Friday, May 13, 2016

Clerics and the God Worm

Below are my thoughts for clerics serving the God Worm, based on Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard. In the adventure, it's implied that there's a tradition of human cultists worshipping a powerful Worm God, and that it usually goes badly for them.

I liked the implication that there might be good reasons for humans to worship a giant worm, and that it might still be a terribly bad idea for them to do so. Worms are the eaters of the dead, so the God Worm bestows all the usual clerical powers, albeit with some variations in their appearance. Servants of the God Worm are also invariably destroyed by their connection to such a powerful inhumane entity. I've added the option for clerics to choose to become tainted, instead of accepting the usual consequences of deity disapproval, and I've added a very tempting offer, for clerics to burn away their minds instead of their luck, for a larger one-time benefit, but at a cost that's irrecoverable.

CLERICS AND THE GOD WORM

Alignment: The God Worm is neutral in (or perhaps prior to and separate from) the great Cosmic Struggle between Order and Chaos, but its worshippers may be of any alignment.

Holy Symbol: The cleric's holy symbol might be a wood staff carved to look like a worm, an ourouboros (a symbol of a worm making a circle and biting its own tail) or an auryn (a symbol of two worms making a knot and biting each other's tails), or a live worm that she keeps as a mascot.

Lay on Hands: Whenever the cleric calls on the God Worm's power to heal the injured and sick, her healing touch manifests as a swarm of maggots, leeches, and other medicinal vermin. These fall from the cuffs of her sleeves, sweat from the pores of her hands, and burrow up through the skin of the patient. They eat any infected or necrotized flesh, leaving a clean sterile wound, and disperse at the end of the healing.

Turn Unholy: Whenever the cleric calls on the God Worm's power to turn away the unholy, the primary manifestation is of worms and maggots rising halfway up from the soil to repulse the enemies of her faith. If the turning attempt includes a holy smite, this manifests as a stream or cone of devouring worms flowing out of the cleric's hand and drilling into her foes.

Deity Disapproval: Whenever the cleric rolls within her current disapproval range, she may choose to receive patron taint from the God Worm instead of accepting the result of the disapproval roll. She may choose to receive patron taint after seeing the disapproval result, but after this choice is made, it cannot be reversed based on the patron taint roll.

Burning luck: Clerics who serve the God Worm may choose to permanently burn their Personality or Intelligence ability scores instead of burning Luck to modify the effects of laying on hands, turning unholy, or spellcasting. The God Worm rewards this alignment of the cleric's mind with the annelid consciousness by granting a +CL bonus to the modified roll in exchange for this sacrifice. Clerics who serve the God Worm can never increase their mental ability scores; any effect that would ordinarily increase a cleric's Personality or Intelligence scores increases her Luck score instead.

Blessing, Holy sanctuary, Protection from evil, Divine symbol, Spiritual weapon, Sanctify: Spells that confer a blessing or protection manifest as an anointing of worms crawling over the affected person, object, or place.

Detect evil, Detect magic, Second sight, True name: When the cleric casts spells that allow her to commune with the mind of the God Worm to gain knowledge, she must accept patron taint if she rolls in her disapproval range, as described above.

Food of the gods: The God Worm sends edible meal worms for the cleric to eat.

Cure paralysis, Neutralize poison or disease, Restore vitality, Remove curse: Healing magic is affected as the laying on of hands, described above.

Snake charm: The affected snakes shed their skins to reveal snake-sized earthworms beneath. This change persists even after the spell's duration ends.

Stinging stone, Bolt from the blue, Affliction of the gods, Vermin blight, Whirling doom: Spells that afflict the cleric's enemies manifest as an attack by worms instead of other creatures or objects.

Wood wyrding, Cause earthquake, Desecrate: The God Worm sends burrowing worms to drill though the affected object or piece of land, and their movement creates the effect of the spell.

Animate dead, Speak with the dead: The God Worm does not allow its clerics to animate or speak with the dead. If the cleric's random determination of spells would result in her learning either of these spells, she re-rolls to learn a different spell instead. Attempting to cast these or similar spells results in automatic failure, deity disapproval, and patron taint.

Other magic: Clerics who serve the God Worm manifest their spells differently than other clerics. The player and the judge are encouraged to devise additional alternate manifestations for these and other clerical spells.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

God Worm Spellburn

 Below is my spellburn patron for my God Worm patron. This table is heavily inspired by the "Worm Madness" table in Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Dungeon.

SPELLBURN

1 The God Worm places burrowing worms inside the spellcaster's body.  For each 1 point of spellburn, 1d3 worms burrow out of the caster's flesh and fall wriggling to the floor, dealing 1 damage each as they do so.  The first worm emerges 1d3 combat rounds after the spellburn, and each successive worm eats its way free 1d3 exploration turns after the previous one.

2 The spellcaster hallucinates being eaten alive by delusionary worms.  For each 1 point of physical ability sacrificed, the caster must also temporarily sacrifice 1 point of Intelligence or Personality.

3 The spellcaster falls to her hands and knees voraciously consumes the dirt of the floor for 1 round per point of spellburn, (or breaks her fingers and teeth attempting to eat a stone or tiled floor.)

4  The spellcaster must spend the next 1d3 rounds after casting the spell doing nothing but vomitting.  In return, the God Worm grants +1d3 to the spell check for each 1 point of ability score sacrificed.

Saturday, May 7, 2016

God Worm Patron Taint

Below are the patron taint results for invoking the God Worm. Several of the entries are derived from my idea that the maggot naga monsters in Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard might represent former cultists who have been transformed by their service to the Worm God.

PATRON TAINT

1 The caster's skin becomes an ashen gray color and takes on a rubbery appearance. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's skin becomes tinted a deep purplish-gray and begins to protect the caster as though she were wearing leather armor (AC 11). If this result is rolled a third time, the caster's skin becomes vivid purple and protects as though she were wearing hide armor (AC 13).

2 The caster can no longer gain nourishment from fresh food and must instead only consume food that is spoiled or has become rotten. She no longer needs to eat normally, but must make a Will save against a DC of 5 + the number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn eating any spoiled food, rot, vomit, or excrement she encounters. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster can no longer eat anything but dead flesh, and must make a Will save against a DC of 10 + number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn gorging herself on any freshly killed character or monster she encounters. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster is no longer tempted by the recently dead, but must make a Will save against a DC of 15 + the number of meals skipped to avoid spending a turn consuming the flesh or gnawing the bones of any corpses, skeletons, or undead she encounters. (The caster generally skips one meal per day, plus any "meals" she avoids by making a successful Will save.)

3 The caster takes off and throws away her boots, insisting on going barefoot so she can feel the ground beneath her feet. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's feet and legs become boneless tentacles. The caster's gait becomes unnatural and she receives a +5 bonus to climb walls or other sheer surfaces. If this result is rolled a third time, the entire lower half of the caster's body transforms to become a single worm-like tail. She can no longer wear pants or hide her deformity, but she receives a +10 bonus to climb walls or other sheer surfaces.

4 The caster's teeth begin to fall out of her mouth and are replaced by hundreds of tiny barbs and hooks. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster's tongue falls out, and her voice becomes a whispered rasp. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster's entire mouth reforms into the O shape of a lamprey.

5 The caster seethes with the God Worm's ferocity against the undead. When fighting the undead, the spellcaster uses the critical range of a Warrior with level equal to her CL (so a 1st level caster would have a critical range of 19-20 instead of 20.) If this result is rolled a second time, when fighting the undead, the caster enters a battle frenzy every time she crits, and she must burn at least 1 point of Personality or Intelligence (each ability point burned adds +1d12 damage to her hit.) If this result is rolled a third time, the caster uses the monster ciritical hit matrix and crits as a monster with HD equal to her CL (so a 1st level caster would roll M/d6 instead of I/d6.)

6 The caster cannot attack any vermin, except in self-defense after it has attacked her or her allies. If this result is rolled a second time, the caster cannot attack any vermin unless it has already damaged her. Additionally, she must make a DC 10 Will save to avoid making a single attack against the first person to kill a vermin each combat. If this result is rolled a third time, the caster cannot attack any vermin under any circumstances, and is considered helpless against attacking vermin. Additionally, she must make a DC 15 Will save to avoid attacking the first person who makes an attack a vermin each combat. If she fails this save, she may attempt it again at the beginning of each new round, but she will fight this person to the death unless she succeeds her Will save before making the killing blow.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

DCC Patron: The God Worm

Below is my write-up for the God Worm, an inhuman patron based on the Worm God from Tony Dowler's Purple Worm Graveyard.  The God Worm is a powerful patron, but this comes at a pretty steep price.  The Savage Cannibals of the Great Worm Cult living in Park Pobedy in Dmitry Glukhovsky's Metro: 2033, and the Eater cult on Vavatch Orbital in Iain Banks's Consider Phlebas are both possible literary models for what the worshippers of the God Worm might look like.

THE GOD WORM

The God Worm is a powerfully and deeply ancient supernatural being.  It has been worshipped in many guises, but its true nature is unknown.  It might simply be the largest worm in the world.  It might be the progenitor Mother of all worms, or the Platonic ideal of worm-kind, the last surviving Cambrian god, or the god-creator of all annelids.  It might be the Great Worm that dug the many tunnels of the underworld, or the Eater of the Dead.  It might even be the Hyperborean Worm, the White Worm that presages the glaciers, or the Conqueror Worm, death, or the world-serpent J√∂rmungandr, the Worm Ourouboros, who encircles the world.

The God Worm has been worshipped primarily by farmers hoping for better crops and villagers besieged by the unquiet dead, but its cults can also be found among cave dwellers seeking protection from the great tunnel digger, among islanders fearing earthquakes or volcanoes, and in cities ravaged by plague.  The God Worm is an un-human mind, and all who pray to it or attempt mental contact eventually succumb to madness.  The God Worm's dictates are only occasionally compatible with human desires, and it is an essentially unknowable alien entity.  Its wants are not our wants, its needs are not our needs, and trying to please or understand it is a suicidal act of self-destruction.  Worm cults inevitably self-obliterate, or are purged from the earth by their frightened neighbors, as their members turn to detrivory, corpophagy, auto-cannibalism, self-mutilation, cultivating worms under the skin of their own bodies, digging ever-deeper burrows and tunnels, and breeding ever-more, ever-larger monstrous worms.

INVOKE PATRON RESULTS


12-13 The God Worm turns in its sleep. The earth trembles with vibrations, and all sentient minds must succeed a Will save vs. the spell check result or lose their next action. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously unaffected, but other allies of the spellcaster need to save as well.)

14-17 The God Worm gazes briefly at the spellcaster, and visions of madness afflict the spellcaster's foes. Each sentient opponent must make a successful Will save vs. the spell check result or spend their next combat round clutching their heads in pain. Any opponent holding a weapon or shield has a 50% chance of dropping whatever they were holding.

18-19 The ground shakes with the movement of worms beneath the earth. Everyone present must make a successful Reflex save vs. the spell check result or fall prone and drop whatever they are holding. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously unaffected, but other allies of the spellcaster need to save as well.) Anyone who falls prone take 1d4 damage from the fall and must spend the next round regaining their feet.

20-23 The God Worm sends a Worm That Walks. This writhing human-shaped mass of worms rises from the ground next to the spellcaster and fights by her side until it is damaged, when it immediately discorporates.
  • Worm That Walks: Init +0, Atk 1 tentacle +6 melee (1d12) or engulf +6 melee (2d6), AC 13, HD 8d8, Act 1d20, MV 20, SP takes half damage from cutting and piercing weapons, first tentacle attack has 5% chance to deliver Chill Touch with 1d8 + 10 spellcheck result, engulfed creature takes 2d6 bite damage per turn (DC 14 Agility check to escape), death throes discorporates into mass of earthworms, SV Fort +6 Ref +2 Will +2, AL N, Crit M/d14
24-27 The God Worm momentarily turns its attention to the spellcaster, and sends horrifying visions of devouring insanity against the spellcaster's enemies. Each sentient opponent must succeed a Will save vs. the spell check result or spend their next combat round attacking themselves with their most damaging attacks. Each opponent should make an attack roll as normal against its own AC and roll as normal for damage for any attack that hits.

28-29 A sinkhole opens beneath the feet of the spellcaster's foes. A perfectly circular 10' diameter hole opens beneath the most dangerous enemy who falls in (no save). Other combatants engaged in melee must make a successful Reflex save vs. the spell check result or fall in as well. (Worshippers and servants of the Worm God are miraculously safe, but other allies of the spellcaster may need to save as well.) The sinkhole is at least 20' deep, but if a dungeon level exists below the spot the hole opens, it will tunnel all the way through, even hundreds of feet down. Falling creatures take 1d6 damage for each 10' they fall. A successful Climb Sheer Surfaces skill check or Agility check against DC equal to the spell check result is needed to climb up the smooth-sided walls of the sinkhole.

30-31 The God Worm sends a Purple Worm. This colossal beast erupts from the ground and interposes itself between the spellcaster and her enemies, fighting them for 1d3+1 rounds before burrowing away.
  • Purple Worm: Init +0, Atk 1 bite +11 melee (1d24 + swallow) and 1 sting (1d8 + poison), AC 16, HD 15d8, Act 2d20, MV 20, SP swallows opponent whole on any attack roll that exceeds the target's AC by 4 or more, or any natural 20, swallowed opponents take 2d6 crush damage per round while the worm lives, sting injects lethal poison (DC 18 Fort save to survive), SV Fort +9 Ref +5 Will +2, AL N, Crit M/d20
32+ As above, except the God Worm sends 1d3+1 Purple Worms. These burst from the earth in front of the spellcaster, defending her for 2d4+2 rounds each before departing.

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Slow-Time Dungeon on Urutsk



SESSION 5

In the morning, after the rain and the night spent with their unnerving visitor, Anjalik seem desultory, and smoked heavily as she, Slunk, and Merope continued walking toward the Trade Tower. Slunk claimed to recognize the smoke as being popular with the local halfling population near his village, and he and Merope contemplated the weird world they found themselves on, while Anjalik rambled, “I'm not a good person. I've killed people. I've eaten people. Nah, I'm just foolin' with you, you guys are great!” Merope thought that Anjalik was suffering from the effects of her drugs and the influence of the cannibal hunter from the night before, but Slunk remained convinced ever after that their companion was a literal man-eater.

The walk that day was uneventful, and eventually the group found a decent place to make a campsite. They were in a small clearing dotted with ruins, though only a foot or so wall remained to show the outlines of where the buildings had been. After making camp, Anjalik announced “I'm gonna smoke a bowl. You two take care of yourselves.” Slunk and Merope decided to search the grounds for any evidence of nature of the ruins, and instead found a trapdoor that opened to a staircase leading underground. The pair called out to announce their plan to Anjalik, then headed down into the ruined basement.

Underground, they found themselves immediately at a crossroads, with two large identical hallways branching off away from the stairs. One side looked odd to Slunk's elf vision, so he threw a pebble down the hall, or tried to at least. The pebble crossed the threshold to the hall, and then froze in midair. Looking closely, Slunk and Merope saw that it was still moving, just very, very slowly. Slunk theorized that the hall led to a kind of “slow-time dungeon” that might hold treasures from before whatever disaster had befallen Urutsk. Without meaning to, Slunk had moved too close the threshold and crossed over. Merope saw her comrade suddenly freeze in place. Fearing there was no way to rescue him from the outside, she crossed over as well.

Merope and Slunk agreed that they should try to spend as little time as possible in the slow-time area, and that they should start their explorations by ensuring they had a path back across to the normal-time side of the threshold. Slunk first tried tossing the stone back across, but it bounced off the air as though it had struck a wall. He next tried pushing his hand though, and felt terrible friction. He theorized that the air particles on the other side of the threshold were moving so fast relative to him that they seemed both to create a barrier and to be super-heated. Although he expected it to hurt, he thought the solution was to get a running start and jump through as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, when he tried, he caught fire and ended up suspended in mid-air above the threshold. Merope quickly dragged her friend back into the slow-time side, rolled him on the floor to extinguish the flames, and tried to awaken him. She saw that he'd stopped breathing, and immediately administered all the aid she knew. Slunk survived his brush with death and awoke feeling temporarily feeble and in need of a night's sleep.

By this time, Merope had become not just a fighter, but an arcane knight, with an elemental bloodline of frost. She cast a shielding spell on herself and started to cross the threshold. This seemed to protect her from the friction, although the world looked weird and shimmery as she stood in the junction between the two time zones, and she thought she saw ghostly monkey fetuses floating at the periphery of her vision. She stepped back from the threshold to rejoin Slunk, unable to maintain the spell any longer or to cast it again until she'd rested. The pair slept fitfully that night, imagining what must be happening in the world overhead. The imagined Anjalik waking to find them gone, and continuing on without them. They imagined the centuries or millennia that must be passing as they slept, and feared that they'd become lost again, unable to return to a world they were just starting to know.

In the morning, with Slunk recovered from his injuries, and with the opportunity to return safely seemingly already foreclosed to them, the pair set forth to explore the slow-time dungeon.


SESSION 6

Slunk and Merope made their way out of the stonework foyer to the slow-time dungeon and into a hallway with finished walls and floors. Not fully understanding what they were seeing, they theorized that they were inside a starship which had landed (or perhaps crashed) on the surface of Urutsk and was then covered over by dirt and debris. They theorized as well that the time dilation effect might be some kind of security mechanism activated during a boarding party, and that the people onboard the ship might believe themselves to be mid-emergency. They tried asking Slunk's electronic familiar, Clippy, but she reported a massive clock-discrepancy between herself and the local computers that made it impossible to synch up properly.

Continuing down the hall, they found a branch that led to a strange room with dozens of ramps and walkways. They weren't sure what sort of room it was, but did find a security panel that Merope was able to open with a handprint. Inside the panel were new outfits that they put over their white coveralls: rubbery dark blue body suits that seemed to offer protection against fire. They each picked up a handheld fire-suppression device as well. Returning to the main hall, they found that it terminated in a room. Merope devised a plan to go in with their gas masks on, report a fire down the hall, then drop one of the gas-grenades they'd found on the big ship. She hoped that wearing the local armor and covering their faces would provide enough confusion to distract anyone they met long enough for the gas-grenade to go off, which would then provide either an even better distraction, or a major tactical advantage in a fight. (We later learned that this was not a ship, and that while the time dilation effect was a security measure, it wasn't activated as an immediate response to a bombardment or boarding party. As a result of this misunderstanding, the subterfuge element of Merope's plan was pretty much doomed from the outset.)

We all like to imagine that in times of stress or violence, we'd react like action heroes, moving gracefully and fearlessly into the fray, effortlessly doing what needs to be done. The reality is far different. One of my favorite aspects of low-level D&D is the way that it often resembles a comedy of errors, with every action the characters attempt going hilariously awry all at once. Low-level characters rarely act like action heroes, more often they act like Keystone Cops.

Merope and Slunk entered the room at the end of the hall together, gas masks hiding their faces, a grenade in Merope's hand. “We're under attack!” Merope shouted, “There's a fire in the engine room! We've got to get out!” The three occupants of the room didn't devolve into panicked fleeing though. Instead, their leader, a short-haired bulldog of a woman drew her weapon and pointed it at Merope. “Put the grenade down! Get down on the ground now!” Merope and Slunk exchanged glances, then attempted a coordinated maneuver to slide over and dive behind a countertop, using it as cover to open fire on their opponents. Instead, both of them failed to clear the counter, and both shots they fired missed entirely. They were quickly outmatched, and quickly surrendered. The leader of the dungeon residents instructed the other woman present to disarm Slunk and Merope and tie up their wrists. Slunk allowed himself to be captured, but Merope grabbed the woman, rolled them both onto the floor to use her captor as a human shield, and re-drew her weapon. The tough-nosed woman responded by shooting Slunk in the head, killing him.

Merope returned fire, clipping the leader's head, killing her as well. Merope rushed to Slunk, covering herself with her gun. She pulled two medical stimulants from her waist. “I've got medicine,” she said, “I'm going to save my friend, and we're going to go down the hall. You're not going to follow us. Let us leave, and I'll save your friend, too.” The two lackeys assented, and Merope injected first Slunk and then the slow-time leader, bringing them both back from the brink of death. She helped her friend limp out of the room, and good to their word, the dungeon residents didn't follow. Together, Slunk and Merope made their way back down the hall to the time-dilation barrier, and enacted their plan to escape.

Merope cast a shielding spell over the pair of them, and Slunk cast a spell to let them take a misty step across the veil. They passed through the barrier as though it weren't there, and made their way back to the surface. The world around them appeared strangely rainbow hued, and as they returned to the surface, they saw dozens, perhaps hundreds of ghostly monkey fetuses flying toward them. Merope pushed Slunk to the ground and threw her body over his to protect him, then tried the only thing she could think to return them to the safety of the real world, and let the shielding spell go. When she looked up, the sky was its normal color again, and nothing was chasing them. Anjalik looked over from where she'd been packing up the campsite. “Did you two spend the whole night down there? We're pretty close to the trading tower now. We should be there by this afternoon.” Merope thought of a story she'd heard of a man visited by ghosts who lived an entire extra lifetime in one evening. “All in one night!” she cried out, and wept. Merope and Slunk were both amazed to see Anjalik again, and neither could explain how the time-dilation effect had returned them to the same time they'd left.

True to Anjalik's word, by mid-afternoon, they reached a clearing dominated by an enormous structure. It looked like a steep terraced hill, or an overgrown ziggurat. It looked like it had around 20 levels, and each one was crowded with people, market stalls, and bustling commerce. As they approached, they saw that the ground level was dominated by heaps of garbage and heavily mutated people. Anjalik referred to them as “the trashy people,” and suggested that they'd be able to sell their Sensorium on 14 at least.

Unfortunately, they were quickly accosted by a pair of toughs who seemed to know Anjalik. They demanded that she repay a debt she owed them. Anjalik showed them the Sensorium the group was about to sell and convinced the two mercenaries to accept her share of the sale. The toughs initially tried to demand the entire Sensorium, but Slunk improved their negotiating position by conjuring an illusion of spiders and bats pouring from his cuffs. The pair of bravos agreed to Anjalik's proposition, and Anjalik herself was delighted by the trick. The enlarged group took to the stairs that spiraled around the structure and began climbing up. On the stairs, Slunk suggested to Merope that they repay Anjalik for her help by crafting a magical bracelet to create a similar illusion, and Merope agreed to split the cost with him out of their proceeds from the sale.

As they passed the sixth level, they noticed a great commotion going on in the market around them. The first part of the bazaar was nearly empty, then they saw a mob running away, and then a man with a glowing sword that seemed about to burst with power shouting “Everybody get back! It's gonna go off!” By the time they got to the seventh level, Merope had decided to try to help with the situation downstairs. She believed that the man had accidentally come into possession of a cursed sword, and that it was laying waste to the tower against his will. (Nope! Wrong again!) She asked Slunk to use his skills as a charlatan to negotiate a good price for the Sensorium on her behalf, and to start on the bracelet as soon as he had the funds.

Slunk, Anjalik, and her creditors continued up to 14, where the first salesman to inspect their goods concluded that it was the finest Sensorium the tower had ever seen, and that it needed to go up to 17. He spoke to some guards and got them an escort. In comparison to the slum-like conditions on the ground, 17 was a veritable bastion of luxury, with all the market stalls well-appointed and everyone healthy and well-dressed. The road-weary travelers got a lot of sideways glances from the locals, but found an electronics dealer willing to appraise the device. He made an offer that was several thousand higher than even Anjalik had expected. She managed to renegotiate on the fly. “It's four shares now. My friends get two, I get one, and you two get the other. It's still more than I owe you.” A menacing look from Slunk that intimated the return of his illusions helped to seal the deal, and the bravos left with Anjalik's debt repaid. Anjalik offered to lead Slunk on to a nearby space-port, the largest settlement in the area, and he agreed. The two went back downstairs, intending to pick up Merope on their way to the ground level.

As this was going on, Merope had returned to 6 and gone looking for the man with the sword. While trying to find someone who knew which way he'd gone, she found a group of people who looked like they were either so gothic they were actually undead, or like the Addam's Family if they were not merely ghoul-ish but literally ghouls. They pointed Merope in the correct direction, and pressed a bag of gemstones into her hands, saying they were hers if she killed him. Merope's plan had been to free the man from his curse, not kill him, but she acknowledged that he might die in the attempt, and reluctantly accepted their payment. Following after the man, Merope caught up to him in an alley.

“That's quite a sword,” she told him.
“It's my heroic burden.”
“Where did you pick up that burden?”
“It was a gift from my patron. I'm using it to bring justice to the tower.”

By this point, Merope was getting second thoughts. Whoever this man was, he didn't seem like the unwilling victim of a cursed weapon, and further conversation reinforced her impression that he did not seem amenable to surrendering the weapon to her. Around that time, the gothic ghouls were approaching from behind Merope. The man drew his sword and it started powering up again, and the two factions prepared to face off. Merope left the scene, dropping the bag of gems at the feet of her erstwhile patrons, and headed back to the central square to meet up with Slunk and Anjalik.