Monday, March 18, 2024

Playtest Sessions 8-11

I stopped posting session summaries for my games a few months ago because it seemed like nobody was reading them, but I recently heard from a couple of people who mentioned that they had been following them, and although scheduling conflicts since the holidays have caused the frequency of play to slow down, we are still playing, so here's a quick catch-up of everything since my last update.

Session 8 (December 2023): Continuing to explore the Perlammo Salt Mines, the group ventured into the Experimental Mine where they encountered the janussarians (living automata with detachable heads) and beat a hasty retreat. The established party was joined by two new members in this expedition: Kane, a halfling bard, and Glyptus, the fighter henchman of Eldin the magic-user, who's a total arrogant jerk and a lot of fun for the DM to roleplay. I believe it was during this session that they also learned that their ogre buddy Lumph had gone missing.

Session 9 (January 2024): Rolling on the character catch-up table in Midkemia Press' Cities to see what happened to Grain the thief when she was absent in session #8, we learned that she had received a proposal of marriage, which she accepted. Her spouse-to-be was determined to be Vylma who works at the casino as an Elvish impersonator (though what exactly that means beyond the pun is not entirely clear), with the wedding to occur in two weeks game-time. Wary of another encounter with the janussarians, the group instead ventured down a different stairway which led them to a flooded chapel area populated by various slime-creatures who their weapons weren't able to affect. Eventually they encountered a strange hermit priest with a blue crystal staff that was seemingly able to command the slime creatures, so naturally they killed him and took the staff. Although they didn't bother to learn the command phrase (didn't pay attention when the priest said it...) they found that just wielding the staff was enough to keep the slime creatures at bay, so they looted the priest's treasure (including a nice cache of valuable gems that helped a couple of them level up) and left that area behind. 

Session 10 (February 2024): With everybody (except Glyptus the henchman) now at 3rd-4th level the group finally felt up to challenging the lotus smuggling gang who they've known were in the dungeon pretty much since the beginning but had been studiously avoiding. Thorn the ranger wasn't available, which was okay because he was off training with the druids atop Mt. Hexengippel anyway. On the way out of town they learned that their ally in the outlying shanties, Madame Sanspirella the fortune-teller, had been murdered by a halfling whi gave the name Mr. Underhill and they noticed unfriendly looks being directed by the shanty-dwellers towards their own halfling companion. Upon arriving at the mines, the group ventured down the mechanical lift to level 3 where they found a group of human and half-orc guards waiting for them (the lift makes a lot of noise). Negotiations pretty quickly broke down and a large melee ensued. Sleep spells were deployed, reinforcements were summoned, four half-orc flunkies were convinced to change sides and gave their new boss (Kane the halfling) a brief overview of the level, including where "the giant" lives. Alas, while all this was going on in-game, in real-life the store where we play was literally flooding (this was while Los Angeles was having torrential rainstorms) so we had to end the session early and pause with the party still deep in the dungeon (which I hate to do, but was pretty unavoidable in this circumstance).

Session 11 (March 2024 - yesterday): Eldin's player wasn't available so both he and Glyptus "mysteriously vanished in a way the rest of the group didn't find to be alarming," leaving the group as follows:

Thron: half-orc fighter 4
Grain: gnome thief 4
Kronk: gnome cleric 4
Tares: elf cleric 4
Kane: halfling bard 3 (using the Heroic Legendarium version of the class)
4 half-orc men-at-arms (NPC followers of Kane) - I think he may have named them but I didn't write it down

To start with they counted up and looted the bodies from last session's battle - there were 25 of them in total, from whom they recovered a substantial amount of electrum, gold, and platinum coins, a few gems, and two potions. Grain identified and kept the potion of polymorph (self), Kane was unable to identify the other potion but kept it anyway. Once again nobody bothered to check whether any of the deceased enemies had magical weapons or armor. Instead of heading home they decided to explore some more, and quickly triggered a trap that sent Thron and Grain down a long slide. Kane tied a rope (two ropes) around himself, anchored it to the trap mechanism (a set of gears causing the floor to tilt) and lowered himself down after them. 

At the bottom of the slide Grain and Thorn found themselves in a natural cave where the shadows seemed unusually thick and oppressive, so even their infravision was impaired. They soon realized they weren't alone and some of the shadows were moving. Remembering their previous encounter with such a creature in a previous session (and that now there were 6 of them) they fled down the nearest passage deeper into the unknown. Kane arrived on the scene after they had left, and fled in the same direction, but lost a couple points of strength on the way. On the way out he sent a voice throwing yodel back up the slide telling the rest of the group to follow and help. Both clerics (whose players are kids) decided to slide down the chute head-first ("whee!"), and were immediately ambushed by the shadows, losing multiple strength points. Tares waved his magic staff at them no avail. Kronk remained prone and turtled up but also waved his holy symbol at them, which caused 4 of the 6 to cower away. After some confusion and a couple more lost strength points Tares was convinced to also try using his holy symbol, which successfully turned the other two. About that time the severed rope came tumbling down the chute. Kane's sense of betrayal and anger was palpable. 

The group eventually managed to reunite and set to exploring looking for a way out. The gnomes attempted to estimate their depth underground - Kronk was convinced they were 500' below the surface, Grain thought it was more like 200'. Based on previously having been about 150' down and being able to traverse the chute with 2 50' ropes they suspected Grain's estimate was more likely to be correct. They found another stairway leading further down and decided not to take it. They then found a set of stairs leading up, but only 10' leading to another large shadowy cave occupied by a large number of black-furred dogs. Tares used a speak with animals and was able to convince them not to attack and, in exchange for some rations and assorted monster-bits (which Kronk carries a large a large collection of), get directions towards another up-staircase. After a LOT of climbing, which was invigorating and helped them restore their lost strength points, they arrived at a familiar-seeming location and were able to connect the last big gap on their map, the one unexplored staircase on level one. 

Heading back to the elevator room they didn't seem surprised to find the elevator platform on this level. As they were about to head back down they met up with their companion Thorn the ranger (late-arriving player) bearing news - while training atop Mt. Hexengippel a half-elf named Greenthistle arrived with an alarming take about having been hired to guide a group of adventurers into the Whither Woods, encountering a group of evil man-eating elves who tried to drug and capture them, and following them back to a massive diseased oak-tree with a tunnel opening at its base which the others descended into and never returned [attentive readers may note a non-coincidental resemblance between this account and session 7.5]. Also, upon arriving at the mines, he witnessed a group of around a dozen men - most of them armed soldiers but a pair of civilian-types in robes - leaving the mines, piling into a boat hidden under one of the jetties, and departing. One of the two civilian-types looked like he was being dragged along and didn't want to go.

Back down on level 3 they continued exploring around the south part of the level, avoiding the area where the half-orcs had told them the giant lived, had a nasty encounter with a tentamort ("beach ball with tentacles") that due to some lucky die-rolling ended happily before anyone's viscera got liquified, recovered a ring which Grain the thief was thrilled to learn made her invisible at will, and found the barracks of all the guys they killed last session, but were frustrated not to find any more people (and, strangely, didn't seem to connect the dots about the lift being on level one and the group of guys leaving the dungeon with the fact that these rooms were empty, but whatever). They found a 4' high secret passage but instead of exploring it decided to block it up by barricading junk in front of it. 

Feeling frustrated at not finding anything more to kill, they returned to a chamber they had scouted out earlier and Grain invisibly scouted and found a family of giant lizards dwelling there and a lot of silver coins scattered about. Using a bunch of oil they'd looted from the guard barracks they started a big fire, slew the lizards as they fled from it, and Thron the fighter was happy to discover both that his magic sword has extra potency against reptiles and that the ring he'd looted from one of the smugglers was giving him extra protection, lowering his AC to 0. Kronk dissected the lizard corpses (as per his usual practice) and was happy to find that one of the adults had swallowed several gems. Alas, as they were gathering up the silver coins into a wheelbarrow they heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching, and quickly fled in the opposite direction back towards the lift. 

As they made their way down the wide central hallway they glanced back and saw a 9' tall hideously deformed being wielding a huge club in one hand and an enormous conch shell in the other giving chase (despite his uneven legs and shuffling gait) crying out "what have you done to my pets?!" Definitely wanting nothing to do with that, Kane used the brambled refrain to block his path, giving the party enough time to pile onto the lift platform.

All in all a pretty enjoyable time was had by all, and after 6 weeks off it felt good to get back into the flow. Kane the bard pocketed enough unshared treasure to allow him to hit 4th level, and due to his magic ring Thron is getting close to hitting 5th. Next session should include Grain's wedding at the casino, and we'll see what else they decide to do now that they've pretty well cleaned out the mine dungeons and have a ton of other active hooks to explore.

Still no ETA on the eventual release of the book, but I'm very happy with how the playtest has gone so far and have picked up assorted minor editing and cleanup notes but nothing that requires major retooling. The guy who's re-rendering my hand-drawn maps has sent me some WIP drafts and they're looking great! Artwork is still TBD but the recent Hungarian-language release of Melonath Falls includes a ton of great original commissioned art that the publisher (Gabor Lux of E.M.D.T.) has been kind enough to give me the rights to re-use in my own English-language version, which will definitely help.