Hearts of Stone Episode 3: Tomb Raiders

Posted: 5 October 2016 in Hearts of Stone
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The story so far… Meeting in an inn the night before travelling to Concord, the party drives off an attack by drow, only to find it was a decoy allowing their travelling companion Casila to be kidnapped. Learning that the drow based themselves in a nearby tomb, the party follows, overrunning the drow pickets and pushing on in search of the missing girl…

Now, read on…

It has been raining softly but steadily for some time, although it stopped briefly during the fight. Ssh’ta begins playing his flute softly, as he does when not otherwise engaged.

It starts raining again, and the Fox releases his borrowed horse, Susan, to return to the caravanserai and his rightful owner. “Dave” the dark elf tries to dance off with Susan, but Susan is having none of it and canters off into the dark.

The party quickly enters the tomb, and X7-09 hears quiet voices from up ahead. The party is debating whether stealth or outright assault is the better approach when several factors make the decision for them. First, the Fox surges forward, loudly crying “For the Archmage!”; second, Ssh’ta plays his flute with renewed vigour, reflecting the combat he expects is about to start; and third, Hayes moves across the entrance chamber and into the next room. This proves to be a guardroom where four drow are playing dice, with a dog-sized spider dozing near the table. Hayes shield-bashes the nearest drow into oblivion, throws her corpse aside and sits down in her place. “Good evening,” he says.

While the drow are still stunned by this, X7-09 follows its master inside and lays about it with an axe, killing the dozing spider. Ssh’ta walks up and punches another drow, shaking her. The Fox is now getting into the swing of things, and with a yell of “For the Dragon Empire and the Archmage!” he runs, flips and rolls acrobatically across the pile of crates and barrels along the right-hand side of the room, where he taunts a third drow before running her through with his rapier.

X7-09 chitters at the Fox. Kowalski resolves to learn spidertalk so that he understands what X7-09 is saying. Meanwhile, “Dave” the dark elf is dancing and beatboxing in the entrance chamber, a little dejectedly as no-one is dancing with her. Ssh’ta moves over to one side, and Soreth the dragonborn charges in after him, grabbing the drow he punched earlier and slamming her into the table before trying to bite her throat out. “Dave” raps “Move bitch, get out of the way,” and Soreth glares at him. Hayes suddenly has a turnip in his hand and tries using it to gouge out the eye of the drow sitting opposite him, who is so far untouched. Sadly, turnips are not the weapon of choice for this strategy, and no serious damage is done.

It is at approximately this point that the party learns the importance of checking the side passages before you advance, since both the other passages out of the entrance chamber now fill up with a flood of spiders, ranging in size from “dog” to “warhorse”.

“Hey 7,” says Kowalski, “How do you say ‘the better-tasting one is in there’ in spider?”

“CHITTER cit cit HIIIISSSSSSS,” replies X7-09.

“Hmm,” says Kowalski, “Isn’t that how you say ‘Please eat me, I’m the tastiest?'”

By now, Kowalski and Dave are surround by giant spiders, who are slashing and biting at them with abandon, shaking Dave. Meanwhile, in the guard room next door, the Fox finishes off his opponent. The surviving drow, having seen these murderhobos kill three of her friends and their pet spider in as many seconds, decides she doesn’t like these odds and flees deeper into the tomb, calling something in drow. The Fox pursues at best speed, yelling “For the Archmage!”

Dave recovers and stabs a spider with her shortsword, shaking it; Hayes produces another turnip from somewhere and hurls it at the shaken spider hard enough to kill it. Dave turns to the next horse-sized spider and calls in drow: “Sit!” Surprisingly, the spider obeys.

“I’m glad you’re making friends,” calls the hard-pressed Kowalski, “But could I get a little help here?”

Dave readies her bow and obligingly kills the spider chewing on Kowalski’s armour. Hayes, meanwhile, wanders off to the left rear corner of the guardroom, where there is a bed and a footlocker, which he loots methodically, ignoring the fighting around him. Soreth picks her drow up gently by the throat, and says she’ll kill her unless she calls off the spiders. She croaks something in drow, and the spiders stand down.

Kowalski says, “This is MY spider, do not kick, bash, poison, cause harm to, blast with magic or kill it.” He then jumps acrobatically onto its back as if he’d done that before, and sits atop his spider, monarch of all he surveys.

The Fox finds himself in a corridor flanked by statues, and overtakes the fleeing drow, skewering her as she is about to dive sideways into a chamber of some sort on his right. Several things now happen at once; first, another drow and a spider charge out of a chamber on the left. Second, the Fox notices that the corridor opens out into a larger one, which recedes farther than he can see into the distance, and is flanked all the way by armed skeletons, standing upright and ready for combat in a way that they usually don’t. Third, he hears a soft thunderclap from the room to his right. Finally, something disturbing attracts his attention – no-one else can see what it is, but they do hear his cry: “I work for Kowalski! Don’t kill me!”

Outside the entrance, a drow suddenly appears in the downpour, holding a struggling Casila, and whistles, presumably to call her riding spider. Acting with his usual fluid grace, Ssh’ta shoots her with his bow, staggering and wounding her. Soreth slams her captive into the table and really does bite her throat out this time. Hayes, now manic, charges through the confusion and hits the teleporting drow from an angle, spinning her around; she falls into the mud, Casila falls on top of her, then Hayes falls on top of both of them, not caring much for either. With his free hand, Hayes pulls another turnip from somewhere and readies it. X7-09 follows him faithfully.

Kowalski tries to intimidate his spider, and predictably fails, as it is roughly four times his weight. Ssh’ta shoots it, causing it to rear and throw Kowalski into a nearby brazier. Ssh’ta shoots the spider beside the Fox and he charges the remaining drow, killing her too. The skeletons appear unbothered by this.

Outside, Dave seizes Casila’s arm and drags her out of the dogpile – but then the drow reaches out a hand and grabs her by the ankle…

REFLECTIONS

This was a pretty slow-moving session, dogged by connection problems, and although it lasted almost three hours instead of the usual two, we only resolved a couple of minor fights and then started arguing about the teleportation rules, specifically whether the caster can choose whether to take specific people with her out of a dogpile, or whether she has to take all of them. It’s clear that she has to be touching anyone she wants to take with her (hence the touch attack on Casila at the end), but if she can choose only to take Casila, she will arrive at her destination Exhausted but still conscious, whereas if she has to take everyone in the dogpile, she will be Incapacitated. As I read the rules, the caster can choose which people to take, so absent a convincing counter-argument from the players or you, dear readers, that’s what she’ll do next weekend.

I keep forgetting about the giant spiders’ poison and web attacks. I now have a sticky note on the terminal to remind me, as they really ought to be using those.

Boris and the Bard haven’t joined in the first three sessions, so I shall quietly archive those two; a 30% player dropout rate is not unusual in my online campaigns. Maybe they will join in later, or in some future game.

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