Friday, March 29, 2013

Game Session 2013/03/24

Sophie O'Griffin, human, the leader and ringmaster. Played by Echo.
Esmond Gellert, human, trick-shot archer and dog trainer. Played by Mike.
Ganz, elf, stage magician and wizard. Played by Jessica.
Quexechetl, lizard man, strongman and wrestler. Played by Karl.
Talman, half-elf, acrobat. Played by Joe.
Fiorio, human, a peasant with a knack for playing to the crowd that the circus picked up along the way. Played as an NPC.

June 30, 850, in the cellar of a ruined wizard's tower in the Bekel

When we last saw our heroes, they had just scrambled to safety in an underground chamber below a ruined wizard's tower, while undead orcs prowled around outside, held back only by a magical ward. It was an hour or so after midnight, and they had no idea how long the ward would last.

The chamber was circular with a corbel dome, and somewhat smaller in diameter than the ruined tower above. Inside, a table and chair stood against the wall on one side, a cabinet against on the other side, and on the floor was a circle of dwarven symbols. Ganz immediately recognized that the cabinet had a magical aura.

The cabinet stood a bit taller than a dwarf, and had two full-length doors in front. It was covered with square panels divided by broad X-shapes, six on the front and three on each side. Quexechetl immediately tried to open it. It was locked, but a key lay on top, easily spotted by someone of Quexechetl's height. Inside, the cabinet was divided by a partition down the middle, with shelves on the right and pegs on the left, presumably for hanging clothes. There were some crumbled bits of cloth on the floor on the left, and the shelves held a handful of bottles with dried-up stains at the bottoms. There were also a couple of pen quills. One of the bottle appeared to have held ink, but the rest of the contents were unidentifiable.

The table also held a few dried-up bottles, but was otherwise unremarkable. Ganz inspected the circle of symbols on the floor. He recognized some of them as being the same as the glyphs carved around the outside of the tower, and tentatively identified the design as a summoning circle, but he wasn't familiar enough with dwarven magic to say more.

Quexechetl tried to move the cabinet, but it was firmly fixed to the wall. The performers then began experimenting with the cabinet in order to discover its magic, getting inside, pushing and pulling on the pegs, rapping on it, and so on. They discovered that the shelves could be folded up toward the center partition, and that then the partition could be folded back to the right side, leaving the whole interior of the cabinet undivided. When this was done, the pegs could be pushed in so that they were flush with the inside back wall.

"I feel like I'm in one of those video games where you just click on everything to figure out how the puzzle works."
Echo (Sophie)

Sophie discovered that the X-shapes on the panels on the outside could be pressed inward with a click, and she and Talman tried clicking them in various combinations to see if something would happen, but they didn't get anywhere. Ganz took a more methodical approach and discovered that if he clicked in the top Xes, he could then turn them, and this released the cabinet from the wall. Quexechetl moved it aside, and behind it there was a passage leading away from the underground chamber.

The circus members filed into the passage and dragged the cabinet to cover the entryway behind them. As soon as they left, Ganz felt that the magical barrier holding the dead orcs back had collapsed. Their way lit by Sophie's lantern, they went down and, as far as they could tell, parallel to the mountainside. After a few gentle turns, they emerged into the night air from a crack between two boulders.

It was very dark, the moon having set a couple of hours ago. They could see the fires of King Miklo's army, and the vague shadows of the host of dead orcs who were fighting them, in the valley below them, about a mile or so north. Esmond, who wore the night-seeing pendant below his clothes, could see as clearly as day, and noticed a group of figures standing on a rocky promontory across the valley, something like a quarter mile away.

Quexechtl immediately wanted to go join the fighting, and after a brief debate, the rest of the performers decided that getting a better view of the group on the promontory was a better idea than simply hiding and waiting until dawn. Sophie didn't like the idea of taking on twenty orcs, but she went along with the majority opinion. She tried to keep her lantern as well-covered as she could, and they all stumbled down the dark mountainside.

As they grew closer, Esmond could see, first, that they were indeed orcs, and later that one of them carried a staff of some kind. He counted about twenty of them, although the uneven, rocky ground could have hidden some more. A couple hundred yards away, they stopped and made a plan. Esmond would creep around to the right, which would put him to the orcs's rear, assuming they were watching the battle below them. He would get close enough to take an aimed shot at staff-bearer's heart, hoping to kill him with one arrow. The rest would move forward directly, and when close enough, Ganz would cast a spell to throw an exploding fireball at them. This would be the signal for Esmond's shot.

Ganz was a little dubious of this plan, since his power over magical forces was a little low, but he relented and agreed. Esmond left to make his flanking maneuver, and the rest crept forward in the darkness. At about twenty-five yards, they stopped, and Ganz cast his spell. It flared up, and he held a fireball in his hand. A very good one, he felt, and aimed it as well as he could in the darkness.

Esmond, as he got closer, saw that the orcs were a mixed group of the living and the re-animated dead, with the dead orcs forming a perimeter around the living. He also noticed that one of the orcs carried a shield, and appeared to be in command, given his body language. Hoping that Ganz's spell would kill the staff-bearer, he switched targets and took aim at the orc leader.

Ganz threw his fireball, but his aim was bad. Missing the staff-bearer, he instead hit another orc a few yards away. With a great boom, it exploded, throwing all the orcs into confusion. On this signal, Esmond loosed his arrow and caught the commander solidly in the back.

But the commander did not fall, and quickly shouted orders to his troops. He started getting them into a line of battle facing toward Esmond, where the arrow had come from. Talman and Quexechetl ran forward while Esmond drew another arrow. Sophie drew her own bow, and Ganz moved forward slowly, wondering if he could come up with any way to control the undead orcs.

Esmond's second shot stuck the staff-bearer, who fell on his face and laid there unmoving. Talman and Quexechetl reached the ring of dead orcs that surrounded the live ones and attacked two of them, Talman with a spear and Quexechetl with a grapple and a bite. Sophie aimed and took a shot at the prone staff-bearer with her bow, but in the darkness she badly missed and ended up dropping her bow.

"Darn, I was hoping that taking out that guy would kill all the zombie orcs."
Mike (Esmond)

Esmond shot a couple more times, but the commander blocked the arrows easily with his shield. Talman and Quexechetl's attacks hit home on the dead orcs, but didn't drop them. Their targets fought back with spear and axe, but didn't land any blows.

Esmond, seeing things much more clearly than anyone else, realized that the dead orcs weren't advancing on him -- instead they had turned on the live orcs, and the living and the dead were now locked in battle! He began to run toward the other group, shouting for everyone to fall back.

Talman ran back toward Sophie and Ganz, and so did Quexechetl, after Sophie shouted at him. One of the dead orcs followed, but the rest attacked their live counterparts. Quexechetl turned to take on the lone dead orc, sinking his teeth into its neck and then wrenching until the head came off. The body fell, no longer animated, and Quexechetl was a little disappointed that the head stopped moving as well.

A few yards away, the battle between the living and the dead tilted in favor of the latter, and the commander fell. Four surviving living orcs fled into the night, and the dead ones simply milled around senselessly. Esmond lured the group of them away from the fallen staff-bearer, while Talman ran in and grabbed the staff. He carried it back to the others. It was an unremarkable wooden staff, decorated only by a dead bird attached to the head.

The circus then turned back to the larger battle below them in the dark, wondering how King Miklo's army was faring against the horde of dead orcs.

So, how did that go?

For the second time in the two-year history of this game, the players did pretty much the right thing the whole way through. They didn't figure out what was magical about the cabinet, but they stopped fiddling with it when they discovered an escape route. I put a secret one-hour time limit on the magical protection that kept the dead orcs outside the tower, and the party left right before it expired.

Then when they left, Esmond made his perception roll to spot the orc shaman and his guards, the party went straight there, and they correctly guessed that the guy with the staff was commanding the dead orcs. You could criticize Mike for switching targets from the shaman to the orc leader at the last minute, but that turned out fine. The leader made a very good Tactics roll just after getting shot, and managed to rally his troops, but when Esmond shot the shaman (killing him instantly), the dead orcs all went uncontrolled and started attacking the nearest visible living targets. The orc leader was already in negative hit points from Esmond's first shot, so it was only a matter of time before he dropped. The living orcs never really had a chance.

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