We have a large group around the table now, larger than I've had for some time (most of my groups have been 4-5): when everyone is there I have 8 people - not counting my daughter who comes around with plastic food, my girlfriend who sits behind my screen with me now and again and wonders what the hell is going on, and various player's significant others who show up from time and again.
One of my fears about larger groups is the game dragging down slower and slower - but I am very pleased with the people who've come to join us. All 3 of them are engaging, willing to jump right in, trying to work WITH the group instead of AGAINST it, and lastly funny.
And frankly funny is one of the most important things. We get together around a table because there is a social aspect that is missing from EQ2 or WOW or the like even with the best Ventirllo servers. And when good natured people get together in a state of camaraderie at some point the jokes and funnies will flow.
And that was my last meeting. It's been a while since I've laughed behind the DM's screen that long and that hard (the last time was when this current group had a penchant for whipping out the 500# gorilla and throwing it in the main bad guy NPC's face) but this has been the case at the recent game. I'm still thinking about it:
(Laugh number 1) Paladin, shining straight and true, maybe a flowing cape and a sword, wraps his face with the tail of his cloak and runs into a filthy fly and maggot choked cleft in a cave rife with rotting fish heads, decaying meat and whatnot and on the fourth step gets overcome from the stench and slams onto his face in the slurry of run off and passes out. And no one wants to risk going in there to get him.
(Laugh number 2) Paladin has come out, admonished to be safer, and the group uses ropes to get the "treasure" on the dead guy out of the back of the cleft. Rest of group runs away from the paladin and dead guy and paladin reaches down to take treasure - gets hit with rot grubs. Jumping around with a knife and yelling, "Shit! Fuck! Shit! Help!" as he is stabbing himself in the wrist, forearm and bicep in a mad effort to kill the wriggling worms burrowing under his skin. And then he steps in the shallow pool and a pair of 2' long lampreys attack to his ankle and shin and he's still dancing around yelling and stabbing himself and with sucking leech like worms flapping about his foot as he is jumping and hollering.
I know you have to be there sometimes to get the full image, but really - it's 3 Stooges like material.
Write up follows:
The broken bits of the Drooling Queen and her passengers fell through a chasm in the sewer’s floor, a whirlpool that ran through rock, mud, and gravelly stone until we slipped and fell a short distance into even more water. The pattering of falling rock and water rained on top of us in the darkness until the hole above us was choked off and plugged from above. Zoltan whistled up a quick light spell and in the glow of the eldritch light we all rejoined one another. The water was about 4 and a half deep and flowed very sluggishly in one direction, a wall visible in one direction the other wall and ceiling out of our vision. A few large pieces of the fungus boat were here, many smaller ones still abounding. Gwyn, the shortest in the group, snagged one of the bigger pieces for himself and Damian offered to drag it behind him with some rope. Arnog held Detheron’s lantern aloft after the druid had it lit and we talked about our options.
Going back was not a choice. The area we were in was perhaps 30’ wide and the roof was maybe 30’ over our heads. We talked for a bit and looked through our belongings, dismayed to find that most of us with scrolls, paper, or journals had our items soaked and in some cases ruined. We opted to go “upstream” and walked that way.
The water deepened slowly and the roof came lower. One by one the party was forced to hold onto Gwyn’s floating piece of the boat until it was obvious we couldn’t go much further. Detheron stripped down and handing his equipment and clothes to Arnog concentrated and transformed himself into a large 50# snapping turtle. Then getting his bearings swam further upstream. It wasn’t much longer before the water was fully under the stone ceiling and deepened to 10’ or so deep. He had gone for a little bit but there was no way the party was going to make it this far – so he turned back and swam for the group, informing them of what he had seen.
With a lack of other choices we went downstream, finding out shortly that the roof was dropping in height and the water was deepening this way as well. We did catch up to other pieces of floating fungus and the group all grabbed pieces of them to float on. We kicked and floated our way along until the pathway had narrowed to 15’ and it sounded like it was getting to an open area up ahead. At this point we strung ourselves together into a single line with Zoltan and Gwyn at opposite ends (strong swimmers) with Arnog, Damian, and Coruth’tae in the middle, the grey elf having cast Tenser’s Floating Disk on which both Olthar and Soren sat upon with eyes peeled and bow ready. Detheron and his tiger swam behind and we moved on.
The stream opened into some smallish underground lake, our voices and noises echoing in the gloom. Zoltan tried hard and listened for the distant sound of shore, guessing it was ahead of us and to our right. Detheron called on Frey and asked to locate animals – feeling lots of small blind cave fish – but also two 15’ long slowly undulating eels some distance away. Soren readied an arrow while it was hit with a light spell and shot in the direction that Zoltan guessed was land – the illuminated bolt soaring over the water and indeed passing over a sizeable outcropping of stone.
We began swimming in that direction, one of the eels coming towards us. Detheron hit it with a Hold Animal spell and we kicked onward eventually reaching the isle. It wasn’t large – a collection of stone maybe 25’ diameter, with the remains of what seemed to be a log raft on it, a single body half lying in the water decayed to just bones, rusty ringmail, and a split backpack. We checked over the island the body – human, dead at least 2 years, most of his gear useless. Some spikes, empty potion bottles, boots were in good shape as was the scimitar (tarnished silver hilt with the word “Silverwind” on the blade), belt buckle was enchanted as well. We took off our wet clothes a bit while Damian and Gwyn made a small fire. Zoltan spent some time working on the remains of the raft in order to put it in some semblance of order again.
Our dead guy had a water soaked journal of which there was not much still legible except for the last page. We read it and figured that this was either a hireling or a member of Djohrgahd’s former adventuring group lost and forgotten a decade ago. Once ready we left the isle and used the raft, swimming to the east (we now knew that as per Detheron’s spells) towards the “beach”.
It was crusted with dead fish and some crusted algae, reeking but harmless. Once on the shore we pulled the boat up and looked around – our feeble light giving no indication to the great size of the cave – only our echoing voices and footsteps. We suspected there was something out there but couldn’t see it. Zoltan suggested, “Just blow your whistle Gwyn, and let whatever is out there know we are here”. It was definitely bold and the dwarf did so – the shrill silver sound echoing through the cave.
And they came. Three, then a fourth, dark creatures came and Damian was telling us where they were – the baddies staying just outside visible range. They were cool, the same temperate as the surrounding cave so infravision was useless as Gwyn found out standing just outside the light range bow in hand. He was attacked and staggered back holding his chest and yelling warning.
10’ tall, rubbery green and black skin, floppy almost boneless features, needle-like teeth, two of them assaulted us immediately, Zoltan losing his sling in the dark and Gwyn seeing his hydra spear although badly wounding one – the creature all 750 lbs ran PAST him into the water and then healed the wounds almost immediately. Water trolls, scrags. Capable of healing almost instantly if made wet. And we were fighting them on the edge of an underground lake.
Zoltan was bull rushed and driven into the water, the gypsy trying to break free and get around. Arrows and swords flew but the wounds were healed very quickly. Coruth’tae used a Hypnotism spell to convince one of the scrags to “take a swim” – and it did so – swimming further into the water! The rest of us fought a defensive retreat away from the shore line and into the cave proper.
A third one, bigger, over half a ton, decidedly female and a glint of genius in her beady black eyes watched the group from the limit of our light range, hands on haunches. Olthar tried to speak to her, but she either didn’t understand the wood elf or deigned to not answer. A fourth one came out, approaching us with a large bag in one hand. The one from the water emerged healed now and ran at us, running over caltrops while doing so, allowing us to get a good series of blows against it. It grew weaker and eventually fell but not before wounding a good number of the group.
The female scrag laughed at us and turned back walking into the water and away. We tried to skewer the scrag with the bag and the druid got lucky piercing it – it was filled with water. It grew wroth at that and hit the druid a few times hard, biting him deeply. We plied our efforts and in short order the 2nd scrag was dispatched. Gwyn doused the two of them with oil and set them ablaze while the group looked around more.
Just north of us was a depression in the stone floor filled with some oily skuzzy looking water. Damian went to stick his hand in and was immediately beset with lamprey like leeches attaching to his glove. He peeled off the garment and it fell back in the pool. Ok – don’t touch the pool. Beyond the pool to the north was the cave wall and some sort of depression. We looked it over and both Zoltan and Olthar fanned out to the extreme right and left to listen for any other scrags (or anything else).
Along the north wall just past the pool was a natural depression in the rock the scrags was using as a larder/pantry. An efflusivant mass of rotting fish, decaying flesh, moldy algae and slurry-like vegetation was stacked across the floor and on low stone shelves. The reek was like nothing ever scented before. But Damian thought he saw something in the back of the larder and opted to run in. Detheron thought it wasn’t a good idea but the headstrong paladin covered his face with his cloak and held his breath and ran in.
In four steps he collapsed to his knees, vomiting his guts out, overcome by the reek and stench and knocked out. The group stood outside the depression, none of them daring to chance the horrendous stink. Eventually it was decided on Gwyn using his grappling hook and a few tosses got it around the heavily armored paladin. It took two of them to pull him out over the slurry like oily floor only once he was free did they note that in their yanking had actually sunk the grapple into his shoulder near his neck. Detheron had to pull it free after soaking the paladin with all his water to wash off the filth and it wasn’t until he was mostly finished in patching up his shoulder that Damian regained consciousness.
He told us that before he passed out, in the back of the depression, was a drow with what seemed to be two long silvered swords in his waist. Zoltan took a look and sure enough, the keen eyed gypsy backed up Damian’s claim. Detheron wanted nothing to do with it and suggested we just move on, but the greed of the group took over and they wanted the silvered swords. But no was going to go back in (although Damian offered to – getting shot down).
We settled on a plan where we used Arnog’s 20’ length of entangling rope attached to regular rope and had the entire thing tossed in where it roped around the dead drow. Damian offered to pull the body out and the rest of the group all moved FAR away to not be near while this went on. The paladin pulled slowly, muscle and flesh sloughing off the bloated corpse, but it did come free. He then reached down and grabbed the swords – and got nailed with rot grubs.
The hateful creatures dug through his glove and burrowed into his flesh, two of them making their way in. He took out his knife and stabbed himself in the wrist trying to kill them while he was dancing around and yelling for help. He got lucky while wounding himself and did manage to kill one of them, but the other had come up to his bicep and he was having a difficult time hitting it. In his mad gyrations he accidentally stomped in the oily puddle – and got two of the lamprey like leech creatures on his feet, flopping about wildly as he was cursing and yelling and shouting.
Arnog grabbed for the leeches and pulled them free while Detheron used quick thinking and was able to cut the other rot grub away before it got too close to Damian’s chest. We healed up with what LITTLE was left, the group strung out and tired (it’s been a long day since seeing Jarul and then killing Yasmina, stealing a boat, sailing and pedaling, sinking dwarves, dropping down here, more water adventures, scrags, and finally this) and debated where we were going to try and hole up next.
According to Zoltan and Olthar, along the northern wall there were three potential caves - one was water logged and most likely where the bigger female scrag had gone, one was dry, and a third was wide but had some sort of troll sounds faintly coming down it. There might be other places but we have no idea how big this cavern is and maybe more exploring at this point when we are so light on resources isn't a good idea.