Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Big are these Rats Exactly?

Good evening lords, ladies and layabouts.
I decided one day that Dungeons and Dragons sounded like an awesome game to play. Not long after this epiphany, did a group of like minded DnD enthusiasts started up a group at my university. Tonight was the first night for quite a few members and we all started by creating our first characters and then exploring our first dungeon together, with some of the more seasoned players acting as Dungeon Masters.
I had so much fun. Playing DnD is like nothing I've ever done before. It's like the Sims, with fantasy elements, gold, so much more content and multiplayer. The following is a short narrative of our first adventure together. My character is the half-elf named Lereahl, of which I am quite proud. He suddenly feels like my conduit for misdemeanour and sexual deviancy...

The tools of the trade

A motley crew was gathered outside the Hungry Badger. Three of the figures were tall. Two were stony faced, he more elfin than her. The elf-man’s stance was straight and sharp, and he stood rather protectively near his lady, a long thin katana at his side. The half-elfin  lady looked a little bored and her fingers seemed to reach absentmindedly for the lute on her back. The third was only half-elf too, but he stood much taller than the other two. He wore a crossbow and a lot of black and his grey eyes darted slyly. The other two members of this unlikely group could nearly have been overlooked. A stocky dwarf thumbing a large battleaxe stood off to the side. He was swaying a little and seemed a bit cross-eyed beneath his bushy red beard. Even smaller than him was a tiny halfling. He seemed to radiate a tiny cloud of hostility. Strapped to his back was a great sword – or well, a short sword for any normal man, but a huge sword for the halfling – and two rather large harpoons.
“So, are you all here to kill rats?” asked the dwarf. There was a general murmur of assent, but no face was too happy. It was unusual to hear of five planeswalkers doing vermin extermination. Perhaps the locals were just a bit busy.
“Very well. It seems we’ll be together then. I’m Jetralg. I’m a good fighter, and handy with an axe.”
The others nodded to him. Jetralg looked towards the samurai.
“I am Sanji. This is my mistress Celerean,” he said simply.
“I am Lereahl. I’m pretty handy with a dagger,” said the taller half-elf nonchalantly.
“And I am Mange!” squeaked the halfling, causing everyone to look bemusedly at him.
“What? Never seen a barbarian before?” he growled. Lereahl giggled.
“Well, if this is all there’s going to be, we’d best head inside to talk to the barkeep. He’s the one looking for exterminators.”
The newly formed band strolled into the tavern, immediately noting it to be a rather fine establishment. It was quiet and patrons sat mostly by themselves drinking and soaking in the peace of the high ceilinged building, upon which centuries of hero’s history was painted, held up by thick, ebony columns.
“Are you the one looking for rat-killers?” asked Celerean walking up to the bar. Lereahl lagged behind, looking furtively around, peering under tables. Jetralg looked curiously at him.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
Lereahl snapped around and smiled sweetly at the dwarf.
“Nothing,” he said. Jetralg frowned at him and turned to join the others.
“Fifty gold pieces per rat?” Celerean was looking rather skeptical. Mange on the other hand was excited.
“Oh yeah! Let’s go kill us some rats!”
“That’s right, fifty each. The stupid things keep coming up from the basement and scaring my cook. Some nights I lose bags of gold because I have to tell customers their food won’t be arriving. I just want the rats gone. Oh, and anything else you find down there you can have too. I’ve never been down there. It’s horribly dark and old and kind of smelly.”
Mange downed the last of his seemingly enormous beer without a trouble and was off his stool in a flash, heading for the kitchen door. Jetralg on the other hand was just taking a first sip of his – although it didn’t really seem like he needed one more. The rest of the band gathered their things and followed Mange.

In the kitchen, it was easy to see the worn stairs that led down to the basement. It was also easy to see the signs of vermin. Sanji started towards one of the benches, finding a large cleaver stuck in a chopping board there. He nodded satisfactorily and sheathed it. His mistress however took the three loaves of bread that were sitting cold on the counter. Jetralg looked grumpily at her. Mange, also trying to find something in the small kitchen tried to heave himself up a little to see over the counter and accidentally caught the edge of a pan of flour that had obviously abandoned in the middle of pastry-making. The flour was catapulted all over the halfling, and Lereahl, who was standing right behind him. The half-elf glared at Mange through his new coating of white. Lady Celerean sighed and motioned towards the stairs.
“Shall we?”

The stair case was dark and rather damp, and soon the band emerged into a long corridor. It was dimly lit with a strange, glowing-blue algae.
“Ooh! War-paint!” squeaked Mange, reaching for the wall.
“Ew, mushrooms,” said Lereahl, leaning away from him. Sanji was looking carefully around the damp basement.
“There’s something over in that corner,” said Jetralg, peering into the gloom.
“Yes, I can hear something strange too,” replied Sanji. They could indeed hear a strange noise. A throaty, croaking noise, like that of a frog, but deeper.
“I can see it,” said Jetralg suddenly. “It’s a huge toad!”
“Ooh! A giant toad! Can I keep it?” asked Mange, bouncing forward.
“Sanji, kill it please,” said Lady Celerean. Mange’s excitement turned to horror as Sanji immediately stepped forward and sliced the toad’s head clean off.
“Toady…” he whimpered as the rest of the party moved further down the corridor.
They could hear the sounds of running water now and soon found themselves facing a swiftly running drain of some sort. The water was clear but dark. It ran through a channel off to the left, the corridor continuing on with it. There were five doors that they could see down this new corridor, two on their side of the swift black water, and three on the other.
“I know how we can get across!” said Mange. He hefted one harpoon and threw it with a solid thunk to stick in the opposite wall. He smiled at the others.
“Who’ll hold the rope for me?”
Everyone else just shook their heads.
“We’re going to investigate these rooms first, halfling,” said Lady Celerean. Mange’s face fell.
“But… But… What about my harpoon?” he asked.
“We’ll get it later,” she replied.
The halfling looked quite downturned. “My harpoon…”
The other half-elf sniggered as he followed the others to the first door.
Jetralg was first through the door and was immediately leapt upon by two rats. Sanji was next, slicing at one, but missing. Celerean was shortly behind him, drawing her dagger and swiftly dispatching the rat. Mange was next, zipping through people’s legs and flinging his remaining harpoon, skewering another scrabbling rat. Jetralg was still trying to disentangle the rat from his great red beard, hitting ineffectively at it with his axe. Sanji stepped in and was able to slice the rat’s head neatly from its body and pulled it free of Jetralg’s beard.
“You are welcome,” Sanji said, bowing gracefully. Jetralg didn’t look very happy though.
“Nobody touches the beard!” he roared, pointing a stubby finger at Sanji. The samurai remained stony, holding his decapitated rat prize that still had a few strands of red hair attached.
Lereahl, who had hung back a little was now looking carefully through the crates and assorted junk that lay around.
“Hey, I found some old armor,” said Sanji, putting the said leather chest piece on. Lereahl’s eyes widened with delight as he came across and old wooden shield. He strapped it on, then paused for a second, before slipping something into his black coat. The dwarf who had been watching him closely noticed this.
“Hey, what have you go there?” he asked. Lereahl smiled the same smile as before in the bar.
“Nothing,” he replied. Jetralg glared at him suspiciously.
“I saw you put something in your jacket, now let me see what it is,” he said.
“No. Now, has anyone ever told you just how lovely your hair looks in the gloomy light of a dungeon?” asked Lereahl.
“I- what?” Jetralg was staring openmouthed at the half-elf, who was blinking his eyelashes surreptitiously at him.
“Uh…” The dwarf was quite thrown, but not quite enough. He growled at Lereahl and batted his arm aside, reaching in to grab what turned out to be a great bag of gold. One hundred and fifty pieces to be exact.
“You were going to keep this all to yourself?” Jetralg said, outraged. He showed the bag to the rest of the group who threw equally harsh looks at the now rather sour Lereahl.
“This kind of loot we share equally,” said Jetralg sternly, counting out a fair sized pile and pushing it towards Lereahl. The half-elf took the money, but folded his arms and turned bitterly away from the dwarf as he began dividing the rest of the gold among the troop.
“Can we get my harpoon now?” wheedled Mange, pulling his second one from the floor, rat still shish-kebabed on the end.
“No,” replied Celerean, “we must find out what’s behind these other doors.”
Mange grumbled.
“Fine, but I’m going first this time.”
And with that, he burst through the first door – and was immediately set upon by a spider the size of his small head. Two more crawled from the shadows. Jetralg dispatched one with a mighty blow from his axe – squishing it rather horribly over the floor. Sanji dealt with the other while Mange managed to crush the one attacking him.
“Did it bite you?” asked Celerean.
“I don’t think so,” said Mange. He didn’t seem any worse for wear as he picked up the two dead but still recognizable arachnid corpses. Everyone visibly recoiled as he threw them into his backpack.
“Can we fetch my harpoon now?” he asked. There was a resounding “No.”

The next room contained a few rats that were easily killed, a lot of dust, pots and not much else. That was until Jetralg reached into a pot and withdrew a bag of glittering gems.
“See?” he said to Lereahl. “I’m going to share these with everyone. After I get them appraised, of course.”
Lereahl just rolled his eyes.

The last door in the room however, was different from the others. It was stone and looked much older. When they pushed it open, waiting for them inside, was a man-sized spider, clinging to the roof and clicking its pincers menacingly. Lereahl, Celerean and Mange darted forward. The first’s bolt whizzed past the monster, but the second’s bolt flew home. The spider roared angrily, but not for long as Mange’s harpoon sped through the air, burying itself in the thick carapace. The spider fell to the ground. Most would after being harpooned.

Mange skipped out of the first room and towards the drain where he had sent across his first harpoon. They had finally agreed to fetch it. His face fell however, when he saw that the rope used to retrieve the weapon, had uncoiled from this bank and fallen into the swift water.
“Well. How are we going to cross now?” asked Celerean.
“I could use my other harpoon?” suggested Mange. The others shrugged.
“Does anyone here know how to swim?” asked Lereahl.
Sanji’s hand rose in the air.

He was across the swift water in no time, and up the harpoon’s rope fairly quickly for such a slippery wall. He then threw across the rope and used it to pull the others through the water and onto the opposite bank. They stood, shivering a little and then agreed to venture into the next rooms. They encountered quite a few more large rats – even finding a rat nest. Lereahl finally managed to shoot something, pinning a rat to the wall with a crossbow bolt. There were a few interesting looking spellbooks in a library that was mostly decayed, and several other assorted items of value that they managed to locate in the next few rooms. The last one however, was much different. The door was like nothing they’d ever seen. It was smooth black marble carved with red symbols. None of the adventurers could decipher the texts written around the doorframe, but they didn’t need to read them in order to understand that they were a warning.
“What kind of barkeep has something like this in his cellar?” asked a very confused Jetralg.
The door also had no handle, or no other visible means to open it. They did however notice that right behind them, on the bed of the swift flowing drain, there appeared to be a lever of some kind, carved from a similar coloured stone as the door. They tied a rope around Sanji and pushed him into the water again. He flailed around for a bit, but then managed to kick the lever, triggering the door’s locking mechanism. He was pulled, flopping and sodden from the water as the door slid upwards with a sinister whisper. Beyond was a polished black hallway, with another door at the end.
The band ventured carefully into the tunnel. Here there were carved more disturbing red symbols.
“Stop!” hissed Mange. Everyone froze mid-step. The others had been too busy looking around at the creepy carvings to notice the pressure plate Jetralg had been about to stand on. Being so low to the ground, Mange had only just spotted it. Jetralg backed carefully away from the plate.
“Well, what now?” asked Celerean.
“We could go around it?” suggested Mange.
“Or we could just leave this place. It does not bode well,” said Sanji, looking around at the disturbing red markings.
“I say we go on,” declared Jetralg.
“But what if there are more traps?” asked Celerean.
“We’ll go around them too!”
“I don’t want to go,” said Celerean.
“I shall follow my lady wherever she goes,” said Sanji.
“Uh, guys? Can I just say that I am quite skilled at disabling this sort of thing?” Lereahl piped up. Everybody went quiet and looked at him. You could see they were all trying to weigh up his skills. He had said he was skilled, yet had not proven this so far, being quite apt to miss anything he shot at.
“Fine. Give it a shot,” said Celerean, gesturing for him to approach the black hallway again. Lereahl puffed his chest out a little and strode towards the booby trap. After a few minutes of fiddling, he had pried the plate up and disengaged the trip mechanism quite successfully. He followed the wire up through the wall a little and found it attached to a great huge swinging pendulum axe.
“Whoa…” breathed both Mange and Jetralg.
“Can I have it?” asked the dwarf. Celerean rolled her eyes and pushed past him.

They drew their weapons as they readied to push open the door at the end of the black tunnel. There had been no more booby traps so they were preparing themselves for something quite nasty to be on the other side of the door. Someone wanted it protected after all.
A slight clattering met their ears as the heavy stone door swung silently inwards. Turning to face them was a skeleton. He was clad in old leather armor and carried a great sword. He rattled again and lunged at them. Lereahl’s first shot whizzed between the skeleton’s ribs. Mange cried out and leapt forward, striking a blow on its shoulder. Sanji darted forward too, cutting the old bones a little. Celerean was next, her dagger doing very little against the undead warrior. Jetralg came forward swinging, but missed. The skeleton hefted its sword and delivered the dwarf a bad blow. Lereahl had reloaded, and this time his aim was true. The crossbow bolt hit the skeleton between the eye sockets and it crumpled, old, nicked bones scattering across the hard cold floor.
“Does anyone need any armor?” asked Celerean, picking at the bones. Lereahl nodded and came forward to collect it. Mange ran forward too and tried to heft the skeleton’s great sword.
“Oh goody! New sword!” he squeaked.
“Uh, you can’t use that,” said Celerean.
“And why not?” growled the halfling.
“Because it’s twice as tall as you.”

The five new companions traipsed out of the dungeon, now clad in new armor, carrying a fair amount of gold and rat corpses to present to the barkeep. The stood before him, still dripping a little and watched as he did indeed hand them fifty gold pieces for each rat they had killed. And then some more as a bonus for killing the creepy skeleton warrior.
“Woohoo! Level up!” shouted Lereahl. The other four looked at him, downright puzzled.

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