28 Dec

Quail Valley Session 16 (SW)

When we last left our heroes, they had returned to Presov for, hopefully, some badly needed rest and recuperation. Instead, they ended up spending a lot of time defending their activities to Captain Bernhard, learning just what a predicament they’d gotten in with Farkas, and, perhaps most importantly, occupied themselves with trying to hunt down a new shadow creature that was terrorizing the village. Given that many of the villagers were siding with the PCs, popular opinion seemed to be swaying in their favor even if they may not have swayed the Captain’s opinion of them. They were also successful with defeating the shadow of the recently slain priestess, Sandra, allowing the village to sleep peacefully for at least one night. With Cailana and Wink were in no shape to “adventure” more, the others decided to do some “scouting” in the Underdark without them. This scouting culminated in their finding an ossuary, one where something was still guarding the bones. We pick up with that after the break.

As usual, my GM comments are in [brackets and italics]. There are potential spoilers for The Vault of Larin Karr as well as the Crucible of Freya below the break.

Raspin had moved over to one of the piles of bones and had started to move some of them to see if there was anything in them. When he placed his hand on the bones there is a shrieking voice, “No! They are mine!” A spirit like thing materialized in the room.

Raspin apologizes and immediately steps away from the bones, but the spirit continues to angrily shriek obscenities at the party. The spirit has the appearance of a slender human male, wearing a blood spattered apron and holding a scalpel.

Serena tries to apologize, but the spirit only starts shouting obscenities and making nasty remarks about elves. The spirit charges Raspin, slicing at him with the spectral scalpel. The scalpel passes right through Raspin, but a shard of rock flies off the wall and strikes Raspin. The spirit continues to scream about how he is the Keeper of the Bones.

Since no one in the party has any sort of magical weapon, Faelan calls upon the life force of the natural world, a golden sap begins covering his hands. [Faelan’s healing power as a trapping that damages undead.]

As the spirit continues to scream at him, slashing his arms wildly, debris starts to once again fly from the walls, striking off Raspin’s shield. Raspin is suddenly overcome with fear at the sight of the bones and immediately tries to move away from them. This gives Faelan the opportunity to step up to the spirit and touch him with his sap covered hands. It is apparent that it does something as the spirit looks none too happy as the sap has clung to the spirit.

The party withdraws to the edge of the cave, but the spirit follows and attacks, with rocks flying at the party each time the thing swings its arms. Faelan is their only hope and he readies another batch of sap, once again striking the spirit and dealing more damage. Serena is trying to heal herself from the rock shards but is unable to concentrate enough to get the spell off.

The spirit seems to be mostly focused on Faelan now and directs his attacks at the druid, but they miss and the spirit disappears into the cave wall.

Faelan readies another batch of sap as the others try and keep watch. Thus follows a pattern as the spirit reappears, slashes the air with his arms, sending rocks and debris flying at the party before disappearing into the cave wall again.

The party is unable to determine where the spirit will manifest next and grow frustrated as they try and corner the spirit to attack. The spirit too is growing frustrated as his attacks are mostly bouncing harmlessly off the party’s armor and shields and so he grows more wild in his attacks, but in his rage, he mistakenly lobs a skull at Faelan, which instantly shatters into many pieces.

The spirit screams in horror and immediately gathers up the bone shards and frantically tries to reassemble them. Faelan takes immediate advantage of this and strikes the spirit with the sap. So successful is the attack that the party can see the sap sinking into the very essence of the spirit, and it suddenly explodes into a burst of slime.

[If I recall correctly, the spirit thing got a critical failure on its attack. Given the situation, it made perfect sense that it gathered up one of its precious bones in its attack. These sort of critical failures are a wonderful fast, furious, fun aspect of Savage Worlds. They make for very memorable happenings.]

Faelan takes up where Raspin left off and investigates the bone piles, discovering that the bones are all elven! Serena checks out the small shelf while Raspin, anxious to escape the sight of the bones wanders a bit down the other tunnel.

[As a result of the encounter with the “ghost,” Raspin now has a minor phobia regarding bones.

The small shelf was a series of small geological “steps” against one wall.]

Serena finds a handhold in the wall [above the shelves] at about doorknob level. Calling Raspin over, she opens the “door” and sends him into the room.
Raspin discovers a very familiar looking chamber. One that contains a very recognizable iron maiden and rack, and another door. as he walks into the chamber towards the other door, the door Serena had just opened swings shut.

Rembering his last time in this chamber, Raspin begins banging on the door, calling for Serena to open the door! Serena reopens the door and holds it open as Raspin goes to and through the door, finding a hallway with 6 cells with broken doors.

It is then that it all clicks and Raspin realizes we are under the keep! Backing out, the two regroup with Faelan, who has found nothing of interest in the bone piles and so they continue down the tunnel, following it to a large chamber. The party scouts the edges of the chamber, finding it appears to be full what look to be unmarked graves.

Faelan, curious as to what lies buried here, especially after his discovery that all the bones in the other chamber were elven, changes into a wolf and begins digging at one of the graves, digging down several feet but finding nothing. Twice more he does this, and twice more he comes up empty.

As the party starts to leave the chamber, Faelanwolf notices that the air suddenly smells different.

It smells drier, staler. He immediately changes back to human to share this news. Serena asks him where it was coming from, but having changed to human too quickly, Faelan has to change back to a wolf again to try and track the scent.

He tracks it to a crack in one of the walls and motions Raspin over to it. Raspin discovers that he can lift a section of the wall and pulls it open, revealing a tunnel.

Following the tunnel, the party finds a chamber with 2 iron bound oak chests.

Raspin attempts to lift one of them, finds it extremely heavy, but still manages to lift it and the unmistakable sound of clinking coins can be heard within. Eyes alight with glee, Raspin attempts to use his dagger to pick the lock on the chest to the right, but his lockpicking skills are a bit rusty to say the least. A little heavy handed, he drives his dagger so deeply into the lock that it becomes stuck.

Beseeching Serena to let him use her dagger, he attempts to pick the second lock, with Serena telling him if he breaks this one, he will be buying her a new one.

Using much more care this time, Raspin succeeds in picking the lock and immediately opens the chest. There is a slight pop and a gush of liquid comes shooting out of the chest, striking both Raspin AND Faelan! To their horror it is acid! Both men begin to try and wash it off with water. Serena manages to heal both men and they turn their attention to the chest.

Inside are four pouches. Three contain coins and one contains a thin gold bracelet. Anxious now to see what the other chest holds, Serena suggests Raspin use his axe to break through one of the sides near the bottom of the chest, since they cannot or do not want to break the lock or top of the chest for fear of sending the acid spilling down over the coins beneath.

After a few solid strikes, Raspin manages to break open a spot on the chest, and pulls out hundreds of silver coins! The coins from both chests all bear markings that no one in the party has seen before. They take some time to gather up all the coins and decide to head back to town. [Laden down with the weight of the coins…the group split it up as best as possible to not weight down any one character too much.]

Back at the chasm Raspin tosses a torch across to the other side, lighting up the area. Serena lends a boost to Raspin’s abilities and with ease, he takes two bags across the chasm. The party decides to let Raspin do the heavy lifting, so Faelen crosses over to guard the two bags and Raspin makes his way back to Serena, who will stand guard on the remaining bag.

[This particular tunnel came from the larger cockroach nest and cavern near the Birds of Prey “safehouse” or bolthole as we’ve started to refer to it. The chasm had stopped the party’s prior explorations, but the trio crossed it in the last session.]

All alone, Faelan hears what sounds like bone against stone as something leaps ouf of the darkness, barely missing the druid. It is a large lizard like creature, and it is wearing a collar.

As he tries to figure out what is going on, three arrows fly out of the darkness, strking Faelan and wounding him badly enough that he falls to the ground. Serena immediately shoots, trying to help, but it seems Cailana’s troubles have transferred to the half-elf and she strikes Faelen! As she tries to regroup, she hears a voice call out in Orc…”Go get em boy” and the lizard creature skitters across the chasm wall and attacks Serena.

[Ouch! In the chaos of combat in a relatively dark tunnel, Serena’s arrow struck the unfortunate druid instead of the lizard. Shooting into melee can be dangerous in Savage Worlds…Innocent Bystander rule and all.]

Raspin, strikes back and bashes the creature’s skull in before racing across the ropes crossing the chasm to get to Faelan.

Three more arrows come flying out of the darkness, but their aim is off and they all miss Raspin.

To try and take away their range of attack and see what they are dealing with, Raspin charges down the tunnel and finds three orcs. He attacks and kills the one in the front. The other two drop their bows and pull out their swords to attack Raspin. A fight ensues with the orcs and Raspin trading blows.

Meanwhile, Serena has healed herself from the lizard attack and she tries to cross the chasm to get to Faelan and to help in the fight. As she does so, the first and second spikes pull out of the chasm wall sending her plummeting down into the chasm to slam against the chasm wall. It is only the fact that her hand has tangled in the rope that keeps her from falling to her possible death. With some quick action, she manages to pull herself up to the ledge where the fallen Faelan is, but as she does so, the final spike falls from the wall. Thankfully the rope is still wrapped around her hand and she manages to retrieve the three spikes, thankfully still attached to the rope. She manages to rouse Faelan, but when she attempts to heal him, she finds she cannot. Her narrow brush with death and her previous healing of the two men has tapped her magic strength and she knows she will need to pray before she can attempt any magic.

[Yep, another critical failure. 😉 The group had previously hammered the spikes in the wall and attached a rope to allow them to climb across the chasm safely. As long as they crossed slowly and unencumbered, it wasn’t a problem. Hurrying across or crossing while laden with a sack of coins, required an Athletics check (we’ve combined Climbing and Swimming into a single Athletics skill). Serena’s was a critical failure. Since another player was playing Serena this session AND we are using the Heroes Never Die setting rule, she didn’t plummet to her death in the chasm of still unknown depth.

Back at the battle, Raspin has managed to kill the two orcs. He makes his way back to Serena and Faelan. Taking the spikes, he hammers them into the opposite chasm wall, and after a bit, manages to get the remaining three bags across the chasm.

The party, exhausted, badly injured, and in need of rest and prayer, decide to head to the bolthole to rest before attempting to head back to the inn. After four hours of rest and prayer, the party sets out on the “final” leg of their journey home. As they near the orcish burial grounds [the ones right below the inn], they hear the sounds of rocks being tossed about, one after the other. Quickly dousing their torches Faelan turns into a bat to get an idea of how many possible enemies lie ahead. He reports back that there are what appears to be half a dozen, slightly larger than human shapes up ahead, and one smaller humanoid. Deciding that they are in no shape to take on seven foes, the party lights their torches and head back to the bolthole and then back to the keep, where they will make their way back to the inn from there…or so they hope.

When we get back to the chasm where Raspin fought and killed the orcs, the orc bodies are gone!

[It had been about six or seven hours since that battle given the four hours of rest and the travel time.]

Feeling decidedly skittish now, the party heads towards the torture chamber and barricades the door with the rack before making their way through the chambers and up into the chapel above.

Hoping that they are almost home, Faelan changes to a hawk. Flying out the chapel door, he goes to scout the area. He [hawk] calls down to Raspin and Serena that the area appears to be clear. We head towards the tower with the pool to find that way impassable. The pool has grown in size and there is no longer a pathway around the chamber.

[This is the pool that had the hobgoblins in the keep terrified and melted one leg of Serena’s pants. The “pool” had actually moved and pulled the hobgoblins that had fallen into it even deeper into it. Clearly not just a pool.]

Quickly deciding on a new escape route, they head towards one of the collapsed walls. Raspin climbs up and over the debris. As Serena goes to follow, she is grabbed from behind. A large furry hand claps itself over her mouth as a knife appears against her throat.

A very raspy gravely voice calls out. “Stop, or I’ll slit her throat.” “Drop the flail and tell me where you got it, and call your pet hawk back.”

Raspin and the creature speak, Raspin tells him where he got the flail from, and perhaps a bit of nervousness has him revealing more about the party than he usually does. Serena tries to think of anything she can do to try and escape, but the knife at her throat is digging in hard enough to cut into the half-elf’s skin, drawing blood.

The creature holding Serena tells them to drop their packs and weapons and once again tells Raspin to call his hawk back. Raspin calls Faelan to him and drops his weapon and pack, telling the creature not to kill Serena. Faelan, who wisely chooses to stay in hawk form, lands on Raspin’s outstretched arm.

The creature tells Raspin to walk into the woods and Serena will be released once Raspin is out of sight.

Raspin slowly walks ten steps away and turns around, seeing that the attacker is a large scarred gnoll [with a lock of white hair in its “mane.”

The gnoll tells Raspin to go farther….farther…until Raspin is at the edge of the woods. Faelen takes off into the trees.

The gnoll, who had been walking he and Serena forward as Raspin and Faelen withdrew, whispers into her ear to pick up each sack and show him what is in them. Raspin was carrying the bag of gold and two bags of silver. He also demands to see what is in Raspin’s backpack. After seeing the contents of all, he slits Serena’s throat and drops her to the ground before grabbing the bag of gold and running back into the keep.

[And that is where we ended the session.

Serena was incapacitated but soaked it to just three wounds.

Although this turned out to be a relatively short session as we started a bit late, it was a really good one that shows how great Savage Worlds can be as a game system. The various failures created, at least in my mind, more memorable fights than if those critical failures hadn’t happened. All of this, outside of the ghost and bones, was “random encounters” again…encounters drawing on the growing and developing setting.

The orcs and lizard were an encounter randomly rolled by one of the players. Given what has been going on in prior sessions, they are more than just a random encounter. There was a purpose to their actions…but I can’t share that purpose. Where did they come from? As far as the PCs have seen, there is no other traversable passage leading into the one that they had travelled. So where did they come from?

What about the humanoids in the orc burial chamber? As a bat, Faelan didn’t have the best eyesight but could make out the general shape and size. The large ones could easily have been orcs. If so, where they associated in some fashion with the orcs fought at the chasm? Perhaps with the orcs the whole group fought in their prior Underdark exploration? Maybe with the orc that was spotted with the hobgoblin at the keep?

What about the smaller humanoid? It easily could have been a halfling, er, half-folk. The players immediately thought Betony. Was it him? If not, who was it?

The gnoll was a random encounter as well. Why have some random gnolls just show up when it can be something more dramatic? And just who is this creature that can sneak up on a trio of adventurers, including one “patrolling” as a hawk, and then have the audacity to rob them like it did? Perhaps more importantly, are Raspin and Faelan going to give chase or see to Serena? Is vengeance and a sack of gold more important than their friend’s well-being?

This session was driven by the game play at the table and it was great to see that! Especially how the critical failures added wonderful tension and drama to the encounters. I, at least, have these great images in my head of the chasm and the fight with the orcs as well as of Serena in the grasp of the gnoll and all that.]

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