Friday, February 11, 2022

Holgard Campaign Session 6 - Into the Sewers


SESSION 6 12/06/21

Had three new characters enter the scene. Everyone wanted to play their evil characters again. Three assassins! The players have been using Method III with an online dice roller and getting stupid results. Definitely the munchkin method. Didn't mean much though, as will be seen, but we're changing to 4d6 drop lowest in order, a hybrid of Method I and the traditional spread, physical dice only.

I reviewed the grappling rules after what happened last game, and decided what happened could have, I just didn't do things quite right, e.g. checking the initiative, using the hold/counter structure for each round, etc.

Realised assassins are awesome, especially when you play the game properly with 1:1 time. My players have really come around to this rule, one even said (to paraphrase) "During the week I'll think about the fact that my character is doing X right now". The world actually develops. The players can actually make an impact (as this session will reveal). This simply doesn't happen when you stop the clock at the end of a session.

My final revelation this game, stemming from a comment made by a player (who is also new to 1e) is how smooth the combat is considering it is 'AD&D'. Nobody is waiting around taking turns, and if the group doesn't have a plan, then initiative and declared actions result in a chaotic mess that is exciting and finger-biting. This convoluted composition that defies all game theorists ideas of 'proper game design' is, I think, severely misunderstood, and people who struggle with it are simply doing it wrong. Given a proper chance, AD&D1e is an excellent campaign how-to written based on someone's actual experience. It is made by gamers for gamers. The nitty gritty details don't even matter in 80% of situations (weapon vs AC), but when they do, everyone is glad for it - I actually had some players bring it up in a crucial situation and the outcome changed. I never would have expected this to happen when I started running AD&D 1e. Players actually track encumbrance. I needn't say any more.

Characters: Domnal Brosnachain, Bale Tyrannus, Rudolph von Schliefen (alias: Heinz Hapsburg), Quadra Heddahog, Krabroc Brickbasher, Eetswa Adlay

New characters introduced were:

Quadra Heddahog Female - Human - Assassin 1 - NE - a tall, gangly, dark-skinned woman from another continent. Had a very modern fade haircut with curly hair, hailed from the Fekla tribe. Weird fascination with torture.

Krabroc Brickbasher Male - Dwarf - Fighter 1 - CE - disgustingly chad dwarf with ridiculous exceptional strength, ratted out his clan to the orcs, believes wealth should be equally distributed to him. 7 int.

Eetswa Adlay Male - Elf - Assassin 1 - CE - this elf had RIDICULOUS stats, almost all maxed out. Eshay from our homeland, wears some really odd shoes.

Downtime Days 73-78
Bale got snitched on by the goth incel he stole a cloak from. Guard Captain Charder turned out to be a dodgy bloke and offered Bale his freedom in exchange for solving the fugitive problem. Bale agreed. He also got his 5 days rest in the mud-pit at Shank in the Sage.
Domnal spent the week on the streets, and barely managed to scrape by on food scraps and dirty water, somehow avoiding being captured and also learning about the guard patrols in the city.
Rudolph hired some urchins to try and get him stuff. Player wanted this kept on the down-low. Cost him 35GP but he did get something out of it.

Day 78 (12/06/21)
Most of the party was in the Shank in the Sage, contemplating getting back to work instead of sleeping around in mud pits. Nobody contracted any diseases or parasites (somehow) and the restorative powers of the mud did Bale wonders. Just like home.
There was some sort discussion about leaving the city after Bale realised the power he had over Rudolph, offering him his freedom and a lieutenant role beneath him. A dodgy money-grubbing but ripped dwarf asked about bar tabs before begrudginly handing over a whole 2 copper pieces and bought the half orc and man some drinks. Rudolph poured his out and Bale skulled it in one go, ignoring the dwarf, who then wandered over, saying he wanted to work "Not above, beneath or with them, but with them" (yes. I still don't know if this was intentional or accidental, but it was hilarious). Meanwhile, Quadra susses out the strange half-orc woman in dirty rainbow clothes with severe underbite making a sculpture out of whatever muck she has produced. Her name is Mungoia and after Q's interest, she insisted that Q contribute to the work with some of her own fluids, with Mungoia demonstrating how she gets the red-green colour by gouging some of her flesh with a fetid fingernail. Q was disgusted and insulted the piece, causing the half-orc woman to moan and beg, before passing out with her work slopping to the floor.

The party heard some banging above, and climbing out of the ceiling was the lizard king in his human guise. He said they need to get his job done in 3 days. Krabroc brought up the idea of a reward, to which the King said they would get 300GP each from his guy on the outside. He left by lifting up a floorboard and going under. At some point, Domnal managed to scale the Ghetto gate and avoid detection, meeting up with the crew. He had a cockroach crawl up to his ear and start talking to him (he can talk to them now apparently), saying Alatola had a job for him to get a roach out of the head of weird buffalo creature called a Catoblepas in the Rotfen Mire. Called the Parwefag roach, really dangerous. Also that Domnal might get a fever in about a month and to come seek out Alatola when that happens.

So the roach leaves, and the party is about to, when a sickly and grim looking hobbit with a flail stomps it. Domnal is pissed and says he wants to grapple the hobbit from behind, everyone else declares some sort of attack against these two hobbits at the end of the tavern. Surprise is rolled, and the grim flail hobbit was expecting this, tries to swing for Bale, but misses. What follows was: Domnal getting that hobbit in a head-lock and causing him to pass out, being bitten in the process, Rudolph missing a thrust with his sword, and Bale just annihilating the hobbits head, somehow missing Domnal. Blood is everywhere. Krabroc kicks the other deformed hobbits chair out, and him and Eetswa both try to shank him, but he dodges, begging for his life. Somehow he escapes and is screaming for help. The party boosts. They fail their bend bars so end up climbing/throwing everyone over the fence. The guards are approaching but haven't seen them yet. By the skin of their teeth, they are over and hiding behind some buildings.

Somehow they slink over to the sewer entrance across the main road from The Giant's Shin inn without being caught. People look at them funny but otherwise do nothing, probably seeing the blood and deciding it's not worth their trouble. Krabroc, Eetswa, Rudolph, and Bale (all with dumb strength scores) go up and heave this manhole cover over. The party flies down the ladder, with Krabroc trying to close it behind him but failing.

They enter a small room with graffiti on the west wall in blood "It knows". There is a pile of slimy, acidic refuse on the floor, and three exits - a door to the north, a passage to the east, and also to the south (this one has roaring sound like a river coming from it). They go for the door, cracking it open. There is a corridor with another big metal door ahead. It's locked, so they go down a side passage instead, coming to a sewer channel with a path around it. They go around, and there's a passage to their left and right, and a door ahead. Eetswa kicks it down and they continue, coming to another door. This time he kicks it again, but busts his ankle and is now moving at 6". It was unlocked. The room inside is full of cages, shackles on the wall with skeletons in them, bones strewn about. Eetswa buys 3' of rope from Rudolph for 3gp and makes a splint out of a hobbit child's shinbone. It didn't do anything. They backtrack and go north, coming to another bisecting channel. There is a bridge across it to their right, and a gross pungent smell to the left. As they cross the bridge, some deformed creatures approach from the shadows, all of them odd mixes of animals, men, or other demi-humans. The one in the lead has one squinting human eye, the other is a totally open reptilian one. He has a little undeveloped human hand and a crab claw on the other, with hooves. He asks what they are doing and says they should leave. After some not-so-subtle insults about the creatures appearance, it elects to warn them about the area with the pungent smell, that it's dangerous. The creatures then head off into the shadows and the players follow shortly after, coming to a dead end. They feel around and find nothing, even crossing the channel and trying the other side to no avail, so they go the other way. They eventually see a passage off the right where the horrid smell is much more potent, so they continue past it, eventually hitting another bisecting path with a massive, disgusting river flowing past. They go right, keeping the river on their left, before noticing on the wall to their right is a grey stone door with a carving of a grinning beast, it's tongue outstretched. No handle. Domnal touches the tongue and it animates slightly. Eetswa puts his sprained ankle on the tongue and it wraps around, dragging him in. Krabroc tries to cut the tongue with his massive bardiche, but cuts off Eetswa's foot and he dies! The door swallows the foot and hobbit-child-bone anklet whole, before cracking open with a smug look on its face. The party then loots and dismembers Eetswa for some reason and takes some body parts each, feeding the torso and head to the door, which opens up it's mouth wide and pulls it in with its tongue, it's expression very satisfied, and gives a wink to Quadra, whose idea it was.

They enter a large domed room with a well of a black inky substance in the middle. There is portcullis straight across and an archway to the left. They suss out the well, chucking one of Eetswa's arms with a southern cross tattoo in it. It is dissolved into nothing immediately. Bale goes to try and bend the portcullis, but while he is doing so, Rudolph notices a decayed and rotting humanoid figure emerge from some rubble beyond the metal bars, it's water-bloated body giving off a disgusting odour. Bale backs off, his attempt unsuccessful, and bashes one of the moaning beasts arms off. Five more similar things rise up from the room beyond, and all go over to the bars, moaning. Someone suggested lighting them on fire with oil but the party decided not to do this.

They take the archway. There is a wall to their right with glowing symbols on it in a strange language. Straight ahead is a door, which Bale tries, but it electrocutes him for 2 damage. They take an archway to the left and see a pile of rotten/mouldy sacks of grain in the middle, and another door to the right. They throws Eetswa's other arm at it and it just falls flat on the floor. The door gets forced open and they enter a large room full of mostly lit candles, no pattern discernible in which are lit/unlit. At the back of the room is a carving on the wall in dwarvish "Zuri died here, his spirit broken". Inside the carving is the portion of an illusionist spell which Domnal writes down with the blood of Eetswa's calf in his spell-book. Bale chucked one of Eetswa's toes at a door next to the one they came in from and it got crucified with a lightning bolt. Domnal finds out the unlit candles are phantasms that remain even after discovery, but when he touches one of the lit ones it has a solid form and the flame starts to flare. Krabroc kicks one and it busts his foot and scorches his leg for 3 damage.

The party takes the archway to the right and enter a room with a rusted dagger at the back and sickly urine smell. They pass through another arch and enter a room with iron chandelier, chairs, tables etc. They go right and pass through into yet another room, and two skeletons surprise them! By random determination, both the skeletons go for Krabroc - only one hits but it is enough to bring him below 0 HP and he dies! Actions are declared and initiative rolled. Bale and Quadra, who were in the front with Krabroc, go for blows, but they miss. The skeletons deal 4 damage to Bale. Things aren't looking good when Rudolph strikes one with his sword but it doesn't seem to have much effect. Domnal notices a pile of rusted gear, maces, etc. in middle of room behind the skeletons, so he tries to make a break for it. He happened to get an opening when Q sliced down ones skull with her long-sword and it de-animated into a dusty pile. Q also got stabbed at one point, and while Domnal is excitedly running over with some maces, Bale and Q simultaneously decimate the remaining skeleton.

There is a barricaded door at the end of the room. They open it and it leads to the room beyond the portcullis at the start. There ankle deep water and rubbish about, and the zombies meander over. The players, who used Krabroc's body to test the door, douse it in oil and throw it in. When the zombies all start eating it, they light it up and the creatures die away eating charred dwarf flesh. One zombie was left, stuck in the portcullis, and Bale smashes it into oblivion. Not much is in the room except another door at the back, which they open to reveal a dark room with a massive pile of silver coins, and some off-hue but similar coins scattered around the bunch. They throw an arm in, and some debris, and find nothing happens. Bale enters but then is teleported back to the previously barricaded door. He tries again, same result. The gnome checks out the floor in front of the door, nothing, and then tries - same result, tripping on the way and copping a mouthful of sewer juice. Then Bale throws him in, naked, and they hear a splash behind them. Q comes up with an idea of tying a rope to her skullcap and scooping coins back. It works, and the players spend a minute doing this, before going and grabbing Krabroc's great helm which yields a much better result. One of them is keeping watch while, after 10 minutes, they bring back 62 platinum and a bunch of silver. They decide to go since there are some diminishing returns here, and as they go, Bale pushes Rudolph in as a joke. I ask which way Rudolph was facing - his back was to the room. He falls inside and doesn't get teleported out. By some sheer in-character joke/RP, they figured out how to get in. So they all walk in backwards and spend 30 minutes scratching for all the platinum they can. The silver pile is just massive. They come out with another 90 platinum - 152 total, but ditch all the silver!

They bee-line back to the torch room and check out the last archway on the left, which takes them to a room full of demonic/animalistic war masks evenly spread across the walls, some of them missing. Bale wants to try one on, but the party talks him out of it. They dim the lantern and the demi-humans predator vision shows all the masks radiating. Disturbed, they check out a passage to the left, which takes them to a room with a statue of a tall human man with heavy dark beard and curly hair, holding a pickaxe. Nothing else happens, so they leave. As they exit, the grinning door closes behind them, winks, and glazes over into a regular wall.

They go right and follow the flowing river, passing by a side passage to the right, but continue, before arriving at a huge metal grate, with about 15cm diameter bars going up and down into solid rock. The river ends in a waterfall into some dark space beyond, with about 3' clearance above it to a rock-face. It stinks and is disgusting, despite flowing. They check it out, pretty solid construction, don't really know what to do. So they go check out that other passage and pass through some rooms, and while heading down another passage, the weird beast men peel off the walls and ask why they are still here. After offering a generous few silvers, and many insults which are considered kind to the beast, the beast men decide to go check it out and help them. Nothing came out of this. The main beast dude went into a monologue about his life, and the party just let them leave. They then go back to the sewer entrance - the map Bale's player kept worked!

The grate is still open and it's dark outside. They decide they need explosives, and want to try and take a guard hostage to see where they can get some. I stared at them all with a bewildered look. Okay. So they go up, no light and nobody around. They huddle by a building when Domnal spots some small heat signatures that come to him. It's three roaches. He asks them if they know where some explosives are, the roaches say they "Want some smoke, that them bees don't like". Domnal agrees that this is reasonable, and the roaches tell him to check out the shady lane of the market square to the south. The party then lights a dirty moist rag which smokes rather than burns, and the roaches go over and hang out next to it. Quadra, who is not a fugitive, heads over to the market square and pretty quickly spots a dark alley tucked between a few stalls. It's pretty busy outside, but nobody is in the lane except for 2 guys at some tables and a queer black figure at the back. She approaches the first man, who is a venerable, blind, herb and poultice merchant. He starts offering a bunch of random solutions for physical ailments, but eventually reveals he will sell 5 vials of an explosive powder for 1000 gold pieces. Q also checks out the other stall, which had a bunch of torture and trapping instruments. The dude at the back just gave her a death stare the whole time. She goes back and tells the party - they all agree this man is their guy. So they head over, staggering their formation and trying to blend into the crowd. Rudolph and Domnal are right at the back, when they notice Q get surrounded and ferried away by a group of nondescript people. One of them talks to her and says he heard she's looking for explosives, and can help, but they need to go somewhere quiet. Bale steps in, but the man is still accepting - he guides them away. They get taken to a dark, dead-end alley. The man turns around and then demands their loot. The other four figures from the crowd have blocked off their escape, and are standing behind. During this time, Domnal and Rudolph hung back and came up with a plan - Domnal caused a shadowy phantasm to emerge from the shadows of the alley in front of the four figures, and throw an illusory axe at one of them. Rudolph goes in for an assassination attempt! The outcome: Rudolph slinks up behind one of them, and stabs his short sword into a mans spine, slicing it down and hearing bone crack. The bandit dies instantly and falls with a quiet thud. The phantasm looses an axe at one of them, and they fall for it, getting struck in the shoulder and suffering psychologically. One of the others sees through it, but his ally doesn't. That, combined with them seeing one of their number suddenly killed, causes them to fail morale - they flee!

The last guy, who is now cornered by Bale and Q, says they can go and that it was a misunderstanding. Q asks for explosives, and he says he can get them some but doesn't have them with him. This isn't good enough. Bale goes for a swing but the man dodges, and tries to retaliate with his sword. Nothing comes from this, so Bale goes for a grapple. The man fends off the attempt and goes for a true attack, which would have landed but the players asked about weapon vs AC. Turns out the guy got a -1 to his roll and missed! Bale wants to make this guy suffer, when Domnal's phantasm throws an axe that strikes him between the eyes, and he dies. They loot the bodies and go to the old herb merchant. What followed was a very frustrating discussion of the man offering a myriad of herbs and powders for various ailments, before being told that, in his blindness, he didn't realise the reason he never sold anything was because he is in Shady Alley. This is heart-attack tier for the senile man, and he ultimately ends up begging for them to buy something. He puts 5 vials of this powder on the bench. Says it can level the whole Market Square if exposed to air. Bale puts coins on the table, assuring him it is gold, but the man tastes them and knows they aren't. This whole encounter was confusing - the final result was Bale punching the dude in the head and taking the vials. They shady guy at the back tried to step in but backed off when Bale held up the powders.

They head back to the grate, calling for the beast guys, who come out. Tries to offer coins for one of them to stand next to the grate and open a vial while they stay back. This argument isn't convincing. The discussion was cursed and weird, and the strange creatures leave again. The party puts two vials next to each side of the grate and leave a lantern there, then go 100' back and get Q to shoot her short bow at them (which she is not proficient in). Eventually she goes within 50', and a few attempts later... There is an earthshaking explosion. The characters go deaf temporarily. Domnal was knocked unconscious from the blast. The party recovers. They wonder what to do now, but decide to finish their task and meet the Lizard King's guy outside, since they can't go back up. The grate is totaled and the ground before it cracked and blasted, water seeping in from the river. They climb past into a massive cavernous area dimly lit by glowing mushrooms and other plants. They are on a sort of ravine-top with a gradual slope down the side to a lake, with the river on their left continuing true. Nothing comes to check them out, but they can hear some movement below. They follow the river and come to a stone staircase leading up. After about 10 minutes climb they arrive at a cave mouth before a swampland, distinguished by some marshy grasses and flies buzzing.

A lizard man slinks out of somewhere and hands over the gold for their job. They ask for a place to stay, and the lizard says he knows a spot. They follow him in the dark through the mire, and the creature starts digging somewhere, eventually revealing a tunnel down. The players crawl in and find themselves in a decently sized lizard den. So they curl up for the night, somewhere beyond the city walls, wondering if they will ever find rest.

I detest these characters, but can't help but respect that even with their self-imposed torment, they scrape their way through. There is no honest days work for these folks, no relaxation in the tavern after a harrowing journey. Just sleepless nights spent looking over their shoulders, curled up in the marsh den of some lizard man outside a city they are fugitives in.

152 Platinum (760GP value)
1200 GP (300 each for Lizard King's quest)

Experience Points
Monster encounters only as the session didn't end in a truly safe place, so no coin reward. We are going to play-by-post to see how they find some sort of safety before we play next, which will be at least 2 weeks away.
Bale: 366 + 120
Rudolph: 41 + 120
Domnal: 11 + 120
Quadra: 120

Character Role & Alignment Performance Ratings
Bale - (E)xcellent. Extremely prideful and will not work beneath anyone. Treats everything as a power-play. No cowardice at all, always on the front line.

Rudolph - (E)xcellent.This character is sickening. Totally spineless. It's perfect. Awesome and appropriate use of assassination ability.

Domnal - (E)xcellent. Really disgusting submissive relationship with Bale, to the point of accepting lesser shares with glee. Just wants to harm things. Clever and appropriate use of 1 spell, very curious about any scrap of magic he can find, and didn't want anything to do with the front line.

Quadra- (E)xcellent. Very crafty and clever ideas, with a sadistic emphasis on torture rather than 'merely killing'.

Hurigash the Horrible - Killed by a dagger between the eyes by Alatola Bonazi
Wujak the Gentle - Killed by the Lizard King's trident
Blackhand - Smacked down by an old veteran's morning star
Eetswa Adlay - Killed by sticking his foot in a door's mouth and having it lopped off by Krabroc Brickbasher's Bardiche
Krabroc Brickbasher - Killed in a surprise round by a skeleton. Previously wounded by kicking a strange candle and getting scorched.

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