September 14, 2011

Better Living Through Chemistry

Having fended off the welcoming committee that had demanded the surrender of their weapons and magic, the party took a brief rest and then checked the Gatestone. It seemed to point towards the building they could see on the hill a mile or so away, so they set off.

As they approached the building, they could see that it was a structure of redwood and glass, built on a natural ledge on the hillside, but appearing to extend back into the hill itself. A pair of large wooden doors carved with geometric shapes was the only obvious entry. James spotted what appeared to be a camera lens above the door, and there was what appeared to be a doorbell button beside it. Deciding once again to show good manners, the party rang the bell several times, but no one answered. The doors were locked, but proved no match for James' skills.

Inside, they found what appeared to be a very well-appointed home. The furnishings were very modern looking and (at least to James' practiced eye) tasteful. The glass front of the house provided spectacular views of the grounds and the ocean beyond. Abstract art and sculptures were scattered throughout - James didn't recognize any of it, but he appreciated its aesthetic quality. The house was very clean and neat, but there were no signs of any inhabitants.

At the left rear of the house, they found a large metal door - this was the only obvious exit other than the doors through which they'd entered. There was writing on it, but the characters were unrecognizable to any of the party. This door was also locked, but again gave way quickly to James' picks. It opened into a broad hallway, running at right-angles to the front of the house and with windows lining the left side. The windows showed more views of the grounds below (although looking away from the sea), and ahead it looked like a greenhouse jutted out from the side of the building just beyond the end of the hall; however its glass was fogged with moisture and it was impossible to see what might be inside other than dense greenery. Whereas the rest of the building clearly seemed to be a home, this area had a more industrial feel, with simple tile floors, unadorned walls, and fluorescent lighting. The air held a faint smell of chemicals.

There was a pair of metal double doors at the opposite end of the hall, and the party arranged themselves and pushed the doors open. They opened into a humid, smelly room. The odors of fermentation mixed with sharp, acrid scents in the heavy air, burning the eyes and making it difficult to breathe. A greenhouse opened from the left-hand side of the room, filled with a dense, jungle-like growth of unrecognizable plants. A pair of large vats full of viscous, bubbling liquid flanked the door, and another set of double doors could be seen on the right side of the room.

Several men wearing leather aprons over stained white lab coats stood hunched over workbenches covered with chemical apparatus, wearing googles against the fumes. A tall, gangly man was at a larger workbench in the corner, apparently dissecting vines and plants with a variety of sharp knives.

They all looked up in surprise as the party entered. “Oy – you can’t be in ‘ere!” one of them barked. “Get the ‘ell out o’ ‘ere a’fore you ruins our experiments!” In response, Joe strode boldly into the room, causing the man in the back to snarl, “Enough of this distraction. Eliminate these intruders!”

James managed to dart into the room before its inhabitants could react. The alchemists began grabbing vials of liquid off their workbenches and out of deep pockets in their aprons and hurling them at the party. Several tossed Stink Bombs, creating zones of choking gas that blocked the party's exit from the hall. Others threw Caustic Glue, that caused acid damage and slowed anyone it hit, and still others threw pure acid. Two of the jars hit the glass vats on either side of the door, shattering them and and spilling slime onto the floor around them. The leader in the back hurled some sort of chemical explosive spell in to the midst of the clustered party, causing ongoing damage and slowing anyone who hadn't already been hit by the glue.

The party was challenged from the get-go, and struggled to take the fight to their opponents. Joe quickly closed with the leader, but found himself hurled backwards by some invisible force as soon as he got adjacent to him. The main body of the party found themselves bottled up near the doors, unable to put much distance between themselves because they were slowed, and so being subject to frequent area-of-effect attacks. The slime from the vats bubbled up and two creatures emerged from it. One moved into the doorway to attack Ice; it was quickly dispatched, but when it died, it exploded into a shower of slime, immediately bloodying Phil. The other headed towards Joe and James, but the party managed to take it out with ranged attacks before it got close enough to hurt them with its death throes.

Other foes appeared as the party began to make their way into the room. A cluster of vines rose up out of the greenhouse jungle to form some horrid creature that fired a Caustic Cloud at James and Joe; Joe found himself blinded and taking ongoing acid damage. Phil managed to get out of the doorway and into the room, only to find himself ensared by vines from yet another plant creature, which drug him off into the undergrowth to attempt to devour him. Meanwhile the alchemists and their master continued to hurl chemical attacks at the party.

Poor little Mary. After being such a hellcat in the last battle, her luck deserted her here. Not only did all her attacks miss miserably, but she could not save against the various affects and ongoing damage. She was slowed almost all night, blinded for much of it, and taking acid damage almost every round. About the only time she hit all night was when she was blindly firing her shotgun in the opposite direction from where she knew the party to be.

For awhile it looked bad for the group. Almost everyone in the party was bloodied at one point or another, some multiple times. Now they got to be on the other side of having clerics on board, as Phil and Chuck (and even Mary, at one point) provided healing to keep their friends (or themselves) alive. 

The tide began to turn when Chuck used one of his daily powers to cast the 2nd Edition Hold Person spell against the leader and one of his assistants. With them out of the fight, the other alchemists began to fall one by one. They were tough cookies, apparently able to regenerate some HP by taking melee attacks after they were bloodied. 

We ran out of time before completing the battle, but when we ended there was one alchemist still in the fight (though bloodied), the Vine Horror Spellfiend was also bloodied, and the other vine creature had Phil grabbed and pulled deep into the greenhouse. The leader and one of his assistants were still Held, although the leader still seemed to be able to use his telekinetic shield against anyone getting too close. Of the party members, only Phil is currently bloodied.

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