Thursday, November 5, 2015

Castle of Horrors Session 6

Thursday is GURPS Day

My online group met for the sixth session of Castle of Horrors. +Nathan Joy had been replaced by +Eric Schmidt, which reduced my NPC load somewhat, but then +Kevin Smyth was sick last night so I ended up having to run his PC and his PC's Ally/Dependent, so I was back to being busy. Still, it was a good session, and though there were some teething issues, we had a lot of fun and got through a fair bit of exploration.

+Douglas Cole wrote up this session on his blog if you want the view from the player's side.

Delvers Versus Ooze, Round 1

Picking up at the point we left off last time, the PCs were in the castle basement, hacking away at huge spiderwebs and looking for loot. They decided to move west along the north side of the hall, aiming for the passageway in the northwest corner and then move to the scorched and damaged door in the west wall.

As +Uhuk of the Guard's character Ryan hacked his way through the webs, everyone saw a faint phosphorescent glow move south from their target passageway through the webs and out through the south passageway. It was apparently another ghost, but since it wasn't interacting with them directly, they ignored it. When they reached the north passageway, it turned out to be a doorway into what was apparently the ghost's chamber: a cold but mold free bedroom. They tossed the place but didn't find anything, and moved to the west door.

That door was odd: the lower two feet of it were missing, and there were scorch marks on the new bottom and ashes and shards of glass in front of it in an area free of spiderwebs. +Theodore Briggs' character Thomas crouched down and peered under the door into the next room: a large chamber, almost entirely empty except for some broken stoneware, some random nails on the floor, and a bunch of tapestries on the walls that were missing their bottom two feet. It also stank to high heaven.

While Thomas was evaluating that, a weird gurgling noise came from the south side of that room, and he soon saw a huge mass of oozing pus and vileness creeping across the floor. He rapidly backed away from the door and passed the last "willey-pete can of coke" to +Eric Schmidt's character Yousef, as the only person with any skill at throwing things. The ooze started extruding tentacles that reached under the door, so Yousef threw the vial at it and everyone retreated back to the east while the ooze recoiled to the west. No one thought that they had any weapons that would be very effective against the ooze, so everyone decided to go someplace "safe". I pointed out that I, as the GM, couldn't make sense of that directive, since where was a safe place in the Castle of Horrors, and they clarified that they meant back up the stairs and out into the northeast courtyard.

Castle of MC Escher

After some discussion, the group decided to cut through the chapel and head for the stable, hoping that Wiremu's goblins might have some kind of magical fire weapon that could defeat the ooze. The only problem was that the stables were empty and the goblins were gone. There was absolutely no sign of them, even after the PCs spent two hours thoroughly tossing the place. It was another mystery. The stables themselves seemed spacious and reasonably secure, so there was some discussion of using them as a new campsite now that the goblins had abandoned it.

After that, the next plan was to take one of the spiral stairways down into basement, the one south of the octagon room that Raleigh and Thomas believed would exit on the south side of the spider-webbed hallway. However, when they went down the stairs, the next landing was clearly the T-shaped intersection that led to the rooms occupied by the gnomes - which were on the third floor! Climbing back up the stairs returned them to the first floor, and everyone was completely flabbergasted by this. Thomas tied off some string to some nearby dungeon decor and they thoroughly retraced their steps, going down past three landings to find themselves where they started. Going up the stairs had the same effect: these spiral stairs were a continuous loop.

Everyone agreed that was weird as heck, but there was nothing that they could do about it at the time. They abandoned the stairs and decided to try the outer set of spiral stairs in the hidden passageway.

Delvers Versus Ooze, Round 2

As they approached the stairs, I reminded them that the stairs stank to high heaven, and now that they had recently had a whiff of it, the stairs specifically stank of the ooze in the basement. Nevertheless, they decided to give them a try.

The stairs ended about a level below, and almost immediately, they heard the glurping sounds of the ooze moving toward them. A couple people got a brief glimpse of it, and then everyone beat feet back up the stairs since they still didn't have weapons that could defeat it.

"Who Puts a Death-Trap in a Shed?"

Yousef then proposed that they go investigate the overlook area to the east of the chapel, and since it was an empty area on their map, they did so. I pulled up the lovely picture of the castle exterior, and explained that they were on a cantilevered extension jutting out over the cliff. There were some giant spiderstrands hanging over the overlook and descending down to some windows in the cliff wall below, and from there down to the mist shrouded valley, which the PCs chopped up because they really hate giant spiders.

There were two sheds full of ancient, decrepit, rusty, and moldy garden tools and supplies on the north and south side of the overlook. Thomas and Yousef spotted some copper glints in the north shed that looked to be oxidized bronze or copper tools. After a quick discussion of economic realities (copper at $6/pound is not something that sensible people steal in less than quarter-ton lots), everyone pretty much decided it wasn't worth investigating.

However, Thomas eventually decided he'd steal one of the tools, and dug through the mound of old gardening supplies to get one of them. At which point a massive scythe slashed through the area over his head (neck high on anyone who wasn't a dwarf) and another at thigh level (knee high for normal people). He caught the one going for his legs on his polycarbonate riot shield, which got gouged and cracked, but everyone figured that was better than loosing a leg or two. Ted complained that he hadn't noticed the trap, and I pointed out that he hadn't said he was searching for traps before picking up the tool.

Examining the mechanism on the scythe trap showed that it had been maintained sometime in the last year, and for a bit, that was all the interest anyone showed in the issue. I was a little frustrated, because this was the third or fourth Clue! that people had been ignoring, but it's not the GM's job to draw conclusions for the players. Fortunately, Thomas eventually got suspicious: who puts death traps in garden sheds? He tossed the shed, and spotted a small chest buried under the mound of gardening supplies. He then dug it out and moved it into the sunlight.

It was locked, but as far as Thomas could tell, not trapped. He quickly picked the lock, and discovered he missed a trap that sprayed an acid cloud in front of the chest. Thomas and +Douglas Cole's character Neil took some damage, mostly to their armor, but Raleigh patched them out pretty quickly.

Inside the chest was a small pot of gold and a pile of silver: 57 gold coins weighing an ounce each and around ten pounds of silver, roughly $60,000 value all told. It was quite a find, and I eventually noted that it was the Leprechauns' Pot of Gold. Everyone rejoiced, and then tore apart the south shed in case there was more loot in there. There wasn't.

Meeting People, Making Deals

The new next plan was to climb the grand stairway in the chapel, the one that went up the south tower and also the one that the ghost procession had gone up. However, on the way back through the chapel courtyard, people spotted a bunch of Wiremu's goblins lounging in front of the stables. Everyone went back and after a brief discussion, Yousef was delegated to see if Wiremu had any fire weapons. As a side note, the plans to use the stables as a base of exploration were also nixed, because apparently people didn't believe me when I said the goblins probably had great respect for property rights.

As it turned out, Wiremu did have some fire weapons: five vials of alchemist's fire and a potion of "fire breathing," which could totally turn a man into a pillar of ash. He wanted 500 silver pieces - about two pounds of the stuff - for them. There was a brief discussion of the fact that no one knew the market value for any of this stuff nor how highly Wiremu valued silver versus gold or anything else for the matter. Thomas stepped up and negotiated a bit, cutting the price down to 375 silver pieces, but no one could tell if they'd gotten a good deal for the stuff or not.

They also managed to establish that Wiremu would buy silver and pay in gold at a 6:1 ratio, so it looked like there was a way to make a lot of money by buying cheap silver in the Real World and selling it for cheap gold to Wiremu. I said that I wasn't going to discourage them from doing that - in fact, I encouraged it if they wanted to get expensive gear - but that doing so didn't count as finding treasure for experience purposes. And it's not like there'd be any downside to letting someone like Wiremu know that they had a lot of money. Doing so would be safe as houses, really.

Delvers Versus Ooze, Round 3

The alchemist's fire vials were handed out, and everyone trooped back down the southern spiral staircase to face off against the ooze again. This time, they found out it was an erupting disgusting ooze, as pustules of yuk fired out and splashed against Thomas' shield, which started smoking. Thomas, Yousef, Ryan, and Neil chucked alchemist's fire at the ooze, and mostly hit it and started it burning. The ooze retreated up the corridor while spurting more gunk at people.

Everything looked mostly under control, when Ryan, Neil, and Yousef spotted some skeletons in a nearby room start to stand and grab weapons. That was clearly bad, and Neil freaked out a bit, but it was getting late, and that seemed a perfect place to stop for the night.

Evaluation of Play

This was a good game, and I had a lot of fun. I loved the looping staircase: I'd initially put it in the castle to conceal the fact that I didn't have the basement or the tower levels completed, but I kept it because it's just hilarious. My brief description above doesn't do justice to just how confused, indignant, and baffled everyone was by those stairs.

The group remains a bit unfocused, but Uhuk was definitely making an effort to get everyone to do something instead of waiting for me to ask, "Okay, now what are you doing?" I still had to ask that a few times too many, but things are improving.

This was a combat light, role-playing and exploration heavy session, and I think that was good. I really don't care too much about most of the combat, aside from some of the monsters being crazy things to encounter. I just want people to hurry up and run into more weird and strange things. This session had the ooze and the endless staircase, as well as more shenanigans with Wiremu, so that was great. And because I had expected them to take some alternate routes, I'm better prepared if they end up going deeper into the dungeon.

Technical Notes

Skype was disappointing, as usual, costing us about 15 minutes of play time as we restarted calls to clear out some echoes. It was especially exasperating because everything had been going fine, until suddenly it wasn't.

MapTools remains a mixed blessing. I don't have to explain the maps, because people can see them, but it also means people have an authoritative and absolute idea of their position. This makes certain traps and puzzles really difficult: it's hard to get lost on a set of endless stairs when you can look and see that you're on the "Castle 3rd floor" map. I could give the maps less descriptive names, but then I wouldn't necessarily know what's going on. It's probably an inevitable limitation of the online format.

What Next?

I still need to finish the sub-basement. It's mapped, and the accessible parts of it are described and stocked, but not all of it is accessible yet and I need to fix that. And the PCs are (theoretically) getting close to an entrance to the Caves Beneath, so I need to prepare that, too. I expect the PCs will continue working through the basement, which leads to plenty of weird stuff. More good times ahead!


  1. I really like the flow of this, the pop-up goblin economy, the shift between set pieces and active encounters. I use driders in my game also, but I derive them from the half-spiders in Technomancer.

    1. Thanks! This game is something of a departure for me, with a lot more weird and gonzo elements than I usually have. Most things have at least a flimsy justification; the pop-up goblins are quite deliberate and well-justified.

      I looked up some drider stats on the GURPS wiki, but as with a lot of monster conversions of the GURPS wiki, those stats really didn't cut it for me. I think I ended up with SM +1 (though only SM +0 if you aimed for the elven torso, head, or arms), DX +1, IQ +1, ST -1, Binding-16 (Sticky), Extra Legs (8 legs), and Clinging with extra speed. So basically slightly better elves with spider legs. The three that the PCs encountered actually had delver templates (Scout, Swashbuckler, and Wizard) but apparently being a really good swordsman doesn't help defend against 7.62mm bullets.