Saturday, 17 March 2018

Rift City session 8

Another new player joined us for this adventure with a Fighter called Gene, and Shazam the Elf's player made it back too. Long-time PC Gwynthor the Cleric, and our occasional Dwarf PC Berg, missed this one however, so the party looked like this:

Cnut (Fighter)
Daisy (Halfling)
Frost (Fighter)
Galen (Elf)
Gene (Fighter)
Gibbet (Thief)
Karenza (Elf)
Polly (Magic User)
Shazam (Elf), with his attendant Charmed Kobold Norbert (I think)

I've been a bit busy with real-world stuff (and my posts about questing are a kind of procrastination) so I'm not going to deny I wasn't massively well-prepared for this one. I'd grabbed some monster-stats from online lists to plug into gaps caused by previous attacks in this area, but hadn't double-checked the blocks of text. But more of that in a moment...

I have a relatively simple procedure for re-stocking the dungeon. I roll a d6 for each day that passes between the party trashing an occupied room, and their return. If a '1' comes up I'll re-stock from the Wandering Monster Table to represent some monster moving in, then place another monster from my master-list on the Wandering Monster Table. I'm currently re-thinking this system. This area of the dungeon is patrolled and occupied by relatively-well-organised forces - primarily, the Orcs and Death-cultists I was talking about in the last report. They should probably be better at re-occupying cleared areas than 'random' monsters would be - it's likely that if the PCs clear an Orc guard-post, a few days later those Orcs will have been replaced with more Orcs, or some Cultists, or some Undead, rather than Killer Bees or Lizard Men or Pixies.

Anyway - rooms are re-occupied. It needs to make sense in terms of the organisation of the dungeon not just randomly. I think I shall prioritise the 'organised' inhabitants for re-occupation rather than the opportunistic squatters. But I should also take care to read the entries not just copy them over.

Things started reasonably enough. The party set off for the caves, and almost immediately bumped into another NPC party. This is the third party I think that the PCs have found so far, and I would say a sign that dungeon-delving is the closest thing in Rift City to an organised sport. Negotiating a division of the caves so that the two parties weren't chasing each other's tails, the NPC party went east, the PCs went west.

So, having already cleared these areas but nothing yet having moved in, the first few rooms in this area were empty but for the detritus of previous fights. The PCs quickly became aware however that there were some Orcs up ahead. Deciding that a sudden and overwhelming show of force was in order, the PCs took them down brutally, quickly and without mercy.

And then I did a foolish thing. As intimated, I'd just copied-and-pasted some stats from elsewhere to plug a gap. That's not the problem, the problem was reading the information I'd copied without mentally filtering it.

"We search the bodies," the PCs said.

"You, errm, notice that all the Orcs have backpacks on, with sacks inside that make suspicious clinking sounds," said I, desperately wondering why 4 wandering Orcs were carrying 3,000GP and jewellery worth another 900GP.

Now that in itself isn't a problem. It's a bribe from the Cultists to keep the Orcs on their side, destined to be the Orc-soldiers' pay-chest. It's loot from lower in the caverns that the Orcs have collected together and are using it to buy equipment from the Cultists. It's the result of wiping out another adventuring party and taking their stuff, which must have included treasures from lower levels. It's the profits of overground banditry waged by the Orcs in recent weeks. It doesn't really matter. Any and all of these are plausible suggestions in line with what the Orcs are doing.

The problem is more in terms of risk-v-reward, and how the sudden acquisition of wealth makes the party do weird things. Immediately they realised they'd hit the jackpot, they decided to go home. This was still early in the day, only their second encounter, and 4 Orcs had produced more loot than the party had gained in the previous 7 sessions combined. As far as they were concerned, carrying that amount of treasure for the rest of the day would be ludicrous. And really, I agree with them.

What I should have done is knocked a zero off the loot. If they'd found 390GP in coins and jewellery, I'm sure they'd have been very pleased. But they'd have kept going. As it was, there was a 5-hour section of the day when they trekked back to town, sold the jewellery (the 'Faberge Egg' as they referred to it), bought more jewellery (because it's more portable than coins), and then went back to the caves with 3900GPs' worth of necklaces, jewelled daggers and gold cutlery sets. And Shazam went to the Elven Sanctuary and gave the mystics there 400GP to keep up the good work. They were very happy and slipped him a Healing Potion in return.

Now, I'm not particularly bothered about screwing the PCs out of cash here. If they want to play D&D as a trading game that's fine, we'll do that. At the moment, if they want to turn cash into gold because it's easier to carry I don't see I need to tax them as I do it. So they sold everything for its value and bought things for their value.

To their credit once the PCs were back they carried on as before. Checking rooms, bashing down doors, trying to find gold, information, the glands of magical animals...

They ran into some prisoners of the Orcs, who told them their captors were close-by with large amounts of cash. On being re-assured that the Orcs were dead and the entrance was close, the slaves took the opportunity to run for it. The party took the rope that had held the chain-gang together though.

In the tunnels the party also found a snake. Not a massive one but it didn't matter, they killed it with a sling-stone and cut off its head in case Gisuintha the Wizard wanted any parts of it. On the way, they also bumped into some Gnolls! Big buggers they are but there are currently 9 PCs and their Kobold-friend so the Gnolls didn't last long. Only 40SP of treasure but so what? They'd already had the big haul...

After that it was back to raiding for the PCs. One room was full of spiders (not giant-sized, and quickly dealt with via a Sleep spell), as well as the remains of a battle between Orcs and Ogres. It looked like the Ogres might have come up a well-like shaft in the centre of the room, which seemed to go a long way down according to one of the Elves who checked it with infravision (it goes to what will be an Ogre lair on Level 3). A quick search of the bodies revealed that they'd been stripped of useful weapons and equipment already.

The party exited that room and took a door across the corridor. Here they found a large and strange room, containing a large cage with the corpse of a Hobgoblin in it. It looked like the cage might have originally swung from the ceiling but it had fallen at some point either before or after the Hobgoblin had died, it was difficult to tell. Another corpse, with no head, was also present. There was a door from this room to the east, but when Daisy the Halfling found a secret door in the south wall, the party headed for that instead.

Here was another large hall-like room, this one with carved pillars that resembled trees with spreading branches, holding up the ceiling. Four Orcs occupied this room, and again they proved very little challenge to the party. Once the first one was dead the others surrendered. Shazam the Elf, using his Charm Person spell, decided he was sick of Norbert the Kobold and used Charm on one of the Orcs (who Shazam is now calling 'Barry' I believe... still, at least he actually speaks Orc so can communicate with this friend/servant/pet).

Charm is a bit of a weird one. Saving throw once per month as long as you don't treat the Charmee too egregiously, but no other notification of how and why it wears off. I know this lot, if I let them get away with it, they'll just charm one of everything they encounter every day and build an army of a months' worth of Charmed monsters. So I ruled that only one Charm can be operation at a time, which seems right. Having Charmed Barry the Orc, Shazam realised that Norbert the Kobold was freed from the spell, and the little dog-like monster fled... to some dank cavern no doubt, possibly one close by. Now Shazam has an Orc for a companion, which might not be too popular a move in Rift City. The Orcs had an unidentifiable potion and some 'shiny stuff'. The party took it all after Barry helpfully showed Shazam where it was.

More wandering monsters appeared - a Dwarf, shortly followed by some other Dwarves. They were all part of a party that had got split up. By this time the party was wanting to leave. Leaving the Dwarves to find each other (or not) the PCs started heading for the exit.

So it was off back to the city (we've joked that the Wilderness can't kill them until they reach Level 4) to flog their loot and get the Orcs' potion identified and to see if Gisuintha wanted a snake-head. She took the one in exchange for identifying the other. I might make them wait a session or two to get that back, I haven't decided yet how easy it is to identify...

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