Now, these were not the most important dice of the day, by any means, though they are cool and much-appreciated. I'll explain a bit more in a moment.
First, though, I have to admit that I had originally hoped to get a seat at the table of the legendary +Doug Kovacs in his Spine Wizard's Tower game. Alas, I did not elect to get the VIP membership, so I was second schrift when it came to choosing the games I wanted to sit in on. Dang, those seats got snatched up fast! (Among my missed opportunities at the Con was getting a chance to talk to Doug. I saw him . . . from a distance . . . but either he or I were too busy to do anything about it. Sorry, Doug. You going to be at Garycon?). So I switched my schedule. As I looked through the available DCC slots (remember: my goal was to play this game to the hilt), I spotted "Neon Knights". I thought, "Oh, cute. Someone's using the title of a Dio-era Black Sabbath song. I wonder if they know what they're doing?" Then I saw that the description of the session was composed almost entirely of lyrics to the song. Sweet! Game on! I was in!
And I'm SOOOOOO glad I got to sit at that table!
Judge +Brendan LaSalle was just friggin' awesome. His enthusiasm carried this scenario over the top. Seriously, if you have a chance to sit down and game at his table, DO IT! +Scott Swift and I gamed with three other players, including a complete and utter newbie who played, of all things, a halfling. He did great! Scott played Ragnok, the warrior, who had a prediliction of fumbling at the most awkward times. Then there was Knife Ears the elf, our party wizard (help me out here, +Brendan LaSalle - what was the wizard's name? I'm blanking), and me, playing Mandingo the thief.
Our city was surrounded by strange, highly disciplined (almost un-moving) creatures of law dressed in tattered rags that covered every feature. They stood, hook and chain weapons in hand, waiting. Occasionally, they would enter the city, only three at a time, and kill three victims, like clockwork. Though several forays were sent out to combat the strange denizens of law, none were succesful, though a few refugees did manage to escape the blockade. We were called into the offices of Lord Richardson, who ruled the area, to find a way to break this blockade before the city utterly collapsed under the weight of slow attrition.
As we were talking with Lord Richardson, the part was suddenly and without warning transported to the top of a tall castle tower, some 150' above a landscape composed entirely of sand dunes. Waiting there was a wizard of great power, who held us in thrall, commanding the party to fight against a group of beastmen raiders who were at that moment on the balcony, having crawled up over the edge using ropes and grappling hooks. The wizard commanded us, and we were compelled, to protect his belongings and defeat these creatures. As the party moved into action, they noted that their eyes, along with the wizard's, glowed a neon pink and that when they moved, a trail of pink tracked behind them.
Being a thief, Mandingo stayed back and let the warrior and wizardly types do their thing. While Ragnok performed a mighty deed, sweeping three creatures with one blow (with descending dice chains of damage, which I thought was good judging on Brendan's part), two of the beastmen ran down a stairway into the wizard's laboratory. The halfling and Mandingo followed.
The two creatures who went below wasted no time in looting. The halfling immediately attacked, but unsucessfully. Mandingo hid, waiting for the opportunity to backstab. He hid behind a low table and noticed that upon the table was a pinned and fully-dissected specimen of the rag-wearing creatures from outside their city. He noted this for later use, then attacked when the beastmen were headed for the stairs (despite the halfling's efforts to stand in the way). He successfully stabbed his intended target, but did not kill it. In fact, as the creature turned to face Mandingo, the thief fell backwards onto the floor. Thankfully, they were more interested in their loot than they were in killing the thief. The beastmen bolted for the stairway. Mandingo grabbed a bottle in which a small fairy or demon of some sort begged to be let out, which he did not. Mandingo wasn't the brightest bulb, but he didn't get to third level by being an utter moron, either.
Up top, things were not going the party's way. But Knife Ears, with quick thinking, called on his patron, Sezrekan, for aid. The elf was transported to Sezrekan's domain and was set to some menial labor for an extended time. But he was granted a boon and, after learning that Sezrekan is a real douchebag, returned, using the power of levitation to steal the wizard's astrolabe in exchange for Sezrekan's aid. With this aid, and a fast-thinking halfling who cut the rope on one of the escaping beastmen, as well as our wizards many succesful summonings of Ropetrick, we were able to defeat the beasts.
Just as suddenly as we had appeared on the tower, we reappeared in Lord Richardson's library. He was astounded to see us wounded and worse for wear. After remarking upon the abomination that Mandingo had in his hands (the bottled being), he sent us to his cleric for healing. On the way, we encountered an old tower guard whose eyes glowed as ours. We engaged him in conversation, learning that he and some of his men had been whisked away to the wizard's tower many years ago to fight the wizards enemies and move furniture, a truly demeaning task for a warrior of his stature. The mystery deepened. We needed more knowledge.
Our party wizard was one of two in the city, so we sought the advice of the cities other wizard ( +Brendan LaSalle help! I'm blanking on wizard names today!) and learned, eventually, that the wizard on the tower was known only as The Mighty One. The city wizard did tell us that we must travel back to The Mighty One's fortress. Our ally would send a creature of such magnitude as to distract The Mighty One long enough for us to resist his power and defeat him. Then, if we tolled "the gong" (echoing the "toller of the bell" in the song Neon Knights), the ragged creatures surrounding the city would be scattered and defeated.
In a flash, we were back on The Mighty One's tower. The city wizard delivered immediately - an insectoid creature the size of a house, with lightning flashing along its limbs, shell, and mandibles, was climbing that very moment over the parapet and onto the balcony! The Mighty One commanded us to defend his things and defeat this creature. Ragnok resisted the wizard's will and ran behind The Mighty One, hoping to draw the creature into the wizard. Mandingo "interpreted" The Mighty One's commands and went down into the laboratory to seek something - a scroll, vials of chemicals, etc - that he could use to injure The Mighty One, so long as the thief could resist the wizard's influence.
In the meantime, both Knife Ears and our party wizard resisted the influence of The Mighty One. The party wizard cast Enlarge upon himself . . .
Now, a little digression for those unfamiliar with the Dungeon Crawl Classics magic system. On first looking at the DCC rulebook, I was struck by the paucity of spells. I was used to seeing nine levels of spells with about 20 spells for each level. Wizard spells in the DCC rulebook are only listed up to 5th level, with 27 of 1st level, 24 of 2nd, 24 3rd, 6 4th, and 5 5th level spells. The rules are clear that there are 716 Wizard spells in existence. So why only list a total of 86 of them in the core rulebook? Well, the truth of the matter is that each of these spells actuallycontains a multitude of spells due to fluctuations in what is called "Mercurial Magic". One never knows exactly what one will get when one casts a spell. Wizards of higher level, of course, have more control over wht they cast, but magic is capricious - the most seasoned caster can fail to cast a rudimentary spell, and the newest of inductees to the schools of magic art may have a chance ot cast a spell of great power. This is determined randomly, with modifiers based on various circumstances, including caster level. Also, wizards can "spellburn" in which they sacrifice points of Strenght, Agility, or Stamina to power up their spells, increasing their chances of a good outcome. Our party wizard, being 3rd level, was quite adept (for a rough guide, double the DCC level to figure the equivalent level of AD&D power) and had decided to spellburn in order to gain power. He was able, as a result, to roll a d30 to determine the results of his spell. I was the only one at the table with a d30, so I loaned him mine. Consider, this was the first time EVER that this die had been rolled at the table. Here's what happened:
Yup, that's the die as it landed on the table . . . a natural 30. If you're familiar with the old AD&D spell "Enlarge," you'll appreciate the power of mercurial magic by what resulted . . .
As a result of this roll and the spellburn, our wizard grew to godlike proportions, standing 100' tall. For ten minutes, he gained +10 to attack, damage, and AC, as well as receiving a bonus of +100 hit points. Needless to say, combat didn't last much longer, as our wizard reached in like some giant movie monster, grabbed The Mighty One in his fist and squished the erstwhile tyrant into pulp. The house-sized monster looked up at the gigantic monstrosity, jumped from the tower, and burrowed off underneath the sand, lightning fading off in a line above the sand as the creature fled away at top speed.
But, wait. There's more . . .
Knife Ears, had, in the meantime, cast a Levitate spell. He had also used spellburn and rolled well, resulting in . . . well, here's what the spell description says at that level of success: "The caster can levitate any object or creature he can see regardless of size or complexity. This could include an entire castle . ." Stop right there. That's all you need to know about that spell description, other than that the effect lasts up to 30 days.
Someone, I think it was the halfling, rang the gong.
Did the ragged siege army surrounding the city dissipate? Had we defeated the enemy and fulfilled out obligation to Lord Richardson?
Who the heck knows? We were cruising around the Purple Planet for thirty days in a flying castle - WHO CARES? WE HAD A FRIGGIN' FLYING CASTLE!!!
Mandingo went to go read books and eat all the great food and drink the all the great wine in the castle. Heck, he could die in an instant after this and still have lived the most fulfilling possible life for a thief.
Thus ended the quest of the Neon Knights. I don't know that I've had that much fun roleplaying in years! The gods of randomness blessed us . . . which you might expect for a neutral and chaotic party of ne'er do wells . . .
See also: Gameholecon, Part 1