Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Black City Session 2: Head Games


Cast of Characters
Mustafa of Arabia, a scimitar wielding desert warrior
Uther of Alfheim, an elf
Shamus, a Gaelic wizard
Agnar Beigarth, a Northman fighter
Irina Edvards, a fighter

Retainers:
Arthur the Fair (specialist), Bjorn Fjordrunner (fighter), Brick Bunnycracker (halfling)
New:  Visin of Frey, a cleric; Galm - a mercenary; Twig-belly - a mercenary

Time for the group's second foray into the ruins of the Black City.  It was a Sunday night, so we didn't have the full crew.  Plus, the retainer Ulf Skullcrusher failed a loyalty check back at camp, and decided to try his luck with another group.  They headed to Trade Town to try and hire some more retainers.

Trade Town is organized as a series of four long halls in a square, surrounded by a low berm of rock and dirt, forming a central yard.  Two of the halls are reserved for the jarl that built the fort, Bergfinn, and his soldiers, while the other two are used as a trade hall and drinking hall.  The group spent some time at the Njord Hall buying drinks and picking up the gossip.

A bit later, they stumbled out of the Njord Hall with a pair of newly hired, rugged looking mercenaries, Galm and Twig-belly; a fresh-faced priest of Frey, excited to be invited on a foray into the ruins; and a rumor that if you follow some of the tunnels under the city, you'll run into a section of cloudy mist in the tunnels, and that some deranged killers were living in the mist.

Out at the Well of Woe, the guards of the steaming hole confirmed the rumor about the mists.  "Yeah, that's true; a tough group recently tried to pass through the mists, and said they were beaten back by axe wielding mad-men.  It's only a few weeks into the season, but there are probably at least 6 crews down in the tunnels already, and it's not unheard of for a group to turn to banditry if they're not finding stuff.  Keep your eyes open, and watch your backs."

After descent, the group returned to the room with the stone table and conducted another search, tapping the walls carefully, with guards clearly posted.  The bodies of the dead vikings were gone.  Shamus found a small sliding wall panel that he slid open with a dagger, revealing a half foot long quartz crystal wedged between two sockets; the center of the crystal was blackened and smoky.  They pried the crystal out as loot, while the players wondered if it was a fuse.

Down one of the halls they passed a slightly open hatch with a flickering light; from behind the hatch came "We know you're out there, what do you want?" in Norse.  After some 'pleasantries', they learned the guys in the room came over on the knarr, Angry Yrsa, and were planning to attack another group that limped back to a camp from the big tunnel carrying loot, but nursing injuries.  "How about we team up to take those guys out and split whatever loot they found?"  In the room, the two groups gauged the other by lantern light - the party was bringing eleven, the bandits had six members in rough leathers with spears and clubs.

This threw a real monkey wrench at the players - would they play the game as amoral murder hobos, teaming up with bandits to bash in the skulls of fellow explorers, or would they focus on exploration?  There are no strong bonds between crews from distant places.  We're not using alignment as a moral straightjacket, so everyone is basically neutral unless they use magic.  It was a pretty interesting (and lively) discussion, but in the end, they voted 3-2 not to team up with the bandits and attack the other guys - for now, at least, they're focusing on exploration.  "What are you, a bunch of milk-drinking children?", grumbled Thorbrandson, the bandit leader.  "This is easy silver, and you'd rather go face death and monsters?  Go on, get out of here you cowards".  Shamus really wanted to Sleep them after that.

Not far from there, they passed the camp of the injured veterans.  "Keep walking past this hatch, if you know what's good for you", came a hostile threat from beyond the cracked door.  When the group warned the voice about the bandits not far from there, they got small thanks and a tip:  "Be careful when you enter the mists.  We ran into a group of mad-men up there, who attacked with axes from out of the mist.  They have the 'dungeon madness', and can't be treated with".  But the veterans never opened the hatch.

The last interesting thing was after exploring a few rooms and halls, they came to a dead end where a large metal box sat near the wall.  It had a lid, and close inspection saw a bit of waxy seal holding the lid down.  The metal on the box appeared to be lead, which would be worth something back at camp, but the players weren't keen on breaking the seal.  "Hey Galm, this is our most likely source of treasure on this delve, how do you feel about popping the lid open with your knife?"

After flipping open the lid, Galm screamed and fell back, clutching his face.  Twig-belly gasped in horror, "Did you see that?  WTF!" Meanwhile, Galm twitched and whimpered on the ground, his head flopping back and forth.

"It was like a giant bug, it flew right out of the chest and hit Galm in the face, only it flew right *into* his face and then disappeared.  This is totally messed up."  Meanwhile, everyone now saw the thing left in the box - an alien looking skull, large almond-shaped eye sockets, small malign teeth, and a large hole in the middle of the forehead.

Galm sat up and seemed to be feeling better.  "Blacked out there for a minute, but I'm feeling better now.  Feeling better than I've been in a long time", he drawled, and flashed a wicked smirk.  (It's probably nothing).

Time was late, so a couple of guys lugged the heavy box with the skull and they made their way out.  "I don't think we're going to invite Galm along next time" seemed to be the popular opinion.  They ended the night making idle conjecture whether an alien bug would be bursting out of Galm's head at some point, or whether the hole represented 'trepanning' and they should look for a drill back at camp and put a hole in Galm's head.  I was amazed that it was one of the 11 year olds that brought up trepanning and started expounding about its use to relieve cranial swelling and migraines in prior times.  We have some home schooled kids in the neighborhood, and you never know what oddball things they’ve picked up in their readings or watching history shows - that was pretty cool.