Wednesday, May 26, 2021

ACKS Session 19: TPK at the Tower

 Session played on 05/19/21

Foreword

be afraid
This session was a Total Party Kill (TPK). These things happen when you are playing Real DND, or in this case ACKS. As you will see in the session report I didn't drop a bomb on the PCs or have some major element surprise them. There was a slow build of foreshadowing, bad rolling, new elements, and difficult decisions that ended up with this TPK. 

It reminded me of how DCC RPG modules are designed; always attempting to have a long running battle or chase going from about the halfway point of the adventure until its end, with multiple elements of weird Lovecraftian beings. Forcing it on the players, railroad style. I was rarely able to get these scenes to work, when I ran DCC RPG for a couple years. 

Yet this session, which was almost entirely combat, came easily as I responded to player choice and always had my mind on how they might be able to extricate themselves from the mire of the events. Or how they may be engulfed by them.

If you run Real DND long enough with a TSR era system or retroclone of same, you will have a TPK at some point. Now, read on to find about mine.

Session Report

The players were unable to play their PCs from Team A because those PC's had adventured into the future (until 05/23/21), trapping them in time compression. The PCs in Team B hadn't adventured since 03/10/21! (See "Wandering Stooges" Session Report) Upon their TPK, the players discussed whether they should have used that long break of two months to search for mercenaries and henchman to help deal with the Ruined Monastery they decided to delve this session. Would it have prevented the TPK? We'll never know! But Real DND shows how Players endeavor to learn from their mistakes; rather than blaming the DM for "muh unfair encounters!"

The party consisted of Brother Franklin (PC Cleric Level 1), Felix the Elder (PC Bard Level 1), Xendi (PC Explorer Level 1), Flavius Africanus (PC Cleric Level 1), Broll (PC Barbarian Level 1). Their henchmen were Boe Seefus (Level 0 hench to Flavius), Moe & Curly (Mercenary Light Infantrymen to Felix).

Eight men set off across the Krysivor River from Turos Spen. The confluence with the Blood River, and its red waters, had become red and flooded from recent rains. One imagines peasants looking on from the village at the base of the whitewashed Keep, some of them wenches waving fondly at the party's departure on a small fishing barge working the river. No one knew the adventurers would never return.

Broll wished to delve the Ruined Zaharan Monastery as he had acquired a rumor of a damsel named Kabira being captured recently by cultists on the wilderlands side of the river while she was taking a pleasure cruise on the Krysivor. Kabira was a former mistress of the Centurion of Turos Spen who, though no longer entangled with her, thought it would be an embarrassment if he not offer reward for her safety. 2d4x200 GP was being offered; to be rolled upon her rescue. (ACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook has prisoners/slaves on its treasure charts so I used its value for ladies in waiting when Broll advised me his downtime would be spent rumormonging for damsels to save.)

Felix, for his part, knew of an old book of some 2,000 GP value which was last known to be in the bowels of the monastery ("The Lost Cults of Cyfaraun"). As a bard and bibliophile this interested him. 

Two birds; one stone. Right?

The party had a hard won map to the general location of the monastery. Xenti led the party (and his player as Caller) to travel along the edge of the Blood River southeast before turning directly east in the direction across the plains he was sure it would be. I rolled a chance for getting lost (an easy check because of the party having the map) and for random encounters (none). They arrived at the monastery ruin before the day was out.

Ruined buildings covered a hillside but it was a cloud reaching tower, despite being ruined, that appeared the most likely to have a cult and perhaps the book. It was built in a gully near a steep cliffside. A narrow rope bridge crossed from the hill, over the cliff, into the middle floor of the tower. The tower itself stood about 100 feet tall from the base of the gully. The cliff was about 100 yards long so the party, if they wanted, could have gone into the gully and approached the bottom floor of the tower. The only obvious entrance, however, was accessed by crossing the rope bridge into the middle floors.

something like this

They decided to cross in groups of two, as to not risk the bridge breaking from weight. Moe and Curly crossed the bridge first and, while about halfway to the tower, were shot at by large crossbow bolts coming from slits in the side of the tower on the bridge level. They went full stooge and ran back to the safety of the party until such time as Broll and Xendi double timed it over the bridge. They found two cultists in brown robes and with rich looking necklaces depicting a mouth of too many teeth. The stooges followed Broll and Xendi into the breach.

After a bit of fighting one cultist and Moe were dead. The cultists were fighting with axes like men possessed. A door on the north wall opened and two more cultists entered the battle; one using chthonic magic to Command Broll to "Fall", which he did. Broll rolled around on the floor dodging axe attacks; sparks flying as the axes missed and struck cobbles.

Xendi tossed a net over one cultist while Flavius and Franklin crossed and began to beat at the madman like he was a gory piƱata. 

A great screeching roar filled everyone's ears from some massive abomination in a floor below them. None knew what to make of it but were unable to extricate themselves from melee combat to check into it. 

Menacing caws came from the top of the tower as six harpies descended to hary the party who hadn't yet crossed the bridge. One harpy sang her enchanting song and Boe walked towards her with arms outstretched to embrace her with lust. He stepped off the side of the cliff, like Wile E Coyote and fell fifty feet to his death. The wages of simp is death.

The rest of the party decided to cross into the tower as quickly as possible, rather than contend with harpies along a cliffside. The small chamber in the middle floor of the tower was packed with men engaged in brutal melee fighting. Broll had since stood, killed a cultist, and attempted to cleave by flinging his magic axe across the room at another. Sadly he missed and it went clanging into a room beyond.


Boe was in luv

The harpies hovered at a height level with the bridge and began to sing at all the remaining PCs. Broll and Xenti failed their save vs the sinister song and moved back across the bridge towards the hillside. Upon embracing the harpies they fell into a slumber or death. The PC's witnessing were uncertain; too involved in a fight for their lives.

Flavius, Franklin, and Felix surrounded the last cultist stabbing and bludgeoning him to death and finally ending the battle in the initial tower room. By this time the harpies outside the tower were lifting up Xendi and Broll, one harpy on each man's arm, to carry them up to their nest above. Felix manned one of the big crossbows the cultists were using and got a nice shot off on a harpy, knocking her from Broll's arm. Templar Flavius and Brother Franklin and  swung at the grounded harpies like a feathery baseball. 

The harpies fought back viciously and the cleric undead slayers returned in kind. Feathers flying. Brother Franklin banged the ugly teeth in on one, killing her. Another took vengeance for her hideous sister and scratched out Franklins eyes killing him. Templar Flavius was left fighting two alone.

All during the battle the party had been hearing screams of a damsel in the floor above them. Felix, now no longer fighting for his life, abandoned the crossbow and went looking for a way to save her. There was a big hole in the floor with a rickety board crossing it to get to the stairs to the upper level. Yet, before he could cross, cultists tossed the damsel from a hole in the ceiling. She fell past the middle floor and into the basement. Looking down Felix scoped the horror in the basement. 

A massive roiling abomination of pink flesh, tentacles, and a toothy mouth. It filled the entirety of the floor below, crunching gleefully on the damsel Broll had ventured to rescue. Felix held back a dry heave. Pink tentacles slithered up the wall towards him but did not reach him before the leader of the cultists came down the stairs and cast Hold Person on the bard. Felix was done, captured by cultists.

Around that same moment a harpy caught hold of Flavius's throat and tore it out. His body rolled unceremoniously to the shifting grasses of the wilderlands beyond the Auran empire. Broll and Xendi were taken to the harpies' nest never to be seen again.

Afterword


Failure has a way of bringing success into focus. These players have, overall, been a very successful group. This was a rare defeat in what has primarily been a campaign of glory. One element of the failure was that these PCs were "Team B". The players tend to be more cavalier with PCs that are not their Main. They were not discouraged in the least. Before we all logged off for the night the player for Xendi was already saying "hey guys don't save Xendi I just rolled my next backup PC and it's also an Explorer but with better stats lol". The others were thinking about what they may have done differently. 

I personally think they did great. Team A would have likely succeeded at taking the tower with minimal loss; maybe one PC and a couple mercs down. This party could have survived if they fled at an opportune moment. Could have possibly succeeded if they could have engaged with the harpies separately from the cultists. But, being Team B PCs, the order of the day was "go big or go home". 

All attendants agreed that the loss of Broll was the hardest hit to the campaign. Broll had become a bit of a folk hero after assassinating a very high level evil ladycleric in session 12. Then surviving a long fall off the side of a cliff in Session 13. Yet some six sessions later it was a harpy that finally carried the wily barbarian off to his snu snu doom.

For myself, I am sad to see likely end to the very interesting hooks the PCs in Team B were juggling.  They had a map to some crow dungeon lying deep in the wilderlands. Broll had a rumor about the existence of the fabled BAPBook. They had discovered a blue dragon lair served by devious hawkmen. So many hooks lost like tears in rain. 

RIP to these hooks.

RIP to Team B.

Surviving PCs present

None.

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Broll Wolf-Eater (L1 Barbarian). Current total XP: 1079. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Brother Franklin (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Decapitated by a mad cultist of a Lovecraftian slime thing in Session 19.

Felix the Elder (L1 Bard). Total XP 825. DECEASED. Captured by mad cultists and fed to a Lovecraftian slime monster in Session 19.

Templar Flavius Africanus (L1 Cleric). Total XP 7. Killed by the claws and beak of mad harpies in Session 19.

Xendi (L1 Explorer). Total XP 6. DECEASED. Carried off by harpies after falling for their enchanting song in Session 19.

Alexa this is so sad play "i will always love you" by whitney houston

Friday, May 14, 2021

ACKS Session 18: Marn Comes Back Into Style!

Session played on 05/12/21 taking 11 days. Party can make downtime requests and adventure on and after 05/23/21.

 Foreword

tfw you've read "Successful Adventures"

There is a section in the 1e Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook called "Successful Adventures" that you are not an #elite player unless you have read and internalized it. Modern players would probably title the section "Successful Sessions" since it's really about what it takes to make a single session work out best for all the players. It's not concerned with overarching campaign concerns much at all. My players have internalized this bit:

"Avoid unnecessary encounters. This advise usually means the difference between success and failure when it is followed intelligently. Your party has an objective, and wandering monsters are something which stand between them and it."

The party traveled a very long way this session. With three sites along the way which may have been profitable and/or dangerous. They kept on walking! Could they have left an easy score behind? Perhaps. But their MISSION this session was to "get to the city of Cyfaraun and delve its sewers to save Marn (PC Mage Level 2).

And that's just what they did.

Session Report

The party geared up in the small town of Siadanos. Much of this was handled before session during downtime so the pre-session planning was short, about 10 minutes. The plan was to go north along the Auran roads, pass through Turos Quell (a small keep) then on to Cyfaraun (the "Capital of the Borderlands"). The part had a weird map of Cyfaraun that was tattooed on Marn's severed hand that was magically delivered to them about a month back. It purported to lead to where he was trapped or captured or something.

A couple hours into the trek the party spotted an old lighting felled tree just off the road near the Mirmen river. There was some debate if it should be investigated but the party chose to walk on by.

The next day the party noticed a big circular hole in the ground on the eastern side of the road near a small forest running along the road. More discussion by party members before, yet again, they chose to walk on by.

Seeing a theme?

The third day of travel saw the party catching glimpse of a cave along the river. From about 40 yards out they noticed the opening and pondered if a monster (plus cash and prized) could be lurking in it. They chose to walk on by! Except...

As they were passing by a smallish brown and blue dragon flew from the cave and moved towards the party. Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 4) dropped 200 gold pieces to hopefully tempt the beast and the party chose to continue northward. They shuffled their marching order a bit to put the stronger martial PCs to the back of the group in case the lizard attacked them from behind. 

At this point some of the players were becoming anxious and possibly bored with all of the avoidance of seemingly interesting adventuring opportunities. Temur (PC Barbarian Level 1) was a brand new PC for this session and a player who only appears to game infrequently. He and I have discussed, with others included, how infrequent players can serve as a bit of a wild card to throw the campaign a curveball when its becoming too predictable. This same player already tossed many curveballs into my campaign with his now deceased thief Jack Filcher; who accidentally sent a massive dragon to attack town and helped burn down a brigand camp (but get nearly all attending PCs killed [including himself]) in the meantime. 

So Temur wanted to fight this lizard. Big time. His player was less concerned with the long term consequences or the death of a few legacy PCs. #omeletmakermindset 

Temur wasn't the only want chomping the bit for battle. Gaius (PC Fighter Level 3) was also ready to spur his light warhorse towards this young dragon.

Cooler heads prevailed and the Caller was mostly playing cautious so the party kept trying to move away from the possible threat. The dragon, for its part, merely barked and circled around the pile of gold Daria dropped, seeming to state "yes I will take this, it's mine". 

As the party got further away from the lizard, two more young dragons flew from the cave and began to wrestle and fight over the pile of gold. The caller said "phew", as did the other cautious players. I'm uncertain Temur and Gaius were relieved or still wished they'd have rode the dragons down.

Turos Quell. Opa!!

A few hours later the party met an acolyte (NPC Cleric Level 2) who was traveling south on pilgrimage to Siadanos. The party advised him to not go north for fear of the dragons. He stayed in the party's camp that night and set off the next morning southward. The party arrived in Turos Quell early the next day.

Perhaps the players will return to those three points of interest they passed on by. Perhaps NPC parties or Domain rulers will address them? Or perhaps the threats found in them are large enough to change the dynamic of this section of the regional map. Only time and Real D&D play will tell. 

On Turos Quell the party stayed a day to rumormong and rest. They learned that the nearby Viamir Swamp was nigh impossible to traverse on foot, but the Legate had skiff boats to patrol it. Such patrols were rare now, what with the Fort short staffed. Peasants were certain an evil mage was gathering lizardmen together in the swamp to build him a new tower and he was certain to be a major local problem soon. The party filed this information but they GOAL was to keep going north along the road to get to Cyfaraun.

It took them a few days to travel north from Turos Quell to Cyfaraun just as night fell. They found a decent in in the Plaza District and some rumormonged over drinks. Laru (PC Thief Level 1) chose to hit the street and rumormong. He's originally from Cyfaraun with some Guild connections and he hoped to be able to find a Guild contact. He succeeded; coming across a Thief whose disguise was as an old ragged beggar.

Cyfaraun: Plaza District

He gave Laru directions to the Emporium, where the party wished to go the next day, directions to the Sand and Bones Guild hideout/front "The Silk Pony Inn". It's in the Festival District near the Arena. Yes this setting is Fantasy Rome so Arenas and Gladiatorial Games are common and frequent. Laru's contact whispered to him close "come back to the Guild sometime I'm sure they'd love for you to do some more work, kid".

The next day the party meandered through the big city of Cyfaraun. There are various approaches one can employ when doing city adventures or city crawling in D&D. One school of thought is that you need no details at all, just a general feel, and you riff off of that as players need shops or points of interest. Another approach, as seen in The City State of the Invincible Overlord, is to detail EVERY street and shop and players crawl across this like a dungeon. (I'd link you to a PDF you could by of this product but Judges Guild was 'cancelled' in 2020 because it's owner did a little boompoasting on the f4cebook and angered all the weirdos in the osr.) 

ACKS' adventure The Capital of the Borderlands goes with something in between. Buildings are rolled up randomly as players need them, building a few blocks on the fly if you need to zoom in. Such as if players ask "what kind of stuff is around this intersection". Major locations like the Arena or the Emporium are already placed and keyed up. But if the party simply wants to get from point A to point B the DM is advised to have them go very slowly to not get lost. Once they've made such a trip one time they can move more quickly. etc. Random encounters, which are city themed of course, are made about once an hour of travel. It took the party about four hours to get to the Emporium. The only random encounter was with some bards and their "manager" on their way to perform at the Emporium. PCs decided this didn't interest them.

They followed their weird tattoo map, looking for street names on the map until they got to an intersection with a sewer grate. Whilst investigating this a rolled a random encounter of a draft horse slipping its wagon and barreling angrily down the street, its owner chasing it saying "stop muh horse!" Temur tried to grab the reins but got knocked over, busting his lip open on the sidewalk. The rest of the party let the beast run by. Laru had Donny Keebler (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) and Temur help him wrench the trader's wagon over top of the sewer grate so Laru could go down and take a long with less chance of being noticed by locals. 

Down he delved. It looked like a sewer and it stank. The party parked their own mule cart over the entrance and proceeded to all go down together and delve the place. They had to march single file if they wanted to stay on the walkway on the edge of the sewer tunnel and not get in the disgusting sludge running down the middle. The stench of the shadowy place gave many of them headaches (-1 to attack and damage). 

Cyfaraun

They followed their map southeast until some fat larval grub things with swinging black arms crawled towards them along the ceiling of the sewer tunnel. Nasty! The two weird creatures got many attacks with all their tendrils and paralyzed a few of the PCs. But the attacks did no damage and the monsters' only chance to win the battle was to paralyze everyone. Didn't happen and the creatures were dispatched.

Daria used Cure Light Wounds on Donny Keebler to cure his paralysis since Donny has the "Summon Beserkers" spell and she thought they might need it. Temur was still paralyzed and they just carried him down the sewer tunnel.

Eventually the party came to a cesspit that looked like it used to be an elven gazebo or something. It was becoming clear this "sewer" used to actually be an elven city that the current city was built on top of. Evidence of elven was still topside, since the city was conquered from the southron elves by the Aurans just a few hundred years back. Donny shed a single tear "what have they done to our city!" He noticed the cesspit had been cracked and there were stairs leading down deeper. The hand tattoo map said "go down and to the right" to get Marn back. So down they went. 

going down!

Sewer sludge was pouring down the stairs so the party hugged the walls, eventually up ahead they heard the buzzing and crawling of thousands of insects in an alcove just off the steps. Should the swarm turn hostile it could be bad for our heroes. So Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 3) tossed a Military Oil, unlit, at the swarm. Then tossed a torch at it. He had a feeling the stench of methane in the sewer could be extra flammable and he was right. The oil, combined with the stench, caused an explosion which eradicated the swarm of insects but did blow back up the stairs a the party. Having advised the party to get further away, only Mandonio was singed by the flames. But it hurt pretty bad, despite his Save VS Blast succeeding.

There was no treasure found in the insect alcove so the party kept descending the stairs. They came to a natural cavern with hallways going southwest and southeast, the sludge traveling both paths. There was a huge circular stone crypt door on the western wall. Yet the room itself was full of many of the insect swarms they just blew up and some big weird lobster things that were feasting lazily on the insects. Time for molotov cocktail round two!

Mandonio tossed three unlit oils all around the room before distancing himself from the room. There was no feasible way to throw a torch into the room without being just at the threshold and the party was loathe to get blown own from such a close proximity. So Donny Keebler cast "Summon Beserkers", bringing four bloodthirsty jutlanders before him. He gave two of them a torch and told them they would surely ride into Valhalla, shiny and chrome, if they ran into the oil slicked room and set if off. "Witness me!" they all said before running down the sludge soaked stairs.

The explosion shock the dungeon with dust and pebbles tumbling down the walls from the party's safe position of the stairs. Bugs and Beserkers were no more. The party set to opening the crypt door, which was very heavy indeed. It took them a few rounds to muscle up and get it to roll out of the way. 

It revealed a 20 foot long hallway leading into a crypt room. Advancing into the room was stopped short as a weak floor gave out from under the front rank and Gaius feel down ten feet into a natural hallway. That's when the animated skeletons choose to advance from the room and onto the party, attacking. 

The fight was pretty easy and all the skeletons were destroyed in a few rounds. Gaius spent the fight complaining about the cheap trap and calling the DM a cheater much to my despair. 

The walls of the room had many burial alcoves since the Chaotic chthonic cults all bury their dead rather than burn them, as normal civilized Lawful folk do in the ACKS assumed setting. Eventually they found Marn laying in one of the crypts in a weird alcove like a modern morgue, with steel table that rolled out and a toe tag on him that said "congratulations you did it!"

It's unclear why Marn's supernatural (demonic) patron, The Man from Another Place, put the mage there. Marn elaborated very little that The Man didn't want to help him when he asked his patron to get him out of his jam whilst imprisoned by the green dragon Ferigno. 

Marn was fire walking with this guy...

They re-attached his hand which magically (divinely?) clamped back on and escaped the dungeon and sewer. No random encounters on the way out.

Afterword

There was very little treasure and experience gained in this session. Yet the party accomplished their goal. I'm sure emotions were mixed among the players on whether they'd have been better off to engage with one of the possible Lairs along the road north or delved deeper into the sewer dungeon. I have no strong opinion either way, except I wish I could have taken a couple of PCs down before the night ended. 

One must agree, however, that the Party had a lazer focus on rescuing Marn and they accomplished the goal. XP or not, Elite Level Play was achieved!

Surviving PCs Present

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 115 XP gained. Total: 9,309

Captain Donny Keebler (5% bonus) Level 1 Elven Spellsword: 121 xp gained. Total: 1,583

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Fighter. 127 XP gained. Total: 6,375

Laru Scribewll (5% bonus) Level 1 Thief: 331 XP gained. Total: 1,530 [LEVEL UP TO 2]

Mandonio (10% bonus) Level 2 Fighter: 127 XP gained. Total: 4,639

Temur (10% bonus) Level 1 Barbarian (Skysos): 347 XP gained. Total: 347

Surviving Henchmen

Gwenael (Level 0 hench to Daria): 57 XP gained. Total: 628

Bard the Bowman (Mercenary Bowman to Daria): 409 XP gained. Becomes a Veteran Bowman

Arty the Artillerist (Mercenary Artillerist to Daria): 409 xp gained. Becomes a Veteran Artillerist

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Bucky (L1 Barbarian). DECEASED. Became a illegal pit fighter during his downtime. Had two bouts to the death, winning the first and losing the second. Was killed by Young Jack Sparrow who sashayed into the ring, drank rum, and mogged on Bucky before putting a dagger into his ribs, killing him. This happened during downtime between Session 17 and 18.

Alexa this is so sad play "big pimpin'" by Jay-Z


Friday, May 7, 2021

ACKS Session 17: Return of The Dude

Played on 05/05/21

Session Report

Players knew what they wanted to do this session. They did a bit of prep before the session by buying stuff they needed but, thanks to ACKS economy system being a bit too confusing for most players, they still had questions like "is there plate mail available in town to buy for my red shirt I mean henchman". 

Siadanos. A small borderlands town.

Doing all these sorts of shopping chores and cleaning up the PC sheets for the new Player Characters took about twenty minutes. After that we were off and running. 

The PCs wanted to accompany The Dude (NPC Cleric Level 5 [mendicant template]) back to the crypt of the Soul Eater. The Dude would be cleansing the place and putting up a holy Lawful altar to his deity of travelers outside the crypt. Players were informed after last session The Dude wanted to do it with them but each week had a 10% of going without them or with an NPC party. +10% each subsequent week on the chance of him doing so. The Dude abides but not forever!

The party was quite large. All of my regular players showed up and a few of them brought henchman and mercs. They elected not to bring their wagon with repeating ballistae since they'd be adventuring into the Lusaun Forest which was too thick to navigate the mule cart they had it strapped to.

Late into the first day of travel the PCs passed a nice comfy cottage about 100 yards off the road that had, sadly, been ruined by something. The walls were crumbling and the red roof shingles were occasionally dropping off into the muddy ground. PCs were certain this cottage was fine when they passed it going the other way some two weeks back. What gives?

The new elf, Captain Donny Keebler, (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) caught glimpse of some strange wide trenches coming from the nearby forest going directly at the cottage. Something attacked it along there? 

Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 4) whose player was acting as Caller said "no way" to this situation. Something sinister was certainly in this cottage. The party elected to keep moving down the road. 

But my reaction roll for the monsters was as low as possible. They were very hostile indeed. An earthquake shook the cottage, sending wall to ruin completely and rumbled the road the PCs were on. They decided to spread out, hoping to avoid some sort of area of effect earthquake or something. A mound of dirt started moving towards the party as if a large burrowing creature was coming for them.

Combat began and the front line set for a charge or held their actions, hoping to attack whatever the burrowing monster was once it stuck its head out. Two screeching gray worms of about 8 foot diameter burst from mud. One bit at Mandonio (PC Fighter Level 2) nearly eating his shield before the legionnaire prodded it back with spear and iron will. The other tremor got behind the group into the back ranks but flailed about missing its target (I forget who).

Gaius (PC Fighter Level 3) recently learned the art of Riding and bought a beautiful new light warhorse. He took to a charge across the rain soaked field and stabbed his lance deep into the tremor that was harassing Mandonio. Daria ran behind him on foot at supernatural speed (a blessing of her goddess upon a quick prayer) and stabbed the tremor for a killing blow soon after. 

The back ranks surrounded the worm that got close to them and beat it soundly before it ever had a taste of human flesh. All in all, a combat with what should have been a powerful monster went completely the players' way due to a combination of large party, good tactics, and bad DM rolling. The random encounter was actually a Lair meaning these beasts had some treasure. Daria was wise enough to know to slice the ugly tremors open and sort through the gore in hopes of finding cash and prizes. Worm pinata.

Both beasts had some very nice jewelry pieces lodged in their small intestine. One had eaten a platinum statue of the Eagle of Aura which had Star Sapphire eyes. The other had eaten a woman who had a beautiful silver bracelet inset with turquoise. The total value was nearly 6,000 GP. Not a bad days work.

"I'm sure she was a cool chick man, rest in peace."

The party searched the cottage and only found that the far wall had big circular holes in it and the tremors had destroyed everything and everyone there in upon claiming their new lair. The party made a funeral pyre for the corpse they found. The Dude prayed over the body "I'm sure she was a cool chick man. I mean I didn't really know her." 

The party then made a note to check on who owned this land once they got back to town; to inform next of kin. Or the owners, were they lucky enough to be on vacation .

The party rested a few hours later just off the road near the edge of the haunted Lusaun Forest. No night encounters.

The next morning they set off into the Lusaun Forest and were once again disconcerted by its lack of birdsong or varmints like squirrels about. The animals knew this place holds something unnatural!

They were unable to make it to the crypt before nightfall. Gaius and Mandonio used their legionnaire training to dig trenches and such to hopefully mitigate the advantage of random night time encounters catching them unawares in the dark.

At night the ghouls came. 

Some of the defensive ditches Gaius dug kept the ghouls' surprise round from being so successful. I ruled that only half of the 11 present would be able to get a surprise round attack. Six of undead came out from behind trees and bushes among the party's camp. Daria got scratched and bit a couple times and was unable to resist the creatures' sinister paralysis ability. A few more got deeper into the camp and attacked the weaker PCs and henchmen, eventually downing Yasema (Fighter Level 1 henchlady to Gaius). When the full group of ghouls came screaming from the forest they were able to kill two of Daria's mercenaries. The Dude used turn undead on quite a few, but not before Donny Keebler cast Summon Beserkers; magically bringing some insane cosmic jutlanders to the fray to toss a ghoul out of The Dude's face. Well done, Captain Donny.

Gaius spent a round finding and mounting his warhorse then proceeded to charge into the scrum of ghouls that were surrounding Daria and her henchmen who had converged to protect her. Gaius ran through and destroyed three ghouls in his initial charge. The Dude lifted his holy symbol again the three that remained went sprinting away from the offending holiness back into the haunted wood, yelling about their hatred of the empyrean gods. 

Lusaun Forest. Imagine seeing ghouls here at night.

The dead mercenaries and henchmen were burned at a quick pyre with The Dude saying more prayers "I'm sure Yasema was a really cool chick too, man. We only hung out a couple times though."

The next morning the party was out the clearing in the haunted wood. Oak trees with dripping blood red leaves made an eerie circle a large grey stone base a massive statue of a chthonic priestess used to stand on. The titan had long since crumbled to the forest floor, arms and legs sprawled hear and there. The statues angry cat lady expression of self satisfaction and despair peaking through some shrubs where the large statue head had tumbled. 

The party descended the stairs from the center of the stone base. Traveling into the cramped dungeon they came to a minor altar and The Dude cast blessed on it. Passing through a secret door they found last time the party went deeper into the flooded second level of the chthonic crypt. Alcoves head human finger bones all along the halls. 

They passed through the flooded circular room and traveled on towards a room with two sarcophagi they had looted a few weeks ago. Donny Keebler's elf eyes caught glimpse of a hidden side hall leading out the major hallway. The side hall jutted under the water and would need to be crawled through. The Dude confirmed he wasnt' aware of it but that when he scryed the dungeon with his Crystal Bong he saw many rats in this area. Perhaps the hidden side passage led to their lair. 

The party elected to perhaps return to it later. Moving forward they came to the room with two sarcophagi. The Dude felt pretty certain there was a secret door the Soul Eater was using from this room to access her personal sarcophagus. Neither of these were nice enough for such a powerful undead!

Donny spotted another secret door. The one was a hallway leading out of the room and under water a bit but not so cramped as the previous. The party was loathe to put themselves in such an awkward position but saw no alternative. Getting soaked with brackish water they traveled the cramped hallway and came to the Soul Eater's sarcophagus room, which was elevated enough to keep the room dry. 

The Dude cast Bless on the sarcophagus while the party looted the burial treasures. These included some huge jars of monster parts (for magic item creation), various prayer sticks and unholy symbols, and 1,000 electrum pieces of ancient zaharan mint. Time to cash out!

The party struggled to get the large jars of monster parts through the flooded cramped hall but nothing attacked them during the difficult trek. Mandonio argued they should bypass the possible rat's nest and simple escape the dungeon, having accomplished their goal of blessing the two major evil rooms.

Once outside Daria cast the final Bless spell and The Dude erected a shrine on top of the crypt entrance of his god Naurivus, deity of travel, Lord of the Winds! It was an oversized ship in a bottle a nice rug underneath to really bring the shrine together.

The Lawful PCs all felt blessed by having properly cleansed the sinkhole of evil and each received 250 XP (Chi Roh). The trek back through the Lusaun Forest and down the road to the town of Siadanos was uneventful. 

Afterword

What was interesting about this session for me is the random encounter with the tremors was more worthwhile to the party than the actual mission they planned out and accomplished. There was very little danger from tangling with the big worms but a great deal of treasure and thus XP.

The crypt also was not so dangerous. This dungeon is on the ACKS official mini-dungeons for this region of the world. It's designed in an interesting way in that it doesn't have room encounters or random encounters. It has a hybrid thing where you roll 1d6 each time players enter a room. On a 6 there is an encounter from a random table. This could make the place very dangerous with fight after fight (even on the way back out) but the 6 never came up for the party on this delve. The place was clean this time. Last delve? Not so much.

The strangest thing is how the random encounter with the Level 2 monster (ghouls) was much worse than dealing with the mid level dungeon or Level 6 random encounter (tremors). The ghouls getting a surprise round was very dangerous. Mandonio's player, at one point, stated that if the Dude couldn't get his Turn Undead off they were all dead. It certain felt that way!

This was a bit of a wrap up session, returning to The Dude's little quest and finishing it up. I think there are other hooks the players were more interested in but the players want to leave Siadanos soon and I'm sure they felt it was unlikely The Dude would wait around for a month or more for them to come back and accompany them to the crypt. It was now or never!

Jeffrogaxian Timekeeping and Real D&D play like this is very cool because it doesn't take very long (probably only 6 sessions for this campaign) before the number of hooks and intriguing actions PCs can take is spinning out of control. Let review some of the threads hanging in my campaign:

-Broll (PC Barbarian Level 1) knows where a damsel can be rescued. The centurion of Tuos Spen is offering a solid reward. Broll also has a rumor about where he can find the mythical BAPBook; a mysterious tome that will help him with gains and leading armies of fit bros.

-Felix the Elder (PC Bard Level 1) knows of an ancient book called The Elven Cults of Cyfaraun; a normal but very rare book worth thousands of gold to a collector. The party spent a session trying to find the dungeon it's rumored to be in, only finding its location at the END of the session and not yet returning. He also found an actual map, which I actually drew with my kids' crayons, leading to some other mysterious dungeon much further into the wilderness.

-Pink Lemonade (a second Player Character party I'm running irl) has been delving a dungeon unknown to my other players looking for the Blade of Van Helsing.

-The Dude told the party about a Unicorn Pool hidden in the Viaspen Forest. Drinking from it was reportedly cure a Mortal Wounds such as BriarWhisper's (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) blindness from when the Soul Eater ripped his eyes out. But only for Lawful characters.

-Speaking of the Viaspen Forest, the party discovered a Hill Giant Lair there but chose not to engage (ran away terrified). Also the Viaspen STILL has the original dungeon from session 1 and, word is, Pink Lemonade is making progress in clearing it.

-Marn the Mage, who was captured by Hags and then sold to Ferigno the green dragon, returned to the PCs in their nightstand doorknob for a few minutes. His hand was found in the drawer tattooed with a map of the sewers beneath the city of Cyfaraun and the writing "the mage you like is going to come back in style! Come here for the stench of wealth!"

-Happy Dicers (NPC Party) haven't been heard from for weeks. They claimed in fortress from manbearpigs in the wilderlands but stopped making supply runs to the nearest Auran Fort. No one is sure what happened. Yllmeeton (PC Shaman Level 2) wants to go here and claim the fortress as his own. Unfortunately the Soul Eater ripped up his leg and he can't walk.

And that's just a taste of the hooks in the campaign, almost ALL of them exist due to player direction of the campaign. It's not a case where some of the hooks aren't important so the players don't care. It's a case of them ALL being important and at least one player is quite interested in every hook about (and some I've forgotten to list). 

This is what Real DND is truly about. Follow the #brosr on the tw1tter and you can have the same!

Surviving PCs Present

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 1,392 XP gained. Total: 9,194

Captain Donny Keebler (5% bonus) Level 1 Elven Spellsword: 1,462 xp gained. Total: 1,462

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 3 Fighter. 1,531 XP gained. Total: 6,248

Laru Scribewll (5% bonus) Level 1 Thief: 1,199 XP gained. Total: 1,199

Mandonio (10% bonus) Level 2 Fighter: 1,531 XP gained. Total: 4,512 [LEVEL UP TO 3]

Surviving Hench Present

Gwen (Level 0 henchlady to Daria): 517 XP gained. Total: 517

Bard the Bowman (Mercenary Bowman to Daria): 409 XP gained. Becomes a Veteran Bowman

Arty the Artillerist (Mercenary Artillerist to Daria): 409 xp gained. Becomes a Veteran Artillerist

Deceased:

Dama (L1 Venturer) played by RR.  Current total xp: 75. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Darius LeVay (L1 Assassin) played by JB. Current Total XP:451. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Donald the Guardsman (L1 Fighter) played by MP. Current Total XP:570. DECEASED. Intra-party justice in Session 3.

Felix (L1 Thief) played by Nicholas. Current Total XP:431. DECEASED. Poison gas in Session 3.

Hektor (L1 Paladin) played by Moai. DECEASED. Cause of Death: goblin warg rider throat removal surgery in Session 2

Leonidas the Inquisitor (L1 Cleric) played by RR.Current Total XP:498  DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Mard the Mage (L1 Mage) played by Nicholas. DECEASED. Frozen undead blistering cold aura left his skin frostbitten and broken in Session 6. Body not recovered.

Yolo Baggins "My friends call me Swaggins" (L1 Gnomish Trickster) played by J. DECEASED. Paralyzed and eaten by ghouls in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Jack Filcher (L1 Thief) played by C. DECEASED. Shot full of arrows by Inthorn's brigands in Session 12. Body not recovered.

Swoleous Maximus (L1 Paladin). DECEASED. Captured then drawn and quartered by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Damianus (L1 Cleric). DECEASED. Captured and beheaded by Inthorn the Brigand warlord in Session 12. Posthumously named "Petty Hero of Turos Tem" by Legate Valerian. Ashes offered a place of pride in the Hospital.

Alexa this is so sad play "how bizarre" by OMC


Dubzaron Session 64: Return to the New Badlands (and Operation Muscle Thunder)

Session Played on 07/06/22 and ending on 07/16/22. Actions available again on 07/18/22. Session Report The party was able to secure many tro...