Session 6: Everyone is taking Polymorph

This session we had everyone show up, which was cool after being short the last couple weeks.

The first two players to arrive decided to scrounge around for some easy EXP before everyone else showed up. So they went out to map out some nearby 5-mile hexes to get the 10 EXP award per hex (equivalent EXP award to slaying a first-level monster). They found a haunted grove of twisted trees and nasty helmet-sized black squirrels. At first they sensibly left it alone, but one player wanted to run into the ruins in the middle and run back out. The grove seemed sentient, and malicious. Nothing horrible happened to him this time, but that’s a pretty deadly habit for an adventurer!

Then everyone else showed up. I split EXP for what had been done so far among the three players present at the time. When EXP are awarded, everyone at the table gets a share even if their character wasn’t present. I find it actually discourages individual exploration and splitting of the party, because there is less reward for doing it.

They decided to explore the ruined moathouse out in the hills, the one they passed as they fled the giant ticks. Its moat was blocked by debris and the land was swampy. They got in without much trouble, using the Fabricate spell to cut down a few trees to make a crude bridge.

The Fabricate spell lets the caster work as if he had a full suite of excellent hand tools. So he sat there sawing with his hand at the tree until it fell down, and shaved off branches by swiping at them. It’s pretty cool, and it’s honestly just about right in power for a first-circle spell. It also helps cement the spellcaster’s image as a strange and mystical person even at low levels.

So they got inside and found it ruined to the first floor, which was somewhat intact but full of rubble. Stairs down led to the cellars. They fought a swarm of giant rats in a large central storage room, and the noise drew the two Ogres who lived there. They found their first big treasure hoard, and then searched around and found the old treasury of the moathouse.

Records were on shelves along the walls, and under each shelf was a big metal chest. Some writing desks and chairs. A wave of dryness washed over them and what looked like a block of salt in the middle of the room. The block dried out everything in the area, and they didn’t want to search the room with it present. So someone shoved the block with a tool into the well. It boiled and threw dust upward, but they did get rid of it!

The treasury contained only copper and silver coins in the chests. The defenders long ago had fled with only the gold and jewels, for weight reasons. But it was still a huge chunk of treasure. The Ogres had some too, plus a magic potion! Woohoo!

The well I mentioned was carved with the Underworld glyphs and faces that they found in the other Sunken Grove ruins. Under Detect Magic the well seemed to breathe forth magical air, but with less intensity than the Sunken Grove shaft. That interested them.

They traveled back to town and blew most of their money partying and squandering money. They get EXP for squandering money at the rate of 1 EXP per 10 GP. This is meant to encourage treasure-seeking behavior, and carousing in town. To give a comparison, they needed 250 EXP to reach Level 2, and 500 to reach Level 3. Almost everyone is Level 2 right now. The extra Hit Points will definitely help.

We have two characters with Polymorph, and a third player said he’s saving up for it. There’s a Polymorph spell, which requires that you have observed the creature type both alive and dead (so in captivity for some time and then dissected). The Polymorph skill is separate, requiring that you hunt the creature and consume its heart. In both cases, the rules for Polymorping are the same:

1: You leave all your equipment behind. Some shapes can still carry things. For example, a bear shape can wear a modified backpack.
2: You must have eaten the creature’s entire heart. Some creatures don’t have a heart, and you can’t share it with other Polymorphers. The heart of a dragon may take a week of solid eating to consume. Massive attacks can destroy a creature enough that the heart is gone.
3: You don’t lose your abilities, but you gain only the physical abilities of the creature. So if you turn into a dragon, you don’t learn its spells or the location of its hoard, but you can breathe fire (or whatever) and fly. With a little practice.
You become the Level of the creature you killed. If it has higher Level than you, you roll the HP for its level. If you have two forms of 4th level, you roll HP only once and use that number for all your 4th-level forms. Once you reach the form’s level, or your HP are higher, you just use your own.

This skill is expensive to learn, but not prohibitively so. The benefits you gain are great, in that you have access to flight for scouting and very small forms for eavesdropping and sneaking very early. If you’re lucky you can acquire a form with much higher Level than your own, giving a huge HP boost.

The mobility benefit is less important because you can’t carry all your junk with you. You have to rely on other characters to carry your things. Very mobile forms tend to be ones without the ability to wear a backpack (like a mouse or a sparrow).

The fighting strength benefit is less important because it’s not a stacking modifier. You eventually surpass the animal form on your own. For example, a bear is 5th level. Once you hit 5th level, there is a lot less benefit to being in bear-form, and in fact you suffer for not being able to use most of your magic items.

Finally, an interesting point is that with the Polymorph skill, you gain the shape of precisely the individual creature you killed. One character killed a cat in town, and found the other cats talking with her as if she were the slain one (Hey Muffins, how you been? Old Lady Beechcraft is handing out bacon! You seriously have to get over here and check this out!).

I decided to let them learn the animal languages in a couple weeks or months. So Polymorph also gives you a very limited form of Speak With Animals (which is a first-circle spell I believe that also gives you some kind of friendship with the animal too). Not a big deal, more for roleplaying than information-gathering.

They’re still dividing treasure weird. It seems like whoever finds something can claim it, and nobody complains. Or they all decide to give something to someone without making sure everything is split fairly. When it’s coinage they split it up evenly, but not objects. Hopefully it doesn’t cause friction in the future. But I haven’t stepped in to offer suggestions, because it’s fascinating to see how they handle things on their own.

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