Session 4 Synopsis:
They gained levels.
Boarman made 28 signs,
so bad for honor.
Surprise! Lots of dead Foxes.
Gargoyles hard to hurt.
Ghouls made them tired.
Nothing else they can find here.
Let's go home and rest.
So we tried to get as much out of the way before the game as possible, but that didn't work out so well. We spent the first couple of hours focused on a few things. The thief had accumulated too much experience, so he auto-leveled. This is both good and bad. He doesn't get to roll for leveling, so he receives no bonus skill points or skills; but on the plus side, he didn't have to pay 2000 gold for leveling.
Several of the henchmen had accumulated enough experience points to actually level up to level 1 as full, real classes (instead of 0-level man-at-arms). So they spent thirty minutes or so interviewing each of them to make sure they wouldn't get stabbed in the back. I don't really know how much information they actually got from the interviews. I had good reasons each one was stuck in a strange foreign land that I had prepared ahead of time, but I got the impression that the players might have thought I was making it up on the spot. So I think they probably could have quizzed the henchmen a lot harder. Just means more surprises for the future.
They divvied up the henchmen. Smoke, a religious warrior devoted to the eradication of snake-men, Gwendolyn some sort of bandit (who they are pretty sure likes poison), and Kalen, a fairly intelligent warrior, who's really not at fault for that whole 'accosting the duke's daughter' thing. He's also something of a linguist. (You could say he's a cunning - no, nevermind.)
They've also gotten access to some magic detection, and have discovered that there is a lot of ambient magical energy in this land (which they have yet to name) which will collect in certain items. So if you wear a ring and say, cast a lot of spells, after enough time, it might spontaneously enchant itself. Then again, maybe not.
So paperwork done, they leave town. I had been looking forward to this all week. This is possibly one of my favorite moments as a Dungeon Master of a game. They can leave town, and go anywhere, and do anything. I've left dozens of hooks so far (treasure maps, strange Boarman city, strange bears in the southern swamp, differing terrains, a land filled with adventure!) and there is no telling where they go. Sadly, I have a very intelligence and efficient group of people who have years of experience at this sort of thing. So they rarely do anything stupid (and therefore interesting).
They decide to investigate a small shrine to the north, since they can see it from town. And if they can see it and don't know what it is, that means danger! I think that's the reasoning anyway. They walk towards the shore and discover a small shrine from some ancient race devoted to the gods of the sea and the dawn. They examine the altar, and see three new runic symbols in a language they don't know, over pictures of three very different types of dinosaur creature. They also find a hard-packed earthen path towards a cave shaped like a dinosaur head about half a mile to the west.
They follow the path to the cave and find a large entrance, into a very dark cave. (Zeltara said, "You mean my drake can go in!?"). The cave has a giant head shaped like a dinosaur nearly 150 feet high. The cave is huge, and when they enter, they find the interior has been worked floor to ceiling in a pattern of square and rectangular bricks.
While exploring the first chamber, they get attacked by the two large Gutwaller serpents lairing in the cave. As with any encounter we roll for surprise. Go my team, I win surprise! After checking for surprise, I roll for encounter distance, and discover it's maximum (30'). Sadly, they will have to spend nearly all of the surprise time moving towards the party. One does manage to constrict the drake doing a d6 or so of damage.
I was looking forward to murder, and it turned into meh. Doesn't matter, I thought, I'll get them next round. Zeltara's Drake takes his turn. Oh, hey you hit with both claws and a critical to the chest of the snake. Snake bits go flying everywhere. What do all the rest of the warriors and the archers do? Nail the only target left.
I don't feel to bad. First, there are now seven leveled characters in the party. Versus two snakes (huge and large though they may be) it's no contest really. Second, there are some Snakemen in the next room who have a 15% chance to hear the party if they are being quiet versus making an exceptional amount of noise. I roll and get. . . a 15%.
So they are standing around going, Do we cut up the snake? You should make a snake helmet for your drake? How much does the Snake weigh? Spiritspyre, the Boar-man cleric did not fuck around and immediately cut open the stomachs to check for valuables. (I told you they are an experienced group).
And in come running the Snakemen. A fight ensues, only notable for the fact that Grigori hypnotized one of the men to surrender. He ran. and another failed his morale check. The drake paralyzed with his breath, and the party sliced and diced. After the combat, they ran into their first problem with their new henchmen. Smoke has an enmity towards Snakemen, a holy mission to eliminate them wherever they were found. He also has a little flaw from the Zealot's guide called "Death Wish".
He suggested that they had ten minutes to get their shit together before he chased down the last two Snakemen by himself. Considering they just paid 1000 gold so that he could level to 1, not to mention taking him along and letting him pull all those ep's, they sort of have an investment in their man. Besides, Smoke is a righteous dude. Of course, now that they know his lack of fear was due to a Death Wish. . .
They follow through two open double doors and into a hallway, where they see six Snakemen led by a man who appears normal - except for his four foot long flexible torso! Then Grigori's nose started to bleed. Yes, Yuan-Ti are often psionic. I'd never run a psionic combat before. I was looking foward to melting Grigori's brain.
See my other post about psionics for more information. Having run this battle, I can see that there are some flaws in the 1e psionics system. There are some needlessly complicated bits. (You track attack and defense, and have to recalculate them every segment - not hard, but a little confusing. Also, if you are at medium range, you do 20% less damage. Seriously. Calculate 80% of whatever the result is on the table.) Also, it is true, that there isn't enough variation in damages to matter - unless the power point totals are very close the person with the higher Power Points wins. Expect a revised 1st edition conflict .pdf later this week.
When they saw Grigori start to suffer, they directed their attacks at the strange human.
Things were going badly. Four segments passed. Grigori's power total dropped lower and lower. The archers shot, hitting him once, buying Grigori a reprieve, but the next segment he continued getting pounded psychically. His defenses were down and the last of his attack power was blasted away. The excess psychic energy began tearing at his brain and synapses for 11 real points of damage. One or two more rounds and we'd have a dead Grigori.
Finally the wizard got his spell components ready and flung a bolt of acid that the grinning Yuan-Ti.
He rolled a three.
Digging for a coupon, he presented it. "You may receive one free mulligan". Groans were heard around the table, certain I was going to play one of my own and perhaps give everyone a +4 to hit and damage, or prehaps allow everyone to critical on a 16-20. He picked up the die and rolled it again. As it flew into the air, I was heard to say "Are you sure, you're wizard and he's got a pretty low-"
Good show Venti, good show.
You know what's difficult? Trying to have psychic combat while acid is burning your skin. Ask Ka-Jii, my soon to be dead Yuan-ti. So finally Grigori is free of psychic combat and he says, "I'm going to run over there and attack and run back and-"
"All in the last three segments of the turn?"
Not only did psychic combat turn up the speed (10 attacks in a round) but he had trouble dropping back into normal time with the rest of the party. . .
Trying to ensure he wouldn't recover enough to finish the job, Grigori rushed up and flung a dagger and vial of acid (a very expensive vial of acid) at his opponent. The vial hit him square in the chest, so it was time to roll it's save versus crushing blow. He picked up the die and rolled.
The vial bounced off his chest and landed on the ground. (mind you, it would have broken on any number between 1-18). He rolled a save for landing on the ground, and that save it failed. It was enough.The acid splash damage killed him to death with melting.
The managed to finish off the rest of the Snakemen easily enough. Grigori was bitten by one, but then he managed to critical it in the chest, stabbing it in the liver and causing internal bleeding. It was going to bite him again, but it died at his feet. But not before he failed his save versus poison. I wonder what will happen?
We ended for the night as they finished off the last of them.