Thursday, March 21, 2013

Game Report 24: The Decapitated Oracle!

Felt's interpretation of the Decapitated Oracle

It's been a few weeks since our last game.  It's "fantasy baseball drafting season" the past few weeks, so that makes it a little harder to keep a weekly gaming schedule, since I've had a couple of drafts to prepare.  However, looks like we'll be good to have another game this weekend.

When last we left the Spitsberg Pirates, they were huddled in an access tunnel that branched off a deep vertical shaft.  They needed to throw grapples up to the top of the shaft and climb up, getting to the first floor of the "Tower of Pain" from the dungeon level.  The overall goal was a rescue mission, hoping to find the captain of another ship and return him for a nice fee (and some favors).

There was a problem: the first level of the tower was inhabited by bizarre, headless creatures, sitting around and stuffing mushroom stalks into their gaping 'belly mouths'.  I'm calling them, prosaically, "headless servitors".

The group's solution was Stinking Cloud; Timur would gas the first level, then the fighters would toss grapples and start climbing like mad once the smell started to clear, hoping the guards were disabled and nauseous enough for the assault to gain a foothold.  The players spent time outlining their order of battle and planning the assault, and away they went.

The Cloud worked, and the servitors were off-balance enough that only a few responded when the first two fighters clambered over the side of the shaft.  They quickly formed a defensive front that let other party members climb over the lip behind them.  The servitors had a vicious bite attack that triggered whenever their hooked claw scored a hit and pulled someone towards the yawning belly-mouth, but beyond that, they were just big piles of hit points and assembled parts.  The group beat them down.

There was an elevator to the second floor of the tower, and this presented another tactical challenge - only 4-5 characters could fit on the small elevator platform at a time.  Without knowing what was on the second floor, this would create a blind assault.  Undeterred, the players again selected an assault squad, while everyone else would await the elevator below and send up a second wave.

The second floor was a gigantic operating theater, where one of the floating "winged terrors" hovered above a test subject on an illuminated platform, mid-surgery.  A handful of headless servitors shambled forward to attack, while the party streamed off the elevator - well, most of them.  Timur the Russian Elf elected to cast a Magic Missile, and because a caster can't move and throw a spell, he was still on the elevator when the guys on the first floor jammed on the down button.  That stranded the four melee attackers on the second floor without any magical backup.  The players didn't exactly think that one through.

The Magic Missile blew a hole in the unearthly material of the winged terror, and this was followed by a vicious spear thrust from the cleric Borghild, who charged it.  The other 3 fighter types (Agnar, Mustafa, and Brutok) were bogged down battling the Headless Servitors.  The terror floated toward the high ceiling, where the elevator shaft provided an escape route to level 3.  Along the way, the monster "droned"; it has the power to vibrate and create a wave of soporific sound that puts humans to sleep.  This could have been really bad for the players - 4 dead main characters, if the saves were missed - but everyone made their saving throw but the cleric, and the fight continued.

Meanwhile, the elevator was now making its way from the first floor with the next wave of characters - and one of them was the magic user, Tribunas, who was carrying a lighting guns scavenged off a winged terror from a previous dungeon encounter.  Seeing the injured monster high above in the elevator shaft, he fired on it up the shaft, scoring a direct hit and blowing it into pieces.  Slimy monster parts rained down on their heads.

Once the second floor was secure, they found the kidnapped captain in a holding tank - it was like a metal coffin, filled with a paralytic gas that kept the captain asleep and inert.  Reaching into the tank made your arms go numb.  The other tanks were filled with vivisection victims that were being harvested for servitor body parts - apes, morlocks, even a neanderthal, all missing things.  One of them was even missing their head.

A strike crew decided to head up to level 3 - at this point, the group surmises the tower has 4 levels.  Here they encountered the Decapitated Oracle - a choir of disembodied heads, resting in tiered troughs surrounding a small platform where a supplicant can place their hands (or clawed appendages, as the case may be) upon a pair of silver globes to activate the oracle.  The heads floated in some kind of nutrient bath that kept them somewhat alive, eyes rolling and mouths opening and closing aimlessly in perpetual horror.  Some were aging and in rough shape - perhaps "burning out" like overused light bulbs - thus creating the need for replacements.  The players now understood why the servitor golems had no heads!

The intrepid cleric stepped forward and touched the silver spheres - because that's what players do.  Immediately, all the brainpower (computing power) of those hundred heads flowed into the cleric, and her mind expanded  beyond the mortal realm.  In game terms, it was like reaching out to the higher planes via a Contact Other Plane spell.  What would she ask of the universe with her heightened, godlike awareness?

Alas, the experience of the other four characters present was not so uplifting.  From their perspective, a hundred alien voices started yelling, babbling, gibbering, and tumbling out of the mouths of the disembodied heads in an overwhelming cacaphony, and in game terms, it was like being assaulted by a Confusion spell.

Time was getting late and some guys had a hard stop, so we deferred the Saving Throw rolls until this week.  What fun awaits!

As usual, here is our Cast of Characters:

Agnar Beigarth, a Northman fighter (L4)
Mustafa of Arabia, a scimitar wielding desert warrior (L4)
Brutok the Strong, a dwarf (L4)
Borghild, a Norse cleric of Odin (L4)
Timur, Russian Elf (L3)
Vitaly, Russian Elf (L3)
Ben Underfoot, Halfling (L2)

Retainers traveling with the party:
Tribunas, Byzantine magic user (L2)
Bottvild (cleric L3)
Visin Thorsteinson (fighter 3)
Hunlaf the Saxon (specialist 3)
Ivar the Bow-bender (specialist 1)


  1. "...because that's what players do."

    Haha, don't they just?

  2. Ahh, where real people would be motivated by fear, players are motivated by curiosity and red shiny buttons.

  3. Did you think about a Stinking Cloud having no effect on headless creatures, or would that have been too cruel?

  4. It's a good question. The bodies are just cobbled-together Frankensteins, but they're controlled by insectoid creatures attached to the spines. I figured the controllers were the things temporarily incapacitated by the cloud.

    Not all the details can make it into every report - after the servitors bodies were destroyed, the centipedal controllers would scurry away- at one point, a PC noticed and they stomped on it. Their presence just made the whole encounter weirder.

  5. Awesome that your party got this far!

  6. Wow. I'm catching up after not reading the blog for a few months (got busy and distracted), and I've gotta say: This post made my night. Just beautiful. That oracle and the headless servitors are SO going to appear in my game somehow. Totally original, and so gruesomely delightful. You, sir, are a freakin' genius.

  7. It would be nice to know how this thing turned out!