Sinister Sakkaran Stones and Other Silly Things

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Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19
Sinister Sakkaran Stones and Other Silly Things

I have run ACKS before, though not in significant quantities. Two of the players have decent experience with the more recent iterations of the game. One has not played for more than a decade. I am liberally supplementing Sinister Stone with various one-page dungeons, because I am lazy.

 

The cast:

  • Chalupa Batman (“CB”), a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Doctor Senor Foggy (“The Doctor”), a Nobiran Wonderworker
  • Sinbad, a Venturer
  • Borgnar, a Mystic
  • Maximus, a Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, an Elvish Nightblade

In recent months, beastmen attacks have ravaged the fertile farms of the Borderlands. Lacking the manpower to stop them himself, the stern and proud Legate of the mighty fortress Türos Tem has put out a call for brave (or foolhardy) adventurers. They will risk their lives and stop the attacks for gold and glory (and XP, obviously). Six such would-be heroes answer the call and make their way to Türos Tem to halt the beastman tide.

En route, they encountered travelers and heard some peculiar rumors. Some said that the Legate himself was to blame for the attacks, somehow. Others suggested a renegade elvish wizard-lord, nursing a grudge against the empire for centuries, had decided finally to air his grievances. Others still blamed the local dwarvish enclaves, though they failed to provide a motive.

Only a day or so away from the mighty keep, the party reached the edge of the mysterious Viaspen Forest and noticed a column of smoke rising a small distance away toward the forest. They considered investigating, but ultimately continued on the road toward Türos Tem. Until, that is, they ran into a squad of Auran legionaries. The squad was led by a brute unpleasant in both appearance and demeanor, Peleos Methori. Despite the grimace he gave upon seeing yet more adventures, he shared with them that he had been ordered to provide aid to a village of charcoal burners that had been attacked by goblins. Suspecting this might be connected to the beastman attacks as a whole, the party offered to accompany the soldiers.

During the walk, the party befriended a young soldier, Virgil, who was clearly in awe of the adventurers' skill. It was learned that Maximus had been raised in the fighting pits of Arganos, jewel of Southern Argölle. The young Virgil asked Maximus what the biggest thing he had ever killed was. The stoic lizard-man (man-lizard?) responded, “My father”. No one knew if he were telling the truth.

Upon reaching the charred remnants of the village, the charismatic Sinbad smoothly made contact with the local headman, learning that the goblins had since departed and were likely taking refuge in a nearby slave pit that dated back to Old Zahar. The adventurers sensed that the time had come for them to adventure something. Before departing, they were warned by the headman that the slave pits contained a great stone door no one had ever succeeded in opening.

They hastened toward the pit, which had been dug underneath a great tree on the outskirts of the forest. They moved through the pit, dispatching many goblins with little remorse and much efficiency. Tragedy struck, though, when an unexpected arrow flew from the darkness and pierced The Doctor in the leg. Swift ministrations by Maximus saved the good doctor's leg, but it was clear that he would need a week to convalesce. After a brief debate, it was decided that the doctor would be sent back with the soldiers to Türos Tem while the rest of the party continued exploring the slave pit. Now bereft of their healer, the party continued their slaying of the goblins. (The adventurers briefly left the pit to escort Senor Foggy back to the charcoal burners' village. Upon returning, they found that the thoughtful goblins had written “GO AWAY HUMIES” on the walls using the blood of a hapless villager, a request they gleefully ignored.)

The course of events nearly turned against the heroes when they were flanked by two groups of goblins, one containing “Da Boss”. But the razor-sharp teeth and claws of Maximus (a remarkable 18 Str, 16 Dex, 18 Con after buying up prime requisites) tore through the hapless beastmen and carried the day. Taking stock of their surroundings, the party found that they had discovered the aforementioned stone door. Inscribed on it in the hateful glyphs of Old Zahar, among the standard supplications to various demonic overlords, were numerous warnings that the door in question should never be opened. Ever. After yet more debate and pointed reminders about the absence of their healer, these warnings were heeded. For now.

Instead, the heroes ventured down another passage and discovered, in a room filled with ancient treasure, a crystalline statue of an elf that promptly animated. Its fierce blows beat down on hardy Maximus' scaly scalp and mangled one of his ears. His last words before succumbing were to encourage his friends to flee, and for a time it seemed they would. But Borgnar and Chalupa Batman bravely stepped forward and shattered the statue to pieces. Post-battle medical attentions revealed that Maximus would be bedridden for two weeks. Having explored all that they could find and slain every goblin inside, the party decided to leave the slave pits and allow their members to recover at Türos Tem. During the walk back, the savvy Sinbad opined that the statue's elvish nature suggested that one of the rumors they had heard might in fact be true.

The period of recuperation passed without much event. Sinbad presented the heads of the goblins the group had slain to the Legate. However, his method of doing so was to dump them all out onto the Legate's extravagant upholstery, a decision that could have had far more serious repercussions than it in fact did. Leveraging Sinbad's mercantile connections, Aladdin was able to procure for himself a pet osprey, which he named Bloodwing. The group discovered too that another group of adventurers had been staying at Turos Tem, but had just recently left to explore the Viaspen and search for the lair of the beastman hordes. The party's natural courses of actions were either to seek out these Fierce Brethren, or to return to the mysterious stone door. The latter was chosen. In retrospect, it may have been the more unwise of the two options.

Luckily, no other creatures had taken up residence in the pits since the party's departure, and they quickly returned to the great door. Much debate and discussion ensued regarding possible ways to force it open. Ignoring all such plans, Chalupa Batman merely walked over to the door and pushed. His action's simplicity may have belied a deep understanding of the vagaries of ancient Zaharan sorceries. Or he may simply have been impatient. In any case, the door was open, and it led to a dank, dark, and deep pit. This pit could be descended only via a series of spindly railings hacked into the walls. The party cautiously began to edge along these railings, unsure of what they might find.

They were less than delighted to meet the pit's inhabitant, a black ooze abomination covered in putrescent, mutated tendrils of gooey flesh-substance. Merely gazing upon its unnatural visage caused Borgnar, CB, and Aladdin to lose all nerve and desire nothing more than to flee. The others stood ready, and, perhaps foolishly, made ready to fight. The newly recovered Doctor blasted the monstrosity with a gout of sorcerous flame, and Sinbad loosed a surprisingly accurate crossbow bolt. Unfortunately, the bolt split the creature into two new halves! It was at this point that Fate turned against the brave adventurers. In quick succession, Maximus and Chalupa Batman were hewn apart by the creatures' unnatural tendrils. The day clearly lost, Sinbad was forced to make a hasty retreat, albeit one of his own volition. The abomination let him flee, sated by the flesh of the still conscious Chalupa and Maximus. Outside of the slave pit, their madness of fear having lifted, the four survivors wondered what they had loosed upon the world.

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Doctor Senor Foggy: torn ACL via goblin arrow (so yes, he literally took an arrow to the knee)
  • Maximus: ear mangled by forceful application of crystalline statue's fist

 

Death Count:

  • Chalupa Batman: Body consumed and then dissolved by acidic tendrils of Zaharan abomination
  • Maximus: Body consumed and then dissolved by acidic tendrils of Zaharan abomination
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Wow, what a bad-ass party! A Nobiran Wonderworker AND a Thrassian Gladiator with 2 18s and a 16? But so Tragic to lose that Thrassian, though...Egads.

What adventure are you using for the stone-door and ooze / slave pit?

 

 

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Yeah, two players got extremely lucky with their rolls. But despite his remarkable stats, everyone still knew going into the adventure that Maximus would find a way to die. And he did.

I was running a Dyson Logos one-page dungeon, Goblin Gully. For the first session, I wanted to make sure the players had a choice in dungeons, so I threw it in with the rest of the Sakkara module. It worked pretty well. It is not a D&D campaign until the players inadvertently release a long-imprisoned demonic entity.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session II

The cast:

  • Unser, an Elvish Spellsword
  • Doctor Senor Foggy (“The Doctor”), a Nobiran Wonderworker
  • Sinbad, a Venturer
  • Borgnar, a Mystic
  • Gnarrr, a Thrassian Gladiator
    • Bill, his donkey
  • Aladdin, an Elvish Nightblade

The four survivors stood outside the Zaharan slave pits. The heroic course of action would be to descend once more and perhaps find a way to stop or imprison the amorphous monstrosity. It would be dangerous, and it could cost all of them their lives. True, it might save the Borderlands much strife and destruction. But this was the mundane modern world, not the The Bellësareus, and these were petty money-grubbing adventurers, not the legendary heroes of old. So they beat a hasty retreat and vowed to tell no one of the day's events. While returning to the keep, they encountered another Thrassian, Gnarrr, and a spellsword, Unser. Gnarr traveled with a donkey which he had named Bill. Learning that this dynamic duo plus one intended to fight the beastmen threat, the two were inducted post-haste into the party. Back at Türos Tem, the adventurers licked their wounds and prepared for a foray into the Viaspen. Communication with the innkeeper about the previous band, The Fierce Brethren, suggested that the beastmen were almost certainly based somewhere in the forest.

Once in the forest, Aladdin drew upon his woodland experience and discovered evidence that a large band of beastmen had been moving westward through the forest. Following these tracks, the group stumbled upon a great granite dome sticking out of the ground, hundreds of feet across and the deepest of black in color. Everyone was properly wigged out by such an intimidating sight, but they bravely pressed on and noticed a method of entrance into the dome: a large crack that the tracks led up to. After hiding Bill nearby, the group trundled up.

Guarding the entrance to the dome were four bored kobolds. Upon seeing the adventurers, the kobolds inquired if group were here to serve “the Lady”. Taking a chance, Borgnar assented, and the group was granted entrance. Initial exploration of this complex was relatively peaceful. They encountered a band of coarse-looking brigands, but careful diplomacy won out and bloodshed was avoided. Instead, the bandits directed them to their leader, a fierce and dangerous man named Drusus. With Drusus an alliance of sorts was forged, as the bandit chief mentioned that his neighbor, the kobold king, was weak and violent. If the adventurers could possibly eliminate him, he would vouch for their behavior should any of the other factions complain. Being mercenary and disdainful of the gods, he knew little of the complex's leader, the mysterious “Lady Below”. He did warn them, that to the northwest of his position was an ancient ziggurat, and that this ziggurat was the lair of a true dragon. No one seemed to know if the dragon or the “Lady Below” could be said to be the dominant power of the area, or if perhaps there were some hidden monster orchestrating events. They also heard from another brigand that some mysterious entity had been consuming and destroying large swathes of the forest, having started near the charcoal burner's village. When asked if they knew anything about such a monstrosity, the adventurers of course affected a complete lack of knowledge. While such important conversations were being held, Sinbad took the opportunity to lose most of his money gambling with the other brigands.

Thanking Drusus for his advice and vowing to slay the kobolds, the party continued onward. Minor tragedy struck when, exploring a dusty storeroom, two spiders dropped down from the ceiling and latched onto Sinbad. They were quickly slain and their deadly poison neutralized, but the heavy fall Sinbad took badly damaged one of his knees; it would necessitate a week's recovery. Having slain the spiders, the party acquired the spiders' eggs. Not wanting to return to the keep, the party decided to test the extent of their friendship with the brigands and leave Sinbad to recover in their camp. This was a doubtlessly a risky decision. But they adventurers deemed it safe, particularly since Borgnar had paid a few bandits to keep an eye on his venturer friend.

After the spiders had been killed, the group had found some heavy but valuable amphoræ of oil. The proper thing to do with these seemed to be to keep them with Bill, outside the complex. Sadly, it was discovered that in the intervening time, something had devoured the poor donkey. Gnarrr mourned the loss; if anyone were to eat Bill, it should have been him.

The oil stashed in a hopefully more secure location outside the temple, the party began their assault on the kobold sector of the temple. With little difficulty, they slew more than a dozen kobolds and located the kobold king's throne room. The frightened lizards had barricaded their room's door, but the mighty thews of Unser and Gnarrr burst it open with little difficulty, and a fierce battle was joined. In this battle, careful tactics on the adventurer's part won the day. Even the fragile Senor Foggy acquitted himself well, slaying a kobold with his handaxe. The only hero to sustain serious wounds was Unser, who escaped with a set of nasty scars from a few lucky crossbow shots. Two kobolds chose to lay down their arms rather than be slaughtered; these were interrogated and then summarily executed. But no victory is without cost: while cataloging the kobold king's treasure, Aladdin was surprised by a king cobra that had been hiding in the folds of an Opelenean tapestry. The serpent sunk its fangs into the nightblade's flesh and its venom blinded him in a matter of moments.

With one of their number convalescing in a nest of metaphorical snakes, another blinded by the bite of an actual snake, and a third in desperate need of a good night's rest, now may have been a prudent time for retreat. But adventurers have never been known for their great prudence. Instead, careful investigation of the king's throne room revealed a hidden chamber filled with three treasure chests, one each of gold, silver, and copper. These chests nearly claimed the life of Borgnar, as their opening released clouds of poisonous gas. His mystic powers were unable to throw off the poison, and only the frantic healing of Senor Foggy saved him from a supremely painful death. But each chest contained a wonderful vastness of riches both magical and mundane.

Yet there was still one great trial left for the heroes. It was decided that the group would return to Türos Tem so that Aladdin's blindness might be cured. Laden with unfathomable amounts of treasure, leading a pair of elves, one blind and the other not yet recovered from his near fatal scarring, the group crossed paths with a trio of hungry gnolls. The gnolls assessed and then took advantage of a most favorable situation. This was the most desperate battle yet waged. Twice Borgnar was rendered unconscious. On the first of these occasions, Senor Foggy leapt into the fray to revive the mystic. He did this with remarkable skill, and Borgnar was immediately ready to continue fighting. Such healing, though, exposed him to the bloodthirsty gnolls, and a brutal smash by one of their flails ended the good doctor's life in a flash. In the end, only two combatants remained standing: Gnarrr and a gnoll. The two titans struggled with each other for entire minutes, neither managing to land the fatal blow, until, finally, Gnarrr's gladius curved under the gnoll's guard and ended its savage existence. The still weak Unser rushed to attend to Borgnar, but his healing prowess proved insufficient. Surrounded by his maimed friends, the mystic slowly bled to death.

Their strength having been shattered in mere minutes, all seemed lost for the adventures. Yet when faced with this abyss, Unser and Gnarrr did not flinch. They escorted their friends and their bodies outside of the temple, and then went back inside to retrieve Sinbad from the brigand's camp. Fate gave them a minor reprieve, though, when they encountered Drusus. Gnarrr explained away the absence of his companions by saying that they were all waiting outside. The bandit king was as skeptical of this account as any reasonable man should have been, but he let the wounded gambler leave without trouble. After all, he had gotten the adventurers to eliminate one of his major rivals, so perhaps they deserved a break. His demeanor was further sweetened when Gnarrr decided to leave some of the heavier treasure they had found as tribute for the beneficent brigand.

The surviving adventurers knew that, in their condition, they would have difficulty fighting off even an especially determined feral cat. And they fully expected to encounter far worse on their way out of the Viaspen. But yet another reprieve was delivered, and they made it back to Türos Tem without further trouble. It was decided that a quick journey to the nearby city of Cyfaraun would be made. There a cleric powerful to raise the doctor and Borgnar could be found. Through the grace of Ammonar, Borgnar was indeed returned to life. He seemed a bit empty from his brush with beyond, but otherwise no worse for the wear. However, Calefa, the Mistress of Fate, had one final twist of the knife left for our heroes. During the second attempt to raise Senor Foggy from the dead (the first having been inconclusive), the cleric's restorative spell went horribly awry, and the divine-blooded Nobiran's soul was extinguished by the oblivion of nothingness. (Two natural 1's rolled in succession on the Tampering with Mortality chart meant the wonderworker was never coming back!)

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Sinbad, damaged knee
  • Unser, notable scarring

Death Count:

  • Bill, eaten by something unpleasant
  • Doctor Senor Foggy, killed instantly by a gnoll's flail, soul extinguished while trying to be raised
  • Borgnar, bled out after unpleasant encounter with wrong end of gnoll's flail, later raised

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Borgnar, XP penalty
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Also, let's talk about appealing randomness. Before leaving T. Tem, the party learned from the innkeeper that the gnolls were the toughest of the beastmen tribes. Many of the players did not know what gnolls were, so we google imaged them, and everyone was all "Yikes, let's try to avoid those." And then at the very end, after having encountered a surprisingly low number of wandering monsters and having been able to negotiate peacefully with those that were rolled, the gnoll chance encounter gets triggered. And it gets triggered at the worst possible moment when the party desperately needed to avoid any hostiles. The players' fear of the hyena men was super palpable and they were quite worried that what had been a quite successful session would still end with a total TPK. Even though it did not, the survivors have sworn to kill any gnolls they come across from this point forward.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40
Reading this account was awesome. Thanks for sharing!
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Thanks! My players and I have been enjoying the game quite a bit so far. It doubtlessly is the whole "new game/system glow" effect to some extent, but I suspect that this has been the most fun I have had running D&D since doing Red Hand of Doom in 3.5 some sixish years ago. Which is pretty neat.

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

That was an intense session 2! Oh man. The brutality! Losing a Nobiran Wonderworker to a double d20 roll of 1...NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

To make matters even more absurd:

The Nobiran's player was understandably distraught over losing his character after the second roll. So he picked up his d20 and was all "I bet if I had gotten another roll, it would have been a natural 20", and he rolled, and he did indeed get a natural 20. It's the sort of thing where, if you were to read about it on a forum, your natural impulse would be that the poster was just embellishing for dramatic effect. But sometimes truth is stranger than fiction and what have you.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session III

The cast:

  • “Poor Unser” Unser, Elvish Spellsword: probably an alcoholic
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer: novice gambling addict
  • Borgnar, Mystic: total straight edge
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator: vicious, uncouth, and ready to party
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade: definitely a lightweight

Our heroes were spread between the keep Türos Tem and the nearby city of Cyfaraun. In the former, Sinbad lay recovering from a poisonous spider's bite. In the latter, Unser, Borgnar, Gnarrr, and Aladdin had been crushed to discover that their dear friend The Good Doctor Senor Foggy would never be restored to life. Having until just recently been very dead, Borgnar needed some time to recover. As such, Unser, Gnarrr, and Aladdin found themselves flush with an excess of both time and loot. It was thus time for some casually excessive revelry and debauchery. When the heroes ended their long sequence of benders some two weeks later, they discovered that they had at some point in the interim made the acquaintance of a dwarvish priest with an inexplicably long name. This Gazorpazorpfield and Unser became fast friends. Nursing hangovers together, the two discovered that they had, whilst under the influence, funded construction of a school for the underprivileged urban youth of Cyfaraun.

Gaz hailed from the nearby dwarvish enclave of Azen Radokh. He had fled his ancestral home because it had recently come under siege by a dreadful army of giants. Having had difficulty fighting mere kobolds and goblins, the adventurers vowed to stay far, far away from Azen Radokh. Gaz assented gladly to this decision.

Their numbers and morale restored, the five companions returned to Türos Tem. There they found Sinbad, looking rather more attenuated than he had when they had left for Cyfaraun. It turned out that the venturer had begun his stay in the keep's infirmary with only fifty-nine copper pieces to his name. To make ends meet, he had been gambling excessively with the local soldiery, and the meager profits had barely covered his sustenance. He had made a discovery, though: some years back the Borderlands had experienced an earthquake, and this earthquake had just preceded the increase in beastman attacks. The temple they had discovered in the Viaspen had been enclosed by a cracked black granite dome. So perhaps the earthquake sundered the temple's dome and allowed its malicious inhabitants to lay waste to the surrounding area.

Wondering what dark evils such a dome must have been put in place to imprison, the adventurers once again traversed the Viaspen Forest and arrived at the mysterious temple. The temple's factional dynamics had undergone significant change since their last visit. By the entrance where once lazy kobolds could be found now stood two fierce brigands. From these brigands, the adventurers learned that Drusus had expanded his power to take advantage of the kobold's removal. He was now perhaps the premier power in the temple. Also in this confusion, the hobgoblins had moved to eliminate their goblin brethren in a bloody struggle.

The natural course of action seemed to be to engineer the mutual destruction of the brigands and the hobgoblins. Hoping to manage just that, the adventurers continued their delving. In a more frequently traveled portion of the temple, they encountered and defeated two orcish patrols in rapid succession. The first demanded a toll of 140 gold pieces to avoid a fight. Sinbad took a gamble and threw the orcs a pouch with 14 copper, that being all he had. Perhaps the orcs would be not think to count their new earnings. If his goal had been to start a fight, he succeeded admirably. In the second encounter, a lucky orcish spear thrust severed one of Gaz's fingers; he was otherwise no worse for the wear. Borgnar acquitted himself most admirably, slaying five orcs with his enchanted mace that hence bore the name Orcslayer. He then thought back to his monastery days, remembered he had never been trained in the wielding of a mace, and quietly passed Orcslayer over to Gaz.

Knowing that strength could be found in numbers, the party made common cause with a group of three brigands. Yet this was not a lasting alliance. The augmented group's next encounter was with an unholy monstrosity: twelve giant rats that had been somehow fused together to act as one by methods most arcane. The brigands refused to approach the creature. “Ammonar's tits!”, one swore. Another took the opportunity to void his stomach of its the contents. After the fight, Gnarrr castigated them for their cowardice. “We signed up to fight beastmen, not abominations” was the defense proffered. “You're an abomination!” the tactful yet honest lizard-man responded. Brigands are normally used to a certain coarseness of language, but, for whatever reason, the day found these three feeling rather more sensitive, and they promptly departed from the adventurers' company. To hear Gnarrr talk about this encounter after the fact, he had never trusted them and just wanted them to leave. Accusing them of being abominations was certainly a way to do that.

The day's slapstick was not over. Another orcish patrol was encountered and another orcish toll demanded. Sinbad again tried his coin substitution trick, this time offering silver and claiming it to be platinum. Yet luck continued to rule against him, and another battle was joined. Its noise brought another group of orcs, and things began to look dire. A well-placed sleep spell evened the odds, but in the battle's closing moments a lucky orcish spear thrust lamed one of Gnarrr's legs. Their strongest fighter in need recuperation, the group began to beat a hasty yet careful retreat. But in an eerie parallel to their last withdrawal, a pursuing band of orcs caught up to the adventurers just before they reached safety. Ultimately, victory was achieved. But without Gnarrr's indomitable fury, it came only at great cost. A vicious slash by a jagged orcish blade lamed both of Aladdin's legs; the assassin was in a stroke made bereft of his elvish grace. And after being rendered unconscious by a brutal attack, Poor Unser took a heavy fall and lost six teeth. Half of the party was now incapacitated.

Their wounds tended to as best could be managed, the adventurers took refuge from the beastmen in Drusus' camp. They planned to rest the night, and thence to Cyfaraun. There their broken bodies might be restored. But perhaps this was merely a shift from one danger to another. For the weakened heroes were now surrounded by almost two dozen lawless brigands. And they could not help but mistrust the avaricious gleam the bandit king's eyes took on when he considered his new guests and the wealth they might have.

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Gaz, one missing finger
  • Gnarrr, one lamed leg
  • Aladdin, two lamed legs
  • Unser, six missing teeth

Death Count:

  • None! (For now.)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • None!
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Holy moly, what a brutal outcome! It seems like your adventurers need to adjust their tactics and retire from the dungeon one encounter more quickly than they do. That is, it seems like they retire when they can no longer fight effectively, but that leaves them vulnerable to a wandering encounter each time.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

That is what I thought as well. But upon further reflection, I am not sure it is the case. Unser, Gaz, and Foggy have all had Healing 2 or 3. A few other characters have had Healing 1 or Lay on Hands as well. So they've been entering almost every battle at full health. It is just the general fragility of level 1 characters ensures that bad events are rarely isolated.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

It was brought to my attention that part of my notes from last session were in error. Although Unser did lose six of his front teeth, Ammonar blessed his treatment, and he needed no recovery time. So the party's situation in the bandit's camp was perhaps not as dire as it might have been.

Session IV

The cast:

  • “Poor Unser” Unser, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield
  • Sinbad, Venturer
    • Audarius, his henchman, a former Legionary
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

Drusus leered at the wounded adventurers. Their hope was to rest the night in the bandit's camp before returning to civilization. The brigand king swiftly made it apparent that their safety would cost great tribute. Understandably concerned, the adventurers ended up offering him every last coin they had on their persons, nearly half a thousand gold pieces in total. When this was not enough for the rapacious Drusus, Unser handed over his most precious possession, the potion of dragon control he had found near the kobold king's lair. Doing so nearly brought him to tears. Still the bandit king was not satisfied. He suggested that perhaps the adventurers might donate their armor to his cause, but the savvy Sinbad was just able to persuade him to relent on this demand. Satiated but not content, Drusus made it clear he would expect more the next time he saw the party. The party made ready to rest for the night. During Borgnar's watch, a few drunken bandits tried to make some trouble with the mystic, but his inner calm came to the fore and a fight was avoided.

Now the adventurers had only to escape the forest. Wounded and burdened as they were, it would take them three days of travel to reach its edges. The first day passed without event. Yet tragedy struck on the second. Entering a clearing, the adventurers came across a small meadow pool. Drinking at this pool was a monstrous yet wretched creature: a dire wolf that appeared to have undergone some sort of bizarre mutation. Its eyes gleamed with fell sorcery, and spiked bones poked through its fur. Baying in pain, it charged the adventurers. Borgnar dealt it a mighty blow with his elephant trunk blade, but that only angered it further, and it brutally clawed his face and mangled his eye. Next Sinbad stepped up, yet the creature casually ripped off one of his hands with its teeth. Knowing that the party's fate lay in their hands, Gaz and Unser carefully fought against the creature, and eventually they slew it. With two more of their number wounded, it was Calefa's grace alone that let them reach Türos Tem without further incident.

The next obstacle that needed surmounting was basic survival. The party needed two weeks of rest at the keep before they would be ready to travel to Cyfaraun. And the only money they had was 49 copper pieces Sinbad had kept from the bandits. “You don't want to know where I hid these”, he muttered. Luckily, the party discovered that they still had in their possession an abandoned morningstar. It had belonged to Chalupa Batman what seemed like a lifetime ago. Since he had not needed it for months, it was quickly pawned.

In Cyfaraun, Sinbad negotiated intensely with the local temple of Ammonar. He was successful, and in exchange for nearly 5000 gold pieces of “temple spellcasting credit”, the priests took the bundle of ancient Zaharan mint the party had discovered in the buried temple. With this money, the adventurers threw themselves upon the mercy of the gods and had restore life and limb cast on their maimed members. Gnarrr went first. His leg was healed, but, somehow, his lizard-man scales grew hair at an astonishing rate. Then went Aladdin. His legs too were restored, but he felt that his hand might harbor within it a malevolent spirit, and he counseled his friends to stay away from him in subsequent melees. Then came Sinbad.

The Sad Story of Sinbad

First Sinbad's hand was restored. In exchange, the gods made horses frightened of him. The experience left him feeling lucky, and he went back for a second round. This time he hoped to heal his wounded knee. And here Fate abandoned him. Although his knee was healed, an extraplanar mark of calling was placed on him. Walking through the market a few days later, an invisible demon crept up to him and slew him with a single blow. Its mission accomplished, the demon departed. The newly dead venturer was rushed back to the temple. He was restored to life, miraculously with no side effects. The adventurers could but hope that the invisible demon would not return.

A full month was needed for everyone to fully recover. During this time, Gnarrr spent fifty gold pieces to have “curved swords” carved on both of his curved swords, and Sinbad brought a crusty former legionary named Audarius into his employ. The adventurers also heard a peculiar piece of local folklore about the nearby Black Mire: Locals venturing into this mire always buried at least ten gold pieces in it before departing. Not doing so would leave them vulnerable to the curses of the dead and forgotten gods of the mire, ancient statues of which were scattered throughout the region. Sinbad's first thought was to buy a shovel and go hunting for buried treasure. His friends were able to dissuade him from this plan, at least for the moment.

For it was time to put an end to the reign of Drusus. Fully aware that it was perhaps not the smartest course of action, the party nonetheless committed fully to this goal. Their hope lay in Unser. If he could get a sleep spell off, then the brigands' numerical advantage would be neutralized. Drusus and his favorite bands normally stayed in a room separated from the bandit's main camp by a passageway. Attacking Drusus would doubtlessly bring reinforcements from across the camp. But if the adventurers could remain in the passageway, they might minimize the potency of any flanking maneuvers.

And so they ventured to the bandit's camp. Drunk on their newfound power, Drusus and his bandits were caught by complete surprise when Unser began his arcane incantations. The adventurers breathed sighs of relief; finally Fate was supporting them. Unser completed his spell.

And two bandits dropped to the ground. The thirteen remaining bandits and their enraged leader charged the adventurers. This would not be easy.

A long and bloody melee ensued. In the north end of the passageway, Drusus and his enchanted blade laid waste to Borgnar, Gaz, and Gnarrr. After less than a minute, only the lizard-man remained standing. In the south, Audarius, Aladdin, and Unser held the line against a seemingly endless line of reinforcements. Unser quickly fell to a concerted bandit attack. Aladdin bravely fought back whilst standing atop his friend's body. But in the end he could not stem the tide, and darkness took him. Audarius took several cuts but proved remarkably adept at not dying. He otherwise accomplished little. Sinbad took shots with his crossbow whenever he could. Yet when his friends fell, he bravely stepped forward to hold the line with Gnarrr. A minor blessing was had when two bandits, aiming at Sinbad, instead hit one of their fellows and killed him instantly.

Both Gnarrr and Sinbad both came within a hair's breadth of death. But somehow they were able to triumph, and finally Gnarrr's curved blade cut deeply into Drusus' stomach. The bandit king's enchanted sword was quickly appropriated. The remaining bandits did not immediately stop fighting with their leader's death. But it was clear that the fight was over, and they shortly threw down their arms and fled. Gripping onto his new sword, Gnarrr hacked off Drusus' head and held it aloft.

Sinbad, Gnarrr, and Audarius tended to their fallen comrades. Unfortunately, none of them was learned in the art of healing. So although Borgnar, Gaz, Aladdin, and Unser's wounds were bandaged and wrapped as best as could be done, Death's inexorable claws had latched onto of all of them. Grimly, Gnarrr put his friends out of their misery.

What treasure could be taken from the bandit's camp was, and those things too heavy to move were destroyed. Gnarrr admired the ancient Zaharan fresco on the northern wall of the throne room. He became rather less interested in it when he learned that a fresco was not something he could wear as a cape. And although Sinbad and Gnarrr searched intently for the potion of dragon control that Drusus had taken from them earlier, it was nowhere to be found.

The three survivors dragged their friends' bodies back first to Türos Tem and then to Cyfaraun. In Türos Tem, the legate gladly turned over the 750 gold piece bounty on Drusus. He offered to hold an imperial feast for the heroes, but Sinbad requested that such a celebration be delayed until his friends were restored to life. In Cyfaraun, yet another trip to the temple of Ammonar was made. First Borgnar was restored. He awakened still missing the eye Drusus had cut out, and gifted too with a newfound bottomless hunger. It took two castings to restore Gaz, but he was restored with no negative effects. When Drusus had cut him down, though, he had fell hard and bitten off his tongue, yet this was not as positive as it could have been. Aladdin had received some gruesome scarring from the bandits, but much of it was covered up by his sudden outgrowths of hair. And so only Unser remained to be restored. The bandits had severed both of his legs, so the adventurers knew that his restoration would be a risky process. Yet still they were unprepared for its outcome. For the spellsword's soul was cursed to wander for all time through the eternal darkness.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Borgnar, eye damaged by mutated wolf
  • Sinbad, hand eaten by mutated wolf (later restored)
  • Borgnar, eye destroyed by Drusus
  • Aladdin, gruesome scarring by bandits
  • Unser, legs severed by bandits
  • Gaz, tongue severed by Drusus

Death Count:

  • Borgnar, Drusus (later restored)
  • Gaz, Drusus (later restored)
  • Aladdin, bandits (later restored)
  • Unser, bandits

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Gnarrr, hairiness
  • Aladdin, possessed hand
  • Sinbad, invisible stalker
  • Borgnar, bottomless hunger
  • Aladdin: hairiness
  • Unser: soul cursed to wander for all time through eternal darkness
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

Double 1s on the sleep spell? Oh. My. Ammonar.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40
Party name: Gluttons for Punishment
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session V

The cast:

  • Hugo Reyes, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer
  • Audarius, his henchman. Fighter
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

As was traditional for visits to Cyfaraun, the adventurers engaged in intense and excessive acts of decadence. When the alcohol wore off and they were again cognizant, they realized they had made a new friend, Hugo the Elvish Spellsword, cousin of the fallen Unser. Hugo had come to Cyfaraun seeking vengeance; learning that his cousin's slayer had already been ended, he decided he might as well get filthy rich.

There was then the question of what where next to seek adventure. The party was on the verge of venturing into the mysterious Black Mire when, gambling late one night, a local told Sinbad that a dozen black dragons were said to make the mire their home. Deciding that one definite dragon was less dangerous than a dozen potentially ones, the buried temple was hastily returned to.

As the party approached the temple's entrance, they were unsure of what they might find. With the kobolds, goblins, and bandits all defeated, which faction might have seized power? What they were not expecting to find was nothing. No one guarded the main door, no one stood in the main hall. The putrid corpses of Drusus and his brigands lay where they had fallen more than a month ago. Fear of the unknown being the greatest of all fears, this frightened the adventurers more than anything they had encountered so far. Having no idea of what to expect, they crept through the halls toward the orc territory.

Instead of orcs, they discovered an eldritch pool. Mundane in appearance, it nonetheless radiated an eerie energy. Knee-sized depressions systematically placed along its boundary suggested it had once been utilized by the cruel Zaharan sorcerer-priests for sacrificial mass drownings. Hugo, having some training as an alchemist, made to examine the water and learn what he could from it. He concluded that it had the capacity for both great weal and wretched woe. He thought back to words of advice his master had often shared with him, that “you make your own luck, Mr. Reyes”, and took a gulp of the water. Tragically, luck was not today in his favor, and the sorcerous water rendered him feeble of mind [in the process draining him of the nearly 1000 XP he had started with from his prime requisites and Unser's reserve XP]. “We all knew that was going to happen”, Sinbad quipped. The rest of the group guided their quietly babbling friend along with them as they continued exploring.

Entering the orc territory, the party was immediately struck by the wretched scent of orc foeces. Tracing this to its source, they came to an old animal hide stretched across an empty doorframe. Stealthy Aladdin pulled back the hide and saw a most peculiar sight: Eleven orcs sat in a circle, chanting slowly in unison. They were surrounded by old and rotting bookshelves, this room having once been a library. In the corner a dire wolf watched the ritual intently. The excrement caked around the orcs made it clear they had not moved from these positions for a remarkably long period of time. Knowing a bit of the orcish language, Aladdin was able to make out assorted appeals to Sakkara among the chanting, asking her to punish the interlopers who had so ruined their people.

Feeling that an assault on this room would be augmented significantly by a sleep spell, the party made a hasty retreat to Türos Tem. There they enlisted the divine powers of the priestess Genelen to heal Unser of his madness. Barely giving him time to reorient himself, the party then dashed back to the buried temple. As they had hoped, the orcs had not moved even an inch.

Like Unser, Hugo was able to finish his sleep spell before the orcs could charge the party. Unlike his cousin, Hugo proved himself a master spellcaster that day, for he put all but one of the orcs to sleep. Yet the beastman left unaffected was Apsa, King of the Orcs. Bereft of his most loyal followers, the orc king still proved himself a deadly combatant. First Borgnar and Gaz fell. The mystic escaped with a damaged knee, but the dwarf's sturdy spine was completely severed, and he bled out in seconds. Apsa's wolf, meanwhile, tore through Sinbad's knee and bit deep into Aladdin's chest. Yet Hugo, Audarius, and Gnarrr stood firm, and eventually their foes were defeated.

Once again, the party's strength had been shattered in a single blow. Yet Hugo had an idea. Before anyone could stop him, he grabbed Gaz's corpse and tossed it into the drowning pool. Gnarrr hissed and prepared to kill whatever might crawl from its murky depths. And moments later, with a great splash, Gazorpazorpfield pushed himself out of the water. He was alive! For a moment, it seemed his swim had had no ill effects. But then he felt a great pressure against his hauberk. Throwing it off, he discovered with horror that two fleshy tentacles now bulged from his chest! Audarius took this opportunity to vomit.

The party hoped desperately that Gaz's mind remained untainted by the chthonic powers that had granted him his new appendages. Meanwhile they hunkered down in Drusus' old camp and waited for Aladdin, Borgnar, and Sinbad to be well enough to travel. During their stay, they quickly learned to stay away from an old door behind the brigand king's throne. This door had been boarded up, perhaps excessively so. For every night, unnatural moans and groans could be heard from behind it. The adventurers knew that Drusus had not been lying when he spoke of undead living beneath the temple. They were divided as to whether this signaled great opportunity or terrible danger.

Returning to Cyfaraun, the party again sought the temple of Ammonar. Its priests were delighted to show their frequent guests a new golden statue of the sun god that the adventurers' frequent and generous donations had allowed the commission of. And more donations were promptly given. Aladdin's damaged lungs and Gaz's spine were healed. But the exchange was as twisted as it ever was. Gaz was left shaken and damaged. Sudden noises and lights left him completely stunned. And the energy needed to fix the nightblade's lungs must have been taken from his eyes, for he was stricken of his sight. Ever conscious of the important questions, he wondered how he would be able to shave his magically enhanced hair in such a condition. More importantly, how could the adventurers recover from this latest setback?

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Sinbad, knee wounded by dire wolf
  • Borgnar, knee wounded by Apsa
  • Gaz, spine severed by Apsa (later restored)
  • Aladdin, lungs damaged by dire wolf (later restored)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Aladdin, blinded
  • Gaz, paralyzed by sudden light and noise
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

As of this session's end, Sinbad is level 3; and Borgnar, Aladdin, and Gnarrr are all level 2. So their survival potential has all been enhanced noticeably. (Assuming that they can find some way of getting around Aladdin's blindness.)

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session VI

The cast:

  • Hugo Reyes, Elvish Spellsword
  • “Gaz” “Gazebo” Gazorpazorpfield, tentacle'd Dwarven Craftpriest
  • Sinbad, Venturer
  • Audarius, his henchman, Fighter
  • Borgnar, Mystic
  • Gnarrr, Thrassian Gladiator
  • Aladdin, Elvish Nightblade

The party realized that a blind nightblade would be of little contribution. So they spent their time in Cyfaraun asking around to see if any restorative magic could be found. They were in luck: legend had it that the Viaspen contained a hidden shrine sacred to the Empyrean gods.

Since Aladdin was currently not fit to act as navigator, wandering through the forest could be a dangerous proposition. Yet Fate shined on them, and they discovered the shrine in less than a week. Its guardian, a proud unicorn, bestowed the shrine's magic upon Aladdin, and his sight was restored. In return, the nightblade accepted a geas to slay Idimmu the Demonic, the dragon known to lair in the buried temple. Hearing that his friend had been geased, Sinbad quipped “Just remember, every day you tarry in this task will leave the rest of us completely unharmed.” Gaz hoped to have his wounds healed as well. But the unicorn informed him sadly that the shrine's powers would not work on him, tainted as he was by chthonic sorcery.

Reaching the edge of the forest, Aladdin and Hugo noticed a circular patch of wheat of unusual vivacity. In the center of this wheat patch was a farmhouse; nearby was a solitary scarecrow. Such a description matched a rumor Sinbad had heard back in Cyfaraun. Their attentions piqued, the adventurers approached the farmhouse, following a narrow path of beaten-down wheat. Inside the farmhouse was a deathly wounded man. Upon seeing the party, he whispered, “Now you too are trapped...” Sinbad offered him some food, which the man greedily took, but he offered no other information. The group decided to test his claim, and they attempted to leave. To their surprise, the wheat around them was regrowing, and the path they had taken was almost gone. Furthermore, a few steps away from the farmhouse, a massive tentacle burst from the ground and ripped at Sinbad before vanishing back into the earth.

The adventurers broke into a mad dash for the road. Fortune shined on them, and all but Hugo made it. And even then, in a remarkable feat of strength, the puny Sinbad dragged his friend's body to safety. It turned out that the spellsword's tongue had been ripped from his mouth by the hidden monstrosity. Gaz sincerely apologized for the behavior of this particular tentacled creature and promised that not everything with tentacles was inherently evil.

The nearest settlement was the outpost of Türos Spen. Hugo would need a month's rest before he was fit for longer travel, so the group resigned to wait there. During this period of convalescence, the adventurers heard that their fellow adventuring party, the Fierce Brethren, long thought lost, had stumbled out of the Viamir Marshes. They too had discovered the buried temple, and had slain some number of orcs and hobgoblins in it. The party resolved to stand firm against their competition.

Even healthy, Hugo would be of little use as a spellcaster so long as he lacked a tongue. So Cyfaraun was again ventured to. The party just barely managed to scrape together enough gold to pay for his restoration, which luckily went well. Sinbad wondered to Borgnar whether it would be possible to keep Audarius on retainer given their financial situation. The party needed a big score on their next outing. While waiting for Hugo to recover, Aladdin heard news that a new organization was said to have appeared in Cyfaraun. Little was known about them save their (rather unpleasant) name: The Brotherhood of Pus.

Finally, the adventurers were prepared to return to the buried temple, to seek Idimmu the Demonic. Thanks to the Fierce Brethren, the temple was still fairly empty. Some member of their counterpart group had a most peculiar tic: a true passion for labeling. “Orcs (dead)” was written on a note attached to a pile of orcish bodies. “Blood (hobgoblin)” read another. And so on. Hugo was truly perplexed as to why anyone would do this.

The party knew that Idimmu had to be making his lair in the great ziggurat they had noticed in the northwest corner of the temple. So into this room they ventured, unsure if any of them would leave it alive. The wyrm was awake and aware of their intrusion. From the top of the ziggurat, he beckoned one of them approach and do him homage. Trembling, Sinbad stepped forward. Idimmu asked what tribute the venturer had brought for him. Searching his pockets, Sinbad realized he had no valuables at all on his person. So he presented the old, worn pair of bone dice he carried with him for gambling. He fully expected to be devoured for such a paltry offering, but, instead, Idimmu was amused by his audacity and bid him rejoin his companions.

Nervously, the party looked at one another. For Aladdin's geas to be lifted, the dragon would have to be slain. But how could such a feat be done? Lacking a better plan, they lifted their weapons and charged. Yet here Fate turned decisively against them. As if he had expected such treachery, Idimmu flew forward before the adventurers had had time to fan out. And with a single blast of his corrosive breath, he ended the lives of Sinbad, Borgnar, Gnarrr, Aladdin, and Hugo. One might hope that their deaths were at least painless, but this was probably untrue. Audarius had carefully ensured during the advance that he remained by the room's exit, and he beat a hasty departure at this turn of events.

So only Gaz remained. He was too far away from the exit Audarius had taken, so he instead chose a nearby door and dashed through it. Yet not content with her accomplishments for the day, Fate cruelly twisted her knife. For the room Gaz now found himself in was tiny and lacking in any means of escape. The dwarf knew his chances of survival were slim. He made peace with his gods, raised his enchanted mace, and swung at Idimmu. He got in one good hit, and then the dragon ended him.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Hugo, tongue ripped out by tentacled beast

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Hugo, drained spirit

Death Count:

  • Hugo
  • Gazorpazorpfield
  • Borgnar
  • Sinbad
  • Gnarrr
  • Aladdin

Survival Count:

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

Spectacular! Glorious! And hilarious.

Hardrada
Patreon SupporterSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2015-06-28 02:40
A tragic end to a great read. Will they try again?
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

My players are the true gluttons for punishment of this campaign. After the TPK, they insisted on rolling up a new party and playing again the very next day.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session VII

A shorter session, as new characters needed to be rolled up.

The cast:

  • Greg, a Barbarian
  • Krombopulos Michael (“KM”), an Elvish Ranger
  • Brother Pele, a Mage
  • Dayman, a Paladin
  • Crispin, a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Maximore, a Thrassian Abomination*

*Thrassian 4 / Hit Dice 3 / Fighting 1 with armor selection downgraded to Broad in exchange for Shapeshifting. Probably overpowered. Maximore spends most of his time in settlements as a hawk on Crispin's arm because his monstrous countenance horrifies all sane men and impels them to violence

In recent months, beastmen attacks have ravaged the fertile farms of the Borderlands. Lacking the manpower to stop them himself, the stern and proud Legate of the mighty fortress Türos Tem has put out a call for brave (or foolhardy) adventurers. They will risk their lives and stop the attacks for gold and glory (and XP, obviously). Six such would-be heroes answer the call and make their way to Türos Tem to halt the beastman tide.

At the gates of Türos Tem, the adventurers were told that, should they wish to fight the beastmen, they should seek out a man named Audarius. A previous group of adventurers had come to a bad end while fighting the beastmen, and he, the only survivor, might know something of value. He had not fared well since the slaughter and could normally be found at the traveler's inn, severely inebriated.

Inside Türos Tem, the party noticed a number of wounded soldiers spread throughout the grounds. According to a nearby legionary, another group of adventurers, the Fierce Brethren, had successfully slain most of the beastmen that laired in the buried temple. Thinking their victory imminent, they had heard from a prisoner that a notorious band of bugbears was en route from Old Zahar, with the intent to reinforce the other beastmen at the buried temple. What had summoned them was yet unknown. The Brethren had notified the legate of Türos Tem, who had gathered what forces he could spare. A fierce and desperate battle was waged on the banks of the Krysivor River. There had been few survivors on either side, and the Borderlands' garrisons were now tragically depleted.

The group also learned from this soldier that there was a new bandit king in the region. Peleos Methori, former subaltern of Türos Tem, had abandoned his duty to lead an army of brigands in a war against society. No one knew what had prompted him to act so, but he had been acting peculiarly ever since the Fierce Brethren had slain Drusus, the former bandit king, and brought his head to the Legate.

The adventurers headed over to the tavern, where they found Audarius, surrounded by empty steins and mugs. After repeatedly disparaging the skill of his former employers, he revealed he had a collection of the notes and maps they had made while exploring the buried temple. He would gladly give them to this new group...in exchange for a hundred gold pieces. The adventurers deliberated, negotiated, and made the trade. Then they cannily waited for the former soldier to collapse in a drunken stupor and took back their money.

Augmented by the past's discoveries, they ventured to the buried temple. The temple's entrance was guarded by a group of goblins, with whom peaceful contact was made. The goblins claimed to be servants of two great bugbears, Maul Killig and Cresher Bulbnak, who were both unbelievably rich. The bugbears and their goblin underlings had taken up residence in what had once been the kobold king's lair, the original goblin portion of the temple still considered haunted. There were currently no bandits in the area; having quarreled with Maul and Cresher, Peleos had taken his men and left.

The adventurers decided it was time to mount an assault. They cut through the newly arrived goblins with ease, and they soon made the acquaintance of Maul and Cresher. The two bugbears adeptly got the drop on the party, and Brother Pele surely would have fallen to a bugbear morningstar had Greg not bravely stepped forward and slowed the beastman advance. Yet bugbears' goblin minions were only goblins, and, although Maul and Cresher brought down Maximore with skillful teamwork, they too fell to the adventurer's fury. The Thrassian proved to be no worse for the wear, losing only an unessential front tooth. In these fights, KM proved himself an exceptionally talented archer. Yet he also demonstrated that he had little concept of ammo conservation, and he had to go beg Greg for some of the barbarian's arrows after only two battles.

Although the goblin guards had exaggerated the power of Maul and Cresher, they had not overstated their fabulous wealth. The two bugbears' stash totaled almost 10,000 gold pieces. Knowing that such a bounty was now theirs, they must not have been overly saddened by the deaths of their fellows in battle against the Aurans. Maximore drooled profusely upon seeing all this money, although it may have only been an aftereffect of his wounded mouth. Getting such a hoard back to civilization would be quite a struggle, so the adventurers first took it to the abandoned bandit camp, where they spent the night. While on watch, Dayman acted on a hunch and detected evil on the door in the bandit camp that lead to the temple's second level. That level was known to be filled with undead, so perhaps the door itself might have some fell properties. It did not.

With the help of KM's woodman knowledge, the party made it to Türos Tem without issue. Greg and Crispin presented the heads of the bugbears to the keep's legate. They had slain what were clearly bugbear royals and hoped to claim a great reward. Yet the legate was unimpressed: “These bugbears were leaders of goblins, not leaders of bugbears. Bugbear kings would never demean themselves so.” Yet this setback meant that the adventurers were merely “rich” instead of “absurdly rich”, and few tears were shed.

Cyfaraun was hastened to, as the bugbears' trove was begging to be spent lavishly. Dayman decided to be reasonable, and he purchased a comfortable townhouse. Crispin followed his example and bought a cottage. Maximore debated with himself whether a statue promoting Thrassian-human friendship or an urban bird sanctuary would be more appropriate. Unsure what red tape he would have to go through to have the former displayed in a public place, he ultimately decided on the latter.

Feeling as if they were invincible, the adventurers planned their next move.

Mortal Wound Count:

  • Maximore, lost a tooth after getting hit by bugbear's morningstar

Death Count:

  • None!
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session VIII

The cast:

  • Greg, a Barbarian
  • Krombopulos Michael (“KM”), an Elvish Ranger
  • Brother Pele, a Mage
  • Dayman, a Paladin
  • Crispin, a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Maximore, a Thrassian Abomination

The adventurers remained in Cyfaraun for roughly a week. They deliberated for some time over their course of action before eventually deciding to venture to the farmhouse their predecessors had discovered northwest of Türos Spen. This required passing through another border fort, Türos Aster. While there, they happened to encounter its tribune, Tyrimmas. He mentioned that survivors of the recently destroyed bugbear warband seemed to have taken refuge in a ruined imperial fortress directly across the river from Türos Aster. Tyrimmas did not know precisely how many bugbears there were, but, surely, the longer they were allowed to lair there, the more their numbers would increase. The adventurers came to an agreement with Tyrimmas: should they attack the bugbears, he would furnish them with some of his men to assist in the assault. Then they continued to the farmhouse.

First Greg loosed a shot at the farmhouse's scarecrow. He was not sure what he might accomplish, but he thought it a good idea nonetheless. His arrow arced true and pierced the straw man. Yet suddenly the barbarian cried out in intense pain: a wound, the precise mirror of what he had dealt to the scarecrow, had appeared on his own chest!

Warned by their predecessors' notes, they knew not to expose their entire group to the giant tentacles. Instead, only Maximore crossed the wheat field. Venturing inside, he found yet another wounded man lying on the floor. He wondered if it were the same one as before, or a new one. He was not able to enquire as to the man's identity, for man was driven to an incoherent rage by the Thrassian's monstrous countenance, and proved to be a poor conversation partner. Maximore ignored this angry man and looked around the farmhouse. As before, there were two bodies in smaller rooms adjoining the main area. Maximore also discovered an ornate rapier, and a great tome. Being barely literate, he could deduce nothing about its contents. The lizard-man decided he had discovered as much as he could and, preparing to good his exit, transformed into his hawk form and took off. Yet, bizarrely, the tome he had found did not fold into his body as his possessions normally did. It would have to be left behind, and its secrets would remain unknown.

The Thrassian flew across the wheat field as quickly as he could. Despite being dozens of feet in the air, the great tentacles still sprung out of the ground and lashed at him mightily. Greg and KM did their best to cover his flight with fire from their bows, but despite their frantic shots, the Thrassian only barely escaped with his life. [He made it to safety with only 1 hit point left!]

The party quickly returned to Cyfaraun and hired a sage to determine what properties the sword they had found might have. Then they doubled back to Türos Aster and told the tribune they were ready to attack the bugbears. He thanked them somberly, knowing the enormity of the task they had accepted. Six of his soldiers stepped forward to join the war-party, each with an appropriately grim look on their face.

The party, now twelve in number, crossed the bridge and approached the fortress. Seeing it loom indomitably in front of them, they wryly cursed the engineering ingenuity of the Auran Empire. Fortunately, the ravages of time had pulled down a portion of the outer walls, and it was this gap they approached. They hoped to gain entrance to the fortress proper without attracting any attention, but they failed in this. Soon five bugbears hailed them from atop the walls. Initial communications were peaceful, but then the beastmen requested tribute. The adventurers had little money on their persons and were unwilling to part with it, so they switched interaction tactics and charged!

They quickly discovered this charge to be a most unwise idea, for the beastmen were skilled archers. Before the party could reach the wall, Maximore and Dayman had both taken severe wounds. Furthermore, another gang of bugbears stood waiting at the gap in the fortress's wall. The adventurers decided they had little chance of prevailing here and began to retreat. Yet even during the retreat, the bugbears continued their arrow barrage. Brother Pele attempted to save his friends with a sleep spell, but in doing so, he only made himself a target of priority, and took an arrow to the knee. Then Crispin fell: an arrow had pierced his back and severed his spine. Next was Greg, who fell and lamed both of his legs. Three of the Auran legionaries also took grievous wounds and had to be dragged away. One had been killed instantly by an arrow to the brain, but the other two would live to fight another day.

The bugbears stopped firing, and for a moment the party thought they were safe. Yet then a gang of beastmen charged from the fortress and demanded surrender. The adventurers exchanged glances, considered their odds, and dropped their weapons. The beastmen proved surprisingly lenient, taking only all of the party's gold and silver. What's more, the unconscious Pele's pockets were overlooked during the shakedown.

Defeated but mostly alive, the adventurers and legionaries returned to Türos Aster. Tragically, they had killed not a single bugbear. The tribune was saddened to learn of their failure, but he appreciated Dayman's efforts to save his men. He told the party that, should the bugbears attack, his remaining soldiers would be able to fend them off. But it was certain to be a close thing. Crispin, Greg, and Pele would need time to recover, so the party settled down to wait in Türos Aster.

Eventually, Cyfaraun was again returned to, and Crispin and Greg sought the healing of the temple of Ammonar. The restorations of their broken bodies had minimally disruptive side effects: Greg returned with cat-like eyes, and Crispin suspected he would now be vulnerable to being turned by a cleric. The adventurers were again confronted with the question of where next to go. They sought the guidance of Maximore's Thrassian gods, who told them there were no dragons in the Black Mire. So they made preparation to venture there.

Even a dragonless Mire would still be filled with danger: one inhabitant of Cyfaraun told the adventurers that in the Mire lived a necromancer who made his home on an island composed of thousands upon thousands of writhing undead bodies. Yet even that did not compare in strangeness to what happened on their day of departure: Two hunchbacked lizardmen showed up at Dayman's house and brought the party to “the oracle”, a woman made of alabaster. The oracle instructed the party to seek out her husband, the Frog God Idol, who could be found deep within the Mire. If they completed his task, he would surely reward them with magic to fight against the beastmen.

Finally having a goal, the party entered the Black Mires. They followed the oracle's instructions to where her husband might be found. Remarkably, they encountered no other life during their week of travel. Scouting ahead one day, Maximore spotted what appeared to be the island of dead flesh they had heard about, but the party managed to avoid an encounter.

Finally, they stood before the frog god idol. As the party approached him, they heard the massive statue's voice in their heads. It was hissing and sibilant. The idol asked that the adventurers find and return to him his three treasures of his distant engagement: an iron rose, a great wooden basket, and four hunks of amber. With these, he would (somehow) be made “whole” again.

Unsure of what sort of entity this idol might be, the party nonetheless accepted his challenge and prepared to seek out the treasures.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Brother Pele, wounded knee
  • Crispin, severed spine (later healed)
  • Greg, lamed legs (later healed)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Crispin, treated as a wight for purposes of turning
  • Greg, cat-like eyes
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

What level were the adventurers? With 10,000gp spread across 6 players, I reckon they were still 1st level, or at most 2nd level. Attacking a stronghold of bugbears seems...unwise?

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

That sounds about right. With reserve XP, I think KM and Dayman were level 2, and everyone else was still level 1. All the fighter types have quite high ACs at this point, but it still would have been a very difficult fight.

When I had the tribune mention the bugbears to the party, I was not expecting the players to immediately act on it. The previous session they had killed two bugbears with some amount of difficulty, so I figured learning that twelve were nearby would just be a "we should come back here later" moment.

Talking to the players after their assault went so absurdly poorly, it sounds like they were still sort of operating under the principle of "If the Judge mentions something we can do, then that thing is something we should do, as soon as possible". And in their defense, I was not as clear with describing the structure of the bugbear fortress as I could have been. I do not think they expected the fortress' walls to be large enough for archers to fire from atop them, for example.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session IX

The cast:

  • Greg, a Barbarian
  • Krombopulos Michael (“KM”), an Elvish Ranger
  • Brother Pele, a Mage
  • Dayman, a PaladinCrispin, a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Maximore, a Thrassian Abomination

The Black Mires stretched around the party. Somewhere in their depths were the Frog God's three treasures. But how might their locations be ascertained? Dayman and KM had decided that the Mires were more frightening than they had initially seemed, and both were quite reluctant to just go gallivanting off in the hopes of stumbling upon a giant basket. It was decided that Cyfaraun would be returned to. There a sage could be hired to pore over the legends and lore of the region. Perhaps he might discover useful clues. The party left the Black Mires, traveling as carefully as they could. Their remarkable luck endured, and they encountered no malign presences in the Mires. [Despite covering 21 hexes of the Mires, they had no chance encounters at all.]

The sage would need a month to do his research, so the adventures again returned to the buried temple. On this foray, they ventured into a previously unexplored section of the temple, a section they believed was inhabited by a band of hobgoblins. Yet instead of hobgoblins, they came upon piles and piles of goblin corpses, all of whom had been cleanly decapitated. The rot that had set into these corpses suggested they had been dead for quite some time. Deep in the goblin territory, the adventurers also found a large slanted well. Stabilized by his wings, Maximore crept down it. It descended for almost sixty feet; below it, as far as his torchlight extended, was a great pool of what could appeared to be blood. Sprouting from the center of the pool was a vast, tumorous growth covered in pink, fleshy tendrils that flitted through the air. After a moment, one of them darted toward Maximore and attempted to grab him. Luckily, he dodged out the way and made a hasty retreat.

The Thrassian related what he had seen to his friends, all of whom were horrified and disgusted. Dayman in fact felt the need to vomit profusely. Surely this pool must be connected in some way to The Lady and the temple's resurgent power. Yet the well seemed a poor venue through which an attack on the temple's lower floor might be launched, so the adventurers continued to move through the goblin territory. Whoever had killed all the goblins had left evidence of significant time spent looking for the goblins' treasure, yet they had not been completely successful: KM's elvish senses detected a hidden slot in a wall filled with gold and gems that the adventurers gleefully took.

North of the goblins' quarter were the long sought hobgoblins. First contact was made in a rather amusing manner: Temporarily quenching his lantern, KM cracked open a door and peered inside. All he saw was darkness, so he uncovered his light. The lantern revealed four hobgoblins who had been calmly watching his (supposedly) stealthy actions the entire time. Yet these beastmen seemed fatigued and mildly wounded, and battle was not joined. Instead, the party learned from the hobgoblins that the body of red liquid Maximore had seen was known as the “birthing pool”. Even these beastmen felt the need for hushed voices when talking about the pool and its contents.

The party thanked the hobgoblins for their time, closed the door, and then debated amongst themselves whether to attack their new friends. Dayman counseled against this treachery, yet his was the only voice of dissent. Greg and Maximore in particular repeatedly stated their desire to engage in excessive ultraviolence. Wounded as they were, the hobgoblins proved little match for the party, even when six more reinforcements showed up. As before, KM showed himself poorly disposed toward the idea of ammo conservation; he and Greg both exhausted their stashes of arrows in mere tens of seconds.

Yet as the assault continued, Maximore heard a cold voice in his head whisper “You are strong, and your friends are weak. Subdue them and bring them below to the Stone.” To the adventurers' horror, their Thrassian friend suddenly leapt at Dayman and savagely mauled him. Only a quick sleep spell by Crispin saved the paladin from being torn to pieces. With the Thrassian unconscious, Crispin was the next adventurer to feel the alien presence intruding on his mind. Yet he proved to be made of sterner stuff than his companion had been, and he easily resisted its commands. Unsure of what was menacing them, the adventurers began to withdraw, when suddenly a massive spider dropped from the ceiling and sank its fangs into Dayman. Already weakened, the paladin collapsed. Utterly terrified, the adventurers frantically attacked the beast, which proved less threatening than expected. Pele's summoned berserkers quickly tore it to shreds with their massive axes.

Unfortunately, closer examination of Dayman revealed that Maximore's brutal attack had lamed both of his legs. He would need time to heal as well as a divine restoration. So the adventurers withdrew from their temple, and continued their improbable string of luck by making it out of the Viaspen without encountering anything. They waited in Türos Tem until the worst of Dayman's wounds had healed, and then they traveled to Cyfaraun. There the paladin's legs were restored; in exchange, he was gifted a supernaturally insatiable appetite. While waiting for Dayman to recover from his restoration, Pele and KM met with the sage they had hired. The sage claimed to have learned the rough location of all three of the frog god's items.

  • One could be found in a pool somewhere along the Mirimen river
  • One lay in a labyrinth sacred to a forgotten god of weather. The labyrinth was somewhere in the southernmost reaches of the Mire, and was probably cursed.
  • One was surrounded by a vast amount of undead energy. (The adventurers guessed that referred to the necromancer's island of animated flesh.)

Even armed with this knowledge, the adventurers were still unsure if they were ready to return to the Black Mires. As always, they fiercely debated their next course of action.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Dayman, legs lamed by a possessed Maximore (later restored)

Tampering With Mortality Count:

  • Dayman, bottomless hunger
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session X

The cast:

  • Greg, a Barbarian
  • Krombopulos Michael (“KM”), an Elvish Ranger
  • Brother Pele, a Mage
  • Dayman, a Paladin
  • Crispin, a Zaharan Ruinguard
  • Maximore, a Thrassian Abomination

Although the adventurers now had an idea of how to complete the frog god idol's challenge, they remained leery of the Black Mires. Furthermore, the hobgoblins were surely close to defeat. So the buried temple was selected as their destination. Before leaving, they heard yet more unfortunate news: a band of ogres had crossed over the Mirimen river from conquered Azen Radokh to lair in the Viaspen. The forest was now more dangerous than ever.

On a whim, instead of going straight to the hobgoblin area, the party opened a previously untouched door. They quickly came face to face with an ogre, who demanded meat and gold. Dayman thought back to a trick he had read about in Sinbad's notes and threw the ogre a handful of silver. “This is hundreds of gold pieces in platinum”, he said. The ogre's piggy eyes squinted at the coins. Perhaps it saw through the ruse, or perhaps its hunger won out over its greed. In any case, it demanded that the party's tasty-looking elf be left in its lair as a treat. Unwilling to relinquish KM, but not desirous of a fight, the adventurers ran away and prepared to assault the hobgoblins.

Unfortunately, the beastmen seemed to have replenished their numbers in the intervening time. The battle proved more difficult than expected, and the ever unlucky Dayman took two spear thrusts to the shoulders. The dead hobgoblins proved to be just as dangerous as they had been while alive, for Brother Pele was later forced to amputate both of Dayman's arms. Awakening from the operation, he bemoaned how he was the only member of the party that anything bad ever happened to. His friends laughed at him and thanked him for his continued resilience in the face of tragedy. Despite the grievous extent of his injuries, Dayman's restoration in Cyfaraun went remarkably well, and the adventurers were able to return to the buried temple in only six weeks. Maximore chose to scout ahead in the Viaspen during their approach; minor disaster struck when he failed to notice a band of gnolls who proceeded to spring an ambush on the rest of the party. During the fighting, Pele went down with an injured hip, but the others held their ground, and the lizard-man returned just in time to rip apart the last gnoll

Making camp for the night, the adventurers' fire attracted the attention of a pack of wolves. On the watch, Dayman looked at the animals nervously, but the pack eventually left. As before, the hobgoblins had attracted new recruits. But this time their numbers were noticeably lessened, and the adventurers made short work of them. The party then began to explore this new sector of the temple. They came across a nest of fire beetles, but Dayman encouraged his fellows to leave the creatures in peace. Finding the beetles' bioluminescence utterly charming, the others assented.

Finally, the party came across a massive room filled with what appeared to be the remainder of the hobgoblin contingent. Initially, the fight went poorly, as Dayman and Maximore were barraged with flasks of flaming oil. Then Brother Pele and the hobgoblin witch doctor simultaneously began mighty incantations. Who can say what might have happened had the witch doctor completed his spell first. Instead, Brother Pele's magic put every single hobgoblin into a deep slumber. KM and Maximore gleefully ran around the room and slit beastman throats. Further exploring the hobgoblin territory, the adventurers found a set of stairs leading downward.

The hobgoblins vanquished, the adventurers returned to a secret door KM had noticed earlier. It turned out to lead to a makeshift prison cell that contained a few desiccated skeletons. [These were the remains of a group of merchants that had been missing since before the first iteration of the party began their quest some eight or nine months ago. They had not endured.] Guarding the prison cell was a group of kobolds. Not being aware of the secret entrance into the prison, the kobolds were more puzzled than anything else at where the party had come from. Eventually, one mentioned that it was going to ask Idimmu what to. Justifiably terrified of the dragon, the party quickly killed the kobolds and retreated.

The adventurers then began to descend down the hobgoblin staircase. What they found was truly disgusting. The walls of the lower floor were covered in thick flesh veins of flesh that undulated ominously. The air was hot and wet, smelling of bodily fluids and filth. Dayman borrowed Crispin's guisarme and poked one of the veins. It popped grotesquely and covered the blade with an ichorous slime. Quoth Dayman: “...I quickly hand it back to Crispin”.

The stairs ended in a small cave, with the only obvious means of entrance or exist being a simple wooden door. Despite its appearance, neither Dayman nor Maximore nor Greg could bash it down. The adventurers considered what to do and then remembered that they had found another set of stairs, these ones in the former lair of Drusus the bandit king. Perhaps those would lead to a more easily accessible part of the lower floor.

This proved to be both true and sorrowfully, terribly false. Following these stairs, the adventurers discovered that they led to another cavern, similarly adorned with the pulsating fleshy tendrils. Yet this cavern was bisected by a set of tightly-placed iron bars that blocked further exploration. Even after Maximore exercised his mighty thews and forced into existence a gap, the traversal of said gap would surely be slow and dangerous.

First Dayman pushed himself through. Then Pele, carrying a torch, followed. Then came Greg. As KM prepared to do the same, a low, baying howl issued from the unknown. Out of it loped four ghouls, their jaws slavering and their inhuman eyes full of hunger. Before the adventurers on the far side of the bars could do anything, Pele, Dayman, and Greg were all paralyzed by the undead. The ghouls then dragged the helpless adventurers back into the darkness, howling all the time.

KM, Crispin, and Maximore looked at each other. They knew what they had to be done, and they were not afraid. Even at this darkest of moments, their friends could not be abandoned. One by one, they pulled themselves through their bars. They charged bravely into the darkness and were devoured by the ghouls.

Death Count:

  • Greg
  • Krombopulos Michael
  • Brother Pele
  • Dayman
  • Crispin
  • Maximore

(For those keeping track at home, over ten sessions, sixteen characters have died. One (Sinbad) got to level 3. Five more got to level 2, and the rest remained level 1 until their demises.)

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

Wow.... That's stunningly brutal.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Yes. Yes it was.

For anyone who cares: We had the usual "why did everyone die" discussion afterward, since the players had grown quite fond of this iteration of the party. The conclusion was that Brother Pele should have been one of the last people to squeeze through the bars. Sending him through second was a huge mistake. If he had been out of reach when the ghouls showed up, he could have summoned berserkers for help. And those probably would have been sufficient to keep to defeat the ghouls in and of themselves.

Because we have had two TPKs and many assorted casualties, I offered to let the group restart the campaign in a different dungeon, in case they wanted a change of pace or a fresh start. But they remainded adamant in their desire to beat the Sinister Stone of Sakkara.

koewn
koewn's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

I really like your group. Persistent, irrespressible. Clone them, and send me a copy.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

They are impressively indefatiguable. All of my players are pretty big fans of the "roguelite" genre (e.g. Binding of Issac, Spelunky, Risk of Rain), the entries of which are characterized by high difficulty and frequent failures. So that may be where they get some of their resilience.

koewn
koewn's picture
Patreon SupporterDomains At War BackerSinister Stone of Sakkara BackerLairs And Encounters Backer
Joined: 2012-07-17 20:11

Excellent. My first introduction to anything D&D-ish as a child was a bootleg BASIC rehash of Telengard and a couple of the original "roguelikes", Rogue itself; Moria...good times.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session XI: Funhouse Edition

The cast:

  • Finn McCarr, a Venturer
  • Regular-Sized Rudy, a Dwarven Fury
  • Pilo Filo, a Paladin
  • Barborygmos (“Borb”), a Cleric of Ammonar, Pilo's brother
  • Buddy, an Elven Ranger
    • Linda, his henchman, an Elven Courtier
      • Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., her familiar, a small dog
  • Robin, a Warlock
    • Batmanuel, his bat familiar, soothsayer

In recent months, beastmen attacks have ravaged the fertile farms of the Borderlands. Lacking the manpower to stop them himself, the stern and proud Legate of the mighty fortress Türos Tem has put out a call for brave (or foolhardy) adventurers. They will risk their lives and stop the attacks for gold and glory (and XP, obviously). Seven such would-be heroes answer the call and make their way to Türos Tem to halt the beastman tide.

Türos Tem was clearly not doing well. Its eastern wall was heavily damaged and battered, as if great stones had been thrown at it. Its interior was littered with rubble. And at the foot of the hill upon which it stood, a small stone cube, a few feet across, floated a dozen feet up in the air. Floating cubes not exactly being a common sight, the party decided to investigate this structure. It was bereft of any markings or adornments, save for one: on one of its faces, there was an indentation about the size of a human hand.

One of the keep's legionaries noticed the adventurers looking at the cube, and went over to them. Apparently, the cube had appeared suddenly a few weeks ago. Another soldier had climbed up to it, put her hand of the indentation, and vanished without warning. No one had seen her since. The party also learned that the damage to Türos Tem had been sustained during an assault by a combined group of bugbears and ogres. It was suspected that these bugbears were the same group who had recently annihilated the entire garrison of the nearby Türos Aster.

The legionary left them with the advice to seek out the keep's priestess, Genelen. She apparently had recently had a vision that might be of some assistance in fighting off the beastmen threat. Speaking to Genelen, the adventurers learned that this was indeed the case. One night, while engaged in her meditations, the priestess' consciousness had been devoured by the eternal. When she regained her sense of self, she found that she had written an extensive set of notes detailing the effort of other adventurers in delving into a buried temple that lay hidden in the Viaspen Forest. Such knowledge would be invaluable to this new group. She offered it to them, under one condition. Her suspicion was that the floating cube's interior was larger than its small exterior might suggest. If this were the case, who could say what evils it might contain. The adventurers were asked to press their hands against the indentation and explore the cube.

The party debated amongst themselves as to whether this was an even remotely sane possibility. Feeling that it was not, they offered to make a substantial donation to the keep's temple in exchange for the notes. Genelen was unwilling at first, but Linda's silver tongue convinced her that the deal was palatable. The adventurers took the notes and prepared to venture into the Viaspen. Yet the seed had been sown. That night, Finn and Pilo ran into each other in the middle of the night. Both had been thinking about the cube. “I have a really good feeling about this”, Finn said. Pilo agreed.

The next morning, they communicated their wishes the to rest of the party. Robin was reluctant. He had Batmanuel enter one of its sooth-saying trances, and it asked of the outer powers, “Is it possible to escape the cube?” “No” came their response. Finn was not dissuaded: “They were probably lying.” After much wheedling and begging, the group agreed to enter the cube.

Borrowing a ladder from the legionaries, the group climbed up to the cube and in succession touched the indentation. One by one, they were pulled from their location and tossed through space. When they regained their senses, they found that they were on the floor of an offputtingly asymmetric hall, flanked on either side by balconies. Behind them was an old altar covered in ancient bloodstains that Robin recognized as being dedicated to Bel, the Most Violent of All Gods and Men.

Before much could be done, eight purple-skinned, three-eyed goblin-like creatures revealed themselves to have been hiding on the balconies, and began to fire down at the party. In the ensuing fight, Robin took a few bolts too many and hit his head on the ground as he fell, badly addling his brains. Other than that, the goblins fell with relative ease, and the adventurers moved to explore their new surroundings. Borb wondered if sacrificing something on the alter might be the key to escape, but Pilo Filo counseled against such a Chaotic deed.

The rooms they discovered were not constrained by traditional geometry. Some curved back onto themselves despite never changing direction. Others had upward and downward stairs that impossibly led to the same destination. Others still had bidirectional gravity. One could move around either on a floor or a ceiling in such an area. A selected list of their encounters:

  • A library filled with nonsensical astronomy texts.
  • A ballroom populated by seventeen humanoid and well-dressed automata. Four danced with halting, jerky movements, and the rest stood listlessly. Buddy saw that each automaton had a large chunk of mithril in its chest cavity, but none of the party dared approach.
  • A blue vortex of arcane energy that whirled ominously. The adventurers decided that the vortex led back to Türos Tem. To test this theory they wrote a letter saying that the letter's finder should throw a leek into the cube. Although they repeatedly returned to the entrance room, no leeks were found. While walking past this vortex at a later point, Pilo Filo was sucked into it, and he vanished without a trace.
  • A salon, the furniture of which was exclusively three-legged. Hidden in a secret compartment of this room, Linda found two bottles of wine. Robin drank from one, and his skin turned a rather appealingly lime shade of green.
  • A small room with a tall pole in it. The pole had the phrase “this is a pole” inscribed repeatedly on its entire surface.
  • Mirrors that did not reflect their surroundings.
  • A bedroom lit by floating spheres of magenta. Rudy went to jump on the bed and was slammed against the wall with horrific force. Pilo Filo took a grievous wound while trying to save his friend and bit off his tongue as he fell to the ground.
  • A crystal ball. After Pilo Filo's disappearance, Borb moved to it and requested that it show him his brother's location. The crystal ball was filled with a most distressing image: Their paladin friend, strapped to a bed of stone in a hellish location and being tormented by monstrous devils. Borb then asked to see the dungeon's exit, and it showed him the arcane vortex. He paused for a moment. “What about the other exit?” Again, he was shown the vortex.
  • A “fishery” filled with dozens of giant stone fish. Every so often, an adventurer would notice that one of the fish had disappeared.

The adventurers had all the amusing and bizarre interactions with these wonders that one would expect adventurers to have with a bunch of weird objects. They also discovered that the goblins in the entrance chamber had the ability to regrow themselves. On several occasions the party returned to that area and had to cut apart half-formed goblin bodies. Yet nowhere did they find an exit. When they found themselves again traversing the vortex room, Rudy was the next one to be snatched by it. The remainder of the group looked at one another, and they ran in unison toward the vortex and jumped into the unknown.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Robin, addled brain
  • Pilo Filo, bit his own tongue off
Jard
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

Love the Bob's burger's reference with regular sized Rudy.

Did they manage to spend any of their gold from the first group on reserve XP? that can potentially take out the sting of a TPK or even regular player death.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Yeah, most of the characters' names have been media references, because that is what happens when you need a name and do not know if your character is going to survive for more than a session or two.

I've been using a houserule where you only get XP from wealth that you spend (so you cannot just bring it back from a dungeon and get the benefit). Thematically, I like it because it keeps the adventurers poor and money-grubbing. (Because it makes it harder to level up and also slightly increases player bookkeeping, I asked the group what they thought of the rule after a couple of sessions. They all agreed it was worth keeping around.) If/when the game gets to domain levels, I will modify or remove it I think.

One of the behaviors my houserule seems to incentivize is more regular gaining of reserve XP. There's not a whole lot of expensive equipment low level characters need to buy, and the players have not demonstrated a huge interest in having large quantities of hirelings following them around. So the two biggest wealth sinks have probably been excessive debauchery (i.e. reserve XP) and buying "credits" at the local temple in preparation for future castings of restore life and limb.

After the first TPK, I think most of the new party started at least halfway to level 2. I happened to roll up a relatively large hoard for a relatively small number of bugbears, and that helped out a lot as well. After the second TPK, most (I think?) of the new PCs started out at level 2.

Jard
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2012-07-11 23:23

it took me a second to parse your houserule.  I think i get it now: by spending the gold on something else, they also gain the XP they would have gotten for bringing it back to civilization.

As you mentioned, it sounds like it disfavors hiring henchmen, which was a big part of my campaign that I ran.  I probably would not use said houserule, but as they say "Each Campaign is a Law Unto Itself!"

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session XII

The cast:

  • Finn McCarr, a Venturer
  • Regular-Sized Rudy, a Dwarven Fury
  • Pilo Filo, a Paladin
  • Barborygmos (“Borb”), a Cleric of Ammonar
  • Buddy, an Elven Ranger
    • Linda, his henchman, an Elven Courtier
      • Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., her familiar, a small dog
  • Robin, a Warlock
    • Batmanuel, his bat familiar, no longer a soothsayer

The adventurers had lept into the vortex of arcane energy with no idea what to expect. When they regained their senses, they and their surroundings had taken on a greyish, translucent cast. Despite this, the area they were in strongly resembled a garden the adventurers had noticed previously in the dungeon. In addition, they discovered that they had been reunited with Pilo Filo and Regular-Sized Rudy. There was little time to remark on this, for reunited party found themselves being menaced by a giant snake more than twenty feet long. Luckily, the serpent was lazy and not inclined toward immediate violence, as it likely could have slain the entire party. Making as little movement as possible, Linda drew upon her elvish powers and sang the snake to sleep. Rudy did not waste a moment, and he jumped forward and hacked off the snake's head.

“My friends, we seem to have been transported to the Ethereal Plane”, Robin opined. “Some aspects of this dungeon will be the same as before, but others may be changed. Caution is required.” The dungeon's basic structure seemed to be unchanged, and the adventurers came across the crystal ball that had shown Pilo Filo in hellish torment. Knowing it to be full of deceit, Finn McCarr fired a bolt at it and shattered it into countless pieces. Robin bemoaned the loss of a possible source of information.

The party also came across twelve sarcophagi. Barely waiting for his friends to agree with his plan, Rudy pushed one's lid off, revealing the remarkably preserved corpse of a human man. Quickly, the dwarf sliced the corpse's head off and took the finely wrought orichalcum necklace it had worn. He and Borb repeated this process for three more sarcophagi. Each contained the same body, and each newly uncovered corpse had already been beheaded. Yet, when opening the fourth sarcophagus, the two sprung a deadly trap: a pit opened in the ground, and coffin, cleric, and dwarf all fell into it. Tragically, the sarcophagus landed heavily on the two adventurers, crushing one of Borb's and both of Rudy's legs. Neither would be of much use for the next few weeks. The adventurers decided to not open any more sarcophagi.

To return to the main area of the dungeon, the party would have to travel through either the stone fish room or the bedroom. Both were sure to be dangerous, but the fish room was deemed less so. In the Ethereal Realm, the stone fish were animated and radiant. And something in the room was hunting them, an aberrant beast with a three-pronged mouth. The adventurers crossed through the room as quickly as possible. They caught the monster's attention, but not its ire, and escaped safely.

The vortex existed in the Ethereal Plane as well. Nearing it, Rudy was snatched into the nothing. Past the vortex was a narrow cavern passageway filled with waist-high water. The six remaining adventurers were advancing slowly through it, when, abruptly, a hole opened in the ground sucked Borb down into the murky depths. At this moment, Finn McCarrr revealed that he was a real hero (and a real human being). Tying himself to a rope that he handed to Buddy, he dove down after their cleric friend, and, remarkably, pulled him up to safety. Borb coughed and choked, utterly amazed at his continued existence. The watery passageway eventually widened into a small side room filled with paintings and statues, all of the same man who had been in the sarcophagi. Finn greedily eyed the paintings, but their size, as well as the possible threat of the statues, meant that they would have to be left behind.

After leaving that area, the adventurers all jumped through the vortex again. As they suspected, it returned them to the Material Plane, where they soon found Rudy. Since the vortex did not lead out of the dungeon, what else could be done? The adventurers returned to the ballroom of automata. Finn grabbed one of the inert mechanical humanoids and began to drag it away. This prompted the four dancers to attack, and battle was joined

The automata proved to not be especially dangerous combatants, but the fight was still difficult. Borg, Rudy, Robin, and Pilo had all not fully recovered from their wounds, and so they could not contribute to the party's efforts. Linda, Buddy, and Finn did their best, but first Linda fell, wounded cruelly in the genitals. The unskilled and bookish Finn then struck down an automaton. He shouted in triumphant glee before being smashed in the face by another. Enraged by the loss of his friends, Buddy did not flinch, and soon he was the only one left standing. But he was now the only adventurer still capable of combat. And the party did not have sufficient rations to wait for anyone else to recover. They hoped desperately that no further enemies would be found.

Making sacrifice to Bel at the altar now seemed a more appealing idea. Buddy, Borg, and Philo crept into the entry room. But luck was against them, as a number of the goblins had fully reformed themselves. Accompanied by a flurry of crossbow bolts, the three hastily departed.

Another possibility was a room that had contained six floating well-cushioned chairs that had been arranged in a circle around a pentacle drawn into the floor. Rudy sat down in one of the chairs, and a great red, horned demon appeared in the pentacle. “A mortal summons me”, the demon intoned in a guttural voice. Rudy stood up quickly, and the demon disappeared. He chose another chair, and the demon appeared again. “The same mortal has summoned me. What does he want?” the demon said this time. Rudy apologized. “Sorry, I was seeing if I could summon anything else instead of just you” and stood up again. “I don't know what I was expecting that time” he told his friends.

The ceiling of the demon's room had its own gravity, and it contained a lovely lily pond. The adventurers next made their way to it. This prompted a lovely nymph to appear and greet them. The mad mage who had made this reality-bending structure had imprisoned her in the pool for his own enigmatic reasons. “If one of you approaches me in the water, your life force might free me. Then we could work together to escape”, she said. The party looked at one another. Could she be trusted? Always one to volunteer, Finn stepped forward and waded out toward the pool. Yet his heroic instincts failed him terribly here. While his friends watched, the nymph grabbed the venturer, paralyzed him with a touch, and drowned him. Face-down in the water, his limbs slowly stopped twitching. Then the nymph turned to the rest of the party. “See how peacefully your friend rests. Would another one of you like to approach? I sense I am close to freedom, and then we can all escape together.” The survivors backed away in horror, and the treacherous water fairy disappeared into the depths of her pond.

Back in the demon's room, the adventurers had a remarkable idea. Finn's body still floated in the pool above them. The agile Buddy threw up his grappling hook and stuck it in his friend's body. The others then pulled the venturer out of the water, back onto the demon's area. If they ever managed to escape this dungeon, perhaps Finn could be restored to life. Seeing no other choice, Robin sat back down in one of the floating chairs, summoning the demon. Upon request, the fiend gave his name: Andromalech. Surprisingly, he proved to be quite chatty. He warned the adventurers not to trust the nymph that lived above him, a warning they ruefully agreed with. The party mentioned they were attempting to find a way of leaving this dungeon. Andromalech cheerfully mentioned that he could do just that. When asked how such a thing might be accomplished, and where they would be transported to, the demon was frighteningly vague on details. Having just been deceived, this made the adventurers quite cautious. But what else could they do? The only other plausible source of escape was the altar of Bel. But accessing it would require killing many goblins, something that Buddy was unlikely to be able to accomplish without assistance. And their provisions would go bad in less than a week.

The party trusted in Fate, sat down in the chairs, and told Andromalech that they were ready to leave. He smiled gleefully, and darkness took them. When they regained themselves, they found they were back at Türos Tem! According to a nearby soldier, mere seconds had passed since they had first entered the cube, which had vanished with their exit.

Pausing only to catch his breath, Buddy rushed Finn to Cyfaraun. The venturer was restored to life, but at the cost of his sight. Now blind, Finn considered everything he had seen and done and decided that his life as an adventurer had come to its end. He could seek out wealth and power as a blind businessman instead of having to delve for it in squalid dungeons. His companions were saddened by his departure, but they accepted his reasoning. Finn promised to lend them his mercantile services whenever they found themselves in Cyfaraun.

Shortly after, Rudy and Borb had their wounded legs restored. While waiting to recover, they made the acquaintance of a replacement for Finn, a fierce barbarian named Conan O'Brien. Once everyone had been restored, the adventurers ventured to the buried temple for their first time. After killing an ogre with relative ease, they made quite a discovery: The door that led to the temple's lower floor from the old brigand's area had been bashed down. Shortly thereafter, they heard the moaning of a dozen zombies. Although those were defeated, they would surely not be the last. For the undead of the catacombs could now roam the entire temple.

Mortal Wounds Count:

  • Linda, damaged genitals
  • Rudy, lamed legs (later restored)
  • Borb, lamed leg (later restored)

Death Count

  • Finn McCarr (later raised)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Finn McCarr, blinded
  • Rudy, bottomless hunger
  • Robin, claws
  • Borb, difficulty sleeping

Retiree Count:

  • Finn McCarr
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

What dungeon are you running? It's perverse and twisted.

Conan O'Brien the barbarian made me laugh out loud.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Most of the clever parts, particularly the nonstandard geometries, were taken from the "Halls of the Mad Mage" one-page dungeon by Justin Alexander. The non-clever parts were improvised by me.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session XIII

The cast:

  • Conan O'Brien, a Barbarian
  • Regular-Sized Rudy, a Dwarven Fury
  • Pilo Filo, a Paladin
  • Barborygmos (“Borb”), a Cleric of Ammonar
  • Buddy, an Elven Ranger
    • Linda, his henchman, an Elven Courtier
      • Sammy Davis Jr. Jr., her familiar, a small dog
  • Robin, a Warlock
    • Batmanuel, his familiar, a bat

Confronted with the prospect of roaming undead, the adventurers decided it was now abundantly clear that their next target should be: the dragon! First, a brief shopping trip was necessary. [After killing the ogre last session, Buddy was something like 14 experience points away from level 3.] Yet returning to Türos Tem proved fraught with risk. While still in the dungeon, the adventurers encountered a pair of bandits the bandit king, Peleos Methori, had sent to investigate the temple's current status. Although neither group trusted the other, calmer heads (that is, everyone but Rudy) prevailed, and violence was avoided. But the bandits' return boded ill for the future. In the forest, the adventurers also had the extreme misfortune to almost cross paths with the monstrous ooze abomination their earliest iteration had released more than a year ago. Once it had vanished into the distance, Rudy wondered if maybe it would be better to go after the ooze instead of the dragon, and the group shared a hearty laugh. The journey back to the buried temple from Türos Tem featured an unwanted encounter with six ogres who demanded tribute. The adventurers sighed, dug through their pockets, and turned over every coin they carried.

But finally, the dragon! The party lined up at a door leading to the ziggurat, and Buddy peeked through. He saw seven kobolds arranged around the ancient pyramid, praying in reverence to their draconic master. The party debated the merits of delaying their attack but decided that the moment would get no better. Linda arranged herself in front of her companions and sang a song of inspiration. [For reference, this was the song she chose; you have to skip to like ten seconds in: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fc0b48a5OQ] Then Robin summoned two quartets of bloodthirsty berserkers, and everyone charged toward the ziggurat. The kobolds, being kobolds, were slain easily, but not before one of them cried, “Mighty Idimmu, we beg for your aid against these mammalian intruders who savage us so brutally!” Moments later, the wyrm soared out from the shrine on top of the ziggurat. The first blast of its foetid gaseous breath wiped out half of Robin's berserkers and sent Buddy tumbling to the ground. The second took care of the remaining four and incapacitated Conan. Linda tried to hold her breath while dodging, but she misjudged the angles involved and ended up taking a huge waft of the poison. It was absorbed into her lungs and heart, and she died almost immediately.

With their three best archers out of the fight, the party's prospects seemed dire as long as the wyrm chose to remain in the air. But perhaps Idimmu had grown arrogant after vanquishing so many of its foes, for it descended toward the survivors in preparation for melee. Rudy entered his berserker rage and charged toward it. Although the dragon was a fierce combatant, its opponents were heavily armored and armed with conviction and desperation. The tide of battle began to turn against Idimmu. It backed up and prepared to breath out another cloud of noxious gas, but then Rudy jumped forward, and, with a single mighty swing of his axe, nearly severed the dragon's head. Idimmu was slain!

Binding their wounds as best they could, the adventurers explored the dragon's lair. In addition to its hoard, which was every bit as massive and remarkable as one might expect, the party also came across the rotting remains of a tentacled dwarf in a nearby room, which they suspected was the one and only Gazorpazorpfield. Now the task was to make it back to civilization without encountering any of the variously unpleasant things that would doubtlessly love to enrich themselves with the dragon's wealth.

Unfortunately, they failed in that task almost immediately when they encountered a large group of brigands in the temple's crossroads. Rudy of course wanted to attack, but the others were not confident of their chances, as they would be bereft of Buddy and Conan's contributions. Peaceful resolution was ultimately attained, but only at the cost of the two most visibly carried pieces of the dragon's treasure: a silver fox fur cape and a roll of fine Somirean silk. Their total value was nearly 2000 gold pieces. Satisfied with their tribute, the bandits bade the adventurers depart; nothing hostile was encountered on the remainder of the trip. Judging any possible restoration to be fraught with risk, Linda's body was burned and her spirit released to the gods as soon as the forest were out of sight.

Yet Idimmu's corrupt power lingered on after its death. While traveling back, the adventurers noticed that the dragon's noxious breath seemed to have afflicted Conan and Buddy with a wasting disease that ate away at their flesh and sapped their vitality. Even Priestess Genelen's restorative magic was unable to dispel it, so the adventurers made their way toward Cyfaraun as quickly as possible. Their haste was insufficient. Both Buddy and Conan perished during their journey, pieces of their disease-ravaged bodies falling of in the moments of death. Yet, in death, the disease seemed to have run its course, and, upon their restoration, neither Buddy nor Conan was still subject to its depredations.

While waiting in Cyfaraun for their friends to recover, the party amused themselves as best they could. Rudy, using his (mildly inexplicable) knowledge of history, volunteered as a teacher at the school the previous adventurer had founded. With his master's death, Sammy Davis Jr. Jr. had lost his powers. So he was offered as a therapy dog to Finn McCarr, who appreciated the company. It was in fact from Finn that the adventurers heard a most intriguing tale: The complex belonging to one of Cyfaraun's minor thievish factions, the Tenebrous Hand, had been silent for nearly a week. No one had been seen entering or leaving it. If something had happened to the thieves, the town would need to know. And surely the thieves' wealth would be available for redistribution. In particular, Finn suspected some of that wealth was his property: a shipment of fine furniture that had been waylaid en route to Arganos. The party agreed to investigate.

Just as they had been told, the complex was deserted, its door locked and its windows shut and barred. Waiting for a moment was the streets were more deserted than usual, the adventurers climbed on top of one of the complex's buildings and crossed its roof. In the center of the complex was a courtyard that contained five ravenous and starving guard dogs. Before the adventurers descended into the courtyard, Robin put the poor creatures first to sleep and then out of their misery. The party chose a door more or less at random and bashed it down. The house they found themselves in was empty of life, although the food laid out on a table suggested its inhabitants had abruptly left in the middle of a meal. Upstairs was an even more ominous sight. A man had locked himself in his bedroom and then bashed his head against the fireplace until death had taken him. At some point before, he had written a letter to his wife that the party found next to his body: “We had no inkling of what it was we did… My men have sacrificed themselves to contain the Evil… From what I have seen here today, I cannot believe this world is the creation of any loving gods.” The adventurers too had no inkling of what it was they had done.

Mortal Wounds Counts:

  • Buddy, damaged hips, diseased and mangled arms (latter later restored)
  • Conan, mangled lips, diseased and mangled leg (latter later restored)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Buddy, dimmed life, shattered confidence
  • Conan, deathly pallor, object of terror for horses
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

All things considered, this is what passes for a happy ending in your campaign!

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

That was both awesome and hilarious. What a blow to lose that Thrassian! I'm sure the player wept bitter tears, as stats like that don't come along very often...

EDIT: Hm. This was supposed to be a reply to the first session.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Don't worry, comments about losing Thrassians are almost perpetually relevant to this campaign.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session XIV

The cast:

  • Conan O'Brien, a Barbarian
  • Regular-Sized Rudy, a Dwarven Fury
  • Pilo Filo, a Paladin
  • Borborygmos (“Borb”), a Cleric of Ammonar
  • Buddy, an Elven Ranger
  • Robin, a Warlock
    • Batmanuel, his familiar, a bat

“We had no inkling of what it was we did… My men have sacrificed themselves to contain the Evil… From what I have seen here today, I cannot believe this world is the creation of any loving gods.” What had the Tenebrous Hand done? Rather than consider that, Borb focused on something more interesting: what did all the various keys the dead man had been carrying open? He pocketed all of them, and the party continued their exploration of the complex. One of the keys turned out to be able to open almost any building's door; Borb was delighted. In the common room of the complex's tavern, the adventurers came across an incoherent man who had been living for too long on spoiled food. From him the adventurers learned that the complex had a hidden basement. “They're down there, probably watching me… My friends. First they were normal, and then… they weren't.” It fell to Borb to ask the question that was on everyone's mind: “So, you got any more keys?” The man did not.

The adventurers continued their explorations. In a cupboard under the potter's stairs, Buddy noticed a secret door leading downward. Was this the hidden basement? A quick peek suggested it was. Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, its depths were left unplumbed. (For now at least.) Instead, in the complex's butcher shop, the group came across a monstrous being. It had once been a dog, but corpulent pustules burst from all over its scabrous head, and a long narrow tentacle snaked out of what had once been a mouth. It was not friendly.

After overcoming their initial revulsion, the adventurers managed to put an end to the mutated beast. But in its last moments, its tentacle snaked out and brushed against Borb's face. His friends looked on in horror: was Borb about to become a monster? But nothing happened. Next the party applied their considerable collective medical expertise and attempted to heal his unknown malady. Nothing they did had any apparent effect. Was this a good sign or a bad one? They decided to take no chances and left the complex to go to the Temple of Ammonar. On Borb's suggestion, they bound him up tightly. Yet night had long since fallen, and the priests were unwilling to stir themselves from their rest. The only person awake was the acolyte tasked with ensuring that Ammonar's flame stayed lit throughout the hours of darkness. And she was not swayed by the adventurers' pleas. The party resolved themselves to waiting until the morning. Hopefully Borborgymos would last the night.

The Sad Story of Borborgymos

He almost did. A few hours before dawn, Buddy noticed that the dreaded pustules had begun to sprout from the cleric's face. Once again, the party rushed to the temple. Perhaps with proof the priests would prove more amenable. Yet this time the same acolyte revealed that the priests had already exhausted their daily portion of divine power. The party waited and considered their options. As dawn began to break, Borb let loose a tremendous screech and began shaking uncontrollably. In a few moments, it was over. He had become one of the mutated beasts. Only a quick sleep spell by Robin prevented him from attacking his former fellows. This commotion at last drew the priests from their rest. They looked on in horror at the thing lying in their temple. Fortified by the promise of a double donation, one of them approached the unconscious mutant and applied his divine powers. Yet he was unsuccessful. Finally, Pilo Filo realized what he had to do. He stepped forward, picked up what had once been his brother, and carried it outside into an alley. Then he took out his sword and drew it across the unconscious creature's throat. When it had stopped twitching, he cut off its head. He blessed the remnants and begged for the beneficence of the Empyreans.

And here Ammonar shined on his fallen servant. When his meditations had finished, the head priest's prayers restored Borb to life. The mutation was dispelled from his body, save for a lingering remnant in one of his hands. As their cleric recovered, the adventurers considered whether they should return to the complex. Rudy was in favor of going back immediately. “Do we really need a cleric? We got this, guys!” The others were more reluctant. They shared their discoveries with Finn, who agreed that caution was warranted. In disgust, Rudy returned to substitute teaching.

Yet the day came when Borb was again hale and hearty. The adventurers trundled back to the complex. As they expected, the crazy man had long since died of some combination of starvation of nutrition. He was carrying no keys. Inevitably, the basement beckoned. It had been the site of some mighty battle, and it was strewn with decaying body parts, blood, and other bits of gore. Upon entering, most of the adventurers could not retain their stomachs' current contents. Some of the basement's passageways led to other parts of the complex. Other led deeper into the sewers. One did not. It was blocked by heavy pieces of furniture. In addition to requiring two separate keys, opening it also required a special pass-word: “Lucretia”, the woman to whom the first dead man's letter had been addressed. This door led to the treasure vault of the Tenebrous Hand.

The adventurers moved through slowly, looking at the assorted riches in mild awe. Yet before the treasure could be counted and cataloged, a rustling and moaning was heard from the vault's depths. More than twenty of the mutants rushed out of the darkness. Each adventurer grabbed the nearest piece of booty and ran desperately away. They closed the door in time, but only barely. How could the vault be emptied, first of its mutants and then (more importantly) of its treasure? Robin's initial idea was to send his berserkers in to clear some of the chaff. It was a good idea, but the abominations must have somehow been aware of the impermanence of the heavenly warriors. As they ran though the vault, screaming and bumping into each other, not a single mutant appeared from its hiding place. More sophisticated techniques would have to be used. But what might those be?

Death Count:

  • Borborygmos (later restored)

Tampering with Mortality Count:

  • Borborygmos, possessed hand
Alex
The Autarch
Joined: 2011-06-30 18:10

It seems like the adventurers are doing better these days! Or at least less bad.

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

You say that though...

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

Session XV

The cast:

  • Conan O'Brien, a Barbarian
  • Regular-Sized Rudy, a Dwarven Fury
  • Pilo Filo, a Paladin
  • Borborygmos (“Borb”), a Cleric of Ammonar
  • Buddy, an Elven Ranger
  • Robin, a Warlock
    • Batmanuel, his familiar, a bat

The party put their heads together. How could they retrieve the treasure of the Tenebrous Hand without risking their safety and that of Cyfaraun? (Or at least without risking their safety.) Finally, after long discussion, Robin looked up. “I have a plan”, he said. His plan required a large rug and a decent amount of oil, so the group returned to the house of Finn McCarr. Luckily, their venturer friend was able to furnish the group with their desired items. Then Pilo decided that, if he were about to die, he would rather that he have lips and a tongue. This warranted a trip to the temple of Ammonar.

While waiting for the paladin to recover, the adventurers remembered that a particular house in a nicer part of the city had been circled on one of the maps they had found in the complex. Perhaps this house would yield further information regarding the mutants. The party found the house, and Rudy and Borb walked up to it. Rudy put on his most cheerful face and knocked. When a slot in the door opened, he said “Have you heard the sacred word of Ammonar? The only god capable of protecting the Empire from the Chthonic powers that dwell beneath us?” The person inside had, and they were not particularly desirous of further conversation.

Some time later, Pilo had recovered, and the group returned to the complex's hidden cellar. Robin's plan might be summarized as follows:

  1. Cover the pit in the passage leading into the treasure room with Finn McCarr's rug.
  2. Send Rudy in to the treasure room to draw the mutants' attention, accompanied by Batmanuel to provide healing support.
  3. Lure them out of the room, where, treading on Finn McCarr's rug, many would surely fall into the pit and be trapped.
  4. Blockade the passageway with furniture once Rudy was safe, set the oil on fire, and rain death upon the trapped mutants with arrows and spells.

It was not a bad plan, and Robin was quite pleased with it. The party put it into action. Would it work?

It may have worked; but, alas, it did not survive contact with the enemy. Its implicit, important, requirement was for Rudy to outpace the mutants out of the treasure room. This did not happen, and he was completely swarmed by mutants in a matter of heartbeats. When his fellows realized how helpless they were, they let out cries of shame and despair. As he was enveloped by the unnatural, Rudy's last conscious thought was to enter his berserker rage. Sobbing, Pilo closed the door. Moments later, Robin felt a jolt of pain as Batmanuel ceased to live.

What could be done now? Another frantic debate was held. The safest course of action would be to leave this place and never come back. But was it the proper course? Wracked with uncertainty, it fell to Conan to decide the fate of the party (and of Cyfaraun). He had lost his tongue and lips some time ago and could not talk. So in the dirt on the ground he scratched out the letters “W – W – B – D”. What would Borgnar do?

Pilo and Borb advanced into the treasure room, while the others held back to provide covering fire. The cleric and the paladin soon saw Rudy's mutilated corpse, surrounded by dead mutants. In dying, the berserker had certainly visited his fury upon the aberrations. Had his vengeance sufficiently weakened the abominations?

It had not. When the surviving mutants made themselves known, they cunningly separated Pilo and Borb from the others with their mass of mutated flesh. Although the party fought well, they were outmatched. After some time, only Robin remained alive. He dashed out of the cellar. If his friends could not be saved, perhaps he could seal away this complex and prevent its horrors from tainting civilization.

He could not: Cyfaraun was doomed. When the party had visited the house that had been circled on the thieves' map, they had attracted the attention of some of the surviving members of the Brotherhood of Pus. Four brethren of disease had followed the party back to the complex, and they stood at the entrance to the cellar, waiting for Robin. They offered him a chance to join their new world of eternal flesh. When he refused, they ended him and let loose the mutant horde.

Death Count:

  • The entire party
  • Most of the inhabitants of Cyfaraun
  • Probably a decent portion of Southern Argölle
Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

As with the previous TPKs, the players took the death of their characters and the destruction of their favored city remarkably well. I do not know if I could have been that gung-ho were I in their place. It was decided that their major tactical errors were probably:

  1. Splitting up when they went back into the treasure room
  2. Using burning hands instead of summon berserkers against the mutants.

I think that Rudy had at least a 50% chance to beat the mutants' initiative and allow the plan to continue, so losing that check was a tragic moment.

 

We did not realize it when we played this session, but this campaign is essentially over, as two of the players are moving away. So I guess it at least ended on a note consistent with the previous tone. The players remain quite enthusiastic about ACKS as a system, so we might try to get an online game going at some point.

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

Absolutely savage. 

What was the module you were running in the sewers with the mutants?

bobloblah
Patreon SupporterDomains At War ContributorSinister Stone of Sakkara ContributorLairs And Encounters Contributor
Joined: 2013-03-22 16:16

Sounded like a LotFP module to me. Particular since it just ended much of civilization in Southern Argölle. Forgive Us, maybe?

Yukiomo
Sinister Stone of Sakkara Backer
Joined: 2013-07-16 00:19

That would be a correct deduction.

The room of mutants that killed everyone was not meant to be something to be fought, really. The intention is that everyone grabs an item or two, and then the party runs away and shuts the door forever. The players were fully aware of this fact. This did not stop them from going back in, amusingly..

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