Sunday, April 2, 2017

Session Report - Island of the Blue Giants - 25 Feb 2017

Characters:
Poseidon, the merman
Batman, the flyer
Jim, the gemcutter

Beastmaster, the animal trainer
Will, the smith
Kerhs, the half-orc
Litoli, the cave-woman

Sid "Vicious," the sage
Johnny "Rotten," the spy
Siouxsie, the nomad
Nico, the spy



Traveling from Trondo's bedroom, the group made their way to the observatory off of the library. They were a bit surprised to realize that the sitting room, the library, the triangle room, and the aquarium all made a single circuit, since it was upstairs the whole way around.

Inside the observatory, Johnny looked through the telescope, which was initially pointed at his fellow party members. Most of his friends were nearly invisible, looking ghostly and insubstantial, but Poseidon and Beastmaster seemed solid and real. Wheeling around, he surveyed the rest of the house. Again, most of it was so gauzy and thin he could hardly see it at all, but the aquarium was obviously full of water and fish, and there was a menacing, shadowy presence lurking in the gravel on the floor... Looking farther afield, he was able to see the boulder field where he and his friends had first woken up. The field seemed sparse; most of the boulders were invisible, but the ones carved with faces were plain to see. Also plain to see were a small crowd of human-like figures (the first they'd seen since awakening) although they seemed to be shorter and paler than Johnny's friends. Wheeling around the other way, he saw what appeared to be a giant aardvark sleeping in an unknown den (it must have been giant, because of how large it appeared at a distance, even without many landmarks to judge it against,) and nearby, a single hut, and nearby that, a giant spear.

Johnny reported all this back to his friends. Beastmaster wanted to see for himself, but was unable to touch the telescope to move it. With Will's help, he managed to take in the same panorama and Johnny, then announced his intentions to return to the aquarium to catch more fish. Poseidon agreed, and Siouxsie bravely volunteered to join them. The group returned to the sitting room with the miniature aquarium, and Siouxsie deliberately touched it, becoming insubstantial like her two friends.

The group all returned to the aquarium room. To most of them, it appeared as a bare room with stone sculptures of fish hanging from nearly invisible strings from the ceiling. To Poseidon, Beastmaster, and Siouxsie, it appeared full of water, waving seaweed, and live swimming fish. The three also noticed a menacing presence lurking around the edge of the room, but opted to try catching more fish despite the sense of danger. This looked a bit silly to their friends, who saw the three darting and clutching at thin air, before triumphantly grasping the statues which had remained motionless the entire time. Unfortunately, the larger group didn't get to enjoy watching their three friends at this for long, as the dark presence revealed itself - a giant snail with four mace-like tentacles growing from its head! Unlike the fish, which existed (in slightly different forms) in both the physical world and the ethereal realm, the snail had no physical counterpart, and was completely invisible to most of the observers.

A brief, but intense combat ensued. Siouxsie tossed her lance, but it bounded off the snails invulnerable shell. It then rushed her, pummeled her body to paste, and began loudly slurping up her remains! Beastmaster also proved unable to wound the monstrous mollusk, but in two separate attacks, Poseidon first severed one of its tentacles, then slew the creature with a mighty blow from his trident. He decided to keep the severed tentacle to use as a mace, and he and Beastmaster sawed the snail's body in half to eat later. They made seaweed-wrapped bundles of escargot and fish to carry out with them, and divided Siouxsie's weapons between them. Siouxsie's body, and her armor, were irrecoverable, too badly mangled while the snail devoured her.

After their initial bold entry into the aquarium, the whole group left in a dour mood. Sid "Vicious" and Johnny "Rotten" declared their desire to kill Athern for sending them into the house, and Nico started panicking that her protector, Siouxsie, had died. "I'll be killed for sure!" she wailed. Batman stepped up to calm Nico, offering to defend her in case of danger. "I'm Batman," he said.

The group decided to retreat from the house. They had the information they'd come for, two of their friends had died already, another two had been turned insubstantial, and neither the items they'd found nor the promise of a nice party seemed to make up for the losses they'd already suffered. They went back to the sitting room and library (avoiding the triangle room because it made Jim uncomfortable and nervous,) and then returned to the balcony over the foyer.

From the balcony level they could clearly see the seven remaining weird statues, and the one that Will broke earlier. Although the statues looked like odd collections of spikes and angles, the shadows they cast looked just like the puppet-like monsters they'd fought earlier, and before their eyes, the shadows cast by the intact statues thickened into gibbering little humanoids who immediately began prying up the cobblestones to hurl at them. A couple also grabbed bits of the broken statue, a material that looked especially dangerous to Beastmaster and Poseidon. Unfortunately, they were helpless to defend their friends as the little monsters attacked, hitting Litoli and Will with rocks, and killing Batman with one of the bits of broken statue. Nico momentarily dissolved in tears at the lost of her newest defender, then started waving her knife around threatening anything that came too close to her. Jim withdrew from combat to make sure that none of Batman's valuables would be left behind in the house. Litoli slew one of the shadow-puppet creatures with her spear, Will hammered two, and Sid and Johnny stabbed three of the creatures to death. Beastmaster also found a way to contribute at the end, ordering his guard-weasel to attack the creatures (which it did with gusto, killing another) and his pack-rabbit to stand in front of the shattered statue, blocking the monsters from getting any more of its deadly stone.

Dejected and angry, the group made their way down the spiral staircases in the corners, carrying Batman's body out with them. They emerged to find the street before them more or less deserted, with only the normal town bustle going on in the distance. Storming across town, they eventually found Athern doing some gardening along the city wall, near where they first met them. Athern seemed surprised to see them, and possibly to have forgotten the task they'd asked the adventurers to complete. Undeterred, the group explained that Trondo had died of old age after completing their masterpiece, and had decided to become a ghost so that they'd have time to enjoy their accomplishment. They also explained that Trondo had named Athern in their will, and that their lawyer should have all the details that would eventually allow Athern to inherit the great house.

"You know," Johnny said, "some of our friends died in there. We couldn't even get all their bodies out." He was angry at the Bo-al for sending them on such a dangerous task, unprepared for what awaited them, but Athern seemed oblivious to the group's pain. "You left garbage inside Trondo's house?!" they exclaimed. A moment later though, the giant gardener turned wistful. "Oh poor Trondo!" (And our friends!) "It's so sad that you've died!" (And our friends!) "We'll all be diminished by your loss!" (And our friends!)

The group didn't get the satisfaction they wanted from Athern, but the Bo-al gardener was (eventually) good to their word, and by sunset a grand funeral was in order, with tents and pavilions sprung up all over town, mounds of food-cubes, and great bowls of punch. Poseidon and Beastmaster munched glumly on the cold fish stored in the pack-rabbits saddle bags, while several of the others lost themselves in a night of drinking and debauchery. Under Poseidon's guidance, Jim and Nico put Batman's body onto a reed raft, floated him onto one of the canals, and set him ablaze. Most of the others avoided succumbing to total depravity during their carouse, but Johnny had a tryst with one of the hermaphroditic Bo-al in the bathhouse (and only narrowly avoided becoming married to them) and Sid made a series of ill-advised gambles and wagers that lost him everything, including the clothes off his back, except the tome he'd taken from Trondo's house.



(We began the session in media res inside the house, got the group back outside, caroused for experience bonuses, and then spent the rest of the session leveling up their characters. I used Jeff's Gameblog's carousing table, which seemed to work well. I'm of two minds about both the beginning and end of the session.

On the one hand, I know other referees prefer not to allow their players to end a session inside a dungeon, and even make them roll on special tables (like Jeff's Gameblog's again, or like Unofficial Games's) to determine whether and how they made it out by the start of the next session. At the end of last session, I could have also simply ruled that as long as they went straight to the exit, they got out safely. We might have gotten more done in the session, perhaps even accomplishing some of the things that eventually happened in Session 3. On the other hand, if I'd done that, there never would have been a fight with the flail-tentacled snail, and the danger of the foyer guardians would have been halved. (And at 4 HD, the snail could have easily wrecked all three of the characters fighting it, especially after critting Siouxsie on its first attack.) Making the players work for their exit emphasizes that they're always in danger in the dungeon, even when they're trying to escape, and it forces them to plan accordingly - you don't want to go so deep in that you can't make it back out alive. And since we have a consistent group so far, there was no sudden appearing or disappearing of characters as they walked from one room to another. I haven't decided how I want to handle this in the future.

I also have mixed feelings about spending the end of the session leveling up (instead of doing it between session) and leveling up every surviving character (instead of having each player choose one to focus on for now.) Again, on the one hand, it took the rest of our time, and we didn't have the chance to do any more gaming. On the other hand, we got to talk through the class options and everyone's visions for each of their surviving characters. Everyone also got to learn more about the rules for Dungeon Crawl Classics as they related to each character's abilities. Crits and Fumbles, Mighty Deeds of Arms, the random nature of spellcasting, and burning Luck all got discussed in some detail. I don't generally want to force my players to memorize too many rules (that's what the referee's for!) but I also don't want anyone's character to die because they didn't know what it was capable of doing to defend itself. I don't regret doing things this way this time, but I reserve the right to consider if I want to do it the same or differently in the future.

I also made everyone decide where they were headed next, and they chose to investigate the giant aardvark and the mysterious hut and spear...)



Gains:
a tentacle mace
more spectral fish and half a giant spectral snail
a very nice funeral

Losses:
Siouxsie
Batman

Kills:
1 flail-tentacled snail
7 shadow-puppet guardians 

XP:
2 for fighting the snail (Poseidon and Beastmaster only)
0 for fighting the puppets a second time
1d6 each for carousing at the funeral (Will, Kerhs, Litoli, Sid, and Johnny)

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