Friday, May 23, 2014

Taenarum Game 6 - Revenge is a Dish Best Served for Fish

The paladin is a problematic class.  The origins are tied up in chivalric legendry and Ogier the Dane (from Three Hearts and Three Lions).  These are stories heavily influenced by Christianity and a view of the world informed by virtue, vice, and extraordinary powers granted through divine grace.  What happens when you transplant the paladin class into a different culture?

I certainly don't have it all figured out, but I'm leaning towards a standard that requires loyalty to a deity, courage, bravery, and a desire to gain fame  - an adaption of the Homeric ideal of heroism.  "Lawful" as an alignment in the Greek setting means aligning with civilization and the Olympian gods against the forces of Chaos.    (Hades, Hecate, and a few other deities don't see eye to eye with the Olympians and fill the role of cosmic antagonists - along with the monstrous Titans and their ilk from before the rule of the gods).  Honor is paramount and shame and cowardice are the banes of the heroic Greek paladin.

With that in mind, the priest of Poseidon back in town counseled the group's paladin he needed to avenge the companion left to die last session, in order to regain Poseidon's favor and his personal honor.  The rest of the group was using the time in town to recruit a handful of zero-level men to join them as retainers.  The players are calling themselves "The Squealing Six" after getting thrashed last week, a joke on words from the name of some more famous adventurers in town, a high level NPC party calling themselves "The Nefarious Nine".  There are actually only 7 members of the Nine, but there's a belief it would be bad luck to change the name.

The players are also starting to realize that the dungeon of Taenarum is very big, and it's a good idea to have a mission in mind and gather some information about it beforehand.  Moe the Bard has inordinately high charisma and has been making friends around the Adventurer's Guild.  He learned that every level has a major "boss" called an Eidelon, and the boss guards a giant key.  The more experienced groups spend time finding the lairs of the Eidelons and how to defeat them.  The Eidelon on the first level is a skeletal spirit known as the Lord of Bones.  The players don't know where the lair of the Lord of Bones is yet.

The mission on this particular excursion was the revenge quest for the paladin.  Their plan was to go to the underground market and track the Hades cultists that abused them last game so the paladin could wreak some vengeance.  Most intelligent races descending into the dungeon seem to pass through the market, and information can be had for the right price.

Now that the players know some short cuts, it's only an hour or two to the second level market.  They drove off some wandering encounters along the way, and consulted with the knowledge broker at the market, a grey dwarf named Atreos.  "Yeah, I know the guys you're talking about - they were at the market yesterday.  They're camped down on level three now - at least for today.  I could tell you how to find them for the right price…"  It cost 150gp for the paladin to get the information - he had to beg and borrow from the other players, but they pooled their money and learned the location of a short cut down to level 3 and the likely locations of the encampment.

The players were naturally reticent about going all the way down to the 3rd level of the dungeon for their revenge quest, but as long as they could be in and out fairly quickly, they ultimately agreed to do it, and tracked the cultists to their temporary encampment.  Unlike last fight, this one quickly went in the party's favor.  Their dice were hot; the front line fighters made some difficult saving throws to avoid the leader's Fear spells, and the party's archers were effective at taking out some of the minions that stood back to fling rocks with slings.

Of course, having a Sleep spell on your side trumps everything, and the bad guys were subdued by the Sandman.  Alantir planted his spear in the chest of the cult leader and declared his vengeance on behalf of Poseidon, fulfilling the priest's admonition to defeat a powerful minion of Chaos.

This was Moe's Marauders first major victory in 6 games, and they ended up retrieving just under 2,000gp in treasure - fine purple cloaks and tunics the cultists wore, a pouch of bloodstones, an ivory medallion, even a few hundred gold coins.  The cultists had bronze banded armor that upgraded a number of the fighters.  The leader fought with a cruel looking mace that appeared to be enchanted.  Good times all around.

Rather than exploring further on level 3, the players retreated from level 3 back to the market on 2, and then ultimately back to the first quadrant of level 1 to continue exploration before wrapping for the night.  In one room they found yet another staircase down to level 2, and fought a mob of zombies that appeared to be posted near the stair case as guards.

The last interesting thing to note about this game is that they figured out how to get through "The Black Door".  There is a stone titan's head not far from the entrance with the word "Forsaken" inscribed on its forehead in an obscure language.  When the word is said aloud, the head tilts back and a stone tongue is thrust forward, bequeathing a Black Key to the speaker.  (One of the players called it 'a giant PEZ dispenser').  Naturally enough, the Black Key opens the Black Door, and beyond it lies one of Hades' "mystery boxes".  When the players opened the box, an object came to them out of a blinding light - a randomly rolled magic scroll.  This one contained the spell Fireball - the players practically had a nerdgasm of joy at their good fortune.  The kids obliged by humming the music from Legend of Zelda that plays whenever Link opens a chest.

Cast of Characters
Moe, a Bard
Talus, a Magic User
Alantir, Paladin of Poseidon
Etor, Spartan explorer
Connell the Celt (Billy) - NPC

Hirelings
Zero-level fighting men - Dorus, Eutropios, Dunixi, Apostolos