2020-01-20

session recap, 1/5/2020

CAST
-------
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (7)
Biff the Fighter (6)
Clint the Duelist (4)
Assorted Henchpersons / Temporary PCs:  JoJo the Healer (5), Phil the Healer (5), Mary Lou the Entertainer (Acrobat) (5)

Pai Mei, Biff, Jojo, and Phil opened the secret door.  Beyond, a corridor headed east then south, opened a door, and entered an ancient laboratory.  The walls were lined with shelves of dusty jars, and tables were covered with perfumes and bones, and there were many small coffers scattered over the floor.  Three large vats sat in the middle of the room, each 7' across and 3' tall.  The first had filthy water, the second had clear water with half of a golden key at the bottom, and the third was filled with a gray pudding-like substance.  JoJo pulled Mary Lou's head out of his sack and resurrected her, as someone was needed to test the vats.  Her body reformed and Pai Mei gave her his cloak and a 10' pole.  "Thanks guys!  You're the best!  You'll never let me die in here!"

Mary Lou prodded the filthy water with the pole - it was just what it looked like, dirty water.  She then stuck the pole into the second vat of clear water, and it dissolved before her eyes - the second vat was filled with acid!  Pai Mei used his Ring of Stranger Things to levitate the key-half out of the vat and wiped it dry.

Mary Lou then poked the third vat with the remains of the pole - and the gray matter lurched out of the vat, reaching pseudopods towards her.  The party unleashed bows, laser rifles, and spells at the gray blob, and decimated it in short order.  In the bottom of the now-vacated vat was a second gold half-key.  Pai Mei levitated it out, connected the halves together, and they fused into a single key.

The party turned their attention to the various coffers.  They opened a few, getting small change and some cheap gems, and upon opening the third discovered it was full of poisonous snakes!  The snakes tried to bite Biff but missed, and JoJo and Phil's arrows soon took care of the thread.  They shook the rest of the coffers before opening, ignoring the ones that sounded snake-y, and gathered the remaining coins and cubic zirconiums within.

The party followed another corridor out of the room and down a set of stairs.  Mary Lou used a different 10' pole to probe ahead and discovered a 20' long pit trap, the pit bottom lined with spikes.  Pai Mei used the monocle of true seeing, and saw that the far end of the pit trap had a pressure plate.  He used the Ring of Stranger Things to pressure the plate downwards, and the spikes began shooting up at the ceiling, bouncing back down into the pit.  As each spike was fired, another took its place.  He continued to exert pressure until the pit began filling with spikes - eventually the weight of the spikes collecting on the floor was enough to keep the pressure plate held down.  The spikes slowly rose, filling the pit to near-floor-level before motion mostly stopped.  The party then walked across the spent spikes to the other side.

The corridor dead-ended.  Pai Mei once again used the monocle of true seeing, and found a secret door in the wall.  They opened it, and entered a room with a door on the wall and two large tapestries hanging from the ceiling.  Mary Lou used the pole to lift the tapestries, and saw nothing behind them.  She then opened the door, revealing a stone wall and a small hole - from which shot a spear, skewering her!  It was just a flesh wound, but as she pulled herself off the spear, the entire room began to vibrate, and the party fell to the floor.

Worried that the room was going to collapse, the party ran back outside.  Pai Mei paused to grab one of the tapestries and yank it down as he was running - and as soon as he gave it a firm yank, it liquefied into green slime, collapsing on top of him.  He was entirely dissolved in an instant, with not so much as a hair left behind to use for resurrection.  The only item that didn't dissolve was the crystal monocle of true seeing - JoJo carefully prodded it out of the mass of slime without getting on himself.

Mary Lou used the pole to lift the remaining tapestry as JoJo used the monocle to scan the room - there was a secret door behind it.  They quickly ran through, into a hallway, and down a flight of stairs.  At the end of the stairs the corridor made a crossroads, with corridors heading north, south, and east.  They explored east - it ended at a door, beyond which was a cavern filled with gold and silver mists.  They could only see a few feet in, due to the thickness of the mists.

They re-read the riddle, and couldn't find any reference to mists, so they returned to the crossroads and headed south.  It ended at another false door with a spear trap, which they handily avoided.  They then headed north, and the door there was real.  A corridor beyond headed north until it reached a door set in the east wall, and a stairway heading up.  They decided to investigate the door - behind, a corridor headed east, and ended at a set of double doors.

JoJo opened the double doors, and gas flooded into the corridor - the entire party fell unconscious in an instant.  They awoke a few minutes later, and stared in horror at the corridor beyond - a giant stone elephant on wheels had stopped only 10' from their location.  With a little more momentum, they would all have been squashed flat.  At a loss for where to go next, the party clambered over the elephant (nothing beyond but an empty room), and up the stairs (ended abruptly at a blank wall).

Unsure of what to do, the party reviewed the riddle, and as they did so a man rounded the corner - a duelist by the name of Clint, wearing a poncho and cowboy hat.  Mary Lou shouted "He should be one of my bosses!".  With no further discussion, Clint was a full party member.

The party went back to the misty room, and Clint walked into the mists.  In the center of the room was a crystalline grotto, and a woman stood in its center, with two sacks of stuff laying at her feet.

Clint:  "Hey... do you live here?"
Woman: "Maybe.  It's possible."
Clint:  "So you work for Acererak?"
Woman: "Oh, I don't think so."
Clint:  "What's in the sacks?"
Woman:  "I couldn't say."

From outside the room, JoJo shouted "Why don't you come with us?"  The woman said, "Oh thank goodness, an invitation.  Let's blow this place."  As she headed out of the room, the sacks dissolved into nothingness, disappointing Clint greatly.

Clint:  "So what's your name?  Misty?"
Misty:  "It is now!  I'm a siren.  I got tricked into sitting in that room for two thousand years.  I was on a blind date with Acererak, and blammo, stuck in a tomb."
JoJo:  "Do you want to come with us? We're exploring this place."
Misty:  "Oh hell yeah, you guys are my besties now."

They then returned to the door in the northward corridor, and Biff used the monocle to see what he could - there was a secret trap door in the floor right after the doorway.  He opened it, and they dropped down into a rough-hewn tunnel that led over one hundred feet to an iron door with three slots cut into it.

JoJo shone light through one of the slots, and peered through another, and saw a room full of stone pillars beyond.  Biff tried putting a dagger in one of the slots - the slot was a little bigger than the dagger's blade, and rattled around.  He then stuck his sword in - it was a perfect fit.  JoJo and Phil put their swords through as well, and the door slid open.  They retrieved their swords and walked into the room.

The room was enormous, and the ceiling was held up by dozens of pillars.  There were three doors in the north wall, the two on the sides glowing with blue light, and the one in the center glowing with violet light.  In the northwest corner of the room was a green devil face with a black opening for a mouth.  In the northeast was another devil face, this one with a bluish tinge.  Against the south wall was a silver throne on an ebony dais with a crown and scepter sitting on the seat.

The party opened the northwest door - inside was a table with a wooden sarcophagus atop it.  They opened the coffin, and a mummy lay inside, with a large amethyst jammed into its skull-wrappings.  JoJo grabbed the amethyst, and the mummy arose!  Once again, lasers and magic lay waste to the foe.

They then headed to the central violet door - beyond was a 10' by 10' room with a door opposite.  The walls were lined with paired swords and shields.  Mary Lou walked in, and a pair of swords and a shield flew off the wall, slicing her head off again.  Both head and body fell forward into the room, out of reach, and the weapons returned to their wall hangers.  With no way to retrieve her, the party bid farewell to her corpse, and turned their attention to the throne.

The crown was made of gold, the scepter of electrum with a large gold sphere on one end and a small silver sphere on the other, and the throne was covered with skull-pictures, with the exception of a silver crown carving on the lower front panel.

Clint put the crown on his head, and the room was lit up like the middle of the day for him.  He tried removing the crown, but it was stuck.  As he fiddled with the crown, Biff picked up the scepter and touched the silver end to the silver crown carving on the throne - the floor began sinking down, revealing a passage heading south as it did so.

The party headed south down the passage - as soon as Clint did so, he went blind - he could only see in the throne room itself!  He took the scepter, and touched the silver end to the crown, believing it was the key to safely removing the crown, just as silver-end-on-throne lowered the floor.  He was mistaken, and instantly crumbled into fetid powder.  The crown and scepter clattered to the floor, and Biff retrieved them.

The corridor headed south and up a set of stairs, ending at large mithril double doors.  A cylindrical bronze key sat on the stairs, and JoJo picked it up.  The mithril doors had a hemispherical depression with a keyhole in the center - JoJo put the golden key from the vat room in the keyhole, and was electrocuted for his efforts, falling back down the stairs.  He then put the bronze key in the keyhole, and was once again electrocuted.  Biff then looked at the gold sphere on the scepter, and saw that it was the same size as the hemispherical depression - he placed the sphere in the depression, and the doors swung open.

Beyond the mithril doors was a room with a silver ceiling and ivory walls inlaid with gold.  In the center of the room was a large gold filigreed bronze urn, against the south wall was a granite sarcophagus with the name ACERERAK inscribed on it in platinum, and two massive iron chests sat on either side of the sarcophagus.

In each corner was a 9' tall statue of black iron:

Northeast - holding a saw-toothed two-handed sword raised to strike
Northwest - holding a huge, spike-ended mace
Southeast - holding a wickedly spiked morning star
Southwest - holding a voulge (please consult your Pocket Guide to Medieval Pole-Arms)

The three survivors, Biff and the henchmen JoJo and Phil, consulted the riddle's last stanza - "The iron men of visage grim do more than meets the viewers eye. You've left and left and found my Tomb and now your soul will die." and decided to wait until the next session to figure out this new puzzle.

Gains:  gold key, 440 pp, 2 snake-filled coffers, 90 gp in cheap gems, amethyst worth 5000 gp, scepter worth 12,500 gp, crown worth 25,000 gp, bronze key
Kills:  gray-colored ochre jelly, small poisonous snake
Losses:  Pai Mei, Mary Lou, Clint

2019-12-03

session recap, 10/20/2019

CAST
-------
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (7)
Biff the Fighter (6)
Assorted Henchpersons / Temporary PCs:  JoJo the Healer (5), Phil the Healer (5), Mary Lou the Entertainer (Acrobat) (5)

The party returned to the Spooktacular Tomb of Horrors, seeking glory and family entertainment.  In the entrance hall, they saw that the pit traps were clogged with the bodies of Under-Miami thrill seekers.  At the pit trap before the door to the gargoyle room, the bodies had piled high enough that visitors were using them to walk across safely.  They returned to the misty archway, inspecting the glowing stones - yellow, blue, and orange - and pressed them in order from left to right.  The mist disappeared, and the party walked through, staying on the red tile path, finding themselves teleported to a room with four-armed gargoyle statue, one arm broken of and lying on the floor.

The statue had faceted depressions in its three still-connected arms (no depression in the detached arm).  Biff began pulling blue gems out of the collar they had taken from the animated four-armed gargoyle in the last session - after placing three, the hands of the statue clenched, crushing the gems to powder, and then dumped the powder on the floor.  The gargoyle was otherwise motionless.

Biff did it again, and again, hoping for different results.  With only one gem left, the party was puzzled - and Biff just stuck it in one of the palms, presumably for completeness' sake.  The 10th gem did the trick however, and after crushing it, the statue spoke:

    YOUR SACRIFICE WAS NOT IN VAIN.  LOOK TO THE FOURTH TO FIND YOUR GAIN.

JoJo picked up the fourth arm, and heard something invisible fall from the palm and roll across the floor.  He scrambled around for a while, eventually finding the item - a monocle, which became visible after some buffing and polishing.

The party followed a rough-hewn tunnel out of the room, and found themselves crawling through a hole into a much larger chamber.  The walls were painted with human and animals, and many spheres in different colors.  At the south end of the room was another misty arch.  Looking back, the hole they crawled out of wasn't visible - it was behind an illusory gold sphere.

As they pondered their next move, a man in a jumpsuit crawled out of the gold sphere illusion behind them.

JoJo:  "Who are you?"
Earl: "I'm Earl! You find the treasure yet? Wanna go splitsies?"
JoJo:  "No..."
Earl:  "Your loss!  I'm gonna be RICH! RICH!"

Earl ran full speed through the misty arch, hollering about his soon-to-be-gained-riches, and disappeared.

They thought about Acererak's riddle ("night's good color is for those of great valor") and went to the black sphere - it, too, was an illusion!  As they poked at it, Earl came back through the gold sphere, completely naked.

Earl:  "Whatcha doin with that black circle?  Whoa, you can put things through them?"
JoJo:  "Where are your clothes?"
Earl:  "Disappeared!  That arch brought me back to the tomb entrance, buck naked!  Everyone laughed at me, but who'll be laughing when I'm RICH?"

Earl began poking the other colored circles at random, and discovered that the red circle was illusory.  He yelled some more about the treasure being "all mine" and dived through the circle.  After a few minutes, there was a shout of triumph, a scream, and then silence.

The party ignored Earl's presumed demise, and crawled through the illusory black circle.  A narrow rough-hewn tunnel twisted along for over a hundred feet, ending in a blank wall - obviously there was going to be a secret door - and there was - and it opened into a chapel.

The chapel had walls painted with zombies and corpses, many wooden pews with hinged seats, an altar of glowing opalescent blue stone, a dais with a wooden chair, brass candelabra, and two large urns.  A human skeleton near the altar lay on the floor, its outstretched bony arm pointing to a glowing orange misty archway.

Pai Mei held the monocle to his eye - it was a powerful monocle, seeing into the interdimensional ether connecting all things - the altar was magical (not suprising), the archway was magical (again, no shock), the chapel was faintly radiating an aura of good (very surprising), and two of the front pews were trapped.  Biff inspect the trap, and snipped some exposed wires.  Pai Mei then used his Ring of Stranger Things (telekinesis) to open the pew seats one by one, ending with the trapped seats - the wires had been connected to vials filled with a mysterious gas - and they gathered 8000 sp, 6000 ep (electrum? really?), and 4000 gp all told.

Biff walked up to the glowing altar, stood behind it, and touched it - a lightning bolt sprang forth from the altar up the aisle between the pews.  No one was in the way of the bolt - but the altar was now glowing a fiery blue-red.

As they pondered their next move, a naked man walked into the chapel.

Larry: "Yo, I'm Larry. Find the treasure?"
JoJo:  "Not yet.  It's probably behind that orange misty archway.  You should check it out."
Larry: "You bet I will!  Treasure, here I come!"

Naked Larry ran through the arch, into the glowing orange mist, and quickly returned - as a naked woman.  Larry was now Larina.

Larina:  "There wasn't any treasure!  And I've got boobs now! What the hell?"
JoJo:  "Well you can just go through it again to change back to a man."

Eyes narrowing in distrust, Larina was nevertheless convinced to recover her lost manhood by going through the arch a second time.  She did - and returned once again as a woman.

Larina: "Well that didn't work.  Guess it's boobs for me now!  Wonder if I'll still be a woman after I die?"
JoJo:  "You know what, you should sit on that glowing altar.  That's probably what'll reveal the treasure."
Larina:  "Well, OK.  I'm going to need some money for a new wardrobe.  Let's do it!"

The party retreated hastily and not at all suspiciously to the far corners of the chapel, and Larina hopped onto the glowing altar.  It exploded instantly, sending bits of Larina, altar, pews, candelabras, skeleton, and stonework all over the chapel.  The party was far enough away to be essentially unharmed as a mist of stone dust and blood settled over them.

Clearly, the altar wasn't a part of Acererak's puzzle.  The party now carefully searched the room for secret doors, and found a small slot in the southeast corner - a little wider than a coin, 1/4" by 1".  They dropped a gold coin in, but nothing happened.

Befuddled, the party headed back to the room of painted circles, and climbed through the red circle that Earl had used.  A small tunnel ended at a sharp slope down into a room with three chests, the opening ten feet above the floor.  Earl's body lay on the floor of the room, his neck twisted at an odd angle - the tunnel was a trap that had suddenly dropped down and Earl had broken his neck when he fell into the room.

The three chests were made of gold, silver, and wood, respectively. Pai Mei used his Ring of Stranger Things to open the gold chest - a dozen poisonous snakes leaped out, but the party easily killed them with crossbows from a safe distance.  He then opened the silver chest using the ring, and revealed a clear crystal box with a ring inside.  He levitated the box out of the chest (triggering a dart trap, which ineffectively hit the ceiling) towards the party.  Finally, he opened the wood chest, and a giant skeleton leaped out like a malevolent Jack-in-the-Box, wielding two scimitars.  It charged up to the opening in the wall and used its scimitars as scissors to cut Mary Lou's head off - the body and head tumbled forward into the room.

The party blasted away at the skeleton with magic missiles and crossbow bolts, reducing it to bone fragments, and pondered what to do with Mary Lou - was it worth wasting a Raise Dead on a henchperson again?  JoJo decided that since Raise Dead did not require a complete corpse, the best course of action would be to just take her head, and if they needed her, they could raise her from that.  Head in hand, the party headed back towards the chapel.

At the chapel, Pai Mei took the ring out of the crystal box and placed it in the slot in the wall ("the wise will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of magical metal").  The wall moved down slowly, crushing the ring flat as it did so, but a tunnel was revealed.  They followed the tunnel down some stairs and reached a door, Biff poking at the floor with a ten foot pole the entire way.  Immediately past the door, Biff found a pit trap, and then another door - the party recalled more of the riddle - "Two pits along the way will be found to lead to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall."  They opened the next door, found another pit trap and door after that, and then opened the third door - with a third pit trap - and the tunnel continued on into darkness after it.  Reasoning that two pits had passed, the fortuitous fall must be into the third pit, and Biff lowered himself down into the pit.  He searched and quickly found a wooden door painted to look like stone.

They opened the painted door, revealing another tunnel - after following it for a bit, stairs descended down into a misty corridor.  Biff walked down into the mist, but quickly ran back - the mist stung his eyes, blinding him, irritated his skin, and provoked a massive fear response. He ran past the party screaming about the tomb being a death trap, and they found him at the bottom of the painted-door pit desperately trying to jump ten feet up to the corridor above.  After a few minutes he relaxed as the fear gas worked its way out of his system.  While waiting, yet another naked Under-Miami citizen arrived.

Derek:  "Hey man, I'm Derek.  Find that treasure yet?"
JoJo:  "No, but we're close - we can feel it!  Just past this misty corridor - think you can scout ahead?"
Derek:  "Sure, want to split the treasure?"
JoJo:  "Yes, of course! You'll get a share!"

Derek headed into the mist - they heard him complaining about getting a rash, and then shout that he found a door.  The mist began to flow through this door as Derek opened it - he returned to the party, and they waited for the mist to clear.  The party and Derek headed through the door, discovering a stairway leading down into a room filled with webs.

Pai Mei used his ancient Oriental magics to send a burst of flame into the room, instantly clearing the webs.  They revealed a crypt - a burning lich with a crown reclined motionless on a solid gold couch, and a fancy silver-inlaid glowing mace lay on the floor at the bottom of the stairs.  JoJo picked up the mace, and a booming disembodied voice shouted:  "WHO DARES TO DISTURB THE REST OF ACERERAK? IT IS YOUR DEATH WHICH YOU HAVE FOUND."

The lich stood and began waving its hands around in mystical patterns.  The party unloaded their full arsenal, and instantaneously decimated the lich.  Derek ran down and grabbed the crown ("ow! hot!") from the lich's head.

Derek:  "K, this is my share!  You take the couch! See you guys later!"
JoJo: "Yeah, no."

JoJo used the glowing mace to crack Derek's skull open, and retrieved the crown.  Derek had clearly overestimated the size of his share.

Searching the room, the party found the burnt remnants of several scrolls, 278 pp, 29 cheap gems, and a jade coffer.  Biff picked the coffer up and shook it violently to hear what was inside - what he heard was glass shattering.  He opened the coffer and found six broken potion bottles and some sticky liquid sloshing around.

The party was unconvinced that this was actually Acererak - the lich had been defeated far too easily, and half the riddle was left to solve.  They returned to the painted-door-pit, wizard locked the door to prevent any Under-Miami tourists from walking off with the solid gold couch, and followed the unexplored corridor after the third pit into the darkness.  As they climbed out of the pit, another stranger showed up, this time fully clothed - a woman named Milly.  She followed the party to the end of the corridor, asking about the treasure and whether they had seen Derek ("No, never heard of him").

At the end of the corridor was an oaken door bound with iron bands and secured with several locks.  Pai Mei listened at the door and heard far-off music and happy singing behind it.  The door was solidly secured, so the party quickly gave up on trying to open up and turned their attention back to the riddle.  Milly got bored and wandered off ("I'm going to go look at those other painted circles!").

After some time, the party decided to head back to the pit trap with the stone-painted door and see if they had missed something.  They went through, and Pai Mei pulled out the monocle to help search for more secret doors - and there it was, right after the painted door - a secret door.  They had thought that "will be found to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall" referred to the wall of the pit and the painted door, but it was actually the wall immediately after the painted door that the riddle referenced (WTF Gygax?)

Gains:  Monocle of True Seeing, 8000 sp, 6000 ep, 4000 gp, glowing mace, clear crystal box worth 10000 gp, jade coffer worth 5000 gp, crown worth 25000 gp, 278 pp, 290 gp in cheap gems
Kills: 12 poisonous snakes, giant skeleton, presumably fake Acererak, Derek
Losses: Earl, Mary Lou, Larina, blue gemstone collar

2019-09-16

So yeah, Tomb of Horrors...

I've got more free time, but not the right kind of free time... so while getting back to a monthly game session is happening, I didn't end up having time to prep more dungeon.  So I hauled out some classics with bad reputations:

a. The Tomb of Horrors!  Reading through it, it seemed "tough but fair", all the traps are telegraphed because everything is a trap.  The pits in the first hall in particular advertise the trappiness.  Biff's player is usually pretty reckless, and even he adjusted quickly, grabbing the levers for dear life in anticipation of the floor dropping was showing the requisite level of paranoia.

b. In the Dungeons of the Slave Lords!  It's bullshit to strip players of all their stuff unwillingly, so I figured I'd see if they wanted to volunteer to go in naked.  They can't abide the idea of the BEC taxing them - I thought that a tax abatement would be the perfect bait.  My players weren't having it, slaughtering the BEC instead was more appealing, and they LOVE their equipment, despite rarely using it (mostly due to poor inventory control, the longer-standing characters have 10 pages of notes attached to them at this point).

Kudos to Gutboy for his obvious, ham-handed attempt at framing Ashkasar (a villain encountered in Guy Fullerton's "Many Gates of the Gann") for the BEC murders - it will totally work, because it's fun letting these things succeed and having ALL the unintended hilarious consequences possible happen.

It's funny seeing how different players reacted to the Tomb - Biff and Pai Mei's players could care less about character death, it's just a re-roll with a new character class, whereas Gutboy's player views survival as a victory condition.  He's even talking resurrecting or re-creating Rufus the talking dog, trying to get back to that "win" state.  We'll see how that plan works out, he hasn't given me any specifics.  He had Gutboy retreat, and played the pair of healers instead.

Speaking of which, for henchmen, I extracted all the "new class" articles from my Dragon Magazine Archive and printed & bound them, and I've got a table of them I use when I need to produce new henchmen.  There were the usual weird misfits (entertainers? geisha? Neanderthals?), but the Healer class is insanely OP.  I stated they were all fifth level, and then checked the capabilities - fifth level "Raise Dead Fully" (as opposed to partially?) spells available to them.  I'm not one to back down on giving excessive powers to players, it's fun to see them be misused (or, more rarely, correctly used), so they've got that going for them.  It might be enough to lure the party back into the Tomb.

Or maybe they'll go dungeoneering in the Anomalous Subsurface Environment instead - I need to do some writing.

2019-09-15

Tomb of Horrors Question for You

So my Tomb of Horrors is some mint-condition 1981-ish copy I picked up years ago for super cheap, when people didn't care about 1st edition AD&D.  So yay me for being effectively the first person to run this copy, BUT there are misprints, which is making running this a little tricky.

A question for people who have other copies - room 9, the "Complex of Secret Doors", it has the text "...each round that there are characters in a shaded room, a number of bolts will be fired into the area from hidden devices..."

The map has no shaded rooms.  I'm guessing they are supposed to be the four rooms that you can walk through without finding secret doors, to punish characters going for the easy route?

Can anyone confirm?

I'm trying to keep this expedition authentic to the source material, it just never seemed that terrible when reading.  I played in it when I was 12-ish, and only for a part of it, and barely remember.

Gutboy's player was clearly traumatized, but that was under a high schooler age DM, and we presumably all remember how antagonistic high school DMing was in practice.

2019-09-11

session recap, 9/8/2019


CAST
-------
Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (7)
Gutboy the Cleric (7)
Biff the Fighter (6)
Assorted Henchpersons:  JoJo the Healer (5), Phil the Healer (5), Mary Lou the Entertainer (Acrobat) (5), Grog the Neanderthal (5), Rosy the Geisha (5)

After an uneventful journey back to Under-Miami with the glorious black pearl, the party divvied up the loot - but rather than retiring to a lifestyle of ease and luxury, they decided to once again risk all in a life-threatening pursuit of gold and thrills.  Surface-worlders were a common sight on Ocean Drive - the Blessed Expeditionary Company had set up an auxiliary office in one of the art deco hotels, and "BEC" t-shirts adorned the adventurers milling about on the nearby beaches.

Chatter among the locals revealed two recent adventuring opportunities.  The first was nearby - with the coming Halloween season, the city was sponsoring their annual "Spooktacular Tomb" event - a three-entrance tomb, from which no one ever returned - surrounded by booths offering fried dough, cotton candy, and balloons - the perfect diversion for the seemingly immortal populace of Under-Miami.  The second was on the surface - the BEC was sponsoring a "Loincloth Challenge", where incorporated adventuring parties who dropped into a gaping Hole of Adventure with no equipment other than loincloths, and made it out the "other end", wherever that may be, would be granted a full year exemption from the BEC's 10% tax on proceeds from dungeon exploration.

Adventuring unequipped was unseemly, so Pai Mei proposed that the party visit the Tomb.  Gutboy was further outraged that the BEC was establishing a presence in Under-Miami - their refuge from political skullduggery.  Gutboy took his outrage to his good friend, the mayor - equally outraged, the mayor proclaimed that a lavish fundraising party with sufficient blow for the guests would sway him towards ignoring any "accidents" that occurred at the BEC auxiliary headquarters.

Gutboy spent his portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Black Pearl (purchased by an anonymous investor, either the mayor or an acquaintance, as it was on a pedestal in the mayor's office) on illicit pharmaceuticals, and reached out to one of the party's growing list of archnemeses, the cannibal wizard Ashkasar, with an invitation.  At the party, he struck a deal:

Gutboy:  "Ashkasar!  I think we have a lot in common!"
Ashkasar:  "I think I'm going to eat you.  And everyone you know."
Gutboy:  "Don't be like that!  Look, there's some people who need to go - the BEC.  Clear them out, and your cannibal society will get there hotel back!"
Ashkasar:  "I have my own quarters, thank you.  Although the society will certainly be pleased to get their headquarters back.  And I could go for someone different to eat, it's the same person over and over and over here.  Such a lack of variety!  I'll assist, but understand this partnership is temporary.  You took my spellbook, and my best silverware!  You're going to be my lunch."
Gutboy:  "We'll be friends for life!  Give it a chance!  We have a wonderful future together!"

[Pai Mei and Biff spent their proceeds in a more practical fashion, purchasing a variety of laser rifles, machine guns, and ammunition.]

After the festivities ended, the party headed to the BEC headquarters.  Various functionaries were inside, along with five would-be henchmen, waiting for a party to hire them.  Gutboy incorporated the party, naming them "Ashkasar's Minions" in an attempt to frame the wizard for the mayhem to come - Ashkasar was to slaughter everyone in the BEC headquarters, while Gutboy was to hire all the henchmen and get them killed during in an adventure (a task the party had a remarkably successful history with).

The five henchpeople were a motley crew:  two rival healers, JoJo and Phil, who were busy cutting their forearms to show who could better apply a bandage, Mary Lou the spunky acrobat, looking to entertain adventuring parties with her tumbling while earning her fortune, Grog the Neanderthal, who may be just a caveman, but even he knew the profits to be found as a henchman, and Rosy the Geisha, who had somehow fallen into the belief that artistic dancing with a hand-fan was best practiced in trap-filled dungeons.

The henchmen demanded a standard half-share to join the party ("Them's the BEC United Henchman Local 411 rules!  This is a union dungeon, buddy!") - Gutboy stopped by the Cannibal Society temporary HQ to let Ashkasar know that it was open season on the BEC auxiliary headquarters staff - and the party was off to the SPOOKTACULAR TOMB for Halloween adventure.

At the tomb entrances, the party decided to enquire after a guide.
Pai Mei:  "Hey, does anyone know what's inside?"
Future guide:  "Oh no mister, that's why it's so spooktacular!  Nobody ever returns!  Great Halloween mystery, right?"
Pai Mei:  "Yeah.  Think of all the wallets that must be stacked up in there by now.  You mind being our guide?"
Guide:  "Awesome!  This is going to be the most fun ever!  Let me light this torch!"

The "guide" spent several minutes trying to light his cotton candy on fire as a makeshift torch, and happily led the crew into the tomb.  They selected the central entrance from the three available.  Inside, the walls were covered with plaster, which was in turn painted with murals of people performing various mundane chores.  One mural stood out, showing a picture of a jackal-headed Anubis holding a metal box - which protruded from the wall - an actual box - very tricky, tomb architect!  The mural next to it depicted a torture chamber with an iron door, in stark contrast to the more mundane scenes painted on the rest of the tunnel.  A path of red stone was set into the floor of the tunnel, meandering its way south.  Pai Mei instructed the guide to "check out" the box - he happily followed the path, waving his flaming cotton candy around merrily, and the floor opened up underneath him, dropping him into a pit.

The party rushed over and looked in - the pit was filled with spikes, coated with purple goop, and filled with the dead bodies of Halloween tomb explorers, the guide being the latest addition.  Unphased, they had Mary Lou open the box (hinged underneath instead of the top) - she felt inside, found an invisible lever, and yanked it at Pai Mei's behest - dropping her into yet another spiked pit.  The party rushed to this second pit, and saw her face turning black as she choked on her tongue, the purple poison on the spikes rotting her from the inside out.  They quickly lowered Grog on a rope to drag her back up, and the healers fought over the opportunity to neutralize her poison ("You guys are so compassionate!  I heard you adventurers left henchmen to die!").  They headed 10' south, Mary Lou leading the way, and she fell into yet another pit - clearly the tomb architect was a pit fan.  She died messily on a spike - the healers suggested using their Raise Dead Fully to bring her back, but were vetoed by Gutboy - such powers were for employers, not coworkers.

The party handed a 10' pole to Grog, and had him and Rosy lead them down the tunnel - the tapping pole found several more spiked pit traps.  At the end of the tunnel was a giant green devil face carved in the south wall, its open mouth a gaping black maw which no light penetrated.  To the east was an archway, filled with swirling mist.  As Rosie approached it, blocks in the archway lit up - a block to the left glowing yellow, a block at the top of the arch glowing blue, and a block on the right glowing orange.  Grog the Neanderthal suddenly piped up - "Hey, checking out the hall all this way, I can tell there's a message written on the floor!  So easy a caveman can read it!"  He recited the following:

    ACERERAK CONGRATULATES YOU ON YOUR POWERS OF OBSERVATION. SO MAKE OF THIS WHATEVER YOU WISH, FOR YOU WILL BE MINE IN THE END NO MATTER WHAT!

    Go back to the tormentor or through the arch,
    and the second great hall you'll discover.
    Shun green if you can, but night's good color
    is for those of great valor.
    If shades of red stand for blood the wise
    will not need sacrifice aught but a loop of
    magical metal - you're well along your march.

    Two pits along the way will be found to lead
    to a fortuitous fall, so check the wall.
    These keys and those are most important of all,
    and beware of trembling hands and what will maul.
    If you find the false you find the true
    and into the columned hall you'll come,
    and there the throne that's key and keyed.

    The iron men of visage grim do more than
    meets the viewers eye.
    You've left and left and found my Tomb
    and now your soul will die.


The party thought about it for a second, went "meh", and headed through the misty arch - with the exception of Gutboy, who was overcome with abject terror, memories of past lives dying in similar tombs overwhelming him.  He ran back to the hotel, vowing never to return - leaving henchmen to act in his stead.  As each person passed through, they were teleported into a cramped 10' by 10' room with three levers on the north wall.  The levers (joysticks, really) could be moved up, down, left, and right.  Biff immediately grabbed one of the levers and held tight, fearful that the floor might suddenly drop out, given the sheer number of pit traps they had just found.

The party decided that all three levers should be moved down simultaneously - so Biff, Grog, and Rosie all pulled levers down.  The floor, of course, instantly opened, and the party began to fall - except for the insightful Biff, who clung to his lever with all his might.  Pai Mei used his Stranger Things Ring (telekinesis) to hold himself in place, and the two healers used their Fly spells as they fell, allowing them to safely float back to the rest of the party.  Grog and Rosie screamed for a long time before a splat was heard - and Gutboy's plan had now claimed three of the five henchmen.  After a few minutes, the floor rose back up.

Nervous, but with no other options, the party tried moving the levers left simultaneously, then right, then up - which was the correct answer.  As they moved the levers up, a trapdoor opened in the ceiling, revealing a crawlspace that led back to the tomb entrance.  They pushed open a cramped door, covered by plaster murals, and lowered themselves back into the main tunnel.

Revisiting the clues left by Acererak, they went to the torturer mural and tapped it with a 10' pole - the iron door echoed metallically - there was an iron door beneath the plaster painting.  One of the healers knocked the plaster off and opened the door, and the party advanced into the tomb.

The next room was occupied by a massive, alarmingly mobile 4-armed gargoyle, wearing a collar studded with blue gemstones.  One healer slowed the gargoyle, while another hasted the party - this four-to-one ratio of party to gargoyle actions ensured the monster's demise.  Lasers, swords of salesmanship, fiery magic shurikens (with clouds of concealing smoke, a detail Pai Mei elaborated on in great detail) lacerated the beast, but not before it was able to knock one of the healers (JoJo) unconscious.  Disdainfully, his colleague Biff brought him back from the brink of death, a shame he will never let JoJo live down.

Pai Mei examined the collar - a compartment contained a piece of paper with another of Acererak's clues:

    Look low and high for gold, to hear a tale untold.  The archway at the end, and on your way you'll wend.

Resources expended, the party decided they should leave the tomb and recover before proceeding further.  On the way out the door, JoJo raised Mary Lou from the dead (bringing the losses from three back down to two) - "You are the best employers EVER!" - and the party let the crowd of funseekers outside know that they had made progress in the tomb.  Crowds of victims/sightseers rushed into the tomb - distant screams were heard - and then nothing.

Gains:  Blue gemstone collar (1000 gp value)
Kills:  Four-armed gargoyle
Losses:  Rosy, Grog, Gutboy's courage




2019-08-11

Player Character Deformity

Anne of DIY & Dragons left a comment on the last session recap mentioning she liked the "body horror" of ASE.

I had actually never thought of it in those terms - although that does tend to be the net result - so I'll describe my "theory" here.

Player characters evolve through play - their stories are the result of actual play sessions - at least they are in MY games.  Character backgrounds are boring, it's interactions between people (players and DM) that are interesting.

I put a lot of stuff in ASE to deliberately allow for weird body modifications to enable interesting character evolution.  This is a kind of conversation between the DM and the player - who is mostly a willing participant, although not always - that results in the organic growth of character background.

The game itself is a way to generate these stories dynamically (and enable infantile humor at the table, in my campaign).  So I make a conscious effort to include the tools to make this happen. For voluntary tools, I leave a LOT of things with obvious consequences around for players to play around with.  This creates a sense of discovery and a sense of dire consequence.  Character death is certainly a modification, but not super entertaining, so I lean towards body modification where I can.  Changing PC capabilities is a lot more interesting for DM and player than reducing their capabilities (via death, stat reduction, etc).  I've got that too, players should genuinely worry about consequences, that causes them to weigh their actions - and thus choices are interesting for players - but if something seems like it will do something, and isn't obviously a trap, it won't be a "ha ha gotcha dummy", it'll be stranger than that.  Players need to trust that their DM isn't just randomly screwing them over.

[of course, LotFP style adventures take a different tack, and they're a different kind of fun and they work, but they have a much different mood - my players could tell that Death Frost Doom was operating by different, more lethal rules when they went through it and adjusted their behavior accordingly]

Now for involuntary body modification - those tend to be reversible (such as the face stealers) and thus a "plot hook", or just better than dying in a pinch (such as getting operated upon by Dr. Giggles - really, who expects quality medical care from a dungeon clown?).  It's still generating story, but it's not quite as awesome as players doing it to themselves - when someone volunteers, they don't know WHAT is going to happen, but they know the consequences are all on them.

In summary: I'll do both, but prefer players to sit in the head exchanger of their own accord.

2019-08-08

session recap, 8/4/2019

CAST
-------
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)

The Mongos spent some time in confusion, trying to remember where they were and why. They appeared to be two fewer than a moment before, but no one took notice.  As they recalled the events of a year ago / a moment ago, they realized that three sharks were waiting for them on the other side of the door in this flooded dungeon.

Mongo opened the door a crack, thrusting his sword at one of the sharks.  The blade connected, and the sharks fled - they did not favor food that fought back.  The Mongos waited a bit, opened the door, and headed back towards the large room the sharks had originally come from.  They saw the fins circling at the edge of their torchlight, and quicly closed the door to the room, trapping the sharks in the room once again.

Never ones to flinch from danger - at least not when they occupied disposable Mongo bodies - the party headed west, into an unvisited part of the dungeon.  The corridor curved north, then up, above water level, then back down into the water.  They graciously allowed the grieving cannibal chief to lead the way, which led to his almost instant demise at the hands of several megapiranha lurking in the watery depths of the corridor.  While an unarmed cannibal was easy prey, the Mongos had swords, crossbows, and low tolerance for seafood - a recipe for victory!  The fish were driven off, pursued to the end of the corridor, and murdered where they swam.

The corridor ended in a door with rubber gasket around it.  Incautiously, the Mongos pushed the door open, causing the water, and themselves, to be swept into a dry room, against a nondenominational altar.  The chief's fish-gnawed corpse was washed on top of the altar in a grisly display.  The Mongos were unmoved (except by water pressure of course).  They confiscated a well-balanced bone-handled mace hanging from a hook on the wall, searched the altar under the water level, and discovered a secret compartment containing 500 gold coins and a pair of coral fish statuettes.

None of this was the great black pearl mentioned in the brochures in Under-Miami - disgruntled, the party headed back to the shark room.  One Mongo opened the door a crack and swung his sword at the sharks that charged towards it, while another ducked under the water and failed miserably to fire a crossbow at the sharks between the first Mongo's legs.  Above-air sword-Mongo scored hit after hit, while below-water crossbow-Mongo continued to fire crossbow quarrels into the deep, missing the crowd of sharks every time.  Sharks died one after another, and the room was safe for Mongokind.

A Mongo performed a survey of the edge of the room, swimming the perimeter.  At the northwest corner, he (literally) stumbled upon a giant oyster, eight feet wide.  He dove down and saw that the brochure was correct - a giant black pearl the size of a basketball sat inside the oyster.  He swam in to grab it, kicking oyster organs with his Mongo boots, causing the bivalve to slam its shell shut on the helpless Mongo.

Mongos descended on the oyster, using their swords to shuck it.  They pried it open before their bosom friend Mongo drowned, and brought their prize to the surface - the pearl was theirs!

"Can this be all there is?"  they collectively wondered.  "Is this the end of the dungeon?"  Not ones to safely leave with a vast quantity of treasure, they searched for secret doors instead - and found one, behind the oyster.  Pressing a catch, a section of the wall slid away, revealing a corridor heading north.  They waded down the hall, fighting giant rats that poured from holes above the waterline - they were no threat whatsoever.  At the end of the hall, another door - opening it revealed an empty 30' by 30' room with a door on the opposite side.

Mongo prodded the room with a 10' pole, triggering a flaming oil trap.  Mongo, Mongo, Mongo, and Mongo retreated down the hall until the oil burned out and the smoke cleared, then returned.  Mongo then opened the door on the opposite side, revealing a dry corridor beyond, and a lowered portcullis.  The water swept the Mongos through and -

Mongo: "Hey, did that door have a gasket?"
Mongo: "Shouldn't we have noticed that?"

- and Mongo closed the door just in time, defying all physical laws with an act of impossible strength.  Instead, they knifed through the gasket until the door showed signs of giving way, then retreated to the deep-water oyster room.  They waited until the water drained to dungeon-corridor-floor-level, and then returned to the 30' by 30' room and the portcullis beyond.

Mongo pulled a lever, lifting the portcullis - beyond that was a stairway heading down, and a door heading west.  They opened the non-gasketed door, revealing a steaming pit and a corridor beyond.  Following this new corridor, they came to another portcullis, beyond which was a room full of adorable Norman Rockwell-esque statuary, carved in nauseating green-streaked red stone.  Wrapped around several of the statues of women holding infants and prancing unicorns were four snakes.

The portcullis lifted easily - clearly there was a counterweight.  Mongo boldly stepped in to confront the snakes, who reared up and spit poison in his eyes as he stepped on a pressure plate, causing the portcullis to crash down behind him.  Blinded, he ran headlong into a unicorn statue, and the snakes converged on him, biting and spitting.

Mongo, Mongo, and Mongo were not going to abandon Mongo, so they fired crossbows through the portcullis until the snakes were slain.  They then pressed the pressure plate again to release tension on the portcullis and lifted it.  Mongo's body had gone bloated and black with snake venom, and began to dissolve into green gas.  Mongo and Mongo backed off, but Mongo caught a deep lungful of the gas.  He staggered from the room complaining of severe gas pains, as his abdomen began to distend and bubble.

Horrifyingly, a lump of flesh detached from Mongo's side and fell to the floor.  The bubbling meat formed into a tiny hand, followed by a tiny arm, and quickly took the form of a mini-Mongo.  The "parent" Mongo was left with a deep gap in his body.

Unphased, Mongo, Mongo, Deformed Mongo and mini-Mongo decided to head down the stairs near the first portcullis in search of further treasure.  At the bottom was a volcanic chamber full of boiling mud.  Occasional mud-bubble bursts revealed the ruddy light of magma below.  In the glow, they saw mineral terraces on the northwestern edge of the cavern which ascended into darkness, and a lava tube heading into the darkness at the southwestern edge.  They traversed a series of narrow mineral bridges across the boiling mud, heading towards the lava tube.

At the halfway point, a tentacles head emerged from a nearby mud pool.

Kopru: "Obey the will of the Kopru!"
Mongo: "OK."
Kopru: "What?  You mean, without mind control?  This isn't usually how this goes"
Mongo: "What are the benefits?"
Kopru:  "Oh.. well... there's lots of bowing to the Kopru.  Hanging out in this mud cave..."
Mongo:  "No thanks."
Mongo: "Never mind."

Disappointed at lost opportunity and its own poor salesmanship, the Kopru probed Mongo's mind, and then Mongo's mind, and then Mongo's mind, as the Mongos fired crossbows at it.  One of the Mongos shouted "Oh! Hey!  There ARE a lot of benefits to obeying the will of the Kopru!" and rushed at mini-Mongo, attempting to fling him to his Kopru master.  He missed - but the Mongos did not, and the kopru was skewered between the eyes by a quarrel.  Mongo reconsidered his kopru allegiance, and the party continued to the lava tunnel.

The tunnel ended at a ledge overlooking a deep pit, 100' across and 200' down, full of boiling lava.  Floating in the lava was a massive egg, 50' across.  A shadowy form moved inside the egg, pressing at the edges.  After some discussion, the Mongos wisely decided that shooting holes in the eggshell with their crossbows probably wouldn't end well, and headed back to the mud cave, and from there to the mineral terraces.

They saw a kopru pop its head out of another mud pool, right next to the path to the terraces - and made a run for it.  The kopru shouted "Obey the will of..." as they ran by at top speed.  Confined to its pool as it was, they were quickly out of the range of its sales pitch.

It was a short climb to the top of the mineral terraces - at the top was a skeleton sitting atop a throne, both encrusted under a layer of minerals, deposited by water dripping from a stalactite above.  Mongo hammered away at the mineral, revealing the shape of the throne - forged impractically and uncomfortably from hundreds of swords - and the presence of a ring (inscribed with the number 11) on the skeleton's hand, and a beautiful sword with a kopru-head pommel in its lap.  Clearing the minerals away entirely, Mongo then sat on the throne, becoming ruler of the seven kingdoms.  It's a better ending than HBO came up with.

Mongo put on the ring, expecting that it would give him the salesmanship of the kopru, perhaps allowing him to bend the kopru to HIS will.  The party approached the kopru they had earlier fled, and Mongo concentrated all his will on the ring and the kopru.  As it shouted "Really, the will of the kopru isn't that bad!", the tentacle-faced monster was hurled 60' up into the air - the ring wasn't a ring of salesmanship, it was a ring of telekinesis.  Mongo released the kopru - it plummeted to the mineral path in front of them - and Mongo and Mongo finished it up with their swords.

The Mongos were convinced that they had fully and thoroughly looted the dungeon, and headed back to the vat-room from which they were born.  They hopped one after another into the vat of bubbling flesh, dissolving back into meat-goo.

In a cave on the other side of the volcanic slope, Gutboy, Pai Mei, Rolf, and Biff awoke as the plastic hemispheres attached to their heads retracted into the ceiling.  On a pedestal in front of them was all the loot the Mongos had acquired - including the black pearl.

Gains:  2 coral statues 1000 gp each, ring of telekinesis inscribed with "11", mace with fish-carved bone handle, sword with kopru pommel, and the BLACK PEARL OF MONSTER ISLAND
Kills:  3 mako sharks, 3 giant piranhas, giant oyster, 6 giant rats, 4 spitting cobras, 2 kopru
Losses:  Mongo.  Temporarily.  Half of a Mongo when you do the math