Sunday, 8 July 2018

Jungle Trek session 6: murder conga

Last time on Jungle Trek, the party was trying to figure out who was setting the Drow and Giants on edge in the giant ruined metropolis of Pra'xi'rek. I had thought they would continue on that path, helping the Drow start a feud between different giant clans via a series of heists and looking for clues to a lost artifact in the mean time.

When did a session ever pan out right like you thought? (And when was that ever better than glorious scrambling improv?)

(Edit: As much as I liked the session, writing up this report was a chore. And it shows in the writing. This happened, then this, then this. I could edit it down and make it fun, but eh -  let's write something else instead.)

In this case, random stocking tables and planned-out relationships between the main factions let me have the party run wild a bit while still seeding hints back to the "main issue" in the scenario. One more party member bit the dust - this time, one of the two player characters. It doesn't look like death will stick though. "Can I make a pact" bargaining is running a fever via private messages.

It was a long session - write-up below, settle in with a drink before you start. The group did uncover a couple of good leads, uncovered a conspiracy in the Drow temple and maybe they'll actually follow up on that next session. Or maybe they'll start a scheme where they try to sell fakes of the scenario's macguffin to every interested party they can find. Gods only know. In any case, turns out that damage resistance is this group's achilles heel. Had a blast in two combats with an Udoroot and a Marai Rakshasa.

We'll wrap up this short campaign in a couple of end game sessions, after which I hope to be a player for a quick summer break. After summer I'm thinking of starting a Call of Cthulhu, Night's Black Agents or Vampire campaign, possibly even adding new players to the group.

Our band of explorers:

  • Indiana Gnoll - male Gnoll ranger with a whip, comes with gills and wall clinging suckers after experimenting with a . Deranged laugh. Hankering for strange meat, tasted Unicorn and linked with its Nightmare mate. [player: Robert]
  • Woody the Warforged Wizard, currently a black-and-white ogre-bot. Albino body, shiny black scales, extra fingers and extra mouth, sticks to walls. Dude loooooves him a mutating altar. [player: Bas] dead - beaten to a pulp and then flamed to a cinder in spite of his regeneration and fire protection. update: currently stirring again after totally innocent private messages about a deal with -- well, that would be telling.
  • Drake - male human healer [non-player character, hireling, idiot. But finally having doubts about his employers.]
  • Eorie - female human rogue [non-player character, hireling] dead - friendly fireball
  • Santash - male kalashtar psion who shoved his mind into his psicrystal [non-player character] dead - vaporised by anti-kalashtar/quori energy shield

Things that happened this session

  • asked one of the players to start with a recap. Good way to get everyone up to speed again and make them think of where to go next.
  • got surprised when "next" turned out NOT to be the quest given by the Drow Matron to start a feud between two Giant clans, but go back to the enormous henge with the Unicorn trapped inside. Indiana Gnoll, you see, had a hankering
  • On the way to the Unicorn henge, Woody spots a demonic throne and immediately sits down on it, gets a vision of being killed by Drake with some weird anti-warforged device, asks what can be done to prevent this and gets a second vision of killing Drake with an iron dagger. Wakes up and finds iron dagger beneath his left hand, pockets it of course.
  • A heavy scene followed where Indy browbeat the unicorn into letting him kill her one last time, and then set her free from the henge and its sacrificial altar. Sure enough, that worked; and after the slaughter (and Woody claiming the unicorn's horn, to give it back later), Indy glutted on sparkly angel horse. And heard mad neighing that sounded decidedly not like a unicorn. Party wrecked the altar as promised.
  • had fun stalking Indy with the dead Unicorn's mate, a hefty nightmare who had been broken free of the henge long ago. (And, for a bit of background info, had been used to protect sleeping Giants from invading nightmare spirits from the Plane of Dreams.) When I turned the stalking into the first of a couple of hit and run attacks, Indy's player surprised me again by trying to intimidate and bond with the beast, not kill it. Allowed it to chew down on his arm, fed it his blood, named it Six after his religion [Dark Six - violence and untamed things], pointed out that its mate was already resurrecting, and now free of the sacrificial altar - and came away with an understanding and wary respect. We'll see how that works out in the future.
  • allmost kill, the first: turns out the Nightmare had Indy on his last couple of hit points before it calmed down.
  • extra bonus points to Indy's player for dominating not only the Nightmare but also this DM by blasting some random metal song at me at full volume until I caved and switched from combat to, ehrm, social interaction with added bite damage.
  • laughed my ass off when Indy, now full of Unicorn meat and tainted with Nightmare blood, was magically blocked from leaving the henge. In the end, Woody teleported them out, although just carrying the Gnoll across the threshold would've worked just as well.

Opening hour and a half: heavy roleplaying, lots of fun, but no closer to the big plot in the background. Random encounter to the rescue! After all the noise, the party spotted a Drow courier moving through the jungle city to the entrance of an underground tunnel. Decided to follow.

  • underground tracking scene was uneventful - the party ranger could hang back far enough that the Drow didn't spot them while still tracing his scent. Even a hard climb down was not a problem, what with the entire party now being able to stick to walls after sharing mutations in the flying Giant citadel.
  • after some trouble getting their plus sized wizard golem through a tight squeeze, the group finds their Drow courier in an abandoned, vine covered meeting hall. It's talking to a figure in a hooded mantle, delivering a package (that Woody promptly steals via Unseen Servant spell) and giving orders. Why is a Drow priest taking orders from some weird flowe thing instead of being at temple?
  • when the party makes itself known to catch the two conspirators, it turns out the figure in the circle is a projection made by the circle of big flowers in the middle of the room - sort of like sunflowers if sunflowers were red/purple, animated all the vines in the room, tracked your movement, and hit you with everything from psychic strikes to lightning bolts and telekinesis to smack your Gnoll into the floor. Also: damage resistance, which means that Indy's already pitiful damage with his whip has almost zero chance of hurting them. It's a long, painful fight with Indy taking flight and smacking into walls when the telekinetic flower fixes on to him.

  • allmost kill, the second: Indy and Woody are both barely standing after the fight, and that only because Woody now regenerates (thanks again, mutation altar), and Indy has fast healing for a couple of hours because he ate Unicorn flesh.

Yes, I know, these guys are running the cultists, not fighting them. In a good Warhammer 40k story, I could've strung them up for being vile Chaos worshipers, but we're playing in Eberron and things are more relaxed here vis-a-vis unnatural urges. Anyway, we're due a short break and the party hunkers down in a side room.

  • the package delivered to the telepathic plants (basically a dead drop that can take a message) bears a magical bracelet with symbols of the four winds, and a message saying that Six Glyph has found a powerful twin to the Fang of the Sky Serpent in the packs of travelers to the city (yes, the party lost their prophetic feather artifact after being ambushed by the Drow) and will be bringing it down to Deep Master in person. Seems like there's a mole in the Drow camp.
  • it's nap time to recover spells and hit points, and the pair move to a side chamber. In the middle of their sleep cycle (ha! no spells refreshed) they spy on yet another messed up creature from the deep caverns - this time, a four-armed spindly humanoid with grey-purple skin and no eyes, that wants to bargain with the party and leaves after agreeing to bring its Deep Master to this site in a day to meet with the explorers.
  • back on the surface, the party random encounters a couple of drow working for Sorrla, Mistress of Ambush. The scouts are holding two crab men at bay, who are working to break a canal's side wall and flood the underground tunnel system where the drow hide out. Some intimidation and rubble clearing sees the crab men off and then it's time to negotiate with the drow. Again.
The party now have some indirect evidence that there's a mole in the Drow camp. They suspect Vorruul, high priest of Vulkoor the scorpion, who is withholding divine magic from the Drow until they find and bring the Stinger of Vulkoor artifact. Before the group confronts the cleric, they want backup and they make a deal to meet up with Sorrla near the temple of the Sun in a couple of hours.

But first, finish that nap and let the wizard regain spells.

  • back at the drow camp, Woody takes his nap and refreshes spells for the day, the pair catch up with Drake who is seriously ticked off that his two employers don't care about henchthief Eorie's death last session.
  • Impromptu decision: talk with Matron Gythra about the suspicions against her high priest. Gythra is not all that happy that the players are investigating conspiracies instead of starting a blood feud between giant clans, but she gets interested when she hears that Vorruul may be plotting against her - fine, the players can talk to the high priest.
Remember the players' plan to get backup from the drow scouting faction to take on the priests? Yeah, neither did they.

  • asked the players to draw the underground area set for the temple of Vulkoor. Added little side rooms and back passages and threw them into a talk with Vorruul. Who initially isn't that phased about the zero proof accusations, offers with a smirk to help the visitors find their magic feather they so carelessly misplaced, but starts to get a bit worried when there is talk about messages exchanged between 'Six Glyph' and 'Deep Master'.
  • Vorruul sends his acolytes out and seals the entrence with a silence spell for privacy, banters a bit more and concludes that the players cannot tie him directly to any conspiracy. Woody isn't taking that and drops a fireball in the middle of the room.
Fine, it's been a long, long session and a good fight to finish up sounds like just what the DM ordered. I ask for a spell resistance roll - the priest is resistant to magic of course. And I'm quite surprised (as is Vorruul) when the fireball actually breaks through.

  • The fight was quite long - damage resistance again, pitifully weak damage, invisibility and indirect damage spells made it very hard to pin down the cleric. A web spell is keeping the acolytes out of the room, Stinking Cloud spell takes Drake out of the fight puking in side corridor. Woody and Indy hit back with Black Tentacles spells to grapple anything in the area and try to dodge flaming spheres until the priest's invisibility spell runs out. When he finally shows himself (and since when do clerics cast invisibility?), his arms split into many-colored serpents, his face turns half-snakey and he cuts loose with energy beams for extra, extra damage and status effects. Marai Rakshasa suck (especially once I tweaked the thing's spells) but the party sucks harder up against this guy.
  • Both characters are now down and slowly regenerating; but Vorruul / Six Glyph is at the end of his spell list and the acolytes are bursting into the room - he needs to grab the stolen magic feather from a cupboard and get out, but that means crossing the damned grabby Black Tentacles and in the end, there just isn't time. The Rakshasa turns into fog and drifts into a hole in the wall, but not before being seen in his true form by the drow priests.
  • And a flaming sphere takes out Woody's regeneration right before it can save him from death. Exit character.
To summarize: players find hints to the shadow figure that is manipulating the drow and giants to get its hands (we're hoping for hands) on some poison stabby artifact. Players oust this figure's mole in the Drow camp but have now lost one player character and one henchman out of a 4 people party.

Next session - who knows?

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