The 10th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Larry (Michael), Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), Todd (Phil), Jennifer (Garmanargar), new player Nathan (Kevin), and a one-shot character player Starron.
As we left the party, they had decided to investigate the adventuring and real estate opportunities available at Castle Greyhawk. Passage to the City of Greyhawk proper was obtained from a convenient ship, at a cost of 10gp each... plus a 90gp fee for everyone except Thic Duc, who weaseled out of the extra fee by not taking the cabin. Michael took the time to acquire some plate mail in Rookroost before leaving.
Our two new players were recent hires at the Expendable Illiterates Courier Service in Rookroost. Each was given a message to deliver to a sage at Castle Greyhawk, along with payment for passage.
The passage across the Nyr Dyv to Greyhawk passed mostly without incident. The party shared the passenger cabin with the two couriers, leaving only Thic Duc in a hammock with the crew. Towards the end of the second day of passage, a flock of giant seagulls tried to abduct the crew for food. They succeeded in carrying off several of the crew before missile fire and the party's efforts to negotiate with salted pork and fish drove them off.
During the battle, one of the couriers attempted to speak with animals and inquired as to the birds' motives, which amounted to "FOOD!". This resulted in pulling all available meat from the ship's stores (mostly dried fish and salt pork), spreading it on deck to try to distract the birds from the crew. This attempt was only moderately successful. A few seagulls went for the food instead of the crew, but the rest continued to carry off sailors.
After a pitched battle, and the loss of more than half the crew, all the seagulls were either dead, wounded badly enough to be driven off, or feasting on abducted crewmembers. Many baby seagulls thank the party for their contributions to feeding the hungry.
During the confusion, Barron
stole acquired the druid's sealed message and opened it. He had only
the chance to read it briefly before the message was angrily reclaimed. So far, he has not shared any of the contents with the party.
Time spent in Greyhawk proper was limited. The party passed mostly around the city from the port (west of the city proper) to the north gate (where directions to Castle Greyhawk begin), only making inquiries at the local branch of Expendable Illiterates for any other messages that needed delivery. (There were none at the time).
From the north gate at Greyhawk, it is a two-day carriage ride to Castle Greyhawk. A taxi service with the Castle Greyhawk logo operates the regular service and accepted the party as passengers. The first day of travel passed without incident, though ominous stormclouds were visible in the direction of travel. On the second day, a gang of feral halfings attempted to hold up the group. One ran into the road to force the carriage to stop while demanding the party stay in the vehicle and make no sudden moves.
The party made sudden moves.
Garmanargar charged the visible halfling and wounded him badly, knocking him to the ground and pinning him there with her foot. He began to cry piteously. The rest of the party clambered out of the carriage while hidden ambushers hiding behind waist-high bushes by the side of the road used slings to throw stones. A great deal of missing took place. Michael and Barron charged the halflings to the left of the carriage. Barron was hit by multiple sling stones from the right side of the road, distracting him and foiling his attack. Michael, however, pushed through the hedge and commanded the "alpha halfling" there to run. The alpha halfling stood his ground, but the rest fled, as facing an armed and armored full sized human was too much to ask. Leah put an arrow right between the eyes of the alpha halfling, ending the threat from the left.
One of the couriers, Starron, murdered the captive halfling spokesman at the front in cold blood.
It took a round or two of repositioning the party to face the threat from the right side of the road, but after Leah sent Pyro charging the hedge, the rest saw the wisdom of surrender. They were promptly tied up and stuffed into sacks.
Upon arriving at Castle Greyhawk, the party exited the carriages into blazing desert heat and unrelenting sun. They quickly hurried to see Herzog, whose office appeared to be enchanted with some form of temperature control. It was cool and dry inside, despite the blazing heat outside. They door was opened for them by Mina Harker, who is temporarily taking over the duties of her fiance Jonathan Harker, who is absent arranging a large real-estate deal for a noble client. (She has taken his name despite the unexpected business travel delaying their wedding).
The terms offered by Herzog were thus: The primary goal is to resolve the problem with unusual monsters appearing in the dungeon at random. This continuous repopulation is dangerous, unpredictable, and threatens the safety of potential guests and staff. Also, some of the random monsters escape the dungeons, threatening potential investors. There is an additional bonus of 1000 gp per dungeon level surveyed. The levels need not be cleared for this, just mapped. Bonuses may also be offered for live capture of unusual specimens that are suitable for exhibition. All treasure recovered in the dungeons below the castle belongs to the party which recovers it successfully to the surface. Herzog offers room and board in his tower (basically, a barracks, and mess with the castle guard).
Another party of adventurers has already undertaken some of these challenges, but their information is out of date after a near-total disaster. The paladin and wizard were killed, with the party's druid as the sole survivor. According to the druid, LeDurt, "I was able to reincarnate the fallen party members, but this did not turn out as I expected." His fellow party members are Kandahar, the pixie paladin, and Nesselrode, a magic-user in the form of a badger. According to the badger, LeDurt reincarnated the party before encountering an undead creature of some kind that left his powers greatly weakened. If they fell in battle, he would be unable to reincarnate them again, and a resurrection would simply return them to their current forms. A "polymorph" spell might help.
Most of the party then proceeded to the Citadel Union, though Garmanargar and Phil were still recovering from the sleeping gas trap on board the Sea Ghost and needed an early nap. Those members of the party still awake found the local armorer and weaponsmith, a dwarf who responded quite well to Michael's ability to speak his language. His shop contains almost anything made of metal or wood that an adventurer might need, including masterwork-quality weapons, but he does not sell enchanted goods. The party bought several of his higher-quality items, particularly crossbows and a pair of throwing daggers. (See updated house rules for masterwork weapons).
Starron took the opportunity to deliver the message he had been contracted to. The sage Zuphatiz, whose offices are in the Citadel Union, expressed some puzzlement at receiving the message. Apparently it was a message that he wasn't expecting and lacked additional context. Zuphaitz asked about other messages, but Starron was unable to give much more information.
As they left the shop with their purchases, the party heard a small child crying about his father, who had been parentnapped by monsters and was being held captive in the dungeons below. Finally, the chance to be proper heroes rather than tax-enforcement agents! After much nagging by the young near-orphan, whose name turned out to be Collum, the party agreed to investigate. Cullum led them to a building which might be a residence or perhaps a converted storefront on the lower level of the Citadel Union. The first floor of the building had an open floorplan with a trapdoor in the corner, which the orphan was able to open. Below the trapdoor, a staircase led into darkness below.
After a brief pause to light a lantern and for Michael to cast a Light spell on Barron's bird, the party descended. At the bottom of the staircase they found a small guard shack with a sign listing admission prices. Slightly further in, a concession stand offering everything from beer to monsterburgers at unreasonable prices.
The party next entered a room filled with conical stone formations protruding horizontally from the walls and a grate covering a pit in the center of the room. Strange blue and green lights were visible in the darkness. Exercising caution, a single party member moved into the room to investigation. They approached the edge of the grate, looking down into the put to see a field of glowing mushrooms... mobile mushrooms. And they simultaneously heard a strange click... followed by a burst of flame as one of the horizontal stalagmites launched itself like a rocket directly at the party!
Experimentation with Barron's bird, lanterns, and torches determined that the stalagmites react to heat rather than light or movement, so the party tied torches to the end of ropes and created an improvised (but spectacular) fireworks display. Certainly a dungeon first. Unfortunately, it was too dark to say what they could see, far from the dawn's early light, but the rocket's red glare and the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the evening that the stalagmites still fought...
Briefly, anyway. After dozens of explosive missiles were spent harmlessly against the walls, Starron felt the room must be safe
to enter. But he was not expecting the
Spanish Inquisition last stalagmite, which struck him full on
in the stomach, penetrating his armor and sending his unconscious form rocketing into the far wall of the room. Luckily, a few
healing spells got him back on his feet.
The party briefly examined the mushroom pit, and consulted with Kriselle later to determine that the mushrooms were a mutated variety of "shriekers". Instead of making a loud shrieking noise when disturbed (which often serves as an alarm), these mushrooms are "leakers": when disturbed they emit a brightly glowing liquid with consistency similar to honey. A vessel roughly the size of a lantern or a hollowed out stuffed bird with glass eyes would contain enough liquid to see by, though a true lantern would provide substantially more. Available in green, blue, and (rarely) red.
Moving on, the party passed through a door labeled "Employees Only" and entered a short 20-foot-long passage with another door at the far end. They opened this door, and three things happened all at once: they read the sign on the other side of the door ("Janitors Closet"), they saw two tiny bull-headed humanoids ransacking an office, and Cullum, lurking behind them, screamed, "Oh no, not minitaurs!" This, of course, alerted the minitaurs, who turned towards the party and away from the crates labeled "MEAT" they had been trying to open.
Tense negotiations ensued with the help of a speak with animals spell. The minitaurs wanted the meat and didn't care about anything else. The party wanted to move through the room and possibly kill the minitaurs to prevent a later ambush or potential goonies moment. Also the magical globe of light on the ceiling looked shiny. Coming to agreement was difficult.
Leaving the room with the minitaurs behind them, still trying to open the crates of MEAT, the party entered another short corridor. Michael, in the lead, stepped in a puddle of something that... sizzled? He quickly pulled his boot out of the puddle and began scraping off the residue.
Thic Duc noticed a nametag on the puddle of translucent, jellylike, mobile! material and leaned in for a closer look. It missed, but he was able to read the nametag. It bore the words "Janitorial Staff Member", "Please do not disturb", and what appears to be a name: "Room Ba".
The door at far end of the short corridor was labeled "Extremely Dangerous: Do not feed meat!" Beyond was a chamber containing a dry moat, an open cage, and large bones. When Leah examined the bones, it became evident that they were bones from a bear, carefully cleaned and preserved. Obviously they had been placed within the cage for show.
Now certain that they had failed to avert a goonies moment, the party turned back and determined to capture the minitaurs if possible, and kill them if not. Michael argued against the betrayal, and refused to participate in the fight. Barron attempted to open the festivities with a backstab while the minitaurs were distracted eating the meat, but failed his sneak rolls. They turned on him in fury, his intentions obvious, and the fight began!
Barron did get the chance to backstab later on, after the druid used an "Invisibility to Animals" spell on him.
After a surprisingly large struggle from such small creatures, the minitaurs were eventually subdued, then tied up. The party left the dungeon hoping to gain a reward for the live capture of such mysterious beasts, and to determine by that reward whether attempting further live captures was worthwhile.
As the party left the dungeon, a crossbow bolt from the darkness struck and killed Starron. A note tied to the bolt read "Apologies for the inconvenience. It was necessary."
To be continued...