The party was in a bind. Several lizardfolk had been dispatched, but one escaped. One was barely conscious, and somewhere in the maze of cavernous hallways, a person was screaming. Not screaming in pain, but screaming like how someone probably screamed when they learned that Firefly isn’t being resurrected.
The only way forward was down a set of increasingly damp and mossy stairs that opened into a cavern with a 120′ drop into darkness. The only way across this chasm was over a narrow stone bridge that was covered in slick lichen…and was manned by three lizardfolk and one of their buff half-human, half lizard soldiers. It was apparent that the lizardfolk wanted the battle on their terms, opting to lure the party onto the bridge, but the party wasn’t having it — at least, not initially.
The bard cast Thunderwave, which succeeded in letting the lizards know that the party was approaching, but which did not have the desired effect of clearing the bridge. The ranger opted to not get too close, and managed to remove at least one lizard with a volley of arrows. That left the monk — the melee, in-your-face, flurry-of-blows carrying monk — to make his move.
Almost as soon as he set foot onto the bridge, the monk knew he was in trouble. The moss was too slick to maintain proper footing, and the gnome toppled over the side. Seeing as how his monastic training prepared him for all kinds of Jackie Chan-level shit, he managed to grab ahold of the bridge ledge before plunging to his Doom. A nearby lizardfolk found this particularly intriguing, and started to bash at the monk’s fingers with his club, but the monk endured.
Not wanting to be out-action-heroed, the bard bolted down the stairs and upon reaching the bottom, used the slick bridge to her advantage, sliding over the slick surface like a Bo and Luke Duke’s stumpy, more inbred cousin (who you know had to exist in Hazzard Country, people). She slipped past the lizardfolk that was looming over the monk, and before heading over the edge herself, grappled the monk’s arm and successfully used Dimensional Door to teleport the two of them back to the top of the stairs.
Misunderstanding the point of a “learning experience”, the monk once again set foot onto the bridge…and once again slipped over the edge. This time, his training betrayed him, sending him plunging the full 120′ feet into the pit below. If anyone had to fall, however, it was best that it was the monk. He managed to summon his powers of…I dunno…falling like a boss, I guess? Anyway, he didn’t die; he didn’t even get scratched, really. But he was quickly joined by the corpse of the last lizardfolk that fell due to his own stupidity. But wait! There’s more! Snakes began to issue from a hole in the wall, dropping into the ankle-deep cesspool.
At this point everyone probably decided that being a monk wasn’t so bad, because the gnome started to claw his way back up the craggy walls of the pit he was in. He was able to reach most of the way before he failed to find further purchase, and was left hanging about 60′ short of the lip of the bridge.
The ranger and monk took care of the last yuan ti, and then carefully made their way out onto the bridge with a rope tied around the ranger’s waist. The monk had to jump for the rope (a 50′ rope was just a tad bit too short), but managed to ninja that bitch and secured a ride topside once again. This time, the party connected themselves using the rope like rock-climbers do, and since no good deed (or idea) goes unpunished, the monk fell over the edge again.
Once on the other side, the party followed the sounds of screaming. As they moved throughout the caverns, the random shouting began to sound more like shouts for assistance. After identifying and skirting a dart trap, the party found a rather boisterous halfling imprisoned in an ancient cell. It seemed that this “wizard” had been captured and was being held as a sacrifice for the “dark pool”, which the party had taken to mean the strange pool they’d encountered on their way into the Didarious’ crypt. Never to look a gift party member in the mouth, the party helped secure the halfling in time to find that their exit was now being camped by a party of curious and on-edge yuan ti.
As the party filed into the room to begin the battle, the “wizard” was the first one into the fray. Unarmed and unarmored — and suspiciously sans magic despite his penchant for shouting out sketchy spell names like he was a character in some 1980’s Japanimation series — this “wizard” proceeded to punch, kick, and headbutt every yuan ti he could reach. Aside from barely leaving bruise that would raise little more than a question in about a day or so, he was remarkably on-target. His constant annoyance allowed the party to land several blows on their yuan ti aggressors, including a Hail Mary shot from the bard’s dusty crossbow.
+ + +
Adventure Co’s party has been in flux lately, but we’re slowly re-filling the ranks. This was the second week we had a session with our newest member Paz, but the narrative put us into a place where we couldn’t organically work him into the story. Thankfully, the caverns had a prison, and that prison is mentioned in the module as being specifically for pre-sacrifices to be held. We didn’t cover how Paz got into that situation, but I can leave that to him to decide, if he likes.
Since the party was understaffed at the top of the hour, I had to cut back on the encounters. There were supposed to be a lot more enemies on the bridge than the party engaged with, and culling their number turned out to be a good idea: the bridge itself was an enemy, especially for the harried monk. When I say that it was a good thing that it was the monk, I’m not kidding: his Acrobatics was his best ability, and what allowed him to hold on after the first fall. His falling damage mitigation literally saved him from death when he did fall. And his Acrobatics helped him climb back up to the bridge when the ordeal was all over. Overall, this section would have lasted a whole lot longer if we’d used the number of enemies that the module wanted us to use, and since we really wanted to get the “wizard” into the party sooner than later, I felt that we struck the right balance of gameplay and expedition.
This session saw more criticals than any other session we’ve ever played, I think. We had at least two critical successes, but there was a disturbing string of natural ones being rolled on both sides. One roll caused a yuan ti’s bowstring to snap, and another caused a yuan ti to lose his balance on a swing of his club, sending him over the edge and into the pit below. Critical fumbles are one of the most difficult things to deal with for me. A CF means that the action screwed up really bad, and should have some detrimental consequence. One of the attackers embedded her sword in a statue on a CF and lost her Multiattack ability, for example. Some consequences come naturally, but a lot of the time it’s a fine line between something stupid like “your [Whatever you’re relying on] inexplicably crumbles into dust”, and something creative that seems entirely natural happening as a result of plain old dumb luck. I admit to conveniently ignoring consequences most of the time, but the amount of failures that were dropping in seemed to be just too much to gloss over, seeing as how critical success is baked into Fantasy Ground’s automation.
We’ve also managed to pick up a fifth player who is currently in the midst of character creation, but who has a stub of a magic user defined. He wasn’t able to join us this week due to a prior engagement, but I will now have to look ahead to see if there’s a way I can fit his appearance into the current situation. I have one idea, and with any other party it might seem horribly contrived, but with the turnover we’ve had, and with the temperament of the group in general, I think that the added firepower and the act of returning the party to full strength will allow everyone to overlook the deus ex machina of the idea.