[BoL] Play report: Raiders of the Pter Nuum, session 2

Our group got together last night for the first time in 10 months.  After a recap of both the game system and the previous session’s happenings, we dove in…

The arrival of morning found the trio of adventurers — monk-assassin Swervy and sword-maidens Ada and Basula — preparing breakfast and re-examining the strange black obelisk in the jungle clearing.  They were soon joined by their wizard colleague Khelios, who arrived on the back of a summoned giant dragonfly.  (During the course of his research, Khelios was informed of the party’s expedition to the lost city; believing the ruin to be a potentially incredible trove of magical knowledge, he decided to seek them out by means of a magic spell and join the adventure.)

Using his copper bowl, Khelios cast another spell to try to determine the direction of the city; due to his extremely limited knowledge, the spell only gave a general northerly direction.  With no further ado, the party set off deeper into the jungle according to the spell’s indication.  Their first encounter was with two human corpses riddled with poisoned darts.  Closer inspection turned up a strange snake-fang necklace on one of the bodies.  They carefully avoided a sandy clearing where tentacles snaked from the sand to try to draw in prey and eventually came to a larger clearing where many of the trees had been pulled down by climbing vines, leaving only broken, ivy-covered stumps stretching like broken towers (inspired by Kauai’s “Green Room”).  As the adventurers made their way through this verdant space, they were beset by ropy vines that snaked out from the undergrowth to curl around legs and bodies.  Once coiled around prey, the vines would attempt to draw the victim towards the vegetation-covered mounds from which they emerged.  The group fought to chop through vines, stay upright and resist being pulled towards the tooth-filled mouths of the mounds.  After a fierce struggle the characters managed to slay the monsters; through a combination of skill and luck, they emerged from the battle somewhat shaken but physically unharmed.

The narrow trail led from the large clearing through the jungle to a steep rocky slope cut with switchbacks.  Three cave openings were visible at points along the ascending trail.  The group opted to avoid the first cave (thick with cobwebs) and the second (some slithery snake-like tracks leading in), but were curious about the third (booted humanoid footprints).  They eschewed the caves in favor of continuing to the top of the slope in hopes of spotting the city.  They didn’t see it immediately, but a short trek into the jungle led them to a massive crater.  The 100′ cliff looked down onto the ruins of Nem Piat below; the city’s great ziggurats and a grand domed structure of crystal still stood watch over the crumbling buildings and courtyards.

The party decided against rappelling down into the massive crater for fear of disturbing any unseen creatures potentially nesting in the cliff face.  Returning to the uppermost cave entrance (with the boot prints), they carefully made their way through a long, winding tunnel (and a large spiked pit trap) and entered the city at ground level.  Almost immediately they encountered the remnants of the expedition, who had set up a camp in the southeastern part of Nem Piat.   After conversing with the guard posted near the tunnel entrance, the group was taken to Rhys Gorlak.  Their attempts to persuade him to return to Humbleton fell on deaf ears, as his assistant and lover Erelna had recently been captured by “snake-men” — Rhys refused to leave without Erelna, and beseeched the party to help him get her back.  Realizing their position, the party reluctantly agreed, discouraged by the idea of having to fight their way through 100+ snake-men to gain Erelna’s freedom.  Was there another way?  Perhaps…

After talking with Jandar, leader of a group of escaped slaves living close to the expedition’s camp, the party learned of a conflict between the snake-men (to the west) and “frog-men” who controlled the northeastern part of the city.  Perhaps the party could stir up trouble between the two factions and sneak in to rescue Erelna in the confusion…  Rhys also spoke to them about helping him find the Axe of Bal-Astur, an ancient hero of Nem Piat who led an unsuccessful revolt against the lords of the city.  According to legend, the warrior’s enchanted great axe would strike fear into the hearts of foes and instill courage to allies; Rhys was certain that having such a potent weapon would increase the likelihood of a successful rescue.

The party agreed to go with Rhys to Bal-Astur’s crypt, which he believed to be in a nearby building.  After negotiating the heavy, rusted iron trapdoor, the party began their exploration of the tomb.  A scything blade trap wounded Ada and Basula, and as the session ended the party thought they could hear the sound of metal on bone and bone on stone approaching; looking down the curving stair into the hallway below, they saw several shadowy forms moving around…

***

This evening’s game went pretty well.  I wasn’t entirely satisfied with some of my narration and refereeing, but I was pleased with the session overall.  In retrospect it may have been better to have the PCs wander around in Nem Piat a bit before having them encounter Rhys Gorlak’s expedition, but I wanted to keep the action moving — it had been nearly a year since we last played, and I wanted to maximize the four hours we had this time…

After the session I told BB that one of the things I really like about BoL is that the PC power level seems to do the 3rd-6th level “sweet spot” of D&D play really well; magic-wise it’s arguably even better, because of the flexibility of the open-ended system.  (This isn’t to say that I’m done playing D&D, because sometimes — well, sometimes I just crave the feel and flavor of the classic D&D rules, and no substitute will suffice.)

When the PCs were fighting the vine-creatures in the “green room” clearing, I had to remind the players about using Hero Points; their “luck of the gods” re-rolls didn’t seem to help that much, but ultimately they escaped without sustaining any injuries.  Those creatures were completely improvised, and I realized later that they should have had far more Lifeblood than they did.  Oh well, live and learn…

We’ve scheduled our next session for 12/18, hopefully I’ll have more to report shortly thereafter!

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