Friday, February 3, 2012

Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia ("Unmasking the Traitor," Session 1)

After Silas’ chat with the Raven Queen, he found his companions lying in some coffins in the next chamber. Once they all regained consciousness, the eladrin vampire briefed them on his encounter with the Raven Queen and showed them his spiffy new longsword. The question on everyone’s mind was, “Where the heck are we?!?” Before the party explored their whereabouts, Boojum waved his hand and cast Light on Silas’ teeth. With a big smile plastered on his face, the vampire took point.

As Silas scouted down the hallway, he turned a corner and could hear barely perceptible moans emanating from the darkness ahead.

Look out! Flesh-Crazed Zombies!

Sneaking up to the end of the hallway, Silas could see a large chamber with several ransacked coffins scattered around the floor. As the eerie moaning continued, he thought he saw some figures crouching behind the coffins and also in the shadows beyond the light of his teeth. Silas decided he’d try to communicate with the mysterious moaning figures, so he mimicked them with some moans of his own. With his successful Bluff check, five Flesh-Crazed Zombies (Level 5 Skirmisher) came out into the open and began to shamble toward him.

Hearing Silas’ cry for help from ahead, the rest of the party quickly moved up. Blake and Gaultis fearlessly charged into the chamber… where they were promptly surrounded by ravenous undead who thought the two heroes looked oh-so-tasty. Boojum laid down a zone of licking flames, knocking a couple of the zombies prone, but not before Blake was in some serious trouble. Within just a few moments, the shifter was cut down by the vicious bite attacks of three of the monsters. Luckily, a helpful Healing Infusion from Dagon brought Blake back into the fight.

The party was pretty banged up by the time they dropped the last zombie since they failed to focus fire and instead spread damage around, allowing all five monsters to stay in the fight for round after round. I was disappointed that not once did Deathless Hunger kick in and allow a dropped zombie to come back to life. Bummer. Anyway, after combat was finally over, Blake looted the coffins and found a handful of gold and (much to Boojum’s delight) a shiny gem.

Never Get Involved in a Land War in Asia

When our battered heroes came to a chamber with a lot of burial niches in the walls (an 8x8 dungeon tile from the new Shadowghast Manor set), they were all set to cruise right on through and continue exploring, but then Silas and Boojum noticed that one of the coffins had some still-legible writing on it. The inscription read: “Here lies Urik Rockhammer, hero of the Citadel. Fell valiantly defending the walls against the great orc invasion of 1296.”

I had originally intended this chamber to simply be a way-point where the party discovered they were somewhere beneath the Citadel… but Boojum decided he wanted to see if there was anything shiny in Urik’s coffin. The pixie wasn’t strong enough to pry the lid off the casket, so he goaded Silas into doing it. As the vampire started to get a good hold on the lid, everyone else quickly backpedaled away from the corner where Urik’s coffin had lain undisturbed for centuries. Note: After the sh*t hit the fan in this chamber, it was mentioned at the table that, as we all know, one of the classic adventuring maxims is, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia”— but that only slightly less well-known is another truism that you ignore at your own peril: “Never listen to Boojum.”

I hadn’t really planned on the party being so brazen as to loot a hero of the Citadel’s casket, so I decided on-the-fly that I’d pull a few monsters from the next encounter and have them attack the greedy bastards while they were in this room. So when Silas opened Urik’s coffin, the creaky skeleton of a dwarf in ancient plate mail armor suddenly popped up and burst into flame (Blazing Skeleton, Level 4 Artillery). Across the chamber, a Boneshard Skeleton (Level 4 brute) climbed out of another burial niche. On each successive round of combat, another boneshard skeleton would climb out of a coffin.

Once angry skeletons started to pop out of coffins, Dagon wisely wanted to retreat out of the chamber and conduct a fighting withdrawal down the next hallway, but everyone else wanted to kill the monsters and then see if there were any goodies in Urik’s casket. This went on for five rounds, with more and more skeletons appearing, before everyone decided that maybe Dagon’s plan to retreat wasn’t such a bad idea, after all. By that time, Boojum was down to four hit points and Silas had been on fire since the first round because he continually failed his saving throws after getting whacked by Urik’s Blazing Claw attack (ongoing 5 fire damage).

Gluttons for Punishment

Even as Gaultis, Blake, and Boojum were trying to extricate themselves from the combat with the skeletons and retreat out of that room, Silas and Dagon decided they’d open up another can of worms and see what kind of trouble they could find down the next hallway. As the vampire and genasi came to the end of the hall, they peered out and were greeted by a terrifying sight. They saw a large torchlit chamber with many burial niches set into the walls, and across the way was a spiral staircase leading upward. Between them and the staircase was some kind of stone shrine or altar, about four feet high and coated in blood. On the floor next to the altar were two human corpses. Standing on the far side of the altar was a tall, commanding figure in dark gray armor. As the ominous figure’s gaze slowly turned in Silas and Dagon’s direction, they could see through the open visor of its helmet that its face was a wasted and rotted visage straight out of a nightmare.

Meanwhile, back in the hallway, the other three heroes had finally managed to fight their way out of the skeletons’ grasp. Once they cleared the chamber, the surviving monsters climbed back into their caskets. Silas, realizing that he and Dagon had unwisely drawn the battered party straight into another encounter, decided that desperate times called for desperate measures. So he went back down the corridor and handed the bag of holding to Boojum so the pixie wizard could take out the chaos crystals, perform an Arcana check, and see if there was any way that possessing the shards might help the party out of their predicament. As Boojum pulled the crystals out of the bag and held them in his little pixie hands, he suddenly felt himself weakened and vulnerable 5 to all typed damage. He also heard a sinister voice in his head begin to whisper, ”Kill them. Kill them all. Kill them. Kill them.”

With the snow rapidly beginning to pile up in the darkness outside Total Escape Games, I decided we’d better call it a night and head home. The last action of the night belonged to Dagon. Not in the least daunted by the grim figure in the next chamber, the genasi artificer advanced into the room and made a Perception check. His successful check meant that he could just make out the symbol of Orcus inscribed on the bloody altar in the center of the room.

Things aren’t looking good for our battered and bloodied heroes, dear reader! Will they manage to somehow, someway, get themselves out of this mess and warn Lord Bothwell of the evil lurking beneath the Citadel? Or will yours truly rack up his second TPK of the campaign? Tune in next week to find out.

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