Session played on 05/19/21
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.
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 piñata.
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.
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
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