More information on the unnamed campaign which I suggested to the GM should be named at some point. Notes about mechanics added to the writeup in italics
The party had regrouped at the Maze and Tower inn, where they were resting and relaxing. The animal trainer had remembered he actually had money, and was willing to spend it, so he was allowed in. The monk, with his vow of poverty, has no money. However, the Madame has taken a liking to him, and is allowing him to do manual labour in exchange for meals. She has found no shortage of hay and stones that need to be moved, and other tasks to get him all hot and sweaty, and have to take his shirt off.
The dwarven smith had spent some time communing with his god on how to craft the monk's symbol. He receives visions of hammers slamming on anvils, hot coals and forges, and other images worthy of the Conan intro scene. He doesn't however, get anything especially useful from this; the gods work in mysterious, and sometimes dickish ways.
Use of miracle: Augury
The warrior woman is spending the time doing her very best to convert all of her money into drunkenness. She is doing an excellent job.
The elf has heard a rumour about a small town a weeks travel thataway that is having a problem with demon worshipers. He's pretty sure this is the best way to get XP, and thinks that is what the party should deal with next. The animal trainer believes that he has heard barking coming from the maze. Convinced that it must be poodles, he is trying to gather up people to go in with him to capture one. The two had a ... discussion on how to proceed. Voices were raised, things got heated, the elf drew a knife. The bouncer convinced the elf to put the knife away, and the trainer left in a huff. It has become apparent that the elf is doing entirely too much drugs. Or not enough drugs. None of the other characters are familiar with elves, so they aren't sure what normal is. I guess nothing has become clear, other than the elf is more than willing to cut you so bad you wished he hadn't cut you so bad.
Social Conflict ending in stubborn refusal, XP source for the trainer.
The trainer decides that he must go into the maze RIGHT NOW, by himself, and find the poodles. The elf apparently is still feeling a bit vindictive, and immediately casts a wall of thorns on the maze opening after the trainer goes through.The elf then grabs the dwarf, and the two head off thataway to the supposed demon-infested town. The monk and the warrior woman are well aware that the maze is far from safe and go to get a ladder and other tools to try to get the trainer out. He is completely focused on finding a poodle, and heads forth rather boldly. Unlike the rest of the party who had spied out the maze from the tower and had a map, the trainer has no idea where he is going in the maze. He is, however, a rather skilled tracker, and has a pretty good idea where the poodle sounds are coming from. At one point he is ambushed by a small group of maze goblins. There is bad luck on their attacks, and good luck on behalf of the trainers, and two of them are left dead while the rest run away. Seeing as the first ambush went so poorly, the goblins conclude that he must be a mighty warrior and they have no chance of defeating him. The possibility that they are just incompetent doesn't cross their minds. After a time wandering through the maze, he comes across a dog eating a goblin. With some amazing charisma, helped with a handful of snacks, he is able get the dog to come to him. With many more handfuls of snacks the dog and him their way back to the entrance of the maze. In the mean time the warrior and monk had hacked a suitable new entrance, and make their way out. It is now fairly late in the day, and the three leave for thataway in the morning. None of them had actually seen a poodle before, so none of them can say what the animal from the maze actually is. The warrior woman is familiar with hunting dogs, and this does have the build of one.So it could be a poodle.
A spell to seal in the trainer by the elf, followed by a series of stealth conflicts and combat until the trainer finds the 'poodle', followed by a successful social conflict.
The elf and dwarf arrive at the town. It is a fairly small farming community. I can't remember what it was called, so it is now Shitsburg. There is a blacksmith, an inn, and a very impressive looking church. Most of the buildings are modest, and built of wood. The church, however, is made of sturdy stone, and even has stained glass windows. Stained glass! That place is fancy! They make their way to the inn, and make arrangements for a place to sleep, and care for the car. The elf pays the barman a rather considerable amount of money to tell anybody who asks what is happening in town, that they just missed a travelling poodle show. He was to say that there was nobody in town interested in such a show, so they just moved on. The barman has no idea what a poodle or poodle show is, but for that amount of money he'll play along. He also pumps the barman for information about the town and people in it, and gets what he needs. The barman has heard the rumours about demon worshipers in the woods, but doesn't know if it's true or not. The panic is being spread by the priest at the church. He is young man, and seems taken to flights of fancy, but probably believes what he is saying. Having gotten the information he wanted, the elf goes looking for the criminal element in town. And there he is; Flick. Flick is a small, weaselly looking man. The normal pleasantries happen, one simply can't be operating in another man's town without at least saying hello. It is determined that the priest probably isn't a bad man, but he is not being protected. There is also discussion about Flick distributing narcotics for the elf, and a small sample is left.
General roleplaying, a few attribute checks.
Meanwhile the dwarf is checking out the blacksmith's shop. This is the closest he will be able to find in these parts to a shrine for his god. The smith here is young, probably something like 8, or 75. The dwarf isn't really sure how humans age. In any case, he isn't a very good smith. Not to say that he's bad, just inexperienced. He is feeling a bit threatened by the dwarf in a professional sense, and makes sure that his stay is just temporary. He doesn't know if there is anything to story about demon worshipers or not, but he really hopes there is. If they get caught, that will mean manacles and things need to be made, and he could use the business.
General roleplaying, failed attribute checks.
The two meet up, and go talk to the priest. The church is a large stone building, with wooden pews, stained glass windows, and a pulpit at the front. A fairly standard church of the carpenter. The elf and dwarf stride in boldly, letting the priest know that all of his demon troubles are behind him. He is visibly relieved, and enthusiastically greets the pair. He tells them a fantastical story of what he believes is happening, which ranges from feasible to possibly breaking the laws of reality as we know them. What he doesn't have, is any concrete proof, specific details about who is involved, or even where this might be happening. The pair confidently assures the priest that they will take care of everything. They are able to get some holy water from the priest, as ammunition against dark beasts.
Attribute checks and some haggling social conflict.
Later that night, the elf sneaks into the church. He cast's a shadow portal spell, which connects to their room at the inn. They ransack a small closet near the pulpit that contains various items needed for the ceremony, and take a holy item; a golden-headed framing hammer. There isn't anything else of apparent value inside. They find the door to the priest's room, and hear nothing inside. No snoring, nothing. Carefully opening the door, they find the room empty. Where is the priest? They take a few minutes to trash the place, and draw a demonic looking symbol on the wall. The dwarf had cast thrum of magic, and has determined that something below the church is magic. With the assistance of his bat familiar, they find a trap door under a rug behind the pulpit. They descend into the darkness. The elf seems to be going through withdrawal, and is starting to freak out a bit. He's pretty sure they should leave, as there is probably a monster down there. What they do find at the bottom of the stairs is a small rough room. There is a sturdy locked box chained to a large stone (so it can't easily be moved) and a locked writing desk. The elf tries feebly to open the desk until he realizes it is locked, and let's the dwarf smash it open. Inside is a leather scroll, and a leather bound book. There is a passage leading out of this room, and the dwarf is detecting fairly powerful magics down there. The elf, however, is tweaking out pretty bad, and convinces the dwarf to leave with what they have. They close up behind themselves, and return to their room. Joint spell casting and full on stealth conflict, followed by some attribute checks and roleplaying to check for traps.
They meet with the priest for late breakfast (as previously planned), where he tells them about how his room was ransacked and desecrated, while he slept. So not only are the demon worshipers obviously threatened by their actions, but they must have powerful spells at their disposal in order to do what they did without waking him up. The pair press the priest some about him actually being there while it must have happened, and he sticks to his story. It is shortly after this that the rest of the party arrives in town. After asking for local news, the trainer is told the story of the travelling poodle show by the barkeeper. The trainer can't believe that a poodle show wouldn't stop due to people not being interested. How can you not be interested in a poodle show? They can fly, you know. The elf buys the trainer a goose, as a consolation prize.
Now that the goody two-shoes have arrived, the party decides to do more real investigation into what is happening. They head south of town, to the lumber camp. There are fewer people working than one would expect of a camp this size, but it does have the expected buildings and facilities. The foreman/cook, called Cooky, answers their questions. He doesn't know anything demon worshipers in the woods, but some men have reported hearing what sounds like babies crying in the woods. Some of the more superstitions men have been refusing to work, but Cooky is pretty sure that it is nothing more than somebody hearing things after drinking on the job, or at the very most maybe pixies playing tricks on people. He hasn't seen a pixie, but that sounds like something they would do. They carry on further south to the suburb of New South Shitsburg. It is a very small hamlet, consisting a kinda crappy hovels, and one nice looking building. They go to the one nice building, and are greeted by a massive mountain of a man. The elf, apparently feeling overconfident, demands answers from the man. He too has been searching for the devil worshipers in the woods, but hasn't found anything yet. He does tell them about two areas of the woods where he thinks it might be, and mentions a few that he knows where they aren't. General roleplaying, a few more attribute checks.
There is some discussion about if the man was trustworthy or not, with the elf being fairly certain he isn't, but the rest of the party thinks that he is. In the end, they decide to check out one of the places suggested by the man. They find a large clearing in the woods, in the center is a massive dead tree. It is simply evil looking, like from a cartoon where kids are lost in the woods, and the trees have hands and faces that are trying to grab the kids. So, like something from my childhood nightmares. Anyway, around the trees are several obvious fire pits, ready to go, and a large flat stone. On closer inspection the stone appears to be stained with blood, and is fairly fresh. Reasonably certain that this is the place, the group sets up to wait. The elf plants little pieces of brambles around clearing, in case he wants to cast wall of thorns. A cloth is put over the goose's cage (night time, sleep now), and the trainer is ready with a bag of treats to keep the dog quiet when necessary. And now they wait. The brambles were to be used as spell component to spring a trap, they were never used.
After waiting several hours, into late night, it happens. A procession of people approach, bearing torches. At the front is a figure dressed in jet black armour, with a large shield and helmet. Behind him are four people carrying a litter containing what looks like a man wearing a goat's head. They enter the clearing, with 11 people taking up positions around the tree and lighting the fires, and the goat headed man and knight going to the stone. It has become apparent that this isn't a man wearing a costume, but rather a goat man. The body of a man, with the hair, head, and feet of a goat. Their ceremony continues, with the formerly robed figures now naked and dancing around the flames, and knight calling out prayer in some terrible language. As the ceremony comes to a crescendo, a baby is pulled from a sack, and placed on stone altar. As he raises his knife, the monk and warrior woman rush into the clearing and attack the goatman. While the warrior woman distracted the goatman, the monk grabbed the baby and left. The trainer let loose his poodle of war, while shooting into the crowd with his bow. The dwarf runs in, while the elf tosses the goose into the fight. He had learned the spell Dire Goose from the scroll they stole from the church, so there is now a simply massive goose in the middle, attacking indiscriminately. The naked cultists have gone completely fanatical attacking the interlopers, but are largely ineffective. Through some clever tactics and good luck our heroes are able to defeat all of the cultists, incapacitate the black knight and goatman, and cripple the giant goose. They are now left with the various bodies, the evil tree, a baby, and a massive goose. A large sprawling combat dominated by the danger of large creatures and the power of trained warriors to make combat "swingy". Part of the difficulty was trying to capture rather than kill the black knight as he would be 2.5x as much experience captured.
This week I followed up with the GM to both suggest he start his own blog, and to get what mechanics went into what, at the request of Rusty. Notes about mechanics added to the writeup in italics.
"The party had just finished venturing into the maze, and were living off the goodwill from killing a bunch of goblins. The dwarven smith used the tools at the inn to make a full set of plate for one of the warriors. As he was trying to match together from many damaged suits, and the workshop at his disposal is rather basic, the armour isn't pretty. It's functional, but with mismatched pauldrons, arms, and legs. The warrior doesn't quite have the same imposing presence one in plate usually has, more of a garbage knight look. Ah well. The dwarf just had a skill in armoursmithing so the GM made a fiat that with a force and looted rusted armour a suit could be made.
The animal trainer had finished chasing wild geese, and had caught up with the party. He had made a rather poor impression last time he was here. As nobody would vouch for him, and he still had no money, they didn't let him in. He wasn't able to check if the pig was still wearing pants or not.
The party continued on to the dwarven ruin, still intent on forging the monks something into something. Still working on back story. On the way the animal trainer was able to catch a fox eating some roadkill. He captured it in his tiny net, and threw it into a cage that he just now happened to have. The rest of the trip to the ruin was uneventful. The bard made an attack roll on the fox with a throwing net, which has the "entangling" tag to effectively grapple it remotely.
Peering down the main hall from the entrance, the party can clearly see that one of the two doors has been smashed down, and the other is very badly damaged. The burnt corpse is still burnt and dead. The sneak up to the open door and see two spheres still in place. The wizard is able to erect a magical stone wall in front of both of the doorways, sealing in the automatons. You would think that something like this would activate them (if anything was going to), but there was no response. The wizard had a barrier spell from "Hark! A Wizard" that made stone walls slowly form, the wizard expended all of their mana, and then went slightly bonkers by taking stress damage to overcast.
While the wizard stood watch at an intersection, the rest of the group snuck up to forge area. Their sneaking apparently wasn't very good, as the two automatons activate. This is the first time the party has one of these in full battle mode. It's bottom half stays as a ball, but it's top half is humanoid, with a torso, head, and two arms. It's kinda like the ball droids from the Star Wars prequels. Or like the dwarven spheres from Skyrim. In fact, it's exactly like the ones from Skyrim. The party took enough suspicion to trigger a random encounter.
The metal warriors are very tough and strong, but the two of them do not stand up to the four people beating on them. The animal trainer even threw his tiny net on one. The tiny net was less than effective, however. As the two automatons were being destroyed, two more rolled in from the hallway the wizard was watching, and another from the other side. Things were looking good for the automaton guards. Then, the wizard threw up a wall of thorns blocking the incoming pair, and the two in the forge were defeated. That left the one coming up hall, that was very quickly defeated. This left the party all the time they needed to set up for for the last two as soon as they broke through the thorns. This seemed to be standard fighting, with the wizard using a different variant of the barrier spell to throw up walls of thorns much quicker. Still out of mana the wizard used up piety as they had the Mysticism ability
As there didn't appear to be anything else interesting on this level, they made their way down to the second floor. They remembered the gas leak, and sent a lit torch down the elevator. The explosion was quite impressive. The party then descended, and took the time to check out the cave. They didn't have a good plan for dealing with the massive robot/golem thing, and may have been stalling. In the cave, they found whomever left the second bedroll in the ruin's entrance. Well, they found half of that someone. The other half was either eaten by a troll (according to the dwarf), or a deep canary (according to the animal tamer). They set up a rather clever ambush for the troll, while the animal tamer went looking for the deep canary. He was also the bait for the ambush. It turns out to actually a troll, which tried it's best to eat the animal tamer. As he quickly fled through the ambush, the rest of the party leapt on the poor, defenseless troll, and killed it. Poor troll. Combat and some stealth conflict to ambush the troll, also a social conflict to taunt the troll.
The party then collected the troll, as well as all of the automaton parts they could carry, with the intent on reverse-engineering the various spells, and returned back to the tower. The monk did not get his thing forged, unfortunately. He was not pleased. The Dwarf has the sage wizard ability and wants to dissect/disassemble the troll and automatons to learn new spells from them."