Monday, November 4, 2013

Death of a Valkyrie - Black City Game 27

One of the players delivered a fine recap at the top of the session, reminding everyone that we ended last week in the vast dank caverns beneath the city, in the Kingdom of the Cave Men.  The party had made a loose alliance with the nigh immortal Blue Lady, the living goddess of the Neanderthals, joining her for a veggie feast.  Tonight they were planning an excursion into the wild spaces of the caverns to assault a domed building in the fungal forest.

My group is always pretty funny, but when they're on their game, I spend more than half the night laughing.  After the recap, some of the players improvised a bit of "Men At Work".  Older folks from the MTV generation will remember the tune:

Cause we are livin' in a land down under
With blue women and lots of plunder

I met a strange lady, she made me nervous
She just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich

One of my table manners is to rotate the party "caller" (I do use the caller role) based on who brought snacks that week.  Keyser was this week's snack person, which meant action.  Dice and carnage.  His hands start to shake if we spend too much time kibitzing at the top of the session, a condition assuaged only by rolling a d20 to smash something.  His character paces anxiously any time there's a long parley (secretly hoping for hostilities, I'm sure).  He changed his name from Brutok the Strong to Brutok Bearslayer after he killed a frickin' polar bear.  His war cry is a monotone "Brutok, smash!"  With Brutok in charge, tonight would be filled with action.

The group was quickly mobilized and set out into the wilds.  The plan was to navigate back to the "cairn of the dead Roman" as a landmark, then head due north into the fungal forest, aiming for a gigantic pillar, and find the elevator on the other side.  It would be a 2 hour hike.  They wanted to return to the surface to the topside camp, switch out some gear, and bring down their BFG (the alien disintegrator used for minig) to see what happened when they shot the stone walker with it.

There was a couple of wandering encounters along the way - scouting, stealth, and careful play guided the party around a swarm of giant carnivorous flies buzzing over a large carcass; in the next hour, a mob of giant bugs (fire beetles) tracked them down and the party formed a fighting formation to fend off the beetles.  Borghild, one of the fierce lady Odin priests, impaled a beetle with a natural 20, which as usual triggered a chorus of Ride of the Valkyries from the player group:  Daa-da-da-da-DAA-da, da-da-da-DAA-da, da-da-da-DAAA-da, da-da-da-daaaaaaa!  I think if we drank beer during gaming, my group would rowdily sing and clank their mugs together most of the night (wearing horned helmets, too).

After a few hours to ascend the elevator, rest, and sort out the equipment, it wasn't long in table time before they were at the clearing of the domed building, waiting for the stone walker to make its circuit.  One odd thing they noticed while staking out the building was a pillar extending from the top of the dome, apparently all the way up to the cavern roof (lost in darkness).  They caught a flash of light where the pillar met the domed roof of the building, and thought they saw a many-legged spider thing quickly scurry around to the back side of the pillar and up towards the cavern ceiling.

Their plan for the stone walker involved using the alien torc as a disguise to get close to it, then blast it at short range with the mining harness.  It would all depend on whether there was some kind of organic brain in there susceptible to the torc's mind magic.  When you need to risk someone, send in the halfling.  Ben Underfoot put on the torc and stepped out of the forest into no-man's land, awaiting the crunch-crunch-crunch of the 6-legged stone juggernaut.  It stopped in front of the halfling, scanned him with its blue eye rays, and then kept walking.  He gave the party a thumbs up and a grin, fell in behind the walker, and followed it around the whole building, scouting the entrance.

The torc makes the wearer look innocuous and harmless to the viewer; to most of the characters, the halfling looked like an unarmed waiflike child.  They had no idea how he might have looked to the alien guardian.  The torc leads to all sorts of jokes between Brutok and Timur the Elf.  Brutok:  "Put on the torc, elf, I want to see how you look when you're harmless.  Wait, there's no difference.  Maybe you broke it.  Put it on again.  Nope, I still don't see any difference".  He's gotten the elf with that one a couple of times.

Once they knew the torc magic worked on the guardian, they gave the torc over to Timur, who lugged the mining harness out into the path of the guardian, waiting for it to get real close before blasting it in the face with the disintegrator.  The party watched from concealment in the fungal trees.  The guardian was either going to miss its saving throw and turn to dust particles, or immediately crush the elf to a pulp with a brutal stomp.  The drama was palpable during the saving throw roll.  The elf is still here, so you know how that turned out.

The entrance to the dome was through a tunnel (like an igloo entrance) and it presented a challenge.  When the first rank used a green passkey gem to open the door, there was an airlock-like area with an opposite door.  Stepping in, the door behind them closed, but the door in front didn't open.  A series of beeps and descending lights on the wall indicated a count-down, and the players needed to decide (quickly) whether to push a button or not.  They didn't push it, and the room doused them with acid!  After the acid bath, the injured front four (all fighters) stumbled out into a dimly lit control room.  It was full of "plasticals", the alien-headed workers that operate some of the functional work stations in the complex, and the four injured fighters were in a battle for their lives.

Over the next few rounds, the succeeding waves of player characters took turns entering the air lock, pressing the button, and avoiding the acid bath.  That left the fighters on their own for a few rounds until reinforcements got through the air lock sequence.

The control room was oval shaped, with an elevated walkway surrounding a sunken area in the center where the aliens had work stations and a holographic map table.  The characters were on the walk way at the south entrance, with guard plasticals on either side attacking them with clubs.  Meanwhile, the two brainy plasticals from the floor got onto the north side of the walkway; one of them ditched down a west side passage, while the other held out it's arm (and braced its wrist) - one of the players described it as "Iron Man getting ready to blast someone with his repulsor."  That seemed apt, since a moment later, he blasted Brutok with a lightning bolt after the dwarf dropped the first guard, giving the electro-plastical a clear shot.   (The electro guys are technically 'Plastical Mark III' in my bestiary notes.)

Visin was dropped to zero hit points, also caught in the electrical blast.  Mustafa was whittling away the other guard plastical (a Mark I model) on the left side of the combat.  The next wave of characters brought the clerics.  Mustafa was the recipient of a Heroism spell for Borghild, boosting him to fight as a 6th level fighter, and he quickly finished the Mark I.  The other cleric, Bottvild, cast a Cure Light Wounds on Visin, getting him off zero hit points for next round.

Unfortunately, that put Bottvild in the line of fire of the next lightning zap, 12 hit points worth!  Brutok made his saving throw, taking 6, but Bottvild only had 6 hp at 3rd level (she's a retainer that's had some seriously unlucky hit point rolls).  An ugly black hole was blasted in her chest, and she died instantly, taking the full 12.  Borghild, the 4th level cleric (and her sister), went berserk, charging the lightning guy with her spear.  She and Brutok finished that guy off, as he wasn't able to get any more lightning blasts off under the flurry of attacks.

The other Mark III returned to the room, bringing a third Mark I guard with it, and the Mark III started revving up its own lightning blast to shoot the party from the west side of the oval.   Timur wasn't having any of it, and lugged the mining harness into position to send a disintegration ray at it.  The Mark III was missed (ie, made its saving throw), but its bodyguard, the Mark I, was vaporized.  Mustafa, still under the Heroism effect, charged into the face of the Mark III, slashing and cutting with dual scimitars.  The Mark III electro guys are plated with metal, making them difficult to injure, so this became an attrition fight.  The Mark III kept retreating down the hallway and blasting the desert warrior at point blank with lightning strikes, while Mustafa whittled its life down.  He would have easily died without the level boosts from the Heroism.  Timur called for Mustafa to dodge, and the fighter stepped aside just as Timur finished the alien off with Magic Missiles, ending the fight.

We had to stop there, because we were 15 minutes over, and we're trying to get folks home on time for work and school Monday.  Overall, it was a strong performance by the players - all the main characters contributed significantly to the successes.  See you guys in another week or so.

Current Player Characters:
Mustafa of Arabia, a scimitar wielding desert warrior (L4)
Brutok Bearslayer, a dwarf (L4)
Borghild, a Norse cleric of Odin (L4)
Timur, Russian Elf (L3)
Vitaly the Lucky, Russian Elf (L3)
Ben Underfoot, Halfling Scout (L2)

Retainers or NPCs with the party:
Agnar Beigarth, a Northman fighter (L4)
Tribunas, Byzantine magic user (L2)
Visin Thorsteinson, Norse Fighter (L3)
Hunlaf the Saxon, Thief (L2)
Bottvild (cleric L3)