Sunday, 16 September 2018

Rift City session 14 report - perils of the free-range party

A few relative regulars couldn't make this session but the 6 players who could constituted a party of:

Bonjella the Elf,
Galan the Elf,
Gene the Fighter,
Gibbet the Thief,
Karensa the Elf,
and, making a welcome return, Marl the Halfling.

The Rift is a megadungeon. Levels 1 and 2 constitute - at the moment - 472 rooms. As I've just worked out that 200 of those are on Level 1, the other 272 are on Level 2. Levels 3-10 exist mostly as ideas, but there are some things that exist in a more concrete form. The party has some evidence that suggests there's an Ogre colony on Level 3 or 4, as well as having  picked up rumours of a 'horned giant' somewhere around Level 3 and a Vampire perhaps around Level 6 or thereabouts. The PCs don't actually know which if any of these things are 'real'; I do, but I'm not about to confirm or deny what's real here.

The Rift also a sandbox. Not a hexcrawl for sure, but a bit like a dungeoncrawl built like a hexcrawl. There are multiple ways into the caves in the Rift. The caves themselves are sort of geographically organised - different areas have rooms of different types  (some are actual dressed-stone rooms, some are either natural caverns or chambers hewn* from the living rock) or may have different monsters (some areas are infested with Kobolds, others with giant spiders, for example) and so on. These different areas are connected together through multiple paths horizontally and vertically, as well as many of them having access to the outside. I've also detailed some areas away from the Rift in case the party goes exploring elsewhere. So there's a whole bunch of 'nodes' to go for.

Sketch-map of the edge of the Rift, about 2 miles west of Rift City

Not sure how easy it is to make out the detail, but the fat line is basically a road that zig-zags down the side of the canyon from Rift City off to the east; the thin line that crosses the eastern portion of the road is the edge of the Rift itself; two thin lines branch off the comparatively well-built (and -travelled) road, representing paths or trails through the rocky scrubland; one is marked 'path down' (I don't think I'm giving anything away here to say that there are more caves down there), and another starts with a question mark and ends with a cave; also marked are the bulge of the rocky outcrop, the 5 caves the PCs explored originally and, past the outcrop, the limit of their exploration at the cave with the question-mark near it. The area that the PCs are exploring is effectively the top of the canyon which is itself cut into a relatively-flat plateau-area... that then stands in huge mountain massif that I know as 'the Mountains of Abomination' but possibly other people call 'Rockhome'. Something like this...

An even more schematic diagram looking vaguely from west to east
Over the period of the campaign, the party has been exploring the caves on the left of the trail. These are on the uphill side of the road, they're conceptually the Level 1 caves. There are 5 entrances near the point where the trail passes into the Rift proper. The PCs spent, I think, around 10 sessions in this area (sessions 2-11, though probably four or five of those sessions were actually taken up with exploring the area under the rocky outcrop, a complex of rooms that connects the caves accessible from entrances 1-5 with those accessible from entrance 6). In that time, they've explored maybe 50 rooms (some they've visited more than once). Then, round a rocky outcrop, there's another cave entrance. The PCs have been there twice (sessions 12 and 13). The question-mark in the first diagram was the limit of the PCs exploration after 13 sessions. From these 6 cave-entrances, 161 Level 1 rooms are directly accessible.

So... what do you do when the party ignores the 161 rooms you have laid out for them, and heads for the 39 rooms you've only just sketched in? For Session 14, the PCs decided to go on past the areas they'd been before. What I don't know is, if they know they have probably only explored about 1/3 of the rooms in that area. Maybe they do, maybe they don't. Pushing on past that cave they came to the fork in the trail where a rough path lead off to the left, up and away from the main road. Essentially, from somewhere round there, the road began tending downwards, and the cave entrances would potentially be on Level 2.

The cave they eventually came to was well away from the main paths and the party's hope I think was that these would have not been cleaned out by other adventurers quite so much. So, anyway, how did they fare?

The first room they came to was apparently shut with a locked wooden door. The PCs listened at the door, and having heard it was definitely occupied they decided to knock on it and see if the inhabitants would open up.

When a Kobold gingerly opened the door a crack, the PCs shot it in the face with arrows. Bonjella and Karensa flung the door open and Marl leapt in brandishing his short-sword. The Kobolds weren't surprised but they were somewhat overwhelmed by the PCs' onslaught, which wounded several more. However, that party failed to capitalise on their position and two of the PCs took injuries as the Kobolds fought back. Another round of combat however reduced the Kobolds from an initial 6 to 1, who turned tail and fled to another door but died with Galen's dagger in its back. The PCs stripped the bodies but only found coppers. They then searched the room that had a shallow pool and a 15' statue of a naked humanoid female with lobster head and claws. This is of course a reference to Blibdoolpoolp the Sea Mother, AD&D goddess of the Kuo-Toans. This room-complex was created using the WotC dungeon generator found here, that includes all sorts of creatures I don't have rules for (like Kua-Toans). She's in my copy of Deities & Demigods from about 1981 and I have always referred to her as 'Biddlyboop' as it's much easier to say than 'blib-dool-poolp'. Why she has a shrine up a mountain in a landlocked country is not necessarily easy to fathom. Fathom. It was a joke. Anyway, moving on...

The PCs searched the room but were unable to find anything significant, and some of the doors were locked. They tried using a Kobold as a battering-ram but were unable to break down one of the doors, so they continued in the direction the Kobold had been fleeing. The door it had been heading towards led to a room with a fountain and some depressions in the floor which may have served as baths. In the corner was a well and some rope, but no bucket. Fearful that something might come up, they quickly moved on.

The party came out into a wide corridor that had several branches. Taking the rightmost, they came upon several doors at the end. The first they tried was locked, so again a dead Kobold was used as a battering-ram. Gibbet was unhappy with the room, fearing a trap, so the Kobold was thrown into the room to test things out. Now, in the description it says 'anyone stepping into the room is teleported...' and it's definitely arguable that a dead Kobold, even if granted 'personhood' while alive (ie the room would have teleported a live Kobold) might not be a person when dead, so the room might not teleport a dead Kobold (or other person). But that's not what I ruled.

"The Kobold flies into the room... and disappears."

"Oh, is it a sphere of annihilation or a gelatinous cube, or something else nasty?"

So after a bit of discussion, the PCs decided to test the floor with a 10-foot pole. Now, I don't really know how this teleporter works. There are other teleporters that I know about (let's say, in other dungeons, the PCs don't know them, they live in Canada and I met them one summer etc etc) that work for example when the PCs are inside the room and the door closes. But with this one, it works while the door is open. Things can be both in and out (which isn't so likely with a closed door). And, having said that a dead Kobold set it off, I couldn't see any reason why a dead tree (ie a wooden pole) would not set it off. So, when Gibbet said that he'd stand outside and poke the floor with a 10-foot pole, the only thing that made sense was that the spell effect took hold of everything inside the room boundaries, which included the door frame, at the point that something touched the floor. So, the end of Gibbet's pole fell off.

Next, he started sliding the pole towards the door. This has the effect of a very small bit of the pole being in the room while the magical effect is working, which I think would produce an effect a bit like grinding away the end of the pole, so again a little bit came off the end.

So, having done all of this and then deciding it must be a teleportation rather than a destruction effect, Gibbet jumped into the room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

Gibbet found himself in a room very like the one he left (the same size at least) - but the door was locked. In the room with him were a dead Kobold, and some sawdust. Listening at the door he heard voices on the other side. They sounded like the party. It turned out (after the party battered the door down for him, they're better at smashing than he is at picking door-locks) that the teleporter had taken him (and the dead Kobold; and the pile of sawdust shaved from the 10'-pole) a whole 8'5" away. There were a few other things in the room, including a kind of strange drum. Gibbett decided that he may as well take it.

The world's most pointless teleport trap (the diagram has a scale and north-arrow so is a proper map)
I asked the rest of the party to step back in - and Galan then said he stepped into the teleporter room...

... and I asked the rest of the party if it would be OK if they all stepped outside for a moment.

I'm not going to reveal why the teleporter doesn't take everything to the same place. It might be random. It might be a sequence. It might depend on age or race or sex or armour type or be influenced by any number of features. But for whatever reason, Galan was definitely transported quite a long way away.

The room Galan found himself in - he didn't know where it was - was larger than the one he had stepped into. It appeared that it was being used as place to cure animal skins. However there didn't seem to be anything of use or interest to adventurers, and nor were there any ways out except the door he'd come in by, so he exited, at which point he found himself in a corridor he didn't recognise.

Trying some other doors, one was locked but the room behind definitely seemed to have occupants. Another contained what appeared to be a smashed-up wine cellar. No other exit was visible to Galan so he turned round. Heading in the opposite direction, the corridor ended with another door, this time opening into a mouldy old library or study - with two doors this time. This room however was occupied. Some scorpions the size of cats headed towards him, but he made it to the other exit (it was unlocked) and he got out without injury. This door too opened into a corridor. Reasoning that the rest of the party was standing in a corridor, and finding a way through without going into rooms was preferable, Galan kept going.

Sure enough, round a few corners he came back to the wide corridor with several branches. Taking the right-most, he approached that party from the rear. All the while I had been rolling for wandering monsters but nothing showed up. After a quick conflab with the rest of the party it was decided to head for the library and wine-cellar - by the conventional route.

So first off (still no wandering monsters) the party headed for the library. It didn't take long to dispatch the scorpions, whereupon, channelling the spirit of Polly (who was the player's previous character), Bonjella cut off their stingers to take to Gisuintha back in town. Deciding that they'd also have a look for any interesting tomes on the way out, the party headed on to the corridor that Galan had found himself in earlier.

They couldn't open the locked door but they did make it into the wine-cellar. There they found that most of the bottles had been wrecked but there was one amphora and a barrel that were still sealed and had their contents intact. Scooping these up, the party headed back for the exit.

Stopping only at the library to pick up some of the less-mouldy scroll and books, and to make a find of 100gp stashed behind a cache of scrolls, the party made their way out. At last, I rolled for a wandering monster. Consulting the list, it turned out to be a party of three Elves coming into the caves. There was no reason to assume that the Elves were going to be hostile (and the reaction dice said that there was no immediate hostility), so conversation ensued and information was exchanged. Marl, knowing that a silver-haired Elf had been asking questions around town, tried to find out if these Elves were involved; and Gibbet lifted a purse from one which contained a couple of dozen silver pieces, but otherwise both sides went about their business unmolested.

And that was it - home to sell the bits and pieces they'd picked up (a lantern, a mirror, the wine) and divide up the gold and then off to bed for another hard day's adventuring tomorrow...

*My spellcheck doesn't like 'hewn', I wonder why? As far as I'm aware it's the normal past participle. Maybe it's one of those British/American English things.