Or, "The one that lives up to its number."
Present tonight were Theric, paladin of Pholtus; Ehrendar Dawngreeter, elf mountebank; Kabliska, human mystic; Ardo, human cleric of Pelor; and Mongo, half-orc fighter. The evening began merrily enough, with a lot of banter amongst us. I want to say that one of the highlights of the game, for me at least, are the constant asides, jokes, catching up with each other, talking about movies and books and television shows and British comedy... Considering that I only knew two of the players going into the game (the rest having been unknown respondents to the meetup.com event), the fact that we have such excellent chemistry amongst ourselves is a wondrous, and wonderful, thing. I don't just have players, I have new friends.
They made their usual way through the dungeon, via the territory of the hobgoblins, giving their usual gift of animals for food, and the implied promise of a share of the loot (and an explicit arrangement with the denizens nearer to the surface). The party continued their explorations of the corridors to the southeast of the hobgoblins, pushing through to a four-way intersection they discovered at some point in the previous session. One of the passages in the intersection led to a dead end, and the unanimous decision was "send in the elf" to explore it. Alas, as soon as he got near the end of the dead-end, a portcullis fell behind him with a loud clang.
Mongo, with his impressive strength, was able to lift up the portcullis, freeing the elf, who was naturally somewhat reticent to go back down and do any more searching. After a minute or two, the general bickering was interrupted by the arrival of a pair of giant beetles from one of the other corridors in the intersection, perhaps attracted by the sound of the falling portcullis like the ringing of a dinner bell. The paladin and half-orc stood firm, believing they would be able to handle the creatures handily, after the elf peppered one of them with a barrage of daggers.
Unfortunately, in addition to doing some mighty damage with their mandibles, one of the beetles let loose with an enormously loud explosion, followed by the release of a corrosive gas. The half-orc was stunned by the sound of the blast (as well as the cleric), and both he and the paladin were grievously injured by the effects of the acidic gas cloud. The members of the party who could still hear after the beetle's blast did some quick thinking and decided to use the portcullis trap as a weapon, hustling most of the party in the dead-end corridor to lure the beetles in, then setting off the trap again to drop the iron gate on top of them.
The ploy worked, one of the beetles was smashed, the other wounded severely but still alive, and let loose with another of the explosive gas discharges. The paladin went down to negative hit points, and the half-orc was not doing so well either! The beetle was dispatched, the paladins' wounds were bound and magical healing brought him up to mobility, but now the party was faced with a different dilemma. All of them except the mystic and the cleric were now trapped behind the portcullis gate! A series of very unfortunate die rolls later, and they were still trapped behind the gate!
While the elf mountebank was able to wriggle under the portcullis, which was slightly above the floor due to the presence of the two beetle carcasses, the rest of the group were not able to do so. Reluctantly, those who could retraced their steps back to the lair of the hobgoblins, with whom the party had hitherto established such a good relationship. Groth, the leader of the hobgoblins, expressed his sympathies at the loss of half the party, but the situation was soon explained to him. Three of his warriors accompanied the party back to help lift the portcullis, with the admonition (spoken in front of the party, of course) "and if they want to show their appreciation, don't forget to bring it back to me here."
The hobgoblin warriors managed to lift the gate and free the trapped members of the party, and were rewarded with nearly 100 g.p. worth of platinum and gold coins, with which they quickly disappeared into the dungeons, in the general direction of the hobgoblin lair. Healing was done to bring the wounded back up to some semblance of normalcy, and they decided to press on and explore "just one more corridor." They chose the T-intersection to the south of the portcullis trap, but not before the elf wrote in the portcullis corridor (in orcish) "Look for the stone switch at the end of the passage." (The reason for that was to lure the orcs, who are known to be enemies of the hobgoblins, into the passage.)
The T led to a pair of corridors that seemed to dead-end, one of which had "something" on the far wall, which was unclear because it was at the very end of their light. Once more, the paladin and the half-orc decided to take the point, and set off down the corridor while the others watched.
It turns out that the "something" on the far end of the corridor was wicked spikes, and once the two went down ten or twelve feet, the entire corridor dropped down, going from horizontal to vertical in but a trice, dropping the two 20' onto the now-waiting spikes. Ouch! (I believe I might have been the only one laughing hysterically at that point.) More damage was taken, and now the party was left with the problem of how to bring their two... er... heaviest members up what was essentially a 20' pit. They decided to remove their armor to make themselves lighter, send that up first, and then follow it. A great plan, except...
Just as they were starting to bring up the half-orc, and while the paladin was in the very midst of putting his armor back on, another of the beetles rounded the corner and engaged the elf mountebank. All of the others were either holding the rope to pull up the half-orc or unable to join the fight because they were struggling to put their armor back on. With great pluck, the mountebank hurled his last remaining barrage of daggers (he not remembering to pick up his daggers from the first encounter, and the elf's player not being able to use his verbal patter skills against the GM; "I didn't say I did, but I would have" did not, alas, fly). He did some damage with his daggers, but was brought to 0 hit points after the creature bit and let loose with another explosive gas discharge.
By this time, the others had managed to get the half-orc up to the corridor, and he charged and engaged the beast. It was finally dispatched by the mystic and her mace. She recovered her rope and bound the wounds of the mountebank (in that order), and they finally ended up leaving the dungeon (the FLGS in which we play had to close a little early that night).
The party ended up getting not much explored, explored, many wounds were received, and they were 90 g.p. poorer for having to pay the hobgoblins for assistance in getting out alive. But as always, the company made the night.
Happy 50th, Star Trek - I was just a bit too young to remember watching Trek when it was in first-run on television (but I was alive then, and it's certainly possible that I was ...