The 16th full game session. Dean (Thic Duc), Mary (Kriselle), Matt (Barron), Mariel (Leah), and Larry (Michael) entered.
As we left the party, they had killed the troll and retrieved Thic Duc's ex-head, at the cost of Kriselle's life. They carried her to the dial-a-diety in the Citadel Union, and asked the priests of Pholtus there to raise her from the dead. As her body was mostly intact, the operation proceeded without problems. The party then sold the two jars of sweet water to the herbalist Breanna for 700gp, as they were not planning any long journeys in which such a thing might come in handy, and spent a few days recuperating from the hectic events (and Kriselle from the Raise Dead). Some of the party gained a sense of improved skill and knowledge as a result. Others simply learned to duck when standing next to someone shooting a bow. Barron commissioned a perch for Mr. Crackers on Pyro's back, over Leah's protests.
As they recuperated, Michael remembered noticing a strange sign near the trapdoor lever. He drew a copy from memory and showed it to the rest of the party.
The symbol puzzled them until they remembered some previous similar signs. The one at the petting zoo was labeled: "You must be at least this tall to pet the monsters." This was enough for them to realize that the symbol probably represented some sort of entrance requirement.
Thic Duc brought up the question of whether they had to "clear" the dungeon to get proper credit for it, or if they could simply make the level "safe", and whether the current state of the dungeon would qualify. The conclusion was that the Petting Zoo Precedent suggests that "safe" is sufficient, so long as nothing will attack visitors without provocation. This raised the question of whether the inhabitants of the party level were actually evil creatures who needed to be slaughtered for the glory of St Cuthbert. That question remained unresolved, with Kriselle arguing that they were "just doing their jobs" and did not need to be slaughtered, and Michael preferring the simpler approach of killing them all and letting Cuthbert sort them out.
Thus prepared, the party descended into the dungeon once more, seeking to discover what had happened in the aftermath of the party disaster.
On entering the dungeon, they found that Stitches was still in place by the door, with his arms still disabled. Barron returned one of his snacks to the golem's pocket.
The group then proceeded to the banquet hall. On the way, they overheard the small sounds of a post-party depression throughout the dungeon. It seemed no one was happy with the results of their celebration. Certainly, no one was out and about in the corridors... the party did take a moment to check on the welfare of the bugbear babies, and the bugbear matron there assured them that the babies were all well and accounted for (by counting them, which was perhaps less reassuring that desired). Within the banquet hall itself, a solitary goblin had chosen one corner of the room to clean and was slowly mopping his way outward. The party immediately approached him for interrogation, while simultaneously speculating about how to open the trapdoor and access the lower level. One effort was more successful than the other.
The goblin revealed that with the banquet plan a failure, everyone on the level of the dungeon was despondent and really had no idea what to do with themselves. They just wanted to be minions to a really competent overlord, someone who could make them all pull together and get things done. Things like conquering the overworld and making it over into a place where monsters like them could live peacefully without prejudice and hate. Most of the rest of them had given up, but this one goblin still believed. He had the right stuff to make it as a minion, and someday, someone would see that in him. One day, he would meet a special overlord, an overlord right for him, and he would be an honored minion.
Barron promptly hired him to open the freezer door for 2gp. Wilbur the goblin was delighted, though he said he didn't think he could actually open the door; he was willing to try, and trying was all that would be required.
Thus having hired their first proper minion, the party returned to the scene of the toad. The freezer was still cold, and a quick peek on the way to the banquet hall had determined that the toad was still in place. Wilbur the goblin was paid and directed to attempt to open the freezer door. He did so, but was unable to open the door, despite climbing up the wall to apply the full strength of his arms and legs together. So, Barron opened the door while Michael grabbed the goblin by the shoulders and tossed the goblin into the freezer.
The toad promptly ate him.
The party then spent nearly an hour debating various different tactics for killing the toad while Michael memorized spells. First, they tried burning the door. This did not go well, as the fire was extinguished within a minute or two before any significant damage to the door was down. How burning down the door would hurt the toad was not clear. (Perhaps the toad would melt?) Eventually, they decided Michael would cast Resist Cold on Leah and Kriselle, who would then fire at the toad with their bows through a hole in the door. The hole was big enough to fire a bow through, and big enough for a toad's tongue to fit through, but not big enough for a non-goblin party member to fit through. They would thus be safe from the toad... mostly.
This plan worked out well. The toad died in two or three shots from Kriselle's bow, shooting with impressive accuracy and precision. It had time for only a single attack, and it's tongue failed to pass through the small hole in the door. There was only one small hitch: Kriselle accidentally shot Leah after the toad's tongue nearly made it through the door, and Leah's return shot ("a warning!") missed Kriselle by a hair. (Two natural ones in a row)
With the freezer now safe, the party entered. Barron collected his minion's wages to be recycled with his next minion. Kriselle performed the powerful ritual known as "opening the toad" and precured a toad-skin jacket which may help her to resist cold, at least if she remembers to cure it before wearing it. And while examining the contents of the toad's stomach, it became clear that Wilbur was not the first goblin to be sacrificed to the cause of a cold glass of lemonade at the end of a long day in the dungeon.
The party next stopped by the wizard Mudstone's small room, where Barron bargained for an Animate Dead spell on his stuffed bird Mr. Crackers. Mudstone promised that he would deliver a magnificient avian zombie, but it would take him a few hours. Barron asked for "goblin hands" on the front of the bird to grab things with. "Would you, by chance, happen to have a set of goblin hands on you?" "Yes, yes I do."
The success of that ploy encouraged Barron to ask for a goblin-tooth mohawk next.
Payment for this avian construct was to be a sample of the glowing liquid from the Leaker mushrooms above. Those mushrooms lived beneath a grate where the party had
stored the horizontal stalagmites. This presented a bit of a problem; how to get a sample of the leaker liquid without being impaled on a stalagmite? Barron made a
few fumbling attempts to get a string wrapped around a mushroom from above so he could lift the mushroom out. Thic Duc, recalling his earlier, happier days going
fishing for fungi with Kriselle while trying to convert her to the worship of Pholtus, made a makeshift fishing rod from a length of string, a simple loop, and a pole,
then retrieved a large specimen with several smaller leakers growing on it -- and that on his first try. (natural 20 on fishing check) Barron was once again
thieves property redistribution specialists prefer urban environments.
The next destination was the orc barracks, where Barron impersonated an interested overlord and got the orcs following his orders. He marched them out to the banquet hall and begin lining them up on the trapdoor, hoping their weight and numbers might be sufficient to open it and allow the orcs to plunder the level below, while leaving the rest of the party to search their barracks. The orcs were not sufficient to open the trapdoor, but Barron did confuse the chain of command by appointing Wilma the pink-dressed orc mother as the orc Mistress. He also temporarily separated them from their weapons, but was forced to return them. Wilma was instructed to lead the orcs in drill and PT while the party got the trapdoor issue sorted out.
On their way to the ogre barracks, they overheard an argument coming from room 15. Opening the door (and not being immediately noticed), they learned that the arguers were Wyperag and Gorgi, leaders of the ogres and bugbears respectively, who were busy blaming each other for the failure of their all-you-can-eat buffet to sufficiently impress a fiend into taking their crack force of professional event planners into a quest to conquer the world. The two leaders did not notice that the party had knocked on their door, opened their door, and even waited patiently for a few minutes. Eventually, the two leaders noticed their presence and asked what they wanted.
Barron spun a tale of bullshit involving the bugbear's mother's pink dress being worn by Wilma the orc. No one seemed to be buying it, but it was clear that something was happening in the banquet hall that needed investigating. The two leaders and the rest of the party begin walking back to the banquet hall, continuing to discuss the matter, until Barron attempted to use his pickpocket skills to place the pink pearls found in the orc barracks into the ogre's pocket... and got caught. After briefly trying to figure out what was going on, Wyperag's greed got the better of his paranoid, and he claimed the pearls as his own.
The party arrived back at the banquet hall with the leaders in tow and found the orcs engaged in PT with Wilma leading them enthusiastically. Immediately a further argument broke out between both of the leaders and the orc band, with various party members joining in to try to incite the factions to attack each other. Barron took the opportunity to sneak off for a few minutes and collect his animated, stuffed bird.
The bird was... not exactly as expected. The wings had been mounted backwards, the hands provided extra weight, and the brain had deteriorated to the point where the magical animating force did not know how to make the body fly as it once had. Instead, the bird needed a runway; it would fully extend its (upside-down) wings and run as fast as it could with rear claws and front goblin hands. Given sufficient speed, it could then take off into the air and glide for a substantial distance without flapping. Turning, however, was a challenge, especially in close quarters. In combat, the creature could be commanded to attack, but not in very complex ways -- basically limited to flying into the target at full speed and perhaps trying to grab an object. After playing with his new toy for a little while, Barron returned to the banquet hall, where things were heating up.
History may never know exactly what started the fight, but it was probably one of the party members in an unprovoked attack on one of the leaders, after someone pointed to the string of pearls hanging out of Wyperag's pocket and accused him of stealing them.
One thing led to another, and soon the party was desperately shooting at Wyperag and hoping he would die before any of the other creatures figured out what was going on. There was some hope of that; while Michael and Pyro kept Wyperag distracted, Leah and Kriselle fired at him from range, and Barron's drone made attack runs from above. The orcs slowly closed around the battle, clearly unsure of what to do, and the bugbear leader Gorgi took several rounds before he got into the fight himself. By that time, the appeals to the orcs about the theft of their Mistress' pearls had begun to sink in, and a few of the orcs were attacking Gorgi.
Unfortunately, not all was going so well. Wyperag struck Pyro down rapidly, though the war dog made a good effort and briefly threatened to chew on the ogre's other set of pearls. Sadly the animal succombed to blood loss, and Michael stepped in to take his place. Protected by his armor, the cleric held his ground, though his hammer blows did not seem particularly effective.
The rest of the party was not having better luck. Several of Leah and Kriselle's arrows went shooting into the general melee after missing their primary targets, some of them striking orcs, which could certainly not help the party's attempts to subvert the orcs to their cause. Barron moved forward to backstab when Wyperag's attention was occupied with Michael, but dropped his dagger instead. Wilma the orc mistress stumbled backwards after Wyperag struck her fiercely, alive and bleeding but out of the fight.
Eventually, two of the orcs close to Gorgi were convinced to turn on the opposing faction in the dungeon and began to attack. Gorgi fought back immediately, killing two orcs in two rounds and wounding a third orc on the next.
Finally, Wyperag collapsed, and the party decided enough was enough. Michael grabbed for the pearls in his pouch and lifted them high, shouting to the orcs, "He had the pearls all along!" and then running for the door like a madman. Gorgi was still fighting the orcs, though clearly on his last legs, and pursuit was blocked by the battle. The orcs did not seek to give chase once they had been attacked, leaving the party to flee.
Pyro was another matter. Leah was not about to abandon her loyal beast. Using the secret techniques of the treetop masters, and being careful to lift with her legs and not her back, Leah successfully lifted Pyro's unconscious body off the floor and promptly overbalanced backwards, landing on the ground under the dog (natural one on strength check to pick up the dog). Thic Duc lifted Pyro up and carried him the rest of the way out.
The party will need to consider their next course of action carefully. The next level of this dungeon may be too strong for them.
To be continued...