Saturday, October 22, 2016

Wheel of Evil

Play Report: Wheel of Evil by Faster Monkey

It’s not often that I get to run a game for 4 PCs over a couple two-hour sessions so when I do, I like to pull out something special and Wheel of Evil did not disappoint.  Branded as a Dungeon Crawl for 4-6 characters of levels 3-5, I decided that with henchman, it was an appropriate challenge for lower-level characters:

Cinderblock, 1st level thief
                Cinderblock’s NPC henchman Dithaniel, 1st level fighter
Gruber, 2nd level fighter
                Gruber’s NPC henchman Falden, 1st level fighter

Wolfgang, 4th level druid
                Wolfgang’s menagerie (black bear, wolf, fox, hawk, rat)

Gerilynn, 4th level cleric
                Gerilynn’s henchman Ehlark, 1st level fighter/cleric
                Gerilynn’s henchman Caitlynn, 1st level ranger

Wolfgang and Gerrilynn decided they needed a little space from their elvish patrons.  Renneton, a town a few days ride away from Hommelet and famous for its fine cheeses, had advertised for heroes, and was willing to pay them in stock options—shares in the profits of the annual cheese sale.  The assignment, as explained by the local priest, Father Desmond, was straight forward, from a practical if not an ethical point of view.  The town of Renneton used a local cave for aging cheeses and been doing so for centuries.  Now strange little monsters, presumably from deeper in the earth had found their way up and been found to be stealing and destroying cheeses.  These creatures were only about three feet tall and cowardly in battle, but also thoroughly wicked and treacherous, “Kobolds” they were called locally.  And they needed to be dissuaded somehow from stealing the human’s cheeses.  Father Desmond brought the party to the caves and provided them a map, showing the upper caverns where cheese was prepared. He had gone missing in the caves overnight, pursuing the kobolds after a raid.  He also introduced them to Harzar, foreman of the cheese guild.  Before going below, the party to look around the cheese preparation areas and tool to the cheesers.
Cinderblock noticed that the other cheese workers seemed uneasy around Harzar, treating with not only the deference due a superior, but with veiled revulsion.  Although he didn’t like to talk about his experiences, he had become even more thoroughly dedicated to his job.   

The party learned that a few kobold were being held prisoner in a storage room, and asked to meet them.  “Little good it will do you,” the cheesers said, “they can’t talk human or elvish, only their nasty monster talk.”  The kobolds expressions were plain enough—they looked miserable and bitter and glared at their captors and whispered among each other.  The cheesers explained that a week ago, a wandering magician had offered to translate the prisoner’s speech.  No useful information, only the highly dubious claim that the kobolds blamed the humans for ruining their food.  “If they like their food so much, why they stealing ours?”  Gerrilynn asked what the kobold’s ate and the cheesers shuddered and shook their heads.  “Don’t even want to think about it.  That would be a good question for Father Desmond, right Bert?  Why killing these monsters would be any different than killing a prowling wolf, I can’t see.  No offense, your woodiness.”  Gerrilynn shared some of her own food and the kobolds eat it hungrily—except the cheese which they flung back in her face as if it were an insult.
Gruber asked about what weapons of powers the kobolds had.  The men laughed.  “Spears and rocks and these.”  A clay flask.  “Smell it.  Careful, not too close.  We reckon they fill it with their own piss and if they can get a jump on a man they would smash it on his head.  Who knows what it might do?  Bless us, no one here has had to find out.”

Nosing around a little more, Cinderblock learned that some of the cheesers had a sideline business in moonshine.  And that the Cheesers Guild was preparing an extra-large cheese, a five-foot diameter wheel that would be shipped to the King of Alyan.
At last the party was ready to proceed. They lit torches and, as they proceed beyond the makeshift barrier the cheesers had assembled against the kobolds, Cinderblock assumed the job of continuing Father Desomond’s map.  Soon, the party came to a fork in the tunnel, and peered into what must have been a cheese storage room, now a jumble of broken shelving coated with dust.  The party decided to explore the room further and found a deep fissure.  Wolfgang asked his rat Alexis to climb down and report what he found.  As Alexis disappeared beyond the light of the torches, he squeaked that he had found a mass of blue and pink cheese.  Then there was a rat-scream and silence.  A cloud of blue and pink dust exploded from the fissure; Wolfgang, Gerrilynn, and Gruber fell into a deep slumber.  Caitlynn and Cinderblock found that they could barely rouse them enough to mumble a few words before falling back into sleep.  Caitlynn, despairing of how to explain what had happened to the rat when Gerrilynn and Wolfgang woke up, climbed down into the fissure holding a torch.  She saw the blue and pink gelatinous mold that the rat had described as cheese.  She slipped into it up past her knees and felt herself being sucked under.  Cinderblock climbed down and helped pull her out.  The party decided that the rat would fend for himself for now and that the sleeping humans should be carried to safety.

The heroes found their way back out of the caves and by the time they got back down the hill to town and to the inn, everyone was awake and walking under his or her own power.  Talking over their misadventures and laughing down the many jokes at their expense, the heroes supped in their room (“Yes, we’ll all get plenty of sleep tonight!”) and made a plan.  The plan involved urine, seven wineskins full of it, plus seven more wineskins full of raw material in case they needed more.  No one remembers who first suggested it, but everyone agreed the kobolds didn’t have any use for cheese and seemed to know something more about what they were really up against.
Sure enough, the horrible pink and blue mold that had swallowed Alexis the rat had a tougher time digesting urine.  It took four wineskins, plus the bladder contents of five humans and a wolf to the job, but the urine turned the mold into cool, sweet-smelling steam.

The deep dark hole inspired some debate as to whether they were forgetting their charge to eradicate kobolds, but a lit torch that found the bottom about 50 feet down settled it.  Rope and iron spike time.
Dithaniel was the first down and his scream, abruptly cut short brought Cinderblock down immediately after him.  A three-foot tall figure seemingly composed of mold had speared him with its skeletal claws.  In the ensuing battle, this mold man, and three others like it, proved to be skeletons completely grown over with mold.  The other three wineskins were used on these creatures before desperation intervened to prove that they could also be destroyed by normal weapons.  Horrified at what they had just experienced, there was some talk of climbing back up.  But the rope was lying on the ground.  At the top, Wolfgang’s wolf was howling and barking.  “What happened?”

“The stinky one.”  The wolf explained to Wolfgang.  “He cut the rope.”

“The stinky one?”  Harzer. 

“I bite him and he run away.”

                Although Wolfie was encouraged to go get help, no one wanted to wait for it. Dithaniel was dead, but Gerrilynn tended to the others and, after a brief and solemn ritual, Dithaniel’s belonging were distributed among his companions.  The heroes drank their wine, filled all the empty wineskins, and pressed on.
The tunnels through which they walked was spongy, glowing, pulsing mass of mold.  They prodded ahead to avoid walking on anything the horrible mass that had consumed the rat, and breathed a sigh of relief when they came to a large pool of clear water with no sign of mold.  Eschewing the stepping stones, Gerrilynn tested the water with her toe and then waded in.  The others followed.

On the other side they found themselves a cavern of mold so nauseating in its shapes, textures, smells, and sounds that it made everything else they’d experienced look like white stilton.  There were more of the walking mold men.  There was something invisible that paralyzed Wolfgang.  And there was Harzer.
In the ensuing battle, there were several casualties.  The mold men were easy to kill.  Harzer turned out to be the husk of a man—when hit a larger mold man stepped out and was taken out by Caitlynn and Falden.  But the party was endangered by numbers.  And by the globs of black pudding that seemed to be falling from the ceiling.  Falden and Caitllynn were killed by moldmen.  Ehlark was killed by a black pudding.

Someone noticed that an invisible force was pushing the paralyzed Wolfgang toward a particular part of the cavern.  Cinderblock did some reconnaissance and located a particularly complex patch of mold that seemed to be responding to the battle.  Lots of urine and a little moonshine later and that patch had been turned to gray flakes.  The moldmen collapsed. 
The black pudding continued to quiver and slither toward the party.  Cinderblock charged with his short sword.  The blobby thing shrank from blow but then expanded, enveloping the brave and resourceful rogue.

His companions killed the blobs from a safe distance.  There was treasure.  There were stolen cheeses that the heroes decided should remain with their fallen comrades. 
On the way out of the caves, the party encountered a band of kobolds.  Both parties agreed, happily, and in their own languages, that the mold was retreating.  After a mimed non-aggression pact the kobolds went deeper into the caverns and the humans went up to report their success.

The heroes mourned their fallen comrades (“Cinderblock, we hardly knew ye.”) and after the cheese auctions, redeemed their shares.

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