Tuesday, March 27, 2012

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 7

Eleven people stared at each other around the campfire, eyes darting back and forth to each other, looks of confusion glazing their faces. Beyond the perimeter of light cast by the fire the rest of the king's army slept peacefully.

Sister Carlotta sighed and collapsed to sit on a fallen log pulled up by the fire, "So, does anyone know what's going on?"

"Well, last time I checked you, Tristram, Sir Robert, and Brother Justice were dead. Brother J got thrown off a tower by a spellcasting lion. Tristram had his bones picked clean by cockroaches. And you and Robert fell into a pit and got eaten by a grue." Aidan the Herald piped up.

"Yet, clearly we are not dead." Brother Justice turned to Sir Fallon. "And you're certain that we've been bewitched?"

"Yeah, all of us. The whole campsite reeks of witchcraft, and I'm also detecting several curses."

"Could it all have been an induced Nightmare?"

Sir Willem rubbed his eyes. "I'm too tired for this sh*t. Even if it was just a dream I feel like I've been fighting for days. Now it looks like we have to go back to that f*cking prison tomorrow morning and do it all over again..."

Sir Reginald shook his head, "If we dreamed it all we might find something completely different in there..."

"Enough of this! I'm not letting that witch mess with our heads any more. Hold still this won't hurt much..." Sir Fallon walked up to Sir Reginald and punched him in the face.

Sir Fallon woke up in a cold sweat. The combined smells of blood, woodsmoke, rotting flesh, and witchcraft immediately assaulting his sensitive nose. Eyes still closed his hand slowly reached for his axe. Once the weapon was firmly in hand he opened his eyes and looked around. He was in his tent. It was night. In the distance he heard the "All clear!" call of night watchmen changing shifts.

He crept out of his tent and looked around. They were in the keep. He noted the tents of his six friends, the slightly bulged tarp on the ground covering the bodies of Robert, Tristram, Justice, and Sister Carlotta, and Sir Reginald sitting by the fire clutching his eye. "You okay?"

Sir Reginald pulled his hand away to reveal a black eye. "What'd you hit me for?"

"Haven't you studied basic spellcraft? Dream manipulation is a form of Illusion. Mitra has blessed me with the ability to remove such effects, but only if I have a foe to strike. You just happened to be the nearest of us...and I remembered that we had been sharing a tent."

"So we dreamed all of that? Bloody hell!" Sir Reginald clutched at his swollen eye, "You killed that lion, right? How is he still messing with us all?"

"Yes, and no." Sir Fallon pointed at the sky. "See that star...it fell at dusk, but has returned. That must be the lion's star. Something brought it back."

"F*cking witches! So something raised the lion and now its going to f*ck with our dreams..." Sir Reginald walked to the other tents. "I'm going to wake the others and make sure they're okay."

Sir Reginald woke everyone and checked to make sure their four fallen friends were still corpses. The seven friends then spent the rest of the night sitting around the fire. Not much was said, but no one slept.

When the trumpeters announced the arrival of the king and his army come morning our heroes were quite tired. They lined up to meet the royal commanders in front of the gatehouse, dark circles beneath their eyes and each stoically ignoring the aches of combat and the throbbing of their remaining wounds. The king and his commanders listened patiently as the party explained the situation at the prison, the hordes of undead plaguing the place, the lion-witch, the corrupt garrison sergeant, and their troubling dreams from the night before.

King Markadian IV nodded sagely, "Our diviners have already been searching for the escaped prisoners and have come up with nothing. Every indication is that they have vanished off the face of Tel-Avi or else have some powerful magic concealing them even from the Eyes of Mitra. They will continue searching but we may have to simply wait until they show themselves. We will send proclamation to all of the hunters that they are at large."
"In the meantime, Sir Reginald, we are giving the command of this prison to you and your companions. Sufficient troops to re-garrison the keep will be left under your command. We will return to court and begin searching for a suitable replacement to serve as Warden. It is our wish that you remain here and bring this prison back up to our standards before the escapees are found. Use whatever resources you need to repair and re-fortify the walls and keep."

"My lord," Sir Fallon stepped forward, "I cannot just sit by knowing that there are such dangerous criminals at large. Please, give us leave to go and track down these miscreants."

"No, good Sir. By your own words you have admitted that you are vulnerable to the influence of these witches and we cannot have you wasting time searching the countryside for that which even Mitra cannot see. When we know something more we will see that you are all returned to active service. For now, we need this prison repaired and ready to take on new prisoners." The king's tone was final. Sir Fallon nodded and returned to line with the others.

"As soon as a new warden has been selected you will be relieved. For now, you all have your orders. You are dismissed..."

A Week in the Life of a Witch Hunter: Session 6

The party awoke in the night to the sound of the nuns, Sister Carlotta and Sister Eloquence screaming, their piteous cries filling the dark halls of the keep. Just below their screams could be heard chanting, three deep sonorous voices intoning words unfit for mortal ears.

Aidan the Herald and Sir Ainsley rushed down the corridor, stumbling over the rotting and still slightly animate corpses of the prison's guards. "What the f*ck!" Aidan exclaimed, "How did they get both girls?"

"Nevermind that," said Ainsley, "I thought Carlotta was dead. Was the whole thing some f*cked up dream?! Mitra save us, where are the others." They rushed on, kicking bodies aside. Around the next corner they plowed headlong into Tristram, the three tumbling into a heap. "Tristram?! I thought you were dead too." The Lion, as he was called, did not respond, but mearly raised his head, revealing the bloody and empty sockets of his eyes and the blazing pentagram branded into his forehead. The thing that had been Tristram lashed out at his two companions with a sword already slick with blood.

Aidan parried Tristram's blows then dove to the ground as Aisley let lose a gout of flame from his gun. Tristram's pained cries overwhelmed all other sound save the shrill screaming of the nuns as his bodied toppled in a burning heap. "WHAT...THE...F*CK!" Aidan reiterated.

The knights, Sir Fallon, Sir Reginald, Sir Willem, and Sir Robert strained mightily against their chains but they wouldn't budge. Just outside of the cell they could hear Aidan's cursing and the screams of the women.

"How did we get here?" Sir Willem inquired of the others. "The last thing I remember we had just cleared the keep..."
"Witchcraft!" Sir Fallon insisted, "I can feel it everywhere. They must have taken us in the night while we slept."
"But those screams, they sound like Sister Carlotta..." Sir Robert shook his head. "Didn't she die?"
"What about you? I watched you die with my own eyes..." Sir Fallon glared at the paladin. "You reek of witchcraft as well. Another illusion sent to torment us? Another undead beast in disguise put here to catch us unawares?"
"No, its me, I swear it in Mitra's name."

Outside the chanting grew louder, another voice chiming in with the three. Ainsley, hearing his friends voices from inside the cell blew the lock off and rushed in. "Aidan, looks like the whole gang's here..."
"Aside from the ones that turned into undead horrors you mean?" Aidan stepped gingerly into the cell behind him. "Where is Squire Filth?"
"Who?" Sir Reginald gave the herald a quizzical look.
"The dwarf. He came here with you last night."
"Oh...I haven't seen him. Maybe he's in another cell. How did you two get free?"
"What do you mean free?" Ainsley interjected. "We woke up in our tents to screaming. When we came out everyone else was gone. It was like the whole army just vanished. We came to find the girls and instead we find you all trapped in a cell and Tristram's corpse standing guard."

"Speaking of corpses..." Fallon nodded his head towards Sir Robert, "I saw him die and he smells like a bloody witch. Get me out of these chains so I can deal with it..." Aidan looked at Sir Fallon, nodded and began picking the lock on his chains.
"No, I swear. How can you think I was dead?" Sir Robert looked to each of his friends, "We were just together last night. We killed the witch-lion. I was injured. Sister Eloquence nursed me back to health..."
Aidan shook his head. "He's clearly lying." He stepped back and Sir Fallon stood, walked purposefully over to Sir Robert, and broke the paladin's neck.

Aidan wasted no time blowing the shackles off of the others, "Quickly, we have to find the girls."

The five friends found the knights' weapons and armor stashed in the next cell and rushed towards the sound of the screaming. The ran down corridor after corridor and down two flights of stairs before reaching a large iron-bound door, charred and blackened, and carved in a crude hand with numerous unholy sigils and prayers to the dark god Asmodeus.

Sir Fallon rushed the door, beating it to splinters with his flaming axe. Beyond the door they saw the two nuns, naked, screaming, and tied to an altar of black basalt. Three lions stood before the altar, their fur soaked with blood and their inhuman mouths chanting infernal prayers. Behind the altar stood Brother Justice, looking quite alive, dressed in black robes and sporting a pair of large curving horns on his head. He smiled at them as the door burst open and plunged his readied dagger into Sister Eloquence's breast, silencing her screams.

Enraged, the Knights of Mitra charged the unholy abomination. They were met by the three lions, one breathing a gout of flame which quickly consumed Sir Willem. The second pounced upon Sir Reginald, tearing his throat out with one critical strike of its mighty jaws. The last sprouted black bat-like wings and began clawing at Sir Ainsley.

Aidan and Fallon slipped bast the beasts, and rushed the altar where the demonic Brother Justice had disrobed and was beginning to have his way with Sister Carlotta. Aidan stabbed at the perversion of his friend, running both the priest and Sister Carlotta though as Sir Fallon took off his head.

Aidan shoved Brother Justice's corpse off of the nuns only to see that they were both already dead and rotten. The two turned, terrified, to see their friends lying burned and torn and the three witch-lions closing in on them.

Aidan and Fallon both awoke with a scream. A fire crackled around the campsite where the eleven friends had bedded down for the knight. Squire Filth and Brother Justice sat on watch, nibbling on the remnants of the roast hind they had for supper the evening before. Aidan looked around to see the two Sisters and his other five brothers-in-arms sleeping peacefully, their breasts rising in falling with their rhythmic breath.

"What happened brothers?" Brother Justice knelt next to the two of them.
"I had a horrible dream..." Sir Fallon, sniffed the air, "I think I was bewitched. I can still smell the stink of sorcery in the air."
"I had a dream too," Aidan spoke up, "we had all been captured. There was fire and chanting. Everyone was killed...and you..." he looked at Brother Justice, his eyes widening, "You appeared to be possessed by a demon...you had taken the Sisters and sacrificed them upon some dark altar, then you set the lions on us."
"Lions brother?"
"Yes, three lions." Sir Fallon stood up, "It seems we had the same dream."
"Well I'm hoping that's no premonition..." Squire Worthless Filth filth handed Aiden a wineskin. "We're set to reach the prison tomorrow morning..."
"Tomorrow?" Aidan looked confused. "Didn't we investigate the prison yesterday? I remember it was overrun with undead...and..."
Sir Fallon spoke up, "...and everyone died. Sister Carlotta, Sir Robert, Tristram, and..." he looked hard at Brother Justice, "and you Brother. Devored by a lion."
"Another dream perhaps?" Brather Justice nodded his head in a brief prayer.
"We'd best wake t'others." Squire Filth began walking around the camp shaking everyone. "Up and at 'em, seems like there's witch's work afoot..."

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A game in a hurry

So, a few weeks ago the monday regular "Boyant Republic" game I've been playing in got moved to Wednesdays. Normally we try to be pretty flexible about attendance. We have seven players (plus GM) involved, and as long as any three players show up we're usually good to go. Last night we had the requisite three players, but, as the campaign is nearing its finale, we decided not to roll without a majority.

Never one to accept the lose of an evening of gaming, we decided to do "casual D&D". Simple set up, Pathfinder rules, 4d6 (drop lowest) in order for stats, standard races and classes only. The adventure was provided by donjon's random dungeon generator, using random seeds for everything except dungeon level. Rather than tracking encounter levels or XP, we went with a straitforward dungeon level = character level mapping (otherwise read as, "finding the stairs down is the only thing that earns you XP").

To begin with, let it be said that everyone died...twice over, and that I haven't heard that much laughter in a game for several years.

The party consisted (to begin with) of Dreyfus (a human cleric) and Orson (a human fighter). The two friends rappelled down into the well known to lead to the dungeon in search of "retirement money". In the first room, the two encountered a Troglodyte, which was a surprisingly tough fight for only the two of them, requiring them to expend a significant amount of healing. After defeating the troglodyte, they found its hoard (2500 copper pieces) and decided that that was enough to "keep us in ham and eggs for a good long time". Rather than rest on their laurels, they proceeded to enter the next room...and quickly found themselves at the bottom of a 40-foot deep pit trap. Dreyfus was dead, and Orson was unconscious, but stable, but stuck and at risk of dying from dehydration, and buried under his own loot from the 50 pound bag of coins bursting as they fell.

Two days later Henry (Dreyfus's older brother, also a cleric) and his friend Nutzfuggle the Magnificent (or something to that effect), a gnome sorcerer, dove into the dungeon in search of Dreyfus. It didn't take them long to find Orson, whom they extracted from the pit. Saying a prayer for the deceased Dreyfus, the three decided that they should "honor Dreyfus's dying wish" and went looking for more money.

Several winding corridors and a few ineffectual traps later, they heard weeping from ahead. Henry, correctly, identified the weeping as the sound of a crying crocodile (correct because if someone offhandedly names a creature you should probably throw it at the party in situations such as these), but the party paid it no mind and proceeded to the end of the hallway where they were stopped by a heavy iron door. As Orson attempted to pummel the door open with his fists, Nutzfuggle was swallowed by the crocodile that crept up behind them. The beast continued to cry as Henry cut its head off with his axe.

After several minutes of punching, Orson managed to open the door (and break his hand). Inside Henry and Orson found a dwarf sleeping inside a circle of protection. They quickly woke up the dwarf, a cleric who introduced himself only as "The Doctor", and asked him to join them. The three proceeded to the next room where they fought a troglodyte zombie, which, while it took a lots of hits, was not able to strike them, and found stairs leading down.

Now second level, the three descended into the next level where they were assaulted by fire, smoke, and oppressive heat. They wandered for a time, then encountered a fire mephit. The mephit surprised them and managed to summon one of its kind for aid. Our heroes fought valiantly, defeating the creatures, but not before Henry was slain by a critical hit from a scorching ray. Luckily another cleric of their order, Frank, was wandering lost and the dungeon and came along to heal the other two.

Now, Frank, Orson, and the Doctor proceeded to explore the fiery dungeon, eventually coming upon a forge, and a sleeping azer...who was quickly and repeatedly doused by water conjured by The Doctor. The creature woke angry and sputtering, only to have The Doctor cave in its head with a single shot from his mace. The party looted the azer's weapons and armor, including a fine warhammer which The Doctor took and proceeded to the next room, where they found a fiery altar which The Doctor also smashed. The Doctor went on to explain how he hated "fire dwarves" because his father had tried to turn him into one as a baby by dangling him over a burning forge.

In the next room, the party encountered a beautiful tile mosaic of Hercules fighting the Lernean Hydra. Orson, apparently an art critic, punched a hole in the mosaic with his remaining good hand. A thoqqua burst from the hole and proceeded to assault the party, burning up several of Frank's weapons. When the beast was defeated, Frank insisted that its appearance was the result of the "art gods' anger".

The next room sported a mural of dragons in flight painted on the ceiling. Orson punched that as well, and, sure enough, another thoqqua came bursting out to assault them. Likewise, the next room was filled with frescos of the Greek pantheon, and when Orson attempted to destroy that, another thoqqua attacked. Frank quickly decided to change religions, converting to the worship of the vengeful, but unnamed, Art God.

Across a rickety wood and rope bridge the party found a room with a spiraling labyrinth of white tiles on a black floor. Orson decided to follow the labyrinth and encountered strange resistance as he walked, sparks shooting up around his feat (yes, the random dungeon generator made a labyrinth on the floor and I could not pass up making an Amber reference). After walking the pattern on the floor, Orson discovered that he could walk through shadows. Impressed, The Doctor followed, but Frank was not able to walk the thing successfully and only barely avoided being disintegrated by the black areas of the floor.

Backtracking from the room with the pattern and taking a side passage, our heroes found a large dining room, with a lone azer finishing his dinner and the stairs leading down behind. Orson, feeling a bit rogue-like, crept under the table and began to make his way unseen towards the distracted azer. The Doctor, much less concerned with stealth, doused this azer with water as well. As the creature stood up sputtering and reached for its weapon, Orson struck, lopping off both of its feat at the ankles with a well-placed blow of an axe he had taken from a failed trap.

The three headed down to the next level, at which point everything went wrong.

At the base of the steps they encountered a party of fiendish (as per the template, not the general unpleasant descriptor) orcs. Orson leaped into the fray and grabbed the orcs, dragging them with him into the plane of shadow. He abandoned them there, only to miss when returning to the material world. Rather than returning where he expected, he was shunted 20 miles through solid stone to a neighboring dungeon, and quickly eaten by a grue (a cloaker rather).

Frank and The Doctor pushed on into the next room, where they found a human paladin, by name of Scott, buried under a pile of rubble. After freeing the paladin, The Doctor decided that they should go in search of Orson, and took the others with him into the plane of shadow. Once there, Frank decided it was too dark and cast a spell of light...which pissed off the locals. Another cloaker (go-go random encounter tables) engulfed Frank and began to gnaw his face off. The Doctor continued his shadow walk, fleeing back to the material plane. The cloaker, hauling Frank along, gave chase with its own shadow walk, leaving Scott lost on the plane of shadow. Back on the material plane, the cloaker finished eating Frank...

And a good time was had by all.