April 08, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 5

Tower of Babel by Brueghel
The party approached the central spire and see an enormous wooden gate. Mangus pushed the gate open "respectfully but firmly". Inside was a dimly-lit wide hallway, the pervading silence broken by the clip-clop of hooves approaching. Mangus growls.

"Who goes there?" a voice squeaks.

"Who goes there?" Mangus replies.

Detail from the Last Judgement,
Lucas Cranach the Elder
"Identify yourself, intruder!"

"It looks like a toad riding a centaur..." the Vamosh the elf whispers, using his infravision to pierce the dimness. What he sees is a horse with the dull face of a man, an enormous toad sits in the saddle atop the hybrid mount.

"I am Mangus, and I've come to collect your taxes."

"You do not collect taxes from the gnome princes," replies the man horse.

"Squeak!" cries its rider.

"We've come to claim this kingdom for the milk witch," Vamosh repies.

The toad draws its lance, and the horse sinks back into the darkness, preparing to charge. Vamosh casts Enlarge on Mangus, who grows by several feet and a hundred pounds. He charged in, feinting high, and then at the last second slashed at the man-horse's legs. The amphibious knight saw through the ruse and turned aside before its mount could be cut down under it. Annemarijn spews a gout of rainbows and glitter in the enclosed darkness. The toad squeaks and goes unconscious.

"My eyes!" The man-horse bellows, thrashing about trying to hit anyone nearby. The toad drools.

"Slay the mount, take the hostage!" Mangus growls. He can't land a hit on the chimerical beast. Annemarijn approaches with her club, but can't get close enough to land a hit. The man-horse flails wildly, missing Mangus but dealing a deadly blow to Annemarijn. Mangus does a spinning slash, severing the centaur's major arteries. It drops to the ground. 

"Oh man, it's getting cold. So cold..." It's horse-face mutters, voice fading. Annemarijn scooped up the unconscious toad, wrapping him in her cloak and binding him with 50 feet of rope. Mangus finds a finely filigreed key on the toad's person. After several minutes, the toad wakes up and squeaks.
"You show us how to get to the top of the tower and we won't hurt you," Mangus says, grabbing the creature. "Play any dirty tricks and you'll pay! understand?" The toad squeaked .

Moving on the party explore a stable, silent and empty except for some rustling in the back corner. The Elf investigates, and sees an enormous riding mole in the stall. They decide not to mess with it and leave the stable. Using the toad's key they open a locked door, revealing a spiral staircase. The sound of fluttering come from the near ceiling. Annemarijn holds her torch up to get a better look, disturbing a cloud of bat-like creatures with papery wings and the squashed faces of pug dogs.
a bastardry, by myself
Mangus fired a crossbow bolt, disturbing the colony of pug-bats, who descend with keening shrieks. One scratches the Vamosh with a tiny wing dewclaw. The Elf tries to spear it, but fumbles and trips over himself. Mangus attempts to slice one in twain but the pug-bat dodges. Annemarijn backs away to the doorway and bats one of the bats with her (wooden) bat. One beast tears into Annemarijn, causing her to collapse from the mortal wound.
Vamosh throws some scales on the ground and they animate into 2 giant crocodiles. Due to mercurial nature of the spell a burst of green light bathes the area with healing energy and revives Annemarijn. She reeks like a snake house but at least she isn't dead. The crocodiles snap wildly at the pug-bats but can't hit them. After a long struggle the creatures lay in bloody piles across the room.
"Toad! why didn't you tell us about these bats?" Mangus demanded, but it only squeaks in terror.

Leaving the spiral staircase for another time, the group explores another few chambers, including a room full of statues of men and beasts and chimera. Mangus steps back out of the statue room, but Vamosh goes in to explore. It's eerily quiet inside but otherwise nothing of note. They also find a storage room full of enormous spools of brass chain.
Later they find a room and hear someone snoring inside. Mangus opens the door and the group creeps inside. Mangus wants to murder the sleeping figure, but Vamosh says we should tie him up instead. Mangus tries his best to approach the figure but wakes the sleeping figure instead.It opens its huge
mouth and rasps, "What's going on? Squeaks! What's going on?"

March 27, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 4

The Big Fish eat the Little Fish, Hieronymous Bosch
The party slow came back to its senses, stumbling around blind and confused for a moment, so they decided to make camp to recover. The unnatural orange light in the sky passed overhead and then night approached like a physical shroud. Mercifully the night passes without incident and the group enjoys fish-dogs roasted over the kindling remains of topiary children.

In the morning, Vamosh decides he wants to claim the land for the Elf King instead of the milk witch, so he begins making preparations to commune with him. The rest of the party wander the garden and find a small stone pedestal with a miniature coliseum on top. Inside was a menagerie of tiny, living animals locked in cages including a lion, bear, panther, crocodile, and an elephant.

From Thomas Bewick's Fables
After some discussion they decide to free the crocodile, it looks lethargic as it lazily suns itself in its cage. Mangus lifts the gate to the cage containing the crocodile, unleashing a magical curse that shrinks him to a tiny size and transports him inside the amphitheater beside the now open cage. The crocodile attacks! Mangus tries to maneuver around the long reptile and stab it in the head but it's too quick. It whips around and snaps at him, savagely tearing his legs. The wizard casts color spray, but the crocodile shuts its eyes and is unaffected. Annemarijn concludes that her spells won't work from outside the amphitheater.

Vamosh the Elf decides to go in, but fears releasing another beast, so he touches the crocodile cage to see if it will transport him inside. It works. Mangus leaps up and plunges right on top of the crocodile's mouth but it snaps at his feet and he does a little crocodile dance to stay away.

Annemarijn wants to help, but doesn't think it's wise for everyone to enter the miniature coliseum. She tries to think of a way to help and hefts the coliseum up at an angle to give Mangus and the Elf an advantage. The miniature is too heavy, but she does manage to give it a shake which causes the crocodile to stumble onto its side.

Jade crocodile, found on Etsy
The Elf seizes the moment and lunges at the crocodile, stabbing it through both kidneys with his spear, a critical hit! It starts gushing yellowish ichor from the wound and staggers in a daze. Mangus rushes forward and slices the crocodile with his longsword, slashing him along the full length of its body, finally killing it.

When the crocodile expired Mangus and Vamosh appeared back at normal size beside the miniature, and the crocodile was replaced by a small jade statue.

Vamosh went back to the standing stones and communed with his patron, the King of Elfland offering the domain of the gnome kingdom in exchange for assistance defeating the milk witch. He receives a vision from the king . He sees a symbolic representation of the king, surprised that such a low level servant has come with such a substantial offering. The King accepts, most pleased to accept the domain of the gnome brothers. The elf is handed an opalescent fern leaf. "If you plant this at the highest point of the tower, I will lay claim to this land, and personally handle the milk witch".

Awaking from the vision, Vamosh comes away with an intricately laced pattern of ferns permanently tattooed on either side of his forehead.

March 13, 2018

Dikes Fall, session 3

The adventure continues at the bottom of the Sunken Pit.

Rifling through the gnome's belongings, they find a pouch of 60gp, a heavy pick, and a light crossbow. They continue exploring and find a room with a sour smell, lit by a few guttering candles. An ancient, bent  woman steps into the light, candlelight barely illuminating her dusky skin.

Triptych from the
Garden of Earthly Delights, Hieronymous Bosch
"He was to give me part of his land,” the milk witch croaks. “And now I am left with nothing."

The party appeals to her sense of greed. With both brothers dead all the land could be hers. The gnomes have a kingdom deep below the earth, on the Other Side. It is a place she can’t go without an invitation, but the party can. If the group can lower the gnome's banner and raise the milk witch’s own she can lay claim to their lands.

“You can have anything within the castle but the demesne and castle are mine.”

They agree. To open the a way to the domain the Mangus retrieves the gnome’s body. The witch performs a strange ritual causing the corpse to warp and stretch into a portal almost but not quite entirely unlike a humanoid figure. The witch hands them a small packet with her banner and instructs then not to open until they’re in the tower. Then she’s gone, leaving only a sour odor of spoiled milk behind.

Beyond the impossible portal is a narrow stone passageway. As soon as they step through, the air turns hot and oppressively dry. The passageway is actually a narrow a ravine, or from above by a winking reddish glow. The ravine widens as it meanders through the cracked stone, revealing a fortress with two squat towers. Closer to the group is a high wall surrounded protecting the whole compound and encircling lush gardens. Mangus tosses a rope over and clambers up but falls into the garden. The rest of the party join the bruised and embarrassed tax collector at ground level. The party can spy four points of interest in the garden: a fish pond, a hedge labyrinth, a set of standing stones, and, distantly, the sound of animals just out of sight.

Detail from the Last Judgement,
Lucas Cranach the Elder
Suddenly the underbrush is filled with a rustling sound. A pack of fish creatures, running on pairs of long spindly legs, tear into sight yapping madly. "Sit!" Annemarjin yells, but it only goads the little fish-dogs into attacking. They skirmish for tense moments before gaining the upper hand on the fish-dog pack and driving the survivors off.

Vamosh goes to check out the standing stones and decides she wants to cast her Patron Bond spell there. They hear the sound of shoveling within the circle and go to investigate. It's a dwarf working on digging a hole for another standing stone coming later this week. He tells them that the masters are out, and only the staff are left now.

We go investigate the hedge labyrinth. Vamosh hears giggling from the other side of the hedge. It intensifies they approach the center of the labyrinth. In the center is a pergola on which four topiary children sit. As they come into view the and the laughter stops.
"I don't want to menace the hedges," Mangus grunts. There's a small chest beneath the pergola. Mangus does a quick assessment using his tax collector background and thinks it could contain 150 sp worth of treasure. He lights the wooden structure on fire. We hear a gasp as the flames consumes the pergola and topiary children. It doesn't spread to the rest of the labyrinth.

El Laberinto, Leonora Carrington
On their way out the pass through the labyrinth is barred by six more topiary children carrying bows. They have given up the pretense of being simple bushes and draw their bows. Opening fire they hit Annemarijn with a volley. Mangus lops the leafy head off of the children in the fracas. Arden tries to uproot one of them, but its roots are too strong. Annemarijn bashes with her club, but thorns sprout from her wooden weapon and nearly kill her. Arden stabs down into the ground, trying to get at the root of the topiary child. It drops dead at his feet. Annemarijn casts Color Spray with a boon from her fickle patron, imbuing it with ineffable cosmic power. All of the topiary children, and all of the party except for Vamosh and Annemarijn are dazed by the psychadelic blast of chaos, knocking them unconscious and blind. The Elf makes quick work of the disabled enemies, but the rest of the party lies dead to the world .

March 02, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 2

Dramatis Personae

Vamosh Amuerte, elven glassblower
Mangus, tax collector and warrior-for-hire
Arden Diodross, guild beggar and sellsword
Annemarijn the Astrologist, herbalist and wizard
Section from The Dutch Proverbs,
Pieter Brueghel the Elder

The two survivors from the first adventure head back to town with the tavern owner's wife to collect their reward. Unfortunately, all the ale in the tavern has been transmuted into spoiled milk. Tavern owner's wife reminded the party that there's another gnome in the Sunken Pit, and he had a milk witch in his service.
They return to the Sunken Pit and quickly encounter the gnome, but rather than chasing him they tried to circle around and ambush him. They met a deranged dwarf carving a "stone child". He warns of death to the north. In another chamber they stir up a nest of rats. Arden attempts to scare them off with his torch, but almost drops it. Mangus charges in but the sword slips from his hand (because the grips are going bad and he needs to replace them). Annemarijn splats two rats with her club and Mangus stomps on another. The rest disperse and flee the room.
to explore the dungeon more and ran into the
Moving on, they found a door protected with a strange sigil. With some difficulty, Vamosh deciphered the script and identified it as a fire rune. Arden got a perfect hit with a slingstone to trigger the lock mechanism on the door and caused the fire rune to erupt in a massive draft of flames.
Finding a set of doors with a deathly smell coming from them, Mangus kicked open the door discovered two tall still figures dressed like mummers and the final gnomish brotherVamosh cast Enlarge on Mangus, who charged in. Arden impales one of the tall figures with his spear, revealing them as walking corpses.
Mangus stomped in and punted the gnome onto a set of rusty spikes embedded in the chamber's walls. The gnome screamed in pain and disbelief, "What have you done?" before bleeding out.
Arden lit one of the street performer mummies on fire, sending its ashes curling toward the ceiling. Annemarjin cuts herself in penance for her past failures to cast Color Spray again, but the last deathless thing resists. Mangus makes quick work of the last mummified street performer, and gives the gentlest fist bump the enlarged warrior can manage to Vamosh.

We ran out of time to complete the dungeon after defeating the gnome, the players opted to leave things hanging until we played again.

February 28, 2018

Dikes Fall, Session 1

The past year I've ran a biweekly game of Dungeon Crawl Classics set in a fantastical Netherlands I call
A pastiche of every psychedelic Northern Renaissance painting I could get my hands on, especially my man Hieronymus Bosch. That means all monsters become nightmare chimeras fully of forgotten symbolism. The themes are mostly traditional murderhobos navigating between the monolithic forces of Church, Nobility, and Pagan things from the dark.

The campaign focuses on Hertogenbosch, a city of trade and culture in the Low Countries. It is more or less the city the PCs call home. In classic DCC fashion I had each player roll a trio of 0-level peasants in preparation of the mayhem. The first session had incomplete minutes, they get great in every other session.

The proprietor of a public house called the Jolly Limpet, your favorite den of sin, has called upon you to rescue his wife. A pair of gnomish brothers have absconded with her, taking her to their home in a cave beside the river Meuse called the Sunken Pit. The reward? A casque of his finest. Topped up with liquid bravery and your closest dozen friends, you braved the darkness of the pit. Many of them fell, but you have killed one of the brothers and rescued the wife.
The Spoils
100 gp, split between the surviving members of the party, 1 heavy pick, 1 silver ring, 1 locked wooden chest, 1 demonic war mask