Friday, August 3, 2012

Session #21: Full Circle

{Well, according to the status bar there are readers out there... so I'd like to apologize for the delay in posting.  It's been hectic around here trying to get Critters, Creatures, & Denizens to the printer and I had to reconstruct the events from memory, so the dialog might be off a bit, but the majority is correct.  Fortunately I have good records from session #22 and will be posing that as soon as I have it written down.  :) }


{Game clock resumes a few moments later on the 1st of March, 3200}

The train is slowed long enough for Bob to get back on board, and it isn’t long after they get going again that they realize the Bountiful Bento Box has turned to ash…  The adventurers realize that all of the rations that their characters had with them, had been with them through the entire mine ordeal… none of them were keen to see if they were still edible and these rations are thrown out.  They also discover just how far the adulation of the refugee goes: because many of the townsfolk that are traveling with them are not willing to share the meager rations they managed to buy off the Veltoni caravan.  It is a long, restless night for the heroes of Silverton.

The next day they ask the ranger to go hunting, and she scoffs at them: “Do you realize what’s involved in trying to feed this many people?  I can do it, but it means we have to stop the train for at least half a day and everyone else needs to forage near the road so while I go out hunting.”

Dwight; “How long would it take?”

Pat, somewhat shocked that they are considering the possibility; “Well, this time of year everything out there is hungry… this mean that the game animals are out in large numbers trying to find what little forage there is to be had.  It also means that there will be a lot of predators out there as well… I say at least 2 hours, but it could take all day.”

Milo, resigned; “Well we may as well get started on that, the sun rises soon and as I understand it this is a good time for hunting… yes?”

Pat; “Ya, I’ll go tell Archie we need to stop.  You guys go see if there are any of the passengers who know how to hunt.”

Ten minutes later Pat and one of the passengers, who it turns out is actually a hunter by trade, set out in opposite directions hoping to maximize their chances.  The rest forage around the road and head out as far as they dare.  Lady luck is with them and it only takes about 5 hours to gather in what they need.  The hunter comes back with a young buck and Pat brings in a few rabbits, the refugees gather a fair bit of winter dried fruit and Dwight actually brings in a couple more rabbits.  The hunter and the refugees get to work on the skinning and making the most of their provisions… it is decided that they will have stews in order to make it all last longer.  The rest of the day passes uneventfully.

Mid-morning on the next day they are lounging about when they notice that the train is slowing… the strange brass box on the wall jars them to attention, Archie’s voice coming through in scratchy tones; “Road Martials to the front of the train.” They are surprised, but they make their way to the control platform at the front of the engine by which time the engine and wagons have stopped. Archie continues his voice hardly any less scratchy than on the intercom; “I need to send you out scouting ahead.” And he is pointing to a thick column of dark smoke rising from somewhere to the east, and in the direction they are headed.

Bob; “How far up the road is it?”

Archie: “I’d say it’s within 5 miles and that puts it right about where Grenvec should be… and that’s what worries me.  There’s nowhere to turn around until we get to the plateau and the last thing we want is another ambush.”

Milo; “That could take a while… Are you sure you want to let the train stay still for the time it would take us to get there and back?”

Archie; “Well, you still have the wireless I gave you right?  An’ don’t worry; I picked up something in Silverton that I doubt anyone there is going to miss.  Besides, I plan on keeping the train creeping forward at about 1mph.  Follow me.”  And he deploys the ramp that lets them onto the ground from the control platform.  He gets onto his little kart and they follow him around to the side of the fuel car.  There is a set of double doors about 2/3 of the way down the right side of the car and Archie taps a button; the rear most of the two doors opens up to reveal a fairly large storage area.  He climbs in and presses another button and a small crane arm deploys from the area over the door.  Hank, Dwight, and Milo help him maneuver a rather large, bulky crate shaped object out the door and onto the ground.  Archie closes things up and then turns to them; “Stand back a bit.” Then he presses a button on the crate and hurriedly moves back about 15ft. 

It starts to rumble ominously and several panels begin to slide and move about strangely.  A few minutes later it has unfolded itself into a 15ft wide by 20ft long wagon.  It has a driver’s seat in front of the wheel at the center of the front platform of the wagon which is about 8ft off the ground; it has two wheels in the front, but the rear axle has two wheels on each side of the car.  There are fancy brass posts holding a steel chain railing that runs all the way around the entire car that also divides off a 10ft long by 15ft wide cargo area in the back.  The entire wagon-car has no roof, but the central area behind the driving platform is deep enough to shelter any of the three people that can sit on the bench there.  The driver, the steering column, and the ‘drive-train’ on the front axle are protected by a field of force projected out in front of the wagon, but that it only protects the driver from the forward arc.  Archie claps his hands and rubs them vigorously together; “So, who gets the crash course on how not to crash…” points at Thingerlun, who had tagged along, “NOT you…” he then turns to the rest, “but you’ll want the most agile among you to sit behind the wheel.”

Bob surreptitiously steps behind everyone and attempts to be ‘unseen’; and in the end, they elect Milo… since he’s their reliable light source anyway.  It takes about a half hour to review the controls and for Milo to get the hang of the steering… which is much like a ship at sea: meaning that several turns of the wheel are required for even a mild turn of the wagon.  It is a good thing that this cart doesn’t travel that fast. At the end of the lesson Archie tells Milo that; “The road can only apply 4ft/second of acceleration or deceleration to the vehicle and there is a maximum speed of 12ft/second {120ft/round}; but if the wind-screen is turned off,” points to a red button; “…the cart can apply another 2ft per second to both acceleration and deceleration and the max speed bumps up to 18ft/second {180/round}.  This model of cart steers like a cow and was made for quiet city driving by poncey gits looking to flaunt their wealth.”

Dwight; “Will it travel off of the road?”

Archie; “Yes, but the wind-screen must be turned off and the cart’s maximum acceleration and deceleration is 2ft/second {20ft/ round} with a maximum speed of 6ft/ second {60ft/round}, and may the God’s protect you...  And one last thing,” hiking his thumb over his shoulder at Thingerlun, “he has to ride in the back as cargo.  You’ll be heading into an area full of Guild Engineers; I don’t want to get in trouble for not enforcing Guild law.”  Archie turns to face Thingerlun, “And YOU don’t want to be arrested buy the Guild… trust me on this one.”

A few minutes of practicing later, the Heroes of Silverton: Dwight, Milo, Pat, Thingerlun, Bob, and Ffwylldyr are pulling away out in front of the train.  About 15 minutes later they are cresting the last hill before dropping down onto the plateau that formerly housed the town of Grenvec.  The night of fire that started all of this madness has left nothing but a scared hill and black ash where the town used to be.  Now they notice that the standing stones where they had escaped the flames are in a crumbled state all over the plateau.  It is obvious even from this distance that they were thrown apart by some sort of violent explosion from inside the stones.  Of the Guild Engineering & Construction team there is little left but twisted wreckage scattered around the plateau.  Their attention is drawn to an arrhythmic pounding noise and they see that near the edge of the plateau they can see that there are large brutish forms with clubs hammering on the wreckage of one of the mighty Guild engines. 

With further examination (and moving a bit closer) they can see that about a mile from their location there are what appear to be several undead giants hammering away at the wreckage. Milo says; “Those appear to be zombies, and they wouldn’t be that focused on their attack if there weren’t someone alive in that wreck.”

Pat, “We should probably go help them.”

Dwight, sighs and shakes his head; “You’re probably right, but how… I count at least 4 of them and if what Milo says is true then they are undead giants of some kind.”

Milo, with a fair degree of zeal in his eyes; “I say we take this thing,” pats the steering wheel, “and plow right into them!”

There is a stunned silence for a few moments, then Ffwylldyr says; “Um, you heard Archie say this thing is just a rich guy’s fancy ride, right?  No armor, no roof; it would be suicide.”

Thingerlun; “we could split up and move at them from both sides of that hill, I’ll go around to the left the rest of you go around to the right.”

Milo; “All by yourself?” 

Thingerlun; “I’ll be fine.  I do most of the damage around here anyway, and maybe it’ll draw some of them off so the rest of you can help whoever is in the wreckage.”

They head out as quietly as they can; fortunately the hill where the megaliths once stood screens their approach for most of the way.  For some reason Dwight is chosen to stay with the cart, and Ffwylldyr stays with Dwight; he has become fascinated by Dwight and the grandeur of this man’s destiny.

Thingerlun the pustulent casts force manipulation and a disc forms, he steps onto it and heads out, taking the widdershins path down to the ash covered plateau; Milo, Pat and Bob take the docil path after a few minutes to give Thingerlun a chance to set up the distraction.  The wreckage is still about a quarter mile off with no cover, so Milo, Bob, and Pat take a measured approach hoping to get as close as they can before they are discovered.  Once Thingerlun is on his own and picks up a fair bit of speed as he heads down the hill and is out onto the plateau and a bit closer to the zombie stone giants than the rest of the party.  On the way down he starts to formulate the nature of the distraction he wants.  He decides to try the new undead summoning spell he knows in an attempt to usurp control of some of a few of the zombies.  He fails… and they notice the wash of magic compulsion break upon what little is left of their awareness: 4 of them turn and charge at the wizard. 

So, not what he had in mind, but he figures ‘zombies charging?  I’ll have time to pick them off before they get here…’  He was partially correct, but they are fast zombies so they have an initiative score… more importantly for the moment, however, is the fact that they have a sprinting speed as well.  Given that he’d been closing the distance I ruled that he had three rounds before they were in melee range.  Thingerlun’s magic missile spell yielded a few low powered missiles that failed to drop even one; then his spell failed entirely.  He could do nothing but stare at them until they were upon him, but on the way over to the fight the zombies had strung out in a line. 

Meanwhile… on the other side of the hill…

Bob and Pat close the distance quicker because they are less hindered, and Pat is a ranger on her home turf: literally.  Even though she has some of the best weapons against giant (live or dead) she figures the people in the wreckage need to be protected so she does a quick search and finds a way inside, Bob moves out to where he can see what is making the clanging sound on the other side of the wreckage and finds 3 more undead stone giants, but these were adults when they died and are rather larger than the 4 immature giants that are attacking Thingerlun.  Fortunately they are standard zombies and are slow and shambling, which gives Milo the time he needs to get close enough to try and turn the unholy filth.  One is affected and shambles off towards the edge of the plateau; which is quite close at this point.

On top of the Hill by the cart…

Dwight sees that there are seven zombies and that Thingerlun is seriously out matched regardless of his self-confidence, he turns to Ffwylldyr; “We’d better head down there and see if we can save him.” and he starts to run down the hill in that direction.

Ffwylldyr; “Wouldn’t the cart be faster?!”

Dwight; “I haven’t really got a clue how that thing works and we’d probably just kill ourselves.”  They head out as fast as they can and are shortly within extreme longbow range and Dwight decides that it is time for some really fancy shooting. 

{In our game outdoor ranges are multiplied by three.  So he’s using a d16 & a d5: in our games we house ruled that deed dice are not reduced for simplicity during melee and for 2handed fighting.  The sprinting zombies have AC 14, but modified to 16.  Player declares that he is aiming for one of the knee caps of the second giant.  I rule that this is a 4 or better on the deed die.} 
Dwight licks his thumb and checks the wind, then aims his bow in a direction that seems guaranteed to fail… but the arrow streaks out and is caught by the wind and corrected back to strike true. {Rolls 15, and a 5…} The second giant tumbles and trips; taking out the third one as well, but the fourth jumps over the pile-up and lands on the other side.

Inside the twisted gear-scrap

…that was once a grand Engine of the Guild, Pat finds about a dozen wounded gnomes who have had their wounds tended.  In the center of the little cave of twisted metal is a tragic sight.  The Cleric of Thormyr who had charged them first with malicious misconduct leading to the deaths of the citizens of Grenvec and who later exonerated them and asked if they would investigate the goings on at Silverton lay half propped up on a girder; his face composed not in agony but with the sublime calm of someone deep in communion with the divine.  Pat sees that there are squiggle and circles and powders laced out around him; she can’t read, but she recognizes them as the same signs that Hearn had used to create the sanctuary when they were in the Gannu Family Mine.  But what draws her attention is the fact that his body is a mass of compressed flesh and broken bones from the waist down.  Still she can feel the power of his faith holding the wreckage together; and she decides to set herself as guardian of the portal that leads into the interior of the wreck.

Meanwhile… Thingerlun is beginning to panic…

He hasn’t noticed the zombie pile-up and in desperation (he has no other combat spells) he tries the Summon undead spell again, but fails outright, yet not badly enough for a mishap.  The lead zombie has better aim this time, but rolls poorly on the damage.  Even so, Thingerlun is still nearly reduced to mush.  {Something like 2-4 hp left, I wasn’t keeping track.}

Dwight tries the same trick again on the forward of the two standing zombies, but this time he misses completely and he and Ffwylldyr spend the rest of the round covering more ground.

{Player; “Well, so much for Thingerlun… and he never got his familiar either…Damn.”

Storyteller; “Not necessarily…”}

On the next round Thingerlun dives under the force disc he’s created hoping that it might afford him some protection from the zombies that are starting to surround him.  It is then that Thingerlun’s mind is filled near to bursting with the clarion call; “TO BATTLE!!!  Everyone else just hears a clarion roar of a furious dragon.  Thingerlun is on his back looking up just in time to see a small purple dragon pop into view as it belched out a cone of acid and then zooms off to the south and disappears from view below the rim of the plateau. 

{Thing’s player turns to one of the other players; the disc is a fixed barrier that can hold 300lbs… would it stop the attack?”  Who then turned to me and asked “How heavy is the club?”

Storyteller; “Well, it’s made from a tree that was recently pulled out of the ground… I’d say it’d be at least 80 to 100 pounds.” 

Engineer: “Nope… Sorry.”

Thingerlun’s player; “Well that’s it for Thingerlun…”

Storyteller; “Maybe not, the damage must’ve been reduced significantly in the process, so it’ll only be 1d10.”

Thingerlun’s player; “That still might kill me.”

Storyteller rolls a 1…; “Apparently the Gods still have a purpose for Thingerlun.”}

Thingerlun suddenly feels a massive rush of energy, similar to what he has experienced from Hearn’s healing rituals; but a hundred times more intensely as the dragon familiar shares his life force with Thingerlun.  The sound of youthful giggling fading in Thingerlun’s mind is followed by; “Hey Pus Monkey! Show a little effort!” {Thingerlun receives +68 bonus hit points for the dragon familiar.}

Thingerlun stands up and holds his staff out ready for combat.

Having seen the Dragon’s work, Dwight focuses on what is happening over by the wreckage and can make out that Milo is over-matched.  He heads off in that direction with the bard in tow.

Over by the edge of the plateau…

Bob has thrown his magic dagger a couple of times and keeps missing, because apparently he can’t hit a shuffling zombie stone giant.  Milo is only just now arriving on scene, having been slowed by platemail.  He tries to turn Unholy again, but fails to muster sufficient strength to overpower any of them.  The dragon pops up from below the ridge-line and hovers there while he uses his claws to shred one of the two remaining zombies.  Dwight manages to kneecap a second giant, it doesn’t fall, but it has to remain stationary.  Bob finally hits the remaining zombie with his dagger, but doesn’t really do that much damage. 

Milo grabs his mace and charges; landing a heavy blow to the putrid giant, but it is still standing.  Much to Milo’s dismay, for the giant critically succeeds on its attack against Milo, taking more than half of Milo’s hit points in one attack, and rendering him stunned by the chill specter of death seen in the soulless eyes of the long dead stone giant.  Milo succeeds at his fortitude save to not get knocked over the edge of the plateau, but is nearly catatonic for the next 30seconds.  Bob charges in screaming, and Dwight manages to hit it with another arrow, but this time just for damage; but the dagger and arrow are mostly useless, and now Bob is in range of the club.  It misses him, and then on the next round the zombie nearly kills Milo.


… with his new found vigor, has managed to scoff at the damage that the giant has inflicted, and with his own prodigious strength (and the magic in the quarterstaff that he wields) Thingerlun manages to turn the giant into nothing more than moldering meat in less than a minute.  He knows deep down that he should be dead by now, but the bond with his familiar has saved him.

Fortunately for Milo…

… the dragon pounces upon the last undead giant and shreds it with his claws, then growls melodically and turns invisible.  Bob turns to Milo and sees that he is praying quietly to himself and that some of Milo’s wounds seem to be healing, but when he is done with the prayer there are still several wounds visible.  Milo looks at Bob; “PAINNNNN! Where’s Hearn?!” And he flips his mace around so that he is using the heft as a walking stick and he starts to hobble back towards the wreckage.  Bob follows along behind hoping that the dead will stay that way.  Pat hears the cleric of Thormyr utter a very faint sigh, and then he collapses; she runs out to find the others and tell them who she found.  After they are all together, they have Dwight call up Archie to tell him what has occurred. 

Archie, somewhat panicked; “Yes, yes, that’s awful, but what about the FIRE!?  Tell me it isn’t the Guild Substation that’s on fire!”

Bob, Dwight, and Pat head out that way and are able to tell Archie that it’s the small copse of trees that passes for woods on this plateau that are burning but not the station… though it is threatened. 

Archie is upset now; “We’re at the top of the ridge now and heading down onto the plateau, if that substation goes out it’ll take months to repair!  Road Marshals, I charge you with putting out that fire as fast as possible.  Protect the station!”

{Game clock suspended at 11am 03/02/3200}

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