After descending for days into the earth's depths, the switchbacks the party had been traversing finally opened into a 'forest' of mineral deposits growing up from the ground near the shore of a vast underground lake. In the distance, on the far shore of the lake lay Dragotha, a four-tiered city carved into a sloping cliff face.
The party passed through the high iron walls that protected the city after being questioned by suspicious gate-wardens, who directed them to a nearby tavern, Rock Bottom. The tavern was a panoply of species diversity: humans, dwarves, hobgoblins, and creatures the likes of which the party had never seen before. The bartender, a goblin named Salacious Lickspittle, quickly informed the party that their coins were valueless in Dragotha, but offered to hook them up with a man named Bartemius Foulstone who might be willing to exchange worthless topsider money for local Dragoons. The party, who only wanted to find a safe path back to the surface, realized that this might take longer than they hoped.
While they waited for Foulstone, the party cautiously sipped their suspiciously smoking drinks, which were distilled from the juice of local fungi. Theon poured some of his drink onto the stone table top and was alarmed when it started fizzing. One of the locals, overhearing the party's predicament, introduced himself as Tas, a 'trustworthy thief', unlike the despicable Bartemius Foulstone whom, he cautioned, would cheat and rob the party. Instead, he offered to change their topsider money at fair value.
The party accompanied Tas out of the tavern and were told to wait while he got them their money. Tas then proceeded to dart through the crowd, picking every coin purse he could lay his hands on. Sadly he was a bit too hasty slitting the purse of a large bugbear who was soon chasing Tas down the street bellowing in rage. Tas bolted back to the party, running through them and around the corner. The bugbear crashed into Bvar, knocking him flat then proceeded to smash him with a spiked club in frustration because, in the words of the famous minstrel, Stills, 'if you can't kill the one you're mad at, kill the one you're with.'
The enraged creature was prevented from causing further harm by a hold person spell quickly cast by Theon, who then tried to smooth things over with the bugbear, explaining that they were the victims of misunderstanding, and were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. As soon as the party left, Tas returned and filched the coin purse of the still held bugbear.
The party soon learned that Dragotha was a kleptocracy with each tier controlled by one of four rival factions. The highest and most prestigious tier was ruled by a mob boss called The Painted Man, while the third tier was run by The Leech Lord. The second tier was the domain of The Crone, while the lowest tier was run by a troll by the name of Septimus T. Squalor.
The party soon became embroiled in local politics when Salacious Lickspittle hooked them up with a man named Albinus the Pale, who might help them return to the surface in exchange for a small favour. Albinus worked for The Painted Man, who needed to insert some agents into Squalor's gang to kidnap a blind seer known as the Oracle. Since all of The Painted Man's men were known to Squalor's gang, strangers to Dragotha might have a better chance of getting close to the 'lord of the lower tier' without arousing too much suspicion. To facilitate this, Albinus had some of his men start trouble with orc mercenaries in Squalor's employ at a watering hole near Squalor's stronghold. The party stepped in on the side of the orcs and dispatched The Painted Man's men with all the panache of a staged fight orchestrated to show off their impressive fighting skills. The orcs were, indeed, impressed and agreed to introduce the party to their boss.
Septimus Squalor didn't achieve the lofty heights of ruling the lowest tier by trusting every man, orc, or goblin that knocked on his door looking for work, however, and he needed the party to prove themselves before allowing them into his employ. Squalor was interested in adding to his arcane power by collecting mystic adepts, such as the The Oracle who was kept leashed at his side. To further this, he instructed the party to kidnap the shaman of a tribe of morlocks who lived a short distance from the city and preyed upon unwary travelers in the Under Reaches.
With two orc lackeys to guide them, the party traveled to the camp of the morlocks. Tas scouted the camp and reported a band of about twenty degenerate cannibals whose shaman was about to sacrifice a bound captive and roast her. The party waited until the shaman's ritual was complete and was about to plunge his dagger into the chest of the captive before Theon attempted to cast hold person on him. The shaman passed his save easily and proceeded to cut out the heart of his victim and offer it on a heated brazier to his dark god. The party decided to settle this the old-fashioned way - close combat. They easily slaughtered the band of Morlocks but the Shaman held back and fled when things began to look 'iffy.' He ordered his followers to spend their lives to defend him, then he fled. Tas broke away from the battle to chase the shaman, only to be confronted by an albino ape that the shaman had freed from its cage and set upon his pursuer.
The shaman was eventually tracked down and subdued, then taken to Squalor. Having gained the trust of Squalor, I'd envisioned them waiting until everyone was asleep then trying to sneak the Oracle out, like the scene from Return of the Jedi, but the players decided on an altogether different approach: a frontal assault. Theon attempted his signature Hold Person spell on Septimus, which failed. Enraged by this treachery, Septimus attacked Theon. During the confusion Valkrys, the monk, threw the Oracle over his shoulder and ran for it. Some very poor Intelligence checks on the part of the orc guards on the subsequent levels of Squalor's Tower allowed Valkrys's feeble and thoroughly improbable bluffs ("Everyone up to the top level - Septimus is being attacked!") to succeed beyond all expectation.
The session ended with the party fleeing Squalor's tower, strung out in order of movement rate, with an angry troll crime lord and his entire gang in hot pursuit. The plan, if I might generously refer to it as such, is to get to the upper tier - The Painted Man's domain - with the Oracle before being caught and torn limb from bloody limb by a vengeful mob of criminals.
Welcome Back to the Labyrinth
"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."
"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."
"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"
"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"
Monday, September 27, 2010
Session 10: The City of Tiers
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Sounds like a great game!!
Players often go for frontal assaults when you'd think they'd do otherwise...
It was a lot of fun; more so for having been completely ad-libbed. I had nothing to work with but a list of names, yet everything came off okay. And, like all DM's, I'm constantly surprised by players doing what I least expect.
In all fairness, we attempted to get Septimus drunk, but after copiou amounts of alcohol, there seemed to be no effect. That is when the more direct approach was decided on.
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