Esoteric Enterprises - Session Nine (2022)

Session Nine continued the shift from dungeon exploration to gang violence we'd seen over the last couple sessions.

In attendance:

  • Johan Cilliers, Impulsive Antiquities Dealer & Interdimensional Parasite Host (Mystic, Level 4)
  • Zeke Whitaker Cunctator (Occultist, Level 4)
  • Devin “The Punk Bard” Skull, previously of LudiCURSED (Mystic, Level 4)
  • Cobb "Jury-rigged immortality is still immortality" Taylor (Doctor, Level 4)
  • Eileen Walter, Human shield for hire (Bodyguard, Level 3)

The Kimeras began at Cobb's house in the suburbs, where he used super-science to attach more monster parts to people. He gave himself a "backup nervous system" by grafting stem cells from the ferret hydra's spine-in-brine to his own. He also attached some leftover squid tentacles to Devin's head, to make a cosmetic but still totally bitchin' tentacle mohawk.

With all the money they had from their illegal activities and "legitimate" income, the Kimeras decided to splurge a little on stuff they always wanted. They picked up a sweet van for Devin to airbrush a wizard on. Devin also wanted Cobb to give him wings, so the gang put out a "bounty" on the street - a thousand dollars for anyone who brought them an intact pair of wings from an underworld creature.

(Like I mentioned in my last post, the game doesn't have mechanical support for the players doing their own gang stuff. Going from bounty collectors to bounty offerers was a way to make them feel like they were moving up in the criminal underworld)

With the housekeeping taken care of, the Kimeras voted to help the Red Caps eliminate the Buddhas and Ursus cult for good. The trip to the Blood For Sex was quick and uneventful in their newly purchased van. The heads of the Red Cap family were in the underground club, going over a map of the dungeon with their children. They invited the Kimeras to pull up a chair.

The Red Cap Daddy explained that there were four underground entrances to the Bear Cult's Reliquary, plus one from the surface.

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  • The East entrance was a straight shot through the Fat Buddha's den which the Kimeras raided the previous week - probably fortified or just sealed off entirely.
  • The North entrance was through the old Limestone caves the mercenaries had occupied. That was Morlock country now, and they weren't in love with the Kimeras
  • The West and South entrances were accessible from the Mausoleum or Fairy Enclave
  • The surface entrance was probably through the old church by the park, which is probably how the Bears were getting in and out of the reliquary

The Red Cap Momma pointed out that the Mausoleum entrance was now blocked by an unknown presence, something even more annoying and dangerous than Sunflowers. The Enclave, on the other hand, would be easy to traverse. Both her and he husband had the power to command any Fey of lower rank than themselves, which would be most of the surviving inhabitants.

The Kimeras and Red Caps worked out a plan: The Kimeras would take the Red Cap Daddy down through the Enclave and hit the Bears from the South, at the same time as his Wife and the nine Red Caps went in through the old church. The pincer movement would commence at 4:30 PM.

The Kimeras arrived at the museum around 3:00, accompanied by the Red Cap Patriarch. It was closed early, which was unusual. They climbed into the disused gallery using the pitons they set months ago. Zeke noticed someone else had used this route to enter the museum. The unknown party had entered through the window, descended into the Enclave via the stairs, emerged again, and exited through the museum proper - the lock was smashed from the inside and the door was held shut by an improvised barricade of stacked crates. It was obviously the Speedfreaks Underground, who had rescued the Fairy Queen and her children from the revolutionaries. The Kimeras descended the stairs into the Enclave.

In the kitchen, they found the Troll. He had removed several floor tiles and was digging a hole in the earth beneath. He was burying the enormous corpse of an Ogre, throat slashed open by enormous claws. He explained to the Kimeras that his petanque partner and only friend had sided with the usurper, and so he had killed him.

The Kimeras pushed onward to the throne room. The surviving Fairy Lord was lounging in the Seelie King's throne, wearing his crown. The other fey creatures fled when they saw the Red Cap Patriarch. The Knight tried to do the same, but the Red Cap told him to sit. An order he couldn't refuse. The 3 foot fairy said he'd love to draw out the execution, but he was in a hurry. He ordered the Knight to kill himself, and he fell on his sword. The Kimeras debated, again, whether siding with the Red Caps was a smart idea. Then again, the Knight had tried to slaughter the kidnapped children in the nursery. The Kimeras took the Knight's goblin made sword, and the twisted wooden crown from his head. The Troll carried his corpse away for burial.

The Kimeras continued through the geode room and cursed treasury to the mausoleum. They still had half an hour before the assault was to commence. They checked off their equipment and agreed on a plan: put their gas masks on, toss in one of Devin's limestone grenades, and rush in after it to beat the enemy to death.

They kicked in the door at 4:30. The surviving Fat Buddhas were behind it, exercising and sparring in the same room that the players had first discovered the Bear Cult in two months ago. The limestone bomb stunned most of them with a coughing fit, but didn't stop one of the mobsters from stomping out a prayer and growing to giant size. The Ursus Cult had taught them magic quickly. Being huge didn't save the gangsters from being shot, stabbed and bludgeoned by the Kimeras and their fairy friend. The survivors fled North. The Kimeras tossed another liquid limestone gas grenade and rushed after them.

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The cloud of liquid asbestos interrupted a prepared ambush by Two Cave Bears, a group of elite Bear Cultists, and High Priestess Mama Bear herself. Zeke got off a crucial early Silence and stopped the elite cultists from casting. Eileen took on both Cave Bears with her flail of mutilation, quickly dispatching one and fending off a series of attacks from the other. The Red Cap leader skirted the edge of the battlefield and stabbed Mama Bear in the back, and the limestone gas finished her off. The remaining Fat Buddhas mobbed Johan, who they knifed several times but couldn't kill. The Ursus cultists found their way out of the sphere of silence and brought magical Darkness down on the room, but Devin dispelled it with a Light spell at a higher caster level.

(The Fat Buddhas had fought the Kimeras before, and knew about the liquid limestone trick. I really should have given the Bear Cult gas masks, since they would know about it too. I also made the mistake of giving all the cultists ritual knives, like it says in their stat block. The Bear Cult is all about crushing people in hand-to-hand combat with the Enlarge spell, they should have something more substantial than tiny daggers that do tiny damage)

The remaining Bears and Buddhas broke and ran in different directions. The Kimeras chased one of the thugs into a room with an obvious crush trap, which he was carefully trying to avoid. Eileen gleefully triggered it with a thrown object and it squashed him - which also rendered the room impassable. They searched a couple other rooms, which Johan remembered from his very first dungeon crawl. The taxidermy room had a grimoire, The Chthonic Voyages, which Zeke skimmed to appraise its contents. The dormitory had a dungeon map, which Johan rolled up and pocketed. The fleeing gangsters had run North, and the Kimeras briefly pursued them - before realizing that they were headed back to the limestone caves the mercenaries had once occupied. They had no desire to fight morlocks AND deal with infohazards, so they turned back and left the mobster to his fate.

The Kimeras returned to the room where they had fought the Ursus cult. Johan eyed the prize he had been thinking about since week one: the magic bear pelt on the pedestal in the center of the room. He grabbed it and the doors all slammed shut. The ceiling began to descend. Eileen smashed the nearest door with the magic sledgehammer, but couldn't knock it off its hinges. Zeke flipped through the spellbook he just picked up, found Shape Stone, and cast it dangerously to peel away the frame around the door. The group rushed out seconds before the ceiling crushed the entire room flat (including all the cultists' loot).

(Johan also had Hold Portal for one of his spells, which I would have allowed him to reverse into Knock and open the door that way)

They'd broken into a break room, with couches, a fridge and a TV. The little Red Cap they brought with them was there. He told them that the Bear Cult had collapsed the church entrance using an earthquake spell. The passage out was sealed, a bunch of Red Caps had been crushed to death, and he didn't know if his wife was still alive. He was doing his best to keep it together. There were a couple Bear cultists still in the tunnels, but they'd run off when he shot at them. He didn't have the energy to chase them down. The Kimeras searched the room and found a human leg in the fridge. They went back to the training room and went through the dead Buddhas' gym bags for change. It was time to return to the surface and get paid.

In the Fairy Enclave, the troll was still in the kitchen. He'd replaced the floor tiles and was busy carving an epitaph for the ogre.

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Back on the surface, the Kimeras phoned the Red Cap invasion force. The Red Cap Mom answered. She was alive, but the earthquake had crushed half the invasion force. The church had collapsed and police, fire and EMS were swarming the place. She told the Kimeras not to come pick up the van, and not to come back to the Blood For Sex until the heat died down. There was a time and place to fight the police, and this wasn't it. Yet. Red Cap Dad hadn't come out of the dungeon with the Kimeras, he was still down there somewhere.

Back at Cobb's house, the group tuned in to the TV news to see what was going on in the city. The newscaster said that Federal Agents had arrested Leonard "Lieutenant Lenny" Bonnavera and Esme "Ezzy" Parkreiner during a raid on Club Vinculum in downtown Coal City. There was a warrant out on the Don, who was still at large. The Kimeras were very glad they'd skipped the Ponda Ray job. They decided to celebrate with alcohol and transhuman surgery.

Cobb inserted the shell from the levitating barnacle under Eileen's skin. This gave her a layer of lightweight protective armor, but also made her vulnerable to freak levitation events when she got shot. He had just finished folding her skin back into place, when the doorbell rang.

The sixteen year old kid had a revolver stuffed in her belt and a plastic bag full of severed wyrmling wings. Her face was swollen with first degree burns and her eyes were irritated where her eyelashes were singed. She was obviously high on something. Cobb offered burn cream but she turned him down, assuming it was a plot to molest her. The gang paid the bounty for the wings, Cobb threw in an extra hundred as a tip.

The reptilian wings went on Devin. Cobb had to replace most of his skeleton with aluminum and carbon fiber parts, to reduce its weight while maintaining its strength.

There was another knock at the door. This time it was the Masked Man, with a message from the Men in Black. A sealed envelope, with two sentences.

THE RED CAPS HAVE GOT TO GO
DO IT AND YOU'RE FREE

That wasn't good news. The Kimeras pondered their options. They could eliminate the Red Caps and be free, join the Red Caps and fight the Men in Black, or flee the city.

Cobb grafted the crab claw from the paradox beast to Johan, which gave him the ability to cast a suite of temporal spells at risk of grisly miscast effects.

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A third awkward weirdo knocked on the door. It was a Red Cap with an envelope of money. A thousand dollars for each Kimera. He warned them not to come back to the club for a while, until the heat died down. He said Mom and Dad made it back ok, and they were considering letting the Kimeras into the family.

Then he left, and nobody else bothered them for the rest of the night.

I thought things were getting stale, but the players said they loved it. I was thinking in terms of mechanics. "Oh another shootout, oh another dungeon room". For the players it was a satisfying story beat. They'd returned to the first area they ever explored. They were fighting alongside a character they knew, against people they'd run into several times over their dungeoneering career.

I asked the players to divide their XP by 5 and see where they'd be at, if I hadn't increased the rewards. Everyone would be at Level 2, except Eileen, who would be at Level 1 due to the Bodyguard's higher XP requirements (the Bodyguard is a clone of the Dwarf). If they were lower level, the players probably wouldn't have burned through so much content so quickly - either the dungeon crawling or the factional warfare. But making everything slower isn't necessarily a good way to extend the life of a game either. I'm going to stick with the times-five rule for my overflow table.

I have to draw up the map that the players found in the dungeon. I doubt it'll tell them much they don't already know, but it'll be fun to see what the NPCs were working off.

I think I've got one or two sessions left of content in Coal City. After that, who knows?

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