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.


session recap, 8/4/2019

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


Mah links are busted!

My download links are all busted.  Companies are figuring out that hosting files for free makes them zero dollars and zero cents.  Who clued them in?  It was one of you, wasn't it?

I'll fix this all up in September.  Gonna be running another game session in August, too, maybe get back on a monthly game schedule.

[edit - or maybe I'll just fix the obviously busted ones RIGHT NOW and not be lazy]
[edit - and I just saw comments by people who have since passed away.  Mortality is a real downer.]


Buh-Bye Google+

I hear Google+ is shutting down?  I can't say I'm particularly sad, it killed the blog scene pretty thoroughly, which had a lot more and better-focused content.  I'm also way more partial to forums.

It does raise the question, though - do people still read blogs?  WHO READS THIS BLOG?  Probably very few people after the scant attention I've given it the past few years!

Campaign is starting up again though, but it's very hard to schedule weekend games during football season.  Should be getting together again in December.  That means more Mongos, and a better chance of seeing ASE4-5 sometime this century, because I only feel motivated to write when I have to.


whooops, forgot the character sheets

Yeah, so that last session - I had pulled the characters sheets out of my folder the last time we played, and a year passed, so I forgot I did that - but I did have long-undead Mongo's character sheet still floating around.

"Crap.  I forgot the characters.  All I've got is an old Mongo."
"I guess I could play him again."
"You can ALL play him."

Gonzo-science-fantasy is a very forgiving genre for D&D.

session recap, 9/23/2018

Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)
Mongo the Fighter (4)

After slaying the pumpkin-headed monsters in the last session, the party proudly inspected the corpses.  As they did so, transparent plastic hemispheres suspended by wires dropped from the ceiling over each of their heads, and their consciousnesses were absorbed from their bodies.

Gutboy, Pai Mei, and Rolf found their minds being deposited into a giant vat of roiling flesh-matter.  Gutboy's mind drifted to thoughts of beloved Mongo, who became a wight in the swamps so long ago - but was still sorely missed.  The machines transferring his mind took note, and buds of meat formed themselves into simulacra of Mongo - six in total.  Each of the three found his mind split across two Mongos.  The Mongos were expelled from the vat, and found themselves in a room hewn from volcanic stone.  In the center of the room was the flesh vat, and arranged around it, against the walls of the circular chamber, were banks of machines with blinking lights and unlabelled switches.  Sunlight streamed in from an opening in the north wall.

The Mongos inspected themselves - they looked human, and were dressed in shabby smoking jackets over plate mail, and were each equipped with the Sword of Unlife, a flamethrower, and a ten foot pole.  Their packs were loaded with iron rations and flasks of oil.  They seemed to be human, if all identical, but occasionally their flesh would ripple like water.  This pleased Pai Mei, who otherwise disapproved of his sudden lack of deformity.

They approached the northern exit, and found themselves on a ledge overlooking the interior of the crater of the volcano in the center of Monster Island.  The crater was four miles across, and a large lake spanned most of it.  Around the edges of the lake was verdant jungle, and a few miles to the west, a human village.  In the center of the lake, the ancient ash cone formed an island, and a ruined temple was built into the side of the cone.

To their collective horror, the Mongos discovered they had no rope - Mongo clearly had been fond of letting someone else haul the rope around.  They tore their smoking jackets into strips - which bled briefly, much to their disgust - and used those to tie the 10' poles together.   The smoking jacket strips scabbed firmly onto the poles, and they were able to lower themselves safely to the crater floor.

The Mongos headed towards the village, sending one of their number to investigate.  It stood on the side of the lake, five houses surrounded by a stockade fence, with two larger huts built on stilts in the lake itself.  An open gate led into the village, and an islander in a grass skirt was busy working on the gate's hinges as Mongo approached.  When he saw Mongo, he began shouting - "Get the hell out of here!  You!  Go!  You're not wanted!"  The villager's shouts attracted more men, wielding spears, and Mongo retreated back into the jungle.

The Mongos were not particularly interested in the village, and just wanted a canoe to get across to the ash cone and the ruined temple, clearly the location of the black pearl the tourist brochures described.  They waited until the middle of the night, and two Mongos stripped off their armor and swam over to an outrigger canoe tied off to one of the lake-huts.  On the shore, a watchman stood by a bonfire, and spotted the Mongos as they climbed into the canoe.  "Everyone! Quick!  The cannibals are attacking!"  Villagers poured out onto the shoreline as the Mongos paddled away - shouts of "Yeah!  Get out of here!  We drove them off!  Go team!" were heard as they made their escape with the precious outrigger canoe.

The Mongos picked up the other Mongos, and headed towards the ruined temple.  It was a broad patio cut into the side of the ash cone, with stairs leading up to a pair of gigantic stone feet, the rest of the statue having long since fallen to ruin and its remnants dragged off to who-knows-where.  Behind the statue, faces were carved into the walls, with lit braziers in front of them, and a tunnel led into the interior of the temple.

The Mongos ventured into the tunnel - it was choked with rubble to a height of three feet, and behind the pile of rubble stood islanders with spears.  One threw his spear at a Mongo, missing - and the Mongos retaliated by running over the rubble, charging the savage islanders with their Swords of Unlife, skewering three of them.  The fourth ran down the tunnel screaming "Intruders!" - a Mongo sent a crossbow bolt into his rump - but he was not slowed down, and escaped into the next room.

Cautiously the Mongos stuck their heads into the next room, and saw a wide stone chamber with a bonfire in its center, and balconies arranged around the edges, with stairs leading down near the room's entrance.  Across the room was a large stone face, vandalized almost beyond recognition.  Dozens of islanders, men, women, and children, were pouring out of doors along the balconies and rushing down the stairs.

The Mongos quickly devised a plan, and ran back into the tunnel, splashing it with flasks of oil as they retreated.  Once past the rubble, they opened fire on the pursuing hoard with their flamethrowers, and the stench of cooked meat filled the air.  At least a half dozen warriors were killed in the inferno.  More savages stuck their heads into the tunnel to see what the Mongos were up to, and on each occasion were riddled with crossbow bolts, killing another handful.  Their numbers drastically reduced, cries of "Run away! Women and children first!" were heard from the chamber.

The sounds of retreat and panic attracted the Mongos, who rushed into the room, swords swinging and crossbows firing.  As more men fell, the remaining warriors panicked, and began pushing the women and children out of the way to get to a rope in the corner of the room, leading to a hole in the ceiling and sweet, sweet freedom.

The Mongos were not inclined to let hostiles escape, and targeted a man who was obviously the chief, due to his sweet bone-and-obsidian sword, and a man who was obviously a witch-doctor, on account of his witch-doctor-mask.  Two Mongos cut the witch doctor down from behind, and another two stabbed repeatedly at the chief.  As they did so, the fourth warrior from the hallway turned around, grabbed a toddler, and threw it at one of the Mongos, hitting him hard in the head.

Mongo: "Seriously?"
Mongo: "That guys doesn't get to leave!"
Mongo: "Kill him!"
Mongo (slashing away repeatedly at the chief):  "Surrender! We won't hurt you!"
Mongo: "I said surrender!  We're not going to hurt you!"
Mongo: "This is what happens when you don't surrender!"

The Mongos slashed down more villagers from behind, and shot several crossbow bolts into the butt of the child-tossing-warrior - but his strategy of spear-everyone-on-the-rope-ahead-of-me was successful, and he escaped in a rain of skewered women and children, although he certainly wouldn't be sitting comfortably for some time.  The chief finally dropped his awesome-looking sword and screamed "Mercy!  We surrender to you, demons!"

The Mongos surveyed the situation - the islanders were down to five men in addition to the chief, a few dozen women, unarmed although ferocious looking with their facial tattoos and filed teeth, and another few dozen children.  Next to the bonfire in the center of the room were gnawed human remains, and slashed-up t-shirts with the Blessed Expeditionary Company logo still visible ("Oh, YOU'RE the cannibals those other villagers were talking about.  Well, good job.  We approve of this.")

They interrogated the chief about the black pearl ("Where is it?"  "Probably beyond the bricked-up wall that leads to Hell!  Stick your hand up that carved face's nose, and a secret door will open!  Then please go and leave us!"), forced the chief to jam his hand up the nose, and a secret door did open.

The cadre of Mongos ordered the remaining men to gather rocks to smash down the brick wall, and then marched them forward into the next room.  The wall behind the carved face sported peep-holes and a brass speaking-cone to intimidate worshippers in the main chamber, and Mongo shouted "I am the great and powerful Oz!  Ignore the Mongos behind the secret door!" at the women and children huddled within.  The women agreed that Oz was great and powerful, and the Mongos moved on to more serious business.

Another tunnel led further into the ash cone, and to the promised brick wall.  The cannibals smashed the brick wall down, and tried to return to their lair - but the Mongos weren't about to let henchmen walk off the job.  They and their chief were forced down the corridor beyond, where the floor, weakened by centuries of neglect, collapsed under the first two, dropping them into a room filled with water.  ("Augh!  There are things in the water!  They're not biting us, but eww!  Gross! Help!").  Cannibals were forced to help cannibals, and the group carefully filed single file past the hole and the weakened section of the floor.

They came to a door, opened it, and saw another room - this with an altar, covered with rotting debris, a few bejewelled copper bowls, and a stone box.  A Mongo forced a cannibal to open the box - inside was a coral-and-gold statue of a tentacle-faced monster with clawed tail-fins.

Cannibal:  "Whoa! This statue looks valuable, but it just tried to get inside my mind!"
Mongo: "How?"
Cannibal (jamming the statue in Mongo's face):  "Just by looking at it!  Like this!  See??"
Another Mongo:  "Put that back in the box!"

Mongo felt the influence of the statue in his mind, and determined that he would worship this wonderful tentacle creature, serving it forever and ever.  Fortunately, he shared a mind with Mongo, who told the Mongos that half of him had become a secret servant of a vile god.  Mongo then grabbed the box from the cannibal, held it above his head, and threw it at the ground.  The fragile statue within shattered, and Mongo's mind was freed.

Cannibal:  "You broke the tentacle-faced statue!  Good!  It looked horrible!"
Mongo:  "Racist!"

The Mongos gathered up the bowls and the gold bits of the statue, and moved into the next corridor, rounded a corner, and were faced with a collapsed tunnel.   They spent a few hours ordering the cannibals to clear the collapse, but it was clearly making little progress.  They returned to the broken floor, and ordered the cannibals into the flooded room below, dropping down to join them afterwards.  "I don't like this!  There are too many fish touching me!"  "Well, why don't you just eat the fish instead..."  "Are you crazy? That's what food eats!"

The room was flooded to a depth of 5', and had a door in the north wall.  As the cannibals moved about, they kept accidentally stepping on rusted torture equipment, and blood was beginning to cloud the water.  One suffered a foot injury serious enough to kill the man.  The Mongos are merciless employers, and forced the reduced cannibal horde northwards through the door.

They came to an intersection, headed east, and opened another door.  "Hey, this room is too big to see the other side!"  "Get in there!  Now!"  "Oh crap stairs" (SPLASH).  The lead cannibals tripped down the unseen stairs, and flailed about in the dark water.  Suddenly, fins appeared and headed towards them, attracted by the blood - sharks ripped into the cannibals.  The entire party fled, the sharks picking off the trailing cannibals one by one.  They reached the first room, and tried to jam the door shut as the chief ran through it, two other surviving cannibals trailing behind, screaming as the sharks bit at their legs.  The chief tried to stop Mongo from shutting the door, shouting "No!  My sons!" ("Oh right, they do look like you"  "Wouldn't you just eat them anyways?"), but the Mongos overpowered him.  The screams and splashing on the other side of the door quickly ended.

Gains:  100 gp worth of busted hypno-statue, two bejewelled coppers bowls worth 500 gp each
Kills:  Dozens of cannibals
Losses:  None


session recap, 7/23/2017

Pai Mei the Wu-Jen (6)
Rolf the Dwarf (5)
Gutboy the Cleric (7) and his henchdog Rufus II
S.P.A.R.K.I. the Robot (3)

[in a prior adventure, White Plume Mountain was raided for a third time, and Whelm acquired.  The dwarven hammer was too big a temptation for Rolf, and the party returned to Under-Miami claiming they failed to retrieve it.  The illicitly acquired weapon was host to an artificial intelligence determined to exterminate all space aliens - the only weakness being the crippling fear of the vulnerable, alien-infested skies it instilled in its bearer.  Mindy the Gynosphinx committed suicide, finally ridding herself of her hated lion body, and returned brandishing her diary and demanding her share of the loot.  She then stormed off in a huff, refusing to adventure further with the band of murder-hobos]

The party sat around their apartment in Under-Miami, desperate for something to do.  Discussions were had, and out of nowhere the crew (including long-absent robot S.P.A.R.K.I.) determined to head to Monster Island out in Biscayne Bay and seek the famed black pearl that all the tourist brochures went on and on about.  While Kalimar was absent, his "friends" remembered he had purchased a 30' Boston Whaler, and decided to "borrow" it for the trip out to the Godzilla-infested island.

The trip took several hours, and was uneventful.  The island itself was surrounded by cliffs and dangerous reefs, the only approachable section being a cluster of native villages on a peninsula at the southern end, cut off from the main island by 200' tall wooden wall.  The party motored towards the village docks - as they did so, Rolf tossed a grenade overboard, trying to impress the local fishermen with his weapon of mass fishing.  The tactic worked - vast quantities of tuna and yellowtail floated to the surface, dead, along with a now-deceased mermaid.  The fisherman excitedly brought out their nets and rowed out to bring in the harvest.

They tied off at the dock, next to a modern-looking pontoon boat with a shattered aluminum pontoon.  As they examined this second boat suspiciously, the chief of the Elk tribe ran out to meet them.  He explained that just yesterday, a group wearing "Blessed Expeditionary Company" had arrived on the damaged boat and headed inland to claim the fabled black pearl for their own.  Disgruntled by the appearance of rivals, the party followed the chief towards the village, with S.P.A.R.K.I. taking a moment to peel scrap metal from the pontoon boat for future repairs to his battle-worn chassis.

Elk Chief:  "Welcome!  Such a bounty you have brought!  We shall have a feast in your honor tonight!  Look at all the fish! And a mermaid!  It's so nice to not have to resort to cannibalism!"
Gutboy:  "So, we're looking for the black pearl.  Do you know where we can find it?"
Elk Chief:  "Well, we've never really seen or heard of it, but all the brochures you mainlanders keep bringing over say it's in the crater of the volcano at the center of our island.  Doesn't make a lot of sense to me, what kind of clam lives in a volcano?"
Pai Mei:  "Do you come back when you die?"
Elk Chief:  "Sure, but not like you mainlanders.  When we die, we come back as waiters."
Gutboy:  "So are there really monsters on the island?"
Elk Chief: "You bet!  Godzillas, rodans, ghidoras, we've got them all!  Oh and don't forget the mothras!"

There was a certain amount of confusion and fear, but the party put in their dinner orders (the "surf" end of the "surf'n'turf" - "You heard our guests - a plate of mermaid ass!") and prepared for the feast.

When the time came, the party sat at one of the dozens of tables set around the firepit where the mermaid and fishes roasted.  The villagers were wearing the headdresses of their respective tribes - Elk wearing elk heads, Sea Turtles wearing loggerhead skulls, Tigers wearing ferocious preserved tiger heads, and the Hawk tribe with tiny bird heads worn like little fezzes.  Their identities were all hidden by their masks (with the exception of the Hawk tribe).  Also present were a dozen or so men wearing human skull masks, and the waitstaff were rotting, animated corpses.  The zombies brought plates of mermaid butt to the party, leaving greasy diseased corpse-prints all over the sizzling chunks of fish.

Gutboy: "So who are all these people?"
Elk Chief:  "All of our tribes - the Elk, the Sea Turtle, the Tiger, and the Hawk tribe."
Gutboy (mishearing):  "The hot tribe?"
Elk Chief:  "Oh you mean the men in the skull masks?  They are our hottest men, but they are not a tribe!  They are the zombie masters!  Ugh!"
Gutboy:  "You don't like them?"
Elk Chief:  "Oh no, all that mucking around with corpses, it's horrible!  And they are secretive - who knows who could be behind those skull masks?  But if we complain, we end up becoming waiters!"

Gutboy had an idea - murder the zombie masters to ingratiate the party with the islanders - and so chugged a potion of ESP and approached one of the zombie masters.  The man was ridiculously buff, with oiled muscles and a well-defined six pack.

Gutboy:  "So, you guys make zombies?"
Zombie Master:  "Oh yeah, somebody's got to be a waiter"  [thinking: "Hmm, this guy seems hot! I wonder if he'd come to the zombie master party with me tonight?"
Gutboy:  "Wow, how do you become a zombie master?"
Zombie Master:  "Only the hottest of men may become masters of undeath!  It is a role extended by invitation only"
Gutboy:  "I wish I could be a zombie master"
Zombie Master:  "You know what?  Come to our party tonight!  Bring your friends!  Look for the torches to the north of the village, they will light the way!"  [thinking: "Oh I am going to SCORE" followed by unfamily-friendly mental images, as his grass skirt began to part of their own volition]
Gutboy:  "Ummm... right... yes, we'll be there... later..."

After the feast ended, the heroes waited for the torches to be lit beyond the village - and they were, accompanied by the distant sound of pounding bass music.  They followed a path cutting through the jungle towards a wide flat plateau, where dozens of well-toned men with skull masks danced feverishly to the beat, singing "EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!", surrounded by a motionless circle of the undead.

Pai Mei, longing for mayhem, instantly began incanting his fireball spell - a bright light flung from his finger towards the dance party - a voice shouted out "Hey look, firewo--" - and then an earth-shattering KABOOM followed by an incandescent mushroom cloud engulfed the plateau.  The party-goers and zombies alike were reduced to ash in an instant.

A few minutes later, the Elk chief and a horde of warriors approached, horror in their eyes.

Elk chief:  "What have you done? Those were our hottest men!"
Gutboy:  "I thought you hated them"
Elk chief:  "Look how homely we are now!  You will pay for this!"
Pai Mei:  "But you can eat them now!  Just look at all that sizzling fat!"
Elk chief:  "Fat? Seriously?  Do you know how good their BMIs were?"

Thinking fast, Pai Mei lowered his hood, revealing the glorious pompadour he had stolen from the corpse of Elvis.  The Elk chief fell to his knees, thoroughly dominated by the puissant hairdo.

Elk chief:  "It is he!  The one who was prophesied to release us from the rule of the Zombie masters, and then wander out of the village to die in the jungle!  All hail he of the glorious hair!"
Warriors:  "Uhh????  Chief? What prophecy?"
Elk chief:  "Silence!  Obey our master!"

The warriors, muttering, angry, and confused, obeyed their chief.

Gutboy:  "You must come with us to retrieve the black pearl!"
Elk chief:  "Shut up, you.  We serve the one with the hair!  Our prophesied master!"
Pai Mei:  "What he said.  Come with us."
Elk chief:  "I am old and would slow you down.  Take my warriors!"
Pai Mei:  "Yeah sure, why not."

Four warriors were "volunteered" to join the heroes on their voyage inland.  As soon as dawn broke, the crew headed into the jungle, passing through the 200' high palisade.  They hiked all day, passing a lake of bubbling tar, with a post used for tying sacrifices to the "Kongs", and camped in the foothills of the volcano.

After dark, the party saw torches in the distance to the north - they were not alone.  Gutboy ordered Rufus to investigate, while S.P.A.R.K.I. joked "Wait, what if they're cat people? Wouldn't that be funny?"  Alas, they WERE a wandering band of cat people, and only tragedy, not comedy, ensued.

There was furious barking from the direction of the torches, and the torches began moving erratically.  Then canine yipping, followed by feline yowling, coming closer - Rufus blinked into view, and three sabre-tooth tigers ridden by humanoid cat-men burst into the party's camp.  One of the tigers bit into Rufus's neck and shook him like a rag doll, while another slew one of the village warriors, and the third leaped at Gutboy.  Magic missiles flew, the mighty hammer Whelm was thrown, and drowsy insects nibbled at the warriors, putting them into a deep sleep.  It was for naught - Rufus was dead, slain by his natural enemy, a cat.

No time for mourning - the party was then rushed by the remaining cat people, running on foot.  Pai Mei sent a fireball into them, killing all but one, and then he used the power of Elvis' hair on the last.  Gutboy wanted to kill the cat-man to avenge his dog's death, but Pai Mei intervened, saving Mr. Whiskers (for that was his name).

Mr. Whiskers circled around his beloved Pai Mei, rubbing his head on Pai Mei's legs and purring, and then led the party to the cat camp.  Several luxurious tents had been set up, and there were thousands of dollars worth of expensive furnishings present.  Not being ones to pass up a buck, the party decided they would have the village warriors function as porters, carrying the hundreds of pounds of loot on their backs.  Tragically for the villagers, the rising sun saw several pit vipers stir from their nest (the cat-men had chosen a terrible campsite) and poison Mr. Whiskers and one of the warriors.  Another bit S.P.A.R.K.I., but his hydraulics were unaffected by the venom.

After the snakes were slain, the remaining two villagers were forced to carry double-loads of furniture - no sense in leaving anything behind, and two men could surely carry what they had planned for three men and a cat.  They hiked up towards the volcano, passing a tribe of cave-dwelling Neanderthals (who waved in friendship, but were ignored), and climbed the slope of the volcano to within a few hundred feet of the summit.

The party there found an obstacle - a deep cut through the side of the volcano with a swift-running stream at the bottom.  A rickety rope bridge led over the cut to a ledge on the other side, but above it circled a swarm of 7 small rodans with 10' wingspans.  Worried about the danger, the party ordered the villagers to carefully put down the hundreds of pounds of furnishing and try crossing the bridge.  One of the warriors balked, but Elvis' hair showed him the ineffable wisdom of obedience to cruel tentacle-faced wizard-monsters.

The rodans swooped down at the villagers, who cowered in fear - but then Gutboy pulled out an Uzi and sprayed bullets into the air.  The sound of gunfire inspired the rest of the party to spray lead at the hopelessly outmatched rodans - three plummeted into the ravine in an instant.  The remaining flock flew away as fast as possible.

On the other side of the bridge, the party found evidence of a campsite, only a day old - their rivals were already at the volcano!  They contemplated scaling the rim of the crater (another few hundred feet of steep climbing) or entering a cave adjoining the ledge.  Rolf noticed movement a few hundred feet away - there was another cave along a narrow path running from the ledge, and a pumpkin-headed hairy humanoid pulled back into it from where it was spying on the party.  The heroes did what heroes do, and decided the pumpkinoid must DIE.

They ran the narrow path, and found four pumpkin-headed furry humanoids waiting for them, guarding a lava tube running into the side of the volcano.  The slaughter was brief, the pumpkins smashed, and glowing robotic nodules found sticking up from the stumps of Bigfoot necks underneath the gourds.  What were these things?  Something to discover at the next session!

Gains:  10,000 gp worth of expensive cat furniture and rugs
Kills:  20 super-hot zombie masters, 40 zombies, 19 cat-men, 3 sabre-tooth tigers, 4 pit vipers, 3 rodans
Losses:  Rufus, 2 village warriors, Mr. Whiskers