Hearts of Stone 29: The Forever Stone. Or Not.

Posted: 25 October 2017 in Hearts of Stone

8th June 216, near Anvil Road; Boris, Dave, the Fox, Kowalski, Pascal, Silmaria, Soreth, X7-09.

Most of the party are now in the Mines of Madness, one way or another, and have set up an impromptu camp on the first level near the lift shafts. Boris, Dave, the Fox, Pascal, Silmaria, and X7-09 are exploring the second level after Hug-Hug sacrificed himself (twice) in a not-entirely-voluntary manner to let them pass beyond the altar room, and after finishing their repast, Soreth and Kowalski troop down the stairs to join them. Hayes and Ssh’ta are nowhere to be seen (they are still in Marblehall directing the relief effort).

Moving on from the altar room leads them into a cavern, where they find a metal golem in the shape of a dwarf, nine feet tall and almost as wide, pulverising red crystals and filling barrels with the resulting dust. Eventually they attract its attention, and at length Silmaria remembers they took the deed to the mine from the leader of the skeletal miners. She shows this to the golem and it accepts her as the new owner of the mine and itself. Silmaria directs Dave to decorate it and teach it how to dance, with the aim of using it as a backing dancer for her band.

Boris assumes the form of a cockroach, and slips past the boulder blocking the other exit from the cavern. Silmaria orders her new follower to push the boulder aside, which it does, and everyone troops into the cavern beyond, which proves to be knee-deep in guano and full of bat swarms and giant cave crickets. Pascal is an insectivore, but crickets the size of sheep are too much for him, so he directs X7-09 to cut one down with an axe so that he can feed. The others cluster beneath a leathery pod on the ceiling, which turns out to be a giant bat, so Soreth tries to incinerate it with her fiery breath. It dodges, and flaps around the ceiling in terror for the rest of the scene.

Growing bored with this, the party passes through an exit ringed by stalactites and stalagmites, looking disturbingly like a giant stony mouth, and descends a series of ledges into a further cavern. The Fox makes his usual dramatic exit, and is immediately assaulted by a giant worm fifty feet long for his pains. It miraculously fails to crush him, instead flipping him fifteen feet into the air and back onto one of the ledges.

The Fox is really not having a good day.

Boris (who has resumed his human form) casts fear, and zombie ghost snakes fill the cavern. The giant worm is no match for this, and submerges to flee in fear.

Exploring further, the party comes upon a door and opens it. Beyond is a square chamber, occupied by a liche on a throne. Before it can speak, X7-09 holds up the deed to the mine and says: “We are the new owners, and we’ve come to talk to you about the rent.”

The skeletal figure gestures, and a door opens opposite him, revealing a pile of treasure. Soreth immediately starts sneaking towards it, closely followed by Silmaria, who says to her new friend sotto voce: “Golem, please assist Soreth in the treasure recovery, follow her lead.” The golem starts creeping towards the treasure. Soreth grabs an armful of loot and holds it close. Valore glides over and picks up a silver cat statue.

“Wait!” calls the Fox. “What about the Forever Stone?”

“That is no longer an option,” the lich intones. “You have chosen the treasure.”

Icons are invoked. Soreth and her armful of “shinies” disappear, as does almost everyone else. Silmaria lunges forwards and manages to grab an armful of loot before she shimmers out of existence; the rest of it fades away. X7-09, Boris and the golem are left staring at each other and the lich. None of the treasure remains.

“I refused the treasure,” says Boris. But before anything else can be discussed, Boris blinks out of existence.

Discontinuity…

Soreth shimmers into existence in a familiar location; her home cave, just outside Drakkenhall. Humming cheerfully to herself, she dumps her armful of shiny coins onto a larger pile, then snuggles into it for a nap with a satisfied “Aaaah!” She seems to have developed small, but functional-looking, wings.

Silmaria appears in a cosy pub with several chests of loot, including a ruby-studded horn, a number of potions, lots of coins and eight silver cat statues. “Better start counting,” she mutters to herself. “Soreth really should be here,” she muses, and starts counting out a share for Soreth.

Valore and Dave blink into existence in the Cathedral in Santa Cora, near the Priestess herself. “Ah, the very person!” declaims Valore, waving a silver cat statue for emphasis. “Look here, Priestess, having seen the state of the world and the numerous followers of the Lich King, I implore you to start a great crusade against the unholy! Now is the time, before they consume us all!”

The Fox is now in his old room in Stormwatcher Mansion, just outside Glitterhaegen.

Kowalski Klas’tak is in the Dwarf King’s bedchamber in Forge. “This is going to take some explaining,” he says, under his breath.

Boris has appeared in the Elf Queen’s boudoir. “Aaawkwaard,” he says to himself.

Meanwhile, back in the mine, X7-09 becomes aware that Pascal is in his chest cavity. “Come, golem-type construct,” he says. “Follow me, I will lead you to your mistress.” The three of them tramp off in search of the exit. Inside the construct’s chest cavity, Pascal the sentient chamaeleon admires his new armour.

Behind them, the door swings closed with a muffled thump…

GM NOTES

Well, that didn’t go as expected. Specifically, the stalwart adventurers fell for the decoy treasure, then several of them secretly used icon rolls to advantage themselves in obtaining said treasure; above, you see the result of their carefully-worded pleas to their icons interacting in unexpected ways.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking. Always dangerous, that. The current situation for the group is this:

  • We get 4-5 people turning up to most sessions now. I can manage that without splitting the group into two teams.
  • Who turns up isn’t very predictable. That’s cool, it’s meant to be a drop-in game.
  • Most people regularly miss 2-3 weeks between sessions, and some as many as 8 or more. This makes it hard to progress a long-term story arc built around specific character backstories as well as introducing ‘skills fade’ on the rules.
  • The Roll20 character sheets keep breaking, not sure why, it only seems to happen on some buttons for some players. I’ve set up some buttons for common dice rolls as a backup, but it’s unclear how much that will help.

I’m making some changes to the campaign to suit this new situation.

  • I’m merging the teams back together. To explain why PCs change from one session to another, I’ll base them in either a city (which is near a lot of adventure sites, West Marches style) or aboard a ship (which visits lots of adventure sites, like pretty much any SF TV show you can name).
  • I’ll park the story arc, at least for now, and switch to short adventures that can be completed in a single session. Probably dungeons, as we seem to have the most fun in dungeons.
  • We’ll keep an eye on how the character sheets and buttons behave, and if they get too bad, we’ll switch to another game that uses the built-in dice roller without needing macros.

As and when circumstances change, we can always do something different.

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