Session Report (Jan 19, 2019)
The plan they come up with is this:
Enok tells them that he thinks blessed or magic weapons will be required to kill the demon, which he calls a “krabbari”. Arne is armed with the Law Giver, the magical broadsword they recovered from the barrow of the Warden and High Priestess of Tyr in the Logiheimli ruins. Shae has a magical bastard sword that the Priests of Tyr gave her in Isfjall. Arne will try to bless their other weapons, starting with Grend’s spear, Shae’s axe, and Björn’s longbow and arrows.
Enok will attempt to modify his Night Vision spell to affect the entire party. They believe this will help them see through the aura of unnatural darkness that surrounds it.
Grend will pray to the Mother for protection against the krabbari.
Enok and Findlay will rely on their magic abilities to aid the party or affect the krabbari.
Enok’s Night Vision spell will have a limited duration, so he will have to wait until they are ready to enter the chamber in which the krabbari is trapped. Tyr’s blessings on their weapons will last as long as Arne doesn’t request another prayer. He begins a long, two-hour religious ritual designed to help Tyr hear his plea and answer affirmatively.
At the same time, Grend begins his prayer to the Mother, also taking the time to follow all the forms of the druidic tradition in an attempt to get the best chance of the Mother both hearing his prayer and answering it.
At the end of Arne’s ritual, Tyr answers Arne’s prayer by blessing Grend’s spear and Shae’s axe. Björn takes the magic bastard sword from Shae. Now the four toughest fighters are all armed with magical or blessed weapons.
Grend’s prayer ends. He feels the warmth of the Mother’s love enveloping him and knows that his prayer has been answered, although he doesn’t know what form the requested protection will take.
Arne and Grend both utilize Divine Favor, in which clerical magic is replaced by prayers. “Memorized spells” are called “learned prayers,” but a character with Divine Favor can ask his god for completely novel effects by making a petition roll — to ensure the god hears the character’s prayer — followed by the GM rolling a reaction roll for the god. If the reaction roll is high enough for the requested effect, the prayer is granted. To grant the effect Blessed: Spirit Weapon, which grants a single weapon the ability to permanently damage a demon, requires a Neutral reaction. I roll for Tyr’s reaction and the result is Good, or one reaction level higher that the required result. I judge that each level of reaction doubles the number of weapons affected, so this means two weapons.
Grend’s prayer is open-ended. He just asks for “protection”, which puts the onus on the GM (me) to determine what effect the Mother will grant the party. Grend’s player makes the petition roll, and I make another Good reaction roll for the Mother. I make a note to have some protection or defense of the power level for a Good reaction to happen when appropriate during the looming combat. (“Good reaction: While most of the assistance here remains subtle, the divine power behind it becomes more prominent and clear. Coincidences become harder to rationalize . . . and some of the effects are blatantly miraculous.”)
The party travels back to the rooms of Tyr’s court at the top of the tower. There, they pass through the anti-mana barrier. The archway to the chamber entrapping the krabbari is inky black with its darkness aura.
They pause there, forming a circle with Enok in the middle. He begins his improvised spell to improve their night vision and it works! They can now all see even if the darkness is equal to a cloudy, moonless night.
Runecasters utilize magic powered by a variant of GURPS Thaumatology: Sorcery. This system allows runecasters to take penalties to their sorcery skills rolls and to spend Fatigue Points in order to cast spells they do not explicitly have in their spell books. This is called “improvised magic.” Enok knows the spell Night Vision, which only affects the caster. He is taking that spell and adding an Affliction (to affect others) and Area Effect (2 yards). This allows his spell to affect all other targets within a 2 yard radius. This requires 3 FP and a skill modifier of -6. He spends the points and rolls a success, which gives everyone the Night Vision 8 advantage, which eliminates up to 8 points of vision and skill penalties due to darkness.
Armed, enhanced, and ready, the heroes brace themselves. Then, they step through the archway.
Shae, Björn, Findlay, and Grend move into the room. As the halfling bard enters, they spy the krabbari in demon form to their right. It charges directly at Findlay. In the same moment, the Night Vision spell on the three of them fails.
The demon — all ten feet height and 2000+ pounds — momentarily appears to overrun and trample the halfling, but at the last second, vines miraculously appear from around the edges of the flagstones in the floor and push the bard to the side. Grend whoops, “Tank da’ Mudder!”
I decide that Grend’s prayer for protection manifests as one automatic defense per person. In retrospect, this was too powerful… Having to do it again, I would have chosen one use of the Luck advantage per person in the combat, to be used only for an active defense skill roll.
Arne and Enok charge into the room, Enok angling off to the side so as to remain outside of melee range of the thing. Arne charges the krabbari from its rear quarter, but the thing’s scorpion-like tail brushes his weapon away effortlessly. The krabbari seems equally aware of attacks from its sides and rear as it is from the front.
Having been frustrated with its attack on Findlay, it wheels around and attacks him again, this time with its pincers. Findlay dodges the first, but the second catches him and for a second, it looks like he takes a huge slash across his body. Instead, he staggers back with only a superficial wound.
Findlay’s player spends one of his Story Points to reduce the damage to a single hit point.
The battle begins in earnest as Shae, Arne, Björn, and Grend surround the demon and attack. Findlay begins his Song of Alarum to bolster their strength. Enok maneuvers, looking for a clear shot to fire either a Sunbolt or Lightning Bolt spell at it.
The krabbari easily seems to parry the vast majority of blows. Its naturally armored carapace deflects the majority of damage. After several rounds of combat, the warriors are beginning to take damage but only Shae has managed to hit the demon with a physical weapon — her axe. Her incredible strength manages to pierce the tough carapace and scores a major wound. In response, the krabbari throws its head back and emits a roar so deafening and supernatural that it seems to pierce straight through their ears to sear their very souls. The sound freezes their blood, but each of them struggle mentally briefly and throw off the effects. Everyone, except Arne, who is reeling helplessly.
Enok has also had better luck attacking the demon. His Lightning Bolt attack has hit a couple of times and has gotten through the krabbari carapace.
Findlay stops playing the Song of Alarum, but the song’s effects linger. The others assume he is readying a new song, but in reality he is struggling to clear his head from what sounds like the Whispers of Damned Souls taunting and pleading with him. Several seconds later, he appears dazed. The krabbari looks at him and says “Attack the spell caster!” Findlay drops his lute and draws his rapier. It rasps rustily from its scabbard as he draws it for the first time in the party’s collective memory. He advances on Enok.
Meanwhile, the krabbari wheels about and grabs Björn with both pincers. The scout yells in pain as the claws clamp down on his torso. He struggles against the grapple but is unable to free himself. Although reduced in mobility, he tries to hack at the claws binding him, but the krabbari’s tail swings in to parry his blows.
Arne shakes off the effects of the krabbari’s scream. He, Shae, and Grend redouble their efforts. Shae scores again but the demon’s scorpion-like tail parries the other’s blows.
Meanwhile, Enok is desperately moving away from Findlay’s attacks. Still, the halfling manages to score a few hits on the runecaster. Enok retreats towards the archway and the antechamber beyond.
The krabbari continues to crush Björn with its pincers. They cut through his brigandine armor and deeply into the flesh beneath. Björn grimly fights back to no avail. The others continue to harass the demon but they cannot defeat it before it raises Björn off the floor and with a final convulsive effort fatally crushes the scout. The demon throws the lifeless body to the floor and moves menacingly towards Shae. The magic bastard sword clatters to the floor beside him.
Enok reaches the archway, Findlay close behind. Without hesitation he throws himself past the rune-limned barrier and through the invisible anti-magic barrier beyond. The mind-controlled bard follows.
The krabbari grabs Shae in its pincers and begins its inexorable crushing attack. The catfolk barbarian hisses in pain and anger as she is wounded. In short order the krabbari’s attack leaves Shae gasping and reeling in pain. She’s on the verge of passing out.
Arne breaks off from the attack to run over to the fallen magic sword near Björn’s body. He scoops it up and moves back towards Shae and the krabbari. Stepping behind the barbarian, Arne lays a hand on her shoulder and bows his head briefly in prayer. Shae feels some measure of her strength flow back into her body from the holy warrior’s hand. Arne, however, is left pale and shaking.
The krabbari, apparently frustrated by Arne’s magical intervention, releases Shae and moves to attack the holy warrior, who is weakened by his healing prayer.
Meanwhile, as Findlay crosses the anti-magic barrier in pursuit of Enok, he is suddenly freed from the mental control of the demon. Saving his apologies for later, he runs back into the combat, Enok following.
“Your weapons,” Arne shouts at Shae and Grend. “They are no longer blessed! I don’t think they can harm the damned thing!”
Shae reluctantly drops her axe and grabs the sword that Arne offers her. Now only she and Arne are armed with magic weapons.
Shae aims one mighty blow at one of the pincers that are crushing her and hits. The blow cuts through the demon’s shell and it screams again, but this time the group manages to resist its effects.
Grend drops his presumably useless spear and runs for the archway with no explanation.
Findlay scoops up his lute and begins his Song of Alarum again. Shae can feel the song strengthen her arms and she attacks the krabbari with another mighty blow of the bastard sword. It hits again, and the demon screams, black ichor leaking from the wound.
Enok maneuvers to get a clean line of sight on the demon, and casts another Lightning Bolt. It hits and burns a long line across the demon’s back.
Arne dodges the krabbari’s attacks and manages to hit the thing with the Lawgiver. Ichor and chitin splatter the chamber’s floor.
Grend runs back into the room with his large net in his hands. He grunts and throws the net at the krabbari, which tries but fails to dodge it. The net wraps around the krabbari’s upper torso and limbs, reducing its agility.
Grend’s player, no longer armed with a weapon that can damage the demon, sees grappling as his only option. He doesn’t want to miss. He also wants to be as effective as possible. He has saved all of his story points (3). He rolls and misses. He uses all three points to turn the roll into a critical success: one point to convert a failure to a success, and two points to turn the success into a critical success. Critical successes on an attack means there is no defense possible.
Enok finds an angle that allows him to cast another Lightning Bolt. The demon screams again as the arcane energy scores its back.
Weakened and partially bound the krabbari hisses in pain and frustration. Shae, disregarding her own defenses, strikes twice in rapid succession, putting her full strength behind each blow. Fountains of ichor gush as each blow strikes home. The krabbari is nearly cut in two by the attack. It scrabbles to get its legs back under it, fails, and crashes to the floor. With a final shudder, it dies.
The heroes celebrate their victory briefly. Arne rushes to check the body of Björn, but the archer is indeed dead.
They spend a few minutes binding wounds and drinking healing potions to recover, then then turn their attention back to the antechamber and the sealed door. Grend carries the body of their fallen comrade.
They approach the door. The runes around the lintel have vanished. Shae tries to open it but it remains closed. Instinctively, Enok reaches out and lays a hand upon it. At the same moment his flesh touches the surface of the door, he feels a slight vibration and heat from his pouch where he keeps the tiwstakn. The door opens.
Beyond is a large room, outfitted like a library or study. Both the left and right walls are lined with bookcases, filled with books and scrolls. Three stone tables with ornate and well-preserved chairs sit with a comfortable space between them, to enable discussion and conversation of the many illuminated works contained on the walls. In the center of the room stands a polished goldstone pedestal holding a pristine, metal banded chest. There is a hushed, almost reverent feel to the room. They begin to examine the room.
The books contain poetry and prose, essays and opinions, records of discussions. Grend and Arne open the chest on the pedestal to reveal a large, hand-illuminated tome bounds in goats’ skin. The symbol of Tyr adorns its front cover. “By the gods!” Arne says. “This is Tyr’s own record of the law and discussions of the law!”
As he says this, the air in the room suddenly gusts about the adventurers. A smell of new mown hay fills the room. Suddenly there is a figure standing among them.
A tall, stunningly beautiful lady stands in the center of the room. Her hair is long, falling well past her waist, and appears to be spun of pure gold. She is armed and armored; the brigandine armor, shield, spear, sword and long knife etched with runes and surrounded with shimmering air like the heat coming from a smith’s forge.
“Sif!” Arne whispers.
The lady speaks. “Well done, mortals. The gods of Asgard thank you for restoring Tyr’s hall. With the demon vanquished, he may yet return here and discuss matters of Law with your fellow residents of Midgard.” She pauses, looking at the Björn’s body draped over Grend’s shoulder. When she speaks again it is directly to Grend. “Grieve not, Grend Ravenfrond. For Björn, son of Björn will drink in Valhalla tonight.”
Findlay speaks. “Lady Sif, you are beautiful beyond imagination and surely as wise as Oðinn. But Björn Björnsson’s saga is not yet finished. Our friend has many deeds of heroism and bravery yet to pass. He has told me that he will not rest until he can track the passage of a butterfly on the wind itself! He has vowed to win the archery contest in Isfjall in the next Festival of Blood! He would not find his rest in Valhalla until all of Norðlönd drinks to his skill as pathfinder and archer!”
Sif’s smile grows as the halfling’s speech concludes. She walks to him, picks him up in her arms and kisses him full upon the lips. Laughing as she sets the bard down, she says, “Findlay Silvertongue, I am glad to see that your tongue is as nimble as your words are eloquent! So be it! I will stay the valkyries from escorting Björn Björnsson to Valhalla until he fulfills his vows.”
As she speaks, Björn’s body trembles, and they hear a loud wheezing sound as the now living scout fills his empty lungs. He begins to cough as Grend sets him back down on his feet, an arm around his shoulders.
Sif addresses the group. “Your service shall not go unrewarded,” she says. She reaches up and pulls a single strand of golden hair from her head and places it in Findlay’s hand. “Wrap this around your forearm,” she says. Findlay does so, and the strand of hair turns into a torc, exquisitely crafted and apparently made of pure gold. “This will provide some protection against the forces of evil,” she says. She goes on to give each of the adventurers a strand of hair.
After each has received their reward, she says, “Now go and tell the Braeðralag of Tyr that the Hall of Tyr is once again found and safe! They are to come and restore the Hall to its former glory.” She disappears.
The heroes leave and camp one last time outside the Hall. In the morning, they gather their belongings and leave. To their surprise, the way has been made easy for them. They have no dangerous encounters in the valley between the Hall and the gorge. At the gorge itself, they see a number of people from the last village repairing the rope bridge. “The village jarl had a dream last night,” they explain. “Lady Sif came to him and told him to rebuild the bridge.” Their ponies are also miraculously still alive, unmolested, and their supplies are intact.
The trip is generally uneventful. Several days later they enter Isfjall.