Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Skull of Fibon

The kids discovered an old wizard's laboratory deep in the bowels of the temple, and one of the things they found there was a talking skull. For the skull I used a voice similar to Tommy Chong's, but not quite so druggy. Now, the back story on the skull is that in life it belonged to a world-renowned sage known as Fibon the Wise. Fibon was killed by a wicked necromancer, and his soul was trapped in the skull, no longer living, but unable to move on.

The skull will attempt to answer any question posed to it, for Fibon was known in life for his kindness and desire to share his knowledge with curious minds. In a cruel twist, though, the necromancer placed a curse on the skull that prevents it from always telling the truth. For a given group of people, the skull will alternately tell the truth or lie depending on the Fibonacci Sequence. Thus, when a party meets the skull, it will answer truthfully on the first, second, third, fifth, eighth, and thirteenth questions, etc. All other questions will be answered with a lie. If the skull tells the truth out of sequence, it will begin to crack. After the third such violation, the skull will crumble into dust and the soul will be released. But Fibon's skull has no wish to move on, for it desires to see more, learn more, and know more, as well as to share what it knows with anyone willing to learn. Therefore it will go right on, er, fibbing.

Naturally the kids didn't have this background knowledge. As far as they were concerned it was just a congenial sounding skull in a wizard's laboratory. Right off the bat they got some good information from it, specifically, how to navigate the temple to get to their goal (it told them the route, not how to get past any obstacles or guardians. It would have told them that, too, if they had thought to ask). Anyway, the intel seemed good, so they grabbed the skull (Bubda the Beatboxing Bard carried it) and off they went.

There were some other goodies in the room, such as Nephrym's Claw, but they forgot to search through it. Seriously, how do you not search a wizard's laboratory? Oh well.

The skull had told them to first go up the stairs to the maze, so that's what they did. Turns out the maze was an illusion which they were able to see through because of a magic eyeball they had already found, and in that maze was a gelatinous cube. For those of you who don't know, the gelatinous cube is a big, gooey mass of acid that slides through dungeon corridors consuming everything in its path. Very slowly the cube started to approach them. The cube is slow enough, and the characters, having seen through the illusion, understood the true, wide-open dimensions of the room they were in, so that they could have easily avoided contact with the cube. But no, they're kids, they're first time adventurers, and they have no idea what they're up against. They're understandably curious. So they started asking the skull questions about the cube.

By this time they were up to question number three. "What is that thing?" they asked.

"That? Why, that's a gelatinous cube." (3. true)

"Is it nice?"

"Yes!" (4. false)

"To elves, dwarfs, halflings and humans?"

"Oh, heavens no!" (5. true)

This caused some confusion. Could the skull be trusted? They were not so sure. "Can it speak?" they asked.

"Yes!" (6. false)

This was the lie that caused them the most trouble, for as the gelatinous cube slowly, inexorably drew nearer and nearer, they wasted their time trying to talk to it. O even gamely declared she would speak to it in the elfin tongue, and rolled a d20. It stubbornly refused to answer (it is effectively a mindless predator/scavenger, after all). Soon it was upon them, and O's elf character went down hard to the creature's acidic slam attack. If not for the druid's Cure Light Wounds spell, the elf would have perished. The battle commenced and it took awhile for the idea of running away to finally dawn on them.

I wish I had written down all the questions they asked the skull over the course of the encounter. Instead of tracking each individual question, I just tracked the sequence so I would know what was coming next, the truth or a lie. So I used a little tic sheet that looked like this ('T' for True, 'F' for False):

T T T F T F F T F F F F T F F F F F F F T ...

...and I just answered each question accordingly and marked them off as we went. Things started moving quickly and it got a little chaotic, so unfortunately I can't recall exactly what went on after the sixth question, the one that got them into so much trouble. It seems to me that they wasted number 8, or maybe "wasted" is too harsh. More likely their eighth question just wasn't one that would enlighten them about the nature of the skull or the gelatinous menace. By the time the thirteenth question rolled around they didn't trust the answers anyway. At one point the skull had told them that the cube was its "cousin Vinnie."

The neighbors' kids got called home for the night, but just before they left they threatened to cast the skull into the cube unless it answered their questions truthfully. Then they rattled off a bunch of rapid fire questions and the skull, desperate to avoid dissolving in the hideous goo, slipped up and spoke a truth when it should have lied. "Yes, that was a lie! Aaarrrggghhh!" it cried as a painful crack opened across its cranium.

"Ah Ha!" exclaimed the kids triumphantly. "Now we got him!" But one of the kids - I'm not sure which one - said, "Wait a minute...that was weird. What's going on with that?"

We'll see what happens when we resume playing on Monday.

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