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Many Alternate Doors, No Exits in Sight (MADNES) 27: To that I say 'Meh'

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

Just rub some Aloe Vera on your toe . . .
We personally would rather not find out . . .

Surviving horrific events (or being resurrected from same, I suppose) usually leaves a person in one of two conditions. The first being the condition of letting past events run one's life. Stay in bed, cry, bleat to anyone who will listen about your experience and how it ruined your life.

The second type walks out of those situations going 'well, if that didn't get me, nothing will!' You know, like Captain Kirk. Ever watch that show, and think to yourself 'this guy is fighting gods like every third week'? I mean, if it were me I'd be perpetually huddled under a desk in the fetal position back at star fleet command within the first three months of that five year mission.

But, if you're a Cupcake well, large, carnivorous, stuffed bears, amalgamations of creatures that would send Dr. Moreau screaming back to civilization, death, spectral grave keepers, and evil children casting 7th level spells is just another day at the office.

So, it was no surprise that the group awoke the next day to venture back into the crack of doom without so much as a quiver. When they arrived, they noted that the Gnolls guarding that particular entrance had arrayed a series of sun rods in a half circle blocking the entrance. Which seemed like a fine idea as the rods had effectively barricaded the tar that was again trying to exit through the . . . gap.

Thor immediately diverted over to the nearest sentry and asked if he could buy a few sunrods off of them. They shook their heads, but pointed to a cloaked figure burdened by a massive pack standing not to far away. The Gnoll explained that they'd even worked out a discount with him.

So the Cupcakes headed over to the merchant. Frank and Thor each purchased several sunrods whilst deftly ignoring the merchant's attempts at upselling them. Then it was back into the crack.

Again, you'd expect someone that had been mauled to death on a previous outing through said orifice to be somewhat hesitant about stepping back through it. Perhaps a pause for a moment before continuing on course. Or a nervous tick. Hell, he could have at least looked worried.

Nope. Thor just stomped back through, if anything, looking excited.

The sunrods did just fine at pushing the blue substance back. The DCs followed their original path and continued following the tar to its source.

Eventually they came to a stone fountain that had been pushed out of the ground by the tarry substance welling up from beneath it. Somehow the fountain was floating perfectly atop this column of flowing goo, hovering directly over it's original location.

Frank, having grown up in this area, was able to locate a civil engineering building in the square that would allow passage down into the sewers where the tar seemed to be originating. In the building they found basic cleaning supplies. Basic cleaning supplies that Frank immediately put to use to make 5 one liter bottles of chloramine gas grenades.

That diversion completed, they continued down to the sewers, having no trouble locating the tar fountain. It was located smack in the center of an intersection of two sewage paths that crossed at ninety degree angles. The tar was converging on the column from each direction.

Flipping a mental coin, the group headed east. As they went they began to hear a moaning sound that seemed to get louder and louder as they went, until they came around a bend and found the source of the tar.

It was a massive head of tar, as if someone had used the stuff like a sculptor uses clay. The head had a face pointing out of each cardinal direction. It was rotating and whichever face was pointed back the way they'd come was spewing a torrent of the tar into the sewer water. The faces not busily vomiting black sludge were apparently responsible for the creepy moaning the DCs had been hearing.

As they wondered what to do, a massive ten foot wide manhole situated directly over the head slid aside. Dead bodies then began falling down into the top of the head; fuel for its continued output.

Watching the stream of bodies, summoned Hazel's memories of that demented castle the group had awoken in not so long ago. As she whispered her consternation to Thor, a head of one of the fleshling gremlins (again, from that castle) popped over the lip of the manhole, and began tracking the source of the conversation.

Frank immediately shot the head clean off, after which another formed in its place, much to his consternation. As it gibbered angrily at them in its mish mash of languages, the group decided to head back up to street level, to try and find a way to stop the feeding process.

As they turned the fleshling said something that Thor was able to interpret as 'we'll follow wherever you go'. Apparently it was quite angry about losing a head. But, having fought these particular annoyances before, the Cupcakes weren't worried.

Well, except for Frank (the only member that hadn't run across this particular brand of our DM's insanity) who took up the rear guard.

They found their way back up to street level and over to the manhole in an intersection of streets, only to find it abandoned. No fleshlings here, no fleshlings there. No fleshlings anywhere. And, wherever they'd gone, they'd done so in such a hurry that they'd left a carriage still half full of dead bodies.

Frank pulled out one of his chloramine bottles. He shook it up and dropped it right down the feeding hole in the top of the head that was hovering below. Steve and Thor did not need to be told to recover the hole. They quickly located the manhole cover and replaced it in the correct location.

Even if they had needed such instruction, it would have become obvious when the head began reacting violently to the addition of this stuff. As the cover slid over, blocking the view of the head, they could see it shaking and shuddering intensely. A moment later, a massive jet of tar was emitted from the hole, knocking the cover to the side. (It really needs to learn from the fountain.)

{Player's Note: The DM had actually had to ask for an intermission while he figured out exactly what would happen to the head with the addition of a gas grenade. Something I take great pride in, considering he's run this campaign for several groups in the past.}

The torrent lasted for about five seconds, after which they were able to hear the chittering of the fleshlings coming from below. Apparently they'd actually hopped down to follow them. Thor was able to make out that they were wondering what the hell had just happened, and that they were coming back to street level to investigate.

Keying on this, the group immediately spread out into an ambush. The melee members grouped in two buildings while Hazel and Frank flew up to the second story roof over one corner of the intersection. The plan was simple. They'd all hide until Frank tossed a lit sunrod down to ground level. That would be the signal.

When the creatures showed up, he waited until they had grouped back on the carriage and then did just that. During the surprise round he shot one of the gremlins, the angle causing it's stomach to explode. Something that most would find very concerning, yet it made almost no reaction.

It's compatriots were equally nonplussed. One even looked down at the shattered organ and then glared at the wounded saying "You ate my lunch!"

Meanwhile, the Cupcakes walked out of the buildings they'd been hiding in, forming a skirmishing line. Half of the fleshlings turned to meet them. The other half continued on to the carriage, and began grabbing bodies to throw down the once again opened hole.

As ambushes go, it was far from the best they could have sprung. By forming a skirmishing line with the three melee characters, they'd left three avenues of escape in the intersection. Fortunately, escape didn't seem to be on the goop goblins minds'. But that could change at any time.

Seeing the flaw in their plan, Frank tossed another chloramine grenade behind the carriage, blocking off the most direct avenue of retreat. As the more melee oriented members of the group engaged the fleshy gremlins, he tossed another onto the carriage in an attempt to end feeding time. One of the gremlins was rendered to a retching mess. The others scattered.

Thor solved the situation by picking of the roughly 800 pound manhole cover and hurling it into the hole with a strength (Thor does like his strength checks) and accuracy that left the thing imbedded in the walls of the hole, never to be removed.

As the fight continued to go progressively worse for the fleshlings, they began to group up at the entrance of one of the side streets. At first it looked as if they were going to try their feet at escape, but instead they began forming a rugby huddle.

Frank looked on confused, as he continued firing at the closer of the targets. The rest of the Cupcakes were quite concerned, as they'd seen this behavior before.

One of the goo brigade pulled its retching comrade off of the carriage and began heading for the huddle in progress.

As Frank's turn came back around he still wasn't sure what was up with the huddle occurring on the other side of the square. He could tell that the gooey things seemed to be pressing closer and closer together, but had no reason to suspect what was to come. Still, it was a target rich environment, so he hurled another of his chloramine gas containers at it.

And missed terribly. Apparently his confusion as to what the hell these What-The-Fucks were doing was effecting him more than he'd realized.

Meanwhile, Thor had blocked two of the gremlins from joining that particular merger, killing one in the process. The other, upon seeing the smiting his buddy had received, promptly turned and fled down the narrow gap left between the expanding chloramine gas and the building. On his turn, Thor pursued with a Hurling Charge, and ending with another attack with his sword.

Seeing that it could not outrun the bloodrager, the gremlin turned and delivered a minor slap to his face. No doubt it had intended more than that, but the dice giveth and the dice taketh away. Thor responded to this insult with a killing blow.

Meanwhile, Frank had corrected for wind and distance, adjusted his elevation, and launched his last chloramine gas grenade. This one landed true, directly in the center of the huddle.

It also turned out ineffective; at the same moment the bottle landed, the merging of the pile of little goblins completed, and one large sized version stood up, head well above the chloramine gas that was now only a threat to his allies. Fortunately, the randomly generated wind was not blowing the noxious gas towards them.

On his next turn, Frank critically failed on a firearm attack, forcing him to take only one attack a turn for 3 turns and damaging his pistol. He adjusted for this by dropping his pistol and unlimbering his rifle.

For reasons unknown, the thing keyed on Nebula as the target of its attacks, failing most of the time. At one point, it critically failed, literally disarming itself. It buried its fist into the sidewalk next to its intended victim so deeply that, when it attempted to pull it back, the silver threading holding the arm on unraveled.

Now, most of us, on seeing an arm ripped off, would have freaked the fuck out. But, that sir is a glass half empty attitude. This thing looked upon its suddenly dismembered arm, and saw only an improvised weapon. So, on its next turn, it snatched up the arm in its other hand and began using it as a makeshift flail.

Seeing this, Frank pushed past his momentary 'what-the-fuck?' and performed a max damage crit on the thing, leaving it looking something like this. In fact, it was enough damage that it was forced to make a massive damage saving throw, but not enough to outright kill it. We know this because it made the save.

The fight didn't last much longer than that. Hazel spent nearly the entire time hovering over the group, bored. No one was taking damage, so she had nothing to do after giving out hexes.

The battle over, Hazel collected Frank. Once on ground level he persuaded Thor to remove the manhole cover. You know, the one that was wedged forever into the ground?

But, Thor likes his strength checks. And, more importantly, his strength checks like him. So, with one tug he was able to remove the cover. Down below they could see the tar head rotating, though much slower than before. It had also ceased to emit its tarry vomit.

But, just to be sure, Frank tossed a sunrod down into the hole in the top of its head. Whether from this, or because it was already dying, the rotating completely stopped.

All were heartened by this, until they remembered that there were 3 more of these things they needed to kill.

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