When Nichol didn’t return to civilization, his explorer’s journal was sent to his son and heir, Karl. Karl hired a group of mercenaries and treasure hunters to accompany him into the jungle, hoping to discover the fate of his father. (This was my way of avoiding the need to generate fresh rumours on the Rumour Table.)
Karl was accompanied by the witches Reeva and Trust, a halfling fighter named Thalmain, and Fientar the Cleric. (The witches were just magic-users. Reeva, as you may already suspect, was run by the same player as Veera. It should be noted that, with this second group, a huge premium was placed on getting the best armor possible. Getting hit was directly equated to being dead, so heavy emphasis was immediately placed on not getting hit.)
This time the random 1d8 roll determined that they would be approaching the ruins from the southwest. As a result, they ended up practically stumbling over a short, squat building of gray-black stone that was hidden within a small copse of trees. A rusty gate on one side of the building led to a narrow flight of stairs that plunged down into darkness.
(I kinda regretted that they stumbled over this second entrance to the dungeons. It would have been nice for them to return to the first building they had explored, since (a) I’m sadistic and (b) the minotaur had ordered that the heads of the previous PCs be placed on spikes in the clearing in front of the building as a warning to others.)
Thalmain made some efforts to get the rusty door to open quietly. When that didn’t work he started trying to remove the hinges, but at that point Karl (like his father before him) got impatient and yanked the gate open with a hideous screeching noise.
They lit a lantern and headed down. The stairs bottomed out at a deep chasm. A rope bridge extended across the chasm. Karl inspected the bridge closely — ascertaining that it was of recent construction and in good repair — before starting to walk across.
Half-way across the bridge, a spear came flying out of the darkness. It impaled Karl through the chest. He collapsed.
(Nichol had a Constitution of 9 and survived his first brush with mortality. His son Karl, on the other hand, only had a Constitution of 6 and died instantly.)
Thalmain and Trust fired blindly (and ineffectively) into the darkness. Thalmain then got the idea to light one of his arrows on fire so that they could see what was on the other side of the bridge. The arrow soared over the head of a broadsword-wielding guard dressed in plate armor who was charging towards the bridge. Eerily, the guard’s eyes were solid black.
(The black eyes were my reaction to this passage from the rules (“Monsters & Treasure”, pg. 5):
…it is generally true that any monster or man can see in total darkness as far as the dungeons are concerned except player characters.
I thought this was rather silly. I felt there needed to be some explanation of this discrepancy. And thus the followers of Thanatos were given their ebon-eyed visage.)
Reeva tried to use her dagger to hack through the ropes holding up the bridge, but she was too slow. The ebon-eyed guard sliced open her back as he ran past her off the bridge. She collapsed in a pool of her own blood.
The others rallied, however, and quickly killed the guard without suffering any additional injuries. Worried about possible reinforcements, they grabbed all of the bodies (the guard, Reeva, and Karl) and dragged them back up the stairs and into the jungle. There they stripped the plate armor off the guard, discovered that Karl was dead, and dressed Reeva’s wound.
… AND BACK FOR MORE!
They heard someone approaching through the thick foliage of the jungle. Drawing their weapons they waited anxiously.
A dwarf walked out of the trees.
This was Jorgen, son of Karl, son of Nichol. He had been sent by his grandmother to find his father.
“Okay, we have some bad news for you…”
THE THIRD CHARACTER
Jorgen, of course, was the the third PC of the night for the player of Nichol and Karl. His ability scores were absolutely abominable: 9 Strength, 8 Intelligence, 4 Wisdom, 14 Dexterity, 5 Constitution, and 7 Charisma.
While she was waiting for Jorgen to be introduced, the player asked for another character sheet so that she could roll up her next character and “speed things up a bit”. She was clearly embracing the lethality of old school play.
She was less than happy, however, to discover that her next character (Herbert the Elf) would have had the best ability scores of the night: 13 Strength, 15 Intelligence, 17 Wisdom, 9 Dexterity, 12 Constitution, and 10 Charisma. He also ended up with 7 hit points (the maximum possible).
And thus the joking began: Dwarves, it was theorized, were cursed. That explained all the bad ability score rolls for Nichol, Karl, and Jorgen.
More importantly, how had Jorgen even found them with an Intelligence of 8 and Wisdom of 4?
“You hear noises approaching through the wood.”
“Okay, quick. Kill him now before you see him, then I can just switch over to Herbert.”
But no, Jorgen would live and Herbert would (for the nonce, anyway) be shelved.
Jorgen, however, quickly earned the nickname of “Wheezy” — his low Constitution leaving him with a horrible case of asthma and a slightly arhythmic heart. It turned out that Jorgen, son of Karl, son of Nichol was — like all dwarves — the result of horrible inbreeding. Dwarves, it turned out, bred in their underground warrens like rabbits. The tunnels were packed full of them. Which is probably why Jorgen was pushed out the front door and sent on his way. (“Go find your father!” “Didn’t he just leave like an hour ago? For god’s sake woman!” Cough. Cough. Wheeze.)
Okay, you probably had to be there. But by the end of it, we were all nearly dead from laughter. I could scarcely breathe.