Death of a Halfling, Unmourned

The semi-suicidal halfling finally met his end last Wednesday.  His player wanted a new PC, so he told everyone to not heal him.  Before he had even reached -10, the vultures were upon his carcass, looting him for all he had.  And gutting him for the heck of it, apparently.

I gave him the choice of rolling up a new PC or using Krogo the Pit-Fighter Slave, but he didn't want a fighter, so Dick Dock was born.

Note to fellow DM's - if you want your players to never drink potions they find, answer "what does it smell like" with "feces."  Ad-libbing odors is not my strong suit.

The players MIGHT actually head down to the second level next session.  They are under the impression they're down around the third level - no idea why, they are mostly rolling over 1st level monsters.  One of the oddities of 2nd level is that the XP requirements are the same as for 1st level, so there's no big incentive to go deeper for the party yet - they're still picking away at 1st level loot.  Gutboy's got orders to find a big bug, though, so that should get them heading deeper.

I got a proof back from Lulu for the book - it looks great, except for the maps which the Lulu printing process was not kind to.  I'm reworking those this weekend, and then I'll order another proof.  So the book should be available in a week or two.


Session recap, 5/25/2011

P.W. the Halfling (1), and his slave Krogo the Fighter
Gutboy Barrellhouse the Cleric (3), his dog Rufus, and his henchman Serlo the Elf
Mongo the Fighter (2), and his henchman Leroy Brown the Cleric
Netal the Elf (1), and his dogs Bitey and Moe
Justin the Dwarf (2), and his dog Bailey
Richard "Dick" Dock the Thief (1)

Things started off slowly in the city of Denethix.  Mongo and Gutboy awoke in Mongo's apartment, with no evil-book-related hauntings to disturb them.  P.W., Netal, and Justin slept in the common room of a filthy inn, along with a crowd of similar drunken wretched hobos - they awoke to find one of them had died during the night. Netal rifled the body, and contemplated gutting the corpse to see if the hobo had recently eaten gold, but decided to preserve law and order for the time being.

 The group met at the Bazaar Incomparable and got a bit of shopping done.  Mongo examined various wingback chairs, eventually settling on an only slightly battered clawfoot version, upholstered in fine Corinthian leather.  Netal harassed a gunsmith, attempting to buy a shotgun, but was informed that sales were restricted by the Unyielding Fist.

Gunsmith:  "I'm sorry, but those are restricted.  I can't get you one.  Look, let's approach this a different way.  What's the problem you're trying to solve?"
Netal:  "The problem is I want to buy a shotgun."

Eventually Netal offended the honor of the gunsmithing profession by asking if there were any gunsmiths who were less reputable, and was shooed away.  Justin actually spent some cash, and left his gun with the smith so that new bullets could be custom cast for the rifling in his barrel.

Justin:  "Wouldn't it be more efficient if you guys standardized the barrels?"
Gunsmith:  "Are you crazy?  I'd go out of business!  I make a fortune crafting these bullets!"

Alas, it appears the lessons of Henry Ford and the assembly line were lost when the world was broken.  P.W. decided he needed his magical bronze crow amulet identified by a sage - there were no known wizards in the city other than its ruler, Feretha, so he decided that perhaps an elven sage might be able to figure out what properties this relic held.  Heading back to Leafy Green's on the Street of the Alien, P.W. asked the bartender what he knew of the amulet.  The bartender cleared P.W.'s misconceptions that just any elf would be able to tell him the arcane secrets of any arbitrary magical artifact, and referred him to the eldest sage of the ghetto, Frondgar.  Frondgar's attempts failed, however - he sent his mind into the interstices between dimensions in an attempt to root out the intent of the maker, but the complexity of the enchantments were beyond his abilities.

Gutboy was extremely worried about finding a bug to sacrifice that was larger than himself, per Nisus's divine instructions.  He bothered the temple to see if they knew where to find large bugs, and was told that the largest beetles they knew of were the Giant Fusillade Beetles of the Lanthanide Wastes, far far to the south of the city - and that perhaps the gunsmiths would know more, as they were the purchasers of the beetle-paste.  Another trip to the gunsmith ensued - and he informed Gutboy that there were no beetle hunting expeditions in town at the moment, the last had left a week ago.  They should arrive back in a few more weeks, if they survive the beetles and the horrid insect-men who prowl the wastes.  Disappointed, Gutboy decided his best bet was in the dungeon.

The party assembled and equipped themselves.  P.W. picked up his slave Krogo from the slave-pens, and Mongo decided to leave Jimgar behind.  The trip to Mt. Rendon was uneventful until nightfall - however, in the middle of the night, during Mongo & Leroy's watch, the red mist from the last session returned.  Serlo once again turned pale, and groaned in his sleep, but could not be awoken, despite repeated slapping by Mongo.  Mongo & Leroy dragged everyone out of the mist, but not until a half hour passed and the mist disappeared were they able to awaken the other party members.

The rest of the night went uneventfully, and the party headed into the dungeon.  On the way to the lower level, they fought through four of the spongy yellow-and-red kruller-shaped monsters, and passed seven fire beetles that spun in a circle, indicating their respect for Nisus.

Once in the lower level, they made their way to the thirty-foot wide corridor that crossed the dungeon, and explored a corridor leading south from one of its many alcoves.  They found the room that the warrior Too had been slain in many weeks ago, and contemplated his well-chewed remains.  Mongo laid claim to Too's retractable 20' aluminum pole, and Justin grabbed the white shield that had once belonged to the warrior.  There was also a locked strongbox in the room - some jabbing with Justin's protonium letter opener destroyed the locking mechanism, and the lid flipped open, revealing a wealth of silver and tourmaline gems.

Flush with success, the party decided to try their luck beyond the secret door in the room of ravenous scarab beetles and silver-tasseled tapestries that they had looted a few sessions before.  The corridor beyond had many doors coming off of it - the first they opened revealed a room with a red-and-black checkerboard floor, and a door on the other side.  Mongo prodded at the squares with his retractable pole, and nothing happened.  Growing tired of the party's endless caution, P.W. boldly stepped into the room.  "See, it's safe" he said as he began to cross to the other side.  Sadly, halfway through, he depressed a five foot wide pressure plate stretching across the room, and a one foot thick section of dressed stone fell from the ceiling across the entire length of the room, crushing the halfling.

Little P.W. still lived, but it was clear he was going to die without aid.  Realizing the gravity of the situation, Netal quickly stepped in and yanked the bronze crow amulet from around P.W.'s neck, and began to rifle through his backpack, retrieving Krogo's Certificate of Ownership.  Deciding to forge P.W.'s signature and transfer ownership to himself, he declared himself to be Krogo's new master.  Justin was also keen to help P.W., and under the assumption that the halfling must have eaten some gold for breakfast that morning, assisted his digestion by gutting the little fellow and rooting through his innards looking for treasure.  Sadly, P.W.'s constitution was not up to this ungentle treatment, and he died messily.

Mongo, Serlo, and Leroy looked on this scene with expressions of horror, but they were an unsentimental bunch and quickly forgot the entire affair.  They continued down the winding corridor, ignoring some doors and paying attention to others.  They found a large stone door with a metal handle, and tugged it open a bit - there was webbing attached to the other side!  Mongo quickly let go of the door and it slammed shut on its own.  Just beyond this door was an archway, revealing a room with a transparent wall, looking into another room full of webbing, three giant crab spiders, and a struggling human caught in the webs.

A plan was quickly hatched, and pools of oil were splashed around the stone door, a rope was attached to its handle, Molotov cocktails were prepared, and flamethrowers were made ready.  The door was opened, and one spider was quickly engulfed, but the others crawled through the doorway and up and over the ceiling and walls.  Mongo's flamethrower singed one, and the two surviving spiders ran back into the webbing, fearing for their arachnid lives.

Triumphant, the party entered the room full of webbing, and cut their way towards the struggling human.  They released him, and the burly thug introduced himself as Richard "Dick" Dock.  Mongo explained that fortunately they just had an opening, and he was welcome to join their party - he accepted, and the party was whole once again.

The group moved further into the chamber, cornered and slew the spiders with arrows, and found a dessicated reptilian humanoid corpse in a cocoon of webbing.  The corpse had a pouch of gold and a potion bottle that smelled of feces.  It didn't look like sewage, however, and Mongo proclaimed "just because it smells like ass, doesn't mean it tastes like ass."  Despite these words of wisdom, nobody was willing to make the experiment.

Seeking to return to town, they found that the door had closed behind them, and there was only a featureless stone wall where the doorway should have been.  Further, the wall to the east that had been transparent from the outside, looked like normal stone from this side.  A deep suspicion gripped the party, and they wondered if morlocks had been watching them the entire time they were in the dungeon.

There was nothing to do except travel onwards in hopes of finding an exit.  The party followed a corridor to a room with two hooded, robed figures sitting cross-legged around a gold hookah.  Decorative beads of glass hung in an archway opposite the door.  Dick Dock boldly stepped into the room, heading to the other side - as soon as he did so, the figures leapt up, tossing their hoods back to reveal rotting faces with knives protruding from their eye-sockets.  He screamed in terror, and ran back past Mongo.  The knife-faced zombies chased after, and a grim melee ensued, until Gutboy stepped in and commanded the undead horrors to leave in the name of Nisus.  Unable to face the divine wrath of the Goddess of Things that Crawl Underground, the zombies fled.

Pocketing the hookah and cutting down the strings of beads for Mongo's apartment, the party followed the single corridor out of the room.  It led to the thirty-foot-wide corridor they had encountered earlier.  Where their door opened into the corridor, there were two more right next to it - and a pair of Morlocks guarding one of the doors.  The morlocks recognized "the Mongos" and greeted them in friendship.  Gutboy asked for Bilibub, and soon the happy group were reunited.

Bilibub:  "Ahh, mongos back!  You bring people?  For eating?"
Gutboy:  "Hmm, yes.  You know the checkerboard room?  We've got something there for you"
Bilibub:  "Huh?"
Dick Dock (clearly channeling P.W.'s spirit):  "The red and black room?"
Bilibub:  "Eh?"
Gutboy:  "Never mind.  So how have you been?"
Bilibub:  "Very good.  Need more morlocks though.  Any of you want to be morlocks?"
(nothing but crickets)
Gutboy:  "No... do you know where I could get any bugs?  Bugs that are bigger than me?"
Bilibub:  "Yes, yes!  Go north, and down well.  Many bugs there!  Very big!  Morlocks hunt there!"
Gutboy:  "How deep is it?"
Bilibub:  "Deep, yes, deep!"
Dick Dock:  "How many feet?"
Bilibub:  (blank stare)
Dick Dock (holding 50' length of rope):  "Is it deeper than this?"
Bilibub:  "Ha ha, yes, yes, much deeper"
Dick Dock:  "Deeper than two?"
Bilibub:  "Yes, yes"
Dick Dock:  "How about three or four?"
Bilibub:  "No, no, maybe that deep"
Gutboy:  "Is there anything we can get for you?"
Bilibub:  "Yes, yes!  People to eat!"
Dick Dock (once again channeling P.W.):  "How about the landlord?"
Mongo:  "Yes!  The landlord!"
Gutboy:  "The landlord!"
Netal:  "The landlord!"
Justin:  "The landlord!"
Gutboy:  "Do you want some of this?"  (hands Bilibub an iron ration)
Bilibub:  "Hmmm.  OK.  I take.  Maybe good for soup."

The party waved good-bye to their dear friend Bilibub the Cannibalistic Morlock and headed out of the dungeon.  They encountered some more crab spiders, but this set ran about in a circular pattern in devotion to Nisus, and the party passed unmolested.  The trip back to Denethix was marred by the return of the red mist in the middle of the night - Serlo once again became ill and even paler, and upon awakening Gutboy felt compelled to magically heal Serlo, as the elf seemed close to death.

And here the session ended...


Boutique Product means Boutique Pricing

At heart I'm fairly lazy, so instead of working on the second level I'm writing this pointless blog post.  I promise the blog won't descend into a pile of self-promotional balogna, I just need to get some focus back.  Probably this weekend.

So, I've done the math.  I've got a small blog with a tiny following - people may say they love content, but as the content turns towards gonzo post-apocalyptic megadungeons, that content-hungry audience gets smaller.  Doesn't help that the whole notion of publishing a module turned out to be a vast undertaking that sucked up all my spare time for the past few months, so my content posts have became sparser and sparser.

The reality is that what I'm about to sell is a niche product within a niche of a niche.  Let's outline the nested niches here:

a. It's old-school.  Very, very niche
b. It's a megadungeon.  Niche
c. It's gonzo with robots and guns and other things that make "high fantasy"-type DM's blanche.  Yet another niche

So what's my audience here?  Possibly just me.  Now, on the other hand, there are not-insignificant expenses.  Mainly, art.  That stuff costs money.  It would be both stupid and unfair to my family to blow money on a vanity publishing effort where I can't recoup the expenses.  I don't need to make more than I spent, but I do need to try to not lose money - I especially need it to break even so I can finance art for the next book.

So, what I've got is a very boutique product.  There's no mass market here.  So, it's got to get boutique pricing.  No way around it.  I'm guessing most other modules I see being sold very cheaply are very very low on art and other expenses, or I am totally misunderstanding the economics involved.  Well, that's not me - I dropped some cash here, and the audience is tiny.  The price necessarily has to be high.

Of course, high prices can shrink audiences even further - the plus side here is though we are all cheapskates, the majority of us have reached an age where a wee bit of disposable income is available.  So, once a purchase decision is made on the quality of an item, the price isn't going to affect things too much one way or another.

So, it looks like my price is going to be $17.57 for an 87-page book, consisting of a city & setting painted in broad strokes, first level (or first two levels depending on how you look at it) of the megadungeon, a boatload of new monsters (34 entries there), some new magic items, etc.


Question about PDF purchases

 I have a question about PDF purchases, for people who like to buy things that way.  The images in my PDF are embedded as PNG's, and they bloat the PDF out to 55mb.

Is that normal for people who download these?  I could go and reduce the resolution on the images if that download size is considered ridiculously huge - but I really have no idea what the standard is.  I'd appreciate any input on this.

Thanks in advance!


Once again, story emerges from play

The last session went really well.  Like most sessions, it started with the party being panicky about actually taking some risk in the dungeon, and hunting down more henchmen.  Specifically, P.W.'s player was very nervous, which is funny given that he takes most of the risks.  He's half-suicidal due to his enormously bad stats, but he can't actually manage to get himself killed.

So, first, Mongo's adventure:  He's been wanting to sit in a chair in his luxury apartment, in a smoking jacket, reading a book that is inadvertently upside-down.  The policy of spending gold to get XP means that there's never spare gold - so he had to make do with the tatty smoking jacket and a mysterious evil book.  How that happened, he was busy looking for a book, I rolled d30x100 for the price, and it was expensive.  I didn't feel like role-playing book vendors for the next 20 minutes, so I just gave the thing to him.  Then I tossed in an evil laugh to amuse myself.  Mongo's paranoia kicked in, and he's wondering if the book is evil.  Clearly, it's got to be something, since he's placing so much importance on it - a roll of the dice says "Yes, evil".  The undecipherable evil book is now in play.  No idea what I'm going to do with it yet, but I'm gratified that he didn't just chuck it into the fire.  Not that I'd let that work, anyhow.

P.W. has such miserable luck with reaction rolls that he decided he'd just buy a henchman from the slave market.  How he thinks that decision will turn out well, I don't know...  I forgot to roll a morale check when the whole party was asleep in the red mist, and it was just Krogo and P.W. - if I had remembered, that could have been a TPK if Krogo took out P.W. and went homicidal on the sleepers.  It was late, and I didn't think of that.  But that red mist will be back, again and again and again (at least until they figure out what they're doing to cause it).

Gutboy has been sucking up to his new goddess for several sessions now, and I've been ignoring it.  Seeing as I was lavishing attention on the other two, I had Nisus make an appearance this time.  Reaction rolls said she's ticked off - clearly Gutboy hasn't been spending enough effort praising her.  She needs giant sacrifices, in front of the whole city.  What a prima donna.  Well, now he's got his work cut out for him - it was fun making him think he needed to hunt down a bulette, but I dropped some hints about the giant pillbugs that live in the caverns of the 2nd level, so maybe he'll take the bait and head down.

I think the players are finally at the point where they're going to visit the second level.  That means I actually have to key it... I've got maybe 10% planned out so far, I really need to put some effort into it now.  Fortunately, there's not much left on the book to do - just the index & back cover.  Should have that done in the next 2-3 days, and then off to the printer for a proof.  So I've got a bit of time to key the areas closest to the stairs.


Session recap, 5/11/2011

P.W. the Halfling (1), and his slave Krogo the Fighter
Gutboy Barrellhouse the Cleric (3), his dog Rufus, and his henchman Serlo the Elf
Mongo the Fighter (2), and his henchmen Jimgar the Elf and Leroy Brown the Cleric

The party gathered around the front stoop of Mongo's apartment building, where most of them had been sleeping.  Mongo had tossed the lot of them out on the street, disgusted with the mess they were making in his apartment.  Thoughts soon turned to adventure, and then just as quickly turned away.  Neither Justin the Dwarf or Netal the Elf and their horde of dogs were around, so the party was feeling a little vulnerable.  The decision was made to search for henchmen.  They looked at their street map, picked the "Street of Industrious Efforts" at random, and headed off to hire some help.

Arriving at the street, they found it was a mixture of factories, warehouses, and tenements.  The streets were filled with teamsters unloading carts of goods and soot-covered factory workers.  Sadly, as far as the eye could see, the street was barren of drinking establishments brimming with fresh-faced potential henchmen.

P.W. was puzzled by the notion of factories, and decided he needed to see what exactly was being made.  He climbed atop Mongo's shoulders, and peered in through one of the lower windows of a nearby brick building.  Inside, he saw women and children busy at the sewing machines, manufacturing various textiles.  An overseer noticed them, and ran outside to confront them.

Overseer:  "You there!  What do you think you're doing?"
P.W.:  "Mommy!  My mommy!  I want my mommy!"
Overseer:  "Get out of here, you idiots!  Or I'll call the Fist!"

The party retreated, and debated their next course of action.  Mongo decided he needed a smoking jacket and a book, Gutboy wanted to attend to the booth of his beloved goddess Nisus, and P.W., tired of being rejected by potential henchmen, decided he wanted to purchase a slave.

Mongo's Tale
Mongo headed off to the Bazaar Incomparable, looking purchase a fine smoking jacket.  He found a tent filled with the most exquisite clothing he had ever seen, and asked the clerk within if he had a smoking jacket for sale.  Presented with a grand specimen, Mongo was informed of the price:  240 gp.   Sadly, Mongo was down to 13 gp, and asked for anything in that price range.  Disgusted, the clerk pointed him towards a thrift-tent further in the Bazaar.

The thrift-tent proved to be a bonanza for shabby well-used smoking jackets.  Presented the choice between a 1 gp jacket with 4 moth-eaten holes, and a 2 gp jacket with only 3 holes, Mongo splurged and treated himself.  Feeling quite gentlemanly, he then set off to find a book.

The search was quickly successful, as he found a series of tables covered with books, and an wizened old man wearing a robe covered with strange symbols.  Mongo being unable to read, he wasn't sure if they were letters or not.

Mongo:  "Mongo want book!"
Shopkeeper:  "Yes, yes, we have many books.  What secrets are you looking for?  I have books revealing the mysteries of the ancients, secrets from before the breaking of the world!"
Mongo:  "You not understand.  Mongo want book!"
Shopkeeper:  "Of course you do.  And I have the book.  This is the book you want."

The shopkeeper reached under the table, and produced a massive four-inch-thick tome, bound in dusty leather and held shut with an iron lock.  He pulled a key from his robes and unlocked the book, showing Mongo the secrets within.  There were diagrams, but no easily understood pictures, and it was meaningless gibberish to poor illiterate Mongo.

Shopkeeper:  "This book is only 2,800 gp."
Mongo:  "Uhhh.  Mongo not have money."  Mongo then stared sadly at the book, priced so very far out of reach, and started to walk away.
Shopkeeper:  "No, wait.  This book is meant for you.  How much money do you have?"
Mongo (pouring the contents of his pockets on the table):  "11 gp"
Shopkeeper (sweeping the money into his hands):  "You have bought the book.  Take it, it is yours.  Muahahahahahahaha."

Mongo, elated, took the book and walked away.  As he walked off, he become suspicious - the laugh at the end sounded more evil than jolly.

P.W.'s Tale
P.W. surveyed the street map, and decided that he would hit the Street of Tormented Flesh and try to find him a buffoonish slave to obey his every whim.  Arriving at the street, he saw men and women in collars, many with tattoos, and many with leashes being held by other men wearing red cloth wrapped over their heads and faces, with only eye holes.

One of the red-hooded men stopped in front of P.W.

Slaver:  "Well, little fellow!  You looking for a bit of entertainment, are you?  Looking for a human, ey?  I've got just the thing!"
P.W.:  "Oh, you bet I'm looking for a human!  Oh yeah!"
Slaver:  "You interested in a man or a woman?  What thrills you today, sir?"
P.W.:  "Oh a man, or a woman.  As long as they're big.  And dumb.  Really strong and brain-damaged."
Slaver:  "Well, come with me, come with me.  I've got exactly what you're looking for."

P.W. followed the slaver into a nearby building, Zornid's Discount Slaves.  The slaver spoke to another red-hooded slaver, and he came back with a shirtless hairy-chested man, jaw hanging slack and tongue lolling about.

Slaver:  "This is Silas!  Just the thing you're looking for! Only 80 gp."
P.W.:  "You need to prove that he's strong!"
Slaver:  "Fine, fine.  Go get Linkus!"

The other red-hooded slaver went upstairs, and came back leading an enormously fat slave.  "Silas, pick up Linkus!"  The imbecile-slave easily picked up the fat man, and held him awkwardly in the air for a few minutes.

P.W.:  "How do I know he'll be obedient?"
Slaver:  "All of our slaves have had at least three months breaking in!  Of course they're obedient!"
P.W.:  "I'll give you 10 gp now and then the rest when it's proven he's obedient."
Slaver:  "Look, I can't just tell him to obey you before you pay.  He's too literal.  Look, if it'll make you happy, give me 40 gp now, and you order him around a bit, and then give me the other 40 gp."
P.W.:  "OK, let's see how he does.  Silas, take this short sword..."
Slaver:  "What are you doing?  Stop that!  Are you crazy?"
P.W.:  "Well, I need to know if he can fight."
Slaver:  "Why did you ask for a pit-fighter if you wanted one?  Of course Silas can't fight, look at him."

P.W. dithered on the merits of fighting-men versus easily-manipulated door-openers, but eventually decided to go for the pit-fighter.  The slaver led him next door to a bar called The Knocking Head.  The slaver walked swiftly through the crowd of red-hooded celebrants, and down the stairs to a stone corridor lined with cells.  He stopped at the first one.

Slaver:  "What're you looking for?  First-stringer?  Second-stringer?  This here is Krogo, he's a fourth-stringer."
P.W.:  "Can he fight?"
Slaver:  "Krogo, can you fight?"
Krogo:  "No. Go away."
Slaver:  "Of course he can fight.  He's a pit fighter."
P.W.:  "Fine.  How much?"
Slaver:  "400 gp"
P.W. (outraged):  "What?  I can't afford that!"
Slaver:  "You know what? I like you.  I'll let him go for 200 gp."
P.W.:  "100 gp and you have a deal"
Slaver:  "No, 200 gp"
P.W.:  "Fine, fine, I'll give you 125 gp."
Slaver:  "No, 200 gp.  Look, I'm giving him away at cost.  I'll lose money if I go lower!"
P.W.:  "All right, I'll do it."
Slaver:  "Now, can I get you some accessories?  Collar?  Leash?  Leather mask?  Spiked shoulder pauldrons?"
P.W.:  "Yeah!  Let's do the full get-up!  Leather armor too!"
Slaver:  "What?  Armor?  You don't use armor when you're pit-fighting"
P.W.:  "You mean that's not leather armor?  Never mind then.  Wait, I'll take the spiked shoulders."

After ringing up his purchase, P.W. headed over to the Bazaar Incomparable with Krogo on a leash, where he met up with Mongo.

Gutboy's Tale
Gutboy headed off to the booth of Nisus.  There, he found that the offering tables and bowls were covered with dust.  He cleaned everything off briefly, and as he finished a pattern of swirling colors appeared in Nisus's God's Eye.

Nisus:  "Gutboy!  I am unhappy!  Where are my sacrifices?  Why have you not been gathering me more followers?"
Gutboy:  "What sacrifices?"
Nisus:  "Did you flunk out of seminary?  I am the Goddess of Things that Crawl Underneath!  Sacrifice things that crawl underneath!  They are holy to me!"
Gutboy (puzzled):  "Really?"
Nisus:  "Yes, really!  And make them big sacrifices!  Bigger than you!  Maybe ankhegs, or bulettes!  Do this at the Grand Temple!"

The image in the God's Eye faded away, leaving Gutboy despondent and unsure of how to meet this demand.

As he left the booth, he saw Mongo and P.W. approaching, with Krogo on a leash.

P.W.:  "Look, I bought a slave!"
Gutboy:  "...."
P.W.:  "Krogo!  Dance for me!  Dance!"
Krogo:  "No."
P.W. (tugging violently on leash):  "I said dance!"

Krogo danced half-heartedly, staring at his feet and sighing.  Mongo joined in, trying to cheer him up, but to no avail.  P.W. was pleased at the obedience, and handed Krogo a few coppers.

Krogo:  "What the hell is this for? You're paying me?"
P.W.:  "You earned it!  Keep it up!"

Krogo once again sighed deeply, and tucked the coppers into his loincloth.

Mongo:  "You read book?  Mongo have bad feeling about book."

P.W. looked at the lettering, but it was in an unknown language - the letters were unrecognizable.  Gutboy was likewise unable to decipher the writing.  The party decided that they should head to a temple and see if a priest could figure out if the book was evil.  They went to the Grand Temple, and told the attendant they were in a rush, and needed someone who could determine the nature of the book.

Priest:  "So, what is this about a book?"
Mongo:  "Mongo think book haunted!"
Priest:  "You suspect a demonic intrusion in this book?  Come, let us consult with Zimarquat"

The priest led them to a small room with a modestly sized God's Eye.  Everyone kneeled, and the Priest began intoning his god: "Holy Zimarquat, Mongo has come to you with fears of demons in this tome!"  The colored lights appeared in the Eye, and then cleared away to reveal an incredibly handsome green face

Zimarquat:  "Thou art wise to seek help, Mongo, for thy book is indeed a tome of evil."  The God's Eye then faded to black
Priest:  "You have heard the words of Zimarquat.  This burden is yours alone, I am afraid."
Mongo:  "Mongo not understand."
Priest:  "It's your book, you have to do something about it yourself.  We don't want that thing around here."

A return to the Bazaar Incomparable was made, and P.W. purchased a suit of splint mail and a battle axe for Krogo.  Krogo was puzzled, telling P.W. that armor wasn't allowed in the fighting pits, but P.W. mumbled something vague about it being OK in the pits they were going to.  P.W., Gutboy, and Krogo rented a single room at a nearby inn, and they all slept together in the single twin bed, while Mongo retired to his apartment for the evening - he slept poorly though, his dreams filled with visions of dancing letters.  Whether an evil portent or just the specter of his own illiteracy, he knew not.  In the morning, they departed for the dungeon.

Bilibub's Tale
The party quickly sorted out their poorly-drawn map and entered the well-lit upper level of the dungeon.  They made their way towards stairs leading further down, passing a group of giant earwigs who twirled in a circle as Gutboy blessed them.  In the room before the long stairway down, they surprised four morlocks who were looking down the stairs, spears clutched tightly in their hands.

Gutboy shouted "Morlocks!  We have come to parley!" but the morlocks spun around with murder in their eyes.  "Mongos!  Kill all the mongos!" the morlocks shouted as they charged.  Two stabbed at Mongo, who merely laughed at his wounds - but the other two skewered Krogo.  He slumped over the ends of their spears, blood running out of his mouth.

Blows were exchanged, and two morlocks were handily slaughtered - and Gutboy used his divine powers to freeze the two survivors in their tracks.  Their muscles locked up, they were unable to resist as Gutboy securely tied them.

Gutboy cast a cure light wounds upon the dying slave Krogo, and while Krogo was left unconscious, his wounds sealed and the bleeding stopped.  P.W. begged Gutboy to cast another healing spell, but Gutboy was reluctant.  Finally, P.W. threatened to abandon the party and drag Krogo back to town himself - this was enough to convince Gutboy to revive the unconscious slave.  Groggily, Krogo got up and stared at his miraculously-healed wounds.

Gutboy then dismissed the divine spell holding the morlocks still, and the interrogation began.

Gutboy:  "Where's the humans with the tattoos?  Where are they?"
Morlock:  "Don't know!  Don't know!"
Gutboy:  "I said tell me!  Tell me now!  Where'd you take them?"
Morlock:  "Don't know!  Don't know!"
Gutboy:  "That's it, let's kill him..."
Morlock:  "No!  Wait!  I show you things!  Show you meat!  You like meat?"
Gutboy:  "What kind of meat?"
Morlock:  "You like goblin meat?  Give you goblin meat!"
Gutboy:  "Hmmm... you know where goblins are?"
Morlock:  "Yes!  We take you to goblins!  You can have goblins!"
Gutboy:  "Ok... we'll do it.  What's your name?"
Morlock:  "Me Bilibub!  You mongos!"
Gutboy:  "No, he's Mongo..."
Morlock:  "Yes, mongo Mongo!"

This cleared up, they untied the morlock's legs, but kept them on rope leashes, and followed them down the stairs into the deeper levels of the dungeon.  The morlocks led them down a familiar route, and once in the long 30' wide alcove-filled corridor, tried to lead the party east down the hall.

P.W. (looking up from his map):  "Wait a minute!  Do you think we're stupid?"
Morlock:  "Oh sorry, mean other way!"

Bilibub then led them west, and through a door on the south side of the long hall.  This led to a shorter corridor, and a door on the west wall that the party had not explored yet.  Bilibub told them that the goblins were behind that door - the party forced the morlocks to open the door and lead the way.

True to their word, the room beyond the door had seven goblins in it.  The goblins rushed the party, and stabbed once again at Mongo, who merely laughed at these new wounds.  Serlo chanted arcane words, and a magical slumber descended over the goblins.  They were quickly hog-tied, and slapped awake one by one.  Several interrogations occurred, using Bilibub as an interpreter, most along these lines:

Gutboy:  "What's beyond the north door?"
Goblin:  "Treasure!  You should take it!"
Gutboy:  "What's to the west?"
Goblin:  "Orange goo!"
P.W.:  "What's to the south?"
Goblin:  "Cave!  Big cave!"
Gutboy:  "Where are the humans?"
Goblin:  "Don't know!"
Gutboy:  "Where are their heads?"
P.W.:  "Where's Bob?"
Goblin:  "Heads gone!"
P.W. (chopping off goblin fingers):  "Where are they?"
Goblin:  "Don't know!  Somebody killed us and took the heads!"
Mongo:  "Mongo think that was you guys"
Gutboy:  "Oh, forgot about that.  Where's Bob?  With the tattoo on his head?"
Goblin:  "Take him down to trade room!"
Gutboy:  "What's that mean?"
Bilibub:  "I know what trade room is.  Very dangerous, is south and down.  Painted men, not funny!  Not funny!  And tiny warlocks!  You leave people in trade room, and somebody come trade other people!"
Mongo:  "Painted men?  What colors?"
Bilibub:  "Many colors!  Lots of colors!  But not funny!  Jokes not funny!"
Mongo:  "Big red noses?"
Bilibub:  "Sometimes!  And big feet!"
Mongo:  "Clowns?"
Gutboy:  "Warlocks?  And they're tiny?"
Bilibub:  "Yes, smaller than him! (pointing at P.W.)  Do juju, like you!  (pointing at Serlo)  Very dangerous, have dead men with knife-eyes!"
P.W.:  "We should put the goblins in the trade room"
Bilibub:  "No!  Very dangerous!  We show you safer way!  Painted men too close!  Our way, you get good meat, huge bug meat, lots good meat!  Much safer!"
Gutboy:  "Giant bugs?"
Bilibub:  "Yes!  Very big!"

After several goblin deaths due to insufficiently satisfying answers, the party decided to check out the treasure supposedly to the north.  Beyond the door they found a triangular room, with an elongated dome (vaguely like a beehive) in the center of the room.  Jabbed into the top of the dome was a golden spike with a ruby attached to its blunt end.

The party suspected a trap, and forced a goblin into the room, with orders to remove the spike and bring it back to them.  The goblin hid behind the dome, and shouted "Maybe I take spike and go through secret door!"  P.W. entered the room with his bow out, and walked around the dome until he had a clear shot at the goblin.  The goblin reached up and yanked the spike, getting a faceful of the green gas that began spewing out of the dome, filling the room.

P.W. immediately ran out and slammed the door shut.  The party argued for a bit about how to proceed, and eventually they decided to open the door to see if the gas was gone.  Mongo held his breath, and popped the door open - pushing inwards, the door was apparently under some pressure from the buildup of green gas.  It instantly filled the room they were in, and everyone ran for the western door, running through and slamming it shut.

The party found themselves on a staircase, leading down to a 20' square room, the floor of which was covered with orange slime.  Suspicious, P.W. tossed a torch onto the slime.  It instantly flew over and dissolved the bit of wood - the same happened with a crowbar.  He then tried pouring some of the green goo he had collected in the emergency generator core during hte last session onto the slime - it turned gray and died where the goo touched the slime.  Emboldened, he began throwing more goo and flaming oil at the slime, and eventually burned and poisoned the stuff away.

The party performed some experiments with the poisoned mist beyond the door, holding their breaths, running in, grabbing goblin bodies and dragging them back.. eventually they tired of fooling around and searched this new 20' square room for secret doors.  Lo and behold, they found a loose rock in the wall - Mongo poked it with his 10' pole, and a secret door opened.

Beyond was a large empty room, with a tunnel leading north and a door on the east wall.  Opening the door to the east, they found a closet filled with shelves of clay pots, and a 4' tall statue of a forlorn looking man staring at his empty hands.  Each clay pot was filled with 100 sp.  The party gathered up this loot and set out to explore the northern tunnel.  This tunnel ended at a dead end, with metal handles set into the wall.  Pulling on the handles, they saw that it was the back-side of a secret door - their map indicated the tunnel beyond would lead to a throne room they had explored before.

The party returned to the empty room, and performed a thorough search.  Once again the search was rewarded, and they found a bronze amuled cast in the shape of a crow, hanging from a bronze chain, underneath a loose stone in the floor.  P.W. claimed it and put it around his neck.

The party then decided it was time to get out of the dungeon - but first, the matter of the golden spike.  The gas seemed to have dissipated from the room beyond.  A short discussion was held on how exactly they should get the spike.

Gutboy:  "I don't know if we can hold our breath long enough to get the spike.  Whoever tries it could die."
P.W.:  "Let's just send the slave in to do it"
Krogo:  "Hey, I'm right here."
P.W.:  "So what?  You're mine!"

Eventually, Mongo decided to get the spike.  He held his breath and ran into the dome-room, grabbing the gold spike from the dead goblin's hand.  The party retreated from the gas back down the stairs to the west, and untied the two morlocks.

Gutboy:  "So, is there anything you guys would like from the surface?"
Bilibub:  "Yes, people!  Tasty people you don't like!"
Mongo:  "We've people.  Landlord people.  We bring him back."
Gutboy:  "Where can we find you?"
Bilibub:  "In big tunnel, you go east, you find us, you meet Chief Gribnel"
Gutboy:  "Bubnul?"
Bilibub:  "Gribnel!"
Gutboy:  "Shibill?"
Bilibub:  "Gribnel!"
Mongo:  "Gribnel!"
Gutboy:  "Gribnel..."

Bidding adieu, the party left the morlocks and made their way up through the throne room and towards the stairs leading to the upper section of the dungeon and, eventually, outside.  Along the way, they surprised a lone goblin, facing away from them - Mongo swiftly ran up and cleaved the goblin in half - the cut was so clean the goblin had time to turn around before his two halves slid away from each other.

The party camped in the wilderness on the way back to Denethix - on the second watch, P.W. and Krogo were on duty, and saw a red mist arise from the ground around the party.  Serlo moaned in his sleep, becoming visibly ill as the halfling and his slave watched.  In a panic, they tried to wake the party, but they couldn't be roused.  P.W. and Krogo dragged the party members one by one out of the 60' diameter of the mist, but even outside the mist they could not be awoken.  After a half hour, the mist disappeared, and P.W. was finally able to wake everyone up.  Serlo was not feeling well, but otherwise the party was unharmed.

Returning to Denethix, Gutboy prayed for the divine intuition capable of discerning arcane powers, and was able to discern that the bronze crow amulet was enchanted.  The statue and spike were sold, and the loot divided, with the party handing Krogo a half-share as the other henchmen received.

Krogo:  "What?  You're paying me again?"
Gutboy:  "Sure, some day you'll buy your freedom!  Stick with us!"
P.W.:  "Hey!  He's mine! Don't talk to him!"

Finally, the party retired to their various rooms and flophouses.  Mongo begged Gutboy to stay in his apartment, as he was terrified of the book doing something evil.  The apartment seemed unchanged, and Gutboy settled into the second bedroom...

And there our tales end, until the next session.


Got the front cover done

So I got the front cover done.  Haven't done the back or spine yet.  I'm going with the traditional look for the most part.  I feel absolutely no need to innovate on cover layouts.  I like the traditional look, it lets you know exactly what system you're targeting.  There should be no confusion about what system this is for...

I keep planning on working more on the deeper levels.  Then I keep realizing I've got deadlines on this thing if I'm going to get it ready for GenCon.  Fortunately for me, my players refuse to head in any of the directions that lead to one of the 4 ways to the deeper levels.  It'll only last so long though, so I'm making a concerted push to get this thing published and out of the way.

If anyone is wondering "is it a lot of work to get a book published," the answer is an unqualified "yes."  Starting with a project less than 90 pages might have been a good idea for a first effort... live and learn!

Here's the cover, click for a larger view: