Skip to main content

Unfathomable! Session 16

  Ye Dogs of Destiny are befuddled by the Oracle of the Pit, disgusted by the life cycle of Chaos Flies, and tantalized by a mysterious frozen cave!

The Campaign: Operation Unfathomable! and Odious Uplands!, both by Jason Sholtis

The Ruleset: 5e

Ye Dogs of Destiny:

  • Brother Ded, a monk/political shit-stirrer. 
  • Mort, a fugitive from Imperial justice.
  • Greta, a baby-eating hag-turned-Citizen Lich. 
  • Ulther, a ranger and artifact smuggler. (Accompanied by his Uncle Henrik's soul in a magic ring)
  • Zinee, a wooly neanderthal druid/cosmetologist. (Currently haunted by Mother Futility)
  • Toljin, a magical boy raised by pirates. 
  • Doloth, an unwilling-Citizen Lich.

The Story So Far

Ye Dogs of Destiny have traveled into the Underworld in pursuit of the legendary Nul Rod. After plundering the Temple of Nul and barely escaping the attentions of Thrantrix the Ineffable, they have returned to Professor Thontorius's flying sauce for a night of rest and recuperation.

Session 16

Psaltir 18 (6th day in the Underworld), 3rd Bell

The party was feeling much better after a restful night, and spent a fair amount of time reaffirming their goals, discussing their progress, and strategizing about next steps. They reviewed the map of everywhere they'd been so far, compared it to the roughly approximate map they'd picked up back in Fort Enterprise, and picked a region they felt needed exploration.

Auruna, leader of the Apis Irregulars, offered a heartfelt apology to the Dogs. She used them as scapegoats in Fort Enterprise, and now they had rescued her. She pledged them her service (barring only her prior commitments to the Apis Irregulars and her family). 

The PCs hate Auruna. They were seriously considering killing her while she was unconscious back at the Temple, and only spared her because they like Smash Hannigan, who is sweet on her. But they seemed to take this apology as sincere, and gave her back one of the chained sending stones so that she could get her grandfather off their back.

Auruna also caught the party up on the fact that District Inspector Reginar Eiffel was in the Underworld, searching for Mort. Then she, Smash, and Krodok decided to head back the Devil's Highway to look for signs of the other Apis Irregulars. They agreed to come back to the saucer after this, in order to connect with ye Dogs of Destiny, before heading back to the surface to connect with Captain Yeel of the Imperial Army, in keeping with her grandfather's wishes.

The Party decided to head out, too. It wasn't too long before they noticed that they were being followed by a procession of floating skulls. It was made up of a variety of skulls, from small rodents to humanoids to reptilian giants. Their empty eye sockets glowed an eerie green. They trailed about 40' behind the party, stopping when they stopped, and not engaging when Brother Ded ran back to confront them. So the Party shrugged and marched on.

Next they came across a cavern with an endless pit in the bottom of it. A voice boomed out of it: "I am the Oracle of the Pit! I know the number of the sand and the measure of the sea; I understand the speech of the dumb and see the unseen. Come, speak your questions!"

They asked various questions, which it answered with vague parables and obtuse metaphors. Greta asked about Captain Yeel (with whom she has some history), and was told a tale of two leather thongs hanging from an ox's yoke. The disembodied voice was chatty and clearly wanted to company. It mentioned that it had eyes to the south, and that Shaggath-Ka was beyond its sight. It had seen Doloth when he was alive on the frozen steppes, milking goats. Apparently, after infinite scrolling through the universe with its infinite awareness, the Oracle liked to unwind by watching cute scenes of animals.

When the party asked the Oracle about the Nul Rod, it said "I will say only this: follow the flies." And, by gum, if they didn't hear the distant buzzing of flies!

After some auditory tracking, they found themselves in a cavern that reeked of decay and contained a massive heap of carrion. The ceiling was covered in flies the size of house cats with the heads of withered old men and lidless, staring eyes. The spell casters were full of plans to kill all the flies with an area-effect spell, and the roguish characters were debating the likelihood of there being treasure mixed in that mountain of gristle. Fortunately, Doloth the Goat Milker stayed out of these debates and instead watched the flies. He saw a pattern of flies bringing in grisly bits and depositing them on the mountain, and then flying up to the ceiling with the others. Periodically a fly would come down and eat its fill, but then linger on the heap. Once about six flies had gathered on the heap, they grouped up and flew away to the north. 

The Party followed. Past the Science Fungoids Research Garden. Back past the Oracle. Through winding passages. Until the came to a small cavern filled with ice and snow. Here, the horrible chaos flies laid their eggs in the snow, which hatched as snow maggots. In the center of the cavern was a pillar of ice, and frozen in the pillar was a young woman with brilliant green eyes, draped in fine raiment from a bygone age. And at the base of the column... the body of Prince Eyrean! Prince Eyrean, who set this whole ball rolling when he stole the Nul Rod from his father's vault and came to the Underworld to kill Shaggath-Ka.

The party set upon the Prince's body, hoping to find the Nul Rod, but it was pretty picked over. They did find a bat-eared metal cap under his hat, and ring that had a tingle of magic to it, and a massive diamond under the skin over his ribcage (a Murian noble's idea of an emergency find).

Zinee noticed a 1' diameter tunnel leading out of the cavern. She turned into a snow rabbit and hopped through it, to the immediate consternation of her crew. She came across a miniature metropolis carved out of ice, inhabited by half-inch tall humans dressed in skins and furs. And in the center of this city a curious rod-shaped obelisk had recently been erected, still hooked up the tackle and pulleys used to put it in place.

Zinee, seeing that the micro-inhabitants of the city had spotted her on their periphery and were wheeling out itty bitty ballistas, returned to wooly neanderthal form, and went Gulliver-Kaiju on them, snatching up the rod and running. There was a little bit of very one-sided combat, as they city folk tried to stop her and the Party ran around to another passage to give aid. Brother Ded was able to communicate with one of them long enough to gather that they were once normal humans and their scriptures assured them that bathing in this rod's emanations would return them to their former size. The Party found this interesting but not compelling, and scarpered with the campaign's big McGuffin, the Rod of Nul!


I'd prepared my notes on these caverns a few weeks earlier, and hadn't specifically reviewed them for this session. I felt on my back foot, not having all the facts fresh in my brain, and didn't represent them quite as well as I'd have liked to. With the Oracle in particular, I slipped into the sort of bathic, fourth-wall pushing humor I typically eschew. It's good for a laugh, but it feels hacky to me. Oh well.

Anyway, now the party has some big choices ahead. They could keep exploring the Underworld. They could go kill Shaggath-Ka. They could leave the Underworld with prize in hand. They could destroy the Nul Rod. I have no idea what they'll choose.


Popular posts from this blog

Knaves, fancypants

I've prepared a new layout document of Ben Milton's Knaves . Knaves is a great, light rules set that has an extremely elegant core mechanic while retaining total compatibility with OSR material. It's pretty much the rpg of my dreams. This document contains the complete rules, plus a bunch of useful hacks from the community, plus a few of my invention, plus some useful resources from Ben Milton's previous effort, Maze Rats . EDIT: I've updated the layout to fix errata and make a few tweaks. Further, I've made 3 variations: KNAVES TABLET LAYOUT The Tablet Layout is meant for scrolling on screens, and contains hyperlinks. KNAVES SPREAD LAYOUT The Spread Layout is set up to print on Letter-sized paper. KNAVES A4 LAYOUT The A4 Layout is set up to print on A4 paper, and is probably the most elegant of the three versions. This is presented with generous permission from Ben Milton, and should in no way be an excuse for not purchasing a copy of Knav

Reviewing Rules for Play-by-Post Optimization

I’ve played a lot of PbP games: all your favorite flavors of OD&D, AD&D, and their retroclones, Call of Cthulhu, Marvel Superheroes, Traveller, Dungeon World, etc. ad nauseam. In almost every instance, I forgot what ruleset we were using at some point. Which is a good thing. Once chargen is over, you spend a lot more time describing your characters actions and poring over the GM’s descriptions than you spend interacting with rules. When you do roll, it’s usually a combat to-hit roll, which you’ve probably programmed into the online dice-roller as a macro. Pretty much any game will work for PbP. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t points of possible optimization. Point 1: Resolution. Anything that can keep the action moving is a boon to PbP. A game that requires a back-and-forth exchange of information to resolve an action is going to progress very slowly. A good rule of thumb is that it’ll take 2 or 3 days to get a response from any given player. At that pace, an exch

Maze Rats by Post

In my previous post , I reviewed a bunch of my favorite rulesets for optimization for Play-by-Post. It occurred to me almost immediately that I hadn't really thought about Maze Rats enough. In fact, I'd mis-remembered and mischaracterized it. Upon reflection, one of the mechanics I took issue with is actually a big strength. Re-reading the rules, it seems like just a few very simple hacks could make it a highly-optimized PbP game. As follows: Danger Rolls are rolled by the GM. Danger rolls usually fail, so it is in the player’s interest to describe their actions plausibly and mitigate as many risks as they can, in the hopes that they don’t trigger a danger roll. 2d6 + ability bonus ≥ 10 If you have taken enough precautions to have a distinct advantage in an action, but not enough to have eliminated the distinct possibility of danger, the GM will give you a roll with advantage. 3d6 keep 2 + ability bonus ≥ 10 Because each character only has 3 ability scores (S