Sunday, December 4, 2022

Something in the Water: Saturday's Session

Got together with a couple of my players for a pick-up session and dinner last night. We met at a local bottle shop and grabbed to-go Thai. The cast of characters:

  • Jax - barbarian
  • Bonk - fighter
  • Stumbleduck - halfling
The party began their day with some leisurely fishing/breakfast after the previous session's Wyvern-giving celebration. Bonk and local fisherman Xusto Goyanes plied the river, while Jax fished from the shore and Stumbleduck oversaw the operation with a picnic breakfast.

Sure enough, the boat was attacked by a giant frog. The party dispatched it, and retrieved some gold in gut-treasure. Xusto added the frog to his drying rack with the remainder of the morning's catch. 

While the frogs are a common pest/hazard in the river, as the party has previously encountered, they typically shy away from settled areas, so this attack indicated increasing aggression from the amphibians. Something had changed recently, and the party figured an investigation was in order.

After some deliberation, the party opted to pursue an amphibious operation, with the three PCs on horseback, and Xustos and Herbie the Hook-handed Hireling following by boat (and perhaps playing bait, but that wasn't mentioned to them...). Angilbart Tunnelly, halfling tinkerer, and "cousin" to Stumbleduck, offered her the chance to field-test a repeating crossbow that he'd been working on. Excited by the new toy, Stumbleduck accepted.

The party worked their way upstream, finding nothing of value in their search. The land became wilder, and the shore overgrown. The party camped along the shore, pulling up the boat. On first watch, something was heard in the shoreline rushes. Bonk, on watch, woke the rest of the party. Stumbleduck tossed a torch to illuminate the area, and found herself staring at several pairs of bulbous eyes.

these guys

Frog-guys, not frogs. They nervously stared at one another, and Stumbleduck offered them some dried fish. The leader elbowed one of his subordinates to check the proffered food, and it was found acceptable. The party attempted to communicate with the humanoids but to no avail. Fortunately, Xustos had some rough language skills and through some halting communication and charades, the frog-men communicated that the water had become tainted. They faded into the night, and the party passed the remainder of the night without incident.

Starting out the next morning, the party discovered a lake. Searching the shoreline, they found a suspicious sheen on the water. 

Nothing to worry about

Working their way around the shore, they eventually found the source of the contaminated runoff, tracking it to a cave (of course). Bonk trooped in, triggering a deadfall for some damage. Shaking it off, the party entered, discovering fetid, ponded water. Jax took point, poking at the water, and was surprised by an ooze. Fortunately, the ooze's pseudopod blows went wide, and the barbarian dodged them. Herbie wasn't so lucky, taking an acidic blow and succumbing. The party went off on the ooze, avenging their hapless mook. Some gems found near the ooze made was a minor consolation. They further investigated the cavern, finding some old carvings before noticing a trickle of sheen and moving back into the network.

They were set upon by an apparition and thrown stones and scorpions bounced off their armor. Stumbleduck, sensing that the "apparition" was false, shot it twice with her new crossbow, slaying one concealed kobold and badly injuring a second. The party scuffled with several kobolds who sniped at them and threatened them with scorpion-on-a-stick. The party triumphed, driving the survivors farther into the cave...

...where the party was confronted by a caped figure who shouted at them for disturbing his works. After some shouting back and forth, the sides closed, with the bad guy handicapping Jax with a Ray of Enfeeblement. The party made some failed rolls, allowing the necro-chemist to cast Sanctuary upon himself. The party (except Stumbleduck) couldn't overcome the protective magic. Then the prototype crossbow jammed, which brought the fight to a stalemate. The party retreated, laying in wait for the bad guy. He eventually emerged, and was ambushed. The party investigated the lair, disabling an overflowing cauldron and series of retorts, the source of the corrupting runoff. 

They also found a carved wooden box. After some judicious poking, they cautiously opened it, finding the box filled with darkness. After much experimentation that confirmed that it wasn't a Something of Holding, the box was upended, and a piece of darkness fell out. Experimenting with the item, it was found to be a piece of shadow, useful for concealing characters or items.

Departing the cave, the party once again spotted the frog-men. They gave the amphibians the thumbs-up, and the frog-men disappeared into the undergrowth. The party then returned to town, discretely interring Herbie at the town cemetery with the help of one of their cleric contacts. 


Afterword: The session was pretty much improv, starting with the question of what the characters were doing the morning after the feast. I'd had a couple of scenarios in mind, but the frog hunt/water mystery was something to be pursued. After all, part of my real-world job is chasing down sources of contamination (and the occasional associated sheens), so it's not a stretch... Always look upsteam...

The cavern, foes, and magic item were, in part, randomly selected using my 2022 OPD contest entry with some on-the-fly modding.

And honestly - the frog dudes (as "gullygugs") were randomly rolled from the Advanced Fantasy Reference encounter tables. Trust the dice...

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