Session Three Synopsis:
A good saving throw,
saved quite a bit of gold;
evil is loyal.
jumping is so dangerous.
Returning to town.
After four sessions, it was time for some of the PC's to reach level 2. The thief, due to the experience tables, actually had enough experience to reach level 3, but declined to level. He decided to wait until he was in great honor. They spent some time leveling in town and organizing their funds with the quartermaster.
During the downtime Spiritspyre told me that he was making some signs and posting them between the docks and the settlement. Signs containing text such as "Your god doesn't live here" and "Your kind aren't welcome" and "Every one of you that has come here has died". He made 28 signs. Each individual one with it's own honor penalty upon discovery.
So, that bit of excitement handled, they returned to the dungeon underneath the petrified tree. They entered and returned to a locked door in a pool room. They couldn't pick the lock open, so they began kicking it open. Once opened, the thief was immediately grabbed up by the head of a gargantuan tunnel centipede. It automatically surprised them, having been aware of them since they started kicking the door. The centipede crushed him and his armor, doing quite a bit of damage to the armor, until they managed to do enough damage to it to cause it to retreat down it's hole.
After a bit of discussion they decided not to head down the centipede hole. I don't know why they decided this, I certainly wouldn't mind having it bite their heads off. They left well enough alone.
After the centipede room they found a room filled with long-tailed silver slashers. They rolled for surprise, and ended up with six segments of surprise. Each segment of surprise allows characters to make full rounds of attacks. Predictably they managed to massacre the lot of them. If any had survived, they (most likely) would not have made their morale check. There was well over 200 hit points of creatures in that room, but with every hit past half hit points forcing a threshold of pain check, they were able to down the entire room in six segments.
Searching the room they found that it long ago was some sort of entrance chamber. They found a bit of treasure, took the pelts, and moved on.
They headed south where they missed a secret door in a room with a font. Sometimes these things happen. It was not the first, nor will it be the last thing they missed. It's very much a challenge for me to act in a neutral way so that they don't know that something is there.
They moved south and to the east. They encountered a room with a book on a pedestal, and two dead bodies on the floor. One of the bodies was the "halfling" thief they were looking for. The other was one of the players new henchmen, at -1 hit points from the poison darts that fire from the walls to anyone disturbing the book.
Grigori the gypsy thief's first response? "I throw daggers at the bodies." In his defense, they had run into an awful lot of zombies, who are particularly fond of this tactic. Luckily he critically missed. He is quite good at critically missing - as I've mentioned before, on the first night he fumbled more then anyone's total in the last fifteen month long campaign.
Zeltara, the elven gladiator beastmaster randomly gives the order for the torchbearer to move back. This is interesting because as a gladiator, Zeltara's social class is slave class. So Aroldo who had wised up to why his honor kept dropping, laid into Zeltara yelling at the torchbearer to move back up and berating Zeltara for ordering him back. Grigori had been in the dark when the torchbearer retreated, and he spent some time bemoaning the fact that humans didn't have infravision.
Zeltara informed the party that one of the bodies was still radiating heat, and they pulled him out of the room, and healed him. They they retrieved the book using an unseen servant. That lead to this conversation.
Aroldo: "What's the worst thing that can happen when you look through a book? How likely is it to be trapped?
Player of Spiritspyre: "In our last game, we built a building several hundred yards away from the fortress for the express purpose of opening spellbooks."
Me: "Well, wizards usually trap their spellbooks. Common traps including exploding runes, symbols of pain, blindness and death, and possibly summoning of demons and monsters"
So they haven't looked at the book yet.
Finishing that, they headed in the other direction and found a hallway with two statues of winged Gorn at the end. When they approached the statues turned in their direction. Suspecting Gargoyles they continued to approach. Then, with little warning they engaged. The gargoyles began to attack the party members, doing a bit of damage. The party members struck back uselessly. None of the players had the requisite +1 or better weapons to hit.
One of my players mentioned that they couldn't win that battle unless they "got lucky". Knowing most of his experience was with 3.5, I pointed out that if they didn't have a +1 or better weapon, it didn't matter how much damage they did, the Gargoyles were immune.
They headed back to the staircase near where they entered. They headed down and found an empty room. While searching for secret doors they didn't find, some Ghouls wandered in. After checking for neither party being surprised, one of the players said "How many?"
*clatter clatter* as I toss the 2d12's.
"Eighteen," I say. Everyone groans. There was a moment of "Oh god we're all going to die" panic, until it was noted that Grigori and Zeltara were specifically checking the hallway for doors, and Zeltara being an elf was immune to the paralysis of the Ghouls.
They fought the ghouls for a long time. After a few rounds, Zeltara, holding off the entire force, began to make fatigue checks. He failed one after the other and accumulated more and more penalties. Even though I was not rolling well and the ghouls were doing low damage, things did get pretty dangerous near the end. Zeltara took a very serious critical to his arm before the fight ended. But being able to corral the ghouls allowed them to win the fight handily.
After failing to find any secret doors down the stairs, they returned to town and we ended for the evening. One of my favorite things about Hackmaster (or 1st edition) is that even though we started an hour late, and they spent two hours in town leveling up, they still managed to have three major combats and explore nearly a dozen rooms.