- Jojotekina Gyoza ("Jojo"), a technical-type minstrel armed with a flute
- Kestrel, an attack-type hunter who bears a mysterious scroll that he believes he must deliver to somebody, whose identity he does not know
- Ogesana Fall, a magic-type noble, and his trusty but ignoble donkey, Bartholemew
- Virid, the GMPC (Ryuutama has these, but they don't do too much and don't really appear initially), a mysterious green-bearded old man
- Sir Portos of Underhill, Maria the Hedgewitch and Kyrie the Nondescript Henchman, three NPC adventurers, referred to collectively as "the Other Party"
The end of Part III saw our heroes underground on the shores of a vast and dark subterranean lake, with their buffoonish leader and champion Ogesana Fall unconscious and dying. They had vanquished a group of undead dwarfs and a water weird, but they had suffered heavily in the attempt. They retreated back to the Other Party's base camp to tend to Ogesana, regroup and lick their wounds.
The most immediate problem were rations. Put bluntly, the PCs had neglected to bring many of these at all, and had somewhat foolishly bartered the few they did have away in return for hallucinogenic mushrooms. The Other Party had some, but not enough for everybody to have something to eat for the three days it would take before Ogesana was fully conscious (let alone fully healed). So Kestrel spent the next two days fishing for blind cave fish in the underground lake, while Jojo tried his hand at getting some help from the goblin-ish things living close to the mouth of the caves, who had given their blessing to the PCs' expedition at the beginning of all of this. This returned a roasted giant cave cricket, enough to provide several days' worth of food for everybody, given in return for aforementioned hallucinogenic mushrooms (which the Great Shaman strongly desired) and out of affection for 'wise' Ogesana Fall, the human-man who had given such sage advice previously about the importance of water.
Days passed. Eventually Ogesana was nursed back to consciousness, and then restored with magical healing herbs. It was time, finally, to get back to exploring the lake.
Step one was to cross the water and investigate what was on the immediate far side, where there was apparently a cavern wall. There was much conversation about how to do this and whether it was wise to swim. Both Ogesana Fall and Sir Portos insisted on doing this. Eventually wiser heads prevailed when it was remembered that there were plenty of wooden doors higher up in the dungeon. These could be bound together to form a raft. Kyrie, a technician, was able to do this successfully, creating a raft that could bear three passengers.
There then followed a complicated argument. While the PCs and the Other Party were currently cooperating, their alliance only went so far. If only three people could traverse the lake at a time, and all of the passengers were from one party or the other, it could give that group an unfair advantage. In short, if there was any glory (or loot) to be had on the other side, they would get to it first. There was ostensibly an agreement in place about the disposal of any treasure after the expedition was over, but this would not of course apply to secret treasure. It was clear, then, that whichever three people went, there would have to be a mixture from both parties.
It was also clear that both Ogesana and Sir Portos would have to go, or neither. Their honour would not permit them to tolerate the other possibly getting the opportunity to be more courageous.
But unbeknownst to Ogesana, Jojo and Kestrel had been plotting to either kill or incapacitate Sir Portos for some time. This was not motivated by any particular animus (well, not entirely anyway) but because any and all treasure gained from the expedition - including the polliwoggle - would go to the winner of a duel to first blood between Ogesana and the Sir Portos once it was over. Since it was evident to everybody that Sir Portos would win such a contest easily, Jojo and Kestrel were naturally keen to find a way to avoid it ever taking place. Killing or injuring Sir Portos seemed the best way to do this. So they contrived that it should be they to go across on the raft, together with Kyrie from the Other Party.
On the way across, Kestrel and Jojo rather unsubtly probed Kyrie's loyalties to his master. It became obvious that Kyrie thought Sir Portos a ludicrous popinjay, but was bound by an oath, sworn to Sir Portos's family in perpetuity, because Kyrie's father had been saved from death by Sir Portos's. However, it was also established that there was nothing in the oath that would necessarily require Kyrie to intervene to prevent some plot being hatched by third parties against the knight.
Eventually the three of them arrived on the other side and found a small area of 'shore' with a man-made opening. They went into the opening and found a small chamber with a desiccated dwarf skeleton, still wearing armour, and carrying a ruby ring. On the far side was a staircase. Kestrel and Jojo knew that Ogesana would not be happy if any adventuring was done without him. But they were unwilling to both go back across the lake in the raft and leave Kyrie alone on the other side to explore. Eventually, through a complicated fox/chicken/grain arrangement, this was resolved and everybody was ferried to and fro until all were across the lake and gathered on the shore.
They crept up the stairs. At the top was a high, round chamber, with a podium or dias on top of which stood an 8 foot tall statue of a humanoid moray eel, like the statuette discovered earlier in the expedition, and the large shattered statue on the other side of the lake. It was carrying in one hand a sickle, with the other hand being empty but with space for something to be slotted inside. Its eyes were garnets.
Before anybody could do anything much, Kestrel took out the golden dagger handle which had been found near the shattered statue on the other side of the lake, and slotted it into this statue's hand. It instantly came alive and began bellowing and shrieking in a foul, alien tongue. Kestrel, because of the lingering after-effects of his mushroom trip, was able to understand the statue as demanding to know there whereabouts of 'the Twin'. It then marched off its podium and headed for the doorway, cutting down Kyrie with its sickle.
A general melee developed. Sir Portos dealt the statue several lusty blows with his guisarme, but the blade could not damage it. The PCs attempted various distractions, including snatching up a broken chest from somewhere in a corner and trying to use it to cover the statue's head, thus blinding it. Eventually it became clear, though, that the thing was not trying to kill anybody, in particular but was simply heading for the staircase and attacking anything in its way. They decided to let it go, and follow behind - although Sir Portos had to be persuaded by Ogesana not to continue the fight.
Ogesana and Maria remained to make romantic declarations to each other and tend Kyrie. Jojo, Kestrel and Sir Portos chased the statue downstairs and found it marching to the other side of the lake, apparently intending to march on the bottom of the lake and eventually submerge itself and come out on the opposite shore. They followed it in the raft and watched it approach the shattered statue. It was by now clear what it meant by 'the Twin'. They fanned out behind it and watched, fully prepared to do battle. Having stabilised Kyrie, Ogesana left him in Maria's care and charged down to join the others, using the aforementioned chest as a makeshift boat. A furious fight developed as the statue came after them, apparently in the belief they had something to do with the Twin's destruction. Kestrel was severely wounded. But eventually, through Ogesana's ingenuity - hiding behind the statue's legs while Sir Portos poked at it with his guisarme so that eventually it toppled over and was half-smashed by its own weight - they were victorious and managed to disarm the statue.
They decided that, rather than kill it, they would attempt to communicate with it. This they did with pictograms scratched in the sand with a sword, and gesture, aided by Kestrel's ability to understand what the statue said (although he lacked the ability to speak in return). They learned that somebody must have snatched the dagger from the statue's hand long ago and used it to destroy 'the Twin'; they surmised this was Cuthbert, the author of the account written on slate they had discovered in a chamber closer to the surface of the caves. They also learned that Cuthbert's dwarves had all gone mad and drowned themselves in the lake, apparently through worship of the moray god. Finally, they discovered that the underground lake stretched far off into infinity, eventually merging with the endless ocean which was the source of all water in the universe, and that one must not stray too far into it, because eventually one would find oneself borne away on currents that would take one away into that never-ending vastness.
The task was clear. Find and recover the tadpole, but do not get swept into the infinite plane of water.
But the raft only had space for three. Who would go, and who would stay? Clearly Ogesana and Sir Portos would insist. For some time, it seriously seemed as though a system of duels would have to be fought to decide who else would do it - a knock-out 'world cup' affair. Eventually this seemed to have been abandoned - although no final decision was reached.
And that was the end of the fifth session. I really enjoyed both this session and the previous one - lots of dastardly plotting took place, as well as some good creative thinking. The conversation with the statue was also full of funny misunderstandings and complications which I can't do justice in a blog post. But I realised at the end of it that I had abandoned Ryuutama's combat system for the most part and was really running it rather like D&D. The system itself is a plan that hasn't quite sustained contact with the enemy.