May 30, 2017

Pontus is Dead

Barbarians in the big city. What can you do about it?

Gerard and Pontus made their way back to the inn the evening of 22nd day of Flocktime. Sir Gerard explained the encounter with the mind flayer and that Pontus' brain had been partially eaten. Sarril placed some healing on the wounds, but it didn't seem to improve his mental condition. Sarril decided he would need to do some research in the morning, but was suspicious that the mind flayer might return, so decided to sit invisibly in Pontus and Jarrus' room, ready for something to happen. Sir Gerard went back to his own room to sleep.

Right about the stroke of midnight, four babau demons appeared in the room and impaled Jarrus to within an inch of his life. This wasn't the encounter Sarril was expecting, but he was ready. He screamed for Pontus to wake up and sent his companion, Krek, to wake up Sir Gerard. When Pontus woke up, a few rounds later, he was no longer babbling and drooling. He was fully functional, though 8 intelligence points lower than before. The fight went several rounds, with Sarril alternating between healing Jarrus and casting various enhancements on both fighters. Many scrolls were burned and potions were consumed, and Jarrus narrowly avoided death several times. Eventually, Sir Gerard showed up, and Sarril was able to get a Minor Globe of Invulnerability up, which negated the babau's gaze attack. Finally, Sarril was able to burn a scroll of Force Cage, taking two of the demons temporarily out of the fight. The tide of the battle was now turned, and the party was able to push through to victory.

Sir Gerard, who previously suspected that the Daern's Instant Fortress was cursed, now believed it was something in Jarrus' possession that was attracting these demons. Jarrus turned out his pockets and empty his bags. Something clicked. He had 24 gems taken from Zuggtmoy's throne, where previously he had 33. Nine were missing, which is exactly the number of babau they had faced so far. The party agreed the gems must be cursed. They talked about going and exchanging them at the Moneychanger's Guild, but Sir Gerard stood his ground, stating that these cursed items must be destroyed. And so Pontus placed the gems on a magic shield and smashed each one with a magic mace, just like a blacksmith using an anvil. After crushing each gem to dust, the party went back to sleep.

The next day, Sarril went to the Guild of Wizardry library to research mind flayers, while Pontus talked to Olaf, the proprietor, about how to make some money. It seems that Pontus had developed some severe amnesia, and while he knew the names of his party members, he couldn't remember anything that happened over the last couple of days, and he had only vague, sporadic memories of anything prior to that. Olaf explained to Pontus, once again, how he could make money fighting in the The Pit. Pontus thanked Olaf and made immediate plans to join the fights that evening. In the meantime, Sarril's research didn't return promising news. Few people were ever known to survive an Illithid attack, and those few who had were never the same again. Still, he thought to take Pontus to the Temple of St. Cuthbert to see if they could help. After making an excessively large donation, he was able to meet directly with the High Priestess Eritai Kaan-Ipzirel, who expressed that this was definitely uncharted territory. She did have an Elixir of Health, which cures Feeblemindedness, and it was possible that his affliction is similar and this could help, though there was no guarantee. She also expressed it was their last potion, and they did not have the ability to make more at this time. She asked why Pontus was more worthy of this potion than her own paladins. Pontus replied that he was not worthy, and that St. Cuthbert has already helped him more than he deserves. Both Sarril and Pontus agreed that when the time comes that St. Cuthbert calls for their help, they will provide it. This pleased the High Priestess, who sold the potion to them. Pontus drank it right away. It did not have an immediate effect, and the high priestess explained that if it is going to work at all, it may take some time.

(DM's Note: I decided that brain injuries are going to heal slowly for anything short of a Wish or direct divine intervention. I established a rule that each morning, Pontus will have a percentage chance equal to his constitution score to heal one point of intelligence that day. With each point of intelligence recovered, he will get some portion of his memories back. Even though his brain has been physically healed, this represents the slow process of reorganizing his thoughts and memories)

Aestrella Ashfarel
That afternoon, Jarrus went out to check on his armor, which was coming along nicely, and Pontus went out to buy some horses. Pontus got distracted along the way by a beautiful woman who turned out to be Aestrella Ashfarel, Grand Diva of the Opera House (who was "slumming" in a little-known sweet shop run by some women in the Artisan's District, where she could get away from her fans that recognize her). Aestrella was incredibly charming, and Pontus was once again in love. He insisted that she come to the pits to watch him fight to prove his love to her. Aestrella, who had given the name "Astrid" to Pontus in order to keep her identity secret, was amused by this, but explained that she had other commitments. Nonetheless, she hopes to see him again. Despite this distraction, Pontus was able to eventually make his way to the stables outside of the gates and buy four horses.

That evening, Pontus was really excited about fighting in the Pits - despite having never been to any of the fights and having no idea what to expect. While still in his room at the inn, he strapped umberhulk mandibles to his forearms, fashioned a mask out of various monster teeth he had collected and then smeared blood across his chest in the shape of crow wings. Jarrus decided he would go with Pontus, as his manager to be in his corner. It should prove amusing at least. Sarril decided to catch-up later, and Sir Gerard wanted no part of such nonsense, instead spending his time in the common room of the inn, listening to the conversations around him and trying to learn all he can about what is going on in Greyhawk.

Jarrus lent Pontus a cloak to cover up his accoutrements, and followed him to the secret place where he was able to give the correct password to get into the Pit underground. Inside was a seedy, crowded place. The Pit was a small, round arena below the floor where people could gather around and lean over a small wall to watch the fights. Some assigned seating was above, where it was clear that wealthy merchants and other important people could sit. And above that were special boxes where nobility of various sorts could watch. One of the boxes, which extended slightly over the pit on the opposite side, contained a shadowy figure who seemed to be in charge of the place. Off to one side of the pit was a cage, where Pietain Morvannis, Manager of the Pit, sat. Jarrus was able to speak to Pietain and get Pontus (whom he introduced as "The Umberhulk") added to the list for the Non-lethal Gladiator category. There were three type of fights that evening. Wrestling, Non-Lethal Gladiator (which uses blunt weapons, no armor, allows tap-out/surrender, and the rules prevent a killing blow to a knocked out opponent), and Full Gladiator (essentially no rules). Sarril arrived a bit later, and when he heard the announcement that The Umberhulk would be fighting Strom the Mad with 10:1 odds, Sarril immediately began placing large wagers on the Umberhulk.

After some silly wrestling matches that seemed to be popular with the older crowds, the Non-Lethal Gladiator combat began, and the place really filled up. Jarrus and Pontus were taken down into a waiting room to get ready. The first fight was between Eglantine, an extremely nimble fighter, and Grunk the Destroyer, a large half-orc who had previously tried to start trouble with Sir Gerard at the inn that morning. Shields, clubs and maces were spread around the arena. Eglantine elegantly grabbed his weapons and started striking Grunk from all sides. Grunk was slow and having a lot of trouble hitting him. Eglantine started getting cheered on by the crowd, and at one point turned to smile and raise his hands up (popular fighters get paid more by the house to fight, so this is a common tactic). Unfortunately for Eglantine, Grunk took advantage of this posturing to land a solid blow to his head, exploding Eglantine's brains across the side of the pit. So much for non-lethal combat, but accidents do happen, and its part of the game.

Next up was The Umberhulk (Pontus) vs. Strom the Mad. This was Pontus' moment. This was what he had been waiting for. He rushed out in full regalia, screaming his barbarian roar, getting the crowd stirred up. The fight lasted a while, but this gave The Umberhulk that much more time to work the crowd into a frenzy. By the end of the match, they were shouting his name. The Umberhulk took a lot of blows, but his injuries only fueled his rage. Victory was soon his. As the crowd shouted his name, he reached down to his unconscious opponent, ripped off his ears and tossed them into the crowd. The crowd gasped in horror. Some became sick to their stomachs. But some were even more excited. But Pontus broke the rules. He attacked his opponent after the fight. Guards immediately rushed into the Pit and escorted Pontus away and back into the preparation room. On his way out, he looked up and saw the shadowy figure in the box above smiling at him. But in the back room, Jarrus gave him an earful (no pun intended) about what was wrong with what he just did. After some time, a messenger came in to say the next fight would be between The Umberhulk and Grunk the Destroyer. It seems the crowd has tasted blood, and now they want more. Pontus was more than happy to fight again.

Jarrus went out to find Sarril, who was collecting his substantial winnings from the first fight, and already placing bets on the Umberhulk vs. Grunk match. He brought Sarril back to heal Pontus before
Grunk the Destroyer
the next match. Sarril gave him the last of his healing potions, which were able to bring him back to full health. Then the announcement was made, and Pontus went out into the arena to face his opponent.

Pontus again screamed his barbarian yell, but this time it was met in return by a deafening, inhuman sounding roar from his opponent. The match began, and both man and half-orc went for their weapons and shield, both selecting clubs. Though the odds were 2:1 in Grunk's favor, the actual match was much closer. Both combatants were of the same level. Grunk had a clear strength advantage (19 STR) and was specialized with a club, giving him +1 to hit and +2 damage. But his constitution was not substantial, so his it points were only slightly above average for a fighter, and he had an average dexterity, making his AC 9 with a shield. Pontus, on the other hand, had only a +1 strength bonus, but had ridiculous dexterity and constitution bonuses with his barbarian class doubling them. He had triple the hit point average of a fighter of the same level and his natural AC was 4, 3 with a shield. This was the fight Pontus was itching for. This was the fight that would prove his combat superiority.

But +9 damage on each hit was starting to add up fast. Pontus did land a critical hit at one point, but couldn't make the follow-up damage roll count. Grunk also got a critical hit in, doing over 30 points of damage in one round. Things were not looking good for Pontus. Pretty soon, Pontus was down to 3 hit points, and it was Grunk's attack. With +9 damage, there was no question that another hit would take Pontus into negative HP territory, and a roll of 5 or 6 on the damage die would completely kill him. But Grunk only got one attack this next round, so he could miss entirely. At this point Pontus was given the opportunity to surrender the match, or keep going. There was not a second of hesitation in Pontus' mind, of course he continues the fight. And so I rolled the attack roll for Grunk. . . 20 - critical hit! I rolled a 5 for damage, bringing the total to 28 ([5+9]*2). Pontus was very, very dead.

DM's Note: At this point I realized that I had been giving Grunk +11 for damage instead of +9, because I was double-counting the specialization by mistake. I went back and recalculated the damage, and it turned out Pontus did not have 3 hit points left, he had 12 or so, which would have kept him alive if it wasn't for the critical hit. But he was still dead either way.

The shadowy figure in the box above smiled widely, then walked away. The crowd cheered Grunk's name as Jarrus and Sarril collected the pay and carried the dead body of Pontus back to the inn, where they explained to Sir Gerard what had taken place. Sir Gerard insisted that they head out to the Village of Jakkarton the next day to visit the priestess of Heironeous named Asanthar, whom he was certain would be able to resurrect him. And with that, the party rested for the night.

The next morning, Gerard (not knowing that Pontus had already bought horses) purchased four horses while Sarril went to the Guild of Wizardry to buy some fantastic, and expensive, magical items for the party. It is now noon on the 24th Day of Flocktime, 579CY.


  1. I'm interested to see what you do with resurrection these days. I've dropped it from two of my campaigns entirely, but in the third I've retained it, though it costs the recipient a level (making normal man types ineligible). On the other hand, I've dropped undead level drain in favor of permanent hit point or stat losses (which don't force us to stop and recalculate anything mid-battle).

    1. The basic rules are here: I know some DMs don't like resurrection because it seems abusive and can become like a videogame where the same character keeps coming back. For me, it's all about the narrative of the story. Resurrection is hard. Few priests in the world can do it, and even fewer are willing to. But there is a narrative at play. If the resurrecting a dead comrade is something the party really wants to do, then they are likely going to go on a quest to do it, and the resurrection itself will become an integral part of the story, likely requiring some sacrifices on the part of the party members.