Thursday, 15 December 2016

[Actual Play] Blood For The Frog God: The Terrible Triumph of Team Tsathogga

Team Tsathogga has met for the last time in 2016. I shall finish off this series of actual play reports by recording their questionable adventures for the benefit of posterity. I may or may not resume them when the group gets back together in the New Year.

So the cloud monster crashed into the village. Of course it did. Hogarth yanked his head out of the interface just before its impact, blood streaming from his eyes, ears, and nose, just as the sound of impact and unearthly screeching woke everyone in the sleeping village. As the chief and his family stumbled from their beds in confusion, the PCs fled the room, then the house, and then the village, running out into the forests to hide while the monster randomly smashed things until someone - presumably the village chief - used the machine to get it under control. Meeting up with their 'A team' in the forest, whose pursuers had run back to the village when the monster attacked, they agreed that the only place on the island which was now likely to be safe for them were the chambers under the ancient arena, where they could rely on the part-robot ape-man arena champion to defend them. They thus hiked back across the island under the cover of darkness, told the champion that a bunch of people in purple might be coming to challenge him, and hid in the subterranean rooms beneath the arena floor.

Sure enough, they were followed: and a few hours later a group of huntsmen from the village arrived at the arena, following their trail, and led by a man in purple who carried some kind of large glass jar on a metal ring in lieu of a weapon. Spying on this group from the entrance to their chamber, Circe waited until the leader was facing towards the arena, and then sneakily cast a Command spell on him, ordering him to 'charge'. He promptly ran into the arena itself - an act which, as the PCs had expected, was interpreted by the hulking champion as a challenge. The ape-robot-monster leapt on the unfortunate man and began tearing him to pieces, ignoring his attempts to brandish the glass jar at it. His followers opened fire on the beast with bows, thus demonstrating (from its perspective) that they were part of the challenge as well; and once it had finished murdering their leader it pursued them, howling, into the ruins. The PCs waited quietly, listening to the twanging of bowstrings and the screams of dying men, until finally the champion staggered back into the arena, bristling with arrows and leaving a trail of blood behind him, to declare himself still undefeated. Then he fell over and passed out.

Curious about the glass jar, the PCs used Circe's poking stick to roll it off the arena without actually setting foot in it. It turned out to be a preserved human head in a jar of viscous fluid, which - when questioned - turned out to be capable of limited (and headache-inducing) telepathic communication. Talking to the head, they learned that its name was Marcus, and that in life it had lived in the village, although being turned into a head-in-a-jar and used as a portable psychic raygun had evidently eroded his loyalty towards the community he had once called home. What Marcus really wanted was a new body, and the PCs earnestly promised to try to find him one if he would help them with their adventures.

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Knowing that more hunters would soon be upon them, the PCs sneaked back across the island to the hidden hatch of the tunnel-dwellers, who were not at all pleased to see them. Jack, who had now recovered from his near-drowning, used all his considerable charisma and devastating good looks to persuade their sentry to permit them passage, promising that if they did it would soon be possible to rid the islands of the cloud-monster for good; but while Jack's charms sent the watchman swooning, the best he could offer was to relay the suggestion to his superiors. With several hours to wait, and convinced that their enemies could be upon them at any minute, the PCs retreated into the still-unexplored ruins in the west of the island, where they found (and ignored) evidence that someone or something was still living in one of the buildings, under a sealed manhole. Sure enough, another group of hunters soon came looking for them, led by a swaggering woman wielding a sword - but the PCs blew her up with a volley of ranged and magical attacks from ambush, and the rest of the hunters fled, their morale crumbling after witnessing their leader's death. Eager to experiment with his new necromancy, Hogarth insisted on taking her corpse with them as they hurried back to the hidden hatch, where - to their enormous relief - they were granted sanctuary in the tunnels.

After taking another of their now-familiar blindfold marches through the tunnels to the north-eastern island, the PCs reconvened with Amelia to discuss how best to proceed. Amelia was confident that her men could easily seize the village (and the machine) if only the monster could be removed from the equation; and after a lengthy process of planning and discussion, they finally hit upon a plan. Amelia would gather up the church's soldiers and lead them through the tunnels, ready to emerge for a sudden surprise attack on the village under the cover of darkness. The savage tribesmen from the nearby village that the PCs had taken over would go with them, and would launch an initial, diversionary assault on the village, which would hopefully draw away the cloud-monster. Andrew would then fly over to the chief's house, carrying Hash, who would keep them both concealed with a Darkness spell; they would then crash in through the chief's window and kill whoever was operating the machine, thus breaking their ability to control the monster. At this point, Amelia's soldiers would begin the main assault and hopefully capture the village. Jack was sent off to persuade the tunnel-dwellers to allow a small army to march through their secret tunnels, promising that they would not just be blindfolded but also have their hands tied for the duration, and Erin and Circe rounded up the tribesmen for what they hoped was not going to turn out to be a suicide mission.

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'Come on, guys! Some of you might even live through this!'

In the end, the plan worked... mostly. The tunnel-dwellers allowed the soldiers to use their tunnels. Hogarth animated the corpse of the dead woman and sent her stumbling into the village as a diversion from the diversion, allowing the tribesmen to approach the settlement without being spotted. When they broke cover, the cloud-monster, predictably, went hurtling after them, and they fled back into the trees; this was Andrew and Hash's cue to assault the chief's house, crashing in through the window and blasting the chief with Magic Missiles and Kroak's borrowed laser sword while he was still interfaced with the machine. As he died, losing control of the cloud-monster, it reverted to aimlessly flailing away at the woods it was hovering over; the rest of the PCs then helped to lead the charge into the village, barrelling over the panicked defenders. Amelia's war-leader, Sarah, gallantly led from the front, flaming sword in hand: she was promptly shot full of arrows upon arriving in the main village square, but Kroak and Circe's healing magic sufficed to save her life, and Hash and Erin took out the archers with some eagle-eyed sniping of their own. As resistance disintegrated, Amelia strode into the village, not a hair out of place, and announced that the villagers were now duly punished for their act of unprovoked aggression in setting their monster on the ship which had originally tried to contact them. They were henceforth subjects of the Church of the Bright Lady, and would revere her accordingly.

Soon afterwards, the surviving tribesmen came stumbling out of the forest, where it turned out that half of them had been eaten by the cloud-monster before Hash had been able to deactivate the beast. Still, with this village conquered, the mutant ape-men slain, and Hologram Head defeated, the PCs and their allies now more-or-less had control over two of the three islands, as well as a machine which would (imperfectly) let them control a giant purple cloud-monster, the true capabilities of which were still unknown. Circe was already talking wildly about using it to build an empire on the mainland, though...

And thus Team Tsathogga rested, having gone over the course of twelve sessions from a disorganised rabble of level 0 serfs to an equally disorganised rabble of level 2 and 3 characters with mad ambitions to take over the world. Only one of the three Purple Islands still defied them.

Zombie Mountain awaits...


  1. What this reminds me of most, in terms of the utter amoral destruction the PCs seem to bring on virtually everyone they encounter, is Kugel the Clever. Is Vance a conscious inspiration for this specifically, or for the OSR in general?

    1. Oh, *harsh*. I don't think any of them are nearly as evil as Cugel. 'Utter amoral destruction' is pretty accurate, though.

      I don't think any of the players in this group have read Vance, but, yes, his ancient, amoral world of weird machines and fading enchantments is a huge inspiration for both OSR D&D in general and this game in particular. Nothing in the game itself pushes the PCs to behave in a particularly amoral fashion, though. The players - especially the ones who are new to D&D - just really like wrecking stuff!