Wednesday, August 1, 2012

DCC: Sailors on the Starless Sea Play Report

And without as much delay, it's time to talk about the second session of the DCC store campaign. I intended to play up "Sailors on the Starless Sea" for level 1's as our second outing.  I named the village after one of the cities in Blackmarsh since I toyed with using it as a DCC campaign setting. Of the original party all the players turned back out save one (Falcor) so I was pretty pleased. In addition, we had three new players at the table as well. One happened to be one of our Encounters players, another wanting to try DCC before he went to Gen-Con and the final, to my surprise, the guy who used to be over the Encounters program and passed the torch on to me. He happens to be moving away and has been in-between places for a bit. He took part in the level-0 demo and basically turned out for a final hurrah with a revised version of his level-0 survivor before the move was finished; a very pleasant surprise for me.

Of the three new players, they rolled up a Dwarf, another Elf and another Wizard. The surge of spellcasters was not much of an issue since I had rolled up a Thief for Markav's player to swap over to and try out. Still, without Falcor's player present it meant that the party had no Cleric. None of the new players seemed that interested in running a Cleric and nobody else wanted to change their character. Keeping to the DCC mantra, I decided to roll with it and let things fall as they may.

Character creation went smooth and even had some hilarious moments spawned by the random rolls. Our surprise guest was crafting the Wizard with a concept, as you'll see below, that he is a clone spawned through a spell by a once powerful sorcerer. When doing the rolls for Mercurial Magic effects, he got the result for one spell where casting it called forth seven copies from alternate dimensions. Given the history he came up with, it could not have been more perfectly fitting.

The session itself went great. The only real hang-up on my end was a question about how much HP was restored by camping for the night. I felt it was 1 HP, but wasn't confident and ran into trouble looking it up in the book. The lack of an index was felt. Regardless, a little downtime for that wasn't too bad and overall I felt much more at home with the rules. I didn't have a chance to print any spells out for people so for the time being we continued with the results being a surprise for our spellcasters.

Speaking of the spellcasters, surprisingly not a single 1 was rolled during the entire game. Thus far, every game I have ran or played in has always had at least one instance of a fumble or spell misfire. It was a little disappointing. I don't wish ill on my players but I think the spell misfires and corruption happen to be one of the most exciting elements to the magic system, but I suppose that just happens sometimes. Unlike last time, the party actually bypassed several areas in the module and missed some of the secrets so there was less concern about a bloat of magic items. 

I had one instance of going easy on the group. I re-positioned the green powder that could be used to making healing potions and placed it within the secret compartment of the chest in the secret vault. At that point, they had multiple characters sitting around 2 HP and knowing what was ahead I tried to show a little mercy on the lack of a Cleric. The group will be losing Zaronius and Ozwald due to the above mentioned move; although they really want to play DCC more and we've talked about looking into the logistics of playing some through something like Roll20 so this might not be the last time their exploits are spoken of. Markav's player was pleased with the Thief so the party won't be without one. However, I worry for their future if they continue on without a Cleric. 

Next time, I'll be starting them on "People of the Pit" and it will likely be the final module before I advance them to second level. I've come to realize that there will be a lack of modules going forward if I want to increase the time it takes for each level to come; matching the way XP goes. I will likely have to delve into third party level 0/1 modules and work out scaling them up to some degree. However, that's a bridge to cross when it comes.

First, some updates to to the general information since this session saw several new characters added to our cloud of heroes:

New Heroes:
7) Dagnabbit: A dwarven astrologer. Discontent with having to leave the caves where he lived to view the heavens only to return at night, Dagnabbit took up the life of an adventurer so he could study the sky from all across the land freely.

8) Gerard: A thief belonging to a widespread crime organization with branches located throughout the known world. Under the guise of a bard travelling to spread the joys of music to everyone, Gerard seeks news of gold and treasure for the profit of his gang and the hopes of rising through the ranks.

9) Sheldon Silvermoon: Another Elf and follower of the King of Elfland. Like Jace, he too wanders the lands. However, he seeks to defeat powerful monsters and the forces of Chaos that prey upon innocent people.

10) A to Zaronious: The 26th incarnation of  Zaronious  the Destroyer, one of the most intelligent mages to walk the lands and who has contributed much in the study of magic. In his old age, he felt he still had much to offer the world, but not enough time to do so, so he created the Infinite Me spell. The spell was supposed to make him immortal by returning his body to a much younger version of himself, but it started spawning young clones instead. Although the original is long dead, young Zaronian copies still occasionally poof out of thin air, creating a somewhat unconventional form of immortality. These adult copies posses the same magical inclinations, though their powers development seem to vary with each copy. A to  Zaronious is one such clone, and is a drunk who loves the ladies and his herbs, and has an extensive knowledge of both. He is fearless (partly from the herbs and partly because he knows his death is meaningless as another would eventually appear in his place) and is prone to taking unnecessary risks, especially if they would impress a woman. He often experiments with his herbs and magic, sometimes to fantastical, and other times to disastrous results.

New Locations:
-Ethanfeld: A simple village situated near a large hill that overshadows the town. The hill holds a massive keep that overlooks a small sea. There are abundant rumors suggesting that the keep was once the hold of Chaos Lords. Recently, beastmen began descending from the keep and kidnapping villagers though for what purpose remained unclear.

And then the session itself:

Chapter 02: Sailors on the Starless Sea

I. Parting Ways
-The party spent the following week relaxing at the Wolf Spear Inn and reveling in their victory over The Hound. With Hirot no longer stalked by the beast, trade began once more. Dealing with merchants, the party was able to sell some of the treasure gained from the savage king's tomb. Jarppie made a particularly profitable exchange fetching a large sum of gold for the silver wolf pelt he had lifted from the tomb.

-During this time Sylle Ru, adviser to the Jarl, passed away. It seemed that his fervor in trying to stop the hound had rapidly withered away what remained of his life. Tension seemed to rise as the town realized that, once the party moved on, they would have no one present to deal with matters of the arcane.

-Growing ready for another adventure, the party prepared to head forth from Hirot seeking rumors. As luck would have it, Lloré returned to the village from a small trek bringing with him four adventurers that were on their way southwest. It seemed there were rumors that the town of Ethanfeld was being plagued by beastmen descending from a ruined keep that rested on a hill overlooking the village.

-Lloré introduced these adventurers, Dagnabbit, Gerard, Sheldon Silvermoon and A to Zaronius to the heroes that have saved Hirot suggesting it might be beneficial for them to pool their efforts. After some discussion, the two parties agreed to work together as one. However, it seemed not everyone intended to go along.

-Feeling the call of Aristemis guiding him elsewhere, Falcor gave the party his blessing stating his plans to travel elsewhere. He assured them that if they ever crossed paths again, they could count on his aid. More surprising, however, Markav decided to stay behind in Hirot. He had taken a fondness for the remote town and felt worried for their future after the loss of Sylle Ru. Instead, Markav planned to become a permanent resident and take up Sylle Ru's position as an advisor on all things magical to the Jarl.

-Parting ways with two of their companions, the new party set forth from Hirot heading southwest. After several days of uneventful travel, finding the weather slowly growing warmer, the party reached the tiny village of Ethanfeld. They found the town gripped with fear and villagers confirmed that for the past week or two beastmen had been raiding Ethanfeld and stealing away its citizens. So far the beastman had not attacked anyone so it was unknown whether they were killing their captives or storing them for something worse.

-Asking around the village, the party learned various rumors about the keep including tales of vast treasure hidden underneath and whispers that it was once ruled over by two Chaos Lords. Wasting little time, the party advanced on the keep.

II. The Ruined Keep
-Dealing with the harsh conditions of vine overgrown paths and a foul miasma the party pressed on past the pestilence of thousands of insects filling the air to reach the battered keep on the hill. Fearing traps, the party opted to sneak around to the western side of the keep rather than approach the front gates directly.

-From the western side, the party discovered an area of the keep's wall that had collapsed in becoming a massive pile of rubble and debris. With his knowledge of stonework, Dagnabbit quickly identified weak areas that might cause an avalanche and was able to guide the party over the rubble and into the courtyard of the keep.

-In the courtyard, the party discovered various tracks depicting human and wolf-like footprints, talon like prints of a bird and even a single straight line that slithered from side to side. Presuming these to be signs of the beastmen, the party began to proceed cautiously.

-From the courtyard the party approached a nearby well with a block and tackle situated to leave a chain going down into the well itself. Carefully studying the well, the party drew up the chain to find nothing on the end. Another party member tossed a rock down the well never hearing the sound of impact.

-Coming closer, Sheldon peered within the well itself and began to feel an unnatural draw in his mind pulling him closer. However, he was able to overcome this compulsion and warned the group of the danger. This came just in time as Zaronious had been preparing himself to dive down the well.

-Realizing the well could only be trouble, Jarppie retrieved the chain and added it to his pack before the party continued exploring the keep's courtyard.

-Noting a ruined building marked by gargoyles within the keep, the party moved to explore it. Inside they found the room heated as if it was still burning. They also found several charred skeletons as well as some blackened weapons and armor. In the center of this small chapel rested a fountain depicting a squat demonic toad that had a foul black ichor pouring from its lips into a basin at the foot of the construct.

-Ulfric carefully approached the fountain finding the heat grew the closer in proximity he came towards the statue. Meanwhile, Sheldon discovered a golden censer along with 3 incense cones which was quickly claimed by Zaronious after noting its purpose. Curious about the black ooze, Ulfric donned his blacksmith gloves and tried to examine the fountain.

-To his surprise the foul ichor sprang to life, in fact a living ooze, and quickly tried to wrap around Ulfric's arm igniting him aflame. As he worked to put the fire out, the rest of the party pulled together to dispatch the foul creature.

-With only a nearby tower remaining to explore, the party studied it from the outside noting movement within. With a feat of strength, Jarppie managed to use a grappling hook with some rope and get a firm hold on one of the openings higher up the tower thinking such an entrance might avoid troubles caused from waltzing in the front door.

-Once the party safely made the climb, they found the inside of the tower held a spiral staircase ascending to the top. Along the walls, battered and in poor condition, were chained the villagers from Ethanfeld. As Zaronious began to zealously free any women among the captives, a snarling horde of beastmen emerged at the top of the tower. Led by a much larger bull-like beastman, they raced down the stairs hoping to stop the intruders from freeing their captives.

-Charging ahead, Dagnabbit and Jarppie took the front defending the rest of the party as they engaged the beastmen on the narrow tower steps. The rest of the group attacked at range or slung spells marveling the captives with their show of power. Ultimately, the beastmen were put to rest as Jace summoned a massive blast of flames engulfing their Champion and sending him stumbling over the edge of the steps hurtling to the tower floor.

-In the aftermath, the rest of the villagers were freed. An old man mentioned that some of their friends had been taken to the top of the tower and never returned prompting the party to realize their task was not yet complete. Meanwhile, Zaronious chatted up one of the women he had freed receiving a promise that she would reward his heroic efforts upon the party's return to Ethanfeld.

-With the villagers saved, the party searched the rest of the tower in hopes of uncovering some of the rumored treasure. Some small caches of coins were found along with an ornate short sword likely worth something. On the body of the beastmen's Champion the party discovered that he had been wearing an imposing silver torc hung with bleached skulls. The spellcasters in the group could sense the power of Chaos radiating from the relic. Jokingly, Zaronious donned the torc.

-Moving to the top of the tower, the party discovered the stairs lead into a small room in the side of the keep itself. From here stairs descended down further and further moving into total darkness revealing a dungeon below. Aware of the side effect to one of his spells, Sheldon mumbled a few words causing his forehead to alight from a shining blue star. Using this as guiding light, along with a torch lit by Jarppie, the party explored below.

-Reaching the bottom of the steps, the party discovered a few stray gold pieces. Carefully searching the room, they found the door to a secret vault. Within, three treasure chests were discovered alongside coins strewn everywhere. It seemed the that this had once been a treasure vault, but was recently raided.

-Between the chests and the stray coins, the party managed to gather a hefty bit of treasure. Studying the center chest carefully, Gerard was able to notice a hidden compartment on the bottom. Ever cautious from his guild's training, Gerard detected the compartment was trapped and devised a solution to spring the trap without harming anyone.

-Within, Gerard found some valuable rings and a steel vial with two doses of Black Lotus Oil which he kept secret from the group. Inside was also a silk tabard stitched with sigils of Chaos, which Zaronious donned to further his mock attire, and a leather pouch containing a granular green powder.

-The party puzzled over the powder until Zaronious, in a moment of seriousness, identified it as a reagent that when mixed with wine or water could form a healing poultice. Working together with Jace, who provided several empty vials being an alchemist, the two took some time to brew up the poultices and distribute them among the party.

-With exhaustion setting in, many injured from their multiple bouts of combat and the spellcasters in sore need of studying their spells, Dagnabbit and Jarppie noted that the vault could be a safe place to rest. Sealing the vault door from the inside, the party camped for the night alternating watches to ensure beastmen did not come back for any reason.

III. The Starless Sea
-The night passed without incident and the party awoke ready to continue. Though some were still injured, there was little they could do with only the few poultices to rely on for healing. Falcor's presence was sorely missed.

-Returning to the original path, the party entered a large hall with elaborate tile mosaics covering the walls and a large pool in the center of the room filled with thick sludge and black algae. Ozwald, Sheldon and Gerard felt a strange compulsion to check the pool and eventually each retrieved human skulls that seemed to glow slightly; these lined the bottom of the pool.

-Sensing a tie to the forces of Chaos, the party dissuaded the three from holding onto them and instead moved to explore the room and study the mosaics. Three distinct scenes were depicted. First, a hooded form standing atop a towering stone on the edge of a vast lake; seven tentacles waving from the water. Second, two armored figures holding up a single flail together, commanding legions of hunched, beast-like warriors. Finally, a low island set in the center of a black lake with a golden pyramid set atop the island and a figure armed with a flail preparing to sacrifice a maiden; this sight troubling Zaronious.

-Strewn about the room, the party discovered four black robes stitched in silver thread with bizarre sigils. Zaronious donned a robe to complete his imposing Chaos-inspired appearance while the party held on to the other three.

-Proceeding forward, the party descended more steps until the dungeon gave way to, of all things, a dark-sand beach. The beach appeared to be part of a vast underground sea. Far our, across the water, the party thought they could see a golden glow. At the water's edge an enormous menhir rested.

-Past this standing stone, a dragon-prowed longship emerged with its hull scratched full of forbidding sigils and runes that glowed with a sickly green light. Slowly, the ship came in and stopped about fifty feet from the shore. Most troubling of all, in the distance the party began to hear the beat of distant drums and wails of terror mixing in with the sound of the waves crashing into the shore.

-As the party began to explore the beach, Sheldon inspected the menhir. Carved with mesmerizing spirals, the Elf couldn't help but be drawn in by the designs and within moments seemed to snap. Drawing his blade, he turned it on Jarppie attempting to attack him as he mumbled something about a sacrifice to the great Leviathan.

-Unable to snap Sheldon from the trance, the party attempted to restrain him. Zaronious summoned up one hundred feet of rope to tie up the Elf and they left him on the beach for awhile until he managed to calm down. Sheldon seemed to have no memories of the last few minutes nor the Leviathan that he spoke of.

-While exploring the beach, the party discovered a small cave that seemed to run under the dungeon they had exited from. Inside, the inky cavern was mostly submerged with water. Curious at what was obscured by the water, Sheldon dove in and began to dig around the bottom of the pool. With luck, he lifted a plain iron ring set with three rubies that pulsed like faint embers.

-Marveling at the ring, Sheldon hoped to put it on but began to feel the effect of his iron allergy. Quickly, Sheldon tossed the ring to Zaronious who boldly put it on without examining what arcane energies might lie within the rubies. He was pleased to find that the band was imbued with several fire-related spells.

-Returning to the beach, the party decided they needed to reach the dragon ship and investigate the glow in the distance. After Ulfric failed with a complex scheme to use the wolf spear as a harpoon, Jarppie used some rope, called forth by Zaronius' magic, and cast it out at the boat with his grappling hook eventually taking hold. The party then used this rope as a safety line so they could swim out and board the boat.

-Once every member stood upon the deck, the oars of the boat sprung to life rowing on their own and pulling the dragon ship away from the shore and into the open sea. Once the ship was nearly halfway towards the island in the distance, the beat of drums growing louder, all out chaos occurred. The seas began to churn and with a thunderous screech the party came face to face with the Leviathan that Sheldon had spoken of in his trance.

-Two powerful tentacles seized the front of the dragon ship halting its advance as the party flung into action. Taking the direct approach, Jarppie led the charge as they attacked the tentacles. Meanwhile, Zaronious cast a spell summoning an orca in the waters. The orca was promptly devoured by the Leviathan buying some time, but it seemed far from enough to sake its hunger.

-As more tentacles emerged from the water, the situation began to turn against the party. Ulfric and Dagnabbit found themselves grasped and crushed by tentacles. Jarppie quickly realized the Leviathan was out of the party's league combat-wise and began suggesting the party study what items they had gathered thus far and seek for an alternative solution.

-With the gold censer coming up, Zaronious decided he might as well light it up given that they were facing impending death. As incense began to burn from the censer, the Leviathan released those held captive and spared the boat. Its tentacles paused for a moment at Zaronius' feet as if accepting him as one of the Chaos Lords and then sank back into the ocean. Unrestrained, the dragon ship continued on to the island as the party licked their wounds.

-As the island drew near the party noticed the source of the bright glow. Sitting in the center of the small landmass was a towering golden ziggurat. Hordes of beastmen crowded the steps that spiraled around the outer edge of the temple and ran to its peak. As some beastmen howled and others beat on massive hide drums, terrified prisoners were being marched up the steps in line towards the top. High atop the temple, the party could make out the fearsome silhouette of a large armored figure.

-Realizing the beastmen greatly outnumbered the already injured party, they began devising a scheme to infiltrate the ritual that seemed to be proceeding. In the end, they opted to use the other three robes to disguise some as chaos priests led by Zaronious. The others would remove their weapons and let the "priests" hide them under their robes so they might be led as prisoners.

-As they approached the ziggurat, the beastmen ushered the chaos priest to guide his sacrifices up the temple. Zaronius eagerly played his part well. One paused the group casting a discerning eye upon Zaronious, but saw fit to let them pass allowing the party to internally sigh with relief. In this way, the party slowly worked their way to the top of the temple.

-At the top, the scene was horrifying. Several beastmen were being guided by one that seemed to be a Shaman. Prisoners and a vast wealth of coins were being plunged into the opening atop the ziggurat. Within, lava was melting all that entered and swirling energy together. The party knew they would have to act soon as the ritual was nearing completion.

-Placing himself next in line, Jarppie triumphantly revealed himself as Ozwald tossed him his cleaver and the warrior attacked the Shaman. Howling with madness, the Shaman alerted those present to the attack. As some continued the ritual, the other acolytes attacked the party while the beastmen below began crowding past to ascend and join the fight.

-Amid the frenzy of battle, the magma had slowly started to rise and form into a large shape as it cooled into a hard blackened-form. Moments later, the rock crust shattered revealing the fully armored body of the Chaos Lord that the beastmen had been trying to revive: a hellish, horned humanoid, with a single cyclopean eye that blazed with infernal light. Wielding a massive black flail and clad in black plate armor the Chaos Lord proclaimed his name as Molan and swore that the forces of Chaos would once again raze the lands above before striding into battle.

-The battle was hard fought, but after taking several powerful blows Molan's body began to break down into magma. It seemed the Chaos Lord's spirit was unable to sustain its hold on a physical form so soon after the ritual's completion. With Molan and his acolytes defeated, the party worried how they might escape from the horde of beastmen below.

-However, it seemed Molan's defeat held far greater consequences. Beneath their feet, the entire temple began to shake as it started coming apart. While stone slabs began to peel away from the ziggurat, all out chaos began. With beastmen fleeing for their lives, the party began to descend the temple trying to guide what survivors they could. Noticing all the coins strewn about, unused in the ritual, most of the party tried to snatch up what they could in their descent. Jarppie happened to snatch up Molan's flail thinking it might have some value.

-As the party ushered the survivors onto the dragon ship, massive waves began to crash against the island. Finally, as the temple fell into complete ruins, a massive tidal wave surged propelling the dragon ship through the underground sea and towards a cavern wall. Ahead, through the maelstrom, the party noticed the mouth of a narrow cave. As if the gods themselves smiled upon the party for their victory, the dragon ship rode down the crest of the wave and shot through the rocky maw until the surf brought them back to the outside world.

-The ship smashed against the ground destroying it, but the party and the survivors pulled through. However, they found that the cave had dumped them out in an entirely unknown area. Ethanfeld was nowhere in sight. There was not a single familiar landmark. Who could say where they had appeared.

-In the distance, chimney smoke could be seen and with his keen eyes Sheldon noticed a town in the distance. After taking a short rest, they began gathering up the survivors. Zaronious made certain that the women stuck close to him. Together, the party marched on towards the village hoping to find a place to rest, safety for the villagers and information about where in the world they were. Regardless, the party had once more triumphed against the forces of Chaos.


  1. Excellent report! I am running this session at a FLGS next week and this report has helped me to prepare!

    1. Hey, glad to hear this write up was useful to you! Hope the session you ran went well and everyone got to enjoy some Dungeon Crawl Classics.