Role-playing reviews

Reviews related to role-playing games, with a focus on Gods & Monsters, and a bit of superhero gaming.

Gods & Monsters Fantasy Role-Playing

Beyond here lie dragons

992 9 September 28, 3 AM

Jerry Stratton, May 7, 2016

Metropolitan Sphinx

If this starts talking and offers to answer questions, probably a good idea to play along.

Eddie, Riana, and Zah Eil

Riana, still a skink, returned. She saw yet another band of saurians, six of them. Combined with the eight mananubi at the temple of Ishtar and the four mananubi at the pillars down the stairs, that meant eighteen potential enemies milling about. And there were more down the stairs, past some rubble, and in a place they were guarding. Riana told Eddie and Zah Eil about the long stairs past the rubble, going up, as well.

Riana, traveling as a tiny skink, had taken two hours to on her scouting run. During this time, Zah Eil studied the tablet for information about golems like the one the lizard king summoned in the abandoned ancient temple. He discovered that (a) golems are created things, and there are golems of Enki guarding the gates of the city, and (b) the thing downstairs was an earth elemental, summoned from the elemental planes. Elementals are deadly and unstoppable, but, summoned by a sorceror, nearly always turn on their master before they fade back to their elemental home, which they do within an hour. The sudden rush of information threatens to overwhelm Zah Eil, but he managed to order his mind and survived.

Which meant that the elemental was almost certainly gone. Riana the skink returned to check, and yes, there was nothing there. So they all returned, see that the altar was destroyed, that the door behind the altar was heavily damaged, and the door going left in the secret room behind the altar was propped open.

They went through. The blue lights made them drowsy. Riana was at a penalty to attack and defense due to the drowsiness, but since she was a skink no one cared. She fell asleep on Zah Eil’s shoulder. Zah Eil let the door close. They went up the stairs into the statuary hall. The green lights pulsed; Zah Eil told everyone to close an eye. But he then went and started looking at stuff. The lights flashed. Eddie and Riana managed to avert their eyes, but Zah Eil was blinded.

The place smelled vaguely of burned person without the full rankness. Eddie led them forward. There were still-smoking bones scattered around the far end of the room on some stairs leading up.

They stopped and listened. They heard noises above. It turned out to be Alvin, Majelica, and Owen.

Reunion

Alvin, Majelica, and Owen were letting the web, that they’d lit in the previous session, burn. Smoke was filling up the ceiling as it filled the upward-going stairs in the hallway. A good thirty feet in, they saw a giant spider moving in the smoke—then realized it was a dead husk, five to six feet long in the body. The fire died out after about half an hour. Zah Eil, as the only person left relatively undamaged, lit a candle and went to look up the stairs. The stairs led up about fifty feet and turned right. It was dark all the way. There was probably a wall about thirty feet beyond where it turned right. He headed back down and told everyone it was safe to rest here.

Among the ashes of bones and spider web.

They set a watch: Zah Eil, Riana, Owen, Majelica, and Eddie, in 2 hour shifts. They rested for 10 hours.

Zah Eil healed1 Alvin’s and Eddie’s wounds2. After their rest they went up the stairs and turned right and found a door. Eddie looked for traps, didn’t find any, and opened the door. There was a dim green light beyond it. Eddie closed the door. Eddie opened it again at the urging of Zah Eil; they saw a skull on the far wall. Alvin remembered the green-glowing room with the skull on the floor in the secret dungeons of Illustrious Castle.

Not that this stopped them from moving forward. The door opened onto a left and right hallway. The floors and walls were marble; the walls were marble panel, and each panel had a skull facing out of it at about five feet tall. The eyes glowed a dim green, illuminating the hallway.

Zah Eil chose left. They headed out the door to the left, and just about fifteen feet down, it opened into a room on the left. Only about five feet extra on either side, so about 20 feet wide and a good forty feet long with a long stone dais at the end. Barrel vaulted. Blank walls. Dark and empty.

Alvin examined the skulls, and grabbed one of the jawbones. It laughed a low, sinister laugh. The jawbone remained attached.

He tried again on another one. It laughed a low, sinister laugh.

They stepped into the room, and a golden light shone directly down onto the dais. The walls were decorated with ornate frescoes of the gods. A sphinx lounged on the dais, and had obviously been watching them for some time.

Eddie stepped forward.

“I am Eddie.”

“Bow when you enter the court of Osmussa the Wise.”

Eddie bowed.

“May we ask you a question?”

“The fee for asking a question is 100 denari. The fee for entering the court is 10 denari per person. There are six of you.”

Alvin placed sixty denari3 into the golden urn at the feet of the sphinx.

Zah Eil cautioned against asking the Sphinx questions. “Don’t trust the sphinx, it will just speak in riddles. I can provide divine guidance directly from Ishtar for any questions we have.”

Alvin thought that was nuts. “This is a sphinx that just appeared in a golden light! We have to ask it something!”

Zah Eil was thinking that every time they so far that they came to a dead end, they’d found a secret door. So he asked Eddie to look for secret doors on each of the three walls. Eddie didn’t find one on the left wall; went to look at the back wall behind the sphinx and got growled at so looked at the right wall. No secret door there either.

Alvin asked if five gold coins would be acceptable.4 The sphinx nodded. “That is acceptable.”

“How do we get to the city?”

“Go north to the road. Follow the road east, to the customs house at the red meadows, past the broken lands, and you will reach the great tree which is outside the gates of the city. There are other ways to reach the city, but that is the easiest to follow.”

Majelica got cheeky with the sphinx and asked a question. “You are not worthy to speak.”

Alvin gave it five more gold coins and asked “How do we get out of here so we can get to the road?”

“Follow the hall behind you; it will lead to stairs, and from there to a hallway. The hallway will lead upward out of the temples to the surface of the city.”

They left the sphinx, as they were anxious to return to the surface. They followed the hallway past all of the skulls in the dim-green light of the hall. A hundred feet down the hall opened into a cavern. There was a bridge ahead, and at the bridge stood what looked like a small giant. It stood ten feet fall, but it looked like a giant. Zah Eil tried to convince Majelica to fireball it, but Alvin and Eddie talked to it, and it talked back.

“How long have you been here?”

“Many decades.”

“That’s a long time.”

“I’ve been eating nothing but crayfish and the sickly little birds of this cavern. It’s horrible.”

“May we pass?”

“What have you to trade?”

Alvin offered four days worth of hardtack and dry rations. The small giant tasted them, and said. “Ten of these would be worth passage.”

Alvin had that much (which the giant saw), but didn’t want to lose all of their rations, so offered a red cloak that they’d picked up from a stone giant in the burren back in the Celtic valley.

“Very nice.”

“For all of us to pass? That and four rations?”

“The cloak and five rations.”

“You don’t eat anything but crawfish and birds?”

“And the occasional things that pass through.”

“A cloak and five rations it is, then. What’s past here?”

“Oh, nothing but some jerks in robes. They’re not very nice. They come down from those stairs.”

They crossed the bridge and climbed the stairs. Sixty feet, going up, and then it turned right. They hid their light and had Eddie look around the corner. Only ten feet right, there were iron bars blocking the way, two men in robes with spears and big swords, and some sort of small fire, like a torch, behind some curtains.

Zah Eil chose to go talk to them so as to get a good look at the iron bars, too. It appeared to be a gate that could slide into the wall. The guards watched him, but don’t do anything.

“Hey, how can we get through here?”

“You may not pass unless you bear the sign of the deep lord.”5

Zah Eil turned and returned down the stairs.

They formulated a simple plan: Owen would put them to sleep and Majelica would magically open the gate. Owen’s spell ended up putting one of them to sleep, but not the other; the one who stayed awake looked at his partner and tried to help him back up, which gave Majelica a chance to cast sleep; it didn’t work.6

He turned back and said, “hey, guys, something odd’s going on out here.”

Majelica mage-bolted him and he finally dropped. And two more guards stepped out from behind the curtain. Owen slept them; they both fell to the ground.

Alvin tried to open the gates; the bars bent enough for them to all get through. Zah Eil and Eddie tied up the guards.

Behind the curtain was a small sanctuary with four torches in the walls, and another set of curtains at the back. Zah Eil moved the curtains back and saw a statue of Enki flanked by two iron braziers. He considered mischief, but then the others called him back; the guards would potentially be awakening soon.

The guards had skulls on their foreheads.

The hallway went to the right, and then to the left. A makeshift wooden/rope bridge crossed a chasm. Zah Eil and Alvin led the way, with Zah Eil holding the light. Halfway across the bridge, a horde of huge bats swooped down on them. The attack didn’t hurt—much. But it was enough that Alvin almost fell over the side of the bridge, a fifty foot drop; he managed to right himself at the last second.

They finished crossing the bridge, and saw another bridge ahead of them.

In response to Caverns of Thracia session reports: I have been wanting to run Caverns of Thracia ever since I saw it—and probably ever since I heard of it, back in the day when Judges Guild was a producer of myth.

  1. While Zah Eil is missing his holy symbol, restore vitality does not require one.

  2. This does not bring Eddie’s tail back.

  3. I have no idea where he got Roman coins. They’ve visited various form of Rome in the past, but did not interact with the inhabitants.

  4. In Highland, a gold pound is worth 20 silver shillings, and the denari he had were silver.

  5. Which to Zah Eil sounded a lot like Enki, and his kingdom under the sea.

  6. He wasn’t immune. This was just good reaction rolls on his part.

  1. <- Thracia session 5
  2. Thracia session 7 ->