As detailed in the e-mail "The Feast of Minimum Damage"

First off, I’m absolutely sure I’m not going to remember everything. With any luck I sit down to remember these things and as I recall an event I then remember how that leads to the next one. With dungeon delve’s that’s not so easy, because you can encounter stuff in virtually any order. Maybe we should just rely on Jim’s big-list-o’-killed-stuff™.

We do a little prep, then we head to the dwarven keep that we invaded last game. We had gotten through one floor.

For a bunch of low-level guys without strong arcane or thief support, we started really movin’. As usual, I’m going to forget a LOT of stuff. Guess that’s an argument for bringing my laptop to the game: to document the carnage live.

We head down the stairs at the back of the first floor and go deeper into the dungeon. We can hear a strange buzzing. Finally we come across the source of the sound; a cave full of stirges, which proceed to swarm on us. While there are plenty, we do a fairly efficient job of smacking them down. Rayson and his cleave feat do a pretty good job on them, while the rest of us seem to pick them off at half the rate. The stirges claim some Wisdom off a few folks but ultimately fall.

We come across two troglodytes who seem to be babysitting a bear that is held behind a cage door. Upon seeing us, one of them runs over to the cage door, whereupon Rayson does his best to pantomime a “we come in peace” type of message which allows us to backtrack and find a different path without causing them to release the bear on us. While the bear and trogs would have easily been crushed, the party seems to be leaning toward an alignment I’ll refer to as chaotic liberal.

(While my guy considers himself a nice guy, and is Chaotic Good, he does view most stuff in a dungeon as evil. It’s not like he has “Know Alignment”. But the fact that you’ve talked your way past two fights in this mission to this point does have him thinking maybe everything isn’t there just to kill him. If nothing else, his faith in Rayson is raised by these activities.)

There are plenty of other ways to go, so we search around some more. The next encounter that I can recall was with the Roper. Yup, there’s a big ol’ stalagmite near a door we need to get to. He asks if we’re his dinner. After answering no, a negotiation takes place to get him some food if he’ll let us pass. Now this is where I remember that we had fought something earlier (not stirges). In any event, it’s a short trek back to get these hacked up individuals and feed them to the roper, which allows us to pass.

(EDIT: I seem to recall an area loaded with rotting foodstuffs, where we killed another jelly. Just outside there was something we killed that was I believe what we fed to the Roper. Orcs? I can’t recall.)

This dungeon is replete with secret doors. You can’t swing a dead dwarf without hitting one. So we do a lot of clearing of rooms of creatures then going back and searching for secret doors. So far this works pretty well.

Sorry for the non-sequiter, but I think I’ll bring up the tarot reading now. Rayson asked Mathius to do a reading on the day’s events. Normally I do this, but I frankly hadn’t even thought of it, so I whip out my cards and do a reading. Can’t recall the specific cards, but my interpretation was this: That we had money difficulties (something that is debatable, because we had enough to get gear, etc), so that’s one strike. That we would encounter a powerful being, but negotiations would fail as this being would not see things our way. The fix was to rely on “old experiences” or “accept the advice of an old friend”.

We find adorned with 3 statues. There are two doors on the far side. Being a dwarven dungeon the three statues are 10ft tall dwarves with axes in their hands. Nothing attacks us. We don’t see any magic (or spirits, since Copan checks for that whenever we enter a room). We can hear banging sounds, as if from a forge, coming from somewhere, possibly the right door. So one of our fighter-types tries to open it, at which point the statues take swings in his general area, connecting for a few points of damage. As they go to try the left door, Mathius suggests we search for a secret door, guessing that left door will be a trap also. A secret door is indeed found, and I nearly break my arm patting myself on the back.

Within is a large chamber lined with torches and pillars. The anvil hammering noise stops. We are warned in dwarvish to go away. Our dwarf tries to cleverly suggest that they are orcs trying to trick him by speaking in dwarvish. They snicker. He tells them why we’re here (the items on our shopping/scavenger list). Seems they didn’t like Pox’s diplomacy botch, as they direct us to a room to our nearby left. On the door written in orcish is a warning that the dealer of death is chained within. We enter quickly and prepare to bar the way, naturally.

Inside is a dwarvish corpse, and kneeling before it is another body. As we come close, the kneeling figure rises and two large skeletons rise from the corners of the room near him and it’s on. Rayson, Mavin, and Pox form the front line, with Zuka casting heals and trying to touch the zombies with it (to do them damage), while Mathius throws Disrupt undead spells from the back, Copan lets the dogs out (woof—woof woof), and Jenna guards the door. Thing is, while out there two of these invisible folks de-cloak. Seems they are the legendary paradoxical “Giant Dwarves”. Duerigar, or some such. Anyway, they are big, bald like Pox, and coming right at her, so wisely Jenna retreats into the room.

In the combat, the lead baddy (a wight) puts himself in perfect flanking position for our heroes, but then of course the two skels shift forward so they’re in flanking position around our frontline. The wight tries to drain some levels. The summoned dogs drag him down and each time he tries to rise they drag him down again and people smack on him. The wight is defeated by strategy! (And if Mathius were still a gambling man he’d have lost his shirt on that one.)

When the skeletons are dropped we search the room and find a secret door. Which is good because outside our door they are fortifying the exit. We’re pinned in.

Beyond the secret door is another spirit! This one’s got a banshee wail that causes a sort of hypnosis. I believe the creature as an Alyp? So here comes the constant battle for control of our selves. Several people are frozen by the cry of the creature, and that’s when Alan wisely plays my character for me and says, “Hey Mathius, can’t you do something to counter this?” Um, oh yeh. Mathius kicks in his counter-song, which gives folks a second save based on my performance roll. I free three of four. But by now I’m assailed by a pack of skeletons who have come out of the door behind me. Zuka steps in and gets between me and them. By next round, everyone is free of the cry, except ironically, Mathius, who fails his save.

The skeletons are less of a match. They start dropping quickly, and the Alyp starts to get hurt by some attacks, but Copan keeps missing his big whammy—or rather the creature keeps making it’s save against his “spirit turning” attack. Eventually though it is hurt enough to retreat, around the time the skels are down and everyone is in control of themselves.

We clear some more rooms and find a nice clean room that hasn’t been touched, unlike all the others that are wrecked. There’s a nice carpet on the floor. With our god-learning we assume it’s a trapper/lurker type creature. To some degree this is right, as it turns out to be an mechanical construct that attacks wraps up a PC and tries to squeeze it. We beat and cut on the carpet until it lets go. With the thing gone, we have a decent room to hold up in.

In the night, the Alyp returns. We stay in our room until dawn, heal up, and come out to engage it after a discussion of whether to avoid it or take it out. A silence spell is cast by Zuka on a coin that Rayson takes. This way we can come at it without being hurt by the sound. However, that means we can’t cast verbal spells either while within its range. Once the creature rushes into the area of silence, Zuka and Mathius back out of it and begin their castings. The creature is harmed by attacks on its spirit, and as it tries to flee through a wall, it gets chased into the next room and dispatched. The group silently cheers.

We find lots of rooms and secret passages, and the occasional pool of dirty water, though nothing drinkable.

We try to come after the Dueregar from a different entrance, however on the other side of the door are waiting ten or so of these guys and a few smaller ones. I can hear one of them casting a spell I can Identify as Mirror Image, which makes me believe that maybe some of these guys aren’t real, but there’s no way of telling, and when everyone retreats it seems like a good idea to get out of there and let their spells drop.

We’ll come back to those guys. Plenty of other dungeon to explore.

Eventually we head down a long chain ladder that heads into a deep area filled with flowing water. Here there be treasure. And where there’s treasure, there’s dragons.

There’s actually a nice little isle of money sitting out in the middle of the lake that comprises 95% of this room. Nobody feels good about heading over there, so the strategy is created: Light is cast on a rock and Rayson hurls the rock out there so he can drag the rope back, illuminating sections of the cavern as he does; while he does this, Mathius gets to the near edge of the water and uses mage hand to pull gold from the island in hopes of seeing if something comes out to claim said money. We’re doing fine until he’s unable to pull a weapon across and we use magehand to drop a loop over the handle and try to pull it back. During the pulling, a dragon rears its head and tells us to drop the rope. Who are we to refuse a dragon?

The dragon talks to us about being thieves. Ironic that our only thief isn’t present. But there’s a long discussion of how adventurers come down there and all they want is his money and that if we want to leave we have to leave him something, we each can decide what. We can each give all our money, all our weapons, or all our armor. By this time, Mavin has retreated all the way to the chain ladder. Most of use decide to give something up to appease the creature. Mavin is called back and disrespectfully gives up a fish she’d caught, which surprisingly does nothing to piss off the dragon. However, Jenna refuses to give up all of her weapons, at which point the fight breaks out.

At that moment, Mavin, who is up on the top of the chain ladder, experiences a burning, but not the usual one picked up in a brothel outside Greyhawk. No, her headband begins to burn. She then gains certain abilities, among which are the fact that she shines like the sun, can fly, and is able to (and does) cast a flame strike on the dragon and a lightning strike. Of course this is after Rayson and Mathius are hit by a breath of cold. Rayson survives the initial burst, but Mathius is knocked all the way to -9 HP (from an uninjured state), a mere point short of death. He’ll remain frozen until he is picked up and carried back where Zuka heals him back to zero HP.

Seems it’s a holiday we’ll call… oh, how about, “The Feast of Minimum Damage”. Everyone who hurts the dragon (Mavin excepted) seems to roll at or near minimum damage. Magic missiles do two points. Copan’s mighty summoned Hippogriffs take a mere nibble. Arrows and swords and what have ya… nobody can roll anything to hurt the beast. I believe Rayson is knocked unconscious and Copan flies over to him on a hippogriff where he heals him back to awakedness. Mathius gets back to positive where he can shoot a few magic missiles and burn a few scrolls. The dragon finally is surrounded enough that it tries to move away and cuts across the path of one attacker that rends it apart. Sorry, I can’t recall. I think it was the ten-foot tall Mavin. Oh, did I forget to mention her headband also made her grow?

Seems she can’t cause these powers to happen at will. They just suddenly enable and she then knows how to use them. After that she loses such knowledge or control. Much like when Copan found a “stick” earlier. It’s a hollow rod that apparently granted him Barkskin, but only during that scene and he hasn’t been able to do it since.

As I say, there are plenty more things we beat up. We covered a LOT of ground. We’re, I believe, one gathered item short of completing the scavenger hunt.

Also of note is the fact that everyone in the party has experienced one of these odd visions about a glorious cavern filled with rainbow light and a voice that often speaks one word to them (often a different word than the next guy/girl heard, but some overlap).