The second installment is here. I don't always do it, but I try to include bolded names of moves when and where they occur.
The session started with me fumbling about, knowing that I wanted some time to have passed but having forgotten to write love letters. We established that the only library which Kieran (our dangerously heretical wizard) might want to visit in town was in the Chapter House of the Order of the Shining Heart. Perhaps predictably, Kieran decided not to go inside just yet. Kieran also learned that Brunhildt wanted some bloodroot (or anything magical he got his hands on) from the forest's hills, in exchange for more information about local planar gates (Offer an opportunity, with a cost). Kieran also began to plan an enchantment for his spellbook which would cause its runes to glow when in the presence of extra-planar beings, settling on cannibalizing several sources of magical power in a risky ritual in order to reach his desired effect.
Belleros managed to threaten Jarl well enough to get Jarl's `protection' on the planned expedition to the forest (a successful parley roll did the trick, with the leverage of being strung up by the garrison's commander for disobeying orders). Jarl reconnected with some old friends in the area, and handed me pure gold when he passed a note describing the friend that he was bringing with them towards the forest. It turns out that his old friend Artok the Drunkard was connected with the bandits somehow. I don't have rules for hirelings, but Artok was too much fun to say no to. Now he's lost, but I'll get to that.
In fact, Artok's bandit-connection was just one of several wonderful things that Jarl's player did: he really likes being able to declare knowledge, a la Spirit of the Century, and has been doing so with Spout Lore (I marked his Int, despite it being -1). And so it is that we learned that there are stories of Stone Giants in these parts (from a hit on Spout Lore), at which point both other players groaned.
I was also able to show that the armory was mostly empty (announce future badness), since they were invited to take a selection of equipment from there before they left. Only Belleros took anything (a ratty suit of leather armor), but not before he had implicitly insulted the Commander in front of Sgt. Jindo, who was less than amused. Jindo made this clear in no uncertain terms (Make a show of solidarity and power) by lifting Belleros off his feet and leaving bruises where he had gripped when he told Belleros to never insult the Commander again.
Now equipped, the party set out, meeting with Artok at the town's gates as they headed north, towards the very tall tower which was four days away, one day into the forest. Here I fumbled a bit again: I dithered over whether to make them eat rations for every day of the trip. The party didn't actually have enough food to make it there and back as things were, and they didn't have quite enough money to buy sufficient food. We decided that rations wouldn't be expended during travel in non-hostile terrain (since Undertake a Perilous Journey specifies hostile surroundings), and that therefore they only really had to spend food once they got into the forest. Presumably, they hunted along the way.
In fact, the main reason Artok was there in the first place was because Jarl wanted to go boar hunting with his friend (thus we learned that there were boar in the forest too). Sure enough, Jarl found some boar scat and upturned earth soon after entering the woods. He and Artok left the two elves behind as they trundled after where they thought the boar had gone. They soon found a large boar, which paused in its rummaging and let out a great angry squeal at them, preparing to charge. Jarl charged first, and his Hack and Slash actually finished off the poor beastie before it had a chance to do anything else. The elves made fun of Jarl, but were duly impressed by the huge bloody mess Jarl's axe had made of the boar's head. Jarl strung the boar up over a high branch, securing it with some of his adventuring gear (Offer an opportunity), and left it to drain of blood.
As they left the boar, Kieran tried casting detect magic (his cleric version) on the tower several hours away. He was shocked to discover that he could sense its power even from where he was, and saw it as a giant pillar of blue and black glass, cracked with age, topped by a huge mirror. He only managed a 7-9 on his Cast Magic, and chose unwanted attention... so for several moments he stood alone in the forest, watching the giant pillar as he heard huge, slow, wet breaths growing louder in the forest around him and knew he was being watched.
When he snapped out of it, he was still walking with the group and Belleros had begun to sing a lay he remembered about the tower (Bardic Lore). It turns out that the tower had been built long long ago by a mage who was allied with the local giants (who built the city east of Jotunsholm, from whence Jotunsholm gets its name). It was partially explored a thousand or so years ago by an Elf named Evengi, who reported strange magically formed creatures inside, as well as traps and magical signs and countersigns which had to be performed to go further.
As they walked further, Artok started whistling incessantly, repeating one particular short melody over and over. He cast anxious looks all around, clearly keeping watch for something in the woods, and the party began to notice blazes on some of the trees (announcing future badness, starting very slowly and building). Kieran was pouring over his spellbook, trying to switch his prepared spell (I said he could do this while walking, though it would take longer and he wouldn't be very aware, offering an opportunity), and he paused to try to parley with Artok, leveraging magical harm. He succeeded magnificently, so Artok asked Kieran to take up the tune if he was to stop whistling. Kieran started to whistle, but couldn't hold onto the tune for the life of him: Artok was clearly becoming more and more nervous, so Kieran gave up and Artok went back to whistling. Belleros was getting paranoid by this point, asking what the whistling was about, and was unhappy with Artok's obvious (and nervous) lie that it was just a tune his mother had sung to him when he was little. After asking Artok to stop and being rebuffed, Belleros drew his bow on Artok, ordering him to cease his whistling, but he flubbed his Parley and was surprised when Artok snatched the bow out of his hands, insulted him, and kept going. Jarl joined in with the whistle, just to rub it in. Eventually Belleros made clear that he thought the whistle was a signal to attack them, at which point Jarl laughed him down and told him that he was being foolish, since the whistle was clearly meant to tell the bandits that they were friends. Belleros stewed for a while, and wasn't quite sure how to react... he was a spy and was glad to know that the situation here for the garrison was so tenuous and that people in the fort cooperated with the bandits, but at the same time he was supposed to represent that same vulnerable military authority, and would have a hard time convincing bandits that he didn't while wearing all of the military's gear.
Finally, the party arrived at the base of a magnificently tall tower made of seamless stone, almost ceramic in appearance. It was incredibly wide around, and built in the center of a circular hillock, so the party set up a quick camp before preparing to check around the outside of it. They couldn't find any entrance, and Discerned Realities to figure out what had gone on. They realized that enough time had passed that perhaps they should go down first instead of up, and Jarl managed to find a spot that sounded hollow as he walked across it. Using Bend Bars he set about trying to forcibly excavate whatever was there, eventually busting through the omnipresent pine litter and the rusted bars that it covered. He widened the hole, and prepared several torches and a rope to use to enter the hole by the tower. Though they don't know it yet, this cave is actually the natural formation that was used as the basis for the tower's cellar, sewer and drainage.
They lowered themselves through the hole one by one (with Artok quite excited to go spelunking), only to find an old staircase going down, occasionally turning around on itself, and eventually opening onto an acidic smelling cave. Jarl, at the front, saw a beetle the size of a small dog clack its chitinous wings and buzz before it turned around and clacked its way out of the small natural cave. Kieran decided that this would be a good time to fashion a magical light source, and settled himself down to magic an orb of light that would follow him around. I said that it would take about 15 minutes, so of course Jarl and Artok decided to head off in pursuit of the big bug, leaving Belleros and Kieran to sit around while Kieran worked magic.
Jarl and Artok splashed their way through several puddles on the cave floor, eager to hunt down the bug, when Jarl's right boot squished instead of splashing. The puddle that he had stepped in was wrapping itself around his boot, and he watched in horror as his boot started to dissolve. Jarl hopped about and threw off his boot, watching as it slowly disintegrated, and the "puddle" rolled its way back to the depression it had started in. He and Artok continued on their way, trying to catch up with the beetle, but now with Jarl only wearing one boot.
Kieran's ritual finished, giving him a small orb of light which orbited around his head and every so often blinded him by passing in front of his eyes. He and Belleros set out, hoping to find Jarl and Artok, wishing that they had mentioned something about taking a predictable route. Before that became an issue, Belleros stepped in the same "puddle" that Jarl had stepped in, which promptly wrapped itself up around his leg and started to bubble away at his flesh (taking 3 of his 6 hitpoints). Kieran reacted first by slamming the thing with magical bolts of energy, casting Magic Missile, but he drew the attention of that same thing that he had alerted before, sensing that there was something standing in the room watching him though he couldn't see it. Belleros, in his pain, failed his defy danger roll to act, and the thing spattered some of itself onto Kieran. Fortunately for both of them, Kieran killed it with his second shot, and the bits that had gotten onto him died at the same time.
Hearing screams, Jarl and Artok grumbled and turned around, heading back the way that they had come. By the time they got there, Kieran had already applied bandages, and tried to Discern Realities about the presence in the room, learning that it was tied to the tower somehow and that he did not want to anger it. When the dwarves got back, Artok was conscripted to carry Belleros in a rather undignified manner, sack-o-potatoes style over one shoulder down the narrow and bendy cave hallways. The party wandered on until they reached a fork, deciding on the left branch in hopes of finding the bug again.
They picked correctly, and eventually began to smell rotting meat and sulphur, gagging on the odor. Belleros was hobbling by this point, and they soon came out into a small cavern filled with freshly dead, decaying, and long dead animal corpses covered in eggs and larvae, with five bugs waddling about buzzing and clacking. Belleros did his best to determine an appropriate plan of attack, successfully coming up with the idea of sending Jarl forwards to defend while Belleros and Kieran provided support and Artok guarded their backs. Jarl stepped up while Kieran killed the first bug with his magic and Belleros missed his shot terribly. Kieran attracted their attention with his spell, and the bugs (fire beetles) set him aflame. Jarl crushed one bug completely and wounded another, but one of the as-yet unhurt ones threw itself on Belleros' bow arm and set itself to gnawing. Kieran Defied Danger to keep his head and roll on the ground to put out the flames, while Belleros stabbed the beetle on his arm with several arrows, spending one ammo (offer an opportunity), instead of protecting Jarl from the last two beetles setting him on fire. Jarl hacked and slashed, killing the injured bug while being bitten himself, and then he took damage from the other one (perched on his shoulder), and was brought to 0 hit points.
Here I wasn't quite clear what to do. I thought that it would be a good time to use the Last Breath move, but I also hadn't yet given our bard an opportunity to heal someone. And there was still one more beetle alive. I decided to wait until Jarl's "turn" came around next, and gave Belleros the choice of killing the last beetle or trying to save his companion's life. Belleros did a little healing, and Kieran (his robes no longer on fire) blasted the last beetle.
So, our group read the rules as saying that the Bard cannot heal himself. Since it says that you specify an ally, we took this to mean that it had to be someone else. A small way in which the bard and cleric might balance. This meant that Belleros had to wait a while to heal up, though he did gain a level and sped up the process. Kieran leveled as well, and decided to prepare new spells.
The adventurers looted the cave, finding a scattering of gold pieces and an old skeleton with a backpack full of adventuring gear and dwarven hardtack and a ring on its finger. Jarl Spouted Lore saying that he recognized the ring as a magical one that his uncle (a spelunker) had had many many years ago before his disappearance, and that it told you how deep you were at any given time. While everyone healed and Kieran did some paranoid double-checking on the ring, they realized that Artok had been missing for a while (he had slipped my mind, and I didn't know what to do with him during the fight). Jarl quickly pointed out that he had obviously fled when he saw things going poorly. At this point, as they had rummaged through the rest of the room (collecting chitin and eggs, crushing larvae, finding several beetle sized tunnels and one that they might be able to squeeze into if they were desperate), they heard quiet squeaky guttural noises that might have been voices from the way that they had come (Announcing badness of course).
We had to leave off there, but I think we're all looking forward to finding out what might have actually happened to Artok, and what might be down that right branch.
Feel free to share your thoughts, and I'd love to know what you think of my rulings on Last Breath and our group's rulings on Bards not being able to heal themselves.