Friday, March 30, 2012

Madness at Gardmore Abbey... Session 4

Let’s cut right to the chase, dear reader… One of the adventurers wouldn’t make it out of this session alive.  So who bit the dust?  Hint: Even before this, he had already died two times during the course of the campaign… and Boojum has been wearing a necklace made from two of his pointy vampire teeth.

Before we get to the highlights from the fourth session of our Madness at Gardmore Abbey adventure, let’s review the members of our adventuring party:
  • Dagon— a watersoul genasi artificer (played by Robert)
  • Gaultis— a goliath warden (played by Chad)
  • Boojum— a pixie wizard (played by Steve)
  • Blake— a razorclaw shifter barbarian (played by Andy)
  • Silas—an eladrin vampire (played by Drew)
  • Lord Falkirk Bothwell is an NPC.  He is an aging knight of Bahamut who wishes to see evil purged from the ruins of old Gardmore Abbey.  The guys have taken turns playing Bothwell.

Our last session ended with the players in the Great Hall in the catacombs beneath Gardmore Abbey’s temple (see map below).  A mad priest of Tharizdun, Vadin Cartwright, had turned the enormous chamber into his lair.  Besides Vadin, our heroes had battled a venom-eyed basilisk, a snaketongue vampire, and 5 vampire spawn in Encounter 27: Great Hall.  Once they defeated the monsters and Vadin Cartwright, the party claimed 3 cards from the Deck of Many Things that had been in the crazed priest’s possession.

Since the players now have 4 cards from the Deck of Many Things (the Ruin, Skull, Sun, and Balance of Power cards), we spent the beginning of last night’s session reviewing how the cards work during an encounter.  On the way to the game, I had stopped at Staples and made copies of the cards’ powers (found in Book 1, pages 23-27) and gave the relevant ones to the players so that they’d have handy references to use during combat.

After taking an extended rest in the Great Hall and divvying up the cards, the party was ready to move on.  Rather than backtrack, they chose to investigate the closed set of doors in the southeastern corner of the enormous chamber.  Cautiously opening the doors, Boojum saw a small alcove.  To his left there was a dusty curtain composed of many dragon scales, blocking the pixie’s vision of what lay beyond.  Deciding that discretion was the better part of valor, Boojum backed off and let someone else take point.  Silas stepped forward and entered the alcove.

Inspecting the strange curtain, Silas saw that it was formed of small red, blue, black, green, and white dragon scales.  This curtain, and another one— also made from the scales of chromatic dragons— that the party would discover shortly, were the cause of much speculation during the course of the upcoming encounter.  The heavy curtains, though, were simply meant to provide testimony to the courage of the four knights who were laid to rest within the next chamber.  The four sarcophagi in that chamber all held the remains of knights who carried the honorific title of Dragonslayer.

Looking closely at the curtain in front of him, Silas saw that it was dusty but that in several small areas the dust had been smudged or wiped off. (Vadin Cartwright left those marks when he drew back the curtain to explore and loot this chamber.)  The eladrin vampire carefully parted the curtain and stepped through it into the next chamber.  This triggered the start of Encounter 26: Dragonslayers’ Tomb.
Silas saw that beyond the dragon scale curtain was a chamber containing more sarcophagi.  He also saw that emaciated undead creatures stalked among the stone coffins, looking at him hungrily as he pushed the curtain aside.  As Silas and Dagon boldly charged into the room, several creatures seemingly made of shadow rose from the sarcophagi.  Two of them resembled whirlwinds shot through with flashes of purple lightning.
  • 2 Vortex Wraiths (Level 9 Soldier)
  • 3 Ghasts (Level 6 Brute)
  • 2 Wraiths (Level 5 Lurker)
This encounter took up all of last night’s session!  Two hours into the session, the party had only managed to kill two of the monsters.  After that, things went a bit more quickly, but still… Yeesh.  The fact that the 4 wraiths were insubstantial, and therefore took half damage from all attacks (except those that dealt force damage), definitely prolonged the encounter.  Plus, the 2 vortex wraiths had regen 5.  I won’t lie to you, dear reader, this was a looong combat, and I thought of cutting it short several times, but a lot of fun stuff was happening, so I let it play out to the bitter end.

There was actually quite a bit of discussion among the players after the encounter had gone on for a while and they weren’t making much headway against the wraiths and ghasts.  Silas was the loudest voice advocating a retreat (especially after Bothwell discovered a secret door in the alcove back on the other side of the dragon scale curtain), but Boojum convinced the party to stay in the dragonslayers’ tomb and slug it out with the monsters.  The pixie said— and I quote: “These wings don’t run.”

Once the party decided to stay and fight, Blake rose to the occasion.  Taking advantage of the fact that he has multi-classed in Bard, the shifter used Skald’s Aura to inspire his allies with a song, allowing them to draw the strength to battle on.  He started to belt out, “Now you’re messing with a son of a bitch!” (from the title track of Nazareth’s 1975 album, Hair of the Dog).  The monsters must not have been very impressed with Blake’s singing (no doubt because there was no cowbell accompaniment) because the shifter soon found himself sprawled on the floor, unconscious and dying.  Seeing Blake fall, Silas quickly stepped toward his dying friend.  A pulse of shadow left the vampire’s hands, granting Blake strength and vigor, but leaving a dark stain on the shifter’s soul.  Despite the fact that we probably have over twenty years of higher education sitting around the game table, there was much middle school-ish joking about the nature of this “dark stain.” (This power was Silas’ Cleric Utility 2, Blackened Soul, which allows a dying comrade to spend two healing surges. Until the end of the encounter or until he regains full hit points, that comrade also gains a +2 power bonus to attack & damage rolls but grants combat advantage.)

Shortly after helping Blake, Silas used some other tricksy power that allowed him to teleport and become invisible.  But as a vortex wraith rushed by him on its way to attack Dagon, Silas couldn’t resist taking an opportunity attack against it.  Silas missed the wraith, but his attack made him visible to the monster.  (This is when things started to go downhill for Silas.)  The wraith stopped in its tracks and attacked the now-visible eladrin vampire with its Spiral Strike.  It crit’d with the attack, doing 22 damage.

Meanwhile, Gaultis had activated the Sun card across the chamber, so if Silas— down to 7 hit points— could somehow make it to the card’s token, he would be able to use Sun’s Refreshment and spend a healing surge.  But Silas was almost surrounded by enemies who were closing in on him!  No problemo… Boojum was up next and helpfully sprinkled Silas with pixie dust so that the wounded vampire could soar to safety.  But first, Silas would have to survive an opportunity attack by the vortex wraith.  As Silas and his 7 hit points flew by the monster, it struck out and shot him down.  Ouch.

As Silas lay there in a crumpled heap, unconscious and dying, Dagon’s turn came up and the artificer managed to get to the fallen vampire and use a healing infusion.  Whew.

But then on the vortex wraith’s turn, it noticed that although Silas was still lying there in a crumpled heap, the vampire was no longer unconscious and dying.  So it used its spiral strike on Silas again.  And that quickly, Silas was once again unconscious and dying.  Bummer.

But! Dagon once again came to the rescue, drawing a healing potion and pouring it down his dying friend’s throat.  Yeah!

But but! The dastardly wraith once again noticed Silas moving around a bit, so it whacked the vampire yet again with spiral strike.  And that quickly, Silas was once again unconscious and dying.  That’s the third time in three turns, just in case anyone is counting.

And then Blake KIA’d a ghast, which meant the monster’s Death Burst was triggered.  As nasty ghast parts splattered all over, (and your humble DM thought this was sooooo funny) the unconscious and dying Silas was hit.  That attack did just enough damage so that when Silas started his turn in the vortex wraith’s vortex aura, the 5 force damage killed him.  Killed him dead-dead!  That’s the third time Silas has been dead-dead during the course of our campaign, just in case anyone is counting.

Silas immediately started to try and guilt Boojum over the not-retreating-out-of-the-room decision, and also over the more recent incident with the pixie dust, but since Silas was dead-dead, Boojum didn’t hear anything.

After combat was over, Boojum did helpfully chop off one of Silas’ pinky fingers so the party could take it back to Bree and hopefully find someone who will be able to perform the Raise Dead ritual.  (When no one was looking, the pixie also did a little postmortem dental work on Silas’ corpse, adding two more pointy vampire teeth to his necklace.)

While Boojum was attending to Silas’ body, Blake and Gaultis checked out the sarcophagi in the chamber.  They could see that although the stone coffins had elaborate carvings venerating Bahamut, someone had defaced the names on each of them.  They also noticed that small amounts of mortar, dust, and gravel were scattered around each sarcophagus, as if they had already been opened and resealed.  Deciding they had nothing to lose by opening the sarcophagi again, the two levered the lid off the one in the northeast corner of the room.  Inside it, they found the Bowl of Io’s Blood!  That’s one of the three sacred vessels Lord Bothwell needs to purify the temple.

Thanks so much for joining us on our adventure!  We hope you tune in next week to see what happens as we continue to have fun playing through Madness at Gardmore Abbey.   

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