Sunday, March 4, 2012

"Is it hot in here, or is it just me?" (The Pillars of Night, Session 2)

Trapped inside a death cult’s temple, the heroes did what any D&D adventuring party worth their salt would do in the same situation—  they decided to ignore the pounding and shouting at the temple’s shut and barred front doors, and instead poke around and see what was behind the two closed doors at the far end of the entrance hall.

Opening Door #1, they discovered an immense chamber that was obviously once a chapel, but had fallen into disuse.  After many Perception checks, they finally convinced themselves that there was nothing hidden in the long-abandoned Hall of Faith.

Opening Door #2 revealed another dusty chamber.  This chamber appeared to be a former armory— it was, in fact, the temple’s Hall of Warriors.  Four suits of rusted plate armor stood in alcoves built into the room’s western wall.  More pieces of armor and old weapons were strewn across the floor. After many Perception checks, our heroes finally discovered that the suit of armor in the farthest corner could be swiveled aside to reveal a secret door at the back of the alcove.

Beyond the secret door was a chamber with a narrow corridor going off to the north and a set of double doors to the west.  While Boojum and Silas opened the double doors just enough to peek inside, the other three PCs checked out the corridor.  Boojum and Silas saw some cracked and broken stairs leading down into a darkened chamber.  They decided to shut the doors and see what their companions were finding down the corridor.  The party never returned to those doors nor ventured down the stairs, which disappointed me since there were 2 big old Zombie Hulks (Level 8 Brute) waiting down there.  Oh, well.

Meanwhile, Blake and Gaultis weren’t having much luck finding anything down the corridor except a dead end.  Dagon, however, made an awesome Perception check and discovered a secret door hidden in the wall of the hallway.  Once Boojum and Silas rejoined their friends, everyone started down the stairs that lay beyond the secret door.  Cautiously making their way down the stairs, the party was hit by an immense wave of heat.  They could also discern sounds of battle coming from somewhere ahead— shouts and the clash of weapons could be heard.

Going around the corner at the bottom of the stairs, the party found a humongous chamber where fountains of elemental flame were shooting across the room.  The heat was intense, so every other round during the course of the encounter, to portray the debilitating effects of the heat, I had each member of the party make a DC 15 Endurance check.  In the center of the chamber stood a monstrous, 10-foot tall creature with rippling muscles and an immense, fiery scimitar.  Two smaller, flame-shrouded companions flanked the figure.
  • Efreet Fireblade (Level 6 Soldier)
  • 2 Fire Archons (Level 9 Skirmisher)

Several human figures lay scattered around the floor, their scorched and smoking gray cloaks evidence that they had fell to the elemental monsters’ attacks.  However, two battered and bleeding figures were still on their feet, gamely battling the efreet and archons.  Our heroes immediately recognized one of the figures— it was the doppelganger from the Citadel!  The other figure— a male tiefling— was unknown to the party.

The efreet’s foul voice echoed from the stones as it hissed, “You stupid fools little know the worth of what you possess. Give me my master’s crystals!”  And with a hideous bellow of rage, it slashed at the tiefling with its fiery scimitar.  The doppelganger screamed, “Nooo! Kalarel!”

Just then, one of the archons spotted the PCs.  Drawing the efreet’s attention to the newcomers (still wearing their disguises), the efreet grinned evilly and said, “Ah, welcome to the party.  Come in, come in.”  Silas quickly tried to explain that they weren’t really cultists, but had come to the temple to recover something that the doppelganger had taken from them.  The efreet considered Silas’ words for a moment, and then said, “Very well.  Help me finish off these two fools and I assure you, you will be richly rewarded.”

So the party waded into the battle, siding with the elementals against the doppelganger and Kalarel.  After Silas cut down Kalarel, the efreet quickly reached down and searched the cultist’s body.  When he withdrew his immense hand, the PCs could see that there were four chaos crystals cradled in it.  The monster grinned, “My prince will be well pleased to have these in his possession once again.”

Once Kalarel was taken care of, the archons moved to cut off the party’s line of retreat.  Turning to our heroes, the efreet waved his scimitar threateningly and told them, “Now it is time for the reward I promised you.”  And the inevitable battle between the fiery elemental monsters and the adventurers was on.

Meanwhile, across the chamber, Silas was locked in combat with the enraged doppelganger.  The vampire finally managed to strike it down and then searched its corpse.  Besides two wicked-looking daggers, he found a black pearl and a vial of clear liquid.  He assumed the vial held the poison that Sora needed in order to whip up an antidote for Blake and Lord Bothwell.  He was correct.

I won’t bore you with the details of the long fight versus the elementals, except to say that it was a close run thing.  At the end of combat, the party regained possession of the chaos crystals, but Boojum was down, Dagon was down, and Silas… well, Silas, dear reader, was dead-dead

When I told them that they could probably find someone back in Erstlin who would perform the Raise Dead ritual on their slain comrade, but that they would need to have a part of Silas’ corpse with them when they returned to the town, Dagon reached down and cut off one of the vampire’s pinky fingers and popped it into a pouch.  After that, as Dagon, Blake, and Gaultis were searching the large chamber for loot, they noticed Boojum doing something to Silas’ corpse.  Going over, they saw the pixie was, uh, “appropriating” the vampire’s sharp, pointy teeth.  When he noticed his comrade’s disbelieving looks, the pixie grinned and said that he was going to make a necklace out of Silas’ cool teeth.  Asked what he thought Silas might have to say about that after he was restored to life, Boojum shrugged and said, “But he won’t need these teeth… he’ll have new ones.”  Oh, man.

So after that, while searching the chamber, the remaining heroes discovered a rough tunnel behind a secret door.  The tunnel led through the mountain, eventually emerging a safe distance away from and above the temple grounds.  The settlement was a scene of chaos, with people fleeing the area in droves.  Kalarel’s death had been discovered and his mostly-unwilling followers were starting the long journey home.  Thanks to our heroes’ heroic efforts, this band of Orcus cultists was no more.

And with that, I told the guys to level up their characters (to Level 6) and that next Thursday night we’d be ready to start Madness at Gardmore Abbey.  I said that when they levelled up, to go ahead and pick 3 magic items (one from a level above, one from their level, and one from a level below) and equip themselves with the items, as a grateful Lord Bothwell would allow them to choose special gear from his armory when they returned to the Citadel.

DM Tip:  For that last encounter, I used one of the maps in WotC’s recent D&D map pack release: Haunted Temples.  The pack contains 3 full-color, double-sided 21-by30-inch battle maps with 1-inch grids.  One of the maps features two brand new, never-before-seen maps.  Two of the other maps are from out-of-print sources.  All of the maps are must-have tools for any DM, so I highly recommend you pick up the pack at your favorite local game store.  Haunted Temples retails for just $11.95.          

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