Tuesday, 22 October 2019
Rift City - Session 27
A new day and a new party heading into the caves. Joining our regular party members (Brigham, Cnut, Gell, Gibbet, Karensa, Marl and Nelson) was a cleric, newly-arrived in town - Tanika.
The party established its marching order:
Marl (3rd Level Halfling)
Cnut (4th Level Fighter)
Tanika (2nd Level Cleric)
Nelson (3rd Level Magic USer)
Gibbet (5th Level Thief)
Gell (2nd Level Fighter)
Brigham (4th Level Cleric)
Karensa (3rd Level Elf)
The idea was a demi-human front and back to use infravision (I ruled long ago that Halflings have infravision and speak Halfling, even though neither is included in the rules); then a fighter and a cleric (in case of undead); then, in the middle, the two specialists (that is, the only people not wearing plate).
The exploration started simply enough: the PCs have for the past few sessions been checking out an area of Level 2, and decided that they'd head back there. Unfortunately, though they had a map made by Marl and Brigham, they'd forgotten to get the 'other map' off Galen (who wasn't there but had mapped the first visit to these tunnels). However, Karensa had at least sorted out before the game that she'd collected the Bag of Holding for any treasure.
They entered the cave that led to the corridor they'd previously been exploring. About 120' down this corridor, there is a door, and the party was somewhat surprised to see some people coming out of it - adventurers like themselves. These poor souls told the PCs they'd got lost in the caves and didn't know where they were, so the PCs told them that they were close to an exit, and the NPC party turned and headed back the way they'd come. This may have been a sign of things to come -or maybe it wasn't. The PCs then spiked the door shut that the other party had come through, to stop them heading back that way again - the procedure did cause some noise however, which led to me making more rolls for wandering monsters.
The PCs pushed on, and soon found more wanderers. These three were searching for a lost heirloom, a sword with a skull design on the pommel. Again the PCs talked their way through the encounter, and pushed on - through the room with a pool that didn't have a lion in it any more.
They were moving on to areas they'd never been to before when they had their third encounter. Again this was a wandering monster encounter. I hadn't realised when I prepared the list of wanderers for this area that so many of them were NPCs, but they were. Also, I kept rolling low as they explored so they got several in quick succession (of course there was also the banging, that helped). This time it was a lone Elf, who again convinced the party not to attack her.
A little further on the PCs came to a set of stairs going down. They did debate whether they wanted to go down to Level 3 ("there's eight of us after all!" I heard someone say), but decided that they'd stick to Level 2 and explore further.
They moved north and Gibbet, scouting out for traps, realised that there was some kind of magical effect on a door. Making sure that they could open the door without touching it by judicious use of an 8-foot pole (Gibbet's 10-foot pole had suffered an accident many sessions before), the PCs navigated their way through, with little ill effect that they could determine. However, there were consequences to this that were not to become immediately apparent.
Pushing on, the PCs entered a room that appeared to have been some kind of evil temple. A pile of candles lay in the centre; a tapestry showing ghouls devouring victims covered the west wall; on the east wall, there were bookshelves covered in dust (but no scrolls). As they were searching around, a gas trap went off - Tanika, Cnut, Gell, and I think Nelson failed their saves and were caught in the cloud of poison. This was not a standard 'Save or Die' poison, which is usual in B/X, it came with specific damage attached (this part of the dungeon is ultimately derived from an AD&D source, and I believe 'Save or Die' is less common in AD&D material).
There followed a moment of shock for Cnut - what I think I told him was 'take d10 damage'. But I might not have done - what Cnut's player heard me say was 'take 10 damage', which would take Cnut down to 4hp I think. But when I asked Tanika, Gell, and (I think) Nelson to roll for their damage, Cnut's player asked why I didn't let him roll, and we realised what happened. In the end, Cnut ended up taking something like 3 points.
But, Tanika was not so lucky. I think that sickly Cleric only had about 7hp to start with and promptly fell over, 'dead' in so far as people are dead at 0hp. Time for the party to apply 'elementary staunching', or at least some sort of battlefield first aid, possibly the kiss of life. The result was, Tanika did survive, but at the cost of losing a point of CON permanently (this point is converted to 1hp), going from 10 to 9. Brigham then used a Cure Light Wounds spell to restore 3 more hp to Tanika.
I'll admit I wasn't sure about this. Cure Light Wounds is not 'neutralise poison' so I was unsure it would work. But ultimately the gas did 'damage' not 'poison damage', and what Cure Light Wounds heals is hit points not some subset of hit points relating to injuries from weapons. So I let Tanika heal the 3 points. Tanika felt able to limp on, so the party kept going, on into the next room.
Here they found another large room, but with few interesting features. While searching around however they did come across a kind of leather-covered notebook with diagrams and notes in an unknown language. Gibbet pocketed it for later perusal, and the party moved on towards the south-west. As they did the rearguard heard something behind them.
The PCs have been guilty of some pretty grim behaviour in their adventuring career. The slaughter of Orc prisoners, for example. An unprovoked assault on some Lizardmen during the last session. This time, it was the slaughter of some Lawful, curious and basically friendly Neanderthals that was not the party's finest hour. Unfortunately, the party didn't have a common language with the Neanderthals, and Karensa decided that they perhaps posed a threat, so she shot at them. This enraged them (they made their morale check) and they counter attacked.
Poor Tanika was having no luck, being part of the rearguard, as one of the Neanderthals' stone-tipped spears found a gap in the old plate armour. Then the Neanderthals were on the party. Down the unlucky cleric went went for the second time. I apologised to Tanika's player, though I hadn't done it on purpose, it certainly wasn't my intention to kill a new character twice in one session.
The rest of the party, apart from Marl and Cnut who were in the next room, made short work of the two Neanderthals, and Gell (I think) volunteered to staunch Tanika's wounds. This also proved effective - but now, Tanika's CON has dropped from an OK 10 to a frankly risky 8. Meanwhile the others looted the bodies, coming up with several sacks of coinage - all copper - which went into the Bag of Holding. The party re-organised itself and put Tanika in the middle, just to try to help with survivability! The new marching order was:
Marl - Cnut - Gibbet - Nelson - Tanika - Gell - Brigham - Karensa
This is the marching order that ran into some Rock Baboons. These are noisy but not particularly difficult for metal-clad, bow-armed PCs to deal with. Also, they don't have very high morale. A bit of shooting broke the Baboons' nerve and they fled without causing any real bother. Then few more rooms - the PCs really were getting through quite a lot of exploration, but they weren't really finding any treasure. Eventually they decided head back.
However, when they'd passed through the room where the poison gas trap had been situated, they found to their consternation that the short corridor that they expected to lead to the top of the stairs to Level 3 took them nowhere of the sort. Instead, they came into another large room. 'Oh,' they thought, 'it must be a magic door, it's a teleporter - let's try again'. But going back and trying the door again produced the same result - the door they were heading south through led to a the north-west corner of a big room.
This caused a lot of discussion. I mean a lot. The reason they'd decided to head for home was because the session was coming to an end, and now they were stuck who-knows-where? The way the sessions are set up - the very method of the open table - relies on the party leaving the dungeon at the end of the session and it looked like that might not be possible. There was even discussion of activating the Teleport scroll that Nelson carried - at least then they would know the way back to an exit.
They were trying to work their way back to the entrance, knowing where it was but not necessarily which way they needed to go to get back to it. They thought perhaps they should head north-east, but in that direction was a room full of Undead and they didn't fancy that. Instead, they pushed on down one more corridor, and at the end entered a room that some of the party recognised from having been here in a previous session. They'd teleported for sure, but not actually very far. It would have been very convenient at this point to have Galan's map, as this was the area that he had mapped, but it was not to be.
In the room were some Giant Ants, such as have been encountered in this area before. This time the PCs didn't try engaging hand-to-hand (mano-a-mandible?) but instead used a Web spell to try to immobilise them. Four of the five were caught in the web and the other failed its morale check and ran from the party towards an exit in the south-east.
The party took a different door in the east wall - they knew they needed to head east - and making their way through a couple of smaller rooms, they came to a door that would not open - someone had spiked it from the other side! So, they smashed the door down, Cnut retrieved his spike (for it was that very same door), and finding themselves in the long corridor that leads to the steps out, they ran as fast as they could for the entrance...
I wonder if the reason the NPCs right at the beginning had become disorientated was because they'd got themselves teleported by mistake? It's a thought.