Sunday, February 7, 2016

Dwimmer Game 11 - Discovering the Pool of Life

Cast of Characters:
Bud, a level 2 dwarven cleric
Mumford, a level 1 fighter
Utor, the elf enchanter (level 2 Mage)
Jarvis, a level 2 fighter
Bart, a level 2 fighter
Marthanes the Summoner, (level 3 Mage)
Tancrede, a level 3 cleric of Typhon
Wulfengard, a level 3 dwarf fighter

Once again, I'll remind the readers that I've let myself get quite a few game sessions behind the current date.  Assuming we get to play Tuesday night, it will be game 16 and the players are trying to pick up the pieces after a near TPK and loss of numerous characters on a side quest that went horribly wrong.  I've been lackadaisical about writing the reports!

Game 11 saw the cast of characters make their way back down to level 2A, the Eld sub-level of "The Laboratory".  Marthanes read about a 'Pool of Life' in some old Thulian Archives they had found over on level 2B.  "…the Emperors looked to the remnants of the monstrous armies left on Telluria by the Eld as a means to maintain Imperial authority.  Exceptional beastmen were recruited, cloned through the use of the Essence Machine and Pool of Life… in time, the now-familiar races of humanoid beastmen began to emerge from the Chaos of the Eldritch troops."

In the early games, the players befriended orcs on level 1.  The orcs had rebelled against a new master, Varaxes (Varazes in the text, but I prefer the sound of Varaxes), who birthed the orcs from a pool on the Laboratory level.  Piecing together the backstory of the orcs, with the information gleaned from the archives, was enough for Marthanes to develop delusions of grandeur, with visions of his very own beastman army.  Everybody needs a dream.  At least his plan is a little more ambitious then "I Bart the door and open the boxes before anyone else can see", like most of the kids.  It's going to be interesting to introduce these guys to the ACKS mid-game and see which ones develop an interest in non-dungeon stuff, if any.  At least they bought a house.

They were already close to finding the Pool of Life when the game started.  On the way, they freed an alchemical cat from a stasis flask, Mr Fluffles, who was adopted by handsome Utor as a pet.  They fought a bunch of injured gnolls in a room (the gnolls were injured because Marthanes sent some berserksers screaming ahead with orders to kill anything), and Utor charmed the largest gnoll and called him Leaderor (which is apparently the name of a character on a cartoon called 'Gravity Falls' the kids watch).  They used their Rod of Opening on the secret door pointed out by the sapient rats last session, and discovered a 200 year old Thulian fallout shelter with various survival gear items tucked away behind the door.

The highlight of the night was finding the Pool of Life, a sprawling room with a sunken pool of white viscous liquid, various essence vats in niches around the room, and a large control panel.  We treated this like a boss fight, vinyl map board and miniatures and all, as the players took on Varaxes and his large squad of gnolls.  Varaxes was from Volmar, like Marthanes, and decried him as a traitor.  Regarding the battle map, I've determined that the kids do a little better with tactics when they can gather around a large map and plan tactics visually, like forming a wall with their fighters, and letting the ranged guys take shots from behind the line.

Wulfengard quaffed a potion of invisibility before the fight, so he snuck around to assassinate Varaxes.  Unfortunately, he missed on his attack roll, the magic was broken, and he got 'dog-piled' by a pair of gnoll bodyguards.  But Wulfengard is consistently the fighter MVP of the group, and can usually hack his way out of any bad situation.  You know how some players always seem to roll 6's on initiative and 20's on their attack rolls?  That's Wulfengard - clearly on friendly terms with lady luck.

The fight devolved into a front-line skirmish between fighters and gnolls, whacking at each other, while Varaxes hurled spells at the players from his position behind his gnolls.  Weak characters in the back fell asleep, but Varaxes rolled too low to sleep more than a few guys.  Marthanes began targeting Varaxes with the wand of magic missiles, winning a few initiative rolls and disrupting the enemy spells by zapping Varaxes first.  Actually it was a pretty cool battle from that perspective, two casters facing off from behind their lines of fighters and tossing magic.  It only took a few shots to kill Varaxes, and once he was dead, the players cleaned up the rest quickly.  Marthanes exhausted the wand of magic missiles, but Varaxes had his own wand in the loot (a wand of fear, it would turn out).

Marthanes began to investigate the workings of the Pool of Life with manic glee.  He has both magical engineering and a high intelligence, but he needed to clear three successes - and he only got to roll once per hour.  His dice were ice cold.  The players waited and waited, dealing with one wandering encounter after another, while Marthanes repeatedly failed his engineering rolls.  Attrition set in.

The last straw was when the party saw large spindly legs coming around the corner at the end of a nearby hall - a trio of giant black widow spiders walking along the ceiling!  Those things are terrifying - instant death via the poisonous bite.  The players were still using the battle map, so they formed defensive positions and shot at the spiders with missiles for as long as they could.  Leaderor, their charmed gnoll commpanion, was sent down the hall to engage the spiders in melee.  He died.  Marthanes also summoned his 4th level hero to charge down the hall and keep the spiders from advancing; he died too.  But the overall tactics were sound, and the kids survived without meaningful casualties.

They forced Marthanes to desist messing with the pool ("because you suck, Marthanes, anyone can roll better than you"), and they headed back to Muntburg to heal and recover.  Next game sees a return visit to the Pool of Life, success from the mage, and the creation of Binky, Pinky, and Travis, the short-lived orcs created by the players.