Monday, May 15, 2017

Tales from D&D for CF

            When Jeremy first mentioned he was planning to run a 12 hour Dungeons and Dragons marathon, I loved the idea. I mean, who doesn’t want to play D&D for 12 hours straight? Plus, it was to raise money for Cystic Fibrosis, making it a very fun way to support a cause.

            For those of you who haven’t been following the saga, Jeremy is the DM (Dungeon Master – the person who controls the monsters and storyline of the game) of the weekly Dungeons and Dragons game Colleen and I play. He has a 3-year-old daughter, Avril, who was born with Cystic Fibrosis.
            I will admit that, as much as I loved the idea of a 12 hour D&D marathon, I wasn’t sure how successful it would be. I gladly volunteered to be one of the DMs, but with 4 tables there was room for 24 players and I wasn’t sure we would get that many.

            Every seat was filled within 3 days of registration, and my doubts faded. By the time last Saturday came, I was confident we would be raising at least $1500, maybe even $2000. When laying his plans, Jeremy had been hoping to raise $700.

            Saturday came, the donations were collected... and we had raised far more than anyone had anticipated. $4000! We were amazed.

            The event, itself, was great fun. I couldn’t possibly relate to you all that occurred, but I’ll try to touch on some of the highlights.

            Before we got to playing, the first of the door prizes were raffled off – there were a whole lot of them, donated by a bunch of gaming publishers and, of course, some chainmaille from myself. The first draw was supposed to be done by Avril, but sadly she had been rushed to the hospital that morning with problems caused by her Cystic Fibrosis. As sad as that was, it seemed oddly appropriate to me that, as Avril was in the hospital fighting her illness, we had a room full of people fighting to raise money to cure that illness.

            Before I get into the game itself, I need to point out a couple things we had that aren’t present during normal D&D games. The first was a brilliant idea from the board game cafe that hosted us – they printed off and sold (with all the money going to the donations) cards with special abilities and items to use in the game – from potions to restore health all the way up to a card that let the players take over for the DM for 10 seconds (which basically means they could do whatever they want). The other added element was that the more money players raise, the more in-game benefits they gained. This came in the form of magic items, resurrections for the first (and, for more, second) time their character died and, most notably, Cry Havoc.

Cry Havoc was the ability for a player who had raised $130 to, at any time they pleased, send some random monsters to one of the other tables. If a player raised $200, Cry Havoc was upgraded to Total Havoc, allowing the player to send the monsters to all three of the other tables.

            We raised $4000. There was a lot of Havoc in that room.

            The following is only an account of my own table – the adventure played out very differently on each of the tables – and there are some minor details (such as all the available routes they didn’t take) for the sake of brevity and to avoid confusion. The characters started off waking up in the morning after camping outside some jungle-overgrown Aztec-like ruins, wherein it was rumoured there was a secret shrine to a vampire god of the underworld. As they set out towards the giant stepped pyramid they could see, the ground gave way beneath the adventurer’s feet and they slid a very long way down underground, coming to a stop in a crumbling chamber – the way they came in completely blocked by rubble. Once their cleric cast a light spell so they could all see, they discovered there was a yellowish haze in the air – which turned out to be a poison gas that dealt them damage every hour and cause the torches they later lit to splutter and cast less light than they should.

            While most of the party set about examining the various dioramas depicting Olman (the nation who had built this place) culture and life, the Warlock (one of the people I regularly play with) decided to attack the locked stone doors at the far end of the hall. In doing so, he inadvertently damaged one of the door’s hinges. Seeing this, the barbarian came along and bashed off the hinge – causing the door to fall on top of him.

            But, the party was free of the room! So, they picked up their things and headed out. After triggering a trap that injured four more of them, they came to a muddy room where they saw a giant crayfish standing in front of a giant boulder. Naturally, the warlock attacked the crayfish, causing it to scuttle back to the rock and, in the Olman language (which none of the characters could understand), woke up the boulder – which unfolded itself to reveal it was an enormous crab.

            The crab tried to speak to them in Olman, but, not understanding it, the Party attacked and killed the two beasts. The barbarian proceeded to eat them. Then, after some exploring (during which the Warlock almost got himself caught in a cave-in), they decided on a path that took them to another room, where there was something green and slimy above the far exit. The ranger found herself a small silver pyramid that she took as a treasure while the rogue determined that the green stuff, ominous as it was, was only algae and almost certainly harmless. After poking the algae, the barbarian ate some of it – taking a bit of damage from the residue of the caustic lime on the wall beneath the algae. It burned on the way down, kinda like the hottest hot sauce he’d ever eaten.

            They continued on down a hall until they found a 12 foot tall statue holding a tray. It had gems for eyes and a sword sticking out over its shoulder. The barbarian came up to the statue, wanting the sword. The fighter came up to the statue and set up her dragon chess game on the tray, just in case the statue wanted to play. The warlock, wanting the gems from the statue’s eyes, climbed up onto the statue’s tray, causing the statue to fall down onto the three of them. While it hurt them, this also revealed a secret passageway. They took their treasures and travelled through this and came out in another hall – and this was when the first Total Havoc was called. A pair of hook horrors came lumbering down the hall. The party fought them off, and continued on their way after the barbarian had taken a few bites of them.

            As they approached the door at the end of the hall, they heard a melodic sound – it may have been singing, or just dripping. The rogue tried singing back. They heard a surprised squeal and a splash from the other side of the door. So, they entered to room – which looked more like a crystal-ceilinged cavern, filled with a pale light. The far half of the room had a deep pool of water, with only a narrow, slippery ledge leading to the door on the far side. They saw no signs of life.

            For reasons known only to him, the warlock dove into the water and started swimming. Suddenly, the head of a beautiful woman emerged from the water with a silvery giggle. Most of the party on the shore, uncertain of her intentions, readied their weapons to attack at the first sign of aggression. The warlock continued swimming toward the woman, who, giggling, swam up to him, grabbed him, and kissed him. A moment later, the warlock was gasping for breath that seemed to have been sucked from his lungs. Knowing something was wrong, the party attacked, managing to slay the woman-like creature before she could do anything else (which was lucky, because she had a giant electric eel friend she was going to call in to help). The barbarian hadn’t managed to help kill her, so she remained uneaten.

            Once the warlock got his breath back, they progressed through the next door and into a stairwell. This was the first of five checkpoints the DMs had agreed upon to mark progress through the dungeon. I announced this to the room and, naturally, since my party was the first to get this far, another table Cried Havoc on them. They were beset by two displacer beasts. They killed them, the barbarian ate some of them and made an improvised belt from their tentacle-tails, the ranger skinned one and the warlock skinned the other, each getting a good pelt.

            The party took a brief rest to recover some health, during which the barbarian identified his new sword as having magical properties. Then they headed up the stairs to a large hall with a fresco along one side – and someone called for a Total Havoc. An umber hulk appeared up the stairs. It was tough to pierce its tough hide, but the party prevailed and killed it. The barbarian took a few bites.

            Up until now, the party hadn’t done much in the way of searching around – this was why they were so far ahead of everyone else (they’d missed two rooms and quite a lot of treasure, even from the rooms they’d passed through). However, the traps they’d sprung had made them cautious, so they started searching around. The cleric found a part of the fresco that opened a secret door. Without exploring the hallway further, they crawled through into a hallway with several branches and with several stone statue heads projecting from the wall.

            At the far end of the hall, in the beak of an eagle statue, something gold glinted. Amid protests from her companions, the ranger grabbed it – and the eagle’s beak snapped down on her wrist. The party set to bashing apart the beak, causing her some damage in the process. Meanwhile... the warlock wandered off alone.

            He went down a side passage, saw an alcove with a silver coffer in it, and went straight for the treasure. The rest of the party caught up with him just in time to see the floor tilting on a steep angle, trapping the warlock in and them out. They spotted a lock holding the floor-trap in place on the outside. The rogue picked the lock, and the party used their combined weight to return the floor to its proper place. They discovered the warlock sitting at the far end, hugging the silver coffer to his chest.

            The ranger demanded that the warlock agree to splitting the profits from his treasure once it was sold, as he had been rescued by the rest of them. Before they could discuss it further, though, another Total Havoc brought two trolls lumbering around the corner. The warlock opened the battle by collapsing part of the ceiling on top of the trolls, but it still proved to be a tough fight. The first troll they killed came back to life before they realised that they needed fire to keep the trolls dead. After they achieved victory, the barbarian’s player used a purchased item that restored the whole party to full health. Then the warlock took his treasure and ran.

            The rest of the party gave chase, though they slowed down once they got into new territory. The warlock found an open pit beside a strange triangular wall that made the hall look like a dead-end, but which he surmised was a type of revolving door. He climbed into the pit with a bunch of skeletons, cast an illusion to make it look like the pit was filled with water, and pretended to be dead.

            The rest of the party arrived, saw through his pretence, but were fed up with him, so they decided to leave him be and jumped over the pit, continuing past the revolving door. Along the hall on the far side, they discovered a bar of copper in the ceiling that looked like it could drop down. Unable to discern a triggering mechanism, the barbarian charged forward alone – causing two heavy doors to drop down on both in front of and behind him, leaving him very trapped just in time for the dinner break, during which more prizes were raffled.

            When we returned to the game, the barbarian and the fighter managed to pry the door partway open. The warlock surprised everyone by showing up, drinking a strength potion, and lifting the door high enough for the barbarian to get out. However, instead of coming out, the barbarian insisted that he wanted to know what was beyond the door on the far end. The rest of the party were against it, except for the warlock, who dived under the door and letting it drop, sealing the two inside just as sand started pouring in from holes in the walls.

            The rest of the party, amazed that anyone would go into a trap they had just escaped, gave up on the two. They turned around and started backtracking to an area they hadn’t been to before.

            Meanwhile, between the two doors, the sand continued to trickle out, piling on the floor as the barbarian and warlock struggled to get the other door open. Them a will-o’-the-wisp attacked them materialised through the door and started attacking them. A lucky hit brought the monster down and they managed to lift the door and escape just as the sand started to really gush into the trap. The two were safe for now.

            But what of their companions? They found themselves walking down a hall lined with corpses. They proceeded cautiously, suspicious of the dead bodies, and rightly so. As they got halfway down the hall, the fifteen zombies came to life and attacked.

            The warlock and the barbarian, continuing their exploration, came across a room with a pair of perfectly preserved bodies. The barbarian, hearing the sounds of battle beyond a door, went to investigate and discovered his friends fighting zombies. He rushed in to help, while the warlock stayed behind to loot the room.

            The zombies were vanquished. Of those who had been injured by the zombies, only the ranger contracted sewer plague. However, after eating some of the zombies, the barbarian also caught the disease. They wouldn’t know until an hour later when they started feeling fatigued and having painful cramps.

            No sooner had the zombies gone down than a Total Havoc brought a zombie beholder upon them! Luckily they managed to bring down this dangerous foe before it had a chance to attack them – even the warlock rushed in to help.

            Safe again – at least temporarily – they returned to the room with the perfectly preserved bodies. The barbarian went to the slab between the two bodies where there were two crystal goblets, and a flask containing some kind of powder. He carefully poured the powder evenly into the two goblets and waited patiently for something to happen. Nothing happened.

            The cleric went to take a look through the open door – the one the warlock and barbarian had first entered the room through – while the fighter, ranger and rogue went to examine the one unopened door and, finding it to be safe, opened it.

            And the warlock? He backtracked down the hall with the zombies, leaving his companions behind. At this time, another Total Havoc called in another zombie beholder. This one came around a corner in front of the warlock – my intent being to drive him back to the rest of the party. Did he run or call for help? No, of course not. He decided to cast an illusion that would make it look like there had been a cave-in between him and his companions and go toe-to-toe with a monster that had the potential to kill and disintegrate him in one move (this happened to two characters on the table Colleen was playing at). I was now perfectly happy to kill him off (he had a resurrection scroll and would come right back to life, anyway).

            His companions regrouped by the barbarian and the goblets, unaware of the new threat. The fighter, noting is absence, went to look for him, but turned back at the sight of the rubble blocking the way. The cleric determined that the powder in the goblets was some kind of dried potion and poured water into one of the goblets, mixing the contents. The ranger tasted the potion to determine what it did and discovered it to be a very powerful sleeping potion – she barely shook off the effects that would have put her to sleep for 5000 years. She pocketed the powder from the other goblet.

            The barbarian then disturbed the preserved bodies, which awoke and were very angry about their rest being disturbed. They demanded payment from the adventurers and threatened to kill them if they didn’t cough up. The rogue offered them a healing potion, which they declined as not being good enough. The cleric then demanded of them how they would dare threaten a holy man, filled with the power and glory of his god. The formerly-sleeping monks were sufficiently cowed to accept the potion in payment. However, when asked about this temple, they could give no information on it.

            At this point, someone mentioned the absent warlock. The fighter informed them of the cave-in, but the cleric pointed out that they hadn’t heard any noise that would accompany a collapse. So they went to investigate, and discovered the illusion for what it was (I was both disappointed, because they were going to rescue the warlock, and proud that they had decided to save him in spite of all the trouble he’d caused). They passed through it, though the barbarian had trouble believing the illusion wasn’t real even after seeing his companions pass through. He charged into it, nearly knocking over the Ranger on the other side and crashing into the wall.

            The battle could have been going a lot worse for the warlock. He had started off well, but then the zombie beholder had magically paralyzed him. He shook off the effects only for it to happen again (I swear, I was trying to kill him). With the arrival of the rest of the party, the zombie beholder went down quickly. Then they continued on through the monks’ room and into the new corridor.

            Down a branch off this corridor, the warlock went and opened a set of doors. Inside, a bunch of giant fire beetles were trundling around peacefully. The warlock saw something shiny in a pile of rubbish, so (for some reason) cast a spell at it. Their nest disturbed, the fire beetles attacked in force. They weren’t strong enemies, but it took some time to whittle them down. When there were only two left, a banshee came upon the party from behind – sent by a Cry Havoc from Colleen, whose table had taken the lead (having reached checkpoint 3) and didn’t want us catching up.

            The quick-thinking cleric cast a protective spell on the barbarian who, with his magic sword, finished off the enemy with little help from the others. Once all the enemies were dead, the party decided to take a short rest.

            During the rest, the ranger identified the golden bracelet she had retrieved from the stone eagle as having magical properties and putting it on (unknowingly placing a curse on herself, but not a very bad one) and the cleric found that a rusty dagger he’d found in the fire beetle nest was magical, in spite of its poor condition. The warlock examined a bronze fish-ship figurine from inside his silver coffer, accidentally activating its magic. It took to the air and flew away. Before the party could go after it, a troll from yet another Total Havoc came through the door it had just flown out.

            They knew how to deal with trolls now, but it still did some heavy damage. The long hours of fighting in the poison were taking their toll, so at last they decided to take a long rest – something very dangerous to do with the poison in the air. The cleric used the last of his spells to heal everyone as much as he could so they could survive the night, he cured the ranger’s sewer plague, and raised a skeleton to guard them while they slept.

            Some fire beetles attacked in the night, but were quickly fought off. In the morning, the cleric healed as much of the poison damage taken over the night as he could. The barbarian had managed to recover from his sewer plague. All was looking well.

            The party wanted to go hunting after the flying figurine, but the wise cleric forestalled them and cast a spell to determine how that would go. The divine answer was woe, meaning it would not go well – for the ship-fish had already been wandering randomly through the dungeon for eight hours and could be anywhere and was impossible to catch once activated.

            So, instead, they went through the unopened door off the room and found themselves at a very long flight of stairs leading up. Well, except for the warlock, who, of course, went off on his own to seek the figurine.

            The silly party forgot to search for traps on their way up the stairs. As they neared the top, a huge millstone broke through a wall and started rolling down the stairs. The ranger was fast enough to get to the top of the stairs and rush around the corner before the millstone whooshed past. The rogue ran a little ways down the stairs and prepared herself to heroicly leap over the millstone. The barbarian ran as fast as he could for the bottom of the stairs.

            The millstone crashed through all but the barbarian, who managed to reach the room at the bottom and get out of the way. The rogue failed in her jump, but managed to squeak by with minor injuries. The fighter pressed herself up against the wall and took a chunk of damage, but survived. The cleric, though, got hit full on by the millstone. He fell to the floor, unconscious and close to death, and his mace and holy symbol (which he needed to cast most of his spells) were destroyed. His companions rushed to his side, reviving him with a healing potion. They then continued to the top of the stairs.

            During all this, the warlock had found the corridor he had chosen to take blocked by a giant sandstone block – something quite out of place. He had responded, as per usual, by attacking it. When he got no results, the player used a purchased card that essentially gave him an instant success (natural 20, for those in the know) on anything he tried... and punched the sandstone block. Now, this block was enormous, impossible to destroy with a punch. He did, however, knock a chunk out of a corner, revealing there was a corridor off to the side. Since the block was too big for him to move alone, he kept attacking it.

            Up at the top of the stairs, the rest of the party looked into a new room and were horrified to see another zombie beholder off in the shadows! They acted quickly, wanting to kill it before it noticed them. They hashed together a plan and...! The first arrow the ranger shot killed it. It exploded in a puff of spores that, had they been close enough, may have seeded the party with fungal growths – for this had been a gas spore, which merely looked like a beholder.

            After they had determined the spores were no longer a danger to them, they continued on into the corridor beyond. When the passage branched they turned off and took a twisty corridor that led them to the top of a ramp with a bunch of rollers set into the floor. The barbarian slid down to the bottom, where he found a great sandstone block with a hole in it and, through the hold, the warlock who was nursing his hand from hurting it while punching the block again. The two of them alone weren’t enough to shift the block – and the rest of the party weren’t coming to help – so the barbarian convinced the warlock to take the stairs and rejoin everyone else.

            They all came together and regrouped in the hall, coming to checkpoint two just in time for the end of the night.

            The last of the door prizes were raffled out, Jeremy said his thanks to everyone, announcing that we’d raised at least $3000, and said we were hoping to do this again next year. One of the players at my table lamented that it would be a whole year before she got to do this again.

            It was a fantastic day, and I will happily participate if we do it again next year, in spite of how exhausting it was. And, on top of all that fun, we’re $4000 closer to a cure for Cystic Fibrosis! A huge thank-you to everyone who participated, spread the word, and donated.

            If you want to know anything more about the event, feel free to ask!

Click here to find the charity anthology containing a couple of my short stories.

To see the chainmaille my wife and I make, click here.

Also, make sure you check out my wife's blog and her website.

If there's any subject you'd like to see me ramble on about, feel free to leave a comment asking me to do so.

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