Yesterday my two boys (9 and 7) asked me to run a roleplaying session for them, continuing the adventures of the dwarven thief and fighter duo (Gremdullim and Emrin) with their trusty NPC comrades, the human cleric Jerard and fighter Geoffroi. I protested that I hadn't prepped anything, they didn't care - "Just make it up, Daddy, isn't that the point of the game, to make up a story together?" How could I resist their old-school wisdom? Back to Morgansfort we went...
It started with a level of the unexpected that rather set the tone. Gremdullim ran through the meagre savings the pair of dwarves had while he waited for, and worked with, the lad in charge of the mews behind the stables who was training/domesticating the stirge chick that he'd saved when otherwise destroying a stirge nest in the old fortress on the island nearby. Name chosen ("Royume"), they set off with the stirge hooded and jessed around his proud master's wrist to replenish their coffers by delving once more into the ruined fortress with its cleric-targetting goblins and territorial kobolds.
Heading back to the stairwell down to the second level (only a few cracked walls and masonry marked the site above ground), the party were being cautious after noticing scorch marks on the walls on their last expedition. Sure enough there was a rapid but intermittent skittering sound, almost like an insect but too big, and the occasional gust of warm air that carried with the stench of burning hair. They proceeded even more carefully; Royume was transferred to a shoulder so that a shield could be grasped in Gremdullim's left fist instead.
|From deviantart, by Seraph777
They backed away and paused. Gremdullim patted down his beard while Royume was twitching as though it could hear a sound they could not. Maybe a high-pitched sound like the whistle it was trained to respond to? Geoffroi, however, was getting rather excited. "Look at the shininess of that shell! I reckon that's be worth a coin or two to a jeweller. And I heard from my cousin down-country that all the posh ladies have started wearing shiny beetle earrings. Come on, it's got to be worth a go!"
The lure of gold to the nearly impoverished pair was enough to rekindle their enthusiasm and they advanced again, but three more of the beetles came scuttling round the corner. Had they been called by their injured fellow? Whatever had brought them, they made straight for the party, mandibles clattering! In the ensuing melee, Gremdullim's fighting skill was severely blunted by the initial scorching he'd received, or perhaps by the fact he was trying not to damage the shell of the beetles. At one point he slipped in darkly comic fashion and sprawled on his back, waiting for the end, only to find that in falling flat on his back he ended up below the jet of flame from a beetle! Meanwhile, Jerard proved his worth again. Emrim nearly lost a leg below the knee [natural 20] to a beetle's bite which knocked him unconscious with the shock [exactly 0HP], but Jerard stepped up, knocked the bug flying with a blow from his mace and then dragged the dwarf back to heal him by calling on the merciful power of Tah. In the end it was a burst from the backside of a beetle that brought them victory [yeah, I can alliterate] as it crisped one of its fellows and distracted another which was slain by Gremdullim. The final charge after fleeing beetles and into the possible line of fire... later they couldn't decide whether that was bravery or stupidity.
|(c) Christopher Burdett - used without permission
While the rest kept an eye out, Emrim scooped out the innards of the dead but not burned beetle so that it would be lighter to carry. He tested the innards with an iron spike first to see if it would dissolve them as the ooze had peviously; it was fine but he ended up scorching his hands badly on one of the internal sacks of the beetle that was the source of its spray [failed a Traps check] in making sure the shell wasn't damaged. They rinsed it with the rest of their drinking water just in case.
Carrying the bulky shell between two of them (cleric and thief), and with Royume re-hooded, they set off back up the stairs. All the noise had obviously not gone unheard, however, as a hungry, grunting moan echoed along the corridors behind them. Despite picking up the pace, the sound came closer to reveal a group of five pallid, predatory looking creatures, about man-height but utterly inhumane in visage. "Run!" the adventurers all called out together and off they fled. "Carrion eaters!" spat the cleric in between ragged breaths as he struggled to match step with the dwarf holding the other end of the beetle shell. They burst through a doorway with the ghouls rapidly catching up and slammed it shut behind them, wedging iron spikes under it to keep it shut. Just in time! The battering and scratching on the other side, and the sheer unholy hunger in the whines of the ghouls turned their stomachs as they hurried on their way.
|From Heresy miniatures
Had it been worth it? Well, they got 80 gold for the shell, despite being pretty sure the trader was ripping them off, so they were better off after their expedition than before it, even after the amount they had to drink to put the last sight of the ghouls feasting from their minds. [Emrim the thief also levelled up to Level 2]
Well, for an unprepped session, it was pretty fantastic! With the shell I just opened my mouth and started talking. I reckon I can get a future adventure arc out of trading in monster parts for jeellery as well as for wizards etc. Who knew that bombadier beetles could be so interesting? It turns out that people in the real world use beetle shells/wings for jewellery, too. I didn't know that before looking for pictures for this post. Weird!