Friday, December 23, 2011

Ice Ice Baby (or "Seeds of Chaos," Session 3)

Even as a pre-Christmas storm was dumping a foot or more of snow on the Denver-area, the PCs in our D&D campaign— by an odd coincidence— also found themselves journeying through a landscape covered with ice and snow.

At the end of the last session of our “Seeds of Chaos” adventure, our heroes had claimed victory in a skill challenge and successfully navigated their way through an unnatural blizzard north of the small village of Loudwater. Well, almost everyone made it through the blizzard… As the unnatural storm subsided and the PCs took stock of their situation, they realized that Silas was missing. Oh no!

Visibility was limited, but they could make out the stark gray silhouette of Draigdurroch Tower still some distance away, so the party decided to use the few remaining hours of daylight to proceed to the tower and hope that their lost comrade would catch up with them at some point. (Drew was already out-of-town for the holiday, so his eladrin vampire Silas would be missing from this Thursday night’s session.)

Frost Goblin Ambush

As our heroes drew nearer to the tower, they reached an area where several hills came together with dangerous ice between them. Suddenly, a mass of goblins leaped up from the hills! Most of them brandished javelins and crude short swords, but a few of them wore better armor and carried crossbows. From the highest vantage point, another goblin clad in robes waved a rod and made arcane gestures.

  • 3 Frost Goblin Sharpshooters (Level 2 Artillery)

  • Frost Goblin Cutters (Level 1 Minion)

  • Frost Goblin Hexer (Level 3 Elite Controller)

Gaultis succeeded on a Nature check and realized that these goblins appeared different than normal. Their blue skin was highly unusual, and the fact that they weren’t dressed for the bitter cold indicated they had somehow adapted to the unnatural weather. The PCs guessed that whatever was causing the strange weather had also affected the goblins living in the area.

Blake kicked things off by boldly charging up one of the hills. Unfortunately, none of his companions could move up and support him right away (they rolled very poorly on initiative), so he was targeted by most of the goblins on their turns (they rolled very well on initiative). He was quickly bloodied during the first round of combat, and although he used razorclaw shifting during his second turn to call on the primal power of the beast within, it still wasn’t enough to prevent him from going down as he was once again targeted by multiple crossbow attacks. Dagon then bravely rushed up the icy hill and swiftly administered a potion of healing to his unconscious friend.

Once Blake was healed by Dagon, the crisis point of the battle was passed and the party then went on to slowly but surely defeat the frost-touched goblins on the three hills. At the end of combat, the PCs managed to capture the last goblin sharpshooter and interrogate it. Before it succumbed to its wounds, the goblin told them that its tribe had been hired by Deneith and Thaliost to keep people away from the old, abandoned wizard’s tower. Just before their prisoner died, it said that “some big strange magic” had happened the previous day and it had not only affected the weather, but also transformed the goblins.

Searching the battlefield before moving on, the characters found 50gp, a potion of healing, and a nifty shield of deflection that was claimed by Gaultis.

DM Tip: I picked up some of these 1-inch boundary tokens from Litko Game Accessories. They’ve proved to be extremely useful when marking out areas of effect and whatnot. You get a pack of 16 tokens in four different colors.

Draigdurroch Tower

When the party arrived at the tower, they found it encased from top to bottom in a shimmering cocoon of pure ice. The fading sunlight was reflected in all directions by the angled planes of the frozen barrier. A palpable sensation of bitter cold emanated from the tower.

The tower’s only obvious entrance was a single door at its base, but a foot-thick sheet of solid ice stood in the PCs’ way. Rather than simply having Boojum use one of his fire spells to melt the ice, our heroes decided to chop their way through the frozen barrier. It took a while, but they did it. After clearing their way to the door, the PCs found it was locked. Blake tried to pick the lock with a toothpick, but it broke off in the lock. The shifter next attempted to break down the door, but failed. Gaultis then stepped in and with one mighty blow smashed in the door.

Once the PCs entered the tower, they found that the conditions inside were not much better then those outside, except that the howling wind and driving snow mercifully ceased. The temperature remained below freezing, and a thin layer of frost covered every surface inside the tower. The ice that coated every surface reflected and amplified a strange magic light, so the entire interior of the tower was brightly illuminated.

Boojum was the only member of the party interested in exploring the tower’s first floor, while the others headed straight for the staircases and for the second floor. Boojum’s solo exploration revealed that several of the first floor rooms contained fireplaces that still had frozen blue flames within them. From a couple of the fireplaces, Ice Warrior Shardlings (Level 1 Minion) emerged to attack the pixie.

Meanwhile, Blake was once again charging ahead of the rest of the party, up the stairs and to the second floor. As the impetuous shifter reached the top of the staircase, a featureless elemental creature made entirely of translucent blue ice stomped forward. It wore heavy armor and carried a huge maul-shaped chunk of frozen ice. Behind it, a more slender version of the same creature created long, sharp missiles of ice, ready to throw. Yet another version of the same basic monster, this one wielding a wicked blade of glistening ice, glided across the floor, jagged shards of ice crystallizing out of thin air all around it.

  • 2 Ice Warrior Icicle Hurlers (Level 2 Artillery)

  • 2 Ice Warrior Raiders (Level 2 Soldier)

  • Ice Warrior Frostling (Level 4 Controller)

As Gaultis and Dagon pounded up the staircases to join a battered Blake, Boojum was left to follow along behind as best he could. As I said something about the ice warriors’ resistances and vulnerabilities, the feisty pixie shouted, “Everyone’s vulnerable to Boojum!” Which, of course, just had to make it into the blog.

This turned out to be a difficult battle for the party. Combat ranged across both the first and second floors. At one point, an Icicle Hurler took a special interest in Boojum and pursued the gravely wounded pixie down the stairs. Boojum finally decided enough was enough, whipped out a daily (Slimy Transmutation), and turned the pesky monster into a tiny toad. Despite that moment of humor, midway through the encounter every PC was bloodied and things were looking grim for our heroes, but they persevered and finally overcame the elemental ice monsters.

Once the party caught their breath and could look around, they saw that the entire second level was taken up by a huge laboratory. An alchemical workbench stood against one wall, while another table was covered with bits and pieces of warlock implements. Some crates and barrels containing various magic and alchemical supplies lay scattered about. The bitter cold and the ice that covered every object and surface had ruined most of the supplies and equipment, but Dagon discovered three small ceramic flasks of alchemist’s frost that were still usable.

As they poked around the laboratory, the PCs were puzzled because the tower was clearly at least eight stories high when viewed from outside, but inside there was no obvious way to reach the third floor from the second floor. But then, with the clock rapidly ticking down to closing time at Total Escape Games, Boojum made an important last-minute discovery: The pixie wizard found a section of floor in the southeast corner of the room that he thinks will act like a Tenser’s Floating Disk and take the party up to the next floor of mysterious Draigdurroch Tower.

Tune in next week to find out if Silas finally shows up and to see just what the party will discover as they explore the upper floors of the tower!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mud Monsters, Evil Trees, and Wee Plastic Stands

We met this past Thursday night at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, CO for the second session of our new campaign. No one brought Oreos to this session, so I decided this time the gloves were coming off… and in the course of the night’s action, three different characters bit the dust— unfortunately, all of them were quickly healed.

I’m NOT saying, of course, that my level of bloodthirstiness as a DM is directly linked to whether or not there are oreos at the table. No, of course not.

Anyway, to review the dramatis personae of our story…

  • Gaultis— a goliath warden, played by Chad

  • Silas— an eladrin vampire, played by Drew

  • Boojum— a pixie wizard, played by Steve

  • Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer, played by Robert

  • Blake “the Blade” (because, intelligence-wise, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer)— a razorclaw shifter barbarian, played by Andy

The action at our second session picked up with the PCs following Phystal through the deep, dark forest. After they had freed her from the mysterious affliction that had poisoned her mind, the remorseful elf had agreed to lead our heroes deeper into the woods. Phystal said that whatever malign presence was corrupting the forest and its residents seemed to be located in the sacred grove at the very center of the woods.

Navigating through the forest involved the completion of a skill challenge. When the PCs ventured deeper into the forest and entered a realm of madness and shadow, they were glad to have Phystal’s help since she granted them a +2 bonus to skill checks in the “Enchanted Woods” challenge. As distances stretched, trails shifted, trees moved, and creepy laughter filled the air, the characters found that making their way through the forest was not easy… but they eventually came to a small clearing containing a bog.

As Blake entered the clearing and scanned the immediate surroundings, slight movement across the way revealed a slim form hidden in trees! Our heroes quickly found themselves in a battle with more of the corrupted elves. On the second round of combat, some kind of mud monster rose out of the bog and also attacked the PCs. (As soon as this encounter began, Phystal fled into the forest.)

  • Mud Lasher— medium elemental magical beast (earth, water) (Level 4 Brute)

  • 3 Elf Scouts—medium fey humanoid, elf (Level 2 Skirmisher)
The characters didn’t have a whole lot of trouble taking out the rabid elves, but the mud lasher gave them fits. Before they finally took it out, Gaultis and Silas both went down under its relentless, sludgy assault. Gaultis earned the distinction of rolling the first death saving throw of the campaign.

After combat was over, our heroes didn’t find any loot, but when Dagon made an Arcana check on the mud monster, he discovered that it was an elemental magical beast. Silas then shared with the others that something odd had happened when he used his fey step during the encounter. Instead of finding himself in his fey happy place for a split-second as he teleported, this time he found himself in a spot of earth and rock in chaotic, violent seismic activity. These insights, coupled with their knowledge about the magical curse which had poisoned Phystal’s mind, led the party to suspect that the malign presence corrupting the forest and its denizens might be elemental in origin. Well, at least most of the party suspected this might be the case… Blake was simply thinking about mashed potatoes.

After taking a short rest, the PCs pressed on deeper into the forest. By successfully completing the rest of the skill challenge, the intrepid adventurers found their way through the strange woods and had surprise for the next encounter.

As the party emerged from the malicious woods, they found themselves in a wide clearing littered with ruins. Evil radiated from a large tree (henceforth known as “the evil tree”) with black bark and bare branches that rose from a depression in the clearing’s center. Tangled, thorny vines crept around the evil tree. Swirling mist issued from a dark crevice in the tree’s trunk. Across the clearing, an old monolith stood atop a bare hillock. Strange portals hung in the air around the clearing. (Silas used his action in the surprise round to do an Arcana check on the portals and discovered they’d teleport you to a random location on the map. The PCs never engaged with the monolith, but it actually would’ve let the first PC to touch it regain an encounter power.)

A pale elf warrior suddenly came into view! He was wielding two blades and his face was twisted into a hateful mask. A sleek panther with tufted ears and striped fur stood next to the elf and fixed the party with its baleful eyes.

  • Anise the Chaos Warrior— medium fey humanoid, elf (Level 1 Elite Brute)

  • Fey Panther— medium fey beast

  • 3 Bloodthorn Vines—medium natural beast (plant) (Level 2 Soldier)

  • The Evil Tree—large elemental magical beast (plant) (Level 1 Elite Controller)

  • …when the evil tree used its Blightborn Calling attack, it spawned four Blightborn Twig Blights (Level 1 Minions) in unoccupied squares within a burst 5…

As luck would have it, Boojum (the little so-and-so) used the surprise round to throw out some kind of goshdarn fire spell into the middle of the clearing. Since he could sustain it over several rounds, and since the evil tree was vulnerable 10 to fire, the encounter was over fairly quickly. But not before Gaultis and Blake were both cut down and taking dirt naps. That’ll show ‘em what happens when you don’t bring oreos to the game… er, I mean… Better luck next time, guys!

DM Tip: For these first three encounters I used an adventure published in Dragon 178: “Elves of the Valley” by Robert J. Schwalb. I adapted some elements to fit the story-line I have chosen for our campaign, but otherwise I pretty much stuck to the published adventure.

Once the evil tree was felled, the bloodthorn vines collapsed into piles of regular old normal vines, and Anise and his panther returned to their right minds. The elf was so grateful that he literally gave Blake the shirt off his back (armor of sudden recovery). Anise also gave Boojum two gems (“Oooo, shiny!”).

Meanwhile, Silas searched the corpse of a male human that the party had noticed at the bottom of the depression in the clearing’s center. It looked as though the man had been torn apart by the evil tree. The eladrin vampire found an empty pouch, 30 gp, and then (cue dramatic organ music) he discovered that the man was wearing an amulet with the symbol of Orcus upon it! As a special, super-secret agent of the Raven Queen, Silas is —of course— an avowed enemy of Orcus.

Dagon inspected the tear in the evil tree’s trunk and found some kind of brown crystal embedded there. As he pried it out and inspected it, the genasi realized it’s a shard of pure elemental chaos! Dagon told the others that the unpredictable, primordial power locked into the earth crystal must have been the source of the strange occurences in the Wintermist Forest.

Our heroes also noticed the body of a goblin lying crumpled near the edge of the clearing. As Blake searched the small creature’s corpse, he found a letter. Whatever had killed the goblin (perhaps the bloodthorn vines) had also damaged the letter, but by reading around the torn sections, the party learned several important pieces of information.

  • The letter was written by Thaliost (one of the two surviving members of the Six Hands of Fortune) to Deneith (the other surviving Hand— who had apparently just met his end there in the clearing).

  • After Deneith planted the earth crystal in the clearing, he was supposed to return to “the tower” where Thaliost needed his help attempting a new ritual on an ice crystal.

  • The two surviving members of the Hands were apparently working in league with an ally in The Citadel.

Our heroes were dismayed to find that there was a traitor at The Citadel, but they still decided it’d be best to head back there with the earth crystal and inform Lord Bothwell of all that they had discovered.

As the party was making its way out of the forest and Dagon was telling the others all that he knows about the Elemental Chaos, several men stepped out from behind some trees and surprised our heroes. The men had beards, wore flannel shirts, carried axes, and in general looked like very manly men. Recovering from his surprise, Silas haughtily ordered the men to stand aside, telling them, “We’re on official business for Lord Bothwell.”

The manly men said that if the party was indeed taking Lord Bothwell’s coin, then they were just the ones the men needed to speak to. It turned out the men were woodcutters from the small settlement of Loudwater on the eastern edge of the Wintermist Forest. They asked the PCs to return with them and investigate some terribly unnatural weather (in what should be the hottest part of the summer) affecting Loudwater. When Boojum wanted to know if the unnatural weather had something to do with cold and ice, the woodcutters said, “Why, yes! How did you know?”

Our heroes decided to postpone their return to The Citadel until they had investigated the strange winter weather affecting Loudwater. When they reached the small settlement, they listened to farmers worried about the effect of the freezing weather on their crops. They heard from hunters who had seen strange blue-skinned goblins lurking around the outskirts of the forest. Townsfolk spoke of freak snowstorms occurring in the middle of the day and then vanishing as if they were never there. Everyone agreed that the worst of the odd weather seemed to be centered around an old, abandoned tower north of Loudwater. The locals told our heroes that Draigdurroch Tower was some old wizard’s abode back in days of yore, but it has been abandoned for decades.

When the characters departed Loudwater, there was a pronounced chill in the air. The first few hours of their journey passed uneventfully, but the temperature steadily dropped and a sharp wind carried with it the promise of winter, even though the leaves had not even started their annual autumn change.

More time passed and the map given to the party by the folks of Loudwater indicated that Draigdurroch Tower should’ve only been a few miles away. However, none of the landmarks shown on the map were visible. The horizon was shrouded by a blanket of solid white. Snowflakes began to fall from the steel-gray sky. As our heroes continued on, they were soon caught in the middle of a full-on blizzard. The way ahead was quickly obscured, as was the way they had just come.

Time for another skill challenge!

The party had to use their skills and knowledge to survive the harsh conditions, while also staying on the right path to the tower in the midst of the driving snow. I’m sure you won’t be surprised, dear reader, when I tell you that our heroes claimed victory in the skill challenge and successfully found their way through the storm. Boojum, Gaultis, and Blake each lost a healing surge, but that was the worst of it.

Then, with closing time at Total Escape Games rapidly drawing near, our second session ended with the unnatural storm subsiding and the PCs catching sight of the tower, which was still several miles away. The eerie tower rose out of a landscape covered with snow and ice.

What will our heroes discover next week in our adventure, “Seeds of Chaos,” as they reach the doors of mysterious Draigdurroch Tower?

DM Tip: After reading an article on The Learning DM website, I ordered some of these handy plastic stands from Fantasy Flight Supply and used them with D&D tokens during this session’s two combat encounters. I couldn’t take any photos during the game since the batteries in my camera were dead, but I set up this little scene after I got home and as you can see from the picture, the stands work great with the monster tokens. I’m a big fan of the D&D tokens and use them quite a bit, but my one gripe concerning them was that they lay flat while everything else on the map is upright. These plastic stands solve that problem nicely. As you can see in the pic, we ignored the token’s facing and instead just slipped a red mini poker chip under the stand when the monster was bloodied. If you use tokens in your D&D game, I highly recommend these plastic stands from Fantasy Flight Supply.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Elves, Oreos, and a New Beginning

The start of a D&D campaign is always an exciting time, so I had been looking forward to this past Thursday night’s session when we’d begin a brand new adventure. We’d dove right into our last couple of adventures (Tomb of Horrors and Expedition to Castle Ravenloft) with higher level heroic tier characters, but we decided to start off our new campaign with a party of still-wet-behind-the-ears Level 1 heroes.

After much serious contemplation, metaphysical cogitation, and geeky conceptualizing, the guys decided they’d play:

  • Blake— a razorclaw shifter barbarian, who makes some mean mashed potatoes (Andy).

  • Boojum— a pixie wizard, who enjoys riding around on his fey panther beast companion (Steve).

  • Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer (Robert).

  • Gaultis— a goliath warden (Chad, a new player joining our group).

  • Silas— an eladrin vampire with special ties to the Raven Queen (Drew).

  • I, of course, would continue in my firmly established role of chaotic evil DM.

DM Tip: With Chad joining us for the first time, I was sure to inform him beforehand of a long-standing tradition that whenever a new guy joins our group, he has to bring a package of Double Stuf Oreos to his first session. Okay, so this isn’t exactly a “long-standing tradition” in the sense that we’ve ever had a new guy do it before… but, hey, traditions have to start somewhere, right? (What I didn’t tell Chad is that if he had neglected to bring the oreos, his character would’ve quickly found himself trapped all alone in a dark room with a very angry Level 22 elder red dragon. Chad must have suspected there might be trouble, though, since he brought three packages of oreos with him. Woo hoo! Don’t tell the others, but you are my new favorite player, Chad.)

The Adventure Begins…

Six months ago, Blake, Dagon, Gaultis, and Silas had volunteered for a short stint in the kingdom of Arbroath’s militia. After escorting a high ranking government official to the northern city of Hume, their enlistment was just five days away from expiring. Rather than travel all the way back south to the capital city of Forlindon (a ten day journey) before being discharged, they were given the option to stay in Hume for the last five days of their enlistment and take their discharge from there.

They chose to stay in Hume, so they were told they’d have to do some work with the city guards for those last five days of their enlistment. On their first day of patroling the city streets, the four friends came upon a disturbance that required their attention. Angry shouts and the sound of loud crashes were coming from a shop in the theater district. As they entered the shop, our heroes saw that it looked as if a tornado had torn through it. A pixie, its tiny arms full of costume jewelry, was flitting around in the air, chased by an angry shopkeeper waving a broom. The mischevious fey was squealing, “Ooooo, shiny! So pretty! Shiny, shiny, shiny!”

That was their introduction to Boojum. After calming the shopkeeper and sternly lecturing the apologetic pixie, Blake, Dagon, Gaultis, and Silas continued their assigned patrol, only to find that Boojum had unilaterally attached himself to their party. “I’m a fey, just like you!” he shouted in Silas’ ear as he perched on the unamused eladrin’s shoulder. “Ooooo, you’re a big ‘un!” he cried as he flitted around Gaultis. “Neat hammers! Can I have one?” he asked as he examined the throwing hammers tucked into Blake’s belt. “Like, hey, dude! Surf’s up! Ha ha ha!” he laughed as he circled around Dagon’s head.

Despite—or perhaps because of— the pixie’s continuing childlike antics, our four heroes found themselves accepting Boojum into their tight knit circle over the next four days, as the pixie followed them everywhere they went.

When they weren’t on duty, the party spent quite a bit of time exploring Hume’s offerings in the way of taverns. In several of the taverns, they heard that Lord Falkirk Bothwell of the barony of Newhaven had recently issued a call for adventurers to help with some kind of trouble in his realm. During their time together in the militia, the four comrades-in-arms had discovered that none of them particularly wanted to return to their previous lives after their enlistment was up. In fact, they found that they all shared a thirst for adventure and a desire to make a name for themselves out in the wide world. To that end, the four companions (and their new friend, Boojum— who is always up for some fun and excitement), decided they’d travel north to Newhaven just as soon as their enlistment expired.

That’s how our five heroes came to be walking (well, except for Boojum, who was riding his fey panther named Fred) north along the Trade Road. Along the way, they stayed for a night in the Armoured Duck Inn and met the innkeeper, a dragonborn named Balasar. While at the Armoured Duck, the party found out that Lord Bothwell—a paladin of Bahamut— resided at a fortress called The Citadel, which they would come to as they continued north on the Trade Road. Bothwell, they were told, had captured The Citadel about five years ago from an evil band of adventurers called the Six Hands of Fortune. Bothwell and his companions had slain four of the Hands, but the remaining two had escaped. Our five heroes also learned of rumors that spoke of some kind of recent trouble with the elves up in the Wintermist Forest. Balasar said he could hardly credit such rumors, though, as there had never before been any trouble with the Wintermist elves.

At The Citadel

When the party finally reached The Citadel, they found it to be an imposing stone bastion situated on a commanding hilltop. (I gave each player a map of the The Citadel so they could use it to keep notes on various locations and NPCs, if they so wished. Some of you may recognize the fortress from the D&D website as Restwell Keep or “The Keep on the Chaos Scar.” The website is where got this map.)

After being granted entry into The Citadel, the party was escorted to the inner bailey and into the fortress where Lord Bothwell (who bears a striking resemblance to Sean Connery) met them in the great hall. Bothwell asked the party many questions about their adventuring experience. Garrick Blackoak, the veteran sergeant of the guard, was ready to show the party the door when they confessed their only experience up to that point had been as members of Arbroath’s militia (and Boojum’s greatest feat of arms had been in a ‘war’ with some troublesome squirrels), but Bothwell reminded Blackoak that everyone has to start somewhere. Bothwell said he’d be quite pleased to hire the party to investigate the trouble up in the Wintermist Forest for him, and offered them 150 gp to undertake this quest. Despite the fact that they possessed zero experience as adventurers, Boojum and Silas decided they wanted to haggle a bit, and the pixie ended up convincing Lord Bothwell to increase their fee to 200 gp.

During the conversation, a jolly priest of Avandra had entered the hall and Bothwell introduced him as Halix Breland, a member of his Privy Council. Breland offered to put the party up in the Chapel of Avandra for the night, and Bothwell agreed. During dinner with Breland in the chapel’s living quarters, the party found out some more information about The Citadel. They learned that the two surviving members of the Hands were Thaliost (a male tiefling) and Deneith (a male human), but no one knew where they went after escaping from Bothwell’s attack on The Citadel. The talkative preist said that Beren Kell, Bothwell’s bailiff and another member of the Privy Council, had also served the Hands. “I was a bit surprised Falkirk kept him on since Kell’d served the Hands, but that’s all water under the bridge, as they say,” Breland told them.

When they asked him about the trouble up near the Wintermist Forest, Breland said he had heard the rumors about the elves, but he also could hardly credit such nonsense since there had never before been any difficulty with the Wintermist elves. When Dagon asked the priest if he had anything he could give them that might help them on their quest, the priest gave them a bag of holding that has the symbol of Avandra inscribed on it.

Elves Gone Wild

After traveling northeast from The Citadel for three days, the party came upon the smoldering remains of a farmstead. Dead farm animals littered the fields. A few corpses, some burned, revealed that the attackers were wanton and merciless. Dagon found a potion of healing and 10 sp in the remains of the farmhouse. As Silas examined some of the arrows that were still embedded in the farm family’s bodies, he realized that the arrows were elven in origin. Tracks in the muddy ground led off into the forest.

As the party followed the tracks, black arrows suddenly hissed out from the foliage near a grove of birch, elm, and maples. The PCs found themselves in a vicious battle against four elves and four hunting wolves.

  • Phystal— medium fey humanoid, elf (Level 2 Controller)

  • 3 Blackleaf Snipers— medium fey humanoid, elf (Level 1 Artillery)

  • 4 Hunting Wolves—medium natural beast (Level 2 Minion Skirmisher)

The PCs managed to hold their own against the surprise attack, and then they slowly gained the upper hand as they fought the elves through the thick underbrush and bracken. At the end of the battle, our heroes were able to capture Phystal, the elven war party’s leader. As they searched the bodies of their enemies, the party found 110 gp and an amulet of physical resolve. When no one was looking, Boojum shrunk the amulet down to tiny size and slipped it around his neck.

To learn something from Phystal, the party had to get past the defiance in her soulless black eyes. The party succeeded at the skill challenge that allowed them to interrogate the elf. They learned that the magical curse afflicting Phystal had an elemental origin. A victory in the skill challenge let them lift the curse corrupting Phystal’s mind. When she came to her senses, she warned, “There is evil in the forest, ancient and abominable. It whispers in the darkness, poisoning our minds. Beware, friends, lest you succumb to the same corruption.” After imparting those glad tidings, Phystal offered to lead our heroes to the grove in the center of the forest where the mysterious corruption seems to be originating.

What will our heroes find next week as they follow Phystal deeper into the forest?


DM Tip: To represent the elves in this encounter, I used some plastic Munchkin figures that I picked up quite a while ago at Total Escape Games, my FLGS. These fun plastic minis come in male and female, six to a pack, and each figure is a different color. They’re just the right size to use in a D&D game and so I turn to them them quite a bit to represent humanoid NPCs or monsters, and since each of the six figures is a different color, it makes it easy for me to track damage and whatnot (“The red elf takes six damage.” “The blue elf is slowed.”).

* I neglected to take any photos last Thursday night (even though I had put the camera in my backpack, I just totally spaced on remembering that I had it), but I’ll try to remedy that oversight in our future sessions.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 9: Here's Your Minion, Take Good Care of Him

At the end of Session 8, the PCs were still rarin’ to go, ready to head out to the ruins of Saint Avarthil Monastery and kick Vontarin’s butt. At the start of Session 9: Vontarin’s Wrath, however, they found out that before they could check out the monastery, they’d have to defend Duponde against a force of skeletons unleashed by Vontarin.

Dark Legacy of Evard continues to be a popular season of D&D Encounters at Total Escape Games. We once again had enough players to run two tables. The players at my table ran Arturo (human warpriest), Kyle (human assassin), Nadarr (human knight), and Torinn (dragonborn weapon master).

Picking up right where Session 8 left off, the creeping dread of the Shadowfell held sway over the town of Duponde for a second night. Once again, the shadows were full of unsettling phantoms, sinister presences, and roaming monsters. Our heroes had already dealt with one threat after darkness fell, but dawn was still hours away. Most of the townsfolk were gathered in a few defensible spots like the chapel or the old armory. Since Grimbold’s men were stretched thin, the PCs found themselves helping patrol the town.

Shadow’s Influence

At the beginning of this session, the characters quickly discovered that the townspeople had reached the end of their endurance. Monsters that roam the Shadowfell are trouble enough, but the plane of shadows holds a more insidious peril— pervasive, soul-crushing despair and hopelessness that slowly saps the will of those who are exposed to it. As the hours passed and Duponde sank deeper into the Shadowfell, the malaise slowly deprived every living soul caught in the town of the will to fight on. Over the course of their watch, our heroes came to realize that they had to do something to fight off the creeping despair, both for themselves and for the townspeople around them.

Skill Challenge: Creeping Despair

This was a Level 2 skill challenge with a complexity of 2 (6 successes before 3 failures). The primary skills were Arcana or Thievery (DC 13), Diplomacy (DC 13), Endurance (DC 13; group check), Heal (DC 13), Insight (DC 20), Intimidate (DC 13), and religion (DC 9). As we went around the table and the players performed various actions to rally and inspire the townspeople, they eventually racked up 5 successes and 2 failures. It was Torinn’s turn, so it all came down to what the dragonborn fighter would do… cue the drum roll, please… He used Religion and succeeded! The party claimed victory in the skill challenge, so I gave each player a Duponde Guard (Level 1 Minion) to control during the upcoming fight against the skeletons animated by Vontarin.

Vontarin’s Horde

As our heroes and their guard minions came to the town square after completing another round of their patrol, a cry went up from the direction of the armory. In the distance, the PCs could see bone-white forms surrounding the building.

As the characters and guards hastened to intercept the skeletons before the monsters could attack the townspeople sheltering on the armory’s upper floor, they found themselves battling a Shadow Stalker (Level 3 Lurker), 2 Blazing Skeletons (Level 5 Artillery), and 8 Decrepit Skeletons (Level 1 Skirmisher).

Several decrepit skeletons used their longswords to engage the PCs in melee combat, while a couple of them hung back and attacked from a distance with their shortbows. The blazing skeletons had a good time popping PCs and guards from a distance with their Flame Orb ranged attack. The shadow stalker didn’t enter the fight until the third round, but on his very first attack (Shadow Stalk) he cut down the already bloodied Kyle. By that time, Arturo was inside the armory fighting two decrepit skeletons, so the unconscious and dying assassin was left outside to his own devices. No problem, since on his second death saving throw he rolled a 20!

I’m glad the party succeeded at the skill challenge since I think the players enjoyed having some minions to boss around, although the guards all went down rather quickly (except for Nadarr’s, who hung in there for a good four or five rounds). After our heroes had defeated the skeleton force, they noticed that each decrepit skeleton was dressed in the tattered brown robes of a monk. This discovery simply ramped up the PCs’ desire to head out to Saint Avarthil’s Monastery and hunt down Nathaire/Vontarin.

As our heroes bandaged their wounds and checked on the townspeople sheltering in the armory, daybreak was at hand. Duponde shifted from the Shadowfell back into the world. However, the characters noticed that the town’s return to the world seemed sluggish, as though the Shadowfell was clinging to Duponde. Uh oh.

* * Note: At the conclusion of this encounter, everyone gets to take an extended rest. And if the character was present for all 9 sessions, they can advance to level 3.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 8: Attack of the Twigs

During the previous two sessions, the characters explored Vontarin’s old mansion, but they failed to find Nathaire/Vontarin. Here in Session 8 of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard, the town of Duponde again slips into the Shadowfell at sundown, and the party faces another Decision point in the adventure. Do they guard the people of Duponde sheltering at the armory, or do they seek out the mysterious black-hooded creature that Marshal Grimbold’s guards failed to catch?

For Session 8: Darkness Returns, the players at my table at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, CO ran Arturo (human warpriest), Brandis (human paladin), Enzio (human assassin), Kyle (changeling mage), and Silas (drow vampire). After returning to Duponde, the characters could see that the locals had spent the day fortifying the town. Duponde was full of unsettling rumors of dark apparations, half-glimpsed monsters, and more. Most of the townspeople were gathering in the chapel or the armory for protection as dusk approaches.

At sunset, the PCs felt the same strange sensation they experienced the previous night. The air grew chill and an atmosphere of dread descended over the town as Duponde once more slipped into the Shadowfell.

Shortly after darkness fell, Grimbold came to speak with the party. “I heard that you went to see Mother Grivelda,” he said. “What did she tell you? Did you have any luck tracking down our missing mage?” Grimbold listened closely to all that the characters told him about their time at Mother Grivelda’s house and about their fight with the tiefling bandits at Vontarin’s old mansion.

When the PCs finished their story, Grimbold said, “I won’t lie— I think we’ll need your help again tonight. If you could guard the armory, Duponde would be further in your debt. But it also seems that catching this Nathaire fool is vital, too.” After thinking for a moment, he added, “Just before sunset, my guards saw a small humanoid in a black hood skulking near the south gate. They lost him in the alleys nearby. I don’t know if it was Nathaire, but it could be worth checking.”

The party voted and (almost) unanimously chose to check out the mysterious skulker in the black hood (Kyle wanted to have the rest of the party check out the skulker while he went to the armory to boss around the townspeople gathered there), so Grimbold provided directions to the part of town where the guards saw the dark figure. After that, the harried marshal took his leave and headed to see to the town’s defenses.

Following Grimbold’s directions, our heroes searched the quarter of the town by the south gate. Much of that area was derelict even in the natural world. In the Shadowfell, it took on an aura of desolation and brooding malevolence. Empty houses seemed to watch the party through broken black windows. Thick, thorny vines choked the walls of rundown buildings and rustled with stealthy movements. As the PCs advanced, Silas saw a dark figure watching them from a nearby window. It quickly ducked back out of sight.

<>Note: This encounter was supposed to take place on the same map that was used in Session 5 for Mother Grivelda’s house, but instead of just reusing that map, I dug out one of the maps from the D&D Essentials Dungeon Master’s Kit.

As the PCs advanced toward the house where Silas saw the dark figure, they realized that their opponent was a Shadow Bolter (Level 5 Artillery), like the one they had faced in Session 3: Streets of Shadow. The shadow bolter remained in the house, peppering the PCs outside with its black bolt attack. When Silas rushed the house and confronted the shadow bolter, it switched to its dagger for melee combat.

Meanwhile, outside the house, the rest of the party had been ambushed by 3 Twig Blights (Level 3 Soldier) and 4 Twig Blight Seedlings (Level 1 Minion Skirmisher). With Silas cut off in the house and the rest of the party strung out across the map, each character soon found himself engaged in his own separate battle. The swampvines used their vine snare power to good effect, grabbing both Arturo and Brandis and dragging them off toward the edge of the map. Enzio went down in Round 2 after being hit hard by the shadow bolter’s black bolt attacks and then by a couple of swampvines’ claw attacks. (After being down for a couple of rounds, the unconscious and dying assassin was healed by Arturo and was able to get back into the fight. It’s always nice to have a cleric in the party.) Seeing the carnage unfolding around him, Kyle attempted to sidestep the danger by changing into an attractive female twig blight swampvine. His ruse worked only too well, though, since he attracted a bit too much attention from a couple of seedlings who followed him around behind a cottage and then suddenly saw through his disguise and attacked him.

With all of the separate, individual skirmishes going on across the map, it was difficult for our heroes to come together and focus their attacks. As a result of spreading out their attacks on multiple monsters rather than focusing their fire, this fight lasted a wicked loooong time. Eventually, though, the PCs triumphed. They captured the shadow bolter and Silas was able to interrogate it and find out that the dark one was a spy for Vontarin. It told the PCs that Nathaire/Vontarin was searching the ruins of Saint Avarthil Monastery outside of town, and that the mage planned to send an army of skeletons against Duponde soon that very night. Uh oh.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

DarK Legacy of Evard, Session 7: Look out! More tieflings!

Session 7: Vontarin’s Cellars of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard began with the PCs assembled on the stairs leading down to the cellar from the trapdoor in the mansion’s banquet hall. In Session 6, our heroes followed the advice of Mother Grivelda and searched for clues to Nathaire’s whereabouts by heading to Vontarin’s long-abandoned manor. They discovered that the forgotten house was home to a band of tiefling bandits who welcomed no visitors.

Below the trapdoor in the floor of the banquet hall, a steep, narrow stairway descended 20 feet from the trapdoor to a dank passageway of gray-green brick. When a blast of fire scorched the first couple of characters going down the steps, the party realized that Vontarin had used an imp statue as a magic trap to guard the entrance to his secret sanctum. The PCs had missed finding the password upstairs, but a successful Arcana check allowed them to pass through the trap unharmed for five minutes.

At the bottom of the stairway, the party found the Cistern Room— a chamber with three large pits yawning in the floor. The pits were once cisterns used to store water collected from catchments in the manor’s roof. Fire destroyed those catchments as it ravaged the upper floors years ago, and the cisterns had run dry. Barrels, sacks, and crates of different sorts were heaped at the west end of the room, next to iron double doors.

The iron doors were unlocked and opened easily. Beyond the doors was a Misty Hallway that was formerly another one of Vontarin’s traps. The old enchantments had dissipated, but the hallway was still filled with a thick, purple mist hanging eerily in place. The mist was harmless, but it scared the group and it was several rounds before they all mustered up the courage to dash through it. Past the purple mist, large iron double doors led to the north and to the east. Judging by the brackets and rusted chains discarded in the corner, our heroes could tell that the set of doors to the north were chained up at some point. A broken bronze seal that secured the chain in place remained among the links. Glyphs and a stylized sun symbol adorned the seal. A successful Religion check allowed the party to realize that the seal— which looked aged but recently broken— was intended to avert evil. It was a prayer to Pelor.

The characters decided to open the set of doors to the north. The doors opened onto the Vontarin family crypt. Two impressive stone sarcophagi stood in the center of the room. Rows of old bronze plaques lined the walls, marking the locations of additional tombs. Along one side of the room were several bedrolls. Apparently, the tiefling bandits thought nothing of sleeping in a creepy old crypt and they had made the room into a barracks. Gathered in the crypt were 4 Fell Court ruffians, 1 Fell Court blackheart, and Harrumor the Fell Court hellmage. (For more information on the Fell Court, see pages 48-51 of Monster Vault: Threats to the Nentir Vale)

Once most of the PCs were engaged with the tieflings in the crypt, a reinforcing group of bandits threw open the large iron double doors to the east and attacked. Group 2 consisted of 4 ruffians and 1 blackheart. The tieflings in the reinforcing group had been waiting in the Menagerie. That cage-filled room was where Vontarin kept interesting creatures he intended to study.

After our heroes had dispatched the ruffians and blackhearts in the crypt and in the menagerie, they got down to the business of interrogating Harrumor, whom they had captured toward the end of the fight. The interrogation took place in Vontarin’s Workroom, which the tielfing hellmage had chosen as his own when the gang settled on the manor as their hideout. Bookshelves, worktables for alchemical instruments, and cupboards full of glassware still indicated that the room had once been the laboratory of a wizard. A good deal of the material was missing— the shelves were mostly empty and much of the glassware was broken. Complex arcane sigils inscribed on the walls had been deliberately damaged with a hammer and chisel at some point, leaving small piles of stone chips beneath each one. Judging by the dust on the shelves and glass, the place was cleaned out a long time ago.

Successfully interrogating the surly hellmage allowed the adventurers to find out that a wizard (presumably Nathaire/Vontarin) had entered the mansion earlier and forced his way toward the workroom. The tieflings tried to fight him, but he was too powerful. Harrumor said that the wizard acted as if he was possessed by some foul spirit. Before they fled from the basement, one of the tieflings managed to glimpse the wizard searching the laboratory. The wizard seemed furious that so much was missing. Harrumor told the PCs that the gang did not see the wizard leave the basement, but when dawn came, he was gone.

After executing Harrumor (no one wanted to be responsible for an angry tiefling hellmage prisoner) and finishing exploring the cellars, the party realized it was getting late in the day. Having exhausted the leads available in Vontarin’s mansion, they decided to return to Duponde before nightfall.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Tomb of Horrors, Session 10: "Are You Acererak?"

Knowing that desperate times call for desperate measures, Kurson ran toward the jeweled skull and launched himself into the air. A successful Athletics check allowed the deva invoker to jump high enough to reach the skull, which was floating in midair ten feet above the floor. If he could just grab the blasted thing, they could stuff it in their handy haversack and see what happened. Unfortunately, Kurson failed on his grab attack (Strength vs. Reflex, and the Acererak construct’s reflex was 26). As the deva landed empty-handed, the skull slowly turned toward him and then its blood-red ruby eyes glowed with terrible power as it blasted Kurson with its Drain Soul attack power (+18 vs. Fortitude; when a victim of the drain soul attack fails its second saving throw, the victim’s soul is trapped in one of the construct’s soul gems).

Session 10 of our Tomb of Horrors adventure took place this past Thursday night at Total Escape Games. By this last session of play, Acererak’s tricks & traps and the Tomb’s various monster guardians had all taken a fearsome toll on the party and everyone was on their second or third characters. The final version of the adventuring party would consist of Adaka (githzerai shaman), Drek (drow ranger), “Jeff” (drow warlock), and Kurson (deva invoker).

Session 9 actually ended with the party exploring beyond the False Treasure Room (where they fought the efreet urn slaves) and discovering a section of passageway that led to a large, empty chamber. The PCs found that two portals on the far wall of the chamber could not be activated, no matter what they tried. Literally finding themselves trapped between a rock and hard place (the stone plug beneath the statue in the False Treasure Room had closed behind them), Jeff suggested they try using his Hand of Fate ritual. As the warlock performed the ritual, a translucent blue hand appeared and, with a gesture, it “answered” the PCs three questions about possible courses of action in finding Acererak. The Hand of Fate’s answers allowed our heroes to discover a secret door that opened onto a small, empty room. Upon closer examination, they found a single hidden keyhole that was set at the center of the room’s far wall.

Jeff had his devil lackey insert Key #1 (from the Ruined Laboratory) into the keyhole. With a rumble, the entire wall sank down into the floor, revealing a burial vault whose arched ceiling rose 25 feet overhead. The room appeared to be empty of everything but dust. Upon closer examination, though, Drek found another hidden keyhole beneath a thin layer of painted plaster in the center of the room. Jeff again had his devil lackey try Key #1, but this resulted in the lackey being blown 20 feet into the air (2d6 necrotic and radiant damage), then taking falling damage as normal (2d10 damage). After that, Mr. Lackey could safely insert Key #2 (from the staircase outside the Mithral Gates). Inserting that key and turning it to the right more than once caused the floor of the empty crypt to begin to slowly rise. Once the floor began to rise, each character in the room had one action with which to leave. Everyone was able to skeedaddle safely out of the room just before the slowly rising floor suddenly slammed upward at high speed.

A new wall of gleaming mithral stood where the old wall had sunk down. A door was set in the wall, and an inset ring hung at its center. As depicted in the photo you see above, after Adaka (with assists from Drek and Jeff) rolled a sufficient Strength check to open the door, the party found that the true crypt had risen from beneath the floor. A stone dais on the far side of the chamber holds a jeweled skull that sat amid bone shards and dust. Its eyes were blood-red rubies, and its teeth were set with diamonds. (I used a little Lego Stormtrooper helmet to represent the Acererak construct.) Treasure lay scattered across the floor of the crypt. There were many gems, as well as a couple of magic items and several potions or elixirs.

After everyone eventually (cautiously) entered the chamber, there was much eyeballing of the various treasure items, especially the potions and elixirs. They also thoroughly checked the small room for secret doors. An Aracana check on the skull didn’t tell them very much. Finally, Adaka decided he would pick up two of the potions. As he did so, dust swirled on the far side of the crypt as the jeweled skull ominously rose into the air. Slowly, it turned from side to side, as if appraising the members of the party, and then it attacked!

The Acererak construct used its drain soul power as often as it could (recharge on 5 or 6, and it could use it in the crypt even if it hadn’t recharged). On the initial hit, the target was dazed and restrained (save ended both). After that, on the first failed saving throw, the target was instead stunned and restrained (save ended both). With the target’s second failed saving throw, they died and their soul was trapped in one of the skull’s soul gems. The soul’s former body crumbled into dust at the end of their next turn.

Each round at the start of the construct’s turn, I was supposed to roll a d6 to determine if teleportation magic moved the fight to another chamber in the Tomb. That sounded like a huge pain to me, but I went ahead and did it. As you can see from the photos that accompany this post, the fight eventually moved from the crypt to the Chamber of Mists to the False Treasure Room to the Chapel of Evil and then back to the crypt, where it remained for the duration of the encounter after the skull was bloodied.

Adaka ended up being the only PC to succumb to the construct’s nasty drain soul power. Korsun was hit with it a whopping four times, but he managed to succeed on his first saving throw each and every time he was hit. Wanting to spread around the love, I made certain that Drek and Jeff were also hit, but they too managed to succeed on their saving throws.

I reduced the Acererak Construct’s hit point total to reflect the four member adventuring party, but otherwise I chose not to mess around with its stats. In the midst of the encounter, I also made a decision not to use its consume soul power (as a minor action, the construct could expend a consumed soul to regain a quarter of its hit points). I made that decision for a couple of reasons. One, even without using the power, the encounter was proving to be difficult enough for the party… and since I had already racked up a TPK previously (see the post on Session 9), I didn’t feel the need to annihilate everyone in this fight. Second, I wanted to leave open the possibility that Adaka’s trapped soul could be rescued at the end of the encounter. Anyway, even with reducing the construct’s hit point total and not using consume soul, the fight still lasted an astounding sixteen rounds.

At one point during the encounter, Drek’s player was questioning whether they were really in the midst of the big boss fight or if it was simply another example of Acererak yanking their chain, so he decided to use a free action to ask the skull, “Are you Acererak?” Hence the title of this post. The skull didn’t answer, but after the fight I told the players that the skull construct wasn’t really Acererak. As a demilich, Acererak’s soul now resides on another plane of existence where he nurtures an insidious plan to make himself into a god. Acererak built the Tomb of Horrors as an altar where countless adventurers would sacrifice themselves for his purposes. Each group of adventurers destroyed in the Tomb would generate spiritual energy, which the demilich could siphon to a hidden phylactery in preparation for turning himself into a deity.

Although they ultimately failed to break Acererak’s power, as Drek, Jeff, and Kurson defeated the powerful construct and left the Tomb (toting a soul gem that glowed with an inner light, revealing an image of a tiny figure inside it), they could take satisfaction in the fact that word of their accomplishment in surviving the infamous Tomb of Horrors will spread into the wider world and garner them lasting fame.

“This ends the expedition to The Tomb of Horrors. We hope you and your players will have found it exciting, challenging, and rewarding.”

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 6: Look Out! Tieflings!

Session 6: Vontarin’s House of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard started off with the PCs following Mother Grivelda’s advice and heading for Vontarin’s long-abandoned home about a mile southwest of Duponde. They need to find Vontarin’s restless ghost (now possessing the young wizard, Nathaire) and put it to rest again. Valkan, Mother Grivelda’s grandson, was happy to lead the party directly to Vontarin’s old manor house, but the Vistani boy was unwilling to venture into the manor grounds. Valkan’s caution was prudent since the PCs would find that Vontarin’s home had been taken over by a murderous gang of tiefling cutthroats who were using it as their secret hideout. The tieflings have been preying on barge traffic on the nearby White River, waylaying the occasional traveler on the road to Duponde, and pilfering from the town’s warehouses and stores. Townsfolk knew that the bandits were lurking nearby but had no idea who they were or where they were hiding.

We had two full tables again at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, CO for Wednesday night’s session. Erik W was a real trouper for showing up to DM the second table even though he’d just had his wisdom teeth removed the day before. The six players at my table ran Arturo (human warpriest), Brandis (human paladin), Dude the Barbarian, Jarren (human wizard), Silas (drow vampire), and Torrin (dragonborn fighter). Jarren and Torrin were run by new players at their first Dark Legacy of Evard session.

Valkan, following an old cart track, led our heroes into the countryside outside of Duponde. After a mile or so, he turned onto a long, tree-lined lane that wound through the thickets on a small hill and finally ended in a cobblestone court before a ruined mansion. It was at that point that Valkan wished our heroes good luck and then returned to his grandmother’s house.

The party stood in the courtyard near a large fountain whose waters were black and slimy. Studying the mansion from that spot, they could see that the old building’s upper story showed signs of fire damage, and most of the roof had collapsed at some time in the past. Small gargoyles and elegant cornices leaned at crooked angles. Thick ivy covered the walls and grew over what was left of the roof. Heavy shutters covered the ground floor windows. A large front door faced the fountain and courtyard, and a smaller door to the right led into the side of the ruined mansion. Succeeding on a Perception check, Silas caught a faint whiff of wood smoke in the air. He then noticed that a very thin stream of smoke was coming out of the chimney around the side of the house. He also saw that the path leading up to the mansion was well trodden, by both humanoids and beasts.

After sizing up the outside of the place, the party split almost immediately. After helping Brandis and Silas break down the side door, Arturo went back out to the front door and joined Jarren and Torrin there. Dude the Barbarian went through the side door with the paladin and vampire.

Torrin blazed the way for the front door crew, barreling through the doorway only to be brought up short when two crested felldrakes charged and attacked him. Two tiefling Fell Court ruffians had also taken up defensive positions inside the manor’s grand foyer. After Torrin charged through the front door, the dragonborn took a lot of damage throughout the course of the encounter—mostly because no one else followed him into the house. Torrin’s player (a new player) was heard to say “I don’t want to die!” a few times. Luckily for Torrin, Arturo could stand outside the doorway and shoot healing in to him. It’s always nice to have a cleric in the party.

Over at the side door, Silas, Brandis, and Dude the Barbarian were battling in the kitchen with a hissing felldrake, the tiefling Fell Court underboss, and two tiefling ruffians. (The encounter set up only called for three ruffians, but since this was a strong party with six characters, I added another ruffian to the monster mix.) Brandis got pretty beat up as the monsters all seemed to take quite a shine to him.

In the end, though, despite splitting the party, our heroes prevailed and defeated the tieflings and drakes. After the fight was over, the PCs searched the old mansion. In the back of the house, they found a large room that must have been a grand dining room back in its day. An old table and chairs stood near a large heap of provisions in sacks, barrels, crates, and other containers. Those goods were new and bore the markings of various trading posts and provisioning companies from the area. And then, close to the large heap of stolen goods, the PCs discovered a trapdoor in the floor! Pulling up the trapdoor, they found that it revealed a staircase leading down to the old mansions’ cellars. The party was chomping at the bit to head down the staircase, but I told them that would have to wait for next week’s session.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tomb of Horrors, Session 9: The One with the TPK

Since many of you have been waiting with bated breath to find out what happened to our heroes in the Pillared Throne Room, let’s cut right to the chase: No one walked out of there alive, dear readers. Zerbitt attempted to escape the Chamber of Hopelessness by nimbly tumbling, dodging, and weaving his way through the Cursed Armory, but the thief was quickly cut down by the slashing swords and battering shields that flew off the walls and attacked him. Back out in the huge throne room, Laramie and Marrak both eventually succumbed to the mummy crypt master’s relentless rotting slam (double attack) and stunning strike attacks.

After having to miss a week of play because of an unavoidable work obligation on my part, we returned to our Tomb of Horrors adventure this past Thursday evening with the surviving characters in a tight spot. Going into Session #9, I really debated with myself about whether to throw the PCs a rope, especially Zerbitt and Marrak since they were the only two surviving original members of the party. But in the end, I decided to show no mercy. In previous encounters, I had cut them some slack, but before going into the Pillared Throne Room a couple of weeks ago, I had made a resolution to not do that any longer and instead let the chips fall where they may. This— I told myself— is the dread and legendary Tomb of Horrors, after all.

Still, this past Thursday night was my first TPK as a DM and I did feel kind of badly about it. From sitting on the other side of the screen, I know what it’s like to be a player and get attached to your character, so my first TPK isn’t something I approached lightly. But still, I only felt kind of badly about it… This is the dread and legendary Tomb of Horrors, after all, and not a Sunday School picnic.

So after the bodies were cleared away and the blood was cleaned up, I let the guys start over there in the Pillared Throne Room with four new characters. I told them they could think of the huge chamber as their last save point. Their new characters were Adaka (githzerai shaman), Drek (drow ranger), Jeff (drow warlock), and Kurson (deva invoker). Jeff’s character sheet looked suspiciously like Elric’s, but you didn’t hear it from me.

This iteration of the party had an easier time passing beyond the Pillared Throne Room since they quickly homed in on the throne as the key to the exit. When Jeff touched the silver knob on the scepter to the front of the throne where a replica of the crown was inlaid in silver, the throne sank down and revealed a hidden 5-foot-wide passageway leading south.

Mithral Gates

Making their way through the hidden passageway, the party found that a wide landing opened up ahead of them. The landing’s walls and ceiling were untarnished silver and copper, inlaid with ivory. A rising staircase was carved of multicolored semiprecious stone, and two massive mithral gates stood closed above it. Upon the fourth step was a large, cylindrical bronze key. Upon closer examination of the mithral gates, they saw that where the gates met, a hemispherical cavity with a hole at its center was set at waist height.

After picking up the bronze key on the steps, the party decided it would just be a little too convenient for it to be the key that opened the gates. Then Adaka noticed that the hemispherical cavity looked like it would be a perfect fit for the scepter from the Pillared Throne Room. Sure enough, when the gold ball on the scepter was placed within the cavity, the mithral gates swung silently open.

False Treasure Room

Through the open gates, the party could see an imposing chamber. A ceiling of untarnished silver rose above the polished stone floor. The room’s ivory walls were inlaid with gold. Across the way, two iron chests stood to either side of a granite sarcophagus graven with ancient glyphs. A thin stream of smoke rose from a large brass urn set with filigreed gold. In all four corners stand 9-foot-tall statues of fierce demonic warriors cast in black iron, and their fearsome weapons were raised. As the PCs cautiously edged into the chamber, Kurson was able to read some of the ancient glyphs on the sarcophagus. The glyphs across the front of the sarcophagus spelled “ACERERAK”!

The PCs spent quite a bit of time examining everything in the chamber. They decided that Acererak was either in the urn (huh?) or in the sarcophagus, so Drek’s player suggested rolling a die and on an odd number the party would remove the brass topper from the urn, while on an even number they’d open the sarcophagus. Everyone agreed, so he rolled a die and it came up a 1. Now as you know, dear reader, a 1 is always the absolute worst result you can ever roll in 4e D&D, so you’re probably as surprised as I was that— rather than roll again— they still went through with the plan and took the topper off the urn. Ah, well, I had been patiently waiting ten weeks to scare the crap out of them with the cool Efreet Fireblade minis I had purchased just for this encounter, so when they went for the urn, it was fine with me.

As they removed the brass stopper from the urn, it shuddered as two large humanoid forms burst from the top— efreet warrior slaves, howling in murderous rage. Once I explained to them that the appearance of the fierce efreets was part of a skill challenge that involved the party attempting to disrupt the urn’s summoning magic (either through Arcana, Athletics, or Thievery), it was a round or two before anyone actually attacked the monsters. When someone hit an efreet and the party found out it was “just” a minion, a massive sigh of relief could be heard. Adaka, Drek, and Jeff focused on taking down the efreets, while Kurson did Arcana checks on the urn to disrupt its summoning magic. They racked up an impressive number of successes that way, but also a couple of failures, so it came to the point where the next success or failure would determine the outcome of the skill challenge. Kurson arcana’d it up once again and rolled with good results, so the urn cracked and collapsed.

After that, this current version of the party proved that it has just as much trouble opening sacrophagi as the previous version of the party had opening doors. Drek tried to open the sarcophagus and failed, so then all four of them tried to open it with simultaneous Strength checks. And they failed three times. Giving up on the sarcophagus (at least for the moment), Drek turned his attention to the chests. He opened the first one with no problem, but he fumbled the check on the second one so a poison needle jabbed him and he took ongoing 5 poison damage (save ends). And then, quite amazingly, he didn’t save for five rounds! Wow. Anyway, he ended up getting both chests open and found an impressive amount of loot.

After they took a short rest, the party was ready to tackle the sarcophagus again. And again they failed with the simultaneous Strength checks. I let Kurson try to blast it with some invoker-thingy, but nothing happened. So again they tried the Strength checks… and succeeded! Okay, not really, but I had pity on them and there was nothing important in there anyway, so I let them open it on their fifth try. Inside the sarcophagus were bones, ruined jewelry, a broken staff, and a shattered skull. And there was nothing magical or particularly remarkable about any of it. Bummer.

After much searching for secret doors, skull punting, standing in the sarcophagus, and frustration, they finally figured out that the iron statues could move. Of course, it was the last statue they tried that was the one with the ring pull underneath it. The ring pull raised a small plug of stone, and under the plug was a narrow chute that dropped 10 feet down to a corridor to the west.

What will happen as Tomb of Horrors adventuring party #2 explores the corridor to the west? Will Adaka, Drek, “Jeff”, and Kurson succeed in finally coming to grips with and defeating Acererak, or will they be destroyed like those who came before them?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dark Legacy of Evard, Session 5: "No soup for you!"

Session 5: Vistani marked the beginning of the second chapter of D&D Encounters: Dark Legacy of Evard. In the previous week’s session, the characters made their way to Duponde’s graveyard and battled restless undead. They discovered that Evard’s Tomb had been opened, but the skeleton was still in its coffin. No sign of Nathaire could be found, but it was clear to our heroes that Duponde’s current Shadowfell-troubles began when the scholar triggered some kind of magic trap at the pillaged tomb.

For Session 5 at Total Escape Games, the players at my table ran Arturo (human warpriest), Brandis (human paladin), Eldan (elf necromancer), Enzio III (human assassion), Roth (dragonborn blackguard), and Traytin (elf fighter). Between Sessions 4 and 5, the party took an extended rest, so everyone started this off this week with full hit points and healing surges, as well as 1 action point and access to his daily powers. They were locked and loaded, and ready to rock and roll.

After their battle with the undead in Duponde’s cemetery, our heroes saw the first rays of dawn begin to glow dimly in the east. Suddenly, they experienced the same dizzying jolt they felt hours ago at the Old Owl Inn. After a moment, the feeling passed and they noticed that the world seemed brighter, colors had returned, and the oppressive dread they’d felt all night had faded away. Duponde seemed to be returning to the normal world!

With the arrival of dawn, Duponde had indeed shifted back from the Shadowfell to the world. The question is how long the respite might last, and whether the PCs can unravel the mystery of what happened at Evard’s Tomb. Eldan, not surprisingly, wanted to entirely bypass solving the mystery. He proposed instead that the party take the golden holy symbol that Brother Zelan had given them, sell it, and then use the proceeds to move the inhabitants of Duponde to a new location that wouldn’t have these bothersome Shadowfell-troubles. Not a bad idea, but if I let them do that, I’m not sure what we’d do for the next 8 Wednesday nights, so I told him we better just play out the adventure like Wizards of the Coast had written it.

Nathaire’s Journal

During their extended rest at the Chapel of Peace, the characters managed to decipher Nathaire’s journal. It took hours to work out the difficult arcane lore, cryptic symbols, and the tricky code the scholar had created to protect his notes from snooping eyes. Successfully reading the journal, though, allowed the party to learn:

  • Nathaire is a talented wizard and a student of umbral (shadow) magic.

  • He is extremely ambitious and impatient, seeking shortcuts to true power.

  • He has created a ritual he intended to use to summon the soul of a dead spellcaster so that he can drain it of arcane energy, storing the stolen power in an orb or similar vessel.

  • Nathaire has been searching for Evard’s Tomb because Evard is famed as the discoverer of shadow magic. Nathaire dreams of making himself just as powerful as Evard was.

Valkan’s Summons

Shortly after the characters finished their extended rest, a human boy named Valkan came to them to deliver a message. He bowed to them and said, “Forgive me for troubling you, masters. I am Valkan of the Vistani. My grandmother told me to tell you that you must come to her house today, before the night falls again. She peers into the unseen world, and she says that you must know what she sees. I can take you.”

With a successful History check, Eldan recalled that the Vistani are a clannish people who are known as rovers, mystics, and troublemakers. They’re said to travel into the Shadowfell from time to time. The characters were a bit reticent about following Valkan, but Brother Zelan suggested it might be wise to hear what the elderly soothsayer had to say. The priest didn’t fully trust the Vistani woman, but he knew of Grivelda’s reputation as a seer of that which is hidden.

Mother Grivelda’s House

Valkan led our heroes along the road south from Duponde into the countryside. After a walk of a mile or so, he turned down a lane leading to a lonely farmhouse that had a large, painted wagon parked in its fenced yard. He showed the characters to the house’s front door and knocked once before going inside.

“Grandmother, I have brought them,” he called.

Through the open door, the PCs saw an old woman in a colorful shawl sitting by a fire. “Good, Valkan, very good,” she answered. “Be a good boy and put the teapot on the fire for me. Our visitors and I have much to talk about.”

She waited for the party to enter, and then gave them a chilling smile. “Now, sweeties, answer my riddle: Who is buried in Evard’s Tomb?”

In the discussion that followed, Grivelda shared that she knows that Evard was the one who survived the wizards’ duel fifty years ago. Evard disguised Vontarin’s body so that the priests from the monastery who discovered it would think that Evard was the one who had been killed in the duel. Clever and cunning Evard did this so that his many enemies would believe he was dead. Grivelda has no idea where Evard is now or whether he is still alive. However, her gift of second sight has shown her that Vontarin’s ghost possessed Nathaire when the rash scholar disturbed the tomb.

Mother Grivelda said that what Nathaire put wrong must be set right. She told our heroes that because of Evard’s curse Duponde will again fall into shadow at each sunset, and there it will stay until sunup comes again. For a few days and nights, it will stay like that, but soon Duponde will not return from the dark side. Grivelda said the characters must find Nathaire and wrest Vontarin’s soul from within him, quieting Evard’s curse in doing so. She suggested the party begin by looking in Vontarin’s abandoned manor.

When she asked if there was anything else she could help them with, Eldan asked if she had any of the Vistani’s famous cabbage soup. The old woman looked surprised and said, “You know of our cabbage soup?!?” Before anything more could be said, though, a bone chilling howl arose just outside.

Howling Wolves

Three lean wolves bounded through the trees outside Mother Grivelda’s house. Alongside the beasts were two humanoid wolf-creatures with long claws, running swiftly on their hind legs. Drawn to the outskirts of Duponde by the dark curse that has settled over the town, a pair of werewolves and their pack of gray wolves were on the hunt!

By an odd coincidence, just a few moments after we got to this part of the session, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon began to play on the radio in Total Escape. Weird, huh?

Okay, so anyway, at the beginning of the fight I had a Leeching Shadow creep in through the back window of the farmhouse and attack Brandis. There was actually no leeching shadow in the encounter as written, but I’ve grown quite fond of the critters over the course of the adventure and so I used my DM’s prerogative to insert one into the fight. It missed Brandis anyway and was promptly killed by Arturo, I think.

Since there were six players, I also added a second Frenzied Werewolf to the monster mix. The two werewolves had an at-will power called lycanthrope fury that allowed them to use both their claw and bite attacks, but at the expense of taking 5 damage. The tactics sections of the encounter material said that the werewolves ought to use this “power recklessly,” so I had them use it every round. Hey, you only live once. Well, unless a necromancer gets a hold of you, of course. Whenever a character was hit by a bite attack, he took 1d8+5 damage and at the end of the encounter he had to make a saving throw. On a failure, he contracted werewolf moon frenzy (stage 1). Brandis, Enzio, and Roth all got hit by bite attacks, so they had to make their saving throws once the fight was over. Brandis and Roth both failed their saves, so they found themselves experiencing the fever which every adventurer knows is the start of werewolf moon frenzy. (In stage 1 of the disease, the character takes a -2 penalty to Will. At the end of the party’s next extended rest, Brandis and Roth will need to make Endurance checks to see if they recover or if the frenzy progresses to stage 2.)

Once the fight started, Grivelda grabbed Valkan and her broomstick, thumped her broom on the floor, and magically jumped into the rafters of the house with the boy. Eldan once again threatened innocent bystanders (during Session 3’s encounter, he set the townspeople’s house on fire when they wouldn’t let him come into their home so that he could escape the dusk beast that was stalking him) when he cursed Grivelda and told her that if she was a magic user, she ought to be down on the ground zapping wolves. The old woman gave Eldan a dirty look and snapped, “You’re the big hero, you take care of it.” Once the fight was over, Grivelda came down from the rafters and passed out healing potions to everyone… everyone except Eldan, that is. All she gave him was another dirty look and said, “No soup for you!” She also retrieved a bundle from beneath loose boards in the kitchen floor and gave Brandis a +1 vicious longsword.

With Mother Grivelda’s advice to guide them, the characters have a daunting task ahead. They need to find Nathaire and put Vontarin’s ghost to rest again. Since they have few other leads at this point, next week they’ll check out Vontarin’s old manor house.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Tomb of Horrors, Session 8: The Waste Matter Hits the Fan

As Jack turned to make her way toward the dais, she reached out to touch one of the columns that filled the throne room. Scores of the massive columns, each carved of colorful pastel stone, supported the ceiling of the huge chamber. As soon as Jack’s fingers came into contact with the pillar, she started to float quickly upward toward the ceiling 20 feet above. The columns in the throne room were actually Pillars of Levitation! Jack found herself helplessly bouncing along the ceiling, heading directly for the mosaic of the green devil face in the chamber’s northwest corner. She desperately reached out to try and grab onto one of the other pillars, but she found that a sinister magic imbued the columns and ceiling with an icy slickness. Laramie, seeing his floating comrade’s predicament, ran below Jack and attempted to throw her a rope, but the well intentioned druid rolled a 1 on his Acrobatics check. Doh! Zerbitt, rapidly positioning himself below the green devil face, held up his 10-foot pole so that Jack could grab onto it, but by that time the magical breeze propelling Jack was too strong to be resisted. Zerbitt and Laramie watched helplessly as Jack was sucked into the devil’s mouth and disappeared from sight. Uh oh.

As you’ll recall, at the end of Session #7 of our Tomb of Horrors adventure we left our four heroes trapped in the Juggernaut Corridor. A terrifying magical construct (played by a plastic baby elephant that I picked up at Hobby Lobby) was advancing, then suddenly retreating, charting an erratic course along the corridor on its heavy bloodstained wheels. At the start of our most recent session, Jack (revenant human assassin), Zerbitt (human thief), and Laramie (eladrin druid) breathed a sigh of relief as the construct rolled past them, heading back east toward its start area. (Unfortunately, Marrak’s player wasn’t able to join us for Session #8 because of a family emergency. We missed you, Steve!)

Once the construct was past them, Jack was the first of the group to make a break southward toward safety. As she neared the doorway at the end of the hallway, though, the floor suddenly collapsed underneath her. She fell straight down about ten feet and then the pit turned into a slide-like chute that deposited her in a 5-foot-diameter crawlspace. She could see that the crawlspace went off to the north. After Laramie and Zerbitt jumped into the pit and slid down the chute to join her, the party made their way through the crawlspace. Another corridor and a wondrous door lay beyond the narrow crawlspace.

Pillared Throne Room

After exiting the crawlspace, the group saw that an enormous door filled the corridor from floor to ceiling, gleaming with the dull sheen of adamantine. Once they pushed through the door, the party was in a huge chamber. A gentle breeze was blowing through the room. The ceiling of the room was supported by scores of massive columns, each carved of colorful pastel stone. In the northwest and northeast corners, just below the ceiling, the walls were set with mosaics of green and blue devil faces. Other than being set up so high, they appeared to be exactly the same as that first seen in the entrance hall to the tomb. Jack also found three doors (two blue and the other a faint lilac color) set at different points along the chamber’s north wall. Meanwhile, across the room, Zerbitt and Laramie discovered a huge dais to the south. Atop the dais rested an obsidian throne inlaid with silver and ivory skulls. A gold crown and a scepter of gold and silver rested innocently upon the throne. (The crown was solid gold and set with white diamonds while the scepter was crafted of a silver-gold alloy, with a golden ball at one end and a silver knob at the other.) The front of the throne was set with silver panel featuring a replica of the crown. In the farthest corner of the room, Zerbitt and Laramie also came across the charred remains of a half-dozen adventurers circled around a huge, glowing orange gem.

After Zerbitt used his 10 foot pole to carefully push the crown and scepter into his pack, he and Laramie spent a while messing around with the throne. They tried to push it, sat on it, and tried to push it again. Nothing happened. Giving up on the throne for the time being, they moved north to join Jack. Zerbitt and Jack both tied rope to two shovels and tossed them up into the devils’ mouths. Both shovels, along with the rope, were sucked into the mouths and disappeared. It was after this little experiment that Jack decided to touch one of the pillars as she made her way across the room. After disappearing into the green devil’s mouth, Jack was teleported nude to the Tomb’s entrance hall. Standing next to the 'original' green devil face in the hallway, she found a shovel and some rope at her feet. Picking them up, she made her way back to the Chapel of Evil, hoping to find her gear laid out on the altar(like had happened before), but nothing was there. Heading back out into the Great Hall of Spheres, she decided to go through the misty archway. The archway teleported her to the top of the hill above the entrance to the Tomb. Discouraged, she slowly made her way back down into the entrance hall…

Meanwhile, back in the Pillared Throne Room, Zerbitt and Laramie once again set to pushing the throne. It once again wouldn’t budge, not even a bit. Stumped by the throne, Laramie decided to pick up the gem. With a successful Arcana check, the druid found that the gem was a powerful magic item that allowed a creature to make a single wish for anything it desired. Not realizing it was actually a Cursed Wishing Gem that reverses or perverts the wish, bringing doom to that character and all named in the wish, Laramie wished that Jack would appear and be standing next to him.

At that exact moment back out in the entrance hall, poor Jack— still nude and still pitifully clutching her shovel and rope— found herself being drawn irresistibly toward the evil-looking face of the great green devil. Unable to stop herself, she was swept into the devil’s dead black mouth. The mouth, a sphere of annihilation, instantly and completely and forever destroyed her.

In the Pillared Throne Room, Laramie wasn’t exactly sure what had just happened, except that it probably wasn’t anything good. Jack hadn’t appeared, and the gem he was holding had begun to pulse with a sinister red glow. A second later, it exploded in his hand.

Careful what you wish for! Wish magic was a popular part of older editions of D&D— not just for the power it offered players, but for the fun a DM could have twisting the wishes in amusing ways. This gem in the Tomb takes that concept to its worst level.

Apparently deciding that he didn’t have much to lose after the gem exploded in his hand, Laramie boldly put on the crown and sat on the throne. Nothing happened. Well he could see within the darkened room as if in normal daylight, and he suspected that while wearing the crown he would be immune to the effect of the pillars of levitation… but other than that, nothing happened.

Heading back up to the north end of the Pillared Throne Room, Zerbitt and Laramie checked out the lilac door. Opening the door, they found a small, bare chamber that had another door on the opposite wall. Pairs of swords crossed behind shields hung there— three such sets were on each of the side walls. When Zerbitt entered the chamber, shields and weapons flew off the walls of their own accord, battering and slashing the thief until he dropped to the ground, unconscious and dying. Stunned by the speed and ferocity of the trap’s attack on his ally, Laramie quickly rallied and reached into the chamber, grabbed Zerbitt, and dragged him back through the doorway to safety. After the druid healed his gravely wounded companion, the pair of adventurers took a short rest.

Undaunted by their experience with the Cursed Armory, Laramie and Zerbitt decided to open one of the blue doors. They chose the one to the west. Behind it, they found an empty chamber. Empty, that is, except for an unconscious drow lying on the dusty floor. After rousing the mysterious figure by poking it with Zerbitt’s handy 10 foot pole, they discovered that the drow was Jack’s “brother” (don’t ask), Rylan! Welcome to the Tomb of Horrors, Rylan! As Zerbitt and Laramie introduced themselves and invited Rylan to join their quest against Acererak, they studiously avoided mentioning what had just happened to Jack.

Wondering what and/or who they might find behind the second blue door just across the way, the trio of adventurers opened it and discovered a large wooden sarcophagus resting upon a low stone table. Piling into the small chamber, Zerbitt, Laramie, and Rylan attempted to lift the sarcophagus and carry it out into the Pillared Throne Room. Their plan (are you ready for this?) was to throw the sarcophagus against one of the pillars, breaking it open in that way so that if there just happened to be anything scary in it, the scary thing would touch the pillar and float up the ceiling. Yeah, I know… but I didn’t say it was a good plan, I just said it was a plan.

It will probably come as no surprise to you that in attempting to lift the sarcophagus off the table, our heroes dropped it. The lid slid off, revealing the mummified remains of a human, its tattered wrappings partially undone. A huge gem was barely visible in the corpse’s left eye socket. Zerbitt lit a torch and tried to set the mummy on fire, but unbeknownst to the thief, the corpse’s wrappings were imbued with resistance magic that overcame its normal vulnerability to fire. Doh! Good try, though, Zerbitt. Next, Laramie and Zerbitt synchronizingly stabbed the mummy with their swords. (By that point, Rylan was slowly edging backward out of the chamber, wondering just what he’d gotten himself into by teaming up with these two crazy loons.) When stabbing the mummy didn’t provoke any sort of reaction from it, Zerbitt decided he’d use his sword to pop the gem out of its eye. And that, dear reader, is when the shite well and truly hit the fan.

As soon as the gem popped out of its eye socket, the corpse animated as a Mummy Crypt Master. It hit Zerbitt with stunning strike, sliding the thief 3 squares out the doorway and into one of the pillars. Up Zerbitt went, levitated out of the fight. As Laramie and Rylan scrambled out of the small chamber, the mummy crypt master pursued them. While trying to dodge the monster’s relentless attacks, the druid and drow watched as Zerbitt was sucked into the blue devil face’s gaping maw and disappeared from sight. Zerbitt was teleported into the Chamber of Hopelessness. That small chamber was strewn with numerous skeletons and it was foul with the scent of rot. A small fountain spilled water into a basin that overflowed and drained away through side holes along the floor. In glowing letters, a grim warning was set along one wall: “You who dared to violate my tomb now pay the price. Stay here and die slowly of starvation, or open the door to the south and enter where certain but quick death awaits.”

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, deciding quite rightly that the two of them were no match for the vicious mummy, Laramie and Rylan hatched a desperate plan— they’d make their way over to the blue devil face and follow Zerbitt through it. Yeah, I know… but I didn’t say it was a good plan, I just said it was a plan.

Well, Rylan was able to make his way past the crypt master by doing some kind of acrobatic spider climb deal up along the walls, so he had no problem getting sucked into the devil’s mouth. He was duly teleported into the Chamber of Hopelessness. After giving the bewildered drow a moment to take in his dismal surroundings, Zerbitt walked over to him and said, “Hey, have you seen this cool gem I got back there?”

Out in the Pillared Throne Room, Laramie didn’t have any nifty move that would allow him to zip along the walls past the mummy and up to the devil’s face in the corner, so he’d have to do it the old fashioned way: touch a pillar and float over to the devil’s mouth. But first he’d have to take off the crown, right? Right. (Because wearing it made the PC immune to the effect of the pillars of levitation, remember?) But when Laramie tried to take off the crown, he found that he couldn’t remove it from his head. Uh oh.

In the Chamber of Hopelessness, Rylan pooh-poohed the grim warning on the wall and opened the door to the south. Beyond it lay the Cursed Armory! Just as Zerbitt was starting to say, “You know, just before we found you, I almost died in that…”, Rylan dashed out into the armory, running as quickly as he could for the closed door to the south. As the drow entered the first space, two pairs of shields and weapons animated, flew off the walls, and attacked him. Those attacks bloodied him, but still he pressed on. Two more pairs of shields and swords flew off the walls and attacked him. In the blink of an eye, the drow was dead-dead, knocked down to -66 hit points. Zerbitt, still back in the Chamber of Hopelessness, stood with his mouth hanging open, unable to believe how quickly he had just seen Rylan battered and slashed to little bloody pieces before his eyes.

And that, boys and girls, is where we had to end our eighth session of Tomb of Horrors. Laramie is out in the Pillared Throne Room all by his lonesome, getting pummelled by the mummy crypt master. Zerbitt is trapped in the Chamber of Hopelessness. Will Marrak rejoin them just in time for a TPK?? Will another “brother” of Jack and Rylan’s (don’t ask) somehow appear in the Tomb and tip the balance of power in the party’s favor, averting the disaster that is unfolding???