[OSRIC] Isle of the Earthshaker. Old School AD&D.

Calavingian

Retired User
I love Old School Gaming. Most of all, I loved the old days where up to several dozen players could take part in the same campaign, dropping in and out of the game as the number of places at the table at their schedule allowed. I missed it so much, that I decided to run a game just like it. We just played out of the seventh session tonight. So far, 23 players registered interest in playing in the campaign. 16 have so far made it to at least one session. Although we have a core group of about a dozen or so who have so far made it to at least every other session. Here's the email I sent out to every gaming buddy I knew who lived nearby. Add in nearly a dozen first-time gamers brought to the table by my dear wife, and you have one hell of a lot of players!

This is the email that started it all:

The Expeditionary Campaign Model (Or how to get all twenty or so my my gaming buddies playing the same campaign)


Dear friends


It feels like an age since we last got together to game, mostly because of my crazy schedule. However, thanks to my awesome friends in the blog sphere, we now have a solution: the Expeditionary campaign.

In the ancient old days of the this hobbies' origins, Gary Gygax and the fathers of roleplaying games used to run massive campaigns at their local gaming group. There could be anything up to thirty players in each campaign, all of whom would rotate in and out as their schedules allowed, all playing in the same campaign, in the same party with the same DM. Think of these companies in the same light as a modern football team -not every player gets to kick a ball in every game. Someone has to be left behind to warm the bench. or the stands. But even so, the guys who didn't get to play in that particular game are still on the same team.

Basically, my proposal is to invite all of you to come game with me at my house. In the same campagin. In the same adventuring party. Yup, all 30 or so of you.

Now don't laugh. I rather doubt there will ever be more than a dozen of us around the table at once. Because of my schedule, there will be no regular time and date for the sessions when we will play. Hell, I doubt there will even be a regular duration. Instead, at the beginning of each month, I'll email all the interested parties a list of dates and times when I'll be available to run the game. Those players who are able to attend get to play their characters. Those who don't get to leave their characters behind to guard the camp. That's where every session will begin and end: the camp. So threre's no real difficulty in having players who turn up only once every couple of months. Their character doesn't just suddenly appear in the middle of nowhere on their own. They've been guarding the camp all along.

Now for all this to work, with the very real possibility of having up to a dozen players at some sessions, we need to use a very simple system. I was toying with the idea of red box D&D or one of it's clones, but it's OSRIC (a much improved version of 1st edition) that I've decided to run. No moaning. No arguments. No point trying to change my mind. It's non-negotiable. I've already done a hell of a lot of campaign prep so we can get started quickly and I'm not changing it all now. Not for anyone.

So why OSRIC? Because it's simple. Combats are quick and easy to run, I know it like the back of my hand, the rest of you will pick it up easily and ultimately, because you can all download the damn book as a free pdf from the designers web-site. So there's no excuse for anyone not knowing the rules.

As some of you already know, I've been designing and gaming in my home-brew fantasy world of Zama for about twenty years. So we'll be using that world to game in. Like any fantasy world, it has its own little quirks and ideosyncracies. So here are fifteen things you'll need to know about the campaign (not just the campaign world) if you want to play.

[]The world is called Edarnia. Sure, the campain setting itself is called Zama, but that's because the City State of Zama is where it all began. The sandbox, or region, we will playing in includes the City of Zama and its client states. The region is arrayed on the shores of a sheltered sea similar to the Mediterranean. Depending on who you speak to, this sea is know variously as "Our Sea", "The Middle Sea", "The Wide Blue", "The Poison Water", or the "Great Green". It seems like almost every race or human culture has it's own name for it.

[]It's a "spear-and-sandals setting". Human societies have far more in common with the Greeks, Romans, Carthaginians and Egyptians of earths Classical Period than they do with the knights of the middle ages. Yes, there is a small corner of the world where certain Dark Age tropes exist but these cultures are geographically very distant and culturally isolated from where we will be playing. And remember, in this setting: real men fight with spears. Swords are for wussies and warriors who like having a back-up weapon.

[]Iron is the metal-standard. Or rather, a mixture of Iron and Bronze. Generally speaking, Iron (which can be sharpened without having to recast it) is used for weapons and bronze (which is very hard but can't be sharpened) is used for armour. This setting's version of plate armour isn't Milanese or Gothic plate -it's plain and simple bronze hoplite armour, as seen in films such as Troy, the new Sparacus series, and Clash of the Titans

[]The Gods of Zama take a very real and active interest in the affairs of mortals. They don't interfere directly, but they commonly make personal appearances at major religious ceremonies or observe important battles in person. They can also be cruel and fickle. Many of the settings mightiest heroes are demi-gods themselves. For an idea of how the Gods influence events in this world, think of how they appear in moveis like 300, Jason and the Argonauts and (again) Clash of the Titans.

[]The present generation of Gods are known as the Young Gods. Some Elder Gods and Primordials (the very oldest living gods) still exist, but they are rare and reclusive. The Young and Elder Gods are organised into family groups named Pantheons. Each Pantheon has its own major portfolio - the Pheonixian Gods rule over the sun, stars and the moon for example. The Mycenean Pantheon (which most of your characters will worship)) rule over fire, magma, lava, oil and the like. In all the world, there is only every one God of the Sun, Ocean, Fire, Storm etc. But just about every Pantheon has it's own war god, crafts gods, love god etc. Finally, weather patterns are determined by the preferences of the Pantheon worshipped locally. Don't be surprised if you ever look at a map and see rain forest right next to a desert.

[]Characters begin at first level. Attributes are rolled using the 2D6+6 in order method. Create you character before bringing him or her to the table. There won't be time to create new ones at the beginning of the session. Don't bother buying equipment for your first character You'll read why further down.

[]Zama is a humano-centric setting. Non-human player characters should be fairly uncommon. Elves, Dwarves and the like do exist, but rarely interact with human society. To reflect their dominance and adaptability humans can freely multi-class by combining any two character classes that do not share the same sub-type. A fighter-cleric, is possible, for example. But not a Fighter-Ranger or a MagicUser-Illusionist. Non-humans don't have level limits in Zama, but advance more slowly: it costs them 15% more Xp per level to advance per level.

[]Human characters will be Myceneans from the city state of Mysos. Why? Because the Myceneans are based on ancient Greeks (think Jason and the Argonauts) and are the culture the majority of the players are most likely to be familiar with. Additionally, Mysos is the only Mycenean city-state where women are legally, socially and militarily the equals of men. Outside Mysos and Zama, sexism and strict gender roles are the rule. Be aware of this and prepared to accept it if you wish to play a female character of any race (not just humans). In most "civilised" parts of the campaign world, female warriors and adventurers are considered repugnant aberrations who set a poor example for local girls.

[]Elves are residents of the Summer-lands (where human souls reside between lives unless they've been bad and where humans go to dream). Those encountered on Edarnia (and all PC elves) are exiles. This effectively means they have been exiled from paradise to spend eternity (elves dont die of old age in this setting) in a shitty mortal world, which explains why Edarnian elves are moody and bitter rather than cheerful and flighty.

[] Dwarves are generally considered mythical by most human cultures. Where they are known to exist, they're viewed (correctly as it happens) as the "Smiths of the Gods", and have a status similar to that of clergy. This means that dwarfs can expect to be treated in two different ways depending on where they are: as "stunted" or "deformed" humans or as respected priests. Elves and Dwarves are the only races in all the world that know how to forge steel.

[]Gnomes and Halflings are the servant-races of Elves and, for the most part, dwell with their masters in the Summerlands. PC's are likely to be the descendants of those who followed their elf masters into exile. Very, very rare and generally mistaken for (and treated) as children.

[]Half-Orcs don't exist. At least, not as an option for player characters. Only a few exist in the whole world and all are exceedingly vile and evil by their very nature.

[]IN Edarnia, if you've been horribly evil in life, then you're soul is cursed to wander the Underworld when you die. And by the way, I mean the literal Underworld. Hell in this setting is right beneath your characters feet. When your character travels more than a few hundred yards beneath the earth, your literally travelling into Hell. Yes. That means most Dungeons in this setting are entrances to Hell. Lucky you.

[]Your first characters begin the game as passengers and crew aboard a Mycenean galley out of Mysos. Or rather, former passengers and crew. Your ship has somehow angered the Earthshaker (perhaps the captain offered vinegar in libation instead of wine), and has been wrecked in an unseasonal storm. You wake up amidst the flotsam and jetsam of the wreck, on a sandy beech, with nothing but the clothes on your back and what you can scavenge from the wreckage. Lucky you. The only peice of kit any character automatically finds is his spellbook. Everything else is pre-determined by luck and random rolls. I'll hand out your gear on pre-printed cards at the first session you attend. You also each get to pick one item of property that you managed to save from the wreck. This can be any mundane, non-magical item regardless of cost of it's ability to float. Choose wisely. Only your first charater will be so blessed.

[]Finally, and most importantly, this will be an "Old School" game. Characters will die and they will die often. Characters will die for doing dumb things, for doing heroic things and just as often (perhaps even more often) through plain bad luck. In this type of game, player skill counts for more than character skill. I don't care if you're not a thief. If you say you're looking for a trip wire or tapping the floor with a pole-arm to check for pit traps, you WILL find it if you roleplay an action that would discover it. You can all sneak about and climb things. Thieves just do it better and call fall back on their percentile skill roll if things start going wrong or if the players imagination starts to fail them. If you're not sure how to play in this type of game then click on the link below to vist my blog. You'll see the tab for my Old School survival guides at the top of the first page. Click on this to receive the benefit of my wisdom, grasshopper.

If you are one of the lucky recipients of this email who has been offered this fantastic opportunity to partake of this old school, juicy goodness, please RSVP your acceptance as soon as possible. Details of the first, opening session will follow shortly after you get back to me. Don't worry if you miss the first session. I'll keep everyone who misses out on sessions fully informed of events with a campaign journal, which you'll be able to access readily from my blog.
 

Calavingian

Retired User
Session One: Shipwreck

Players and Characters:
Alexias Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Larrraitz
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1 played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1 played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric of Hestia 1 played by Caroline
Glykia Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male Bard 1 played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1 played by Coakley
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1 played by Fiona
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1 played by Leoni

NPCs:
Antipater, Human (Mycenean) Male Ships Captain
Minerva, Human (Mycenean) Female Priestess of Hestia
Spareous Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter. Spare character to replace dead PC's,

The morning sun hovered bloody over the harbour of Mysos, staining the still, placid sea a deep crimson. Hawkers and porters yelled across the quays, ships captains roared into the throng, arguing with shore men, sailors and port officials like. Yet through the mad cacophony of the city docks, a silence, or at least a lessening of noise, accompanied a small troupe of priestly women and bronze-clad men. Where the women passed, the noise stilled. Men bowed or doffed their wide-brimmed, straw hats while the few women present lowered their eyes. The procession made it's winding way towards the largest ship in the harbour - a fifty oared quinquireme, heavy in the water with passengers and trade goods alike. Though boarding proceeded quickly, the passengers and crew took some time to settle. Stood upon the stern, by the tiller, a noble-meigned man, black beard greying with age, watched the skies and fretted. Already past dawn, the ship had far to travel this day and no sailor on the Great Green, from the eldest grey-beard to most callow youth, spent a night at sea lightly.

Time passed, the great ship slide across the waves beneath a setting sun. Fretful, the captain entered the tented shade beneath the mast, withdrawing a small, spouted clay amphora. If he noticed that wax seal hung loosely around the cork plug that sealed the vessel he gave no sign. Instead, he moved to the prow, whereupon a hush descended across the ship, the single loud thump of the oar-master's drum hardly needed to call attention to the sacrifice. All eyes upon him, the captain upended the urn with a loud prayer for the protection of the Earthshaker, pouring the red, sanctified wine onto the placid waves below.

For a moment, silence descended. A relieved sigh formed upon the lips of the ship's company, the libation had been accepted.

And then the ground heaved. And the sea fell away. In a moment, the water all about the ship rushed away from it, spilling the ship's hull onto the sharp corals of the sea-bed below. Men and women screamed, falling from rigging or their oarsman's bench onto the muddy sea-bed below. Even as those who could crawled back to their feet, a strange hush engulfed them, the cawing of seabirds all but vanished. The escorting, noisy throng of gulls that accompanied any ship on it's journey vanishing into the deepening darkness of the horizon.

Looking about them, the ship's company marvelled at the walls of water, a hundred feet high, that surrounded the ship where it lay. Moans of terror turned to screams. A strange rushing noise akin to thunder filled the air. A look out called the companies attention to the rear, when the wall of water seemed to surge higher, higher into the air, speeding towards the tiny, fragile ship and it's frailer cargo of human flesh. "Kill the captain!" Someone shouts. "It's him! He wants!". But before anyone could move the ship is hurtled upwards into the air, riding the crest of the fierce, unnatural waters that first descend upon it, then in a fury, then carry the cursed ship and it's forsaken crew aloft atop a wall of the Great Green. A wall of water a thousand feet high.

Hurtling along at an unnatural, impossible pace, the crew marvel as the lights of distant lands and ships flash by, mysteriously unaffected by the raging torrent that bears their ill-fated vessel aloft. Men and women move about the deck, the priestess Minerva, servant of Hestia and daughter of the Queen, clings tightly to the shaking, creaking mast. Euthalia, her attendant, dares to creep across the deck towards her but is shaken from her feet. Sliding the length of the canted deck towards the engulfing abyss below she is saved only by the quick actions of the soldier Peliakos, who throws her a rope to which he clings with all his might. Elsewhere, the ships company cling for dear life, yet Shadowdancer, the elven outcast, confident of his acrobatics and balance leaps and tumbles across the deck to save a sliding Xenos from death, only to go tumbling into the darkness himself. Yet while the slaver is rescued by another rope, thrown by the dark-garbed Thanatos, so far from the ship does Shadowdancer tumble that he must clutch hard to an oar cast out by Alexias. But at last, the wave descends. A dark shadow, an unknown island, fills the horizon towards which the Persephone hurtles ever closer. Aghast, a man tied by rope to the prow calls out that rocks lie ahead.

Screaming his effort to the skies, the captain, Antipater, crawls across the stern, his nails digging deep grooves in the wooden deck. With a herculean roar, the old man throws himself upon the flailing steering oar, the noise of cracking ribs rising above the roar of the water. Fiercely he stands there, a man alone and in terrible pain defying the Gods, and so the ships veers from a rocky death a mile from shore, to crash and splinter upon the sandy shores.

***************************************

Hours later, the first to awaken, Alexias, begins dragging the wounded from the water-line, towards the shadows of a dune some scant thirty feet above the water line. Euthalia staggers away from her companions, searching frantically for any sign of her mistress among the many female bodies scattered along the beech. With a strangled cry of delight, she finds her, and calling upon the power of their Goddess Hestia, casts a spell of healing that soothes the unconscious Minerva's troubled breathing, though it does not serve to wake her from her tormented slumber.

Elsewhere, Peliakos seeks out the captain, certain in the knowledge that if they are ever to escape this place, they will need Antipater and his arcane knowledge of such things as currents and trade-routes. Yet even as Peliakos finds the captains battered form, so too does another. Sparious, owner of the voice that called for the captains death. Peliakos' swift arm grasps the right-wrist of Spurious, that which bears a knife meant for the the captains throat. With his silver tongue the soldier persuades the maddened sailor that they will need Antipater and his skills if they are to survive.

Once the many wounded and lamed, including Minerva and the captain (i.e everybody who was not a PC) are carried from the water-line to safety, those who carried them return to the waterline to salvage what they can from the wreck while thunder still sounded over-head and heavy rain battered at their weary bodies.

[At this point, having allowed every PC to save one valuable item that they had managed to keep in their grasp throughout their ordeal, I presented the players with about twenty sheets of memo-pad paper. On each sheet I had randomly determined six items that could be salvaged from the wreck,. These ranged obviously useful itesm such as weapons and iron-spikes, to more mundane items such as rope, canvas, candles and even small casks of food. The players got to pick one sheet of memo-pad each, without seeing what was on the list. Here's a couple of examples that didn't get picked:


Example 1
50' Rope
Small sack of 20 bruised Oranges, [the sack was the real prize here]
Small Bronze Bowl
12 Bronze Spikes
6 Wax Candles in a small wooden box
Ball of cat-gut

Example 2
15 square feet of canvas
12 Fishing Hooks in a small pouch
Block and Tackle
hammer (tool)
Linen Armour (soaked through)
1 Javelin


As you can see, some of the items were useless or near-useless without inter-character cooperation, trade, and the pooling of resource. For example, the fishing hooks and tackle in the second bundle were useless without the cat gut in the first. And the spikes in the first bundle will be a lot more effective when combined with the hammer in the second. I basically left for a toilet break at this point and told everyone that they had until I came back to sort out who was carrying what. And when I did we had our first real drama. And what a drama it was].


Shadowdancer was angry. Stranded the Everqueen knows where, he was soaked through, weaponless, without food, shelter or potable water and this fool human before him, with it's tall, hairy body and unsightly muscles, was refusing a perfectly reasonable trade. A hatchet and a bronze dagger were of no use to him. He wanted real weapons. And this fool human had plenty. The luckiest of the salvagers, it had not only woken with a spear in hand, it had found a second spear, a javelin and some actual armour on all it's own when combing the beech. What was it planning on doing, charging foes with a spear clutched in each hand and a javelin between it's teeth? How infuriating. Well Shadowdancer had just the spell for this sort of nonsense.

Alexias stared slack-jawed at the skinny black-garbed figure before it. It all seemed so obvious now. And so reasonable. After all, if the slender one said the spear was his, it was only fair to give it back. Why had he been so unreasonable before. Sleepily, he handed over the spear. And wondered why the black-garbed figure was now sprinting down the beech, fast becoming a blurry image in the heavy rain that buffeted them all.

Then he recovered his senses. The scum had enscorcelled him [Hypnotism only lasts 1 round plus 1 per level]. Given that the thief was moving so fast, it didn't seem likely that he could be caught. But when you have a javelin, why bother chasing down a thief?

Behind him (but very close) Shadowdancer heard something thunk into the sand, accompanied by the loud cry of "Thief" that sounded in a particularly tiresome moment when the thunder had decided to hold it's peace for a while. He looked behind him to check for pursuit -and ran straight into a wall of flesh.

Boagrius, seven feet of bald muscle and aggression, placed a hand on the elf's shoulder, just as Alexius and Peliakos caught up with the theif. When the truth of the matter became clear, the elf tried to break free, only to be head-butted into a stupor by the mighty Boagrius and thereafter manacled by Peliakos. Meanwhile, unnoticed in the commotion, Thanatos had claimed the hatchet and dagger Shadowdancer had placed at Alexius' feet for his own.

It was in that moment, when the lightning flashed, that Boagrius the gladiator caught sight of the man who sold him into slavery, just now emerging from the rain to investigate the commotion. Quickly, Xenos the slaver turned tail and vanished into the rain, heading back towards where Eutharia and Glykia tended the many, many wounded.

Assembling beside the wounded (after following the very-angry Boagrius) the plaintive cries of Eutharia and Glykia (not to mention the reasoned words of Alexius and Peliekos) swayed the group from pursueing their various vendetta's. The wounded would die in these fierce rains and whipping, freezing winds. Putting aside their disputes the group (with the exception of the still manacled Shadowdancer) set about gathering up bronze spikes, hammers, canvas and driftwood to make a shelter to protect themselves and the wounded from the elements. With the help of some oil, some flint and steel and some tinder held in a canvas wrap, they managed a small fire, around which they arranged the worst of the wounded. Antipater amoung them.

Huddled in their improvised shelter, it was the eagle-eyed Shadowdancer who first noticed a light in the distance, but held his counsel. Eventually others, too, took note and a debate ensued. Light meant warmth and shelter and possibly danger as well. The decision made, the group elected to wait out the remainder of the night in their crude shelter and investigate the light in the morning.

They spent a miserable night indeed, many drifting in and out of conscious, yet miraculously none of the wounded perished. Though many (including several players characters including -I think- Xenos the Slaver, Andros the Blacksmith and Thanatos the assassin) were suffering badly from hypothermia (-2 to all dice rolls until dried out and warmed up). There was some debate over who should stay behind to guard the wounded, with Euthalia the priestess and Glykia the Oracle of Miranda both volunteering to stay behind with the wounded. However, Minerva had woken in the night and volunteered that duty for herself, electing to keep Sparious with her as a look-out. Reluctantly, the rest of the group (the PC's, in other words) left the wounded with their scant guard and climbed the dunes.

Atop the dune that had protected their shelter from the worst of the weather, the PC's took in their first glance of the island. Inland the terrain, first flat scrub land growing to hills and then mountains, seemed spare and un-inviting. The coast, curved further inland to the east and west where they saw some hint of thick forest. Yet hope shone before them. Not a mile away stood a single marble edifice of alabaster white. A temple! Though the wind and driving rain, they could not establish, at this distance, to whom this Temple was dedicated. Certain now that salvation -or at least assistance- was nearby the group hustled forward, keeping a wary eye out for danger none-the-less.

Growing closer, a few details became clearer. Two statues of the Merax, the Goddess of Crafts, Cities and the Forge, warded the mighty bronze double doors leading deeper into the Temple. That on the left bore a smith's tongs in one hand and a hammer in the other. The right carried the more familiar spear and shield. The doors between were carved with scenes from the life of the Goddess, the doors open just a crack, big enough for a single person to slip through at a time.

Yet the eagle-eyed PC's were wary, for their were no signs of life where once there had been light the night afore. Cautiously, Thanatos, Ki Oman, Euthalia and Glykia circled the temple, coming upon an overgrown garden with a single doorway and a well at the rear. Most of the trees were plum trees, with the sole exception of one far larger tree near the rear door of the temple of a type none of the four could identify. Moving closer, Ki Oman cautiously peered into the well before dropping a stone which dropped for several seconds before landing into the water far below with a barely audible plop. Almost immediately he was concerned! Did this well go deep enough underground to reach the outer reaches of Hell? But the Oracle and the Priestess thought not and so, when the four completed their circuit and returned to the six guarding the door, there was much in the way of rejoicing! Fresh water to be had at last.

Alas for something to put it in.

A single PC [Boagrius I believe] crept forward to peer into past the doors but could see little beyond a small strip of white marble floor littered with dead leaves, snapped twigs and other wind-borne detritus. Beyond the small space illuminated by light leaking through the door, all was wreathed in darkness. So it was that two salvaged lanterns and some salvaged oil flasks were produced and, after finally freeing the protesting Shadowdancer from his bounds (and providing him with a weapon) the bedraggled, soaking group stepped bravely into the darkness. Even the priestly members of the party were openly astonished at how easily the huge, awesomely heavy doors opened, in utter silence, at the least effort. Dwarf-make, the priestesses confidently confided. A blessed temple indeed. And then they were inside.

The ante-chamber had been magnificent once, with walls, floor and ceiling of white marble. Yet now the carvings etched into the walls by a master sculptor had been defaced. Crude letters, glyphs and profane images had been smeared upon the walls by an unknown hand. Alerted to danger now, the heroes gripped their weapons tighter and pressed on further.

There they came to the worship hall, it's pews and tables smashed to splinters, it's tapestries and rich hangings-save for a curtain browned with age and exposure- torn down and ripped asunder long ago. The Priestesses moved beyond the curtain even as the others searched the room for something useful. Coming to a seated statue of the goddess, her welcoming hand missing the top joints of it's digits, the benign face smeared with excrement and missing it's nose, it's perfectly carved body cracked and dented as if from heavy blows, nevertheless they fell to their knee's in worship. But it was Glykia who placed three captured fish, caught in her net during the night, into the offering bowl. At that moment, all present felt a warm glow suffuse them, drawing away their cold, their fatigue and even their many wounds. The head of the statue turned to regard them all, with a benevolent and reassuring smile, the curtains whipped aside by a single gesture from the statue's smashed and broken hand.

The Goddess began to speak.......
 
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Calavingian

Retired User
Session One Part 2: The Fane of Merax

Player Characters:
Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1. Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male Bard 1. Played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1. Played by Leoni


The words of the Goddess fill the Heroes' minds with a soothing warmth, invoking half-remembered memories of child-hood and safety:

"Be not afraid, paasengers and crew of The Persephone. Only one amoung you has angered the mighty Earthshaker, my father, yet as many have before you all must suffer His punishment. You find yourselves on the Isle of the Earthshaker, a prison and place of exile for all those who have offended the Gods of the Myceneans. Yet all is not lost. Those of you who prove your worth in the Eyes' of the Gods, through courage, honour and skill-at-arms, may still win your freedom.

Here, in what was once my Temple, you may find warmth and safety should you purge from it the evils that infest it's sacred corridors and hallowed grounds. But beware, far worse creatures than those within these walls lurk without. Not all those the Gods curse to exile retain their human form. Serve us well, entertain us with your courage, and perhaps some of you may escape your fated doom."

Suffused by a sense of acceptance and belonging, the PC's suffering from wounds or hypothermia are invigorated by the powers of the Goddess. Those battered and bruised by the wrath of Pysos feel themselves invigorated. With a fiery passion fueled by this contact from one of Mysos' most revered deities, the characters throw themselves into a frenzy of cleaning and re-consecration. Yet shortly, cooler heads prevail and it is observed that such activities are both noisy and time intensive. Perhaps prompted by the disquieting noises coming from the floor above it is decided that the greater wisdom lies in clearing the Temple of it's dangers (and bringing up the wounded) before the real work of purifying the Temple can begin.

With the four fighters in front andarmed with what motley weapons could be salvaged from the wreck, the party ventures into a debris-strewn corridor. Unlike everywhere else in the temple thus far, the floors are tiled in simple fired clay rather than the polished marble seen elsewhere. Advancing into the first room, with Thanatos left behind to guard a set of stairs in the corridor leading upwards, the Heroes of the Persephone enter a chamber littered with the remnants of smashed furniture and wooden partitions. Leaves, cloth and wooden debris lies thick on the floor, the only light (other than that provided by the two lanterns) streaming in faintly through cracks in the two wooden shutters covering the small, high windows. Ivy grows thick on the far wall of the room, though it is weak and sickly stuff when compared to that which coats the walls outside. The fighters in the first two ranks enter the room confidently. After searching the room briefly, they call the others in. While Alexias argues that the windows should remain shuttered to limit the number of entrance points into the temple, Boagris simply proceeds to rip a pair of shutters (held closed by strong ivy vines) from the wall with brute strength. Perhaps it is the noise of this manoeuvre (or perhaps it was Shadowdancer bending down to collect some shiny valuables from a pile of debris) but it is then that five rats, each as large as a house-cat, burst from the debris.

Pandemonium ensues, with the Heroes seeming to panic and impeding one another wily-nily. Xenos manages to throw his Bolas backwards over his shoulder, causing several of his companions to duck or leap aside to avoid injury. Peliokos almost manages to stab his own foot with his trident and as for Boagris? Well, Boagris decide to actually throw his heavy wooden burden (the shutters ripped from the wall) across the crowded room, clubbing Alexis, Shadowdancer and even Ki Oman in the process but failing to strike even a single rat. While Shadowdancer ducks outside to call Thanatos in to help the "useless imbeciles" inside the room and the others flail around uselessly with an assorted collection of spears, javelins and lumps of driftwood, Glykeria hits upon an idea. Throwing some of the fish she recovered from the beech towards one particularly fat and aggressive looking example of giant-rat-kind, she finds her quick wits rewarded. Lightning fast, the mangy beast snaffles the fish up it's jaws and flees the room. Two more quickly depart in a similar fashion, a fourth is slain by a well-aimed spear-point and the last, the runt of the pack, what of it's fate?

Kicked out the now-open window by an irate Peliakos on a natural 20. Wheeeeeeeeeeee splat!

After a moment's silence, the party erupts into a cacophany of chuckles and curseing. Nearly a dozen voices each began to decry the, frankly, shocking display of martial ineptitude in the initial stages of the attack. The noise quickly dies at an urgent hiss from Shadowdancer. The source of the noises from the floor above finally reaveals itself, making an appearance at the top of the stairs warded by Thanatos.

Edging out into the corridor, the group takes up fighting positions at the bottom of the stairs (on the instructions of Alexius and Peleikos) while listening to an odd klick-klacking noise from the halls above. In due course, a pair of long, chitinous, scythe-like mandible hove into view, beneath two red, bulging compound eyes while a fanged maw wreathed by flickering tendrils opens and shuts before the party's very eyes. While the Heroes stand below, loudly debating whether Alexius should try to drive the monster off with a sling-shot or whether Xenos should simply throw an oil flask (followed by a flaming lump of driftwood) up the stairs, a second, then a third creature appears. Each hungrily -and curiously-studies the group below. For some minutes the stand-off continues, until Ki Oman finally points out that the use of fire and oil riskes collapsing the wooden floor above . Glykeria flatly refuses to part with another of her precious oil flasks to fuel such a risky venture. "We're supposed to purify this temple you fools!" she hisses, laughter glinting in her mad, prophetic eyes, "Not burn it to the ground."

Meanwhile, Boagrius, peering intently at the ivy-wielded shutters he carries, finally realises that with two iron handles on one side large enough for anyone other than he to slip an arm through, the shutters could be fashioned into make-shift (albeit heavy and somewhat flimsy) shields. Quickly, he arms the other three fighters in the party (excepting Xenos) with these devices and, for perhaps the first time in his life, curses his own mighty thews that preclude him from employing the shutters similarly.

Finally, solidly grounded good-sense prevails and Alexius fires a stone from his sling up the stairs. Not being particularly skilled with such weapons (lacking a proficiency in slings) he misses the target completely, but the light impact of the stone rebounding from the ceiling is enough to drive it and it's companions back from the stairwell, making a strange ripping noise all the while.

Quickly, a door hanging from it's hinges is fashioned into a make-shift barricade, alongwith other, scattered bits of debris. Though it cost the party half their remaining nails and spikes to fashion, all agree the effort is worth the time and the resources required. Satisfied that the stairs are as well barricaded as can be under the circumstances (enough to give a few minutes warning of an attack, at least) the party continues onwards. Xenos remains behind to act as a sentry (the player having to leave early).

Meanwhile, the rest of the party continue to clear the first wing of the Temple, encountering no dangers, until arriving at what must have once, unmistakably, have served as the temple kitchen. Immediately, the PC's note that this room, alone of all those so far encountered, has not been ransacked or defiled. Noting a vast wealth of bronze and copper pans, pots and skillets, Andros the blacksmith happily announces that, shoud they later find a suitable furnace and forge, he can, in time, fashion bronze armour and weapons for the group. Meanwhile the others, rightly suspicious, set about lifting pot lids and examining every scrap of wall and floor space. At the same time both puzzled and alarmed by the room's mysterious cleanliness. Shadowdancer, however, is not so puzzled. With his elf-eyed vision he cautiously approaches the rooms fireplace -big enough to mount a boar on a spit and still leave room for a sizable collection of cauldrons and stew-pots- and, grabbing the spit from it's hook on the wall, quickly braces in on the ground, point upwards, before peering into the darkness of the chimney.

There, though startled by the red eyes of the hissing, four-limbed thing spread-eagled like a spider in the chimney space, the elf retains sufficient presence of mind to keep the spit angled perfectly. So it is then that the demon drops itself onto the upraised iron shaft, impaling itself through the arm. Now hunched upon the cold flagstones at the base of the chimney, illuminated by lantern light, it is revealed as the demon it is: a grey skinned, long-tongued feral humanoid abomination, claws claws and teeth as dark as night dribbling a foul, sizzling poison onto the tiles below. Though the beast flails and spits, it fails to land a blow on the agile Shadowdancer, still clutching the other end of the spit, and is quickly wounded again and again by the spear wielding Alexius and trident wielding Peleikos. Yet even as their blows strike home the demon thrashes and squirms until Andros, leaping forward, spatters it's brains all over the chimney with a well aimed (and hastily grasped) skillet.

Unwilling to take chances, the group wisely cuts the head from the beast then, realising that the smoke from lighting a flame in the hearth would reveal their position to any similar beasts for miles around, forgo immolation in favour of dismemberment. This quickly proves a wise move, for when Boagrius lifted the ichor-dripping head to fling it through the high window, it hisses and bites at him. Even after Boagrius throws the head through the window, the party places the remaining body parts into separate pots with the lids weighted by stones. Again the wisdom of this precaution is demonstrated mere moments later, when the pots began to rattle and jump with the movement of the limbs and portions of torso held within. Meanwhile Euthalia and Glykia fill their arms with the biggest pots they can carry. When asked why by their curious companions, Euthalia casuallycomments:
"You want to carry everything in your arms or shall we simply place useful items in these pots?"

Later, finding the meat-store with it's many hanging hooks, those party members who are thus far without weapons equip themselves with bronze meat-hooks, Ki Oman (crucially) among them.

In the last room of this wing, the group stumbles across the pantry. Miraculously, two amphorae of grain remain sealed in this near pristine room. Only one other amphorae stored in the room is broken. Alas, this too had once held grain, though the grain now lies scattered all across the floor, engulfed in mould. While the wiser heads in the party wonder why rats and other denizens have not chewed or burst through the door to feast upon such delights, Peliakos, his empty belly rumbling considering, breaks the wax seals on the two undamaged amphorae to find that both contain wholesome, unspoiled grain. The fighter moves to cross the mouldy grain spilled across the ground with the intention of collecting some empty sacks from a pile near the far-wall. However, he is forestalled by a warning hiss from Shadowdancer. The uncanny elf perceives a certain, unhealthy yellow tinge about the mould. Ordering everyone out the room, he stands in the doorway and throws a stick at the mould. At first sight of the yellow spores exploding outwards, he slams the door closed and instructs everyone to move away. Pausing to explain the dangers of Yellow Mould to his companions, it slowly dawns on the elf that they seem less pleased with his warning than they should.

"Perhaps!" growls Pelekios, "next time you might first allow me to replace the seals on the untainted-grain amphorae FIRST before testing your theory". Wisely, for once, the stealthy Shadowdancer gives no reply.

Taking a moment to rest and re-fill one of the two lanterns with Glykia's rapidly-dwindling stock of oil, the party ponder their next move. Eventually they decide to continue clearing the ground floor of the Temple and move to the second wing. It quickly becames clear that the layout of the second wing mirrors that of the first, save that here the walls and flooring are once again of polished marble rather than fired clay tiles. Correctly, the party deduce that the previous wing had been the "working" part of the building and that they were now moving towards the living quarters.

As expected, the heroes come across a second set of stairs in a spot mirroring those encountered in the other wing. Having come prepared (with materials for a barricade) they set about blocking the second stair-well. This entails using the last of their small supply of nails and spikes, an action unanimously deemed a sensible and worthy sacrifice on the alter of caution. Though they hear (but do not see) no sign of the insect monsters from earlier, the party are menaced by a strange thwupp-thwupp noise from time to time. Strange, flickering shadows are also visible through small holes in the barricade. Again, Xenos is left to stand guard.

Moving deeper into the wing, the group enters and searches a ruined dormitory. Like most other rooms in the complex, it has been ransacked and vandalised. Only a few items -empty perfume bottles, scraps of rotted clothing, sandals and the like- identify the room as once having been home to female occupants. Some small items of value are located within the room, but the noise of the groups rummaging attracts the attention of other denizens. Out in the hallway, Ki Oman and Thanatos call an alarm. Three, foot long scuttling beasts skittered across the floor, their many legs undulating like the waves of the sea, a deadly green ichor dripping from parted mandibles that click and clatter with a mindless hunger. Though Boagris and Thanatos both take nasty bites during the ensuing fracas, neither succumbs to the deadly poison. Yet it is a warier, wiser group that continues their explorations.

With the four fighters once again taking the lead (this time with two-spears, a trident and a spit held at the ready) Boagris flings open the door to a second dormitory but nearly heaves at the smell of shit emanating from within. Yet as severe as the gladiators revulsion is, it is matched by the stunned expression of the red-faced male baboon resting within. Utterly astonished by the intrusion into it's territory, the baboon lunges forward to drive these intruders away, only to impale itself upon not one, not two, but FOUR readied pole-arms Remarkably, not one of the four worthies failed to hit and so the poor, bewildered baboon took 6D6 and 2D4 points of damage in a single round. The result can only be described as messy.

Though not as messy as searching through the baboons great big pile of poo, one hastens to add, which reveals some useful treasure as well as some less immediately useful items (ie: money).

The group continues searching through the private chambers of what they deduce to be the senior lay-staff of the temple, including one room that holds a king-sized bed, a pair of empty plinths and a scattering of smashed pieces of sculpted marble across the floor. Here the group finds a complete set of Stone Masons tools (which receive the biggest treasure-cheer of the night, the players having already figured out that anything mundane that can help them survive is worth a hell of a lot more to them right now than something conventionally valuable but equally useless and shiny).

Exploring the final chamber, the group, having so-far conquered all threats-before them, let their guard down a little. Rather than simply poking his spear under the ruined bed in the final room on the ground floor, Peliokos gets down on his knees to peer under the bed during his poking -and winds up with a furiously angry giant rat clinging to (and clawing at) his face! Catching sight of Ki Oman approaching with an intent look upon his face and bronze S-shaped meat-hooks in hand, Peliakos manages to scream (through a mouthful of angry rat) "Gods no! No meat hooks! You'll kill me too!" Too which the assassin happily replies, "Then I'd better not miss!" Ali then proceeds to roll a natural 20 with each meat hook and spits the now very dead rat with uncanny precision, the points of each hook coming to rest only a rats ass away from the eyes of the very, very nervous Peliakos.

Upon investigating further, the reason for the rats rabid assault become apparant - a litter of baby giant rats (each the size of a normal rat) bundled up in a nest made from an old fur cloak. Despite the protests of those party members who wish to breed the giant rats as a food source, the rat-hating Alexis squishes them all with a single stomp of his iron-nailed sandals. " I hate fuzzies!' He explains to his angry companions.

With the (real-time) hour now growing late, the group decides that the ground floor is now sufficiently secure to dismantle the beach shelter (recovering some nails, spikes, canvas and other useful items in the process) and bring the wounded up to rest in the Fane under the watchful eyes of the Goddess. This proceeds without a hitch. We close the session with Minerva, Glykeria and Euthalia tending to the wounded, Xenos, Thanatos and Ki Oman (the shifty ones) standing guard and the others doing what they can to tidy up and fortify the worship area. Next time, play resumes at around 3pm on the first day of the Expeditionary Campaign.
 
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Calavingian

Retired User
Session Thwo: Under Siege

Session II of the campaign saw two new players amble up to the table. Rob is playing Thoht- a half-elf magic-user/cleric of Miranda. Neil arrived late due to filming commitments (lucky gits got a part in World War Z) and played Sparious, the NPC. He'll have a character of his own for next week. So with two players from session I unable to attend, we once again had ten players: 9 present in real-life, a virtual player (via Skype) and me.

The Party:
Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1. Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Foreigner) Male "Bard" (assassin) 1. Played by Ali
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious Human (Mycenan) Male Fighter 1. NPC temped by Niall
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Thoht Half-Elf (Mycenean) Male Magic User/Cleric of Miranda 1/1. Played by Rob.

Players Not Present/Character "Guarding the Wounded":
Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter/Magic-User 1/1. Played by Leoni

By 3pm the party has completed the business of ferrying the wounded into the temple and disassembling the make-shift canvas shelter from the night before. Boagris spends much of his time skinning the slain baboon which he proceeds to wear as a (damned foul) suit of armour. Meanwhile Ki Oman and Peliakos set about cooking the flesh of the primate in a bid to provide every-one with a few mouthfuls of meat.

Realising that no-one has yet collected water, Sparious grabs a large pot and makes off in the direction of the well, via the now-doorless back entrence (the door having been used in one of the two barricades separating the survivors from the floor above). At the suggestion of Ki Oman, Boagris accompanies the other warrior. It is as well he does. For no sooner have they stepped out into the garden than has the large and unusual tree spooted by the scouts come to life and attempted to slay them.

Heavy branches loaded with razor-sharp leaves swing down, badly mauling a terrified Sparious, who flees back to the worship hall screaming that the island has come alive andis trying to kill them all. While the other warriors (plus Shadowdancer and Euthalia) rush through the back door to give battle, Ki Oman and Thanatos slip out the front door and make their way round to the garden via the back route -although it had to be said, Ki Oman was by far the speedier of the two. Within moments both Andros and Boagris have gone down under the tree's relentless attacks. Peliakos, Shadowdancer and Euthalia do all they can to drag the two fallen warriors to safety. To their dismay however, the tree actually moves closer to the rear exit -slithering along on a bed of roots in much the same way a centipede undulates on it's legs. Tall as it is, the tree can not follow them inside the passageway, but it's deadly branches reach inside after them. Shadowdancer lites torches in the wall brackets, hoping the flames might dissuade the killer tree from continuing it's efforts. To no avail.

It is at this moment that Ki Oman intervenes. Having seen the tree move and expose the six, foot tall saplings behind it's position, Ki Oman wastes no time in rushing the adult tree, leaping high up it's trunk,a bronze meat hook in each hand doing double duty as climbing claws.

Unable to bend it's branches sufficiently to attack the cunning assassin, the tree can do little except continue it's attempts to slay the survivors in the corridor while the assassin climbs inexorably towards the strange eye-shaped bulb atop bundles of vines at the tree's apex. The "eye" itself has already been hit by a well-aimed javelin-throw from Boagris, blinding the beast, but Ki Oman suspects that the bundle beneath the ruined "eye" houses the creature's brain. Three rounds of successful climbing checks, and one successful assassination roll later, the tree falls to the ground, dead (fortunately away from the temple roof). Ki Oman leaps clear at the last minute, unfortunately crashing through said roof and down into the temple roof-space. Fortunately he does not plummet down through the rotten joists into the unexplored upper floor of the temple. The triumphant Bard is soon able to climb down into the garden. This impressive feat is witnessed by the flabbergasted Thanatos, who wastes no time telling the others what he had seen.

All this time Glykeria has been fishing on the beach with her net, albeit with little success, having caught but a single actual fish and some poisonous jelly-fish. She become aware of a figure stumbling through the surf towards her but, recognising the figure as Thoht- her fellow priest of Miranda and another member of Minerva's retinue, she is not alarmed. She hails her Brother-in-faith cheerfully. The two scavenge on the beach awhile amidst the remnants of the ship's wreckage (most of it having been washed away in the tide) and, discovering more fishing materials, proceed to fish some more.

The two have only just begun their journey back to the Temple of Merax when the episode with the tree begins. They observe the tree fall during their journey, but without understanding the significance of what they see until arriving back at the temple.

Upon rejoining the group, introductions are made. Thoht very quickly makes himself useful by healing the wounded warriors Andros and Boagris (both sitting on 0HP) with a pair of Cure Light Wounds spells. Fortunately, given that they had been on 0HP and not into negative hit-points, they recover immediately with no niggling pains or injuries to speak of (i.e. no negative modifiers to their dice rolls until they'd fully recovered).

While the two followers of Miranda share out what they have scavenged from the beach, Shadowdancer decides it might be best to recover as much as possible from the remaining wreckage before the next tide carries any other useful items. So, he and Ki Oman finish their scant meal of baboon flesh and leave the Temple. No sooner has Shadowdancer pushed open one of the bronze outer doors than he cames face to face with a native: a crocodilian humanoid with an obsidian dart in one hand and a pail of fish guts in the other. The two strangers stare stupidly at one another for a moment, before the reptilian stranger drops his bucket, spilling it's contents messily to the ground. Pausing only to toss his javelin at Shadowdancer (missing by a hairs-breadth) the creature turns and legs-it, it's skin shimmering and changing colour to match the landscape as it flees.

Shaken, Shadowdancer and Ki Oman return to the rest of the party to report the strange encounter, but therafter continue onwards to the beach anyway -albeit this time in the company of Peliakos and Boagris. They manage to recover some additional items from the beach without incident. Yet while returning to the temple (in time to meet Glykeria and Euthalia coming out to give them a hand) the party suddenly finds itself surrounded by a half-dozen of the strange reptiles. The ambushers unleash a hail of stone darts and javelins to little effect. Boagris, Andros and Euthalia very quickly bring one of the beasts down, despite being hindered by an awful, gagging stench that makes their stomach heave. The rest of the reptile men flee. Moments later the clear, ominous boom of war drums can be heard sounding in the near-distance. Leaving their fallen foe where he lies, the party (including a wounded Ki Oman) hustle back to the temple and immediately made plans to set a watch for the night.

Ki spends the remainder of the daylight hours telling the rest of the survivors what little he knows regarding troglodytes - a primitive race of lizardmen with a taste for human flesh, chameonic skin and a foul maismatic stench. Few of the humans sleep well that night. He warns the others that the creatures are fond of traps, ambushes and poison. Yet he forgets this sound advice himself soon enough.

Despite their fears, they enjoy a peaceful night. Yet in the morning Shadowdancer, Thanatos and Ki Oman slip out of the temple with the intention of looking for traces of reptilian scouts. Sure enough, traces they do indeed find -but rather more obvious traces than they expected. There, outside the temple, not twenty yards from the front doors, stands a human skull, picked clean, atop a staff thrust deep into the sandy soil. Ki Oman, forgetting his own advice, reachs out to touch the staff and finds his hand badly numbed by the contact. Luckily, he seems to have some resistance to the poison and is able to remain conscious and mobile, though he reports feeling chilled to the very bone. Shadowdancer takes the skull and returns with it to the temple, leaving a peace offering of some fish in it's place. Continuing their inspection of the Temple grounds, the three stealthy survivors find tracks all around the perimeter, more so outside the shutter-less windows on the east side than oaround the west. The tracks give the garden a wide berth, suggesting to Ki Oman and Shadowdancer that the creatures know the garden is -or rather, was- dangerous - without ever quite knowing why.

The morning is spent in frantic activity, with those party members who are able, working slavishly to improve the defences. Thoht, Andros, Shadowdancer and Thanatos combine their skills in woodworking and metalwork to make some use of the tree corpse in the Garden. While Thoht carves stout staves, Andros works to fashion them into workable spears with some bronze spikes. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer and Thanatos set about crafting some spear traps and selecting where best to place them for defence.

The remainder of the party either stand watch, tend to the wounded or begin work on a defensive ditch. Or, rather, due to a shortage of manpower, several deep pits, with the intention of joining these up into a proper ditch when sufficient time and proper tools became available. Yet when danger comes, it does not come from without. At least not at first.

While Thanatos and Shadowdancer debate where in the east wing to deploy their spear traps for best effect (ie, best coverage of the shutterless windows) they hear a crashing noise from above.

The east barricade!

Quickly, the party assembles at a loud shout relayed by Glykeria (in the main worship area) to those outside. Without hesitation the party's warriors rush to the bottom of the stairs in time to see the first giant beetle, it's mandible the length and glistening sharpness of a scimitar, crash through the barricade. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer keep watch at the front, Thanatos at the back and Euthalia at the western barricade. Glykeria and Thoht stsmd behind the door to the stair-corridor, ready to unleash their magic as required.

Though the battle proves difficult, the four fighters and Ki Oman, in concert, bring down the first beetle, but not before the arrival of a second. This one is slain by a single mighty blow from the club of the gladiator, Boagris, pulping it's carapace and insectoid brain into jelly (and incidently splattering both the walls and his companions) with greenish ichor. The third and last beatle proves the most difficult-and deadly - foe. This beast leaps upon the warrior Andros, crushing her beneath it's bulk. Yet Boagris pulls the blacksmith free when Ki Oman leaps upon it's back, causing it to unfold its' wing case and attempt to crush the bard against the ceiling . However, the agile bard manages to manacle one of the creatures legs to its mandibles, causing it to fall and impale itself on the upraised sword of Sparious.

And not before time. Because even as Andros falls, Shadowdancer has called out an alarm from the front doors. The Troglodytes are attacking. While Ki Oman and the three warriors still standing - Sparious, Boagris and Peliakos- rush to the front gates, Shadowdancer is already forcing them closed with the assistance of Thanatos and Euthalia (both hastily summoned from their respective watches by the alarm call). Again Glykeria and Thoht stand ready. Even as the first rank of the creatures reach the slowly closing doors, they are met by a salvo of potent magic. Thot's sleep spells drops the front rank entirely, buying time for the doors to close just as Glykeria's colour spray sends the second rank tumbling to the ground, hissing angrily and scratching at their eyes, blinded by an eruption of scintillating colours from the oracles outstretched hand.

Yet despite this mighty display, the beasts pound upon the now-closed doors. Sensing an opportunity, Shadowdancer run out into the garden, careful to avoid the sentient saplings in one corner, and casts an illusion of his own. In the sky, high above the temple, the image of a giant, antler-helmed, woad-painted figure appears, silently pointing his bloody, serrated spear at the base of the temple doors. Having conjured a likeness of the fabled Shidhe Warlord Cerunnos, Shadowdancer gleefully easily imagines the consternation of the attacking troglodytes. Though unable to see the effects of his spell upon the attackers, he takes great satisfaction from the fact the pounding noise at the temple doors has suddenly stopped.

And that's where we stopped for the night.

Notes: Most of the session was spent in planning and roleplay, so there was far less "gaming" content than last time. I hadn't anticipated on introducing the troglodytes this early in the campaign, but I generated a random encounter with a lone trog just as Shadowdancer and Ki Oman were leaving the temple. Naturally, the trog informed his tribe and the remainder of the session (one I expected to focus on exploring the Temple's second level) concerned the groups plans and preperations for the seemingly inevitable trog attack. Finding themselves caught between the tribe outside and the beasts upstairs made for some nervous faces around the gaming table, let me tell you.
 
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Calavingian

Retired User
A She-Prince?: Sessions Three and Four

Due to the stresses and strains of moving house and the resultant loss of broadband, session III of the campaign did not receive a proper write-up. So, here's a brief re-cap of events before we continue with session IV:

Session III: Brief Summary

Aware that leaving the first floor of the temple (that's the second floor for our American readers) unexplored while a marauding band of trogs was rampaging outside would be a bad idea, the party decided to explore the second floor.
Several times during their explorations, the party became aware of intruders trying to climb into the buildings first floor from the outside. Yet they never encountered them, despite locating the vine ropes they were using to get in during a quick patrol outside the Temple.
The party realized there was something odd about the door to the room the vines led into. Despite the rest of the first floor area being lavishly decorated, this one room had a door of solid bronze. Deducing there might be something dangerous inside, Ki Oman climbed out onto the roof, down through a hole into the roof-space, and cut himself a peep hole in the room's ceiling. At which point he lost an eye when the ooze creature dwelling inside the room stuck a tendril up through the hole. Wisely, Ki retreated and the party decided to leave this room well alone.
While searching quarters belonging to various senior priestesses the party found a number of useful items, not the least of which being a set of sculptors tools, a jewelers anvil (and some tools) as well as some magical weapons and armor that were quickly divided up between the various fighters.
More mysteriously, in the last room they searched they came across the still warm corpse of a beautiful, scantily clad female warrior peppered with several darts. Going by the agonized look on her face, this woman had been the source of the blood curdling scream they'd heard only a few minutes before. They arrived in time to cut a rope attached to a grappling hook imbedded in some furniture and heard an annoyed hissing from below. By the time the party reached the window, the trogs had fled under cover of their chameleon racial abilities. Ki Oman took a strange amulet of a female archer that the woman wore about her neck while various other party members helped themselves to her grapple hook and other gear.

Session IV:

The Party (active characters):

Ailil Shadowdancer Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1. Played by Ridh
Andros Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv
Euthalia Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric (and Priestess) of Haestia 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1 and Priestess (non-clerical) of Miranda. Played by Elle
Ki Oman Human (Zaman) Male "Bard" (assassin) 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 1. Played by Fiona
Thera Human Female (Mycenean) Paladin of Meerax 1. Played by Niall
Thot Half-Elf (Mycenean) Male Magic User/Cleric of Miranda 1/1. Played by Rob.
Xenos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter1/Magic-User 1. Played by Leoni

Not-Active (players not present/characters guarding ground floor)

Alexis Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larrraitz
Kallisto Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Peliakos Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparious Human (Mycenan) Male Fighter 1. Spare character for fatalities.

Following the final clearance of the temple, the party spent the next two days engaged in various activities. Guarded by the non-active characters, Xenos and Ki Oman set about collecting enough fish to feed the rest of the party. Thot and Euthalia managed to heal all the wounds sustained during the explorations by the next morning, and so Euthali was free to take care of the laundry, cooking etc while Thot set about turning beetle bits into a breastplate and a pair of rudimentary scimitars. Boagris and Thera set about improving the defenses by expanding the pits while Thanatos constructed and placed four more spear traps around the temple grounds. Glykeria and Shadowdancer, meanwhile, were busily swopping spells despite the racket raised by the blacksmith, Andros, who was busily smelting and recasting a few bronze pots to make new shields.

Throughout the two days of relatively peace, not a troglodyte was to be seen (or smelled). The castaways, including the many still recovering from wounds (including the ship's captain) were understandably beginning to think the scalies had given up. Until the morning of the third day:

Loudly rattling his drift-wood club inside a copper cooking pot, Sparious, the castaway on guard at dawn, rockets into the main temple area screaming "Alarm! Alarm!". While the various Fighter and Paladin types in the party grab their weapons and rush to the doors, the more cerebral characters take the time to find out what all the fuss was about. Thus, the whole party learns at about the same time (some using their eyes, some using their ears to listen to Sparious's frentic explanation) that three Troglodytes are standing outside the main gates.

Of the three, two are unarmed and these, their tails twitching nervously behind them, support a third troglodyte, clutching a staff, between them. The two flanking trogs appear young and strong, with bone necklaces and feather adornments hanging from leather throngs. The third is much older: many of it's scales are missing, srevealing grey, patchy flesh beneath. It's eyes covered by a filthy bandage of multi-colored canvas.

The three Trogs merely stand there. eerily regarding the dozen or so humans and the lone elf at the Temple gates regarding them in turn. After a brief discussion, Euthalia, Ki Oman and Shadowdancer are elected party spokesmen. Cautiously, the advance to within about ten paces of the three trogs (Shadowdancer having had the presence of mind to bring along three bowls of fish soup). Ki Oman tries to mime their peaceful intentions with a series of hand gestures. Hand gestures that are copied exactly by the trogs as soon as the smallest trog has finished hissing in the blind trog's ear-hole.

After a few comedic moments, the six negotiators sit down in the sandy soil. Moving slowly (whether from age or to prevent any alarm), the Elder takes a small stone vial from a medicine pouch around it's neck and, dipping a claw into the vial, proceeds to pierce it's tongue with the claw in question. When it speaks (or rather, hisses), all three party-member hear a translation of it's odd, hissing tongue in their heads.

"We. The People. Come talk peace with bad-smelling ugly flesh-things that have no scales. Agree, Yes?"

Ki Oman reaches out to take the proffered vial from the Elder and places a drop of the strange red liquid on his tongue. While he agrees to talk peace, the three trogs simply look on him in confusion until the smallest one whispers something in the Elder's ear. At this point, the Elder trog let out a deep sigh, softly hisses something that sounds somewhat long-suffering and then hisses at the third lizard, who snatches the vial from Euthalia (in the process of preparing to try out a theory) with an angry hiss and passes it back to the old one.

Again, the old lizard repeats his small ritual and hissed: "Stupid flesh-things. No claws to pierce tongue with. Must cut tongue then use potion. See?"

Ki Oman accepts the vial back, uses his dagger to overcome the small obstacle of lacking claws, and begins to speak in grand, prosaic terms of the benefits of peace and the groups desire for a peaceful resolution to any problem. The three lizardmen seemed to follow his words for a bit, but then begin looking somewhat confused after the first twenty words or so. While Ki Oman pass the vial back, he and Shadowdancer speculate that there must be a limit on how many words the potion can translate and decide to pay careful attention to how many words the lizardman used in his next statement.

"Yes. The People Need Place for Live. People Driven from Home. Came Here. You Get People's Home Back. No War."

From this, the three party members deduce that they can speak perhaps twenty words per exchange, and guess there is (perhaps) enough potion left for two or three more such exchanges. They also deduce from the cryptic statement that the trogs are offering to leave the temple and it's inhabitants in peace if they clear out what-ever threat has driven them from their home. This seems to be a tall order. They estimate from the number of camp-fires seen in the night and from the number of warriors encountered thus far that the tribe could number as many as two hundred trogs (a figure the players came to all by themselves with no DM input. Or, as I would call it, a wild-assed guess). Ki Oman declares in turn that the group wants peace but that they need more information before agreeing to undertake this mission. He asks what has driven the trogs out.

The old trog replies they had been driven from their cave by plant men. Wishing to conserve the remaining potion, the negotiators then tried to determine what was meant through pantomime and by drawing lines and shapes in the soil. It transpires that there is only one myconid involved (though the three negotiators were never able to establish how "plant men" boiled down to just one myconid). A humerous moment ensues when Ki Oman pantomimes the question "how big" and the Elder responds by getting one of his escorts to lie in the ground, wave his arms over his head, and create a "sand-myconid" impression in the sandy soil. After a further bit of pantomine, Ki Oman indicates he will remain behind while the other two party members return to the rest of the group to discuss the matter. The trogs happily tuck into their soup and settled down to wait.

Back at the temple, the three potential responces that are eventually proposed by the party are:
1: Help the Trogs re-take their caves in return for trade, weapons and food.
2: Kidnap the three trogs as hostages.
3: Kill the trogs.

Minerva (the NPC High Priestess/Mycenean Princess) proposes that, in keeping with Mycenean tradition, they should vote on such an important issue. To no-ones surprise, the first option wind almost unanimously, the slaver Xenos (who had proposed the second option) electing to vote for peace with the trogs and only the ever-paranoid Shadowdancer (still insisting that anything that drove out 200 trogs would easily be a match for the party) votes for option 3. The duiscussion and voting takes a consierable period of time, however, By the time Shadowdancer and Euthalia return to Ki Oman the trog elder has been shifting his old bones uncomfortably for some time. The larger of the two escorts has already waved his arms and hissed it's impatience several times.

Using very nearly the last of the potion, Ki Oman speaks:

"Lasting Peace With All Tribes for Food. Weapons. Equipment. Clear Caves. You Send Warriors to Show Cave Next Sun. Otherwise. No Deal."

To their dismay, the elder lizardmen allows himself a fit of hissing laughter before replying.

"We teach you Hunt. You Come in Big Canoe. Know Nothing. Like Baby. He, " pointing to the angry warrior "Take to Caves. No Other People."

The elder then takes a second, larger dose of potion (before up-ending the vial to show it is empty) and continues to speak. "No Speak for Blue. Yellow. Orange. Green. Pink. Purple. Peoples. Only Speak Brown people. If Deal Good Take Tooth. You Give Your Teeth, Make more Potion."

With hardly so much as a flinch, the blind elder reaches up and matter-of-factly snaps off a tooth, which he presents to Ki Oman.

[At this point laughter erupted around the table at the though of poor, handsome Ki Oman (who'd already lost an eye) having to give up some of his teeth for the greater good. Fortunately Ki Oman's player realized that it didn't have to be his teeth (how would the first potion have worked if it had to be his tooth, after all) and that the party had come across a number of human corpses in the Temple that could provide human teeth just as easily].

Ki Oman takes the offered tooth without hesitation, and tries not to blanch too visibly when forty or so trog warriors "de-cloak" in a rough circle around the negotiating team.

The party spends the remainder of the day in preparation for the morrow's expedition, preparing food (fish stew or, courtesy of Euthalia, flat-bread) preparing poison, cutting and twisting vines to make rope, scraping skins for parchment, cutting wood (for torches) and smearing spare cloth and canvas with fish oil (again to make torches).

Next morning, the shipwrecked are once again woken by the riotous tumult of Sparious rushing through the halls banging his copper port and screaming "Alarm." On this occasion however, only a single trog stands outside, lazily leaning on one leg and a tail while awaiting the arrival of the smelly flesh-things he is tasked to guide.

As soon as the expedition is assembled ready (conveniently, it consists of the characters of all the players who were able to attend this session) their guide begins moving off -careful to keep upwind and at least ten feet away from all the PC's at all times, even hissing angrily at anyone (such as Shadowdancer and Ki Oman) who tries to close the gap.

Though the trip takes the better part of twelve hours, through (at first) dense jungles and then (finally) a barren, volcanic area of sulfurous fumes and razor sharp obsidian rocks, the judgement of the Wilderness types in the party is that they had traveled only a few miles in that time. The party seems to believe this is solely due to the nature of the terrain they were traversing rather than any attempt at deception by the trog.

During one of the infrequent rest-stops their guide permits, the trog sunns itself lazily upon a relatively flat (but still murderously sharp) rock. Meanwhile several pieces of razor-edged obsidian are gathered up by various party members. Some, such as Thot and Glykeria, are somewhat enthused by the notion of making arrow and spear heads from the stone. At least, until someone (Thera, I believe) points out that none of the wreck survivors (to her knowledge) are nappers.

Finally, at the sun begins to set behind them, the guide leads them to a small, sulfurous pool of otherwise calm water. Where-upon the guide plonks himself down on a rock and nonchalantly waved thems towards a small cave entrance partially hidden by a waterfall. Several irate party members suggest that the guide is supposed to accompany them into the cave. A humerous scene ensues when several party members attempt to communicate this complicated idea to the bemused (and somewhat irritated) trog. Eventually giving up on the idea of miming, Thera then attempts to communicate the notion of the trog drawing a map using some chalk (thoughtfully provided by Shadowdancer). The trog watches with some interest while Thera artlessly draws a series of lines and circles on stone, before hissing and rubbing it's belly in a fit of humor. Moments later, the lizardman has seized the chalk and begins sketching a artists impression of a spider, perfect to the last detail, which he presents to Thera with a theatrical tail-flourish and loud hissing.

[DM: Ta-dah!. His gesture seems to say: That's how you draw a spider. Mother-******]

Eventually giving up (after Shadowdancer idly wonders if Troglodytes even understabd the concept of a map- and incidentally hitting the nail right on the head) the party begin testing the water with a variety of staffs and polearms before gingerly lowering themselves into the pool. Somewhat surprised by the absence of a tentacled monstrosity, scolding hot water, acid or some-sort of horrible aquatic giant spider, the party form into three ranks - warriors in front- and descend into darkness.

[This being a Hellenistic setting almost everyone who can use them is armed with spears or short-swords, so there's plenty room for three people to fight in line. Boagris however,is put out to realise he'll only be able to employ his great club in the larger chambers].

The party follows the course of a stream leading downwards from the pool and easily overcomes the obstacle presented by the first of two waterfalls. This small waterfall, which descends about thirty feet, has a thick carpet of fungus on one side which the players use to descend safely. Shortly thereafter, they come across a second waterfall. This one lacking a convenient fungal cargo net. However, the sharp-eyed party soon locate a circular, stone hatch in one wall. Noticing the presence of a wedge shaped indentation, the party hit upon the idea it might be some sort of key. Fortunately, they have brought along several obsidian darts and javelins "captured" from Trogs (mostly "captured" by various PC or NPC body-parts, it has to be said) and hit upon the idea of poking the sharp-end into the indentation. Thereafter, the hatch swings open to expose a spiraling chute heading down into even more darkness.

All to aware that he's the only stealthy party member whose eyes don't really need that much in the way of light to see by, Shadowdancer allows himself to be persuaded into descending the chute. He has no problem slowly inching (rather than sliding) his way down. And it's as well he does. Sticking his head out the bottom hatchway, he is just swift enough to react to two sudden pendulum movements in either side of his field of vision to duck back from a wriggling mass of fungoid tentacles suspended from a circular pod-like object attached to the wall above him on either side.

Reacting to the noise below (including Shadowdancer's shouted warning since, according to Shadowdancer, "being humans they likely have trouble with anything more complex than wiping their own back-sides or picking fleas off one-another. Let alone knowing they're being attacked") the party (with the inevitable exception of Thanatos) rush towards the lip of the waterfall, fighters in front, and peer down. Fortunately for the party, none of the front rank fighters slip or are jostled over the edge. Less fortunately for the party, it transpires that one of the pendulum things manages to attach a tentacle to Boagris' face during the upward part of it's pendulum movement. Alas, for the poor fungus, of all the party-members it has to attach it's sticky, fungal pseudopod to the face of, it has to stick it to the face of Boagris. Weighing easily three hundred pounds, plus armor, plus weapons (and there are a lot of weapons), gear and everything else, the fungus has no chance of budging the massive warrior. Boagris, meanwhile, roars in agony while the plants weight pulls at the flesh on his face. He whacks it with his greatclub. Only to inflict relatively manner damage and have to watch (well, not really watch, there's a great big mass of fungal flesh stuck to his face, after all) his greatclub sink deeply into his attacker. And then stick. Remember that gluey ooze sticking it to your face? Seemingly not. Alas, poor dumb Boagris is too, well, dumb, to make the connection (lowest int score in the party by far) and there-after decides to punch the foe.

Yes, you heard me. Punch it. Fortunately, by this point he has several more tentacles attached to him and hasn't a hope in hell of hitting anything. Good roleplaying here by Silv though.

[Niall OOC: God, I hope he doesn't think to try a grapple!]


There follows an exciting combat wherein the characters who have the best chance of NOT cutting Boagris' head off while trying to free him attack one fungus-pod while the rest of the party concentrate on the threat posed by the second (except Thanatos, who is, er, guarding the rear again) and Shadowdancer (who is, erm, stuck in the chute. Honest). While Xenos blasts the second pod with her magic and Glykeria finds out (to her disgust) that hitting the damn thing with a flaming torch just gets the torch covered in sticky gloop and extinguishes the flame, Ki Oman manages to get a rope to stick to the second creature. Euthalia, Thot and (once she realizes she's not going to get that torch re-lit while it's covered in glue) Glykeria all eventually grab onto the rope. However, the weight is too much for the four of them to hold the fungal plant (imagine how Boagris feels with that same mass trying to rip his face off) and the fungal pod drags all of them off their feet. Except for Euthalia, who clings on for dear life and winds up desperately clutching to the rope while suspended above a thirty foot drop. The other three breathe a sigh of relief. And then a little something they overlooked hits them like a punch from Boagris - the whole party (with the exception of Shadowdancer, who untied himself to crawl down the chute) is roped together. Oops. Thot, Ki Oman, Glykeria, Xenos and even Thanatos (basically, everyone tied onto the rope ether just before or at any point after Euthalia) start sliding towards the edge.

Fortunately, Euthalia works up the courage to let go of the rope and is quickly hauled back over the waterfall by her previously sliding companions. Meanwhile, just as Andros delivers the final blow to the tentacles hugging Boagris's noggin (he's now been struck by several tentacles by this point), Xenos remembers he has a bolas! Biding his time until the two swinging fungal pendulums meet in their arc, he tosses her weapon and strikes true (Natural 20!). The bolas wraps itself around the two gluey monstrosities and binds them both together. They drop down to the limit of their flexible bodies and are thereafter suspended just above the cavern floor, hugging and (presumably) well-and-truly glued to one another. While Boagris rubs his face and moans about loosing his precious great club (not even bothering to thank Euthali for the healing) the others wonder where Shadowdancer is. Feeling mischievous, Ki Oman picks up a rock (picks up, remember, this will be important later) and hurls it down the chute. Shadowdancer doesn't even see it coming, but his howl of pain echoes up the chute to his chortling companions. A few moments later, the angry shidhe appears at the mouth of the chute.

"By the Ever-Queen, which of you damned monkeys kicked a stone at me?"

Glykeria, completely straight-faced: "Shadowdancer, bt my Goddess I swaer: No-one kicked a stone at you!"

[Que a moment of stunned silence at the table. Much laughter, spilling of drinks and throwing of Dorito's and carrot sticks ensue. Yes, we have carrot sticks. We're healthy gamers at my table.].

Before descending any further (and all too aware that one slippery chute makes for a very tenuous line of retreat) the party leaves several ropes hanging over the edge of the waterfall behind them. Several passages lead off from the pool at the bottom. The party decide to scout each as far as the first room before making a decision on their direction of travel.

The north-east passage leads to a wide, tall chamber. However, the party cannot quite discern the room's true dimensions without entering. Why? Because the chamber is packed with many, many pod-like fungal growths. Man-sized in their dimensions, each pulsating pod is lined with semi-transparent veins transporting a gooish ichor from the ceiling to the pod itself. Worse, several such pods seems to have been split open down a vertical seam and display red, flesh-like tissue within.

"Er, we'll come back to this one later, I think"

The more eastern passage leads to a source of blue light. Approaching cautiously, they see the eerie light come from a pool in the centre of a stalactite and stalagmite ridden cavern. Keeping a careful eye out for moving wedge-shaped pieces of stone on the floor and ceiling ( I mean, would I put piercers or ropers here? Would I?) they peek into the chamber from the passageway and note the presence of a blueish liquid dripping down from the ceiling.

Perplexed, they leave to scout the western corridor, which arcs southwards. As they travel, they pass a very humid crack in the passage-way wall. Intrigued, several party members call upon Shadowdancer to squirm down it. He's understandably not impressed - especially after what happened last time. At least until someone points out that the last time Shadowdancer went scouting it was the party who ended up being the targets and not him! Still not entirely convinced, he squirms down the thin tunnel -and recoils in horror at the sight of yet more tentacles flashing towards him through the gloom!

[We ended it there for the evening. I wanted a change of atmosphere this session. The module I'm running has a B-Movie feel to it so I deliberately went for a more relaxed gaming style after the tension of the first three sessions. Although there were farcical moments, they all furthered the story (rather than detracting from it or wrecking that all important wall). I hope. A very role-play intensive, combat-lite session. I had great fun with it -and I hope the players did too.]


OOC chat of the Week:

Rhidh: "Scared of us? Yeah, sure they are. They've got Predator-style camo and there's forty of em. I'm sure they're scared of us!'

Rhidh: "Of course he's a bastard (talking about Shadow-dancer)! He's a Shidhe Prince!"
Leoni: "Did you just say he's a she-prince?"
Rhidh: "No! No! A shidhe prince. S.H.I.D.H.E. Shidhe. You know, shidhe. Like a fairy!"
(Sudden pause as Rhidh realizes what he's just said. And why the whole table just erupts with laughter once again).
 
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Calavingian

Retired User
Scouting Party: Session Five

Scouting Party (players present):
Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 1/1. Played by Ridh
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Silv.
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) male Assassin 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Male Asassin 1. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human(Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall

Camp Guards (players present last session):
Euthalia: Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria: Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1. Played by Elle
Thot: Half-Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. Played by Rob
Xenos: Human (Mycenean) Fighter/magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Temple:
Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparios: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.

[Because so few of the players present last week were able to make this session we resumed events outside the cave complex: where the remainder of the party followed a clearly alarmed Shadowdancer out of the caves at full speed following the events of last-weeks cliff-hanger.]

There, the party decide that they need more information concerning the layout of the caves before they commit the full expedition to further exploration. It's decided that the party's less combat worthy members should remain outside, to make camp and fish in the pool for the raw materials needed to make more food and torches. Xenos is selected by vote as the warrior type to remain behind and watch over Euthalia, Glykeria and Thot while they set about their more domestic duties. This leaves only the warriors and sneaks to explore the tunnels: the perfect scouting party.

[So “perfect,” in fact, that the players were truly worried about their lack of cleric. After much whinging and cajoling I eventually agreed to let them treat Euthalia (played by wife, Caroline, who was present but unable to play due to prepping for an interview the next day) as a first aid post back at the Cave Entrance. But only because Caroline was present to give permission. Given that this session takes up the story about about half-an-hour after the last one ended, that means the party had access to her two remaining cure light wounds spells for the day.]

The scouting party begin their second delve by quickly making their way down to the second waterfall. Concerned that Xeno's bolas might not hold for long, they proceed to pelt the two suspended fungoid creatures they had entangled last session with missiles until they stopp twitching. Satisfied that the creatures are dead, the party spends a turn or so listening carefully in case anything has reacted to the noise of the brief massacre. They then move down to the pool at the base of the second waterfall. There they bicker quietly about their next course of action. Some wish to return to the spot where the tentacled creature had lashed out at Shadowdancer in the narrow passage and destroy it, not wishing to leave a live foe at their back. Most do not. The nays have their way.

The scouts instead move to secure the room with the pool of growing blue ooze. Thera and Ki Oman both test the pool by dipping various wooden implements into it, and are relieved (but also perplexed) to discover that the wood has suffered no apparent ill-effects and, as a somewhat unexpected side-effect, the goo stuck to their wooden implements provides illumination similar to that of a candle.

Having spent some considerable time in the dungeon already [about three turns by my count, counting the dithering and dickering] they decide to press on.

[I suspect the players were deliberately stalling for time because they were every bit as worried about adventuring without a cleric as their were.]


The scouts return to the room with the strange pod-like growths hanging from the ceiling. Leaving Thanatos and Shadowdancer to guard the various entrances and exits, Ki Oman and the three warriors in the group set about examining the pods, noting that only two remain closed.

Tenatively, Ki Oman cuts into the fungal rope suspending one of the open pods from the ceiling and is very much surprised when nothing bad happens. However, before moving to repeat the same trick on one of the open pods, the party strategically position themselves around the pod's vertical seam. Thera turns her back on the pod selected for experimentation in order to keep a wary eye on the other, unopened pod.

It is well she does. For as soon as Ki Oman slit down the seam of his pod to reveal an odd, compost-like pile of plant-matter, rotting fish and animal bones perched atop a large mushroom shaped fungal protuberance, something else bursts forth from the pod she guards.

Despite their surprise, the party react swiftly to this threat, Boagris once again learns the hard-way that bashing weapons don't work particularly well on fungus creatures, somewhat lacking as they are in muscle or bone. The final blow is dealt by Andros, whose short-sword cuts a wide gash in the creatures leg, spilling it's goopy, fungal innards onto the cavern floor. It's only now that the party get their first good look at the foe -a man-sized plant roughly humanoid in form but with strange, compound “eyes” perched on either side of it's tiny head.

The three warriors and Ki Oman immediately set about cutting down the remaining pods from the ceiling. In the course of doing so, Ki Oman comes across a sphincter-like structure towards the rear of one of the pods. While Ki Oman checks for traps and pokes at the strange sphincter with his glowy stick until it opens, neither he, nor Thera notice that Andros' torch has begun to flicker considerably. In fairness, this is possibly because of the distraction afforded by Boagris, who stubbornly stomps off alone down an unexplored corridor with a second, equally guttering torch in hand. Four major events occurr simultaneously only moments thereafter.

Firstly, Boagris walks alone into another cavern and was confronted by an animated stone troglodyte head that seemingly flies towards his head at speed- causing the gladiator to stumble backwards into the pod chamber.

Secondly, Ki Oman, having opened the sphincter at last, removes two clay urns from within.

Thirdly, Shadowdancer and Thanatos hurry back into the room with whispered warnings of a huge, tentacled thing shambling after them.

And finally, both torches sputter out.

[My actual description of the torch flickering went straight over the players heads. Again. Hopefully finding themselves fighting monsters in the dark often enough will remind them to pay more attention to their light sources.]

A shambling fungus creature, a huge beast twice the girth of even the mighty Boagris, is visible only as a tentacled silhouette framed against the ambient glow from the nearby blue-goo room. Yet it does not seem to have any difficulty locating the scouting party in the otherwise pitch-black pod chamber. Only Shadowdancer, with his elven eyes, can see it clearly, and he quickly sneaksk into hiding behind a pod to bide his time. Meanwhile Ki Oman keeps his wits in the darkness sufficiently well to keep one hand on the pod he has been fiddling with and feels his way into hiding, using the blue goop stick to light his way. Thanatos stumbles back into the darkness away from the monster and is lucky enough to find a pod to sit inside. Boagris runs blindly back into the pod room, slipping on the slimy floor now slick with 'pod-guts” and completely losing his sense of direction when he falls prone. Meanwhile a shell-shocked Andros desperately tries to light a new torch -only to have the strange stone head fly straight at her (or rather her torch) from behind as soon as her efforts bear fruit. Thera rushes over to her side to illuminate the blacksmith's torch-lighting efforts with the blue goop on her spear-shaft.

In the second round, the beast finally pulls itself into full view, a massive, thick-set monstrosity with two mighty paws and a pair of tentacles writhing from each shoulder. It lumbers forward towards the two female warriors in the centre of the pod room, completely oblivious to the presence of the three hiding assassins. Boagris arrives by the amazons' sides just in time to take clobbering hits from the beast that stagger the huge warrior and leave his head ringing [ reduced to 1hp]. Nevertheless, he and his companions bravely fight on, taking minor wounds and inflicting many minor hits on the beast in turn, most of which fail to pierce the its thick, rubbery hide. In time though, their efforts weaken the beast enough that the three assassins, simultaneously sneaking up on it's rear, back-stabb the creature to death in a single round.

While the others paused to experiment with the strange floating trog head, Thera quickly lys her healing hands upon Boagris' wounds. The strange warmth that suffuses him reduces the swelling somewhat yet still leaves the warrior with an impressive, livid bruise on the temple. Taking stock and searching the body of the beast they have slain, the scouting party decides to return to the cave mouth for some healing.

[It's at this point that I make my first major DM snafu in I don't know how long. Years, at least. After some experimentation the party incorrectly determined that the Trog head was attracted to heat (rather than light). It certainly seemed to follow whoever held the nearest torch as they travelled through the Dungeon. I ruled that as soon the cave entrance came into view, the Trog Head (which the party had already deduced that the trogs probably worshipped as some sort of God or Idol) shot towards the cave mouth and out of the caves, startling the party members on guard and giving their poor Trog guide an apoplectic fit! I described the stone head shooting rapidly upwards toward the sun, allowed Shadowdancer a desperate attempt to trick the head into returning to earth with a Phantasmal Force and (to the laughter of the players) gleefully acted-out the slack-tongued “Oh shit!” response of their Trog guide as he watched his beloved “god” disappear into the heavens!

I laughed so hard I nearly puked.

And then Rhi remembered it was still night time.

Shit!

So, with the campfire being considerably brighter than the weak moon-light filtering through the clouds, especially given that it's been thundering with rain ever since the PC's arrived on the island, I had to ret-con things so that the head floated above the camp-fire while the Trog guide prostrated himself before it in undisguised wonder. The Trog could only watch in awe as Shadowdancer seemed able to summon the head back to his side with a few muttered words and a wave of his hand (thanks to another illusion spell)]


As soon as Euthalia deigns to cast a cure light wounds spell upon Boagris, returning the oft-wounded former gladiator to full health, the party (with the stone head in tow) returns to the dungeon. Shadowdancer gives their stunned Trog guide a mysterious wink as he passes. After a long yet hurried discussion about what to do with the stone head idol (and not wishing to risk an accident like the one I'd originally envisioned) the PC's hit upon a plan. They walk the stone-head back to it's original home, leave it with a lit torch, extinguish their own lights, and leave.

With a huge, collective sigh of relief, the party sets about exploring the rest of the complex. First, and most significantly for their future survival chances (and hence xp totals) they locate what appears to be a freshwater under-ground lake. Shadowdancer's inhuman vision is able to detect a few heat-sources in the water however. Being unable to identify these heat-sources due to the diffusing nature of the medium in which they floated, the group decide not to disturb the water beyond refilling their scarce collection of water bottles and other, somewhat improvised, drinking vessels.

They thereafter locate an odd room with a glowing, moss-covered ceiling. The water from the stream here is divided into three irrigation channels feeding nine small pine trees. A low, disembodied muttering seems to permeate the chamber. Numerous theories abound regarding the unexpected appearance of the trees, everything from their role as a food source for the Trogs to an air purifying system (an OOC comment by the way). In any case, the party are able to discern something odd about the trees beyond that of their mere presence in a Dungeon. After a while the party decide to move on, the mystery of their presence still unresolved.

In the end they find another chamber featuring a (much larger) stone Trogolodyte head. This one immobile and carved into the cavern wall. Some experimentation with light sources reveals that the open mouth is, in fact, the terminus of a small corridor they found elsewhere in the complex but had been reluctant to explore.

This leaves only the corridor where Shadowdancer had been ambushed by the tentacled monstrosity. The others were somewhat nervous about the prospect of second encounter with the creature with no cleric in sight. This ends when Ki Oman and Shadowdancer observe that the large, creature they fought in the pod chamber was itself probably the very thing that had attacked Shadowdancer. Nevertheless the party are reluctant to let Shadowdancer explore the tight corridor alone for a second time. With none of the warriors keen on the idea of stripping off their armour to venture down the confined and possibly dangerous space and with Thanatos being his usual cowar...cautious self, this leaves Ki Oman to accompany the Shidhe.

The tight, uneven passage soon opens up into a wide chamber littered with detritus -decayed plant and-animal matter, dead trogs, broken weapons and the like. But at the far end of the chamber a stone chest rests upon a raised platform. With a shared smile, the two assassins begin making their way cautiously along the messy, uneven carpet of litter and remains covering the floor. AReaching the chest without finding a single trap, their instincts are left tingling. When the two assassins lie flat on their bellies and carefully prise open the stone lid from below with bits of trog bone, three obsidian tipped darts fly over them to embed themselves in a stone wall [a trap neutralized via role-playing rather than mechanically].

Still not satisfied and taking no chances, one of the two assassins (I can't recall whom) throws a rock into the chest, only to be rewarded with the sound of breaking pottery. Peering inside, they locate a few pottery fragments and a huge pile of ancient gold and platinum coins (which upon later examination are found to depict a bulls head on one side and a crescent with a dot between the points on the other). They also find a strange coil of spongy fungus that detects as magical to Shadow-dancers Detect-magic spell. Sharing a conspiratorial look, the two assassins are still determining what to share with the others and what to keep for themselves when a loud clattering noise (like a shield on stone) behind them makes them look back.

Thera, stripped of all but a thin tunic and small shield, stands in the entrance to the room. She is about to put one step forward when:

Shadowdancer and Ki Oman together: NO!!!!!!

Convinced of the necessity for caution and the presence of traps by the three darts sticking out of the moss-coated cavern wall not six feet from her, Thera is persuaded to remain where she is. Thus she is unable to prevent or observe the two assassins successfully palm all the platinum coins in the chest, though the gig is very nearly up when Shadowdancer fluffed a pick pockets/sleight of hand roll and drops one of the coins. Thera accepts his excuse that he is “just “examining it”. Shadow-dancer also manages to claim the strange fungus coil for himself with the permission and connivance of Ki Oman. However, all the gold coins in the chest are later split between all six members of the scouting expedition when the party thereafter made their way directly back to camp.

[As a result of this expedition, (XP for monsters defeated, XP for role-playing, XP for finding the only fresh water source on the island so far that doesn't reek of sulphur and XP for treasure) all the scouting party members (except Thera) made it to second level.]

And now for something slightly different. Some OOC and IC Humour. There a lot of it this session. Mostly because the players were stalling for time, I believe.

Upon returning to the two tangled creatures at the second waterfall:
Me: They're still entwined by Xenos' bolas, hanging like a pair of struggling sad sacks from the ceiling.
Aimee: Sad sacks, eh? I suggest a proctologist!

Going down the chute at the second waterfall:
Ali: I go “whee” down the chute.
Someone: Do you mean “whee” or “wee”?

While Ki Oman prods the sphincter-like hollow with his glow-stick, trying to open it:
Andros: Gods man! Are you not even gonna buy it a drink first?

After the fiasco with the stone head and the ret-con:
Shadowdancer: Remind me to have a little talk with these stupid Trogs about the wisdom of sending warm-blooded creatures with torches into the cave with their heat-seeking God!
 

Calavingian

Retired User
We had out first character death last Friday and, in the finest traditions of D&D gaming, it was death by poison. Read on.

Character Roster:

Exploring the Caves (players present):
Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 2/1. Played by Ridh
Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Euthalia: Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Glykeria: Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) male Dual Class Assassin 1/Bard 1. Played by Ali
Thera: Human(Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Thot: Half-Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. Played by Rob
Xenos: Human (Mycenean) Fighter/magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Camp (absent player and NPCs):
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Surly: Troglodyte Guide. NPC.
Friendly: Troglodyte Guide. NPC.

Temple of Meerax, Garrison (absent players and NPCs):
Antipater: Human (Mycenean) Ship's Master. NPC.
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human (Mycenean) Female 0 level Priestess of Heastia. NPC
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparios: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.
Plus 15 other assorted, unnamed survivors of the wreck (the replacement PC pool) all presently recovering from injuries.

Their expedition having uncovered a considerable amount of information, and slain some powerful foes, the six scouts return to the camp that night, share their findings with the rest of the group and quickly descend into sleep. Meanwhile, the rest of the expedition keep watch.

Shortly after dawn, Alexis, who left the Temple several hours later than the main body, arrives complaining of a cold camp in the company of the friendliest of the two younger troglodytes from the first conference with the Trog Elder. Alexis reports that the old Trog seems somewhat put out that Ki Oman neglected to leave his bag of human teeth behind -and is quick to add that he had not been too pleased himself either. Fortunately, Alexis had managed to avoid the field expedient of giving up one of his own pearly whites for the Trog's potion in favour of knocking the teeth out of a dead sailor's skull instead.

Alexis goes on to explain her presence. TheTrogs had brought word that the Grey Demons (as the party took to calling them after encountering one in the temple kitchens) have been active in the area around the Temple. The Trogs need the party to re-double their efforts in clearing the caves. Leaving the two Trogs and Thanatos behind to guard the camp-site, the characters return to the dungeon early that morning.

On this occasion their explorations are slowed somewhat by the notable absence of the fungus ropes at the first waterfall -proof positive that something intelligent is aware of their previous intrusions. At the second waterfall Ki Oman is so concerned about the possibility of the chute being trapped that he chucks a rock down it. The loud clatter of stone-on-stones echoes loudly for a few moments, just audible under the dull roar of the small waterfall. A few tense moments pass while the rest of the party alternates between glaring at the Bard and listening intently for sounds of approaching guads. After a good few minutes of careful listening they proceed on their way.

[Later, someone in the party - I can't remember who, hit-the-nail-on-the-head when they wondered if all that fungus, moss and algae coating the floor and walls insulated the noise]

The party's first-destination is the Blue-Goop room. Various spear-shafts, daggers, poles and even shields are dipped into the strange liquid in order to preserve the groups limited supply of torches (the goop from previous expeditions having ceased to glow sometime during the night). They return to the partially explored corridor with the narrow, twisting side-tunnel leading to the treasure horde. Here, Shadowdancer and Ki Oman declare their intention to ensure that nothing has moved into the cavern since their last visit. Glykeria, having had a dream during the night about the three darts fired by the stone chest trap (due to her daily use of her "Oracle" professional skill), insists oncoming along.

Again, it takes the three explorers about ten minutes to twist, contort and squeeze themselves through the confining tunnel. Upon reaching their destination, Ki Oman and Shadowdancer are satisfied that nothing has changed in their absence. Glykeria reaches immediately for the three darts.

"Stop!" Shadowdancer and Ki (once again) shout a warning in unison at a companion. "Don't touch those" Ki continues," don't you see the poison?"

Glykeria scoffs, "Don't be stupid. I'm going to hold them by the shaft. Who'd poison the shaft."

Again the two proven trap-detectors try to stop her, but eventually they wash their hands of the whole matter.
"Be my guest then." Says Ki Oman.
"Fine you fool. If you want to die, who am I to stop you." Snaps Shadowdancer.

"AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH" shrieks Glykeria, who, having touched the tip of a single finger to the shaft of a dart, howls her agony as first her finger, then her whole hand, begins to blacken and slough off from the bone.

Ki and Shadowdancer act quickly, one fabricates a improvised tourniquet and tyes it tight around the Oracle's arm. The other cuts deep along the length of the forearm with a dagger, hoping that the poison will spurt out of her blood stream. But what spurts forth from the wound is decidedly NOT what either of them expected. A host of bloated, swollen maggots, each the size of a diseased and malnourished grape, spill forth from the open wound, wriggling onto the floor where they dissolve into an oily goop. Seeing this the horro pouring forth from her veins, the doomed Oracle screams all the harder.

Ki Oman, shouting: Euthalia! Hurry! We Need you!"

At the other end of the twisting corridor, Euthali is already moving, shrugging off her pack with the help of Thera. But it will take valuable time for the priestess to reach them, even moving swiftly enough (as she does) to risk injury, cuts, and scrapes while she forces herself through the narrow passage.

Inside the treasure cavern, Shadowdancer desperately tries to hold the struggling prophetess down while Ki Oman unsuccessfully tries to saw through her arm at the elbow. Alas, he is too slow and the corruption moves up past the elbow. In desperation, he prepares to lop the girls arm off at the shoulder. Shadowdancer, in what his companions might consider a surprising display of compassion, dispassionately casts colour-spray on the screaming girl. "There! Cut now before she wakes!"

Ki Oman's second surgical attempt is more successful. With the girl no-longer writhing beneath his blade he is able to saw through the arm before the corruption spreads to her torso and neck. Yet now she lies, unconscious and unmoving, on the sodden, mossy floor. Bleeding out.

"EUTHALIA!" Ki shouts again.

But the priestess of Haera is forcing her way down the passage as best she can. Her fine garments, already soiled from her experiences since the shipwreck, are torn to pieces. Her fingernails and smooth, unbleamished skin torn ragged and bloody from clawing at the rough stone. While Ki Oman and Shadowdancer desperately strive to control the bleeding, Euthalia is fighting a battle no less noble -and ultimately, no less futile- of her own.

The priestess pulls herself from the narrow entrance, collapsing beside the prophetess. The healing magic of her calling already emanating from her hands in a deep, warm glow. Yet the light rebounds from the lifeless corpse, Glykeria's lungs giving up their death rattle even as the cleric places her hands upon the oracle's chest. It's too late. The girl is dead.

[It normally takes a turn for a PC to crawl from the main corridor to this treasure area, due to the many twists and turns of the passage. I allowed Euthalia to move twice as fast if she was willing to take damage in the process. The player agreed without hesitation and plunged in. That meant she could make it to Glykeria's side in five rounds. This was significant, because, after being taking damage twice from Ki Omans surgery, Glykeria was on -5 hit points. It would all come down to the initiative roll. In my games, cure light wounds has a casting time of 0. Glykeria rolled a 3. Euthalia rolled a 2. And so we had our first PC death of the campaign. Glykeria's dream had been a warning, not an instruction]

The three PC's in the treasure room each cope with the loss in their own unique way. Euthalia prays for Glykeria's shade. Ki Oman mutters a (brief) prayer and begins looting the body. Shadowdancer seethingly muttered "idiot" under his breath, shrugged carelessly, and cheerfully allows Ki Oman to help him finish looting. Then the two assassins turn their consideration to the matter of the poison itself. Luckily, both men, though spattered by Glykeria's tainted blood, have been wearing gloves. They experiment with wiping the poisonous blood off Ki Oman's knife, using the ubiquitous moss and fungal growths coating the walls as a sponge. To their horror (and delight) everything living thing the poisoned blade touches suffers the same horrific corruption as Glykeria herself. Even trying to scrape the stuff off the blade and onto the stone chest itself does not clean the blade. Though the un-living stone is not harmed by this magical substance, the residue that remains after a thorough scrapping continues to prove horrifyingly toxic.Ki Oman and Shadowdancer grin widley as they contemplate the myriad uses for such a toxin.

Then Euthalia glances over from where she was performing her rites, and raises the obvious question: How do they intend to transport the stuff? After all, the only vessels the party are carrying are either leather waterskins or are improvised from clay or copper pots sealed with cork. Wisely, the two assassins concede that this little toxin is not worth the risk of transporting. They methodically -and carefully- strip off their gloves, check themselves over for any traces left on their clothing and set about finding somewhere safe to keep the knife and the clay pot they scrape the remaining poison from the darts into.

[Safe being a relative term in the context of a fragile clay pot and a sharp, poison coated object hidden under a thin layer of rubbish. As I later commented, my players had just invented Edarnia's first landmine].

Before they leave, aware they cannot manouvre Glykeria's corpse down that twisting passage, they proceedto burn the body as best they could in the damp air and with the poor materials to hand.

[Alas, proper materials were not available and they botched the job. The party also failed to specify if they placed a coin into Glykeria's mouth to pay the Ferryman. Since Euthalia presided over the last rites, I'll presume that they did. So there's only a very small chance of something bad happening with the corpse.]


Returning to the others, the three dejected explorers break the news to the rest of the party. Thera pales visibly memory of the previous days events in that same chmaber still fresh in her mind. Had Shadowdancer and Ki Oman not warned her about touching anything.... the Paladin, immune to fear as she was, still feels a shudder pass along her spine. She very openly, and publicly, apologises to Shadowdancer and thanks the two scouts for saving her life. Shadowdancer nods,, accepts the apology and then loudly proclaimes that if any of the party want to leave the island alive they had best start listening to his advice. It is a very much more somber, more cautious party that presses onwards.

Continuing down the corridor, the party become aware of a strange clattering noise ahead. A wooden box with a strange funnel atop it, a syphon leading out and with a drain on the bottom leading to a pool of water sits astride the stream of water flowing downwards in the cave. After some examination, the party become dubious about putting anything in the funnel, suspecting the device to be some form of sausage maker powered by water. It is quickly deduced that the noise could be caused by something trapped in the mechanism. While Thoht and Alexis puzzle and argue over how to open the box, Alexis simply pries the nails off one side and opens the box to reveal a gem caught in the mechanism, along with a number of rotten fish parts which were thrown out of the box by centrifugal force to splatter all over her. While the rest of the party ponder how to safely remove the gem from the whirring mechanism, Shadowdancer simply rolls his eyes, moves over to the irrigation channel feeding water into the mechanism and moves it to one side. While Thoht and Ki Oman continued to argue over how to retrieve the gem, Shadowdancer is already reaching in to the box to retrieve the gem from the now stationary grinder.

The parties back-slapping lasts only a few moments however. Someone observes out that the grinder is now no longer making that loud clacking noise. Perhaps they had just been tricked into giving away their location.

[If only I was that devious. Still, that's an excellent suggestion to take on board for future dungeons. I tell you, player paranoia is my best resource when it comes to trap ideas].

They follow the passageway south, and come upon a strange chamber. Four cages made of ropey, green fungus hang from the ceiling. All are suspended from vines hanging from what appears to be a very large pod, similar to those encountered earlier, save for it's increased dimensions. A much larger water-powered grinding machine, this one large enough to cram a man down the funnel, dominates the centre of the room. Three of the cages appear to be occupied. One lies empty. Thoht and Shadowdancer examine the room with their elf-vision from just outside the entrance, noting as they did so another corridor to the east and one on just of to their right (on the same wall as their own entrance) where they can just glimpse some activity. However, it is the inhabitants of the cages that they focus their gazes upon.

The closest cage holds the lithe shape of a perfectly proportioned female human, lying in a sleeping posture with her head against the bars. Due to the strange glow permeating the room, they are unable to make out more than the basic outline of her body-heat back-lit against the colder texture of the fungal cage. The second holds a dwarf-shaped creature, the only one of the three evidently awake. Yet there is something distinctly odd about this dwarf. It's body temperature is painfully hot to the eyes. Neither elf-blood (though, no true blooded once-Shidhe like Shadowdancer would ever admit kinship with a half-human) like the way it bounces up and down, monkey-like in the cage. Reaching out to them, yet saying nothing. The third cage lies empty. In the fourth they can just make out the shape and body-heat of a large human- perhaps one as big as the mighty Boagris- hunched in slumber.

The two elves report their observations to their companions. Immediately, a loud argument ensues regarding whether to rescue these prisoners or simply press on. Fortunately, Ki Oman has the presence of mind to peek round the corner to observe events in the "activity"what was happening up the other corridor. The one in which Thoht and Shadowdancer had reported seing activity. With alarm, the Bard signals back that the corridor in questions ends in another pod-chamber, full of pods! And the pod-men inside who were already awake are opening up the other pods to rouse their fellows!

Just in time, the party arranges itself in four ranks to meet the charge, with every party member in the first two ranks armed with a spear, regardless of proficiency. Soundly winning initiative against the slow moving pods, every single spear-man with the exception of Andros and Thera are able to set to receive a charge. In a masterful display of phalanx tactics, Shadowdancer calls the timings for held actions and Ki Oman strategically chucks flaming oil. The party systematically mows down at least a rank of charging pod-men every round, before falling back to re-set spears and do the same thing all over again. It is a display to warm a Zaman Phalanxors stony-heart. The party of (mostly) first level characters and (mostly) novice player take down a dozen 3 hit dice creatures in just five rounds of combat without taking a single hit. In a near-perfect display of party tactics as well as the value of team-work and sound leadership, they completely destroy the foe in what was supposed to be a very difficult encounter.


[As a DM, it was a very proud moment given how many of my players that night were novices. This was proper old-school gaming. Player skill kicking the ass of much tougher monsters than the PC's themselves.]


Yet they do not pause to congratulate themselves. Displaying yet more common sense, the party simply ignores the plaintive cries of the (now awake and seemingly desperate) human-sized prisoners and the frantic jumping and hooting of the dwarf. Instead, they set a guard upon the passage they came down, another on the passage heading east, and send some scouts into the Pod Room to check for any foes still sleeping in pods.

Back in the cage-chamber, a detect magic spell from Xenos reveals that while the cages radiate strong abjuration magic, there occupants radiate no magic at all. A few of the groups weapons and items also radiate enchantment magic, but there are no surprises there. The creature in the ceiling pod and the dwarf however, both radiate strong transmutation magic -and this has the party understandably worried. Finally, the pod itself radiates necromantic magic. Odd, considering that the pods in the next room glow with transformation energies.

Only then do they decide to talk to the prisoners, heading towards the least threatening one first. A sixteen or seventeen year old human female, a young woman of dazzling beauty, raven-dark hair, and a lithesome figure in perfect proportions calls out for their attention. Ki Oman quickly begins to dazzle her with his charms, carrying on the true Bardic tradition of putting his claim in before anyone else. The girl introduces herself as "Merethena, daughter of Merethena, daughter of Semet. Grand-Niece to the Bull Headed King of Thyatis. may he roar his rage forever." She less dramatically introduces the other human prisoner as Bombatta, her bodyguard.

Menethena, when pressed, confirms that this Thyatis she speaks of is a city on this very Island. She adds that the city itself lies not far to the east. Putting aside their many questions about the island for the moment, Ki Oman and the other questioners focus on trying to find out as much about the caverns themselves as possible.

They learn that the two Thayatians had been imprisoned in the caverns for some time. The dwarf has been here even longer -and has not spoken or attempted to communicate with either human, save to throw excrement- since their arrival. They have marked time by the visits of the "mushroom creature", who has appeared seven times to lower the pod in the ceiling and feed whatever lies within. Hence they estimate they have been here a week. The occupant of the third cage, a second bodyguard, wounded and weak, has already been fed into the grinder. His liquified remains fed to the pod above. They had feared they were to be next.

After some experimentation, the party finds that only obsidian objects will cut the cage bars. All other substances simply bounce off. [Thoht, by chance, had made a point of acquiring some sharp pieces of obsidian during the trip to the caves in session IV]. However, as soon as the blade passes through, the fungal bars flex and glue themselves together once again, [rather like the magical slave chain in Star Dust, only with considerably less pleasant visuals]. Eventually, they hit upon the idea of using obsidian plugs to prevent regrowth of the bars. While it is a long process, working in two teams they eventually free first the girl, then Bombatta.

Upon being released from her cage, the scantily dressed girl (wearing little more leather straps, a scandalous appearance for any Mycenean woman, let alone a girl of noble or even royal birth) leaps straight into the arms of a somewhat smug Ki Oman. Hardly surprising really, given that of all her rescuers, he is not only the hunkiest - having not only decent physical stats, but dashing good looks, a rakish eyepatch, good breeding, education and a charisma that tops the Paladins- but also the one who did the most talking.

It is clear from Bombatta's, low, throaty growl that the bodyguard does not approve of this behaviour -and lays the blame firmly at the feet of Ki Oman. Upon stepping from his cage, the bodyguard nods respectfully to Boagris, but fails to conceal a superior sneer when he turns his gaze upon the other warriors present. Bombatta makes a point of introducing himself to Ki Oman. Even taking Ki Oman's wrist in a bone-crushing warriors clasp, before wrenching the Bard painfully into an embrace and whispering, "Touch her fool, and I'll tear out your balls and feed them to the Trogs". When he releases the bard from this bear hug, he is all smiles and good cheer. But his eyes -when directed upon Ki Oman- tell a different tale.

The party intriduces themselve, and while both the former prisoners try to hide it, a brief look of alarm passes between them when Euthalia introduces herself as a cleric of Hestia. Thera, perhaps wisely, fails to mention that she is a paladin of Meerax, due to their brief reaction.

As for the dwarf, he is left to hop around in his cage for the time being. For once, the party are all in agreement: there's something not right about that dwarf. And it could mean trouble.

[We ended the session there, with the assumption that the group returned to camp to clean themselves up and glean more intelligence about the island- and the Trog Caves themselves- in relative safety. At least two of the players -more familiar with my home-brew campaign setting than the others- have their theories about the identity of these two characters. Or, at least, their cultural background. A few have also noticed details about their appearance and behaviour that the other PC's have not. Will they be able to put 2 and 2 together? Who knows? But I for one am very much looking forward to tomorrow nights session and the party's little chat with the prisoners.]
 

Calavingian

Retired User
That's it. Hope you're enjoying the story so far. We just finished session six tonight. I hope to have the session report up in a few days. Next game after that is a week on friday.
 

Calavingian

Retired User
Session VII: Time of the Trogs.

Character Roster:

Exploring the Caves (players present):


Ailil Shadowdancer: Elf Male Assassin/Illusionist 2/1. Played by Ridh
Andros: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 2. Played by Aimee
Boagris: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 2. Played by Silv.
Euthalia: Human (Mycenean) Female Cleric 1. Played by Caroline
Kalias: Human (Mycenean) Male Cleric 1. Played by Elle
Ki Oman: Human (Zaman) Male Dual Class Assassin 1/Bard 1. Played by Ali
Thanatos: Human (Mycenean) Male Assassin 2. Played by Fiona
Thera: Human(Mycenean) Female Paladin 1. Played by Niall
Xenos: Human (Mycenean) Fighter/magic User 1/1. Played by Leoni.

Guarding the Camp (absent player and NPCs):

Alexis: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Larraitz
Friendly: Troglodyte Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Caroline
Surly: Troglodyte Guide.NPC. Temporarily played by Niall
Third: Trog Guide. NPC. Temporarily played by Rhidh
Thot: Half-Elf Male Magic User/Cleric 1/1. Played by Rob

Temple of Meerax, Garrison (absent players and NPCs):
Antipater: Human (Mycenean) Ship's Master. NPC.
Kallisto: Human (Mycenean) Female Fighter 1. Played by Jackie
Minerva: Human (Mycenean) Female 0 level Priestess of Heastia. NPC
Peliakos: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Played by Coakley
Sparios: Human (Mycenean) Male Fighter 1. Spare Character.

Dead:
Glykeria: Human (Mycenean) Female Illusionist 1. Played by Elle

Taking Menithera and Bombatta with them, the party return to their camp by the pool. The two former-prisoners quickly take the chance to rest. Kalias -a previously unconscious Cleric of Dion and his Trog guide arrive from the Temple later that day with reports of heavy fighting between the Trogs and Gray Demons. Kalias brings with him word from Minerva that, if the party do not clear the caves quickly, she may have no choice but to let the Trogs join her in the Temple. After a brief slumber, the exhausted Kalias quickly joins the prisoner in slumber. Though many daylight hours remain, the party chooses to rest overnight to recover spells and prayers.

During the night, several of the characters have some trouble sleeping, in part because they have suffered their first fatality, passing the time in conversation.

[The conversations in question took place on facebook. Caroline sent me a transcript which I edited, removing the worst anachronisms, and altering a few paragraphs to cut out meta-gaming and very small section of God-modeing. Because of this impromptu RP session I learned that several of the players were having a hard time grasping the difference between player knowledge, in-character knowledge and player skill. I was naturally quite happy about this, as I'd rather not have to explain complicated subjects when we're sitting at the table. Unfortunately, the transcript of the facebook session is on my desktop PC, which is currently away for repairs. I'll have to post it later.]

In the morning, Alexis and Thoht volunteer to stay behind and keep an eye on the camp – not to mention the three Trog guides and their two prisoners. Before departing though, Thanatos summons the group together. The assassin apologies for his previous behaviour, explaining to the group that he is slow to trust and asking their forgiveness. He then goes on to explain that he has a secret to share, in order to prove his sincerity to the group and in the hope that they will then trust him. With that, the assassin unties the knot holding his long hair in place, shakes it loose and, removing a few outer layers of clothing, nervously reveals that he is, in fact, a she. The reaction is perhaps, not what she was expecting. Far from being outraged by the deception, as most Myceneans (with their strict gender roles would be) the citizens of Mysos are instead somewhat confused. Why would she hide her gender when there are armed women -including professional warriors- among the group? Taking on a masculine role is no shame in the city founded by Dion. Instead, Thanatos is solemnly thanked by Euthalia and one or two others for her gesture of trust, and welcomed into the group as a “sister” rather than a brother.

Needless to say, the young woman looks somewhat relieved at her reception. Only Bombatta offers negative comment, claiming that she is just as “disgusting” as the other “mad-women” in the group who bear arms. This attitude is not, perhaps, surprising given Merithena's somewhat sparse “attire” and the bodyguards earlier refusal to let “that thing”, Shadowdancer, speak with him. The Thyatian's comment is simply ignored. However, his speech does give the group the opening they were waiting for.

The first question asked is, unsurprisingly enough, whether the extremely capable looking Bombatta will accompany the group on their foray. Bombatta's contemptuous snort might seem answer enough, but he goes on to add that “Where she [meaning Merithena] goes, I go. And since I clearly cannot permit her to enter the cave, neither can I.”

A few of the characters wonder at the bodyguard's word-choice. He certainly does not seem to speak of Merithena (who some party-members have taken to calling, “the Princess”) in a manner befitting her rank. To Mycenean ears at least. Nor does he present himself as being subordinate to her in any way despite being her bodyguard. Even more surprising, perhaps, is that Merithena seems to regard this behavior as perfectly normal. Bombatta continues to answer most of the groups questions even, on one occasion, cutting off his charge mid-sentence. Regardless, few of the questions they ask result in useful answers, though they do clean the following information.

The Bull-Headed King rules over the city of Thyatis

The city lies perhaps two days to the east, going by Bombatta's asessment
of their present location and based on landmarks the PC's can provide.

Merithena and her party were ambushed. One moment they were walking, they next
they collapsed. Several guards were absent when they awoke in the cages. Only
one other bodyguard was present, and he was first fed into the grinder in their
prison before being fed to the creature in the cage-room pod.

Bombatta describes the skull-in-flames tattoo he wears on both wrists as his
“badge of rank.”


Perhaps strangely, neither former-prisoner seems at all interested in finding out more about the group or it's members. They almost seem irrelevant in the eyes of the Thyatians.

Leaving camp, the group travel quickly to the second waterfall. Once again Ki Oman carefully descends the chute (climbing rather than sliding), and smiles contemptuously at the trap he finds in the chamber below: a series of spears hammered into a wooden plank angled to skewer anyone sliding down the chute.

Ki Oman: It's safe to come down... only kidding! Permit me one moment.

Still chuckling to himself, Ki Oman (the same Ki Oman who keeps warning people about touching strange or suspicious objects in a dungeon, the same Ki Oman who saw what happened to Gykeria just a day before, the same Ki Oman who discarded his gloves from fear of accidentally poisoning himself with contaminated blood afterwards, this same Ki Oman) reaches out his hand and attempts to move the spear trap.

Some time later, having heard nothing from below, the party members hiss a question down the chute to Ki Oman, Not receiving an answer, Euthalia, and Andros decide to risk climbing down the chute to investigate. Meanwhile Thera peers over the waterfall, looking for any signs of Ki Oman, but can't see him or the chute exit because of an overhanging slip of rock. However, despite Andros volunteering to go down first, Euthalia the only cleric, concerned that Ki Oman might need healing, insists on going first. Euthalia effortlessly manages to control her descent down the chute, and climbs out in time to see a clearly paralysed Ki Oman poised over the spear-trap, one hand touching the wood, his eyes (or rather, eye) being the only part of him still moving. Just as she is about to call the news back up the chute, Andros slips, careers downward, and knocks both herself and and the cleric onto the spears.

Luckily, both of them are just nicked, but Andros succumbs to the paralysis poison coating the spears. Euthalia meanwhile, hisses a warning about the trap back up the chute and, drawing Andros' sword, she first pulls Andros off the spear-frame and then tries to lever it aside with her borrowed blade.

That's when Thera (watching from above) realizes they are not alone.

Thera: Euthalia, look out!

[Wandering Monster time]

Though not in a position to witness events in the vicinity of the spear-trap, from her perch looking out over the water-fall Thera is able to discern the fungoid shape lunging towards the clerics unprotected back. Wasting no time the Paladin flings her spear at the pod-man. It's a long throw, with a bad angle, but the spear nearly strikes true. However, it merely grazes the lurching pod man on the shoulder, but it's enough to buy Euthalia some warning. The pod-man's flailing limbs manage to wound the cleric, but only slightly, yet the pod man captures the clerics shoulder in a vice-like grasp.

Above, Thanatos tries to distract the thing with a thrown rock, knowing that blunt weapons will not harm it. Meanwhile, Boagris, with a similar idea, hefts his spear into the melee and again manages to find the wrong target. His spear arcs across Euthalia's back, tearing a wound that leaves her screaming and open to the pod-man's next attack. Meanwhile, Shadowdancer slides gracefully down the shaft, rolling aside at the last possible moment to avoid impaling himself. Once in the chamber beneath the waterfall, he draws his weapons, ready to attack. Xenos unleashes a magic missile (the first of three she cast's during the encounter) at the pod-man, blasting a chunk from it's shoulder.

Euthalia, already badly wounded by Boagris' throw, goes down under a pummelling from the pod-man.

The plant is pelted with javelins, rocks and a magic-missile thereafter. Shadow-dancer triumphantly throws his coat over the beasts head. Above, Kalias, not paying a great deal of attention to his surroundings while he prays, casts a light spell on the seemingly already blinded pod-man, decides to cast light on the beast, both in the hope of blinding it and to provide better illumination for the party's missile attacks. A bright ball of light appears above the things head. Right. Next. To. Shadowdancer.

Shadow-dancer (using his elven vision): AAAAAARRRRRHHHHHH!

[Elle's new character gets off to a less than sterling start by blinding the only conscious/non-paralysed PC in melee range of the monster]

While Shadow-dancer desperately fends off blows from the (clearly not in the least bit cloak-or-light-blinded) pod-man with his spear, Thera, seeing his danger, leaps down the chute after him. The Paladin misjudges her roll terribly, impaling her arm on the spikes. Fortunately, she manages to avoid succumbing to the numbness spreading across her limbs and hauls herself painfully off the sharp wooden points. Boagris, perhaps hoping to atone for his earlier mistake, leaps after the paladin, using his bronze meat-hook to control his descent. He therefore arrives safely just as Xenos' last magic missile strikes home. Meanwhile, Thanatos, eagerly trying to climb down the waterfall into back-stab position, slips and falls from the overhang, landing on the spikes and poisoning herself. Thera's blows distract the fungoid long enough to draw it's attention from Shadowdancer, but she takes more wounds in the process. Finally, completely out of spells and desperate, Xenos throws her bolas into the melee. Fortunately, she hits the pod-man, not Thera, but as the podman falls it pulls Thera down on top of it. Seeing the pod-man rendered immobile, Kalias leaps down the chute, dodges aside at the correct moment, and moves towards Euthalia with the intent of healing the downed cleric.

With Thera and the pod-man rolling about the cavern floor, no-one else is able to get a clear shot. Thera's attempts to slay the thing with her dagger are hindered by it's grip on her. With a solid punch to the temple, the pod-man lays the Paladin out and attempts to throw her off.

At this Boagris lunges forward, hauling Thera to one-side. Between them, Boagris and the half-blind Shadow-dancer manage to finish the wounded, hobbled andprone pod-man, but despite it's grievous situation it does not go down without a fight.

Panting heavily, the two heroes look about them with some degree of astonishment at the havoc wrecked by just one such creature. A creature not so different from they twelve the group tore through not a day before. That one alone could work so much carnage.....

Thera and Euthalia were down and near-death, though being tended by Kalias. Thanatos was not only wounded, but Paralysed. As were Andros and Ki Oman. Five of the group -fully one-half of their number- brought down in a single encounter!

The decision was unanimous – retreat to the surface to rethink, and re-group. They party set about rigging a harness to lift the wounded up the face of the waterfall, using shields, moss and cloaks to soften any impacts with the sheer walls on the way up. Shadowdancer stood guard and tested a theory, peering through the cloak with his elf-vision, he could see the heat-shapes of his companions clearly. He announced his suspicions to the group but failed to consider that, while the light spell had blinded him, it had not affected the pod-man at all.

By the means already described, the group has just finished hauling Thera and Euthalia to the top of the waterfall when Ki Oman finally regains control over his body. Just as they finish rigging Andros into the make-shift harness, Thanatos spasms slightly. She has regained enough control over her numbed body to call a warning. From her prone position with ear pressed to the groun, she has heard the noise of skittering insect movements when -thanks to the roaring waterfall- no-one else can. The party -at least, those of them still below- mobilise themselves to face the threat. A number of centipedes, each as long as a man's forearm, come scuttling over the moss-carpet coating the cavern floor. With ease, the creatures are soon dispatched, one being splatted by a well aimed and hefty throw from Xenos. The former-slaver's driftwood stick claimed another insect victim, earning the make-shift weapon the newly-appointed title of the “Verminator”.

[At least once in every session where Xenos has been present, the slaver, once out of spells and other options -including his bolas- has managed to kill something -usually vermin- with that damn lump of wood. It's become something of a legend, that stick. One or two of the party members have even demanded -half-seriously- that someone cast detect magic on the thing. For my part, I'm tempted to have it spontaneously develop magical anti-vermin properties. At least, its record of killing vermin holds up for a few more sessions]

Back at camp, Thera and Euthalia are made as comfortable as possible. Though healing -magical and mundane- has saved their lives, it will take some days for either to recover fully from their wounds. Solemnly, the group -with the exception of the three Trog guides, Bombatta and Merithena- discuss their remaining options.

Some voices, Thanatos and Ki's among them- call for simply abandoning the Trogs, the Caves, and the Temple altogether and making for the City. Others- Shadow-dancer for example- argue against this course, observing that they have no guarantee of the reception they will find their. Others are against abandoning their word. Kalias observes that the wounded from the Temple would never be able to make the trip. In the end, there choice is clear. They'll have to continue, but in order to do so they must demand that the Trog guides come and help.

Meanwhile, the three Trogs, Surly (roleplayed by Niall), Friendly (roleplayed by Caroline) and Third (roleplayed by Shadowdancer) have been having a powwow amongst themselves.

Third: The Grey Demons press us harder every day. We cannot tolerate any more delays.

Surly: It seems not. These human food-things do not seem as competent as they first did. Perhaps the old one was wrong. If the Grey Demons press so hard, why does the Old One not simply demand shelter in their stone house?

Third: The stupid man-things left without giving the old one any teeth.

[Collective exclamations -or rather, hisses- of disbelief from Surly and Friendly.]

Friendly: The fools. Perhaps they really are worthless as anything but food-things after all?

Surly: If they are, then it seems we cannot rely on them. [To Third] Go back to the Old One. Tell him we are taking the man-food into the Home. Make sure the one that smells most like food – the thing with one-eye, gives you his teeth to take to the Old One.

Friendly: Hssssss. They are looking at us.

Third: Yes. Hush. The Big Tasty One (Boagris) seems to be trying to speak to us.

Surly: How do you know he is not making a mating call?

Third: If you were attempting to attract a mate for spawning, would you wear the skin of your kin on your back?

Friendly: Point taken,

Boagris utterly fails to make himself understood, but when the three Trogs attempt to indicate that two of them will being go into the caves, the party quickly grasp the point. The third Trog, “Third”, the one who brought Kalias back to camp, stalks up to Ki, grasps his jaw with a clawed hand, forces it open and clacks a claw against Ki's teeth. Taking the hint, Ki Oman hands over the bag of teeth. Third quickly disappears into the rocks, his passage marked by the noise of skittering claws tapping against rock, while he runs back to his people.

Surly leads the PC's -minus Thera, Euthalia, Thoht and Alexis- back into the caves. Friendly takes up the rear to make sure none of the stupid man-things tries to sneak away. They quickly try to lead the group down the southern passage, but the man-things insist on heading towards the blue goo chamber first.

Friendly: What could they possibly want with the spawning pool, anyway?

Surly: Outrageous, this is no time for mating!

The two Trogs watch in perplexed disgust while the fleshier party members dip various items into the sacred spawning pool. They don't attempt to stop them however. Perhaps it's some form of odd fleshy battle-ritual?

Tongues hanging out, mouths open, the two Trogs shake their heads in disgust and lead them towards the main habitation areas of the Cave-complex. They continue down the southern corridor, and pause at the Cage room.

Friendly: Why have they left the short fleshy-thing in the fungus cage to rot?

Surly: Perhaps they intend to eat him later?

As they continue, the two Trogs are careful not to come into contact with any of the (to them) foul-smelling pod-man remains. They have no intention of being infected by the Black-Death that strips them of their scales and eats them alive from the inside out.

After a few more tunnels, they party reaches a series of chambers carved from the living rock, with regular floors and walls, albeit with the non-familiar coating of fungus, moss and lichens. The tails of the two Trogs twitch irritably and they seem to have a hard time controlling their excretions of fear-scent. Still, they lead the party onwards.

In the first of the carved rooms, the party encounters three bubbling vats atop burning braziers, a work-bench and a number of papers. One of the vats reeks greatly of what the Trogs think of as the Black-Death, they avoid it, preventing the humans from exploring the room. Covering their snouts with their tails as they pass it at as great a distance as the geography will allow, the Trogs lead the party onwards. In another chamber they encounter what can only be described as a study or library. The Trogs seem to become more agitated with every new room. Clearly, they do not like what the fungoids have done with the place. They also uncover another pod-room, similar to the one they cleared the day before but perhaps larger. Cautiously, they return back the way they came and enter another chamber.

And come face-to-face with the Sinister Shroom itself.
 
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