Thursday, October 29, 2015

Caslte of Horrors Session 5

Thursday is GURPS Day!

My online group met for the fifth session of Castle of Horrors. +Nathan Joy had to drop out due to work issues, so we're looking for a player to replace him and in the meantime, I'm running his character Yusef as well as +Douglas Cole's character Neil's dependent Angela. I'm beginning to get a little overwhelmed.

Despite my issues, this was an interesting session. The characters learned the consequences of sleeping in the Castle and ventured into the basement, despite their earlier plans to go up instead of down. They survived and prospered, but now they need to decide where to go next.

The Obvious Problem With Sleeping In a Haunted Castle

As usual, we started the game where we left off session: the PCs were bedding down for the night in the area they believed to be most secure: the hallway between the octagon room and the chapel. It had some advantages: there were only two exits, and nothing had attacked them in the hallway so far.

We had a rambling and somewhat disjointed discussion of watch schedules. +Kevin Smyth's character Raleigh claimed that casting magic was draining and she needed her rest, so she was off the watch, and everyone else was kind of "meh" about the matter. They finally decided on three watches of three hours each, with the guards looking past each other and most everyone else bedding up against the walls. There was a brief discussion of the possibility of Neil and Angela sharing a watch, but everyone agreed that would just get everyone killed while the two lovebirds stared into each other's eyes.

The second watch was Jamie (Raleigh's dependent) and Neil, and +Theodore Briggs' character Thomas was sleeping in the middle of the hallway. About twenty minutes after midnight, four indistinct, barely phosphorescent blobs phased through the west door, followed every second by another four. Jamie shouted an alarm which woke up everyone but Angela. Thomas woke up, but was so overwhelmed by the sight of the mass of ghosts that he stayed on his bag in shock. +Uhuk of the Guard's character Ryan grabbed him and pulled him out of the middle of the hallway before the ghosts trampled him, and Neil did the same for Angela. The ghosts kept coming, rank after rank at a walking pace.

Raleigh was curious, and dug a tupperware container out of her pack and tried to get some ectoplasm. She failed, as the ghosts were entirely insubstantial, but she did brush one of the ghosts in her attempt and had a little bit of her soul sucked out - nothing too bad, but it did reinforce the idea that no one wanted to be trampled by the endless waves of ghosts. The other PCs pressed up against the walls and sucked in their guts to avoid that fate.

(Anyone who has read the original I6 Castle Ravenloft will recognize this encounter: it's the straight text of the ghost march from E7: The Cemetary, modified slightly for how I intend to run ghosts in Castle of Horrors. This module is really the gift that keeps on giving in terms of inspiration and encounters I can use with little modification.)

We Are Not Sleeping Here Any Longer

Eventually, all the ghosts exited the hallway through the west door. At which point, two arguments broke out: Angela was curious about the ghosts and wanted to know what was going on, while Thomas wanted to relocate the base camp to someplace safer. That spawned a third argument, about where a safer place would be.

Angela won her argument, with Raleigh's support, and Ryan and Jamie removed the barricade from the west door in time for Angela to just barely spot the last of the ghosts leaving the chapel to head up the great spiral staircase. She wanted to chase after them, but Neil persuaded her that running after a horde of ghosts into unexplored territory was not the best plan.

Thomas and Raleigh contended a bit about relocating, but Neil weighed in on Thomas' side and Angela supported him, so Raleigh's plan to continue camping in the hallway was abandoned. Yusef nixed Neil's idea of sleeping in the courtyard, and eventually everyone trumped over to the dining hall and made camp there.

"They Tried to Turn This Into a Pantry"

Yusef and Thomas were on the third watch in the pantry when someone tried the door. The barricade held, and Thomas crept over to the door while Yusef quietly woke everyone up. There were some muffled thumping sounds against both doors, and then silence, so Thomas cleared the barricade and tried to open the door - and failed! Someone or something had tied a rope to the doorknob on the other side, and Thomas wasn't strong enough to break the rope. Ryan stepped up and opened the door easily enough.

The doors had been secured by 1/4" thick strands of spidersilk. Everyone was pretty upset about that, except Yusef who wanted to call it quits as quickly as possible. He was overruled, and since Ryan and Thomas could see fading trails of giant spider foot prints on the ceiling with their IR vision, the decision was made to stop trying to sleep and to go hunt giant spiders and/or spider-centaur things instead. I believe at this point Neil made a comment to the effect of "might as well, since I am never sleeping again." Apparently, the Castle of Horrors was stressing people out.

Into the Basement

Ryan tracked the spider trail back to the Leprechauns' door and Raleigh knocked. After a few minutes, one of the leprechauns opened a smaller door and asked what they wanted. As the PCs wanted to kill the spider-centaurs and the leprechauns didn't care about that, the leprechaun said "door's unlocked" and retreated back through the north door. The PCs turned to the south staircase.

Yusef does not want to deal with the giant spiders.
This was their first good look at that staircase, and they immediately saw it was blocked, wall to wall and for its entire length, by thick spiderwebs made from gigantic strands. Yusef, who dislikes spiders and had been opposed to this plan from the beginning, retreated into a wall of "nopes" while Ryan pulled out his huge machete and went to work, hacking out a path. He was strong enough to slash through the strands and to pull himself out when he accidentally touched them, but it was slow going and not very quiet. Everyone else followed behind him.

Let's go provoke the spiders and see what happens!
The stairs opened onto a hallway that headed west and had several entrances and exits nearby. Thomas heard some muffled words and saw a flicker of flames from near the ceiling in a room to the east, which was all the warning the PCs got as three driders attacked. The first one ran across the ceiling and fired an arrow at Ryan which split into three midflight - and Ryan was too busy chopping web to notice and took one of the arrows painfully to the chest. A second drider stepped into sight and through an explosive fireball at Raleigh's feet. Ryan jumped into the uncut spiderweb to avoid it, but almost everyone else was badly burnt and had their clothes set on fire.

The driders apparently started to take pity on the PCs, or at least decide that they wanted fresh meat, because they started slinging masses of web gunk at the PCs and generally missing. This turned out to be a poor choice for the driders, because Neil wasn't badly wounded and had his rifle ready: three rounds rapid of 7.62mm into what he thought would be the wizard-drider's vitals did 165(!) injury and rather excessively killed it. The remaining two driders swarmed toward him, firing arrows and swinging swords, but his trauma plate held. Yusef put another three rounds into the scout-drider, killing it, and Neil hit the last drider with a pair of bullets that stunned it and caused it to fall off the ceiling next to Ryan, who proceeded to put it out the PCs' misery.

Patching Up and Finding Loot

Raleigh spent the next hour performing first aid on everyone, and when that wasn't enough, casting Major Healing to cure most of Angela's burns. Thomas pulled the mail hauberks off two of the driders, patched them up to close the bullet holes, and gifted them to Angela and Jamie. The PCs also recovered a lot of silver and copper coins and a few gold coins, as well as some other interesting stuff.

The first thing they looked at were some vials on the driders' belts: two small ones on one side, and a larger one on the other. Thomas opened one of the smaller ones and gave it a sniff test to no effect, and then opened the larger one. That one immediately foamed up like a shaken can of coke and then the foam started burning, so it got labeled the "willey-pete can of coke" and tossed away. At first, Thomas failed his DX check, but his Luck had just refreshed and he exactly made it on the reroll. He secured the other willey-pete can and decided the others were probably healing potions but didn't test them.

Then the PCs tried the bow. Surprisingly, it was comfortable to Angela's draw strength. Jamie also tried it and found he could draw it but it was hard. Finally, they passed it to Ryan and again, it was just within his draw strength. Since Ryan curls about six times as much as Angela, they agreed the bow was very magic, especially when they discovered it fired three arrows even though Ryan had only nocked one. As useful as that bow might have been, only Angela had any training in bow, so she kept it.

The session ended a bit aimlessly as the PCs finished searching the immediate vicinity. The driders had made nests on the floors of two of the rooms, and Raleigh recovered a grimoire that she couldn't read from one of them. It was running late, so we ended there.

Too Long, Didn't Read

Uhuk posted the following summary to the mailing list immediately after the end of the session:
We saw ghosts and determined they don't stay in tupperware. Also, do not touch, they are cold. We fought driders. They use swords and FIRE SPELLS. Player characters burn merrily, we need to remember to pack more burn ointment next time. Ryan also shouldn't take Ibuprofen, or at least not that generic crap. We found not nearly enough gold coins, a few swords, and some mail armor. We found a magic bow that shoots x3 arrows and is really strong! We found some potions of mysterious provenance, some of which are ON FIRE. And we found some kind of book, which Raleigh is crazy about.

I think that about sums it up.

Evaluation of Play

This was another good session, and people were appropriately scared by the ghosts and the massive spiderwebs. I think the PCs bit off a bit more than they could chew by attacking the driders, but it worked out alright in the end. Modern guns really do a number on anything vulnerable to bullets, but the PCs continue to be underarmored. Though they're slowly fixing that: Raleigh took a maximum damage arrow hit to the torso, but thanks to her nifty full suit of heavy plate, shrugged it off.

Everyone continues to be a bit unfocused, and there's often dead time unless I prompt people to do stuff. A fact that was actually discussed: this group isn't terribly curious and impulsive, which keeps them from doing too many dumb things, but does mean that the action drags a bit at times. Well, I'll keep prodding them and maybe a new player will change the dynamic.

Technical Notes

This week we had mike problems. I accidentally hit the physical on/off switch on my mike just before the game started, and no one could hear me for ten minutes until I realized what I'd done. Doug's mike inexplicably failed several times, causing him to effectively drop out for five minutes each time. As these things go, it wasn't too bad, but it was a little annoying.

MapTools mostly worked, though we had the problem that it doesn't handle multiple levels very well. Some of the PCs were at the top of the stairs during the drider fight, and even though they could technically retreat into the first floor room, it wasn't easy to show that. Sometimes I really want a true 3-D virtual tabletop, though I recognize what a pain in the ass that would be to program and use.

I took some screen shots of the areas that the PCs have explored so far, so that readers can better follow the action. They're not really to scale with each other.
Ground floor and courtyards; mostly explored

Second floor, with only the chapel, great hallway, and
throne room explored.

Third floor and the tops of the parapets. Only the
gnomes' chambers are explored.


The basement, filled with spiderwebs, and barely explored.

What Next?

I'm not really sure what the PCs are going to do next. They weren't going to go into the basement until they'd cleared the rest of the castle, but here they are. Fortunately for me, I've got most of this basement level mapped and stocked and it'll be easy to finish the rest before next week. The sub-basement is less finished: I mostly know what I want to do, but I haven't written up all my notes and there are one or two encounters that are a bit vague in my mind. On the plus side, I'm not sure that the PCs can even get through the monster guarding the stairs going down, so it may not be an issue.

Call for a Player

If you're interested in joining our little group, we have a slot open! I posted in the SJ Games forum at this handy link with all the details.

1 comment:

  1. I have the occasional moment where I actually Do Something, but yeah. We are a naturally conservative, cautious bunch. You can't get your face blown off if you don't go out to step on the landmines, yo.

    Notable (to Ryan): he took 10 injury in the fight with the driders, but Raleigh patched him up. Unfortunately, he has an Unusual Metabolism, and had a bad reaction to the Generic Human first aid kit (thus the Ibuprofen joke). I'm now looking forward to hours of Ryan feeling a bit like he got slipped morphine. Clumsy, nauseous, and unhappy. In the Castle of Horrors. Won't this be fun?

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