Dragons in the Dark

S1E04: Octo-Masses Make Me Vomit

 

Tags: H.A. A.B. E.B. E.C. A.J. O.R. Aranna Weaver, Astrologer Emma Frog, Hedge Wizard Orlan, Soldier Veleris, Pickpocket Lane Weaver, Soldier Purple Nurple, Knight Hemdan, Laborer Somme, Light Footman Elyssa, Archer Adele, Archer Beagull, Heavy Footman OSR DCC The People of the Pit Joseph Goodman


There was a brief period in my life where I got into war games and studied military history. If there’s one thing I learned during that time, it’s this: wars are not won by superior strategy, tactics, or even a larger force. They’re won by logistics. Your supply chain, your resource allocation, and making sure everyone is fed and healthy.

In the same token, D&D is similar. It’s a group of people, going into the wilderness to fight monsters and find treasure. Adventurers need to be fed, henchmen need to be paid, supplies need to be distributed. In short, the planning stage before every adventure is basically project management.

Repairs, Travel Expenses, and Wages

We start the session in Wyrmskull with three huge expenses: Orlan (HA) was stripped of his armor last session. It needs to be replaced at the cost of 160gp. The party were warned they need to bring hirelings with them if they’re to explore the ominous people of the pit up north. And what’s more – it’s a two day journey to Mlurg Nar, including booking passage on a ship to cross the Inner Sea of Nehwon.

Purple Nurple (OR) is not pleased by the reality of economics and would rather fight someone in a bar. Veleris (EB) and Emma Frog (EC) try their best to figure out the logistics. How many people should they hire. How much rations to buy before they leave. After all, everyone needs to eat (every day). Purple Nurple argues they shouldn’t need to eat. Why feed your employees? Aranna (AJ) argues you can just kill them after they’ve done their job so you don’t have to pay them. Are these two Sam Walton and Jeff Bezos?

The planning is difficult to accept. It’s math. Purple Nurple accuses Veleris of overthinking and wants to “just go”.

After a lot of resistance, the entire party finally accepts that paying and feeding hench people is part of adventuring life. And they head over to the Gold Rilk, a tavern where misfits, rogues and scoundrels can be hired. Aranna hires a laborer with a limp named Hemdan who chews loudly. Purple Nurple finds a skilled archer named Elyssa. Emma hires a light footman named Somme. Orlan finds a ship-loving footman named Beegull and a wiry archer by the moniker of Adele. (At this point, Purple Nurple leaves IRL for a soccer game, and Veleris’s PC takes over).

And with their crew in place, they’re off to cross the Inner Sea. Beegull, finds them passage for 3gp per head, a bargain from the usual 5gp. Fortunately, their journey is uneventful. The party makes a stopover in Kvarch Nar. And from there, they hike… following the Mangrishik river to Mlurg Nar.

Mlurg Nar is usually a busy and somewhat lawless mining town. But with the recent disappearances of prospectors, townsfolk and miners… it is noticeably less so.

Spoilers Ahead for Joseph Goodman’s “The People of the Pit” (DCC)

In Mlurg Nar, (and unlike previous adventures), the party takes the time to research. Emma accosts a stranger on the street. The man is frightened and tells her to talk to the duke. Emma attempts to harass another random person, bumps into a bespectacled man - an armful of scrolls and papers. He tells her of Mlurg Nar’s dark secret – how for centuries, they have sacrificed virgins to the “pit-beast” up North. It was a solution thought of by an order of knight-priests. And the devil’s bargain worked. Every decade, a few inhumane sacrifices meant another ten years of peace.

But nine years ago, the townsfolk chased off the order of knight-priests. The new generation refused to follow this barbaric ritual. The knight-priests escaped into the pit, and the townsfolk forgot about them. But then – tentacles around the pit began to seize woodsman and hunters. People vanished. And reports of grey-robed men sneaking about reached the town.

Of course, the Duke of Mlurg Nar saw this coming. Refusing to revert to the old ways of blood sacrifice, he puts up a 10,000gp bounty for whoever can kill the Pit Beast.

And with that, the archivist walks away. Aranna feels they need more information still. They head over to the Ilrusk Bough, a raucous tavern where the cellar holds a pit arena ran by the duke… where bare-fisted brawlers, bear-baiting and dog fights occur. The Snack Club sends Orlan and Purple Nurple down to talk with the Duke. The Duke is annoyed by the adventurers. He’s seen many “heroes” come and go already. Few have come back alive. With the 10,000gp reward, he believes he’s done all that he can already.

As Orlan and Purple Nurple leave the inn, one of the duke’s bodyguards chases down the party and lets them know that his daughter is missing. He’s sure it’s the grey-robed men. He offers to take them to the pit the next morning.

The Deep, Dark Pit of Ew

The pit is 100’ wide. There is a sea of roiling grey mist. It stinks. The bluff where the sacrifices were chained is a scene of past horrors. Rusty red stains on the ground. Nail marks. Scrapes. Broken links. Around the pit is a narrow staircase made by unknown masons.

At this point, the Snack Club talk about battle formations. Last session, they used the Dorito formation. (It’s a triangle). Today, they come up with the Churro formation (it’s a line), and the Donut formation (where the strong stand in a circle protecting the weak and hurt in the middle). And because the stairs leading into the pit is narrow, they activate the Churro formation and decide who goes first, last and in the middle.

Orlan with his shiny new armor leads the way. The stench gets worse. Just this weird oily smokey smell. They see shapes in the mist moving about. Cautiously, they approach… and they see five grey-robed men. It is at this moment they realize the grey-robed men have no face. It’s blank rubbery flesh. Their stomach appears to roil like muddy waters. Perhaps they have small tentacles coming out of their belly button like the man they met at Wyrmskull?

The faceless grey-robed men are standing in a circle and chanting in a strange ululating voice in unison. Orlan attacks. The staircase is narrow and no one else can get close. Aranna and Elyssa fire arrows. Lane the Silvertongue shouts encouraging words at his allies. Orlan cuts one down. The body of the cultist bursts open. Blood sprays everywhere, and from inside the body, a mass of bloody guts and tentacles and general ickiness leaps out… and attacks Orlan. Aranna gags and shudders. Emma gets paper IRL to draw the octo-mass for Aranna.

The party kills more cultists. Two fall to their death. Another two die on the steps and more octo-masses leap out, grossing Aranna out as everyone IRL is now drawing pictures of what they imagine one would look like for her.

First Brush with the Pit Beast

After dispatching with the cultists, they reach a landing with a large stone door. There are two more landings further down the stairs, but after exploring them, The Snack Club backtracks to the first one and push the door open. It’s a narrow hallway. Lane Weaver volunteers to go in after Veleris had ensured the hallway is not trapped. Lane is ambushed by two cultists as he enters the room. Three more in the back near an altar are chanting their strange song. They chant louder and louder and at fever pitch… outside, a giant vermiform tentacle comes screeching out of the mist. It lashes out and grabs Purple Nurple. Purple Nurple slashes at it to free himself, fails. Inside the altar room, Lane fights the cultists. Aranna shoots an arrow past her brother to kill one of the chanting cultists. Emma Frog attempts to cast magic bulwark to stop the chanting’s effect. It fails. Purple Nurple transforms into a bird to escape the tentacle. It’s a brilliant move.

When Purple Nurple returns to the landing in human form, the party rushes into the altar room, closing the door behind them. They realize that Purple Nurple’s brush with the giant tentacle was an extremely close call. Anyone else would’ve fallen to their death. It was only because of Purple’s shape shifting ability that he escaped.

Veleris spots scrape marks on the floor near the altar. They push the altar away revealing a secret crawlspace. There are cobwebs and it’s dark. Aranna gags again. She doesn’t like spiders. Emma borrows a torch from Hemdan and braves the crawlspace. She sets off a tripwire and gets nicked. Veleris follows her. They reach a landing with two chutes. It looks steep. Orlan, Lane and Purple Nurple all stay back. They are told they’d have to doff their full-plate armor to fit through the tunnel. But eventually everyone realizes it’s safe enough to take off the armor and put it back on after reaching the chutes.

The Snack Club, all ten of them, slide down.

Rope Ladder Down to Hell

At the bottom of the chute is a cave 50’ across with a large hole, and coming up and through it, a large tentacle. It pulsates, but doesn’t seem aggressive. Part of it slithers in the air towards Emma as if to say hello. Strangely, there is a rope ladder attached to and along the tentacle all the way down into the darkness. It looks like the cultists use this tentacle-rope-ladder-contraption as a means of traveling between floors.

The Snack Club climb down. They’re careful to not burn the tentacle with their torches. They see a cave entrance. It’s like they’re climbing down an elevator shaft and there are doorways at different floors. Emma, Aranna, and Orlan… along with their hench-people, Somme, Adele, Beegull, and Hemdan decide to enter the cave. Orlan, Purple Nurple, Elyssa, and Lane decide to keep going down the rope-ladder.

The Snack Club has officially split the party.

Team A (led by Emma) enter the caves and realizes they’ve walked into a crypt. There are desiccated corpses exposed in broken coffins. Some glitter with jewels. Another holds a strange matte-black sword with a faint darkness. The party is smart enough to not touch anything and start to leave…

CUT TO:

Team B (led by Veleris and Lane) climb down the ladder to see yet another entrance. They see eight men pushing a wheel, like a human-driven mill. They approach and the slaves are parched, hungry and exhausted. They beg the adventurers to free them. Lane and Veleris are suspicious at first, but Lane gives them food and water and break them free. They find out the slaves were kidnapped from Mlurg Nar…. to grind this grey substance into paste. And this paste is fed to the cult’s followers… which slowly transforms them into blank-faced men.

CUT TO:

As Team A leaves, the spirits of the nine chaos warriors arises… and they sneak up behind the adventurers and like the dementors in Harry Potter, begin to suck their willpower… Emma loses two points of constitution, as does Aranna, and Orlan and Beegull and Adele. They struggle to run, to climb on the tentacle rope ladder to escape. Adele can no longer run. She falls down, her soul sucked out and suffocated. The Snack Club killed Adele. Was she rolling in the deep as she struggled for breath?

CUT TO:

Team B continues to explore. They head north, and see a large cavern where cultists are weaving mats, practicing combat maneuvers and reading parchments. They debate whether to fight them. Veleris and Lane decide to get Purple Nurple to transform into a bird and send him back to Aranna, Emma and Orlan. They’re smart enough to call for backup.

CUT TO:

Back in the cave, Emma Frog casts hallucination and creates the illusion that they are in the back of the crypt. The ghost-dementors turn and chase the clones instead. This gives the survivors a chance to escape. They get on the ladder and as they climb down, they see a purple bird. Hemdan is visibly shaking at this point. He’s frozen and traumatized. Aranna bribes him with 10gp to not give up. It surprisingly works.

The Snack Club are reunited and now face the ten cultists… together.

The Chant of Palimdybis

An ugly brawl ensues. Six grey-robed cultists form a front line to fight The Snack Club while three crimson-robed cultists and a yellow-robed one raise their arms in adulation to their tentacle god, chanting their haunting prayers.

Unlike the last session where The Snack Club dispersed their forces and avoided the leader… this time, they quickly realize the yellow-robed one is the leader and assign the two archers, Aranna and Elyssa to fire arrows at him. There’s clear strategy this time around. The tanks, Lane, Orlan and Purple Nurple cut down the grey-robed minions while those that have range fire at the chanting cultists. But early in the battle, there’s simply too many of them. The chanting reaches fever pitch and two humongous tentacles come crashing in. One seizes Hemdan and throws him against the wall. Another seizes Aranna. Emma is caught too. At another point, Purple Nurple is grasped as well by a giant tentacle. Veleris weaves through the battle freeing anyone held by tentacles with his quick sword.

As Lane, Orlan and Purple Nurple mow down cultists, writhing octo-masses leap out like gross alien babies. Emma casts cure wounds on Lane, on Orlan. Many of Aranna’s arrows find their way to the chanting cultists. She deals the death blow to the yellow robed cultist. Veleris sneaks through and cuts down a red-robed one.

And just as the smell of victory comes close… two more grey-robed cultists rush in accompanied by a… a… ten-foot-tall mass of tentacles?! It’s humanoid, but not. It’s a science experiment gone wrong. A hybrid of the pit beast and human. It’s foul and disgusting. Aranna gags again. Orlan, Lane and Purple Nurple work together to cut the monstrosity down. (At this moment, Aranna’s player looks over at Orlan’s side of the table and realizes that he had not used his henchman Beegull the entire game. She screams at him. As she should.).

With a fourth heavy fighter in the mix, the battle ends quickly. There are crushed octo-masses smeared all over the floor of the cave. A mass of tentacles in another corner. Burst cultists lay sprawled out in a scene of gore and torn flesh.

Their adventure is not over, but it’s dinnertime IRL. ‘til next week.

/end session

The Snack Club’s Portfolio

Stored in Wyrmskull Vault
(Deposited Year of the Worm, Month of the Eagle, Day of the Fox)

  • 19 Ice Necklaces x 200gp = 3,800gp
  • 12 Ice Jewels x 150gp = 1,800gp

SUBTOTAL: 5,600gp
EoM INTEREST: 56gp
TOTAL: 5,544gp

Chekhov’s Ticking Time Bombs

NEW

  • What exactly is going on here? Why are there tentacles everywhere?

OLD

  • Thork may be dead, but his wife Aranna isn’t. Her inheritance? 800gp of debt to the cult of Loki.
  • Emma Frog and Purple Nurple are fugitives from a neighboring region.
  • Two drunes of the Dolmenwood cult of sorcerers were murdered in cold blood.
  • Who is this Hriseit asking around Lankhmar for The Snack Club?

DM Notes to Myself

Keeping track of hench people and octo-masses is hard. Also, a party of ten is much harder to threaten. Throughout the module I adjusted the number of cultists to ensure a sense of danger.