Tavern Tales 1: Hot Rocks, High Rolls, Whores, and Higgins

HOt Coals

The first image on Google image search when you look for “Hot Coals”

I don’t like posting play reports on Papers & Pencils. It’s not that nothing worth sharing happens in my games, because that’s not true. My games are awesome and you would be lucky to play in one. But typically the really great stories I tell about my games cover maybe 10 minutes of play. And while I might get multiple 10-minute stories out of a single session, I don’t like retelling the other 8 hours of gameplay which surround those cool stories. Exploring rooms and successfully fighting monsters is a lot of fun when you’re doing it, not so much fun when you’re reading about it. If I wanted to dress it up and turn it into a story I could probably make it entertaining. But at that point I’m just writing fiction. And I’ve got The Girl and the Granite Throne to work on if I want to write fiction.

But I don’t see any reason why I can’t share shorter stories about the awesome stuff which happens in games.  So pull up a chair, order a pint, and let me tell you about my recent adventures…

Hot Rocks

In the most recent session of my ToKiMo Pathfinder game, the players were exploring the largest dungeon they’ve encountered to date. They were prowling through the bottommost levels of the dungeon when they found a crazy guy who had been lost there since he was a child. He warned them to stay away from the “hot room” several doors to the south. He was very insistent that he didn’t like the hot room, and they would not like it either. Little did he know, he was talking to Player Characters. So the first thing they did was make a beeline for the hot room, and discovered that it was nothing more than a functioning sauna.

Curious as to why a sauna would function with no one around to care for it, the players tried to figure out how the place worked. They quickly discovered where the water was dripping into the room onto hot coals. The source of the water was unknown, but far more interesting to them was how the coals could possibly be hot. They hadn’t seen any living creatures in this area of the dungeon, aside from the crazy guy. And he clearly wasn’t responsible for maintaining the room. The players asked the sorceress, Phoenix Darkmatter, to take a look. And she discovered that the rocks were, indeed, magical.

Deciding that magically heated rocks would probably earn them some nice coin, the players asked if they could take some of them to the surface to sell. I told them the rocks were not held in place at all, but they were far too hot to hold, and would cause severe burns. Likewise, trying to put them in a backpack would be a lot like putting a lighted torch into a backpack. I was curious to see if my players could figure out a way to transport the stones, and they did not disappoint. After a few moments of discussing between themselves, Phoenix spoke up, and reminded me that since she had the Red Dragon bloodline, she had a minor resistance to fire damage. She asked if it would be safe for her to hold the rocks, and I said yes. In fact, the stones just felt pleasantly warm to her–but her clothing and equipment was still vulnerable.

This left the players to ponder some more, until Poker, the party’s rogue, suggested that Phoenix just swallow the rocks. Which she did.

The party plans to ‘retrieve’ the stones at a later date, so they can be cleaned, and sold. In the meantime, Phoenix has a pleasant warmth in her stomach, as though she’d just eaten a bowl full of hot soup after coming in from the snow. I was so impressed with their problem solving, I gave both Phoenix and Poker 1 point of experience.

Not That Kind of Corner!

A little earlier in that same ToKiMo session, I was describing a room to the players. It had been used as a library in the past, though most of the books here were burned and unreadable. Part of the room above had collapsed into this one as well. The only other notable feature in this room was a hole in the corner, which led deep down a winding shaft, into a sewer below.

While describing that last feature, for reasons I still don’t fully understand, I said “There’s a whore in the corner.”

Needless to say the next 10 minutes of play time were lost as the entire group tittered and joked about what kind of business she must get down here, and how they didn’t want to play ‘that kind of game.’

Sigh.

Badass Minotaur

Near the end of that session, the players freed a minotaur from imprisonment. It’s a bit of a long story as to why the minotaur was there, and why she didn’t rip them limb from limb the moment she saw them, but the important part is that she agreed to work along side the party until they found a way out of the dungeon. Also her name is Bessy, because I made the mistake of mentioning a joke name before giving her a real name. She stayed at the back of the formation, and didn’t really do much. She wasn’t a hireling–the players weren’t offering her any gold or any shares of treasure. All she wanted was to get out of there. Plus, I’m not too terribly fond of running NPCs along side my players. None the less when the party was under attack she would pull out her axe and help, while doing her best to stay out of danger.

In the last room that the players explored that day, they encountered a mummy. Mummies are a challenge significantly above the party’s level, and halfway through the fight things got even worse when a second mummy in an adjacent room shambled out, and immediately attacked a level 1 paladin PC, dropping her below 0 hit points. The situation was grim for the party. After a few rounds they’d gotten the mummies down to about 15 HP each, but several party members were in danger of being killed before the battle was over.

Then Bessy’s turn came up. She was trying to defend the injured paladin, and was already in position from a previous turn. Her high base attack bonus allowed her to make two attacks, so I rolled both at the same time using different colored dice. The party was in bad shape, and they were all watching this roll expectantly, hoping the NPC could pull their asses out of the fire.

A lot of gaming stories reach their climax with the line “and then I rolled a 20.” But that’s not what happened here.

I rolled two twenties.

It’s something I’d never seen before. It will only happen one out of every 400 times you roll two d20s together. It has a 0.25% chance of occurring. I was stunned. It was such a remarkable roll that Bessy not only cleaved straight through the Mummy she was fighting, but she also hurled her axe across the room and smashed the other mummy into dust as well.

Higgins

Come listen young adventurers, heed what you’re told. ‘Bout a wizard named Higgins, and his actions so bold.

Higgins was a magic user in the OD&D game “Vaults of Pahvelorn” which I’ve been playing every Monday for the past few months. Higgins was evil, but he knew he wasn’t powerful enough yet to get away with being blatant about it. He did his best to keep his evil private, while in public he cultivated an image of being both generous and heroic. He once donated an entire share of treasure to the town guard just to apologize for wasting their time when the party reported a crime that was covered up before the guard could arrive to confirm it.

I was proud of Higgins. Pahvelorn is a deadly game, and a lot of my fellow adventurers had died before me. But Higgins was smart, and he was lucky. His risks were calculated, and if he ever did something foolish, the dice were always willing to give him a second chance. Playing 3 hours a week for something like four months, Higgins slowly accumulated greater and greater power. It took me several months to gain access to any spell other than Read Magic, and I think I was among the first in the party to reach second level. I started to think that Higgins might be able the achieve the goals I had set for Margo, before he died. Perhaps Higgins could become the most powerful magic user this campaign world had ever known. Perhaps he would build a tower in the city of Zorphath, and rule over it as the lords of old had done. And he’d do it wearing stylish robes he’d sewn himself, and the 3 horned helm he’d taken from his master’s killer.

I assume you’ve guessed, from my use of past tense, that none of this will ever come to pass.

It all started when the party decided to go to a nearby haunted cathedral. We had been there once before, and survived only by fleeing with our tails between our legs. But most of us were level 2 by this point. We were also much better equipped, and better prepared for the kinds of challenges we would face. Truth be told I felt a little wary, but I was willing to go if my party would be there beside me.

We had a few tough encounters, but we were managing, until we reached a rather innocuous room with a ghost. He wasn’t hostile towards us. He barely even noticed us. He was on his hands and knees, searching for his cat. We thoroughly poked and prodded the room with our 10ft poles, and found the dry bones of his cat, along with several large rats, beneath a table. We prodded the rats in turn, but nothing seemed to happen, so we assumed the room was safe. We directed the ghost towards his cat’s location, and he moved to look. As he peered under the table, though, he reeled back and shouted something about demon rats.

It seems foolish now, but I thought we’d been as thorough as we could be in testing the room for danger. I announced that Higgins would step forward, punch and kick the rat skeletons into dust, pick up the cat skeleton, and return it to the elderly ghost. I was making a big show about being heroic, and the entire group was chuckling over it. Save for Brendan, who was flat-out laughing his ass off. For awhile I thought I was just a really funny guy, until Brendan managed to choke out:

“The rats actually animate and attack you.”

I’m sure my face turned as white as my character sheet as the dice were rolled. Three out of the four attacks hit me, and the damage dice rolled high, reducing me to -13 hit points. I was given a saving throw against death, which I failed.

And just like that, all of my plans to turn Higgins into an evil overlord who would rule for 100 years came crashing down…because he stopped to rescue an old man’s cat.

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