Decaying Lands 26: Wolf Howls

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter 3 (Just Yolks)

Claus, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
Jehan, Woodsman 1 [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
Jewel, Really Good Dog 2 (Rudy)
  Buddy, ratter dog
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 4 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party met an unexpected skeleton named Sarah (and her "buddy Hoot-Hoot"), gave a warning of impending doom to Lady Margaret of the Sapphire Rose inn, and collected their things so they could get while the getting was good.

They continued with their plan to push west towards the dilapidated fishing town of Frissen with the end goal of taking a boat along the coast deeper into Ghallia, the country that abandoned half their land behind a river due to murder plague. Karl (RIP) was an exiled prince from the murder place, Jehan was also from there, and they'd seen things that made them want to investigate Stilton on the way. Rumors of entire country abandoned with everything left behind and ripe for the taking played into it too, probably.

Description: Poorly drawn hex map, big arrow pointing west towards "Frissen", dog picture 2/3 the way there.

The town was nine hexes distant, six mile hexes, 18 miles a day (because wagon), so three travel days to get there. First day not much traffic, just a rider in the garb of the courier's guild racing past on the road. The first night they pulled off the road, setup camp, and arrayed their bear traps in strategic locations. Claus noted that it finally seemed like the woods had returned to their normal nighttime sounds but otherwise didn't notice anything out of the ordinary.

Sidebar: At this point bear traps at night is their standard setup and they will have to tell me explicitly if they do not want to put any bear traps out. James would be proud.

Day two passed with no other travelers on the road. Setup camp again, every started settling in to sleep (Jehan sort of in the underbrush but still within the bear trap permieter), and then Jewel bolted off to the south across the road. She ran for a while with Buddy, heard some stuff, then came back and started scratching into the dirt.

Description: Freehand written words "wolf south sad far" and a frown face.

Sidebar: Rudy (Jewel's player) volunteered to use his offhand on the mouse to scratch out the words that Jewel was trying to convey but then immediately after said it was way too easy. I agreed but didn't have a good suggestion but then he said he'd close his eyes next time. That should be much harder, can't wait to see how it turns out.

Even though it was far and getting to be nighttime everyone went with Jewel to investigate. They left Suzie tied to a tree and Buddy guarding the camp supplemented by the bear traps. Jehan was going to hunt game but, while thematically appropriate, after realizing he could use up all his crossbow bolts and miss out on wild stuff he went along too.

They trudged south through the woods with only the light of the full moon. Jewel called out after a mile or so with no response, so they kept going. The second time she called out there was an answer from directly in front of them. She kept talking back and forth but the response howls came from different directions each time. The party vacillated between wanting to leave and getting ready for war before settling on a cautious but not too threatening state of readiness.

The conversation ended with three very large wolves appearing out of the darkness around them. Jewel knew they were coming but the humans were all quite surprised. At this point Jewel gave Claus the signal to use his scroll of comprehend languages (Canine counts because of Jewel now) and everyone got to hear what was up.

Description: A wolf with a too large jaw, open too wide. I envisioned Moro from Mononoke, hopefully that came through.

There was a bit of menace and uncertainty with these three larger than normal wolves but overall the party learned a lot from them. The father of the true king ("the False One"), with the help of a wizard, laid a curse upon said king and these wolves that were once men. The wolves' minds cloud when they try to remember more than that, and one coughed and spit blood even to say that the False One was the father of the king.  They called themselves the "Sons of Stanislaus" and the other large wolf that Boris "Iron Guts" freed was one of their number. They were grateful for the help for their brother.

The wolves also told the party about how their king bore an even stronger, more awful curse than they did. They now knew him only as "The Mad King" and warned the group that he was large enough to swallow them whole and then spit them up again, turning them into mindless beasts. They left with a warning to "Run, run if you ever see the Mad King or you won't survive to tell!"

Somewhat shaken, our motley crew trudged back through the woods to their camp. They had been gone for four hours and in the intervening time someone had raided their wagon for food. Buddy lay unconscious, badly hurt, and Suzie and the horses were GONE!

Sidebar: Random encounters can happen when you're not there too!

Initial shock turned to rage and then they noticed that their customary bear traps had been at least partially effective. One had a still warm corpse, which Jehan looted (snares, skinning knife, sling, few silvers) but the occupant of the other was still (barely) alive. Caleb was on the border of killing his captive straight out but he was able to get some information out of her while keeping his rage at bay.


Decaying Lands 25: Hoot-Hoot and Sarah

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter 3 (Just Yolks)

Claus, Magic-User 4 (Vegas)
Jehan, Woodsman 1 [reskinned Halfling] (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 4 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party turned a bunch of skeletons including some that got out the elevator, lost Karl the exiled prince in a blaze of explosive kamikaze glory, and escaped up the elevator with a ton of loot.

Wait shit we unleashed skeletons into civilization?! Viggo was concerned about the scary skeletons and the fact that they could bring the elevator back down. Maybe hunt down the five escaped ones and kill them? Except they are scary and killed poor Karl! THEN they realized that the leg maybe has powers so they wanted to get the transforming giant skeleton's peg leg. It was a fun back and forth.

And then BEAR TRAPS. They setup their bear traps around the elevator just in case the skeletons came back.

They met Jehan! He was looking for Karl. Karl's dead :( But at least Karl's player gets a new PC integrated pretty fast!

"He blew up!" - Claus

"Shut up Claus!" - all decent, sensitive folk
"Yeah but he can't get reanimated if he blew up, it's a blessing!" - Claus

Viggo interrogated Jehan a bit, he's legit, they gave him Karl's seal. They finished setting up the traps and hung out while Claus took some time to fill an empty spell slot out of his book.

Next they set off down the trail of ole peg leg, noticed that it's peg leg size went down pretty suddenly and then it turned back north, away from the direction of the town. Shortly thereafter it met up with the big gnarly claw tracks (I slipped and said owlbear) and then the peg leg tracks disappeared.

"I've seen many skeletons, none of them talked! ...None of them moved, either." - Tenkos

Had a brief little chat, got some more background from Jehan, Caleb told him Karl's last words. "Save Altdorf, beware the Duvan'Ku." Talked about how they were an organization that were hunting Jehan and Karl but hopefully they aren't anymore.

They also theorized about what the deal with the skeletons in the crypt was. Was it a hive mind? Are they all individually aware and in control? How do they work? They decided to press on after the large broken trail of the owlbear skeleton.

They ran smack dab into all five escaped skeletons! Almost literally, as the party was surprised but the skeletons were not.

  • Skeleton with a gnarled peg leg
  • Large quadruped with sharp claws and fierce beak
  • Charred up skeleton
  • Skeleton with a shield on its back
  • Skeleton covered in wax
The peg leg skeleton, now only three feet tall and riding atop the owlbear skeleton, opened with a shouted "Leave us alone!" but otherwise the skeletons did not make any aggressive moves. They talked back and forth with the peg leg skeleton, it kept getting bigger the more annoyed it got. Most interesting to the party was that this skeleton did NOT have the raspy, hard 't' accentuated voice of the stag skeleton. Instead it sounded like a small child! Some of the players with more direct child interaction experience had some good ideas for how to bargain with it, trying to get more information without pissing it off.

Sidebar: In a later conversation Vegas noted the differences between how the players with small children interacted with little kid skeleton as compared to those without. Bring your life experiences into the game, referees!

The peg leg skeleton went from child-sized and riding to standing and eventually a full 18 feet tall. Jehan produced a sizable lump  of fool's gold from his pack as a peace offering to the skeleton which gleefully snatched it up. They learned the "not nice man" in the underground made all the skeletons dig and they couldn't do anything to not dig. He was not nice because they didn't want to dig and he was a man because he sounded like one. Peg leg wanted to squash him (like they squashed Karl, although they weren't super happy about that), BUT if not nice man helped peg leg squash other, meaner people, that's fine too. Apparently there were some specific bad people that peg leg was user about but they didn't go into more detail.

Sidebar: Helpful Waffle (Jehan's player) rolled "fool's gold" on the "Useless" table from Evey Lockhart's excellent The Quickly Equipped Murder Hobo. We laughed and he immediately started thinking on ways that he could make use of it. Neither one of us thought it would come up this quickly. He vowed to get another chunk soon.

Viggo kept going back and forth between "well this creature doesn't seem dangerous" to "okay you can't just squash people that are not nice to you." Caleb was up front, backing Viggo up and Jehan seemed unsure, but Claus and Tenkos were already backing away, because if an 18' tall skeleton opens with "leave us alone!" well, sure! Eventually they convinced her to try and head east and over the Dwarfgrave Mountains, where it's more sparse and lawless.

Picture of a poorly drawn mostly empty hex map with an arrow pointing east towards mountains.
All of the sudden she shrunk down, climbed up onto the beastly skeleton, and shouted "Well my name is Sarah, BYE" over her shoulder as she ran off into the woods with her skelly crew.

Sidebar: At some point she identified the large skeletal owlbear as "Hoot-Hoot" as well but I forgot to put that in there. Oops.

They stared off after the skeletons for a bit then made their way back to the elevator. Suzie the mule was still there, completely unaffected by the evening's shenanigans. Discussed what to do with their newfound knowledge, did NOT want to just go about shouting that there were skeletons digging their way out. Decided to tell Lady Margaret about what was going on after they had rested, breakfasted, and were ready to roll out.

They gave her the lowdown, she bought their loot, and then she had her people immediately start packing up. She promised to notify the rest of the Cossroads residents after the party had moved out. They started their own prep to move out and we ended session.

Everyone got 1218 sp each from sale of tapestries and silverware. Lady Margaret intimated that she would be able to turn around a much nicer profit down in Universitatstadt (dammit Vegas) or Teutonitopia (DAMMIT VEGAS) with the info they gave her.

Sidebar: I will probably still let Vegas name stuff because Vegas.

She also knew a bunch of stuff about Viggo's informant and bounty target that she probably shouldn't have so our party's bounty hunter tracked her down for a little side chat after the session ended.

Sidebar: Counting this session they have spent a total of SIX sessions chasing down a brilliant dog rumor contributed by Arnold K. All those dope flavorful skeletons came from the brain of Ian Reilly. Sarah was inspired by an item off one of Beloch Shrike's excellent tables but I can't share which one because spoilers. No mspaint picture this time because I'm way too behind.

Decaying Lands 24: YOLO

PCs Present & Played:

Caleb, Fighter 3 (Just Yolks)
Karl Gelt, Exiled Prince 1 (Helpful Waffle)
Tenkos, Cleric 3 [plague doctor kit] (Sugarplum)
Viggo Marklund, Specialist 3 [bounty hunter kit] (Peanut Butter)

Last time the party finished looting the tombs, found some potentially useful stuff, didn't get anybody killed, saw a bunch  more skeletons, and lost another torch.

This time they had a slightly diminished party because of real life stuff. They spent a bit discussing their options, vehemently decided against giving the skeletons the bodies from the tombs, and ended up with their one plan to carry the turn undead casting cleric so they could concentrate.

Sidebar: There was originally a pretty detailed write-up for this session. I accidentally erased it all due to some malarkey with the blogger app which apparently hasn't been supported for years. Oops. Wouldn't even be writing a summary if not for some particular events, but consider this abridged.

The party hemmed and hawed about giving over the corpses to ole staggy, decided against it, asked real nice and stag-head let them leave. Bunch of skeletons waited for them and followed them in front of wherever they walked, eventually all the way to the elevator. Some of the skeletons ended up behind the party, such that the general arrangement was:

  • Stag-head skeleton
  • Skeleton wielding its own arm as a club
  • Skeleton wearing a spiked helm
Ahead (and on the elevator)
  • Large quadruped with sharp claws and beak
  • Skeleton with a carved, wooden leg
  • Skeleton with a shield on its back
  • Skeleton covered in wax
  • Skeleton with blackened charcoal for bones
The party was sandwiched in between. They had hoped they could just push past but stag-head tired of negotiating now that it knew of the elevator and shit went down.

Initiative was a big deal. Rolled for sides and party got to go first, Tenkos immediately busted out his turn undead. Rolled pretty well, all of the skeletons except large quadruped and wooden leg are affected.

Rest of the party got to go. Caleb ran up to the beaked quadrepedal beast and chopped with his massive greatsword. True to form, Just Yolks rolled a massive damage die (9 or 10) and, unfortunately, an equivalent number to hit. Strongest whiff you ever saw.

Karl ran up next, charging the skeleton with the wooden leg. At this point I honestly cannot recall whether Karl hit the thing or not. Soon it would not matter.

Viggo decided to sit tight next to Tenkos, within the ten foot radius of the turn undead.

Skeletons got to go next. The three behind fled down the hall, including stag-head. The three affected skeletons on the elevator immediately started scrambling up the rope and out of the well! The two unaffected skeletons acted next.

The quadruped, possibly by now identified as an owlbear skeleton, went in on Caleb with the old claw claw bite. His plate mail, though mighty, could not stop a critical on the bite and he took some serious hurt.

At the same time, the skeleton with the wooden leg was growing! It grew so tall it broke through the wooden ceiling on the elevator! It grabbed one of the large timbers used to rotate the elevator and brought it down crashing into Karl! *crunch*

The damage of the timber, together with Karl's prior hurt from the flame trap, was enough to bring him down to -3, the awful sweet spot in LotFP where you are guaranteed to die but you've got 1d10 minutes of living left to do.

Sidebar: This was the same amount that Helga died at, way back when in the Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine.

Everyone was pretty stunned, honestly. Helpful Waffle's first character (ever!), first dungeon foray almost at an end, and then it all came crashing down.

Next round came and Tenkos rolled his turn undead check again, not only succeeding but getting high enough to affect the last two skeletons. Now, come their turn, they would all be running away.

Viggo and Caleb sat tight. I double checked the rules about 0 / negative hit points and decided that Karl could trade 1 minute of (slowly dying) life for 1 round of full action. He chose to spend them in action!

First Karl took off his house sigil necklace, gave it to Caleb, and told him this (approximately):

"Find Jahan, give this to him. It is the emblem of lost Altdorf. And beware the Duvan'ku!"

Then the Exiled Prince grabbed one of the jelly bomb / Molotov cocktails that they found in the tomb of Emil the Sapper and raced with a battle yell back down the hallway towards the stag-head skeleton. The corridor was illuminated by a blast of fire and some additional, unnatural white light as the explosion filled the hallway with jelly and flames.

The rest of the party stared for a moment, gave a few more moments to let the skeletons run farther away, and then Viggo and Caleb hoisted up their concentrating comrade and carried him to the elevator. Think they struggled a bit, trying to turn the central shaft (it's meant for at least three) but they wanted the skeletons to keep running away.

Sidebar: The carrying idea was a clever little strategy based around the fact that even if an undead is not turned it still can't approach within 10 feet of a cleric concentrating on turn undead. We realized after that moving into the elevator would have meant approaching the five that fled that way, meaning they wouldn't be turned, but this was fine as is and we'll play it that way next time.

None of the skeletons failed their climb checks (which would have been hilarious and awesome) so they eventually made it up without further incident. Suzie was still tied to the tree, completely unaffected, and there were no skeletons in sight.

The party had emerged with a ton of loot from their delve into the tombs but not without paying a great cost.

Sidebar: It can be hard losing a character, especially your first one, but Helpful Waffle took it in stride. He's got some ideas for his next PC already, so he'll be all right. We also decided that from now on anyone whose character dies gets to name the summary so "YOLO" goes out to him.

Extra special thanks to Ian Reilly for writing an inspiring set of skeleton descriptions and Beloch Shrike for the nugget of an idea that made a memorable moment in this session and set up something extra special for next session. Finally, this little pitstop never would have happened without the excellent doggy rumor provided by Arnold K. And of course this would all be a whole lot of "lonely fun" without my lovely players, who I appreciate a whole mess. Thanks everyone!