This weekend my funnel party reconvened to tackle the final portion of Sailors on the Starless Sea (the previous two reports can be found here and here). We got a slightly late start owing to the effects of St. Patrick’s Day weekend on a Sunday morning — thanks, Gloucester City pub crawl! It actually worked out well, though: There was enough time to finish the module, do some “back in town” orientation and equipment buying, and have the party pick up on a thread for their next adventure.
MAJOR SPOILERS FOR THE CLIMAX OF SAILORS ON THE STARLESS SEA BELOW!
- Joey Diamonds and Shifty Jack — Warriors
- Ippie and Percival — Halflings
- Shakey Dog Buchanen — Thief
- Sherman Funk — Cleric of Nimulrun, God of Filth (former gong farmer)
I started the session reestablishing the scene of the ziggurat covered by dozens of beastmen in a religious frenzy along with the PC’s countrymen being led to the slaughter. There were maybe five seconds of silence before they immediately responded that they were putting on the Chaos Priest robes (“Sherman Funk is never taking them off.”) and pulling the old wookiee-prisoner routine. Rather than four humans donning the robes, however, they opted for one human prisoner and one priest’s robe filled by a halfling standing on the shoulders of another halfling. The two halflings made out well enough on Agility and Strength checks to pull it off all the way to the top of the ziggurat, where the party encountered the beastmen acolytes and three prisoners ready to be sacrificed.
The PC’s launched their attack during the surprise round as the next sacrifice was thrown into the flames. They made short work of the standard beastmen and faired pretty well against the acolytes, though they didn’t manage to stop the shaman from pitching the effigy of Molan into the fire … not that it mattered much. The animated effigy of the Chaos Lord rolled terribly. He literally didn’t hit once! Right after he emerged from the pit, Shifty Jack stabbed at his flaming eye and succeeded on a blinding deed. Then Shakey Dog snuck back down the ramp a short way to climb back up the side of the ziggurat; the thief managed to sneak his way up behind the Chaos Lord and land a backstab. On the subsequent round the two halflings and the cleric joined to drop Molan before the rest of the beastmen could reach the top, while Joey Diamond kept the shaman occupied.
The next round, Shakey Dog was the sucker who grabbed for the armor and flail. He got slammed by the emerging magma monster, though I ruled that he was not quite burned beyond a shot at a Recover the Body roll (pretty damn generous of me in hindsight).
It was only once the magma monster emerged that the players started chucking the flaming skulls, but given the combo of successfully using deed dice to aim for precise parts of the magma’s form and highly damaging crits rolled on the skull tossing, I ended up shaving a round off of the monster’s lifespan. During which it mostly just wildly gesticulated and melted as it tried to maintain it’s form in the face of the magic used against it.
All the while, Shifty Jack had taken to defending the top of the ramp from the onslaught of beastmen, cowing them back with deeds used to swing his torch in a wide, intimidating arc while keeping them in sight of the rest party *ahem* “KILLING YOUR FUCKING GOD!!!”
Percival ran over to the body of Shakey Dog and proceeded to repeatedly slap him in the face whilst shouting “Wake up! We’re winning!” Shakey pulled off the Luck roll and lost a point of Agility for his troubles — but really, with a name like Shakey Dog he totally should have a limp.
Once the cavern started crumbling, the beastmen began to panic and flee, some crushed by rocks and others heading for the dragon-ship. The PCs proceeded to scoop up coins as well as finally free the two remaining sacrificial villagers, whom they then instructed to also scoop up coins. When I secretly rolled to see how many rounds they had before this whole thing collapsed on top of them, they got the maximum 8 rounds. So they managed to be very greedy and also fight their way back to the dragon-ship in time.
The end of the adventure leaves the ultimate destiny of the PCs in the judge’s hands; I knew I didn’t want them to go back to the small village they hailed from, but I did want them to choose their own course of action. I settled on the idea that the ship would ultimately take them to a town far away from their home and extended the final paragraph of block text from the module:
The towering wave propels you with terrifying speed towards the distant carven wall! Ahead, through a sea of towering whitecaps and the debris of falling boulders you spy the mouth of a narrow cave! The dragon-prowed ship rides down the crest of the giant wave and shoots into the rocky maw, the howling surf crashing all around you!
The ship rocks and lists wildly as the torrent carries it ever deeper into the pitch black earth. Desperately clinging to the boat and each other, all sense of time and space are lost as you speed forward. Eventually, though none can say how long, the travel of the ship calms and thin beams of light pierce the blackness from the high cavern ceiling.
Hours pass with the infrequent and dimming light showing no shore or alcove to offer respite, and the forward current still too strong to push against. Moving ever onward in the dark, you hold to wakingness to the point of exhaustion until you collapse, to the point of dehydration until you dare reach overboard to cup the still driving water in your hands. Have you been sailing for hours, for days? Has the sun ceased to be? Have you sailed across this starless sea to some wretched pit of hell?
At last, as even the strongest willed among you begin to feel your grip on reality rapidly loosen, a light appears ahead, at first like a guiding star in the impossible distance and then exploding in size, a blinding maw of white expanding to consume all of your being.
A thousand daggers stab your eyes as the ship emerges into the full light of day, pulling you through a chasm surrounded by towering mountains on both sides. The ship groans and cracks as the ancient wood is assaulted by the sun for the first time in countless generations. Before long, you are riding noticeably lower and water begins to seep up around your feet.
As you feel the boards pulling apart, in the blink of an eye the crumbling rock walls around you have opened wide and given way to carved towers and thatched roofs — the river has taken you right into the heart of a mountain city! Men and dwarves alike stop their business and gaze in wonder as you sail through their midst on this river that emerges from the depths of the earth. Several folk spring to action upon seeing your plight, as the ship is now barely held together above water. They throw a heavy rope your way, allowing you pull yourselves onto the canal banks, the last of you just barely holding on as the dragon-ship at last disintegrates away into the water below.
I said it in the intro to my first play report, and I’ll say it again: This adventure is a classic. This was one of the most purely fun campaign kickoffs I’ve ever experienced, and I can’t wait to see where these devious murderhobos go from here.