Dungeon Fantasy S01E04: Apprenticing, for fun and profit!

Welcome back to the show! It’s gonna be an exciting second round, Let’s meet our contestants, starting with the Center Square!

Everynne, The Red Lady – Schmoozing her way into all the best towers in town, and ready to get down to business.

Frau Blucher – Willing to sacrifice a good weapon to destroy an arch nemesis, and pretty sure that some ghost is being unnecessarily mean.

  • GunterWilling warmount for life, but NOT going up in no basket..

Grognak – Spending his days shirtless and sweating, spending his nights with the priest. No, no, it’s totally normal.

Jianjun – Teaching the ways of the steel, and learning the ways of the soul. This cleric is ready for action!

Zen – Overflowing with love…. For her beautiful new sword. Also this kids she adopted or whatever. This sword, though..

Brody MacFlarnatarnastan – Not afraid to feed the animals. Oh damn, it’s time to feed the caveman again. “Here boy, here boy! Good boy!” Now where did I put that bomb?

Also Introducing:

Ugh – From a secluded tribe of caveman, Ugh was pressed into service after declaring a Life Debt to the dwarf with power of fire

Sad Johnny – Newly freed wizard boy, just looking for love in all of the places.

Before leaving town, our party gathered a handful of interesting rumors, from barrooms, libraries, and back alleys, there was news to be had!

  • “Word on the street is, that a bard came through town, telling tales of a lost treasure, and had need of a wilderness master to locate it, he was willing to share some of his loot for the help..”
  • “There is a dwarf, living off in the feet of the mountains, who brews spirits what can make you, among other things, breathe fire, if you like that sort of thing..”
  • “Be wary of the cat running the store here.. He’s a liar and a cheat, but we cant find our old shop-keep anywhere.”
  • “Can you be lied to by a ghost? ‘Cause I think one took me for all my coin, a few days ago..” *passes out drunk*
  • “Buy that bar wench a drink, she might make it worth your while… Just.. Don’t actually let her hear you call her that… Ever..”
  • “I fell into a well once, and when I looked up, I all I saw were stars, shining in the dark. I thought I had slept ’till night, but it turned out to be silver stars on a banner. I dropped it climbing out, and could never find it again when I went back.”
  • “I found this tiny bit of metal, like a broach or pin, and some lord paid me TWENTY gold coins for it.. *Burp* this rounds on me!”
  • “A witch fell in love with a solider from Arica, but was spurned by him. She cursed him, saying his heart of stone would be his downfall, as it had been hers.”
  • “Lost to the ages, there is reported to be a set of magical items, worn like clothing, that give the owner inhuman strength.”

So, right after I post about hirelings, two of my players decide magically to take on help, bulking up the groups “unlucky bastard” quota. As the new week beings, Brody spent a few days of his time hunting a tribe of Wildmen, basically throwbacks to a less evolved human, that roamed the deep mountain valleys, outside of town. He brought with him the secret of fire, and one of the burly locals fell down in worship. What this really means, is that Brody has hired on a caveman, named Ugh, to be his loyal pack-bearer. Not very bright, but strong of back, Ugh follows wherever Brody goes, just waiting to help. Until he gets scared, and runs up a tree, like a cat, on all fours. To me, this is the quintessential hench. Hides in the background and carries things silently. Sometimes someone throws them a treat. Given loan of a carrying yoke and some some empty sacks, Ugh isn’t burdened down with things like clothes. As befits his status, Ugh wears only a fur loincloth and strap-harness, for pulling sleds full of his Boss’s treasure. I’m sure Brody has plans for fleets of henchmen and a company logo, already drawn up..

Up next, Zen becomes a mommy!

Sad Johnny, the wizard’s apprentice the party apparently emancipated last session, just kind of followed them into town, and waited around for someone to tell him where to go. When the party asked where he came from, Sad Johnny claimed to have come, “About 9 or 10 days by ship before someone sold him to the elf, for 80 bucks, and they’d throw in a jug of cheap wine. Which he then carried, a days walk, to that shitty old house. Out in the woods. His job was to do the wizard’s chores, get drugs for the girls, and go get groceries in town. It occurs to me, as I write this, Sad Johnny is a low level character in an MMO.. He gets one daily quest, be it, “Go out in the field, and bring me 12 of these special mushrooms. It’s for my magic! Yeah.. My magic….” or “Go into town, and shoplift from 6 different markets, so we have food!” maybe even “Go down to the arboretum and kill those pesky dire-gophers!”. That’s life for hench.

Apparently the pathetic little wizard’s story touched the rogue’s heart, because Zen offered to pay for the kid to stay in town a week, before making it official, and taking the boy on as her Apprentice. “Yeah, of course I can train him as a wizard.. !” Unfortunately Sad Johnny, (Now and forever to be known as Sad Harry, FYI. ) seems to have a different idea about what is going on. What HE saw, was these great people take him out of that shitty house, and then gave him a week in a hotel where he gets to drink liquor, nap on the table, and then get some breakfast. AND THEN, this really nice lady in the fancy purple cloak tells him, he can come and live with her! Isn’t that great!? Gonna be way better than working for that crazy wizard, and his terrifying orc manservant..

So yeah, if this won’t turn into a sitcom, I don’t know what will. We get prefect strangers, AND My two dads, both just kinda.. not..

When the party decided to set the captive elf lose in the woods, rather than pay his bill at the inn, Sad Johnny asked for the right to kill him. He had treated the boy very poorly since his purchase, and the party seemed OK with justice being done. As Johnny led the old wizard away from town, bound and gagged, he started to wonder aloud where to take the elf, before quickly stabbing his borrowed dagger into his captives kidneys from behind, over and over. He then began to cry for his mother, taking several hours to recover.

In lighter news, When not mothering the foundling, Zen spent her free time with her sword-master, learning to handle the new elven backsword, which she never let away from her side. When she wasn’t in a lesson, tightening up her parry, Zen would be polishing her blade, and oiling the leather on its scabbard.

Grognak gave The Red lady a list of supplies he would need for his next project, and thankfully, she was able to find a large load of iron ingots, a hide of warg leather, and the shinbone of a giant. Asking no questions, Everynne delivered the parcels, and watched as Grognak tipped a short wizard for some help, stripped to the waist and began hammering on an anvil, owned by the local blacksmith. Spending the next 30 hours hammering away with the help of Jianjun, finally crafting a new weapon, nicknamed “Gatecrasher(s)” by the local barbarians. Tipped with a wicked spike one on head, and a greataxe blade on the other, Gatecrasher is nearly 6 feet tall, more weapon than a lesser man could wield. Sadly, with all his time spend at work, Grognak had no time for carousing and gathering rumors this week.

Jianjun split his time between assisting Grognak at the forge, using his knowledge of steel, and deep in study within the library of the church. Mastering the ability to drive out demons through exorcism, Jianjun Developed the power dismiss them with a wave, not the hours it would take a lesser priest.

Frau Blucher, impressed by the martial upgrades of her comrades, was honored to donate a small sum to the church, who then bestowed upon her a holy silver axe. A dwarven battleaxe with a hammerhead on its back side, the weapon is cast in silver, and blessed by a a high priest to deliver extra damage to the Undead. The Frau graciously accepted “Ghoulsbane”, and pledged to “Hold her heathen hammer high”, which seemed to please a group of priests dedicated to Tyr that toiled nearby.

The Red lady spent her days networking. Wanting to find a way to utilize the manuals the party recovered from Arcanoth, Everynne arranged an appearance with local Scholar of note, Eben Everstar. A renowned keeper of knowledge, and knower of things, Everstar is also heard to be a patron to another up-and-coming delving party here in town. He invited The wizardess to meet with him just after lunch on Thorsday. Hoping to impress the lord with good company, Everynne brought charming Zen, and prim Jianjun along as her entourage. Upon her arrival, Lord Everstar informed the wizardess (And only the wizardess, as he ignored the rest of the assembled party completely, aside from once referring to “your servants”) that he was interested in the manual as well, and agreed to teach Everynne the dead language, if she would give him the book in payment. That seemed reasonable, as the party still would own the other manual, which was damaged, but still mostly intact.

This would be contingent on something the Lord wanted the party to accomplish for him first, an audition, of sorts. Willing to go along with the plan, The Red Lady questioned Zen, known to be able to detect liars, and received the rogue’s thumbs up.  Lord Eben stated that his request was simple. He wanted the party to bring him a woman. This particular woman would not want to go with the party, but she must be made to do so. He wanted her alive, and relatively unharmed. Complete this simple task, and they could do further business, perhaps for another item, which he just happened to have on hand, and thought the party might find interesting. *Clap clap* Lord Eben’s servant Raul entered the room with a small box, and opened it to display a black dagger, with a wavy blade and the image of a black sun on its pommel. It matched the two daggers already in the parties possession. Raoul was released,and left the room. After telling the party that the woman they needed to find was known as Elsea the Crone, but he had no idea where she was. That, he droned, was why he hired them. *Clap clap* Raoul returned with a matching box, containing a long, dirty gray dreadlock. The cleric took the lock of hair, nodded to Lord Eben, an act that went unacknowledged, and led the party as they left the room.

Gathering the remainder of the party, and informing them of the plan, the only question came from Brody, “So we have to bring them the woman, what about anything we might “find” along the way?” convinced that the party could turn any recovered goods into cash, the dwarf was more than willing to sign on. “Let’s go make that money!” And off they went.

With no trail for the barbarian to track, the party looked for a more esoteric way to locate their prey, turning to The Red Lady, asking for a magical solution. Everynne said there WAS a spell, but she had never added it to her repertoire. “Erlang Shen has granted me such miracles” stated the Priest, startling the party, all around. After attaching the dreadlock to the end of his quarterstaff by a thread, Jianjun prayed to his lord for guidance, and the lock of hair began to pull in a single direction, pointing the way.

Grognak began to bushwhack their way though the dense forest, making slow by steady progress, must lamenting that the spell directed them as the crow flies, rather than along any formed path. Several hours in, the barbarian found a mostly dry creek-bed, leading in mostly the right direction, and making for a much easier journey for him, specifically. Brody, showing a rare moment of caution, wondered aloud, “should be be walking in this big ditch? Seems like a good way to get ambushed..” Convinced this was likely solid reasoning, the party climbed up onto one of the banks, and stopped briefly for a snack.

As Jianjun called forth a pot of miraculous noodles for the party to feast upon, Brody scoffed at their “magical human slop” and ordered Ugh to fetch him a dwarven ration from his now considerable reserves. While the group ate, Brody ordered Ugh up a nearby tree to scan for anything nearby. Once up the tree, Ugh peered about, and asked “Want Ugh get bag?” pointing further along the riverbed. This grabbed the parties attention, and and sparked a resounding reply of “Bag? What bag? Yes go get the bag!”. Ugh seemed happy to oblige, but had one question first.. “What about big bug?”.

Ugh pointed to something just out of sight down the creek, which prompted most of the group to draw weapons, unsure what a big bug was, but more than ready to test their new upgrades against whatever it was. Until Grognak identified the wet looking over-sized anteater that shuffled into view. “Oh Krom.. Rust Monster…”

I had begun planning ahead for wandering monster rolls, hoping to make them more balanced and enjoyable, for both me and the party. When I realized that I could throw in the occasional custom made beasty, I immediately went in search of this one, hopefully created in GURPS so I didn’t have to make it myself. I found that someone had, in fact, statted them up for me, and the write-up looked perfect. Then I saw it. It had been posted by one of my players. Can’t have one of the inmates designing the asylum, that just would not do. So the first thing I did was to beef it up.. I should have made it faster too… But hindsight and all that. Also, it should be noted, Rust Monsters were described to me the first time as an ant eater, with long nose and antennae, rather than the crustacean that is so common, so that’s how mine look.

As the creature sniffed its way down the creek, the party heard Grognak’s warning, and began to rethink their new toys. Dropping his axe, the barbarian picked up the largest rock he could find, while Zen thought better of this fight, and flitted from tree to tree, hiding best she could. Frau readied her old mace, waiting for the beast to come into range, hating to destroy the weapon, but willing to do her part.

The Red Lady began to gather energy for her favorite Fireball spell, while Brody began to put his own plan into action.

Removing his hat, Brody removed a bomb, round, black iron, with a short fuse, and threw it down into the mud a few yards ahead of the rust monsters nose. Seeing where this was going, Jianjun began to power his own spell, and waited.

The rust monster withstood the impact of Grognak’s boulder, and the flaming magics of The Red Lady, if only holding onto life to satisfy its hunger for the delicious-looking iron sphere in front of it. Finally limping its way to the prize, it opened wide, scooped it into its mouth, just as Jianjun shot forth a beam of holy light into its face, igniting the bomb. There was a muted explosion, which launched the beast’s shell straight up into the air, leaving a pile of stew meat below. It landed with a squishing sound, causing the party to cheer, and the music to play.

Sadly, the damage was such that even though Zen wanted to eat some of the beast, Grognak couldn’t find the pieces he knew to be edible. I worry about my players, sometimes. I really do.

Once the party rested, and recovered from the fight, Brody took Ugh to look at this bag the caveman mentioned earlier. Traveling a hundred yards or so down-river, so to speak, he did indeed find a backpack, sitting alone in the middle of the creek. “Yeah, that seems legit, I’ll head back to the party and let them know it’s totally normal.” When given further inspection, Brody noted a simple rope trap surrounding the pack, that would fling whoever attempted to take it, into the air. Summoning Ugh to head back, the Wildman’s attention was taken by a squirrel running in the creek, leading him at a sprint back towards the party. As Ugh neared his prey, with Brody close at his heels, an arrow struck the squirrel, and caused the wildman to burst into tears, and Brody to burst into, well.. Flames.

Brody took the skewered Squirrel to mean only one thing, the party was under attack, and they were under attack by elves. Seeing this as the only course of action, Brody ignited his burner, (the fantasy version of a dwarven flamethrower) and began to blast his stream of fire into the trees all around him, while screaming, wild eyed, that everything needed to burn, deaf to the cries the rest of the party around him.

Looking about for what foe could have set off her dwarven brethren, Frau, atop her trusty mount, pointed skyward, alerting her companions to the small village of huts, built far above in the trees, just as a familiar voice rung out “GIVE ME BACK MY SWORD!!!”

This is where our episode ends for this week.. perhaps not exactly here, but in the effort of good storytelling, we will end here for today, but come back next week, when we return for the thrilling conclusion – “I Ain’t Afraid of No Ghost!”

While no XP was rewarded for a mission half finished, Brody once again earned the Cool Point, for his use of his bomb as Monster Main Course.

Dungeon Fantasy S01E03: Wizards, Tramps and Thieves

 

Lets Greet out contestants, starting with our returning champions;

Everynne, The Red Lady – Mover and shaker about town, making friends and hording the deep arcane all for herself. Perhaps a little TOO generous with her cleansing flame..

Frau Blucher – Fearless in the face of pitfalls, and bane of evil wizards everywhere. Steadfast by the Frau’s side isGunter – Recently elevated from dancing circus expat to mighty ally in the war on evil.

Grognak – Skilled student in the art of warfare, and inspector of fine… Merchandise.

Jianjun – Too hot for his own good, and voice of the reasonable treatment of arms.

Zen – Picker of locks, and finder of tools. Also oddly attracted to doors. We won’t ask about that..

And introducing;

Brody MacFlarnatarnastan Dwarven Demolisher; keeper of the deep lore, and master of curse disposal. Basically the cool new kid in town.

In the days between adventures, the party had spent their time bettering themselves in and around town. The Red Lady sequestered herself in deep study of her arcane tomes, increasing her mastery of Fire magic, and committing a number of new spells to her repertoire (Increased her fire Magery and added new spells). The Frau toiled out behind the church, learning the ways of the dwarven distilling masters, hoping to lessen her overhead when passing the flask in Hanseath’s name (Learned Distilling skill). Grognak volunteered long days with the town guard, learning the ways of a trained fighter, as to better leverage his enormous strength. (Added Combat Reflexes). Jianjun spent his time in either rigorous exorcise or deep meditation, praying to Erlang Shen, to better understand His miracles. (Increased his endurance and learned several new spells.)

Zen had taken deep appreciation of the sword masters of Arica, and devoted herself to their ways, apprenticing herself to them, in hopes of becoming a master herself. (Zen’s player decided to begin on the path to the Swashbuckler lens, taking several skills, and increasing her HT.)

As The Frau and Gunter spent a silent moment toasting the sunset over the city wall, another dwarf stopped momentarily, to pet and praise the gentle beast. As mysterious dwarf departed, Frau noted that Gunter seemed to have become more powerful, and shined brightly with Holy Light. (Frau’s player invested a large number of points to upgrade Gunter from simple mount to official Holy Ally, nearly doubling his value in points, and making him MUCH more capable. He’s still not much of a juggler.)

In their off hours, the group gathered a number of interesting rumors;

-“Do not trust him, he seeks to betray you…”

-(Overheard) “Yeah, she loves me today, but by tomorrow, it will probably be you, or that big guy over there.. she never stays in love long, anymore”

-“If you see that guy Emery in town, just.. ugh.. don’t listen to him, hes worthless”

-“You can make good coin by sell- er, “RETURNING” Holy relics to the church..”

-“A trio of Lizard-Men have been coming to town once or twice a month, to buy.. Things, which they then carry out under cover of darkness.”

-“I’ve heard that there’s a real good poker game here ’bouts, but they don’t ever invite me.. You mind buying this next round?”

-“I swear to Pelor, I saw a bear, juggling, down behind the inn.  I would give my life’s savings to see it juggle FIRE… You’re buying, right?”

-“There is a secret Cabal of wizards in Arica, who have lost an important relic, but are too ashamed to admit how, or where.”

-“Far from town lies a keep, once grand and fine, now in ruins, home only to a dead knight, who once walked among the living. He seeks release.”

-“Galegal The Ageless claimed he would return to Arica only when he had the power to rule over it. He claimed not even the gods would stop him.”

-“There is a lonely Woman in one of the local bars, shes falls in love easily, but fall out just as fast.. be wary of that one..”

Our episode begins a week later, around the breakfast table, once again amidst the crowds in the Salacious Unicorn.

The Party arrived at their usual table, refreshed from a long rest after their adventure the week before. Once the barkeep brought their breakfast of lukewarm gruel, lamenting the loss of her waitstaff, she slipped quickly into Jianjun’s lap, giving him a plate of smoked ham steaks and eggs, ignoring Zen’s request for eggs herself. The cleric pushed his plate aside, shifted the waitress off his lap politely as a man can dump a grown woman off his lap by force, and tucked into bowl of porridge.

Before Zen could take possession of the only delicious breakfast, a skulking form form the next table slid into an empty chair and helped himself to what appeared to be an unattended meal. Between bites he introduced himself as Brody MacFlarnatarnastan, a local adventurer himself, hoping to find some measure of work here at the inn. “You seem like a trustworthy sort, strange dwarf with the totally normal full facial tattoo, please join us!” Sometimes it’s just that easy to add a new player to the group.

As the group picked through their delicious gruel, they discussed the tome they recovered the night before in the ancient library. As Grognak pulled it from his bag, Everynne commented that the night before appeared to radiate a powerful level of arcane enchantment.

Despite the magical nature of the book, it was completely lacking in any language known to the group. They did, however, discover a strange metal pin, shaped like a 7-pointed star, hidden deep within its pages.

The pin appeared to be the source of the enchantment, sparking awe from The wizardess only to have Frau Blucher and the cleric exclaim that it couldn’t possibly be enchanted, as it was clearly a holy relic, and as anyone with any skill would know, an item could not be both. (Note: Items can be enchanted by wizards or clerics, but as per the way I interpret GURPS’s DF rules, they are never both at once. This didn’t seem to interest the party at first, but it is worth noting here.)

The pin itself was VERY old, made of what the dwarf explained was Electrum, an alloy of silver and gold. The back of the pin featured no clasp or grommet, and only strands of whatever purple fabric on which it had once hung.

Lounging about after finishing their “meal”, three young men interrupted meekly, introducing themselves as initiates of the local wizards guild, sent to invite The Red Lady to meet with their masters, this very morning. Right now. Right away. Please. The mage saw no reason why not to, excused herself, and headed off, to see what the other wizards were up to.

The three initiates brought Everynne to a poshly appointed workshop, she was plied with expensive elven wines, of which she is very fond. (Note: more than half the party has at least a quirk-level predilection to one sort of cocktail or another) The Red Lady was kept waiting only a few moments before several journeyman members of the guild arrived, and began inundating her with questions about a book of unknown text that she had been overheard discussing earlier. Finding no reason to hide the book, she agreed to give them a quick peek. After several minutes of perusing the text, the wizards agreed that while they had also failed to interpret the language, they seemed certain that they knew where to find answers.

The assembled mages offered to take the tome off her hands for a handsome fee, and quickly produced a bag clinking loudly with coin. Everynne weighed the options and politely declined. She asked if she might know where to seek out this information herself, not willing to give up what could be powerful knowledge indeed.

Information was said to be in the hands of a rogue wizard, known only, ironically, as Arcanoth the Unknown. It appeared that Arcanoth had made off with a number of valuable items from the other wizards when he was… Invited to leave town, some number of months ago. If, and only if, Everynne and her partners would agree to give these three first pick of what they brought out of Arcanoth’s horde, they would give her his location. Giving it a moments thought, She agreed, received a beautiful but WILDLY inaccurate map, and made her way back the group.

Upon her return to the party, the group informed the Wizardess they had decided to set out for the wilderness, and see what adventure could be found. Bags were grabbed, and procession was made for the deep wilderness.

Once out of town, the group stopped briefly to receive a blessing each from Jianjun, at which time The Red Lady divulged the events of her meeting with the group. Nods all around seemed to indicate an agreement, with only their newest member Brody, asking what exactly the payoff would be, rubbing his hands together in anticipation, and being much dejected when the answer was “I dunno?”.

Grognak was able, with some small amount of head scratching, able to read the wizards’ map, which while beautifully written, was horribly out of scale. After a few minutes, they party was able to set out, with the large barbarian leading the procession, bushwhacking their path with his warhammer.

After less than an hours hike, Brody broke from the 17th verse of the song of his people, to ask loudly, “So, should we stop to eat?” and looked from face to face, hoping someone would be game to open a pack, his own being empty. He had stolen a few bites of ham earlier, but decided not to press the issue when Zen claimed the plate for herself.

Thankfully, Grognak was more than willing to enjoy second-breakfast, which was enough to convince the rest of the party. As Frau went looking into her saddlebags, Jianjun revealed that Erlang Shen had granted him the miracle of creation, and set about praying for, and being granted, a meal of delicious vegetable stew, more than enough for the party to dine on. The dwarf broke into praise “All hail Whatshisname! All hail Whatshisname!” before digging in.

Once satiated, the party again resumed their hike, making good time once Grognak was able to find a solid trail to follow. Just after mid-day, Jianjun halted progress to point out a strange well, set just off their trail, in a small clearing, manicured and dotted with wildflowers. “So, like in a storybook? That’s normal, sure…” The party decided to stop shortly to investigate. Finding a crank to pull up a bucket of water, Grognak hauled up a fresh bucketful, but was too cautious to take a drink. Being who she is, Everynne decided to see if the liquid in the well would burn. And sure enough, it did.. With a strange blue flame.

While most of the party stared at the strange flame in awe, Brody, using his knowledge of all things burnable and combustible, exclaimed loudly “That’s alcohol!”, then blew out the flame, and began to drink thirstily from the bucket.

Feeling a strange sensation, but no lasting intoxication, Brody drank again, and achieved the same. Brody drank from a cursed well, but his will was stronger than the evil magic, and he resisted its effects both times, it would, in fact, have made him drunk until the curse could have been removed, had he failed. Once the holy members of the party witnessed the occurrence, they proclaimed it Cursed. While Jianjun and Frau discussed how best to cleanse the area, Brody offered up another suggestion; “Why don’t we just blow it up?” and held up a sack, heavy with explosives..

Every member of the party watched intently as Brody brought out a container of Shattersand, A secret formula known only to a small sect of dwarves, shared with NO ONE. EVER. He took precise measurements of the well in question, dug several small holes, did a special dance, took a union-mandated 15 minute break, and finally waved the rest of the party to a safe distance. Grinning like madman, Brody lit the fuse and waited for the show.

An explosion that astonished even the fire mage, the well first exploded out, and then caved in upon itself, creating nothing so much as a deep indentation in the earth. Satisfied with his work, The group congratulated the dwarf and headed back on their way. (Note: this earned Brody’s player the Cool Point for the session, and I’ll be honest, it was well deserved. Not the simplest way to handle the problem, but definitely entertaining.

Within an hour, the party reached the end of their map, and discovered… a small field with a hut, placed up against a cliff. Laying in front of the small straw hut, a large black dragon, snoring loudly.

Given a moment to comprehend what the party saw, they sent the Pirate to make first contact. What could go wrong? As soon as Zen made progress into the field, the Dragon woke, reared back on its haunches and began to roar at the group. “Be gone from here, interlopers! Come any closer and be destroyed utterly! I would feast upon your flesh!” The dragon then returned to its sleep.

Being less than frightened of the great beast, Grognak and Brody approached, Warhammer ready, and bomb in hand, watching the dragon intently. As they came within a dozen yards, the Dragon woke once again, and delivered the exact same message, at which time Brody launched his bomb into the dragons open mouth. The bomb exploded, and the dragon popped like a bubble. The wizardess identified the phenomenon as a Phantom spell, a power illusion, but much less dangerous than any real dragon.

Feeling that any danger had passed, Zen decided to investigate the hut, sprinting towards it, and as she neared the entrance, disappeared from view. The party took this as an ill omen. Zen noticed no disappearance, but DID notice the hut vanish and a large, dilapidated mansion pop into view in front of her. This, she exclaimed, was more like it.

The party were less than pleased with the disappearance of their stealthy companion, and sent Frau in next to investigate. As soon as the dwarf approached, she too vanished, causing more alarm among the team. Jianjun approached more cautiously, never breaking the threshold, but instead thrusting his quarterstaff towards the hut instead, only to solicit a loud yelp, followed by the re-appearance of Zen, sword in hand, ready to fight. (when Jianjun’s player announced that he was poking with his staff, I made him roll “to hit” and a random location roll.. of course the first was a critical success, and the second landed on “groin”.. so yes.,. Now, in some cultures, Zen and the cleric are married..)

Upon Zen’s exit from the illusion, it dissipated, showing all around the true form of the old mansion. Centered around a large heavy wooden door. Seeing no further dangers, the party pried the enraged thief off of Jianjun long enough to check the front door. Drawing close to check the door for traps, Zen caught the faint odor of perfume, as she checked the lock “Hmmm.. So it’s a Sexy door.. OK..”

Zen found no physical traps, but did notice a strange, glowing yellow rune, set into the doors center. Before she could reach out to examine it, The Red Lady stopped her short, recognizing the rune as a magical trap, one that should deliver a powerful shock if activated.. The party decided to let Frau try and disarm the rune, which she attempted by flinging her mace at the door itself. A blinding flash of lightning surrounded the mace, which then fell helplessly to the ground, the rune seemingly unaffected.

Failing to disable the rune before entrance, Grognak offered to use his own brand of barbarian trap-finding, and smashed the door soundly with his warhammer. Upon impact the giant north-man was surrounded by a blast of energy as the door slammed open, to no effect.. the rune itself was a clever illusion as well. “I think hate the guy who lives here… yep..” grumbled Brody as they entered.

The entry foyer was bare, spanning only 10 yards or so, and tiled with a strange pattern of hexagonal tiles, colored red, black and white, with a single gold tile in the center of the room. My own GM, Brody’s Player, once told our group “the easiest way to scare a gaming group, is to change the tiles on the floor.” I had wondered since if that was true, so I threw this in.) Zen was the first of the group brave enough to cross, taking a path just to the right of center, taking only black and white tiles, and crossed with no problems. The players looked to Jianjun, “What letter does the name of god start with?”

Seeing no danger at all, Frau charged straight ahead, caring little for colors and tiles, until she began to step on the center (gold) tile, and began to fall forward, before leaping into a perfect leaping front flip, landing and moving on, never breaking stride. Yes, this WAS a critical success on her DX check to avoid the pit trap.. Who expects the heavy fighter to make the Dexterity check?

Finding the single tile easy to avoid, the party moved on to the next door, finding neither trap nor lock. When opened, however, they revealed a mile long hallway, dotted with doors on either side, and at the far end. “Yep, I really hate this guy:.

Brody smashed a few of the floor tiles, tossing pieces down the strange hallway, noting that despite the unimpressive toss, the shard of tile seemed to travel the entire distance of the hall, but watching it almost gave one a headache, as the brain tried to understand what it was seeing. More Illusions.

As the party began its trek down the hall, Zed stopped to pick and open one of the side doors, only to find it leading nowhere, to a solid wall. Brody briefly considered simply destroying the wall itself, but thought better of it when he realized the state of the house might not take such an explosion without falling in on itself.

Making their way to the far side of the hall, which seemed to be only 30 feet long, Zen was easily able to open the door into the main hall of the home, filled with long tables, a large ruined fireplace, and several mismatched chairs in various states of disrepair. At one time, a grand staircase had led further into the house, but that wing had long since fallen away, and down the now overgrown cliff face. Taking a few minutes to poke around, the group found a few half eaten pieces of fruit, but little else. As Zen and Brody passed opposite ends of a long table, they spotted a bottle of good rum, hidden between two bowls of rotten fruit. After a tense moment of eye contact, both members sprinted for the bottle, with Zen making use of her long human legs and fast sprint, to snatch up the bottle, and stash it in her pack with a smug look.”

Having their pick of doors, the party started just to the left of where they came in, on a door that was locked from this side, with a latch. Upon opening it, they faced a hazy room, deep with cushions, and half-conscious women. Clearly a Harem, which interested some members of the party more than others.. Grognak, it mostly interested Grognak.

Inspecting the room was easy, as the.. *ahem* Ladies, had to fight even to answer simple questions, finding out only that their boss would be back at sundown, and did the party have any liquor. Finding the answers less than helpful, they moved on to the next room, which they found heavily locked, and trapped, both of which Zen was able to circumvent easily. While Zen handled the lock, Brody took a moment to shake down the ladies, making sure they weren’t armed, or well paid, in the end, netting a handful of coin, and a new dagger. Grognak was tasked with checking the women more closely, because he had already begun to do so, of his own accord.. no one asked what, exactly he was looking for under their skirts, but he never seemed to find it, and kept looking.

Inside was a bedchamber, mostly in disarray, but littered with the accouterments of a warrior; armor stand, weapon maintenance gear, etc. Zen, never to let a room go unmolested, began a thorough search, turning up a tool here and there, eventually collecting an entire blacksmiths kit, and a bag of coin, which found its way into her pouch, forgotten later, sadly, when it came time to pool the treasure. This was yet a ANOTHER critical success, on the search roll, finding the kit, as I’d planned, and 2d6 worth of coin which I deemed a prize for the level of success. I enjoy rewarding such things. Brody helped himself to a clean blanket, not having one, himself.

Moving on, back the way they had come, the party decided to lock the ladies INTO the harem, spiking the door with Brody’s new dagger. Moving clockwise around the great hall,they next entered a long room, mostly empty, aside from the far end, filled with pillows and strange device, which Zen identified as a Hookah. Making a plan to finish up searching by sundown, and setting in wait for the harem’s boss, the party decided to revisit this room later, in celebration of a job well done.

Next room up on the round-robin, was a small antechamber, with a door to their right, and one straight ahead. Choosing the door to the right, Zen encountered a nicer lock than any other in the house, and found herself unable to unlock it. Grognak was happy to oblige, smashing a large hole in the heavy oak door. With the dim light in this room, and none in the next, the barbarian stuck his giant head through the hole to investigate. This, it turned out, was a poor idea, as an unknown screaming figure latched itself onto his neck, and began snarling and snapping at the barbarians throat.

Unable to do much else, Grognak pulled his head back through, bringing the snarling figure with it. As a screaming Grognak pulled free, the party witnessed an aged, emaciated elf clinging to their friend, which mostly elicited a scream from Frau Blucher, of “UNCLEAN!!!!” as she recognized it for the feral vampire it was. Grognak was able to grab a hold of the elf, holding it at bay, but unable to do much else in such close quarters. Reacting quickly, Zen ran the undead elf through with her sword, as Frau crushed half its skull with her trusty mace. The Red lady began to cast a spell to temporally enchant Grognak’s hammer with flame, only to be shouldered out of the way by Jianjun at the last moment, warning the flame-happy wizardess that it would have destroyed the weapons heavy wooden handle. While the vampire continued snapping and biting at Grognak, Brody smashed through the creatures skull with his warhammer, silencing it finally.

Unable to discern the other lumpy shapes in the small room in which the vampire had been kept, the party looked for The Red Lady to do her thing, bringing forth a jet of flame to immolate the room and everything therein, including the pieces left of the vampire. Finding little In the way of un-burned loot, the party entered the next room, found to be the kitchen.

Ransacking the kitchen was a unanimous decision, and turned up a large sack of groceries, and a fine dagger, having been used as a kitchen knife by whoever had cooked last. The party took every item in sight, with Grognak hauling along the sack of food, pleased as could be with the haul.

Having finished the left wing of the house, the party moved on the other, starting with the door nearest their entrance. Inside was a cozy study, with comfy chairs, the remains of a fire in the hearth, several bottles of liquor, and various other knickknacks. The group absconded with the liquor, but agreed to come back later and give it a deeper search. Moving on led the group loping back into a narrow hall, ended with an ajar door. Peeking inside revealed a decent sized library, 2 stories tall, with large pillars inside, extending to the tall roof. While the party looked around, Brody stared at the pillars, using his knowledge of architecture to realize that the center pillar was totally unneeded, the more you know, the easier it is to blow up… and declared his intent to set the pillar on fire. The Group convinced him to hold off, and explore through a large glass door in the south side of the room.

Through the glass doors led to a large arboretum, with large planters along 3 walls, hanging baskets of plants hanging from the mostly broken glass ceiling. At the far end, a large plan began to straighten, and then sniffed. “Johnny, is that you? Oh,,, and you’ve brought me friendssssss.” Aw crap, its Audrey II… Damnit!” Yes, I steal blatantly, giant plants are trope-appropriate.

As the large plant began to bob and move, large vines began to move among he deep foliage along the sides, effectively surrounding the party. Finally having a solid foe with which to engage, Grognak and Brody charged the over-sized creature, while Frau and Zen waged their own battle with its thick vines and attempted to snatch them up from the sides. Jianjun and Everynne began to charge their spells, hoping to rain down fire from a distance while the barbarian and his dwarven cohort found out that while living flesh fell easily to their large spiked warhammers, the plant was less vulnerable to such things. Though they did knock loose an undigested boot from the plants “mouth”. Given the time to cast their spells, while defended by the fighters, The wizardess and cleric unleashed their burning attacks, and managed to strike true, and burn the large creature in center mass, burning it down to its roots.

Watching nearly all the plants in the greenhouse wither and die within a matter of minutes, the party set about looking for anything valuable that the beast may have had. Sadly their search turned up only a mate to the boot they knocked lose earlier, though Grognak did uncover a potted sapling version of the man-eating plant, which he stashed away to take with him.

Returning to the library, Brody pulled out a pint of oil, lit the wick, and the jar onto the unnecessary pillar. The jar sailed through the wood side of the pillar, crashed into what sounded metal, and began to burn, destroying the illusion, and revealing a small spiral staircase, leading up.

Ascending the stairs, nearly ever member of the party managed to make their attempt at stealth, most by a great deal, but Frau botched the roll, clanking and tromping nearly as loudly as possible. Zen had been able to hear two voices at the top of the stairs, and found that they ended in a small chamber divided by heavy velvet curtain. As Frau came to the top of the stairs, she stuck her head through, seeing two startled figures, an orc, and an elf, leaning over a map spread on a desk. “Hi guys! Whats up?”

No one else taking initiative to start things, Frau stepped in to the room, causing the orc to draw his sword and shield and the elf to begin chanting in an unknown language. Knowing dark magic when she saw it, Frau drew and flung her mace, striking the elf in the chest, and knocking him to the ground. Grognak emerged from the curtain in mid-charge, heading for the orc, and smashing his warhammer deep into the fighters chest. I had INTENDED this to be a difficult fight, however bot of the first attacks rolled nearly maximum damage, and defenses were weak at best. I was disappointed. The orc survived the initial attack, and attempted to bring his sword to bear, until Grognak yanked the spike free, doing more than enough damage to bring the fighter down.

With the party no longer having a fight, they set about doing what they do best, and searched the room from top to bottom, inside and out.. Literally. The Red Lady, saddened not to get a change to burn anyone, pointed out that the sword and shield wielded by the orc were magical, and warned the party to be careful with them. As Zen stripped the orc and elf in turn, the noticed a few pieces of interest. First, was a necklace of what at first appeared to be scalps, but were identified by Frau and Brody as dwarven beards, taken as a battle trophy. These were left behind. The Elf, however had a piercing in one nipple, and was ALSO magical, and ripped clean off his body, causing the injured, but not dead wizard, to scream loudly, and begin cursing the party. The tirade caused Brody to kick the Elf in the groin and render him unconscious once again. As Frau went to recover the map they were reading, she found it gone, likely another illusion,

Also found was a badly water-damaged manual on the desk, which appeared to be a translation guide for the book they had found the week before. Pleased to find what they sought, but downhearted at its condition. Zen also became upset by finding a hidden, but open and empty safe, set into one wall.

Knowing there was more to find, the group asked Frau to revive the elf, with her knowledge of holy medicine (not magic), in order to question him.

Once awake, the elf, who identified himself as “Arcanoth the Unknown!” offered them whatever they wanted to leave him alive. He directed them to the book on his desk, and jabbed his head in the direction of the far wall where he said his safe was hidden. When in formed that the book was ruined and the safe empty,he began to swear and curse about a boy. “The boy! Find the damn boy!” feeling the elf was less than useful, they party knocked him out again, much to everyone’s approval.

Finding it near dark, and having no wish to head into the forest at night, the group decided to barricade themselves inside the study, and wait for morning, Feeling the harem should enjoy a bit of celebration with the group. Sending Zen to gather the hookah, she entered the hall, only to spot a young man, Looking exactly like the Depressed <Excerpt removed for copyright reasons> that she had slain the week before, in the underground complex. As they locked eyes through the hall, he snapped his fingers and vanished. Finding no one else appearing, Zen grabbed the hookah, a nearby bag of a strange white powder found later to be called Moon Sugar, a fantasy narcotic, and a comfy pillow before making her way back to the party.

After a night of drinking and revel, the party made a last check of the room, finding another bottle of good elven brandy, and two nice high-backed chairs. One covered in velvet, the other in what Grognak informed them was Giant Ape leather. Believing both to be valuable, the party put together makeshift liters, and tasked the harem, now decided to be returning with the group, to carrying the chairs on the trip.

As the party made egress, the entered the antechamber, where upon the gold tile stood the you g man Zen had spied the night before, standing over a small gilded chest of coins. The boy identified himself as the wizards apprentice, and offered a deal. If the party returned the girls, and left the food, he would give them the tome they came for, AND the wizard’s gold. Refusing to give up the girls, the party passed the obvious illusion and exited the front door, only to find the apprentice re-casting the Phantom of the dragon, outside.

Finding himself outclassed and outnumbered, the apprentice tried to bargain with the party, but lost, admitting that all he wanted was a chance with the GIRLS.. in the end, he agreed to return to town with the party, as long as he was able to abuse the unconscious elf on the way back. All were in agreement, and they headed for home, encountering no resistance on the way.

Upon their return, the harem thanked them for returning them to their town, and began to run for their homes, most to various wizards towers, and half a dozen for the Inn, where they had lived and worked before being taken by the wizard and his lackeys.

The only unhappy faces the party saw, were the trio of wizards who had given Everynne the map to begin with.. The group approached the party as the women departed, arms folded and moods dark.  “We told you we wanted first pick!”  The party stared blankly first at the wizards, and then their own mage, and then back.  “When we said treasure, *wink wink* WE MEANT THE GIRLS!”  The Red lady only shrugged,mumbling something about being more clear the next time, and the trio exited the street, commenting that they considered this a debt not paid, and one on which they would collect soon. This would be a lesson to NPC’s and GM’s alike, not to give subtle details to someone when also plying them with strong drink.. Still made for good roleplaying.

Disposing of the loot, the party netted $1,276 apiece, as well as the same share to the party’s reserve fund, saving for a rainy day. The only item not sold was the Orc’s unusual sword.  The weapon-savvy Jianjun  identified the weapon as a Very Fine  backsword, an elven crafted blade with a single edge and a sharp point, and an ornate basket hilt.  The blade was pristine, even for what the cleric reported to be an ancient sword,  with a the words “Meetima Me’a” engraved near the hilt.  Everynne said it seemed like elven, but not any dialect she was aware of.  A local wizard was hired to analyze the spells laid on the blade, and claimed that the blade had been enchanted with Puissance, causing it to deliver greater blows than strength alone would allow.  The wizard thought he could sense other spells, but failed to identify anything further.  Happy with his $14 paycheck, the enchanter wished the party well.  Even without the skill to wield the blade properly, Zen claimed it for herself, rarely letting it out of her grasp, and never out of her sight.  Zen also seemed to forget about the Hookah when the group piled up loot to be sold..  I’m sure this was an oversight.

There was no talk of what to do with the now seriously injured Elf, nor the apprentice who the party attempted to give to the bartender, with no luck. Those issues will be handled next session.

The group were each issued 11 XP for the session, with the Cool Point going to Brody for his disposal of the cursed well.

Now that the party is growing in points and wealth, I expect that certain things will beginning to become necessary, such as higher quality gear, and hirelings, both of which will require their own post as we go along.

Well, it was a long tale, but it has been told. Join us again next time, Please and Thank you!

-Conner