Opelenean Nights III

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Opelenean Nights III

 

Session Thirty

With the aid of the cleric Achmed Raisul, the Fated had regained their strength and set out into the Desert of Desolation. Their objective was the Oasis of the White Palm, which they believed held the secret to defeating the Efreeti Pasha they had unwittingly released.

After cutting a swath through a village of bugbears, they reached the oasis on the 23rd of Agitelen. To their horror, it was a blackened, burning wasteland, its waters scoured, its trees cut down. Despair gripped the Fated. “Does nothing go right for us?” Ethlyn shouted to the heavens. There was no answer from Imran.

The next day, the Fated headed south. Their old caravan map indicated there was another oasis further south, and they hoped they might learn what had befallen the Oasis of the White Palm .They made good time by trekking through a smooth wadi that snaked through the landscape. It was only when they saw the purple chitin scraped here and there on the side of the wadi that they realized they were marching along a worm-tread… Not long after, they caught sight of great plumes of sand being thrown up by some massive creature. They fled as far and as fast as they could, and then encamped for the night. During the hours of darkness, Rakh was bit by a black widow spider, but fortunately Senef’s shamanic powers saved his life.

The next day, 25th of Agitelen, the southern oasis came into site – a thousand yard wide vista of lush green grass and high waving palms. Proudest of all was the towering white palm that soared skyward. “Did we get fooled…by a decoy oasis?” asked Shikra. The party advanced forward with glee, soon catching site of a campsite of nomad tents, as well as a large caravanserai.

The Besherab nomads of the Oasis of the White Palm – for this was, indeed, the sacred oasis – were a suspicious lot, but Mahmud and Ethlyn’s charisma, as well as the generous gift of a magical dagger, soon got the Fated brought before the sheikh of the oasis, Kassim Arslan, and his son, Hassan. After the appropriate exchange of food, water, and courtesies, the sheikh shared his problems with the Fated.

“Five days ago, Shadalah, a young noblewoman from our tribe, was betrothed to my first-born son, Hassan. She was the chosen bride because she had upon the palm of her hand the sacred symbol. After their betrothal the three-day feast began. Yet, the place was set and no man knew the time. May Imran guide us! Word came by runner during the feast that my soldiers were needed to defend the Oasis of Akhir from an evil efreeti. My warriors departed at once. On the following night, Princess Shadalah disappeared. The marks in the sand outside her tent told of a struggle. The trail ended just north of our camp. Our warriors have not returned from their struggle to hold the evil one at bay. Their absence has weakened my position here and made my enemies bold. I believe that my enemies here in the camp, whoever they may be, have Hassan’s bride. I ask you to help us recover Shadalah, the beloved bride of my first-born son. If you find her, then the wealth of my tent and the friendship and service of my kingdom shall be yours.”

Mahmud and Ethlyn were deeply moved by this plea, and agreed to help find the missing princess of the Oasis. To indicate that they were in his service, the Sheik gave them a magical amulet graven with ancient symbols. Curious about this amulet, and the mention of the “sacred symbol” on the hand of the missing princess, the party decided to seek out the cleric of the Oasis, hoping he might explain more.

The cleric, one Nadron Ilanis, was happy to share with a paladin of Imran. “The symbol on the palm of Hassan’s bride comes from a tradition that is almost as old as the tribe itself. Only one woman at a time may bear the symbol and only so long as she lives, or until it is passed on to the new bride. The old beliefs say that the first bride has great power over evil because of the mark on her hand. In any event, the symbol has not yet returned to the altar; therefore, the bride must still be alive.” The party began to become suspicious about how the amulet, the bride, and the efreeti might all be related…

They next visited the tent of Korus Arslan, the sheik’s second son. They were surprised to find the sheik’s first son, Hassan, being entertained by a lewd dancing girl in the tent – but then realized things were not as they seemed! Rather, Korus was an identical twin of Hassan, born only a minute afterwards. Ethlyn used her good looks and feisty personality to befriend Korus, who quickly sought to involve them in some sort of plot he had afoot. “Help me find the princess Shadalah. I believe that certain people in the Sandvoyager’s Guild are holding the girl in their warehouse. Bring her straight to me. I will wait for you after dark by the monolith in the oasis.” He then gifted them with a prize trove of magical maces in exchange for their help.

The Fated instantly suspected Korus of guilt. Perhaps it was because he insisted on Shadalah being brought to him; perhaps it was because he seemed to have a motive; because his dancing girl showed signs of having been beaten. Ethlyn was especially troubled by the latter, and purchased the girl, Kerina, and freed her.

Intrigued by Korus’s mention of a “monolith,” the party investigated. They found the monolith in question hidden among a dense copse of palm trees. It was carved with holy symbols – the earliest symbols being archaic glyphs of the Empyrean gods, these largely carved over by Kemeshi hieroglyphs to the Chthonic gods. Ceara, now blessed with the preternatural sight of the elves, noticed that the monolith concealed a secret door, but the party decided not to enter it yet.

Heading over to the caravanserai, the party knocked on the door of the Sandvoyager’s Guild. When no one answered, they broke into the warehouse. This prompted a short fight with the guild members within, but the party refused to draw weapons and just broke heads instead. After breaking enough heads, they convinced the guild to grant them a meeting with the guild leader, Thurnas. Thurnas was quite suspicious and gruff, but became outraged at the suggestion that he had princess Shadalah. He angrily suggested they talk to Korus Arslan, who he alleged to be a deal-breaking, treacherous, Chthonic cultist. “PTAH! I spit on Korus Arslan!”

The party decided they should alert the Sheikh of the treachery of his son. Unfortunately, this did not go well, as the party underestimated the extent to which a Besherab’s family loyalty might outweigh reason. “You come into my tent and insult my family? You claim that the son of my loins is involved in treachery against the family? I am outraged! Be lucky that you have the guest-right or I would have you beheaded in this instant! Out of my tent! PTAH!”

As the sun set, Senef cast a divination. “How can we rescue the Princess Shadalah?” “She must be freed from the crypt of great greed.” Suad quickly surmised that the “crypt of great greed” referred to the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak, the legendary “greediest man who ever lived”. Sadly, the location of this crypt was lost long ago. Balen rolled his eyes. “We can find her with this,” he said, producing his crystal ball. Gazing in, he saw a faint image of a beautiful Besherab maiden…imprisoned in a bottle.

There seemed to be no further avenue of investigation save the monolith, so the Fated headed there. Opening the secret door revealed stairs downward into an underground complex. A symbol graven on the walls marked it as dedicated to Set, a Kemeshi incarnation of Sakkara. After battling through several zombies and dispelling a deadly magical trap, the party came to a temple, with a glowing red sacrificial pit and a huge stone idol of Set himself, his serpentine eyes each a giant ruby. Zoya instantly declared it essential that this evil altar be desecrated by stealing the ruby eyes. This, indeed, seemed like a holy act to all of the Fated.

Zoya’s first attempt to pry out the ruby eyes got her knocked aside as the statue’s arms animated. The group came up with a clever plan; Balen webbed the statue with several layers of magical spidersilk, while Zoya quickly pried off the giant rubies and tossed them to Rakh. Rakh was surprised at how strangely warm the first ruby was, but thought nothing much of it, and placed it in his backpack.

Even as Zoya held the second ruby aloft, the first exploded. She dropped the second down the sacrificial well, where all 10,000gp of it erupted in flames. Rakh and Balen were the hardest hit, each of them immediately knocked unconscious. Rakh’s face was notably burned and both were unable to continue adventuring without rest. Outraged at the loss of 20,000gp, and its comrade’s skin complexion, the party hastily pushed the statue down the sacrificial pit and fled for the surface.

They decided to encamp for the night by the monolith, thinking they might espy who came in and out. They were entirely unprepared for the arrival of thirteen red-robed cultists at midnight, having kept just two adventurers awake and on guard. Most of the party was able to awaken before the cultists descended upon them, but Dornethan was a heavy sleeper and was stabbed in the knight. A fierce and hateful battle ensued;  one of the cultists was a Chthonic priest, but his evil curses were stopped with steel. A phantasmal fireball, followed by a sleep spell, took care of most of the other red robed thugs. The leader proved a particularly tough foe, but he was knocked down with an arrow in his heel, and then webbed. His robe was pulled back to reveal…Korus Arslan.

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Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-One

The party had just finished tying up the cultists when two guardsmen rushed to the monolith. They had caught sight of the illusory fireball Balen had thrown. The Fated explained that they had captured cultists breaking into a secret doorway in the monolith, and demanded to be brought before Sheikh Arslan.

The sheikh, along with the local cleric Nadron, were roused from slumber and confronted by the cultists, pulling back their hoods one by one to reveal prominent members of the tribe. When the sheikh saw his own son in cultist’s robes, carrying a symbol of Set, he was outraged. To be certain of the situation however he commanded Nadron to detect evil upon his son, while putting him sharply to the question. Korus Arslan could not conceal his animosity towards his father, and his ill intent revealed his treachery.

The torturer was summoned, and he began to extract information from the captives. The squealing cultists soon revealed that their cult had planned to kill the sheikh and his firstborn son and install Korus as the new chief. Their plans had accelerated when  the evil cleric Corga had been contacted by a powerful efreeti pasha, who promised great wealth and power if they delivered the princess Shadalah to it. The cultists had hired the slavers of the Sandvoyager’s Guild to capture Shadalah, but the princess had disappeared without being given to them. All of the cultists insisted that the slavers had the girl! After the interrogation was complete, the headsman was brought forth, and all the cultists save Korus were slain and their bodies burned. Korus remained with his further for further interrogation.

The next day, 26th Agitelen, the Fated delved back into the Temple of Set beneath the monolith. After battling off giant spiders, the party entered a chamber with unholy water and demonic ichor. Shikra gathered a bottle of the demonic ichor, for what unspeakable purpose none could say. Balen, not to be outdone, mixed the demonic ichor with the unholy water, creating what Senef derisively called “diet ichor... now with 50% less evil.”

These shenanigans were interrupted by the arrival of a half-dozen cultists who sought revenge for the killing of their colleagues the prior evening. This time the party was not caught off-guard or asleep, and they handily dealt with the red-robed thugs. Pushing deeper into the temple, they came upon a room with a brazier of violet flame, surrounded by skeletons. Shikra seized control of the skeletons before they could knock the brazier of flame onto the party, and Mahmud dispatched the undead. Afterwards, Shikra’s summoned mujahedeen confirmed that the brazier did, in fact, explode violently if disturbed.

Past the brazier of violet flame, the party found a near-naked warrior manacled to the wall, being tortured with food and water just out of arm’s reach. This proved to be Barus, the chief guard of the slavers. He had been tortured for two days with demands that he reveal where Shadalah was, but of course he knew nothing. Upon being rescued Barus tried to sneak off, but Rakh and Ethlyn put short work to that.

Suad’s divination magic revealed several secret doors that the party began investigating. One of these lead into a terrible trap that sent all of the party sliding down into a deadly pit. Sapphira crushed her hand in the fall, while Suad and Ceara both sustained concussions and lost several teeth. Umar dented his cheek, while Wazir broke his nose and tore up his face badly. The party was in no shape to continue, so it extricated itself from the pit and headed to the surface.

Back in the Oasis, the sheikh briefed them on the result of his interrogation of Korus. When Korus had learned that the slavers did not have the girl, he had immediately began to rant and rage at Corga. “The priest must have given her to the efreeti himself, that treacherous dog! He planned to supplant me as ruler of the tribe!” Sadly the priest, having been brutally slain in the fighting at the monolith, could neither confirm nor deny these charges, but Korus did reveal that the priest used a sinister-looking three-horned skull to communicate with the efreeti. The group had espied this skull in their earlier expedition into the Temple of Set, and decided to return for a further exploration.

The next day, 27th Agitelen, the party (save Sapphira, Suad, and Ceara, who were in no shape to fight), headed back into the Temple and returned to the chamber where they’d spotted the skull. Shikra donned the red robes of a cultist and, after some muttering of various runes marked on the skull, managed to contact the efreeti pasha. Unfortunately the mighty genie was not fooled for even an instant, saying “I already have what I need. You are too late. Soon all that you love will be burned and destroyed!”

This grim news renewed the party’s determination to discover the location of the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak, where they thought either the princess, or the efreeti, or both, might be found. Pressing onward, they battled through a pair of mummies and a nest of giant spiders to finally come to sealed bronze doors of great antiquity. These read “Beware ye the wrath of Set and His minions, for before you lies the Gate to His Kingdom of evil and those who make that journey never return.”

Here, the Fated paused. They considered what had befallen them in the Well of the Prophet, and how they had awoken the Thrassian mummy king. They considered what had befallen them in the Sunken City of Pazar, and how they had awoken the Efreeti Pasha. And they decided not to open the bronze doors to the Kingdom of Evil… though it was a close vote.

Instead, they turned around and headed south, towards  a barred door they’d earlier noted. Bashing this door open, they revealed seven goblins, apparently miners who were digging in the vicinity of the Temple. The miners claimed to be working for the slavers, and offered to take the party to meet their overseers. The goblins lead the party into what seemed like an entirely separate underground complex, of unknown size. The goblins stopped when they came to a post with three bugbears – their overseers. The party was beginning to parley when Balen decided to just dispatch all ten beastmen with a ball of fire…

His spell exploded in the caves, sending smoke and shockwaves everywhere. Shouts and cries began to ring through the hall. A fight was on!

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-Two

Balen’s fireball detonated in the caverns, and the fight was on. The party soon found itself engaged with a bugbear jailor, an Opelenean slaver, an aged Opelenean sorcerer from the west, and a pair of Zaharans, a male fighter and a female witch, from the south. Most of the fighting took place in a corridor leading to a barracks and prison underneath the slaver compound on the surface.

The Opelenean sorcerer used invisibility to approach unseen and then unleashed a paralyzing ray from a wand; this ray might have won the battle had it not rebounded from Mahmud’s ring of spell turning and paralyzed the sorcerer instead. Rakh charged down the tunnel and dispatched the sorcerer, slaver, and bugbear.

Meanwhile, The Zaharan sorceress was unaware that Mahmud had a ring of spell turning, and attempted to polymorph the paladin into a spider. Mahmud, unfortunately, was unaware that his ring was out of charges, and resultantly turned into a spider. Ethlyn spent the next several seconds down on hands and knees trying to capture the Arachno-Paladin in a bag before he could disappear down a crack.

Androcles was caught up in a vicious spear-fight with the Zaharan warrior, who finally managed to plunge his javelin into a weak spot in Androcles’ armor. The javelin was coated with a fast-acting soporific, and Androcles instantly collapsed. The Zaharan stepped forward to finish off Androcles, and was shot dead by a well-placed arrow from Wazir. As the Zaharan warrior fell, Shikra made eye contact with the witch – evil eye contact, which emptied her mind of thought and reason. The befuddled witch soon surrendered.

Senef hastily interrogated her, but unfortunately she was so addled that little information was forthcoming. From her babbles he did piece together that she and her dead brother were representatives of a merchant house in Kemesh with ties to the slave trade.  He also learned that Mahmud had been polymorphed, and used his dispel magic to release him from spider form.

Meanwhile Rakh had found the cells where the slaves were kept. There was only one person resident within, an Auran merchant named Tolnus Granicus. Tolnus had been sent by the Imperial authorities to investigate allegations of illegal slave-mongering in southern Opelenea. Having been captured by Thurnas, head of the White Palm’s slavers, he was being interrogated as to how much he knew.

Thurnas himself had heard the fighting in the caverns below his compound and called down. “What’s going on down there?” Barnabas the bat, a highly adaptable mimic, shouted “We’ve just captured those adventurers!” in a perfect Opelenean accent. Thurnas was fooled utterly, and dropped down from the ceiling on a ladder to see the “victory” for himself.

The Fated quickly slew the surprised Thurnas, then escaladed to the surface. Ten very surprised slavers went fleeing from the compound. The party was, by now, quite exhausted and decided they needed to rest. However, they were concerned that if they left the caves, the slavers would return and steal the loot while they were away. After a brief discussion, Zoya went on watch in the warehouse above the caves, while the rest of the party searched the caves below.

They quickly found a valuable trove, including spellbooks, jewelry, and gold, platinum, and electrum coin. Their haste proved well-founded, as six of the slavers returned to skulk above, unaware that Zoya was cloaked in the shadows not far from them. Warned by Zoya of the threat, the party quickly dispatched these thugs.

Heading to the surface with their treasures, the party made their way to the Sheik’s tent, presenting him with several fine gifts. Tolnus Granicus explained that he was on an Imperial mission against slavery in the region, and that he had been captured by slavers operating in White Palm. Now that the Fated had rescued him, he demanded that the slavers be turned over to him for Imperial judgment. The Sheik refused, however. “These men have brought shame onto my clan and my oasis. I will deal with them in the Opelenean way… the old way. Have them nailed to the tree of woe!”

Not wanting to be anywhere near anything resembling a tree of woe, the party headed back to their camp and rested for the remainder of the day and night. The next day, 28th of Agitelen, Senef cast a divination and asked his totem spirit “Can we learn how to rescue Princess Shadalah by continuing to explore the Oasis of the White Palm?” The response: The place is set, but no man knows the time. From this cryptic clue, the Fated decided they should return to the Temple of Set beneath the monolith.

Down in the Temple, Mahmud destroyed a vile golden cobra idol to Set that the party had so far left untouched.  They then advanced to the end of the Temple, to the sealed bronze doors reading “beware ye the wrath of Set and His minions, for before you lies the Gate to His Kingdom of evil and those who make that journey never return.” Here, the Fated were engulfed in argument – Was this “the place of Set”? Should they open the doors and risk awakening another evil? Or was this merely a trick to doom them?

While the party was fiercely arguing, Zoya began searching for secret doors – and found one, to the east, away from the sealed bronze doors. Exploring a secret corridor seemed far more appealing than opening the dreadful bronze doors, so the Fated immediately headed eastward. The corridor soon led to a lengthy staircase descending almost 90’ down into the earth.

Perhaps it was dark spirits guiding her, perhaps a premonition, perhaps paranoia, but for whatever reason Shikra suddenly interrupted the party’s march and said her summoned berserkers needed to take the lead. The Fated had learned to listen when Shikra got cautious, so they halted and allowed the berserkers to advance. Halfway down the staircase, the stairs themselves swung out from under the berserkers, sending both down to a pit 50’ below. The pit was filled with quicksand, and the quicksand was filled with skeletons, who slaughtered the hapless berserkers.

“And I thought the other traps down here were bad,” said Shikra. “Whatever’s down here must be really valuable,” said Zoya, as she began belaying the party across the pit. On the far side, the party found an ancient library, mostly burned to ashes. Diligently searching through the wreckage, the party found a clear crystal the size of a man’s heart and a sealed scrollcase. Ethlyn indentified the crystal as the fabled and long-lost Star Gem of Khan-Pelar, while Senef announced that the scrollcase was sealed with the portentous words: “Property of the Prophet Azendor” written in Classical Auran. Mahmud and Rakh gave joyful prayers to Imran and Ethlyn offered a libation of holy water.

Returning to the surface, the party got the blessing of Nadron, cleric of Imran, to open Azendor’s scroll. Within was an ancient map showing the route to many fabled locations – the City of the Phoenix, the Sunken City of Pazar, and the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak, where princess Shadalah could be found!

Knowing that Ceara, Dornethan, and Suad would still be incapacitated for a few more days, Senef called on the spirits for more guidance. “Should we head to the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak immediately, or wait until the Fated are all back in health?” You rush to the pasha of death, came the chilling response from his totem snake… 

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters BackerLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Really enjoying the writeups. I asked (and was answered) in a PM (to avoid spoilers) about what previously published content was being used. The response got me thinking...the content was published for different versions of the game; how much conversion of the material was done (not simply tinkering to fit the campaign)? For example, some of the stuff was written for AD&D 2nd edition, and there was a significant inflation of monster hit points in that edition. Were AD&D 2nd creature stats used as is? Swapped when available? All converted? What about treasure? As written? Re-rolled from ACKS?

I've got a ton of material I'd like to use with ACKS, and I'm wondering what to bother messing with. Obviously D&D Basic stuff is mostly going to be fine, but what about AD&D, AD&D 2nd, etc.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I use ACKS characteristics for creatures where available. Where ACKS creatures didn't exist, I simply used 1st Ed or 2nd Ed characteristics with on-the-fly conversions.

For Magic Resistance I converted from the percentage to the throw system, using a target number of (21-MR%/5). For spells that didn't exist in ACKS, I used the 1st/2nd ed. version, and treated them as unique powers of the creature. If the spell was a modificiation of an ACKS spell (Delayed Blast Fireball, say), it had the Fireball radius of an ACKS Fireball not a 1st/2nd ed one. For 1st/2nd ed, I converted AC as (10-AC), while for BECMI, I converted AC as (9-AC). I used the monster's Hit Dice with the ACKS attack throw and saving throw charts. 

For NPCs, I converted their attributes to ACKS values and used the closest available class. Fighters lost any % Strength, but gained fighter damage bonus. I removed 1hp per level from fighters, thieves, and paladins to reflect the change in HD values. 

I would say it generally took me 10 minutes or less, and often I did it on the fly.

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Alex said: I would say it generally took me 10 minutes or less, and often I did it on the fly.

Now that's what I wanted to hear!

Ludanto
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Joined: 2012-04-30 11:52

I actually converted a 3.5 supplement without too much problem. A couple of the monsters took a minute, but only because I didn't understand why I should keep some of the abilities (why is this giant lizard immune to sleep and paralysis?)

So, that, and almost completely replacing/rerolling the treasure, was all it took.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters BackerLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Yeah, Alex mentioned over PM that he had a similar experience converting 3.x material to ACKS. The other way (i.e. ACKS to 3.x), not so much! It's very encouraging, as I have a LOT of 3.x material (and 2E material, and 1e, and Basic, and PF, and S&W, and LL, etc...what's wrong with me?).

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Nothing! I just wish I had more ACKS product to sell you.

Must...write...faster

bobloblah
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Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

;-)

I never used to buy as much material, for a variety of reasons. However, as I've gotten older, and other commitments have impinged on my RPGing time, lots and lots of pre-baked content has become a boon...which is what I tell myself so I don't feel bad about having enough adventure material to last from now until the heat death of the universe.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

I've always been an avid consumer of pre-baked content. I tend to view them as campaign "ingredients" which I then spice and mix together to create my jumbo. I handcraft the centerpiece dungeons or encounters, and then customize the pre-baked content to fit with my framework. 

(I've sometimes wondered if it would be worth trying to license the various dungeons I used for the original Auran playtest and releasing my Auran-ACKSified versions.) 

Ludanto
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Joined: 2012-04-30 11:52

Can you elaborate on "centerpiece" dungeons/encounters? What does that mean? How does the centerpiece fit in with the rest? I guess, generally, what technique do you use to personalize your use of published content?

Also, I wonder how many direct replies this format can take before it breaks? :)

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

In ACKS, under "Creating the Region", I wrote:

 

"Within that map, the Judge should place around 45 static points of interest. One-third of these should represent the settlements, towns and castles of the humans and demi-humans, while the other two-thirds (30) should be dungeons (including lairs or special areas). Of the 30 dungeons, we recommend 3 large dungeons each designed for about 6-10 sessions of play; 10 dungeons designed for 1-2 sessions of play; and 17 small “lair” dungeons designed for a half-session of play, i.e. 1-3 encounters. Each point of interest in the regional map should initially receive one paragraph of description."

The centerpiece dungeons are the large dungeons designed for 6-10 sessions of play. These are not quite megadungeons, which are designed for an entire campaign's worth of play, but they are larger than the more common "lair" dungeons. Some examples of large or centerpiece dungeons are the Caves of Chaos and the Caverns of Thracia. 

I have a somewhat formulaic approach to setting design that makes it relatively easy to adapt modules into my setting. It works more-or-less like this:

  1. There were at least one and preferably two ancient, evil kingdoms that occupied the area previously ("Evil A and B")
  2. There was at least one good kingdom that occupied the area previously.
  3. There is a known present-day political threat that is distracting the authorities that will develop over a period of years.
  4. There is an unknown but potentially catastrophic threat that will develop a period of years. Maybe more than one.
  5. Often the political threat is from a descendant-heir kingdom of Evil B (the more recent evil) while the catastrophic threat is from Evil A, or an evil so evil that it predates Evil A. 

Within that framework, there's usually a place I can slot in almost any module that satisfies the aesthetics/tropes of the setting (e.g. desert setting for Opelenea, icy northern setting for Jutland). Then it's just a matter of equating the villains with either the past threats Evil A and Evil B (if it's an undead crypt or abandoned ruin, for isntance); with the Political threat (if it's an enemy garrison or camp, say); or Catastrohpic (if it's a wizard's tower).

Within the context of ACKS play, this framework also works nicely to drive the players towards domain-level action. Some players don't like to conquer everything for the sake of power and glory and want to feel like Good Guys. So, in this framework, as they uncover the catastrophic threat, when they discover that the powers-that-be are blinded by the short-term political games they are playing, they feel justified in seizing power for the greater good.

 

 

 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-Three

On the 5th of Innelen, the party was fully recovered and set out to find the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak. Skirting an orc village they spotted in a rocky valley, they reached the purported site of the Crypt around sundown. Their map had led them to ancient stone amphitheatre with a statue of Bel, the Slaughterprince, standing in its center. As the party approached, a palpable sense of dread overwhelmed them, and all but the most hardened fled. It took some time to regroup, at which point the shadows hung long in the west. Rakh declared, “The light of Imran does not shine there.” “We must destroy that baleful statue,” agreed Suad.

Shikra summoned her berserkers, and ordered one of them to attempt to topple the statue. The berserker was surprised to discover that the statue slid easily when pushed – so surprised that he stumbled and fell into the pit the sliding statue revealed, vanishing out of site. The berserker had uncovered a vast channel into the earth!

Zoya quickly belayed herself onto several hundred feet of rope and dove into the pit, relying on her ring of feather fall to allow her to gracefully drift down. The ring saved her life, for 80’ down something cut her rope. Using her spear, she guided herself onto a balcony 90’ down, and noted that the pit continued at least another 60’ further. Clambering up to the pit’s rim, she took advantage of her supernatural buoyancy to bounce back and forth along the pit until she came to the point where her rope had been cut; there she found a cunning scythe-trap, which took her long, tense moments to disable.

Meanwhile, on the surface, Suad surveyed the constellations. “The zodiac signs suggest that Ethlyn will die tonight,” he warned gravely. “No, they don’t!” Ethlyn squeaked. “Can you read the stars, girl?” the mage frowned. Rakh put his clawed hand on Ethlyn reassuringly. “Don’t worry. It is in Imran’s name we are killed. We are counted among His sheep to be slaughtered.” Suad laughed. “Imran’s not around at night.”

Senef had now clambered down to join Zoya on the balcony 90’ below. Just as he was about to land on the balcony, Zoya waved him off. They had spotted scorch marks on the floor. Zoya pointed left and right, north and south; 4 doors, each guarded by statue, each seemingly trapped. This was a place of death. She called for Suad to divine whether there were any secret doors – his magic found one portal to the south, behind a menacing bladed door. Low crawling on her hands and knees with a 10’ pole prodding every inch before her, Zoya reached the door and, after minutes of careful prodding and knocking, succeeded in opening it with her 10’ pole. Beyond was a great hall, dominated by a statue of Badr al-Mosak, coins gleaming like a golden trail.

It was by now almost 8:20pm; it had taken Zoya almost 2 ½ hours to clear the path for her comrades. The joined her in the great hall as she investigated the statue. However, Shikra – having witness the party’s near death from the traps in the Temple of Set – refused to advance and hung back by the balcony. It was thus the warlock that fell prey to the dread spectre which emerged from the darkness of the pit. Shikra’s screamed as her life-force ebbed away. Senef was able to destroy the spectre with his magic, but Shikra was reduced to a shadow of her former might. [Shikra lost two levels of experience, reducing her to 3rd level, from this random encounter.]

The Fated had hardly finished dealing with the spectre when a band of tomb-wights fell upon them. These were dispatched without tragedy, and the party found a pile of booty – possessions from the wight’s living days. These included a bronze-bladed jambiya, a spell scroll, a scroll of protection from genies, and two potions of invisibility. The part resumed its slow and careful exploration of the Crypt. Each step was measured; each flagstone prodded.

By 10:00pm, the party had made its way through two secret doors and reached an octagonal room marked by a large, black obelisk. “Want to check for traps?” asked Mahmud. The obelisk responded: “Extreme caution must be applied.” The obelisk could talk! “What did you just say?” asked Mahmud. “Do not suppose too much!” it responded. “Who are you?” “Despair if you continue thus!” “Why shouldn’t we ask questions? “Another tactic might prove better.” “Are you real?” “Extreme caution must be applied!”


Disappointed that the obelisk was merely a charlatan’s oracle, the party advanced deeper into the dungeon, coming upon another vast pit. This one stretched as far as they could see both up and down. As they watched, a still-animate mummy hurtled down the pit in front of them. Then a still-animate mummy hurtled down the pit in front of them. Then a still-animate mummy hurtled down the pit in front of them… On a hunch, Dornethan fired a marked crossbow quarrel into the pit. It plummeted out of sight…and a second later reappeared at the top of their line of sight, plummeting downward. And a second later reappeared at the top of their line of sight. “It’s an endless loop!” shouted Suad. Unwilling to explore such a potentially dreadful trap, the party turned back inward to the complex.

They entered a square room with a metallic cube, 10’ on a side, laying in its center. Senef climbed up on Rakh’s back to get a peek into the cube, and immediately fell into a hypnotic trance, slumping off Rakh’s back. After being roused, the shaman tried again to glimpse into the cube, and again, fell mesmerized.  “Easy way to deal with that,” said Balen, as he hurled a fireball.

After the detonation, the party was able to gaze into the cube safely. They saw the charred bones of our human-headed skeletons; these must have had hypnotic powers, they surmised. They also saw the scorched ruin of what had once been a grimoire or holy book. “It can’t have been a very powerful grimoire if it got burned from a little fireball,” said Balen. The party quickly convinced themselves that the loss of the millennium-old book was certainly irrelevant to their quest and not worth dwelling on.

With further investigation of the Crypt the part found a second metallic cube, unfortunately empty. The Fated also discovered two more endless looping pits. One of these pits was filled with falling items and treasure, which seemed to have been equipment of a party of adventures that had clambered into the endless pit and gotten trapped. Still unwilling to risk exploring the endless pit, the Fated decided they did want to extract its treasure. Senef did this by taking control of the very wind itself and using it to blow all of the items onto the safety of the ledge, a powerful demonstration of shamanic magic.

The items recovered proved most marvelous, most of them seeming to date to the classical era of the Auran Empire. Suad claimed a crystal ball with clairaudience, gazing vindictively at Balen’s now-inferior crystal ball. He also took a cursed helm of alignment change, although he didn’t don it. Senef found a scroll case that was tightly sealed and showed signs of having been battered and crushed, as if a desperate adventurer had tried to get it open in a time of need, and failed. Within was a scroll of miracle! “Poor bastard,” the shaman said, gazing at the skeleton drifting through the endless pit.

The party returned to exploring the Crypt. They now discovered a temple courtyard featuring an altar to Sakkara. Zoya crept towards the altar to search it, and was shocked to discover all of her magical items began to vibrate. A voice whispered in her ear: “Sacrifice to me and thou shalt receive my boon.” Zoya wanted no part of such a pact – but Shikra did. The nearly-lifeless warlock offered up her claw of Ymmu M’Kursa and the shroud as well, irreplaceable artifacts of the lost Zaharan Kingdom. The items vanished and Shikra felt her life-energies renewed…

Whilst this was going on, Zoya had searched the last unopened exit in the Crypt and deemed it safe to open. It revealed a long, narrow stone bridge, set some 60’ above a series of dozens of tombs. All of them were open, and horrible deathly moans emitted from them. By crystal ball the party saw that the tombs were filled with mummies, spectres, wights, and shadows. Senef called on the spirits to divine what would happen if the party attacked. “The Malatath below will bring you terrible woe!”

“The Malatath!” exclaimed Suad. “The Malatath was the army of undead that the Efreeti Pasha used to fight Al-Sindor during the Empyrean War… but it was destroyed.” “I guess he mustered a new one,” said Mahmud, drawing his sword for battle.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-Four

The party was on the verge of attacking the Malatath. Suad suggested before they plunge into battle that they explore the crypt one last time, whilst his divination magic was active to detect secret doors. For twenty minutes the party marched to and fro within the crypt, exploring every crevice and corridor, to no avail.

They might have reverted to their foolhardy attack on the massed undead had Shikra not asked Barnabas for ideas. The bat-like familiar had a different spatial sense of the crypt because of its aerial echolocation. “Have you looked up the endless tunnels?” it squeaked. With his spell soon to expire, Suad raced from pit to pit, in each one spotting a secret door above. “There’s an entire level above us!” he cried. Getting to one of those secret doors would be no easy task, though, for the wind whipping through the tunnels was prone to hurl debris onto climbers at high velocity. After brief deliberation, they decided to try for the secret door at the top of the southern pit, which seemed to have the least dangerous debris. Zoya led the expedition, scaling upwards with a rope belayed behind her. The rest of the party followed successfully, though few escaped damage from debris and falling objects.

At the top, they confronted a room filled with the scintillating glimmer of a million beams of light. Visibility was merely a foot, as the beams were so bright as to burn the eyes of those who gazed at them for too long. Wary of traps, Shikra summoned her berserkers to lead the way forward. Each berserker took a different route. The first of these was burned alive. The second was disintegrated. The third was frozen. The fourth was teleported behind them, down the endless pit. The party realized that some, but not all, of the beams of light were deadly – and so began a terrible process of trial and error, with every error sending a summoned soul back to the darkness. Eventually the party concluded that the way ahead would demand low-crawling fifteen feet forward and right; standing up and advancing to where the walls angled inward; jumping to clear a beam 1’ high; then laying back down and low-crawling forward another 20’ to ancient stone steps that ascended from t he chamber.

Zoya was the first person to make it through alive. Dripping with sweat, she crawled up the steps – and stopped in horror. The Efreeti Pasha waited beyond, his gigantic figure looming down as if waiting to see if any foolish adventurers would survive his terrible trap. In his hand he clutched a stoppered bottle – the very bottle that their crystal ball had shown holding Shadalah!  She fell back to warn her friends. Knowing that the efreeti pasha could hurl devastating area-of-effect spells at will, they decided they had to split the party. The first wave would be led by Mahmud, who was immune to the efreeti’s powers because of Cyclone of the Four Quarters. His attack would be supported by Suad and Zoya, both invisible. Ethlyn, Rakh, Sapphira, Senef, and Androcles would be in the second wave, while Umar, Ceara, Dornethan, Shikra, and Balen would be in the third wave.

Complications immediately ensued. When Mahmud reached the top of the steps, the Efreeti Pasha had vanished, and a dozen wraiths and spectres loomed there instead. Mahmud’s charge came to a screeching halt – where was his foe? Cyclone of the Four Quarters continued to roar in Mahmud’s hand, and he decided to press on! A moment later Suad’s magic dispelled the illusion that hung over the room, causing the undead to vanish and the evil genie to be revealed. Seeing only a pair of foes, the genie raised its hand and brought down a ball of flame into the scintillating room where the second wave was waiting. Ethlyn, Rakh, Sapphira, Senef, and Androcles went down.

Mahmud began striking at the Efreeti, but its huge size and magical protection made it hard to hurt. The Efreeti forcibly fought back with its great fists. As the genie struck each blow, the sheik’s amulet around the paladin’s neck began to glow and deal damage back to the monster. As the creature winced in pain, Suad knocked the bottle in its hand open, freeing princess Shadalah! She crawled towards the exit in terror. The enraged Efreeti incinerated Suad with a pillar of fire. Then the genie slammed Mahmud again. This time his amulet could not protect him. He went flying backwards, on the verge of death (1hp). Balen rushed forward, surrounded by the protection of a ward against genies, and gave Mahmud a chance to get back on his feet and lay on hands. While Mahmud was recuperating, Zoya stabbed the creature from behind, sprayings its hot ichor everywhere. Before she could escape it pounded her into the ground, then sent a ball of flame onto Umar and Ceara.

Mahmud steeled himself for one final charge. “Even if you could strike me down, I shall only be sent back to my home plane,” taunted the Efreeti Prophet. “Even your Prophet could not destroy me!”  


“The Prophet didn’t have Cyclone of the Four Quarters!” shouted Mahmud. He charged, leaping upward and bringing the magical blade in a 360-spinning arc. Wind, fire, earth, and sea combined to cleave into the genie. The Pasha howled and vanished in smoke and sulfur. Victory was theirs! But at such terrible cost! Rakh died of his wounds, praying to Imran next to his friend Mahmud. Umar and Ceara had taken grievous injuries and died in agony. Zoya, too, bled out from agonizing wounds. Androcles was dead before the party got to him; only a torso even remained, his legs having burned off. Of Sapphira, there was merely mangled bones and burned flesh; of Ethlyn, a red stain and bone shards. Senef might have been able to use the miracle scroll to save everyone, but his eyes had been burned out by the fireball, and he could not see to read it. He died with no one able to heal him.

There was no way to get the bodies of the fallen through the beams of light and down the endless pit, so the party left the bodies of their friends behind to take Princess Shadalah to the Oasis of the White Palm. Their upward passage stirred the interest of some terrible creatures in the well beneath the amphitheater. Shikra calmly reached into her bag of fantastic creatures and dropped a sea serpent into the well. This solved the problem. “We don’t have time for this right now,” she muttered.

During the trek, they noted a curious fact: By placing Mahmud’s amulet on Shadalah’s palm-glyph, a curious message became visible: “city of the phoenix over the house of set where sleeps salvation there speak atmopryeetno”. Suad recognized the former as the city that Al-Sindor had founded in Opelenea, and the latter as the name of his djinni vizier.

A day later, overwhelmed with mixed emotions, the Fated reached the Oasis and presented the Princess to the Sheik and his son, Hassan. The betrothed were tearfully reunited and the grateful Sheik poured out gold and silver and silks in reward. His most treasured gift, however, was ordering his cleric, Nadron, to read from the miracle scroll: “I beseech you, Imran, to return the Fated to us here in the White Palm, spiritually and physically whole.” Imran’s purposes were well-served by this, and the fallen of the Fated appeared, there in the shade of the White Palm which Al-Sindor himself had planted.

Alas, greed ever grips the heart of men, and the Fated could not help but recall that Badr al-Mosak was said to have been the greediest man who ever lived. Where was his fabled treasure? Clearly it must lay beyond the Efreeti’s chambers! The Fated set out to the Crypt again, arriving on the evening of the 7th of Innelen. By 6:30pm they had gotten back to the chamber of scintillating beams. Here, Balen and Androcles proved the value of Imperial siege craft, cunningly rigging a set of pullies with enough strength to carry a sack of gold on rope across the room of beams. The ceiling, it turned out, was not guarded by any deathly lights!

Advancing past the Efreeti’s chambers, the Fated came upon what they had sought: the fabulous treasures of Badr al-Mosak. Hundreds of pounds of silver, gold, and platinum. Ornamental masks, magical weapons of crystal and armor of golden chain, gems, and jewels… And the Star Gem of Shah-Pelar on a pedestal in the center. The way in was heavily trapped – much of the floor was an illusion that gave way to a pit of acid. Careful prodding finally led a pair of berserkers to the pedestal. They lifted the fabled Star Gem from its pedestal – the pedestal rose an inch as the weight of the gem was lifted – and beams of power filled the room. Instantly the berserkers within were petrified. The Fated nearly fainted with shock; had any of them been in the room… Wazir, the most accurate member of the party, quickly made a bundle of coins about the same weight as a star gem and tossed it into the room. His aim was perfect; it landed on the pedestal and pushed it back down, turning off the deadly beams.

That was the last of the traps that the Fated encountered in the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak. Soon they were buried in their body weights in coin, showering in silver, playing in platinum. They were rich! Moreover, some of what Badr al-Mosak had entombed were fabulous items from legend. Suad unrolled a beautifully woven Opelenean carpet and, speaking the word “soar” in Old Opelenean, began to glide about the room. It was a flying carpet! He also claimed a marvelous wand capable of detecting traps. Shikra found an obsidian wand tipped with a skull, a wand of ear, and a brass ring stamped with the symbol of elemental air – a fabled ring of djinni summoning!

Laden with treasures from the ages, the party made the trek back to the Oasis of the White Palm. 

James C. Bennett
Player's Companion BackerDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2012-01-17 20:17

Fantastic! I was re-reading this adventure not too long ago in preparation for my own campaign. It's great to see it played out.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-Five

Flush with cash from their success at the Crypt of Badr al-Mosak, the party relaxed in the Oasis for the next week. During the week, Senef’s spiritual communion confirmed that the Temple of Set below the Oasis was connected to the nether planes; the party had the entrance sealed up, as their experiences in opening such gates had so far been quite dismal.

On the 13th of Innelen, Hassan and Princess Shadalah were to be married, and the Fated, as heroes of the hour, were invited. The party presented the bride and groom with a marvelous gift – a 6,000gp diamond placed atop 60,000 silver pieces. Zoya wept tearfully at the wedding, largely over the size of these gifts; but the generosity was well-calculated, having been exiled from the Imperial lands to the north, having a secure relationship with the Sheik seemed vital. The Sheik, patriarch of a gift-based culture, had to reciprocate and so he awarded the party with ownership of the Sandvoyager’s warehouse and compound.

At the wedding, the Sheik’s aunt, Najma, visited them. “It is not fitting that so many promising young men be left unwed to cause trouble! The Sheik has sent me to find a first wife for each of you.” Ethlyn immediately spoke up. “What about me? Do I get a first husband?” The eagle eyes of the predatory matriarch gazed at her. “I didn’t realize you were ready to give up your decadent lifestyle and settle down for child-rearing. I’ll let the Sheik know to get you a good man…” Ethlyn demurred. Mahmud, however, being Opelenean by birth, found the idea of marrying into the Sheik’s tribe appealing, and asked for a suitable companion be found, “intelligent, curvy, with nice hips, and knows how to use a sword!” With love in the air, Dornethan blustered and bothered Rakh until he convinced the Thrassian to give him the philter of love they’d found in the Crypt. Meanwhile, Rakh had found a strange attraction growing with the slave-girl Kerina, whom he was teaching to sword-fight.

On the 14th of Innelen, the party departed the Oasis to seek out the City of the Phoenix. They had traveled only a day-and-night from the White Palm when they were ambushed by a sorcerous sphinx. The great beast unleashed a scouring wind upon them that slew a half-dozen of their camels, and badly wounded several party members. A camel fell on Wazir’s head, cracking his skill and addling his brain, and Balen had several torn tendons and ligaments. Seeing the the party was still in fighting shape after its ambush, the sphinx took wing to escape. Rakh was having none of it – he leaped onto Suad’s flying carpet and soared into the air, where he tore the sphinx to pieces.

After defeating the sphinx, the party decided to search for its lair. Even with Suad’s crystal ball and flying carpet, this still took the better part of several hours. The lair turned out to be a crumbled Zaharan ruin with broken statues and shattered columns, barely visible under centuries of sand. Within the party found silver and gold coin, rolls of silk, engraved tiger teeth, emerald stones, several potions and scrolls, a spellbook, and two treasure maps to the Howling Emptiness. The first led to “The shrine of the Zeolites / Where burn the fires bright”; the second led to “The pool of azure hue, whose waters renew.”

With Balen and Wazir temporarily incapacitated, the party headed back to the Oasis. Rakh Sphinx-Bane was not above boasting, and Kerina was quite impressed by his bravery. “Do you still have the philter of love?” she asked. “We should drink it to seal our love forever.” Rakh immediately went hunting for Dornethan to get the potion back, but Dornethan was hunting Ceara to get her to drink it. Balen, a professional military man, tried to stay above the shenanigans, but when Suad suggested this was because the fire-mage was so…flaming… things degenerated.

The bickering was still going on when the party departed again the next day, again intent on finding the City of the Phoenix. Their south-easterly trek was interrupted after a few leagues by a panicked Barnabas. “Most wicked and voluptuous mistress of darkness,” he squawked. “I have espied a large village of orcs a league from here.” “How large?” “It as bounteous with orcs as your chest is bounteous with... bounty.. 300 or more orcs.” Zoya volunteered to scout ahead to see what had the bat so flustered.

Shrouded by an invisibility spell, an elven cloak and boots, and her own innate stealthiness, Zoya crept towards the site of the village. It was, if anything, larger than Barnabas had reported – at least 300 orc warriors, plus an equal number of orc-wives and twice the number of brood. There were ogres, and a troll, too. The village’s “buildings” were just camel-hide tents, but they were surrounded by a rampart of sandstone and rock, and the vile banners of nine warbands fluttered. The village wall looked newly constructed – some incursion from the Waste to the south.

The Fated toyed with the idea of attacking the village by themselves, but they decided on a more strategic approach. Returning to the Oasis, they recruited three score camel archers from the tribe and brought them forward near dawn. Suad and Balen took to the heavens in their marvelous magical carpet, taking a place well outside of bowshot above the orc village. And then Senef begin a great and terrible spell – the calling of a dragon. As his chant ended, Marduthiamak, a dragon of the earth, erupted from the sands. I will serve you, for a time, the copper-hued dragon announced. “Go to the orc village to the south-east of here. Slay every beastmen there,”  commanded Senef.

The Fated had timed their attack perfectly – just after dawn, as the nocturnal orcs were settling down exhausted. Dozens of orcs died still asleep, scorched by the dragon’s breath. Dozens more died to its claws as it cleaved and rended through them. When the shaman emerged from his yurt, Balen fireballed him from above. Orcs that tried to flee the fortress found squads of camel archers everywhere, peppering them with arrows. It was a slaughter. 275 orcs were killed in the fort or trying to escape; another 275 were captured. Only about 110 orcs escaped the abattoir…

And now it was time to loot! 

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

 

Session Thirty-Six

Looting the orc village took the rest of the day.  The party gathered some 12,000gp in trade goods including dozens of gazelle horns, jars of rock oil, bags of coffee, bottles of Opelenean wine, barrels of Kemeshi beer, and bundles of camel pelts. They also gathered about 8,00gp in coin, gems, and trinkets, and a few magical items including a Zaharan axe. The Fated gave the camel archers much of the coin.

Back at the Oasis, the Fated turned over their orc captives to the Sheik. The Sheik, in turn, left it to Mahmud to decide their fate. Just as the path of the sun is fixed and unchanging as it moves across the heavens, so to was Mahmud’s inexorable sense of justice. The more morally flexible tribesmen were outraged – “Mahmud is too rigid,” “Mahmud does not know when to bend” – but the paladin did not yield: The orcs were slaughtered and their placed on stakes in a radius around the Oasis by Mahmud Orc-bane

After distributing the trade goods to the tribesmen in a great feast, the Fated set out for their third trek to the City of the Phoenix. This time, they reached it. Zoya scouted ahead. Much of the city was in ruins, its once-proud buildings reduced to collapsed mud brick strewn below dunes of sand. Some structures were still intact, though – much of the great walls, a citadel, and a mosque near the center. The former palace was also visible, though mostly buried beneath a tell of sand. Invisible and inaudible, Zoya dodged giant scorpions near the mosque, and bypassed a sinister old graveyard, eventually exiting by climbing over the tell.

While Zoya navigated through ancient ruins, some other shenanigans were afoot back at camp. Barnabas used a prestidigitation to steal the philter of love from Dornethan, and delivered it to Shikra. Shikra, meanwhile had used her alchemical skills to disguise Suad’s potion of telepathy as a philter of love. (Sadly, the alchemical disguising process was not perfect, but what were a few side effects among friends? Even if the friends didn’t know what those side effects were going to be?) Barnabas carried the disguised potion of telepathy back to Dornethan and attempted to place it back in his pack. But this prestidigitation was not successful, and Dornethan felt the bat’s fumble. Assuming that the bat was stealing his potion, Dornethan went into a rage and charged at Shikra, attempting to grapple her. Somehow, the slow, weak warlock managed to fight off the assassin, leading to chortles from the other party members that he had been “bitch-slapped”. Only Zoya’s return ended the brawl as she restrained her henchman.

The next day, 19th Innelen, the party headed into the City of the Phoenix. As they crossed the city walls, they were confronted by a genie, who demanded they state their purpose. “We are here to call forth that which Al-Sindor placed here!” said Senef. This was, unfortunately, the wrong thing to say. Four other genies appeared, armed with composite bows. A fierce fight ensued. Balen dealt deadly damage with a fireball, but succumbed to arrows a moment later. Rakh, in a berserk frenzy, began hurling his Zaharan axe at the sky born genies. Strangely, each time he threw the axe, it slowly dragged itself across the sands and returned to his hand – was it an axe of very slow returning? Actually, Barnabas the bat was invisible and using prestidigitation to drag it back each time.

Advancing forward, the party came upon the feet of a once-great statue. “I am Al-Sindor. Witness my great works!” a carving at the feet said. Here, Mahmud spoke “atmopryeetno”, the magic word that would summon Al-Sindor’s promised weapon of law. But nothing happened. The Fated decided to try speak the word again at the mosque.

Before the party could advance again, a score of genies arrived. Flying invisibly overhead, they launched a rain of arrows.  Mahmud’s amulet of detection didn’t provide nearly enough warning to avoid the ambush. Withering bow fire from the magical monsters left Shikra bleeding on the ground. It was clear retreat was the only option. Balen managed to throw a phantasmal force to screen the retreat, and the Fated fled… and kept fleeing for a league.

The Fated had destroyed an Efreeti Pasha. They were not going to let a few dozen lesser genies stop them. On the 20th of Innelen, the party decided to strike back. Senef summoned up a gale-force wind that swirled about him. The wind’s force was enough to turn back arrows and ground flying creatures. Better still, it raised up a great cloud of dust that limited visibility to only 20’, and helped reveal any creatures attempting to lurk invisible creatures within. Packed tightly within the dust cloud, the party advanced into the ruined City of the Phoenix.

As they reached the city’s mid-point, the genies attacked. Their onslaught came from every direction at once. But Suad had a surprise waiting for them: A 10-headed hydra, summoned with a scroll. Between the hydra, Mahmud’s genie-slaying prowess, and Rakh’s hasted frenzy, two waves of genies were slaughtered.

Dust still swirling about them from gale-force winds, the party made it to the mosque. There they were confronted by another half-dozen genies, with a genie champion and genie sorcerer in command. As the fighting began, Mahmud spoke the word of power: atmopryeetno. The ground trembled, and everyone fell to their knees. Everyone save Mahmud and the hydra, who wreaked havoc on the fallen genies. Then thunder struck from the heavens. The roof of the mosque shattered open.  And the Vizier of Djinnis appeared, summoned by the ancient magic of Al-Sindor…

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Thirty-Seven

The Great Djinni Vizier gazed down at the mortals who had summoned him. He paused. “Lo! What mystery is this? Where be the Evil One whom I have awaited? Has you circumvented what was Fated?” “We slew him, your Eminence,” responded Senef.

“A thousand years ready to confront and now I am denied the hunt? He is banished to the Sphere of Fire, and your circumstance is hardly dire. The link to his Summoner is alleved. By what means hast thou accomplished this deed?” “Well, I stabbed him with my sword. It’s called Cyclone of the Four Quarters. It was made after Al-Sindor’s time to kill genies. It was, you know, the back-up plan,” explained Mahmud, somewhat worriedly.

“The blade thou carry is an abomination – a hole in the Logos, a tear in the elements of creation. Remove it from my sight, lest I cast thee into the blight.”  “Sorry,” said Mahmud, who retreat. Senef coughed. “There are several other threats to the land that we could use your help with,” said the shaman.

The Great Djinni shook his head. “With the Evil One banished, my long servitude is fulfilled, to return never hence. But for thy deed, I must recompense. Ask of me one wish for thee.”

A wish! Mightiest of mortal magic! An opportunity to change the world for good or for ill. But how? “Excuse us, your Eminence, we will need a moment to discuss,” said Senef. The Djinni gave them until sundown. It ultimately did not take long. Wishing for direct attack against their foes seemed too risky. Wishing for forgiveness by the Empire seemed too indirect.

“I wish that the most valuable treasure hoard in Opelenea be brought to us!” said Mahmud. “As you wish!” said the Djinni. And, behold, it was before them – platinum and gold, gems and jewelry, and magic items abounding. When the party examined these items, Suad and Ethlyn recognized them. “These are the weapons and armor of Eranth Bellos, the great hero who fought with Al-Sindor. He vanished in an attack on the undying wyrm Utuk Xul, who slumbers in the bottomless pit of the Howling Emptiness.”* [*A pit the party had visited in Session 28]  

Balen and Mahmud soon discovered that Eranth’s blade, Drakoneus, was sentient, and it recounted the tale.

“Eranth Bellos came to Opelenea during Al-Sindor’s great crusade. Here he met his friend and companion, the wonderworker Ishmerai ibn Bakr. Together they fought alongside the Prophet to Opelenea against the Efreeti Pasha that the desperate Zaharans unleashed on the land. In time they were victorious. When Pazar sunk and Moradask was sacked, many ancient books of Zaharan lore came into their possession. Ishmerai became enthralled with a tale he read in Zaharan myth, supposedly told to Uragasi by the ancient dragon Krios. It spoke of an undying wyrm called Utuk Xul, who slumbered in a bottomless pit in the Howling Emptiness, with treasures and wonders from an age undreamt of.  Pride and greed inflamed, Eranth and Ishmerai departed for the Howling Emptiness and sought out the Endless Shaft thinking they could destroy Utuk Xul. I was forged for the destruction of dragons, and a dozen of these beasts had Eranth and I slain together. But no such dragon as this had we ever faced. My powers were not enough. Eranth died to the dragon’s terrible bite and Ishmerai to its fetid breath. For a thousand years since have I cursed my name and wept bronze tears for shame that I failed my purpose and my master. But now I shall have revenge! For Utuk Xul has the power of an archmage, and surely he shall scry the location of his treasure and come for it! Then we shall slay him!”

The Fated knew that a loose pile of treasure in the City of the Phoenix was no place to fight a dragon. They decided to transport it to their underground lair in the Oasis of the White Palm. But how? Shikra had the way – bringing forth her ring of djinni summoning, she brought forth a lesser genie and commanded him to carry the treasure to the Oasis and hide it in the vault below, concealed with illusion. Such was the djinni’s power that this deed was done in an hour and a half – before the party had even returned to the Oasis!

The Sheik was in awe. “A djinni has brought great treasure to this Oasis! How can this be?” The Fated hurriedly explained it was their reward for defeating the Efreeti Pasha, and silenced his protestations with huge sums of gold. They then set about working on a defense for the Oasis – Repeating Ballistas. Balen, an expert in siegecraft, found that the Djinni could create wooden objects on command, and so within a few minutes, four of the Empire’s elite artillery weapons were at hand.

At nightfall, working from a telepathic image from Drakoneus’ metallic mind, Suad used his crystal ball to scry on Utuk Xul. The great dragon was already at the City of the Phoenix! His mighty wings cast a terrible shadow over the palace. His rotting hide was a purplish-black, his flesh pitted with open wounds unhealed. In places, bone was visible. His was a terrible visage.

When dawn broke, the party was summoned to the Sheik’s tent. A strange being was in audience with the Sheik – an androgynous man in voluminous robes concealing his entire body. Suad instantly recognized it as a Child of Nasga, like they had fought in the Howling Emptiness. “Great Utuk Xul seeks only the return of his treasure hoard. If it is returned promptly, he will spare your Oasis from annihilation,” the creature hissed. The Sheik was already under its charmed controlled, and Suad soon fell under it. “My friends will do this, of course,” said the Sheik. “Yes, we’ll have it to you in two days,” said Suad.

The creature slithered away, leaving the stunned group to decide what to do next. Senef’s first step was to dispel the charm. He then began to divine some options. What happens if we return the wyrm’s treasure to him?” The direction the wind will blow may change with the breath of diplomacy.” What happens if we fight the dragon? Ammonar welcomes his martyrs home. What happens if we kill Utuk Xul? From the canopic jar, vengeance comes from afar.

“He’s…a dragon lich!” sputtered Shikra! “We will all die! I have said this before, but now I really, really mean it!” said Suad.

So it was that on the 22nd of Innelen the party humbly presented itself to Utuk Xul’s vizier, returning their wished-for treasure as well as offering up a valuable scepter and silver necklace as tribute. The Child of Nasga, accepting the tribute, gazed at them with its sinister snake-like eyes. “Is this all you offer Mighty Utuk Xul for your crimes against him?”

Shikra stepped forward and produced The Skull of Garath, the evil artifact they had found in the Temple of Set. “I offer this prized relic.” This evil offering saved the Fated, and perhaps the Oasis. “It is accepted. Go now and tell your Sheik that this City is now claimed by Utuk Xul. Let none intrude upon his domain, save to bring tribute each month.”

“Overall, I think that went well,” said Suad. 

koewn
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“I wish that the most valuable treasure hoard in Opelenea be brought to us!” said Mahmud. “As you wish!”

As I read this, I was reaching towards the screen, slo-mo, shouting 'Noooooooooooooooo!', as I imagined behind the screen the players all reaching out in unison to press the big red "Give Me Trouble" button.

sulldawga
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I was thinking the same thing.

"Here's the most valuable treasure hoard in Opelenea being brought to you... by the most ancient evil in the land!"

You have to be impressed by the fortitude of the party though. When you get a Wish offered to you and somehow, it turns out that you end up giving treasure away instead of gaining treasure, you might wonder if adventuring is not really your thing.

But they keep on keeping on...

James C. Bennett
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Nice. That seems like the kind of trouble my players would get in to. Did the Fated get any XP for taking Utuk Xul's hoard back to civilization, however briefly? I know I would have to face that argument in a similar situation.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

They got the XP, yes. They brought treasure back to civilization.

We allocated all the treasure, gave out the magic items... up until late in the session, they were planning to fight Utuk Xul.  

I do wonder what I'll do if they kill Utuk Xul and take the treasure. That seems like an interesting loophole...

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Thirty-Eight

When they got back to the Oasis of the White Palm, the Fated realized that the Sheik was still under the sway of Utuk-Xul. “My friends, thank you for the wonderful briefing on the status of my friend, the Vizier of Utuk-Xul,” said the Sheik. “Did he say when I could pay him more tribute?” The Sheik’s son, Hassan, pulled Mahmud aside. “What is wrong with my father? How can you save him?” “We’re not sure what to do,” explained Mahmud. “We’ll think of something soon.”

The Fated did not linger in the Oasis to sort this out, instead setting out immediately to explore the Desert of Desolation. Following the ancient map they’d found in Al-Sindor’s library, and battling past a gang of five trolls, they came to an unfinished Zaharan pyramid. The structure had never had its final outer surface built, so it was still stepped, like a ziggurat. A tunnel gradually descended downward from the surface into the pyramid, intersected mid-way by a shaft that led downward from one of the steps. Senef explained that the tunnel was used during construction of the pyramid, and would have been sealed by dropping a great block of stone down the shaft when the pyramid was finished.

The party resolved to explore the ruin. Shikra promptly summoned a pair of berserkers, and these intrepid warriors were sent forward into the tunnel. They got as far as the intersection with the shaft before being torn apart by ghouls that dropped from above. Seeing the hideous things scamper off into the darkness, the party decided to approach with great caution.

They made it past the shaft without attack, finally reaching a three-way intersection. The path forward led deeper into the pyramid, while to the left and right it branched into alcoves, obviously intended as smaller tombs and chapels. These were smeared with filth and blood, for they had become the lair of ghouls – many ghouls. Many, many ghouls. The dungeon exploration turned into an all-out battle as cannibalistic undead descended on the party from every direction.

The party might have been overrun, had Balen not evoked a new dweomer, a circle of protection which kept the undead at a 10’ radius from him. Shikra used her dark arts to take control of the nearest undead and forced them to fight their own. Then Mahmud, Androcles, Rakh, and Sapphira waded into battle, cleaving down the left and right hallways leaving a line of bodies in their wake.

The fighters had just driven the enemy back when a Great Ghoul Sorcerer revealed himself, hurtling a bolt of lightning down the corridor from down the darkened tunnel. The fighters pursuing the ghouls were outside the blast area, but the rest of the party was struck. Suad, Zoya, Ceara, Ethlyn, and Wazir were all incapacitated instantly, while Balen, Shikra, and Senef were badly hurt.

Balen responded to the attack by blasting the Great Ghoul Sorcerer and his bodyguards with a fireball. That was insufficient to destroy it, so the fighters regrouped to charge the Great Ghoul. Androcles was paralyzed by the Sorcerer’s bodyguards, and slain a moment later, and Rakh was left paralyzed as well, though Sapphira managed to drag him back to safety. Balen sustained a barrage of magical fire, while Umar and Dornethan fired missiles. Eventually the Great Ghoul Sorcerer was slain along with his minions.

The aftermath of the battle proved not nearly as dire as it had seemed during the thick of the fighting. Androcles was dead, and Wazir had lost a leg, but the rest of the party suffered no more than minor scars and, in Suad’s case, a missing finger. The mage promptly declared himself “Suad Nine-Fingers” and turned towards searching for loot.

The Great Ghoul had accumulated a substantial treasure pile. The Fated surmised that he must have been raiding Zaharan tombs and crypts for years. Of particular interest was his library of ancient tomes. These were partially damaged from Balen’s fireball, but fortunately the Great Ghoul’s spellbook was intact, and it had several never-before-seen spells: Fist of Stone and Pillar of Sand. The Great Ghoul’s library also contained notes on his various magical items, including a wand of paralyzation and an amulet against crystal balls and ESP.

With this rich trove, the party marched back to the Oasis of the White Palm, returning on the 24th of Innelen.  Senef turned his healing arts towards restoring Androcles and Wazir. Though a shaman, Senef was an apostate who had learned the Empyrean spell restore life and limb. Androcles was restored, but perhaps Senef’s shamanism bled through, for it was a partial reincarnation – and it seemed the incarnation was neanderthal, for Androcles returned brutish, hairy, and ill-visaged. Wazir was next. He returned outwardly normal, but his connection to the divine was severed, costing him greatly in spiritual power.

Despite seeing these worrisome complications, Balen asked for Senef to heal him as well. The war-mage had taken several maiming wounds that left him aching and slow, and he wanted these cured. This cure went quite well; Balen was shaken a bit by the trauma, but would be fit for action within a fortnight.

While their comrades were recovering, the rest of the party turned towards other matters. Shikra and Suad began studying the many books they’d found in the Great Ghoul’s library, and added to their repertoires.

Senef began proselytizing within the Oasis. With his ability to call dragons, raise the dead, and cure disease, the Besherab nomads soon fell in awe of the shaman, whom they called “Speaker With Dragons” and “Voice of the Desert.” 143 converts adopted his faith.

Zoya sent funds and missives to her spies in Ber-Gathy. 10 days later, she got back quite interesting reports. Bathsheba reported, “The Emperor in Aura is near death. He is not expected to survive the season. When word reached Alakyrum, the Exarch of Opelenea began calling up his legions.”  Kavus reported, “I have continued to listen for reports of caravans lost in the Howling Emptiness. A total of four major caravans have now gone missing!”

Mahmud decided to seek a cure for the Sheik. His first plan was to have Senef dispel the charm, but this failed miserably – twice. The Sheik came to say Mahmud, deeply troubled. “My friend, I fear Senef is in league with our enemies. He has twice tried to ensorcel me, and only my iron willpower has saved me from his enchantments. Something must be done!” whispered the Sheik. “Ah…I shall handle it, Your Eminence,” said the confused Paladin.

Mahmud now asked Suad to attempt to dispel the charm. Suad approached the Sheik. “Your Eminence, Mahmud sent me. He fears that Senef has cast a spell upon you. May I have your leave to dispel it?” “Of course, my friend.” This time, the dispel was successful. Clarity fell over the Sheik’s features. “No! I have been charmed by Utuk-Xul. But that means my friend Mahmud has also been charmed! Come quickly…”

The Sheik hastily grabbed Suad and dragged him to the paladin’s presence. “Free him of this sorcery now, mage!” Suad obligingly “dispelled” Mahmud. “Ah, thank you for rescuing me, Your Eminence,” said Mahmud. “No, it is who must thank you,” said the Sheik. “Had you not sent Suad to me, we would both still be charmed!”

“I am not ungrateful. My friend, it is time I introduce you to the wife I have selected for you…the lovely Alia.” And here our chronicle must temporarily halt in the interest of modesty, for as to the intimacy between husband and wife, even Imran’s light must not illuminate it.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Fist of Stone                         Range 150’

Arcane 1                                    Duration: instantaneous

This spell blasts its target with a fist of solid stone conjured from the elemental sphere. The target suffers 1d4 points of damage per level of the caster. A successful saving throw versus Blast reduces damage to half. 

Pillar of Sand                         Range 120’

Arcane 2                                                Duration: 1 turn

The caster brings a pillar of solid sand (sandstone) into existence. The pillar of sand can be as large as 1,000 cubic feet. It cannot have a diameter of less than 10’. The pillar of sand must always be conjured in contact with the ground. If the caster desires, the pillar can bond itself to any surrounding nonliving material if its area is sufficient to do so. Its most common use is to create a raised dais or perch for archers, or as a “plug” to fill doors or hallways.

The caster can also create the pillar vertically resting on a flat surface but not attached to the surface, so that it can be tipped over to fall on and crush creatures beneath it. The pillar is 50% likely to tip in either direction if left un-pushed. Creatures can push the pillar n one direction rather than letting it fall randomly. Pushing the wall in one direction requires a successful Open Doors proficiency throw. Creatures with room to flee a falling pillar can do so with a successful save versus Blast. Creatures of ogre size or smaller that fail the save take 10d6 points of damage. The pillar cannot crush larger creatures.

Once created, the pillar of sand will last for 1 turn, or until dispelled. The pillar may not be evoked so that it appears where objects or creatures already are.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Thirty-Nine, or "The Punishment Continues"

Whilst Mahmud was enjoying conjugal relations with his new bride, Bechir was dispatched for Khaibar, laden with gold, with orders to return with holy water, laboratory supplies, and precious books. The Fated had decided that if the Oasis of the White Palm was to be their home, they may as well have a home with a workshop and lab!

The next day, 8th of Nethelen, they departed for another of the Zaharan ruins marked on their tattered map. They were regrettably waylaid en route by a basilisk, which petrified Balen before being dispatched. Losing Balen forced the party to retreat back to the Oasis. From there, Zoya and Ceara flew by magic carpet to distant Alakyrum. This journey, normally measured in weeks, took them but two days.

At Alakyrum, Zoya hired a spy master named Abiram, and ordered him to recruit spies for her throughout the city. She and Ceara then headed to the shop of Urabi al-Chukri, where a quick outlay of gold secured the purchase of a scroll of stone to flesh in an annoyingly fancy scroll case. So equipped, Zoya and her loyal henchwoman headed back to the Oasis. The return flight turned out to be quite treacherous, as over the Desert of Desolation they had to evade both wyverns and gargoyles. Zoya was heard muttering something about “flying the friendly skies” as the carpet landed.

Balen was returned to his normal, soft and fleshy, form on the evening of the 13th. At dawn the next day they set back out into the Desert of Desolation, reaching the nearby ruins at mid-day. They set up a camp some distance from the ruins, and after resting and recovering, began to investigate them.

The ruins proved to be an ancient temple to Sakkara, Mother of Monsters, and her daughter Ninzagga, Princess of Assassins. Most of the temple was in ruins, with just an understory remaining. Hieroglyphic inscriptions at the top of the temple read “This is truth: That all is governed by the movements of the stars, which are eternal and unchanging. That the light of the stars is hidden by the false light of the winged sun is the first of its blasphemies.” Even Shikra and Suad were disturbed by these dire words. “How wrongheaded do you have to be to complain about the sun? I mean, really. The Zaharans are all, damn you sun, with your light!”

The party dispatched berserkers to head down the stairs to investigate. They reported backward that the there was an antechamber filled with statues of Sakkara and Ninzagga, beyond which was a four-way intersection. The statutes held marvelous golden scepters, quite valuable. These were soon claimed in the name of Imran, and the statues destroyed.

Heading into the dungeon, the party headed right at the four-way intersection, and came face to face with a war party of six Thrassians in ancient Zaharan battle-dress. These creatures proved formidable combatants, and the party was hard-pressed. Their situation grew worse when hideous scorpion-spiders emerged from the northern corridor and began to hurl acidic venom into their flank. Balen unleashed Earth’s Teeth on the spiders, slaying several, but Rakh and Ceara went down to poison before the fight was won. Only Senef’s prowess at healing avoided calamity and got the two heroes back on their feet.

During the fighting, Suad had managed to sleep one of the Thrassians, and this being was quickly tied up. Leaving him aside for the moment, the party decided to see what the Thrassians had been guarding. Faced with a choice of heading north or south, they chose north, and marched down a lengthy corridor that terminated in a sealed stone vault flanked by four golden urns. These urns were filled with the desiccated bodies of locusts. The party sent some summoned heroes forward to investigate, and these unleashed a veritable undead plague. A few seconds later, a thing staggered out of the insect plague, a thing of gore and bone and gristle, that might once have been a hero.

To deal with this hideous threat, Senef called upon the great spirits of the earth to send an insect plague of his own. Living locust swarmed on dead locust, and the entire passage way was filled with a million gnashing and gnawing insects. In minutes, the corridor was a landscape of carrion.

Though the way forward was now clear, their efforts had exhausted the Fated, and they decided to retreat to camp. Ethlyn gathered up the golden scepters from the fallen statues, while Suad tugged along their Thrassian captive. Upon reaching the tents, Suad unceremoniously placed the helm of alignment change upon their captive. As its addled brain began to become inspired by notions of law, justice, and liberty, the Thrassian began to talk.

I was a servant of Navana, mistress of the Tower of the Worm. She sent us here to assist the undead priest Laukshar the Leaking in guarding the Sarcophagus Legion for the time of the Awakening,” the Thrassian explained. “What is the Sarcophagus Legion?” asked Suad. “A great force of hundreds of undead, in sarcophagi below the temple who will awaken should any disturb them,” it explained.

“Is there treasure in the temple?” asked Zoya. “Much treasure, but any who take it are cursed and ruined. Their flesh will betray them, and they shall rot as if dead.” “Oh damn,” said Zoya, as her fingernails peeled off. “That would be the curse,” said Senef, eyeballing the golden scepters that erupted from Zoya’s backpack. Zoya gazed at him with eyebrows raised expectantly, as her eyes began to leak puss. “Well, aren’t you going to remove the curse?” Senef looked almost embarrassed. “Er…perhaps if I were a cleric, but shamans can’t remove curses…”

The party erupted into chaos. Would Zoya still be pretty? Had she written down the names of her spies? Could they rush Zoya to Alakyrum for treatment? “The curse kills within hours,” hissed the Thrassian. Zoya stared into the desert sun, contemplating her own mortality, as her toenails began to bleed. Then Shikra said, “Oh, you know, I have a scroll of remove curse. Should we use it now, or wait until things get bad?” “Mebbe uth it nob” said Zoya, as her tongue degenerated into gangrenous ooze. And so did the warlock Shikra save the thief Zoya from a fate worse than death.

After these travails, the party rested for the night. The morning of the 15th Nethelen, the party decided to assault the temple again to deal with Laukshar the Leaking. As they prepared, Senef reached out to the spirits. “What will happen if we assault the temple?” he divined. Death lurks in the hieroglyphs, came the ominous warning. “Nobody touch any hieroglyphs!” said Senef. “Hieroglyphs are bad.”

So warned, the party marched forward to the stone door that led to Laukshar’s chamber. They formed up, read for battle, everyone ready to fire weapons or spells into the room beyond. They opened the door…and triggered the glyphs of death inscribed therein. Virtually everyone fell: Balen, Zoya, Rakh, Ethlyn, Sapphira, Dornethan, Ceara, Wazir, and Umar. Only Mahmud, Suad, Shikra, and Senef were still standing.

Desperation gripped the survivors. Shikra sealed the door with a spell, to give the rest of the party time to drag the dead out of the complex. The bodies had just reached the sunny sands when the door began to open – the wizard lock was dispelled. Senef had no choice but to unleash an insect plague again, and hope that the enemy had no way through. Whether he could not, or would not, Laukshar did not pursue through the insect plague. Shikra brought forth her ring of djinni summoning and called on her servant to begin to carry the dead back to the Oasis. By nightfall, the demoralized band were back at the Oasis of the White Palm.

Now came the terrible task of restoring the fallen. Wazir returned easily and seemingly unaffected. Ethlyn and Zoya came back exhausted, requiring two weeks of bed rest, but both feared lingering spiritual effects. Rakh, Dornethan, and Umar paid a heavy price, their souls having to be dragged back from the afterlife in a brutish fashion that lessened their connection to the divine (-3 WIS!) and left them utterly exhausted (30 days rest). Balen, Ceara, and Sapphira did not come back at all – and so Senef resorted to reincarnation.

Sapphira reincarnated as a male Nicean thief, a scruffy, lank, and in every way unimpressive character. Ceara, formerly a Tirenean male who had reincarnated as an elven spellsword, now reincarnated as a Southern Argollëan female fighter. Then Senef turned to Balen. All were shocked when the hard-bitten warmage returned as a comely female Elven spellsword. “I always knew I was meant to wield a sword,” said Ballena.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Forty

With so many casualties, the Fated were in disarray. They decided to wait for a month in the Oasis of the White Palm to give their party members time to fully recuperate. When Bechir returned to the Oasis with the part’s alchemical and research supplies, the arcanists seized the opportunity to engage in magical research.

Ballena began work on a new spell. The work was not yet complete, but the spellsword promised great things when it was ready. Suad identified various items for the party, figuring out the workings of several magic items they had never identified, including Shikra’s brooch of shielding and a curious statue which provided enough bread to feed ten men. Shikra pursued alchemy, formulating a potion of invulnerability from three phase tiger pelts, and experimenting with a potion of climbing using five huge tarantula mandibles.

Soon it was time for the Festival of the Reaping, the annual celebration of the arrival of the harvest. During the Festival, a fire is kept lit all night, every night, while little children are known to run around “playing at Reaper” in the shadows. Suad performed great feats of illusion each  night, greatly impressing the villagers. Ethlyn befriended the children of the Oasis with gifts of candies and trinkets. Mahmud attempted to go shopping for festival supplies, but his wife, Alia, instead that as first wife this was her place, and handled all the domestic affairs.

After a month of luxurious living (11,800gp living expenses), the Sandvoyager’s Guild quarters were transformed, with beautiful decorations, silk hangings, and cushions everywhere. Many of the local villagers were being employed as servants and the wealth was attracting traders to dare the desert.

Along with the traders came reports from Zoya’s spy network:

·         Heydar (Ber-Gathy): “A riot broke out in the Old Quarter as soon as the legion moved out. There’s no love for the Empire here.”

·         Abiram (Alakyrum):  “The Patriarch of the Great Mosque has been having clandestine meetings in his chambers, but I could not discern with whom.”

·         Bartimi (Alakyrum): “The Butcher has left Tavic Marcello, Sacker of Cynidicea, in charge of Alakyrum.”

·         Cainan: “The great hero, Abdulla al-Rassan, last of the Swords of Imran, is leading a cell of rebels seeking independence for Opelenea.”

Amidst these reports also came word that several of her spies were caught, but none faced charges worse than eavesdropping.

It was by now the 9th of Vinethelen (early fall), and the party decided it wanted revenge on Laukshar the Leaking for the hideous blow he had dealt them at the Tomb of the Sarcophagus Legion. They had done some reconnaissance via magical means, and interrogated their Thrassian captive-recruit. The latter, having been converted to Lawful alignment, was illuminated in the Light of Imran and given the name Mohammed by Mahmud and Rakh.

They arrived at the Tomb on the 10th. They decided to approach cautiously, wary of glyphs of death. This wariness proved wise – six summoned berserkers died in agonizing ways to traps laid by the malicious Laukshar. Neverthless, the group pressed on, deeper into the Tomb, until finally they confronted the hideous being.

Laukshar was covered in gaping wounds and rotting festers. Flies swirled around him like a tempest of filth, and these creatures were his to command, swarming over various members of the Fated and paralyzing them into inactivity. Worse, Laukshar was a powerful necromancer, and he had brought back all of the creatures that the Fated had slain in their prior battle – the serpent-scorpions were at full strength, and the Thrassian guards were now skeletal warriors.

Ballena dealt with the spiders by unleashing a devastating fireball onto them, but a moment later Laukshar’s insects swarmed her and she was unable to cast again. Laukshar himself then began to cast a deadly flame strike from behind his wall of guardians. This spell might have wrecked the party, had Androcles not somehow managed to toss his magic sword past four Thrassian skeletons and into the mummy, disrupting his casting. Realizing the danger, Mahmud plunged forward in a bold over-run that carried him past the Thrassians and at Laukshar, where he dealt a rain of deadly blows. Rakh behind him cut down the undead Thrassians.

With Laukshar destroyed, the party fell back from the dungeon. Several of their number had been poisoned by the skeleton-scorpions, but Senef’s healing arts were able to treat them. The next day, they re-entered the Tomb.

They approached Laukshar’s lair warily. They soon found themselves in a stone vault adorned with complex hieroglyphs on all sides. The party was terrified these might be glyphs of warding, until Ethlyn managed to decode the writing and reported it was some sort of spell formula. Shikra and Suad soon realized that the walls contained the formula for dozens of necromantic spells – the vault was a spell book, graven in stone! This was a great find, but none of the party felt comfortable spending weeks in the vault recording the spells.

The Fated pressed onward and soon found Laukshar’s lair. It was as awful as the creature itself: Surrounding a statue of Ninzagga were countless decapitated heads, each a zombie blinking in endless torment. Mahmud and Rakh gave mercy to these poor souls, then destroyed the statue and poured holy water on the area. Meanwhile, Suad’s divination revealed a hidden compartment in the lair, rife with old temple treasures, and these soon found new ownership.

As the party made its way out of the dungeon, Suad’s spell revealed a previously unseen secret door. Shikra ordered one of her berserkers to investigate. The warrior called back, “there’s a long natural staircase… it leads to a huge cave with a bubbling pool of mud – there’s niches in the cave walls, with some sort of statues – AHHHHH.”

The Fated pondered their next move.

Nerdnumber1
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-03-08 18:02

I'm trying to read through the actual plays for Opelenean Nights. I've already done the first thread, but Opelenean Nights II seems to be broken. Is there anyway to read them? I very much enjoy this tale.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

We're working on it!

Thomas Weigel
Thomas Weigel's picture
Joined: 2012-06-20 11:57

It should be fixed now.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Forty-One

The Fated descended down onto the underground chamber beneath the Tomb of the Sarcophagus Legion. It was a huge cave dominated by a bubbling pool of mud – there were niches in the cave walls, lined with gemstones, each niche populated by a jackal-headed gargoyle. As the party advanced into these chambers, Shikra sent her berserkers ahead to wade into the mud-pool.

The bubbles, it turned out, were caused by the mud being boiling hot, a state of affairs that left the berserkers screaming in agony as their flesh steamed off their bones. Sadly, the gargoyles decided to use this occasion to animate and attack. They were perilously tough, and Saphokos lost a hand in the fighting.  By the time the gargoyles were defeated, the berserkers had finished dying in horrible agony and vanished back to…wherever summoned berserkers come from.

Zoya soon set about prying all of the gemstones from the niches, a 12,000gp value. Shikra was convinced that the mud pool held further treasure and tried to convince Androcles to wade in to investigate, hinting that he’d be better off dead than living as a neanderthal. After much wrangling, Senef resolved the question by spirit-walking into the mud pool, discovering it was nothing more or less than a boiling pit of mud heated by the earth.

Heading back upstairs, the party returned to Laukshar the Leaking’s lair, to investigate a hidden compartment they’d previously noted. The compartment was filled with platinum pieces. Shikra summoned berserkers to gather all the treasure. Sadly, the first of these hapless servants expired when a hidden trap in the treasure pile sliced off her arms. Two more berserkers died in dismembered agony before Ethlyn got frustrated and jammed the trap with a big piece of rock. Clearly, the horrors visited upon the Fated must have left them callous about life and death, for they were allowing their servants to suffer horrendous pain rather than be bothered to check for traps. In any event, once the trap was dealt with, the platinum treasure was quickly scooped up, along with a mysterious scroll that purported to transport its reader(s) anywhere in the world, by way of the Land of the Dead…

Thus reminded of the dead, the Fated decided to investigate the actual crypt wherein lay the Sarcophagus Legion. This vast vault held over 500 sarcophagi. But what did the sarcophagi hold? Skeletons? Zombies? Wights? Mummies? Worse? What would happen if the Fated were to desecrate the vile altar that overlooked the grim cemetery? The altar desecrated awakens centuries of foes for the Fated, warned the spirits.

Despite this dreadful warning, the party seemed intent on destroying the altar and awakening the slumbering undead. Normally Suad, as the voice of wisdom, would counsel against such things, but he had recently discovered a new use for his crystal ball “You must teach me ways of pleasure such that my husband never strays,” he heard the beautiful Princess Alia say, as he scryed her tent. “I will teach you such secrets as no man may ever know, for it would turn even the most pure of heart to depravity,” said her hired instructor, a famous Alakyrum concubine…

Shikra, uncertain of the right path, decided to contact certain dark powers which she dared not name. Channeling her black arts, she reached out, risking her sanity and soul. When her meditation undead, she reported back that “If we attack the Sarcophagus Legion, it will awaken other undead in this complex, but if we attack other undead in this complex, it likely will not awaken the Legion. Moreover, fire will do little against the Legion; we would need magic.” These revelations persuaded the Fated to leave the Sarcophagus Legion at rest – for now. The party headed out to rest and explore further tomorrow.

On the 13th of Vinethelen, they re-entered the tomb, this time heading towards the so-called Tombs of Kings in the northern half of the complex. Knocking open the door that sealed this section, they sent their berserkers ahead to explore. As these mujahedeen strode forward, sarcophagi opened in hidden alcoves, and countless millions of locusts began to spill forth. More and more and more… Fireball could not kill them all. Sleep spell could not stun them all. The Fated fled desperately, sealing the door behind them. Again the excruciated wails of the summoned berserkers rang through the halls as their living flesh was devoured by the monstrous insect swarms. The very stone of the tomb-door began to crack under the pressure of the chitinous armada. Then in a blink Shikra knocked the door open, and Ballena and Suad unleashed more fire and sleep…the insectoid assault was ended.

Though shaken, the Fated decided to proceed ahead. They soon came to a grotto with a beautiful pool in its middle and a copper disc on the ceiling. Ethlyn and Bellona spotted a hidden balcony near the ceiling, and a lever that might raise or lower it. The Fated left the room while Shikra summoned her minions. She then ordered the hapless berserkers to pull the level in the room. This triggered a powerful magnetic force that caused the metal-armored berserkers to hurtle to the ceiling. A moment later, horrific four-armed bone golems strode out a hidden room. These creatures, carrying no metal, were undisturbed by the magnet; they deactivated the lever and held their bone spears upward. The berserkers were impaled gruesomely as they fall onto the bone spikes. The Fated justified this horror because it meant the trap was sprung. The party quickly attacked, and was dispatched the golems before they could activate the lever again.

Pressing forward, the Fated now came to another trapped room. The chamber featured a sunken floor, filled with quicksand, and a ceiling that sloped so low that a man could not hope to even crawl through the room without going through the quicksand. The Fated stared glumly at the wet, sandy muck ahead. Then Shikra summoned more berserkers. The first of these strode forward, making it only a few feet into the quicksand before being pulled under by something. A trickle of red blood mixed with the sand. A second berserker met the same fate. At this point, Shikra had decided enough was enough, and she drew forth a wand of paralyzation, unleashing enough charges to paralyze every living thing in the entire room several times over. In this way, the foul pack of blood worms that lived in the quicksand were dispatched.

The Fated decided that they could not have been the only party to face this trap, and decided to thoroughly search the quicksand. They soon found several corpses, which they dragged to the surface. These bodies proved to be long-dead adventurers of a seemingly chaotic persuasion, judging by their holy symbols. That said, they possessed several items of power, most notably a set of gauntlets of ogre power which Mahmud claimed, as well as bracers of defense, fastened in the shape of coiled serpents, which Senef seized.

And they strode forward…

koewn
koewn's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters BackerBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

I'm imagining this control room as in Cabin In The Woods that's answering the summons spell, porting in cloned berserkers, and then monitoring the results.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Forty-Two

The party continued to explore the Tomb of the Sarcophagus Legion. Past the quicksand, they found the way blocked by a collapsed stone door that Zoya estimated would take six hours of manual labor with picks and shovels to dig through. Not being inclined to unnecessary manual labor, the party decided to fall back in favor of exploring a door they’d left unexplored earlier.

That door had a sinister-looking “open palm” graven onto its face, with a single keyhole in the middle of the palm. When Zoya attempted to pick this keyhole, the stone palm suddenly animated into a rocky fist, which came within an inch of crushing her. Ballena rushed forward to help, piercing the stone with her magical spear War Brand; horrifically, the stone fist seized her weapon from her grip and sundered it! The party, proceeding more cautiously, managed to smash the stone fist after a minute of fighting, but it was not clear how to pass through the door it had guarded. Ultimately, Suad knocked it open.

The treasure beyond was worth the struggle. In addition to 20 pounds of gold coin, there was a half-size ceremonial chariot of gold, a marvelous jeweled chess set, a silver mirror, and a ceremonial basin. Mixed in with these mundane treasures were a magical amulet fastened in the shape of a scorpion; a necklace bearing an all-seeing eye on a pyramid; and a Zaharan khopesh, its hilt fastened in the shape of a scorpion. Rakh claimed the necklace, though its powers were not evident to him, while Shikra claimed the scorpion scarab, and Bellona claimed the khopesh to replace her lost spear.

Most curious of all was a mummified crocodile, painted with runes. When Suad examined this crocodile closely, he unleashed a powerful spell – and found himself accompanied by a crocodile companion that appeared as the mummified crocodile crumbled into dust. “All the gods be praised!” he said. “GRAWWRGHGGHGH” said his crocodile, which Suad understood to mean, “I am pleased to meet you, wise scholar. Are these other two reptiles also in your service?” The creature tilted its head at the two Thrassian Gladiators. “Yes, they work for me” said Suad. The crocodile gave a toothy grin. “It is excellent to be in the service of such a great magician!”

 

Laden with loot, and a crocodile on a flying carpet, the Fated decided to return to the Oasis to deposit there treasures. The return trip was uneventful. Back at the Oasis, Mahmud vanished into his harem, where his wife was waiting to teach him new things she had learned.  In the mean time, Bechir, the Fated’s hired caravaneer, was dispatched with funds to launch a 120-camel caravan to ply the trade routes through the desert and into Alakyrum. Bellona had just settled down to begin spell research when Mahmud, emerged exhausted but seemingly quite pleased, the next day. “Imran be praised,” he said. “Let us now finish our work at the Tomb.”

With picks and shovels in hand, the party soon excavated into the last room of the complex. Within they were confronted by an ancient Zaharan vampire and his undead Thrassian minions. These foul creatures were dispatched after a hard fight, fortunately without any of the party being afflicted by the deadly touch of the vampire. In its passing, the Fated collected a valuable golden gorget and a magical whip, which Shikra seized.

Only two mysteries remained within the complex: What to make of the strange sarcophagus that led into a seemingly endless pit; and what to do about the Sarcophagus Legion itself. Senef’s divinations offered answers. With regard to descending into the black pit, “If into the Pit of Fangs you descend, you will never be seen again.” With regard to fighting the Sarcophagus Legion, “paralyzed by centuries of terror, you die for your terror error.” “That seems very clear cut,” said Shikra.

Forewarned by these dire auguries, the Fated left the remaining mysteries of the complex behind and headed to the surface. There Shikra summoned her djinni servant and commanded it to seal up the steps into the Tomb with stone, and then conceal the stone entrance itself with a permanent illusion. “Let none tread here, so that the Sarcophagus Legion is never awakened!” “Your wish is my command, oh voluptuous one.”

The party returned to the Oasis of the White Palm, where Bellona made it clear that she required several weeks of isolation in order to finish her research into the secrets of the elements. The elven spellsword was very firm on this.

The next day, the Fated departed the Oasis to seek out the Pyramid of Amek, a very annoyed elf in tow. “I just need 2 weeks. 2 weeks!” “You can have your two weeks just as soon as someone dies,” said Mahmud. “Knowing where we’re going, that will probably be soon,” Shikra cheerfully offered.

On the 17th of Vinethelen, the Fated reached the Pyramid of Amek. Illuminated by the setting sun, it was a magnificent structure, hundreds of feet square at its base, soaring upwards hundreds of feet, a master piece of ancient Zaharan engineering. A formidable temple complex was built adjacent to the pyramid, and that seemed to promise to be the best entrance in.

The party camped out a few hundred yards from the Pyramid, planning to enter it at daybreak. These plans were interrupted by a midnight attack: Dozens of desert nomads assaulted their camp in the night. The watch barely managed to rouse the party in time to combat the assault, and it was a harsh battle. The nomads were berserker-like in the fury, fighting headless of casualties, and they were supported by clerics with dark magic. Still, the Fated triumphed, and as dawn broke they lit pyres to bury the fallen and praised Imran for another glorious victory.

moorcrys
Patreon SupporterPlayer's Companion ContributorDwimmermount ContributorDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu ContributorACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Contributor
Joined: 2012-02-22 22:34

What?! No dead berserkers? No pitched screams of agony? No hacked limbs and hollowed torsos of the berserker horde?

*sigh*

Oh well, maybe next session.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10
Session Forty-Three

It was the 17th Vinethelen. The party headed towards the great pyramid of Amek two hours after dawn. As they approached the walled temple that gave access to the pyramid, they espied observers on the balconies – desert nomads, swaddled in robes. The nomads had composite bows at ready and warned the group away in harsh Opelenean. Ballena had none of it: “Be gone from this place, or we will destroy you!” the fiery elf warned.

Seeing the group’s numbers, the nomads fell back into the temple interior. The Fated clambered up the steps and entered the dusky temple. Zoya and Mahmud took the lead in the exploration, Zoya investigating each location and then Mahmud striding forward. This puzzled Shikra, who thought these risks were best absorbed by her summoned berserkers. Rakh agreed, saying “why don’t we summon our…10’ poles?” But Mahmud seemed to be finished asking others to take risks for him.

In any event, the temple had clearly been occupied quite recently and the party found no traps, and little of the dust and detritus that they’d expected. They found bunks and beds, suggesting 20 or more desert nomads lived here, and several statues of the great satrap Amek, many of them bearing star sapphires for eyes. These were claimed when it became clear they were not trapped.

One statue of Amek radiated magic, and led into a secret closet. Cryptic hieroglyphs on the back of the statue said “Though his spirit lies far from us in heaven westward, into this likeness do his spirit come that he may commune with men.” Suad tried to speak with Amek. “Oh mighty satrap! What traps will we encounter here?” The statue said nothing, not to him or anyone else.

At the back of the temple, the party found an exit that led to stairs that ascended the face of the pyramid. Here was a way into the great structure! Since the nomad guards hadn’t been found in the temple, the Fated surmised that the nomads must have retreated to the higher point in the pyramid. Suad was quickly able to confirm this with his crystal ball. The party began to ascend up the steps in pursuit.

The nomad guards showed themselves at the top of the steps. “There is no need for bloodshed,” they called down. “Turn back and leave this sacred place and you may live another day, idolaters!” The party responded to this veiled threat with bloodshed. One of the nomad guards was quickly dispatched and the other was captured. Ethlyn set about interrogating him. “I will tell you nothing!” the nomad spat. Bellona slapped him in the face. “Show some respect to the lady!” Ethlyn looked over in confusion. “Aren’t you a lady now, Bellona?” The two beauties laughed,  then killed the useless guard.

Zoya now volunteered to scout ahead. Shrouded in her magical cloak and boots, she was undetectable. Entering the pyramid, she found a route forward, as well as a pair of rooms, one to the west and the other to the east. Both contained large statues of Amek, but the rightmost statue was poised holding a brazier of ever-burning flame, with steps leading up to the brazier. This statue was guarded by a warband of nomads, seemingly on watch.

With a powerful divination, Suad was able to read the mind of the nomad’s leader. He learned that he thought the brazier was somehow key to entering the pyramid, and that the nomad chief and his minions had disappeared therein some days ago. More importantly, Suad discovered that the nomad leader was hoping the Fated would get lost in the northern corridor.

 

Having a dislike of doing what other people want, the Fated instead resolved to attack these nomads directly. Shikra turned the spellsword invisible and the party attacked. Between earth’s teeth, a quick blast from a wand of paralyzation, and an assault by Mahmud and Rakh, the battle was over. Amidst the dead, Ethlyn discovered a white-leather book with gold bindings, entitled The Tome of Amek. While the writing was in code, the canny bard was able to decipher it. The first half of this ancient work purported to be a diary by the ancient satrap, explaining how Amek’s father’s tomb had been despoiled whilst he was a young man, and this outrage had led him to dedicate himself to making a theft-proof tomb, such not his opportunity to live again during the Awakening would not be lost. The second half of this ancient book seemed to be by a long-dead Zaharan priest, and offered cryptic hints about the tomb.

The party now turned its attention to the fiery brazier. A marked coin tossed into the brazier instantly disappeared; Suad’s crystal ball located it, in an octagonal room with a copper domed ceiling, and numerous exits concealed in an orange mist. Levers jutted out from every wall. A skeleton seemed to point off towards one exit. The Fated surmised the brazier to be a teleportation pad that would take them into the pyramid. Just to confirm their suspicions, Shikra sent a berserker into the flames, and he emerged next to the coin. Senef demanded an augury from the spirits. “If you escape from the maze’s worst, you will be the very first!” The group decided the risk merited a full communion. Do we have to go through the maze to get the tomb of Amek? Yes. Are there any other external entrances  we could use? No. Is the skeleton pointing at a safe path? No.

The party decided that exploring this “maze” would require its full strength, and headed back to camp. The next day, 18th Vinethelen, they returned. Zoya volunteered to take point and stepped onto the brazier. When she confirmed that the far side was safe the rest of the group came through. Over the next thirty minutes, they painstakingly searched the room. Zoya deduced that all of the levers were attached to an apparatus in the walls. Hieroglyphs read “pull me” in every known language. The levers could be pulled upward.

The lever seemed suspicious so Zoya decided to investigate the strange orange mist. Tying a rope about herself, she walked out of an exit into the mist. Almost immediately she found herself baffled and confused. “Where…am…I?” she wondered. Finding a rope about herself, she followed it back and re-emerged in to the chamber she’d left, clarity returning to her mind as she exited the mist.

The lever now seemed less suspicious than the mist. Senef augured the likely impact of pulling it, and learned “where the lever goes, you shall follow!” So Mahmud pulled it up. This proved a bad idea, as it activated a magnetic field in the copper dome overhead that immediately yanked all of the metal-armored characters up to the ceiling and pinned them there. “Didn’t we encounter a lever in a copper-domed room once before that did the exact same thing?” shouted Shikra at her pinned friends. “Yes! I shouldn’t have pulled it! up Fine!” said Mahmud. “Just get us down….Safely!”

Getting everyone down from the 30’ ceiling was as easy as yanking the lever down, but this would have been a painful fall, so the group found a safer way that took 20 minutes and required four potions of climbing, a potion of slipperiness, and a flying carpet. Once everyone was safe and sound, they realized their only choice was to head into the mist. This was a risk that required careful management.

First, the Fated dispatched a skeleton into the orange fog, while Suad monitored its progress with the crystal ball. Though the mist was opaque, the skeleton did occasionally emerge from the mists at periodic intervals, suggesting that the maze was a mix of magically confusing misty hallways and small rooms. So enlightened, they strapped themselves together and stepped forward one at a time, with the party members outside the mist calling out guidance to their magically bewildered comrades…

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

SESSION FORTY-FOUR
The Fated feared that they would be trapped in the misty maze forever. Suad worsened their fears when his detect magic spell revealed that everything around them was enchanted – the entire complex, not just the orange mist. “Perhaps we are under the sea, or in another plane of existence,” he muttered. “More likely we’re asleep and this is all a dream,” said Senef. “I think we all died in the caves of Kirkuk and everything since has been a dream within a dream,” proffered the ever-optimistic Shikra.
Seeing that the arcanists would be of no guidance, Zoya took charge. The speedy thief was soon slipping from room to room, leaving markings of her passage with coded glyphs to mark where she entered and exited. Guided by these glyphs, Suad soon had a working, albeit discontinuous, map of the maze sketched out. It seemed that Zoya was taking a great risk by traveling solo, but in fact her elven cloak and boots made her almost undetectable. The party was somewhat more detectable, and soon attracted the attention of a wandering band of minotaurs.
By the time the horned foes had been dispatched, Zoya had found a promising path: A route that led to a room, 30’ by 30’ with a domed ceiling overhead surrounded by a balcony. Treasure chests were piled on the far end of the room, while skeletal corpses lay piled on the left hand wall. This was, if nothing else, much more interesting than the endless orange mist that the party had otherwise encountered, so they soon conglomerated by the room.
Zoya knew that the room was trapped, so the party used great caution in advancing. Mahmud first tossed his great helm in. A spear flew from the far wall and struck like a thunderbolt, pinning the helm to the wall near the pile of corpses. “Ah, that’s a strong spear trap! I presume it strikes anything moving within,” said Suad, waving his staff within the room. The mage barely pulled it away in time to avoid it being sprung from his hands by another flying spear.
“I shall obscure the room with smoke,” said Senef. His shamanic powers soon conjured an obscuring cloud within the chamber. Suad waved his staff within again, and again came the remorseless attack of the spears. “Spears don’t have eyes to be obscured,” said Zoya. “It senses movement of matter.”
As the entire party was composed of matter, this seemed to be a prickly problem. The Fated soon began a heated discussion. “We should summon a rust monster and allow it to rust all of the iron spears as they fly through the walls!” “We should see if we can run the spear trap out of ammunition!” “We should grab lots of dead bodies and use them as meat shields while we run for the treasure!” None of these plans meet with great acclaim.
Eventually, Suad cast his detect secret doors spell and drank a potion of gaseous form. The misty mage then drifted into the room. His airy aspect did not trigger the trap, and his detection spell revealed that there was a secret door on the balcony directly overhead! He drifted through it, and confirmed that it was an exit from the maze.
Shikra now grudgingly brought forth a much-treasured wall of stone scroll and used it to shape a stone staircase that blocked the spear-trap and allowed the party to safely trot up to the balcony. “That was easy,” said Ethlyn, oblivious to the dagger-eyes of the warlock.
Suad, still gaseous, noticed that there was a sigil carved on the floor on the far side of the secret door. Fearful that this was another ruinous glyph of warding that would harm his comrades if they passed through the door, he halted the party until he’d had time to decipher it. Fortunately, his fears were misplaced! Indeed, he was overcome with giggles when he read it- laughing gas, as it were – for the symbol was merely a compass sigil pointing to north.
The Fated passed through the secret door and left the terrible maze. Despite their fears, they had spent not even two hours wandering within. They soon came upon a trio of hooded figures muttering in prayer, “Bar-Ethel” – true death in Ancient Zaharan. These figures turned out to be wraiths, but they were dispatched before they could harm the party. Shikra managed to seize control of one of the wraiths and forced it to explain itself. The undead had once been a priest of old Zahar, and it confirmed only that the great pharaoh Amek and his staff of ruling and star gem did lie within the complex. “Bar-Ethel”, it turned out, was a sword of undead slaying, a pale white scimitar of antiquity. Remembering his quest under Imran to destroy the Thrassian undead, Mahmud passed Cyclone of the Four Quarters to Ethlyn and took up True Death as his blade.
At this portentous moment, Suad re-coalesced in physical form, quite naked, prompting Ballena to note “it’s not that cold in here, is it?” After Suad dressed, the party pressed onward. They soon came upon a pair of large sarcophagi. One sarcophagus was a secret door to a hidden chamber; the other held a mummified corpse, a victim of “botched necromancy” per Ethlyn’s diagnosis.
Past this necromantic failure the party came upon a huge block of stone, graven with dozens of coffins. Evil radiated strongly from them, and the party was certain this was a large nest of undead. “Is this the most mummies we’ve ever seen?” asked Senef. “There were way more mummies at Kirkuk,” countered Mahmud. “Those were actually Thrassian zombies, not mummies,” said Senef. Mahmud decided to prove Senef wrong by opening the graves, but as it happened the occupants were actually a half-dozen desert ghouls. Bar-Ethel proved itself a formidable blade, and Mahmud cut down all 6 foes before anyone else had even drawn their weapons.
Past the graves of the desert ghouls, the Fated came to a great gallery or kitchen of some sort. The ceiling was cracked and torn asunder, one crack being so large as to hold several men. While wise and cautious me would normally avoid a room whose ceiling was clearly near collapse, the Fated is not composed of such men. Instead Suad, Mahmud, and Rakh flew up the great crack by means of Suad’s flying carpet. The crack became a shaft, and the shaft led to a rough-hewn chamber; and this chamber had a far entrance, and the far entrance was guarded by a dao (earth genie) and four mummies.
Since they were approaching from the rear, the party might have escaped without being noticed, but the sight of the mummies paralyzed them with terror. Frozen in place, they were eventually spotted. Their hearts beat with horror as the dao conjured up a wall of stone that sealed off the path behind them. The paralysis broke as the mummies attacked, but Rakh was knocked unconscious by their fell blows. Fortunately, Mahmud held off the other mummies long enough for Senef to dispel the dao’s wall of stone and the heroes fled down the shaft.
They might have continued their retreat had the dao not used his powers over earth to attempt to crush them with a landslide. The enraged members of the Fated decided to teach this genie a lesson! Ethlyn was enchanted with ogre strength, and then she, Mahmud, and Androcles soared upward again on the flying carpet while the rest of the party manually scaled up a rope dangled behind. Again, Bar-Ethel proved its worth as Mahmud began to carve up the mummies. Meanwhile Ethlyn took Cyclone of the Four Quarters to bear against the dao, wading through its feeble stone magics, ignoring its rocky attacks, and cutting the great genie down.
The formidable foes turned out to have been guarding a canopic jar which held a still-beating heart. “Is this the heart of Amek?” said Shikra. Suad recalled that the genie and mummies seemed to have been guarding another entrance, with their backs to the shaft. “My friends – I believe it is – and I think we have found it by flying up the back door!” he said.
Mahmud unsheathed Bar-Ethel again. With two great blows he cracked the crystal canopic jar, and with a third he smote the ancient, undead heart.

Nerdnumber1
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-03-08 18:02

The question you have to ask yourselves after destroying a phylactery-type item: Are you dealing with a Lich which is destroyed when you destroy its phylactery or one that merely needs its phylactery to resurrect? I'm sure the PCs will find out soon enough.

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

The question the Fated actually asked themselves was "where can we get some rest? We're all out of spells."

Nerdnumber1
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-03-08 18:02

Yeah, finding every metaphorical beehive of ancient evil in the desert and hitting it with a big stick is tiring work. It does seem that they are gaining both the strength to break the hives they hit and the wisdom to avoid the ones they cannot break.

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters BackerLairs And Encounters ContributorBarbarian Conquerors of Kanahu BackerACKS Heroic Fantasy Handbook Backer
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Wisdom, or fear. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes.

Nerdnumber1
Domains At War Backer
Joined: 2013-03-08 18:02

Fully justified fear of negative consequences based on similar past experiences that prevents you from taking unnecessary, risky decisions with dire consequences seems to sound a lot like wisdom (as does choosing NOT to open the doors to the underworld in search of treasure after having already unleashed one undead monster/monarch).

Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

SESSION FORTY-FIVE
Having destroyed the ancient undead heart of … someone… the Fated felt it necessary to press on. Following a tunnel westward from the cavern, they came upon a curious room – high-domed, with a balcony overlooking a copse of palm trees laden with pineapples. Zoya’s investigations revealed that these pineapples were, in fact, explosives of some sort, and she “shook free” a few pineapples for later use.
Circling back from the dome of palms, the Fated discovered a sealed doorway with ancient Zaharan runes warning “Beyond lies the test of the satrap, doom of power and evil from a heartless man.” Mahmud decided that the party was too under-resourced to face the satrap’s test, and so the Fated fell back to the hidden room they had discovered earlier on the level below.
About four hours after they settled into their hiding place, an intruder arrived in the form of an invisible gas wafting into the room. Had Mahmud not worn an amulet of detecting invisibility, it’s likely the gas would have passed unnoticed; but instead the paladin saw it and the party was able to react. The gas turned out to be a djinni in gaseous form, a creature which quickly fell to Ethlyn and Cyclone of the Four Quarters. With the djinni dispatched, no further intruder found the party and they were able to recover.
The next day, Mahmud led the part to the rune-carved doorway. Shikra’s summoned berserkers pushed the doors open and revealed a vast hall, with five terraced landings connected by stone steps running above canals of fast-flowing water. At the far end of the hall stood a massive bronze fist. This hall proved the site of a terrible battle.
Advancing onto the 1st and 2nd terrace summoned magical mud-men which, when pierced or cut, split into two mud-men. Soon the party was facing a legion of muddy foes. Only by pushing the mud-men into the streaming water could they be stopped. As the fighting grew thick, earth’s teeth rocked the party, quickly followed by confusion that left Senef befuddled and Rakh doing exactly the wrong thing – Berserking against the mud-men with multiple attacks! A horde of mud-men soon incapacitated the Thrassian Mohammed.
Bellona surmised that a mage of some sort must be casting from near the bronze fist and hurled a fireball. The impact of the fireball “popped” the illusion that was concealing the spellcaster – a dreadful mummy lord whose visage paralyzed a good number of the Fated’s members. Was this Amek himself? No, the creature cackled, it was his vizier, sent to stop intruders from disturbing his satrap’s rest!
Wielding True Death, Mahmud pushed ahead to the 3rd terrace; stepping upon it conjured a wall of fire and wall of stone. Mahmud surmised that these were illusionary and pushed through, but Ethlyn and Androcles, following, were less astute and were stymied by the wall of stone.
Alone, then, Mahmud reached the 4th terrace, where he was faced with a 10 head hydra. Worse, stepping on the 4th terrace mysteriously conjured an evil twin of the paladin, a goateed and black-clad Anti-Mahmud. Mahmud was forced to deal with both the Anti-Mahmud and the hydra; while he was trying to fend them off, the mummy lord unleashed a volley of magic missiles that blew off Mahmud’s arm and left him dying. Androcles made it through the illusory wall just in time to be incapacitated as well.
Suad had, by now, managed to dispel the confusion gripping his party members, and the illusory walls soon fell. Senef healed the most wounded of his comrades. Umar, Wazir, Dornethan, Zoya, and Celic unleashed a steady volley of fire on the mummy lord that prevented him from unleashing further spells while Ethlyn, Bellona and Rakh charged in..

As the heroes reached the 4th terrace, each of them was confronted by their own evil goateed doppleganger. (Ethlyn’s twin lacked a goatee, instead featuring had dark hair and suggestive clothing). Rakh went down to the Anti-Rakh, and the rest were hard pressed by their anti-selves. All might have been lost had Shikra not unleashed an uncanny gyration on the mummy lord. Suddenly the undead vizier began hurling through the air, smashing into walls and ceiling. Taking a careful lead, Dornethan brought forth the crossbow of light and blew off the mummy’s gyrating head. The summoned minions of the vizier collapsed and the battle was won. Doors behind the great bronze fist loomed invitingly…
In the aftermath, it turned out that Rakh and Androcles were merely in shock, but Mohammad’s legs had been lamed, and Mahmud was missing an arm. Senef brought forth a scroll of regeneration, which instantly brought Mahmud back into health; the poor Thrassian was helped to a safe location while the group decided what to do next. An augury by Senef, demanding to know what would happen if they passed through the doors beyond the fist. “Three questions must your answer to pass safely to the Satrap,” was the reply.
Through the doors past the bronze fist was a roaring column of water, a watery shaft held together by magic. A voice echoed from the waters: “Who art thou? What gods rule the earth? On whose hallowed ground stand ye?” Senef answered: “Senef, the Desert Wind. The Chthonic rule the earth. Amek’s ground.” The column of water reversed itself and began to flow upward – it was a watery elevator to reach the satrap! Before advancing, the Fated decided to “clear” the rest of the level. There were no foes left alive to face them so this was largely uneventful; save that Shikra made the mistake of reading a dark and terrible book she found in one abandoned room. This might have blasted her soul had she not worn an amulet against such magicks. Mahmud burned the book and uttered a prayer to Imran.
The party returned, then, to the magical column of water. Because Rakh could swim and hold his breath better than anyone else in the party, he spoke the answers to the questions, and dove into the watery elevator. It was a short 30’ ride upward to a corridor above their current one, and seemingly harmless, so the rest of the group soon joined him. After drying off and re-lighting their torches, the Fated proceed to explore the final resting place of the satrap Amek.
On the west side of the corridor was a 30’ long funerary boat. The boat was laden with chests and vases, but these were empty; as was the setting of a great gemstone. On the east wall, opposite the boat, was a lifelike painting of the same boat, anchored to a cloud in the sky, but in the painting the boat was laden with treasure and adorned with a great red gem.
Past the boat and painting was the sarcophagus of Amek, and beyond that, a statue of the great satrap himself. Upon the sarcophagus lay the staff of ruling they had been sent here to find… Zoya searched everything for traps. There were none, so Mahmud lifted open the great sarcophagus… within was naught but a desiccated corpse of some long-dead being. It was not a mummy lord; it was not even undead. This did not prevent Mahmud from purifying it with fire, of course.
Suad now cast a spell to reveal secret doors; both the statue and the painting were portals. The statue opened up into a small hidden chamber not unlike what they had found far below, in the entrance to the pyramid, with the same cryptic references to the “passage provided” for the satrap. Senef surmised that there must be a means of teleporting between the two hidden chambers, but nothing proved evident.

The painting proved more enticing – for it was not just a secret door, but actually a magical portal into the sky, 10,000 feet above the pyramid. There hung the funerary boat, laden with treasure, anchored to a cloud. Zoya anchored her rope of climbing to the boat, and then – as if out of legend – Zoya, Mahmud, and Suad took to the skies in the flying carpet and soared to the boat of the satrap.
From the boat, the party could see the great pyramid, almost two miles below. Within the boat, after painstaking hours of searching, they discovered vast treasures: 25,000 gold pieces worth of platinum, 30,000 gold pieces worth of rare books and scrolls, many potions, scrolls, swords and shields, a powerful bow and arrow; one of the fabled trumpets of war that marshal armies to battle; and a Zaharan battle crescent, as worn by the warlords of old. Most importantly, they found the star gem of Mo-Pelar, last of the missing star gems.
Rather than head back through the pyramid, the Fated decided the most efficient course of action would be to simply fly the treasure down! The funerary boat seemed permanently anchored to the skies, so Shikra summoned her djinni to transport the treasure. Genies are strong and fast and the treasure was soon loaded onto the Fated’s Camelry. Shikra also commanded the genie to retrieve their comrade Mohammed from the pyramid, but the djinni – perhaps spitefully – removed Mohammed’s helm of alignment change as he returned him. Sadly, the recidivist Thrassian had to be put down.
Still, the greatness of the deed they had accomplished seem to far outweigh any sorrow the Fated might have felt over Mohammed’s tragic death. He was, after all, just a Thrassian. The party rode swiftly back to the Oasis of the White Palm. As was their wont, they called upon the Sheik soon after their arrival, presenting him with many fine gifts they had secured from the pyramid.
The Sheik’s gratitude was boundless but it was clear he was concerned about something. He explained, “My friends, it was time to pay tribute to the dragon Utuk-Xul. My riders went forth to offer him valuables, but when they reached the City of the Phoenix, the dragon was gone, as was his treasure. What could scare off a dracolich?”
What, indeed, the Fated wondered…