Saturday, 23 January 2021

Full Table

After just finishing a session (#36) with only two players at the online table this session saw a "full" table. Now with five players although one was still away this week and one player was mainly a spectator. For me, a group of five players is my maximum. Even in a face-to-face game, I prefer to max out at five but I can do more. For an online game with the current technology (Discord) I would recommend not going over five players. There is still the issue that not everyone can talk at once. With five players it is going to happen on occasion. I think with more people some players are not going to be heard. You want the players to be more than just dice rollers. During the combat portion of the session, I did find myself scrolling back up the chat a few times to catch up on a few attacks by players that I missed.

It was also nice to have more than one player in the group who was assertive. It led to more roleplaying. I actually found I had stretches of five minutes or more when I could settle quietly into the background while the players interacted. It greatly reduces the stress on the Gamemaster. This session was a fairly straight forward one with travel and a short troll encounter. It will be interesting to see how this works in future sessions. There is the possibility, depending on what the players decide to do, of the players heading into an investigative session. That could be interesting.

This session was one where the players did not burn through everything I had prepared. I find that I have more than enough written and set aside for the next session for once.

Session 37: New friends and Old Enemies

Players: Lakima (Human Magic-user), Eathwund (Human Fighter), Moonshadow (Elven Thief), Carric (Elven Thief NPC), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter PC/NPC).

With the Tome of Artifice carefully stowed in a sack and packed away the adventuring party of the Black Dragon set out following the Crescent stream south. They have a four-day journey ahead of them to get to Edgerton. They need to reach Edgerton before the Blue Dragon Synastarax returns. The deadline is one week away.

On the first day, they pass the ford that leads to the village of Garanton. From here they see their tracks in the snow are covered over by wagon tracks. Carric examines the tracks and declares it is several wagons that are a half-day ahead of them. That night as they make camp Carric scans the river valley ahead but sees no sign of any campfires set by fellow travellers.

The next morning Lakima decides to tell the charmed ogre Otun to go back to the wild. Figuring they would have a problem travelling with an ogre once they left the wilderness. The adventurers set out again. Around noon Carric, in the lead, holds up his hand to halt. Ahead on the frozen river they see an empty wagon has fallen halfway through the ice. On the shore, there is a confusion of tracks. The tracks of at least two wagons head south. Another set of tracks created by a large creature dragging a large sack head east into the wilderness. Carric examines the tracks and suggests they were made by a troll who appears to have ambushed some merchants on the trail. Lakima agrees but says there is no need to investigate.

They continue south and after a short distance spot a thin figure approaching from the south. The adventurers fan out in case this is an enemy. As the figure approaches and tosses back her hood they see it is a pale-skinned elf. The elf introduces herself as Moonshadow. She was travelling with a merchant out of Garanton. The day before they were attacked by at least one troll in the early evening. One wagon got separated from the rest. Once the merchant leading the wagons realized that four travellers were missing he stopped. Moonshadow volunteered to go back and look for them. She found the wreck of the wagon and followed the tracks to a cave entrance. Wisely deciding she would not be able to fight a troll in its lair she proceeded back to the trail looking for help. Looking over the group with some suspicion she asks if they will help her find the missing merchants.

A new friend on the road

The members of the adventuring party confer. The blue dragon Synastarax’s deadline should be Dechem 27. It is only Dechem 21 or 22 by their reckoning. They should have a few days to spare to get back to Edgerton in time to meet the dragon’s deadline. Lakima tells Moonshadow they can spare a day to look for the missing men. Moonshadow corrects him - three men are missing and one Halfling.

Nash suggests he wait by the river with the horses once Moonshadow explains that the troll cave is only a few hours away. But Lakima tells Nash that this would leave him all alone with trolls wandering about. He quickly decides to come with them.  Moonshadow leads them through light snow to a large hill. On the side of the hill, a frozen stream emerges from a cave. She points at the cave indicating that it is the troll lair. Nash sets up a camp while the rest of the adventurer's don gear and ready their weapons. Outside the cave, Lakima suggests that the two elves enter first and scout ahead since they can see in the dark. Moonshadows gestures, “after you” to Carric and he enters first. Moving as quietly as they can, the two elves enter the cave and follow the frozen stream to a cave. A scattering of broken wood crates is piled on the cave floor. The stream continues into another cave where Carric spots a mound of fresh dirt with an entrance in the front. He hurries back to Moonshadow to confer. Then the two elves return to the exit and tell the humans what they have found.

The adventurers decide on a course of action. Carric and Moonshadow enter the caves first and take up positions covering the hole in the mound with their bows ready. Eathwund, Lakima, and Domago hold back with Lantosh in the back with his lantern. Nothing happens at first but as soon as the mound is illuminated by the light of the lantern carried by Lantosh, a giant lizard rushes out of the mound. It does not see Carric and Moonshadow and rushes right past them for Lantosh. Both elves take a pair of shots with their bows and miss. The 10-foot-long lizard clamps down on Lantosh’s thigh in its jaws. Eathwund comes to Lantosh’s aid, striking the giant lizard and it releases its grip. The rest of the adventurers fire missile weapons at it until it stops moving. Domago checks on Lantosh and casts a Healing prayer on the unfortunate man. Lantosh asks Moonshadow if this is a Troll cave or a Lizard cave?

While the adventurers discuss this, Carric and Moonshadow move further into the caves. Carric sees some large wooden cages with dark shapes inside. Then Moonshadow spots a troll moving about in another cave further up the stream. Moonshadow moves back to the other adventurers and warns them. The entire group moves forward into the cave with the two large cages. The humans are unable to spot the troll in the darkness but Moonshadow assures them that the troll is in the cave. Lakima tells Moonshadow to draw out the troll so she fires a pair of arrows at it and misses. The arrows hit the cave wall above the troll. The troll reacts and begins looking around turning its back to the group. Carric joins Moonshadow and they fire four more arrows. All of the arrows miss. The troll becomes aware of the attack as it picks up a broken arrow. It growls and moves in large, strides toward the heroes.  Once the troll enters the lantern light Lantosh and Eathwund move up to block its passage at a narrow point in the passage. Eathwund activates his Ring and his sword bursts into flame. As he strikes the troll it cries out and Eathwund sees that the wound is not healing. He strikes it again but then the flames go out. Forced to strike the troll now without flame Eathwund watches as the wounds on the troll begin to heal. A second troll appears in the passage and moves towards the group. Lantosh is bitten by the troll and staggers. He moves back and Lakima steps up and casts Atanazabar’s Acrid finger. A stream of acid hits the troll doing more damage. The troll decides to flee and it runs north down the tunnel splashing through the unfrozen portion of the stream. The adventurers let it go and concentrate on the other troll. They hit it repeatedly with their weapons and driven to the ground after Eathwund chops off one of its legs. The troll lies on the ground but as they watch its wounds begin to heal and the leg wriggles towards the body. Lakima moves his acid spray onto the troll and slowly dissolves it.

The Troll Cave - old enemies

Carric is sent to scout ahead in the direction the troll went. The rest of the heroes look about the cave. Two men are found alive in one of the cages. With some effort, working together the adventurers manage to tip the cage over and free the two men. Moonshadow recognizes the men she knows as Natty and Karker. Karker thanks them for the rescue. He tells them that another man was taken away and eaten several hours ago and the halfling was dragged away still alive a short time ago.

Carric returns and tells everyone the next cave is the last in the underground. The stream continues north in a narrow passage. He was not willing to follow the stream. He could hear the Troll moaning in the distance. Quietly he tells Lakima that he found some gold coins strewn about the cave and picked them up. Gold that likely belongs to the merchants. The entire party moves into the next cave. In the lantern light, they find a troll nest filled with debris, parts of humanoids and animals and bones. Moonshadow identifies the partially gnawed head of the halfling that went missing. Satisfied that they have rescued everyone still alive, the group leaves the caves and reunites with Nash. Domago chants another Cure prayer on Lantosh.

The party sets out again heading south with three extra party members. That night they set up camp and set a watch for more marauders. Moonshadow offers to take a shift on watch. The next day they arrive at Wayfarer’s End. The small hamlet consists of a trading post/inn and a few cottages. At the Inn Karker, Natty, and Moonshadow are reunited with Bregor who was leading their caravan. Bregor thanks the group and produces two bottles of wine to share so they do not have to drink the innkeeper's terrible home-made spirits. The merchants have taken all of the rooms so the adventurers sleep on the floor of the common room thankful to be inside and out of the cold. Carric and Moonshadow take a watch together and Moonshadow learns a little about Carric and his companions in the Company of the Black Dragon.

The next day Bregor learns the adventurers are headed for Edgerton and asks that they travel in company. Deciding strength in numbers is a good idea, the large party heads out together. Overnighting in the wilderness for one night before reaching The Goose Inn in Whetwhistle. Their business partner Whexley greets them and makes sure his friends get all of the private rooms. The merchants bed down in the tavern.

Just before noon on the next day, the entire caravan reaches the South Gate of Edgerton. The watch stationed at the gate greets them and ushering them past without inspection. The grateful merchants wave goodbye. Lakima invites Moonshadow over to the Chapter House of the Black Dragon. There she meets their staff and is shown around. Lakima also shows her the vault which she looks at with interest. Lakima explains that the building used to belong to a moneylender. She meets their newest member Alonso.

Once everything is settled Lakima, Eathwund, Lantosh, Alonso, and Moonshadow head over to the Watch Station and meet with Colten Brightmoor. They assure the worried Guard Captain that they have located the Tome of Artifice demanded by the blue dragon Synastarax. They will be present for the hand-over of the book or will make sure it is available to Brightmoor. Brightmoor tells them of the plans he has made for the defense of Edgerton. He also notes he is short of men in the evenings because of a number of killings that have occurred in the Mirdton district.

Upon hearing of some of the details of the killings, Lakima dismisses it as not being a job that would pay them. Colten Brightmoor does not ask for their help with it certain that the extra watch he has assigned to the district will put a stop to the killings.

Lakima checks in with his fiance Alayna and shows her the two potions he found in the Plundered Tomb. Alayna gets to work on identifying them. Later Lakima, Eathwund, and Moonshadow go to the Apothecary and speak with Malyn. Lakima angrily tells Malyn that the Dark Lady cultists are messing with the Well of Mana. Malyn implies that Lakima should have expected this as the cultists are tied to the god of chaos. There is anger exchange and Lakima ends by telling Malyn that he will deal with any cultists at the Well.

There are a few days before the dragon’s deadline so everyone settles down to relax. Lakima invites Moonshadow to join the group and gives her a room at the Chapter House. Moonshadow does not commit to the group. She does spend some time exploring the town of Edgerton which is new to her. In the Low Market, she grabs a young urchin/sneak thief named Snipe and asks the boy about the local underworld. Snipe turns out to be one of Carric’s crew. But the young man seems eager to have another employer. Snipe fills Moonshadow in on more details about the killings of the two women both of whom were streetwalkers.

Back at the Chapter House, Moonshadows tells her new friends what she has learned. Lakima asks what is the pay for getting involved? With no good answer, Moonshadow drops the discussion. Lantosh privately tells Moonshadow that if she wants to investigate he will back her play.

The next morning they hear one of the town criers announcing another murder in Mirdton. The town crier calls it the work of the “Ripper” a killer of legend who killed five ladies of the night over fifty years ago and was never caught. The town crier also yells out that the latest victim is a man. Which would not be the usual pattern.

Lakima goes back to meet Malyn and offers the mage his notes on the Magic Jar spell he found in the Plundered Tomb in exchange for a scroll containing the Wall of Iron spell. Malyn agrees to a deal that includes the added price of 900 gold. Malyn says he will have the scroll ready in two days.

It is Dechem 25, the annual date of the Winter Solstice and Yule festivals but no one in Edgerton is celebrating. The dragon is set to return in two days and preparations need to be made.


Tuesday, 19 January 2021

Legacy of Madness

After the previous session when the party wandered off and avoided all of the encounters I planned this week, they stuck to the adventure. The adventure was based on the AEG D20 adventure Legacy of Magic and I had a time element included that heightened the tension. My players can be pretty mercenary at times but getting them to save their town did not take any effort. We were down to just 2 players for this session because other players had work to go to but it still worked.

Session 36: Legacy of Madness

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief NPC), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC).

The Blue Dragon Synastarax has delivered an ultimatum to the Town of Edgerton and the Order of the Black Dragon has stepped up to save the town.

The company makes immediate plans to locate the Tome of Artifice demanded by Synastarax. They set out with a large caravan, all five members who are going are on horseback and they bring a team of mules led by their ostler Nash. By early evening they arrive in the small village of Whetwhistle. The Innkeeper (and business partner) Wexley Windham bring the group up to date on what has been happening in the development of the nearby Copper Mine they co-own.

They stay for the night at the Goose Inn and Lakima has a dream in which the blue mana flame at the Mana Well turns into a gout of red chaos flame. He hears the goddess expressing disappointment in him. That morning Lakima pens a letter to the wizard Malyn in Edgerton asking him to go to the Well and protect it. Wexley gets a neighbour's son to take it into Edgerton for a small fee. The adventurers get back on their horses and set out northwest along the Crescent River. There is light snow on the ground and the river is frozen over in places. It takes two uneventful days to get to the hamlet of Wayfarer’s End. The hamlet is no more than a trading post/inn and a few hunting cottages. The innkeeper, Marsden gives them some insight into the trail ahead. Telling them how to get to the Shroudlands. He also warns them that Trolls have been spotted along the trail. He tells them of the ruins of a village in the Shroudlands where a hermit has taken up residence.

It is another two days to get to the Shroudlands. On the first night, they got the feeling they are being watched, and Carric slips away from the campfire looking to spot the watchers. He does not find anything. But the next morning they find troll footprints in the snow near the campsite. They set out again and are attacked by a pair of trolls as dusk is falling. Lakima hits one troll with a Lightning bolt almost killing it. Eathwund stabs it with his sword enchanted to flame and the troll falls. The other troll fights with Lantosh and Domago while Carric and Nash lead the horses and mules to the riverbank. The troll that was seemingly dead begins to heal and get back up so Eathwund stabs it through the heart with his flaming sword and the troll stops moving. The other troll is kept at bay by Lakima using Atanazabir’s Acrid Finger. The troll is unable to regenerate the acid damage. Eventually, the second troll is driven off. Lakima takes the time to dissolve the first troll's remains with acid. Pushing on they make it to Northrun by evening.

Northrun is a collection of chimneys and stone foundations poking out of the snow. The ruins appear to have succumbed to nature and not any unnatural calamity. There is one intact, albeit shabby cabin. The adventurers hail the cabin but get no answer. After knocking on the door for a while the hermit of the cabin answers telling them to go away. Eventually, they convince the old man to open the door a crack. He tells them there are no dragons in the area and no old lairs. When they point out the clearly visible cave in a cliff a quarter of a mile away he tells them it is an ogre cave. The hermit slams his door shut and tells them to leave.

The heroes camp out in the lee of the cabin that evening. Nothing is seen from the cottage except a trail of smoke from the chimney and a single loud thump during the evening. The next day they walk for a few hours to get to the cliff face. Up the side of the cliff leading to a large cave entrance, they can see a ledge. Nash sets up a camp at the base of the cliff caring for the horses and everyone else climbs the ledge to the large cave entrance. Carric is sent in first. After a few minutes, he returns and tells them he spotted a pair of ogres sleeping in a side cave. The main cave continues deeper into the mountain past a wall of stalagmites.

Carric leads the way and the rest of the adventurers follow as quietly as they can. Lakima directs Carric across the 15 foot wide mouth of the cave leading to where he saw the trolls. Carric comes back and tells everyone he can now see four ogres. Two on either side of a pool of murky water in a cave. Lakima directs Carric to sneak forward so he can get behind the ogres when they draw them out. Then Lakima casts a Lightning bolt hitting two of the sleeping ogres. One of them alerted at the last moment dives to one side and survives the lightning blast. The other is killed. The remaining two ogres in the cave pick up clubs and move toward Eathwund, Lantosh, Domago, and Lakima, affording Carric the opportunity to sneak forward. Lakima casts Charm on one ogre and it succeeds. Meanwhile, Eathwund and Lantost are pummeling the other ogre.

Carric steps almost directly into the ogre that survived the lightning blast. Before he can draw his sword, a sling stone hurled by Domago strikes the ogre in the forehead killing it. The charmed ogre manages to convince the other remaining ogre to stop fighting and the battle ends. Lakima tries speaking to the charmed ogre but finds he cannot understand it. Luckily, Lantosh speaks orcish and the ogre is able to understand this language. They learn its name is Otun and it is the leader of this small gang. Searching through the bones and debris in the lair Carric finds a few gems of worth and a number of nearly worthless ones. They take the valuable gems only.

Stepping deeper into the cave the adventurers see a line of natural looking but unnaturally placed stalagmites that form a rough wall. Suspended on rusty chains looped over the stones are skulls. Most appear to be human but some are larger than human and one is that of a dragon. At the edge of the stalagmites, they see the frozen corpse of an ogre. Otun relays through Lantosh that this is Gizor. Otun sent Gizor and another ogre named Irek to check the back of the cave but they did not return and he saw Gizor killed by a blast of frost. Carric checks the area carefully but is unable to find any traps. Eventually, Carric dodges past the stalagmites. As he makes it to the other side he is hit with a blast of frost and injured. The adventurers check for a trigger again but still cannot find anything. Eventually, they give up and all of them run through the frost trap, even Otun (the other surviving ogre retreats to ogre cave). The second last to go is Lantosh and he stumbles and falls and is frozen solid by the trap. Lakima drags the unlucky adventurer out of the cloud of frost. Domago checks over Lantosh but shakes his head. He cannot hear a heartbeat.

The Frost Trap

Looking around the adventurers see another wall of stalagmites blocking the entrance to a cave leading west. But in this area, they see white stone flagstones laid over the cave floor. On the perimeter of the flagstones are four life-sized statues of wizards and sages on pedestals. The adventurers spend several minutes trying to figure out the meaning of the area and the statues without success. Pushing, pulling them, lifting flagstones, nothing works. Lakima casts Detect Magic and sees that one statue radiates strong magic. The statue depicts a sage with his arms outstretched, palms pointed upward. They try placing objects in the hands but nothing happens. Then Lakima directs Otun to pick up Lantosh’s body and rest it in the embrace of the statue. Nothing happens for a moment and then the statue begins to glow. As the glow fades they see Lantosh is breathing again. Injured but alive. Lantosh tells them that he felt an intense cold when the trap was triggered and then nothing.

With the group at full strength again (plus 1 ogre) they examine the next obstacle. In the cave beyond the next barrier of stalagmites they see the corpse of an ogre lying face up on the cave floor. Its body is riddled with puncture wounds. Overhead they see the ceiling is covered with short metal spikes. As Lakima draws near he sees an area of magic outlined on the floor of the cave. His detect magic spell is still working. Around the edges of the magically glowing area, he can just make out a narrow path. Lakima carefully steps around the magical area and marks the path with chalk. The rest of the adventurers follow. Another more sparse wall of stalagmites stands before them. On the other side, they can see a cave extending a short distance. On the far wall of the cave is a set of steps leading up to a passageway. This passage and the steps are lined with stone blocks on the floor, walls, and ceiling. Lakima can see the glow of another magical trap on the rough floor of the cave. He leads everyone around the trap and into the passage.

The passage travels a short distance and then enters a large stone-walled chamber. Pillars hold up the ceiling (though one has fallen). Before them is the awesome sight of the lair of an ancient dragon. Mounds of gold and silver coins are scattered on the floor. Resting on the bed of silver and gold are the bones of a large dragon 25 feet in length. The adventurers approach cautiously with Carric in the lead. As Carric nears the dragon bones a cold breeze enters the chamber and the ghost of a dragon rises up out of the bones. The apparition forms and looks gravely down at them. In common the dragon says, “What news of the world do you bring me?”

Lakima steps forward to speak with the dragon and immediately opens by telling it of the threat to Edgerton and the demands of the dragon Synastarax. The ghostly dragon tells them he has never heard of Edgerton and he is sorry for the town’s misfortune. But the dragon tells them that when he tried to create the Tome of Artifice he failed. He created a Tome of Logic which slowly stole his wisdom and drove him insane. He only regained his sanity after death which came at the jaws of his son Lethnearinos. He does suggest a possible solution. In the chamber beyond lies a false tome created by Lethnearinos using his notes. A fake tome of Artifice. He is willing to part with it. This book contains his notes from a hundred years before he attempted to create the Tome of Artifice. At best it should take Synastarax 100 years to get to the point where he can create anything dangerous. But he warns them not to continue into the next chamber where the Tome of Logic rests protected by a Bronze Dragon guardian. The adventurers agree to the bargain and proceed via a secret door already located by Carric. In the chamber, they find an impressive book on a stone lectern that is radiating magic. The book has no title on its cover or spine but when Lakima opens it he sees the title, “Tome of Artifice”. He flips through it briefly and is impressed by hundreds of pages of notes on the construction of artifacts.

The dragon again asks Lakima to tell him of news from the outer world. He has lain here for hundreds of years without visitors. Lakima sits down and spends a half-hour conversing with the ghost of the silver dragon. He learns that its true name is Yahfyonaron. When they prepare to leave Carric asks how they will get past the frost trap again without dying. The ghost shows them the lever to turn off the traps but it needs to be reset after they leave to protect the Tome of Logic from being discovered. Carric suggests using Uton to reset the trap but Lakima does not want to sacrifice the ogre. As they prepare to leave the ghost asks that they deliver a message of forgiveness to his offspring Lethnearinos. Lakima realizes who Lethnearinos is and he says he has a solution to resetting the trap.

The adventurers and Uton leave and make their way to Nash’s camp. The young man shouts and runs to hide when he spots the ogre who is with them but they manage to convince him it is okay. They return to the ruins of Northrun. Lakima heads up to the cabin and calls out to the hermit. The hermit is surprised they have returned and tells them they are fools they do not know what danger they have unleashed. Then he polymorphs into the silver dragon Lethnearinos. Lakima tells the dragon that it is only the fake book they are carrying. He asks Lethnearinos to reset the traps in the dragon lair. Lethnearinos reveals that he set some of the traps and agrees. Lakima also tells him about the message from Yahfyonaron. Lethnearinos is surprised and tells him he is in his debt. Lakima immediately asks for a favor. He tells the dragon of the Well of Mana (which Lethnearinos seems to know nothing about) and asks him to protect it. Lethnearinos agrees on the condition that first, he must hear that the blue dragon Synastrax has left the area with the fake Tome of Artifice.

With the agreement struck, the adventurers set out again following the Crescent stream south.

Saturday, 9 January 2021

I think we will just skip that

During last week's session of my Swords & Wizardry campaign, I had three short adventures written and waiting for the players. They were just coming out of a multiple session large dungeon and I felt they would likely appreciate being able to pick something short to do. They proceeded to skip 2 of the 3 I had written and I ended up scrambling a little to make up something on the fly. Luckily I had some ideas floating around in my head for the next adventure so I did not have to completely ad-lib.

I also took the opportunity to give the players some downtime. They are in the 4-7 level range now and have enough gold that they can afford to take their time picking up their next job. So I gave them several weeks in their home town to do research and buy equipment.

Session 35: Hill Giants & Dragons

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Alonso (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief NPC), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC).

Upon leaving the Plundered Tomb just in time to avoid it collapsing, the heroes set out for Caster’s Ford through the snowy Valley of Heroes.

The sun has barely reached its peak as the heroes leave the tomb so they decide to get started immediately. Everyone is loaded down with a large sack of loot and this slows their progress as they march toward Caster's Ford. As the sun begins to set it starts to snow lightly. Up ahead around a bend in the stream they spot a campfire. Lakima asks Carric to scout ahead. The elf goes forward and comes back a few minutes later. He reports a fire surrounded by four statues (3 humans and one wolf). The adventurers decide to approach the statues carefully. The campfire is in a small hollow and they fan out around it. Footprints in the recently fallen snow show one set of tracks heading south into a dark forest and many tracks heading back and forth across a ford in the stream. A pair of the tracks seem to be laden down with something heavy. They note that the statues depict a mage, cleric, and fighter with expressions of fear or surprise. Assuming there must be a medusa or cockatrice nearby, the heroes decide to leave quickly and push on for a few more hours before camping.

Thus avoiding a pair of encounters I had set up. One encounter with the bandits they chased from the Plundered Tomb and one encounter with a Medusa in a series of caves. I figured they would do one or the other but they skipped both using logic. They were weighed down with a lot of loot.

They stop a few hours later and camp for the night in the cold. A campfire is built and they take turns on watch. Other than spotting a few curious animals everything is quiet through the night. They set out again the next day. At about midday, they pass the track that leads to the Well of Woe. Lakima suggests coming back to the well another time. Right now they are heavily laden with loot and need to make haste for the nearby town. That same loot slows their progress through the snow so that they decide to camp another night outdoors only 4-5 hours walk from Caster’s Ford.

Avoiding the second prepared adventure. Lakima had been talking about recharging his staff and wand at the Well of Woe they found back in session 30. I had a new group occupying the Mana Well temple. They might come back to this one some day.

After an uneventful night, they set out again, cold and a little hungry. Just before noon, they spot the road that leads into the town. But to their surprise, several merchant carts are stopped on the road, and merchants, guards, and common folk are standing around talking. Eathwund and Lakima approach a nearby caravan guard. The man tells them that three giants are laying siege to the town. They are set up on a nearby hill that allows them to hurl boulders at the town walls and onto the road into town. Several wagons had to be abandoned outside the town and one merchant was killed. When Lakima asks what the town guards are doing about it, the man tells them that a sortie of town guards left the town a few hours ago, headed up the hill, and then came running down in fright a short time later.

Lakima confers with the rest of the adventurers and they decide that it will be up to them to deal with the giants. Lakima lets the merchants know that they will be taking care of the problem. He manages to convince them to let the group have the cart of the dead merchant. One of the merchant guards asks to join them. He tells them his name is Alonso. The adventurers welcome him figuring the more the better.

Unable to avoid my third short adventure as the way into the Town is blocked by the giants. They could have headed south or run to the town but they would have come under attack. This also allowed me to introduce a new player character named Alonso to the group.

The Hill Giants are situated on a hill with a gentle slope facing the town and a steep cliff 40 feet high on the other side. Trees cover the back of the hill. The giants have set up giant wooden caltrops to deter horses from approaching on the gentle slope. Lakima and Carric look over the situation and decide they will climb up and hope to surprise the giants from behind. Carric manages to climb up the cliff face with ease and he lets down a rope to the others. He also makes several hand gestures that no one is able to decipher. The rest of the hero's climb up one at a time. Pausing only when a giant comes toward them and stops before a small tent that barely reaches his waist. The giant converses with someone in the tent and then moves back to the front to hurl more boulders at the town.

Lakima tells Carric to check the tent. Meanwhile, Lakima, Eathwund, and Alonso circle to the right through the trees while Domago and Lantosh circle to the left. Carric sneaks up to the tent and cuts a small slit in the back with his dagger. He peers inside and signals a single finger. Lakima waves him inside the tent. Carric slices an opening in the back of the tent and slips inside. Meanwhile, everyone else runs forward hoping to catch the giants by surprise. Lakima breaks the silence by yelling at Eathwund to get down as he casts Lightning Bolt. The Lightning bolt lances across the hillside striking all three of the giants. The giants roar in pain and are knocked down. They struggle to their feet, their skin blackened and cracked open from the assault.

Domago and Lantosh surround a single giant, the runt of the trio, and start to attack. Alonso runs up to the middle giant and Eathwund goes after the giant nearest him and Lakima. The giant fighting Alonso breaks away and staggers to the tent tearing it open yelling something they do not understand. Inside they now see Carric struggling with a human cleric wearing dark robes and holding a staff. The cleric breaks free from Carric and chants a loud prayer freezing Carric with Hold Person. He then tosses something from a leather bag, raises his arm, and shouts. The heroes see sixteen skeletons erupt from beneath the nearby snow. Domago attempts to turn the skeletons and half of them run away.

Carric was a PC until the last session. I usually like to retire player characters rather than retain them as NPCs. But there was no logical place to do it. Carric will slowly work his way off screen.

The battles continue, Alonso tracking down the Hill giant that got away from him. Three skeletons advance on Lakima and strike him twice with their rusty swords. Lakima yells at Eathwund for help just as Eathwund kills the giant he is facing. Lakima casts shield and that protects him from the skeletons long enough for help to arrive. Alonso kills the second giant a short time later. Further down the hill Lantosh and Domago are struggling with a giant and four skeletons. The cleric takes advantage of the confusion to run away to the north. Eathwund turns about and runs over to help Lakima, dispatching 4 skeletons on the way. Alonso runs over to help Domago who is laboring after being hit several times. As Eathwund arrives on the scene they all manage to kill the last hill giant and destroy the remaining skeletons. Carric eventually becomes free of the curse and runs off after the cleric who cursed him.

The Hill giants are checked for loot. They are found to have nothing of any worth except a short sword that appeared to be a pocket knife for the largest giant. In the ruins of the tent, Alonso finds a pack left behind. Inside are some gold and silver coins and three valuable gems. Lantosh points out the find to Lakima but the mage tells Alonso to keep it. His reward for helping them. The heroes are joined by Alonso and they head into town using the abandoned cart to drag their loot from previous adventures. Lakima starts up a conversation with Alonso and invites the fighter to join the Company of the Black Dragon. Alonso agrees to join for now. As they approach the docks near the central square they see that the ship that brought them to Caster’s Ford has left - the agreed date it was to leave passed a few days earlier. Lakima checks with a boat that is currently unloading cargo and finds that they are heading back to Edgerton. Once a fee is agreed upon the captain of the boat tells them they leave in an hour. The adventurers take the remaining time to exchange the platinum into gems and Alonso checks out a nearby armory but decides to wait until they get to Edgerton to buy new gear.

Exchanging gold to gems is always a little tricky in an OSR game where gold rewards are common and plentiful. I had the locals take a sizeable cut to allow the players to exchange their gold and platinum. I award experience on what is recovered - not on what is spent.

The boat ride to Edgerton takes almost 2 days and is uneventful. The adventurers take the time to get acquainted with Alonso. Once in Edgerton they immediately head for the Chapter House. Nothing has changed. Huntley, their manservant, tells them there were no issues while they were away for a week. Carric wanders off to check in with his contacts. Lakima heads over to Cromly’s Smithy and picks up the necklace he commissioned. He presents it to Alayna who seems to appreciate the uniqueness of it. Alonso goes and commissions some plate mail armor. He asks Eathwund about where he can buy healing potions and Eathwund tells him about Alayna’s shop that is located out back of the Chapter House. Alonso heads over and meets Alayna and Lakima. He purchases a few healing potions.

Lakima goes over to confer with Malyn the mage at the Apothecary. He tells Malyn about the Mana Well and Zia/Medamellara. Malyn is incredulous that this could have escaped his keen eye but was found by Lakima. He seems quite put off by it. Lakima asks if there is some group that could protect the mana well. Malyn mentions the Church of the Dark Lady - but there is a catch. He misplaced his bodyguard Humbert that the Church provided him. He needs to get him back. Malyn attempts to talk Lakima into entering the Mazestone but is rebuffed. He does agree to contact the Church of the Dark Lady. He tells Lakima that he cannot provide him with any 4th level spells. Lakima will need to learn them himself.

Here Lakima turned down another adventure. This Mazestone adventure has been available since session 28 but Lakima is not interested. There is not enough of a reward, and being placed into an extradimensional maze does not appeal to him. Eathwund was also offered the job by Malyn at one point. Malyn has been the party's go-to sage and wizard shop but Lakima is now getting to the level where Malyn can no longer be of help.

That evening they had a party at The Dancing Dragon. Lakima gives the innkeeper 200 gold and tells him to give free drinks to every person who toasts Dag Icefoot, their recently fallen comrade. Lantosh nervously asks how often they do this when Lakima tells everyone that it is a tradition. As they leave the tavern, a drunk Lakima thinks he sees Dag amongst the revelers raising a tankard to him. 

Since new jobs that appeal to the group are available right now - and since they are well set financially, they decide to take some downtime. Lakima studies and researches new spells and the Library of Antiquity, Alonso also spends time at the Library researching monsters and legends, Eathwund studies the Manual of Exercise. Lantosh spends time honing his skills with the polearm and Domago heads over to help out and the Church of St. Aleena. Carric drops in every few days and tells Lakima and Eathwund that the opportunity in Edgerton is perfect right now to set up a gang to control all of the gangs in the town. He tells them he will be spending less time in the Company.

There is not a lot written in the Swords & Wizardry rulebook about researching spells. So I assumed it would cost Lakima about what it would cost to buy a spell to research it.

Everything is peaceful and quiet until they are awakened one morning by the sounds of bells ringing and shouting outside their door. Looking out they see people running away from Market Square. The adventurers put on their gear and head over to the square. Here they see an enormous, old, Blue Dragon perched in the center of the square. Town guards arrive and set up a cordon around it. The dragon ignores the guards and casually crushes a few of the market stalls in the square. Lakima steps forward and addresses the dragon. The dragon asks Lakima if he represents the town. When Lakima explains his position the dragon spots the black dragon tabards and asks pointedly if they honor the dragon Aulicus. Lakima tells the dragon that they take their name from the founders of the group who killed a black dragon. The dragon asks him if they think they are dragon killers. As Lakima formulates a reply the dragon informs him that; “You will do!”

The dragon delivers an ultimatum. They have one week to return to this square with a book that can be found in the lair of a long-dead dragon that is in the Shroudlands. When Alonso asks some questions the dragon replies that the book is the Tome of Artifice and he describes it. Lakima asks for two weeks and the dragon bristles and smashes another stall. Lakima then agrees to the terms -but the dragon pauses and agrees to two weeks. He tells Lakima they have a pact with Synstarax. The dragon launches itself into the air and blasts a nearby tower with lightning to further intimidate everyone. It flies off.

This is the AEG D20 adventure Legacy of Madness. Or at least the plot from it. I was thinking of adapting it anyway. It was what I was able to adlib to give the session a proper close.

The square slowly starts to return to normal. The Town Guard captain Colten Brightmoor confers with the heroes. Alonso suggests they prepare for the dragon’s return. Colten says they will bring more ballista to cover the square and turn the ones currently facing out from the city to face the square. When Alonso suggests an evacuation of the town Colten is visibly disturbed. It is winter and the people have no place to go. He does not want to start a panic. He tells them that the Story is that the dragon was driven off and will not return. He impresses on the adventurers that he expects them to stick to this story. He does agree to look into clearing the square before the dragon returns.

Lakima goes over to the Apothecary and meets with Malyn again. The wizard tells Lakima what he knows about the dragon lair in the Shroudlands. It is supposed to be the lair of the so-called Mad Dragon. The Lair is in what is now a wilderness area but there was a village near it at one time. The mad dragon was a silver dragon who would help and protect humans who lived in a nearby valley. But he went mad several hundred years ago. He was working on the Tome of Artifice at the time with the aid of a human wizard friend.

Meeting the Blue Dragon

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Escape from the Plundered Tomb

Over the Holidays we played another session in my Swords & Wizardry campaign. The players managed to continue at their breakneck pace through my retelling of the classic module I3: Pharoah. Once they escaped and I told them what adventure they had gone through they indicated they had no knowledge of it. So I guess I did not need to make so many changes. But a lot of the changes were made just to suit the module to my own likes. The conversions needed for playing it with Swords & Wizardry rules were really minor.

One of the players did not make the game. Given the Holidays I was wondering if it was holiday-related but a few days later he let us know he was dropping out. Carric the elf will now be an NPC party member and fade into being a local NPC non-party member in the coming sessions. On the plus side, we picked up a new player for the next session.

Session 34: Tests and Escape

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief absent), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC), Dag Icefoot (Dwarf Fighter NPC).

After flying up through the Dome of Flight to the next level the adventurers are confronted with a pair of doors leading each with the same ominous message written on them.

Lakima directs Carric to check the door on the left and open it. The door proves to be untrapped and opens easily. The chamber beyond is a vast hallway, sloping up in the distance. At first, it is dark, but torches light one by one as they enter lighting the entire chamber. A waterfall cascades down the length of the room with a stair up the middle. The stair is broken by four landings. At the end of the hall is an enormous bronze fist 10 feet across resting on a huge wrist-like forearm.

Carric is the first to advance up the stairs. As he steps on the first landing, two armed men made of clay appear magically. Carric rushes back down the steps as Eathwund runs forward to defend him. Lantosh and Dag also come up the stairs. One of the clay men swings a sword at Carric and misses. Eathwund slashes at one and his sword passes right through the shoulder. Both the arm and the body turn to sand and fall to the platform in a heap. Eathwund just has time to express his surprise when both piles of sand form into two clay men. Dag slashes at the other clay man and the same thing happens. There are now four clay men facing them on the platform. Before they can warn him, Lantosh plunges his polearm into the chest of one of the clay men. The clay man becomes impaled on the end of the polearm.

Lakima shouts at Lantosh to dump the clay man into the torrent of the waterfall which he does. The construct is washed away into a tunnel of water. Seeing how it is done Lantosh impales two more clay men and dumps them into the water. Eathwund even manages to impale one on the point of his sword and shove it over the edge into the water. The first landing is now cleared.

Carric now comes up and rejoins the others on the first landing. He moves up cautiously checking for traps. Lakima tells everyone this might be a test of the elements - earth for the clay men, water for the waterfall. The next test might be fire or air. As Carric steps on the second landing, a wall of fire rushes up from the floor and extends across the platform from floor to ceiling completely blocking the hallway. Carric and Lantosh who are closest to the flames stagger back from the tremendous heat. Lakima tries throwing the contents of a full waterskin on the fire but it apparently does nothing. They all step back and confer on the steps. The only suggestion they have is dunking their blankets in water and racing through the flames. Dag loudly states that he is not going first.

Lakima decides he will go first since it is his idea and he sees no other alternative. He leaps through the flames and is badly burned. Next comes Eathwund and then Dag and Lantosh. Carric holds back on the other side. Lakima sees a man standing beside the bronze fist about 30 feet away. The man is dressed in a priest's robes. He hears the man speak in his head telling him to give up and telling him that he is High Priest Nadron who has lived here and defeated tomb robbers for two thousand years. Instead of surrendering, Lakima threatens Nadron and the voice in his head laughs telling him that he keeps his life elsewhere and he cannot be harmed. Lakima moves up to the penultimate landing. A duplicate Lakima appears magically and silently attacks its original version. Eathwund and Lantosh fire arrows at the duplicate and Lakima uses his staff to destroy the duplicate.  Lakima then races up to the last platform holding the fist and runs around the fist looking to see if Nadron is an illusion. The fist animates and tries to crush him but Lakima makes it to a pair of doors and into the chamber beyond. Here he sees a crashing fall of water ten-feet in diameter and an altar before it. Arched hallways lead off in either direction. Nadron casts a slow spell that affects Lantosh and Eathwund.

The Gauntlet and Nadron

Eathwund and Dag advance up to the second last platform and their doubles appear. Lantosh moves to just off the platform and helps Dag kill his duplicate. The priest Nadron casts another spell, this time a fireball that knocks Dag and Lantosh unconscious. Domago and Eathwund are still standing and they use the magic healing oranges to recover Lantosh and Dag. Lakima tries casting a magic missile, using darts, and directing Eathwund to fire arrows at the priest. But nothing seems to affect him. Nadron casts another spell covering Lantosh, Eathwund, Dag, and the two duplicates in a sticky web immobilizing them. Lakima returns the favour and casts web from his wand at the priest. It works and Nadron is held by the web against the wall of the great hall. In his head, Lakima hears Nadron cursing and threatening him. Dag works his way loose and comes up the stairs readying his sword to kill Nadron but the fist animates and a single finger flicks Dag back down the stair in a crumpled heap. Lakima checks a nearby chamber and sees two men who look identical - chained to the walls. The men call out for help and accuse each other of being a doppelganger. Lakima leaves them where they are.

The fight slows as Nadron is held by a web spell that Lakima replenishes whenever the priest starts to get his hands free. Lantosh, Eathwund, and their two duplicates try to work themselves free. Lakima tries putting his hands on the altar before the waterfall but he is knocked down by a lightning bolt shooting out of the waterfall. Domago is joined by Carric on the platform. The wall of fire continues to burn behind them. They use arrows and slings stones to destroy Eathwund and Lantosh’s duplicates. Once Eathwund is free of the webs he runs past the giant fist which misses him and to the safety of the chamber beyond with Lakima. Lakima casts a Lightning Bolt at the bronze fist badly damaging it. Eathwund and Carric fire arrow at the fist until it finally collapses in a heap. Lantosh moves to the highest platform and Lakima directs him to bind the priest's mouth and drag him into the next chamber. Carric and Domago step on the platform one at a time and everyone works together to destroy their duplicates. Unfortunately, Domago finds that Dag was killed by the strike from the giant fist. There is nothing he can do for the unfortunate dwarf.

With everyone gathered in the chamber beyond Lakima starts negotiating with Nadron whose voice is still in his head. They seem to come to an understanding after Lakima has Lantosh hold Nadron’s head and shoulders under the crashing waterfall. Nadron tells him the only exit from the tomb is above in the burial chamber of King Munera. There is one final test in that chamber - the King’s undead mummy. Nadron tells him he needs something called the Star Gem of Pelar to open the exit. Once his gag is removed Nadron immediately casts Lightning bolt at Lakima, hitting Eathwund and Domago with the blast. Lakima survives but Eathwund and Domago are knocked unconscious. Lakima tells Lantosh to behead the duplicitous priest. He does - but the head just rejoins the body as Nadron laughs and curses them in common. Lantosh chops the head of the body again and Lakima boots the head across the chamber. Nadron continues to berate Lakima telling him he can never pass the final test of the King because he is not worthy.

Lakima points at the altar and tells Domago to put his hands on it. Domago is reluctant but is convinced and presses his hands into hand-shaped depressions on the altar. The waterfall immediately stops and the room is silent. Even Nadron is quiet. Lakima then taunts Nadron. They take the headless body and toss it down the now dry waterfalls in the great hall below the fist. Nadron’s head is placed in a sack. With everyone tired and hurt the remaining five adventurers rest in the chamber. The last of the magic oranges are eaten. From a nearby chamber, they hear the words “help me” plaintively crying out but Lakima tells everyone it is a trap. Domago argues they should help the men but is eventually convinced to wait.

The heroes rest for several hours by the now-empty shaft that held a waterfall. Each man takes a watch while the others rest or try to sleep. During Eathwund’s watch, a flickering apparition of Wella Hobba appears. The apparition nods to Eathwund and walks over to observe the mean chained to the wall. The apparition speaks to Eathwund telling him, “Now that I see my murderer so helpless and lost I no longer feels the need for revenge upon him. He has suffered enough. Do what you will with him. I will trouble you no more.” With that, the apparition disappears.

Once everyone is rested and Lakima has recovered his spells they pack up their equipment and prepare to move on. Eathwund tells everyone that he is fairly certain that one of the men chained to the wall is the bandit and murderer Vychan. He tells them of the apparition's visit. Domago still argues that they should free the men and take them to Caster’s Ford for justice. Lakima argues against freeing them. It comes down to a vote with only Domago voting to free Vychan.

The group walks into the arched hallway opposite the one where the men are chained up. They discover Nadron’s library, workshop, and living area. Thousands of scrolls are found devoted to extending a man's life. Lakima deciphers scrolls detailing the creation of a unique version of the magic jar spell. He also finds scrolls of Fireball, fly, and confusion. Then he reads a cursed scroll and is paralyzed for 20 minutes while his friends search the area. They find some food and books that are recent acquisitions. Domago insists on taking some of the food and water and leaving it for the two men chained to the walls. He tells the men that someone will come to free them if the gods decide they are worthy.

Lakima casts levitate and drifts up the shaft. At the top he finds a short hallway blocked by a pair of bronze doors. A large, painted stone jar that is unstoppered rests above the shaft. Lakima drops a rope down to everyone else and they climb up. Lakima directs Lantosh to pick up the heavy stone jar. Lantosh is just barely strong enough to carry it into the hallway. He questions taking something so heavy but Lakima tells him he is sure it is a Decanter of Everlasting water - a powerful artifact. As they approach the doors Lantosh suggests he set the jar down and retrieve it once they have cleared any threats.

The bronze doors are held shut by a simple tasseled red rope. Carric checks and does not find any traps. Lakima suggests that Domago pull the rope aside since the guardians of the tomb seem to respect him. Domago does so and pushes the doors open. Beyond is a small chamber with four pillars holding up the ceiling. Across from the heroes is another pair of bronze doors. A full-sized wooden longboat rests on the floor along one wall. Lakima leads the adventurers directly to the far door. Domago again removes the rope but the door is held shut. Carric examines the door and cannot find a way to open it. In the center of one door is an indentation in the shape of a 3” in diameter gem. They search the chamber and note the faded painting of a longboat anchored to a cloud. This boat has a gem glowing on its prow. They check the real boat in the chamber and find an indentation in its prow but no gem. In the boat, they find 10 copper jars full of ancient platinum coins. Platinum is not a current currency but it is more valuable than gold.

Lakima pulls Nadron’s head out of the sack and removes his gag. Nadron tells him that the gem in the prow of the ship is the key. He appears surprised that it is missing. He insists to Lakima that he was the last to leave this chamber thousands of years ago and no tomb raider has ever gotten past the tests to reach this chamber. He also tells them that the tomb is magically protected from teleport and dimension door spells. Lakima accuses Nadron of lying but the priest is insistent that something has changed since he “tricked” King Munera. He does not elaborate on the comment. Lakima suggests they dump out all of the copper jars on the floor of the chamber looking for a gem. They do but do not find one. They try pressing other, smaller gems into the door but it does not work. Lakima suggests taking all of the valuable platinum piled on the floor. But it means dumping all of the less valuable treasure (copper, silver, gold coins, and even bottles of wine) they found in the tomb and in the previous adventure in the Temple of Medamellara.

Conversing with Nadron

Searching the chamber once more, Lakima touches the painting of the ship. The painting shimmers and becomes a window, or portal out into a night sky far above the clouds. A wooden longboat gently rocks in the wind about 30 feet away anchored to a cloud. The Star Gem of Pelar on its prow. Lakima uses the scroll they just found to cast Fly and then flies over to the ship. He carefully removes the gem and flies back into the chamber. Below he sees the tops of snow-covered peaks between breaks in the cloud cover. Taking the gem he gives it to Domago who places it in the doors. The doors swing open to King Munera’s real tomb. A large, stone sarcophagus rests on the floor of the chamber. On the wall opposite is a ten-foot-tall statue of Munera. A familiar rod in one hand and a large red gem in the palm of his other hand. Writing on the wall hints at a passage out of the tomb. Carric checks the wall and finds cracks in the stone indicating a passage but no way to open it.

Reluctantly they all look at the stone sarcophagus. Arranging themselves at the ready around the stone coffin, they slide the lid off. Inside is the mummy of the King covered in gold armor. It rears up, still managing to surprise them with its sudden movement. It swings at Eathwund and misses. Domago attempts to turn the undead creature but fails. All five adventurers hack away at the mummy and use missile weapons. It steps from the coffin and falls upon Domago striking him but is eventually destroyed as everyone attacks. They are briefly disappointed as they do not see a gem in the coffin. Then an apparition rises up from the body. They realize it is the spirit of King Munera as the appearance matches the statues found throughout the tomb. The spirit speaks to the heroes but they cannot understand it. Lakima pulls Nadron’s head from the sack in an attempt to communicate. The ghost immediately reaches out toward Nadron and blue flames shoot from its hands at the head-turning it to dust. The ghost seems to nod toward them in thanks. Then with a wave of its hand, a stone door opens revealing a passage to a magical portal of swirling blue mist. Lakima shouts, “Finally, the way out - let’s go!” He races into the passage toward the portal. Lantosh shouts, “What about the gold on the body!” Lakima tells him to leave everything - they do not have enough bags to carry it, just bring the full sacks of platinum coins. The ghost walks out of the chamber and takes the gem from the doors. It heads into the other chamber. Domago gets one last look of it gliding through the portal toward the ship in the clouds. They all run into the portal.

They arrive in the worship hall in the first room they entered in the Plundered Tomb days ago. The chamber is as they left it. The dead bandits are still lying on the floor. They take stock of their load and shoulder packs. The tomb rumbles ominously, and small stones shower down from the ceiling as they hurriedly march outside into the cold. As they watch from a distance, the mountain of rock above the tomb entrance begins to collapse. Huge clouds of dust and snow rise up obscuring their vision. When the rumbling stops, the dust clears. The entrance to the tomb is blocked with rubble. Domago looks at the ruin and states, “I guess the gods have passed their judgment”.  Up above they all see a star shooting across the sky. Carric says it looks like a boat sailing above the clouds headed west. A bright star on its prow.

Friday, 25 December 2020

DM Yourself Phandelver

I received my hardcopy of DM Yourself (author Tom Scutt) in the mail a month ago. I was not in on the Kickstarter but I saw a review on Youtube and emailed the author to buy a copy. Delve is a handbook for Solo Adventuring using D&D 5th edition. While the principals could be of use in any system it is designed for D&D 5th edition. While I am not really interested in being a DM in a 5th Edition game (too many rules) I am fine with DMing myself. I can take my time checking to see which rules apply.

DM Yourself is a very different method of solo adventuring from what I am used to. This is not a random oracle. The booklet (running 60 pages) gives you rules, suggestions, and guidance to running a solo character (with Sidekicks) through published D&D adventures. It even gives specific guidance on many of the already published adventures. It is a chance for me to run some of the official D&D 5th edition adventures I purchased and read but never ran.

DM Yourself does this but adding in a few rules to make the published adventure survivable. This starts with the suggestion to start your PC at Level 2 for that 1st level adventure. From there the PC should get maximum hit points at every level. There are suggested additional rules like Hero’s Luck, Plot Armor, using average monster damage. Nothing is game-breaking. But if anyone has tried playing D&D 5th edition solo before they know that character death at first level is very likely. The published adventures are designed for 4-8 players.

The meat of the DM Yourself book is suggestions on how to play through a published adventure without spoiling it for yourself. How to attempt to immerse yourself in the play to provide an enjoyable experience, and how to roleplay encounters. Many of the suggestions are things that you could probably come up with yourself but it is a handy journal.

I decided to run a 2nd level cleric with two sidekicks (one expert, one warrior) through Lost Mine of Phandelver. I have read this adventure before but it was years ago so I remember nothing. I had planned to run it on a tabletop with stand-up minis, paper character sheets, and dice to go full old school. But I immediately found that less than ideal. So I decided to run it using the Phandelver module in Roll20. This gave me a partial method of using fog of war on the maps but more importantly it made tracking the character and the NPCs much easier. The first two sessions are complete and went reasonably well. I think I enjoy it more than the times I have tried solo play with a random oracle generating the plot and it is definitely better than any pick-a-path solo playbook.

Lost Mine of Phandelver

Session 1

Day one

Nate Fallcreek a cleric of Torm is in the City of Neverwinter. Nate recently left the militia after hearing the call of Torm. He is in need of work and an old friend named Gundren Rockseeker (a dwarf) has hired him and two others to escort a wagon to the village of Phandalin. Gundren has gone on ahead accompanied by his bodyguard Sildar Hallwinter to attend to urgent business in the town. Nate and the two others are each expecting to be paid 10 gold coins by the owner of Barthen’s Provisions in Phandalin once they deliver the goods. This is the first time Nate has met the female, human warrior Marit and the male human expert Arjen.

The route they are to travel with the cart is south on the High Road until they meet the Triboar Trail. Then it is east to the road to Phandalin.

Day Three

The three heroes head east along the Triboar trail moving at a slow pace. Up ahead they see something in the middle of the trail. Nate is currently driving while Marit and Arjen are dozing in the back of the wagon. Nate whistles to get the attention of his companions. Arjen jumps down from the wagon and moves ahead to investigate. He finds the horses belonged to their patron Gundren. The saddlebags have been looted. Just then arrows fly out of the forest striking Nate twice. Two goblins run onto the trail to attack Arjen hitting him. Marit runs over to help. Nate casts Cure Wounds on himself then runs over to help Marit. Arjen kills one goblin and Marit kills another then they both crash into the woods to attack the goblin archers. Arjen badly injures one goblin who turns and runs away. Marit kills the remaining goblin. They try to hit the running goblin with arrows but miss it. After the battle, Nate prays to Torm to heal Marit and Arjen.

Arjen spots a trail headed north and the three set out in pursuit. Arjen spots a snare on the trail and the trio avoids it. But Arjen doesn’t spot a pit trap that opens beneath his feet. However, he is quick enough to leap over it. Following the goblin trail north, they come to a stream exiting a cave in the hillside.

Session 2

They approach the cave. As they prepare to splash across the stream they spot 2 goblins hiding in a thicket just as the goblins spot them. Nate reacts first by rushing across the stream and storming the goblins. He kills one on the spot with a blow to the head. The other goblins darts away to the cave entrance shouting in goblin. Nate signals to Arjen who stabs the goblin in the back killing it.

Nate lights a torch and the three adventurers head into the cave splashing across the stream Arjen in the lead. Arjen spots a cave with wolves tied up in it. They quietly walk past. Up ahead Arjen just barely makes out the sight of a bridge over the stream and a tunnel off to the left. They decide to go left and run right into a cave full of goblins. Marit and Nate rush in to attack while Arjen readies his bow at the entrance. Marit and Nate are immediately surrounded by goblins. Nate calls down Sacred Flame as he advances. The Goblin immediately in front of him is engulfed in flames and staggers to the back of the cave, but another goblin steps up to take its place. Marit is attacked by 2 goblins but quickly kills them. As he fights Nate spots a goblin boss atop a ledge holding Sildar. He shouts at Arjen to get the boss pointing up at the goblin. Arjen brings down the boss goblin with an arrow. Eventually, all but one of the goblins are killed. Marit doing almost all of the killing.

Nate goes up on the ledge and frees Sildar. He also searches the goblin boss and finds some gold teeth. They tie up the remaining goblin in the ropes that were holding Sildar. Marit questions the goblin as he speaks their language. Nate questions Marit on where she learned goblin but she does not answer the question.

They learn that there are fewer than 20 goblins in the lair and they count the dead and see they have dispatched eight of them. The goblin says their leader is a bugbear named Klarg. The goblins here are part of the Cragmaw tribe. They ask about Gundren and learn that the dwarf has been sent to Cragmaw Castle. Marit threatens the goblin and gets rough directions to the castle which is in Neverwinter wood.

Nate can see that Sildar is badly injured. Sildar tells him that the goblins took turns working him over and kept promising to eat him. Nate uses Channel Divinity/Preserve Life to give some healing to Sildar. Sildar says he is ready to fight and grabs one of the goblin scimitars. Marit uses Second Wind to recover some hit points. Finally, Nate casts Cure wounds on himself. Now that they know Gundren is not in the caves they discuss whether to leave immediately and continue the journey to Phandelvin, detour to Cragmaw Castle or continue on to confront Klarg. The group vote with Marit voting to continue fighting goblins but Nate and Arjen voting to continue to Phandelvin. Sildar does not vote and tells them he will abide by their decision.

Sildar also tells them that the goblins did not waylay Gundren by chance. They were instructed by someone called the Black Spider. Whether that is a name for a goblin or someone else he does not know. He mentions his contact in Phandelvin is Iarno Albrek who has gone missing. When asked to speculate why the goblins were after Gundren, Sildar suggests it was because the Rockseeker brothers found the long-lost Wave Echo cave a famous mine.

The group sneak out of the caves and head back to the road. Their wagon is still there waiting. They set out for Phandelvin.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Resource Planning

This past weekend we played through my rewritten I3: Pharoah adventure again. I call it The Plundered Tomb and it has been adapted for Swords & Wizardry rules and for the location.  Last week on the blog I said this;

This adventure is going to be longer and requires more resource management from the players.

I could not have been more wrong.

The players blitzed through Level 2 Kordan's Master Maze going into only one room and having 2 encounters. Then they popped up to Level 3 The Halls of the Upper Priesthood and raced through just missing several deadly encounters before figuring out the Dome of Flight and making it to Level 4 Running the Gauntlet. All of this in one session (about 3 hours). They avoided anything that looked like a trap and missed most of the encounters. But they also missed almost all of the treasure.  They were really mission-focused.

I thought this 5 Level dungeon would take at least 4-5 sessions. But now it is likely only going to be 3 sessions. This means I need to get to work coming up with where next. It is a good thing the holidays have arrived and I have more time.

Session 33: The Maze and the Halls

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC), Dag Icefoot (Dwarf Fighter NPC).

The heroes have leaped through a magical portal in pursuit of Carric who was dragged in. They find themselves in an octagonal chamber in an unknown location. There are four exits from the chamber and each is full of swirling mists.

Lakima points to the skeleton on the floor that appears to be pointing at one of the exits. He suggests that they follow that direction. Dag looks over the large, rusted lever and declares it has two positions but he cannot tell what it does. They decide not to touch it.

Carric takes the lead into the mists. The walls are ten-feet wide and ten-feet tall and obscured by mists. Carric decides to consistently turn to the left and leads the group in a circle. Then he decides to take a right turn and they arrive at a door. Carric listens and hears nothing on the other side. The door looks very mundane so he pushes it open. They look into a 30-foot chamber, a large pile of moldy hay rests in the center. Two minotaurs snort in anger and move quickly towards them. Carric backs away and Eathwund steps into the chamber first. He tries reasoning with the creatures but the minotaur nearest swings at him with a large club. From the hallway, Lakima casts Web from his wand and nets one of the minotaurs. Eathwund and Dag attack the minotaur and back it into the chamber allowing Lantosh to move in and attack as well. Eathwund slashes the minotaur with his sword which seems to enrage it. The minotaur tosses aside its club. Then it lowers its head and gores Lantosh in the chest dropping him to the ground unconscious. Domago grabs hold of Lantosh and drags him back into the hallway. Carric moves into the chamber and strikes the minotaur while Eathwund stabs it with his sword. The minotaur falls with a feeble roar.

They enter the chamber and see the second minotaur is stuck to the wall in the webs. They dispatch it with arrows, darts, and sling stones from a distance. Taking stock they look about the chamber. The floor is littered with gnawed bones and silver coins. In the center of the ceiling, they see the opening of a circular shaft. Carric looks it over and realizes there is no way for him to climb to the opening. Domago manages to revive Lantosh with a Cure Light wounds prayer. Given the rough condition Lantosh and Dag are in, the decision is made to close the doors and rest and sleep in the chamber. Watches are set and they settle down to rest. Domago taking the time to bind Dag and Lantosh’s wounds.

Several hours later, while Eathwund and Domago are on the last watch, Carric springs awake telling everyone to get up. His sword has detected someone approaching. As they wait and Carric starts to check at the four doors, one of the doors opens and they see an elven woman in chainmail holding a spear. Lakima and Carric are suspicious of her and they ask several questions. The elf tells them her name is Ayla Resnick. She is from the nearby elven settlement of Tindell and came to the Plundered Tomb searching for a missing elven boy named Vestan. Young Vestan wanted to be an adventurer and entered the Plundered Tomb. Ayla says that she followed his tracks to the tomb and she found the portal to this maze. She tells them she has been lost in the maze for 2 weeks. She has found nothing in the maze, no dangers, but she has been hopelessly lost. She suggests that Carric and her scout the local area of the dungeon while everyone else rests. Carric and Lakima tell her they do not want to split up the party. Everyone except Domago and Eathwund goes back to sleep. Ayla says she is not tired and she stays up sitting with Eathwund talking about what brought them to the maze.

Later that evening after everyone has rested and Lakima has memorized new spells they prepare to set out again. Lakima uses Levitate to float up the shaft. He finds the shaft goes up for 30 feet from the ceiling of the chamber. At the top, he discovers a trap door. Examining the mechanism he realizes that the door is designed to swing open if weight is placed on it from above. But there is no way to trigger it from below. Lakima drops a rope down and Carric climbs up with spikes and a mallet. As Lakima instructs him, Carric attaches the spikes, rope, and block and tackle to the trap door. Then using his weight Carric descends one rope pulling the trap door open. Lakima floats up into the chamber above.

Lakima looks about a prayer chamber dominated by a 30-foot tall statue with its arms outstretched. The statue depicts the same individual as the ones they saw in the entrance tomb. Carric climbs up and starts searching the chamber. Aside from some moldy, faded prayer rugs, there is not much to see. A corridor leads away from the chamber. Lakima calls down telling Eathwund and Dag to come up. Once they are up in the chamber he calls down for Ayla. But Ayla tells Domago and Lantosh that she is staying on the lower level to look for Vestan. She doubts the young elf could have made it up to the next level on his own. She argues briefly with Domago and then departs. Lantosh and Domago then climb up the rope to the next level.

Entrance to Level 3

Dag is immediately entranced by an enormous gemstone in the forehead on the statue almost 30 feet above the floor of the room. He asks Carric to climb up and remove it. But Carric and Lakima discuss this and decide it might trigger an alarm (they would have). They want to check the area first and make sure they are safe. Carric heads up the corridor leaving the chamber. Coming from the end of the hall he can hear falling water. Once Lantosh enters the chamber with his lantern Carric is able to see the walls are covered in ancient script assembled in verses. The verses nearest the Chamber with the statue are carefully painted on the wall, but further up the corridor, they become scribbles in charcoal. The verses talk of a High Priest Nadron and his search for eternal life. The last verse is translated by Carric as saying, “What has he done to us? Cursed for all eternity. Soleth’s mercy is out of our reach.”

The party heads along the corridor checking the doors and finding each leads to a small chamber and another door. The end of the corridor is blocked by a waterfall. Eathwund attaches a crowbar to a rope and throws it into the waterfall. The rope goes slack after only five feet. They decide this means there is a chamber on the other side but they cannot see any way to pass through the rushing water safely.

Instead, they choose a door on the right and pass through it. Beyond is a maze of doors and hallways. They come to a large chamber with an ominous black rock in the center. Around the sides of the rock are upright standing sarcophagi. The faces on the sarcophagi lids have all been gouged with claws. After a brief discussion, they decide to avoid checking the coffins (monsters avoided). Instead, they continue on past a scribes chamber until they come to three chambers that are in the dome of trap rooms below in the maze they left earlier. Looking down in one chamber they spot a chest sitting on the floor. A skeleton can be seen pinned to the wall by javelins. Dag argues for going down and checking the chest but it looks too obviously a trap to everyone else. They decide to move on.

In a storage room near a kitchen, they fight an undead ooze that engulfs skeletons and ejects skeletons. With fire and weapons, they are able to destroy the undead abomination. From here they backtrack and find a hallway ending in an alcove with another statue. This one is twenty feet high. Carric climbs the statue and removes some red gems from its eyes. Nearby Carric finds a secret door in a curved section of the wall. He opens the door and shields his eyes from bright sunlight. They behold the amazing sight of the garden chamber.

Before the party stretches a large chamber. A stream of water flows swiftly down the length of the chamber. The ceiling of the chamber shines with brilliant, warm, light as if it was from the sun. In the chamber are lush plant-life, grass, bushes, and a number of tall trees whose branches are covered in strange globe-like fruits. The heroes enter the chamber and marvel at the wonders. But unlike a real forest, the chamber is very quiet with only the sound of running water breaking the stillness. Barely visible on the walls are four paintings of enormous red birds. Lakima picks one of the orange fruits and examines it. As he does a bird painting comes to life and steps from the wall. An eight-foot-tall pinkish-red bird seemingly made of plaster charges toward him with a sword-like beak. Lakima casts Mirror Image and the bird hits two of his mirrors first. Then Dag and Eathwund come to his aid and attack the bird. Dag is struck by a sword beak thrust right through his chest and he collapses to the grass-covered floor. Eathwund and Lantosh hack away at the bird until it is reduced to a pile of rubble. Domago casts Cure Light Wounds on Dag reviving the dwarf who struggles to his feet. A warning is shouted to everyone not to pick the oranges.

They follow the stream down a long hallway but Dag tells everyone that they are descending so they turn back to the room. Heading upstream they come to another chamber. This one has four trees covered in the strange fruit. There is also a waterfall at the head of the stream and a pair of altars set on either side of the stream. Carric and Lakima move over to examine one of the altars. The altars have the depression of a pair of hands in the top as if pressed into the stone. Written on the front of each altar are four words in an ancient language, “Turnim, Logra, Regra, Neg”. Carric is able to roughly translate the words. They try experimenting with the altars to no effect. Lakima picks more fruit and places them into hand-shaped depressions but nothing happens. Dag takes one of the fruit and eats it and is cured of his wounds. No paintings emerge from the walls to attack. They pick a few sacks full of fruit and everyone eats enough to be fully recovered from their wounds.

Finally, while Carric has his hands on the altar and he says the word Turnim the altar begins to hum. He quickly blurts out Logra, Regra, Neg. In a short space of time, everyone starts to float and then fall toward the ceiling before painfully crashing to the ground. Believing he has worked it out. Carric tells everyone to hold onto a tree and he says Turnim and then Logra. He floats upward and swims through the air up into the dome. Then he says Neg and as his weight returns to him he falls to a ledge above the height of the waterfall. Making his way along the ledge, Carric locates a concealed door and opens it. Beyond is a pair of passages each ending in wooden doors banded in bronze. Carric tells everyone else to come up and join him. The rest of the adventurers join him shortly after.

Carric figures out the Dome of Flight

In this next chamber, Carric sees further progress blocked by two doors. There is gold-painted lettering on each door in an ancient language Carric has seen before in the Tomb. He translates it as:

Beyond these doors lie the tests of the Land of the Dead, turn now from this doom for great and awful is the horror.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020

I3: Pharoah

When I first read the TSR module I3: Pharoah back in the early 1980's I was hooked and I had to get it into my game. My campaign at the time was using B/X D&D and the players were at the high end for the adventure so I re-wrote it to fit. Now that I am running a Swords & Wizardry campaign online I thought it would be a good idea to use Pharoah again.

This time I have rewritten and adapted it quite a bit more. The dungeon maps have only been slightly modified (although I have created my own maps for the Online play) but the contents and theme have been changed a fair amount. First and foremost a pyramid was not a possibility since the campaign is in a northern European climate. Removing the pyramid from the dungeons is actually very easy since none of the dungeon levels make note of the surroundings around them. The dungeon could be anywhere. I also cut down on the Egyptian style theme. Going with a more ancient northern theme. The hook was also changed. Now it is a well-known and thought to be plundered tomb with no treasure in it. The players head to the tomb to put the spirit to rest of an acquaintance murdered by bandits.

Most of the adventures I have run in this campaign (with the exception of In Search of the Unknown) have been short as that works best online in my opinion. This adventure is going to be longer and requires more resource management from the players. In the first session they made it to the 2nd level, the Master Maze and once that level is entered there is no way to turn back or step out of the dungeon to rest. Players will need to carefully marshall their resources and hit points to make it to the 5th and final level where they can escape. I did change the method of getting to the Master Maze from the Plundered Tomb. In the original adventure, this is a well-remembered magical portal located in a flaming offering bowl held by a statue. I felt there was a good chance one of my players would know of this from reading or playing Pharoah in the past so I changed it to another method. During play they did not seem to exhibit knowledge of the path so I was tempted to change it back but I decided to keep things as I had rewritten them.

Session 32: The Plundered Tomb

Players: Lakima (Magic-user), Eathwund (Fighter), Carric (Elven Thief), Domago (Human cleric NPC), Lantosh (Human Fighter NPC), Dag Icefoot (Dwarf Fighter NPC).

In the previous session, the fighter Eathwund was visited by the apparition of another adventurer killed by bandits. The adventurer, a wizard named Wella Hobba, was only a brief acquaintance but the players had been the first to stumble upon the ambush and find the body. As the session opens Eathwund tells his companions about the apparition who visited him the night before. The group is in a general agreement that they should help the lost soul (and take any loot the bandits have gathered).

Unfortunately, they are not sure where to start looking for the bandits.

Carric heads out to see if he can spot any lookouts for the bandits in town, figuring they must have had a tip that Wella Hobba was leaving the town to ambush him. He spends some time in the few taverns and Inns in Casters Ford and spots some suspicious characters but nothing definite. Back at the Blue Dragon Inn that evening Lakima suggests a plan to sneak out of town after dark and see if they can catch the bandits setting up an ambush. There is a discussion and they decide to take a small boat from the riverboat they hired. Late at night, after midnight, they set out in two groups and they are landed on the shore a short distance south of Casters Ford. Eathwund comes in the second group and sees the ghost of Wella Hobba waiting for him. He realizes no one else can see the ghost. The ghost answers that it feels that the bandit has gone to the Plundered Tomb deep in the Heroes Valley. Eathwund asks where the tomb is located and the ghost responds that they should follow the river through the valley to its source.

They trek in the dark for a few hours until they come to the spot on the trail where they found Wella Hobba’s body. The body of the wizard and his two companions are gone with little trace remaining. Carric scouts the nearby trees and finds three deadfalls that they suspect were set up by the bandits. The heroes split into three groups with two each at each deadfall. They wait all night for the bandits but do not see anyone. In the early morning, they see a few merchants headed for Casters Ford and then they spot a group of four adventurers on foot headed into the valley. They decide to follow the adventurers and use them as bait.

The four adventurers prove easy to follow, they are loud and not moving very fast. Carric stays in the treeline just within earshot while the rest of the company stays well back on the road. Carric is able to hear that the novice adventurers are headed for an abandoned Dwarven forge. In the evening they camp near the adventurers behind a hill overlooking the road. Late that night, they spot a sled pulled by two enormous goats coming from the direction of Casters' Ford.

The next morning they follow the adventurers again for much of the day until the adventurers turn south apparently toward the ruins of the Dwarven forge. Disappointed that the bandits did not put in an appearance the heroes nonetheless decided to break off and head north toward the supposed location of the Plundered Tomb. Carric relates some notes he has made in his journal about the tomb. The tomb is an ancient one of a ruler of a long-forgotten kingdom. It is called the plundered tomb because of its stripped of any items of value in ages past. Stories claim that adventurers that explore the small tomb frequently go missing.

As the evening begins to approach they spot an abandoned sled in the middle of the trail ahead. The leads of the sled are torn in half and they find a lot of blood on the ground. Carric finds footprints leading away from the trail into the hills left by a bare-footed beast with an enormous stride. They decide to follow. Lakima notes that the beast might have treasure, Domago and Lantosh are eager to help a fellow traveler if they can.  The footprints lead to a cave located under a hill in a small valley full of snow.

Approaching the Cave of the Yeti

Carric leads the way first into the cave entrance followed by Eathwund and Dag. As they come to a bend in the tunnel an enormous yeti springs from the darkness with a blood-curdling shriek. Eathwund and Lantosh are momentarily paralyzed with fear. Dag moves in and hacks away at the creatures’ legs while Lantosh tries to reach it with his polearm. Carric attacks with his sword and Lakima throws darts. After being out of action for a short space of time, Eathwund regains his nerve and attacks as well. Eathwund is struck by one enormous clawed hand and Dag is also struck. They continue pressing the attack until the creature is matted in blood and starts to slow. A dart to the eye from Lakima is the killing blow. Looking around the rank-smelling space they see two dead giant goats - one partially eaten. Behind some pine tree trunks used to close off an alcove like a pen, they find a dwarf who is very much alive. They manage to shift the logs and free the dwarf who introduces himself as Yulgrimmar a toy-maker from Casters Ford. They drag the yeti’s body out of the cave and go and retrieve Yul’s sled. That evening they enjoy a roaring fire in the Yeti cave and roast and eat goat meat.

The next morning they say goodbye to Yulgrimmar who has devised a harness to pull his sled and is headed home to Caster’s ford. The Company sets out again on the trail by the stream. They are still not sure where the tomb is located since they did not buy a map in Casters Ford. As the trail begins to turn north they see that the stream it has been following heads into the hills. Here they find a stone marker stone with ancient writing on it. Carric deciphers the script as pointing to the location of King Munera’s rest. They leave the trail and follow the stream into the hills.

Soon the entrance to the tomb rises before them on the side of a rise. A pair of stone columns, a wall, and a narrow entrance can be seen. Carric dashes between mounds of snow to approach the tomb entrance. His actions cause a pair of bandits on sentry duty to reveal themselves as they step out from behind the pillars and run back into the tomb. From a distance, the heroes can see flickering light emanating from the tomb. They lie in wait to see if the bandits will exit the tomb but nothing happens for ten minutes. Lakima decides on a plan, he summons a horde of giant rats with a spell and sends them into the tomb to attack. Soon the sound of fighting and yelling can be heard from within. Lakima yells for everyone to advance and they all run into the tomb into a large worship chamber with a tall stone statue. They see the bandits trying to fight off the rats and killing several of them. But the companions join the fight and the bandits are immediately on the defensive. One bandit runs to hide behind the statue and one runs down a side passage to their left. The remaining four are cut down by the heroes. Carric forces the bandit behind the statue to surrender. While Carric and Dag search the chamber, Lakima questions the bandit who gives his name as Bern. With a little intimidation, Lakima learns that the bandits are led by Vychan, the bandit leader who killed Wella Hobba. But Vychan, a witch named Apris, and three other men have been missing for three days. Now Haljamir leads the bandits and he is hard put to keep them from leaving while he looks for Vychan. Bern tells them that Vychan was gone one morning without leaving a note. He thinks Vychan abandoned the gang but Haljamir is still loyal.

The aftermath of the fight with the bandits

Lakima sends Bern down the side tunnel to give terms to Haljamir. After some back and forth the bandits agree to leave the tomb and not return - after paying a hefty ransom. Lantosh and Domago watch to be certain the bandits actually leave. Meanwhile, Carric has found a secret door behind the statue but he is unable to locate the opening mechanism. The heroes head down the two side passages and discover two more chambers. One chamber that the bandit Bern called the Offering chamber has a twenty-foot tall statue of the same figure depicted by the statue in the temple chamber. This statue has its arms extending holding a flaming stone bowl 15 feet off the floor. In the last chamber, they find a smaller temple and another statue. In this chamber, they discover another secret door behind the statue. Lakima twists a stone rod in the statue's hand and the door opens revealing a small chamber with a square shaft descending to glowing mists. Dag drops a copper in the shaft and they do not hear it hit the bottom.

Lakima tries twisting the rod in the main chamber and it also opens the secret door. A passage leads to another room with the same statue again. Corridors head left and right to large shafts. The bottom of these shafts is filled with water. One shaft has water pouring into it. Carric surmises that this could be the source of the stream outside. Lakima twists the rod in the statue's hand, opening another secret door leading deeper into the tomb. A corridor leads down into darkness. At the end of the descending hall, they find a small temple with seven more of the identical statues. An altar in the center of the room has a bag of copper, some sticks, and a metal flask lying on it. All look recent. Lakima casts Detect Magic and finds two of the statues have a strong magical aura. He also notes all of the stone in the walls, floor, and ceiling give off a low magical aura. Twisting the rods in these statues’ hands opens two more doors. One leads to a small chamber that looks like a long since deactivated trap. The other leads to a corridor that descends down. They head down and come across three more chambers. One is marked “Treasure Room” in an ancient language Carric deciphers. Another holds an empty sarcophagus. They see that someone has scrawled, “too late” in common on the wall.

Disappointed, they head back to the entrance looking for another chamber or clue. Since Bern mentioned that Vychan was last seen in the offering chamber, they concentrate their search here. Carric is sent up the statue to perch on its arm and check out the flaming bowl. He reports that the flame is burning without any source of fuel and is not putting off heat. He tosses a torch attached to a rope into the bowl and both torch and rope vanish. The rope disappearing right out of his hands. Eathwund figures out the clues and leads them back to the altar deep in the tomb where they find their rope and torch resting on the altar. They discuss what to do next. A few suggest that Vychan did abandon the bandits and is out in the wilderness somewhere. However, they decide to check the room with the shaft of mists one more time.

Carric lowers a torch into the shaft attached to a rope. When it sinks into the mists 15 feet down, the torch, rope, and its holder all vanish. Carric is gone. Lakima says, “Well, that decides it!”, and he directs the others to step over the edge and drop into the shaft. One after one each adventurer drops into the shaft and vanishes. They experience a brief flash of sharp pain and darkness then arrive on their feet in a small octagonal room. Four archways lead from the room. Rolling, purple-blue mists obscure their vision forward. A skeleton lies on the floor, its arm outstretched to a sword pointing at one archway. A large lever nearby.

Leaping into the Unknown

The Master Maze