Tuesday, July 20, 2021

ACKS Session 25: Death of the Joker

This session was played on 07/14/21 with players adventuring for 2 days and needing 1 day of rest as per ACKS rules. PCs are eligible for session play and downtime requests on 07/17/21 and after.


I have no idea what's happening anymore.

I used to think my campaign was a comedy

Session Report

The Joker made an appearance this session. The guy who normally plays Gundro (PC Gnomish Trickster Level 2) couldn't play him since Gundro was out of play for a week learning new spells. So we brought in the ACKS class "The Fool". It's in the ACKS AXIOMS 5 supplement and I ruled only one could be in the campaign at one time and only played by a player who's lost at least 2 PCs to death. Well today was the day! He rolled the "Jester" Template, named him Corydon (PC Fool Level 1) and we were off and running.

Except not.

The players had been planning for a week or more (idk) to delve the Nethercity below the city of Cyfaraun. They even had a Patron who was willing to pay them for particular artifacts absconded from deepest reaches of the mysterious dungeon. I was ready! I re-read some of the module and made notes about where they might go. And then at session time, they changed their mind.

"Is there something we can do tonight that doesn't involve going into a disgusting sewer." haha, ok guys. great. Talk it out. They were in the big city of Cyfaraun with two major hooks but not the exact class makeup they were hoping for to tackle either. So they weren't sure what to do. Debates and discussions about a session goal began....

I went to get a beer. 

An hour later they had a nebulous goal of "go find the bandits that attacked us like a month ago". Ok? Sure. Out of town they went.

Because wilderness encounter checks are so frequent in ACKS when players travel from one town to the next or make the circuit from various civilizations, I pre-roll about 12 to 20 checks ahead for the major terrain types the PCs are likely to cross through during a session. This includes checking for Surprise (for both sides, Distance, and Monster Reaction. Sometimes the monster is actually a friendly Lawful Cleric like The Dude and the "encounter" isn't a fight but an opportunity for the PCs to make a friend. 

Well my next encounter wasn't that. It was 4 Chimeras. They have like 7 attacks each and breathe fire. Needless to say the PCs did NOT end up looking for bandits this session. Due to the planning stage of the session taking so much session time, this session ended up being primarily about the battle with the Chimeras.

My initial description of them was just weird, on purpose. "Big Dog bodied creatures with wings made of stone". Chimeras are freakshows (by definition, check the dictionary) so I felt they could look like just about anything and still have the same abilities and attack routine. NBD. I wanted the Players to have to make a decision about their actions without knowing exactly what they could be facing.

The reaction check of the Chimeras indicated "Neutral" so I had them circling some 180 yards away from the party threateningly. They may not have attacked. But the party loosed their archers first. Reaction became Hostile and the fight was on.

I randomly rolled how the chimeras would approach their attack and the dice told me 2 would come at the front ranks and 2 at the back. The 2 attacking the back would take a round or two to get in position. The two in the front hovered above the front ranks of the party and breathed fire twice.

Marina (PC Fighter Level 2) was burnt to ash immediately and died in the road. A bunch of the party's Light Infantry mercs were burnt up screaming out their last breaths. Gaius (PC Fighter Level 4) and Daria (PC Bladedancer Level 5) were injured very seriously but didn't die.

PCs loosed as many arrows as they could while the chimeras had yet to land. Little damage to the creatures and no deaths as all. Melee only PCs were frustrated for a round, setting for a charging or holding to make mounted charges with the opportunity never presenting itself. Xanthus (PC Cleric Level 1) decided to making a fighting retreat, you can't proselytize when you're dead! Some mercs and a henchman failed Morale, upon seeing a PC and some mercs killed, and began to do the same.

BriarWhisper (PC Elven Ranger Level 3) was able to get a sniping attacking off on one and did some solid damage early in the second round of combat. Then 2 of the chimeras landed and began to claw and bite at the Light Infantry mercs up front, cleaving and tearing through like 11 Light Infantrymen killing them where they stood.

Another flew straight at Daria and scratched her up pretty bad before she disengaged from melee on horseback to make a charge later in the battle. Gaius charged that one and hit it hard with a lance from horseback.

One of the reasons the PCs decided to wilderness crawl for this session was that Daria and Gaius both have the Riding Proficiency, making them able to attack from horseback with double damage on a charge. It came in handy later in this battle, for sure.

Things weren't looking good. The back ranks, mostly populated by spellcasters and lower level PCs, was about to get attacked. This was until Donny Keebler (PC Elven Spellsword Level 1) cast "Summon Beserkers" in the sky above the flying chimeras, dropping insane beserkers out of Valhalla and directly on the backs of the beasts. "Witness me!" the beserkers cried out when the chimeras wasted a round shaking the barbarians from their backs. The men fell with a splat in the road and dissolved into smoke returning to Valhalla and a pint of mead. One of the chimeras was so annoyed with being ridden that it decided to retreat.

BriarWhisper got a clean sniping shot off on one of the Chimeras killing it with massive sudden spike of damage. Gaius and Daria were about to do the same with another but not until the chimera in the back ranks landed and breathed fire on the lower level sorts.

This is when the Joker PC was burnt up to a crisp, his corpse not even fit for crows. The player said "well my special snowflake PC that I waited so long to bring into play didn't even make it through one combat". I love lethal DND. Corydon died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. He had a laughing box in his breast pocket that was still working and laughing "hahahaha" over and over endlessly, like the end of Batman (1984). There will be no sequel for Corydon :(

donnys ashes released at sea by gaius and daria
"goodnight, sweet prince"

Donny Keebler's legs were burnt completely off and he died as well. Some of the mercs bit the dust too. A horse. Some dogs. It was all very sad.

The party lost nothing further since Gaius and Daria were able to make mounted charges at the 2 beasts that were still alive, both still at ground level putting themselves in danger. The fight was complete but not without the loss of three PCs. 

BriarWhisper decided to leave combat early and chase after the fleeing chimera. His thinking was that if the party could confirm the beasts' nearby Lair they could perhaps at least get some treasure from these creatures at a later session. I used the ACKS Wilderness Evasion rules to decide if he followed it well enough for this. He failed. My ruling is that he can try and track the creature from this battlefield at a later time with Tracking. Within reason, as far as time frame. Perhaps the PCs will get paid from this battle after all.

Gaius's player made a crack that "I don't want to be cold but 3 dead PCs means we get a bigger cut of the monster killing XP right". Yes, you cold bastard, it does.


I didn't realize it at the time but this session was a case of players wanting to play to their strengths. Two PCs with the ability to make mounted charges is very powerful indeed. The problem the PCs ran into is most of their current wilderness themed hooks are quite far away (and far into time, making them deal with time compression). 

This is something I saw when I played in Jeffro's 1e game. We always wanted to play to our PC strengths and these changed constantly due to PCs being out for training and a constantly changing cast of players. The one session I played a 1e Ranger I pushed for the party to just go wander the wilderness. I was able to use the ranger's tracking skill to take the party to a Lair where we could get paid. I think we were trapped in time compression the following session and my ACKS players wanted to avoid a similar fate.

To my mind the party had plenty of time to evade or ignore an encounter with 4 Chimeras but my guess is they saw the creatures, knew they had little time left in the session, and thought "the XP from fighting these things is as good as any other XP... lets GO!" Real DND will cause players to make meta decisions like this which spotlight nuskool dnd-ers never would.

Was it worth it? I'm not sure Corydon, Marina, and Donny Keebler would think so. But they're not around to be asked. 

Surviving PCs Present

BriarWhisper (5% XP bonus) Level 3 Elven Ranger: 683 XP gained. Total: 7,119

Daria (0% XP bonus) Level 4 BladeDancer: 650 XP gained. Total: 12,943

Gaius (10% XP bonus) Level 4 Fighter. 715 XP gained. Total: 9,680

Xanthus (10% XP bonus) Level 1 Cleric: 715 xp gained. Total: 1,712 [LEVEL UP TO 2]


Gwen (Daria Hench): 325 gained. Total: ???


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.

Yllmeeton (L3 Shaman). Total XP 4,563. Bludgeoned by the corpse of a bowmen by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Longinus (L2 Assassin). Total XP 2,036. Had his face ripped off by Rosie Odonnel hag in Session 21.

Mandonio (L3 Fighter). Total XP 4,779. Charred to a leprous crisp by diseased Dragon breath in Session 22.

Corydon (L1 Joker). Total XP: 0. Burnt to a crisp by chimera breath so thoroughly his corpse wasn't even fit for the crows. Died with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. that's life and as funny as it seems... some people get their kicks, stomping on a dream... In Session 25.

Donny Keebler (L1 Elven Spellsword). Total XP 2,238. Had his legs burned completely off by chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Marina (L2 Fighter). Total XP: 2,204. Burnt into ash by a chimera fire breath in Session 25.

Alexa this is so sad play "That's Life" by Sinatra

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