Sunday, September 27, 2015

The Skelerachnid - a Spooky Monster for Old School D&D


I love Halloween, and I always enjoy seeing what new stuff the local stores roll out each year around this time.  This year, Target's gone with a Skeleton theme; in addition to the usual plastic skulls and articulated human skeletons for sale, they've got large rat skeletons, dog skeletons, piranha skeletons (both in solid plastic decor and in a "singing fish" version that belts out "I Will Survive," much to Gina's chagrin when I pressed the button in the store), alligator skulls and most excitingly for me, this bizarre spider skeleton.  Spiders, of course, do not have internal skeletons, so this must be entirely a flight of fancy - and what better than a flight of fancy to turn into a D&D monster? I decided to do two different versions of the Skelerachnid, since I had two ideas of what it could be.  These are statted up for Swords & Wizardry Core Rules, since that's what I've been playing lately, but will work with minimal conversion for any other Old School RPG.

"Is it Turning?"
"Shut up, Manfred, I'm trying to concentrate."
Skelerachnid, Undead: Magic is Magic, but there are universal laws to uphold.  A spider the size of an elephant would not be able to support its own weight, it's exoskeleton would buckle, and it's inefficient respiratory system would collapse under the strain of trying to oxygenate the hemocyanin pumping sluggishly through its body.  As such, Giant Spiders, being creatures of Magic, have developed an internal skeleton to brace and support the exoskeleton and allow them to move and hunt.  When a Giant Spider dies, this internal skeleton often lasts long after the external one has given way to the elements, and occasionally, a necromancer reanimates such remains.  The resultant horror is a giant, skeletal spider, its empty eye-sockets glaring with baleful light, its fangs imbued with the same chilling touch that freezes a ghoul's victims in their tracks.

Skelerachnid, Undead: 8HD, AC 4, Attk 1 (Bite, 1d8+ Save vs. Paralysis, 3d6 Turns), Save 8, Undead Immunities (immune to Sleep, Charm, Hold spells), CL 9, XP 1,100

I don't think we're equipped for this...
Skelerachnid, Construct: Some necromancers are simply not content with raising the dead; no, they feel compelled to tinker, to treat human and animal remains like so many construction toys.  Just as Victor Frankenstein inevitably went above and beyond strictly human remains in the creation of his Monster (what, you think he just found the bones to build a nine-foot tall man? I'm thinking there's some horse femurs in that guy), some necromancers end up constructing new monsters from other creature's bones.  If one has enough dead elephants or dinosaurs laying around, the Skelerachnid is a popular weekend project for the handy necromancer - they make excellent, tireless mounts, can handle more difficult terrain than any undead horse, and the expansive ribcage holds a surprisingly large amount of luggage.

Skelerachnid, Construct: 8 HD, AC 2, Attk 2 (Bite 1d8/Stomp 1d6), Save 8, immune to slashing or piercing damage, immune to cold, CL 10, XP 1,400

Murderhoboes Session 3: "I Thought We Were Playing D&D, Not Gamma World"

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.

Dramatis Personae:

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.

Yngwie took point once in the caves, and soon found a room full of sleeping, drunken Pig-Men, whose throats he began quietly slitting.  While he was engaged in this, a patrol of seven Pig-Men warriors spotted and attacked Johann and Lugh, who made short work of the Pig-Men without receiving a scratch.  While they were busy with these guards, Yngwie rounded up every scrap of coinage to be found among the bedrolls and belongings of the slain Pig-Men.

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.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Call of Cthulhu Report #2: The Get of Belial

This was the second adventure of the day yesterday, and was begun at 7pm and wrapped up at quarter after 10; I'm honestly really glad it didn't stretch all the way to 11 - as is, I didn't get home until almost midnight, and I'm quickly turning into an old man who gets cranky when a 9pm bedtime is missed.  I was both surprised and pleased to have a couple people coming around asking if there were any open slots in this game, and while it was a disappointment to me to have to turn people away - the plain fact of the matter was I simply didn't have the resources to add two players to the game, nor would it have been fair to the people who did get signed up for my game on time.

This adventure was based on a scripted-but-not-filmed episode of the classic '70s TV series "Kolchak: The Night Stalker."  There are a couple unfilmed scripts floating around, for episodes rejected as either too similar to prior episodes, or too expensive to produce; "The Get of Belial" is officially considered too expensive, but was actually written around pre-existing sets.  Common thinking is that the religious elements in the script made some network executives uncomfortable, and so the episode got cut.  I moved the events from the 1970s to the 1920s, which works well given the history of the Labor movement in the United States in that era.

The adventure began with the PCs questioning the circumstances surrounding the murder of Glenn Maynard, president of the Associated Anthracite company, which manages the coal mines around the small town of Hopkinsville, West Virginia.  Maynard had been found dead, half-out the window of his totaled car, his chest caved in, marked with savage puncture wounds, and his head mostly severed.

The investigators, three miners (including the leader of the strike, an anarchist looking for opportunities for chaos, and an undercover Pinkerton agent), a muckracking reporter, and the local priest and schoolteacher, found themselves hitting dead end after dead end, even after finding a mysterious two-toed track.

A new lead surfaced when they attended Maynard's wake and funeral; his widow, Jennifer Maynard collapsing into a sobbing wreck at the wake, she was comforted when a thin, pale, plain woman touched her hand and loudly asked the Lord to ease Jennifer Maynard's sorrows and burden.  The woman, identified as Sarah Blackshear, then got into a nearby pick up truck and was driven off.

Following, the PCs soon learn that the Blackshears had been squatting at the abandoned schoolhouse - Sarah, her husband Henry, and adult sons Michael and Henry Jr.  They also had a large iron cage with them.  And for their trouble, Carl McGavin, the reporter, got a bullet in the shoulder from Michael Blackshear.  Having discovered their hideout, the PCs soon learned that the Blackshears were relocating - into the currently-abandoned mine.  They also learned that Sarah Blackshear had a third son: David, or "Sonny" as he was known, used to be a beautiful, sweet boy.

But everything changed for the Blackshears when a voice rang out from empty air - the voice, Sarah believes, of the Devil.  The voice promised the Blackshears that so long as Sarah continued to use her ability to lay on hands and heal the sick and suffering, Sonny would transform into a fiend more hideous than any in Hell.  Only by renouncing her healing powers would she be able to keep her beloved son.

Believing that "Man's extremity is God's opportunity," Sarah defiantly continued to use her gifts.  And Sonny changed, first emotionally, then physically.  Every time she lays on hands, Sonny flies into a berserk rage, breaking out of his cage and seeking out a victim to mutilate.

this is not the image I showed the players - but apparently
Tom Sullivan's illustration of the Ghast from "Sandy
Peterson's Field Guide to the Cthulhu Mythos" is not
online.

Having learned this from the Blackshears, the investigators team up with them - with Sarah healing the ragged bullet hole in Carl's shoulder - to track down Sonny and hopefully either lure him back to Sarah to calm down and guide back to his cage, or if necessary, destroy him.

They stumble across the bodies of Al Bialek and Gracie Peters, which Sonny Blackshear had surprised as they were enjoying an adulterous midday tryst, and then murdered.  Figuring that Sonny's bloodlust being sated, he would probably head back to his mother, the investigators, with the Blackshears, head back to camp, where they find Sarah Blackshear softly singing a lullaby to a hulking subhumanoid creature as she cradled it in her scrawny arms.  Motioning her back, the union leader opened fire on the beast with his shotgun - only to see Sarah Blackshear erupt in stigmata matching the peppering of shot in the creature's pebbled hide.

Thinking quickly and hoping that the connection worked both ways, he turned his gun to Sarah and gave her the second barrel.  Sarah died, her placid face erupting in a spray of crimson, but the monster that had been her child remained standing.

(And at this point, I allowed the union leader's player to see my notes, where I'd noted: "Any damage that the Blackshear Creature takes, Sarah Blackshear experiences as well. The reverse is not also true – shooting Sarah in the head won’t kill the Creature." I had run this adventure before, and the last time I'd done so the players killed the monster by shooting Sarah in the head.  I was nervous that one of the players from the last time I'd run the game would be present this time around, and I wanted to ensure metagame knowledge would help no one)

At this point, the anarchist lit the fuse on a pipe-bomb he had handy, tossing it at the creature's feet.  It exploded, and the monstrous thing slumped to the ground, where it transformed back into the tattered remains of a 14 year old blonde boy.

The Blackshear men grudgingly acknowledged that Sonny Blackshear's suffering was at an end, and Sarah's as well.  The investigators put together a cover story for what happened to feed to the reporter's newspaper and the Pinkerton agency, while the surviving Blackshears packed up and left town.

This adventure needed some more work on my part.  I think I definitely fell into a bad habit of mine with convention games - I never expect my games to fill up, so typically I have four "core" pregenerated characters who have really strong ties to the adventure and two "secondary" characters who are less tightly tied to the adventure.  In this case, those were the schoolteacher and the priest; the player who ended up with the priest had never played Call of Cthulhu before so I was scrabbling at the table to make sure he was included and having fun.  Everyone told me that they had a lot of fun, but I feel like I could have done better to tie the characters into the adventure.  So that's something for me to work on for the next convention game.

Speaking of, I'm not sure when my next gaming convention is - probably nothing until Running GAGG, my alma mater's annual convention, which typically falls on Superbowl weekend.  I'm hoping to do Origins in Columbus in 2016; I would absolutely do Queen City Conquest in Buffalo as well, and I'm sure there's other gaming clubs at colleges in the area who put on conventions.  UBCon at the University of Buffalo I've had bad experiences with in the past, so I probably would not try that one again, but the University of Rochester hosts Simcon every year.

Call of Cthulhu Convention One Shot Report #1: Nightmare on the Slopes

I'm glad to be able to type this rather than try to deliver a con-game report verbally, because I basically don't have a voice today - running two 3 1/2 hour games back to back yesterday, both of which featured NPCs with "funny" voices, have left me raspy and sore.

The first game I ran, from 1 pm to about 4:30, was a modern day adventure I titled "Nightmare on the Slopes," which was based primarily on a 1977 made-for-TV horror movie entitled SNOWBEAST, which was basically JAWS, on a ski resort instead of a beach and with a killer bigfoot instead of a shark.  To this I added elements of two 1950s B-grade classics, THE CRAWLING EYE and THE BEAST FROM HAUNTED CAVE, as well as elements of Native American mythology.

Additionally, with these games I'm running as part of the Cult of Chaos program, I'm trying to push my own comfort zone a little bit and so I'm denying myself monsters that I tend to use a lot - zombies, Mi-Go, ghouls - and forcing myself to find ways to use other, less-common monsters.  In this case, I brought in the reptilian Lloigor as my "Big Bad" for the session.

I had a full table, with six players - one of whom was my sister, and another her boyfriend who I was meeting for the first time, which was an interesting dynamic for me.  Of the other four, one player had no prior experience with Call of Cthulhu, two had a little bit of limited experience, and one guy had been playing since 1981, which, for those keeping track at home, is six years before I was born.  My sister has played a little bit of Call of Cthulhu in the past, and her boyfriend had a bit more experience prior to yesterday's game.

The investigators were two FBI agents staking out the ski lodge in case a trio of bank robbers tried to hide out there, the local sheriff who wasn't about to let the FBI steal his thunder, the manager of the lodge who wanted things kept quiet as it was the biggest business week of the year for the lodge, an alcoholic former Olympian seeking work, and a fraudulent psychic conning the lodge owner.

The adventure started with a young woman going missing, and the searchers who found her body finding evidence - footprints, a blurry gray shape in a photo on her camera - that she'd been attacked and killed by a Sasquatch.  An attempt to hunt the killer ape-man down resulted in the posse being attacked and separated by a trio of Sasquatches, who were attempting to beat the humans unconscious - not to kill them.  One of the FBI agents got beaned pretty good by a large female sasquatch and carried off into the woods.

Meanwhile, one of the bank robbers - albeit half dead from dehydration and appearing 20 years older than he had a week prior - showed up at the lodge, babbling about a "dragon" and a cabin by the lake before having a seizure and dying.

The FBI agent awoke in a cave by the shore of the nearby lake, guarded by the female sasquatch, surrounded by the desiccated bodies of the other two bank robbers.  Finding a handgun on one of them, he opened fire on the Bigfoot, sending her running, but awakening something large deeper in the cave.  The other agent, the sheriff, and the Olympian arrived in time to grab him and drag him out as an enormous, long-necked reptile emerged briefly from the cave, blinking in the sunlight, then retreating back into the darkness.  One of the FBI agents tried opening fire on the creature, with no effect other than to hear a hissing voice in his head whisper, "You...I will savor..."

They fled the scene after that.

At the lodge owner's request, the "psychic" was holding a seance for the amusement of a dozen or so drunken tourists, when she suddenly experienced a legitimate psychic vision, witnessing an attack on a Native American canoe by something large coming from underwater.  Thrashing on the floor, she screamed "Pita skog! Pita skog!" a few times before coming to.  Between her, the FBI agents and the sheriff, they figure out that "pita skog" is a local variant on the legendary "horned water snake" that appears in native folklore east of the Mississippi, and it dawns on them that this is what they saw in the cave, and what has been awaiting sacrifices for centuries.

That night, almost 70 guests of the lodge rose from their beds, sleepwalking out of the lodge and stumbling through the snow and the trees down towards the lake.  The sheriff manages to avoid being drawn out, and begins trying to wake people, figuring out that slapping them in the face seems to work pretty well.  Soon the psychic, who was experiencing horrifying and depressing dreams in which a bubbling voice tried to draw her into the lake, was awake and helping, followed by the FBI agents.  The lodge manager was among those sleepwalking, until they woke him.

Down at the lake, they see people throwing themselves into the icy waters, and a huge, gray-green shape swimming eel-like, its finned back occasionally breaking the surface, grabbing them as they bob and struggle to swim.

The sheriff, recalling a cabin around the edge of the lake commonly used for ice-fishing, takes off running to investigate, managing to find a bundle of dynamite - and the $25,000 the bank robbers had stolen, which he stashed for later retrieval.  Lighting the fuse and handing the bundle to the Olympian, who tried very hard to throw it into the creature's open mouth as it reared up to grab another floundering human prize.  He missed however, the bundle splashing into the water a yard or two from the creature.  The resulting explosion badly injured the creature, who tried to flee and escape back into its cave - but not getting there before the lodge manager had shown up with a portable generator and some electrical cables, With a hissing crackle and the overpowering stench of ozone and frying flesh, the pita skog sank to the bottom of the lake, along with the handful of tourists they hadn't managed to awaken before they could take the plunge.

The adventure went very well, and everyone had a really great time - I'd purposefully structured this adventure as a series of individual scenes that could be slotted together in different orders and still form a coherent narrative, and I think that worked out really well; there was one scene I'd written that they didn't play through, in which the annual beauty pageant held as part of the big "Winterfest" weeklong event at the lodge was to be interrupted by the sasquatch and the lodge owner's granddaughter carried off to be given to the pita skog.  But given that they'd managed to kill two of the sasquatches and badly injure a third, it made more sense to leave the scene out, especially once they'd caught on to the existence of the creature in the lake.

the crew for this session.  That's my sister on the far left, her boyfriend next to her, and the
gentleman in the Chewbacca shirt was brand new to Call of Cthulhu.
The other thing that went really well was how the investigators were really pursuing two different lines of investigation - the sheriff and the two FBI agents (later joined by the Olympian) went into the woods after bigfoot, while the lodge owner, the psychic, and the Olympian (before heading into the woods) puzzled out the sucked-dry bank robber and the psychic disturbances.  It wasn't really until the final scene that they were all really in one place at the same time and working together, and I managed to juggle that, and keep the focus shifting back and forth (complete with cliffhangers that didn't feel forced) between the two groups - nobody got bored, and nobody felt left out of the action, so I feel really good about that.

I handed out a custom d6 to each of the players (I had Chessex print up a run for me - they're jade-green with gold pips, and instead of a "1" there's an Elder Sign) as a thank-you for signing up for my game.  I also, at the beginning of the session, threw a big bag of mini candy bars - Snickers, Twix and Milky Ways - on the table and urged people to help themselves; my feeling is, regardless of whether I'm running a game at my apartment or at a convention, as Game Master I am hosting for the people at my table, and I like being a good host.  Plus, if word gets around "Hey, next year sign up for Bill Adcock's games! He hands out candy AND dice!" then I can promote the game even more effectively to a wider audience.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Murderhoboes Session 2: Sh*t Goes Bonkers

We had session 2 of the campaign today, with one new player trying out role-playing games for the first time ever - which is a profoundly rewarding experience for me, introducing the act of role-playing to someone new and seeing their face light up as they start to really have fun with.  Unfortunately, while my girlfriend Gina had been considering playing, she got the call to go into work today and thus had to bow out.  So our cast list today is as follows:

Dramatis Personae:
Johann Borscht, aka The Bringer of Meat, aka The Breaker of Snakes, Dwarf Fighter 2
Legolas "Mohawk" Jones, Elf Magic-User 2
Manfrey the Magnificent, Human Magic-User 2 (Deceased, this session)
Yngwie Magnusson, Dwarf Thief 1 (Manfrey's replacement)
Icarus Dicarus, Elf Magic-User 1 (a 2'6" Christmas Elf, rather than a Tolkienesque Elf)

(Alf the Elf's player could not make this session, due to attending a wedding)

And the Hired Help:

Burdo, Human Man-at-Arms 0, employed by Manfrey
Murg, Human (masquerading as Dwarf) Man-at-Arms 0, employed by Mohawk (Deceased, this session)
Willow, Gymore and Durig, Torchbearers, employed by Mohawk
Margard, Human Man at-Arms 0, employed by Mohawk
Cormar, Human Man-at-Arms 0, employed by Mohawk
Asheron, War-Dog, employed by Mohawk

Three weeks after their adventure with the Yip-Yips, Johann and his comrades have lived high on the hog off of their spoils - enough gold for each of them to walk away with 200 GP, as well as four vials - one of Holy Water, one of Alchemist's Fire, one a Potion of Cure Light Wounds, and the last an Oil of Magic Weapon.  Johann was reciting the tale of their adventures to a new drinking buddy, the Elf Icarus Dicarus (who looks like a 2-foot tall Vin Diesel wearing a hood with a jingle-bell on it), when he heard a commotion outside, in which the yipping barks of a Yip-Yip could be heard.

Stepping outside, Johann saw three toughs kicking a Yip-Yip around like a soccer ball.  Intervening, Johann soon learned that this was Yap-Snout, one of the greatest champions of the Yip-Yips, or as he introduced himself, "Destroyer of Tennis Balls, Sniffer of Many Butts." Yap-Snout explained that he'd come to beg for Johann's aid - that the Sagoths of the Tribe of Go-Yat, along with their "pet" Devil Apes, have laid siege to the Yip-Yip cave in retaliation for the slaughter of the bandits three weeks earlier.  Most of the Yip-Yips made it to safety in the narrow escape tunnels they'd dug under their cave - but not all.


Rounding up as much of the gang as possible, Johann allowed Yap-Snout to lead them back to the caves.  Just out front of the cave, four brutish Sagoths were sitting around a fire, laughing as they roasted a Yip-Yip on a spit.  Johann lobbed an Alchemist's Fire (produced by Manfrey during his downtime) into the center of their fire, creating an explosion and sending the Sagoths into a panic.  Icarus followed this up with a casting of Sleep - knocking the Sagoths unconscious.  The spell had a secondary effect - due to the thaumaturgic energies permeating the region, Icarus experienced a magical mutation, sprouting horns from his head.

Quickly slitting the throats of the Sagoths, the adventurers cautiously entered the cave, soon encountering one of the Devil Apes of the Sagoths - enormous, eight-foot tall gorillas, hairless save for a mohawk-like crest, with milk-white skin, beady red eyes, and four powerful arms.  One of these beasts was squatting in the cave, its face and hands bloody, casually eating a Yip-Yip carcass, tiny bones crunching between huge yellow molars.  The beast soon smelled the adventurers, and turned to face them - getting an Alchemist's Fire thrown in its face by Manfrey.  Coated with burning, jellied chemicals, the Devil Ape charged, grabbing Manfrey in its four enormous hands and tearing him into pieces - before dying of its burns and collapsing atop the four fragments of the once-Magnificent Manfrey.

Advancing even more cautiously now that one of their number was dead, they soon found the last stand of the Yip-Yips - behind a complicated, locked door of thick bronze, being pounded on by a pair of Devil Apes.  Another squad of four Sagoths watched with hungry interest, and a Sagoth sub-chief, distinguished by his stone axe (as opposed to the simple clubs of his underlings), egging on the two Apes.

Legolas "Mohawk" Jones fired off a Hold Portal spell to prevent the Devil Apes from hammering down the bronze door - and promptly mutated, hir once-androgynously appealing Elf face transforming into that of a goat, though s/he kept hir pink mohawk and ability to speak.  Then Johann threw another two Alchemist's Fires at the Apes, frying one in a crispy instant and enraging the other.  Johann then slammed the door to the room, positioning himself (and Murg, the other axe-swinger in the party), to attack anything that came through it.

The door flew off its hinges as the Devil Ape slammed into it; Johann got a face full of splinters, and Murg died with a face full of door.  Johann buried his axe in the giant ape's forehead, and Icarus bashed Legolas' crowbar (slathered with Oil of Magic Weapon) into the beast's chin.  Roaring, the Devil Ape shuddered and died in the doorway.

Seeing the two Devil Apes slain so swiftly, the Sagoths immediately surrendered.  Icarus was able to communicate with them, and ordered them to return to their own cave, round up Chief Go-Yat, They scrambled off, and the adventurers set up an ambush after checking on the Yip-Yips and offering them the meat of the slain Devil Apes as a gift.

basically what Chief Go-Yat looked like

Chief Go-Yat, an enormous brute whose thick red hair was streaked with gray and half of whose face was a mass of scar tissue, soon showed off, striding into the cave like he owned the place, completely assured of his victory.  He quickly tripped over Icarus' silk rope, strung across the doorway, and when he fell, Johann lopped off his head in a single swing - and claimed Go-Yat's massive axe, its blade crudely hammered out of meteoric iron, for himself.  Stepping outside and raising the captured axe to the assembled throng of Sagoths, he accepted kingship over them.

Johann then brought the Sagoths and the Yip-Yips together, brokered peace between them, and demanded that they work together for their mutual beneficence.

Having resolved that, Icarus mentioned that he'd heard that there was a magical spring that fed the swamps at the far end of the canyon; that this water contained healing properties.  The adventurers decided to set off in search of the healing spring, bringing One-Eye - the last surviving Devil Ape, now sworn to guard Johann - with them.

Tramping through the swamp, they were accosted by a trio of undead Ghouls that appeared out of the mists; Johann was paralyzed by a ghoul's filthy claws, while Legolas threw Holy Water in the face of one of the ghouls, burning it like powerful acid.  One-Eye tore the remaining two Ghouls apart, and after a minute or so, Johann regained the use of his limbs.
like this, but with screaming human faces.
Finding a spring that seemed powerful enough to feed the entire swamp, they also found a monstrous creature drinking from it - a flea, the size of a large dog and with three human faces instead of a single flea head.  Johann attacked it with the meteoric axe he'd taken from Go-Yat, hacking the thing to bits before drinking deeply of the spring - only to learn it was not, in fact, a magical healing spring.  Disappointed, they went home to recoup and rest, taking with them a bag of miscellaneous coinage and gems they'd taken from Go-Yat's chambers, along with a quartet of elephant tusks they could sell.

goddamn right Meinrad
dresses like Galactus.
While drinking and planning their next move in the Chunderdome (and with Legolas "Baphomohawk" Jones seducing the barmaid with hir new goatish tongue), Johann encountered an old friend - the light-fingered dwarven thief Yngwie Magnusson (Manfrey's player's new character).  While catching up, they're astonished to see a ten foot tall man in outlandish purple and blue clothing stride into the bar.

"I seek adventurers of stout heart and strong constitution to perform a task," the figure rumbled, "Who has the courage to serve Meinrad, the Star-Gazer?"

Recalling that Meinrad was a local wizard whose floating tower hovered a quarter-mile north of Devil's Canyon, Johann and Yngwie immediately volunteered, asking what the task was.

"One of my graduate students summoned up that which he could not put down.  The entity now infests my basement.  I find it a nuisance, though currently my work demands too much of my attention to deal with the entity personally.  It has killed three other graduate students I sent down after it.  I believe it consumes blood."

Meinrad the Star-Gazer tossed a small pouch to Yngwie.  "Here are some star-sapphires, valued at approximately 300 Imperial gold.  You will receive its twin when the entity is banished.  You may wish to seek arcane weaponry before pursuing the creature; I believe the junk shop of Old Man Walter may offer you assistance.  I care not.  When you are ready, use this" - he tossed a looped chain ring onto the table - "to teleport to my tower." Turning, the Astrologer left the bar.


Seeking out Old Man Walter, they found a thick-bearded man in overalls manning a small shop whose shelves were overflowing with unidentifiable items.  Asking about weapons, Old Man Walter chuckled into his beard and began rummaging around.

"Well, let's see, just got this 'ere Ultraviolet Emitter in this morning!" he cackled, holding up a long, silvery tube attached to what looked like a crossbow stock.  Setting up a target out of Johann's bag of hamburger, he demonstrated the device; a squiggly purple beam that cooked the hamburger-target to a sizzling perfection.  The group decided to pass on the Ultraviolet Emitter after hearing Walter's asking price, and asked what else he had.

"Maybe y'all good folks would be more innerested in this 'ere, ehm, ah, X-Ray Pulse Rifle ah jiggered t'gether," he said, pulling out a chunkier device of crome and tinted glass.  Firing at another target, the bolts of energy from the device reversed the colors in the room (like a photographic negative) for split seconds before exploding the target.

Baphomohawk Jones bought that, while Icarus asked about smaller weapons, befitting his reduced stature.  At that, Walter brought out "a little somethin'-somethin' fer the ladies...a laser pistol, fits right in yer purse!" which, with a grumble of sexism, Icarus purchased.

Asking about anything else Walter had, Johann's eyes lit up as the old man wheeled out an artillery piece, all gleaming chrome, copper coils and tubes of cloudy purple glass, which Walter explained to be a "Cosmic Ray Cannon, ruin th' day of anyone within, oh, ah' figger in 'bout a good 20 miles o' that there barrel when this baby goes off."  Unable to meet Walter's asking price for the Cosmic Ray Cannon, Johann placed a hold on the device, resolving to come back when he had the money.

Happy with their purchases, and with new hirelings in Baphomohawk's tow (three torchbearers, and two drunken clubsmen; they decided to leave Johann's Devil Ape bodyguard behind), they tugged the teleport-chain, and after a moment of vertigo, found themselves in the Floating Tower of Meinrad the Star-Gazer.

Organizing themselves into a semblance of marching order (torchbearer, both clubsmen, Icarus and Baphomohawk with guns at the ready, Johann with the meteor axe, then the final two torchbearers), Yngwie decided to scout ahead, given his ability to move silently and see in darkness.

As he advanced down a hallway, Yngwie became aware that he wasn't hearing anything any more - not the echoing of his footsteps in the stone hallways, not the sound of his own breathing, not even the beating of his own heart.  Turning to look over his shoulder, he saw a dark shape with a long, beaked head and a serrated, crocodilian tail lower itself from the ceiling, silhouetted against the faint glow of the torches far behind him.  Darting around a corner, Yngwie could soon hear his footsteps and heart pounding again, and scrabbled up the masonry to cling to a nearby support column, up near the ceiling.  He drew his bastard sword carefully, ready to drop on the thing when it rounded the corner.

Meanwhile, Icarus, straining to see past the torch's glow, realizes he can't hear the footsteps of the torchbearer in front of him.  Shading his eyes, he realizes he can see the faint glint of the torchlight reflect off razored scales ahead of them in the darkness.

Pointing this out to Johann and Baphomohawk, the two spellcasters ready their shiny new rayguns, pulling the triggers in unison.  A beam of crackling neon orange energy and bolts of color-negating X-Radiation spat - and both shots went wide, the laser beam missing the creature's midsection by several feet, and the X-Ray blasts went over its hunched shoulders, the energy splashing harmlessly against the far wall and dissipating.

like this, but with a six-legged crocodile body
The light of the rays illuminated the creature, however, and allowed them to see what they were up against:

Mansized though hunched, the creature resembled a bipedal crocodile with a pair of long legs ending in webbed claws, a heavy, saw-edged tail, two arms ending in flexing, clawed fingers, and an intermediate set of limbs that looked like they could serve as either arms or legs.  The creature's head, however, was the worst - like a mosquito made huge, its jet-black compound eyes showed no emotion but seemed to glare at them, its palps and antennae twitching in anticipation, its needle-like proboscis dripping with the same viscous, oily substance that coated its entire body.  It turned to face the party.

And that's where we ended the session.  Cliffhanger, motherfuckers!