First foray into Old Dhrum's Vault

Stay in the boomtown of Muddygap long enough, and you’ll hear a local remark “as tight as Old Dhrum’s Vault.”

One might ask, “Can you keep a secret?” or “Can you keep it safe?” to which a Mudavian replies, “Aye, as tight as Old Dhrum’s Vault.”

Certainly our trio of erstwhile delvers – Ensayen the Ranger, Faryll the Burglar and Karkis the Adventurer heard it often enough.

And, a little follow up on the odd turn of phrase unearths the story. Vilnius Dhrum, a farmer’s son turned zealot proselytizer for the Immortal Lords of Law, left the then remote village on some damn fool idealistic crusade to the mysterious and distant East. This was all over a century ago, of course.

In any event, Vilnius left. After a decade gone, everyone presumed him dead, when lo and behold he returns with fifty treasure laden pack mules and a dozen shall we say idiosyncratic friends in tow. And at this point in the local legend, the wiser among the crowd will remind everyone that tales grow in the telling.

Be that as it may, the legend continues, Old Dhrum proceeded to build a massive entirely stone manor house out on the Knob – that’s the only (and sizable) rocky outcropped hill for a league in any direction – in less than a fortnight. Can you imagine?

Time passed, and Old Dhrum’s wealth attracted other wealth, and merchants and whatnot, and, well, really, it’s Old Dhrum what turned Muddygap into the bustling burg she is today. But, back a century ago, like every one else, Old Dhrum died. No one quite knows the cause. What all the tales agree on, he just stopped showing up in town, and it didn’t take long for the Mudavians to determine he’d died. And, and, it didn’t take long after that for the townsfolk to start wondering about all that treasure, and maybe doing a little exploring in the weird stone manor.

People being people, it didn’t take long after THAT for the stately manor to become naught but a tumbledown ruin of just a few stones atop a weathered foundation. But here’s the thing, no one found substantial treasure outside of the manor house’s stone and furniture. (In fact, the taleteller will remark, “my great grandfather got that hutch over there from out of the manor” with a hint of criminal pride in their voice).

So, folks started to say that Old Dhrum must’ve built a vault - underground - and a tightly secure one at that - to store all his exotic loot from the distant East. And ever since, the occasional ne’er-do-wells lurk up to the Knob searching for Old Dhrum’s Vault. None of those that go have been seen around these parts again, the locals will mutter, and then make the sign of the Immortal Lords of Law. And thus, in Muddygap, keeping something as tight as Old Dhrum’s Vault is keeping it safe or secret indeed.

Back to our intrepid scofflaws – they’d heard the tales, and they eventually got desperate enough to buy a map from an old city guardsman – who claimed to take the sorry thing off a goblin killed in town a few years back – a map that purported to show the secret entrance into Old Dhrum’s Vault underneath the Knob. Ensayen, Faryll and Karkis pooled their last coppers and scraped together enough good will to buy a small amount of gear, and they set out just this morning for the Knob.

(So endeth the backstory. The actual roleplaying is about to begin.)

And now, here they are, after following that map, standing at the side of the Knob. The map was true enough, as they found the secret door right away using the chicken-scratch notes. They’d popped it open, and were greeted by a slightly damp, slightly rank rush of air, and a natural, sloping and curving passage leading down deeply into the Knob and quickly into darkness.

(Turn 1) The group hesitates at the threshold, unwilling to go into the darkness, so Faryll and Karkis between them light a torch, and Ensayen miraculously casts a single Dancing Firefly light (relying on his freshness and rolling an improbable four successes on four dice to summon the single light for a phase.). The elf sends his elf-light down the natural stairs until it just passes beyond sight, and then brings it back. Nothing seems amiss.

The trio descend the stairs, and Ensayen’s paranoid instinct to search for traps kicks in, with a bit of help from Karkis whose delving dwarven nature has him fascinated by the construction of this passage. And thus they descended down some seventy feet to a natural stone door operated by a massive iron-bound oak lever. Between the elf’s prodding everything with the handy pole he’d brought along, and the dwarf examining every crack and crevice of the passage, they found a tripwire.

And so the dwarf gets out his tools, and with Faryll’s criminal knowledge that this kind of tripwire is tension based, and it’s the release of the tension that’ll spring the trap, and with Ensayen poised to cut the wire on Karkis’ mark, the dwarf drives a piton into each side of the passageway, pinning the wire in place with no change in tension. An alarm avoided.

They argue a bit about whether to open the door. Faryll noting how doomed they all certainly are, while Ensayen attempts multiple times to find the door’s seam or any crack to the other side really so he can force his dancing firefly through and get a glimpse of the other side.

Eventually, Faryll just opens the door.

(Turn 2) Which opens into a dimly lit, very large natural cavern. The smell of damp, moldy offal hits them like a wet fish to the face. It takes them a moment to decipher the scene. The large cavern is thirty feet tall or more, and perhaps fifty feet wide and seventy feet long. There are a dozen or more natural chimneys that go from the roof of the cave to above ground (presumably to the top of the Knob, notes Karkis), and the shafts of sunlight stream down into the cave. The floor glistens, and at the far end, they hear the burbling of a natural spring. Above them, the ceiling seems to undulate and rustle, and it takes but a moment to realize the entire surface of it is covered in upside down, currently sleeping dire bats.

And naturally, Ensayen’s instinct kicks in, and his prodding all around them with his pole, while the sneaking inclined Faryll wanting not to wake the bats is quietly rolling handfuls of gravel around, reveals that the cave’s floor is covered in a very slick combination of condensation and layers of ripe bat guano, and is deceptively and steeply sloped down towards the spring. Step out onto it at your peril.

Ensayen continues to observe the room, while Faryll and Karkis working from a Good Idea pull out the former’s thieves kit and use the torch and one of the their helmets to heat a ball of tar, intending to apply the sticky mess to their shoes. As they finish, are offering to cover the soles of Ensayen’s feet, the elf smiles at them, and simply strides out onto the slick floor with a bravo’s confidence.

And he proceeds to slip, fall, and slide all the way down to the spring and into it’s icy depths with a dainty sploosh (thanks to a failed OB 4 health test). Faryll and Karkis share a look, shrug their shoulders, and start to pick their way over towards two potential exit points they’d seen.

Ensayen summons his Dancing Firefly into the pool, and plunges into the depths for a quick and better look. In the deepest part of the frigid spring, he sees dozens of large, gelatinous and semi-transparent eggs all with the biggest wriggling tadpoles he’s ever seen in them.

The elf then hauls himself out of the spring, and through sheer force of will (and another improbable four successes on an OB 4 health test with 5 dice) avoids catching a nasty fever from his icy bath. He carefully crawls over to where the others stand between two exits. The trio argue about whether to take what appears to be a mine shaft cut up into this cave from below, or a level, smooth, stoutly masoned corridor beyond a rotted and ruined and easily passable portcullis.

Ultimately Faryll wins over Karkis’ vote, and the trio descends into the mineshaft, but not before Ensayen spends time cleaning off the bat guano from his tunic (with another improbable roll of 2 successes on an Ob 2 peasant test, using beginner’s luck, the fresh condition, and a trait against himself to gather 2 dice).

(Turn 3) The dwarf and Halfling light another torch and the elf sends his dancing firefly light down the curving, sloping mineshaft. They see it was hastily dug, and is reinforced with bracing and beams every dozen yards. They carefully follow the firefly elf-light Ensayen sends before them. The Elf’s instinct to poke and prod with his pole, drag his feet slowly, and knock on the walls and timbers and examine the details for any sign of a trap kicking in yet again. Some distance down the tunnel, it widens out to the left a great deal forming a natural cave, and also the shaft continues on ahead. They pause, and Karkis and Faryll start to quietly debate what to do.

Naturally, Ensayen sends his elf-light shooting hither and yon around the cave now on their left, immediately discovering the pair of Frogmen hiding in it’s depths.

As soon as the dwarf sees the Frogmen, he charges, loosing a bolt from his crossbow, initiating a conflict. The party makes it’s intent to drive off the Frogmen clear, and the Halfling flings stones at the now madly croaking and ribbeting amphibians, while the elf charges towards them with his dagger drawn.

The Frogmen draw their rusty swords, and leap and bound towards our party. Two rounds of furious action later, after a series of pitched but somewhat fruitless actions, the party stood over the bodies of two dead Frogmen. Still fresh. And the dwarf now with two checks to his name.

(Because they had improbable dice luck, and we had a bit of volatile scripting with successful defends among them. And, on the first successful attack by the party, I narrated they’d injured a Frogman and he fell to the ground as he might in a kill conflict, which locked us in fictionally to a kill conflict. We could’ve unwound the narration, but everyone was having fun, and we didn’t notice it until the end of the conflict, so we let it ride).

(Turn 4) The trio quickly loot the bodies, getting a pouch full of interesting colored lint and a pouch of rusty and worthless iron coins for their efforts. Their second torch sputters to an end.

(Turn 5) They light their third torch under the dim elf-light of Ensayen’s still functioning spell. The elf and dwarf both quickly eat a preserved ration from the pouches to recover from their hunger, while Faryll ignores her growling stomach and complains about their bad luck. A quick visual scan of the room uncovers a small hidden opening that leads out on a ledge overlooking another cave. They can hear the croaking and ribbetting of more frogmen. Ensayen insists they descend the vertical pitch and attack. Faryll bemoans the idiocy of this plan, complains that they are all doomed, but gives in when she realizes she’ll be left alone if she doesn’t go along.

Karkis successfully navigates them down the pitch with help from Ensayen’s pole (and another improbable 4 successes on an OB 4 dungeoneer test with 5 dice). As soon as her feet touch the ground, Faryll charges towards the sound of the Frogmen, throwing stones at their heads. Ensayen charges in with his dagger drawn, voicing a blood curdling elven war cry, while Karkis readies his trusty crossbow.

The Frogmen, all six (6!) of them, stood ready, alerted by the death croaks of their brethren. Their swords drawn, leaping too and fro, excited ribbetting passing among them.

A pitched battle ensued. Frogmen were knocked out of the fight. The elf and Halfling started an oil fueled fire. The frogmen rallied and roused their fallen comrades. The elf suffered a nasty cut to the ribs and passed out, the Frogmen drew in and surrounded the Halfling and tried to snuff her life, a fate narrowly averted by her helmet and leather armor. The dwarf mounted a desperate charge into the fray, getting his crossbow broken for his trouble, but giving the Halfling time enough to rouse the fallen elf. The trio rallied, gained a lucky tactical advantage by drawing the Frogmen out of position, and ended the conflict with the elf engaging in crazed dagger-death-dance downing five of the six frogmen, leaving the Halfling to mop up the last with a well placed mace shot to the head.

(They started with an un-lucky disposition roll, getting 4 hit points to split among the three of them. They lost the first round of scripting badly, but my dice weren’t with me, so I only managed to knock the elf out of the fight, they rallied with much better scripting in round 2, managing to revive the elf, and then beat my scripting soundly and decisively in round 3 along with another bout of astounding dice rolls by the elf in particular – at one point garnering 5 successes on a 5 dice fighter roll).

(Turn 6) They loot the bodies of the fallen Frogmen. The elf’s cut is nasty, and it’s effects will stay with him. They find a sheaf of papers one of the Frogmen stole from the Dhrum’s Manor Ledger, a record kept by the steward of the manor on all expenditures. It detailed one of the last expenditures which was for a wizard to bind a stone elemental to Old Dhrum. It involved taking the stone elemental’s heart and inscribing mystic runes on it. Whomever wore the heart could command the elemental. A very useful bit of knowledge on how to defeat a foe they’d yet to meet (thanks to a very lucky loot roll on table 2). They also turned up a set of rusty keys, stamped with Dhrum’s distinctive “D” brand. Hoping to find them useful later, the Halfling puts these on her belt. Their third torch sputters out.

(Camp) with 3 checks between them, and under the dim elf-light of Ensayen’s spell, they set camp, getting a lucky safe camp result. The Halfling’s instinct to always cook for her party in camp nets them all a meal of pan seared salted frog’s legs. Karkis attempted to repair Faryll’s helmet, the attempt making him Angry. Ensayen tended to and bound his own wounds, but his wounds proved too deep to heal quickly, leaving him still hobbled by the injury. Faryll then used the final remains of the Frogmen to cook up 2 rations of preserved frog jerky, all the while complaining about the miserable conditions, their bad luck, and the party’s eventual doom.

(Turn 7) They light their fourth torch, and head further into the mine. They reach an abandoned miner’s camp. Ensayen’s paranoid instinct to seek out any kind of trap kicks in, with much tapping of his pole and examining the crates and equipment and walls and floors, revealing no visible traps. They decide to loot the camp. The Halfling finds a serviceable sword and the elf finds 3 portions of preserved rations, and the dwarf finds stunning tapestries (worth 9! Dice, which his stuffs into his pack)

(Rewards) So here, I’ll mention that we didn’t name our heroes until the end of the session. The elf’s name is pronounced N-SAY-IN. The Dwarf is pronounced like it looks, CAR-KISS, and the Halfling is pronounced FARE-ILL.

The Elf’s belief is “A cautious elf is long lived, and considers all factors before acting”. Clearly, he played against his belief.

The halfling’s belief is “Good fortune follows a good attitude, so keep your spirits high”. Again, clearly she was played against this belief.

The dwarf’s belief is “There is naught for me but blood and treasure, earned and spent”. He played to his belief.

All of them had instincts that helped the party, and all of them made progress towards their goals.

The elf’s instinct and goal: always check for traps in every new area; find Dhrum’s magical treasure; respectively.

The dwarf’s instinct and goal: always immediately disarm any trap we discover; haul out as much loot from Dhrum’s vault as I can carry; respectively.

The Halfling’s instinct and goal: always cook a meal when we make camp; get out of Dhrum’s Vault alive.

Ensayen got the MVP award for his dagger-death-dance. Faryll got the teamwork award for her willingness to go along with her crazy companions.

So, we have 3 Fate for Karkis. 2 Fate each for Ensayen and Faryll. And 2 Persona each for Ensayen and Faryll.

Narrator’s feedback – we didn’t make use of weapon bonuses in our two conflicts, much to my chagrin. I suspect if I’d taken them into account in the second Frogmen conflict, it would’ve been a TPK. However, we also didn’t take advantage of the heroes wepons either, so not sure. Everyone had a fun time, and we’ll play again soon. My only question is this:

It states a player can only help on an instinct driven test if a nature descriptor applies. I was a bit loose (likely to nice) in letting them help thusly on a couple of occasions. The rules explicitly allow this. I was wondering, however, if a wise-fuled help could be available?

Faryll is trap-wise. Could she use that to offer help to either Ensayen on his instinctive scout tests to spot traps, or to Karkis on his instinctive dungeoneer tests to disarm them?

Good stuff. For trap-wise: yes. One can always use I Am Wise if appropriate.

Good way to remember it: You can only help with Instinct or Nature but you can assist (scott-free!) with a Wise. Faryll is going to be extremely useful to those characters, plus…cooking! /halfling power.