A few days ago I found out that two of my four players would be unable to make this week's game. Rescheduling proved problematic and the other two players were eager for adventure, so we played anyway. Since I was already having doubts about the party's ability to handle the Sunken Ziggurat, I offered that they could spend the even slaying some goblins. Doug suggested that he could bring in his planned cohort a level early to add a third member to the anti-goblin expeditionary force. I consented to this plan since Doug agreed the new sidekick would earn no XP until Doug's PC legitimately had the Leadership feat.
The adventure started with Erik the Conqueror and Thorne the Dwarf hanging out at the meadhall at Beppo's Keep. Erik is chatting with his new friend Marty the Elf (who in my mind I kept picturing as pro-wrestler Marty Janetty with pointed ears) while Thorne is carving two new runes into his rune-axe. He had convinced Arnfinn Shape-changer, a druid friend of Jason's PC Zoyd Sampson, to share a couple spells with him. Thorne is an Archivist, a class that allows him to record any divine spell in the haft of his axe, which serves as his spellbook.
The doors of the saloon swing open and in staggers Druzella the Witch, first encountered in session 3. She looks pretty roughed up and is bleeding from a couple of hastily-bandaged wounds. Druzella explains that the goblins of the Canyon of Chaos attacked her in the night and made off with her entire stock of potions. She wants her potions recovered and more importantly, she wants the goblins to be punished. Erik signs on because punishing evil is his idea of a good time. (Remember, all the PCs are ardent followers of the Norse pantheon, but the Punisher is the party's patron saint.) Thorne takes the job when Druzella promises to share a "rune unknown to his cleric friends". Marty goes along because he's an NPC.
The goblins live in one of the lower caves of the Canyon of Chaos, just a bit up the slope and to the east of Druzella's abode. Previously, Druzella and the goblins had lived in peace. But you can't trust those little bastards, can you? At the entrance to their cave the goblins had erected a runestone topped with a shattered dwarf skull. Thorne doesn't know Goblish, but he glances at the runes and the skull and tells Erik "It reads 'Please come kill us.'" So they enter the goblin-cave, with the new guy leading the way. Normally, I would object to forcing the NPC to take the lead, but Marty was built as a trap-finding Rogue. And Doug did a good job of playing Marty with his own personality and quirks. For example, Marty examines a dungeon door for traps. He doesn't find any but I tell Doug that the elf notice scratches on the door handle, as if something with rather sharp claws recently used the door. "Yeah, this door's trapped and I can't disarm it." They move on.
The PC are cruising through a filthy, trash-strewn dungeon when they stumble upon a group of 10 goblins arguing vehemently over the proposition that cannibalism should be kept strictly in the family. Seeing an opportunity to gain a quick upper hand, they move in to attack before the goblins are on their guard. This signals the start of a long running battle through a series of three rooms, as the goblins fight persistently but fall back as the PCs begin to chew through them. They fight through the first rubble-strewn room, then into a chamber lined with shelves fullof skulls and decapitated heads, and then into the adjacent gobbo mess hall. With neither full-on fighter-types or blasty wizards in the group, it's a long tough battle. Especially when the 5 goblins in the mess hall join the fray.
Finally Erik pins the last goblin to a door with a well-placed javelin throw and the party begins looking for loot in the three rooms they fought through. Thorne finds a magic ring under the tongue of a hobgoblin head sitting on one of the gruesome display shelves. Then the party does one of those things that could only happen in a free-wheeling D&D session: they unwittingly walk right past a bunch of dungeon doors and straight into the lair of the boss monster. Imagine a classic movie mad scientist lab, with the burbling beakers and the sizzling jacob's ladders and whatnot. In the middle of this apparatus is an Evil Brain in a Jar.
The sound you just heard was Thorne dropping a sound burst spell on the Evil Brain and its lieutenant, one of those psionic blue goblins from the Expanded Psionics Handbook. All that's left of the telepathic blue dude is a reddish smear on the wall. The Brain continues to throb and pulse malevolently, but the glass is cracked and leaking fluid. It fires a psionic blast at Thorne, whose Will is unstoppable. A hobgoblish ghoul, the Brain's muscle, leaps at Thorne, only to be blasted into oblivion by Erik's faith in the awesomeness of Thor. Marty fires his bow at the Brain, shattering the glass case and and impaling it with his arrow.
At this point a couple of feeble goblin assistants try to make their escape, but when I describe them as goblins wearing surgical masks and rubber the gloves, the players kinda freak out. A telepathic brain in a jar didn't upset them, but the idea of a goblin dressed as if he was ready for surgery struck a chord. One of the little weirdos got away clean, but Erik warhammered the other one so hard he flopped around like an accordion, just like in an old timey cartoon.
The Evil Brain liked to keep its treasure piled up around the base of its jar, since it lacked the hands necessary to operate the lid of a chest. Unfortunately, Druzella's potions were victims of the sound burst, but the party was able to recover some gold, a sparkly gem, an arcane scroll, and a wand of detect secret doors.
Our heroes then decided to track down where the other goblin lab assistant might have escaped to. By a roundabout route through a corridor filled with goblin graffiti, the party wound up in the kitchens adjacent to the goblin messhall. They found the three goblin cooks cheerfully working on a cauldron full of Dear God What Is That stew. When offered a bowl from the unnervingly polite goblins the PCs refused. Erik couldn't take much of these kind-hearted goblins and they were quickly slaughtered for the heinous crime of being too nice. That's my players for you. They rummaged through the kitchen and found a jar containing 6 toad skins on the spice rack. Thanks to a successful Spellcraft roll Thorne was able to identify them as metamagic components and worth maybe 75 gold on the open market.
The last room the party explored was the laboratory/surgery bay adjacent to the Brain's lair. In it they found two more creepy goblin lab flunkies working on a bugbear corpse laying on a stone slab. The bugbear's head was cut open and the brains neatly scooped out. Erik moved in and attempted to grapple one of the goblins, setting off my custom-made Lab Disasters Dice Chart. He knocked over a bunsen burner and some beakers, starting a vicious lab fire. Thorne decided he would help and cast flaming sphere. Who he thought he was helping, I don't know. After everyone in the room took 10 points of fire damage (killing the goblins) they hightailed it out of the room. A round later poison gas started seeping out of the lab. That's when the players decided the adventure must be over. Which is good, as soon after the lab exploded, bringing down a fair chunk of the dungeon.
Back at the Keep, Druzella was grateful at the news that the goblins would bother her no more. She taught Thorne the rune for lightning bolt as a reward for his part in the the proceedings. She's built as an Adept, which gets her access to some spells that aren't normally available to divine casters. She also knows the feat Craft Wondrous Item, which gets the party a source for a wide variety of items not available otherwise. As long as they remain in Druzella's good graces, that is. What did Erik receive for his reward? Let's just say that the reward came in a more private setting, if you get my drift. Just don't let Erik find out that Marty got rewarded too, okay?
I still don't know why Doug named his elf Marty.
Baroque Poisons, Diseases, Stuns and Healing
24 minutes ago