Episode 1, Session 1: The Portal Beneath the Stars
Good Evening and welcome to Jon’s Dungeon Crawl Classics Campaign. Tonight, ladies and gentlemen, we will be entering ‘the funnel.’ The basic premise of ‘the funnel’ is that each player generates a handful of 0 level mooks and those that survive get to become actual characters. We had a fullhouse; Dave M., Dave P., Mike C., Mike D., Reuben, Kevin S. and me (in addition to Jon C. as DM) and each player had 3 characters rolled up… so that means we were starting with 21 zero level characters! Needless to say, I don’t remember most of their names.
Some of the players(like Dave M.) had appropriate figures picked out to represent their mooks on the battle mat; others used small plastic tiles marked with cryptic hieroglyphics (Mike D had a beer stein, a pair of buttocks and what was eithersome pasta or waves drawn on his tiles) or initials and numbers for identification,so game 1 was a bit of a clusterfuck… but that was how it was supposed to be. So goodnight, good bye and good luck --- you will need it… (warning: long and chaotic story follows)
I can’t tell you much about anyone else, but I can tell you about my characters. I started off with Slobodan the Beekeeper (yes, I rolled ‘beekeeper’ on a chart so it is officialand everything) who was armed with a jar of honey and a hammer, Gregor Samsa the Elven artisan who had a staff and a lump of clay and Marlowe the elven candlemaker who had 20 candles and a pair of scissors. With our 18 assorted companions (who included peasants, a butcher, a wainwright, at least one noble, a tax collector, and an outlaw and who knows what else and were variously armed with a pushcart, a sheep, a chicken, pitchfortks, glass beads and other random things), we were attending the bedside of one of the stalwarts of the village who was drawing his last breaths. From his deathbed, old man Roberts pointed a shaking finger out the window at the rarely seen ‘Emptystar’ in the sky and wheezed that many years ago, when he was just a young shaver, he had seen that fateful star in the sky in the vicinity of an old monument near the old stone mounds… a gate had opened up to another world --- a gate that gave access to treasure and danger, but Roberts was too afraid to pass through… much to his regret, for he had to spend the next 50-60 years plowing the soil and shoveling pig shit just to barely get by… if he had taken the risk, perhaps he would have gotten rich. Now the star had reappeared but he was too old… gasp, choke, cough, mumble grumble…
We of course set off immediately for the old stone moundsand found the monument since we were familiar with the area. The monument in question looked like a stone arch without wall or door; it was an ancient thing and no one knew its purpose since it predated the village.However, today the gate looked different. Instead of being just a pile of stones with a hole in it big enough to walk through like a very modestly scaled and unornamented Arc de Triomphe, we could now see an extradimensional stone hallway through the old stone gate instead of the mounds and grass one normally might expect to see. At the end of the hall was a door. Eagerly, we butchers, bakers and candlemakers crowded in, elbowing each other out of the way in our eagerness to get rich.
The door did not budge to our gentle prodding but we did note a few small chips of gemstone embedded in the surface of the wood. One of the more well educated of our number noted that the gemstones were arranged in an order similar to the stars of the night sky… and, if one were patient, the stars ought to assume exactly this position in relation to ‘The Empty Star’later this very evening. Not content with waiting, BigShitz the dwarf (I’m not sure that was really his name --- it sounded something like that) and Lenny tried to force the door. There was a flash of light and the smell of brimstone and one of them (I think it was Lenny the wainwright) fell dead on the floor; burned to death by some sort of fire trap. Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,” in a nasal voice.
But the door was open and we could see a room where 4 statues dressed in lacquered armor holding spears stood flanking a door. As we strolled through the doorway, statues began chucking spears and those who were not killed gained spears which were much superior weapons when compared to our butter churns or bedwarming pans or whatever else we were armed with. Mooks named Marcellus, Mallikar and Othellus get either knicked by or killed with spears… Markbar the glassblower gets impaled as well…Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,” in a nasal voice. But all I remember is that my three mooks are in the back so by the time I get to the doorway, the statues are out of spears to throw. Unfortunately for us, they are also out of spears to loot, but Slobodan, Gregor Samsa and Marlowe notice that the armor on the statues looks real… and we begin undoing straps and removing the armor to wear ourselves. It’s a bit bulky and musty but it fits!
Meanwhile, the rest of the group has proceeded through the next door, driven forward by greed despite the death of 2 or 3 so far (this just means we will have to split the treasure fewer ways, right?). This is a large square room with a door in each wall and a tall statue of a barbarian with a broadsword and a grimoire standing in one corner. The statue is of obvious ancient origin, and, although crude in execution, Gregor Samsa the artisan has to admit that it had a certain barbaric vitality and the sculpture was obviously quite old, but, at more than 30 feet in height, it is not portable enough to be considered treasure. Ptath the apprentice went to investigate the sculpture and try to read the runes engraved upon the stone statue’s grimoire while Bigshitz sniffs around for gold or jewels. A few scorched patches are observed on thefloor by Ptath but he chooses not to share this information. Bigshitz then opens one of the doors other than the one we just came in from and the statue turns on its base and fires agout of flame from its hand, burning the dwarf to death. “Alas poor Bigshitz; I knew him not at all,” Marlowe muttered as he appropriated the late dwarf’s pitchfork. Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,” in a nasalvoice.
After a few more doors are tried and a few more mooks are scorched, Tor and Vos (both noblemen) decide that the statue can’t point in two places at once and both try to open and jump through doors at the opposite ends of the room simultaneously. The statue spins quickly, both Tor and Vos make it through with only slight scorching. Slobodon the Beekeeper, who is standing to one side minding his own business, gets caught in a stray gout of flame and dies a horrible death, illustrating perfectly the noble-commoner relationship. The nobles do whatever the fuck they want andthe commoners die because of it. Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,” in a nasal voice.
Vos finds himself in a musty crypt with seven niches filledwith crumbling bones. He notes withinterest that there are armor and weapons mounted on the walls and the bonesseem to be moving! The bones are old andbrittle and don’t move very well, but start crawling towards him in a menacingmanner. A skull bites him and Vosdecides he has had enough and retreats, somehow surviving the firetrap. The bones do not follow. Lance said, “I couldhave told you that was going to happen,” in a nasal voice.
Another gout of flame kills Mosair the elven glassblower. KreglarPoagseeker scavenges a hammer from the corpse of the beekeeper and attempts topound a spike into the seam between the base of the statue and the floor in order to keep it from spinning. This spike was previously the property of Lenny (I think?) but then appropriated by Gregor Samsa. After a promising start,the Poagseeker manages to bend the spike beyond usefulness and returns it toSamsa with a shrug. Lance said, “I could have told you that was going tohappen,” in a nasal voice.
Tor, meanwhile, managed to get into a short hallway thatended in another door. Eager for fameand treasure, the impetuous noble heads for the far door…
Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, Marlowe and GregorSamsa are done mourning the loss of Slobadan the beekeeper and agree that theywant to try to get some of the valuable weapons and armor in the tomb room thatVos just vacated. They manage to getinto the room without getting burned and the piles of bones slither towardsthem. Marlowe destroys one bone pilewith his pitchfork. Gregor whiffs, getsbitten on the ankle and falls over, impaling himself to death on a shard ofbone. Marlowe quickly does the math andsees six piles of bone coming after him and decides that discretion is thebetter part of valor and bugs out. Lance said, “I could have told you that wasgoing to happen,” in a nasal voice.
The gang’s only female, a somewhat addlepated tax collectorwith a name that sounds something like “Melanie Assneck,” runs through the doorthat Tor passed through backwards andit seems to work… the flames miss. A sheepfarmer who may or may not have been The Poagseeker sends his sheep forward andsees it blasted into muttonchops by the fire. One of Reuben’s characters tries to shield himself with a handcart thatwas formerly the property of another dead party member. Slightly singed, Tor and friends see achamber with clay tablets fastened all over the walls and a stone throne in themiddle of the room. A giant snake with asingle horn on its head crawls forward, hissing, “I am Ssserangnag (orsomething like that) and you intrude upon my guardianship!” Tor slams the door in the snake’s face andretreats back to the statue room, shouting “Snake! Snake!”
Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,”in a nasal voice.
One of Reuben’s mooks decides he wants Samsa’s armor andrigs a hook onto the end of a ten foot pole to drag the corpse out of the roomwithout activating the bone piles. Bythis time the statue trap seems to be out of oil… it keeps turning andsputtering as doors are opened but we are safe for now. Just as Reuben dragsthe dead Gregor Samsa from the room, Torruns up to him, waves his sword under his nose and says, “Bugger off! The armor’s mine!”
Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,”in a nasal voice.
The snake is now trying to open the door while the rest ofus are trying to hold it shut. Inspired,one of Reuben’s characters uses his 10 foot chain to attach the door handle tothe statue’s leg. It holds until one ofthe other mooks opens the door in the north wall. The statue turns to spray the door, pullingthe chain and ripping the door off of its hinges. The snake slithers into theroom. Lance said, “I could have told you that was going to happen,” in a nasalvoice.
One of Reuben’s characters throws a net over the snake andit shakes back and forth, trying to get the net off of its horn and head. The one hitpoint wonder, Marlowe, stabs itwith his pitchfork and Vor slashes it with a sword. Almuric the hobbit kills it with a slingbullet (lucky shot!) and the snake melts into ashes, leaving only the horn whichis snatched up by Kreglack and coveted by Ptath.
At this point, half of the party decides to explore the roomwith the throne and the other half decides to explore the newly opened door. Thetablets on the walls of the throne room appear to tell the story of an ancientalien intelligence from beyond the stars that visited our planet in eonspast. With their aid, a barbariansorcerer king rose to power with his seven lieutenants. We surmise that the lieutenants are buried inthe room with the alcoves. Marlowe sitson the throne and discovers that he can see s window filled with stars abovethe doorway, but the stars look unfamiliar.
Meanwhile, Tor, Vor, Melanie Assneck, and Zordunir theoutlaw explore another room. It is longand dark, with pillars and a pool in the center that appears to reflect starsfrom the night sky. Glowing figures ofcrystal move slowly from the far end of the room. Ina panic, Melanie Assneck jumps into the pool and discovers it is only 3feet deep. Zordunir attacks one of thecrystal men, knocking a chunk out of it, and it attacks him back. They seem to be attracted to light, however,and Zordunir retreats as someone else throws a torch across to the far end ofthe room. The crystal men shuffle offtowards the light. Tor sees a door atthe far end of the room, and, eager as always, opens it and discovers a set ofstairs. Drawing his sword, he descends the staircase.
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