Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Session 25 of the Old Forest Keep Game

Session 25? Where are the other sessions? In my handwritten campaign notes ... this 25th session was the first online game I've run in this setting, and the first I'm recounting here. This may mean that I recount future sessions in this game here as well.

Anyway ...

The characters:
Magic Meryl  (random advancement halfling) and Galahad (orc mastiff)
Radmachar Whitebeard (cyborg pirate)
Rakka (orc muscle witch) and Amonsay the Immortal Constrictor (some kind of snake demon)
Gnarles Crackledust (gnome illusionist)
and a mad scientist and his lock-picking specialist (Chris P.)

In town, the characters gathered a little bit of information about the Cult of the White Dragon which presumably uses the dungeon under the Old Forest Keep as its base of operations for a campaign of brigandage, and Radmachar hired Manlius as a mercenary, while Magic Meryl hired Tiberius. Magic Meryl took on quartermaster duties and bought rations for everyone (the dungeon lies three to five days from town depending on my die rolls representing weather), and then the party set out through the woods toward the dungeon.

Some bad weather lengthened the travel time to five days altogether. Nothing happened for the first four days but rain, but on the fourth night, a group of giant ants marched right through the middle of the party's camp, carrying dead humans. Meryl cast sleep over the ants, and the party investigated the bodies, and found them to be dead bandits wearing white armbands, and a couple wearing cloak-pins in the shape of white dragons--these the party took, and then they slew the ants as they slept, and then continued their rest.

Then, on the fifth day, the party came into sight of the keep--which is not really a keep, as only the gatehouse remains standing, the old castle's curtain walls all thrown over and the actual keep having collapsed long ago. This keep was once a bastion of Law against the Chaotic Elves of the eastern Dwimmerholt forest, but has fallen into disrepair and been filled with Chaotic monsters and cultists. As the party approached the keep, a murder of crows rose up from the trees around them, alerting the orcish figures on the gatehouse top to their approach.

Before the orcs could send out a patrol, Gnarles Crackledust cast a spell of mass invisibility over the party (from a staff, I think), and then the party simply walked around the gatehouse to what was once "inside" the bailey, but which of course is now just open ground--from that side, they could see two doors, one entering the eastern tower of the gatehouse, the other into the western tower. So the party went to the first door and listened--and though they all failed to hear anything, Meryl's mastiff Galahad's hackles went up and he pointed at the door, indicating orcs on the other side (it was also at this point that we remembered that Rakka and Galahad probably wouldn't get along, she being an orc, he a mastiff bred and trained to hunt orcs).

Fortunately, the orcs had already passed on when the party opened the door; so they entered the dungeon and went through a first couple of rooms, one being merely a sleeping chamber with old pallets of straw that smelled of orc; and the other room containing a tapestry that divided the room in two. Chris P.'s character glanced around the tapestry to the other side and saw a large spider clinging to that side of the tapestry; Rakka decided that she would take the spider on with her fists, and just talk her way out of encounters with orcs the way she did in the Aesclepius-Apollo shrine.

So Rakka went around the tapestry and Anime Leap Attacked the spider, which does something like double or triple damage--the spider survived, though barely, and in its confusion at suddenly being attacked, its attempts to bite Rakka were erratic and ineffective, and so Rakka was able to destroy it by hammering further at its thorax with her fists. She then elected to take down the tapestry, intending to clean it up with magic in town later (the party left it rolled up in the room for the moment, as it was not a small tapestry).

At this point, Meryl recalled the trap door depicted on her map of the dungeon (it was an old map she acquired from Ligurias the Sage in town), and directed the party through several rooms toward it. They found the door locked, but Chris P.'s henchman easily picked the lock, and the door was opened to reveal four human prisoners in rather bad shape, emaciated and dirty. They were wondered at the door opening but "nothing" coming through, and then even more surprised to hear the invisible party promise them freedom. The prisoners hoped that meant they were leaving immediately, but the party told them they had to wait a little bit while the adventurers delved a little more.

So, a trapdoor was indeed found; and Galahad growled low as it was opened, indicating that there were orcs down the stairs below. It was agreed to send Rakka down to negotiate, and well beyond merely chatting the orcs up, she claimed to be the fleshly incarnation of Orcus (indicating to her invisible companions to pick things up and flash their lights up and down, etc. as demonstrations of her power). The six orc guards at the foot of the stair were not well convinced ("You don't look like Orcus," and, "She just looks like a girl,"), but ultimately bowed to her and agreed to her plan to show Rakka their king's chambers, to take his gold, and perhaps to kill him.

The orcs led the party north through some corridors and then pointed to a door--"There's the king's chambers," they said. "Well, open it!" Rakka replied. "We don't have the key," said the orcs, "but you're a god--why don't you open it?" And behold, the door was unlocked (Chris' henchman picked it invisibly), which thing wondered the orcs rather more.

Everyone piled in and started looting, mostly invisibly, and the party found a number of valuables--but as they looted, a commotion was heard at the door, and a half-orc woman with several ogrillon bodyguards was there, demanding, "What the hell is going on here?"

Rakka replied with her spiel of being Orcus incarnate, but this time piled it on with an ability from her class in which she can convince several creatures per level, once per session, of a lie of any magnitude. And behold, this half-orc priestess (Trapp is her name), fell on her face before the god-made-flesh. "How can we serve you, o! Orcus? Have you come to aid us in our efforts with the White Dragon Cult to waken the dragon sleeping in the pit of the dungeon? Can you not break the enchantment that keeps it slumbering, o! great Orcus?"

Rakka-cum-Orcus of course agreed that she was there to aid them, and would create a talisman to help waken the dragon, but that she required a great sacrifice of wealth and prisoners to increase her power. "Of course--we shall have a great sacrifice for you--I will gather the tribe, and tonight in the darkness we will slaughter our prisoners, drink wine, all in your honor, o! Orcus!" Trapp declared.

But Rakka replied that the sacrifice was required immediately; and so Trapp and her servants (and the other orcs, now swept up by Rakka's authority) gathered all the valuables they could in a short time, including Trapp's cosmetic box and rich furs from her own chambers, and also a huge pile of metal ingots that the orcs had found stockpiled in the dungeon when they moved in. All of this, and the human prisoners from above, were then gathered out in the courtyard above (with the orcs complaining a great deal about the sun and the sudden forced labor). As for the prisoners, Meryl had invisibly gone up to them when the party's plan had crystallized, and warned them that they should play along with much screaming, but not to worry, the party really was going to rescue them.

Everything gathered above, and probably half the orc-tribe standing in attendance, Rakka interrupted the setting up of an altar. "No, no," she declared, "no altar is needed--I will just open up a hole directly to my realm in Hell below!"

With that, Magic Meryl and Gnarles Crackledust both conjured illusions with phantasmal force, the gnome creating a vision of Hell's maw opening, while Meryl created an illusory demon, a huge orcish figure, tarred and feathered, to emerge and start "carrying off" the human prisoners and treasure (actually being taken up by invisible characters), while Amonsay revealed itself as well in all its vasty coils to awe the orcs, etc. A number of orcs complained that their hard earned treasure was being taken by a fraud god, but using a wand of lightning, Rakka fried a whole line of them and cowed the tribe into kowtowing submission.

Now, as for the treasure and prisoners--apparently Chris P.'s mad scientist has an armored hover SUV which he had neglected to tell the party about before trekking off through the woods on foot--but now he summoned it to their location in the old keep's bailey and all the loot was shoved onto it, followed by the quickly by the various members of the party, and then the whole lot of them flew off back to the city of Calpurnia in style.

Back in town, Rakka caroused (I think someone else did too? but Rakka was the only one who failed), and in her drunkenness and going on about her coup of the orcs with a clever lie about being Orcus, she finds herself enamored of a local fellow, one Titus Iulius, a hunter who can tell her much of the wonders of the wilderness (Rakka's life heretofore has been in a dungeon, so the outside world is all new to her). If she does not maintain this relationship, it will turn sour as Titus' sisters will spread evil rumors about the orc woman who seduced their brother.

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