Tuesday, 22 May 2018

GURPS DF Free Cities Season 2 Session 2: Baffled by the Bad Book Blizzard

Argua - Half-Orc Barbarian (250+3 points)
Grükuk Kzaash - Half-Orc Knight (250+3 points)
Lucas Zombini - Human Cleric of Pelor, the god of the sun (250+3 points)
Masha Deathfoot - Human One-Handed Martial Artist (250+4 points)
Puddin' Noddington - Gnome Halfling Thief (250 points)
Zephyra - Half-Elf Wizard (250 points)

New Characters
Zephyra had received a letter naming her Lord Esterad Shadowmantle's heir, but it had been addressed to her old lodgings, and she did not receive it for several months.  She, too, ventured to Isserno, hired Puddin' on because she figured she'd need some (disposable) help to find out what was wrong in her estate, and met with Jeeves at the Bloody Raven in Haverbrook.

The butler was rather embarrassed to tell Zephyra that he had already sent another group of adventurers, led by the noble Lady Argua, to the estate.  Zephyra and Puddin' continued on to the manor at the top of the hill, and followed the tracks in the mud leading to the cellar, where they found the other party.  Zephyra and Argua agreed to settle the issue of the estate after clearing out the rest of the cellar.

Amothius 2nd, 2546
The party showed the newcomers through the hole above the pile of rubble and down the muddy corridor floored with planks to the locked door across the pool of stagnant water, and they stopped to think of a way to get across without going in the water.  After a few minutes of discussion, a handful of leeches jumped out of the water and latched on to Puddin', who panicked and tried to run back down the narrow tunnel (past 5 other adventurers), but slipped and fell.

Zephyra readied a 1d Flame Jet, but decided to hold off when she saw the first leech quickly fall off, bloated with blood, and the other two soon followed, to be squashed by Puddin'.  Lucas cast Stop Bleeding to cure most of her wounds, and the party headed back up to the kitchen to find something to use as a bridge across the 6' gap.  A broad, old table was found, and Argua determined that it would hold all but herself and Grükuk, so they grabbed it and headed back down to the stagnant pool.

Once they got down, Zephyra decided to just cast Shape Earth to create a walkway instead, as that would hold everybody's weight, and Masha asked why she didn't open with this (she forgot).  The stone rose out of the waist-deep sewage and brought a severed hand rose with it, which Lucas knocked back into the water with his staff; Zephyra seemed mildly upset that she didn't get a chance to investigate it first.  They then retreated back to the cellar to rest for a half-hour.

Puddin' went forth to inspect the door, which turned out to be wooden and un-trapped.  She picked the lock and took a look through the keyhole, where she saw a short hallway illuminated by a malevolent green light ending at another wooden door.  Zephyra swung open the door to take a better look, and found that the source were magical runes of Dehydrate, and that there was a safe space on either end of the hallway where one person could stand.

Further investigation discovered that the runes were each paired with another on the opposite side, and that walking between the two would trigger the spell.  They could move past them by either climbing over them (1' of the top of the wall was runeless), or diving through what were essentially invisible criss-crossing lasers just right.

There was some discussion on how the people who live here pass by the dehydration runes, and the party decided that they probably have some sort of magic key or ring that marks them as friendly.  Lucas realized that Protection from Evil would work, because the light was malevolent, and tested on Puddin', who, eyes closed in fear, walked through the hall, got only mildly thirsty, and peered under a gap at the bottom of the door at the end.

The room beyond was draped in red light from several lanterns spaced around it, which illuminated a large wolf-headed woman with six spindly, spider-leg like arms holding scimitars, and a snake tail instead of legs.  A black curtain blocked an archway to the left, and an ominous altar of black stone loomed in front of a rough hole that trailed off into darkness.  Puddin' returned back down the hallway to relay the strange being's appearance, and Lucas recognized it as a Peshkali demon.

He informed the party that they were almost invulnerable, but would die if their arms were all destroyed.  In addition, they were immune to Smoke and Stench, and resistant to fire, much to Zephyra's lament.  They continued to plan, and Lucas offered to cast Protection from Evil on everybody but himself; he would just rest in the safe spot inside the door so the leeches couldn't get him.

They retreated back to the cellar to rest for 20 minutes, then came back, Lucas cast the spell, which successfully protected them all from the runes, and they charged in past the unlocked door, Argua on point.  This somehow surprised the Peshkali, who badly failed an easy Hearing roll.  Puddin' Disappeared, and moved to flank the Peshkali with her dual pistol crossbows, catching a whiff of rotting flesh as she moved near the right wall.

The party closed the gap, but not before the Peshkali could bring its swords up to parry, and then retaliated with a flurry of sword swings.  Though Masha managed to parry three attacks with her single remaining hand, Argua took a sword to the neck.  Puddin' fired one of her pistol crossbows and nailed the demon in the arm for minimal injury, but Zephyra cast Stun and the Peshkali recoiled in shock.

Grükuk ran around behind and crippled an arm before the demon could recover, but it parried all other attacks until the half-orc took out another arm from behind.  The Peshkali responded with four attacks aimed at Grükuk's neck, and managed to land a deep cut, as Pudding ran behind the "completely non-spooky" altar to break line of sight and got ready to Disappear again.

The melee combatants coordinated to launch as many attacks as possible, and as a result, Masha managed to kick a third arm entirely off, before moving onto the evil altar in an attempt to flank the demon; she managed to kick the fourth arm to a pulp, but got Cursed for touching the altar.  Now that the demon was down to only two arms, its defenses were easily overwhelmed and Grükuk took off both of them, killing the demon.

Now that she had a moment, Puddin' noticed that part of the wall on the right was actually a canvas curtain.  Lucas, after resting long enough, cast Protection from Evil on himself, walked through the Dehydrate runes, and decided to exorcise the evil altar.  The rest of the party settled in, and, three hours later, the altar was still evil, and Lucas was Cursed.

Right before Puddin' burned the black curtain with a torch, she realized that it was velvet, and worth $40, so she pulled her torch back ("I guess I won't burn down my own property").  She then asked who would open the canvas curtain on the other side, and found the rest of the party looking back at her expectantly.  Quick as possible, she grabbed one end of the canvas and ran across to the other side, revealing a side-chamber filled with 15 rotting, wolf-headed zombies wielding crude weapons.

Some of the zombies were wearing ruined surcoats with a white spear on purple over a black horse on blue; Zephyra noted that the black horse was the sigil of house Shadowmantle, but couldn't place the spear.  The zombies shambled forwards as Argua, Grükuk, and Masha moved in to form a line, but they couldn't fully plug the gap.  A pair of zombies flanked behind Masha, but were kicked to re-death before they could do anything.  Zephyra cast Shape Earth to fill in the gap.

Puddin' ran off to break line of sight and try to Disappear, only to realize that she had never reloaded her crossbows, and Lucas made a prayer to Pelor to restore his energy, as he was still only at 1FP after the failed exorcism, but failed.  The melee combatants started carving their way through the zombies, and Zephyra cast Create Fire on everything past her team, slowly burning the rest to ash.  Without further incident, except for Masha rolling our first-ever double damage crit, the zombies were finished off.

Lucas cast Stop Bleeding on the wounded, and the party settled in to rest so the spellcasters could recover their FP, which gave Puddin' a chance to reload her crossbows with her goat's foot.  Zephyra and Lucas took a look at the one unburned zombie corpse and the Peshkali.  They found that the wolves' heads had been sewn on, and demonic magic used to make them actually work.

An hour later, Puddin' peeked under the black velvet curtain and saw a long, torch-lit hallway with rust-coloured walls, 3 doors on the left, and two doors and an arched doorway on the right.  Zephyra cast Create Fire to illuminate the rough, blasted hole behind the altar and found that it continued on for quite a way.  Like a Price is Right model, Puddin' gingerly pulled the black velvet curtain aside, and the party walked into the hallway.

Zephyra inspected the torches and noted that they were alchemically treated to last for a day, which meant that somebody had lit them within the last 24 hours.  Puddin' peeked through the keyhole of the first, iron-bound door on the left side, but saw only darkness beyond.  She picked the lock, and opened it (after trying and failing to get Grükuk to), revealing a trio of 7' tall, sewn together humanoids with iron sickles for hands.

Strangely, the frankensteins looked to be made of pale blue, cut-down giant limbs, with oversized, giant heads.  In the back corner, seated atop a 3' tall dark ceramic jar, was a frost giant's head, which called out in the Giant's tongue "End my brother's suffering!".  The corpse golems ran in to attack Puddin', who dodged and ran away, so Masha ran up to fill the gap, and grappled the closest with her stump hand.

Grükuk ran up and beat the one Masha was grappling to pieces with her morningstar, and the party breathed a sigh of relief that they were so fragile.  Argua cut another golem down, and the last one waddled forward to sweep at Masha with its sickle hand, missed, and was grappled in retaliation shortly before Grükuk bashed its over-sized skull in.

The giant head on the jar cried out, again in Giant, that its brother's souls would not rejoin their ancestors because they weren't killed with blades.  To shut him up, Grükuk smashed the head and jar with her morningstar, accidentally covering herself in the thick, poisonous, black goo that was inside.  The giant's head, attached to a set of lungs that were formerly preserved inside the jar, gurgled out a death cry.

Puddin' looked through the keyhole of the door across the hall, and found that it, too, was dark inside.  Zephyra tried casting Create Fire on the other side of the door, but the spell fizzled for some reason.  She gave an Alchemist's Match to Puddin', who shoved it through the keyhole, and looked through again; this time, thanks to her Night Vision 5, she saw what looked like bookshelves on both sides of a stone room.

After checking for traps, Puddin' cracked the lock and opened the door.  Inside was a small library, with a large, black book at the far end of the room, with gold lettering in some strange language on the cover.  Before anyone could do anything, Puddin', her Greed taking over, ran into the room to grab it, and heard a hum of energy as she crossed the midpoint of the room.

A book fell off of the shelf to the left, then two from the right.  Before anyone could react, another flew hard enough to hit Puddin' in the leg, and then a veritable hurricane of books filled the room and started beating her into... pudding, while also blocking the rest of the party's line of sight.  Puddin' managed only a few steps before the books beat her onto the ground ("I always knew reading was bad!"), and she struggled to crawl out.

Grükuk ran in ("She's taking way too long in that book tornado!"), took a book to the jaw and ran back out, while Puddin' continued to cry out for help until she was knocked unconscious.  Zephyra debated setting the room on fire, but when Puddin's tiny cries stopped (Argua: "Okay"), Masha charged in, her Immovable Stance preventing the books from knocking her around.  After two seconds of looking for the gnome, Masha found Puddin', grabbed her, and pulled her out of the room.

Once they were fully out, the bookstorm ceased, the books flying back into their shelves and coming to a stop (Lucas to Puddin's body: "Wellp, get back in there.").  Lucas cast Great Healing on Puddin', and Zephyra experimented casting spells into the room, trying to figure out how/if the door blocked her magic.  Lucas cast some more healing on the still-wounded Grükuk and Masha.

Zephyra cast Dispel Magic on the room; nothing seemed to have happened, and nobody was willing to go back in to check if the bookstorm was still active.  Over Puddin's still-unconscious body, the party debated whether or not to burn the books (Lucas was opposed, in case any were holy texts; Puddin' might just be Evil as far as he knows), and then closed the door.

Benedict's player couldn't make it to the After the End game again, so we're back to my modified version of I Smell A Rat, this time with another player.  Still two PCs each.

This is now the Girl Power Party, with 5/6 members being women.

More complaints about I Smell A Rat:
  • Why are distances in the adventure text done in feet, when everything in the game is done in yards?  Some aren't evenly divisible by 3, which is annoying.
  • The maps meet a perfect point of uselessness: they spoil room/dungeon layout, but also don't have details like the bookshelves/pedestal in the library.
  • This adventure seems like it's written to piss off players, with all the bullshit loot they can't have.  Stuff like the zombie clubs/armour being worthless (when the Cheap quality exists and clubs and light leather are barely worth anything to begin with), the super torches that last twenty-four times longer than normal torches being worth nothing extra "because", and the corpse-golems' weapons rusting away immediately when they die.  Just let the players have some damned loot.

Puddin' will either be rejiggered to be a Halfling or have her SM and ST lowered, because my game uses D&D-inspired races, where Gnomes are smaller than Halflings; I'm already changing her sheet to better represent my alternate Thief template already, so it's not the end of the world.  On another note, nowhere on her character sheet does it mention that Puddin' is SM-1, which was annoying in play.

Despite my informing them twice, everybody forgot about Protection from Evil's bonus DR against the Peshkali.

The Peshkali used Cross Parry from Martial Arts, which helped it kind of compensate for Deceptive Attacks and Grükuk's morningstar.

Mistakenly ruled that Contingency Casting was one per in-game day, when it's actually once per session.  Wouldn't have ended up mattering, because it was referring to Remove Curse, and Lucas would have still failed.

Grükuk's player realized that she was accidentally using Lucas' far lower Staff skill than her own Flail after the zombie fight.

There was some joking about how Puddin' could go into "Stealth Mode" by Disappearing, and then block the zombies from moving forward by just standing there.  Also, it has been determined that Disappearing requires the Thief to yell out "Stealth mode!".

XP was 6, MVP was Grükuk, for taking out the most Peshkali arms.

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