Thursday, 25 September 2014

AS&SH - Session 11

Session 11 (September 20, 2014)

(Back to Session 1)

In which the party seeks a great healer but find only his hand on an island in another world, conduct the perfect heist, and blow up because of a cursed scroll.

The party members present were the following:
  • Esja (Ranger 2)
  • Freydís (Priest 3)
  • Gylfi Flogasson (Legerdemainist 1)
  • Harald Greentooth (Fighter 3)
  • Ingegeirr Lynetsinner (Anti-Paladin 1)
  • Jormund (Magician 3)
Referee's note: The player of Gottfried decided that, since there were already enough combat-oriented characters in the party, he would try one of the more interesting classes: he chose the Legerdemainist, a thief with ample magical skills to be really different. Obviously, he went for illusionist magic, as well. Also, a new player joined the party (actually, a first time table-top role-player), who really liked the idea of an evil paladin. Although the rulebook doesn't include that option, for now, we went ahead with simply reversing every ability of the paladin (e.g. his touch caused damage and disease instead of curing it; he would control undead instead of turning them; he would use necromancer spells, etc.)
After the party (then consisting of Esja, Freydís, Harald, and Gottfried) met with Jormund again, they learned that Jarl Olaf Gunnbjörn had suddenly fall sick; they returned to his village at once where they realised how troubling his sickness really was. Olaf told Gottfried about a vision Odin sent to Kjartan, the local priest: he saw an island surrounded by thick fog, a land where supposedly a great healer resides, presumably the only one who can cure Jarl Olaf. The party enlisted a capable and daring crew of vikings (to which Gottfried's younger brother, Gylfi, and a sinister warrior, Ingegeirr joined, as well), while Gottfried decided to stay at the village (since he is married to Olaf's daughter, Ingrid, and beloved by Olaf and the locals, he could effectively fill in for the Jarl).
Referee's note: The players obviously knew what was really going on; however, this urgent matter seemed plausible for me, and it allowed the retirement of Gottfried and the introduction of Gylfi and Ingegeirr to the party.
After several days of travel, the party was hit by a terrifying storm, amidst which four night-gaunts appeared from the clouds and, despite the party's efforts, grabbed two of their men and took off.

At sunrise they reached the shore of a small island, one half of which was dominated by an eerie forest, the other by a large hill (or small mountain), whose slopes were apparently cultivated by a group of people. The party approached the islanders and inquired about the whereabouts of the supposed great healer, only to learn that Tommar the Great has been dead for a couple of hundred years. They also learned of a temple up on the hill, where an order of priests still venerated Tommar's memory. The spokesperson was rather reluctant to show them the way, but - overcoming his fears - he finally obliged the party's request.

First, only Harald followed the villager into the temple, which was located conveniently inside the mountain, approachable by a single staircase. There he met still guardsmen wearing a sort of chain mail and helmets, a roomful of adolescent novices (who behaved quite like the average youngster and nothing like one would expect from monks), and - finally - the Hierarch, a remarkably austere and punctilious man.

Later on, as two different delegations, entered Gylfi (impersonating an archaeologist-ethnographer interested in writing a report on the history and culture of the locals regarding their temple and religion) and Jormund and Freydís (asking for the help of the order to provide a cure of Jarl Olaf). Help was offered in exchange for a number of men, pseudo-patients, as they put it, to allow them to continue with their experiments and perfecting their medical methods; Jormund and Freydís excused themselves to discuss the matter with their group and left.
Referee's note: Just as with the rather informal and casual novices, I took an extremist way of communicating the hierarch's personality, as I find that such exaggerations make non-player characters more memorable for the players - and for me, as well, should they appear again.
Gylfi's idea, however, was a hit: he was provided a higher ranking novice to accompany him and show him around. Most of the rooms were normal and confirming expectations; the more controversial of them (like a sound-proof praying chamber with wavy decoration or the Hall of Lamentations were not included in the "tour" - but were discovered by the party, nevertheless). In the evening, Gylfi even managed to get on good terms with the guards and play some dice with them, acquiring much information.
Referee's note: The party had begun to suspect that this temple might be conducting human sacrifices to please a dark god (possibly Dagon), although they also contemplated the possibility that the imagery is related to something else and that the screams they heard emanating from beyond the Hall of Lamentations were explainable by the lack of analgesic drugs and incomplete knowledge of the human anatomy.
They decided to storm the place during daytime; most of the guards active at that time would leave their posts and exit the temple (they were bribed, essentially). Gylfi locked the door of the sleeping guards of the night shift and set up a swinging axe trap, too. They entered one of rooms just beyond the Hall of Lamentations: two guards, two surgeons, and two bodies on operating tables. The party quickly defeated them (one of the surgeons begged for mercy but, after a brief interrogation, Ingegeirr killed him, too), rescued the living patient, discovered a small room where they stored the bodies, and some sort of prison cell for the still living pseudo-patients. They decided not to rescue them until they secured the place (taking care of malnourished and terrified folks would have made thing much harder for sure); however, they accompanied the already saved person to the entrance, and instructed her to wait outside.

Then they encountered a pair of panicking novices, so they neutralised them, as well. They tried to enter the praying chamber, but they failed. They all agreed that there was no time to waste, then, so they headed towards the Hierarch's chamber. The room where the previous audiences were conducted was empty; there was a magically trapped door on the south wall which Gylfi took care of. Behind a desk stood the Hierarch, a laser crossbow in one hand, a small oblong wooden box in the other. He managed to almost insta-kill Jormund and Ingegeirr with a single shot, but even he could not survive the party's all-out-attack.
Referee's note: The players really enjoyed coming up with the perfect plan, and I came to the conclusion that if the players approach the dungeon as a heist (rather than a monster-bashing hack-and-slash fest), I did a good job as a referee. Also, as Gylfi talked the guards into abandoning the Hierarch and joining the party to raid and plunder, there was a remark indicating how sorry the players start to feel for those whom they may have to slay in the process. It was gold.
As they were rifling through the contents of the room, the casters found a couple of scrolls. One of them, unfortunately, was cursed: the runes on the parchment glowed for a second, then a flash and a bang. Only Esja and Harald survived the explosion, and - after grabbing their weapons - they left the burnt and blown up bodies of their comrades and headed towards the shore, where their ship awaited...
Referee's note: The ending was an interesting experience for two reasons. First, for most of the party members this was the closest they have ever come to a TPK. Second, it was totally random. I didn't have time to determine the contents of the scrolls beforehand, so we rolled them up on the fly. I cannot honestly say the party was happy with it - but they were okay. Some of them have already created their new character, eager to gain treasure and fame!
(Next session)

No comments:

Post a Comment