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.

July 27, 2014

LL Custom Class: Ratling

Ratlings are small (about halfling size) sentient rat men who are invasive and can be found in almost any environment.  They often live on the outskirts of some other community; in the sewers under the human cities, in the forests of the elves, and in the dwarven tunnels deep in the bedrock.  Ratlings are scavengers and opportunists.  They live off of the scraps left behind by others, but can fend for themselves if they must.

by Mablox

Requirements: Str 5 or less
Prime Requisite: DEX and CON
Hit Dice: d6
Max Level: 9th
Hit Progression: as Fighter
Saving Throws: as Dwarf/Halfling
Weapons: No 2-Handed Melee or Longbow
Armor: Padded, Leather, Studded Leather, and Shield
Special Abilities
+1 Skill Point each level
Sneak (3 in 6)
Detect Smell (3 in 6)
Climb Walls (5 in 6)
-2 AC bonus when attacked by large creatures
+1 initiative
Speaks to rats
Iron Stomach (can eat rotten and spoiled foods, immunity to puking and nausea)

Pragmatic and adaptable, most ratlings prefer to let others handle any direct combat though they do enjoy looting and nibbling the remains of the fallen.  They are not picky about alliances and will join up with whomever seems best able to protect and feed them.  They are not well regarded by other races, but when tolerated they can prove useful as scouts and spies.  Perhaps the mutants are their closest allies.  In the sewers under the cities, ratlings and mutants can be found living together as equals.

Ratlings can be solitary or live in small family groups, but most prefer to live in large packs for protection.  A large pack of ratlings is called a "mischief".  The politics within each mischief will vary, but most are led by a single ratling who is either respected or feared by the others.

Ratlings rarely go to war, but there is an ancient tradition that ratlings follow when multiple mischiefs must work together and combine their forces.  The leaders of each mischief must choose to give up their individual identity and become equal co-leaders of the new ratling horde.  They do this by ritually having their tails all broken and then knotted together permanently; they all give up their old names and become "Rat King".

by Meghan Stratman

100 Base
70   Hit Dice: d6
70   Hit Progression: Fighter (+2hp after L9)
10   Max Level: 9th
55   Dwarf/Halfling saves
20   Armor: Padded, Leather, Studded Leather and Shield
55   Weapons: no 2-handed weapons or longbows
30   Magic: no wands, no divine scrolls, no arcane scrolls

Special Abilities
0 +1 Skill Point each level (if using the LotFP skill system) {or use these Thief Skills instead}
40   Sneak (3 in 6) {or HS + MS as a Thief who is 4 levels higher}
15   Detect Smell (3 in 6) {or same chance as Hear Noise for a Thief who is 2 levels higher}
10   Climb (5 in 6) {or Climb Walls as a Thief of the same level}
15   AC -2 when attacked by large creatures
5     +1 initiative
2.5 Speak to Rats (Rats aren't guaranteed to be helpful, but may accept bribes)
2.5 Iron Stomach (Can eat rotten and spoiled foods, puking immunity)

by Beth Stone
500 - TOTAL

Standard Base Experience X Ratling Class 500%
0 -----------Level 1 ------------- 0
400 --------Level 2 -------  2000
800 --------Level 3 -------  4000
1600 ------ Level 4 ------   8000
3200 ------ Level 5 -----   16000
6400 ------ Level 6 -----   32000
12800 -----Level 7 -----   64000
24000 -----Level 8 ----- 120000
48000 -----Level 9 ----- 240000

July 1, 2014

Ancients & Aliens - Session 2: The Chaotic Caves of Chaos

Once more our intrepid adventurers return to .... oh wait, no.  Almost everyone else had to skip this session for various reasons.  Real life happens sometimes.  Oh well, no worries.  Solo mission!

Once more our lone intrepid adventurer... oh right, your character died last time.  Sorry dude.

A new intrepid adventurer steps forth to battle the minions of Chaos!

Saruk the Elfulan arrives in Niru looking for both fame and fortune.  The magi in Niru are very happy to see an elfulan willing to join their other hired sword-hands.  The magi are keenly aware of the lack of discipline within Watchkeeper Hall, and they hope that this new elfulan might help to motivate and focus the other mercenaries.  Saruk soon agrees to lead a group of adventurers and investigate some caves where trouble is brewing.

Recently, scouts have confirmed the location of a group of caves that seem to be a staging ground for orcs, goblins, and other deviants who threaten the safety of Niru.  The magi have called for volunteers to investigate the caves, reduce the number of adversaries if they can, and then report back.  Well, that was a week ago and no one has stepped forward yet.

So now that they have Saruk willing to lead a group, the magi decide to set up a lottery.  A bag of stones is passed around Watchkeeper Hall and whoever draws one of the four black stones wins the honor of going out to help search the caves.  The silence is deafening as the bag is passed around the hall.  There is a bit of a commotion as a warrior named Thangdun willingly trades his non-black stone for a black one.  His friend (Sneaky Nikezheb) had drawn one of the black stones and Thangdun is a man who watches out for his friends.  Zsheel the Halflingon and Lairizhaag the Braggart are the other two "lucky winners".

Surprisingly, one of the apprentice magi steps up and volunteers to join the group [Wis 4].  Lithsharric wants to use a charm spell to interrogate one of the cave dwellers and learn more about their numbers and intentions (Int 14).  The young magi's master pulls Saruk aside and instructs him to "Do your best to keep my pupil safe".  Saruk glances over at the young magi [Str:5, Dex:6, Con:8] and answers "I'll try".

The party is led to the area of the caves by a scout, who then says "Good luck" and promptly leaves.  Saruk is a cautious elfulan and chooses to spend a few days watching the various cave entrances while the sun is up, then hiding his group at night while the orcs are more active.  The area around the caves looks like this...

Each square = 20 feet

They approach the largest cave first.  In front of the wide opening is a marble platform ringed by steps.  On the platform are five broken pillars.  Stones and rubble that were once the ceiling of this structure have been tossed into a pile at the base of the eastern hillside.

Saruk sneaks onto the platform and hides behind the remains of the northeastern pillar.  It's early morning and the hill puts this area in enough shadow that Saruk can peer inside and look down the tunnel with his infravision.  The hallway beyond the entrance is 40 feet wide with a pair of columns every 20 feet.  At the very edge of his infravision he can see humanoid shapes, motionless, very thin, no heat... maybe statues?  He doesn't care for it.  Saruk sneaks back to his group and instructs everyone to move on to the next cave to the west.

With most of the group quietly waiting in the south end of a long strip of forest, Saruk and Nikezheb sneak north along the treeline to the cave that they saw some elves and a dwarf enter a few days ago.  Saruk is just about to break cover and head for the entrance when a dwarf strolls out of the cave and starts heading straight toward them.  There is a tense moment as the dwarf walks closer, but our heroes keep their cool and remain motionless.  Once the dwarf arrives at the forest he opens his pants and starts to pee on a tree.

Saruk comes up behind the dwarf and puts a sword to his neck.  The dwarf is ordered to be silent.  Saruk leads him into the woods toward the group, but he lets the dwarf close his pants first which I thought was a classy move.  His party is silently impressed when Saruk returns with a prisoner.  They've all heard stories, but most of them have never even seen a dwarf before.

Lithsharric makes with the charm spell and starts asking the dwarf a bunch of questions.  The dwarf is named Kelvar.  He says that the big cave is an old dwarven tomb, that he and the elves are here to fight the orcs, and that there are "about six" elves in the cave.  The dwarf keeps asking questions of his own about where the party is from and suggesting that "we should all work together to fight the orcs" and "let me introduce you to the elves".  Saruk grows suspicious, the dwarf's answers are too dodgy and vague.  He and Lithsharric quietly agree that the spell may have failed.  After a time the party can hear some elves in the distance calling out for Kelvar.  Saruk agrees to let Kelvar introduce them, but advises Lithsharric to stay hidden in the woods.  The rest of the party follows Kelvar warily.

Kelvar leads them out of the woods and into the tall grass, they meet four elves about 40 feet south of the cave entrance.  There is a strange sort of exchange where Kelvar does most of the talking.  The party is invited inside the cave to meet the leader, but Saruk refuses and demands to meet their leader out here in the open.  Kelvar goes inside to fetch the leader, and leaves the party and the four elves to some of the most awkwardly uncomfortable small talk of all time.

Minutes pass while everyone watches to see who will come out of the cave entrance.  After a while the party hears a snapping branch and sees movement in the western trees.  "Not nice." says Saruk, and the battle begins.   The four elves in front of them dish out some damage, but they are quickly overwhelmed.  Six more elves come out the trees and ready their bows.  Lairizhaag the Braggart charges the archers alone while the others try to finish off the four elves in melee and Saruk drinks an entire flask of liquid courage to dull the pain.  Lithsharric comes running out of the trees chased by a laughing Kelvar the dwarf who has axe in hand and murder in his eyes.

http://frostiefilly.deviantart.com/art/Thrathen-408498560Lairizhaag the Braggart somehow dodges through the volley of arrows unharmed and is about to strike back when Saruk casts his sleep spell.  [John decided to use his once-per-session-d30 at this point.  He puts to sleep 28HD of enemies]  The six elf archers fall asleep.  Kelvar the dwarf falls asleep.  Five elves still hidden in the forest fall asleep.  The forest goes silent and a couple of birds fall from the sky.  Everyone in the party slowly turns and looks at Saruk.

Throats are cut, elvish bows are looted, and Kelvar the dwarf is tied up and pulled along struggling all the way back to town.

The whole town is impressed, and Saruk gets a small bonus of gold coins from the magi who take the dwarf for questioning.  At the human supremacist tavern, The Weary Ass, Lairizhaag the Braggart actually manages to get a table and a pint of beer for Zsheel the Halflingon.  Then Saruk, Thangdun, and Nikezheb go off to try and sell some elvish bows to a shopkeeper.

Saruk doesn't like the look of Crazy Gorgathon, so he decides to go visit Sweeney's General Store instead.  Sweeney's store is currently being run by Sweeney's daughter Deandre.  She doesn't know much about elf bows or armaments in general and only offers 20 gold for each bow.  Saruk asks why she is offering so little, and she explains that she needs to make some fast gold to pay the ransom for her father.

It turns out that Sweeney went traveling over a week ago with some armed guards, he's gone out to trade with elves in the past, but this time he didn't come back.  Then, a few days ago, one of Sweeney's guards returned to Niru saying that some orcs captured them all and are now demanding 500 gold coins to release Sweeney.  The orcs sent the guard back to Niru along with one of Sweeney's fingers to show that they were serious.  Well, Deandre doesn't have 500 gold, and she's only willing to buy items if it's at a low enough price that she can turn around and sell them to make a quick profit, and the orcs only gave her a week to drop off the sack of coins, and that was three days ago, and for the love of the gods, please!, can you do something?!, help my father!

So, Saruk and company go and sell the elvish bows to Gorgathon.  Obviously.

Crazy Gorgathon
Saruk did agree to help Deandre's father though, so after business he goes and talks to this released prisoner fellow and figures out that Sweeney is being held in one of the caves the party was just investigating  After questioning the man further about what he saw, Saruk even has a pretty good idea of which exact cave Sweeney is being held captive in.

So the next day Saruk takes his band of misfits back out into the wilds, fills a couple of orc guards full of arrows before they know what happened, storms into a cave complex full of orcs, kills about 7 more orcs and a beastman covered in orange fur, sets fire to a wolf pen, ties up the orc jailor/torturer, and rescues the 9-fingered merchant from his cell.  The party hustles out of the cave and rush out of the area.  Saruk brings Sweeney safely back to town having never lost any member of his party in either adventure. 

Saruk is now a household name within the walls of Niru.

Deandre is very grateful to have her father home, but after a week or so it is obvious that Sweeney is a changed man.  He won't talk about what happened in the caves, but Deandre fears that he may never snap out of it.  He acts manic at times.  He says that he is living on borrowed time and intends to live life to the fullest.  He hangs out at his store mostly, but Deandre is doing all the work now.  He'll sneak off on his own sometimes and damage property around town or take unwatched items like food and tools.  The whole town knows his story, and thus far people just shoo him away rather than report him to the guards.  He isn't violent, and usually just leaves if confronted.

Yes, I've cast Danny DeVito to play Sweeney.  Yes, the orcs had stripped and shaved him for some reason.