Thursday, June 27, 2013

Down the back way: After Play Report 6

Calawas - Elf Thief (Katz)
Amalia - High Elf Cleric (Paraj)
Volbak - Dwarf Knight (Jim)
Lamaevhun - Wood Elf Scout (Tim)
Ilsildel - High Elf Wizard (Martin)
Chief - Wood Elf Barbarian (Catherine)

John Porter, employed as a laborer and horse-hand by the party
Titus Longfellow, employed as a man-at-arms by Isildel
Matthias Wimbledon, novice of St. Cuthbert, employed by Calawas

Our intrepid heroes came back to Hommlet with purses considerably fuller than when they left it last to the smell of smoke in the air. The villagers seemed tense, and the half-trained militia was out in more force than before, but life seemed to be going on as usual. They stopped to weather the night in the Inn of the Welcome Wench, where Volbak once again discovered ale and they learned that a great amount of smoke had come from the Moathouse a few days ago and put everyone on edge, though the plume was out now. Had the Moathouse burnt down in their absence?

There was only one way to tell, so after sunrise and Master Gundigroot's impeccable victuals they reclaimed their ponies and set off on the old overgrown trail.

It wasn't long before they found the Moathouse and the source of smoke. Someone had burned a wide, wobbly circle - three hundred feet, give or take a little - around the whole thing, razing off the underbrush and making unmarked approach basically impossible.

They did the sensible thing and set up camp outside the circle in the swamp - an uncomfortable and wet affair, but also unmarked so far as they could tell - and decided to spy out the surrounds.

 The first thing they discovered is that someone had worked to close a portcullis over the entrance to the Moathouse, though the drawbridge was still down, half-rotted as it was. Lamaevhun saw no real signs of occupancy, but as he poked around in the bog outside the kill-zone he stumbled across a large, foul-smelling hole in the ground about six hundred feet out, big enough for two men abreast and tall enough for a man on horseback.

He went back and informed the party, and after some discussion, they decided to leave John with the horses and the camp and head down the hole to see where it went. They got there without incident and started filing down the hole, finding that it was a nasty, rank and foul den of something or other - bones strewn about the place, along with offal and other filth - when, just Titus (keeping rearguard) stepped down the rampish first portion to the dank inside, he crumpled like a sack of meat.

Amalia and Lamaevhun were in back, and luckily heard the sound of rattling armor and the dull thud as the hireling went down. They turned around and were faced with a large, hairy, foetid beast with a nasty-looking club in one hand splattered with blood and a questionable-looking bag in the other.

Things weren't looking that good. Titus was dead, and the two people who could reach his assailant were the Cleric and the Scout. Lamaevhun lost no time drawing and shooting, and Amalia drew her sword and attacked, but the whatever-it-was didn't seem hardly fazed. It just dodged out of the way, took a cursory swipe at Amalia, and started dragging Titus off, though they could tell it had a hard time with his heavy body. Meanwhile the rest of the party wasn't really in position to help: Chief and Volbak were in the front, far enough away from the melee to take too much time getting there.

Meanwhile Chief had found some kind of impaling stick trap down there in the murk and Calawas went forward to look at it.

Fortunately, Isildel was in the middle and had by now forced his way to the back, and Amalia got in one lucky swing that made the whatever-it-was think twice about dragging off Titus. It dropped him, kicked something in the bushes that put up a jangling of bells much further down in the hole, and for a few seconds there was a sort of chase - them slowed by the bog, it slowed by its wounds - before it dropped down into the reeds and disappeared right before their eyes.

Isildel wasn't having that. He didn't know exactly where it was, but exactly isn't necessary with threshold magic, so soon there was a  12-yard wide fire. Up popped the nasty with a howl and booked it out of the fire...then lay down again.

That's fine. 12 yards wasn't enough? How about THIRTY?! I AM AN ANGRY WIZARD!
Yeah, it was kinda like that.

Up it popped again, howling louder than before. After a few seconds, it collapsed in the middle of the blaze. About thirty seconds later as the three were trudging back to the hole, there was a loud explosion and some differently-colored tongues of flame for a bit, then all was still.

(Fortunately for them, the fire didn't catch on its own too well, what with the swampy terrain.)

Oh, and it turned out that Matthais checked Titus over and found that he wasn't really dead, just very close. Some magical healing fixed that up well enough and, after a bit of rest around the entrance to the hole, the party went back in. Calowas had long since disarmed the primitive tension trap.

About fifty feet further down the hole, it became a tunnel of wet but dressed stone and took on a gentle but definite downward slope. After another few hundred feet, Calowas in front heard what he took to maybe be voices and the scrape of leather against stone, so they doused the arrow they'd been using as a light source (Continual Light) and he crept forward in the dark.

Pretty soon he found a wall. Feeling along it, the edges seemed like they fit into grooves in the tunnel walls, as though this thing were meant to be lifted out of place. Putting his ear to the wall, he heard muffled voices beyond.



This session showcased two things very well: One was the true potential nastiness of an absurdly high level of stealth (aided by Chameleon and Camouflage) on the part of the bugbear. -20 for being in plain sight and being watched when you drop into cover? No problem! The other was the advantages of Threshold Magic as a system.

Isildel was able to throw gross magical power at the problem to solve it. At the same time, I could see Martin making the decision, "Do I want to blow all my tally now, on this? Or do I save it up for something else, and dribble it out a little at a time?" So far, a Tally of 30 has worked fairly well, and it promotes real decision-making about a limited resource.

For some reason, session recaps are really hard for me to write, and I think that's part of why I've been negligent with this blog (on top of everything else). I still have a lot to do, though. Since the best way to do a difficult task is to actually sit down and do it, I'm going to post the rest of the session recaps until I'm all caught up. Any further ideas I have can always sit as draft posts.


  1. Heheh. Bugbears are fragile but dangerous and fun. Nice use of my monster!

    1. I did what I could! That henchman only survived because he had Hard to Kill 2. He needed both points of it.

  2. Keep writing the recaps. i love reading session summaries of other folks games!

  3. I'm surprised that Lamaevhun had that much trouble against a DFM1 Bugbear. Is he not a Heroic Archer? Because normally I'd expect that kind of fight to be "fast-draw a Bodkin, shoot bodkin into humanoid monster's vitals (-3, countered by Acc of the bow), watch the monster fail to dodge with a Dodge of 9, watch monster take a major wound and fall down stunned." I know you're playing at a lower point level than I'm used to, but a single enemy without a shield doesn't survive long against archers in GURPS, usually.

    1. I was, too, frankly. The secret is I couldn't roll over a 6 for the bugbear. I think it was a ninja in a bugbear-suit.

  4. Clarification - the first fire was 3 yards or so, to make sure he hadn't been able to crawl out of the area.

    The second was ~12 yards, since I needed that to get the range penalty down to a reasonable level. That thing had some sort of terrain adaptation that let it outdistance us in the swap pretty easily.

    In between were a few failed sleep spells and missiles that didn't have a target.

    As for being an angry wizard, the BB had killed my brand new henchman just after we had bonded over an afternoon of rope, and then took a cheap shot as his downed body as he left. Il could sort of see needing to eat (even a stingy meal like Titus), but the "(inhu)Man kicking you when you are down" sort of pushed every one of his organically grown hippie buttons.

    I've only ever considered a 30 yard diameter area spell once - and that was vs. the bandit tax collector crew.