FalsKrag Session 31 – Fumbling the Orcs

A really great day and gaming session! Being just before Christmas, my wife and I prepared lunch and dinner , while the guys brought dessert and snacks. The group has wanted to go back after the orcs for some time. Having gone up 3 levels since their first fight here, they are in a much better situation to fight large numbers of organised opponents. Since the majority of the group require light to see, they almost never surprise anything. (A dwarf fighter with -1 Stealth close behind the rogue and monk doesn’t help either!) Invisibility and flight at least did get them across the cave and barricade quickly.

I’ve mentioned using fumble and critical cards before. This was one of our more amusing sessions with the cards. I think I got two confirmed critical against the party over the session, and I recall at least two against me. They were all forgettable… but not the fumbles! The two main fights with the orcs (over about 18 rounds) included so many fumbles we were keeping count of who hadn’t had one yet. In the end, every player rolled a ‘1’ in combat, and only the Monk was able to counter that with a held crit card and turn it into a miss. Two broken weapon cards allowed a save which the players made. None of these had any serious impact on the game for either side, except for the spell fumble which probably turned out better for the players than a critical! Here’s the fumble cards in the order they played out (if I’ve matched them up correctly):

Broken Blade – Lanliss nearly destroys his sap.

Punt – Hardaz throws his dwarven axe 10′ behind him.

Tiring Attack – Summer is fatigued

Eat Dirt – An Orc falls prone

Parry! Dodge! Spin! Thrust! – An Orc is dazed 1 round.

No Way – An Orc hits but for minimum damage.

Tied Up – An Orc is entangled in his gear.

Unexpected Blast – Seldrel’s spell affects all targets in 30’ except himself.

Pointy end goes there – An Orc takes minor CON damage.

Broken – Winter nearly breaks her bow.

Wait! What? – Merxif is confused one round.

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(4th Ready’reat) Searching the caves links up all the passages with no sign of the cloaker. They return to the large cavern and head for the northern end. A cluster of winged shapes is gathered at the door, and another group flies swiftly over the group heading south. Seldrel detects magic, and believes the cloaker is using mirror image again. He dispels the magic with his wand leaving the space before the door completely empty. He then suspects the creature has used a different illusion at the door, while it fled south. There it no sign of it, so while some keep watch Lanliss and Bacon climb up to the door, and Hardaz flies up. Lanliss and Hardaz have to smash the rusted door open, and the unfinished chamber within contains rubble, bones and many corroded tools. A ghostly hound attacks them. Like the previous ghosts, it is destroyed before causing any real harm. One set of bones is that of an animal wearing a collar, and Bacon observations that the ghost hound had the same collar. They locate no treasure.

Heading out of the burial caves, there is no sign of the cloaker. Having climbed back into the earlier set of caves, they hear some muffled voices and are attacked by a group of living orcs. They wear gear similar to those encountered before. The combat is short and Merxif’s healing is required. The group head up to the Hall of the Gods to rest.

5th: The group chooses to activate the statue of Flandal Steelskin (Gnomish deity of mining and smithing) mostly because they have a gnome and a spare warhammer. Merxif, Lanliss and Hardaz (the latter have mining skills) all gain a blessing for the day; at a chosen time their mace or hammer will burst into flame for a short time. The party head back down stairs to the halls near the cave complex. They head east and enter the northern tunnel that leads to the orc complex. The cleft in the mountain is still mostly full of rubble and smoothed rock, with possible signs of recent use. Everyone has much less trouble with the sections that require climbing than the last time they came here, which they realise was about seven weeks ago.

The cave with barricades looks much as before. Seldrel makes Lanliss invisible, and he creeps up hearing sound at the back of the caves. Merxif uses a wand to strengthen many of the group and Seldrel grants them flight and invisibility. Then they rush the barricade and most land to attack the eight orcs waiting. Merxif stays atop the barricade and casts prayer. They hear more orcs in adjacent rooms and Seldrel casts haste. While not a complete surprise, they are well placed to cut down most of the warriors quickly. Bacon pushes east, with Lanliss and Hardaz close behind. Many of the orcs seem of similar strength as those fought here the first time, but they soon encounter clerics and shamans (they presume) using magic against them.

Most of the group is magically webbed and silenced – preventing communication, and casting by Seldrel. The dwarves break free of the web through Hardaz using alchemists fire, and Merxif (unaffected by the silence) is soon able to grab Seldrel’s wand and dispels the webbing. Steadily they engage the second group of orcs and fight their way out of the silence. Merxif channels energy to heal his friends, and one of the orc clerics does the reverse to harm them. Winter fires arrows at the clerics, and Seldrel tries to cast searing light at one of them. He miscasts the spell in the chaos around him; beams of burning light shoot in all directions! Remarkably, the beams miss all of the party except for Merxif and damage nearly all of the orcs. The combat is over very soon after this. The group loots any high quality gear and anything magical and quickly scouts the eastern rooms. There are no more orcs found there, so they head north. Shortly afterwards Lanliss is ambushed by three orcs, and a few rooms later they encounter a slightly larger group. Thankfully, there are no more casters. They have now reached the secret door and enter the hidden tunnel leading into the second part of the orc area.

FalsKrag Session 30 – Orc Burial Caves

A fairly ordinary session that probably had a bit more talking and eating than role-playing compared to normal, mostly due to a slightly later start than usual, and one of our usual players being away. The combat with the cloaker went better for me as GM that I’d expected it too. Frequently I introduce something that I expect to be a challenge and the group comes up with a brilliant strategy, makes lots of high dice rolls, I roll badly, or all of the above – resulting in a sudden defeat of my creature(s). That didn’t happen. I’d done some planning for how to use the creature effectively, and some bad dice rolls neutralised nearly half the group just before the cloaker attacked. Seldrel standing on his own was too great an opportunity not to try and envelope him, and while Winter then rolled a critical on her first arrow shot causing 35 damage, that damage was split between the cloaker and Seldrel. Thankfully (for both Seldrel and the cloaker), her other two shots that round both missed. I then chose to have the lightly wounded creature retreat before they could surround it and start melee.

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(4th Ready’reat) Lanliss, Bacon and Hardaz move forward to engage the skeletons. Winter notes some zombies moving up behind them and begins to shoot at those. As the zombies move closer it can be seen that they have plants growing on and through them. The group begins to feel an uneasiness, some report it as a odd sound, others a feeling. The opposing forces are defeated and the zombies are much like the rats seen earlier. The group finds another flowered vine that fires spores at them. They destroy it and wonder if the plant spores in the air are what makes them feel agitated. As they start to move north to look at the other end of the cavern, Summer, Winter and then Merxif all become unresponsive. Seldrel cannot detect any magical influence and Seldrel and Hardaz pull them forward while Bacon and Lanliss search for another plant. They observe a tunnel heading west from the north of the cavern and one heading east from high up on a large ledge. The northern end of the cavern has another ledge and Bacon sights a door there.

As the pair start climbing up a dark winged shape swoops out of the darkness at Lanliss. He dodges its attack and the bat-like creature flies up to the top of one of the rock columns. It seems to project something at Bacon and Lanliss that leaves the elf nauseous and almost helpless. Hardaz hurries north, leaving Seldrel for a moment alone in the cavern. The creature seems to duplicate itself (Seldrel suspects it of using a form of mirror image) and dives down, wrapping itself around him. Winter and Merxif shake off their lethargy and Winter shoots at the creature. Her first arrow is a deeply penetrating shot that she is very happy with until she realises from muffled screams that she has also harmed Seldrel. Her next few shots miss. The grappled wizard manages to trigger the wand he is holding and dispels the creatures images. The others are all closing in when the creature releases its prey and flies away swiftly. It heads out the wide tunnel the group entered from. Seldrel thinks the creature is a cloaker, an intelligent bat-like aberration. Seldrel levitates and scans the cavern for magic, while other search at ground level. He sees a hole in the ceiling in which he finds a silver necklace, carved animal figures, shiny sling bullets and a magical cap, The group check the western tunnel which leads to a chamber full of corroded weapons and armour. A careful search does net them a good set of red chain-mail, a magical runed scimitar (one of the five blades) and a casket full of copper coins. They decide to leave the northern door, heading out to search other passages after the cloaker.

Most of the caves they find are damaged, and either have materials for cremation and burial, or contain niches with bones or urns with ashes. One cave has two animated skeletons, where they are also attacked by two small undead created from bones, rubble and hair. In another cave they sight a ghostly indistinct shape that drifts across the chamber. Noises lead them to a long hall with stone slabs blocking alcoves. As they begin opening these, they find one is trapped with a swinging spiked ball. Three orc ghosts emerge and attack the tomb robbers, but are easily destroyed.

FalsKrag Session 29 – Elements and items.

While setting up and talking about what the group had done, Bacon’s player mentioned reading summaries and the fear of finding something like “and this is where Bacon made a fatal mistake.” When I wrote up this summary I had this in mind and completely rewrote the section where the mephits appear. At least two of the players read through and noticed the change – Bacon’s being one. I sent out the real summary a few days later. The alternate ending is right at the bottom of this summary.

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23rd Patchwall: Return to the room with the water grill. Seldrel casts water breathing on both Lanliss and Bacon and they allow the grill to drop into the water and search the bottom of the chamber. They find a gold statuette of a lion. They head back up to the crafting halls to rest.

24th The group goes to activate the last statue – Moquol. (Baklunish lesser god of trade.) Then back at the halls, Seldrel begins crafting some Golem bane scarabs. Lanliss and Bacon head back into town and locate Boris. They also get some crafting materials that Seldrel wants and then return to the Hold with Boris.

25th – 28th Seldrel crafts more scarabs, and the group goes up to the Hall of Gods each day to check if the statues have changed.

1st Ready’reat: Seldrel begins work on Boots of Striding for Merxif. The group has considered some of the places in the mountain that they haven’t been able to get into. They discuss these and which they may be able to investigate further. To keep from boredom, Bacon, Hardaz and Lanliss spend some of their time crafting things they can sell in town. While none of their efforts are particularly remarkable, they appraise their efforts as enough to fund a few days accommodation and meals in town. Seldrel and Merxif have been studying the sphere they reformed. They determine that Merxif can use it to breath a cone of acid three times a day and breath water if in contact with it. Seldrel can be concerned about the arcane and draconic runes on its surface, and fears that the reformed sphere may actually be an Orb of Dragonkind.

4th The party have been becoming restless. Seldrel and Merxif feel that even though they are under the mountain and intend to keep searching, the Geas may be pushing them to be more active. Regardless of that, most of the group have little to do while Seldrel crafts. At the Hall of the Gods, the statues have changed. They are attracted to the statue of Zuoken (Baklunish demigod of physical and mental mastery). Bacon receives a blessing – he will be able to strike more easily with one of his unarmed attacks.

They head up down through the fungi caves and find the chamber with the stone elevator and metal rings. They now have two brass plugs that they believe must be inserted into two rings corresponding with the phases of the two moons. Since it is now the new moon of Luna, they feel this is a good time to try out their theory. It takes the weight of Lanliss, Bacon and Hardaz to drop the platform down to be able to place the plugs into the right holes. Iron rings, that Lanliss suspects conduct electricity do nothing and with the second plug inserted the platform drops a total of twenty feet into a circular chamber that shows a star map across the ceiling and the path of both moons. Many ledges line the walls, and four have magical items that the group claims. All have a spell ability that relates to the moon light. After a thorough search to be sure the chamber has no other secrets they climb or levitate out and remove the plugs. The platform rises while they discuss where to head next. To the north on this level are the four elemental rooms they previously explored. They have been reading a fragment of a page that mentions these and head to the air room to try to discover the rooms secrets and see if anything helps them find the right pattern of tiles to push in the nearby hall. Seldrel casts a acid splash spell onto the earth stone in the room and notes that his casting was more powerful than usual, and that the stone seems to have absorbed and be holding the magical energy. He and Merxif then cast a related elemental spell onto the other three stones. They too hold energy but nothing else happens. Bacon suggests touching the stones at the same time, and so he, Lanliss, Hardaz and Merxif each choose a stone. At the moment they touch the stone two things happen. A voice speaks in Suel about order standing against chaos and elemental forces resisting the void. Each of those who touched a stone also gain resistance to that element. Seldrel is put under pressure to both translate the words, and remember enough of what was said to write it down in common. Luckily, they learn that all of them touching the stones makes the voice speak again, so they have the time to be sure of what was said.

They head into the hall with an alcove for each element and panels representing all four. With someone at each panel, Seldrel calls out the sequence they found on the stones in each chamber and each person presses the panel in sequence for the element found in the room their alcove matches. Nothing happens. They then decide to try all putting in the sequence simultaneously and this opens the secret door. Once this is done, Seldrel realises that part of the spoken message was “the first and the last” and realises that they only needed to push the panels in order in the air and water alcoves at the same time. Beyond the secret door is a short hall with short pillars and a door at the end. As Lanliss steps in checking for traps, a voice asks him “What is the key word of the creed?’

Failing to give an answer summons two small winged and horned humanoids. Both mephits are quickly defeated, though Seldrel expects more to be summoned. When none appear, they enter the next room and recover silver and gold coins, a few wands and a few minor magical items that all have elemental powers. Having tied up some loose ends here the party heads back down past the crafting halls to head west down the stairs. The first chamber to the side has a large stone standing amid a ring of white runed marble. Seldrel translates the runes as “The stone of Jartekkes – ask and you may know.” Lanliss skirting the room is attacked by something he cannot see. The others move up to support and Seldrel casts faerie fire near Lanliss illuminating a tall humanoid shape of swirling air, an Invisible Stalker. The fight is over fairly quickly once they all ‘see’ the creature. Seldrel and Merxif examine the stone, noting a divination aura. The group considers questions to ask and while they discuss this, they are attacked by bugbears. Seldrel uses grease to divide their attackers (though a few bugbears make running leaps over it), and the group fights effectively. Two of the bugbears flee when their leader is cut down.

Seldrel puts his hand on a depression in the stone and asks about the Vampire, but gets no response. Lanliss tries, asking about the “news” secret door. He gets a vision of four levers at the end of short passages. He exhorts them to head up to that area again while it is clear in his mind. Past the fungi caves the group splits – Bacon, Hardaz and Seldrel head towards the secret door to be ready if it opens. Lanliss, Winter and Merxif head north towards the levers – where Lanliss chooses the end of a passage pointing north for the first lever, then east, west and finally south. They then hurry around heading for the cave complex, but meet the others returning! Bacon spotted a change in one cave as they entered the caves. A recent collapse has opened a hole in a cave wall. Lanliss urges them to look at it later – he hopes the secret door is open. The move onward and the door has slide up. Beyond are three chambers and a wraith that focuses its attacks on Merxif. The first room has carved demonic faces, with handles in their mouths and magical gems underneath. Seldrel turns a handle with mage hand, but nothing happens. Lanliss picks out the gems and also gets a speed boost from a magical pedestal in the next chamber. They recover some treasure from the last room.

They return to the beginning of the caves and look at the hole high in the cave wall. A tunnel or narrow cave can be seen through it and they take some time moving fallen rock and making the hole larger. Eventually all can get through and they follow a tunnel west into a chamber carved with a white hand. Seldrel identifies this as a symbol of Yurtrus, Orcish god of the dead. They also find most of a crushed skeleton and a page showing the southern part of Fals’Krag and orchish runes that mention burial chambers being rediscovered. Following the winding passages they begin to find orchish carvings and burial niches. There are also a group of big ‘dead’ rats. While they look like animated dead, Merxif states they are alive. Seldrel casts a fireball across most of them, also destroying a flowered vine in one corner. He decided that the spores from the plant allowed it to control the dead rats. Further west, the group emerges into a wide cave, up to forty feet high and longer than they can see. Much of it is filled with fallen rock, and broken stalactites and stone columns. Movement is sighted within the cavern – three armoured skeletons move towards them.


Alternate ending:

This is where Bacon makes a dangerous mistake. He begins to remonstrate with the voice… “A creed is a statement of beliefs and principles, but saying the creed isn’t specifically defining whose creed you refer to, thus your question is potentially invalid or unanswerable. I live by a monastic creed defined by my vow of truth, so for me the key word is truth, and this by characterisation of your stated question is a correct answer. My friend Winter’s companion Summer, may also be influenced by what she would also consider being, to her, the creed. Even assuming that for her, there exists a single key word, its both presumptuous to expect her to understand the question, and unfair to expect that if she did, her answer of ‘hoot’, for example, may be accepted when the same word may have a completely different meaning when spoken by a raven.” Small winged humanoids appear on two of the pillars. One is thin, pale grey, with dust falling from his wings as he folds them; the second is bulky with stony skin. The first grins at Bacon: “The creed of the elements is the principles of truth. Do you know them?” The second leans back against the wall, “How many are the Hermetic Principles?”

“Seven’” responds Bacon. “You do realise that you are expounding alchemy now though, and while these are related to the elements, your going to contradict yourself if you continue. One of the principles states that gender manifests on all planes, and everything is masculine or feminine – so how do you explain the void. By definition it can’t have either.”

“Damn, I’m stumped!” says the first mephit. “But, but…” stutters the second. The mephits flounder in exposition for some time, then conclude that Bacon has outdone both of them and the questions that would normally be posed to test those entering the chamber need to be revised. Each grabs hold of Bacon to have him present his case to the head of the Hermetic Council of their Elemental Plane and plane shifts home. Unfortunately, a dust mephit originates on the plane of Air, and an earth mephit on the plane of Earth. Half a dwarf has little conversational value on either plane.

“Just as well I hadn’t starting crafting that monk’s robe,” says Seldrel.

“Hey guys, there’s wands in here,” calls Lanliss. “Can you work out what they do while I count these coins.”

“Any copper?” asks Merxif.

“No, just gold and silver!”