Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Ephemera Session 6: Pants on Fire, Smelly Vapor, and Rundt

Cast of Characters
Sandy, Dwarf Fighter +Daniel McEntee
Egbert, Mage +Rob Conley
Conner, Mage +Tim Shorts
Darius, Mage +Ken H
Alfred, Torchbearer (NPC hireling)
Tub, Frost Goblin (Charmed NPC ally)
Bob, Swarthy Dwarf (Charmed NPC ally)
Rundt, Hunchback Swarthy Dwarf (New Charmed NPC ally)

GM Note: Despite the dice being exceptionally unkind, nobody died. There were several near misses, as almost every damage roll against the PCs was for max damage or very nearly. All night long, the PCs' luck stayed just one pip shy of the worst luck they could have.

The valiant Cindarrin ended the last session in the Temple of Balus. They had just lost John the Rotund, their hireling.

The Cindarrin explore the last remaining room – in which resides the zombified remnants of Abbot Dietrich, of the Temple of Balus. Needless to say, he is serving a different deity now. The abbot is accompanied by two skeletons.

In their pre-battle banter, the PCs discover that Dietrich is the one responsible for the deaths of the adolescents sent from Tarn to the Temple – each batch sent by King Gor into the Temple is converted into a new set of skeletal minions. The PCs quickly kill the zombie abbot, though not before taking damage themselves.

The heroes do, however, uncover a scroll containing a new prophecy, the Prophecy of Galen:

After quick trip back to the Prayer Hall and a bath in its healing column of light, the PCs return to the Relic Room which they had previously examined and then abandoned, smelling the scent of oil and sulphur coming from pipes (some 22 of them) in the walls.

The Cindarrin decide to cut up a coil of rope and stuff the rope into the pipes in an effort to block the flow of oil and sulphur they anticipate will spew out of the pipes if they disturb the relics.

This done, they attempt to remove the globe covering the finger bone of some forgotten servant of Balus. Darius, Sandy and Conner do this together. As soon as the glass over the finger bone is lifted, the pressure of flaming fluid bursts through the rope-plugs of one of the pipes, severely burning all three adventurers, and rendering Darius unconscious.

GM Note: I don't even try to anticipate how PCs will attempt to get around hazards any more. So I ruled on the spot that there was a 1/6 chance of the blockage failing on the first turn, a 2/6 on the second turn, 3/6 on the third turn, etc. as pressure mounted. An unlucky die roll of 1 on the first turn blew one of the rope segments out of its pipe right away and burned the party members. 

Darius is dragged back to the Prayer Hall with the mural and the column of healing light. Sandy grabs the finger bone and brings it out of the Relic Room.

The light in the healing column has changed color to a blue-green (from its previous sunshine yellow) and the satyrs and satyresses in the murals have changed expression from frolicking to serious. The head satyr frowns. The light no longer heals the party members.

Offerings of wine are made to the head satyr in the mural, and apologies are made. The image in the mural indicates with his eyes that the bone should be returned to the Relic Room. Sandy does this. The color of the healing light returns to normal, and the expression on the old satyr's face returns to one of satisfaction.

The party heals up in the light (though the healing energy is less powerful now) and prepares to return to Tarn to deal with King Gor and his small army of swarthy dwarves.

Once outside the temple, however, the party are witness to a stampede of woodland creatures running through the forest, chased by a large, sickly grey-green cloud rolling through the trees. Animals that straggle behind are caught in the cloud and killed.

The party decide that this represents a more grievous threat than the actions of King Gor in Tarn, and they elect to back-track the trail of dead animals to the source of the killer fog. This they do and after two days of marching arrive at a large dome in a forest clearing.

The dome is of rust-streaked iron, with two smoke stacks emitting occasional wisps of grey-green steam. A door is found and, though locked, the hinges are rusty and easily broken. Entering the structure the party is confronted with riveted arched corridors made of iron, and ghastly green chemical lamps illuminating the structure.

The party advances toward a clanking and hissing noise and soon find themselves face to face with a giant clockwork mechanical pumping station of some sort. Sandy, the dwarf, examines the enormous device, figures out what connects to what, and throws a lever that shuts down the machine. The party decides whoever operates the machine will obviously come to check out the malfunction, at which point they can ambush him.

While waiting, Conner peeks into a room just to the east, and spots a copper plaque on a far wall. Advancing toward it, he is attacked by two Stirges swooping down from the ceiling, but Sandy skewers one with an arrow and the other one flutters off.

Conner reads the plaque. "Armageddon Outpost 12."

Then Rundt appears. Rundt is a hunchback swarthy dwarf, in a vomit-orange cloak and hood, who carries a big heavy wrench nearly half as long as he is tall. Conner quickly charms him. The dwarf explains he was sent by "the master" to see why the machine stopped. If the party wants, he will take them to the master. The Cindarrin agree. Rundt leads the party through several rooms – a library, a laboratory – explaining that just he and the master live here, the master is performing experiments with a rolling, foggy cloud that kills, and that the master hates pretty much every species the old Lords of Ephemera favored back in the Time that Was – essentially men, elves, (lawful) dwarves, and halflings.

Rundt brings the adventurers to the chamber of his master, Vagroth, a Vapor Demon, with a grey-green, fog-like humanoid body that tapers off into a tail and floats just above the floor. In contrast with the iron-riveted decor of the rest of the complex, this room contains only the Vapor Demon and three urns. Rundt quickly explains that the master lives in one and keeps his treasures in the other two.

Vagroth threatens the party with a hissing voice. Darius tries a charm spell. "Fool," spits Vagroth. Egbert tries one as well. Vagroth sneers at the second attempt and sprays Egbert with an acid blast from his hand. Combat ensues.

Sandy tries to strike Vagroth but his weapon passes through the demon's fog-like body. The party's charmed allies miss as well. Only Darius has better luck, peppering the demon with darts.

It occurs to the party that perhaps they should break the urns, as this might kill the demon. Tub and Bob break the urns to the right and left of Vagroth. Treasure spills out of them.  Everyone then concentrates on the center urn. But the center urn turns out to be difficult to break.

GM note: here began a kind of Keystone-Cops-in-the-Dungeon scene. The difficulty in breaking the urn was not by design. I told the players to break the urn they just needed to make a roll to hit AC 10 – a 55% chance of breaking the urn with any one attack. With two to three PCs and two allies attacking the urn each round, nobody managed to roll a 10 or better on a d20 for over two whole rounds. That's right. Something like ten or eleven straight attack rolls – each with a 55% chance to hit – missed. There was nothing special about the urn. The players just could not roll a 10 or better on d20.

Party members strike the urn repeatedly. It bobbles. It wobbles. It falls on the floor and rolls around. But it doesn't break. Sandy the dwarf, in his frustration, lifts the urn over his head and tries to smash it on the floor. Thunk. Bounce. Roll. Not a crack.

Meanwhile Darius is fighting the Vapor Demon single-handedly. Again he peppers it with darts. The demon ripostes with a poisoned dagger. Darius is cut badly, and weakened by the toxin.

Finally Egbert makes one last deperate attempt to break the urn, picking it up as Sandy had done in a bid to smash it on the floor. Finally, it breaks. The demon hisses and howls in pain, curses the Cindarrin, and dissipates into oblivion.

GM Note: Breaking the urn wasn't an auto-kill, but it did about twice the damage any normal attack could have done. Which was ironic, since Darius had already, by this stage, single-handedly dropped the demon to a mere 2 hp.

The party pick up the treasure, and are informed by Rundt of a secret door leading to rooms with Vagroth's chemical vats. The party open the door to the first vat room, and there we called it an evening.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Monster: Phantom Cloak

The Source Inspiration: "He looked absently around the cellar as he waited for the pitcher to fill, and suddenly his eye was caught by the fluttering of an old cloak hanging on a wooden peg. And in that instant Prospero got the odd notion that the cloak was not his, and might not be a cloak at all. He stared intently at it as the fluttering of the garment became more agitated. And then it turned to meet him. With empty flopping arms it floated across the cellar floor, swaying in a sickening nightmare rhythm. Prospero clenched his fist and felt his pulse beating in his palms; he fought the rising fear as the cloak flapped nearer, for with all his heart he did not want it close to him. As it closed the gap between them, all the spells against apparitions ran through his mind, but he had the queasy feeling that none of them would work. The thing was about six feet from him, its cold musty-cellar breath faintly brushing his face . . ." – John Bellairs, The Face in the Frost.

Phantom Cloak

Hit Dice: 1
Armor Class: 7 [12]
Attacks: 1 [touch, 1d4 + paralyze]
Move: 12
Save: 17
Alignment: Chaotic
CL/XP: 3/60
Special: Ambush [3 in 6 chance to surprise]; touch paralyzes victim for 1d4 rounds [save allowed, elves immune]

Phantom Cloaks are often found hanging about in old musty wardrobes and closets, hidden among more mundane articles of clothing. They are a form of undead that generally lie dormant until touched, at which point they spring into motion, attacking the individual who disturbed them. When attacking, they are likely to surprise their target (3 in 6 chance), and in addition to normal damage, their touch may temporarily paralyze the target with fear for 1d4 rounds if the target fails a saving throw. Elves are immune to the paralyzing effect of Phantom Cloaks.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Happy Fifth to Gothridge Manor!

+Tim Shorts ' blog Gothridge Manor is celebrating its fifth birthday today! If you haven't done it already, go over and wish him a happy fifth!

Plus, Tim's doing a giveaway. So if you're a regular reader of Gothridge Manor and "either love it or hate it or want something free" go over and leave a comment – you might win something!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Guest Post: From the Journal of Sandy the Dwarf

The first guest post here at the Clash of Spear on Shield. This is from +Daniel McEntee  who plays the Dwarven Fighter, Sandy, in Ephemera.


So's I hung back for a day. I had plenty of their guff, and 'cept for the fact that their magic is real, ida gone another way. But them star stones, well they're a sight to see. And supposedly ther'ins more of em – 7 or 8 – so I had to catch up tonight.

Them magisters, well they're a houghty up 'n up full of themselves, but they keep me from hav'n to take the wurst of it. One poor fool called John the Rotund is a volunteer, but two others are charmies: a goblin – Tub (like a container of butter, definitely mush between then pointy green ears), and new to me one of the dwarve's dark kin goin' by the strangest name yet – Bob.

So's I find 'em hunkered down in some ole kitchen, complainin' agin bout how they runt outta spells and jokin' about ground poundin' and some other sort a poundin'. Seems they found an ole bunkroom within a few skels. Spindly things all dried up. So I rouse the group up and head for the door. Can't believe the cowardice. Pull out a couple iron bits holdin' another door to th' north and lead the way in.

Sure enough, them mages got nothin' but hidin' in the back. So's I say just chuck stuff that burns at 'em and I go to work tryin' out this new axe with a purty sharp edge and seein' about getting the timing down with my bastage sword. A couple misses on my part and I get whomped once, heh – jest a tickle.  John and me toe the line with Bob an' Tub. One o' the mages throws all his oil at a pair, crisps one and lights the other (they wuz nothin but walkin' tindling wood). John takes one skel, Bob gets a shot in an' I finish 'em off. Okay room – one of the rooms long gone inhabitants (one of the skels?) left a nice silver chain an' locket with an inscription (May Balus bless you my dearest brother) an' a picture of some scrawny human lass (them humans yre so naked an' hopeless without a good dwarven beard).

Nothin' more there, we head on into one of the best rooms yet. All around, lookin' like painted murals, is a good view of the trees outside the dungeon's entrance – 'cept there's Satyrs and Satyresses (that's what the mages called 'em) including one guy that must be the group's elder or some sorta God. Centered in the room is a carven crystal skylight looking like a sun and shinin' down on a pedestal. I gets an idea and grabs our star stone, puts in on the pedestal and everything gets all shimmery.  Boy'o that light was nice an warm 'n comfy. I look over at the elder sat' and give him a thanks an' a wave, and sure 'nuf, I'm pretty sure he winked at me outta the picture.

Now the mage, the real snotty one called Conner, gets in his head to check a hunch and pulls out a dagger. Gettin' his meanin' I offer to give Bob a Dwarven head butt'n greetin', but noooo, Connert "asks" Bob to cut himself, an' only a tiny bit. Bob does (lapdog) and heals up in that light. So'kay we're off again.

Round a corner we come to another room, fight over door openin' procedures (yes human sized doors might allow for higher shootin' traps, but if ye were to trap a door, it'd be dumb not to take the trespasser in the low center). Anywho, we go in to a little bedroom with a wardrobe and chest. I open the wardrobe first – lookin for a secret back or floor – and sure enough, one of the ROBES attacks me. Nice of them to tell me about this thing after it's almost got me. I shrug it off, cut it in half, and go help with the chest (who ever heard of a linen golem?). A key under the matress unlocks the chest and I open it. We find a silver statuette, some gold, and, paydirt, the next starstone. Purty.

Yay – time to celebrate. Into the next room to fight some more skels. Again I lead (you know why right – dwarves would rather be in front than starin' at a human ass). John fights valiantly (yes I'm exaggerating, but he was half dead to start carrying all that weight of his) but not successfully – down he goes – after a good shot on a first skel he'd drawn too much attention. So – more practice time for me next time! A lot of smart mouthin' from one mage, and Bob and I finish off the last three skels. I've taken another shot, but I wrap it up. Turns out we're in some kinda library. Egbert, in a characteristic fit of passion, looks at his torchbearer who is lamenting the loss of his friend, and says "Don't worry there's more where he came from." Poor dudes – yes, he does not care about you.

So we find a hidden panel with a scroll of protection from magic 10' in the skel's library, and an attached laboratory with a potion bottle – looks like healin'. That first one was good after the first fight. Since I'm up front, the "meat shield" gets first dibs on the best drinks, an' well it help'd remove a big ole skel splinter.

We're about to camp out an I suggest we head back for some more sun rays (healed me up). The pillows look a bit used, but despite the jokes about stains, this is a pretty cool room. I like this Satyr dude. He's a better companion than the arrogant mules I've got for a party. At least they're sincere.

From the journal of Sandy, dwarven bucketeer and noble buckethead.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Ephemera Mausoleum

I have erected a virtual monument to PCs and NPCs who have perished in Ephemera. It's best viewed with your computer's sound on. You can click on the tab above or just click here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Ephemera Session 5: Light, Loss and the Star of the Maiden

Cast of Characters

Conner, Magic-User ( +Tim Shorts )
Egbert, Magic-User ( +Rob Conley  )
Sandy, Dwarven Fighter ( +Daniel McEntee  )
John the Rotund, NPC Hireling Fighter (KIA)
Alfred, NPC Torchbearer
Tub, NPC Charmed Frost-Goblin Guard
Bob, NPC Charmed Swarthy Dwarf

After exploring the refectory in the abandoned Temple of Balus at the end of the last session, the party returns to the room they had spiked shut previously and take down the four skeletons they had seen there.

Moving on, they enter a Prayer Hall, containing murals of satyrs and satyresses, dancing in the woods. One older, larger satyr seems to preside over the frolic. In the center of the ceiling, some 50' up, is a skylight carved in the shape of the sun, through which daylight filters down in a 10' diameter column. In the center of the column of light is a pedestal on which nothing sits.

Sandy reaches his hand into the light and finds that it feels "healthy and wholesome" and senses there is something magical about it. When he casts a glance at the older satyr in the mural, he could swear its eyes twinkle.

Curious about the light, Conner asks Bob, the swarthy dwarf (charmed NPC), to give himself a minor cut on the hand and then extend his hand into the light. Some grumbling, coaxing, and a reaction roll later, and Bob complies. The tiny wound heals immediately.

Continuing onward, the party enter what was, apparently, the high priest's chamber, and therein are attacked by another Phantom Cloak. Sandy reacts very quickly to this one and dispatches it before it can do any harm. A search of the room yields several objects of interest including a silver statue in the form of the sun atop columns of light extending downward, and small box with a brass plaque labeled "The Star of the Maiden." The box contains a brilliant pink gem, similar to the one previously discovered on the Frost Demon's Island, which bore the legend "Star of the Courtier."

Pleased with this discovery the party move on to the next room which turns out to be a library. Another four skeletons are encountered, and though they are destroyed, it is not without loss. Egbert's hireling fighter, John the Rotund is slain by the undead fiends.

However, the party discover a secret compartment in the wall, in which they find a Scroll of Protection from Magic (10' radius).

The party advance into the next room, an alchemical laboratory, where they find a potion in a bottle with a sun symbol on it, whose color and consistency resembles that of a Potion of Cure Light Wounds they had found earlier.

In a bid to revive the deceased John the Rotund, the party return him to the Prayer Hall. They lay his body within the column of light, hoping it will bring him back. The light seems to form a sparkling aura around him, as if magic were at play that was trying to work, but nothing happens.

And with that, we ended the session.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Fun BS Session on Google Hangouts

+Tim Shorts ran a cool BS session over on Google hangouts last night. I stopped in on it a bit, and it was nice to finally be able to attach faces and voices to blog-writers I've been reading for years. I don't know how many people finally showed up, but it seemed to be standing room only (with a limit of 10 people at a time), and hard to get in at times. Which was good, since that meant people were really interested. And participants inside were cool about dropping out from time to time to give others a chance to get in (though I don't know if everyone who wanted to get in actually got to do so in the end). All in all an excellent event. Thanks to Tim for organizing it!