Friday, April 29, 2011

Tomb of Horrors: Session 3

Marrak watched with growing dismay as, one-by-one, his companions disappeared through the swirling white mist within the archway. Zanfire had gone through first, Jack-style (that is, with a rope tied around his waist). After Zanfire stepped into the mist and disappeared, the rope had gone ominously slack. But pulling the rope back into the hallway minus one longtooth shifter didn’t stop Elric from quickly following Zanfire’s lead. Marrak’s words of caution also failed to dissuade Jack and Zerbitt from marching through the archway. After the last of his companions disappeared, Marrak moved up adjacent to the archway. He closed his eyes and slowly shook his head back and forth. A long-suffering sigh escaped the dwarf’s lips. After a moment’s hesitation, and with his eyes still closed, Marrak also stepped through the mist.

When Marrak opened his eyes, he noticed four things. The first thing he noticed was that he was standing in the bright sunshine on top of the barren, rocky hilltop somewhere above the tomb’s entrance. The second thing he noticed was that Zanfire, Elric, Jack, and Zerbitt were also there on the hilltop. The third thing he noticed was that all of them were buck naked. And I’m sure you can guess the fourth thing Marrak noticed.

When Marrak realized that he too was naked as the day he was born, the warpriest let loose with some salty dwarven epithets that aren’t fit to print here, dear reader.

For our third session of Tomb of Horrors, we once again met at Total Escape Games in Broomfield, CO. Ready, willing, and (maybe) able to tackle whatever Acererak threw at them were…
  • Elric (drow warlock)

  • Jack (revenant human assassin)

  • Marrak (dwarf warpriest)

  • Zanfire (longtooth shifter warden)

  • Zerbitt (human thief)

(You Make Me Feel) Like A Natural Woman
At the close of our second session, we ended with our heroes in an odd chapel they had discovered at the end of a long crawlspace off of the Great Hall of Spheres. Jack and Elric went through an archway filled with luminous orange mist and found out a little something about Acererak’s sick sense of humor when they were changed into Jacqueline and Elrika. So our third session opened with the party still there in the chapel, pondering what should/could be done about Jack and Elric’s dilemma. After much debating and theorizing, Jack went back through the archway. Yes, with a rope tied around her waist. Nothing happened except she took 5 damage (1d6 damage), so she took the opportunity to investigate the small room she was standing in. She didn’t perceive anything except that she was standing in a small room beyond the orange mists of the archway. After Jack returned from her second journey beyond the orange mist, there was once again much debating and theorizing, after which Elric also went back through the archway. Nothing happened except that she too took 5 damage (1d6 damage), so she also took the opportunity to investigate the small room she was standing in. Elric didn’t perceive anything except that she was standing in a small room beyond the orange mists of the archway.

With Jack and Elric back in the chapel, everyone got down to the business of actually looking up the Remove Affliction ritual to see exactly how it’d undo the curse afflicting the drow and revenant. I told them that I’d let both Jack and Elric be the target of the ritual, but everyone was dismayed to see how physically taxing the ritual would be on the characters. In fact, there was a chance one or the other might not survive the ritual. Once they realized that, both Jack and Elric decided to just continue play as chicks.

On a brighter note, the party’s systematic looting of the pews in the chapel had resulted in the discovery of an astounding 11,000sp and 7,000gp. After rolling around in the coins like Scrooge McDuck, the party decided to take a short rest and then head back out to the Great Hall of Spheres. Before they left the chapel, Elric decided to do one more close sweep of the walls in the room. Up near the southeast corner of the room, she found a circle had been carefully scribed in the stone wall behind the plaster. It was a large-ish circle, like perhaps where a large-ish magic ring might be placed.

Cruel But Most Entertaining…

Once they were back out in the Great Hall of Spheres, our heroes gave their attention to the archway at the southern end of the hallway. They checked it out, but couldn’t tell anything beyond what they’d found out about it in the last session (it was imbued with powerful teleportation magic; when someone moved adjacent to it, three of its stones began to glow). After another round of discussion (I’ll say one thing for this group: they’ve definitely taken to heart Gary Gygax’s admonition that ToH “is a thinking person’s module…”), the events you read at the top of the post unfolded. After I told the group what had happened after they stepped through the swirling white mist within the archway, I wrote “LOL” in big letters in my notebook. Gary Gygax famously described this cursed archway’s teleportation of the characters to one destination while all their gear is taken to another spot as, “Cruel but most entertaining for the DM…”

Fool Me Once, Shame On You. Fool Me Twice, Shame On… Hey, look! Another archway!

Once our nekkid heroes scrambled down off the hilltop and made their way back to the entrance to the Tomb, they decided to spend some time trying to figure out the very first mist-filled archway. On a successful Arcana check, they found out that not only was the archway imbued with powerful teleportation magic, but that safely working the arch involved touching its glowing stones in a particular order. In no time at all, they’d pressed the stones in the proper sequence (yellow, blue, orange) and the mist disappeared. Beyond the archway, they could see a smooth-walled stone chamber, and the red mosaic path ended at the far wall. Zanfire once again volunteered to be the first one through, but he passed through off the red tile path and was teleported to the north end of the entrance hall. Hmm… Marrak went through next, but he also passed through off the red path and so he too found himself standing at the north end of the hallway. Oops. After that, the adventurers realized their mistake and they all passed through the arch on the mosaic path.

Three-Armed Statue

Our nekkid heroes found themselves in uncomfortably close proximity to one another when they were all teleported into a small, utterly dark chamber. After a few moments of awkwardly bumping into one another (since Elric was the only one with darkvision), someone cast light on something (maybe the stick Zerbitt had found outside and been carrying around because it made him feel less naked and defenseless) and they saw that they were in a small room that contained an 8-foot tall statue of a four-armed gargoyle. One of its arms had been broken off, and it rested on the floor. They also noticed there didn’t seem to be any visible means of exit from the small chamber. Uh oh.

Not to worry, though. A successful Perception check uncovered a secret door in the room’s east wall. Opening the door revealed a 5-foot diameter crawlspace. Our heroes could see that after a short distance the crawlspace appeared to dead end at a stone wall with a 3-foot diameter gold sphere set in it. With a sigh of relief, they realized they were just off the Great Hall of Spheres. The successful Perception check had also revealed that each of the gargoyle’s three intact hands were carved with an indentation, as if some object were meant to be placed there. The fourth arm had no such indentation. The PCs could also tell that some rubble around the base of the statue contained traces of diamond dust and pulverized gems. A successful Thievery check revealed that both the statue and its broken arm were imbued with powerful magic and that activating the statue’s magic required a series of repeated actions. The PCs realized that they’d need to place the gems they’d discovered into the statue’s hands in order to activate it, but… but they no longer had the gems! The gems were in some unknown location, along with all the rest of their missing gear. Knowing there was nothing else they could do in the room with the three-armed statue, our heroes scrambled through the crawlspace and back out into the Great Hall of Sphere.

Once More, With Feeling…

Now knowing that pressing the colored stones of the entrance hall arch in a certain order had let them safely work it, our heroes now decided to try the same thing with the misty archway in the Great Hall of Spheres. They tried every possible combination, but the archway remained clouded and veiled with a haze that couldn’t be seen through. Based on the “oh-well-what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen?” line of reasoning, Zanfire then went through the cursed archway again. After a short while, he crawled back into the hall through the gold sphere and reported that the archway had once again teleported him to the top of the hill outside the entrance. Not knowing what else to do and not necessarily wanting to explore anywhere new while feeling all nude and whatnot, they decided to visit the chapel again and at the very least say a few desperate prayers that they’d somehow be able to recover their gear.


It turned out that the prayers weren’t needed, after all. As soon as they exited the crawlspace, the PCs could see that all of their gear was piled on top of the altar at the front of the chapel. After heartfelt exclamations of joy, they very carefully retrieved their weapons, armor, and other stuff (the altar was pulsing an opalescent blue, which the PCs thought looked ominous and so everyone was careful not to touch the altar itself). With smiles on their faces, they once again headed back out to the Great Hall of Spheres.

“Hey, y’all! This sphere is… Ouch!”

Finally, on their… what?... fourth visit to the hall, our heroes decided to check all of the spheres on the east and west walls. They split up and went about methodically checking each sphere by touch (the only way to detect an illusory sphere). They used ten-foot poles, shovels, etc but still Elric found out the hard way that two of the spheres (orange and bronze) were illusions covering spear traps. As the buxom drow poked each trapped sphere, she was attacked by glowing spears that erupted from the wall (+10 vs. Reflex; 3d8 damage, and ongoing 5 damage—save ends. Miss: Ongoing 5 damage—save ends). After the attacks, the spears faded to mist and disappeared. All of the other spheres were simply part of the frescoes painted on the walls, except for the red sphere held by the skeleton. Zerbitt discovered that the red sphere was an illusion covering a 5-foot-diameter crawlspace. After a short rest, Jack led our brave band of heroes as they entered the red sphere and made their way through 40 feet of rough passage that came to an apparent dead end at a blank stone wall.

Knowing by this time that when a crawlspace in the Tomb of Horrors dead ends at a blank stone wall, there is often more to the story than meets the eye, Jack rolled a Perception check to see what he could see. With her roll, what she saw was a crawlspace that came to an apparent dead end at a blank stone wall. Zerbitt squeezed his way past Jack and gave it a try. Nada. Blank stone wall. Elric was sure she could do better, so she made her way past Jack and Zerbitt and gave the wall a good once-over. Alas, she also didn’t find anything. Zanfire managed to carefully maneuver past Zerbitt, Jack, and Elric and with his excellent Perception check the warden found a secret door. Yeah!

Since Zerbitt had the party’s best Thievery, Zanfire let the thief sneak past him and check the secret door for locks or traps. Zerbitt found that the door appeared to be neither locked nor trapped, so he slowly opened it. Opening the secret door (onto a blank stone wall) caused the end of the tunnel to collapse under Zerbitt, unceremoniously dropping him into…

The Chamber of Three Chests

Despite being caught by surprise when the crawlspace’s floor collapsed underneath him, Zerbitt’s cat-like reflexes and agility allowed him to safely drop 10 feet into an empty chamber. Well, empty except for some piles of rubble and three closed chests that were set across the stone floor. The thief saw that each chest was 4 feet long, 2 feet wide, and 3 feet high. The first chest gleamed gold. The second chest was untarnished silver. The third was oak bound with thick bronze bands. Looking up and seeing Zanfire’s face peering over the edge of the hole in the ceiling, Zerbitt called up that it appeared to be safe to come down and join him.

Once the party was gathered in the 30’x30’ chamber, they examined the three chests. After Jack, Elric, Zanfire, and Zerbitt all failed to find anything fishy with their various Perception and Thievery checks, Marrak opened the oaken chest. And with a burst of bright light, an enormous skeletal figure erupted from the chest, its twin scimitars lashing out.

I’m not sure how it appeared to the players, but I thought they handled the fight with the Skeleton Blade Guardian (Level 12 Elite Brute) rather well. The monster bloodied several of them during the course of the encounter, but the issue was never really in doubt. However, that might have been because the players were pulling out Daily powers and action points and using them like there was no tomorrow. The very end of the fight was kind of interesting, though— at least from my standpoint. Zerbitt hit with some typically sneaky rogue-ish attack that did a ridiculous amount of damage and knocked the giant skeleton down to 1 hp. Now, all throughout the fight, the players had been doing this thing where they’d tell me the damage from their attacks, then ten seconds later go, “Oh wait, I forgot to add the bonus for Accurate Vampiric Strength of the Bear Clan, so add two more damage… oh, and three more for Shadow Kiss Wrath of the Sun…”, so I kind of waited for Zerbitt to do the same thing and belatedly take care of that one little lone hit point the skeleton had left. But he didn’t. And the skeleton was up next! Since Zerbitt was the last one to attack it, the skeleton targeted him with a scimitar attack. First, though, it had to weather a Warden’s Fury attack from Zanfire. When the longtooth shifter missed, the skeleton’s last gasp slash hit Zerbitt for 30 damage. Kaa-pow!

Okay, so anyway, that was the last of my fun with the skeleton because Marrak was up next and he got the kill on the party’s foe. There was then some debate about whether to take a short rest to heal up before opening the other chests (the oaken one turned out to be empty). I think it was Marrak that voiced a concern over there perhaps being more skeletons in the gold and silver chests and Elric who then said, “C’mon, what are the odds that’d happen?” Everyone laughed and agreed that was the line they’d put on Elric’s headstone.

After a short rest to lick their wounds, our heroes opened the other two chests. Elric opened the silver chest first. A pulse of shadow erupted as she opened it, and the air in the chamber was filled with a barrage of black darts (+15 vs. reflex; 4d10+1 force damage and the target is pushed 2 squares from the chest). The darts somehow missed Jack, but hit everyone else, even poor Marrak who by that point was standing inconspicuously over in the corner as far away from the chests as he could get. The dart attack caused Elric to stumble back into the gold chest and, as the chest popped open with a burst of green light, a swarm of hissing vipers poured forth. They immediately set about biting Elric (+18 vs. Reflex; ongoing 8 poison damage—save ends). Marrak charged over to smite the vipers, but he rolled a 1 and his attack went badly awry as the dwarf suddenly remembered he’s deathly afraid of snakes. Elric was up next and with her successful attack she discovered that the Horde of Vipers was a minion (Level 10 Minion Soldier). Scratch one mass of slithering, hissing snakes.

By that time the words “Extended Rest” were flying freely around the table. First, though, the PCs searched the two chests, and in the silver one they found a very large magic ring. Before heading to the chapel for their extended rest, Zerbitt decided to do one more check of the room. He rolled a nat 20 on his Perception check and darned if the thief didn’t find a crystal box with 3 gems hidden under some of the rubble. That discovery set off a flurry of “I also want to search” and “I want to search too,” but as everyone was grabbing for d20’s I assured them that there was absolutely positively nothing else to be found in the Chamber of Three Chests.

And so Session 3 of our most excellent Tomb of Horrors adventure ended with the heroes settling down in the chapel for some much needed R&R. Golly, after this extended rest, I sure hope nothing bad happens to them in the time before they can take another one. (Insert evil chuckle here.)

1 comment:

  1. Zerbitt is sly like that. I attacked with a sneak attack, then shifted away. Then I used my action point to charge. With combat advantage, I was rolling the charge at a +21 to hit. I never missed that skeleton once during the entire encounter. Now if I could just stumble upon a magical crossbow in this dungeon somewhere, I wouldn't have to stand so close to the monsters...