Friday, March 11, 2016

Iron Gods: Comeuppance

*NOTE* I don't know the various character's psychologies well enough to hazard any more than a guess to their motivations thus this will be heavily biased toward Mikhel's experiences as he's an NPC whose psychology I therefore know.

Every so often there is a session that defines the course of a campaign and the party itself.  This was most assuredly that session though where it's ripples will take them I still don't know.  So we did a flashback in time now that the player of our alchemist, Cerulean, was here so that we could cover her finally meeting our indentured servant, Mikhel.

Mikhel is the fellow swindled them out of 5 gold pieces in a con that netted him a total of 15gp from the entire town.  The poverty-stricken party, however, had their eyes dazzled by the high odds and the chance of instant wealth simply for survival and so had started imagining the 360 gold was already in their pouch.  They also assumed that the amount of gold Mikhel had procured from those betting against him was quite a high amount, too, and that he had drunk away hundreds of gold worth of winnings rather than a paltry sum of 15gp as most won't bet gold on the loss of more lives. 

Once they had tracked him down they took his gear worth around 220gp (masterwork studded leather, cure light wounds potion) but still felt robbed and wanted compensation for the 140gp they were sure he had spent on a single night of debauchery.

So they took him for punishment from the law.  Mayor Drolga typically would brand someone for a swindle but she couldn't allow people to cheat the heroes of Torch or else everyone would do it and ignore the imposed 20% voucher.  She threatened to lop off his hand and the two good characters (likely due to drugs) chose instead to inflict a punishment of six months indentured servitude to pay back the rest of the reneged bet.

During the morning conversation, they set the tone of future encounters by calling him little more than a pack mule and alternately joking about using him to find traps the more deadly way and threatened to take off his foot if he tried to run.  When he pointed out that with promises like that he would be better off with Mayor Drolga, Maxx kept trying to determine if he actually would like to lose a hand as that could always be arranged since she simply saw Mikhel as a liability.  In Maxx's mind he was just seeking clarification, but to Mikhel's ears he was being told he'd better shut up about his conditions or else he'd lose the hand for sure.  At this point it was starting to look like a better deal.

So then we jumped forward to the current point in time where the group had cleared half the science deck.  They proceeded to clear out the various plant creatures who had erupted from the Brigh worshipper's chests, though I played them out to be more primordial and alien than the actual description in the books because it felt more thematically appropriate.  When they came across the bodies of the Brigh worshippers they realised that the fungus-encrusted person they had returned to his fiancé would soon burst open himself (if he hadn't already).

The party felt no urgency hurrying back to warn anyone of the impending chest burster (perhaps figuring the fiancé already dead) and thought it better to understand the chest bursters first.  It seemed a rational idea at the time, though really they had handled the others well enough with bombs and sword.  Still Maxx wanted to do autopsies on the body to learn more about the disease so that they could better deal with it and the others agreed to wait.

Mikhel, though a Chaotic Neutral lowlife, felt greater urgency at saving the lives of those at the Guild Hall and snuck away as he assumed the party too callous to care and as likely to chain him up as to hurry back with him.  He left the rest of their gear in the lobby but stole a single masterwork hammer so that he could defend himself, and escaped.  Now there was a crowd of people waiting by the lake and he could have told them of the danger but he knew that as an indentured servant, and one little trusted, they'd spend so much time arguing and claiming he was just being a swindler that the Guild Hall merchants would all soon be slain.

So he swam the river awhile, taking advantage of Water Breathing, though he had no swim skill and came out on the river bank to follow the hill around toward the Guild Hall.  The Guild Hall stood a very short distance away from his home.  He entered through the rear window and saw the creature carving at the door to the store room where the people hid and battered it to death with the hammer.  Fearing  the party would soon come to chop off his feet, and doubting very much they would care for his heroism, he slipped back out that very same window and crept off home and then down the hill to a small bolt hole.

Along come the party after fifteen minutes of autopsy, finally realising he was missing.  Since they thought him a lowlife they never considered he might care enough to try to save those at the Guild Hall.  They discuss the matter and decide that the bulk of the party should carry on after the runaway prisoner (tilting toward Law) while a couple head off to inform the right people and save those at the guild (tilting toward Good).

Bort, the blackfire adept, and Cerulean rush off to the Guild Hall and thus get there first.  They see the door has been mostly broken down, and the body of the green thing, and see that a dog had been mauled with blood spattered everywhere.  They ensure the group is safe and separate the one possibly infected person from the others while Bort races off to get the priests.

Meanwhile, Luna follows Mikhel's trail past the back wall of the Guild House with Nathaniel and Maxx.  Her Perception check to follow such a long trail isn't good enough to tell that he hopped in and out of the window and so they follow it to his home and then out down the cliff.  Mikhel hears them and flees his bolt hole so Nathaniel knocks him out with telekinetically thrown stones and Maxx picks him up, as well as the hammer, which is smeared with green goop.

They take him back to the Mayor and, not thinking to mention a possible plague of chest bursting creatures (presumably due to the assumption that Bort and Cerulean have it handled), take Mikhel for his punishment.  Mayor Drolga chooses not to wake him up, as a kindness, since this could be considered a form of anaesthesia.  She uses a Cure Light Wounds to heal the stump afterward, though I chose not to have Mikhel immediately wake up as should happen by the rules because I didn't really want to roleplay his reaction.

Maxx takes the severed hand to examine out in the foyer just as Cerulean and Bort come up to the entrance after following the trail.  Bort is horrified, though Nathaniel and Maxx, at least, still feel vindicated for their actions because the man did swindle them and run.  The punishment for running away from indentured service is the loss of a hand.  Thus it is appropriate.  Nathaniel even used a metaphor that if they hadn't punished Mikhel simply because he saved a few lives it would be like killing twenty people to save forty.  Besides, they reasoned, he probably only saved them because they were on his way.

Maxx and Nathaniel both agreed that Mikhel should be rewarded for his efforts but by the town and not themselves for he assisted the town, but wronged them.

When Mayor Drolga is informed of the situation, she *is* horrified but maintains that Mikhel will provide caution to those who would swindle the heroes of Torch.  However word that Mikhel saved one of the richest families in town and had his hand severed for it would undermine everything she had worked for so she tells them that she will give them credit for the rescue so long as they keep quiet about Mikhel's part in the heroism.

Though the Chaotic Good drugs are wearing off, and even once the drugs are gone he tells Mayor Drolga to give his portion of the reward for rescuing Khonnir Baine to Mikhel when he awakens.  He then gets another dose of the drugs from Luna to make himself Chaotic Good again and goes to comfort the people at the Guild Hall.  The following day he uses Mending and Prestidigitation to remove the blood and fix the door.

The Guild Hall offer to purchase the three masterwork hammers at 200gp per piece, rather than the typical half price of 150gp, though they lack the gold and instead give store credit which can also be traded at other local stores.  What better way to reward their heroes?  And the party accepts the line of credit and thus participates in a fraudulent swindle of their own.  Maxx doesn't realise the real price of the masterwork hammers, knowing little of economics, though at least some of the others would be aware (and I did mention it in GM talk but it's a big chatty table of five so some information is lost).

They returned to the Science Deck and took out the last few chest bursters and then attacked the two robots in the final room, knocking them down though most of the damage was dealt by the alchemist who had been tripped by the first stun gun.  They have yet to explore the final room which will be the beginning of the next adventure.

Iron Gods: Medical Care

This is the second half of the session (Your brain on drugs) where Bort is still affected by the "good drugs" and is Chaotic Good.  They have Mikhel as a henchman, but since the alchemist player is away we decided that we'd come back with a little "retro" scene in the next session which will go over her reaction to the news of their new assistant.
They headed back through the caverns (hearing gremlins but seeing none) and through the corridors toward the big habitat dome.  Bort pointed out that he didn't need to worry about the trap with all the nozzles and Mikhel shrugged and said, "I'm not.  It's not a trap."  And he kept walking.
They headed through the sandy habitat cautiously and all was fine until someone mentioned that he should watch out for skeletons bursting out through the sands.  That made him a little worried so Luna took pity on him and let him ride her "medium" dragon.  The bonus of riding a medium creature is that you can stand up by just lowering your legs so it meant he could dismount easily in a fight.
They finally used their black card to get into the next session and were stunned by the sight of the foyer.  They'd never seen anything like it, especially in a fortress under a hill!  Sleek furniture, strange design!  They found another screen on a desk in the entrance but it just showed flashes of imagery. 
They took the bloodstained door and corridor and arched around to where the cerebric fungus spoke to them.  Nathaniel freaked out and telekinetically threw a rock at it (geology lab) but missed of wildly that the fungus didn't see it as anything but random chance of a falling stone.  The others spoke to it calmly and suddenly creeped out by its talks of red food send it down the blood smeared corridor to eat.
They entered a set of labs where a medical bot attacked them and tried to knock dear Maxx onto one of the medical terror chairs but she used her attack of opportunity (no Improved Reposition on the robot) to destroy it.  Mikhel stood back and watched them fight.
They kept wandering around that area and found a lab with a medical robot and a flying robot.  Luna just shut the door.  When no one followed them, they moved on.
I removed the boilborn oozes from one of the lab rooms as it wasn't as interesting as having the room be an empty wonder of broken bits and pieces, and I was rewarded when Maxx examined the history of the place and saw someone clinging to a desk for dear life as gravity jerked her toward a wall, broken glass raining down on her face.
I will remove creatures if they're not super interesting since my players aren't as super eager for fights as the typical party and would become bored if there were too many of them.
They then entered the elevator, determined which deck they were on and then in stunned disbelief discussed that decks must mean ships!  Of course, this being a fantasy land meant that the idea of sky ships wasn't too outlandish (unlikely, as they're super-rare in pathfinder, but not unheard of in myth and legend).
Finally they entered a room with a set of small stalls to one side with doors that didn't quite reach the top or the bottom….  Bort's player chortled at this, realising at once what it was.  The players marvelled the clean drinking fountains (made them all bidet toilets) and wondered at the easily shredded yet soft parchment that came out from beside them. 
During their wonder, they hear a flush in the toilet beside them as Mikhel comes out and uses the sink downward fountain (sink faucet) to wash his hands.  Being a pragmatic sort, he'd figured it was the best place to go to the toilet as it would remove it immediately.  Better than the skeleton-creation-sands that would normally be used!
After a few moments of telling him off, the party soon realised in dismay that his use just made too much damn sense and that it was likely an incredibly wonderful latrine.  Maxx and Bort then made use of it as well.
I tell you, there's nothing more surreal than playing characters wondering at something we take for granted on a daily basis!  And to be honest, their wonder only increased when they realised it was a sewerage system.  Toilets really are a marvel of engineering.  Next time you go and sit on the toilet seat you should think back to all the alternatives and thank your lucky stars that you get loo paper and a comfy spot.
And that's where we ended it.
Could there be a greater high point for a session conclusion?

Iron Gods: This is your brain on drugs

Maxx looks like the woman pictured above.
Feeling drained and with few cure potions to spare, they retreated back to town and found themselves cheered by the crowds gathered at the lake.  They had nothing to identify, really, but still found themselves talking to Sanvil Trett regarding the location and how he knew so much about technology.  During this time our dear alchemist wandered off (as the player couldn't attend) to try to brew some cure potions on her own.

A few Heal and Perception checks later and Luna noted that he was a regular user of different drugs, which she quietly related to the others as they headed with Sanvil to the Copper Coin for some food. 

They queried him on his drug use and he pointed out that he was an intermittent user of some high quality drugs and revealed his current stash included Devil Weed (basically marijuana), Powderlite (cocaine) and a mysterious golden liquid called Sarenrae's Tears that had to be injected into the carotid artery to work.  They asked him whether he was with the Technic League since they were the most likely to have such elaborate drugs but he demurred and claimed that he had met all kinds of interesting people and who was he to say who they worked for?  They left it at that.

Since Bort had a history with Sarenrae, having forbid Maxx from selling his cold iron scimitar with its Sarenrae mark, he immediately decided he wanted the Tears which were 10gp per dose (at this stage) but lacked the resources to pay.  Luna bought five doses for him, gave him one and one for Maxx.  She also bought 10 doses of devilweed at 1gp per dose (at this stage).  The devilweed had no impact on Maxx.

The Sarenrae's Tears certainly did.

When Bort took it he felt … different.  Lighter.  He felt that people were innately good, and merely led astray.  He felt that one good turn deserved another and that there was never an excuse for cruelty.  In short his alignment was changed from Chaotic Neutral to Chaotic Good.

Maxx's impression was less emotive, and more intellectual.  There was a certain way of doing things and it felt wrong to divert from that.  She became Lawful Good.  Immediately she thought of the death-bet they had thus far failed to gain their winnings from way back in Session 1 when they bet against their own survival at the odds of 72 to 1.  They had failed to find that fine fellow, Mikhel, in their last foray to the gambling hall so they decided to try again after lunch.

Leaving Sanvil Trett behind, and with Nathaniel none the wiser of their deals since they'd taken Sanvil aside to make the purchases, they head back to the Silverdisk Hall and find themselves barred at the entrance by a half-orc because the hall opened later in the day.  She also refused to give them Mikhel's home address.

So Maxx offered a bet -- 50gp for a competition of strength (arm wrestle) and should she win, she'd gain the information and 50gp.  The half-orc refused the amount and offered instead 25gp and the information, since Maxx stood to earn more than she did.  They ended up talking her up to 40gp, but they wouldn't tell anyone she'd lost the arm wrestle should she lose.  She accepted those terms, and luckily Maxx won the arm wrestle.

Off they went to the edge of town only to discover Mikhel living the high life in his hovel, groggy from being woken by them at his door, and as naked as the day he was born.  There was also a man and a woman in his bed.  His masterwork studded leather armour over a stool, his gear on a chest.

First they demanded their gold but Mikhel claimed to have banked it on their behalf in a town a few days away (since he assumed that one of their frequent forays would slay them all he had to do was delay them).  Maxx served him a Notice of Intent to Sue which he gleefully accepted since that would also take a few days to organise and by then he was sure they would be dead.  Luna then threatened him, which had more of an effect, but Maxx was adamant that the law should be invoked and that his fraudulent ways should land him in prison.

Mikhel scoffed at this.  Prison?  Here a misdemeanour meant a brand on the back, theft meant a lost finger or hand, and anything greater meant death.  Prisons were far too rare and expensive to operate.  Still they dragged him before the dwarven mayor, so they could at least confiscate his gear, hoping she would shake the remaining gold out of him, but it turned out that Mikhel merely didn't have the gold to give them.

Instead the weary dwarven mayor, outraged that a local would attempt to hoodwink their town's only hope, and meaning to make a lesson out of him, took them to another room where a single heavy still manacle sat bolted to a heavy table.  Mikhel was quiet now, resigned, but the drug-induced goodness in the party prevented them from allowing it.

Instead Maxx suggested indentured servitude, which surprise the mayor.  What use was Mikhel?  She agreed easily enough, though, being Lawful Neutral she'd take off his hand but take no joy in it. 

Maxx asked why they had no prison and she mentioned the expense in making a good one, that bad ones were soul-destroying, and that good ones would be too comfortable.  He asked why they didn't use indentured servitude more often and she pointed out that the Technic League did all the time … for decades at a time (i.e. slavery).

Unsettled at the lack of an easy option in Numeria, but confidant that she herself would release the man, Maxx offered Mikhel the chance to pay off his debts and he agreed.  They still took his potion and armour, giving him the alchemists non-masterwork armour instead, and brought him back into the strange fortress under the hill on their foray the following morning.

Mikhel probably would have tried to escape, but he had no Disable Device (same stats used as for any Ropefist) plus Maxx didn't need to sleep so watched him all night.  The drugs wore off Maxx early (natural 20 on her Fortitude save) but not from Bort which was lucky because Maxx started having second thoughts about Mikhel's usefulness.

They had their breakfast and then headed back inside, and that's where I'll leave it, though it's only half the session told but this is the part that our dear alchemist missed.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Iron Gods: Another delve in the dungeon

So the group returned to the caves and found a group of Jinkin Gremlins dancing around a pile of torn up huts covered in the bodies of the half-orc and dead skulks.  Our resident alchemist went to throw a bomb at them, planning on excluding the central square full of bodies, to instantly cremate the gremlins. 

This made me realise that they didn't actually have any evidence the Jinkin Gremlins were evil so killing them all could be considered an evil act.  Now since Pathfinder is a game of killing people based on small evidence and people dancing around bodies would pretty much always mean evil on Golarion rather than a diverse funerary rite it would be unfair to suddenly unleash that onto the players after the fact.  So I let them all roll Sense Motive checks and have the chance to react afterward.  I had them all roll Sense Motive checks to see if they worked it out.

The alchemist rolled a Natural 20 on her Sense Motive check and so could tell they were decidedly evil.  Most of the others were pretty sure, except for Nathaniel who thought otherwise.  So when the Alchemist threw her fiery bomb as before and wiped out all the gremlins with splash damage, Nathaniel did make a token, "No wait," but then let it go because the deed had been done.

While Maxx took the body of the half-orc back to the village and was greeted by a disappointing lack of public crying, just quiet and solemn acceptance, the others heard a soft voice crying for help.  They headed into the one section of the cave they had yet to explore and found the place covered with a brown mold that sapped the air of heat.  There were two bodies up against the far wall … a female skulk who was still alive and the dead fiancé mentioned by the weaponsmith.

At first I thought the players were trying to hook out the dead fiancé, which seemed a bit callous but not too much since they'd killed all the other skulks for being clearly of the murderous variety.  It turned out they had meant to pull free the still living one by having the alchemist throw forth her rope and the telekinetic to tie it around her ankle.  When they dragged her out, Maxx sprayed her clean of the mould using Create Water and Luna went over her gear since her cold resistance made her immune to the 1d6 dealt by the remaining spores.

Once she was cleaned up, they woke her up with a Cure Light Wounds potion and I got to lay down on the couch and play a particularly snarky skulk speaking only in Undercommon -- which by some strange twist of fate our alchemist could speak.  They also discovered that the other purple-haired woman (pictured on the cover of the book) who looks identical to Maxx is actually called Meyanda and that she had a deal with the skulks to keep all interlopers out.

There was a lot of laughter from the players at the snark coming from the skulk, where they threatened to kill her (and she cheerfully requested being flung down the hole rather than killed by pins and needles, since Maxx had lifted her by her arms and had cut off partial circulation to her arms) before they all decided to send her to the judge instead.

The alchemist took her out, since she had a spell to boost her own swim speed, and the skulk made comments about their future marriage.  She was finally passed into Joram Kyte's hands, where the skulk made a few choice comments that could be understood even with the language difference, and then Luna came forth with the body of the weaponsmith's  fiancé.  A fellow who had the strangest growths on his neck and torso.

They went back into the great big habitat chamber, destroyed the skeletons and the strange alien aberration they encountered, and went into the room where they could change the weather and turn on the sky.  There they then fought the main kasatha before he eventually died -- after many missed swings all over the place and Maxx being dropped to negative hit points no fewer than three times before being roused by telekinetically manoeuvred potions (thank you Nathaniel!).  Luna's dragon, proudly wearing mage armour, also soaked a lot of blows as the kasatha tried to hit it in vain.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Iron Gods: Gambling with the fake father

So their first session out of the caves for a nice moment of rest and relaxation saw them headed down to the casino run by Nathaniel's alleged "father", Garmen Ulreth.  Garmen is a dodgy fellow and head of the Ropefists who is utterly mistaken in his belief that Nathaniel is his son so in this campaign the motivation for his invitation to his casino comes in a way of celebrating his son's skill and bravery.
Luna, our darling tiefling summoner, ahem God Caller, chose to seduce Garmen Ulreth in a game of strip poker and the two are now officially an item with Garmen claiming Luna as his woman -- temporarily, of course, but what else would anyone expect from an elven tiefling and the commander of the thugs?

Watching Maxx, an android, deal with gambling in a very pragmatic manner was pretty fun but no more fun than seeing our dear alchemist put forth a low bid on her first gamble and then win so overwhelmingly she was inspired to bid more in later attempts.  We played the game from the Witcher using 5 six-sided dice where you aim to get patterns much like in Poker.

Inevitably Nathaniel was confronted by his mother, who in her haste to tear apart his adventuring party (verbally, I mean) showed more than a few of her insecurities and views on people.  You see Nathaniel had never told her that he was going to explore the ruins beneath the hill and she was quite upset at the fact he was risking life and limb on such a venture.  Many of her statements were incredibly inconsistent, but that's simply because what she wants most of all is her son to be safe so she will make up whatever convoluted argument she can to attempt it.  Equally naturally, it only further drove a wedge between them.

They also came across the local identifier of technological whatz-its, who also offered to move his stall to the lakefront so that he could more readily identify their gear.  As I didn't realise the book had named the price I estimated the value of his service to two silver per item, well below the 10 gold per item suggested in the book.  When I told the players what the true price was meant to be for that knowledge they looked less than impressed.
Finally they went to sell some of their gear and went to the weaponsmith who's fiancé had gone off on an expedition and never returned.  She pleaded for them to return the body and they were all quite bad at dealing with a grieving woman, either due to lack of knowledge or disinclination to be sympathetic.  However they did decide to start retrieving the adventurer's bodies.

All in all, a solid roleplaying session was had by all!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Iron Gods: Fires of Creation Caverns

This was a relatively simple stretch consisting of some caves, a few corridors and their first foray into the enclosed habitat.  Firstly they entered the Skulks living quarters where a Jinkin Gremlin danced in front of them for a moment with a pouch before disappearing.  They approached the circular door in the wall which slid open at their approach and shut when they stepped away.  Presuming it was some sort of timed mechanism, the Alchemist leapt through acrobatically only to find the door kept open behind them.

Continuing on they found some gear in the rubble -- which they only searched after I described it as including a desk and some girders, likely because searching rubble for gear isn't a prospect that's come up in any of my previous campaigns.  They only managed to recognise the two batteries, thought the other two items were medical equipment or something similar, and decided to take them to Torch's resident technology expert afterwards.

The next room was a fun one with a set of nozzles set in the walls and our main technology expert -- Maxx -- rolling a 1.  So naturally he thought it was some kind of acid trap or the like.  One of the others simply knew it was deactivated.  Nathaniel went to march on through so Maxx went to stop them.  After all, Maxx had heard about grief and wasn't too sure whether she was prepared to experience it.

In the end they passed it without trouble and ended up in the large habitat.  Since the back story to this place was too good to waste, and considering the undead, I thought to include a haunt which gave them a flash back to the lives of those who had first arrived in the habitat.  I replaced the actual planet's details, though, with Golarion ones to help them get the point of what had happened here.

They faced the kasatha skeleton at first in a single, then a pair, then a group of four.  After they had defeated the pair, they had a flash of the rituals involved in taking one of the habitat creatures to the Forbidden Cave when it was injured.  This isn't included in the books but it worked a treat.  Of course, after all of these skeletons they were quite low on spells and the like and so decided to retreat and check out some more caves.

The Alchemist threw her last remaining alchemist's bombs around the corners of some of the caverns containing Jinkin Gremlins and killed them in sets of three because her base damage exceeded their hit points.  Once she was out of bombs, they looted the Gremlins (who had the gear normally kept in Sef's hut) and headed back to town.  That's where we stopped it.