Thursday, January 9, 2014

Play Report: House of Hours

I've never written a play report before.  But yesterday was my first time DMing an OSR game on G+, so I figure one more new thing won't hurt.

Hey, if you want to play in the House of Hours sometime in the future, you are double forbidden from clicking that link the next paragraph or reading that one long post.  Some things are different and many things have been added, but it's still ripe with spoilers.

The Dungeon is just a coherent-but-still-unpolished House of Hours, a large funhouse/madhouse/sadhouse dungeon for a level 3-5 party.

Anyway, here's what happens.  The party began in media res. . .

The old man did not look happy.  His skeletal arms were folded across his ribs, and the bones of his hands sagged inside the sallow skin like dice in a bag.  The pajamas that he was wearing were so yellowed and threadbare that his bushy mat of pubic hair could be seen through them.

"And who are these clowns?" the old man croaked.  "That one looks like 200 pounds of birdshit, that one's giving me the hairy eyeball, and that one's a fucking cat.  Jesus Cthulhu, Charles.  I told you to go round up some honest American murder-hobos, not bring me the shit off their shoes."

Sitting on a depillowed chair, the younger man cleared his throat.  "Ah, what my father means to say is that we're very pleased that you chose to respond to our posting.  We're very pleased."  His hair was a thinning brand of auburn, and his face showed signs of sun damage.  His smile was broad and his eyes were small and desperate inside their sockets.

While his father lit up another cigarette, Charles gestured towards the party and said, "Please, tell us a little about yourselves, and why you believe that you are uniquely qualified as an adventurer."

Subarnu - Level 1 Fighter, thickly bundled inside impenetrable layers of filthy, greasy rags.  He seemed like the archetypal "murderhobo" upon which all others are based.  His absolutely transcendental stench was perhaps the reason why the party never encountered wandering dungeon denizens.  Lurking around his ankles was his dog, Rotgut, who never barked but instead twitched with distemper. Played by +Courtney Campbell

Harry Flash - Level 1 Wizard, wearing the robe and hat that characterizes classic wizard fashion (gaudy and without underwear), he is characterized by his unflagging good spirits and potentially damning curiosity.  His glowing staff negated much of the party's need for torches. Played by +James Young

Yuri - Level 1 Silver Wizard, dressed in a square-fitting tunic of green, brown, and grey, he was marked by his love of the untamable beauty of nature as well as his respect for the craftsmanship of mankind.  His quiet pragmatism was a vivid contrast to Harry's "poke-it-with-a-stick"ness.  Played by +Jeff Russell

Eusyram - Level 3 Fighter, Level 2 Blue Mage, recognizable by his steely eye and strong arm, but also by the fact that he is a giant polecat.  Much more experienced than the other adventurers, his was often the voice of sanity.  He was armed with a man-catcher and a powerful hatred for skeletons.  Played by +Richard G

". . . understandably concerned.  When we heard that Bellamy Hospital was gone, we thought that it had been burned down or destroyed, you see.  We never thought that the hospital would actually be moving towards Pittsburgh under it's own power.  It's not something we're used to in these parts."

The old man scoffed.  "These parts?  THESE PARTS?  There are no "parts" anymore.  Not since the moon hatched and the sea turned black and the Rapture took all decent 'uns!  Just ask all the boats from Atlantic City moored up in Harrisburg now.  And the Markey boys tell me that they finally found Philadelphia again, nine hundred miles down the coast and full of snakes and whores.  SNAKES AND WHORES!"

Charles smiled consolingly at his father.  "Yes, times have been tough on everyone these days, since the Apocalypse."  He indicated a green glass bowl of candy on the battered coffee table, beside a green glass ashtray.  "Would you like a mint?"

"And there isn't any 'these days' neither," the old man muttered, pushing the cigarette into the crowded ashtray.  "With every fimble-fambler and snotter staring into the tomorrahs, no one seems to care that it's 1928.  And they're right."  The old man stumbled outside, coughing furiously.

"Let's focus on the situation on hand, shall we?"  Charles leaned forward and folded his hands across his knee.  The chair squeaked.  

"A couple of weeks ago, we found that Bellamy Hospital was moving across the countryside towards us.  It looks like it's actually gaining speed, and we don't know what will happen if it is allowed to reach Pittsburgh.  We've already sent in a couple of groups of people to investigate, but none returned.  Some of us have family in Bellamy, so we're understandably concerned for them."

Outside, the old man could be heard urinating on the side of the building.  The party could hear him mutter ". . . snakes and whores. . ."

"So!  We're prepared to offer you $500 if you can stop the hospital from it's advance.  It's rather threatening, really.  If you can slow it down, rescue the patients, or provide information that will allow us to do those things, partial rewards will be considered.  What do you say?"  He offered his hand.

The party accepted, of course.

Note: Since I'm a fan of the silver standard, $1 = 1gp = 10sp = 10xp.  $500 represents 5000sp (5000gp per gold standard) and a commensurate reward of XP.

As a gesture of goodwill, Charles decide to let one of the party members drive.  He settled on Subarnu, the rancid warrior. To his credit, Subarnu drove the bus all the way there despite the fact that he had never seen a car before and was fighting a world-class hangover.

The bus was a pre-war shithauler that reeked of vomit.  All of the seats, save the driver's, had been ripped out.  One side of the bus was covered with a thick carpet of moss, while the other had been bleached white by the rays of the sun.  A hole in the floor of the bus revealed the mossy, rusty driveshaft, which flickered red-green as it revolved.

The road was a hodgepodge of gravel, dirt, and fire-scorched asphalt.  They drove past burned-out husks of cars and farmland, oppressive in their regularity and barrenness.  They passed a small forest of trees on the right, stunted and bone-white.  They drove up and over a couple low hills.  All the while, Charles gave constant direction to Subarnu, who clutched at the wheel like a drowning man while waves of nausea and confusion washed over him.  It is doubtful that he fully realized where he was, or what he was doing.  His dog Rotgut contented itself with gnawing it's own shins.

Unlike many post-apocalyptic wastelands, this one had radio.

At one point, the adventurer's passed a field in which some tall, prurulent plants had sprouted like weeds.  They were fleshy, like broccoli, and their purple-red fronds waved in the wind, except there was no wind.  Charles instructed Subarnu to give the field a wide berth, and the party went briefly off-road in order to avoid nearing the strange plants.

At no point did they ever see another traveler or moving vehicle.

After about 80 minutes at 20 mph, they reached the hospital.  Charles pushed his glassed up higher on his face and said, "Oh my.  It's gotten worse."

The hospital had gotten perhaps a bit larger.  It had also lost all of it's shape.  It sagged across the landscape like an amoeba.  Sunlight gleamed off the rectilinear rows of windows, now distorted across the buildings surface, like spots on a jaguar.  Behind the hospital, they could see a long, straight divot where the hospital had plowed the earth, revealing dark, rich soil.  A crumbling crevasse was apparent behind the hospital, where basement steps jutted out, where it trailed a mass of cables and pipes like a rat's tail.  It wasn't currently moving, but the party could see that it had a deep, heavy keep, like a Russian icebreaker.  

The mass was still completely recognizable as a work of Victorian architecture.  Despite the organic distortions to it's shape, the whole mass retained its style.  The smooth bulges of the wall over the grass resembled the bulges of belly fat over a waistband.  Higher-order distortions evinced some sort of torsion had been applied to the mass as well.

It had a guilty stillness about it, as if it had been moving earlier but had suddenly stilled itself.  Ripples were visible on the surface of its brick skin, exactly like the surface of a disturbed pond.  

Charles stuck around long enough to give the party a tent, some rations, and a hand-crank radio with instructions to find an elevated position before trying to radio back to town.  It would take him over an hour to drive back out here, but he would probably be able to pick them up.

And after wishing them luck and pouring some water into the buses radiator (which was now steaming), he turned and drove back to Pittsburgh.

victorian hospital in new york, built in the 1880s

Two methods of ingress presented themselves.  A back door: smaller, locked, and of heavy wood.  And a front door: broader, polished, inviting.  The party decided to climb around on the roof, discovered that the roof-bits of the hospital had been collected into a central mass, where they now flared out like a jumbled Victrola horn.  This flared pit became steepest near the center, finally narrowing into a nearly vertical shaft, accessed through a wrinkled pucker.

Eusyram, the polecat-man, quickly tied a rope around himself and lept into the architectural sphincter.  He found himself dangling from a central dome, 100' from the floor and 50' from where the dome flared out into a much larger area.  Painted murals were visible around him, on the inside of the dome, but it was too dark to make them out.  Metal catwalks held large, inert lights.  Sharing the air with Eusyram were a number of enormous skeletons and fossils of flying and swimming beasts.  A pterosaur, a rhamphorhyncus, and a megalodon jaw were among the notable attendees.


someone get this shark a snuffbox

You know, I'm going to hurry this along and just do some highlights.

The party attempted to break in through a window (where a tiled hallway was visible).  Immediately after Harry Flash broke open a window, the image inside vanished, replaced with a pressurized mass of dark, rich soil.  The eruption of dirt nearly blew Harry Flash off the roof, but a lucky grab onto a gable prevent him from falling, merely burying him under a foot of dirt.  His companions wasted no time in digging him out.

The party found a bunch of old dudes with big heads and bronze torcs sleeping in a pile inside a giant bowl, 8' off the ground.  The adventurers decided not to fuck with the lemon party.

A glacier stole Harry Flash's spellbook.

An ice wall was broken down.  Frozen cavemen, likewise, were not fucked with.

The party came across a dead adventurer upside down in a layer of ice, as if he had been stuffed face-first into a frozen lake.  Harry Flash stole his fur-lined boots (sorta like Uggs).  Then, while trying to loot the dude's fanny pack, the ice broke and he fell through.  Luckily, he had a rope tied around his waist, and Eusyram hauled him up before he took a harpoon to the face (thrown by some mouldering, lead-footed dude in a diving suit).

since finding this picture, this is pretty much how I imagine harry flash
The party encountered a giant key on a divan, where it lounged enticingly.  It was taken, but not before Harry Flash drew it like one of his French girls.

Harry Flash smoked a hookah filled with yellow liquid and eels, while the bowl held a loose mass of wickedly fragrant hashish.  Beginning with his chest and spreading to the rest of his body, all of his blood was replaced with a silvery liquid.  Metallic veins glistened beneath the skin of his arm.  While, yes, this is cool, all it functionally did was give him a unique weakness to rust attacks.

The party found a secret tunnel, made from rough-hewn rock.  Like the rest of the areas they had explored so far, this tunnel also had small light sconces made from dark red glass.  Even the rough stone had been expertly wallpapered, turning the rough tunnel into an irregular beige hallway with printed bird-of-paradise flowers as footers and hibiscus blossums displayed flatly in the upper corners.

Yuri the Silver Wizard investigated an inelegant trap cautiously, which allowed for an elegant solution:  crawling.

yes, we made a few bee puns

The hive of the bee people was encountered.  After an awkward approach and some confused interchange of noises and gifts, the bee-people guards seemed to accept that the party was not there to steal the honeycombs.

The hive was a single room, columnar and six-chambered.  Gilded lilies jut from the wall, offering light from small candles.  Sections were decorated in hardened wax of different colors, creating graceful arches and elegant branching patterns.  Elsewhere in the hive, larva stuck their slick heads out of their brood cells and burbled excitedly, craning their little baby-faces to see the party better.  Even a couple of the large soldier drones clambored onto the platform, too huge to fly.  But then the party was introduced to Merlane, vizier to the queen.

Merlane explained the situation as best as she was able.  

All of their problems started two and a half weeks ago.  People that that thought were dead have returned, people that they believed were alive have vanished, and all of the world outside the hive has become terribly confusing.  Their finest venomist-seers have been unable to locate the cause, and even their jeweler-engineers are perplexed.  

Vast gaps have been discovered in their memories, and contradictions have emerged, even among two bees who haven't spent more than a day apart in their lives.  These paradoxes have cast their thousand-year history into doubt, and overturned their equally auspicious religion.

The bees remember their hundreds of friends who are now missing, and can remember intimate details of their lives and houses.  But memories of how to reach those houses is indistinct.  Even after searching every inch of the hive, they have not encountered their friends.  The hive isn't even large enough to contain the population insist they once had.  Another paradox.

Some of the bees remember this place, but insist that it was once full of flowers.  Others have no memories of these tunnels, and remember only the great mountain, the sun on the flowers, and the glorious wars against the titan wasps.

They are certain that a powerful creature, some wizard or demon, has spirited them to this place and altered their memories.

The bees have explored the world outside their hive and found it to be a confusing melange of dissimilar environments, populated by illogical and alien creatures.  They have made enemies with a clan of ghouls, who operate from some secret base.  The ghouls believe that this is all a dream, and only by exterminating all life in the dungeon will they be able to kill the sleeper and awaken.

Obviously the bee-people are opposed to them, and have already had several violent sorties against the ghoul's forces: huge hermit spiders, that live inside ogre skulls (like hermit crabs live in shells).

When the party expressed interest in helping the bee people restore flowers to the dungeon and defeat the ghouls, the bees agreed to mutual cooperation.  They would send one of their own with the party: Yanivel, a level 2 warrior-jeweler.  Yanivel has lost her sisters while fighting, and is eager for revenge, even at the cost of her own life.  Especially at the cost of  her own life.

The party also purchased a bomb in exchange for a bloody $20 bill (rescued from the fanny pack).  The bomb is the size of a cantalope, covered in spikes, and will arm itself if banged firmly on a solid surface.  It will then detonate in 1d3 rounds, but if thrown or dropped long distances, there is a chance that the second impact will rupture the bomb-sac before the delicate chemical reactions inside can go to completion.

The party found a museum, where skeletons of pterodactyls and megalodons hung beneath an open dome.  This is probably where the roof access originally led.

Pictures depicted both the history of motorcycles as well as several tortures that may be performed with them (drawing and quartering, dragging, etc).  Scenes of unrelenting violence were intermingled with displays of engineers proudly displaying advances in two-stroke engine technology.

A motorcycle.  The chrome gleams beneath curved scutes of black, boiled leather.  The whole bike is huge.  It's 12' long and has seating for three, each one behind the other and a little above.  The engine is a labyrinthine block of flanges and flutes, and the bulbous fuel tank has a broad plate atop it, complete with blood grooves and dark stains.

Without hesitating, Subarnu suggested that they refuel the motorcycle with some of their own blood.  Harry Flash volunteered, but was briefly saddened when he remembered that he had no blood to give, merely whatever silvery metalloid filled his veins.  

Over the next few minutes, the three level one characters (+Richard G had left at this point) inflicted 8-10 hp on themselves over the course of several refuelings.  As it turns out, blood-powered motorcycles get terrible mileage.  But at least they can fly.

Outside of the dungeon, Harry climbed on top of the building began, cranked the radio furiously, intent on calling Charles for a ride back to Pittsburgh aboard the grungy bus.  

The horrible old man answered.  He didn't speak directly to the party, but they could hear him yelling at Charles that the fuckups at the hospital wanted a ride, and also that Charles had better pick up some more cigarettes on the way back.

While on top of the building, Harry caught sight of a large object, perhaps a quarter of a mile out.  It resembled a shaggy black tumbleweed, maybe 10' or 12' in diameter, swiftly rolling along the ground faster than a man could run.  The object seemed to notice them as well, and changed headings to swiftly roll in the party's direction.

Harry scooted down and relayed this information to his companions.  This was when they decided it would be prudent to refill the tank.  Subarnu opened his veins gain, spilling more of his still-mildly-alcoholic-blood into the fuel tank (which reeked like an abattoir).

By now, the tumbling thing was close enough that they could see it clearly.  It was a tumbler.

Tumblers are what you would get if you squeezed an 800 lb gorilla into the body plan of a giant spider.  Twelve muscular arms arranged around its body, each terminating in a hairy fist.  If it was standing still, it would have four on the bottom, four on the top, and four on the sides.  But it doesn't hold still.  It rolls.  It's head is broad and shoveljawed, possessing of certain features reminiscent of a gorilla, crocodile, or dumptruck.  Short tusks that are nevertheless razor sharp.

The party flew away on their blood-fueled motorcycle, hoping to lose the Tumbler in the low hills to the east.  The tumbler accelerated, and actually kept pace with the flying motorcycle briefly before falling behind.  The tumbler threw rocks while it tumbled without losing any speed, just picking them up and throwing them in the same movement.  None of these projectiles came close, however.

After 4 hp sacrificed and a mile travelled, the motorcycle began sputtering down for another rough landing.  From a nearby hill, the tumbler caught sight of them.  Another wrist slashed, more blood for the engine.

This time they hid the Dark Engine (because this motorcycle already has a name) in a tree.  

Minutes passed.  An hour.  No sign of the tumbler.  Finally, the familiar sight of the green bus bustled over the cracked horizon.  The party signaled, loaded the Dark Engine into the bus, and headed back for Pittsburgh.

Why yes, I know where you can buy some blood.  One of the food staples around here are chunkers, which are psychically paralyzed humanoids that are capable of growing in the dirt.  They're born, live, and are slaughtered without so much as a peep.  Farmers just water 'em and keep the flies out of their eyes.  We call 'em corpse farms.  There's a few of them north of the city, and they'll probably sell you buckets of blood for a reasonable price.  Why do you ask?

You'll notice that the average party level is 1.5, instead of the expected 4.  I was surprised, too.

The surprise extended to the fact that no one died.  I'm worried that this will forever cement by reputation as a soft DM.  A bag of pudding with a bag of dice, his veins holding more milk than blood. Flaccid hippo hands that cannot make a fist, but only gently paw with idiot caresses. A soft, toothless mouth, suitable only for uttering supplications and asking permissions, rather than the fiery incisiveness of righteous oratory summoned down from heaven to consume the character sheets of the unworthy in deserved immolation.

Well, get off my back, man.  They dodged a lot of unpleasantness in one way or another and I didn't roll for a single random encounter while in there.

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