We had a smaller group this week - Baphomohawk Jones' player wasn't feeling well, Icarus Dicarus had work, and Alf the Elf's player is indisposed for the foreseeable future, but we pressed on - three players is enough for me to run with, and they did pretty well for themselves here.
Johann Borscht, Dwarf Fighter 2
Yngwie Magnusson, Dwarf Thief 2
Lugh Light-Fingers, Elf Fighter 1
Lugh Light-Fingers was the last surviving member of the first expedition Meinrad the Star-Gazer sent down into his basement to kill the demon one of his grad students had summoned. He'd seen his fellow adventurers killed by the demon, drained of blood and then raised as zombies under the demon's control. Determined to finish the job or go down fighting, when he saw the splashes of energy from Baphomohawk's X-Ray Pulse Rifle and Icarus Dicarus' laser pistol, he knew where the creature was. He also spotted Yngwie Magnusson, clinging to a support pillar, ready to drop if the creature came around the corner; Yngwie saw him as well, and signalled to him that the creature was around the corner.
The two magic-users (NPC'd for the session) fired off another fruitless volley, and Lugh called out to draw the creature's attention. The creature turned, following Lugh down the hallway, where Yngwie attempted to drop down onto it with his sword. He missed with the sword, and landed crotch-first on the creature's serrated, scaly back. At this, Johann charged around the corner at the creature, while Icarus and Baphomohawk took up positions to shoot into the melee.
They managed to defeat the creature, not least because Johann's axe, taken from the dead hands of a caveman chieftain, was composed of meteoric iron - "star metal" - inimical to creatures from the Hungering Dark such as this one. Unfortunately, he also got hit with friendly fire from Baphomohawk's X-Ray Pulse Rifle and mutated a little - he can now stretch his arms and legs out to lengths of 45 feet.
They collected the remainder of their payment - 300 gp worth of star sapphires - and were teleported back to the Chunderdome (the local tavern). Johann took his axe to be refurbished - he wanted the blade forged into an actual blade, as the Sagoth chieftain had only hammered a crude edge into a chunk of meteorite and then they settled down to listen to the news of the day and recuperate. Most of the rumors they overheard related to the Pig-Men that held a cave in the southern end of the canyon; these long-snouted humanoids were violent and aggressive, regularly warring against their neighbors. Johann heard that a band of Sabertooth Apes had pledged allegiance to the Pig-Man King, and Lugh overheard someone saying that the Pig-Man King wore a suit of enchanted plate armor, the legendary Carnifex Panoply - whose wearer is invulnerable so long as the armor is regularly fed the blood of the weak. Yngwie also heard that a local diviner was offering a reward for any who brought him the iron-bound Book of Nekron, believed to be lost in the caves.
Retrieving Johann's upgraded axe - now fully forged into a proper blade, complete with a cut-out in the shape of the Dwarven rune for "Fury" - they set out for the Sagoth caves, so that Johann could learn what they know of the Pig-Men. From them, he learned that the Pig-Men are primarily active at night, are heavy drinkers, and the females are as vicious and warlike as the males. Whistling up One-Eye, the four-armed Devil Ape sworn to serve him as bodyguard, Johann led the way to the Pig-Man cave.
Continuing down the hallway, they came to a large set of iron double-doors, set with knockers and knobs shaped like eagles' claws. Checking for traps and finding none, Yngwie grabbed the knobs and pulled - and the knobs sprung to life, crushing his hands in their iron grip. When Johann and Lugh pulled him free, the doors opened - and standing there was Burzak Gut-Ripper, the King of the Pig-Men, standing eight feet tall and weighing probably 600 lbs, two pairs of tusks jutting from his lower jaw and a third pair rising up out of the top of his snout. "Looking for me?" he grunted with a wicked grin, swinging an enormous rusty greatsword at Yngwie.
The three adventurers fought back hard, but it was One-Eye who saved the day - by grabbing Burzak by the head and wrenching his head completely off in one smooth motion. Johann quickly stripped Burzak's corpse and stretched himself into the armor, now standing eight feet tall as he put on the helmet Burzak's snout prevented him from wearing. They quickly put Burzak's three hideous wives to the sword and began to loot his chambers, opening up an iron chest containing a significant amount of coinage.
Deciding to press on, they found a secret door in Burzak's quarters - one that led into a room with strange furniture made from a lightweight white material and a cubicle. Entering the cubicle, they found a pair of buttons, both triangular, one pointing "up" and the other "down." Pressing the "up" button did nothing, but pressing the other caused the cubicle to sink into the floor.
Exiting the cubicle, they found themselves in a room that blasted them with icy, bitter-tasting water before allowing them to continue on through the far door. Here they found a central gallery containing rows of glass-fronted cabinets, each containing dozens of small screw-top vials half-filled with purplish jelly. Two side rooms each contained a large vat or tub of white material set into the floor, half-full of jelly, with a raised podium at one end, topped by a panel containing 25 holes, some of which have crystalline pegs in them. Each of these side rooms also had a glass-doored cell at one end; one of these is empty save for a dozen or so spidery mechanical limbs hanging from the ceiling, the other contains this apparatus and a flopping, stingray-like creature covered in feathers.
The final room of this complex contained a crescent-shaped altar of white material. Upon entering the room, the PCs were confronted with a 15' tall vortex of swirling purple fire that identified itself as "the Vat-Lord" and demanded the PCs' identities and loyalty. It demanded that "biomatter" be brought to it and fed into the vats in the side rooms for "rendering" so that the Vat-Lord could convert it into new guardians to protect itself from its enemies. The Vat-Lord promised to reward the PCs loyalty, and so they began bringing down Pig-Man carcasses to throw into the vats.
Unfortunately, exposure to the Vat-Lord's energies triggered mutation responses in Yngwie and Lugh; Yngwie's left arm shriveled up until he just had a tiny, flipper-like hand sticking out of his shoulder, while Lugh developed the ability to breath fire. Angry about this development, Yngwie asked the Vat-Lord to grow him a new arm, and cut the hand off his shoulder. Unfortunately, he did not specify "an arm to match the one I already have" and so ended up with a lobster claw for a left arm. He decided to accept this.
The Vat-Lord admitted to the PCs that it wasn't sure who its enemies were, just that it had them, commenting that it's "memory banks" had become corrupted over time. The PCs began asking how they could be repaired, and Johann made the mistake of asking if the Vat-Lord would faithfully serve whomever repaired it. The Vat-Lord's response to this was to order Yngwie and Lugh to execute the traitorous Johann for treason. At this, the adventurers decided to leave, promising the Vat-Lord more biomatter - and then Yngwie shot the "control panel" altar a few times with the laser pistol he'd borrowed from Icarus.
After this, they decided to collect and count out the miscellaneous coinage and gems they'd collected from the Pig-Men, and Yngwie resolved to try selling some of the bottled "biomatter" he'd stolen from the Vat-Lord to Meinrad the Star-Gazer and to Old Man Walter.