Session 24 - The Seed of Chaos
Foreword: "0 is 1 and 3, and -1, but not 42! Blarg-du-larb-barb" - Thaddius the Prophet
Timekeeping: Session started on the 25/03/2022 and ended on the 1/04/2022. Downtime from 2/04/2022
Characters: Bale Tyrannus (1/2 O F2), Greg Chapel (H C2), Finin O'Conoghain (1/2 E C2/MU1), Fitzpatrick Bateman (H C1), Ruck Mudsplash (1/2 O F1)
|I can't believe the Guru prefers Greg Chapels sacrifice to mine
Finin O'Conoghain spent his money to level up his cleric class to level 2 - he said he was paying the Assassin's Guild to kidnap people for him to sacrifice.
Greg paid off his 750GP debt to the Guru of Globulah and got a new henchman he trained himself for 4 months - level 1 Cleric Fitzpatrick Bateman.
The game opens up with Bale Tyrannus seeking out Winston Churchill for some work. I inform the characters who are in Thropsford that a few nights ago, on the 23rd of March, everyone in the city heard and saw 3 quick lightning strikes in succession north of the city. Churchill wants Bale to check it out, and bring back any living specimens from it. He definitely seems to know more about it than he's letting on. Bale tries to negotiate for his 3000GP training cost to be paid for, in advance of the job. The Bulldog doesn't bite, and the final ultimatum is that Bale will have his training covered if he does the job first.
The party gears up and heads due North - they ride for about 2.5 hours (15 miles through the sparsely populated plains beyond Thropsford) before arriving at a very abrupt and harsh border - for blighted marshland lay before them. There are scattered farms around, most look derelict and ill-maintained in this portion of the Kingdom.
A side note - I am trying to be more clear/transparent about the game structure for different factors of the game, such as Dungeon Exploration, Wilderness Travel, etc. since the book gives very clear procedures for these. I have always used these methods, but how much the players understand has been limited - now I am being clearer. For example: You (supposedly) travel North for 5 miles, which took you all day. You can see marsh in every direction, yada-yada. This is all around a positive IMO - not least because PCs can now make meaningful maps that I can hold them to. If it's mapped wrong because they got lost that's their problem, rather than having no map because I don't provide enough info to begin with.
Anyway, the party heads into the swamp - they spend the rest of the day batting away huge marsh flies, mosquitoes, and hand-sized leeches which swell up like balloons before your eyes. Every step is into fetid quagmire, the air buzzing with irritating creatures, and no sign of wholesome life. The horses struggle immensely - and after hours of trying to make headway the sun begins to set and the PCs set up a dismal camp and spend a restless night. Before it was dark, they could still see the plains they came from to the south. Not much progress was made... Though the night passed without event.
26/03/2022 DM Note - employ Chainmail weather table in future
The party spends the morning having Fitzpatrick Bateman prepare and cast Purify Food and Water on a festering swamp pool. Everyone has a drink, fills up their water-skins, and heads out for another day of horrible marsh-tromping. I dutifully check to see if they get lost. They totally do, and realise it when they emerge back in the Thropsfordian Plains, but in a different locale to where they entered the marsh. They spy a lone farmstead and decide that they need to enact violence to help cope with the overbearing swamp. The party rolls up and stables their horses and knocks - a very senile old man answers. I couldn't repeat the conversations had with this man, only that they were utterly deranged and nonsensical - Finin casts Charm Person and finds out his name is Thaddius and apparently he had a Powerful Moment™ when the lightning struck. He rambles about festering cankers of Chaos that are growing and changing, inexorable links to said Chaos so that he may discern the precise site, some planar cosmology, and also tells the players his most valuable items are the deed to his farm and his great-great-great grandfather's pipe. The players persuade him to guide them to this place through the swamp. They make him sleep in the stable, while they rest inside. DM Note: I think I do not rule Charm Person critically enough, as it has a history of being a bit of a cheese ability at our table. At the very least, when a spell is invoked I ought to pull out initiative dice and have declared actions on the chance that the individual will get suss and retaliate. Admittedly the people they use it on have a tendency to already be senile.
Coming out of winter, I had Thaddius roll a system shock to see if he died during the night in the stable. He passed and the party heads out into the swamp once more. They notice some queer signs about the old man though - his hands randomly changing to bird talons, strange colours or lights bursting about him, weird words or phrases coming out etc. No method to it. Anyway, by evening, they actually happen upon a den of 9 Lizard Men! Their is a sickly countenance to them but nonetheless menacing in appearance - the players have surprise and Ruck Mudsplash looses 12 arrows in his 2 segments, killing 1 and injuring another. Greg began casting Bless while the rest of the party held fast. Having 2 segments to cast, his spell will go off on segment 8 of the first round. This matters as he is at the front-line. If the lizards close the distance before he casts it they may interrupt the spell!
The party declares actions and we roll initiative. Ruck is loosing more arrows, and I calculate how far the Lizard Men would have traveled by the time his shot went off. It is fruitless anyway, and 4 Lizard Men collide with the front rank of Greg, Finin, Bale, and his dog Douglas. I rule the PCs get first blow due to having actual weapons while the monsters are naturally-equipped.
BTB monsters with natural weapons act simultaneously with their opponent (or on the segment indicated by the Defender's initiative die) but due to having a 3 attack routine these Lizard Men will always go first/last, with their 2nd attack depending on the initiative roll. This is wrong. Natural weapons only happen simultaneously on simultaneous initiative and Lizard Men have 1 attack routine. I mistakenly treated the individual attacks as individual 'routines'. I think in this session I actually played it this way, but thought I messed up when writing up the report...
Somehow Greg gets his spell off, and a mass melee ensues. The second rank are loosing arrows or throwing hammers, while the front rank is beating away at Lizard Men. Finin wipes the head off one with his 2 handed Flail, but the Lizards have also flanked them. They are doing some decent damage, and in a stroke of tragedy, Finin O'Conoghain falls to a 9 damage claw/claw/bite routine. Nobody else dies and eventually the sickly monsters try to Disengage-Retreat and are cleaned up by the party. Greg Chapel dropped to 0HP and went unconscious during the combat, but was stabilised by Ruck afterwards.
It was a heavy moment when Finin fell - he was an original founder of the Cult of Globulah, the default evil PC religion conceived many sessions ago. Oh well! Everyone in the party brutalises his body and eats it. Bale takes his spell-book and loose change. Then they go check out the Lizard Men huts. Inside are some dead bodies with evidence of armaments and 4 sacks with a total of 2000GP. They also find 2 gems and 2000SP, which gets ditched. DM Note: Be more vigilant with encumbrance. Not just weight but carrying capacity of vessels. Next session will need to do a full PC inventory check and recalculation to make sure everything is correct. Now, there was something else that was bizarre - Thaddius was acting stranger than usual. The Lizard hut melted away, then reappeared. He was talking to Greg about missing Finin, and asked some totally nonsensical riddle along the lines of
"When the jacinth cracks, and 0 becomes 3, what does it mean to me?"
Bale intuitively guesses the correct answer to be 0, and so Thaddius asks Greg to disrobe and places his hand on his stomach - impregnating him with some entity. Greg comes to term in moments, as his stomach bulges and expands - strange shaped extremities poke through his belly. In one sudden release, it departs his body through his mouth. A black and red shadow, which grows angel wings, then bat wings, before dropping to the floor and running on legs, with colours bursting from it. Greg is sad to see his son go. After this experience, everyone rests in the huts and decides to return to civilisation the next morning.
They safely make it back to the derelict farmstead and Thaddius is adamant about not going to Thropsford. The party rides back to Thropsford. Greg & Bale go to the Swan & Paedo - Greg goes to sleep for a week from the 29/03/2022, and won't be available for play/downtime until the 5/04/2022. There is some negotiation about how to divide up Finin's gold he had stored in the inn-room. It ends up being agreed as an even split.
Bale gets the gems valued - he nets 800GP for a slightly flawed Fire Opal, and keeps a 50GP gemstone. Next, he waits in the tavern for days when, on the 1/04/2022, one of Churchill's goons turns up and escorts Bale through a very disorienting and unclear route through the city to a warehouse in an industrial area. Winston is there - wants to know why Bale hasn't done the job yet. Doesn't care about his dead companion. Eventually a new deal is struck - Bale gets 500GP now and 500GP if he returns with Thaddius. Both parties are aware of the consequences if the deal is not held up.
Bale flies through the Thropsford plains to the house of Thaddius. It is in shambles - strange lights dance off the walls, invisible creatures swing from the rafters, light reflects in ways it shouldn't, queer sounds permeate. Thaddius is NOT going to Thropsford despite Bale's insistence that he saw a vision of him going there. Eventually even Bale is disturbed by the senile man and his survival instinct tells him to leave. Suddenly he is outside 30 yards. He looks to the farmhouse and it grows legs, before running into the marsh. Bale is shocked, disturbed, and dismayed. The ride back to Thropsford is uneventful, and he goes to Greg to negotiate the treasure divisions from the session, before we discuss downtime activities.
Treasure & XP: 2000GP, 800GP gem, 50GP gem exclusively to Bale, 500gp exclusively to Bale, and monster XP came out to:
Fitzpatrick Bateman: 537XP
*Had no effect as they were frozen at their previous XP total
DM Note: Need to keep track of when PCs have their XP frozen so a true total XP is retained until they train. Greg's value is in my documents since he has some XP for a special item he got
Player Performance Ratings: All Excellent
DM Note: Toying with idea of reducing training cost/modifying rating system so players can be given 'Standard' or 'Superior' ratings normally, with Excellent being for truly Exceptional play. As it is, I can't bring myself to give out anything other than Excellent's normally thus nullifying the utility of the Rating System and the power of Excellent PCs being able to self-train.
Downtime Requests: Bale is training from 2/04/2022 until 9/04/2022 and spent his 3000gp on hiring out stable areas, heavy warhorses, heavy lances, and experienced lancers to train against. His new weapon proficiency for level 3 will be Heavy Lance and he rolled 9 HP. Bale is also getting one of the gems he found, which is dark smoky black with red flecks, embedded in a ring, as it matches his dark black red-hued cloaks which him and his followers wear. Bale's Tyrants is back in business!
Greg will be going to Underland to try and negotiate a new training contract with the Guru, for he is exceptionally poor but also at frozen XP. Hilarious!