs as quick as they might.

Lysimmachus was cut down as he attempted to retreat, but Kord, Ham, and Blade all made it down the stairs. As they went, Kord smashed several flasks of oil behind him and tossed his torch back to set it ablaze, and not a few goblins got hot feet for their close pursuit. With a moment of respite at the bottom of the stairs, Kord got himself oriented on the map and then sought out some southern burial niches he knew contained the secret door to the treasure horde. They passed through a room with an altar to a multi-armed goddess of darkness, a room which contained a couple desiccated husks of insectoid horrors formerly killed there.

Then, in one of the burial niches in the corridor beyond, Kord threw the catch and the stone wall ground back, revealing a narrow hall to the south which opened into a room after about thirty feet. Surmising that shadows require light to exist, Kord ordered Ham to stay back with his torch while he, Kord, went forward alone using his orcish infravision. Into the chamber he stepped--at its southern wall stood another idol of the multi-armed dervish goddess, surrounded by a veritable hoard of gold and other trinkets, while on her breast hung a carcanet of fine silver and gems. Kord went to work in the darkness, shoveling what he could into his own backpack and then into Ham's, and he never was bothered by any shadow or shade.

And then they were stumped. How to get out past all those goblins? Fortunately, at this point, Kord looked at his map, drawn on the last expedition, and pointed out a winding tunnel labeled "Up" just twenty feet from the secret door. "What does that mean?" he asked rhetorically (and the referee informed him that he would have to investigate to find out if he didn't remember). Investigate he did, and found a short tunnel that wound away up into darkness. A man could just wriggle through it if he could stomach the claustrophobia. Does it lead out? Is there any light? All he could see was the tunnel's darkness.

It was worth a try; otherwise there was a hoard of goblins to contend with. So, wriggling through miserable darkness, Kord and Ham and Blade found themselves first in a largish chamber filled with weird eggs and crawling things, but with a continuation of the tunnel; and then ultimately standing in sunlight on the slope of the spur some little way from the Howling Tower.

Needless to say, they hightailed it back to town.

Again, my dice were favorable; as Kord and Ham got to selling their loot, they found that it was probably the most valuable haul yet carried out of the dungeon. Each leveled up to second level; then, through carousing, leveled immediately up to third after that (even with Kord having to divide his XP equally between classes!).

Unfortunately for them, both being clerics of the Chaotic Good cult, Kord failed his save and had a "religious experience" of Evil, probably tempted into it by some evil genius (a spirit, not a comic book villain) whispering poison into the ears of Good characters around Brakeridge; and Ham failing his save as well, and rolling "blaspheme the gods" was clearly talked into some kind of blasphemous deed by Kord in his evil mood. So both are under the Ban of the Good cult and neither can cast cleric spells again until they atone for their evil deeds.

And still, the kidnapped children remain unrescued and somewhere unknown ...


Remembrance for the Fallen
Lysimmachus (normal man), a nameless mastiff, Livy (normal man), Orkie (orc mastiff), Fang (boar hound), Droopy and Snoopy (mastiffs), Dream Destroyer (ghost hound), Arrow (pack dog), Freyja (normal woman), a nameless cur, Hot Dog and Cross (mastiffs), Orion II (lion dog), Bacon (boar hound), Tore (half-orc fighter 1/cleric 1), Jimmy the Snitch (dog), Orion (lion dog), Harambe (man-ape 1)

And for those Enchanted Away
Dol (fyrdman hireling)

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