After all the crazy slogging we’d been doing in previous sessions, I decided I wanted something of a change of pace. We were, instead, going to role-play through most of the session and see about some monstery things right towards the end. I was attempting to solve a few of the problems inherent in the game thus far (an endeavor I believe any GM should work towards at all times in every game), so I also decided that today was going to be the day we fought Babagya for the first time.
This session was a lot of fun. The fight at the end sucked a lot. Fighting bad guys that are of a disproportionate level to you is never a good time. From now on, the fights are more even, a lot more mobile, and, hopefully, a lot more fun. Next week’s Colossus, for instance, is going to be a fucking blast.
After defeating the Colossus of Femur, the party notices smoke coming from the south-east, near where they left the Femural elves. They rush back to find corpses, burning tents, and elves suffering on the ground. Cecil, Memphis’ hated cousin, lies dead on the forest floor as the tents and trees burn above them. Auntie Sheila is cradling his crushed body, ignoring the fact that she is touching the soil of the earth, and heartbroken.
The group learns from her that Babagya and her minions came through this way, headed north to the Basin Plains. They rush off, followed and paced by frantic animals trying to escape the burning woods. I considered making the escape a skill challenge until I remembered my own advice: never make a thing a skill challenge if the outcome is going to happen anyway. So instead they just get out, and find their way to the edge of the forest. Here, the animals are looking back at their home, wanting to go back, but not yet able for fear. The party is less inclined to ever deal with the Hair Metal elves again.
They follow Babagya’s tracks, only to find them intermingled with other chicken tracks the size of a man. Hers get lost in the tangle, with what seems like a hundred other chicken-huts on the plains. The group spots a tower to the north, a golden spire that rises out of the grasslands, and when they reach its base realize why: there are dozens of chicken-footed houses here! Hailing the owners of the homes, they make contact with an assembly of dwarves, who offer the party the use of a chicken-hut for the night, before they talk about their next step in defeating the witch woman.
Staying in the chicken-hut for the first night, Bruce Fitzhugh notices a written greeting on one of the walls and replies in dwarven. “Hello, house.”
“HALLO!” the house writes on the wall.
After some testing, he realizes that he can communicate with the house by talking, while the house communicates with him through the written word. Because Bruce is the only member of the team who speaks, reads or writes dwarven, he is the only one who can talk to the house. He learns that the house desires an owner, and that only a divine or primal caster can take ownership of such a house. He attempts to mediate between Memphis Green and the spirit of the chicken-hut, but his attempts are made more difficult by Awakened Iron Skull’s attempts to horn in on the conversation.
See, Skull wants to own the house. But Bruce, he’s afraid of what she’ll do with one. She’s a bit on the crazy side, he’s a bit on the neurotic side, and it makes for some interesting in-party drama. Myself, I’m more than content to let them fight it out.
The next morning, the group meets with Francois, the dwarf they’d met the night before. He tells them something of Babagya’s history, and about the chicken-footed houses, and the requirements of owning one.
Of Babagya, he had this to say: “She was one of us, once. She was a dwarf, the Wisdom of her tribe. She was never right, though, a sick one in the mind. When it was discovered that she was using her position as a wisdom to hurt the weak and the sick of her tribe, she was shut out from them, made into one of the Dispossessed. She went into hiding for many years, and when she returned, she was not as she had been. She was twisted by the dark magicks of the Cage Spires, by the things the demons did to her there. She came back a changed creature, a hag of the night. She bred darkness around her and filled the world with pain and suffering. She put a plague on her own clan, the Muidercrag, and all but one died, all but her own mother who is doomed to walk that place the rest of her days.”
On the subject of chicken-huts: No one person can own a chicken-footed hut. To do so is unnatural. Of all the owners of our huts, only Babagya owns one to herself, and it is a terrible crime against our people. You must learn to direct it together, you must learn to be a family within it, or you will surely die in the upcoming race.
“Race. To prove that you may be the owners of such a gift from our people, you must also prove that you can use it. That takes cooperation and dedication and courage. These are the things the dwarven clans live for.”
At this point, Bruce begins to ask Francois’ wife questions about her lovely mutton-chop braids. She answers, and as the two talk, no one notices Francois leave the hut. When they finally do, she explains that he’s gone to a meeting of the clan chiefs to discuss what is to be done about Muidercrag. When he is done, the Wisdoms (who are almost always the wives of the clan chiefs, usually through arranged marriage), will have their own meeting, and the Dispossessed will sit in on both, though Babagya, no longer a dwarf, will of course be denied entry.
When the men get out of their deliberations and the women enter, the Chief of Chiefs challenges our intrepid heroes to a race. They get into their chicken-hut, finally agreeing to work together towards the common goal. They convince the chicken-hut to move faster while the two fightery types hop onto the roof to toss a cauldron and a bookshelf tied together as a bola at the trailing Chief of Chiefs. They win the race, knocking the chief’s hut to the ground and busting it open, killing a number of his dwarflets (described as something of a cross between a human child and a kitten). He awards them the chicken hut with no hard feelings, and everyone is happy! Yay!
After hearing the announcement that the dwarves will do nothing about Muidercrag, the party decides to travel there for themselves. They hope to meet up with Babagya’s mother and, hopefully, learn something about her that will show them her weaknesses (if she has any). They travel for a day and a half, when Skull notices another chicken hut on the plains. She wakes the rest of her party and suggests they give it a wide berth before a hideous THUNK – THUNK – THUNK sounds on the chicken-hut’s door. Outside is one of Babagya’s zombified flying-turtle minions, with a gift-wrapped box. They hesitate before opening it, finding four well-crafted invitations to the adventurer’s deaths, the next day, at noon.
The group gets pro-active, building a ballista on the roof of the hut that they fill with Acid Orbs and launch at Babagya’s hut. The wall of her hut dissolves into a puddle of good, revealing the remains of her preserved snacks, the corpses of dozens of children hanging from hooks and placed lovingly on shelves. Some look like they’re sleeping. Others have been skinned. A second bolt from the ballista destroys her hut, but she was not in it.
Laughing from above them she swoops down, blasting dark rays that force some of the party into a daze, putting others straight to sleep. She pulls in beside Skull, tearing a hole into her head and pushing herself inside, making herself effectively invulnerable.
The fight is nasty, it’s a slog, and it damned near kills a few people. Just as they bloody Babagya, their resources depleted in a huge way, needing rest and healing and a new plan of attack, Babagya flies away, cackling at the party.
“You’ll never be strong enough to face me,” she screams. “This is but a taste of my true power!”
The party limps back into their new home, defeated and disheartened, following her black form as it disappears to the north.