The party started our second session of Madness at Gardmore Abbey by conducting a more thorough search of the temple where they had just defeated the crazed harpies and angels (Encounter 21: Temple).
Though the roof was half collapsed and the building was blackened with soot and decay, some hint of its ancient grandeur still shone through in the abbey’s great temple. Mighty columns rose into the shadows beneath the crumbling roof, lifting the eye toward the heavens. Smaller pillars of graceful shape and elegant decoration hinted at the temple’s lost beauty. Altars to several different gods surrounded the towering statue of Bahamut, depicted as a human knight in armor. A pool of clear water stood near the south entrance of the temple. The water was bitterly cold, like the freezing breath of Bahamut, but a successful Religion check let our heroes know that anyone who drinks of the water gains a temporary blessing of clarity: Once before the character takes an extended rest, he can reroll a single d20 roll with a +2 bonus. A character can only gain this benefit from the pool once. Needless, to say, every single member of the party was immediately slurping up some of the water.
Since the party had found the Ruin card from the Deck of Many Things in a hidden niche in Bahamut’s altar, I spent some time explaining to them how the environmental effects of a card manifest automatically at the start of a combat encounter. They thought it was interesting that a creature in the same square as the card token gains access to a power associated with the magic of the card. For example, any creature in the Ruin token’s square can use the encounter power: Touch of Ruin.
After the party had thoroughly explored the temple, finding a stairway near the priests’ cells that led downward into the catacombs, everyone gathered back in the sanctum. Lord Bothwell sighed and said, “It is as I suspected, my friends. I cannot perform the ritual of purification without the temple’s sacred vessels. Our next task, then, must be to find them: a chalice, a bowl, and a brazier. In all my research, I found no mention of those items appearing outside the abbey, so I believe they are still here somewhere. It is only a matter of finding them and bringing them here to the temple.” Silas wasn’t very pleased with this news, but— in his defense— during the journey to Bree, Bothwell had told the party that he would need the 3 sacred items (Brazier of Silver Fire, Bowl of Ioun’s Blood, and Chalice of the Dragon) in order to complete the ritual.
After discussing their options, which included searching the other 3 ruined buildings on the plateau, the party decided to stay in the temple, head down the stairs they’d discovered near the priests’ cells, and explore the catacombs. As our heroes descended the stairs, from somewhere ahead, they heard the unmistakable sounds of battle. From the bottom of the stairs, they were able to see into a chamber where another group of adventurers was locked in combat with undead monsters.
(Encounter 23: Altar of Glory was the second time the players reached a marked encounter. Each marked encounter is keyed to a card from the Deck of Many Things in the rival adventurers’ possession. The party might come across these rivals— or signs of their passing— as many as four times over the course of the adventure.)
One of the other adventurers, a woman with curly blond hair showing beneath her helmet, was already bloodied. When she saw our heroes descending the stairs, she exclaimed, “Thank the gods! Please, friends, help us!” Silas wasn’t certain that helping these strangers was such a good idea, but Boojum— noticing that the wounded woman was quite fetching— convinced his companions that assisting the other adventurers was a great idea. So our heroes entered the fray, helping the strangers battle the undead monsters.
- Havarr, Pale Reaver Lord (Level 8 Elite Controller)
- 2 Pale Reavers (Level 5 Lurker)
- 4 Pale Reaver Creepers (Level 6 Minion Controller)
As the party waded into the fight, Boojum attempted to use the Ruin card’s power, but since it was the first time anyone had tried to use the card, the pixie didn’t quite have a handle on the magic involved, and the attack sputtered and failed. A few moments later, our heroes noticed a pattern of light and shadow start to shimmer on the floor adjacent to one of the strangers, Kurik the dwarf, and they suddenly realized that the other adventurers must also have a card from the Deck of Many Things!
Once the PCs and Lord Bothwell were fully engaged with the pale reavers, the rival adventurers started to withdraw from the fight. With everyone else caught up in melee across the chamber, Boojum edged back toward the stairs to block the exit. But then, Lenna teleported past Boojum and up the stairs, Arvan used Cloak of Darkness to escape past the pixie, and Kurik the dwarf used Frightful Presence to stun our poor hero. As Kurik, Grosh, and Tam rushed by Boojum, Kurik tried to pick the pixie’s pocket and snag the Ruin card, but luckily the dwarf failed. Boojum was feeling rather dejected as the rival adventurers escaped up the stairs, but his heart lifted when he heard Tam whisper, “Sorry. Call me, sweetie,” as she slipped past him.
Silas really wanted to charge up the stairs and chase after the dirty rotten so-and-so’s who had just done the party wrong, but the eladrin vampire was clear over at the northern end of the chamber, by the ornate altar, and so he himself really couldn’t do anything terribly vengeful. Bothwell, Dagon, Blake, and Gaultis were tied up with the pale reavers, so they couldn’t do anything about it either. And Boojum, of course, was just lying stunned at the bottom of the stairs, treasuring Tam’s parting words, even as he wondered what she meant when she said, "Call me."
After the party finally dispatched the last of the pale reavers (made all the more difficult by the monsters’ repeated use of their Insubstantial Transformation power), they investigated the irregularly shaped chamber where the battle had taken place. Four sarcophagi, one open, stood in the outer portion of the chamber. On each of the heavy stone sarcophagi, there were carvings venerating Moradin, Pelor, Ioun, and Erathis. Each sarcophagus also bore a name: Rombert, Toren, Fror, and Sefgar. During the course of the encounter, anyone who ended his or her turn within 2 squares of the open sarcophagus had taken 5 necrotic damage. Now, as they took a closer look at that particular coffin, our heroes could see that a shattered skeleton amid moldering burial garments lay inside it. They also couldn’t help noticing that the skeleton’s skull was missing. By that time, Silas, who had been over at the altar getting his implement buffed in some sacred fire, came back over to see what everyone else was doing. He went over to one of the closed sarcophagi and made as if to lift the lid off it. When everyone else started to back away, asking what exactly the vampire thought he was doing, Silas scoffed, “What’s the worst that could happen?”
As he levered the lid off and to one side, the vampire could see that inside the coffin was a skeleton lying amid moldering burial garments, and this skeleton still had its skull. At the same moment that the lid hit the floor, Silas felt a painful tingling sensation run through his body. By opening the knight’s sarcophagi, he had just incurred Bahamut’s ire. Silas will take a -1 penalty to attack rolls until the catacombs are cleared of evil influence.
After Silas’ little sacrilegious faux pas, the party took stock of their situation. They could head back up the stairs and attempt to pursue the rival adventurers, or they could explore what lay behind one of the doorways that led off this irregularly shaped chamber where they’d just defeated the pale reavers. They chose to take a short rest, stay in the catacombs, open the northern set of doors, and see what was on the other side of them.
As they opened the doors and advanced into the chamber that lay beyond, our heroes could see two ornately carved sarcophagi occupying one side of the room. Past the sarcophagi, they could just see a font jutting from the opposite wall, bubbling with clean, clear water. And then, with a clattering of bones, skeletons attacked!
- 2 Blazing Skeletons (Level 5 Artillery)
- 2 Skeletal Tomb Guardians (Level 10 Brute)
- 4 Skeletal Legionaries (Level 7 Minion Soldier)
On his first turn, with his companions already locked in combat with the skeletons, Silas made a beeline for the font bubbling on the chamber’s northern wall. Without even hesitating, he took a drink of the water. He found that any character drinking from the font (a minor action) regains hit points as if they’d spent a healing surge, and also gains resist 5 necrotic until the effect has blocked 20 necrotic damage. Each character can gain the font’s benefits only once per day.
As the clock ticked ever closer to closing time at our FLGS, Total Escape Games, the party had handily eliminated the 4 skeleton minions, but they were still locked in combat with the other monsters, so we had to break things off mid-battle. We’ll continue the encounter at the beginning of next Thursday night’s session.
Thanks for joining us on our adventure. I hope you tune in to the next post and see what happens as Blake, Boojum, Dagon, Gaultis, Lord Bothwell, and Silas continue to explore the ruins of Gardmore Abbey!