Here, once more, is the party lineup:
- Mike: Tarthon, minotaur barbarian – Likes His Enemies Split in Two, Like His Pies (note: Mike couldn't make it to the first of the two sessions described below, so Rick's friend Mark pitched in to help)
- Steve: Grumhorn, a.k.a. "Grue," dwarf invoker – He Who Glows Brightly and Sinks Quickly
- Me: Graaver Stormcry, longtooth shifter druid-fighter – Fierce Combatant Who Can Scratch and Lick Places Not to be Mentioned in Polite Company
- Willie: Sebastin, githzerai ranger – Taught Legolas Everything He Knows (note: missing from both sessions, unfortunately)
- Felix: new character finally debuting this very game!
Part 1: What an Incredible Smell We Discover
Kandis arranges a private meeting with the Malhavens and escorts Stormcry, Grue, and Tarthon to the manor house. Along with the Malhavens, we meet a scowling young half-orc in scale armor named Kerrun. (The “u” is silent. Mostly. Hi, Felix!) After we grunt and mark our territory, we get down to the business of finding the missing gal, Lindsay Lohan... uh, Ardwen Toladae.
First, the Malhavens want to be sure we’re discrete. Of course, we’re discrete! These days, we leave only a few bodies in our wake, and we haven’t burned down a building in weeks! We’re given two leads: 1) Around the time of Ardwen’s disappearance, a retainer who had been keeping an eye on her dropped dead at the feet of a young trinket seller, a.k.a. “street scum” in the Malhavens’ eyes. 2) A specter or ghost has been seen in the area – we’re told we should talk to a fishmonger named Crudleman. The name alone sounds like fish bait. (“Hey, how’d you catch that bass?” “Easy – I put some crudleman on the hook!”)
We get all Sherlocky and ask about possible motivations, just in case the culprits’ main goal was to embarrass the Malhavens. The Malhavens own one of the biggest casinos around: the House of Fate. (If the blackjack dealer is named Manos, I’m leaving.) They have two big rivals: the Happarannon family, which owns the House of Luck, and the Rohamarie family, which operates the House of Fortuity.
The party later heads out for a breakfast of yogurt and falafel (doesn’t any family operate the House of Pancakes?) with new ally Kerrun, who gets the recaps of past sessions downloaded to his iPad. We then seek fishmonger Crudleman, who’ll tell us about the ghost IF we bring back the wolf’s-head belt buckle of the leader of the Crimson Dogs, a gang of thugs who have been harassing him. Okay, so to get the runes transcribed, we have to help the Malhavens. To help the Malhavens, we have to get info from a fishmonger. To get info from the fishmonger, we have to beat up a Punjar street gang. Got it. Could be worse! Stormcry buys 6 big fish – longjaws – from the guy, along with a sack of ice. Why? Why not? He might get peckish.
Crudleman does tell us where to find the street kid, so we seek out Oliver Twist who is selling daggers. Kerrun decides to haggle over prices. There’s some give-and-take via a skill challenge – the kid is a sharp seller! Kerrun buys a pendant with a raven on it – the kid says it’s a “lucky charm.” Yeah, right. So’s this rock on the street.
After more chatting, the kid tells us that the dying man mumbled something about “green creatures” and “slaughter.” After the nightmare experience in the Sargasso, this group isn’t exactly keen on green. Oliver Twist indicates that the dying man stepped out of a nearby alleyway.
Investigating the area, we see that an old sign – probably indicating the street’s name – was crossed out. Scratched in its stead are the words “Slaughterstone Alley.” A quiet street, then? At the corner, we spot an old, seemingly decrepit man sitting on the street with a bowl for donation – and a monkey. Two other guys sit slumped against the wall farther down the street, apparently drunk. Stormcry looks more closely – the “drunk” guys are faking it. He calmly walks up to one, abruptly grabs him by the throat and growls, “Tell me who you’re watchdogs for!!” Fight!
The two guys are no slouches! They’re skillful fighters with poisoned weapons. Yikes! There’s lots of stabbing and slashing. Stormcry and Tarthon finally get a chance to, ahem, execute their power move: Stormcry knocks a guy prone and Tarthon follows up with Headman’s Chop! Alas, Tarthon’s damage roll was anticlimactically tiny. Waah. Grue’s Avenging Light gets used a lot, and Kerrun aggressively encourages his new allies with Stand the Fallen and Intuitive Strike, among other cool warlord things. The two enemy fighters finally drop. The old guy with the monkey doesn’t budge.
Interestingly, the fighters bear the Black Lotus tattoo!
As we continue our examination of Slaughterstone Alley, we see... a ghost! Yep, an eerie, translucent image of a woman hovers at the end of the alleyway, then vanishes near a stack of crates. We search the area around the crates and find a broken silver necklace bearing the initials “A.T.” Ardwen Toladae, perhaps? Hey, though, we found the ghost, so that wanker Crudleman can sod off!
The crates themselves are full of stinky, putrid foodstuffs. We move them aside and see that they conceal a grate leading to a steel ladder going down, into the sewers. Grue, Kerrun, Stormcry, and Tarthon pull the grate open and descend. The dwarf Grue, once again the master of stealth, falls off the ladder! Stormcry grabs him by the back of the neck – ouch – and he falls, too! But at least he slowed him up, so they take only minor damage when they hit the stinky bottom. Hey, it IS the sewer.
On either side of the flowing yuckiness are stone walkways. Farther ahead there’s a bridge near the entrance to a darker side passage. The flow seems to be blocked as we go down this passage, culminating in a huge pile of stinky refuse. YUCK. Stormcry, suspicious, takes a step back and flings a sling bullet at the mound – which erupts! Yep, there’s an otyugh in there! Stormcry just has time to notice a fairly new haversack near the broken pile before the disgusting monster punishes him for trying to accessorize! A gross tentacle wraps around the shifter and pulls him close to the otyugh’s many sharp, filth-covered teeth.
Stormcry, already injured during the fight, is immediately in bad straits, but Kerrun’s use of Inspiring Word and Knight’s Move helps him escape. Since the party can’t use its full might in the narrow passage, we lure the creature out into the main tunnel, which really isn’t a problem as the otyugh wants to eat us. Lots of martial attacks and divine magic are thrown at the creature, the biggest of which is Grue’s Dawn’s Blazing Fingers! Big hit. The otyugh retaliates, spewing acidic bile on both Grue and Kerrun! Painful! Worse still, the two adventures contract filth fever and are in immediate need of spa treatments.
Stormcry crits with Call Forth the Spectral Pack, which knocks the otyugh prone (can you tell the difference?), and Tarthon follows up with Rage of the Crimson Hurricane. Kerrun declares Vengeance is Mine and encourages Tarthon to strike again! Kerrun then calls forth Marshal Doom, which is not Judge Dredd’s boss but rather a power that gives you bonus damage if you expend an Action Point. Stormcry whiffs on the opportunity, but Grue strikes hard yet again, this time with Ward of Ruin and (action point!) Spear of the Inquisitor! The otyugh is slowed, dazed, immobilized, AND could have saved $15 on car insurance. Great! Oh, WAIT, it’s still alive? Crap!
It grabs and bites Grue! And if you’ve read R.A. Salvatore’s novels, you know that that’s a Very Bad Thing. OWWW! Grue screams in pain, then collapses, near death. Fortunately, after a final Intuitive Strike from Kerrun, the otyugh dies. Phew!
We patch up Grue and check out the otyugh’s treehouse of terror. We find a suit of armor emblazoned with the symbol of Delvyr (NG god of learning, knowledge, and light). As for the haversack that Stormcry spotted, it has spoiled rations, a holy symbol of Delvyr, and ... ooooh, a sealed scroll tube. Rolled up inside is a map! Yay, we love maps! Whoever this unfortunately follower of Delvyr was (was this our ghost?!), she managed to sketch out a rough map of the sewer ... including a section of the main tunnels that continues past an area that’s blocked up ahead, a little farther down the dark sewer tunnel, and there’s something important on the map beyond that. This could come in handy, but we’re in no shape to deal with it now. And there we left it for that session.
Part 2: Say Hello to My Friend Kris. He's Very Stabby.
We’re a filthy, bleeding, diseased, and very stinky mess. We decided to leave the sewers and rest up. Hey, we’re done! Back to the sewers to check out the mysterious blocked section.
Stormcry wild-shapes into a hyena and scouts ahead. The passageway slowly curves. He spots a silver die in the murky water… and something very odd. As they get closer to the spot where the map indicates the blockage, he sees a gaping hole in the tunnel wall. As he peeks in, six people with kris swords come forward to attack! Tarthon jumps forward and tries to intimidate them, but he fails. It’s like they’re not really bothered by him – or by anything. But they DO want to stab us! Initiative!
They’re eerily silent, and they’re an odd mix of clothes and ages: noble, pauper, man, woman, young, old. Yet they’re united in their focus. All the adventurers jump into the fight. Grue, Stormcry, and Tarthon hit – often directed with lethal precision by Kerrun’s Direct the Strike – and are hacked at in return.
During the battle, Stormcry feels a malevolent presence trying to invade his thoughts – the same presence he’s felt several times since acquiring the Triagon from Longshanks’ hoard – and he summons a reserve of willpower (via the Conceal Psyche skill utility power) to shield his mind. The vile mental pressure fades… and one of the attackers clutches his head as though in pain! Are these people connected somehow to the nasty, clawed, alien figures that Stormcry glimpsed in his thoughts?
No time to figure that out now. Tarthon hits again, thanks to Kerrun’s Direct the Strike, but several opponents then surround the minotaur. He drops! Stormcry and Grue come to their friend’s aid, using Call Forth the Spirit Pack and Avenging Light, and Kerrun somehow manages to encourage Tarthon back to consciousness (Inspiring Word)! The minotaur wastes no time. He leaps at a prone foe and hits him with Headman’s Chop and does lots of damage – but the attacker still lives! For ordinary-looking folks, these people are surprisingly tough. Moreover, the now-horribly injured man doesn’t even scream. Stranger and stranger.
The fight goes on much longer than the heroes expected. Stormcry, who would have fallen if not for his shifter regeneration talent, hits one female attacker with his spiked gauntlet – and the woman’s eyes seem to regain some clarity and she says “Ow… OWW!” before getting glassy-eyed again. Just as Tarthon is about cleave into her (ahem), Stormcry says, “Don’t chop her!” He tries to move the woman out of the way – maybe they can get ONE witness out of this mess.
Grue, Tarthon, and Kerrun finish off the remaining attackers. (Sorry, mind-controlled innocents! You gave us no choice! But hey, blame the DM! He’s the one who let us pick the attractive one to interrogate!) An examination of the crude cave afterward reveals very little, other than that it was recently created.
The woman slowly regains her senses, and she quickly realizes that she’s in a lot of pain! Oh, sorry about the bruises and slashes, lady! We administer some healing on her (and us). She says her name is Essa. She had just wrapped up her shift at the Palace (another casino) when something hit her in the back of the head. Now she’s here. We ask her when all this happened – it was a week ago. She’s been down here for days. Essa is legitimately freaked out and would very much like to go home.
We tell her “Yeah, yeah, in a few minutes” (we’re very charming about it) and decide to press on and follow the map. In a couple of minutes, we are indeed blocked by an impenetrable metal grate across the width of the tunnel. OK. We’ll go above ground and do our best to track the path of the tunnel via the streets. The map is still our best lead to finding Ardwen. Or maybe it’s not… We find that all of the kris swords bear an identical “L” monogram. Kerrun, who has been in Punjar the longest, knows that it’s the work of a blacksmith called Laren in the Devil’s Thumb area of town.
First, we escort Essa home, give her a few gold pieces, and tell her to find another job. A beggar sees this generous donation and extends his hand. Stormcry growls.
We enter Laren’s workshop. He’s a very strong, impressive dwarf who is berating his apprentice, Debos, as we arrive. Tarthon approaches him with two of the acquired kris swords, and he tries to get Laren to confirm that he created the swords and, if so, get Laren to tell us who bought them. Laren is proud and confident, and he demands that we prove our worthiness and appreciation of fine craftsmanship before he tells us anything … or he will crush us where we stand! We like this guy! We get into a skill challenge to show off our knowledge and appreciative eye for fine weaponsmithing. We succeed!
Laren tells us that the swords were made at his smithy, but… the apprentice, Debos, drops a shelf of heavy stuff on the bunch of and us and tries to make a break for it! Wow, can’t get good help these days! We manage to slow down Debos, and Laren clobbers him solidly with a maneuver that certainly looks like the Fighter power Crushing Blow. Laren has the moves to back up his mouth, it seems. Because we gave him a hand, Laren directs us to get rooms at the Golden Hearth. “Tell Millie I sent you,” he says. We decide to get settled and to clean up quickly at the inn before we head back out that night – it’s been a long day and we’re famished. At the inn, we make the acquaintance of Kelic, a priest of Choranus, the Seer-Father (a top god in the pantheon; LN, creation, fate).
Sated and refreshed, we attempt to retrace our “sewer steps” as closely as possible above ground. Through a series of Dungeoneering and Streetwise checks, we end up one block away from the House of Fortuity, the casino run by the Rohamarie family, one of the Malhavens’ rivals. We decide to do some reconnaissance. We pay street urchins for whatever info they have, but ultimately all we can find out is that there’s no sewer entrance to the casino.
We wait around and try to gather more info. Our patience is rewarded when we come across a wine merchant, Turin, who is having some trouble with his cart. We help him out and learn that he needs some help unloading wine at the House of Fortuity in the morning. This seems like a fairly good way of getting access to the casino’s basement. We make plans to meet him early the next morning.
In the meantime, we have some time to kill, so we might as well check out the inside of the casino. We enter and see LOTS of activity, from high rollers to curiosity seekers. There’s a roped-off area over to the side where a few people are entering. We grab a table on the side, observe for a bit, and get some dirty looks from a somewhat-menacing dwarf. (A bouncer, perhaps?) We play a game called Stirgeskull with our lovely dealer, Veda. Stormcry gains some cash, but he doesn’t press his luck – and neither he nor any of the others accepts Veda’s offer to play “Whirling Death”! That’s in the roped-off section. Wellllll, maybe later.
And that's roughly where we stopped for the night.