Tuesday 23 May 2023

Trollopulous Adjusted Session 19 (Machodor #7); A walk in the Black Forest

    

A few surprises in store

Introduction


This session saw the party go back to the "dungeon" of the crashed Sky City, once again trying to find the lost treasure of Ron Ragnar. This will sound familiar to those who read the previous session report. Faced with the stark choice of confronting the huge and ancient red dragon Lord Inferno, or continuing to gather the power required to take him on in the future, the party chose the latter option.

Timekeeping (Aus)


This session took place on 19/May/2023,  and the PCs adventured for 4 days.

Player Characters Present


Giuseppe (Level 4 Paladin from Rome, Brovenloft, E)
Sever (Level 4 Pegasus Corps Ranger of Machodor, E)
Sheamus (Level 3 Irish Fighter from Dublin, Brovenloft, E)
Slippery Pete  (Level 3 Thief, E)


Downtime Summary

The two Hawkman helmets the party captured last session proved to be troublesome, it turned out that that they enabled telepathic communication and opened up the unwary user to having his mind read... 

a rude shock for Sever

At least one character was able to train, and another was kept busy with his subdued Firedrake. There was also some scheming about ambushing Lord Inferno with ballistae, but it came to naught. 

One piece of news was that a new patrol between Schloss Ragnar and Castle Irish(ish) had been established, Leopold (fighter level 3) was now working the route during his downtime. This should make the trip for the PCs easier; but, shockingly, already one patrol has disappeared without a trace.

Session Report


As before, the players confidently set out to return to the crashed Sky City and explore further in than last time. This time they had the goal of meeting with the Hawkman, Luro, who was supposed to be on the third level. The spring weather was cloudy, but good, and they decided to break their journey from Schloss Ragnar and check in at Castle Irish. Things were much as they had left them. Bumblebore had been here for the last week or so training his Firedrake, O'Malfoy, under the watchful eye of his new friend, the Magic User Sarumin the Beast Master. What he discovered, lizardman footprints in a passage under the castle, was a mystery that the PCs would later solve in session.


The Volcano 

The players returned via their previously travelled route to the western most extent of the base of the volcano. Once there they left their riding horses, holy war horse, and Sever's Pegasus (now fully grown), and started the long climb to the top. 

"You appear to have come up in the centre of the city, a circular gap that passes through the interior. The cathedral like cavity is very large, about 600 feet wide, above is a huge amount of rock displaced by the city's travel through the volcano wall. The way up is completely blocked by this debris; but, the arrangement appears to be relatively stable, although the sound of the occasional rock falling into the ice around you can be heard."

They finally got one
Passing the still frozen body parts of the strange creatures they had discovered in an earlier session, they remembered they had agreed that the parts could be worth something and if they brought them back to civilisation.

Last time they had been too encumbered so now a discussion broke out as to whether it was worth the effort to bring some of these back right away, or wait until they were returning without make a special trip. Shaemus spent a minute activating his Drew Sword, but only got a boost of 1 to his strenght.

Finally it was decided to do the former, and so they gathered up enough frozen parts to constitute one of the creatures, and made the trek back down the stairs and loaded the reluctant horses.

Getting back to Castle Irish at dusk, their load aroused the attention of the Eddy the Ettin and his pack of dogs, the latter barked loudly but would not approach them. The gate guard however was obviously used to the smells of travelling adventurers and was happy to let them stay in the courtyard. The night passed uneventfully, and by early afternoon the following day they were back at Schloss Ragnar and had transferred the remains to the Sage, Professor Dorol, who rewarded them with 100gp and the promise of more, if, when he got them back to his facilities in St Raul, the remains proved to be as interesting as they looked. Content that there could be no disastrous repercussions from all this, the party immediately returned to Castle Irish and were able to again spend the night there.

Getting a nice early start, they were able to make good time and made the climb up into the Sky City; they were heading for level 3 and full of wonder at what they might find there. Shaemus thought the whole side trip had been worthwhile as he flexed the Drew Sword and this time added 8 to his strength (now 18:30 ). Heading east into the city proper they retraced their steps along the first 240 feet long corridor. Everything was much the same as before as they reached the room in which they had first encountered kenku hatchlings.

As before, all three exits to the room had been filled with pieces of metal and somehow melted together to form a barrier that restricted the space to a narrow 3' diameter tunnel for a distance of 10'. They guessed this had been done to give the hatchlings an advantage against intruders.

Sever disliked manoeuvring through this area without Dusty the dwarf, or a similarly small character, to go first; so he flexed his powerful muscles to try and pull the metal out away from the walls. His first effort was quite successful, leaving just a few feet still attached; but, from here on followed a series of failures as the PCs each gave it a try, but could not get that last bit to budge. They did, however, make a lot of noise and finally this was enough to attract something's attention.

From the south they heard the approach of many kenku feet, and they moved to surround the southern entrance to the room, two on each side. It was big a bunch of hatchlings accompanied by two fully grown kenku. The party won initiative and Slippery Peter leaned forward and shot a full powered bolt from his Hawkman hand crossbow. These work like a scaled down javelin of lightening, and, though the bolt itself only wounded the first hatchling, the follow up electrical blast - 3' wide and 15' long - mopped up all 18 hatchlings, the eggs they were carrying, and the two kenku that had neatly lined themselves up to go through the barrier they themselves had created. Bad luck for them.

With a new respect for the Hawkman weapons, and Slippery Pete, the party stepped through the remains of the barrier to the north and into the corridor beyond; only to find that around the next corner, which lead to the access tube, there was another such barrier. Fortunately, this one they managed to dismantle in short order and with no further interference from monsters.

The end of the passage terminated in a circular room that was an access 'tube' to the next level up. 


A section of Level 2 of the Sky City

The new level was clearly built with the same technology as the rest of the place, but here there was no sign of the mess made by hatchlings as on the first level. The ceilings were also much higher, twenty feet compared to ten feet. Having been tipped off by Luro the Hawkman of the location of a secret door, the party easily found and opened it, then followed the corridor beyond south into another access tube. This tube was much the same as the others, but with one difference; the ceiling appeared to consist of strange swirling patterns of clouds and must have been hundreds of feet up above them. 

"swirling patterns of liquid like clouds of many colours"


Slippery Pete climbed up and found that he had to pass through some sort of tingling energy field to do so. It had no apparent ill effect and he forgot about it as he saw the soring trees that surrounded the hole. It looked like they had emerged into a forest.

This was unexpected and so, unsure what to do, Sever prepared his mind and donned the Hawkman helmet. "Luro!" he thought. Soon the other's voice was in his mind and assured him that there were other hawkmen there ready to carry the party to his stronghold.

Giuseppe detected no evil in them, so the party were happy to let the hawkmen carry them through the air, it required two for each PC, and from above the tree line they could see that the entire 1-mile diameter level was one big forest, filled with 100' tall trees! To the west they could see a huge stone shaft had filled the cavity in the centre of the level, and around this stone was flying the biggest eagle they had ever seen (it was actually a Roc). Luro's base was on a small hill four hundred yards to east, and in only a few minutes and they were arriving at the metal tower. Obviously constructed from materials scavenged from other levels of the city, the tower was big enough to accommodate hundreds of hawkmen and their lizardman slaves who could be seen working around the base of the structure.

Once seated on the strange perches favoured by the hawkmen, Luro and the PCs exchanged information. In short:

The hawkmen had broken into factions since King Vultan, who yet lives, was wounded by Lord Inferno and the Sky City crashed. There is the Pro Kenku faction - who the party had fought already and who control the city's west Quadrant (visible from Castle Irish) - and the Anti Kenku faction, lead by Luro, who control the east Quadrant. There is also the Royal Guard: much smaller in number but better armed, and they have custody of King Vultan in the north quadrant of this level. 

Luro knew that the PCs wanted the treasure of Ron Ragnar that King Vultan had with him, and he wanted to get control of the King and thereby win over the hawkmen in the pro kenku faction. However, their forces were evenly balanced, any attempt to reach the hunting lodge castle on this level - where the king was being held - was easily pushed back by the combined force of the other two factions. The PCs were a wild card, one Luro intended to use.

The castle, visible from Luro's tower, was one that King Vultan had commanded his lizardman slaves to recreate based on one that really existed outside in the bandit mountains; one look from the PCs confirmed it was a dead ringer for Castle Irish. They were by now familiar with its layout, and Luro confirmed there was rumoured to be an underground tunnel leading into the basements of the castle, the entrance to which was somewhere in the forest; neither place would a hawkman willingly go, but the "grounders" could. 

Additionally, although Luro accepted that the party had won their hawkmen equipment by combat and recognised their ownership, he explained that the gems were required to relaunch at least one quadrant of the city, and offered to pay them double if the party returned them to him. They considered this seriously but put off the decision to later.

One last thing, in addition to the Royal Guard, the King was also protected by an enigmatic being known only as THE KENKURIAN. Luro didn't know much about him, only that it was from him that the race of the Kenku had sprung.

Luro then suggested that the "wingless apes" start at first light, as the ground was even more dangerous at "night" on this level. If they were to find themselves running out of daylight, they should look for a way back down to level 2, or return to the tower. There were lift platforms and access tubes scattered across the whole floor; though he only knew the locations of a few in the quadrant his faction controlled.

He also offered to teach the PCs the basics of Hawkman technology; weapons, helmets, and - in Sheamus's case - rocket cycles. This allowed them to spend the rest of the afternoon in a useful pursuit. 

Now, at this point, I guess I had not quite conveyed the danger of the forest adequately, since Sever decided to make an initial exploration of the area. He even removed his field plate armour.

Sever only made it a short distance before falling into a 'pit trap' (I was using appendix A (with modifications) to work out the route).

Nasty!

Alone and unarmoured, Sever was in big trouble. He could reach his spear, and his Hawkman helmet. He placed the latter on his head and stabbed out with the former, all the while thinking "LURO!!!". He took more damage and then the creature started to descend into the ground, with the ranger along with him. Two more rounds passed before Luro arrived at top speed and shot the monster with his zapper hand crossbow. Immediately the thing convulsed and ejected the badly bleeding ranger, before descending out of reach into the ground.

Now suitably impressed with the danger at ground level, Sever returned to the tower with Luro and two body guards who had belatedly arrived. With no cleric in the party he was only able to heal up with a combination of Giuseppe's Lay on Hands and an application of Keogh's Ointment. His story convinced the other three players of the danger, and they got up before dawn to prepare. But they weren't they only ones who had gotten up early.
hundreds of 'em


Klaxons sounded, the tower was under attack! Hundreds of kenku, with sixty pro kenku hawkmen, were approaching from the north west; and Luro lead hundreds of his anti kenku hawkmen out to attack them. At this point it was on the table for the party to participate in aerial mass combat; but they (wisely?) chose to stick with their mission on the ground instead. 

As they were passing down past the level of the canopy, they saw that their hawkmen were in trouble, a second force of kenku was approaching from the south west and they were screening a giant Roc carrying what was obviously some kind of bomb.

They stayed on mission and once at ground level the sounds of combat were muffled by the trees, and covered by the constant hooting and screeching and cawing of the many birds, natural and unnatural, that lived in the forest. At one point they may have heard an explosion, but they could not be sure. They intended to push through to their objective, but that was going to be harder to achieve than they thought.

This level was created in imitation of the lands one of King Vultan's enemies; Arboria. He had collected bird species from all over the galaxy and, in happier times, had hunted them here. Now they were out of control and posed a significant threat to any who ventured near.

I had created a Monster Manual 2 style random encounter table and filled it with bird creatures, lots of them from the Fiend Folio. Now with a customised DMG appendix A and standard encounter rules, the party tried to run the gauntlet to get to the Castle. It was a tough slog and they had many close encounters and evasions. They also ran into another clawed bladder creature, this one caught Sever and Giuseppe together in the front rank. Both the doughty warriors survived the initial damage from the disgusting creature, and Slippery Pete saved the day again with his hand crossbow; causing it to retreat into the ground. 

avoided, avoided, avoided, avoided, & evaded

I actually cackled out loud when I rolled up the details of the Griff encounter (Fiend Folio page 48, check it out), very unlike my usual mild DMing manner; but, sadly, the party avoided them. They also came across a harmless seeming group of female kenku, laying eggs. Yes, they were "Henku". After a time, the henku eggs could be seen being sucked down into the ground (perhaps to be transported to the incubator racks on level 1?)

Night, or what passes for it in this strange place, was approaching; and the PCs calculated that they had not yet reached the halfway point in the 900 or so yards of forest between the tower and the castle. There was no avoiding the conclusion that they would have to find a way out or head back to the tower. They chose to retrace their steps, and even this required quite some time and many encounter checks (all negative, lucky for them), but they made it back and were happy to find the tower still intact and a get warm welcome from Luro. While the PCs were disappointed, the Hawkman could scarcely believe how far they had managed to travel without getting killed.

At this point it was getting late, but then Sever had a flash(!) of inspiration: since the hawkmen had defeated the kenku-controlled Roc in their battle, there might be treasure to find in the Roc's nest, which they had seen earlier. Not only was this correct, in the dying light they could see a possible alternative exit to this place where the massive shard of rock meet the ceiling. They returned to Luro's tower and schemed adventurous schemes.


Treasure and XP


Cash

Roc nest Jewelry: 2000 gp Coffer, 2000 gp Buckle, 2000 gp Fob. Total Value: 6000 gp.

Strange Coins on the Kenku: 10 gp

Monetary XP total = 6010gp

Monsters

Kenku Hatchlings: 18
Kenku Eggs: 11
2HD Kenku: 2

Monsters XP Total: 303   
Monetary XP Total:  6010
Total: 6313

Total of 6313 XP Weighted by Level 

Giuseppe (Level 4 )  1803 XP & 1717 GP
Sever (Level 4 )  1803 XP &  1717 GP
Sheamus (Level 3)  1352 XP &  1287 GP
Slippery Peter (Level 3) Stuck at level 3 XP & 1287 GP






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