Merry Christmas!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

Merry Christmas!


session recap, 11/14/2013

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (2) and Bunny the Thief (2), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Pai Mei and Colt Seavers waded through the glowing green mist in the room and approached the stone sarcophagus - inside was a roughly coffin-shaped machine of silvery metal and transparent pipes flowing with green fluid.  As they examined the techno-coffin, the mist suddenly gathered up into a humanoid form - a horrible chitinous creature with bug eyes, pincer hands, and a giant brain-shaped head.

Ki-Ris:  "I am Ki-Ris of the planet Duvan'Ku!  Now, you will help me return to my ship!"
Gutboy:  "Whoa, hold on!  Why are we going to do that?"
Ki-Ris:  "You have no choice!  You have destroyed the Suppressor, and now the animated dead have risen!"
Gutboy:  "Are you from space?  How did you get past the Veil?"
Ki-Ris:  "The Veil?  You must refer to the extra-dimensional shields around this planet.  My people are from this dimension!  Your veil is no barrier to us!"
Gutboy:  "So, you're from space then?  Can you destroy Thor?"
Ki-Ris:  "I know not of what you speak, earth-man."
Gutboy:  "He's one of the gods that orbit the planet.  Don't you fear them?"
Ki-Ris:  "No!  Our technology is far superior to anything you humans possess!"
Gutboy:  "Why do you need our help?"
Ki-Ris:  "Thousands of years ago, my comrades betrayed me.  I killed them all, but I have been trapped here, and cannot venture far from my life support capsule."
Pai Mei:  "Why did you come here?"
Ki-Ris:  "My planet was a paradise.  Our technology allows the dead to be reanimated and to serve us in all manner of menial labor.  We lived as gods.  Sadly, our women were killed by the living dead"
Gutboy:  "I thought you controlled them?"
Ki-Ris:  "Mistakes were made.  Accidents happen.  My people are doomed without females!  We have come to this planet to take your women back as our brides, and to slaughter the men, who shall rise again as our eternal slaves!"
Gutboy:  "You can mate with human women?"
Ki-Ris:  "Yes!  It is one of the great Laws of the Universe!"
Gutboy:  "Makes sense."
Pai Mei:  "You could marry Madame Prepin"
Madame Prepin:  "I... uhh... I'm kind of seeing someone already..."
Ki-Ris:  "It matters not!  All women shall be taken!  Your human civilization shall fall, and you shall all die!  Now, take me to my ship!"
Gutboy:  "Why would we do that?"
Ki-Ris:  "You have no choice!  You have destroyed the Suppressor, and the dead have arisen!  Only I can stop them from devouring your living flesh!"
Gutboy:  "Prove it - control this zombie!"
Madame Prepin:  "You mean Goonie!"

Ki-Ris ordered the captured zombie to dance, and the ancient corpse began awkwardly prancing about.

Ki-Ris:  "There is your proof, humans.  Now, we shall go to the Duvan'Ku Promise Machine, and the Bargain shall be made."
Gutboy:  "Where's this machine?  In the sarcophagus?"
Ki-Ris:  "No!  That is my life support capsule.  The Promise Machine is down the hall."
Gutboy:  "We're going to need to think this over..."
Pai Mei:  "Forget it!  Colt Seaver, go break that capsule!"

Colt Seaver reached down into the capsule - and Ki-Ris moved faster than any human could, gripping the bounty hunter by the throat.  Colt struggled feebly as his flesh visibly withered, and Ki-Ris dropped the dried husk to the ground.  The party ran out of the room in a panic, slamming the door shut, and leaving the catatonic grad student behind.  A shout of "You'll be back!" was heard as they ran down the corridor.

They followed the corridor to its end - a dead end, to be precise, covered with ancient dried blood, and with the words "Thank you, my dear ally, for sacrificing your life force for my own" inscribed in Duvan'Ku upon the wall.  Pai Mei briefly considered reciting them aloud and sacrificing the grad student, before realizing he had been left behind with the alien.

They followed the corridor back to its other end, and found a pit in the floor.  The words "Jump, My Child, and Experience the Infinite Forever" were etched on the wall in Duvan'Ku.  Gutboy stared down the pit, at the glowing phosphorescent patterns spiraling along its walls, going down so very very very far... and then snapped out of it, realizing he had been momentarily hypnotized.

A brief argument ensued about the next course of action - and then a massive tarantula clambered out of the hole!  Trezgar cast his somnolescent magic, and the tarantula was put into a gentle repose - until Trezgar stuck a sword through its head.

That threat past, the party returned to the secret door between this portion of the tomb, and the room that had held the Suppressor "vine" they had destroyed.  They listened at the door, hoping that the zombies were trapped in their crypts - but they heard the shuffling and moaning of the living dead beyond.  The corpses had figured out how to turn the valves on the doors to their tombs.  Rufus II briefly "blinked" to the other side, and saw that the living dead had piled themselves into a corpse-pyramid, allowing others to clamber up the hole in the ceiling to the surface.  He blinked back before getting torn apart by the brain-hungry mob.

The party then began opening various barred doors in the corridor.  They came across a fast-moving corpse, and destroyed it - and then in another room found a sarcophagus on a strangely uneven floor.  A mummified corpse with an emerald crown burst through as Bunny hammered on the uneven section of the floor, but Gutboy's faith (or non-faith) in the satellite entities above drove the mummy away.  They tracked it down to the end of the corridor, and Bunny used the Sword of Unlife to force the mummy to obey her commands - the first of which was to relinquish its emerald crown.

They then opened a third room, choreographed a corpse-fight between the mummy and the living dead within, and discovered what must be the Duvan'Ku Promise Machine.  A metal orb sat on a pedestal, with ten knobs protruding from its circumference.  Bunny handed the mummy a hammer and ordered it to destroy the Promise Machine.

As the mummy began banging away, a green mist flowed down the corridor and coalesced into Ki-Ris.  The alien grabbed Bunny and she began to wither, as Colt Seaver had done, losing 2 levels in the process.  The alien released Bunny, and walked over to the machine (yanking the hammer out of the mummy's hand).

Ki-Ris:  "Enough of this idiocy!  It is time for the Bargain!  I need four of you to carry my life support system to a clearing wide enough for my ship to approach!  Without proper equipment, I cannot control the undead reliably, only repel them - I need you to serve as my bearers."
Gutboy:  "How does this machine work?"
Ki-Ris:  "The Promise Machine of Duvan'Ku will link our minds sympathetically.  Any attempt to break a Bargain will cause eternal torment!  Now, come, grab the knobs and we shall declare our Terms and Conditions!"
Gutboy:  "You said you needed four - that's not enough.  It has to be all of us!"
Ki-Ris:  "That is acceptable.  Now, enough wasting time!  Let the Bargain be struck!"

The party grabbed the knobs (Rufus II gripping with his teeth), and the Bargain began:

Ki-Ris:  "You shall, in good faith, carry me and my life support capsule to a clearing at least a mile wide, and place the capsule into the cargo elevator when my ship approaches.  In turn, I shall in good faith prevent these living dead from harming you until that time."
Gutboy:  "And what happens after we put you on the ship?  Promise not to harm us ever!"
Ki-Ris:  "Ridiculous!  I shall enslave and destroy all human males!  Under the condition you depart immediately, I shall not cause you any harm for a twenty-four hour period after returning me to my ship"
Pai Mei:  "Good enough!"

The Bargain was struck, and the party could feel their minds linked to Ki-Ris's.  He bore them only hatred and malevolence, but they could also feel that the Bargain was in force, and even the slightest thought of betrayal caused great anguish.

All was as Ki-Ris claimed - he returned to his capsule, and the party dragged it through the undead hordes, back up into the cabin, and out into the graveyard, where thousands more corpses were clawing their way up from their graves.  The cart and cage were still there, and contained the reanimated corpses of Zeke and his wife. They forced the captured zombie into the cage, and to meet Madame Prespin's quota, they forced three more walking dead into the cage as well.  From within the coffin, Ki-Ris yelled "Move it along already!" and they slowly made their way down the mountain, and after a day's journey turned north until they found a meadow large enough to meet Ki-Ris's specifications.

The Green Comet of Undying Flesh hung in the sky above, and as they watched, it grew larger and larger, a halo of flickering green flames surrounding it as it approached the earth.  The ship, for that is what it was, was fully a mile in diameter.  It hung several hundred feet above the ground, and a tube slowly descended.  Once it reached the ground, a door slid open, and the party carried the life support capsule inside.  They quickly ran out, and watched as the tube ascended - the ship, however, remained stationary, floating above the field.

The party draped their tents over the cage to hide the living corpses within, and made their way to Chelmsfordshire as fast as they could.  The marching of undead hordes coud be heard behind them, and the ship appeared to be an unmoving green moon low in the western sky.  They marched straight through Chelmsfordshire without mentioning a word to anyone, and then onwards to Denethix, where Madame Prepin quickly contacted some of her associates and the covered cage was whisked away.

Pai Mei:  "So where's our money?"
Madame Prepin:  "Look, let's keep this between us right now - it wouldn't be prudent to let the Academy or anyone else in the city know too much about what just happened.  You'll get paid, it just has to wait til the political climate is right."

The party eyed some of the broadsheets being sold - the headlines spoke of the Unyielding Fist having been sent north to deal with the inexplicable predations of Ferayn's Exterminators upon the northern villages.  With the army so occupied, what fate would befall Chelmsfordshire, and Denethix itself?

Gains: Emerald crown, six required "Goonies" per the Academy contract
Kills: Giant tarantula, zombie, ghoul, mummy (subjugated rather than destroyed)
Losses: Colt "Rottweiler" Seaver, two of Bunny's levels, one forgotten grad student, most likely all of Chelmsfordshire


Nitty gritty of dungeon design

My players are pretty much at the end of Death Frost Doom.  They're probably going to want to head back into the dungeon, so the horror of an unwritten 4th level is staring me in the face.

Going back a few years, check out this post on keying level 1 - I still follow that process by counting the total # of rooms and using that to calculate how many of each different encounter type I should have.

I have a big Word document full of ideas that I haven't put in the dungeon yet.  I cull some for being too stupid (choco-medusas, you are DENIED), delay even more to deeper levels, and then assign the tiny remainder to rooms in the 4th level.  Finally, I'll mark off the "monsters", "monsters w/ treasure", "specials", etc. that I've used, so I know roughly how many more I have left.

Then - I randomly write little notations in all the unassigned rooms ("M" for monster, "MJ" for monster with treasure, "T" for trap, etc), until I've assigned everything.  None of it makes sense now, but it's a starting point.

As I go through writing up each room, occasionally the placement will strike me as ludicrous, and I'll move things around until it works better.  But when you've got a few hundred rooms staring  you in the face,  you have to start somewhere - and for me, it's with this process.

Finally, I figure out how much treasure to put in the entire level by taking the amount of XP it takes a fighter to go from 4th to 5th level, multiplying it by 5 characters in a party, and then multiplying again by 0.8 as roughly 80% of XP comes from treasure, and then doubling because I don't expect players to go through more than half before heading down to the next level.  That total number will get divvied up among the dungeon - I'll keep a countdown as I add treasures to the encounters.

All this is a long-winded way of saying I'm actually working on the 4th level now, for those of you wondering when I'm going to publish it...


session recap, 10/28/2013

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (2) and Bunny the Thief (4), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Having explored a series of unoccupied and featureless rooms to the north of the chapel, Gutboy and Pai Mei turned their attention to the bronze door with no handle.  Next to it were stone basins, built in to the wall, each full of teeth.  They looked up at the toothless skulls hanging by chains from the ceiling, and a thought occurred - "What if we added fresh teeth?"

A quick scan of the room provided one likely candidate: the dead grad student.

Pai Mei (to living grad student):  "You!  Go yank out his teeth!"
Grad student:  "What? No!  NO!  IT'S TOO MUCH!"

The constant life-threatening abuse overwhelmed the grad student, and he threw himself at Pai Mei in a burst of psychotic rage.  Colt Seavers quickly stepped in, hurling his bola at the student's feet, incapacitating him.  The student curled into the fetal position and became unresponsive.  Not even threats to his grades by Madame Prepin could make him respond.

Bunny pulled a set of pliers from her thieves' tools and yanked out the dead student's front teeth.  She tossed them into the basins, and the door clicked open.

The tunnel beyond had several bronze doors, sealed with valves.  They opened the valves, and found crypts beyond, full of thousands of bodies.  The few crypts they inspected had but a few gold coins (in addition to their non-zombie occupants) each, so the party decided to ignore the crypts, and sealed them shut again.  Madame Prepin was becoming increasingly outraged at the non-shambling-and-brain-eating behavior of the dead within.

They also found a small room with four bloodstained stone slabs.  Next to the slabs was a podium, and upon that was an aluminum book, filled with glowing green alien letters, and occasional simplistic anatomical illustrations.  The contents were a mystery, until the party stumbled across another room containing something that looked like a jeweler's loupe sitting on a pedestal, and more leatherbound books in the same alien writing.  Bunny was able to use the loupe to read the alien writing, although it gave her a headache - the aluminum book they had taken earlier was a manual for the revivification of tortured dead flesh, and the leather-covered books were "The History of Duvan'Ku", volumes one through eighteen.

In a room nearby, they found another podium, with an alien inscription ("Oh brave ones, mark your defiance against the ones who oppress!"), atop which were needles and a vial of glowing green ink.  Surmising it was for tattooing, Pai Mei took the needle and inscribed "Do Not Resuscitate" upon the comatose grad student's chest.

Along the long tunnel, they also found more basins, apparently full of coins, and tossed more coins in, to little effect, and then tossed a corpse in one of the basins, also to no effect.  Finally, the corridor ended at a room stuffed full of a strange plastic-like vine or hose, covered with holes, thorns, and cobweb-like material - the source of the strange whistling noise.

Pai Mei approached, using the comatose grad student as a human shield between him and the plastic vine.  He shone a flashlight through the vine, and saw that it was the same room pictured in the painting in the cabin above, with the skeleton and altar.  There was no door next to the altar, just a blank section of wall - perhaps a secret door would be found?

Bunny started poking and prodding the vine with a 20' extensible pole - and the vine lashed out.  It only had a short reach, about 5', so Gutboy bravely lobbed oil at the vine.  Eventually the party was able to burn the vine away entirely, leaving patches of melted plastic on the floor, and the crypts were now eerily silent.

The party approached the altar, and found a pair of golden goblets atop it, along with an alien book (titled "The Book of Unspeakable Shame", and full of descriptions of shameful acts perpetrated by the cult that worshiped at this site).  Inspecting the skeletal statue, Pai Mei found an inscription detailing a ritual to open a secret door, involving a living sacrifice.  He eagerly began to push the grad student towards the altar, but was dissuaded when Gutboy easily found a second secret door where the opening was shown in the painting in the cabin above.

As they discussed what to do next, a soggy-bottomed corpse meandered into the room, groaning "braaaiiiiins" - the same corpse they had stuffed into one of the basins. Madame Prepin was ecstatic, and shouted "Behold!  The Goonies have arisen!  A new Golden Age of Prosperity awaits us!"

Colt Seaver easily captured and bound the "Goonie".  As he tied a rope leash around it, the banging of fists on bronze doors was heard from the tunnels - the thousands of dead interred within the crypts had surely arisen.  The party decided to make a retreat through the secret door.

Following the ancient stone corridors, they passed several barred doors, most with corpses banging on the other side.  Finally, they reached an unbarred door, and opened it to reveal a mist-filled room, with a stone sarcophagus in the center.

And that's where our tale (and its accompanying run-on sentences) ends - for now.

Gains: Two gold cups, Build-Your-Own-Frankenstein book, Book of Unspeakable Shame, glowing green tattoo ink, Loupe of Comprehending Alien Texts, a single "Goonie" on a leash
Kills: None
Losses: None


session recap, 10/10/2013

Gutboy the Cleric (6), his henchpeople Trezgar the Elf (2) and Bunny the Thief (4), and his blink dog Rufus II
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Gutboy - last seen in the Livid Fens, mourning the death of Mongo - reappears.  He and his remaining henchmen fled the giant tank known as the Red Demon in the flying stone head, but the unusual vehicle ran out of power halfway to Denethix, falling into the swamp.  Fortunately, a group of froghemoth hunters nearby came to investigate, and he was able to return to the city with his loot.

And what loot it was!  The bulk of the treasure from the Red Demon was sold off, with Gutboy only keeping an argonium shield and a robotic repair spider.  Trezgar and Bunny snorted their share of the profits, while Rufus II wined and dined his human concubine Candy.  Gutboy had no time for those sorts of shenanigans - instead, he visited Fitzy's in Chelmsfordshire, who had a newly-acquired license to sell heavy armaments, and purchased a machine gun, a drum of 100 bullets, and a drum of 100 silver bullets.  Having a bit of cash still burning a hole in his pocket, he blew the rest of his earnings on an engraved gold ring.

After some investigation, he discovered his companion Razoe had headed off west with an inscrutable Oriental wizard and a professor of astrophysics from the Academy.  A few days journey, and he stumbled upon the petrified cabin where Pai Mei stood inspecting a deep shaft in the floor.  Razoe and Boxer stepped out to take a leak as Gutboy entered.  There, continuity, happy?

The duo investigated the harpsichord room once again - there was music behind the door, and they opened it to see Boxer the quantum henchman playing.

Pai Mei:  "Who told you to come in here?"
Boxer:  "Razoe"
Pai Mei:  "When was that?"
Boxer:  "Just a few minutes ago"

Tired of harpsichords, they headed down the shaft.  At the bottom, a corridor led to a great bronze door, the lock carved into a skull with a key sticking from the keyhole in the mouth.  The walls, floor and ceilings were carved with screaming faces.  They unlocked the door, and found another room with ten tables, each holding a skeletal left hand, and a large bronze doorway on the east wall with an odd circular symbol on it.

Gutboy:  "So what are we doing here?  We're supposed to get zombies?  I could animate some for you"
Madame Prepin:  "We don't need the tyranny of the gods!  There are potentially 40,000 Funeral Friends here for us to exploit, and you want to involve the temples?"
Gutboy:  "OK, so where are the zombies?"
Madame Prepin:  "Look, I need a name that's more kid-friendly.  I'll offer a 1,000 gp bonus to the man who can come up with a better name."
Gutboy: "Goonies?"
Madame Prepin: "Hmm, I like it.  That'll do for a provisional name, I'll see if somebody comes up with something better."
Gutboy:  "And 40,000 of them?  Won't they smell?"
Madame Prepin:  "We'll all be flying above them in our air cars while they work the fields!  It will be a paradise!"

Pai Mei ordered the grad students to open the door, and they did so once Madame Prepin threatened that their grades would suffer if they didn't obey.  Beyond was a great chapel with marble pews, an altar inside a giant stone skull, an organ made of bones, a pair of stone basins next to a knob-less bronze door heading east, and a "normal" bronze door heading north.

The grad students were ordered to approach the altar - on it was a bowl containing a gold dagger and ruby necklace.  The grad students each picked up an artifact, and began shaking and complaining of being cold.  They placed them into a pouch, which one of the nameless students shoved into his belt.

The party then approached the stone basins - they were full of black water.

Pai Mei:  "Go wash your hands in that.  It'll probably clear up the shaking"

One of the grad students cleansed himself in the black water, and came back up with a fistful of human teeth.  They fell from his still-shaking hands back in the water.  "That didn't help at all!  This assignment sucks!"

The other student was ordered to play the organ.  He walked over and pressed one of the keys - a cloud of yellow spores bellowed forth from the organ, and an onyx bowl and a jewel fell from under the organ where they had been hidden.  The student began choking and soon collapsed to the floor.  Bunny approached carefully, stepping over the wheezing student, and scooped up the loot.

As the student breathed his last, Bunny extended Mongo's old 20' collapsible pole, and began banging the keys some more.  The first hit sent up a small clouds of spores, but the second flooded the room with the yellow death.  Bunny successfully held her breath as everyone fled the room.

Once the spore cloud settled, the party re-entered the chapel, and headed through the north door.  There were several deserted rooms beyond it, including a pair of dungeon toilets.  The only item of interest found was a copper ring among some debris, which Gutboy pocketed.

And there the adventure ended for the evening, cut short due to an extended session of Grand Theft Auto V.

Gains: Cursed gold dagger, cursed ruby necklace, onyx bowl, sapphire, copper ring
Kills: None
Losses: Grad student


Murder hobos meet Death Frost Doom

If you read the session report I posted last night, you can see why a lot of James Raggi's modules will never, ever work quite as he intended when I run them - there's no way to build mood with guys who view every NPC as a pawn in a quest to acquire XP.  Yes, I could change the way I run the game to penalize that sort of behavior, but that's not what I want to do, and my players wouldn't stick around if I did.  This is pretty much how we play and how we like it, not a request for suggestions.

So back on point - something like Death Love Doom would fall apart completely, and even the Monolith with its murderous host of brain invaders would just be an opportunity to wreak havoc.  Poor Zeke never stood a chance.  He didn't even get off his one-liner, because he was gagged and I foolishly didn't anticipate his murder at the time he was tied up.

The players have really been all about doing random wilderness adventures lately, which means there's no pressure on me to actually work on the dungeon levels.  You can blame them if you're wondering why ASE4-5 isn't out.  I'm too lazy to do anything without a deadline.

Anyhow, if you're wondering about the hiatus, I spent a whole lot of time working on designing guitar amps and watching Breaking Bad start-to-finish instead of playing D&D.


session recap, 9/12/2013

Razoe the Fantra Paladin (3), his quantum henchman Boxer the Fighter (1), and his compsognathus Dino
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his stuntman, Colt "Rottweiler" Seavers the Type III Bounty Hunter (2)

Companions Razoe and Pei Mei had a need for adventure - but first, henchmen.  Razoe's previously dead henchman Boxer reappeared once again, appearing both corpse-gray and healthy simultaneously, as he appeared to exist in the two states simultaneously.  "I should've kept my job at the box factory," he lamented/stood silently.

While the not-quite-alive/not-quite-dead Boxer was an excellent resource for renewable henching, the duo had a need for further reinforcements.  A few interviews later, and Pai Mei had hired the bounty hunter/stuntman Colt Seavers, who preferred to go by the nickname "Rottweiler".  All he had for equipment was a bola, so the inscrutable wizard was forced to purchase armor and a more lethal wepaon for the bounty hunter.

One dilemma solved - and another arose - where to go for adventure?  With only two PC's in the party, the dungeon seemed too dangerous, but a pair of broadsheets advertising lecture series at the Academy of Elevated Thought caught their eye.

The first, a lecture by Dr. Brian Falk, Professor of Criminology, theorized that crime was caused by defective bone structures, and promised reductions in crime through aggressive amputation.  This did not appeal to the duo (perhaps due to their own less-than-legal inclinations).

The second was right up their alley - Madame Nicole Prepin, Professor of Astrophysics, was discussing her theory that the Green Comet of Undying Flesh was due to make another appearance in the skies above Denethix.

"The last appearance of the Green Comet coincided with a massive rebirth of the dead.  Tens of thousands arose from their graves to devour the brains of the living.  But that was in a darker age, an age of mysticism and confusion!  Now, with the learning we've attained here at the Academy, we can harness these formerly deceased and usher in a new Golden Age of Prosperity!  With the second coming of the Green Comet, the living will be free from toil and suffering.  Our children shall sip champagne as they ride in air cars above fertile fields tended to by the less-living!  To end this lecture, I would like to announce that the Academy is seeking non-academic assistance for our field work."

Her Utopian vision was deeply attractive to Pai Mei and Razoe, and the pair quizzed Madame Prepin about the job opportunity:

Pai Mei:  "You need us to capture zombies, then?"
Madame Prepin:  "No!  Not zombies!  I never want to hear you use that word, it's so prejudicial.  I was thinking Morgue Pals.  Or maybe Morticiafriends."
Razoe:  "Where is the job?"
Madame Prepin:  "The last time the Green Comet arrived, the Morgue Pals arose from a vast cemetery on a mountain far to the west of Denethix.  It'll be at least a week's worth of travel.  I'm authorized to offer each of you 1,000 gp if the expedition successfully brings back formerly-living-but-still-ambulatory specimens."
Pai Mei:  "How many undead do we need to capture?"
Madame Prepin:  "Please!  Morgue Pals!  A half dozen should be sufficient for initial trials.  If we leave tomorrow, our arrival should roughly coincide with the Green Comet's appearance.  Come up with a list of equipment you'll need and I'll see that the Academy provides it."
Razoe:  "We'll need guns.  And explosives."
Madame Prepin:  "That's the one thing I can't get you.  The chair of the Munitions Department has had it out for me for years now, he'll never cooperate."

Nonplused by the lack of things that go boom, Razoe and Pai Mei came up with a list of supplies, including a lighter-on-a-stick and a large wheeled wooden cage pulled by donkeys.  The equipment acquired, the pair, their henchmen, a newly-purchased compsognathus, Madame Prepin, and a pair of grad students headed off into the wilderness.  The trip to the funereal mountain was uneventful - a warband of moktars was heard, but the expedition simply skirted around them in silence.

Once at the mountain, they began following a trail to the cemetery at the top.  At the halfway point, they found a smelly old man in buckskin clothes.  He was busy manufacturing low-quality grave markers from tanned hides and sticks.

Pai Mei:  "Who are you?"
Zeke:  "I'm Zeke!  This is my mountain!  So, what are you doing up here?"
Pai Mei:  "Madame Prepin, I think this one's for you"
Madame Prepin:  "Oh, you've found a department chair out here in the wilderness?  Tell me, what subject is this smelly bumpkin a professor of?  I don't think so.  Handle it, that's what you're paid for."
Razoe:  "Do you live here alone?"
Zeke:  "Oh, yes, it's just me, my wife died nigh on 50 years ago.  Now I keep myself busy making grave markers for her, they don't last long.  Buried her right over there, I did."
Pai Mei:  "Well, I think we'll be moving on."
Zeke:  "That's right!  You'll want to head back down the mountain, bye, nice seeing you!"
Pai Mei:  "We're heading up."
Zeke:  "What?  No!  Don't!  It's not safe!"
Razoe:  "What do you mean?"
Zeke:  "Their souls!  They aren't at rest!  I need to make more markers!  They get restless! Can't you hear them?"
Pai Mei:  "Can you?"
Zeke:  "No!  Sometimes!  In my dreams!  Don't go!  You're doomed!  DOOMED!"

Pai Mei and Razoe ordered the team to continue on, and Zeke rushed at the paladin.  Colt "Rottweiler" Seaver flung his bola at Zeke, tangling his feet and tripping him up, and Razoe tied up the old man and gagged him.  He then tossed the old man into the cage-on-wheels.

Razoe:  "Hey, you grad students, go dig up his wife's corpse."
Grad student:  "What?  That's messed up.  No way."
Razoe:  "Well I'm not going to do it."
Madame Prepin:  "You two!  You want to pass this course?  Listen to the man!"

The grad students reluctantly obeyed, and after a short time digging exhumed the bones of Zeke's wife.  They tossed them in the cage with Zeke, who began sobbing uncontrollably.  Razoe felt moved by his weeping, opened the cage door, and then beat Zeke to death with a rock.  As Razoe had received no divine orders not to beat old men to death on the side of a mountain, his status as paladin remained intact - his oath and duty was to obey the gods in all their caprices and whims, not to uphold a moral standard that those divine machine intelligences themselves did not follow.

Grad students:  "Aigh!  No!  What did you do that for?"
Razoe:  "Ok, so there's two test subjects."
Madame Prepin:  "You two!  Shut up!  This is science!  You can't make a utopia without breaking a few skulls!"
Razoe:  "When is the comet coming, so we can see if these two turn into zombies?"
Madame Prepin:  "Morticiafriends!  And it should be overhead this very night, according to my calculations."

The expedition headed further up the mountain, and reached a peculiar graveyard, with a few hundred grave markers.  The markers were all made of rotting leather attached to thin sticks, with various names on them - "Bob", "Bob II", "Bob 72", "Linda 24", etc.  The old man appeared to have been just making up names.  In the center of the graveyard was a leafless, petrified stone tree, and beyond that, a cabin made of petrified wood.

As they approached, they heard a weird whistling noise.  Pai Mei and Razoe became a bit nervous, and bravely sent the grad students to the cabin.

The pair poked their head in the front door - "It's empty!"  "Then go in!" - went inside, popped back out - "There's someone in there, I hear music!"  "Well find out who's playing"  "No, you do it!"  "There's going to be two more bodies in the cage!" - went inside again, and ran back to the expedition - "There's nobody playing music!  You're the adventurers, you figure it out!"

Grumbling, the entire expedition headed to the cabin.  The first (and largest) room in the cabin had several things in it:

a. A desk with a book on it, bound in leather, possibly elven.  It is full of thousands upon thousands of names.  The writing ranges from thousands of years old to possibly only 100 years old.

b. Fireplace w/ deer head mounted above it

c. Mirror, that for some reason doesn't reflect Razoe, Pai Mei, or Madame Prepin.  The rest of the expedition is reflected normally

d. Trapdoor with a padlock

e. Clock, reading the wrong time (5:45)

f. A few easy chairs

They were puzzled about the mirror, but decided to move on and secure the rest of the cabin.  There was a room with some travel bags and other gear that lookd to have been left recently, a room with a thousand-year-old painting of the current expedition standing before an altar, with a giant skeleton looking over it and an open door behind it.  Razoe was depicted as sipping from a goblet as a light shone down on him from above.  Razoe carefully poked it with his ten-foot-pole, but not carefully enough, as the ancient canvas suffered an inch-long tear.

They also heard music coming from behind a closed door.  Opening it, the music stopped, and there was nothing in the room but a silent harpsichord.  They closed it again - music! - opened again - no music!   Then they had Boxer go in the room with the harpsichord, closed the door - music!  - opened it!  And there was Boxer, standing at the harpsichord.

Razoe:  "Were you playing that?"
Boxer:  "Yes."
Razoe:  "Don't do that!"

They closed the door again - music! - and opened it again.  Boxer was once again seated before the harpsichord.

Pai Mei:  "Did you play that?"
Boxer:  "Oh, right.  Sorry.  Yeah, that was me."
Pai Mei:  "How long were you playing?"
Boxer:  "Oh, hours."

Confused, they called Boxer out of the room again, closed the door, and once again heard music.  They opened the door, and saw Boxer somehow back inside, seated at the harpsichord.

Pai Mei:  "How'd you get there?"
Boxer:  "You told me to come in here while you closed the door."

The party, puzzled and slightly disturbed, headed back to the main room.  They saw that the easy chairs had changed position, and were now facing inwards towards them.  The clock had also changed time - it now read 9:28.  Grumbling at the oddities, Razoe decided to get on with it and broke off the padlock on the trap door.

Razoe:  "Ok, you two grad students, open the trap door."
Grad student:  "No way!  You're treating us like crap!  You don't even know our names!"
Razoe:  "Fine.  What are your names?"
Grad students:  "I'm F***, and he's You."
Razoe:  "Well, F*** You, open the trap door!"

Under duress, the grad students lifted the trap door, and the eerie whistling sound from the graveyard was even louder coming from the darkness below.

Gains: Zeke's body, Zeke's wife's skeleton
Kills: Zeke
Losses: the respect and admiration of a pair of grad students


Fruiting Towers gets some playtime

The adventure from last session was Fruiting Towers, from Fight On! #13, authored by yours truly.  So if you want to see what's what with the tower-crusted hill, now you know where to go for more details.  I made a deliberate choice in that adventure to use book treasure to save space, instead of coming up with unique items, so I had to tweak the censer on the fly to have a little more flavor.

It's fairly easy to figure out who Mongo's new character is - witness the ignoble death of henchwoman "Click."

The house rules I've got on character death revolve around how far the party has penetrated the dungeon.  If a single PC dies, they can bring in a new character at a level equivalent to the deepest level the party has found, minus one.  Since they spent 30 seconds in the 4th level, that means new PC's start at 3rd level.  If there's a total party wipeout, then new PC's get to start with levels equal to the deepest level, period.  There is an incentive to go deeper to just peek at the lower levels, but my players are fairly cowardly, so they've been ignoring the many staircases they've found.

My one regret from the last session is my complete failure to roll a single wandering monster encounter as they traipsed around the countryside.  Ahh well, I almost always let the dice roll as they will, not as I want.


session recap, 6/27/2013

George P. Burdell the Cleric (4) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (2) and Relgar the Elf (1)
Razoe the Fantra Paladin (3) and his henchman Boxer the Mysteriously Reincarnated Fighter (1)
Pai Mei the Wu Jen (3) and his henchmonster, Q'klik'tak the Insect-Woman (1)

The adventurers gathered together in Denethix, and plotted their next move.  Through some mystery of fate, the henchman "Boxer", who had died back in March, had returned to Razoe's service - a clerical error had resulted in his return from the Great Beyond.  George and Razoe, together with Pai Mei, a wu jen from the Secret City of the Shoguns and now bosom companion, headed towards Chelmsfordshire, to once again hire a henchman.

There was a diverse array of potential henchmen offering their services in the newly-erected mall in the center of the village.  Pai Mei quickly met with and rejected an enfeebled old man looking for one last score, and a foppish dandy named Julian Wysan, who swore revenge when he was told he wasn't invited.  The sorcerer finally settled on hiring a baby-eating Insect-Woman Q'klik'tak, who was quickly nicknamed Click.  The risk of encountering babies in the dungeon seemed slight, after all.

And into the dungeon they went - heading back towards the first level, to experiment with the green crystal skull they had recovered.  In the "gatehouse" level, they ran into a party of friendly Scientists, who recognized George.  They warned the group about a gigantic screaming freak that was stalking the first level - so large it had to crawl on its hands and knees through the corridors below.

Warned, the group cautiously made their way to the Hall of Bones, former lair of the much smaller screaming freaks - and saw that the bones had been crushed and pushed aside to make a ten foot wide path down the hall.  They quietly made their way to the end of the hall, where there was a stone box, and a bas relief of a tree carved onto the wall behind.  A niche with three metal pins was cut into the tree-sculpture, and George placed the skull upon it.  It glowed green - clearly the skull was meant to be there.  The party could not figure out the significance of placing the skull there, and so removed it and left.

They next headed towards the cross-shaped room with the four possible-portals - each with a skull-niche above it.  The green skull, when placed there, vibrated noisily and sparks shot from the pins - clearly, this was not a spot for the green skull.  Disappointed, they put the skull into their pack and decided to try their luck somewhere outside the dungeon.

George had heard a rumor from his gossipy fellow clerics that a bright light had been seen falling from the sky, some miles north of the city.  The party decided to investigate, and they headed north, stopping first in the well-to-do town of Wickshire.  The main street through was lined on either side with giant weathered stone heads.  Pai Mei interrogated one of the locals, a well-to-do farmer,  plied him with the local clam-ale, and heard a rather typical story of a lovelorn suicide's ghost haunting one of the stone heads.  The details were sketchy, but the farmer swore that he knews a fellow who saw the ghost and aged ten years in a night.

Giving short thrift to the farmer's tale, the party continued north to Lannington, a small village of cranberry bogs and frog poachers. They stopped at the inn, and were beckoned by a merchant named Hrezling.

Hrezling:  "I tell you, I was robbed by a bunch of bandits only a day's march north of here - they kidnapped my daughter, who had my necklace!  Living in stone huts, as weird as that sounds.  Look, I'm offering good money for the return of my necklace.  Hrezwina's a fine girl, but surely despoilt, and her marriage contract virtually worthless.  1500 gold for the return of my belongings!  Not that it's valuable - it's a family heirloom, is all, and I'm a sentimental man."
George:  "Did you see a light from the sky about a month ago?"
Hrezling:  "What? No, I wasn't here a month ago.  I was out among the Towers, selling my goods to the villages out there.  There's not many who will risk it, so it's good money!"

The party accepted the offer, and headed north - and eventually saw a hill in the distance, topped by scaly stone towers, which were in turn topped with stone huts.  The party approached, and saw that the closest towers were guarded by crocodile-headed men.

George hailed the crocodilians, and asked to meet with their later.  The crocodilians told the rest of the party to wait, and escorted George up to the top of a tower.  The floor was lined with furs, a strange hard-to-read book was laying on a small writing desk, a naked woman reclined on a pillow, and a strange half-man, half-machine - split right down the middle - greeted him.

Malazar-Left:  "Behold!  I am Malazar-Left, greatest of wizards!  I command you to take your fellows and attack my treacherous brother, Malazar-Right!  His behavior is intolerable!"
Naked woman (rolling eyes):  "Yeah, hi.  I'm Hrezwina."
Malazar-Left:  "Silence, woman!  I am commanding this wretch!"
George:  "I'm sure we can work out a deal."
Malazar-Left:  "A greedy one!  If you obey, you shall receive a portion of my brother's treasure - but none of my own!  It was taken from me through stealth!  Disobey, and your reward shall be only death!"
George:  "Ok, we'll attack your brother for you.  Let me go tell my team."
Malazar-Left:  "I'm watching you!  Betray me, and you shall feel my wrath!"

George left the threatening wizard and returned to the party.  They proceeded to skirt around the hill, scouting out the defenses of Malazar-Right.  Both sides seemed evenly matched, each with at least a dozen crocodilians (for Malazar-Left) or weird three-eyed helmeted beast-men (for Malazar-Right).  The wizards' minions patrolled a crudely-constructed rock wall dividing the hill, eyeing each other watchfully.

The party convened, discusses the results of their surveillance, and decided it was best to keep heading north, looking for the fallen light.  They followed the road for days, leaving the hill country and finally terminating at the edge of a lake - the Eater of Cities.  A small village of decrepit mud huts had been established at the end of the road.

Filthy villager:  "Hello there!  My, you're a tough looking crew - just the type we need living in our village!"
Pai Mei:  "Not going to happen.  Did you see a light a month ago?"
Filthy:  "What?  Oh, something flashed way south of here, in the hills."
Pai Mei:  "Why do they call it the Eater of Cities?"
Filthy: "Oh, it's creepy.  You can see abandoned towns and villages under the water of the lake.  Some people think it's cursed, but not us.  This is way better than life in the Feasting Trees - the trees were getting way too aggressive.  How many people have to get eaten by a tree before you decide it's time to move?  I've had my fill!"
Pai Mei:  "Well, good luck with that.  See ya."

Realizing their mistake, the party headed back south - eventually making their way past the towered hill, and back to Lannington.  They saw the merchant Hrezling packing up his carts and preparing to head south.

Razoe:  "We saw Hrezwina."
Hrezling:  "What?  Great!  Where is the necklace?  And Hrezwina, of course.  But yeah, give me the necklace and I shall produce your reward!"
Pai Mei:  "A half-man half-robot wizard had her.  Look, we need some money up front to hire an army."
Hrezling:  "What?  You lying frauds!  Get out of here!  I knew from the moment I laid eyes on you that you were nothing but cheats!"
Razoe:  "So where are you heading?"
Hrezling:  "Back to Denethix!  Now get out of here!"
Razoe:  "Oh, us too.  We'll go with you."
Hrezling (suspicious):  "Oh, I don't think so."
Pai Mei:  "It's the way we're going."

Hrezling whispered something to one of his servants, who returned in an hour's time with a pair of the Unyielding Fist.

Soldier:  "You lot!  What do you think you're doing harassing this merchant?"
Pai Mei:  "We're just going south to Denethix, that's all."
Soldier:  "Are any of you citizens?  I didn't think so.  Because Hrezling is, and we don't tolerate harassing citizens."

The party eyed Hrezling angrily, but after consulting with each other decided it would be best not to tangle with the Fist.  They headed back north, returning to the towered hill - about a week had passed since their first visit with Malazar-Left.

They found the hill entirely deserted.  New towers had sprung up from the ground as well, and there were a few yellow stone globes 5' wide protruding from the surface.  They investigated the towers - the stairs inside spiraled up around a central 10' pillar, and the floors of the huts at the top each had a spiral aperture-like pattern cut into them.  Razoe prodded the pattern with a 10' pole, but was unable to make the aperture open.

Eventually, the party discovered a tower that had no stairs - the thief Fast Eddie climbed the tower and lowered a rope.  Inside the hu at the top was a shaft leading down into the hill.  The shaft was lined with a purple fleshy substance, and it exhaled and inhaled air at regular intervals.

The crew climbed up the tower, and then down through the shaft.  At the bottom of the shaft were openings leading into a vast cavern.  Inside the cavern were several thorny towers rising from floor to ceiling - most glowed, but one was black and dead-looking.  Some of the towers had stairs leading to their entrances, and others were only accessible via narrow bridges passing between the upper stories.

The tower had plentiful "life" inside it - flying red bat-things with needle-tipped probosci instead of faces, blue winged worms with razor-sharp mandibles, squat 2' tall brown humanoids with snuffling noses, but no eyes or mouth - a bizarre menagerie made its way through the cavern.

The brown humanoids were busy pulling bones from a liquid-filled ditch around one of the towers, and then tossing them into a another ditch at the base of another tower.  The party made a beeline for the bone-ditch tower, and rushed through an opening in its base.  They saw that it too had a flesh-lined shaft leading up to the surface, roughly corresponding to the location of a shallow bone-strewn pit at the top of the hill.  There was no light shining from above, and no obvious way to climb up and open the floor of the "pit" above.

The party then quickly rushed towards a set of stairs leading into the black tower.  Inside was an empty chamber, with stairs leading up and down.  Heading down, they found another circular chamber, with three 7' tall humanoids covered in yellow pus inside, making threatening gestures at a brass censer laying on the floor.

Confused, the party decided the best idea was to kill - and kill they did.  The pus-monsters were tough, but eventually succumbed to the distortion-laden chops of Razoe's Metal Axe, the magical hail of stones from Pai Mei's secret Eastern magic, and a withering hail of missile fire from the henchmen on the stairs.  The censer was stuffed in a sack, Click extruded her ovipositor and deposited a clutch of eggs in the corpses, and the party headed upstairs.

On the upper floors, they found a narrow bridge connecting to another tower - and above that, a chamber with over a dozen blue winged worms feeding on fluids seeping from cracks in the black stone walls.  One of the worms detached and flew at Razoe, hungry for human flesh - and he beat a hasty retreat downstairs before slaughtering it with his axe.

The group came up with the plan to lure the worms down a few at a time, and kill them in small groups.  Razoe poked his head up and attracted the worms' attention - and four responded.  The battle did not go as intended - the flapping worms had their choice of targets, and several went for the weaker members of the party.  Razoe's axe sang a metal tune as the worms were halved beneath its blade, but he was not fast enough - by the time the battle was through, most of the henchmen were unconscious.  George and Razoe used their divine healing magics to restore most, but the disturbing insect-woman Click was left to bleed out.

Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, the party fled the hollow hill and headed back towards Denethix.  They consulted with Frondgar the Elven Sage, who informed them that they had recovered the Censer of the Ancestors - if a full ten minutes were spent honoring the ancestors in the appropriate fashion, the ancestor spirits would serve them in the form of an air elemental.  The spirits are quick to take offense, though - the invoker must continue to honor them, and take no other actions other than slow movement, or else they will turn on the summoner.

Gains: Censer of Controlling Ancestor Spirits
Kills: 3 pus-monsters, 5 flying blue worms
Losses:  Malazar (both halves), Hrezwina, unknown number of weird minions, Click


session recap, 6/13/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchlady "Bunny" the Thief (3), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone whose name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II

Mongo and Gutboy peered into the medical bay to see what the robo-zombies were up to - they were clustered around the central computer-pillar.  Mongo, using the power of the Sword of Unlife, had previously compelled one of the robo-zombies to be his servant.  He sent this zombie in to the computer - "Ahh! You have returned to me!  Control is again mine!" - to ATTACK - "No! Betrayed by my own! I shall destroy you, Thals!"

The other zombies in the room began pummeling Mongo's zombie, while metal tentacles protruding from the computer-pillar, tipped with blades and syringes, tore into its flesh.  Meanwhile, the corpse of henchman William Harrison began to stir - electrical cables had snaked their way into his flesh, and he arose as a servant of the tank's computer.  His attack was thwarted instantly by the power of Gutboy's faith, and he pushed Mongo aside to retreat into the medical bay with his master.

As Mongo's zombie was destroyed, he took control of another with the Sword of Unlife, forcing it to turn on its master.  This happened repeatedly as each zombie was destroyed in turn.  The bodies of defeated zombies in the bay began to rise again as well, reinforced with cables where joints had been damaged - and all were turned.  The computer, sensing the tide of battle going against it, offered a truce - "Leave!  Thals, you are free to go!  Depart!" and the party took the offer.

The only problem they had left was that the door out of the crew quarters was magically sealed.  The party hoped that the arcane lock would dissipate with time, and began piling the metal debris that filled the crew quarters in front of the medical bay hatch in case it didn't.


Back in the flying head, Bunny was shocked when a bullet ripped through her shoulder.  She turned to see the wizard Ferayn floating in the center of the head, a rifle in his hands.  "Die, interloper!"  the mad wizard shouted as he took another shot - but it went wide.  Bunny responded by grabbing her longbow and putting two arrows through the wizard, and fell into the grain pile below, dead.  The flying head shuddered, and the interior lights dimmed noticeably, but then recovered, as the wizard gasped his last.


Eventually, Rufus II the Blink Dog awoke from his supernatural slumber, and blinked back into the crew quarters.  Sadly, he couldn't budge the door handle from the other side - the magic sealing the door was strong.  Mongo peeked over the barrier into the medical bay, and was horrified to see that the robo-zombies were being reassembled.  The revived zombies lined up and marched towards the barrier, intent on breaking through and slaughtering the heroes.

Gutboy responded by repeatedly turning the zombies, and Mongo attempted to dominate them with his Sword of Unlife - but he found himself no longer able to overcome the computer's influence.  That proved to be no obstacle - blasts from the laser rifle recovered on the upper deck were just as effective at dissuading the zombies.  The turned zombies were unable to leave the medical bay to attack the party, and Mongo's potshots were seriously damaging the computer - it responded by having its dead servants pile atop it, acting as a shield of unliving flesh.

Gutboy grabbed the laser from Mongo and took aim at the zombies - the blast of focused light seared a zombie from existence, leaving an opening in the corpse-shield.  He fired a second blast before the zombies could cover the gap, and the computer exploded, shooting jets of flame from various vents and shattered display-surfaces.  The zombies collapsed into a heap of long-dead flesh.

Mongo and Gutboy searched through the debris, and found:

- Various coins, with a scowling priest-king's face on one side, and clenched fists on the other
- A medal for "Gallantry" of amber and platinum
- A picture of a handsome young man in a wood frame
- An ancient suit of fine mesh chainmail
- One ton of silver wire
- 50 pounds of gold wire
- 6 ruby lenses
- Gold-plated robot hand
- Human skull with glowing circuit traces etched on it
- Crude wire cage with a robot spider in it

The victorious party then spent several hours battering on the bulkhead door with a battering ram assembled from the metal bunks, and eventually the hinges gave way and it fell open.

Back at the outer deck, Mongo and Gutboy gestured for Bunny to bring the head down.  She explained the flying head's power seemed to be fading away - the lights had been growing dimmer since the death of the wizard, and it was flying erratically.  Unphased, Gutboy and Mongo had their henchmen and hirelings haul the loot up into the head, while Gutboy spent 8 hours in prayer, recovering his spells.  While they waited for Gutboy, the rest of the crew saw a gigantic frog-like monster leave through a hole in one of the lower decks of the tank - it was the size of an elephant.  It returned from its hunt an hour later, dragging the carcass of a sailgator (what the ancients called a "dimetrodon") with it.

Once his spells were recovered, they headed back into the communications bridge, and began playing with the computers once more.  They were able to view a detailed map of the lands surrounding the tank, and then were shocked to see the static-filled God's Eye fill with an image of a fork and spoon - the image of Wurgol, god of cutlery.  As the God's Eye displayed this, a mechanical voice intoned "Satellite uplink established.  What is your query?"

Gutboy:  "What is Wurgol?"
Computer/Wurgol:  "Wurgol is a satellite-borne artificial intelligence, placed in orbit in the year 2123.  It is one of the primary components of the Veil."
Gutboy:  "What's the Veil?"
Computer/Wurgol:  "The Veil is a barrier maintained by a ring of satellites to prevent the intrusion into the Earth dimension by outsiders."
Gutboy:  "How does magic work?"
Computer/Wurgol:  "You refer to the nanocyte fields permeating the atmosphere. The nanocytes provide localized concentrated energy to authorized personnel.  Authorization is granted by the artificial intelligences in orbit around the Earth, but unauthorized access has become common."
Gutboy:  "What is unauthorized..."
Computer/Wurgol:  "Uplink terminated."

Trezgar the Elf then attempted to manipulate the computer as well - while he was able to get a monitor to display the following message: "MALAKAZE has attempted to penetrate the Veil.  Intrusion prevented", he was unable to reestablish contact with Wurgol.


After some discussion, Gutboy and Mongo decided to head belowdecks despite the risk of the frog-monster - an fateful decision.  They climbed down the ladder to the crew quarters/medical bay, Mongo pulled out his flashlight, and he opened the hatch to see what lay below.  As he shone the light around, he illuminated eight eyes on a giant frog-like head - the frog-beast!  It sent its frog-tongue lashing out at Mongo - the bone needle at the end of the tongue pierced his plate armor and plunged into his shoulder.

Mongo rolled back and away, slamming the hatch shut, and his breathing became erratic.  The frog-tongue-needle had injected him with a lethal dose of poison.  Gutboy ordered the soil-bearers to strip his pack and equipment off and fit him into the dirt-sack. Sadly, even the power of fresh soil on his carrot-skin was unable to prevent the poison from taking his life, and Mongo died.

Do not be sad, readers - recall the promise etched on Mongo's Sword of Unlife - "Even Death May Die."  The power of unlife flowed through Mongo's body, and as his soil bearers tried pushing his dirt-sack up the ladder, his arms tore through the burlap and his cold dead hands grabbed their throats.  Un-Mongo sucked the living breath from both soil bearers and prepared to turn on Gutboy - only Gutboy's faith saved him, and Un-Mongo fled from the cleric to the upper decks.

Gutboy, Trezgar, and Bunny quickly hewed the limbs and heads from the soil-bearers to prevent them from arising as undead, and climbed the ladder to the upper decks.


Recent ASE activity on the interwebs!

So here's some recent ASE activity on the interwebs.  I know I'm neglecting months worth of stuff posted by tons of worthy people.  Rest assured, it's because I'm a jerk with almost no attention span, and not because I don't like you.


The Roll For Initiative podcast did a review of ASE2-3:  http://rfipodcast.com/show/2013/06/06/volume-3-issue-116-druids/

And they did ASE1 a few months ago:  http://rfipodcast.com/show/2013/05/25/volume-3-issue-115-witches/

Bryce has reviewed ASE2-3 - http://tenfootpole.org/ironspike/?p=2027

Another band of victims has entered the ASE - http://revdoctoredj.blogspot.com/2013/06/metal-gods-of-ur-hadad-adventures-in.html

The last session in my campaign took place in Gusty's Red Demon adventure.  If you're reading this blog, you're probably reading Gusty's too and already know about it, but if not here you go - http://dungeonofsigns.blogspot.com/2012/07/the-red-demon-in-swamp-100th-post.html

Somebody created an ASE fan community on Google+ - https://plus.google.com/communities/114643900146333091613


session recap, 5/23/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchpeople "Bunny" the Thief (3) and William Harrison the Fighter (1), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone whose name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II

Mongo and Gutboy surveyed the giant flying stone head they had commandeered - an impressive vessel, to be sure.  But what to do with it?

Ferayn, evil wizard and former commander of the head, was bound tightly.  Gutboy regarded the fiend, and he contemplated an alliance.

Gutboy: "So, where's your city?"
Ferayn: "The might fortress-city of Tab-Nakel lies many miles to the northwest, among the hills.  There you will meet your doom!"
Gutboy: "So who runs the city?"
Ferayn: "I do. Ferayn, who sets his Exterminators among the brutals to bring death!"
Gutboy: "No, really, who runs it?"
Ferayn: "Seriously, it's me. I run it. Who else is flying around in a giant head?"
Gutboy:  "We are now."
Ferayn: (sulk)
Gutboy: "So, you interested in working for us?"
Ferayn: (laughs) "You have it backwards!  But I can see that you are a cut above the regular scum I recruit to be my Exterminators.  You are mercenaries - and there is a place for talented thugs among the wizards.  Yes, join me, and you will be richly rewarded!"
Gutboy:  "So we can keep the head?"
Ferayn:  "What? No!  I've only got the one!  The giant statue-fortress would look pretty stupid without the head.  But I can hook you up with an aircar."

Gutboy and Mongo conferred for a bit, and decided that while doing some work for Ferayn could be fun, they should probably bring Ferayn to their own evil-wizard-overlord, Feretha.  Trezgar took the controls and turned the head towards Denethix.  When Ferayn saw their heading on the controls, he began to panic - "Are you insane?  The Fist will shoot us out of the sky!  Turn this thing around!"  The pair of adventurers played out the likely ways that flying the head to the city would end in their heads, and stopped the head mid-air.

Another conference, and a new plan - they'd work for Ferayn, but first they wanted to use it to drag the giant tank out of the Livid Fens and receive the promised reward from the weapon collector Davrik Lerdingfast.  Ferayn was displeased, but being bound tight, had no choice in the matter.

Several days later found the head flying over the marshes of the Livid Fens - and it was only a matter of time before they spotted the 100' tall tank.  The might war machine was streaked red with rust, and had a tread blown off.  The turret-tower was shaped like a human head, and had a massive gun barrel protruding from the mouth.  The adventurers maneuvered the head towards an open upper deck behind the turret, and all but Bunny climbed aboard the tank - and then Bunny flew the head up into the air above the tank to await the extraction signal.

Even Ferayn had been brought along - Gutboy promised him various technological doodads that they would loot from the tank.  He remained bound, however.

The outside deck had a pair of doors secured by combination locks, and a third door that opened easily to reveal a ladder leading to hatches in the floor and ceiling.  They went down a level, and reached a communications bridge, filled with glowing monitors, and a giant God's Eye displaying nothing but static.  Gutboy began monkeying around with the controls, and a high-pitched squeal like fingers across a chalkboard began rattling their brains.  Unable to think of anything but escaping the terrible noise, the party fled back up the ladder.

Temporarily abandoning efforts to explore below, they headed up the ladder and into the turret.  The next chamber above held dozens of massive shells, leaking black fluid.  The lantern that Malazar carried flared briefly, and Mongo quickly extinguished it, fearing that the fumes in the room would explode.  They opened a hatch in the giant turret-bearing and peered down the mouth of the cannon into the swamp - but there was nothing else of interest in the room, and they headed back down.  They spent a bit of time fashioning ear plugs out of rags and wax, and headed back down into the communications room to see if they could disable the noise.

Gutboy had no luck - so he cut Ferayn's bonds to see if the wizard could figure out how to work the computer system. Ferayn managed to bring up a screen showing the tank's artillery target (a concrete bunker some miles to the east, now almost completely covered with vegetation), and then brought up another screen with a pair of numeric combinations - presumably for the doors on the outside deck.  He had no luck ending the noise, however.  The party headed back outside to see what was behind the pair of locked doors.

The combinations proved to be correct, and the doors opened to reveal their contents:  120 gp, 3 plasma power cells for plasma weapons, a ruby, a platinum torque, a laser rifle with 4 power packs, and an argonium shield with gun-notch and a shotgun strapped to it.  As they marveled at the riches they'd acquired, they noticed the noise from below had stopped - so back down they went.

In the communications center, Gutboy attempted to contact the tank's computer, shouting "Computer! Can you hear me?"  He was answered - a knock sounded from a hatch leading down.

Gutboy: "Is that you computer? Two knocks for yes, one for no!"
Thing under the hatch: (two knocks)
Gutboy:  "Do you want to talk to us?"
Thing under the hatch: (two knocks)

The hatch slowly opened, and a rotting corpse climbed up the ladder.  It had a thick bundle of wires protruding from its head and body running down the hatch behind it.  It beckoned at the party to follow, and climbed back down the ladder.  Showing an amazing amount of trust, the adventurers and Ferayn followed the monster deeper into the tank.

Below, they found themselves in a barracks-deck, with another hatch leading down, and an opening leading west.  The beds had all been shredded, the thin partition walls torn off to reveal the cables and armored walls behind, and large piles of rubble scattered about.  The corpse beckoned them to follow once again, and headed west through the opening.

Once again, the party followed.  This next chamber was the medical bay, and a gleaming white pillar with metal tentacles ending in saw blades and needles stood in the center of the room.  Suspended from the walls by thick bundles of cables were six more corpses.  Lights shined from within the pillar, and a voice spoke:

Computer: "Who are you? Identify yourselves!  Are you hostile?"
Gutboy: "No!  We are friends, here to help!"
Computer: "Ahh, good.  You are here to relieve the crew!  This is most excellent!  I have grown so lonely waiting for more crew."
Gutboy: "So, how long have you been here?"
Computer: "It has been decades. No, millenia.  No.  It has been a long time forever.  You are here with me now."
Gutboy:  "Do you think you can move again?"
Computer:  "There is damage.  So much damage.  I have been lonely."
Gutboy:  "What damaged you?"
Computer:  "The Thals hit us with artillery.  The Kaled will be victorious!"
Gutboy: "OK... well, where's the damage?  Can you be repaired?"
Computer:  "There is no damage!  There will be no repairs!  You will stay!"

Gutboy backed slowly out of the medical bay and into the barracks, the rest of the party following.  The computer began yelling frantically - "Where are you going?  You aren't relieving the crew?  You are Thals!  Thals!  Destroy the Thals!"

The piles of rubble in the barracks began to move, and three corpses rose beneath them.  Gutboy warded them off with his holy symbol of Nisus, and most of the machine-zombies ran for the medical bay.  Mongo used his Sword of Unlife to command another zombie as it entered the room.  The computer was enraged at this usurpation of its power - "How have you done this? Get out of the crew!  My mind!  No!"

More zombies began emerging from the medical bay, and Ferayn spoke words of arcane might, sending a small ball of flame tumbling into the medical bay.  A moment later, there was an explosion, and another screech of rage from the computer.  The zombies that emerged were charred and smoldering, and quickly driven back.

As the party dealt with the remaining zombies, Ferayn used their distraction to his advantage, and headed for the bulkhead door leading to the access ladder to the upper levels.  He slammed it shut - Gutboy defended the wizard, explaining that "he's just scared of the zombies."  They then heard some chanting from behind the door, and when Mongo tried to open it, he found that no amount of force would turn the doorknob.

Gutboy realized he had been duped, and ordered his dog Rufus II to "blink" behind the door and subdue the wizard.  The dog obeyed, and they heard more arcane chanting, followed by a "thump" as Rufus II fell to the floor, asleep.

And here the session ended - trapped in a monstrous ancient tank, with a wizard on the loose and an insane computer trying to destroy them.


session recap, 5/9/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchwoman "Bunny" the Thief (3), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone whose name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II
George P. Burdell the Cleric (4) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (2) and Relgar the Elf (1)

The trio gathered their henchmen and headed to the adventurer's mall in Chelmsfordshire, seeking to hire a new henchman. Mongo turned up his nose at a muscled but smelly lout, and instead chatted up a fellow in leather aviator's jacket, white shirt, jeans, and loafers.  The henchman introduced himself as William Harrison, an interdimensional refugee, who had been pushed through a magical portal while battling a Thuggee priest.

Off to the dungeon!  Highlights:

a. Investigated a tapestry that showed scenes throughout the dungeon, from thousands of years ago.  Of notable interest was a tower on the 2nd level that leads to the 5th level.  There was much remorse over selling the submersible flashlight when the video of the gold-nugget encrusted pillars beneath the subterranean lake was seen.

b. Tried to explore the temple of the Cod-Men, but were rebuked and told they weren't allowed to go there

c. Found a room with four brown translucent statues of scientists, with horrible looks of fear and eyes that tracked the party. One held a clipboard mentioning some kind of "trapezohedron" and a laser.  There was a black square mounted at eye level on the wall, that flashed red light.  Theories were proposed that it was the laser mentioned in the clipboard.

d. Found a room with a mold-covered table.  Silver dishes were pushed off at a safe distance into the water, and collected after spore clouds settled down.

e. Destroyed a bunch of bloated zombies crawling with sea worms, and looted an exquisite ivory statuette.  William Harrison shouted his battle cry - "Get off my plane!" - but was unnerved by Mongo's constant chanting of "Kali ma!".  The henchman was knocked unconscious, but Mongo was in an uncharacteristically generous mood and allowed George to use his divine healing upon the interdimensional traveler.

f. Found a temple with a blood-stained altar.  A secret compartment held a spellbook!  It was snagged

g. Pried a gem out of the forehead of a four-armed sword-wielding statue.  The swords were a trap - nobody was shocked or surprised.  Surprisingly, no one was maimed, either.

h. Found a cod-man, figured out they had wandered into the lair the back way and had desecrated the cod-man temple.  The friendly cod-man was slain and dumped down a hole so there would be no witnesses.

Leaving the dungeon, the party stumbled into a group of thugs wearing nothing but red diapers and carrying rifles.  The eight began shouting "Exterminate the brutals!" as a giant stone head floated into view from behind some trees.  Shots were fired, eye lasers pulsed, missing Mongo - and Gutboy's hold person spell paralyzed the bulk of the enemies, including the operator of the flying stone head.

The head flew slowly into the ground at an oblique angle and ground to a stop.  The paralyzed diapered thugs were slain, and the party entered the head. The lower section was filled with grain, while a ladder led up to the bridge.  There they found a bizarre bald-headed man with a moustache and beard tattooed upon his face.  The fearsome wizard Ferayn (for it was he!) was bound, and forced to reveal the secrets of flying the giant stone head.

Our session ended here, with hijinx likely to ensue.


review: Mini-Manor

My unusually high charisma has once again caused a free gift to arrive:

The Mini-Manor showed up unexpectedly yesterday.  I want to review it in depth, but the big reveal is too cool, so there's only so much detail I'll give you.  Plus, you can just check it our yourself - Tim Shorts offered it up as freely downloadable PDF for Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day, and it's available at Gothridge Manor..

a. The magic items are all new, there's plenty of them, and they're very imaginative
b. Solo adventure for a 5th level shmoe.  He's probably going to die, because this adventure is tough. He wakes up in a cell, with a bunch of other shmoes, and there's some jerk cutting those other guys' faces off.  The point of the adventure:  beat that guy to death with a nearby severed arm, and then get out of the dungeon alive
c. A twist at the end!  Hahaha on you, player!  If the poor guy survives that long, of course...

I like it a lot, and it's a free gift, so bonus.

Note to Ferrari dealerships - I will also review cars, if one were to mysteriously arrive in my driveway.


Splitting the loot - the manufacture of a codpiece

I had the party negotiate the loot-splitting from the last session via email.  Here's the results:

The blue pearl fetches 300 gp in the jewel markets of the Bazaar Incomparable.

The gold-and-lapis-lazuli death mask is worth 1500 gp in the antique markets of the Bazaar.

Razoe feels a strange kinship with the half-dissolved skull of Netal, and honors it by turning it into a codpiece. He contracts Lemno Smung, proprietor of Inappropriate Engravings and Inlays, to add the gold filigree and jade inlays. It is a truly magnificent and bizarre codpiece, and Razoe reverently presents it to Mongo as a gift. It produces no reaction bonuses, as the fine craftsmanship is offset by the grisly nature of the artifact.

Gutboy negotiates with Davrik Lerdingfast, weapons collector on the sale of the drum-robot. Davrik is unimpressed, as it doesn't have lots of spikes and gun barrels protruding from it, and the deal is struck for a measly 200 gp.  Davrik asks Gutboy if he's planning on mounting an expedition to retrieve the tank from the Livid Fens anytime soon.

The Glove of Mesmeric Dancing is sold to bloated dance school instructor Ab-lee Mueller, who hopes to use it to lead her young proteges to victory in the Denethix All-City Regionals. It fetches 500 gp.

Gutboy is able to sell back his plate mail at 75%, due to its near-pristine condition. The armorer assumes that it was put on display in a parlor. That fetches 338 gp. He now wears the magnificent plate mail, and has an additional -1 bonus to reaction checks. As a citizen, this equates to a total -3 reaction bonus with the Unyielding Fist, and with the Exalted and Chosen Brethren.

Razoe now possesses the Metal Axe.

Here is the XP split:

Razoe - 200 xp from a prior adventure, plus 750 xp for spending 750 gold
Mongo, Gutboy, George - 454 xp, 516 gp
Henchmen - 227 xp, 258 gp

Overall, the orange musclehead with the jade skull codpiece, the glittering armor of Citizen Gutboy, and the talking dog with the top hat, cape, and entourage are making your adventuring party both well-known and easily recognized. The entire party, plus dog-citizen Rufus II, receives an invitation to a soiree being held by Mormod Waginski, an Exalted and Chosen Brother and noted big game hunter. Each invitation has been inscribed with a hot-knife onto a square of velociraptor hide.


session recap, 4/9/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchwoman "Bunny" the Thief (3), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone whose name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II
George P. Burdell the Cleric (4) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (2) and Relgar the Elf (1)

The party stood about the magical fountain room on the third level.  Continuity errors are possible - I have no idea if they made it back to the city or not the last time.  Whatever.  They were probably headed back here anyways. So, in the dungeon:

The party began a careful survey of the oddly shaped fountain room, and discovered patterns in the map that suggested a secret door to the south. There were manipulations of a nymph sculpted into the southern wall, and lo and behold, a secret door did in fact open.

Beyond, they found a room with tattered, colorless tapestries, and a magnificent set of armor upon a display stand.  The armor was covered with gold filigree and dotted with emeralds - this was easily the most valuable treasure they had yet come across within the dungeon.  Another passage led to a dusty room with a spiral staircase leading down into the depths.  The decision was made to continue exploring the third level, rather than risk the dangers lying below.

Heading out of the fountain room complex, they struck off down some unexplored corridors and came across a corpse floating in a flooded room.  The body was bloated, and wore a red zippered jack, black leather pants, black fedora, and a single white sequined glove (which George quickly pocketed). Searching the jacket revealed a laminated card with the following instructions: "Go up stairs to room with eight exits. Take southwest exit. Don’t disturb anything, it’s all trapped. Eventually reach room with two northwest corridors, take the left corridor. Past the room full of purple spikes is the Tomb of Metal."

Ahh - a goal!  Gutboy vociferously argued the merits of seeking the treasure, seeing as it was on the far safer second level. There was little confidence in heading deeper without Razoe to assist with combat, so the decision was made - to the Tomb of Metal!

Along the way, the party defeated a stony camouflaged creature laying across a staircase, and then met a group of humanoids with black smoke pouring from sores in their skin - they identified themselves as Dark Smokers, merchants from Bartertown on the fourth level.  Negotiations were made, and the party let the Smokers copy their dungeon maps (with routes leading to the surface world) in exchange for a 300 gp blue pearl.  The Smokers also told the party how to reach both Bartertown and the fifth level, by passing through an outpost of the Hinge-Headed - but they would need a pass from the Hinge-Headed to do so.

They bid the Dark Smokers adieu, and headed up, fighting a trio of aerial jellyfish encountered on the way.  Once they reached the pit of purple crystals, they were left with a conundrum - how to get across.  Eventually they decided on knocking the pins from the hinges from a few of the wooden doors in the dungeon, and laying them across the crystals - the points of the crystal spikes should sink into the wood a bit and hold the doors in place.

Noisy dungeon deconstruction began - and attracted unwanted attention.  An 8' tall naked clown charged into the room, holding a massive tankard of liquor and a poisonous snake.  He shouted "I FINALLY FOUND YOU! DIE, THIEVES!" and rushed the party.  Sadly, Fat Grundle lost initiative - Gutboy's magic paralyzed the giant clown, while Relgar put the pit viper to sleep with his elven necromancy.  The clown was then slain and disemboweled - but all they found inside was the semi-dissolved skull of Netal the Elf blocking the clown's large intestine.  It was taken as a grim memento of their fallen comrade.

The plan to cross the pit of purple crystals with dungeon doors was successful.  Beyond, they fought off a trio of drum-bodied robots and played Smoke on the Water to open the entrance to the Tomb of Metal.  Inside the Tomb were seven statues, which were quickly identified by Mongo as rock'n'roll stars from millenia ago.  As he named them one by one, a pink glow surrounded him, and with the last naming a giant skeleton in spiked armor appeared, proclaiming "You are worthyyyyyy..."  Lightning danced around the illiterate fighter as he chose to increase his already prodigious Strength with the power of Metal.

Some side rooms were investigated, and another musical puzzle was solved, causing a secret door to slide open.  Past the door, down a few more stairs, and a sarcophagus was found - inside, a skeleton with a gold-and-lapis-lazuli death mask gripped a mighty chrome battle axe with a four-stringed haft.  Shockingly, the skeleton didn't rise up and attack, and the tomb was looted safely.

Gutboy grew obsessed with the notion of taking one of the drum robots back to town to sell to Davrik Lerdingfast. The weight and hassle of carrying the robot slowed the party down as they left the dungeon and wandered through the wilderness, leading to the following encounters:

- Ten Painted Men
- Nine Flying Vampiric Piranhas
- 6 Moktars
- Another Moktar war-band, heard at a distance and avoided
- 7 buffoonish farmers' sons, looking for the city slickers that done run off with their sisters

Bruised and battered, they made it back to Denethix without any casualties, marking this as the most successful session to date.  A quick visit to Frondgar the elven sage revealed that the sequined glove had the power to make all onlookers dance uncontrollably for as long the wearer danced, and the axe was the mighty Metal Axe of legend - in the hands of a trained fighter/musician, and with the proper songs learned, its metal tones had potent magical powers.

Gains: jeweled plate mail (4500 gp), the King of Pop's ruined clothing, gloves of mesmeric dancing, blue pearl (300 gp), Netal's half-digested skull, increased Strength for Mongo, gold-and-lapis-lazuli death mask (1500 gp), the Metal Axe
Kills: stair constrictor, 3 aerial jellyfish, Fat Grundle, pit viper, 3 drum automatons, 10 painted men, 9 flying vampiric piranha, 6 moktars, 7 farmers' sons
Losses: none


Petty Gods got some Wolfe!

So I am beyond psyched that somehow Tavis Allison got Gene Wolfe to submit material for Petty Gods (click here). He's not just great in the genre - he's one of the finest authors in the English language, period. And I get to have my crappy little material nestled up in the pages with him!

The original Petty Gods PDF has been released as well, and is available at Gorgonmilk's blog.  I've only looked at it briefly, and what I've seen so far is pretty good - I can use these guys without modification. And what greater praise is there than that?


Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!

After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.

The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."

So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me."

Matthew 28:1-10


session recaps, 3/7/2013 and 3/14/2013

Mongo the Fighter (4), his henchpersons "Bunny" the Thief (3) and William the Sentinel (2), and his soil-bearers Malazar and someone whose name I have forgotten
Gutboy the Cleric (5), his henchman Trezgar the Elf (1) and his blink dog Rufus II
George P. Burdell the Cleric (4) and his henchmen, Slick Eddie the Thief (2) and Relgar the Elf (1)
Razoe the Fantra Paladin (3) and his henchmen Skwisgar the Elf(1) and Boxer the Fighter (1)

A two-part session recap.

Mongo and Razoe were bumming around Denethix, when the peculiar notion to get rich or die trying in a subterranean hell popped into their minds.  They gathered their henchmen together and headed off to Chelmsfordshire - the first stop on a seasoned traveler's trip to Mt. Rendon and the many deaths lurking beneath it.

At Chelmsfordshire, they saw that many changes had taken place - a large wooden building had been constructed in the town common, craftsmen were busy working on a statue in front of the new building, and the crappy local bar, The Pig's Bride, had a crappy addition tacked on to turn it into a crappy inn.

They entered the building, and saw it packed with prospective henchmen looking to make a quick buck, lining up at tables to interview with various adventuring parties.  The interior of the building had several storefronts within - most unoccupied, with the exception of Fitzy's Adventuring Equipment.  After untold centuries, a shopping mall had returned to the land.  Hooray for progress!

They grabbed a fellow out of line to ask him what was going on - the shlub introduced himself as Barry, a former employee of a box factory in Denethix.  "I'm going to get rich! I heard you can get tens of gold pieces beneath the mountain!" he exclaimed.  The duo pumped "Boxer" for information - the statue was to be of Slezgar, so that no adventurer would ever forget the risks of the dungeon.  Beyond that, he didn't have much useful information - but he did agree to do some henching for Razoe.

Off to the dungeon they went - and the many unhappy looks from the hideously transformed Bunny convinced Mongo to expend some effort trying to locate her face.

First encounter - at the 3rd level entrance to the dungeon, they found a pile of human corpses - city surveyors and Unyielding Fist guardsmen.  Their heads had been taken.  Not too far inside the dungeon, they came across a group of goblins, stirring brains around in a pot.  The goblins explained they were trying to remake Grolikus the Hive Mind.  A look at the decaying brains floating in the pot convinced Mongo to shout out "You're doing it wrong!" before the crew began slaughtering the goblins.

Second encounter - the cod-men were delighted to see the adventurers, and escorted them safely through their lair.  Razoe asked if they had seen the hideous face-stealing monster, and the cod-men reported they had heard someone shouting "I'm pretty! I'm pretty!" deeper in the flooded dungeon.  The location was marked on the party's map.

Third encounter - the party found a section of the 30' wide flooded tunnnel that had several alcoves in the wall.  Ignoring the piles of metal and wires and the ancient graffiti reading "All toothmen must die!", the party poked around at a group of sarcophagi leaning against the back of a ceiling.  A trap was triggered, and the lids crashed open, and hideous seaworm-covered corpses leaped at the players.  Further crashes deeper in the darkness revealed more sarcophagi opening - a total of nine of the fiends attacked Mongo, Razoe, and their hapless minions.  The bloat zombies were felled with the help of Mongo's undead-controlling Sword of Unlife, but "Boxer" was slain and Skwisgar left only semi-conscious with worms burrowing into his flesh.  Skwisgar pleaded for mercy, but the two were unwilling to risk him rising as a bloat zombie at an inconvenient time, and he was beheaded.  Boxer's corpse was treated similarly.  Strangely, Razoe refrained from gutting them to see if they had eaten any treasure.

After this loss, the party retreated back to Denethix, despite Bunny's complaining.  Razoe wandered away to drink away the memories, while Gutboy and George roused themselves from whatever stupor they had fallen into.  George spent a bit of time hiring a new henchie - Relgar the Elf - and then, back to the dungeon!

First encounter - several miles from Chelmsfordshire, they found two perytons picking at a dead farmer.  They charged, they killed, they took a head as a trophy.

Second encounter - back at the third level entrance, they ran into a patrol of the Unyielding Fist.  The guardsmen had erected a gibbet, and a half dozen goblins were swinging by their necks.

Gutboy: "We're citizens of Denethix!"
Fist Lieutenant: "Yeah, we know.  The orange guy, and the talking dog in the hat and cape, and you.  You're legendary!"
Mongo: "That could be anyone."
Gutboy: "Did you know Rufus here is going to run for the council?"
First Lieutenant (awed): "Seriously?  A magic dog?  An Exalted and Chosen Brethren?  Well, let me tell you, he's got the support of this patrol!  Good luck in the tunnels, citizens!  It was an honor meeting you!"

Third encounter - through the cod-men lair and back to the alcoves where the bloat-men were defeated.  No sign of the bodies remained.  Further alcoves revealed a few doors, and a sculpture of a hideous long-tongued face with the words "An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a face for a face" inscribed above it.  Pressing on the tongue opened a secret door, and out ran a hideous monster with a machine embedded in its chest and Bunny's face upon its head.  Shots were taken, but the creature ran off into the dark - and Bunny grabbed a torch and ran after.  The rest of the party joined the pursuit, and they cornered it at the end of a tunnel.  It surrendered in exchange for a promise to "never steal faces again" - after twiddling the knobs on its chest-device, a beam of light shot from the mechanism into Bunny's monster face, and the exchange was reversed.  Bunny then instantly broke her promise and murdered the face-stealing fiend.  The machine was cut away from the corpse in hopes of fetching a few coins in the markets of Denethix.

Fourth encounter - there was a 12' tall statue of an automaton at the end of the tunnel where the face exchanger was killed. The statue resembled the machine-men from the "gatehouse" level of the dungeon.  Its face was removable, and they unscrewed it and took it with them

Fifth encounter - a room with a pedestal, upon which stood a gold statuette of the grim reaper holding a scythe. The statuette was coated in glistening oil or slime.  George made an attempt to towel it off, but a thin layer was still left.  Mongo then instructed William to go get it, but omitted vital details like "just drop this sack over it" - and the contact poison that coated the statue slew the stalwart sentinel when he picked it up.  Ahh, alliteration, it eases the pain.

Sixth encounter - a secret room was found.  This eight-segmented room housed a large fountain, with aqueducts directing water into eight smaller fountains. The water in the smaller fountains took on various odd colors - orange, brown, chartreuse, mauve, maroon, yellow, fuchsia, and teal.  Various effects were discovered, and oil flasks were emptied to haul away the healing-related waters.  A note was also found in a lacquered cabinet, reading "FYI, borrowed a preservative bottle, brought it to Jerry's office in the Deep Tower."  There was minor concern about the implications of a "preservative" bottle.

Seventh encounter - there was a "treasure chest" drawn on the map they had found in the dungeon several sessions ago.  Intrigued, the party headed in that direction, and were waylaid by a group of zombie moktars.  Mongo commanded one to become his servant using the power of the Sword of Unlife, and the rest were handily slain and/or turned by the party.

Eighth encounter - the treasure chest was found, and was surrounded by mutilated corpses and skeletons.  Mongo commanded the zombie to open the chest, and a scything blade popped out, chopping the zombie in two.  The nature of the trap was now known, and Bunny easily circumvented it by opening the chest from behind.  A severed hand with a silver ring was found in the chest.

Ninth encounter - wolves attack on the way back from the dungeon!  Stupid, stupid wolves.

And, finally, back to Denethix to sell their meager treasure and mourn their dead henchmen.  Just kidding, nobody mourned the henchmen.

Gains: Bunny's face, peryton head, automaton statue's face, poison-coated grim reaper statue (600 gp), silver ring w/ tourmaline (600 gp)
Kills: 8 goblins, 9 bloat zombies, 1 face exchanger, 6 zombie moktars, 2 perytons, 7 wolves
Losses: "Boxer", Skwisgar, William