Saturday, April 23, 2011

tomb of horrors: session 2

Elric took a firm grip on the rope, stepped past the skeleton lying on the floor, and followed Jack through the glowing orange mist of the archway. After passing through the mist, the drow found himself in a small room that was already occupied by a human revenant that looked a whole lot like Jack, except… except this human revenant was a chick! With a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach, Elric looked down and saw that he was now sporting quite a large set of, ah… well, let’s just say the word “buxom” immediately popped into his head.

“Hi, I’m Jacqueline,” the revenant said.

“Hi, I’m… Elrika, I guess,” the well-endowed drow warlock replied.

* * * * *

It wasn’t until the party found a third mist-filled stone archway that someone finally mustered up the necessary courage (or foolishness) to pass through one, but when they did it was worth the wait (at least for me!) since hilarity and mayhem ensued.

But the second session of our Tomb of Horrors adventure actually began back in the Gargoyle Lair, so let’s start there, okay?

As you’ll recall, our five heroes had just defeated the Lesser Gargoyle Mauler and then taken a short rest in their fallen foe’s lair. Rather than head back out to the entrance corridor, they decided to check out the two doors they’d found in the gargoyle chamber. Session #2 began with Jack opening the wooden door in the east wall and peering inside. He saw a 10’x10’ room, empty of everything except a fine layer of dust and grit. From outside the room, he checked it for traps and whatnot, but didn’t find anything.

Going over to the wooden door in the south wall, Jack opened it and saw that it also opened onto 10’x10’ room. This room, though, was filled with the same nasty Grasping Rubble they’d found strewn across the floor of the Gargoyle Lair. However, Jack also spied another wooden door on the south wall of the small chamber. From outside the room, Jack prudently checked the chamber for traps and whatnot, but didn’t find anything.

After one or two others confirmed that the first 10’x10’ room was really just an empty room (although, like Jack, they didn’t actually go into the room), Zanfire decided to take one for the team, enter the second small chamber with the Grasping Rubble, and try the other door in there. So he went in, opened the door with no problem, and found that it opened onto yet another 10’x10’ chamber filled with the same nasty rubble. He could see that the new room had a door over on the west wall. And then the longtooth shifter was attacked by the Grasping Rubble (+13 vs. Reflex; 4d6+6 damage). After the rubble grasped and chomped on him but good, Zanfire decided to back out of the chamber and rejoin his comrades.

Gauntlet of Doors

Realizing that no one had actually entered the first room, Zerbitt decided to go in and check things out. Whereupon the thief promptly discovered a secret door set in the small room’s southern wall. And so began the party’s long, arduous journey through the gauntlet of doors.
Each of the seven rooms in this area contained a secret door that required a minimum of three standard actions to detect and open. It took one primary skill check (Perception) to locate a secret door, followed by two primary skill checks (Athletics or Thievery) to identify both of the door’s opening mechanisms. Rather than roll initiative, we went around in table order and each character had his normal allotment of actions for each round (standard, move, minor).

Oh, I forgot to mention that each of the rooms that made up this gauntlet of secret doors was protected by a magical bolt trap (+15 vs. Will; 4d8+2 force damage). On initiative count 0, characters in any part of the gauntlet were subject to attack by the magic trap that filled the area.

Like I said, it was a looong, arduous journey through the gauntlet. And every once in a while, with a pulse of white light, bolts of arcane force would lance out from the walls and ceiling of a room and zap a PC. Jack and Zanfire seemed to attract more than their fair share of the bolts and they were each bloodied, twice!, while making their way through the rooms. It got so bad that Marrak used a daily power, Stream of Life, so that his life force would flow into his badly wounded companions, granting them the vigor to press on through the gauntlet.

Finally, though, they all made it to the seventh secret door where they discovered 7 hidden studs lined up across the midpoint of the door. Someone figured out that the studs needed to be pressed in a particular order to open the door. After several unsuccessful attempts (during which the magical bolts were still zapping them), everyone was growing a bit discouraged. In fact, Elric and Zanfire had decided to retreat and were heading back out to the Gargoyle Lair.
Then Zerbitt pressed all of the studs in reverse order (7,6,5,4,3,2,1) and… the door opened! Well, actually it fell inward on top of Zerbitt, Jack, and Marrak, knocking all three of them prone. But, hey, the door was finally open!

Elric and Zanfire were still close enough to hear a loud crash, so they came a runnin’ to see what was up. They found Zerbitt, Jack, and Marrak picking themselves up from the floor. Zerbitt was muttering, “What? I meant to do that.”

Everyone gathered at the empty doorway, beyond which they could see that a crawlway (about 5’ in diameter) extended for ten feet beyond the room they were standing in. The end of the crawlway appeared to be a blank stone wall with a 3-foot-diameter silver sphere set in it. Hmm…

Great Hall of Spheres

After much messing around in the crawlspace, including someone “accidentally” poking Jack in the bum with their ten-foot pole (ahem), Zerbitt went through the illusory sphere and found himself in a broad hall that was similar to the tomb entrance. The hall’s floor was set with inlaid tiles and the walls and ceiling were covered with painted frescoes.

Once Zerbitt told everyone that it was safe to follow him, they all piled through into the Great Hall of Spheres. Looking at the frescoes, they saw that strange glyphs, symbols, and faces were set within two ranks of humanoid and monstrous figures standing along both walls. Each figure appeared to hold a colored sphere. Turning back to the silver sphere they had just crawled through, they realized that it was held at the feet of a four-armed gargoyle. (Besides the map laid out on the table, I also gave each of the players a handout which told them what creature was holding which sphere, etc.) They could also see that a mist-filled archway opened up at the southern end of the hall.

After taking a short rest to heal up after their grueling passage through the Gauntlet of Doors, our heroes spent quite a bit of time consulting the message from Acererak that they’d found set into the mosaic floor of the entrance corridor. They had already decided that the warning to “Shun green if you can…” was a reference to the great green devil face in the tomb entrance. Now they homed in on the next part of the message: “…but night’s good color is for those of great valor.” Based on this clue, they focused their attention on the black sphere, which was sitting at the feet of a hydra.

They didn’t bother examining the black sphere with a Perception check, or even poke it with a pole, before Jack just crawled right into it, so with a totally serious face I told Drew, “Okay, you crawl through it and you’re dead.” The look on Drew’s face was priceless. Hee hee.

Okay, anyway, so actually Jack found that there was a crawlspace behind the black sphere. There was some discussion about whether they’d be able to survive an encounter with a hydra if that’s what they discovered at the end of the crawlspace (based on the fact that a four-armed gargoyle was holding the silver sphere through which they’d come into the hall), but eventually our heroes decided to just all pile into the crawlspace and damn the torpedoes.

As they all snaked through the crawlspace, it turned twice but maintained a generally southward course. Then suddenly, around the last bend, it stopped dead at a blank wall of stone. Jack did a Perception check, but didn’t perceive anything except that they were all piled into a crawlspace that had suddenly dead-ended at a blank stone wall. Elric wanted to have a go at it, so he wiggled past Jack and did a Perception check. The drow also didn’t perceive anything except that they were all piled into a crawlspace that had suddenly dead-ended at a blank stone wall. Zerbitt wanted to try, so after much jostling and stepping on toes, he managed to get to the front of the line. The thief took one look at the blank wall of stone and located a secret door that opened into…

The Chapel

After opening the secret door, Zerbitt noticed a mosaic path like the one at the tomb entrance running from the secret door to pass between two rows of great wooden pews. He saw that the walls in the large chamber were painted with frescoes of everyday rural life. However, the figures depicted there had rotting flesh and skeletal limbs, their features eaten away by worms.

After Zerbitt cautiously stepped into the chamber and the others followed him, they saw that they seemed to be in some kind of chapel. A wooden railing divided the room, with the mosaic path leading through it to a tiered dais set with a pair of brass candelabra and a blue stone altar. On the floor on each side of the dais was a large ceramic urn. To the west of the dais was a stone archway filled with glowing orange mist.

Since each of the pews had a bench with a hinged seat, Jack decided to open one. Choosing the back pew, he found that the storage space beneath the seat contained 2,000sp. Woo hoo! Loot! Going forward, he next tried the front pew. As the revenant lifted the seat, a cloud of acrid gas (+11 vs. Fortitude; 4d8 poison damage) filled the air. Woo hoo! A trap! That still didn’t dissuade just about everyone from running around and checking pew after pew, throwing them open, and finding thousands more gold and silver pieces.

Meanwhile, Marrak seemed to be the only one of the party not obsessed with pews. The dwarf warpriest went cautiously up the central aisle and surveyed the blue altar from a safe distance. He could see that it had the symbols of Pelor, Avandra, Moradin, and Bahamut engraved on its front. Doing a Religion check, Marrak found that powerful magic filled the room, and that its arcane essence was inextricably consecrated to good. Everyone puzzled over this discovery, since it didn’t seem to fit with the disturbing frescoes painted on the chapel’s walls. Being a devoted follower of Pelor, Marrak decided to go up onto the dais and say a prayer to the god of sun and summer. As he knelt down and lifted up a fervent and heartfelt prayer, the altar began to glow an opalescent blue.

Several of the adventurers, after advancing toward the front of the room, saw a humanoid skeleton in badly rusted black chainmail lying on the floor with one of its bony hands pointing toward the stone archway filled with glowing orange mist. Marrak did a Heal check on the skeleton, but couldn’t discern anything about how its owner had met his/her end. The mysterious skeleton apparently held no secrets, nor did the large urns on either side of the dais. Jack and Zanfire had thoroughly investigated them, but they didn’t find out anything besides the fact that the urns were empty.

Perhaps to make up for the non-event that was the urn search, Jack suddenly announced that he was going to go through the stone archway filled with glowing orange mist. The chapel went silent at this announcement and heads swiveled toward the revenant to see if he was joking (even Zerbitt looked up momentarily from his systematic looting of the pews), but no, they could see Jack was serious.

At that point, as DM, I really had to struggle to keep a poker face because inside I was so chuckling maliciously and thinking, “Oh please please please, let him do it!” And sure enough, he did.

After tying a rope around his waist and having Marrak secure it to the wooden railing, Jack strode through the orange archway. With that, I took Drew away from the table for a minute and explained to him what had happened after Jack stepped through the archway. Jack had found he was in a small room beyond the orange mist, that he was suddenly a she, and that she had the uncontrollable urge to go back through the archway and attack her nearest ally.

After Drew and I got back to the table, Elric was up next and he also went through the orange archway. So I took Robert away from the table and explained to him what had happened after Elric stepped through the cursed archway.

No one else wanted to go through the archway after that. Go figure.

And so it came to pass that Jack/Jacqueline and Elric/Elrika emerged from the archway and— as Marrak and Zanfire exchanged stunned and puzzled glances— the drow and revenant attacked poor Marrak, who just happened to be standing nearest to the archway. Luckily, they both missed, but that didn’t stop Zanfire (who was obviously thoroughly discombobulated by the surreal turn of events) from charging forward and attacking Jack. Jack used Slayer’s Escape as an immediate reaction, so after being struck, he folded shadows around himself and disappeared. The way that worked mechanically is that he teleported 5 squares and became invisible until the start of his next turn. A nifty move, except he still had the rope tied around his waist. Oops.

It needs to be said that during all of this sex-changing mayhem and murderous raging, Zerbitt had barely paused in his looting of the pews. But, hey, isn’t that exactly what you’d expect from a 9th level thief?

Alright, so Elric saved from the murderous rage part of the curse right away, but Jack didn’t snap out of it until Marrak used Soothing Light to give the revenant an extra saving throw. Once Elric was back in his right mind, he did an Arcana check and determined that once the rage ends, the sex of a character can be restored only by a combination of a Remove Affliction ritual and the character entering the archway again. However, he didn’t know the sequence in which those two actions needed to be performed. The warlock must’ve skipped Arcana class the day that information was imparted.

By that point, it was almost closing time at our FLGS, Total Escape Games, so our second session of Tomb of Horrors ended with Jack and Elric wondering aloud if going through the rest of the adventure as chicks would really be such a bad thing...

1 comment:

  1. This is great. I'm also running my party through the 4e Tomb of Horrors. However, instead of just a couple of players going through the orange portal, all 5 of them decided to go through at once!