The Most Fun I’ve had in Years

In the MERP campaign, our players explored the dungeon under the castle, after killing the orc guards last time. Elentari healed herself, Hammrammr, and then Araluth. Then we barricaded the doors up, then searched the orcs for money, and then freed the three Northmen prisoners held captive. The Theyn and his daughter were not among them. We armed the Northmen with orcish swords and shields and then returned to the storerooms, instructing them to build rafts of the barrels and rope in the storeroom so we would have an escape route should things go poorly. We tied the handles of the double door together (there were orcs on the other side) and then ascended the spiral stairs. The next level held the tunnel where the cave troll was being held, the door barred on our side and dire orcish runes against removing the bar were incised above it.

A group of orcs came down from above, and we gave battle, killing the first three and then engaging another four. Jor cast a lightning bolt into one orc, and then pulled back waiting for another chance. Araluth yelled “Free the Troll” to Jor and Tum. Tum assented and Jor went to help, and then had second thoughts and tried to stop Tum. Jor fumbled, fell on the floor, and screamed at Tum as the hobbit opened the door to the Troll lair. Tum vanished up a set of stairs on the other side of the room, the opposite direction that Araluth had hoped (Araluth had expected them to come back and take shelter in the spiral staircase where the troll couldn’t reach). Jor stood indecisively long enough for the troll to notice him and give chase. Tum came back to find out what was happening with Jor, and also was noticed. Both ran up the stairs and almost into the five orcs coming down. Tum and Jor went left and entered the dining hall just as the five orcs left it and went down the other stairs and ran into the troll. Two orcs died, and the rest chased Tum and Jor.

The troll munched on the dead orcs, but then heard Araluth singing “The Teddy Bear’s Picnic” in Sindarin very loudly and came to investigate. Hammrammr had fought the trolls upward, and two of them were now in the room with the troll. He ate them, though they tried to escape, and the other orcs ran up the stairs while the warriors went down, with Araluth getting one cut in on the troll’s hand as it reached for them in the stairs.

Pursued by the remaining orcs, Jor cast Shade, which did little. Tum cut open his backpack in hopes that the orcs would fight over the silver he had stolen from the party several sessions back. Then Jor and Tum fled again, closing a door in the face of the sole orc still pursuing them. They found themselves on the balcony of the cathedral, and after bracing the door with chairs, Tum lowered himself over the side and slid down a rope. Jor waited too long and was forced to fling himself over the rail, where he pancaked 30 feet below and exploded his lungs and heart. Using a Fate point, he tried that again, this time climbing down the rope. At the bottom they found themselves in the cathedral where they had seen a Northman slaughtered and eaten by the troll. Not good. Even worse, the portcullis was down. Tum squeezed through but Jor could not. Tum tried to sneak up on the troll, and failed, then tried to slide through his legs and died. Another Fate point, and this time the hobbit made it back to the spiral stairs, which he proceeded to descend.

Unbeknownst to him, four orcs had come up from the dungeons after the warriors, who now were hiding in the storage room. Araluth spilled his provisions on the stairs going up, and left the bag, as if someone had dropped it while running upward. The warriors closed the door to the spiral staircase and then hid on either side in case the orcs entered the storeroom. Luckily, the orcs followed the bait, and now were aimed straight at the descending hobbit.

Araluth led the warriors to the rear of the ascending orcs and with huge bonuses, managed to muck it up again. The warriors became locked in a battle with the four orcs, managing to kill one as they fought in retreat.

Tum heard the orcs and turned around, running upward, going higher and higher in the tower.

Jor was dismayed when the orcs raised the portcullis, which summoned the troll back to its lair. He ran under the portcullis and then was forced to hide himself in the troll feces when the creature returned. It went past him and he then stood up, realizing that the orcs were closing the double doors that sealed the troll in with him. Screaming and covered with poo, he ran out among them, fumbled, and found himself at the bottom of a pile of orcs while a few more barred the troll back into its lair.

Final scores so far: 17 orcs killed, 3 Northmen rescued (for now). And so much ridiculousness that we were laughing hysterically most of the time.  Good times!

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Enjoying “The Expanse”

We started watching The Expanse this weekend, and are greatly enjoying it. A complex story with few major problems (so far). It is a SyFy channel series, and is a hard sf space opera involving a Cold War between Earth and Mars, with the Belters caught in the middle and unhappy about it. Best of all, it is a Traveller campaign set at about TL12, but without jump. The player characters are a cashiered Terran Navy officer, a Mars Navy veteran, a brawny Merc raised in a brothel, a cowardly Medical Officer on the run from his drug dealers, and a skilled and beautiful Engineer who may have ties to the Belter terrorist organization. They start off in a dodgy old mining pinnace, and quickly upgrade to a military 200 ton frigate, complete with Martian battle armor and 12G acceleration. So if you like Traveller and hard sf, you should check out the series. We watch it on Amazon Prime. I liked it so much I’m going to start reading the books it is based on by James S.A. Corey (a pseudonym for the writing team of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck).

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The Dark Dark Valley

The party faced two more challenges from the mad wizard, namely a room that threatened to electrocute them and then another that tried to free them. In both they solved the puzzles of the crooked way and so came to a dark wood in box canyon five miles long and three miles wide. The valley was perpetually in gloom due to a malevolent mist that hung over it at all times. A well-traveled footpath led from the Straight Path (at the cliff’s bottom) to a tall castle surrounded by a 100′ foot deep chasm and perched precariously on a single spire of rock. The party entered with much trepidation, walking straight through the front door for lack of a better idea. Avoiding wargs and orcs, they did not enter the keep itself, but circled it, coming at last to the back where they lifted the hobbit up to a ruined cathedral window. Inside, he saw a cave troll chase and devour a Northman while over 50 orcs applauded and cheered from the balcony. The party went to the rear terrace, and slipped over the side to avoid the wargs which had now spotted them and were barking away. They dropped 50′ into the winch room, and then made their way through the storerooms, killing 4 orcs. Then down a long winding stair to the dungeon, where they killed another 5 orcs. Hammrammr was killed by a large orc in chainmail, and so was forced to spend a fate point. And there ended the night.

darkdarkcastle

Next time, we hope to rescue the Thain and his daughter, return up the spiral stairs and use the barrels in the storerooms to make our escape from the winchroom into the river and away.

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A Problem for the Party

At the end of the game last week, the party was stopped by a force that turned anything that crossed the final feet of the tunnel into a cloud of powder. Here’s the problem they face:

A mile-long steam tunnel leads down to the upper level of an open area that is well-lit. The last few feet of the tunnel feature a unique feature. An angled area of the tunnel looks much fresher, clear of any moss or dirt, and perhaps a little deeper than the rest of the tunnel. A pair of human boots lays at the edge of the area,  with a skeletal tibia and fibula sticking out of each. The bones are cut off cleaning, as if with a hacksaw, just where the floor changes color. Looking around one finds other similar artifacts: a rat’s tails, bugs cut in half, etc.  The angle of the area indicated that whatever was doing this was to the left, out of side around the corner of the corridor, and probably on the ceiling of the next space. The top of the tunnel is the same height as the ceiling of the next area.

The party begins experimenting by tossing sticks into the area, trying to throw them past the opening of the area beyond. Initially there was a scraping sound and then the thrown item disappeared in a puff of powder. When they continued their experiments, there was no scraping, but the items still disappeared. They put a hatchet into the area. The metal part of the hatchet was unaffected, but the handle disappeared, including the part inside the hatchet blade, which was fully surrounded by metal. A metal sheet was put into the area next, and was unaffected. They tossed a rock in, and it was unaffected. When they put a piece of wood behind a rock and shoved it in, the wood was disintegrated. After testing with various rocks, they found that a foot of stone would protect the wood. They hypothesized they might built up a pile of stones that would stop the unseen force. I ruled that piling up rocks would take a pretty long time. They have a mile long tunnel they would have to traverse, and the pile would not be just one foot thick at the base. I estimated it would take them about 16 wheelbarrows of rocks and 8 hours to do the job, and without a wheelbarrow or a ready pile of rocks, it would take about 4-8 times as long, which meant 3 to 6 days of work, working 12 hours each day.

An alternate plan of using the pyrotechnic fuse blasting caps they had found to tunnel through the concrete walls of the tunnel and go around the force. This had several problems. First, these caps are very small explosives, and they probably don’t have enough of them to do the job. If they returned to Mourne to purchase explosives, it still might not be a good idea to blow up sections of the material that keeps the hill from falling on them.

So, they have observed that non-organic objects seem unaffected by the unseen force, but organic objects, even sticks and rope, are utterly obliterated. As they continue to experiment, they notice that sometimes the item behind thick steel will be unaffected, at other times, it will be completely destroyed. The inorganic material does not reliably shield against the force. They hypothesize (Molecular Understanding) that the inorganic material does not so much stop the force as deflect it. For whatever reason, they don’t think it reliably protects them, which makes them worried about the tunnel walls themselves. They also suspect (Sense skill) that the rock they put in the danger zone as an original test is getting thinner, but they are not yet sure. The only mirror they have is a signal mirror, which has a hole in the center for directing the beam. Still, they put the mirror into the area, being careful to aim the reflective surface away from them. The stick supporting the mirror again disappears, but much slower this time. They can actually see the stick dwindle and then disappear, gnawed away by an invisible force.

Please feel free to offer suggestions to the party about how they can get around this obstacle. I’m not sure they actually can!

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