Thursday, 3 May 2018

GURPS DF Free Cities Season 2 Session 1: I Smell a Wolf-Rat

Argua - Half-Orc Barbarian (250 points)
Grükuk Kzaash - Half-Orc Knight (250 points)
Lucas Zombini - Human Cleric of Pelor, the god of the sun (250 points)
Masha Deathfoot - Human Unarmed Martial Artist (250 points)

While bumming around the Free Cities looking for things to murder for money, Argua received a letter informing her that her distant relative, Lord Esterad Shadowmantle, had passed away, and that she was due to inherit his manor and lands.  To receive the deed, she would have to meet with Jeeves, Esterad's butler, in the Bloody Raven inn, in the village of Haverbrook, southeast of the Free City of Isserno.

Masha, an old friend of Argua's, agreed to help her claim the estate, and on the way, they met Grükuk and Lucas.  Grükuk agreed to help Argua in exchange for a cut of the swag, while Lucas was happy to dive into danger in order to repent for... something.  They confirmed that the seal on the letter was legit, and boarded a ship to Isserno.

Amothius 1st, 2546
All somewhat-broke, the party left Isserno on foot immediately, the sunshine boosting their spirits.  Several hours down the main road, they came across a man in the distance, his back to them.  He had long, unkempt hair, and his clothes were tattered.  Masha approached to ask if he needed assistance, and the "man" turned, revealing that he had a wolf's head.  The beast seemed startled, and ran off into the forest on all fours.  Though they were lacking in knowledge skills, Lucas confirmed that the creature was not a werewolf, as they are either all wolf or all man.

The party continued on, arriving at the Bloody Raven just past midday, as the weather turned to overcast, and easily found Jeeves inside its otherwise-empty common room.  Argua approached gruffly, and Jeeves mistook Masha to be the inheritor, though nobody corrected him.  He explained that Argua was very, very far down the family tree, and that he had spent 15 years working his way through its various branches to get down to her.  Jeeves then revealed the following info:
  • All of Esterad Shadowmantle's immediate relatives had refused the inheritance.
  • After Lord Esterad's death, the lack of an heir meant that people went unpaid and started to leave.
  • Once most of the higher-ups had left, a group of orcs had attacked and stolen much of those that remained as slaves.
  • After the orcs had gone, a group of goblins had come in and burned the village to the ground.
  • 5 other inheritors had already set out to the estate over the years, but none had ever been heard from again.
  • The largest party had belonged to Demi-Baron Jorun Shadowmantle-Sunspear, who had gone with 10 men at arms.
Though they could have made it to the Shadowmantle estate that night, the party decided they'd rather spend the night at the Bloody Raven instead.

Amothius 2nd, 2546
In the morning, the party were woken by a flock of ravens, and found that the weather had not improved; on the way to the estate, rain began to fall in a light drizzle.  After going down an old, disused road for an hour or so, they arrived at the edge of a burned out village, with a blackened manor sitting on the hill surrounded by a warped wrought-iron gate.

The gate and large oak front door were both open, so they walked inside, and found it in rather dire condition; there was obvious fire damage inside the manor, though the roof still held, and many banners and the carpets were tattered and ruined.  The floor was coated in mud, which held some strange tracks.  Lucas cast Continual Light on Masha's fist armour and Grükuk's shield, then they sat in to rest.

After about 30 minutes, they heard a door slam off to the right, and Argua decided to investigate by following the tracks.  She lost the trail in the kichens, but then noticed that the bottom of one door was coated in mud and scratch marks.  It opened to a staircase that lead down to a wide, spider-web-filled cellar, with several stone pillars supporting the ceiling, wide enough that their magical light didn't reach the furthest corners at all.

Argua took point, with Masha second, Lucas third, and Grükuk as the rear guard.  Masha got stuck in the spider webs at the bottom of the stairs, and four dog-sized spiders skittered out of the darkness towards her.  Grükuk jumped down from the stairs, getting snared in the webs in the process, but brained one spider, while two swarmed Argua, and a third tried to bite Masha.  Lucas ineffectually hit a spider with his staff.

Masha kicked her spider off into the darkness in two separate pieces, and then tried to get one of the two harassing Argua, but hit the barbarian full-strength in the back by accident.  The other two spiders seemed to lose their nerve, however, and ran back off into the shadows, the party unable to pursue due to the thick webs.

With no easy way to clear the webs, the party proceeded at a crawl, but eventually made it to a pile of debris in the far corner.  Grükuk went towards the pile to move some rubble, only to be snared by concealed webs within the pile as a man-sized spider and the two smaller ones from earlier emerged from the pile.  The big spider bit onto Grükuk with an odd wolf-spider hybrid face, while the other two moved towards Masha as she Light Stepped over the webs.

She kicked the big one instead, causing it to drop Grükuk just as Lucas cast Armour 3 on her.  Argua got mired in the webs, and the smaller spiders changed targets to Grükuk, who smashed one and then the other into paste with her morningstar. Lucas started charging up a Sunbolt with Contingency Casting, while the big one bit at Masha's left hand savagely, tearing it completely off.

Masha responded by hurricane kicking it repeatedly shouting "WHO EVEN NEEDS HANDS", while Argua finally broke free and lodged her axe in the big spider's thorax, causing it to shudder before sinking to the ground, dead, leaking thick, black ichor.  Lucas moved up and fired his fully-charged Sunbolt into the big spider's corpse for a bunch of damage while saying "I never miss!", and then crit-failed First Aid on Masha further injuring her.

While he then cast more healing spells, Argua noticed skeletons in the pile of rubble, though they were stripped of any equipment, which suggested that either somebody else had stripped them after death, or that the spiders were far smarter than expected.  Lucas cast more healing spells on the others, and then the party retreated back up to the kitchens to rest.

Afterwards, Argua improvised a torch out of broken furniture and banners with Survival, and methodically cleared the webs from the basement.  While doing so, Grükuk noticed a 3'-wide opening above the rubble, and Lucas found a secret door on the same wall, but kept the info to himself.  Argua went through the opening, and came through to a small winding earthen tunnel, with many rotting and haphazardly-placed wood planks supporting it and covering holes in the floor.

The party made it down the tunnel without issue, though Lucas tripped after stepping through a rotting board and slammed his chest into a sharp corner, only unhurt thanks to his cloth armour.  The tunnel exited into a 2' drop into a stone tunnel containing waste-high fetid water, which stank of rot and mould.  A door stood 6' across the water, but Lucas pointed out the secret door he had seen in the cellar, and they headed back, hoping to find a way to avoid the "sewer".

Nobody could find the trigger for the door, so Argua took Grükuk's morningstar and started bashing the stone door down.  Shortly, Lucas noticed quiet skittering and squeaking between swings, and turned to see dog-sized wolf-rat hybrids with beady red eyes crawling towards them.  Masha dove into the horde with a flying kick, and soon found herself surrounded, though one brained itself on her armoured foot.

Grükuk defended herself from 3 rats that had jumped onto her torso, and Lucas avoided being hit by 2 more.  Argua offered Grükuk her morningstar back, but the knight declined and Fast-Drew her kukri, which she used to cut a pair of rats still hanging onto her in half.  Argua readied her great axe, and Lucas stepped back and cast Armour 2 on himself.

Masha kicked another rat in half, while the others let out a bizarre howl and charged, frothing at the mouth.  Grükuk got badly bitten again, but Lucas was able to dodge his pair of rats, and one just bounced off of Masha's Thick Skin.  Argua cut one of the rats on Grükuk into pieces, while Grükuk finished off the other, and then threw her knife (with default Thrown Weapon (Knife)) at the rat biting Masha.

Predictably, she missed the rat and almost hit Masha instead, but she managed to dodge out of the way.  Lucas smashed a rat with his quarterstaff, but it survived, and Masha kicked the second last rat off into the darkness.  The last one got beat to death by everyone, and just to make sure, Lucas smacked it again after it was already dead.  Lucas got to casting more healing spells on Grükuk, while Argua finished smashing the hole in the wall.

Inside, they saw an iron strongbox lying on the floor in the middle of a small chamber.  Argua climbed through the hole and walked towards it, but heard a *click* and stood perfectly still.  A pair of blades shot out from the side, and slashed one of her legs badly.  The barbarian stayed still for a while, and then backed out.  She noted that, as she left, the tile she had been standing on rose back up a bit.

Masha checked for the blades and trigger, but couldn't even see where the blades came out of the wall.  Argua got healed, and then went back in, stepped over the trap, smashed open the strongbox lock with her great axe, opened it, and took out a silver flask, with the cap soldered shut.  She stepped back over the trap, and Lucas, thanks to Hidden Lore (Demons), identified it as sealing in an evil spirit.

I ran this because Benedict's player couldn't make it to our Blood Drive game, and we figured we'd play this instead.

XP was 3.  1 for the spiders + big spider, 1 for the rats, 1 for making progress.  MVP still needs to be voted on.  Edit: MVP went to Masha Deathfoot.

This is the "orc party"; two half-orcs, and one human raised by orcs.

We used some of the DFRPG pregens from both Adventurers and Delvers on the Go, because there was no time to make characters.  A list of problems we ran into:

  • Many template-specific advantages (mostly Masha's Chi Abilities) have odd names like Dragon Skin, instead of just DR 2 (Tough Skin), that required us to look them up in play, slowing us down.
  • Francesco, who was renamed to Lucas, has Hidden Lore (Divine Servitors).  That is by far the worst Hidden Lore option a cleric can take, and it's even more bizarre when you consider that he's supposed to be played by new players in an adventure that features not only 0 Divine Servitors, but multiples of enemies covered by the other lores.  We switched to Demons because that might actually come up.
  • Masha sucks, as all unarmed Martial Artists using the default template must.  Raised her skill with Karate to 19, and boosted her kicks to 4d+1 to bring her somewhat in line with my modified template.
  • Nobody had any light sources.  Thankfully Lucas had Continual Light, but it's still odd that none of the four PCs they chose had so much as a torch.
  • Instant Regeneration/Instant Restoration both seem to be gone from Spells, but they kept the Food College.  Genius.
  • The cardboard tokens are nice, but none of the enemies have numbers.  This is fine for the 4 differently coloured spiders, but the 8 rats were confusing.  Luckily, they all died in one hit anyway.

I ran this as a modified version of "I Smell a Rat".  I didn't like the adventure on first reading, and in play, it only gets worse.  Here's a list of complaints I ran into in just the first couple rooms:

  • You could argue that the adventure hook of "go kill rats for money" is mocking that kind of awful adventure design, but the party ends up doing just that before getting "interesting", so it's hardly clever.  
  • Why is the door that the party needs to proceed through to complete the mission a secret door, that they only find if they search?
  • The amount of trouble the party has to go through (secret door, trap, and a potentially difficult encounter if you open the flask) to get the silver flask as treasure is ridiculous compared to the reward (all of $500).  In my opinion, the flask should also be worth more if they know what's inside it, because it would certainly have uses.
  • The maps are neat and all, but considering the amount of secret doors (3 on the first page), they're pretty much useless unless you don't mind "spoiling" your players.

Each player controlled two PCs to give them a decent party size; the pairs were Argua + Masha and Grükuk + Lucas.  This meant that the players didn't need to swap books back and forth.

Argua will be converted into a half-orc because half-ogres are banned due to having too much damned Strength.

In order to speed up play, I ruled moving through multiple hexes of webs as being DX - (2x #hexes movement), with MoF determining how far they made it, instead of just rolling over and over again.  At the very end, I also allowed ST- (4x #hexes), because why shouldn't you be able to force through?

Lucas cast Sunbolt, and then realized how terrible his odds of hitting were (default Innate Attack, -4 for intervening targets, -2 from range).  Fortunately, it's far easier to hit a corpse.

Might allow wizards to fire their missile spells the same turn they cast them, but at half-strength or something, to bring them more in-line with Mentalists and Sorcerers.

Bandaging (and Stop Bleeding) both do 1d, capped at injury sustained since the last injury, to make First Aid ever worth doing.

Masha wants a hand made out of Pure Chi to replace her old one.  Sounds like a cool power-up if we continue with that game.

When Argua was trying to make their improvised torch: "What if I burn the whole manor down?"
Lucas: "It's okay, I have Resist Fire."

When Argua stood still after stepping on the pressure plate: "I stand perfectly still."
Me: "Okay, roll... Nothing."
Argua: "I should not have stood perfectly still."

When they realized the flask was worth money: Lucas/Grükuk's player "Okay, now we go offer to sell this to some guy for tons of money, refuse because we could get more, and die in a cave!" A reference to when Argua/Masha's player's former PC Aurum Red-Brand refused to sell the Nexus of Creation.

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