The session starts with the current party after fleeing the Octogon of the Adventurers Aid Society:
Druggo Hairycock – 2nd level Thief
Franz – 1st level Fighter (a former henchman)
Tancred – 1st level Paladin
Pius the First — 1st level Cleric
Slomo Goldberg – 1st level Cleric
Fagor the Half-Orc Hero – 4th level Fighter
The party sits in the Valley of Trobellor waiting for the Master Warrior to return. After a week the only thing sighted is a herd of elephants heading east. Giving up on Trolbellor, the party decides to head back to Trollopulous. They march east to the river to build a raft to float down to the city rather than march the whole way. It is 330 miles away after all. Realizing they have meager tools, an axe, swords, and rope, they decide on building a simple raft from bundled reeds cut from the riverbank. It’s far from dry but it floats and the weather is warm and the water is not too cool. Thus begins, something of a lazy jaunt worthy of Huck Finn. They have several encounters along the way.
9/18 – while camped out on the riverbank at midnight they are awakened by the sounds of marching and singing. The song Fagor recognizes as the famous Orc romantic song “Where There’s a whip, there’s a way!” They deduce a large body of orcs are marching nearby – around 200! Soon there is the sound of hooves. Outrider scouts from the orc column have spotted them. Hurriedly they push their raft into the river. The orc riders gallop along the riverbank pacing them. Fagor grabs Druggo and pretends to hold him hostage. He shouts into the night in orcish, “You can’t have him, he’s mine! Rare and plump he is and will make tender stew!” I roll a reaction roll for the orcs. The orcs are totally taken in. They assume the party are friendly orcs and gallop on their way.
9/20 – the raft is lazily drifting near the bank where a stand of large trees overhang the water. A giant boa constrictor falls out of the tree upon Druggo. Unfortunately for the snake the attack rolls a 3, it’s a miss! Nonetheless, the raft is swamped with some party members falling overboard. But, in the end Tancred and Fagor do battle with the scaly monster. Ultimately, Fagor dispatches the beast with a swing of his two-handed sword. The sodden members pull themselves aboard and the journey continues.
9/22 – they spot a large scruffy man walking along the shore. On his should he carries a hobo stick with a bundle tied to one end. Paddling in cautiously, they see he is large hunched and dressed in ragged furs and dirt. He walks barefooted and waves now and again at flies buzzing in his hairy scrunched face. Reaction roll is double zeros. He’s super friendly. He waves to them and says, “Howdeedo! I’m Big Pete. Care for some lunch?” They realize Big pete is friendly and they come ashore for a picnic lunch. Big Pete carefully opens his bindle to show a large and dirty pile of fresh truffles. “Just smell that! Have you ever smelt anything better?” The party questions Big Pete how he came across the fungus? “Oh, I smelled them out. Takes some practice but, I reckon, anyone can do it if they try.” They ask, don’t people normally use pigs or dogs to sniff out truffles? “Well, they sure do. The lazy ones do at least but, you should try it. Nothing better than sniffing out a nice fresh truffle.” They eat their lunch in the pleasant sunshine. Most of the party declines the truffles to a clearly disdainful, “suit yerself” from Big Pete but, two try them. While lunching they warn Big Pete about the previously encountered orcs. Big Pete avers that he doesn’t cotton to orcs. He finds their pig snouts a fundamental insult to good honest pigs everywhere, “It should be you see a pig snout; you see a good honest hard-working friend. But, those orcs give pigs a bad name! It’s not right!” After lunch they part ways. Big Pete heading west towards the nearby forest stating he can smell the truffles from here. The two party members that tried his truffles spend a day hallucinating, then another day puking. Afterwards both of their wisdom attributes have raised by one.
9/23 – the river narrows to a faster running stream. It’s not a rapid but the riverbanks are close and the bordering dense forest. With a hail of snorts an horde of pugmen emerge from the jungle near the raft. They launch spears, wounding several party members. One member cleverly chucks a spear back. Reaction Roll. As one the pugman horde’s heads turn to follow the hurled stick. They go off yipping after it to fetch it. Using the distraction wisely the party paddles towards the middle of the river out of throwing range.
9/25 – a flock of ostriches runs along the river bank with them. Otherwise it’s uneventful.
9/26 – After ten days the raft sits idly in the river to the east of Trollopulous. It’s obvious something is amiss. Black smoke rises from the city wall in the distance. Dust from horses and marching troops rises into the air. The city has come under siege by a strange army. Druggo makes a makeshift gilly suit for himself with marsh grass and scouts ahead to find the warriors wear strange brightly colored angular armor, carry two swords, long handled glaives, and wear flags on masts off the back of their armor. The sigils on the flags are both ornate and geometric like nothing he’s seen before. However, upon relaying his story to the party Fagor’s two sumo henchmen exiles from the east tell the party it sounds like people from their homeland the island nation Yamagata.
There is discussion of what to do. Sneak into Trollopulous? Head downriver to the bay and try to steal a ship? The life of piracy seems attractive. Some PCs need training. Go greet the army and seek training from them? It all seems uncertain. In the end, they decide to put off the decision. It was getting late and the session ended there.
The Lands of Trollopulous
But, what of Trollopulous? What has been its fate? There are rumors of a plague. Now an invading army. Things seem rough for the bucolic burgh of Trollops. What has been going on? This is the story how Fluid gained the experience for fifth level and ended up a sadder, wiser man.
In mid July a wide variety of maladies broke out among the pimps of the High Panderers Society. The symptoms are all over the map: coughs, runny noses, sore throats, sagging skin with sores, stinging urination, black diarrhea, fevers. At first it was seen by the commoners and the members of the High Church as just reward for the tawdry powerful men of Trollopulous. Soon though, the common men and trollops began to come down with it. Per the DMG the cost of a Cure Disease spell is 1,000 gp. Few of the commoners had such a sum but, the rich did, they were cured by the priestly class. This left the commoners to cough and crap themselves in their hovels. And it spread. A couple weeks later the first people began to die, victims of a malady that became known as The Quakes – victims swelled up with unreleased intestinal gases until they ruptured and died. Then the clerics of the city knew things were serious. The fees for Cure Disease spells were dropped and the priests of both the High Church and the street of the gods could be heard praying for divine intervention both night and day. The priests worked hard with nary a break between praying and laying on hands, falling into delirious stupors only to rise to do it again.
By the next week, victims of a malady called Vinegar Piss started to fall – their urine burned both through their organs of elimination but eventually their bladders wore away and they died of sepsis. By that time the powers that be, already bunkered in their mansions and towers, ordered lockdowns to slow the spread. Soldiers boarded whole families into their homes while clerics wielding maces patrolled the streets to strike down any breaking quarantine. Still people died. The sickly sweet smell of rotting corpses boarded into buildings pervaded the lanes and alleyways.
Six weeks in, another group of the ill began to die – those afflicted with the skin condition known as Droopsy. Victims of Droopsy had their skin loosen and sag to drag upon the ground. Eventually, the weakened skin ruptured all together leaving just a skinless corpse. The terror started to rein. The still living afflicted rose up and began assaulting the priests who, pray though they might, could cure a few but never fast enough for the spreading miasmas of disease. This only accelerated the spread as clerics were killed or in hiding. Really, the acceleration was hardly noticed as most people were already afflicted with something, multiple conditions even. Nearly everyone had a cough, a sag, a fever, bloated guts. In fact, nearly everyone had been suffering with black diarrhea for weeks – called the Bloody Flux. They started catapulting bodies over the walls of the Undead Quarter to remove the contagion from the realm of the living.
And, by mid-September the first Bloody Flux victim died, followed rapidly by another, then more. And, more. It was obvious that everyone was doomed. The Bloody Flux was endemic. They’d ignored curing it due to the urgency of the other quicker killing afflictions. But their complacency let the Bloody Flux spread everywhere. Death stalked the streets.
Then the invading army arrived and the dead started walking out of the Undead Quarter.
And this is how Fluid the Druid, happy-go-lucky nature lover, waged his war on the pimps of the High Panders society. He arrived from the far north after training for fourth level. Met his new trollops rescued from their servitude. The charming (and Charmed) lasses regaled him with the stories of their previously harsh existence. Fluid, who had always dreamed of returning Trollopulous to Nature, visited town. He spent a week charming trollops and pimps, shaking their hands and leaving them with one disease after another. He retreated to his tree house to watch. Every so often he’d scout into town to see how things proceeded. Three weeks in he was shocked. Then horrified. Then guilt ridden. Occasionally, he’d find families dead on the prairie trying to flee the doomed city. He’d strip them of their money and valuables. They no longer needed it. He left his tree house and his Trollops again to travel north to seek advice and contrition from the Druids of greater rank. He now hauls water, chops wood, and crochets endless pants and vests for the High Druids of the Great Arcadian Arbor Society while holed up in hiding in the Massive Forest Extraordinary Reserve. The Great AAS MFERs prefer more harmonic methods and will see that his fifth level is truly earned. What’s become of the assassins of Trollopulous. No one knows but priestly divinations no doubt have informed the elites of who the culprit was.
If it seems fanciful that a fourth level Druid in AD&D can kill a city then let me suggest you peruse the disease rules found in the early part of the DMG, pages 13 (lucky 13) and 14. It all came about with the question, if the Cure Disease spell can be reversed to Cause Disease then what disease is it? Well, the spell description doesn’t say – it just describes an afflicted character weakening. After some discussion it was decided the table on page 14 should be rolled on to find out. If there is a rule then we should use it, right? So…a fourth level Druid can cast three cause disease spells per day. I rolled savings throws and then for those failed (all but one) I rolled for the disease details. In one weeks time Fluid inflicted four terminal illnesses on the High Panderers of Trollopulous and sixteen non-fatal illnesses.
Then came questions of how they spread. There is a rule for determining if someone catches a disease they have been exposed to. Unfortunately for Trollopulous it is next to a marsh and is a hot and moist climate. Then came questions, all debatable, of how many exposures of people per day could be had. I made what I thought were reasonable assumptions. No matter how I sliced it eventually nearly everyone in the city was eventually afflicted with something terminal. But, what about Clerics? Cure Disease spells? Can’t Cure Disease stop disease? Yes, individually. I even used the City random encounter table to estimate how many clerics of sufficient level to cast Cure Disease might be available. I estimate 125 clerics of sufficient level for a total of about 350 Cure Disease spells cast per day. Surely that would be enough to nip it in the bud? Well, yes, if the diseases were caught early. But, the DMG gives the price for cure. It seemed obvious there would be a period where the diseases weren’t considered fatal, especially with so many nonfatal afflictions spread at the same time. Then another period where the usual practice of charges for cures was carried out. And, then it was too late. The linear function of available Cure Disease spells could not catch up with the geometric function of spreading disease.
So, lockdowns and quarantines needed to be imposed. That also was too little, too late. Only the most extreme measures slowed the spread. No matter how much I reasonably lowered an individual’s exposure within weeks everyone was afflicted with something. Of course, it’s all a game. No doubt, the DMG rules aren’t scientifically accurate depictions of disease, nor is my approach to any degree “accurate”. But the exercise did give one pause as to the difficulty of modeling the spread of disease – even fictional fantasy diseases like Droopsy, Vinegar Piss, and The Quakes. It was humbling that I could not find a way to save Trollopulous unless the city clerics were both more powerful, less corrupt, and on the ball. But, Trollopulous is not a place with on-the-ball institutions. Fluid’s guilt lies heavy upon him. It is also good to learn the power of magic in AD&D. Clerics and Druids can be weapons of mass destruction. No wonder the Paladins really love to smite those evil priests.