July 29, 2014

Ancients & Aliens: Session 3 - Under Xylarthen's Tower

I should really try to do these session reports right after the game.  Once I wait a few weeks my memory gets a bit hazy.  This is my best recollection of the events.

*Spoiler Alert*  Mugato will show up near the end and kill someone.

After charming and questioning their prisoner Kelvar the Dwarf; the magi of Niru learn that the Chaotic Caves are not a staging area for invading the town of Niru, but rather a staging area for adventuring within some nearby dungeons.

Apparently, the elves know that the red dragon who dwelt within the dungeon depths is now dead, and there is a whole dragon horde just sitting down there waiting to be claimed.  The elves have been bribing various humanoid leaders to join them at the caves and have been using these minions as NPC adventuring parties and delving into the nearby dungeon.  In exchange for humanoid cannon fodder henchmen, the elves give a share of the recovered gold and magical items to the humanoid leaders and their tribes who now dwell within the Chaotic Caves.

So, having learned all of this the magi now want the PC's to go into the dungeon and grab the dragon horde before the elves and their allies can get their hands on it.  It didn't take a lot of convincing.  Once you mention "horde of a dead dragon" PC's seem fairly eager to go investigate.  And so, off they went.
Step 1

They walked along the old dwarf road and soon they were passing by Swamp Tower.  They had cleared out the harpy and giant toads in a previous session and in the following weeks the tower had become an outpost watch tower for the town of Niru, with a new ladder inside, a rebuilt platform up top, and few Elfulan guards 30 feet up watching over the road and the swamp.  Saruk the Elfulan (John) gave them the standard Elfulan greeting, which we all suddenly learned was a Romulan fist over the heart quickly followed by a Nazi type outstretched open hand.... Perfect!

Step 2
Shortly after this someone noticed a large humanoid shape running through the swamp toward the tower.  The Elfulans up at the top of the tower yelled "Troll!" and started hauling up their ladder.  The PC's rushed forward and engaged the troll before it could start climbing up the side of the tower.  The two Elfulans above did their best to rain arrows down upon the troll.  Jakob the Ratling used his sling, Saruk used his bow, and Ony the Mutant used his special Jedite fighting style to hurl energy balls ("Hadoken!")  at the troll.  Only our newest player was foolhardy enough to engage a troll in melee.  Laynie had never played in any tabletop RPG before tonight, and only minutes before this encounter had rolled up Rina the 1st level Halflingon who was wielding a battleaxe and shield.  I love having new players at the table, but I was a little worried that this first random encounter might get her character killed right out of the gate.  Luckily everyone except the troll survived, and there was much rejoicing.

The party marched along the road for the rest of the day and made camp near the side trail that they hoped led to the lake that the dwarf had mentioned.  The PC's made a campfire and kept watches that night.  Good thing too, Rina the Halflingon got the drop on some elves who were trying to sneak up on the camp.  Most of the elves were killed by the party but one vanished into the trees that night.

The next day they followed the trail, found the lake, and searched the nearby hills until they found the dungeon entrance.  At the crest of one of the hills is a gigantic petrified tree stump.  The gargantuan stump is smooth and level in the middle but with jagged bits sticking up around the outside edge.  The hollow petrified tree was once a tower, home of the ancient elf wizard Xylarthen who lived thousands of years ago.  He was said to have betrayed his own people and aided the Anunnaki when they first arrived on the planet.  There are many versions of that story, and no one really knows the truth anymore.  The tower is completely shattered now, most say that the Anunnaki destroyed Xylarthen and his tower once he was no longer of use to them, but the dungeons below still remain. In the middle of the vast petrified stump is a petrified wooden hatch with handles that opens up to reveal a petrified wooden ladder leading down into the petrified wooden depths below.  The dungeon rooms and hallways all seem to be open cavities within the petrified roots of the once great tree.

The PC's ventured down into the depths Under Xylarthen's Tower (I'll change it up a bit and hope that my players don't read too many spoilers).  The hallways within are a kind of seamless oval made of petrified wood, mostly brown with streaks and splotches of red and purple all throughout.  The doors and hinges are of the same material, and seem to be stuck shut for some individuals but open easily for others (d6 roll to open doors).  The doors all shut on their own after a time, sometimes while the PCs are still in the room.

The first room they entered had a big furry ogre with tusks who demanded a password.  He died.  They saw some stairs going down, but chose a different hallway instead.  They walked past a side room that smelled like a communal bathroom and eventually entered a large empty room with a door on the western wall.  The door led to a room where some giant weasels were building a nest.  The weasels were killed and their nest looted.

On a hunch, Jakob the Ratling went back to the empty room and found a secret door in the northeast corner that opened unto a narrow tube with a ladder leading deep into the depths below.  Saruk went down the ladder to investigate with his infravision.  After 80 feet the narrow tube opened into the ceiling of a room.  Saruk heard a lot of grunting and saw furry shapes moving around below.  He hurried back up to tell the others.

They seemed hesitant, but Rina convinced them to investigate. They all climbed into the narrow tube one by one, and Saruk led the way down the ladder.  The light from the torches tipped off the creatures below.  A furry white ape with a big horn on the top of it's head looked up the tube and started whooping loudly as it began to grab onto the ladder.  Saruk let go of the ladder and dropped down the shaft, he hit the Mugato full in the face with his feet.  The creature was stunned and Saruk fell on top of the beast in the room below.  The five other Mugato in the room jumped back, but then move to surround Saruk.  Knowing that seconds matter, Saruk tries to cast his sleep spell while still lying on the stunned ape.  John used his d30 roll, but it isn't quite good enough.  Three of the apes pass out and fall to the ground.  The other two Mugato are standing over Saruk now, and quickly pummel him to death.
Look out dude!

At this point Rina is down the ladder and engages the two ape men with her battleaxe and shield while Jakob and Ony scramble down the ladder as quickly as they can.  The battle is fierce.  Rina is trading blows with the two ape men while her friends alternate between helping her and killing the white apes on the ground before they can rouse from their slumber.  Rina's shield is splintered by a blow that would have crushed her ribs.  She scores a critical hit and cleaves into the neck of one of the beasts.  I can't remember now if this is the second or third time this session that Rina was covered in a spray of blood.  Soon the party is victorious, and victory is sweet.  Saruk is avenged.

They find the ape larder which was full of dead elves and dwarves, their equipment, and scattered and torn sacks with thousands of silver and gold coins.  Oh and there was also some weird sword made of silver with a bunch of magical looking runes all over the blade.  I innocently asked who was picking up the sword, and that set off some group-wide paranoia.  After that everyone refused to touch the thing.  They decided that the magi back in town should take a look at it, so Ony carefully bundled up the sword with sacks and rope as if it were a viper waiting to strike.

 They all started discussing the logistics of taking the loot and Saruk's body back to town.  They wanted to give him a proper burial so that he wouldn't come back as a zombie (as all the created races "naturally" do).  They used some dwarf ropes to tie Saruk's body to Rina.  She climbed up the ladder while Saruk's limp form dangled beneath her.  Jakob followed up afterward and watched over the body while she went back down to help haul up more of the loot.

Ony and Rina grabbed all the gold, but left most of the silver behind and started up the ladder.  That's when Jakob heard a droning/buzzing sound approaching.  The ratling left his torch near Saruk's body and scurried over to the secret door.  He got on the ladder just as 6 Giant Carnivorous Flies entered the room.  Jakob pulled the door closed.  The three of them start discussing their options while holding on to the ladder.  No one wants to go back down and explore any more of the level below, so Jakob cracks open the door and takes a peek.  The flies are feasting on poor Saruk.  Everyone carefully skirts around the edge of the room while the occupied flies take no notice.  The group quickly exits the dungeon and heads back to town.  And that's how Saruk saved the party one last time even though he was dead.  It's too bad that they had to leave his body behind.

So, the three adventurers make it back to the town of Niru with the loot.  Ony the Mutant gave that magic sword to the young magi Lithsharric to see if he can decipher the runes on it's blade.  Then Ony apparently got out of his bed in the middle of the night, climbed up the wall, and encased himself in a giant cocoon up near the ceiling of Watchkeeper Hall.  Maybe it's a mutant thing?  The cocoon is freaking out some of the other watchkeepers.  Most everyone is sleeping with a weapon under their pillow, and they take turns watching the cocoon throughout the day and night.  Even if they do not particularly like him the other watchkeepers seem to at least respect Ony's accomplishments, so everyone is hoping that Ony emerges mentally intact.  However, just to be safe... if an Ony-monster emerges there are some extra flasks of oil and firewater in the four corners of Watchkeeper Hall now.

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