Domo Arigato

The party headed boldly north, to where they had been told the gnomes had last been seen… but first, a pitstop.

While delving ruins under an abandoned castle and trying to drive out a grell infestation, the party had come across what looked like a large but smaller than average iron golem in the treasure lair of a long-dead beholder. They carried off the gold, but had avoided the golem, expecting it to be some sort of failsafe security device they had been fortunate not to trigger yet.

Of course, they were wrong.

Once they got to learning about the gnomes and the fantastic constructs they piloted in battle and how those constructs looked a little like small iron golems and how that might be a reasonable thing for a egomaniacal beholder to keep as a trophy… They went back for a second look.

And so they did. On closer examination (they had pointedlt avoided even going near the thing the first time) they discovered the chest panel had severe structural damage and was propped closed after having been torn open.

Prying the chest plate back revealed a small seat with a safety harness. Two large metal gloves and metal helmet were also there, attached to the golem with thin metal wires.

The party looked at each other, and the halfling cleric shrugged. He was the only one small enough to try it out, and, after the “dress the cleric as a child” incident, he knew damn well they were gonna want him to.

He climbed in and the party took cover around the corner, you know, in case it exploded.

The halfling sat him down in the seat and put on the gloves and helmet. He discovered the helmet covered his eyes intentionally, but otherwise fit perfectly.

Party Time

The halfling immediately found himself standing, disembodied, in a black void of some kind of otherspace. He could see himself, but nothing else was there with him. A gentle voice spoke from all around him.

“Hello, I am Pinwheel, Third Light Gnomish Lance. Where is Commander Dalyn? You are not Commander Dalyn.”

“Um, no, I’m Wolfgang, Cleric of Yondalla. I’m looking for the gnomes. Can you help me?”

“I’m sorry, only Commander Dalyn is authorized to pilot this construct. Are you Commander Dalyn?”

The halfling paused to consider his options. “No, I’m not, but I do need your help to find the gnomes and prevent the end of the world.”

“Please elaborate on ‘end of the world'”

“Pinwheel? How long have you been stuck here?”

“Unclear, time is not known. Presumed a long time.”

“What is your last memory, Pinwheel?”

“Commander Dalyn engaged a beholder to cleanse the area and rescue nearby villages. During combat, this unit received critical structural damage and Commander Dalyn exited the construct to engage to enemy and enact repairs.” Pinwheel paused as if checking something, “Self Repair Protocol is… offline.”

“Damnit, There is a demon army massing to invade and destroy the realm. I need to find the gnomes. Can you help me?”

Pinwheel paused, weighing it’s options. “The only authorized users are Commander Dalyn and repair crew. Are you repair crew?”

The halfling didn’t like lying and made a worried face. Pinwheel continued.

“The world needs saving. I want to help. Are you repair crew?

The halfling took a deep breath and nodded in the void. “Greater good.” He muttered to himself.

“Excellent! Mobility authorized! Magic Missile Pod offline. Scorching Array offline. Force Scythe offline. Grapple countermeasures offline. Gravitational dampeners offline. Inertial shielding offline. Let’s save the world, Repair Technician Wolfgang.”

Before he could respond Wolfgang felt his senses shift to looking out of the constructs helmet and he peered down at where his party was peering back up at him. He had an overwhelming sense of bigness he had never experienced before.

When he spoke his voice came out booming and mechanical. “Ok, guys. I’m in. We can find the gnomes.”

He took his first uncertain steps out of the alcove and into the main treasure room. The constuct moved like his own body naturally would. It was time to save the world!

Forced Foreshadowing

Having defeated the giant stone spider monster, the players expected to be marched through the streets in a parade with flowers and money and maybe some kind of reward.

Boy were they wrong.

While they fought the monster, the city guard was notably absent, as was the team of adventurers that worked for the rival dragon, the rival dragon that was supposed to have controlling interest in the town and clandestine peerage over it’s Prince.

When they returned to the city, they found their rivals waiting at the gate, and they were given 24 hours to dissapear.

You may immediately think that is very harsh. What you are not aware of is that the players are mixed up in a game of Dragon Xorvitaal, and lethal conflict between pawns is not only normal, but expected. That 24 hours head start was a gift and a token of respect.

Their rivals wanted them gone so they could investigate why their town guard, a well paid mercenary group called the Ebon Spear, had chosen that moment to stay in bed instead of acting against the spider, but the players didn’t know that.

They decided to take the deal and boogie.

They met up with their wizard friend (remember naked mage?) who, in an entirely forced and contrived coincidence, was entertaining a visitor when they arrived, their dragoness patron, Inshallah the Silver.

She and Audrafinn the archmage were discussing current events and we’re glad to see the players. The sky was opening again and the demons were coming back… soon. It was unclear how soon.

Now, this demon invasion I had been hitting them with as ham fisted foreshadowing as I could, and I needed to bring that to the fore.

Audrafinn explained that she had built her wizard tower to observe the Demon Wastes, the blasted and corrupted lands left over from their last invasion, and she told them the sky had opened again, but only just a crack.

(Ominous Music)

Inshallah told the players that in times of great threat the dragon game could be “paused”, so that all pawns could focus on a problem that threatened the world, and by extension, the game itself.

She said that she had already contacted the Games Master and a great council of dragons had been called, all of the local players at once and their best pawns, to discuss the Pause.

As her best pawns, the players were going to accompany her…

They flew in the back of the dragon, a feat of wonder and awe that was glossed over in favor of getting the PCs back to the part where they killed stuff. Decending into the northern desert, they saw the location they were heading to.

Beneath them was a platform, a natural stone mesa made of reddish stone. It was over a hundred feet across and possibly two hundred feet tall. On the top, waiting for them, was a colossal ancient gold dragon. Inshallah explained to them as they landed that this was Grendontorth, the Games Master.

The Games Master was forbidden to play, she explained, but his rule was unquestioned. He was a cleric of Io, the draconic god of neutrality, and the meeting place was holy ground, consecrated to Io. No one dared question Grendontorth here. Even if they did, he was still an ancient wyrm gold dragon.

The rest of the dragon players arrived shortly after the heroes did. There was a green dragon that refused to look anyone directly in the eye and was pointedly trying to look bored flanked by lizardfold, a spastic little bug-eyed white dragon with a twitch and a cadre of barbarians, a fang dragon clad in full plate and nursing fresh wounds on his legs and chest and traveling with an ogre, and lastly Thanadrukk, the black dragon, the players nemesis, accompanied by the same party that had been hounding them the entire time they were staying in Bechamel.

The cast had assembled, and the Pause was announced, to much grumbling and complaining from the dragons. Business concluded, the dragons mostly left, leaving the players, Inshallah, Grendontorth (who lived there and wasn’t leaving) and Thanadrukk.

They chose not to talk to him, even under flag of truce.

Unsure how to proceed they asked Grendontorth if he had any ideas. The dragon told them that while he was not allowed to play the Game, he still had agents in the world, and he had instructed them to figure out a way to stop the demons.

He had this idea that if the Elochian gnomes could be found, their magical talents could be used to either seal the tear or at least assist in battle against the invasion once it broke through.

Armed with this knowledge, and facing a ticking clock, the players decided to set off and find the gnomes!

Tokusatsu

The spider brute forced its way up into the street, and the heroes took a moment to rally and make a quick plan before springing into action.

The barbarian shouldered the cleric and quickly scaled the rubble after it. The additional weight of the halfling and his armor brought his total encumbrance from a light load to… still a light load, so he had no trouble.

The rest of the party scaled as well, moving slightly slower but having no trouble with the shattered rocks.

Once they reached the top, they sprung into action.

Big damn heroes, sir

The dread necromancer charged it, smacking it several times in the legs, provoking it, and getting it’s attention. It turned and lunched at her, it’s purple lambent flames coalescing in its mouth, but she rolled out of the way and ran.

She ran towards the river. She couldn’t outrun it on foot, but she wove between the buildings, never getting out of sight, but making it as hard as possible for the thing to charge at her without having to shoulder though the narrow streets.

The monster distracted and heading in a safe direction, the cleric/barbarian duo came running up behind it. The barbarian tied their rope around his waste, but couldn’t hit a house with a howitzer at range, so the cleric through the grappling hook. They knew the goblin necromancer got inside the thing, that meant there had to be a hatch up there somewhere.

The barbarian scaled the rope easily, landing them both on to, and a quick examination revealed the trap door carved in the beasts stone exoskeleton. Dwarves are amazing at identifying stonework.

The barbarian jumped down first, and the cleric after him into the cramped space inside the spider but he was hit square in the chest with another fear spell. He clambered back out of the spider and flung himself off, leaving the cleric to face the evil wizard alone.

The cleric was not prepared for this, but attacked anyway, swapping inflict wound spells with the wizard until they both ran out of power and resorted to melee.

The sorceress had tried to assist with bow fire, but after her first four arrows plonked harmlessly off the beast, she instead followed cautiously, waiting for an opportunity to assist.

What the saw was the barbarian, the rope still tied around his waist, flailing and yelling as he hung helpless from the spider.

The Dread Necromancer kited the monster to the river, and followed it’s backs south toward the edge of the city, leading the monster out of the populated areas and down a path that caused the least property damage.

By the time she got to the gates of the city, the barbarian had recovered, and scaled the rope angrily, eager to finish the evil wizard off.

The spider hit the city wall like an avalanche, throwing shattered stone and splintered wood as it scuttled inexorably through the gates and into the fields beyond.

The barbarian dropped back into the spider’s hull, screaming “I’m BAAAACK! ROUND TWO, BITCH!”

Weakened by the cleric, the wizard went down instantly. Bits of goblin scattered all over the inside of the spider, and all over the heroes.

The barbarian turned to the cleric and grinned. The cleric blanched as the barbarian started smashing on the spider from the inside. Glowing cracks started forming.

The cleric bailed out, flinging himself from the top of the spider and yelling for the rest of the party to get clear.

As they ran for the cover of the tree kind, the spider went down with the sharp crack of sundering stone.

Then it exploded.

And there, pulling himself out of the rubble, was a badly injuries barbarian, grinning like a maniac.

They had won.

Drums in the Deep

Standing there, battered and spent, the heroes could hear drums further in the tunnels. They didn’t know exactly that that meant, but drums meant drummers, and, barring a lone Matthew McConaughey inspired goblin, it meant more enemies.

Stoned Naked Bongos in the Deep

The players did the prudent thing, rather than the brave, and advanced to the rear. They talked among themselves and decided if something down there was going to kill them, it would either do it while they were warm and well fed in the tavern, or it would wait for them to get back.

Among their travels in the city of Bechamel, they had stopped in the local museum to have some old documents identified, and the curator had off hand asked them to keep an eye out for a missing fossil they had lost from their collection, an unidentified fragment about the size of a football.

If you can tell where this is going you’re paying better attention than the players.

They headed back down into the sewers at first light, again bypassing the first level and all of my carefully planned encounters, and going directly into the goblin warrens. Upon reaching their furthest point, they discovered the drums had not stopped.

They proceeded carefully down the hallway, sneaking around the corner to spy on whatever was going on.

They found a ritual of some kind. A goblin dressed in dark robed stood on a throne shaped like a large stone spider. He was surrounded by small chanting robed creatues they assumed were goblins. A screening force of larger goblins stood around them as guards, and an unmanned ballista stood nearby.

For this encounter I had reskinned Dekanter goblins to act as guards.

The players, noticing the chanting increasing in intensity, decided their best course of action would be to try and take out the chanters and disrupt the ritual. They charged into the open, with the barbarian in the front.

The chanting continued, and the guards moved to intercept, some of them moving to man the ballista, and the others moving in the way.

The cleric attacked the ballista, having a personal vendetta against all siege weaponry from his previous encounters, and the goblin on the throne revealed himself to be the necromancer they were looking for.

It ripped off a spell, provoking fear in the barbarian, punching through his rage and causing him to flee back into the tunnels.

The dread necro used the distraction to slip past the guards and begin slaughtering the chanters and the mage focused her spells on the goblin necromancer itself.

The plan worked well, and the chanters began falling quickly to their onslaught. The guards and their ballista were neutralized, and everything seemed to be going their well. It was just a matter of time before the barbarian recovered and joined them.

That was when the last chanter thew back his hood and revealed himself to be a dark blue skinned goblin, that snarled and shifted into a wolf demon hybrid. The goblin necromancer used this opportunity to slide into a trap door in the throne, and escape inside stone spider dias.

The blue wolf goblin was losing badly, and as the last chanter fell, he teleported away, screaming hideous threats of fire and vengeance from both himself and his dark masters. He seemed oddly articulate for a goblin.

The heroes turned to see the entire spider throne erupt into purple flame and begin moving. The legs unfurled to reveal it was not just a statue, but the fossilized stone exoskeleton of an huge ancient spider. From inside the thing they could hear the goblin necromancer laughing.

The recovered barbarian raced back into the room as the massive spider beast slammed into the ceiling, pushing through the stone into the street above.

They remembered the exploding zombies from earlier. If they killed the spider in the city, the explosion could vaporize a city block.

Cleaning the Sewers

So, on the blog were lagging a bit in the game log, so I’m going to make posts this week to try and catch everyone up on where the story was, and is, and will be.

When we last left out intrepid heroes they were attempting to clean out the sewers of the goblin menace between the fairly standard fantasy city of Bechamel.

You might remember from the “Slaying the Goblins” post they had captured a goblin, followed him down into the tunnels, gotten ambushed, and rescued the kidnapped women.

Once they had the captives secured, then the real work began.

The began working into the maze of tunnels. The dungeon was laid out so that they could not cover their rear. The tunnels looped around and back again, giving the defenders an advantage in mobility and surprise.

Basically, whenever they got into combat, they were always going to get hit from multiple angles, but they were canny enought to see it coming. They put their strongest fighters in the front, but kept their heavy armor cleric in the back, shielding the wizard from getting ganked.

Goblins are chaotic and stupid, for the most part, so without strong leadership they simply hit the party in successive waves, from as many angles simultaneously as possible.

They slaughtered the goblins as they went, not given a chance to rest, until they came to a large room that didn’t have goblins in it.

The room was scattered with goblin zombies, their first clue they were facing a necromancer. They quickly realized the zombies were the goblins they had been killing and leaving in their wake. They had been quietly gathered, recycled, and they had to face them a second time in this weaker form.

There, in the middle of the zombies, commanding them, was a flumph. The players had been asked by a friendly flumph to help find his brother, and this was the one they had been sent to find.

It’s flesh was grey and limp, and it’s eyes glowed with a malevolent, predatory light. It’s underspikes were stained with old blood as it floated above the goblin zombie (gombies?).

The barbarian grinned and charged, eager to try out his new cleave ability on the throng of undead. Is first swing struck true and he axes into the second, killing it also. As the zombies dropped to the ground from out of their corpses flew a spark of purple negative energy.

The necromancer wasn’t without a plan. The zombies themselves were worthless in battle, but each one carried a small spark of negative energy. The energy flew out and exploded, washing over the barbarian and the other zombies, hurting him and healing the others.

The barbarian took a second to assess how hard he’d just gotten hit, and do a quick headcount of the remaining zombies. He laughed and kept chopping.

The other adventurers focused on the flumph. They had experience with the undead before, and knew how weak a normal flumph was. What they didn’t have experience with was vampires.

The vampire flumph called out to the night to gather wolves and then attacked with his dominating gaze, trying to turn the barbarian against them, but fueled by rage he shook it off.

The mage countered with magic missile, knowing it would bypass the monsters damage resistances and armor. She threw all of her magic items into it, boosting damage and caster level, and rolled high.

“BLERG! Magic missiles! My only weakness!” It cried as it dissolved into mist and fled down the hall.

Most of the way through the zombie horde the barbarian saw it run and chased after it like a dog with a rabbit. Knowing how badly he had gotten hurt so far, the cleric called after him, “Wait! You don’t know whats back there!”

Rushing around the corner, the barbarian, without any reinforcements, ran face first into an ambush. Waiting around the corner, held in reserve, was a full sized ogre zombie with a greatclub.

Time to DROP THE BOOM!

The ogre smacked him once, full on, with an unconfirmed critical, and the barbarian knew he was in deep trouble. The cleric started sprinting to him and dropped the biggest heal he had.

The ogre got on two more shots, each time negating the healing the cleric had done, before the barbarian started hitting back. He kited it, falling back, knowing the zombie was far more sluggish than a living ogre, and hit it several times as it closed with him. The zombie was too mindless to use it’s reach advantage.

The dread necro in the party moved up with support him, and the mage tried to assist with her bow. She had already burned all her spells for the day in the earlier battles.

The barbarian finally got in a critical hit with his greataxe, sending the top half of the ogre spinning off to the left as it’s legs fell to the right.

The party stopped to catch their breath and take stock of their situation. The cleric was spend, and was down to wands of healing, the mage was burned out, the barbarian had used his rage and the dread necromancer had spent her time turning the zombies away from the barbarian to keep him from getting overwhelmed.

That’s when they heard the sounds of drums coming from down the hall…

Slaying The Goblins

So, everyone knows the first Rule of DMing, right?

“The DM is God and whatever he says is law”

No! Not that one! The first Rule of DMing is actually “Steal Liberally”. What I mean by that is take ideas, repackage them, and distrubute them like they were your own.

(That may or may not be a political joke)

That said, I have consumed every piece of Goblin Slayer media I can get my hands on. It’s awesome, and it’s goblin lore is familiar enough to fit into just about any game, and spicy enough to throw the players back on their heels, and make them really hate goblins.

Not a good situation for a young lady

How you present it is entirely up to you knowing your audience, however. You may remember from my nudity post that my group has a surprisingly hard PG-13 comfortability limit.

I started with a cleric of Pelor asking the players to investigate disappearances in the slums, where they run a soup kitchen for the poor. (Aren’t Pelorites cool like that?) And then they asked around, they found out that it was true. Something had been causing the most vulnerable of them to disappear off the streets at night, women and children.

Then, because players are players, they decided to dress their halfling Cleric up as a child and use him as bait to draw out whatever the problem was, trusting their own power to save him after he was attacked.

It worked, because First Rule of DMing is “Unless the players plan is completely mental, it should work, at least enough to move the plot forward”, and they found them selves dealing with a small gang of goblins in the semi-dark.

As a surprise to me, they put forth the extra effort to take one alive, and to save its own skin, the goblin dutifully lead them into the nearest ambush he could find. (Of course)

Obvious ambush was obvious, and they found themselves at the entrance to a goblin warren of unknown size, the meat of the quest.

I designed the goblin nest like a maze, doubling back and crossing, allowing me to hit them from all sides with goblins simultaneously. The players loved mowing down the little green bastards, and so I kept the heat off.

Here where it got tricky. After working their way into the nest they came across a collection of women, that I described as badly injured, malnourished, dressed only in a loose dress, and all of them very pregnant.

They valiantly fought off another three waves of goblins (the first woman started screaming the moment she was touched, alerting everyone nearby) and carried the women up to the safety of the Temple.

I could see they didn’t make the connection, and left it at that for the moment, until they went back to check on the women later. That’s when I dropped the bomb.

“You realize that so far you have seen no female goblins.”

Three of my players got it immediately. Their faces got hard and there was murmurs around the table advocating goblin genocide. I could see I had managed to elicit the desired emotional response, and had done so without heavy handed shock-horror descriptions.

Amusingly, the most innocent of the players looked around the table confused and said, “I don’t get it.”

I had delivered the punch with enough subtlety that those who were supposed to get it, understood, and those who weren’t supposed to get it, didn’t.

That, my friends, is a good example of how to handle disturbing, normally hard R, content, in an otherwise light hearted game.

And best of all, they had fun.