Sunday, 8 April 2018

Jungle Trek session 4: that which does not killlll mmmeeeee

Session four of a golem, a hyena man and two mentally scarred humans making their way through scenic Xen'Drik. This time on Jungle Trek: mutations-a-go-go, fun with prismatic walls, please do not disturb mistress, and flying a teleporting fortress tomb. Also, I am torn between railroading, nudging players towards stuff I've prepped, and giving them free reign - end up going with the last one.

Our noble, heroic, stalwart explorers:

  • Drake - male human healer [non-player character, hireling]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [non-player character, hireling]
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who shoved his mind into his psicrystal [non-player character] dead

And their decidedly less Good-aligned fellow travelers:

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger. Whip, gills, suckers. Deranged laugh. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard, currently a black-and-white ogre-bot [player: Bas]
Last session, the group infiltrated a flying fortress/tomb hanging over a lake, fought Wyverns and mutated teen giants (there's a band name), and found an enormous map with dozens of highlighted locations all across the continent.

My adaptation of Trilemma's awesome Lantern of Wyv

This wall is odd - also, I'm blind now

In the map room, both Indy and Woody notice that Ak the bound caretaker Djinn is standing conspicuously in front of a piece of wall map with an island that shouldn't exist. He's definitely hinting the group but can't say anything outright because of the crippling control geas he's under.

I keep playing Ak as sort-of-helpful but also end up using him to keep the wandering monster away from the players. Next time use less deadly wanderers but let them roam free?

Prodding proves that the wall is an illusion, Woody sticking his head through strikes him blind in an instant by a riot of lights. It wears off in a minute, but the team decide that a breather is probably a smart idea before pushing on.

I'm hurt, let's have a lie-down on the nuclear powered altar

When a session stalls, I have found a good way to pass the time is to show Woody's player a random table.

(This comes back to bite me in the ass at the end of the session.)

Any table will do really, but if it involves high odds of completely warping his character, the man is game. And so after a fight with some ogre mages, the black mutation/healing altar on the lower level of the flying tomb / fortress / lab / spacecraft they're in starts to look awfully attractive.

A quick test shows that while Yes, the black altar will heal your wounds and replace them with pearly flesh (or whatever a Warforged is made of), surplus healing runs a chance of mutating you. The group spend an hour of game time happily rolling on this chart. MANY action points are spent to force rolls onto the (sort-of) beneficial table instead the other one. The result:

  • Eorie ends up smelling pretty rank and has glowing blue eyes (a trial run while the Warforged figures out the controls)
  • Woodie gets two extra thumbs and an extra pinkie
  • Drake is gifted with a hidden smuggling pouch in his abdomen
  • Indy gets a set of gills, realizes he can maybe guide the mutations by cutting the victim subject patient in specific patterns, scars himself with the symbol of the Dark Six pantheon, and receives thousands of miniature suckers on his skin so he can now spider climb.
  • Everyone gets the spider climb mutation when Ak mentions the altar can also transfer powers between subjects.

A good night's sleep is only interrupted by Ak using his illusions to generate light shows and noise on the upper levels - "to keep Master distracted - she gets restless this turn of the century". It turns out that leaving someone's body on the altar mid heart attack turns them into the classic misbegotten "killlll mmeeee" - technically alive, but not in a good way. The altar will happily try to keep healing the resulting mess until it loses all cohesion and sanity. And this 40.000 year old giant wizard is still around.

Sleeping beauty

Behind the illusionary island in the map room, the group find a healthy Clone of the wizard - Giant, female, three eyes - behind a half-decayed Prismatic Wall spell. The Clone is set to revive when the original body dies, which hasn't happened yet because Ak is spitefully keeping the mute thing that was once a wizard alive.

Woody discovers the wall's effects the hard way (sorry) when he tries to outsmart the wall's blinding effect by walking through the protecting illusion, eyes closed and a hand outstretched. He isn't struck insane or sent to another plane, but does get turned into stone.

Back to the healing altar it is. It takes some convincing the site's pixie-sized Drow cleaners that no, the block and tackle should not be cleaned up while the group is using it to lower their golem-turned-statue down a level. Much hauling of a quarter ton of wizard down to the healing altar later, Woody is turned back into his regular shape, plus one quickly carved symbol of the Dark Six on his shoulder (thanks Indy) and leeched of all color.

The group finally convince Ak to walk through the protective wall, slip a petrifying ring onto the Clone, and then set out to explore the rest of the complex.

I got my eye on you

In the obligatory library/lab, the team find the wizard's enormous spell book, engraved on metal plates (see bottom of post) and a special type of Artifact Spell carved into the wall of the lab. It cannot be copied or written down, but can be learned as a level 2 spell to grant one round of True Seeing.

Crappy rolls finally alert Master to the fact that all's not entirely well in its home. Soon, her amorphous flesh rolls into the room, three eyes floating in the mass and shooting eye beams. Worse, the regenerating thing splits into three and starts to engulf and digest people. Fire spells have limited effect, Indy's magic whip slowly whittles down the thing's hit points, and Woody provides summoned elementals to tank most of the Constitution damage, but it's a tough fight with eye beams shooting curses, paralysis and lightning around the room.

The witch is dead, I'm outta here

The fight ends well for the party - one magic eye is squashed, two of the giant's eyes are kept intact and can probably be trained as limited wands. (bestow curse, Will 17 or -6 Dex for 9 rounds; and 2d6 lightning damage, Reflex 16 for half damage; both with a 60ft range).

The eyes also allow access to the wizard's vault (book of biomancy, bonus to control the mutation altar - we'll get to that - ring of +1 saves and protective bracers +4 AC).

Indy has sucked up a total of 5 Constitution damage but slowly recovers during the next week. He does get a nice post-combat bit of damage when Ak finds out his geas has been broken when Master died, and he can now directly hit 'students' in the face after millenia of having to bow to trespassing kids. A satisfying punch in Indy's snout later, he flies out of the fortress.

I should have ended it there

But I didn't. The session finale is past, and the players evidently feel safe enough to start fooling around.

"Can I transfer all the mutations from the Ogre Mages onto myself?"
Why yes, with a horrendous (I thought) difficulty of 30/40/50 on the check to gain size, defenses and spell powers. Woody ends up weighing 2400 pounds, is now ogre-sized, and regenerates. On the plus side, minor mutations mean he's also covered in shiny black scales, has a lamprey mouth on his throat, and (stroke of luck for the already genderless 'bot) loses all genitalia.

I inform the player that he's free to keep mutating, but checks will become harder the more off-baseline he is.

"Can I fly the fortress?"
Yah, sure - the first experimental shove you give the helm knocks the whole thing sideways and teleports you to an enormous buried city which is slowly uncovered by a massive waterfall.

Look for this Iain M. Banks-stolen Nameless City in a follow-up post.

I really should have ended it there

This was the place I'd have like to send the party to next. Intrigue, danger, excitement, ties to far-off centers of civilisation, dynamic and constantly changing environment, I was looking forward to using it!

But I didn't end the session here - or perhaps I rightly avoided railroading the group. In any case, when the players said:

"Awesome, we can teleport this place! Can we try again by coordinating between the map room and the helm?"

...I told them I also had a random table ready to decide where they'd end up. No sooner did I say "random" or poof, the flying tomb had left the Nameless City far behind. From half-remembered history lessons, the group gathered they were now over the vast ruins of Pra'Xirek, once metropolis of the Giant empire.

I ended it

Remember those pixie-sized Drow cleaners? I reworked me some Quicklings because I adore hyperfast attention-span-of-a-gnat faeries. I roll honest random encounters every now and then, and Indy spots a trio of the little assholes taking a critical look at the petrifying ring that the team slapped on the wizards's back-up clone body. Kicking them through the prismatic wall ends up petrifying two of the three mini-Drow, the third climbs up to the offending jewelry, and the party beat a hasty free-fall out of the fortress before they have to deal with a mad archmage.

I'll roll next session to see if the drowling gets the ring off, and if the wizard revives at all. 



1 - Wave shield

VS, immediate action, target: self
DR/- and fire resistance equal to your caster level against 1 attack

2 - Aboleth's lung

VSM (seaweed), standard action, living creatures touched, will resists, total of 1h/level
targets can breathe water, cannot breathe air

3 - Storm step

VS, standard action, target self, range 25ft + 5ft/2 levels, Reflex halves; Spell Resistance yes
- teleport to visible/specified site within range
- targets between start&end take 1d8/level electricity (max 5d8), save halves
- barriers take damage; if you do not manage to break barrier, stop in front of it

4 - Touch of slime

VSM (acid in glass sphere), standard action, creature or object touched, spell resistance yes
create coating of green slime on your hand; touch attack (fort save) infects one target, 1d3 Con damage/round until scraped off, removed with fire/cold/sunlight (which deals 2d6 damage). Wood/metal take 2d6 dmg/round (ignoring hardness)

5 - Absorb toxicity

VSM (poison thorn), standard action, target: self, duration: 10min/level, save/spell resistance: no
During the duration, you are immune to the first disease or poison you encounter. You absorb it into your body and can release it onto a target or item with a touch attack. If dispelled or if the duration ends before you transfer the poison or disease, save against it as normal.

6 - Conjure black pudding

7 - Planar refuge (safe spot from planar effects)

8 - Clone (duplicate awakes when original dies)

9 - Transmute blood to acid

Artifact spell: Glimpse of truth

Wizard Artifact spell level 2; prepare and use once, cannot copy into spellbook
VS, standard action, range 120 ft, target self

For 1 round, you gain the benefits of the True Seeing spell. You see through normal and magical darkness, notice secret doors hidden by magic, see the exact locations of creatures or objects under blur or displacement effects, see invisible creatures or objects normally, see through illusions, and see the true form of polymorphed, changed, transmuted or posessed things. Further, you see into the Ethereal Plane and see ghosts etc.

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