I’ve been playing a classic dungeon-crawling game to loosen up for my upcoming Patreon series, and since I’m still building up a buffer for my next Tuesday LP, I’m doing a little one-off. Probably a little two-off, actually. Let’s see what happens when failure’s even more guaranteed than usual.
Everybody wants the Orb of Zot, and if you don’t, you’re a degenerate and you need to get the hell out of my office.
What does it do? What does it do? What kind of slackjaw rube question is that?
Nobody knows what it does, you knucklehead. Nobody’s seen it. It’s at the bottom of a rotten daemonic middenshaft bursting with the worst things ever. To get the orb you’re going to need to fight more living things than you have seen in your entire life so far and personally kill all of them. Beast by beast. Room by room. Stratum by stratum. The least messed-up things you’ll see will be snakes the size of horses and rats bred exclusively on living flesh, and within ten minutes, you are going to be powerfully nostalgic for such simple pleasures. Then you are going to get lost. Then you are going to get cursed. Soon you are going to starve–and if you’re lucky you’ll starve to death. You’re going to need to do the unheard of, win impossible victories, and get enough hidden evil magic runes to unlock a unholy antechamber with an unsurvivable anteconfrontation followed by a general-purpose brouhaha–and if you’re legendary enough to survive that, congratulations! The Orb is yours. At least for a few seconds, because now you’re going to have to fight back up except this time evil gods are showing up to kill you personally.
So are you gonna sign the contract or are you gonna wuss out on me?
What’s in it for you? You’re asking about the Dungeon of Zot. You’re asking me why you ought to go down into a hole and die. I do not have the answer to that question. That’s why the lease on this office is “annual”, not “until I’m eaten by orcs doing something an idiot would do.” If you had an ounce of sanity and any good reason to live, you wouldn’t go–wouldn’t think about going. You wouldn’t even be asking these questions. You’d be meeting somebody nice at a tavern and splitting a roast chicken or you’d be out on your porch whittling a duck. Look, I can promise you what’s in the contract, which is–in the downright apocalyptic eventuality that get the Orb–a percentage of whatever money turns out to be involved in that. In exchange I give you a weapon, some cheap clothes, a breadstick, and a toothbrush. Is it a good weapon? Well, let me point out to you that I’ve never ever gotten one of these back, so you tell me: am I going to give you a good weapon?
There’s my door. If you don’t have some kind of awful, horrible reason why you need to throw your life away trying to get that Orb–you walk right out there and never come back.
That’s what I thought. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Count Roylo Vartolemew the Vampire — Infiltrator and Assassin
446 years old
Last Words Before Entering: “You wrote all that down? You’ll record those as my last words? Very well, I’ll go in now.”
When you don’t breathe anymore, don’t pump blood anymore, you need some kind of rhythm or you go mad. It made sense; you’re supposed to have a kind of music inside of you, something beautiful and natural and always there, and when it’s gone, your good old human head doesn’t know what to do. So Roylo made his own little rhythms any way he could. Tapping his fingers, humming under his breath, grinding his teeth, fake breathing–it felt like pounding a nail with a crocheted hammer. Or sometimes, when he had to be quiet–like now–he just squeezed his hand into a fist. Over and over again.
Nobody down here gave him funny looks about it. They just tried to kill him–if they saw him at all.
Oh, he was still holding onto that goblin.
He let the body slip down his fingers to the ground–sucked the blood absentmindedly off his palm, flicked more blood off his knife. This was getting harder. He’d already had a couple nasty scrapes and he wasn’t going to keep getting the drop on people forever; there’d have to be at least a few times before here and the Orb where he’d have to stop and engage from a distance. He’d have to keep an eye out for a ranged weapon. He wasn’t picky about what kind. Part of the point of this little vacation was to learn new things, new ways to…to…was that another staircase up there? He was making excellent progress. Be out of here in a brisk afternoon if his luck held.
More goblins, snakes, couple of ants. Few doors. Lot of dead ends. Stairs, stairs, stairs. He was getting his exercise today, that was for certain. And then–wasn’t that convenient? Just like he’d asked for. An embroidered sling, beautiful stitching and crisp leather braiding, just lying on the dungeon floor. Who’d leave something like this just lying around? He loaded it–gave it a practice whirl. Oh. Felt like rubbish, actually. Well, he’d hang onto it and maybe later he’d…
That was interesting. He’d meant to put it in his bag…but he was still holding it. Maybe he should just drop it.
How did you drop things?
With dignity, Roylo plucked up a stone in his left hand. Then he let it fall through his fingers. Alright, that had been straightforward enough. How had he done that? Specifically?
He picked the rock back up with his left hand and–concentrating thoughtfully–dropped it again. Then he stared at the sling in his right.
This was interesting.
He found himself interrupted by a slavering monster, which he was beginning to gather was the sort of thing that happened around this neighborhood. He slashed its throat with a practiced motion–no, rather, he flicked the braided leather cord of his sling just under the most surprised goblinoid visage he’d ever laid eyes on. In the disagreement that followed he switched to hurling stones from point-blank range, a tactic that amused him for the rest of his life.
GHARGL THE OGRE — Also Assassin and Infiltrator
32 years old
Last Words Before Entering: “BE QUIET EVERYBODY! I AM GOING TO SNEAK INSIDE NOW!”
Dark elves are famous for being assassins. So how many dark elf assassins have you ever seen in your life–one or two? Three?
Now how many ogre assassins have you ever seen?
Quod erat demonstrandum; ogre assassins are sneakier than dark elves. GHARGL would have been a fool to kowtow to stereotypes, tote a club like his brothers, and leave these unrecognized gifts…unrecognized. And GHARGL wasn’t a fool. He’d be the first to admit that most ogres, if not absolutely all of them, were oatmeal-brained idiots who couldn’t be helped. Frankly, he was sick of being around them. The thing that really galled GHARGL wasn’t just that the others were stupid–it was that they were too stupid to know they were stupid. They probably thought HE was dumb. How dumb was that?
They’d see who was dumb when he found the Zot Ball Thing contract guy had drawn a picture of.
Everything had been going his way so far, but his real triumph was finding the Ring. It was the perfect assassin’s ring: it heightened his senses to a level he’d never even dreamed of. Ever since putting it on, even the subtle sounds of his own ogre clodfeet padding down a hallway sounded like war drums. He could hear even the subtlest of his own stealthy movements, all the better to minimize them–and when he stood totally still, he could take comfort in knowing he couldn’t hear any footsteps coming for him.
The ring gave him the only edge he needed: it let him engage the dungeon’s denizens on his terms.
Sdafo the Weird Vinebeast(?) — Warp Mage (??)
??? years old
Last Words Before Entering: “Honestly, nobody cares if I live or die.”
He probably died, I guess. I don’t think he came back out.