Sundered Empires Session Report 25

Read the previous play report

The characters awoke from the golden mist, refreshed and healed, only to find Lairn and his ally missing, while Kenan-Tal had been whisked straight from Threshold.  They have determined that the golden mist seems to pull people who have an emotional connection to those already in it to them, which explains Hannah’s presence (since she despised Alfric).  The party brought Kenan-Tal up to speed, all the while Jayna smiled and winked at him.

When the Unicorn proposition came up (Anika again grumbled that it was a bad idea), Jayna leaned on her hand and asked Kenan-Tal sweetly if he was a virgin.  Kenan-Tal pointed out that he couldn’t meet the other requirement (being a maiden), but he never actually answered the question, even with all the women in the group trying to get him to spill.

It occurs to me now that though a lot of humor came out of that scene, it didn’t really fit.  As a follower of Talia, Kenan-Tal should have been proud of his chastity (she is the goddess of marriage).  However, that’s my fault as a GM for not conveying that to the player.  Now, I don’t know what the player had in mind for his character’s sexual state, but the scene could easily have remained the same if he was ashamed of some youthful indiscretion…

They found Alfric’s belongings were on the ground, which meant they got Ophidius back as well as some of his cash and a ring of protection +1 that he had.  That made them very happy.

So they debated if they should deal with the cat people or head into the garden and find the Unicorn.  Long Tom though making an ally was a better idea than possibly making new enemies, so into the garden they went.

The indoor garden was in a massive central chamber beneath seven glass domes that were 100’ high each.  Sunlight filled the indoor forest and they realized it was massive.

A path wound to the south so they followed it into a dense clump of trees.  Several of the trees came to life and began attacking them with long tentacles.  Now, this fight, as written, seems like a party killer.  Six of these monsters are there and they are all very tough (6 HD).  They get 4 attacks a round, each, and though they do no damage on the first round, they then draw you into their maws where they do a tremendous 3-18 points each round (no attack roll required).  Now, I probably ran the fight incorrectly, but I had them stop attacking once they’d grabbed someone, but that meant that everyone only got grabbed by a single tentacle which allowed them, or the rest of the party, to cut them free.  Only Raakaa got pulled into a maw, where he learned to his chagrin that high HD creatures could hurt him.  The alternative…24 attacks on the party and needing to sever multiple tentacles before being eaten to death seemed like TPK territory.

Granted, I forgot Cleave, but then, in the original module, no one would have been able to cleave either, so I don’t know what they were thinking…

The fight took a long time to finish, longer than most old school fights normally take.  That kind of annoyed me, but ah well.

After they had defeated the trees, and Hannah learned that her magic was severely limited (can I cast ‘Hold Portal’ on their mouths to keep them shut…something…anything?), the party continued.  They encountered a beautiful amber skinned woman, asleep with a chest in the middle of the path, resting against a unicorn!

Long Tom called out to the woman, who awoke and rose up, blinking.  She smiled at the characters and they began to converse.  Her name was Rena, she was happy to meet strangers and talk with them.  She too had no recollection of how long she’d been in the forest, but she was happy here with no desire to leave.  She chatted amiably with the characters until they broached the subject of Jeanette and the curse that the unicorn might be able to break.  Rena stared at the unicorn and said that he did not leave.  So they asked if there was any quest they could undertake in exchange for the unicorn’s assistance.  Rena thought for a moment and said that there was a nasty troll living under a bridge to the north that, if the party could deal with, the unicorn would accompany them.

So north they went until they saw a long wooden bridge.  A goat legged man was having a conversation with a gravelly voice beneath the bridge, saying it shouldn’t eat him as his much fatter brothers were coming along shortly.  He practically winked at the party before disappearing over the other side of the bridge.

The party conversed for a few minutes, debating what to do before approaching the bridge.  Hannah’s ‘useless’ spell problem came up again, when she mentioned her Silent Step spell and Jayna coughed.  “What, you want me to make you silent?” Hannah asked.

“I’m a priestess of the goddess of night.  I’d be happy to stab it in the back if I can sneak up on it,” Jayna smiled.

So, between the spell and her own natural ability, Jayna ghosted across the bridge like a light breeze while the party approached the bridge and knocked to get the troll’s attention.  The massive creature uncurled itself from beneath the bridge and demanded what they were doing on its bridge.  Long Tom distracted it until Jayna got behind it and shanked it.  Sadly, that merely annoyed it, so combat began.

Before the troll could act, Klangor, the inheritor of Ophidius tossed the serpent at the troll and entangled it.  Now, this got me to thinking about this item and how I should rule it in the future, because I’ve not been paying any attention to the size of the target but I think I’m going to stick to the RC clarification that it only effects man-sized or smaller beings.

So, they began dismembering the entangled troll and burning it’s limbs in a fire while Long Tom kept Rena distracted and entertained.  After the troll was well and truly dead, they noticed a large well in the distance and Long Tom excused himself to go investigate.  Since the garden had proven dangerous so far, they all accompanied the blade dancer.  The well was designed to appear as four gargoyles spitting water into a muddy, murky basin.  At the base of the gargoyles they saw a chest cemented into the stonework.

Long Tom ignored it, and instead threw a coin into the well, wishing that his companion Lysander would return to life unmarked by his death.  After that, he urged the party to leave.  But Hannah wanted the box so she convinced Thorsigar to prod the murky pool with a ten-foot pole…

Which caused it to rise up in its entirety and smash him to the ground where its acidic touch began to burn his flesh.

Everyone dog piled onto the massive monstrosity, cutting and hacking into its slimy ‘flesh’.  Before it could attack again, the massive blob lost cohesion and it’s fluids poured out.  This was an example of something I really appreciate about old school games.  This creature (15HD giant amoeba) and the trees earlier are, by HD anyway, far too powerful for the level of the PCs.  But in these fights, even a first level hireling could participate and assist.  So I really enjoyed that.

The party retrieved the lockbox, all the while Long Tom was raging.  “That was a completely pointless fight.  We didn’t have to do that.  And thanks for ruining my wish!”

But there was quite a bit of gold in the box and a strange, ornate silver key.

They returned to Rena and the unicorn and the pair accompanied them to the edge of the forest.  Rena remained behind, prompting Kenan-Tal to ask her if she was a dryad.  She laughed, and said no, she wasn’t.

They escorted the Unicorn back to the room with Jeanette.  When she answered the door, the unicorn was a bit…concerned  by what he saw.  Meanwhile, Jeanette was jumping with joy.  They cautiously brought the unicorn into the room and she roughly grabbed its main and started jerking it back and forth.  The unicorn tried to back away, but she leapt on its back and began squeezing its neck tightly.

“Um, when is the curse going to break?”  Long Tom asked.

As she became more aggressive with the unicorn, it apparently had enough.  Its horn shone with a flash of light and then Jeanette fell to the floor.  The unicorn was nowhere to be seen.

“Put her to sleep,” Long Tom said as the monstrous woman began to throw a frightening tantrum.  Anika grumbled that she’d ‘told them so’ and then put the giant woman to sleep.

Raakaa noticed a disturbing smell after they searched the room and looking into the fireplace quickly drew back in horror.  “I think I found the real Jeanette,” he said.  So they executed the sleeping monster and the golden mist descended upon them.

This was another good session with a lot of good roleplaying that showcased some good and not so good things with the game.  I loved that the low level characters could meaningfully contribute in a fight with higher level monsters.  I liked the characterization with Long Tom’s deep concern for his dead hireling…being the first one he’s lost, he’s taking it quite seriously.  On the other hand, I think I balked at running a truly dangerous encounter…though as written it seemed like a TPK so that’s probably a good thing.  I also think the custom spell I made, Elemental Burst is too powerful for a first level spell, even though technically legal by RAW.  I may cut the damage dice from 2d4 per level to 1d6 and increase the range.

Also, Hannah’s desire to learn a new spell from Anika has brought up an issue with the spell learning rules.  As I understand them, if you gain (or have) a free slot, you can learn a spell at no cost beyond time.  But if you have a full repertoire, it costs money (and a lot of it) and time.

All good so far.

But if you stop studying a spell, you forget it in X amount of time.  Creating a free slot.  Which you can then fill for no gold because filling an empty slot is free.

This creates a disconnect.  I don’t understand why the spells are free one way and costly the other.  I get what the mechanics were trying to do (limit Mages) but I guess I don’t see the extra time of forgetting the spell as sufficient trade off.  I also don’t really understand why, if the justification of the cost for a new spells is the various herbs and mind altering drugs that open your consciousness or propitiate the spirits to provide your powers, that you can EVER get a free spell.  If the reason is that ‘your master absorbs the cost’ I’m cool with that, but equally I’d expect PCs who take apprentices to have to bare that cost when they hit level 9 which they currently don’t.

And on the one hand, I get that I’m over thinking this.  I just want to charge my players some gold, but equally I want that cost to make sense.

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3 thoughts on “Sundered Empires Session Report 25

  1. I’m thinking about running Castle Amber for my own gaming group, in ACKS. Have you made many changes to the module to adapt it?

    • Mostly I’ve changed elements of the setting and house to fit my setting. For example, the Amverite family has been slightly altered to fit into my background. I have also completely changed the bit about going to Averoign to something more suitable to my setting (more Moorcockian Law vs Chaos destroyed world). I made the deck of fortune cards into an actual deck of many things (with hilarious results!). But ultimately, we are mechanically playing it more or less straight. They are going to be very, very rich when they get back home..

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